It was an evil magic potion that drove men insane. Some said it was the pitch extracted from some long-dead tree that in life had been possessed by the devil. Whatever its source, unscrupulous men sought it out. It made such men dangerous, for its power was to end debate. A man cast a spell with this evil sticky black stuff, and all who sought to contest him on this matter or that one would be rendered powerless — even if they were immediately affected by the outcome, and he was not. The elixir had no name so they called it the “Do It My Way” potion.
It was pure tyranny in liquid form.
The mightiest nation on the face of the globe had used this terrible ooze to lay taxes upon her colonies. Do it our way, they said. This much tax on lead glass, this much tax on your playing cards. This much tax on pins, this much tax on your rum. And so the colonies rose up against their mother nation. But the war was really against the awful sticky black-magic stuff. They started a new country and declared the stuff would never, ever be used here again. This was to be their founding principle; their home would be stuff-sanitized, now and forevermore, a tyrant-free zone. They wrote documents about Inalienable Rights and Separation of Powers to make sure no one single man, or small group of men, could lay claim to decisions that belonged to others. They even started a government with no single head, now isn’t that silly? And yet it worked for a long time — three co-equal branches of government. No king or kingmaker could cast such evil spells, and effectively geld the people who were most directly affected by the decisions being made. They spent months, years even, deliberating the best way to keep the evil sticky black magic potion out of their new country. The embargo against the stuff that had no name, was firm, uncompromising, unyielding, and effective. For generations and generations it remained effective and the nation remained clean. And free. Violent, at times; war-torn; certainly rugged and often even dangerous. But there was no ick. Free men of all sorts of background, even humble backgrounds, had the final word in shaping their own destinies.
And it worked.
The experiment began to unravel with the mere appearance, not established fact, that the evil stuff had somehow made it into the borders. It started with the railroads. Wealthy men bought up land, and were able to make decisions about what took place on that land, decisions that obviously had an impact on others. Concerned citizens made the charge that the railroad men were wizards who were using the forbidden evil sticky black stuff to cast their spells. What does it matter if we do or do not find some actual stuff in their massive basements? The outcome was the same, was it not? This was sufficient evidence to heap the first abuse upon the free market, and so the young country outlawed “monopolies” because they found it so utterly reprehensible that anyone within their borders could cast spells with the evil sticky black stuff that had no name. It was not to be allowed, even in appearance. The irony was that, as soon as a man was barred from having the final word about his own property, it became just a matter of time before everyone could have the final word on everything. Which of course meant nobody could really decide anything.
A few generations onward, someone was allowed to use the evil potion that no man could touch. Womens’ suffrage was imminent, and it was such an event that they allowed the witches to cast the spells forbidden to the warlocks. The issue was the prohibition of consumption or sale of alcoholic spirits. The debate, with the aid of the evil sticky black stuff, was ended prematurely. Stop talking about it. Stop discussing it. Become accustomed to the new “reality.” Prohibition is here to stay, and you need to deal with it. That is the way the ladies want it. Or will want it, as soon as they start voting.
After that, people knew the evil sticky black stuff was in the country and would always be in the country. Not a single document was torn apart, or re-written, to this effect. But things changed. History was altered. The country was not about keeping the evil sticky black stuff out of our lives; it was about each man getting his hands on the potion that had no name, before the next fellow had a chance to use it. And so we started trade unions, which were created specifically for the purpose of seeking out the evil sticky black stuff and casting spells with it. They called it “collective bargaining,” and they described it in terms of giving “the little guy” a “voice” in the “decisions” at the “table.” But there was no table and there was no bargaining. Unions were, and are now, all about getting hold of that evil sticky black stuff, and using it to cast spells; to force the other guy to do things the union’s way.
Hard, cynical men who had spent their entire lives operating outside the law and laughing at it — would be told “The Union Says…” and they would immediately stop in mid-sentence, gulp hard, and resign themselves to the idea that the debate was now over. The evil sticky black stuff had been hauled out and the spell had been cast.
After the trade unions, it was a whole menagerie of embittered special-rights advocacy groups. The evil potion was consumed not out of need, but out of addiction. By the gallon it was consumed; by the bucket; by the barrel, by the truckload. The more we used, the more we wanted. The nation’s young people used it with a whole bunch of other funny mind-altering substances. The embittered, “liberated” women, the civil rights advocates, all with a mix of some causes noble and worthy, others not-so-much. They all said the same thing: “Do it our way, because right or wrong, we are together and we are using the evil sticky black stuff.” They used the evil sticky black stuff to defeat their enemies, and to make their enemies sorry they ever became enemies. They used the evil sticky black stuff to end careers. They called it the “vanishing.” It was a novelty at first, and then it became a habit. Someone would say something, or do something, and it wasn’t pleasing to someone else who had a stash of the evil sticky black stuff. So the spell would be cast and the offender would vanish. The stuff got him. People got used to it in a great big hurry because they didn’t want to be vanished. Before it was over, men were afraid to put up swimsuit calendars over their desks at work. Oh, they pretended it was because they were decent men. That was always the claim. But the real fear was that someone would use the evil sticky black stuff to end their careers and vanish them. And they still had to worry about retirement, and sending their kids to college. It wasn’t “worth it,” they said.
It took the country a century before it had any real fear the evil sticky black stuff had arrived at its shores. It took a century and a half for the country to actually use it. As it reached its bicentennial, it was now wallowing in it. Too late, we had realized: You need to have a social contract in order to keep any enclave clean and free of the ick. And the social contract demands that men who believe their positions are right, should be ready to put them up against the different positions of other men who believe their positions are right.
And when you participate in an argument, you have to be prepared to lose.
The cold hard truth is, we just weren’t that good anymore. We had gotten some ick on ourselves, and it would not wash off unless we wanted it to. We didn’t want it to.
The sticky black stuff is evil, therefore it is never used to create anything, only to destroy. It brings power only to the man who wields it, and it rots his soul from within. It does nothing good. That is why it was banned here.
People have now so reconciled themselves to living lives under the tyranny of the evil sticky black stuff, that the nation has been consumed by a modern plague: the proxy offense. Someone, wielding the now-commonplace evil sticky black stuff, might find that joke offensive. And so I shall act as his agent. You are to be vanished. And so, here and there a new business might be started free of the sticky evil black stuff, and within a fortnight it would be awash in the ick. Because the nation had already been engulfed. And so you are to be vanished because a handicapped person might find your joke offensive; you are to be vanished because you might have offended the homosexuals; you are to be vanished because that word you just used was phonetically similar to something that is actually a racial slur, didn’t you know?
Do it my way, because I make movies.
Do it my way, because I’m gay.
Do it my way, because I’m a woman.
Do it my way, because my dad’s a senator.
Do it my way, because I’m black. Or because the President’s black. Either way, you just have to stop talking and learn to live with what I’ve decided. I don’t need to argue with you. I don’t even need to make my decision look good. I don’t need wisdom, or logic, or common sense. I don’t need to show standing, injury or interest. All I need is a gimmick. Then I can cast my spell, and we’re done talking.
Now, we’re 234 years into it. And we’re about to build a massive engine that is actually fueled by the evil sticky black stuff. The new machine will run on barrels and barrels of it, daily. It’s supposed to be a “health care” plan, but the politicians hammering it together haven’t been talking too much lately about getting health care services to the people who need them. It’s been many a month since we’ve heard any of that kind of talk. No, this machine is built to consume a certain thing, not to build a certain thing. It gulps thirstily at the wellspring of ick, for it is constructed to do nothing else. It is an instrument of destruction, and like all other instruments of destruction it needs not draw on too high a threshold of design talent, to become an engineering masterpiece. The ancient, Revolution-era wizards of the evil ooze could never have dreamed of such a device or what it will do.
It will cast evil magic spells, now well-known to us, and secretly dreaded by each and every one of us. Massively, laboriously, unrelentingly, by the minute, by the second. It will churn through the ick and it will blacken the sky with the exhaust from its smokestacks. All according to plan…
No one who is in the process of building this evil device, talks about making sick people well. Ever. Not anymore.
But when they do give their speeches, we notice they seem to be awfully fond of that evil sticky black stuff. That sticky oozy substance that ends debate, and forces all involved to just do it so-and-so’s way. We started a nation to make sure the sticky stuff would never be used again, and now we’ve started a lifestyle that is devoted to it, in fact, seems to depend on it. Generations of young people, and not-so-young people, now know of no other way to live. Ah, well. It was a noble experiment while it lasted.