Saturday, April 11, 2009

Welcome to the Monkey House

I'm working my way through Atlas Shrugged the handbook of the new Libertarian or the old Objectivist. It's a great read but at 1100 pages of teeny tiny type I'm moving deliberately. It has made me think a bit about somewhat shorter literary works that have had an important impact on my life.

Kurt Vonnegut, often referred to incorrectly, in my opinion, as an author with a liberal bent - generally was quite displeased with war but also with all types of government intervention in our lives.

Two of his short stories are darkly humorous and address just these issues. In the wonderful book of short stories; Welcome to the Monkey House - the title story describes a world where the government is trying to reduce the world population by getting people to commit suicide in government sponsored suicide parlors. Women are numbed from the waist down to prevent them from feeling desirous of sex. The hero in this story, Billy Pilgrim, risks death by breaking into suicide parlors and kidnapping the women suicide hostesses long enough to have the numbing medicine wear off. He attempts to charm them into having sex with him hoping to prevent a few suicides and while impregnating a few to bring some new children into the world. It's a hilarious story and unlike Atlas Shrugged takes a little less time to get you to pay attention to how government wants to control our lives.

Another story in the same book is called Harrison Bergeron and describes the story of a young boy who is much larger than the other kids his age. Normally a bit clumsy he surprises his proud parents by being a tremendous ballet talent. Angry parents, armed with new government regulations arrange to have Harrison weighed down by heavy chains to prevent the children his age from feeling inadequate. A funny, poignant story that draws so many parallels to so many situations in our current paternalistic government. With Obama's plans to further enhance the nanny government the story rings far too true.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think Slaughterhouse-Five was his best book. Also liked Cat's Cradle. I agree that he was more complicated ideologically than many think.