You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
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"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

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"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

November 12, 2006

Our Kampf

Within the next few weeks, Mike Gerber and I will be putting out a collection of our humor pieces from the New Yorker, Atlantic, NY Times, Saturday Night Live and our computers' hard drives. For obvious reasons, it will be called Our Kampf.

Below is one of my favorite pieces from the book, written for the 4th of July, 2002. If you read this site regularly, you'll see that every post that's ever appeared here has been a less sophisticated version of this.

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Declaration of Independence

The unanimous Declaration of the world's Normal People (we know who we are),

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for the Normal People of this Planet to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with their Leaders, and to give getting along without Leaders a real Shot, courtesy requires that we should declare the causes of this long-overdue separation, just so we're all on the same page.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Leaders are a pretty dodgy proposition -- That even the best ones are Self-Absorbed Primadonnas, and the rest are seriously Craze-o Lunatics -- That Normal People have the right to tell their Leaders "…see Ya, wouldn't want to be Ya" -- That to secure this right of being left alone, we should set up a special Island to which all Leaders can be sent, so that they can bicker, and posture, and pursue the Phantom of Eternal Fame amongst themselves without Injuring all the rest of us -- That this Island could maybe, this is just off the top of our heads you understand, be like Epcot Center, with the whole world in miniature so the Leaders could conquer it and lose it and bend it to their Mighty Will and lose it again, and generally Ruin It to their hearts' content, without bothering Us. Prudence indeed will dictate that the long-established Idea of having Leaders should not be changed for light or transient Causes, but, come on. We've given this concept plenty of Time, at least 8,000 years, and it's for the birds. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

The world's Leaders have somehow convinced us that we are all on different Teams, sort of, and that they are the rightful captains of these Teams.

They have tried to weld us together by constantly harping on our Team's Great and Glorious Destiny, assuming that we, like them, give a shit. In lower voices, they assure us that we will be in Big Trouble if we don't do exactly as they Say.

They have persuaded us to try to kill members of the other Teams, instead of following our natural instinct, which is to indulge our curiosity about whether people from different countries have discovered any new Sex Tricks, or have Better Food.

They have gotten us to go on ludicrously dangerous missions against the other Teams, while they remain safely behind at their Impregnable Mountain Redoubts. This has insured that the people responsible for starting Wars always survive, and can't wait to start the Next One.

They have started innumerable, catastrophic conflicts to, for example, impress some Girl that rejected them in High School, or to prove to their Mother that they're just as successful as their Older Brother. Read their Biographies if you don't believe Us.

They've informed us that they've talked to God, and that He agrees with them Completely.

They have made our laws so complicated that, while we know we're being Screwed, we can never figure out Exactly How.

They think that we're Fascinated by them, despite the fact that, by steadily reducing our voting rate for The past fifty years, we keep giving them a resolute and obvious Hint.

In every stage of these Oppressions we have humbly petitioned for redress by bitching among ourselves, reading the paper with a weary cynicism, and laughing at the opening monologues on late night television. We have even allowed Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football. The cost is finally too dear, and we need a new Strategy.

We, therefore, the Normal People of this Planet, who don't care who's on the money, or think that anybody will (or should) remember any of us in 500 years, do solemnly publish and declare that all the world's Leaders are hereby relieved of their positions; that our feeling is, enough already with the Jihads and the Crusades and Glorious Struggles and Finest Hours; that we believe we will be much better off without them, relying for our safety instead on our inability to organize a three-person trip to 7-Eleven, much less sustained armed conflict; that it's time to get this Leader Island idea off the ground; that if, once the Leaders have been sent to the Island, any of us develop Leader-tendencies, we will encourage such Persons to develop a Hobby, or get them a Date with somebody Nice, and this will help them remember what's important. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our dearest Hope that we can finally get some Peace and Quiet. We are not Kidding.

Posted at November 12, 2006 11:46 AM | TrackBack

John McCain was on Meet The Press this morning. It never ends. Thank G-d for rum & coke.

Posted by: Lloyd at November 12, 2006 12:20 PM

This is almost exactly the plot of "Atlas Shrugged," except that Ayn Rand predicted that removing all of the world's leaders (captains of industry) would make things worse, not better. As a somewhat normal person (certainly not a leader), I tend to agree with you.

Posted by: Bob at November 12, 2006 12:37 PM

They have started innumerable, catastrophic conflicts to, for example, impress some Girl that rejected them in High School, or to prove to their Mother that they’re just as successful as their Older Brother. Read their Biographies if you don’t believe Us.

Does this part refer to specific people? Please provide names!

Posted by: Dayv at November 12, 2006 01:00 PM

You are a traitor to the Nation.

Posted by: abb1 at November 12, 2006 01:09 PM

This is terrifyingly libertarian, Jon. Be careful wherefore you tread-- generalities kill.

Posted by: Sully at November 12, 2006 01:09 PM

those poor dears at the Epcot Center-esque Leadership Institute. They'll need some entertainment. Can we give them all the car alarms and 50-calibre rifles?

Posted by: hedgehog at November 12, 2006 03:42 PM

What do folks have against libertarians? If Harry Browne had been elected prezident in 2000 we wouldn't be in Iraq now and the Bill of Rights would be intact.
P.S.: Generals have killed a lot more than have generalities.

Posted by: Lloyd at November 12, 2006 05:48 PM

I don't think I qualify as a normal person, but I still want to hang out on YOUR island.

Posted by: Susan at November 12, 2006 06:33 PM

LLoyd: You're probably right, but Harry Browne didn't have even ONE vote on the Supreme Court.

Posted by: Bob at November 12, 2006 10:14 PM


But EVERYONE is driven by forces implanted in their tender psyches when young. I deal with mine on a regular basis. The leadership position just amplifies this and makes it more destructive.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at November 13, 2006 12:54 AM

And I forgot to mention this...

Jonathan, how dare you rip off Socrates, and try to place it in the context of droll humour!

" fight with one another about shadows only and are distracted in the struggle for power, which in their eyes is a great good. Whereas the truth is that the State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best and most quietly governed, and the State in which they are most eager, the worst."

Posted by: En Ming Hee at November 13, 2006 01:05 AM
What do folks have against libertarians? If Harry Browne had been elected prezident in 2000 we wouldn't be in Iraq now and the Bill of Rights would be intact.

Well, yes, but at the risk of starting a fight: the same could be said if Gore had been elected in 2000. Also: many libertarians are selfish assholes. (Although obviously not you, dear Lloyd.)

Please don't kill me!

Me likee the essay, BTW.

Posted by: Ben in VA at November 13, 2006 05:01 PM

I'm sorry to have to say this, but I'm afraid that it is true: If Gore had been elected(Excuse me! He was elected!) make that inaugurated, he would not have had a chance to start a war. It would have come to him. I do not mean to offend anyone, but the reality is that many people in the Middle East hate Jews. If you think the attacks of 9-11-01 were bad, Heaven help us if Leiberman had been vice-president. BUT Osama Bin Laden and his entire outfit would have been behind bars long ago.
Your piece is very funny and I agree with your assessment of libertarians, but it is not just Leaders who start wars and take away liberties.

Posted by: Connie at November 14, 2006 01:06 AM


While it's true that Leaders aren't the only ones who start wars, that's not really the point of this piece. Plus, I don't think that you can say that the Iraq war would have fallen into Gore/Lieberman's hands; after all, I think they would have realized that when you're attacked, you should retaliate against the people who attacked you (al Qaeda), not some other unrelated group (Iraq).

Posted by: Ben in VA at November 14, 2006 09:22 AM

*sniff* ... that's beautiful, man. I felt myself getting all teary. As I read, I could feel myself starting to hum something stirring under my breath, in the neighbourhood of DeSouza. Inspirational words.

Posted by: WCG at November 15, 2006 07:34 PM

Ben, I agree completely. That is why Osama Bin Laden would have been history by now. Let's look forward to some new leaders. You see, you can never find an island big enough. As soon as one crop is taken away, a new crop will take over.
Bob, loved your comment about the Supreme Court. It took me a while to get it. Very funny.

Posted by: Connie at November 17, 2006 01:44 AM