Keep Telling Their Stories, Joseph Boyden

Joseph Boyden, author. Also, a far better writer than I ever will be, much better looking, and incredibly full, wavy head of hair. Despite my relative shortcomings, I choose not to character assassinate him, unlike the assholes who did so earlier in the year.


I was angered at the public assault on Joseph Boyden earlier this year, but I couldn’t contain my contempt for his detractors well enough to render a sensible, expletive-free post at the time. It was completely senseless; an out-of-nowhere campaign to tarnish a man’s reputation and douse a career focused on telling the stories of Canada’s indigenous people to the widest audience possible. I hope those responsible were read the riot act by elders in their communities for their slanderous mischief, which invited such negative attention upon the community of indigenous rights advocates.  

For those not familiar with the issue, Joseph Boyden is a highly acclaimed Canadian writer of books whose protagonists are indigenous. His books have won national awards and garnered him a lot of attention as an advocate of indigenous rights in Canada. My favourites among his repertoire are Three Day Road and The Orenda. They are highly recommended reading, whether you care specifically to read books with indigenous protagonists or not. They are stories about people that are phenomenally well-told. 

At the beginning of this year some prominent folks from the indigenous community took issue with Joseph Boyden’s profile as such a fierce advocate for indigenous rights. The problem in their minds, as far as I could tell, is that Boyden isn’t one hundred percent indigenous and, as such, he shouldn’t have been so vocal in his advocacy. I could never really understand the logic behind their grievance with Boyden, but I imagined they were trying to suggest it would have been better if only fully indigenous people were so adamant in their advocacy for indigenous rights; that only fully indigenous people ought to have a public profile as indigenous rights advocates. Or something like that. 

On the same logic I imagine they are fuming that Gord Downie of iconic Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, and as blue-blooded a white guy as it gets, has become such a champion of indigenous rights. I say this reluctantly as a black man (with a white man’s mind), but white folks listen more attentively when a prominent member of their own community speaks to them with an eye to moral persuasion. Certainly, experiential voices are more authentic, but when you are fighting to win over a slice of the finite moral landscape among the white throngs, all voices allied in the fight are helpful. It is quite clear to those not driven by seething rage that Boyden was using his profile to help in these efforts, not to steal a spotlight away from others in the fight. 

Boyden always maintained he was of mostly Celtic blood with indigenous ancestry somewhere in his family tree. In Canada, the English tried to exterminate this country’s indigenous people and for most of our history, folks who could pass for White were not waving flags to show their pride at having mixed ancestry. Boyden’s story of a lost, mixed heritage is a common story in Canada. My heritage is the same (though the lost ancestry in my case is black American). At an early age, when Boyden discovered his own indigenous ancestry, instead of hiding it he embraced it. He’s made a career and become a public figure thanks to that early act of embracing his indigenous heritage. Other than Boyden’s notoriety, this is a fairly pedestrian reality in Canada. I have a fair-skinned, auburn haired friend I’ve know for thirty years who just found out she has Metis in her ancestry. 

It seems for a small faction of resentful figures Boyden’s success and notoriety was a pill too bitter to swallow given their work for the cause. So, they called him a fraud, a poser, accused him of shape-shifting in a head-dress for publicity and cash. The insinuation, although not stated, was that his success came at the cost of a real indigenous person’s success, which is completely absurd. It was this country’s version of the “birther issue.” Except the figure under attack wasn’t a would-be political oppressor vying for the most powerful political office in the land. Boyden is an artist and vocal champion of indigenous rights. Those responsible for stirring this pot seem like a petty lot, more angry that Boyden gets to go to all the good parties than anything else. It was a sad, pointless row; one clearly rooted in professional resentment. 

I am glad Boyden has decided to respond in his own words, and I hope it puts an end to the shenanigans to sandbag him. I also hope the sordid affair has done nothing to discourage Boyden from avidly pursuing his next project, and the other projects delving into the lives of the indigenous subjects he has in store for us down the road. I and countless others anxiously await these for years to come. On that point, I do wish Boyden would stop being such a do-gooder for indigenous causes and stick exclusively to writing his extraordinary books so we wouldn’t have to wait as long between each project. 

It struck me then, and it still does now, that this whole ordeal was a product of professional jealousy. It had very little to do with people trying to air a legitimate grievance of a wrong done to the community. It is beyond reprehensible that the target of the savage attack is an artist and advocate, not some corporate or political cretin throwing their power around to the detriment of the indigenous community. It casts those responsible for the sabotage campaign in such a poor light. I will never read Robert Jago again without thinking about how petty his attempt to sandbag Boyden was, which is tragic because Mr Jago has, in other cases, had things to say which need to be heard and taken seriously. 

Boyden’s books have been responsible, in my own case, for helping to identify with indigenous voices because I just don’t have any other way of doing so. I have no indigenous blood, nor do I have close friends or family who are indigenous. It is difficult for me to obtain more than a superficial glimpse of life through their eyes. Paying attention to the news or media does not allow us to connect in more than a shallow way to an identity we do not share. There is always an agenda and the view is too easily tainted by our own intellectual filter. 

Stories are always a better way to subtly shift the view than is canvassing the news with an eye to empathy. Stories more succinctly hold up a mirror to ourselves; the identification with a marginalized protagonist makes it far more difficult to deny the humanity of those disenfranchised in our real lives, which perpetuates systemic barriers to their progress. 

As a mode of throwing the moral depravity of the oppressors in their face, a story humanises the oppressed and makes it more difficult for the reader to walk away from that encounter and still repudiate their existence. You read a story about a homeless man and it becomes difficult to simply breeze past them as you take a break at work the next day. It is a far more effective way of getting people to recognize the many wrongs we are abetting by our quiet indifference than is the tack of using public admonishments or finger wagging to stir our moral compass into proper alignment. Accusations and blame, even if deserved, rarely provoke the intended effect of opening consciousness among the dominant group because the mode of discourse, that of polemic, is too hard for most egos to bear. The guilt or animosity triggered by the condemnation hardens a mind, puts it on the defensive, and for that reason it is a less effective way to change the view about certain pernicious social realities.  

This is the real power of fiction and other narrative accounts, especially where the subject is the marginalized, forgotten, or disenfranchised in a society. Having readers living the lives of a well-crafted, disenfranchised protagonist allows them to experience the pain and suffering of another human being whose tragic experiences are difficult to imagine. That their marginalized existence is a by-product of structures in our society becomes evident, and is undeniable, as we see them come crashing down upon a novel’s protagonist. 

If done well, and done right, stories are the truest way to identify with those who do not share our own identity. Stories come to us, straight into our hearts, bypassing our intellect, and because of that, the tragedies or injustices in the lives they depict are less apt to be so easily dismissed. They will resonate. Boyden’s stories and characters centre on the issues and lives of this country’s indigenous people, and they have resonated. 

As a colonizer there is no better way for me to know what the indigenous fight is about than to read their stories so I can truly understand on a deep level that it isn’t just a political issue, it is a real battle for a way of life. I have a better sense of what that way of life is because of Boyden’s stories. Yes, there are other voices, other stories, and other storytellers – Boyden never claimed to be the lone voice for the community. Those eager to attack his character made that claim on his behalf; perhaps those among the colonizers appointed him as a spokesperson. That is what we do. We love our caricatures, our reductions. 

The blame for that does not lie with Boyden. If there was concern that Boyden’s profile was monopolizing the dialogue the effort should have instead been aimed at pointing us to other stories and left at that. I would have greatly accepted the gift. When they attacked Boyden, a fierce advocate for indigenous issues, I stopped listening and lost plenty of respect for those who otherwise advocate for a just cause. They need to focus on what they legitimately seek and leave ego-centric personal grievances out of the public domain because it has not served they or the community for whom they advocate well at all. 

American Justice, in Black and White

Racist Rage, Puts Innocent Boy in a Cage

I want white, law-abiding Americans to try and imagine what it must feel like to know there’s a chance that, as you drive home from work, or pop out to the grocery store to buy some milk, you might be pulled over by a police officer for a minor infraction and wind up dead. Imagine.

It is true, all lives matter. White lives, black lives, Latino lives, women’s lives, children’s lives, immigrants’ lives. Gay, lesbian, and transgendered lives matter. Nobody could argue that. Nobody is arguing that.

Except every single day in America nothing is done to the laws, policies, or practices to suggest there is more than tepid support for the idea that all lives matter. So when it is wielded like a brick-bat in response to hearing “black lives matter” it is just another denial of what is to many black folks, a harrowing reality. When it is said “all lives matter” the ones who utter it are simply doing as they’ve always done: negating the genuine concerns of blacks in American society.

The reality is that, in America, some lives are disposable; some lives are chattel to enrich the lives of others; some lives are not worthy of the legislative agenda pursued by politicians. If all lives mattered, the parties in power would not allow social security to be eroded, they would not enact laws that criminalize and incarcerate blacks in alarming numbers, they would ensure not a single citizen went without health care, they would not criminalize sexual orientation, or legislate how women use their bodies. If all lives mattered in America there would be funding for quality education and training of children and youth and nobody would starve on the streets.

No, not all lives matter, apparently. The lives of rich, white, corporate, privileged interests matter. The politicians and the powerful establishment are quick to respond to their needs with decisive action. The criminal deeds of the rich – financial frauds, Ponzi schemes, tax evasion, economic graft and corruption – go relatively unpunished. Their concerns are top of the legislative agenda. The rest of the lives in America are left to fend for themselves. If those among the thrown-away lives happen to be black males, they will spend a lifetime being arbitrarily subjected to random interrogations by police, frisked and detained in front of their children, or imprisoned or murdered for crimes borne of economic desperation.

Why does that happen to black men more than anyone else? Why are there countless videos of police encounters with white people who actually possess guns or knives, who really are poised to use them that end up with the perpetrator coming out of the situation in handcuffs? Why do they get to have their future fate determined by the justice system?

Those who say “all lives matter” are denying all the reasons a person might lay claim to a legitimate grievance in these senseless killings of black men. It is a sweeping dismissal of the legacy of slavery, racism, and intolerance that everybody damn well knows built America and which today still shakes its moral core. The fact serious people are saying “all lives matter” despite the senseless killings that gave life to the “black lives matter” movement is the most clear-cut indicator that America still has not breached the racial divide.

To say black lives matter is to shine the light on how racism continues to tear at the American social fabric. It isn’t to suggest all cops are racist, corrupt, would-be killers. It isn’t an argument that all other lives don’t matter. So stop it. Let blacks, for once, air their grievances without trying to shut them down like a bunch of “uppity negroes.”

I am deeply disturbed by what I see transpiring on America’s streets and outraged by the sheer lack of moral leadership in response to these injustices. I have to confess, my horror is as much existential as it is ethical. These events are a stark reminder that my black-ness, which has intermittently been the object of mild racism here in Canada, could be the undoing of my existence should I choose to visit the United States. Until recently, I’ve been able to live in a state of relative denial about how my black-ness is of any social consequence.

Thanks to what I see in America on a regular basis, I am constantly reminded that my black-ness could get me killed. By a cop. What the fuck, America?

It makes me angry and it makes me frightened. It is an existential threat that no law-abiding white person in America has to fear. So yes, all lives matter, which is true. Except when it comes to black men and the American justice system. If statistics on death by cop, incarceration rates of blacks, and the ubiquity of systemic harassment of blacks by law enforcement are considered, it becomes obvious that black lives don’t matter.

Given this reality, when it is said “black lives matter”, shut the fuck up and listen. Stop acting as if the facts do not clearly show how much more likely are black men to feel the sharpest, most brutal edge of American justice.

I am not anti-cop and I am tired of this dichotomy being thrown at those who express their desire for justice in these instances. Criticism of the thing does not imply a desire to negate the thing. The fact this constantly comes up in American discourse betrays a retrograde, fascist strain of anti-intellectualism that undermines constructive dialogue. The effect of this tactic is to suppress ideas and discourage novel approaches to foster change for the better.

In my career in law enforcement, I have worked with countless police officers in an investigative capacity. I know police officers suit up every day and willingly plunge head first into harm’s way. It is no trivial matter to say that most cops are good. Their choice of career is a noble one. Depending on where they work, they may have one of the most dangerous middle class jobs out there. Those who turn these tragic events into an opportunity to fuel hatred of the police community have no idea the scores of good men and women tarnished by such a broad brush.

But cops are also human. They are not incorruptible. No group of human beings is. Human beings as they are, there is a chance they arrive to the job with a host of biases and attitudes they have learned in their surroundings. Some of these may adversely impact how they perform their jobs in relation to the blacks they encounter.

They don’t recruit white cops from Mars to patrol streets in black neighbourhoods. I grew up in a white family, in an affluent suburb where there were only white people – basically the same kind of environment as most white cops in America. I know that it would be difficult for a white person to have been reared in this environment and come away with positive views of black men. They would have had to rely on culture to fill in the mental gaps left by their lack of actual experiences of who black men are. I know that I didn’t come away with a positive image of what it is to be black from appealing to the culture, and I am a black man.

It is important to say that “black lives matter” in order to displace the thousands upon thousands of images, media, and other cultural and social products that combine to fuel a mental proclivity to believe they don’t. It is to acknowledge the legacy of racism that pervades American culture and society which effectively negates, cheapens, and marginalizes black existence. It is to recognize that police officers are just as likely as anyone else to possess their culture’s predilection for racial bias; to posit that this may affect their judgement. It is to acknowledge the obvious: that, in America’s racially-divisive social context, many white cops are bound to possess racial biases that affect how they engage black men in their jobs.

In my heart I don’t believe racism made these cops kill these innocent black men. No, but racism propelled the cops to engage the black men in the first place. Racism made them perceive the black man’s deeds as non-compliant. Racism may have fueled the officers’ inclination to escalate their tactics in the situation, because racism fueled the idea the black man was displaying a thug’s disrespect for authority.

Ultimately, however, it isn’t racism but fear and recklessness which writes the final chapter of a story where a black man gets killed by a cop in an encounter that was poorly substantiated in the first place. It’s a story whose prologue was written by racism and whose epilogue will feature protagonists with a capacity to do something whose political calculations and moral cowardice will propel them to do nothing. The racist Canon that has tarnished American history for centuries will be left undisturbed. Some time will pass, until the next sordid tragedy in the American debacle is written in a black man’s blood, yet again.

Denial of the social realities that underlie these incidents do the good cops and the citizens they serve no good. The fact there are poor black men peddling on street corners, engaging in petty theft, or who are involved in other “black-market” activities that set the stage for the police encounter that led to their deaths isn’t entirely the fault of police. The whole scenario is predicated on the social ills that come with black poverty and disenfranchisement. It is terrible that police are left in the lurch on the front lines to sweep up what is a much larger social problem in America. If politicians were really pro-cop, they would put an end to this recurring nightmare with legislative, social, and economic programs to eradicate black poverty and stop criminalizing black existence.

I am the first to say most social ills do not easily submit to a casting of the issue in black and white. Except when it comes to the justice system in America. In that case there is one justice system for whites, and another for blacks; one which criminalizes, incarcerates, systemically harasses, and sometimes even murders them. When black and white are treated the same in the US justice system, we will be able to say without a whiff of smugness or disdain that all lives matter.

Until then, since it is black lives which are repeatedly and violently repudiated by the justice system, is it really unreasonable to suggest, in this context, that “black lives matter”? I don’t believe so. To say “all lives matter” in response is to dismiss the legitimate injustices being aggrieved. It perpetuates a legacy of denial about America’s racist underpinnings which, given it is the twenty-first century, is contemptible for its lack of moral growth.

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So Sick of the Sausage Factory

One big, happy family

One big, happy family

Woe is humanity, suffering the legions of uber-douche bags crushing their spirits. I refer to this potent variety of toxic sludge as a Dick, because that is the source of their inspiration. It’s also one thing I can say about them that makes me laugh. What isn’t funny is the reckless abandon with which they swing their entitled skin-flute machetes, cutting down whomever stands in the way of their quest for Mommy’s love – I mean, power. They lie, cheat, and steal through life, leaving a trail of innocent victims buried under a heap of man-splaining, belittling, hectoring excrement.

It seems futile to waste a shred of energy imploring the Dicks out there to reflect on just how miserable they make the lives of those they touch. I doubt they care, but venting about the pandemic of Dicks plaguing our societies can be both empowering and enlightening. As part of my evolving spiritual journey toward what I hope will be the Dick-less corridors of Nirvana, there are bound to be moments where I am forced to cross the raging rivers of my own bile.

The act of reflecting back on these moments, of having to stay mentally afloat among the torrent of indignant rage to coherently share my thoughts, lends an air of detachment to the sordid splendour of their existence. It makes me feel more like an observer than a victim. Plus, the more I own up to how easily provoked I am by their bullshit, the more I learn about the easily unhinged parts of my mind. It encourages a redoubling of efforts to pro-actively cultivate emotional intelligence.

I see putative, self-styled “Christians” on American television man-splaining to the Pope why he’s a wrong-headed ‘liberal’ for castigating the greed that destroyed America’s soul and poisoned its religion. I see political hacks with educational degrees in History or Phys Ed laughing-off the world’s leading scientists about climate change, imploring us to laugh with them as the polar ice cap melts and more dry land is submerged every day. I see the country-clubber with the charmed life, champagne dribbling from the corner of his self-satisfied grin, earn his keep moonlighting as a thespian. He grabs his balls, dusts off his best redneck accent, and masterfully delivers his line to fellow citizens “Y’all ain’t a-gettin’ the guns God gave me!”

I can’t un-see or un-hear the reams of spirit-crushing nonsense so many grown adults seem to believe, and it really pisses me off. I want to grab my pitchfork and storm the palaces nearby to reclaim the public proceeds and tax loopholes that are rightfully ours. I want to liberate the exploited immigrant slaves from their domestic bondage in plutocrat’s homes, and the exploited white slaves from their below-subsistence jobs at the plutocrat-owned discount outlet stores. I want to punch in the face the next smug, strident Dick who denies any role for white, male privilege in securing his fortunes. I fantasize about a crowd of Dicks outside a Church blowing their dog-whistles loudly at Jesus and his guests for consecrating the nuptials between Adam and Steve, only to learn they’re surrounded by packs of hungry, rabid dogs summoned from miles around. One can dare to dream.

And then it’s the next morning. I do my thing – yoga and meditate – to rid my soul of the wayward heaps of manure that landed there as the zealots aimlessly tossed it about. Instead of indignant fury, my mind is like, ‘Namaste Dick, you misguided asshole, Namaste.’ I still care about the poor and oppressed, and I wish Dick would cut it out. Except it’s not worth being so angry about it that my day, and that of anyone who encounters me, is ruined. There are other ways, besides punching-out well-deserving, smug Dicks, to get relief.

That said, these days the stables are piling up with turd faster than my trusty spirit-shovel can keep up. Lately, Dick has been hard to shake. The pig-barn of election Politics is to blame. In my country, the Dick Head – the Prime Minister – decided to have a three-month election campaign – unheard of in Canadian politics. Add to that the US Presidential nominations, which are shoved down Canadian throats via US cable feeds, and it’s like a tornado picked up my house and dropped it into the middle of a continental sausage factory.

Dicks are flung in my face from all directions, pandering, sloganeering, fear-mongering, scapegoating. Senseless political munchkins are throat-singing their sexist, racist, greedy, jingoistic overtures to their intellectually-stunted political bases over, and over, and over again. “We represent the dick-head guild, the dick-head guild, the dick head guild … ” Where are my red shoes to take me home, Dorothy?

There aren’t just Dicks stumping on television, there’s the run-of-the-mill Dick at the office; the one I’ve lamented in a previous post. He crawls his way to the top shelf on the backs of others, and is the variety of Dick most of us experience in our daily lives. My dear friend, a female co-worker in another city, works in a Division with a legendary misogynist I once worked with. He inspired my rant about the office Dick. With exasperation, she shows me the e-mails he writes to her or others. I remember the tenor of this Dick’s e-mails very well. When I overheard him speak to a woman or read one of his smug Neanderthal messages to them I wanted to accidentally shove him down the stairwell. She asks me if she is over-reacting in shoving her feisty Irish fist up the Dick’s ass. I suspect it’s why he keeps on – he enjoys it. I recommend she aim her pointy boots at his undescended testicle instead.

The Dick at the office is no different than the political Dicks scape-goating the large swaths of society they want to sweep under the rug to serve their selfish aims. The common thread is the entitlement to forcefully steamroll you or I to get what he wants. His beliefs, wants, and needs, no matter how crass or insanely stupid, are yelled in your face. He is entitled to behave like a scumbag and the rest of us are supposed to just take it without kicking up a fuss or punching him in the face. He defends his ethically barren actions with fact-free rationalizations that satisfy his infinitesimal intellect.

Why is he like this? Because Dick was churned out of the sausage factory. He has been gnawing on a meal of nutrient-deprived, idiotic gristle his entire life to keep himself fed. He likes his sausage. Nay, he believes in his sausage.

Like many women out there, I am so sick of the sausage factory. It’s fucking exhausting. I am so done with the slander and lies men wantonly use to justify their degenerate ideas. I am sick of watching men telling women what to believe, where to work, what to wear, and who to fuck. I am livid with men who want to kick the poor and disenfranchised while they’re already down just so they can keep the pocket-change to buy another mansion. I am weary of the deluge of verbal diarrhea from the mouths of chest-beating men whose incessant primal screams are meant not to persuade, but to crush the will of others into ideological submission.

It’s time to get with the new millennium, my fellow sausages.

Yes, I too have a sausage. I was programmed to be a Dick like the others, and I was once pretty good at it. But I realized how damaging that was for my kids and every one else. It hasn’t been easy opting out of the club while keeping my meat intact. I was manufactured on the same assembly line stuffing formless young men with affinities for greed, power, corruption, and cruelty. At the end of the line, we are twisted and churned out as individual sausages, but remain linked together as men; a single chain by which to shackle and subjugate humanity.

I can’t deny it, the first thought that crossed my mind was to ass-kick the guy for making my female friend’s life miserable. It’s not what she wanted or asked for, but it’s what would make me feel good. It’s kind of typical of the way a Dick thinks. ‘There, there, my lady-friend, Dick knows best’, right? So much to be done, Edmund.

I can’t deny it, sometimes when my eyes meet with those of a really attractive woman and there’s a momentary spark, the sausage wants to – well, you know what it wants to do. I was trained to think it is perfectly acceptable to whet my sexual appetites with an objectified woman; to use them for my gratification. Sample any mainstream cultural product from the late seventies and eighties and you will see it isn’t nature that made men this way. We were taught to be this way.

As a young man, I grew up learning the Dicks get the pretty, vapid, one-dimensional girl, as they were all touted to be. Movies and television taught the young me that emotionally-detached, ruthless, shrewd, charming, power-hungry, zealous men get the prize. Pouty-lipped women swoon for the corrupt-hero, fighter-pilot, or conniving-huckster. They wait in the wings as the Dick they love desecrates the world, and eagerly give their bodies to satisfy his carnal desires without demanding genuine respect in return for their affections. For a teen-aged boy with his brain pickled in testosterone, deeply dysfunctional mental ruts are easily formed when such gendered caricatures bombard his grey matter from every direction.

If I continue to harbour the idea that my sausage is a weapon to conquer the world; that a woman is just a sexy bun, I would be a typical Dick, wouldn’t I? If I said to myself “boys will be boys” – conveniently, after I’ve been a total asshole – it would mean the sausage reigns, just as intended when I was churned out of the factory. I need to work harder, figuratively speaking, to sever my link to the shackles that confine our collective imagination of what it is to be a man. We all do, if we want a planet for our children to enjoy happy, peaceful lives.

Edmund K Saunders, Dick-free sausage. I like the sound of that. If only I could hear myself say it over the roar of irate men, feverishly man-splaining to keep their ill-gotten entitlements.

Keep Your DICK in a Box Well Away From the Top Shelf

Dick With Balls

The one who started it all. The Dick of all Dicks, Dick Cheney. “Hello underlings, I am a DICK, and blah blah bullshit lie half-truth blah blah America blah blah War blah lie lie lie I eat babies blah blah blah I own shares in weapons companies blah blah blah I am the real President blah blah blah blah lie bullshit posturing blah blah blah …”

A toxic form of humanity is advancing rapidly through the white-collar ranks of large North American organizations. It drains the life of so many innocents trying their best to make a living in the workplace jungle. The scientific name for the phenomenon: Douchebaggus Ignoramus Corporatio Kleptomaniac, otherwise known as DICK.

Dick exists in droves where hierarchies create cadres of executives whose pay and decision-making responsibilities vastly outstrip the ranks at the bottom. In lucky organizations, the top echelons reflect the qualities of an individual you’d expect to have responsibility for so many lives and so much financial capital. Good leaders started at the bottom somewhere, and stayed there long enough to learn the ropes. They know what it’s like to be low man on the totem pole and can point to real achievements instead of lofty position titles along their career path. They are intelligent, humble, and treat people well, regardless of their rank.

Unfortunately in many large organizations there is an inverse relationship between the competency, personality, skills and high rank of the individuals occupying the upper-middle and top shelves of the org chart. Dick knows how to fly like an eagle in a place like this. With his prospects of advancing the ranks not limited by his incompetence and execrable personality, he tirelessly tramples over the well-being of his co-workers as he employs douchebag subterfuge to crawl his way to the top.

The screening criteria to diagnose whether that misery-inducing jerk in your workforce is a Dick are below:

1. Extremes in intelligence: either a profound lack of intelligence, curiosity, or lack of insight; Hyper-intelligence

OR

2.  Male, usually small (literally and figuratively)

AND, one of the following:

3.  Profoundly stunted emotional intelligence, as if his six year-old emotional self wandered into the forest and was never found again, but still controls the behaviours of the adult from somewhere in the deep, dark, and frightening woods.

4.  An unnatural, hyper-inflated self-assessment that entitles them to whatever they desire: promotions, perks, to treat people like dirt, to have a tantrum, to say whatever small and petty thing pops into their douchey mind …

5. Hyper-aggressivity rooted in unexplored feelings of Ill-will, guile, rage, or hostility toward humanity

A Dick with all of the above traits would be in jail had they been born in an unstable home of less than an upper middle-class income. Even though Dick is a crime against humanity, his co-workers are the ones imprisoned in a living hell of his making. Every day they fight the feeling of having been entrapped like a dime-bag dealer on a police sting when they were sold on the opportunities in a job that was open clearly because nobody wanted work with “the asshole.”

As a child, Dick had people putting ideas of being a “professional” in his mind. One or both of his parents was a professional of some type – a corporate executive, lawyer, doctor, engineer, or academic – who instilled the idea that a profession was the only viable career choice for success. They made him believe achievement was rooted in status and rank rather than something tangible, like good work and skill.

True that, every Dick does fancy himself a big shot. I recommend you duck, because Dick's a bit of a reckless bastard.

True that, every Dick does fancy himself a big shot. I recommend you duck, because Dick’s a bit of a reckless bastard.

Some Dicks showed early on they weren’t inclined to the knowledge professions, but their parents were in denial about what this meant for their child’s white-collar prospects. They pushed the career aspirations on him anyway knowing they could always intervene with their network of high-powered friends to help him along. It never crossed their minds to push him toward a skilled trade, reflecting an ignorant bias harboured by many white-collar professionals.

Dick could have devoted himself to honing his skills as a tradesman, which would provide an outstanding living if he applied his time and effort to that enterprise. Like many people with practical skills he could have had his own small business and have been a real master of his own destiny. Sure, he wouldn’t be a CEO of thousands of people, but he’d be financially successful and would be his own boss. He wouldn’t have stolen his high rank away from others with his dirt-bag behaviour; he would have achieved success with honest, hard work.

Instead, Dick went to college with ideas of becoming as financially successful and prestigious as his parents in a profession he was not suited for. Realizing quickly he wasn’t cut out to be a doctor, lawyer, US President, engineer, or accountant, he joined a frat, partied, gang-banged sorority girls, and squeaked by to get his degree in Phys Ed. He entered the white-collar workforce intent on running the show, but found himself in the unenviable position of seeking to advance through the ranks over peers with minds and abilities more suited to the work.

Smart Dick, Dumb DickHe could have decided then to focus on his strengths as a people-person. One quality that Dick seems to have in spades is high energy and affability – sometimes genuine, most times fake. He wasn’t born a Dick, and if he had chosen an environment that didn’t constantly tap into his insecurities about his lack of book-smarts or social ineptitude, he probably could have avoided becoming one. He could have leveraged his people skills to build alliances – a vital skill in an organization with a bunch of big minds who often lack soft skills required to manage groups of people.

In relying on shrewdness, aggressiveness, and posturing to beat back others before they cottoned on to his limited intelligence, he chose to get ahead along the dirt road leading through Dicks-ville. Ever since, he’s been like a virus in the workplace. His colleagues can barely avoid violent fits of projectile vomiting from having to stomach Dick’s over-weening sense of self-importance and generous self-assessment of his capabilities.

In the early days his professionally competent colleagues ignored and avoided the confrontations required to put his bad behaviour in its place, dismissing him as a total moron who would easily be weeded out. What they didn’t see is how this re-inforced his blatant misbehaviour. Nobody realizes until it is too late that a Dick has risen to occupy a rank that vastly outpaces his abilities. But once a Dick has inserted himself, by hook and crook, into the organization’s power structure he has to be forcefully pulled out.

Since childhood, everyone told the hyper-intelligent Dick their brains were going to win them “great things” for the future. Instead of accepting the low-ranking social status of a teen of above-average intelligence and socializing with other gifted peers, they pined for acceptance and failed miserably, which fueled their pathological resentment. They spent evenings and weekends obsessively-compulsively masturbating to Ayn Rand novels in quiet solitude charting the course of their revenge against all the mean mediocrities of the world. Their emotional intelligence wilted on the vine with the total absence of a meaningful social life. They did not have even nerdy friends; they did not get laid. No matter. His prestigious credentials in hand, the world would deliver what was due including the money to buy a social life and all the pick-up artist videos needed to get laid without paying by the hour. See Dick be a Dick

From day one of his ascendant career path, Dick could never to stay long enough in a chair to keep it warm; there was always a nicer chair in an office closer to the top floor with his name on it. He’d finagle ways to be in the same place as influential people in the organization to learn where the opportunities to advance were and kiss their ass incessantly to get it. He’d find the emotionally weak and destroy their will with hectoring and condescension to crush their spirit and make himself look more dynamic.

He yelled and screamed when things didn’t go his way and kicked his co-workers in the gut like helpless dogs when he was in a mood. He always acted out when his insecurities ran high, making everyone else pay the price for his errors instead of owning up and using them as learning experience to help him improve. Dick’s mantra: always move forward, fake it if you have to, this place needs you.

As he begins the climb, Dick befriends those who are smarter and uses these contacts to click into networks of other smart-types. The smart-nerds he keeps close are those who cultivate and care about their reputation as experts. They keep Dick supplied with a steady, reliable stream of novel ideas to pass off as his own when he’s among senior people who will take notice. Once he’s on top, he’ll find a way to marginalize his former brainy confreres, knowing what a pain in his ass they’ll be.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Or rather, every Dick is a cock in disguise. There, I said it better myself. But still.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Or rather, every Dick is a cock in disguise. There, I said it better myself. But still.

Dick does everything to position himself as a prospect for any opportunity to advance in the organization chart. Everything that is, except really investing the time learning any of his jobs to be good at them. For the hyper-intelligent Dick, this would have been easy, had it not been for his sense of entitlement, which makes him too impatient to actually learn a job or to care about honing his people skills. Dick probably got an MBA, which requires more cash than brains, to help him chop twelve years of working in the real world to demonstrate his perceived right to an executive rank. For a Dick, smart or dumb, everything is a temporary stepping-stone on the ascent to out-rank everyone else.

God help the organization that re-inforces this shithead’s ideas of advancing the ladder before he’s really earned it. The moment Dick ascends the ranks he becomes an obnoxious, condescending ingrate who harbours delusions of grandeur. The higher he climbs despite his incompetence and maladjusted behaviour, the more insufferable he becomes. He is possessed by the delusion his abilities, or worse, his attributes as a Dick, warranted him the promotions. There is no incentive to curb the sociopathy in his behaviour. All is lost.

In those rare and fleeting moments of self-reflectiveness – usually when Dick is publicly upstaged by someone smarter than him or who knows more about his job than he does – Dick is momentarily seized by the idea he’s in over his head. “Fuck that” Dick says to collect himself, and then lobs a flurry of passive-aggressive, man-splaining tirades to attack the very being of the weisen-heimer who made him look stupid. He’ll keep up the rear assaults until ‘Mr/Ms Bookworm’ backs down or suddenly finds themselves blacklisted by Dick who knows how to slander with malicious intent better than the best Republican political strategist.

Most interesting man on ... DouchebagsThis is also how Dick deals with what he sees as obstructionist criticism – he shouts it down so hard the other person concedes defeat to spare themselves his incessant blowhard tactics. He has no tolerance for a diversity of views, nor does he see the value in a collegial exchange of disparate ideas to hash out a middle ground on a problem. He is too uncurious to care about other possibilities besides the ill-informed, blinkered one he believes is correct. He sees those who forward alternative perspectives as guilty of insubordination, flouting gratuitous negativity; as Cassandras who won’t follow the pack.

Persecuting underlings is one of Dick’s most conspicuous traits, especially when he’s reached a certain rank and has had a taste of authority, which he is unable to handle intelligently. He cannot understand how his abrasiveness would constantly undermine the morale of people who invest a high degree of job satisfaction in obtaining feedback about a job well-done. Dick’s definition of job satisfaction is having a job.

If Dick is a man, which he usually is, his unceasing torments are more a pathological aspect of a reactive personality completely devoid of empathy, than a calculated campaign of abuse. It’s how he operates, and he thinks people should realise that. It’s not personal, he’s just a tough cookie with high expectations. He cannot relate to what it feels like to be on the other end of his asshole antics.

In the rare case that Dick is a woman, the torment is probably calculated, less openly hostile, but absolutely eviscerating. The most dangerous person in an organization is an intelligent she-Dick, a person so frightening I’m too afraid to lampoon them in this blog post. She-Dick will find me and destroy my life. Did I mention she-Dick is really intelligent?

As a senior person in the organization, Dick’s incessant criticism, lack of encouragement, caustic demeanour, and capricious, panic-stricken series of unreasonable demands throws shards of glass beneath the feet of his direct reports. For years he has sub-consciously learned that a hierarchical corporate culture spawns legions of people-pleasers who respond to aggressive posturing, giving people like him the powers of a puppeteer. With a few churlish displays the shrinking violets scatter frantically to appease the angry ogre, dispatched as they are with meaningless chores of little value to the organization, meant to allay the ill-effects and smooth over the damage wrought by his incompetence.

Cameraman: "Hey Stu, how about you take your shirt off to have one of the last pictures with your mom, the emphysema patient, before she dies" Stu: "No way bro' I love this fuckin' shirt. I wanna remember me an my mom havin' a laugh. Take the fuckin' picture"

Cameraman: “Hey Stu, you wanna take your shirt off so the last picture with your mom, the emphysema patient, before she dies isn’t with the ‘Dick with the shirt’?”
Stu: “Hey bro’ I have a fuckin’ tattoo on my neck, cuz I don’t give-a-shit. I got this shirt my first day outta prison, so I got sense-a-mental value to it. Now, take the fuckin’ picture. Say cheese Ma!”

Here is the million dollar question: if Dicks are so bad, why do they keep rising to the top?

The easiest answer is Dicks love to do the circle jerk with other Dicks. At the top of an organization teeming with Dicks the boardroom is a bro-culture in pin-striped suits. It’s hard to continue being an asshole if the emotional intelligence, brains, and human decency among your colleagues holds a mirror the size of the moon to your stunted being. Even though a Dick at the top is advised to hire people to accommodate his profound shortcomings, he can’t help but promote one of his own because he’s too stupid or arrogant to believe more than his talents are needed. He possesses talent for a whole executive team and really only needs more sets of hands to carry through all the earth-shattering ideas oozing from his ego. In the end, a total Dick looks like the best candidate in the eyes of a total Dick.

His urge to remain unchallenged, to have obsequious subordinates to go along with disastrous errors in his judgement far outweighs his desire to hire competent people who can actually do a good job. They’ll make him look bad. They’ll constantly challenge his shallow decrees with arcane appeals to law, policy, or reason.

This is why it’s taken more than forty years of feminism for women to even begin to crack the glass ceilings across the corporate world. Bros before ho’s, as they say. The lack of women and introverted, brainy types is an historical Dick-slap to the axiom that calls for the upper echelons of large, complex organizations to be dominated by people of bona fide skill and competence. Instead, too many Dicks have risen to the top ranks with bluster, self-aggrandizement, and charm but little else of substance.

The adage is true, when it comes to Dicks, size does matter. Even when the top echelons of an organization is filled with competent and capable leaders, the size of the organization will be a cover for Dick’s misbehaviour. Because of scale alone, legions of influential people won’t really know how Dick operates. Dick is expert at spotting, and ingratiating himself into some fairly opportune glory-holes and hitting paydirt, knowing his reputation will benefit by sheer association. Dick can keep his malevolence in line to ingratiate himself with senior people in a functional division if it means he’ll win advancement. He can peel off his fluffy sheep’s clothing later on when he’s got the power and it’s too late to do anything about it.

Everybody loves a bunch of corporate dudes in suits getting their thizzang on with some gangsta shit.

Everybody loves a bunch of corporate dudes in suits doing their thizzang with some gangsta shit.

Organizations that rhetorically value competency, that have complex, challenging goals to achieve, will pay the price in poor performance if there are too many feeble-minded, megalomaniacal Dicks in the boxes near the top of the organization chart. Large organizations of knowledge-workers rely on the collaborative efforts of its human capital to succeed, which is totally undermined with the hyper-aggressive, childish, morale-killing behaviours of a hyper-ambitious, emotionally stunted leadership cadre. They will crush the will and spirit of competent, capable human assets wherever they exist in the organization. These valuable would-be leaders will leave before they deign to ascend the ranks, avoiding having to withstand the nightmare of working more often with so many Dicks in their face.

Nobody with genuine abilities to speak of will invest their sweat equity only to have it beaten down to nothing in the self-interested grabby-hands of a bunch of Dicks. That’s why organizations need to get a good grip on those Dicks and yank ‘em out; let the Dicks have a taste of what it’s like to get the shaft for once. Do it now, to preserve the long-term viability of the organization and restore sanity to your workforce.

Let’s Dress It Up Clean, For a Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween BannerTo be fair, I was only a teenager when I went to a Halloween party in black face. What did I know about it? All I knew of black face were grainy clips of a white guy in dark makeup crooning “Mammy” and “Toot Toot Tootsie” with sparkling, white-gloved ‘jazz-hands.’ I didn’t know what to make of the minstrel show clips I saw as a child, but I observed everyone having a good ‘ole time. All the banjos and slap-happy dancing folks didn’t seem oppressed to my childish eyes.

I could have chosen to caricature a multitude of races and creeds for my Halloween enjoyment. In the late 70s and early 80s when I was trick-or-treating, Mexicans, Arabs, Chinamen, and Indian Chiefs were neighbourhood favourites. A costume choice to lampoon any of these other groups would have been far less utterly self-disparaging.

At this point, it’s probably relevant to mention that I am black. A black kid in black face. Sadly, I was not dressed as an “ironic” Al Jolson. At the time, my understanding of irony was as ill-formed as the lyrics of an Alanis Morrisette song.

Not to defend such self-abnegating ignorance, but I did grow up in one of the WASP-iest white families on earth. All of my best friends were white, my local television celebrities were white, everyone at the country club was white. The Beatles best album was white. Cripes, even the food I ate was white – potatoes, cauliflower, butter and crumpets, turnips, cucumber sandwiches with cream cheese and the unsightly brown crusts cut off. With the exception of the inconvenient fact of the skin-colour thing, I was a white dude, inside and out.

I saw other ethnic groups and creeds with the eyes of any other teenaged white kid at the time: in narrow racist terms. The various peoples of the world offered a buffet of stereotypes and parodies to nourish my insatiable appetite for small-minded, xenophobic amusement. It was the culturally insensitive prerogative we white folks thrive on.

Life is Too ShortI don’t want to be a party pooper about this stuff. Hey, I’m pointing the finger as much at yours truly as anyone else. The skin on that finger may be slightly dark-ish, but the bones inside are as white as Tommy Hilfiger and the people he makes clothes for; which fill my own closet.

Halloween is all about the fun; about kids dressing up, trick-or-treating and running like banshees on a sugar-rush. Adults young and old will head off to Halloween parties and engage in the ritual of binge-drinking, serial groping, dry humping, and projectile vomiting. The combination of alcohol and anonymity afforded by costumes will embolden party-goers in their quest to end the evening screwing like the werewolves and trolls they purport to be. Let’s hope the legions who slither out of their mystery date’s bed for the “walk of shame” the next morning will have done nothing more than picked up an easily treatable itch and a fleeting tinge of regret; that all will have been done in good, clean fun.

But amidst all the good-natured Halloween shenanigans is a shadowy side that brings out of the woodwork the latent racism, intolerance, and insensitivity lingering in our midst. It’s time the knuckle-dragging apparition was chased away from the festivities, once and for all. Here’s how: peel yourself away from the social media feed before you head out, look in the mirror, and think.

Thinking. That shit is hard, I know. It’ll only take a few seconds, I promise.

There. Now you can put that stuffy, dusty intellect back in the attic with the other relics of humanity’s evolutionary pre-eminence and get back to being the best debauching troglodyte you can be!

Who can forget, just a few years ago, Prince Harry going to a Halloween party dressed as Hitler? On his way, the Prince would have breezed past dozens of people at Buckingham Palace camped out in his SS regalia. The flurry of panic as Her Majesty’s Royal PR machine scurried across Westminster Abbey’s marble floors in damage-control could have been avoided if only those at Court had seen fit to point out the oversight, “Pray Hal, good chap, do forgive the presumption, but wouldn’t Napoleon be a trifle more a propos as choice of amusing rogue than the mad man who exterminated Jews, reduced the world to bedlam, and nearly demolished your family’s kingdom for kicks?” Loyal establishment friends are dreadfully hard to find.

Since 9-11 the profound dearth of creativity and imagination in our culture inevitably spawns countless variations on a theme of Osama bin Laden at Halloween. Scores of frat boys wield toy AK-47s, brandish any garment on their head as a turban, flub crappy hindu accents, and pretend to extol jihad. Apparently, they are dressed up as “terrorists,” a parody which, in their mind, shouldn’t warrant outrage from anyone.

Except, the bong-soaked performances of “the terrorist” are robbed of their poignancy by the sheer magnitude of ignorance and stupidity these morons bring to bear upon it. They end up mocking whatever they think passes for an Arab or Muslim – typically a South Asian – and half-heartedly parrot the lie they’re being a “terrorist.” In reality they’re projecting the pea-brained idea that every Muslim is either a terrorist or a sleeper-cell supporter.

It’s rare to see anyone idiotic enough to dress up as an “Indian” for Halloween. But it still happens, especially among little kids whose parents obviously need sensitivity training. In Canada, where I live, the plan to obliterate aboriginals was executed by stealing children away from their families and placing them in residential schools where they were abused by servants of God in the hopes of making good white folks out of them. Acts and policies were promulgated to passive aggressively deny and paper-over their existence in the nicest, typically ineffectual Canadian way possible. The US was more honest in its approach, setting about the task of obliterating American Indians as Americans do best: with armed possies and a shitload of guns.

Given this sordid history, it’s more than politically incorrect for the would-be exterminators to misrepresent a cute “Indian” simply because a few US professional sports franchises and their millions of oblivious, adoring fans can’t imagine something less offensive as a moniker. Imagine if some rich douchebag called his baseball team the “Atlanta Honkies” and fashioned as the team mascot a bland dip-shit with a mullet, who eats Spam sandwiches on white Wonder Bread, dances like a moron with a sparkling, toothy overbite, and berates fans with racial epithets.

Well, maybe that would be funny. Can someone, anyone, come up with a slur that actually offends a white person? In any case, being an “Indian” for Halloween is offensive and lame.

Well, unless you’re trying to be a “sexy Indian”, that is, at least if this flyer in my newspaper today is to be believed. Okay, so if the costume is basically two strips of faux-leather cotton just large enough to cover the nipples and girly parts down below, you have a headband with one feather in the back, and your hair in pigtails, then you’re a “sexy Indian,” which is apparently fine because it is more slutty than racist.

But not really. The point of this costume is to brag about your body by revealing as much of it as possible without being arrested for indecency. The costume will be a testament to just how little food and how much time at the gym the person wearing it has indulged in lately.Slutty Halloween Card

We should applaud a woman who is confident, proud of her body, and uninhibited enough to go virtually naked in public. She should not be concerned that men will interpret the costume as an invitation, or fear that when drunk, they will feel entitled to act on the alleged invite. Those men will have to impart a little more civilization into their rape-acculturated minds so they don’t assume a woman’s titillating choice of attire is a substitute for consent. But hey, svelte ladies, if you want to strut your stuff on Halloween, do so as cat-woman, wonder woman, or Pebbles instead of Pocahontas or Sacajaweah. Deal?

The slutty genre of Halloween costume should be off the table for young girls. Girls should not be encouraged to objectify and sexualize themselves until they’re old enough to be that self-effacing. It’s appalling how many parents seem willing to tout the alleged sex appeal of their young daughters. Only the pedophiles out there appreciate the effort. Parents who send their little girls into the world looking like pole dancers and pin-up girls ought to be ashamed for the deviant sexual appetites they whet.

So here’s a challenge, avid Halloweeners: choose something fictional, tasteful, and age-appropriate as a costume. Be creative. Be a Muppet, a pirate, a character from Dr Who. Be a superhero, a gorilla, or a rooster. Just don’t be a Zulu tribesman, a Sherpa, a Geisha, a prostitute, or a slutty version of any specific creed of human being.

If your costume depicts another group of existing people you are not among, refrain. If you’re a knucklehead like me, it’s not okay to mock your own kind. It’s like extending a hall pass to bigots, who’ll feel uninhibited as they roam the cultural landscape freely airing their racist views, thanks to your active hand in reinforcing them.

Bad taste may not be illegal, but it is not in the realm of exercising your right to free speech if you choose to be a racist dip-shit in your Halloween costume. It’s actually closer to hate speech, depending on how you play it. The everyday look of people in other parts of the world isn’t the makings of a Halloween costume; it’s their clothes. The differences we exaggerate for our entertainment are rooted in traditions, cultures, and religious beliefs whose nature we can’t fully understand. These are facets of human beings not rightly lampooned just because they appear foreign, exotic, or silly to us.

A little thought will go a long way to making sure you’re not being an insensitive jackass in your choice of attire for Halloween festivities. Your presence will add to the fun and enjoyment of others this year and increase the odds the little kids watching you won’t become Archie Bunker adults, like me and my white homies of generations past.

So get out there and dress up for a brighter future!

Happy Haunting End Banner

Let’s Not Spell Away the Soldiers and The Fright, Let’s End the Violence in the Fight

Any glance at the daily media easily attests to how attached humanity is to the use of violence to solve our problems. This is obvious in the global setting, but it is also true in our own societies; on our streets and even in our homes. Every day, someone is maiming, killing, or doing serious harm to someone else. It it so prevalent as to seem part of our very nature.

I aspire to be a good Buddhist when it comes to this stuff. I do a lot of meditating, and I am intimately familiar with how anger works in the mind, because for a long time I was an angry, cynical individual. Collective violence is a macrocosm of the individual, angry state of mind. The intelligent, educated, and skilled orators are expert at finding clever ways to mask the raw anger beneath ideas and polices that require violent action to see them through.

It is easy to lend support to actions that result in death of innocents when you do so from the extreme comfort far, far away from those who suffer for the violent policies you advocate. It is easy to wax polemic in ways that perpetuate deadly exchanges between enemies when done passionately at quaint dinner parties in suburbia or in heated exchanges on university campuses.

I am not a pacifist. Not exactly, at least. I don’t believe the world’s conflicts are always solved with group hugs. I studied war history in graduate school. My take on violence, in general, is this: if someone is coming at you with an axe, then your efforts to spare your life, by taking the attacker’s life if need be, are rightly viewed as necessary. This goes for when someone is pointing a gun at you with the intent to shoot.

I am an ardent supporter of the men and women who serve in our nation’s armed forces. This is not to say I agree with militarism, but I do believe there’s nothing more noble than to volunteer to serve your country without questions asked. These brave souls have made a career of training and sacrificing to defend their country and people, at risk of death. Given that, there’s a responsibility to see to it their lives and their skills are not unnecessarily employed in ways that dishonour the noble intentions compelling them to sign up.

There are some who claim to be “pro-military” but spend much of their rhetorical and political currency trying to spur politicians into armed interventions for dubious foreign policy aims. In this they cheapen a soldier’s life, as well as the lives of those living in the places they intend to do battle. They also place soldiers in the unenviable position of being the muscle to enact policies that dishonour the integrity in their decision to enlist. It is difficult to read the stories of former soldiers who are ashamed of their service because of the excesses they witnessed among their colleagues who were war-stricken and fearful. We should never have put them in that position. Ever.

Men in suits – politicians, the policy wonks – seem to have no qualms about using soldiers as pawns for their own global pet projects. In so doing, they are advocating killing, and dispatching proxies to do their bidding for them. Worse, they are flouting the responsibility to employ the armed forces in a way that prevents their death – that is, by not sending them where they don’t belong.

Any person who has studied military history knows that armies are made to fight ugly battles in the context of chaos and the constancy of death. They are not purpose-built to “nation-build” or “promote democracy” as many pundits, both left and right, seem to believe. To suggest armies are rightly used for these aims is to espouse delusion.

For example, the US mission in Iraq was doomed to fail, not because Saddam Hussein was a stellar leader, but because there isn’t a single example in the history of human kind where a war caused an instant, positive political shift in the circumstances of the polity left to endure its consequences. Clausewitz, be damned.

In the past, we weren’t as naïve or stupid enough to fight our battles for such nebulous purposes. Prior to the 20th century, militaries were used for nation-building, indeed: imperialism, colonialism, revanchism, and outright plunder for economic aims – to benefit the nations who dispatched their armies. For God and Country they went. This seemed worth the soldier deaths at risk, and there was little care for the “civilians” killed in far-flung lands.

We used armies for craven ends because, well, armies were, and still are, made of soldiers armed and trained to kill. When they weren’t fighting battles in the fields – where it was soldier against soldier with civilians watching unharmed on the sidelines – their more dubious missions seemed like reasonably good uses for armies at the time.

In the early 20th century the League of Nations and then the United Nations were created. It was a codification of a collective international belief that the old aims for dispatching armies were illegitimate in a world made of sovereign nations. The mutually suicidal, nihilistic reality fashioned by the possession of huge nuclear arsenals on both sides of the Cold War also helped keep the lid on military adventures of the old kind.

But today there are a bunch of baby boomers who grew up in the most prosperous epoch in human history. They never personally experienced the horrors of living in a state of total war like their parents. Since colonialism and imperialism were rendered illegitimate causes for dispatching armies, new ideas to fudge the rules were needed. So the lofty aim of “spreading democracy” became the stand-in for “imperialism.” Military interventions to “topple ruthless dictators” became the pseudonym for colonialism.

We don’t have to go back to the misguided revolutionary republican idealism of Napoleon Bonaparte to gain insights into how stupid and impractical using violent means to spread such political ideals is. Hey, I love democracy too. It’s just that, well, you can’t really craft one with the explosive power of tanks, surface to air missiles, and strategic bombing sorties. These are just antiseptic ways to gloss over repeated instances of killing people, which isn’t the best underpinnings for an ethically robust political order.

We needn’t go so far back in human history to make the point. Every single US military intervention from Vietnam onward – direct or by proxy – was grossly unsuccessful in achieving their objectives. The adventures failed to achieve the dubious, illegitimate aims of installing stable, if fascist, US-supporting regimes as much as the well-intentioned ones of toppling unco-operative dictatorships.

Only the first Gulf War was successful, but it was a UN-sanctioned intervention to defend a powerless nation against unprovoked attack. It was successful precisely because its objectives were limited and strictly military in nature: pushing the invading army back to its own agreed-upon international borders. That success should have taught us something lasting about fighting wars in the future.

Aside from unrealistic military objectives, the poor long-term success of many interventionist wars betrays a terrible lack of wisdom their theoretical adherents share. Humans, being what they are, tend to prefer internal machinations to combat the skullduggery of home-grown tyrants among them. Prolonging the misery for a home-grown plan is always better than a more immediate solution imposed by an outside force. It’s not hard at all to imagine how Iraqis or Afghanis would be mistrusting of a bunch of exotic soldiers parachuting in after having blown their country to pieces and saying they’re there for “goodness.”

I feel for modern generals. They have the most thankless job of all the senior bureaucrats in a democracy. They’re expected to prepare for and succeed in the most politically controversial adventures their political masters can fabricate. In my country, they must do so on a limited budget, with aging equipment and insufficient supports to help those who are charged to fight those battles cope with the traumas they face in theatre; situations that are unlike any their fellow citizens could even imagine.

Their noble sacrifice in signing up to serve is dishonored as they are dispatched like mercenaries and left to suffer alone the psychological scars of the horrifying experiences. Think of the massive perceptual shift asked of a soldier raised in Canada, Belgium, or Australia who is dispatched to a place like Afghanistan where they are engaging people like the Taliban who believe in a pre-medieval global order and cheapen human life as such.

All of us have a cousin, friend, or loved one who serves. It maddens me to think they’d be sent off to die or to suffer the psychological torment of having taken lives – all for sake of some political agenda with a very limited chance of success in the end. Secretly, I bet most generals take the same position as me, the pussy-footed Buddhist, when it comes to the utility of the armed forces: fight battles that are vital to your actual survival and no more.

The mission in Iraq, and others like it in the decades before, put soldiers who believed they were doing something noble into the unenviable position of being perceived as thugs and plunderers in the countries they were dispatched to occupy. Yet I will say those who have died in such missions have not done so in vain. They died trying to serve their country. That willingness to sacrifice gave their life more meaning than any citizen could hope to achieve.

The blood of the soldiers’ deaths is on the hands of those who sent them to battle without fully appreciating the realities of what is involved in such a mission. They sent people to kill and be killed for objectives that they should have known would not succeed.

The sad reality is, this true of nearly every decision to employ lethal violence to solve our problems. They do not work, even if we dearly wish to cling to the belief they do. The argument against killing is as much moral as it is practical, which is surely no coincidence, but an axiom which makes most decisions to employ violence for political aims reckless and inhumane.

The moment one has to start getting into rationalizations of why the killing of innocents is an unpleasant consequence of “necessary” violent actions, one leaps into an ethical abyss. Any human being who claims moral high ground from whatever pulpit they happen to stand upon, but then speaks from there to extol lethal actions to make amends, or to advance some specious doctrine or other is engaged in something reprehensible. Any demagogue who claims killing “infidels” or “occupiers” is a worthy pursuit – for God, for justice, or other alleged grievances is a fraud. Anyone who can ramble off their coffee-shop diatribes about the justifiability of actions that inevitably kill innocents is being a fool.

Those who see virtue in violence to effect lasting political change prey on the total, absolute, collective ignorance to the realities of what is involved in such actions. And in large part, they succeed. Shame on all who allow it, for lacking a sense of history and humanity that, if heeded, would easily compel our thinking to change. Shame on us for our lack of imagination, for our inability to come up with solutions to human problems that do not constantly entail the death of children and innocents in the achievement.

Worst of all, our addiction to violent solutions perpetuates the idea that killing for a notion, an artifact of a delusional mind, is a legitimate intention for a sentient human being to possess. It never is. I’d like to see any man try to convince a child otherwise.

To borrow from Robert Graves, our use of violence too often requires us to “spell away the soldiers and the fright” in our minds when it comes to armed warfare. It’s the way we’ve made it a palatable solution in our minds. I wish we’d take greater pause after counting the dead, and commit to sacrificing no more lives in violent actions that so not work and demean our humanity.

My Hugh Jackman Man-Crush

So, this is my competition. I'm so f*cked.

So this is the sort of beady-eyed putz women find attractive, eh? He ain’t much.

I’ve got a man-crush on Hugh Jackman. I have palpable feelings of affection for the guy, a kind of celebrity-worship I loathe when I see it reflected in shallow media like People, TMZ, and Us. I shouldn’t have such feelings either way for someone I’ve never met, especially an entertainer who leads a life infinitely more charmed and luxuriant than mine.

But I don’t care. I loves me my Hugh Jackman.

As an entertainer in a highly image-conscious industry, he’s masterfully projected both ends of the masculine-feminine spectrum in his choices as a performer. At the same time he’s maintained his status as a hunky male sex symbol without propagating the macho clichés that poison the minds of young boys with falsehoods about what it is to be a man.

When I see Hugh Jackman on a talk show or awards-show I can feel myself rooting for him, brimming with enjoyment. The torrents of envy and ill-will that erupt out of my ego when George Clooney or Matt Damon flash their powdered-up dimples, proselytizing left-wing politics on Letterman before retiring back to their opulent lives, is nowhere to be found when I see Hugh Jackman talking about cooking on The View or Singing in the Rain at the Oscars. It’s not his pecs or broad shoulders – which I grudgingly admit are pretty special – but the female energy he radiates that is attractive to others.

Image

Pffft. Look how small his nipples are. Is it me, or is his belly button a little higher than normal? Hey Dumbo, what’s with the  big ears! Ha, ha, ha.

All things considered, I should be welling-up with green-eyed, bilious hatred for the dapper Aussie. First of all, he’s white; a stroke of genetic good fortune to spare him a lifetime of racially-motivated indignities throwing a wet blanket over his natural gifts. He’s genuinely charming, has a toothy smile, non-patchy facial growth, and a full head of thick wavy hair. He has a pince-nez, genuine swagger, and an income to free him from financial worries. It’s hard to like a guy with all that going for him; to look at the picture to the right and not feel woefully insignificant by comparison. His fame, notoriety and all-around affability would be far more tolerable if he were chubby and homely.

I was born a black man in a white family, and grew up in a bland prairie town where I looked like nobody else around me. I have a receding hair-line, a naturally slow metabolism, and a space between my teeth you could pass a roll of dimes through. I am barely treading water financially, am divorced, earn a decidedly middle-class salary, and I drive a Hyundai.

I am an emotional eater prone to vicious mood-swings that undermine my heroic efforts to stay lean and looking good. I’ve managed to attain only a four-pack of abs because I can’t stop stuffing my face with chocolate and pizza when I’m in the grip of a moody funk. My self-loathing inspired junk food binges have left me with a muffin-top over my lower two abs that will never recede. In fact, after tapping out this paragraph I will run to the kitchen for a bag of chocolate cookies to dip in my bucket of tears.

Other than the fact we both have a penis, an Adam’s apple, and widespread bodily hair we have nothing in common. Check that; given Hugh’s unmitigated success, it’s obvious we both really, really like Hugh. We should probably become BFFs.

But I don’t hate Hugh, even if it’s obvious he doesn’t reach for a tub of Ben and Jerry’s every time he faces a setback. I am crushing out on Hugh in spite of his apparent perfection. I get a massive male-ego boner because his success did not grow from the same pile of self-aggrandizing excrement that blossoms most male ambition in our culture.

The more Hugh shimmies on stage singing show tunes made famous by Liza Minelli the less self-conscious I become about being hapless with hand tools, not caring about sports, not having money to dress fashionably, or feeling bad about shooting deer and other helpless, cute and furry wild creatures to hang their sad, dead busts over the mantle in my man-cave. Thanks to Hugh, I don’t feel the need for a man-cave, necessarily. I don’t feel the need to demonstrate the scale of my manhood by subjugating everyone and everything in my existence to whatever it is my ego desires in the moment.

If Hugh Jackman hit on me at a party and intimated we take things upstairs, after the blushing subsided I’d give it some serious thought. It’d be hard to shake the idea that a tumble in the sheets with such a well-rounded and successful man might be the wrecking ball of confidence to obliterate the Hoover Dam of neurosis that’s come between the world and I my entire life. In the end, I’d reluctantly have to say ‘no thanks, mate’. I don’t roll that way, but the offer would give me cause to seriously assess the merits of my chosen sexual orientation.

Hugh Jackman is genuine and unrestrained in refreshing contrast to most other heterosexual male sex-symbols. It’s disarming for both sexes, and endears him to his audiences. Watch Hugh Jackman’s opening of the 2009 Oscars and try to dislike him. It was splendid in its simplicity, allowing the talent and spirit inside the performer to glimmer. He nailed the number without degenerating into glibness and cliche. There were no traces of the stiffness, cheek, or embarrassment that most male egos would unleash to sabotage the performance and excoriate the man for presuming to do “girly” things like singing, dancing, and self-deprecating humour.

He relishes opportunities to sing, dance, and carry a tune on stage. The more a really masculine-looking man like Hugh Jackman does it, the more other broad-shouldered Liza Minellis out there will do the same. Just like that, the emotional breadth of man widens. A man becomes more than a wife-beating, knuckle-dragging, money-grubbing, ball-grabbing ape; more than a pouting cacaphony of unresolved emotions posing as a grown adult. Instead, a man learns to be comfortable with his vulnerability, to say ‘I don’t know’ without shame, to cry without embarrassment. A man learns to own and exude his sensitivity as a human being; to express feelings other than hostility, rage, and resentment for not getting what he’s conditioned to believe he’s entitled to.

It seems revolutionary; an emotionally intelligent, well-rounded man who isn’t a flake. ‘Impossible,’ you say? Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce Hugh Jackman. He is everything the Marlboro man, Dirty Harry, every Tom Cruise movie-character in the 80’s, Gordon Gecko and other idealized males in the North American pscyhe are not. He is not the living incarnation of a chastened penis in constant search of validation.

It’s no surprise Jackman is Australian. He didn’t have the posturing-male nonsense shoved down his throat as a boy, so he’s oblivious to the macho stereotypes he mocks by his essence. He is clearly a talented man, but he’s no artistic genius. What is appealing is the fact he’s just doing something really, really unique in projecting himself as a man, which is why people respond so positively to it.

Jackman’s feat goes a long way to driving a wooden stake into the heart of the domineering alpha-male persona to which our culture teaches boys to aspire; that so many women have been conditioned to prefer in a prospective mate. Jackman’s popularity raises the hope that sensitive, expressive, emotionally robust, and artistic are attributes that will someday rival ambitious, wealthy, charming, and aggressive as attributes men are encouraged to cultivate and women are inclined to seek out. I love Hugh for the fact his choices as an artist advance our idea of what it is to be male beyond the evolutionary rut it’s obviously still stuck in; for being living proof men no longer need to act like baboons to be successful winners in life.

Jackman as Wolverine

Wolverine. He’s supposed to be a sorry figure. Funny that. Pity is not what comes to mind when I see Hugh and his pipes here. Insignificant. Envious. Smited by God. Hungry for chocolate cake and other binge-favourites.

Hugh Jackman’s artsy-Adonis image is the foil to the concept of man as primordial conqueror, an ideal that has created scores of tragic male figures whose lives were wasted desecrating history with countless atrocities. It is refreshing and even subversive the way he so effortlessly refrains from suppressing his feminine side in such mass-market venues. It’s one that exists in every man, but is the cause of so much unresolved conflict in our minds; one that too often manifests itself in destructive fashion.

Much of the pathos at the heart of the brutality men have exclusively been responsible for – bellicosity, zealotry, misogyny, genocide, xenophobia – stems from the suppression of such a fundamental essence of our being. It’s a denial that fuels a callous disrespect for the sanctity of life – human, animal, and ecological. The more men embrace their feminine spirit the way Hugh Jackman has, the more well-balanced and less prone to senseless acts of violence men will be.

If only men could find a way to tap into their feminine side to settle their differences. Imagine two men jockeying for the affections of a woman, or in a stalemate over who gets the last buffalo wing, or trying to claim a useless tract of desert as their holy land. As the intensity of the dispute reaches a climax, instead of escalating to lethal violence what if the custom was to break out into “Anything you can do I can do better” and let the chips fall where they may? Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris did just that at the 2011 Tony Awards and it was decisive in dousing their little quibble.

Real men dance ... with each other ... while singing musicals! Bro's before ho's. Word.

Real men dance … with each other … while singing musical numbers! Bro’s before ho’s, y’all.

If men could dance away their disagreements there’d be no need for guns, scud missiles, IEDs, and suicide bombs to get innocent folks killed. If men could tap-dance to the beat of their inner angst there’d be no more acid tossed at girls for seeking an education, no more children killed in indiscriminate gunplay, no more teenaged boys plucked from school and handed AK-47s to deliver their fathers’ mortal enemies to their deaths. The human race is spared the affliction of male-inspired misery and everybody wins because they’re alive and entertained.

Hugh Jackman’s female effervescence in the face of the temptation to be a womanizer undermines the idea that a man’s barrel chest and broad shoulders are crowbars to pry a woman’s panties from her hips. His comportment demonstrates that the penis isn’t a brick-bat to knock the shit out of would-be adversaries or an instrument to hoodwink women into sexual submission. For some men, a penis is just a crippling fact of nature, but it doesn’t have to command gratification of its every whim. It doesn’t have to penetrate and colonize every object its hard-on desires.

It’s essential for men to keep the whimsical aims of our insatiable peckers contained safely in the dungeons of our inner-life without giving it the keys to the castle gates. Without denying its energy and spirit, we must learn to take it for healthy jaunts in the community, keeping it close at hand with an emotionally intelligent leash. The approach is more harmonious with modern Civilization than the alternative: all the mindless, pathological sabre-rattling that has terrorized the earth for millennia. Unfortunately, too many men remain lax keeping their plundering dragon walking in step, and the result is a sad, heart-hardening legacy in the spirits of humanity.

But hope is not lost. Don’t believe me? Look at Hugh kicking like a Rockette. I rest my case. We’re not all douchebags beyond redemption. There are some men who genuinely desire to energize the feminine spirit in their hearts for its life-affirming qualities. Whether we men like it or not, we cannot reach our full potential as human beings without embracing the feminine, either by cultivating it in ourselves or opening our hearts to it in healthy, close, mutually respectful relationships with women.

The new man of the 21st century

Real men wear gold tights and leopard-pattern silk shirts!

Hugh Jackman is the object of my bro-mantic fantasies because he’s channeled his energies into expressing the female as a prominent feature of his male persona; in stark contrast to the denial of this in the idealized hyper-masculine idea prevalent in our culture.  Thanks to you Hugh Jackman, for projecting the kind of man I actually want to emulate; one who is real and whole. I am right behind you as you champion the cause – figuratively speaking, of course.

Now, about that buffed chest, over-sized pipes, and ripped body. I think we need to talk about your little “awesome body” problem over some cookies and ice cream.