Ideology is a Mind Killer

Ideology is a Mind Killer

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

When will Russia Join the 21st Century, or At Least the 20th?

By Mel Carriere

The Russians are a mighty people, and a proud people, and an intelligent people with an unparalleled intellectual and cultural history.  I spend my half hour lunch break reading The Brothers Karamazov these days and I recognize Dostoevsky as a giant in a country that has produced uncountable literary giants including Leo Tolstoy, another of my personal favorites.  I love the Russians, the few I've met and the few whose works I have read, and if I sound like I'm sucking up to the Russians to soften a stinging critique of the incomprehensible, peculiarly anachronistic behavior of this country's officially sanctioned institutions, well then you guessed right.  Russia is a strangely bi-polar place, alternating back and forth between revolutionary ideas so shocking they scare the hell out of the rest of the world and then sinking back into ideas so medieval and reactionary that they scare the hell out of the rest of the world.  With Russia there does not seem to be any happy, tranquil, untroubled place in the middle.

What prompted me to write about Russia was a story I heard on National Public Radio regarding the staging of Wagner's opera Tannhauser at the Novosibirsk Theater in that country, a production which was reinterpreted by the director to depict Jesus Christ enduring temptations of a probable sexual nature, since the poster advertising the opera depicts Christ in crucifixion pose between a nude woman's spread legs.  There was a widespread outrage over this show fanned by the Russian Orthodox Church, and the director of the opera was fired by the Russian government's cultural minister because of the "unprecedented public reaction," which was probably completely orchestrated.

You can say what you want about the poor taste and lack of respect for Christianity demonstrated by depicting Christ in provocative poses, and I must confess that my sensibilities probably would have been offended by this as well.  But when I am offended, as I was by the 1987 "artistic" photograph "Piss Christ," depicting a crucifix submerged in a glass of urine, I turn the page or turn off the TV or close that particular offending window in my browser.  I don't take part in rounding up the pitchfork wielding peasants and marching off on a witch hunt just because certain artists have a different interpretation of religion than I do.

I think my particular attitude seems to be the legalized norm in the majority of industrialized countries, except Russia.  Yes we do have book burners and other would be moral watchdogs here in the United States, but these folks have no legal standing and every time they get a little bit out of control the courts shut them down under the Constitutional protections of freedom of speech, which are interpreted very liberally.  At the present time we are embroiled in one such freedom of expression controversy in the state of Indiana, where opponents of a new religious freedom law claim it threatens the right to same sex marriages, while its supporters claim it protects their right not to have same sex marriages conducted by their religious institutions.  The point in this case is that everybody thinks their freedoms are being trampled upon, and the real proposition on trial is whether or not the government has a right to legislate anybody's personal liberties at all.

In Russia, however, the government appears to have absolutely no compunction about deciding which religion is best for everyone, or deciding whether or not there should be any religion, period.  It wasn't that long ago that the Soviet Union predating modern Russia made the elimination of religion its stated objective.  Orthodox churches were vandalized and destroyed under Soviet rule.  Josef Stalin marched nearly all of the country's clergymen off to labor camps.

But now in the post Soviet era the wildly bi-polar Russian pendulum has swung completely the other direction, and the country finds itself in a situation where the Russian Orthodox Church is allied with the government and basically serves as a ready, willing, and able propaganda machine to shore up President Vladimir Putin's rule.  Critics of the regime, such as the punk band Pussy Riot, are jailed under "religious hooliganism" laws, and Pontius Putin washes his hands of "dictator" charges by letting the bishops lead the charge against his enemies.  Later, however, Vlad shows who his true friends are by handing out state medals to the religious leaders of these witch hunt campaigns.

Even more astounding to me is the situation in the Russian occupied areas of the Ukraine, where rebels have declared the Russian Orthodox Church to be the official religion, resulting in other Christian groups being forced to either flee to Ukraine controlled territory or to go underground.

These sorts of persecutions were also pretty common in the West at once time, but for the most part we have generally succeeded over the last two centuries of purging our society of religious intolerance.  People of all denominations and religions can preach on street corners; Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons proselytize their way down my block at least once a week, and my Facebook friend suggestion list is filled with wannabe friends who proudly display their "curlicue A orbited by atoms" banner on their profile pages.  None of the adherents of these various religions are being persecuted, and none of them have been incarcerated under "religious hooliganism" laws, as far as I know.

So my question for today is, when will the Russian Orthodox Bear cease alternating between these angry ravenous rages where it wants to consume everything, followed by the catatonic fits where it rolls up into a ball and lies comatose in the corner for several decades.  It would be nice to have a reasonably sedate partner in Eastern Europe that wasn't as moody as my wife at the low ebb of her estrogen cycle, but the incomprehensibly bi-polar character of Russia, symbolized to me by Tolstoy's piercing stare shooting out from behind that uncompromising beard, tells me that a great deal more political upheaval must be endured by everybody before any kind of real reconciliation between West and East can occur.

Photo attributed to: "83AS5017" by Alexandergusev - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Leo comes from:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Why Ted Cruz and his Minions Scare the Crap out of me - Thoughts on Theocracy

By Mel Carriere

If part of your left wing revolution includes gathering all the Bibles together onto a bier and setting it aflame, or, as some of the more frighteningly extreme among you have suggested, gathering the Christians together onto a bier and setting them aflame, then you can count me out.  Even though it most certainly contradicts my blog's slogan that ideology is mental murder, my irrational monkey mind still clings to the comfort of religion, and I proudly profess to be a Catholic Christian.  Therefore, if your quest is to bring back the good old days of Diocletian feeding his hungry kittens with Christian cat chow I'm afraid you scare me just as much as the wacko Puritan witch-hunters on the right do.

"Courageous Conservative," the tag applied to Ted Cruz to help him psychologically manipulate puzzled voters into choosing him for president, is a concept that is equally terrifying to me as religious terror, or as anti-religious terror.  The truth is, if you are a part of white bread America like I am, you don't have to be courageous to be a conservative at all.  If I were to start spouting off about how I love Obama when I go to my family reunion in July, those good people are liable to take me out for a ride in a pickup truck on the dry juniper flats and you might not ever hear from me again.  So when they use the term "Courageous Conservative" to describe Ted Cruz, it is Orwellian Newspeak to a dangerous extreme, containing sinister portents of something dark and dirty beneath.

Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for President of the United States at Liberty University, the Grand Inquisitor mill created by the late Reverend Jerry Falwell.  Falwell was the man who advocated that public schools should be taken over by churches and have Christians running them.  He blamed 9-11 on the pagans and everybody else who was trying to secularize America.  He said that labor unions should read the Bible instead of asking for more money because the Bible will help its members work harder when they get right with God.  All of this said with a perfectly straight, albeit pudgy face.

I'm sure that Ted Cruz announcing his candidacy at this institution is not coincidental, but sends a clear signal about what he is all about, and what his people are all about.  Despite my Catholic convictions I am, and always will be, passionately committed to the separation of church and state, because I personally don't want fat bags of wind like Ted Cruz and his mentor Jerry Falwell commanding me to keep my kids away from the Teletubbies on TV because Tinky-Winky is supposedly a symbol of gay pride.

Shockingly enough, there are plenty of Americans who do not share my views about the inimical relationship of church and state, but would seem to welcome a government controlled by Conservative Christians, a sort of Inquisitorial oligarchy that decides what is good for me to read and what is proper for me to watch on TV.  A few years ago I actually had a conversation on this subject with a coworker who is also an ordained minister.

"How can you call yourself a Christian," he asked me, "and say you don't want to be governed by a Theocracy?"

"The only way I would support a Theocracy," I told him, "Is if Christ were the one in charge of it.  Any other human at the head of such a government would become corrupt and would promote their own personal agenda under the banner of God and the Bible."

A couple of coworkers listening to this largely friendly debate were cheering me on, because this mailman slash part-time preacher was fond of bullying people with the Bible, and wasn't used to being contradicted.  Which is another reason why this "Courageous Conservative" label is misleading, because most people just sort of meekly roll over to these loudmouths.

As perhaps also misquoted at one time by Ted Cruz, former President and Constitution Father James Madison said that "if angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." The problem with theocracy, however, is that angels are not governing men.  Men are governing men and men can be corrupt, autocratic, devious, cheating little monkeys.  Speaking about man in Killer Angels, his novel about the Battle of Gettysburg, author Michael Shaara says "Well boy, if he's an angel, he's sure a murderin' angel." No matter how you try to suppress it, in our worldly bodies biology always trumps theology.  The animal inside of us instinctively wants to do whatever it can to proliferate carbon copies of itself and to push its own agenda in order to do so.  With certain individuals the drive for personal power is so extreme that the only way to hold them in check is through institutional, secular control.  You only need to go back to the days of the Inquisition and warring Popes in Italy to know that theocracies quickly become cesspools of corruption, no different than any other form of governing ideology and perhaps worse, because theocracy disguises these abuses behind a pro-Bible, or a pro-Koran, or a pro-Talmud shield that makes people afraid to question them.

So Catholic or not I won't be voting theocracy in the next election.  Heck, if Pope Francis could run I wouldn't vote for him either.  Instead I'll pull a quote from my own Bible that says "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."  Maybe Falwell and Cruz deleted this part from their proposed governing Constitution.

Image is from:  "Ted Cruz by Gage Skidmore 4" by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

The combustible mixture used in The Truth Bomb includes a generous portion of java from Starbucks and other corporate coffee conglomerates, and none of this is cheap.  Therefore, unless the ads to the right and below complete annoy and offend you, please investigate what my sponsors have to say.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Did Ayn Rand Really f*** up my Life? Still Deprogramming from My Objectivism Mental Captivity

By Mel Carriere

I have a quote up there on my blog masthead saying that Ideology is Mental Murder, and this adage can be no better argued than from my personal experience deprogramming from the Objectivist brainwashing I went through, beginning at the spiritually vulnerable young age of 17.

I say spiritually because in spite of its stated commitment to rational, "objective" phenomena as the only means of guiding one's existence upon this planet, the Objectivist philosophy is indeed a religion, with its own set of inflexible dogma that it enforces as rigidly as the Grand Inquisitor sending heretics off to burn at the stake.

Ayn Rand and her philosophy began to worm its way into my psyche from a very young age.  When I was about five years old a friend of my Mother gave her a copy of Atlas Shrugged as a birthday present.  My mother never read it, and perhaps I should have followed her lead.  At any rate, I used to stare at this big thick book on the shelf, and being a budding geographer I yearned to pull it down from there and have a peek.   When I finally defied the segregation rules in my household that separated the big people books from the little people books, I was confused when I didn't find a single map within its seemingly infinite pages.  But rather than losing interest I became even more intrigued, the mystery of this "Atlas" that contained no maps continuing to tickle my curiosity throughout my youth.

When I was about 15, a college age friend I was talking books with told me that Atlas Shrugged was not an atlas at all.  It was a novel, she said, and one of her favorites.  Fancy that!  The mystery being solved I finally attempted to read it, and managed to plod through about 200 pages before surrendering to my attention deficit and giving up.  ADHD is not always a bad thing; perhaps if I would have retained this short literary attention span my life may have turned out better.

I am not exactly sure what it was, but when I was 17 something reawakened my desire to read the 1,200 page epic.  Perhaps I was spurned on by the same psychological forces that made me decide to run a marathon at age 47.  That marathon medal looks really good hanging on the wall, maybe I thought I would impress my friends by bragging about how I had conquered Atlas Shrugged, the literary equivalent of 26.2.  By this time I was a much more disciplined reader and I made it through to the end.

As thoroughly as St. Paul when he had his blinding vision on the road to Damascus, I was an instant convert.  My life changed immediately, in both negative and positive ways.  On the positive side, I was no longer satisfied with mediocrity.  All of Ayn Rand's "men and women of the mind," as she describes them, were dogged overachievers, so I used them as my example.  My grades improved and I got straight As my senior year in High School (Not that it did me any good, my Dad kicked me out and I joined the Navy anyway).  I also became an extremely hard worker, trying to model my work ethic around the Randian rags to riches characters I read about in "Shrugged," such as steel mill magnate Hank Reardon.

On the negative side, I became introverted to the extreme.  I was reluctant to make friends with any of my peers, considering them to be beneath me because they did not represent Rand's archetype of the ideal man.  In my objectivist-warped mind  everybody was a miserable "second-hander," a parasitic looter of lofty ideas that they were not capable of producing.

I stayed under this very lonely, isolated pall of Objectivism until about age 22, when hormones eventually triumphed and I finally discovered friends, beer, and women.  My life became infinitely happier.

Nonetheless, the ugly stain Ayn Rand left behind in my mind never completely washed out.  As I finally grew up and realized that instead of leading to a Utopian "Atlas Shrugged" society where everybody lives happily and freely in a concealed mountain fortress, what the laissez-faire capitalism espoused by the Objectivists really means is that all of us working stiffs get to live in crowded, filthy, third world style tenement houses as we struggle to survive on slave wages. Nonetheless, I still maintained that in spite of the ideological gulf that now separated us, Ayn Rand was ultimately a positive guiding force in my life and her philosophy turned me into an independent, individualistic, self sustaining man.

Then, just a few weeks ago, I started to reconsider this.  I now believe that what Ayn Rand really did was to turn me into a faithful ant with a mushy brain directed by unquestioning obedience to my corporate overlords.  For many decades Objectivism also tethered my soul to the "trickle-down" economics theory championed by Reagan and the Bushes that has insidiously penetrated into the consciousness of Everyman and has dealt a near death blow to organized labor and to the living wage in this country.  Now all the high paying factory jobs have been exported overseas and all we are left with is Wal-Mart and Taco Bell.  The punchline is that nothing trickled down after all, and I was a willing accomplice to this criminal activity.

The moral of the story, kiddies, is to approach books like Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead with extreme caution.  I am not saying they should not be read at all and I will die before I ever advocate the banning or the burning of any books, but just make sure you are psychologically prepared to deal with such overtly mind controlling literature before you dive in. Rand's books are enjoyable reads, to be sure, but the price you may pay for reading them, if you are not careful, is nothing less than the ownership of your own mind.  Besides that, no matter what sort of mental stain remover you are using, that crap just does not come off in the wash.

Read more about Ayn Rand's influence on American thought and culture:

Image is attributed to:  "Ayn Rand1" by "I looked at the photograph you mentioned at Wikipedia[...] It was taken by Phyllis Cerf (April 13, 1916– November 25, 2006), and I believe we obtained permission to use it in some cases long ago from her son Christopher Cerf[...]Richard E. RalstonPublishing ManagerThe Ayn Rand Institute". Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -

The combustible mixture used in The Truth Bomb includes a generous portion of java from Starbucks and other corporate coffee conglomerates, and none of this is cheap.  Therefore, unless the ads to the right and below complete annoy and offend you, please investigate what my sponsors have to say.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

12 Years Later the Dixie Chicks Still Upset the Hive

By Mel Carriere

One would think that Americans would have all of our bullish, misguided, misdirected patriotism that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq out of our systems by now.  After all, I think it is pretty clear that toppling Saddam Hussein, the rancid glue keeping the fragile Iraq house of cards together, was perhaps not a wise course of action after all.  Yes he was a rotten, corrupt evil dictator, but he was maintaining stability in a country invented as if on a whim after WWI by the victorious European powers, drawn with arbitrary borders that included various competing ethnicities that all hated each other but were forced together into a combustible mixture that I guess looked good on paper at the time but doesn't seem to work without a strongman at the center.  The post Iraq war reality has demonstrated that the country will never function short of American troops staying in Iraq forever, or American planes dropping bombs over Iraq forever, yet the Dixie Chicks in 2015 are still vilified for denouncing the invasion of Iraq 12 years after they made this statement on stage in England.

I read an article yesterday, March 14, which defended Dixie Chicks frontwoman Natalie Maines for the remarks she made in that concert and for an almost equally incendiary twitter post she tweeted out March 11th.  I responded to that article with the following comment that I did not realize would migrate to my own Facebook page:

I'm going to put this article's link at the bottom of this post but I'm going to make you slog through my rant first.

Although the response to Natalie Maine's outburst on stage in England on March 10, 2003 was woeful and in my opinion, un-American, in the "angry villagers with pitchforks" mentality that gripped this country at that time I can somewhat understand why there was an almost universal outcry against the Chicks and why their CDs were burned and their songs boycotted on the radio.  I didn't like or approve of it, but I understand that in the heat of battle people's emotions get away from them and they do stupid things.  That was only 2 years after the World Trade Center, after all, and even though it turns out Saddam had nothing to do with that or any other acts of terrorism I guess we still weren't sure about that in 2003 and the angry villagers were willing to round up just about any bad guy wearing a turban to set an example about what happens when you f*** with us.

I can understand the reaction in 2003.  What I have problems with is why there is still a reaction in 2015, but as I found out from my comment yesterday, there is. 

I am not going to put the names or the profile pictures of the people who responded to my post here, because they have a right to their views and I don't want to arouse any similar vilification against them from angry villagers living in the village to the left.  

Anyhow, the first angry villager, still angry after 12 years said:  "Very simple, don't insult your customers."

Hmmm...I am thinking Natalie Maine's customers that night would have been the 2,000 or so paying fans at the Shepherd's Bush Empire theater in London, England, not many of whom would have been insulted by her remarks.  What prompted Natalie to make her statement, in fact, was the anti-war sentiment that was prevalent in England.  Her exact words - "Just so you know we're on the good side with y'all.  We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas" were, in fact, applauded by those customers.

Another comment I received from my remark is more indicative of the broader anti-Chicks feeling that followed the concert in Shepherd's.  It said:  "Or MINDLESS!  If she spoke like that about OBAMA...She would be called a racist.!!!  Love that her career died soon after.!!!"

A Facebook friend pointed out that Ted Nugent, another controversial entertainer, does speak poorly about Obama, and while some people probably call him a racist for it, the people denouncing Natalie Maine's criticism of another President probably don't care.  That commenter also called Natalie Maines mindless, because she spoke her mind.  I'm  not sure what that means, but I suppose it signifies that you can't be categorized as intelligent unless you share the opinion of the hive.

What happened to Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks in 2003 was a good old fashioned Texas-sized lynching; carried out by an angry mob psychologically manipulated into confusing war mongering for patriotism.

The right-wing commentators who are frequently the source of inspiration behind the hive-minded mobs will have us believe that Natalie Maines somehow vicariously insulted our American troops by insulting the President.  I respond that it was the President and the war profiteers pulling his strings that really insulted the troops by wasting their lives and good health, both physical and mental, by sending them into a situation that was not worthy of their bravery and excellence.

In fairness, the far left has its own hive that it stirs up to try and permanently silence the Limbaughs, Becks, Hannitys and Savages that inspire the right wing hive.  This is as equally wrong and equally ignorant as silencing Maines was.

We live in America and we have a Constitution that we hold up as a shining example for its guarantees of free speech, but as the Dixie Chicks scenario points out, not too many really appreciate or believe in free speech.  We pretend to, we put our hands to our hearts before baseball games and shed a joyful tear thinking about this vague, almost religious concept of freedom, but what we really love is a damned good witch hunt.

But I'm not ashamed to say that I still love Natalie Maines and the rest of the Dixie Chicks, these being Martie Erwin Maguire and Emily Erwin Robinson, and I admire them for their music and for doing a very courageous thing.  If they had been from Rhode Island, New York, or Michigan nobody would have given their remarks a second thought, but coming as they did from the heart of the Bible belt in Texas they knew quite well beforehand what a Hornet's nest they were going to stir up, and I'm damn glad they did it.  Somebody had to be the voice of reason and sanity, even if it didn't do any immediate good.

So now I'll let you read about how things are going for Natalie Maines 12 years after, and make sure you watch that kick ass music video made for a song that describes the kind of hell one has to go through for speaking one's mind in America.

Image is from:  "DixieChicksMSG062003" by Original uploader was Wasted Time R at en.wikipedia - Transfered from en.wikipedia Transfer was stated to be made by User:twice25.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons -

The combustible mixture used in The Truth Bomb includes a generous portion of java from Starbucks and other corporate coffee conglomerates, and none of this is cheap.  Therefore, unless the ads to the right and above complete annoy and offend you, please investigate what my sponsors have to say.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Petty Tyrants in the Workplace - Why Lick Boots for $11 an Hour?

By Mel Carriere

The picture you see above is of my boots, and trust me when I tell you they are not fit for licking.  They have been places and stepped in things that should never get close to your tongue, and I would not even lick them in exchange for the $27 per hour plus benefits that I earn at the Post Office.  Therefore, it is beyond my comprehension why anyone would stoop and give these dirty old boots a tongue cleaning for a measly $11 per hour, especially without health insurance, which they will definitely need later if they engage in this disgusting and unhealthy act.  Surprisingly enough, however, there are people who make a practice out of this, and they are everywhere.

To get extra bucks I sometimes work part time security.  Last Thursday my security gig took me to the local shipyard, a place I really don't like to work because there are prying eyes and boot licking lips everywhere, but the mortgage has to get paid one way or another and California ain't cheap.  The security supervisor at this place is one of those low budget petty tyrants who seems nice enough on the surface, always sees you off with a friendly "take it easy bro," but behind the scenes breeds a climate of distrust, spying and suspicion where people are encouraged to tattle on their co-workers.  He used to do the same thing at another post where he was the boss.  I think he gets an extra 50 cents or so per hour for this privilege.

This petty tyrant supervisor has created a host of even pettier tyrants, sub tyrants if you will, whose delusions of grandeur grow even more expansive in inverse proportion to their place in the food chain. Their eagerness to celebrate minor, completely uncompensated victories reaches pathetic proportions the lower they are on the ladder.

This shipyard post actually involves guarding a ship, and I guess I better not give too many details in the interest of national security.  When I arrived at the ship on Thursday I was told by a very nice black lady that it was my turn to patrol, so I went ahead and did what she said.  After the patrolling was over I then took my turn checking bags on the quarterdeck for an hour.

Enter the pettier tyrant, the boot licking protege of the boot licking supervisor who is just slightly above him in the grand boot-licking hierarchy.  When he came aboard I assumed it was my turn to patrol, but he pushed his way past me and said that I was mistaken, that it was his turn.  I explained that my feet start to hurt when I stand in one place too long, and I didn't exactly fancy standing there for another hour.  Sounds like whining and maybe it is but everybody is supposed to take turns doing everything, in rotation.

To his credit the level two boot-licker let me go ahead and patrol, but later on he took me aside and told me, a little rudely I might add, that he was the shift leader and that the nice lady who had told me to patrol, apparently out of turn, was "messed up in the head," to paraphrase.  I get the impression these two don't exactly like another and have had these kind of conflicts in the past.  He also informed me he had sent an email protesting all of this to the supervisor boot-licker, next up in the boot-licking chain of command, for what purpose I don't know except to maybe score some boot-licking points so he can remain senior assistant auxiliary substitute shift leader, or whatever his lofty title is.

Ambition is not a completely incomprehensible notion to me.  I don't operate this way myself, but I can understand the human desire to make sacrificial victims out of one's companions in return for tangible material benefits.  We are animals, after all, and social Darwinism plays a role in governing how we interact with one another.  I cannot, however, understand the motivation behind throwing your peers under the bus when all you will get in return is a meaningless title and not even a pay raise from say, $11 to $11.25 per hour.

One of the ways Corporate America controls us working stiffs is by handing out these meaningless little titles instead of handing out more money, knowing that there will always be those who will leap at these bogus honorifics eagerly, like dogs jumping up for a treat.  I'm not saying we shouldn't do our jobs honestly, I'm just saying that we don't have to go out of our way to dance to the tune of the boss's secret agenda, especially when the reward we have to look forward to is no health insurance, no pension plan, and wages below the poverty level.  Think about it, all you wannabe boot-lickers.

Photo is mine.  To satisfy your boot-licking urges feel free to apply your tongue to the image, but I do not advocate or encourage any actual licking of boots.

The combustible mixture used in The Truth Bomb includes a generous portion of java from Starbucks and other corporate coffee conglomerates, and none of this is cheap.  Therefore, unless the ads to the right and above complete annoy and offend you, please investigate what my sponsors have to say.