Gun Control and the Connecticut Shooting

With the latest tragic massacre, this one involving more children than adults (it did take place in an elementary school) and having occurred in the sleepy little hamlet of Newtown, Connecticut a few days ago, once again the news is filled with demands for stronger gun control laws…and little else. Yes, the simplistic response is always, “Guns are too easily available” or “Guns shouldn’t be available to the public at all” or “Too many people in modern society misinterpret the meaning of the 2nd Ammendment,” etc., et al., yadda yadda yadda. And whenever a crime occurs where children are the victims, people are quick to manipulate the extreme emotional tensions that inevitably arise as a result to get whatever political result they want, without taking into consideration that when emotions are running high, reason and rational thought tend to take a back seat, with misguided and even outright draconian “solutions” that end up sacrificing civil rights for perceived security being the end result.

I ask all readers of this post to be mindful of that when discussing these issues and possible solutions, and to always seek out democratic solutions to any problem we may face, and never resort to draconian measures, no matter how sensitive or emotionally charged the issue may be.

With that said, so I won’t have to reiterate the incident in question and make this post any longer than it has to be, read the initial news report here if you are not already familiar with it, then return to this post.

Let me start off by saying that this will be a controversial post, as will many of those I pen, but I am not going to back off of any issue that I feel strongly about, or that which I believe to be right, no matter how sensitive it may be. And I will start by saying that I have a huge degree of condolences for the tragic losses of this latest shooting spree, and a full appreciation for the enormity of what this event, and previous ones like it, signify. It’s for these reasons that I hold so firmly to democratic principles particularly at times like this rather than abandoning them in the proposed “solutions” that always seem to spring up immediately afterwards. Again, this is because when emotions are running high, the temptation to forget what our ideals are supposed to stand for is running even higher.

Though I consider myself a progressive and a genuine socialist, I do not have the rabid opposition to civilian gun ownership that too many of my fellow progressives have (many socialists of the true Marxian stripe do not, it should be noted). This is because I do not agree that the easy availability of guns is the main issue here, and I am not sure that outright banning of guns for civilian ownership would be a viable solution to the problem any more than the across the board banning of recreational drugs ultimately decreased the number of drug addicts and the degree of crime and misery surrounding such addictions. Moreover, I am not sure that the common citizenry benefits from such banning measures.

I should point out here that I am not a member of the NRA, and I am far from a right-winger, trust me on that. So I hardly count as one of those “gun nuts” that the Left often admonishes. This is why I think that what I have to say is important for people on both the Right and the Left to listen to, even though only those with a genuine willingness to listen will actually get anything out of it (but it’s these particular people whom I am seeking to reach here; those who have their mind completely made up one way or the other are not going to listen, and are only going to throw all sorts of loaded accusations at me, as usual).

Along these lines, I am going to heavily quote from Michael Moore’s response. Let me say upfront that while I do not agree with everything Michael says, I have profound respect for the man, as I am not only a firm follower of his articles and documentaries, but I consider him one of the most courageous progressives in the U.S. today, and one of the relatively few truly brave people of note on the Left in the present era. In that capacity, I believe he is right up there with the likes of Glenn Greenwald, Debbie Nathan, Bill Maher (sometimes), Joan Walsh, and other personal heroes of mine whose writings and TV appearances I regularly follow. It is by no means my intention to insult or drub Michael here, even though if I did, he could easily take it, as he has endured far worse from much “bigger” people than me; I am simply making these points because I believe them to be the truth.

Also, as I will point out later in this post, Michael is one of the few people in this debate who is not dealing with the issue in the entirely simplistic way I described above, but is instead targeting other aspects of our society that the average commentator never bothers to question (likely out of fear of being called a “socialist,” heaven forbid!). For this, he gets immense props from me, even though I will not hesitate to “chew him out” if I feel a particular comment of his warrants it.

Much of Michael’s quotes I will be responding to here appeared in an open letter he sent out this morning to many who subscribe to his website, and others from his Twitter feed on the issue over the past few days. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

For one thing, a common concern for supporters of the 2nd Amendment that is too often outright dismissed by many pundits of the Left is the fact that strict bans on guns will only keep these firearms out of the hands of criminals, not sane, law-abiding people. If you lived in a neighborhood like mine, you would see why the thought of that terrifies me profoundly. Now let me say upfront that I am not the type of person who ever advocates going outside of the law to resolve any issue; or advocates violence as anything other than as a last resort for self-defense and protection of the weak only; or as someone who suggests that citizens engage in shoot-outs on the street with gang bangers or drug dealers. I am all for calling the police to deal with such issues, and demanding that they spend less time busting people for possession of marijuana or engaging in illicit mutually consensual sex and more time protecting people who live in dangerous areas from truly dangerous individuals.

However, I am simply speaking from experience, and the reality of living in such an environment, when I point out that we cannot always depend on police to be there 24/7, or to arrive promptly in the middle of a bad situation like a break-in to our home, or a threat unexpectedly materializing in front of our homes. If you live in a dangerous part of a big city, it’s all-too common to be approached by individuals who attempt to forcefully sell one item or another to you, and who refuse to leave or cease harassing you and your loved ones about the issue if you politely attempt to tell them no, you are not interested, and to please leave. I can’t count the amount of times I had to get nasty with such individuals before they stopped insisting that I–or a loved one I was with–at least look at and “consider” purchasing the obviously “hot” gold chain they were trying to push on us.

Yes, you can call the cops on them, or threaten to do so, but this doesn’t often deter such individuals when they know, more likely than not from extensive experience, that if the police bother to arrest them rather than just telling them to leave, within two days at most they will be released. Then, you have to deal with these individuals returning a day after being released or driven off by the cops, in a much less cordial mood than before, yelling at you with something like, “Yo, why did you call the cops on me for!”

And they make sure to initiate this confrontation when no cop is in sight, or likely to arrive before things can go too far, especially in a portion of the big city where cops are often busy–after all, it takes a lot of manpower and work to control all the illicit smoking of pot and illegal crap games going on in these neighborhoods, and we can’t expect our esteemed officers to be remiss in these particular responsibilities (and yes, I say this as someone who has a few friends and even family members or are cops or ex-cops; I like to think some of them would sympathize rather than grumble at me over this, because there are people who become cops with the sincere intention of protecting people, and do not smile upon spending so much time and effort busting people on essentially victimless crimes just to keep the law enforcement industry and offices moving).

However, if these individuals know you own a firearm, and are willing to use them to defend yourself and your loved ones if absolutely necessary, they are much more likely to think twice before bothering you. These types of people count on the government disarming law-abiding citizens, because while it’s often argued that guns in the hands of citizens make it easier for them to kill, the opposite makes it much easier for many types of criminals, particularly various petty but still potentially dangerous individuals, to operate.

Speaking as someone who has a high degree of sympathy for what the poor have to deal with in this economic system, and the pressures that cause too many of them to “break” and resort to criminal activity and succumb to mental illness (a major but often overlooked component of this issue), you can’t always be “soft” in dealing with such people if they are determined to menace and threaten members of their own economic class, or mentally ill who are unable to afford (or unwilling to seek) competent medical help (an issue I will return to in a bit). You have to be tough when warranted in such an environment, even though you must restrain this toughness to instances when it’s absolutely necessary, and never become a bully. We can count on good people to do this, and in a democratic society, we cannot engage in flagrant mistrust of the average citizen to do the right thing in the end, and my fellow progressives are well aware of this–and those who aren’t ought to be.

Compassion has to be given to all sides of an issue, not just one. On the other hand, if diplomacy fails, then you have to be willing and able to show people in such an environment that you are not going to be an easy victim, and this is in no way advocating violence as the first reaction or ultimate solution to every problem. It’s simply a fact of life, however unfortunate, of living in such an environment.

Also, and this is important–we need to ask ourselves a very serious question here: Will making firearms illegal actually keep them out of the hands of bad or mentally ill people, or will it simply soon result in the proliferation of a new thriving criminal enterprise that provides guns to people who want them but cannot obtain them legally? And will this not result in the arrest and prosecution of many basically good people who purchase illegal firearms with the intent to protect themselves, but who have never used one, or aren’t likely to? Does this not mean that many people will be jailed for using a firearm in a legitimate instance of self-defense, where they and/or their loved ones would have met a violent death had they not used it? And will this result in more expensive, tax-payer funded entrapment schemes by new law enforcement task forces trying to convince people they “need” to purchase a firearm, and then arrest them if they do? Wouldn’t our police forces have their time and resources better spend dealing with genuine bad guys who try to hurt innocent people?

These are questions we need to seriously ask ourselves when discussing the banning of firearms as an oft-proposed solution to gun violence or accidents involving guns. People who live in dangerous areas have enough problems with thriving criminal enterprises that are doing so well and gaining so much power precisely because things like recreational drugs–and in a previous era, alcohol–are illegal to purchase in an across-the-board manner. In fact, the illegality of marijuana is now just beginning to reverse course in certain states, but the “harder” drugs that most of the criminal industry is built around are still selling as well as ever, despite the futility of the police forces attempting to “prevent” its use and distribution in this manner. And let’s not forget the increased powers that the police and other government agencies have over us being the major end result of such measures, not “protection” from drug use.

Now, Michael Moore and other gun control advocates argue that certain types of firearms and their accouterments–specifically assault rifles and mega-clips–be made illegal for civilian purchase; that all firearms require a license to own; and that all who would seek to acquire one be subject to a mental exam. These suggestions are not entirely unreasonable, and in fact, I think they should be given serious consideration. However, I will say that the rules of acquiring a license for a non-assault firearm should be reasonable to the individual with a clean record, and not ridiculously difficult as it is in my home state; and we need to consider that mental exams can be biased against certain groups of people (like racial minorities) and may not be reliable in many instances. As such, I am saying lets discuss this particular solution, both its good points and possible pitfalls.

Now, in regards of the many stats that Michael and other progressives provide to prove that cities and countries with less guns, or with strict gun control laws, have less gun violence: You can easily find counter-stats to these allegations that put their conclusions into question, and bring up the serious issue of whether or not the culture of the U.S. in particular (something Michael, to his great credit, does get into) may not make America entirely comparable to the situation in other First World countries when it comes to this issue.

For instance, a CDC literature review reported the overall recording of such statistics to be “inconsistent.” Their full quote, which I found here, is thus:

“Some studies indicated decreases in violence associated with restrictions, and others indicated increases,” the CDC study concluded. “One study indicated a statistically significant reduction in the rate of suicide by firearms among persons aged 55 years; however, the reduction in suicide by all methods was not statistically significant.”

So these statistics, possibly on either side of the fence, may need a much better analysis in regards to causation and correlation. There are just too many counter-statistics available to offset any collection of studies or statistics in either direction. Either side can find examples to bolster whatever their opinion happens to be with a short time spent on an Internet search engine.

Then there is another issue that is not often brought up. If we are so quick to mistrust civilians owning guns, why do we trust cops to use them on the job? Yes, cops are trained to use them, and have procedure to follow, but do all cops follow proper procedure in all cases? Should the government have the right to decide who can and cannot carry guns and use them responsibly? If we argue they can, then what makes politicians specially qualified to do that? Moreover, civilians are capable of being properly trained, and learning all the hazards and safeguards of using and owning a gun too. That is why targeting at a gun range, as well as hunting, is a sport that some civilians either have a natural aptitude for, or can readily learn as well as any cop with sufficient training and experience.

That is why the frequent argument I hear about how incompetent civilians always turn out to be when it comes to accuracy with a gun while being placed in a simulated circumstance with a mock gun-wielding lunatic who opens fire on a crowd of people in (for example) a university setting, just falls flat to me. Yes, you will see advocates of strong gun control run simulations where a mock massacre situation is played out, and a bunch of civilians are handed phony guns to see how well they can defend themselves against a mock assailant who is also wielding a bogus gun. The end result will always be, “Every single civilian volunteer in the experiment missed the killer, or froze up under the pressure,” while, of course, the killer managed to do none of the above and hit 8 out of 10 people he aimed at.

Okay, this begs the following question: Does this mean that civilians are inherently incapable of using guns properly, while lunatics somehow gain uncanny skills of accuracy when they go off the deep end? Or does this simply suggest that the people who conducted the experiments kinda, sorta forgot to recruit any civies who had any degree of training or experience with firearms, or had them wield firearms of a model they were not familiar with, while the guy recruited to play the lunatic in the scenario was a trained and experienced user wielding a model he was indeed familiar with? This question is not entirely sarcasm, because I would really like to know if the average citizen is truly incapable of receiving competent training and experience at, say, a professional gun targeting range.

That makes me wonder if perhaps one reasonable solution to the problem of civilian gun ownership may be to require anyone who legally purchases a firearm–after acquiring a license for it, if one insists–be required to take a training course, and even to regularly train, at a firing range to keep their skills from getting rusty. This would, of course, be at the gun owner’s own expense, but I would argue that politicians and gun control advocates not play a possible game of dirty pool by insisting that the cost of these training courses be made ridiculously (read: prohibitively) expensive–the cost should be reasonable, perhaps even tailored to the individual’s income level.

Civilians who are willing to abide by the law and do things the right way should be rewarded in various ways, not discouraged from doing things the correct and lawful way with games of dirty pool. In other words, a reasonable compromise on this issue should be made between the law and society at large, with both being expected to play fair and straight with the other. These training courses should also include safety at home studies, and gun owners who have kids should be encouraged to bring their kids to that part of the study to teach them the proper usage–and the many potential hazards–of having a gun in the house, just as we should do when it comes to dealing with traffic, swimming pools, sex education, etc.

Now there is another matter I do not see discussed very often at all, which connects with the previous issue I raised of cops using guns. If civilians cannot be trusted with guns, why should society allow police officers to carry weapons that are designed to kill rather than subdue in a non-lethal fashion? Should a government sanctioned employee be trusted more than a civilian? If one argues that they should, then what is that saying about the relationship between the government and the civilian populace? I know that officers do carry non-lethal weapons such as mace and tasers, but why not a more advanced form of taser that is not restricted to the use of a wire? Before you accuse this writer of advocating sci-fi technology, let me remind my readers that we are technologically advanced enough to have brought people to the moon and back nearly 45 years ago, and have developed computers and cell phones with amazing capacities. Are you to tell me that a wireless taser is beyond the capabilities of our weapons manufacturers to create, especially in a world that is promoting a “go wireless” mentality so heavily in all other aspects of technology? And why not other forms of non-lethal but effective weaponry, that causes no permanent damage but subdues even the nastiest criminals effectively? Or weapons with different settings, that offer the option of subduing non-lethally or increasing to a level that will subdue with extreme prejudice in particularly serious situations? Or even offer purely defensive weapons to civilians? Or mobile, affordable electronic panic alarms that can summon the police and/or ambulances faster than dialing on a cell phone could?

If we regularly see cops and soldiers carry guns, and insist that crime and warfare is fought with weapons designed to kill and inflict heavy amounts of destruction, and see individuals in positions of authority and power who routinely call for such measures as the solution to so many problems, how can we not expect a culture that supports the use of violence–and specifically lethal forms of violence on large scale–to develop? Our media and government regularly encourages citizens to act as cheerleaders of war and to canonize soldiers (on our side, that is) as heroes regardless of what they do, or how necessary it was to do it, yet we cry for harsh measures of prohibition whenever we see people in regular society resorting to such means when they seek to lift themselves out of rampant poverty or develop severe mental illness.

And please do not be silly and tell me “how much respect you lost for me” for allegedly “criticizing” or “feeling as I do” about the military. If you are a soldier, or have family members who are or were soldiers (and the latter group includes me), then you do a disservice to the very principles America is supposed to uphold by defending the military no matter what it does, or under what circumstances it does them simply because they were inflicted on people who weren’t Americans. That is not respect, it’s a form of worship and a tribalistic mentality that exposes the dark side of nationalism, and displays a profound disrespect for democratic principles and for the value of human life in general. I will gladly praise the military when they put their lives on the line to defend our borders and prevent some despotic foreign power from invading us, or the many rescue missions they regularly risk life and limb to conduct; I will also strongly support them by demanding they not put in danger or hellish conditions for no good reason, i.e., reasons that have nothing to do with self-defense or rescuing people, and that they be given good benefits in return for serving the government under such risky conditions. I will not support them, however, for fighting ostensibly on behalf of Wall Street, or for participating in the same types of massacres regularly committed on foreign civilians and children during wartime as we are decrying civilian mass shooters like Adam Lanza for doing on a much smaller but still horrifically tragic scale. In my estimation, a “good American” is defined as a citizen of the United States based on the principles they uphold, not by “following orders” without question, or doing whatever a certain authority figure in a uniform commands them to do. End relevant side rant.

Again, I’m not a pacifist, and I’m certainly not arguing against violence, and sometimes even lethal violence, in matters of justifiable self-defense, or as a last resort when genuine attempts at diplomacy–either on an individual or international level–fail. I’m not asking for anyone to take the “doormat” role. But when we see our government regularly calling for things like preemptive strikes; perpetual war; policies of violence based on revenge, business matters, and imperialism rather than self-defense or securing of our borders; turning a blind eye towards any civilian casualties, including children, that comes as the result of any act of violence from warfare who aren’t specifically of American citizenship; the hiring of armed mercenaries trained and rented from a private company (like the former Blackwater) to supplement and in many instances replace government-hired soldiers; and the tolerance of a president who demands the right for the targeted assassination of even American citizens without due process, then how can we expect a mentally healthy, non-violent citizenry to emerge and not rationalize such measures on fellow citizens whom they dislike?

And let’s not even get started on the continued sizable support for the death penalty in America, which encourages citizens to believe that meting out retribution via killing in a situation where the assailant isn’t armed and/or threatening or attacking anyone is a viable way of conducting affairs in a democratic nation.

Considering all of the above, coupled with an economic system that creates great amounts of poverty and insecurity for millions of citizens, why do we act so ‘shocked’ when so many people develop the ideology that the use of violence to improve their own standing in society is an acceptable way of achieving the much vaunted “American Dream”; or when mental illness becomes so rampant, and so many of these people vent their extreme rage by taking a gun to other people before taking it to themselves, as Adam Lanza just did? This makes it quite clear yet again that the problem is not simply “too many guns” or “guns in the hands of too many civilians,” and I fully credit Michael Moore for making this clear, both in his Twitter feed and in his excellent documentary about the culture and glorification of violence in America, Bowling For Columbine.

To quote some of Michael’s recent statements:
“Yes we need gun laws & better mental health care. BUT even that won’t stop the killings. Because, let’s face it, America believes in killing
“A country that officially sanctions horrific violence (invade Iraq, drones kill kids, death penalty) is surprised when a 20-yr old [Adam Lanza] joins in?
“I hate to say it, but killing is our way. We began America w/ genocide, then built it w/ slaves. The shootings will continue- it’s who we are
“The long term solution to reducing gun deaths is to change our society from one of perpetual war and fear to one of peace and tolerance.”

He further said:

“Also, end the U.S.-sanctioned policy of killing: End the wars NOW, end death penalty. Stop banks and insurance companies from destroying ppl.
“It’s all violence & it’s all connected. Why does this happen only in America? The answer is right in front of u. And it’s not just the guns.”

Yes, there is the issue of (yup, every reader of mine who is now saying “Here it cooommeesss!!” is totally correct): The wonders of our money-based, production for profit system, reverentially referred to as capitalism. Yanno, where the “can’t pay, can’t have,” “profit before anything else,” “price tag on almost everything,” and “dog eat dog” ideology and accompanying culture glorifying greed, avarice, selfishness, and inequality is the primary law of the land?

Before anyone dares to suggest I am exaggerating in this instance and unfairly dragging our poor system through the mud, let us not forget, as Michael also pointed out, that health care services, like nearly everything else, charge for their services, and are not subsidized by the government and dispensed based on need. It is thus filled to the brim with doctors and other mental health practitioners who operate according to the “bottom line” more than anything else. Yes, these people have to eat, have families to support, have mortgages and other bills to pay, etc., and should be paid well, don’t get me wrong. But this pay should not come at the expense of the many people from poor neighborhoods who seriously need such care–or anyone else, for that matter. A society laden with poverty, insecurity, and other difficulties which the average civilian faces today should not be expected to produce a population of largely healthy people. Moreover, doctors and everyone else–including those who run prisons and collection agencies–shouldn’t be permitted to profit off of other people’s misery.

At the same time, to be fair, mental health practitioners should be given a say on how best to treat patients in accordance with their professional expertise, rather than be subservient to either business imperatives (e.g., HMOs and Big Phrama companies) or politicians who lack their expertise and may be more interested in helping preserve the status quo than truly helping people in need, and may try to control how mental health professionals dispense treatment towards such ends. Of course, the mental health industry should be regulated to make sure abuses aren’t going on, but that is another issue that I am looking forward to discussing in its own post when I tackle the mental health industry as a whole (I can hear some of my readers shuddering already! Muah-hah-hah!).

In short, the government needs to realize and acknowledge that this system destroys and hurts many people who are left behind, and the majority are not doing well in it. This is not because most of them are lazy bums or inherently incompetent individuals. Many of them, in fact, are children and teens who are not legally allowed to work even under the most humane conditions but may have much to contribute to society and a strong desire to do so; and elderly people who are no longer able to work but spent decades of their lives as productive workers.

This issue is a moral issue, far more so than arguments over whether or not gays should be allowed to marry (their equal rights as citizens should go without saying and be considered protected by the Constitution no matter who it may offend); or whether stem cells contain little souls and thus shouldn’t be used in medical science to develop cures for genetic-based diseases (you don’t have to be an atheist to desire secular decisions from the government or the separation of church and state); whether or not Christmas should be called “Christmas” in public or not (it shouldn’t be an argument that people of faith be allowed to call it as they please, and those who do not subscribe to any faith system should be totally free to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” if they so choose, without the other side getting in a huff about it), etc. I’m sorry, but economic issues and those revolving around social justice and civil rights are moral issues, and have a far larger intrinsic effect on our well-being than the typical wedge issues Americans fight over and support or refuse to support politicians about during any campaign or election year.

Again, though I have never heard Michael Moore call himself a socialist, he is responsible for another excellent documentary that dealt with much of our society’s fetishistic loyalty to an archaic and destructive system, Capitalism: A Love Story. (Again, I do not agree with absolutely everything he says in that documentary, but I certainly agree with and support its basic essence and message.)

Now, before anyone starts accusing me of giving Michael metaphorical fellatio here, I hope he understands that I do take issue with a few of the things he said on this Twitter feed, which he reiterated in the letter he shared with his subscribers earlier this morning. He had every right to say these things, of course, and I’m sure he understands that he needs to expect some feedback that will not be entirely agreeable.

To wit (quotes in bold face):

If only the first victim, Adam Lanza’s mother, had been a gun owner, she could have stopped this before it started.
RT ‏@marlasuehale @MMFlint obviously that argument the NRA folks have been using doesn’t work after all.
RT @kazic284 @MMFlint Thanks for pointing out how dumb that logic is. People have been screaming, “If only the principal had a gun!” Missing the point.

I think the really dumb logic is anyone who thinks that anyone having a gun without the proper training can be expected to take out someone who does have the proper training. Period. All weapons are tools, and one must practice with them in order to learn how to use them properly, just like any other type of tool.

That being said, I again say that I do not think a regular sane citizen cannot be expected to wield a firearm as competently and accurately as a lunatic if they have a comparable amount of training, something that needs to be ongoing as described above. After all, the vast majority of cops and soldiers are sane (or at least start out that way), and prove as capable as any lunatic with a firearm on a regular basis due to their training.

One can argue that someone with a regular firearm could never take out someone with an assault rifle holding a mega-clip, but that is nonsense, because despite the advantage someone with the latter would have over the former, it’s been shown in other demonstrations that speed and skill can overcome someone with superior firepower. A computer simulation on an ep of Spike TV’s (admittedly violence-demonstrating) series Deadliest Warrior nevertheless strongly indicated that Jesse James and his crew, using their talents in combination with their regular six-shooters designed in the 19th century, could be expected to win over Al Capone and his gang from the 1920s wielding brutal assault weapons like a tommygun. You can dislike that show all you want because of its theme of violence, and deride anyone who watches it (me included) as a “violence nut,” but please keep in mind that the warrior ethos does not always mean support of violence as a first resort or in a preemptive manner, and many of the shows ep’s include simulations depicting units of the U.S. military and police forces–whom we are expected to cheer for–and not always criminal organizations.

And since the Left loves to support similar scenarios to determine the efficiency of regular (possibly untrained) citizens caught in hostile scenarios (without the use of computers, natch) for strictly informative purposes, then a show like Deadliest Warrior can be viewed in the same spirit. People who say that those who watch such shows must necessarily advocate violence in a knee-jerk manner as a response to any possible problem are doing the same thing as people who accuse violent video games and other TV shows of being the cause of gamers and couch potatoes for acting violent in real life, and I will remind fellow supporters of Michael Moore that he opposes such simplistic mentality, particularly because it has no reliable science to back up such claims.

Of course, maybe a future ep of Deadliest Warrior can feature the following theme: Trained Civilian vs. the Trained Lunatic–who would come out on top? (I kid, I kid!! It would still make a bitchin’ episode, though!).

Time for action. The debate & discussion are over. Just as no one should debate whether “rape is legitimate,” this gun debate is effing over.
Not a fair comparison, Michael, and you know it. Sorry, but I cry foul here, dude! You’re trying to use an emotionally sensitive issue to get your position through, because you know it will discourage people from thinking rationally on the subject as a whole. Rape is by definition a non-consensual form of violence inflicted upon one person by another, an extreme sexual intrusion upon another person’s body, and this cannot be justified under any circumstances. But that is not always the case with firearms or the gun issue in general, which is much more nuanced and complex. Rape is never a suitable form of “self-defense,” but that is not always the case with the use of guns, because not everyone who uses a gun does so for maladjusted, selfish reasons, but may be doing so to defend themselves or a loved one. Further, guns are used in ways that do not factor human targets into the equation, such as hunting, firing range, etc.

But you cannot, in contrast, rape a target on the wall, and I never heard of a sport where hunters rush out into the wilderness to force themselves upon as many deer or raccoons as they can find in a single night (I hope I didn’t give any out-of-the-way redneck clans any ideas here!). My flippancy aside, I think my main point here stands.

As is often the case in these shootings, the gunman seemed to single out the women to kill (CNN: 18 of the dead are female; 8 males.)
Ooooh. Some men didn’t like that last tweet. So let me give u another: When’s the last time u saw a woman walk in & spray a place w/ bullets?

Michael, I think you know many men didn’t like that last tweet because one bad habit that people on the Left tend to have is making sometimes blatant, sometimes sorta subtle misandrist comments. And feel free to call me a misogynist for making this statement, which would be no different than some pundits calling anyone in America who dares suggest that government officials of Jewish ethnicity behave no better than any other ethnic group when in positions of military power must be “anti-Semitic.”

I will have you know that my closest friend is a woman, and if you knew her personally, you would see that she is hardly the meek, “stay in the kitchen” type; no, she runs her own business, is fully independent, and tough as nails, and would never tolerate a male BFF who was an actual misogynist. And I have many other women as close and valued friends, and many whom I work with in progressive circles, who would also not tolerate a misogynist of either gender amongst them. And I can tell you that none of them would ever make a misandrist comment aimed at men in general, even though they rightfully dislike certain types of men–as well as certain personality categories of their own gender. This is called egalitarianism, and it is, IMO, a higher form of moral ideology than either feminism or masculinism, even though I support both in essence of their empowerment of each gender, but back away from the extreme tendencies of either that seek to provide “evidence” that one gender is inherently superior than the other when it comes to ethical behavior.

Have you ever considered, Michael, that many of these nuts may seek to target women so often because our society has a habit of continually vilifying sexually active women as “whores” and “sluts”? And before you say it’s men alone who do this (and yes, many men do), you know very well that women often castigate each other in arguments with these same double standard pejoratives. Have you ever considered that many of these lunatics were Bible nuts, and the Roman Catholic Church–even the many liberal divisions, which you include yourself among–still do not advocate strongly for giving women equal positions to men in the clergy? Why not, I wonder? I certainly support high-ranking female clergy members, and I’m not even Catholic. I’m Wiccan, an alternative system of faith that is predominantly progressive and hardly supportive of misogynists!

I am not suggesting that you, or other such Leftist pundits, are secretly misogynists yourselves, so please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. What I am saying is that men have every right to be offended by such “true” comments as any woman would have a right to be when their gender is singled out as being more violent or “worse” than the opposite gender. Equality is not about giving special considerations or favors to any minority group; it’s about empowering them on the same level as those currently considered the ‘majority,’ and to recognize that both genders are afflicted with various double standards and stereotypes that are unjust. But I don’t need to tell you this, of course. Or may I possibly need to simply remind you?

And I also ask you to consider how “kind” and benevolent many female politicians have been compared to their male counterparts when given positions of power. Let’s not forget the likes of Queen Elizabeth, or Margaret Thatcher, or Indira Ghandi, or Janet Reno (let’s not forget she was in command of a massacre of many children and young teens by the FBI at the Waco, Texas incident back during the Clinton Administration, and was Hillary’s close friend), or even Hillary Clinton herself and Condoleezza Rice and their incessant support for war-mongering in the Middle East.
Let’s also keep in mind this recent article by Glenn Greenwald on the atrocious war-supporting and tyrant-coddling record of Susan Rice, who is now Obama’s favored incumbent to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. What exactly is the record for women politicians in general when it comes to support for civil rights legislation?

This is not an attack on women in general, but rather my making the point that all groups of human beings display similar tendencies when placed in positions of power. So I highly doubt putting a majority of women in charge of our capitalist system or powerful political institutions would result in a better world, but rather one that largely resembles what we have now.

In regards to women who kill on a large scale, they tend to do so differently than men do, but no less ruthlessly. There are many examples of female serial killers, for instance, who poisoned people–men much more often than fellow women, and often children (how is that for an emotional chain-puller?)–or suffocated them, or via other means that do not spill the same degree of blood that gun violence has, but which tends to claim no less a number of victims over the long haul. And because of their cunning, subtle ways of “acting out” in comparison to their male counterparts, they tend to often get away with what they are doing for longer periods of time, stretching a massacre out across several years, or even a few decades. Check out this sample of prolific female serial killers in this survey conducted by Meghan Holohan for just an example.

Note what the introductory paragraph by scribe Meghan Holohan (omg, a woman!) said: “Few people think of women as serial killers. Perhaps this misconception is based on the stereotype of women being sensitive and compassionate. For these brutal killers, sometimes the guise of nurturing helped them get in the door, but these ladies are just as depraved as their male counterparts.” Now note the outrage expressed by the first commenter, “Karen,” who thus purports to be a woman, when it comes to the leniency often given to women killers due to the “positive” stereotype that Meghan mentions above: “A woman kills 8 of her 10 children in modern times and gets probation? Awful!”

Am I shameful misogynist for pointing out these facts to any person on the Left–male or female–who may not like them pointed out or acknowledged? Am I disgrace to the progressive ideology and movement for doing so? For that matter, are Meghan and “Karen” (if she truly is a woman, and there is no reason to suspect otherwise) perhaps “self-hating women” for writing this article and comment, respectively? I would argue they aren’t, and I commend them both, just as I do the many amazing women I am friends with and/or work with in progressive circles regularly. If I accused you and the other progressives who routinely make such mean-spirited “factual observations” about members of the “bad” gender of being a misandrist, would you say you aren’t, but simply “state the facts, no matter who may not want to hear them”; or would you perhaps argue that being a misandrist isn’t as bad as being a misogynist, at least as far as progressives are concerned? And is offending your male followers by pointing out such facts in the context you did–which was clearly taking a dig at the entire male gender (at least, that is how the tone of your tweet came off as doing, intended or otherwise)–less of a problem than possibly offending women with a different comment directed against their entire gender?

I don’t personally consider you a misandrist, Michael, but I will tell you that I feel your male followers had every right to be offended by that comment, and you can rest assured that there are plenty of cool, brilliant, and dedicated female egalitarians on the progressive side who would be equally offended, and rightfully so. You have a right to say whatever you want to say, but I’m sure you understand you are going to be challenged when you make comments of that nature. I expect much better from you, as I do all progressives, and I will call you on it whenever you fall short of your best.

And finally, from Michael’s Twitter responses:

A Facebook post from Mark Kelly: http://mmflint.me/U0XlUU
This morning a crazy man attacked 22 children at an elementary school- in China. But all the crazy man had was a knife. Number of dead? Zero
In addition to his two handguns, the killer in CT this morning used an assault rifle called The Bushmaster.

Yes, firearms, particularly assault rifles like the Bushmaster, do make killing large numbers of people at a single time easier. I would expect a frenzied individual carrying only a knife (like the lunatic in China who entered an elementary school) and doesn’t target just one particular individual in a clandestine manner to end up subdued by several staff members before he killed anyone. However, as you will note from studying any cursory list of serial killers (including the list I provided up above), the use of knives, poisons, and even pillows to dispense acts of murder can claim as many victims as these mass shooters do, but simply over a prolonged period of time. And these individuals do not tend to kill themselves following these drawn out massacres as these deranged mass shooters often seem to do.

Again, I want no one to take this as an attack on Michael Moore–including you yourself, Michael, if you ever read this–but simply as what I believe to be well-warranted disagreements, which I have with everyone whom I respect from time to time (and which they have with me also, of course).

Despite the controversial nature of this post, I hope it provides food for thought, and encourages a rational and well-reasoned–not emotionalistic or hysterical–reaction to this latest tragedy involving a mass shooting incident. I hope our solutions are reasonable and in harmony with what we have the right to expect from a democratic society.

And in closing, I hope that we–as Michael asked us to do–take a good, hard look at the many issues outside of the simple matter of civilian ownership of guns that contribute to this problem, and come up with a solution that results in a better and more compassionate society, rather than merely one with more restrictions and less civil rights. If we do not deal with the real cause of the problem, but simply try to target the symptoms, then we are going to continuously miss the point and continue to live in denial of the problems with our current society that we need to address if viable, democratic solutions that actually work are to be implemented.

Check out this link for a sample of how vile female serial killers can be, and how they tend to operate behind the scenes more often than their male counterparts do. They may not become serial killers as often as men (then again, our culture raises men to believe it’s a sign of “toughness” to be desensitized to violence, and to be quicker to mete it out), but when they do go off the deep end, they tend to become every bit as bad as their male counterparts. And note how they do not need guns in many instances to carry out these killings. Those in positions of political power do not need to wield guns themselves, as they simply order soldiers or FBI agents (in the case of Janet Reno) who are carrying all the ammunition to carry out massacres on their behalf–just as their male counterparts do.

Friendship–the Pleasure and the Pain

Yes, this post will contain a hefty helping of my ruminations on friendship. But as is usual with me, it will not merely deliver a paean of praises to how wonderful friendship is (even though it can be, and often is). Instead, I will look at this most important force in our lives from all angles, discussing it as the 3-dimensional social phenomenon that it tends to be. As opposed, of course, to the usual saccharine sermons given to it on TV shows and books geared towards children (for whom our culture feels the need to simplistically dumb down whatever info we allow them access to, but that’s a subject for another post).

 

It’s quite clear that different people make friendships to different degrees than others over the course of their lives, and view them through a variety of personal interpretive lenses. Some people have naturally charismatic and colorful personalities, and these individuals tend to attract large numbers of people with friendly intentions and admirable feelings towards them. Others have colorful personalities of a different sort, and tend to be much more of an acquired taste than the previous category; they will tend to attract the ire or ridicule of large numbers of people–who tend to feed off of each others’ peer-and-culturally-influenced attitudes towards the individual category in question–but also a small number of people who are drawn to them with friendly feelings of kindred spirit and shared experience. Some people harbor a fairly large number of people they consider “true” friends and hang out in big groups on a regular basis, enjoying the company of many whom they get along with. Others keep their close friendships very modest in number, as they may be of a personality type that doesn’t do well with crowds of people, particularly those whom they do not know well and whose reactions to their type of eccentric personality may be unpredictable, at best. Different life experiences and the number of successes and disappointments any given individual may have in this area will obviously affect the number of people they are willing to trust, and how long it takes to earn their trust.

 

One’s individual level of social skills and natural talent at charming or getting on people’s good side plays a large role in this too, though not everyone who has these skills have good intentions, and not everyone who lacks them have no positive qualities, of course.

 

Also, let’s face it, with the sometimes shallow and sordid values our culture promotes, social popularity often has a lot to do with how many people will go out of their way to form friendships with you and to get on your good side. This popularity sometimes only exists because of a person’s individual degree of wealth, social standing, athletic ability, physical attractiveness, physical prowess at dispensing retribution, or often a combination thereof–or influenced in the opposite fashion by the lack of any or all of these things.

 

Of course, genuine friendship must be built on real respect, not fear or simple gratitude. Any seemingly good feelings or bonds built on the latter two things tend to result in “friends” who are largely opportunists, sycophants, and lackeys, and they may secretly harbor great feelings of jealousy, resentment, rivalry, and even hatred towards you. If this is the case, a person whose circle of friends is largely or mostly built on social popularity for the above reasons (i.e., relating to fear or being “bought”) can seriously backfire on them if that person should ever suffer even a temporary loss of their great advantages (this is why having people fear you without also respecting you is not a good idea, contrary to the legendary mob ideology). Such individuals may even be secretly and subtly working behind your back to oust you from your advantaged position, or at least hurt you in various ways for entirely vindictive reasons, in the manner that Iago dished out to Othello while pretending to be a very close friend who was looking out for his best interests (as a good example of the timelessness of the themes tackled by Shakespeare in his awesome tragedies, make a point to rent or watch the 2001 film O starring Mekhi Phifer and Josh Hartnett to see the powerful themes of Othello played out in a contemporary college setting).

A major point about friendship to observe is that our close friends, like our family and significant others, are not only a frequent source of good times and joyous moments, but also of painful disagreements and personality clashes. Like romantic relationships where one person has a level of love that the other does not share, it’s possible for a similar dynamic to be at work in close platonic friendships. Simply put, one person may have a degree of respect for their friend which the latter does not share in equal magnitude with the former. Just as lovers may grow apart in time, so do some friendships, and when one is content with the drift and the other is not, it can lead to some heartbreak and hurt feelings, including feelings of betrayal. 

 

This should not be seen as surprising, nor in any way an attempt to disparage friendship any more than I would attempt to dismiss the power and importance of the bonds naturally formed between family members, or romantic bonds. Plain and simply, those who are close to us not only tend to bring us the best moments of our lives, but also some of the worst. Strangers rarely bring such highs and lows to us, because they obviously do not spend enough time around us to effect us too dramatically for either good or ill (yes, there are exceptions, of course, but I’m talking about the rule here).

 

It’s always difficult to deal with when a friendship we value so strongly, possibly over a long period of time, begins to unravel. I’ve certainly experienced long-time friendships where I considered the friend in question to be akin to a surrogate sibling, and I continue to have such friendships today. As such, I know how hard on the heart and soul it can be when such a long-term close friend gradually changes in a way that you don’t–though not necessarily “growing” in the sense of changing for the better–where they slowly but surely evolve (or arguably, devolve) into a different type of person who is not as fond of your various quirks and idiosyncrasies that they once may have found endearing in the past, or not as tolerant of such aspects of yours that they may have usually tolerated much more easily back during the “good old days.” They may change in such a way where they, unlike you, dispense with various principles and ideologies of life that you both once held dear together, thus severing a large part of the bond that you two (or more of you) once shared, and even brought you together in the first place. As time passes, you may find them exponentially diminishing in the number of times they seek your company per month; or your shoulder when they need to lean on someone; or their willingness to take the time to call you on your phone as opposed to just communicating via text messages on your cell or Facebook, with a similar dissolution of the frequency of your online convos on whatever chat program of choice you both prefer. (or preferred) You may suddenly begin noticing less replies by them to the various comments you leave on the wall of your Facebook page (“Damn, it’s not like him to avoid replying to one of my posts concerning my cat’s problem with hair balls, or my kid’s habit of emptying all my bottles of wine on the floor”); less comments left to  your blog posts (“Shit, she always used to have a reaction when I mentioned our old Gone With the Wind marathons!”); and less interaction with you on whatever online massive-multi-player-role-playing games (or whatever they call them this year) you may have once enjoyed a regular routine of making the simulated lives of orcs miserable together (“I dunno, knight_in_hot_pink_armour, I haven’t seen him join us on 1 of our raides on the orc nurseries in about 4 months now, itz not likke him, I think maybee his knew gf has him wippped or somethin…”). 

 

As time presses on, your protestations of concern may be dismissed with typical, “I don’t have as much time as I used to since […]” retorts, which you know are largely, if not entirely, bogus since you are well aware that if someone truly wants to do something, they often (if not usually) make the time to do it. You know you are being demoted on that person’s priority list, a place you may have once held an important spot on, and this can be quite painful to deal with if the growing apart is mostly or entirely one-sided.

 

This is just one of the aspects of life we need to develop the strength to deal with and, if need be, move on from when it happens, sort of like death, illness, and debt (for the likely foreseeable future regarding the latter, that is). It’s not something that should be seen as “good” just because it’s natural (*flips the bird to the Luddites*) or built into the system, but it is something that is nevertheless part of the truth of our existence (as Captain Jean-Luc Picard but it regarding death in Star Trek: Generations). As such, we need to accept that it does happen, and if it does, we need to accept it, pick up the pieces, and move forward with our lives, as we do with every disappointment or loss we may experience. Life never ceases to move forward or lose its meaning or purpose, and we must always be willing to get back up and move in accordance with it no matter how many times we get knocked down–or at least shoved off-balance.

 

I have certainly had my share of long-time friendships that I hold very fond memories of, where I attempted to keep the friendship going indefinitely, or re-establish it in later years, but the other person lost interest and felt the need to move on after awhile, or not re-establish anything resembling what we once had. This wasn’t always due to a disagreement or falling out, but sometimes just due to the fact that they evidently came to view our friendship as an aspect of their past that they eventually came to outgrow, no matter how fondly they may remember it, just like they may outgrow a certain  hair style or childhood hobby. The dreams you may have mutually shared in childhood of a “friendship for life” sort of deal may possibly have went the way of various other dreams you once held most strongly (e.g., becoming crime-fighters together, traveling to the Orient and exploring its ancient mysteries side-by-side, teaming up and beating down that bully that always bothered the two of you in fourth grade, etc.). What can you do in such a case? Nothing, save for moving on yourself and respecting the decision of the other person to do so, even if you don’t like it (and you have every reason not to).

 

This is no different than what amounts to your only option if a significant other eventually or suddenly falls out of love with you and similarly chooses to move on. It may possibly be the ending of a certain chapter of your life, but it’s never going to be the end of the world for you, because we all know that a new beginning inevitably comes with every type of ending (I always liked that expression, because cliche’ or not, it really does hold true).

 

Sometimes, in a worst case scenario–which I also speak from unfortunate experience on–a friend you may have held in high esteem for a fairly long period suddenly turns on you (whether justified or not), and suddenly displays an attitude towards you that is far removed from the one they put on during the heyday of the friendship, when it was strong. This could be something you saw brewing over time and thought you could handle and mitigate its progression the platonic version of TLC (no, I don’t mean The Learning Channel, people!), but ultimately failed to stop from coming to a proverbial head; or, it may be something that happens rather suddenly, and really takes you by surprise.

 

This next bit of advice may sound odd and counter-productive, but I can assure you it isn’t:  Every once in a while, it can actually be useful, if not ever really desirable, to have a friend get angry at you, especially if they have imbibed some spirits beforehand and thus had their inhibitions crippled. Why? Because you would be surprised but also drearily enlightened to hear what your friend may continue to hold against you–including from incidents that you thought you two had moved past and considered “water under the bridge” many years past–or things about you that they may greatly dislike or disagree with you about, but held back from letting you know until they got very angry and/or inebriated. Such an instance, however unpleasant and disheartening, can show you where you actually stand with them, and what resentments may be festering beneath the surface waiting for the “right” opportunity to boil and burst from their metaphorical mantle like a volcanic eruption when you least expect it–or when you least need it to happen.

 

I believe that many of us harbor secret or semi-secret fears that the foundation we hold even with people we think are close friends may not be as strong as we like to comfort ourselves by thinking, due to this or that incident several years ago, etc. The truth is, we are all human and will thus make mistakes and display quirks that even our closest friends are not going to like, and some of these mistakes will be big ones. This is why the ability to forgive and the willingness to apologize if warranted are essential ingredients to the longevity of a friendship, along with its chances of standing the test of time.

 

Some friendships, sadly, can mirror certain negative romantic or familial relationships and grow to be abusive in nature, where one person comes to view themselves as the “alpha” of the friendship and seeks a dominant relationship with their platonic chum (think of Moe Howard of the Three Stooges and his relationship with Larry and Curly–or Shemp or Joe, depending on the era of the film shorts you are watching–to get a good if somewhat extreme idea of this; or the likes of Ollie Hardy, Ralph Kramden, the onscreen Bud Abbott, and Fred Flintstone, and the nature of their relationships to their respective BFFs, Stan Laurel; Ed Norton; the onscreen Lou Costello; and Barney Rubble ).

 

Some of these relationships get so discordant that eventually, even if grudgingly and sadly, you (or your friend, if you were the “alpha”) have no choice but to cut your losses and move on. Sometimes forgiveness and second chances are given, and you find that the person either didn’t learn their lesson, or their personality and your personality appear to be naturally such that the same phenomenon tended to gradually occur all over, thus necessitating another, perhaps final, parting.

 

Some negative but close friendships can and do result if two (or more) people who formed a close and even seemingly symbiotic emotional bond eventually develop a competitive rivalry for one reason or another–either temporarily or permanently–that escalates to the point where it cannot be a “friendly” type of rivalry, and mutual respect and trust is eventually severed as a result. This may or may not lead to second chances in time, largely depending on whether or not either of the two genuinely learned their lesson from the experience, or whether or not the circumstances that resulted in the competitive rivalry are no longer a factor. The willingness to forgive is an important element of both character and compassion, I believe, but as the saying goes, sometimes what occurred can be forgiven but not forgotten, and things may not necessarily be the same again if the forgiveness leads to a reconciliation.

 

Regrettably, some friendships can take on a mutual type of co-dependency that is often to the detriment of both (or more) participants, just as certain familial and romantic relationships can, and often for similar reasons. This, of course, depends on the personality types of the people involved, the way the friendship begins or develops over the long haul, or the reasons that the bond in question was formed on both ends in the first place.

 

And of course, we have that final category that may be termed “questionable,” “mutable,” or “opportunistic” ‘friends,’ the type who feign friendship for various reasons, and may even be fun to hang out with and do things like watch films of mutual interest with (e.g., the typical guy porn marathon gatherings, so men can “prove” or confirm each others’ machismo and heterosexual credentials to each other, even though I hardly think porn serves well as group entertainment in the same sense that Marvel’s The Avengers or  The Amazing SpiderManwould for a gathering of comic book fans, but I digress…). These types of individuals view you more as “useful” than they do as a joy to be around, and some may simply consider you a last resort to hang with occasionally if more desirable or preferred company is not available.

 

Some of the individuals making up the previous category may be better defined as acquaintances rather than friends, which are basically low-tier associates who “hang” with you simply because they work with you, or are a friend of a friend, or attend classes or a Topps club with you–or a local Klan gathering, yanno what I mean–and may like your company in small to moderate doses, but do not form such a bond with you that they have any great desire to lend their shoulder to you or hang with you on a regular basis outside of the place or the company of the other person where or with whom they share this association with you.

 

These people may also form some fond memories with you, especially if they have endearing qualities that make a sometimes tedious experience more tolerable or fun, and for that reason it can be good to have a supply of them in your life. However, they are not the same type of people you develop a mutual feeling of going through thick and thin with out of complete choice, even if you become very used to them and feel a notable sense of loss if you or they leave the place or distance yourself from the person whom you share a mutual association with. If you will permit a rather technically crude analogy, these people are more comparable to a landline bonded to a certain place, as opposed to a cell phone, which is bonded to a specific person. Okay, not the best analogy one could think of, but I think you get the gist, so shut up, okay? 😉

 

So, to sum another of my long-winded ranty diatribes up, friendships can be a major mixed bag in life, even though very worth pursuing and maintaining in the scheme of things. The friendship needs of everyone are different, of course, but I think most–if not all–people have an emotional need for the self-validation that comes with receiving the respect of others (regardless of number) who become a part of our lives because they want to be, not because genetics or other circumstances have dictated that they have to be. Different people may need a different number of friends, or different degrees of closeness amongst these peer crowds, to achieve this emotional requirement, but it appears to be an all but universal requirement amongst the human species. We are major social animals, even if our degree and level of individual sociability varies. Everyone from the most decent person you could ever meet, to the typical self-serving jerk, needs real friends, and this is why for good or ill, they have such potency and purpose in our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Finally Saw CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST

Cannibal_Holocaust_movie

Yup, you read the subject line of this post correctly: I finally found the nerve to watch Ruggero Deodato’s notorious 1980 Italian horror film Cannibal Holocaust. Often said to be the worst of the lot amongst the infamous Italian genre of cannibal cinematic gore fests that saw its birth and gruesome heyday in the 1970s, this movie has also been proclaimed as “banned” (both truthfully and falsely) across the globe, with many distribution companies throughout the world settling only for heavily edited versions for release if an overall ban wasn’t enacted. In fact, it took some years following its completion to gain any type of release even in Deodato’s native Italy, whose populace seemed to boast a sizable audience for this type of material (and some think only the Asian market goes for this sort of thing!).

It’s been reported that Deodato, the famous–or infamous; take your pick–Italian cult director of extreme cinema, was actually arrested for producing this less-than-pleasant flick, and accused of initiating actual murders in the course of filming this nightmare on celluloid. In actuality, it was only the four animals brutally slaughtered on screen who got the genuine snuff treatment, and not any human beings (I can actually hear the collective membership of PETA having a simultaneous conniption over such double standards). This movie has been much maligned–er, discussed–throughout various blogs and web sites dealing with relevant genres of cinema already, so there is no need to go into a detailed synopsis of it here (if you want to know more, Google has achieved its level of popularity for a reason, people! And no, the owners didn’t pay me to plug it, FYI *sarcastic grin*). What I do want to get into here, which will give a lot more info on the film to the followers of this blog who are not in the know in a by proxy sense, is my evaluation of this movie, i.e., whether or not it truly deserves its reputation as one of the most brutal and vile films ever made, and whether or not it had any real merits to it that may enable it to rise above the status of a pure exploitation splatter film.

The first thing I’d like to mention in regards to seeing a film I’ve always heard so much about yet didn’t see for a long time after first hearing about it is not the matter of whether everything I’ve heard would ring true in my estimation, but what significant details (significant to me, anyway) I would notice that no previous reviewer bothered to mention. The first detail that caught my mind about this movie that no one ever mentioned to me (that I believe warranted mention) was the totally incongruous theme instrumental that played over the fairly lengthy opening credits–it was an extremely pleasant and even downright relaxing tune! If an unsuspecting viewer caught this movie on cable (not that it would ever be shown on contemporary cable, even in an edited version–we are likely at least a few years away from the debut of the Extreme Gore Channel) and came across this very pleasant melody playing over a rather scenic panorama of South American jungle from the sky, they may very mistakenly get the impression that they were in for a cute family-friendly American flick about kids saving endangered tree sloths from being captured for display in a zoo, or a nice little documentary by the estate of Marlen Perkins on the art of photographing caimans in their natural habitat *cue to theme music of Mutual of Omaha* (for those who got that, sorry, I couldn’t resist). I can’t help but bellow in sadistic laughter for just a few seconds (okay, maybe several) for what such clueless individuals would be in for if they decided to sit and watch with such *ahem* incorrect expectations. Though “sadistic” is certainly an apt term for what was to follow, as one can always count on Deodato to deliver the goods.

Now, with that out of the way, let me get to a point of major controversy and contention about this film, and follow with my usual frank degree of honesty and lack of PC in response: The very graphic scenes of actual animal mutilation for whatever reason Deodato saw them as necessary (I won’t try to psychoanalyze him here, but no, as far as I know, he didn’t grow up to become a serial killer despite showing some of the major warning signs). This flick saw the brutal killing by knife and other bladed implements of a musk rat and a large tortoise by Italian-American antagonist and sensation-mongering young documentarian Alan Yates and his crew of blonde “pretty boy” Jack Anders; typical guido Mark Tomaso (whose father hated him, btw, a sentiment his dad made very clear when asked about his son’s disappearance in an impromptu news interview); his ill-fated Peruvian guide Felipe; and his very easy on the eyes girlfriend Faye Daniels (her being the only attractive thing about this film, if you don’t count the pleasant opening music). This unrepentant animal slaughter further continued when Alan shot a pig in one of the native villages at close range, and one of the tribes depicted in the film did their own part to piss off PETA by divesting a live monkey of its head and eating the rest of it.

So, did these scenes in any way add to the narrative or lend any “artistic” credentials to the movie as a whole? No, they were pure examples of shock value, presumably added for the purpose of adding further examples of generic “savagery” to a movie that already had plenty of that without the need to sacrifice any live animals. I’m not sure why Deodato couldn’t have gone the fake gore route for the animals like he did for the people killed in this movie, but then again, I guess he felt that non-sentient animals were fair game when trying to make a gory film about the “laws of the jungle” that was as “realistic” as possible. That being said, in all fairness to Deodato and his PETA-defiling crew of actors, one thing that wasn’t mentioned in any of the reviews I ever heard (and I’ve read and heard plenty) was the fact that at least with the scene involving the tortoise–by far the most graphic and needlessly extended of the four scenes of genuine animal massacre in this flick–the hapless reptile was killed quickly, as its head was immediately chopped off. This is something that all hunters with even a modicum of ethics will strive to do when hunting for food, or even for sport. The main point of brutality with this extended sequence was how graphically the tortoise was shown being slowly cut to pieces in glorious full color close-up, and all its organs removed and then eaten by the male members of the crew; Faye was the only one who turned her head from the proceedings in disgust and vomited in both a PC and stereotypical moment.

Faye was also to later play further PC roles in this movie, such as being the only voice of semi-conscience amongst Alan and his depraved crew of tabloid fools, as Deodato and screenwriter Gianfranco Clerici probably thought it was unlikely for a man to show the same traits, despite the main character in the film, Prof. Harold Munroe, expressing such sentiments frequently in the main framing sequence of the movie. Did I tell you how much I dislike PC and stereotyping? Yes, that was a rhetorical question, for the one reader out there who may not have caught the sarcasm (and please pardon my pretentiousness for assuming I have more than one reader at this point, too, not counting me when I have to edit these damn posts *grins*).

To answer another question likely on the mind of many: No, the scenes of animal mutilation didn’t get to me, probably because I have gone raccoon hunting a few times with some friends a long time ago, and honestly, the stuff they did to the raccoons were not much different than that which was done to the animals onscreen by the overzealous actors in this film, albeit not nearly as prolonged, and I know there is nothing unusual about those friends of mine when it comes to hunting (they are the friendliest people to ever enjoy hunting animals, I should point out, and I’d much rather be their guest for dinner than accepting a similar invite from the Yanomamo tribe). I’m not going to get into a discussion of the ethics of hunting in the civilized world in this particular post, because it’s too off-topic and I tend to make my rants long enough as it is (I can already see the complaints being thrown at me about the many virtues of brevity, yadda yadda yadda), but I’ll deal with that subject in another post, fear not (or fear quite a bit, as the case may be).

However, those who are squeamish about such things, and every member of PETA, had best not attempt to sit through the needlessly prolonged sequence where the tortoise was vivisected in more detail than you’d expect to see in a zoological physiology lab, but if you are even a casual dabbler in hunting, the innards of a reptile do not look different enough from those of a deer or a raccoon to give you the trembles. On the other hand, the painful killing of the musk rat by way of a knife was not done quickly enough in my opinion, and some degree of censure should have been brought down on Deodato’s crew for that one. I was wondering, however, why the hell that musk rat didn’t bite the hell out of actor Carl Gabriel Yorke before he got the chance to perforate it with the knife considering the way he was holding it. Now that would have been a sight worth sitting through that sequence for.

There is one more thing I should add about the tortoise mutilation scene that did actually make it a bit difficult to sit though, and this goes back again to the subject of Deodato’s choice of score for the movie. Part of the soundtrack included this hugely ominous instrumental that evoked a severe sense of foreboding that was played over every scene of violence, sometimes combining it in a medley with the incongruously pleasant melody from the opening credits to create a truly outre contrast. This ominous tune was played non-stop over the entirety of the turtle-gutting scene–which seemed to go on for an eternity, as if Deodato was constantly worried that we didn’t see enough of the poor creature’s viscera to satisfy whatever it was he thought he was trying to satisfy with these scenes–and this made the sequence unsettling even for some who aren’t turned off by the sight of real freshly butchered animal entrails. Anyone who may get upset by what they were seeing would find the addition of that music truly unbearable, even if not on a conscious level. Say what you want about Deodato–whether good or bad, it will quite likely be true–but the guy is enough of an auteur to know how to combine visuals with choice of score to create exactly the type of mood he wants.

So in summation of that point, the movie works just fine without the real animal mutilations, because they added nothing to the movie save additional shock value, and as more opportunities to make Alan and his crew look like assholes, and they didn’t need these particular scenes to accomplish that. The problem is, their needlessness only served to make Deodato and the actors portraying those characters look like assholes too, and even though I think a point or two in their defense simply because they were true was warranted (e.g., the tortoise being given a quick death), they still deserved full criticism for these scenes. I really wish that musk rat gave Mr. Yorke a nice big bite on his finger before he started cutting the creature up, or at least peed on him and ruined his expensive company-loaned safari outfit; that way, he would have smelled like a pissant instead of only looking like one. Bottom line, if you haven’t seen the film and dare to make the decision to do so like I did, and you are sensitive about the issue of animal violence, don’t feel bad about securing one of the versions of the flick that had the animal killings edited out, as you won’t be missing anything other than some serious heartbreak.

Moving aside from that and onto the subject of the (thankfully fake) scenes of human on human gore: Despite all that I heard–one online reviewer dared any viewer to sit through the movie and not throw up–I managed to sit through it without flinching more than a minor extent, and nary as much as even a single dry heave (it seems the characters in the film were doing enough throwing up at the various scenes of gory mayhem for the viewer, anyway; so no need to waste my own gastric fluids to show revulsion at the tableau on display when others are generous enough to sacrifice their own instead). The gore effects were realistically rendered, but often shown in quick shots to de-emphasize any possible shortcomings of the sfx. I actually can think of one particularly disturbing scene I will unfortunately take to sleep with me tonight that didn’t involve a murder, but a seriously diseased old woman who, realizing she was a liability to her tribe at that age and condition (no nursing huts thereabouts?), wandered to a certain sacred spot to sit there moaning in agony as she slowly rotted while not so patiently awaiting her now merciful demise. The sight of Alan and his crew dispassionately standing over her and explaining her situation to their expected future audience as you may casually explain the making of a ginger ale float on your home ec YouTube channel wasn’t exactly one of the highlights of my night. And considering how quick Yates and his party were to resort to horrid violence in order to create artificial drama and action for his audience, you’d think they could spare one measly bullet to put that poor old woman out of her misery. But no, they had to be sadists even when it came to not committing an act of violence. I couldn’t help but wonder if some of those old woman’s moans were actually her saying, “Just shut the fuck up and shoot me already, you pale-faced pricks!” in her native lingo. You can’t imagine how many times I wished I had popcorn with me so I could throw a stray kernel at the screen every time Alan and company gave with another display of flagrant douche-baggery. It takes quite a special type of douche-bag (or, as my bud Stephanie spells it: “dooshbag”) to earn that title based on what they sometimes don’t do in addition to what they spend so much time actually doing.

But bottom line, the movie didn’t make me part with any bodily fluids nor hide my eyes under a pillow (okay, I half-closed my eyes at the scene when the tribal woman was given the Yanomamo’s answer to the “scarlet letter” treatment–with emphasis on the scarlet–for adultery, but hey, I bet most of you would have, too!), and I have honestly seen worse. It’s not my intention to boast here, because while I have quite a high tolerance for gore and mayhem on the screen, I do have limits, and I have had them reached before. In fact, there are a few films I have yet to work up the nerve to watch at this writing (I doubt I will ever have the nerve to watch An American Crime). Immediately coming to mind is on that list is Salo, the 120 Days of Sodom, which my friend and adviser at my alma mater’s foreign film club was willing to show due to what he described as its artistic merits, but utterly refused to show Cannibal Holocaust for allegedly lacking the same (*waves to Dr. Basile*). But is it really so bereft of any such merits? Let’s talk about that a bit now.

I have to say, in all honesty, that Cannibal Holocaust has a decent script, with production values to match, despite its obvious and rather sleazy exploitative elements. It boasts an important theme throughout the film, one that Deodato and Clerici made no attempt to disguise. That theme presents existential questions about the nature of justice, how relative and subjective what is deemed “criminal” and what methods of dispensing it can be from culture to culture, and a serious but uncomfortable comparison between primitive cultures like the Yacumo and Yanomamo tribes of the Amazon Basin and our own “civilized” (read: organized and post-industrial) society and its accompanying cultures. There are many reviewers who like to admonish writers of didactic stories or scripts for being “preachy” when they purport to do something more than just provide escapist entertainment, as if giving someone food for thought and entertaining people are somehow mutually exclusive. Of course, calling someone “preachy” for having something to say about something in their fiction is in many ways a tacit admission that they, and other readers, dislike being expected to read or watch something that makes them feel compelled to think too much.

Granted, some writers do a bad job of presenting a theme or message, and are lamentably “heavy-handed” in doing so. But in my humble opinion, when a writer succeeds in an attempt to combine making their audience think while simultaneously entertaining them in the process, they achieve their vocation’s equivalent of pure gold. I think even those who make a courageous attempt to send out a message, but fumble the attempt badly, are usually admirable in their own way. For anyone who feels that entertainment doesn’t work when a strong message is built into it, or that this message or idea somehow taints or dilutes the story’s entertainment value, I suggest they look at great TV series that were both entertaining and thought-inspiring at the same time, like the classic politically-charged 1970s sitcom All in the Family; the very ahead-of-its-time and heavily intellectual 1990s drama series Picket Fences (provided you ignore every episode of its horrid fourth and final season); the bulk of the late Rod Serling’s work, like his famous teleplay Requiem for a Heavyweight and his popular thought-provoking fantasy TV series The Twilight Zone; and much of Joss Whedon’s oeuvre, including his fantastic fiction TV series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer; its equally commendable spin-off Angel; and his short-lived but cult classic sci-fi Western, Firefly. Of course, there is nothing wrong with shows/movies or stories that merely seek to entertain without a heavy message, and I am fond of several of those as well, including the 1970s sitcom Three’s Company (one of my all-time faves), which the great comedian and actress Lucille Ball once commended for “not trying to change the world,” which she felt was the best type of comedy there was, a form she did so much excellent work in with three hit sitcoms (yes, I’m ignoring her fourth and final one, Life With Lucy, out of respect for her).

However, I find it possible to enjoy both, whereas others clearly seem to have a more one-sided view of this issue, so yes, I’m one of those annoying scribes who is often accused by those who hold such an opinion as “preaching” to them. And contrary to those who claim “preachy” only applies to those stories that beat their viewers or readers over the head with the message, I’ve seen such stories and writers (including myself) accused of “preaching” even when when the message was fairly subtle and subservient to the pure entertainment aspects, like action or characterization. Hence, for some, even a subtle message constitutes too much thinking for comfort.

The way I see it, though, is that writers of all stripes have a more important job than simply entertaining, even though that is certainly a big part of our job. Writers have often been the very conscience of their society, bringing thoughts, ideas, memes, and opinions before the reading public that people en masse often need to hear and consider even if they don’t want to do so. Thus, writers have the ability to make or a break a revolution at certain points in history. Again, there are bad ways of spreading a message via writing, but we must never forget or dismiss the importance of leaving a reader with an idea or thought they didn’t have before they read our story or watched a show or play culled from a script we wrote. I have nothing against mindless escapist entertainment in certain dosages (just like food heavy with sugar), as we can certainly use it at times, but in my opinion, too much of that to the near-exclusion of more didactic forms of writing and general entertainment cause the latter to serve as “bread and circuses” for keeping the masses pacified while their overseers make a killing off of them, in every sense of that word.

That is likely the reason why so many people do not like thinking about or attempting to understand certain issues too much, or being reminded of the preponderance of a certain major societal problem that they prefer to deal with by doing their best to pretend it doesn’t exist. “Preachy” writers won’t let them forget or ignore these matters, which is why adherents to that school of thought find the need to use a certain adjective or verb to deride writers of didactic fiction, much as pop culture did the same for well-educated people by calling them “nerdy” and women who openly enjoy their natural sexual desires as “slutty.”

One of the uncomfortable things that this film’s script forced us to do is to look at matters from the perspective of the primitive tribesmen featured in the movie. Seeing things from the perspective of others outside of whatever narrow perspective our particular group happens to hold is often extremely difficult for us. This is why you see things like Americans justifiably screaming in rage when a few thousand of our fellow citizens are killed by the brazen attack on our soil on 9/11, yet rationalize and ignore the frequent destruction wreaked upon average citizens and their property in Middle Eastern nations by drones and invading military units sent by the United States government. It’s always easy to justify what your group does to “their” group, but the reverse is never seen as morally comparable. Those outside of one’s group are often dehumanized and derided as being living personifications of evil and degeneracy, and we often even rationalize what we do to them as being in their best interests. Alan Yates and his small film crew seemed to have no problem with treating the tribes they encountered in and near the “Green Hell” section of the Amazon jungles as less deserving of the type of considerations that they felt they were completely worthy of, because they view themselves as “more advanced” than the primitive tribes. However, as Prof. Monroe noted in this movie, our society commits many of the same atrocities and barbarities as these tribes do, but we simply find more “civilized” ways of doing it.

For instance, we may not kill or imprison someone for advocating an unpopular opinion as some nations have done and continue to do, but we do other less “extreme” but no less effectively unjust ways of stifling such people by threatening them with job loss, revocation of tenure or funding, and academic ostracizement even if they push unpopular ideas that they can often back up with good peer-reviewed scientific experimentation. Our political system won’t tie someone to a tree and divest them of their favored body parts for refusing to flow with the status quo, but our institutions will resort to many forms of blatant censorship and socio-political marginalization of such individuals. And while our culture will not stone or shove a wooden pole through the vagina of a female for violating a socially constructed sexual taboo, we will still socially condemn girls and women for openly expressing their sexuality via pejorative terms like “slut” and “whore” (which far too many girls go along with and use against each other, it must be admitted), and young women under a certain legal age are actually arrested and prosecuted for taking and sending provocative photos of themselves, which is more an attempt to control their sexual expression and decree it to be “obscene” than the common rationalization of “protecting” them from “bad choices.” So while our society and sense of justice no longer permits the extremes of punishment for social infractions and violation of cultural taboos that we saw meted out in this film by the Amazonian tribes, we still engage in often life-destroying forms of punishment for essentially the same things.

Even more important is the fact that we still tolerate a global socio-economic system that is based upon the same type of “survival of the fittest” & “law of the jungle” ethos that Alan Yates was ranting about and using to openly rationalize the abhorrent behavior of his documentary crew throughout the footage they left behind that was recovered by Prof. Munroe and his rescue party. Our environment is much more controlled and comfortable than the raw jungle environment that the Yacumo and Yanomamo tribes operate within, but the basic principles are the same. These principles have long been used by the many who follow the “teachings” of Ayn Rand to justify and even glorify almost every negative aspect of behavior that human beings can manifest, from greed and selfishness all the way to war and imperialist domination of others. How does this make our culture majorly different or more advanced than that of these primitive tribes despite our frequent pretense to the contrary and chauvinistic sense of entitlement?

Though this wasn’t explored in the script, it can be cogently argued that we are even more guilty of such behavior than the Yacumo and their fellow Amazonian tribes, because unlike them, we have the productive and technological capacity to create a socio-economic system that is not based on a dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest structure that is predicated upon ruthless competition rather than cooperation and the goal of abundance for all. Defense of a system that breeds uncivilized behavior within the context of a supposedly civilized society makes us in many ways more culpable than a primitive tribe for prominent displays of such behavior amongst us.

Now don’t get me wrong, this film was hardly one of black-and-white depictions of morality. I am not by any means defending the three primitive tribes who appear in it (though only two prominently) as “noble savages.” They were often very barbaric in their treatment of each other when it comes to dispensing justice, along with the harsh and not exactly reasonable morals that demand extreme forms of punishment if violated, and they often come across as nightmarish caricatures of the primitive savage trope seen throughout the horror tales of Western culture.

Nevertheless, the main point of the film–voiced largely through the ethical character of Prof. Munroe–was that savage behavior from one group towards another merely begets similarly uncivilized behavior in retaliation, something that high-ranking politicians in America refuse to accept or acknowledge. Those who are more worthy than others in their own eyes cannot logically expect those others to accept this loaded logic, nor readily adopt it into their own mindset. What was also well displayed in the script was how victims and victimizers can readily reverse status depending upon who has the advantage at any given time, even in regards to each other. This is made clear on a macroscopic level in the civilized world’s greater political sphere when we see, as just one example, how the high-ranking extremist Israeli politicians and their right-wing lobbyist lackeys in the American political landscape often use the historical fact of how extreme methods of systematic murder and imprisonment inflicted upon members of the Jewish ethnic group during the World War II Holocaust by the Nazis as rationale for entitlement when inflicting similar forms of treatment upon a different ethnic group, the Palestinians, based on competition to control rather than cooperation in sharing the resources and land of their geographical region.

This amply displays how the nature and imperatives of the hierarchical economic system we live under, and not the innate “nature” of any particular group of people, results in the bulk of serious conflicts in the world today. In such an environment, whether it’s a steamy jungle region or huge post-industrial cities, there are few individuals who are innocent at all times, and the role of victim and victimizer often shifts and changes as readily as billows in a wisp of smoke.

Of all the members of Yate’s little entourage, only Faye was afforded a sympathetic character (whether PC or not, this was nevertheless the case), so she was the only one whose horrid final fate at the hands, teeth, blades, etc., et al., of the vengeful Yanomamo tribe was truly vilifying to the viewers. Alan, Mark, and Jack were seen as receiving their just desserts–with “dessert” being an apropos term here–particularly Jack, whose comeuppance butchering was executed (pun intended) in glorious detail, including the receiving of a cruel mutilation that may have inspired Lorena Bobbitt when she was planning a suitable revenge on her abusive husband as he slept one night (if any reader doesn’t know or remember who she is, then I recommended you spare yourself the grief of Googling her name and finding out; let’s just say that she took the fact that her husband was a major dick into her means of retribution). Luckily for Jack, the Yanomamo weren’t as sadistic as he and Alan were, or they likely would have inflicted that type of mutilation on him before Alan got the chance to shoot him after he was speared–which sort of rendered the mutilation pointless from our sense of logic, but maybe the tribe wanted a souvenir that could double as a good paperweight or fly swatter, or something.

With that lovely political rant of mine out of the way, I now get to other matters regarding the script of this film that I think actually deserve commending. For one thing, the dialogue was relatively well scripted for a flick that many would be quick to dismiss as C-list exploitation trash. Despite all of the shocking scenes of violence and the atrocious displays of needless violence on animals wrought by Deodato and his crew, he takes the message of this film seriously, and it doesn’t come off as tacked on material to give a false framework for as background support for a series of shock sequences. Not only that, but there was another major point of the script that I never recall hearing or reading from the multitude of reviewers who’ve critiqued this film, and that is the surprisingly witty banter exchanged between Prof. Munroe and his main guide, not to mention the professor’s reactions at having to show “respect” to his primitive hosts by eating or imbibing whatever they happen to give him (and it’s not anything you would care to have on your holiday dinner table, trust me). Yes, I’m serious, this movie actually has a good amount of decent one-liners and intentionally funny verbal repartee between the true main protagonists of the film. Make note of this, since you aren’t likely to see this particular point mentioned in any other review, which will tend to focus mostly on the gore and animal brutality first and foremost, and the message that Deodato and Clerici tried to convey on a secondary note (with the reviewers often, though not always, concluding that it got lost in the bloody shuffle).

The acting certainly wasn’t Oscar-worthy, but it wasn’t bad either, and whatever degree of dubbing used in the English language version I was loaned to watch (I’m honestly not sure how extensive the dubbing was) seemed to be professionally done. The characters were well portrayed by the cast, with Robert Kerman playing the role of the movie’s ethical spokesman Prof. Harold Munroe quite competently, and the trio of actors comprising Alan Yate’s crew of documentarian douche-bags doing a good job of portraying them as…well, major league douche-bags. Actress Francesca Ciardi played an extremely lovely Faye Daniels, and she was nice enough to treat the viewer to a few copious full body nude scenes, and I think only the extremely prudish would call someone perverse or obscene for admiring a beautiful woman’s nude body, which she has every right to be proud of. We were even treated to a very gratuitous sex scene between Faye and Alan, which connoisseurs of soft core porn material couldn’t enjoy too much when one considers that the sex happened in “celebration” of Alan and Jack successfully creating drama for their documentary by trapping a large portion of the Yanamomo’s women, kids, and elderly in a huge hut and setting it aflame, consigning all of them to a horrible death and blaming it on their rival cannibalistic tribe, the Shamatari.

So all in all, this was a good horror flick with an important message to deliver, and I’m glad I was able to sit through it. If you have a generally high tolerance for gore and violence in general, then you may be able to make it through this film too (it usually takes things other than gore to gross me out). If you can, it’s worth doing so, and for more reasons than mere bragging. This is especially true if you are not turned off by “preachy” films that seek to make the viewer think, and use the horror genre to present metaphors and archetypes that resonate with both our conscious and subconscious minds on many levels in the same way myths and folk tales of old did and still do (more about archetypes and myth and their importance to writers and artists of all other stripes in a future post). Fans of Ruggero Deodato’s twisted oeuvre of cinema, and fans of the cannibal sub-genre of horror, obviously shouldn’t miss this one, but fans of the greater horror genre will find much to appreciate about it also, especially those who enjoy horror archetypes personifying various significant political and cultural truths that our society prefers not to think about very much. If your tolerance for gore is not high, then avoid this one like you would a leper full of open sores, and if you cannot stomach the depiction of authentic animal cruelty but still want to see the movie, by all means seek out one of the edited versions, especially considering how depictions of real cruelty towards animals is illegal in some countries.

I should in closing answer a final oft-asked question by noting that there is indeed a Cannibal Holocaust II, which was produced in 1988, but Ruggero Deodato and Gianfranco Clerici had nothing to do with it, and it wasn’t actually a direct sequel to the first one, dealing with entirely different characters and a completely different Amazonian tribe than the three featured in this film: the Yucumo, the Yanamamo, and the Shamatari. Since I know little else about flick at this time, I cannot in good conscience recommend seeking it out to anyone at this writing.

Update: There have apparently been more than one non-cannibal film that were billed as a sequel to Cannibal Holocaust in order to take advantage of its notoriety for marquee value, albeit in a very dishonest but typical manner. None of these films, including the one noted above, had any connection to the Deodato “message thriller.” In fact, there has been a dearth of true cannibal films after the early 1980s, with these purported sequels marketed as such simply because they featured an adventure taking place in a jungle with native tribes and stuff like that (not even a single real animal mutilation in sight!). Deodato was all set to make a true follow-up to his film during the previous decade entitled Cannibals, and it was slated for a 2008 release. Quite unfortunately–or very fortunately, depending on your viewpoint–this intriguing project fell through due to a variety of factors, but largely the inability of the producer to find sufficient funding. One must wonder why, hmmm? Looks like Deodato’s fans will get to hold their lunches for a while longer now.

– CN

“People say, ‘I’m not interested in politics,’ like it’s just another hobby, like ‘I’m not into skiing or needlepoint.’ But freedom isn’t free. It shouldn’t be a bragging point that, ‘Oh, I don’t get involved in politics,’ as if that makes you somehow cleaner. No, that makes you derelict of duty in a republic. Liars and panderers in government would have a much harder time of it if so many people didn’t insist on their right to remain ignorant and blindly agreeable. And foreign adversaries would have to calculate the savvy of our people into their nefarious plans.”
–Bill Maher, WHEN YOU RIDE ALONE YOU STILL RIDE WITH BIN LADEN

“People say, ‘…

CARNAGE: AFTER THE END

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Now on sale from Sirens Call Publications is Volume 1 and Volume 2 of Carnage: After the End, two short story anthologies that each feature ten tales centering around the common theme of humans struggling to survive in a nightmarish post-apocalyptic world. Volume 1 includes yours truly among the ten authors in a short story entitled “The Scurrying,” where one of the few remaining human tribes inhabiting such a hellish future world plagued by a species of giant predatory rat that has displaced humanity from the top spot on the food chain fight for what may well be the final battle of their lives.

Hard copy versions of both volumes are available at just $14.99 each at CreateSpace, and can be purchased from the following links:

Volume 1

Volume 2

Very affordable e-book versions of both volumes at $3.99 each can be purchased at the following places:

Volume 1–

Smashwords

Amazon US

Amazon UK

 

Volume 2–

Smashwords

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Many thanks to the terrific staff of Sirens Call Publications, it was awesome to work with them on another project!

Capitalism, and What Our Love Affair With It is Costing Us & the World

There are times when I want to take fervent defenders of capitalism by the collar of their shirts and toss them onto a huge continent of abundant resources where they can all compete and fight with each other over who gets the most of everything available on that land mass–as opposed to cooperating with each other to share resources and prosper collectively–to their hearts desire, while leaving the more civilized amongst us to share the rest of the planet’s uber-abundant resources and productive capacity that modern technology has made possible. In short, we would be free of the profit demand imperatives that prevent us from creating a far better society that, while it wouldn’t be perfect, would nevertheless be many magnitudes better than what we do have and can have today thanks to post-industrial technology.

 

And that is not in reference to just the small handful of actual beneficiaries of this system, but also to the too many fellow members of the working class who continue to vote such individuals into office simply because they think they are nice looking, have charming personalities, come off as “just a regular person like us” (as if a multi-millionaire typically leads a lifestyle comparable to the average worker), are the “correct” race or gender with the same religious beliefs (or lack of same) that the worker in question happens to share, or agree with them on silly wedge issues like whether gays should be allowed to legally get married, etc., et al., and give not the slightest shit about the effects that the foreign and domestic policies on economics, civil rights, or the environment that these people support for entirely self-serving reasons will have on both us and the rest of the world (assuming they even care about what goes on outside the borders of grand old America, which has but 5% of the world’s population). And we continue to let them convince large numbers of us that we are “good Americans” by supporting an archaic and destructive system far past its progressive heyday nearly a century and a half past while entirely ignoring the fact that America was born in revolution, and the Constitution has a provision (Section V) that allows for a legal and peaceful revolution whenever a vast majority of American citizens demand it. Instead, we have come to worship those in offices of political and corporate power as if they are akin to gods on Earth rather than seeing them as what they actually are–privileged human beings who do not work  harder than any of us do, and are certainly not any more talented than we are as a group, but simply got the luck of the draw when it came to who their families were, what decade they happened to be born in when a certain talent they had happened to be in high demand, or some other generous dealing of the cards that in no may meant they worked harder or took more risks than the vast majority of workers who have to deal with the daily grind of low-level employment in fast-food restaurants, the various departments of a bank, as professional housekeepers and janitors, etc.

 

And if you think saving up money from busting your ass at three of the above types of jobs simultaneously over even a long period of time will enable you to eventually become a millionaire, then you are refusing to take a realistic look at not only the cost of living for an average worker that quickly eats up what you make from the relatively meager paychecks offered by even three of these jobs per month, but you are also willfully overlooking the fact that the cost of big factories, attendant machinery, and number of employees needed to run the big corporate juggernauts that the few members of the capitalist class own shares of to make their vast wealth (I won’t use the word “earn” here), not to mention the fact that the vast majority of income taken in every year by the capitalists come from (appropriately enough) capital gains, and not any number of paychecks. To those who are not familiar with the jargon of big business, that means investments, and it takes vast amounts of money to play the stock market in order to acquire a level of returns that are significant enough to actually live off of (if you don’t believe me, then I double dare you to invest a few hundred dollars of your paycheck into the stock of whatever company you work for, if not the stock market itself, and see if the miniscule level of gains you make and all the risks you take elevate you into the life of leisure that members of the capitalist class routinely enjoy at any point in your life).

 

Let it be known here that my problem is not with rich people per se; I do not begrudge anyone a comfortable and even lavish life style, and I am seriously glad that the families of these people, despite whatever personal or emotional problems they may have, do not have to live in the type of environment and insecurity that the majority of working class people regularly have to deal with. My problem is with capitalism itself, and not any particular group of people, even the beneficiaries of the system themselves, and I acknowledge there are some genuinely good-hearted and very progressive millionaires and billionaires who are generally working towards a more equitable type of system (note Bill Maher, Michael Moore, and Chris Rock are a few good examples). Kudos to them, even though I obviously don’t agree with them on everything.

 

The crux of the problem is not white men; not rich people; not Jews; not “welfare cheats”; not immigrants; not prostitutes or drug dealers, or sexual deviants of one kind or another, or gay people that want to get married; the problem is the system itself, and the fierce competition and inequality it engenders amongst a world population during an era in time when technology has progressed to the point where–for the first time in human history–an abundance is capable of being produced for everyone on the planet. Going along with that problem is the continuing love affair (as Michael Moore put it in the title of one of his great documentaries) that the majority of the population continues to have with the system. And sadly, those continuing to remain loyal to a system that they have the equivalent of an abusive relationship with (whether they are the majority in the position of the abused, or the tiny minority in the position of abuser) not only includes a surfeit of some of the poorest of the working class, but also a good number of crusading progressives who insist on attempting to continuously reform (i.e., tame) capitalism, and who continue to believe that it’s somehow un-American not to like some variant of capitalism, rather than agreeing to junk it and replace it with a more advanced, resource-based economy where money, competition, and private or state ownership of the industries and services are replaced (respectively) by disbursement based on the needs and wants of everyone, cooperation, and social ownership by everyone (which does not occur in the form of a state run by a handful of privileged and powerful bureaucrats who control a professional police force, but committees run and controlled by all workers across the various industries and services, none of whom receive special power or privileges over anyone else).

 

We need to get over our learned helplessness of believing that a man-made system like capitalism is somehow fixed in nature rather than an institution created by humans, or that the ruling class and its many institutions are too powerful to defeat. If the vast majority of us continue to wallow in a sense of piteous acquiescence to the existing system, then obviously the relative few who do stand up and fight are going to have a very difficult time enacting lasting change in a prompt fashion. We have to be in this together collectively, and not believe that the 99% of us that run and operate (but do not own) the industries and services are actually helpless before the 1% who control and benefit from this arrangement. We need to keep in mind that the mass of professional soldiers and police are comprised of members of the working class who would be highly unlikely to turn their weapons on family and friends if the great majority of workers stood up and demanded change by working within the existing system and its legal framework to enact a firm and uncompromising, but civilized and lawful revolution. Workers need to stop identifying their interests with that of the ruling class, and realize that they do not need a boss class dominating the decisions of industry, but are capable of running society equitably and in a much more fair and meritorious manner by themselves.

 

Those who continue to fight for reform and attempt to change the Democratic Party into an instrument for workers’ interests need to look at the many past examples of such attempts that proved futile, and those who continue to support the Republican Party based on their attitudes towards gays, religion, abortion, or some ridiculous sycophantic love of anyone who is both good-looking and powerful, need to join together based on common economic interests geared towards providing our families and future generations of humanity with freedom from poverty, insecurity, involuntary unemployment, a heavily polluted environment, and the threat of constant war–which will eventually make its way into our borders with the attendant erosion of civil rights if those who follow the legacies of Republican Bush and Democrat Obama continue to have their way–and seek democratic rather than draconian solutions to the problems we now face. And the number of genuinely good-hearted, progressive members of the wealthy few who  care about all humanity and the planet itself over that of the profits of the few need to pool their sizable resources into the effort to aid the workers into getting off their asses and working together collectively (keep up the good work, Michael and Bill!), while the rest of us need to recognize that this contingent of the 1% cannot do this all by themselves despite the resources they wield, because they have the majority of their own class against them.

 

This is not about taking away the secure lifestyle of the few that now have them, but simply to remove their status of power and privilege over others by bringing this lifestyle of plenty to everyone, and this is what those few are fighting to retain, which they argue rightfully belongs to them and no one else. Do any of you seriously believe that Donald Trump or the royal family in Britain, or even the CEO of whatever company you work for, literally works millions of times harder than you do to support your own family? Do you seriously believe that the thousands of involuntarily unemployed in your state who receive $300 per month in welfare benefits and $250 in food stamps per month are seriously living a life of luxury compared to the vastly larger hand-outs and bail-outs the government routinely gives the not-exactly-needy executives of the many big corporations that regularly screw up with their decisions and nearly cause the economy to collapse on more than one occasion–as Enron did a decade ago, and as the banks did during the Obama administration’s first term in office? We need to get over our fear of change, and end our stubborn loyalty to an abusive and predatory system that encourages the worst aspects of human behavior simply because we have been conditioned to do so our entire lives, and it’s all we’ve ever known. We need to believe that all humanity not only deserves better, but is capable of providing a better world for ourselves and future generations, as well as facilitating a harmonious existence with the rest of the planet. We can achieve this by working together across racial, gender, ethnic, and sexual orientation barriers, as well as the artificial barriers of religion, national citizenship, and party affiliation, to progress towards our collective material interests, and the needs of this planet. These material interests are what is most important, and when they are resolved in an equitable manner, then the other problems we face will be far easier to deal with.

 

Not all of my future blog posts will be on the subject of progressive politics, of course, but you can look forward to and/or dread several of them to be, as next on this topic I plan to delve into the charming subject of America’s wondrous for-profit health care system.

 

– CN

Thomas Nigro Sr. – R.I.P.

I figured that with the requirement of a published author to have a blog these days, personal matters as well as professional insights and general philosophical musings about any given topic are certainly “game” material for posting, since it’s good to let your followers get to know you as a person better. And though I do not plan to be narcissistic (well, okay, not too much, anyway) and make personal matters dominate my choice of topics, this one I think is well deserved, as it’s done in the honor of a close family member I just lost yesterday. That would be my grandfather, known to those who knew him–and me–personally as Thomas Nigro, Sr., who passed on yesterday after 89 glorious years of a basically good and productive life.

I think that I certainly owe this blogged eulogy to my grandfather, as anyone who knew me well personally was almost certainly aware of the rocky relationship I had with him over the course of my life. The common narrative attributed to it seems to be the usual cliche’ of me taking the role of the ungrateful little punk who never appreciated all his grandfather did for him, including the fact that he let me live with him and my grandmother after my mother left their home when I was 12, and I elected to stay with them; and I was nothing but trouble for this greatly caring couple who devoted their time generously and unselfishly to raising me. Like most such stories, there is admittedly at least a grain of truth to that, as I was quite outspoken and difficult as I grew up, and my grandparents certainly went through a lot dealing with me. Of course, also like such stories, the cliche’ tends to be an overly simplistic interpretation of the situation. As disrespectful and defiant of authority as I could be (and often was, I must admit), I never abused any substance (e.g., alcohol or narcotics), nor was I ever habitually in trouble with the law, and to my grandparents’ credit, they didn’t impose strict rules on me. As such, I had nothing to rebel against, and I stayed out of trouble by choice. However, our personal relations could be difficult, as my willful nature often made me what my family would call “mouthy,” and I was mischievous in the extreme. Yes, me and the other kids in the neighborhood proceeded to terrorize it with our mischief on a regular basis, and to quote the lyrical phrase popularized by the theme song of the classic ’70s sitcom All in the Family, “those were the days.” Okay, for us maybe, if not for the neighbors who had to deal with a small group of kids running in and out of their backyards and hopping fences while playing chase or pretending to be super-heroes on a mission to save the world, that is.

The full truth of the matter, as I strive to be objective here, is the following: My grandfather and I were two very difficult people to deal with at times, and despite a few superficial similarities (e.g., a temper; stubbornness about our ways; an obnoxious sense of humor with a love of getting over on other people), we were very different individuals in many essential ways. Make two such people live together, and what do you get? Exactly the volatile mix one would expect, of course. On top of all that, my grandfather was quite big on the “tough love” ideology, and he could be merciless to those he disapproved of (and he was quick to disapprove of many people), even if you happened to be a member of his immediate family who cared about him greatly (yup, that included me on both counts, or is that surprising?). When I was quite young, however, my grandfather and I were best buds, and those were very happy times of my life. Since my mother was a mere 16 when she had me, and obviously still living at home, my grandparents took a strong role in raising me, often leading to a source of conflict and rivalry between my mother and them. One could argue that they “won” the conflict, considering I chose to stay with them after my mother left their home when I was 12. This gives an idea of how close I was to both my grandparents despite all the conflicts that eventually began, and which went a long way towards shaping me into the person I was to ultimately become, for better or worse.

When I reached my middle school years, it became obvious to my grandfather that I wasn’t going to become the grandson he had hoped for–I was obviously destined to become Chris the Writer, instead of Chris the Carpenter, and that was not an area of interest that my grandfather was familiar with. In his day, my grandfather was greatly skilled in carpentry, cement work, plumbing, gardening, just about anything you needed your hands to do, and he could fix nearly anything that broke. I totally lacked these skills, my abilities going in an entirely different area of expertise, so to speak, but I was always greatly impressed with his natural ability at what he was good at. But he valued living a productive albeit quiet life, avoiding controversy whenever possible, which–well, wasn’t the case with me. My controversial opinions (all of which I stand behind, mind you) and annoyingly natural tendency to think “outside the box” wasn’t smiled upon by my grandfather, and he and the rest of my immediate family could not comprehend these aspects of me, so it resulted in a great many conflicts and fights, with my grandfather inevitably being awarded the “right by default” status due to the usual justification of me living in his house, he being generous enough to provide for me while I did nothing for him save take up space in his home, etc., et al. I won’t get into the in depth discussion and analysis of the “if someone provides for you materially, you owe them unlimited deference” ideology here (but rest assured I will in a future post, since the ideology certainly does bears such scrutiny and analysis). Simply pointing out the crux of the difficulties my grandfather and I faced while living together all of those years is what’s important here, as this post is intended as an honor to his memory and discussion of our relationship, and it’s getting pretty long as it is.

Let me now give all credit to my grandfather where it happens to be due, in case anyone be concerned I am going to do little other than bash him along the lines of what the many celebrities do to the people who raised them in their various autobiographies (whether justified or otherwise). He was always a hard worker, sometimes maybe even to a fault, as he never hesitated to do things the hard way. He did indeed provide very well for me while raising me, and I cannot make a single complaint along those lines. Despite all of our conflicts, he almost never hesitated to provide transportation to me to various places I needed or wanted to go, and I appreciated these things more than I can possibly say. I was always concerned about taking advantage of him despite what anyone may think, and for the last three years of his life, when it became clear that old age and the health problems that so often come with it were catching up to him, I went to great lengths to secure alternative means of transportation when I needed it (it was very difficult for me to drive a vehicle due to various health problems, the main one being afflicted with a very cruel malady called chronic fatigue syndrome at an early point in my life, but I will get into more detail about these aspects of my life in future posts, as it would be getting too far off topic to delve into them here).

So the truth is, despite all the not so great personality traits which we both possessed that made us difficult to relate to and get along with each other, my grandfather was a pretty cool guy. For the past 12 years, he was generous enough to allow me to inhabit the upper apartment of his home for a very affordable rent (far less than I would have been able to get for such a big apartment from strangers, especially in the Western New York area), and I will always be thankful to him for this. He took care of family no matter what his personal feelings for them may have been, and this is something that one cannot take away from him. Once I moved out of his home and finally gained the privacy and space we needed from each other after I graduated from college and began my career as a struggling writer (finally now beginning to bear fruit, but again, that is another post), our relationship improved significantly. We started the road towards becoming best buds again, and despite the continued conflicts we had from time to time, and all the resentments and regrets one can expect to develop between two peas from separate pods living together for so long, I came to the conclusion that my grandfather was alright, and I was glad to have him in my life for so long.

Most importantly, I’m glad I got the chance to tell him that very thing last week, the last time I saw him alive, just a few hours before he had to be hospitalized for the final time, as it turned out. I deeply regret not seeing him the few days he was in the hospital, but not only do I greatly dislike the atmosphere of such places, it was very difficult for me to see him in such an emaciated condition. I like to consider myself a generally strong person, but I have to admit that some things are just beyond me, and this happens to be one of them. Understand that my grandfather was a physically powerful and energetic man well into his later years, and I was always impressed by this facet of his being, with the result being that I grew up seeing him as nigh-invincible. I never thought old age would catch up to him to the extent that it did, but over the past decade, as he went from his late 70s into his 80s, he began to physically decline, and it was very difficult for me to see this happen. It weighed very heavily on him too, as he became increasingly (and understandably) depressed and irritable over this inexorable decline. I could do nothing but sympathize with this plight of his, for I could only imagine what it was like for him to gradually but quickly lose the great prowess and energy he once had, and was well known for. He was a prideful man who was used to getting things his way and being in full control of his life, and this was not something he could deal with gracefully. Despite his enjoyment of life, he wasn’t happy any more as his physical decline progressed, and in truth, he wasn’t upset when the end came for him. The members of his family (including me) are very upset, of course, because we already miss him terribly. But my mother and my uncle, his two children, made the right decision in deciding not to have extraordinary measures taken to resuscitate him when the end came, nor put him on life support; he would not have wanted these things, and when my mother discussed this with me two days before he passed on, I fully agreed with her that to do that would have been selfishness on our part, and if we did such a thing, it would have been for us, not for him.

I am certain that many reading this, if not most of you, have gone through the same thing, as loss comes to all of us eventually, and I don’t need to explain how difficult it is to do the right thing, rather than the self-serving thing, when it comes to parting with someone who meant so much to you, and whom you wanted to be around forever. And as I have often noted, and will certainly note again, the right decision is most often the hardest of two or more possible decisions, which is why doing the right thing can be so difficult to do in many given instances.

During his few days of hospitalization, I wanted to say goodbye to my grandfather, to let him know how sorry I was for my no small part in the difficulties we had, and how glad I was that relations between us had improved over the past decade. The ‘l’ word was there, but he and I weren’t the type to use it without feeling terribly ‘mushy’ and awkward, at least between us (I have been able to use that important word with my grandmother often since I almost lost her to an aneurysm a decade ago, thankfully). That may be a “macho” fault we had, no doubt, but that was the way it is, just like we both knew we had to accept each others’ stubbornness and various other idiosyncrasies, even to the very end. But I felt so much between us was unresolved, and there were other words that could be used to make how I felt about him clear. After a heartfelt discussion with my boss and BFF the same day he passed on, I resolved to compromise by writing him a letter that expressed how I felt, and how much I would miss him, and my mother agreed to read it to him the following day. Sadly, however, my grandfather didn’t last another day, as he passed on at the hospice mere minutes after my mother and uncle arrived to see him later that afternoon. I will always regret not getting that letter to him, but I am determined to honor his memory in other ways, so that in the end, it won’t seem so bad that he got Chris the Writer as a grandson instead of Chris the Carpenter (who would have figured, eh?).

When I was quite young and we were best buds, and he would let me accompany him on all the work he used to do around the house–fixing, repairing, and building many things while dealing with my annoying presence the entire time–he gave me the nickname “Benny,” something he never really used once my childhood gave way to my problematic middle school years. Nevertheless, it stands as a memory of the happy times I shared with him back in those all but carefree days, and as such, this is the reason I gave the character in my upcoming novel Centurion the name Benny Lotherno (the last name being one of the variants of our real last name throughout history I recently uncovered via research). There will be quite a bit of autobiographical material in that novel despite being a work of fantastic fiction, and since I hope it’s successful enough to be the first of many featuring that character, his first name will stand as a lasting monument in memory of my grandfather, and the good times we shared. Moreover, I plan to write a special story, intended for publication, that will likewise do him honor, this one featuring another continuing character of mine, Mike Nero, as he and his grandfather–based on guess who? (Go ahead and guess, your first one will be correct!)–will share a final adventure together that will serve as a sort of emotional catharsis for me. I do believe my grandfather’s consciousness lives on in a better plane of reality (he didn’t believe in an afterlife, so if I turn out to be correct, I will gain the satisfaction of one day visiting him and telling him, “I told you so!”), and wherever he now resides, no doubt happily taking advantage of the restored vigor he now enjoys as he sets off on a new adventure, I am hoping he will see that his grandson will do his best to insure that he is immortalized and never forgotten, as he was quite a special guy and I want it always to be known that despite how often we knocked heads, his grandson respects and appreciates all he did for him wholeheartedly.

I would like to ask all my followers and friends who read this to give a minute of silence in my grandfather’s memory.

Thomas J. Nigro, 1923-2012