Chapter 17, Part II is the chilling story of Kira’s escape to Latvia in Ayn Rand’s 1936 epic novel, We the Living. In a principled life of motion and purpose, she chose an arduous journey from the mental and physical torture of the east, and toward the modern, classical liberalism of the west.
After what seemed like endless days and nights on a desolate train ride, Kira’s journey necessitated a brief rest stop to change clothes and eat. Ahead of her lay the night-long, final trek across a barren, winter frontier. It compelled only the essentials, so Kira gambled on a safe-house,
She knocked at a door. A man opened it. She slipped a bill into his hand and tried to explain. She did not have to explain much. Those in the house knew and understood.
In the previous chapter, and in a chance meeting on her way to the train station, Gen Z’s Kira ran into her beloved Uncle Vasili on the streets of Petrograd, now Leningrad. While he desperately clung to hope that Europe will somehow rescue Russians from Soviet slavery, Kira told him,
Uncle Vasili . . . over there . . . where I’m going . . . I’ll tell them about everything . . . It’s like an SOS . . . And maybe . . . someone . . . somewhere . . . will understand . . . .
Prior to that, Andrei had surrendered his body to Soviet totalitarianism in Chapter 15, and Leo was surrendering his mind. After learning of her relationship with Andrei and being released from jail, Leo explains, “Because, you see, that sets me free.” Kira then asks, “Free . . . from what Leo?” He answers, “From a little fool who was my last hold on self-esteem.” Millennial Leo had been defeated by overwhelming, government-enforced selflessness.
Conversely, it seems hatred of President Trump is rooted in his refusal to be defeated over his love for America. His resilience and perseverance in the face of desperate and virulent opposition is not unlike Kira’s, and his arrogantly confident egoism befits Leo. As a result, Trump represents a grave threat to 2020 America’s war and welfare statists. Taking his turn, former Clinton Administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich threatened on October 18th,
When this nightmare is over, we need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It would erase Trump’s lies and name every official, politician, executive, and media mogul whose greed and cowardice enabled this catastrophe.
Despite greed and cowardice being the hallmarks of ‘Democratic’ Socialism’s exponents, Joe Biden being the exemplar, as reported by the New York Post on October 14th, Leo finally asked Kira, “Have you nothing to say?” She turned and looked at him calmly, and answered, “Only this, Leo: it was I against 150 million people. I lost.” Men against Man.
Yet, Kira had not lost her fitness for living or right to moral justice. Because self-esteem is a matter of life and death, pride defends the meaning of Kira’s life, her most precious ideal,
She had to walk west. That was the only problem, that was the total of all problems. She did not have to think. She had to get out.
Here, Ayn Rand has identified Kira’s singular goal and its essential action. To live demanded the reason of Western civilization because the mysticism of the east meant death by altruism or force. For Kira, her devotion to logic led to one thing – the energy of her mind and body coordinated in pursuit of her ultimate goal, and it was time to act.
While all other options had been exhausted, Kira had been here before. At the end of Part I, chasing every possibility offered by the Soviet socialist criminal gang, she got Leo to a sanitorium in Crimea to save his life. Now, it was Kira’s turn, and this is the extraordinary and beautiful message of We the Living. Your life and happiness are your highest value; not Society, not God, not others, and not retribution.
This is the essence of the Preamble to America’s Declaration of Independence, and also the advice received from Leonard Peikoff (author of Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand) by teaching impresario Lisa VanDamme, and posted online on October 16th,
A few years in, I considered getting out of education. I sought guidance from people I respected. The worst advice: Figure out where you want to make an impact; to change the world. From Leonard: Reflect on your week. What made you the most happy? Extract principles about what activities bring you satisfaction. Pursue a career that features those.
However, for most 2020 Americans, Kira’s message from Uncle Vasili and millions of Russians is not getting through. Public education is grounded in public service, social justice, non-profit work, and giving back. All based on the false premise that there is “something greater than yourself.” While Robert Reich may be an irrelevant turd from the 1990’s, the depravity of “Truth and Reconciliation Commissions” have been popular among government elites in over 40 countries and three decades.
Perhaps the most egregious example is the aftermath of terrorist Nelson Mandela’s “Democratic Socialism” disaster. As Martin van Staden, Head of Legal Policy at the Free Market Foundation of South Africa wrote in 2017,
We were supposed to move away from the Apartheid mentality. Instead, we have doubled down. The so-called Prevention of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill of 2016 is perhaps the gravest threat to freedom of expression which South Africans have ever faced.
Kira Argounova’s attitude and behavior offer the glorious alternative to fighting for reparations or revelation – pride. When Leo asked her, “What is there to bind me?” She looked straight at him, and only her lips moved as she answered with the greatest calm of her life: “Nothing Leo.” Chapter 16 ended, “Well good-bye, Uncle Vasili” . . . “Good-bye, Kira.” She walked away without looking back.
Never letting setbacks get in the way of her aspirations, and with freedom on the horizon, in defense of man against men, Kira’s mind, body, and spirit achieved its ultimate clarity,
She smiled, as if she had lived it. She had known something which no human words could ever tell and she knew it now. Life had been, if only because she had known it could be. A moment or an eternity – did it matter? Life, undefeated, existed and could exist.