God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut

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God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

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God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
or Pearls Before Swine

Copyright © 1965 by Kurt Vonnegut


“In every big transaction,” said Leech, “there is a magic moment during which a man has surrendered a treasure, and during which the man who is due to receive it has not yet done so. An alert lawyer will make that moment his own, possessing the treasure for a magic microsecond, taking a little of it, passing it on. If the man who is to receive the treasure is unused to wealth, has an inferiority complex and shapeless feelings of guilt, as most people do, the lawyer can often take as much as half the bundle, and still receive the recipient’s blubbering thanks.”



Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.

E pluribus unum is surely an ironic motto to inscribe on the currency of this Utopia gone bust, for every grotesquely rich American represents property, privileges, and pleasures that have been denied the many.




Samaritrophia, he read, is the suppression of an overactive conscience by the rest of the mind. “You must all take instructions from me!” the conscience shrieks, in effect, to all the other mental processes. The other processes try it for a while, note that the conscience is unappeased, that it continues to shriek, and they note, too, that the outside world has not been even microscopically improved by the unselfish acts the conscience has demanded.

They rebel at last. They pitch the tyrannous conscience down an oubliette, weld shut the manhole cover of tha dark dungeon. They can hear the conscience no more. In the sweet silence, the mental processes look about for a new leader, and the leader most prompt to appear whenever the conscience is stilled, Enlightened Self-interest, does appear.



The therapist, after a deeply upsetting investigation of normality at this time and place, was bound to conclude that a normal person, functioning well on the upper levels of a prosperous, industrialized society, can hardly hear his conscience at all.

So a logical person might conclude that I have been guilty of balderdash in announcing a new disease samaritrophia, when it is virtually as common among helathy Americans as noses, say. I defend myself in this manner: samaritrophia is only a disease, and a violent one, too, when it attacks those exceedingly rare individuals who reach biological maturity still loving and wanting to help their fellow men.


“Tell me one good thing about those people Eliot helps.”

“I can’t.”

“I thought not.”

“It’s a secret thing,” she said, forced to argue, pleading for the argument to stop right there.

Without any notion of how merciless he was being, the Senator pressed on. “You’re among friends now—suppose you tell us what this great secret is.”

“The secret is that they’re human,” said Sylvia.


Does he write on lavatory walls?” McAllister asked.

“I heard that he did,” said Sylvia. “It was innocent—it wasn’t obscene. [...]

“Do you remember what it was?”

“Yes. ‘If you would be unloved and forgotten, be reasonable.’ ”


“Life is hard enough, without people having to worry themselves sick about money, too. There’s plenty for everybody in this country, if we’ll only share more.”

“And just what do you think that would do to incentive?”

“You mean fright about not getting enough to eat, about not being able to pay the doctor, about not being able to give your family nice clothes, a safe, cheerful, comfortable place to live, a decent education, and a few good times?”



11. “This is America! And America is one place in this sorry world where people shouldn’t have to apologize for being poor.”
13. One of his favorite Kilgore Trout books dealt with ingratitude and nothing else. It was called, The First District Court of Thankyou, which was a court you could take people to, if you felt they hadn’t been properly grateful for something you had done. If the defendant lost his case, the court gave him a choice between thanking the plaintiff in public, or going into solitary confinement on bread and water for a month. According to Trout, eighty per cent of those convicted chose the black hole.

“You get to know a man, and down deep there’s something bothering him bad, and maybe you never find out what it is, but it’s what makes him do like he does, it’s what makes him look like he’s got secrets in his eyes. And you tell him, ‘Calm down, calm down, take it easy now.’ Or you ask him, ‘How come you keep doing the same crazy things over and over again, when you know they’re just going to get you in trouble again?’ Only you know there’s no sense arguing with him, on account of it’s the thing inside that’s making him go. [...] You’re working along, and all of a sudden you hear this click from him. You turn to look at him. He’s stopped working. He’s all calmed down. He looks real dumb. He looks real sweet. You look in his eyes, and the secrets are gone. He can’t even tell you his own name right then. He goes back to work, but he’ll never be the same. That thing that bothered him so will never click on again. It’s dead, it’s dead. And that part of that man’s life where he had to be a certain crazy way, that’s done!

The reason creatures wanted to use language instead of mental telepathy was that they found out they could get so much more done with language. Language made them so much more active. Mental telepathy, with everybody constantly telling everybody everything, produced a sort of generalized indifference to all information. But language, with its slow, narrow meanings, made it possible to think about one thing at a time—to start thinking in terms of projects.

14. These words were cut into the fountain rim:
“Pretend to be good always, and even God will be fooled.”



“The problem is this: How to love people who have no use?

“In time, almost all men and women will become worthless as producers of goods, food, services, and more machines, as sources of practical ideas in the areas of economics, engineering, and probably medicine, too. So—if we can’t find reasons and methods for treasuring human beings because they are human beings, then we might as well, as has so often been suggested, rub them out.”

“Poverty is a relatively mild disease for even a very flimsy American soul, but uselessness will kill strong and weak souls alike, and kill every time.

“We must find a cure.”

“It seems to me,” said Trout, “that the main lesson Eliot learned is that people can use all the uncritical love they can get.”

“This is news?” the Senator raucously inquired.

“It’s news that a man was able to give that kind of love over a long period of time. If one man can do it, perhaps others can do it, too. It means that our hatred of useless human beings and the cruelties we inflict upon them for their own good need not be parts of human nature. Thanks to the example of Eliot Rosewater, millions upon millions of people may learn to love and help whomever they see.”

Trout glanced from face to face before speaking his last word on the subject. The last word was: “Joy.”

text checked (see note) June 2011

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