Gore Vidal, a class traitor of the best kind, died yesterday.
Born into a well-connected and politically influential family that could have opened doors to a patrician life, he became instead a populist outsider and a scathing critic of the politics of the US. He had wide-ranging interests, writing novels, essays, and screenplays and also acting in films, such as Gattacca where he was pretty good.
Because he had such a quick wit and never shied away from speaking his mind or picking a fight with those whom he despised, he was a much sought-after interviewee other than in the mainstream media in the US where sacred cows are carefully protected. It was always fun to read his essays or watch him being interviewed. Here he is in an interview in 2007 with The Real News Network (a wonderful alternative news source for those not aware of it) talking about politics and the media. The bit that struck me was when he said, “I’ve been around the ruling class all my life and I’ve been quite aware of their total contempt for the people of the country”, something that is becoming increasingly obvious.
Here are three examples about politics from a list of 26 quotes of his that give you a pretty good idea of his views:
“We should stop going around babbling about how we’re the greatest democracy on earth, when we’re not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic.”
“Every four years the naive half who vote are encouraged to believe that if we can elect a really nice man or woman President everything will be all right. But it won’t be.”
“Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.”
Here are some of his quotes about religion, my favorites being “The idea of a good society is something you do not need a religion and eternal punishment to buttress; you need a religion if you are terrified of death” and “I’m a born-again atheist.”
The Guardian has a good obituary.