[6-8] The imaginative ones were unsatisfied because all the apes in the tribe had enough things to live quite comfortably, which meant that there was no reason to attack other tribes with sharp sticks, unless reasons could be invented with words and ideas.
And so it happened that the imaginative ones began to ask many questions at the top of their lungs, saying, ďWhy does the rain not come just when we need it, and why is the hunting not always as good as it could be, and why does it seem that the grass grows greener on the other side of the valley, where the next tribe lives?Ē And hearing these questions, the others became quite upset, saying, ďWe donít know, whatís the answer, weíre terribly confused.Ē Whereupon the imaginative ones smiled at one another and said, ďAll is not as it should be because you have not made offerings to the Gods, who give us rain, and game, and grass, and other things too.Ē And the others became very afraid, saying, ďWhat are Gods? Do they live around here? Do they have weapons?Ē And the imaginative ones nodded knowingly, because they had discovered a wonderful discovery, which brought smiles to their faces, and joy to their hearts.
And so the ape called Man came to believe in the Gods, who had given Man everything he had, and who could take it all away again in an instant, if they werenít kept happy, which is why the imaginative ones had to become priests and seers, in order to explain the will of the Gods to the less imaginative ones, who were unable to make it up for themselves. And the Gods made many demands, asking for the best portions of the food, and the best clothes, and the best weapons, and other things besides, including a virgin every so often, and especially including things taken from other tribes, such as their heads and other parts of their bodies. And the priests rejoiced at the bounties offered by the people, and cried out in joy, saying, ďArenít the Gods great and generous? Look at what they have given us! Never have we seen so much food and clothing and weaponry and body parts all in one place! Truly this is a good thing, and we are well pleased.Ē
And so the Gods smiled upon the tribe for a time, and gave out plenty of rain, and plenty of good crops, and a lot of bountiful things from the good earth, and plenty of things taken from other tribes, including heads and other body parts, and the apes were happy to know that the Gods were on their side, and they worshiped them often, saying, ďThank you, great Gods, for all you have given us, hosanna, hallelujah, hooray.Ē And the priests smiled a great deal all the time.
But then it happened, after seven years of plenty of everything, that things went wrong, as they often do, and there wasnít any rain, and the crops were pitiful, and the game got scarce, and one of the neighboring tribes invaded the valley and took away most of the virgins, as well as plenty of heads and other body parts. Whereupon the apes cried out angrily to the priests, saying, ďHey, we donít understand this at all. What about all the food and weapons and body parts weíve given to the Gods? Have they forgotten about us already? Honestly, weíre very discouraged with the whole thing.Ē The priests considered the words of the tribe very carefully, for about six weeks, which was way too long, but at last the priests triumphantly announced that they had the answer, and the people crowded around to listen, saying, ďThis had better be good.Ē So the priests cried aloud, in a high, shaking voice, saying, ďThe Gods have become bored with your offerings, which are puny and insignificant, consisting of little more than food and weapons and body parts, and every once in a while, a virgin. The Gods need more than small change if they are to go on giving you rain and crops and so forth.Ē Well, then, what do they want?Ē asked the tribe, and beads of sweat stood out on their forehead. ďThey want monuments and temples, made of stone, with plenty of writing on them, singing the praises of the Gods, as well as prayers and idols and that sort of thing.Ē ďWhat is writing?Ē asked the tribe. ďWe have not heard of this before. Is it hard to get? Does it involve killing?Ē But the priests smiled broadly, and replied, ďWriting is not hard at all. It does not involve killing, but youíll like it anyway.Ē And then the tribe was well content, saying, ďWeíll get right to it, then. But what is a temple?Ē And the priests smiled, saying, ďDonít worry. Weíll explain everything as we go.Ē
And so it happened that the apes called men went to work for their Gods, building many great monuments and temples, and writing many praises and prayers and other inscriptions in stone, so that seven times seven generations of their race worshiped the same Gods and invented all manner of things to please them, including many elaborate ceremonies intended to honor the Gods in their temples, and many new cities in which to build temples and other monuments to the Gods, and wars against other tribes which did not worship the same Gods, and who therefore needed to have their cities and monuments and temples destroyed, completely and utterly, and their fields burned and sown with salt, and their women raped, and their people enslaved, so that even bigger temples and monuments could be built, to sing the praises of the great, generous Gods who had made the earth and the seas and the beasts of the field, and who had made the cleverest of the apes into a powerful nation of priests and warriors and builders and writers, which was the greatest gift of all, and which was called civilization.
 When the apes called barbarians settled down in Europe and started being Civilized Nations, and decided to have a great Dark Age, they naturally turned to the Christians for help, because the Christians had priests who knew how to explain everything, completely, so no more questions would be needed, for a thousand years, and no one would have to think about anything, for a thousand years, which meant that everything could stay almost exactly the way it was, for a thousand years, which is the whole reason for having a Dark Age in the first place.
[40-41] Even though life in the Dark Age was pretty great, what with nobody having to think too much about anything and all, there were a couple of things that the Christians kind of forgot about, like sanitation.
Under the old Roman heathen way, there was a lot of bathing going on, which was obviously not Christian, being Roman, and so the Christians pretty well stamped out bathing during the Dark Age, not to mention sewage systems, which were a little too scientific for Christians, and would have meant educating some more stone masons and so forth, since the ones they had were all busy building cathedrals, so that everybody could go to church on Sunday, and thus go to heaven. Unfortunately, when everybody stops bathing, for a thousand years, and is throwing excrement into the streets, for a thousand years, sooner or later, something can go wrong, which it did.
What went wrong was the rats, who were not Christian, and therefore didnít understand about Love Thy Neighbor and so forth, which resulted in a problem called the Black Death, or the Bubonic Plague, or more simply, the Plague.
What happened was the rats got sick and died, but didnít go to heaven right away, and instead hung around infecting the Christians, who started dying in large numbers, like two out of every three, throughout Europe.
The Plague was pretty hard to ignore, what with so many bodies piled up in the streets and all, including the bodies of priests and nobles, which was kind of unsettling, and caused a lot of Christians to start asking questions, like ďWhatís the use of never having any fun to speak of if weíre all just going to die of some disgusting disease?Ē And so it occurred to some of them that maybe the church didnít have all the answers, and maybe it wasnít a completely good idea that nobody knew anything about anything except what the priests said was in the Bible, when it would have been kind of nice to know some things about other things, like, say, medicine.
[65-66] And then came Louis the Sixteenth, who looked exactly like a frog, which was unnerving even to the Frog masses. Louis also had a wife, named Marie Antoinette, who inflamed the peasants by offering to let them eat cake, which created shock waves of disappointment when no cake was forthcoming. It occurred to the Frog masses that Louis and his wife might look better without heads, which was absolutely correct, and thus inaugurated the French Revolution. Fortunately, the French had by this time invented the concept of democracy, which means rule by bloodthirsty masses of Frogs, and wasnít very hard to invent, really, because the Americans had already done some of the preliminary groundwork, even though they were basically English and therefore stupid and ugly and not at all well dressed. Anyway, the Frog masses, now calling themselves Jacobins, which means ďvengeful murderous power-hungry idiots,Ē stormed the Bastille, freeing all the peasants, and then guillotined the king and queen and all the nobles they could get their hands on, and then, when the supply of nobles was getting low, each other.
[66-68] Napoleon was born poorer and shorter than is normally acceptable in Frog military circles. He was also, unfortunately, not French. This helps to explain why he was such a great military success for so long and why he had such a hard time understanding the rule about not defeating the English. Anyway, Napoleon was born in Corsica and rose to become a general, thanks to the relaxing of social standards that occurred during the French Revolution. His saving grace was that he was extremely quarrelsome and actually wanted to be French, for some reason. He also wanted to rule France, and that was just for starters. When people began to notice that rule by directorate wasnít working out, Napoleon came back from Egypt with an army to suggest that Rule by Napoleon was much the best solution. Rule by Napoleon means ďrule by a power-mad genius willing to sacrifice every drop of Frog blood on earth for a few fleeting moments of glory,Ē which made perfect sense to the Frogs, who suddenly realized that the gnawing ache in their bellies was not hunger for food, but for glory.
Napoleon saved the Frog masses from ignominious death at the guillotine by sending them to glorious death in battle, thus introducing the most important innovation in the history of France, namely, the concept of military victory. Frog soldiers died gloriously and victoriously in numerous nations throughout Europe, including Austria, Italy, Prussia, Spain, and many more besides. Even the English were dismayed by Napoleonís un-Froglike talent for victory, and had to wait for a lucky break, which didnít come until Napoleon decided that he should conquer Russia, an idea that occurred to him only after he had been living in France for about ten years, and canít be explained any other way.
Before he decided to conquer Russia, Napoleon acquired an empire that included most of western Europe, excepting England, and established Rule by Napoleon as the most universally practiced form of government in the western world. He even invented a new code of laws, which he named after himself and which included numerous new ideas about justice. For example, under the Napoleonic Code, people had to be given a trial before being guillotined, which was so revolutionary that it made people wonder why they hadnít thought of it during the French Revolution, until they remembered that the French Revolution had been started by Frogs. Napoleon also encouraged innovations in fashion, including topless gowns for lady Frogs, which made sense, since it was the French who had invented breasts. At the same time, Napoleon was doing quite well with the ladies personally, in spite of being so short, and had a famous affair with Josephine, who turned out to be infertile, which paved the way for Marie Louise, who had a husband, but Napoleon got rid of him, which is generally what happens when an emperor cuts in on your wife. Anyway, until he thought of conquering Russia, Napoleon had things pretty much his own way, which was the only way he cared about.
Then, of course, Napoleon had his idea about Russia, which turned out to be a very bad idea, because as someone once said, ďAn army travels on its stomach,Ē and Russia is a long way to go if youíre traveling on your stomach. In fact, itís hard to get there and back before winter arrives, which in Russia almost always involves plenty of snow and ice and a lot less food for your stomach. Having forgotten this, for some reason, Napoleon succeeded in killing thousands of Russians and getting all the way to Moscow before winter arrived. Then he remembered about his stomach and raced home to Paris for some good Frog cuisine, leaving his army without any cake, or anything else, except the transcendent glory of dying for France in the bloody snow.
 The Brits had worked hard to colonize part of America, which they did the hard way, of course, starting later than everyone else, and then doing it by sending boatfuls of unpleasant religious outcasts into Indian-infested tracts of wilderness, without funds or provisions, to build rich and valuable new world colonies. This brilliant strategy ultimately provided the Brits with the richest, most valuable colonies in the world, which they quite properly tried to exploit through taxation, resulting in a lot of grousing by the colonists, who wanted to be independent, meaning tax-free, and then declared that they were independent, with a nation of their own, and topped it off by saying a lot of impolite things about the king.
[384-385] Since the very beginning of time, the Chosen Nations of the world have committed genocide against everyone who dared to oppose them. If you had paid attention in high school, you would know that the Hebrews committed genocide against the Philistines, and the Assyrians committed genocide against every nation in Mesopotamia, and the Greeks committed genocide against the Trojans, and the Romans committed genocide against the Carthaginians, and the barbarians of Europe committed genocide against the Romans and each other, and the Christians of Europe committed genocide against the Saracens and each other, and the Spics committed genocide against the Indians of Central America, for the Frogs committed genocide against the other nations of Europe, and the Brits committed genocide against practically every nation on the planet, and the Krauts committed genocide against the Jews and everybody else too, and all the Chosen Nations in the Middle East committed genocide against all the other Chosen Nations in the Middle East, not to mention large parts of Europe and other places, and the Russkies committed genocide against their own people for thousands of years, and likewise, the Chinks have also learned to commit genocide against their own people, and the Nips committed genocide against every nation in the South Pacific, and at every time in the whole course of human history, the Chosen Nations have always sought to commit genocide against anyone who stood in their way, no matter how big or how small an obstacle they were.
[385-389] You say, I will do everything differently from what is done by the criminals. I will not wear the clothes that they wear, and I will not consume the things that they consume, and I will not like the things that they like, and I will do everything there is to do differently from the criminals, including not wash, and not shave, and not brush my teeth, and not launder my clothes, or any other thing that is like what the criminals do.
What does this accomplish? The answer is that it makes you smell bad, so that you stink like a bunch of animals, and the very air around you is foul-smelling and unclean, and that is all that it accomplishes. It does not end genocide, or shame the criminals, because they will merely laugh at you and hold their nose, which is understandable, since you are all dirty indeed, and you are also stupid, which helps nothing and no one, least of all, you.
What is the difference between the Chosen Nations, whom you hate, and all the Others for whom you have so much love? You would revile the conquistadors because they committed genocide in the name of God against the Mayas and the Aztecs. But I ask you, did not the Mayas and the Aztecs also commit genocide in the name of God against those who opposed them, and even against their own people? You would deplore the Brits who committed genocide against the Zulus of South Africa, not even in the name of God, but in the name of the king, for the purpose of expanding their evil empire. But did not the Zulus commit genocide against their neighbors, also in the name of their king, for the purpose of expanding their empire? And so what is the difference between the conquistadors and the Mayas, or between the Brits and the Zulus? The only difference is that the Spic tree was taller than the Maya tree, and the Brit tree was taller than the Zulu tree. Just as the American tree is taller than the tree of Southeast Asia or the tree of the Native Americans. And if you cut down the biggest tree, you will simply make room for the smaller trees to grow taller, by committing genocide against their neighbors and their own peoples, which is what they all want to do anyway, all of them, including even the very tiniest trees on the planet, even unto the headhunters of the rainforest, who have no nuclear weapons, or B-52s, or napalm, but still want more heads anyway, because they too are of the tree of man.
By the same token, all of you are also of the tree of man, which canít have escaped your attention completely. And if I were to ask which of you would lay down his life for all the Others you love so much, you would look at each other and slink away. Your ideals are as thin as tissue paper, and even more transparent. You have been born and raised in the Most Chosen Nation on Earth, and from the moment of your birth, you have always had your own way, and everything else you wanted, because your parents were born into a time of famine, and they wanted you to have more than they did, and so they gave it to you. And you grew up watching TV, where you learned that every problem anyone ever had could be figured out in just twenty-two minutes, and there was no such thing as a problem that could not be solved, because this is America, and you were born Americans, and Americans always get their own way, and always win. But then you got to be eighteen years old, and suddenly America asked you to do something it wanted, but you didnít want to, because who wants to die for a bunch of creepy little gooks in some faraway jungle, when you could be at home having fun, and getting laid, and having everything you ever wanted?
Notice that none of this has anything to do with genocide or evil, but there is always a good and virtuous reason for being opposed to doing what you donít want to do. In this case, you did not want to die in some faraway land, and so you discovered ideals. And where did these great ideals come from? Did they come from your encyclopedic knowledge of history, which you got from Clark Gable and John Wayne and Errol Flynn and Charlton Heston? Did they come from your vast knowledge of religion, which you got from John Huston and Jeffrey Hunter and Charlton Heston? Did they come from your deep knowledge of politics and government, which you got in twenty-two minutes a night from Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley, unless you got it from the sports page? Did they come from your rich experience of culture, which you got from the Three Stooges and Lucille Ball and Superman and the Lone Ranger and Ed Sullivan? Did you get them from each other, through profound conversations that struck deep into the heart of things? Did they come from your intellectual awakening in college, where you learned how to smoke dope and screw like rabbits and cut class and read Cliff Notes and grow beards and give up bathing? Did they come from the counterculture, where you were exposed to such world class brain trusts as Timothy Leary and Abbie Hoffman? Did they come from Woodstock Nation, where you sat naked in the mud and got enlightened by the divinely inspired wisdom of Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie and Crosby, Stills & Nash? Or did they come from your parents, who taught you that the best way to get what you want is to ask for it, and keep asking for it until everyoneís sick of hearing about it, and make up a bunch of inane reasons why you should get your way, and then have a giant tantrum and hold your breath until you finally do get your way?
I have seen your devotion to freedom of speech, which you have proven by denying it to your opponents on college campuses all over America, and I have seen your love of your fellow man, which you have proved in riots on college campuses all over America, and I have seen your powerful vision of the future, which you have revealed in communes and other pigsties all over America. I have been greatly impressed by the amazing frequency with which you do exactly what you want to do, whenever you want to do it, and wherever you want to do it, which is exactly the way Iíd expect the children of a Chosen Nation like this one to behave, and isnít different in any way at all from the behavior of the government you despise so much.
[417-422] Youíre pretty much the scum of the earth, and most of you will never get to college, or get to be rich, unless you can find your way onto a stage like this somehow, and itís a lot more likely that youíll get drafted instead, and go get shot in Vietnam or something, unless you shoot each other in a barroom brawl or something first. Maybe youíve always felt like you werenít really good enough to have the things you want, and maybe that used to be true, because letís be honest, youíve never been real interested in certain things, such as self-improvement, and thinking about what you do before you do it, and controlling your most basic animal instincts, and reflecting on the consequences of your actions, either before or after you do something thatís going to have consequences, which maybe explains why you and the people you come from have never gotten to first base, and youíre still sitting at the bottom looking up, in spite of the fact that a lot of your families have been citizens of the Most Chosen Nation on Earth since the beginning, or very close to the beginning, anyway, and in spite of the fact that the Most Chosen Nation has tried very hard to give everyone a chance to succeed, including a whole bunch of federal programs that are supposed to help you become decent, respectable, hard-working, prosperous citizens, for free. And yet, here you are, looking up at me with your bad teeth, and your beer bellies, and your dull little pig eyes, and your bizarre tattoos, and countless other dead giveaways of your poverty, your lack of taste and insight, and your lack of intelligence, not to mention your lack of good personal hygiene.
You have always known that the only important question about life, or anything else, is ďWhatís in it for me?Ē As it happens, that wasnít really a majority opinion, because almost all the great thinkers of history, since the first caveman wrote something on a rock, thought you were dead wrong. They all thought that the race of Mankind was going somewhere, and that it was everyoneís duty to try to be better, to live up to the great human mission, whatever it was, whereas you knew all the time that the only place you were going was out to the fridge for another beer, unless there isnít any, in which case, youíre not going anywhere at all, but sending your old lady instead, down to the corner for another case of Schlitz talls. Now I ask you, who is right? Almost all the great thinkers of history? Or you? You are, because college kids are only kidding themselves when they talk about making the world into a better place, which they will realize as soon as some of them get killed for some of the beliefs they think they believe. For example, a lot of them are pretty sure that they are the most righteous generation in the whole history of the world, because they are so courageous in opposing the war, but how courageous will they be when they start dying because they oppose the war? What will happen when they find out that they oppose the war mostly because they donít want to die in the war? This is a reason that makes perfect sense, of course, but it doesnít have anything to do with righteousness.
[431-434] What joy can possibly compare with the joy of knowing that someone else has died for you, in your place, so you wonít have to, and can just pretend to feel really grateful and obligated for the rest of your life, because somebody all-powerful is taking care of all the details? Truly, this combines all the greatest pleasures of life into a single perfect package. First there is the pleasure of getting away with something you might have gotten nailed for yourself, so to speak. Second, there is the pleasure of watching somebody else endure pain and suffering and death, somebody big and important, I might add, which makes it even more pleasurable. Third, there is the ineffable pleasure of feeling like an insider, because you got saved and not everyone else will. And finally, there is the truly great pleasure of hating everyone who does not buy the whole story, hook, line, and sinker.
When has this guy ever told the truth? You bow down to him, and you mouth his words to yourselves, and you pretend that they are true, because he said them, and why would he lie? But if he were your next-door neighbor, the one you really canít stand, would you not examine his words a little more carefully, and judge their truth in different terms?
If your next-door neighbor told you that all the biggest losers on the face of the earth were really blessed, would you bow down to him, or call for the men in white coats? Cursed are the poor in spirit: for the only kingdom anyone ever promised them is in heaven, whatever that is, and everywhere else theyíre dogmeat, and you know it. Cursed are they that mourn: for death is completely final, and mourning never brings back the dead, who are history, as anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows. Cursed are the meek: for they shall inherit nothing, or were you planning to remember them in your will? Cursed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall die of hunger and thirst, because absolutely everybody hates their guts, and if Iím lying about that, what is he doing up there on that cross? Cursed are the merciful: for they will be bitten by the mouths they feed, as which of you has not left his toothmarks on someone who was only trying to help? Cursed are the pure in heart: for they are born to be everybodyís victim, and why not yours too? Cursed are the peacemakers: for they are doomed to fail big time, as they always have, because thereís nothing harder to do on this earth than stop a good Christian from starting a war with the latest godless barbarian neighbor to move in next door.
You will wrinkle up your face at me and say, ďBut he never promised that life would be easy, or that we would receive our rewards on this earth, and you must have faith, because truth is beyond understanding.Ē Isnít that how part of the spiel goes? But I say to you, how would you respond to a real estate developer who told you to hand over all your worldly possessions for an acre of land in heaven, which you will never get to see until you die, let alone build a house on it, or raise your family in it, or earn a living from it? You would string him up to the nearest tree, unless there was a cross available, and ... isnít that a coincidence?
It is the great tragic weakness of our tragic species that we all want so much to believe, and are willing to commit absolutely every kind of insanity in the name of our beliefs, no matter how inane they are. Through the ages, people have believed in this, that, and the other thing, unshakably, but did it save them from the inevitable end of their world, ever?
None of them were saved, just as we will not be saved, and how many times does a wave have to dash itself against a rock before it learns that only the rock will remain, and the wave itself will become a memory? Do you think that I have not thought long and hard about these questions before asking you to stop thinking about them, for your own good? Do you think that I have not peered into our sciences and other systems of rational thought for a way out of our dilemma? Do you think that if there were a valid reason for hope, I would not have brought it to you, and given you the peace of mind that he promises, but never delivers?
Many of you will claim that he delivers, and I will agree that many of you have simply put your lives in his hands, and have stopped thinking about anything at all, because He saves, and youíre all set, and thatís all there is to it. As for the rest of you, the ones who think they are still thinking, and who choose to believe in belief, I say only this: You are the greatest fools of all, because beliefs do not bring you life, but death, because when you have a belief there is always someone who wants to make you prove it, and maybe even put your life on the line for it, and there is no belief worth dying for, because whatever you believe, someone else has already died for it, and what did it get them, but an early grave?
All right. I will go now, and leave the stage to this plaster idol with his painted sacrificial wounds, but before I go, I ask you to consider why I have not been punished for my blasphemy? Have I not stood here for most of an hour defying your god of pain and guilt and sin? And has he shown his displeasure through even the smallest sign, or blasted me from life with a thunderbolt? If he were right, and I were wrong, then it is I who would deserve crucifixion.
 There is only one historical imperative of the masses, which is their imperative to get it in the neck, from every Tom, Dick, and Harry that comes along, forever, which they always do, because they are willing to believe anything, no matter how inane, and every time someone promises them something, they believe him, and think that this time it will be different, but it never is. I donít care what name you give your ideals, you canít save the masses with them, because the masses are as changeless and pointless as the canned laugh track of a TV sitcom.
[533-535] Weíre all just fine the way we are, without trying to improve ourselves, or be something weíre not, no matter who it hurts. If it is your nature to be a vicious, ignorant animal, then that is what you should be, and never apologize to anyone for being it. Even so, there are some things you can do to make life easier for yourselves, as long as you remember to do these things without thinking too much about them, or trying too hard, which should be pretty easy, because most of these things have to do with not being too different from each other, so that you donít attract too much attention, and get blamed because somebody noticed you.
For example, itís pretty important that you all dress alike. If youíre a guy, you should always wear dirty jeans, with rips and tears and oil stains all over them, fixed so that they sit low on your hips and always show off the crack in your buttocks. And you should always wear T-shirts with some stupid or obscene joke on the chest, and great big ugly boots, as if you were always on your way to a stomping party later on, and long dirty stringy hair, and as many tattoos as possible, and one of those baseball caps with some heavy equipment manufacturerís name on it. More than this, you should always walk around with your mouth hanging open, and a dull dead look in your eye, unless youíre drunk, in which case, you should make sure your eyes are bright with hatred, as if you just canít wait to kill someone. It also helps if you always have a clapped-out, oil-burning, piece of junk pickup truck, with about a zillion empty beer cans rattling around in the back, and a bunch of heavy metal music blaring out the open windows all the time.
If youíre a girl, of course, you should dress differently, but exactly like all the other girls, meaning you should wear cheap, tarty clothes drenched in even cheaper perfume, and tons of makeup, and I mean really trowel it on, and keep your hair gooed up with about five pounds of lacquer and dye and other junk, and keep your mouth full of gum all the time, no matter what, so that everyone will always know that youíre just exactly like everyone else, and thereís no reason to pick your face out of the crowd. When you get older, you can lay off the tarty clothes, and get really really fat, and wear stretch pants, and curlers 100 percent of the time, exactly as if you had somewhere to go later, even though you never do.
But clothes arenít everything, and if you want to slide by without attracting too much attention, without anybody ever really expecting anything of you, there are some other things you can all do. For example, itís a good idea to let all your ugly little houses fall apart, and when the pickup truck dies, leave it where it is, with all the cans and bottles still sitting in the back, and if you have some ruined furniture with springs poking out, put it out on the front porch so that everybody else can enjoy it too, and when you freak out on Southern Comfort some night and throw your best friend through the front window, donít fix it, but tape up some cardboard and plastic instead, so that Kensington will stay the way it is, namely, a place where nobody but Kensingtonians ever want to go, because the more chances ďtheyĒ have to meet you and see how you live, the more ďtheyĒ will blame you for everything thatís wrong with their stinking rotten lives.
If youíre young, itís a good idea to join a gang, the way Kensingtonians always have, and learn what baseball bats are really for, not to mention motorcycle chains and knives and sawed-off shotguns, because if ďtheyĒ should ever find a sneaky way to hurt you, youíll need to know how to deal with them, which is why itís better not to think about anything at all when youíre in a gang, but do whatever your leader tells you to do, just like your dad did, which is why a gang leader in Kensington always has to be the hardest, meanest, dirtiest animal available, and why gang rules are the same from one generation to the next, like if somebody messes with any one of you, then the whole gang takes care of it, immediately, savagely, and for keeps, because thereís no point in wasting time when vengeance is necessary, and it will be necessary, because nobody in this whole stinking city likes you, and you donít like any of them, so the gang is your protection, and itís your camouflage too, because when the gang goes to work, what people remember is the gang, and what wild animals they were, and nothing else, because animals are not individuals.
[548-556] The path of art for artís sake: The most powerful tool at your disposal is irony, or the appearance of irony, whether you have found anything truly ironic or not. For example, you can load up on oxymorons, which donít ever have to mean anything, but only have to seem like they might mean something to people who wonít think about them anyway, except to admire you for whatever it is you must have meant, even if they havenít got a clue what it might be.
The artistic writer must never be obvious, but subtle, and eloquent, in an ironic kind of way, with an air of native sadness, which wells up from the depths of his inborn sensitivity, and from her appearance of profound yearning that the way of things might be different from the way they so obviously are, as we can deduce from the extraordinary subtlety of his prose. But never ever come right out and say what you are thinking, because this will result in one of two things, both bad. The first thing which can happen is that people will disagree with your thinking, either because your thinking is bad or because it doesnít agree with theirs, which is exactly the same thing. The second thing which can happen is that your straightforward approach will force you to think, which is very very bad, because thinking leads to all kinds of problems, like doubt, and introspection, and inevitably, despair. Therefore, remember that if you cultivate a sense of obscurity and abstruseness at all times, you will find it both easier to write and easier to live.
Indeed, the path of art for artís sake is most notable for its ease, because it can be pursued successfully by almost anyone with a good command of grammar and vocabulary, and a really good dictionary of quotations, which is good news for you, because hardly anyone has real command of the language anymore, and when you show off your excellent grammar and vocabulary, everyone will know that you are a great artist, even if you never think about anything at all. For example, you can write in ironic terms about the emptiness of life in the shadow of imminent doom, without ever actually mentioning nuclear warfare or acid rain, as long as you make some opaque reference to what the thunder said, and people will get the idea, even if they canít figure out the precise meaning of a single sentence. You can write ironically and allusively about the tragedy of manís inhumanity to man, or woman, without presenting any new evidence, or adding any fresh ideas on the subject, because no one expects any fresh ideas from literature. What they expect from literature is that it go on writing ironically and allusively about the imminence of doom and manís inhumanity to man, because that is what they have learned to expect from serious literature, and they will know that you are good or great, depending on how impossible it is to understand what you are saying. You can write about the general pain and anguish of existence, without ever having to experience the pain and anguish of existence, because it is incredibly easy to write about nothing at all, and insert a whole bunch of subtle literary allusions after the fact to inform the educated reader that what you are really talking about here is the pain and anguish of human existence, which they approve of, because that is your job, and somebody has to do it.
For the truly artistic writer there is only one plot, which is the struggle of the protagonist against an impossible situation, where there really isnít any way to win, for approximately 61,000 words if you are writing a novel, approximately 4000 words if you are writing a short story, and approximately 22,000 words if you are writing a play. Besides being quite easy, this plot is also a foolproof way to prove that you really are an artist, and not some commercial slob, because if the protagonist prevails in the end, or does anything more than physically survive, with a certain wry humor about his experience, the story isnít art, but popular trash. This is why you must also remember that there are no heroes, only victims and fools and cynics and monsters, and the purpose of describing their ordeals is to comfort your readers with the fact that everybody is in the same boat, and so what can you do?
What you can do is have epiphanies. Epiphanies are everything to the artistic writer, an epiphany being the momentary illusion of meaning where there isnít any, which is both ironic and literary, and proves that you are an artist. Fortunately, it is very easy to make up epiphanies, because they never involve any real action of any kind, but kind of lurk within prosaic moments, like when your spouse sighs over a cup of decaffeinated tea, with sunlight streaming in through the window of your New England cottage, and youíve just finished reading the latest issue of the Pseudo-Intellectual Review, and canít quite remember what you were going to do next. To turn this into an epiphany, all you have to do is this: repeat one of these images in slightly different or amplified terms, as if it had just acquired some new significance; insert a totally extraneous recollection that is every bit as prosaic as the scene youíve already described, as if it had been suggested to you by something in the cottage scene; and then describe some additional prosaic moment in the cottage, with lots and lots of superfluous details, leaving the reader to figure out for herself what it all means. When the epiphany has been completed in this fashion, you just skip twice the number of lines you normally use between paragraphs, and change the subject. This is so important that it is, all by itself, practically the only thing you actually need to know about artistic writing, and it is so simple that you donít ever have to agonize over it at all. Indeed, if you like, you can write complete novels using nothing but this simple technique.
In general, it is far better to place your characters in exotic settings, such as Argentina, and Europe, and the Far East, and New England, instead of Des Moines and El Paso and Scranton, because everything seems more subtle and more charged with meaning in some permanently melancholy foreign land, which frequently results in epiphanies almost automatically, and lets you convey a sense of loneliness and isolation without ever saying a single word about alienation, which is the most important feeling your setting can provide in modern artistic fiction. Besides, you donít actually have to go to these places to write about them, since itís pretty well understood all over that if youíre a serious writer you have to live on some campus in New England, unless you prefer to live in New York instead. Even so, you can still have your characters do exactly the same things they would do in Des Moines or El Paso or Scranton, and just have them do it in Argentina or New England, which creates a whole bunch of irony automatically, and practically ensures that everyone will recognize how brilliantly you convey the sterility of modern life, and manís inhumanity to man, and the pain and anguish of human existence, in a sad, doomed, random world.
On the other hand, if you want to write about Des Moines or Scranton, and actually use the placenames, and put in local color and all that, then maybe you should consider the second path, which is the path or art for fameís sake. I assure you that this is not a lesser path, and does not deny you the opportunity to earn critical praise, and many attentive admirers from one or more of the sexes, not to mention more money, and maybe even a lot more money.
The path of art for fameís sake is quite similar to the path of art for artís sake, although it involves more public speaking, and usually more public drinking, although any writer on any path is always free to drink as much as he wants to. The path of art for fameís sake becomes a well-lighted highway if you can find things to be against that no one is for. If you wish to be praised for your passion and moral sensitivity, write about how terrible war is, and how irrational, and how wasteful, and how destructive. Be indignant about it, be ironic, and be ruthless in your contempt for all those people out there who think that war is wonderful and fun and sensible and the way to go, because these are people that everyone likes to see exposed and criticized, even if theyíve never seen them anywhere but on the silver screen.
Similarly, you can write satires that excoriate corrupt corporations whose despicably sly and greedy conspiracies wind up killing innocent people, because the world is just full of people who donít know that this kind of behavior is frowned upon, and who wouldnít do it if they knew you disapproved, with your crushing irony, and your immense knowledge about how the world of business operates.
You can also write satires that excoriate corrupt religious institutions, and corrupt political institutions, and corrupt bureaucracies, because your audience is just chock-full of people who think itís terrible that our institutions are corrupt, and what can you do? Since itís pretty obvious that when all the institutions are corrupt, thereís nothing anyone can do but shrug, your audience wants to be reminded very frequently about how corrupt their institutions are, by someone whoís never had an original or new thought on the subject, because thatís exactly what they expect, and is therefore the surest way to please them.
Another fertile field for the famous writer is demonstrating his opposition to nuclear holocaust, via some clever satire that exposes the insanity of building doomsday weapons that can never be used, except that they will be, because the military or somebody is too stupid not to. This kind of writing is very powerful and important, because the world is teeming with people who really like the idea of nuclear holocaust, and constantly need to be reminded of all the complex truths associated with it, like the fact that when everybodyís dead, there wonít be anybody left, including all the people who are so shortsighted that they really love the thought of nuclear war. Note that a work like this requires zero thought, and can be pulled off with a bunch of ham-handed, simple-minded devices that wonít cost you even a momentís sleep at night.
You can also write about history, which involves research and can lead to thought, but not if you know well ahead of time what you think about what happened, and whoís the villain, and exactly which unspeakable evils you wish to highlight.
You can also write almost endlessly about how tough it is to be you, or someone like you, or the member of some oppressed minority, the tougher the better, whether it is or not, because everybody knows that life is tough all over, and they like to hear someone whine about it, because it reminds them that life is cruel and unfair and unjust, and theyíre not the only ones who are whining and whimpering and complaining, which is always good to know.
In fact, you can write about virtually anything in the real world on your path to fame, as long as you always remember one essential guideline, which is that there are no real solutions, and no real answers, because there is no such thing as truth. You must therefore, like your artistic brethren, be careful to confine your writing to rephrasing the same old questions in the same old ways, time after time after time, so that every moral ambiguity is presented as an unsolvable paradox, and every human failing is impossible to overcome, and the only human virtue is the sensitivity of a few select individuals, like you, who know how to feel about everything, and who could probably fix everything if everyone else would just sit down with them and have a good cry about it, except that nothing can ever really be fixed, because thatís not the way things are, which is the exact right place in your manuscript for the concluding epiphany, including a bunch of ambiguous juxtapositions of telling images, which can actually consist of almost anything, and most important, can be very very obvious.
The famous writer can be obvious because he is not even pretending to think, but to feel, which is very different from the job of the artistic writer. When youíre writing an anti-war piece, people want to know when to cheer, and when to shake their head and say, ďWell, isnít that just like that crazy old race of Mankind? My my.Ē And so when you get to the big epiphany that ties a big ribbon around all the unsolvable moral paradoxes, itís important to let the audience in on it, as obviously as possible, which means you donít really have to think about it at all, and can just be wildly emotional instead.
The path of art for fortuneís sake is also incredibly easy, because all you have to do is pick out one kind of book, and write one book of that kind, without being original in any way, and then, and this is the important part, write the very same book over and over and over and over again. In fact, this path is so easy and rewarding that many writers begin their careers by choosing the path of art for fameís sake, and then switch to the path of art for fortuneís sake after their first successful book. Yes, if you play your cards right, you can publish book after book after book, without ever thinking about anything at all.
Of course, some writers make the mistake of trying to think about what kind of book they should write, over and over and over again, because they mistakenly believe that it is important to like the kind of book they choose. For this reason, they agonize endlessly. In their agonizing, they ask themselves foolish questions, such as ďShould I write schlocky mysteries that all feature the same wildly eccentric but mildly likable detective? Or should I write schlocky horror stories that all feature very slight twists on the Grade B horror movies I saw in my youth? Or should I write schlocky romance novels that all feature the stock characters in my adolescent erotic fantasies?Ē But you can see how utterly pointless this is: there is no kind of book that is enjoyable to write over and over and over again, which is precisely why this path is called the path of art for fortuneís sake, because money is its own reward, even if it is the only reward of paths like this one.
And if you recoil from paths that lead to fortune, then perhaps it is wiser to choose a path of art-type art instead, such as painting or sculpture or visual things like that, because these are all incredibly easy to do, without thinking about it at all, and offer an important additional advantage, namely, that everyone will know youíre doing it for acceptable motives, like the approval of all the pseudo-intellectuals who really count, and not for anything as disgusting as money. If this is a path that appeals to you, remember that there are only two rules regarding the visual arts: First, never produce any work of art that actually looks like something in the real world; and second, never explain your intentions, unless youíre much better than average at reeling off nonsensical oxymorons and other meaningless esoterica, without thinking about it at all. If you observe these two rules, you can do absolutely anything you feel like doing, even if itís just driving a muddy Jeep over a canvas, and it will be art.
[560-564] When people desire something, they want the government to give it to them. When they are certain about something, they want the government to turn their certainty into the law of the land. And when they blame somebody for something, they want the government to punish the targets of their blame, unless itís the government theyíre blaming, in which case they want to see some heads roll.
The whole constitution of the Most Chosen Nation on Earth is based on the principle that nobody can be trusted, which used to make people take a pretty active interest in politics; because of all the things they didnít trust, government was the thing they didnít trust the most. But then things changed, because they finally figured out that the thing they didnít trust the most was each other, which is when they decided that it was the governmentís job to watch over everyone, and especially the ones they didnít trust the most, like the rich capitalists who might steal everybody elseís money if they werenít held in check, and the poor losers who might get violent and destroy everything if their basic needs werenít taken care of. And thatís when the government hired a whole bunch of people like you to do the watching, which has worked out great, because now that they donít want to think about anything at all, they kind of have to trust you, unless theyíre willing to get involved themselves, which isnít likely to happen any time soon.
In short, you couldnít be in a better position, whether you do your job or not, which means that theyíll ultimately accept whatever you do, even if they complain a lot, because you work for the government, and who else can you trust in this Most Chosen Nation on Earth? Thatís why thereís nothing you canít get away with, as long as you remember a few simple guidelines.
The most important thing to remember is that no matter how nasty they get, itís you they trust, more than anyone else anyway, because they know that youíre not rich, unless youíre an elected official, in which case they know that youíre going to get rich no matter what anyone does or says about it, and at least you probably arenít as rich as the real scum of the earth, meaning the kind of scum who run all the rich corporations and steal everybodyís money all the time. And besides knowing that youíre not rich, they also know that youíre not going to start a riot in their neighborhood, or hold up a liquor store, or rape their wife, because you work for the government, which means that you can never ever be fired, for any reason, unless youíre a policeman or a fireman or something essential like that, because the first guideline of working for the government is making sure that each and every paper-pushing bureaucrat has a job forever, no matter what.
In fact this first guideline is so important that the second guideline is really just kind of an insurance policy for the first, being: The answer to all complaints about the way the government does its job is the same, namely, raising the taxes of the people who complain. If people rant and rave about budget deficits, threaten to raise taxes. If they object to higher taxes and start talking about waste in government, lay off some police, and some firemen, and some garbage collectors, because the only reason people like that are on the government payroll in the first place is to be visible, so ďthe peopleĒ will think theyíre getting something for their tax dollars, that is, something other than your white Monte Carlo and your great pension plan, and so ďthe peopleĒ will see that thereís no alternative to a tax increase when police and firemen have to be laid off because everyone else on the payroll is so indispensable.
The other great thing about this guideline is what happens if the people still refuse to raise taxes, because then it canít possibly be your fault when things get steadily worse. After all, you told them you needed more taxes, didnít you? And when the professional blamers start coming around talking about how taxes are too high already, and how the people who can pay taxes are all moving away, and what do you think about that?... You must remember not to fall into this trap, because if you acknowledge that they have any kind of point at all, they will demand that you think about it, which is just not necessary, because you work for the government, and if you had wanted to think about anything you would have done something else with your life, which is why you need more taxes, and if you donít get them, youíll know exactly what to do with the policemen and firefighters and garbage collectors.
The third guideline concerns the Others, in other words, all the people the government has to take care of because nobody else wants to do it. Remember that you need the Others as much as they need you, because if they werenít there, it would be even harder to pretend that you were actually doing something with all the time you spend working for the government. And so you must remember not to go looking for any real or permanent solutions to the plight of the Others, since there arenít any solutions anyway, which means that itís much better to help them by creating lots and lots of new paperwork for yourself, and then doing the paperwork as slowly and ineffectually as you can without actually thinking about it, so that the plight of the Others will remain highly visible to all, which will help ensure that taxes can keep getting higher, no matter what, which is your only guarantee that you wonít wind up as Others yourselves someday, because, well, remember the first guideline?
Nobody has the right to blame you personally for anything, or object when youíre rude and slow, or ridicule you for being stupid and lazy and uncaring, or criticize you in any way at all, because you work for the government, which means youíre exempt from criticism by private citizens, because if thatís not so, then what about the Post Office?
[580-582] Hey there, Counselor. That is what you scumbags call each other, isnít it? I hate your guts, not to mention all the flesh and suits and expensive watches and credit cards and stuff that are wrapped around your guts, which you stole from somebody else, because you lawyers are the lowest form of life on earth.
What can I say to you? Sue. Thatís your job, isnít it? When the rapacious witch comes whining to your office for a divorce, sue her husband into the weeds, and take every dime and scrap he owns, including the children, and even the dog, because your job isnít justice, itís winning the suit and getting paid for it. When the greedy louse slips and falls on the icy sidewalk after six drinks at dinner, sue the city, and the restaurant, and the company that made the concrete and the company that made his shoes, and the company that made the liquor, and anyone and everyone that was anywhere around at the time, because thereís no such thing as a frivolous lawsuit when thereís money on the line.
Or maybe I should say, get him off! Get him off no matter what, no matter what he did, because even though you all talk about your ďprofessionĒ, and absolutely demand due respect for your intelligence and learning and integrity, your job has nothing to do with justice, because youíre not responsible, and youíre just a hired gun who happens to be smarter than everyone else in the whole world, which is its own reward, and explains why you never have to think about anyone but yourself, for even a single instant, and never mind what the law was originally meant to do, or be, or provide, because if they canít pay, then they donít deserve you, and if they can pay, then itís automatically your job to forget about justice and guilt and the intent of the law, and spring the thieving banker, and the lying senator, and the mutilating rapist, and the sodomizing child molester, because hey, you didnít make the world, youíre just a lawyer, in a $2000 tailor-made suit.
When youíre talking to an attorney, mind you donít say something actionable, because heíll take you for every penny youíll ever earn.
You lawyers think youíre so good at thinking, but you donít know how to think at all, which is the whole purpose of law school, where they teach you how to destroy what other people think, and then to feel very proud of yourselves afterwards, as if youíd done something brilliant with your great minds, when all youíve really done is find one more hole in all the zillions of holes that exist in all of Mankindís lies about itself, which when you look at it from that perspective isnít much, except that you have to set new records for being sanctimonious about your intelligence, even though there isnít one of you that ever had an original, imaginative, constructive thought about anything, which is why youíre lawyers.
And so you sue and sue and sue, and get the garbage off, and sue some more, and make lots and lots of money, and call each other counselor, and you never ever think about what you might be doing to people, or to the country, or to yourselves. So I guess itís okay that none of you ever contributes anything, or builds anything, or adds anything but grief to the quality of life, or ever do anything at all but profit from human misery and greed and violence and spite and lust for revenge. I suppose itís okay that you misrepresent facts and situations for a living, and that youíll destroy the witness with the speech impediment, never mind the truth, because there is no truth.