This transcript originally appears in my book Interviews With the Rauschmonstrum
The Rauschmonstrum sat down with Charlie Rose on his PBS program on August 6th, 1993 to discuss his new book “What I Would Have Done Differently,” his companies, the economy, the fall of the Soviet Union, demographic changes, the recent election and inauguration of Jerry Brown as President, and many other things.
Charlie Rose: Tonight’s guest may well be the figure of the century. When he first burst upon the scene with his debut book Jesus & Me there was worldwide shock and backlash. It also resulted in heavy societal restructuring. The number of believing Christians have declined to less than two percent of the population, Islam has dwindled down to similar numbers, and it is rare to find a practicing Jewish person, but as my friend Billy Crystal once remarked, “then again it always was.”
[The Rauschmonstrum chuckles]
Charlie Rose: He has been the subject of an endless amount of music, film, and literature, and his own work as an author has been described as “the works most essential for understanding humanity since Shakespeare,” by no less an authority than Harold Bloom. His latest book Is entitled What I Would Have Done Differently, detailing his regrets as to how he’s handled his interventions and lack of interventions in human affairs. It is a privilege to welcome The Rauschmonstrum, or Ol’ Rausch, to this table for the first time.
Rauschmonstrum: Fantastic to be here Charlie.
Charlie Rose: When I think about you, the question I keep asking myself is “what more can you possibly want that you don’t already have?”
Rauschmonstrum: It’s a good question. I’m not sure I know the answer. I find it difficult to explain this to people but having been around as long as I have been-
Charlie Rose: About as long as humanity’s been around.
Rauschmonstrum: Yes. When you’ve been around as long as I have its hard to get pleasure out of anything. This was already the case for me when I got into the religion making business all those thousands of years ago. As I recount in this book, and have spoken at length about in the past, the reason I ended up creating Christianity was that I was bored.
Charlie Rose: That’s a statement many people had trouble with.
Rauschmonstrum: Yes, they did.
Charlie Rose: And it still troubles people today to a lesser extent as well.
Rauschmonstrum: Well today the issue people usually have with it is that I caused a great deal of damage to mankind by creating this thing and then letting it go on and become more and more powerful and just standing back as an observer.
Charlie Rose: And why did you stand back for so long?
Rauschmonstrum: Well that’s what this book is about.
Charlie Rose: My interpretation from reading it is that you were quite good at distracting yourself for long periods of time, and after things had spiraled out of control you guilted yourself for not acting sooner and that caused you to hesitate further, and the next thing you knew a thousand and a half years had gone by.
Rauschmonstrum: That’s the major part of it. The other thing of course is my fear that by intervening further I’d just make things worse.
Charlie Rose: Are there lessons for others to learn from your failures?
Rauschmonstrum: Well the stakes are usually a lot higher when I make decisions, but yes. Decisions made out of a desire to do good for people in a transparent way will usually have better long term returns than decisions made with the intent to mislead or hurt. The other thing others can take out of it is that under most circumstances it’s better to go with your instincts and deal with the consequences for better or worse, rather than brood over things for a time and often not come to any decision at all.
Charlie Rose: Earlier this year Jerry Brown was sworn in as President.
Rauschmonstrum: It was a pleasure to attend his inauguration.
Charlie Rose: Have you attended any other presidential inaugurations?
Rauschmonstrum: Several, although not always in my true form. At the inauguration of Norman Mailer, I played a little joke with him beforehand where I shapeshifted into someone else’s form and he had to guess which person at the ceremony was me in disguise.
Charlie Rose: You were critical of President Mailer during his final years in office.
Rauschmonstrum: Yes. I’ll be honest, when he first announced his candidacy in ’88 I thought he had no chance of winning. But he had expressed some pivotal ideas in his writing over the years, and I knew him being on a debate stage speaking his mind would be good for the nation. He interviewed me once years ago, actually.
Charlie Rose: Oh, I’m very well aware; for his Village Voice Magazine.
Rauschmonstrum: It was clear to me then that he had a radical mind. When he actually won, I was shocked, but felt maybe he could take some of those ideas from his books and conjure them into something useful politically. But I was wrong about that too. He had no idea what he was doing. It was noble of him to step aside and not seek re-election.
Charlie Rose: What should he do now?
Rauschmonstrum: What all former Presidents do, remain a part of the discourse, and write some books. His books will be a bit better than his predecessors because he’s had some practice.
Charlie Rose: Do you intend to have influence over the Brown administration?
Rauschmonstrum: I’m ineligible for a job because I’m not a US citizen.
Charlie Rose: Would you be interested in having an unofficial advisory role?
Rauschmonstrum: I’m not sure. I’ve had unofficial roles advising previous presidents, though I won’t go into that any further.
Charlie Rose: A lot of countries are squeamish about doing that.
Rauschmonstrum: It always appears as though I’m taking a side globally.
Charlie Rose: Well considering your history, other countries have a reason for being afraid.
Rauschmonstrum: It’ll probably be the subject of my next book. Honestly though the only way I plan on intervening on a global scale again is if the fate of mankind is at stake, or there’s a war on the scale of World War II brewing again.
Charlie Rose: It was the atrocities of World War II and the Holocaust that convinced you to become a public figure, weren’t they?
Rauschmonstrum: Yes, the shame that I was off wasting my time while all that horror was happening is a point of real shame.
Charlie Rose: What had you been doing at that time?
Rauschmonstrum: I was in South America pursuing hedonistic delights. It hurts just thinking about it. I should have been in Europe putting a stop to all that ghastliness.
Charlie Rose: Were you surprised the Soviet Union fell apart so quickly?
Rauschmonstrum: Oh yes, that caught me by surprise. All my CIA contacts felt the same way.
Charlie Rose: The only one who wasn’t surprised was Ronald Reagan.
Rauschmonstrum: Yes, but he’s always operated on a different level in terms of unfaltering optimism.
[Rose takes some time to laugh]
Charlie Rose: What happens now in terms of the global order?
Rauschmonstrum: It’s an interesting question. I’m afraid I don’t know where to begin with it. The technology is accelerating at a faster and faster rate.
Charlie Rose: [chuckling] You’ve had a lot to do with that.
Rauschmonstrum: I have. RauschSoft and RauschSearch have been behemoths, and our competitors have followed suit as well.
Charlie Rose: But you’re not sure if what you’ve done is for the best.
Rauschmonstrum: That’s correct.
Charlie Rose: Why?
Rauschmonstrum: I think the technology makes it a lot easier for people to distract themselves from their problems and create distance within their relationships with each other.
Charlie Rose: Many would say “look at the increased capacity for learning through these computers.”
Rauschmonstrum: That’s true. That is probably the best use for computers, and I would encourage those listening to systematically plan out strategies to maximize their time online learning things.
Charlie Rose: Do you think you could cause technological progress to slow down if you wanted to?
Rauschmonstrum: No, it’s a Pandora’s box thing. Once it’s begun…
Charlie Rose: We had Professor Francis Fukuyama on not too long ago and he spoke of his theory of The End of History. He wrote a book about it.
Rauschmonstrum: I’ve read the book.
Charlie Rose: Do you buy into his idea that with the Soviet Union gone there may no longer be any major changes in terms of global affairs or how societies work?
Rauschmonstrum: I don’t. Professor Fukuyama expresses a too optimistic viewpoint in a worldwide democratic status quo, and-
Charlie Rose: And you’ve been around for too long to think any system can last forever.
Charlie Rose: Christopher Hitchens was here recently.
Rauschmonstrum: Of course he was. He goes anyway there’s a camera.
Charlie Rose: He had some things to say about you.
Rauschmonstrum: As he tends to do.
Charlie Rose: Roll the clip.
[Archive footage of Christopher Hitchens with Charlie Rose]
Hitchens: Now, I would say that at this point this flabby smoke monstrosity should simply depose himself.
Charlie Rose: Why is that?
Hitchens: We are people and therein we are sovereign and should have no overlooking force to undermine us. As long as Rauschmonstrum is around, he threatens our sovereignty, and his history has shown he has no qualms about interfering with us, no matter how reformed he claims he is now. He should leave Earth and go float around the cosmos for a couple thousand years.
[End of archive footage]
Charlie Rose: What do you think of that?
Rauschmonstrum: He’s not quite wrong.
Charlie Rose: So he has a point? Maybe you should leave?
Rauschmonstrum: I do kind of hold the sway of the global order in the palm of my hand. Perhaps that is too much power for a single being.
Charlie Rose: So we may one day find you have left Earth?
Rauschmonstrum: You might.
Charlie Rose: We’re out of time. It’s been a pleasure.
Rauschmonstrum: Thanks Charlie.