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MOMENT OF TRUTH

Posted by Alexander Jerri

 

White is Black, Up is Down

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

What could be better than a white guy discussing black female identity? Well, if the white guy is THIS white guy, there's nothing better. It's gonna be the most entertaining act of hubris you've ever been treated to. Tell all your black female friends!

Look, I don't know anything about what it's like to be a black woman, except what my black woman friends tell me, and unless they're lying, they're always having a wonderful time! Who would you rather be, Serena Williams, who won a tennis championship while pregnant, or Paul Prudhomme, who is dead from being really fat? Who would you rather be: Beyonce, or that Nazi who got sucker-punched on camera while explaining the significance of Pepe the Frog? I think we can all understand why Rachel Dolezal, the crazy white woman who fooled the Spokane NAACP into thinking she was black for years, chose to identify as a black woman rather than as Dom DeLouise or Gilbert Godfried or Bill O'Reilly.

I bring up the strange case of Rachel Dolezal in response to a recent article in the Seattle alternative weekly, The Stranger, by Ijeoma Oluo. Oluo is a feminist journalist who lives in Seattle and has published widely. She's also a black woman. You'd think she'd be the perfect candidate to interrogate Dolezal's pretensions. And she was!

I'm going to try to sum up Oluo's article briefly. Rachel Dolezal is the worst possible white person to claim she gets to decide whether or not she's black. She first became enamored of blackness by looking at pictures in National Geographic, while her brother was taking a break from using them to masturbate.

Dolezal, embarrassingly outed as white on television, has no shame whatsoever. She's in fact very prickly toward those who question her about anything. I guess you never get used to people treating you like a psychotic liar, even after you've been exposed as one in the most public way possible. Dolezal, instead of resigning herself to the fact that her public performance as a black woman is over, has doubled-down, renaming herself Nkechi Amare Diallo. Nkechi happens to be Oluo's sister's first name. Now it's personal. I mean, even more personal.

Oluo approaches Dolezal as if the latter were a childish poseur, very much as I thought of a couple I once read about who claim to be living a life of Victorian simplicity in their contemporary suburban home. Throughout the article, Oluo dissects Dolezal's self- satisfied elisions of difficult questions. Doesn't Dolezal get that most of the world she casually encounters on the street treat her as white, because there is nothing black about her? Isn't she advantaged by her white privilege in a thousand ways every minute of every day she's relatively anonymous in public? Dolezal either doesn't like to entertain questions like these, or else she's sick of them. Regardless, Dolezal's behavior is easy to mock. She comes off as an idiot without an iota of self-awareness. Not only that, she has a chip on her shoulder about being called on the carpet for her idiocy.

When I first heard about Dolezal, and learned she was in a high position in the Spokane, WA NAACP, I thought, Well, so what? If she's prepared to endure the social and economic discrimination most black women do, what's the harm? Isn't this similar to men who identify as women? Isn't it her choice to identify culturally as whatever she pleases?

It turns out such questions are beside the point. Or rather, they're not specific enough. Through the process of picking apart specifics of Dolezal's experience, Oluo reveals a supremely clownish figure who can't even answer the most basic questions her potentially challenging stance raises.

But what if Dolezal weren't such a twit? What if she looked more like a black woman, and also was prepared to discuss difficult issues of racism in a self-implicating manner? Would that make any difference? Probably! It wouldn't necessarily make her any less annoying to black people, least of all to black women, but at least it would be interesting.

That Dolezal's situation is more annoyance than controversy might be the most damning aspect of her performance. A man I know who identifies as a woman has a million thought-provoking things to say about it. Rachel Dolezal has none. It doesn't even seem like she wants anyone to sympathize with her as someone out of the ordinary. She just wants people to accept her as black even though she clearly isn't, and can't even give a persuasive explanation about why she wants to be black. She loves black people, but not enough to care what their opinions are about her strangely colorless performance of blackness.

There doesn't seem to be anything about Dolezal's performance or her justifications for it that isn't racist. It's almost as if the shallowest, most centrist liberal decided to put on blackface and dance around, and then explained to all the people she'd pissed off, "Hey, I'm a good person just expressing myself and sharing in the oppression of a group I admire cuz they're so inspiring. Give me some fried chicken."

Again, what if there were a white woman posing as a black woman, prepared to answer Oluo's tough questions in a thoughtful, satisfying manner? What could Dolezal say that wouldn't add insult to annoyance? "All the people who've ever inspired me are black. A black woman saved my life when I was six. I lived in Nigeria for 20 years, and the Yoruba adopted me as one of their own. I speak six languages indigenous to the African continent. People mistake me for Ethiopian all the time, so I just decided to go with it."

The thing is, such a person would have developed too much respect for black people to ever presume to pretend she was one.

Race is a social construct, yes, but it's a social construct built on physical differentiation. A culture in which white people hold the reins of power decided a long time ago that people with particular attributes, genetic and/or phenotypic, were to be stigmatized in such a way as to justify exploiting them, as though they didn't merit the rights of full human beings, and that stigma persists. Membership in a racially oppressed minority isn't something a member of the oppressing group, whether they identify as an oppressor or not, can simply choose. Blackness isn't a metaphor for femininity or for another nationality. Blackness is its own thing. Those stigmatized by it against their will aren't playing a game.

A man might become a woman, not because he admires women, but because he really feels like a woman. Gender identification is closely linked with sexuality, which is utterly personal. Even were there a man who identified as a woman, whom no one on Earth accepted as a woman, which would be tragic, that person's personal experience would come first. I've seen how men who present unconvincingly as women are treated, and they're not taking an easy route. But when Dolezal presents unconvincingly as black, she just gets mistaken for a white person, with all the privileges accrued to such status. And further, she refuses to acknowledge or address that blithe privilege.

In the end, we need to take such questions of identification, stigma and oppression on a case by case basis. The case of Dolezal has been something black people have given way more consideration than necessary. If you annoy the entire membership of the community you claim to be a part of, but you don't annoy yourself, or even understand the community's annoyance, or even try to understand it, maybe you're not actually a member. The final analysis: Dolezal's not a black woman, she' a jerk. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, but it does seem as though, in this case, they are.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

F For Fake

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

I'm Brad Pitt – if he'd've kept it real. This is what he would've looked like, like a little round furry bald-headed Jewish guy. Is this what you want?

You want it real? You think "real" is so great?

You want the unvarnished truth? You don't want that. You can't handle the unvarnished truth. You know why they varnish the truth? Cuz without varnish it looks like shit.

"Keep it real" means, "keep doing the same dumb stuff you and your friends have been doing forever that keeps you from improving your lives." When a junkie gets clean, the rest of the junkies who are still shooting up go, " He didn't keep it real."

What is reality? The Existentialists, Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus and those guys, they said, "Let's take a good look at reality. Strip away all the fantasy, the gods, the invented things like money and laws and some jury-rigged 'purpose' to life. Strip it all down, down to the bones, like a gut rehab. What do you have? Bare timbers. Just two-by- fours and a plywood sub-floor and some pipes and junction boxes and wires. It's crap. It's gonna take work."

You're not born into a fully built residence. You construct that. Before you do, you're just hunk of mortadella in a crib. Just a loaf of meat and bones, wiggling around, taking in light and sound and smells, a barrage of chaotic sensations. It's utter unvarnished nonsense. You pick out what to pay attention to. You create a coherent world and a coherent self.

And a lot of people are incompetent at that. Some people's identities are so poorly slapped together that they fall apart at the first contradiction. They go crazy. So if you have a coherent world and self, thank your lucky stars you're such a good fabulist. Be grateful you're a good storyteller. Because it's all a made-up story. It's all fake, and god bless it.

 All we are is dust in the wind. You might be, say, a pediatrician, and help sick children, but in less than two or three generations, everything you've done will have turned to dust. And in the long run, we'll all be swallowed by the sun. That's reality, no matter what story you tell yourselves. Sorry to break it to you like this. All your suffering and joy, it's like grasping the wind. All we are is dust in the wind.

Life's a game. All the world's a stage. It's a tale told by an idiot! A fuckin idiot!

Many belief systems actually take this into account. Some believe there's a oneness at the beginning that decides, just for fun, to fragment itself into planets and stars and oceans and rocks and plants and creatures and people. But we're it. We're all one, pretending not to know we're all one, putting ourselves in these situations, these relationships, when really, we're not separate at all. Life's a story we're playing out. It's drama. We agreed to play out our separate roles in a game we made up called "existence." We're quite good at this game, at this art, at this pantomime, this fabulism.

So don't talk to me about keeping it real. Because real is the ultimate lie. It's the lie at the core of everything. This is why we have a sense of humor. So we don't get all bent out of shape all the time. Fundamentalists, they don't have a sense of humor. They're dicks.

You know who keeps it real? Suicide bombers. Oh, there's a lot of bad stuff you can say about suicide bombers. They're assholes. They're fanatics. But you can't doubt their commitment. "Oh, that martyr? Who went into that crowded marketplace, screamed 'Allahu Akbar' and exploded? What a phony." "He blew himself and all those people on that bus to smithereens, but he was just phoning it in."

We have this fetish about authenticity, but let's face it: we're simulating. And that's the good news. The good news is, all these battling factions, Da-esh, Republicans, brutal cops, CIA torturers, they're masks. They're shadow puppets. A moving paper fantasy.

Oh, yeah, when you're getting tortured or killed, it's very real. Because you're stuck in this body. Torturers know how to keep it real. I know whereof I speak. My grandfather drilled our teeth without Novocain. He knew kids were afraid of injections, and he thought the needle would make us afraid of him. So instead he drilled our teeth with no anesthetic. He had two drills: the hot drill and the cold drill. He wasn't a dentist, by the way, he was just a sadistic old man.

No, he was a dentist. Faked ya out.

Oh, this world is full of misery. Children dying horrible deaths before they have a chance to live, animals being tortured, girls trafficked in a global rape industry, because that's what it is. It's not sex trafficking, it's rape trafficking.

Yeah. Ya happy now? That feel good? A dose of reality? Have you ever read Primo Levi? He was a prisoner in Auschwitz. I've read quite a bit of his work, and let me tell you something: even people in those horrible situations, they don't think about how miserable they are all the time. The human mind dissociates itself from horror in order not to shatter. Or, it shatters. Either way, it's escaping reality.

Even if you say, therapeutically speaking, "I must confront the traumas of my past in order to stop being tormented by them," you're actually saying, "I need to free myself from what happened then, so I can open myself to a new narrative, a better story. Those events happened, but they're making me tell a story about myself and the world I don't like, a story I can't live with."

If there were a solid, immutable reality, we could never be free. We could never see beyond our despair. We have to be able to do that. Because into each life some despair must fall, and fall hard and feel damn real.

But we can gut the place and put a new floor in and drywall it up and paint it happy colors. It's hard work. You can't just paint the old rotten wood. And you might have to redo the wiring or the pipes. And you can't just paint bare studs and varnish bare joists, you gotta do a good job. Some people think they can just throw on a new coat of paint and that's all there is to it.

You gotta put sweat equity in. You can't just accept the reality in front of you. How are you gonna create yourself a better future? Cuz that's what the future's for. That's what imagination is for. The future has to start somewhere. It starts with invention. Making shit up. Some of it you gotta leave up to chance, make it up as you go along. Fake it till you make it. Keep it unreal.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

Objectionable Objectivism

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

I'm reading the biography of one of the most famous surfers of all time. I'm going to be cryptic about his identity, for no reason in particular. He was nicknamed "Da Cat," among other things, including "a-hole." He's dead now of pancreatic cancer. The cause of his death probably had little to do with how he lived his life. He used a lot of lotion, even on his pancreas.

The biography opens with three quotations, only one of which did Da Cat employ habitually: "I do not recognize anyone's right to pilfer one minute of my life, nor to any achievement of mine, no matter who makes the claim, how large their number, or how great their need." That's from Ayn Rand's classic hunk of airport toilet paper, The Fountainhead.

Allow me to share with you my feelings about Ayn Rand. She was a pig, and I'm not referring to her appearance. It could be said, however, that she resembled what one could imagine Howard Cosell might look like after a six-month juice fast and a hanging. Among her sycophantic followers there were several who had sexual intercourse with her, and many others who wished to. If there were a sex act that could justifiably be abolished by law, it would be any type of intimate congress with Rand. I wouldn't schtup her with Ann Coulter's wang, but that's beside the point. She was a repulsive thinker and a lousy writer. And I say this as someone who forgives a great deal of lousy writing and lousy thinking, some of it even by authors other than myself.

Rand was such a lousy, doggedly crappy writer, that the fact the quotation in question is not from an essay but rather from the mouth of one of her characters makes no difference. Howard Roarke, the incendiary architect played in the slightly less crappy movie by Gary Cooper, is the mouthpiece for Rand, uncleverly designed to represent as well as spout her idiotic, self-serving philosophy of Objectivism.

I will now maliciously misrepresent Rand's philosophy. After all, whether she recognized my right to pilfer it for these purposes or not, the fact is, in a very real sense, cosmic and fundamental, I have that right, whether she choses to recognize it or not. That she didn't recognize it is simple proof, cosmic and fundamental, of the weakness of her ideas. What a dumbbell.

Objectivism is the notion that the world is made up of objects which belong to whoever finds them first, and its first and most important postulate, from which the entire cascade of bullshit tumbles, is, "Finders keepers, losers weepers." "Find" is a term of art, or part of the rarified jargon of Objectivism, and can mean to discover, to purchase, to invent, to secure the legal means to profit from, or to pilfer.

"But wait a second," you might rightly object. "If Objectivism doesn't recognize the right to pilfer, how can it begin with a statement supporting the ownership rights of the pilferer?" And well you might object to this Objectivist contradiction. It's one of the things that makes Objectivism so objectionable. The answer is even more so: although the world is full of nothing but objects, there is one subject: Rand herself. Everyone else is just a thing.

You see how jerky this so-called philosophy is? I believe the clinical term for someone who views the world this way is "narcissist." The political term in the United States is "Republican."

"I do not recognize anyone's right to pilfer one minute of my life, nor to any achievement of mine, no matter who makes the claim, how large their number, or how great their need." Oh, okay, well, nobody has the right to pilfer things. Pilfering is against the law. It's also contrary to one of the Judeo-Christian commandments. So, y'know, what you're suggesting is hardly revolutionary, in any case. Especially in a capitalist wonderland.

Getting back to our surfer, Da Cat, he was known for using people, and for knocking them out of his way when they got between him and a wave. All he cared about was surfing. He was always looking for the perfect wave. He traveled the world looking for it. He had a grandiose idea of the connectedness of all life on Earth via the ocean, and felt one with this ecology when riding the waves. He resented any time he wasn't surfing, and thought nothing of stealing from his friends or anyone else in order to fund his pursuit.

He hated what people called "work." And he resented the encroachment of other surfers and surf-enthusiasts who began to proliferate on the beach at Malibu with the advent of the movie "Gidget." He hated the commercialization of surfing. He hated surf music. He stole jewelry from Dick Dale, whose recording of Miserlou started the surf guitar craze. He positioned himself philosophically as a lone rebel against the civilization that made all these sacrilegious offenses possible, to justify his doing whatever he deemed necessary to maintain his freedom from the bondage of labor.

Of course it has occurred to me that he's a lot like me, at least in his aggressive laziness. And quoting as he did from The Fountainhead, I have begun to wonder if there isn't something Randian about my own way of being.

I have come to the conclusion that, no, there isn't. Let me explain:

I don't believe that people are objects among which I am the only legitimate sentient creature, or that my needs come first regardless of anyone else's condition. To be fair to Da Cat, he was a lot more of a humanist that Rand. And a lot more of a transcendentalist. And I believe I'm more like him in that way. Were I better looking and great at something I might have turned out like Da Cat, but thankfully I have been spared those socially marketable virtues.

I don't hold my principled laziness up as something to which only I am entitled. Slowly, lethargically, I commence my founding of the Socialist Leisure Party, with the intention of spreading abundant opportunities for blissful laziness equally among all those in the world who would care to indulge in them. From each according to her inertia to each according to her torpor.

The sickening thing about Rand's pathology dressed up as a philosophy is that it doesn't acknowledge the contributions of all of humanity, and in fact all of existence, toward her so-called "minutes of life" and "achievements." They are not, in fact, hers, and it was only by diligent denial of her surroundings, spatial and temporal, that she could arrogate to herself ownership of anything at all. It is an illusion that we "own" things, that our time belongs to us, that we are the sole agents in determining our destiny or even narrating our memories. We are connected by history and destiny to everything in the world, to some things more than others, but with particular affinity to other people, who resemble us in their desires, needs, triumphs and tragedies.

The Randian delusion has infected our economic and political discourse, and in fact our entire national epistemology, to our detriment. From behind whatever label it advertises itself, be it capitalism, neo-liberalism, austerity, property, individualism, nationalism, ethnic supremacy, tribalism, Washington consensus, vanguardism, or the American way, its limits are limiting our ability to solve our direst problems, and its fallacies are dividing us for its own survival. Yes, an opportunistic idea has evolved opportunistic survival strategies, its main one being to paint all competing ideas as delusional.

This is why every truly progressive policy sounds impossible right now. And yet the contradictions in the Randian-infected status quo are forcing the impossible into the discussion. I would urge everyone to continue their delusional behavior. Keep demanding free universal health care. Keep demanding a universal basic income. Keep demanding an Economic Bill of Rights. Keep demanding we set aside half the Earth for nature, E. O. Wilson. Keep demanding equality. Keep demanding peace.

The dominance of Randian-infected individualism has become such a lesion on society that, rather than such ideas falling further out of fashion than they were in, say, the 1980s, they have swollen with a vengeance. The tighter the grasp the proponents of inequality have on our society, the less likely these ideas would be to emerge, one would think. But because of the constriction caused by the tightening grasp, and the demonstrable inefficacy of what currently falls within the frame of the possible, the only persuasive remedies come from nowhere else but the realm of the impossible.

I embrace the impossible. I foresee a future without the threat of starvation and homelessness keeping the workforce in line. I foresee a future without a workforce. I foresee an economy that acknowledges the inherent generosity and playfulness of the human mind and spirit, able to rely on those things to keep it going, rather than enforcing first and foremost the Randian right of the elite individual to guard his property.

My flag is the hammock.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

Dateline Pas Ris

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

If I remember correctly (but to be honest it really doesn't matter if I do), according to the great author François Rabelais, Paris was founded when a mischievous giant urinated on a village of people who had irked him. They became known as the village that had been peed on, and would greet visitors from outside with the plea, "pas ris" – don't laugh. Never mind that the normal grammatical construction is "ris pas" – I come by this information via Rabelais, who was nothing if not a faithful historian.

"Don't laugh at us" implore the Parisians. I'm still trying to figure out if it's possible to comply. As a guest in this burg, I have no wish to offend my hosts. But they are quite risible at times. Donc, je pense que pour éviter de rire n'sera pas possible.

But if I weren't laughing, I'd be crying. See, no one here seems to believe that Marine le Pen has a chance of becoming the next leader of France, which, should it happen, I feel would lead to the kind of emboldening of violent rightwing behavior we've been seeing in the US. We talk about the Trump surprise, and the Brexit surprise, and they're aware of the "sensible" population's failure to predict those two recent political disasters, but at all the bars and cafes in the Montreuil and St Blaise, when I talk to working-class drunks or younger, hipper drunks, no one seems to harbor the slightest trepidation.

Which of course terrifies me. But at least I'm not laughing.

Everyone seems ready to admit that the conditions for such a rightwing populist spasm are similar here to those in the US and UK just before the unpleasantness. I don't even have to bring it up. Bien sur, they say. The socialist party is no longer socialist here, and hasn't been for the longest time, just as the Democratic party in the USA hasn't been much of a champion of the demos, nor has the UK's Labor party been much of a force for labor.

And if there's no polite, progressive way to express that Muslim immigrants might be a problem, the left do not hesitate to attempt it. In this neighborhood, where the workers are still cursing the bosses as vehemently as in the old days, and have no trouble pointing out the financial class's culpability in their economic troubles, and Muslims, especially those from North Africa, are well-integrated as fellow drinkers and fellow workers, there's still talk of a "problem." And of course, having suffered attacks from fanatical Islamic groups, there's definitely some type of problem. There's what they call "the suburbs" with their antagonisms. And there's concern that maybe there are too many Muslims in France who don't embrace the French values of Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood, and the peculiar yin and yang of iconoclasm and tradition that permeates the post-revolutionary society.

Nevertheless, the Parisians aren't fearful. You can't spend your time worrying about terrorism when there's wine to be drunk and conversations to be had. If there's anything like really nasty rightwing xenophobia, it's coming from outside the working, drinking, and hipstering communities of bonhommes et bonne femmes.

This is the knotty puzzle, at least for the French of the Republican philosophical persuasion. Is a society based on "liberty" able to maintain its commitment to liberty when it believes that a large amount of its citizens are so different that they don't understand liberty in an understandable sense? Is only French liberty "liberty?" And where some Islamic sects might proscribe certain freedoms the French consider self-evidently inviolable, is it not a violation of liberty for the government to try to prohibit religious expressions of, say, modesty? Or is a government ban of the burka a defense of liberty French-style? And suppose there were a way to communicate the French essence of liberty and a prescription to transform Islamic liberty, if that's what it is, into the French type, would that be a good thing to do?

Or should French liberty expand or complexify to incorporate other types of liberty? Are there other types? How narrow can liberty be defined before it's too proscriptive to be considered liberty anymore? How broad can it become before it devolves into everyone for herself? And what would that look like? Genital mutilation in public? Why would that be my example? Am I intoxicated? Maybe.

Who needs to change, the French? Or the immigrants? And why should the French change when the immigrants can't vote? And if the immigrants can't vote, what do the French have to lose by voting in the Front National?

That's what scares me about the polling. The most rosy poll results are paved with answers from people with good intentions but secret shames.

You can buy a lot of good will as an American here in Paris, when someone asks, "How's Trump?" by dropping your head in misery. Gets laughs. And when it does, I don't say, "don't laugh." Because that would lead to me saying, "Oh, you think it can't happen here? I guess you better laugh while you can."

Of course, no one has talked about building a wall of the Donald Dump variety here. Not since my old friend Rabelais, who insisted that the strongest wall to protect Paris would be made of alternating male and female sex parts, because they possess a great deal of strength in and of themselves, and when joined are the most difficult building blocks to wrest asunder.

Life. Love of life, enjoying life, is another traditional French value. Don't laugh. It might sound facile, but it is a peculiarly French type of appreciation, and it's very contagious. I think it's also a kind of Lebanese and maybe North African type of appreciation, that the different appreciations have melded pretty well. If we can build a wall of that against the hate seemingly rising from every corner of the world, we might have the last laugh.

I'll be able to comment more cogently, I assume, when I'm no longer drinking every day and fighting jetlag.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

The Meat Of The Matter

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Let's talk about something nice for a change. After all, here we are, broadcasting out of Chicagoland, the land of the City that Works, where the big shoulders are, and all that nice meat. Chicago is the home of Meat Club, a few friends of mine who, with me, back in the day, made a few successful forays into the wide world of meat consumption that is one of the tender pastimes of that jungle of cities. Nothing dystopian about that, eh? Or maybe I'm being ironic. After all, you can't spell meat without "meta."

We in Meat Club had some of the best carnitas available from the Michoacan transplants in Pilsen, and a variety of game meats from Casa Samuel in Little Village. The delicious carne en su jugo could not hide from us in its deep beef broth on the southwest side, long before it became trendy and was then forgotten again. On my own I'd been to all the known Jalisco-style birrierias for their sole product, goat, but we never quite made it to such an establishment as the Club. I'd call that "unfinished business."

Meat. Where there is meat, there is hope. Why do I say that? Why do I risk offending so many vegans, vegetarians, and simply sensible people who know meat is killing our planet, particularly industrial meat-raising? Well, I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to claim to purchase only sustainable, kosher, organic, or heritage meats. In fact I actively despise organic meats, and only eat kosher when it's appropriate to the cuisine. I look for bargains. I'm a man of the people, because I have to work for a living, and I can't be paying quadruple the price for a chicken thigh that doesn't taste any better than one from Frank Purdue.

That is, I'm not in favor of fashionable sustainability. It oppresses poor people. And by "poor people" I mean anyone who's one extra expense away from not being able to pay for their housing, and everyone even worse off from there.

I love that there are organic farmers, and I support them when I can, and even if you're growing boutique mushrooms, I say more power to you. But I don't have the means to support much of that monetarily. There are farmers' markets, and organic farms themselves, intended to supply poor people, the demographic who have the hardest time eating healthily let alone sustainably. There are some right here in Los Angeles selling organic produce grown by poor people in urban gardens. But I will not pay for anything at Whole Foods I can find somewhere else, and most of the time I avoid it like the plague that it is.

I get good cheap chicken at the Bangladeshi butcher. Chickens that were alive earlier that very day! And they're scrawny little things, but they taste better than whatever's in the meat cooler at Ralph's. And if it doesn't taste better, why should I buy it? For the intangible health benefits? Blow me.

I get goat meat there, too. Goats aren't factory farmed. Not enough people eat them, so they just run around like happy goats in a YouTube. Goat is a red meat that has as little fat as chicken. And you can spice them heavy and cook them long and slow.

I'll pay more for imported salamis and such because I don't eat much of it. And I shouldn't. I've seen too many people hurt by over-indulging in preserved meats. That's tangible. Don't do it.

The thing I feel worst about is pigs. They're intelligent, and they live miserable lives in factory farms. I can't afford to buy heritage pork, though I've been served some that's noticeably good. If pork is on sale it means there's a glut of it. I buy stuff on sale. Not just because I'm cheap, but because I need my money so I can do other time-consuming but non-remunerative activities. Get it?

It's easy to find sustainable fish. A little research each month tells me what's on the no-eat list, and what farmed fish is ruining the environment, and which nations are using slave labor to get their catch. Sardines are reliably cheap and sustainable, as are anchovies.

Somehow farmed salmon is okay these days. Not sure how that happened. I'm not buying it till I do more research. Last I checked, salmon farms were harming wild salmon. But a knowledgeable friend told me recently the farmed salmon have been let out of no-eat jail.

Rodents, as far as I'm concerned, are always on the menu. A rabbit? A guinea pig? A Belizian gibnut? You will not convince me to forgo the eating of these critters. Geese. Pigeons. Lizards. Ostriches. Bees. Don't try to take them out of my mouth unless you want to lose a finger.

I have nothing against hunting. I've never hunted as it wasn't part of my upbringing. I'm against sport-hunting as opposed to food hunting, and endangered animals are off the card, but I've killed a few things, and witnessed the killing of many. I hold up my ethnic heritage, with its roots in the Slavic regions, as a major justification for my eating of meat – it's in my blood! But killing is also part of it. I love death. I want death in my life. Things and people are being killed all over the world this very minute. I want to be a part of that, in my small way. I like that the animal died. I even like that plants are killed for my table. I'm a bloodthirsty omnivorous ape. I've eaten fresh blood from a duck killed by Laotians in my friend's garage. You would've too, if you'd given it a chance.

We've all loved creatures who've died. What a mystery, right? Eating that mystery is part of partaking in it. Death is the god of life's way of telling you she doesn't love you anymore. We have learned to deal with the loss of love and the loss of life. This is just another way into that confrontation with death, loss, and ourselves.

Oh, very profound, you might say sarcastically. Well, first of all, screw your sarcasm. It irks me. But you have a point. I admitted I use my ethic background to justify eating animals. And this is another justification. But neither justification is without merit. And right now it's up to me to decide how much merit it possesses.

Maybe one day we as a species will give up killing animals for food. Or maybe we'll give up killing anything at all and just eat what's made available by accidents of fortune. I won't stand in the way of this movement, should it gain critical momentum in my lifetime. But right now, it's anarchy. It's every mouth for herself. I feel lucky when I have food to eat. And I accept with gratitude the things both life and death put on my plate.

We have a long way to go before there's food justice in the world. That is, justice for the hungry, and justice for the food itself. Food justice, just like other justice, is very personal, even while it's currently embroiled in struggle. I respect everyone struggling for food justice, even if you mostly do it by eating tofurkey and Gardenburgers. Well, maybe I don't respect you if that's all you do. And you will have to impress me mightily before I have respect for you as a barbecuer. I don't ask for your agreement. I don't ask for your acquiescence. I don't ask for your forgiveness or forbearance.

I only ask that you don't bother me while I'm eating. This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Posted by Alexander Jerri

 Constant Dystopia

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

When Alfonso Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men came out back in 2006, I hailed the return of the dystopian sci-fi movie. I loved those things back in the late 60s and 70s. Soylent Green, Rollerball, Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Omega Man, A Clockwork Orange, A Boy and His Dog, from Kubrick to schlock, they were a seductive outlet for adolescent fears of pollution, governmental and corporate control, and nuclear war. So in Christmas of 2006, in the midst of the Bush/Cheney fiasco, I thought to myself, "Man, this is just what we need!"

Little did I know how hot the apocalyptic fantasy rush was going to be. I love lists, but even Rabelais would be daunted by the myriad. The Young Adult dystopian novels, movies and TV series alone multiply each season. Action, horror, comedies, psychological thrillers – every commercial genre has been colonized by camps of bleak futurologies.

I saw Logan, the final installment of the Hugh Jackman as Wolverine series, the other night. Didn't see any of the first however-many. The story is set in 2029. And this is not an anti-utopia per se. This is a Marvel Comics movie. Not that Marvel would be or has been incapable of weaving anti-utopian tales, and the X-men do exist in a world of allegorical ethnic cleansing, but even given that, there were a few almost unnoticeable but nonetheless remarkable passing notes on the way to telling the story. One, I don't even remember what it was – something about pollution, and the audience collectively, unconsciously, went, of course, it's the future, pollution got so bad it did that awful thing, whatever it was.

Okay, but this is twelve years in the future. The story takes place twelve years from now. My point is simply that it's all by-the-way now. You could set a story in next year, have most of the population dead of flesh-eating virus, and an audience would go, Yeah, that's plausible. Nuclear war has wiped out all humans except a handful of cannibal children by June? Could happen. John Cusack and Chiwetel Ejiofor had to save a handful of humans from the Mayan-prophesied end of days? Five years ago? Well, we all had to go sometime.

This trend is not recent enough to blame on the ascension to office of the Creamsicle Raccoon, although a rewatch of any dystopia is most certainly enhanced by it. Reality itself has been thus enhanced. A walk down a city street seems a prelude to Blade Runner. The scenery on a drive through the southwestern United States is a pregnant landscape ready to burst open and disgorge Mad Max: Fury Road's tribal skinheads screaming for blood and glory.

Everything is more. All things are over-fraught. The military is a false promise of economic security for those desperate enough to bargain their lives. The police crush dissent with military body armor and siege equipment, which suits the white supremacists who've made it a point to infiltrate their ranks during the past couple of decades just fine. A bank account is a necessity for a job and shelter, but they can tax you with random fees or simply collapse, burying your money, then re-emerge in another incarnation and demand it again. At any given moment there are a dozen competing versions of the official truth, tailored to entertain and aggravate the fears and prejudices of every demographic.

Layers of invisible owners extract rents from us, draining our communities of political and economic power, gambling with both our savings and our debts and extracting wealth from us every time they roll their dice. Pseudo-scientists dictate the limits of discussions about everything that matters to us, especially our money and the way we spend our time. The global economy is run according to mystical falsehoods meant to re-establish each morning the rights of those with power and wealth to more of it, and to control our bodies, what we put into them, what we do with them, and our minds, and to what uses we put them.

There's also an endlessly various spectacle, a massive arena in which some lucky ones compete to sell their identities for a chance at release from the global labor camp of meaningless toil. Air, water and farmland are being destroyed to an extent causing wars and mass migrations of refugees. And if the world were threatened with destruction should one more puff of carbon monoxide enter the atmosphere, there wouldn't be a damn thing we could do to save it.

We are telling ourselves a dire story these days. Not to say we're imagining everything. All the ills I've listed are true for some group of victims or another, and some of them are true for all of us. And there is no time that's too soon to fight against these immoral, inhuman oppressions. But all narratives are built around stakes. Vital narratives are built around threats to existence. It may be that, like our desire for extreme sour gummy worms, our constant dystopia is a symptom of our ever-increasing appetite for stimulation. Dystopia might be to advanced civilization what emotional drama is to bored high school romantics. It might be the bourgeois comfort of a segment of us shaping narration that lends already miserable circumstances a hue of hubris having pushed beyond the brink of inevitable disaster.

It's partly perversity on our part. It feels good to surrender to the worst possible outcome. Why worry over small details, such as whether we can help the homeless here or there, when, let's face it, we're all screwed?

The story of an irredeemable human project is something I adore. I recently felt completely justified in tweeting, "If water were brown instead of clear, capitalists would sneak in a pound of poop a day for each of us." What kind of way is that to talk about your fellow species members? No one really doubts the speculative truth of my hypothetical, but water isn't brown. Not yet, anyway. So why even bring it up?

Nevertheless, I came out to vote in the off-year election here in Los Angeles. But less than twelve percent of Angelinos joined me. What gives, if not thoughtless fatalism? What gives here, if not the moral license to do nothing? Who gives out these licenses? Is it me? Do I man a window at the DMV of constant dystopia? Me and my so-called Moment of Truth?

Well, excuse me. I have a god-awful work ethic and an all-around lousy attitude. Yet I made a point of learning a few things, finding out which of them weighed more to the good on a binary scale of yes or no, and got up and voted. I mean, Jesus Krauts, WTF? This is what we said we'd do, get involved locally and take back our politics from the ground up, and we can't even get our shit together to vote?

If this is all my fault, I'm sorry. But I have to believe this hopelessness stuff enough to actually create it, all you have to do is suspend your disbelief long enough to consume it. As many times as I've made caustic sardonic offhand comments since the election, I've been reminded by hopeful, constructive people, mainly women, or men I met through hopeful, motivated women, that it's all very esthetically entertaining but the real mission is still to do something, for goodness sakes.

Seems like most of Los Angeles needs to find better people to hang around with. And how has local political engagement been going in the rest of the country, and the rest of the Western World, for that matter? Pretty pathetically.

Let's go! Yeah, we're living in Brave New Clockwork Soylent Hungerball Metropolis 1984, no doubt about it. But damn, people, there's a resistance! Take it seriously! If we can't save the world from the fascists, at least we can get our licks in before the whole shithouse goes up in flames. At least we can win a few good years of public schooling for someone's kids. And, no matter what I or anyone else might tell you, nothing is inevitable. It just feels that way sometimes.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

 Don't Flaunt Your Privatization In Public

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

We might all profit, in an intellectual, or non-profit, fashion, from boiling down the machinations of the Dump administration to one core aim: privatizing the public wealth of the United States, and as much of that of the rest of the world as possible, for the enrichment of himself and his allies, each of whom represents some segment or other of the currently entrenched global corporate system. That seems to be his only policy goal, if he has one (that and salving his constantly bruised ego at every opportunity, only of importance for its entertainment value). The fascist ideology he serves as mascot for was just his way of getting votes and continues as a way to placate his most enthusiastic supporters, although we might find it has more direct advantages to him in his goal of stealing public wealth.

No one should have any difficulty accepting this umbrella explanation of the projectile fertilizer squirting out of the White House. Betsy DeVos, the undereducated Education Secretary, is peddling school vouchers, which will allow public money to subsidize private schooling for rich kids. The vouchers, of course, will be useless to poor people, because they won't be enough to help them pay for private school entirely, but will be just enough to give the already rich a little discount at the expense of public education.

Putting public lands up for sale is on the Dump wish list. Public funds are paying for members of the Dump clan to live in New York City, and for him to host ostensibly diplomatic business meetings at his resort. Dismantling the EPA is at the top of the EPA's suicidal agenda right now, with the goal of undoing pollution and safety regulations on corporations so they can make just that much more money – public health, public water, land and air, and nature itself be damned. The military buildup Dump keeps barking about can only benefit defense contractors, and a few foreign conflicts are always good for private military companies in the Blackwater and Halliburton mold, as well as your traditional arms manufacturers. The war on sustainable energy is only good for the fossil fuel industry, an industry in need of euthanizing if there ever was one. Even the money for that crown jewel of idiocy, the border wall, will mostly fill the pockets of executives of contracting firms with a bare minimum paid to actual workers, assuming work actually gets done, just as our FEMA dollars did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Steve Bannon, the Lady Macbeth of the White House drama, whose stylish slovenliness has been most accurately described by internet fashion critics as "Coroner of Margaritaville," is on record as desiring the Leninist/Nordquistian destruction of the government. I'm sure he'll leave intact anything dealers in vast amounts of money need to keep their operations running smoothly. Not because he's careless, regardless what his appearance suggests, but because he's a hypocrite.

Dump is, like most politicians, a self-serving engine. What's cruel about him is his disrespect for the feelings of others. And that's not a small thing. He has no skill at diplomacy. In politics, diplomacy is how things get accomplished without bloodshed.

Modern democracy was created in order to seduce the violent rabble to buy into the system, so they wouldn't be rolling out guillotines and chopping off heads every few decades. Dump does not understand the usefulness of getting people to buy into anything that isn't financial or brutal. Lacking this skill might be his undoing. And maybe ours, considering the mood of the moment. This to me is what is most dangerous about him. The specific sundry policies themselves are of course cruel and dangerous, as are the abruptness and severity with which he implements them, but all that is just a symptom of his poor leadership skills. His motive is not to hurt people, but if hurting people is the inevitable result of his policies, he doesn't mind.

We're experiencing an increase in bigoted incivility and hate crimes, mainly against people of color but also against anyone who displays any characteristics of foreignness. And I ask myself, regarding the generalization of Dump's motive I began with, how does practical bigotry play into the hands of the privatizers?

It's no accident that Dump's xenophobic populism has found the most leverage when relying on economic threats to workers as its fulcrum. As I've implied in another recent Moment of Truth, pitting one labor market against another allows capitalists to create an artificial shortage of jobs in societies that can afford to support decent wages and benefits, while they prey on the poor in other countries by threatening starvation and brutal oppression. This is wonderful for all transnational industries. Freedom of movement and freedom to organize are threats to the freedom of capitalists to use any means necessary to make more money.

We have two freedoms at war: the freedom of the masses and communities to act on their own behalf for their own welfare, and the freedom of the capitalist to thwart their freedom and exploit them for profit. These two interests have been at war for quite a long time, and the capitalist, with his dominance over mass discourse, has been able to co-opt a great number of those he oppresses and enlist them into fighting for capitalist freedom.

One truly marvelous manifestation of Dump's singular inability to disguise the ugliness of his project might be the disaffection of some of those capitalism has succeeded in indoctrinating against their own interests. It's a truism, even in the capitalist media, that Dump surfed to power on waves of anger propagated by feelings of economic helplessness. Bernie had no problem channeling that anger in the direction of the corporations and financial institutions who are the traditional enemies of the people according the lore of The Great Depression. Dump might just lose some support as the true nature of his program comes into focus, poorly disguised as it is, and those angry people, at liberty to find another heroic narrative to follow, could be persuaded to join with an anti-übercapitalist populism, even if most of them don't become militant socialists per se.

In other words, Dump might succeed where the left has failed: unmasking the inhumanity of the overweaning owning class. Capitalism has had no better human disguise than its cheerleaders, the Clintons and Obama. Dump is what it looks like when capitalism's human face is torn away. It looks a lot like fascism with its attendant racist and misogynist violence. Coincidence?

The USA loves its tycoons. Stories like that of Rockefeller handing out dimes when he made his first million go hand-in-hand with the liberal insistence that immigrants are worthy of civil rights because they're good for the economy – look at what's-his-brown- face, who founded that multi-million-dollar computer thing!

But a capitalist stomping around with his human face ripped off, how long can even Americans bear it? Might they see it as an affront to their mental model of a virtuous owning class? Perhaps if they can't be convinced to fight privatization and übercapitalism by common-sense arguments, they might come around once it's clear that Dump's repellent display of nastiness threatens to taint their myths of meritocracy.

Hey, as we've seen since we elected a black president with the middle name of Hussein, anything is possible in the USA.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Posted by Alexander Jerri

 Both Sides Now

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

I have awoken to a new reality. I unfriended an abusive Hillary zealot. I feel as though a great turd has been lifted from my shoulders.

The sun seems brighter and warmer today, or maybe it's just the global warming. Thanks to human activity, fossil fuel burning and farm animal flatulence, the Earth has decided to hurl herself into the Sun. Nevertheless, until I start to burn up, I'm determined to enjoy the benefits of the Supersun with as much enthusiasm as I can muster.

This is called "finding the silver lining." Of course, you've heard of the silver lining. But do you know where they get these silver linings? They're inside clouds. When I was a kid, I heard that every cloud had a silver lining. Every cloud. Growing up as a secular- humanist Jew on the outskirts of Detroit, I assumed this was something Christians came up with. Christianity, as far as I understood it, was about clouds. After you died you went up into the sky and lounged about on the fluffy clouds. I spent many an afternoon looking up at the fluffy clouds, imagining myself lounging on them. It seemed a pleasant but far- fetched promise.

In the waiting room of my pediatrician's office, Dr. Blum, a Jew, there was a perplexing amount of Christian literature. Highlights magazine always seemed Christian to me, with Goofus and Gallant and Aloysius the wolf. And then there were the more obviously Christian books of Bible stories, with illustrations of holy characters with their arms out to their sides, palms out, with crepuscular sunbeams streaming through the clouds behind them. I believe Dr. Blum's receptionist picked out this literature for the children in his waiting room to while away their anxious time before they had to get a shot.

Every cloud had a silver lining, I was told. And on some level I took it literally, and scoffed at it. "No they don't," I thought, with a skeptical sneer. Why would they? Why would they have any lining at all? What's with the lining? Lining in a cloud? Why?

I was 18 years old before I ever flew on an airplane. This is because, when I was growing up, we were poorly. On my first flight I made sure to pay attention as we passed through clouds, checking for silver linings. No silver linings. I didn't really expect them, but it was satisfying to have my childhood biases confirmed. Yep, Christianity, debunked again. Christians and their silly ideas about clouds.

But I fear I've trivialized the issue. The silver lining model is not peripheral to Christianity. It was what made Christianity popular in the first place. Yes, you're poor, diseased, they've taken everything from you, locked you up, tortured you, but the silver lining is, you'll get to go to Heaven when you die.

The story about God coming to Earth in the form of his own virgin-birthed son, that I get. But all the cloud stuff comes off as the most simpleminded marketing strategy.

Clouds, of course, in reality, are useful as well as fascinating. This stereotype of a cloud showing up to spoil your beautiful clear sky is derogatory and unflattering. Clouds, like immigrants, are something the USA can't do without. I'm sure we're all familiar with the newspaper photograph of an outraged, fist-shaking Abe Simpson under the headline "Old Man Yells At Cloud." Very amusing, but on the serious side, how different is Abe's cloud-bashing from Donald Trump's fascist immigrant-bashing? Only different in degree, I'd say.

Clouds bring rain and shade and make our planet look beautiful from space. Clouds don't need a silver lining. Clouds are their own silver lining.

What brought this saying to mind is a conversation I was having a few days ago with a currently unemployed friend. "At least you'll have time to work on your art," I said, "so, there's a silver lining."

I realized during that conversation that I've had to do this "look on the bright side" and "make lemonade from these lemons" narrative contortions many times since November 8 of last year. "Well, a Creamsicle Fascist Raccoon is in the White House, but at least people are now enraged at one common enemy." "The new Secretary of Education is a figurehead for the for-profit education lobby, but maybe it will finally rally the unprivileged majority to the cause of public education." "GOP control of Congress and the executive branch will allow them to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but at least people are realizing there are parts of the ACA they don't want to get rid of, and that the ACA and Obamacare are the same thing, and the GOP legislature is looking like the unprepared worthless gasbags they are." A lot of silver linings there.

Current affairs are so demoralizing these days that it seems all we've got are silver linings. As if the victory of thuggish moronic hamfisted fascism has ripped open all the clouds, dumped all the down out of them, torn out all the linings and tossed them into the street. And we, the people, march off to our jobs or to the unemployment bureau or to the cardboard box or abandoned station wagon we live in, past these piles of rumpled silver linings, good for nothing, just filthy, not even real silver but more like a cheap TJ Maxx version of silver lamé, fraying and prickly, not even good for use as a blanket. I hate that stuff. It's worse than itchy wool. It should never be used as a lining. It should never touch the skin or any fabric you're wearing that you'd want to wear again. It's a decoration at best, and one that doesn't last long before it betrays its lack of quality.

I've looked at clouds from both sides now. The more realistic, useful and often majestic portrait from meteorology, and the irrelevant caricature born of crude Christianity and represented by mawkish "inspirational" media. Oh, the metaphors I could weave right now, the storm clouds gathering on the horizon, the reaping of the whirlwind, the fog of war that threatens to enshroud our tenuous civilization, but I'm not going there. Clouds are real things, and we wield them much too frivolously in our rhetoric. Sorry to rain on your parade.

I made up with the Hillary zealot during the writing of this piece. Grudgingly. The burdensome turd that was lifted from my shoulders is once again my turd burden. I'll no doubt be irked by any number of bourgeois pseudo-progressive losers with no capacity for self-examination whatsoever. But I don't believe in weeding negative people out of my life. I think that's the coward's way. Not because I need them as an allies, but because I have completely unwarranted confidence in my resilient grace. Jerks can annoy me, thugs can hijack my quasi-democracy, fascists might swarm and dismantle everything I and my community have built. But they can't defeat my grace. The worst they can do is kill me. And then I'm dead, so my worries are over.

That's the ultimate silver lining. The sweet eternal leisure of Death.

Not that I'm some kind of warrior who's come to terms with life's brief absurdity, but I've given up expending useless energy fretting, panicking and grieving. I also look to those stronger and better organized than I and use my perception of their strength to prop up my complacency. This method is so much better than looking for silver linings, which are cheap now and cluttering up our thoroughfares like poisoned birds that have dropped from the sky. I'm not heroic, but I have learned how to admire good people in a way that works for me!

And what good is a good person if they don't provide an advantage to me? Otherwise they're just Mozart to my Solieri, and that's not any way to live. Instead of relying solely on the energy I get from my passionate hatred of the low-quality people running the world, I have discovered a way to enrich myself spiritually by admiring the fighting spirit of those who resist. It's something like harvesting renewable energy.

Let us renounce the silver lining model from now forward. We're in a fight, and the people on our side are the better people. That's not a silver lining, that's how the forces are arrayed. It's the nature of the war. We don't need to make lemonade or look on the bright side. We're the better people. End of story.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Posted by Alexander Jerri

500 Years of Lying to Ourselves: An Apologetic History.

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Ladies and Gentlemen and all points in between and beyond, I have distilled my discontent down to two rules:

1. The goal is equality of opportunity and equality under the law, inclusive society big and small (freedom from persecution on any basis), basic guaranteed standard of living (including infrastructure upkeep), universal health care, imprisonment as an admission of social failure to be limited to only exceptional cases, the choice to live a meaningful life rather than one dominated by drudgery, and equal access to quality education at every level. In short: respect for human rights and needs from any organization with which an individual comes into contact. These are within our abilities and resources as a species to provide. Without providing these, any system is extorting submission and misappropriating and misusing fees, rather than deserving of civil behavior and agreeable payment from the public. I'm not going to discuss or argue this anymore. If your goals are different, justify them to someone who cares.

2. Anything bad for Trump is good for the world.

I do not argue these points anymore. I don't explain them. I don't teach idiots, and only an idiot would disagree with these two convictions of mine. I would advise you all to do the same. Unless you're an idiot and disagree with me. Then I would advise you to eat a lump of poison. Or do like the KKK families do, murder your husband the Imperial Wizard and dump his body in the Missouri River.

The ability of stupid humanity to accept social conditions which any child can see are appallingly foolish is mind-numbing to me. It's really the dumbness of other people that's holding back the entire species.

Or is it? How do I get through my day, if I'm so enlightened that I can see through the veneer of respectability and discern the misbegotten nature of our society? I'll own it: I fool myself into thinking this garbage is okay. It's the only way to live a remotely pleasant life. Imagine living under the yoke of the Spanish Inquisition in 1493. Imagine how wildly you'd have to fool yourself into thinking it was fine to get up in the morning and go about your daily routine, while people were having their flesh punctured and ripped and their bones smashed until they admitted to abrogating some ludicrous superstitious rule. It's no different now. We are just as self-deceitful. We lie to ourselves just as blatantly. And we ignore the torment of others, torments as vile as those fashionable in the late 15th Century.

And most of us aren't even that bright. We hardly stand a chance against the onslaught of indoctrination blasting at us from the hypocrisy engines our ancestors have collectively constructed, as if to prevent the entire ghastly Machine of Machines from melting in the flames of its own evil fuel.

Not even the genius is immune. Einstein had to cultivate a dithering, absent-minded personality. It was the only thing preventing him from a moral epiphany that would have culminated in him giving away all his belongings and running naked through the streets cutting down people with a machete.

Have you ever heard of Bartolomé de las Casas, the Dominican priest who came from Spain to the Americas in 1502? He hung out with Christopher Columbus's son, Diego Columbus. He was a brilliant guy, las Casas. But even he went about his daily business in 16th Century Hispaniola, owning Indian slaves, watching Indians worked to death in the gold mines. Oh, he had his misgivings. But still he got up every day and performed his daily duties. He was even aware of a sermon given in 1511 by Friar Antón Montesino denouncing the system of Spanish enslavement of the Indians known as the encomiendo.

But it still took las Casas until 1514 to denounce the system himself. He wrote an Apologetic Summary History of the Indies, from which comes most of what we know about the atrocities visited on the Indians by the Spanish. And even after his great realization of the humanness of the American natives, he thought a great idea to replace the encomiendo it was to bring slaves over from Africa and work them to death instead of the Indians. This crappy brainstorm he didn't retract for at least another decade and a half! But then he felt real bad about it, to his credit. "I came to realize that black slavery was as unjust as Indian slavery," he wrote in his History of the Indies. Too little too late, of course, and that's how it always goes, isn't it?

So how can we be surprised that someone like Bill Clinton, smart as he might be, could usher in policies that were calculated to punish the poor and unfortunate for being poor and unfortunate? Five hundred years ago, Spanish Catholicism's best and brightest could barely find the brain and heart and courage to fight the injustice of his time, and all we had was some pampered Boomer bubba college sellout, pushing NAFTA.

Don't think Bill and Hillary didn't have an inkling of how they were screwing workers. They, as we do, recognize very well the perversions and inversions of justice our civilization is built on. They sat down in their trade agreement meetings and said at some point, consciously in their heads, "We'll screw the working and the poor right now, but it'll all come out okay in the end, because MLK said the arc of history bends towards justice. So that's covered." And they proceeded to blithely screw the people, screw them headfirst into the ground like fencepost diggers.

So now your factory can go across any border it feels like. But your factory worker can be legally murdered attempting the same.

In the current discussion about immigration and so-called illegal immigrants, the frame has moved so far away from anything resembling sense, it's no wonder no liberal can make a case that convinces a white lady working at Target in Lincoln, Nebraska.

National borders are artificial. I'm sure you don't need reminding. They don't exist in real life. We make them. It's our choice. And when I think of the rules I enumerated at the beginning of this piece, the convictions I refuse to argue, or discuss, or try to teach to the benighted proto-Nazis whose Nazism gestates in their heads like that alien thing that burst out of John Hurt's ribcage – I just want to scream. We should not even be discussing this. We are not slaves. We are not the property of the capitalists operating in our respective countries.

Why shouldn't a Mexican woman be able to come here and pick fruit if that's a job she wants to do? Why shouldn't any of us be able to travel freely from country to country, seeking the best jobs we can get? Or taking the jobs that serve our needs at the moment? Of course, the turds at the top will tell you such restrictions on freedom as work permits and migration quotas protect the nation's workers. What a load. What a stinking load. All it protects is the ability of the capitalist to play labor markets against each other. And our patriots here at home think they're doing themselves some good. They should be fighting for an end to borders, not a wall that reifies one.

Why are we putting up with this crap? We are not this stupid. But we willingly stupefy ourselves because we believe we need to in order to survive. And maybe we do. What good does it do to wake up one day to the knowledge you're a slave in a global prison camp instead of a free person in a free country, as you had assumed when you went to sleep the night before? What doth it profit a man to understand his situation?

We live in barbaric times. We haven't come such a long way in five hundred years. It's all right to admit it. It puts things in perspective. We are so far from justice, we can't even see it. We don't even have the right kind of eyes to interpret its shape. So there's no point shooting for utopia all at one go, is there? The goals are still the same, but our immediate actions are less demanding. Let's give ourselves a break even as we wrap our brains around how dire the situation is. We're battling a many- headed hydra. Let's just make things a little more humane, shall we, still keeping in mind the vastness of the task, without feeling daunted? This is not an argument for incrementalism, certainly not Clintonian incrementalism – our steps can be as ambitious as we choose – but just a reminder to pace ourselves, cut ourselves some slack, good old-fashioned slack, and not allow ourselves to be beaten by the enormity of the wrong we seek to right. We must all grasp that we're fighting to achieve a world we can't even understand yet. We're fighting against barbarians, no more nor less civilized than we are, but definitely on the wrong side.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!