November 25, 2017

The hammer-bashing society

An allegory of the futility of industrialism. Published in The Ecologist Vol. 8 No. 4, July–August 1978. Republished in The Doomsday Funbook (Jon Carpenter Books, February 2006).

See ordering information for the Funbook.

“You promised to tell me why I can’t have a hammer”, said the little boy.

“It’s a long story”, answered the old man.

“But I want to know”, the child insisted.

“All right”, sighed the old man.

“It all started a long time ago, in the country where I was born, when they began hitting each other on the head with hammers. It caught on and soon everybody was doing it. Eventually they did almost nothing else, and our country was soon changed beyond recognition.

“Businessmen started making hammers of all sorts. They couldn’t produce them fast enough, nor of sufficient different varieties – utility hammers, foldable flick-hammers, double-headed hammers, slender-line hammers, spring-loaded hammers, rubber hammers for use in schools. Yes, even education was transformed.

“Mineralists started developing new alloys: for super-duper extra tough or extra light hammers.

“Special hospitals opened to treat the victims of hammer-bashing. All sorts of new medical specialities came into being and each soon had its own jargon, text-books, learned journal and professional association.

“Hatmakers cashed in with ever smarter and more elaborate protective headgear and wigmakers rapidly climbed onto the band-wagon with lightweight protective toupee’s lined with the most appropriate new alloy.

“Punting on the hammer-bashing pools, attending professional hammer-bashing tournaments and viewing the latest hammer-bashing drama on the telly became the main diversions of those who could not be more directly involved.

“Politicians, basking in the glory of the new prosperity, engendered by an ever expanding hammer-bashing economy, vied with each other in offering rebates and subsidies on the latest hammer-bashing accessories and ever more comprehensive state services to cater for the victims.

“Academics wrote ever more learned treatises bristling with tables, charts, figures, equations and computer print-outs to provide the theoretical and empirical rationale for the new course on which our country had embarked.

“In fact our society was soon organised to accommodate, in a myriad different fashions, the hammer-bashing lust of its ever more depraved citizens.

“What is more, neither our politicians, nor our industrialists nor our trade-unionists nor our scientists nor our technologists nor even our priests would be diverted in any way from the overriding goal of assuring the continued expansion of the hammer-bashing economy, for it was only in this way that they could maintain their credibility, enhance their professional status and assure their continued prosperity.

“For the same reason they had no choice but to turn a blind eye to the unfortunate side-effects of the activity to which they were so uncompromisingly committed – the hundreds of thousands of fractured skulls, brain-lesions, neuromas, cerebral haemorrhages, brain-seizures, tumours and aneurisms that had to be treated in our hideously over-crowded hospitals – and the proliferating hordes of the epileptic, the neurotic, the schizophrenic, the manic depressive the paranoic, the amnesiac and the partially or totally paralysed into which categories could eventually be classified the great majority of our citizens, including those who directed our major institutions and on whose sound judgements hinged the fate of untold millions.

“Surprisingly enough, few people seemed to worry too much about these little problems. Most of us were easily persuaded that they were but part of the very acceptable price that had to be paid for the incomparable benefits of hammer-bashing progress.

“However, one day, a little group of people on the periphery of our hammer-bashing society started making an awful fuss, suggesting that hammer-bashing was anti-social and should not only be discouraged but actually outlawed. The reaction to this proposal was brutal to say the least.

“Those who supported it were denounced as dangerous lunatics bent on destroying the very basis of social order – ‘enemies of society’ to use Paul Johnson’s phrase. If they were taken seriously, we were assured, our hammer-bashing economy would be prevented from further expanding. Businessmen would be deprived of their profits, scientists of their research grants, technologists of their development programmes, working men of their jobs, politicians of their electoral support; in fact the whole hammer-bashing economy together with the society that had become its appendage would be condemned to immediate and irreversible collapse.

“Needless to say, these rebels were treated with the disdain they so fully deserved and hammer-bashing continued to monopolise our thoughts, our working days and leisure hours until the last enfeebled and demented survivors succumbed under a hail of weak and badly aimed hammer-blows.”

“It won’t happen here will it, grandpa?”, asked the little boy.

“Oh no”, the old man answered reassuringly. “The Gods of one civilisation are the devils of the next. That is why in our society, hammer-bashing is taboo.”


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