Saturday, May 29, 2010

Johnny's New Shoes

            Johnny was an impressionable young man who—because of his stubbornness and lack of sufficient funds—always found himself one or two years behind the fashionable styles of the day that he was mislead into thinking he needed to conform to feel cool—or get laid. Whatever.
            He had sworn once—when younger—to never own a particular brand of basketball shoe, because it didn’t fit in with the scene with which he most closely identified. Lo and behold: several years later, they became all the rage in his scene. But in his stubbornness—he resisted.
            But after some time had passed and he felt as though his life could be augmented by a new pair of shoes—thus began his search for the perfect pair of that brand of shoe—the one he swore never to purchase, let alone wear.
He searched high—he searched low. He scoured the internet. Flew through shoe department stores. His hopes for finding that magical pair that would clearly lead to his becoming maddeningly popular were diminishing.
All until one day—when browsing a store in which he had not for some years—he finally found them. And on sale, too. It took only seconds before he fished into his back trouser pocket to retrieve his wallet. Out came the plastic. Swipe, went the plastic. Back into the wallet—its bed—it went.
It was a sunny day. And when Johnny got home, and he laced up those shoes. He put them on. And he went for a walk about the city in which he resided. He was so proud of those damned shoes. His face was beaming. Surely: everybody who saw him walking tough with those shoes must surely be jealous—that they didn’t own a pair of shoes like that. Surely: they must be thinking that this Johnny is quite something else.
That’s not what a group of what some people would call gangbangers thought, when they saw Johnny gallivant through their territory. The head honcho, a fearsome man, saw those shoes. And—just as Johnny thought when he first laid eyes on them—he wanted those shoes.
He and his cronies followed Johnny around the corner of a quiet side street. They caught up to Johnny. They knocked him down.
“Those shoes—I want them,” the head honcho said.
Johnny merely looked up in disbelief. He was a weak young man, not capable by any means of defending himself from the hoards of gangbangers encircling him and the head honcho.
But those damned shoes that made him something special, also gave him this: a sense of toughness. What he falsely associated with bravery.
He said no.
He tried returning to his feet, only to be knocked down again—this time with a pair on brass knuckles.
Seeing double—triple—quadruple—he attempted to return to his feet again. This time, not to brashly stand up to these men—but to flee.
He was allowed to his feet this time—he attempted to run. Attempted to break through the group around him.
Not wanting to bother with this worm anymore, the head honcho reached into his jeans. He pulled out a 9mm pistol. And he blew Johnny’s brain out all over the quite side street.
People are easier to search when they’re dead, he thought. And what did he care? Now he owned those shoes. And get this: not even one drop of Johnny’s blood—not one blob of his brains—stained those miraculous shoes.
The head honcho bent over to remove Johnny’s shoes. He kicked off his own. He unlaced Johnny’s shoes—his shoes—and slipped his feet into them.
His toes barely passed the tongue. He tried shoving—ramming—his feet in at any angle to get those shoes on. All to no avail.
So Johnny’s shoes didn’t fit. And if he wasn’t going to be wearing them—the head honcho would be damned if anybody else was.
The head honcho was done with this situation. So he called off his gang. They returned to their home.
And on the way, the head honcho put his gun back into his jeans. He lighted a cigarette. He took a long, deserving, accomplished drag.
And he tossed those shoes into a dumpster.
And he didn’t look back.

Monday, May 10, 2010

absolution via recognition of hypocrisy: an overdue crock by yours truly

I have been meaning to discuss this for some time now. But as with many things these days—I haven’t had the time to do it. And so now, as I drift to sleep on a Sunday evening—it would seem that I have found the time. Here goes.

Everybody is a hypocrite and this is not news—I know that I certainly am one. But I feel as though those who openly acknowledge their inherent hypocrisy are absolved of that black mark—I know that I certainly am one.

I am a humanist, a freethinker, and a socialist. I do not believe in an afterlife and so perform the civic duties that I do for the sole purpose of contributing to the overall wellbeing of the community in which it is that I act. I believe in egalitarianism, and engaging in any action—political, governmental, social, etc.—that will contribute to those ends.

I am not religious, and I am not a capitalist. I believe that religion is a tool designed in ancient times to control people with promises of a utopian afterlife and the fear of being denied that reward based solely on how one leads both ones social and personal life, the same way parents control their children’s behavior with promises of Santa Claus bringing presents on Christmas morning, or the Easter Bunny bringing candy on Easter Sunday, or the Tooth Fairy retrieving ones extracted teeth in exchange for pocket change and the fear of being denied these gifts. I believe that capitalism is a tool designed in not-so-ancient times to make the “deserving” rich richer and the “undeserving” poor poorer, and to hell with the middle class. If you’ve got the cash, why mess around?

That all sounds pretty legitimate though, right? Here is where the hypocrisy comes in:

I am scientist, and so believe to the very core of my being in Darwin’s concept of Natural Selection—believe that those organisms that are beneficial enough to have the genetic and phenotypic adaptations required to survive deserve to survive, and that those that are not do not deserve to survive. If I were talking about humans, say, that would sound a lot like capitalism to me. Hypocrisy!

But before exposing further hypocrisy, allow me to offer an explanation—the glue, if you will, that holds all that I am writing together. It its through installing this glue, so to speak, that I will expose more hypocrisy. And then I think it will all make sense—we shall see.

My belief in natural selection and my feelings towards it are at the species level—not necessarily the level of the individual. Which is not exactly what natural selection addresses. I believe bacteria, yeast, and other unicellular organisms deserve to survive, because they have been around the longest, and show incredible capacities to mutate and adapt. Same goes for everything up to and including chimpanzees. I do not believe that human beings deserve to survive. We do not mutate or evolve in order to survive—we instead blow to smithereens (in one way or another) anything standing between survival and us. Developed nations have completely eradicated any selection pressures required to evolve and thus, will be swiftly eradicating pending some vicious plague—you name it. For goodness sake: the reason most people over a certain age have neurodegenerative diseases is because the stupid human brain wasn’t made to last that long. “well then lets just jazz them up with some meds and some pills and you can live more than three times longer than a human being should! What does it matter if you can't remember what you ate for breakfast! As long as you are wasting precious resources! Fun fun fun!” Undeveloped nations—the inhabitants of which still have to kill with their bare hands in order to obtain nutrition—will certainly be far better off than we will be. That and, their lives more closely resemble those of our ancestors—bless them and their mental simplicity. The overdeveloped human brain is the bane of this planet’s capacity to support life. Shame on us.

But we are all here, and we cant help that—I know I certainly didn’t ask to be born on a planet where countries own other countries, and will turn lush ecosystems into craters if they cannot achieve otherwise. And here we have a vast spectrum of religions—the majority of which preach something like this: treat each other well, and you will live forever in paradise. I know that I will live at least a few more years, and will inevitably become worm chow—the atoms that make up my very existence, that have assembled into me over the past 22 years will once again be released back out into the universe to do what they will. There is no paradise in store for me. But I also know that despite religion being mostly bunk designed to turn wild animals into robots, the message of universal kindness and equality certainly is beautiful.

Which brings us back to humanism. If we’re all here, we may as well make our stay pleasant for everybody. It doesn’t and shouldn’t matter what it gets you—in this life of the next. Human beings are so adamant about this concept of morality and right and wrong. It’s a stupid thing to be sure—in the face of natural selection, which is so harsh on other organisms, which lack the nuclear weaponry required to easily get what they don’t have—but if you can’t beat ‘em—join ‘em. Which is to say: it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter whether your prophet or god or preacher or anybody says you should be nice and receive a just reward—you simply should be because “it’s the right thing to do”. That alone should be gift enough.

Which brings us back to capitalism and socialism. Religion is still tossed in here too. Most people who will eagerly throw a bible in your face also seem to be associated with the conservative party. They tend to be ultra-patriotic and will just as eagerly throw the United States Constitution in your face, as well. What they don’t get is that our Constitution supports making life one hell of a joyride for those who can afford it—and straight up hell for those who can’t. What they also don’t get is that contained within the Christian Bible is one of the most ancient, socialist documents ever recorded in writing: the Sermon on the Mount. You know the story, so I shall not repeat it here. But Jesus—whether you believe in his divinity or not—certainly said some wonderful things. His message: treat each other well. Capitalism says—in effect: “suck it, Jesus”. Oh, if only they knew! The hypocrisy! No absolution for their ignorance!

What’s the take-home message here? The human brain is the worst outcome Natural Selection could have provided. We have improvised the means to turn this green rock into a wasteland in the event one group of people without those means who have what those with the means wants doesn’t want to give that up. Bully for them. We have also devised a form of government that allows those who already have more than enough money to effortlessly extract it from those who barely have any—and in this world we have created, currency is everything—what does it matter if you’re a nice person or not? We have also devised this illusion of divine magic that confines the human race to a set of rules that—if followed—will have you sucking down Pina Coladas up in the stratosphere for all eternity and—if not followed—will have you getting poked by a trident repeatedly by a man with red skin for all eternity. But this illusion of divine magic masks an idea that is illusory only because a majority of human beings fail to recognize it or exercise it, that which is this: be nice to everybody—we’re all in this together. We have also devised a system of government that caters to this idea—but most people find it a bad idea because they don’t want to share what they have with everybody else or, because they don’t want to share what it is that they expect to get with everybody else.

When a meteor could turn this planet into space dust at any minute, does it really matter who owns what and how much?

This has all been a load of shit.

“I thank you for your attention.” - KV