compliance as revenge

The proper way for a man to retaliate against the world is for him to simply submit to its will. It desires to have him be less than a man, to be a cog, to obey and serve the wills of others, to act not as a demi-god, but as a victim-servant. And what greater disservice could he do the world than this? He serves the world when he rebels against it; the rebel Tesla sets loose a million lesser engineers to achieve their dreams, and they, in achieving their dreams, serve the public interest to the utmost potential of their gifts. But the submissive Tesla, the one the world wanted, the one his employers and coworkers and landlords and customers wanted, the Tesla we would not have cursed in life, had he existed would have been a man cursing humanity to a doom of struggle against those dragons he slew with ease. We would have smilingly accepted his service as a busboy, and he would have smilingly cursed us with a century of cold and darkness.

If we self-consciously withhold our gifts, like John Galt, the most likely means is not some sort of solitary retreat, but an acceptance of the will of society, if only because we have to eat. What does it mean for generation after generation of entrepreneurial talent produced by our cities to flower only as swarms of drug dealers? It means only that we have gotten our wish: we have kept talent from self-determination, and in terrible revenge, it has allowed its course to be determined by conditions. What does it mean that any black market enterprise has a ready supply of brave innovators for the helm and prudent intelligences for the engines? What does it mean that these men need not be lured from captaincies of industry or state, but may be drawn from the dustbin of fast food and unemployment? What can it possibly mean except that our society makes a practice of wastage of talent, and talent, with that hatefulness only possible to those once wronged, assists in its own destruction.

In my present misfortunes, how many geniuses scourge me? How many economic minds could have warned of this depression, but hearing the anger in the crowd, were silent? How many engineers looked to pave a way to greater production and open vistas of ambition for the youth of my generation, only to retreat to their own garages when challenged for their academic credentials? How many philosophers had already cracked every question I will ask, but replied to a publisher’s rejection saying, “World, your ignorance is your own, and you deserve its fruits.”

Perhaps the answer is none, or one or two. Perhaps the drive of talent is so strong that the mere resistance of the world generally fails to prevent its bearing fruit, as in Tesla’s case. Yet we cannot know what we have actually lost, because we have lost it too thoroughly to even count it. In any case we know the habit of disposing of the gifts of men by states to be not quite a fixed policy, but a well-practiced one. We know that vengeful genius does not need to concoct a plan to destroy the world, because the world’s plan is to destroy itself by wasting genius.

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