Making Contact?

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Looking down on you. It’s the only vantage point available. Such a fascinating bunch you are…so many questions arise. You are a brilliant sort, unlike so many others. Such a depth of feeling, your passions run wild to the furthest reaches of imagination. A blessing to be sure, but often a curse as well.

You build wonderful works, but almost always for the wrong reasons. To celebrate hubris over humanity, to set one above the rest. It’s disconcerting to an outsider, but perhaps not entirely surprising.

You are dominated by your moods, motivated by your fears, and shackled by your doubts. You learn more from what hurts you than what moves you, and habituate to the divine too swiftly to ever appreciate it. Yet you will cling to the mundane and worthless like they’re totems of yourselves.

But it’s the language that’s most interesting. So much of your reality is defined by the words you have to apply to it. I wonder what you’d think of me? ‘I’, ‘me’, are those even the right words?

I suppose that would be up to you, and therein lies my cause for concern.

What would you call me? What would that make me? There are hundreds of words you might choose from, though none of them quite right. The choice however, would be essential, as so much of your lives are defined by the limited terms you cling to. It sets one against the other, and would almost certainly set you against me in turn.

Perhaps that would be the best thing for you. To hate something truly ‘other’ might show you all just how united you have always been. Would you finally be brought together? Or would you lose all sense of self? What would become of your stories and beliefs, if some small, unknown part of the mysterious expanse was so suddenly made visible to you?

I shudder to imagine.

What must I present you with? What can I give you to help? My very existence could bring you together or forever tear you apart. My knowledge could break you, my words would be lost on you, my abilities could poison your potential, and my compassion would be wasted against your paranoia and discord.

You kill over skin tone, draw lines on planets, and think more about mythologies than you do about your neighbours.

And so, here I am, wondering these things. Sometimes, you get what you ask for, and sometimes, you get the last thing you expect.

But there are other times, rare but relevant, when you simply get what you deserve.

…I believe it’s time for me to be going now.

Good luck.

-Brad OH Inc.

‘Guess Who’ is for Fascists

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Many of us have fond childhood memories of ‘Guess Who’, that old and brittle game of identifying faces. Of course, by ‘identifying’, we really mean a brisk, yes/no question-race to hastily break someone down into a unique list of physical traits…forever proving to your opponent that you are smarter, more deductive, and vastly superior at placing people into tiny, individual sized boxes.

I tend to play a lot more childish games than most, and already I’ve begun to see the chinks in its heretofore impenetrable armour.

Does your person have…

Red hair?

A hat?

A mustache?

Blue eyes?

A bald head?

Are they a boy?

Are they a girl?

And somewhere around there—or perhaps well before—it begins to get sort of awkward. Kids’ faces begin to scrunch up, and you can almost see them wondering, “How do I say this?”

Children balk at many of the potential questions… and refuse others entirely. Often, I’ve seen them cringe when I ask if their person has dark skin. Blush when I ask about baldness.

I expect the day is not entirely distant when I ask if their person is a girl, and am told that they clearly cannot just assume that.

Ultimately, ‘Guess Who’ in its original form may become almost entirely unplayable.

And perhaps that’s for the best. After all, the game is essentially a race to put labels on people and break them down into the sum of a few notable parts. These days—fortunately—children are increasingly taught not to do this. Eventually (aside from some of the clever expansion sheets the game has available) the basic ‘Guess Who’ will devolve into a chilling stalemate of uncertainty and checked assumptions, until it is finally flipped over, and the children are grounded.

Just like Monopoly.

-Brad OH Inc.

 

 

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.