Life After War

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The war was over in Korea. That camera which caught every movement of everyone’s life was adjusted to run backward so that they were all returned to the point from which they had started out to war. Not all. Some, like Mavole and Lembeck, remained where they had been dropped. The other members of Marco’s I&R patrol whose minds believed in so many things that had never happened, although in that instance they were hardly unique, returned to their homes, left them, found jobs and left them until, at last, they achieved an understanding of their essential desperation and made peace with it, to settle down into making and acknowledging the need for the automatic motions that were called living.

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Controlled Killers

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Berezovo had been life-trained in security work, particularly that having to do with Soviet security problems in North America, where this killer would operate. If a normally conditioned Anglo-Saxon could be taught to kill and kill, then to have no memory of having killed, or even of having had the thought of killing, he could feel no guilt. If he could feel no guilt he could not fall into the trap of betraying fear of being caught. If he could not feel guilt or the fear of being caught he would remain an outwardly normal, productive, sober, and respectful member of his community so that, as Berezovo saw it, this killer was very close to being police-proof and the method by which he was created must be very, very carefully controlled in its application to other men within the Soviet Union. Specifically, within Moscow. More specifically within the Kremlin.

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Nervous System Loyalty

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Yen Lo approached human behavior in terms of fundamental components instead of metaphysical labels. His meaningful goal was to implant in the subject’s mind the predominant motive, which was that of submitting to the operator’s commands; to construct behavior which would at all times strive to put the operator’s exact intentions into execution as if the subject were playing a game or acting a part; and to cause a redirection of his movements by remote control through second parties, or third or fiftieth parties, twelve thousand miles removed from the original commands if necessary. The first thing a human being is loyal to, Yen Lo observed, is his own conditioned nervous system.

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Prophetic Fiction

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Nonetheless, her Johnny had become the only American in the country’s history of political villains, studding folk song and story, to inspire concomitant fear and hatred in foreigners, resident in their native countries. He blew his nose in the Constitution, he thumbed his nose at the party system or any other version of governmental chain of command. He personally charted the zigs and zags of American foreign policy at a time when the American policy was a monstrously heavy weight upon world history. To the people of Iceland, Peru, France, and Pitcairn Island the label of Iselinism stood for anything and everything that was dirty, backward, ignorant, repressive, offensive, anti-progressive, or rotten, and all of those adjectives must ultimately be seen as sincere tributes to any demagogue of any country on any planet.

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Choose Your Leaders

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“Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.
To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.
To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.
To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.
To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”

Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents

Bitter Necessary Lies

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“I can tell you that it was a very clear action for a night action, Mrs. Mavole,” Raymond said. Mr. Mavole sat on the other side of the bed and stared at the floor, his eyes feverish captives in black circles, his lower lip caught between his teeth, his hands clasped in prayer as he hoped he would not begin to cry again and start her crying. “You see, Captain Marco had sent up some low flares because we had to know where the enemy was. They knew where we were. Eddie, well—”

He paused, only infinitesimally, to try not to weep at the thought of how bitter, bitter, bitter it was to have to lie at a time like this, but she had sold the boy to the recruiters for this moment, so he would have to throw the truth away and pay her off. They never told The Folks Back Home about the filthy deaths—the grotesque, debasing deaths which were almost all the deaths in war.

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

The Resistance is Real

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He made contact with the others, there must be a resistance, a government in exile. Someone must be out there, taking care of things. I believe in the resistance as I believe there can be no light without shadow; or rather, no shadow unless there is also light. There must be a resistance, or where do all the criminals come from, on the television?

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Importance of Guilt

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What is the consciousness of guilt but the arena floor rushing up to meet the falling trapeze artist? Without it, a bullet becomes a tourist flying without responsibility through the air. The consciousness of guilt gives a scent to humanity, a threat of putrefaction, the ultimate cosmetic. Without the consciousness of guilt, existence had become so bland in Paradise that Eve welcomed the pungency of Original Sin.

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Ignoring, ignorance and the gaps between the stories

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Is that how we lived, then? But we lived as usual. Everyone does, most of the time. Whatever is going on is as usual. Even this is as usual, now.

We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it. Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it. There were stories in the newspapers, of course, corpses in ditches or the woods, bludgeoned to death or mutilated, interfered with, as they used to say, but they were about other women, and the men who did such things were other men. None of them were the men we knew. The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives. We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood