Foreign Policy


One dark and glistening night, while I calculated percentages and busied myself in other ways, I was visited by two friends, Sergei Glup and Debbie Development.

Sergei liked Debbie very much, and wanted to get in her shorts. I suspect he rather wished I wasn't present because then it would have been easier to tell her so. Although god knows why, since I was hardly in the competition, and we were all on relatively intimate terms.

They engaged in conversation, ignoring me, but preventing me from doing my work.

"I'm an authority,"
Sergei would announce.
"Oh, I don't know about that,"
Debbie might reply, coyly.

At other times the exchange went like this:

"I'm an authority."
"Yes, I see. Maybe you are after all!"

Sergei seemed to think that if he could finally establish his authority he might have a good chance of getting Debbie into the boudoir with him.

This was hardly likely, but they spent much time detailing the requirements to be met by all those who would be allowed into bed. Sergei made sure that all his categorical qualifications included Debbie, or someone like her; Debbie offered that her standards were pretty high.

At times I made the mistake of commenting.

"'Love' as a word often confuses the issue,"
I said at one point, adding:
"What we're talking about, in the abstract, is the delicate negotiations that occur.... the two sides allow each other to save face for as long as they both want the bargaining to go on. They beat around the bush trying to con each other with vague terms, thinking it's diplomatic. Say one wants the other to be at his beck and call while the other doesn't like the idea.... these types of conditions are established, perhaps, by gossiping about others...."

I was interrupted by a wave of the hand from Sergei, who translated for Debbie, telling her,

"I'm the authority around here."

It carried on like this. Once in a while I popped in and got minor slaps on the wrist to remind me to keep my mouth shut unless I had something to say that would augment Sergei's standing.


After a while I grew sleepy, although I was keeping an eagle eye out, practicing. It was entertaining to consider the combinations, and it gave me a thrill when my silent predictions were fulfilled. But my tiredness led me to make the same mistake over again: I kept commenting, and they began to focus on me.

In a politically-related discussion of motive, I couldn't let them continue with the hogwash they were spouting; if I had it would have meant complete capitulation to a doctrine I don't hold, and I would at some future point have been called on it.

"Oh come on,"
I said,
"People basically do what they want to, within certain limits."

That's when Sergei really cut loose. It was more of an error than I at first supposed, because it should have been obvious that Sergei wasn't doing what he wanted to do by any stretch of the imagination. He got angry, probably imagining that I imputed to him some lack of desire to pork the babe in our midst.

"What do you mean, certain limits!"
he roared.
"Anything can be within your supposed certain limits!"
If there wasn't a rug on the floor he might have spit.

"You conveniently ignore the operative clause and seize on the qualifying one,"
I snapped back irritated that he would have the effrontery to escalate but even more irritated at myself for failing to have Seen what was coming.
"I'm talking about not going out for a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup when you've just fallen into an earthquake divide! It's by definition, discovered in retrospect, that's all! They do what they want to because if they didn't do it they didn't want to!"

It got worse. Sergei pulled out all the stops after seeing my acrimony. He interrupted me, not allowing the last words to be heard, and said my proposition was stupid. After he had finished (he said, "That's stupid, that's stupid!" twice), he talked about contradictory motives and hierarchies of desire, and I threw in a contemptuous statement to the effect that, if an action be taken, one value has by default taken precedence and can be viewed for these purposes as the prime motive in the case.

Then Sergei drew an example, which I demolished; he said that someone Who writes a bad check for a hat they want has contradictory motives and isn't really doing what they want to do. I nearly laughed out loud, recalling Freud and wondering if this example didn't have some bearing on his relationship with Debbie.

It appeared to me to be quite simple, that what he meant by confused motive was the event- description of lies. One lies to oneself so as to lie more effectively to the other person. Sergei had designs he couldn't reveal.

But what I said was that, in the first place, error in judgment is not mutually exclusive with volition as the sine qua non of action; and that, in the second place, people who aren't fucking autistic generally know the results of their fucking actions and in fact desire those fucking results.

But Sergei wouldn't brook the idea that some people enjoy being unhappy, even when I backed it up With the proof that exhibiting symptoms of unhappiness is a common tactic for eliciting specific responses from others.

He began getting incoherent and continued insulting me, asked what I was talking about (to which I threw in, "Commenting on the bind," which was ignored), and somehow devolved into asking me why I was disagreeing with him.

"I was defending a statement!"
"What statement, what statement!"
he yelled, evidently having an adrenaline rush and thinking that if he could get me tongue-tied over some particular he'd have won a victory valuable enough to offset the cost to his dignity of having stooped to such a tactic. I suppose it had become a case of getting me to shut up at any cost.

I realized too late what I had done, and that now the process had become a contest to the end since Sergei was out to re-establish authority and had nothing to lose. Not wanting to lose too much myself I decided to cut it off, get it over with by resigning, and I waved my hand in dismissal and shut up. There was no way I was going to get in a fist fight, and this was probably the next escalation.

After a few minutes during which Debbie respectfully listened to Sergei as he cleared up such questions as why people die with smiles on their faces and whether this was proof of an afterlife, Sergei turned back to cauterize my lips for good.

"You were resisting,"
he said, somewhat calmer.

"You got irrational, and you wouldn't listen to me because when people get to the, ah, root of the irrationality of their position, they get emotional. They get more excited the closer you get to their point of vulnerability."

Besides projecting, (it was beautiful, clinically perfect), he was giving me more reason to suspect that he actually was familiar with police method from spy interrogation training, and he was showing an interesting ability to forget what don't come in handy, like the Marin County Relationships jargon he'd been spewing earlier; if he truly thought he had me in a corner, according to his Beauty of Personhood Becoming bull-shit, he would have backed off. But this stuff only comes into play when bamboozling a potential Piece of ass.

Then again, some of the other schools of new age thought apparently hold that the only way you can be friends, really friends, with somebody, is to dominate them at every opportunity, destroy their defenses, leave them no privacy, secrets, or pride.

I was somewhat more irritated at this point than I had been throughout the meat of the contest, mainly with myself because I regretted ever having challenged his authority. I wasn't a contender for the girl, yet I had put our friendship to an unnecessary test.

I suppose that the demand for equal footing on an intellectual basis was misinterpreted as a demand for equal footing in the quest for lonely ova, probably because Sergei was using his intellectual prowess as a selling

Anyway, worse was to come, because I had made a dual error and exposed myself to discovered check. Debbie turned on me with this cutting motherly line, seeing she could fend off the invites tactfully by scoring points on me. This way she could bask in the Cheap warmth of being desired by keeping negotiations open.... which was her only interest, since anything beyond negotiation was going too far for her taste.

"What would you say if I told you that I love you as you are,"
she began, making me wince, and evidently dismissing from memory her sage nods at my explication that 'love' is a worthless bargaining chip, seeing as how it remains undefined until the trump is played, and even then is defined by the person who first anted UP.
(and here the buzzwords came thick & fast)
" cannot ever be my political leader. You're too young, your ideas are too radical, but I'd like to keep a dialogue open with you even though I don't plan on ever agreeing with you on any particular, especially the important ones and you will in fact be wasting your time to talk to me, but I know you'll never let your frustration show because then I'll be able to hit you over the head with having hurt my feelings."
In all, the raving took about five minutes, and five minutes of acute discomfort are a small price to pay to stave off a month-long campaign.

Sergei stared at me to gauge my facial response to the onslaught, so I did my best catatonia, making with the blank stares, which is known in the trade as clamming up or diminished affect.

In the end I shrugged, since the thrust was clear before she had finished and I'd had time to figure out which act would neutrally signify recognition that it was over. Her pitch constituted an insult the likes of which I have seldom received, and they both thought they were loving friends... It was almost terrifying. I sat still for a while. Any material counter-attack would have given them an excuse to resume the fusillade.

Moving around while they babbled, collecting coffee cups and straightening up papers, served to get them standing and moving towards departure. They both knew it was getting late and I wasn't done with my work. They haggled over the literal content of religion (which keeps some people busy for centuries), mostly to the effect that Debbie hoped to get the newly-ordained authority to endorse her delusions about god and happiness when you're dead.

As it turned out, Sergei tired of this before Debbie did, perhaps realizing that he'd been taken for a ride. He bowed out, and Debbie stayed on to repeat her line about not having the slightest respect for my politics, but at the same time wanting to keep an interesting whipping boy or clown to call on for occasional entertainment, and by the way, proofs of god, reincarnation, and similar patronizing shit.

I did my best to keep writing at my desk and patently ignore her, but she really must have had a blood lust. She went and made a new pot of coffee and brought a cup over to sit and drink it while reciting some disordered litany. I stopped working and listening long enough to formulate the necessary shrapnel grenades.

I said, with a fierce glare and a commanding tone that was unusual between us but functional now that I was bent on ridding myself of this insect as quickly as possible,
"All you are trying to do is find some smart people who will tell you that what you read in crank paperbacks is true. You continue to refuse to look at the uses of your beliefs despite the clear necessity of doing so when evaluating them overall. I find it obnoxious that you try to pester me into sanctioning this bullshit consolatory prattle. Go away and drown in your doubts if you want to, I'm not an authority to be called on to allay your fears, quit harassing me."

she said, at a loss for words. Not long after, she left.

I recalled the time when I had given Sergei's brother, Rinzai, a briefing on the content of Jay Haley's masterwork, "Strategies of Psychotherapy".

he said, at a loss. Maybe if Jo'Shu had said it.

I carried on, ignoring the "H'm".
"When I read it I thought I'd never be able to carry on a normal relationship with anyone ever again."
But who wants to? Hierarchies are the norm here in human- land. In hierarchies, as they say, you either lick boot or kick face.

Gerry Reith