October 13, 2010

George Carlin: "Bullshit is the glue of our society"

From George Carlin’s autobiography, Last Words (pages 283-84):

Outside of my audience, groups repel me, because for the sake of group thought, they kill individuality, that wonderful human oneness. I’m wide open to individuals. Fine with individuals. Individuals are just great. Even the most evil man on earth, who’s just eaten a whole dog, I find fascinating and interesting. I’d love to spend a minute or two with him. Discuss the preparation. “You put a little salt on that? Used a little cream?” I’d look in his eyes and his eyes would be from someplace God knows where in the universe and yet for that reason fascinating.

Every individual set of eyes you look into gives you something, whether it’s a blank wall or an infinite regress of barbershop mirrors. Just as fascinating. There’s something in all individuals. I make room for them psychically—even though I might want to get away after a minute and a half. People are wonderful one at a time. Each of them has an entire hologram of the universe somewhere within them.

But as soon as individuals begin to clump, as soon as they begin to clot, they change. Sometimes you have a friend and you say, “Gee, Joe is a great guy. But when he’s with Phil he’s a real jack-off.” Or, “Now that he’s with Linda, the fucking guy is different. He’s changed, he’s not the same old Joe.”

Groups of three, five, ten, fifteen—suddenly we have special little hats, we have arm bands, we have a marching song, a secret handshake and a list of people we don’t agree with. Next we have target practice and plan the things we have to take care of Friday night.

One of m y lists once was: “People I Can Do Without.” Near the top: “People who say, ‘Long live Such-and-such’ and then kill someone to accomplish it.”

The ideal group for human beings is one. With the occasional sexual visit to the land in the next group. Temporary twosomes are fine. Once upon a time people might have been good up to ten or twelve, or one hundred or so, whatever the ideal tribal unit was. When everybody took care of everybody else’s children, there were no last names, no patriarchy, no patrimony, when property was unheard of. You might have personal stuff: this is my favorite rock, I got an ax I made. But no one owns the tent, everybody belongs in that tent as long as we have our fire. What buffalo there are belong to everybody if we can kill one. Something about that is awfully compelling. But we lost it long ago.

The larger the group, the more toxic, the more of your beauty as an individual you have to surrender for the sake of group thought. And when you suspend your individual beauty you also give up a lot of your humanity. You will do things in the name of a group that you would never do on your own. Injuring, hurting, killing, drinking are all part of it, because you’ve lost your identity, because you now owe your allegiance to this thing that’s bigger than you are and that controls you.

It happens in police culture. You get talking with individual cops and they’re the greatest fucking guys in the world. But you know that when they’re making a domestic disturbance call in the black section of town, they’re going to hit first and ask questions later. And if you happened to be there and called them on it, you’d be the enemy, right or wrong. That great fucking guy would be gone. It’s the same way with military men, with corporate assholes, the same anywhere on earth. And by the way, America’s groups are no better than anyone else’s.

The worst thing about groups are their values. Traditional values, American values, family values, shared values, OUR values. Just code for white, middle-class prejudices and discrimination, justification for greed and hatred.

Do I value a flag? No, of course not. Do I value words on a piece of paper? Depends whose words they are. Do I believe in family values? Depends on whose family—most are pretty toxic and that plural already has me suspicious. So I have a few holdings concerning potential behavior that an outsider could define as values. It’s received beliefs, received wisdom, received values I have trouble with.

My affection for people as individuals and the fact that I identify with them doesn’t extend to the structures they’ve built, the terrible job they’ve done organizing themselves, the fake values that supposedly hold society together. Bullshit is the glue of our society.

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