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THIS IS NOT A TEST with Michael Jerome Phillips


THIS IS NOT A TEST, with your pal and confidant Michael Jerome Phillips

Hey politicians, enough with the Jesus talk already – THIS IS NOT A TEST #22 (transcript)

Published May 23, 2015 [Podcast link]

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I finally finished ripping all of our CDs and uploading them to Google Music. It’s a torturous process when you have 700 or 800 CDs. And I can’t just rip them to MP3 and be done with it. Well, actually that’s what I did the first time I ripped them. Yes, this is my second pass through all of these things because the first time I didn’t know what I was doing and I ripped everything at 128k, which isn’t exactly great for music. You know, unless you’re listening to it on a crap-o-phone and your ears are already shot from roadside bombs in Fallujah or something. So yeah, I can’t just rip to MP3, I have to rip to lossless files, then convert everything to a high quality MP3. Then upload those MP3s to Google, because I don’t understand iTunes. If I had to use it I’d understand it, but I don’t have to use it so I don’t.

I’m sure some of you have thousands of CDs and you’re thinking, “Ah, 800, I could rip those in my sleep.” Well, congratulations, you’re better than I am. I get these stacks of CDs on my desk and I think, “This is never going to end!” and it doesn’t end. Well, it does eventually, but it takes a long, long time. I know, you don’t even have CDs. One of Carol’s friends was over last week and Carol said, “Look, check out our cool new CD storage thingie,” because it is a big, impressive, full-wall thing, and her friend looks at it like she’s smelling sour milk and says, “Oh…you still collect CDs?” Collect CDs? No, sister, but we listen to music. And listening to music on your phone is for chumps and amateurs.

Anyway, the listing and grouping on Google music is weird and I couldn’t figure out why the hell it was classifying or organizing things the way it was. I didn’t pay much attention as I was going along ripping and uploading these things, I figured I’d just sort it out when I was finished. Well I went in there and everything was screwy. The Beatles albums were in three separate groups, some things I knew I’d uploaded weren’t there at all. It was a mess, I tell ya. Some of you are laughing right now because you know what was wrong and you know how screwed I am. Well, after a couple minutes of digging around in there I figured out what was wrong too, and it was that Google was sorting things based on meta data. Meta data is stuff that’s included in the file…tags, information, things like who the artist is, are 50 other weird things that don’t matter to anyone. And a lot of my meta tags were fucked up for various reasons. Funny thing is, it’s easy to set those important tags while you’re ripping. Any ripping software gives you control of that. But I wasn’t paying attention to meta data, so I just let them rip with whatever the program felt like using for metadata.

So the last 50 or 60 CDs I ripped, I made adjustments to that meta data while I was ripping. But the rest? I have to sort them out as best I can by editing shit in Google Music. That’s par for the course for me though. Working my way through a huge boring project for the second time because I fucked it up the first time, then when I’m almost finished, discovering that I fucked it up again. I guess I didn’t completely fuck it up, since I also made the lossless rips this time. Those lossless files give me a backup. I could re-create all of the CDs from those files. You know how people ask what you’d take if the house was burning down and you could only grab one thing? Well that’s easy for me, I’d pop my backup hard drives out of the little desktop thing they sit in and take those. All of our music, a lot of our photos, all of my writing, our websites…it’s all on those backup drives. Everything else in the house here is just stuff and it can all be replaced. Or not replaced. Anyway, fucked up meta data or not, I ain’t ripping these again, so I’ll have to work it out. Besides, I’m still working on “ripping” our vinyl to electronic files, but that’s a whole other ordeal. Ripping CDs is a picnic basket full of puppies and flowers compared to doing vinyl. But you don’t care about all of that, so let’s get this train rolling. So to speak.

And speaking of trains – there was a train wreck in Philadelphia last week. Seven people died and hundreds were injured. I’m sure more than seven people died on the roads and freeways of Philadelphia the same day, but train wrecks, plane crashes – those things are very visual, so they catch everyone’s attention. We’ve kind of settled in to a format for these things. A tragedy format. And the format includes a lot of insincere bullshit said by a lot of people. Cliches and tropes and spurious tomfoolery! Okay, not tomfoolery, but bullshit all the same. For some reason every minor tragedy is now something the entire country supposedly feels and grieves along with and must commemorate endlessly, as if our suffering makes us something we’re not. Something better than we’re actually capable of being.

The mayor of Philadelphia is named Michael Nutter – really – and he was standing there as the United States Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was speechifying after the train wreck, because every tragedy also requires some sort of solemn parade of politicians and victims so we can all look at them, I suppose, and think – what? “That’s too bad?” But if it’s one thing politicians and bureaucrats love to do it’s stand in front of cameras – any cameras – and yak and blab and blather and pontificate and make that god damn sad mouth that they all make in exactly the same way. That mouth that every male politician makes when he’s caught with his dick inside someone other than his wife. Anyway, these politicians and Philadelphia-ites and what have you were standing around talking about tragedy and misery, and the Transportation Secretary, our friend Anthony Foxx said to mayor Nutter, “On Tuesday, you were not only Philadelphia’s mayor, you were America’s mayor, and we thank you.”

America’s Mayor? What does that mean? I know it comes from the World Trade Center attacks, when everyone lost their minds there for a few days and we didn’t know what the hell was going on and all of the media everywhere started calling Rudy Giuliani “America’s Mayor.” I didn’t understand that then, and I don’t understand using it now for a measly train wreck. And speaking of endless commemoration and the World Trade Center, when are we going to stop moping around and pretending to be solemn and grief stricken on September 11th? Are we going to pick that scab open every year? Or alternately, when are we going to stop waving America’s dick around in everyone’s face. Which is the opposite of solemn moping, but those two things seem to be the only choices. And by dick-waving I mean that everything associated with the World Trade Center site or the rebuilding of that site seems to be named the freedom this or the liberty that, all wrapped up in shoddy, dollar store patriotism. That World Trade Center attack was a terrible thing. But you know what? It was a long time ago, and only 3000 people died there.

I say “only 3000 people died there” because in the scheme of tragedies, 3,000 isn’t a lot. Like, you might recall that America dropped atom bombs on Japan – twice in one week – and almost a quarter of a million of their people died on those days, or within a few weeks. Hundreds of thousands of others suffered from the effects of radiation for years after. And how do they remember that? What did they build? A giant flag of Japan flipping the bird at America? A million foot tall MOTHERLAND WILL CONQUER THE ROUND EYES tower? No, they built The Hiroshima Peace Memorial. We’re building patriotic phalluses with corny names that sound like they were coined by subnormal Texas presidents, and they built a Peace Memorial. What else did we do? We started a war in Iraq and Afghanistan that has killed more than twice as many Americans than those planes did, and left a million Americans wounded and fucked up. Yeah, over a million. And, oh, by the way, we’ve killed more than a million Iraqis at the same time. More than those lunatics in Rwanda killed in their genocide twenty years ago.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about today, patriotism and those kinds of lies, no. I want to talk about the good lord. That’s right, Jesus H. Christ himself, and all of his pets and supplicants. You thought I was going to say Krishna, didn’t you? Or Buddha or Allah. Those are good lords too, aren’t they? Well, that depends on who you believe, man. Now, remember Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx? The most idiotic thing he said wasn’t the “America’s mayor” thing, if you can believe it. He actually said, with his own high-level governmental employee mouth, that the eight people killed in the train derailment “did not make it to their earthly homes on Tuesday night, but they were called home.” Uhh…outside of the fact that a government official is invoking Christianity in a public speech, which is irritating enough, think about what he’s really doing there.

On a similar note, six or seven years ago we had some really bad fires here in Southern California that seemed like they would burn down half the county. politicians and officials spout the same meaningless cliches during every one of these fires, since they’re disasters after all and they have to stick to the disaster format, and one day on the radio I heard the Los Angeles Mayor at the time, Antonio Villaraigosa saying all of the hollow blah blah blah you’d expect, but at the end of the interview they asked him, “Mayor Villaraigosa, if you could say just one thing to the people of Los Angeles right now, what would it be?” He sighed his best sincere sigh and said, “I would say that everyone should pray for the people who have lost their homes.”

Imagine some tragedy befalls you and the mayor of your city says, “Well, we’re all praying for you.” Fuck you, Mr. Mayor, how about you pick up a shovel or send some people around to dig me out? How about you help me figure out how to rebuild my damn house? Pray for them? What does that even mean? Fire just destroyed their homes. Clearly Jesus or God or Buddha or whoever doesn’t really like them. I doubt those super deities are going to be waiting around to answer some prayers for them. The whole thing rankles, because your politicians are supposed to stay out of that shit, but that’s not really the point I’m chasing after here. You could say that’s nothing but more empty chuckle-headed squawking from a pandering politician. You could say that telling people to pray or reassuring them that their dead relatives are on the way to heaven is reassuring – to anyone who believes that stuff anyway. But what may really be at work here is a more fundamental manipulation – and maybe at this point even subconscious manipulation – to keep people from asking any hard questions. You know, like, “Who is responsible for this? Why did this happen?”

To me, it isn’t really tragic when someone dies. I realize that’s an…uncommon outlook, but what can I tell you. That’s what we do, we live, then we die. It isn’t tragic, it’s natural. It’s inevitable. Even if you die in an accident or as the result of violence – those things are also natural ways to go here in the world we’ve made. It’s slightly tragic to me if I know someone who died personally, but only slightly. We mourn, humans mourn the loss of other humans. That’s natural too. But it’s also natural to mourn for a bit and then get on with things. Every year you may remember the date that your father or your sister or your friend died, but you don’t mount a parade or sit silently in a corner wearing a black shroud all day every year. Most people, if they remember, try to remember good things about the dearly departed. Not so with America and September 11th. No, we remind ourselves of horror and panic and death and they show the planes and the building again, and maybe – maybe? – it’s all done to keep the anti-Islamic fire burning, so we can justify more Americans and Iraqis and Afghans dying every day.

Listen man, I’m not made of stone. I cry watching television for christ’s sake, at really stupid things. Mostly at – hmm, here, I’ll tell you something about me. You know what really gets to me? What will make me cry no matter how obvious or poorly executed it is? People being kind to children. Or even being kind to actual full grown people when they don’t have to be. Is that weird? Maybe. But it hits me right in the gut every time. Train derailment? Whatever. Terrorist attack? Again? Yawn. Some lady handing a thirsty kid a bottle of water? Forget it, I’m gone. Ha. Carol and I were talking about suffering and empathy and she was pressing me to defend my “Oh well,” approach to most tragedies, and I just said that I can’t have empathy for suffering and tragedy and mass death, because that shit is happening constantly. Like, every minute of every day. If you felt empathy for all of that suffering you’d just curl up on your kitchen floor and die. Right there with the dust bunnies and that little piece of cheese you dropped a couple weeks ago but didn’t feel like bending over to pick up.

The American Journal of Psychiatry says that a third of all war correspondents suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. And their editors, the people who have to wade through the images and reports are even more likely to develop psychological symptoms than the reporters are. You get that? Seeing it secondhand is worse than witnessing it yourself. What can that possibly mean for the rest of us who are constantly bombarded with carnage and misery? So, yeah, I’ll be damned if I’m going to feel selective, occasional empathy for whoever the news trots out in front of me. Whoever they picked that day to dangle in front of us, because they can’t show us all of it. I’m not going to fall for that or be suckered in to that, and it’s not becasue I’m callous or incapable of human empathy, it’s just self-preservation. Not to mention that since it’s selective it’s naturally all slanted in one way or another anyway. I refuse to get all wound up over the one white girl who goes missing from Westwood every couple of years when that Grim Sleeper guy killed hundreds of women in South LA over the course of a couple of decades. You didn’t hear about him though, because his victims were black women who were often drug addicted or otherwise lost.

But even if you had heard about him, what are you going to do? There’s just too much tragedy and untimely death in the world to take it all in. It wouldn’t be wise or advisable. I care about us all as a group. As humanity. I think we’re beautiful. I love us. All of us. And I care about people I come in contact with. But if you look at the things these politicians say whenever something bad happens, or what the holy preachers say – that’s some cynical shit there. To me. But then I feel that way about all religions. That they were created to keep people down. “Hey man, no need to rouse the rabble, no matter how shitty your life is here now, you’re going to heaven!” You know? “Hey, better pay your taxes, look, it says right here in the bible, you gotta give it up to Caesar. Empty those pockets, bitch!” Why do so many governments go to such great lengths to try to eliminate communism? Is it because communists say that we should all have decent places to work and the wealth of a country should be distributed more equally? No, it’s because they say that you shouldn’t look to a God for answers and salvation, you should work for it here and now. And that is a dangerous message.

But the fact is, if you set out to design a system to keep the top 1% fat and happy on the blood and sweat of the rest of us, you couldn’t come up with anything better than religion. Government? Politics? Those are the minor leagues compared to religion. All a government can do is take away your money or throw you into prison or kill you. Religion threatens you with – or promises you – eternity! Beat that. And what an eternity it is. If you’re good anyway, and follow all the rules while you’re alive, and don’t make any noise about that boot on your neck. If you’re not good though – well, I wouldn’t want to be you, burning forever in a lake of fire or living a million lives as a fly or a donkey. Best to behave, right? Even if you’re not completely convinced, it’s best to hedge your bets and toe the line, because, you know, paradise is awesome.

But that kind of begs the question if this God loves you so much that he wants you to have paradise, why are so many of our lives so miserable? Why not cut all of that out and just make everyone feel like they’re in paradise while they’re alive? You’d have to be kind of dick to dangle paradise in front of billions of people who don’t even have a decent place to take a shit. But that’s exactly what religion does. Maybe the Transportation Secretary should have said he was really pissed off about this unnecessary wreck and he was going to get to the bottom of what or who caused it. Maybe he did say that, I don’t know, I couldn’t find his whole speech. But even if he did say that, throwing in the “earthly homes” bit after it makes everything he said before sound like a patronizing lie.

All of this public Jesus love – and it’s definitely Jesus love here in the U.S., but elsewhere it’s just the same thing with a different name – this Jesus love doesn’t have any place in a public official’s public duties. Even if the majority of Americans identify with some branch of Christianity, we’re supposed to have freedom from religious talk and pressure, especially from our government. That’s one of the reasons those wig wearing fuckers rebelled against the British in the first place, because they didn’t want to kiss the King’s ring and be forced to worship the King’s God. Someone who isn’t Christian shouldn’t have to listen to some public official tell people to pray or that accidents victims flew up to heaven on the wings of precious Catholic-molested angel-children. I shouldn’t have to hear that kind of nonsense coming from a government official. Not that I think there’s anything special about people who work in government, in fact I believe quite the opposite. But they work for all of us. Not just the ones who pray or believe in ghosts or the galactic overlord Xenu. All of us. That means you should leave the God shit out of it. Out of all of it.

I don’t know how long that Christian majority will last anyway. The Pew Research Center said the percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians dropped almost eight percent in the past seven years. In that same time, the percentage of Americans who say they don’t believe in ghosts or old fables or Gods has gone up more than 6%. It’s a funny thing, Christianity. They don’t want homosexuality or anything else they don’t happen to agree with “shoved down their throats” – and I have to say that I think it’s funny that those are the words they always use when talking about those awful queers – but they whine and cry about their god-given rights to not have to deal with anything they don’t want to deal with, but I’m stuck here dealing with their shit every day. I don’t think any homosexuals are trying to get down any Christian’s throats – except for, you know, those Christians that want something shoved down their throat when no one else from the congregation is looking. That’s not what the homosexuals or any other marginalized group wants, so it would be nice if the Jesus freaks stayed out of my throat. And my earholes and my government.

I think there are nice things about every big, established religion. Nice elements. And the bible is full of beautiful old language. I know it is because I’ve read it, more than once. But there is equally beautiful language in thousands of non-religious books too. And you don’t have to be religious to be a good person and do good things. Morality does not equal religious belief. And really, I can get along with people, individually, no matter what they believe. Most people I know believe in something, and we get along just fine. I don’t care what you believe, that’s the thing. It doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care who you have sex with, what you do with those watermelons and Jell-O and rubber boots, or who you pray to at night before you crawl in to your Sleep Number bed. I really don’t. We have enough in common that those differences don’t matter. But no one who works for the government, who takes a salary from all of us, should be waving that Jesus flag when they’re on the job. Put it away. Stop praying for people and do something real to help them. Stop promising paradise while you make their lives miserable. Try that for a while. See how things go. I hazard a guess you’ll get more results doing that than you will praying.

And by the way kids, if you want to get rid of the 1% you aren’t going to do it at the ballot box. Don’t go after the politicians, go after the religions. Until they’re gone the lopsided inequity that makes so many people angry is going to be with us. If you don’t think you can get rid of the religions, make them pay taxes. Making them pay their fair share would be the death of them eventually. If any of this even matters, since the fact is – the undeniable fact is – as soon as Christianity is no longer the majority view, politicians will quit suggesting that people pray. I can guarantee that, because politicians are followers and cowards, and they pander to whoever does the voting. They know which side of the bread is buttered, that’s one of the things that makes them politicians. That uncanny ability to not believe in anything except what they think the voters believe in. If Scientologists became the majority you’d see pictures of the president smiling and holding on to an e-meter, getting rid of his body thetans. It would be on the first page of whitehouse.gov.

Wait a minute – President Travolta. That has a ring to it, doesn’t it? Someone get Vinnie Barbarino on the phone and let him know we have a job for him. He thinks he’s saving the world anyway – they all do – so how can he refuse? Would that really be any worse than what we usually have? Oh me oh my, I can’t take any more brothers and sisters. You know what we’re going to talk about next time? Something fun. I promise. This is enough of this for now.

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