Nov. 16th, 2014

          Where do we draw the line? About anything. Yet we all do all of the time. I love cigarettes, pot and vodka, but I won’t smoke opium or hash (which makes me cough), take heroin or cocaine (anymore), nor will I drink any sort of whiskey, gin, wine or anything else. This side of the line is fine; that side is verboten.
          But, instead of booze and drugs (my favorites), let’s discuss the environment, which affects everybody. Where do we draw the line regarding pollution? How much bullshit in our air, food and water is OK; and how much isn’t? From my perspective, we apparently can never have enough bullshit in our air, food and water and we are deathly determined to ruin everything, although, in most cases, we do it either out of ignorance or apathy, not intentionally. Ay, there’s the rub; just because we have good intentions does not mean that we’re any less guilty based on our actions.
          As a simple example, I used to have this terrific neighbor in Santa Monica named Pato who was Native (South) American, was ridiculously attractive (as was his sister who lived with him for a while), and was extremely caught up in Native American and environmental issues. One day when he was over my place smoking my weed (as everyone does and always has), I asked, “How do you get your socks so white?”
          “Bleach,” replied Pato offhandedly.
          “Bleach,” I replied, “is terrible for the environment, which you seem to care a lot about.”
          “But,” replied Pato, holding up his index finger, “I must have white socks.”
          “So, the environment be damned?”
          “Precisely. Everyone must draw the line somewhere, and I draw the line at having very white socks.”
          La! He drew the line.
          I cover my refrigerator with photos of famous people and their quotes, like I have Bill Gates’ mug shot from 1977 when he was caught driving without a license in Albuquerque and he’s grinning like an idiot. The quote below, which I believe is aimed directly at the then-alive, Steve Jobs, is, “If you can’t make it good; at least make it look good.” But I also have two quotes on the same page that I find provocative: “Property is theft”—John Reed, the only American buried in the Kremlin; and, “Recycling is waste,”—Josh Becker, the only American who owns a presently unused burial plot in the Kremlin. Let’s take the second part first shall we?
          “Recycling is waste.” “But why?” you might ask, “I’m just doing my bit, and every litter bit helps, right?” Wrong. Recycling is minimally three times worse for the environment than not recycling. It costs three times less to make a new plastic water bottle than it does to make a new one. Between the extra shipping to the recycler, the melting down, then the remaking of the item, three times as much waste has been expelled into the air. “But what about running out of petroleum from which plastic water bottles are made? What about that?” Yep, we’re running out of petroleum all right, but it’s not because of plastic water bottles, it’s because of driving automobiles. So, which would you rather run out of first, petroleum or air? I choose petroleum because, oddly, I enjoy breathing (although you wouldn’t suspect it if you saw how much I smoke). Well then, what about paper? Surely it’s better to recycle paper than to cut down unsuspecting, harmless trees, I mean, surely. And, once again, you would most surely be wrong. Recycling paper, particularly colored paper, is so awful for the environment that I grow dizzy just thinking about it. To recycle paper one must first get it to the recycler (which takes fuel), grind it up (which takes fuel), then soak it in bleach to make it white again. What then do we do with this spoilt bleach? Why, we pour it into our rivers, streams, or just into the soil, where it makes a fine deadly insecticide that not only kills bugs, but also kills the plants and animals, too, at no extra cost. People seem to have the false notion that they cut down 1,000-year-old Sequoias to make paper, which, of course, they don’t. They have tree farms where fast-growing little trees are cut down and ground up into paper. Nevertheless, we still cut down 1,000-year-old Redwoods because they make nice decks and saunas.
          When I go to the grocery store and they ask me, “Paper or plastic?” I always take plastic. Why? Even though the paper comes from tree farms, I still enjoy driving my automobile, and we are right on the edge of running out of petroleum, which is what they use to make plastic. Luckily for me and the environment, I hardly drive anymore—mainly up to the liquor store and back, and that’s five blocks.
          The only sort of recycling that works is deposit bottles. You pay an extra couple of cents (here in Michigan we have the highest bottle and can deposit anywhere on earth, at ten cents each), then they rinse the bottle out and use it again. Voila! Cans, unfortunately, have to melted down and turned back into cans, but there’s another reason for that called Bauxite, which is an extremely rare mineral that we’ve damn near used up. Soon, we’ll have to return to tin beer cans which leave a shitty taste in your mouth. Then why do I still use cans? Because bottles are a hassle, weigh more and can break. I drew the line regarding what was most convenient for me, as we all do.
          If I inform damn near anyone that recycling is waste they actually become offended and will, under no circumstances, believe me. And even if they do believe me, they want to feel like they’re helping the environment, when they now know they’re really hurting it. Why is that?
          Because humans want to feel like they’re good people even when they’re not.
          Recycling is an unnecessary, make-work job, that came into existence when people in the 1980s began to panic that we were running out of landfills. The United States of America is running out of extra land? There is barely a fucking thing between Chicago and Denver, and there’s even less below the Canadian border. Here in America we have nothing but land. So much so that we feel it’s perfectly OK to fuck it up as fast as we possibly can. As has been said, “Americans have a vendetta against trees.” From the second we arrived on these hallowed shores we’ve never stopped cutting down the trees, which, by the way, create oxygen for us to breathe, and so that I might ignite matches to light my cigarettes. But if we have a vendetta against trees, then we have a total disregard for the land—you can pour anything into the soil or the sewer and nobody gives a tinker’s damn.
          But let us return to the one utterly incongruous statement in this essay, “Property is theft,” by that Socialist hero, John Reed. Soon after Columbus mistakenly discovered America—if indeed it’s actually possible to discover a place where millions of people already live, which had previously been “discovered” by at least the Vikings—then the uptight prigs known as Pilgrims arrived and promptly began chopping down all of the trees and tricking the Indians with bags of beads to steal their land, then, soon thereafter, started a genocide to rid America of its natives (as the lovely old expression goes, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian”), we pale-faces failed to learn an extremely important lesson from the Native Americans—nobody owns land. Mother Nature owns all the land and simply allows us to live here on this spinning rock in space, and once we’ve fucked this planet up to the point where it’s uninhabitable for humans, as George Carlin said, “Mother Nature will have gotten what she originally wanted—plastic. Mother Nature invented humans so they could invent plastic, then get the fuck out of here. So, the next time someone asks you, ‘What’s the point of life?’ you reply, ‘Plastic.’”
          But John Reed meant more than that with his simple, three-word statement, “Property is theft.” What he was saying is that nothing belongs to anybody—we only rent shit; nobody owns anything, like say, beer. I am a momentary receptacle for beer, which I quickly urinate out. My late buddy, Rick, had this slogan taped up over his perpetually unlocked apartment door, and what he was saying was, “If you need anything in my apartment, take it, because if you’re going to the trouble of taking it, you must need it more than me.” He and I both kept jars of coins right near the door, as I still do, and if you need some money, take it. If perchance you’d like to swipe any or all of my 3,000 books, be my guest—I recommend John Toland’s definitive biography of Adolf Hitler, wittily entitled Hitler, but you can take anything you want, and, unlike a library, you don’t have to return it. I don’t even believe in “Be kind, rewind.” If you want one of my discs or tapes, it’s yours, and when you’re done you can simply smash it, piss on it, shove it up your ass, or give it to your friend—hopefully before you’ve shoved it up your ass, but that’s between you and your friend.
          I realized long ago that I’m far to the left of the Democrats, which presumably makes me a dreaded Socialist, just like John Reed. With any luck I too will be buried in the Kremlin, although I hear the accommodations stink, the vodka is made from potatoes, the beer tastes like piss, and the waiters are snotty. Socialists believe that everybody ought to get a slice of the pie; not just the rich fat pigs who have all of the money. Socialists used to say things like, “Workers of the world unite! You’ve got nothing to lose but your chains.” Why should I struggle all day and all night at two jobs so that my family and I end up eating rocks and thistles for every meal when some fat fuck who inherited all of his money and has never worked a day in his life eats Fillet Mignon? We the workers are the vast majority; rich assholes, who have 90% of the money, are a tiny minority—if we all worked together we could stomp the shit out of those bastards, take their not-hard-earned money, then party like it’s 1999.
          But we don’t. Shit, we’ve let those rich pricks kill all of our trade unions because God forbid the average worker makes enough money to feed his kids. If the truly awful Koch brothers—who own a twenty-foot-tall, one-hundred-foot long mountain of poisonous fracking waste right in downtown Detroit—walked into my spacious, luxurious, 900-square-foot house right this minute, I’d take my aluminum (Bauxite) baseball bat, break their fucking knees, then hang ‘em from the yardarm as traitors to everything we hold sacred. And that goes for every Goddamn fucking Republican, starting with that dreadful piece of shit, Bill O’Reilly.
          Democrats are no better, or at least, not much better. The Democrats deserved to lose every seat in Congress because they’re befuddled schmucks who are so dumb they can’t even embrace their truly wonderful leader, Barack Obama.
          Luckily for me there’s still plenty of history I haven’t yet read. I’ll never be able to read about all of the battles we humans persist in having. However, the positive side about battles is that human blood enriches the soil and makes it yield more crops, so that’s good.

—Josh Becker