Written In The Spirit by Rev. Ivan Stang
"Having three flat tires in one day, oh, yeah, that's HELL !"
-- Hypercleasians 14:6.
"The only ones who have a right to live are those not yet born."
-- Yossarian, Rio Bisbee Band
"NONE ARE SO BLIND AS THOSE WHO HAVE NO EYES."
-- Philo the Essene.
I am the proud owner of two little kids, both old enough to read, yet young enough still to believe in Santa Claus. It irks me that I can't tell them certain things, but it almost shames me to have to tell them other things at all. The monstrous truth about Santa Claus, they don't need to know. But one day, I had to warn them about certain grownups who were so twisted by their own messed-up parents that they want to "do bad things to you." Breaking such news to a child feels awful -- and it's chilling to think what they're prompted to imagine about the world, no matter how you soften it in the telling.
But I couldn't bring myself to tell them about The Bomb...or about The Germ, or The Gas. I know what would happen if my kids started thinking about those all the time: they'd end up like me. Throughout high school I was dead sure the future would see us back in the caves. As Einstein, or somebody, once said, "I don't know what World War III will be fought with, but the one after that will be fought with sticks and stones."
And now, we don't even have that to look forward to. There would be nothing. NOTHING LEFT if the Big Mistake happened. (Incidentally, my children figured that out for themselves, without my having to say anything. Between TV cartoons, news, and overheard conversations, they were able to put two and two together before First Grade. You'll be glad to know they have adjusted better than I ever did.)
Most people can't really conceive of worldwide extinction of all higher life forms; they have a lot of trouble, for that matter, conceptualizing so much as a rape or a car wreck, at least until it happens to them. "Positive thinking" and escape into affluent isolation have become so socially desirable that the idea of preparing for the worst is seen as a bad habit indulged only by survivalists and other 'kooks.' To most Americans, a 'big mistake' is forgetting to, say, photocopy that textiles contract before the board meeting, or burning the roast when guests are coming for dinner. They won't build themselves a fallout shelter, yet they'll donate to save the whales.
Most human beings have no idea how real they are -- nor how smart, for that matter; yet, at the same time, they grossly underestimate their own stupidity! They could permanently wreck the planet for the rest of us simply by not giving themselves enough credit. (And if they distrust themselves so much, think how much they distrust you!) They assume they wouldn't be good enough at anything important to take a stab at it -- and in all too few cases, they're right -- so they cling to the safe and the meaningless. They wish everyone else would, too. When someone tries to warn them of a danger of which they weren't already aware, they take it as an insult.
"If they all thought they were as great as I think I am, everybody'd get along just fine -- even though they'd all be wrong!"
-- "Bob" Dobbs to a Sunday School class in 1955.
How much do you tell your kids about the future? About polution, about overpopulation, and war and crime, and where the statistics point? When does it stop training them for survival, and start making them suicidal?
How much can you afford, psychologically, to tell yourself?
People tend to take things for granted, to forget how useful their MINDS are. Unfortunately, that's one of those processes which snowballs, and by which privileged people, given every opportunity to become self-reliant, nevertheless degenerate into big pink crybabies. If people are less alive than they used to be, it's only because, for them, there's less to being alive. The line between life and death can become blurred and indistinct. A truly dedicated worker can keep making an income, or cooking dinner for the family, long after his or her mind is dead. Any belief in life after death should include the hideous plausibility of becoming a sick, invisible ghost that keeps shuffling back to the office or the kitchen. What else happens to people whose instincts are so ruined that they can no longer differentiate between the so-called "Light" and the so-called "Darkness?" Might not that "Light" thing, that ALIVENESS, get overdrawn just as easily as its checking account?
It's all too easy for us to desoul ourselves by overdoing just what we thought might save us -- work, drugs, religion, etc. We continue to calculate, but we cease to feel. We wreck the very instincts that are necessary for maintaining that state between self-lobotomizing lethargy and neurotic burn-out.
People are compelled to "own" more and more things, which would be fine, but constant gain becomes a sick compulsion that can scrambles anyone's ability to distinguish between LIFE and THINGS at all. They forget that they're animals, and start playing dangerous games with their own bodies and with all of nature. It's fine to learn by experimenting; a child usually has to get burned a time or two before it learns to take its parents' advice about the kitchen stove. It's just that this time, the "stove" is 50,000 nuclear warheads and unimaginable germ warfare viruses. We only get to 'try' it once.
It's just a damn shame: snuffing all life except lichens and deep-sea heat vent worms is EASY, whereas feeding humanity is HARD WORK. No use crying over spilt milk; but that doesn't mean it's okay to spill that plutonium!
Human brains can be terrifying to examine closely, especially by their owners. Ordinary people, conditioned to limits on every hand in the real world, become so scared of the immensity of their own brains, of the obvious fact that the inside is so much bigger than the outside, that they routinely run absolutely insane risks. Their desparation then requires all manner of half-assed justifications, and ineffectual but (more importantly) simple formulas by which to remain uninformed -- avoiding the complexities of their responsibility for themselves. Driving to work on the expressway, for instance: how often do we concretely visualize what we're doing then? Can we realize that we're little wads of delicate meat, crouched inside flimsy tin cans, hurtling along at incredible speeds with death no farther away than the next driver's last mixed drink?
We see this chronic denial also in the differences between "religions" and "cults." A religion exerts itself in improving psychological and physical conditions within it and without it; a cult just keeps jacking itself off, though it might go through the motions of 'food outreaches,' etc. *Most so-called Christians aren't religious; they're cultists. So are most SubGeniuses!
America is a cult. We are cult zombies. If the ruling elite can get away so easily with dumping unimaginable quantities of poison into our air and water, meanwhile witholding safer technology because they don't currently sell it, how is that any different from Jim Jones telling 900 people to commit suicide? In both cases, the zombies do what the cult leader says. The Rev. Jim Jones was simply more honest about what he demanded from his devotees.
The function of religion is to circumvent that creeping acceptance of hopelessness, to constantly remind you how alive you indeed are, so that the logical, practical side of yourself can't keep hammering you down. You're being hammered at from all sides -- including the inside -- but as long as you know what's going on, you can HAMMER BACK.
If life was easy, everybody would be living it. But it isn't, so some die instead. Many of our more brainy citizens kill themselves. The more a person knows, the tougher it is to maintain a sense of balance and fairness in the universe; the inventive mind is tormented by visions of how much better things might have been. On the other hand, common sense -- particularly the common sense of humor -- can reveal a sustaining beauty, and a level of meaning (even if only imagined!) that makes life just as much more fun as it is more threatening.
Sadly, such an outlook is incomprehensible to the self-desensitized. If you're of a minority religion, or race, or sexual proclivity, or even business, then you have probably clashed with people who seem to oppose you -- but won't come out and admit it -- for absolutely no reason at all. Hopefully, you realized that such people are simply jealous of your ability to make the best of a bad situation. They want you to be as unlucky as they are. Otherwise, their entire world view wouldn't make sense. Religions are particularly easy to warp into disguises for jealousy, justifications for hate. In modern America, a "Christian" preacher can make himself very rich by acting as the carrier of some contagious neurosis, some form of mental illness in which followers can hide from their own shortcomings.
Being informed, knowing better, doesn't always help. "Expanded consciousness," if it's the real thing, should go hand in hand with an awful realization of responsibility. But we've all had 'hip' friends who drank enough beer every night to nourish a tribe of Ethiopians for a week -- and who put enough up their noses in a day to buy vaccinations for half of Kenya. There are literally millions of people starving to death right now, and we "aware" people of the developed nations are the only ones who can really do very much about it; we talk or sing about it eloquently before blowing it off. We remember our rights, but forget our responsibility as... well, as the only responsible life forms. A tough responsibility? It isn't half as tough as watching your whole family starve to death because there is no food for miles around.
Everyone has a right, even a duty, to enjoy themselves. However, to a man getting off a hard day's work, having fun means ignoring those who aren't -- just as those who possess no sense of humor automatically dislike those who do. Indeed, fun for many people requires seeing others in misery. Until work and fun are no longer opposites, this won't change. Work must become more meaningful for fun to become less an act of desparation; only then will the semi-leisured class (such as those who found themselves reading this) be able to appreciate what leisure they have. When that happens, the jealousies will evaporate and people will want to share.
We can probably look for this to happen in, say, ten thousand years.
In the meantime, a minority of the two-legged animals will be stuck with keeping the whole chain of life intact, almost despite the wishes of the rest of the two-legged animals. Since two-legged animals are by far the most dangerous creatures on the planet, this may prove to be a risky job!
And it really is all life. All. That's how high the stakes have risen on the nuclear gameboard. We are actually placated by movies like ROAD WARRIOR, or even PLANET OF THE APES; such popular post-holocaust fantasies may turn out to be 'best possible" scenarios! Those nasty, low-tech caveman future worlds might come about without any wars; at least they're inhabited worlds! The real post-nuke landscape wouldn't support such exciting luxuries as roving bands of bloodthirsty killers or mutated monsters.
The chain of life is astoundingly adaptable, but frighteningly fragile at the same time. Like a delicate glass ball, it's easy to break, and easy not to break. We've already racked up quite a bill on our ecological charge-card, but our kids and grandkids are the ones who'll have to pay up. Evolution proves every day that it's a blind machine, without sympathy or aesthetic sense, that will snuff us out automatically if we blow it. There was at least one other race of humanoid bipeds not so long ago; remember the Neanderthals? Guess who exterminated them? (And we did it without even one nuclear device!* )
If we do screw up, in the BIG way, it won't be just a couple of the big-league countries -- it'll be everybody. Extinction is just as hard on an innocent baby or a cute little bunny as it is on a murderous asshole. Ask any dinosaur, or any Mandan Indian.
We well-fed people have a dream: the dream of acquiring MORE CRAP for LESS WORK. The rest of the world -- the other three-quarters of it -- has a dream too: the dream of enough to eat. The hungry ones surround us on all sides; they live right down the street, in fact. We, and the wretched, and the normals who couldn't care less, are all in the same rickety little boat together, in a cold, cold sea. And someone is fooling around with that little PLUG at the bottom of the boat. Our leaders act like they don't even believe that plug is there; obviously, NOBODY is giving us "instructions." We have to figure this situation out for ourselves. And we'd better do it fast, just to be on the safe side.
Nor will God help us. That's right, NO BIG MAN IN THE SKY WILL SAVE US.* We smartypants bipeds chose to take it upon ourselves, to take it out of "God's" hands. We have the ball ... now where do we run with it? Do we run with it at all?
Having the responsibility also means we have choices.
For all intents and purposes, WE are "God" now... yet some talk about a "nuclear judgement" as if it had been decreed for our own good. Someone in THIS life might beat you up or throw you in jail for your sins, but it won't be God. If there is a nuclear judgement, it'll be OUR fault alone.
No "church" will save you either, especially not the SubGenius Church. However, we would at least encourage you to SAVE YOURSELF, which is better than most religions can say. What are we saying you should do? Well, we know, but, just to be assholes, WE WON'T TELL YOU. That would be cheating! It's between you and "Bob" and Mom and apple pie.
It isn't just the prospect of an irreversibly contaminated foodchain that should worry you, either. It's the thought of what the pissed-off ELDER GODS will do to our ETERNAL SOULS as PUNISHMENT for stupidly ruining Their expensive chessboard, Earth.
There's not a whole hell of a lot that any of us CAN do with any major, immediate results. Violence and saboutage? That's exactly like using a knife to attack a man with a machine gun. The Bomb, and starvation, and etc., are here to stay until people change not just the way they think, but what they think about.
Any lone person -- even you -- can aid and abett that process by becoming one more voice howling in the wilderness, or howling from atop a carhood in the city, or howling on a radio talk show... or in conversation with a friend. We must howl in all our different ways. It can make a difference: 2,000 years ago, Christianity started out as a couple of maniacs ranting in the desert, and look how far it's come!
On second thought, forget that example.
I, or any subversive character like me, will gladly tell you to do something... but we sure as hell aren't going to try to tell you what. The ruling class, however, tells you exactly what to do, every chance they get.
(Notice a difference?)
It's easy to do what they want; they desire but one simple thing from you. They'll let you have anything you want, if you'll just do this one thing they ask.
If you'll just GIVE UP.
Think about it. Wouldn't it be so much easier to just stop worrying?
You're not stupid, though. Even though you can't just suddenly up and save the planet, there are still a million "little" things to be done. There are groups out there, countless clusters of knowledgeable people, all underfinanced, that specialize in protecting the water, the animals, the people, the plants. They need your money and time.
Or maybe, for now, all they need is your attention. Perhaps, even more than that, they need you only to hang on to your instincts, to preserve your intuition, until you're in a better position to use them. That alone would be better for them, for the time being, than losing you entirely.
It's up to you to find the ones you can work with in your own town, and/or the national organizations that happen to agree with your personal politics. You have to decide which ones are naive do-gooder fools, which ones are crooks, and which ones are effective. We could point you in a few general directions -- but who's kidding who? You've known all along what to do. This article is just a 'pep talk' to help convince you to go ahead and actually do it. Whatever it is.
We're the first animals on this planet to have to start guiding our own evolution (at least, until we're outdated by the new models we'll create!). Only the few who know about it ever feel the burden, but it's a heavy one. The crucial, immediate thing is to keep it FUN. Our job right now is to make the responsibility more clear and yet to keep it in perspective, to keep it fun. To make it possible.
Everything you can see around you was once called "impossible." We must make the damn-near-impossible seem more possible than it really is -- if we knew how tough it was actually going to BE, we'd give up entirely. We must continually fool ourselves into helping ourselves, because another part of us is always trying to fool us into hurting ourselves. The part that hurts has acquired a glamorous rep of late, while the part that helps has been made to seem boring BECAUSE IT HAS BEEN LEFT IN THE HANDS OF "EXPERTS" WHEN WE SHOULD HAVE PRESERVED OUR INSTINCTS OURSELVES, HANDING THEM DOWN FROM PARENT TO CHILD LIKE PRIMATES ARE SUPPOSED TO DO, RATHER THAN PAYING SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT. It's easy to assume that the person with the loudest voice and most credentials knows what he's doing, but it's surprisingly difficult to learn the truth. "The Hard Way" seems to work best.
In some misfired way, our puritanical ancestors were right -- it takes REAL WORK to be REALLY ALIVE. Not the meaningless toil they pay you for, but real work, like whatever that thing is that you enjoy most. Keep THAT alive and you won't squander your energy off into rancid pools of hate and self-pity. It isn't just the system that keeps you down -- it's YOU, TOO. SNAP OUT OF IT!! Shed that skin of habits! You're ancestors PAID to make sure you could really think... now THINK, DAMN IT!! If you had any INKLING of how far you've come, you would NEVER slip back! There IS a reason to keep going;WHY DO YOU THINK IT STARTED UP IN THE FIRST PLACE??
The main thing, in any case, is simply to remember. Remember the air, the ocean, the people just out of eyeshot, the strangely delicate balance that can't function under Dioxin and radiation and a burnt ozone layer. You don't have to dwell morbidly upon these things; indeed, you mustn't .
Just remember ... and sooner or later you'll know exactly what to do. At that point, if it didn't before, everything will make sense once again.
*SubGeniuses may be their revenge.
*"God" is what you remember when you die -- so, no hurry, right?
ADDENDUM to the "BUT SERIOUSLY..." rant:
FOR DECLARED SUBGENII SPECIFICALLY:
Unfortunately, it isn't as easy being a Good Guy as it looks in the movies. Most people desperately want to be Good Guys at first, but they blow it off when they realize that there really are Bad Guys too. Bad Guys with super powers, in fact!
Just because you aren't "bad" doesn't mean you're "good." If you aren't DOING anything about the Bad Guys, you're nothing but a "plot device" that the Bad Guys or the Good Guys are going to use.
Don't feel like a lone kook just because nobody around you seems to know what the word "ecosystem" means. They won't know what DEATH means, either, until they've learned to appreciate life. They take the universe for granted, and are stuck in a world of "goals" which are as worthless as they are easily attained.
Normal adjustment to society seems to demand this "blinkered" consciousness. On the other hand, maniacal SubGenius style mental health, although illegal, can create an immunity against future-shock apathy. If you can "take a joke" even as HORRIBLE as modern reality, you can't be blinded to its horrors or its joys.
The Bad Guys have a funny way of twisting all this around, though, and making whole planetary populations fall for it. Ever notice that the Conspiracy is composed of "TOUGH MEN?" TOUGH MEN. They're MAN enough to watch a football game, alright, but not MAN enough to change their kid's diapers. MAN enough to let the President bury nuclear waste in their backyard, MAN enough to pay taxes, MAN enough to wear an itchy business suit even in summer (because they're MAN enough to pay the electric bills for air-conditioning), MAN enough to send their kids to fight overseas, MAN enough to be BLANK FOOD TUBES that "WORK" to pay for MORE FOOD... MAN enough to tell NIGGER JOKES, or to gang up with a bunch of other TOUGH MEN to beat up lone queers or even just little nerds with glasses... but not MAN enough to stay human.
Does that enrage you? Does that make you want to gang up with a bunch of other tough SubGenii to beat up lone Normals and Rednecks?
One of "Bob's" Secret Doctrines, as you'll remember from your studies of BoSG Ch.20, is that there are no Normals. It's a matter of degree. The only "SubGeniuses" who seriously think they can tell a 'normal' from a 'Sub' are the "Bobbies" -- the slimey anti-social Normals who are so sure they're True Children of "Bob." (A thousand average normals aren't half the threat to the Church that three "Bobbies" are.) Revealingly, most of these still live off their parents. Naturally, we find "Bobbies" who declare themselves "better than normals" because they don't have to hold down jobs. That's supposed to mean they "have Slack."
Almost everyone has to work for the Conspiracy, just to survive -- but how many of you are really sufficiently true to yourselves to PRESERVE your CRAZINESS, to STAY "SUBGENIUS" in the face of a squaling baby, unpaid heating bills, and the promise of wealth if you'll just "buckle down"?? How many will be capable of the NOBLEST chore, of SUBVERTING FROM WITHIN, of remaining teenaged while mastering the appearance of adulthood?? Getting Slack, in its truest sense, can sometimes be MORE WORK than WORKING ONESELF to STUPIDITY!
In the eternal battle, Slack will eventually win out, simply because in its pure state it cannot be bottled or sold. However, thanks to the Conspiracy, abnormality in the current ruling civilization usually demands sacrifice. "FINE," you say, "I'll sacrifice my NORMALITY!!" Okay.. but what if being a Good Guy means being treated worse than the Bad Guy half the time? Think you're "man" enough, Pink Boy? Ready to spend 20 years proving it?
Someday, 10,000 years from now or so, we will no longer have to sacrifice; we will have our cake and eat it too, for we are owed it. "Bob" has promised us Something for Nothing. But, in the meantime, the only form of PURE TRUE TIME CONTROL now open to us is PATIENCE to put up with all the shit and torment that being one of the Good Guys means... to party ANYWAY... because WHATEVER IS CLOSEST TO REAL SLACK WILL PAY OFF THAT MUCH BETTER IN THE END.
The Conspiracy wants you to party and work, party and work -- Their way. "Bob" wants you to really party and really work. "Don't just launch that Bleeding Head... launch the HELL out of it!" -- Sternodox.
"Bob" lived his life the way he did to prove that you can be a Good Guy and still be Cool...just like Mr. T, kids!! The Conspiracy (and the "Bobbies!") promulgate an EZ-2-Digest Canned Hipness' the kind of hipness we're talking about isn't like anything shown on TV or sung by rock stars. It isn't Punk, nor old-timey, either. It simply IS. It predates fashion, it predates CLOTHES, it predates DATING, it may even predate bipedal locomotion and the opposable thumb, and it's more important than any lifestyle with a name, including "SubGenius." FUCK the assholes that keep trying to replace it with cheap thrills. It's possible to have a more swinging time at home with your family, just sitting around, than the "bad guys" would ever want you to think. That would RUIN Their system.
Slack, strangely enough, has a lot to do with commitment and love and responsibility and such, things which haven't been "hip" lately, but will be again someday, no thanks to either the Moral Majority or the New Age... Slack is ultimately what it will take for, for instance, nuclear disarmament to ever happen. But EVEN NATIONS MUST HAVE SLACK.
Any religion is just one big PEP TALK, but -- screwy as it may be -- the basic gist common to most religions is THE FUCKING TRUTH!! But that inevitable loss of perspective keeps creeping in, no matter what absurd measures the 'guru' takes to prevent it, and pretty soon the pep talk becomes repitition. Then, a completely new form of "pep talk" is created to fill the need, to remind people of themselves .
The terms "SubGenius" and "Slack" don't mean a cluster of "Bobbies" thinking a shared "in joke" proves they're better than everybody else. SubGeniuses are people who, even if for one second, or one instant, recognized the value of their lives. If the rest of humanity could lock onto that, the assholes of the world would be CURED INSTANTLY and all crime and war and exploitation would CEASE FOREVER.
That's what the Church is here for.
"BOB" COMES AGAIN and AGAIN to prove that being a Good Guy is worth it in KICKS and SLACK.
"Bob" asked WOTAN if we could party, and IT said that we had to.
Of course, you can't enjoy yourself if you're an evil shit who thinks that hurting other people is enjoyable. That cancels itself out -- which is exactly why it's so hard to tell the difference. Slack for thyself and Slack for others, then, are not interchangeable, but definitely interconnected. To keep all Slack for yourself actually depletes Slack; not only are you rendered unable to appreciate it, but you also lose brownie points in society AND Heaven, and will eventually be branded an asshole, and so fry in Hell.
Being a Slackful Asshole gets you nowhere.
On the other hand, a fine person with no Slack won't be a fine person for long. It'll become a stupid person and kill itself.
Many don't even know when they do have Slack to begin with. When people can barely count past ten anymore, how can they accurately count their blessings? Yet, as Slackless a land as this is, Hell has even less Slack. You could die and go there at any second.
There is no justice, no answer. If you can save the world singlehandedly, GREAT. If you can "just get by," THAT'S GREAT TOO.
Just don't QUIT.
SET AN EXAMPLE as a LIVING ENTITY that HASN'T STOPPED LIVING. You won't really know what it's all worth until it's been taken away -- so just TAKE "BOB'S" WORD FOR IT!!
On the surface, that may not be a sane approach; but nothing really important that ever happened was a "sane" event. That is why the Conspiracy suppresses abnormality. It doesn't want anything important to happen.
They have 50,000 nuclear weapons, and we don't have ANY. Yet, we dare to fight 'em anyway!! Sure, it's a lost cause -- but as Jimmy Stewart's old Pa said in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, "The lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for." SURE we're CRAZY -- hasn't it ALWAYS been the crazies and the misfits who were STUPID and BRAVE enough to STAND UP AGAINST THE CONSPIRACY?
The decks are stacked, alright. But WE have the JOKER... the Joker and the Batman all rolled into one!
Is it not ... "Bob?"
STARTED at the beach house the day after the mean religious cop tried to scare us, and succeeded, during the SubGenius Beach Party hosted by the Houston Clench -- Galveston, Texas, June 1983. With certain key lines cribbed from the rants of Pope David Meyer, St. Janor Hypercleats, Dr. Philo Drummond, Pope Sternodox and someone else.