Essay mr. fish Original

Mr. Fish: What’s the Alternative?

Illustration by Mr. Fish.

By Mr. Fish / Original to ScheerPost

“Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”  – Mark Twain

In 1992, the late great comedian Bill Hicks, easily one of the most viscerally recalcitrant critics of US foreign policy, police brutality, and mush-head Christian duplicity, was featured in a BBC2 production titled Funny Business: A Question of Taste that asked when an artist should refrain from using vernacular language that is too blunt in its criticism of the government, the church, or the most toxically vanilla presuppositions of the dominant culture. Exhausted by the familiar argument often leveled against stand-ups who use humor to advance contrarian ideas that could be misconstrued as anarchistic or blasphemous – ideas, that is, that could implicate the listener in some way and pull them out of a spectator role and into a participatory one – Hicks interrupted his interviewer’s insistence that people don’t come to comedy clubs to think by saying, “Gee, where do [they] go to think? I’ll meet [them] there.” 

Hoping to reaffirm the legitimacy of her position with volume over substance, the interviewer then interrupted Hicks to say, “[Audiences] don’t want to think – they want to laugh!” to which Hicks responded, “What am I supposed to do, go out and tickle [each audience member] individually? We have to express [ideas in art].” When the interviewer finally proposed that comedians should sometimes self-censor in deference to good taste because an artist, like the rest of the population relegated to the cramped quarters located in the increasingly crowded lower tiers of the hierarchy, is required to have the wherewithal to know when to draw the line when speaking hard truths to those unrehearsed in hearing them, an exasperated Bill sighed and asked wearily, “Can I suggest some jugglers you might like?” 

Unfortunately, this is where we are now as a culture, surrounded by the distracting burlesque of inarticulate clowns juggling our common fate like raw eggs while we are confined to our seats and made to sit on our hands, wincing powerlessly in anticipation of an endless cascade of ghastly splats. 

Of course, this is not the first time our country has faced apocalyptic disintegration. Consider the late 1960s, for example, a time famous for its political and cultural turmoil, when every day seemed riotous and terminally combustible, when optimism choked perilously close to death on the unrelenting smoke of seismic discontent day in and day out. An unpopular president sat in the White House while his party controlled both chambers of Congress and his critics, at home and abroad, ridiculed him as a fascist and a moron. Russian espionage was rumored to be yanking on innumerable puppet strings sewn covertly into the national fabric, while professional athletes showed their support for the Black struggle against white supremacy and were banned from future competitions. Mass demonstrations by people opposing war, discrimination, censorship, and income disparities crowded the streets and disrupted traffic. Cartoonish politicians blew racist dog whistles and won elections after appealing to voters made witless by frustration over the white-powered notion that brown-skinned people were on the verge of becoming their neighbors and taking their jobs and raping their daughters and, worst of all, stealing their television sets. LGBTQ people were demanding equal respect and the decriminalization of their lifestyles, while women raged against the groping misogyny of a male dominated society headed by a cock-centric bureaucracy that wanted to own every uterus cowering behind every vagina like a hundred million innocent souls concealed behind a hundred million bookshelves; bookshelves where the unbroken spines of books offered the only temporary protection against the thuggish illiteracy of a lynch mob out for blood.

It was also a time when U.S. interventionist wars polka dotted the horizon like ghoulish campfires alive with sizzling indigenous meats and nuclear warheads swam through the depths of our national consciousness like ravenous sharks circling a dying leviathan, having only several years earlier been re-released into the dark waters of our paranoia by a blue-blooded prom king of Camelot who, mistaking himself for Arthur, drew the Sword of Damocles from Hiroshima’s headstone to proclaim himself the Prince of Peace. Environmentalists presented scientific evidence that industry was threatening the survival of the species with balance sheets, and whole police forces were under investigation for terrorizing private citizens. The chasm separating the Right from the Left was too wide to bridge and the dystopian stirrings of public surveillance, extraordinary rendition, and mass incarceration seemed to prove that we were a free society in reputation alone and that our demise was imminent.

Sound familiar?

But somehow, the country survived and, for a moment even, seemed on the threshold of successfully recalibrating the democracy in a way that might’ve eventually had us thriving responsibly and morally as a nation. So just how did we survive, if only for the meager reward of preparing now to fail catastrophically once more, with the threat of doomsday looming even larger on the horizon than it did before? Of course, the answer, if there is one, is likely way too complicated to cleanly decipher and adequately streamline with either brevity or accuracy in such an essay as this, written by such a wildly impatient and snarky cartoonist as myself. I will, however, offer the following with some measure of confidence that it could be at least part of the answer and perhaps even a serviceable starting point for anybody claiming to possess both the stamina and interest in extending the conversation further.

There’s a famous maxim that has been used for decades to describe the very foundation of headline news and the mainstream press: When a dog bites a man that is not news, but when a man bites a dog that is news. While this may serve beautifully as a style guide for fiction, it’s a profoundly corrosive deterrent to useful journalism because it insists that one accept without question the overly broad assumption that dogs have always, will always, and therefore must always bite men. Indeed, there are equally suspect assumptions often made about our politics, our history, and our cultural perspectives; these uninterrogated proclamations made true by the redundancy of their own lore and the perpetuation of a timeworn and exaggerated mythology popularized by rote repetition and nothing else. Once such assumptions are embraced as fact, there can be no further deductions made on the nature of either man or beast, of us or them, of truth or consequence. Hence, there can be no comprehension of the roots that sustain and contribute to the health, longevity, fruit, and shade of the sprawling tree we call knowledge.

Enter, the alternative and underground press – enter independent journalism. Enter the non-corporatized arts community. 

Ever since the arrival of journalism as the first draft of history there have been artists and writers working in contempt of mainstream thinking and conventional wisdom because there has always been an innate understanding, by those least offended by contrarianism and most attuned to the magnificent multiplicity of the human heart and head, that truth is an average, not an absolute. In other words, there have always been those who recognize that we all have a different favorite color and that because there are no fewer than 10 million colors visible to the average human eye – just as there are an infinite number of opinions with which to decipher the meaning of life from every conceivable angle – it has always been of the utmost importance to warn against how much would be lost if, for the sake of seeking a universal concept of truth, all rainbows were consolidated into a single hue so we might all share the same pacifying indifference for mud. Such is the danger of codifying a consensus by proclaiming that an amalgamation of compromised truths will produce a convenient one only vaguely true to those involved in crafting it.

Indeed, disappearing from our culture is the imperative that we are rendered more humane and better equip to grapple with our innate and, yes, unavoidable differences of opinion when we are encouraged to celebrate the polychromagnetism of an alternative and underground and independent press that propagates art, activism, contrarianism, individualism, and bohemianism in its many forms – that is, any and all forms of communication capable of giving voice to both an old and a young generation’s embrace of a worldwide people’s movement built on socialized empathy, communalized self-reliance, the intellectualized passions of the id, and a radical intolerance of the automatizing institutions that have only given us several hundred years of grim and unrelenting dung-colored tribalism. 

What we need, specifically, because it is precisely what we’ve lost as a multiracial, multiethnic, multi-partied, omnistic, and pan/tri/bi/cis/agendered society, is a tolerance for the multiplicity that surrounds us, for without the uniqueness of others to exist contrary to we would not thrill to what makes us unique as individuals. What we need is something that we once had and have subsequently lost: a modern media capable of expressing and demonstrating that the diversities that comprise our communities is not a threat to our eccentricity but rather the very thing that defines it, in much the same way that there is no light without darkness, no comedy without tragedy, no truth without bullshit, and thusly no learning without an open mind wherein genuine comprehension can occupy any and all empty spaces found wanting.

When we lost the active participation of an independent press that refused to allow the powerbrokers of government and big business to frame the parameters of all public debate on how to craft a meaningful life, and when we lost the radical hospitality of an arts community that was once fearless in its mission to produce dissenting proclamations about the status quo – knowing full well that disagreeability promotes candor and, in the end, that candor is all that can saves us – we lost a profoundly important mechanism that played an integral part, perhaps the most integral, of our democracy. After all, left in the wake of its absence – some might say its systematic eradication – is a corporate media modeled entirely on the principle that the public cannot be trusted to comprehend, let alone traverse, the complicated curlicues of its own interdependent destiny so it must be placated with distracting fairytales that perpetuate a wholly myopic vision of American™ exceptionalism. After all, when the marketplace of ideas becomes a literal marketplace and news and information become the privately owned and publicly traded inventory controlled by for-profit institutions, there can no longer be a commonwealth of well-informed citizens capable of guiding the republic forward in alert deliberation of truth, equity, and justice for all. No, there can only be a consumer class of customers who rely on big business to help them curate the intake of their news and information the same way they help them curate their intake of everything else for sale; that is, in accordance with an economic model designed to conceal the manipulation of market forces whose only purpose is to guarantee that capital flows in one direction, upward, and that shoppers be made compliant and even enthusiastic about their participation in the pecking order of hierarchy by buying into the sadistic hoax that the rich and powerful have always been and must always be allowed to remain as the trusted arbiters of our collective fate.

“This is where we are at right now, as a whole – no one is left out of the loop,” said Bill Hicks thirty years ago to an audience where only a few had come to think and the overwhelming majority sat staring at the stage, perplexed and disappointed at having paid for the opportunity to disappear for a time into the disorienting spectacle of dick jokes and the confectious escapism of folly while the world burned. “We are experiencing a reality based on a thin veneer of lies and illusions. A world where greed is our God and wisdom is sin, where division is key and unity is fantasy, where the ego-driven cleverness of the mind is praised, rather than the intelligence of the heart.” Then there came the pause that elucidated the significance wherein self-reflection is supposed to happen and didn’t. “This is the material, by the way,” Bill continued, “that has kept me virtually anonymous in America for the past 15 years. Gee, I wonder why we’re hated the world over?”

Then there was another pause. And lucky for us, it’s still with us, but just barely. And it won’t be around much longer.


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Mr. Fish
Mr. Fish

Dwayne Booth (a.k.a., Mr. Fish) is a cartoonist, freelance writer and ScheerPost regular who has been published in many reputable and prestigious magazines, journals and newspapers. In addition to Harper’s Magazine, his work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice, Vanity Fair, Mother Jones Magazine, the Advocate, Z Magazine, the Utne Reader, Slate.com, MSNBC.com and various European newspapers. He has also written novels, screenplays, short fiction and cultural criticism collections, and several volumes of political cartoons.

31 comments

  1. So on point: Thank you for vocalizing the gut of the collective unconscious!!!

  2. At best, even liberal media only hint at the very issue that divided and conquered today’s “masses,” ensuring that there can be no people’s movement, no push-backs against a government determined to impose fascist rule. Indeed, they were re-educated to avoid even say the words: Poverty crisis. They easily ignore the millions left jobless, many with $0 incomes. Yes, millions of people, now marginalized to the degree that they aren’t even mentioned. When they refer to “income inequality,” does anyone not know that they limit the concept to the gap between the more fortunate and the rich? And liberals themselves dumbed-down Martin Luther King’s massive Poor People’s March into a vague and wishy-washy petition drive for “voting rights.” So for all of this, the ruling class thanks liberals for their service.

  3. Great piece except – what I read here is a peon to the individual, individualism – where the only unity is in a celebration of diversity – where the only mention of what we have in common is how we are all different – when, it seems to me, what we need to do is emphasize and foster ALL the things we have in common as human beings, and, on a broader scale, what we have in common with other living beings – where celebrated differences are, in so many ways, only “skin deep”, but our “identities” center around color, gender, sexual orientation, etc., tribal identities instead of simply as human beings – all needing the same basic things – Maslowe’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, where, in fact, no one is left out – where we are All One Tribe … Because until we get there we will not be able to reach the level of unity required to face the existential challenges that confront us all as a species, not just as a collection of “races” or tribes – that the ultimate “intersectionality”, the only one that counts, is where we “intersect” as humans …

    Quantum physics points out that the universe is “entangled” – on a subatomic level – but considering that we all are composed of “subatomic particles”, that entanglement is the most profound truth of our being, our lives, our future – and if we do not come to a profound understanding of this, the question is will we have a future …

    1. SH:

      You make thoughtful observations. There is definitely a celebration of diversity in our society as long as it doesn’t affect the corporate bottom line or require empathy for all sides, just your own.

      I have looked at Roman history, and find many parallels with the US today, especially a powerful state system that created the legions and allowed the Romans for a time to rule 1/4 of humanity. This system tried to preserve itself through many crises, and future generations in feudal Europe wanted to emulate this empire (consider, for example the terms “kaiser” or “czar” originating from Caesar).
      The masses in Rome saw the power and affluence of empire in the spectacle of the Coliseum.

      If the most powerful within our society limit freedom of thought and discussion, turn to propaganda and diversion to avoid certain knowledge and wisdom, the consequences will follow, as we all are witness to right now. It’s hard, as individuals, to deal with an impersonal “system”, whatever form it takes in our technological society, but if we don’t try, and try to reach out to others, what will happen to our humanity?

    2. Exactly SH. Until humanity realizes the one thing we all have in common is that we are Workers and should look upon one another as the working class, and filter all these issues of gender and race, that Mr. Fish writes about, from a class perspective, we will achieve nothing. Until we eradicate the antiquated nation states with their meaningless flags and their caustic nationalistic ideals we will continue to destroy one another in a race to our own demise.
      Bill Hicks would have been real bold, and Mr.Fish would have been too, if they came out and said that capitalism and nationalism must be eradicated for a global Socialism based on human need which is what a real democracy of, for, and by the people is. Until humanity realizes this and takes up the mantle of what the true Bolshevik’s were trying to achieve, before Stalin wrested power from them and created a nationalistic ” socialism ” ( Stalinism ) in one country, we will continue to be steered into the abyss by the malignancy of capitalism. The power and the answers lay with the global working class, they don’t lay anywhere else. We cannot rely on any capitalist ” solutions, ” or trade union bureaucracies to fix global problems. The Capitalists are in the business of creating problems that they believe can be fixed by squeezing the working class for more and more. This will never end in capitalism where growth for the profits sake of the few on a planet with finite resources is unsustainable. Workers of the world must unite and create rank and file committees in all workplaces to wrestle power from the exploiters and put it into the hands of the creators of wealth, the working class.

    3. I was going to try to raise similar objections, something to the effect that when immersed in our current sea of lies, that the truth is obscured. But the truth exists, and while in may not be a uniform truth, it is a universal truth. The author’s view of art as an exclusively individual form of truth, obscures the collective and universal, which is exactly what we have lost and suffer most from. Art can pierce the lies by telling universal truths.

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Very thoughtful and well constructed writing here. Going on 69 years in February, and having spent my “wonderbread years” in the San Fernando valley, I remember how important the counter culture was in keeping us informed. Although the main stream media showed war and discontent, it did so in such a manner that it was “dismissible” to most adults at the time. So much more that I could say here, but I worry the most now about not having a real anti-war movement, and all the climate denial bullshit. I guess we “normal” humans (who want a peaceful and just world for all, including the animals and the planet) are too few and we have moved into a space where we aren’t running on a clock anymore (for our survival) but and hourglass! So glad to have you & your acerbic wit creating what you do. Can’t say enough!

  5. There’s always a tension between our physical needs and comfort, and the practice of virtue or power in obtaining them. Virtue is always harder, because using power means you don’t have to trust others, share with others or care about others. In the long run, virtue enables love, beauty and acceptance of diversity in its infinite forms. In terms of consciousness our species is at an early stage, and like you have alluded it’s scary and hard to open one’s mind, to find strength in vulnerability.

    You and Robert have opened up a precious space on Scheerpost that is rapidly closing (as you’ve written) in all areas of our society, including journalism and comedy, stand-up or otherwise. You can only plant some seeds and come back to water them, the rest is up others.

    1. Nice fluffy woke sentiment, but it’s disconnected to reality. This site is larded with articles that are as much nonsense as the NYT. Diversity is for the most part a manufactured illusion and pander to the shallow woke, who if handed power would install some variation of woke totalitarianism that destroyed freedom of speech and thought. The consummate minority is the individual, not some artificially categorized type.

      1. C. Kent:

        I don’t think we can dismiss diversity entirely, even if the term is misused as a smokescreen or a way to suppress different opinions. I enjoy the writings of Caitlin Johnstone ( caitlinjohnstone.com ), and this may have some of her influence combined with my own thoughts. Can our species transcend its limitations, expand its consciousness, and become wise and virtuous? My assertion is that acceptance of diversity comes naturally from being virtuous, as the ego does not fear differences, but tries to learn from them. Yes, these can be a fluffy thoughts, and it’s hard to practice the ethics of New Testament or the Stoics in the real world, for example, but perhaps still worth doing.

        Caitlin made the observation that sometimes the political Left has been reduced to a glorified chat group. I post comments on here to develop my thoughts and get a better understanding. At the end of the day, I try not to look at these comments and articles as an end in themselves, but as a call to change.

  6. speaking of assumption

    ironic that this article leads with that ironic jingle ironically-repetitively mis-attributed to twain, like a stock sleeve-tattoo, by all the for-reals all-knowing innocently-gushing internet tattoo/logo/meme “artists,” scholars & experts

    i heard everyone who actually knows twain personally hasn’t learned to use the internet yet

    am i your huckleberry?

  7. Capitalism is designed to commodity everything, that’s how we assign value. There is thinking on the libertarian right and the socialist left that capitalism can be fixed so that accumulated capital doesn’t dominate society. The analogy of culture being blended into mud may be old school. Flip on a TV, everything is very colorful and diverse and inclusive. What was underground is now quickly appropriated and commodified. The only thing missing and verboten is any alternative to capitalism itself, like we are fish swimming in it.

  8. “We are experiencing a reality based on a thin veneer of lies and illusions. A world where greed is our God and wisdom is sin, where division is key and unity is fantasy, where the ego-driven cleverness of the mind is praised, rather than the intelligence of the heart.” Bill Hicks

    Pondering this quote, is it any wonder we are where we are?

    A thin veneer of lies and illusion . . .

    Thank you, Mr. Fish, for a fine essay and ScheerPost for presenting it.

  9. Opening with a notorious mis-attribution to Twain does not impress, then the author proceeds to babble and bubble ahistorical nonsense at length sufficient to put off even desperate Scheerpost fans. It comes to mind that most of Fish’s cartoons are likewise as heavy-handed and tiresome as Chris Hedges off his anti-depressant medication.

    Since when, for instance, does media “guide debate on how to craft a meaningful life?” You gotta be joking, do young people really think media transmits philosophy?

    I find this bit odd: “What we need is something that we once had and have subsequently lost: a modern media capable of expressing and demonstrating that the diversities that comprise our communities is not a threat to our eccentricity but rather the very thing that defines it.”

    When, pray tell, did human society have such a thing? Never mind, I can answer; never.

    “Media” is not where you find the sort of information that builds the mind, books are. Media is a lesser thing, it’s pervasiveness being a product of it’s easy of use and high profit margins. Media is product not substance.

    1. “do young people really think media transmits philosophy?”

      Yes.

      Every day, 365/24/7. Total propaganda that forms values and visions and worldview.

      Daniel Boorstin wrote “The Image” in 1962:
      https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/the-image-a-guide-to-pseudo-events-in-america_daniel-j-boorstin/271029/item/2003407/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwteOaBhDuARIsADBqRegmRgO9nOLq8AXHxQzGNiFvJZN2-12kP27F75WKesb–RfvD8SRT_QaAgT5EALw_wcB#idiq=2003407&edition=1945797

      Long before then, US and western culture had abandoned books and formal academic philosophy.

  10. Both Mr. Hicks & Mr. Hicks figured out that we prefer flattery over candor. But they stubbornly chose to express solidarity w/ candor, anyway.

    They are both artists, even though we generally won’t say that. Maybe a hundred years later.

    Excerpts of Hicks’ BBC experience are as sharp as Mr. Fish’s cartoons.

    They’re wielding art like sledgehammers declare some connoisseurs who must mistake their own mind for a rail spike, since they don’t respond to creative subtlety unless it’s advertised in advance.

  11. Even farther back Marcus Aurelius said, that if you associate with stupid people, they’ll drag you down!!!

  12. I really like that Mr. Fishes writing has a lot of respect for artists. As one myself that always makes feel good and also as a person who loves the conveniences and luxuries of capitalism, I appreciate that he doesn’t lay guilt trips on me, or tell me what I should believe.

    1. “I, myself, a person who, I, I me ….”
      You make over half a dozen (it’s too ugly to count) self-references in two sentences, in three persons. This disturbing level of unaware, self-absorption is a screaming red flag for hapless/feckless mindless solipsism.

      1. The world ‘appears’ when we are born and disappears when we die.
        The only constant is I, the observer.
        Forever.
        Prove me wrong.
        Not with speculation, but Truth.

  13. Mainstream media, whether it be Murdoch’s despised print and TV or the Guardian’s faux liberalism (nay progressive) online format, and everything in between, is primarily an instrument of the advertising industries; from those lathering you up to buy a certain brand of shampoo, radio shoving certain artists and tunes down your throat to government spin/propaganda.

    MSM survives predominantly due to revenue from advertising – no secret there.
    But it is more than that; corporate media is all about selling, selling crap, selling the planet down the dunny, selling-out on those at the bottom of the totem-pole in preference to the 0,01%, selling Julian Assange & Chelsea manning out in order to protest the perpetrators and the protectors of war-crimes.

    Fossil fuel corporations, and before that tobacco and pharma, invested such significant amounts into advertising that they actually pressured media to pedal disinformation (lies) to the detriment of humanity and the natural environment,
    Governments did likewise re the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Corporate media also chooses, very carefully, what to cover.
    In Australia the government this week handed down its budget.
    But only by sourcing independent media does one discover that $3 billion was allocated for fossil fuel funding; this one important aspect was absent from the coverage by corporate news.

    And so, to return to Bill Hicks, who said of advertisers:
    “There’s no rationalisation for what you do and you are Satan’s little helpers. … Seriously. You are the ruiner of all things good … You are Satan’s spawn filling the world with bile and garbage. You are fucked and you are fucking us.”

    P.S. Thanks Dwayne, so often your images impact where words are inadequate.

    https://genius.com/Bill-hicks-on-advertisers-and-marketing-annotated
    https://michaelwest.com.au/jim-chalmers-brings-a-budget-potpourri-something-for-everyone-the-fossil-fuel-lobby-too/

    1. whoops; apologies
      “order to protest the perpetrators’
      should read
      “order to PROTECT the perpetrators”

  14. WHAT DO RATIONALIST LIBERAL INTELLECTUALS, ECON DETERMINISTS, EVANGELICALS, AND THE CONSERVATIVE WHITE WORKING CLASS HAVE IN COMMON?

    Several comments on this thread as well as Bill Hicks and Mr. Fish have implied that the answer is in what’s missing. Creative people can feel it. Social justice activists and non-conformists in general see clearly that our econ and political systems are flimsy.

    Hicks is wrong to claim “there’s no rationalization for what you do” because rationalization–the logic of economics, technocracy, and empire–is the source of the problem. Rationalist and empiricist thinking cannot extract itself from itself.

    What the people of my title have in common is not politics or economics left or right; it’s dominance of left hemisphere human brain processing. Where certainty, firmness, stasis, and explicitness rule.

    * )The height of rationalist assumptions was the Enlightenment. Never mind that science also brings horrific weapons. Or that certainty about its own superiority so well described in Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest.”
    *)Econ determinism, left and right, is arguments over reductionistic materialism. Assumptions challenged by subatomic physics, the current debates about consciousness, and of course artists.
    *)Evangelicals and fundies of all kinds abhor ambiguity. They crave left hemisphere certainty and its either/or mode. So then good/ bad, with us/against us, male/female. Simple.
    *)The white working class has been invisible to the elites since the late ’70s-early ’80s and the victims of job loss. They want security, stasis. Insecurity leads to fear, and no real man can show fear. Thus intense anger–the one emotion that is primarily left hemisphere. With a cover for fear by the pretend strength of wearing camo and carrying guns in public.

    However, Bill Hicks is right to call for “intelligence of the heart.” That’s characteristic of the missing right hemisphere traits, opposite of all the aspects listed above. Here also are the values of meaning and purpose.

    For 1500+ pp of empirical evidence for the differences of processing between right and left brain hemispheres and how that effects human culture and politics, see “The Matter With Things” (Our Brains, Our Delusions, and the Unmaking of the World) by Iain McGilchrist.

  15. The totality of the assault on all planetary life, including humanity and all its cumulative culture and civilization takes my breath away. There is no getting around the stark realities and almost certain loss of a future. It is sheer madness. It is so overwhelming, it makes it hard to be human, hard to live, hard to hold onto belief/hope/understanding. And yet we must. The devastation takes place on the micro and the macro levels; as individuals and as members of a collective, we struggle to resist the destruction and to affirm life.

    There are brave souls who are at the forefront, who are compelled to bring everything they have to shed a light on what is going on and what is at stake in this crucial moment. Despite the cancer-like spread of lethal sh*t, they speak truth, think and create and live as fully as humanly possible, and seek to engage and encourage others. The answers and potential solutions to our existential threat lie in the collective; however, each of us has a part and crucial role.

    Mr. Fish is one such visionary artist/human doing his part. Knowing full well the evils (for that is what they are), he presses on. Noam Chomsky recently referred to Antonio Gramsci’s pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will. Mr. Fish has not succumbed to the fatalism which is the aim of the propaganda machine of the neoliberal, sociopathic, oligarchic, power-apparatus of what I term “humonsters.” (I sometimes think many of us are in a condition similar to the paralysis-of-the-body-but-fully-aware-ness of poison dart victims. Hellish.) It is daunting and well nigh impossible to conceptualize and work toward solutions. Yet, in this essay, Mr. Fish once again starts the conversation. Will we join him?

    Mr Fish’s words are powerful; thought-provoking; deep and penetrating; unflinching; brave; human/humane; a coalescence of heart-and-mind; and filled with original delightful-and-frightful images. Mr. Fish’s essay is KAPOW, just like his masterful funny-as-hell-but-gasp-damn-that-nailed-it toons. Obviously, I’m a Mr. Fish fan. Thanks, Fish!

    1. @ marcia prophet (and you are one):

      On HuffPo before it went AOL a commenter used the term ECONOPATH. Wish I could give credit to that person for a succinct and wonderfully apt neologism.

  16. My compliments to Dwayne Booth and his excellent thought-provoking art. Indeed “What we need is … modern media [demonstrating] an open mind wherein genuine comprehension can occupy any and all empty spaces…”

    When we at last have the CongressOfDebate (dotcom) up and running, we will have a true public forum with debate summaries upon which independent media and every citizen can rely. The free book describing its purposes and operations can be downloaded there.

  17. an excellent concise article providing overview of the intricate structurally entrenched social grift most average “american” tax-payers suspects yet can’t quite put a finger on or, too often, are unable or willing to even entertain the possibility that they’re being duped and have been all along
    ——————
    The most successful con in American history laid bare
    “This scam has two parts and one giant mechanism to make it possible. Those two parts are money and political power, and the mechanism is a nationwide conservative media infrastructure for which there is no match on the Democratic or progressive side.
    First came the con’s funding and administrative infrastructure. Just like in the movies, a good con requires establishing a strong setup, kind of an alternative world that will bring in the rubes and help you convince them of your alternate reality.
    That alternate reality would eventually include a Republican Party that no longer believes in American democracy, and actively works to promote the interests of billionaire oligarchs and foreign dictators over those of America.”
    “After Nixon put Powell on the Supreme Court in 1972 and the Court then legalized political bribery in a decision Powell himself authored (Bellotti), billionaires and corporations got to work creating a nationwide political infrastructure that has absolutely no match on the Democratic or progressive left.”
    “The result of this 50-year-long investment of billions of dollars and millions of person-hours of time has been a complete shift in American politics away from reality and into the realm of dystopian fantasy.
    Because of this massive infrastructure, Republican strategists and politicians can now quite literally create complete bullshit out of thin air and turn it into a national campaign strategy within a few months.”
    “So, here we have Republican politicians acting on behalf of rightwing billionaires as they are spending mind-boggling amounts of time, effort, and money promoting “solutions” to a problem that doesn’t exist.
    It begs the question: why?”
    “The answer, it turns out, is straightforward: like in any classic con, they do it because it takes our minds off the fact that they’re robbing us blind.
    With Citizens United and it’s progenitors the Supreme Court granted the privileged few an unconstrained license to plunder our nation’s treasure and they now buy legislation, including tax cuts for themselves, the way you and I buy fruit at the grocery store.”
    “No other developed country in the world has ever seen our staggering level of wealth inequality and, as if to shove it in Americans’ faces, we’re the only developed nation where both healthcare and education are privileges instead of rights.
    In the years since Powell’s Memo was taken to heart by America’s largest corporations and most paranoid billionaires, policies put into place by elected Republicans have” have degraded democracy in a extensive list of ways
    “As a result of all these changes, a national majority of Republican politicians and candidates support Trump’s effort to end our democracy and install strongman fascist rule.
    Feeling safe and knowing they can get away with it in this massive GOP media bubble, Republicans now routinely lie to voters to win elections.
    And all of this has been accepted — in many cases, cheered on — by white “average American” voters”
    to what end? you might ask
    “The simple answer is: billionaires and corporate greed. These guys set us up for a 40-year con that has taken more out of our pockets than any collection of grifters you’ve ever seen in any movie.
    None of this would have been possible if a group of fanatic billionaires hadn’t taken Powell’s memo to heart, if Powell and his Republican colleagues on the Supreme Court hadn’t legalized political bribery, or if there had been a similarly robust think tank and media effort on the left.
    But there’s nothing like this on the left. The simple fact is that most people who make billions do so because of a single-minded dedication to making and hoarding money, and that means keeping their regulations minimal and taxes low.
    While there are probably a hundred or so rightwing billionaires and morbidly rich multimillionaires in America actively funding Powell’s machine and Republican politicians, the ones I know of helping Democrats can be counted on one hand”
    “I once sat in a US Senator’s office with a media billionaire who owned almost a thousand radio stations, hundreds of which carried rightwing shows. I asked him if he’d consider putting progressive shows on even a handful of his stations and he told us bluntly, “I’ll never put anybody on the air who wants to raise my taxes.”
    This is the greatest con in American history.
    Average Republicans think they’re voting to help working people, protect their children, and guarantee liberty in this nation.
    Instead, they’re voting for politicians who want to destroy Social Security, Medicare, public schools, unions, and the rights of racial and gender minorities and women.
    Evangelicals think they’re supporting Christ’s work when they vote for Republicans but, as James Madison pointed out, merging church and state inevitably leads to the corruption of both. They think they’re being led by shepherds when, in fact, multimillionaire evangelists and megachurch preachers pitching political messages from the pulpit are ravening wolves (as we keep finding out).
    To add insult to injury, these Republican politicians are working as hard as they can to give more tax cuts to billionaires while putting the cost of those tax cuts and our collapsing public schools on our children’s tab.
    How much longer will white Americans continue to fall for the Republican pitch that Black people, married gays and lesbians, immigrants, Jews, Muslims, and trans children are trying to “destroy” our country?”
    “How much longer will they continue to vote for politicians who are, as you’re reading these words, working to corrupt the election systems . . . the beating heart of our democratic republic?
    We’ll get a clue on November 8th, although this multi-billion-dollar political infrastructure — designed to constrain democracy and promote the interests of oligarchs — will not easily surrender to popular will or even widespread outrage.
    Money, it turns out, is power, and that rightwing money has been directed toward this project for a half-century without letup.
    It’ll take time to break up the most successful con in American history. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start.
    Reverse Citizens United and restore Americans’ voting rights!”

    https://www.rawstory.com/the-most-successful-con-in-american-history-laid-bare/?cx_testId=4&cx_testVariant=cx_undefined&cx_artPos=9&cx_experienceId=EXC93HV4HK4I#cxrecs_s

  18. An outstanding essay from Mr. Fish.

    The future is being decided for us and we must prepare to act quickly.

    The problem is we are devouring the planet. As the supposed successful life form on the planet we are exhausting its energies and the planet is making its response. The response is climate change – how are we going to react? If we can set aside the possibility of nuclear annihilation there are 3 options.

    1. Re calibrate our expectations – less not more.
    2. Accelerate AI development and adapt our human
    evolution to the changing climatic conditions.
    3. A compromise of the above 2.

    Faced with the nature of those choices the amelioration of our social relations will become an inevitability and the promise of a new day may be realized.

  19. Thanks for making me not feel so insane. Crazy how relentless revenue and breeding consumers can really get an artist down. It really hard for me to hang out with my own modern family, so much want and anxiety over what they don’t have, when they have more then 99% of the world. Wild days. Bill Hicks is hunnid 💯

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