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the sleep of reason

by Michael Swanwick

with illustrations by
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes


47. [Plate 50]
The Donkey Method

Dear Aspiring Politician:

Throughout history, it has been self-evident that to get ahead in politics requires that you emulate the most successful politicians and statesmen of the age. An unhurried analysis of the great men of our own era, unfortunately, demonstrates that they are all — President Prick most emphatically included — asses. You, however, are not an ass. To what possible political future, then, can you aspire? Are you condemned by your very virtues to a life of obscurity?

Relax. The Leadership Skills Attainment Foundation of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, is proud to announce its new six-week leadership seminar and training program, utilizing a radically innovative approach we call the Donkey Method.

Here's how it works:

We begin by sewing shut your eyelids. This sounds painful, but is not. The operation is performed under local anesthesia. For the duration of the course, you will see only vague and indistinct shapes, in soft and lovely pastels.

Then we securely muffle your ears. So vital is this to the program that we then clamp enormous locks over the mufflers. You absolutely must not listen to anything but what we tell you.

Finally, we fit you with a heavy lead jacket, to discourage you from taking any individual actions, and promote the passive, almost helpless stance of the contemporary politico.

It's as simple as that! For six weeks, we tell you what's going on and what to think about it. We plan your day, and we look after your needs. We spoon-feed you your meals, and your picture of reality.

By the end of the course, you'll accept anything we put into your mouth.

But wait! you say. What's been described so far sounds like a madhouse. Indeed. And if you were required to sum up the current political scene in a single word, you would say that it was a…?

Exactly so.

This is the beauty of the Donkey Method. Unlike other leadership training courses, it prepares you for a life in politics not as it should be, but as it is.

Nor does our commitment to our students end in the classroom. Our agents and lobbyists will keep in regular touch with you as you climb the ladder to the highest reaches of the political machine, guiding and directing your every thought and move.

Examine your reactions to what you've read so far. If you have any hesitation whatsoever about the wisdom of committing to our course, then you need the Donkey Method!


John Harken, CEO

The Leadership Skills Attainment Foundation of Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

"Give Us Your Money. Then Do What You're Told."


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This is the 47th of 80 stories by Michael Swanwick written to accompany Francisco Goya's Los Caprichos. For a listing of the most recently available stories, go to The Sleep of Reason.

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