“You are afraid of the people unrestrained—how ridiculous!”
I dreamed I called Rita Hayworth on the phone and asked her if she hears the babies of Hiroshima screaming in the night.
“No,” she said, “I useta have kinda kooky problems like that but my analyst cleared them all up.”
But — I insisted — after all, it was your picture that was painted on the Bomb. Not Harry Truman, or Einstein, or even Marilyn Monroe. You.
“Well, yeah, if you wanna look at it that way,” she said. “But, Christ, they was sticking my picture on everything those days.”
But, but — I shouted — don’t you feel any sense of responsibility?
“Waita-minit, Mac,” she said, “what are ya, some kinda nut? Nobody ever asked me nothing about it. They just went ahead and dropped it.”
But, but, but — I screamed — all those people — 550,000 of them, according to one estimate I read — blown apart by a picture of you —
“Look, Clyde,” she said firmly. “My analyst told me it don’t do no good to brood over such things.”
And the line went dead with a hollow click, like a coffin closing snugly on Dracula as the morning sun throws its white and ghastly nuclear radiations into the cool darkness of dream.
Why do the children scream
What are the heaps they fight over
those heaps with eyes and mouths
And we, we Hiroshima-makers, are now finally, more than 150 years after his death, tentatively beginning to look at the unexpurgated de Sade.
I dreamed I called Dwight Eisenhower on the phone and asked him if de Sade should be banned.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll have to ask Postmaster General Summerfield. If he says it’s a filthy book, then of course it should be banned. America must maintain its purity and its God-given heritage.”
And I dreamed I called him back two nights later and he had consulted with Summerfield and the verdict was n.g. “Summerfield says dee Sayd was a pinko pervert.”
And the phone went dead with a sudden dull click like the last sound Hemmingway heard when he put the gun to his head and said, ah, shit, now, not any other minute but this minute, right now.
. . . and as if I were a naughty little boy, the idea is to spank me into good behavior?
Prof. B.F. Skinner of Harvard, ripe with years and wisdom, rich with degrees and honors, says that a world without punishment is operationally conceivable. That is, speaking as a scientific psychologist, Skinner does not know of any behavior that can’t be increased or decreased without the use of punishment.
Desirable behavior (from your point of view, whatever your point of view is)? — reinforce it through a system of rewards. It will increase.
Undesirable behavior (again, from whatever your point of view is)? — no need to punish it; just reinforce incompatible behavior, again through a system of rewards. The incompatible behavior will increase, and the “undesirable” behavior will decrease.
Simple as a proof in geometry.
But there is something in mankind which profoundly resents Prof. Skinner and his rationalism and his technology and his simplicity. The name of that something is the name of the divine Marquis, Donatien Alphonse Francois de Sade.
I dreamed I called J. Edgar Hoover on the phone and asked him, hey, dig, man, what do you think of a world without punishment?
“(Get a tap on this line,)” he said away from the phone, “(I got a pinko bleeding heart here.)”
“I’ll tell you, sir,”he said, “we are just a fact-finding agency; we don’t draw any conclusions. But I Will Say This! There Is Only One Language the Godless Communists Understand And That Is The Language of Superior Power.”
But, but — I cried — can you put the whole world over your lap and spank it?
“If the world had one ass, you can be sure we would,” he said. “As it is, the spankings will have to be administered jointly and severally.”
And the line went dead with an empty click, like a whip being pulled from its sheath and flicked, testingly, in the air.
these cells of the inner self
are worse than the deepest stone dungeon
and as long as they are locked
all your revolution remains
only a prison mutiny
to be put down
by corrupted fellow prisoners
Eventually we begin to realize that Sade has never been understood. He cried out for liberty, and we accuse him of being a forerunner of Hitler. He dreamed of a world without punishment, and we attribute brutality to him. He spoke for the spirit of love, and we project every viciousness onto him.
We are afraid of being seduced by him, we Hiroshima-makers.
He showed us our own face in a mirror and we have screamed for 150 years that it was his face.
Nothing could be more explicit than his actual words:
Laws should be “flexible,” “mild” and “few” (Sade, p. 310).
We must “get rid forever of the atrocity of capital punishment” (Sade, p. 310).
Women must be equal with men: “Must the diviner half of humankind be laden with irons by the other? Ah, break those irons, Nature wills it” (Sade, p. 322).
Property should cease to be monopolized by a few (Sade, p. 313-314).
The present system of property-and-power rests on”submission of the people . . . due to . . . violence and the frequent use of torture” (Sade, p. 11).
He gave up his post as magistrate rather than administer capital punishment — “They wanted me to commit an inhumane act. I have never wanted to” (Sade, p. 29).
His principles are, as he says, quite correctly, not those that lead to tyranny but “principles to whose expression and realization the infamous despotism of tyrants has been opposed for uncounted centuries” (Sade, p.311).
Even against the clergy, he maintains a solidly libertarian position: “I do not, however, propose either massacres or expulsions. Such dreadful things have no place in the enlightened mind. No, do not assassinate at all, do not expel at all…. Let us reserve the employment of force for the idols; ridicule alone will suffice for those who serve them” (Sade, p. 306).
But these words are ignored. Because he committed one crime — the crime of reporting accurately the secret day-dreams and longings of the psyche of men and women in this civilization, men and women reared in the crucible of authority-and-submission, discipline-and-punishment — he has been portrayed as the endorser of these extremities.
More truly than Flaubert said”Je suis Bovary,” Sade could have said (did say, for those who read between the lines), “Je suis Justine.” It is his voice that cries out continually in Justine’s speeches, “Oh, monsters, is remorse and dead in you?” Just as it is his voice, undeniably, in the”Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man” which says simply, “Reason, sir — yes, our reason alone should warn us that harm done our fellows can never bring happiness to us . . . and you need neither god nor religion to subscribe to [it]” (Sade, p. 174).
I dreamed I called Jesus Christ on the phone and asked him, say, Man, did you really forgive them for they knew not what they did?
“Verily, verily, I say unto you,” he replied, “I made my position on authority-and-submission as clear as I could: ‘You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you.’ — Matt. 20:25. ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation.’ — Matt. 12:25. ‘If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.’ — Matt.15:14. ‘For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them upon men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.’ — Matt. 23:4. They be blind leaders of the blind, baby, and mechanical laws of punishment-and-conditioning lead them in little grooves of robot-life.”
But, but — I protested — is there anything outside conditioned behavior? Is there a real freedom, Man? Is there?
“Find the place where Sade and I agree,” he said, “and there you will find the beginning of a definition of liberty.”
And the line went dead with a sudden click like the sound of a bedroom door closing as a little boy is pushed outside.
“They declaim against the passions without bothering to see that it is from their flame philosophy lights its torch. ”
The Castle, somebody pointed out, is a Sadean novel: Kafka’s scene is a typical lair of Sadean monsters lying in wait for the innocent traveler. The Trial is even more Sadean I would argue, because the two thugs who haul Joseph K. off to an empty lot to slit his throat “like a dog” are, like Sade’s images, revelations of the reality of our civilization. Capital punishment presented as a more nudely naked lunch than even Burroughs has fed us.
What happens to Joseph K., what happens to Justine, are very slight distortions2 of what happens to each man, each woman, in a society based on authority-and-submission.
What Sade saw — what Marat did not see — the hidden meaning of Peter Weiss’s noisy and Sophoclean circus of a play — is that Man as we know him, Man in historical time, is entirely the product of punishment. That punishment defines his character, contours and structures his character, is his character. That sado-masochism is not a perversion, or a “way of life,” but the meaning of our civilization.
Sade’s drive for liberty — i.e., his attempt to understand himself — led him to the scene in the brothel in which he buggered and was buggered, whipped and was whipped. That scene, and the seven years imprisonment it cost him, has given his name to perversion, and yet one feels there has been a mistake somewhere, Sadeanism isn’t Sadism, the two forces met head-on, but Sade was going in one direction and the true Sadist is going in the other.
Open any schlock newspaper and read the personal ads in which S-M people grope for each other: “Docile young man seeks woman experienced in discipline . . . ” “Male, interested in leather and uniforms, seeks male of dominant disposition … ” “Interested in leather on women…. ”
But this is not Sade’s direction, my God, it is the direction of General Hershey and LBJ; it is the direction of our civilization; it is the essence of our civilization, dragged out into hideous visibility. Uniforms and discipline. “Kill for freedom, kill for peace, kill Vietnamese, kill, kill, kill!” The hallucinatory parental voice that says “You are homosexual” and “You must kill him.” Uniforms and discipline. The blind leading the blind.
Albert Ellis is more general than Dr. Berne. According to Dr. Ellis, in a lecture at the N.Y. General Semantics Society, most neurotics — i.e., most civilized people — go around with a little internal voice saying “You are a no-good shit.” (“You are homosexual,” “You are a coward,” and “You are a helpless neurotic” are only three variations on the main theme. The main theme is always “You are a no-good shit.”)
Eric Frank Russell, the science-fiction writer, propounded a riddle once: “If everybody hates war, why do wars keep on happening?” Remember the S-M ads: “seeks discipline,” “seeks uniforms,” “seeks leather and rubber.”
Authority-and-submission is the chief structural fact about feudal, capitalist and socialist society. Punishment-and-obedience is the defining gesture, as Stanislavsky would call it, of such societies. To illustrate it in one flash: Orwell’s “boot stamping on the human face forever.” And that is de Sade’s theme, always.
I dreamed I called Fulton Sheen on the phone and asked him, I read in your column that “A child needs a pat on the back to encourage him — provided it is applied hard enough, low enough and often enough.” You believe that crap, man?
“Without discipline,” he intoned, “our whole civilization would fall into anarchy. ‘I will chastize him with my rod,’ says the Good Book.”
But, but, man — I protested — you’re supposed to be anti-sex. Don’t you know some cats get their rocks off that way? Ain’t you read about spanking orgies and people coming in their pants during it? Ain’t you against anybody coming, ever, anywhere, anytime, in any way?
“Argggh!” he said, like the dying villain of a comic book, and I couldn’t tell if he was having an orgasm or a heart attack.
The line went dead with a weird like a bomb-bay door opening to drop Rita Hayworth’s picture. Gilda, the whore, beckoning from her golden bed . . . on little bronze heathens who didn’t believe in Jesus.
forget the rest
there’s nothing else
beyond the body
So: after 150 years, we are ready to look de Sade in the face, eyeball to eyeball. He comes on, always, like a Zen Master, shouting right into our ears: “Tyranny or Anarchy — you must choose. Answer now!”
He was the first one mad enough and sane enough to accept the given, the immutable, to start from man-in-history rather than from man-in-theory. Well, he says, I don’t believe in the “noble savage,” I even doubt that he is “inherently good,” but taking him as he is I still say: Freedom. He deserves liberty because nobody else is good enough to take it away from him.
He looked into anarchy, he looked past the voluntarily organized anarchy of Proudhon and Tolstoy, he looked into chaos itself, and he said, yes, even that, I will accept even that, before I will bend the knee to any Authority that claims to own me.
I dreamed I called LBJ on the phone and I said, look, man, you’re not taking my son for one of your damnfool wars.
“You are mistaken,” he said smoothly. “That boy is not your son. He belongs to society and the State, and I am society and the State. I will take him anywhere I want, I will order him to do anything I care to have done, and I will shoot him if he disobeys.”
But, but, man—I said—like, wow, man—do you think you own us?
“Read your law books, son,” he chuckled. “Ownership is the right ‘to use or abuse.'”
And the line went dead with a cold little click like an IBM machine punching a hole in a card somewhere in the vast and infinite halls of bureaucracy.
“Although the prodigious spectacle of folly we are facing here may be horrible, it is always interesting.”
I called the world up on the telephone and I implored them:
How much of you belongs to the Combine? If they can take your money in taxes and your sons in wars, how do you differ from the cow who is milked or the pig who is eaten? Do you breed for them like a stallion in a pasture? Is the get of your loins theirs to dispose of? Even a no-good shit afraid that Daddy will come and slice it off has some rights, doesn’t he? Or does he? Is there any sacrifice you will not make? Is there any discipline you will not accept? Is there any order you will not obey? Is there any shit you will not eat?
Who got the Indian Sign on you? How did it start? At age 12, worrying that J. Edgar Hoover was watching you jack off through his Washington telescope? Was it the bogey-man they scared you with? “Don’t make dirty-dirty in your pants or ogres will come and eat you”? Circumcision the most cruel and inhuman attack on the genital accepted by your doctors; why? Schedule feeding that fucked up the minds of a generation; why? Is that how they get the soldiers for their wars? The whip-and-belt boys, the uniform-and-discipline boys, the Pentagon boys, all one big happy spanking-orgy?
And the operator said,’I’m sorry, sir. The world is not answering the phone anymore. It’s watching television.”
And the line went dead with a loud and unearthly click like the sound of a boy pulling his zipper up when he hears Father’s footstep in the hall.
A mad animal
Man’s a mad animal
I’m a thousand years old and in my time
I’ve helped commit a million murders
Rita Hayworth’s picture on the Bomb.
What do we really want from them? What drove Garbo into hiding, Monroe into suicide, Lamaar into shoplifting, what struck Harlow down and sent Garland into the booze bottle?
And what happens in a Playboy Club? Have you stood there, like me, vodka-and-tonic in hand, looking down a bunny’s cleavage and thinking suddenly of Lon Chaney as the Wolf-Man: “Even a man who is pure of heart / And says his prayers by night / Can turn to a wolf when the wolfbane blooms ? and the moon is full and bright…. ” If you turned the fantasies of each person in the room onto the wall in LSD stereo what would it look like — a friendly little orgy, the Rape of the Sabine Women, or Mass Murder?
I dreamed I called a bunny on the phone and asked her, dig de Sade?
“But the most, darling,” she cooed.
But, but — I asked — what do you really think of men?
“But, hon,” she said innocently, “what do cattle think of butchers?”
And the line went dead with an abrupt click like a diaphragm falling from a purse onto a cold metal floor.
“My neighbors’ passions frighten me infinitely less than do the law’s injustices, for my neighbors’ passions are contained by mine, whilst nothing checks the injustices of the law.”
A civilization based on authority-and-submission is a civilization without the means of self-correction. Effective communication flows only one way: from master-group to servile-group. Any cyberneticist knows that such a one-way communication channel lacks feedback and cannot behave “intelligently.”
The epitome of authority-and-submission is the Army, and the control-and-communication network of the Army has every defect a cyberneticist’s nightmare could conjure. Its typical patterns of behavior are immortalized in folklore as SNAFU (situation normal—all fucked-up), FUBAR (fucked-up beyond all redemption) and TARFU (Things are really fucked-up). In less extreme, but equally nosologic, form these are the typical conditions of any authoritarian group, be it a corporation, a nation, a family, or a whole civilization.
Proudhon was a great communication analyst, born 100 years too soon to be understood. His system of voluntary association (anarchy) is based on the simple communication principles that an authoritarian system means one-way communication, or stupidity, and a libertarian system means two-way communication, or rationality.
The essence of authority, as he saw, was Law — that is, fiat — that is, effective communication running one way only. The essence of a libertarian system, as he also saw, was Contract — that is, mutual agreement — that is, effective communication running both ways. (“Redundance of control” is the technical cybernetic phrase.)
Sade saw this, before Proudhon. “The rule of law is inferior to that of anarchy; the most obvious proof of what I assert is the fact that any government is obliged to plunge itself into anarchy whenever it aspires to remake its constitution. In order to abrogate its former laws, it is compelled to establish a revolutionary regime in which there is no law; this regime finally gives birth to new laws, but this second state is necessarily less pure than the first, since it derives from it” (Sade, p. 46).
The conflict, Marat/Sade (which should really be Marx/Sade, except that the ingenious Mr. Weiss was not quite ingenious enough to devise a historical conjunction between uncle Karl and the Marquis), is the conflict between anarchy and tyranny. Sade, not Marat or Marx, is the true revolutionary, for he aims at a world outside the crucible of punishment-and-submission, while they aim at a new world still within that crucible.
I dreamed I called Ignatz Mouse on the phone and asked, why do you always throw bricks at Krazy Kat?
But Krazy answered instead and said, “Little Dahlink . . . he’s always faithful.”
And the line went dead with a dreadful click like Captain Queeg rolling his little marbles together.
The guillotine saves them from endless boredom
Gaily they offer their heads as if for coronation
Is not that the pinnacle of perversion?
Ralph Nader writes incredulously, in his study of automobile safety, Unsafe at Any Speed, “If one were to attempt to produce a pedestrian-injuring mechanism, the most theoretically efficient design would closely approach that of the front end of some present-day automobiles.” Mr. Nader has never read Sade. He takes this as an oversight on Detroit’s part.
I dreamed I called Batman on the phone and asked, any truth in those rumors about you and Robin?
“Our relationship is 100% platonic,” he replied stiffly. “We sublimate. Why do you think we’re always out looking for ‘bad guys’ that we can punish?”
And the line went dead with a quick click like handcuffs closing on a thin wrist forever.
“If you are timid enough to stop with what is natural,
Nature will elude your grasp forever.’
There is much sadism in popular culture these days, but little Sadeanism. One rare example of Sadeanism is the old movie, The Most Dangerous Game, and another is Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
The heroes of both of these works are trapped in situations where superior power seeks remorselessly to destroy them. Both heroes, pure Sadeanists, accept the situation at once — without complaining about its “immortality” or “injustice” — and set out systematically and cold-bloodedly to turn the tables.
This is the doctrine of the bandits in Justine — “Nature has caused us to be equals born, Therese; if fate is pleased to upset the primary scheme of things, it is for us to correct its caprices” (Sade, p. 481) — and the doctrine of Stirnerite anarchism. DeSade’s proletarian heroes, like the glorious anarchist bandit, Ravechel, believe instinctively that “crime alone opens to us the door to life” (Sade, p. 482).
To anyone who doesn’t like this doctrine, Sade’s answer is blunt: “The callousness of the Rich legitimates the bad conduct of the Poor; let them open their purses to our needs…. We will be fools indeed to abstain from [crimes] when they can lessen the yoke wherewith their cruelty bears us down” (Sade, p. 481). This sounds horrible, it seems, only to those whose conscious or unconscious wish is to be oppressors. Sadean man merely refuses to be oppressed; he can only be killed, but never subjugated.
I dreamed I called Adolf Hitler on the phone and asked him, What was your gimmick?
“They believed it was wiser to obey anyone, even me, than to risk anarchy,” he said with a ghoulish laugh.
And the line went dead with a sharp click like boot-heels snapped together.
I’m a mad animal
Prisons don’t help
Chains don’t help
I escape through all the walls
B.F. Skinner envisions a world without punishment. Nobody is interested.
Guns are now available — they are used in Africa by game wardens — that will stun without killing. Armed with these, an army could capture a town without shedding one drop of blood. Have you heard of any government plotting to wage its future wars with these guns?
Punishment, discipline, obedience—these are the keys to such mysteries, and to the mystery of war itself, and to all oddities of behavior in Man and the other domestic animals. Sade saw it, and was banned for 150 years. He saw the genital fever, the need for embrace, dammed up at the center of man. Another reason he was banned.
The actors are going nuts playing in Marat/Sade. “There is not a single member of the cast who does not hate with a deep loathing every single performance he is required to do of this play,” says lan Carmichael, who plays Marat. “It gets harder and harder,” says Patrick Magee, who plays Sade. So far, the company has had one case of acute depression, one fit of “raving screaming” after the show, one actor who almost lost control on stage (Dick Schaap, N.Y. Herald Tribune, March 4, “Inmates of the Asylum”).
I dreamed I called D.A.F. de Sade on the phone and asked him, “Jesus told me that he and you agree on at least one thing and it explains freedom. What is that one thing?”
“Quite simple,” he replied, “don’t be afraid of the Cross. The fear of death is the beginning of slavery.”
And the line went dead with a triumphant click like a barred door falling open.
1 Quotations identified as Sade are from Marquis de Sade, Grove Press, 1965. Those identified as Marat/Sade are from The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, by Peter Weiss, Athenium. 1965.
2 “Two of the commonest types of hallucinations are the obscene epithet and the deadly injunction. Both the accusation ‘You are homosexual!’ and the command ‘You must kill them!’ may be safely regarded as revived and not very much distorted memories of parental utterances.” Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy, by Eric Berne, Grove, 1961 (italics added).
Thirteen Choruses for the Divine Marquis was originally published in The Realist.
Copyright: Robert Anton Wilson