The Lesson of Hank Rearden

September 15th, 2010

By Brianna Aubin

In Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, the character Hank Rearden was a supremely moral man whose faults sprang from his conflicts with the destructive moral code of his enemies, and an inability to understand the nature and purpose of those enemies.  In Atlas, Rand literally cast the enemies of Rearden (and the other heroes of the novel) as seekers of death, people who truly did not want to live and whose primary goal was the destruction of all that was good, even in the face of the full knowledge that their own destruction would inevitably follow.

Once upon a time, I could not imagine that anyone on Earth would exist who would literally embrace such an “ideal,” but more and more, the story of Hank Rearden comes to me to resemble the story of the West and its conflict with Islam.  Like Rearden, the West is spectacularly productive, the creator of an abundance of physical, mental, and spiritual wealth.  Like Rearden, the West is based (to varying degrees) on a strong moral code of individual freedom.  And like Rearden, who believed that those arrayed against him shared his goals in life and would eventually realize the truth of the issues involved, the West believes that Islam is not malevolent, but is rather a benevolent force which can and will coexist peacefully with Western culture and values once it recognizes the truth.

Like Rearden, who supplied his brother with the money he needed to destroy him when he gave the organization his brother belonged to the money they needed to help pass the Equalization of Opportunity bill that stripped Rearden of his coal and ore mines, thus crippling his ability to produce, the West regularly pays money to the Arab regimes in the form of international aid and in payments for oil and gas imports, which those regimes then use to destroy the ideals of the West.  Like Rearden, who created the Metal which his enemies first tried to prevent him from offering on the market at all, and then used to construct the Xylophone which ended up causing utter devastation, the Muslim world denounces Western decadence, and then uses the products of that Western decadence, such as airplanes, computers and cell phones, to carry out their violent campaign against the West.  Like Rearden, who believed that those around him held his goals (productivity, achievement, happiness), and in the name of a destructive morality practiced a policy of continual appeasement in the name of those mistaken beliefs, the West continually assumes that the goals of the Muslim world are the same as its own (liberty, independence, and peaceful coexistence) and practices a continual policy of appeasement under the misapprehension that the Muslim world is consisted of rational people who are capable of being appeased.  Like Rearden, who almost literally could not conceive of an individual who would not seek to live and love life, the West is incapable of understanding that it is not love of life which drives Muslim suicide bombings and jihad, but rather a literal worship of the forces of death and a desire to leave this hell on Earth for the paradise of Allah.

Just as the world of Atlas, without Hank Rearden and the other productive heroes of the novel, quickly fell into a nightmare of chaos and destruction, so would the Islamic world, without the munificent wealth created by the West, quickly fall back to the level of nomadic tribesmen from which they sprang after their colonization and development by various Western powers.  Just as Rearden, in the world of Atlas, was the source of the material wealth which gave the looters the ability to hold sway over him and eventually destroy him, so is the West the source of the wealth and resources which the Islamists use to carry out their jihad against the West.  Just as Rearden’s integrity and unyielding adherence to his strict moral code was the only source of power the villains of Atlas actually held against him as their only weapon, so is the morality of the West the only weapon the Islamists hold against us.

Like the villains of Atlas Shrugged, the Islamists worship not life, but death.  We do not have to speculate on this as Rearden was forced to speculate in the novel; indeed, the terrorists have literally stated that they are “fighting so [they] can die in the cause of God” and that they are “eager to die” for Allah.  Their goal is not a free Palestinian state or even to be left alone in their own rather large corner of the globe; if it were, then a Palestinian state would have been established long since and Saudi Arabia and Iran, two Islamist regimes run free of interference from evil “secular” sources (at least from within their borders), would have stopped exporting their ideologies of terror and jihad a long time ago.   Their goal, like the goals of the villains of Atlas, is rather the ideological conquest of the world and a looting of the world’s plunder, with no thought as to what will happen once that conquest is complete.

Once upon a time, I could not believe that any individual would deliberately eschew the value of life, that they would honestly desire to forsake the supreme value of being alive and instead deliberately embrace a code of death.  After all, even the Communists had to lure their victims to their deaths with promises of Earthly paradise, and those promises were in turn an immense help in defeating Communism when the promised Earthly paradise appeared not in the Communist heaven of the USSR, but instead in the evil capitalist hells of Europe and America.  Communism may have been a self-destructive doctrine which could only be taken on faith, but because it cloaked itself in the garments of Life and Reason, it was correspondingly vulnerable to being defeated on those terms.  Islam, however, has taken itself one step further than even the worst totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.  While those ideologies avoided the knowledge that their doctrines were necessarily based on faith and destructive of life, Islam openly acknowledges these facts.  While the other ideologies at least professed to desire material abundance, Islam openly spurns the products of Western decadence and production.  By focusing the reward for an individual’s submission to Allah in the next world rather than this one and by demanding complete obedience to the words of the Prophet as found in the Koran and the Hadiths, including the words which urge Muslims to completely surrender their mind and will to Allah’s and to actively engage in holy war against the unbelievers whenever possible, Islam is literally a religion which forces any person who attempts to practice it fully and completely to actively seek mindlessness and death.

This is a concept which literally makes me cringe in horror.  I cannot convey to you how desperately I wish to be wrong, but the examination of the evidence leaves me in little doubt.  In the words of Mosab Yousef in Son of Hamas:

I asked myself what Palestinians would do if Israel disappeared – if everything not only went back to the way it was before 1948 but if all the Jewish people abandoned the Holy Land and were scattered again.  And for the first time, I knew the answer.

We would still fight.  Over nothing.  Over a girl without a headscarf.  Over who was toughest and most important.  Over who would make the rules and get the best seat.

In other words, even when the Muslims’ professed goals have been met, even if they managed to win every concession they ever demanded of the West and achieved the global caliphate of which they so longingly dream, even then there would be no peace, no production, no pursuit of happiness, no life. Because like Rearden’s enemies in Atlas Shrugged, these are not their goals. And like Rearden, the only hope for the survival of the West is for the Western world to recognize these truths, and act accordingly.

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14 Responses to “The Lesson of Hank Rearden”

  1. Clarissa |

    Thank you for killing one of my favorite characters in world literature for me.

    This post reminded me a lot of the kind of literary analysis that was done in the Soviet Union. We were taught, for example, that Don Quijote had to be analyzed as some kind of a proto-communist. 🙂 🙂

  2. Brianna |

    “Thank you for killing one of my favorite characters in world literature for me.”

    @Clarissa – no problem.

  3. Tom Carter |

    It’s been decades since I read Atlas Shrugged, so I won’t comment on Hank Rearden. However, regardless of how accurately the character is drawn here, there are a lot of valid points in the article.

    It’s not just Muslim extremists who have been enabled by advances in technology, finance, and politics that originated in the U.S. Virtually all countries are significant beneficiaries of U.S. innovation, freedom, and willingness to help others. When these same people turn on us and criticize us and even kill us, it’s hard to accept when we know that, as Brianna said, “without the munificent wealth created by the West, [they would] quickly fall back to the level of nomadic tribesmen from which they sprang after their colonization and development by various Western powers.”

    However, I’m not sure what’s meant by the statement that the Western world should “act accordingly.” If the attacks on us, particularly from violent extremists, result in our withdrawing from the world and changing the very nature of our open, free, charitable society, then they will have won an important victory. I think the only answer is to continue being who we are and always have been, while at the same time cleaning up our act at home. That means a return to some semblance of fiscal responsibility, leadership that understands and values American exceptionalism, firm control of potentially violent actors among us (including but certainly not limited to illegal immigrants), and taking reasonable action at home and abroad to secure ourselves from future attacks.

  4. d |

    I don’t believe Brianna has read the Q’uran or anything else that is about Islam,except for Hamas. They are radicals and extremists. Islam does not stand for death,just as Christianity,which advocates that life after death is so much better,doesn’t. Both religions require morality and believe in the afterlife being the best place to be. Both religions require a set of morals to get there. Both religions have extremists and fanatics. Both religions have caused innumerable deaths and horrors,in their name. Both religions prefer afterlife on earth to life on earth. Does that mean Christians are death mungers,too?
    I do not believe the West to be all that moral. Maybe our way is better,more intelligent ,but that does not mean we are always right or moral. Maybe, they do have a lot more religious fanatics,but that does not make all of them crazed,death zealots.
    You ruined the character for me,also,Brianna,thanks. I think you are partly right,but mostly,wrong.

  5. Brianna |

    d – I have not read the Koran (and I have to), but I have read

    Israel, a History
    Son of Hamas
    A God Who Hates
    Now They Call Me Infidel
    An Infidel’s Guide to the Koran
    Reflections on the Revolution in Europe
    Winning the Unwinnable War
    Saved by her Enemy

    And maybe one or two other books whose titles I do not recall at this moment. Not to mention documents written by the terrorists, a boatload of newspaper articles, and various foreign policy anaysis in other media. While nuts who actually want to blow up buildings are quite rare, I do not believe that groups like Hamas have fundamentally misinterpreted their religion in any way, or that the attutides of their supporting populations are fundamentally different in anything but degree. Certainly it is difficult to believe that Muslims in the west (or elsewhere) want anything less than the destruction of our freedoms when they cry “Burn, burn freedom! Burn, burn democracy! Sharia for USA!” while setting alight American flags and pictures of Obama.

    The good part starts @ 11 min

    @Tom – The basic idea is stop appeasing our enemies and assert the moral rightness of our stance, our way of life, and our freedoms. That means sticking up for those who fight the culture war at home (such as Molly Norris, who was just driven into hiding by the death threats against her) and abroad (such as actually FIGHTING TO WIN in Iraq and Afghanistan).

  6. Paul Beaird |

    Islamic religions practice requires obedience (the name “Islam” means “submission”) to the command of the Prophet, the Koran, and, therefore, of the non-existent Moon Good Al’lah (Al’lah is a name, not a translation of the word “God”) to kill all unbelievers (especially Jews). THIS is Islamic religious practice, even though there are other, less violent aspects of Islamic practice. There is no morality in the command to give to the poor, when the hand of a young boy (in a video I saw recently)is to be cut off because he stole a bit of bread. If charity is commanded, why is the boy starving and had to steal to live, why not give it to him, then and there, so that his act is not one of theft, why mutilate his body, leaving him less functional for his entire life for one act of relieving starvation? Pure evil, poorly covered by excuses, which aren’t morality, anyway.

  7. Tom Carter |

    I’m not sure what you mean by “fighting to win” in Iraq and Afghanistan. What would you do differently from the current counterinsurgency strategy? It involves defeating the opposing forces, securing the population, building good relationships with the people, promoting effective democratic government, eliminating corruption, and so on. Would your alternative be to kill every person, sheep, and donkey then bomb the place to rubble and keep bombing to watch the rubble bounce? We can certainly do that, without breaking much of a sweat. But why?

    There’s also a problem with the word “win.” How is it defined in Iraq and especially in Afghanistan? If it depends on achieving all the COIN objectives noted above, then it isn’t possible. Institutions and structures may have been created in Iraq that look like the real thing, but over time it’s going to be proven to be illusory. In Afghanistan, it probably won’t even be possible to create the illusion of winning. The best thing we can do at this point is get our troops out and don’t get caught up in this kind of nonsense anywhere else. Find true threats to American interests and take them out, wherever they are. Otherwise, leave other countries to their own devices.

  8. Brian |

    Most of the Germans of the 1920s and 30s were peace-loving people, too. Yet they participated with, or at least pretended not to know, what the more “radical” NAZIs were doing. Ibid for Japan and Italy, too.

    One is left with the idea that the Muslims, like the Germans of 85 years ago, either agree with what is happening, or are too cowardly to do anything about it.

  9. d |

    Then,of course ,you are an expert on Muslims and the Q’uran,Brianna. Just as those who read articles on being religious,being Christians,and written by athiests, are all experts on Christians and the Bible. Read it before you condenm all of Islam,to be what you think they are.

  10. Tom Carter |

    Doris, you’re clicking away with an empty pistol. Reading the Qu’ran word-for-word is no more necessary to understand Islam than reading the Bible word-for-word is necessary to understand Christianity. In fact, both are so full of contradictions, confusion, obscure statements, and translation problems that one is probably better off reading analyses written by people who have spent many years in specialized study.

    And yes, before you start clicking away again, I’ve read substantial portions of both books, and it didn’t do much good.

  11. d |

    Click,click. You are way too young and smart,Brianna,to be so closed-minded. Done clicking.

  12. Brianna |

    Open-mindedness is not an unlimited virtue Doris; it depends on what you’re opening your mind to, and why. I’ll open my mind to Islam when Islam opens itself to Western criticism and civilizational values, and not a moment before.

  13. Danny Jeffrey |

    Comparing Hank Rearden to Islam, is like comparing right and wrong, light and darkness, or life and death. The only thing they have in common is purpose. His purpose was to be himself and in doing so show the world the nobility in man’s spirit, and what that nobility can achieve. Islam’s purpose is to subdue the world, crush the nobility in man’s spirit and to destroy all that is uplifting.

    The one man in this world that personifies evil and promotes all that is vile is Osama bin Laden. I dislike giving such a fiend any credit at all but none could have said it better than he when he defined for the world the major difference between we people of the west and his people of Islam. Heed his words for they are very evil yet equally revealing in their intent. He stated that the people of the United States love life and his people of Islam love death.

    One needs not read the Qur’an to understand evil or look back fourteen hundred years to the pedophile who started it all but all should watch watch its teachings put into effect. Try You tube in “She’s buried chest high.”

    If you like children you should really try “Bombs are more precious than children”

    From both of these you can find link that lead on and on, each revealing the hatred that radiates from Mecca.

    Brianna it is amazing that one as young as you has such a comprehension of life that many my age will never understand. I believe that the major difference between you and them is a reality issue. You face it head on. They prefer an evasive tactic.

  14. [ENTJ] Occupy Wall Street |

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