On the Psychology of Donald Trump

To understand Donald Trump you need to understand how he thinks. And to understand that you need to understand his history.

Donald Trump’s psyche was shaped by the excesses of the Go-Go ‘80s. In the ‘80s a lot of young wannabe entrepreneurs were out to get rich fast. It was a time of cut throat business. A very freudian period and subculture where one’s status, one’s virility, one’s very standing as a man was all based on “winning”. There were “winners” and “losers”. For this group, business was not about giving a good product or service to people and make them happy. To this subculture business was about getting the upper hand. Deals for these people were not viewed as mutually beneficial to both partners. Each tried to come out on top, of their opponent. To do whatever was needed to “win”. Being benevolent was for losers. Charity for suckers. Ethics for chumps. While most of society made fun off these guys in their Gucci suits and pink ties, inside the subculture, respect went to whomever had the biggest and most flashy apartment, car, or trophy wife. Respect from customers wasn’t even on their radar. Whatever you did, you had to be top dog and anything you had to do to get there was acceptable, ethical or not, legal or not. It was a way of viewing the world only slightly more refined than that of a street gang. This was the mindset that lead to the Saving’s and Loan meltdown, to Iran Contra, and later when these people were a bit older, to Enron. It was this environment that shaped Donald Trump’s view of the world.

Donald Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal” is all about this concept of doing business. Of winners and losers and screwing the other guy because he was your opponent. Not an other businessman to deal with, but an enemy to be beaten. One of Trump’s biggest deals of the time was polishing up and unloading a decrepit hotel in Atlantic City on Merv Griffin for far more than it was worth. A deal that helped to drive Griffin toward bankruptcy, and one Trump would laugh and brag about in the following years. Unlike most of his compatriots however, Trump never grew up. He still thinks all deals must be one way. He has to win AND just as importantly, the other party must lose. So when Trump says that the Paris climate accord, or the Trans Pacific Partnership, or NAFTA, or Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba “Was the worst deal”, he is viewing it through these glasses. Because the US did not end up “winning”, coming out way ahead and the other party or parties did not end up subservient to the US, he thinks the deals were terrible. This is his blind side. He has no concept of how diplomacy or international relations work. He cannot comprehend a deal that is mutually beneficial, and especially not one that will be hard on all but is for the common good.

This is why he can praise Saudi Arabia for imposing sanctions on Qatar because they supposedly are sponsoring terrorist organizations while SIMULTANEOUSLY selling Qatar billions of dollars in weapons. He views these as separate deals, that both give advantage to the US. He does not, and cannot see how one would affect the other. It is why he is unable to deal with Congress. He thinks he can show some muscle, talk to them like he talked to his staff and they will fall in line. The idea that they have their own constituents and have no need to be grovelling at his feet is beyond him. The Trump name has carried so much cachet that he thinks that he just has to snap his fingers and things will happen. This is why he is trying to schmooze the former FBI director and various prosecutors to get cases dropped or to roll the way he wants. He thinks of America as his company now, and in his companies he has always been able to just order whatever he wanted to happen. He has no understanding of the principle of Separation of Powers in government. This is why he is so offended when his Executive Orders were stopped by the courts. He is unable to comprehend that a judge can rule something he ordered is unconstitutional. The idea that the Constitution is above him, in his mind the CEO of America, is totally outside of his world view. He cannot comprehend it. Donald Trump is motivated by power. He sought the Presidency because he thought it would give him absolute power. Now that he is encountering roadblocks to his perceived power, he has no idea of what he actually should do. So he blusters, he Tweets, he demands things, he threatens, he makes matters worse and worse.

Most telling, after Trump has cancelled each of the major treaties or laws he has immediately said “I will negotiate a better deal”. He has no concept of the fact that those WERE the best deals possible. Yes the Paris accord was bad for the US coal industry, but the alternative is far worse for the US and everyone. Paris would not have happened without those promises. Yes the TPP and NAFTA made the US accept foreign products without tariffs, but that was so the US could have access to markets elsewhere in the world. That access would not have happened without reciprocal access for foreign companies. Yes Obamacare is flawed, but it took twenty years for even that to be agreed upon. It can be refined but if Trump gets his way and it is scrapped he will long have passed from this mortal coil before anything is put in its place. These laws and treaties took years, in some cases decades of negotiation. Negotiation that required all sides to give up something. There is simply no way Trump can walk in and demand terms. He will be laughed out of the room. That is if the other leaders even bother to show up. Trump is not respected by modern business leaders and similarly Trump is not respected by other world leaders. More and more he’s not respected or even listened to by members of Congress or even the American people. They all understand that he is an anachronism. Someone as out of place as a black clad gunslinger would be in today’s Dodge City Kansas. Someone as obsolete and beyond his depth as a Conquistador would be if he landed and tried to claim Ft. Lauderdale. He is America’s Silvio Berlusconi.

In the real world of modern business, it is understood that shortsighted pursuit of “winning” is in the long run a near guarantee of losing. Almost all of the people that engaged in that behaviour have learned their lessen and adopted ethical business practices, or are out of business, or are in jail for fraud or smuggling. The notable exception is Donald Trump who, after being tabloid fodder and a reality TV star, has accepted the image he crafted as fact. He has fallen for his own publicity. He is operating under the delusion that he is a good businessman. The delusion that he can rule by decree as he did in his company. The delusion that all he needs to do is flash the President Trump business card and he will be able to replace the results of years of diplomacy and negotiation with deals that make other countries grovel at the feet of the US. None of that will happen. It is a total fantasy, a delusion bordering on psychosis.

Donald Trump is delusional, that much is without question. In his delusion however, are the seeds of untold amounts of, criminality, death, and misery, for people in the US and the world. The real tragedy however, is that Trump, like most delusional people, does not understand that he is delusional. Worse yet, his children and his sycophants, are also apparently incapable of understanding that he is dangerously delusional. They are gladly following orders like good Germans in 1943, oblivious to the long term consequences of their actions for America or the world.

And that is the path that leads from the merely delusional, to true evil.

Gentrification

I have an admission. I find gentrification to be very offensive. Not however, for the reason most that use it do.

You see gentrification is most often used by people protesting a new business, a new apartment complex, a new development that happens in an older area. They will decry how it will “ruin” the character of the neighbourhood. They will protest how it will drive out existing residents. How it will impact the “character” and the “culture” of the area. Gentrification is always presented bad thing. How it’s hard on the poor. How it destroys the feel of these areas. To that I have but one thing to say:

Bullshit.

You see the whole argument about this is based on a fallacy. Its based on the idea that neighbourhoods stay the same forever. That’s simply absurd. No collection of humans, be it a city, town, village, neighbourhood, or street corner is static. People come and go. Children grow up and move off. New families move in. Businesses are started, go for a while and then close. New businesses open in those same store fronts. Buildings go up, wear out, and are either remodelled or replaced. Needs and functions of the society change. Meanwhile the people living there may believe its always been the way they remember, but it simply isn’t the case. It’s just that they can’t see beyond their own small horizon. The short time they’ve lived there, even if it’s been their whole life is not long enough to see the changes. Harlem in New York has, over the years, gone from a primarily dutch area, to the jewish and eastern european part of town, to one populated by african americans. It has gone from a thriving area in the 1920’s and ’30’s where the top celebrities went to see the best shows, to a slum in the 1950’s and 60’s where only the most desperate struggled to survive, often waging war over turf, and now its on its way back up. A hundred years ago the Gateway District in Minneapolis was home to bars, flop houses, drunks, and misery. It was LITERALLY known as Skid Row. Now its filled with upscale eateries, condominiums, and young professionals who want to live within walking distance to their jobs downtown or at the University.

Neighbourhoods evolve. That cannot be stopped. It can only be guided.

Because change cannot be stopped, this means that an area can only go one of two ways. It can get better or it can get worse. Both will result in people relocating, businesses closing and opening. It is inevitable that the “character” of the neighbourhood will change. What’s more, if we do not work to make it better, then entropy takes over and it will get worse. Businesses will close, and unless someone wants to put some effort in, nothing will open to replace them. Buildings will wear out, and unless someone wants to invest, nothing will be built in their place. If we let an area sit with few thriving businesses, and worn out buildings, and marginal services, then the people that make an area thrive will move away. This is how slums are made.

One of the weakest arguments put forward by those protesting gentrification, is that it will push out the most vulnerable. The addicts, the poor, the handicapped, who will have nowhere else to go. This is a very offensive argument, first because I don’t remember protests about people being driven out when affluent areas decayed. But suddenly there’s all this whining about how important it is to preserve the neighbourhood. Now that its the poor part of town populated by poor minorities, now they want to preserve its “historic charactor”.

I remember all the talk about “white flight” when the centres of US cities were allowed to decay in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Most of those people would rather have not moved but the lack of support from the local, city, or state governments made it untenable. When the schools are allowed to rot, families with children will move. When transit is allowed to falter, working people will go somewhere else where they can catch a bus or subway. Without thriving neighbourhoods, businesses look elsewhere to invest. Without adequate policing and attention from the city, crime, vandalism, and decay will spread and take over. It is a vicious cycle.

More importantly, the idea that this is the only place for “those people” at risk, is inhuman on the face of it, and often overtly racist. I know of no other epithet to use when a bunch of white kids from the suburbs are protesting to “protect” an area populated by poor minorities. Protect it, and them, from what? Becoming affluent? Receiving basic services? The opportunity to get as job? A good standard of living? The chance not to live in a dilapidated slum? If an area improves than the services in that area also get better. Believe me, drug abuse treatment is much more available in affluent areas than it is in the poor neighbourhoods. Job training and availability is much better in areas with higher standards of living. By preserving these decayed neighbourhoods, all these “activists” are doing is to keep the walls of economic apartheid up. They are acting like they are anthropologists and these people are some primitive culture that needs to be preserved. That’s racist and offensive.

Poverty, addiction, and misery are not a lifestyle.

One time when I was a kid, we were at a park on the Oregon coast. The people in the car next to us were an older couple from the UK who were travelling the world. We chatted with them about their travels, what they had seen. They had been everywhere it seemed. At one point the subject of India came up. We commented about the terrible poverty there, the misery, the disease, the starvation. They replied that “It is awful yes, but of course you know they like it that way. Something in the Indian mind doesn’t want to live like you or I.” Even as a kid I found this patronizing colonial attitude horrible. I was reminded of this a couple of years ago when there were protests in West Vancouver. An upscale restaurant was trying to open and there were pickets and protests about this “Gentrification” and how people needed to stand up and prevent the destruction of the neighbourhood. I was sickened. I was sickened by the colonial double standard. An attitude that “Yes West Van is miserable, and drugs are rampant, and people are literally dying in alleys, but that’s their culture, they like it that way, and its wrong to try to change it.” Sickened by the attitude that a functional upscale business would be the worst thing that could happen. That someone wanting to invest in a neighbourhood and maybe make it better for all concerned was doing something wrong.

No, giving someone, or a group, or an area, a hand when they need it isn’t gentrification, it’s basic decency. In this case it wasn’t even giving them a hand. It was one person who wanted to open a business and maybe it would be a seed of improving things for everyone. Yet he was treated like absolute scum, his property was vandalized, pickets blocked his customers, and I believe he was finally forced to close. Well done, you hypocrite assholes managed to keep the area miserable for another year. I hope the protesters were proud of themselves as they drove OUT of West Van and back to their homes in affluent neighbourhoods and suburbs. I hope they opened a nice $100 bottle of wine and raised a glass to a job well done, as they sat down to their dinner. I hope they were satisfied sitting in their warm home while another homeless junkie died of exposure in a cold West Van alley.

And that is my impression of the whole idea of protesting about “gentrification”. Hypocritical bullshit by pampered, spoiled suburban kids that never had to worry about their next meal. So if you tell me this or that project is bad because it is Gentrification, don’t be surprised if I walk away in disgust at YOUR attitude.

Stand up for The Right

It is not censorship to shout down the censors.
It is not intolerance to reject the intolerant.
It is not bias to stand against the biased.
It is not bullying to ostracize the bullies.
It is not bigotry to condemn the bigots.
It is not hate to despise the hateful.
It is not racist to confront racists.
They have the right to free speech
So do you.
You have the right to tell them they’re being a dick.
You have the right to tell them they’re being stupid.
You have the right to tell them to sit down and shut up.
As Barry Goldwater, one of America’s last real conservatives said:
Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice!
Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

Gambling or Investing

Let me state for the record that I don’t gamble. I don’t play the lottery, or go to a casino, or play poker, or contribute to the office pool on this or that sporting event. Oh it isn’t through some misguided belief in the morality or anything like that. No, I don’t gamble because, I don’t win. I just don’t. In the past when I DID partake occasionally I never won. I mean never. NEVER hit a lottery jackpot or poker pot, or anything. I don’t think I’ve won a game of poker even if we were only betting chips. I just don’t win.

What this really meant became obvious in the late 1990s. Everyone’s attention was riveted on the O.J. Simpson trial. On the day the verdict was to be read someone in the office suggested we put some money on it. So I put $5 on convict, because, well, there was no way in hell they could rule any other way. And then he was acquitted. This was when I realized something. Not only do I not win, my betting on something will change the outcome so that I lose. The Universe sees to it that I do not win.

It’s a terrible power to have.

Since then I’ve been very careful about betting. I’ve quietly done some further experiments and made a discovery: Karma is a tricky SOB. You see when I bet on something I lose. Even if it’s a sure thing, I lose. Even if there’s no way in the world it could happen, I lose. But farther, suppose I want one outcome if I put money on the other side, bet against myself as it were, the side I really want to win, won’t. I may “win” the bet but there Universe saw through my ruse and sees to it that I really still lose. This is why I did not put any money on the last US election. If I had bet on Clinton winning she would have lost. If I had put money on Trump winning, the Universe would have known I was betting against myself, and Trump would have won. In the end he did win, but at least it wasn’t my fault.

Which brings me to the most popular form of betting there is today; investing in the market. For the last few years an investment councillor named Mark Ting has appeared on On The Coast, CBC Radio-1 Vancouver’s afternoon drive time show. He’s there to give financial advice, investing advice, retirement advice, and tax advice. That’s all fine and good but as I sit in the car listening to him, I keep thinking one thing.

I don’t invest.

You see I view investing in the same class as gambling and I don’t gamble because I don’t win. Yes, I know a lot of people that say they have a system, I know a lot of people who have a foolproof strategy to succeed at investing. I also know a lot of people who have a foolproof way to win at Blackjack. The psychology is the same, as is the outcome; overall they lose. A few examples

  • My folks bought into a mutual fund in the sixties and made regular monthly contributions for the next twenty five years. When they cashed it in at retirement in the nineties, they had about what they had invested, minus fees. They would have been better off putting the money in a jar.
  • In the eighties I had a friend that was sure his investments would put him on easy street. It was the Go-Go eighties and “Retire at Forty”, was his plan. That lasted until the crash of 1987, and the Savings and Loan meltdown wiped him out. As far as I know, he’s still working.
  • In there nineties a coworker was heavily into investing. When he decided to cash in some of it to buy a house he discovered that his investments were not liquid. They would not give him his own money back when he needed it. He didn’t get the house
  • In the early 2000’s I knew a guy who was really into Day Trading. That lasted until the big dot com bubble popped and he lost his shirt, (and nearly his job because he had been doing it on the company computer during the day).
  • Then there was my cousin. A decade or two back he invested in his buddies oil exploration company. Over the years the value went up and up. Things were looking great. I talked to him this winter. The company has gone bust. His $20,000 investment is now worth $200. It cost him more to fill out the tax forms than his holdings were worth.

 

The fact is I have never known anyone that actually won in the market.

Over the years I’ve seen a few companies that I thought might be a good investment. Most every time I thought about it, and especially if I looked into it, the company would crash. Either they would run into a problem and collapse, or it would get bought out and vanish, or it would turn out to be a scam. Add to this how the press is full of Ponzi schemes, and this fraud, and that scam and I just do not take the risk.

In the late 1990’s my wife wanted to buy stock in Apple Computer. It was trading at I think $12 a share at the time and she wanted to get 100 shares. I hemmed and hawed about it but in the end I just couldn’t do it. Oh sure if we had, between stock splits and value increases we would be sitting on something like a million dollars right now. (My wife is happy to mention this at every opportunity.) But I know that if I had bought even a single share, Apple would have immediately collapsed. There would have been no iMac, no iPhone, no iPad, no amazing rise from the ashes. Apple would have gone the way of Gateway Computer and Amiga Computer. And it would have happened just because I had bought stock in it. I single handedly could have changed the future of the world for the worse.

Someone once suggested that, rather than buying individual stocks, I should put money into a market index fund. A fund that tracks the whole US economy. I thought about it. Then there was the early 1990s recession. And I knew I would be playing with fire. If I bet on the health of the whole US economy, then the whole US economy would go down the tubes. I could single handedly wipe out the country, just by buying a few dollars worth of stock. Imagine the stress that would put ME under. I can destroy corporate empires, make thousands go without food, obliterate whole industries, just by investing in them. It is a terrible power to have.

It’s better for all concerned that I don’t.

What I’d like to do is find someone, some investment company or bank that would pay me to do nothing. I’m not asking much. $3000/month and I won’t even look at the financial pages. Consider it insurance. But so far that idea has gone nowhere. It’s too bad too. I really thought it would work. I would have put money on it.

North Dakota Mountain Men

You may have heard
Of the Rocky Mountains
Or the Smokey Mountains
But have you heard of the mountains
In North Dakota, the Great Flat Mountains.

Running from Fargo to Bismarck
As far north as Winnipeg
They tower over very little
But are majestic just the same
Their peaks are covered in snow
From November till May

There’s a special brand of people
The North Dakota Mountain Men
Clad in walking shoes and floppy hats
They go striding across the plane.
Looking for adventure
Trying to avoid the rain

Back in the summer of ought nine it was
There was a big old controversy
Every Mountain Man had planted a flag in a different county
Claimed to have found the highest spot in North Dakota
And every one of them was right

And then there was the big flood of ninety eight.
Heavy winter snow and spring rains left the whole region under water.
It was a lake across two states and two provinces.
Mountain Men still talk about it
The year their ankles got wet.

But to be a North Dakota Mountain Man you have to be tough
Have to be able to handle the worst that nature can throw at you
Winter cold, summer heat
Boredom, ennui, apathy, lethargy, monotony, flatness.
It’s a kaleidoscope of experiences being a North Dakota Mountain Man

But the North Dakota Mountain Man is a dying breed
Their numbers are declining, they’re fading away
The young folk just don’t feel the call
They’re lured by the modern world
By computers, and airplanes, and air conditioning
Indoor toilets, regular meals, basic hygiene.

But, here’s to the North Dakota Mountain Men
Men who lived by their own rules, their own code
Or maybe they were just too stubborn to ask for directions.

Hydra

The Hydra with a hundred heads
Each with a forked tongue
Take one out and two more appear
From its scalp they are sprung

Each snake head has a voice
Filled with hate and lies
This one is dressed in a fancy suit
That one a toupee and long tie

One is bombastic and blames Islam
Another blames the poor
One points fingers at high taxes
Division is the gas they pour

Valiant warriors young and bold
Strive to kill the beast
Though they defeat a snake here and there
They make no difference in the least

You see the problem isn’t the snakes
It’s the head upon which they’re worn
The beast laughs at their naiveté
He believes they’ll never learn

For until the monster is taken down
Ripped out twig, branch and root
It will continue to spread its misery
And pocket its stolen loot

The Hydra with a hundred heads
Each with a forked tongue
Take one out and two more appear
From our apathy they are sprung

The Post-Polling Era

So the writ has dropped and they’ve called an election in British Columbia. As Pooh would say “Oh Bother”. Actually this will be good because it’s our first opportunity to vote in Canada. What I’m not looking forward to are the polls. Every week this or that poll will say this party or that one is ahead. They put out press releases and the news and talk shows lap them up. Hey, it’s good filler. There is some gaffe by a candidate and spot polls are out within a couple of hours to indicate any shift in public opinion. During debates real time polls are shown after every answer. There is lots of sound and fury, and it all signifies nothing. The reason is simple. Polls mean nothing. Polls are always wrong. Even when they get one right, it means nothing, broken clock and the village idiot can get something right occasionally. A blind man throwing a basketball will once in a while sink one. In reality, polls are fatally and irreparably flawed and we should stop paying the slightest attention to them. We are entering the post polling era.

A week ago CBC interviewed a person from some polling organization. I don’t offhand remember which one. She was blathering about their improved metrics, and systems and such. Finally the announcer asked her why, after the polls blew it over Brexit, and Trump, and the Alberta NDP, and a hundred other elections why anyone should believe them any more. She cheerily replied that they’ve looked at the times that they’ve gotten it wrong and improved their methodology. They’re making an effort to include groups that have been under-sampled in the past. They’ve learned from the earlier mistakes so we can trust them in the future.

In other words, she was an idiot.

You see the problem with polls and polling is irreparable. They cannot be fixed. In this always connected, social media, cynical age it is not possible to do an accurate poll. There are three reasons:

First a majority of the general population will not answer polls. They have no interest in chatting with some pollster on the phone. We’re busy. We’ve got things to do. We certainty don’t have time for this shit. Add to that cynicism because of things like push-polling, and tricky questions intended to get the answer whoever is paying for the poll wants, and sales calls that start out masquerading as a survey and the inclination to respond is even lower. In many ways the polling organizations have poisoned their own well. Top it off with a healthy Snowden inspired dose of paranoia and it’s amazing that anyone is answering polls at all. What’s most important though, is that those of us who don’t answer polls do not see the world the same as those that do. My neighbour may be the same race, income, and live on the same block as me, but if he is willing to spend five minutes talking to a pollster on the phone, I can guarantee we disagree on a lot of issues, especially political. Polls asking about a subject will simply not have data from the population that won’t answer polls. It is a fundamental flaw. That is something that cannot be corrected for by oversampling a particular demographic or applying mathematical corrections. If the data isn’t there, it isn’t there and a conclusion based on flawed data is meaningless.

Next, most people have a cell phone. Indeed the population that only has a cell phone is growing. In many areas the majority do not have a home phone, only cells. In most jurisdictions you cannot make polling or sales calls to a cell number. I think it’s safe to say that the opinions and attitudes of people on the go who live on their cell phone are different from someone who is home enough to have a land line. Regardless of age, or income, or race. If you are around the house enough to have a land line then your world view has to be far different from an identical person who isn’t. The opinions of habitual cell phone users are completely missed in polling. Once again, that is something that cannot be corrected for by oversampling a particular demographic or applying mathematical corrections. If the data isn’t there, it isn’t there, and a conclusion based on flawed data is meaningless.

The last reason polling does not work is the Boaty McBoatface effect. There is a large part of the population who will answer polls, but give ridiculous answers for the fun of it. Who just want to skew the data. Who, perhaps out of annoyance or paranoia, will just not give their true opinion. This means not only are the polling organizations not getting a good statistical sample of the population and their opinions, not only missing huge specific demographics completely, it means that the data they ARE getting is terminally flawed and cannot be trusted. The results are meaningless. You cannot add corrections and fiddle with flawed data any more than you can calk a boat with a screen door in the bottom to make it float.

The data they get is irreparably flawed and is missing whole demographics they cannot correct for. The data they have is so full of noise and deliberate errors that it cannot be trusted despite any cleanup and corrections. There’s an old saying in computing: Garbage in Garbage out. When you are dealing with bad data you cannot get anything of value out of it. the results are worthless.

We are now in a post-polling era. It is no longer possible to take an opinion poll and have it mean anything. I put no credence in polls and polling and I wish everyone else, especially news organizations, would do the same. Their numbers mean nothing. They are of no value. They are as significant as the homeless person in the corner yelling about the voices in his head. To take the polls is a waste of time because the results have no value. The only bigger waste of time is any attention paid to polls.

They are utterly worthless.

Dear Fellow Human Being

You are my doctor, my pharmacist, my accountant. You are my coworker, the person running the register at the store, or a kid in the class I’m talking to about dinosaurs. You are all around me and I have something to tell you.

I don’t care.

I do not care who you are fond of, or what your gender is or if that gender is in flux. I do not care any more than I care if you are a straight man or a straight woman or if you go to church, mosque, or temple, or how much melanin is in your skin, or where your ancestors are from. I just simply don’t care. Our relationship has nothing to do with that. It’s none of my business.

You are another human being. I will treat you with respect. I will be polite. I will help you if you need it, and ask you for help if I do. We’re all in this together. Professionally I will treat you just like all of our other customers and I expect the same in return. But I have to focus on what’s relevant to what we’re doing.

I’ve had coworkers, friends, bosses even, that were male, and some that were female, some that were gay, and some straight. It was irrelevant to the job at hand. I’ve tried to treat everyone with respect and dignity. Frankly, as far as I’m concerned, unless you are thinking of hooking up with someone, gender and orientation are irrelevant. I dream of a day when who you sleep with, or if you chose to not sleep with anyone, is as unimportant as what hand you hold your fork with. I dream of the day when we stop trying to divide ourselves into little boxes marked Straight, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Two-spirited, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual, Agender, Gender Queer, Bigender, Gender Variant, Pangender, and whatever else. We are all people. We are all trying to get along. We should all be allies.

So when I say I don’t care, I mean it. Your gender or orientation makes no difference to me. Now if someone tries to put you down, to beat you up, or otherwise make life hard for you, I will be in your corner. I’ve got your back. But then, that’s true regardless of why they’re doing it. Otherwise though, it’s irrelevant. If you are the pilot on my airliner, I just want you to be the best damn pilot in the air. The same goes if you’re my plumber, or the cop in my neighbourhood, or the teacher in the local school, or one of the students. I want you to be the best damn you that you can be. But as far as your private life,

I just really don’t care.

Children

Recently a friend of ours said something to my wife and I:

“You two are such nice people. It’s really surprising. Most of the people we know that don’t have kids are jerks.”

We found this to be quite funny. I mean, what about all the people who are jerks who DO have kids. But let’s set this aside for the moment.

Today I was looking up some background information on the song When I Die. We use it as one of the songs for people entering to see Exit the King. As I was looking around I found that it has been covered by a lot of people. Peter Paul and Mary did it first. Then others. The Blood Sweat and Tears version was the most famous. More recently Billy Childs and Alison Krauss did another cover. Honestly I prefer the Blood Sweat and Tears version. It’s the one I grew up with. To me it will always be the quintessential version. It’s always going to be a tent-revival song that tells mortality to fuck off. The others, especially the Allison Krauss version just seem slow, mournful and more than a little bit creepy. At heart it’ll always be a happy song.

In reading about the song I came across a blog called Jeff Meshel’s World where he discussed the song. Now his post’s a little ‘churchy’ for my taste, but then that may have come from the lyrics of the song. He also prefers the slower versions of When I Die over the Blood Sweat and Tears version, which he refers to as “criminally vulgar”. I guess to each his own, but I can’t even listen to the Krauss version.

Early in his essay though in reference to the line “and when I die there’ll be one child born in our world to carry on”, Meshel makes the following statement:

But when I think on the people I’ve known who do not have children, there’s a pinch in my heart. A discord. An arrhythmia. A missing link. Sorry, I’m a child of OzzieandHarrietLand. If we don’t contribute a link to the chain of life, what was it all for? What is it all about?

Really? That someone else decided to not have kids makes you feel strange? Like there’s a discord in the universe? Like its all meaningless? Why does it matter to you? Some people want kids. Others don’t. Isn’t it far better for the latter to not have them. The alternative is for them to have them and then raise them badly because of resentment or incompetence.

You see my wife and I are in our fifties now. We don’t have kids. When we decided to get married, nearly thirty years ago, we sat down and discussed all sorts of things. Money, responsibilities, long term plans, and children. I made it clear that I didn’t want any. I wasn’t a parent, I never would be a parent, I had no desire to try to learn to be a parent. Fortunately my wife was of like mind. As I’ve joked for three decades: I didn’t want to raise them and she didn’t want to bear them. We fit well together. We’ve had nieces, nephews, a few god children, but none of our own. Their visits were always temporary and brief. Once they left the house could return to the peace and quiet we prefer.

As I was growing up, kids, even my peers, were noisy, messy, and above all irrational. I was regularly embarrassed by something one of my peers did that made no sense to me. I went all the way through High School wondering if there was a set of rules, an instruction book, or something I had missed. I just didn’t understand the kids around me or what they did. As they were playing baseball I was reading about relativity. As they were fishing, I kept feeling sorry for the fish. When they made plans to get married and settle down after graduation to a job in the mill and a bunch of kids I kept wondering why could not see the bigger world out there. I never saw myself as having a family. Indeed I just didn’t understand why anyone would. I still don’t. There are things each of us want to do while we’re here. Kids prevent you from doing anything else. They are a full time job. So unless you really above all want kids, why have them? It’s not just that I didn’t want to have kids. I can’t even understand why anyone would. It’s an utterly alien concept for me. People who dream of growing up to have a family aren’t even talking the same language as I am.

I have a nephew who got married about seven years ago, and last year they had their second child. They’re thrilled. Both him and his wife love being a family, teaching the little ones to do things, watching them grow up, even cleaning up various, uh, leakage they produce. More power too them. If they’re happy then we’re happy for them. But I’ve never changed a diaper and I never will. I do not want to deal with that. I do not have the patience for temper tantrums, or potty training, or adolescent brain rot, or two in the morning trips to the ER. I just was never willing to deal with that. That is not me on any level. Just after we got married my mother kept saying “It’s different when they’re your own.” Yeah, because then you’re trapped. I was smart enough not to fall for that one.

The trouble is that even when kids are not making a mess, they still do things. Things that make me uncomfortable. Embarrassing things. Unpredictable things. Weird things. And that is the biggest issue. I don’t understand children. I’m not comfortable around them. But culture says you grow up and have a family. That’s what you do. If you get married and don’t start popping out kids within a few years people start to look at you funny. Society expects that. There must be something wrong with you if you don’t. You have to be selfish, a jerk, or worse. Or there’s a medical problem. The idea that some people just don’t want to have kids doesn’t sit well with some people. Worse, some people cave into this pressure and have a family they don’t want. I’ve seen a lot of misery that comes from taking that path.

Fortunately as I was growing up my parents taught me something fundamental: To do what I wanted to do, not what others wanted me to do. I learned that other people could spend all my free time if I let them. I was encouraged to chart my own path and let the others pass “like water off of a duck’s back”. It let me not be afraid to walk away from that kid in school who wanted to do something illegal. To just say “no thanks” when the guy in college offered me drugs. And to decide for myself whether my future involved a bunch of kids. I made my path. I’m happy with it.

So the fact is, I just never wanted to have children. I didn’t have the desire in any way. Indeed I’ve had a long lasting aversion to having children. So far from being a problem or unnatural, not having kids was and is the right path for me. To have done otherwise would have been “A discord. An arrhythmia”. Nothing good could have come from it. I, the world, the universe as a whole, is better for my not having children.

Most people remember the line from the song “And when I die there’ll be one child born to carry on”. I always focussed on the line earlier “Give me my freedom for as long as I be. All I ask of living is to have no chains on me.