The Demolished Man

Monday, November 21, 2005
"They are dying for their own self-respect," he said. "It's a terrible thing to deprive someone of their self-respect. It's like your culture is nothing, your race is nothing, you're nothing."

Personally, I think it’s a worse thing to deprive someone of their own self-life. While I grant that people who go to a wedding party in a Jordon hotel are just asking for it (Insert obligatory come-back about the US mistakenly bombing a northern Iraqi wedding party here) you have to admit that it’s better to be alive, even if you have to deal with VOA satellite transmissions telling you your race is nothing – so worthless, in fact, that it deserves a democracy like Iowans and Britons and Japanese. Oh, we could just nuke your cities and take your oil, but we hate you so much we’re going to stay here and bleed and force your warring factions to hold subcommittee meetings on the constitutional process. It's bored our people to tears; now it's your turn.

Lileks destroys Vonnegut.


Knucklehead said...

What is with these old idiots? Can't they just age gracefully in private? Do they have to run around demonstrating their advancing dimentia?

Syl said...

I think it's part of an old exercise that started in the sixties and it became an obsession with some.

To show your bonafides as a counter-culturalist, you take the position exactly opposite that of your culture/society. It somehow proves how tolerant and open-minded you are.

It's one of the reasons for candlelight vigils for deathrow inmates.

The problem is, some, like Vonnegut, went so far that they have no clue they are destroying themselves. They had no line beyond which they would not go.

Jamie Irons said...

But in discussing his views with The Weekend Australian, Vonnegut said it was "sweet and honourable" to die for what you believe in...

Dulce et decorum est/ Pro patria mori... rings in my mind when I read this. A real poet, Wilfred Owen, who died in the trenches of WWI, used those words of Horace, Seneca, to bitter ironical effect.

But Vonnegut is a blowhard.

Peter UK said...

But in discussing his views with The Weekend Australian, Vonnegut said it was "sweet and honourable" to die for what you believe in...

...but of course Kurt hasn't,at 82 he's running out of time.
A foreunner of the neotenic boomers he epitomises the attitude that refuses to accept that now he is "The Man".

Jamie Irons said...


Neoteny! (neotenic)

Are you a biologist? I first learned this word from Stephen Jay Gould.


Jamie Irons said...


A foreunner of the neotenic boomers ...

Vonnegut is exactly as old as my dad (b. 1922).

I'm a neotenic boomer myself!



gumshoe1 said...

i would suspect
that Kurt has suffered from
clinical depression for
most of his time on earth.

the absurd and the hopeless
seem to be the two main
emotional settings
on his pen/keyboard.

terrye said...

I always thought the man peculiar but this is absurd.

I am sick of him and Mailer and Vidal and all the other rich old white men who rail against rich old white men.

He thinks it is sweet and honorable to die does he?

Well maybe he would like to go to Iraq and park his elderly ass outside some Shia mosque and be a human shield. Or ride along on a US convoy sometime and then maybe the next IED can have his name on it.

Buddy Larsen said...

He was my fave back in the salad days. His best--to me--is "Sirens of Titan", hilarious, moving, full of deft insight--and, I swear, anti-leftist, in the sense of making fun of the notion of a strictly level human race (those more gifted, in one venue within the novel, had to wear lead plates--the number & weight of which decided by a commission of peers--to even out their advantage over the least gifted).

Oh, well, as he says, "Oh well."

gumshoe1 said...

buddy -

despite the jubilance of
the US after victory,
Vonnegut's writing demontrates the
reality of the West
(with help from other global players) bleeding itself dry in two massively mechanized wars in the 20th C.

the philosophical products
for 20thC. France and Germany
demonstrate the same weary,hopless world-view,dressed up in the best turgid academic prose....
...but Kurt's stuff was consumed but a very large number of teenagers.


mock the adult world??
you bet your ass it did.

offer any sort of hope going forward??
you're a better sleuth than
i if you found it in Kurt's writing.

gumshoe1 said...

"Rape and murder, it's just a shot away It's just a shot away..."

Seneca the Younger said...

What is with these old idiots? Can't they just age gracefully in private? Do they have to run around demonstrating their advancing dimentia?

Hey! Watch it!

... oh, you meant Vonnegut. heh heh.

Buddy Larsen said...

Seneca--are you sure?

Gumshoe1, I think you're right. His career theme is all mood--bittersweet, world-weary, wryly comic/ironic. Now, that may or may not be a lesson in how to live. Could be that it is for him: He was a POW, taken prisoner at the Battle of the Bulge, and happened to have been held in Dresden during the well-known bombing (you probably know all this). The "Slaughterhouse 5" scenes of Allied POWs stacking bodies in Dresden were auto-biographical. He was still a teenager at the time, and--reading him as a teenager myself--always refracted his writing through that experience.

I don't recall him ever challenging the war-fighting that burned Dresden on any but the "Oh, the humanity" basis. I'd've parted company, there--the shorter that war, the fewer aggregate casualties (Hitler never ate the bullet 'til the enemy was literally on top of him).

Buddy Larsen said...

Lately, of course, he's fallen into the trap, and said some dope-sh*t things about OIF that just to me are sad. The list of movies I can't watch--thanks, Clooney, for ruining the Coen Brothers for me--and other artists I can't abide, is too long.

Buddy Larsen said...

I think maybe 911--hitting as it did the heart and mind of western sensibility--may've been just too damn much for much of our art community. So it went abstract on 'em, and can't be accepted, comprehended, or fully 'felt'. I know--sounds airily nutz--but what else could it be? Or, have I missed something?

Buddy Larsen said...

And please, no 911 = Dresden. the crucial difference is, who wanted things to be this way? Who started it, in other words. Yes, yes, in the gauzy, metaphorical, blue-screen, fisheye world, we always 'start' everything, by virtue of our nasty presence on planet earth. But, in the common-sense everyday world in which nearly everybody lives, "who started it?" is THE germane question. Because, of course, the other side then has to surrender, or respond likewise. No disappearing down the moral oubliette (in Kurt's phrase), so long as you--and yours--have flesh to pierce, crush, burn, or atomize.

Buddy Larsen said...

(end of rant) The terrorists can quit anytime they want to, and suffer almost no consequences (other than the end of a mad dream which never existed on the plane of reality in the first place). We can't.