Kurt Vonnegut dives into the story of a selfless man. So selfless that everyone thinks he is crazy, including himself.
In summation: he said, I see two alternatives before us. We can write morals into law, and enforce those morals harshly, or we can return to a true Free Enterprise System, which has the sink-or-swim justice of Caesar Augustus built into it. I emphatically favor the latter alternative.
“It was a perfectly good word –until Eliot got hold of it. It’s spoiled for me now. Eliot did to the word love what the Russians did to the word democracy. If Eliot is going to love everybody, no matter what they are, no matter what they do, then those of us who love particular people for particular reasons had better find ourselves a new word.”
A prescription that was far more common than money in the Domesday Book was “AW.” This represented Eliot’s recommendation to people who were down in the dumps for every reason and for no reason in particular: “Dear, I tell you what to do –take an aspirin tablet, and wash it down with a glass of wine.”
“Oh –I don’t know.” Eliot’s sorrow and exhaustion dropped away for a moment as he became enchanted by the problem. A birdy little smile played over his lips. “Go over to her shack, I guess. Sprinkle some water on the babies, say, ‘Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies –: “‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’”
Harry had two fish traps offshore, labyrinths of pilings and nets that took heartless advantage of the stupidity of fish.
“If you have, you’ve probably voted for me. Most people do, even though I never flattered the people of Indiana in my life, not even in time of war. And do you know why they vote for me? Inside of every American, I don’t care how decayed, is a scrawny, twanging old futz like me, who hates crooks and weaklings even more than I do.”
“That’s one of the troubles with this country,” said the Senator. “The Madison Avenue people have made us all more alarmed about our own armpits than about Russia, China and Cuba combined.”
“what you did in Rosewater County was far from insane. It was quite possibly the most important social experiment of our time, for it dealt on a very small scale with a problem whose queasy horrors will eventually be made world-wide by the sophistication of machines. The problem is this: How to love people who have no use?
“In time, almost all men and women will become worthless as producers of goods, food, services, and more machines, as sources of practical ideas in the areas of economics, engineering, and probably medicine, too. So –if we can’t find reasons and methods for treasuring human beings because they are human beings, then we might as well, as has so often been suggested, rub them out.”
“Americans have long been taught to hate all people who will not or cannot work, to hate even themselves for that. We can thank the vanished frontier for that piece of common-sense cruelty. The time is coming, if it isn’t here now, when it will no longer be common sense. It will simply be cruel.”
Poverty is a relatively mild disease for even a very flimsy American soul, but uselessness will kill strong and weak souls alike, and kill every time.
Header photo © medium.com
Body photo © amazon.com