Saturday, July 06, 2013

The Taggart Death Train

Victory! I made it past the half-way point in Atlas Shrugged!

I also got to the gas train scene, or as Whittaker Chambers said in his review when the book came out:  "to the gas chambers - go!"

One again we see the strange capriciousness of the "government" in Rand's fantasia. Dagny and Rearden were allowed to test the Rearden Metal bridge by driving a train full of people over it, without a peep from the government. And yet, prior to the death tunnel, one of the moochers - a British fop named Gilbert Keith-Worthing - says: "are your railroads safe?"
"Hell yes!" said Kip Chalmers, "we got so many rules, regulations and controls that those bastards wouldn't dare not to be safe!"
Now Kip Chalmers is in a big hurry in order to get to a voter rally in time - because the moocher/looter fog is in fact a democracy. But there's a problem with the train motor so the only option is to send Kip and all the other passengers through the tunnel to their deaths.

Kip is never informed that if he goes into the tunnel he will die. Why nobody bothers to tell him is a great mystery because Kip doesn't say something along the lines of "I'm going to get to that rally in time even if I have to die trying."

Also a couple of the Taggart employees refuse to cooperate in sending the train into the tunnel of death and quit their jobs. But for some reason it doesn't occur to them since they are no longer employees, they have nothing to lose by warning everybody else about the fact that the passengers are being sent to their deaths.

However, although the resulting asphyxiation of all passengers is a disaster, it isn't a tragedy because Rand takes great pains to inform us that each and every passenger on the train deserves to die. In addition to Chalmers, Keith-Worthing and Chalmers' mistress, who obviously deserve to die, there are seventeen others, including two children, and Rand reels off their berth numbers and their crimes against Objectivism one by one. I won't re-type them all here, I'll just give a few samples:
The woman in Roomette 10, Car 3 was an elderly school teacher who had spent her life turning class after class of helpless children into miserable cowards, by teaching them that the will of the majority is the only standard of good and evil, that a majority may do anything it pleases, that they must not assert their own personalities but must do as others are doing.
And then there's the
"...woman in Bedroom D, Car No. 10, was a mother who had put her children to sleep in the berth above her, carefully tucking them in, protecting them from drafts and jolts; a mother whose husband held a government job enforcing directives which she defended by saying: "I don't care, it's only the rich that they hurt. After all, I must think of my children."
Rand doesn't say what the children's crimes are but maybe the elderly school teacher has already turned them into miserable cowards, so gas 'em.

And maybe the weirdest one of all...
The woman in Roomette 6, Car No. 8, was a lecturer who believed that, as a consumer, she had "a right" to transportation, whether the railroad people wished to provide it or not.
What could that possibly mean? Whether the railroad people wished to provide it or not? Does this have something to do with Rand's Supermen believing that in their version of capitalism, the producers of things like metal and trains have a right - nay, a duty - to police the uses and the users of their goods, after the sale is final?

I don't feel like addressing the rest of 6 and 7 now, so I'll let Liveblogger Dani Alexis fill you in on the other details of the two chapters - she's funnier than I can hope to be.

Oh, and it turns out that Whittaker Chambers also predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union.