Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Man without a country- Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut calls himself "a man without a country"--except, he says, for librarians This is a great book. Should be required reading by everyone age 10-110 and read aloud to those younger or older.
I borrowed from the library and read it last weekend.
Custodians of chaos

In this exclusive extract from his forthcoming memoirs, Kurt Vonnegut
is horrified by the hypocrisy in contemporary US politics
Saturday January 21, 2006

Guardian
"Do unto others what you would have them do unto you." A lot of
people think Jesus said that, because it is so much the sort of thing
Jesus liked to say. But it was actually said by Confucius, a Chinese
philosopher, five hundred years before there was that greatest and
most humane of human beings, named Jesus Christ.

The Chinese also gave us, via Marco Polo, pasta and the formula for
gunpowder. The Chinese were so dumb they only used gunpowder for
fireworks. And everybody was so dumb back then that nobody in either
hemisphere even knew that there was another one.

We've sure come a long way since then. Sometimes I wish we hadn't. I
hate H-bombs and the Jerry Springer Show

But back to people like Confucius and Jesus and my son the doctor,
Mark, each of whom have said in their own way how we could behave
more humanely and maybe make the world a less painful place. One of
my favourite humans is Eugene Debs, from Terre Haute in my native
state of Indiana.

Get a load of this. Eugene Debs, who died back in 1926, when I was
not yet four, ran five times as the Socialist party candidate for
president, winning 900,000 votes, almost 6 percent of the popular
vote, in 1912, if you can imagine such a ballot. He had this to say
while campaigning:

"As long as there is a lower class, I am in it.

"As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it.

"As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

Doesn't anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great
public schools, or health insurance for all?

When you get out of bed each morning, with the roosters crowing,
wouldn't you like to say. "As long as there is a lower class, I am in
it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as
there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

How about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of
God.

And so on.

Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly George W
Bush, Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld stuff.

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the
Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the
Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that's
Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon
on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

"Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the
peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

It so happens that idealism enough for anyone is not made of perfumed
pink clouds. It is the law! It is the US Constitution.

But I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought
in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body
snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened instead is
that it was taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy,
Keystone Cops-style coup d'├ętat imaginable.

I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV
show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand
on end: "C-Students from Yale".

George W Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know
no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka
Christians, and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities,
or PPs, the medical term for smart, personable people who have no
consciences.

To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable diagnosis,
like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete's foot. The classic
medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr Hervey Cleckley, a
clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Georgia,
published in 1941. Read it!

Some people are born deaf, some are born blind or whatever, and this
book is about congenitally defective human beings of a sort that is
making this whole country and many other parts of the planet go
completely haywire nowadays. These were people born without
consciences, and suddenly they are taking charge of everything.

PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions
may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they
are nuts. They have a screw loose!

And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and
WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining
their employees and investors and country and who still feel as pure
as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them?
And they are waging a war that is making billionaires out of
millionaires, and trillionaires out of billionaires, and they own
television, and they bankroll George Bush, and not because he's
against gay marriage.

So many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal
government, as though they were leaders instead of sick. They have
taken charge. They have taken charge of communications and the
schools, so we might as well be Poland under occupation.

They might have felt that taking our country into an endless war was
simply something decisive to do. What has allowed so many PPs to rise
so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so
decisive. They are going to do something every fuckin' day and they
are not afraid. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with
doubts, for the simple reason that they don't give a fuck what
happens next. Simply can't. Do this! Do that! Mobilise the reserves!
Privatise the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap
everybody's telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar
missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These
Times, and kiss my ass!

There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know
what can be done to fix it. This is it: only nut cases want to be
president. This was true even in high school. Only clearly disturbed
people ran for class president.

The title of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is a parody of the title
of Ray Bradbury's great science-fiction novel Fahrenheit 451. Four
hundred and fifty-one degrees Fahrenheit is the combustion point,
incidentally, of paper, of which books are composed. The hero of
Bradbury's novel is a municipal worker whose job is burning books.

While on the subject of burning books, I want to congratulate
librarians, not famous for their physical strength, who, all over
this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who
have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and destroyed
records rather than have to reveal to thought police the names of
persons who have checked out those titles.

So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House, the
Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or the
media. The America I loved still exists at the front desks of our
public libraries.

And still on the subject of books: our daily news sources, newspapers
and TV, are now so craven, so unvigilant on behalf of the American
people, so uninformative, that only in books do we learn what's
really going on.

I will cite an example: House of Bush, House of Saud by Craig Unger,
published in early 2004, that humiliating, shameful, blood-soaked year.

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