“Speaking of shutting the door,” said Count Victor Justin, “I think that temperance pests should mind their own business. And what about Suffragettes? They demand equal rights, yet they also insist on being treated like Ladies. That there’s a case of having your cake and eating it too. That kind of thinking comes from having a sheltered childhood, and no real notion of how the world really works. A mind addicted to platitudes is no guarantee of any journey to a safe passage. Far from it! In self-defense, these wooly-minded frauds band together and seek to oppress people who are actually better than them, all things considered. I never saw a drunk who forced his attentions on any Salvation Army tambourine-shaker; nor any pimp who solicited a bicycle-riding, bloomer-wearing Lucy Stone. All these people have skeletons in their own closets; of that you can be sure. What about the old lady with a sneaking fondness for Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, which is loaded to the gills with both morphine and alcohol? What about the Suffragette who, all her life, had men defer to her–then all of a sudden, she emerges from her girlish larval state as a shrieking hag making unreasonable demands on all the hapless menfolk?
“You won’t find this kind of nonsense in Blowtown. People are realistic here,” said Count Victor Justin, addressing the drunks assembled at the bar of Tipsy Smith’s Seven Stars Saloon, “and we always know who our friends are. It’s not like life among the rich and well-off, where alliances are shifty. No, it’s a matter of survival for a poor person to always know who will watch out for him. One individual the slum-dweller has cause to be leery of is the Policeman on the beat. He means them no good. That is why they stand in solidarity agin him. But it ill behooves a denizen of the lower depths to glorify their villains and yet at the same time complain when one of them gets killed by said lawmen. I’m no pal of the copper, but I say that it’s a fact that you can’t have it both ways. You can’t tell all the kiddies that the badman, the b’hoy, and the thug are all great big men who ought to be respected, yet at the same time, when the police kill an armed robber, you say that the filth has done done him wrong. That ain’t logical. No one gets in this racket expecting to come out alive.
“That’s why slum-dwellers stay where they are. They never learned to stop and think. Not a one of them. They live in the eternal today. Not a thought in their head, and certainly not a thought for tomorrow. And all their yesterdays are forgotten, unless, perchance, it is to remember some Yellof that done them dirt. Once you live in that filth of the ghetto, and have breathed its foul contagion your whole life, you never lose your taste for it. You come to find out that clean food tastes funny; that fresh air lacks character, and that clean water tastes of nothing. Much better to eat slop, and to breathe soot, and to swill rotgut booze. And yet slum-dwellers are surprisingly persnickety when it comes to the truth. If you tell them that one of their cherished beliefs passed down through the generations just isn’t so, they will simply refuse to believe you.
“One thing the slums are good for is extinguishing all hope for something better. People there are so beaten down that they don’t want you to succeed. Try telling people you plan to be an artist of some kind, and here is what they’ll generally say: ‘Maybe you should devote your time and energy to doing something useful,’ or ‘Art is all very well and good but there’s no money in it,’ or ‘Art is a load of codswallop. Haven’t you learned yet that it’s all a stupid game?’ They’ll say, ‘I dunno. Sounds pretty half-baked to me, Kiddo. And I’ve been around; I know things.’ They’ll also say, ‘Why can’t you be like the rest of the world and keep your big mouth shut?’
“No, the world got no use for a dreamer–unless he’s asleep–like everybody else.
“They’ll do their damndest to discourage you from being somebody. They are like scorpions in a bottle.They want to keep you down, down, down with them. I’m talking about all the naysayers.
The people who say, ‘That’s a terrible idea.’
Or ‘Somebody else probably already thought of that.’
Or ‘Who’s going to pay you to do something like that?’
‘You might as well fling your future down a cistern.’
‘I will laugh my ass off when you fail.’
‘ Verily, what do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.’
‘You’ll never make enough to eat if you insist on being an artist. Anyway, you’ll have to have some kind of job, just in case. Anyway, what makes you so special? You never struck me as someone who was very smart.’
‘That’s so typical of you. Always trying to attract attention to yourself. ‘
‘You might as well hold a loaded pistol to your head.’
‘Why don’t you get a real job?’
‘You never know. Things seldom work out like they’re planned.’
‘What qualifies you to be an artist?’
‘Don’t you know that life is mostly hard work?’
‘I know someone who tried to do what you’re doing. He got sick and died a horrible death.’
‘I don’t think you have any talent at all, and I’m afraid that you’re going to be dirt poor for the rest of your life just because of some mistaken notion that you’re somehow better than everybody else.’
‘On your tombstone instead of your name it’s going to read He Thought He Was An Artist.’
‘When it comes right down to it, life is just ashes and mud, so why bother yourself? I’m telling you this for your own good.’
‘Forget it. People like us never make it. Forget your stupid art and pay attention to important things.’
And then there’s the kicker: ‘I certainly hope you don’t think, after all your grandiose schemes fail to materialize, that you can come crawling back home with your tail between your legs.’