The Darkness at Dinner Time
The Girl with The Green Hole in her Ear
By Mack Rights
I recently needed a book to read, so I looked at one of my bookcases where I found an old book that I bought at a used store for a couple of bucks some years back. My copy of Darkness at Noon, by Arthur Koestler, had a gift inscription on the inner page from 1978, but it was originally printed in 1941. Arthur Koestler wrote this book about many of the Soviet Russian Bolshevists whom he’d known while covering Russia for a chain of “liberal German newspapers” during the Revolution and the purges.
Let me first say this. This will be more than a book review. Something happened to me while I was reading this book that made it even more significant. It was one of those déjà vu-like moments when you suddenly realize you were supposed to be reading this exact book for this exact moment. It made my understanding of this moment clear in my head, and it reminded me of Karl Marx’s words: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” Nothing like a déjà vu moment about history repeating itself. Cue music from the Twilight Zone.
Here’s brief synopsis. Koestler says: “Rubashov [the main character] is a synthesis of the lives of a number of men who were victims of the so-called Moscow Trials. Several of them were personally known to the author. This book is dedicated to their memory.” The main character Rubashov was high up at the Kremlin [even though real names of places, cities and Soviet officials aren’t used], and he was a sort of commissar in charge getting you to admit your guilt for political thought crimes. Once the confession was made, his confessors were normally shipped to gulag or executed. Therefore, those that lived in the country had great reason to fear Rubashov.
This book takes place once Rubashov is put in prison for potentially being an oppositionist himself. This prison, mind you, is not one of the horror gulags. Rubashov’s day was nothing like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Ivan Denisovich’s day. Nor was it like Solzhenitsyn’s day in the Gulag Archipelago. This was a more pleasant holding prison where confessions mercifully lead to a swift execution.
Years earlier, Rubashov had made an off-handed remark to the son of one of his powerful comrades. This son, born after the revolution and without a memory of life before Russia’s socialist revolution or a connection to the Bible of any sort, took Rubashov’s words literally. This young man went on to put Rubashov’s innocent comment into action in trying to kill Number 1, which is the book’s name for Stalin. In gathering the confession of this young man, the prison’s commissar of confessions (born after the revolution himself) discovered that Rubashov was the inspiration of this young man’s oppositionist efforts. Rubashov was then taken into custody.
Much of his time is spent in his small prison cell thinking over all of the lives he’d ruined personally as he awaited his week-long period of sleep deprived confessional interrogation on the way to his own execution. While there was not much repentance for his actions, there was a change. He no longer spoke as “we,” referring to the Party, but began to speak in the first person. That alone was oppositionist in that the individual is nothing compared to the Soviet collective- the “individual is a million men divided by a million men”- and this change of tense was noticed by the first person that tried to get him to confess.
Ivanov was trained with Rubashov, and they’d been long-time comrades. However, there was tension between Ivanov and Gletkin, the prison commissar, because Ivanov knew and respected Rubashov. Gletkin, who was born after the revolution, was deprived of any of the pre-revolution memories or culture. He was what Ivanov and Rubashov considered the “neanderthalers.” They had neither the willingness nor the intellectual capabilities to even question the righteousness of the Party’s commands. Rubashov saw the decay of the culture though, and his willingness, upon the realization that his life was nearing its end, to express it made for interesting thoughts. Realizing there really was no way to save his life, he was willing to put to paper his thoughts on improving the Party- even though these thoughts would only serve to assure his execution instead of being sentenced to jail time.
The battle over methods was eventually won by the neanderthaler Gletkin when Ivanov’s old methods failed to produce a satisfactory confession. Ivanov was executed- even as someone with a storied past- and Gletkin was given the go ahead. Gletkin was also motivated by his knowledge that his success in getting this confession would be a good feather in his cap as he hoped to move up in the Party. So he dedicated his every waking moment to getting that confession for over a week. Rubashov was allowed to sleep for an hour every once in a while, but the rest of his waking moments were spent in front of a high-powered light going over everything he’d said to just about anyone for decades.
With that in mind, I want to quote a this passage:
After this conversation, Gletkin let Rubashov sleep for two full hours. On the way back to his cell, Rubashov wondered why the news of Ivanov’s death had not made a deeper impression on him. It had merely caused the cheering effect of his little victory to vanish and made him tired and drowsy again. Apparently he had reached a state which precluded any deeper emotion. Anyhow, even before he had learnt of Ivanov’s death, he had been ashamed of that idle feeling of triumph. Gletkin’s personality had gained such power over him that even his triumphs were turned into defeats. Massive and expressionless, he sat there, the brutal embodiment of the State which owed its very existence to the Rubashovs and Ivanovs. Flesh of their flesh, grown independent and become insensible. Had not Gletkin acknowledged himself to be the spiritual heir of Ivanov and the old intelligentsia? Rubashov repeated to himself for the hundredth time that Gletkin and the new Neanderthalers were merely completing the work of the generation with the numbered heads. That the same doctrine became so inhuman in their mouths, had, as it were, merely climactic reasons. When Ivanov had used the same arguments, there was yet an undertone in his voice left by the past on the remembrance of a world which had vanished. One can deny one’s childhood, but not erase it. Ivanov had trailed his past after him to the end; that was what gave everything he said that undertone of frivolous melancholy; that was why Gletkin had called him a cynic. The Gletkins had nothing to erase; they need not deny their past, because they had none. They were born without umbilical cord, without frivolity, without melancholy. (p. 228)
Rubashov, being one of the architects of the monstrosity that the Party had become, came to the realization that they had lost control. Its dogma didn’t allow for input by those who’d have to point out that the system wasn’t working. Those that offered the input were imprisoned or executed for being oppositionists and made examples that would inspire others to keep their mouths shut. Thus, failure to correct the system would continue to lead to more failure. As well, part of the system was turning children into unquestioning subjects of the Party. They were brought up without God. They didn’t even know what God was. Without a connection to Biblical foundations of civilized society, these godless subjects knew only to revere and respect the State. And because the State existed for itself alone, there was no room in the Party’s doctrine for mercy. Those that ignored the rules were punished appropriately, according to the State, without the moral guidance of the biblical God. They’d created a monster that could not be killed.
Later in the story, as news of Rubashov’s sentence came out, the reader is introduced to one of Rubashov’s older comrades. He is bed ridden while his daughter, a godless product of the Party her own father had helped to create, dutifully made sure he followed the rules. At times of distress, he’d reach for the hole in his mattress where he used to have a Bible hidden, but it was not longer there. His daughter had dutifully removed it. As well, he’d look to the wall where there was a photo of Number 1 next to an empty nail where there used to be a photo of Rubashov. His daughter had that removed and destroyed as well. He was held captive by his own flesh and blood who was more loyal to the State than she was to her own father. He too realized that they had created a monster that could not be destroyed. His daughter had even brought a resolution home from her Party Cell that needed signatures. This resolution condemned Rubashov for his oppositionist efforts, and Rubashov’s friend, who’d helped create the Party, understood that what Rubashov said at trial isn’t necessarily the truth. But his daughter, whose every notion of right and wrong was put there by the Party couldn’t even conceive of this possibility. So this man had to choose between signing a resolution he didn’t believe or suffer the consequences when his daughter would inevitably turn him in:
Vera Wassiljovna took a slightly crushed sheet of paper out of her blouse and flattened it out on the table. Wassilij [Rubashov’s old friend] now lay on his back; the rusty nail stuck out of the wall straight above his head. He squinted over to the paper, which lay spread next to the Primus stove. Then he turned his head away quickly.
‘And he said: I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me…’
The water in the kettle began to hum. Old Wassilij put on a cunning expression:
‘Must also those sign who were in the Civil War?’
The daughter stood bent over the kettle, in her flowered head-kerchief. ‘Nobody has to,’ she said with the same peculiar glance as before. ‘In the factory they know, of course, that he lived in this house. The cell secretary asked me after the meeting whether you were friends until the end, and whether you had spoken much together.’
This man came to the realization that he, in his old age, laid helpless inside a Party system he’d helped to create, and he was at the complete mercy of his daughter, a successful product of that Party system. Yet she had no mercy. She was the product of a social experiment gone badly. Out of self-preservation he did begrudgingly betray his friend by signing the resolution. But he didn’t like it one bit.
The Girl with the Green Hole in her Ear
Now, I want to talk about my experience that completely reflected what had happened in this book. One evening, Chaplain Ayesha (our FDFNY President) and I were meeting with our graphic designer. A knock at the door interrupted our conversation, and our graphic designer went to speak with the petition passer. She was a young girl seeking his signature on a petition that would mandate that those who donate money to super-PAC political organizations have their names made public. Our graphic designer is not as confrontational as I can be, so I took it upon myself to take over the conversation. He was spending too much time asking her questions about the meaning and goals of this petition.
I however quickly ascertained what it was about. The moment I saw her, I saw that she was with the Working Families Party- it was on her name tag. This is socialist offshoot of Obama’s ACORN that is heavily funded by the government unions such as SEIU. Basically, she was passing a petition that would hobble the efforts of their political opponents at raising money, and of course their opponents are all conservative and Republican groups. This is at a time when it was recently announced that the unions in America have spent over $4.4 billion on political activities to get Democrats elected. This is also at a time when President Obama has been naming, smearing, investigating and having the IRS and Labor Departments audit the businesses of big donors to the Romney campaign. I know what your thinking- isn’t that a violation of the 1st Amendment. Yes it is. But Obama has no need for the Constitution’s protections of the people from a tyrannical government. He is the tyrannical government.
So I took it upon myself to inform this young girl about herself. “Do you know that the Working Families Party is a communist front group and a spinoff of ACORN?”
“There’s no communism,” she said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Are you being paid to do this?”
“Yes. It beats pouring a cup of coffee.” She actually looked like a Starbucks employee. Her head was partially shaven, she had a nose ring and about four earrings per ear. One was actually just a green frame around a big old hole in her ear. That’s the kind of earlobe deformation that might as well be a tattoo of a hammer and sickle on your forehead when applying for a job. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.
“Do the unions fund the Working Families Party?” I knew the answer was yes, but I wanted to make sure that she knew.
“Yes, much of our funding comes from unions.”
“In other words, you are paid with dues that come from the government paychecks, which come from taxpayers, and you’re using that money to squelch the free speech of those who don’t work for the government but do pay taxes?”
I don’t think she made the connection, but I wanted her to try. At this point she just spewed a few liberal platitudes about making the system fair and blah blah blah. I again mentioned that the unions wouldn’t be subjected to the inquiries that donators to conservative organizations would experience if this law were passed. She gave me some more platitudes about fairness, at which I mentioned the $4.4 billion in union money again.
At this point, Chaplain Ayesha’s was chiding me for being mean, but that’s what I am at times. I have little ability to suffer fools. It is indeed my weakness, but I understand the battle we’re in- so I’ll excuse myself. I believe we have an obligation to inform young people that they’re working to destroy the greatness of our country. There’s no time to be nice to them. They need a metaphorical kick to the head. Only then might they stop, do some research and realize what they’re really up to. I didn’t enter this conversation with this little commie thinking that she knew what she was up to. She was 21 years old, fresh out of college. She wasn’t even alive when the US beat the Soviets in Olympic hockey, back when the Olympics were still good because we only played amateurs. She probably knows nothing whatsoever about the Soviets and all of the horrors of communism. She was probably learning about Cesar Chavez and all the great things about unionized grape pickers.
But, I eased up and asked her what she studied. She has a degree in economics. “Have you read Hayek?” I asked her.
“Yes, we read a lot of the liberal Austrians.” And I was impressed that she understood that the use of the term “liberal” meant what we’d consider “classical liberalism.” We talked a bit about economics, a subject I like very much, and we wished her a good evening once she understood why not one of us would be able to sign her petition. It was all nice and friendly.
However, before I allowed it to get nice, there was something that she said that would send a chill up your spine. While I was questioning her about the implications of squelching free speech with the law that this petition sought to pass, I asked her what she thought about the treatment of Chick-fil-A’s president after he stood up for Traditional Marriage on Biblical terms. This was before the Chick-fil-A appreciation day, but it was in the news and the liberals were trying to persecute the man for admitting he was a Christian.
And this is what she said: “If you’re going to have such controversial opinions, you deserve that public treatment.” She was as sincere as an armed hooker at the time to get paid.
Now, I don’t know that she was some angry lesbian and that might have been a sore spot, but I do know that she wasn’t brought up in the same country that I was. When I grew up, everyone was a Christian to some extent. The Biblical laws were imprinted on just about everyone I knew. I don’t think I knew anyone who admittedly despised Christianity until I went to college, but they were all really liberal kids from New York City, Long Island and California- three moral wastelands inhabited by the progeny of the 60’s New Left. They only admitted their hatred of Christianity because it was so comfortable to do so where they’d grown up.
Nonetheless, this young girl considered the belief in traditional marriage, support of which wins at the ballot box every time it’s voted on, controversial. What kind of schooling produces a child that thinks like that? Is it one that takes its philosophy from the same Bible that inspired our Founding Fathers? Or is it one that seeks to kick the Jesus out of our children and replace Him with obedience to the politically correct dogmas of a government that needs to kill God in order to justify its ever growing and parasitic existence? Is this the child we should hope is in charge of our medical care as we near the end of life? Will we need to hide our Bibles from her so she won’t pull the plug? Are we creating an uncontrollably destructive generational monster collective?
Maybe Chaplain Ayesha and our design guy are right and we shouldn’t challenge these little liberals. Or maybe I’m right, and these government-school-programmed robots need to understand that they don’t have a clue about this country. They’ve grown up without its history. They’ve grown up being taught to scoff at the sky god. They fight for their own enslavement by supporting big government taking away their ability to make their own decisions, and they don’t even know it. Why? Because the same unions that pay her to pass this petition were the ones in charge of educating her in the first place. If we don’t fight this unfortunate situation with fervor and determination, this country will be lost- just as Russia is, even today. The wall may have come down, but the people are still broken. No one ever bothered to tell them, “God helps those that help themselves.” But even if they did, it wouldn’t have helped. Their government would shoot you if you admitted that you answer to God first. So they sit around waiting for their bankrupt government to help them. That is not a recipe for a productive and bountiful country. So when history starts to repeat itself again, it may just be a farce as Marx suggested- unless we can stop it. Yeah, I know, I sound like John Connor. “Come with me if you want to live.”
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