The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.
P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
10.3 (Summer 2010)
courtesy of artrenewal.org
The Fourth of the Month of Julius
“‘The reasons for caution have long been known. Change is always a two-edged sword. While the proletariat claims to want change and will support it up to a point, proletarians have also been conditioned by the ruling class to view the world in a way that makes their lot essentially satisfying. By definition, they are not educated sufficiently to make them aware of this lifelong manipulation, and so they will always resist change when it proceeds beyond a certain point and threatens their quasi-bourgeois concept of comfort. Only by imbuing the underclass with these tastes has the ruling class in fact been able to forestall the inevitable triumph of social progress.
‘The supposed will of the people in these matters, then, has been and has had to be discounted throughout the history of the movement. Once the will of a servant class has been debased into wanting the wages of a servant, its shackles may truly be said to be self-imposed. The essential indifference of contemporary masses to questions of pollution and to the obesity crisis, for instance, shows all the intelligence and awareness of cattle lining up for the slaughter. A person who literally cannot understand that the earth on which she lives is being poisoned under her feet or that the food on which she wastes her paltry wage is driving her to an early grave can hardly be expected to support progressive causes of a more complicated nature.
‘The progressive movement has lately understood the depth of conditioning of the underclass with which it will have to contend in modern capitalist societies. It is for that reason that the movement has itself selected to fight fire with fire and has made great strides dismantling capitalism from within the actual capitalist machine. Capitalist ventures have taken the lead in breaking down boundaries of ethnicity, nationality, and religion which have always stood immovably in the movement’s way in the past. The global ambitions of mega-capitalists have both driven domestic work forces out of sympathy with their political system as jobs have been massively lost and drawn Third World populations away from social and religious taboos–always especially formidable among these populations–in the flood of culture-neutral coarseness that is Western consumerism. The movement’s vanguard has thus brilliantly dissolved many of the barriers that stood in the way of transformation throughout the fruitless decades of the Cold War–””
“How much longer is this? Is it about over?”
“Let him finish, It’s good stuff.”
“It’s miserable stuff. It’s miserably written, it’s full of mixed metaphors, it abuses basic terms, it doesn’t cite any authorities…”
“Excuse me, but I told you at the start that I wrote it for publication in the mass media, not to be a term paper in one of your stale graduate courses, I’m writing in words that ordinary people can understand.”
“You mean the people that you call idiots? I don’t disagree with that, actually–but so why are you writing for idiots? That’s what this is really all about–whether we want the idiots on board or not as we try to save their bacon.”
“Let him finish, Ventura. This is an open forum.”
“No it’s not. It’s a meeting of the SPANDA steering committee. We don’t waste our time farting ideas behind closed doors.”
“Hey, shut the hell up, man!”
“‘But in deploying the strategy of capitalist conditioning…'”
“Oh, deploying! They’ll be sure to understand that. Are you going to enclose copies inside pizza boxes?”
“‘BUT IN DEPLOYING THE STRATEGIES OF CAPITALIST CONDITIONING, the movement has allowed itself to engage in a dangerous game. We have so successfully debased the minds of the proletariat that we run the risk now of exporting capitalism rather than revolution. Though the one is sure to bring the other, a horrible miscarriage could occur if the two are allowed to breed incestuously, drawing off each other’s energies. The movement’s leaders continue to express supreme confidence that the captains of global capitalism can always be either coopted into serving the movement or simply disposed of at the right moment. But there is an equal risk that some leaders of the movement may grow too close to the multinational corporate world and fuse with it to create a feudal ruling class that will carry us backward, not forward. This was the scenario that was played out during the heyday of the Soviet Union, and it has much to do with the collapse of that project. Our leadership must be fully, committedly, comprehensively progressive.
‘It is in furtherance of that vision that we call upon progressive leaders everywhere to enunciate their vision fully to the people. Progress is a beautiful word: be proud of it. The time has come for smaller human populations, not larger ones. The human presence on the planet has already altered the climate perhaps beyond repair. The human craving for oil has poisoned the Caribbean most lately, but has long been poisoning the water we all drink. Sprawling human cities have utterly wiped out the habitat of many species far older than homo sapiens. We must advance the cause of birth control fearlessly in the face of absurd religious interests that fuel eternal war by driving populations into the abject poverty of excessive mouths to feed.
‘It is time, as well, to end war forever from another angle. When a single government presides over the planet’s resources, there will be no more need for Jew to threaten Arab or American to threaten Asian. The bounds of nationality have been loosened enough that the vast majority of electors in democratic societies can understand the importance of this objective for our very survival. Many nations mean eventual nuclear war: one planetary nation means a melting down of all the thousands of warheads that lie hidden around the world.'”
“Are you sure you want to say ‘melting down’…”
“‘World health will also advance to heights never before dreamed of. With new nano-robotic technology, people of the future will live for thousands of years. Genetic diseases will be eradicated, since genes themselves will be designed to produce only the healthiest qualities. Brain function will soar to rival the fastest, most sophisticated computers. Our grandchildren will be superhumans if only we can reduce their number and concentrate our resources. There is no need to squander ten times the medical outlay on an obese cretin whose sole purpose in life is to consume fried foods while watching dog fights as what the healthy, disciplined person would require in the same lifespan–or probably a much longer one.
‘We can look forward, finally…'”
“‘… to a raceless, classless, hate-free society. When only the best genes are selected for reproduction, a single race will emerge on Planet Earth. Its members will all recognize themselves as brothers. They will speak one tongue, eat one diet, and devote themselves as one to the common goal of advancing humanity, each in his or her different way for which they have been specially engineered. Then the human race can truly begin to turn its eyes outward to the stars, where the farthest reaches of the cosmos will be the limit.'”
A silence, strangely enough, ensued–the first auditory experience of its kind to become available in the Kentworth Building. Room 425, since Professor Ventura and his SPANDA troopers had occupied it by storm after Professor Lynley’s late afternoon seminar in Theory of Knowledge. (In fact, during the Lynley seminar, there were often many silences of precisely this description, so the room was not at all unfamiliar with them.)
“Well I think it’s wonderful,” declared Professor Finster in a kind of ultimatum, fixing Ventura dead between the eyes. The young, blond Makuloff might have been called “her boy” if the Finster brand were not already worn by so many heifers.
“And I think it sucks,” responded Ventura on cue. “You’ve got to be kidding. The reason we have meetings is to plan. The reason we plan is so we don’t run around publicly saying things like this. While your boy Buzz Lightyear goes around in streaming locks shouting, ‘To infinity and beyond!’ the rest of the intellectual community–“
“Just what do you mean by ‘my boy’? Just exactly what is that condescending remark supposed to convey/”
“The real point has already been made,” sniffed that aged warrior, Professor Salazar. “The paper isn’t even intended for the intellectual community–and, for all its gaffes, it remains something that only an intellectual could understand.”
“For once and for all, I wrote it for the general public on a college campus! For undergraduates!”
“Yeah, good luck with that. Or ‘G-L-W-T’, as I suppose they probably say these days.”
“How do you feel about it, Desmond?”
“I? Well… it seems to me… I…”
“The point is,” resumed Ventura, “–and I mean the real point, even if undergrads could follow the long sentences–it’s not well written, you know. How in the hell do you people in English ever finish a dissertation?”
“This is getting us nowhere–“
“THE REAL POINT IS that telling the masses exactly what the progressive goal is goes against every establish strategy for success that we’ve learned over the past… since we got blackjacked and locked up at Columbia.”
“Like you ever got locked up for anything but…”
“The people can’t process this, I’m telling you. The next thing you’ll be clamoring for is a democratic plebiscite. You said it yourself in the paper: they’ve been brainwashed. And they’re also just too stupid. We have their sons and daughters in class every day. Oh, some of them may turn out okay–after four or five years of constantly having their heads beaten like a drum. Would you really want the present crop of freshmen voting on our speech code? Care to make an estimate of the percentages for and against? We make these rules so that we can get them started in the right direction–we don’t ask them what direction they want to go in. You put the halter on the horse first: then you ride it.”
“Until Rush Bimbo or this Beck tub of lard tells them that they have a halter on their face,” opined Konstanti in a shocking turn of events–for Konstanti was no spring chicken. “No, I’m afraid I have to say that the Young Turks have a point, Liguro. People–the masses–don’t understand the need for discipline any more–“
“They never did!“
“Please let me finish. All you have to do with these… these undergraduates, as you call them… is to point out that they are being deprived of some minor freedom, and you immediately lose them. They will consent to seeing one of their cohorts expelled for using racist language–with a little persuasion, they will even take to the mall with placards demanding his expulsion. But if you were to ban hard liquor from the dormitories or… something ridiculously minor… insist that they shut off their cell phones during tests… well, you lose them instantly.”
“You’re making my point! These people are not fit to be given the objectives! Even those relative few who are attending college are not in a fit state to assess the issues!”
“I think what he’s saying,” began Finster in a mesmerizing spread of her huge hands, “is that we can make these young people feel passionate about the movement, even before they really understand it. I know that’s what Franz is saying in his paper. At least I… isn’t that what you’re saying in your paper, Franz? The importance of igniting… passion?”
“That is precisely what I’m saying!” assented Makuloff passionately. “Young people need to be excited again, like they say you guys–some of you–were excited when Kennedy was elected. Where is our Kennedy now? We talk a lot about current events in my classes–I mean, a lot. Just because I don’t teach history or political science doesn’t mean we don’t discuss what’s happening… it just means we actually discuss instead of me lecturing to them the whole period. And I listen to what they say. All of the ones who have anything to say worth hearing are talking about… you know, wanting to feel passion for something. But it’s hard to get behind… you know, what’s going on right now… when it’s all a bunch of… or when so much of it seems to be… lies. Lies. There we are, still fighting a war against Islam. There we are, still cutting deals with bigots and racists. A few gestures here, a few gestures there… business as usual. And who are all these Wall Street dudes in suits who keep making all these policies to get all their buddies off the hook? I know there’s a bigger game plan–I sure hope there is. No, I know there is. I know we’re all on the same side. But in the meantime, we’re just asking our young people to look on and take it while we feed lines to happy Wal-Mart shoppers and deal under the table with CEO’s. What’s the problem with just telling the frickin truth? Fewer babies, fewer people, less pollution, more technology… a brighter future. Put the vision out there!”
“I honestly don’t understand the persistence of the abortion issue,” brooded Konstanti, half his face grotesquely skewed by the palm in which it rested heavily. “We have actually lost ground since the seventies. And now, with this strategy of enfranchising millions of illiterate Mexican Catholics… for some of the agenda, yes. But in terms of thinning out the vast numbers of the social and economic dead weight… there will have to be another strategy. A better one.”
“All things in good time,” said someone soothingly; and, from another quarter of the room, a hot expectoration rose into and fell from audibility with the syllables, huck the churtsss…
“You guys are dozing off again!” flamed the fiery-tressed Makuloff. “You’re not hearing me! I’m saying we need to start something–to get something going! We thought we had it after the last election–“
“We do have it!”
“Alright, I accept that. But there are not enough young people who see that we have it!”
“THE YOUNG PEOPLE WILL FOLLOW WHERE THEY’RE TOLD!” exploded Ventura, half-rising from his desk.
“I’M YOUNG, AND I WON’T!” countered Makuloff, fully rising, clenching his fists. “Enough pollution–NOW! Enough over-breeding and over-driving and over-eating–NOW! Enough enriching of guys like Sam Walton–NOW!”
“Sam Walton’s dead,” mumbled the reflective Desmond.
“I… KNOW… THAT!!!” shouted Makuloff from the top of his lungs to that side of the room. It was a truly blood-curdling release. Even Professor Finster (who bore every sign, furthermore, of having overeaten on many occasions) shrank close to the level of the writing leaf on her student desk.
But Ventura was not to be intimidated. He, too, flexed his fists and took fully to his feet. “You’d better watch your step, you punk! You’d better stop and think just where you are, and who you are! Because you’re nobody–on this campus, as of this particular year, you’re an assistant professor about halfway to his first tenure review. You may not be in my department–God help you, if you were–but a few of us old geezers know a few of your old geezers. You’d better just… just lower your voice and… and can your bright ideas!”
“Screw you!” said the voice that no one could ever seem to locate.
“So this is what SPANDA means on this campus,” echoed Finster somewhat more eloquently. “This is our… revolution. ‘Mind your manners… respect your elders’…”
“Yes, when they know more than you do–than the young punks do!”
Makuloff took a single step toward his adversary, but it was enough to make Ventura shiver as if he saw the specter of a descending police blackjack. His jaw clenched, but it had quivered an instant before. The young man must have noticed the flicker of fear, for he snorted in contempt.
“Bring it on!” he smiled, and stalked out of the meeting grandly in a flame of yellow hair.
They all departed shortly thereafter. Little enough remained to be said; and the timid appearance of a janitor’s face at the door (probably drawn by Makuloff’s scream–“We were reenacting Olivier’s Shylock!” explained Finster merrily in a fashion she thought suited to placating janitors) cut short any possible debate. SPANDA, after all, did not have the university’s permission to meet anywhere on campus. It had not been denied permission, either; but its members, nursing the cherished conviction that such permission would have been denied, never sought it.
Briefcase in hand, Ventura stood in the parking lot smoking and fuming with Konstanti for some little while in a midsummer evening whose sun seemed never to set. Konstanti was perhaps to be pardoned for his apostasy. The closest thing to a “hard scientist” in their group, his field had been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn, and the federal grant money being lavished upon other areas had not trickled into his. He could frequently be heard these days murmuring dubious sentiments on the order of, “America was supposed to lead the way into enlightened socialism, not fall like a beggared wino at the feet of China.” Ventura usually tried to reassure him at moments such as this, when the two of them had only a long evening alone to look forward to after parting. Today, however–or tonight, or whatever this time was called–it was Ventura who needed consoling. He who had so often talked his friend out of leaving SPANDA–now it was Konstanti smoothing his feathers as he drew furiously on his cigarette and growled between his teeth about sending both SPANDA and Makuloff straight down the crapper.
“If only Jesse and Mindenhall were here,” he stewed. “Why did they have to go off? The second summer term is always when we get our best work done. When nobody’s around.”
“Philip’s daughter is getting married… remember?”
“I remember her practically lap-dancing on guys in my Modern Government class. And now he has to… during summer vacation… we used to call that ‘bourgeois’, when enough of us still cared to make the distinction.”
“Maybe it’s the heat.”
“Maybe what’s the heat?”
“Everything. It’s all going crazy. Even the weather’s out of whack.”
When the two finally went their separate ways, he was not much comforted; and he reflected (as he shot a spent butt onto the tarmac with an indignant huff that became a sigh) that he had never before felt so old.
Two characters seemed to appear from nowhere at opposite ends of his Volvo. They converged upon him until they had him hemmed in tightly from either side. His students would have described them as “ripped dudes”, their biceps plainly swelling from their t-shirts even in the slanting shadows. One was white, the other black. Their heads were shaved almost bald. They were ostentatiously healthy and (in Ventura’s opinion) stupid.
The white one, without a word, dealt him one short punch in the stomach. He did not recollect falling; but when his eyes next opened, he was looking twelve o’clock high into the black one’s face. The large white eyes seemed almost concerned, and the lips were not pinched or curled. Yet the hand that held his jaw in its vice-grip was scarcely maternal.
“You want to watch that mouth of yours,” said a deep, rich voice–yes, it was almost friendly. In and of itself, without the attendant circumstances, it was friendly. “Sometimes, too much talking can cause your teeth to fall out.”
And the grip simply opened, so that Ventura slumped back heavily against a front tire. He had not realized that tires were so hard. The blow brought out some of those stars that the evening refused to produce, and he seemed again–for a few seconds, or a few minutes–to waver in and out of consciousness. When he was at last able to pull himself together–to breathe again, to keep his eyes from closing, to feel the tire in his neck and smell its oily rubber–the first thought he could identify trumpeted to him the importance of doing something. They were gone, of course–both of them. Were they? Completely gone? Shouldn’t he make sure? Should he cry out for help… what if they were still within hearing distance? Was he… was he injured? Did he need medical attention? Could he drive?
Yet emerging from all these imperative questions–not following them, but lurking behind all of them all the time–was a stable, golden, almost happy amazement. He waited and waited for the mental fog to lift further, now ignoring the new questions as they trailed past him in a whiney ring-around-the-maypole; for more than anything, he wanted to see into the amazement. Why was he almost happy? He actually waved a hand weakly before his eyes, feeling the asphalt’s gravel grind into his elbow painfully.
Then he had it. “The son of a bitch!” he laughed. Perhaps there was still hope for the movement, after all.
A frequent contributor to this journal for years, Dr. Moseby lives with his family in the Atlanta area, where he occasionally teaches at several institutions.