Allow me to be blunt: political parties are one of the fundamental problems with our entire political system.
If we had, I don’t know, a dozen parties — a dozen viable parties — and a coalition-type government wherein no one party controlled anything, then maybe I wouldn’t have a problem with political parties. As it is, we have two parties that are little more than factions of the military-industrial-bureaucracy complex, and then a bunch of parties nobody takes seriously.
Political parties don’t make sense. Short-term alliances around specific issues make sense, if the goal is actually getting things done. Political parties aren’t about getting things done, they’re about maintaining the status quo, and keeping in power the people who are already in power.
There’s nothing to be done, of course, because the bureaucracy that runs this country is a giant, many-armed, beak-mouthed, voracious, horrible, stinky deep-sea-squid of a motherfucker — we can cut off an arm here, an arm there, stab it in some other place, but it keeps growing arms, faster than we can get rid of them. Individual politicians are like this giant squid’s intestinal worms, which it shits out all over everywhere in a violent, continuous flood of excrement.
I’m not really sure where that came from. I hate politics, though, and I hate the system, and I have a deep mistrust of anybody who does politics for a living. If politics and politicians had anything to do with “liberty and justice for all,” I might not be so cynical about the whole enterprise, but I’m not holding my breath.
The way I see it, most intractable global geopolitical crises have two possible solutions: everyone involved can take Wil’s advice and stop being dicks, or a neutral third party can kill the lot of them. That’s pretty much it, really.
Let’s look at Israel and Palestine: the Israelis could begin by recognizing that Britain and the UN just took away part of Palestine and said it was now Israel, and acknowledging that that’s something that might piss one off; the Palestinians (and the rest of Israel’s Arab neighbors) could in turn acknowledge that the Israelis have some right to live there, and a right to self-governance.
I have no basis for this, but I think a fair number of Israelis and Palestinians already feel this way, and that there’s a relatively small percentage of people in each country who are huge dicks (and who probably have small dicks, because that’s how this sort of thing seems to go). Those people – the dicks, the ones who are fucking things up for everyone else – should be shot. Maybe they should get a chance to reform, but it can be hard to stop being a dick, and most people don’t want to make that effort, so it’s probably easier just to shoot the dicks from the get-go.
This works for all the protests and uprisings happening in the middle east, too. Qaddafi was a dick, and so was Mubarak, and so is al-Assad: if they’d all just quit being dicks, everything would be cool. Those that can’t not be dicks, get shot. Or arrested, and tried, and then shot, if we want to comfort ourselves with the illusion of justice.
There’s a point at which this policy might become problematic, though: it doesn’t scale well. Someone on the bus or the subway talking loudly and obnoxiously on a cell phone is being a dick, definitely, and it would be better for everyone if that person were not being a dick – but murder is not the answer. A box on the ears, maybe? Some stern language? Cat poop in the face? (Everyone carries cat poop with them, right?)
The problem is, there’s money to be made in being a dick. There’s also money – probably more money – to be made convincing other people to be dicks. To wit: Being a dick is easier than not being one, in the sense that it’s more convenient and requires less effort. People who sell things to Americans are able to sell more things, and more useless and poorly designed things, to people who care about convenience and ease more than anything else. We’re a nation of dicks because the Man wants us to be that way.
So: tell the man to go fuck himself. Quit buying shit, get over yourself, and don’t be a dick.
I’m standing in line at a Starbucks, one I don’t normally frequent. The dude in front of me is talking on his cellphone, only a little loudly and obnoxiously. I’m listening, because it’s difficult not to, but I’m not paying attention — not until he said that Janeway was a better captain than Picard.
I objected, forcefully and profanely. Picard is clearly superior, in every way, I said. He thought for a moment, and then agreed — no discussion necessary, because I’m just that convincing.
…yeah, that didn’t happen. Nobody thinks Janeway was a better captain.
What really happened was this: the dude was complaining about some other dude not calling him back — or having to call some dude back himself? — it was hard to tell, because ever other word was “shit.”
Normally this wouldn’t bother me; I use ‘harsh language’ pretty frequently. In this instance, though, it was bothersome, because there were a fair amount of young, impressionable children around. I tapped the dude on the shoulder; he looked at me; I said to him — quietly, so the kids wouldn’t hear — “watch your fucking language.”
He told me to fuck off.
People don’t want their minds changed. They want to think what they’ve always thought — or, more accurately, cling to the same unfounded assumptions and blind prejudices that they were inculcated with at a young age. I have enough trouble changing my students’ minds, and they’re there — ostensibly, anyway — to have their minds changed. Everyone I know already agrees with me about everything. Strangers are a lost cause.
Not a single mind was changed today.
Apparently, the extent of my rights as a consumer is my right to buy “prepackaged material by the unit” – and not just prepackaged items in a larger package, like all those candies and little bags of chips that say “unit not labeled for individual sale,” but items that are loose in their packaging, like two Oreos or three eggs. Sort of like shopping in the bulk section, but in a way that makes the rest of the package unsalable.
I have no idea why anyone would want to do this – but, since I had to go to the grocery store anyway, I decided to give it a try anyway.
I had both kids with me, and anyone who’s taken children to the grocery store knows how awful that can be. Once, when I was a child, I crashed the cart – which my mother had, for some reason, allowed me to drive – into a display of glass jars full of pickles. The result was, of course, glass and pickles and brine all over the floor.
Nothing like that happened today, but there was an excessive amount of bickering and poking and whining and grabbing and buy-me-this-ing. I was on edge before we even got to the store, and by the time we got to the beer section – where I was going to ‘exercise my rights’ by buying a single bottle of beer – I was ready to start throwing pieces of raw meat at bystanders.
I selected the single I wanted to buy: a bottle of Stone’s Ruination IPA, a six-pack of which runs about $16. I put a bottle of it into my cart. I
yelled spoke sternly to my children, again. I put a package of honey-roasted cashews one of them had grabbed back on the shelf, though with the cheap wine, and not the nuts. I started toward the registers, and snarled at an old lady on the way.
At the checkout, I unloaded my cart: bananas, grapefruit, onions, ground beef, chicken, cereal, corn tortillas, ibuprofen, washing soda, gluten-free rolled oats, eggs, orange juice, whatever. A bottle of beer.
The checker balked at the single bottle. I asserted my rights. She called her manager. He also balked. I re-asserted my rights. I yelled at the children. I told the dude behind me in line to piss off. The manager re-asserted his balking, and asked me to behave in an appropriate manner.
I paused. I thought about the question we often ask Jack when he’s misbehaving: was I making a good decision? No, I realized – I wasn’t. I needed to change my approach.
I grabbed the bottle of ibuprofen, opened it, poured a few into my hand, and dropped the rest of the bottle on the ground. I popped the pills, four or five of them, into my mouth. I grabbed the beer, opened it – I always carry one of these with me – and drank it, all of it, maintaining eye contact with the manager the whole time. He gave me a look of mounting disbelief, and I gave him a that’s-right,-what-the-fuck-are-you-going-to-do-about-it? look in return.
I set the empty bottle back on the conveyer belt, tossed a fiver at the checker, said “I don’t need any of this other shit,” and walked out. The children, after a moment of hesitation, followed.
I felt pretty damn good about myself. Like a boss.
Lorna made me go back and apologize.
The Book’s hypothesis is that treating a significant other like shit will keep your relationship fresh and vibrant, and recommends trying it out for a day.
I’ve been using this strategy for nearly a decade, and my marriage is
better than as good as it’s ever been. I think the phrase my wife says to me most is “you’re an asshole” – so I must be doing something right.
I spent our honeymoon drunk and belligerent. I left our passports and plane tickets in our hotel room, and we didn’t figure it out until we were nearly to the airport. We retrieved the passports and tickets, but missed our flight, couldn’t get on another one until five the next morning, and had to hang out in the airport for 18 hours – 18 hours I spent drunk and belligerent.
A few months later, I got drunk, smoked some pot, fell in the mud, and cried uncontrollably for hours. I may have thrown up in her car. I also had the audacity to complain about my hangover the next day, and made my long-suffering wife cook me breakfast – sausage and hashbrowns, coffee and orange juice, cheesecake.
While she was pregnant with our first child, I took a weeklong road trip with some friends. Didn’t tell her about it – I guess she might have been mad, but we never talked about it. I came home, and we acted like nothing had happened. We call that our “lost week” – or we would, if we ever talked about it.
I was completely useless when that kid was born. Lorna didn’t sleep much those first few months – hey, that’s what happens when you have a baby, right? – but I still got eight hours a night. And naps. And I changed no diapers, and washed no dishes, and did no laundry. And I was drunk and weepy a lot.
There was that year I didn’t really talk to her. That’s still the norm, really – I’ve said about a dozen words to her today, maybe, which is about average. She talks to me a lot, of course, but I try to make it clear that I’m not listening. She keeps talking, but a resigned sadness comes into her eyes. I love that; she’s so sexy when she’s given up all hope of happiness.
I’m condescending, short-tempered, lazy, shiftless, shirtless, unhelpful, and I break dishes on purpose so I don’t have to wash them.
My wife’s response to all this?
“I will fucking kill you.”
…see you all tomorrow, then.
The Book provides a useful connect-things-in-this-column-to-people-in-this-other-column template for making a will, and a place to sign and date below: legally binding! Woo-hoo!
By “useful” I mean, of course, “useless”: I don’t have, for example, a lover, mistress, best friend, or favorite child to whom I wish to leave things, and I don’t have any secret life savings, hoards of pubic hair, space shuttles, or giant dildoes to bequeath to those I leave behind.
What’s the point of writing a will, anyway? Once you’re dead, it’s not your stuff anymore — why do you get to decide who gets what? Why do you have to decide who gets what? Why would you even care?
Maybe we should go back to the primogeniture system: firstborn gets everything, wives get nothing, younger children marry well or fritter away their lives – it’s all arranged in advance, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it, so there’s no room for complaining or hurt feelings or any of that nonsense. Right?
Really, though, that system was designed for the wealthy, for monarchs, and for characters in Jane Austen novels. I’m none of those, and so must find another solution.
Do I, though? What am I going to leave behind that’s important? Maybe something, maybe nothing. It’ll all be unimportant to me at that point, though, because I’ll be dead, and therefore will have no use for any of it – and yes, I’m repeating myself – I’m going to flog this horse to death, and then it won’t have to decide which of its colts gets all the carrots – anyway, I’m dead, I don’t care, and so I don’t understand why it’s my job to sort it all out.
If it were up to me — and it’s not, which is the whole point of this post — but if it were up to me, I’d want my carcass to be burned on a pyre built out of my worldly possessions: clothes, furniture, kitchen utensils, garden tools, even my books.
No, I’m just kidding. Not the books. I mean, let’s face it, obviously my books will be important hundreds of years from now precisely because I owned them and wrote in them – like Petrarch’s, or Milton’s, or Johnson’s. I would be doing the future a disservice by having them burnt.
Everything else, though, should just be consigned to the flames.
The Book instructs me to do this after dark, at a window, with a flashlight. My neighbors already think I’m a drug dealer, I don’t need to make it worse. So I used Twitter instead, just like last time.
Using the secret account that I will eventually have to delete when somebody I know finds it, I sent the following message to random folks randomly selected from the public timeline: …—…
Which means, of course, SOS.
Unlike last time, I actually got responses from these poor souls! Most of them were of the “what?” variety, which disappointed me – how hard is it to use Google to find out about something you don’t know? Not hard at all, especially because Google will autocomplete the search for you once you get the first dash typed.
A few folks replied – in English – that they didn’t speak English, and would I please explain what the fuck I was talking about. I tried. It’s hard to explain what the fuck one is talking about when one doesn’t know oneself what the fuck one is talking about.
…I hope that last sentence was as confusing to read as it was to write.
One person completely ignored the message, and just asked who I was. Asked politely, too, or as politely as one can ask a bothersome stranger “who are you?” – and I replied, enigmatically and nonsensically.
I’m sure this isn’t as much fun for all of you as it was for me, because I’m not providing links to any of these tweets or replies – because, well, I use that twitter account primarily to post profanity of a sort that would be unacceptable if it weren’t for the anonymity – so this post is like a long retelling of a joke that might have been funny at the time, but certainly isn’t funny at all in the retelling. I get that, I really do.
The best I can do, I think, is to point you to some other examples of this – although the best of them, the Obi-Wan who said “That’s no moon; it’s a space station” if you tweeted something about the moon, has been suspended – this sending of out-of-the-blue, what-the-fuck messages to twitter users in a way that is or appears to be random – and you can laugh at them, and at me vicariously, if you think that sort of thing is funny. I do, obviously. If you don’t, well, check back tomorrow, and I’ll try to amuse you after a different fashion.