One thing pot reliably does for me is point me to what is preoccupying me anyway.
Pot allows me to notice – “Hey, you’re thinking about THIS a lot, aren’t you? Why is that, do you suppose? Is there something you’re trying to show yourself, something you can learn here?”
Let me explain. I may be dwelling on a particular thought, or a person – or even having dreams that include a particular person – often. But I will reflexively and unthinkingly assume that my preoccupations (or a person’s frequent appearances in my dreams) are irrelevant, if they don’t seem related to what I BELIEVE I should naturally be thinking about, given my current plans and conscious intentions.
Recently I’ve been returning a lot to this two-and-a-half-minute video by Australian comedian Aamer Rahman (half of the comedy duo Fear of a Brown Planet), entitled “Is It Really Okay to Punch Nazis?”
On the one hand, it is a short video. So it hasn’t been a huge time sink to watch it repeatedly. But on the other hand, if I’m honest with you (and myself), I’m sure I’ve watched it at least a dozen times by now – maybe more – over the course of the last year or two, since I discovered it.
I recommend you watch it too. Apart from anything else, it is entertaining and provocative and it will hold your attention completely, with no effort on your part.
But the main reason I’m suggesting you watch it – soonish – is that I’m going to “give away” a lot of the best parts in my commentary below. Your experience of the video would then be colored by my words, and I strongly feel it would be much better – if you’re going to watch it – to watch before reading. (Presuming you will read – I don’t take that for granted. Thank you.)
So …. my emotional reaction: I always enjoy it tremendously. It feels like some kind of naughty pleasure, and (BEWARE: BIG SPOILER ALERT!!) every time I hear Aamer say “Why the fuck are you a volunteer Nazi Safety Advocate? is my question…” I laugh out loud and my heart sings.
What else? I am the exact white liberal that Aamer is describing – to a T! Even the way he acts it out: “Mmmmmmmm … I don’t know, I don’t know if that’s what we should be doing. Should we really be applauding someone for punching a Nazi?” That is EXACTLY what I would probably have said, in just about the exact tone of voice I might have said it.
I had no idea I was such a prototypical “type.” Nearly every word Aamer goes on to put into the amalgamated white liberal’s mouth is something I could easily have said. (I wouldn’t have gone so far as to suggest we should take on Nazis in “the marketplace of ideas.” But otherwise – yeah. Everything. EVERYTHING. I would have said all of it.)
So this was ticklish and provocative to me. But that was as far as I got in my analysis, until I turned my recently-stoned attention back to the subject.
Then I realized a couple more things.
First, Aamer is making – in a very funny, straight-from-the-gut way – a critical point I had missed, when he says:
People get very upset. – “Oh. Oh do you support political violence, do you Aamer?” Just slow down, ok? “Do I support political violence?” We’re talking about punching fascists in the face not suicide bombing ok, relax. Do I – “why do I support political violence?” – Why the fuck are you a volunteer Nazi Safety Advocate? Is my question … That’s a funny thing to be concerned about, the well-being of hypothetical Nazis …
Despite having loved and laughed at this riff many times, I only realized tonight that he is RIGHT. “Political violence” is a concept, an abstraction, a category. Categories and concepts are dangerous, in that they can correlate two EXTREMELY different things — such as punching a Nazi in the face, and suicide bombing — under a single abstraction. Two VERY different things.
Second, abstraction is the whole point. Our ideals and ideas are abstractions. Maybe in a perfect world (“fucking Narnia, Mordor … whatever imaginary realm it is that you think Nazis can be constructively debated in …”), it should always be our first consideration, when we come face to face with a Nazi, to remember this is a person, a human soul just like us, who came to be as he is because he likely did not receive the love and nurture he needed as an infant, and maybe if we have enough time and patience, we can reach his heart and change him. Hey, it happens.
But in the real world, planet Earth, where most people live, that luxury is not available, because the Nazi might kill you first.
And if you don’t perceive modern-day Nazis as a real threat to you or your loved ones, it may be because you live an insulated existence in which your physical safety is rarely or never truly threatened by an invading or hostile force. You may have challenges in your life, but protecting your skin from other humans is not one you’ve had since, maybe, the schoolyard.
That is certainly my situation. I walk through life – and have for decades – with no fear of any imminent physical threat. Partly as a result of this, I can take refuge in my abstractions. Sometimes I call them “values.” Nonviolent communication. Compassion.
Nonviolent communication and compassion are not mere abstractions; they are also practices. My point though – and, I think, Aamer’s – is that these practices (and, sometimes, postures) are largely the prerogative of people who feel (correctly or not) physically safe. Like most white liberals, I guess. Certainly like me.
So now I know why I have loved that video so much. I wonder if I’ll still care to watch it anymore, now that I got the message.