“A Modest Enquiry: Some Possible Problems with a New Santa Cruz Anti-Discrimination Law” by Robert Anton Wilson, published in Popular Alienation: A Steamshovel Press Reader by Kenn Thomas (ed.), 1995. Submitted to RAWilsonFans.com by R. Michael Johnson.
I fear that a new law banning discrimination in renting or hiring on the basis of “personal appearance” or “sexual orientation” creates certain intractable logical problems which may lead to protracted legal struggles. In the following note I attempted to explain my misgivings to the Hon. Neal Coonerty, author of the law.
1. To avoid expensive and unnecessary litigation (one of the primary goals of any landlord or business operator) all of us should have a clear and unambiguous idea of what actions can potentially lead to litigation. Except as a last resort in collecting bad debts, litigation always seems a cure worse than the problem. Thus, in most matters, the avoidance of litigation and the comprehension of the guidelines to avoid litigation always remain paramount concerns.
But in matters relating to intangible and subjective inner processes of choice and decision, one simply cannot formulate clear and unambiguous guidelines to avoid litigation.
Nobody, not even the Hon. Councilperson Coonerty, ever really “knows” why you choose A over B. (According to the Freudians, even you don’t know.) Thus, you can never prove that your motive qualifies as “legally pure.” Any attempt to find such “proof” leads inevitably to Kafka-like abysses.
Historically, in societies aiming at freedom, legislators do not even attempt such control over the citizens’ invisible and unknowable states of mind, realizing that this leads to what Burke once called “that great Serbonian bog where armies whole have sunk.”
In other words, when accused of “thought crime,” you face the sort of no-win problem confronting Joseph K. in The Trial: you can never find a Court metaphysically capable of judging your inner “state of grace” (or lack of it) or attorneys who can find any sort of legal evidence that will “prove” innocence or guilt. I doubt that Constitutional scholars can even form a coherent idea of what might constitute eitherevidence or proof in this matter.
Pragmatically, the only rule most businesspeople have for dealing with our current herd of “politically correct” lawmakers (those who do increasingly try to control our invisible, unknowable mental states) consists of “When in doubt, play it safe.”
In the present context, considering the matter of appearance first, this means that if two candidates apply for the same job, or the same domicile, the “pragmatically safe” choice will award the job or domicile to whoever of the two (in ordinary language) “looks funnier” or “looks weirder” or “looks uglier,” etc., because if one chooses the candidate who looks less “funny,” “weird,” or “ugly,” an expensive lawsuitmight result.
Thus, under the “when in doubt, play it safe” rule, I suspect that in only one year after the Coonerty law comes into effect, tenants and employees in Santa Cruz will begin to look slightly strange and a bit bizarre, considered as a group, compared to the present year.
2. NOW, assume conservatively that only 1/20 of all jobs become available in a year’s time, due to deaths, retirements, the founding of new enterprises, people moving elsewhere (to find better jobs, to- live closer to parents or children, etc.). This means that the Santa Cruz Strangeness Quotient (SCSQ) will increase 1/20 in one year.
It then follows that in, say, five years the SCSQ will reach 5/20 or 25 %; in 10 years, SCSQ will = 50% etc.
In 20 years then, the SCSQ will change 20 x 1/20 or 100 % and all employees here will look decidedly “weird” compared to people elsewhere.
Tourists will then come from nearby towns, or some not so nearby, to gape and ogle at Santa Cruz natives, for the same reason people have always gone to circuses, carnivals, freak shows or horror movies. We should carefully consider if we really want a town that looks like that. Maybe “we” (or a loud minority of us) do – I certainly stipulate that it would boost tourism-but we need to debate and carefully consider this issue fully before plunging ahead.
(And let us at least pray that the debate and consideration can occur thoughtfully, without the herds of the politically correct howling, chanting and otherwise drowning out all voices not entirely consistent with their Dogma.)
3. In the above calculus, I have considered only a single generation. The results of Coonerty’s Law over a period of a few generations appear even more dramatic. In brief, the law can only produce a breeding population of very “strange”-looking men mating with equally “strange”-looking women. In several generations, the statistical definition of ‘human’ will perforce change, and businesspeople wishing to play it safe will hire only the strangest of the strange, the weirdest of the weird. Ergo, Santa Cruz must eventually, by anti-Darwinian selection, take on the look of one of those “sinister and ill-regarded” hamlets in the terror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, where everybody looks vaguely ape-like, frog-like, fish-like or somehow inhuman (see e.g. “The Dunwich Horror” or “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”)
4. If you have jobs to offer or rooms to rent, the probability of a lawsuit against you will decrease as the number of “odd-looking” tenants or employees increases. Thus, under the “play it safe” rule, the more truly amazing-looking or nearly unbelievable tenants or employees you can find, the safer your legal position becomes.
Thus, within a generation, to attend to business, seek a profit and avoid interminable legal expenses and court appearances, you will do well to fill your premises not just with the somewhat “ugly” or mildly “unattractive,” but with the truly, hideously loathsome, and especially the “terrifying” and “eldritch” – i.e. with those who look as if they had in fact escaped from Lovecraft’s fantasy, or from Tales From The Crypt.
5. A paradox then arises. At the precise point when Santa Cruz does look like Horror Comix, the Coonerty law will encourage legal actions by those who appear (or think they appear) conspicuously gorgeous and/or handsome.
In simple logic, if everybody in Santa Cruz looks like a member of the Juke or Kallikak families, or the Addams Family, or a relative of Gill Man, a few Venuses and Adonises can argue plausibly thatgood-looking people have defacto become excluded from dwellings and jobs. These “movie star” types will have suffered “discrimination,” and they can sue. As we have seen, the Coonerty law (enacted) and the “play it safe” rule (un-enacted but omnipresent) will indeed discriminate against the comely, and the lawyers will gladly encourage them in fighting this “injustice.”
The increasingly subtle art of avoiding litigation under this law, it then seems, will consist of an initial strategy of hiring or renting to people who look creepy or crawly by ordinary standards, but to reverse this strategy and again hire some “normals” shortly before all Santa Cruz residents actually look like Godzilla and his sisters and his cousins and his aunts.
This requires extremely delicate judgment, and in any choice that requires extreme delicacy, lawyers will happily sue you for not having had quite enough delicacy to meet the “intent” of the law. You will never know if you have enough “Aliens” in your office to hire one “Sigourney Weaver” – or you will only find out when a lawsuit against you begins, and the lawyer for the plaintiff asks not only civil damages but $23,000,000 in punitive damages as well.
6. I have used extreme examples to illustrate one possibly defective aspect of this law, but average examples create even worse potential legal disputes. Thus:
“Beauty,” as we have all heard, “resides in the eye of the beholder.”
Two seemingly ordinary-looking people arrive to apply for a job you have advertised. Under the “when in doubt, play it safe” rule (always prudent and usually necessary for survival when dealing withpolitically correct governments), you try to decide which of the two might qualify as a little less attractive. The more unlike my previous grotesque examples these people seem to you, the harder your legal problem becomes. If candidate #1 seems fairly comely but 20 pounds overweight, does that outrank a huge hairy wart on the nose of otherwise-comely candidate #2? How many warts out-rank 30 pounds of weight?
Since the safest choice consists in always choosing the less appealing candidate, and since beauty, as noted, appears relative, the optimum solution, as Game Theory would call it, consists in obtaining a consensus. In other words, install a one-way glass wall in your office and hire a few random citizens to sit behind it and vote on which candidate appears a bit more unattractive. (These citizens could also testify for you, if litigation nonetheless results, to show that you at least made a sincere effort to avoid hiring good-looking people.)
The Coonerty law does not propose to pay business people for installing these walls of one-way glass and hiring independent “citizen judges.” This does not seem fair. Should not the city appropriate funds to pay for this, as an incentive to those who truly wish to follow the intent of the law, either out of altruism or just to avoid endless litigation, and as a partial compensation for the Judicial and other burdens this law will place on businesspersons?
7. The law does not specifically include smell as part of “personal appearance,” but most people do, in fact, notice odor and consider it in forming a judgement of job applicants or possible tenants. Lawyers will certainly insist that the intent of the law should include smell – it certainly seems that the law would have included smell if Coonerty had thought of that and, as I understand the legal mind, honest judges will have to agree with this viewpoint.
Once again, the change in Santa Cruz yields to mathematical analysis. Under the “when in doubt, play it safe” guideline to avoid litigation, businesspeople will tend to hire whoever smells less pleasing. Thus in one year, Santa Cruz will smell 1/20 less pleasant than at present, and in 20 years 100% worse than at present, etc.
This can only “level off” when the town takes on a general aroma of an open cesspool and businesses feel “safe” in now and then hiring one or two less malodorous employees. Meanwhile, it would appear prudent to buy a gas-mask.
8. When we turn to the matter of “sexual orientation,” the logical and legal problems multiply like microbes.
Contrary to folklore, nobody can judge another’s sexual preference by their appearance or “body language.” The most experienced interviewers from the Kinsey Institute, studying sexual behavior for decades, still find that they cannot guess, in advance, whether a subject’s life history will reveal an all-homosexual lifestyle, an all heterosexual lifestyle, or a mixture, which may run from 90% gay/10% straight to 10% gay/90% straight, or even to 99%/1% either way.
“When in doubt, play it safe” simply does not apply here. The employer will have to guess, and will guess wrong around half the time (as Kinsey interviewers do). The endless litigation can prove satisfying only to the Hon. Mr. Coonerty – and to the lawyers.
9. A way out exists if employers had the right to ask the sexual orientation of candidates, and prudently hire only those with unpopular or minority preferences, but this violates numerous State and Federal ordinances. In this area of law nobody has the right to ask, but under the Coonerty Ordinance all employers will have to guess (with penalties for guessing wrong).
We seem to have surpassed Kafka and arrived at the portals of George Orwell’s Ministry of Love. This does not appear at all like a Constitutional legal system but like a cruelly labyrinthine trap.
10. No rational person can seriously fear an increase in the number of masochists in Santa Cruz; masochists hurt nobody but themselves. But a law banning all forms of “discrimination” will also attract an influx of sadists, will it not?
How many new sadists does Mr. Coonerty wish to lure to our community?
How many sadists do the majority of us want?
Some may claim that the Coonerty Law does not mention sadists and “really intends” only to increase the number of gainfully employed homosexuals here. But the law does not single out homosexuals as some specially blessed group among all the sexual minorities, because if it did, it would conflict with State and Federal ordinances against such special group bias. Lawyers will quickly find it profitable to insist on what the law does exactly say.
(Meanwhile, we can expect some spectacular demonstrations, with signs like “A LITTLE DISCIPLINE NEVER HURT ANYBODY,” “NO GAIN WITHOUT PAIN” etc. and the inevitable chant, “Hey Hey Ho Ho Sadophobia Has To Go.”)
11. How many necrophiles do we really want? The Coonerty law opens the floodgates to them also.
12. I have no personal bias against people who want to have sex with toy poodles or dobermans, but what will the toy poodles and dobermans think about this?
Have the Animal Rights people had a chance to comment on this perplexing issue? Has the Hon. Coonerty given any effort to deciding the age of consent for dogs? For cats? For swine? For other animals?
In summary, the Coonerty law does not advantage ugly homosexuals only but all unpleasant-looking people with sexual “orientations” different from the majority. It will benefit, not just the groups already mentioned, but hunchbacked child molesters, dwarfish rapists, obese foot fetishists, pock-marked leather fetishists, etc. along with generally ugly suedeaphiliacs, deformed iguanaphiliacs, foul-smelling ichthyophiliacs etc. (See R Kraft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis.)
13. Considering these possible consequences of the Coonerty Law-all of them highly probable eventually, due to well-known propensities of the legal profession – we should perhaps take steps to make the image of Santa Cruz (although a weird one) appear more fey and whimsical (like St. Olaf’s on the TV comedy Golden Girls) than downright monstrous and nefarious (like Lovecraft’s demoniac towns, already mentioned).
(In other words, we will find it easier, in the long run, if nearby towns – and the nation as a whole – only regard Santa Cruz as ridiculous, rather than sinister. People laugh at the absurd, but often attack what they fear. )
To start with, we might order our police to abandon their present uniforms and dress in clown suits. We could also require that teachers in our schools, male and female, must wear those Groucho Marx comedy spectacles which give the wearer huge eyebrows, an astounding false nose of gigantic proportions and a bandito mustache. Statues of Salvadore Dali, say, and/or The Mad Hatter, Pooh Bear, Wile E. Coyote, The Three Stooges (in scuba diving suits) etc., outside each government building would also help create a ludicrous rather than a frightening ambience.
Removing the dull ruminations by DWPS (dead white politicians) from these buildings might also help our Comic, not sinister image, if we replace them with bits of bizarre or inscrutable humor-e.g. Keep the Lasagna Flying Proudly Over Capitola Mall, The Mome Rath Doesn’t Exist That Can Outgrabe Me, When Laws Are Outlawed Only Outlaws Will Have Laws, I Always Believe Three Impossible Things Before Breakfast, etc.
Most helpful of all, perhaps, the Township should consider the propriety of buying some adult standing a regal 8 feet high and allow them to mingle with the City Council during all important public hearings, bringing to our urgent municipal proceedings the absurd and pathetic dignity that only these giant wingless birds embody. The mad surrealist poetry of this legislative innovation should appeal to both Mr. Coonerty and Ms. Atkins, even if they prefer not to meditate too deeply on its possible symbolism.
14. Assuming that Jeffrey Dahmer’s lawyers somehow win him a parole, he would appear the ideal future Santa Cruz renter and employee. Once he announces, casually, “‘Oh, by the way, I like to sodomize little black boys and then cook them and eat them,” everybody will see him as Ideal Tenant and Ideal Worker, since his presence will in itself serve as a truly spectacular legal, logical and Public Relations argument against any charges of homophobia, sadophobia, necrophobia or miscellaneous “discrimination” that might later arise.
Other of Dahmer’s orientations will think of this and we expect them to arrive here soon. The politically correct may rejoice in this triumph of their odd logic, but how many others, who have not yet achieved full correctness, can sincerely share the rejoicing?
In none of the above have I considered the emigration of businesses away from Santa Cruz and the rising unemployment that will result. Nobody knows how many businesses will just move elsewhere, and I do not attempt to estimate. Perhaps many will stay, because of the lovely scenery and the climate in these parts. Let us hope so. Many, however, will prefer to leave rather than attempting to do business in this Kafka-like context, and we should – also ask, even if we cannot answer immediately, how much more unemployment do we really want?
I can only conclude with words attributed to Henry David Thoreau: If you scan the horizon and see a politician approaching with the intent to improve your morals, run for your life.
POSTSCRIPT: Nobody on the Santa Cruz City Council, except the Hon. Coonerty himself, saw fit to answer this communique. Public law prevents me from quoting Mr. Coonerty’s letter to me, but since paraphrase does not violate said law, I can say that Coonerty made no effort to win me to his position but merely suggested that I should bloody well go to hell and take my book on logic with me.