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California Voters Scrap Concept of Infinity

Coast Electorate Prefers Simpler, Tidier Universe

by Jock O'Connell

In the latest and most audacious example of ballot box populism, Californians went to the polls in yesterday's General Election and voted overwhelmingly for Proposition 333, the controversial initiative that "henceforth abolishes the concept of infinity forever within the borders of California."

"It was a very tough fight. For the longest time, we couldn't seem to get our arms around it. There were countless times we thought this battle might go on forever," declared a spokesman for the Finite Universe Society, a coalition of previously obscure religious sects, patriotic organizations, and conservative political groups which sponsored the initiative.

"For longer than any of us can remember, we've had these university people trying to impose their pointy-headed ideas about time and space on us," FUS's executive director told a cheering crowd gathered outside the state capitol in Sacramento. "So we reckoned it was time to strike a blow not only for common sense but for the common men and women of California."

The measure was also separately backed by the owners of the ‘Lazy Eight' cattle ranch. They explained they had no beef with infinity per se, just with the symbol used to represent it ( ). "This is an intellectual property dispute. We gotta protect our brand so no one mistakes any of our cows for any of those professors' ideas."

Unless enjoined by a federal court judge, Prop. 333 will have a number of immediate consequences. From now on, for example, anyone caught staring dreamily into the night skies, gazing far out to sea, or reading William Blake can be charged with misdemeanor contemplation.

Likewise, the teaching of infinity will be prohibited in all math and science courses offered in the state. Anyone found to be trafficking in infinity or infinity-related paraphernalia within one hundred yards of a school or day- care facility could receive a term in the state penitentiary for "a period not to exceed forever and day."

"Believe me, once these infinity-people find themselves behind bars, it won't be a pretty picture," a Department of Corrections official predicted. "Most of these skels flunked math and never got over it. This is gonna be pay- back time. We could sell tickets, but, of course, that would be wrong."

"There was always something sinister and even anti-religious about the notion of a time and space without end," chimed in one supporter wearing a Stephen King t-shirt at the capitol victory rally.

"Quite to the contrary," argued the chairman of the Division of Agnostic Theology at UC Berkeley. "The very idea there might be no beginning or end to things has driven people into churches since the beginning of time, whenever or if ever that was."

"It's just plain anti-American," claimed a 17 year-old militia member who insisted he was also a Vietnam War veteran. "How can you talk about taming the frontier when there's always another damned frontier beyond the one you just torched? How many [indigenous peoples] do we gotta waste to make the universe safe for America? Infinity was a real downer, man."

"Infinity scared the daylights out of me," added a politician from Orange County. "Whenever I really wanted to get myself real upset, I'd think hard about infinity for a minute or two." He declined to comment on why he would want to get himself really upset.

As expected, mathematicians and scientists were stunned and angry. The entire faculty at UC Berkeley planned to walk out en masse tomorrow, while their colleagues at UCLA promised to schedule a suitable protest sometime following the Rose Bowl.

The Philosophy Department took the matter more philosophically, arguing that state authorities could hardly prevent the teaching of something none of the authorities understood. "Just to be safe, we just won't call it infinity anymore; we'll call it ‘Elmer'," said a department spokeswoman.

Claremont University's Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, without whose observations no article on California politics has apparently ever been written, observed that the victory of Proposition 333 was inevitable. "In the last analysis it all boils down to one final conclusion. Politically speaking -- and believe me I take no satisfaction in saying this -- mathematicians don't count"

The ACLU announced it would contest the initiative on freedom of speech grounds. Meanwhile, mainstream religious groups have asked the courts to rule quickly on whether yesterday's vote affects the concept of eternity. HMOs operators, worried about how all this might affect their patient screening procedures, are also demanding an immediate clarification of eternity's legal status.

A spokesman for the California Taxpayers Alliance pleaded with reporters not to trivialize Prop. 333. "The concept of infinity is neither little nor harmless," he claimed, pointing to charts purporting to show that, each year, thousands of Californians are forced to seek psychiatric help, are driven to commit suicide, or abuse drugs because they stared at infinity too long. "No insurance company covers infinity-related illnesses; it's us taxpayers who get stuck with the bill."

"There's a direct correlation between infinity-staring and drug abuse," remarked the designated crackpot from the right-leaning Hoover Institute. "It's reached epidemic proportions in some communities. Parents of calculus- age children have every right to be alarmed."

"This really is the end of civilization as we know it," complained a crestfallen opponent. "No doubt about it."

Still, he vowed to fight on for however long it took.


Copyright (c) 1998 by J. A. O'Connell


jockoconnell@gmail.com