aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Interlude ט: The General Assembly

And Satan stood up against them in the global environment.

December 14, 1972
New York City

“Ladies. Gentlemen. Mr. Secretary General.

We are a proud people. Like so many of the other fledgling countries represented here today, our national identity was forged in a struggle against imperialist aggression, and it was our pride that told us to continue fighting when all other counsel urged surrender. It is with that same pride that I stand before you today as the newest member of the United Nations, honored to at last be recognized as part of the world community.

I am not the monster you think. In my spare time, I play the violin competitively. I help blind children. I raise awareness of healthy plant-based foods. And my country? We are not your enemy. We are strange, yes. But we share the same values as all of you, the same drive to build a more just and equitable world.

What the American Dream is in fantasy, we are in reality. We accept everyone alike, regardless of race, color, or creed. We put up no barbed wire, we turn back no boats full of refugees. We take heart in the old words of Emma Lazarus: give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send them, your homeless, your tempest-tossed, to me. And send them you do, a tide of humanity struggling toward our gates with a desperation that puts Ellis Island to shame, and we turn none back, nay, not even the meanest. Especially not the meanest.

What the workers’ paradise of the Soviets aspires toward, we have reached. There are no class distinctions: slave is treated the same as sultan, stockbroker the same as sailor. The almighty dollar has been cast low; no one need worry about hunger or illness, nor shiver in the cold for want of a home. Private property has been abolished, yet none feel its want. Marx describes capitalist society as “everlasting uncertainty and agitation”, but within our borders precisely the opposite prevails.

We do not persecute dissidents. We do not censor the media. We do not pollute. We treat men and women equally. We allow the practice of any or no religion. We fund no terrorists. We build no bombs. Our criminal justice system is free from bias, and its punishments are always just.

No, we are not your enemy. There are those here who would accuse us of a campaign of subversion, of trying to found an empire. Nothing could be further from the truth. Other countries bully their neighbors into becoming puppets or satellite states with their tanks and bombs. We lead by example. Our way of life spreads, not by the sword, but the unleashed yearnings of millions of people around the world.

Sixteen years ago, Nikita Khruschev threw down the gauntlet of Cold War. ‘History is on our side!’ he said. ‘We will bury you!’ Ladies and gentlemen, I maintain that even the slightest familiarity with history suffices to prove it is on our side. We will not bury you. Yet when you are buried, as all men will be, many of you who now count yourself our foes will find you have been on our side without knowing it.

No, we are not your enemy. You say we are your enemy, you hope it is true, but in your heart you know it is not. We are allies to each of you. Every time there is a protest to be crushed, you have called upon us for assistance. Every time there is an election to be won, you have turned to us for advice. Every time there is a war to fight, you have asked for our aid. And we have never been stingy in granting it. All your glory you have built with our tools. Tools we were happy to lend at no cost, save the tiniest of sacrfices, one with no effect on gross national product, one that produces no trade deficit.

Ladies, gentlemen, Mr. Secretary-General. I have no enemies in this room. We have always been comrades in spirit. Now we are comrades in name as well. For this, I thank you.”

When Thamiel had finished speaking, he lingered for a moment at the podium, almost as if daring anyone to object. No one objected. His second head remained locked in its silent scream. Smoke twirled around him like buzzing flies, and his skin seemed rough with cancerous growths in the dim light of the chamber. But it wasn’t just fear that kept the ambassadors quiet. These were diplomats – that is, liars – and for just a moment they saw themselves as they were and paid obeisance to the Prince of Lies.

A sudden gust of scalding wind arose seemingly from nowhere, knocked two of the delegates apart from each other, scattered their nametags. A puff of brimstone in the middle, which cleared as quickly as it had arrived.

On the right, HAITI.

On the left, HONDURAS.

In the middle: HELL.

The nameplate was tastefully on fire.

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55 Responses to Interlude ט: The General Assembly

  1. Daniel Blank says:

    I understand the devil playing the violin competitively, but what are the blind children and plant-based foods referring to?

    Also, “Ladies, Gentlemen, and Mr. General Secretary” implies the third is neither.

    • Alex says:

      Plant-based foods I’m thinking are probably apples vis-à-vis Garden of Eden story.

      • Escapement says:

        This is actually a really good point. I still like my terrible pun suspicion, but this seems more likely.

        I think that this probably didn’t come to me immediately because I will forever associate the Serpent of Eden with Crowley from Good Omens rather than Satan per se.

      • Nornagest says:

        I was thinking “hail seitan”, but that might be a little precious even for Scott.

        • Anaxagoras says:

          When I moved out to Seattle, I leafed through a copy of the Stranger and saw an add for a vegan restaurant with that exact tag line. That told me everything I had to know about the area.

    • nightpool says:

      I think that was supposed to be grammatically ambiguous—does he help children which are blind (adjatiave), or does he help take sight away from children (verb)?

    • Kyre says:

      “blind children” may not be a noun phrase here

    • Deiseach says:

      I think that’s the usual form of address when making a speech. To quote Debretts:

      The following list gives the form in which important guests should be included in a preamble in order of precedence:

      Your Royal Highness
      My Lord Mayor (My Lord Provost, etc)
      Mr Recorder (outside London)
      Mr Chairman of the …… County Council (outside Greater London)
      My Lord Chancellor
      Prime Minister (or, more formally, Mr. Prime Minister)
      Your Excellency (ies) (this refers to Ambassadors and High Commissioners)
      Your Grace(s)
      My Lord(s)
      Ladies and Gentlemen

      “Helping blind children” could be a reference to Matthew 15:14 “Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit”.

    • AnthonyC says:

      I was wondering if blind might be a verb rather than an adjective – physically (not sure of the reference) or spiritually (blind to god’s light).

    • duckduckMOO says:

      his other head was a screaming baby head with its eyes closed

      • duckduckMOO says:

        Maybe it represents the impulse to rail against reality, and DESTROY. (to “defect” against reality itself)

  2. David says:

    These were diplomats, that is, liars, and for just a moment they saw themselves as they were and paid obeisance to the Prince of Lies.

    This evokes The Devil and Daniel Webster. The whole sentence does, now that I think about it, but I originally started writing this because of the first part. At some level of abstraction that I find it hard to explain, it FITS. (Also, the second bit of the sentence is sort of dual to this part: “And when Dan’l Webster finished he didn’t know whether or not he’d saved Jabez Stone. But he knew he’d done a miracle. For the glitter was gone from the eyes of judge and jury, and, for the moment, they were men again, and knew they were men.”)

    Was this intentional?

  3. Escapement says:

    This is pretty funny.

    >I play the violin competitively. I help blind children. I raise awareness of healthy plant-based foods.

    The Devil Went Down to Georgia is the obvious reference for the first bit. Seitan is a terrible pun and therefore I suspect it for the third. I am not getting the second reference for the blind children. Thoughts?

    • Perhaps that he helps in the process of, you know, blinding children? But perhaps I’m missing something.

      Seitan seems plausible but uncertain for that one.

      • Escapement says:

        The most googleable for Satan blinding people I can find is the following:

        Acts 13:10-11:

        Then he said, “You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? 11 Watch now, for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” Instantly mist and darkness came over the man’s eyes, and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him.

        2 Corinthians 4:4

        The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

        Neither feels wholly satisfactory.

        • jes5199 says:

          “For though Satan blinds the children of this world with their delights and desires, so that they take no pleasure in the doctrine of salvation, we ought not to wallow in the same sty along with them.”

          John Calvin
          Letter to the French Church of Antwerp
          December 21st, 1556

    • Miriam says:

      Perhaps he is using blind as a verb, in the sense that he helps make children blind?

    • fubarobfusco says:

      Not just seitan.

      Kale seitan.

    • John Wentworth says:

      Definitely something there, but I’m not seeing it.

    • El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing says:

      Thamiel in Kabbalah is ruled by Satan who is often considered equivalent to the archangel Samael who also sounds kinda like the Thamiel anyway. Another name for Satan or Samael is Lucifer aka Morningstar aka Lightbringer who is often identified as a Promethean figure offering forbidden knowledge to humanity, archetypally as fire—note the flaming nameplate. The “children” are primitive people “blind” in their ignorance, and Thamiel is—for better or worse—opening their eyes. Seems a pretty obvious reference to me, but then again I’m one of the Devil’s Own.

      • Ryan W. says:

        I know very little about Kabbalah, but isn’t the conflation of Satan with Lucifer a Christian invention? In Judiasim, I understood Lucifer to be an ancient king who sought to set himself up above God, while the Satan was an angel who was the enemy of humanity (but not an enemy of God.)

        Samael was the Demiurge and a gnostic invention who influenced Helenic and preHelenic Judaism, as well as Christianity. Samael (blind god) represented the notion that the creator-god was a force of evil (and this notion is often used as part of an attack on traditional Judiasm, though some aspects of gnostic philosophy seem to have been adopted by some Jews)

        … am I missing something?

  4. Electrace says:

    Tools we were happy to lend at no cost, save the tiniest of sacrfices, one with no effect on gross national product, one that produces no trade deficit.

    So… souls?

  5. Yossarian says:

    >I raise awareness of healthy plant-based foods.

    Here we have another proof that Thamiel is Cain, the first vegetarian of the world.

  6. Arancaytar says:

    > I help blind children.

    Wait, does he mean that he helps children who are blind?

  7. Arancaytar says:

    Also, reading this in the email at first, I got “we are your enemy” instead of “we are not your enemy”. This is definitely a coincidence.

  8. Madbranch says:

    This might be a bit of a longshot, but among many lines containing the word “blind” in Babylonian Talmud is “Since the Temple was destroyed, capital punishments were abolished by Israel, and therefore to make a man blind was to make him dead to the world.”. Now then most of the people are sinners, and when they die, they would fall under Thamiel’s rule, so if anyone would be in a position to help them, it would him. Now of course Devil isn’t really helping the dead, … but then again, he is the Father of Lies.

    On the other hand, he could be, as the common theory in the comments so far goes, helping to blind people. Which should be taken metaphorically of course, he is blinding them, so they don’t see how wrong following him is …

    • Walter says:

      “Which should be taken metaphorically of course”

      Should it tho? Thamiel seems EXACTLY like the kind of guy who gives you a bomb squad when you presume he sent a bomb removal squad. When he says that he helps blind children I take him at his word.

  9. I help blind children.

    I had no problem understanding this one, but just earlier today I checked the front page of reddit and saw this.

    Blah blah blah coins sigh dance blah blah blah code innocence.`

  10. Quixote says:

    Another great interlude. Thanks!

  11. gwern says:

    And here I thought Hugo Chavez was going to stand up and denounce Thamiel as Satan, noting the whiff of sulfur.

  12. dsotm says:

    The secretary is a angel ? a demon as a concession to the new member nation ?

  13. g says:

    “Many of you who now count yourself our foes will find you have been on our side without knowing it” must be (besides the very general thing it is) a specific allusion to Blake’s description of Milton as “of the devil’s party without knowing it”.

  14. Is the Hellish embassy to the UN at 666 Fifth Avenue?

  15. Dido says:

    From chapter 17: “The kabbalists identify the worst demon, the nadir of all demons, as Thamiel, whose name means “duality in God”. Two is dissonance, divorce, division, dilemmas, distance, discrimination, diabolism.”
    This interlude: These were diplomats – that is, liars – and for just a moment they saw themselves as they were and paid obeisance to the Prince of Lies.

  16. hnau says:

    I like it. Very Screwtape.

  17. Cakoluchiam says:

    The suspense of this chapter was a bit spoiled when I had to read ahead to figure out what voice to read it in, since my gf and I are reading it aloud to each other. It might be well served by reformatting at least the first part in transcript form for the benefit of an audio version, and only switching to the speaker’s voice for the last paragraph, by which point it is either already obvious to the listener or close enough to the punchline that it can be considered part of the reveal.

  18. Hitler was a vegetarian.

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