which is nothing less, although possibly nothing more, than a comparison of Julian Paul Assange, founder of Wikileaks, recipient of the Sydney Peace Foundation medal, the UK Media Award from Amnesty International, the Sam Adams award, the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, (etc etc TK already) and the minor sci-fi character James Bolivar (“Slippery Jim”) diGriz, aka de rat van roestvrij, aka die Edelstahlratte, aka El Escurridizo, aka un criminale al nichel-cromo, aka (my favorite) Ratinox, aka the (you thought we’d never get here, didn’t you?) Stainless Steel Rat, protagonist of Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat books, a moderately popular but enduring series of science fiction comedy-adventure serials.
Did I say “Harry Harrison?” Gee, it’s awfully early in the post to be that confused: of course I did! That name should ring a few bells for Assangeologists, particularly those of a fangirlish turn, for it is the usernomdeplume that Assange employed on sites as High Nerdy as delicious and as decidedly non-nerdy as OKCupid (come for the casual sex, stay for the quizzes!).
That’s so funny: every guy I know calls himself “Steve” on dating sites.
Well, it occurred to one (and that one this one, this one right here) that, worthy as Mr. Harrison’s screenplay for Soylent Green undoubtedly was, that sort of thing won’t get you far on a dating site (although it is a people business, come to think of it but now that I have, I wish I hadn’t. Not to say it doesn’t explain a whole lot about my dating life, but ENOUGH of that line of thinking, moving ON! What? What? STOP LOOKING AT ME) dystopian dramas really don’t pull the chicks like being a dashing James Bond villain-type.
Of the type typified by the above-mentioned and highly morally ambivalent Stainless Steel Rat. So I’m thinking, Golly, if I were a dashing James Bond villain-type of man who was strongly identifying with the works of Harry Harrison (not Harrison himself, because that would be creepy and somewhat self-defeating on a dating site as he is well out of Top Pulling age range although I’m sure a charming enough man in person and with some advantageous lighting) I would be identifying with ol’ Slippery Jim, you bet your sweet bippy I would, whatever that is, because whatever Harrison’s other books, Return to Eden, West of Eden, and Winter in Eden are about, I’m relatively sure they are NOT related to the rather tedious Anne Rice erotic novel, and believe me, there’s nobody in there you’d actually want to identify with, particularly if they could be played convincingly in a movie by Rosie O’Donnell, as none of them were, according to the reviews. And Clan of the Cave Bear, which I imagine to be much the same, didn’t get anybody laid. So, that.
And here, an interlude, because my English teachers taught me you can never have too many references in a scholarly work of this nature.
DiGriz himself, although an accomplished liar and a notorious intergalctic thief, did have values, he saw his exploits as not only a means to get rich but also as an entertainment for the masses which caused his plans to get bigger, brasher and bolder…he had a reputation to uphold after all. He was also quite proud of the fact that he never took a penny from anyone without insurance cover and his intended targets were usually powerful institutions with little scruples themselves.
But where was I? Oh yes, introducing Ratinox. Did you ever see the old Batman tv series? Stick with me here, this is good stuff. There’s a payoff, I promise. So, “Batman” was my sister’s first word, but no, that’s not the payoff (unless you’re the proud parent who can swan around the play group for weeks like a queen because YOUR little girl’s first word had two syllables and was a superhero besides; OR you are The Sister, in which case you’re used to this bullshit but are glad it’s you-centric for once). In those old Batman series, as rich a guide to the world of comic comicbook criminality as existed, just before the villain tried to kill off Bats and the Boy Blunder, he’d tell them the whole plan from start to finish, slowly, presumably for those in the audience too stupid to riddle out the riddles (which meant everyone who couldn’t afford the kinds of drugs the writers were on at the time). And so it is with the comic comicbook criminality of Slippery Jim diGriz, who will tell you just everything about himself if you read far enough through the books, and you will, if only to see if his wife finally does kill him or not.
So, let us read. All excerpts below are just from The Stainless Steel Rat for President, the most political of the books (yes, this is going to be a whole series; there are a LOT of books):
[please note that this guy already wrote a similar post, and here I thought I was the ONLY clever one left in the world, a feeling that Slippery Jim has quite frequently]
On Motivation and the Social Usefulness of the Stainless Steel Rat:
“It’s not that easy!” I shouted. “Better cops than you have tried to capture Slippery Jim diGriz! All have failed. Better a clean death than sordid captivity!…Thus ends the saga of the Stainless Steel Rat!” My words were followed instantly by the crash of breaking glass, as I burst through the window and hurtled out into the night…It was a happy end to a pleasant evening; I hummed to myself … I had brought joy to this dull planet, at least for a few brief moments. The police had reluctantly indulged in a bit of exercise. Now they could relax and fill out the endless reports so dear to the copper’s heart. The news reporters would have something interesting to write about – for a change – and the populace in turn would be fascinated by the exciting events of the evening. I really should be treated as a benefactor of mankind – not a criminal. But there is no justice, I knew that…
On Self-Image vs Objective Reality:
“The Stainless Steel Rat strikes again, penetrating where no other dares, insinuating himself into the ferroconcrete wainscotting of society. Moving like a ghost, striking like lightning. Fearless and forceful! Great!” With my morale heightened by these well-deserved compliments I gave a last adjustment to my uniform and opened the door. The doorframe exploded beside my face and bullets crashed and screamed around me.
Oh, bad luck there, Jim.
On Existentialism and Moral Imperatives:
“What else is there more important than one person’s life? That is all he is ever going to have. All that any of us will ever have. One single shot at existence, with nothing before and nothing to come. What you see is what you get. That’s all there is, there ain’t no more.”
She shook her head. “But my religion tells of the afterlife…”
“Good for you. I hope you enjoy the theology. I never knock another man’s beliefs, and in turn I expect to be respected for mine. Stated very simply, I face reality and admit that not only isn’t there anyone at home upstairs – there isn’t even any upstairs. I have one life and I intend to make the most of it. Therefore it follows naturally that if I firmly believe this, why then I cannot deprive another person of their turn at existence. Only the very self-assured political and religious zealots kill people in order to save them. Live and let live, I say. Help the good guys and kick out the bad.”
On The Attractions of Urban vs Rural Life:
A rat is always safest in the warrens of a city, a stainless steel rat no less.
On Political Tactics and Strategy:
“How to Win Elections,” I read, “Subtitled Or How to Vote the Cemetery by Seamus O’Neill”…It was a revelation. If he were alive today he would surely be elected galactic president, if there were no such title he would have to invent it. My previous reference book for political chicanery was The Education of a Prince by Mac O’Velly. But this was a nursery primer compared to O’Neill’s masterpiece.
On a Coherent Political Platform:
“Vote for me and end corruption in high places. Vote for me and I’ll have the Ultimados [secret police] working as swimming instructors on a shark farm. Vote for me and see what honest government can really be like. I promise an ox in every pot, a gallon of wine in the cupboard, an abolition of all taxes, six weeks annual holiday with pay, a thirty-hour work week, retirement with full pay at the age of fifty for every registered member of the Nobles and Peasants and Workers Party – volunteers will pass among you handing out membership forms – free bull fights every Sunday, off-track betting by licensed bookmakers, plus a few other things that I will think of soon…”
“Didn’t you promise a few things you can’t deliver”?” Angelina asked. I nodded.
“No one believes election promises, particularly the politicians who make them.”
Well, nobody could argue with that.
On the Nature of His Endeavours:
On the Application of Himself to the Political Process:
“Who are you?” [asks Zapilote, the corrupt, and incidentally also fatally poisoned, politician]
“Your destiny, old man. Your nemesis. The power that will bring you low…”
“How can I believe that you will do this, that you will send the antidote?”
“You can’t. But you have no other choice, do you?”
On the Right to Free Speech in a Time of Political Crisis:
“Can anyone fault this plan?”
“I can’t,” Angelina said [Angelina being Mrs Slippery Jim, and an only semi-reformed amoral killer]. “But I have one additional suggestion. We are fighting this election in the name of democracy so we must begin acting by the democratic rules we profess to believe in. We must not repeat what we did tonight, cancelling their news program and substituting our own. Democracy means free speech. We must allow them to broadcast, then follow with our own news. The public must be given a choice. People must be allowed to make their own minds up.”
“Is that wise?” I asked. “Can they be trusted?”
“Yes, it is wise, my dear husband, though you might not think so. Your personal beliefs fall somewhere between fascism and anarchy. Of the two I favor the anarchy. But given a wider choice I would settle for democracy. All in favor?”
The boys [their twin sons James and Bolivar: what can I say, it’s a self-centered family] raised their hands and I scowled.
“The ayes have it. We will now plan to commit a crime in the name of the greater good of democracy”
“Who’s the fascist-anarchist now?” I growled.
“Not us,” Angelina smiled in sweet answer. “We’re just pragmatists. Our hearts are pure and our motives of the best. And the results of our actions will be for the greater good of all.”
On Self-Hate [accidentally revealed, as is always the way]:
“Assassination!” I banged. “Do you know what has been assassinated? I’ll tell you what. Your free choice, guaranteed under our sacred constitution to elect the presidential candidate you think is best. That choice has been assassinated. By whom, you ask? By that little worm Zapilote who has eaten away the core of our noble republic, that’s who. I have always spoken well of my opponent in this presidential race. I shall do so no longer. I shall name him as the gray-furred, long-whiskered, foul-breathed rat that he is. A rodent gnawing away at the supports of our heroic republic. He flaunts [“flouts,” surely, Harry? YES I WENT THERE] our laws.
On Representative Democracy:
“You see, I believe in the one man one vote system…”
“Equality before the law…”
“Come off it!”
“Free speech, habeas corpus, no taxation without representation…”
“Do you have a fever, [irrelevant other or is that yet another AKA for Ratinox] Just what the hell are you talking about?”
“I said that you wouldn’t understand. So let me put it on your terms. I want all the loot and I want it now. I want all the money, all the power, all the women. I intend to kill anyone who gets in my way. Do you understand?”
Zapilote sighed and nodded his head and snuffled. “I’m an old man and I get emotional when I hear talk like that. Reminds me of me at your age. I need you on my team, [irrelevant other or is that yet another AKA for Ratinox, but the same one as before as this is, after all, the same conversation]. Say you’ll join me!”
“I’ll kill you first.”
“Really wonderful. Just what I would have done…”
“What was that all about?” Bolivar asked.
“He offered me the world. A partnership now, and the whole works after he was dead.”
“You said yes?”
“My dear son! I may be a crook, but I am not a criminal. It’s the Zapilotes in this universe who have to go. The little men with the big contempt for mankind. I may rob a man of his wealth but I would never take away his life or his freedom. In fact, I don’t rob people of their wealth. I rob corporations, companies, those bloated and insensate creatures that lock up our wealth…”
As the saying goes, it’s hard to really kill a stainless steel rat. But it’s easy enough to tire one out.
[insert 128 Days video or if you forgot to do it because you were drinking Leann Froese’s Chilean red while doing this post, at least make an amusing aside here]
A number of readers, from a number of countries, have written to me asking if there really is such a language as Esperanto. Jim diGriz speaks it like a native – as do most of the people he meets while involved in his illegal trade. Esperanto is doing fine in the future – but does it exist in the present?
It certainly does. It is a growing, living language with millions of speakers right around the world. It is easy to learn – and fun to use. There are many books, magazines and even newspapers published in Esperanto.
If you are interested in more information, The Stainless Steel Rat’s advice – and mine as well – is to write a postcard to the following address:
PO Box 1129
El Cerrito CA 94530
It will change your life!
So, there you have it: a dashing, fallible, internationalist, democratic, freedom-loving, outside-the-lines-colouring, power-to-the-people-but-to-me-first-FOR-HELPING-REASONS!!!, existentialist, Esperanto-loving citizen of the world. Sound like anybody you know?
[ Canadians are allowed to answer “Pierre Trudeau” if they so desire]