When I’m Not Writing…

When I’m Not Writing…

Admittedly I’m not a professional photographer, but that doesn’t stop me from partaking in the act and playing at it. For me it’s definitely more of an armchair hobby, but it plays nicely into my interest in aesthetic relative to colours: hues, tone, saturation, contrast, etc… Anyway, here’s the album. I’ll be adding more to it as the season progresses to show how the place looks during that process.



JUNK PUNCH is Published

JUNK PUNCH is Published

This is sort of old news (within the month) but my first book, JUNK PUNCH, has been published and is available for you to consume, literally and figuratively. Although if you do decide to consume it literally, I’m not responsible for damage done to your internals.

The premise of the book is three-fold. The first is a self-help schema to which readers would be able to learn about the importance of the self and how to utilize it. The second is a very small peek into what would otherwise be considered my philosophy, onto which a second book could, would, and actually is being written (this is not like infamous day-one DLC for video games, which is bullshit). The final is a small bit of a memoir which pulls from three years of my life relative to the first point. If any of that sounds like an amazing, near orgasmic time to you, by all means, grab yourself a copy!

I have independently published the book through Lulu, which you can order the paperback version from there. Keep in mind that Lulu doesn’t stock books and instead prints on-demand. So if you place an order from there, be aware that it might take a few extra days to print (I’ve had two to three days on this) plus the shipping time. I am going to keep copies on-hand for people who would rather purchase them from me. Right now I have thirty, of which most are allocated, but I’ll order more soon; I’m still configuring a store page for this so bear with me. The book is also available on the Amazon Kindle.

All proceeds from paperback sales, from now until the end of the Capitalist world, will be donated to a charity relative to substance abuse and recovery. I will only keep those sales made from the eBook which will be used exclusively to fund the next book. At the time of this writing, I’m still vetting out charities but a separate account has been made for this money and it will be allocated as such.

New York City – The Pain of Pleasure

New York City – The Pain of Pleasure

New York. Sometimes affectionately referred to as The Big Apple. Culturally it has long served as the galvanizing catalyst for the United States, as if to somehow represent the absolute best we have to offer as a country. Countless Hollywood movies, video games, fictional literature, music, and live stage plays use New York as a backdrop for one or more subsequent devices. It’s big, it’s loud, it’s flashy, and it moves at lightning speed day and night, never resting for a single moment. For those of us who live outside its boundaries, we look on with awe and wonder at the cascade of imagery that emerges in the press. An itch scratches the back of our minds, causing us to wonder just what the New York Experience is. Some of us will never have an opportunity to immerse ourselves in it, and up until recently I would have counted myself amongst that lot. But the ever emergent circumstances in my life rolled the red carpet out to me and walk down it I did.

Emerging from the depths of the Amtrak Pennsylvania Station at 33rd and 8th, I was immediately taken aback by the sheer volume of people. There could have easily been close to two hundred of them on the block alone. As we walked from the tram station to our hotel, the Marriott Marquis on 45th and 7th, the swarm only seemed to increase in size exponentially. This made sense as we were travelling north on Broadway Ave which runs directly through Times Square, but coming from a far smaller town, one can never really prepare for a shock of this sort. There was no investigation into the current population estimates prior to my departure from Ohio, but I later discovered that there’s roughly nine million people in NYC alone, with nearly 2,750,000 of them being in Manhattan. Of course one doesn’t come into contact with all the residents of Manhattan at once, but it’s not uncommon to do so with a few thousand people a day. To put this into perspective, the town I live in only has a population of 22,500 and you’re hard pressed to see a hundred people a day. Everywhere you look you would find people walking down the street, riding a bike, flagging a taxi or shuttle, or sitting in a shimmed veranda that encroached onto the sidewalks where restaurants took up residence at. They were tucked into nearly every orifice the city had to offer, perhaps even some the city didn’t realize it had. The necessity of the skyline being dotted with skyscraper after skyscraper made so much more sense at that moment. It is quite impossible to facilitate that many people in a horizontal fashion, so the only solution is to go up. You can trust also that every floor of every edifice was occupied by someone. This principal of vertical expansion applied to all sorts of establishments, from small clothiers to bowling alleys where, for example, the third floor hosted a different set of lanes than the fourth. That being said, a recurring proposition in my mind arose when I realized that I was standing in the same exact location of the famous New Year Ball Drop and tried to imagine myself there with all of these people.

The purpose of my trip was relative to my job, as I’m now sure is an entirely common excuse for a visit. However, that didn’t mean that there wasn’t some leeway for tomfoolery and exploration of the touristy kind. Wandering through the streets ended up being a daily occurrence when not involved in something convention related. Prior to my group’s walkabouts, I must confess to professing some trepidation against appearing to be a tourist. They’re incredibly easy to spot, even from within the infinite rabble, and being on foreign soil meant being on guard. All one has to do is look for the extended selfie sticks and angled heads fixated on the towering behemoths that showcase a fruitful marriage of architecture and engineering. Adorning only those closest to the centre of it all were displays that sprawled sometimes the entirety of a single face, constantly cycling one advertisement after another and not a single one of them in tandem with the other to form anything remotely aesthetically pleasing; one was more likely to convulse in epilepsy before they even made it to the shop in the ad. Anyway, this fear of the tabi bito hyōjō was soon proven to be moot once a cardinal rule of navigation was discovered – go with the flow. The sooner one fell in line with the apparent consciousness of the fumbling mass, the sooner one became transparent to even the person rubbing shoulders against you. In this, one could get away with the occasional flick of the phone to grab a photo of something or someone, but if the shutter were ill-equipped to handle motion, every single one would be a guaranteed blur. Amazingly, those who were carting multiple large totes of luggage or, insanely, a stroller housing an infant, were able to occupy space just as comfortably as a single person albeit at the cost of inner-swarm dexterity. Any sign of a shift in the wave would be evident to everyone and, when opened, they would all vie for the ability to move – a sort of material coagulation.

So tourists we were and explore we did. With only five days to spare, it was impossible to see and do everything that Times Square had to offer, but of its many entertainments, we ventured several that stood out. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum allowed me to pose with Morgan Freeman, launch nuclear weapons while Barack and Michelle Obama smiled ever so casually, fly E.T. through the skies on a bicycle, sit next to Ernest Hemingway, allow Kelly Ripa to experience hosting a daytime talk show with me, get carried away by King Kong, help Indiana Jones take the golden idol, remind Charlie Chaplin of how short he really was, square-up with Fidel Castro, get my hand moulded into wax, experience my first ever so-called 4-D movie, and participate in a full-range virtual reality simulation of Ghostbusters where we were able to battle and catch ghosts. The Minskoff Theatre played host to the Broadway production of The Lion King which, even all these years after its inception, is still an amazing experience. It was very much like watching the movie all over again, which I made a point of seeing the month it was released in 1994, but breathed such new life into what would have otherwise been a stale monument in my distant childhood. Let it be known that no expense was spared when venturing only ten steps into Central Park by Columbus Circle before briskly turning back and heading toward the nearest shopping plaza. A film crew was on location shooting imagery of a concrete sculpture atop which a golden ornament of some kind sat, and it was fascinating to see how nearly everyone was in one of two camps at that moment: acting entirely blasé toward it or contemplating on how to photobomb the camera at points in an attempt to immortalise themselves on film, regardless of what it was about.

Of course, the foodie in us came out and it was not disappointed in the slightest. The Brooklyn Diner on 43rd was incredible. The décor exuded a subway-esque atmosphere that was very alluring. For me, a hamburger and fries. For my girlfriend, a veggie burger and fries. For my boss and his wife, a hot dog and fries. The catch? The hot dog was nearly an entire pound of meat – it was huge. A little pin was even attached to it that read “15-bite dog.” Challenge or no, it was assiduously avoided as the two cut it into comfortable portions between them. Being a beef and potato fanatic myself, passing positive judgement on my dish wasn’t difficult at all. That had been the first time I’d eaten fries served in a cup with rosemary and bay leaf dressing. I hesitate to speak on her behalf, but the veggie burger didn’t fare as well in the satisfaction department. Wrapping this venture up, to give yet another example of distributable portions in this establishment, a woman seated next to us who no sooner remarked on the size of the hot dog we’d received got a chicken pot pie she’d ordered and it was nothing less of a whopper. Considering the pan and height of the crust, it had to have stood a whole eight to nine inches from the table and easily more than seven inches in diameter. Something tells me she had a distinct amount of leftovers the following day. Next came the desire to have an authentic New York pizza. Despite my near complete lactose intolerance, I was hell-bent on making this happen. Fortunately, a recommendation made to my boss during the first day of the convention lead a crew of us to Don Giovannis. Now I certainly don’t have my finger on the pulse of the city regarding it in relation to others, of which I’m sure invites a war of religious proportions, but I can say with unabated conviction that the pepperoni pizza here is the best that I’ve ever had. Supplanting my long-time local favourite, Victorios, is no minor feat, make no mistake. After consuming three large pizzas and a few beers, a sort of childish depression kicked in understanding that there is no comparable pie in Ohio that I’ve ever tried. To help rationalize this, I’ve partitioned my favourites by localities now. When in Manhattan, it’s Don Giovannis. When in Alliance, it’s Victorios. Although I still wish teleporters were viable…

The only real disappointment in this aspect was from a restaurant called The View. Located on the 45th floor of the Marriott Marquis, this apparent bungalow for the affluent played host to a menu where your only option was to participate in a three-course configuration and deviation from this was not allowed under any circumstances. First strike – totalitarian enforcement of the laws of the kitchen. On a more practical sense, cumulatively this was going to be way more food than I’d ever or could possibly even consider eating in a single setting, yet there was nothing I could do other than stuff it down. Furthermore, my palette for exquisite foods of this sort wasn’t broad enough, thus I was able to eliminate nearly everything on the menu as being something remotely appetizing. Yes, I do have a sensitive palette. Yes, I do have issues with textures. So yes, I am a picky eater. The appetizer, a salad, I ordered reluctantly for fear of it being over lavished in something so exotic that by only smelling it you’d endanger fifteen species of turtle; this turned out to be the case. Second strike – simplicity will always win out over complexity, especially in the food department; I was enjoined to waste the entire dish. The main course was a bit of steak, by that I mean a mere nibble, and steamed vegetables. This was agreeable although I prefer my steaks without butter. Dessert was a flight of gelato: four flavours with four distinct toppings. For drinks I settled for merlot and a glass of water. Verdict? Unimpressed, especially considering the price. The only redeeming quality about the place was the fact that the seating floor gradually rotated. It is exactly as it sounds – the floor rotates while you sit on it. Not in the way that manipulates the G-Force during astronaut training – this was incredibly subtle. Thus it is possible for one to get dinner and see the heights of the Manhattan Mountains all around you. Third strike – if I like your floor engineering more than your food, you’ve confused your priorities.

The streets themselves seemed to emanate with a life of their own – almost as if the very concrete would at any moment reach up to greet one with a handshake and offer recommendations for tourist hotspots. Carousing past the mammoth towers with open doors proved to be far more inviting than initially thought since each of them offered something different than the last. On display was the ingenuity of human design philosophy made real. Even though the employees contained inside were either too uninterested or too excited, they indeed improved the impact substantially, and regardless of the sway of mood, they were at minimum courteous.

However, for all of the distractions and entertainments that are on offer in the core of the apple, for all of the glitz and glamour, for all of the crowning achievements of engineering and Capitalism, when considering humanities it is an absolutely appalling place to experience. It’s important to understand that the lifeblood of this city is money. This is not a facetious exaggeration; everyone, everywhere, at all times is trying to sell you something regardless of how banal the item or service is. Every street is littered with food trucks and kiosks, makeshift tables holding designer product selling for literally seven-eights of its price in a major retailer (which, hilariously enough, we experienced this in Harald Square across from Macy’s), makeshift crafts and souvenirs for the unsuspecting tourist, news stands that offer all sorts of magazines and unhealthy treats and, worse yet, apparently homeless people passively vying for only money. It is not a far-fetched assertion that anyone you see walking on the streets is physically moving only because whatever web of entrapment constructed by money that they’re involved in has compelled them to do so, certainly in perpetuity. Moving for the grind, as some in my generation term it, comes as natural to them as breathing. In this, each of them is a self-maximizing preference seeking agent and the only objective is money – no more, no less; and this is a universal truth for all of its residents.

This very mistaken view of worshipping a pseudo legitimate impetus for the kinetic energy which places all humans in motion relative to society stretches to all aspects of human existence relative to our environment. Once on a walk toward Central Park West, we travelled north on 6th avenue and the closer we got, two things became obvious. First was that the congestion of people tended to simultaneously thicken yet disperse, and intermingled within them on one side of the street was pile after pile of garbage. Waist-high walls, in plain sight, consisting of one white plastic bag after another, each one brimming to the point of bursting, some in fact did, that stretched for nearly two entire north-south blocks that bordered 59th avenue which is the street-wise border between the city and Central Park. Not a single person, not a one (including myself shamefully), tried to do something about it. Burst bags allowed their contents to pour out onto both the street and sidewalk, and one by one people simply walked past them, some stepping on the rubbish, and continuing on with an all too blasé attitude. According to the Centre for Sustainability and Commerce from Duke University, on average, a single person produces roughly 4.3 pounds of waste a day, and the yearly average for the United States is about 220 million tons. Now, according to GrowNYC, a group focused on sustainability relative to New York City, current estimates suggest that the people in that city alone produce 12,000 tons of waste a day, most of which is plastics that are produced using fossil fuel and are only used once. Performing some simple math, we find using the current estimates that the yearly average of waste pounds produced by NYC alone is 4,380,000. One has to ask where it goes? Some goes to incineration, some goes to recycling, but most goes to landfills outside the city. There’s simply too much of it and those in governance have absolutely no idea what to do with it other than to sweep it under someone else’s floor mat. But that’s okay because they’re still raking in record profits and still able to keep their $5,000-per-month high-rise apartment. And the constituents within the city, concerned first and foremost with fulfilling their money-demanding responsibilities, don’t offer a solution the time of day.

On any given day you’d be hard pressed to venture down an avenue and, when being propelled onward by the momentum of the bulge, trip over a few of the city’s homeless. They were affixed to the pavement in one of two locations: on the sidewalk against the wall of a building or elevated on steps. Wherever they could sit that was in the periphery was suitable enough. Their pining for money was performed either passively, by using what is now known as the marker on a cardboard cut-out (the social media plea for help), or aggressively by acting like the criers so often seen with the aforementioned turncoat salespeople on the street. Those in the former lot did nothing but sit and read books or sleep, expecting the cup or container placed in front of them to hopefully produce a yield of something. I should state, for the record, that homelessness is an inexcusable, intolerable, and inhumane reciprocal of our society that goes largely ignored, and that it is the reciprocal of nothing more than our worshipping of money and simple overpopulation. That being said, the truly horrid aspect behind all homelessness is that because it is the byproduct of money, it is morally difficult to ascertain if one is actually homeless or perceptibly homeless. This proves to be an issue when one considers what to do to help, especially when that help manifests as the donation of liquid assets, i.e. cash. One has to ask, legitimately, what is that person going to do with the cash that was given to them? It is a well known statistic that those people who are incredibly wealthy are far less likely to be philanthropic than their poorer contemporaries. Considering that those people rely far too heavily on supposed moral validation, it’s not too difficult to see how feigning homelessness at the right locations and at the right times can prove to be an incredibly lucrative venture. In fact, these types of people have already been drawn out into the open and exposed in some cases, be they regular people or supposed military veterans. Furthermore, even if one is known to truly be homeless, what good is a pity coin going to do them? It never actually addresses the root cause of the matter. Instead it allows the giver the ability to fulfill their daily faux-altruistic requirements and the recipient an all too minor and insignificant lash back against that which put them there in the first place. Existing in this grey matter of subjective morality, we continued briskly past each one of them, ignoring the signs and pleas, just as everyone else did. The suits marched toward their businesses, the hip young crowd ran toward the fashion outlets, and us tourists danced from one safe place to another. The Coalition for Homelessness estimates that a little over 60,000 people are homeless in New York City alone. Think about your surroundings right now. Can you imagine yourself, your spouse, your children, living by the nearest abandoned building? Scraping your food from the inside of a waste bin? Going to sleep, if you can, night after night wondering what the hell you’re going to do to get out of that mess that we impose on each other?

For me, the trip to New York City was both an entertaining and enlightening experience. One that constantly kept me in conflict with myself; to let myself enjoy the experience while simultaneously understanding that none of it wasn’t possible without money. I can’t imagine I would ever visit there on a whim, but it’s sure to go down in recorded history as an interesting place.

Header Image – New York Skyline (https://pixabay.com/en/new-york-city-skyline-building-14606/)

Modern Interpretations of the Communist Manifesto

Modern Interpretations of the Communist Manifesto

My approach to The Communist Manifesto was dramatically different, apparently, from that of my like-aged peers. For most of them, it was a compulsory reading at some point during either late high school or collegiate/university years; I escaped this totalitarian enforcement. Rather I was able to come to it in a more natural manner as I seeked it out on my own accord after a considerable amount of study in anecdotal arenas. Those who were compelled to read it have all said one of two things about it, universally the same but articulated differently: they remember reading it but can’t attest to the content or that Marx was a total nut job (none of them knew who Engels was coincidentally). On this topic, what really struck me as horrifying is that I couldn’t cleanly distinguish those who were holding these positions based on legitimate rationale from those who were perhaps rehashing widely accepted views derived solely from social stigmas, i.e., Communism is the enemy of Capitalism. Instead I took the road less travelled and decided to dive into it head-first to see what kind of mischief could be dug up from the depths of the abyss.

Let me start by saying that in reflection, I found the manifesto to be profoundly underwhelming. Perhaps this is due in large part to the historical point at which I’m reading it, or maybe even that I’ve long harboured slight Marxist tendencies, but there was no observation made by Marx and Engels then that when transposed onto modern day society, strikes me as something I wasn’t already aware of. The only difference between the contents of the manifesto and myself, in this regard, is in articulation. The clear distinction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, so defined, I’m sure, mostly to invigorate Marx’s implementation of classical conflict (I’ll touch on here in a minute), isn’t hard to take notice of when considering a society where stratification is a fundamental tenant, as is the case with Capitalism. The precipitous climb from proletariat to bourgeoisie, the consistent efforts of the latter to both maintain their stranglehold on the former and to expand their sphere of influence beyond all borders for the sake of the value of bourgeoisie power, the simultaneously tangible and intangible rifts in society as a direct result of those efforts – these are none of them novel observations in and of themselves. Perhaps they were at the time or, as would be the case if this were written in the atmosphere of modern day, the intent was not to be flamboyantly disruptive but to instead smack the average layperson in the face in an attempt to wake their ignorant asses up. Part of me thinks that this has to be the case since the intended audience feels like it would be the proletariat, mostly.

Further diving into those topics that came as no surprise, Marx and Engels discuss such a wide assortment of actions that individually require further analysis during transposition. Not in an effort to stymie them, instead to the contrary. One has to keep in mind that the ultimate goal of Communism is to raise the proletariat to the social position of the bourgeoisie, militantly if need be (some may say preferably), and amongst them provide all resources and results of production in a commons that is centrally managed (by the state). Within this goal is the semblance of true equality, of which it arguably wouldn’t ever be able to attain or maintain manifestly, and the absolute intolerance of deviation from the agenda of the organization as a whole. Some things that we take for granted now are demolished in these domains including, but not limited to, (rampant) individuality, private property, and artificial valuation of commodities amongst the proletariat. There are some benefits to this but the outlined execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Of particular significant interest, to me, was the way the authors described the cycle in which the bourgeoisie traps the proletariat into becoming a wage slave and, craftily enough, lets the latter propagate this mentality onward of their own accord. It is disheartening when laid bare in this way, but it is also a very powerful aspect to understand:

“In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion as the proletariat, the modern working class, developed – a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.”

It’s not hard to see how this manifests functionally. Who amongst you does not consider first and foremost, above all other things, finding a source of employment? How could you not though? This is what you’re told to do. It’s beaten into your head very early on that this is how the world works and this is what you need to do. With this being the ultimate goal, how then can you not define your life by it? But due to the conditions of the market, how are you also not competing with others for the opportunity to obtain the same position? When in that position, can you ever escape the nagging feeling that you are in fact replaceable? The wage that the employer pays you is the rate at which you’ve agreed to sell your time to them at. The rotating door effect, regardless of the classification of industry, and its consequent cost on the organization are of very little consequence since popping you out and putting another person in there is all too easy. If you feel you need more proof, look exclusively at the tenure of register jockeys in the service industry and how training programs are designed to be efficient. Thus, the result of this is that you define your life by the wage you sell yourself at. Those at the upper echelons of the workers, the managers, are not exempt from this either although it may be slightly more difficult to detect from a cursory inspection. These are the people who, through one means or another, have been able to mask their dependence upon this definition by the implement of credit or by having distributed their share of burden onto their spouse or someone in a position of similar accord. Thus the CEO is, in effect, no more or less a slave to the competition or market fluctuations than a pawn worker on the floor. The difference appears strictly in the scope of domain.

I should make note here too that when I’ve engaged in arguments of this sort with people, a hard line emerges in their track of logic which equates inexorably to the shit or get off the pot type of provocation. In other words, an indictment of this sort against someone in a C-Level position somehow reveals, more concretely than the use of the peon, that participation in the cycle affixes one to their allotted position thus facilitating their own recursive prison, and that the only means of escape would be to forego all assets manifesting as wages. To ones holding this assertion, as I do, a commonly volleyed argument is that doing so would incur the obvious reciprocal which is, cumulatively, loss of private property. Upon reaching this point in debate, it’s unsurprising that I come to hostile resistance of the sort that clearly indicates defence against a personal attack. You can’t possibly imply that you mean for ME to give up MY property!? Look at ALL of those THINGS that I worked so hard for! The problem with this argument is that it is applicable only in the society in which the context for the reciprocal is evidently possible. In other words, the ramifications of loss of money that we understand here in America, and possibly in other capitalist societies where money is treated as the eminent commodity, are only applicable so long as money itself retains its status. Does thought like this threaten the way you live? Most certainly. But you forget that that life style already has been and will continue to be threatened by machinations far more tangible than this conversation; it will only be a matter of time.

Marx had this super focus on the idea of classical conflict between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, with a bit of a comic book style assumption that the former would overthrow the latter out of sheer necessity. It’s debatable as to if one thinks that this has come to in one form or another in different places around the world since its conception, but largely this has not been the case historically. Regardless, the notion of placing two supposedly diametrically opposed groups against each other held greater importance to Marx since, he felt, from it would arise a purer form of representation of the proletariat. In a way, it’s the formation of the diamond; only through tumultuous chaos will a form so eloquent and beautiful emerge. I made reference to this in the preface I wrote for my book Junk Punch, that the fundamental issue with this mentality is the very same thing that would prevent Communism from achieving true equality, even for the proletariat of which it screams so loudly to represent, which is this: the promotion of hostility by virtue of dichotomy to produce cumulatively emergent iterations, each supposedly better than the previous, could only be possible so long as there is something to be hostile against. Plainly, think about what would happen upon the overthrow of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat. The sane action at this point would be for the proletariat to be content with the result and act in accordance to the Communist agenda, continuing to uphold the established values. Any outwardly sourced aggression to this community should be met with hostility if only to thwart it. For the desire of the Communist, having overthrown the then bourgeoisie, to expand beyond their domain would place them in the realm of the bourgeoisie as dictated by Marx and Engels. If this were the case, it becomes obvious then how the cycle would repeat itself, inside itself. This is stated here:

“The bourgeoisie, through the rapid development of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most backward, nations into civilization. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces underdeveloped nations’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e. to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world in its own image.”

The second part of the manifesto, which outlines largely how Communism as an organized movement should be structured, contains within it still a fair number of ideas that can be considered, but a little more of a discerning eye needs to be used here. One has to keep in mind that Marx was a radical in the purest sense of the word. His dream of seeing a revolution emerge from the proletariat was strictly from the sense that the bourgeoisie would be overthrown, and that from only this would the freedom of the former be realized. From this knowledge, we can then assume that this hostility would bleed out into the rest of his philosophy, at least as it is relative to realizing his goals of the downfall of bourgeoisie dominance. There is a part of me that can’t help but draw parallels to Nietzsche, where in the Genealogy of Morals, he mentions a struggle of the same that Marx makes, except that it is within the domain of the weak versus the strong, the slave versus the master. That it is only from the slave morality that rebellion of this sort would even begin to gestate. I digress – the aspects that should be taken from the second section are of a more direct indictment of society, similar to those found in the first, but are significantly more pointed than before. This is, I feel, a byproduct of the fact that we see here how Marx is outlining Communist policies. Let me run down the few key notions from the second section in much the same that I did in the first above:

“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.”

When considering private property, at least in the context that we have today which is derived mostly from John Locke and Adam Smith, the land that we live on is not truly ours. Furthermore, even the land you paid for is not yours. Worse yet, when considering a parcel purchase to erect a house upon, the house still yet isn’t even yours. For the transactional valuation of social constructs will always keep you in retainer to those who control that valuation medium. This preying upon basic sustenance, that of maintaining adequate shelter for yourself and potentially your family, is truly a horrible idea in both concept and in practise. A communal aspect, in this regard, is truly far better. Steel your mind, however, against the communal that you understand from the modern manifestation, as it is not just a house for those who are cumulatively disenfranchised from the perspective of the transactional valuation system.

“Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriation.”

Aside from removing the nod toward Communism, I have a hard time understanding how the reader would not be able to ascertain simply from reading the statement its implication.

“On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain. In its completely developed form this family exists only among the bourgeoisie.”

“And your education! Is not that also social, and determined by the social conditions under which you educate, by the intervention, direct or indirect, of society, by means of schools, etc? … The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parent and child, becomes all the more disgusting; the more, by the action of modern industry, all family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labour.”

These are two distinctly different quotes deserving of two equally distinct conversations, yet they are very closely tethered to each other. I shall tread lightly here to make my call out resonate as aptly as possible.

In our modern day society, there is a consistent complaint, no matter where one turns, regarding the apparently obvious evaporation of familial values, especially those that are not osmosed properly to children. While as a generic complaint it is rampant, the concrete implication varies wildly – this can be exposed simply by pressing a complainer of this sort even just a slight bit harder for clarification. Furthermore, this bellyaching is usually followed by an obstinance with millennials as a collective, as if they exclusively are to blame for the former.

It would be very pertinent for these people, and even us millennials, to consider for one moment what I refer to as the Bernay’s Effect. Throughout all stages of life, people are consistently subjected to suggestive imagery that subconsciously compels them to behave in a way that they feel is conducive to the imprints. The way this works is that the manifestation of an end result is broadcast through advertisement in some way. This is the only thing that is displayed, no more and no less. Thus it is left to the enraptured drone as to how to realize this so-called dream. The reason I call this the Bernay’s Effect is because once one reads Propaganda, you understand that the piano salesman doesn’t sell pianos, he sells the music room and the accompanying social placebo effect. That being said, the work is a bit more sinister when it comes to children. People in this stage are far more malleable, far more perceptive, far more subject to suasion of any kind whatsoever. In practise, they are also far more trying to the patience of the parents, far more demanding, and in the wake of these, acquiescence is all but assured. The haste to capitulate leaves very little room for thought outside the immediate reciprocal. If I provide/do X for my child, they’ll stop doing Y. This is a purely reactionary position, and as is the case with nearly all strictly reactionary situations, causality leaves little to no room for pragmatism. Thus it becomes incredibly difficult for the parent to weigh the act of X against the child’s perception at the time of doing it.

There is also a considerable amount of damage that can be done based on the quality of the communication media the child is exposed to, which encapsulates both their education and facilitated environment just to name a few. Our educational system has been shown statistically, countless times, to be lacking behind in most every area relative to those standards in other countries. Let’s set aside for just one brief moment the aspect of competition in education, and instead focus on the obvious failure. For this, we don’t need to look exclusively at the polls operated by supposedly well reputed research organizations. Instead we need look no further than our friends, our family, our neighbours, our children, their friends, and even ourselves to see that there’s something very seriously wrong here. Ours is a society that not only endeavours to keep its constituents stupid but even promote, encourage, and reward ignorance. The only thing that matters is that you remain loyal to the dollar, to the state, and everything else is just detail. Our media, our entertainment, consistently showcases and emboldens those privileged bourgeois who have a so-called barbecue for ten people and prepare for it nothing less of a castle filled with servants of all kinds where they proceed to discuss all matters insignificant outside the bourgeois. This is done even with younger children who all too comfortably relate to those children who see their material successes. Thus the only thing that matters is the material attainment, nothing more. Life ceases to mean anything at this rate other than to attain – to consume. The lack of an education prohibits our children, our peers, us people from seeing anything other than that. We can’t express ourselves properly, we can’t think properly, we can’t write properly, we can’t even read. However, as response to our all too meaningless and ignorant attempt to gain the foot hold over competitive education – what a joke that is – we adhere to a more modern educational system that was not only doomed to not provide an education worth anything from the start, but is driven solely by the one thing that it wants to teach children is only of any importance – money. The false dichotomies, the wholesale convictions that only pluralism will bring meaning back to anything, and the daily reinforcement of material acquisition doesn’t educate us or our children. Instead what we get is a well oiled machine designed to produce only Capitalist Cogs – those that can be replaced in an instant if one fails so that the system maintains its decadence. And you are expected to fall in line, as it is the moral thing to do.

Having said all of that, I still feel as if one should take the time to read the manifesto, even today. You may not derive from it the very same things that I have, but there is bound to be something of interest in there for you, if even in the slightest.

Red Star image used from Wikimedia in the Public Domain – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Red_star.svg

Two Sets of Books

Disclaimer: I submitted this to the New York Times as a response to the article that is mentioned here but I never heard back from them within their specified time frame for publishing, so instead I decided to publish on my site.

I set these words down to address a very particular topic, and a very particular person. It is with a considerable amount of disagreement that I address Larry Taunton regarding his piece entitled “The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist,” and inform him of why his interpretations of private conversations with Hitchens are not only horrible misrepresentations of the man himself, even as lackadaisical musings, but do nothing but use as a crutch his memory and legacy to attempt to cement the supposed inherit lie that all non-religious persons adhere to, on the surface, and secretly pine for salvation in the closet, placating the ego of the pious.

Getting right to the facts, in an article in the New York Times, dated Saturday March 14th, 2016, titled “Famous Atheist’s Non-Faith Is Questioned in Friend’s Book,” an excerpt lays the foundation for Taunton’s story:

“… In September 2010, five months after Mr. Hitchens’s diagnosis of cancer, he and Hitch drove the thirteen hours from Mr. Hitchens’s home in Washington, D.C. to a Fixed Point debate in Birmingham, Ala. The next month, after an event in Billings, Mont., they took a seven-hour trip to, and around, Yellowstone National Park. As Mr. Taunton drove, Mr. Hitchens read aloud from the Gospel of John and mulled over the precise reason Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. “Where is the grace in the Old Testament?” Hitchens asked at one point, in Mr. Taunton’s telling. “I see it in the New Testament, but God is different in the Old Testament,” Mr. Hitchens observed, leading to a discussion of God’s covenant with Abraham. Based principally on these conversations, Mr. Taunton concluded that Mr. Hitchens was seeking – and that he was, at least, open to – the possibility that Christianity was true. Perhaps, Mr. Taunton writes, Mr. Hitchens “used his position as a journalist as a kind of professional cover for a very personal inquiry” into the faith.”

Later, another excerpt:

“Still, Mr. Taunton laces his book with plenty of winks toward hopeful Christians, who would be understandably glad to see the conversion of an atheist as prominent as Mr. Hitchens. He quotes John le Carre’s George Smiley, who says, in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (the movie, not the book), “The fantastic is always concealing a secret doubt.” He writes that Mr. Hitchens had to keep up the front of an unquestioning atheist because it “was a matter of professional pride for him to play the part for which he had been hired.”

Again, another excerpt quoting Michael Shermer, who had originally written a highly favorable review of the book, later asked for it to be redacted on account of a growing discomfort with Taunton’s near-abuse usage of Hitchen’s phrase “keeping two sets of books”:

“But you mean his wife, his family, his books, every interview he ever gave was all deceitful, but you, you got the real story?” he said, referring to Mr. Taunton. “I don’t think so.””

One last excerpt:

“Mr. Wilson agreed that, whatever the truth about Mr. Hitchens’s dying beliefs, the intrigue makes for a good story. “Christians like the idea of saved in the nick of time,” he said. “They like the idea of a cliffhanger ending.””

Next I would like to bring to light excerpts from Christopher Hitchens himself, from his memoir “Hitch 22.” Specifically the First Trade Edition: June 2011, published by Twelve, which contains a preface authored by Christopher Hitchens dated January 20, 2011. This puts the writing of these words after the time frame which Taunton claims to have had an enlightening experience with Hitchens. The first:

“A continuous theme in Hitch-22 is the requirement, exacted by a life of repeated contradictions, to keep two sets of books. My present condition intensifies this rather than otherwise. I am forced to make simultaneous preparations to die, and to go on living. Lawyers in the morning, as I once put it, and doctors in the afternoon.”


“Another element of my memoir – the stupendous importance of love, friendship, and solidarity – has been made immensely more vivid to me by recent experience.”


“The cause of my life has been that of combating superstition, which among other things means confronting the dreads upon which it feeds. For some inexplicable reason, our culture regards it as normal, even creditable, for the godly to admonish those who they believe to be expiring. A whole tawdry edifice – of fabricated “deathbed conversions” and moist devotional literature – has arisen on this highly questionable assumption. Though I could have chosen to take offense (at being silkily invited to jettison my convictions when in extremis: what an insult and what a non-sequitur too) I was actually grateful for the heavy attention I received from the faithful. It gave my atheism, if you like, a new lease on life. It also help me keep open a long debate to which I am proud to have contributed a little.”


“The irruption of death into my life has enabled me to express a trifle more concretely my contempt for the false consolation of religion, and belief in the centrality of science and reason.”

And finally:

“I wasn’t born to do any of the things I set down here, but I was born to die and this coda must be my attempt to assimilate the narrative to its conclusion.”

A very critical note that Taunton and Wilson (who was referenced briefly in the excerpts above) miss, at this juncture it would have to be inferred that it was blatantly ignored, was that Hitchens, much like the literary titans he surrounded himself with, was pursuant first and foremost toward the passion for literature. Littered throughout “Hitch 22,” and from various recorded speaking engagements, one has very little difficulty in determining this fact. It is not uncommon for an intellectual to be thirsty for knowledge – a thirsty reader will read, a thirsty writer will write, a thirsty painter will paint, etc… Nietzsche lays down this point better than most, while also laying the groundwork for the integrity of the intellectual in “On the Genealogy of Morals”: “… For nothing else befits a philosopher. We have no right to any isolated act whatsoever: to make isolated errors and to discover isolated truths are equally forbidden us. Rather, our thoughts, our values, our yeses and noes and ifs and whethers grow out of us with the same necessity with which a tree bears its fruits – all related and connected to one another and evidence of a single will, a single health, a single earth, a single sun.” This singularity is not a darling toward self-serving pious folks, as you’d have an incredibly hard time pouring over Nietzsche’s work the baptismal waters (the same person who declared himself to be the anti-Christ), but instead a reference to the insatiable thirst for an intellectual to seek knowledge, and that knowledge has no boundaries, and further that an intellectual has a responsibility to knowledge to not be isolated in its pursuit. A headline quote from the same New York Times article reads “An impious author who might have been exploring faith before he died.” – the absurdity oozing from the pores of the words here is astonishing, especially when in the context of Hitchens. – As if making inquiries into faiths, the texts behind them, and the people who are supposed to adhere to them, automatically implies that one is on the steps toward submission and salvation – please. A turn of this sort plays heavily on the intellectual’s due diligence of knowing about what it is they wish to discuss, something of which is the foundation for any serious intellectual. It is not uncommon for an atheist to read the multiple revisions of the Bible, or any other religious text, or study the principles of the religions around the world. This does not make them an active or even impending member of those religions.

As mentioned in the excerpts above, Hitchens makes reference to the “two sets of books” metaphor quite often. Not just from the quotations above, this use can be seen in his other book “god Is Not Great” and in various other recorded speaking events. Michael Shermer above requested that his positive review of Tounton’s book be redacted due to the latter having overused the dualist metaphor to an alarming degree. So what does Hitchens mean when he uses this? Yet two more excerpts from “Hitch 22”, both regarding his time at a school called Camdean:

“… We were all of us compelled to sit through lessons in the sinister fairy tales of Christianity as well, and nature was sometimes enlisted as illustrating god’s design, but I can’t pretend that I hated singing the hymns or learning the psalms, and I enjoyed being in the choir and was honored when asked to read from the lectern on Sundays. In fact, as you have perhaps guessed, I was getting an early training in the idea that life meant keeping two separate and distinct sets of books. If my parents knew what really went on at the school, I used to think (not being the first little boy to imagine that my main job was that of protecting parental innocence), they would faint from the shock. So I would be staunch and defend them from the knowledge.”


“Again come the two sets of books: I would escape to the library and lose myself in the adventure stories of John Buchan and “Sapper” and G.A. Hentry and Percy Westerman, and acquaint myself with imperial and military values just as, unknown to me in the England of the late 1950s that lay outside the school’s boundary, these were going straight out of style. Meanwhile and on the other side of the ledger, I would tell myself that I wasn’t really part of the hierarchy of cruelty, either as bully or victim.”

The meaning alone can be discerned from the first but the use of the second is to help ease along what is meant here.

Knowing that he had a distinct distaste for religion, especially a noted one for Christianity, and early on, Hitchens proceeds to say that he in fact did enjoy engaging in singing, reading, and learning. Saying it that way isn’t some coy subtraction of words in an effort to obviously remove them from the equation. It is instead used to point out that when considering the context, one taking part in activities with others, is indeed a reflection of human nature – the very real and truly inert need to be social, surrounded by others, accepted, and to reciprocate these things. The other children around him were doing the same exact things, as if it were all normal; these actions do not require qualification of the numinous to be dignified – a common misconception. The “two sets of books” metaphor holds more closely to the duality, introduced and contained within societies, enjoined on its constituents which in turn makes manifestly clear to the agent that innate desires and the results of them will nearly consistently be in conflict with the scaffolding prescribed to you. Not only does it have intimate ties with who and what we are as humans, which is not a shadow of an arrogant or indifferent god, but also to the attempts to reconcile those differences in accordance with the will to exhibit the love, friendship, and solidarity that is so important. It is not, as the pious would like to have it, and according so dotingly to Mr. Wilson, a good story that plays toward the Christian end-of-life ideal of repentance at the last moment for the dissenters.

Taunton’s assertions that Hitchens was only playing as an atheist because he was “hired” to be is as disingenuous and dishonest to a “friend” as one can be, as there is absolutely no way possible that one could ever entertain the thought that Hitchens had a last glimmer of faith and struggled with himself as to the object of commitment.

Snippet from “Junk Punch”

The following is a relatively raw snippet from my upcoming book “Junk Punch.”


For this, there is no training in either school or from the a posteriori position that enables one to say with conviction that they’re ready to be crippled in this way. For me, the experience was quite like this. The naivete that consumed my life while my mom was alive was not only a luxury I could no longer afford, but within it was nothing ever found about not just the outside world but how to recover the security that had been lost. Very quickly, however, certain things become manifestly clear about your new life.

First is that you’re obviously minus a parent. As startling as that may be in and of itself, I’ve already established that it alone is mostly insignificant. The only thing that rears its ugly head here is the realization that tomorrow, when you wake up, that person won’t be there. This isn’t unlike seeing them off for an extended leave, although I must confess that this epiphany may have resulted from the drawn-out winnowing process instead of making itself clear from the start. Regardless of how level headed one thinks they are in crisis situations, an adaptive process is required in some degree introspectively. Even the sharpest of minds will fall dull against this particular foe.

Second is the factor of perspective, to which it would appear that in most cases, but certainly not all, age disparity plays a more than significant role. Unfortunately, informing those fresh to the bereavement process of things like “time heals all wounds” or “you need to seek out closure” are about as meaningful functionally as a fire is to a burn victim. I will spare my full expose on it for the immediate moment and in lieu only say that time quite boorishly does nothing. Even as a function it’s honestly incapable of fulfilling such a task. As for closure, it will only ever work if one is prepared to accept within themselves a sort of multiple personality environment where the you prior to the event is no longer the same you afterward. This is in reality a method of assimilation, to which no one should be subject to professional psychiatric evaluation for. It is a default defensive mechanism and it is a required one. However, true closure is unattainable. No matter how long you wait, how many personas you develop, or how much you reflect and/or write about it, you realize that emotionally you are scarred for life. There is a distinct psychological factor here and I’ll touch on it momentarily.

“As one door closes, yet another opens.” This is true although the price to pay for the key is sometimes a fair bit too high. The sequence of opening and closing doors always occurs within the same hallway. When looking back, one sees reflections of one’s self within the snapshots contained between a set of two closed doors. Thus while you retain the same corporeal form, subject to biology, the evolution of the psyche from one gap to another will always change. Closure, in this way, is quite attainable but it is not the nature of the type that defines that delivered by the platitude. One has to take great care when engaging in the business of toggling doors. It is possible to not close doors at appropriate times or open them either too soon or too late. The caveat here though is that these particular doors can only be toggled by yourself and perspective is the only thing that will help you with navigation.

Third, and finally, is the realization that to some degree, one is faced with the Aristotelian concept of a tabula rasa. This may not be of effect on those who have reached sufficient age or who’s parents have lived to an acceptable age where the termination of life is, in a way, expected. Going back to the door analogy for one last moment, this phenomenon can be seen when one is ill equipped to open a door and does so prematurely or, in the relevant case, has the door blown open and is sucked in with the back draft. When an artist obtains an easel, they do in fact have some notion to what they intend to paint onto it. When a writer obtains a set of empty pages, they too have some concept of the words they wish to place down. In each of these examples, the person has some prior planning as to what exactly they’re going to do with their own blank slates. This goes back again to the preparatory stages mentioned before. Here is where having a lack of planning starts to reveal itself. A tabula rasa carries with it tremendous possibilities. However, it’s just as easy to discard it as it is to sit, paralyzed, and stare at it wondering who will make the first move between the two of you. This, dear reader, is what I found I was left with. A destroyed past and a blank slate for the future with absolutely no plan on what the hell to do with it.

Here I feel I must digress for a moment for if you have followed me so far then there must be an obvious logical gap. The training provided in one’s formative years, while not preparing one for the degree of emotional distress in a parental death, can indeed provide one with the tools to build upon said tabula rasa. There are still two unresolved issues here. First that the training is subjective to the society. Unless one is capable of refactoring their skills to a form as generic as possible, it is of no use to them elsewhere. This proves to be a problem when, spurred by ill-managed insurmountable grief, one becomes aimlessly migratory, in search of that special something. The second ties back to the emotional aspect. What the training cannot do is to functionally compel you to, in essence, begin the rebuilding effort. With the examples provided, it cannot make the artist paint or the writer write. The push against paralysis, induced by fear, is harder to accomplish than most realize.

This then leads to our next topic. If I had been so clearly emotionally destroyed, left with no direction whatsoever, had both my innocence and security taken away from me, been robbed of not just my mother but the life I had before and the future that included her, how in the hell did I manage to force myself to start figuring out how to create my own security?

Let’s start with the obvious matter which is to say that none of this, the things that have been discussed so far, was evident to me at the time. My philosophy and total understanding of the matter were quite absent from my mind. That is to say that there was no conscious effort toward rebuilding security at all. Everything that was done was done so in a shooting from the hip style; although that itself is not entirely accurate, it will suffice for now.

The reason for bringing this to light is because it’s an incredibly fair point, in fact one that I can attest to personally, to assert that in a case like this, one needs a little help regaining perspective. As I mentioned before, perspective is the key to both mitigation and forward momentum. Looking to the day she had died in the hospital, there were a great many things that could have been pivotal in facilitating the direction of the perspective. I will spare you the details but give instead those things that are distinct in this regard.

There was the palpable solemn chaos that was evident in all the persons present for my mom’s final diagnoses. It’s strange to think back now that even though we all shared the same orienting event/person, it wouldn’t be disingenuous to assert that there were still tangible degrees of separation between us. I can’t be quite sure if this was a result of the matter at hand, still very fresh, or if it were stemming from deep-rooted matters from years prior. Animosity, something to which no family is immune to, courses rather deeply in the veins of mine. With no time ever being the wrong time, now would have been as good as any to bring up, well, anything. I don’t recall anyone scratching the wounds open overtly, to which I’d like to credit common decency, but the idea that the chance was there wasn’t lost to me; death impacts us all in incredibly strange ways.

This feeling carried into the meeting room, where we had been handed the doctor’s assessment, something which I feel still is an area of opportunity for them. No one questioned the ability of his art, but the caveat during his here’s what we did speech, that being had we found her sooner she might have had a chance, left a bitter taste in my mouth. I can’t pretend to understand what went through my sibling’s minds. The moment of realization came when, standing in front of her bed, the overpowering stench of death singed my nostrils. This token of finality, the biological reminder of your natural shackles, leaves in its wake nothing pleasant; not to the scent but also not to the sight either.

Society is never too far behind, even in bereavement. For nearly immediately after the proclamation of death was announced, I was to be sequestered in a private room joined by the coroner, a requirement in drug-related deaths, and a representative from some organization whose name has been lost to me. She was there to take care of some matters regarding my mother’s compliance to be an organ donor. A task for which there were to be no spoils for her on account of the severe damage done to the organs from not just the drugs but also from the charcoal that had been pumped into her system in an effort to mitigate the cause. My consolation prize from her was a Memory Box. Inside was a heavy metal emblem that would have been seated inside her tombstone had she received one.

So there it was. The adjacent room contained the corpse of my mother and we were to sully on home with an organ donors tombstone headdress. Delivery of this verdict to my grandmother, who awaited at home for the return of her daughter and instead received a box made of recyclable material, was an education of a kind. All of this framed for me the very real aspect of life called fragility. It was in this, however, that I was able to find my perspective.

The following days were beyond trying as the world I’d been accustomed to rapidly deteriorated. It felt as if everything and everyone were on the brink and the outcomes, now in the future being evidently predictable, were so volatile then that each morning I made a cursory glance on the two remaining occupants just as a sanity check. But I always passed on that room.

I don’t recall in lucid detail how it transpired since it was a blur for most of it, but my youngest sister eventually did leave the house; it was to be a few years before I was to see her again. My grandmother and I held out on our own as best as we could, but her health condition coupled with my inability to find work at the time resulted in her departure as well. Before too long, it was just myself left there. Well, my pet parakeet and I to be exact. In a few short weeks, everything was entirely gone. All that remained was an empty shell of a house where not too long ago, there were four people commencing otherwise normal lives. To see the phantoms of this past seep from the pores of the walls was nauseating and I never was able to reconcile this to a degree of comfort.

One day before I left for Columbus, I mustered the courage to enter that room – the one I’d avoided. The one I’d hid from. The one I couldn’t even look at the doorknob comfortably for having invoked this ridiculously irrational fear of seeing it rotate with no hand guiding it. Standing in front of it, I inhaled deeply, more so than I’m sure Michael Phelps ever did, clasped and rotated the knob, and thrust myself inward. I know for sure I choked on the air. That door had been shut since the vultures of materialism had swooped down to descend upon the now master-less bounty that was just ripe for the picking. What was left was exactly the way it was the night she died – a Time Capsule. The dresser, bed, television, and night stand sat and waited, yearning to be used yet again. It was well beyond my grasp, or even the will of my person, to think of doing such a thing at the time. Collapsing instead on the floor against the wall, it was all I could do to take in the atmosphere around me. I didn’t emote, even as I felt all of the emotion rushing back into me. The memories of that night, the culmination of the weeks leading up to the departure I made at the very end, all rushed forth into my throat. That pinging feeling of having to swallow that ball back down was far more difficult that it needed to be.

In a way, this was a second form of finality. I imagined it being much like a photographer, who having been at once overcome by the landscape before them, captured the moment and from it created a postcard of profound beauty. This photograph, the last one I took of this time, has been locked within me ever since and to this day I can recall it vividly ad arbitrium. If one were looking to say that I’d found some kind of closure, this would perhaps be the most appropriate time to say that maybe I did. The settling of emotions pressed down within me to form the foundation for what I’d later understand as the start of the assimilation process. With one final glimpse and an incredibly deep breath, I rose from the floor and walked out the door, never to look back.

Haters: Sometimes They Really Don’t Want to Be You

“People hate you because they want to be you.” In so many words, this and phrases like it are uttered time and time again to the downtrodden, misrepresented, misunderstood, and supposedly unique persons. The phrases are thrown around in so many different syntactical permutations, each attempting to place varying sympathetic emphasis on the victim of the perceived indifference, and always intended to antagonize the perpetrator(s). The goal, invariably, is to fortify the self-esteem of the victim and to embolden them in remaining vigilant against nay-sayers from all perspectives so that they will continue to be the individuals that they are. Altruistically, all appears to be sound. The invoker of the phrase, if not the victim themselves, garners respect and adulation from the victim and perhaps from others, and is thus considered to be morally aligned with those who see this as such. The antagonist, left wilting away in their now obviously futile attempt of degradation, sulks back to the cave from whence they emerged and life carries on unabated.

There is something a tiny bit disingenuous about this assumed intent however. It is certainly true that there are persons who awake in the morning with the sole intent of making their peer’s lives as miserable as possible. Others will prey upon the perceptibly socially weak for only the deranged satisfaction that is to be derived from it (and of which only they themselves are capable of indulging in). For these people, where attempts at curbing their considerably disagreeable behavior either are derailed from the start and for all of their time or simply won’t emerge until far later in life (it is possible for one to learn the error of one’s ways), the psychological, and sometimes physical, barricade will need to be constant. Instruction and consistent enforcement of the intolerance for indifference should always be practiced regardless. Other times it is possible that a practitioner of bigotry is acting so out of the pretext of malicious propaganda; osmosis from family and social circles, assiduously preached misinformation by cornerstone figures in communities, and cultural slants that should really be going in the opposite direction just to name a few. These people can be dealt with in a different manner which attempts to bring them back from the brink and into moral favor. These are mistakes of their peers bubbling outward through them to which they cannot be blamed exclusively for (for their own actions, of course).

Now despite the misgivings about my approach to this topic, one thing should be made abundantly clear by now but I’ll do you the favor of spelling it out. In no way, at all, do I now or have ever in the past condoned or considered as a good idea any act of indifference or bigotry. In a considerably more plain way, bullying is not something I either associate myself with or think is tolerable. So then, what really is so disingenuous about the aforementioned phrases?

There is a subtle tone of irony lurking in the shadows of the phrases. While attempting to defend the individuality of the victim, it simultaneously alienates the individuality of the assailant and presupposes only a wanton masochistic chameleon-esque adaptation of the individual from the victim by the assailant. In an effort to reinforce and reaffirm the individual that is considered to be the victim, we assert by default a spiteful copy-and-paste attempt by the assailant as the only impetus for this and the reflection of this desire equates to nothing short of the oppression and vitriol which they practice so often. Imagine then how this sounds to you, when you consider a bully of this sort who wakes up in the morning: “I REALLY REALLY want to be just like John, in every way possible! In order to do that, and to emulate perfectly his individuality, I’ll be sure to cause him nothing but grief and use socially sensitive aspects to make fun of and torture him with!” That’s not to say that this sort of idiotic notion isn’t conceived at one point or another within a mind; it’s plausible that it would be. It’s also plausible, and far more obvious in fact, to imagine that in an attempt at emulation of an individual, one would be more likely to act or behave in accordance with the target of the emulation as is the case with ridiculous fanaticism embraced by us little people in the wake of celebrities. When considered in this way, it’s hardly a significant draw of the intellect to make this comparison. Having established that, the phrases almost turn on themselves. For they now decree that the bully, in a veil of such extreme obsessive fanaticism over their personal celebrity, that being the victim, wanting nothing more than to emulate perfectly the aspect of their individuality that is desired, they resort to extreme methods of abuse, punishment, and torture – none of which place them in a position to assimilate this so sought after trait.

The overarching ignorance here is that when invoked, phrases of these sort are literally and figuratively no less shallow than the acts of aggression to which they are intended to defend against. They do not address the questions of root cause; what were the environmental factors that together culminated into the mess that is the bully? In a similar note, what other environmental factors facilitate the notion that certain seemingly arbitrary traits about people are points of both isolation and desired attack? The obvious irony here is that in an effort to achieve and maintain individuality, one runs the risk of sometimes severe scrutiny for doing so – but why is this the case? Why does it just seem like bullies come out of the woodwork and people are consistently in a reactive state regarding them? At this juncture, the only purpose these phrases serve is to reaffirm the proliferation of personality and in an entirely unhealthy way.

No one doubts that in practice, bullies are quite real as is the damage that they inflict upon others; this alone warrants reaction to the immediate causality. This aspect shouldn’t ever be downplayed in the slightest. I myself have been subject to bullying of an extreme sort, resulting in physical violence, whilst my peers, pitiless, callous, and vicariously complicit through cowardice, stood idly by as if it were all just normal. “Oh he goes around punching everybody!” – a remark I can quite acutely recall from someone I can only assume had been a victim of this bully, and would have thought far less of this person if they weren’t. So yes, on a case-by-case basis we are and should be required to deal with it blow-for-blow. Simultaneously, and this parallelism should be marked quite carefully and distinctly, the root cause should always be considered and this falls well beyond the scope of immediate causality. A place where “They’re just jealous of you” carries with it about as much intellectual nourishment as piety does in any domain.

What then should we be looking for? How do we actually address the issue of bullying? These appear to be hard questions because frankly they are. However, when asked differently as How do you address the cultural blemishes that both foster and permit this behavior?, it becomes slightly easier to put into scope but nonetheless leaves massive hurdles that are in fact able to be vaulted. To get started in the right direction, one has to realize first that none of this behavior is genetic. No one person is genetically predetermined to exhibit violence of this sort. It is in fact the social environment in which the child grows and is continuously exposed to which begins to kindle this kind of behavior. Were they raised in an environment where reciprocity and positive mutual relations were pinnacle in their success? Or were they subject to competition for both basic and contrived human needs where the only order of the day was to simply be the best? These are none of them genetic in the slightest. You are not born with an innate understanding of Capitalist America, neither of Communist China, neither of tribal alignments. There is no innate desire to ascertain all power and accumulate all material possessions in a fashion that would make even the most fanatic of barbarians shutter in horror. You are human, all too human.  You are molded by your family, your friends, your society, your communities, your government – all attribute in some way to the result that is aged you. Do not for one second discount the supposedly trivial things for sometimes they are in fact the ones most likely to subvert the subconscious, thus placing you on an entirely different path.

Next we have to ask ourselves if the society that we participate in today is conducive to our well-being. Do we really think that the bullying and violence are not actually a byproduct of the stratification, hyper competition, and near-cancerous proliferation of personality propaganda combined? Statistical studies continuously show that certain areas of the U.S. are far more violent than others, indicating an uneven distribution of our so-called genetic predetermination. However, the same imbalance can be seen when these studies are applied in the scope of the world. Different cultures yield different persons. They’re shaped in much the same way as we are with regard to modality: family, friends, and communities. The difference is nearly strictly in that of perspective and what is considered as the prime predicate for the sane and pragmatic survival of the group. Do they feel that the only way to survive is to beat down all others in a game of perpetual conflict, simply to see who can piss further? Do they feel that egalitarian methods of sharing and open collaboration are the best ways to go? Isn’t it possible that maybe, just maybe, the arena in which we nurture our children in isn’t really the most advantageous for producing not only non-violent and open-minded persons but also happy ones?

The victim and the bully, much like everyone else in our society, is and has been formed in a way that makes them who they are. A confusion of supposed predeterminations with what are instead quite malleable environmental factors leads us to consistently look in the wrong direction for solutions. For to look at the true causality would be to put to scrutiny the very same social system that we live in and most are unfortunately unwilling to take that step for one reason or another; most of which are ineffective as legitimate excuses. Ensuring that not only our children but us adults as well know that open communication, collaboration, and plausible rationality is critical. Competition, contrived scarcity, over-inflation of X Politics, blind servility – these are none of them useful when helping to educate and propagate equality and pure altruism.

So no, haters sometimes really don’t want to be you. And you shouldn’t aspire to reciprocate that even in defense.