PS - we will be posting the last stuff we ever recorded right here very soon.
solipsism and the confidence man by hostage life
PS - we will be posting the last stuff we ever recorded right here very soon.
because they ruined this bed before it was made
the notion of freedom so utterly betrayed
we're still waiting
for you to catch up with the rest of us
and stop greeting change with disgust
there's purple hands everywhere
'69, Halloween again
no lives need beg for acceptance
(no lives begging to be let in)
there's purple hands everywhere
so sick of the lies assigned to us at birth
you're straight until you ain't
and it determines your worth
so sick of the reverence of good ol' days
their majorities of hate and the shelf life of those ways
I’m not really one for national pride. As anything other than an identifier for the playground or the battlefield, flags have always seemed like an unnecessary indulgence - the boastful advertising of a child too self-absorbed to see its own shortcomings. every year, without fail, I am sent into cringing hysterics at the sight of a person wearing the old maple leaf like a cape and bleating out the national anthem with a red and white whistle as she/he roller-skates down to harbour front for July 1st fireworks.* the idea that I am somehow special because I dropped out of my mother's vagina and landed on this stretch of soil is foolish. I’m no better than a Mexican or an American, an Iraqi or a Russian. Thus the alien sense of national pride that rippled through me when Canada legalized gay marriage was a bizarre sensation to say the least. But it happened, on July 20th 2005 I felt proud of my country. Well, it's government, anyway. We were the fourth country in the world to declare that a human being's sexual orientation should not preclude them from the liberties enjoyed by their fellow citizens. It was a great step forward for social progress, but, of course, not everyone sees it that way. Like their partners in hate down in California, a vast majority of Canadians still oppose marriage equality. They feel that it will devalue the importance of heterosexual union. Marriage, these bigots claim, is a heterosexual institution - it as an arena of love that only the straight may enter. Allowing others to enjoy the same freedom as the professed straight, will diminish the quality of our lives, and will diminish love. To me, this is the most childish of arguments. It’s like saying, "if everyone can do it then my ability to do so doesn't seem as special." grow the fuck up. Two people with the same sex organs saying, "I do," doesn't mean you don't love your wife or husband. It doesn't render the bond that you have chosen to express through a legal action meaningless. If that were true then marriages like my parents do as much to devalue this sacred union.**
The most successful opponents of gay marriage have been affiliated with church organizations. The prop-8 campaign was primarily funded by the Mormon Church. This is no big surprise. Most religions regard homosexuality as a sin, or at the very least, a deviation from nature. Of course, this idea doesn't appeal exclusively to the faithful, there are plenty of secular homophobes out there spouting similar nonsense. But when you boil down both of their arguments, all you're left with is the belief that homosexuality is, for some flimsy reason, wrong, and therefore those who practice it are less than those who do not. Now, I say, 'practice,' because what we find here is the idea that homosexuality is a choice. As far as I have been able to find, there is no universally accepted scientific evidence that homosexuality has a biological cause, however, several biological factors, such as genes and brain structure, have been identified as possibly relating to sexual orientation. the prevalence of homosexuality throughout human history, as well as it's prevalence within the animal kingdom, leads me to believe that sexual orientation does not spring from a conscious choice. Nobody chooses to be gay, bisexual or heterosexual. Nobody wakes up one day and decides that they'd like to endure the alienation and persecution that accompanies a gay lifestyle in most of the world. This is not to downplay bi-curiosity. Many a heterosexual (and, I’m sure, homosexual) has fantasized about how fun it might be to play scrimmage with the other team.
But let's stop for a second and pretend that the homophobes are right. Let’s say that homosexuality is a choice. Let’s pretend that every human being is born heterosexual. Gay people are really just straight people that, for whatever reason, prefer to fuck people with the same genitals that they have.
But why should that prevent anyone from experiencing the same level of freedom as heterosexuals? The cornerstone of any democracy is it’s its citizens’ right to choose. So, if homosexuality is a choice, it is one that should never lead to a loss of freedom*** If you think that it should - if you think that homosexuals do not deserve the right to be married then you do not believe in the idea of liberty. You do not believe in equality.
by now, you might be thinking, "ok, Colin, what the hell does this have to do with purple hands?" and you'd be right to be doing so, as I have neglected to incorporate the song's title and chorus into it's explanation. Here goes: the purple hand was one of the earliest symbols of the gay liberation movement. It never really caught on, but the story of its creation is pretty awesome. On Halloween night of 1969, a group of people, comprised mostly of members of a few different gay rights advocacy groups, staged a protest in front of the office of the San Francisco Examiner. The paper had recently run several homophobic articles that had outraged the gay community. At some point during the evening, employees of the newspaper decided to dump printer toner onto the protestors below. Their prank backfired, however, when the protestors used the purple ink that covered them to smear slogans like, "gay power," all over the building. After that, the police moved in, and as the legend goes, those that weren't arrested or beaten up too badly proceeded to walk through the entire city, leaving purple handprints wherever they went as a symbol of solidarity. The protest would come to be known as the night of the purple hand.
As I mentioned earlier the symbol never really took off and was pretty much forgotten. And while I do question the plausibility of the entire city being covered in handprints (I mean c'mon, the ink on their hands would have dried up after a few blocks) I do still love this story. And I do think it is still relevant considering that on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots**** Chad Gibson was beaten by law enforcement officials in Fort Worth, Texas for what seems to be no other reason than his sexual orientation.***** Also because, here in Canada, assheads like Charles McVety make it their mission to restrict the liberties of humans who have sex differently than him. Fuck that guy and his ridiculous commitment to hatred.
*Not that I have any problem with fireworks. I like fireworks - everyone does, save for my step-grandmother. Every time she hears an M80 explode, she jumps with fear, painfully reminded of the bombs that rained down on her childhood home in London during WWII.
It is also about this ridiculous movie:
The problem with writing a song like this is that you inevitably provide the dickheads you are talking about with some much undeserved publicity*. I’ve already done this enough with the refrain that appears in the first and second verse of the song, and also through this blog entry. So to try and curb this trend, I will now use this space to direct you to some brilliantly laid out refutations and critiques of the aforementioned books/movies and their philosophies. Because, truthfully, anything I would continue to write would just be a remedial version of what these people wrote:
*And let's face it, any press is good press. Even if I’m calling the purveyors of this nonsense liars and con artists, I’m still spreading their message - their work is still enjoying the benefit of my attention, and yours if you're still reading.
Below is a clip of Alessandro Moreschi, The Last Castrato***, singing Ave Maria. Witness the creepiness:
started with hammers and we moved to spears
each step punctuated with fear
we went from gunpowder to wiping this whole planet clear
steady driving the herd towards the cliff
tomorrow’s starving hunter’s gift
haunted by the ghosts of our best mistakes
every outward thrust and every forward stride
progress and our survival collide
the truth's new face is the same old lie
haunted by the ghosts of our best mistakes
fire, water, air, and earth, I am the fool*
burned through the sky and its shield
and salted the roots in every field
like a mother feeding on her yet-to-be-young
is the smoke of convenience
that I’ve forced into tomorrow's lungs
haunted by the ghosts of our best mistakes
we have met the enemy and he is us**
each of us is at the mercy of a sunrise
regardless of portfolio size
or race or faith or tongue
for we are, every one, parts of a greater sum
and our kingdom has come
but for some problems nature finds solutions
perhaps the next step in our evolution
will find us with no more than eight fingers
lacking the digits to pull a trigger***
stripped of arrogance, filled with foresight
fully understanding there’s but one life
and there’s never going to be another one
*X-clan, Verbs of Power
**Walt Kelly, Pogo (earth day, 1971)
***too bad evolution doesn't really work like that Colin. nice try though.
The problem with writing an album about humankind's arrogance is that you run the risk of sounding misanthropic, and not just a little cynical. I don't really want to come off like that. I'm hardly a misanthrope - everyone I love is human. And while I may harbour some cynicism in these aging bones, it's not a part of me that I like. Cynicism, after all, is the brother of hopelessness. And me, I’m crawling with hope for the future. With this album, I'm not trying to suggest that humankind is inherently selfish or egotistical. We undoubtedly have the potential to be better. Evidence of this is everywhere. From the people that have spent the majority of their lives feeding and nurturing those less fortunate than themselves to the men and women who choose running into burning buildings as a career, compassion, intelligence and charity are as much a part of us as greed, ignorance and hatred. My point is just that we have done a great job of championing the latter three traits.
Now, I'm no zoologist, but I think it's pretty safe to say that human beings are the most successful species on the planet. We're at the top of the food chain, and we're masters of our environment, in that we have been able to manipulate it like no other animal. Our current status on the planet can be attributed to several unique characteristics, but primarily it is our ability to problem solve and our capacity for invention that has set us apart. We were hungry so we figured out how to hunt more proficiently. We were cold so we made clothes. We were comfortable and bored so we invented television. Along the way, however, we made some bad choices, ones that had painful ramifications. Early on, for the most part, we didn't realize what we were doing, and couldn't see how we were fucking ourselves. Any step forward seemed like a good one, even when we weren't looking ahead. But a lot of our most destructive mistakes have played out a multitude of times during the short period that we have been around. For all our advancement, and professed superiority, we are slow to alter our behaviour and abandon our more destructive pursuits. Progress is a word that, for most of us, brings with it positive connotations. When we consider social progress we think of the movement towards an egalitarian society in which race, sex and age do not limit a person. When we consider medical progress we think of the discoveries that will ease pain, cure disease, and extend life. Progress isn't always so pleasant though. The combustible engine seemed like such an awesome, practical and helpful invention last century. But now as we choke on the air it has spoiled and send our children to die in fuel wars, this scientific advance doesn't seem so great. The splitting of the atom was an enormous leap forward for science, a milestone on our road to understanding the universe. It unfortunately led to the advent of nuclear weapons and made it possible for humans to erase all life from Earth, save for a few cockroaches. A great deal of the important decisions our species has made regarding this planet and its resources have been made with only a concern for the present. With an alarming frequency, all we've cared about is how something will affect us here and now and how we will benefit from it as individuals. Forget the future. Forget our neighbors and the creatures we share this space with. Often what has been lofted as progress has done more to set us back. With only a concern for the immediate, we have made decisions that have destroyed our habitat, stunted our learning, and threatened all of our lives.
This selfishness and lack of foresight has seemingly been with us all along. The first 'modern' humans, Cro-Magnon man, drove entire herds of animals over the edges of cliffs, killing them all and providing the hunters and their families with an abundance of food. It seemed like a great hunting technique, the only problem was that after a few days all the corpses began to rot and became inedible. Without the knowledge required to cure the meat or store it, the hunters and their families were rendered hungry once again and left with little to hunt. A parallel between this behaviour and our current treatment of food resources is easy to draw. We've over-farmed, over-hunted and over-fished. It's that simple. In order to make a quick buck some of our fellow primates have polluted landscapes beyond recognition and wiped entire species from existence. Convenience spurred us to embrace an addiction to a fuel that has corrupted the very air we require to exist. What's worse is the fact that we know all of this - nothing I am discussing here is hidden knowledge. We've poured ourselves three fingers of poison and demanded a refill and a chaser.
Our concern with the present and our own well being is most apparent in the human being's lust for material wealth. Most of our fucking over of the planet has been done, and continues to happen in the name of greed. So many of us have caused irreparable harm to the planet and each other just to make a buck; to live in bigger houses; to drive faster cars; to eat more food. The joke of it all is that the effects of our greediness and disregard for the planet's well being will be felt by everyone. Pollution does not care how much money you have. Every person on this planet, from the richest to the poorest requires clean air and clean drinking water. Granted, wealth can help you avoid the affects of famine and drought, but it will not protect you from skin cancer when the last bit of the ozone layer vanishes, and it won't help you much if the polar ice caps melt.
This type of blundering was a part of us long before we worshipped any gods. Before we invented the idea of pleasing a man in the sky, we were consumed with pleasing ourselves solely. We had to be. Life for our oldest ancestors was no doubt littered with fear and confusion. Every morning ushered in new obstacles that needed to be overcome in order to survive. Imagine how frightening lightening must have seemed. How mysterious and awe-inspiring the sun must have been. How twigs breaking just beyond the glow of a campfire would have rippled the flesh with fear. The success of our evolution as a species is measured in our unraveling of these mysteries, and understanding of those fears. The most cynical of us like to think that humans are inherently savage and concerned only with their personal well being, but that isn't even what our ancestors were really about. They learned, through experience, that it was easier and safer to live in a group and share their daily spoils than it was to sleep unaccompanied in the wilderness and take on entire herds of game alone. Solidarity is part of our shared history and indicative of the type of animal we are. Our ability to work together made us efficient hunters, then farmers and builders. The amount and sheer variety of ways that we have learned to communicate with one and other is testament to our evolutionary need to be united as a species. Don't get me wrong, I don't see human history as some long, monotonous hippie drum circle with everyone hugging and sharing icy treats and fruit drinks. I'm well aware that we have a great capacity for brutality, hatred and violence. My point is that we're still working on it. We're still trying to figure out ways for us all to get along. Life now is infinitely less shitty and brutal than life in the dark ages*. It is our fear, and the misconceptions we have about each other and our place in the universe that encourages us to fuck everything up so drastically.
To digress for a moment - I'm not talking about immediate situations. I'm not suggesting that the guy who commits murder when he walks in on his spouse having sex with his best friend does it because he believes that he is god's favourite person. I'm talking about a much larger story. The one about us as a species. I'm talking about our big, big, big decisions. And our predilection for making the wrong ones.
A lot of our bad decisions can be chalked up to ignorance. The Cro-Mags (species, not band) didn't really have the capacity to look too far into the future. They didn't realize that their hunting technique would fuck them over so badly in the long run. The same can be said about us, in the present, and our overabundance of fuel consumption and fishing. Of course, we know better, now. But we keep on with the same destructive habits, too convinced of our own immortality to see that killing off all of our food resources and destroying the air will eventually erase us from the planet - that is, if we don't blow ourselves (oh yeah, and everything else) out of existence first. It's staggering to think that, in a time when prolonged exposure to the sun can riddle a person's skin with cancer, and millions go hungry daily, men are working day and night with no other purpose than to invent newer, faster ways to obliterate human beings. And it's horrifying to think that the demand for these inventions increases daily.
We've done pretty well as a species in terms of surviving. But we're such slow learners that our successes may prove to be failures.
Again, these recurring blunders can be traced to the common belief that life on Earth is just a stepping stone to a bigger, better and brighter eternity. It's easy to accept the fact that we are slowly poisoning ourselves, as well as our children's children, if you've accepted the notion that there is another life after this one, and that the dude who made all of this wants you to be there. It's easy to take your environment for granted, and subsequently destroy it, when you don't really think that you are a part of it. It's easy to kill off other species if you believe you have no connection to them other than being sculpted by an architect that placed you at the top of mount importance. It's easy to hate, not to mention kill or torture, your neighbor if she/he doesn't give sufficient thanks to your particular creator. I suppose the real joke is that it is our arrogance that does us the most harm. It is our belief that we are the centre of the universe that will, should we continue on the same destructive path, wipe us from existence (long before the sun does).
We owe a huge thanks to our buddy Neil for coming out and just killing it on the third verse of this song. Everyone should check out his band.
The alternate title to this song refers to this awesome book by Ronald Wright:
This amazing song:
And this classic cartoon strip:**
Hostage Life dances on the shoulders of giants.
*I realize that this is a culturally sensitive statement. It relates to my experience in the western world. I am well aware that there are a great deal of people on the planet suffering through conditions that are not that different from the aforementioned time period's squalor.
**The line “we have met the enemy and he is us” originally appeared in this song but the guys cut it out during mixing because they thought it didn’t fit. I wasn’t there so couldn’t bitch about the decision until after. The finalized lyric sheet had already been sent in to the artist so the line still appears even though you never hear it.
six in the morning, police at my door
dirty feet squeak across the bathroom floor
all night long we were hiding from our neighbors
we feel much safer living as strangers
and out the back window, there ain’t no escape
didn’t even get a chance to set myself straight
c’mon and shake
shake, baby, shake
you’re never going to stop
it ain't ever going to stop at all
sign in east Hastings saying ‘no’ to me
they fight against keeping my blood clean
small town to Lansdowne saying ‘no’ to me
darling, I’m in this cage for my disease
and I’m in here for a dozen years
I got two knees in my back and a gun in my face
they’re dragging you by the hair as they search apart our place
and they pull you from my side with the haze from my eyes
I’m shivering through the sweats, baby, on this concrete floor all night
For as long as I can remember people have been telling me that drugs are bad. Not just bad for me in terms of my physical and mental health, but bad for society, bad for humans as a whole. Just by smoking a joint I would be simultaneously destroying my brain and funding terrorism. All of the evils in the world were somehow linked to drug use. Well, illegal drug use anyway. The majority of the anti-drug public service announcements I watched were on television stations that didn't balk at the advertising dollars alcohol and tobacco companies were throwing at them.* Only certain drugs were deemed bad, and using them was not only a crime but it could lead to the downfall of society as we knew it. The anti-drug propaganda I grew up with isn't much different than what youth today are subjected to - it is filled with the same lies and misinformation. The central themes remain the same: humans should not get high; in a perfect world everyone would abstain from using drugs; the increase in drug use among the population (particularly youth) is representative of the immoral attitudes and trends of the modern age. I was told, and kids today are being told that using a drug just once can get you hooked on it for life. Being the skeptic that I am, I've since tried most of those drugs and while I liked a few of them, I developed a physical addiction to none, and didn't even like most. I am not trying to imply that drugs aren’t addictive. They most certainly are, and addiction can ruin a person’s life. My point is simply, not all the information we have been told about drugs is true, and using drugs does not make you a bad person. Habitually snorting or smoking meth will fuck up your life – there’s little question about this. Smoking weed daily may increase your lethargy and appetite but it will not destroy your life. Pot and meth are two completely different beasts that have been lumped together as equally destructive. This simply isn’t true.
What I find so amusing about all of this isn't the fact that some people rally so hard against something as harmless as, say, weed smoking, it's the fact that as old as these anti-drug myths are, the use of narcotics by human beings predates it all. In 2008, archeologists working in the Gobi desert uncovered the 2,700 year-old remains of a shaman that had been buried with 2 pounds of marijuana. Up until this discovery, experts thought that the ancients of this region only grew the plant as hemp in order to make clothing and rope. The strong psychoactive properties they found in the still green marijuana, however, implies that it was grown as an inebriant as well. Also in 2008, archeologists conducted studies on the hair of mummies found in the Andes Mountains which revealed that in 1200 BC, pre-Hispanic South American people were taking hallucinogens. In addition to the medical evidence of their drug use, ancient drug paraphernalia like pipes and snuffing kits have been found as well. None of this should be too much of a shock – as far back as 5000BC the Sumerians were smoking opium. The first alcohol was brewed in 3500BC by the Egyptians. Humans have enjoyed getting high for centuries.
The movement to prohibit the use of drugs has been around for quite a while too, the earliest of which occurred in 2000BC when an Egyptian priest forbid his pupils from consuming alcohol. But that just underlines what a pointless effort prohibition is. For all the attempts that have been made to stamp out the use of intoxicants, it has never worked. No one will ever be able to stop people from getting high. Prohibition has never, and will never work. What it does do is allow for a brutally violent black market to exist. Evidence of this can be seen with the rise of gangsterism in major American cities in the early 20th century during the days of alcohol prohibition. And it can also be seem now, as wars between rival cartels and dealers play out on streets around the world. Making drugs illegal has never stopped people from doing them, but it has allowed for some morally bankrupt dickheads to make a fortune off of them.
Now, I’m no fan of physical confrontation. I lack the strength, determination, and hand-eye coordination to be a successful pugilist. Even when I see some sort of injustice unfolding in front of me I’m too much of a weakling and a coward to intervene. Such was the case last spring when, on my way to work, I happened upon my neighborhood crack dealer punching the shit out of one of his more frail male clients. The junky’s girlfriend was screaming for assistance but no one on the street, especially me, was running up to offer it. I crossed to the other side to avoid getting involved and continued on to the subway. Later that night, on my way home, I witnessed the same crack dealer issuing a similar beating to a different, yet equally helpless, addict. I would feel much better were this douche bag not living in my neighborhood, but running him out vigilante style not only seems unbelievable but also silly. The cops have done very little about his operation, which is understandable because I’m sure there are hundreds just like it all over the city. The best way to run this prick off my street would be to take his livelihood away.
But what about the junkies you say? Taking away the drug dealer** doesn't mean that the neighborhood is going to be a nicer cleaner place. There are still going to be crackheads and junkies running about shitting in alleys and begging for change and stealing bicycles. I would argue, however, that we have the same problem with drunks running around doing similarly unpleasant things all the time, and yet very few of us rail for the LCBO to be shut down. Crackheads, junkies, and drunks are all pretty annoying people to live around, but they're still people. They just have some pretty big fucking problems, ones that will not be fixed with the existence of a black market. Drug prohibition pushes drug addicts to the margins of our society, dehumanizing them in the process. Shooting galleries and needle exchange programs do not encourage drug use - they exist in order to protect the most at-risk members of our society from the harm that their disease can cause them.*** This song is in no way and endorsement of drug use. This issue is a human rights issue, as far as I am concerned. No institution or government should dictate what I can or cannot put into my body. We all have the right to make bad decisions. A truly compassionate society will allow each of us our fuck-ups and never deny us help when we are at our most vulnerable. The money used to treat recovering addicts is peanuts compared to the resources used to fight the 'war on drugs.' Because this war - this war we are losing - is fucking expensive. Every year more and more money is spent on police and prisons for the purpose of locking up our neighbors. If history has taught us anything, it's that there will always be a demand for drugs, and trying to keep them away from those who want them is all but impossible. Legalization is the only intelligent option.
I didn’t want to make this little rant a bunch of statistics and numbers. That would have been pretty dull to read. I do suggest you check out these sites, however, for some more info.
*Once upon a time cigarette ads were on TV. Beers ads have, of course, always been idiotic.
**It should be noted that I do not believe all drug dealers to be violent sociopaths to be feared. The example I am using is extreme, and I have known many a drug dealer that has no desire to pummel their clientele.
***Yes, addiction is a disease, and no one should be put in a situation where they might contract HIV or hepatitis.