I first read Man Without a Country not long after it came out in 2005 and I still totally agree with everything Kurt has to say. Kurt was a humanist who had the radical idea that war was bad, over population was bad, The Bushes-Chaneys-Rumsfelds of the world were bad, and that the idea that The Free Market will self correct and fix everything is total bullshit. My kind of a guy.
Kurt Vonnegut is in heaven now, along with Issac Asimov. Just kidding. They were both famous atheists who prefered the rational to the fantastical, except for their writing. Man Without a Country is a fun listen, if you happen to hate Rush Limbaugh, George W Bush-Worst President ever!, and the general idea that being stupid is the human Way. Of course, being stupid is the human way. Kurt cites as an example of human stupidity the fact that no one working in hospitals wanted to wash their hands, even though the practice has now saved untold millions of lives. Germs, what a silly idea that was.
When I first read Man Without a Country I was so moved by it that I wrote Kurt Vonnegut my one and only fan letter. He didn’t write back.
One of my favorite End of The World books is Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, in which a mad scientist developes ice which freezes at a much higher temperature than regular ice. The result is a world encased in ice with only a handful of people left alive on an icebound tropical island. It was both funny and tragic, much like life in general. The Prophet Bokonon is quote a couple times here.
Someday, someday, this crazy world will have to end,
And our God will take things back that He to us did lend.
And if, on that sad day, you want to scold our God,
Why just go ahead and scold Him. He’ll just smile and nod.
Kurt Vonnegut was always amazed at how little people care about other people. He was appalled that starving people continued to have children, who would then in turn starve themselves. He was resigned to the fact that no one alive today seems to give a damn that we are actively destroying the world around us. So long as it is still around for another hundred years-then it will move beyond our concern, as we will all be dead. No one gives a damn about their grandkids.
Kurt talks a bit about how horrible the bombing of Dresden was, about the evils of technology, and about how he didn’t really try to become a science fiction writer, it just sort of happened. He talks about what a joke The War on Drugs was, as the three most abused drugs in America are legal-caffine, nicotine, and alcohol. He was mildly concerned that nuclear power subs armed with hydrogen bomb missiles are lurking the waters of the deep ready to kill us all at a moments notice.
I am mildly concerned about it myself once in a while.
Kurt Vonnegut talks with calm conviction and absolute certianly that he is right, but also with an edge that tells he knows he is only preaching to the choir and that those most in need of hearing his message will ignore it. But knowing his death is near, and the death of the world itself seems nearer all the time, what does Kurt have to loose by letting t all hang out? It’s a fun read and one that should make you think, or make you throw the book across the room.
Man Without a Country is a fun read. The fact that the world is still here five years later, and Kurt Vonnegut is not, in no way diminishes the brilliance of his observations.