Do Bastards Prosper?

Voice Card  -  Volume 26  -  John Card Number 13  -  Wed, Dec 23, 1992 12:26 AM

This is ONE OF 2 responses to VC 25 John 13 ("Dream Job")...

First, an update to the situation I left at the Lab. Within a month of my resignation most of Gene's staff had also resigned and the rest were looking hard for other jobs. Then Beth was suddenly dethroned and sent to "special projects" in another part of the corporate empire. A few weeks ago she was fired altogether.

Gene completed major surgery on his throat and is now on the road back to health, albeit without a vocal cord and most of his voice box; he is planning to get married in May. He is still on disability leave and may even return to the lab temporarily, but still plans to sue the company. Every member of his staff sent letters of support to his lawyer, myself included.

The evil Baluster is still occupying my desk, raking in forty dollars an hour, boasting that Gene was "afraid of him" and that I was incompetent. The entire I.S. programming staff was decimated and never replaced. Gene's position was never filled. The lab is in disarray, with no one giving orders and money gushing in all directions with little or no accountability. My work and the work of my fellows was tossed into a trash bin. What will happen next is anyone's guess.

I have had plenty of time to think about these events. What disturbs me most is how common this all is. In fact I am tempted to say that, apart from a few bizarre elements, the corruption and pettiness and cruely and ignorance I experienced at the Lab is more the rule than the exception in human affairs. I am not the first to come to this conclusion, but this is the first time that I've felt it in the marrow of my bones. In short, I am disillusioned.

It's not the individual bastards, the Beths and the Balusters of this world, that chill my bones. What frightens me is the huge organizations that they thrive in. If this were a better world, one might expect that crime would not pay. Corporations, and indeed any human society, suffers from bastards like these. Bastards are expensive in the long run. So once they begin to stink, why doesn't the corporation vomit them up? Why do so many bastards not only survive but actually seem to thrive in corporations and governments around the world and throughout human history?

The "Father Knows Best" outlook that was spoon fed to me as a child suggests that decency and hard work are rewarded, and thus the higher up the ladder one is, the more decent and wise one is likely to be. Bastards may accidentally penetrate the corporate body from time to time, but they can't climb very high before they encounter someone higher up who sees them for what they are and expells them. Evil may win a battle ot two but Good will always win the war.

This has not been the experience of my generation. We cut our teeth on Watergate and Vietnam. All through the eighties we watched the greedy propser at the expense of the disenfranchised. Corruption is now so commonplace as to be expected. Most people casually accept the notion that all politicians are con men, liars, and thieves, and that there is nothing they can do about it.

Treachery and arrogance and cruelty are even taught in seminars and in books like "Winning Through Intimidation." Dukakis was right: the fish stinks from the head down, and the real truth is that the higher one climbs the thicker the stench.

I've said nothing here that is new to any of you, and certainly nothing that would be new to Dickens or Twain or Voltaire or Swift. What is new to me, I suppose, is the discovery of genuinely good and even heroic people like Gene and Tom who fought valiantly only to fall victim to the likes of Beth and Baluster. What is new to me is the sensation of a knife in my own back combined with the icy knowledge that it would be futile even to complain. It remains to be seen whether or not the bastards win the war, but they certainly won the battle, and the taste of my own blood is still bitter in my mouth.

And as bad as these bastards are, I think the idiots are even worse. Every day I grind against the confederacy of dunces until the very fiber of my being is reduced to a wet paste. If I'm not battling Sears over a table and four chairs, I'm reduced to growling and snapping at collection agencies over false charges of 54 cents. I am continually forced to place myself at the complete mercy of giggling secretaries and flea-brained temp agencies. And from all directions come drooling PC-brains, advancing through Silcon Valley with arms outstretched like the zombies in Day of the Dead. Against idiots even the gods through up their hands.

What if all of this is true? What if this dark view of the world is not just me on my soapbox, but the way things really are? Are the bastards and the idiots really running the show? Do bastards prosper in this world, in the long run as well as the short? If so, what am I to do? If I can't beat them, should I try to join them? And if I can't become a bastard, what then? Should I spend my life crouching low, looking for corners to hide in? Or should I just accept the fact that every time I stand up my back will be used as a pin cushion? What if there IS a god, but (s)he's just not very nice?

Paul and I are starting to talk about this on our tapes and I would like to hear from the rest of Archipelago as well. DO bastards prosper? What is the difference between a bastard and an idiot? Is there any justice in the world? Any karma? What are bastards like on the inside? Do they suffer inwardly even as they prosper outwardly? Or do they sleep soundly at night? Do large organizations tend to promote bastards and idiots? If so, what can we do about it? Is it possible to invent a new kind of social organization that is inherently just? Or does that question even make sense?

At least we have Archipelago. At least we have a place to talk about it. What do think?