Copyright © 1952, 1980 by Kurt Vonnegut
|Chapter I||Buds mentality was one that had been remarked upon as being peculiarly American since the nation had been bornthe restless, erratic insight and imagination of a gadgeteer. This was the climax, or close to it, of generations of Bud Calhouns, with almost all of American industry integrated into one stupendous Rube Goldberg machine.|
|It was the original machine shop set up by Edison in I886, the same year in which he opened another in Schenectady, and visiting it took the edge off Pauls periods of depression. It was a vote of confidence from the past, he thoughtwhere the past admitted how humble and shoddy it had been, where one could look from the old to the new and see that mankind really had come a long way.|
Do you suppose therell be a Third Industrial Revolution?
Paul paused in his office doorway. A third one? What would that be like?
I dont know exactly. The first and second ones must have been sort of inconceivable at the time.
To the people who were going to be replaced by machines, maybe. A third one, eh? In a way, I guess the third ones been going on for some time, if you mean thinking machines. That would be the third revolution, I guessmachines that devaluate human thinking. Some of the big computers like EPICAC do that all right, in specialized fields.
Uh-huh, said Katharine thoughtfully. [...] First the muscle work, then the routine work, then, maybe, the real brainwork.
I hope Im not around long enough to see that final step.
Rudy acted as though the antique instrument were the newest of all wonders, and he excitedly pointed out identifiable musical patterns in the bobbing keystrills, spectacular runs up the keyboard, and the slow methodical rise and fall of keys in the bass. Seesee them two go up and down, Doctor! Just the way the feller hit em. Look at em go!
The music stopped abruptly, with the air of having delivered exactly five cents worth of joy. Rudy still shouted, Makes you feel kind of creepy, dont it, Doctor, watching them keys go up and down? You can almost see a ghost sitting there playing his heart out.
|Chapter VI||He could handle his assignments all right, but he didnt have what his father had, what Kroner had, what Shepherd had, what so many had: the sense of spiritual importance in what they were doing; the ability to be moved emotionally, almost like a lover, by the great omnipresent and omniscient spook, the corporate personality. In short, Paul missed what made his father aggressive and great: the capacity to really give a damn.|
Either a visitor is a nonentity, a friend, an employee, small brass, or big brass. The guard presses one of five buttons in the top row on the box. See it? Either the visitor is sight-seein, inspectin, makin a personal call, or here on business. The guard pushes one of four buttons in thet row. The machine has two lights, a red one for no, and a green one for yes. Whatever the policy is, bingo!the lights tell him what to do.
Or we could tack a memo about policy on the guardhouse wall, said Paul.
Bud looked startled. Yes, he said slowly, you could do thet. It was clear he thought it was a pretty drab man who would think much of that solution.
I thought seeing you would somehow clear up all sorts of problems, get me thinking straight, said Finnerty. [...]
I guess I looked forward to some sort of rebirth too, said Paul.
But you find out quick enough that old friends are old friends, and nothing moreno wiser, no more help than anyone else.
Well, you know, in a way I wish I hadnt met you two. Its much more convenient to think of the opposition as a nice homogeneous, dead-wrong mass. Now Ive got to muddy my thinking with exceptions.
When I had a congregation before the war, I used to tell them that the life of their spirit in relation to God was the biggest thing in their lives, and that their part in the economy was nothing by comparison. Now, you people have engineered them out of their part in the economy, in the market place, and theyre finding outmost of themthat whats left is just about zero. A good bit short of enough, anyway. [...]
Lasher sighed. What do you expect? he said. For generations theyve been built up to worship competition and the market, productivity and economic usefulness, and the envy of their fellow menand boom! its all yanked out from under them. They cant participate, cant be useful any more.
You keep giving the managers and engineers a bad time, said Paul. What about the scientists? It seems to me that
Outside the discussion, said Lasher impatiently. They simply add to knowledge. It isnt knowledge thats making trouble, but the uses its put to.
Lynn was boyish, tall, beautiful, and disarming, and, Halyard thought bitterly, he had gone directly from a three-hour television program to the White House.
Is this man the spiritual leader of the American people? asked Khashdrahr.
Halyard explained the separation of Church and State, and met, as he had expected to meet, with the Shahs usual disbelief and intimations that he, Halyard, hadnt understood the question at all.
And Halyard suddenly realized that, just as religion and government had been split into disparate entities centuries before, now, thanks to the machines, politics and government lived side by side, but touched almost nowhere. He stared at President Jonathan Lynn and imagined with horror what the country must have been like when, as today, any damn fool little American boy might grow up to be President, but when the President had had to actually run the country!
Doctor Paul Proteus was a man with a secret. Most of the time it was an exhilarating secret, and he extracted momentary highs of joy from it while dealing with fellow members of the system in the course of his job. At the beginning and close of each item of business he thought, To hell with you.
It was to hell with them, to hell with everything. This secret detachment gave him a delightful sense of all the worlds being a stage. Waiting until the time when he and Anita would be in mental shape to quit and start a better life, Paul acted out his role as manager of the Ilium Works. Outwardly, as manager, he was unchanged; but inwardly he was burlesquing smaller, less free souls who would have taken the job seriously.
|Chapter XV||Then he saw how tense the man was, and realized that what Pond was talking about was, by God, integrity. This pipsqueak of a man in a pipsqueak job had pipsqueak standards he was willing to lay his pipsqueak life down for. And Paul had a vision of civilization as a vast and faulty dike, with thousands of men like Doctor Pond in a rank stretching to the horizon, each man grimly stopping a leak with his finger.|
The modern world would grind to a halt if there werent men with enough advanced training to keep the complicated parts of civilization working.
Um, said Mr. Haycox apathetically. What do you keep working so smoothly?
Doctor Pond smiled modestly. I spent seven years in the Cornell Graduate School of Realty to qualify for a Doctor of Realty degree and get this job.
Call yourself a doctor, too, do you? said Mr. Haycox.
I think I can say without fear of contradiction that I earned that degree, said Doctor Pond coolly. My thesis was the third longest in any field in the country that yeareight hundred and ninety-six pages, double-spaced, with narrow margins.
Real-estate salesman, said Mr. Haycox. [...] Im doctor of cowshit, pigshit, and chickenshit, he said. When you doctors figure out what you want, youll find me out in the barn shoveling my thesis.
|Chapter XVII||[...] a postwar development of three thousand dream houses for three thousand families with presumably identical dreams.|
Hell, everybody used to have some personal skill or willingness to work or something he could trade for what he wanted. Now that the machines have taken over, its quite somebody who has anything to offer. All most people can do is hope to be given something.
If someone has brains, said Anita firmly, he can still get to the top. Thats the American way, Paul, and it hasnt changed. She looked at him appraisingly. Brains and nerve, Paul.
|Chapter XXI||This silly playlet seemed to satisfy them completely as a picture of what they were doing, why they were doing it, and who was against them, and why some people were against them. It was a beautifully simple picture these procession leaders had. It was as though a navigator, in order to free his mind of worries, had erased all the reefs from his maps.|
Everybodys shaking in his boots, so dont be bluffed.
Nobodys so damn well educated that you cant learn ninety per cent of what he knows in six weeks. The other ten per cent is decoration.
Show me a specialist, and Ill show you a man whos so scared hes dug a hole for himself to hide in.
Almost nobodys competent, Paul. Its enough to make you cry to see how bad most people are at their jobs. If you can do a half-assed job of anything, youre a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind.
Want to be rich, Paul?
Yes, sirI guess so. Yes, sir.
All right. I got rich, and I told you ninety per cent of what I know about it. The rest is decoration. All right?
None of this had anything to do with him any more. Better to be nothing than a blind doorman at the head of civilizations parade.
And as Paul said these things to himself, a wave of sadness washed over them as though theyd been written in sand. He was understanding now that no man could live without rootsroots in a patch of desert, a red clay field, a mountain slope, a rocky coast, a city street. In black loam, in mud or sand or rock or asphalt or carpet, every man had his roots down deepin home. A lump grew in his throat, and he couldnt do anything about it. Doctor Paul Proteus was saying goodbye forever to home.
He watched his brother find peace of mind through psychiatry. Thats why he wont have anything to do with it.
I dont follow. Isnt his brother happy?
Utterly and always happy. And my husband says somebodys just got to be maladjusted; that somebodys got to be uncomfortable enough to wonder where people are, where theyre going, and why theyre going there.
|He said goodbye and good luck, and that some of the greatest prophets were crazy as bedbugs.|
You dont matter, said Finnerty. You belong to History now.
A heavy door thumped shut, and Paul knew that he was alone again, and that History, somewhere on the other side of the door, would let him out only when it was good and ready to.
He isnt anybodys, and never will be. He never joined anything, his father never joined anything, and his grandfather never joined anything, and if he ever has a son, hell never join anything either.
Whats his reason? asked Paul.
Says its all he can do to figure out what he represents without trying to represent a thousand other people besides, said Finnerty.
Are there any conditions under which hed join? asked the man whod been nervous about loose recruiting methods.
One, said Finnerty. When everybody looks and thinks exactly the way Alfy Tucci does.
Lasher smiled sadly. The great American individual, he said. Thinks hes the embodiment of liberal thought throughout the ages. Stands on his own two feet, by God, alone and motionless. Hed make a good lamp post, if hed weather better and didnt have to eat.
You perhaps disagree with the antique and vain notion of Mans being a creation of God.
But I find it a far more defensible belief than the one implicit in intemperate faith in lawless technological progressnamely, that man is on earth to create more durable and efficient images of himself, and, hence, to eliminate any justification at all for his own continued existence.
Here it was again, the most ancient of roadforks, one that Paul had glimpsed before, in Kroners study, months ago. The choice of one course or the other had nothing to do with machines, hierarchies, economics, love, age. It was a purely internal matter. Every child older than six knew the fork, and knew what the good guys did here, and what the bad guys did here. The fork was a familiar one in folk tales the world over, and the good guys and the bad guys, whether in chaps, breechclouts, serapes, leopardskins, or bankers gray pinstripes, all separated here.
Bad guys turned informer. Good guys didntno matter when, no matter what.
Kroner cleared his throat. I said, whos their leader, Paul?
I am, said Paul. And I wish to God I were a better one.
The instant hed said it, he knew it was true, and knew what his father had knownwhat it was to belong and believe.
The first step would be to get Americans to agree that limitations be placed on the scope of machines.
You would get this agreement by force, if necessary? You would force this artificial condition, this step backward, on the American people?
What distinguishes man from the rest of the animals is his ability to do artificial things, said Paul. To his greater glory, I say. And a step backward, after making a wrong turn, is a step in the right direction.
|The machines and the institutions of government were so integrated that trying to attack one without damaging the other was like trying to remove a diseased brain in order to save a patient. There would have to be a seizure of powera benevolent seizure, but a seizure nonetheless.|
You cant ask men to attack pillboxes cold sober, said Finnerty.
And you cant ask them to stop when theyre drunk, said Paul.
text checked (see note) Nov 2010