Monthly Archives: November 2015

Why Courage is Better than Moral Clarity

Then Samson said to Delilah: “if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”—Judges 16:17 (King James Version)

Samson_and_Delilah_mg_0034The philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb was once offered a piece of unsolicited advice from an unnamed correspondent: “Dear Mr Taleb, I like your work but I feel compelled to give you a piece of advice. An intellectual like you would greatly gain in influence if he avoided using foul language.” Taleb’s reply consisted of two words: “Fuck off.” What I love about this comical anecdote is that it makes manifest a particular kind of cluelessness which is often present but rarely visible. Telling Taleb to refrain from using foul language in his books is about as absurd as telling him to avoid using personal anecdotes (or telling him to avoid talking about trading or New York or Lebanon or anything else that makes him who he is). Form and content are inextricably linked in any truly philosophical work. And, as a consequence, you can’t limit the vitality of a book’s form without limiting the vitality of a book’s content. Besides, a cleaned-up Taleb would be about as powerful as clean-cut Samson. Moral clarity’s great, but courage is better. Because your heart can be in the right place; but if your balls aren’t, well, you’re probably not going to do the right thing when it matters.

Shamelessness is often mistaken for courage. Sometimes we think we’re looking at courage, when we’re actually just looking at a sociopath with the empathetic capacity of a turnip. Recklessness is also often mistaken for courage. Sometimes we think we’re looking at courage, when we’re actually just looking at an asshole. Alas, how are we to know when we’re looking at the real thing—true courage—as opposed to shamelessness or recklessness? As Aristotle made clear long ago, in Book 3 of the Nicomachean Ethics, it’s not easy. You need to look at the overall pattern of a person’s behavior. For instance, when a normally shy woman stands up to the sexist pig at the dinner party and puts him in his place, you can be pretty sure that you’re looking at courage. But when an abusive loudmouth (with an overgrown sense of entitlement) tells off the waitress in a crowded restaurant—because her food isn’t coming fast enough—you can be pretty sure that you’re looking at recklessness. Likewise, when you watch a proud single-mom walk into a food-bank—red-faced and downcast—because her three kids need to eat, you can be pretty sure that you’re looking at courage. But when you listen to a bunch of drunken salesmen at a sports bar bragging about their latest exploits, you can be pretty sure that you’re looking at shamelessness.

Normal people find it very hard to violate social norms. My wife, a sociologist, illustrates this point experientially for her students by having them get on a crowded bus or metro, walk up to a complete stranger, and ask them to give up their seat. Most of her students find it impossible to complete the task, no matter how hard they try. They are quite literally crippled by embarrassment. This is because they’re normal. This is because they have shame. The shameless don’t have this problem. For instance, when I mentioned this experiment to the most shameless I guy I know—a douche-bag I know from high school, who I ran into last year on the metro—he walked right up to a middle-aged woman and asked her for her seat—without hesitation, right in front of me. The woman looked surprised and shocked, but she got up regardless. And he sat down in her seat, smirking. Clearly it was effortless for him. Do I even need to tell you what he does for a living? Yes, he’s in sales. And he’s very good at it. Why? Because he’s shameless.

—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2017)

The Progress Train

People get ready, there’s a train a comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord
—Curtis Mayfield, “People Get Ready”

Whenever I close my eyes and try to imagine what the idea of inevitable historical progress might look like, I invariably envision a slow-moving train called The Progress Train, which has been chugging along with the patience of Job since the French Revolution. It’s one of those trains beloved of hobos in Depression-era movies, a Charlie Chaplin train that’s fairly easy to jump on and off of. Everyone knows that—regardless of your politics—you’ve gotta secure a spot on The Progress Train before you can get anything done. If you want to change things, if you want political power, you’ve got to muscle your way onto it.

But since seats are limited, and the game’s largely zero-sum, getting on the train almost always involves kicking someone else off. The stakes are high, the competition’s stiff, and the turnover’s high: so whoever’s on The Progress Train today hasn’t been there for long. Of course they do their best to conceal this fact. Ideally, whoever happens to be on The Progress Train at the moment would like you to believe that they’ve always been there; but, failing that, they’d at least like you to believe that they’ve always had a right to be there.

Passengers on The Progress Train are free to do as they please most of the time, so long as they drop whatever they’re doing whenever they hear that whistle blow: the whistle that blows whenever the train nears a station: the whistle that says it’s time to smile and wave to a crowd of well-wishers who’ve shown up in their Sunday best, rain or shine, to cheer on The Progress Train. These are good people, decent people, salt-of-the-earth types who mean well: the kind of people Frank Capra celebrated in his movies.

Like flag-waving patriots on The Fourth of July, and pious Christians on Easter Sunday, these lovers of progress can be counted on to drop whatever they’re doing whenever those church bells ring: the church bells that ring whenever The Progress Train is close by. Although they’ve yet to meet this year’s champions of progress, they’re in love with them already; they don’t know where the train’s going, but they can’t wait to get there; a whole lot of stuff goes missing every time, but no one suspects the train; a few children go missing every time, but no one suspects the train. “And,” writes Tony Hoagland, “the archers shot their arrows with their eyes closed. And the workers in the factory denied any knowledge of what the weapons would be used for. And the name of the one in charge was forgotten. And the boat sailed on without a captain.”

—John Faithful Hamer, The Goldfish (2016)

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*Tony Hoagland, “In the Land of Lotus Eaters,” Sweet Ruin (1992)

The Fate of the Imagination in a Narcissistic Age

“Art is an arranged marriage between chance and humanity.”—George Murray, Glimpse (2010)

It’s probably good that Christopher Lasch died in 1994. Because he was already getting sick of us in the 1970s when he wrote The Culture of Narcissism (1979). Of course he lived to see—and be horrified by—the rise of talk radio, reality TV, and talk shows like Oprah. But imagine how much more horrified he would have been by the brave new world of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: a world filled with people who can’t seem to get enough of themselves.

Narcissism is always to some extent a failure of the imagination. So we shouldn’t be surprised to find imagination languishing in a narcissistic age such as ours. If most of our art sucks, and most of our artists seem pathologically self-involved, it’s good to remember that most of us can’t stop talking about ourselves. If our novelists too often resemble their main characters, it’s good to remember that most of us are obsessed with the politics of identity. If everything on the radio sounds the same, and our artists seem to lack imagination, it’s good to remember that “we the people” usually get the artists and politicians we deserve.

But not always. Sometimes we get an artist like Grimes, who seems to transcend many of her culture’s limitations. Her last album Art Angels (2015) is a case in point. Grimes’s prodigious imagination floats across the face of God’s Green Earth like a shapeshifter: in one song, she imagines what it might be like to be a butterfly, in another, she’s a male vampire. Her approach to the world brings to mind the most beautiful passage in The Upanishads: “Who sees all beings in his own Self, and his own Self in all beings, loses all fear. . . . When a sage sees this great Unity and his Self has become all beings, what delusion and what sorrow can ever be near him?”

This is easily your best work yet, Claire. The sweetest damn thing to pop out of that crazy creative head of yours thus far. But I regret to inform you that the track you like the least is the one I like the most. “Easily” has a simple beauty, a sweetness, and a razor-sharp delivery that’s entirely new for you, and thoroughly enchanting. Hearing it for the first time brought to mind the breathtaking intensity of Kanye West’s acapella version of “Love Lock Down”. Much has been made of all the dis-songs on this album. So far as I can tell, this whole story is based on one seemingly offhand comment you made to some random reporter. Regardless, I don’t buy it.

The inspiration of an artist like“ you—an artist who seems capable of tapping into deep underground oceans of creativity, more or less at will—cannot be reduced to a messy break-up, a run-in with a douche-y music exec, a clueless critic, or a misguided fan; nor can it be reduced to the ennui of a twenty-something who’s wondering what the fuck to do next. Whatever it is that you’re tapping into transcends the delights and disappointments of your day-to-day existence. It’s bigger than Grimes. And it can’t be found in the biographical details of your life, nor can it be captured in a gossipy article or a scandalous YouTube clip. It can, however, be glimpsed in your mesmerizing music videos.

Watching the video for “Genesis” is like renting a room with a view of the collective unconscious, getting front-row tickets to the inside of your head, and downloading a daydream. Same is true, indeed, doubly true, of your new video, “Flesh without Blood/Life in the Vivid Dream”. I have but one major criticism of your new album: the version of “REALiTi” that’s been on YouTube since March is considerably stronger than the one that made it onto Art Angels (2015). At first I suspected that I might be disliking it merely because I had grown accustomed to the YouTube version, but I’ve since listened to Art Angels dozens of times, and I’m still not feeling the new version of “REALiTi”. Regardless, I’m sure you had your reasons: you always do, Claire. After all, you were born in The Year of the Dragon: trusting in your own judgment, safeguarding your independence, refusing to be a product, and having faith in your own aesthetic—these things have served you well thus far. So you might as well own them.

There’s something about the artistic process that always seems to elude us, something that’s forever shrouded in mystery, something that resists the tidy Sunday School stories found in art history textbooks. But I’m nevertheless willing to play the part of the fool who rushes in where art angels fear to tread. I’m willing, that is, to venture a guess, and it’s this: you’re a stubborn shapeshifter, Grimes, who has consistently refused to be captured and confined by claustrophobic conceptions of Claire. And this has, I’ll wager, been as key to your preternatural creativity as Samson’s long locks were to his preternatural strength. Hang on to this. And beware of Delilahs!

—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2017)

Machiavellian Compassion

You know who your friends are on moving day.

100_1821-1When I think of how the various virtues manifest themselves in my friends, I invariably find myself associating certain virtues with certain friends. For instance, when I think of resourcefulness, I think of Alex Vinetti, who’s the kind of guy who’d survive in a post-apocalyptic world, the kind of guy who knows how to figure things out, and make things happen in the world. When I think of courage, I think of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who’s the kind of guy you want on your side in a street-fight, the kind of guy who longs for a heroic death, and would take a bullet for a complete stranger without the slightest hesitation. But when I think of compassion, I think of Jean-Louis Rheault, whose tolerance of human frailty seems to know no bounds. His tragic conception of the human condition is, I’ve recently discovered, remarkably Machiavellian.

Jean-Louis lives by the following heuristic: “When you’re behind the 8 Ball, it’s time to focus on the half-truth that you’re completely and solely responsible for your fate. But when you succeed at anything, it’s time to emphasize the other half-truth: that you’re just a beneficiary of God’s blessing or randomness. With others, reverse the order if you sense a need for empathy or recognition; but don’t do so if you sense whining or bragging.” Machiavelli’s worldview was strikingly similar.

Machiavelli was no fatalist. He believed that people were more or less free to make some important choices, and that those who made them could be praised or blamed for the outcome. But he was equally sure that some people were freer than others, and that this disparity was caused, in part, by inborn tendencies and entrenched behavior patterns. To some extent, then, he thought that character was destiny. “I believe,” he wrote to his friend Piero Soderini in 1513, “that as Nature has given men different faces, so she has given them different dispositions.”

A man could, he thought, change the disposition given to him by Nature, but this was rare, and if it happened at all it usually took place in youth. And this was ultimately tragic: for it would be his undoing, sooner or later, given that a man’s pattern of behavior springs forth from his disposition and is, for that reason, hard to change—but change it must, at times drastically, since no one pattern of behavior is suited to all circumstances. For instance, sometimes it is good to be cautious, while at other times it is good to be bold.

If a man could be found, he reasoned, who was wise enough to know what each new situation required, and malleable enough to modify his behavior accordingly, he “would have always good fortune, or he would protect himself always from bad, and it would come to be true that the wise man would rule the stars and the Fates.” Alas, he lamented, this would never happen, as nobody is wise enough to know what each new situation requires, and precious few are capable of profound character change. Those who failed to change were bound to fail, but this failure was tragic, he felt, because it was somewhat inevitable.

If Machiavelli was right, as I suspect he was, then it follows that the judgment of a person’s character, however flawed, should be forever tempered with the balm of compassion. True compassion stems from an awareness of your own limitations, and from a careful assessment of the limitations of the person you wish to judge; it stems, as well, from an honest appreciation of the good fortune that has helped you achieve whatever it is that you have achieved, and from the knowledge that the freedom of the will is frequently circumscribed by circumstances which are out of our control.

When forced by fate to deal with a crazy person who’s losing their mind, an old person who’s losing their memory, a drunk who’s losing their temper, an ideologue who’s losing their argument, an insecure person who’s losing their confidence—or anyone suffering from advanced dis-disease—it’s good to remember that this little disagreement you’re having with them, which seems so straightforward and trivial and small to you, is a really big deal to them. They need to be right about this: a great deal’s at stake. To you, it’s no big deal one way or the other. Either we went to Myrtle Beach in the summer of 1988 or we went to Florida. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong. But for them, being wrong means confronting a much bigger, scarier possibility, such as: I’m losing my mind, I’m losing my memory, I’ve wasted half my life on a bad idea. So you may wanna go easy on them. In fact, you may even wanna let them “win” this one: you know, the way we sometimes let little children win at checkers when they’re home sick with the flu. Regardless, thinking that a better version of the same argument will get through to someone who’s momentarily blinded by fear or rage is like thinking that a louder version of the same question will get through to someone who doesn’t speak English.

—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)

Ayn Rand Really Does Suck

“Just as no one writes to prove to men that they have faces, there is no need to prove to them that they have self-love. This self-love is the instrument of our conservation; it resembles the instrument that perpetuates the species: it is necessary, it is dear to us, it gives us pleasure, and it must be hidden.”—Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary (1764)

the-fountainhead-bookI’ve just recently finished rereading Ayn Rand for the first time in 20 years. I don’t think I fully realized when I was young what a terrible writer she is. Seriously, it’s embarrassing. And to those who say that her great ideas make the terrible prose worth it: um, not so much. Her reasoning is actually worse than her prose. Her use of straw man arguments is especially egregious, as is her shocking ignorance of history. When I read thinkers I expect to hate, thinkers like Foucault, I’m almost always pleasantly surprised to find that they’re richer and more interesting than both their detractors and their supporters might lead you to believe. But Ayn Rand is the exception that proves this rule. This is one of those rare cases wherein the worst caricature of a thinker’s thought is actually the most accurate: people really do like Rand because she tells them what they want to hear: namely, that it’s okay to be a selfish asshole. People are, it seems, surprisingly good at lowering their standards when you’re telling them what they want to hear.

A devout Randian recently told me that he regards Ayn Rand has “one of the best fiction writers of all time.” What’s more, he said that she is best compared with Dostoevsky. I’m finding it hard to express how completely full of shit this assessment is in an intelligent fashion. But I’m gonna try. You should know, incidentally, that I reread The Brothers Karamazov last summer, and I reread The Fountainhead last week. So I figure I’ve earned the right to weigh in on their relative literary merits. Okay, well, first and foremost, I think it ought to be obvious, even to most ardent Randians, that these two books aren’t even in the same league. That they don’t even live in the same literary universe is probably closer to the truth. So far as I can tell, the only thing The Brothers Karamazov and The Fountainhead have in common is that they’re both printed on paper.

The fact that you can say that you regard Ayn Rand as one of the best fiction writers of all time—and that she’s best compared with the likes of Dostoevsky—suggests to me that, regardless of your politics, you are woefully lacking in aesthetic judgment. Then again, maybe you were born without an intellectual conscience. Maybe that’s what’s missing. But perhaps that’s not the problem. Maybe you have an intellectual conscience which you simply stopped listening to years ago. Regardless, you’ve just lost all credibility with me. I wouldn’t even accept a movie recommendation from you now, much less a book recommendation. I wouldn’t even trust you to look after my pet goldfish. Saying you like Rand is one thing; saying she’s as good as Dostoevsky is another thing altogether. The first is a forgivable eccentricity, the second is a sin against the Holy Spirit of Literature. You have been banished—forthwith!—in the Inferno of my mind, to an especially kitschy circle of Hell reserved for Céline Dion fans, people who still wear Uggs, Dr. Fredric Brandt, and everyone who still believes in chemtrails.

But seriously, the most sympathetic estimation of Ayn Rand I can muster views her as roughly comparable to John Bunyan: Atlas Shrugged (1957) as a kind of 20th-century equivalent of The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678). Few would accuse Bunyan of being a great writer or a penetrating thinker. And yet denying his immense influence would be a serious mistake; the same is probably true of Rand. What’s more, I must confess that if I squint, and try hard, I can actually see how Rand’s books might have a salutary effect on a certain kind of person: a woman, for instance, who’s been brought up in a very traditional, very conservative, very religious environment—wherein she was taught to put the needs of others first at all times, to a pathological extent. I can sorta see how Rand’s writings might help someone like this find balance. But, as is so often the case with prescriptive writers, those most likely to profit from them are least likely to read them. So far as I can tell, those who least need Rand are most likely to read her.

Why do we hate Ayn Rand so much? I think it’s because we secretly suspect that she might be right. Civilization is now, as it has always been, an achievement. Freud saw this with unusual clarity (maybe it was all that coke?). We all feel the call of the wild tugging at us from time to time, we all hear a little demon’s voice whispering in our ear: beckoning us to call it quits, give up on this marriage of convenience we refer to as Society, and do our own thing. Rand seems to have been possessed by this little demon. She found a way to channel its elemental energy and speak in its sirenic voice. Therein lies her mesmeric power. Therein lies her power to corrupt. Rand’s allure is, much like Rousseau’s allure, the allure of a promise of escape: an escape from the hated prison of modern life. Of course it never really delivers; but like the allure of forbidden fruit, that just makes it all the more alluring. Rand’s craziest and most hysterical critics said that she was an enemy of civilization. They were right.

—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)

*TRUE STORY: My name is John and the first time I read Atlas Shrugged I was living on Galt. This seemed deeply meaningful to sixteen-year-old me. Galt is a street in Montreal NOT named after the hero of Atlas Shrugged. But stop snickering, Señor Smartypants! Because a friend of mine recently moved to Nebraska, and he tells me that there is in fact a John Galt Boulevard in Omaha. Crazy, I know. But there it is.

What Else Is There?

“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”—Matthew 11:15

Röyksopp - What Else Is There  - YouTube - Google Chrome 2015-11-19 20347 PMSome say that the bizarre video for Röyksopp’s “What Else Is There?” was inspired by LSD. But the profoundly personal nature of the imagery suggests otherwise. Listen carefully, the sirens of solipsism sing softly and sweetly throughout. What’s more, the storytelling is way too lucid, and the richness of the detail smacks not of the psychedelic but of the idiosyncratic, the eccentric. If it was LSD-inspired, this video wouldn’t feel so forbidding and foreign. If it was LSD-inspired, surely we would’ve run into a few familiar faces among the freaks—you know, those poorly-paid extras that people the crowd scenes in the movie of your life, the usual suspects, those popular projections of the public mind, trusty testaments to our shared cultural imagination, other known as the Jungian archetypes. If this was LSD-inspired, the greasy fingerprints of our collective unconscious would be on every glassy frame. But they’re not. In fact, comforting clichés are few and far between in this filmic fantasy.

Röyksopp - What Else Is There  - YouTube - Google Chrome 2015-11-19 20344 PMWatch it again if you must. Dust it for prints if you will. Doubt you’ll find anything that’ll interest the DEA, but you’ll find much that’ll interest those who place stock in the interpretation of dreams. What gives “What Else Is There?” its preternatural strangeness is that it consists, in large part, of raw dream data which has yet to be refined, filtered, processed, and rationalized. It’s a wild dream, a dream that managed, against all odds, to break free, to spring forth, straight out of a human mind, a wondrously whitmanesque mind. Witness the stunning specificity, the haunting lyrics, the absence of visual clichés. What can we say of the capacious soul that gave birth to this hypnotic hymn? This person contains multitudes.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Goldfish (2016)

Colorblindness and Cynicism

test-250We often imagine that people who are exceptionally good at something are endowed with special strengths, extraordinary talents, or rare virtues. However, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb quite rightly maintains, this isn’t always, or even usually, the case: “Success in all endeavors requires the absence of specific qualities: 1) To succeed in crime requires absence of empathy. 2) To succeed in banking you need absence of shame at hiding risks. 3) To succeed in school requires absence of common sense.”

Success is often a function of some sort of absence. Seeing through camouflage is a case in point. We now know that there’s an upside to colorblindness: the colorblind can see through many kinds of camouflage. Because they’re not distracted by colors, they can often see the contours of a thing—its outline—with unusual clarity. Even so, despite this upside, being colorblind is, on balance, a net handicap to the colorblind individual. They’re missing out on a great deal.

I’ve always been amazed by people who know how to cut through the crap with ease, people with extremely well developed bullshit meters, people who are exceptionally good at discerning the real motives behind actions, people who always seem to know what’s really going on. People, in short, who are exceptionally cynical. But I’ve long since noticed that these very same people frequently fail to see a great deal that the rest of us mere mortals do see.

Cynics often sneeringly maintain that whatever they can’t see or experience isn’t real (e.g., true love, genuine altruism, empathy, divinity, spirituality, transcendence, communion with nature, etc.). And this leads me to suspect that those who are especially good at seeing through bullshit pay dearly for their gift. I suspect that being able to see past nuance comes at a cost. The ability to rapidly reduce complicated moral questions into simple either/or propositions is probably a function of an absence. To wit: the moral clarity of most cynics is probably a function of some sort of emotional colorblindness.

—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2017)

Dear Cynic

Dear Cynic:

aw-Alan-20Cumming_20120118111628316010-420x0You write pithy aphorisms which show us, via your use of rich vocabulary, witty insight, and rhythm in word choice just how smart you are. I am particularly impressed with your ability to dissect the nuance and latitude of the human condition in 10 words or less. Many thanks for your most recent quote of the day.

And yet, as amused as I am by your general aptitude for prudence in cutting through our most recent collective bent towards embracing all manner of bullshit, I must say I am also worried about you. And yes, in case you are wondering, worry is actually a meaningful category of emotional distress that can, at times, point in the direction of insight. I worry because I care. And I worry that you do not.

Dr-Gregory-House-dr-gregory-house-31945344-1918-2560Why? Because all manner of cynicism is a worry, I suppose. It is, after all, a rejection of the human condition in our collective desire or ability to do better. But it’s also because your brand of cynicism, with all of its smart edges and brand sensibility, seems so devoid of the messiness and beauty of affirmation without qualification.

You have so much potential, dear brother—why play it so safe? I know what you find boring, and silly, and stultifying, but what excites you? What do you say ‘yes’ to, even if you end up being wrong? Or are you so afraid of being wrong, or saying you made a mistake, of taking a giant leap forward only to possibly take a step back, that cute insight seems the only intelligent path to take?

Please, I implore you, reconsider your next 10 words. Direct them to something slightly more bright, incomplete, partial, and perhaps less frugal in their estimation of things. I implore you for your benefit, and mine. It’s a sad sight, after all, to see so much ability bent toward dissection. But, more importantly, what we need now, more than ever, is people like you trending toward innovation, construction, and compromise if we are ever going to get out of our immediate and long-term mess. For God’s sake, stop selling us short.

—Anna-Liisa Aunio

Irony and Sarcasm

zn29jMy generation is noted for its fondness for irony and sarcasm. This makes us delightful dinner guests and witty travel companions. But it also makes kids and students hate us. The problem is this: kids don’t pick up on irony, for the most part—same is true of those who are new to the English language. Both frequently conclude that the literal meaning of your witty little remark—the obvious meaning, the meaning on the surface—is the intended meaning (i.e., what you really meant to say). Thus, liberal parents who mouth racist remarks—within earshot of their kids—in a mocking tone of voice (a Southern accent, perhaps) frequently communicate to their children (inadvertently) that they hold these racist views in earnest.

Same thing happened to a Jewish professor at Concordia University. He made a few anti-Semitic remarks during a lecture on Depression-Era America. He did so to make fun of the stupidity (and asinine reasoning) so often found in antisemitic thought. I was thus shocked to discover, after class, that a francophone student (a friend of mine, studying in English for the first time) thought the professor (the Jewish professor!) was a flaming Nazi. Indeed, he went so far as to suggest that we file a complaint against the professor with B’nai Brith Canada. Naturally, I dissuaded him and clarified the professor’s meaning.

This experience (and countless others) have convinced me that irony and teaching don’t mix, unless you’re teaching privileged kids with a strong grasp of the English language. What’s true of irony is, I suspect, doubly true of sarcasm. Children and new English speakers invariably miss the subtleties of the sardonic style. Hate to be the one to break it to you: but all they hear is senseless meanness. They don’t think you’re cute. They just think you’re an asshole. Alas, though the charms of irony and sarcasm are undeniable, confining them to the company of peers is prudent, and forgoing them altogether in the presence of children is wise.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Goldfish (2016)

Why We Strike

We strike because we want a government that invests in people not planes, bodies not Bombardier, sharing not shareholders. We strike because we want a government that invests in healthy people not healthy profits, well-educated minds not well-lined pockets, the common good not the corporate good. In short, we strike because we believe that in these troubled times our government should be helping out the needy not the greedy.