JOB REVISITED: THE ADVERSARY’S REVENGE

(Sometime in the late 1950’s… before the Throne of God…)

“So, where have you been?”

“Oh, you know, hanging around on the Earth, going about here and there, just checking out the scene, Daddy-O…”

“Indeed. Have you ‘checked out’ my people Israel lately? Despite your best efforts to eradicate them, now they’re doing pretty well – many have found new homes across the oceans, and many are moving back into the land of Palestine.”

“Yes, I noticed that. And I bet you’re right proud of them, aren’t you?”

“I am, in truth. Their faith has survived the sorest of possible tests. The most brutal of crimes have been brought against them, and they have not wavered. Indeed, their faith is stronger now for having survived, and once more they rejoice to be walking in the lands of their forefathers. What, do you think to sway them away from me again? I tell you, it cannot be done.”

“Oh, I agree. Such is not my intention. No, quite the opposite… I mean to turn you away from them.”

“How can you say that? They are my people, and I am their God…”

“…And you have kicked their asses before, when they deserved it. Behold them now – humble and thankful, working the land, delighting in its bounties, taking care of one another. The world watches, and generally approves of these scrappy little socialist sabras on their little kibbutzim. They are underdogs, and you have indeed set their table in the midst of their enemies.”

“And they shall be victorious if anyone tries to conquer them again.”

“Oh, of course. I’m counting on that.”

“What?”

“Hey, I can see ahead too, you know. You shall grant them victories that will seem miraculous. They will see this, and they will feel the joy of triumph, the rush of victory, and I will make it a point tell them how much they deserve it. I will remind them repeatedly of their special status, and of the favor they enjoy in your sight… and as has happened before, they will let it all go straight to their heads.”

“But how should that make me…”

“You might have noticed, I did more than just try to wipe them out. That would have been too easy, just to kill them all outright. And what would have been the point? To release them all back into your hands? No, I subjected them to the vilest tortures, the most humiliating treatments… and in the process, I made sure I taught them how to do it themselves.  And they do not know it yet, but they have internalized their oppression wonderfully well.

“Heed my words: not a hundred years will pass, no, not even three generations, before your precious people, your Israel, shall be treating another nation as they were themselves treated, and in some ways even worse. They shall become a pariah among nations before I am through with them. I will feed their pride, encourage their arrogance, and praise their cruelty. I shall set such provocations upon them, like horseflies tormenting a horse, and they shall respond with such inhumanity that it will bring great shame upon them – and hence upon you. In fact, I believe I can make them commit genocide themselves, create a Holocaust all their own… and they will be convinced that it is you that wants them to do it. And it will be you that turns your face from them, not the other way around.”

“No. They are better than that. They will not forget -”

Oh yeah? Try me.”

I’M AN ANXIOUS TEAPOT

(before therapy)

I’m an anxious teapot, all stressed out
Can’t get a handle on my fear and doubt
Fragile as porcelain as you can see
Filled to the brim with anxie-tea .

(after therapy)

I’m a blissed-out teapot, calm and serene
Since I have learned how to let off steam
Please won’t you join me for toast and jam
And lots of tabs of lorazepam!

PLAUSIBLE NEWS: SADDAM CAPTURED; DESERT BLOOMS (2003)

BAGHDAD (Plausible News Service) — The apparent arrest of Saddam Hussein brought a traumatic chapter in the millennia-long history of Mesopotamia to an end earlier today, with immediate and wide-ranging effects being felt throughout the country. Flowers spontaneously erupted across vast stretches of Iraqi desert. Power and water service were restored to millions of Iraqi homes, some of which have never had it in the first place. “My cable is working again! I can get Bravo channel now! They must have arrested Saddam!” cried a jubilant Walid al-Jibra, dancing in the street in front of his formerly bombed-out store, which was found miraculously restored moments after the announcement.

kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis alike were seen joyfully embracing in Basra, while a number of children previously thought to have been killed during the invasion were found to be alive and perfectly healthy. Hospitals reported increases in stocks of medicines, “but hey, we don’t need them anyway, half our patients just got up and walked away,” according to one staffer.

A statement released by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden acknowledged the defeat for the radical Islamic movement signified by the Saddam arrest. “Oh well, we might as well just hang it up, as you say,” said the emaciated terrorist leader on a video broadcast by al-Jazeera television shortly after the arrest announcement. “This just shows that you can’t mess around with the ol’ US of A.”

Troops met the news with relief. “Well, I am sure enough glad that’s all over with,” said Sgt. Paul Tarbabe of Tuskeegee, AL, as he began packing his gear for the return home. “Just in time, too — we oughta all be able to get back home for Christmas now. I’ve got a six-month-old daughter to meet!”

Donald Rumsfeld and senior Pentagon officials have indicated that with Saddam out of the picture, “our work here is finished,” as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told a press briefing at the Pentagon early this morning. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and other officials, for whom the planning and execution of the Iraq operation has been an obsession for years, intend to retire next week and “set up a think tank in Samoa or someplace like that,” Wolfowitz said.

The forecast for Baghdad for today and the foreseeable future is sunny, with bright blue skies, a few fluffy white clouds, warm but comfortable temperatures, and copious birdsong.

THE BEAT GOES ON (2015 VERSION)

With apologies to Sonny & Cher…

THE BEAT GOES ON (UPDATED)

The beat goes on, beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La de da de de, la de da de da

Punk rock was once all the rage, uh huh
History must turn the page, uh huh
The Internet’s the current thing, uh huh
Billionaires become our kings, uh huh

And the beat goes on, beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La de da de de, la de da de da

Cameras in the supermart, uh huh
Doctors grow you brand new hearts, uh huh
While drones keep killing people without names
On our phones we watch the baseball games

And the beat goes on, the beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La de da de de, la de da de da

Computers getting faster all the time
Workers strive to make another dime
Grandmas try to teach themselves to text
NOBODY CAN SAY WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

And the beat goes on, the beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La de da de de, la de da de da

And the beat goes on, yes, the beat goes on
And the beat goes on, and the beat goes on
The beat goes on and the beat goes on
The beat goes on…

ITSY-BITSY SPIDER (Summer Blockbuster Version)

The itsy bitsy spider was washed down to the creek
Into some toxic chemicals, where he remained a week
When he crawled back out, you wouldn’t believe your eyes
For the itsy bitsy spider had now gained enormous size

The giant monster spider was rampaging through the town
Eating all the cars and pulling buildings down
The people screamed in fright and they began to run
For the giant monster spider was having too much fun

The giant monster spider – oh who could save us now?
But then a group of scientists said, “Hey we might know how”
They built a spider shrinking ray to counteract the drugs
And the itsy bitsy spider was once more a normal bug

PLAUSIBLE NEWS: RESPONDING TO FUEHRER’S “CALL FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE,” NEO-NAZIS COMMITTING SUICIDE

}  } }PLAUSIBLE NEWS{ {  {

RESPONDING TO FUEHRER’S “CALL FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE,” NEO-NAZIS COMMITTING MASS SUICIDE

COEUR D’ALINE, IDAHO (Plausible News Service) – Across the country, police report, Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and other white supremacy activists are committing suicide en masse, apparently in response to a supposed “mobilization call” issued from beyond the grave by Adolf Hitler himself.

Police say that approximately two dozen white males, aged 35 to 72, gathered together last weekend in a remote Idaho location for a “White Power Confederacy” rally. At the rally, one of the participants read from a handwritten document urging the attendees to “heed the call of our Fuehrer, who even now is gathering the souls of his faithful, the souls of strong Aryan men, to himself at the gates of Hell to prepare for his triumphant return.” According to the document, its author received this information in “a glorious dream, from the lips of Hitler himself.” The men, following the document’s instructions, then carved swastikas into their foreheads with their knives, and shot themselves. According to the document, they would soon return to their bodies as zombies, immune to death, and able to “fight forever for the Fatherland, with our sacred symbol emblazoned in fire upon our foreheads.”

The county coroner reports that none of the bodies, which are still awaiting recovery by their families, have yet shown any signs of reanimation.

Reports of similar suicides have since cropped up in a number of states, including Mississippi, South Carolina, and Indiana.  “Let your eyes be dry and do not grief (sic) for me, for I go to fight for you and for our race. Seig (sic) Heil!”  William “Buddy” Kuhlicker wrote to his family before wrapping himself in a Confederate flag and immolating himself in the parking lot of a WalMart near Smithfield, North Carolina.

 

 

 

 

Children of Privilege (2012)

It had been a routine Tuesday so far. I filed my reports for the morning, set the phone to forwarding, and headed down to lunch.  I was reading the international news in the Times – the paper version; old habits die hard, you know – when McGinnity joined me at the table.  We shared a few moments of standard pleasantries, and then a pause while he contemplated the beef Stroganoff on his plate.  “There might be a new threat out there, y’know,” said McGinnity.  A bit too casually.

I looked up from my coffee cup.  “Oh yeah?”  I couldn’t help but notice that McGinnity looked unusually distracted – his brow was deeply furrowed, all the way to the thin wisps of hair on his high forehead.  He wasn’t easily rattled; I’d known him for years, and seen him face down dangerous criminals, raving lunatics, even Congressional staffers – he was usually unflappable.  But I could tell that something about what he wanted to tell me disturbed him a great deal.  “So, what’s their beef, Ted? Middle East? Climate change?” I kept my voice sounding light and unconcerned.

McGinnity looked around a little bit, and hunched a little closer to the table as though he was wary of being overheard.  The background noise in the Agency commissary made that unlikely, but McGinnity always checked out all the angles.  That was one of the things that made him good at what he did.  One of the reasons I respected him.

“Their beef?  Vegetarianism,” he chuckled.  It was an old joke – but McGinnity wasn’t prone to cracking jokes unless something was making him uneasy.

“Actually, I shouldn’t say ‘new threat,’ like it’s some new cell of Wahhabists or something.  No, this seems to be a different kind of threat, Jim, we haven’t seen this before.   And it’s not one thing, not one issue, that’s driving it.  It’s – well, it’s the whole thing.”

He saw my puzzled frown.  “Just started getting aware of the full scope of this – been trying to find how widespread it might be before raising any alarms, wouldn’t want to raise a fuss over something insignificant, you know -”

“So what do you have so far?”

“Bunch of rich kids.  Well, rich families, I mean.  Upper class, upper middle, managerial, executive… American mostly, some European, some South Asians.  These kids – well, not kids anymore I guess, they’re in their thirties now, most of them…”

“Rich kids?  What, they read some Marx in college, they dropped out, grew their hair, all power to the proletariat, trying to shock the ‘rents?”

“No, no, that’s just it, they’re not just rebels.  In fact, they’re not ‘rebelling’ at all.  They’re being smart about it.”

He had my attention.  “Whaddya mean?”

“They’re working, mostly in their family businesses…”

“Family businesses?”

“Yeah.  Top-level corporations, private capital firms, law firms.  Pharma, finance, military contractors, IT.  These kids -” he shook his head, with a wry chuckle.  “I have to stop doing that.  These are not kids. Not at all.”  He shifted again, sat up straighter, looked at me with a strange intensity.  “These – people, they’ve looked around and decided they don’t really like what their fathers and mothers have accomplished.  This whole system we’ve built – they see exploitation, the systemic inequity, the abuse of workers, the environment, poverty… and they just refuse to accept those things as inevitable.  They’ve made up their minds, independently it seems, to take it apart.”

“The whole system? How?”

McGinnity hunched a little closer, and his voice took on a new note of urgency.  “From the inside, of course.  The way that only they can do it.  They’re leveraging the access they’ve been given, taking advantage of their stations in life.  They’re working their asses off, for now – doing exactly what they’re supposed to, following the rules, getting as close to the centers of power as they can… And then, at some point – they say they’ll know when the moment is right – they’re going to take down as much of the System as they happen to be able to lay their hands on at the moment.”

“Could they really do significant damage?”

McGinnity smiled, smiled as though it hurt to smile.  “Need I remind you, Jim, that it only took one young, unsupervised currency trader to almost take out the entire economy of France?”

He had a point there. “And do we know who they are?”

“No.  There’s no clue.  There’s no organization – there are documents circulating that lay out their program and describe their modus operandi, make suggestions, and that’s about it.  And even those documents have multiple variations – the instructions on distributing the information suggest that each person should make their own version, or multiple versions, to confuse anyone who might be watching.”

“Like us.”

“Yeah. Emails, letters, blog posts, comments on news stories, even poems, songs – they’re using a lot of different forms. Now of course just the fact that someone gets one of these emails or whatever, that doesn’t mean that they’ve bought in – and there’s usually no way to tell who’s passed on the information, or if they pass it on out of solidarity, amusement, or outrage.  There’s no way to distinguish them from their peers – not without doing some ugly kind of purge of the whole ruling class.”

“Well, we can make some guesses, can’t we?”

“Yeah, sure.  Like for instance – I’d bet that we’re probably not looking at people with families of their own.  You’re single, childless, you’re less worried about taking care of others — ”

This was the part of the process I liked.  “And if you’re attached to property, lifestyle, responsibilities, you’re less likely to rock the boat.”

“Right. But at the same time, you’re looking at people with access to extra resources.  They could make arrangements to get their own out of the way before any really serious disruptions happen.”

“Ah – what about lifestyles?  Do they eat organic, drive hybrids, give to charities, that kind of thing?”

“Hmmm.  They could.  But they have to fit in, being too different might not help their career goals.  And there are plenty of people who make those kinds of behavioral changes who aren’t interested in bringing about a fundamental and wide-ranging restructuring of society itself.”

I let out a long breath.  “Sounds dangerous. They have access to information, they know which switches to throw, they know where the bodies are buried — ”

“It gets worse.  Part of the program is that as they rise through the ranks, they’re keeping track – they identify the people in the System who, you know, who they think are the most rapacious, the greediest, the most aggressive — the people that to them embody the worst qualities of the System.”

“You mean the ones who are the real go-getters? The alpha males, the queen bees?”

McGinnity looked at me for a long moment.  “You could say that, I guess.”

“Keep track?  What for?”

“To ‘neutralize’ them.  Whatever that means.  It might mean just to keep those people away from power, divert them into harmlessness…”

“Or worse?”

“I don’t think they’re plotting assassinations, no.  They seem to think they can do this nonviolently… but you know how that goes, there’ll be a fringe, some will go outside the guidelines — I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some kidnappings, disappearances, manufactured scandals…”

“But they’re responsible, too, aren’t they?  They’ve benefited themselves, right?”

“Yeah, sure – they claim they’re expiating some of their guilt.”

“By taking the System down? They have some replacement ideas in the pipeline?”

“Nope – they say that’s someone else’s job, they can’t see alternative futures from where they sit, all they can see is that the present doesn’t work and isn’t likely to get better.”

“But there are -”

“Oh, sure, there are lots of people out there thinking about new kinds of systems, Jim, absolutely, but most of them are outside the structures we’re talking about.  I’m talking about people within deeply entrenched centers of power, the ones that you would think would have a lot to lose from any kind of meaningful social redesign.”

I started putting things together.  “So we have some informal leaderless network of self-radicalized upper-class workers, maybe threats to – what, infrastructure, distribution systems, maybe individual lives if things get desperate…? But we can’t infiltrate them, we can’t surveil them ’cause we don’t know for sure who they are and they’re operating in exempt circles anyway… can’t disrupt them without economic risks…”

“Right. The rest of the class would never stand for anything that might actually be effective.”

“Like… our bosses, for instance…?”

“Nah, more like their bosses.”

I sat back in my chair.  The implications…. yeah, they were disturbing. I could see why McGinnity would be loath to escalate the issue until he was more certain about it.

“Well, the thing would be to keep them from picking a moment, then?” I said.

“I guess that’s all we can do.  Building in more redundancies wouldn’t be a bad idea – but you know how the money feels about that, anything affecting commerce – ”

“That – but if the word got out about them, you think some of their potential targets might behave better?”

He smiled that pained smile again.  “Well, there might be a silver lining there,” he admitted. “Fear of God and all that.”

“This group have a name?”

“Some of the emails are signed, or addressed to, ‘the Children of Privilege,'” said McGinnity.  “They also have another name for themselves.”

“What’s that?”

“‘The Sins of the Fathers,'” he said.  “You done?  Let’s get back upstairs.”

“Good idea,” I said.  I started to reach for my tray, and stopped.  “Tell me one thing, though -”

“Yeah?”

“What is it, Ted – I can tell, we’ve worked together for a while, and I can tell this is bugging you, more than usual – ”

“Yeah,” he said, with a sigh.  “Yeah, you’re right.”

“So?”

“I was thinking about Brent -”

“Your son? He’s not involved, is he?”

“Oh, no, not at all, so far as I know – but remember when he did that Peace Corps stint?”

“Yeah, you said he really liked Togo -”

“Oh, he did, best experience of his life, he says – so he went into International Relations in college, you know, minored in Finance, interned with the World Bank, he’s still in Brussels on that consulting gig now… And we talk, you know, he kinda knows what I do, he’s alright with that, but we do have some discussions sometimes, we disagree on a few things, but he’s no radical. But I keep thinking about the things he told me, the things that he’s seen –

“And you know what? Just between you, me, and the microphone in the salt shaker… part of me says they might have a point.”

We stood, picking up our trays. Gotta clean up your own mess, after all, that’s what they always taught us.

“Thanks for the heads-up, Ted – and, uh, if you want, forward me what you’ve got, OK?”

“Yeah, you bet,” said McGinnity.  “I’ve got a lot of emails to send out.”