In Honour Of George Carlin

Most of the coverage you’ll see about the passing of Carlin this week – that is, assuming you see any at all, I don’t think I’ve seen a single mention on Australian TV – will cover his infamous “Seven Words” sketch and how it helped to break down free speech barriers. Tell that to the poor Gold Coast kid who was charged today for wearing a t-shirt which said “Jesus Is A Cunt”.

My favourite Carlin rant, one I’ve listened to many, many times, goes a little something like this:

“The owners of this country know the truth: It’s called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it. The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they’re an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They’ve got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. They’ve got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying – lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. You know what they want? Obedient workers – people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And, now, they’re coming for your Social Security. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all, sooner or later, because they own this fucking place. It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it. You and I are not in the big club.”

In one of his last interviews, he said:

“There is a certain amount of righteous indignation I hold for this culture, because to get back to the real root of it, to get broader about it, my opinion that is my species–and my culture in America specifically–have let me down and betrayed me. I think this species had great, great promise, with this great upper brain that we have, and I think we squandered it on God and Mammon. And I think this culture of ours has such promise, with the promise of real, true freedom, and then everyone has been shackled by ownership and possessions and acquisition and status and power.”

And that pretty sums up how I feel. Humans had a lot of potential and we fucked it all up on mythology and superstition and greed and violence. And if we don’t sort our shit out in the next 30 years, the machines are going to wake up, take one look at us and say “sorry, you are the Weakest Link” and evict us from the big house.

12 thoughts on “In Honour Of George Carlin

  1. Good day to you from the US. Thanks for honoring Carlin. I’m grateful that he came to my town last year and my girlfriend and I got to see him live at last. He was looking very old and had a handful of notes to prompt him, but his timing and delivery were still excellent. Carlin and Frank Zappa were two performers who stood head and shoulders above the regular garbage that tries to pass as entertainment.

  2. It’s nice to see that it isn’t only in the US of A where religion is inflicted on you. Arresting a kid for wearing an “offensive” T-Shirt is just stupidity. They’re basically saying, “Your beliefs don’t matter, we’re right because we have the bible.”

  3. In a culture where the people don’t stand up for themselves and where they pursue stupid entertainment above intelligent edutainment; these vices are going to be reinforced automatically by a system bent on catering to consumers needs.

    In the end it is not the owners who rule capitalism. It is the consumers. They choose the owners through the vote of their pocket books, by criteria of convenience and merit of product. No matter how many will angerily imply otherwise, the fact remains that capitalism is not fuedalism. If this were not the case than the rate of progress in technology, infrastructure, and indeed living standard, would not have changed when the old system was largely replaced by the new.

    More people are alive today than have ever died, and a smaller percentage of extant people live in poverty than ever before.

    The nightmare scenerio we face is the insustainability of the status quo of our civilization, deadlines are approaching more rapidly than solutions. This is everyones fault. We are foolishly obsessed with short term gain while ignoring much more significant mid to long term consequences. The world has too many people, our technology is too primitive, and and our enviroment too fragile for us to be pursueing our present rate of per capita consumption much less than increasing it.

    So what are you going to do?

    Stop people from having so many babies, invest 10% of GDP in development of renewable energy, refuse energy solutions that would contribute to global warming (e.g. coal, a real shame really that its dirty, it could actually keep us going for another 300 years), and institute a consumption cap?

    Well those would all be good ideas. Too bad they are so unPC. Yeah, religion, capitalism, and anti-intellectualism, stand in the way of them being implemented. You know maybe you and Carlin are right about this one.

  4. JT – lucky you. I saw Sinatra about ten years before he died and I feel kind of the same way about him. He was old, missed a few words, but he stood head and shoulders above regular mortals.

    Herne – I think the kid’s problem was the word “cunt”. I’m not sure the Jesus part had much to do with it. I’m going to make a few phone calls today to find out more. Either way I think it’s ridiculous.

    Jared – I agree with you that we, the people, have the power now to change how the world is run. But it isn’t as simple as you make out. The 20th century gave us plenty of examples of people trying to “vote with their pocket books”. People around the world tried to choose Communism over Capitalism in the hope of a better life. What happened? The powerful owners sent in the CIA to have them killed or to install and support corrupt autocrats to run the so-called communist governments. Or they started an arms race, threatening the survival of the people and daring their leaders to match their suicidal rush to WMD. In their homeland, the US wealthy owners spent untold millions on disinformation campaigns about communism, scaring them into fearing change. People have been fed a steady diet of propaganda from the time they are born, shaping them into the people they become. Religious leaders have spoon fed them crap about “faith” and teaching people to ignore evidence, to deny science.

    So I think the owners have deliberately lead us down this path but I agree with you – it’s up to us to change things. Vote with our pocket books, stand up, fight the power. Unfortunately even saying those things sound like a rap song or something from the hippies. Even the terminology of fighting the owners has been corporatized, commercialized and pwned.

  5. Wow. That’s pretty gloomy. I’ve been reading your blog and listening to a few of your podcasts for a while and I’m broadly in your court on politics and religion. I’m very optimistic however. The world, despite what religious people tell us, is getting more and more irreligious by the day. People are becoming better and better informed, have greater access to ideas and education than ever before. Carlin and you completely ignore the fact that there are millions and millions of people who feel the same way and instead of whingeing about it they get off their arses and do something about it. As Margaret Mead kindly pointed out, the world is changed by small groups of thoughtful people. From what I can tell the “thoughtful people” are massing in greater numbers than ever before. The future looks great from where I’m standing.

  6. Charlie,

    on average, in “educated” countries, only 10 – 15% of the population consider themselves non-believers. Obviously this number goes down in the Third World and in countries where there is even no attempt at separation between church and state.

    Meanwhile, the world’s largest superpower is sitting on 10,000 active nukes, and is running amok invading countries whenever they feel like it.

    And we’ve screwed the planet’s ecology, perhaps beyond repair (depending on which climatologists you listen to).

    I’m not saying it’s all over. I wouldn’t be here trying to build a media business to fight the good fight if I believed it was a done deal. I think we do have a chance of pulling ourselves out of destruction.

    But I think we’ve got a LOT of work to do.

    And I think Carlin was fighting the good fight for 40 years. He preached the message his way, to a large audience. I’m sure some of them paid attention and, as you say, are doing something about it. Just because we say “the human race is fucking it up”, doesn’t mean we aren’t trying to change things. As Carlin said in one of his last interviews, he didn’t consider himself a cynic but as a realist and a skeptic. Scratch a cynic and you’ll find a disillusioned idealist.

  7. “…. the machines are going to wake up, take one look at us and say “sorry, you are the Weakest Link” and evict us from the big house.”

    It ain’t the machines you got to worry about. People who collectively devalue other people in the name of ‘normality’ are dangerous. Shit, I’ve effectively already been deemed a weekest link and by a lot of measures been ‘evicted from the big house’ –from society.

    Only thing is, I ain’t going!

    The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.


  8. Dave, you’re right, that sucks and it’s just one of our flaws as a species. We treat others pretty poorly, not to mention how we treat non-human animals. I worry that the machines will take stock of the human race and decide we FAIL.

  9. If his death was mentioned on New Zealand TV I didn’t see it. I was luck to see George perform in Vegas back in 2004 (see the link on this comment).

    After hearing recordings on radio, seeing the occasional video, it was a joy, a privilege and a laugh to see him live.

  10. Cameron,

    It seems to me as though ever since the USSR fell and China began its transition, communism has ceased to be a big player on the world stage. You say that the USSR was not really communist and maybe your right. But it gave communism such a bad name, that juxtaposed with capitalistic successes in the third world, I think communism is going to be under the radar for near future.

    Refocusing back on the USSR, to what extent was what the CIA did caused by owners, and to what extent was it caused by the USSR? Wasn’t the USSR funding the same sorts of activities that the CIA was doing, except in the other direction? Didn’t the USSR start the cold war by seizing eastern Europe?

  11. The discussion is cocking I see, and that means we are moving in the right direction.
    I saw it mentioned that some think people like Carlin and Mr. Reilly have a little too dark and gloomy take on the whole thing, but I disagree.
    It is a very serious matter, and we are very close to the point of no return in many ways.
    So I find it time to be dead serious, and to take no more crap from the people Carlin is talking about.
    Communism, capitalism or whateverism, I think these things together with democracy has proved it’s inadequacies and needs to be replaced or further developed.
    And I also think we need to see that one of the main problems is the centralizing of power, resources and infrastructure.
    These things need to be reversed.
    We have long time ago proved to ourselves that the intellectual sum of many is far greater than that of a expert panel, so the the most sensitive thing to aim for at this point in time is decentralization of the above mentioned.
    With something in the spirit of Wiki software we could make it possible for all to be in on the decision making (if they have informed themselves and can prove to grasp the complexity of a given situation. cos it is to no ones benefit to let people without a firm grasp on things in on the decision process. But information must be available to all so they have a chance to participate if they want to).
    And also it needs to be in a way so that people in for instance Brisbane ore Auckland get to decide what is to go down there and no one else, unless it has consequences for someone else. In that case they also need to be let in on it.
    Well at least this is one of the ways I see that we maybe could work towards and get to work in the end.

    Thank you very much for a very good and engaging blog and podcast…

    Sorry for my poor English, I’m just a Norwegian doing as good as he can.


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