Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Great Depression, Blame, and the FDA

My grandfather was a young man during the Great Depression and may be one of the best people I've ever known. He has worked hard for himself, for his family, and wants little more than the simple pleasures in life. Like so many of his generation he was in World War II, not as a general or as a lieutenant, but a sergeant. A cog in Patton's Wheel, a fortunate man. When I was younger he gave me a two-dollar bill and said “always keep this in your billfold and you'll be able to say you've never been broke.” I carry it around with me every day and never, ever spend it.

I don't think we as younger people listen very well to the generations that came before us, or vice-versa.

We're more than happy to take a seat in the Ivory Tower and look down upon the grand creation that their blood, sweat, and tears helped make, but we don't look at ways to improve the system they put in place. We are far more inclined to be lazy, to use the shiny new toys that have been left for us and apply the same tired, flawed methodology to our world.

When we look at recent history, we often look at the world crafted by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and World War II, a period of mass death and atrocity that we almost glorify for the gloss that we give the heroics of our Allied troops. Without a doubt there were heroics, and it showed humanity at its best, but through our suffering revealed us at our worst in the Holocaust. And if you look deeply enough, aside from our natural inclination to fight and misunderstand each other, the conflict took root in the Great Depression and the fears, economic woes, and crime that took place within it.

Some, such as Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, have suggested that the Federal Reserve System caused the Great Depression by contracting the money supply at the very moment that markets needed liquidity. F.A. Hayek, another Nobel Laureate economist, often argued that “I think what is needed is a clear set of principles which enables us to distinguish between the legitimate fields of government activities and the illegitimate fields of government activity. You must cease to argue for and against government as such.” Even laureate John Nash has come out with criticism of Keynesian Economic Theory, indicating that his views parallel those of Hayek and Friedman.

Three Nobel Prize winners that we aren't listening to. We should be asking ourselves why.

In January, President Obama made a speech at George Mason University about the nature of our economic woes, American history, and how we should deal with them. This is not an argument from a standpoint of politics, but rather an attempt at a reasoned look point-by-point of a few choice statements he made:

"We start 2009 in the midst of a crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime, a crisis that has only deepened over the last few weeks."

If you look at history, this is patently untrue. The Great Depression was the worst crisis in recent memory, and there are still many left alive who can speak of it, the problems of it and the extreme moral hypocrisy of that period.

"For if we hope to end this crisis, we must end the culture of "anything goes" that helped create it, and this change must begin in Washington."

This country does not, nor has it ever had a culture of “anything goes.” Since the Industrial Revolution our markets have been regulated more heavily by the government, not less, and when you compare the Roaring Twenties to the Great Depression, you find a world of greater moral hypocrisy, not less. The Roaring Twenties carried art and culture and a great deal of excess, but the Great Depression gave us government corruption, organized crime, and violations of law from the highest office to the lowest.

"It is true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or long-term growth. But at this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe. Only government can break the cycle that is crippling our economy, where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs, which leads to even less spending, where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads to even less credit."

I worry about a leader who wields as much control as Mr. Obama does and yet tells his people that only government can bring the country out of its current state of woe. Life is a matter of choice, which is something we should never forget, and there is never one solution to a problem or one path to follow. The centralized banking, centralized power plan has been tried time and time again, and it has never brought us out of the woods. There is no easy solution to our economic recession or depression, but it strikes me that we've been pounding square pegs into round holes for a very long time. If you don't believe me, look to the history of Great Britain and the nationalization of their industry after World War II.

What concerns me the most about our President is not his idealism or goodness, but his use of eristic dialogue to further his arguments. He hurls blame at the Bush Administration, at the so-called “Wall Street wrongdoers.” And he thrusts our generation out as the ones that should be cared for, as the children that should be adored and coddled and kept from a cold, painful world. I worry that we will not be able to break from the mistakes of our parents or grandparents if this continues. How can we ever grow if we are not given the opportunity to fall off our bicycles and pick ourselves back up again?

Most bothersome of all to me, personally—based on Christianity but reason—is the invocation of God in President Obama's speech. After his “clinging to guns and religion” quote that caught the headlines so well during the pre-election period, how can we trust him at his word that he even believes in God? And even if he does, we should not trust him blindly, follow him blindly, when he believes that only one solution is the solution to our problems.

I don't believe that love is something that is just given or taken. It's something that we learn and gain or lose as we live.

Blame is something implying that moral responsibility, in that a person did something bad and was doing it for bad reasons. It is not something we should throw around lightly, and it has been used in propaganda by governments for generations to invoke feelings of nationalism and support. We want to blame Wall Street for excesses, we want to blame capitalism for all our problems, but we don't examine why we are inclined to do this, or why we think this way. It's easy to blame, it's easy to follow the other solution as opposed to finding a Middle Way. We want to make life easy, and it just isn't.

Why don't we just blame the Kellys for all of our problems?

Ned Kelly was an Australian bushranger and folk hero to many Australians for his defiance of colonial authorities. He murdered, stole, and connived his way to folk hero status as a legendary figure of defiance. He may have done wrong things, but for the right reasons, to win greater independence for his people. Do the British remember him as a hero or a criminal? I suspect it might be the latter. But the real Ned Kelly is lost to history, hero or bloody rebel, and yet his songs are still sung and offer echoes of our own revolution. He exists now as a concept, and as such perhaps even found his own way of cheating death, because concepts can never die.

Nor can bizarrely-edited YouTube videos.

But government comes and goes, kingdoms rise and fall, and our government is no different. The Food and Drug Administration, which ironically has just been given control over tobacco products, just discovered that a drug that they approved is causing Americans to lose their sense of smell. This was not revealed by a government study, but by private citizens and doctors. The FDA has not yet issued a recall for the product either, but rather a warning to a company whose potentially-dangerous product is still on the market.

I believe it's pretty clear that the government is not the answer to our problems, and we should try and shine the flashlight on them ever harder in the wake of all this. We are Americans, rebels, carers, not people of polar opposites. If we continue to live by polar opposites we may only tear ourselves apart. If we do not think or try or question, what is the point of being who we are?

Maybe we're just tilting windmills.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Preventive Detention, the Great Society, and Hungry Freaks

So it looks like we're back with another post, Reality Deviantitos and Deviantitas! This time I'm feeling a little ambitious, but I just couldn't stop myself from speaking about the huge, seething mass of absurdity that is life on this lovely little ball of dirt, rock, and water that we call Earth.

As a general rule, a good Reality Deviant should be concerned about civil liberties and the marginalization of thought and the ensuing absurdity of a world that keeps pushing us into a greater paradigm of safety-over-freedom, because no one can really decide how to strike a balance between the two. See, we know that we're all in search of the Great Society, but none of us quite knows how to do that, so we just slap down opposing ideologies through eristic dialogue or some sort of we-kill-maim-tickle-drug you tactic. In fact, we've gotten so good at it now that we're starting to look at ways to strategically preempt the other guys from beating us.

Say, has anyone heard of of Preventive Detention before? If you haven't, you should really do some reading. Preventive Detention is something that involves imprisoning folks either without justification or for the period before a trial. Recently, the president spoke about preventive detention and the story has made something of a splash in the news. For the sake of avoiding the quagmire of political discussion, I don't want to really get into speculative talk about Obama's mindset when he comes up with these decisions, nor do I want to discuss ways that we could make it work. See, Preventive Detention as a concept, no matter how it is applied, flies in the face of our core values.

And regardless of how it is applied, it sets the stage for something far worse to occur in the far-flung future.

Orwell is something that gets a lot of sideways glances whenever someone brings it up, and it is very politically-charged. People often can't decide whether it's an argument against fascism or socialism, although Orwell himself was a believer in democratic socialism. But what seems fairly clear by logical reduction is that end-result fascism and socialism are two ends of the same totalitarian coin. Look to world history and the global political landscape during the 1940's—the Soviet Union, Japan, Italy, and Germany all arrived at oppressive systems with the trappings of totalitarianism by different, yet similar means.

It all comes back to this sense of the Great Society and how to get there. Now, the concept of the Great Society isn't exactly something that's new news to human history, but it seems to get new dressings every now and then. Sometimes the dressings even take the form of different ideologies that have the same goals but only differ by the means of execution. Sometimes the Great Society is one man's vision of the his country that ends up falling seriously short of its goals. Every time a culture's fears for its children are paraded out, and the positive virtues of society are waved on high as something to shoot for. But the problem is that you cannot follow any one person's vision of “the Great Society” without breaking your core value systems.

And our fear is a very powerful motivator that is used by some to force us to break our core value systems. This may have catastrophic results.

The concept of Preventive Detention almost always starts with arguments in its favor, though, because we know that there are people who might be abusing the system we have in order to gain power over us. published an article recently about Neo-Nazis finding gainful employment in the United States Army, which is somewhat jarring because we naturally worry about people with potentially-violent thoughts getting military training. In fact, there is some historical basis for worrying about this, if for example you look to the Roman Empire's training of foreign mercenaries to fill out the ranks of its army. But we all know what happened to Rome, yes?

I suggest you all read the article in full—it's fairly compelling. But to focus my thoughts here a little better I'd like to point out one segment in particular:

"That goal comes up often in the chatter on white supremacist Web sites. On the neo-Nazi Web site Blood and Honour, a user called 88Soldier88, wrote in 2008 that he is an active duty soldier working in a detainee holding area in Iraq. He complained about "how 'nice' we have to treat these fucking people … better than our own troops." Then he added, "Hopefully the training will prepare me for what I hope is to come." Another poster, AMERICANARYAN.88Soldier88, wrote, "I have the training I need and will pass it on to others when I get out."

Most people will agree that this thought is absolutely terrifying, and I hope that all of you will agree that the principles of White Supremacy are absurd, awful, and potentially damaging to the fabric of society. But if we let our fear motivate us to break with our core values to protect us from “potential offenders,” we not only cast our nets so wide that we harm people that ultimately do society no harm, but we glaze over the ability of these people to change their values over time. Through breaking our own laws, we polarize and cement ideologies, which may only cause more violence, pain, and strife.

There are parallels between these White Supremacists and other groups. It seems that sometimes when the conservative press brings up President Obama, they inevitably get into the Left's association with Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. I won't get too much into the book because you don't need me to simply summarize its arguments for you, but there are some pretty strong reactions to its mention whenever it is brought up, because it's associated so strongly with the Left and the fact that he dedicated it to Lucifer, who he saw as the “original Rebel.”

There are a few ironies at play as far as Saul Alinsky is concerned. First, he wasn't Satan-walking-the-Earth as some would like to think, but he was a critic who thought the social liberalism of his time wasn't enough to get things done. As a result, his philosophy encouraged a break with core value systems in order to gain control, which was something very attractive to the marginalized Left at the time. The other irony is that he received in 1969 the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport.

But Alinsky's philosophy encourages the camouflaging of a person's true intent in something else in order to draw power away from an extant power structure. This means that a radical thinking strategically should deceive and manipulate in order to overthrow. Wait a second, there's a serious disconnect with all of this.

Let's break it down with an awkwardly-constructed logical proof, shall we? I sense your skepticism, but stick with me here:

1.Barack Obama is the President of the United States and has said that he supports “hope” and “change” and other positive things for the good of the country. So if we take him by his word, he is a good person.
2.White Supremacists such as David Dukes support a hateful, backwards-thinking ideology based on a misunderstanding of race and culture as it relates to life. So if we take him by his word, he is a bad person.
3.Saul Alinsky was a critic of social liberalism and engineered a new strategy around community organizing that involved camouflaging radical tendencies to maximize the effect on society.
4.Barack Obama has the background in community organizing and motivation to use Alinsky's methods for progressive social causes. If he is a good person, he must be doing this for good reasons.
5.David Dukes has gone on record as saying that he has encouraged White Supremacists to camouflage their true intent in order to function in society. If he is a bad person, he must be doing this for bad reasons.

Therefore, both Barack Obama and David Dukes are manipulating us by means of deception.

Let's leave that thought for a moment, because I know that such a thought might set off a powder-keg of oppositional thinking. But stop, think about what I am saying for a moment, and if you still think I'm trying to directly compare Barack Obama to David Dukes morally, please commence with slamming your head against the nearest wall until you understand.

I really shouldn't worry about you guys too much, though, because I know you're smart, well-meaning folks. But I wanted to get back to the topic of Preventive Detention, because I think the scariest part of it is that it is already operable in the form of Temporary Detention Orders. A TDO deals with the court-ordered detention of a person labeled as crazy, and such policies are on the books in many states.

Room 101 does not have to be found with electroshock or torture. It could be a hypodermic needle or just a few pills.

Before we go, I'll leave your Reality Deviant brains with a few thoughts:

1)How much of this is due to the presence of bad people of the world, and how much of this is due to strategy based around bad philosophy?
2)Consider the marginalization of fringe thinking in society and how that relates to what psychologists call “insane.” Isn't it relatively easy to call someone with socially-controversial or ridiculously stupid ideas crazy?

America has a lot of freaks. Some are good, some are bad, but they're all pretty hungry.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hope, Manipulation, and Absurdity

It is above all in the city that the province of the optional is felt as dwindling away to nothing. At school, in the place of work, on the journey to and fro, even in the very equipment and provisioning of the home, many of the activities normally possible to human beings are either forbidden or enjoined. Special agencies, called Citizen's Advice Bureaus, are set up to steer the bewildered through the forest of rules, and to indicate to the persistent the rare clearings where a private person may still make a choice...[The town lad] is conditioned not to lift a finger without referring mentally to the book of words first. A time-budget of an ordinary city youth for an ordinary working day would show that he spends great stretches of his waking hours going through motions that have been predetermined for him by directives in whose framing he has had no part, whose precise intention he seldom understands, and whose appropriateness he cannot judge...The inference that what the city lad needs is more discipline and tighter control is too hasty. It would be nearer the mark to say that he is suffering from an overdose of control already...Surveying his parents and his older brothers or sisters he finds them as regulation bound as himself. He sees them so acclimatised to that state that they seldom plan and carry out under their own steam any new social excursion or enterprise. He thus looks forward to no period at which a sinewy faculty of responsibility is likely to be of service to himself and others...[The young people] are obliged to stomach so much external and, as it seems to them, meaningless control that they seek escape and recuperation in an absence of discipline as complete as they can make it.

This excerpt is from an English social report by L.J. Barnes published in 1945. It has been cited at various points over the last sixty years, more recently in Youth, the 'Underclass' and Social Exclusion by Robert MacDonald. It also appears in the foreward to the 1956 American Paperback Edition of F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, and that is the source from which I draw it. Hayek, whose arguments focused on the problems behind excessive state control of markets, pulls the quote to draw attention to a younger generation that suffers an atrophy of the spirit in such a society.

Hayek asks us,"is it too pessimistic to fear that a generation grown up under these conditions is unlikely to throw off the fetters to which it has grown used?" He goes on to relate this to Alexis de Tocqueville's "new kind of servitude" from Democracy in America, but I'm not going to delve into that today because it requires a lot more citation and I'd like to use his first question and the quote from above as focal points for my thought.

I believe that in spite of the age of this report, the thoughts contained therein are more than applicable to the youth of America. By youth, I am talking about adults falling between the ages of 28 and 18. Conceptually I would count those under the age of 18, but as I am speaking more directly of younger professionals and students of voting age, I think it's best to keep things within that range for the time being.

This generation was born to either Baby Boomers or the younger Generation Jones and grew up in the heyday of the Internet Age, and as such is more than familiar with mass media exposure. We are the 'Net Generation, the Millennials, or the Echo Boomers. We are constantly referred to as the Future of America and paraded out as the generation that must be protected when a tragedy occurs, such as the shootings at Columbine High School. For much of our lives, whenever a politician or pundit has proclaimed that we must do something “for the children," they have meant us.

This attitude must stop. I fear the consequences of this view of the young. It is turning us into gentle, stupefied sheep, mindless media gluttons, inward-thinking, well-meaning Nowhere Men.

In the recent election, this generation was galvanized like never before to act. It could be said that through a mixture of happenstance, political opportunity, and perceived ability, Barack Obama became the first black President of the United States. Through the repression of the youth and and the absurdity of the Bush Administration a fire was lit, and this was a fire that Obama's circle noticed and fanned to epic proportions just prior to the election. When the votes were being counted, there were demonstrations, there was fear of civil unrest and riots should McCain have won. Why?

Because the youth of America latched onto Obama's message of "Hope" and "Change" like a lamprey eel. And it was done with Twitters, with Facebooks, with Myspaces, with blogs, Jon Stewart, and the whole mass of media upon which we feast daily.

I am not assigning moral blame to Obama, nor am I calling him a bad person. He is clearly a savvy and calculating individual, a dyed-in-the-wool politician, and I think he really believes that what he is doing is right and good. But I am not posting this to debate these things--this isn't about universal health care, the environment, the GM acquisition, the Chrysler sale to Fiat, or any of it. It's about something much bigger.

We hope, but we aren't questioning. American society is based upon questioning the government, and this generation is losing its drive to do just that. We are a country founded on revolution in both thought and deed, upon turning our backs on the decisions made by the rest of the world and forging ahead in our own way, and we are losing that part of ourselves.

What many of us need to realize is that "hope" is an abstraction, a concept, and as such can both be our salvation and our damnation. Hope is something that has no material form or logic, and that cannot be proven or disproven. But hope can be found, hope can be lost, and hope is a concept that is therefore inherently manipulable. But because so many of us agree with the social progressiveness of this new order and because we're so happy to finally feel listened to, we have turned off, tuned out, and shut down. We have found a pleasant dream and simply fallen asleep.

While we sleep, our country is moving, faster than I ever thought legally possible, faster than it has in years. Movement in life may be trusted, but movement in government must never be. In a very short period of time, the gears have been winding faster than ever before, and as the government taxes small tobacco, big tobacco wriggles through the net. As Mircosoft threatens to leave our shores for cheaper business opportunities, we happily clack away at our keyboards. On the eve of the death of the American tobacco industry, we are left to ponder the wonderous benefits of health care reform which will surely save the day! But where does this stop? How much will be sacrificed on the altar for "change" and "hope?" This generation like no other supports the legalization of marijuana, and in the midst of a recession, when the government is spending more and more money we do nothing, say nothing as Washington quietly allows Charlie Lynch to go to jail for following California state law. How many of us are asleep and dreaming?

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should rave and burn at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightening they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I'm sure that enough of you are familiar with Dylan Thomas or are sufficiently Google-savvy that I don't need to quote the rest of this piece. Some might call me reactionary, paranoid, or any number of negative things for displaying worry about the habits of my own generation. I might be too conservative, too liberal, too philosophical, too neurotic, too brash, too crazy, too Libertarian, too pointless, but I also might be right.

Youth of America, wake up. Do not go gentle into that good night.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Tobacco Legislation and Happiness Pie

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we're back after only a few hours! Trust me, this isn't going to be indicative of how often I'll be updating, so don't go checking me every two hours.

But since I just can't help myself, here's a bit of fun for a second post. This one's coming to you from the Associated Press:

After more than a decade of efforts by smoking opponents, Congress prepared to take a final vote Friday on legislation giving the government far-reaching powers to regulate tobacco and limit tobacco industry marketing and sales practices that lure young people into smoking habits.

The House was expected to give overwhelming approval to legislation that for the first time gives the Food and Drug Administration authority to ban tobacco ingredients deemed dangerous to health, prohibit use of candied and flavored cigarettes popular among young people and prohibit use of words such as "mild" or "light" that give the impression that the brand is safer

Now, most of you are smart folks and can do a Google search to find out more information about this topic. Trying going to Google News and typing in government plus tobacco and you'll get a nice assortment of articles. CBS News has a nice article with the headline “How Much Should The U.S. Regulate Tobacco?” I suggest you all give it a read and develop your own thoughts, but I'd like to focus on a bothersome little paragraph yonder that reads:

“And anti-smoking advocates have a powerful argument in favor of the bill: It appears to offer an opportunity to save some of the more than 400,000 lives that are lost to tobacco products each year. Americans may instinctively chafe at government intrusions into their lives, but they have long been willing to accept certain limitations in service of the greater good.”

The greater good? I have some concerns about this.

Sacrificing personal freedom for safety and the sake of “the greater good” is something that any good Reality Deviant should be concerned about. Now, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a man, woman, or child that isn't aware that tobacco is bad for your health. Aside from the warnings splayed all over everything in existence in plain English, this can be arrived at logically from an observation of your own body and how it responds to extreme tobacco use.

If you claim to be somehow unaware or deceived about the toxic nature of tobacco products, you may wish to try a form of suicide that is more extreme so that society can carry on without you.

Neo-prohibitionists such as the anti-tobacco lobby are very fond of of citing the hundreds of thousands of deaths each year in this country “from tobacco use,” because it makes it look like we're fighting a war of attrition, and death sells headlines. For the moment, though, my fellow Reality Deviants and Deviantettes, let's forget the arguments about just how accurate those statistics are. Let's forget how easily manipulable statistically-based studies are, let's forget that tobacco-related death is more than likely due to a mixture of genetic predisposition plus overall usage and environmental factors instead of the mere existence of tobacco products or second-hand smoke.

Let's play up to the prohibitionist crowd and accept their statistics at face value. So, 400,000 tobacco deaths in this country per year—who are these people? School children? Clearly, if we are doing this with the motivation to save the children there must be a veritable smorgasboard of child-related deaths occurring every year, right? Well, no. No, that doesn't make sense. What does make sense, is older people suffering because they have been abusing tobacco willingly for a very long time.

Oh, I forgot to mention! Rick Bender, the fellow in the stomach-churning link above was on CNN today to talk about the “horrors” of tobacco use and what it can do to your body. We'll give him a little bit of gentler treatment because it really sucks to have only part of a face, but it's important to note that he is being used as a symbol to both legitimize and sensationalize the fight against tobacco. Reality Deviants, I submit to you that this is an appeal to emotionalism, a manipulation of our fears for the purpose of curtailing an industry and squeezing more blood out of the rock that is tobacco.

If you don't believe me, look at the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009. Look at the increases contained therein and ask yourself why they would spike taxation on small market tobacco products like filter tubes, rolling papers, bulk tobacco, cigars, snuff, and so on. How on earth is this going to affect Big Tobacco? Wait, isn't Big Tobacco tacitly in support of the new legislation that allows the FDA to have control over tobacco products?

Well, Virginia, it isn't going to affect Big Tobacco as much as it is going to affect local tobacco retailers and small tobacco producers. With the new floor stocks tax, a lot of retailers in the online sphere and elsewhere have either been forced to repurpose or shut down for good. So, we have lost jobs, lost money, broken business, and a government bill that acts as a revenue vacuum. This means that government is attacking small markets that don't have the political clout to resist new legislation. Sticky wicket, don't you think?

Then there's the FDA, which is a regulatory government body that regulates and supervises the “safety” of food and drug products that are to be released on the market. It is absurd to posit that this body will do anything less than further marginalize tobacco products and form a strict control of the product, because the very nature of tobacco is in direct opposition to their organization's goals.

But wait, there's more! You can find it in any store!

Legitimized drugs, friends! The FDA is in the business of legitimizing drugs for the market! See, there have been just a few objections raised in regards to how the FDA has handled itself over the last few years, and we might do well to consider that it isn't exactly that just like any government body, it's extremely vulnerable to market pressure from major drug manufacturers like Forest Laboratories, the manufacturers of Celexa. Celexa coincidentally is being applied currently to treat repetitive behaviors in autistic children, and it isn't doing too well. But there's a substantial amount of pressure from of drug companies on behavioral psych analysts to go ahead and use it anyway.

I think I've gone on for more than long enough this time, and I think I've left you folks with more than enough food for thought. But before I go, I'll leave you with two more questions to tease your Reality Deviant brains.

One, did you ever get the sense that this “let's go after tobacco" shtick might be designed to draw the media's attention away from something potentially far more important?

Also, do you wonder why drugs might, I mean just might, be presently used as a method of control and revenue that is used against us and for us simultaneously?

Maybe they're just trying to get us to swallow the Happiness Pie.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Introductions and Definitions

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to first ever post in Musings of a Reality Deviant!

We've got a lot of content to cover in this, so we might as well get down to brass tacks, to use the cliché.

What is a Reality Deviant and why is it musing?

This is a great question, which I'm glad I have asked myself. A “Reality Deviant” is a word that means just what it says, but we can break it down Webster-style.

Re-al-ity De-vi-ant (Re-ah-li-tee Dee-vee-ant)
noun Awakened person that defies rules of existence and consensual reality
2.the reason that peanut butter goes well with chocolate but not with cheese
3.a questioner of the status quo of life, politics, and everything
4.Frank Zappa

Now that we've defined it clearly, I will elaborate further and say that I am a Reality Deviant, who has been woken up from a nice, twenty-five year rest. I am musing, because I have caught onto a fundamental secret of existence and you haven't, neener-neener-neener.

And now that my moment of arrogance has passed, I'll point out that the phenomenon of a Reality Deviant is something that by its very nature is repeatable. You may be a Reality Deviant if you don't fit in with established norms, such as if you have tattoos or listen to Phil Collins in the nude. You may be a Reality Deviant—and yes, I mean you, person who just clicked onto this page from a porn link—why on earth are you reading this?

But pretty much, we all are capable of being Reality Deviants, and this is a deeply disturbing thing. Don't let the sheeple of the world catch on, or we could all be in serious trouble.

Who are you, and what exactly is your deal?

My name is Charlie, and my “deal” is everything and nothing at all. This is a blog, what do you want? The internet is a free medium for the expression of thought and information—at least until the government succeeds in taxing it as a commodity.

You want to know more? I'm a twenty-five-year-old writer who lives in Richmond, Virginia, and I like good beer, strange music, zombie films, I'm a Scorpio, and I love long walks on the beach.

You said the government wants to tax the internet. Are you just some crazy, southern conservative?

No and yes. Nes. Yo. This is a multi-part answer to a much more complicated question. I am from the South and I believe that southern history and culture is something that should be cherished and appreciated. I am not a Civil War-reenacting, Confederate Flag-wearing “the South will rise again” fanatic, because that is stupid. Not to say that you can't do all of those things and get away with it, but if you're honestly deluded enough to think that we need to go back in time a la Harry Turtledove and deliver AK-47s to Robert E. Lee, you are probably wrapping your Ford van with aluminum foil instead of reading this blog, so nevermind.

Also, are you kidding me? Have you forgotten that the government has been trying to tack down the internet for years? This isn't new news, Virginia, and with our current monetary problems it's a kid who lives down the street and hasn't come out to play in awhile. But Timmy's mommy said he's feeling much better, so he's thinking about coming to join us again, if you catch my drift.

Final point, I am not a conservative. Conservatives are nationalistic, believe government should be a tool to control morality, and generally don't worry about spending tons of your money. I am a liberal, and not in the way that most of you think. It's a term that's been misapplied for a century and I am officially “taking it back.” Hayek was right, you can't have it anymore and it isn't fair. Gimme!

Is this blog going to have some sort of a focus or point to it?

What do you want me to say? Yes, but it's going to have several foci. For one, it's going to be a focus for my observations of the true occurrences of absurdity in the world as it relates to politics and social life. This planet is so insane, so extremely bizarre that only someone equally crazy can comment on just how weird it is. I will, accordingly, be spending a fair amount of my time going after politicians of the elephant and donkey button-wearing varieties, if for no other reason than if I were the owner of a political party, my button would be something much cooler, like a dragon. Or Frank Zappa.

For two, it's going to express a love for art and microbrew beer, because these two things are one and the same. Alcohol is not art, but the production of high-quality beer, just like high-quality wine is an art form. I also like Scotch, but I'm not going to spend a lot of time “reviewing” any of these things, because it's extremely dull to the people that don't already love that kind of thing. You want to ride the Beer Geek train, get aboard—you'll see me in one of the passenger cars from time to time, but I am the conductor of this train and it is not your ride.It's also because this lovely industry is under a very real threat from government depredations, and it needs to be shielded by the people. Good beer is love, people—get it?

For three, I am working on some sort of book in all this mess, so it's a place for me to collect and organize my thoughts and work. You might not believe it to look at me, but I am doing a lot of research on economics, game theory, the beer and wine industries, philosophy, Alan Watts, migratory patterns of flightless birds, and history. There's something a-brewing up in my noggin' and it's going to take some time to get it all out in an organized fashion. There will be serious posts, nonsensical posts, funny posts, pointless posts. This is a blog, after all.

Insert leading question to allow you to manipulate the flow of this post?

Why, don't mind if I do! Basically, there are three rules to this blog.

1.Keep an open mind and we just might be able to learn something from each other
2.If you can't take a joke or remember that this is all absurd, please leave and darken someone else's blog or you will be taunted mercilessly.
3.It is extremely unlikely that you will like or appreciate each and every post that I make, but I am not writing this to make money or appeal to a demographic, so if this is problematic see rule #2.
4.I willfully break my own rules and am extremely cognizant of when I am doing so. Didn't you read the part about being a Reality Deviant?

You said earlier about a “fundamental secret of existence.” What does that mean?

It means, oh scholarly one that I'm working on some crazy theory that stable Nash Equlibria are achievable in social life if we are honest, open, and decide to cooperate with each other just right. It's extremely nonsensical, hippie-dippy-granola-chewy, and is arrived at by endless logical proofs applied by a mind that may or may not have studied hard enough in college.

It also means that I believe that life operates on a concept of logical-illogic, controlled insanity, or whatever oppositional description you would like to give it. In essence, life is absurd and beautiful, so live for love and laugh at life. And if you are somehow incapable of that, just remember that when you pay your bill you should leave a little tip for the next poor sucker on his one way trip.

Jesus, don't overthink this one—just relax, will you?

Why Frank Zappa?

This answer is way, way too long to devote to just one blog post, so I'm not even going to bother at this juncture.

Suffice it to say that “Cosmik Debris” describes much of the purpose of this blog. You don't need to love him to get what I'm driving at, but it certainly doesn't hurt!

Look here brother, who you jivin' with that Cosmik Debris?