Monday, June 4, 2012

Part Twenty-Six, Chapter Seven - Delbert John Rockecenter

I have a hunch this is the most important chapter in the book.

An "apelike" guard marches Gris out the building and around town to purchase a bag of popcorn and a quart of goat's milk, only to return Gris to the building and pass him off to another guard.  It's all for a stupid, one-sentence gag five-and-a-half pages from now, but takes up five paragraphs.

Gris runs the security gauntlet, passing through barricades featuring manned machine guns, enduring frisking and X-ray searches for poison capsules in his teeth or surgically-implanted bombs.  His gun's serial numbers are phoned in ("weapon has not been used in the assassination of heads of state lately") and his identity is run through the FBI database ("not wanted yet").  He gets fingerprints and photos taken and shredded.  And then he passes through the Chief Psychologist, who examines the bumps on Gris' head before approving him.

Satire means accusing scientists of using methods discredited fifty years ago.

Gris gets stripped, disinfected, has a blood sample taken from him, and is then brought before a girl to decide which identifying badge he should get, because otherwise Mr. Rockecenter won't know who he is.  He's certainly no King and doesn't qualify for Hit Man of the Year, and unfortunately the lady's all out of Unwanted Guest passes.  So Gris goes with Undercover Operator Up for Promotion to Family Spy for lack of a better option.

Finally, he's ushered into the presence of the most powerful man on the planet. 

There was an arched church door on the other side of the office.  The ape-man pushed me through it.

I was in an enormous room.  It had a vaulted ceiling of cathedral height.  It had saint niches with votive candles burning under each saint.  The statues were all of Delbert John Rockecenter.  There was a big desk--actually an altar.

He was not, however, sitting at his desk.  He was in a gilded throne chair,

As opposed to a throne hammock.  Ugh.

staring at a wall I could not see.  Ah, I thought, Delbert John Rockecenter was deep in thought, sorting out the cares of the world with his mighty brain.

I was pushed further into the room.  Then I saw what he was looking at.  It was a one-way mirror.  On the other side of it was the dressing room and toilet of chorus girls.  They were taking off their costumes and getting into even scantier costumes.  They were also going to the toilet.

It's explained shortly that Rockecenter is inspecting his girls for pregnancy, because he hates babies.  "You've heard of my abortion and infanticide programs, of course.  Got to keep the population down.  Riffraff!"  And as we all know, abortion and infanticide are the easiest and most cost-effective ways of avoiding unwanted pregnancy. 

So is Rockecenter a villain because he advocates abortion over, say, contraceptives, or is he a villain because he meets Hubbard's requirement of migraine-inducing stupidity?

But let's rewind a bit and get a look at the man himself.

Delbert John Rockecenter became aware that somebody had entered his office.  He leaped forward, turned and glared.  He was a tall man, past middle age, not much hair.  His features were unmistakeably those of a Rockecenter--a cross between a politician and a hungry hawk.  But it was hard to tell.  The whole cathedral office illumination was red.

"Can't you see I'm having my afternoon snack!" he roared at us.

"I brought it," said the ape-man, holding out the popcorn and goat's milk.

Gris had to sit through the Rockecenter family history a few chapters ago but knows what the clan looks like, even though he can't really tell what Rockecenter looks like due to the lighting, which is one of the first things most people would have commented upon after entering a chamber bathed in a blood-red glow but here it is saved for last.

Oh yeah, the goat's milk?  It's because Rockecenter thinks it made Gandhi such a great world leader.  Laugh, dammit!

Once he finishes his snack and inspecting his girls for pregnancy, presumably by somehow doing a urine test through the mirror, Rockecenter and Gris get to talking.  Rockecenter immediately decides "Inkswitch" (did I mention that's Gris' alias?  Well, that's Gris' alias) is trying out for the post of family spy, and Gris runs with it, bluffing that he's one of Rockecenter's undercover men and dropping lots of names heard in conversations over the past few chapters.  Then he gets down to business, describing for the third time this Part the threat of Heller's new cheap fuel source.  After assuring Rockecenter that the inventor can't be bought off, the energy magnate decides that murder is the only solution.

Then he takes a moment to help Gris take the oath as his new family spy:

"One: Competition strangles the free enterprise system.  Two: The world must continue to believe that as long as D. J. Rockecenter owns everything, they are safe from destructive rivalries.  Three: Governments must continue to understand that as long as they do as D. J. Rockecenter orders, they will have plenty of conflicts.

Oh yeah, governments love conflicts.  We're having a roaring good time in Afghanistan, and only reluctantly left Iraq a year or so ago.  We're just itching for an excuse to dive head-first into Syria.  The only reason we haven't invaded Russia yet is a shortage of long underwear.

"Four: The Banks must continue to know that as long as D. J. Rockecenter makes a profit, nobody else matters.

What, even the bankers?

"Five: We stand for democracy so long as it doesn't get in the way of communism.

But wouldn't the elimination of private property royally screw over a monopolist businessman?

"Six: The population must be educated in the need of euthanasia and wholesale abortion, and cooperate in its own humanocide.

Why?  How does that benefit you?  Why do you want fewer customers?  Or is the threat of one interest taking over the planet not considered enough by this author, who decided to add the danger of bodily harm and human extinction?

"Seven: Only what is good for D. J. Rockecenter is good for everybody.

This is stupid.

"Eight: D. J. Rockecenter is the only family member that matters.

This should be easy enough to follow, since we haven't met any others yet.

"And nine: Trust nobody.  I hereby faithfully swear to see that these policies are rammed down everybody's throat, so help me, Rockecenter."

So that's done.  Mr. Bury comes it on cue to turn white when Rockecenter mentions that the newest threat is named Jerome Terrance Wister.  But Gris winks to the guy - well, "closed my right eye to Bury out of Rockecenter's sight" - and assures his new boss that Bury probably hasn't heard of this new student.  Gris suggests that Wister/Heller is going to show off his new fuel during a racing event, so in response Rockecenter assigns Bury to hire Heller a public relations man, which even confuses Gris.

He said, "Ride this thing!  Get on it and pump!  Ride this until you (bleep) it all up.  Understood?"

Nnnnot really, no.  But Bury nods and is dismissed, even while Gris notes the startling similarity in behavior between Rockecenter and Lombar Hisst.  No sooner does he think that than Rockecenter strolls over to step onto a balcony, and look out as "Evening was sweeping the city which, like the planet, he owned."  Rockecenter explains that he's actually a modest man who's been recently reassured by his foundation of doctors that he's immortal, and as such doesn't need to get married and doesn't want a son for "competition."

Obviously a daughter wouldn't be suitable competition, and of course Rockecenter hasn't considered undergoing a little snippity-snip that will ensure that he'll never have to worry about progeny again.

He looked at his watch.  He looked up.  An ecstatic expression came over his face.  "Don't you hear the harp music?  It happens every day at this time.  Now listen!  Listen carefully!"

He paused.  Bliss bathed his face.  "There!  Right on time!  There it was!  Ah, what beautiful words!  'The one true god is Delbert John Rockecenter!'"

So what, no crooked businessman's tried to secure a global monopoly without assuming he's a god?  Is there no compromise?  Maybe someone corners a market and thinks he's a quasideity?

He turned and rushed to his desk.  He came back holding a pen and a piece of paper on a golden tablet.  "Oh, I'm so glad to have another witness!  Sign this attestation please."

I signed but I felt the world was spinning around me.

Audio hallucination!  Paranoid schizophrenia!  Megalomania!

Remember, psychology is a quack pseudoscience, except when used to diagnose the insanity of the book's villains.

Just like Lombar!

Delbert John Rockecenter was a stark, raving lunatic!

I was working for TWO crazy men!

Or the same character copy-and-pasted onto two different locations.  Yes, the "crazy boss" revelation at the end of The Invaders Plan was so good that Hubbard did it again.

Let's also take a moment to appreciate the staggering irony of having a villainous businessman who thinks he's a god and has his office set up like a cathedral, in a book written by someone who tried to start his own religion as part of his quest for tax-exempt income.

I'm pretty sure Hubbard identifies the most with Jettero Heller, but I don't think that's the character he most closely resembles.

Back to Part Twenty-Six, Chapter Six

1 comment:

  1. Honestly, I always figured Hubbard set up his fake religion as a twisted sick joke to see if he could make people believe it and his descriptions of Rockecenter and Hist only made me think that even more.