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Posts Tagged ‘greed

Hanging out with Intravenous Drug Users

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I used to hang out with intravenous drug users, due to an association belonging to my roommate at the time.  Mostly cocaine, but sometimes other stuff that i had or had never ever heard of.

There were two types of dealers in this netherworld – those that did do their own product, and those that did not. The ones that did their own product usually had you come to their place to purchase, which was usually a squalid apartment furnished with lawn chairs and an unusual number of second-hand mattresses. They dressed like, and usually were welfare recipients – Giant Tiger track pants and t-shirts with weird and dated logos on them. They took the bus or rode their bike if they were meeting you away from home.

The ones that did not do their own product usually met you at some 24-hour restaurant in Vanier, a rather shady part of Ottawa. They wore sharp suits or fashionable sportswear with lots of gold jewellery.  They usually had very, very fancy cars. I don’t know if any of them were on welfare or had other jobs.

The dealers that did their own product were usually living just on the edge of being in trouble with their upstream providers – they always had a tinge of desperation about them. They were generally happy to advance you some if you were broke and they knew you, especially if you were going to hang around on their mattresses and share.  I suppose the willingness to sell on credit was some sort of lazy putting off obligation till another day – a sale has been made and money will come. Some of them would also accept payment “in trade” or valuable objects. If you didn’t pay them in a timely fashion, they would get increasingly more desperate and angry, and would eventually fly into a rage and beat the crap out of you if they found you insufficiently accompanied by friendlies.  They’d take anything you had, books and CDs if they got into your place, even if it had no real sale value.

Users of their own product were usually vastly suspicious of my presence, a friend who didn’t use, hanging around.

Dealers that didn’t do their own product never sold on credit to regular users. If they knew you very well, and you had a stellar reputation, they might advance you a small amount. I’m not familiar with what happened if you didn’t pay back in a timely manner in such a case. If you managed to convince them you were a possible franchisee, they’d lay a goodly quantity on you with partial payment or on credit.  I was a secondary witness to and heard of several other occasions where the recipient messed up and used or lost the merchandise without getting an appropriate amount of money for it – it usually involved guys in balaclavas kicking in the door of debtor’s apartment and smashing the place and the occupants up. The actual dealer involved could be reliably found in his usual haunt while this happened.  Non-using dealers never accepted CD players and the like in payment.

Non-using dealers always congratulated me on the fact I wasn’t using.  They’d buy me drinks, confidentially wonder why I was hanging around with such losers, and give me rides places in their fancy cars (more than once as a trustworthy go-between to pick up some cash for someone). And eventually each and every one would get around to offering me a free sample or a limited-time-only reduced price selection of products.

I think of this little period in my life every time I think of current purveyors of products – The Execs at Blizzard Entertainment who don’t play World of Warcraft, fit and healthy directors at junk food and cigarette companies, builders of  tiny overpriced yuppie-hutch “exclusive executive lofts” who live in sprawling one-of-a-kind country chalets or century homes.  So much of the modern world depends on the appealing, addictive qualities of products and the common person’s inability to moderate or properly value things, which is reinforced by the constant demands of making enough money to buy critical consumer crap and then deal with less important needs like rent and food.


Written by balloonhed

May 11, 2011 at 10:37 am

Capitalists and other Pillagers

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In Canada, Centre-Left parties tend to build and create when they’re in power (if permitted), and when the Conservatives take power, they harvest what’s been left behind. Like Capitalists and other pillagers do in the real world. This used to be an “OK” system when the Conservatives were the odd choice in a landscape of Liberal leadership, but “Harper’s Conservatives” are not really “Canada’s Conservatives” – they’re a new hybrid derived from the Western Reform party assuming the empty hulk of the Progressive Conservatives,  and strong corporate (oil)/ultra-rich libertarian influences. We can only hope that once Harper is out of the scene, a more moderate Conservative party returns.

Harper likes to talk about Canada being an island of responsibility in a world of economic strife, thanks to the stability of our banking system. Was this system created by Harper, or by a conservative government? A historical Conservative party may have contributed to it, but definitely not Harper – despite his frantic squirming to stay in power, he ultimately sees the perfect world as being the situation in the US – low government regulation on everything financial, with the institutions being allowed to call their own shots.  Harper and Canada are fortunate that he wasn’t in power long enough or had  total power (i.e., a majority) to do what he’d like before 2008 came along – we’d be in the same boat as everyone else, and Harper would not have the glittery medal of being the leader of a nation that sailed through the crisis relatively unscathed with the sudden status of expert on world economics and everyone else looking for our secret.  “Harper’s Conservatives” and their rule had nothing at all to do with the Canadian banking system, aside from being Canadian in the first place.

Written by balloonhed

April 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm

What Are We Teaching Our Children?

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Good: behaviour that provides positive outcomes for all people involved . . . or as many possible. Stuff done in the spirit of kind thoughts for those around you.

Evil: Unenlightened-Self-Interest. Exploitation of a situation to certain ends knowing it will cause harm to other parties involved. Forcing people to act against their own best interests. Profiting off the discomfort of others.

As a civilization, we theoretically stress the values of Good over those of Evil. In practice . . .  Evil behaviour is a necessary tool in how the modern world works, especially in business.

We tend to teach children behaviours that can be categorized as “Good” in school. But are we really doing them a service? Perhaps we need to look at the requirements of real-world life and revise what we’re handing down.


 The Standard: Bullying is bad. All schools teach that bullying is a problem that must be nipped in the bud, that a bully is someone who is in need of help just as much as the victims. We have bullying help lines, anti-bullying songs, books called “I was a Bully,” yadda yadda.

 The Adult World: The skills that bullying develops – intimidation, leadership, coordination, project management, coercion, psychology  – are very useful skills in the areas of sales, politics, office life, interpersonal relationships, and law enforcement.

 Conclusion: Crass and unskilled bullying should be punished as usual. Skilled manipulations and coordinated campaigns against one or more individuals show a lot of promise in many lines of work in the child’s future. This should be rewarded. Efforts to curry favour with principals and other higher authorities to reduce the impact of bullying behaviour is also a laudable skill, and should be positively recognized.


 The Standard: Children are taught we need to be nice to each other. Old people need to be visited and helped across streets, the handicapped assisted, younger kids offered support, people in difficulties accorded sympathy and leeway.

 The Adult World: People who don’t look like me are using up resources I could be using. I’m all for helping people out, but those lazy welfare recipients, unemployed people and old people are eating up all the taxes that get sucked out of me. And the freakin’ Immigrants! Don’t get me started. What’s in it for me? My political candidates and news sources of choice tell me this, too – it’s us against them and them and them, so why am I helping them out?

 Conclusion: Children should be taught the value of a “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” view of life. Do nothing unless your interests will be well-covered in the results


 The Standard: Schools have emphasized for decades now the importance of being aware of the earth’s needs. Schools have been adorned with poster-painted images of the globe in green and blue, with rainbow-lettered slogans about loving the earth as long as I can remember. Don’t litter, recycle, go with your class on spring cleaning trips through the neighbourhood, yahoo!

 The Adult World: While environmentalism has become a massive and popular fad, it’s still only truly given any time when it’s convenient or politically expedient. I’ll be nice to the earth as long as I don’t have to give up my next smart phone upgrade, can still buy a terrible plastic water bottle at the corner store when I forget to bring a reusable one, or give up my first-world consumer habits. Likewise, windmill farms and hydrogen fuel cells sound great! But, given the prices and all, don’t we have all sorts of coal power and oil infrastructure lying around? Shame to waste it.

Conclusion: That’s very nice you’re making sleeping mats for poor people in Africa out of old pop bottles, kids, but to really make a difference you’d also have to stop asking for new video game consoles, trips to Disneyland, over-packaged fast food, and  new clothes every new school year. Don’t wanna do that? That’s OK – the third world will suffer the negative impacts of environmental degradation first, due to the fact it’s the place we’re making all the crap before we do, thereby functioning as an early-warning system. Focus your later educational efforts on engineering and bureaucracy or law enforcement so you can benefit from all the jobs building giant domes over cities and riot control.


 The Standard: Honesty is the best policy. Even if you’ve done something bad, it’s better to fess up and avoid further consequences derived from the fact you lied, too. Keep your promises, tell the truth.

 The Adult World: Modification of truth, leaving out key details, or liberally interpreting questions and thoughts of others are tried-and-true tools for getting stuff done. Promises are great in theory.

Conclusion: Kids should be given lessons in complicating/variegating  the facts of a situation to help them develop important life skills.  Really good modification-of-truth efforts should be applauded.

Everyday Alphabet – Zz – Zombie Zeitgeist

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Zombie Zeitgeist


Written by balloonhed

February 3, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Everyday Alphabet – Ff – Factory Farm

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Factory Farm

Larger version (for detail nuts)

Self-Made Men

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Our eight-year-old wanted to stay up after his bed time. I made a deal: he could stay up an extra half hour if he promised not to make a fuss when the time came. “OK,” he said.

When a half hour was up, I escorted him to his bed. He immediately started to complain and sass. I reminded him of our deal.

“Oh, I don’t care about the deal anymore – I already got what I wanted.”

It sounds childish, but it’s the model being repeated by so many adults in the world. The truly wealthy only achieve that state by exploiting the infrastructure of the society they live in. “Oilmen” get there because of the millions of people who drive cars, the corporations that turn oil into stuff for the millions, etc. Having achieved wealthy status, many such people are claiming that societal considerations like government and social safety nets are useless, and they’d like to see them gone – in fact, such individuals use their money-derived influence to see this come into being, and often enter politics just to make the world more perfect for their own concerns.

The behaviour is similar in the treatment of the Earth – It has provided a living through being exploited, and nothing bad has come of exploiting it – Clearly, we’re off the hook as far as reciprocating goes.

It’s easy to forget or disregard something that gets to be taken for granted. This tendency has been the downfall of many previous human civilizations. Such things need to be looked at, checked for health now and then.

Should the rich be taxed at a higher rate? of course, until there is some sort of limit placed on personal wealth. There is merit in working hard and pursuing risks, but there must also be homage paid to the means these people used to get there.

Written by balloonhed

January 21, 2011 at 9:22 am

Trouble at the Heavenly Rest Home

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god's dotage

You said you spoke to God and asked a question
You were wonderin’ what’s the use of it all
He said everybody does what they want to
Provided that it’s true, that’s all

You said, hey Big G there’s my problem
I’m not so sure ’bout what’s true
He said I’ll let you in on my big secret, Ray
The final truth is – there is no truth, and

Na-na-na-na, bop shoo wop shoo wop
Na-na-na-na, Oh-hey-yeah
Na-na-na-na, bop shoo wop shoo wop-ac

-Boomtown Rats, “Nice and Neat”

When you forget that Christianity is the “state religion” of most many modern nations (and even more in the recent empire-building past, where many of the problems we face were first created) and therefore the default moral reference for the behaviour of anyone with the nerve to invoke it, God’s behaviour is puzzling, to say the least. His apparent willingness to put up with Schisms (Two (or more) Catholic Popes claiming their rival is a plant by the Devil), abuse of power, sexual misconduct, and obvious political expediency is amazing.  His later attitude towards human affairs is in stark contrast to the angry interventionist approach he takes in the old testament. This leads me to two possible conclusions:

1) He is nothing more than a convenient plot device based on old stories and built up and invested in by interested parties over the years, or,

2) He’s gone senile and all sorts of crap is going down while he smiles and nods  vacantly and talks about the old days.

The second possibility is way more fun to think about. God’s been around a long time, after all, and, having created everyone around himself, possibly thinks of himself as alone, which is not conducive to long-term mental health. Picture all the sleazy business people, preachers, and crazy people gaining admission to heaven by virtue of the certainty of their case, the blind devotion of their unthinking followers, and Saint Peter having given up trying to enforce anything because God just stares out the window and talks about his newest nice friend during their weekly status meetings.   Heaven would be a lot like a corrupt banana republic or kingdom ruled by a clueless leader – the creeps getting in would coax important roles out of God, then use their influence to get friends and like-minded Departed into similar positions. The angels would be like honest cops in action movies, bitter about a corrupt system they are honour-bound to protect. The rank-and-file genuinely “good” Departed would be horrified to see all sorts of people they assumed would be going to the Other Place,  strolling around decked with wings and halos – “What? How did creepy Father Jones get here after what he was found guilty of?”  Simple devout souls would themselves facing reclassification and a possible downward demotion for not going along with the whims of the leadership.

Similarly, Hell would not live up to its reputation. It would largely filled with simple true believers who were sincerely convinced of their own sin. They would be dismayed by the absence of  the hordes of individuals their faith told them also deserved an eternity of punishment.  A born-again reform movement would start in Hell, fundamentally changing the whole Heaven/Hell war thing. Since the management in Hell would find it hysterically funny and the management in heaven corrupt, eventually a horde of fallen missionaries would be permitted to descend (ascend?) on Heaven and tear apart its compromised bureaucracy with the thrilled support of the angels. Of course, in the spirit of most Earthly revolutions, after the furor of the revolution had passed, the habits and surviving members of Heaven’s Old Regime would worm their way into the confidence of the reformers, and dissent would appear.  Devoted departed and angels who threw themselves into the cause would suddenly find themselves on trial for counter-revolutionary activities and conspiracy with Hell.

Sounds like an underground comic book.

Written by balloonhed

January 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm