Two Great Tastes

“Modern morality is too confusing,” declare the Yama Kings. “Henceforth, we will dispose of souls based on the results of a universe-wide poll. It’s very simple. If you know someone who dies, vote! Tell us whether they deserve a blissful afterlife or ten generations of torments. Call 1-999-YAM-KING for more information.”

Jane’s listening to the radio. She hears the pronouncement of the Yama Kings. “It’s so wonderful,” she cries. “I know people will use their vote responsibly!”

“Jane,” sighs her brother Martin. “Why are you listening to the radio without your cynicism goggles?”

Jane blushes brightly. She forgot to put them on! That explains her unrealistically innocent attitude. She quickly slips them onto her face. “Oh, my,” she says. “Oh. That’s bad.”

Martin nods wearily. He never takes his goggles off. Not even for winking! He’s a dedicated cynic.

“We’ll have to go to all the people in the universe,” Jane decides, “and get them to agree always to vote for bliss. That’s the only righteous course!”

“I’ll get my thumbscrews!” says Martin.

Jane looks at him.

“What?”

Jane looks at him some more.

“Look,” says Martin. “You have your methods. I have mine.”

“Okay!” says Jane brightly. She can’t stay mad at Martin long. “But I get to try mine first.”

They race out of the house to visit everyone in the universe.

“Why should I vote everyone bliss?” asks Mrs. Chernov. “I’d rather use my vote to assign torments with discretion! I’ll be an elegant and respectable arbiter of human destiny—harsh, but judicious! That will earn my neighbors’ respect and discharge my sacred responsibility.”

Jane looks at her.

“What?”

Jane looks at her some more. Jane’s lower lip trembles. Her goggles mist with tears.

“Fine,” says Mrs. Chernov. “I’ll do it. But only to make you happy!”

Jane beams and runs off.

“Why should I vote everyone bliss?” says Amanda. “I hate Mr. Pib. When he dies, I’ll send him right to the Avici Hell!”

Jane frowns. Why is Amanda being so stubborn? Suddenly, she understands!

“Amanda,” sighs Jane. “Why are you deciding important moral matters without your cynicism goggles?”

Amanda is confused. “Cynicism goggles? What are those?”

Jane blinks. “I thought everyone knew about cynicism goggles! You make them from ordinary goggles, but you glue lots of little bits of green and brown construction paper to the lenses. Then you can see the world with cynicism!”

Amanda tries this. She sits down with Jane and makes a pair of cynicism goggles. Then she puts them on. “Geez,” she says. “Revenge really does just contribute to a pointless cycle of violence, doesn’t it?”

“It’s true,” Jane says, nodding.

Amanda lifts the goggles. “But it’d be so satisfying!”

She lowers them again. Cynical Amanda adds, “And ultimately pointless.”

Amanda lifts them again. “But that’s not true! Bad people deserve punishment!”

She lowers them again. Cynical Amanda shrugs. “You can believe what you want.”

Amanda lifts the goggles again. “Wow! I love being able to toggle my cynicism on and off. But which worldview is right?”

“It’s petty and self-indulgent to imagine an absolute morality,” says Martin. “Of course, defaulting to kindness in that scenario is just Jane’s crazy idea—I’d rather torture the lot. That’s valid too!” He winks, but Amanda can’t see it. There’s too much construction paper in the way!

“I’ll do it,” Amanda decides. “Mr. Pib won’t like his bliss much, anyway, once he realizes I get it too.”

Martin smiles dreamily. He’s remembering Mr. Pib. That was a fun conversation for Martin. Jane’s methods didn’t work! Events took their course. Sometimes Martin’s inevitable. He thinks that’s a darn fine thing.

“We’re going to go visit the rest of the people in the universe now,” says Jane. “Try not to die before we’re done!”

“You could just hack the voting machines,” Amanda notes.

“Good little girls and boys don’t hack voting machines,” says Jane. “We use a cheery attitude and thumbscrews! It’s like two great tastes that taste great together!”

Amanda just nods. It’s hard to argue with logic like that.

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