‘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.

 

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‘Juggalos Vs. Nazis’

This Saturday, Sept. 16th, 2017, the Juggalos will march on Washington, DC. The Juggalos are marching in protest of the FBI decision to label them as a gang. It’s a particularly obnoxious decision from the Feds, and a dangerous precedent—to call a particular musical fanbase a criminal organization is a pretty slippery slope. But, all of that has been covered by us in the past. For more details on the situation and its significance, see the article here.

With only six days remaining until the march, you’d think there would be few surprises left to share, but a simultaneous group of protesters from Trump’s heinous ‘alt-right’ crowd have decided to show up in DC that same day, demonstrating to protect the purity of their blood, or ‘freedom’, or whatever other God-forsaken rally-cry their committee settles on.

This has garnered a surprising turn in the coverage of the event as a whole, with many media outlets suddenly considering the day less about the first amendment protected and the rather reasonable right to listen to music without being considered a criminal, and more of a super-event deemed: Juggalos vs. Nazis!

Now, one of the most impressive swerves caused by this is the stunning about-face of liberal media, suddenly clamouring to the side of the Juggalos. While it’s true that even most mainstream media outlets have been on board with the Clown’s regarding the gang designation, by and large, ICP and the Juggalos have been consistent media whipping boys for the better parts of their careers.

Previously, the majority of the liberal-media has slathered at the mouth for the chance to write about how trashy, ignorant, and deplorable the Juggalos are. Viewing them as little more than sub-human white-trash, Juggalos have been the long-standing ‘bye’ in the PC world—nothing said about Juggalos is rude or out-of-line…they’re just Juggalos, after all.

Interesting then, that after more than 25 years of their message, these very media outlets are finally starting to hear what ICP—and the Juggalos—have been saying all along.

Fuck racism.

Fuck hate.

They said it back in 1992, with ‘Your Rebel Flag’, and they said it in 2015, with ‘Confederate Flag’. In fact, the steadfast stance against bigotry and judgement has been among the defining ideas behind ICP’s music for the entirety of their careers.

But hey, if a clash with dangerously misled, knuckle-dragging Nazi’s is what it takes for people to see it, I guess we can work with that. But it’s about time…because this is a pretty important distinction to draw, and a train that the liberal-media has taken far too long to catch.

As trashy, poor, and odd as Juggalos may often be, it is essential—in times like this more than ever—to recognize the humanity within all people. Despite their circumstances, which are—as the press is quick to note—quite similar to those of the average ‘Trumpet-blower’—the Juggalos as a group have defined themselves by their hardline stance against bigotry and hatred, and by speaking out for human-rights and equality whenever they’re given a platform.

That’s just the sort of mindset the left so often claims to promote. So, it’s long overdue then, that they stop ridiculing Juggalos over differences in musical predilections, and start celebrating them for the wildly diverse, yet fiercely noble morality the group and its followers avow. Better late than never though, we know we’re a hard concept to grasp. Still, this Saturday, it will be the Juggalos on the frontlines—defending the first amendment, the right to enjoy what you want, and potentially, taking an inadvertent stand against the malignant hate and intolerance sweeping the United States.

Maybe…just maybe, some of these former naysayers will be willing to take that stand with them. If so, then hop on in, and welcome to the carnival…clowns.

-Brad OH Inc.

A Lament for Henry Wallace

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

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

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

Henry A. Wallace was just such a man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Brad OH Inc.

What Does America Have in Common with the WWE?

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

This was probably the greatest mistake they ever made.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Brad OH Inc.

Right, Left, and Everything in Between: What Will Become of America?

purelyspeculationThree days after the 2016 General Election in America, a pall of dread hangs over not just the nation, but the world. There is doubt, confusion, and no small amount of fear. The very thing which everyone said simply could not happen has now come to pass—Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States.

Not only fear, this also creates a lot of questions. How did this happen? Why did we doubt it could? What does this say about the American people? What does the future hold for the ‘Land of the Free’?

Coming to power astride a wave of grandiose lies and dangerous bombast, Trump has openly called for violence, insulted multiple races, defiled men, and debased women on his path to the most powerful office in the world. The ludicrous ideas he has espoused pale in their absurdity only in comparison to the ignorant and ever-shifting ideologies he has endorsed.

Now there are riots in the streets, which are unlikely to end any time soon. To be honest, I expect this would have been little different had Hillary Clinton won.

The madness and peculiarity of this shocking election cycle did not happen by random chance. It was a clear reflection of the state of the American political structure, and more importantly, the American people.

This race has seen the utter devastation of both traditional parties—party lines are in shambles and voters are in doubt. Amidst all of this, we must remember one very important fact.

Donald Trump was elected President.

One of the questions going through many minds is, how did this happen?

Well, words are always important, and the key word to the above phrase is ‘elected’. He won enough votes to take control of the Electoral College—quite handily at that. The fairness or effectiveness of the Electoral College is not the current purpose of this article mind you, and the fact simply remains that by the rules of the democracy, Trump had the voters he needed to win.

Who are these people?

Some of them—and possibly no small number—are just those who vote red no matter what. Both parties have always had plenty of those.

Others were likely the empowered bigots that inevitably sprout up under a vile demagogue like Trump, but I believe (and certainly pray) this number is far from being as high as many people believe.

A large portion of Trump voters, I expect, were simply just so reactionary and angry with the crooked system that they were willing to gamble. They were tired of false promises. They were tired of all the money going upward. They were tired of politicians being bought and paid for. They were tired of having no voice, and were long overdue to strike back at a political establishment which for far too long has functioned only for the moneyed interests which it serves.

As a Bernie guy, I get that.

The fact that enough people were willing to vote Trump rather than continue with the status quo is a damning condemnation on the current state of party politics. Yet, the oldest mistake in the history of democracy is to reject a failed system without due caution, and conjure into reality something even more fierce and immediate.

This election—all the way back to the primaries—was an aggressive rejection of crooked politics, corporate interference, economic mismanagement, and elitism. Yet the failure of the electorate to unite on the true issues, and the constant projection of aggression and fear onto one another has finally, in the end, led to the election of the Anti-Cause. Trump is the living embodiment of all the miserable vices which usurped the democratic process and threatened liberty to begin with.

There’s too much fear and anger. Any nerd can tell you what those lead to.

So here we are, and the question remains—what can we expect now?

One of the most common fears is the effect Trump’s antics will have on the populace, that he will inspire bigotry with confidence when it should rightly hide in shadows. Already, we’re seeing examples of this being reported, and there is sure to be more in the weeks to come.

But we must not yet take this to be the majority of his voters, or the true tone of the American people. If we listen to interviews, such hate is not the motivating factor for a great many—and we would do well not to ignore the expressed desires and intentions of the people. That, after all, is precisely what’s carried us to this precipice.

Nor indeed must any decent person trade hate for hate—to act violently or even unkindly towards these frustrated voters is to fall into the very pit of anger and hatred which most would claim to despise.

In this ailing democracy of ours, we can only hope for the best at this point. We must support what works, and vigorously fight what doesn’t. But above all and without fail, we must continue the fight against an entrenched establishment that has turned its back on the people it was created to represent in favour of its own interests. This may only happen if we step out of the cycle of blame and distrust. Talk to people on the other side of the spectrum—learn about their fears and their hopes. Share your own. Speak up against intolerance, but never slip into it yourself. Never forget how easy this is to do. Talk, share, and be honest. Set a model of decency in the truest sense—that is how you improve the world.

Finally, while so justified, while so understandable and well-earned, we must remember the very forces that brought us to this point. Avoid despair, avoid rage. Most importantly, fear not…

-Brad OH Inc.

The Interrelated Failings of the Free Market and Free Speech

purelyspeculation‘Freedom’.

It has been the go-to battle-cry for every side in most any debate. It’s a trump card to call upon when logic fails—a tacit threat laid down gauntlet-like in order to challenge the values of an opponent when one cannot intelligently defend their own.

Right-wingers, left-wingers, libertarians, economists, racists and fanatics—all will appeal to the defense of their freedom when all else fails.

Fools, one and all.

We explored the topic of freedom recently in our article ‘Libertarians are Starry-Eyed Idealists’ (Link). At that time, we talked about the definition of freedom, and the counter-productive and false narrative of ‘unlimited freedom’. Today, we will explore our assumptions about the realities of freedom in two of the places it is most ubiquitously championed: the market, and the media.

‘The Free Market’. You can just feel your heart swell at the very mention of it. It’s like a unicorn in that way. That way—and that it’s entirely imaginary. The model of a free market describes a situation in which all can compete to buy and sell goods at the best possible prices. Products compete against each other as well—with the greatest value winning out in the hearts of consumers. It allows for flourishing competition, and inspires the best from all who participate.

It’s a wonderful dream, but little more at this point. The markets we have now are not free in any defensible sense—they are controlled by enormous corporations who funnel money upwards to their owners at the expense of affordability, quality, and consumer safety.

They are far too big to ‘compete’ against any tiny upstart with a head full of decency and common sense. They buy and sell market rights, strangle out competition, and throw down patents as defensive bolsters against growth and ease of access. There is no freedom or competition—only the surreptitious motives of greed and dominance. Prices for medications are needlessly inflated, housing markets are intentionally crashed, banks prey on the ill-informed, and corporations use their power to change laws in their favour and dodge enough taxes to wildly improve the state of the nation for all. The rich get richer, the poor stay in servitude.

So much for a free market then.

So how about the media? Surely this bastion of free knowledge, this fountain of informed citizenry has some tangible claim to freedom?

Sadly, not so.

As discussed in Sheldon Wolin’s (Link) impeccable book ‘Democracy Incorporated’, the media has followed a similar trend to the market.

In the past, ideas functioned much as they did in a truly ‘free’ marketplace. Many ideas were circulated, and the ‘best’ (as defined by open and informed discussion) became the most ubiquitous and popular. But in a world where media messages are controlled by the same mega-corporations which control our markets, the corporations are the ‘sellers’ of ideas, and we the consumers can only choose from the prescribed ideas they are willing to sell us—just like the current marketplace.

We see it everywhere—from the crooked nature of the 2 party political system, to the subversion of dissent via thousands of media companies being owned by only 6 corporations (Source). It is the death knell of free-thought. Ideas and options—from what laundry soap to buy to who to vote for in a general election—all fall within the pre-defined scope chosen by the corporations which have seized control of our marketplaces, our media, and our political system.

These multi-national corporations are the sole, uniquely ‘free’ participants in our society, and use this to put constraints on every system they see fit. Each of these effects the other—we are less informed (thus less able to vote), and more desperate (thus more eager to spend).

It all falls together quite nicely—it’s an effective market, even if it’s a far cry from free.

In book two of ‘The Analects’ (Link), Confucius speaks about rightful duty in governing people—stating that only a government which promotes and models good conduct and duty can ever expect to have loyal citizens. Surely, our current government can boast of having none of these.

We are left to fend for ourselves against powerful parties that would see us starve if it served to increase their bankrolls. Governments and corporations have merged—and the leadership of the people is no longer administered by informed citizens with nobles intentions, but rather by the whim of the rich and powerful—motivated only to increase those traits at all costs.

This must be remedied.

Freedom can only come when the people of the world take back the power which has been denied to them. To put in place good and honest leaders who seek the betterment of society as a whole is the only means of fighting back. We need not greed, but charity. Not a hunger for power, but a love of peace. Not clever deals, but honest intentions.

Then, and only then, can we hope to call ourselves free.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Fight Against Hatred

purelyspeculation‘Sit down and shut up.’

Too often, it seems like the most prudent advice. In a world so chock full of contradicting thoughts and overt hatred—how are we to parse out truth from nonsense and be sure we take the right stand? It’s no small task, and all too frequently the safest bet seems to be sitting on the sidelines—unwilling to take a stand one cannot fully commit to.

In our recent article, ‘Why You Should Seek Contrary Friendships’ (Link), we discussed the importance of expanding our social circles in order to enhance our understanding of the world and diversify our own perspective on life.

But sometimes, this proactive effort falls short in the face of modern reality. While growing ourselves and seeking higher understanding is undoubtedly among the keys steps to squashing hatred in its tracks, it isn’t always the most expedient.

Some deem it best to bow out if they are not directly involved, but this is misled. It is incumbent upon any decent man or woman to endeavour always to speak out in the name of what is right, even—or especially—when doing so seems the most difficult path. It is precisely this individual fortitude of character which empowers the world as a whole to take a stand for decency, while it is the lewd and cowardly act of sitting impotently on the fence which enables hatred to take root.

So let it be known: when it comes to the condemnation of hatred and intolerance, inaction IS a stance, and silence DOES speak.

When we witness acts of hatred or intolerance, it is the duty of anyone who values virtue to speak up loudly, to call it out by name and make clear that there is no place for such atavistic atrocities in our world.

It may not stop such vile acts forever, but it will certainly make a difference to the present victim.

What about the long term, then? Is it a reasonable goal to eliminate—or even substantially reduce—the hatred so malignant in this world, and if so, what will it take?

Certainly, to seek its total elimination seems perhaps over-ambitious. But if we are to effectively enact its reduction, the best strategy may be the concurrent elimination or reduction of fear.

Yes, fear is most often the driving force behind hatred: Fear of the unknown, the foreign—the strange and the different. Fear of anything which makes us step back and experience the world outside the comfort of the familiar. After all—that which is different presents us with a sudden and startling awareness of our own unlimited options—and that can be a lot to handle for the simple-minded zealots most likely to cling to such divisive rhetoric.

The above may seem like a hateful or derisive over-simplification in and of itself, but I don’t think it’s far off base. Hatred is bred from fear, and fear itself is most often the product of ignorance.

The ultimate goal then, can only be education. Not teaching people WHAT to think per say, but rather teaching them HOW: How to think critically. How to evaluate facts. How to consider other perspectives.

As discussed in the article cited above (Link), it is by the constant challenging and re-evaluation of our own innate assumptions that we learn to better understand the views of others. Without this, we are left to blindly fear the dark—assuming that only terror can be held beyond the short sight-lines of our own stunted knowledge.

It must be clear however, to any thinking person, that such assumptions are faulty from the start. Few indeed are those who would willingly seek chaos over comfort, or cruelty over kindness. All sides of every debate must follow this same advice—to learn about the other, to understand their fears, and to evaluate with reason and unbiased ration their own contributions to the present state. We must seek to unite in our common truths, rather than draw lines in the sand over perceived differences.

Then, and only then, can we hope to live in a world less fraught with hatred and disdain, and embrace instead a future of understanding and opportunity for all.

-Brad OH Inc.