April 17, 2005

Pie from the Sky

SOME DECADES AGO, Robert Heinlein wrote a snappy little essay, "Pie from the Sky," detailing some small positives should Western Civilization undergo what he politely termed "the Hiroshima treatment."

His thinking was along these lines: if the Ultimate Disco Inferno did hit -- and Mr Heinlein was of the idea that it someday would -- the survivors would constantly torture themselves with how things used to be. Gee, they would think, wasn't it wonderful when we had air conditioning, the theatre, and the Chicken Fried Chicken at Applebee's, etc.

No, I'm not kidding. Chicken Fried Chicken. With ... *shudder* ... country gravy.

Anyway, Mr Heinlein figured such self-torture wouldn't be all that helpful if one was out trying to shoot rabbits for dinner or what not. Therefore, he suggested such survivors of a nuclear war ought focus on the few good things resulting from the conflict. Not only would one have fewer immediate worries, he figured, one's immediate worries would be the only such worries one would have.

And Gad, did he focus.

No more alarm clocks! wrote Mr Heinlein. No more subway smell! No more annoying neighbors! No more "Hate Roosevelt" clubs! (Mr Heinlein wrote this a long time ago). No more John L. Lewis! No more jurisdictional strikes! No more Petrillo! No more Gerald L. K. Smith!

For those readers who were born after 1950, Lewis was one of the chief men responsible for creating the Congress of Industrial Organizations (the CIO in AFL-CIO). He also ran the United Mine Workers of America, a trade union. Petrillo was another trade unionist: he ran something called the American Federation of Musicians back during World War II. (It's still around, although Petrillo isn't). This tells you about Mr Heinlein's thoughts on unionism.

As for Gerald Smith -- Smith was ... well, he was one member of America's Unholy Trinity of Infamy, back during the Depression. I use the phrase "Unholy Trinity of Infamy" because Smith was not only wrong, he was evil. I mean, for God's sake, he teamed up with Father Coughlin (member No. 2) and Francis E. Townsend (member No. 3). That's proof enough for me the man was dangerous. If you need more proof, consider the following sentence, which Smith used in one of his speeches:

Let's pull down these huge piles of gold until there shall be a real job -- not a little old sow-belly, black-eyed pea job, but a real spending money, beefsteak and gravy, Chevrolet, Ford in the garage, new suit, Thomas Jefferson, Jesus Christ, red, white and blue job -- for every man!

Today it sounds like the speech Dr Venkman delivered to the mayor in "Ghostbusters." Back then, though -- I mean, the man was actually serious.

Anyway, you can see why Mr Heinlein added not hearing about Smith to his silver lining list in the event of a nuclear war. He also saw positives in no longer having "debutantes with press agents" and the end of marketing-driven weeks, e.g. "Eat More Citrus Fruit Week."

I can think of a few more things to add to the list.

No more cable news updates! No more mobile phone problems! No more mobile phones! No more mobile phone users who make a point of taking phone calls in public! No more "convenience fees!" No more annoying "surcharges!" No more screaming investment gurus on television! No more screaming investment gurus on television who scream on about Martha Stewart!

I'd also be partial to not ever hearing about this guy again.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at April 17, 2005 09:57 PM | TrackBack