Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Listen carefully: "Among the many atrocities Dr. Mengele perpetrated on his subjects were so-called experiments "requiring" the mutilation of his subjects' eyes. The kids loved it."
Would you have a problem figuring out that one of those sentences was sincere and the other sarcastic? Would you have a problem figuring out which was which? Would you have trouble understanding the purpose of the scare quotes around "requiring" in the first sentence, or difficulty separating the momentary sarcasm couched within the sincere?
How do you know when something's plainly sincere and something's meant in some other way? In the first sentence, the words "atrocities" "perpetrated" "mutilation" and "Dr. Mengele" are tip-offs that what is being written of is not done so out of admiration. Those tip-offs are clues that the statement, "The kids loved it," is meant sarcastically, perhaps even sardonically. But if you don't read the tip-offs accurately, how do you know what's meant sincerely and what is not?
The writer relies on the reader's extra-textual associations with the tip-off words. Nazi doctors and the atrocities they perpetrated are by general consensus evil. There are, of course, some people who would argue with the presumption of consensus, but for the most part, any reader of the English language at a sixth grade level or beyond would understand the tone of the sentences, and would replicate that tone in their minds as they read. The reciter of such a pattern of tropes on the radio would be expected to provide vocal cues to aid the listener's interpretation.
Last week, more than one very intelligent person thought that I, in my Moment of Truth segment, was advocating for the rape of Bill Cosby in prison. I assure everyone that I mean this sincerely and emphatically: I do not advocate the rape of Bill Cosby or anyone else, either in prison or at any other location. And if that wasn't the problem, as one listener asserted, then perhaps it was just a repulsive essay. That I can't deny. But such an interpretation also calls into question my own reasons for presenting such a piece of repulsiveness. Did I choose the right tool for that job? And what was the job? If listeners are supposed to detect extra-textual clues, did I maybe convey a meaning that was beyond my conscious control? I wouldn't doubt it.
When I said, "It's going to be someone's job to rape Bill Cosby in prison," I meant, if someone is going to rape Bill Cosby in prison, where he would, were he not rich, be put as punishment for drugging and raping women – in a society which punishes by locking men up with other men who can statistically be expected to rape them, then rape is a tacitly official part of the punishment. By sarcastically calling raping Bill Cosby a "job" or "duty" or "burden," I meant to implicate our, or perhaps only my, unspoken acceptance of rape in prison as the normal course of everyday business.
Why was that unclear, if it was? First, I blame myself, the writer and lector, for failing to be the master of my extra-textual cues. After over 20 years on the air and 40 years plying the trade of satire, I expect more from myself.
When I said, "But on the bright side, it's redemptive revenge, that's the beauty of it. It's a healing revenge. The Jews call it tikkun: the repairing of the damaged fabric of the universe. That's what raping Bill Cosby in the ass with your dick is. Tikkun. It's a sacred act, raping Bill Cosby in the ass," why wasn't it clear that I mean the opposite? Is it because of my coarse phrasing, which is more typical of a straight cis white man's diction than we think it should be? What might make someone more unsure about my commitment against treating rape as redemptive than my commitment against a Nazi doctor mutilating children's eyeballs?
I know it's a simplistic idea, and there's a lot more that's objectionable in my essay than I mention here, but I'd say we're more certain of the unacceptability of Mengele's atrocities, which are in the past, and labeled with the negative signifier "Nazi," than we are of the idea that rape is beyond the pale. Rape has judgments of concealment and equivocation attached to it. And it happens to women, and we're equivocal about our sympathy toward women. And it happens to men, and we're equivocal about men who allow something to happen to them that happens to women. And those men are in prison, so we feel like they made bad choices. We know a Nazi was a Nazi, but was that rape really a rape? Is the consensus there? Rape abounds in our culture, and many citizens seem immune to clarity about its grip on our lives. And I'm not only talking about a lawmaker who calls a pregnancy resulting from rape "a silver lining," or other such egregious nonsense.
How were you supposed to know which of the following statements I meant sincerely and which were meant to be read as sarcasm: "[Y]ou need a professional, career prison rapist. Someone just really strong and mean, who rapes anyone vulnerable he sees. A psychotic bully. Rape is just the most extreme form of bullying, after all." If I meant the first three statements sarcastically, fine. That would go along with a reading of the bulk of the text as satire of some kind. But that last sentence: "Rape is just the most extreme form of bullying, after all," if read sarcastically, sounds as if the writer, I, is mocking the idea of bullying and its status as a buzzword in the zeitgeist. "Oh, everyone's so worked up about bullying. Hey, why don't we call rape bullying? It's someone being mean to someone else, after all."
I honestly feel that rape is the most extreme form of bullying, more extreme even than threatening to kill, because rape is not only domination through humiliation and pain on its own terms, it also contains the threat of murder. Only torture, of which rape can and often is a component, rises to this level of bullying. So I probably should have left that sentence off the end of that paragraph. What I was imagining was a reader or listener following along in disgust, whether at me or at our justice system, which tacitly punishes with rape, and then taking that final sentence at face value, albeit colored by the disgust immediately preceding it. Like a flourish of sincere intelligence atop an excremental sundae.
The complicated idea I wanted to get across was this: what we call rape culture includes rape tacitly condoned as part of our justice system, and I am complicit in the acceptance of this situation, even as I posture to condemn it. Was I having too much fun talking about dicks, butts and piñatas on the radio? Probably perversely so. It was a perverse form of fun, without mirth. I sensed myself looking over my shoulder, saying, That is just so wrong. Yeah, I replied to myself, it is.
I kept writing. What does that say about me? I think we all know the answer to that. But it also says we who are wrapped in the winding sheet of toxic masculinity have normalized fear, and in this case homophobic fear, of rape as a slapstick device. That's part of what I meant to convey. I had hoped that screed of mine was sufficiently sickening to carry a sense of gallows fatalism. That was some of what I was feeling as I set the words down. I can't deny it was repulsive. It was.
Sometimes you have to blur yourself and allow yourself license and leave yourself open to embarrassment and scorn to express your truth. That can hurt other people, but I have strong, honest, brilliant, resilient people around me. Thus I live to scribe another day. Perhaps I will live even to regret it. Or perhaps we all will.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
I believe Bill Cosby's philosophy was, always be nice. Be pleasant, be calm, be even- tempered, be reasonable. Be nice, even when drugging your victims.
Revenge is a dish best served without being examined too closely. Revenge and punish, it never pays for the avenger or punisher to look too hard in the mirror.
Rape is not a joke. Rape is not funny. Rape jokes aren't funny. We know this. We know this. It's not funny. Not even close to funny. Not even when a comedian goes to prison for it. And rape is definitely not a job. At least in the society we claim to be, whether in the public or private sphere, rape is not a duty in anyone's official job description. But, we're all adults here. We know that in clandestine circumstances, off-the-books as it were, as civilized as we pretend we to be, the very opposite is true. Raping is in some men's tacit job description.
So who's job is it gonna be to rape Bill Cosby in prison? Who's gonna do that? Who's gonna take on that burden? Somebody's gotta do it. I know, I know, rape's not a job, it's a spontaneous or premeditated act of violence to assert power and control, generally by someone sociopathically resentful who lacks the emotional resources to repair their deformed self-esteem.
But Bill Cosby's going to prison. And you know if somebody's man is going to prison while Cosby is in there, she's gonna be like: You better rape Cosby while you're in there. If you haven't raped Cosby, don't come back out. You have one job while you're in prison: rape Cosby. You have one job. You don't have to buy me birthday presents or Valentine flowers for the rest of your life, but you just better rape Cosby.
This is the social contract: Cosby drugged and raped dozens of women. Dozens. I suppose I should say, "allegedly," since the majority of accusers have not had their cases heard in court. But dozens. No exaggeration. So now, he goes to prison, where people get raped a lot. He gets to see what it feels like. But somebody's gotta do it. The Jello puddin pop. Someone's gotta pop his puddin.
Men, especially white men, have been a bane to the other inhabitants of the Earth for centuries. Men have a lot to atone for. It's doubtful they'll ever make up for the cruelty and death they've doled out. It may be that only through the commission of a heinous taboo can the reputations of men be cleansed. Not the souls, just the reputations. It's too late for the soul. Like Beowulf, who had to kill, thereby sacrificing his soul to rid the land of evil, men may have only this one chance at redemption: rape Cosby.
What opportunity would you not take to at least attempt to redress the damage your kind have done to the world? You oppressors? In the past you have committed such crimes against women. The least you can do, the very least, is rape Cosby. Just rape him. Rape him in the butt or the face, with your dick. Let's say the butt, for rhetorical convenience.
Just think of Cosby's ass as a piñata. And your dick is like a dick hitting a piñata. And you keep hitting that piñata till it breaks and all the Jolly Ranchers fall out.
It won't repair what he's done. There's no doing that. But what he did was so vile and ugly, the only response is either forgiveness, which is only the prerogative of the many women whose trust and bodies he abused – no one else gets to make that call. Doing nothing is tantamount to forgiveness. And who are you to forgive? Our only choice, in society as it is, as limited as our imaginations are, is to do something ugly and vile to him in revenge.
But on the bright side, it's redemptive revenge, that's the beauty of it. It's a healing revenge. The Jews call it tikkun: the repairing of the damaged fabric of the universe. That's what raping Bill Cosby in the ass with your dick is. Tikkun. It's a sacred act, raping Bill Cosby in the ass.
And I'm not that guy. I'm just not a prison rapist. No, take the chalice away from me, Lord, I shall not drink. And anyway, I don't think I could maintain an erection for very long doing that, smackin that Cosby piñata. For that you need a professional, career prison rapist. Someone just really strong and mean, who rapes anyone vulnerable he sees. A psychotic bully. Rape is just the most extreme form of bullying, after all.
Yeah, you need a career prison rapist with a Gadsden flag tattooed on his dick. Don't tread on me. To go rape Cosby. He's our golem. Even if he's doing it for a horrible reason. It's like, if someone wanted to kill Hitler just to get his jollies skull- schtupping him, I say, be my guest. I ain't gonna be mad atcha.
Does this all not seem to articulate a spiritual logic? Raping Cosby's ass? Raping the rapist as punishment. It's not rehabilitation, it's punishment. Doesn't it seem like it was meant to be? Here's a guy who, we all know what he did, and now he goes to prison for it. And he's a comedian! Not just any comedian, but a wholesome comedian. THE wholesome comedian. Would not work blue. Now he's gonna get worked black and blue all the time.
Oh, he was on his high horse. "You young comedians, if you have to say four-letter words to get laughs, you're just not – that's a crutch, profanity." And then he's lecturing the younger people, "you know what your problem is? You wear your pants so your whole underwear shows. It's disrespectful."
No one ever got to say, Oh, yeah, old Bill Cosby, well, you know what your problem is? You give women sedatives without their knowing it, and when they fall asleep, you rape them. So you can just shut up about my underwear showing. I think someone should rape you in the butt in prison, like all the time.
Consequences, man, consequences. Know what I'm sayin? I mean, many people have that happen to them in prison, for crimes a lot less awful than Bill Cosby's.
I can't believe we're living here, in this world of Bill Cosby, the rapist. On top of everything, all the things you would have to go back in time and report to the past that they would never believe 9-11. Dick Cheney and his five heart transplants. A black president. Computers, internet, smart phones, Fukishima, Elon Musk sending his stupid car into space like a phallicly obsessed PT Barnum.
The Cassini space probe and the rings of Saturn. Hurricane Katrina, the government just left people to die. And then Donald Dump became president. The vast, breathtaking marches! The gun massacres. Global warming, the oceans are dying, the forests, the water is disappearing. Oh and to top it all off, Bill Cosby, Fat Albert, Jello Pudding, tricked women into ingesting drugs and then raped them while they were unconscious.
Ah, don't try to guess. No, way more than that. You're way lowballin, man. No. At least 60. At least 60!
I know: Bill Cosby. Cliff Huxtable. America's Dad. Yeah. Oh, yeah, but it's okay, cuz he's getting raped in the ass every day. So, y'know, happy ending.
Then again, he may never serve any time, if his lawyers can keep him out while they draw out the appeals process. Or he may evade prison some other way.
And he probably wouldn't be raped in prison even if he spent a few years there, for a variety of reasons.
Simply put, the verdict might have to suffice as vindication for the victims. And for the men of this world, our grotesque, questionable redemption might be deferred indefinitely, as it has been since the history of violence began.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
I was born into a bright, cold room. The color scheme was unappealing. I was anxious about the motives of the people there. Were they hostile to me? I felt they were. Though inscrutable behind their institutional green cloth masks, covering their mouths and noses, I was almost certain they didn't like me. Also, the floor looked slippery. Why the masks, gloves, and aprons? Did they think they were going to catch something from me? Why didn't someone put some nice mood music on? What's that screaming? Oh, it's me.
That pretty much set the tone for the rest of my life. I enter any room, and it's like someone clicked on the YouTube video of my birth, from my POV. Complete with worryingly possibly hostile hospital staff.
It's the same when I go outdoors. The long and the short of it is, I expect the worst. Pollution. Rude farmers. Volcanoes. Wilted spinach. And those are exactly the things that come my way. I look in the mirror and have body dysmorphia. It's worked so well, my body now actually does look like a pile of crap. And it works on the world, too. I have environmental dysmorphia. And I've been at it so long, the world is turning to crap. I have atmospheric dysmorphia as well as gestalt dysmorphia. And it's effective. I can turn anything into its worst possible self.
So y'all can blame me for the dying bees. When I was four years old, I remember, I was standing on the step to the side door of our little orange and black house in Oak Park, Michigan. I felt something buzzing around my head. I asked my father, who was probably, unbeknownst to me, slightly too far away to hear me, what was buzzing around my hair, a fly or a bee? He smiled at me. I said, "I guess it's a fly." Guess what I did? I bothered the bee, and paid the price. I screamed in agony for a good half hour while my father took me around to different neighbors to ask what to do about the pain of a bee sting. He even asked the workmen putting down concrete in front of our house. Everyone said the same thing: baking soda. We didn't have any. Anyway, what if we had? What then? Were we supposed to sprinkle it on the place where the bee had stung me? Make a poultice? Was I supposed to snort it?
When my dad asked the workmen, I noticed a thick aura of masculinity around them, in contrast to the emasculation of a young father dragging his shrieking little boy around helplessly. That was the end of my idealization of my father. He became a real person to me then, which was both a beautiful and terrifying event. The mystic awe in which I'd held him was replaced by all the emotions one directs at an individual with hopes and fears, struggles and joys. At the age of four I saw him both as a source of strength, but also as a person vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life. In short, the Earth trembled beneath me, shaken by both celebration and terror as, right before my eyes, my father transubstantiated into a complete human being.
That is why the bees are dying. And you thought it was neonicotinoids or something. It's my psychic anxiety killing the bees.
And poisoning the air and water, and warming the oceans and the Earth. Dead zones in the ocean? Ever since I learned about dissolved oxygen in the oceans I've thought, "Now, isn't that an impractical way to supply oxygen to fish? What if there were a large area of water that lacked dissolved oxygen? It's bound to happen. Life has such a tenuous grip compared to the harsh, jagged machinations of humans." And guess what? All my fears are coming to pass.
You think I haven't laid awake at night dwelling on my terror that fascism would rise to ascendancy here in the USA? Ever since I knew what fascism was, which for a culturally-indoctrinated Jew is pretty damn young, I've been worried about it. And look around you. I've worried about the rich getting too rich, capitalism pricing the people out of their homes, men terrorizing women, cops killing black men, schoolchildren going hungry, schools going under-funded. Name the social or environmental problem, my bleak outlook as a child brought it forth.
Loneliness in this atomized society? A determined undermining of any remotely democratic institution? The loss of humanity's spiritual essence due to technocracy, technology and capitalist orthodoxy? What curse has my fretful brow not wrought upon our species, upon our planet?
I've worried about me and my friends getting old, and look. Look at us! It's happening. Just as I feared!
I'm sorry everyone. But you can do your part. Just start focusing your attention on putting me at ease. I enjoy cocktails. And hammocks. There's a dreadful shortage of hammocks in my life, I fear this bodes ill for the 2018 elections. A tall, cool drink and a good book in a hammock might do the trick. Just until next November. If all goes well, we can make arrangements for the future at that time.
And tell me everything's going to be okay! I know you've been telling yourselves and your children that, but I'm the one you need to reassure. It's my fears that are wreaking havoc with the future, not your stupid kids'.
Do you want to end up old in a society that doesn't take care of its elderly, doesn't respect them, doesn't value their experiences? Well, I worry about that. If I had a nice cushion of cash in my bank account, I wouldn't worry so much. A freezer full of various fish, poultry, and cuts of meat in case of an extended famine or apocalypse would be a balm for my spirit. You want to be safe, don't you?
You want to end up dead in a hole in the ground? Or burned to ashes and thereafter imprisoned in a decorative urn? Then what are you waiting for? Buy me a house and set me up with an endowment to pay all expenses and taxes. For god's sake, why are you gambling with your future like this? Can it be you have an unconscious death wish?
Why behave irrationally? Why get overwhelmed, fretting about what charity to give to? There's only one you really need to donate to, only one your donations to which will prevent existential, cosmic disaster. Keep me content! Keep me occupied with pleasant activities. You don't want me idle, my imagination free to weave some grand catastrophe. Your life is easy: all you have to do is keep me on an even keel, tell me jokes, and for the sake of all that you cherish, don't let me get constipated! You don't want me sitting alone in the bathroom, dreading the emergence of heaven knows what monstrosity.
And while you're at it, can someone please design a ballpoint pen that doesn't collect microscopic lint at the point? It's hard to write a continuously even line when a lump of lint collects, absorbs ink, and leaves the ungainly fat impression of its detritus along the strokes of my signature. I need a pretty signature to endorse all your generous checks. I would like to do your generosity justice, and I worry that won't be possible under the current circumstances.
I know you know how to keep me from becoming unsettled. The question is, are you willing to get off your lazy behinds and make a commitment to a less horrible future? Nothing personal, it's just that I've noticed a lack of commitment from humanity toward my peace of mind. You're the normal people, you have the resources. I'm the basket case, and my worries come to pass. We've established that. Don't leave your future up to a worried me. Look at the damage you've already done, allowing me to worry so.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth, the thirst that is the drink.
The title of this moment is The Eerie Canal. Unlike the Uncanny Valley, the Eerie Canal is all too embedded in actual human flesh. What's eerie about it? Let's catch a gondola and see.
A baby is about to emerge from within its mother, but before it commits to entering the world through a parting of what my friend Mike in high school called, disgustingly, but I can't get his phrase out of my head, so shame on me, "the roast beef curtain," it weighs its future possibilities. This baby is scheduled to momentarily make its grand entrance into what Shakespeare, who learned things before the advent of high school, called "this mortal coil." But the baby hesitates, because the curtain it is to enter from behind is also what liberal philosopher John Rawls, who had no friends in high school, or if he did, did not retain their sophomorically sexist if evocative nomenclature for aspects of the female anatomy, called "The Veil of Ignorance."
The Veil of Ignorance is a thought experiment: how would you design a society if it were possible that, once it was built, you might end up anywhere in it, in any social position, any geographic position, any economic position, any physical situation. You were ignorant of whether you would be rich or poor, strong or sickly, intelligent or mentally challenged, or somewhere in between. You just didn't know. Rawls didn't answer the question of what kind of society was to be designed. He posed it as an approach to thinking about justice and fairness and compassion, limits on power, and society's responsibility for the living conditions of the individuals it comprises.
This baby is as ignorant of its future status as any intentionally ignorant social thinker playing this theoretical game. It does know that it's human, but it doesn't know who its mother is. It doesn't even know its own sex, if you can believe it. Well, it's dark in there. Yes, it could feel around to find out, but to be honest, it would like to keep that information a surprise for itself.
So, this about-to-be-born baby has some things to work out. Unlike in Rawls' thought experiment, this baby knows what current societies are like. It's not that ignorant. It knows what Ugandan society is like, and it knows what Norwegian society is like. And it knows what conditions are like in various locations within those societies. It just doesn't know what kind of person it's going to be, so it can only hope for a good outcome.
I'm not sure where the little pup got this information. It wasn't from anything its mother was reading aloud or listening to on an audio book or BBC program, that would have given it some clue as to its mother's status. No, this knowledge simply appeared inside its brain, like a gift from a disinterested narrator. We're positing an objective report, in this instance, even though we know there's no such thing. Every report on anything reveals something about the reporter's biases. But here we're taking a bit of license. We’re going to call this baby's prenatal preternatural knowledge a five-dimensional snapshot of the human world. A ton of information without commentary. This is not a Werner Herzog documentary. It's more like you left a camera on that could see all of human history up to the present, all over the world. No editing. It's not particularly entertaining, but it is educational.
I realize that the baby already knowing its species is a bit of cheat, but this baby came to me this way. I'm not a fabricator, I'm inspired. The breath of this creature was breathed into my brain already whole. The only thing I, and the baby, are unsure of is, what will it come out into?
The baby's thoughts are racing, as it considers all the possible fates that await it at the end of the fallopian tunnel. Given the current statistics, it might prefer to be born male, preferably in a Western European nation, although longevity, if not a pleasant longevity, is on the female side in that case, but the odds are against that. Most likely it will be born in Asia, and it's possible that if it is female, it won't survive its first hours. But, it supposes, instant death is always a possibility.
It got this far with little trouble. That says something about its society's prenatal care. It can't help noticing feeling reasonably healthy, but then again it hasn't had any other feelings to compare it to.
The baby has started getting solicitations. "Be born here," and so on, as if the baby has a choice. Most of the solicitations are from the USA, which is a society very full of itself, with an endless advertising budget. "Come to Niagara Falls," the psychic advertising trumpets, through some psychic broadcast medium Zuckerberg or Musk or some other one-percenter tech douche figured out how to exploit. "Come to Hawaii." Yeah, sure, says the baby to itself, why not Disneyland? "Oh, be born in Disneyland," shrieks Disneyland.
There was a brief period during its inner counsel when the baby was seriously thinking of dissolving itself into its mother's tissue, disappearing into her. She was clearly living a life decent enough for a fetus to be kept alive all the way through gestation. Why take chances? Why not just be her?
But now it's too late for that. All the baby knows for sure is this: it has decided it will learn to juggle. Even should it be born without arms or legs, it will master juggling well enough to entertain itself, if no one else.
Product advertisements begin to take over the cacophony. Soda pops, shoes, toilet paper, reverse mortgages. "It's the best!" "We give you more!" "The happiest place on Earth!" The Rawlsian potential is being drowned out by the sirens of capitalism. Never mind that broadcast advertising returns at best ten cents on the dollar. The throat of marketing has opened and cannot be plugged. A deluge of sales pitches floods the very fabric of the universe.
The baby, still yet to be born, tries to master its attention and bring itself back to pondering the existential future. It strives to center itself. Then come the words:
"Whoa, I'm not braggin' on myself baby But I know someday, some way...
"You're gonna miss my lovin'..."
What fresh jingle is this? A Rawlsian rhyme for sure, but not John. This is Lou. Well, a Rawls is a Rawls is a Rawls...
"You'll never see," sings the womb, "what you've found in me You'll keep searching and searching your whole life through"
And that's exactly what the baby will do, search and search its whole life through for another home as comfortable as the womb, with as much good lovin'. A time and a place when all was potential, possibility. When, who knows, you might turn out to be anybody.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the moment of truth: the thirst that is the drink.
President Dump finally did it: he triggered the nuclear trade wars, a chain reaction of mutually prohibitive tariffs, a global web of protectionist punishments.
Now, no one can afford to live. I'm going to pretend this is not an exaggeration. Let's see how that goes.
No one can afford a place to live. Apartments and houses stand vacant because the rents and mortgages are too damn high. Landlords receive nothing for their properties, so they themselves must vacate their homes. What's propping up the price if not demand? Some artificial thing, a principle or an attitude no one understands. Even the banks receive no income from properties. The streets are lined with shanties made of reclaimed garbage.
No one can afford to buy food. Food rots in the supermarket because no one has the money to buy it. The cashiers and stock boys and baggers and managers haven’t worked in months, because the grocery stores aren't taking in any revenue.
The food gets thrown out, but some loyal employee takes it upon himself, without pay, to pour bleach all over it to make sure it can't be eaten by the scavenging homeless, which is all of us. That loyal employee is a jerk, but we understand his desire to please his now non-existent boss: he has Stock Boy Syndrome.
The farmers are out of business because no one can afford what they grow, and pretty soon the farmers themselves can't afford to grow it.
Artists are still making art, because artists are used to working for nothing. Teachers are teaching, because they're used to working without resources. They're teaching the homeless kids, which is all the kids. Firemen are still putting out fires with whatever tools they can get their hands on, out of a sense of duty, just to keep abandoned burning buildings from injuring anyone.
The prisoners are freed. The state can't afford to keep them in prison. The guards, even the crazy super-loyal ones, walk off the job, because everyone has something better to do, even if it's nothing. When the computers turn off the prison electricity, the generator power kicks in, and some kind or foolish soul opens everything before that auxiliary juice runs out.
Cops are preventing theft and committing it themselves, as usual. But nothing they steal is worth anything anymore. Gangs are protecting people for free. For loyalty. For whatever humans have that makes it worthwhile for a strong person to protect a weak one from another strong one.
Factories all over the world grind to a halt. Even the billionaires go broke. The Sultan of Brunei has to vacate his palaces because computers keep track of when the palace payments come in, and that bell hasn't pinged for a long time. The Sultan and all his retinue join the rest of us on the streets. By his third week among us he's just as filthy and ratty as the rest of the Homo sapiens.
Even the financial people finally run out of imaginary money with which to pay their mortgages or yacht payments or immortality bills. Yachts are moored but nobody's paid the mooring fees. Some try floating at sea but you can imagine the ship of foolish cannibals that turns into.
Eventually the robots come and polish the empty houses. All of humanity staggers through the streets, looking enviously at the shiny houses that are closed to them. Some of the prisoners move back to the empty prison, because there's something about a solid space for living that pleases some people.
That was many years ago. At last Donald Dump and his despicable legion are dead, purged from the species like the generation that wandered for forty years in the desert.
Life is better. Sure, there's violence and chaos. So there always has been. But there are a lot more decent people involved in defusing conflict than were ever available before. Turns out most people are pretty nosy, given the leisure time to be so.
Farmers started growing seed they rescued from whatever source there was. Gardeners grew stuff. A whole lot of people pitched in, even the Sultan of Brunei, although I think he's always waiting for his chance to take up residence in his palace again.
The Sultan gets that look in his eye, that wistful look, or Elon Musk, who is a perfectly good hoer – not whore, not prostitute, but rather "person who operates a garden hoe." Oh, hell, let's face it, the word "hoe" has been mangled beyond recognition. But it is healing now that there's no money. Soon it will mean a garden implement again, if we can get those skateboard punks to stop using it.
The death of money has changed a lot of things. There's no mediating substance, it seems, between one person and another. A-holes are a-holes for the pure a- holishness of it. And people are kind for the pure pleasure of being kind. Yes, it's true, people did these things for pure reasons before, but there was always a question: what do they really want? That question isn't there, or at least not in the same unpleasant way.
There's a directness to life now that wasn't there before. Perhaps some felt it in the days of money, but many of us remark about the clean absence of a sticky vapor, a spider in our ears, a pall over our days, lint in our mouths, chains on our wrists and ankles, all gone up in bubbles like an Alka-Seltzer tablet or a packet of Emergen-C powder in a glass of water.
Anyway, Elon Musk is pretty good in the garden, but even he gets that look in his eye, like he's got this great idea of stealing all the food and holding it for some kind of ransom, such a the labor of others, which is the only crass currency theses days. He and the Sultan are lovers. I wish they'd each found different partners, partners with more humble backgrounds, less liable to enable the other's crapulous yearning for yesteryear.
But they found each other. There is surely a reason. It's like two ex-smokers falling in love, each hoping the other will break and take a puff first, so both can finally give in to their fondest desire.
It falls to us to keep them in line, since they won't do it for each other. Whenever one of them gets that glazy, unsavory, dull glisten in his eye, as if staring with lust and hunger at a large jewel one has just taken possession of, one of us relatively normal people has to smack him in the face with wet slab of Ethiopian injera.
It doesn't hurt, but it's humiliating. And now and then, a little humility is just what some people need.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth, the thirst that is the drink.
Why do I think about the American war in Indochina so often? For one thing, I have a strong sense of the illustrative nature of that war. The wrong choices a colonial power makes when it chooses to kill on a mass scale in order to control the destiny of other peoples are exemplified in the policy reasoning leading to our involvement there. Also, the character of those we chose as enemies highlights the wrongness of our military and diplomatic decisions.
We could not have chosen worse when it came to the decision to first ignore, then oppose, and then demonize Ho Chi Minh and those who came to follow him. He came, hat in hand, with a letter to the President of the United States immediately after WWII, asking for freedom for his country from the colonial oppression of the French. The letter was ignored. It either got to President Truman, who was either advised or decided on his own recognizance to ignore it, or someone decided on their own to stop the buck before it got to the buckstopper in chief.
The letter reportedly appealed to the self-proclaimed ideals of the USA: freedom, independence from tyranny, and the sovereignty of a people within their own borders. In imploring the US to take a position based on those ideals, perhaps Ho was being too literal in interpreting the rhetoric of our founding documents, probably because they'd been parroted by so many subsequent US leaders, albeit generally for self-serving reasons. It was an easy mistake to make, especially after the US military emerged from WWII looking like the savior of the oppressed, at least in Europe and most of Asia.
So here's a guy, leader of his country's nationalist movement, coming to ask the US to help him secure independence from a colonial power. And we, I'm going to call the US government "we," for a variety of reasons which you're free to extrapolate yourselves, we make exactly the wrong decision. The British Empire is already losing body parts like a cartoon leper, and is making noises about cutting India loose. The idea of Pakistan is already in the works. Other nations have won their independence from their colonial overlords. The writing's on the wall for colonial powers: "Let my people go!"
Hey, it's Passover, incidentally. Speaking of let my people go. Who would've thought the topic of the US invasion of Indochina would dovetail so neatly with the current high holy day?
Let's put aside the Domino Theory, because at the time of Ho's letter his movement wasn't socialist or communist. Yes, they may have been opposed to high rents the landowners the French were propping up were imposing on the rice farmers, but who's not opposed to getting ripped off? This makes you a socialist?
Hmm, maybe it does.
Maybe we, the US government, believed the French could hang on to this possession, popular nationalist movement or no. But, it was colonialism! Remember the Declaration of Independence? When in the course of human etc.? We could've reasoned that the French could hold their unjustly conquered land, but there's that word, "unjust." It wouldn't be right. There's nothing right about it, from the standpoint of us, the world- famous liberators.
Maybe we said to ourselves, "Hey, it's the French's problem. We have no business butting into it." But we'd already given up the Monroe Doctrine. We were all over the world, judging right from wrong.
And anyway, we didn't butt out of it. We had intelligence people in there at least by the early 1950s. What was so important to us there? Not oil. Rice? Really? Or maybe it was a principle, the principle that the way things were was the way it was going to stay. The people in power were going to stay in power, and the people of no consequence, whose opinions and desires were, at the time, of no consequence, were going to remain of no consequence. And their letters, being of no consequence, were to be ignored.
That's a very conservative principle. Don't change the way things are. Don't pay attention to the people who ask if the way things are is just. Don't admit that the question was asked. The question Ho Chi Minh was asking in that letter was not one that was to be asked.
"Keep them in their place." It sounds like the words of a Mississippi sheriff, or a Queens bigot, or a stereotypical "male chauvinist." But really, it's the principle that started the Vietnam War, and it's the principle we've clung to with every bad decision we make.
A good test case of this idea is the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. What was really abominable to our strategic sensibilities wasn't the number of casualties. We lost more than three times the number of Americans in the Vietnam War as in the Twin Towers massacre. What was shocking about the latter was that the casualties were civilians, and that the massacre was on our own soil. Talk about an enemy who didn't know his place!
Why won't black people remain acquiescent about police killing them anymore? Don't they know their place? Why won't women shut up about how they're treated in the workplace and in public, and in the beds of their own husbands, don't they know their place? Why won't children remain silent mourners when their schoolmates are massacred, don't they know their place? Don't they know that the place for massacring school children is in Nigeria or Syria, not here in the USA! Why are they acting like the massacre of schoolchildren here is something that is worth speaking up about? Don't they know there's a place for everything, and everything in its place?
Pharaoh wanted the Hebrews to stay in their place. The Confederacy wanted black people to stay in their slavery. We wanted those rice-eating slopes to stay in their place.
Women don't want to stay in their place, because their place is a place of less opportunity, and fewer resources and rights and safety. That's why we, and here I mean "we the wretched of the Earth," all were shocked when women like Hillary and her supporters didn't understand that the underclasses didn't want to stay in their places, and wanted some commitments from her on that. And we didn't understand why Obama, who surely wouldn't have tolerated remaining in what racists called, "his place," didn't do more to remove the medical insurance profiteers from their places so we the oppressed could get out of our places, our places of lower quality care, less availability, less access, greater exposure to the possibility of death.
Oh, boy, the people at the top, and those comfortable with their positions, are really not amenable to the put-upon demanding to be freed from their place. The conservative people are already using violence to try to keep women, children, black people, First Nations people, Muslims, and heterodoxically sexual people in their places. It won't work. All it does is destroy the places. You can't destroy all the people who are demanding a change of place. They are the antithesis of your conservatism, which is nothing more than an oppressive past. By destroying the place, yours and ours, you create the synthesis, the new place. You either accept people's change of place, or create a war for new places. You keep making the wrong decision. It's never going to work.
In the end, we had to flee Vietnam with the skin of our asses chewed off. The Confederacy had to release their slaves. And the Pharaoh had to let my people go.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Last week, a day after the Ides of March, 2018, at about 3 am Pacific Daylight Savings Time, the Dalai Lama tweeted the following pearl: "When each of us learns to appreciate the critical importance of ethics and makes inner values like compassion and patience an integral part of our basic outlook on life, the effects will be far-reaching."
Yeah, no duh, genius.
We need a Dalai Lama for this kind of insight? "If we all appreciate how ethics are important and become compassionate and patient, things will change a lot." Really? This is how you earn your bowl of rice? A man who can take apart and put together a watch can't come up with anything better than, "When we become better, nicer people, it will be broadly transformative?"
Digging into his wording a little, though, which is probably not the most sensible endeavor given his questionable mastery of the English language, I have to say, I have some concerns.
"When" we appreciate the importance of ethics? "When" we integrate compassion and patience into our outlook? Yeah, when is that supposed to happen? You have it marked on your calendar? Don't hold your breath.
You're the bodhisattva, but I'm not as certain that we're each of us going to learn and internalize these laudable things. I hope we do, but the prospect seems uncertain. However, if we do make such changes in ourselves, I am certain it would transform our world quite radically.
Because imagine if it didn't. Imagine if each human woke up one morning, suddenly holding ethics as of utmost importance, and looking on others with kindness and patience, but then nothing changed. That'd be depressing. All that turning into ethical and compassionate beings, for nothing. Uch. That would suck.
We do live in a troubled world. And the biggest, most far-reaching decisions today are surely being made by those who hold ethics as not particularly valuable or even relevant, and for whom compassion and patience are lacking in their basic outlook. Lacking in the extreme. I'd always assumed that a lot of the world's current problems issued from precisely this lack of ethical priorities and compassion, especially at the top, but also all the way down the social hierarchy. And, boy, if I could do such a thing, I sure would prescribe some extra ethics and compassion, in order to begin repairing the global human catastrophe.
But imagine if, say Donald Dump and the current crop of spineless horrors in Congress, and the Koch Brothers and every other self-appointed master of the world, suddenly came to value ethics over ideology, kindness over profit, and yet none of their behavior changed.
Or imagine if their inner compass spun till they valued ethics over status, compassion over dollars, and their actions changed accordingly, but even then nothing at all took a turn for the better. Good god, that would be hell on Earth, would it not?
Imagine if everyone on the planet asked him or her or whomever self, from moment to moment, "Should I commit this act of mild pettiness? Or this act of ghastly cruelty? Or should I rather forbear to harm? Oughtn't I act with justice and mercy? Oughtn't I eschew selfishness and be charitable? I'll do it. I will not honk my car horn angrily at that old woman. I will not build an oil pipeline near an important source of fresh water. I will not disguise deceptively toxic investment instruments in order to enrich myself. I will not design a way to cheat emissions tests. I will not drop bombs on that city. I will not deny that black family a home loan. I will not stab those Muslims at the bus stop. I will not crush those Jews with a forklift. I will not leave those refugees to die. I will not attack that woman. I will not prevent that same-sex couple from getting married. I will not dump addictive drugs into that community."
Imagine if each of us, where applicable, said and did these things, and yet nothing improved, everything stayed as miserable as ever. Wouldn't that be a bitch?
Maybe that's why the Dalai Lama isn't willing to commit to anything more specific than, "the effects will be far-reaching." Because at the very least, behaving ethically and compassionately has got to change the person doing the behaving. And everyone doing that, well, those are indeed far-reaching effects in themselves, albeit solely internal, compartmental and individually discrete.
But, come on, man, really? You can't say, "When we think better, more compassionate thoughts, the overall amount of needless suffering will assuredly decrease?" That's a bridge to far? It's just not very encouraging to the rest of us non-Dalai Lamas.
I'm no Lama, Dalai or otherwise, but, friends, I have every confidence that if – not when, but if – we all prioritized ethics more highly and viewed each other with more compassion, we would consequently behave more ethically and compassionately, and thereby make the world a better place. If Donald Dump were a more compassionate person, he would not say terrible things about Muslims and Mexicans and women, nor would he attempt to turn the public against athletes taking a knee during the national anthem. And if Donald Dump were a more ethical person, he would most certainly not be president.
It scares me a little that the Dalai Lama even has to suggest such a thing, and so vaguely. Of course if we were better, more thoughtful people, the world would better. It goes without saying – in my opinion. So why are you saying yet not saying it, Dalai Lama – Dalai Lama who has decided not to reincarnate after the death of your current body? Does your decision not to reincarnate derive from your lack of confidence in humans to treat each other better, even should they become better humans? What's up, man? Why are you so damn negative? Why the hesitation to trust your fellow souls? Is there something you know that you're not saying?
I guess I just look more kindly on people than you do, Dalai Lama. I'm absolutely certain that, were our world view and values to improve, our actions toward our neighbors and even our enemies would be more humane as a consequence, and those humane actions would in turn show a tangible improvement in the overall condition of society. I'm going out on limb here, but I'll go ahead and say it: if we think nicer thoughts, it will lead us to do nicer deeds, which will lead to noticeable improvements in all our lives.
How many times has each of us thought, at one time or another, boy, if humans could just be more kind, considerate and fair, and less fearful and cruel and unjust and petty, we could make the world such a groovy place? I mean, why is the incarnation of the Avalokiteshvara himself hedging his bets on this? Especially if he's sure a change in our internal natures is inevitable enough that he says "when" rather than "if?"
This is truly making me anxious. If becoming better people, which in itself would be a miraculous event, is going to leave us with a world just as rotten as it was when we were selfish cowards, we're lost. In that case, nothing can save us, short of a visit from benevolent space aliens.
Why even bring it up, man? What's going on? Answer me, you grinning cipher! Answer me, you saffron-robed enigma!
Friends, forget that dude. He's abandoning us, anyway, to dissolve into Nirvana. I, in my utter imperfection, will do the heavy lifting the damn mealy-mouthed Dalai Lama seems unable to bring himself to do. I will believe in us. I will believe that we are not an entirely hopeless species. With an improvement in our moral judgment, we can be better people, treat others in a more positive way, divert civilization from its current suicidal course, and make a happier world for all beings.
How do you like them apples, Lama?
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
After two miserable weeks in a row, I've decided to look on the bright side. I have two modes: the cosmically ecstatic, and the earthly miserable. But there are many sides to any story, I'm told, and what is the current state of affairs but a big fat story? A story with many sides. Like those icosahedrons you play Dungeon and Dragons with. Let's roughly estimate that 19 out of the twenty sides are dark sides. So there's one bright side.
It's unlikely the bright side is going to come up by itself. With a roll of the icosahedron, there's a 20% chance of it coming up, but do we have the time to wait or the wherewithal to gamble? And how will we know when we hit it? We'll have to pick up the D & D die and deliberately set it down with the bright side facing up. But first we have to figure out which side that is. We need to find the bright side.
We've nicely limited ourselves to twenty sides, which is already optimistic. But it's all theoretical, and therefore meaningless and without consequence, anyway.
I can define many of the dark sides. Here's one that has monopolized my attention: A tweet comedian Andy Kindler quoted from a-hole list actor James Woods about how corrupt a president Obama was. Kindler's comment: "What an evil sick racist failed human @RealJamesWoods is." I like Kindler. His pinned tweet is "Donald Trump is perfect if you like your Hitler stupid."
Woods's tweet blames Obama for the increase in school shootings, with an attached article from "The Blaze," which I guess is BuzzFeed for fascists, declaring "Obama school discipline guidelines allowed school shooter to buy gun despite troubling past." See, if you don't allow police to discipline children who misbehave in school, and get these kids into the criminal justice database as swiftly as possible, they won't have criminal records that would keep them from acquiring guns.
This logic is sound, but of course you could deny a child a weapon that fires multiple high-velocity rounds on the basis of non-criminal indications. Or for any number of very good reasons. I'm not in favor of criminalizing children any further than we already do, a tactic that always falls heavier on children of color, as all hard rain does. It seems to me these Blaze readers would rather contort their logic to place blame on Obama than figure out a solution, because they're racists who claim that Obama was the most corrupt president ever, and the worst by far. And that Donald Dump has been treated more unfairly by the media than any other president in history.
Reading the comments, I found that these are not the same dolts who can't write a coherent English sentence. They're reasonably well-spoken, even if what they say is 100% glaring bat-guano craziness. What makes this side so dark is that when they talk about Obama they sound exactly like me and most people I agree with when we talk about Donald Dump.
It's truly another world. Bizarro World.
Bizarro world is the world in the Superman comics where everything is done backwards and stupidly. It's named after the backwards, stupid Superman, Bizarro, who lives there. That's like if we called Earth "Superman World." Superman would have to do a lot more than he's currently doing in order for that to happen. Existing at all would be a start.
One of the comments on the James Woods tweet was, "I don't understand how Obama's supporters can continue to deny these facts." That's exactly how I feel about Dump's supporters. It's eerie. What if... what if our world is the Bizarro world, and theirs is Earth? Is there a way to tell?
There are ways, of course, but they take so much time and research, and in the end the Bizarros won't pay attention to any of the conclusions, anyway, so what's the point? Just to reassure ourselves that we live on Earth? A worthy goal, but I'm fine with skipping to the answer without showing my work for those incapable of doing the math.
Back to the search for the bright side of the icosahedron. In Dungeons and Dragons, the die is used to tell how good a hit you've made, 20 being the best, and "best" has different meanings depending on the weapon, which is usually, of course, possessed of magic power. Let's just say, in the simplest terms, 20 is the hardest hit. Our hits are with the weapon of truth, which seems today to have been downgraded to the softest substance in the universe. So, logically, we should really look for the bright side on the side with the lowest number, rather than the highest: one. Truth is soft, which knowledge leads us to conclude that "one" is the brightest.
One is truth. One is also the loneliest number, I'm told. This metaphor truly has legs. Legs to put seven-league boots upon. Except, as Bertolt Brecht wrote in his version of Don Juan, in a world run by liars and cowards, lies wear seven-league boots. Which is backwards. Bizarro world. Perhaps that is where we live.
Maybe the bright side, then, is 20.
One bright spot, if not an entire side, in my days has been the nationwide student walkouts to protest gun violence. In Bizarro World, where these walkouts are viewed darkly, the nationwide student walkouts were engineered by brainwashing communist teachers and bad parents. But at least, in Bizarro World, they've heard about the walkouts. That tells me that maybe our worlds aren't that different after all. Maybe it's how we interpret that world that puts us on opposite sides of the icosahedron.
We all seem to agree that the nation's students staged countless protests. We just disagree whether or not this is a good thing. How could it not be a good thing? Well, the students were rude to hypocritical politicians who take money from the NRA and, somehow, unrelatedly, oppose restrictions on gun ownership. I think people should be rude to hypocritical politicians of that ilk. But maybe they're not just being rude. Maybe they're publicly holding them accountable. I think hypocritical politicians who sell their votes for money should be held accountable. I'm not seeing the downside to the student protests. But the Bizarro people do. It's all downside to them.
Money for protecting the gun industry. Love of money is the root of all evil. Evil is the dark side.
Maybe hatred of money is the root of all good.
If good has roots, then maybe it's a tree. The bright side of the tree is the top, closest to the sun. The sun is the brightest thing in the solar system, and it's free. There's no money involved in our direct exchanges with the sun. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
The pursuit of money over anything money is supposed to represent or conduce does seem to play a large part in the workings of the dark side. If they weren't getting money from the NRA, would these politicians make the same policy choices? It's possible to be a hypocrite outside of the medium of money, but, again, hypocrisy so often seems to coincide with valuing money over life that it's hard to believe it's a coincidence.
Here's a thought: what if we could bypass all the people and things having to do with money? No, no, I know it's a dumb question, but hear me out. What if everyone agreed to do the same things they do right now, but without money. Just behave the same way, pretty much, but without involving money. Farmers would farm, truckers would truck what the farmers farmed, stores would stock what the truckers truck, people would go to the stores and take a modest portion of what the stores stocked. Teachers would teach, nurses would nurse, builders would build, repairers repair, musicians play, painters paint. The food from the store would go to the people who go to the store. Because no money would be collected, no money would go to the owners of the store, or the owners of he owners of the store. The people whose lives consist solely in accumulating money without doing anything useful would find themselves out of a job. And we could put them to work helping find homes for the homeless and cleaning up the garbage in the sea.
The notion's got a ways to go in terms of articulation, but it's the start of an idea. A merry, merry, bright start.
I think the only thing preventing us from giving this a try is the attitude that no one would do anything useful if they weren't being paid to do it. And I think that's not true. It's a dark dismal view of life. And that's not what I'm looking for this week.
Is it the stuff of fantasy? I have a sword and sorcery game die, and I'm looking for the bright side.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day.
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Last week I came out of the jungle to find we were still fighting WWII, and I hate to say it, but fighting and hate were what WWII was about. Is about. Still. That Winston Churchill fellow was a great hater and fighter of Nazis. He got his training while hating and fighting the people he colonized. It was damn effective training, too.
The movie, Dahkest Houh, is about Winston Churchill, starring Gary Oldman as Mrs. Doubtfire, a man who is divorced from his country but, in order to be close to his children, puts on a muppet-like prosthetic disguise and gets a job as the nation's nanny and mascot.
The movie begins with the evacuation of Dunkirk, which required the sacrifice of 4000 men's lives to rescue 300,000 from certain destruction. It was a calculated sacrifice. Churchill made a decision no gathering of Talmudic rabbis could have come to. Churchill was good at presiding over death. That training in the colonies, don'tchy'know. The British needed to save the 300,000 so they could fight the 3 million who were in Hitler's army, so the 4000 had to die.
Churchill was the last in a long line of stocky jowly belligerent imperialist British alcoholics, and he, like Barack Obama, came into office only when his country needed him to clean up a terrible mess. Like Obama, he performed the task, but unlike Obama, he didn't resort to half-measures, or one-quarter measures, or an even lesser fraction, he didn't leave most of the job undone for the next administration to dismantle, and he didn't hire the exact people causing the problem to try to deal with it. He didn't hire Himmler or Field Marshall von Sauerkraut to run the military for him.
If Churchill had run the British war effort the way Obama ran Wall Street reform, it would have been Goebbels saying "We shall fight in the fields." The British people would have been admonished to lie down in the middle of the road so the German tanks could crush them easier. And don't forget to hand over any Jewish neighbors!
The Atlantic Magazine just posted a worthless article (Is Big Business Really That Bad?) about how big corporations are being unjustly vilified. Kind of like when the NYT urges us to be nicer to Nazis. If you're suggesting that big corporations will respond to reasonable regulation, you are Neville Chamberlain announcing peace in our time. Hitler has invaded country after country on the continent, but sure, let's try reasoning with him as he's about to destroy every young man in our military.
Haven't you learned the lesson of Mrs. Doubtfire and the Gathering Storm of fascism?!
The authors are silent on the main problems with big corporations. Instead they offer some startling facts:
"Employment at large businesses is in fact steadier than at small businesses." Is it? Do you include having to relocate to another state or country to keep your job in your assessment of stability? Just curious.
"In 2015, small enterprises were four times more likely to lay off their workers than large ones." In an economy where a giant franchise chain can run you out of business by temporarily undercutting you in a particular market, undercutting you severely and unethically (by human standards of ethics), you might allow that small businesses are hindered from being stable concerns, much less stable employers, by the very existence of large corporations. All of the examples of the superiority of large corporations in the article reflect the way they have been able to distort the economy in their favor. So, authors, aren't you separating causes from symptoms?
I did read in Fortune magazine a list of the largest layoffs of the two decades straddling the turn of the current millennium:
60,000 in 1993 by IBM, 50,000 by Sears in 1993, 40,000 by ATT in 1996, 31,000 by Boeing in 2001, 35,000 by Ford in 2002, 35,000 by Kmart in 2003, 50,000 by Citigroup in 2008, 47,000 by GM in 2009, 34,000 by Circuit City in 2009, 30,000 by Bank of America in 2011
I remember those Boeing layoffs when they happened. The economy was supposedly doing well. Boeing sure wasn't doing badly. And over all, labor productivity was at an historic high, although that sure wasn't reflected in wages. And in the midst of that environment, Boeing fired the population of a small city. Capitalism, from the workers' point of view, seems incapable of stability, but seems rather engineered to create instability and fear – and big corporations laying off tens of thousands of people in one fell swoop is a large part of that. When does the failure of a small business gut a city like Flint or Detroit?
A disingenuous thread in the article is to accuse progressives of hypocrisy in holding big business in low esteem.
"Large firms are  more likely to be unionized." Yes, but there are laws that make unionizing any new shop hard, and larger ones tend to be older, so their unions are legacy unions, from a hard fought battle against a formidable enemy over time in a slightly less fascistic labor environment. "And they employ a greater share of women and minorities than small firms do." Thus the authors conclude "Big Business [is] an unlikely enemy of progressives." Look, if all progressives cared about was how big a percentage of women and minorities corporations hired, sweatshops and slave labor wouldn't be much of a concern of theirs, would they? "Hey, we're Apple, look at all the Asian women we employ in China." Yes, many of them try to leap to their deaths out the windows, but now we have suicide prevention nets in which to catch them. I wonder if the authors are counting the suicide nets as among the many benefits big corporations provide.
"If the claims of the small-is-beautiful school are so at odds with the facts," (no, at odds with a few select, distorted facts) "how can we explain their popular appeal?"
Just as popular as the idea of the rebel upstart independent business is the fairytale of the kid who comes from nothing and builds a business empire. Business empires are admired. Tycoons are admired. Check out our president before you start talking about small business appeal. Where does THAT sack of crap get its popular appeal? That's the actual mystery, and we've been baffled by it since the Gilded Age robber barons. And utterly befuddled since the last presidential election.
A lot of suspicion of big business derives from its faceless, extra-governmental, extra- national power of fiat, which is no small thing to be brushed aside with, "well of course, but if not for that." Too much power is the problem.
From the Guardian: "[US Federal Court evidentiary documents show] that in the 1990s Shell Oil routinely worked with Nigeria's military and mobile police to suppress resistance to its oil activities, often from activists in Ogoniland, in the delta region." The Ogoni were protesting because Shell was polluting beyond repair their water and land. How many transnational corporations get away with crimes like this because there is little to no accountability for corporate human rights violations? Our inability to know is part of the problem. Although the authors of the Atlantic article crow about how big corporations are the real sources of innovation (they're not, it more often begins with government funded research programs), they seem blind to certain kinds of innovation. Writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed, along with other Nigerians, under this delightfully innovative cooperative project between the Nigerian military and Shell Oil, for example. Yet such innovation goes uncelebrated by the authors of the offending article.
While small businesses may also violate human rights, they are rarely, if ever, able to hire a nation's military police force to put down resistance to their plans to destroy acres of land. Nor are they able to buy up huge amounts of the world's potable water for pennies, depriving local communities of a life necessity, to sell it in bottles to people thousands of miles away, as Nestlé is in the process of doing around the world.
The article's thesis is contingent on ignoring the dire threat to our civilization from capitalism in general and these bloated greed machines in particular. Yes, in some fantasy universe where big business and big banks didn't suck all new wealth into their coffers last year; where they don't trade money and high positions for political favors; punish rising wages with austerity in order to push real wages back down and drive up their stock prices; reward their worthless executives for hollowing out their companies; poison our soil, air and water; destabilize communities and entire nations to more easily rob them of their resources; hoard and conceal their profits; engineer the destruction of competing local enterprises; fire tens of thousands of employees at once; defy governmental and communal attempts to curb their inherent ruthless trajectory to engulf and devour – then, yes, in a world where those aspects of big business are not integral to their nature, perhaps some of their benign features might come in handy. But, of course, even a dictatorship can be very useful and efficient, if it weren't for the massacres and oppression and eccentric mustaches and all.
But that's what Mrs. Doubtfire was fighting against. All that extra stuff. The brutality. The swastikas. The mass conformity. The bombing. The hatred of the Other. The quasi- messianic drive to dominate. But mostly, she was fighting for her home, England. Maybe a few other parts of the Island, too. But she found herself, after decades as an oppressor, now an unlikely underdog, fighting against the boot stomping the human face for eternity. And that fight's not over, clearly.
There will not be peace in our time. We will fight on the beaches. We will fight in the fields. You fascist-appeasing idiots.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day.