|Oct/Nov 2005 Salon|
Great catastrophes are supposed to prompt us to reach for great solutions. We look to our writers to articulate these insights, and, encouragingly, they do it. In the early 18th Century, Jonathan Swift, moved by the intractable poverty of the people of Ireland, published a pamphlet entitled "A Modest Proposal For Preventing The Children Of Poor People In Ireland From Being A Burden To Their Parents Or Country, And For Making Them Beneficial To The Public."
Briefly, Swift proposed that the Irish sell their children, or at least their infants, to be eaten by the rich. His reasoning is rigorous and well in tune with that of today's economists. It is also deeply Christian, or so I assume it must be, since Swift was an ordained priest of the Church of England and Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. And not only was he an eminent clergyman, he anticipated the central doctrine of modern Christianity, at least as preached in the United States: he deplored abortion. Selling babies for meat, Swift pointed out, would make them too valuable to be foolishly wasted by aborting them before they are of a marketable size.
In my own school days, Swift's "A Modest Proposal" was required reading. It was taught as an example of satire. Now, I assume it is still taught, but as a case study in Business School. Thus does each age embrace the Classics, each according to its own lights and needs.
In any case, our own age has its own catastrophes, and should have its own Modest Proposals for dealing with them. As I write, we are still in the midst of coping with Hurricane Katrina. We have had the following stages of disaster management: the Ignoring of the Warnings; the Disappearance of the Leadership; the Protection of the Wealthy; the Flight of the Solvent; the Abandonment of the Poor; the Covering of the Official Asses; the Denial of Responsibility; the Pointing of the Fingers; the Posturing of the Media; and the Blaming of the Victims.
We have also seen the heroism of the selfless, the courage of the frightened, the hope of the dispossessed, and, as always, the suffering of the least brethren. We have seen the charity of just about everyone; people have indeed been generous. (You can find loud exceptions to this by turning on an AM radio and listening to the talk shows, but there's no need to do that. If you want disgusting muck, see the news footage of the New Orleans streets.)
Our post-Katrina version of the Modest Proposal will take a contemporary form. It will be a Modest Presidential Briefing Memo. Think Power Point Presentation. Think bullet points. (Think extremely limited distribution, of course, and think of a plausible deniability scenario. But mostly, remember that you're talking directly to The Boss: Dick Fuckin' Cheney Himself. For protocol reasons, his name goes in the "Copy To:" line, but we're all used to that by now. The one in the main address line doesn't read memos or listen to briefings.) No need to pussyfoot. Dick is The Man, and he likes straight talk (from others; he has never tried it himself, and won't).
Now, of course it's pretty cheeky of me to presume to write this proposal myself. I have no standing with any Government, whether Federal, State, or local, beyond being a provider of their money and a consumer of their benefits, such as wars. So where do I get off, telling Their Lordships what to do?
Ah, but I am that great thing, a columnist! I write this little essay in each issue of Eclectica! I am a Pundit!
It's a frequent practice of us Pundits to speak in someone else's voice. A common trope is the invented quote from some untraceable source like "my cabdriver" or "an Administration source who spoke on background." For my purposes here, I will be a member of the President's staff, drafting a briefing document. I think I will call my fictitious persona Karl Rogue.
Okay, let the bullet points fly:
Presidential Briefing—TOP SECRET
Katrina: Best Damn Flood Since Noah
We all know that the Lord brings good out of evil. We also know that God helps those who help themselves. Here's how we're going to help the Lord to help us:
• Keep the focus relentlessly on New Orleans. Forget the other destroyed areas altogether. Just NEVER mention them. New Orleans is the perfect target. Once you get past the theme park stuff, the Quarter and the steamboat rides and the stupid parade, nobody actually likes New Orleans. It's a Third-World hellhole and it always was. It's full of Blacks and Democrats, and America has too fucking many of both of those.
• Various Heavy Thinkers are saying, "Don't bother to rebuild New Orleans. Just let it rot, build a new city upriver and uphill where it's safe, and put up a monument." It's not just AM radio jerks saying this, either. It's Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of the Whole Damn House. (I notice he doesn't want to abandon that flood plain in Southern Illinois; the swamp rats down there in Cairo vote for his party.) But that's totally short-sighted.
• We'll rebuild New Orleans, all right. We'll buy up those old houses for about a penny on the dollar from the mortgage companies that snatch 'em back from the refugees who—oh GOD this is sweet!—can't make the payments. They want their homes back? Hey, people in Hell want ice water.
• Once the real estate is in safe (white or tame Black) hands, let the gentrification begin. Repair the levees enough to look good, even make 'em a little higher than they were (hello, Halliburton!), and get the dirt flying. Remember that the current flood didn't happen for about 300 years. Plenty of people will bet it won't happen again, or not until they're long dead anyway. Scrape those old houses out of there and get going on the McMansions, malls, and enough "affordable housing"—sounds better than ticky-tacky subdivisions and trailer parks, doesn't it—to peddle to the proles we keep to do the dirty work.
• Anyway, what kind of idiot thinks we can abandon New Orleans? Hey, those are oil companies and transportation companies, including the business end of the whole pipeline system we're talking about. You damn betcha we'll rebuild it, and the Congress will vote any subsidy we ask for to do it. Any objection, we just say the magic words: We're creating jobs. That's what the affordable housing is for, someplace to put enough darkies to furnish a pool of cheap help, just enough of them that they have to fight each other for the jobs. (New Motto of our Company: "Work Cheap and Like It!") Did I say "Government subsidy?" Yes I did, but don't worry. That's just for corporations, and just for the ones we like because they like us. Free enterprise for the hourly-wage jerks, as God intended.
• Public schools—fuck 'em. We don't need to educate people to sweep floors and load trucks and wait tables and scan merchandise in a store, and we'll outsource anything that takes more smarts. Our managers' kids will go to private schools and graduate into the management class. What's the problem? Public schools are just fine as they are—cheap low-security jails to keep these kids out of the labor market and out of expensive high-security jails. So the high school graduates function at a sixth-grade level? Fine. That's all they need. When we need anything complicated done, we've got broadband connections to Mumbai, and if those monkeys raise their prices, we can pipe the work to Bangladesh.
• Evacuees or refugees or whatever you want to call 'em—hey, great. Keep 'em moving. Let Houston or San Antonio or Dallas deal with 'em. Once the "Civic Leaders" see all those people who will work for less than a Mexican, because it's that or fuckin' starve, they'll be begging us to send 'em some more refugees. And the locals who already have the McJobs in those places? Who gives a shit? They have no power now, they vote our way every time in spite of the shit we dump on 'em, and that won't change. If they get restless, say "War on Terror" in a loud voice and they'll behave themselves.
• Pile on the religion. Get GWB in his blue suit and see if his doctor can Botox the smirk off his mouth. He's already declared a Day of Prayer. That's ideal. It costs exactly nothing and the customers eat it up like buttered grits. Use the words Creator and Creation in every other sentence, so nobody thinks we're Darwinists. They never heard the term "social Darwinism" anyway.
• Never let anybody forget that The Liberal Media is the enemy, a bunch of traitors who hate our soldiers and especially the Marines and especially dead Marines and especially the dead Marines' chaplains. Use every resource of the media, nearly all of which we own and control, to pound this message 24/7.
• Meanwhile, let's get serious about shutting off the self-appointed "watchdogs" on the few papers and channels we don't run. Too many camera freaks have been showing too many things that are awkward to explain. Even on the tame papers, there are some loose cannons. The Wall Street Journal, for God's sake, had a piece by some schmuck named Christopher Cooper that pretty well gave away the whole bag of tricks, including turning New Orleans into a Republican fiefdom. Somebody here needs to speak to somebody there and see that we don't find any more of this.
• Anyway, this is the best little disaster since 9/11 gave us a license to shred the Bill of Rights and pass out the "War on Terror" money to our friends. Hell, we couldn't have done better if we had blown the levees ourselves. (By the way, just out of curiosity—we didn't blow the levees, did we?)
• As noted above, the Lord brings good out of evil. In this case, we just need to direct His attention to the most deserving folks—and I don't need to tell you who we are. —KR
TOP SECRET—Destroy After Reading