June 11, 2009

Speech (1)

Excepts from a commencement address given by Kurt Vonnegut in 1978 (via secret genius)

We are so lonely because we don’t have enough friends and relatives. Human beings are supposed to live in stable, like-minded, extended families of fifty people or more. In Nigeria it’s common for Ibos to have a thousand relatives who know them quite well. When a baby is born, it is taken on a long trip, so it can meet all it’s relatives. This sort of thing is still quite common in Europe today, although the number one-thousand is far too high for there. When we or our ancestors came to America, though, we were agreeing, among other things, to do without such families. It is a painful unhuman agreement to make. Emotionally, it is hideously expensive.

Marriages are collapsing in this country because our families are too small. A man cannot be a whole society to a woman and a woman cannot be a whole society to a man. We try, but it is scarcely surprising that so many of us go to pieces.

In an extended family, anybody can bug out of his or her own house for months, and still be among relatives. Nobody had to go on a hopeless quest for friendly strangers, which is what many Americas try to do.

So I recommend that everybody here join all sorts of organizations, no matter how ridiculous, simply to get more people in his or her life. It does not matter much if all the other members are morons. Quantities of relatives of any sort are what we need.

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