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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Monday, 26 January 2004

Topic: The Culture

Everyone has his or her heroes. For me? Duke Ellington, and Roberto Clemente, and, yes, George Carlin.
Heroes? Well, folks I admire might be a better term.
"I'm splitting semantic hairs here, but that's what they're for."

In an earlier post I pointed out that Jonathan Swift in his the "Digression on Madness" (1710) implies that the world can be divided into "fools" or "knaves" - the only two options.

It's quite funny, and nasty. And very cynical.

Swift only implies a third alternative - there are fools, and there are knaves, and then there can be total cynics who trust no claim about anything, ever.

I said that I'm working on that third option. George Carlin has it down.

George Carlin is sixty-six and still a hoot. Carlin now has twenty-four albums, he's done twelve HBO specials, and he has three Grammy Awards and five Emmy nominations. And his next book, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? will be published later this year. Should be amusing.

And it seems Carlin recently gave a telephone interview to The Idaho Statesman. It's pretty cool.

See 'Liberal' is a dirty word for George Carlin
Michael Deeds. The Idaho Statesman, January 24, 2004

Here's some of it.
Q: You don't do a lot of topical, current event comedy, do you?

A: I don't like topical stuff. It's too easy. Anybody can make fun of Bush. Hillary Clinton. Monica Lewinsky. Mike Tyson. That ... ain't hard. That's like shooting fish in a barrel. So I prefer going at things from an odd angle, different angle. I'm doing stuff about suicide ... I'm doing stuff about the fabric of space-time splitting open. I'm doing stuff about being a modern man with the language. So I'm just different, you know?

Q: Is being dark as important to you now as it was earlier in your career?

A: I don't know that I ever was (dark) - except now. I like testing people's limits. I like finding out what an audience feels uncomfortable with and pushing on that. That's the fun of art.

Q: You're known as a very liberal comic. Are you trying to change people's political views when you go out there? Do you have an underlying agenda?

A: No. First of all, I'm not liberal. I'm just about (being) anti-United States. I don't like the way this country operates. I think we've ruined this place. And I think it's largely because of businessmen. And businessmen are not liberals. So if that makes me a liberal, then that's just an association. It's not a choice. ...

I do not care about changing anybody. Nobody. I go out there to show the rest of the Americans how badly they're doing
. This country has been, for about 180 years now, badly mishandled. And it's been in the wrong hands. It's been in the hands of the business interests.

And a lot of the beauty of this country has been shattered by them. The physical beauty and the kind of institutional beauty that was originally built into this place - this experiment, this magnificent experiment in democracy is just being shredded to pieces by these right-wing Christians, the Ashcroft branch of Republicanism. (They're) just shredding the rest of the Bill of Rights which hadn't been shredded already. (But) they'd been doing a pretty good job on it up until then, anyway.

Q: Do you feel like this country has progressed any way, shape or form in the past 20 years?

A: Everybody's got more jet skis and Dustbusters now and sneakers with lights in them. They've got more cheese on their thing that they buy. They get double helpings.
Yep, they do.

Of course he's saying Americans measure all their progress in the wrong way. This seems be about our national character and priorities. I guess it's bigger than Bush.

And this doesn't even touch on religion. You might want to check out Positive Atheism's Big List of George Carlin Quotations for his take on that.

And there is Carlin's work on language. And you might check out the interview he gave The Onion a few years ago. Here's some of that - just a bit...
O: You've said, "If you think there's a solution, you're part of the problem." Do you really lack hope?

GC: Well, they say, "If you scratch a cynic, underneath you'll find a disappointed idealist." So I would imagine there's some little flame, however weak, that still burns, but I know time is against my seeing that. I think this world would need a long time, maybe a thousand years, to evolve to what may be a golden age, and in the meantime, there are all these very small, parochial struggles between peoples of different language and color and arbitrary political and national boundaries. And my understanding of it is that there is no hope, because I think we're locked in by commerce. The whole idea of the pursuit of goods and possessions has completely corrupted the human experience, along with religion, which I think limits the intellect. So with those two things in place as firmly as they are, I don't see any hope for getting around them short of some sort of interesting cataclysm. So I root for a cataclysm, for its own sake, just as entertainment. I don't even care if it has a good result. We're circling the drain, and I just like seeing the circles get faster and shorter all the time.

O: I was reading your web site [], and you referred to George W. Bush as a fascist. But you don't vote. Why not vote against someone you think is a fascist?

GC: Well, because it wouldn't make any difference. When fascism comes to this country, it won't be wearing jackboots; it'll be wearing sneakers with lights in them, and it'll have a smiley face and a Michael Jordan T-shirt on. They learned the mistake of overt control. They've learned how to be much subtler. No, I don't think my vote would mean anything, and at the same time, it would make me very untrue to myself to participate in what I really think is a charade.

O: Well, you more or less hate society anyway, don't you?

GC: Um, I'm very disrespectful of it, and I'm contemptuous of it, but I don't think hate is in me, although we use that word the same way we use love: "Oh, boy, I love ice cream and I hate the Dodgers." But it is a distaste, a contempt, a dissatisfaction, a disillusionment, and a lot of qualities and feelings that come together and appear as anger on stage. I don't experience them as anger; I experience them as a deep distaste. I'm splitting semantic hairs here, but that's what they're for.

O: Aren't you supposed to be slowing down?

GC: Yeah, that's the "old" deal, yeah. That's right. You know, I'm blessed with a great genetic package: Among the genetic qualities I got for free was this energy and stamina, as well as great enthusiasm and a positive, optimistic sense of self. My personal sphere is really positive; it's the world that I have my doubts about.
Yep, some of us have the same doubts.

Posted by Alan at 21:33 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

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