Atlas Shrugged: Were the Passengers Responsible for Their Deaths?

If the train crash scene didn’t prove that Atlas Shrugged is actually a horror book, I don’t know what will. As the cronies start imposing more and more restrictions and artificial obstacles on productive people, the more productive people quit, leaving the infrastructure to take care of itself. Infrastructure gets broken, people die in accidents, starve and freeze to death. It’s not very surprising that it happens, when things are no longer being run properly. But does it mean the passengers on board the Comet brought their deaths on themselves?

I will remind you what happens in that scene. Some very important politician named Kip Chalmers is on board the Comet, the fastest train in Taggart Transcontinental. The best employees of that company quit a long time ago, when the Directive 10-289 was issued by the government, making it illegal to quit your job, get a new job, or pay/get paid more than you did in the previous year. Some good employees are left, but those who are gone were replaced by lazy people who love the job security that Directive 10-289 brings. This sad state of affairs leads to poor company performance, and the Comet’s Diesel engine goes off track. It can’t be repaired, and another Diesel engine can’t be acquired any time soon. The only engine available is a coal-burning engine… but it can’t be used, because an eight-mile tunnel is ahead, and a coal-burning engine inside a tunnel is a deadly combination.

Kip Chalmers doesn’t want to understand any of that. He has a very important political campaign coming up, and needs to be in San Francisco on time. He demands that an engine is given to him immediately, and threatens to have employees fired if they don’t comply with his wishes:

“ Slowly, patiently, with contemptuous politeness, the conductor gave him an exact account of the situation. But years ago, in grammar school, in high school, in college, Kip Chalmers had been taught that man does not and need not live by reason.

“Damn your tunnel!” he screamed. “Do you think I’m going to let you hold me up because of some miserable tunnel? Do you want to wreck vital national plans on account of a tunnel? Tell your engineer that I must be in San Francisco by evening and that he’s got to get me there!”


“That’s your job, not mine!”

“There is no way to do it.”

“The find a way, God damn you!”

The conductor did not answer.

“Do you think I’ll let your miserable technological problems interfere with crucial social issues? Do you know who I am? Tell that engineer to start moving, if he values his job!””

Kip Chalmers thinks the employees are just not working hard enough, and if he threatens and presses them hard enough, they will produce the engine they must be hiding away, and give him what he wants:

“Years ago, in college, he had been taught that the only effective means to impel men to action was fear.”

The employees thus are in a lose-lose position. If they refuse to give Kip Chalmers what he wants, they will lose their only allowed jobs and starve along with their families. If they comply, they will send hundreds of people to their deaths, and possibly be blamed for it, too. And thus the fate of the passengers is decided – the employees give them the coal burning engine, and send them into the tunnel. Each employee carefully avoids being seen as the decision-maker, and thus the “fall guy”. Eventually some naive young boy becomes the fall guy. The passengers suffocate inside the tunnel, then an army train crashes into them, the whole tunnel explodes and collapses. Who’s to blame? No one, and everyone. I believe this scene demonstrates what kind of disaster collective lack of competence or responsibility can lead to.

Here is what Rand has to say about the passengers on board the Comet, and this is what many critics find cruel and outrageous:

“It is said that catastrophes are a matter of pure chance, and there were those who would have said that the passengers of the Comet were not guilty or responsible for the thing that happened to them.”

Then Rand describes some of the passengers. One was an elderly teacher who taught children they must always submit to the majority (what a life-ruining hag, I must say). Another is a journalist who wrote that it’s good to use any force necessary “for a good cause”. A third one is a person who thinks they have the “right” to transportation, whether a transportation company wanted to give it or not. The list goes on. And “there was not a man aboard the train who did not share one or more of their ideas”.

I believe Rand does imply that everyone on board was at least somewhat to blame for their own deaths. Notice she never uses the word “deserve” in that sentence, and there is a huge difference between being deserving of death, and bringing it upon yourself. You can be a good person, get drunk, and get run over by a car. You wouldn’t deserve it, but you’ll surely be at least partially to blame. I believe lots of people, including the critics of this scene, confuse being responsible with deserving, and draw incorrect conclusions.

Is Rand right that the passengers were to blame for their deaths? To answer that question, it’s important to find who was the most to blame. Was it the employees? They were forced by the threat of starvation or jail. Was it the guys who created Directive 10-289? They’re surely guilty of unconstitutional laws and power-grabs, but they didn’t foresee the unintended consequences such as train-crashes where their own political helpers die a horrible crispy death. Was it the media and academia figures who promote the ideology that gives corrupt politicians their power? They are just people with opinions.

And thus, no one is to blame for the disaster.. and everyone. To contribute to a disaster, you don’t only have to attach a train to a coal-burning engine and send it off into a tunnel. You could also do it by passing laws, if you’re a politician. And if you’re just a “small” person, you could do it by supporting the ideology that helps corrupt politicians retain their power. Or even just by keeping status quo and not speaking against the injustice. You have probably heard this quote:

“”First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me””

Yes, the passengers did contribute to their own deaths. Kip Chalmers, and all the passengers, they were all hoist by their own petard. This might be a harsh message, but it cannot be powerful if it was soft. The moral of the story is this: Don’t Dig Your Own Hole. Don’t contribute to injustice, or you might just have to live your principles.

I personally do think everyone was to blame to some extent, although most of them did not deserve death. I think that teaching lady just deserved to be fired, really. I also know that in real life, people often get away with performing injustice, while people who do the right thing have bad things happen to them. But I would rather be as just as I can be, as I want as few of my problems as possible to come from ME. I also don’t expect people to speak out under the threat of death or torture. It’s an extra achievement, but I can’t say people dig their own hole if they refuse to do it.


I also believe this is the type of disaster that can happen when the employees are motivated by fear. Introductory psychology will tell you that fear of punishment “works”, but not as well as anticipation of reward. When you motivate your kid, your pet, or your employees by punishment, you are also teaching them to fear and distrust you. People motivated by fear of punishment will lie their way out of consequences if they must. They will pass the buck. And sometimes, they will be so scared that they will fuck up, instead of performing better. I think this real-life event is a good example of what culture of fear can lead to:

Yet there are people who think fear is the greatest way to motivate people.

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Atlas Shrugged: Why Are All the Main Characters Rich and Powerful?

I think a lot of critics don’t like that the main characters in Atlas Shrugged are all rich, powerful, and have fancy titles. I think the reason why the main characters had to be wealthy and powerful is in the title of the book – the book is mostly about specific people becoming the next new hope for the broken economy… and then disappearing and taking their industry with them, leaving the country to fend for itself and find the next new hope. They are the people who extract/produce stuff we all depend on – fuel, raw materials, the infrastructure. When they shrug, bad shit happens. A lone worker or an academic shrugging wouldn’t have the same effect.

However, it doesn’t mean such a person’s story is not worth telling. I think this happens to philosopher Hugh Akston. He was a professor at a university, and a known advocate of reason. After a while, reason fell out of favor and his teachings were no longer marketable. Not only that, but John Galt calls on him to strike and contribute at little as possible to the world. So Dr. Akston gets a job flipping burgers. He’s extremely good at it. Dagny finds him and can’t believe a philosopher would work as a cook. She tries, unsuccessfully, to get him to work for her, for a much higher pay.

“ ”But . . . but what are you doing here?” Her arm swept at the room. “This doesn’t make sense!”

“Are you sure?”

“What is it? A stunt? An experiment? A secret mission? Are you studying something for some special purpose?”

“No, Miss Taggart. I’m earning my living.” The words and the voice had the genuine simplicity of truth.

“Dr. Akston, I . . . it’s inconceivable, it’s . . . You’re . . . you’re a philosopher . . . the greatest philosopher living . . . an immortal name . . . why would you do this?”

“Because I’m a philosopher, Miss Taggart.””

What I like about this is that Dr. Akston abandons his fancy title for a low-status job, for justice. When he says “Because I’m a philosopher”, I hear “Because I live my principles”. Although the first time I read that, I interpreted it as “I can’t just be a philosopher, getting a monthly paycheck from the government, I’d rather do something real people are willing to pay for”. And perhaps my original interpretation is not entirely wrong. Even while he’s striking, Dr. Akston is doing a great job at work. I think someone who values competence and reason can’t stop themselves from living up to those values, even when their goal is non-contribution. They want to live off of something real people are willing to pay for.

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Atlas Shrugged: Dagny Taggart and Feminism

“She was twelve years old when she told Eddie Willers that she would run the railroad when they grew up. She was fifteen when it occured to her for the first time that women did not run railroads and that people might object. To hell with that, she thought – and never worried about it again.”

I find this quote to be right, and inspiring. If you’re a girl, you don’t need to be encouraged before you can pursue technology, STEM and whatever else male-dominated field you are into. Just do it. On the other hand, if the only reason you went for STEM was other people’s encouragement, your momentum will fall apart at the first sign of difficulty or lack of encouragement.

[EDIT]: For anyone who doesn’t know: Dagny did end up running the railroad and building her own.

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Atlas Shrugged: Should We Condemn Hank Rearden for Cheating on His Wife?

I’ve finally started reading Atlas Shrugged. The following posts will be about Atlas Shrugged.

I find some people give the book criticism I don’t agree with, and that is part of why I want to express my thoughts.

The first topic is Hank Rearden and his infidelity. Should his cheating be judged as harshly as regular cheating? Some people seem to this his wife was the victim in all this, and he was a sociopath for treating her the way he did. I disagree.

First of all, I’m pretty judgmental about cheating. In my mind, it’s not okay to cheat if:

1.Your spouse got fat.

2.You got fat, and your spouse is reluctant to have sex with you.

3.You “drifted apart”.

It’s not okay to cheat if a problem arose, and you didn’t do everything you could to correct it. When something otherwise good has a flaw, you don’t just throw it out and get a new one. You try to fix it. And if nothing you do worked – then you can dump them, not cheat. I know some people would fight even harder to preserve a marriage, but I’m not a “stay married no matter what” kind of person. If you’re being abused, denied sex or cheated on, I wouldn’t judge you if you left – you only got one life, so live it. And there is only one situation where I find cheating totally okay – it is when you cannot get out of an unfixable relationship/marriage safely, or at all.

Hank Rearden marries Lillian because she was pursuing him while being hard to get, and because she seemed to like what he loved the most in life – his mills:

“It was Lillian’s austerity that attracted him – the conflict between her austerity and her behavior. He had never liked anyone or expected to be liked. He found himself held by the spectacle of a woman who was obviously pursuing him but with obvious reluctance, as if against her own will, as if fighting a desire she resented.”

“The look in her eyes, when she watched a heat of steel being poured, was like his own feeling for it made visible to him. When her eyes moved up to his own face, he saw the same look, but intensified to a degree that seemed to make her helpless and silent. It was at dinner, that evening, that he asked her to marry him.”

Although later, it turns out she’s neither into steel, nor into him. In fact, she makes him hate his own sexuality:

“She had never objected; she had never refused him anything; she submitted whenever he wished. She submitted in the manner of complying with the rule that it was, at times, her duty to become an inanimate object turned over to her husband’s use.

She did not censure him. She made it clear that she took it for granted that men had degrading instincts which constituted the secret, ugly part of marriage. She was condescendingly tolerant. She smiled, in amused distaste, at the intensity of what he experienced. “It’s the most undignified pastime I know of,” she said to him once, “but I have never entertained the illusion that men are superior to animals.””

This torturous marriage goes on for quite a while, and it looks like Lillian never says anything to Hank, unless it’s passive-aggressive and meant to tear down his self-worth. Critics would say that it’s all a result of Hank being workaholic and utterly uninterested in his wife’s interests, but I’m not so sure. Hank never pretended to like Lillian’s home decorating hobbies in the first place, while Lillian did act like she liked Hank’s steel business, when she really didn’t. I even dare to say was a subtle bait-and-switch.

I know I said one must work on the flaws in the marriage, but I also think some people should be avoided immediately after red flags start popping up. I think Lillian is one of them. Hank Rearden, for whatever reason, is simply too stupid to notice when he’s being eaten alive. Last time I had that problem, I was 7 years old. Something like 14 percent of people in my city have a personality disorder according to statistics. If someone feels off, they are probably not reasonable and you shouldn’t try to treat them like a reasonable person. You can’t make things work with those. Avoid.

But Hank has no sense of self-preservation, so he decided to endure the torturous marriage, believing he deserved it for having normal sexual desire. Bur he’s still human and wants a sexually healthy, willing woman, so he ends up cheating with Dagny Taggart. Ironically, it is his self-sacrifice that leads to cheating. If he were selfish, he’d dump the emotional vampire right away and never have to cheat.

So, was it wrong of him to cheat on his wife? Sort of. It was less of a crime against Lillian, and more of a crime against himself. The crime was tolerating torture and then taking the blame for trying to alleviate it. I don’t think you owe any sort of loyalty to someone who’s only there to hurt you. Even if you promised something to them, it’s pretty ridiculous to keep that promise while they are eating you alive.

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I Have a Sex Tape

Now that I got your attention, I will tell you what this is all about.

A while ago, I argued that revenge porn laws are not needed for several very good reasons. One of them (and FAR from the only one) is the fact that sex tapes only prove that you have sex, and make home movies – things most western adults do nowadays. It’s not to be an object of shame. We can’t have sexual liberation and institutionalized sexual taboos at the same time – it makes no sense.

Well, recently I noticed how feminists, my ideological opponents, use porn as art or activism. More precisely, the mattress girl, Emma Sulkowicz. And I thought – why not do the same? She promotes the feminist definition of rape with her sex tape. I will promote resistance against revenge porn laws with mine. I’ll live my arguments, so to speak.

Here you go:

For other arguments against revenge porn laws, read this: Thoughts on Revenge Porn Laws

Posted in Feminism, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 53 Comments

Reflections on Unemployment

For about four months, I was an intern at an electronics store. That means the company pays me in knowledge and experience, while I live on welfare. I’ve learned to help people fix their computers and find out what’s wrong with them. Everything was going well, but at the end of the contract period, I was told they can’t afford another hire.

This is not an occurrence that is unfamiliar to me. I have not had it happen before this time, but I know it happens. My mother experienced it several times before. After googling it, I’ve found that this experience is not uncommon. The employer wants to reduce costs, the unemployed intern wants, at least, to gain experience, and the welfare office wants the intern to get hired. The third one is the only one who loses.

But that makes me wonder – why am I still unemployed? Am I just a retard who has nothing to offer, or is something else the matter? If I accept the former conclusion, then the plan is obvious – lay back, relax, and use retardation as an excuse for why nobody wants to hire me (probably for a good reason). But I suspect it is not the problem.

My granpas always worked. One was an academic, the other one was a captain and an inventor. My mother’s mother always worked – she was an electrician. My second grandma I can’t say too much about, as she became ill very early and was not productive. My parents always worked, except during the economic crisis times in 1992 and 1997, where many Russian people lost their jobs and had to become businessmen on the spot. In the late 90s, this is exactly what happened to my family. My mom got into debt, got a clothing store, and survived off of that, while the government taxed her more than pre-crisis. If someone says it was the time Russian socialism collapsed and people got to experience rabid capitalism, they got the wrong picture. In 2001, my mother and I moved to Norway. Since then, mother experienced many internships that didn’t result in proper hiring, short-term mini-jobs and confused looks from social workers, who concluded that her lack of career success means she just has “problems with communication”.

It’d be very likely that I’d accept such a label for myself, if what is happening to me now, did not happen to my mother first. I was always introverted and not very socially graceful. But both my parents were always popular, socially brave people. I remember when I was small, they always invited lots of guests for New Year’s Eve and other holidays. The company they held were all educated, cultured people with jobs. That is how things were for my mom, until she moved countries.

All this leads me to my conclusion. Almost everyone in my family was competent and hard-working, and I have their genes. But once one of these people ends up in Norway, they lose status, they are demoted to the lower class, and experience a job drought. I can’t help but think switching countries is the common factor. I can’t help but think that if I stayed in Russia, I would have a job since age 17, just like my mother did. Instead of having financial security and job drought, I would have financial insecurity, but plenty of places to get hired at. Something we do, which works so brilliantly in Russia, fails entirely in Norway. But what is it? Is it within my power to change, or is it simply a matter of having relatively powerful, employed relatives that can use their network to give you a job?

Thoughts on this will be appreciated. By the way, if you want to connect with me on LinkedIn, here is my profile: :)

Posted in Personal emo stuff, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Why is “loving yourself” necessary?

I noticed a lot of “acceptance” blogs emphasize “loving yourself”. For a long time, I felt it was an odd phrase and couldn’t say it applied to myself. Yet I don’t feel any self-hate…

Why must I “love” myself? It sounds so odd. The implications must be that if you refuse to love yourself, you must hate yourself. But I think self-respect is what characterizes a happy, healthy person. Self-respect is free of self-loathing. It lets a person admit their mistakes or flaws, without sinking into a negative downward spiral of thoughts. And then it lets the person work on those mistakes or flaws. Self-respect is accountability mixed with optimism. Accountability alone is too demanding and punishing, while optimism alone is too naively delusional.

And this is why I think “loving yourself” is a product of people who struggle with self-hatred. Because their self-respect does not work automatically, they have to spell it out, and try to learn it. People who don’t suffer from self-hate don’t love themselves, the same way most people don’t think about how to walk. It just comes naturally, and thinking about it might even confuse you and make you trip.

So no, I don’t think you have to explicitly say you love yourself, if you already feel fine and don’t suffer from terrible self-esteem.

Posted in Beauty, Fat, Personal emo stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments