“Armageddon Wine Bar” 2010. Mixed Media
2nd installment to essay book published in 2015. I am making an artist run for U.S. Congress in 2018, and am getting my name known to voters. My district’s current representative, John Katko (24th NY), wants to pump chemical water into the ground to extract natural gas. He must not understand how the process works, for if he were a true republican purporting property rights of individual, he would know how the process of fracking shoots its filth pressure across subterranean boundaries. Fred down the road doesn’t get paid for Bob’s dirty, leased trespass. Well, I am running as an independent who, if elected, will never allow a corporate lobbyist into my office. And I won’t answer the phone unless it’s a single caller representing a single person from my district. I bet most of them want clean water to drink, and hydrofracking benefits Texas corporations and senators and congresspeople seeking mafia money for reelection.
2014. Acrylic on canvas, 54 x 42″
Divide and conquer. Offer a new John Deere to my namby-Bambi warrior neighbor and why should he care if a speculum was affixed to the mouths of every child outside his six acres, and toluene poured down their gullible gullets? He got his new tractor. That’s good enough for him. German Hans got to keep his assembly line job at the plant too back in ’44 as long as he didn’t complain about the chain gang of Polish slaves in the steel yard. Outside his sleepy village a smokestack exhaled overtime a peculiar smell that only rumor could define, but thought better left unsaid. Anyway Christmas was coming, and that kind of horror exposed would dampen the children’s spirits.
New York State is poised to allow massive injections of benzene into the subterranean world which encases our ground water. Sometimes art and politics must mix else we do nothing but order coffee, watch Netflix, and wait for the dirty urban trend-setters to inform us ignorant country mice on taste, ad nauseum.
The gas lobbyist knows this game well. Copied right out of the play book of the coal and oil magnates. Bring the local idiot a six-pack. After the second beer start praising his ignorance. Say something like deer hunting is a man thing to do and only sissies would think about the purity of their drinking water. Get him to laugh about prejudice or bigotry, pretend rage at the “liberals” in Washington who want to regulate progress, tell him how much you admire his countryman thinking and of course global warming can’t be true if it ever snows. Get out the contract. Tell him the money prize. Look how stern and concentrated his thoughts while signing his name with your leader’s golden pen.
Thank him toughly. Get into your rented F350. Drive over to the hotel holding your stack of signed contracts. Dress into your oxford shirt and BMW. Turn on satellite radio, and drive back home to wife and kids whom you love deeply.
Back home to any German town 1944.
2015. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36″
Without The Presence of a Justice Gene, Public Radio Will Have a Strong Corporate Bias
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 teenage friends, I didn’t care to know how a car engine worked, or how to attach a door to its jamb. However, 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. 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 Hoover’s official federal psychosis, all black people who had cultural and political thoughts could only be communist.
Of course, reading history just 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 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 I believe 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 100,000 people.
So Sonny Tupaj, upon meeting up again 30 years late, please ask me “Why… why Ron, why?”
Because I fear in my heart of hearts dear Sonny, 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 broadcast by 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 provide both side’s issues of a manufactured debate. Yet 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 smart guys have been obediently electrocuted. Silenced by the man in the white lab coat.