Wednesday 10 December 2008

An essay...

This is an essay I wrote for a competition held by the Ayn Rand Institute based on Atlas Shrugged. Well, I didn't win any prizes but if there's anybody who's read the book and can give suggestions on how I can improve my writing skills, please do so...

Explain Ragnar Danneskjold’s statement that Robin Hood is the one man he is out to destroy. What is the deeper moral meaning of his claim?

Ragnar Danneskjold is one man who believes in complete justice. A philosopher turned pirate in the eyes of the world; he makes this statement while trying to convince Hank Rearden that the course of action adopted by him of seeking revenge against the looters is appropriate. He feels that the distorted version of the Robin Hood legend that has served as the hiding ground for the looters needs to be pulled from underneath them. The man with the purest gold hair, Ragnar Danneskjold, is perceived as a pirate by the people living in the outer world. The states of Norway, Portugal and Turkey had announced a huge price on his head; but Ragnar only took away what he felt had been unjustly taken away from those who righteously deserved it by virtue of their hard work and dedication. He took away all the iron, copper, coal and other items meant for Global relief; which had been looted by the looters for serving those who preferred not to work by hiding under a self-made garb of poverty and under-trodden life. This made the common man believe him to be a man with no heart and no feelings, but with a ship better than even the navy.

 Ragnar, who had a bishop for a father, believed in but one teaching of his father, 'All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.' Ragnar wants to prove this true, as it is the prime movers who are the victims of numerous atrocities, and not the other way round. Where Robin Hood was a man who took away from the rich and gave to the poor, Ragnar wanted to take from the thieving poor and give it back to the productive rich. Robin Hood was actually a man who took wealth away from those who had stolen it from the poor and gave it back to them, but the legend had been so misrepresented that it served as an excuse for the ignorant and inactive nature of the people who felt that it was right to demand what was in excess with the others, without making an effort to achieve it themselves. Ragnar seeks to destroy not what Robin Hood stood for, but what he is believed and perceived to have stood for.

 He believes that there are only two types of people left in the world-‘the looters who rob disarmed victims, and the victims who work for the benefit of their own despoilers’. He chose to be neither. He believes in an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. He says that the productive have fallen at the mercy of the looters, that their productiveness has led them to a stage where they have no claim to anything left in the world. The legend of Robin Hood has led to the notion that need, not hard work, is the sole bread winner.

Ragnar opposes the world where nepotism is being practiced, where fecklessness is immanent and where the undeserving grab what rightfully belongs to the hard workers at the expense of these toilers. Ragnar wishes to avenge the Dagny Taggarts and the Hank Reardens who have fallen prey to the looters. Although he is aware of the disapproval of other people like John Galt and Dr.Akston, who don’t support his way of working because they feel that his is not a mind to be wasted; Ragnar knows that the doomsday for the world devoid of all its producers was near; and hence feels that ready capital would be required for rebuilding the nation. He believes in repaying every penny that has been taken away from the deserving through endless ‘hidden taxes, in regulations, in wasted time, in lost effort, in energy spent to overcome artificial obstacles.’ While John was draining the world of its intellectual powers, Ragnar wishes to assist the process by depleting it of its resources and capital.

He seeks to destroy the mindset that it is the duty of the rich to serve poor, even when they don’t qualify for it, a mindset that got etched with the legend of Robin Hood, and led him to be recognized as a hero. The world by and large does not agree with Ragnar and labels him a bandit. Ragnar justifies his stance by saying that he was merely complying with the standards set by his opposers. ‘I am merely complying with the system which my fellow men have established. If they believe that force is the proper means to deal with one another, I am giving them what they ask for’. He says that just as the producers are being forced to forego the fruits of their abilities, he was doing the same to them by wrenching away the fruits of what they’d looted in the name of public service. But unlike them, he does not do it hidden beneath any kind of garb; he does not do it shrewdly, but openly.

The legend of Robin Hood makes the privileged feel burdened and guilty for the suffering of the others, even when they are entitled to what they possess on account of their proficiency and skill, and their potential to achieve it. Robin Hood has become an inspiration for the mediocre class which wants to have everything but does not wish to work for its achievement, and this mediocre class has leeched the rich and sucked the poor and has come to be known about as moralistic ideals. This class resents the prime movers for their talent and competence. These kind of people do not want money for themselves. They simply want to take it away from those who have it in excess. The high ability of a person actually leads him to be a victim. They simply seem to want ‘help’ the underprivileged by denying them their  rightful gains. These people fear competition and competitors because they believe that their lack of talent would not let them succeed. This is evident by the Anti-Dog-Eat rule that they got passed. It is this mediocrity that Ragnar wishes to eradicate from the world.

Ragnar equates himself to a policeman who protects the pilfering of the victims i.e. the productive by the pilferers i.e. the unproductive lot. He believes in returning every hard earned penny that has been forcefully taken away from them. He wishes to serve human ability and not human need. Ragnar appears in front of Hank when Hank is blackmailed into signing the directive ordering him to let the others have the right to produce the metal developed by him. He wants to offer Hank a portion of Hank’s own hard earned money in the form of gold, which was looted from him. Ragnar feels agitated by the actions of looters which have left Hank dejected. His intentions are evident by his actions, when he destroys the factory built by Orren Boyle for the production of Rearden Metal. Ragnar tells Hank that all his activities lead to the day when Hank and everybody like him would be at a liberty to command a profit on their own products. Hank expresses his scepticism over the possibility, in the face of people like Orren Boyle, Weasley Mouch and James Taggart holding the reigning upper hand. That is when Ragnar explains his compelling to be a bandit, even though he could have just disappeared from the face of the earth just as Ellis Wyat and Hugh Akston seem to have chosen to; so that people like Hank could comprehend that justice for them lies somewhere. Ragnar wishes to trounce the belief that people are entitled to whatever they want simply because they need it.

Thus, when Ragnar Danneskjold says that Robin Hood is one man he is out to destroy, what he is referring to is the trait of the humans to claim the right to every single thing that they don’t possess, but want to possess, simply by the virtue of their wanting, because they believe that equality is a privilege provided by the society to all. Ragnar wants to crush the notion that it is the job of the humans to remove all disparity that nature created, simply because it was created. He seeks to trounce the creed that promotes the ideology that all humans are created equal and hence all humans must have everything in equal quantities, that nobody is entitled to have anything extra because it would be a breech of the concept of equality. They feel that it is suffering and not success that is natural, that success and wealth are a delusion and the ultimate truth is simply death. And therefore, nobody is compelled to work hard or achieve anything ‘materialistic’. That attitude is what Ragnar seeks to destroy and he seeks to do it his own way.


Chaitanya said...

I am surprised no one has commented here. You have really compiled your article nicely, with the pertinent events from the book interspersed to convey the message.
The reaction from Hugh Akston and John Galt can be understood if we consider them to be, well, lets say purists. Their actions are devoid of any direct confrontation with the external world though their gradual siphoning of the prime movers is leaving the world in tatters. Ragnar on the other hands is focused on making the looters directly suffer.
The event when Ragnar attacks d 'Anconia Copper's ship and drowns it showed that Francisco and Ragnar did collude. Francisco had warned Rearden not to do any business with him and was appalled to hear that the particular consignment was being shipped for Rearden.

Akansha Agrawal said...

Well it didn't really surprise me, not too many people would really bother to read it... so Thank you for doing it! :)

That's a valid point too...