Potent Quotables

He came at last to the saddest conclusion of them all for it went beyond the war in Vietnam. He had come to decide that the center of America might be insane. The country had been living with a controlled, even fiercely controlled, schizophrenia which had been deepening with the years. Perhaps the point had now been passed. Any man or woman who was devoutly Christian and worked for the American Corporation, had been caught in an unseen vise whose pressure could split their mind from their soul. For the center of Christianity was a mystery, a son of God, and the center of the corporation was a detestation of mystery, a worship of technology. Nothing was more intrinsically opposed to technology that the bleeding heart of Christ. The average American, striving to do his duty, drove further every day into working for Christ, and drove equally further each day in the opposite direction—into working for the absolute computer of the corporation. Yes and no, 1 and 0. Every day the average American drove himself further into schizophrenia; the average American believed in two opposites more profoundly apart than any previous schism in the Christian soul. Christians had been able to keep some kind of sanity for centuries while countenancing love against honour, desire versus duty, even charity opposed in the same heart the lust for power—that was difficult to balance but not impossible.  The love of the Mystery of Christ, however, and the love of no Mystery whatsoever, had brought the country to a state of suppressed schizophrenia so deep that the foul brutalities of the war in Vietnam were the only temporary cure possible for the condition—since the expression of brutality offers a definite if temporary relief to the schizophrenic. So the average good Christian American secretly loved the war in Vietnam. It opened his emotions. He felt compassionate for the hardships and the sufferings of the American boys in Vietnam, even the Vietnamese orphans. And his view of the war could shift a little daily as he read his paper, the war connected him to his newspaper again: connection to the outside world, and the small shift of opinions from day to say are the two nostrums of that apothecary where schizophrenia is teated. America needed the war. It would need a war so long as technology expanded on every road of communication, and the cities and corporations spread like cancer; the good Christian Americans needed the war or they would lost their Christ.

In his sleep did Mailer think of his favorite scheme, of a war which took place as a war game? of a tract of land in the Amazon, and three divisions of Marines against three divisions of the best Chinese Communists, and real bullets, and real airplanes, real television, real deaths? It was madness. He could not present the scheme in public without exercising the audience—they were certain he had discovered the mechanism of a new and gargantuan put-on, no one could take it seriously, not even as a substitute for Vietnam. no, the most insane of wars was more sane than the most insane of games. A pity. Before he had gone to sleep, he had talked for a while with one of the guards, a mournful middle-aged Southerner with a high forehead, big jaw, long inquiring nose, and the ubiquitous silver-rimmed spectacles. The guard had been upset by the sight of so many college boys romping in the dormitory, pleasant looking boys, obviously pleased with themselves. So the guard had asked tentative questions about the war in Vietnam and how they all felt, and why they felt as they did, and Mailer tried to answer him, and thought it was hopeless. You could use every argument, but it was useless, because the guard didn’t want to care. If he did, he would be at war against the cold majesty of the Corporation. The Corporation was what brought him his television and his security, the Corporation was what brought him the unspoken promise that on Judgment Day he would not be judged, for Judgment Day—so went the unspoken promise—was no worse than the empty spaces of the Tonight Show when you could not sleep.

Norman Mailer, The Armies of the Night

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