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the state of the civilization

Once Upon A Time In Freedonia

critical nonfiction by Kurt Halliday

i am writing this from that slice of the millennium in which Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Governor of California.

Only analysis can save us now.

I've invited a few hopelessly intellectual friends (and one aimlessly academic acquaintance) around to Splat for the revenging.

I'm also, this moment, a little convinced the point could be the fall-rise of America, the dying back of the big picture, the midnighting of the world, the End Days themselves. Since America's a beacon, etc.

Myself, I look to others a ruggedly workable mix of god and man, communitarian and community, Greenie and he-feminist, realist and ex-impressionist, citizen and jurist, producer and consumer, people and thing. I am for the neo-contemporary if not the postmodern. Plastic art is art made flexible. Organizations are only as good as their organization. Animals don't need jobs. Progress is going somewhere.

I'm a guy, man and maybe male who is approaching fifty, three hundred pounds and certified anonymity. I have not been in The New Yorker. I have not been on a skidoo. I keep track. I am afraid of Garrison Keillor. I will be survived by one wife and car, two kid and cats, five computers and sixty-seven manuscripts.

Some of which is why I'm standing up crazy and honest like this. And besides. Arnie's thereness fades me.


Arly "Charlie" Mudge is a sixty-eight-year-old closet father whose name, like other names here, has been non-Freedom of Informationed to protect the intelligent. Not that he sneaks out to underground men's events where they put on, say, a backwards reading of Margaret Atwood in which Revelations can be discerned.

He's a practicing anarcho-communist the only one, except for that Jungian bastard in all Cityville. He started as whatever they called associate professors at Block University in 1962. He lived through the Left, the New Left, the New Age, Personal Growth, the New Right, the Postmodern and Noam "Savonarola" Chomsky. He has more than 10,000 original recordings on magnetic tape in his home. He's bought every Harper's since Christ was a corporal. He's not at ALL above correcting his friends when it comes to saving the dictionary.

Arly drives a Subaru because he can't drive a Volvo. He drives it now, right up to Splat, which is not in a mall, filled with enmity over Arnie. Enmity and Arly have done a lot of business over the years. Superior anger of various kinds is where his energy, identity, utility, and so forth, come from.

Arly's included in tonight's talking resistance because he's been writing an essay / fable / exposé / new last book of the Bible called Once Upon A time In Freedonia. In Freedonia we meet the lovably accidental scion of a wannabe-oil family whose clan was fast-tracked to glory through the Intelligence Community of a certain superpower located somewhere in the middle of North America.

Arly's a passing ironist and impenetrable social critic as he gives us a living mix of Connolly and Vonnegut sewn up in the skin of Markie Judge, tabloiding historian of the scion and his "shoot first" regime.

FREEDONIA is an exercise or game played on the NSA quantum supercomputer. The box cost six billion dollars and the exercise is about "freeing" other countries like Equalitania, located just to the north of Freedonia, or Iraq.

In the game, the lovable scion is The Anarch, absolute ruler of a freedom-loving people who are absolutely ruled through their love of freedom.


Arly arrives in a huff, as always. He growls his name for me Arturo like everybody, I'm supposed to read Alfred Jarry and looks all over the four of us here at the Three Stooges end of the room. The heads of the Stooges fly out above the guaranteed Victorian fireplace, surprised by, and vaguely competitive with, mosaic Marilyn. Monroe fills the opposite wall here in The Revisionary Room and is made up of head shots of her fellow philosophers.

It's in this very spot that the Cityville Fort Piano Shadow Falls chapter of the Green Party was born.

Arly stops. And watches.

Under the Stooges, through the gloom, we have Dump, Zeitl, Ravishna and me. The four of us majorly squirming for his take on this latest seminal instant in the democratic experiment: Arnie enfranchised.


Zeitl, who is deeply, deeply, way too deeply, into Human Time, utterly loves how stuck things Arnoldian (never mind Kennedyesque) simply are. She watched the PBS Newshour assault on the subject, and, as a natural gothic woman, just felt sad. There IS a kind of leap from content-free Reagan to The Governator (a must-say play on The Terminator). It's the same kind of leap from the comic book and TV Hulk to the Hollywood Hulk. In the movie, Bruce LIKES what happens to him when he Hulks up. Rage is power (or at least capacity). Power (or at least capacity) is good.

In the crumbly old lefty-liberal universe, power was a necessary evil, the lesser of two evils, or something of the sort. Society was organized and had to be run, so there was representative democracy. Power was held by The Few and the legal person in the street accepted this.

The shift from representative whatever to media-ocracy (rule by spin) is the stuckness for our black-underscored informant (Zeitl). Stuckness, the raw re-occurrence, and the legislated rightness, the being-at-the-center-of-it-all-really, that goes with it, is the result of the Twentieth Century American encounter with necessity, force, limitation, confrontation, competition especially in the Cold War. Arnie, and The Greater Arnieness, are habits of mind: personality disorders still being minded by those who lived second-order empire in the old days (when Uncle Sam filled in for the Brits after World War Two).

This is all sadistic fun for Zed, who still can't get past that most people most of the time don't see that there are kinds-of-time-so-kinds-of-mind, will not chew on that chunk of Plato, and absolutely deserve what they get.


Dump is Dump because of his Dump of the Day, which takes place always exactly from 6:14 to 7:32 unless massive content, like The Closing Of The American Mind, is literally in hand to speed it up.

He's also Dump because he dumps. On all.

He's been in the English Department for twenty-two years. In the English Department a loss of reality, wisdom-wise, is not always detectable, so the unhappiness habit doesn't get policed every day.

Dump's thing is: content's under fire. When Newt & Company, for example, flash nasty about American civilization

Where's civilization per se? Where's the bleeding Pantheon? Never mind the sodding Smithsonian. The jigging Spirit of St. Louis had kerfuffling well got to be part of it all not heart of it all.

"Oh, haw!" we chipper. Lifting our Guinnesses.

Dump collects ex-encyclopedias. Ex-encyclopedias have, in fact, more information than encyclopedias. (Encyclopedias being current.) Ex-encyclopedias have information about Humanity.

The infamous 1929 Encyclopedia Britannica article on civilization by [whoever] takes civilization (the other C-word) for a sort of recording. Civilization is, in the formula a Bertie Russell might wake up to, the world over time. (The world being all things human.)


Zeitl simmers here that History tends to smack of Time, and, while there is time, there is no Time rather in the way there is art but no Art at which point she is interrupted.


Ravishna and Reality have been living together since Eternity.

She is resistant to many of the things she hears in the East and the West and the East of the West.

For her, it is all a question of Reasoning from Fact to Fact. This is Aristotle's logic, after all. The capricious modern logicians who have become embroiled in meaning and the use of concepts as elementary units conceptual atoms are directly responsible for our being at the precipice.

Undoubtedly, they have created the Charlie Mansons and the bell hookses.

When she reads about one hundred visionaries in Utne Reader she wants to get out her mini-nuke.

If she ever catches that little Dutch bastard who wrote The Life of Pi

"How about, um, Arnie?"

Oh, that.

All is lost.

It's the coronation. The swearing in. On one of those hand-held electronic doohickeys. We gather our Guinnesses and belly up to Sacramento.

There's Arnie. His sculpted right hand raised in a suit that doesn't dare not fit.

There's Maria. Effectively public-spirited.

There's California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George.

And Arnie.

"I am humbled, I am honored and I am moved beyond words to be your governor."

This is with no prior experience as an elected official.

We drink about it.

"I enter this office beholden to no one except you, my fellow citizens. I pledge my governorship to your interests, not to special interests."

The highlight of the rest of his day is an invitation-only reception sponsored by the state Chamber of Commerce.

We squint into the doohickey and we drink about it.

The Stooges loom.

Seven hundred and forty journalists cover the ceremony.

Fifteen dignitaries from thirteen countries are in attendance.

Kurt Halliday will be survived in Kingston, Ontario by two near-novels, eighteen sorta-stories, creative non-poetry, wife Janet Anderson, sons Ross and Geoff, three cats and five computers

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