Kurt Vonnegut goes

Kurt Vonnegut lectures at HarvardM and I just read Harrison Bergeron together two nights ago. I remembered the story from high school, where we also read Slaughterhouse Five to my father’s consternation. I like to think it was just the language he objected to.
My favorite essay of KV’s at In These Times was about governance guesswork.
Kurt Vonnegut could say it all and I don’t think he was through.

I just came across an excerpt someone posted from Jailbird:

“What could be so repulsive after all, during the Great Depression, especially, and with yet another war for natural wealth and markets coming, in a young man’s belief that each person could work as well as he or she was able, and should be rewarded, sick or well, young or old, brave or frightened, talented or imbecilic, according to his or her simple needs? How could anyone treat me as a person with a diseased mind if I thought that war need never come again–if only common people everywhere would take control of the planet’s wealth, disband their national armies and forget their national boundaries; if only they would think of themselves ever after as brothers and sisters, yes, and as mothers and fathers, too, and children of all other common people–everywhere. The only person who would be excluded from such friendly and merciful society would be one who took more wealth than he or she needed at any time.”

And this from an interview with Joel Bleifuss in 2003:

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, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are 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.”

To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable medical 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. Read it! 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 so many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick.

What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they cannot care what happens next. Simply can’t. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize 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!

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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2 Responses to Kurt Vonnegut goes

  1. Avatar Jonah says:

    Yeah, I remember just about everything I read. And Slaughterhouse 5 is a really memorable part of that vast collection.

    That book The Gospel from Outer Space he quoted in S-5 really exists. I’ve been looking for it, but now on amazon.com all his books and all the Kilgore Trout ones have gone up in price in the past two days. Eric, If you have it in stock let me know. I’ll scrounge the bread somewhere somehow for it.

    It’s subtitled (or: Yes, we have no Nirvanas)

  2. Avatar The 13th says:

    Great post, Jonah. I was very sad to hear of his passing. Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors, a modern-day Twain for sure! His book “Breakfast of Champions” has been a lifelong influence and comfort, which probably explains a lot to the more literate here!

    Poo-ta-weet! And so it goes…

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