RW135 - John Went to LA and Didn’t Tell Me!

This week, Dan and John talk about:

  • John’s take on religion and purpose (Religion)
  • Feeling responsibility for her grandfather, a POW in a camp (Generations)
  • Listener comments (Podcasting)
  • Marxism is just one way to see the world (Politics)

The show title refers to the fact that John went to Los Angeles to go to Nabil's wedding and didn’t tell Dan about it, so Dan couldn’t record a show:

Hi, it's Dan! We are doing something a little different this week and I wanted to tell you about it. Surprise! I just found out that John is in Los Angeles this week, so that means we weren't able to record a regular episode for you. Fortunately though we had recorded a nice long bonus episode we had intended to release as usual to our Patreon supporters. Instead, with the spirit of the holidays in mind, John had suggested that we just release it to everyone. So what you are about to hear is the latest episode of our secret Patreon-only show, the only difference is that this particular episode has sponsors in it because it is filling in for the regular episode, but our normal Patreon supported episodes of course don't have sponsors because you guys are supporting us there.

We will be back on our regular schedule next week after Christmas and before the New Year's, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy this special episode of Road Work and if you like it and you like what we do in the Secret bonus shows you could support us. Please consider becoming a supporter, you can do that by visiting and we greatly appreciate that support. Have a great holiday and we will see you again on our regular schedule next week.

Dan has a ton of mail and wants to work through it as fast as possible because they are behind and e-mails have slowed a little because people think they are not ever going to get to them.

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

John’s take on religion and purpose (RW135)

I have listened to every episode of Roderick on the Line, Road Work and John's two other shows. I don't recall ever hearing John reference God before the bonus episode in which he said, and please pardon my paraphrasing, ”Our purpose is to have children.” Since then my ears are perked up whenever he has said, more paraphrasing. ”That's what God put us here for.” He usually says this in the After Dark episodes. Could you two each talk about your thoughts on God and what our purpose is. And the reason I have phrased the question this way is because John uses the words ”God” and ”purpose”. I don't believe I've ever heard Dan use either word in this context so I don't know if I phrased the question appropriately for Dan. I think Dan is a Buddhist, but I can't remember if he explicitly said so.

I myself don't think about the words ”God” or ”purpose”. For the past 20 years I've lived by my favorite quote from my favorite book: ”What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?” I feel it has served me well. What are your thoughts on living by the quote of a novel instead of a sacred text. If you have time I wonder if John will say whether the topic of God has been on his mind more lately and if so why. Perhaps God has always been on his mind and he's just not spoken of it until now. If that is true, then please ignore the question!

Thank you for taking my long letter, I have a great respect and fondness for you both your shows are tremendously helpful to me and I'm very grateful that you've started reading other people's appreciative letters on the show. All I can add is that I feel the same way, but they have said it better, especially that woman who sent a financial gift and didn't have a question. It's OK to use my name, it's also ok if you would like to shorten into Arri and I also don't care if you pronounce it Airi or Arri — Arri

Dan’s take

Yes, Dan is a practicing Buddhist although he meditates much less now than he used to. There is an old saying that being too busy to meditate is like saying you are too sick to go to the doctor. Dan agrees and should do it more. Ethnically he is Jewish, he had his Bar Mitzvah at 13 when you become a man in that culture and are able to make decisions for yourself. Dan decided that he didn't want to be practicing anymore. Culturally and ethnically Dan considers himself Jewish, but religiously it is Buddhist. Buddhists are often atheists because one of the teachings of Buddhism is that there is nothing permanent in an impermanent world and you have to rely on yourself as opposed to having faith in a higher power. Constant change is the cause of frustration and suffering that we as human beings feel. We are unhappy with things that change.

If you get a new watch you might love it, but a few weeks later you want something else because although the watch made you happy it didn't make you deeply happy, it didn't truly put you in a permanent state of happiness. There is a permanent state of happiness which comes through achievement of enlightenment, which is based on the four noble truths which leads to the eightfold path as you study the five hindrances etc. Buddhism is a whole bunch of lists. Generally speaking God is not super-incompatible with Buddhism. There is no rule that says you can't believe in God and also be a Buddhist, but most Buddhists who are truly Buddhist probably don't believe in God. Dan would say he doesn't believe in God, but he also doesn't not believe in God, which is different from being an atheist, who believes that there is no God. Dan won't quite go that far.

Whether there is or isn't a God is not something Dan really ever thinks about. He doesn’t connect with that line of thinking very often and he doesn’t think about it very often. He doesn’t pray, he has never prayed really although there have surely been a few moments where he didn't study for the test and went: ”Please let me pass this!” or something like that. It is no aspect of his life at this point. Dan knows a couple of people who are atheists and their belief in the non-existence of God is really different. There is no easy answer for that. A lot of people asked the Buddha if there was a God and he would usually say it was the wrong question. It doesn't matter if there is or if there isn't because that is not going to help you deal more effectively with the suffering of the world.

Buddhism is about giving you skills to deal with and reduce suffering, to make your life and other people's lives happier, and if you are lucky and work real hard you might achieve the permanent state of happiness known as enlightenment. That is a very different goal. It says: ”Rely on yourself!”, and ”Everything about the world is impermanent!” Everything about the world is changing and if you depend upon an impermanent thing for your happiness, you will only be happy for a little while because that state will always be impermanent. Everything changes. The only thing that you can count on in the world is that everything will change eventually.

Purpose is a harder question. Being a living organism, our purpose is to make more of us. John said that on the show and Dan completely agrees with him. That is why we are here on this planet, to make more people like us, and the more people you have, the more successful you are as an organism, the more people you create, the more successful you are. If Dan had 20 children he would be more successful than John who only got one. There would be more of Dan now than there would be of John because those 20 kids are going to have their own 20 kids and your one kid may just going to have another one.

That is what we are here for and that is our purpose. Why are dragonflies mating? To make more dragonflies! They are the same thing as people, we are no different. If you say that we are different because we think and we are self-aware and we have sentience and we are more advanced, then yes: We are way more advanced than the dragonflies, but our purpose is still to make more people.

John’s take

John is surprised that this listener, having listened to all the shows, would say that John has never mentioned God, because he talks about God in that way all the time, that God wants us to do this or God has this plan and so forth and so on. In his daily life John certainly talks about God as an attribution to an idea that can't be described by any other word. Whether or not you personally believe in a God or what your belief in that God looks like, there are ideas where you would have to struggle to not mention God.

When five bad things happen in a row to some people they will say: ”The universe hates me!” and what they are trying to say is ”God hates me!” Because they are modern atheists or whatever they struggle to not use the word God, so they say incomprehensible things like ”The universe hates me!”, but really it is God who hates you. John uses God a lot to say things like: ”I'm not sure what God's plan is here, but we need to sort out this situation.” He is wondering if there is a plan or a plot that none of us can be conscious of, and if things in this particular instance are predestined. Are we going to get there on time or not? John was raised by two people who were very 20th century.

John’s mom

John’s mom was raised as a Methodist, but in the 1950s she developed her own idea that the missing link, which was a popular question in the 1950s and 1960s, between apes and humans in the evolutionary ladder. Why do hominids appear to just pop out of nowhere? The first UFO sighting was 1947 around Mt. Rainier. In the early 1950s when she was a teenager, John’s mom independently came up with the idea that the missing link was that aliens have been intervening in evolution, that it isn't just a process set in motion in the primordial ooze, but that we are a science experiment. They keep coming back making minor adjustments.

Things evolve in a certain way and then they are like ”Nope!” and in the case of the dinosaurs they have erased everything and started over again, or in the case of the transition from little mammals running in and out of holes to the great apes they pushed it along. The gaps in the record that we see in the fossils, these giant evolutionary leaps, are explained as being the product of intervention. She came up with that in her teenage years and has never seen any evidence to contradict it. She strongly believes in reincarnation and karma, but she but also loves Methodist hymns.

At one point in the 1990s she ripped the page out of the yellow pages that had all the churches in Seattle. It was one of those pages with tiny entries without any picture ads. It had 200 churches on it and she set about to attend a church service in every church in Seattle. Over the course of a couple of years she sat through a church service in every denomination and every religion in Seattle. She did this by herself and she never wanted anybody to go with her. She was just doing a personal William James Varieties of Religious Experience.

She was doing a survey of world religion and when she got to the end of her survey, she decided that she really liked the hymns in the Methodist church because that is what she grew up with. If she ever wanted to go to church she would just go to the Methodist Church. She does not believe in a Christian God and never has as far as John can tell. Her religion is a pastiche, which is true for a lot of people in America. They take what they like from their primary religion and they add a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and they come up with a religion that they like.

John’s dad

If you asked John’s dad about his religion, he would say that he prayed to a black Jewish nun with an affliction. That was his 1960s Sammy Davis Jr. way of indicating that religious people should leave him alone. He thought it was funny, too. He never believed in a Christian God as far as John can tell, he never once took him to church or spoke the word Jesus or God, but he practiced ancestor worship and prayed to his ancestors all the time. When his sister died he began praying to her. He would put little requests to them, but he would also just talk to them and ask them for guidance. Being in Alcoholics Anonymous he was required to have a God, but they don't care what it is. John's dad had already been praying to his ancestors and he just formalized it and made it a point every day to sit down and say ”Mother, grandmother, here is what is going on, what do you think? Will you take care of this for me up in heaven?”

Both of John’s parents are irreverent, but his mom is more serious about it. She believes that instant karma is going to get you and she firmly believes that we go around many times. Your challenges in this life are a product of what happened in your previous life, and when you get to the end of this life and have faced your challenges, you will get a new set of challenges in the next life on your way up the ladder to some conception of Nirvana that she has. John’s dad probably said ”After I'm dead I will come back and rattle a can full of marbles. You know it is me!”

John’s sister

John’s sister believes in a 100% percent woo woo religion that is entirely her invention. She goes to fortune tellers, but she also believes that you can manifest things in your life. She believes that energies and truths permeate the world, and she meditates religiously. She has built this practice of religion out of the many traditions of the world to suit her. She and their mom have a plan that once their mom dies, Susan will go to talk to a psychic and if the psychic uses the word ”sweetie” unprompted, then Susan will know that mom is communicating with her. The use of the word ”sweetie” will be the code.

Throughout John’s whole life he has sat in a chair somewhere in a room with all these crazy people and he has nodded and gone "mhmm” while they have explained their worldview and were all serious about it. John’s dad's sister who died early was an Episcopalian because it was the religion of her class. None of John’s family are conservative or religious in any direction as far as the eye can see.

John’s religion

John’s religion is pure Agnosticism. He has read about religion and he has been fascinated by it his whole life. He has sought religious experience and he has had religious experiences, but he cannot contextualize them within any one tradition. He sees all religious traditions as being products of their time, culture and space. They are fulfilling functions for people then and now. John read enough about them to see how they have evolved and it all makes sense. There is nothing in any religion or religious tradition or cultural tradition that is unexplainable to him.

John is sure Jesus was a real person who said things that were attractive to people. Romans killed him on a cross and the people said ”Let's keep his words alive” and 600 years later there was a council of Nicaea, it all follows. Even his resurrection: You can read the story and it is pretty clear that nobody saw it. Nobody saw the burning bush either, nobody saw Muhammad ascend to heaven on the back of a winged horse. All the big moments: nobody saw them. Nobody saw Joseph Smith find golden plates buried in the ground. A key element of every religion is that nobody saw the big moment. It all makes sense.

John is not atheistic because it seems like a massive hubris to imagine that he as a small human could know definitively. John is agnostic in that the religions of the world do not suit him and in that he cannot suspend disbelief. When he is looking for a cause or a source for things, mundane or massive, he calls it God, because it doesn't hurt him and it doesn't hurt anybody. He understands the people who flinch at the word God. A lot of them are coming from religious upbringings and are protesting God, a lot of them are coming from atheistic upbringings and they have been taught not to let the word cross their lips. It seems that a personal prohibition on saying the word God is another adherence to a strange mystical concept, that saying God somehow makes you dumb or manifests something. It doesn't. Why does his daughter have blue eyes instead of brown? God! Genetics? God! Fine. Done and done.

John is in Alcoholics Anonymous tradition and he recognizes that there is power in having a God, whatever, it doesn't matter what it is. His dad used to say: If it is a step ladder, who cares? For him Alcoholics Anonymous, the program itself was God, but John can't get that recursive about it. The founders of the United States of America practiced what they called Deism, which is just like ”Yeah, there is a God!” and a lot of them used Christian terminology, but a lot of them were not Christians per se. One time John was staying with a kid in Morocco who said ”Well, I mean you are a Christian, I am a Muslim and this that and the other” - ”I am not a Christian, what are you talking about?” - ”Are you a white person from America?” - ”Yeah.” - ”Then you are a Christian! Don't split hairs. Do you celebrate Christmas?”

”That is as much of a Muslim as I am, but if you look at me as a brown skin guy from Morocco, you are going to say that I am a Muslim. Unless either one of us are Jews, which is a religion that we both recognize and that we would both be like: Oh you are a Jew. Otherwise, you are a Christian and I am a Muslim. Anyway, let's get on with this conversation.” - ”Ah right!” From the standpoint of the world it doesn't hurt John that people call America for a Christian nation, that a lot of their policies are based on that idea, and a lot of the culture is steeped in that. There are many non-Christians in America and it is a demographically describable amount, you can look it up on Wikipedia.


John is agnostic about the belief that we are in this world to do more than make more of us. Dan continues to say that as intelligent beings we have an opportunity to do more than just make more of us, and because we are sentient, we can look at the world and see something besides ”It is raining, I need shelter. I am hungry, I need to go kill something to eat.” We are above that kind of base level, we have an opportunity to do more, but that doesn't mean that that is our purpose. Our purpose is incredibly simple, it is the same purpose as every single other organism from the single celled things all the way up there: We are all here to reproduce. We have opportunities to do more and we can pick a purpose above and beyond that. You can be a Buddhist with the purpose to reduce suffering and find enlightenment. That is a purpose, but that is not what we are here for. We are here to make more.

Feeling responsibility for her grandfather, a POW in a camp (RW135)

I am a longtime listener of all the great shows. I wanted to ask a question that combines John's World War II knowledge and his general insightful thoughts about how to manage one's personal history and personal dialogues. I have never been close to my dad's side of the family and their history has always been a mystery. I didn't become interested in it until after my father passed away. We rarely talked or saw each other while he was alive. I tried probing my grandmother who recently passed for information, but she never wanted to talk about the family's history before they moved to the US. I've either never met and have no desire to reach out to the rest of my dad's family for a variety of reasons and lots of baggage. I know that my dad and his family had escaped the Iron Curtain and then immigrated to the US before he was a teenager.

I recently found out that my grandfather was a German soldier during World War II and was in a Russian POW camp. My dad's side of the family is extremely religious, so it's not a surprise that he credited his prayer and the Bible for helping him survive in the POW camp. Anyway, this is all to say: Any advice for how to digest the news that my grandfather was a German World War II soldier? What do you know about the Russian POW camps and how soldiers ended up there? I am a Peace and Love Liberal who is having trouble coming to terms with the fact that my grandfather fought for the Nazis. — Maureen

There is more debate now than there was in the last 60 years about whether or not her grandfather fought for the Nazis or fought for the Germans. As a style of our time there is a lot of Nazi-escalation in our culture and a lot of things are Nazi now that aren't really Nazi. People are being accused of being Nazis, but they are not Nazis. Nazi is a real thing that existed for a short amount of time, and there are Nazis now, but they are Nazis, not just bigots or even someone who is not a bigot but is doing something you don't like.

People use the word Nazi too much and incorrectly. An awful lot of soldiers in the German Army during World War II were not Nazis, but just German soldiers. Membership in the Nazi party was an actual thing. You could be in the German army and hate Nazis. These things get lost in time because they all were more or less fighting under that swastika banner and it is weird to make that distinction, but a lot of German soldiers on the Russian front were just foot-soldiers, or just meat.

If her grandfather was taken prisoner by the Russians as a German soldier and put in a POW camp and survived, he is one of a tiny fraction of people who survived that encounter. Most German soldiers who were captured by the Russians died of famine, were frozen to death or tortured to death. A million Germans died on the Russian front, a million were missing in POW, and 3.5 million got wounded or sick. John understands her shock at trying to confront the fact that she had a relative who fought in the German army.

What she didn’t describe and what is maybe the interesting part of her letter is why she doesn’t want to contact anyone from her father's family because of baggage et cetera. If she is really interested in this stuff there are ways to contact people in her father's family and find a way, a cousin or some other inroad to get in contact with that side. Each generation has a chance to consolidate their knowledge of their family and history. If you miss that opportunity, if everybody dies and you were the one that could have put the pieces together, then you are passing less knowledge than you could to the next generation.

The more you can swallow bitterness and find information about which aunt and where and how did they die and all that stuff and record it, you are doing a favor to somebody in the future, because you may be the last person who has access to that knowledge. That is why John tries to make sense of his own genealogy while those books are still around. A lot of the family Bibles that have that stuff written in the cover are all going to end up in the fireplace in the next 20 years and now is the last chance. You could have written that down and you didn't.

Especially among Lefty Liberals there is a particular fascination to imagine that our history is full of atrocity and that we bear responsibility for that atrocity in our past. It has created a guilt-ridden culture and we are constantly trying to repair the damage that we have done. In the case of the Germans the unprecedented amount of murder weighs heavily on their national consciousness and that is why we talk about Nazis so much.

If we were living in Central Africa more recent murders would occupy our time. John doubts very much that there is as much talk about Nazis in Rwanda and in Cambodia as there is about the genocide that happened in living memory. Yesterday John was in conversation with somebody who really didn't want to talk about the Armenian genocide, but the Assyrian genocide that happened simultaneous to the Armenian genocide. Her family escaped the Assyrian genocide, their main genocide and the thing they would talk about.

Further back in world history there was a fairly brief period around the Enlightenment where nations were making an effort to not be constantly genociding, but we all have blood on our hands, every single one of us. Every one of us is the product of murder and rape. For 50.000 years of our history there is not a nation in the world that is exempt or that retained any kind of pure [hands]. There are no peace-loving people. Now you can say you are a peace and love hippie and John can say the same, but there are no peoples that you can point to and say: ”Well the Finns never killed anyone”, because the Finns sure as shit did and so did everybody. If your grandmother's people were raped by your grandfather's people, you are half rapist or a quarter rapist.

You don't get to just pick the ancestry that was hurt and say ”That's my people”, because you are also genetically as much hurter as you are hurt. You are just as much a rapist as you are a rape victim in that case, and that is very hard for people to swallow. ”No, my grandmother was raped by her master!”, then your grandfather was her master. Whatever the listener's grandfather did in the war, John’s bet is that he was conscripted, sent to the front, fought in a trench, and froze his ass off. He might have been one of those soldiers who, as they marched across the steps of Russia, was burning villages and raping everyone there and salting the earth, probably following orders. He got captured, sent to a camp that defies description, was released, his Catholicism saved him and then he never wanted to talk about it again, just like most people from that war. Whether or not you absolve him and yourself and your family is very personal.

John doesn’t look at any group of people in the world as the criminals, the people who did the bad things while the other people are full of virtue. There are no virtuous nations, and the sooner we recognize it, the sooner we can stop putting this group of people on a pedestal, and that group of people in shame jail, and the sooner we get on down the road. In our current culture poor people are put on a pedestal and rich people are made to be evil and that isn't accurate either.

There is the idea that there are evil people who have done bad things and who have to atone and there are innocent people who are constantly victims and they are righteous in the world. It is very convenient, but all those innocent people who are righteous in the world are just as rapacious and violent than all those baddies, those genocidal industrial capitalists. Their kids also get cancer and die and they mourn them as much as anyone, and they also think they are doing the right thing.

It has been explained to undergraduates that there is a moral equivalency fallacy in the world today, where every time somebody does something bad the news media or apologists will say: ”Yes, but then the other side also does things bad” In the same way they call out straw-man argument or ad-hominem attack their latest meme is to say moral equivalency, as though making the suggestion that the world is not a black and white war between good and evil and not just bad people versus good would be some kind of mealy-mouthed apologia for our oppressors. This is just undergraduate talk and the only reason it is present is that the Internet allows dummies to think that they are smarties, but you don't have to go far back to find the villainy in everybody and let that fucking be a lesson to you. Search your heart! What would it take to get you to do something awful? Probably not much!

Dan says that we don't know what kind of German soldier he was, but people do things based on their environment and their upbringing. It was the time and place, the way he was raised, and the circumstances under which he was raised. None of us could possibly imagine what it would have been like to be born into that time, culture and particular situation, and what it would be like to grow up during that time. You can't understand a person's experience! Maybe he was burning villages, maybe he wasn't.

You can't make the assumption that every member of the German army was a Nazi or that every one of them was evil. What is the absolute worst? Not only was he a German soldier but he was a Nazi. Not only was he a Nazi, but he was a real bad Nazi, the worst of them and he killed every Jew and every Polish person and every gay person, he did it all! He wouldn't even kill them nicely, but he did torture them before he killed them. That is her darkest fear, the worst possible. So what? That is not you! It sucks, he is a relative of yours, but you are not responsible for that, it is not your responsibility, you don't have to bear the weight of that, it is not on you!

John says there is a contemporary argument that it is on you, something that each of us will have to navigate in our navigation of contemporary thoughts. Dan says that it is insane to say that, it is absolutely not, she barely knew him. Dan’s grandfather worked for the government during World War II as a metallurgist, making anti-ballistic armor for tanks and a bunch of other things. You could interpret that a lot of different ways. Would you say that he was pro war? Dan knows for a fact that he wasn't pro war. Would you say that he was saving people's lives? Yes, because if he made really good anti tank piercing armor stuff for tanks it saved some guys' lives for sure!

Did saving their lives allow them to kill the enemy more? Yes! Was he good or was he bad because of that? Well, he has to figure that out, wherever he is now. That is not on Dan. His job has nothing to do with who he was as a person. It is certainly not Dan’s responsibility nor should Dan be congratulated for the work that his grandfather did. That was all him! If your relative murdered somebody, is that your responsibility? Lots of people killed other people during the war, it was a product of the time they were in and the situation they were in and we can't judge another person ever for anything.

John says that this thinking is not the style of the time and Dan says that our times are stupid then.

Listener comments (RW135)

I appreciate that John has talked so candidly about his personal finances at least a couple of times on Road Work. Very few people ever do this anywhere in our culture and so it is refreshing to hear it shared so frankly. I am not increasing my Patreon subscription now because I feel guilted into donating more, I think of it as a refinancing of my disposable entertainment budget. Each month I spend $20 or more on Netflix, $15 on HBO NOW, $10 on Apple Music and $1 on a Patreon Road Work subscription, done originally to hear the additional content.

I realize I get far more value and positive emotional feedback, relaxation and peace of mind from Road Work and so many of the great shows than any of those other subscriptions, from Back to Work to Roderick on the Line to Siracusa’s and Marco’s shows back in the day on 5y5, to ATP, to Friendly Fire, to the show Dan did with Zeldman etc. I increased my monthly subscription from $1 to $25 because it is honestly closer to the value I get from the shows. I can afford it and I look forward to every new episode of Road Work or Omnibus or Back to Work that shows up in my Overcast feed. I know I'm mixing a few podcasts networks here, but it is all the same to me.

Thanks for all the great content! My hope is that John and all of you keep making consistent podcasts and, more importantly, that you get paid appropriately, not ”appropriately”. I think you guys should be making a lot more money. Consider my subscription increase to reflect how good these podcasts are and how much I personally get from them. All the best to you guys and hope you have a great 2019. Regards Tim.

A movie and a podcast both give you around an hour and a half worth of entertainment. They also give you things to think about and you ruminate on them. It is the same hour and a half of your life. These days nobody seems to feel weird about spending $13 for a movie and if you get popcorn and whatnot you are in for $25, but when it comes to supporting a podcast or buying a record album, people are ”I don't know man! $0.99? Wow!”

It frustrated John when people would steal record albums and rip them for free and say ”I don't know man! Music should be free!”, but they would go spend $15 on a movie. They surely would have stolen movies if they could, but because they couldn't they paid that money without complaint. It took John all year to make that $15 album and you will listen to it 1000 times if it is good and you might share it with your kids one day 25 years from now. You also paid $15 to see Michael Bay's Transformers. It cost a lot more money to make that movie, but was it a better hour and a half of your life? John appreciates any time somebody recognizes that relative value.

I am presently listening to the most recent Road Work podcast (Nov 23rd, see RW131). You guys are going on about grapefruit and how it effects certain drugs. I just want to let you guys know and maybe you'll pass the information along to your listeners, that grapefruit does not block the mechanism of certain drugs, it actually increases the potency of the drugs that it effects. You can look it up, but I believe it suppresses certain amino acids that work to break down the drug so that your digestive system absorbs more of the drug. You basically don't want to use grapefruit to stop an overdose as it may actually make it worse. Thanks Jeffrey.

Benjamin via Patreon: Just increased my Patreon to $10 a month, I don't know, this all feels kind of wrong. I really don't want to be anybody's patron, because patronage implies dependency which in our weird Western culture often implies some sort of value judgment. Alas, I'm so sad the John can't make money from music anymore and Dan isn't a millionaire from starting 5by5, so I guess I'll pitch in.

Karen says: Hey Dan and John, just bumped up to $10 as well. It's not much, but hopefully this little contribution helps the transition from music revenue and get the house closer to the daughter's school.

Marxism is just one way to see the world (RW135)

Mr. Roderick, I think your political analysis last week (November 12th, see RW130) on Road Work is pretty much spot on. I live in Oslo Norway, grew up in Nebraska of all places, am the same age as you and seemingly have a relatively similar background, playing in bands, getting signed, in my case for only about 15 minutes, and I am constantly trying to finish an album, and have always considered myself to be solidly planted on the left, but I've grown increasingly disillusioned by what I experience as the left's dogma, intolerance and even a seemingly dwindling concern with basic demographic principles like free speech.

Since voting right wing is pretty much inconceivable for me, I basically feel like I'm a hostage of the left. My disillusionment though has led me to my own analysis that you might ponder, if you haven't already. I think the whole idea of a left-right axis has become anachronistic, at least as a tool for understanding what is going on politically. I find things make more sense if I disregard left-right thinking and turn the axis up-down: Those who have and those who have not, or more specifically: Those who have or think they will get, and those who don't have and/or don't think they will get.

Last week you mentioned civility and I agree with you 100 percent. To my surprise I found that people like Sam Harris, Dave Rubin, Jordan Peterson and even the pretty hardcore right wing Ben Shapiro who coined the intellectual dark web are having massive success doing what you are calling for: Civil discussions amongst people across political divides. This creates at least some optimism. Both Road Work and Roderick on the Line have become Go-to podcasts for me. I find it amazing how you guys can keep things interesting week after week. Have a good day. Sincerely Alex.

The Haves and Have-nots way of viewing the world is certainly derived from a Marxist understanding of the oppressor and the oppressed, the owners and the workers. It is ultimately false prey to all the excesses of a Marxist reading of the world. John does not come out against a Marxist reading of the world, all he says about it is that it is a reading of the world, it is not the reading of the world. It is as useful as a Christian reading of the world or a Buddhist reading of the world, and you need to have the ability to look at the world using all those lenses at different times and be able to put a Marxist lens on, look at a situation, go ”Aha!”, then put a capitalist lens on, look at the same situation and go: ”Hmm, interesting!”

These are different versions of the same story and you can choose one, but you can also choose a combination of them, just as we do in all other things. The insistence that the Marxist reading is the left reading and is the accurate one for a leftist is the thing that has made the left seem no longer approachable for people with with liberal values. Marxism isn't liberal, it is revolutionary, that is the premise. Until the revolution happens and until the Haves have been overthrown by the Have-nots there will be no justice. That is a take, but it is not John’s take. He does not look at the world as Haves and Have-nots because it is 100% a continuum.

Some people are super rich and super generous and some people are kind of rich and really greedy and not generous at all. Some people are middle class and are super generous, some people are poor, small, greedy and violent. John does not look at the human experience and say ”Well, everybody who earns more than $1 million a year is an evil villain and everybody who earns less than that is just a normal regular person who is trying hard.” No! Each people has their own journey.

When John makes political choices and looks at the world politically, there are never villains and heroes and it is not an accurate way of seeing the world. It is the Christian way as well to not look at the world as heroes and villains. These people have this in mind and this goal while these people have this in mind and this goal. What are my goals? How do I accomplish those goals? What is the endgame?

John had a very interesting conversation with somebody online who said they have been a Nazi fighter their whole life. He was a Punk Rocker who was talking about street fights, he was in the clubs fighting skinheads in the 1980s and it is a big part of his identity: He fights Nazis. He said that unlike Liberals he does not think that Utopia and improvement is possible. He thinks there will always be Nazis and those Nazis will always need someone to fight them and he is one person who fights the Nazis. He can't subscribe to John’s whole thing about not fist-fighting Nazis in the street because it empowers them because fist-fighting Nazis is in his estimation the only way you deal with Nazis.

This conversation caused John to really reflect over the fact that he does believe improvement is possible and that he is a liberal utopian. It is the liberal project that education makes people better and smarter people make better choices. John is less convinced of that in recent years because the quality of education and culture has declined and we are not holding ourselves to a high enough standard. John doesn’t think Nazis are inevitable and he doesn’t think fighting them on the street is where it needs to be done. People who spent their life fighting Nazis on the street have a different experience than John, but he doesn’t see himself as a soldier, he is trying to figure it out.

Right now both the left and the right look at the world in this dichotomous fight between one side and the other. It is simple-minded, dull-witted, not productive and not true! The world isn't divided into halves. There is not one half that is good and one that is bad, or one half that is anything and another half that is anything. 300 million Americans think they are the center of the universe and there are a billion people in China that aren't really interested in the American version of the universe. Are they Marxists or Maoists? No! Not anymore! Not probably ever!

Outro (RW135)

Dan has so many more listener questions. They did get through a lot of them. Listeners can send their questions at and click the link for Road Work. The first line should be what they should call you, what pronouns to use if you care, and if you can say what your location is. Dan also wants to hear their height, weight, and shoe size. Give us line of work and income, too!

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