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MOMENT OF TRUTH

Posted by Alexander Jerri

Welcome the Moment of Truth, and the conclusion of the 4-part semi-fictional expose of one doctor’s degradation from healer to heel.

Fame was taking our Odd Couple for a lovely jaunt. Dr. Dave made guest appearances on sitcoms, and Mel was jobbed into a number of cable network talent exhibits. About the time Mel started doing the “Big Balls Show” on MTV alongside fellow thinly-disguised fictional standup, Kimmy Jimmel, he began adopting a definitively rightwing stance on issues about which he had no business opining.

Mel: What is it about the Middle East that causes people to be violent, do you think? Dave. Is it something in the soil? Is it –

Dave: (sarcastically) No, it’s two hundred years of oppression by the West, that’s what the liberal, the politically correct —

Mel: – is it the humus? The babaganoush? The crappy music? What is it?

Well, what are you implying, Mel and Dr. Dave? Is it just that dark people on the other side of the world have more violence in their blood or genes? Is it their religion? Their swarthiness? Middle East experts and armchair scholars alike knew that the region had been carved to pieces and raped by the colonizing powers, and the CIA had, as recently as 1953, overthrown the elected Mossedegh government in Iran to install the Shah, and were – even as Dave and Mel were busy disparaging knowledge – continuing their manipulations of peoples, their propping up of dictators, and facilitating when not outright committing the murders of political leaders in the region. The West was not an innocent observer. Radios could be heard across the nation being smashed in fury.

This was no longer a “hip” sex advice show slipping common-sense abstinence, monogamy, condom-wearing, and heterosexual-leaning advice “under the radar.” This was a couple of media figures peddling naked rightwing racist and corporatist propaganda.

And that’s how Dr. Dave finally found his ideological home in the Fox News milieu.

He tried to make it as an actor, no one knows why – I guess he figured if a rightwing toady like Ben Stein could do it, so could he – but someone who’s handsome because there’s nothing wrong with him isn’t a particularly memorable face. Safer to build on his brand as the new, less repulsive Dr. Laura (not fictional. Why keep up the pretense?). And that’s exactly what he did.

And so it’s no accident that he made the mistake of parroting Donald Trump’s dismissal of Covid-19 as “no worse or more alarming than the common flu.” He has since apologized for joining in the chorus of Fox News Trumplicking talking heads who mocked precautions urged by every reputable medical professional and institution outside that echo chamber. I don’t accept Dr. Dave’s apology, and neither should anyone else. He started his career as something of a public servant, but he developed into one of those who masquerade as public servants while contriving to serve only themselves. In the process, it’s fair to conjecture that the deaths he is responsible for are innumerable, and his smug blather downplaying the seriousness of the Covid- 19 pandemic, joining in on the wrong side of medical history, will and should haunt him until he dies choking on his truffle-oil-laced hormone-free sushi.

Was it the lure of fame and all its trappings that brought him to this ignoble pass? Probably. Can we blame capitalism? I mean, many of us are blaming capitalism for a host of societal deficiencies, the inability of our national anti-community ethos to cope with the collective needs imposing themselves due to the current pandemic not the least of them. How much blame can one economic system bear? Systemic oppression, global violence, environmental degradation – of course these can be laid at the feet of dollar-worship, but personal moral and ethical failures? A man starts out treating people’s addictions for little or no compensation. He garners some attention, then starts to pick up a little change, doing a radio gig. He leaves his unprofitable practice to seek his personal fortune. Is it really connected to the pressure to earn more and more money, first just to stay alive, and then to maintain the buffer of wealth that is the only thing standing between sparkling celebrity and the life-and-death struggle of regular people?

Look at the fate of the medical workers in the ICUs across our nation, exposing themselves to a highly contagious and often lethal disease, unprotected because of shortages due to our president’s incompetence, as well as our governing indoctrinated faith in the free market. These workers are freely on the market, and the market has offered them this opportunity, with its risks egregiously outweighing its rewards. Many of them have a calling to help the sick, and the market takes advantage of their good-hearted naivete. Some of them are just trying to survive economically, with the only marketable skill they possess.

Can anyone blame Dr. Dave for setting himself a safer, more remunerative course? Not if we blame capitalism. But would the Good Doctor himself blame capitalism? He might, if only in the barely-conscious part of his mind. Or he might simply admit outright, “I didn’t want to be poor. It’s dangerous to your health.”

Who can argue with that?

As the owners of the means of wealth conjuring grow ever more concerned that the lesser classes aren’t doing enough to keep their numbers up, we’re being bombarded by more and more cleverly disguised “voices of reason” assuring us that the death toll of the virus isn’t worth the economic grief of protecting ourselves from it. Well, not exactly “cleverly disguised.” Steve Forbes, the genetically-meritorious billionaire, recently posted on Twitter: “This pandemic is over. Let’s stop this economic suicide, and get back to work.” Not sure what work he’s talking about. Maybe his laborious job listening to the jingle of his millions rolling in? Oh, I get it, he wants to get back to work as an unaccredited epidemiologist. Sure, Dr. Steve! You get back to work doing your thing!

A tad more subtly, two weeks ago a couple of Bakersfield doctors, who run a for-profit practice that I guess must be leaking revenue, held a news conference, publicized by libertarian funding organizations, during which they touted a mangled statistical methodology for determining that Covid-19 was no more deadly than the flu, exactly the false claim our fictional Dr. Dave and his factual counterpart, Dr. Drew, finally had to apologize for. The Bakersfield propaganda show was taken down by YouTube after an onslaught of complaints by competent experts, but not before racking up 5 million views. The two discredited but somehow still practicing physicians are Drs. Dan Erikson and Artin Massihi. They are to be considered dangerous and shot on sight – oops, no, I mean, ought to be ashamed of themselves. Elon Musk thought they were brilliant! Elon and Forbes should get together for a makeout session.

Seems it doesn’t matter what profession you choose, be it pseudo-doctor like Dr. Phil or Dr. Forbes, or realish doctor, like Drs. Oz and Drew, or fictional ones like Dr. Dave – if there’s a buck to be made by siding with unscrupulous fascists, there will always be those willing to sell their ethics, if not their souls. It’s a story as old as the oldest profession.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Posted by Alexander Jerri


Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Last we left the rising star, Dr. Dave, he had just discovered an admirable, and, it would turn out, valuable quality in his on-air partner, Howard Stern imitation, Mel Kinolla.

What it was, was showmanship. Mel was a great performer, a natural talent. Dr. Dave felt a warmth for the talent of his friend and wanted to share in it.

Mel began to draw Dave deeper into a comically jaded mindset with a little game in which the caller would be put on hold and Mel would speculate on what had happened in the caller's childhood to put them on the road to disaster. Dave would discuss Mel’s speculations, come up with his own scenario, and they would bet on whose was closer to the truth. Then they'd go back to the caller and elicit the backstory to settle the wager.

It would go something like this:

Mel: All right, honey? We're going to put you on hold for a second. (click) Okay, let's make a little wager here. I'm gonna say, father took off when she was, say, five years old. Mother was an alcoholic – no, mother had an alcoholic boyfriend. Boyfriend molested the daughter.

Dave: I think the father molested the daughter. Same scenario, but the father was alcoholic and abusive.

Mel: Abusive physically or sexually? Dave: Both.
Mel: Why? – I'm just curious.

Dave: It's very common with lesbians – or, she's sixteen, she doesn't know if she's a lesbian or not, really, at that age – but it's very common that survivors of incest abuse start to experiment with being lesbian...

... The contrast between the crudeness of Mel and the compassion of Dave grew less and less discernable as Dave’s discourse sank to Mel’s level. In response, Mel seemed to feel the need to up the crudeness.

Mel: I'm gonna say, drunk father, abusive to mom, mom neglected her, dad was sexual around her but didn't touch her, just let his Johnson hang out, walking around the house. Maybe he even spanked it in front of her. She was raped by a much older boyfriend.

Dave: Raped or seduced? Although it amounts to the same thing. I think there's something anal there.

Mel: Anal? Whaddya mean, like a suppository? Or a broomstick? Dave: I don't know. Something anal. I can't put my finger on it. Mel: Good. Don't. Don't put your finger on the anal thing.

A pattern in Dr. Dave’s diagnoses was that bisexuals weren't bisexual but, rather, confused. And teens below the age of, say, eighteen, who considered themselves homosexual, couldn't possibly know what their sexuality was yet – they were still experimenting, at best. Interestingly, the difficulty of ascertaining one's sexual identity before the age of eighteen never arose when the callers described themselves as heterosexual.

Adam and Drew, I mean, Mel and Dave, found themselves confronting the same problems night after night: young girls who needed the validation of older men and got it by having sex with them, young men wanting to pressure younger girls into having sex with them, young people exacerbating the stress of adolescence with drug use, and, more generally, screwed up people who got that way by being misinformed, weak, fearful, and lazy.

Each caller was a unique individual, of course. In an ordinary practice where he would have been treating young people with such problems, Dr. Andy David Piktis, MD, would never have mocked his patients publicly. But Mel, no physician, neither ethics nor bedside manner any concern of his, began to treat the callers as if they were always the same annoying person, doing the same dumb thing again and again. His comments, sometimes during the calls and sometimes after, grew increasingly abusive.

Mel: Where do they come from Dave? Our callers. How do they live? They seem too dumb to live.

Dave: Well, they muddle through on luck, I guess.

Dave was still clinging to the last shred of his role as the voice of reason, but it wasn't long before his responses to Mel’s suggestions that their callers were deserving of a good dose of ridicule along with advice sounded more sympathetic with Mel’s plight than theirs.

Mel: All right, John? You're not gonna drop out of school, and you're gonna quit sniffing glue, and you're gonna get an HIV test and not have anymore unprotected sex, right?

John: Huh? Yeah, well, my girlfriend won't have sex with me if I wear a condom –

Mel: No. John. Listen. You are not going to have sex without a condom anymore. Okay? You're going to get an HIV test—

John: Yeah, yeah, but—

Mel: No buts, John. Promise me you're not going to have sex without a condom. John? You there?

John: Yeah...

Mel: Do you understand? Promise me, John.

John: Well, yeah.

Dave: And no more huffing, okay?

Mel: But, Dave, his girlfriend won't have sex with him if they don't huff. Okay, bye John.

CLICK.

Mel: What A-hole would let his daughter within a hundred yards of that retard? Dave?

Dave: There are a lot of A-holes out there.

Mel: That idiot. He's not gonna—he didn't hear a single word we –

Dave: He's an idiot. He doesn't have the motivation. Some people are so dumb they need to hit rock bottom. Although—

Mel: Right, because huffing in Mom’s basement while screwing your junkie girlfriend without a condom isn't –

Dave: Right, exactly –
Mel: That's not rock bottom enough – Dave: That's not far enough down.

Still, Dave didn't have the hostility in his diction that Mel had. He didn't fly off the handle and refer to all Muslims as "Habib" or lambaste anyone who opined that the Canadian healthcare system provided decent health care. But he did sit by and buy into each argument, without actually engaging in the polemical rhetoric. But neither did he ever contradict it.

When we return with the fourth and final part of this fictional saga, we’ll find out how much farther Dr. Dave is willing to go to continue to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Join me for Part 4 of “The Good Doctor.”

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Posted by Alexander Jerri

Welcome to the Moment of Truth, the thirst that is the drink.

When we last left our fictional protagonist, Dr. Dave Pitkis, the Dr. Drew Pinsky doppelganger of this four-part roman à clef, a radio producer in LA had just had an idea to pair medical advice with adolescent stoner commentary.

Mel Kinolla was in heavy rotation on off nights and as an opener at the Laugh Factory comedy club on Sunset, just a block or two east of the strip proper. Let’s face it, everything east of the Chateau Marmont is not really the strip. You can’t say Zankou Chicken is on the strip.

Kinolla was a real workhorse. He had a palette of embarrassing real-life situations he put to good use, or harnessed into service, as one of those self-deprecating comics. Paired with Dr. Dave on the radio show, which was now broadcast out of LA with the name "Dopeline," and for which both were paid, Mel spoke with the voice of the regular guy who understood the stupid urges of teenagers and probably would have been in the same mess as many of them if he'd had the opportunity or the balls when he was their age. Dr. Dave would warn Mel of the dangers of this or that behavior, however fun it might seem on TV or in Grand Theft Auto or in the sexy mass- cultural mythology, and give the teenager under scrutiny advice on how to get out of the mess he or she was in. And Mel would say something like, "Still, I wouldn't mind hittin' some of that. Sounds like James here has it pretty good, diddling two broads." And Dr. Dave would say, "No no no. You really don't want to do that. Not without a condom, and not with a minor."

By teenager, incidentally, I mean to include the numerous twenty-somethings who called in with the emotional problems of teenagers. The mean age of the callers rose and fell, but their median emotional age hovered at around sixteen.

Dr. Dave was the name he went by, as he does to this day. He was called Dr. Dave even when he testified before a Congressional Committee on the advantages of treatment-based approaches to fighting illegal drug use as opposed to the punitive kind favored by the "smaller government" mentality that had come into vogue in Washington. "Punishment doesn't cure addiction and so ultimately does nothing to shrink demand for illicit drugs," Dr. Dave testified. "Under what other circumstances do we punish someone for being sick? You can't punish the measles out of someone, that person is still going to spread the measles."

A word about Dr. Dave's charitable attitude toward addicts at his stage in his degradation: an ex- girlfriend of mine's best friend was friends with a cousin of Dr. Dave, and she was at a dinner at Toscana at which the cousin and Dr. Dave were both present, and this cousin had brought her fiancé, who was working in the emergency room at County Hospital. And this fiancé got to talking about how many junkies he saw, ODing or in withdrawal or infected with HIV, about whom the fiancé said, "God, they are so stupid. These people are just stupid."

And my ex-girlfriend's friend said Dr. Dave got kind of upset when his cousin's fiancé said this, and that Dr. Dave said to the fiancé, "You're a little young to be speaking that callously about it. Those people are your patients, and you have no idea what led them to that condition. And you – you have not earned the right to call those people stupid, and I don't know if anyone ever earns that right no matter how long they live. That is a screwed-up attitude and I want to dissuade you from it right now."

Or words to that effect.

There was a certain pragmatism to Dr. Dave's approach on the radio. If he could bring a caller around to a small discovery that might help, he would go for that over blanket condemnation of the caller's entire life as he or she was currently living it. And in the first few years of the commercially syndicated show he never resorted to ad hominem attacks, even after the call was ended. It was all the more admirable since at this time "Doctor" Terri Toynbee, my fictional equivalent of Dr. Laura, was making a huge splash with her tough talk, calling people idiots, losers, weaklings, and really laying into them. She claimed to take her morality straight from the Bible, so she called homosexuality a disease. It had a nice marketable ring to it when Rush Limbaugh was rising to his full power.

And yet in an early profile on some fluffy pseudo-news program, Dr. Dave described "Dopeline" as a conservative show sneaking into popular youth culture "below the radar." His advice was typically anti-experimentation vis-à-vis sex and drugs, especially for those below the age of eighteen. But the Good Doctor's decision to characterize safe-sex and anti-drug-abuse advice as "conservative" was puzzling. Radical gay activists, radicalized by the Reagan Administration’s negligent and victim-blaming attitude during the AIDS epidemic, had spearheaded the national safe-sex discussion, people Dr. Dave knew, and knew to have been very supportive of his early column and radio program. Yet during the rise of a rightwing movement destined to all but destroy just about everything he'd stood for up to the point of his radio success, Dr. Dave seemed to be attempting, however subtly, to throw his lot in with exactly that rightwing movement, or at least not to be seen as pushing back against it.

He may have done so in the belief that the rightwing madness which had seen to it that every 18th word uttered on network television was "America" would only let his show survive if it was understood as fitting into the mad project. Or he may have done so because he was preparing to one day get on board that crazy gravy train.

Throughout the early years of "Dopeline," Dr. Dave dispensed sensible advice, while Mel made it palatable to the hip youth of the day with his colloquial diction and fart jokes. But at the time just after the Gingrich conservatives took over Congress, in the mid-to-late nineties, something began to shift.

That something was not in Dr. Dave, but in Mel. Mel started to behave as if, by sitting next to a doctor in a studio every night, he had accumulated some diagnostic and therapeutic expertise. He began to speak less like the id who jokingly wants to engage in bad behavior, and more like the id who wants to tell people with problems that they're morons. Dr. Dave then had the straight man's burden, still comical, of not only dispensing real, useful information against the contrast of Mel's crude, humorous ignorance, but also of representing compassion against Mel's jaded mockery of the feeble-minded wretches who called in.

What was it that would eventually draw Dr. Dave into the very same jaded mindset? It’s true, Mel was not a stupid guy, nor was he entirely unappealing. He was a funny guy, although his humor emerged nearly unadulterated from his all-too-real emotional life. He had taken to the role of foul-mouthed adolescent-minded loser like a germ to mucus. He enjoyed himself. That enjoyment was infectious. Dr. Dave didn't really grok Mel for the first few years of their partnership, but since the partnership was working, earning them both money and celebrity – and Mel was a friend, he'd become a real friend – the Good Doctor was along for the ride, and with no complaint.

It was not long after the "below the radar" remark that Dr. Dave and Mel had a breakthrough in their relationship. Up to then Dave had played the logical Spock to Mel's Homer Simpson. But then this happened, and I saw it: I was running the board in the studio during a show, and, during a break, Dr. Dave was jotting down some notes, when Mel said:

"I'm gonna take a shit. Can you take control of the phones? That's fair, I take a shit, you take control. So we're both taking something. Isn't that fair? Splitting the take?"

Dr. Dave laughed. No one looks quite as insane as Mr. Spock does when he laughs and jumps for joy, especially at the end of the Amok Time episode when it turns out Spock hasn’t, in a state of pon farr, killed Captain Kirk in the battle demanded by Spock’s bonded mate, T’pring, who set up the fight by making the ka-lee-fi challenge. Dr. Dave laughed and for the first time allowed himself to hear past the profanity and get the joke. That was some clever wordplay, he must have thought. I like this guy, this Mel Kinolla. He's got something on the ball. Not sure what yet, but something.

In the next chapter, we’ll find out what that something was, and just how far over into the dark side it would take Mel and Dave, when I continue to Part 3 of The Good Doctor.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Posted by Alexander Jerri

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Though I call him the Good Doctor, he's not good. He's not a bad doctor, necessarily. Just a bad person who happens to be a doctor. Or a good person who found a way to opt into a bad system for glory and profit. Either way, the "good" is tongue-in-cheek, or ironic, or sarcastic, or sardonic. Perhaps all simultaneously.

The Good Doctor recently apologized for having repeatedly repeated Donald Trump’s irresponsible talking points that Covid-19 was no worse than the flu, calling it “a press-induced panic” from as early as February 4. On March 10 he mocked people for heeding New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s advice to avoid riding the subway. He continued to mock and downplay legitimate medical advice about avoiding exposure to the virus all the way until he gave a contradictory lie on March 31 to try to cover his ass, and only officially admitted being wrong in an apology via Periscope feed on April 4, less than a week ago. He’d had a change of heart. Or a change of mind. Or the facts changed. Or maybe he was simply making a minor tweak in a discrete component of the overall structure of his brand. I could’ve told him, when you echo whatever echoes in the rightwing echo chamber, you will make mistakes. This time it might turn out to have cost thousands of lives, we’ll never know, although we can assume the damage he did by boosting bad information will have been large.

I always wonder how a somewhat reasonable person transforms into a jolly rider aboard the rightwing bandwagon.

The Good Doctor was in fact a good person at one time. Or perhaps he was a bad person who happened to stumble into the business of helping people. He was a specialist in addiction and addictive personalities. Way back when. And in pursuit of that specialty, he had a clinic where he helped a lot of people, including people who couldn't afford to pay him. Poor people. He helped the poor, that's pretty good. And knowing what he's become, it’s hard to figure out why he was so helpful to those poor people, or to anyone. It was almost as if he didn't know anybetter. He didn't know he had the option to be a thoughtless, selfish person who happened to be a doctor. That's my current theory. The same reason a lot of young people get married and have kids without even knowing why, except that that's what's done, and when they find out later they had a choice not to be spouses and parents, some of them try to find a way out of those circumstances.

Not all of them succeed. But the Good Doctor succeeded in escaping his circumstances. I don't believe it was his intention to escape when he first stepped out the door. But once he'd traveled out of sight of his old circumstances, there was no question of his ever going back. Back to being good in some way.

Good and bad are subjective terms, we can all agree. And yet there are overlapping qualities any socially functional human being can point to. The lines may be blurry, the territory they mark out amorphous, but the boundaries and the territories are there, for most of us. By agreement. Still, the Good Doctor's journey from one territory to the other bears describing, if only to contribute to an understanding of where the boundaries between them might be.

Dr. Piktis is his name. He bears a resemblance, in the lineaments of his career as well as those of his physiognomy, to Dr. Drew Pinsky of radio and TV notoriety. But Dr. Drew is an actual, living person. Here we are discussing a fictional person who just happens, by pure coincidence, to evince those resemblances.

Why drape this fictitious façade over a real-life story? I wanted to add some made-up incidents that were important to the arc, basically. I honestly don’t understand what happened to turn the real Dr. Drew from a reasonable person to a right-leaning media bottom-feeder, but I found that, creatively imagining scenes behind publicly available information, everything fell into place.

Yes, I could have contacted him and interviewed him, trying objectively to weigh his version of his own tale, but that would have been dishonest. I harbor great hostility toward the man, and it wouldn’t be fair to him for me to pretend objectivity when I was researching what was bound to be a hit piece. And so, mostly to protect the real Dr. Drew Pinsky from me and my lies, I’ve gone to the trouble of inventing a fictitious, somewhat parallel, person.

Andy David Piktis, MD, is his name. He goes by the name Dr. Dave now, one of the few media figures brandishing the label "doctor" who is in fact a member of the American Medical Association. He came from a good Jewish family who would never think of misusing the title the way "Doctor" Terri Toynbee and "Doctor" Neil Edwards (both also fictitious) have. Andy was always going to be a doctor, a medical doctor, from the start.

No single incident led to Andy's interest in addiction, but we know his mother was addicted to caffeine. That might seem a little silly. Poor woman, caffeine, you might snort haughtily. But Mrs. Piktis got terrible migraines when the java ran out. A kind of pink, luminous foam would begin lathering at the periphery of her vision, accompanying a pain like having a trowel shoved into the base of her skull. The foam would bubble like acid, burning the edges of her sight until all she saw was its blistering effervescence. Even a slight underdosage of caffeine could bring a spell of migraine. Andy witnessed his mother several times, screaming, heels of her palms pressing hard into her eye sockets as she wandered blindly through the house, scattered as it was with used coffee cups, acrid dregs stagnating in the bottoms.

Don't tell me there was anything particularly good-hearted about his choice of specialty just because it was inspired by his mother's pain. He had to pick a specialty at some point. It's more a testament to his lack of imagination than his empathy that he went into addiction medicine and opened his clinic in Oakland, CA. All he did was latch onto the first human weakness he could understand. It could have been anything.

Andy got married fresh out of undergrad, took the MCATs and passed the first time, as did his wife. They both did their rotations at Rush Presbyterian in Chicago. The mutual support they displayed during those years was admirable. In academics and work ethic they were an exceptional couple. It's tempting to believe that anyone who can maintain such a marriage must possess some inherent goodness. But that would be mistake. Again, it's more likely a semi-conscious conformism and a barely-suppressed fear of loneliness were at work in both the husband and wife than any rarer virtue.

Who is good, then, by these definitions? you might demand. And well you might. I understand your frustration. It may appear to you that I'm merely attaching the worst motives to actions of which the real ones are unknown to me, to avoid admitting the goodness of the Good Doctor. Could be, could be. But read on, because whatever virtue Andy seemed to display in those years, and the ones immediately following, he either lost or jettisoned or never really possessed. Myself, I would find his story far more tragic if I thought he'd ever had a truly virtuous cell in his body.

His wife joined a psychiatric practice in Oakland, and Andy set up shop as a GP, all the while with an eye to turning it into an addiction clinic. Little by little he referred his non-addiction patients to other GPs. They in turn funneled their addicts his way. The local lifestyle in Oakland and San Francisco at that time offered more than enough grist for his mill. Heroin was everywhere, and then crack came up from Los Angeles. Business was booming; within a few years he was getting research grants and hiring his own staff. After publishing a few entertaining articles in the Chronicle, he was offered a syndicated column. It ran in only three papers, but they were the LA Times, the Guardian, and the Bakersfield Tribune, so he developed a respectable readership from the Bay all the way down to Marina Del Rey, and eastward to the edge of the Inland Empire.

By then he had adopted his well-known clean-cut look, that crew-cut and those little glasses. His face was simply clean. (His radio and TV partner, Mel Kinolla, would later say of him, "He's the kind of guy who's handsome because nothing's wrong with him. Kind of like a prototype human waiting for its warts and stuff to grow in.") He had the boyish face that recalled Radar O'Reilly, but leaner, a little less naïve. But naïve nonetheless, because of his Mr. Spock-style clinic-speak. He was disarmingly earnest and unpretentious in public, and those characteristics translated surprisingly well to radio.

He was solo on the radio at first. He did his show for free at the leftwing Pacifica radio station, KPFA. He had by now realized how much young persons’ needs to feel part of a social group impelled them to risky behavior. And more than just trying to fit in for fitting-in's sake, a young adult longed for, and feared the absence of, sexual companionship and the approval of a sexual partner. Dave’s call-in radio show became as much about escaping bad relationships and avoiding STDs as it was about addiction to drugs and alcohol.

It was at this point that a producer for a commercial station in LA heard about “Dr. Dave” (as he had begun to call himself) and had one of those ideas that are "so crazy it just might work." Dr. Dave would field calls from troubled teenagers, many of them drug abusers, victims of sexual abuse, engaged in risky behavior and harboring untreated infections. All the program needed was someone, a sidekick, to bring out the hilarious potential of such misfortunes. That’s where we’ll pick the story back up in Part Two of this 4-part exposé.

This had been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Posted by Alexander Jerri

Welcome to the Moment of Truth, the thirst that is the drink.

Dateline: Los Angeles, Friday the Thirteenth, March 2020. Corona virus empties all the stores of their toilet paper. The beginning of the end. But let’s not dwell on that, shall we not? Shall we? Shan’t we? Let’s shan’t, shan’t we?

I’m taking the cutest little pills for high blood pressure. They’re called “Chlorthalidone.” They’re about as big as those little... I don’t know if you remember these, I know not a lot of you aren’t old enough ...little saccharine tablets. My Grandma had a tiny serving vessel, with a tiny spoon. I think it was silver, or at least silver-plated. It was the shape of a cake pedestal with a lid, hinged at the back. It was about the diameter of a Kennedy half-dollar, and at most two-inches high with the lid closed. Oh, it had a tiny tongs, too.

And they work, these little chlorthalidones! Well, in tandem with Losartan. No one knows why. My BP ranges from normal to mildly high after only a week of taking these. I have my own personal blood pressure cuff and electronic sphygmomanometer! I get to take my blood pressure twice every day! So much fun!

So, what is the value of a human life, as a society that has shrugged off the burden of Enlightenment humanism collapses around us? Whoa! That’s an abrupt transition!

Okay, here’s another one: no one knows where blood pressure comes from. Some say it was created by space aliens to prop up the pharmaceutical industry, which provides said aliens with safe and effective baby formula, with which they turn their unfertilized polyhedrons into babies. Some say it’s the curse of King Tutankhamun for the violation of his tomb and theft of artifacts therefrom. He especially misses his coffee table. He’s got to spend eternity holding a “World’s Greatest Pharaoh” mug full of Trader Joe’s Breakfast Blend because some Englishman wanted a fancy piece on which to show off his magazines. Still others call blood pressure “the silent killer” because it’s not a particularly noisy form of hypertension, except when it causes fits of yelling, and then it’s called “Mr. Furious’s Revenge,” after a character Ben Stiller played.

My blood pressure was very high last summer. No one knows why. It’s been high, probably, for the past 16 years. I’m sure I’ve done a lot of damage to my body by not getting it diagnosed and treated. Let that be a lesson to me.

So, what is the value of a human life, as a society that has shrugged off the burden of Enlightenment humanism collapses around us? Depends. Depends what mood we’re in. You can’t legislate morality! You have to have morality as an unspoken basis for your governance from the get-go. You either value human beings over profit, or you don’t. Guess which way our governing philosophy leans? Do not ask, it leans on thee. No one knows why.

Did everyone receive their census notices? Very important you fill that out. They need to get an accurate count of everyone in the USA. That number will decide the minimum amount of UBI they’ll need to dole out to keep us from rioting, how many cops they’ll need to hire to control us if we do riot, how much teargas they’ll need to deploy, how many rubber bullets to issue.

I wonder if eating a couple of bananas during the day would lower my blood pressure. I think I read that it would, although no one knows why. I’m not going to look it up, I’m going to assume it’s true.

I want to inject the name Samuel Siegfried Karl Ritter von Basch in here before I forget. He was an Austrian Jew who died in 1905, the same year Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity and his Extra-Special Theory of Relativity, as well as several very unpopular graphic novels about anthropomorphic bats who got into sword fights. That’s a little-known fact, and a subject for another time.

Right now, I’m concerned with Samuel Siegfried Karl Ritter von Basch, the Austrian Jew. He invented the sphygmomanometer, a device for measuring blood pressure without penetrating the skin. Up until then, you had to stick a hollow needle in an artery and watch how far the blood pushed a column of mercury up a tube. I am so glad I don’t have to do that to myself, two times a day for three weeks. That would not be entertaining.

1881, that’s the year Samuel Siegfried Karl Ritter von Basch invented the sphygmomanometer. “Ritter” was his title. It was the second-lowest rank of Austrian nobility, just above Scraper, just below Crouton. He was given this title years after escaping from Mexico with his life, no one knows why.

How did he end up in Mexico, you ask? You might as well ask how he became the personal physician to Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, because that’s what he was just before being run out of town by Benito Juárez, who chopped off Maximilian’s head, which decapitation put Samuel Siegfried Karl on notice to flee. Perhaps Señor Juárez resented the claim of an Austrian to imperial reign over Mexico, as was a common feeling among other Mexicans. But, you know, around then, the Austrians were pretty hot shit. They were about to mate with Hungary and become such an empire that the simple assassination of the heir to their throne could ignite the Great War. I don’t think it was worth it, myself.

After the Battle of Puebla, the first one, the one Mexico won against the French, which is celebrated on Cinco de Mayo by frat boys and which eventually led to the French sending more troops the following year and this time winning another Battle of Puebla, Napoleon III made Maximilian the Emperor of Mexico, as part of the settlement of an old cribbage debt. So you can see why Maximilian might have been a bone in the throat of the Mexicans.

Benito Juárez and Samuel Siegfried Karl might have been friends, under other circumstances – although under vastly different circumstances they might not have had any more effect on each other than a butterfly does on a hurricane. But as it was, Samuel and Benito had a few things in common: they both rose from obscure origins from a minority population within larger empires ruled by descendants of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. They might have bonded, the Yiddish- speaking Jew from the ghetto of Prague and the Zoogocho-speaking Zapotec from Oaxaca. But, in the end, Benito identified Samuel as one of the oppressors, and Samuel saw Benito as one of the unruly rabble. So Samuel fled back to Austria, to invent the sphygmomanometer and become Ritterized.

And so, the death of Samuel Siegfried Karl Ritter von Basch in the same Miracle Year as Einstein’s four cosmos-changing papers, and 30-or-so graphic novels of no great impact, was the clarion call that the Enlightenment, and the Euclidian universe, had come to an end. Since that time, we’ve been living in an unresolved dialectic, a smoothie which refuses to become smooth, the clunky barbarism of oppression and war rattling around in a Scrabble-tile bag together with genius and compassion personified. We have capitalism at its peak right now, helping destroy everything for the short-term pleasure of the few, the few cocaine addicts, snorting cocaine like there’s no tomorrow, no one knows why, cavalier about destroying their marriages and their futures, no one knows why, cracking in the rattle bag against the tender arts, the noble sciences, the care work, education, and other hoi polloi, as we settle in to watch it all clatter and smash from our isolated panopticons.

What will win? Will anything win? Will anything worth living for synthesize out of this Chex- mix dialectic, where the Chex represent the stuff you’d rather wasn’t in the mix because it’s made of aluminum? I heard China, where the virus was first identified, has just reported zero new infections. How about that? Should we celebrate prematurely and go right back to full throttle, burning up the world, wiping our asses on every precious thing the Einsteinian cosmos has bestowed? You realize that this is the perfect opportunity for the ruling class to decide either to let us die, or that every human is worthy of life. Which way do you think they’re leaning? Do not ask, for they lean on thee.

Can’t we keep growth and progress on pause for a little longer? The fact that our isolation has somehow happened concurrently with a drop in greenhouse gas emissions and a drop in my blood pressure, no one knows why – but it can’t be mere coincidence. I’m sure there’s causation in there, somewhere.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Posted by Alexander Jerri

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

The virus came to the lumpy orange buffoon at midnight, Eastern Daylight Savings Time. “Who are you?” asked the human insult.

“I am Covid-19.”
“Well, I’m Donald 45. The best president America has ever had.”

Then the virus got into bed behind the self-import flatulence and spooned up nice and close to his blobby carcass.

“If I don’t touch my face, you can’t hurt me,” said the chief executive idiot. “And I never ever touch my face,” he added, touching his face.

Meanwhile, all across the land, people were either coughing, or listening to someone else cough with dark foreboding. There was nowhere to escape to. Italy was closed. China too. The sandy echoes of coughing capered around among the population, like a million snakes with the legs of goats, the little goats who caper in the little goat capering videos. Echoing layers of coughs, a palimpsest of coughs, a sneeze, and coughs dancing around the sneeze, as far as the ear could hear, as far as the heart could fear.

Covid-19 hissed softly into the overbaked narcissist’s earhole: “Listen. The children of the night, making phlegmy music. Those symptoms are the offspring of your denial.”

“No they’re not,” squeaked the executive putrescence, his voice quivering like a statue sculpted from butt fat and bad cholesterol. “No denial. No denial. Denial no.”

The words “denial no” echoed away into the diseased and polluted world, folding itself in amidst the cacophony of sickness, a worm in the labyrinthine tunnel of a collective intestine. Somewhere in the darkness, Joe Biden punched a voter in the face.

Salvos of gunfire percolated across the farm belt. It was farmers, tilling their fields at night to avoid the instant melanoma sunshine brought, harrowing the fields with automatic rifles. At one point, the clown president had issued a clown presidential order banning all technology except guns, creating crises of impracticality so numerous and severe that the order had to be rescinded within five minutes of its proclamation. Such an extravagant taste of the Second Amendment, however, engendered a heady rush of patriotism in the people, and they refused to give up many of the new practices they’d instantly adopted, citing the inviolability of venerable tradition.

In the cities, packs of feral health care workers, long unpaid, terrorized the streets. They all carried diseases picked up from their patients, Covid-19 being only the most prevalent contagion. There was Ebola, measles, Legionnaires’, SARS, TB, rabies, trench mouth, and kennel cough. The lay populace hunkered in fear as gangs in scrubs, self-segregating by institutional color, colloidal bismuth pink, cinder block green, Necco wafer gray, moribund blue, swarmed the dumpsters and looted the shops in search of what vestiges of food, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer remained.

Canada closed its southern border. The wall at the border with Mexico had been so cheaply made, thanks to contractors pocketing most of the cash, halva never crumbled so easily. In the moonlight slouched its silhouette of ruin, a papier-mâché Parthenon left overnight in the rain. Texans lacking health insurance stole into Mexico, felled as they emerged on the southern bank of the Rio Grande by machete-wielding, hazmat-suited Central American refugees and other thwarted migrants, out-of-work smugglers with rifles, and sundry other guardians of the as-yet- relatively-unaffected Latin quarter-hemisphere.

Out on the high seas, one of Betsy DeVos’s stray yachts drifted, rolling up crests and sledding down into troughs, unmanned and derelict, an uncanny conceptual art portrait of its owner’s intellect. A lone gray whale rose to the surface, took a look around at the vast, swelling and slithering ocean, opened its mouth, and coughed.

Back at the White House, the virus’s voice slipped into the ear of the blemish in chief like a cursed Japanese girl sucked over the lip of a well and down into emptiness: “I will take your family members one by one.”

“Start with Eric.”

“Then each of your friends will fall to me.”

“Joke’s on you. I don’t have any friends.”

“Then the voters. First to die will be the old and infirm.”

“Good, I prefer the young and firm.”

“By then, the bulk of the nation will have expired. Your base will be especially hard hit, thanks to your rallies. By election day, though, all that will be left will be children.”

“I’m very good with children. Children love me more than any other person. I am their favorite. I’ll lower the voting age to four.”

“They’re all going to vote for Bernie.” “Crazy Bernie will still be alive?”

“Why are you surprised? If you’re still alive, anything is possible. And the Senate has very good health care. But the CPAC vectors will take out the GOP in both houses. You are destined to be the worst, most incompetent, losingest president in the history of the United States.”

“Is there anything I can do to get popular with the kids? I mean, besides the Nazi dog- whistling?”

“I’m only telling you this because I feel sorry for you, and because you’ll never be able to accomplish it: you should become friends with Gary.”

“Who?”

“Gary the Gray. The gray whale. Gary the coughing whale. Kids on Instagram love him.”

“How am I supposed to make friends with an ocean-going, I guess some people call it a fish, but they’re wrong, they don’t know it’s technically a mammogram – I can’t even swim. I mean I can, very well, in fact, I’m better than Aquaman, but I don’t like it.”

“You have to go on Instagram.” “I prefer Twitter, obviously.” “He’s not on Twitter.”

“What kind of fish doesn’t have a Twitter account?”

“A popular one. Look.” The virus produced his cell phone and reached around from behind the executive spillage’s ample buttocks to show him. The screen’s glow illuminated a shaken, unhappy, deflated jack-o’-lantern of a man. “He was up to 6.5 billion followers, now down to three. Oop, two. Oop, one billion. Uh oh.” Together they watched the numbers tumble, 500 million, 100 million, 40 million, 6 million and plummeting.

Outside, the sounds of panic, violence, and chaos fell away like the feathers and beak of a Chernobyl chicken. All that was left was silence sparsely sprinkled with coughing, the lonely pertussis percussion once heard after speeches by Jeb Bush before he wised up and started begging for applause.
Everything was damped under a swiftly-falling blanket of silence. It seemed the world had died.

Then a delicate hiss arose, and strengthened, fattened, grew rich with jangling and rattling like a trillion saltshakers shaking simultaneously. Just cockroach choirs, at first, but soon it was a chitinous chorus of every bee, wasp, beetle, cricket, mite, flea, fly, and mosquito, singing, as one, their grateful prayer to the 4 Horsemen of Disease, Toxin, Radiation, and Human Stupidity, a prayer of praise for delivering the apocalypse.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Posted by Alexander Jerri

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Disclaimer: an unholy slew of cultural references will follow.

The thought of Al Pacino as an Ashkenazi Jewish-accented Holocaust survivor made my sister not want to watch the new Amazon Prime show, Hunters, about Nazi-hunters in the late 70s, produced by Jordan Peele. She loves Peele, but didn’t like Pacino as Hoffa in The Irishman, and also, in a nod to identity politics, she wondered why they didn’t get a real Jew to play Nazi- hunting millionaire Meyer Offerman.

There’s a lot about the show that doesn’t work, and a lot that does. Pacino’s accent is not horrible. Saul Rubinek’s ebbs and flows. Carol Kane’s is perfect in a way I don’t understand why Rubinek’s isn’t. Josh Mostel, son of Zero, not Zoro, who played King Herod in the film of Jesus Christ Superstar – “prove to me that you’re no fool/walk across my swimming pool” – is perfect as Carol and Saul’s rabbi, although the writing doesn’t rise to the level of the performances. German actress Barbara Sukowa, who played Rosa Luxemburg in Margarethe von Trotta’s not- great biographical film of the Jewish anarchist, is featured in an episode as a possibly-wrongly executed possible Nazi.

Why this show? Why now? Because Nazis are coming out of the woodwork, all over the world, acting like “Nazi” is a valid lifestyle choice, and, somehow, whether or not it’s all right to punch them has been a persistent moral question. And that’s the big moral question of the show: is it all right to kill Nazis three decades after they committed their Naziness? Or does, as Nietzsche had it, the abyss gaze back into you? Do you turn into a monster if you hunt monsters and kill them? Another current show, The October Faction, tackles this question, and answers that, yes, monsters are people, too, and going around killing them is immoral. At least, it is in a world where monsters are people, too.

But those are vampires, warlocks and such. Not Nazis. In Hunters, the Nazis are irredeemable monsters. Mustache-twirling monsters. Obvious in their evil, evil in their declared ambitions. There’s even an idealized “Proud Boy” style monster. It’s a relevant show! It’s not anywhere as good as HBO’s Watchmen, though. I’m not even sure Hunters is good at all. I think the question of whether it’s good or bad is left ambiguous, like the question of whether killing Nazis makes you as bad as a Nazi. There’s some cleverness to all the ambiguity, but not much.

I’ll tell you a few things I don’t like about the show: I think it’s pretty ignorant about Jewish culture. There’s some beloved chicken soup in the story made by someone’s beloved Saftah, although why they use the Hebrew word for grandmother rather than the Yiddish is never explained. The characters aren’t Israeli. But, whatever. Anyhow, beloved Saftah’s beloved chicken soup is a character in itself, a bygone, mourned, treasured friend of blessed memory. But the soup looked like crap to me. I wouldn’t eat it. The broth was too clear. It had no golden hue, not even slightly. It looked like chicken, parsley, and pimento in spring water. I resent that chicken soup being cast as a real Jewish chicken soup. That’s a goyishe food stylist’s whitewashed image of chicken soup.

Another thing I hate is that the characters call every monstrous person a “golem.” “Golem” has a very specific meaning. A golem is a protector who gets out of control. Tony Soprano, if he maybe does you a favor, and you in return owe him a favor, and the plot spins off the rails for your character, that’s a Golem. A Nazi doctor is not a golem.

Also, like I said, Josh Mostel, son of Zero, is very good in the show. But he tells a story that’s supposed to be like an aggada or a fable, and it goes nowhere. And yes, many aggadot go nowhere, it’s true, but as a writer you have your choice of good ones. Or you could at least choose to have your characters tell their stories well. We get the point, but it isn’t delivered effectively, and it’s clearly the writer’s fault, the actors are acting on all cylinders. This is a flaw throughout the show. Characters attempt puns or quips or wise sayings, and they’re just not wise or quippy enough.

Back to the point of the so-called moral question: why has it been so unendurably durable in the past three years, this question of how to react to Nazis? It’s tempting to answer, “How should I know? I’ve wanted to crush Donald Dump’s skull by slowly, one by one, stacking cast-iron dunce caps on it, ever since he took office.”

But we must leave aside the visceral, teeth-gnashing impulse to stab and stab and stab. The daily realization that Donald Dump is president, which strikes me every day anew with the blunt force of anaphylactic shock, makes me gnashy and stabby in my jaw and fists. But that’s my emotions talking, not my reason. Still, my reason doesn’t tell me that I need to spend any time weighing the moral considerations of punching Nazis, or killing them, or torturing them to death, or stabbing a corpulent racist, or crushing his cranium with iron hats.

Even though it officially ended 75 years ago, the Nazi project to exterminate people is still offensive to me. Go figure. I guess I’m just a tender snowflake.

Maybe the show’s point is that, yes, you should really kill Nazis at every opportunity, but just be aware that it will turn you into a monster. It’s morally right to make that choice, but, y’know, that’s what happens. There’s no true hero that doesn’t become an anti-hero, by the very nature of true heroism.

You’ll notice I don’t criticize the show’s lack of subtlety. The show’s been panned mainly for that lack. I find it an objection that’s grown tiresome.

There’s a line from an FBI unit chief in the show, advising an agent to lie to get a search warrant: “You get comfortable with being uncomfortable with your conscience.” It’s a good line, especially coming from a law enforcement officer, as a statement about the questionable morality of moral flexibility.

An article in The Atlantic complains, of course, about the show’s lack of subtlety: “There’s no subtlety to be found here; no contemporary insight into the alienation, disempowerment, and fear of ‘the other’ that might compel weak people to embrace such banal veneration of power.”

I like that the writer tries to evoke Hannah Arendt a little bit there and fails. Too subtle, writer!

And as you read that Atlantic article, you skip over a link between paragraphs that promises to tell you that, “‘Jojo Rabbit’ Is a Fraught Tonal Experiment.” I don’t need to read anything in the Atlantic about Jojo Rabbit. It’s not a tonal experiment, it’s a perfect sardonic satire. “Oooo, it’s an experiment! It’s so weird!” Shut up. Read Evelyn Waugh or Muriel Spark, doofus. Get a clue. It’s like when Paul McCartney listened to the Beach Boys and discovered via Brian Wilson that a bass line doesn’t always need to go to the root note of the chord. Yeah, maybe you could’ve listened to, say, Mozart, and found that out.

Anyway, any show that plays the Werner von Braun song by Tom Lehrer under the beginning of a scene has at least a hint of greatness, even if it’s someone else’s greatness. And, yes, it’s played under a scene with Werner von Braun in it! How’s that for lack of subtlety?

You know what’s not subtle? “Beowulf.” It’s about a hero who goes after a monster. And, you know, it’s Medieval. The Middle Ages aren’t famous as a time of morally complex thought. At least, it’s not emphasized in their brochures. And yet, the titular hero of “Beowulf” is implicated in sin – it’s clear he makes a sacrifice, risking his soul by using a sinful weapon to defeat his final enemy. It’s the same point in Hunters: go ahead and kill the monster, but be aware that, by doing so, you sacrifice your innocence.

What’s all the fetishizing of subtlety, anyway? I think it’s related to the anti-Bernie reaction in the Democratic Party. Many are the tweets by genteel bougie moderates declaring, unsubtly, that they’re put off by the yelling of the Jew, his unstylish suits and hair, and his endless unvarnished harping on the evils of evil. Can’t he couch his rhetoric in less provocative policy discussions that will subtly, softly, gradually guide us, in the fullness of time, to something maybe in the neighborhood of, or perhaps a short trip across town from, justice? Sure, we all want justice, but not noisy, Jewy justice in my back yard.

I’m not sure, but I have an instinct, that subtlety is wasted on the greedy, the selfish, the über- wealthy, the tribally racist, the nationalistically fascistic, and the cavalier destroyers of the planet. And subtlety is definitely wasted on Nazis.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Posted by Alexander Jerri

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

In 1224, two years before he died, St. Francis of Assisi had a vision of a seraph with six wings who gave him stigmata. He was the first one to do that schtick, wounds magically appearing on the body at the points where crucified Jesus had them.

I remember, at maybe age twelve, when I first read about people developing stigmata in, I think, The People’s Almanac, edited by the father-son duo who were two-thirds of the editorial team that brought us The Book of Lists, Irving Wallace and David Wallechinsky. It inspired me to seek more such entertainment. My world, for a while, was a magical one in which Sasquatches, yeti, and Moth Men appeared and disappeared, evading empirical confirmation of their existence. Mysterious meteors with no apparent source punctured car windshields on cliffside roads somewhere in the British Isles. Frogs, or yellow rain, or fish, fell from the skies, reported by locals but defying explanation by experts. On stone plains, ancient aliens once made uncanny designs, still visible, but only from high above the Earth. Kaspar Hauser, The Elephant Man, lycanthropes, and other historical human enigmas peopled my inner universe, along with disembodied spirits. I grew up in the boring suburbs, so a Fortian cosmology was my escape.

So by what right dare I mock those who say there’ll be pie in the sky when you die?

I suppose there are many who believe in the sky pie. After all, crazy beliefs run rampant these days. There’s a huge number of voters devoted to Donald Dump, the actual worst human being under all circumstances: at a party, he’s boorish, social climb-y, pussy-grabby, and a crappy dancer. In politics, he’s a liar, a kleptocrat, and a narcissistic, capricious sack of bile. In business, he’s a cheat, a purveyor of poor-quality goods, and a deadbeat debtor. On the golf course, he’s a wiffer, a piker, a poor sport, a cheat, and he cuts a gruesomely ungainly figure in his garbage attire and even trashier torso. These devotees believe he’s being persecuted worse than Jesus was.

Cicero asserted that all peoples, regardless of the silliness of their specific beliefs, have some concept of the divine. He considered human belief in divine power, or divine something, to be a law of nature. Although we balk at generalities like this about human nature, or nature vis-à-vis humans, it’s hard to disagree with him, just looking around at people. Including myself.

In any case, at least since the 13th Century, when St. Francis first started spontaneously spouting blood from holes in his hands, feet, and side, the idea of sacred suffering in spiritual union with the passion of Jesus has provided an entertaining twist on the idea that all the nastiness of life is somehow worth it.

From the perspective of secular history, these ideas are meant to convince those screwed by the power imbalance of an unjust society that it’s actually okay that things are unfair. In the world of the dead, rewards and punishments will be distributed according to the perfect justice of God, unlike here on Earth, where the sinful flesh of humanity causes those in power to pervert justice to their advantage. Boy, are they in for a rude awakening in the world to come, huh?

But is it really such an ordeal to have stigmata? Women bleed every month, and, while they’ve been known to complain about it, you generally don’t see them trying to use menstruation as a ticket into paradise, or a get-out-of-Hell-free card, let alone claiming it’s comparable to the suffering of the saints. Stigmata shmigshmata. Get over yourself.

A few consider themselves lucky enough to have been chosen to suffer in harmonic sympathy with Jesus. They are Victim Souls. To make themselves holy, they might even mortify their flesh with self-flagellation, penitential self-denial, and wear uncomfortable underwear made of scratchy burlap, or even barbed wire. Hey, no pain, no gain!

The Victim Soul is a Catholic thing, mostly, but it’s an old idea. Some of the Talmudic rabbis were tortured to death, a process reputed to have brought merit to their souls. And in the beliefs coming down from the Vedas in India, fasting and other self-denial can bring divine merit, even to someone with impure motives. Also in the Vedic legacy, we find the idea that economic class and duty are divinely ordained. Pretty convenient for those born to rule, and as for those born to serve, they get an intangible blessing as a lovely parting gift.

I guess in a world in which suffering is unavoidable, it’s just good old positive thinking to believe misery, persecution, disease, poverty and such, serve some function in the divine scheme. In some ways, the belief gets its pithiest explanation from Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the music and lyrics for the 1970s musical, Godspell, in the song, “All for the Best.”

The song explains that, well, let’s suppose your life is rough, while

“Some men are born to live at ease, doing what they please, Richer than the bees are in honey [...]
The best in every town, best at shaking down Best at making mountains of money”

If you’re feeling unhappy and resentful

“Don't forget that when you get to Heaven you'll be blessed! [...] all your wrongs will be redressed”

and

“Someone's got to be oppressed! Yes, it's all for the best!!!”

The Monty Python movie, The Life of Brian, ends with a cheerful character played by Eric Idle being hoisted on a crucifix next to Graham Chapman’s long-suffering Brian, and leading all the crucified in the song, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” It’s not just a humorous juxtaposition, a Golgotha hillside of people nailed to crosses, left to die, whistling and singing a happy tune. It’s really a jab at one of Christianity’s main functions: to control the people’s disgruntlement with the social order. It’s a pretty deep satirical cut at the godspiels. You know, the godspiels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Them apostles, with their godspiels.

Bob Geldoff, anti-poverty activist, former front man of the Boomtown Rats, and portrayer of Pink Floyd in the movie of The Wall, met Mother Teresa, nurse, nun, and erstwhile bête noire of deceased drunk contrarian Christopher Hitchens, in Ethiopia in 1985, while gearing up for the Live Aid concert Bob was organizing. I think Teresa was going to sit in on drums with Twisted Sister. Or maybe I dreamed that. Now, he’s Sir Bob, and she’s Blessed Teresa and dead. At the time, the two argued a lot as they ministered to the impoverished Ethiopians. One thing they argued about was Teresa’s claim to see the suffering of Christ in the face of every famine- afflicted child. Bob, contrary to Cicero, had no concept of the divine, and found the conceptual transformation of actual suffering people into symbols of totemic martyrdom, dehumanizing, objectifying, and distasteful.

Because, what is a Victim Soul, but a martyr, or at least a person thought to share in the martyrdom of the world’s most famous martyr, Donald Dump? I mean, Jesus?

And that’s what the defenders of the poor, persecuted über-wealthy, and their pundit mouthpieces, want us all to be. Except they don’t value the martyrdom of Jesus. They consider Jesus a sucker, or at best a victim of his own magical thinking. Expect a lot of that sentiment this year, especially if Bernie wins the nomination. “Oh, sure. let’s just give everyone free health care and education! And a pony!” Because that’s what we are to them: either spoiled children, or suckers gullible enough to accept our sacred suffering. If we fight, we’re jealous; if we acquiesce, we’re stupid. It’s called, blaming the Victim Soul.

In the meantime, the real Victim Souls are the rank-and-file white people who resent the moral burden of having to care about anyone outside their tribe. They feel victimized by the PC Police, who insist they take into account those in the world who’ve been robbed, raped, and enslaved by conquering armies whose descendants still profit with privilege. Oh, how great is the pain of the white man! O, his eternal suffering. Ecce Albus Homo, Behold the White Man, The White Man of Sorrows. Remember, he had to render unto Caesar, too. Except he only remembers that when he wants to criticize those demanding equality, never when he should be holding the über- wealthy accountable for sucking up and despoiling all the riches of the Earth.

The Victim Souls, whether followers of Jesus or of Dump, are a paradox, which is the one good thing about them. They feel like they’re his special children, and yet in a way they’re very specially forsaken by him.

It’s uncanny how long this idea that suffering is good for the soul has maintained its power. The solutions to our problems are difficult, they’ll require effort, but it’s not complicated. It’s not brain science or rocket surgery: suffering is bad for you. It makes you suffer! Misery is not ennobling; it makes you miserable. Poverty can be cured by transferring wealth to the poor from those with an obscene surplus, and from the war, finance, and environmental destruction industries.

Renounce the Victim Soul con. It’s a grift. See through it, and don’t play their shell game anymore. If we don’t get Bernie, or if they thwart him, or assassinate him, or even just assassinate his character, we’re still going fight. We’re the people! All governments, profiteers, and religions fear us, or else why would they constantly try to deceive and control us? We will have our way, by ballot or blood.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Posted by Alexander Jerri

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

The following is a message from the Socialist Leisure Party.

I’m sick of people living their best lives. Can’t you just be average?

I understand the impulse to be extraordinary. I lived the first five decades of my life with that impulse. I thought I had something special, something requiring me to be given space to create. I was living the drama of the gifted child, all the way up to age 50.

I’ve tried being arrogant. I’ve tried being humble. Yes, arrogance gets you more pie, but, as Dwight Yoakam says, “the pie don’t taste so sweet.” Arrogant pie is downright bitter. Humble pie isn’t as bad as they make it out to be in the proverbial world, the world of proverbials.

Listeners to this segment of the show have heard me aver many times that the people you have to watch out for are those with great ambition and great expertise. It goes deeper than that. People with ambition and drive have a vast carbon footprint. And not just carbon. They have footprints of any number of elements and compounds, including, but not limited to, plastic, aluminum, depleted lithium, 99% perspiration, chicken parts, mercury, latex, arsenic, methane, phosphates, acetic acid, essential oils, sputum, xanthan gum, and BHT to preserve color. A plethora of footprints. So many footprints. They’re the human millipedes.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the miraculous product of surgical enhancement, The Human Centipede. On this very show I compared politics to a human centipede. These, though, are the human millipedes. A human millipede is, like the Human Centipede, a collective entity, but made up of more people. It begins with a large head, and thereafter establishes its body, what you might call its “corpus,” or “torso,” or “thorax,” or “fuselage,” and attracts others to it, first with investment opportunities, then luring lesser human appurtenances with wages and, possibly, benefits. And so the human millipede forms: a big head, thorax, and myriad feet.

Of course, the head has the big idea. Sometimes it’s actually a good, helpful idea. Sometimes it is an incredibly horrible, destructive, murderous idea. But most often it’s merely an idea to take advantage of an absence in a market. Not an absence of something necessary, but of something that can be made to seem desirable that no one yet in the market is providing. The desire must therefore be created. Often the desire and that which can fulfill it arise at almost the same moment.

Then the trouble begins. Then materials are procured and processed, resources are depleted, fumes and fluids are expelled, heat is released, packages are ripped open and discarded, other packages are created to enclose goods, and a feverish disturbance is initiated. Nothing can stop the head from pursuing its goal, no thought of waste, unless it is financial, can be considered. To consider a change of course is not out of the question, but that a course will continue to be traveled, relentlessly, is certain. To waiver from onward motion is to succumb to weakness, to indulge weakness is to entertain failure, and failure is not an option. The feet must be made to march, ideally without pause for food, water, or sleep, but of course that ideal is never achieved. Nevertheless, it is the ever-unattainable goal, and must remain the goal. The impossible is always the goal, for it is only by aiming for the impossible, and thereby achieving the improbable, that the extraordinary is attached to the name, and one can advertise that the best life is lived.

We are rapidly approaching the end of the time of the Human Millipede. The environment just can’t take it anymore. We’re working the real world to exhaustion, squeezing every last drop from it, creating and fulfilling our invented desires. If there were a way for the millipede to march its course without trampling the future and the present under its many feet, then things could go on the way they have since human greatness began, since slaves were forced to build the first Wonders of the Prehistoric World, those monuments to Gods and Kings. The trouble is, we’re habituated to greatness now. We’ve become so accommodating to its excesses that we barely register them as excessive.

Our marvelous creativity as a species is the most destructive thing about us. We imagine the new or merely novel, and make it reality, inventing a world in which the unnecessary is needed. We can’t live in that world anymore. All our busy-ness creating the unnecessary, in turn, creates further needs that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Who needs washed and packaged salad greens? Only those with a shortage of time. A shortage of time must be created by someone else’s imposition. And needs for hurrying and rushing are, for most part, the result of someone else’s misapprehension of urgency. I’ve rarely met urgency, outside of a life-threatening situation of course, that wasn’t the product of someone’s over-reactive imagination. Yes, we are the creative species, but most of what we create is pressure on ourselves and others.

Do the letters “ASAP” mean anything to you? Do they mean anything at all? Is there any request or command whose meaning suddenly changes when the acronym ASAP is appended to it? No! No! A thousand redundant times No! ASAP is just so much mouth wind. ASAP is a sibilant hiss-and-pop people make with their mouths when they mistakenly believe the fulfillment of their needs is urgent. The appropriate response, delivered under the breath, of course, is “blow me.”

The kindest thing you can do for a boss is to train them to accept disappointment.

One more time, because it’s such an important rule for living. Living one’s humblest, most leisurely social, life:

The kindest thing you can do for a boss is to train them to accept disappointment.

I know that sounds cruel, and could therefore be considered a “joke,” but it’s offered in all sincerity. The necessity for expedited completion of a task is almost always the product of delusion. The necessity of anything is a delusion, and that’s a fact. David Hume proved it, to the extent that anything can actually be proven, which, of course, it can’t. As David Hume proved.

By exposing the delusion, you could save a life! Sadly, that life might be your boss’s. But sometimes your boss is your friend. It happens to those of us with enterprising friends. Don’t you want to save your friends’ lives, prevent them from working themselves to death? Or from working others to death? Because that does happen. People work so feverishly they make themselves sick. Football players do it all the time, but anyone who believes they can live on a few quick hours’ sleep is a likely candidate. A few can actually survive quite well, but some simply believe they can, because – hey! – they’re extraordinary! To what brink wouldn’t you push yourself to live your best life?

In this world we’ve created, on top of the actual world, pressing down on the real world, this created world of manic pressure, you have to steal back your time. We’re working more hours per week than any humans in history. And it’s all because we’ve let our dreams take control of us, our dreams of convenience, of space travel, of huge buildings, of thrilling entertainment, thrilling experiences, constant access to beauty, and, most ridiculous of all, our dreams of the easy life. We’ve created a monstrous machine we must continuously feed with our attention and effort, under the delusion that we can one day take a delightful vacation. We must take back our leisure.

Do you hear those horns and sirens, the engines, the whirring of fans and flywheels, the pumping of pistons, the beep of the garbage truck’s reverse signal? The gunshots, the screams, the laughter, the cacophony of chattering voices, the jackhammering of the jackhammer, the tapping of keys on keyboards? That’s the human millipedes, tap-dancing furiously on their billion feet.

While they’re dancing away like mad, pick their pockets and steal your time back. I know it’s hard. It can threaten your livelihood. But try your best to find a way around the dancing feet. You’re human, you’re creative. You’ll think of something.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!