Are You on My Side?
(regarding Bill Maher’s 2019 Thanksgiving monologue)
Thank you to all those who responded to the last edition of The Food Times in which I linked to the piece by Bill Maher. One of you, an old friend, wrote that he couldn’t watch the entire Maher episode. He said that he was disturbed by the fact that Bill’s audience was laughing while they were thinking that Bill “was only talking about ‘the other side’.”
This led me to several considerations. The first I was able to dismiss as irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what Bill Maher’s audience thought, or if they knew that he was lampooning them as much as he was lampooning that possibly imaginary ‘other side’.
As the monologue went on Bill’s point became very clear: there is no ‘other side.’ In the rush to be right we, all of us humans, tend to overlook the glaringly obvious fact that everyone is fraught with the same motive. Everyone wants to be right. The gun-toting skinhead, the pious Christian, the indignant victim, the staunch supporter of Capitalism, the smirking Zen-Buddhist, the well-mannered intellectual, the revolutionary, the Mafioso, the atheist, the Bill Maher and the Joe Bruno, they all are subject to the same, almost insane, wish to be right. Yikes, it’s an Existential Conundrum.
People, no matter how awful they seem to each other, want to be right. People of high intelligence want to be right (and are often sure they are). But people of low intelligence are not spared this same proclivity (oh, if only they were). People of good taste and people of no taste, cultured people and savage people, tolerant people and intolerant people, strong people and weak people, we all think we know what needs to be done. We have to secede from the Union. We have to save the Union. We have to abolish slavery. We have to abolish slave-holders. We have to kill any who disagree. We have to kill those who would kill those who disagree. And so on, and on, we who know will, when the chips are down, kill for what we believe we know.
But, but, but…what we don’t know, what nobody knows, is how not to kill. It never occurs to the human that what he thinks he knows is always at the root of his dilemma. Yet it’s clear from all his behavior that no matter his brilliant machines and his new forms of organization, he is much the same as when he first walked the planet. As fearful, ignorant and primitive today as ever. The fact is he doesn’t know. And his wish to be right, to know, is a mask for his ignorance and his fear. You don’t know. I don’t know and Bill Maher doesn’t know either. Nobody knows. There is no “other side.” Yikes, an Existential Nightmare.
It’s us against our own ignorance. As a species we have, as a result of our condition, expended huge efforts on ventures designed to assure our total annihilation. Yet if we knew how not to kill each other all of that effort might have gone into other things. But we don’t know. None of us. Nobody. And we don’t know that we don’t know, and that’s the Big Problem. The Nightmare. But it’s also the thing that bring us to the verge of waking up. As a species we may wake up, grow up, and realize how little we know and how much we need to hide that from ourselves by being right.
You on my side here brother?