I’ve been trying to remember life before the product.
It can’t be done. It isn’t very pleasant, anyway.
In this country, when we think, if we think, we think
about the product. The product is our great joint project.
If poetry were still being written in this country,
it would be about the product. Thinking on other subjects
is permitted, for the most part. But who has the time?
What if, as some say, this is the only life we’re given?
I take a dollar bill. I slice it down the middle.
I eat one half. The other half I lick and crumple
into a tiny ball. I place it behind my ear.
In the morning, when I wake up, I know it will be gone.
The rest I put in savings. I realize at this rate
it will be a very long time before I can afford
a unit of the product. Still, I’m among the lucky.
There are those who have never even heard about the product.
They can’t even dream about it. What do they dream about?
Also, of course, there are the thoughts that are forbidden.
But we are very clever. We’ve trained ourselves not to think them.
It is hardly ever necessary these days in our country
to track down and to put under arrest and to punish
anybody because they’ve been thinking non-permitted thoughts.
The product is always moving.
The product will not stand still.
Nobody knows what the product is,
though some say they have seen it, lurking by the docks,
or backstage at the awards ceremony. Last year
my favorite network won the award for Best Awards Show.
The ceremony, frankly, really wasn’t very good.
When the product moved from the East Side to the West Side,
politicians trembled. Doctors removed their stethoscopes
and patted at the sweat that had sprouted on their foreheads.
Grandmothers gripped their mugs of bourbon tightly,
whispering to each other in the fragments of Morse code
they remembered from the Cold War’s empty endless afternoons.
“What’s going on in this country makes me so upset
that I just feel like I have to go out and, I don’t know,
Like my father before me, my job is to make
a small part of a machine that they use to make
a machine that they use to make the product. It’s
a copper semi-circle, small enough to fit into
the palm of my hand. I’ve been assured
that the role that it plays in the proper functioning
of the machine that makes the machine that makes
the product is extremely important. I assure
myself. I have trained myself to reassure myself
most efficiently and most effectively, with a minimum
of wasted effort. Somewhere there’s a four-color graph
on which my satisfactory, perhaps even exemplary
progress in this respect is plotted.
The ones who track the product, who say where it should go
are handsomely rewarded even though it does not go
where they say it should. Every day, men are dying for
the lack of what is found within the product, or not found
within the product. For the lack of units, or, at times, an excess
of units. Their obituaries make a paper garden
in the financial section of our annual report
As for myself, I don’t know where I will be buried
or whether anybody will report it. I sometimes
feel I am already being buried. When I was
a boy, and the world was full of promise, my father
used to hit me all the time. It didn’t change the way
I saw things, the fact that the world was full of promise.
I suffered it. That’s what you do. You’re tough. You suck it up.
You go to a room deep inside. You think about the product.
Some people who should know better
have said that some are suffering.
But if people are suffering
why aren’t they saying anything?
If they are saying something
why haven’t we heard?
Dear Ms. Vanderhaven:
lately I’ve become quite concerned about
my corporation. It seems sad somehow, listless. When I ask
what’s going on it insists that everything is fine,
but I trust my intuition. Please tell me what you think
I might do. Signed, Concerned About My Corporation
It sounds like you have cause to be concerned. Remember,
corporations are just like the rest of us: they need love
and affection, even and especially in those times
when things aren’t going well (have you checked the S&P Index
today?) and it wonders whether it even deserves
to be loved. Go to it with open arms, embrace it,
tell it you’ll be there in the good times and the bad,
and most important, listen. Listen without judgment.
You’ll see it blossom like a flower. No need to thank me,
I was of three minds
like an elevator in which
there are three men with cell phones
talking about the product.
My friend bought a box of the product. Is a box
a unit? Why is there no one who will answer this question?
He keeps it on a shelf. It comforts him
to know that it is there. In the evenings we go over
to his house and gather all around it. He tells us
that he will never open it. Though someday he might open it.
But only if he needs to. After all, what if he opened it
and found it disappointing? After all, what if he opened it
and found he was unworthy? What if he realized he had panicked,
acted out of desperation, opened it too soon?
Then the hard times came.
Years of trial and tribulation.
Many people died, but the product survived.
About "The Product," Troy Jollimore writes:
For further reading: Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel, The Myth of Ownership: Taxes and Justice; , Dennis R. Fox, "The Law Says Corporations Are Persons, But Psychology Knows Better."