“You have heard it said that this is an age of moral crisis. You have said it yourself, half in fear, half in hope that the words had no meaning. You have cried that man’s sins are destroying the world and you have cursed human nature for its unwillingness to practice the virtues you demanded. Since virtue, to you, consists of sacrifice, you have demanded more sacrifices at every successive disaster. In the name of a return to morality, you have sacrificed all those evils which you held as the cause of your plight. You have sacrificed justice to mercy. You have sacrificed independence to unity. You have sacrificed reason to faith. You have sacrificed wealth to need. You have sacrificed self-esteem to self-denial. You have sacrificed happiness to duty.
“You have destroyed all that which you held to be evil and achieved all that which you held to be good. Why, then, do you shrink in horror from the sight of the world around you? That world is not the product of your sins, it is the product and the image of your virtues. It is your moral ideal brought into reality in its full and final perfection. You have fought for it, you have dreamed of it, and you have wished it, and [now, your wish has been granted.]
“Men do not live by the mind, you say? The mind is impotent, you say? [The truth is irrelevant, you say?] There are values higher than the mind, you say?
“While you were dragging to your sacrificial altars the men of justice, of independence, of reason, of wealth, of self-esteem – they beat you to it, [They reached your goal first, by giving up.] [They discovered] the nature of the game you were playing and the nature of that moral code of yours, which they had been too innocently generous to grasp. [Do not cry that the fools who have taken their places are not the men who you want. They are the only types of men you deserve.]
“[Whether they know it or not, the men who have abandoned the world that they alone could give you] are on strike against self-immolation. [They] are on strike against the creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties. [They] are on strike against the dogma that the pursuit of one’s happiness is evil. [They] are on strike against the doctrine that life is guilt.
“There is a difference between [their] strike and all those you’ve practiced for centuries: [their] strike consists, not of making demands, but of granting them. [They] are evil, according to your morality. [They] have chosen not to harm you any longer. [They] are useless, according to your economics. [They] have chosen not to exploit you any longer. [They] are dangerous and to be shackled, according to your politics. [They] have chosen not to endanger you, nor to wear the shackles any longer. [They] are only an illusion, according to your philosophy. [They] have chosen not to blind you any longer and have left you free to face reality – the reality you wanted, the world as you see it now, a world without mind, [justice, independence, productiveness, selfishness, pride].
“[They] have granted you everything you demanded of [them]; [they] who had always been the givers. [They] have no demands to present to you, no terms to bargain about, no compromise to reach. You have nothing to offer [them]. [They] do not need you.
“Are you now crying: No, this was not what you wanted? A mindless world of ruins was not your goal? You did not want [them] to leave you? You moral cannibals, you know that you’ve always known what it was that you wanted. But your game is up, because now [they] know it, too.
“Through centuries of scourges and disasters, brought about by your code of morality, you have cried that your code had been broken, that the scourges were punishment for breaking it, that men were too weak and too selfish to spill all the blood it required. You damned man, you damned existence, you damned this earth, but never dared to question your code. Your victims took the blame and struggled on, with your curses as reward for their martyrdom – while you went on crying that your code was noble, but human nature was not good enough to practice it. And no one rose to ask the question: Good? – by what standard?
“You wanted to know [your problem’s] identity. [The men who you need, yet hate at the same time] have asked that question.
“Yes, this is an age of moral crisis. Yes, you are bearing punishment for your evil. But it is not man who is now on trial and it is not human nature, [or selfishness, or unhampered capitalism] that will take the blame. It is your moral code that’s through, this time. Your moral code has reached its climax, the blind alley at the end of its course. And if you wish to go on living, what you now need is not to return to morality – you who have never known any- but to discover it.” – Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged