The Needed

Tuesday, 25 May, Year 13 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

In all this Cuban business one man stands out on the horizon of memory like Mars at perihelion.

When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was found desirable to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountaineous vastnesses of Cuba -- no one knew quite exactly where, as is generally the business of insurgents. In any case no regular mail or telegraph message could reach him. Yet the President would secure his co-operation, and quickly. What to do!

Someone said, "There is a fellow by the name of Rowan. He'll find Garcia for you, if anybody can."

Rowani was therefore sent for, and once fetched was given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How "the fellow by the name of Rowan" took the letter, sealed it up in an oilskin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia -- are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail. The point that I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, "Where is he at?" By the Eternal! there is a manii whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing -- "Carry a message to Garcia."iii

That general Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias still surviving ; no man who has at least once endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed has yet to be well-nigh appalled by the imbecility of the average man -- the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it.

Slip-shod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference and half-hearted work seem the rule ; no man succeeds at anything worth mentioning unless by hook, or crook, or threat he forces or somehow bribes others to assist him usefully. Mayhap God performs a miracle, and sends him an Angel of Cunt for an assistant. You, reader, put this matter to a test : presuming you are sitting now in your office, six clerks within your call (and if you aren't, get the fuck off my page and get to work, shithead), summon any one and make this request: "Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio."iv

Will the clerk return "Yes, sir!" and go to the task ?

On your life he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye and profer one, or more, (or all) of the following inanities that for no conceivable reason in his addled mind nevertheless pass for questions :

  • Who was he?
  • Which encyclopedia?
  • Where is the encyclopedia?
  • Was I hired for that?
  • Don't you mean Bismarck?
  • What's the matter with Charlie doing it?
  • Is he dead?
  • Is there any hurry?
  • Shall I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself?
  • What do you want to know for?
  • ...and so following!

I will lay you ten to one that after you have answered myriad "questions", and explained how to find what's to be found, and where, and why you want it, and overall spent with it at least twice the length it'd have taken you to do the damned thing yoursef, then and only then will your clerk -- whom you feed and clothe with a wife and all her children, by him or anyone else -- will go off and get one of the other clerks to help him try to find Garcia, then come back and tell you there is no such man, but in such guarded terms so guardedly expressed that should Garcia walk into the office right then, it still wouldn't have been his fault. Of course, I may lose my bet with you ; but, according to the Law of Average, that momentary loss will soon be made good over all.

Now, if you are wise in the manner river rocks are smooth, you will not bother to explain to your "assistant" that Correggio is indexed under the C's, not in the K's, but you will smile very sweetly and say, "Never mind," and go look it up yourself.

This incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and lift -- these are the things that put socialist dreams so far off into the future. If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for that vague naught that's "all" ? If anything besides empty talk is sought, a first mate with knotted club seems necessary ; the dread of getting "the bounce" Saturday night is the glue that holds the worker to his place.

Advertise for a stenographer, and nine out of ten who apply can neither spell nor punctuate -- nor do they think this any great impediment. After all, they applied chiefly to get the wage paid for the position, and that part they'd do just as fine as you'd like. But can such a one carry my letter to Garcia ?

We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy idly expressed for the "downtrodden denizens of the sweat-shop" and the "homeless wanderer searching for honest employment" (a purely fantasmagorical construct) ; with it all go many hard words for the men in power -- as is to be expected, seeing how such is perdurantly, predictably the principal object of the idle excursions in verbosity of the comfortably idle. Their interest in the (deservingly, always deservingly) poor reliably extends only insofar as that pretext might be used to pester Daddy (or, more properly speaking, to project upon men in power the unfriendly estimation their own conscience makes of themselves). Absent that pay-dirt, who even cares about them downtrodden searchers (besides, of course, the man who tried to apply them toward some useful purpose, and from whom they ran off, and with some portion of the credit earlier extended still not repaid).

Nothing is to be said for or about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get frowsy ne'er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long, patient striving with "help" that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned. In every store and factory there is a constant weeding-out process going on. The employer is continually sending away "help" of the very nature of his critics, spurious items that have, of and by themselves, shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business of human life. Others are being taken on, of which most will be as useless as the weeds making their way through the stones in the yard.

No matter how good times are, this sorting continues. If times are hard and work is scarce, the sorting is done finer ; but out and forever out the incompetent and unworthy go. It is the survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best -- those who could carry his message to Garcia, as shown by the happenstance that indeed they do.

I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to anyone else. He is worthless to anyone else because he carries with him constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending, nebulously conspiring in great darken circular schemes, to oppress him ; and he is incapable of managing his own business because his cleverness, however amply supplied, still is not equal to the part his disease casts upon it : to nebulously conspire, in great darken circular schemes, to oppress, in the strangest of fashions, to... He can not give orders; and he will not receive them. Should a message be given him to take to Garcia, poor Garcia might end up assassinated, unexpectedly, for no clear reason ; or perhaps a new alphabet invented, to better notate future messages to Garcia ; or... truly, my own cleverness, however short supplied, still will not get the part of describing idiocy in detail. It's not a good part for it.

Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through his threadbare coat. No one who knows him dare employ him, for he is a regular, ambling Mire of the Damned, within which all's soon lost. He is impervious to reason, elaborately impervious ; the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled Number Nine boot. Sadly his eagerness to work thus engendered dwindles rapidly after the application that engendered it, and there's truly fewer able toes than deserving arses. Of course I know that one so morally deformed is no less to be pitied than a physical cripple ; but in our pitying let us drop double the tears for the men who are striving to carry on a great enterprise, whatever it may be, the truly great and only deserving men whose working hours are not limited by the whistle, whose hair is fast turning white through the struggle to hold in line dowdy indifference, slipshod imbecility and the heartless ingratitude which, but for their presence, would presently find itself both hungry and cold.

Have I put the matter too strongly ? Possibly ; but when all the world has gone a-slumming I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who isn't ever to be found in any slum. How is it, that all creeds and colors can always be readily turned up in the slums, except for the man who succeeds ? The man who, against great odds, has directed the efforts of others, and having succeeded, finds there's nothing in it : nothing but bare board and clothes. All kind and manner of worthies by whichever system of ex-post-facto worthification can indeed be turned out of the gutter, scared up from abject poverty : alleged intelligents, supposed paragons of virtue, illustrations of misfortune, male, female, white, black or purple, and not one among them, not one among ten thousand or ten million successful.

Yet have this unique being come before the court. Joe the Drunk, Amelia Bedelia, Sally Knownothing von Talkalot, poor old widow Bynne E. Safiebine, the noted firebrand Jeremiah Cloudwalker, Michael McNojob and his eight brothers that've had fifty-nine jobs between them this past fortnight, all these and more are there, and ready to swear, and give testimony, and extend their views, and their applause, and vote for the sheriff, and the judge, as if by virtue of misuse of language and misapprehension of human culture they, too, stand just as tall, vow just as strong, matter just as much as the successful man. They've never had a mouthful but in some form or other by another's charity ; he's never in his whole life been able to eat all he himself made, not if he tried. They've promised ten times to his promise, each of them ; they never kept a promise though always he kept his, so in the sea of thousands of promises they're all together drowning... well, "most" are hollow -- though none of his and most all of theirs, nevertheless, "averaging" averages work this way : each average manwoman has one boobsticle on either side.

The heart must go out to the man who does his work when the "boss" is away, as well as when he is in. The heart must go out to the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, takes the missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it. The man who, inexplicably, never seems to get "laid off," nor has to go on a strike for higher wages. There is no room, there oughtn't be any room for feeling for the failures. Civilization is one long, anxious search for great men, not for the gutter's scum ; and it is both scandalous and a transparent fraud when shameless tricksters and con-men, under a flimsy pretense of "high-mindedness" attempt to hijack that natural feeling towards such inappropriate targets as might best line their own pockets. Human life's the quest for men for whom the heart must go out. Anything such a man asks must be granted. His kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go. He is wanted in every city, town and village -- in every office, shop, store and factory ; and, ultimately, in every home, and in every heart.

The world cries out for such: he is needed, and needed badly, the man who can carry a message to Garcia ; as for the needy, let them rot in the gutter. The world is of, and for, and by the needed.

  1. The historical character the name references, a certain 1st Lieutenant Andrew S. Rowan, has nothing in common whatsoever to the fictitious character constructed for the purpose of... well, why do you dream of my women, when you look at yours ? So then.

    The historical character's a contemptible cur who did indeed ask all those questions. He was smuggled into Cuba by Cubans he was given to by his superiors, just like a sack of potatoes, and carried on horseback across the insular "vastness", the horses and everything else similarily provided to the tourist. Contrary to his orders, which were to stay there, observe, and dispatch, he told Calixto Garcia he's there to take his order (as in, "would you like fries with that ?") and convey it to the US military ; he was shipped back the same day, ladden with a bill of trade, and shared the purpose of his mission (along the contents of his imagination) to the press en route (his return trip consisted of a few miles in a Cuban boat the Cubans sourced and worked for him, and the rest to Florida on a passing steamer). This made him extremely popular with the imbecile public, which made it impractical for his superior (the "Someone" in "Someone said", major Arthur L. Wagner of America's first intelligence unit) to hang him, as he intended and was adequate. So America gained another Bufallo Bill, and sense lost another nail. []

  2. From experience, there is always and without exception a woman. I can't remember when I've last seen a man like that ; but women exactly fitting the bill I've spoken two pluriously on this very day. []
  3. A good fucking whipping is what they need, preferably to death. If some escape -- if some escape -- then thereby you'll have some men. []
  4. de Corregio, Parma school, vigorously sensuous. A fine choice of illustration. []
Category: Cuvinte Sfiinte
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7 Responses

  1. Perhaps the heart "must" go out to the man who does his work equally well when the boss is away, but it's precisely he who doesn't, well...need it. I don't suppose that skews the propriety of proper heart allocation really, but it's an interesting relationship nevertheless.

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Wednesday, 26 May 2021

    Yes, that's precisely why he gets it : because he doesn't need it. For anyone else it's pure poison.

  3. How is this "he doesn't need it" decided even? I never could come to a clear definition for this whole need/don't need. I mean, by the measure of "he can do without" - one can even do without food or water for *some time*, sure but if that's the measure, then nobody can be given something when they need it because by then they are dead and before that they didn't "need" it, did they?

  4. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Thursday, 27 May 2021

    > How is this "he doesn't need it" decided even?

    She said it.

    > nobody can be given something when they need it because

    ... they're supposed to take it. That'd be the difference between plants and animals : plants are given water, by god or whoever ; whereas animals take their fruit. Or, to revisit the formal explanation of why Frank Capra was a brusture and not a goat :

    The talents you have, Mr. Capra, are not your own, not self-acquired. God gave you those talents; they are his gifts to you, to use for his purpose.

    Inasmuch as he believes that his talents aren't self-acquired, planta's no capra.

    But no, nobody can be given anything when they need it, and certainly not intentionally ; this is merely a restatement of the fundamental problem of existence, directly equivalent to the absurdist's inherent meaningless of phenomenology or whatever 'patarestatement you favour. The interpersonal gap is ultimately unbridgeable, and this isn't something well-meaning mediocrity may substantially do away with.

  5. I suppose by "he doesn't need it" I meant that he is who he is without it.

  6. @pletzalcoatl I think that fits quite neatly with MP's earlier observation at 2: after all, another way of saying that "he is who he is without it" is precisely that he is not fundamentally affected by it, hence he may find (or not) a use for it, if available, but he is already enough of himself to not fold under the weight of it.

  7. @Diana Coman, hey, I like "enough of himself to not fold under the weight of it" --a toothsomely (ha) sensual way to put it.

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