Or, Torture for Sissies
“Evil only exists when it’s known.”
The way it works in this country:
we say one thing and veer it false;
and all talk is agreeable;
there’s never censure or cursed words
because the law makes friends of all;
you get the blather and palaver
when we break out the flame thrower.
The way to keep the commons clean
is convenance and courtesy;
dudgeon is opprobrious,
complaints gets crushed by politesse;
there are no questions of intent,
embarrassment is felonious;
you get the kudos then the praise
with the tear gas and pepper spray.
Contention is a futile task,
subservience is all we ask;
we don’t want discipline with groans
so be a sport and sing along;
forget the charges and ill will,
etiquette’s your best redress;
don’t be a brute and press your suit,
you’ll get it worse if we feel guilt.
The way it works in this country:
unctuousness is currency;
blandishments are tools we use
to make utensils of people;
assent sounds best when heard in verse
and that’s why you should get rehearsed;
it’s suavities and savoir-faire
as we strap you to the chair.
Upon A Lie
Once upon a time
in the days before hypocrisy
people spoke their mind
and they did it dauntlessly;
tergiversation was unknown,
politely false? — impossible!
So, people cudgeled one another,
outraged by such candidness
as “yes, you’re fat,” and
“sure, you smell,”
“your taste is bad” and
“please piss off” --
such a lack of politesse!
For centuries the truth was told
with sticks and stones
and broken bones;
everyone was honorable
engaging in blunt probities --
some discharged upon stretchers,
gurneys, crutches and wheelchairs.
Then, someone conceived a truce
and made camaraderie from strife;
this entailed judicious use
of cozenage, deceit and wile;
“well, perhaps,” and “it could be”
and “in a way” and “if you say”--
we qualify to save our lives.
Upon a lie Touchstone did teach
the seven sins of uprightness;
reproofs and quips,
the countercheck and the
two fibs that lead a wight
to duel or peace.*
Thus and hence
the world was safe
from drubbings, truncheons,
fists and flaps;
everyone now gets along
thanks a lot to the fine art
of perjury for fellowship!
*“The first, the ‘retort courteous;’ the second, the ‘quip modest;’ the third, the ‘reply churlish;’ the fourth, the ‘reproof valiant;’ the fifth, the ‘countercheck quarrelsome;’ the sixth, the ‘lie with circumstance;’ the seventh, the ‘lie direct.’ All these you may avoid but the lie direct; and you may avoid that too, with an ‘if.’ I knew when seven justices could not take up a quarrel; but when the parties were met themselves, one of them thought but of an ‘if,’ as ‘If you said so, then I said so;’ and they shook hands and swore brothers. Your ‘if’ is the only peace-maker; much virtue in ‘if.’” — Shakespeare, As You Like It, V:IV.
The Cad’s Academy
“Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”
— Oscar Wilde.
Gather round, all you apprenticing roués
And avail yourselves the opportunity permitted very few;
Attendance at the Cad’s Academy is de rigueur --
Why be a third-rate rake when there’s brilliance to pursue?
You can be a scoundrel in some sleepy little village
Or aspire to vaster infamy with higher education;
Any dolt can compromise simple-minded country folk
But scandalizing royals will advance your reputation.
It’s an honor and a privilege to be a top-notch bastard
Defiling high-bred ladies elevates one from the fray;
Bamboozling the better sort requires erudition --
You need to specialize to be a lothario cum laude.
Credentials open doorways and makes guaranteed advancement --
No drop-out’s going further than the roulettes and the bawds;
You need that framed diploma for a master résumé --
The marketplace is operose for everyone but frauds.
The rigors of the studies start with the rudiments --
Dodging tabs, forging checks and breaking off engagements;
You’ll learn those drills, you’ll ace those skills, with elementary poise
Then moving up to defalcation is essential for all gents.
There is a special lesson devoted solely to the smile --
A first-rate smirk demands hard work, to be original is key;
Tender eyes sell crucial lies, there’s coaching round the clock --
We’ll have no shabby alumnae, we expect outstanding villainy.
Any local yokel’s revenue can be the silly cheat
But to command distinction will oblige a stringent scholarship;
A ‘fink,’ a ‘crumb,’ a ‘bum,’ a ‘louse’ are sobriquets for children --
To earn ‘Mephistophelian,’ you’ll have to crack the whip.
There’s splendor in the spoils, there’s glory in the stigma --
Competition can be brutal, I’d suggest a Ph.D.;
Every minute there’s a sucker, but most of them are poor --
The pinnacles necessitate finesse supererogatory.
So there’s the pitch, improve yourself and have some class, you rube --
It takes a doctorate in turpitude to be a grand degenerate;
Cram exams and hit the books so you can make the honor roll --
Persevere and you might be a reprobate laureate.
The few, the proud, select, elite --
Disciplined tradition inspirits our depavity;
We graduate the best, we make an art of roguery --
Can you make the grade at the Cad’s Academy?