Sunday, June 28, 2015

All Or Nothing

Author's Note:  The following was published on the Thought Catalog website in March.  The reason I am publishing it now is also the reason I will not submit to them in future.  Not only did they fail to notify me that it had been accepted, they altered my title without notice and presented the piece as though it were meant to be read literally rather than satirically.  In addition, it appears that they have no editors on staff, as my essay was published with a few quickly discernable errors that any professional editor would have spotted.  Nevertheless, here it is once more as it should have originally appeared.


Cheating in college? It's only a crime if you get caught, and if you're that sloppy you probably were never meant for college in the first place. It is an inevitability that another cheating scandal is just around the corner so let me forestall any outrage by highlighting the bright side: nothing proves more to the corporate world that you've got the right stuff than squeezing the last drop of profit out of the least amount of labor.

The cult of the free market makes for a sharp learning curve: the market demands X to be considered employable. If X cannot be obtained, well...there is no plan B sorry about your luck. Human feeling and necessities don't fit into the equation, what the market wants it wants, and it makes no allowances for a lack of means or just plain bad luck. It's perfectly understandable then that those who choose to cheat their way through college are doing the right thing. After all, what are the alternatives?

Many will be more fortunate. Dad or Uncle Jim will know someone who knows someone. Connections come in handy, especially if your grade point average isn't sparkling. If you're a member of Skull and Bones or know someone who was, even better. All that ritualized sodomy in the black hoods and the drinking of pigs blood from Geronimo's skull will have all been worth it when your secretary is doing “dictation” at your desk while you look out on Central Park from your corner office.

It is at this point that the defenders of Capital will cry foul. It's perfectly acceptable for those who have the means to be allowed to take advantage of them, isn't that the American way? Except it isn't. The American way is about giving everyone an equal chance, but if you've already got a leg up on the competition from the moment you're born, advantages you didn't work to obtain yourself, then the only reason you're sitting in that corner office has absolutely nothing to do with you. The only thing equal in this scenario is that you and the person without those advantages had lives equally rigged from the start. One for the top and the other in a race to the bottom.

Life isn't fair you say in a sudden about-face. Except, that this supposed equality of opportunity is the very lie that is perpetuated every day by politicians and bankers alike. It's called the Bootstrap Mantra. With a little hard work, anyone can pull themselves up and make things happen. But wait, didn't I just explain how you're daddy's connections got you that fine office at his friend's law firm with the pretty little secretary? When did you ever pull up anything but your pants from the floor?

At the end of the 18th Century, there was a man who documented a similar hypocrisy. As a young aristocrat he was shuffled off to live with his uncle for a time, an Abbe or member of the Catholic clergy, in other words, a man of God. While under his supervision he watched as his wayward uncle would seduce young women, engage in orgies, and occasionally fall foul of the authorities, get arrested, and then be just as quickly released due purely to his station in life. This young man soon learned that virtue is something that only the poor concern themselves with, and that if you want to get along in this world it's best to just do as you please. If you have not already guessed, this young aristocrats title was the Marquis de Sade.

Sade would later write a novel entitled Justine: Or The Misfortunes of Virtue, in which the heroine, a woman of supreme virtue and purity, meets with every conceivable disaster. Her trust is repeatedly taken advantage of, and even monks have no qualms about torturing and raping the young woman they had taken under their wing for protection. Eventually, the poor soul dies when struck by a lightning bolt. An absurd and ignominious end for virtue if there ever was one. Sade learned early that there are two kinds of rules, one for the rich, and another for the poor, and the poor take virtue too much to heart at their peril.


In the end the world Sade merely imagined is the world we have become. For those who cannot satisfy the demands of the market's lust there can be no hope, no salvation. Virtue is a nonsense word for fools and those who take advantage of fools. So by all means cheat, for success is the only true virtue, just as getting caught is the only sin.