Thursday, September 16, 2010

Freedom and Love

In Black Rainbow, Albert Wendt depicts a society in which to be free is to be able to obtain whatever material result one wants without having to give any regard to the opinions of others -- in which, as Alasdair MacIntyre would say, "[o]thers are always means, never ends" (MacIntyre 24). Under the President and the Tribunal, Wendt's protagonist is able to depower those who delay his mission without any social repercussions. However, the disadvantage of this apparent superiority is that it restricts the protagonist's ability to nurture relationships.

From the moment the protagonist is given the status as a "Free Citizen" under the President and the Tribunal, he is reminded by those who do not hold such a position how many options he now has open to him (51). To be able "to do what [he] like[s]...without guilt" is presented as the most fulfilling way not only he, but anyone, could live out life (33). From the standpoint of expediency, the ranking -- in that it allows the protagonist to secure cars and hotel rooms when his journey requires it -- is valuable. It allows the protagonist not only to ignore abstract law, but also to invalidate the standing of any person who opposes him. People who would normally have some authority in their sphere of work, like the cars salesmen and hotel workers, are reduced to "[making] promises to fulfill [the protagonist's] every wish" and "competing lavishly to prove their servility to [him]" (42, 54).

The disadvantage of this change in relationship to others, as the protagonist discovers even before his "Free" citizenship is fully secured, is that those with whom he would be emotionally intimate resent how insignificant their desires are in relation to his (51). At the start of the novel the protagonist's wife is angry that he doesn't "want to leave" New Zealand, and his preparation to become a "Free Citizen," because he "like[s]" that preparation (17, 51). Her disgust suggests that she understands that in becoming a "Free Citizen" the protagonist will disregard the psychological wellbeing of others in favor of his own, a fear he confirms in not responding to her plea (51). Though one could argue that the protagonist does indeed put his wife's psychological wellbeing before his own by going to such lengths to find her, he also admits that in overusing violence he is "risking the lives" of his family (78). He recognizes that by doing whatever he wants, he is unable to care about anyone more than himself.

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