Idle Culture

Writings of a cultural dysfunct

Location: Seattle, United States

Monday, January 17, 2005

Think the Right Things

When asked if he considered himself sad, Kurt Vonnegut recalled visiting the graves of his parents in Indiana. “…I looked at those two stones side by side and I just wished—I could hear it in my head, I knew so much what I wished—that they had been happier than they were. It would have been so goddamned easy for them to be happier than they were. So that makes me sad”

He says that he learned “a bone deep sadness from them. Kids will learn anything, you know. Their heads are empty when they’re born. Grown ups can put anything in there.”

He goes on to explain why he thinks his parents were so sad. “ They wrecked their lives thinking the wrong things. And, damn it, it wouldn’t have taken much effort to get them to think about the right things.”


There is a truth to these simple words of thinking the right things. The world that we live in right now is the only world that I have ever known and will ever be able to know. I cannot tell you what life was like before me other than subjective histories written in books and I could never tell the fortune of the generations that will follow me. I can only speak of the world that I am a part of right here and now. I am an expert on my world, to be sure. I can tell you that everyday there is a barrage of words thrown at me from the media, from the government, telling me that there are people that want me dead. I am told to live in fear, to always doubt the honor and integrity of my fellow humans (especially if they are not from my country or are members of non-Christian religions). I am fed images of the destructiveness of war and told that they deserved what they got. I am told that the world is a scary place and that the only institution that we can trust is our government and its military. Might is right. Humanity is lost in the shuffle.

What this is creating is a culture of fear. We are all being programmed to think in a manner that is self-destructive while it builds the coffers of the military. We are being trained to think that we are on our own, that we are superior to others because of our power and money. We are becoming a solitary country that easily forgets that we are not born to be soldiers.

When people begin to live in constant fear and distrust of others, there will be a breakdown in normal human behavior. It is no secret that humans are social creatures who depend on connections with others to live more functional lives. People who live reclusive lives are often thought of as being strange and dysfunctional because it goes against human nature to want to separate oneself from humanity. As we begin to take in the messages that are broadcast to us by our leaders and the people that are paid to promote their fear, we begin to draw lines in our thinking. If the only message that we hear is that we will all suffer greatly if we do not remain vigilant against our enemy, we will eventually become reclusive. I have heard that we are to spy on our neighbors, report any ‘strange activities,” and remain brave. We are told that our neighbors could be potential enemies, people that we have known our whole lives could be collaborators in our demise. How scary is that? We should lock our doors and keep the kids safe inside the house, away from the world that wants our blood.

The words that Vonnegut said are right--we need to be thinking the right things for us.

Humans are capable of peace, love, and understanding. When things go wrong, it is because one person plants a seed of fear into a group of people who desperately need leadership, any kind of leadership. That person causes a group of people to think the wrong things (or the right things for the leader’s movement). These people are no longer living their lives for themselves. They are becoming cogs in a wheel that could care less if they break off.

Think about your life. Think of how fortunate you are to be here. Think of the love that you have for your family. Think of the future that you would wish on your children. I would like to think that most of us would want better for them. I would hate to think that there will be as much fear in the thoughts of people after this generation. I cannot imagine anyone wanting their children and grandchildren to be afraid of everything, to be disconnected to the act of living. But if we are not careful, that is what will happen. Kids will learn from us to be afraid. They will pass that fear on to their children as surely as they could pass on compassion and understanding.

Think the right things.


Kurt Vonnegut text from “Wampeters, Foma, & Granfalloons (Opinions)”, Playboy Interview

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