One just cannot seem to avoid it. Often it is coupled with talk of the news. Looking back, I could say that the worthwhile, informative and meaningful conversations of this type I have been party to could be counted on one hand. These were conducted with people who had not attained "higher education". Rather they were people who had been forced to live through the "visions" of those who have letters after their names.
I met a man on my postal route who had a vision for my town one day. He told me that a group of consultants had been hired decades ago to inform the assembled visionaries of the projected road improvements that needed to be done. The gentlemen tabled their reports calling for freeway development to begin immediately. When the guests had left, the august gentlemen of the city planners decided to scrap the suggestions. They next decided to pack eight hundred thousand newcomers into town.
I asked the man where he planned to put the new people. “In the sky”, was his reply. I asked him where he planned to put their cars. He answered that they wouldn't be using cars, they would walk or bike to work. I pointed out the three new units he had just constructed next door to another property in his portfolio. They were so expensive and so short on square feet that each one had an even tinier mortgage helper hovel in the back to rent out. I said that if a man could afford half a million dollars for a brick-front rabbit hutch, he certainly had a car and being human, he was bound to use it and contribute to the grid-lock, which was sure to come. Maybe he'd read too many utopian novels in his formative years or taken one too many trips to China, I reckoned. He graciously bore my lack of vision and offered to explain further over coffee. I had to decline and a few weeks later, I heard he had passed away. His vision did not cease, however. Within a week someone stole his statue of a man on a horse with both arms raised in triumph.
One black fellow I met down in Galveston, Texas was a refugee from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. That storm and flood were far from the worst problems he had faced in his life. They wouldn't be the last, you can bet your narrow behind. People like him know the names of many of the players and when they are lucky enough to get their hands on books, they choose good books with an eye to truly educating themselves. A little sure goes along way. We had a wonderful conversation on the Gulf of Mexico and each of us learned a little from the other while the separate paths we had taken clearly were converging on the same ridge.
That same year, I had a meaningful conversation on the topic of politics with a man in the desert. He was a Vietnam war veteran and was living near a roadside rest stop down in New Mexico. I gave him some Landjaeger sausages and he gave them back, thanked me and showed me that he had only a few teeth left in his head to chew with. I gave him some wool socks instead. He could have taught a third year political science class, if he'd had the strength, such was his first-hand knowledge of how the world really works.
I met a man in Manila back in 1993 whom I'll call Rambo. He and a rooster lived in a shelter made of tropical grade plywood leaned against the back wall of a building in an alley. Rambo was a drunk and a master chess player. I played him daily for two weeks and never came close to besting him. His mind was keen as a razor and had the rare ability to analyze what he read and come to a reasonable idea of the truth of matters. His specialty was the history of his country.
He was the only Filipino I spoke with who had looked past the propagandized education that America set up after the Philippine-American War. Of course, everyone on the street thought him crazy and he and I found this extremely humorous. They laughed at us and had no idea why we laughed so hard back at them. When I returned to Canada, I wrote letters of thanks to everyone whose house I had slept in or taken meals in. Some of those people were well to do and others were very poor. The only letter of reply I have received to this day is a beautifully penned and worded brief from Rambo who must have won the price of the stamp in a chess match.
The way talking politics is supposed to be done is to pull out any topic from the news and select one of the two opposite opinions provided for you. Then you gab for hours going nowhere. It is a good pressure release valve and that is one of the reasons these topics are put in your path. If one is astute, one may be able to tell which level of print or media the person talking to you is a reader or watcher of. We begin with the Daily Blatt (aka the METRO or 24 HOURS) and move up to the City paper of what ever City you live in. Next come the Big City papers. A little higher up are the periodicals and weekly or monthly magazines.
Then there are special publications, for instance newsletters and “insider” financial blurbs or health tips. Each supposed level up this ladder of information uses the vocabulary of the intended target reader and appeals to that person's education level and economic standing in the System. The technique, however remains the same. Two sides of a contentious issue served on a paper plate. Over-easy egg yolks on one side of the hash-browns and scrambled eggs on the other. Served by a waitress with big ole titties who always seems to know when to top up your cup. Thanks Darlin'.
Pick a side, go forth and have a meaningful conversation with one of two guys. The guy who also likes 'em over easy or the scrambled guy. You can have a damn good argument with the latter. The clashing of these prepackaged, undigested, politically correct arguments and the sonorous mewling of groups who read and regurgitate the tripe of snake charmers who do the reading for them all comprises the lion's share of the conversation symphony of the civilized world.
The other media follow the same method. From community TV to City news to Big City news to CNN to RT to BBC to the PBS Special brought to you by a generous grant from the Guggenheim Foundation. Movies and TV shows are there for folks who like to do their learning in a passive, receptive state. Some of that shite you can use in a political argument tomorrow. With the internet you can spin out in a never-ending random trail of words like an idea fractal. Pretty, but it doesn't pay the rent.
There are even higher levels of media for your consumption. Documentaries and journals such as Foreign Affairs, which is the publication of the CFR. It is boasted that this is the one politicians read on the airplanes and it is true. Some books are given them to read such as some books by Zbigniew Brzezinski and perhaps Jacques Attali. These will tell you what is going to happen in the future just like a crystal ball in the hands of an old gypsy woman. One needs only to learn to decipher the ever changing coded meanings of some of the words used. If you have to ask, then you don't know. At this level and above, the books get very interesting.
The practice of creating jargon for different “fields” of expertise functions as a filter, it makes some people think that they know less than other people. In reality, the jargon users have their own publications and entertainments which keep them all arguing over the same two kinds of eggs on the plate among their peers. A different sandbox to play in, if you will. Professional journals are replete with statistics. A man once said that there are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics. Statistics can be massaged into any desired form to effect any desired direction of thought in the mind of the average person who ingests them.
At one time books were written that told truths without much concealment because most people could neither read nor afford to buy books. Those books are treasures and are very costly, though still available. There are other books that will never see the light of day due to being blocked from publication. Others are self-published in small amounts and by independently wealthy writers and researchers, such as Eustace Mullins. Most of these are very expensive and in short supply. Libraries are being gutted as I write this, so anyone wanting to build a decent library has, in my opinion, a short window of opportunity via the internet due to the labors of some people who have uploaded PDF files of rare books.
One evening after a good meal the topic of the latest mass-shooting in the USA was trotted out along with the attendant debate on gun control. One gentleman had just related a funny personal story that had taken place in Runnymede, England. The home of the Magna Carta. There are shrines to this document all over the world expounding its importance as the precursor of every charter of rights and constitution in all civilized countries. As the usual arguments ensued, I took the less popular side of the debate but not for the reasons suspected by those present. Another story had been told earlier about some local police roughing up some nephews of mine.
It is necessary to distinguish liberty from freedom. I will define liberty as a thing bestowed on a person by another person. As it is bestowed, so may it be withdrawn. Freedom is freedom. It is not bestowed on any man by another man and thus may not be taken away. It does come with responsibilities in order to have a chance of flourishing over time. A man once said that freedom had never been given to anyone since men had abandoned hunting. It was a thing to be won and maintained against those whom would rather that one didn't possess it. It always involved a power struggle which always resulted in some version of armed conflict.
The finish of the man's thought was: When some one comes for your arms, be very wary of their intentions and remember what went before. The man was an American statesman and his logic is sound. That puts me in mind of watching the local police of every part of the world dropping their blue uniforms, almost in unison and adopting black combat style gear, new weapons and having military consultants doing training sessions. Cameras are sprouting like mushrooms and drones now hover aloft. But let us go back to Runnymede.
Back in 1215 we would see King John surrounded by a large crowd which included 25 ARMED Barons. These men were landlords of serfs and they were angry about John bowing to the Pope and for losing their Normandy holdings in a battle the year before. They demanded to have veto power over the King among other things. Without arms and there would have been no Magna Carta that day. King John was waiting for tardy French mercenaries even as he placed his Great Seal on the document.
The serfs gained the liberty to be tried by the law of the land rather than the whim of the King. If any serfs were cheering (and I'm sure there were many) it would only indicate just how horrible it was to be a serf. They remained tenant farmers and were the property of the armed Barons. But now they had recourse to justice. The Barons no doubt pronounced the word just-us. Before we leave old England let us ask ourselves why the Domesday Book of 1086 is not as popular as is the Magna Carta.
The tried and true formula of creating a problem, provoking a reaction and providing a solution needs no amplification here. Remember that it is delivered by popular print and media. The method hasn't changed over the centuries because it works. It is a helpful exercise to ponder why a group of innocent people being blown to tiny bits across any stretch of water may not make the third page and will not generate outrage on the commute to work in cities across the land, while the front page massacre demands all of us to pick a side and duke it out to a Hallmark compromise starting yesterday.
We have politicians for that sort of thing. That is why we elect them. Any talk of politics includes talk of politicians in general. My recent talk was no different and I referred to them as fly larvae, collectively. I was asked if I'd ever known any personally. My truthful answer was no because of some personal guidelines I have as to the company I choose to keep.
On further reflection, I would be more inclined to describe politicians as aphids. Busily sucking up the lives of their constituents. This is an imperfect analogy but it gives a starting point for reflection on the matter. Productive working people are the plants being milked by the pudgy little herd of parasites. Aphids in their turn are aided, abetted and controlled by ants. The ants in their turn are controlled by a queen and function as robotic units of a collective entity or hive.
One can easily spot the unsightly sap-suckers on a once healthy stem but the ants are hardly noticeable unless one watches for a while. Everyone reviles aphids but ants are hard workers and much less visible. They tickle their fat charges and take the released nectar to their brood chambers. They police the entire area around the host plant against all interlopers, plant or animal. Like a Baron protects his serfs, so only he can milk them. To debate endlessly about the aphids is to miss most of the story. Exactly!
In a discussion between two different sandboxes, using the ants and aphids analogy, one will inevitably be asked, “Who are the ants?” The aphids are high profile, made men whose names are household words via repetition and it is hoped that this question will win the day by the sheer difficulty involved in naming all the individual ants and then explaining who they are to those who have never heard of them. “Can't be important if I haven't heard of them,” says the crowd. This also draws attention away from the reality of the ants being a hive by focusing on single individuals. Any individual ant is easily replaced. The hive abides.
If I was having a two sandbox political discussion about WWI and was asked, “Who are the ants?”; I would name one. Just one. That way the other person could easily verify things for themselves. I wouldn't bet on it, though. Let's say, one ant in the WWI scenario was Bernard Baruch. If the person who asked didn't know who he was, I would argue that the person did not understand WWI. If the person who asked knew all about Mr. Baruch and only Mr. Baruch, I would argue that they did not understand the prewar period nor the postwar period.
Ants are born that way. They belong to a collective with a hive mind. They farm aphids and are very industrious. Some humans make choices to accept the will of others by taking oaths and surrendering to the hive mind. Politicians make choices to be well kept and milked by their masters as they in turn milk their constituents. Free people are like dandelions. They just keep popping up all over.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.