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The Devil Never Sleepsby Andrei Codrescu
Synopses & Reviews
The PARANOIDS are of three kinds: religious, secular, and technological. The religious paranoids are of three kinds, too: fundamentalist, New Ager, and paramilitary. The secular paranoids also have three branches: X-Filers, tabloidoids, and weekend satanists. The techno paranoids are divided also, like Gaul, into three parts: Y2K-ers, genetophobes, and ecodystopians.
The OPTIMISTS are likewise classifiable according to strict Linnaean principles and occasionally overlap the paranoids. The three kinds are: liberals, secularists, and utopians. Liberals are of three kinds: free-marketeers, one-worlders, and armchair philosophers. Secularists, who are sometimes liberals, have three branches: laissez-fairians, post-Enlightenmentarians, and statophile utopians. Utopians, who overlap the religious paranoids, divide as well into fundamentalists, New Agers, and post-history buffetarians.
Here is how their beliefs operate:
SPECIES: FUNDAMENTALIST, NEW AGER, PARAMILITARY
Fundamentalists (Gods party) are sure their scriptures are about to bear apocalyptic fruit and cant wait to see the rest of us burn in hell while they meet their Maker amid harp music and nard sprays.
New Agers (the Devils party), informed by Nostradamus, astrology, oracles, private signs, misreadings of runes and glyphs, Kali Yuga, and various psychotics, can see the day of reckoning as surely as they can read their tea leaves.
Paramilitary (the God-Devil Party) paranoids are impatient fascists with a death wish who want to take the rest of us with them in a willed Armageddon.
SPECIES: X-FILERS, TABLOIDOIDS, WEEKEND SATANISTS
X-Filers are sure that the government is keeping secret the presence of aliens (devils) among us, and that the alliance of government (which may have already been taken over by aliens!) and an interplanetary invasion force, means that the human race is at an end.
Tabloidoids are broader-based X-Filers who add the Kennedy assassinations, the CIA, and any number of earth- or space-based conspiracies to bear on their feelings of total paranoid helplessness.
Weekend Satanists are working-class and lower-middle-class pale white people who can be Goths, vampires, space creatures, or a sci-fi combination of all of them, who have invested their minds and bodies into an aesthetic that impatiently awaits the Next Life.
SPECIES: Y2K-ERS, GENETOPHOBES, ECODYSTOPIANS
Y2K-ers are the descendants of the 1950s A-bomb shelterians (who are themselves the descendants of hoarding Puritans). They are stockpiling Campbells soups, weapons, and very bad novels, in expectation of a prolonged apocalypse brought about by the failure of their computers to download porn and process their bank statements.
Genetophobes are spawns of Molly the Cloned Sheep and readers of newspapers who see genetic engineering making the one or two fatal leaps into obliterating humanity.
Ecodystopians see the planet reaching its expiration date thanks to environmental alteration, pollution, overpopulation, and engineered viruses.
Free-market liberals believe in the Invisible Hand of Adam Smith but have a gnawing suspicion that the Hand might be giving the finger to a lot of people, so they pay lip service to environmental causes (leaving the children “a livable planet”) while wallowing quite indiscriminately in the everrising Market (the Devil).
One-worlders believe in the Global Economy and Technology, the new Esperanto. They argue that trade barriers must come down before physical borders do. Their future world has the United States (the new Jerusalem or Rome) shining on the hill, while all good things flow from it to the provinces.
SPECIES: ARMCHAIR PHILOSOPHERS
Armchair philosophers are an ever-increasing tribe of liberal utopians who absorb and regurgitate every optimistic signal coming from the above groups, and spread them through their circles with support from PBS and the Internet. Their portfolios arent shabby, but they arent big enough to cause them to be active. The APs are the descendants of Chekhovs turn-of-the-nineteenth-century Russian provincials. They live in small towns (where the Devil does the most damage).
Laissez-fairians are active proponents of doing nothing and forgetting everything, especially religious quarrels. In real life, they tend to be casual Unitarians (Devil worshippers).
Post-Enlightenmentarians are hedonists. They enjoy surfing, group marriage, anti-aging vitamins, cryogenics, and Internet porn. They originated in California, but they can be found as far north as Maine. Their goal is physical immortality. (The Devil loves them the best.)
SPECIES: STATOPHILE UTOPIANS
Statophile Utopians cite statistics proving that things are getting better, even if for them, personally, things might be getting worse. SUs are quaint and their numbers dwindle and increase, depending on the newspaper they read (Bourgeois devilitarians).
Like their paranoid kin, the optimistic fundamentalists see the end of the world as an opportunity for the coming of the Kingdom. Unlike their kin, they dwell less on the Horrors of the End and more on the Benefits of the New. Some of them even believe that Christ has already come and that we already live in Paradise, only we dont know it (Insufficiently attuned to the Devil).
SPECIES: NEW AGERS
Like their paranoid kin, the optimistic New Agers point to signs, portents, coffee grounds, aliens, and genetics to prove that physical and spiritual immortality are established facts. One meets many such believers in New Age summer camps on the East and West coasts. (They are the Devils children: his kindergartens are overflowing.)
SPECIES: POST-HISTORY BUFFETARIANS
Buffetarians partake of a buffet of all the above, in the manner of a smorgasbord or a cruise through ethnic cuisines. Their temperaments are essentially sunny, so theyll pick anything that makes them feel better, without particular bias for any of them. (The Devil is in the spices.)
Let us now have a look at the original description of the End of the Christian World, involving the Final Battle between God and the Devil, which is the spring of both our paranoia and optimism (after the paranoia has subsided).
THE DEVIL NEVER SLEEPS AND OTHER ESSAYS. Copyright © 2000 by Andrei Codrescu. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information address St. Martins Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
The Devil is alive and well and living in America, Andrei Codrescu tells us, and with good reason. Nowhere else in the world--not even in Codrescu's native Transylvania--is he taken quite as seriously. When Codrescu gently derided the fundamentalist Christian belief in Rapture ("a pre-apocalyptic event during which all true believers would be suctioned off to heaven in a single woosh") in one of his commentaries on National Public, NPR received forty thousand letters in a protest spearheaded by Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition. Codrescu was warned to "stay away from eschatology."
Thankfully for us, he hasn't. In The Devil Never Sleeps, one of America's shrewdest social critics sets out to uncover the Devil's most modern and insidiously banal incarnations. Once easily recognizable by his horns, tail, and propensity for plague, today's Devil has become embedded in every fiber of our culture. Discussing everything from rock 'n' roll to William Burroughs to New Orleans bars to the Demon of Prosperity, Codrescu mockingly unmasks Old Nick as the opportunistic technocrat he really is. Embracing cell phones, cable access, and cyberspace, the ubiquitous Devil of secular culture embodies the true evil facing us today--banality.
In a world teeming with distractions, we are still more than capable of being bored to death. Tormented as much by insomnia and its ravages as the Devil (perhaps they are one and the same), we've become as twenty-four-hour society, swinging desperately between tedium and terror and sleeping fitfully, if at all. As Codrescu points out, the Devil never sleeps because we just won't let him.
With his characteristic charm and playful exuberance, Andrei Codrescu has successfully teased the Devil out from the darkest recesses and comic excesses of the human experience. The Devil Never Sleeps is his most wonderfully perverse book yet.
About the Author
Andrei Codrescu has been on NPR's "All Things Considered" for more than ten years. A professor of literature at Louisiana State University, he lives, naturally, in New Orleans, where he is also the editor of the on-line literary journal, Exquisitecorpse.org.
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