A Flag in Peril

I’m driving along an asphalt road, lousy with potholes. It doesn’t matter where I’m going. In Alberta, most destinations are similar enough. It’s not the sites on the side of the road, or the gloomy clouds ahead that get my attention—it’s the flag on the truck blowing by me.

For most of my life, the red bars and maple leaf of the Canadian flag has held a uniform meaning to most anyone likely to encounter it. It stood for pride, equality, and promise. Not the ill-defined promise of freedom so often associated with the stars and bars, but a more grounded, introspective promise that assured us we were working together, and supporting one another. Certainly, the country has never been perfect, but for a long while, it felt like we were on the same path—one helping the other down it as required.

That’s all in the past now. As the flag—torn and weather worn—flutters by above a brand new, lifted pickup truck, a new set of feelings arise in my heart. Where before there may have been pride, now there is resentment, judgement, and anger.

…The flag has been co-opted, and it’s meaning is no longer consistent.

In late January, 2022, the country witnessed an unparalleled level of unrest and division. Dubbing itself the ‘Freedom Convoy’, a sizeable group of Canadians jumped into their over-sized, high-end vehicles in an effort to show the world how hard-done-by they were.

While it may be understandable for people to tire of mandates, and few could argue against the notion that civil protest is a fundamental right to any free society, the convoy quickly took a turn for the worse when it reached Ottawa, and other Canadian cities.

Fed by misinformation and fuelled by paranoia, their demands became more and more outrageous, and their behaviour followed suit. While the more reasonable members of the protest focussed on lifting mandates and returning to ‘normal’, extremist elements sought to impose their will on the country through any means necessary.

The stated intentions of the convoy ranged from an end to vaccine mandates for truckers crossing the border—a policy reflected by the country sharing said border—to an end to all mandates, to the surrender of the government and the instatement of their own appointed officials. These latter intentions were outlined in a shocking manifesto delivered—and later retracted by—convoy leaders. For more information on that, see Here, and Here.

Soon enough, it was a protest no longer. The capital city of Canada was experiencing a full-on occupation. With trucks blocking major through-ways, protesters used horns to torture the residents of Ottawa day and night, for three weeks straight. They hurled insults at anyone wearing a mask, defaced public property, and damaged businesses who didn’t immediately cave to their wildly varied demands.

While provincial police and politicians sat on their hands—likely trying to decide which response was most likely to curry them the greatest favor from voters—innocent people living in cities across Canada grew increasingly incensed at the notion that this small minority could run roughshod over the fabric of society, and seemingly get away with it.

When Prime Minister Trudeau activated emergency powers to end the occupation, the country held its collective breath. Supporters of the convoy railed against perceived tyranny, while victims of the convoy cried for delivery from the occupiers. Everyone feared the precedent set, and the potential damage to our international reputation if the powers were misused.

To the shock of very few, the occupiers caved quickly when faced with actual consequences for what may have been the first time in their lives. Despite the hysteria, the application of the emergency powers was well-restrained. It specifically targeted the funding of occupation leaders, aiming to end their supply chain. In ongoing investigations that have surprised absolutely no one, it has been revealed that the majority of this funding came from foreign sources.

Police seized vehicles only after several written warnings, and convoy leaders who refused to move on were arrested. Once the crisis was over and the people of Ottawa were again secure to live their lives, the powers were promptly rescinded. While by all accounts this use of emergency powers was limited and practical, the country remains on edge.

To some, the occupation was a legitimate expression of discontent—the culmination of frustrations with COVID-19 mandates that were shared by most everyone. To the majority however, its execution was like the colicky wailings of a dying sense of masculinity—an entitlement so deeply rooted that harassing others and forcing your minority view on a nation seemed like justice.

Now the nation watches as the Right Wing of provincial politics seeks to gut our Universal Healthcare—claiming it had failed to get the nation through the pandemic. They miss the irony of course, as they were the very ones dodging public health efforts, and under-funding it at every turn. If the passengers of the Titanic had cheered on the iceberg, haranguing that ‘at least it’s not the one sinking’, the level of cognitive-dissonance could scarcely be greater.

Things have quieted down now. At least, that’s the case if you can ignore the desperate posts of those still married to their own victim-complexes.

The streets are quiet, and traffic can move again. The COVID mandates are lifting—as they were set to all along.

In the end, this occupation’s only real impact was likely the damage it did to the comfort and contentment of many Canadians. No minds were changed, and no policies were impacted to any significant degree.

Still, as the flag trails off into the distance in my rear-view mirror, I can’t ignore the adverse feeling in my gut. It’s been degraded, and I wonder what the rest of the world sees these days when the Canadian flag waves.

There’s another flag in windows these days. The Blue and Yellow of the Ukrainian standard flies high and proud around my city—supporting those fighting against real oppression, and facing legitimate danger.

It stirs something inside of me. A memory of a time not too long ago, yet far too distant. It was a time when people remembered that a society means that we are in this together—and that only by embracing that can we ever affect lasting change.

I hope that soon, our nation can remember that, and our flag can once more fly so high.

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: Libertarians are Starry-Eyed Idealists

Over the past week, Canada has watched as a minority group has terrorized cities and blocked critical infrastructure. They have demanded special freedoms, while denying freedom to those that live there.

It’s a sad situation all around, and has reminded me of a confusion I still come across all too often. When people talk about freedom, they often focus only on their own insular view of freedom, and seldom the freedoms of society at large.

Call it the ‘Inverted Wallace Equation’: The louder someone screams about freedom, the less likely they are to be standing on its side.

The article below–a re-share from 2016–covers this issue in greater depth.

What do you think?

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Freedom is often lauded as the most integral value of any developed nation. In fact, the notion of the ‘free world’ does much to inform us of the fundamental value that we place on personal liberty, and well it should. Freedom is among the key human rights, but it must be pointed out that at times, people get a little bit carried away with their interpretation of what exactly ‘freedom’ entails.

One need not wade too far into the depths of social-media to find the rants and raves of disenfranchised citizens so bitter about a parking ticket, or a sales-tax, or perhaps a pesky ‘no-loitering’ sign, that they’re ready to hoist the black flags and hop aboard the good ship ‘Anarchy’.

‘Freedom’, they will argue, is the birthright of man—the inalienable and righteous destiny of all people brave enough to seek it! But there are sorry few building their own boats to follow this urge, and fewer still running off to the lonely mountains to live a ‘free’ life. I suppose it’s an easy thing to moan about the comfortable confines of society as you daydream about weening yourself off its teat, but it does beg the question of what exactly true ‘freedom’ is, and if it can exist at all.

I would argue that perfect freedom is an illusion—a starry-eyed dream more befitting whatever afterlife you prefer than the life you live. In fact, I believe that power and control are unavoidable, and there is no conceivable ‘system of naught’ sufficient to maintain the vacuous void left if all authority is stripped away.

Perfect freedom would mean no laws, no control, no taxes—but it would accordingly mean no safety, no opportunity, and no infrastructure. In our article ‘On the Concept of Society’ (Link) we discussed how a society is the product of all its members, past and present. That remains entirely true. Society has never been about freedom—if anything that is the antithesis of society. In truth, ‘society’ is meant to be a foundation of cooperation among its citizens.

In the societal sense then, total freedom—much like anarchy—is a myth. It may perhaps exist for a single person, but once a second person enters the picture, the illusion will die. Power hierarchies will be formed, and one’s wishes will ultimately infringe upon the freedom of the other. We are not free to kill for the very reason that we do not wish to be freely killed. The same applies to property rights, safety issues, and so on. While loitering laws may perhaps be a hard concept to defend (Black Flags ahoy!), the need for a significant proportion of civil laws can be most easily discerned by asking oneself not ‘do I wish to follow this’ but ‘do I wish for others to follow this’.

Those who support total anarchy then, are either misunderstanding the basic tenets of life, suffering from a sadomasochistic urge to regress back to the days of pre-tribal man, or simply mad.

Libertarians, on the other hand, may accept some laws, while rejecting the notion of many others. This rejection most often applies to rules around the free-market. However, as we have already established that a power-void cannot remain unfilled, we should have little trouble applying this observation to the marketplace as well.

If you wander into the woods, claim them as your own, and insist on living a lawless life, it may prove less glamourous than you imagine—especially when the next lawless rogue shows up to strangle you in your sleep and make off with your supplies. So much for freedom!

The marketplace is little different. Without control, corporations are wont to seize public goods and resources, create monopolies, underpay workers, and wreak general havoc however they please. People will starve, or toil like slaves—yet this will be defended and redefined as the justly exercised freedom of those very corporations. In truth, this notion of marketplace-freedom is no better than economic anarchy—and its supposed virtue quickly diminishes as the strongest take control and run our system like a tyrannical oligarchy. Meanwhile, the citizens cheer blindly about the merits of freedom.

To claim to be an anarchist or full-on libertarian is naïve, and the ultimate result is little different from the sort of systemic madness we have now. Freedom has been given out too freely—sadly, only to the corporations at the head of the markets, and rarely to the citizens. The powerful will always feed upon the less powerful, and this is a demonstrable loss of freedom for the latter.

In order to have liberty for ourselves, there must at the very least be laws restricting others from infringing on that liberty. Anything less would be Mad Max-style anarchy. Control is needed, and must be imposed justly. As discussed in our article ‘On the Fear of Big Government’ (Link), the ultimate purpose of government is to ensure that the power which inevitably arises is a fair and just one.

This must not be taken to mean that I believe the current governments of the world are doing much to uphold these standards—indeed there is a great need for improvement on nearly all fronts. Simply put however, the raging masses squalling for ‘total liberty’—or its ugly cousin ‘anarchy’—are naïve at best. The line between liberty and domination is a difficult one to draw. If drawn too close to total freedom, a void arises, and we end up dominated. It’s circular in a sense, and requires an insightful and informed balance. This is the purpose of society and the governments which it employs, and we must pay heed to avoid being so brash as to throw the baby of equal opportunity out with the bathwater of social order.

-Brad OH Inc.

Brandy by a 40W Bulb

Under the Green Desklamp…

Green DesklampNote: This is the third article in a series. For the first, click here, and for the second, click here.

I thought about going with ‘by Candlelight’, but that would be a lie. It’s far too much effort at a time like this, especially for such a trite gesture. The standard 40W Bulb above me will do just fine for now. The illumination isn’t the point. That was the old goal—those ambitions are beyond us.

Brandy—that’s where the real hopes lie. The table has already been set, and the time for debating the menu is long past. This is about mood, and in that regard Brandy does far more than a candle, no matter how many Dickens novels you’ve read.

Ideas are cheap these days, and often more trouble than they’re worth. The best of them sell at a dime a piece, and are discarded just as cheaply. Some things, after all, truly are as simple as they seem.

In a world of ever-growing gradients, we should not lose sight of the poles. That’s what really moves people these days—the extremes. The most popular ideas are always the ones that cause a double-take and violent eye-roll from the general masses. The more far out they are, the more attractive to the fringe idiots looking for meaning in the void.

Meaning—there’s another dangerous idea.

So far, the Brandy is doing a pitiful job of improving the mood, but it’s not entirely to blame. Besides, Brandy is bountiful. Give her time.

Against such inky dark, even the brightest candle may struggle. My old bulb blinks and buzzes above me like a fly. It works fine in a pinch, but there’s no telling when it will flicker out for good, leaving me to face the lonely night.

There’s a terrible weight to understanding that lies and lunacy sell. There are niche groups that will cling to anything, but have few sources for their madness. By appealing to them, a person is guaranteed an instant and significant audience. Any asshole willing to scream obscenities and hate will find an audience somewhere. There is no shortage of desperate, sad bastards sitting in dark rooms, waiting for a lightning rod to justify their whispered insecurities with bullhorn vitriol.

To hold such knowledge and refuse to misuse it is the task of the decent person and the fool. The lowest common denominator is always the easiest mark, and honesty has a lot of competition. It’s an active decision we must all make—to decide to be a small voice of truth among many, rather than the most famous liar.

Everyone dreams of being heard in some way. It’s the reason for all the statues, art, graffiti, and songs that fill the spaces between the skyscrapers and the box stores. But these pleas for relevance can be easy to miss on the best of days, and that’s the problem entirely.

These days, wild change seems imminent, but its direction is impossible to know. This way, or the other… so it goes. It’s a lonely time—pensive. Tumultuous might be the word, really. Whatever you call it, one cannot deny the feeling of living in the calm before the storm.

That’s a cliché to be sure, but there are hopeless lunatics out there who would glean great meaning from a little thing like that.

And so, with whatever mask of optimism we may cobble from the refuse scattered nearby, we scream into the coming storm. We talk about what needs to change, or what needs to stop. What needs to be created, or what needs to be destroyed. We’ll debate who we should help, and who must be hindered. We’ll argue over where our priorities lie, what freedom really means, and who we are as a people.

All that is fine. But it goes off the rails somewhere around that point. We’ll start to argue about who is a person, and what that means for those who aren’t.

We’ll fight over who should have a voice, and who needs to be silenced.

We’ll forget what truth is.

Everyone holds their own individual truth these days, and that shouldn’t be such a terrible thing in and of itself. But there’s a funny thing about truth—it doesn’t do well in company. It’s the same problem religion has had throughout the ages—it’s great for the believers, but when it runs into the non-believers, it tends to have a funny reaction.

When we cling too tightly to our own truths, we run the risk of devaluing the truths of others. After all, there can only be one truth, and anyone who disagrees with you makes it slightly more likely that you’re living an illusion.

That’s no easy thing to tolerate.

One Brandy, two Brandy’s, three… Is it Brandy’s, or Brandies? She’s a cagey one, and it’s impossible to suss out her greater mysteries.

The bulb is too bright, and does nothing to ease the tension in the air. After all, upon close inspection, some things look better in the dark. Still, the mood is improving. Sometimes, we just need to sit, and drink, and think these things through. If you don’t drink, pick a vice or virtue of your own—you sorry sap.

Maybe, as always, it comes down to definitions.

Truth is one thing, and opinion is another entirely. There is far more of the latter, but it masquerades proudly as truth just so long as it can get away with it. Someone once said that opinions are like assholes, but that person was most likely an asshole themselves. Just because everyone has an opinion doesn’t make them any less valuable. The same can be said of assholes, except for the afore-mentioned one.

The thing about opinions is that they need to grow and change. They need to be challenged and examined. When they’re valuable, they need to be shared, and when they are discredited they must be abandoned.

That should be common sense, but just like common sense, it’s a terribly rare thing these days. We confuse opinions with facts, and if we find anyone else who can echo and amplify them, we’re all the more convinced. Many of us become warriors in the service of our tenuous opinions-made-sacrosanct, and with the holy armour of ignorance we go forth to purge the world of naysayers.

The cycle’s as old as humanity itself. It all begins to make sense if you repeat it enough. That probably means the Brandy has done her job. I knew she would. Old friends always come through.

It bears repeating. Opinions—regardless of who shares them or how much encouragement they are given—are not facts.

Equally important, facts are not opinion. They are not up for debate—facts are immutable.

Mind you, we seldom know the facts.

Even science—that often-misunderstood attempt to learn—seldom claims it has the facts. Science works in theories and understandings, which might be adjusted at any time if new—and especially contradictory—evidence emerges.

The pursuit of facts is an endless road. Still, it keeps its eyes on the horizon, and a trusted map as its side. It’s a long journey, and there are many sights to see along the way. There are good ideas out there—valuable ideas that would help the world immeasurably. There are also facts—simple truths that should and must not be lost among the static of discordant opinions.

The Brandy is flowing now, and my fingers are flying. The buzz and glare of the light is all just background noise to my composition. Soliloquies and symphonies. Damn… it’s been a while. But the Brandy is reaching is limits. Or perhaps I am.

At any rate, I’ve said enough.

There is no shame in temperance. A place you’ve probably never heard of once said it best: ‘Know thyself’, and ‘Nothing in Excess’.

It’s good to remember the old truths.

One more drink then… To truth, and the hope that we may not lose our way in its pursuit.

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: Beers by the Bonfire

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampToday, I’m re-sharing the second in a series of articles I’ve created here at Brad OH Inc. This article, called ‘Beers by the Bonfire’ 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–today marks the second of two so far, so if you missed the first, click here.

The new article–title to come–will follow soon. Stay tuned!

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Perhaps it’s not quite as classy as ‘Bourbons by the Fire‘, but no one will catch the callback anyway. Besides, this isn’t the time for pomp and flair.

For the last year I’ve been in a sort of fugue state—drifting listlessly, waiting for my sense of purpose to descend upon me from on high. It hasn’t happened yet. But here I am. I’ve awoken to find the world a bit darker. The moment for high-minded philosophies is now past us.

To a man, we seem to focus on the lies of the next—we have no time for our own misunderstandings. It’s a bitter march, but we press onward—focussed only on the failings of the other.

Our options have dwindled, our reason hangs by a thread, and the only choice we have left to us is which of two futures we want the least.

These days, we have the greatest and easiest means of communication the world has ever known. We can pass information across the globe in the blink of an eye, and connect with like-minded strangers at the click of a button. Yet we squander this—debating the inane and pressing the irrelevant. The pawns squabble amongst themselves as the King stands exposed.

Piece by piece, we give away what we should hold the tightest. We do so willingly—with the unrestrained vigour of those possessed by a sense of righteousness, yet blinded by a cloud of distrust.

The fire crackles in front of me, as it always has. We’ve been sitting around such fires since before we were us, and likely debating these same sorry shortcomings. They’ve always been with us…the doubt and fear and self-loathing that drives a society to turn in upon itself for fear of what is beyond.

The beer is still cold, but it offers little comfort.

I think about what it might take, to turn this course around—what it might look like to see the world as hopeful and promising once again. The innocence of youth is unattainable now, and knowledge is easier gained than forgotten. I settle for another swig of beer.

I keep telling myself there is plenty of room on at the fire. If not, you can always build it bigger and back the chairs up. There is always plenty of beer. But the mood grows uneasy, and we’re all suspicious of each new guest.

I’d been told that the world was rich, and could provide for all through the bounty of human cooperation. It turned out no one really believed that. Worse, perhaps they do, but simply choose something else.

Greed—it is a sorry bonfire indeed when one man claims all the beer for himself. So what does it say about a world where we hoard our own and let the extra rot—we cling miser-like to our entitled notions, then act appalled with the bitterness of the hated ‘other’.

Surely the way is clear enough, and the rest is all just fanciful distraction. The answer has always been the same—we say it in songs and debates and prayers and art, we define ourselves by our commitment to it, yet live daily as if it were but a child’s dream—silly and irreverent.

The fire is warm enough for all, yet it leaves only ashes behind. If you stare into it long enough, you can lose sight of all the rest. The darkness beyond vanishes into black, and the world is nothing if not the fire before you; your current comfort—your own personal salvation.

Damn the rest.

Fuel, fire, and beer. Security, comfort, and distraction. They’re all you need.

I take another long swallow. Then another. The beer is getting warmer, and has grown flat. Still, it does its job—soothing my nerves and steadying my shaken will.

The fire spreads slowly out around its base—cleansing the old, consuming everything in its path.

It’s a twisted scene to be sure, and it is no difficult thing to become lost in the mire and confusion as lies spill from every side. It is a hard thing to act decisively when inundated with doubt, and we all sit around this fire, blinded by its light and shackled to its fleeting warmth.

Those we look to for safety have turned on us, and those from whom we would seek direction have failed. On every side, we are constrained by justifiable fear, and this alone is often sufficient to breed the inaction necessary for such a terrible course to hold true.

My beer is running low, and the fire dwindling to embers. The cold of night encroaches upon my refuge, and I let the can fall from my hand. There is no more comfort here.

Tonight, the retreat is over. Tomorrow the fire burns anew. Will it serve only to ward off the chill of the outside world, or will it rather set ablaze all which can no longer stand? Will it burn away the fear and doubts which hold us in thrall? Will it set to light upon the tinders of decency and virtue which still smoulder in the hearts and minds of all decent people?

Tomorrow alone will tell. I will be there, beer in hand. I will be ready.

-Brad OH Inc.

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.

Re-Share: On the Fear of Big Government

purelyspeculationToday, we share an old but still relevant reminder that Government is not–and must not–be our enemy…

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Last week on Brad OH Inc., we explored the issue of government infringements into personal data. This is a serious concern to a great many people—and the striping away of civil liberties such as privacy is a trend which continues to show the detached relationship government has with its citizenry. With such gross violations becoming a regular trend, it’s no wonder we still toil under the outdated notion that ‘big government’ needs to be held in check.

But make no mistake about it people, this is no reason to hate big government; just bad government. In the 1980 presidential race against Jimmy Carter, it was the infernal idiot Ronald Reagan who promised to “get government off our backs” (Source). After taking office, Reagan followed through dutifully on his promise—shattering the government’s role in protecting families, citizens, and the environment. Business, of course, flourished.

This push by Reagan to reduce the size of government was founded on claims of a fictional ‘welfare queen’ getting rich off the tax dollars of the electorate, and the general claim—as off-putting now as it was then for a man seeking public office—that “Government is not a solution to our problem. Government is the problem” (Source).

This toxic line of thinking heralded in an era of anti-government dialogue which effectively allowed rights to shrink away as powers were handed off to the corporations. Social programs were cut, and people suffered. The fictional ‘welfare queens’ theorized by Reagan have been fully realized in the decades since, as corporations are given increasingly large portions of the communal pie: receiving corporate tax breaks, bailouts in place of bankruptcy, and taking eagerly the keys of governance from the discredited and disenfranchised democratic system.

Ever since then, people have been treating government like it’s a dirty word—perhaps because it so often acts like several of them. But fear of government is irrationally motivated, and exercised for all the wrong reasons. It serves only to allow government abuse of citizens. People must remember that proper governance is there to protect them, from exactly the sort of threats which corporate governance has become. We should not fear government; we should utilize and control it to our own empowerment.

Of course, the government has to remember this as well.

The very notion of democratic government is anchored firmly in the concept of representation for the people—and this includes all people, not merely the drivers of the economy. In this era of ever growing population and incredible scientific potential, the ‘free’ market has proven itself a failed notion. But let’s hope that from this mistake we’ve learned at least not to store the meat with the dogs for safe keeping.

It’s the government’s job to put these lessons into action: protecting and promoting the healthy growth of society. This is the primary and most fundamental function of any government which has a legitimate claim to authority, but the vilification of big government started with Reagan has led to a very different objective for government institutions.

By reducing government programs, the general citizenry has been left out of the conversation, while political control has been corralled into the realm of economic growth. The corporations which now run the economic and social systems are malignant automatons. For all the time humans have piddled away fearing robots or advanced and indignant AI’s, they miss that they have not only created such in the corporate human, but also given it the keys to the driver’s seat of our society.

If such a threat came from metal clad robots or from outer space, the entire world would be clamoring for government intervention. Instead, it is claimed to be ‘capitalist’ and a product of the ‘free’ market, and the electorate has bowed their heads in well-rehearsed reverence for their reckless and self-serving overlords.

The point cannot be stressed enough: it is the function of government–elected by and representative of the people—to reign in these brutes, to protect natural resources that rightly belong to all, and to ensure that whether or not commercial entities deign to send our jobs overseas (leaving all save the CEO’s destitute), the people of this and all other countries are provided for from the resulting bounty.

These are the needs of a society, and the job of the government. To fear such is the sole result of misinformed and malicious propaganda. What we have now is not a democratic government, and this needs to change. If we are to find our way out of these difficult times, it must be faith in government—true government—which is the light on our path. This is our salvation—for to fear all government is to leave ourselves alone in the dark, looking to the wolves for solace.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Bushido of Bogney, Part IV

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampBushido: (武士道) literally meaning “the way of the warrior”, is a Japanese word for the way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry in Europe. (Source)

Bogney: A tiny dog, wise for his years.

BogsToday, we once again combine the old and the new for a fresh perspective on life through the eyes of our classy canine friend. This is the daily living of a small dog. This is the extrapolated wisdom of the ages…This is the Bushido of Bogney.

-Click Here for Part I-

-Click Here for Part II-

-Click Here for Part III-

Lesson #1:

Recently, Bogney took a brave leap—from the top of a couch to the hard ground below. The decision was fearless, but foolish. With a torn ACL, Bogney stood in quiet repose, looking up mournfully at his horrified master.

I had never seen a sight so dreadful. My heart stopped and skin blanched. At this, Bogney became more upset, and limped over to comfort his loved one.

The greatest pain we must endure is watching a loved one suffer. This is true for all beings.

Lesson #2:

Ever since his accident, Bogney walks the same trails at the same speed—when he can get away with it. He does not fear to slip, and would happily leap again if he was allowed.

He walks on three legs for now, but acts as if nothing is different. In each moment, he finds joy just as he ever has. In this, there is wisdom.

Lesson #3:

Now, as he rests his tired muscles on the bed, I watch him at all times. I watch that he doesn’t jump, that he eats enough—I even read his face for signs of pain.

Sometimes he catches me, and smiles up, pleased with his master’s attention.

Sometimes, when I think he is comfortable, I get caught up in something else. Then, I often look back to find him watching me instead.

I smile as well.

At this point in our lessons, I’m afraid Bogney has become enchanted by the sound of the washing machine, and has gone to rest near its rhythmic hum. No doubt this too is well chosen, but for now I will let a sleeping dog lie.

He rests more these days, such is the way with healing. That too passes with time though, and Bogney will no doubt be back soon with more classic canine wisdom.

-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.