Clip This

"I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have—Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?"    -Donald Sterling
By now, everyone who hasn't been living under a rock has heard the tapes of Mr. Sterling's argument with his mistress. At least as much as they could stomach. The stunning ignorance and racism is bad enough. But the above quote, to me, is indicative of a contempt that goes beyond racism, and extends to, well, everyone else.

These aren't just the comments of some dim-witted old man, but an idea fully embraced by many we call the 1%. The belief that what standard of living we hold is not the result of our own labors and talents, but of their generosity only. And they're a little pissed off because we apparently haven't shown the appropriate amount of gratitude.

From Romney's infamous 47% remark, to the constant vilification of the poor on Fox News, it's an attitude becoming more and more prevalent.

They are the makers. They are the only ones who produce. The rest of us? We're just hanging on to their coattails. Or worse, we're lazy no-accounts who just want free stuff. Their stuff.

It's a mindset so twisted and obscene, that they actually try to use their own racism as a justification of that view.

The worst thing I could wish for them, is to have to actually live in the stagnant, sterile, mono-cultural "utopia" they envision for themselves. Or, perhaps not. It seems that many are quite content living within the bubble they've created within this world.

More's the pity.

Malice or Ineptitude?

From the LA Times:

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department acknowledged Thursday that its deputies mistakenly shot and killed a aspiring TV producer they thought was a stabbing suspect.

In fact, John Winkler, 30, had gone to a neighbor's apartment Monday night on Palm Avenue in West Hollywood where a man was holding people hostage and tried to help.

Winkler was shot when he rushed out of the apartment with another victim who had been trapped inside the apartment with a third victim and the suspect, sheriff's officials said in a statement.

“The apartment door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out,” the statement said. “He was covered in blood and bleeding profusely from the neck. Simultaneously, victim Winkler ran out of the door, lunging at the back of the fleeing victim. Both ran directly at the deputies.”

Three deputies fired at Winkler. He was shot once and died.
(Edit: The original victim was also shot in the leg.)

Three deputies, firing altogether 7 shots from only a few feet away. Only two hit their mark. This tells me that the shots they fired were done while in a blind panic. The culture values the safety of the officer, often in exclusion to all else. The view is reinforced by the fact that they face few, if any, consequences when they take a life. There is a county in Illinois with records going back 160 years, without one example of an officer being held responsible for a wrongful death. While this is technically possible, it is statistically unlikely to the point of absurdity. Anyone with a dangerous job can tell you that, if you're overly concerned with your own safety, it becomes just that much more dangerous. Not only for you, but everyone around you. For those people, I suggest a change of career. Maybe a nice, safe flower shop somewhere.

We weren't always such weenies.

When I was in high school, my friends and I would often go target shooting in the desert. Plinkin', we called it. On the way back home one day, I happened to be speeding, and was pulled over by a DPS officer. Now, imagine being a lone cop, walking up to a car full of rough, long haired teenagers who are armed to the teeth. Wanna know what he did? He gave me a warning, and left, telling us to, "stow those weapons before you blow your damn fool heads off" He was actually concerned for OUR safety.

Those days are long gone. Today, there would have been helicopters, SWAT teams, tanks, body cavity searches, and, of course, bloodshed. Cowardice makes just about every endeavor more dangerous.

Somewhere along the line, we came to believe that there is actually such a thing as a risk free existence. There isn't, nor should there be. That way lies extinction for the lot of us.

Certainly risk can be managed to a point, but once you go past it, you lose essential, hard-won liberties. You end up living in a very secure prison of your own making. There was a time when most people knew this, at least on some level, yet still had the courage to go on about their lives. Now, we are saturated in fear, with voices from every direction telling us what to fear, and just how afraid to be of it.

If we continue this course, we will end up as a nation populated by people who are conditioned from birth to keep their head down, and draw as little attention to themselves as possible. These are people who will never fail, because the consequences for failure will be so immediate, so great, and so permanent that no one will dare risk anything. NSA spying will no longer be a concern, because there won't be anything left worth spying on.

John Winkler was a brave man. A man who didn't hesitate to come to the aid of his neighbor. Had he lived, I think he would have eventually found that living among those with so much firepower, and so little courage to be a fate worse than death.

Whether it is the malice of Albuquerque, or the ineptitude of Los Angeles, the result ends up being the same.

Paying Up

A number of years ago, I did 2 1/2 years for what the state deemed a "non-dangerous, non-repetitive" crime. Upon my release, I was somewhat apprehensive as to how I might be accepted back into society, if at all. While in, I had heard horror stories. Many of the guards considered recidivism to be a foregone conclusion.

So I did a sort of experiment. Trying to get as varied a segment of the population as I could, I posted the details of my crime and punishment on a number of different internet forums (anonymously, of course), and asked people what they thought. The responses I got back where overwhelmingly negative. I expected that. I had, after all, broken the law.

What I didn't expect, was the venom associated with many of the responses. Up to, and including some disturbingly creative death threats. Those unwilling to take time out of their busy days to kill me themselves, asked that I take matters into my own hands, suggesting methods that I'm relatively certain are physically impossible.

At first, I was horrified. These were people who owned homes? Drove cars? Had jobs? Raised children? Yet these same people openly fantasized about killing me.

After the initial shock wore off, I was depressed for months afterward. If this was the response to my relatively mild trespass against society, what chance did anyone else have?

Back in the days of sailing ships, if a member of the crew broke the rules, the punishment was usually swift and severe. But it rarely resulted in death. An able-bodied seaman was a valuable commodity. Once his forty lashes were done with, he was once again a member of the crew, with the same rights and responsibilities, and the incident was not mentioned again. His debt was paid.

Not so now. We live in a society that increasingly considers even it's best and brightest as inherently expendable. We don't forget, we don't forgive, and no matter what your skills, or how well you live your life from then on, the debt is never paid.

Because of this, there are certain things that are now forever beyond my reach. I'll never have a job that will allow me to buy a home, get decent medical care, or save for retirement. If I'm lucky, and strong enough, I'll be allowed to work until I die. There are many who think this is just. But what if I'm not strong enough, and my health doesn't hold out? Some future taxpayer will have to foot the bill for things that I could be doing now.

Of course by then, some senator may come up with some politically correct final solution that the masses will find palatable. If so, I will go to my end gladly. As I would not want to live in such a world.

Not Intelligent Design

Tim Minchin said it best,

"Isn't this enough? Just...this? How does the natural universe so fail to hold our imaginations, that we have to diminish it with man-made myths and monsters?"

Let's assume for a moment that there is an intelligence that created this universe (and all the others). It would have to come from outside the universe. So alien as to be incomprehensible (you can't think 11 dimensional thoughts with a three dimensional brain, after all). No more capable of having a personal relationship with us, than we are of having a personal relationship with any one of the millions of nutrinos that are passing through our collective thumbnails at this very moment.

I think the only thing we could possibly have in common, is our imperfection. Nothing is perfect, nor should it be. Since, by definition, it's impossible for a perfect being to create anything imperfect, our hypothetical creator must be subject to error. Indeed, a perfect universe could not exist because the universe exists by virtue of imperfection.

An event. A broken symmetry. A point of reference.

While perfection, and, to some extent, infinity, can be imagined, they cannot exist because the physical laws of this universe prevent it. Were it otherwise, perfection would be a static, sterile thing. Probably the closest thing to absolute nothingness I can imagine. You see the paradox.

Much more likely, I think, is that this universe, and everything in it, is a very tiny part, perhaps even an unintended side effect, of some grander creation.

All of that being said, the end result ends up being the same for us. No heaven, no hell, no grey-bearded old man judging whether we have sinned by wearing two different types of fabric, or planting two different types of crops, or marrying the wrong person, or eating the wrong food, or working on the wrong day, or any of the myriad of silly rules imposed by a primitive belief system that does nothing to explain us or our place in the universe.

The question ends up being meaningless because the result of his existence is the same is that of his non-existence.