RW127 - You’re Just Marching

This week, Dan and John talk about:

  • Learning a song for a Frightened Rabbit cover (Shows and Events)
  • ACL, opening of Mohawk in Austin, documentary film crew (Career)
  • Taking John’s podcasts out of context (Podcasting)
  • Being able to discuss any kind of topic (Podcasting)
  • Kshama Sawant alienating the unions as a Socialist (Politics)
  • The future of the Show Box (Politics)
  • Dan’s view on politics (Dan Benjamin)
  • Being a parrot vs having a founded political opinion (Politics)
  • Can we get rid of the police? (Politics)

The show title refers to people who just repeat other people's political opinion, who are just foot soldiers who are just marching.

John has a cold and Dan wants to bring him some homemade soup with some Matzah balls. John likes those because they have health in it, but it is a normal common cold and no worrying is necessary.

For Dan, nothing has really happened. Things change and either they come back to the way they were or sometimes they don’t. It is a relaxed day, kind of rainy, and ACL (Austin City Limits Music Festival) is coming up.

Dan’s kids like John’s songs a lot and they say that those songs are really good! Dan is playing them on the weekends when they are driving around and they keep asking him if he really knows John.

They shortly talk about the Patreon Bonus Content and ask people to sign up. The restriction of having to pay for a thing weeds out the lookyloos.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

Learning a song for a Frightened Rabbit cover (RW127)

John has an event tonight where he has to play a song, but he hasn’t rehearsed it yet, which is usually what happens. 1.5 weeks ago he told himself not to be that guy he always is who doesn’t rehearse the song until the last minute, but here he is, having done it again! After recording this episode, John has to mow his lawn, he has to learn a song and he has to do an event. There is a huge difference between a song like ”Are you going to be my girl?” by whatever that Australian band is (called Jet) that basically has one riff and one lyric. John could learn that song in the middle of the podcast. It is 11:20am now and the show starts at 6:30pm, so John has at least until the evening. He doesn’t really know anybody else’s songs very well and playing one of his own songs wouldn’t really be in the spirit of the event.

The song John is learning is by a band called Frightened Rabbit and it has a lot of impressionistic non-story-telling lyrics, like John’s lyrics, and it is written over a chord progression that is pretty simple but obtuse, meaning it doesn’t have very many chords, but the chords turn around on each other in non-obvious ways, which is again similar to the way John writes songs. The vocal melody is not super-hooky, but the vocals tease around, sometimes he does this or that, there is not a ton of ”Oh, you gonna be my girl!”, which he sings 15 times, but he winds his way through this 5 minute song. To learn this song in an afternoon is a huge undertaking because all the things you would grab onto, like ”Okay, we are coming back around to this and I already know to do that so I will just do it again”, it doesn’t have any of that. You basically have to memorize 5 straight minutes where something different happens every second.

Being totally unprepared is John’s reputation. Enough people in the entertainment business have asked him to do a thing and he arrived without a guitar and without knowing the songs. Dan brings up an earlier event where Aimee Mann channelled a song to him on stage and it was a spiritual experience (actually it was Fiona Apple, the story is in RW3). Aimee and John have an on-stage connection, and John is not 100% sure whether it is unique between them or whether Aimee has developed this over the course of her career. She blesses people with it, but John has seen her perform with other people and he does’t necessarily see her do it with everybody.

When John and Aimee are playing together and they look at each other while they are singing, it is do sometimes with the fact that they haven’t rehearsed very much and she is very good at watching. They are not signaling to each other, but by watching each other they are able to be in sync with one another because if you are watching somebody you see the music coming out of them and you put your music out of you at the same time. It is so much easier than if you are not watching somebody. Being on stage with Aimee is extremely comfortable. Today nobody is going to be on stage with John and he is just going to be standing up and it is going to be broadcast live on the radio. It is a memorial service for the singer, so John can’t just slap-dash it. Aimee Mann lost her toe in The Big Lebowski, which is pretty cool. It is cool when people get to do nice things.

ACL, opening of Mohawk in Austin, documentary film crew (RW127)

John has played at ACL one time during the dust years around 2006 or 2007 when it was 102 degrees (39 °C). Dan’s producer Haddie was there that year. It was so hot on stage that John became super-dehydrated and later that evening they had to play the first night opening of the Mohawk Club who had two shows: One of them by The Long Winters and one by Ghostland Observatory. Halfway through their show at Mohawk John got an incredible headache where he couldn’t open his eyes anymore, but he had an hour more of show to play and he just sang through this splitting headache. It was the only time that ever happened, because John doesn’t usually get any headaches. Of course, singing doesn’t help a headache!

At that festival there was also a film crew trying to make a documentary about The Long Winters. They followed them around to get all this footage, which was fine, but they took a very aggressive approach to what being a documentary film crew is. They were crowning people out of the way and they were backstage with their cameras. There are 100 bands at ACL and everybody is a Rock star who has worked on 1000 shows, so it was very awkward for John to be up there with this crazy film crew where he was walking and the camera was in front of him backing up with somebody behind that spooling the cable and holding lights. What were those guys doing? This was not a documentary approach, but more like they making a movie. Where was Richard Attenborough?

They were trying to follow John around the entire day at ACL even after their show and get all this footage of John interacting with the Drive-By Truckers or John just hanging out, but John very quickly got super-tired of it. At one point he got into a golf-cart with some runner and told him to drive as fast as they can. The film crew were chasing them across the grounds, milling around, it was a big hot dust-storm day, but John kept telling the runners where to go and they finally ditched them. It was a full-on car chase! John never saw any of that footage and he never heard from them again, it was one of these ”Well, that didn’t work out!” John doesn’t want to be the subject of a movie when it is super-embarrassing to be the subject of that movie. It felt like he had committed a crime and this was some investigative news team.

Taking John’s podcasts out of context (RW127)

In the early days of Roderick on the Line Merlin and John were pretty unguarded and said some things that later got perverted and put up on people’s Facebook pages during John’s election campaign. It didn’t gain any traction with the larger world, but a couple of people on Facebook made it their special mission to be against John’s candidacy and they took excerpts from Roderick on the Line out of context and certainly out of the context of the whole show. John felt betrayed by that because it ultimately came from members of the community who had listened to the show and who knew where to find it that stuff. They also knew it was the type of thing they could pervert for politics.

When John and Merlin were doing that show they were assuming that everybody had listened to every single episode and knew exactly what was in Merlin’s and John’s hearts. Every once in a while people just put on an episode without having any context for it and they listen for 30 minutes and find it awful because Merlin or John express an opinion that sounds shocking, but that makes sense within the context of the show.

Being able to discuss any kind of topic (RW127)

When Dan and John started doing the After Dark thing for their Patreon-supporters, they didn’t discuss what it would be, just that they would respond to viewer mail, but their viewers tend to send questions that engage bigger issues like drugs, suicide, relationships and it is all exactly the kind of stuff where John feels somewhat inhibited talking super-candidly on a podcast that is just broadcasting on an open stream, because of the potential of ”You need to hear what this guy says about suicide!” and then 50 people from the suicide committee who have never listened to the show before, but who have very strong feelings about how other people talk about suicide, all listen to a 10 minute long excerpt and then John becomes the poster child of the latest flamewar from a special interest group.

If you have to pay to hear this special thing, then the whole premise is that anybody who is over there is not there for bad reasons. Nobody from the suicide league is probably going to pay $5 a month to go over there. John and Dan have covered a lot of ground, like last week (see RW126) there was a Millennium asking about a lot of their friends not wanting to have kids. They spoke pretty frankly about it and they got two very short letters from somebody who was really offended and defensive about it, which is part of the problem of talking more directly about things.

We are culturally very reluctant to directly advance a point of view that is critical of an opposing point of view that is about things that in other contexts are used as political footballs. We do so much tip-toeing now! You don’t want to talk about Pokémon, because they are very popular with people and you better couch that into a bunch of different ameliorating, mitigating language because you sure don’t want a bunch of Pokémon fans descending on you about the way you pronounce the word Pokémon.

They were talking about the fact that the decision to have kids has never been a decision before. We think of it as the prime example of modern freedom and choice and how we have been liberated from biology and religion, because now we can choose to have a kid, but through all of human history having a kid was almost always an accident. You could have sex 50 times and not have a kid or you could have a kid the first time you ever had sex. The randomness is intrinsic to having a kid and introducing reliable choice into it has created a weird relationship to parenting and to whatever the idea of mutual culture is that we all share. It feels like a political topic, although it is not, but it is a biological observation.

The person who wrote in felt very much like they were saying things that hurt them. Who could you make any kind of judgement other than to say that it is the person’s choice? No-one else can make any kind of comment on that whatsoever! It is the primary source of our personal agency and there is no room for anyone to say a fucking word because you are immediately trotting on the abortion rights ground, religious spiritual grounds or feminist grounds. Everybody has claimed every inch of that space and you don’t just lackadaisically wander in there and start talking about it, but of course you still have to be able to talk about everything!

In this world we are in now you can't let factions claim all the ground making it impossible to have conversations about things unless you are standing firmly on one side of a debate or unless you have chosen your side and you are ready to fight for it. That kind of hyper-partisanship about every single thing is super-boring, super-counterproductive, spirit-killing and anti-intellectual. You have to be super-confident to wade into those spaces and not stake out a position, but the fact that you do not feel confident is precisely what would make you want to wander around in that space. It should be a place for people where they don't have to be brave, but are able to say ”What if this? Have you ever considered that angle?” It inhibits our ability as people in the world and it inhibits people trying to build a better world. Political factions are happy to carve out those battle field, exclude people from those conversations and politicize everything.

It surprises John how much their behind-their-Patreon-wall place feels just a little bit safer as a place to bounce around. The response from people has been really positive except for this latest incidence where they talked about the choice of having children and what that really entails. The original question was what John thinks about that and they both talked about it from a personal standpoint rather than policy or what they think the law should be. That is very fraught!

John wants this episode be a little peak behind that Patreon curtain. There was a letter asking Dan specifically about his politics. Maybe the fact that this is not on the backside of the paywall will inhibit Dan a little bit from speaking completely freely, but let’s find out. Most people who have Patreons feel really pressured to provide additional content: At this level you get a pin, at this level you get a foot massage, at the next level they will come and dye your hair. On an unscripted podcast like this where they are really personal, people are not just paying for the additional value, but it is also crowd-funding their whole show. Initially they put up their Patreon just for their show and people helped, but a lot more people are coming onboard now because they feel like they are getting something extra.

Kshama Sawant alienating the unions as a Socialist (RW127)

Kshama Sawant is a city council person in Seattle who is a member of the socialist party. For a long time she was the most prominent and avowed member of the Socialists in the country. When she was first elected she did great work at radicalizing the Seattle city council and giving voice to the frustrated leftist 15% of the Seattle electorate. People like John and everybody he knows really threw behind her! She shook things up and it was exciting. She passed the first $15 per hour minimum wage.

Subsequent to that she stopped being a very effective legislator because like a lot of politically radical people she just set herself against the status quo in every way, not really proposing any legislation that she was going to get passed, but everything she did was symbolic. She became a symbolic figurehead for a movement, she is still very popular with her most engaged supporters, and it doesn’t seem like she is at risk of losing her seat on the council, but the majority of people in the city who supported her initially started to feel like she went too far.

Most pronouncedly she alienated the unions. Seattle is a union-town with old-school liberals and has been from the very beginning. Longshoremen’s union, carpenter’s union, and teamster’s union are big parts of what have made Seattle a democratic city and in the old liberal model you can’t have leftism without union-engagement. It is part of the coalition. You can’t put a leftist government in power that doesn’t make common cause with other people. There are parliaments in Europe where some greens, some socialists and some mainstream Christian democrats got elected and nobody has a majority, so they all have to make deals with each other to put together a voting block that will give them a majority.

This is how it has to work in American politics, too! You put a coalition together to have enough people and the unions are a major part of that. They are working people, but these days they tend to be a little bit more conservative and are no longer allied with the international workers of the world. They have much more the values of your average middle class Americans and Kshama alienated them because she is a revolutionary who is going to fight development. Development is exactly who employs union workers, this is where steel workers have jobs, but she says she is not going to listen to them. She is very effective on capitol hill.

Kshama's constituency is 100% middle class service industry people, software people or people who work in the arts or in clubs. Nobody on capitol hill works with sheet metal or with a hammer, but she basically blew the minds of the traditional left around: How can she claim to be a socialist, but not work with the unions? What Kshama is great at is when you introduce a topic into any discussion, when you show up at the city council with any kind of movement or concern, if she sees that you have people behind you, she can chose to be on your side and co-opt you into her sphere. She sees the world divided with these very hard lines: Here is the left, here is the right, here is the truth, here is the lie.

The future of the Show Box (RW127)

The Show Box is a club in Seattle that is at risk right now (see article here or here) because developers bought the property and have proposed to build a 30-story high-rise on the site. This legendary Rock club is ground zero for John, his band, and his culture. All the people who work there are John’s friends and have always been his friends. He saw every band in the world there: He saw Prince, Paul Simon and Soundgarden play there, but he also played there dozens of times in various capacities, as The Long Winters or the Western State Hurricanes. John has also played shows with almost all of his friends there, he has done comedy shows and political rallies, it is home base! The developers don’t care. They bought this property from somebody who sold it to them. It is right across the street from Pike Place Market, the perfect place to put a 30-story condo building from a capitalist standpoint, from an urbanist standpoint and from a lot of standpoints in terms of changing times.

We don’t care about all those arguments, but we don’t want to lose our clubhouse! Ella Fitzgerald has played there, it is not just some punk rock bar that they built and don’t want to lose, but it was one of the small clubs at the heart of the city and to lose it would make Seattle a shallower place. None of those arguments are especially convincing to the world of people who build buildings, who levy taxes, and who talk about professional sports teams or tourism. All of the concerns about losing this club have to do with the spirit of a city and the cultural life of a city, those are not particularly convincing arguments to people who have never been to that club, The club can hold 1300 people and is an exclusive place that doesn’t serve the larger population of the city any more than a big expensive condo building does. It is a cultural space for a very small group of people.

Because it is our place, it politically activated a bunch of musicians in town, people who normally sit back and go ”Politics is all bullshit, man!” When that Rock’n’Roll crowd gets a thing like this, they are like ”Oh, fuck! You can’t take away the Show Box! That’s bullshit!”, and all of a sudden there are shows and rallies and T-shirts and ”Save our Show Box” John doesn’t mean to mock it because these are his people, but they are typically not political and they don’t know how political things work.

They haven’t given any thought to what happens when cities grow and billions of dollars are at stake and all the developers are scrambling for real estate. In a city like Seattle, the city council, which is very activist, is constantly trying to channel development, force it to do things, limit it here and allow it there under all these rules, but over the last 50 years they have done an incredibly shitty job of actually accomplishing their goals. They have put height limits on things in order to create a livable neighborhood, but what heigh limits do is to spread development out.

People in the surrounding neighborhoods who don’t want development encroaching will then complain that they don’t want that there and: Why wouldn’t you make the height limits higher so that we could concentrate it around core areas? They would charge developers a fee to have the height limits go up or force them to rent 20% of that housing at subsidized rates, but the developers will go ”No thanks!” The city council is always playing catch-up, it is always reactionary, it is never thinking how development of the city could be part of a holistic plan.

There is always some rule that is supposed to punish rich people and it never works because rich people aren’t dumb. You can't just impose some socialist rule on them and they go ”Oh, okay, jeez, sorry, we are happy to pay our share, we just never knew!”, but rich people are just having their lawyer drop a document that has a workaround because you didn’t think about everything and they are going to go ahead with their plan anyway, "Go screw yourselves!" That is the constant battle between progressive politicians and aggressive capitalism.

There was a big rally at the Seattle city council about The Show Box and all of John’s Rock’n’Roll people went down there, most of them had never been to city hall, and all the leather jackets and asymmetrical haircuts and dirty eyeliners filed into the city council room. Ben Gibbard was leading the charge and they got up and said that they want to save The Show Box and want it zoned as a historic building. They want it to be protected and here is why. It is part of the cultural life of the city, but most of the people on the city council are like ”Mhmm, great, thanks for coming in! It is great to see all these cool jackets and stuff, which is better than a normal day that is pretty boring.” Politicians love that there are so many famous people there and they love that attention.

Kshama decided that this was her cause, too, because it is against developers and against big money capitalism. For the most part the Rock people don’t care about that, but they are generally against big money people wherever they are from and they like to bemoan change. Kshama waded into this Rock group and started to get chants going, like ”Save. Our. Show Box!” and the Rock people are ”Yeah, we are in politics now! Save. Our. Show Box!” and then Kshama was like ”Democratic Socialism now!” and the Rock people are like ”Democratic Socialism now! What?”

With a true political gift, she immediately turned their rally into her rally. With all these ”Save our Show Box”-people in there she was raising her fist saying ”Power to the workers!” They were repeating it with enthusiasm, but they have no idea that this has nothing to do with saving the Show Box or any of the things they care about. She got all these cool, beautiful Rock people chanting her socialist political slogans and at the end of the event, she had gathered all of the energy onto herself and had turned the entire thing into something that elevated her, her profile and her platform.

She has never been in the Show Box and she doesn’t give two good god-damns about Rock’n’Roll or anything to do with it, but it is politically advantageous to her to oppose every single development in the city that is not explicitly low-income housing. John got asked by a lot of the Rock people what this was all about and why they were all shouting ”Workers of the world unite!” John was like: ”Well, welcome to politics!” She did a wonderful job of taking that political but confused space where people were saying they don’t know anything about city politics or land use or capitalism, but they just wanted to save their personal place. Kshama said ”Great, that makes you a democratic socialist!” She knew her borders and she felt like she had just collected 2000 new voters. There is just nowhere for people to throw ideas around without other people going ”I cannot believe you just said that!” - ”Well, I didn’t advocate for it, I just said it!”

Dan’s view on politics (RW127)

I wonder if you guys might be willing to discuss something that I have felt is an elephant in the room frequently on the many shows I listen to that Dan is on. I would also like to hear John’s take. I think it is fair to say that most podcast personalities in the circle of shows in this orbit, i.e. Merlin, Siracusa, Marco, the Relay-folks, Do by Friday, All The Great Shows, are unabashedly liberal in their political views. However, from the many hours I have listened to of Roadwork and Back to Work, it seems like Dan may not agree with this. When some liberal ideas are discussed, often at length, as a listener it seems like there is palpable silence from Dan and on the very few occasions that this subject has come up, Dan has perhaps subtly intimated that he does not agree with liberal philosophy. I don’t find this scandalous, I find it generally interesting, because it seems like the default today in this climate from the type of people who are podcasters.

Dan, would you be willing to address this topic and outline your beliefs and opinions on political and social issues that may not be in agreement with most people in this group, and if I am not off-base here, to discuss what it is like to work in an orbit where everyone around you is unabashedly liberal and to be otherwise can sometimes feel like you could be sneered at? I can’t really put a finger on why, but this has just really fascinated me over the history of listening to All The Great Shows and I think it would be a really fascinating subject to hear you both expound upon. If I’m off base here, then I would also be interested to hear you talk about it anyway. Is it a fact that people may think this about you? Let me assure you, this comes from a real place of curiosity. I’m not trying to do a gotcha, or anything. I listen to you guys on various shows, probably during more than half my waking hours and respect you both immensely, it would just be nice to hear Dan talk about his personal believes for a change. — Dan from New York.

Dan is not unabashedly anything when it comes to his political stance on things. Dan does not talk about politics as a general rule. He has his own thoughts and opinions and his own philosophies which do not align with any particular party. Dan finds himself on many issues, social issues for example, to be very liberal, and yet he has some other viewpoints that would fall into conservative and a lot that are in between. He has never taken any of those tests that tells you what you are if you are not sure. He is registered as independent, he never talks about who he voted for and not even his wife knows who he voted for in any election ever. Dan and his wife talk about anything, but this is one thing he just doesn’t talk about.

Does that lead to suspicion that he must be a Trump-supporter? Dan is not! But he is also not unabashedly liberal and he is not sure exactly where he would fall. The closest political party he has ever found that would fit are libertarian, but he doesn’t know how that would work in the real world with a libertarian president. If every single person cares about the world and pays attention to personal liberty and respects other people, then libertarianism would be great, but the reality is that a lot of people don’t. To be saying that you are libertarian is to be saying that you are not really anything because we have yet to see how this really works in practice. Dan doesn’t know how to answer the question other than to have John bring up issues and Dan sharing his stance on them.

Dan does not think of himself as a political person, but he does pay attention to politics because especially local politics can have a dramatic effect on things he cares about in his town. He cares a lot about local elections because it effects what kind of amenities his kids have at their school. That is really important in ways it never used to be before he was a parent or a homeowner. Dan does not think of things in political terms and nobody who knows him has ever had a discussion about politics with him because he simply doesn’t bring it up, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about it. Dan does not look at the world through a lens that involves politics in any way, but he certainly looks at the world through a lens that involves science, Buddhism or Judaism. Politics is a side issue and while Dan is capable of putting on that hat and looking at things in that way, it is not a natural place or state for him to be.

Whenever Dan’s co-hosts express opinions that are pretty directly liberal and Dan listens attentively or patiently, but doesn’t chime in on it, what is his take on the idea that most of his co-hosts share a political sensibility?

Dan is fascinated by people. He loves talking to people and he loves listening to people, otherwise he would be a pretty crappy podcast-host, but he is open to pretty anybody’s reasonable opinion. There is that expression ”Strong opinions loosely held”, which is an interesting take and Dan tries to look at the world in a way that is as open-minded as he can be. He doesn’t always do a good job of that, but he tries really hard to be open-minded and when he is listening to somebody who is talking about something, he is not sitting there thinking ”OMG, this guy is such an idiot, I can’t believe he thinks that!”, but he often comes away from it thinking that he now knows more about how this person feels. Either it bolstered his own opinion on the topic or he comes away having learned something about a perspective that he didn’t have before.

More often than not, it is not something that Dan had thought about or considered deeply or it is not something he has a strong opinion on. The listeners will know if he has an opinion on something because he usually doesn’t hold back on it. He also does his best to be honest with himself about how his opinion fits into reality. For example: We have no proof of UFOs or Big Foot, but Dan is fascinated about those things and he absolutely believes that things like that could have happened or do happen, and Dan is curious about it. He doesn’t talk about it a lot, because then people will judge him for it.

If he would do a show on conspiracy theory stuff, people would call him a total conspiracy theorist, a crazy and a crackpot. Dan doesn’t believe in all of that stuff, but he wants to understand our world and everybody’s perspective, because he doesn’t believe that he is right, something that is foreign to a lot of people. If you were to ask people if they think they are right, they would say ”Yes, I’m right about that!” because it is what they think. Dan constantly questions what he thinks, his own conclusions and the whole world!

What is Dan’s feeling about the people who listen to the shows who are not leftists? There are listeners who enjoy the world of podcasting, the banter and the mental acuity of the people in Dan’s orbit or the Siracusas and the Marcos. They like to talk around technology, they like a lot of the talk, but when it gets political they don’t share that politics and yet they are able to listen anyway. In order to talk about something in the way that a lot of podcasters do, you have to believe 3 things:

  1. You are right and you know something and you are willing to talk about that thing you know.
  2. You think that your audience is onboard and along with you.
  3. If that is not the case, then you have to not care.

None of these things are true for Dan, especially on political issues. Dan might believe that dogs are horrible, nobody should own a dog, and all dog-owners are irresponsible and ignorant, but if he says that, he is insulting every single dog-owner in the audience and they will not want to listen to this guy anymore because he is stupid and their dog is different! Dan would never say something like that, not only for this reason, but also because he has limited exposure to dogs. All the dogs he has ever been exposed to have been incredibly annoying and have had owners who have been really ignorant. That is his experience, but it is not always that way and he is aware that there could be exceptions. Dan knows that he can’t broadcast a statement like that and think he knows what he is talking about, because he doesn’t!

A lot of people will talk about a political issue believing they are right, but Dan doesn’t think that things are that absolute. He is very open-minded, he reacts to each issue individually and there is no platform or party that does a good job combining all of those different believes and philosophies under one roof. When Dan is quiet while listening to somebody, then he is really listening to them and he is considering what they are saying and he is applying it to the things that he thinks about or the things he believes in.

Dan didn’t like any of the candidates in the most recent election and he can’t think of a time when he did like any of them ever, which either makes him really smart or really stupid. He has voted in every single election he could vote in and it is important to him and it means something to him, but he usually has to pick a candidate who embodies as many of the things he cares about. If there are 10 issues important to Dan and one candidate has 7 of them and the other has 6, he votes for the one who has 7.

Dan’s grandparents were Democrats and it didn’t matter who the candidate was, they were still Democrats. That was it! Growing up without having a dad around for most of his life, Dan’s grandfather was his main father figure. He was super-cool, he was a metallurgist, he worked with the government during WWII doing armor for tanks and his approach to the world was a very scientific one, which didn’t mean he wasn’t religious, because he was. Dan tried his very best to learn and to emulate his grandfather's way to look at the world, because it gave him a balanced perspective on the world. He went go into a situation with a beginner's mind (as it is called in Buddhism), which means he approached every situation as if it was something new or novel. You can have believes and ideas, but let’s listen and learn and see what is going on!

Dan thinks there should be more of that and he tries really hard to do that. He doesn’t walk to a situation, especially one of politics, with any heavy restriction on what he can be open-minded to. A lot of the things that other people are ready to say are bad things, or they say that people shouldn’t believe that, which is an attitude that is very prevalent right now. There are people with all kinds of crazy believes out there, but those believes are crazy to Dan, not crazy to them. There are people who believe that dogs make good pets and Dan can’t argue with that, although it doesn’t work for him, but it works for them.

People like John have fairly strong opinions about many of these issues because John spent a great deal of time thinking about them and coming to these conclusions based on his own personal experiences and what he has learned in his life. Dan is very fascinated to hear that and he loves to listen to that and to hear what people think and why. That absolutely does affect him! When Dan is quiet, the reason is usually that he is listening and thinking, and it does neither imply dissent nor agreement. It is very easy not to share what he thinks about those issues because they are generally things he doesn’t talk about, not even to his closest friends and family. Not because he is afraid to say it, but because it is personal and whenever he has talked about it in the past, he has almost never been in full agreement with anyone ever. Dan learned the hard way that people can get very upset when you talk to them about something they believe strongly if you don’t agree with them and it is not worth losing friends over that kind of thing.

A lot of people have the expectation that Dan would just be waiting for his turn to say how true something was, that kind of group-think or pile-on think that happens in politics so much now where you use the same tone of voice as if you would disagree with someone, but you agree 100%. Dan is more patient and he is a good audience, which might also leave some space open for their listeners who don’t have that same conviction and who aren’t sitting there ”Yes, and…” or ”Yes, but…”, but who are ”I don’t know about all that!” John thinks that the approach of listening to people who go on rants or who feel very strongly is probably a net-positive.

Being a parrot vs having a founded political opinion (RW127)

There are people who have really strong political believes but haven’t spend any time reading or living a life in politics, people who have strong feelings or restricted their media consumption to such a degree that they only hear voices and opinions from within a narrow and self-reinforcing community of people. They are just parroting other people and it is not coming from a place of a lot of information.

John makes a real clear distinction between those people as opposed to somebody like Max Temkin who has spent a lifetime in politics as John has. He grew up in a very political home, thinks about things through a political lens, has a very broad media base, is not just reading things that agree with him, and he absolutely can hear the other side, appreciate it, take it into consideration and formulate his liberal opinion about it, not from a Knee Jerk perspective, but from a perspective of someone who is ”Huh, yeah, I can see where you are coming from, but…” If somebody like that goes on a political jibe, they have something to teach you!

John feels the same way about people he disagrees with profoundly if they are not just shouting into the wind, but if they say ”Here is why…” and they are not just referencing documents across a broad spectrum, but people who have come before us and economic rationale. For example the issue of developing Downtown Seattle: If you can’t see the perspective of the developer in it, then you are 100% a partisan and a foot soldier. Listening to foot soldiers talking about politics isn’t interesting, but it is like walking among the troops and hear what they think about the strategy of the war.

They got a lot of opinions and they are shouting them all as loud as they can, they are pounding their chest, but those guys are just marching. If you are not able to look at politics strategically, if you are not thinking about it holistically, if you don’t have a basis in history, if you don’t understand or at least have read a little about economics, you can’t just look at politics through the lens of sociology. If you are sociologist, that is wonderful, practice sociology, but as soon as you are in politics, you have to know a lot more about stuff to be taken seriously or for John to care.

One of the things that has made Twitter such a shit-hole is that everybody is a expert in politics, but they are all definitely not! Not at all! They are parrots, they are soldiers, and they feel very strongly that they are soldiers, but they also think that they are philosophers or that they somehow thought about these ideas themselves that they read in someone else’s tweet and that they are now shouting about. Some thing resonated with them and now they are the world’s leading expert on it and if you challenge them or even ask a question about it, they are immediately defensive because they don’t know what they are saying. They may not be wrong, but they just don’t know what they are saying. If you ask ”What about this?”, they are ”No! You either agree with me or you are a Nazi!”

Can we get rid of the police? (RW127)

A kid wrote John on Twitter yesterday because John had mocked a candidate for Seattle’s orality who advocated for no police. They thought that there absolutely should be no police. John asked back What replaces the police? and they said ”With nothing. They provide no actual useful service.” John replied that there were 900.000 calls to 911 in Seattle last year, while the entire city has a population of 725.000 people, which is not any more than anywhere else. Some of those calls are by people calling 911 inappropriately, but every single day thousands of people have the need to call 911 for 100 reasons other than just car prowling. The police does a lot of things! John tried really hard not to do what he would have done a year ago which is just reply ”You are a child!”, but instead he asked where he would direct those calls.

Even if you consider half of those calls illegitimate, you are still saying that 450.000 different times that people needed help, it is just part of the new reality that there is no-one to call? It is crazy, but that is one of the tenants of a radical wing of the New Left and it is not the first time John has heard it. A woman who ran for Seattle’s mayor and said that publicly. Later she corrected herself and said that she was speaking hyperbolically, but she was speaking to a base of voters in Seattle who agree that we should just eliminate the police.

Maybe John is some kind of dinosaur who doesn’t understand that in the heart of all living humans there is a soul of beauty that only wants to live free and if you only eliminated the police, everyone would suddenly feel a sense of fraternity with one another. There would be no strive, because the strive is happening only in reaction to the police. Only the militarization and the violence culture creates this violence and without it, the grass would grow up through the cracks in the pavement, flowers would bloom, the war would stop and it is as simple as that: You start at the top, you eliminate the army and the police and you disallow capitalism, and from that all other beauty just blooms forth. Maybe John is the crazy one who doesn’t understand the basic truth of that, but based on his reading that seems less likely than that we need someone to answer those 911 calls.

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