In Defense of Clichés

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

There are few literary critiques more scathing than to call something ‘cliché’. Whether written work, movie, theory or idea, the accusation of ‘cliché’ is an attempt to strip an idea of all originality and reduce it to a rehashed, tired idea worthy of little to no real consideration.

At times, the accusations carry weight. Originality, after all, is the hallmark of the creative mind. To discover new ways of phrasing familiar concepts, or new metaphors to capture the intricacies of our particular perspective is the high-water mark of self-expression, and to rely on cliché in such an endeavour is to devalue our individuality and relegate ourselves to playing stock-characters on the stage of our own lives.

Others are more forgiving with the careful use of cliché. A red rose in a romantic moment, a moving if familiar pledge of commitment until the end of time/ mountains crumble/ last rains fall—there are plenty of clichéd tropes which still serve their purpose with poignancy—even if it’s at the expense of personalization.

Still, there are other sorts of clichés which go moreover ignored or unnoticed by most people. In his book ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’, Joseph Campbell explores the idea of the ‘archetypal hero’ found in mythologies the world over.

This idea of the ‘monomyth’—the familiar journey told by countless cultures throughout every period of time—asserts that there are certain commonalities to the human experience and imagination—a familiar chord touched on no matter the background, language, or experience of the people in question.

The implications here are quite interesting. If there are indeed common strands of myth and story which echo across time and culture, it would be easy enough to disregard them—casting them aside along with all the other worthless and overly familiar clichés we so adamantly oppose.

Alternatively, we may be able to learn something from these enduring strands of the shared human experience. What motivates these similarities, and what conclusions might we glean from their timeless resilience?

Clichés, myths, legends…all have grown to such recognizable stature as a result of their ability to speak across cultures and great lengths of time…to connect with something deep within us all and speak to our inner-most truths.

So, do not shudder the next time someone reminds you of the colours of roses or violets, or offers some other tired yet comfortably trite piece of wisdom like that. Rather, recognize it for its history and accuracy. Rather than blaming the familiar for our own occasionally drab existence, let us look inside to find the underlying reasons for their ubiquity.

Beneath the worn-out stories and faded metaphors may lie a secret to our shared humanity, and the deeper we go into the genesis of these ancient comforts, the closer we may find ourselves to the echoes of the old and glorious themes of our common past.

-Brad OH Inc.

Three Political Figures You Should Know More About

Today, we’ll be looking at a few lesser-known figures from history. This isn’t the usual in-depth study so often provided here at Brad OH Inc., but rather a cursory glance at a few names who’ve played a unique role in the American political system and left their own individual mark. Some have fought for justice, others only for themselves.

So get to know these names, and if anything about them strikes you, learn more. History, after all, is so often a reflection of the past, and as it has often been said, if we fail to learn, we are doomed to repeat.

For each subject, click their names to learn more.

#1- Edward Bernays:

Edward Bernays was the nephew of legendary psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, and the driving force behind the revolution of public relations and propaganda in the 1920’s and beyond. Dubbed the ‘father of public relations’, Bernays was the very picture of a lying fiend who might have walked straight out of ‘Mad Men’.

A talented and well-learned man, Bernays chose not to pursue agriculture (his original study) or true journalism (his original passion). Instead, he used his talents to form a theory on how to ‘Crystalize Public Opinion’—a method of using cheap psychological tricks and word-associations to sell people on just about any hair-brained scheme imaginable. Notable successes include convincing Women to smoke more cigarettes by rebranding them as ‘Torches of Freedom’, normalizing techniques such as market placement in ads, and a curious effort to increase the sales of Dixie Cups by convincing the American public that only disposable cups were sanitary.

His legacy is still felt in our current world of media manipulation, truth for a price, and the ongoing mindset of the ‘people’ as a herd who need the control of the elite.

…Sounds familiar.

#2- Huey ‘The Kingfish’ Long:

Known colloquially as ‘The Kingfish’, Huey Long was the Governor of Louisiana and an outspoken populist and supporter of social programs. Likely best known for his 1934 ‘Share Our Wealth’ plan, Long was a passionate opponent of the federal reserve and big banking at large, calling for higher taxes on the rich, and a fair shake for the rest of Americans. A reasonable and virtuous position, no doubt, it should come as no surprise to any history buff that the Kingfish was promptly shot down in the street upon announcing a bid for the Presidency.

To date, the poor are yet to get a fair shake, social programs are still reviled as communist, and the rich and banking cartels continue to pillage the wealth and potential of the world.

Alas for The Kingfish…

#3- Roger Stone:

Roger Stone is a vile and egomaniacal political lobbyist with a portrait of Richard Nixon tattooed on his back.

Honestly, you probably don’t need to know much more than that.

Stone has worked behind the scenes in political fiascos ranging from Watergate to the election of the potentially-porcine President Trump.  As a lobbyist or political agent, Stone’s role is to spew as much vitriol, distrust, flat-out lies and disinformation as possible to muscle his clients into their desired position. To his credit (depending on definitions of course), he is fantastic at this…and was among the key figures behind the incredible smoke and mirrors act that was the 2016 Republican Primary election.

Motivated by legacy and influence alone, Stone is a man who defines himself by winning and losing, and doesn’t give the slightest damn about exactly what the game is, as long as the prize includes a pat on his head and some old, cigar smoking man telling him that he’s valuable.

With a legacy including the heavy use of smear campaigns, the establishment of pay-for-play political access, countless programs of disinformation, and the general subversion of the Democratic process, we consider it a matter of little to no personal bias to send a big ‘fuck you’ to Mr. Stone.

 

For good or ill, each of these people have left their own indelible mark on the nation, and world. Some did what they did according to their own sense of righteousness, some for money, and some just to be able to say they did it. Learn these names, and others my friends, for there are many types of people out there, and many ways to change the world.

Which will you choose?

-Brad OH Inc.

The Dangers of Dogmatic Thinking

People have had a lot of brilliant and noble ideas throughout the ages. The best of our intentions have—on our finest occasions—come through to provide us with incredible esoteric insights, high-minded ambitions, inspiring works of art, and other enlightened insights into the human soul and condition alike.

Then, we tend to wreck it all.

The legal system, for instance, is certainly a respectable and necessary structure for any society. Arguably, this system was created initially as a general system of laws, rights, consequences, and limitations on human behaviour with the intention of keeping the playing field even and the right to life and freedom secure. Laws were laid out to protect the sanctity of civilized existence, and the means to judge and enforce those laws were clearly defined.

So too with religion. While the source can be argued to death—and certainly has been—the foundation of most earthly religions is a set of considerations, principles, and inspiring examples of humanity’s spiritual potential. Most of these sacred texts address the nature of sin, self-control, love for one another, and other such entirely admirable ambitions.

So with such incredible aspirations, how does humanity continue to get it all so wrong?

Well, in short, we are creatures of habit. Worse yet, we adore taking shortcuts.

With most any system devised—and the two above are shining examples—we may reach fantastic heights in our state of being. But successive generations tend to skip out the hard work of exploring and understanding the nuance and reason behind such systems, and begin to rely on hard and fast rules instead.

These become mindless and dogmatic restrictions on human behaviour. More destructive still, they often become guided by a matter of precedent. Here, laws and religious tenets are continually reinterpreted to fit the needs of whoever is presently in charge of their interpretation. Then, these new bastardized definitions become the benchmark for further misinterpretation. The original good intentions are lost, and the guiding principles of law and religion alike quickly shift away from the nobility of human betterment, and become just another system of maintaining otherwise unjustifiable power structures.

In both scenarios, we see a series of great intentions written down in stone, then systematically misapplied, misinterpreted, and misused. Each new iteration of this misuse is then made sacrosanct, to be further abused and distorted. Eventually, we are left with none of the good effect, all of the high-minded self-righteousness, and very little of true grace or justice.

So what can we do to avoid these ever so common failings? Well, we can start by taking a very serious look at our own intentions. Growth and insight are never easy, and achieving any real sense of decency, grace, or virtue is seldom possible when taking the quickest path.

Without fail, the easy ways will lead to the most common of results, and with us people, that is seldom a respectable scenario. Rather, we must constantly consider the truth of our intentions. We must examine the reasons behind our needs and desires, and, rather than turning to dogmatic principles and knee-jerk reactions, we would do best to consider all angles, remind ourselves of the deepest principles we hold dear, and move forward not with expediency or—heaven forbid—righteous indignation, but simply with patience, love, and an ever-present sense of respect for our fellow humans.

This is what must surely lie at the root of all such systems after all, be they religion, law, or others. So to leave them out is a terrible oversight, liable to result in the enforcement of something else entirely.

-Brad OH Inc.

EViL

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

In the great old stories, it’s never hard to spot the source of evil. It may be a winged beast, or a black rider, or a simple, unblazoned ring sitting on a table, just waiting to change the world…

In reality, however, it’s rarely so easy. Evil may take many guises, and come from any direction. Is evil inherent to humanity? Can it ever be prevented?

Education, equal opportunity and the provision of basic needs and human rights is the most obvious answer, for by removing the greatest temptations towards desperate actions, we are most likely to see them decrease. Yet there seems to be an evil in this world which pervades and permeates even the best intentions. It sprouts up no matter what we do. It finds the cracks, or makes them, and it’s dark blossom unfolds often where it is looked for the least.

Traditionally, there are two ends of the polarity in response. One is to be jaded and fearful, rejecting everything different lest it bring evil in with it. This may prevent the terror from without, but it transforms the hearts of people, and creates hatred and evil within.

The other side would be unending faith in the goodness of human kind, sometimes to the open denial of the gathering clouds. This is idealistic, and often this school of thought is quickly met by the bitter reminder that in the end, best intentions cannot ward off evil acts.

We cannot be too careful, or too careless. Vigilance is the price of peace, and those who would deny the presence of evil may soon suffer its harsh truth.

Alas that we do not have a ring to focus on and destroy. Evil is a more insidious thing than that, manifested most often in the sins of pride, greed, and avarice—the strongest motivators of human vice. We cannot see it, nor cast it into the volcano to banish it forever.

Yet the discerning heart can feel it grow. Where will it strike? None can say.

Still, if you pay attention, you can feel the tension in the air, smell the fresh tinders and see the sparks dancing against the black night sky. Old threats and bedtime stories are alive again. Evil grows…now is the time for heroes.

-Brad OH Inc.

Greed and the Village

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampSometimes, I like to think about society as a simple tribal village. It strips the world of its artifice, and takes us back to human-kind at it’s most basic. Raw and primitive. Simple.

And that’s exactly what many issues are from this perspective: Simple.

Without the nuance of modern day polarities, we can see things a bit more clearly. The significant moral leaps people manage to self-justify may be laid bare by a more straight-forward allegorical perspective.

For instance, we can easily agree that freedom is a virtue to be celebrated—but, not total freedom. Let’s explore that with an example. Imagine you are lying asleep on your dirt floor, above you nothing but the countless stars of the prehistoric night sky. You’re covered with a torn animal hide, and lay near enough the dying embers of the night’s fire to provide sufficient protection from the chill of night. In this scenario, you would certainly not want your neighbour to have the freedom to creep up as you slept and take a rock to your head just to obtain that crappy lion skin you call a bed.

Would you?

Most of us don’t need a cave man metaphor to get behind the basic idea of laws, no doubt. Shame on you that did.

But not everything is quite that clear, and the complexities of modern society make it far more difficult to discern the moral imperatives beneath the daily milieu. How do we suss out the decent path in something as complex as corporate economics, or systemic injustice?

Well, let’s imagine that for a moment. Take that same sleepy village of knuckle-dragging cave-people. Say that, as you sleep, one of the villagers has the initiative to wake up early, and gather up all the useful plants anywhere near your hut. Then he breaks your legs so you can’t gather the far away plants. Finally, he generously offers to sell you some of his extra plants in exchange for your wife and children.

You see, at some point, a free market which is free to extort and dominate no longer looks very much like freedom at all when you really boil things down.

Taking this analogy a bit further, we might ask: Just what do we want for our fellow savage villagers? Well, at first glance they don’t seem like an overly pleasant lot. They’re brutish and violent, and certainly don’t seem very smart.

I suppose that education would be a good place to start then.

Ensuring health and security is likely to make them less desperate and prone to violence of course, and some laws to protect from exploitation or economic coercion certainly seem sound.

But we don’t live in a village anymore, we live on a planet. And it would seem, somehow, that there is a disappointing lack of people who truly want any of those things for their neighbour. So then, what does this portend for our coming sleep beneath those countless stars?

The lion skin frays. The embers sputter and smoke.

…The night grows dark.

-Brad OH Inc.

A Lament for Henry Wallace

purelyspeculationOver the past year, we’ve written a lot about Bernie Sanders, the former Presidential Candidate and self-avowed ‘Democratic Socialist’ who showed America that their policies may yet be guided by decency and virtue as opposed to greed and the dark lust for power. Bernie failed to gain the nomination, and as we look around now, we can see that the forces of decency are certainly in peril. But let us remember that there are and have been men and women throughout history who will fight the good fight. We needed them then, and we certainly need them in the years to come.

In the past too have we needed such brave and selfless leaders, and today we look back at just such a man from one of the most infamously precarious times in the history of the nation, if not the world. That man is Henry A. Wallace.

In these present days of uncertainty, many are the men and women who will appeal—with righteous indignation and furious intention—to higher powers or political extremes. Sadly, it is far fewer who are willing to be that example in the face of adversity and defiance.

Henry A. Wallace was just such a man.

Throughout his political career, he made an unending effort to turn the political tides towards decency and good sense—even when such qualities were considered subversive, if not outright treacherous.

Wallace served as VP under FDR during WWII, and was an outspoken supporter of New Deal Liberalism, as well as a more cordial approach to dealing with the potential threat of the Soviet Union. He was staunchly opposed to the atomic bomb, but eventually found himself thrown off the democratic ticket and disastrously replaced by Henry Truman. How much of the imperialist decline and wanton destruction to come may have been prevented had Wallace taken the presidency rather than Truman?

Undeterred, Wallace continued as a force of decency and moral rationality, founding the Progressive Party in 1946 as an effort to combat the hardline policies Truman was enacting against the Soviet Union. These efforts, if successful, may have warded off much of the violence and dissolution of the Cold War to come (Link).

Throughout his life, Wallace was driven by a steadfast compulsion towards rationality and good judgement, favouring fairness and open dialogue to judgement and oppression. He was fanatically anti-racist in a time when racism was considered the accepted norm, and a staunch anti-imperialist even as the USA became the world’s most imperialist nation.

Wallace was both practically, and metaphorically the antithesis of McCarthyism. Not only did he fight against it in practice, he represented the polar opposite of ideals. Where McCarthy pushed for labelling, hysteria, and rule by fear, Wallace encouraged sound judgement, tolerance, and foresight.

Needless to say, this stance, and Wallace himself, was not without fault. There are few people indeed who can make the best of judgements at all times, particularity without the best sources of information. In 1952, Wallace published ‘Where I was Wrong’, reflecting on his soft stance towards Stalin’s regime, offering apologies for some of his positions, and recanting any sympathies in light of the war-crimes he learned Stalin had committed. To err is human, but to own that error, apologize directly, and make amends is sufficient in itself to cast even the most talented and noble of people from the sullied echelons of public-esteem.

So, dear readers, let us take a moment to lament the failures and rejection of our friend Henry A. Wallace. Though flawed and moreover disgraced, he was a man led by noble ambitions, and ever loyal to the truth of his beliefs. This is not the mould for political success by any means, and it is a rare thing for a political figure to be so recklessly unconcerned with reputation. To focus instead on decency and virtue is the trait which perhaps will forever segregate the likes of Wallace and Sanders from the highest offices of the American political process, but we can all pray to see more of their kind soon.

Indeed, such people—in all walks of life—are the best hope we have.

-Brad OH Inc.

What Does America Have in Common with the WWE?

purelyspeculationOn March 23rd, 2001, the former World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) accomplished one of it’s greatest ambitions. It bought out its main competitor, World Championship Wrestling (WCW).

This was probably the greatest mistake they ever made.

With no significant competition left, the WWE lost any impetus to improve its product. With no legitimate runner-up, they were left to rest on their laurels rather than fighting to be the best. The quality of the product quickly diminished as the company focussed on preventing any upstart organizations from gaining traction, rather than working to continually improve their own product.

The company’s new focus soon became buying out other organizations and swallowing up emerging talent without any plans to utilize them effectively. They would eviscerate the potential competitors, without ever building on their own brand.

As a result, the WWE never again reached the same level of success or quality they had achieved during their long battle for ratings with the WCW, famously known as the ‘Monday Night Wars’.

In a lot of ways, this is eerily similar to the slow degradation of America after becoming the world’s leading superpower at the end of World War 2.

The following decades saw the nation engaging in a ‘Cold War’ with the Soviet Union—a long and precipitous crusade to invade and exploit weaker nations and spread ‘American Influence’, all while keeping the scary Communists away from valuable resources.

The entirety of the Cold War was—if one removes themselves from the wanton death and destruction—almost a comical mirror of the theatrical pantomimes so common in the wrestling world. It was the classic scenario of two main-eventers competing to see who could intimidate the other more. As the classic scene goes, the two big guys take turns landing finishing moves on hapless jobbers, staring nails through their true opponent without ever directly confronting them. The lower card workers are decimated, and the main eventers perceive their reputation to be bolstered by the damage done.

During this period of macho-posturing and international abuse, America was far more focussed on keeping other nations down than they were on improving themselves.  Military expenditures exploded, and infrastructure crumbled. This trend has continued into the present day, and America now is known more for its foreign meddling and military misuses than it is for the great beacon of freedom it still half-heartedly claims to be.

No longer were the old values of social-cohesion, public growth, quality education and accessible opportunity the hallmarks of American society—all were swept away under an authoritarian wave of bomb building and resource chasing.

Becoming a Superpower caused a huge shift in national identity. With it, America moved from the nation of freedom and growth to a nation of maintenance and control. The American Dream was accomplished, and the rot of its underlying idealism begun. Being a Superpower is among the worst and most damaging things to happen to America—and the resulting decay of values, social responsibility, and cultural identity is apt testament to that.

In the end, the downfall of the WWE and that of the United States both serve to teach us the same crucial lesson.

There is a very significant moral difference between competing to be on top by seeking to be the best, and defending your place at the top by actively damaging those below you.

If we focus on keeping others down rather than enriching ourselves, everyone loses, and in the end, someone is bound to topple the lame-duck façade your once proud empire has become—whether from outside, or from within.

-Brad OH Inc.