Monday 28 May 2012

For Sale: Reagan’s blood, God’s mercy, Mother Teresa’s love, and much, much more.

Someone just paid 30,000 Dollars for a vial of presidential blood. God’s mercy is a bargain by comparison. It goes for about $ 5.00, judging by what I see on Sunday collection plates, but there may be fat cheques hidden in those little envelopes parishioners use, cheques in an amount that guarantees you a lottery win and saves your marriage. But I wouldn’t go there myself. If you ask me, God’s lack of transparency is deplorable. You don’t know how much bang you get for your buck. In the Middle Ages, when people bought an indulgence for, say 10 gulden, they knew exactly how many years off purgatory they got for their money. Today the Church is no longer the trusted business partner it once was. You heard about Vatileaks? They had to fire the director of their bank – oh, it’s not called a bank? I see. It’s The Institute for Works of Religion.

In the sleepy village where I spend my weekends, you can’t go to the supermarket or the beer store without being asked for a charitable donation. The causes vary, from repairs to the bowling clubhouse to new uniforms for the high school hockey team. But how much cache do local charities have in the scheme of God’s mercy? Better buy shares in the Institute for Works of Religion – they are probably at their lowest level right now.

Everything is about money, have you noticed? Students are no longer lovers of knowledge. They are consumers. They pay for having knowledge delivered to them and get riotously angry when the goods are overpriced or turn out to be a bad fit. Won’t get them a job, for example. Or don’t agree with their brains – they discover they haven’t got the right enzyme, they are knowledge-intolerant. Why didn’t anyone tell them before they paid their fees? It looks like those ‘A’s they got in high school were mass-produced and lost value faster than Facebook shares.

But the guys who graduated and managed to turn their education into nice salaries aren’t happy either.

Have you tried finding a date on the internet lately? one of them said to me. It’s harder than getting a management position. First thing, you need to hire an ad agency to write a zippy profile for you and develop a brand that sells on dating sites. While I looked into outsourcing my emotional labour, it occurred to me that I might outsource my aging parents, too. But for that I’d need someone with medical training (should have tapped that Iranian taxi driver), someone who can put my father’s problem into clean language. What’s a good term for incontinence? I’m looking for a Greek derivative of more than three syllables. Koproferic? Too short. Kopropoietic? Better. Sounds nice and literary.

My brother’s kid is another story. There is no fancy clinical term to describe him. Everyone knows what hyperkinetic is. To outsource that kid, I told him, he needs to employ cuddly, endearing language: Likes to put his little arms around your neck (and squeeze like an anaconda, but no need to tell the prospective nanny). In his case, the less said the better. Four words will suffice: Will pay top Dollar. If you want to be really suave, you could add: Life insurance included.

That’s old hat, though, and falls short of making life truly rewarding. We need to outsource more things, hire a sleep substitute, for one thing, to cut back on that useless downtime. And get an eliminator. Time spent on the toilet is a total loss. But wait, there is a device for that already. Diapers anyone? Next, we need a sexologist to take over the grunt part of the sex act. You just jump in for the orgasm at the end. Wonder whether the elliptical machine at the gym could double as a sexologist?

None of this comes cheap of course. You can’t afford those conveniences unless you make a quarter million and up. I pity those poor people who are forced to live their lives themselves, eat home-cooked meals, kiss their kids with their own lips, go on dates with people of unknown profile, spend fifteen minutes skin to skin with their partner, twice a week or more. Can you imagine the misery? Have these people ever calculated the hours and days they lose doing those things over a lifetime?

But I guess their lives are worthless – garage sale stuff. Not even. I doubt anyone would pay a buck for a pint of their blood.

Want to know more about this? Read Arlie Russell Hochschild, The Outsourced Self ( – and note that she doesn’t even pay me to mention her book. Wonder how many years off purgatory I get for that.

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1 comment:

  1. All well and good this business of getting your time in Purgatory reduced by half.....the big question, however, is what comes thereafter?....
    is it really worth to get your time in Purgatory reduced by half?....
    our friends and believers in Islam have it easy, under certain conditions, they are given 70 virgins to play with.....or is that just another mode of Purgatory?..