Re-Share: Bourbons by the Fire

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Today, I’m re-sharing the first in a series of articles I’ve created here at Brad OH Inc. This article, called ‘Bourbons by the Fire’, was first released in 2014, and was largely written–I believe–in a small bar in Vancouver, shortly after a Bruce Springsteen concert.

The article became a favourite of mine, and in 2016, I released a follow-up, called ‘Beers by the Bonfire’. That one was conceived at a friends house out in rural Alberta.

I’m currently working on the next article in the series, so in anticipation of that release, I’ll be re-sharing the originals–the first today, and the second shortly thereafter.

The new article–title to come–will follow once those have been re-shared. Stay tuned!

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There’s a bottle of bourbon in arm’s reach of my chair, and through the window in front of me I can see the last vestiges of the day’s light hanging on the horizon. It illuminates the glass like hot iron. It seems the sunsets last longer these days. Or it could perhaps be that, with each one that passes, that singular moment when the last ray of sun clings to the western sky lingers longer in the mind, with its promise that light will come again.

On nights like this, the dangers of thought far outweigh those of the bottle, and the intoxicating effect of knowledge brings a sickness far worse than any hangover imaginable. And so I have a drink.

It’s a strange time, a time when any decent person with an eye for details might come to suspect they are one of the few remaining sane souls left in a terribly dystopian world—the sort of world where little girls grow up dreaming of being heiresses.

These days, the heedless ambition of the powerful is to society as is cancer to the individual. It first gnaws at the extraneous, chipping away the small pleasures and devouring the variety of life, making all things secondary to its demands.

But like cancer it grows unchecked, consuming everything allowed to it until all that remains are memories of times that were better, when hope for a brighter future still blossomed in the hearts of those now disenfranchised by the voracious appetites of its expansion.

It’s a desperate time—the kind of time when great ideas tend to come along… or else when people will cling to the best idea they come across.

I take another drink, a long one. It’s warm going down my throat, and fire in the stomach—a slow, soothing sort of burn.

The sun is growing dimmer, and light and dark weigh heavy in my thoughts. They’re timeless concepts—forged into the spirit of our society by countless books, songs and films. For me it was Tolkien, but the sources are innumerable.

Sometimes when my mind wanders, it goes unbidden to dangerous places. There are times that I wonder where the decency of man has gone. We’ve all heard about it—that innate spark of light within all people, destined with only the slightest encouragement to guide us from the ever encroaching darkness.

It’s getting darker.

We are but monkeys grown beyond our means. We make up stories, and bow before them to reckon ourselves to the fact that we are raised with a terrifying capacity for evil, yet maintain a gentle compulsion for good.

It’s not an easy understanding to bear, and the more you know, the madder you go.

I can see how it happens, how you can get lost within your mind. You chase some dream, and at first it dances about the edges, enticing you to believe you might catch it and make it true. But it leads, and you chase. Like a boy following a rabbit into the forest, you pursue it until you lose the trail. Then you look around to realize you’ve lost your own as well. You are left with no clue where on earth you are… or worse still, you’re not sure you remember who you are.

A man needs to fight against it, that infernal apathy. It’ll set in and boil, and pretty soon even the most casual of social encounters will feel like ships passing in the night fog.

Again, the bourbon soothes my thoughts.

What is a man to do? That’s the question that keeps bouncing around my head as my fingers rest limply on my keyboard. People often think I’m multi-layered, but the truth is I’m just multi-talented. This is my weapon—the written word is like a Lego set for smart people, and the destructive potential it can harness is a terrible thing to behold.

People glue themselves to reality programs, fixating on fictional calamities as their government is looted by faceless Corporations and their inalienable rights are stripped away like the clothes of a drunken debutante in a dingy frat house.

This is the reality allotted to us, and it’s difficult to blame the cowards for looking away and leaving it for the next generation. It’s a defense mechanism rooted deeply in our DNA.

With a web as intricate as this, no answers are clear, and even the most optimistic zealot can find himself lost in the chaos around him. But one must not avoid doing right for fear that the devil has deceived them into doing wrong, or else surely he has.

I grit my teeth and crack my knuckles. They’re stiff, and the flesh is dry and cracked. Have I grown this old in so short a time?

Everyone else is smiling, and a cheery voice on a television to my right tells me that quick and harsh punishment will come to the foreigners who object to our imperialistic agenda.

A cheer rises up—on the television to my left, a touchdown has been scored.

Godforsaken idiots.

My mind drifts again to the tales of my youth, and the things they promised: ages of miracles, and the certain defeat of darkness. It always took until the last moment—when hope held on by the thinnest thread. That’s when delivery always came, when people woke up to their innate power to change the world, and made real the paradise they cradled secretly in their hearts.

The sun is down now, the window dull and translucent once more. Outside, neon ads flash, telling me it’s time to buy a new phone. Then everything will be ok.

Darkness has always been our nature. It doesn’t need to be forceful, for it can grow at any time, and is capable of overtaking us and condemning us to savagery whenever we let down our guard.

The light within is different. It flickers perilously, and I’ve heard it said that once it’s out, it’s out. It may dwindle, imperceptible at times, yet it’s driven ever towards great good and kindness.

Sometimes we must squint to even detect it, yet in dark times like these, it is the thing we must search for the most earnestly, and count on for deliverance.

This is an active process.

Few things truly raise my ire, but the depthless greed and thoughtless destruction wrought by the heedless empowered lights a righteous fury deep in my bones.

There’s music playing somewhere, but I can’t catch the tune. My head swims under the drink, but I’m not confused. It’s certainty that drags my mood down, and the refusal to close my eyes to that which surrounds me. An unfailing belief moves my fingers now, and their clatter upon the keys pounds out a drumbeat all my own.

It’s short and simple. Its rhythm churns like a locomotive, driving itself on by necessity. It says that we must return to decency. It proclaims that glib cynicism and ironic detachment are the tools of cowards, and that making a joke of the night is the surest way to get lost in the dark. Above all, it wails that even under the guise of freedom—callousness and selfish greed must not be the fundamental underpinnings of our society.

If you don’t hold to that, know that you have an enemy in Brad OH Inc.

I take another drink, and the comforting warmth brings a smile to my tired face.

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: On One World Government

purelyspeculation

‘Globalism’ is a popular scare-word these days, which people on all sides of the political spectrum tend to treat like the inevitable plot of moustache-twirling villains.

While it may a difficult concept–and is certainly a high ambition–we’ve long argued that a unified world is likely the greatest hope for salvation we have.

What do you think?

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The entirety of human history is marked by endless wars—alliances formed and broken around access to resources, slightly differing Holy texts, and eventually, the residual hatred stemming from either cause. A quick look at any globe will paint the picture clearly enough; a world divided by jagged lines of opposing colours. Deep-seated cultural tensions reinforce national boundaries, while crooked trade deals, tariffs, media bias and, above all, a heaping helping of fear and paranoia keep people around the globe focussed on their benefit alone as they cast a dubious eye upon their neighbour.

This was also discussed to some degree in our recent article ‘The Final Facet of Globalization’ (Link), in which we established the notion that of all the renewable resources we have successfully imported, we are yet to add empathy to the list. This neglect of such a valuable resource leaves us in a state of constant uncertainty. We need reassurance of our place, and our exceptionality. Further, we feel the constant compulsion to glut ourselves on all we can possibly consume to sooth our fears with placebos and distractions. After all, if one nation can be so selfish and vile, should we not expect the same from others?

But this sense of division is exactly the problem, and as such it is exactly the error we seek to redress today. So, if we are divided by national boundaries, and distrustful of everyone beyond ourselves, if we attribute human worth based on fictional lines on a map and take pride in one culture at the expense of all the rest, then what are we to do?

Well, despite the paranoia passed down to us from generations of science-fiction (much of it excellent), a one world government is ultimately the only conceivable end-goal for our planet (Link). People must move away from national boundaries and towards a more functional global perspective—with regards to space travel, resource management, and switching our perspective from the differences of races to the unity of the human race.

Fanciful fluff admittedly; still, this doesn’t change the facts. It’s not only a moral imperative, but a logistical one as well. In order to keep this increasingly broken planet running, long-term and unilateral vision is absolutely necessary. We need to plan and implement serious change if we wish to repair our ecosystems and establish a sustainable world, and this cannot possibly be done in a geo-political landscape sewn with distrust and outright hatred.

When minds are set against each other, the human tendency is to treat all interactions as a zero-sum game. We make our decisions under the subconscious (sometimes) assumption that if we don’t hedge our bets and assume the ‘other’ is eager to betray us, then they inevitably will.

Sadly, this assumption is correct more often than not.

But the world is changing, and if this is by our hands, then so too are we equipped to interact with this change in an informed and conscientious manner—but only if we first learn to view the trajectory of the world as a shared responsibility. This can only be done by unifying as a species.

A single world government then is our only hope—to erase national boundaries and move beyond political, economic, racial, and religious divisions and into a broader consciousness. By ceasing to war internally and instead focussing our efforts outward, our potential is beyond the scope of imagination.

As discussed in our article ‘Saving the World 101’ (Link), the technology at our disposal could easily allow us to improve the efficiency and equity of any economic and social systems needed to address population sustainability, while the great minds of the world may be set upon space travel, colonization and mining, improving GMO technology, advancing organ and meat cloning capabilities, and expand the nascent field of 3D printing into an internet-based, world-altering revolution.

Ultimately, the inherent potential of humanity has ever been beyond the pale of our comprehension. It is always defined by our times: our technologies, our arts, and our interactions. When fear and violence are what we ardently expect, we are unlikely to be disappointed. But with the rate of our technological capacity increasing exponentially, and the accordant ability to communicate instantaneously and en-masse, we are at the threshold of an era in which we can attain a better view of the scope of this human potential than ever before.

At last, we can imagine a unified world where all thrive and find their place, but first we must confront within ourselves the age-old and well reinforced perspective of ‘us vs. them’. For it will only be when we look at ourselves as one that we will finally manage to look outward and envisage our shared future. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat the same cycles of distrust and violence we have been mired in for time uncounted. And yet, the time we have to do so may not last much longer.

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: Are Humans Really Great Apes?

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampI originally published this article in May of 2016. Little did I know how my argument would be made stronger by time.

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Scientific taxonomy classifies human beings within the family of hominidae, more commonly known as the ‘Great Apes’. We share this taxonomic family with three other genera, members of which include the orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees—all fine and majestic animals to be sure (Link).

Each of these creatures have found their niche within their local eco-systems, and have lived in a relatively balanced natural state for generations uncounted. They consume the resources available, and are consumed by the predators which are capable of doing so. They live within their means, and display a general civility to one another aside from occasional competitions over mates and territory. Meanwhile, the homo sapiens, or ‘humans’, have for the entirety of recorded history been putting on a childish display of wanton consumption and heedless destruction. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that this begs a pretty important question: are Humans really ‘Great’ apes?

All things considered, we’ve had our fair share of positive moments. We’ve built some incredible structures, and solved puzzles that would leave the rest of the apes scratching their furry little skulls in abject bewilderment. We’ve spread our population far and wide, and survived countless changes to the world we live in. At the very least then, we may certainly be considered alright apes.

Of course, most of the cataclysmic challenges through which we have persevered have been our own doing. We have an incredible and unparalleled ability to intellectualize our world and use ration to consider the effects of our actions. Still, we have managed to destroy much of our ecosystem, and of the many wonders we have achieved, few have been able to endure. So in truth, perhaps we are really just ok apes.

It’s true that if we really want to compare ourselves to the other members of the hominidae family, we should take a serious look at their lives as well. Doing this, we find them knuckling along the filthy earth, hurling feces and screaming unintelligibly at one another. This might often be followed up by a good chest-pounding, or perhaps even an old fashioned beat-down. Needless to say, humans are little different. Despite our marvelous intellect and incredible capacity for empathy, we resort to terrible violence no less often—nor is feces-throwing ever completely out of the question. All things considered, we might really be quite ordinary apes.

The thing about this, however, is that we are so perfectly equipped to do better. It’s a matter of achieving one’s potential—the old, ubiquitous notion that one must be compelled not to do better than all the rest, but rather to simply do one’s personal best. Our cerebral-capacity alone affords us the potential to accomplish so much more than the others, and to shift beyond this base-violence into a far more gracious and well-mannered state of being. The promise we have is unbounded by anything save our imaginations, and this has been shown time and again—as numerous societies have risen to show the glory of mankind’s innate potential. But for every rise, there has been a fall, and we have proven consistently unable to maintain any serious ascension into the epoch of equality and dignity for which we are so well qualified. We may build great cathedrals, but we inevitably use them for the spread of greed and power rather than grace and mercy. We may write of utopian ideals or great societies, but we fall ever short of realizing them as we capitulate to the temptations of wealth and fame. Perhaps then, we may best be described as under-achieving apes.

Much of this question comes down to potential. There can be little doubt that we as humans have the theoretical potential to be the most inspiring and beautiful creatures to ever grace this earth. Our capacity for reason and problem-solving could allow us to truly be the promised stewards of the earth—watching over our hominidae brethren and all the other creatures with whom we share this wonderful planet. But where we may have spread equity and joy, we have sown only despair and intolerance. Where we may have acted as guides and care-takers to the planet we have left it barren and unstable. Finally, where we may have been exemplars of decency and righteousness, we have fallen ever to our own doubts and greed—wallowing in misery as we toil ceaselessly for more of what we want at the expense of what we really need. In truth, the homindae family and the world in general may have been far better off if humans had never climbed out of the trees from whence they came. In the end, I suppose, we really are pretty disappointing apes.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Ground Between the Poles

It’s been a long while since we here at Brad OH Inc. have written anything under our political category—Purely Speculation. As we discussed in our article ‘What Can Be Said?’, satirical political writing is difficult in an age where even the wildest ideas for dystopian futures play out daily on our news channels.

With Trump our of office and a deadly insurrection put down for now, the world watches cautiously as steps to prevent the repeat of these heinous acts flirt with curbing rights essential to a functioning democracy.

In the coming years, it will be imperative to weed out the radical right-wing conspirators who have shaken the nation to its core, and de-platform the purveyors of lies and fear.

Even as this happens, we must remain vigilant that the right to self-expression is not trampled in the mire of national defense.

It’s a dangerous position, and recent victories do nothing to assure us that future disasters can be prevented. In fact, despite the overwhelming number of voters who turned out to end the national nightmare, many also voted to continue it, and on the whole, America seems to have learned little.

So, even as the political divide grows into a gaping chasm, there appears one key issue that seems to bring unity between even the staunchest supporters of both political extremes.

In late January 2021, the good people of Reddit set out on a crusade to wreak havoc on the stock market—and make a little scratch while they were at it. By rallying supporters to invest heavily in the shorted GameStop stock, users caused a tremendous increase in the stock price. Many saw their shares grow immensely in value, while the hedge fund billionaires saw terrible losses due to these unexpected events.

While this casino-like approach of market manipulation is an everyday practice for Wall Street moguls, it became an immediate concern when ordinary people began to take part. In short order, the low-cost investment apps (such as Robin Hood) froze purchases on GameStop stock, ostensibly allowing their wealthy overlords (and owners) to repair their portfolios free of the little man’s interference.

In a move that surprised nobody, media rallied n support of Wall Street—some comparing the Redditors behaviour to Trumpism, others to the machinations of the so-called radical Left. What was a surprise was the support of politicians—on both sides of the aisle—for the Redditors rights to take part in the stock market.

Both Conservative and Liberal politicians criticized the move to freeze out the retail traders—calling it everything from illegal market manipulation, to a conspiracy by the rich to keep the poor out of their dirty games.

What everyone seems to agree on is that regardless of political creed, the impoverished majority of the nation are reaching the end of their patience with the stacked deck of the elite.

The political poles could not be further apart these days, but it turns out that the ground between then is bountiful with common ground—that of suffocating poverty, resentment of the elite, and an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness and loss.

This in-between ground is no small thing—the entire planet seems to agree that enough is enough, and the time is overdue that people take back their power.

No longer will Wall Street simply be occupied. The takeover has begun, and the rich elites have been put on notice.

If the left and right can unite on this issue, they may soon realize that they have more in common—both in their desires and their fears—than they had ever imagined possible. What’s more important, they may soon see that the true polarity is not between left and right, but rich and poor.

The scales are tipping…

What do you think?

-Brad OH Inc.

On Cakes, Masks, and Coming Full Circle

As usual, it all comes down to ‘freedom’.

Freedom—that elusive catch-all that Americans (and others) so adore bandying about when they can’t have everything they want.

Not unlike a toddler wailing about the world’s injustices because he was sent to his room for hitting his sister, the concept of freedom is all too often used as a self-serving cudgel against the opposing needs of all other people.

Not too long ago, it was about wedding cakes. A significant group of mouth-breathing idiots felt that they were wronged for being ‘forced’ to make wedding cakes—their job mind you—for homosexual couples, because it violated their sense of religious freedom.

Well, they got what they wanted.

While there was no shortage of protests and boycotts, the general consensus was that a business has a right to serve who they see fit.

A glorious day for ‘freedom’, no doubt.

Perhaps predictably, the muddled minds of the masses have since shifted, and they now want exactly the opposite.

In the age of COVID-19, more and more businesses are opting to require customers to don a mask before entering their store.

Tyranny!

In a turn of fortune that surprised no one, the troglodytic morons are now crying that this choice by businesses is a violation of their precious freedom.

So, I suppose it goes something like this:

When it comes to baking a loving couple a cake, it is essential that businesses have the right to refuse service…because freedom.

However, when it comes to keeping the community safe and enforcing the recommended guidelines of medical professionals, businesses have no right to decide who to serve—the customer’s freedom to spread the plague through their slack-jawed maws trumps all other rights.

To be fair, maybe this isn’t really about freedom. Maybe, just maybe, it’s all about another hot-button word that gets thrown around all too often—entitlement.

There are certain groups—in America and abroad—who are not used to hearing the word ‘no’. Tragically, these are not the toddlers from our earlier example, but fully-grown adults in all but mind and temperament.

We’ve written before about what it takes to live in a society—the give and take, the respect for others, and the understanding of differences. Freedom is not the right to do whatever you please whenever you want, and if it is, then there is nothing to stop your neighbour from exercising her freedom by smashing your skull in. That’s not a free society—it’s the utter lack of a society. Society is about compromise.

Simply, you are not free to hurt others, or put them at undo risk, and if a business has a right to deny service to lifestyles they disagree with, then they damn sure have a right to deny service to selfish assholes who think only of themselves at the expense of those around them.

The mask debate was never about liberty, it’s about a lack of perspective—a failure to consider the experiences or needs of anyone but themselves. It comes from a place of privilege, an expectation that everything should revolve around them. It isn’t about God-given and inalienable freedoms, it’s a reaction to the feeling of frustration that comes with not getting their own way for once.

In short, it’s myopic, misanthropic, and fundamentally miserable.

It’s a pathetic state of affairs, but perhaps the previous analogy can still shed some light on the situation. Like the boy sent to his room for putting his freedom to hit over his sister’s freedom to be safe, perhaps a time-out from society is in order. If a person is unable or unwilling to consider the needs of others—if they are so pig-headed and paranoid that they will openly flaunt their disregard for the well-being of the society in which they live, then perhaps they don’t deserve to participate in that society at all. After all, if they are free to infect and jeopardize others, there must undoubtedly be a corresponding freedom to respond in like-kind.

The wheel never stops turning, and our actions for good or ill inevitably come back again. Just like the fight to refuse service has now come around to bite these hateful ne’er-do-wells, so too may their spite and self-focus smite them in the end.

What do you think?

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: Of Pipers and Pigs

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampAs mentioned in a recent update article, this week’s post is another re-share of a previous article that is still tragically relevant.

This piece is a short story, published for the first time in full on this blog. It’s about a Police Officer’s experience at a protest, and the conflict he experiences. Suffice it to say that in light of the riots for police reform currently sweeping the globe, its due time for a good many officers to look inside and ask themselves what their values really are.

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Of Pipers and Pigs

A Short Story by Brad OH Inc.

The thin metal barricades were all that separated us from them. Judging by the press of people facing us, it was anybody’s guess how long that alone would be sufficient. I gazed down the line—right and left—to the determined men and women by my side. They stood resolutely shoulder to shoulder, as was their duty, and the resolve on their faces did much to conceal the doubt in their eyes.

I saw my own uncertainty mirrored in theirs. It wasn’t so much a question of whether the barricade would hold—such tides had an inconceivable ability to lay waste to even the most thorough plans of men—but how they would react when it did give. The answer would be different for each of them.

With a turn of my head, I brought my attention to the people before me. They were a mixed lot. They wore all manner of clothing, having come here from every walk of life. I saw furious men in fancy suits, raving college kids with gaudy t-shirts, topless folk with body paint…and cameras—so many cameras all aimed at me and my colleagues. They were as eager to judge our course of action as we were to settle upon it.  

The railing, which reached to my midsection, swayed violently against the upheaval. It threatened now to collapse in against us, then to topple over upon them. Many of the onlookers were angry—the sort of anger that occurs only in those who have known great comfort, and now perceive it being denied to them. I felt their breath against my face.

One man loomed up right before me, pushing and shoving as if vying for position on the floor of some mad rock show. Jerking and wheeling, he made his way to the fence, holding up a blindingly bright sign and seeming to scream in tongues. The letters were too close to form words, but danced before me like the disjointed stars of some unfamiliar constellation. What does he want?

A sudden surge brought the mass forward, and the metal joints of the fence screeched in distress. Instinctively, I threw my weight forward to counter the assault, and felt my efforts validated by those beside me working in perfect unison.

Amongst the crowd, some fought harder. Like dogs chasing cars, their desire for action far exceeded their comprehension of the potential results. Others retreated quickly, slipping backwards and leaving in their wake only curses, insults, and more of their kind to fill their place.

Accusations flared in their eyes, confusing me, as I was usually looked to for comfort. Wasn’t that the idea?

Upon my left breast, my fingers drifted absently across my badge, as they did so often in moments like this. It felt the same as ever—the familiar surface that read like brail ever since the day it was first given to me. Each bump and scratch brought back the words of the oath I’d taken so long ago. They would never be forgotten.

So much has changed since then.

Shouts clawed at me from beyond the barricade, but were muffled by voices resounding in my head from much, much further away in time and space.

“What are you going to do about it?” my father had asked me.

I didn’t know, and kept my silence.

“Are you afraid?”

Yes, I knew. “No.”

There was blood on my face, my shirt…my hands.

“It’s all right to be,” he said, leaning down. He was a large man, and wore a rough old wool sweater as he set me upon his lap. “Smart men know when to be afraid.” He always knew how to comfort me.

“But everybody’s blaming someone else. Evan even blames me.” My whining was piteous, but at that age the strength of another is the surest route to vulnerability in yourself.

“That’s the way of the world,” he replied with a knowing sigh. Even in my hardest days, he expected me to find the answers for myself. There was no learning in being told what to do.

“But if no one really knows what happened, how can I know what’s right?” I pleaded, hoping for any bit of inspiration to help me resolve the insignificant playground conflicts which then seemed to be the focal point of all the world’s stress.

Then I saw it. Looking up over my shoulder, I watched the wisdom fade away. The certainty and resolve I’d come to depend on flowed like ice melting in spring, and the sun of confusion shone upon his face, illuminating the deep lines and off-coloured spots of the long years he’d seen. His eyes glassed over, as with a deep recollection he would not share. “I don’t know.” He’d answered.

“I’ll figure it out,” I’d assured him, wrapping my small arms around his shoulders, and losing myself in his familiar scent.

My fingers moved back down from my badge as my gaze wandered out to my left, chasing the sudden sounds of struggle. Farther down the fence, I saw a large throbbing black shape as several officers pushed together. A shouted chant was rising up and spreading from the area, but the words were lost to me.

At the heart of the mob, I could make out Jason, my oldest friend on the force. His uniform was splashed with paint, and he was yelling loudly, pointing at one of the men in front.

Ahead of me the crowd continued to heave and push, frantic to go someplace they didn’t know, and perhaps had only dreamed of. A sudden yell brought me back to the struggle, and I saw them dragging away the protestor Jason had indicated. The man kicked and lashed out; fighting desperately to be free from what he’d so passionately sought mere moments before.

“Just hold your position,” directed one of the other uniformed men beside me. “They’ve got it under control.” I’d never met him before.

The scene was dispersing now—most officers returning to their former positions as Jason and three others carried the man away. He was docile now, smiling innocently at the flashing cameras as my friends dragged his dead weight along. Passing behind me as they went, Jason whispered, “’Right and true’, buddy.”

I felt a subtle smile force its way across my lips. “Right and true,” I mouthed, but he was beyond hearing now. With the departure of my three colleagues, the line shifted as the remaining officers spread out, widening their stances to cover the gaps. I followed suit.

“Fucking pigs!” someone yelled. It made no difference who. Tension stiffened the limbs of those standing beside me as my own spine straightened with indignation. Did they come here today just to pick fights? Many looked as if they had.

But anger was not the only emotion worn by the people before me. They yelled and chanted. They shook the railing and they held up crude signs with uncertain meanings. But as they looked back at us, I could see in them the same fear I concealed in myself, the brooding question as to how this situation would end—what an ending to it would even mean.

The anxiety on their brows told me they knew their danger as well as I did, and were entirely aware that their absent friend was not the exception—that the same could happen as easily to any one of them. Gazing upon their strange looks of apprehension stiffened with resolution, I found myself wondering if their greatest fear was not that they might be arrested today, or that the barricade would break and their flood sweep over our breakwaters. It struck me that perhaps their real concern was that nothing at all would happen; that the tide would pass, and things would remain unchanged, and that they’d need to be back here again some other day.

Each face held a secret judgement, and again my fingers flashed briefly over my cold metal badge, assuring me that I was on the right side of the line. But ‘right’ is a funny word, and with my experience, I knew how to read its presence. Beyond all the anger, beyond the anxieties and fears, beyond the trepidation and dissent, I saw the ‘right’ in every one of them—an absolute certainty, as if they held some truth which I lacked. They believed in their cause absolutely.

It’s a strange thing, that two sides can line up so neatly, and stand in opposition to men who they may have peacefully passed on the street only a day before, yet both be so thoroughly convinced of the sole truth of their own position.

Right and true… I reflected, and I remembered Jason standing proud beside me the day we’d been given our badges. He beamed as the applause took hold of him, while I stood straight and calm by his side. We’d finally made it.

Later that night, we’d sat together in solemn reflection—drinking beers and speaking of the future.

“So, now what?” I’d wondered.

“Now we finally get to begin.” Jason responded as if the path we’d been seeking was laid out before us—forever free of forks or detours.

“Yeah… begin.” I acquiesced.

“Listen,” Jason put his hand on my shoulder. He was three years older than I, and had been a mentor to me as we’d come up through training together. “We’re officers of the law now. No matter where we find ourselves, we’ve got to remember that ‘right’ is on our side.”

I smiled, certain he was correct. Still, there was unease in me, remembering conversations from long ago… people long gone. “What if ‘right’ isn’t always clear?”

Jason took a long pull from his pint glass, emptying it down to suds as he rolled his eyes. “Jesus,” he’d said. “It’s your first day as a cop, and you’re already having doubts about yourself? Shape up man; you’ve reached the Promised Land. That badge you got today—that means ‘right’. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll remember that. What’s got you so down anyway?”

It wasn’t an easy thing to describe, especially in the face of my friend’s confidence. I sat awkwardly, taking noncommittal sips from my glass as Jason stared straight through me. His focus was astounding when he was intent on a subject. “I guess the whole time I was fighting for this, I felt like it would come with some solution. They got me ready for the job, trained me physically and mentally. Yet today, when they pinned it to my shirt, it seemed so heavy.

“Now all the expectations are on me, but I’m still the same person. The same doubts, the same uncertainties, the same ability to see different sides of an argument. I thought it would come with answers…I don’t know—I just expected to be more sure of the truth is all.”

“You’re never going to find any truth outside yourself buddy,” Jason grinned as he spoke, revelling in his perceived wisdom. “But you’ve come this far because you know enough truth already. You wouldn’t be here otherwise. Remember all those clowns who started with us. Where are they now? You have a great honour here man; your duty is to serve the people, to do what’s right. That’s the only truth you need.”

“You’re right,” I agreed, finishing my beer.

“Right and true!” Jason smiled.

A deep roar shattered my reverie, returning me to my post. The crowd was shifting, as if the masses were a single great beast breathing in for the charge. It swelled, pushing against the fence, testing it…seeking the breaking point.

Again I threw my shoulder against it, and again my fellow officers were there in unison. We stood as one resolute blockade, convincing ourselves together that the direction of the few could outweigh the determination of the many. Then the beast exhaled, the chants rose up again, and the moment had passed.

Straightening up, I gazed about me—the instant of reprieve allowing me to look out over the sea of humanity and take in the entirety of the scene.

They stretched back as far as I could see. There were people of every imaginable ethnicity, all ages and backgrounds. They all stood packed together in a sprawling, sweaty mass. Some were pressed so close to others they seemed barely able to speak or move, but remained as a number—one amongst many—and that was enough for them.

The square was packed from end to end; the traffic had been redirected well in advance. Somewhere in the distance I heard the beating of drums and tambourines, banging and clanging not with the heavy rhythm of an army on the move, but sounding more like a folk festival; a strange, displaced cultural jamboree tearing down the ritualistic order of our city.

In odd corners and assorted empty pockets amid the human sea, tents had been erected, and here and there circles of protestors danced with looks of joy on their faces, as if oblivious to the chaos around them.

Many held signs, each made by hand and bearing its own unique interpretation of the mob’s intent. I read them skeptically, trying to glean some idea of what exactly that intention was.

Some bore only curt slogans about change, while others featured well known logos and images of public figures, each altered and contorted to share their intended messages.

One logo I spied was instantly familiar. It came attached to my family’s healthcare receipts—the ones which got accepted at any rate. Another one, though it was partially covered with bright red lettering, I recognized to represent the corporation in charge of my pension. I’d heard they weren’t doing so well.

High up all around the square, the same logos—pristine and fresh—looked down accusingly at the scene. Each promised its own deliverance from the daily grind: ‘Fresh Food at Cheap Prices’, ‘Cars to Suit Your Class’… special offers to ‘Buy $100 Now for $120 Later’. Many of the biggest billboards bore bank logos so common amongst the signs of the crowd that it was easy to forget their actual origins.

A scuffle to the right stole my attention, and looking, I saw a ragged protestor in a dull fleece sweater trying to wrestle his sign back from the hands of two of my colleagues. Though torn and bent, on it I could distinguish the defaced countenance of the man who signed my paycheques.

Right and true. The words echoed in my ears, seeming as naturally fitted to one another as polar ends of a magnet…as ‘Us and Them’. I was surprised to feel my fists wrapping themselves around the metal railing before me. It had none of the old etchings of my badge, yet still my fingers clung to its sleek bars as my mind raced.

The uncertainty in the faces squaring off against each other was the only visible balance. I stared at the people beside me, then at those in front of me. Each group stood upon their respective side of the metal barricade, looking to one another as if to ensure the plan hadn’t changed.  Everyone had come here with some expectation, but all stood patiently now, just wondering how it was going to end.

The railing jerked under my hands.

Right and true were sundered by doubt, and the smooth surface of the shifting rail assured me that I was as guideless as the rest—left to draw my own conclusions…though there was still the badge. All lined up beside me, my fellow officers remained strong, doing their duty. Each had undoubtedly reached this position with intentions similar to my own. What are they thinking now?

A sudden urge took me, and I felt my body turn. There was a hand upon my shoulder, though I couldn’t tell if it belonged to an officer or protestor as my vision turned away from the bustling mass behind me and settled upon the ornate building now in front. It stood on our side of the barricade, fenced entirely by my friends and colleagues as suited men passed in and out unhindered.

Your duty is to serve the people, to do what’s right. That’s the only truth you need. Jason’s words rang through my mind as a tremor passed down my spine. I turned back around, and set my shoulders squarely in line with the fence.

The chants and screams were growing louder now, and the heads of the people beyond me drifted side to side wildly as the crowd surged about like boats unmoored against a rising storm.

My right hand drifted towards my chest once more, closing around the cold metal over my heart. My left remained upon the railing as it jockeyed wildly about, threatening to fail at any moment. Which way will I face when it does?

Right and true. I felt all things at once now: the barricade before me, the badge upon me, the gun at my side, and the surging mob pushing towards me. The fence bounced and jostled—the frail division line between us ready at any moment to collapse upon itself. Then we’ll all stand together.

I imagined the protestors struggling over the wreckage of the barricade, pondered the responses of my fellow officers…and of myself. ‘Right’ was a hollow spot in my chest, and ‘true’ was but a taunting memory. There was a lump in my throat I could not swallow, and I found my thoughts settling ultimately upon my own family at home, wondering what they’d expect of me.

Still the fence held, though I knew that whether here and now, or later and elsewhere, it had to break in the end. There were questions to be answered, and when the tides of society shifted, there was no barrier sufficient to stand against the flood.

I straightened my back and waited, knowing I had a decision to make.

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: ‘Politics’ is Not a Dirty Word

As mentioned in a recent update article, this week’s post is an re-share of a previous article that is still tragically relevant.

This piece examines the concept of ‘not talking about politics’. What does it mean for an issue to be political, and when is it OK to talk about these issues?

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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.

COVID Contemplations

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampIt’s been a while since I’ve written anything on this blog. Strange times are upon us, and the slow spiral of the world down the drain seems to accelerate.

For four months, the world has been in the heavy grip of COVID-19, yet with the best medical and scientific knowledge in the world at our fingertips, people balk at the request to make even the slightest changes to help prevent disaster.

It’s nothing new, of course. It never is. The same apathetic attitude permeates efforts to implement sensible gun laws, to curb climate change, and most presciently, to reform the brutal, racist policing in the United States and beyond.

In what may be the most teachable moment in the last several generations, America stands poised to learn absolutely nothing. As soon as they got out of quarantine, the hopped merrily back to the killing of black citizens in the streets, the intentional misunderstandings of science, and the distrust of anything claiming to have the truth.

It’s a maddening age, and it of any writer with a passion for political commentary or dystopian futures is likely to find themselves dumbfounded by the world’s ability to defy the plausible and mock the logical.

As for myself, I’ve been working on two novels, which are coming along nicely. I’ve also written several short stories, one of which will soon be published in the Edmonton Writer’s Group Fourth Anthology of Stories. More news on that to come.

In the meantime, I remain at a loss of what to say here—and thus divert my attention elsewhere. What is missing? Is there any topic or situation you the reader would like explored? Let me know in the comments at the bottom of this page, or by e-mail (link on the homepage).

Until then, when the future dries up, many tend to glorify the past. And when the world seems to play ceaselessly at the same silly games, the past is as good an indicator as any.

In light of that, over the next few weeks I’d like to re-share a couple of articles which are—sadly—as relevant today as they were then.

The first will be about the concept of ‘not talking about politics’. What does it mean for an issue to be political, and when is it OK to talk about these issues?

The second is a short story, published for the first time in full on this blog. It’s about a Police Officer’s experience at a protest, and the conflict he experiences. Suffice it to say that in light of the riots for police reform currently sweeping the globe, its due time for a good many officers to look inside and ask themselves what their values really are.

I hope you enjoy these posts over the next couple week.

Your friends,

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: Has Bernie Sanders Been Casting Pearls Before Swine?

As the world sits silently and watches the COVID-19 crisis unfold, it is easy to feel like life is on pause as we learn to face this new and unexpected challenge. Perhaps sadly, that is not the case, and even as we focus on the fresh fight ahead of us, old and familiar cycles are repeating themselves right under our noses.

Today, we look back to a post from June 5th, 2016. Has America learned nothing in the four years since then?

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This week, the American people will have their final chance to capitalize on the heartfelt platform of hope proffered by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Will they take this opportunity, or has Bernie merely been casting pearls before swine?

We’ll find out on June 7th, as the DNC hosts their final major round of primaries, with 6 states holding contests, and a grand-total of 694 pledged delegates up for grabs. As of the writing of this article, the pledged delegate count sits at 1500 for Bernie Sanders, and 1770 for his opponent Hilary Clinton.

It must here be noted that this does not include super-delegates—the patently undemocratic party elites who are afforded the opportunity to pledge their loyalty according to their personal interests, rather than the will of their constituents. Of these, Hillary currently has 520, while Bernie holds a comparably measly 45. Although these super-delegates have currently promised their loyalty as such, their support is not locked in until the Convention in July. It’s possible therefore that the events of June 7th could weigh heavily on this final process, and herein lays Bernie Sander’s greatest hope.

sandersBased on these current numbers, Sanders would need to take ~71% of the vote on the 7th in order to enter the Convention with a compelling argument. It’s a tall order to be sure—but not wholly impossible. Still, even if Sanders and Clinton went to convention with relatively equal delegate counts, the onus would be on Sanders to convince the super-delegates to throw their support behind him—a revolutionary thinker who has consistently challenged the very sort of entrenched Establishment politics upon which the super-delegates are based.

It’s not an encouraging scenario, and it brings us back to our initial question. In his campaign, Bernie has been infallibly consistent in the message he’s delivered to the American electorate. His vision is that of a nation which values its people as a whole, and not simply its business owners and billionaires. He has captivated the youth and other well-meaning people of the nation with the rather seditious notion that government must serve its people: that fair taxes must be paid by everyone, and that the use of those taxes must at all times be aimed at improving the station of the population as a whole—rather than merely protecting the interests of the rich and powerful.

For the majority of the civilized world, these ideas are already held as sacrosanct. Unfortunately for him, Bernie Sanders is running in America, where the reek of Reaganomics still lingers in the very fabric of the economic structures, and the working class still confuses the meanings of freedom and fiefdom.

So if Bernie’s natural empathy for the working class and indefatigable hope for the future have captured the minds of the electorate, it may prove rather less effective in securing the support of the ruling elite. Rather, his argument will soon switch focus—insisting (and not without merit) that he is the most likely Democratic contender to topple Donald Trump—that unholy mess streaming down from the recently self-eviscerated GOP.

Unfortunately, the Democratic National Committee is firmly entrenched in its current politics—hell, their pocketbooks depend on it. So this argument—though valid—may still fall upon deaf ears, leaving America in a more dismal situation than ever.

If June 7th turns sour for Bernie, this rare opportunity for positive growth will have been momentarily squandered, and Americans will be left with a choice between Donald Trump: a hair-brained demagogue promising to fan the already raging flames of fear and bigotry, or Hillary Clinton: a sorry shill of a candidate whose sound-bite message changes with every opinion poll, but whose true priorities are as intrinsically tied to Wall St. and the corporate elite as is her fundraising. Either would likely mean another four years of rule by corporate interests…and a depressing admission that despite the growing mass of well-informed and even-headed voters, the powers that be still have a fatal stranglehold on American politics.

For voters on both sides of the political spectrum, this scenario would amount to little more than a compulsion to vote for the ‘lesser of two evils’—all while knowing full well that the end result will favour the entitled rich, and further isolate the vast majority of society from active political discourse.

1401x788-Screen-Shot-2015-06-04-at-12.45.15-PMHowever, this won’t be the case…at least not entirely. The message Bernie has been spreading is nothing new—hell, he’s been saying it the entirety of his 35-year political career, and most of his life besides that. What’s more, it is the ever-growing sentiment of the caring and politically-informed—not restricted to the young alone as the media often claims—open and accessible to all with the mind to understand the scope of their situation, and the resolve to damn well do something about it.

Bernie has not created this movement, but rather he has acted as the lightning rod for an already growing resistance. He has become the voice of a generation who have had enough of the unfair playing field they have been given, and who seek to build a system that is fair and compassionate; one which provides for all of its citizens the opportunity to flourish in a country which has no justifiable reason to offer anything less.

While Bernie has been the mouthpiece, this surging tide will not end with his campaign (should it indeed end). Bernie Sanders has shone a light on the reality of our station—showing countless people that they are not alone in their hope for a better world, and that they are not naively idealistic in their expectations. This ever increasing sense of justice is one that cannot help but spread, simply because it is rooted in a truth far more fundamental than the forces of greed and vice against which they strive.

If Bernie’s message could be encapsulated in a few words, it would be this: ‘We can do much better’. He has spoken this time and again—sounding often enough like a broken record—and despite the potentially disappointing results of this year’s primaries; his message has not fallen on deaf ears. People perceive how much better we can do, and even though the forces of greed may once again prevail, the lasting sentiment of this movement will continue to flourish. Now, its message is a bit different. The knowledge of a better world is beyond doubt, but so too are the obstacles to obtaining it all the more evident.

So perhaps Bernie has cast pearls before swine—far too many swine at least. But his pearls have nonetheless been plucked up by deserving and admirable minds, and their message now, seeing the fight before them, may be best expressed with a line stolen from the late great Pete Seeger. Democratic Socialism and Bernie Sander’s Revolution are of one clear and conscientious message: ‘We are not afraid.’

sanders-vpr-laslo-20150910So, although trampled and despoiled, pearls they remain. And if there are dark times ahead, then so too is there the promise of brighter days. The masses, I am convinced, have been awoken, and never again will their eyes be closed to the truth of their oppression, nor from the laudable promise of a fair and equitable world which values it’s humanity above its finances. For this at least, we owe Bernie Sanders a debt of thanks—time alone will reveal just what a great debt that is.

-Brad OH Inc.

Checklists

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

I was talking to a friend of mine recently, and he brought up the idea of checklists. The idea that so many people—probably all of us to some extent—live their lives by a specific set of items to tick off. Each one representing an essential expectation for their life.

Before they’ve even lived it, they’ve got it all mapped out.

  • Find the Job.
  • Meet the partner.
  • Buy the house.
  • Walk the aisle.
  • Have the kids.
  • Take pictures in front of famous landmarks.

It’s slightly different for everyone of course, but we all have some form of checklist. Most likely, this is a good thing, keeping us on track and focussed on the wonderful things we want to do with our lives.

It can take over though. Too tight a fixation on these checklist items can cause you to lose sight of life as it happens. To look ever to the future in our hopes can lead us to miss out on the meaning of the moment.

It’s important to ask yourself what you are willing to sacrifice in the moment for a chance at something else in the future? It’s a tough balance, but I have often found the greatest joys in life have laid not on the path I expected to take, but in the side alleys and dark bars of spontaneity and surprise.

Now, far be it for me to discourage anyone from chasing their dreams. Go for the things you want—hunt them as relentlessly as you see fit, but as you hasten in your pursuit, don’t forget to look around at the things passing by. It may be that they are the things you’ll find you miss.

-Brad OH Inc.