DragonKing Dark Podcast - Episode 154 - Script (The Most Dangerous Episode Ever)
By: Karl Stern (@wiwcool)
The world is a terrible place. Frightening. There is crime on every corner. Riots in the streets. Americans are at each other's throats. Our British friends are at each other's throats. Build a wall this, Brexit that. There are a million and one things to be afraid of... or so we've been told.
The climate is changing so fast we might not live out our natural life spans without untold apocalyptic destruction. Everywhere we turn there are terrors both told and unknown waiting to take our freedom, our lives, or even our souls... or so we've been told.
It isn't that these terrors are fiction. It isn't that these things aren't real. However, stop for just a moment. Back away from the computer, or smartphone, or tablet and just... well breathe. Stop for a moment and look around. Are these incredible terrors happening to you right now? In all likelihood no. In all likelihood you are riding or driving to work. Or you're in a gym. Or you are at work. Or home. Or wherever you normally listen to this podcast. In all likelihood things are fine right where you are.
In the state of Alabama where I live we have a very famous weatherman named James Spann. To some of you that sounds strange that we have a famous weatherman, but we live in the heart of Dixie tornado alley and James Spann has likely saved untold numbers of lives by his intricate knowledge of the weather and an uncanny, almost superhuman knowledge of state geography. There's even an internet meme in our state showing James Spann warning your neighbor or your granny to get in the storm shelter because a tornado or violent storm is approaching their very house! James often speaks wisdom in his weather reports. Another of his famous sayings is that sometimes it is time to step away from the television or internet and actually look out the window to see what the weather is really doing right then at that moment right where you are.
I am going to borrow James Spann's wisdom for a moment and ask you to do the same. Step away from the television or twitter. Step away from your crazy local doomsday prognosticator on Facebook. Odds are you wouldn't even let that know-it-all in your front door so why are you letting him or her inside your head? Step away and look out the window. Do you see the terror that is being preached online? Likely not.
Again, this isn't because there’s no truth to some of it. There are many real and terrifying things out there in the world. Everyone is not looking out for your best interests. That robo-call ringing your cell phone probably wants to separate you from your money and leave you little to show for it. That email letter from an overseas Prince promising you millions of dollars is most likely going to separate you from some of your own. There are bad people out there and to think otherwise is equally as unwise as believing everyone is out to get you. It's just not true.
So, friend. Let me introduce you to where we live in the world of DragonKing Dark. You've heard me say it before. Welcome to the common sense middle ground. Let's do some exploring, right after this.
My name is Karl Stern and I am standing here in a place full of rational reason. From here I can see that there are many social issues which need to be addressed. We need to make good decisions about who leads our local cities and towns, states, and country. But we also don't need to lend too much of our precious sanity to the voices at the far ends of the spectrum.
DragonKing Dark Podcast is part of the When It Was Cool Podcast Network hosted at WhenItWasCool.com. We are also heard on Dark Matter Digital Network, F4WOnline.com, and Wither in Denial. The links to all of those fine websites can be found on the show page for DragonKing Dark at WhenItWasCool.com. We are a Patreon supported podcast.
You may think you know me based on the faulty inputs that society has told you. If I told you I was a Republican you might immediately think of me as a racist or someone who wants to build a wall, carry my gun on my hip like Wyatt Earp, or that I want to feed the rich and starve the poor, and burn the environment to the ground... but I’m not a Republican and if I were I wouldn’t want to do all of that.
You may think you know me based on the faulty inputs that society has told you. If I told you I was a Democrat you might immediately think of me as someone who wants to let every terrorist across our borders, murder babies if at all possible, or steal from the rich and give to the poor... but I’m not a Democrat and if I were I wouldn’t want to do all of that.
I don’t identify with either political party in totality and, truth is, behind closed doors most people out there don’t either. Not in totality. Certainly not to the extreme. In fact, most people, those who occupy the common sense middle ground, are forced into one of the two American political tribes due to lack of choice but few are completely satisfied as each one of those as tribes keep pulling farther away from the center.
You may think you know me based on the faulty inputs that society has told you. If I told you I was a Christian you might immediately think of me homophobic, intolerant, and judgmental... but I’m not your textbook type of Christian. At least not the kind that society tells you about. Are there some Christians who absolutely live that stereotype. Yes. But not all. There is a version of popular culture Christianity that many think is the “real” Christianity but doesn’t actually line up very well with what Jesus actually taught.
You may think you know me based on the faulty inputs that society has told you. If I told you I were a Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu you might have many preconceived notions about what I believe and do. But even within those groups there is tremendous differences, nuances, and ideas.
You may think you know me based on the faulty inputs that society has told you. If I told you I were black, or white, or Latino, or Asian, or any number of other labels you might very well picture me differently. You might automatically have a better or poor opinion of me based solely on these inputs. But you don’t know me at all.
In all likelihood we have never met. You may have taken clues about me from past radio shows. Maybe you follow the WhenItWasCool.com Twitter account and saw a picture of me... or is it me? We talked only recently about deep fake videos, photoshopping, and... as much as I hate to use the term since it’s became such a buzz word lately- fake news. Am I who you think I am? Does your opinion of me now change if I’m different from what you expected? What if the labels no longer fit?
Don’t worry. I haven’t pulled any sort of deception on you. However, I do believe that the most dangerous thing in society today isn’t any of the monsters we’ve been lead to believe they are. I don’t believe that the most dangerous thing in society is unchecked immigration. I don’t believe that the most dangerous thing in society is global warming. I don’t believe that the most dangerous thing in society is crime. Or political corruption. Or the erosion of constitutional rights.
No, I believe the most dangerous thing in society is more sinister than that. More sneaky, more covert, more insidious. If there were a secret society running the world this would be the very tool they would use. If the government really was sinisterly routing us down pathways against our will this is the weapon they would choose. This, most dangerous thing in society is the root of all racism. It is the root of all xenophobia, religious intolerance, and political hatred.
Not so fast. I can’t tell you just yet what the most dangerous thing in society is. It’s going to shock some of you. It’s going to offend some of you. For some of you it’s going to be an epiphany. But we, the people of the common sense middle ground implore you to hear us. We implore you to understand us and to think.
I am about to play an ad. This ad is important to the very survival of this podcast and our website. It is an ad about how to support us on Patreon and how to support one of our sponsors. Our Patreon supporters aren’t hearing this ad, they get an ad free edition of the show which they can download on iTunes or one of many different podcast apps. They also get bonus content but let me tell you about it now.
Now that we’ve had a moment to breathe I want to tell you about the most dangerous thing in society. Throughout history, think of any genocide, think of any war, think of any holocaust, and they all used this same weapon. If you’re thinking this dangerous thing is politics you would be wrong because politicians use it too. In fact, they use it masterfully. There are many skillful users of this weapon in our world. Not only politicians but others using this weapon are lawyers, corporations, law enforcement, mainstream media, non-mainstream media, even preachers, teachers, schools, and parents.
The most dangerous thing in society today doesn’t even have a scary sounding name. I thought for a moment about dropping the emergency alert tone into this podcast to really get your attention but I didn’t want to give some of you an anxiety attack. But I do want you to take this weapon more seriously than the name might imply that it is.
I’m a geek, my wife and I run a retro pop culture website so indulge me for a moment. Do you remember the old Monty Python movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail?” Do you remember the powerful and intimidating sorcerer who summoned lightening and thunder from the sky? King Arthur asked this fearsome wizard what his name was only to have him reply... “My name IS... Tim.” Not so scary now is it?
Nor is the identity of the most dangerous thing in society today. The weapon wielded by all who want to frighten you into doing something against your will. The weapon wielded by those want you to turn against your neighbor. This sinister weapon will get you to hate your neighbor, hate your leaders, hate your friends, even hate your family. In this scene I am King Arthur and I asked you - the most dangerous weapon in society - What. Is. Your. Name??? And this harbinger of doom and Armageddon replies- “My name is - The Label.”
Are you let down? Well don’t be. Just because this snake has pretty colors doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. The Label has the ability to make you hate. To divide you. You don’t know me. I am really a blank slate to you. You have nothing to fear from me. I am just a person, probably separated from you by many miles. We have probably never met. We have probably never talked. Not as friends do. So I am a blank slate. You should have no opinion of me beyond the fact that I have a readily identifiable southern United States accent. But even with that, the smallest bit of information gleaned only from the inflection in my voice you could... if you chose to... wield this most dangerous weapon against me.
The Label says, you sound like you are from the southern United States. The Label likes assumptions. “You sound like” is actually a common one. “You sound like” you’re from this part of a country or you are of this race or that race “You sound like” is an assumption and The Label loves to do that. So go ahead, I give you permission for just this once to use this weapon against me. I am southern. What do you think about me now? If you truly started with a blank slate did your assumptions about me change?
I am now going to hand you several labels to use against me. Some of these might be true. Most are not. But I want you to honestly examine yourself and see if your opinion of me changes as I hand you each of these swords.
Here is one. Republican or conservative if you prefer. How did your opinion of me change then? How did that label affect your assumptions about me? Now apply that label in conjunction with the “southern” label and how do you feel? Did you now assume many things about me that I haven’t actually told you? Did you assume how I felt about a variety of issues despite the fact that you and I have never discussed these matters?
Now flip it. Democrat or liberal if you will. How did your opinion of me change then? How did that label affect your assumptions about me? Now apply that label in conjunction with a label of “west coast” or “northeast” and how do you feel? Did you now assume many things about me that I haven’t actually told you? Did you assume how I felt about a variety of issues despite the fact that you and I have never discussed these matters?
Here is another one. Black. How did your opinion of me change then? How did that label affect your assumptions about me? Now I simply change clothes. I put on a hoodie. It’s been very cold after all. If you hadn’t just applied that “black” label to me would it matter what I’m wearing? Did you assume how I act despite the fact that you and I have never met? Picture me, the blank slate, in that sweatshirt, standing in a yard in a subdivision of a neighborhood. Now picture me white. Is it Ok that I’m standing here? Now picture me black? Am I now suspicious? How did that label and label alone cause you to perceive me? Are you starting to see just how dangerous The Label is?
Here’s another label. Baptist. Dare I say Southern Baptist. But that’s not true, I am not that. Try this one Muslim. A Muslim, from the south? Hardly likely right? Think again. Yet your opinion of me, your preconceptions of me, your... dare I use the word... prejudice of me probably changed based on each one of those.
As I told you earlier, I am a nerd. That’s another label for you but one I’ll gladly accept. My wife and I run a retro pop culture website so please indulge me in yet another geek pop culture reference. I love the Canadian rock band Rush. They are far and away my favorite music group of all time and they have a song with lyrics written by Neil Peart called The Weapon with a line that goes, “And the things that we fear are a weapon to be held against us.” The most diabolical, sinister weapon in the world is The Label.
Quick- take note of your knee jerk reaction to each of these labels - Male, Female, Black, White, Asian, Polynesian, Hispanic, Democrat, Republican, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Chinese, American, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Japanese, Baptist, Catholic, Southern, Yankee, Gringo, Gaijin, Hippie, Millennial, fat, ignorant, trashy.
How did those make you feel? Was there any one of those that really got your attention? That you immediately had a visceral reaction to? I would guess the answer is probably yes. But don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ve been programmed to feel that way. You have been programmed by the inputs that society gives you to place weight and meaning on each one of those labels. You have been programmed by society to then place each of those labels on any people you meet or, in my case, hear. You have been programmed by society to judge.
Judgement is another one of those things that we all do, often out of necessity, but often apply in terrible ways. We have to use judgement or discernment in everyday affairs. When that suspicious telemarketer calls offering you (apparently) something for nothing you have to use your judgement right? You wouldn’t walk through an unlit, high crime area, alone at night would you? No, judgement is sometimes good. It’s a survival instinct. But we often wield that stick wildly.
But Christians (a label) are not supposed to judge others! It’s in the Bible! No, that’s another one of those “I believe what I have heard about the Bible not necessarily what’s in there” statements. No, what the Christian Bible actually says is “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
As it turns out that’s actually a pretty good rule to live by. Let’s unpack that for a moment. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged. With what measure or scale you use it will be measured to you also. That is actually kind of chilling isn’t it. With the same scale you use it will be measure to you. Makes you think twice doesn’t it about that example I used earlier about a man in a sweatshirt standing in the yard.
Judging and labeling are addressed in this thought provoking Zen story:
There was an old man in a village and very poor, but even kings and the rich were jealous of him because he had a very beautiful white horse. Such a horse had never been seen before- the beauty, the very grandeur, the strength of the horse was astounding. Kings and the wealthy asked for the horse and they offered fabulous prices, but the poor old man would say, “This horse is not a horse to me, he is a friend, and how can you sell a friend?”
“This horse is a friend, he is not a possession. How can you sell a friend? No, it is not possible.” The man, being poor, was often very tempted, but he never sold the horse.
One morning, he suddenly found that the horse was not in the stable. The whole village gathered and they said, ‘You foolish old man. We knew it beforehand, that some day the horse would be stolen. And you are so poor, how can you protect such a precious thing? It would have been better to sell it. You could have fetched any price you asked, any price was possible. Now the horse is gone. It is a curse and a misfortune to you old man.’
The old man said, ‘You go too far. Simply say that the horse is not in the stable. This is the fact; everything else is a judgment. Whether it is a misfortune or not, how do you know? How do you judge?’
The people said, ‘Don’t try to be-fool us. We may not be great philosophers, but no philosophy is needed. It is a simple fact that a treasure has been lost, and it is a misfortune.’
The old man said, “I will stick to the fact that the stable is empty and the horse is gone. Anything else I don’t know – whether it is a misfortune or a blessing – because this is just a fragment. Who knows what is going to follow it?”
People laughed. They thought the old man had gone mad. They always knew it, that he was a little crazy; otherwise he would have sold this horse and lived in riches.
But he was living like a woodcutter, and he was very old and still cutting wood and bringing the wood from the forest and selling it. He was living hand to mouth, in misery and poverty. Now it was completely certain that this man was crazy.
After a few days, suddenly one night, the horse returned. He had not been stolen: he had escaped to the wilderness. And not only did he come back, he brought a dozen wild horses with him. Again the people gathered and they said, “Old man, you were right and we were wrong. It was not a misfortune, it proved to be a blessing. We are sorry that we insisted.”
The old man said, “Again you are going too far. Just say that the horse is back, and say that twelve horses have come with him but don’t judge. Who knows whether it is a blessing or not? It is only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read one page of a book, how can you judge the whole book? You read a sentence in a page, how can you judge the whole page? You read a single word in a sentence, how can you judge the whole sentence? And even a single word is not in the hand, life is so vast, a fragment of a word and you have judged the whole! Don’t say that this is a blessing, nobody knows.”
And to that, we choose to disregard labels. The most dangerous thing in society. The sword which slays us all. The deceiver, the liar, the preconception, and the prejudice. We reject the label and all of the weight that comes with it.
What we do not reject, however, is common sense. Just as we, the common sense middle ground, reject the premise that all is terrible in the world. That everyone and everything is conspiring against us. That groups of people all neatly fit under a given label. We reject this. However, we also reject the premise that the world is free of enemies and evil. That there are no “bad people” only “bad actions”. We are not naive to the fact that there is a scammer somewhere right now hoping you will answer their call or email. We are not naive to the fact that there is someone out there right now waiting for you to turn your back so they can grab your purse or wallet. Or knock the window out of your car and steal your laptop or tablet or, perhaps, your whole car. We are not naive to the fact that a man may lie in wait for the right woman to walk down the street and he has no good intentions in mind.
We are not naive to the fact that a person in authority or leadership is willing to use that trust built in innocence to take advantage of someone even while inside the halls of worship. We are not naive to the fact that a person in authority with adrenaline pumping uses their position of authority to harass, harm, or get their amusement from suppressing a weaker soul. We are not naive to the fact that evil exists and there are those out there who have no moral boundaries preventing them setting their sights on you.
The extremist have a point in one way. There does, on the extremes, exist people who are not good for you. They don’t have your best interests in mind. They have only their selfish ambitions, greed, or lust to satisfy and your freewill be damned. But don’t lose sight of the fact that extremes are just that - on the extreme. That the vast number of humans live in between. Most, like me and possibly like you, live more in the middle of sanity and recognize that some differences are fine. In fact, it is those differences that make the world interesting. It is those difference that make the world fun, full of wonder, and mysterious.
Yes, there are times when stands of morality need to take place. Sometimes the bus seat doesn’t need to be surrendered. Sometimes the schoolhouse doors must be breached when the only barrier is color. Sometimes people morally should, en mass, stand up and say, “This is wrong.”
It is then our responsibility to look at those moments with wisdom and discernment. These abrasive moments often strike us the wrong way because it is different from the world we know. “If it isn’t broke then don’t fix it” is a fine bit of wisdom but only applies if... something isn’t, in fact broken. Change is hard for people. It’s human nature. We like things comfortable. We like the known. We like being in a zone where we can feel unchallenged. But when society awakens to a moral injustice then it is our duty, even here in the common sense middle ground, to ask ourselves, “Is this right or wrong?” and then, even if it is uncomfortable or abnormal to what we are used to- then- we have a moral obligation to change it.
But we also can’t cry wolf and every shadow. We can’t be offended at literally everything. We here in the common sense middle ground can discern the important from the not so important. We have thicker skin than to be offended by every single perceived slight. We can discern justice fairly but also don’t shrike at every foul wind. We can weather a storm but have sense enough to move to higher ground if necessary. We don’t curl up in a ball and die. Nor do we wage war when peace will suffice. We are the common sense middle ground and we welcome you to it on DragonKing Dark.
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