We are not a very virtuous lot.
Us, you and me, people. (Yeah, we have our Albert Schweitzers and Mother Teresas ... actually, just one of each. See what I mean?)
We've tried to get a handle on our vices (from the Latin for defect) for as long as we've thought about our vices.
Hindu ascetics denied themselves all worldly possessions to lead a life of sylvan virtue — but never wearing pants, that's got to end badly. Swiss Anabaptists rejected the corruption of the Catholic Church, changed their name to Mennonites, and developed a serious sweet tooth. Then there are our own founding fathers, the Puritans; just one little invocation to the dark lord and you're swinging at the end of a rope, (and having a 'Goody' before your name got you bupkis).
And we're still at it, still trying to live our lives without those nasty habits. Just turn on the glass teat; you're certain to come across a pewful of talking heads waving The Book, invoking The Word, telling us time is short and if we don't straighten up, well, "...don't come crying to us when frogs start showing up at Starbucks."
History — which frankly doesn't tell us nearly as much as we think it does, and what it does tell us we mostly ignore — is useful here in one small, pithy way; it shows us a consistency, a permanence of Vice; it shows us, as the poet said, we like to "take tea at three."
Let's blame it on biology: we have a genetic marker for Vice. Here's where we make the voodoo science leap between biology and religion, because, if we're all children of Eve, and Eve had one of those little "defects," first time you get around a beer that gene switch gets flipped and you end up on Girls Gone Wild. This all leads to the inescapable connection between Vice and Sin, which is why we all feel guilty after a night of debauchery. (A night of debauchery for me is a box of chocolate donuts and back-to-back viewings of Predator and Predator II. In the morning I feel a little guilty — not Jimmy Swaggart guilty, but I'm a heathen idolater.)
Maybe it's bigger than mere biology. Perhaps Vice is universal, tied into the fabric of the universe and its need for karmic balance, a behavioral equilibrium: there's got to be Vice because there is Virtue.
When we talk about Vice, we don't talk about Vice, we talk about vices — about drugs, sex and rock 'n roll, and gambling, and smoking, and drinking, and overeating, and videogames, and more sex ... how'd rock 'n roll get in there?
Bugsy Siegel didn't care about causa prima, he knew trying to figure it out was a mugs game, so he built The Flamingo where the mugs could flock to give in to their indulgences. Calling a guy nicknamed Bugsy a visionary is a little unsettling, but Las Vegas is one of the fastest growing cities in America, and Lot is a greeter at the MGM Grand, and no one is going there for the healing power of the waters.
Vice is indestructible, a monolith, it just is — all we do is talk about the details.
Vegas has been around for half a century and no fire has been rained down upon it. Most of the states in the union have a lottery, (even Tennessee, where Lot used to work before being cast out for his low morals — and his belief in evolution), and Texas Hold 'Em is a bigger spectator sport than the NBA. If Mr. Rogers was still around, kids would be watching him trying to bluff Mr. McFeely out of his pension.
All right, we have this compromised side; some folks have flat feet, others asthma, it doesn't make them bad people. And here's the good news: there's someone looking out for us, someone who isn't afraid to stare at the hard truth of who we are and say, "Okay, you drink, you smoke, you play the ponies, but have you thought about retirement?" You can secure your future without ever going to Vegas or lightin' up, and if you live in a cave and eat lichen, it doesn't mean you can't make a legitimate buck off the rest of us.
You, my friends, can invest in Vice.
Call your broker and ask for a piece of the VICE FUND (www.vicefund.com). It closed at $16.57 last week and is always on the lookout for "bad habits worth the investment" — and we're all pretty bullish on those.
WR Marshall needs you to buy his novel, The Sideways Dance of Blue Crabs, so he can buy cigarettes and beer, and if he has any money left, a little porn.