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Rant #3
(published Mid-year, 2000)
Quite Rich
by Gordon Smith and Erik Garner Warren

The rich are better than me. They get it. They cannot cry and they feel no pain. If I prick them, they do not bleed. Not only that, they won't care, not like I'd care if someone pricked me. The rich don't care like I do. The rich don't hate me like I hate them. They couldn't care less. They don't even know who I am. I am an old man riding a bus; I am a black woman giving birth to my fifth child and the pain reminds me that I'm gonna have to give this one up, or else I may give in to my fantasy of leaving the other four behind and going someplace where it isn't so goddamn cold in the winter; I am some guy. I am many broken things. The rich are one perfect circle. The rich are television, light, pure, faster than light; I am a television set, a grainy image on a fake-wood box. That's why I've always longed to be rich.

Do the rich eat children? If, as has been suggested, the rich do eat children, they most certainly do not eat the babies of the poor, dirty, and overfertile in a sort of suicidal civic gesture, as Jonathan Swift once wrote. Rather, if the rich eat children, it is their own that they consume in a liberation of love, love without bound or end, without conscience or goal, love which suffuses the beloved body of one's own child. It is no accident that God asked Abraham to kill his son Isaac, and it is Abraham's great shame that he failed to do so. To eat one's own child is a consumption of love, a devout consummation of life. Also, in a more pragmatic sense, eating one's own child is an act of responsibility toward a world of limited resources, saving both the food that the child would have consumed as it grew, as well as the other foodstuffs the parents may have eaten instead of the child's body; for example, a pheasant or several cornish hens. It is immaterial, whether or not the rich actually do eat their children, if they did, this combination of down-to-earth practicality and rigorous adherence to a philosophy of love may help explain why during historical periods of upheaval the rich, for the most part, have both survived and remained rich. During the famous potato famine, the rich of Ireland lived well, distinguishing themselves from the peasants, or "Niggers of Europe," so-called for being, like many descendents of black African slaves, generally unwanted by their country of origin or residence.

I have a rich friend. He is a genius, gifted with a vicious intelligence, a kind of rapturous intensity of thought. Things seem to burn with ideas when he is around, and ideas seem to flow like cool electric current. I understand all the words he uses, but I'm never sure I really get what he means. Most likely, I don't. There is an innateness, a naturalness to this intelligence in the rich. Whatever knowledge I have has come at the cost of misunderstanding and work.

I fondly recall an occasion when we were eating brunch at the club, and he turned to me and said:

"George, I have no apprehensions of your stomach's turning rebellious; it will obey orders, once you promise it, in return for one hour's nausea, a plethora of good things. Just shut your eyes, and pretend it's not human flesh you've bolted, but a cool ten million. Besides, we'll find some condiments, never fear, to disguise the flavor. Indeed, no meat really tastes good by itself, but is always masked in some artful way, and the recalcitrant stomach reconciled to it. Why! if you want examples to fortify your resolutions— the Saguntines, when hard pressed by Hannibal, ate human flesh; and they had no legacy to expect. The men of Perusia did the same thing in the extremity of famine, looking for no other benefit from the horrid diet but just to escape starvation. When Numantia was taken by Scipio, mothers were found grasping their children's half-eaten bodies to their bosoms. In fine, seeing it is merely the idea of cannibalism that can cause disgust, you must fight with all your heart to banish this repugnance from your minds, to the end you may receive the enormous legacies I put you down for."

But I'm not exactly sure what he was talking about.

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