Thursday, April 12, 2007

Vonnegut On The Corpocracy

I have read one or two of Kurt Vonnegut's books, maybe Slapstick and one or two more, back when I read fiction. I think I may have had a girlfriend who was enamored of his writing as well, plus friends who read his works regularly, but as time went on, I find that few people these days read his work, and Hollywood can't translate his books to film very well. There are no explosions or car chases, no stoic hero shoots bullets from an automatic weapon that only strikes the enemy, and avoids the innocent civilians around him.
But if you read this, you can sense the outrage of a man who laid his life on the line for democracy feels in the twilight of years as that democracy is methodically replaced, piece by piece, with a corpocracy, lead not by great men, but by money grubbing baboons, as the people of the nation rarely read a book wihout a celebrities name attached to it, or read the latest assembly line piece by some hack fiction writer, milking a genre for all it's worth. Some choice quotes from A Man Without A Country:

"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

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!

Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler. What can be said to our young people, now that psychopathic personalities, which is to say persons without consciences, without senses of pity or shame, have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and corporations, and made it all their own?

© 2005 Kurt Vonnegut Extracted from A Man Without a Country: : A Memoir of Life in George W Bush's America.


Graeme said...

Awesome. I have got to read that book

Mariamariacuchita said...

Well said, Lew. Those with the power to follow the words of Christ seldom do, but why is it when the corporate churches do the right thing and take care of he poor, or follow the Beatitudes, we are always surprised?

I read Vonnegut from the first. I read all his books and his insight always blew me away, but then, I was very young back then and good and evil seemed a simple scenario, without layers or conflicts or gray areas.

This administration certainly has operated without constraint and without following the practices and words of their religious founder.

Peacechick Mary said...

I have never been to a Christian church or had a conversation with a "christian" who would speak of the Sermon on the Mount. I always figure they just haven't gotten that far in the book. For me, the Sermon on the Mount IS Christianity. Love this post, btw.

Elvez73 said...

Pretty much sums it all up there. Vonnegut was such a treasure its sad that he has passed, but his wonderful writings endure.

Anonymous said...

Beatitudes in public places... Now there's a notion.

Alicia Morgan said...

I loved Vonnegut from the time I was 11. Even then, I think his writing contributed to my becoming a liberal. His lessons, like Mark Twain's were so gently taught, with a wry twist of humor, that I wasn't aware of their being lessons.

The last book I bought of his was 'Man Without A Country'. Reading that book, I knew we wouldn't have him much longer, so there was the tinge of sadness mixed with the soul-opening joy I got from any Vonnegut work. And then he began to speak out publicly, in radio interviews and at universities about his political views, which matched his human views.

This planet is less without him, but, as elvez said, we have his writing, and I hope more people start reading him.

Kathy said...

I read Vonnegut years ago, but never saw this piece before. It sums up the problem I've had with the religious right and the Bush administration for years. (Simply saying you're a Christian does not make you one. You need to act like one.)