Sonny Tupaj of Raphael’s Restaurante, teenage chef and individual child hobo like myself, must have had an insight into the psyche of my future being when he would greet me every time with a fazed look and the spoken word, “why?” “Why Ron, why?” I guess it was my token expression among friends, my most used word during the discovery years of youth. Even my grandmother from her nursing home bed said I was an aspiring philosopher, and another friend, I forget who, called me philosopher Ron. I remember getting punched in the cheek during a flash rumble and turning back to face my opponent to ask him “why, why did you just do that?”
My curiosity was most always human related. I certainly was not (am not) full of wonder, like a child asking, “what is the grass?” Unlike my practical teenaged friends, I didn’t care to know how a car engine worked, or how to attach a door to its jamb. But I was concerned about human behavior. Why did my friend Kyle kick me in the balls just to show off to an older kid he wanted to impress? Why did Rich, the neglected suburban child-poet, decide that dairy farming beheld a bright future? Why did I end up being such an underachieving hoodlum when I wanted to be a forest ranger and had such a healthy lust for sports? Etcetera.
As I grew older, I pushed further with the whys. My first “A” in college was a class in sociology, above a “D” in calculus, and a “C” in accounting. Regrettably, I remained a business major for two more years until my first history elective. Then “whack”! The “whys” had it. I changed majors, truly excited was I to find the answers that history provided. No gray area in hindsight. Kennedy slept with lots of women while he determined the fate of earth with nuclear testings. Hoover was an incompetent bully buffoon who swore that MLK was a communist because, according to that pasty-faced idiot, all black people who had cultural and political thoughts must be communist.
Of course, reading history only inflamed the “whys”. I read literature, seeking more answers. Kurt Vonnegut was a “why” man. Slaughterhouse 5 would lose all of its charm (and sales), but not much of its meaning, if Vonnegut published the word “why” on one page, and left it at that.
From literature, to psychology, and finally back to sociology. Stanley Milgram discovered more than an innate penchant for humanity to follow the leader. He unknowingly discovered the presence of a justice gene. That is my hypothesis anyway, and genetic research might not be too far off confirming it. For those not familiar with his work, Milgram ran tests at Yale in 1961 to determine how it was possible for thousands of ordinary Germans to carry out the holocaust. Read about his experiment. It alone has answered so many local and national “whys” for me. The potential of power and propaganda to shape public opinion is greater than the individual ability to think for oneself. All forty participants in his study put 300 volts (also labeled “Extreme Intensity Shock”) into an actor because he was failing a word game, and the man wearing the lab coat in the electrocution room told them to proceed. From the other room the actor was crying out that he had enough, stop the experiment. 26 of the 40 took this torture up to 450 volts (past “Danger: Severe Shock”), several jolts after the actor went silent in the next room.
I believe that had Milgram tested a thousand people instead of forty, at least one would have stopped the moment an “ouch” was heard from the adjoining room. The other 999 would match similar results from the original 40 tested. That unfortunate person would possess what I call “the justice gene”. I also surmise that testing reticent teenagers would have skewed his results and shown more justice genes as a group; even more so among populations of Native Americans. I cannot imagine 26 out of 40 reservation Navajo juicing to death another Navajo because some goofy dude in a white coat told them to.
Anyway, to the painting.
I have that justice gene. It expressed itself as the ever present “why” when I was a boy. I know of it now while listening to National Propaganda Radio. The latter has contracted with America’s Natural Gas Alliance to promote its agenda in exchange for the minds of the last hold out Americans. Their campaign is called “Think About It”, and its sole purpose is to normalize the potential disaster of hydrofracking among those who feel themselves sophisticated enough to listen to the man in the lab coat tell them how to think at any hour of the day. NPR and America’s Natural Gas Alliance know that the game will be won, that it’s just a matter of time. Every day I feel like the one in a thousand who wasn’t asked to participate in the Milgram obedience experiment. By this, I also believe that any employee of NPR, and by association, my local public radio station, daily administers an “Extreme Intensity Shock” to his or her neighbor. None of them have ever asked why. They wait to be told what to say, and they broadcast it over the airwaves to a 100,000 people.
So Sonny Tupaj, upon meeting up again 30 years late, address me now with the great and unnecessary interrogative “why?”.
And here is my answer: Because I know in my heart of hearts, that without the presence of a justice gene, you my old friend, would fry me in a chair if the radio, television or the President told you to. I know that the propagandists know exactly what they are doing. Media programming has one universal agenda, whether it be Rupert Murdoch’s Fox TV, the New York Times, or geographically significant “little” WRVO the public radio station. Their programming is meant to program you. Your thoughts are not your thoughts.
Or Sonny, today you may be a fan of pretend right wing talk radio. Say, Rush Limbaugh, who is NPR heavy as the latter is light on Limbaugh. He doesn’t like anti-frackers either. He wants jobs too. There is no talk of Clean Energy Acts on his show, nor the effects of benzene in the water, or mile long 1-inch thick cement casings that need to hold their structure forever, even after the hundred mini-earthquakes have rattled its integrity. You will never hear of paid for in-your-face media stories on the dangers of hydrofracking. Both Rush and NPR forbid it. If you get any information, it will include both side’s issues of a manufactured debate. Turn on the radio to hear a well engineer talk of the dangers of hydrofracking, or a scientific explanation of half-life testings of fracking chemicals, and leave it at that? Never. All those guys have been obediently electrocuted. Silenced by the obedient assistants to the man in the white lab coat.