What Should a Government Be?

All too often, political conversations of any sort—whether by public, or by politicians themselves—sink quickly into the mires of partisan politics. Teams of left and right, red and blue, create straw effigies of the other’s values, and burn them upon the altars of their own smug self-righteousness.

This is a matter of hopeless grandstanding—and seldom serves to advance the policies of either side. Elections are won and lost on insults and rumours, and the greater good of the people is abandoned to the wayside of this sickening side-show.

There is a good exercise which can help people of either viewpoint learn more about not only their opponents, but themselves. Setting aside personal emotions and group identities, one may challenge themselves instead to describe only what they believe a government’s role should be. What should it provide, protect, or prohibit—and on what grounds? What is its purpose?

Try to do this without reference to actual individuals, and certainly not to specific parties. Discuss only ideas of the primary functions that must be served.

It is important not to hang yourself on lofty words with little meaning. Freedom, peace, liberty—such words hold high aspirations, but speak little to practical realities. What do they truly mean to you, and how are they to be upheld?

We discussed these concepts in one article, ‘Greed and the Village’, using a simple tribal village as a model for the type of considerations that must be pondered.

We also discussed the fears around giving power to government in the article ‘On the Fear of Big Government’, where we established the wild and barbaric reality of a world with no authority.

Is it a government’s role to protect businesses, or people? Which people, and from what? Are there exclusions to this protection? What happens when the rights of one violates the rights of others? What about when the growth of a company enriches its members but casts many others into poverty?

Is this a natural and enviable result of a free market, or an economic violence which must be redressed?

These are the questions, and the approach to engagement, which can lead people of wildly different persuasions to not only challenge their own beliefs and grow in the process, but also to find the common ground with those who they long considered their rival.

There are very few people on either side of the spectrum who truly want the young to suffer, or women to be scared, or people to live in hateful captivity. By accusing those who think differently of such intentions, we vilify them and close off all possibility of informed debate. Only by remaining open, and seeking sincerely to find the underlying values for ourselves and our opponents, can we hope to find answers which can unite and help people, rather than serving only to reinforce the wild and destructive division that serves only the powerful.

What do you think?

-Brad OH Inc.

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The Real State of the Union

On January 16th, the 2019 State of the Union address was announced to be delayed. No matter, for this year the world got a more effective representation of the current state of American society than any mono-syllabic speech could ever hope to provide.

While evidence of his collusion with Russia goes largely ignored, the hot news out of the cesspool called America this week focused on President Trump’s celebration party with the Clemson Tigers—this season’s NCAA Football champions.

It is traditional for victorious teams to be wined and dined at the Whitehouse—after all, there are few greater distinctions available to the American populace than being good at (American) football.

That notwithstanding, teams are usually greeted with a fine dining experience in the Whitehouse to honour their victory, but this year—partially due to the government shutdown, the Clemson Tigers received something a little outside of the norm.

Served up on silver platters, and lit by golden candelabras, Trump offered a smorgasbord of (presumably cold) fast food—Big Macs, Wendy’s, Pizza—a veritable dream-spread for a 6 year old designing their own birthday party.

Leave it to America to be split right down the middle—was this a classless gaffe, or was it fulfilling the deepest desires of this pack of finely tuned young athletes?

Some argued that Trump gave them a far more fitting meal than the ‘caviar and wine’ any other president might offer, whereas others saw it as a crude and vulgar gesture, utterly unfit for large men who are good at throwing balls.

It should go without saying that this is one of the more idiotic debates of the year, although it would of course have steep competition. But no matter where you sit on the dinner, one thing cannot be denied—it may be the most fitting metaphor for the current state of America we’ve seen in quite some time.

Fancy décor, huge controversy, embellished claims, and a smiling idiot unaware of how absurd he seems. Silver trays offering items barely passable as food, given to successful athletes who are prized above the doctors, teachers, and firemen who truly serve the nation. A self-defeating celebration with a pompous air of self-importance to it.

It was cheap, unhealthy, embarrassing, and presented with endless lies and self-aggrandizing.

When it comes to empty promises and dishonest representation, the President is truly king, and this fancy façade is a more potent image of the state of the Union than just about anything I can imagine.

What do you think?

-Brad OH Inc.

How to be a Decent Human

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

I’m not a great person.

Sometimes I’m not even good, exactly.

I’d like to think I’m alright.

At the very least, I certainly try to be decent.

It’s not such a complicated thing really. I read a quote from comedian Ricky Gervais recently. He was commenting on the idea that people felt like they couldn’t joke anymore, and how that really wasn’t the case. The full quote is below.

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The crux of this really comes down to how a person reacts to a contrary opinion. Yes, you can tell a joke, but if it ends up hurting someone else that hears it, the question becomes not ‘was the joke funny’, but rather, ‘do you give a shit’?

Caring about other people is, after all, one of the chief qualifiers of decency.

If you tell a joke (or any other sort of comment or action) that gets a negative reaction, you don’t have to defend the joke, or your values, or lament the days where we could say anything we wanted and expect others to choke back their pain in defense of your ‘humour’.

People might be hurt. They may be upset or offended. And you, despite the joke being yours—and assuming it was not meant to hurt—can hear that pain.

It may come as a surprise that you can even ask questions. Not to challenge or undermine their feelings, but to better understand their experience to the extent they are comfortable sharing it.

In the end, you may both be able to learn something, transforming a painful encounter into an opportunity for mutual growth.

It’s not always easy, and no one likes being called out or corrected. It can be uncomfortable, even confusing at times to realize that something you’ve said or done has been deemed inappropriate by another.

What do you say? What do you do?

Well, one simple trick is to start with an apology. You don’t have to fully understand the nuance of differing opinions—it can be enough to understand that another is hurting, and that you are sorry for that. People sometimes need their pain acknowledged, and your obstinate focus on the hilarity of your joke should never undermine that need.

After that, there may be room for discussion, learning and growth. It’s important to remember of course, that the learning just may include the fact that the joke simply wasn’t funny, and that you should not repeat it.

That can be enough.

It’s not that you can’t discuss things anymore—it’s just that the discussion needs to have two sides. You’re not being told not to be yourself—unless you’re an asshole—and certainly, you can still feel free to joke around. Just realize that sometimes, there will be people who will point out the flaws of that joke. From there, it’s up to you to improve the approach, content, or delivery… or risk proving that the real joke is you.

-Brad OH Inc.

America’s Wall

Throughout his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump made a lot of wild promises which no reasonable person could expect he would really accomplish. From banning Muslim people from travel, to erasing the memory of Obama, to making America ‘great’ again, he promised a veritable cornucopia of achievements suitably grandiose yet vague to make any self-conscious, fear-addled white man foam at the mouth with vindictive anticipation.

Of course, none of these promises were more discussed than his strange claim to build a wall along the border, and make Mexico pay for it.

Let’s not even get into that bit about Mexico paying for it. That’s not the point.

Beyond all the bluster and hair-brained grandstanding, the Wall became the great theme of his campaign. Now, it is a more nebulous thing. It’s not talked about as much these days, but that’s the way with a grifter. Let the details fade once the price has been paid. Blur the lines, and redefine what it means to be successful—to be honest. Was it about a wall? Or safety? Safety, or fear?

If you didn’t realize that was rhetorical, let me spoil it for you. It was about fear. It’s always about fear.

The Wall was a bracer against the fear of lost privilege, and although the physical wall seems to be a distant memory, the barrier Trump promised continues to be built brick by brick with each hateful tweet, each insult to justice, and each scorned plea for decency.

Nations around the world are beginning to see this Wall tearing up the skyline, and have taken the point. America is no longer the trusted ally that it arguably used to be. Less so each day. They are unpredictable and cruel. Hateful of all others, and loathing of themselves.

Of all the destructive, strange claims Trump has made in vain, it seems the famous promise of a Wall may indeed come true. Of course, in typical rat fashion, it will come true in a significantly different way than promised. That’s the way with conmen…and enchanted artifacts, I think.

Is that isolation what’s best? It’s hard to say. Short of some miraculous about-face not only in the politicians of America, but in the politics of its citizens and media, America is poised now to settle into the mire and rot it has made for itself—abandoned and abjured behind a wall of fear, anger, and spite.

A wall of its own making.

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: The Misled Goal of Job Creation

Today, we are re-sharing an older article, which is becoming only more relevant by the day. Sadly, it seems we have failed continually to learn our lessons, and the need for such solutions grows more urgent with each passing moment.


In this troublesome economic climate, people often wonder what can be done to keep the majority of citizens gainfully employed. The most common solution bandied about is the creation of jobs, but I’m not convinced this is the correct answer. As a matter of fact, I’m not even convinced it’s the right question.

Creating jobs is an unsavory and archaic notion for any true politician of the people. The implication buried within the notion of job creation is that there is a scarcity of work, and therefore an abundance of people struggling to get by—desperate for any job that might put even a few extra dollars in their painfully neglected wallets.

This shift towards job shortage is not a new trend; there have been myriad elements contributing to job reduction for centuries. From assembly lines to industrialization, technological changes in society have always had a significant impact on the need for labour. On the other front, remaining jobs are continually outsourced to countries unable to protect the rights of their workers, allowing corporate profits to skyrocket while jobs previously available to our citizens are doled out to foreign workers for a pittance of pay.

With the impending shifts inherent to burgeoning fields like 3D-Printing and nanotechnology, the number of jobs is only poised to shrink even further, leaving more and more people out of work and desperate for money.

In this scenario, we must view labour as a societal need and resource both. Living wages however, must be taken as a right. Thus, there exists a clear need to balance the two intelligently.

The creation of low-paying jobs, capable of keeping people occupied while failing to supply a living wage is a deeply flawed solution. The notion that one must toil in obscure and needless positions just to get by is counter-intuitive in a society poised to benefit unilaterally from our continued advancement.

Make no mistake about it; the high functioning state of societies output at present is due to the cumulative effect of human progress, not the ingenuity of a few thousand people at present. The corporate executives currently pulling the strings have benefitted from being in the right place at the right time just as much as business savvy or vision.

Still, history has shown us that the trend is to consider ‘job creation’ an invaluable resource mercifully allotted by these high-level executives. This perspective is entirely wrong—the resources we must now be focusing on, finally, are our human ones.

So, if job creation isn’t the answer, what is? Well, once again, we must consider if we’re asking the right question. The initial quandary was how to keep the majority of citizens gainfully employed—but I don’t think this is the right goal.

If we as a society have reached a point where we don’t have a need for everyone to be working, then forcing it is illogical and unnecessary.

With profits booming, and CEO’s taking home ever-increasing bonuses, perhaps the solution instead is to ensure that every available job is sufficient for a person to support themselves and their family.

It’s not a difficult idea, but the implications are further reaching than may be apparent.

A significant increase to minimum wage would allow for more stay-at-home parents—an investment in our future the worth of which is beyond measure. Further, with increased pay, the working class would have significantly more money to pump into the economy, which would only benefit the businesses.

Therefore, the result of increased wages would be two-fold. First, the number of jobs necessary to keep society fed would be decreased by as much as half, while the function of society (Raising healthy, well-adjusted children to carry it on) would be served all the better. Secondly, the economy itself would boom with the injection of blue-collar spending dollars, creating more robust business opportunities.

Now, I can already hear the incensed chattering of right-wing loons and business moguls, decrying how this would slice into their profit margin and collapse the free market.

Bullshit.

While the economy has struggled and stagnated for the majority, corporate profits have been doing just fine, and high-level executives continue to line their pockets with the fat of the land.

The concept of protecting profits is a misnomer, and while these executives would like you to believe that increasing minimum wage would castrate their ability to function as a business entity, in truth the only thing being hurt would be the paycheques of the top 1%–a notion I am entirely comfortable with.

So, there we have it. Rather than the ubiquitously heralded goal of creating jobs, the real solution may be to fix wages. By doing so, we could again create a society where kids have parents to come home to, where people aren’t forced to work 60 hours weeks just to rent a basement flat, and where the greed of the few does not necessitate the squalor of the many.

It’s really not such a bad idea, if you think about it.

-Brad OH Inc.

Who Are We?

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

One phrase that’s heard with depressing frequency these days is the impotent refrain of “this is not who we are”.

It begs the question—who are we?

That’s a pretty deep question to anyone but an asshole.

Personally, I’m a little bit different around pretty much everyone I know.

I notice their sense of humour, the tones and facial expressions they respond to best, establish nicknames and idioms to go back to in need.

Alone? That’s a wildcard.

Still, I don’t expect that’s what makes someone something.

Is it their actions?

Their stories?

The changes they’ve made?

The happiness they’ve created?

…Who am I?

A soul, lost and confused, trying it’s best to do good for the world. Taking it all in—the good, the bad, the perverse, the fanatical. Working to process it all, to understand it all, to bring it all together, and in the light remind it.

…Who it was in the beginning.

-Brad OH Inc.

‘That’ Guy at the Bar

 

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

I’d arrived early for my flight, so naturally I found myself at the airport bar having a few last beers before calling it curtains on another fine vacation.

With the thrill of travel still having hold on me, my eyes shot about the room, this way and that, taking in all the different sorts of people gathered. Now, they were no longer the fascinating locals of a strange land, but a mixed assortment of likeminded travellers coming or going to where I would never know.

It was a fairly typical crowd. Young couples with diamonds in their eyes, old men with coals. People exhausted from long treks and people eager to start new ones. And of course, there was ‘that’ guy.

We’ve all seen him before.

Red faced and talkative. Talking too loud, talking too much. Talking too forcefully—too absolutely certain of the value of his long-winded rants, and utterly convinced he was the life of an otherwise non-existent party. He was the kind of idiot you see all the time.

The kind I do my best to avoid. And I certainly tried.

I scrolled through my phone and sipped my beer while waiting on my burger. Still, I’d glance up now and then, taking in the annoyed but patient expressions around him.

He’d already shouted out a young couple sitting on the side of the bar near him. They laughed and waved as they hurried away. I saw his laugh melt into a leer as he watched her take her partner’s hand and leave. Then he fell into blathering to a bunch of young ‘bros’ at the bar, and I figured that would keep him occupied for a while.

My burger arrived, and I thought that was the end of it.

As I finished my meal and got to work on my next beer, I noticed that the young men had been abandoned by their loud-mouthed old counterpart. He was on the other side of the bar now, clawing at some young lady as he bellowed about his life and worth and ‘stories you wouldn’t believe’.

I wondered if she could be his daughter. That would explain the perturbed expression on her face and the patience she showed as he leaned his red face in over-close and tried once more to catch at her arm. How many times had she found him like this?

Or maybe she was just another poor stranger. Perhaps she knew the younger men and was trying to make her way past him to join her companions.

They were staring at their phones now though, and their lack of recognition seemed almost intentional.

She glanced about nervously as he spoke. I felt concerned, but maybe she was just late for a flight and struggling to remain polite.

I caught her eye at one point, and it seemed the look held overlong. Nervously, I glanced away, hoping she didn’t take me for another idiot ready to cast my hand in on the action.

Was he trying to kiss her there, or just leaning in too much under the weight of his drink?

Everyone else stared intently at whatever screen was nearest at hand. But now, I was worried.

He offered to walk her to her gate and she said she would be fine.

He persisted, and she joked that she was a big girl and could handle herself.

She laughed nervously and cast her eyes downward as she tried to step around him. That didn’t work either.

Finally, I felt guilty. I’d waited too long, thought too much.

That’s the point of all this. ‘No’ is a word to be respected. And she’d said it in every way possible while avoiding making too much of a scene.

He was circling around and cornering her near the exit by the time I stood up. I caught her eye again, but spoke this time, loud enough for the bar to hear me above his commotion. “Are you ok there?”

Until that moment, she had held her countenance in a nervous, meek mask of worry and embarrassment. Now, it threatened to break as she leaned desperately around him to answer me, “…no.”

That one did the trick. I turned to him now, giving her my back and clearing a way to the door. He looked up at me with the wry confidence of a man who has been told he was special all his life and finally came to accept it as sacrosanct.

“You need to leave her alone.” Bereft of his banter, I imagine the whole bar heard me. Still, few looked up from their phones. But she took the opening, and darted through the exit.

He held my gaze for a moment in challenge, his ruddy face wrinkling with the supreme disappointment of a toddler being told they couldn’t keep the toy they’d torn from the shelf. Then he shrank back.

“Ok,” he said with a churlish sneer, and slunk off to his seat. He sat back down with the young guys, and soon they were all laughing again.

People kept scrolling on their phones.

I wondered if I was too aggressive, and sat in uncomfortable silence until the bar tender slid over a free beer. “Good man,” he said with a conspiratorial nod.

My vacation was over. She was, presumably, safe. He, I assume, would be unaffected by the encounter.

As I finished up my second beer before moving onto the free one, I reflected on the questions I’d asked myself before acting. The justifications for my potential silence.

Was she his daughter? No.

Was she just a patient stranger? No.

Was she amused by the banter but in a rush to catch a flight? No.

It was clear enough now. It wasn’t about her shyness, or her effort to be polite. Her patience in avoiding a scene didn’t matter, and my reticence to be part of one didn’t either.

She’d said no. At least four times. That was all that mattered, and that should have been the end of it. She should not have had to repeat herself, and if she did the whole bar should have risen loudly to back up her statement and support her choice. But that’s not the world we live in.

It should not have come down to one lone person accepting they would have to be the one to stand up. But I guess that’s where we are these days, and it’s probably well ahead of where we were not so long ago.

I slid the empty cup across the bar and started on the free one. It was cold and smooth.

‘That’ guy at the bar. I thought about the term. It should mean something different. Not the pushy idiot who has no place in the bar to begin with, but rather the ones willing to speak up for those going unheard.

I wondered, if I ever saw the moment to be ‘that’ guy again, would I hesitate?

No.

-Brad OH Inc.