Archive for December, 2013

2014: A Good Year to Can the Man

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Since our blog is updated every Sunday we will be celebrating the New Year early.  Let’s toast 2014 early with something bubbly.  Better yet, light a joint, a once demonized act, which is becoming increasingly legal  in a number of states.   There is plenty to celebrate as we pass into 2014, like the follies of Men around the world who became victims of their own greed and megalomania.  The most heartwarmingly stupid tale is that of Eike Batista who had once reached number ten on the list of richest people in the world, but in the last couple of years has lost nearly all of his $30 billion fortune on aggressive business ventures, mostly in his native Brazil, which has more than a quarter of its population living in poverty.

Eike Batista

Eike Batista

Many publications recap the year in some sort of retrospective.  Time Magazine selects a public figure they deem the most influential of the year to feature on their cover.  In 2013 it should probably have been Edward Snowden (runner-up in Time to Pope Francis).  Snowden would have also been a strong candidate for Anti-Man of the Year, if there were such a thing, as someone who stood up for his principles to help others who were exposed to worldwide violations of privacy.  His story was unquestionably one of the year’s most riveting and significant.  Yet, we’re not here to name a Man or Anti-Man of the Year as that would be too simple, we’ll leave that sensationalism for mainstream outlets that are beholden to their need to sell.


Even as individual members of the global 1% fall, an oligarchy still controls the wealth of the world. People are starving all over the planet.  Still 50% of the Earth’s population lives on less than $2.50 per day while 80% lives on less than $10; all over the world the gap between rich and poor is widening.  Major natural disasters are more frequent and nuclear waste is seeping from the shores of Japan all across the globe, passing through a plastic soup, floating mass of collected plastic waste the size of Texas.  There are many reasons to be pessimistic…the world seems to be increasingly imperiled.  But there is a silver lining.


Many people thought that 2013 wasn’t even supposed to happen; 15% of people thought the world was going to end on December 21, 2012. After evacuating New York City as super-storm Sandy was rolling in, I started to wonder if we were coming to some sort of reckoning that would drastically alter the course of life on this planet.  Nourished on a diet of Daniel Pinchbeck I was especially nervous as CTM writer Spencer and I sat in my living room during a memorable meeting as we watched two bright mysterious explosions in the night sky, which could have been: A) the hand of God, B) an alien invasion, C) government sabotage, or D) something far stranger, beyond the scope of our imaginations.  It turned out to be transistors exploding in the dark.  We awoke on December 22, 2012, survivors of the passage into a new era.  What will this new era be about?  Consumption and destruction or collaboration and sustainability?  Greed and power or love and understanding?  A new year is always an excuse for change.  Let our personal transformations contribute to the betterment of our collective existence.  Then 2014 would be a truly happy New Year.



More Americans Kick God To The Curb

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

“Madness is something rare in individuals–but in groups, parties, peoples, ages it is the rule.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Recent polls and statistics on American religion confirm what we already know, that secularism is replacing theism. The doomsday scenario of evangelicals and fundamentalists is now waiting at the waters edge, more and more new generations of Americans do not cling to superstition. For the first time in history more people identify with no religion than with Christian Evangelicals, which is no small change. We can look back to just a few years ago when atheism and even secular belief have been openly chided as un-American heresy. George H.W. Bush famously commented from America’s highest level of office, “No, I don’t know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic.”

In an extremely short amount of time, the United States has to an extent shifted from that perspective to one where religion is now often a pariah. In a bitter moment of irony, this change  was shown by George W. Bush, the boy-king of populist conservatism. In a radical move from his father’s beliefs, he proclaimed “No President should ever try to impose religion on our society…the great tradition of America is one where people can worship the way they want to worship. And if they choose not to worship, they’re just as patriotic….”

How is this possible?


The clearest explanation is that despite the historical context of religion, it is now being superseded by a more informed public. The Internet has drastically improved global access to information, it is harder to hide the truth. Religious extremism, bigotry, and affectation becomes more and more exposed every day.   If it were not for the cultural baggage association with theism,one could even make the argument that belief would have left America some time ago. Religiosity has become what anthropologists consider a cultural survival: a social remnant much like our vestigial tonsils or appendix. The structures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam may have once provided us with a necessary escapism or even a physical practicality, but that time seems to have faded away.

One important reason that there are still a majority of Americans clinging to their spiritual ideology is because it is easier than the alternative. No one wants to have the conversation with their mother, grandparents, old friends and so on, about how they have shed an everyday appeal to ignorance that was so often revered.


Slavoj Zizek qualifies the change as simply, “With regard to religion, we no longer ‘really believe’, we simply follow (some of) the religious rituals and mores as part of our respect for the ‘lifestyle’ of the community to which we belong.”


-Slavoj Žižek

Take for example the existence of the traditional handshake, it remains a custom across the world but no longer serves its intended function. In ancient history and prehistory the custom developed as a way of showing a guest that you were unarmed. Presenting an open hand to an acquaintance assured both parties that no one would receive a blade across the throat.

For America, the time has come when people no longer wish to live under the shadow of this sort of impractical nicety. Our country and our world is in the midst of a change that will push society away from tradition for the sake of tradition,and towards more active thinking.




Anti-Man Goes to Work Part VIII: Unplugged – The Final Chapter

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

I feel like Neo today, emerging from the Matrix and that infernal pink slime to the real world.  Sure, reality might be scary, intimidating, and unreliable – but it will always be better than feeling trapped.  Faithful readers, this will mark the final chapter chronicling my current tenure with the Man; I have decided to pursue other opportunities.  After all, one can’t possibly write for Can the Man whilst simultaneously being employed by one of the biggest corporate machines the world has ever seen and not have the slightest feeling of contradiction.



It feels like a philosophical awakening – a rebirth if you will.  I feel like a two-ton weight has lifted off my chest and I can finally breathe again.  After proving my worth repeatedly at this position I was given an opportunity to become a full-time employee with the company. This was unheard of in my department and extremely rare for the company.  All seemed too good to be true.  Turns out, it all was.  I applied for the position, was given an offer, and consequently politely refused as it was no improvement from my current role.  The company is notorious for finding someone who is proven to not be a moron, then burying them under work with the promises of “future opportunities.”  Three people have quit on my floor alone since I started for this very reason, not to mention the distraught man who ended his life over losing his job.  If those are the existing conditions for the company, that is not something I would want to buy in to.



Nothing will ever happen for you unless you make it happen for yourself.  Now that the chains binding me to some of the Man’s infernal wishes have been broken and I am free to do what I want, I feel extraordinary.  Sometimes jobs show you what you want to do, but more often these jobs will clue you in on what you absolutely do NOT want to do.  People at the company and in my life will likely tell me I’m making a mistake, but I could not feel more different.  Sure, security is nice and a 401k plan might be cool.  Still, I’d much rather find something that makes me happy instead of something that just pays the bills.  In short, I refuse to drink the proverbial “kool-aid.”



My entire life I have told myself that I would never be the office drone, but for a while I was convinced by other people that this was in my best interest.  I’ve never been one to follow the beaten path, and have often branched out in my own way despite what the world was telling me might be the “acceptable” or “popular” route.  Truthfully I haven’t ever felt as free and fresh as I do today while I write this—the world is there for the taking and I’m ready to set my goals higher than just a job that’ll pay the bills.  After all, what good is money if you don’t feel good about how you’re making it?  Without question the company will miss my presence, but I will never feel guilty about leaving it behind.  No matter what lies ahead I’m convinced that taking a step into the unknown will be much more rewarding than sticking with the program and working for the Man.  I am the Anti-Man, and the time has come for me to find that which makes me happy, fulfilled, and satisfied.  It is time for a change.



-Spencer James-

Remembering the Horrors of Unit 731

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

The other day Spencer sent me the link to a video about Unit 731, saying that he could only stomach the first three minutes.  Bleary eyed at six in the morning, still waking up over emails and tea I began watching the video below.  I made it through fifteen minutes before I was overloaded.  What I saw was a short documentary on yet another horrific, and little known chapter in history. 


I am currently working on a thesis in a Master’s history program and although I have had a fascination with history my entire life I was startled by this piece, which was never mentioned in any of my classes.  Perhaps teachers never told me about Unit 731 because they didn’t know about it or because of the heinous nature of the events.  Although I have made some minor forays into Asian history I have never studied any nation in depth, and the inhumane brutality conceived in Manchuria was truly startling. During the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) an injustice of epic proportions occurred on the outskirts of Harbin, Manchuria. 


People were experimented on and tortured like lab rats. The sadistic Lieutenant General Shiro Ishii oversaw the operation, he was a man who “could give lessons in evil” to the “Angel of Death,” Dr. Josef Mengele, the face of Nazi experimentation.  Shiro Ishii was given unlimited funds from Japanese government to perform experiments on the local Chinese in hopes of creating chemical and biological weapons. Innocent people from the surrounding area were routinely dissected alive, subjected to frost bite, infected with terrible diseases, and much worse.  Death became a cold and measured experiment.  People were exterminated like rodents. 


In the eighteenth century Immanuel Kant said, “always treat people as ends in themselves, never as means to an end.”  However, in Manchuria people were treated worse than animals, they were dehumanized, referred to only as “logs.”  Like wood they were burned, branded, and chopped to pieces.  It was later discovered that the United States helped to cover-up the atrocities in exchange for all of the medical information gathered from the mass torture.  The fact that many U.S. citizens are unaware of the nation’s role in these atrocities is troubling.  This is another example of historical filtering and bias. 


What role do I have as a U.S. citizen who has just been exposed to this information?  Why were we not exposed to this in our educational careers?  Was it the horror, or something deeper?  Why couldn’t I just turn away?  It got me thinking of the relationship of the between history and memory.


One of the most compelling reasons history is so important, and why even terrible things cannot be forgotten, is that it gives us a fuller sense of what humanity is.  If we do not remember, there is little hope for the future.  If we do not heed the lessons of the past then we are doomed, as the cliché states, to have history repeat itself.  Anyone who grasps the events chronicled in this video would work to live in a world where this never happens again.  In life we must look into the mirror and acknowledge our flaws as individuals and work on those flaws in order to grow.  Is a society any different?



Football – Quintessential Racist History

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

It was a snowy pre-winter Monday night here in Western New York, and I was all tuckered out watching the quintessential American pastime “Monday Night Football.”  Last weeks matchup between the hard-nosed San Francisco 49ers and the somewhat hapless Washington Redskins.  It might have been the lackluster play, or it might have been the shameless attempt at understanding Washington owner Daniel Snyder pulled, but I was spurned to write about what I was thinking about.



In between the first and second quarter of the miserable game, three Navajo “Code Talker” veterans were applauded on the field for their service in World War II.  For those who do not know, the Code Talkers were instrumental in maintaining an unbreakable code of communication for the US effort in the Pacific theater.  The appreciation for their service was deserved and appropriate, but I have no doubt that the public relations department decided it would be a good idea to outfit them in Redskin gear emblazoned with the emblem of a red-faced tribal Indian.



The 49ers represent their own slice of history as they are the culmination of American culture, Manifest Destiny, our conquest from east to west.  A remembrance of the hurried gold rush that swept across California in 1849.  Our obsession with gold and encapsulating the continent from east to west led to the destruction of an entire indigenous culture.  The very same indigenous people paraded out at halftime in “remembrance” of their service.   American history boiled down on the gridiron—devoid of all real significance or meaning.



No doubt the forcible relocation of the “Redskins” was a consequence of our relentless pursuit of land and that glimmering metal.  As I witness grown men wage battle on the field for teams of Redskins and 49ers I wonder—am I the only one thinking about American history while watching football?




-Spencer James-