April 12, 2007

Bidding Farewell to Kurt Vonnegut

One of the great American iconoclasts of our times, Kurt Vonnegut has died. An incredibly witty, funny, sardonic and insightful author, he ably filled the role of Mark Twain in the later 20th century.

An obscure science fiction writer for two decades before earning mainstream acclaim in 1969 with "Slaughterhouse-Five," Vonnegut was an American original, often compared to Mark Twain for a vision that combined social criticism, wildly black humor and a call to basic human decency. He was, novelist Jay MacInerny once said, "a satirist with a heart, a moralist with a whoopee cushion."

Reading Kurt Vonnegut's books was an incredible adventure. Even in his later years he was incredilbly good at delineating an issue with vivid and incredibly insightful language that got right to the nub of the problem. In the runup to the Iraq war he described the problems we faced with the de-souled and corporatized leadership that was (and still is) running our country into the ground.

InTheseTimes: My feeling from talking to readers and friends is that many people are beginning to despair. Do you think that we've lost reason to hope?

Vonnegut: 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!

Thank you, sir, for your incredible humanity and wisdom. Your voice will be sorely missed.

Posted by Mary at April 12, 2007 06:48 AM | Philosophy | Technorati links |


The latest articles written by Kurt Vonnegut.

Posted by: VeraAgu at April 12, 2007 09:28 PM

The latest articles written by Kurt Vonnegut.

Posted by: byVonnegut at April 12, 2007 09:30 PM