All posts by jimjibble

God Damn the Pusher

“The big drug company Pfizer seems intent on being a pace-setter in cranking out the benefits of the tax cut to stakeholders who need them the least. In an announcement over the weekend, Pfizer said it was shutting down its research efforts on treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinsonism.” – LA Times 

Hey, Conservatives.  Every time you bitch about how much your meds cost or how your surgery blew your savings or that your stay in the hospital was totes outrageous, yo, try shutting the fuck up.  You are the ones putting these greedy shitmongers in charge. You are the ones that insist on undermining your own healthcare by continuing to vote against your own medical interests, simply because some Fox talking head told you a scary liberal story about lustful welfare queens lining up every nine months to get they abortion so they can fit in that new prom dress they dead baby daddy bought with the food stamps you paid for on account Obama hates freedom.

Anyone in the medical, dental, veterinary or psychiatric professions knows full well about the rolling shortages, backorders, unavailability and absences affecting many life-saving, formerly easily available, basic drugs that are used constantly used daily for routine and emergent medical care.  This epidemic of shortages is a relatively new phenomenon and is in stark direct parallel to the rising promotion and use of designer drugs, all starting with the now legal advertising direct to the consumer.  The stupid, stupid consumer that knows exactly jack shit about medicine but likes slow motion, non-threatening handsome people doing outdoorsy things with a dark and moody backdrop that brightens suddenly at the mention of the new awesome drug that totally will fuck you up but you now totally need.  I started a list here at first, but after getting more complete data, decided to post the link to ASHP’s full 2017 list.  It’s 17 pages. 

It’s insane what isn’t available, and often for months or even years at a time.  Everyday shit like 0.9% saline and atropine injectable.  Not having these available are basically the equivalent of being out of salt and napkins at a diner.  Acetylcysteine, the only antidote for acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning, especially in cats? Nah.  Shouldn’t have given Tabby that Excedrin, should you now?  Diazepam (valium) injectable, 1st choice for seizures, especially in dogs and cats? Fuck it. It’ll pass.  Eventually.  Hope you got something more expensive like Versed lying around.  Epinephrine?  You guessed it.  Hope your heart doesn’t stop.  That’s the first thing you grab.  

The lists of necessary drugs apparently not so necessary after all goes on, and on and on.  Why? THEY DON’T GIVE A SHIT! Big Pharma doesn’t care because they don’t have to.  They don’t have to because they have bought out your legislators and have replaced any semblance to ethics in their profession with corporate greed.  It’s the capitalist way.  Besides, they don’t have to make lifesaving drugs.  There’s no law against it, right?  Nope.  You are right.  There is no law against passive corporate indifference contributing to human suffering and death on a progressively worsening scale.  Ya got me there.  Center square gets the “X”.

But what about the costs?  Why so high?  You can argue all you want about how much is spent on R&D and how the cost of drugs needs to justify that investment money spent on R&D.  You could argue that, but it would be a really, really dumb argument.  Firstly, I’ve never fucking heard that argument applied to any other consumer good, allowing, of course, for medicine to be “consumer good”, since in essence it is treated as one in this country.  How much was that Mazda CX-5 when it first came on the market?  What was the R&D on that shit?  Did you have to plunk down $330,000 for that baby?  Or how about that Mossberg 20-gauge Shockwave pump action tactical shotgun?  That bitch looks SWEEEEET!  Must’ve set you back at least $20,000, what with all the R&D they invested.   Please.  Shut the fuck up.

Secondly, it’s the tail wagging the dog now, with Big Pharma developing a condition, percolating the need for the drug then ramping up the grossly overhyped “condition” rather that would fit a new drug than a response to a real need within the medical field based on real world data.  Is it me or did Restless Leg Syndrome suddenly get cured just as suddenly as it showed the fuck up?  There’s only so many plants manufacturing any given drug at any given time, so what’s really happening is preference is given to the money makers. The superstars. The broken ding-dong drugs and the happy pills. Dicks and the blues.  That’s what we need.  $40 pills and up, not $0.03 phenobarbital.  Fuck AIDS, stroke, paralysis and Alzheimer’s.  Uncle Steve can’t get his Wally-Wank to full mast.  Which makes him sad.  So get me some Happy Drugs for $50 a pop, STAT!

It’s going to get worse.  Certainly while the GOP rules the roost.  And even when it doesn’t, Conservatives have clearly shown how effective they are at stymieing the electoral and legislative process as well as distorting public opinion with lies and bloviated fear-based tactics.  Which, honestly, again, not surprising.  Corporations are not inherently bad.  They just react financially to a given scenario.  Ultimately, they have one and only one function:  turning a profit for their shareholders.  That’s it.  They are not trying to make your life better.  They aren’t trying to be your friend.  They don’t worry how enviro friendly they are inasmuch as it affects their bottom line.  They don’t believe in nor do they care nor understand what the fuck “gluten-free”, “non GMAO”, “organic”, “free range”, “all natural” or any of that shit is.  I can tell you it’s not at all what you think it is.  It’s just designed to increase profit for their shareholders.  They are just crocodiles.  They don’t hate what they consume; they don’t love what they consume.  They only know they have to consume to stay alive.  And the biggest, oldest, strongest ones know how to do it the best.

For a classic example, take General Motors, GM.  Just three years ago in 2015, they settled a lawsuit with 127 families for 64 deaths.  And not just deaths their automobiles caused or contributed to.  Deaths that the company was FULLY AND KNOWINGLY AWARE OF FOR 13 GODDAM YEARS!  And those are just the ones that were allowed to file, because “another 350 death and 3588 injury claims were deemed ineligible, with six additional minor-injury claims awaiting final review” because submissions didn’t meet the deadline.  WHAT THE FUCK?!  Now, I’ve known about this shit since it hit the fan, but watching the new super cool, ultra friendly GM ads with that one folksy, easy-talkin’ best buddy spokesman surprising a group of consumers with a crazy assortment of awesome displays of cars, you’d think that shit happened 40 years ago, if at all, instead of just THREE FREAKIN’ YEARS ago.  This fucking company KNEW it was producing vehicles that were going to statistically kill a known percentage of the populace, and they fucking did it anyway.  Because profit.  It was more profitable to not do shit and chance a few lawsuits than to recall multiple millions of vehicles for an ignition switch costing less than 20 bucks.  THAT is what a corporation is.  And Big Pharma is no different.

The mistake people make is giving corporations a conscience, like they would a person.  Whether they fall for their sleek manufactured earnestness or just don’t really care as long as they get’s they shit, the fault lies with the people allowing this:  the voters.  And not just on a consumer level.  Corporate America and Congress are so inextricably joined now, a choice for one is a choice for the other.  You want lower medical bills but you keep voting for Orrin Hatch, then fuck you!  Better dump that timeshare.  You want your MeeMaw to not have to sell her ranch on account of her Parkinson’s, but you keep voting for Paul Ryan, then fuck you!  Better clean out the den, cuz guess who’s movin’ in with her morbidly obese, flatulent Shih Tzu?   You hate shelling out $500 for a bottle of insulin that just last month was $40, but you think that Steve Scalise speaks God’s truth, then fuck you!  Time to hang up on that dream of getting your own bass boat.   Out of the top 20 legislators that get major contributions from Big Pharma, FIFTEEN are good old fashioned, God & guns lovin’ Republicans.  Shocking…

Look, you’re not going to really change the essence of a crocodile.  Never, ever?  Never, ever.  But corporations, like crocodiles, will evolve and will adjust to environmental changes in order to survive.  Companies are already evolving in response to the call of the masses and not to blind loyalty to a clothes-less emperor.  The Paris Accords, MeToo, Parkland and Black Lives Matter have all had huge impacts on how corporations act and what corporations will do to keep themselves pertinent players in a quickly evolving world, despite the GOP’s anchoring in a mythic past.  Big Pharma doesn’t have to keep us in a chokehold.  Unless, of course, you don’t believe in evolution AND you’re into autoerotic asphyxiation, like apparently Conservatives are.   Then again, these guys are into weird shit.  Or haven’t you read Leviticus or the Revelation?  That’s fucked up.




Situation Normal, All Trumped Up

“Protectionist trade polices are one of the primary factors economists cite for deepening the Great Depression. So if there’s one thing that most economists agree upon, it’s no one wins a trade war.”  –CNN/Money 

I hate Donald Trump.  Unapologetically, unequivocally, unquestionably, whole-heartedly, without hyperbole or regret, in no uncertain terms, I HATE DONALD TRUMP.  With great passion and with the hate of 1000 hates. Anyone that knows me or has read anything I’ve ever written about the man, this hardly comes as ground-shaking revelation.  The man is a fully solipsistic, tasteless, thoughtless, belligerent, self aggrandizing, pathologically lying, malignantly narcissistic buffoon.  He is a caricature of bigoted, sexist putrescence (thanks, unkempt old lady from Buttercup’s nightmare) whose one and only goal is to get people to look at him, talk about him, pontificate about him, acknowledge him.  Him, him, him, nothing else, good, bad or indifferent.  To paraphrase Ghostbusters Zuul, “there is no other, only Trump”.  “But surely there’s at least ONE thing you could say nice about this shitpile of sewage detritus, yeah?  ONE thing?  Just one, Steve?”  All right.  I’ll bite. 

Well, he’s supposed to be this great businessman, right?  I mean, he’s a billionaire, sooooo…  If there is one “attribute” that many of my friends continued, and continue, to harp on as to why they voted for a pussy-grabbing, tone deaf sociopathic mutant whose only inherent power is sucking the life out of those around him to bolster his own image of himself, it is “he’s a successful businessman.” We can ignore the fact that being a great businessman has as much to do with forging new business as president as living in Alaska makes one a great candidate for foreign policy development on account you can almost see Russia.   Forgoing the facts that he inherited his wealth, squandered it on failure, after failure,  after failure, including six bankruptcies, cheated other businessmen and investors, doesn’t pay workers, staff or pretty much anyone else AND cheats charities, they also overlook both WHERE his wealth has come from and HOW he overinflates what he did make and does have.

No, Trump is no businessman. What he is amounts to is  little more than a mooch and a thief.  And while, yes, being successful in business often may require one being at times either a mooch or a thief or both, it usually isn’t the contributing or attributing factors in defining their methodology. The ones most notorious for building wealth using malfeasance as a foundation are often destroyed by that very hubris. Think Bernie Madoff or Kenneth Lay or Charles Keating. In fact, Trump is actually so shitty at business, the National Journal reported that “had the celebrity busi­ness­man and Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate in­ves­ted his even­tu­al share of his fath­er’s real-es­tate com­pany in­to a mu­tu­al fund of S&P 500 stocks in 1974, it would be worth nearly $3 bil­lion today, thanks to the mar­ket’s per­form­ance over the past four dec­ades. If he’d in­ves­ted the $200 mil­lion that For­bes magazine de­term­ined he was worth in 1982 in­to that in­dex fund, it would have grown to more than $8 bil­lion today.”

So, doing jack squat would have actually made the man richer than he is today.  But, therein lies a part of the problem.  No one really knows, because he refuses to release his tax forms, Trumps actual worth.  And believe you me, if that man had an inkling of what he claims, which is roughly $10-12 billion, he would  be chomping at the bit to get that info out.  Even if releasing this information would somehow point to illegal or embarrassing activity, he wouldn’t give a shit, just as long as people could ooh and aah over his wealth. The man has no discernible ability to recognize, let alone accept, moral or legal implications.  What he does have is a fragile ego that needs constant bloviating and attention in order to keep it perpetually inflated.  No, his wealth is not near as much as he claims.  Revealing that bit of truth would devastate him internally, even if he poo-pooed it to his subservient masses.

Trump’s newest business blunder, raising tariffs on steel and aluminum, has the GOP, again, crapping themselves.  One singularity to classic economic depression, as pretty much all economists agree, is starting a trade war.  But Trump, as he does with all things, gives no fucks.  Hell, he’s willing to start a war war without so much regard as to how many mulligans he’s willing to give himself on the 4-Hole at Mar-lago (spoiler alert, for anyone wondering, is “as many as it takes.”)  He is completely unable to think beyond the immediacy of the event of him saying it,  how it will garner him attention.  The NOW.  The only caveat seems to be how much effort is required of him, as he will undoubtedly take the path of least resistance.  Like water. 

And there it is, folks.  Right there, fully obfuscated by the very simplicity of the man himself, is the one “good” thing you can say about Trump.  He is Zen defined.  He is so uncluttered with everything else, he is fully able to think of absolutely nothing else but himself at any given moment in any given circumstance.  He is able to stay in the now because he can’t remember the past and cares not for the future.  Because he has no soul, fortitude or character, he is formless and shapeless, like water.  And, like water, he allows himself to take the shape of whatever controlling force would like for him to take, like, say, Evangelicals.  And, again, like water, he can erode and destroy everything around him simply by being himself over and over and over again without being damaged himself.  Trump is the essence of Zen.  A very, very shitty perversion of Zen, but Zen nonetheless.  Hate him, vilify him, accuse him, fault him…it matters not.  He will not cede and he will not sway, no matter what the import of any truth placed in front of him may implicate.  Trump is a Zen master of ego.  He is the best at being the worst of everything.  He has become like water.  My apologies to Bruce Lee. I know this isn’t what you had in mind, but it’s the best we can do, apparently, these days.  Sorry, Bruce.


Florida, You Ignorant Slut

In a not altogether surprising display of Floridian logic, after failing to address murder boomboom-sticks directly, the Florida House instead just passed a bill that would require schools to display “In God We Trust“.   Because, of course, the only thing that will stop the perverse display of an outdated amendment is the perverse desecration of another.

Florida, you never fail to fail.  I’ll give you that.  No wonder Trump has made you his default residence and has mandated a no-go zone for offshore drilling just for you.  And I thought it was just because, you know…orange. 

Florida has a real identity issue. It tries to out-Texas Texas, playing Grover Dill to a far more white-trashy Scut Farkus, but doesn’t really have the balls or the numbers to do it. Plus, they rely on the kindness of strangers, aka tourists, to keep it from going cash poor, on account hawking googly-eyed beach detritus and T-shirts with airbrushed alligators huffing paint thinner can only get you so far.  And just to prove how Florida this latest Floridian fuckism is, it was a DEMOCRAT that introduced the bill.  Trust me.  Patton Oswalt let you guys off easy.

It never ceases to both befuddle and incense me how completely fucking ignorant Conservatives truly are. They simply just cannot understand the 1st amendment at all. The very amendment that gives them the licensure they need to do all the shitty, shitty, oh-so-shitty things they do in the first place is the one they shit on every chance they get. Actually, pretty much all the amendments are at best after thoughts, if they think about them at all.  Other than that most precious of preciousness, THE SECOND AMENDMENT (hushed reverence ensues…)  Sorta like the Ten Commandments they never seem to be able to fully recite.  

As a Christian, I was led to believe, or rather the attempt was made to lead me to believe, that the “separation of church and state” was nowhere to be found in the entire American Constitution. I tried to understand it but it never sat well with me.  And I’d leave church thinking, time and time again:  but, but, but…the First Amendment, y’all? (sheepish squeaking ensues…)  It wasn’t until years later, long after I had left the church, that I realized, “OOOOOOHHHH…they mean the actual phrase ‘separation of church and state’…ooooohhhhh. Ooookaaay.  Well.  That’s.  Really.  Stupid.”  

When you factor in how Conservatives slash Christians slash Evangelicals can only understand concepts that aren’t actually conceptual but instead actual literal depictions of actual actuality, then you understand their inability to understand things.  You have to account for a fairly sizable population that honestly and without use of metaphor or imagery believe in the real existence of magical boats that can carry all the animals of the world, ladies that turn into pillars of salt for being all mouthy and woman-like and the mass murder of innocent children just so God can prove a point.  Then you can “appreciate” distilled ignorance masquerading as childlike wonderment, or “faith” as they prefer it.  At least, to their credit, there’s precedent for “justifiable” child slaughter.  Because.  You know.  God.

I don’t know if this bill will be voted into law.  But the fact that it was even introduced, let alone got passed, says plenty.  America is held hostage by a “moral majority” that is neither of those things.  What they lack in descriptive accuracy they more than make up in self righteous vicissitude and moral appropriation.  The far left may match their obstinate delusions but they got nuttin’ on their vindictive nature, both in numbers and magnitude.

The sad reality again divulged from this latest of tragedies AND the newest malignancy that has arisen from it, from “crisis actors” to this total horseshit legislative divinity Let Go & Let God “cure-all”, is how willingly a people who so loudly proclaim to treasure freedom so willingly partake in its subterfuge. Never mind that 12 years ago Florida added In God We Trust to their fucking STATE flag.  Or that it’s already on all the money, because, how couldn’t it be.  Or that “under God” was snuck into the Pledge of Allegiance honoring a flag whose very symbolism allows for no such thing to be embraced by the state.  It’s maddening!  Absolutely maddening!  Conservatives have done it time and time and time again, each time trying to fill a hole with the dirt found at the bottom and blaming everybody else for trying to bury them.  Quite honestly, should they ask all nice-like, that’s one damn thing I’d be more than happy to help them do.


Suffer the Little Children, Again

“Lawmakers voted down a motion to consider the ban during a session that opened with a prayer for the 17 people killed by a former student last Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The vote in the Republican-dominated body was 36-71.” — CNN

Family values.  Add that to the growing lexicon of American oxymorons, brought to you courtesy of the Conservative morons that have made this euphemism a huge plank in their platform.  As much as they like to pry that one from their decks and smack the rest of us subversive libtards about the head, I am moved to paraphrase that literary icon, Inigo Montoya:  “You keep using those words.  I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

I realize that Americans harbor this time-honored tradition of “Do as I say, not as I do.” But there once was an unspoken understanding that this had to do mostly with drugs and sex and sniffing your cousin’s panties and not so much state sanctioned mass murder.  And make no mistake, that is exactly what Florida embraced today, proudly and unequivocally, in a 2 to 1 vote. 

That’s a pretty clear mandate, folks.  The party of the family and the Bible and the Jesus once again sanctioned the right to murder.  And, just to be clear about it, did so right to the faces of the children forced to face the horrors of said murder up close and personal.  Yesssss.  Just like God had planned.  Well done, my good and faithful servants.  Well done. The gun barrel hasn’t even cooled on the AR-15 yet and the Florida House of Representatives literally just doubled down on which the Republican party actually values more.  Spoiler alert:  it ain’t the family.

This topic of gun control has gone on for far to long and for no more justifiable reason than an imaginary right afforded to We The People via the 2nd Amendment.  No less than Chief Justice Warren Burger referred to the 2nd Amendment as the “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word FRAUD , on the American people…”.  But even at face value and the current accepted standard valuing that amendment in particular, apparently above all others, as sacrosanct word of God, it doesn’t nullify the observation of reason and historical context:  IT IS A BAD AMENDMENT!  

Yes.  A Southern boy with maybe 40 guns in his collection (I collect things, it’s a disease) sitting a relative stone’s throw from Stone Mountain is telling you that the 2nd Amendment needs amending.  Maybe even abolishment altogether.  We’ve abolished shitty amendments before.  It’s not at all impossible and hardly without precedent.  Kinda the whole reason the Founding Fathers allowed for amending in the first place: shit changes.  I stand by that sentiment at the risk of being called a hypocrite, because I am not.  PLEASE debate me on this.

Guns are not a right.  No sir.  They may be handy in certain situations.  They may be necessary on some level.  And, by God, they are fun as shit and just plain super cool aesthetically, from physical beauty to an incredible mechanical engineering achievement.  But they are no more a right than a convertible or a pair of sweet Magnanni lace-up’s (size 12, please).   You can have a gun, a convertible, a pair of custom made Spanish import loafers.  You just don’t get to have them.  And I don’t mean from a cost level.  But you knew that.  I can’t get a convertible without training, mandated licensure, repercussions for misuse and regular reevaluation.  I can’t get those loafers without factoring in tariffs and import fees.  But I can sure gets me one them purty shoot-shoot sticks just about any damn time I want with no oversight, no training, no regulation and virtually no repercussion for misuse.

You want to argue you need a gun to protect your family?  Sure, that’s a valid argument.  Statistically, it’s a stupid one but it’s still valid.  And, full disclosure, I have a bunch of guns AND I’ve had a break-in while I was home.  The gun had nothing to do with stopping him/her/them.  The door alarm did.  Still, that is what you call anecdotal evidence and taken alone means jack shit.   But bastardized versions of anecdotal evidence is the GOP’s and the NRA’s (but I repeat myself) bread and water.  By the by, I’d love to hear any valid argument that calls for anything beyond a shotgun for sufficient home defense.  Seriously.  I’d love to hear one, because I haven’t yet.  And I’ve been listening real hard.

No less than Harvard did several studies (see the previous links).  And, true to common sense, the more guns available, the more gun deaths there are.  The more youths around, the more gun deaths.  Gun “defense” is actually most often self perpetuating, a self-starting argument with guns handily available to escalate said arguments.  Guns as such are used far, far more for intimidation than for actual home defense.  

This study goes on and on and fully reveals the statistics that appear obvious to anyone with an open, unbiased mind.  Guns are NOT a significant factor in self-defense and are far, far, FAR more likely to instigate harm by their very ease of attainment or contribute to innocent deaths than to thwart them mean old thugs.   But again, full disclosure:  I do have a conceal carry license.  PLEASE debate me on your perceived hypocrisy of this.  

“Just curious…Why a Harvard study and not the CDC, Steve?”  Well, kids, I’ll tell ya.  The CDC, by law, cannot perform any study or publish any data related to guns, gun injury and gun deaths.  “No fuckin’ way, dude!”  Well, yes, way.  Congress actually passed a law banning the CDC from this study because, as the master wordsmith John Boehner put it at the time, “a gun is not a disease.”  Touché, my Burnt Sienna friend.  Touché.

The data supporting aggressive gun control is overwhelming.  America is the only one with this backwoods amendment “protecting” gun rights and mass murder on the scale that only guns can achieve.  Specifically, high power, high magazine, long distance, rapid fire military-style rifles.  Conversely, America is the only country with mass murders of this magnitude.  And not just mass murders, but escalating large scale murders, both in numbers and in frequency.  But data and science means fully jackshit to a party that has willingly allowed its principles to be hijacked by people that worship wizards, regard stories about magic boats and fruit as historical fact and actively pursue a self-fulling prophesy of universal annihilation.

Conservatives, particularly the base, has become a confusing lot. They are constantly voting for their own demise and against their own interests, just because their leaders flash twinkly trinkets manufactured from religion, hate and fear. For so little, they can betray their own faith and self-proclaimed beliefs, textbook cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.  They have become a cultish embodiment of a faith now borne from monstrous distortion and metaphorical self immolation, not unlike suicide bombers from their arch-nemesis.  Richard Pryor famously did a still hilarious routine about prison gangs, commenting on black double muslims in particular, “Them’s the one you don’t fuck with, them double Muslims. Cuz them motherfuckers can’t wait to get to Allah … and want to take 8 or 9 motherfuckers with ’em.”  Now, just switch that from Allah to Jesus and THAT’S some real family values, Conservative style.  With balls.

I’m not surprised by today’s vote by the Florida reps.  I fully expected this outcome and will expect the same on a federal level, with or without a vacuous shit-trickle such is Trump at the helm.  Then again, I’m a well-seasoned cynic cum optimist.  These kids brave and bold enough to face down their “protectors” right after having had to face down their demons personified haven’t had a chance yet to get to that level of cynicism.  I hope they don’t.  Still, I fear that even if the Dems reattain control of the White House, there will be the Senate and the House to contend with.  And even if they gain all three, the GOP will dig in Obama-style.  They will not be swayed, not with evidence anyway.  They will cry and pout and scream and wail and stomp and throw their bloody tantrums, running for cover under Mama NRA’s skirt and Daddy Koch Boys’ money umbrella, peeking out every election cycle to glad-hand the dirty people with fairy book stories about Jesus and Reagan and scary monster tales about snowflakes and Clintons.  And, again, the children, along with the rest of us, will have to suffer.


Thinking As a Hobby, Revisited

I believe it appropriate at the nascent stage of my blogging experiment to set the stage before diving right in to vitriolic grandstanding with an homage to the art of thinking and to one of the greatest minds of the literary world, William Golding.  Golding is probably best known for “The Lord of the Flies”, something many of us are familiar with through assigned high school or freshman English Lit in college.  Or The Simpsons.  Either way, still works.  But as far as written works of art, what I personally feel most resonates with me and did actually change my life in a not so small way was his short, funny and and wholly provocative short essay, “Thinking As a Hobby”.  Between that and Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” I think you could trudge and fudge your way through most intellectual cocktail tête-à-tête’s and come off not too shabbily.  If you haven’t read “Thinking” yet, do so now.  It’s a short read and you’re gonna need it to really appreciate this blog:  Thinking As a Hobby

I must admit that while I was fairly smart in school I didn’t really know how to use my smarts or appreciate it.  Also, I didn’t really grasp how smart I actually wasn’t until I left my domain and visited our yankee brethren for a couple of years.  I know plenty of smart people, brilliant even, who don’t fully realize the potential they have because they have never challenged themselves, not really.  I mean, challenge their thought, their comfort zone, their belief system, the core of themselves.  This had never occurred to me, like most, because I never had anyone to really push it out of me.   The South isn’t known for straying out of comfort zones and embracing the strange.  And as far as challenging beliefs, marrying old world Greek ideals with Southern pride, well, good luck getting a mea culpa out of that thistle patch of tradition.

I remember reading Golden’s take on religion and feeling that twinge of unease that pokes at you when you’re being forced to face something you’ve only taken on faith.  Faith in an of itself is so tenuous, so whisper-thin, it doesn’t take much to upset it.  It’s for that reason that so many protect it so violently.  Like the “Wizard of Oz”, the trick is trying really hard to keep you from peeking behind that oh so obvious curtain.  Whether it’s traditional belief such as religion, or familial customs such as established protocol or faith built on trust and little else other than it was the first thing you heard, it doesn’t sit well to hear that faith challenged.  But if you can force yourself that simple discomfort, then you truly can embrace the art of learning and embrace true knowledge.  That all stems from learning how to think.   Not just learning but enjoying it.

I enjoy thinking.  I honestly do.  I had done so long before reading Golding’s essay, but after reading it, it gave me focus and a goal.  Golding gives three grade levels of thought:  three, two and one, with one being the highest form of thought.  I wanted to be a one.  I began to question traditionally accepted mores and mannerisms and challenge them.  Not just within myself but with others.   Things that never sat well with me in my faith began to reveal themselves for what they truly were:  archaic explanations for the inexplicable.  A combination of fable and cautionary tale mixed with the awe and wonder and fears of a people ill equipped to understand the workings of the world and nature otherwise simply because they hadn’t had a chance to get there yet.  Now we’ve had that time and we’ve got the tools.  While today not everybody gets the same advantages, information and knowledge is at an historical all-time high as far as availability and advancement.   Still, I have never seen an assault on knowledge, science and intellect as blatantly aggressive, unnecessary and horrifying as now.   This assault on logic borders on the gothic and medieval, a sorrowful time of intellectual squalor and byzantine worship of magic and the magical.

When I got the chance to go to college, I took advantage of my collegiate undergraduate years to test myself in as many disciplines as I could, within the framework of a Biology Major with a Chemistry Minor and only so many electives outside of what I needed to get into vet school.  I took courses in Philosophy, Religion, Music, History of the Middle East, Angling, Karate…As many as I could.  I took electives within my discipline that I thought would best round me out academically rather than what would boost my GPA:  Biochemistry, Mammalogy, Advanced Genetics, Embryology.  I didn’t need any of these things to get into vet school and there were easier courses, but it wasn’t what I wanted.  I paid my tuition by God and I’d get my damn education, GPA and dean’s list be damned.

It paid off.  When I started at Auburn a fragile freshmen, joining the BSU (Baptist Student Union) and fighting hard to pray and witness like a good Billy Graham style born-again Christian, I found it harder and harder to justify something that more and more began to reveal itself for the charlatan it really was.  True, while the words and the poetry continued to hold sway and there was much comfort in the texts of the books of the New Testament, the mythology of it became more evident versus the history it has been purported to be.  

I remember during my late Freshman year, right as I was really starting to war with myself and my faith, fighting SOOOO hard to keep on the “path of righteousness” encountering a street preacher who took to proselytizing on the commons.  He’d be out there every day around noon, during the heat of student movement and transition from class to class, building to building, preaching the words I had grown up with.  To me, it was a taste of home and as welcoming as a honeysuckle breeze.  I would stand for a while with others gathered around this guy while he bellowed sin and damnation, listening intently and watching the crowd.  Many weren’t having it.  They’d challenge him openly, some more harshly, some just for fun.  Some defending him.  It was stark and sobering for poor little old country boy me.

I listened to it all.  This went on for days.  I’d never seen people challenge my faith so openly.  I was a little uneasy about it but it was intriguing and even admiring.  The students’ comebacks were smart, most were funny.  And they were thought-provoking to a squeaky-clean Boy Scout Baptist who’d never known a life outside a Christian faith.  I found myself harkening back to Golding’s essay and his humorous yet realistic take on religion.   Why was I clinging so hard to this world of faith when the evidence was ever-mounting against it?  I’m a biology major for God’s sake.  Was I a scientist or not?  Golding had a girl to impress.  What the hell was my excuse?

I sat in my Biology professor’s office later for a preassigned meeting that afternoon, coming from one of the more lively encounters with the preacher and the students.  I found myself at a crossroads of ideas.  Here I was discussing the evolution of life, having been able to accept both the scientific and the Christian aspects evenly before, now realizing they weren’t such good bed fellows.  Trying to cling to my beliefs, I half-heartedly engaged with my professor, a brilliant and amicable professor, Dr. Robert Lishak.  He pulled his punches.  His office visitor, another professor, didn’t.  That guy scared me.  But in a good way.

When I left that office, the visit and the discussions about religion and science, the street preacher, my visit that weekend and the trip to church that Sunday…I realized I was fighting with myself.  I was needlessly warring with myself because I didn’t want to let go of something that I embraced simply because of the comfort it gave and not for any other reason.  Comfort was not truth.  Truth doesn’t have to be cold and harsh, but often it is.  I decided to let go of my faith, well the mythology of it anyway.  I’d cling to the life lessons, the beauty and the teachings.  The life of Christ is one worth living.  But when it came to thinking, I’d have to move from Golding’s grade three thinker to a grade two.

America is solidly, proudly, still grade three in thought.  If Golding had assigned a grade four, we’d probably be that.  A level in which not only ARE you at the least progressed in the pursuit of intellect but actually revel in it, all the while demonizing those that dare to push for more out of themselves.  It is this way of thinking, or not thinking, that will be the impetus for this blog.  I will rage against it as vehemently as Dylan Thomas did against death and chase it with the feverish insanity as Captain Ahab did with Moby Dick, quite possibly with the same metaphorical result.

I’m not a grade one thinker.  I never will be.  I’ve accepted this, but it’s not really a huge leap to realize that.  I’m never going to play the 3rd movement in the Summer Concerto of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and blow y’alls dumb cracker minds ever either.  It’s just not something I’m going to be able to do, no matter how hard I train and how much I learn.  But I’m okay with that.  I’m happy enough to know that others will bear that torch.  My country may be satisfied with its wallowing at grade three.  But there’s a grade one world full of Elon Musks, Neil deGrasse Tysons, Patton Oswalts, Marilyn vos Savants and Stephen Hawkings out there.  Damn if I won’t stop trying to crash that party.