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L. Neil Smith's
Number 530, August 2, 2009

"They don't read it,
they can't vote on it."

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Do Idiots Dream of Organic Dogs?
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Although I've made a number of successful predictions myself—something people seem to expect of science fiction writers whether it's appropriate or not—my metaphorical tinfoil propellor beanie is off to the late Philip K. Dick, who really nailed it when he wrote about Americans' deeply pathological attitude toward animals in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a subtheme that was conspicuously blue-penciled when the movie Blade Runner was adapted from the short story.

In the story, in a manner that reminded me of the masturbatory sequences in Fahrenheit 451, people lavished more love and attention on their pets than they did on each other—from whom they seemed helplessly and hopelessly estranged—and possessing an animal of your own was so socially important that people were willing to settle for electromechanical sheep, rather than be without an infrahuman life companion.

I suppose all this was supposed to point up the guilt everyone felt for destroying all but a tiny and dimininishing little strip of the planet. Shrinks simply adore Dick's work, and so do the shrinkly inclined. Guilt toward other people alienated them from one another. Guilt toward the natural world made them want to hug and cuddle the nearest squirrel or raccoon incapable of defending itself, begging them for a forgiveness that mere animals could neither comprehend or deliver. The whole situation was created, of course, through the irrational phenomenon of collective guilt. No surviving human had pushed the button, they had had it pushed on them and were victims quite as legitimately as all the bears and the birds on Wolverton Mountain.

But along the way, however tortuous, Dick put his finger on an American weakness exactly as Walt Disney had, quite accidentally, in a different way a generation earlier. Take them away from the forest or the farm or the mountains or the prairie for just a few decades, and good Americans turn into something so pathetic, so worthy of contempt, that words fail even someone like yours truly who has written three million of them in the vitally human cause of self-defense and self- reliance.

They turn into ... Europeans.

I grew up in the Air Force, a Boy Scout from Bear at 8 to Eagle at 15. My father had grown up fatherless, himself, so he brought me and my younger brother up as best he could without a role model, hunting, fishing, gutting and skinning our own kill and then cooking and eating it all through the winter, or as long as it lasted. (The trout never seemed to last very long.) Thanks to the Scouts, to my dad, and to the many Strategic Air Command and Northeast Air Command survival schools he attended, there's hardly a furry or scaly critter that moves across the North American continent, or a green plant or fungus I haven't at least tasted once. Quite surprisingly, most of them are absolutely delicious, a quality that I happily attribte to having evolved as an omnivore.

On the other paw, at no time, no matter how artfully similar organisms were written, no matter how appealingly they were drawn, no matter how cutely they were voiced, did I ever confuse cartoon characters with the real thing. Exactly like any kid, I loved Bambi and Thumper and Flower—especially Flower, but that's probably just me.

But they were drawings, created in the mind of a man—I could have learned to do it myself, with enough practice (I spent a whole year drawing Victorian submarines and giant squids)—living a very different life than their real world counterparts in a much crueller world. They could think, after a fashion (I'd had dogs and cats, so I was pretty sure of that), but they couldn't reason and they couldn't talk.

They were property in LeFevrian philosophy mostly lost, stolen, or unclaimed. They weren't people, so they didn't have rights. We loved them as we loved our stuffed koalas and '56 Impala coupes. We all pretended they had rights so that we could think better of ourselves, but animals are property. You didn't have to tell that to any kid in the 4H in McQueeny, Texas, or Salina, Kansas, or Gifford, Illinois, or St. John's, Newfoundland, or the grapevines of Sacramento where I grew up.

A farm kid might maintain a pig or a sheep or a calf as a pet for a long time, but when that time was up, off it went to be converted into ribs or chops or steaks. The chickens, turkeys, and nasty geese we took care of ourseves. The rabbits too. Though there might be a few tears the first couple of times, we all looked forward to Sunday dinner.

And if need be, we could all shoot our own dog.

Which brings us to the point of this exercise. Famed professional basketball player Michael Vick got himself convicted a couple of years ago under a law that should never have been written in what purports to be a free and culturally diverse nation. No representative in a free country would have written or introduced it. No freedom-loving legislator would have given it a moment's attention. No judge would have let the prosecutor leave the courtroom without fining him for contempt.

It seems that Mr. Vick was engaged with other dangerous criminals in the vile crime of breeding and training dogs—animals, property, with no rights—to fight each other to the death. This is a sport that has been going on for as long as men have had dogs. Money changed hands on the outcome and a good time was had by all, even the dogs who survived.

I've seen the same thing done with scorpions.

Is that a crime?

Is dog-fighting a sport I would cross the street to see? No it is not. Do I dislike animals? No, I've had kitties and doggies and bunnies and parrots and hampsters and tortoises and horned toads all my life. My current alpha-male feline sometimes thinks that he's my boss, and sometimes I let him. He sits beside me all day as I write. We are, both of us, lifelong, dedicated, unapologetic predators. He loves me, but that wouldn't keep him from eating me if I were dead. I love him, but that wouldn't stop me from cooking him if my family were starving.

Maybe we failed to catch Osama bin Laden because the authorities had their heads in a hole and their asses sticking up high in the air. Michael Vick was railroaded by a mob of sanctimonious, inorgasmic, hypocritical lowlives who know nothing about the real world and should have nothing to say about happens to this remarkable athlete until they give up wearing leather shoes and eating meat they bought in a store.

And even then, to hell with them.

And the best of luck to Michael Vick.

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of more than 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas is currently running as a free weekly serial at

Neil is presently at work on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Where We Stand: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis with his daughter, Rylla.

See stunning full-color graphic-novelizations of The Probability Broach and Roswell, Texas which feature the art of Scott Bieser at Dead-tree versions may be had through the publisher, or at where you will also find Phoenix Pick editions of some of Neil's earlier novels. Links to Neil's books at are on his website


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