We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Hatred and ignorance for fun (but definitely not profit)

On my way to meet Samizdata’s own Perry de Havilland and Adriana Cronin this morning, I treated myself to a few chapters of Parliament of Whores by PJ O’Rourke. I first read this superb book when I was 13, but it won’t surprise anyone who’s read it to learn that I appreciate it much more as a beleaguered taxpayer.

I wouldn’t advise reading Parliament of Whores on public transport, though — one would have to be made of stone not to giggle (if one is a giggler) or laugh out loud at some of O’Rourke’s turns of phrase. Perry suggested that I post some of these, and who am I to disappoint? From the chapter on environmental moonbats (“Dirt of the Earth”) comes this passage — see if it reminds you of anything affecting the current global political climate.

Mass movements need what Eric Hoffer — in his book The True Believers, about the kind of creepy misfits who join mass movements — called a unifying agent.

“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents,” said Hoffer. “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.” Hoffer goes on to cite historian FA Voigt’s account of a Japanese mission sent to Berlin in 1932 to study the National Socialist movement. Voigt asked a member of the mission what he thought. He replied, “It is magnificent. I wish we could have something like it in Japan, only we can’t, because we haven’t got any Jews.”

[…]

Business and industry and “their friends in the Reagan administration and Congress” make easy and even appropriate targets. Nobody squirts sulfur dioxide into the air for a hobby, after all, or tosses PCBs into rivers as an act of charity. Pollution occurs in the course of human enterprise. It is a by-product of people making things, things like a living…

Business and industry — trade and manufacture — are inherent in civilization. Every human society, no matter how wholesomely primitive, practices as much trade and manufacture as it can figure out. For good reason. It is the fruits of trade and manufacture that raise us from the wearying muck of subsistence and give us the health, wealth, education, leisure and warm, dry rooms with Xerox machines that allow us to be the ecology-conscious, selfless, committed, splendid individuals we are.

Our ancestors were too busy wresting a living from nature to go on any nature hikes. The first European ever known to have climbed a mountain for the view was the poet Petrarch. That wasn’t until the fourteenth century. And when Petrarch got to the top of Mount Ventoux, he opened a copy of Saint Augustine’s Confessions and was shamed by the passage about men “who go to admire the high mountains and immensity of the oceans and the course of the heaven…and neglect themselves.” Worship of nature may be ancient, but seeing nature as cuddlesome, hug-a-bear and too cute for words is strictly a modern fashion.

The Luddite side of the environmental movement would have us destroy or eschew technology — throw down the ladder by which we climbed. Well, nuts (and berries and fiber) to them. It’s time we in the industrialized nations admitted what safe, comfortable and fun-filled lives we lead. If we keep sniveling and whining, we may cause irreparable harm to the poor people of the world — they may laugh themselves to death listening to us.

13 comments to Hatred and ignorance for fun (but definitely not profit)

  • Verity

    PJ’s latest – ‘CEO of The Sofa’ is full of funny, piercing truths, as well. Not as funny and piercing as ‘Eat The Rich’ but still worth buying.

  • Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Parliament of Whores.


    The American political system is like a gigantic Mexican Christmas fiesta. Each political party is a huge pinata- a papier-mache donkey, for example. The donkey is filled with full employment, low interest rates, affordable housing, comprehensive medical benefits, a balanced budget and other goodies. The American voter is blindfolded and given a stick. The voter then swings the stick wildly in every direction, trying to hit a political candidate on the head and knock some sense into the silly bastard.

    In July 1988 I attended the specious, entropic, criminally trivial, boring, stupid Democratic National Convention- a numb suckhole stuffed with political bulk filler held in that place where bad malls go when they die, Atlanta, a city with a midsummer climate like the inside of a locked van stalled in the Sahara at noon. Then- with barely time to hose the Dukakis sludge out of my tape recorder and scrape the talk of Democratic party unity off the bottom of my loafers- I flew to that other oleo-high colonic, the Republican convention, an event with the intellectual content of a Guns n’Roses lyric attended by every ofay insurance broker in America who owns a pair of white shoes and which was held in New Orleans, a summertime visit to which is like taking a sauna in a high-crime drainage ditch.

  • David Beatty

    Speaking of O’Rourke, I saw what appears to be a fairly new book from him at Borders called “Peace Kills: America’s Fun New Imperialism”.

  • Amen to all of that.

  • toolkien

    we may cause irreparable harm to the poor people of the world — they may laugh themselves to death listening to us.

    Don’t discount the third worlders who exploit the neuroitcs among us hoping that while we a self-flaggelating they can somehow gain and shoot past us. In fact Kyoto seems to be more about crippling the advanced countries and giving a boost to the third world than protecting the environment. Then most ‘environmentalism’ isn’t about the environment it’s about control and transfer.

  • Tedd McHenry

    Favourite P.J. O’Rourke quote:

    “Giving money and power to politicians is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenagers.”
    (from Parliament of Whores)

  • That book had more influence on my political thinking then any other.

  • eat the rich is my favorite.

  • Verity

    Giles – Eat The Rich is my favourite, too. It is so full of astounding insights and it is so bloody funny. Of the sheer industry and success of Hong Kong, which has zero natural resources: “even the babies are too busy to cry”. My next favourite is Holidays in Hell, about his coverage of the first Gulf War. It too is hilarious.

    Thanks, David Beatty. I didn’t know he had a new one out, and I will go to Amazon and buy it today.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    good post, Jackie. I loved “Parliament of Whores,” which I first read about 10 years ago. “Holidays In Hell” was probably his most influential, though, because it introduced him to a broader readership. I remember a fairly left-wing old colleague of mine bending over laughing at a passage from O’Rourke.

    O’Rourke, in contrast to the odious Michael Moore, is considered funny and stimulating even by those who disagree with him. Underneath all the knockabout humour, O’Rourke comes across as a decent guy who doesn’t take himself at all seriously.

  • Theodopoulos Pherecydes

    The Japanese emissary lamented the lack of Jews in Japan as an obstacle to National Socialism, but it is no obstacle to antisemitism as I discovered when I lived and worked there. I was mystified to discover some of my compatriots were referred to as “kyu ichi” by the Japanese.

    Now “kyu” is Japanese for the number 9. “Ichi” is the Japanese for the number 1. And 9 + 1 as we all know is 10.

    10, in Japanese, is pronounced – wait for it – “ju”.

  • DSpears

    My personal favorite moment comes during Senator Ted Kennedy’s ’88 Democratic convention speech.

    Drinking heavily in the ARCO suite, the only place at the convention where O’Rourke could find any conservatives, the infamous “where was George” speech illicited responses such as:

    ” He wasn’t out drowning campaign volunteers in car!”

    To quote PJ: “Being present at the conception of a minor quip was the most interesting thing that happened to me at the Democratic Convention.”

  • CPatterson

    My favorite quote of P.J. O’Rourke’s is from an article about crack originally published in Rolling Stone magazine.

    “One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on — And when you do find somebody, it’s remarkable how often his picture turns up on your driver’s license.”