Why the bums always lose

"The bums will always lose, Lebowski."

It’s not just in Malibu that the bums always lose. Across human time and space, the success rate of peasant rebellions—not champagne-socialist mummeries, but genuine jacqueries, for Jack and by Jack—is essentially zero. Here or there, some ambush is won; everywhere else, the merciless, steel-girt knights regroup, and make a great slaughter.

Isn’t this obvious? I don’t think it’s obvious. I think it’s of the utmost importance that we understand why this is—whether our hearts are with the bums, or the knights. It is especially important for those cursed by the combination of a knightly heritage with a bum aesthetic. More champagne, sir? The better a champagne—the more important it becomes to drink it from the bottle, by the bottle.

No one can deny that The Big Lebowski is the most important film of the last century, if only because it presents reality as it really is. The Dude and Big Lebowski are perfect mirrors of each other: each is exactly what the other thinks he is. The Dude is a bum and his world is a world of bums. The Big is a phony and his world is a world of lies. And the bums will always lose—even though everyone with a soul is rooting for them.

Can this ever change? If it can change, it will involve someone—maybe not a bum—engineering some kind of mechanism that can harness the reality of bum power. If we’ve learned anything already in 2021—we’ve learned that when you expect bums to be anything but bums, it just won’t work.

Bums of the early 20s

2021 has started with not one but two dramatic bum rebellions: the storming of the Capitol by a Trump mob, and the sacking of Melvin Capital by a Reddit mob. The first rebellion has already gone the way of the Münster Republic and the second, as I write, looks about halfway there (but I’m still rooting for it).

I don’t think we can understand the world the 20th century left us until we understand the Lebowski rule. Why do the bums always lose? It is not that one trained, well-armed knight can beat ten tough peasants with pitchforks. He can barely beat three. Yet two hundred knights will make mincemeat out of ten thousand peasants.

Why the bums always lose

Like Andrew Wiles with Fermat’s theorem, I have wrestled years against this question. I have discarded all the obvious answers, such as: “because they’re bums.”

These kinds of facile explanations never explain why the bums can win any battle at all—why they are even in the game. Yet they are quite palpably in the game!

Well: I found the answer this morning. It is: “because they don’t know they’re bums.”

The bums lose because they adopt the methods of serious people—serious, patient and determined people. Serious people take not even the first step of a journey without a map of every turn. The bums get halfway there without knowing where they’re going.

The paradox of the bum, though, is that this is also why they fight. The bums are such bums that they don’t know they’re bums. But they lose—because they don’t fight like bums, but like serious people, people of genuine value and substance. They fight like the knights they think they are.

If they knew they were bums, and fought like bums—they might win. But if they knew they were bums, why would they fight at all? This is the paradox of the bum.

Secrets of bum power

I have no answers to this paradox. But supposing it could be answered, here are the secret laws of bum power.

The first law of bum power is that it has to win in one step. A serious person is patient, organized, and determined. A bum can lose a staring contest with a fruit-fly. Do not expect any kind of sustained effort, energy or consistency from bums.

Bum power does not have to win everything in one step. But any intermediate step must capture a position from which the next step becomes easier. But first, the bums must rest comfortably—for a bum or a Montenegrin, resting is the most important thing.

The second law of bum power is that it has to be fun. A bum is not an inferior person, but a natural gentleman who has devoted his life to the aesthetic of the moment. This concept is perfectly captured in the refined Internet philosophy of lulz.

Bum power depends entirely on lulz—once the lulz are dead, the power is dead. The GameStop squeeze was shot in the head as soon as the first boomer saw it on CNBC.

The third law of bum power is that bums don’t care. Bums weren’t buying GameStop because they thought it was a great company, with great financials. They didn’t actually “like the stock.” What they liked was the ride. The ride has a hell of an end! But they’d do it again—because bums don’t care.

Bums are not sincere. No bum has had a sincere thought since the age of 15, when he came home early from school and caught his mom banging the cable guy. To make a bum do something, don’t make him care. Do the opposite—make him not give a fuck.

If you want a bum to do something real in the real world, the worst way to convince him is to make a sincere, rational, good-faith argument that it’s a good thing for him to do. The only way that could work is if he assumes you’re being ironic and your real message is that it’s bad. Then he might do it—just to fuck with your head.

Will the bums always lose?

Who can say? I am not even a bum—I am a Serious Internet Writer. If you don’t like my kind of Serious Internet Writing, I suggest you stay out of Malibu. If you do—

What I can say is that every once in a while—for just long enough for people to think there is still some justice, nobility, hope left in the world—the bums win one. Or two.

And then, for all the reasons given above—they lose. Everything. Not only that: in losing, they burn an exploit. No one can ever even start to win in that way again.

I can say how it should have ended. @DeepFuckingValue should have posted to the subreddit. He should have said:

Hi retards! Glad you’re online. In 15 seconds, I’m going to sell everything—with a market order. Please feel free to front-run me.

I feel this would have engendered exactly the right mix of nobility, irony, and tendies. But what do I know—I’m not even a bum. I think. (And I’m certainly not a lawyer.)

In any case, as a Serious Internet Writer, not a bum and certainly not a leader of bums, my job is to design practical strategies for bums.

Strategies for bums

Isn’t the job of every political engineer to design useful strategies for political actors? Shouldn’t those political actors be the real actors of the present—not spherical cows?

People are the fuel of politics. The ideal fuel is the sturdy, proud, simple yet educated, serious yet not solemn, Jeffersonian country farmer. America has less than twelve of these people left—all in Dixville Notch, NH.

Gasoline is the ideal fuel for a racecar. If you have no gasoline, only peanut oil, it’s time to design a diesel racecar. On peanut oil, a tractor will beat a Lamborghini. (“Biodiesel” is basically any kind of grease.)

Will the bums always lose? When bums adopt the methods of serious people—yes. The bums will always lose. It is amazing that they get anywhere with these methods—as it’d be amazing if your Kia, filled to the gills with George Washington Carver’s best, managed to even lurch around the block belching black smoke.

But are there other methods—different methods—which are the methods of bums? If there are—can the bums even be induced to use them? These questions remain open.