Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My dinner with Raskolnikov

     "Russky Pu-leeze!" I said to Rodya, already wishing he hadn't poured that 4th Vodka. It wasn't going to help me in putting together a cogent denunciation much less assist me in remembering what the hell he'd been saying that was so naive long enough to refute it. "You're starting to sound like Ayn Rand"

     "You mean she's going to sound like me.  Remember she hasn't been born yet."

     "And you haven't been born at all, you're just a figment of  Dostoevsky' dyspepsia or the 'Russian soul' which means too damned much vodka -- and speaking of too much Vodka, can't we get something to eat - other than borscht?"

      "Da, sure Captain,  but you're not going to argue that there are not two kinds of people in the world - those who like rules and like to be ruled, and the great men, or even men a little out of the common, that is to say, capable of giving some new word -- and those men, must from their very nature be criminals -- more or less, of course.  And from my mind they ought not, indeed, submit to remaining in the common rut."

     "which means, what:  be prevented from ruining or at least unfairly exploiting the misery of others or even creating it in order to have a flock to fleece?  Russky please!"  You just don't want to pay taxes and think you can handle a society without them.  Trust me you wouldn't rise to the top if the top were the bottom and who the hell would buy you dinner if it weren't for me?

     " Well, I maintain that if the discoveries of Kepler and Newton could not have been made known without sacrificing the lives of one, a hundred, or more men, Newton would have had the right, would indeed have been in duty bound. . . to eliminate the dozen or the hundred. . ."

     " Yes, yes, so I claim I have have a solution for Fermat's enigma or cold fusion  so I get to lie, cheat, steal and murder and everyone who does evil can complain that he's Newton or Feynman or even Ayn freakin' Rand and pretend to be  some sort of  supergalt who must not be restrained by the peasants even while he's eating their children.  It's like some mirror image of Communism."

     I was getting hot under my high collar and that 4th glass of  cheap vodka was starting to look more attractive.

     "What you're saying is that you feel guilty about murdering an old woman and you're inventing an ethical system that absolves you by putting her into a 'class.'  Next thing you know, you'll write some crappy fiction about a super savior,  job creator who gets crucified by taxes and OSHA regulations by the mob of greedy "takers." 

     "Look Foggy, as I said in my article, if you've bothered to read it, is that all legislators and leaders of men, such as Lycergus, Solon, Mohammad, Napoleon, and so on were all without exception criminals, from the very fact that, making a new law, they transgressed the ancient one -- and they did not stop at bloodshed."

     "Neither did Chairman Mao and you know, his new word might have been a bit more credible if 20 million didn't starve to death, even if they're now Galty capitalist ass kickers pretending their self-interest is enlightened, but perhaps with a little less of the potato juice you might ask yourself  how you know in advance between Moses and Mussolini so that you can decide whether to follow him or hang him?   Or Mickey Mouse for that matter, in which case we just smile while we're getting fleeced.  Should there be some sort of test, some academic degree -- or should it be hereditary, the way it was back before the Revolution that will someday take  away Alisa Zinovyevna's wealth and make her bitter and self righteous and a bit horny?  At least we had only one Tzar at a time.  You'd give us a mob of every jerk who wants to blame others for his failures.  Like 'I'd be a rich man instead of working in this shoe store if it weren't for the Liberals.'"

     "Look, Fogg, I acknowledge that it's somewhat arbitrary -- I only believe in my leading idea that men are in general divided by a law of nature into two categories, inferior, ordinary, that is to say material that serves only to reproduce its kind -- and men who have the gift or the talent to utter a new word.  the first category are men conservative in temperament -- it's their vocation.  the second transgress the law; they are destroyers.  The crimes of these men are of course relative and varied. They seek the destruction of the present for the sake of the better.  However the masses will scarcely ever admit this right, they punish them or hang them. The first category is always the man of the present, the second the man of the future.  Each class has an equal right to exist. In fact all have equal rights with me and vive la guerre eternelle -- til the New Jerusalem of course.  More Vodka?"

     "The old Jerusalem is enough of a headache, thanks and no, but damn it, you're missing the point.  If those classes are only discernible after the deaths of millions and the destruction of nations and peoples, all you're doing is saying  'do what thou wilt shall be the law' and let God or the Devil or Dostoevsky sort it out later.

     Two classes my ass Rodya, that's the assumption behind every horror mankind has done and call it what you like that eternal war of all against all is the road to the new deluge - at best. If you could 'remember'   150 years into the future like I do, you'd be surprised to hear that 'creator class' calling itself conservative and the others Liberals, but you don't remember, now do you? At least acknowledge the title of your silly life -- it's crime and Punishment, dude.  Punishment, not apotheosis.  But again, how do we tell the builder of railroads who has to bend the rules a bit even if people are killed or ruined in the effort to build an empire, tell him from the embezzler, the cheat, the negligent, the greedy and unscrupulous?  What's the difference between a Galt and a Goering?

 As Razumihin asked you -- "couldn't they adopt a special  uniform, for instance, couldn't they be branded in some way?  For you know if confusion arises and a member of one category imagines that he belongs to another, begins to 'eliminate obstacles' as you so happily expressed it, then. . ."

     "Look, Captain,  take not that the mistake can only arise in the first category, that is among the ordinary people.  In spite of their disposition to obedience many of them like to imagine themselves advanced people, 'destroyers,' and to push themselves into the 'new movement' and meanwhile the really new people are very often unobserved by them, or even despised as reactionaries.  You really need not be uneasy for they never go very far."

    "WTF?  Что за черт? Are you serious"?  If you can't tell man from superman how can you say you're not saying anything goes and winning is the only justification; success or profit  the only judge of morals and only after the carnage is finished?   Are you sure you're not here from the future selling Ayn Rand books to a yet untapped reservoir of wanabees -- or 'followers' as you call them?  Hitler created jobs and since that Godwin git hasn't been born yet any more than Galt has, I can ask how this конское дерьмо, this horseshit is useful in any way.  There is another judge of worthiness, another way to tell what's just and what's just criminal and that's what you're afraid of - that voice quietly saying 'murderer'  Just wait, I've read the book after all."

     Why don't we reserve our reverence, our excuses for the excesses of  others, our discrimination between avarice and altruism for historians looking back and having seen the results and being able to ask if  millions of dead and a world of misery were a just price for jet planes and video games and on-line porn.  Talk nonsense, but talk your own nonsense, Rodya and if you're quoting that randy Ayn verbatim and before you've even read her --  why then, it's a poor sort of memory that works only backwards.  This 'philosophy of yours can justify things as disparate as Fascism and Communism and organized crime as well as the Spanish Inquisition, I expect -- and if  no price is too great for progress, and progress only defined by the people who committed crimes to make it happen, you've sold us a world no different from the world of jackals and hyenas and for that matter, you'll please forgive me for sticking you with the check, me being above that sort of obligation, being an 'advanced' person who needs the  money to destroy the old and bring in the new and create jobs and all. Right?"

Dasvidanya, dude.

The reader will please excuse me for having excerpted big chunks from  Crime and Punishment. It's a cheap way of filling a page and of course it's all in the public domain too, but I can't help seeing in that tale the author's contempt both for Socialism in it's infancy and naivete and what would have been equal contempt I imagine, for the labored arguments for that equally jejune and opposite in name only to Communism:  Objectivism, with it's fictional and contrived classes of people and the warfare between them.

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