Settin’ things aright. . .

Atlas Shrugged – Day 047 – pp. 459-468

Hank and Francisco finish sealing the breach in the furnace.

They said nothing to each other when they walked together through the darkness, on their way back to the office.

Kind of like that awkward silence after . . .never mind. . .

Back at the office, and while Hank patches Francisco up, he offers an opinion:

“Listen . . . I know what’s been the trouble with you. You’ve never cared to do a real day’s work in your life. I thought you were conceited enough, but I see that you have no idea of what you’ve got in you. Forget that fortune of yours for a while and come to work for me.”

No, Hank. Francisco has cared very much about a real day’s work. He knows exactly what he has in him. And what it’s costing him by giving it up.

He puts on his coat and leaves.

Not even a bro-hug.

Chapter IV: The Sanction of the Victim. (I thought we’d been talking about this for some pages now…)

Back at the Rearden house. Hank, Lillian, Mother and Phillip are all around a sumptuous Thanksgiving table.

Mom thanks God for all they have. Lillian thanks the new cook for the marvelous feast. Phillip thanks “the sweetest mother in the world.”

Hank’s not saying anything. Apparently he’s going on trial tomorrow for his illegal dealings with Ken Danagger.

Of course he has a plan. (No doubt hatched after his meeting with Dr. F.) A guy like Hank always does.

Lillian, however wants to poke and prod a bit.

“You’re not going to make some sort of stand at your trial tomorrow, are you Henry?”

“I am.”

She put the glass down. “What are you going to do?”

“You’ll see tomorrow.”

This, of course, is not what Lillian wanted to hear. She wants to see Hank suffer and cave in and beat the crap out of him.  And if it means taking the side of the G, that’s what she’ll do.

“Don’t you think your attitude is perfectly futile?”

“No.”

Settle with them damnit! Orren Boyle cheats and he’s never been hauled into court. Of course the mere suggestion on her part that Hank play ball is completely unacceptable. But she still wants to drive the point home with a 2×4 to Hank.

“That’s the conceit I’m talking about — the idea that it matters who’s right or wrong. It’s the most insufferable form of vanity, this insistence on always doing right.”

As she goes on and on and on and on about how he’s morally no better than the G criminals trying to confiscate what’s his, he watches her and comes to some understandings.

He remembered his brief glimpse — on that morning in the Wayne-Falkland Hotel — of a flaw in her scheme of punishment, which he had not examined. Now he stated it to himself for the first time. She wanted to force upon him the suffering of dishonor — but his own sense of honor was her only weapon of enforcement. She wanted to wrest from him an acknowledgement of his moral depravity — but only his own moral rectitude could attach significance to such a verdict. She wanted to injure him by her contempt — but he could not be injured, unless he respected her judgement. . . . But her only tool was his own benevolence, his concern for her, his compassion. . . . What if he chose to withdraw it?

Now you’re thinking Hank.

But what was the code on which she acted? What sort of code permitted the concept of a punishment that required the victim’s own virtue as the fuel to make it work? A code — he thought — which would destroy only those who tried to observe it; a punishment, from which only the honest would suffer, while the dishonest would escape unhurt.

By Jove! I think he’s got it.

The entire moral world is turning itself on its head. Able to punish its moral inhabitants only because of their morality. In other words, she’s a freakin’ bitch. And yet. . .

No — he thought, looking at Lillian, with the last effort of his generosity — he would not believe it of her.

Get the hell over it Hank! When you’re right you’re right. And that assumes, of course that there is still some delineation between right and wrong. (Which by the way, Lillian has suggested no longer exists.)

Suddenly another country is heard from.

“Well, I think you have a very provincial attitude, all of you,” said Phillip suddenly. “Nobody here seems to be concerned with the wider, social aspects of the case. I don’t agree with you, Lillian. I don’t see why you say they’re pulling some sort of rotten trick on Henry and that he’s in the right. I think he’s guilty as hell. Mother, I can explain the issue to you very simply. There’s nothing unusual about it, the courts are full of cases of this kind. Businessmen are taking advantage of the national emergency in order to make money. They break the regulations which protect the common welfare of all – for the sake of their own personal gain. . . . And I think it’s contemptible.”

Hank thinks for a moment and then calmly responds.

“Phillip, say any of that again and you will find yourself out in the street, right now with the suit you’ve got on your back , with whatever change you’ve got in your pocket and with nothing else.”

BOOM shak-a-laka!

The silence at the table told it all. Suddenly a realization that anyone can condemn making money as evil profiteering, but when you’re sucking at its tit, you may want to rethink your position. Especially in front of the gravy train driver. Hank’s finally being a man.

“You. . . you wouldn’t throw your own brother out on the street. . .”

Through the window I think. (And I wouldn’t mind seeing it. Should have done it after the $10K donation.) Mama to the rescue (sort of.)

“You shouldn’t frighten him. You know that he needs you.”

“Does he know it?”

“You can’t be hard on a man who needs you, it will prey on your conscience for the rest of your life.’

“It won’t.”

“You’ve got to be kind Henry.”

“I’m not.”

“You’ve got to have some pity.”

“I haven’t.”

Phillip steps up to his own defense. (This ought to be good.)

“But don’t I have any freedom of speech?”

“In your own house. Not in mine.”

“Don’t I have a right to my own ideas?”

“At your own expense. Not at mine.”

“Don’t you tolerate any difference of opinions?”

“Not when I’m paying the bills.”

“Isn’t there anything involved but money?”

“Yes. The fact that it’s my money.”

“But I am not your slave.”

“Am I yours?”

Suck on that Phil!

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One Comment

  1. Sunnyfunny
    Posted October 2, 2010 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Chuck, I’m about 250 pages ahead of you and the suspense of knowing stuff you don’t right now is killing me!
    Anyway, this is such a great section of dialogue. There is included a rebuttal to nearly any question a socialist-minded person might throw. “At your own expense. Not mine.” I love it.
    By the way…. Glen Beck has been telling the listeners of his radio show to “Go all John Galt.” The problem is, where do we go once we do? Where is “the destroyer” taking or sending people? Where’s our “destroyer?” Furthermore, what comes of the wage earner who gets it but is too small to make an impact?