Playing by the Rules

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Tennessee Williams once wrote, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

It’s a terrible approach, and apt to get you killed.

Of course, there’s another thematically similar, yet significantly different expression from an unknown source, “You’ll end up really disappointed if you think people will do for you as you do for them.”

Pretty disparate points of view, to be sure.

Why is this?

It presents a strange conundrum. People, in general, try to be good. This can certainly be disputed, and there’s no doubt there does exist some number of people who are simply, downright rotten. But we can all agree on our strong dislike of those jerks, so let’s not hang ourselves on that point.

As a very broad rule, I believe it can be argued that people tend to try their best to play by the rules. For the most part, we do try. We try to be honest, to do the right thing, and to stick within the general moral boundaries of the society in which we reside.

That brings us to the topic of these so-called ‘rules’, and just where we tend to go wrong. In its simplest form, the problem is that the rules are agreed upon by all, but interpreted by the individual. Each in his or her own heart decides in the moment what is right. Therein lies the issue.

All red tape and political shenanigans aside, it’s not the most difficult task to agree on a simple set of principles behind which almost all of us may stand. The most fundamental values are very similar on every side. No one really wants innocent people to get shot, or children to be hurt, or women to be victimized, or minorities to be afraid. Admittedly, this is a broad generalization, and in this wide world there is no shortage of morally bankrupt imbeciles, but once again, we’re talking about the general population here—not those creeps.

I do believe you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would object to any of the simple values above, nor to a litany of others we could easily agree on.

The problem then, becomes how we define these ‘rules’ in the moment, and how we react to prevent these things from happening.

When it comes to immediate interpretation, it’s an easy thing to draw exceptions based on personal mindsets, current context, or any other number of feeble yet potent personal justifications. This is wrong in every scenario. It is by drawing these distinctions for our own actions that the entire social contract begins to break down. If we cannot expect decency from our neighbour, even the best of us will falter in our application of decency ourselves.

The other side of the coin, then, is how we react to prevent these universally defined tragedies. This bit is a little more complex, and happens to be where we find the concept of political polarities. More often than not, our reactions or views on prevention are defined not by logic, values, or virtue, but rather by who we surround ourselves with, and what we are told.

Let’s use the simple example of not wanting innocent people to get shot. No matter if you are on the far right or the far left of the political spectrum, the prevention of needless death is a fairly ubiquitous desire. The response is something entirely different.

To use somewhat hyperbolic examples for the purposes of this argument, we will say that the left tends to prefer the elimination of guns, while the right prefers their propagation—arguing that the only defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Both are reasonable interpretations on the surface, and both are driven by the shared value of not wanting innocent people to get hurt. That last bit is essential here.

The same—or a very similar—analogy can be made for gender neutral washrooms, minimum wages, and most any other issue being dragged across the fetid political landscape at any given moment.

Is there any solution to this madness? That’s a far more complex question. When it comes to the universal interpretation of rules, I suppose that’s where lawyers come in. If they are up to the job, then the courts can handle those who think they’re an exception.

What about the reactions? Well, as established, this tends to be a matter of what we’ve learned. If we are taught that guns protect, we’ll favour increasing ownership. If we’re taught that guns kill, we’ll tend to favour prohibition, or something in that vein. Neither approach is unreasonable on the surface, but both require a great deal more investigation, testing, and above all—knowledge.

That’s what it all comes down to in the end, as it always does. Education, and access to accurate, replicable data is one of the—if not the absolute—keys to finding a clear and actionable way to fixing the dreadful state of our society.

Sadly, in a world where science and fact are as viciously disputed as all the rest of these issues, we find ourselves in dire straights indeed.

To teach the wrong thing, or anything motivated by a pre-defined political agenda, is propaganda. And, considering where we get the vast majority of our information, this tends to be the case more often than not. Access to legitimate, unbiased information is among the only changes that can set us back on the right course. The final question then, becomes how?

That, unfortunately, is a question above my station. So, I turn it over to you the readers—what do you think? Is education truly the key to solving these problems? Is unbiased education still possible at this point? If not, what other options do we have? Weigh in by posting your comment below!

-Brad OH Inc.

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The Jester and the Opposition

In our recent article, ‘What Can Be Said?’, we put out a call for suggestions on political topics. One of the interesting questions that came back was:

“What was the intended roll of the official opposition in a democratic government? What have they evolved into and how can we turn it back? Would such a change have a positive impact on how we view politicians?”

An interesting line of inquiry to be sure. The first thing to clarify here is that the focus is on the Opposition, not on any specific party or political-leaning. Still, it wasn’t until I heard another interesting quote that the motivation for this article really took hold. That second quote was this:

“The role of the Jester was to speak truth to power.”

That bit really got me thinking. Before modern democracy, in the ages of monarchs, was the Jester the original opposition party?

Well, they may have more in common than we would assume, and perhaps sadly, each have become increasingly wrapped up in the intended or surface-level role of the other.

Let’s start with the court Jester. On the surface, the role here is simple. Juggle, tell jokes, wear some bells on your head, and never pass up an opportunity to slip on an errant banana peel. In short, the role of the Jester was moreover to lighten the mood in the court, to provide a sense of levity.

In so doing however, a skilled Jester could surface some contentious truths—pointing out oversight or flaws in plans, checking assumptions, and with a pointed laugh, helping those in power consider alternative perspectives.

This was no easy job of course, and if ever the Jester tread too far off the path of entertainment and into the realm of politics, it was doubtless no rare occurrence that a jingle-belled head would be the starring role in a very aurally-pleasing beheading.

So, what about the Opposition party in a democracy? Here, we find things rather opposite. The surface level role is a bit more complicated—and overtly aimed at speaking harsh truths to power and keeping a balance on the perspectives of those making decisions. The opposition is meant as a constant check against groupthink, and to prevent one particular perspective from dominating political discourse to the detriment of open debate, consideration, and decision making.

Sadly, in this day and age the Opposition (on both sides of the spectrum, and in most every democratic nation) is taking what to the Jester might be considered the safer route. Rather than speaking truth, checking assumptions, or facilitating difficult dialogue, contemporary Opposition parties seem fixated only on their own survival.

Less interested in viable alternatives or reasonable debate, they have reduced themselves in most cases to a clownish side-show—calling names, sharing whacky photos of Majority party members, questioning sexual identify, faithfulness, or anything else to take away from the perceived legitimacy and humanity of those in power, hopefully veering the voters towards their own ill-defined cause in the next electoral cycle.

It is rarely, if ever, about improving the current cycle—only about ensuring that it is not their heads on the chopping block the next time the voters cast their ballots. Truth, reason, and virtue are tossed to the wayside in favour of insults and gripes, and nothing is ever accomplished short of an occasionally comedic soundbite.

It is a sad and telling reversal of fortunes. On both ends of the political spectrum, Opposition parties have acted to obstruct any progress—even progress they should be ideologically in support of—in order to later gloat that their opponents have accomplished nothing. Then, they bask in the wild glow of their own buffoonery—illuminated by the burning of the nation’s former high aspirations.

In the end, the clown role of the jester has won out, and we are treated to a shocking display of histrionic slapstick, while true (Read: Corporate) power rolls on unchecked.

Getting back to the original question then, what would it take to turn this trend around, and would it improve the way we view politicians? Well, the answer should be apparent enough. To serve their true role, politicians in Opposition parties would need first courage, then clarity. The courage to speak up even if it risks putting them in a vulnerable position—the courage to speak truth even at cost. Truth then, is the other matter, and for this they would need clarity. Truth is a relative thing to most, but to hold true to honest values and virtues is incumbent upon anyone who seeks to change a nation for the better. Do away with the name-calling and infighting, and remember the shared values that should make any nation great.

If this were to finally unfold, perhaps politicians would once again be viewed as defenders of society, as builders of nations and keepers of values.

Sadly, until this occurs, politicians on all sides will be viewed less as the tools to honest debate and growth, but continually as the hapless jesters they are; bumbling about mindlessly, and taking turns tripping over the awkward elephant in the room—that they have no true politics, only prices.

-Brad OH Inc.

Another Day

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

At the top, you’re looking down,

It’s all that you can do,

And from below, they gather around,

And stare back up at you.

But when you see them they look small,

Their hopes seem far away,

The top to them is not so far,

Yet for another day.

But if you meet them, you will find,

Their dreams were always clear.

And so you hope, and wish, and pray,

That day is not yet near.

 

-Brad OH Inc.

‘Politics’ is Not a Dirty Word

Another day, another tragedy. Presently, it’s the Las Vegas massacre on my mind, or the recent terrorist attack in Edmonton. But depending when you’re reading this, I have sorry little doubt there will be some fresh new event to use for context. Nothing will be different if we use another example, so it doesn’t really matter anyways. Inevitably, you will be told that “this isn’t the time to get political.”

“Let’s not politicize this.”

“Can’t we just have a day to grieve?”

There are a million ways to say it, but it always boils down to the same idea—“Let’s not go using the government to solve problems…that’s not what they’re for.”

It happens after all the most political events. We are told not to get political, not to examine issues and causes. Just be sad.

Pray…if that’s your thing.

Just…don’t try to do anything about it.

They can’t afford real change. They won’t.

But ‘politics’ is not a dirty word, and must not be treated as such if there is ever to be any real progress in this sad world of ours. To turn any political discussion into a taboo subject is to actively waste the opportunity for learning and growth. Further, to claim that political discourse over a tragedy is disrespectful to the victims is not only unhelpful, it’s pigheadedly ignorant.

If we want to prevent tragedy, we must learn from those that occur, and improve our society to prevent future occurrences. That’s what politics is. Anything else—any claim of respect, or timing, or taboo is obstruction of politics. It isn’t kind-hearted, or even well-intentioned. It’s intellectual dishonesty, and in any such instance, you can be damn sure someone is being well paid to convince you that scoffing at the chance to fix things is somehow the moral high ground.

Yes, this is about informed gun control policies.

At least today.

It could also be about systemic racism.

Or police brutality.

Or climate change.

Or money in politics.

Or dozens of other important debates which have been put off for far too long.

These aren’t inappropriate subjects, and they are absolutely the business of politicians and citizens alike. What they are not, is the business of corporations and lobbyists, and yet those are the only ones who seem effective at turning it into their business—specifically, profit.

Shame on them, and shame on anyone who resorts to such hair-brained, nihilistic diversions as ‘let’s not make this political’.

Avoiding civil discourse creates a gap in our understandings, and feeds the ever-widening divide in our nation, and our world. It is uncouth to discuss who you vote for. It’s provocative to talk about the ecosystem during a hurricane. It begins to feel anti-social to make any attempt to discuss our world, when it should be incumbent upon every citizen to do so.

Sadly, when this happens, it usually quickly devolves into attacks like ‘snowflake’, ‘libtard’, ‘hack’, or ‘radical’. This inevitably kills any drive towards honest engagement, and prevents us from truly exploring our values and examining the facts to dream up a better world.

The truth of the matter is that at the end of the day, just about everything is political—especially if it has the potential to affect another living thing without their direct consent. That may seem like a heavy qualification, but there’s an easy litmus test to use for those of you too jaded to do your own research.

Is a great deal of money being spent to convince you something is none of your business?

If so, it’s probably directly affecting to you, your family, and the world you live in.

So, talk about it.

Scream if need be.

If that fails, act.

Make them hear you.

Leave them no choice.

You still have power—never forget that.

 

-Brad OH Inc.

 

What Can Be Said?

Lately, our more observant readers may have noticed a serious lack of articles under our ‘Purely Speculation’ category. ‘Purely Speculation’ is geared towards political posts: exploring recent events, examining key issues, and answering the essential questions about this ridiculous world of ours.

So why the lack of activity on this front?

Well, what can really be said at this point?

Satire falls flat before the sort of asinine stupidity currently on display the world over, and serious insight is wasted on those who look not for understanding, but seek only a target for their own deep-seated rage.

It’s happening on all sides. Finger wagging, insults, and misguided blame are the new debate, openness, and inquiry. There is no room for compromise in a world guided by such hate and ignorance.

The worst part is, it’s simply not a laughing matter anymore.

How do we turn it around at this point? What would it take for people so thoroughly deceived to stand back, take a few deep breaths, and really consider what’s going on beyond their own personal biases? It’s hard to say, and any real effort to do so usually devolves into yet another round of name-calling and threats, with no tangible progress made.

Is there any hope for change?

Well?

…That wasn’t rhetorical, we’re wondering what our readers think!

Yes, we’re putting it back on you. Contact us at the link below to let us know what perspectives you’d like us to explore. Do you have legitimate questions about what’s going on in the world? Do you have a specific issue you’d like to see discussed? Or perhaps an idea for where the world should go from here? Send your thoughts our way, and we’ll happily see what we can do!

Until then, find something worth doing, and then do it. Make it count, and make it real. In the end, after all, each of us can only do our part.

-Contact Brad OH Inc.-

-Brad OH Inc.

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.