Rhapsody

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Civil discourse these days has become pretty uncommon. You’ll rarely hear a debate that doesn’t soon slip into name calling and paranoid wailing.

It’s both sides.

Everyone is simply too afraid. Afraid of everything, yet somehow afraid of all the wrong things.

That fear is the problem, and it stunts any level of intelligent discourse by wheeling us into knee-jerk reactions and assumptions—making our conclusions for us. When angry and afraid, you go with what you know: Red or Blue.

That’s the thing about political thought however, it never quite fits into a single definition. Try as they may, there is no binary option that can capture the nuance of human belief—of our values.

Values, now there’s a word that’s thrown around a lot in politics, yet never really utilized the way it should be. Values, after all, are what it really comes down to. The truth of it is, I strongly suspect that a measure of fundamental values would show a far less divided picture of humanity than a typical measure of political preferences.

Behind the rhetoric and uproar, there do remain basic rights and wrongs, and obvious decencies which I still believe the vast majority of people can agree upon. These are values which go beyond culture and language.

They are innate to us, and are denied only by the most wretched of deviants, or those desperate souls who by poverty or avarice have found themselves denied entirely of their moral compass.

What would happen then, if people were to put aside their labels and colours—the brand names of political philosophy—and turn away from their hot button issues to discuss instead the basic values they hold dear.

No loose terms like freedom here. Tell me what that really means.

What do you love?

What do you fear?

What do you hate?

Do you realize the last answer is most likely the twisted spawn of some unknowable combination of the former two?

Or that the second closely follows the first?

Really though. If the world at large could manage such civil debate for a while—I mean really keep it going, get deep, and avoid falling back into the ‘yeah but’ type thinking which somehow convinces us that the forces of reality must in the end overwhelm the deepest of truths—what might be the result?

And what would you have to say?

-Brad OH Inc.

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On Misanthropy

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Misanthropy

[mis-an-thruh-pee, miz-]

noun

  1. hatred, dislike, or distrust of humankind.

I’ve been accused of it before, and I can certainly see where the assumption might stem from. After all, I spend a fair bit of my time on this blog ranting about the failings, shortcomings, and general depravity that are the human condition.

In truth though, I really don’t consider myself a misanthrope. I’m seldom shocked by people’s endless travesties, nor occasional decencies. But the distrust part is probably fair—the endless flow of disappointment and decay witnessed on any social media or news channel should be enough to ingrain a deep-seated distrust of people in anyone paying even an iota of attention.

It’s the distrust though, and not the hatred or dislike, which serves as the base of any misanthropy I might exhibit. Maybe disappointment is the more accurate word. To me, the categories seem to border on mutually exclusive.

To hate or even dislike humankind, one would expect little of them, and demand even less. For me, it is the opposite.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I find myself harbouring an unshakeable love and optimism for humanity. I believe in our potential whole-heartedly, and am in awe to imagine the heights of virtue, justice, and wonder we could aspire to if only unburdened of our pride and avarice.

It is this hope for and faith in our potential which keeps my outlook on the dark side—my gestating joy clouded constantly by the disappointment of reality and our inability to rise above the pettiness and fearful indecency which has mired us in the same patterns our entire existence.

This dismal divide has been the guiding force behind most of my writing, and continues to be the driving factor behind many of my choices and actions. It is a subtle push, a shivering hope, that we may eventually see the day that humankind ceases to fear, and stands no longer in dereliction of our innate potential, but rise instead to be the glorious, luminous beings that are and always have been our truest nature.

-Brad OH Inc.

Apostrophe

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Time and distance on your side,

More than you’ll ever know,

As memories release their grasp,

 New hopes begin to grow,

Yet truth presides, over your mind,

No matter where you go,

And is that shame, upon your brow,

To ever say it’s so?

-Brad OH Inc.

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.

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.

 

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.