The True Believers are on the march. Of course, we've known for a long time about the True Believers of the Right Wing, the Left Wing, the Clergy, and all the other pious, self-righteous Avengers for Truth. But a new and far more subtle True Believer is be-ginning to emerge, and could perhaps be the most dangerous of all. Dangerous because he avows night and day, hourly, in clear, loud, unmistakable tones that he is a Free Thinker and does not really believe in anything.
However, this is not the case. He Believes far more evangelistically and with more passionate dedication - even blind, devotional piety - than any of the older and now outmoded, conventional True Believers ever felt for whatever cause they espoused. He is even more self-righteous in his moralizing, rampant generalizing, and often self-vindicated violence.
He believes his moral attitude toward Society is unerringly right and that he, personally, is incapable of dishonesty and sophistry. He always knows where the Enemy is. He. never doubts for a split second his worthiness to pass judgment on the most complicated and involved - if not downright insoluble - issues of our time.
Like all True Believers, he is a mass of incredible contradictions, perhaps even more incredible and dis-honest and profound than any contradictions found in the dogma of earlier True Believers. This is so for good reasons, which we shall come to later.
What does this True Believer believe in? One thing above all else and perhaps even exclusively, which makes him even more dangerous than earlier fanatics. His belief can be stated in one simple word: Himself.
He is a Jostling member of that new crowd forming a new political and ethical movement in this country, which could well be called "Me-ism." When two of them get together they form a group known as "Us-ism" and their common enemy is "They," or "Them." Society.
Is he a John Bircher? No, these are the old True Believers. Is he a Religious man? No, not in the accepted sense. Is he a Left Winger, Right Winger, Moderate? He is none of these. He believes completely that in his person he has found thg sacred receptacle of all that is true and passionate and beautiful - and unerring in its moral judgments passed on others,
This phenomenon is the final culmination of a lot of speculation that has gone on for centuries regarding the Center of the Universe. What is it? Is it the moon, is it the sun, is it the earth? No, the old astronomical concepts are out. The Center of the Universe is Me.
What does the Universe mean? Most of Literature today, of the personal confession type or the evangelical put-down of Society genre, is based on an interesting and perhaps almost new concept of the Center of the Universe. In earlier days when they considered the Center of the Universe they thought of it as astro-nomical or geographical. Now we have mixed with these concepts psychological and philosophical impingements on the original ideas until today we think of the Center of the Universe as more of a psychological entity, Hardly anyone is interested in the Center of the Uni-verse as an astronomical idea.
The Center of the Universe with most people now is themselves, totally, completely and thoroughly. The Universe to them is a great circle surrounding them. It begins with them and radiates around them as though great spokes, imaginary psychological and philosophical spokes, existed outward from them.
Holden Caulfield in The Catcher In The Ry.e is a classic example of this phenomenon. He looked upon the world as this great Outside Thing. As though all the other people, all the other mores, all the other elements of Society were an enormous wheel revolving around him, the Hub, in the middle, trapped, and looking out at it all. He was caught in the middle and could go nowhere. If he would retreat, turn and run this way or that, he would always encounter the Wheel. No way out. Every place he could go would be outward toward that great enemy Society out there, *that rotten, big, decadent Wheel. Rotten, big and decadent invariably by his godlike definitions. He never for a moment conceives of himself as part of the Rim. He is always the Hub, always innocent, always disengaged. The built-in Cop-Out.
Most top writers and comics today reflect this attitude, and in fact could very well have created it. This leads to interesting Economic concepts, too, as weD as psychological and philosophical ones. For example, the Ayn Rand concept of Objectivism, which literally is:
"You are the only one that counts and if life is good for you, then hence it nmst be good for everyone else, and if it isn't, that is because they are inferior people." This is a paraphrasing of an old Charlie Wilson remark regarding General Motors, but it leads to a pretty interesting attitude toward the world.
On of the things it inevitably leads to is a profound sense of irresponsibility in relationship to the Rim but an extremely exaggerated sense of responsibility regarding the Hub, because as far as the Hub is concerned it's the only part of the Wheel that exists and is worthy of consideration since by his own definition the Wheel is decadent, rotten, suppressing him, and hence is beyond or perhaps beneath consideration. This could be the final result, perhaps, of the Freudian Revolution, but that is for next semester.
It was not always thus. In the 1930's it was natural for men to conceive of themselves going out and fighting Hitler because they felt somehow outraged by what he was doing to the Jews, if not to Mankind itself. They felt responsible for things that were going on in the Rim. They did not see themselves as the Hub. They somehow saw themselves as part. of the Rim and if the Rim was falling apart, they'd better do something about it.
Today, on the other hand, since you are the Hub of this great wheel, nothing that is happening in the Rim is your problem. It is only a problem to you. So a man today can get very hipped on Peace as an abstract concept, but if he were ever to be asked to go out and fight a future Hitler systematically burning people in ovens, to bring about a different kind of Peace, he would look upon this as totally reversing his entire concept of what Peace Is. He relates Peace with himself. So long as Hitler is burning other people Peace still exists for him, and so that's called "Peace." It takes a tremendous amount of rationalization to do this, but he manages it, usually by proclaiming loudly: "Who are we to judge others when Negroes are forced to sit in the back of a bus in Birmingham ?" - or making incredible equations that somehow manage to equate the bombing of a Sunday School in the South with the systematic Planned Extermination Campaign of six million Jews under Hitler. The great Morality Cop-Out.
This is an interesting concept of Peace, and it will finally allow people to burn anyone they damn well please, knowing full well that all of the Evangelistic Hubs are not going to worry about it, particularly if they can find some way to rationalize the burning:
providing, of course, a country other than America does the burning.
Here is an example of a Hub at work, a clipping from a Long Island newspaper:
"A North Amity ville teenager, who told police Ym mad at the world" because he doesn't own a car, ran over fences, shrubs and lawns of 24 houses in a stolen car, police said today. Damage was estimated at over $1,000. Police said the boy, 19. . ."
Nineteen! I underline. This is not a kid.
". . . 19, cut a wide swath of damage through 5 streets in North Amityville early yesterday. He then crashed the car into a porch, set the car afire, and fled on foot. Neighbors said that the car apparently zigzagged from one side of the street to the other purposely, tearing up fences, shrubs and small trees and cutting deep ruts in well-groomed lawns. The damage extended to both sides of the county line.
"The car, a late model, was finally found burning after it crashed into a porch. Police said that the boy tried to drive across a back yard into an adjoining yard and finally hit the porch, which was made of brick. He was picked up later in a car-wash where he worked. Police quoted the youth as saying:
"'I kept thinking that so many people own cars and I don't. I got real mad about that.' "
This is what the Holden Caulfield Syndrome finally leads to. "The reason I am unhappy - I'm 16 and chicks don't dig me - is because Society is rotten and doesn't understand true beauty - Me!"
This is a recurring theme in most literature today as well as most nightclub acts, and the more you maintain your beauty, your intrinsic Sensitivity, your Christlike evangelical zeal of your own righteousness, the more the lesser Hubs will jostle after you. If you are a performer, they'll be shouting:
"You tell 'em! Get after the bastards. The sons of bitches are all all rotten. The fuzz is brutal and decadent and harass us all. Tell 'em for all of usI"
And all in the name of universal Love, Beauty, and Total Truth. Plus solid bookings.
One of the more interesting by-products of this Hub theory is its attitude toward the Law. The Hub invariably feels that any laws that somehow interfere with his particular hangup - whether it be making the scene with 9-year-old chicks or pushing Pot to 12-year-olds - are ridiculous and oppressive insanities and cannot be tolerated in a free society. The words "free" and "freedom" are two of his favorite words. Yet he is constantly screaming for more laws for other people, to take care of the Outrageous Immoralities of The Others.
He hates the fuzz by definition and yet wants a strong Civil Eights law. He cannot tell you who will enforce this law, since he wants the fuzz abolished, but by God he believes in Law! Fascinating problem. Reminds me of a Chinese Nail Puzzle that my Old Man fought for nine years and never solved until he bought a hacksaw.
This recurring theme has run through much of American drama in the past ten years. We generally call this protagonist -or non-hero - a "sensitive, misunderstood, impotent youth, made impotent by a rotten Society." Of course, then he is inevitably a sympathetic character. It never seems to occur to people than an impotent person can also be a bad person and that "sensitive" people are quite often exceedingly evil. It is a sad fact, but true, that Hitler was notably sensitive and also felt that the fuzz harassed him.
It is a matter of record, for those of you who are interested in facts - and few people today seem to be - that most of the greatest dictators and great killers of the past five hundred years were also coincidentally - or perhaps not quite coincidentally - very "sensitive" people. Hitler, as I've said, was a perfect example of the sensitive youth who was a very, very badly dis-appointed painter.
But that's History, and most of the True Believers in this Hub concept of existence believe that History started roughly about the time they were born, that anything that occurred before that date was bullshit or old schoolbook crap, and totally irrelevant to the Now, which is vibrant with newly discovered ethics. Most 15-year-olds believe that Sex started the day they had their first erection, and are astounded and incredulous when told otherwise. They react the same when they "discover" Morality.
Yes, most of the great killers were sensitive, and this could be one of the reasons why those in the Artistic world are always vaguely drawn toward the 3 violent. Introspective bullfighters and poetic heavyweight champions as well as "misunderstood," "har-rassed" President-killers are always vaguely and secretly condoned. They invariably blame Society or the cabbage-heads, so they will usually yell far more about the Dallas Police than about the obvious fact that Oswald could possibly have been more guilty than the Chief of Police for the death of a President.
Yes; good old Society, Southern, Eastern, Midwestern, American, is always wrong, or at least very suspect. They automatically say, "Well, you can't blame the kid; it's Society. It's given him terrible values."
I'm not so sure of that at all. We like to believe that Lenny Bruce cries at Idlewild because Society is rotten. It couldn't be because Lenny Bruce is chicken. It couldn't happen- This could never be.
There are so many ramifications of the Hub philosophy of the Center of the Universe. In the end I suspect that what might happen will be that many self-proclaimed Evangelistic Hubs might get together and attack the Rim, mercilessly, in the name of restoring Peace and Sanity to the Rim. It's happened in other countries before; Germany, for one. Of course, all the poor Rim is doing usually is walking around scratching, but maybe it isn't scratching right.
Yes, the great creators of beauty have been sensitive people, so "sensitive" is a loaded word. Dad, a word that can be used to cover a multitude of sins.
There are other words that are thrown so casually about by the Hubs: "truth," "realism," "honesty," "beauty." They are all loaded - and meaningless, just as meaningless as when The Reader's Digest and Norman Rockwell use them, but the Hub firmly believes that he has a stranglehold on the real meaning of them all. He is just waiting for a great leader to spearhead the fight against Them. Be careful. You might be one of Them. But I presume you are safely and unequivocably certified as a Hub.
I congratulate you.