Scriptures advise us to repent. And I’m not talking about the stuff some fellows spout: “Did I ever confess that I once invited three girls to the same prom?” That is not confessing. That is bragging.
I am talking more along the lines of the things we do because we have been cowed by a bully. Sometimes the bully is the cravings of our own body, but quite often it is some big jerk we do not respect at all intellectually, but respect because we don’t like the pain of humiliation. The humiliation can take all sorts of forms, from being verbally mocked and scorned to being dumped headfirst into a wastepaper basket.
I was put ahead in school because I could read at an early age, and elders felt I’d be bored if I had to sit about with people learning to read when I already could read. It was assumed I would learn more by taking classes on subjects I didn’t already know about, and that the “challenge” would be good for me. Instead I ran headlong into a totally different challenge. For the next ten years I was generally the smallest boy in class, and also a year less emotionally matured, and this meant I faced persistent efforts on the part of my peers to shape me up. IE: They sneered a lot.
It wasn’t very fair, for there was nothing I could do about being a year younger, but I had to adapt in some way, and I think my way involved escapism. I became an escape artist. I wasn’t the sort who often stands up for his rights. But I became highly skilled at evasiveness. The people waiting to “shape me up” would wait in vain, for I’d take a new route.
Escapism was not seen as a good trait. If there had been a class in escapism I would have gotten an “A”, but instead I tended to escape the problems that came along with getting an “F” in other classes by getting the lowest grade you could get and still pass. A “D” got you by and avoided punishment. This drove some people crazy. “All aptitude tests say you are smart”, they would gripe, ‘Why won’t you study? Why won’t you do your homework?” The answer was easy: Escapists don’t do homework. And escapists do study; they just study “extracurricular” stuff. Unfortunately I didn’t know the word “extracurricular.”
Fortunately I was not alone. There were others who did not behave correctly. To not apply yourself to the task at hand, and instead to fool around, was described as “hacking off”, and we who behaved in such a manner were described as “hack-offs”. By ourselves we were very lonely, and a few hack-offs I befriended were some of the loneliest people I’ve ever met, but when we got together we were not alone any more, and joy exploded. The table where the hack-offs sat in the cafeteria, which should have been a gloomy place due to the low status involved, was often ruled by hilarity. I think this may have annoyed some miserable high status people, for they’d occasionally feel compelled to walk over to our happy table and sneer. We needed to be “shaped up”.
I was not shaped up properly, and instead learned of better ways to escape. But such ways were not altogether “better”, for there were things I might have learned I instead fled from.
For example, I might have learned how to fix a car’s engine, but the fellows who knew how to fix cars scared me. At my school they were a group called “the greasers”. They should have been friends, for in many classes they too were “hack-offs”. However they were tough where I was tender, callous where I was sensitive, and I annoyed the heck out of them.
Tears especially riled them. I recall one time three of them cornered me behind the school, ambushing me as I took an evasive route home, and demanded I fight them one by one. I threw the first two down with a head lock and hip throw, but when the third and biggest fellow advanced grinning, I bolted sobbing. Sobbing was very annoying to such tough young men. And they were men. They were shaving in grade school, practically.
I was so shaped into a timid form that, even when the hormones hit me, a year later than everyone else, and I went through the typical growth spurt and became six feet tall, it didn’t sink in that the fellows who could shave in grade school were short, only around five feet six inches. I couldn’t figure out why they were treating me with greater respect. I still shied away, because my identity was already formed into an escapist mode.
It has since occurred to me that, when the hormones hit, we go shooting down a prepared channel. Boyhood forms what attracts us, and in an ideal society we would be formed in a way that would aim us towards high-status activity. However in my society only some were aimed towards high-status. People like me were so hurt by sneering that we were formed in a way that aimed us the opposite direction.
One odd coincidence was that, during my junior year in high-school, a class dedicated to escapism appeared. I signed up right away, for it seemed obvious it was a class I’d get an “A” at. It was called, “Creative Writing”. And indeed, as a senior, I got the first “A”s of my academic career. During graduation ceremonies I was called forward, and, perhaps to the astonishment of some classmates, I was presented with an award that had never before existed, “The Creative Writing Award.”
This would be a happy ending if life ended at age seventeen, but now it is fifty-three years later and, rather than success, I find myself shadow-banned.
This presents me with an interesting dilemma, at the end of my life. This certainly is not a Hollywood ending. It is not like the happy-ever-after ending of “It’s A Wonderful Life”.
Rather it is like the complete disdain faced by Christian martyrs. Cancel culture is like Nero, sneering at Paul and chopping off his head, and scoffing at Peter and crucifying him upside down, and then erecting a statue to himself the size of the Statue of Liberty, in Rome.
In terms of being a social climber, Nero climbed to the very top. He got recognition. He had status. In fact one reason Peter and Paul got in trouble was they stated Nero did not out-rank Jesus. But towards the end of Nero’s life more and more people got in trouble for not respecting him enough. He had his own mother killed, which seems a rather drastic solution to the Freudian drama. Anyone who stood in his way tended to be “disappeared”, which is a dictator’s way of dealing with debate. The famous portrayal of Nero playing the fiddle as Rome burned was because Nero proposed urban renewal, and some felt the city had character, and that historic neighborhoods should be preserved, and therefore Nero’s solution was to just burn the entire place down, (sort of like Fraudulent Biden is proposing by outlawing all fossil fuels).
It is said that recognition is important, and therefore there is no such thing as bad publicity. But to be “disappeared” is not publicity. It is just to be marginalized off the edge of the earth. Out of sight is out of mind, and dictators tend to believe they can control Truth by stating what “facts” they will allow, and what inconvenient bits of history they will erase. As far as Nero was concerned, only Nero mattered, and he became a sort of god, in terms of his sheer, brutal power. Paul and Peter were to be disappeared, with all their papers incinerated. They were to be completely forgotten.
To some degree it must have been depressing to Peter and Paul to know they would soon be executed, and at the same time to see the towering statue of Nero being built up into Rome’s skyline. At that time it was the tallest structure in the city. It must have been apparent, in the short term at least, that Nero would get all the glory as they themselves were basically erased.
However Peter and Paul also had faith, and the knowledge Jesus Himself had stated, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” When push came to shove, Peter and Paul had faith in what they would never see manifested in the physical world. They stood up to Nero, and faced being disappeared, and saw no miracle manifest to save them from being actually, physically disappeared.
What guts they had! What fortitude in the face of fiercely snarling evil! Then I look at myself. Have I any semblance of such guts? Hmm…
In some ways I very much doubt I have such guts. After all, I have described how I was shaped into the form of an escapist. I do not stand up to a bully like Nero. I do my best to elude him, to avoid him, to pass down second street when he travels down first. It is only by accident that my avoidance looks like defiance.
Only by accident? Or is it not really an accident? Is being a wimp actually a form of defiance?
If truth must be known, it is a form of defiance. To avoid something is to call that something worthy of avoiding. Nero does not want to be called worthy of avoiding. He wants to be called worthy of worship. That is why he built the huge statue of himself, towering above the ashes of Rome.
In a strange way the table of fellow hack-offs; who I sat with in the school cafeteria all those years ago, was like the early Christians, for what others called “status” we called “worthy of avoiding”. Of course, we hack-offs had no Messiah to guide us, and in that manner were unlike the early Christians. However we rejected the “Nero” we dealt with, which tended to be the cafeteria tables that held the stars of the school: The football heroes and the cheerleaders, the students who got “A”s and their disciples. We were unworthy of acclaim in both athletic and academic terms, “losers”, yet our table knew laughter and joy, which tended to suggest “acclaim” is not as necessary for happiness as some believe.
But now, in my old age, I confess acclaim sure would be nice. It is why the maudlin film, “It’s a Wonderful Life” can bring tears to a person’s eyes even the tenth time one watches it. And I, as a writer, think acclaim may be a big reason I have written.
If you write, you either write a diary confession you want no one else to see, in which case you don’t mind if it is burned, or else you do want to share. You want to share something that might brighten another’s day, along the lines of a get-well-card to a friend who is feeling poorly. You want to share the words that make a sad face brighten with a big smile. You even want a big crowd to smile, and roar applause. You want to be a rock star, but it is not to make yourself worthy of worship. It is because you want to make many others happy. Therefore you are not a Nero, puffing your own ego with a grandiose statue of yourself. Rather you are loving your neighbor, and even your enemy, as scripture advises. However you do seek applause.
To be shadow-banned, or hit by cancel culture’s censoring, is therefore painful. It is the opposite of the applause a writer craves. It is difficult for the writer involved to see that the rejection may not be because the writing is bad, but because it is good. For it is good to defy Nero, simply by seeing and saying there is good in neighborhoods of Rome which shouldn’t be razed, and in Nero’s mother who shouldn’t be killed, and in Peter and Paul. When such simple and sweet statements are seen as defiance, and as an enemy of the state, the writer is served the opposite of the acclaim they desired. They are cancelled.
Personally, I can say it is damn depressing to have struggled my entire life to stop being an escape artist, who avoids standing up to authority and avoids “causing trouble”, and instead to learn how to speak truth boldly, cleverly, humorously, and persuasively. And what does it get me? The exact opposite of what I wanted.
Saying that confesses I want the world’s praise. I am no better than a sleazy politician or Hollywood star. How much of my life have I wasted, seeking the praise of the wrong people? How much of my time have I, in seeking such praise, been bowing and scraping to win the accolades of sickos, of Neros who are zeroes?
In seeking the praise of these pitiful people, how often have I pretended I don’t believe the Truth? How often have I backed down, with disarming eyebrows, when I could have jutted my jaw?
Too many times. And it was all in vain. Being nice to bullies never seems to change them. They never “come around” to my sort of kindness. They seemingly just get worse. If anything, backing down just convinces them bullying works, and they become incorrigible.
But I can’t blame them. I am the one who wanted their praise. Their attention. Their applause. How could I become such a fool, wherein I was ashamed of Truth to a degree I’d deny it, for the favor of nitwits? If Christ returned today, there are Atheists who could say they stood for Truth, whereas I would be ashamed, for in some way disregarding Truth, in favor of the acceptance of Neros.
How could I have been so stupid?
One time, when I was young, I astonished the other hack-offs at my cafeteria table by announcing I was tired of being a hack-off. I wanted to be “popular”, and was going to go sit with the football players and cheerleaders. (I was infatuated with a certain cheerleader). Then I deserted my tried and true friends, and spent a miserable fortnight sitting at the wrong table. All it did was make the football players awkward and uncomfortable (they kindly did not tell me to buzz off) and I couldn’t think of anything to say. I did achieve a splendid five seconds of eye-contact with a certain cheerleader, but nothing came of that. Then I gave up, and moved back to the hack-off table. It sure was a relief to be back home!
Remembering that adolescent adventure makes me wonder: What made that hack-off table “Home”? What was so comfortable about the company of hack-offs?
I suppose it was comfortable just being what you were: Not an athletic star. Not a brilliant scholar. Not an big actor in the school’s production of “Camelot.” Not anything but a hack-off, yet able to think, comment, and most of all laugh. Able to appreciate. Able to understand. Able to be the cheering audience which the Nero’s originally wanted to please.
How is it the Nero’s become so disdainful, and look down long noses, and call such people “Deplorables” and “Bitter Clingers” and “Inhabitants of Flyover Country.” In truth such hack-offs are the salt of the earth. Without them life has no flavor. No joy.
It is a great thing to strive to be great, but one should not lose touch with the fact greatness already exists, and being great is only emphasizing Truth that already exists. And one great thing is that the salt of the earth do exist.
The existence of a Nero mentality involves a decoupling of leaders from the led, wherein the leaders are estranged from the very people they supposedly are leading. The beauty of love, understanding, sympathy, empathy, and forgiveness are all cast aside for brutal gains, in terms of power. The things that make an audience clap and cheer and rise to its feet, demanding an encore, are belittled as stuff that can be manufactured and controlled by censorship and the pulp of propaganda. “You will only cheer when I say, and stop cheering when I command.”
The blandness this creates tends to become tasteless, which is odd, for tastelessness is often used as an excuse for censorship. The elite feel the humorist has stepped over an invisible line. A truth, the very truth that gives their humor its salt, its bite, its flavor, offends those in power.
On April 13, 1969 my favorite show on TV did not appear on air, as it was deemed too tasteless by someone “upstairs” in the network. It is interesting to view the show now, and to see what was not allowed to be seen back then:
In some ways the “shocking” content now seems tame, and in other ways some of the content seems sad, for we now know how society moved, the following half century. After all, some things that have become “permissible” are not altogether positive.
However, as a young man barely sixteen, I was fed up with what I called “phonies.” People walked around faking happiness. Truth was repressed. I felt I was being stifled by my suburb, which was externally green and lovely and superior to a slum, but had no soul. Only the “hack-offs” like me were close to being honest. We at least could see a status symbol was only a symbol. Other people behaved as if a status symbol had actual power, when we knew it was devoid of power, for we were spoiled rotten, and knew things are just stuff, clutter, and wealthy suburbs are the mother of much misery.
It just so happened that as the Smothers Brothers got cancelled, I headed off, escaping the misery of suburban stifling by hitchhiking to Florida. I still have the diary, and soon will post the pages, for I think it is a story that remembers an America that was a very good land, but beginning a fall into hard times. Perhaps the fall began with John Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, and accelerated with the assassinations of his brother and Martin Luther King in 1968, but in 1969 the nation was still largely wholesome and optimistic, which was something I discovered over and over again as I hitchhiked. The salt of the earth were all around and easily found.
It is also interesting to look further back in time, and see what happened in the long run to the salt of the earth, as opposed to Nero, in terms of human memory. For the Neros of the world care very much about how they are remembered, for some reason. I don’t know why; they aren’t going to be around to enjoy it. But perhaps it is just a willful attempt to extend their power beyond their lifespan, and to demand people seem them as worthy of worship after they are dead and gone. In actual fact, this rarely happens. However the Neros talk about what they call “their legacy”.
Well, in terms of Nero’s legacy, the great Colossus of Nero was almost immediately altered and renamed after he died. A crown was added and it was dubbed, “The Colossus of Apollo”. Then the Colussus was amazingly shifted across town (quite the engineering feat) for the Colossus had to make way for the the Colosseum. That is ironic because Nero’s urban renewal had to make way for newer urban renewal. However decay of Rome was already setting in, and the statue of Nero’s final indignity was to seen as valuable scrap metal, and to simply vanish.
Meanwhile, what happened to the supposedly “dissapeared” Peter and Paul, in terms of worldly status? They, who did not seem to give a hoot about their worldly status, got remembered. Some stray letters they wrote to remote Roman provinces were not destroyed, or perhaps were destroyed but copies were made first. They fell through the cracks of censorship, and “went viral”.
The irony becomes complete when the urban renewal of Rome begins to involve structures built in memory of Peter and Paul even as Nero, though not forgotten, became a name you would not give to your dog. (Maybe to your pet weasel.)
The Basilica of Peter:
The Basilica of Paul:
But, like the men, the external of such beautiful architecture is nothing compare to what lies within. The interior of the Basilaca of Peter:
The interior of the Basilica of Paul:
It seems a strange legacy for two men who were supposedly disappeared, especially because they proved they didn’t care for themselves, and only cared for their Master.
In a sense it is a happy ending, like the ending of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” True, one had to sit around for over a thousand years to see it manifest, but perhaps time passes differently in the place Peter and Paul watched from. I doubt those fellows now care much about the gratification we earthlings get from worldly praise, but I, as a fool who cares about such things, do care, and am gratified.
But do you know what gratifies me most? It is what a standing challenge the reality I describe is to the hierarchy of China. In their recent history, Mao is their Nero, but they are still desperately attempting to glorify the man. This makes them vulnerable to any comedian. Whom they then must censor, to some degree. For example, here is “Uncle Roger” discussing being censored, and to a degree turning it into a promotion.
It is worthwhile to do a bit of searching, and learn a bit about “Uncle Roger.” He at times speaks perfect English with only a bit of a California accent, and I came across some critics bemoaning the fact he adopts a pretend “Chinese” accent for his act. This brought me back nearly sixty years, for when I first heard the Smothers Brothers (they sold LP Record albums of their comedy act in nightclubs, before they appeared on TV) I was appalled Dick Smothers would take advantage of his handicapped brother Tom, I was blissfully unaware Tom’s “handicap” was part of their act.
Part of comedy is to adopt a persona which may be made up, but helps bring out the Truth. For Charlie Chaplin it was the persona of a tramp despite the fact he was wealthy, and for Rodney Dangerfield it was the persona of a man constantly harassed, disrespected and unloved, though he was generally adored.
“Uncle Roger” is currently moving from the “safe” topic of oriental cooking to the “unsafe” reality of testing the limits of social norms. I think he is gambling that being banned in China will increase his popularity outside of the range of their censorship. He is “Chinese Malaysian” which means he is of the many Chinese people who live outside of China’s ruthless rule.
However that brings up the question: What is the range of China’s censorship? It would be a dictator’s dream to completely control all media all over the entire planet. But that is a dream based upon a falsity. Why? Because Truth cannot be controlled in that manner, and what China is attempting is like attempting to capture sunshine with a butterfly net.
One thing I learned quite early in life was that what is true in winter is not true in spring. This was expressed well by King Soloman in the Book of Ecclesiastes three thousand years ago, and became a hit song by the Byrds when I was twelve, called “Turn, turn, turn.”
The lines that impressed me most, as a boy, involved the fact there was a “time to embrace” but also “a time to refrain from embracing”. In other words, not all rules were iron clad and universal. Truth required discernment.
In terms of censorship, there may be times to censor, but there are also times to refrain from censoring. For example, during dangers, when ungoverned fear may cause a panic, it may be a sort of censorship to say, “Do not fear”, but it keeps panic under control. But, during a time of danger, if people pretend there is no danger, it may increase awareness to say, “Be afraid.”
If there are two alternatives, which alternate in how applicable they are to a given situation, then obviously two views are better than one. Only a complete fool like Nero (or Mao) would think a single view must cancel and censor the second view. However power breeds a madness which thinks the single eye of a cyclops is superior to two eyes with depth perception, (which is a third eye neither eye has all alone).
The thing about this power madness is that while Nero (and Mao) represent extreme cases, we should confess that to some degree we are all guilty of putting our single view over another’s. It walks hand in hand with the selfishness that makes true brotherhood difficult. Fortunately, most of us can be tapped on the shoulder, and come to our senses, especially when some comedian points out how laughable our behavior actually is.
For it is midst such laughter we rejoin the human race. We become the salt of the earth. Rather than “on top”, clinging to symbols of our status, and feeling we lead and we govern, we are led by the third eye, which sees Truth.
Truth is mankind’s true Leader, though the sheep often stray.