The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

There's glory for you...

I’ve never been a big science fiction fan. I liked the original Star Trek when I was a kid and Star Wars when I was a teenager, but as a genre science fiction has never been something I couldn’t live without. I’ve always been more of a history or biography person; the top shelf of my book case has seventeen books on the American Civil War, which is, when you think about it, sixteen more than I really need. Or, as my mother says, ‘why do you need all those books for, you know who won.’ I bring up all this mostly unnecessary literary throat clearing because one of the best lines I’ve ever read came from a sci-fi novel a friend loaned to me when I was in high school, which was probably the first and last sci-fi novel I ever read. I don’t remember the title or the author’s name, although I do remember that it had an orange cover and was about an interstellar war between humans and an extraterrestrial race that looked like walruses or manatees or some other large and aquatic mammal. In the novel, the official language of Earth is Spanish (it could happen) and the politicians ruling the Earth in our Hispanophonic future did not want to call the war they were fighting against the hordes of evil extraterrestrial walruses a war. No, these politicians called their politics implemented by other means the emergency or the unpleasantness or something to that effect, something very bland and bureaucratic that could mean a war or a traffic accident on Interstate 84 or that the sea turtles were staging a mass break from the local aquarium. The politicians did not like to use the word war because, the author wrote, certain words bring with them inevitable commitments with unknowable results, and as politicians both in science fiction and in real life dislike inevitable commitments with unknowable consequences, it was best for all involved to avoid using those words at all.

I bring up this bit of semantic parsing because semantic parsing is all the rage in the pestilential swamp that serves as the capital of this our Great Republic. The people there can parse a perfectly good sentence into tiny bits faster than Emeril LaGasse can chop an onion, except when Emeril chops an onion what’s chopped still tastes like an onion. The whole point of parsing in M. L’Enfant’s dream city is to reduce the meaning of words to whatever some political Humpty-Dumpty wants them to mean.  For example, the minions of the former junior Senator from Illinois have determined that He is angry at someone, angry enough to blow these anonymous someones to kingdom come via remote control, but they will not tell the citizenry just who these nameless evildoers are. Now, I am not sure of the details here—I don’t get out much, you see—but it appears to me that the question of motivation is very important to our Illinois Incitatus and His flacks, very important indeed, especially when He and His flacks wish to make it perfectly clear that the nameless evildoers in the eastern Mediterranean and southwest Asia are not committing the crimes they are committing for the reasons they say they are committing these crimes, but for some other reason altogether, a reason completely unrelated to the Islamic faith, and the flacks will parse any sentence that might suggest otherwise to complete and utter pulp. This seems a little odd to me; I would not have thought that a government full of secular humanists and nominal Christians would be such experts on the finer points of Islamic theology, but stranger things have happened, you know. I had a co-worker several years ago who took investment advice from his parrot—the bird thought the world of Treasury bills and municipal bonds, if you’re interested in that sort of thing—and he has done very well for himself (the former co-worker, not the parrot, who can only enjoy the fruits of his or her financial acumen vicariously, again proving, as if it needed proving, the remunerative utility of the opposable thumb). So it could happen. Really. I’m not making that up.

We must, the solonic classes tell us again and again, address the root causes of the extreme violence occurring against Jews, Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, and the more than occasional sundry others who happen to be in the neighborhood when some people are overcome with the need to kill, maim, rape, and pillage gets the better of their moral sense. In dealing with these poor murderous wretches, we must not call them names that imply that they are acting in the name of their religious beliefs, which they are not, but we should use a name that is nonsectarian and inoffensive to all. Well, that is all very understandable, I suppose, and therefore I move, Mr. Chairman, that from this point forward we here in the West refer to this mob of pillaging scum as calf’s liver.  In calling them calf’s liver we avoid confusing the good Muslims with the doubleplusungood Muslims and we avoid even suggesting that certain Muslims, especially the doubleplusungood Muslims, have a tendency to go overboard in following the tenets of their faith or even imply that Islam as a faith might in any way be a tad more hostile to the filthy infidel sons of apes and pigs who do not profess the truth of the Prophet’s message, PCBs upon him. No, indeed, I think I can say with a fair amount of certainty that damn near everyone hates calf’s liver and can do so in good conscience.

And who will find our declaration of official hostility towards calf’s liver offensive?  Calves?  I hardly think so; the calves are dead and therefore hardly in any position to take any kind of offense. I’m sure that given a choice the calves would prefer to have their livers back and be frolicking through an open field somewhere doing whatever it is that calves do before their inevitable conversion into veal parmigiana, but most of life is finding out that you don’t really have a choice in the matter; when it’s your turn to go, it’s your turn to go, period.  That’s just the way it is, as the song goes, some things will never change.

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  • At 3:34 PM, Blogger Joseph said…

    Orange cover?

    Hispanophone ruling class?

    Background of a war between humans and walrus people?

    It's Fire Time by Poul Anderson.

  • At 11:28 AM, Blogger Akaky said…

    Thanks, Joseph, I've been trying to remember the name of that book for damn near forty years now.

  • At 7:15 PM, Blogger Dick Stanley said…

    Yes, but what was the line you started off mentioning but never got to. I think. PCBs unto him. Good un!

  • At 9:07 AM, Blogger SnoopyTheGoon said…

    Sound OK to me, I am a natural-born calf’s liver hater, although these days even such an innocent trait might be found un-PC.

    However, you might want to consider PETA. They may object to choosing a part of an animal as a hate term, on general principles. And I don't think that PETA folks will be at the top of the list you have for people you wish to see demonstrating around your house.


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