This week Bernard Darnton considers a resolution for election year.
P. J. O’Rouke’s latest is Don’t Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards. In it he gives us his view of politics as game of “Kill Fuck Marry.”
“Kill Fuck Marry” is a game played by teenage American girls. Being neither teenaged, nor American, nor a girl, I didn’t have the foggiest idea what he was on about. Fortunately the rules are pretty straightforward. One player names three people and, for each of the three doing-words you say who you’d rather do it to (and who you’d rather kill or marry).
P.J. gets us started with the “exemplary” 1992 presidential race: “We kill Ross Perot. We could hardly avoid a fuck from Bill Clinton. And we marry kindly, old George H. W. Bush.”
In New Zealand we could play with the Government front bench. John Key, Bill English, Gerry Brownlee. You kill Bill English for bankrupting us, you fuck John Key and then blackmail him for millions, and you marry Gerry Brownlee because, umm, struggling here a bit – but, hey, free wordwork!
The first third of the book is devoted to America’s political heritage, featuring giants like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Joe Biden.
If you went to P.J.’s talk in Auckland last year and didn’t drink too much you’ll recognise some of the background material in these chapters, but it’s good to have it here as, let’s just say, a reminder.
O’Rourke then turns his attention to the present day. He tackles the bailout, social security, health care reform and then devotes an entire page to climate change: “There’s not a damn thing you can do about it.” A billion people in China want a car. If you fret about climate change he suggests you go to China and tell them they can’t have one. If you survive, go to India and tell another billion people the same thing.
Throughout, the text is peppered with O’Rourke’s trademark strained analogies. That is to say, he taps the sap of the linguistic tree and vulcanises it with Spock-like rationality. He carefully blends the resulting analogy, extending it and spreading it as far it will go. He stretches the rubbery metaphor until it breaks, leaving you exhausted and carrying the bastard child of hyperbole and rhetoric.
Having described America’s political journey, P.J. describes his own. He started off as some ill-defined kind of leftie following the early realisation at college that the beatnik hippy chicks were probably not going to kill or marry him. Getting a job and the accompanying tax bill (as well as realising that his stupid haircut was unbecoming for an adult) he became the nineties libertarian - the Republican Party reptile - that we’re most familiar with. Now, allegedly as a result of fatherhood, he describes himself as a conservative.
As is inevitable with American conservatism, God gets a mention or several. It’s probably the minimum acceptable veneer by American standards but it sticks out like a televangelist’s orthodontics to a secular New Zealander.
Fatherhood hasn’t converted me to conservatism, although that “honour your father and mother” thing might have something going for it.
Conservatism has made P.J. a more serious man. This book is a work of political theory with some jokes in it. It has a lot more reading and thought behind it than some of his previous books but he was funnier when he was a libertarian. Kill The Bachelor Home Companion. Fuck All the Trouble in the World. Marry Don’t Vote.
* * Bernard Darnton is Not PJ O’Rourke, but we
still let him write here every Thursday. * *