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(18 Free Short Film Scripts)
By Travis Haan
Table of Contents Introduction The Candidate The 7 Steps to Success Week 1 Death and Taxes The Hand Out Support the Troops The Retirement Plan The War on People The Tent Issue The Landlord The Equality Myth A Gentleman and an Officer Home Sweet Home Intervention With a Pop Star- Part 1 The Recruit The Representative Intervention With a Pop Star- Part 2 University 101
Introduction State of the Union began as a series of short political comics on The Wise Sloth blog. This document contains short film scripts based on those comics. It’s creative common license. So you can film these or act them out in front of a live audience and keep all the proceeds. Attribution is appreciated though. Below are links to the original individual comics and two compilations: State of the Union Volume 1 State of the Union Volume 2 The Land Lord Taxation Without Representation Some are more equal than others Life after George Washington Basic Training Explained The Officer Corps explained The back end of the S.O.P.A. issue 7 Steps to becoming a billionaire (a response to people who say protesters should just get jobs) Americans getting hand outs Intervention with a Pop Star: Part 1 Intervention with a Pop Star: Part 2 The Equality Myth The Tent Issue Veterans protesting in Oakland Protesting in America Political Campaign Finance 101 economics 101 University 101
SCENE: A man is standing in front of the White House talking to an elephant and a donkey.
MAN I'm going to run for Congress or maybe even president...but I don't even know where to begin. ELEPHANT AND DONKEY We can help! MAN What exactly can you do for me? ELEPHANT We'll take care of all the registration paperwork and red tape. We'll give you brand recognition and manage your campaign. DONKEY But most importantly- we'll connect you with investors. MAN Wait. What does a politician need investors for? ELEPHANT He didn't say "investors." He said, "Donors." DONKEY Of course, your donors will expect you to represent their interests once you're in office. MAN I'm going to represent my voters' interest once I'm in office.
ELEPHANT Exactly! You just have to appreciate that your donors are voting with their dollars. DONKEY And each dollar equals one vote. MAN So what if these financial voters want me to do something that's not in the public voter's interest? ELEPHANT Well, I mean, you have to ask yourself who helped you win all those public votes. DONKEY Also consider that your financial voters can vote you out with their money next election if they need to. MAN I don't know. IT just kind of seems like a conflict of interest. It almost seems like bribery...or even extortion. ELEPHANT You new guys are so cute. It's not bribery or any of that. IT's called playing ball. DONKEY And everyone who plays is a winner. MAN So I guess I'll need to present my platform to these donor-investor-voters so they can decide whether they want to vote for me or my opponent. ELEPHANT ...No. Your platform is to win. The less you stand for the fewer faults anyone can find in you. See, this is why we write all your speeches for you. So you don't make mistakes like that.
DONKEY Anyway, the big donors vote on every candidate just to make sure their interests are represented no matter who wins. MAN That’s some unethical bullshit right there. I'm running against you as an independent. ELEPHANT Well, it was nice knowing you. DONKEY I hope you enjoyed your time in politics.
The 7 Steps to Success
Scene: A business office with a view overlooking New York City.
FATHER Son. Today I'm going to teach you my secret 7 steps to success. SON Okay, but talk to me like I'm an adult. I want the full, uncensored version. FATHER You asked for it. Here we go. Step 1. Inherit a fortune. SON I already will, but what if I didn't. FATHER Then it would suck to be you. Everything is as expensive as it can be especially the training and education necessary to move up the caste system. SON So if you can't pay up front for an education you're pretty much doomed to tread water half your life? FATHER Some more than others. Step 2. Own your own business. SON Good thing I'm going to inherit a business and grow up receiving personal training in how to run it. What if I weren't?
FATHER Then start one at all costs because there are only two kinds of people in this world. Those who work for other people and those who have other people work for them. SON That makes sense. If you work for someone else then you only have one income stream, but everyone who works for you is another source of income for you. FATHER Good. Let’s move on. Step 3. Minimize costs, and maximize profit. This means paying as little as possible to anyone for the things you need from them and charging everyone as much as possible for the things they need from you. SON You could have just said, "Pay your workers as little as possible and charge your customers as much as possible." FATHER That brings us to step 4. Use slaves. SON But slavery is illegal. FATHER Phrase it however you want as long as they do all the work and you keep all of the money. SON Slavery is usually considered black and white, but I guess it really is a spectrum of degrees. FATHER And you can legally push your workers to the far end, especially if you outsource your jobs to sweat shops, which you should be anyway... step 5. Pay as few taxes as possible.
SON If there are tax havens and loop holes then why not use them? FATHER And how! Step 6. Buy influence. Sometimes the law can stand between you and more money, but there's nothing but formalities standing between you and a politician's bank account. SON The more they rely on your money the more you can rely on them, which means if they rely on you totally... FATHER Bingo. SON That's a pretty brazen plan. Does your last step address the fact that your heartless grab for money at the expense of human decency will raise eyebrows eventually? FATHER It sure does. Let's go outside and I'll demonstrate this one first hand. SCENE: The father and son are standing outside Wall Street surrounded by protestors. FATHER Those are protesters over there, and they've figured out the secret to our success. SON ...but instead of using it themselves like they should be, they're mad that we're using it!?!? But these are our workers! Does this mean our time as the foxes of the hen house are over? FATHER Step 7. Divide and conquer. PROTESTOR Hey, billionaire. You can't keep drinking our blood forever.
FATHER Wait for it... CONSERVATIVE MAN Shut up, commulist hippie! This man is a job creator! Why don't you go get a job? If you're unhappy then the problem is you! PROTESTOR I have two jobs, and don't you realize you're part of the 99% we're trying to help and he's trying to hurt? FATHER Don’t bother, miss. I employed award winning professional psychologists to design the propaganda this man has been exposing himself to. The techniques we've perfected were originally invented by cults, religions and militaries. I could explain the whole thing to his face and he'd still defend me to the death. SON I want to be just like you when I grow up. PROTESTOR Wow. Just wow.
SCENE: A crowd of protesters are loitering in front of Wall Street. A police man approaches the crowd.
NARRATOR One day on Wall Street… COP What are you peopling doing here? Don't you know it's illegal for this many people to be in the same place at the same time unless you're buying something? PROTESTOR It’s cool. Don’t worry about it. We’re protesting against how billionaires have bought out the government and used their backroom influence to create an unconscionable disparity of wealth and power in this country. COP The correct way to go about having your voices heard in government is to vote between two candidates whose campaigns are financed by billionaires. PROTESTOR Believe me. We've tried that...with predictable results. That's our point. Our voices aren't being heard in government. You think we want to be sleeping on the streets? COP *sigh* fine. I'll let you protest for a little while, but you have to do it quietly behind fences where nobody will notice you. PROTESTOR ...so we only have the freedom of speech as long as we speak in the most noncommittal way that eliminates any leverage our voice could have?
COP It either that or get beat, tazed, maced, arrested, fined and saddled with a criminal record. PROTESTOR But we haven't broken any laws! COP We’ll cook up some excuse to arrest you. PROTESTOR So that's the government's official stance on people who protest against government corruption? COP That shouldn't surprise you. The billionaires you're protesting against just donated 4.6 million dollars to our police force, and the president and the mayor are both in bed with them. PROTESTOR That just underscores how important it is for us to be protesting. We’re not going anywhere. COP Okay, but FYI, police are almost never held accountable for excessive use of force. NARRATOR Meanwhile in living rooms across the country… SCENE: A man is sitting on his couch in a poor looking house. Faux News Network is playing on the television. MAN I’ll just watch a little television to take my mind off the fact that I'm unemployed and my house is being foreclosed on...
TELEVISION The people responsible for the financial collapse have instructed us to inform you that pinheaded anarchists are disturbing the peace on Wall Street. Hopefully the police will teach those whiney brats a lesson very soon. MAN Stupid protesters.
Death and Taxes
SCENE: An innocent looking little girl is standing in front of Congress talking to an elephant and a donkey.
ELEPHANT AND DONKEY Congratulations!!! You win!!! Hooray!!! GIRL What did I win? ELEPHANT You were born in the greatest country in the world! DONKEY And in all of history!!! GIRL Hooray for me! But why is it the best country ever? ELEPHANT It’s the land of the free and the home of the brave! DONKEY And it was created by the people, for the people! GIRL Well, I’ll just be getting on with my life and enjoying my freedom now. Bye. ELEPHANT Hold on. You’ll need to read the rule book first.
DONKEY Trust me. You do not want to break any of the rules. NARRATOR A little while later… GIRL I was reading your rule book, and there were a lot of rules in there that I didn't agree with...and not just a little bit. Some of those rules seriously contradict my moral values, and some other ones are blatantly illogical. Here, let me point out a few of the more glaring examples. ELEPHANT Hold it right there, terrorist! It works like this. You follow the rules we give you. If you don't then we lock you in prison for a long time, and after we let you out we tell everyone not to hire you because you're a bad person. DONKEY Just don't treat your pets the way you were treated in prison or you'll go to prison. GIRL I appreciate that you have a job to do, and it's not easy keeping a nation in the balance between order and anarchy, but I simply can't honor any external laws that violate my core principles, especially when you just said that this country was built by the people, for the people. If the highest authority in the land is the people then I’m putting my foot down on this. ELEPHANT I don't think you understand, we pay an army of well-armed, unquestioning mercenaries and ideologues that can and will make you follow any rule we hand down to them. GIRL Where do you get the money for that? DONKEY About that...here's the bill.
GIRL What?! You want me to pay other people to force me to follow rules I don't agree with and that they might not even agree with? ELEPHANT We’re not asking anyone. DONKEY We’re telling you. GIRL I’m not going to finance my own oppression. I won't pay. ELEPHANT Then you're going to prison. DONKEY The rule book is very clear about this. It’s against the law not to pay us whatever we tell you that you have to pay us. GIRL That’s the very definition of extortion! That’s stealing! ELEPHANT That’s not stealing. We build roads with that money too. You like roads don't you? GIRL I’m old enough to know what a straw man argument is. The fact that I give you some of my money to do the job I hired you to do doesn't give you the right to claim more of my money to finance terrorizing me. ELEPHANT Actually, we decide what we have the right to do.
DONKEY That’s how being in power works. GIRL This system sucks. What do I have to do to change it? ELEPHANT Luckily we have the best system in the entire world to make sure you get what you want! Vote for me. I’ll fix everything. DONKEY He said that before and he only made it worse. Vote for me and I’ll fix everything. ELEPHANT No! He said that before and he only made it worse. Vote for me and I’ll fix everything. DONKEY No! Vote for me and I’ll fix everything. Ha ha ha ha GIRL That’s it. I’m immigrating to another country. ELEPHANT In theory you have that right, but seriously, we'll see you next April. DONKEY We made it as hard as possible for the poor to leave any country.
The Hand Out
SCENE: A well-dressed businessman and his college aged son are standing next to a new Porsche.
FATHER Congratulations on graduating from my Ivy League alma mater, son! What did you learn in the past 4 years? SON "P" is for party and "D" is for diploma. FATHER You get an "O" for outstanding in my book. So after paying all your tuition and living expenses for the past 7 years I've bought you a Ferrari for your graduation present! SON Wow! Thanks, daddykins! FATHER Thank the tax payers. I bought 10 of these with the bonus I got after the government gave my company all that bailout money. SON I don't have time to hear the boring details. Let’s take this baby for a spin. FATHER The streets around here are blocked by vagrant protesters. SON What do the protesters want?
FATHER Oh they're just a bunch of spoiled kids looking for a hand out. SON Damn. They sound like a bunch of douche bags. FATHER You’re grounded for cussing.
SUPPORT THE TROOPS
SCENE: A row of police officers are standing in front of a crowd of angry protesters. One of the cops is pointing a gun at the protesters.
OFFICER I'm not telling you people again, you can't be here if you don't have a permit, and you can't have a permit. So stop asking. Veteran Everybody chill out. I got this. I'm an honorably discharged veteran. I and my fellow troops have spent the past 10 years fighting to protect the freedoms of the American people. A police officer shoots the veteran in the head. The veteran is bleeding but still standing. OFFICER Correction, you've been fighting to protect our freedoms. Of course, you still have the right to remain silent. Veteran Grrrr.
The Retirement Plan
SCENE: A boy is standing in the middle of a watermelon field with an expensively dressed business man.
NARRATOR Shortly after graduating high school… BOY Behold! I am a young, white American male. I'm here to receive the American Dream that has been promised to me my entire life by the nation's elders. MAN I’ve got a great opportunity for you. I’ll let you work full time as an intern! BOY How much does that pay? MAN It doesn't! BOY That’s insulting. MAN You expect to get paid?!? Wow, you young kids sure have an inflated sense of entitlement. Who raised you? I’ll tell you what; one of our salary workers just lost her job for having too many health problems. Would you be interested in an exciting opportunity to work in a fast paced agricultural environment? BOY Aw, you're the best! I'd love be a part of your team!
MAN Fantastic. I'll just need you to sign this contract. BOY What does it say? MAN It basically says I can hold you liable for anything, but you can't hold me liable for anything. BOY That doesn't seem fair. MAN Address me as "sir" or I’ll fire you. BOY So how much do I get paid for having the privilege of subjugating myself to you? MAN Lucky for you this is a hiring market. I'll pay you sixty dollars a day! BOY Really? That's good pay? I know I'm new to the work force, but it seems like I’m doing a lot of work for a little money that's going to make you a lot of money. MAN If you don't believe anything else in your entire life then believe this... the mathematics of business are far too complicated for you or anyone you know to ever understand. You have to take it on faith that my business practices are what are best for the entire world, and if anything is changed even a little bit then the entire world will collapse and devolve into one, giant incestuous cannibal orgy.
BOY Okay. I get it. I trust you. Sixty dollars a day is fair. Okay. so when do I start spending what fleeting time I have alive in this great, beautiful, mysterious universe picking watermelons? MAN Oh, you're not qualified yet. You need to pay $50,000 to go to watermelon picking school. BOY I’ve never even seen $50,000. Where am I going to get that kind of money? Can I work it off? MAN Sort of... Two more identical business men show up and stand next to the man. MAN If you take out an interest bearing loan from my first friend here to pay my second friend there for a degree then you can come work for me and spend half your life signing your paychecks over to my first friend. BOY Again, I know I'm new here, but am that really the best process you've come up with? NARRATOR A few years later… MAN How are you doing today? BOY My body and spirit are broken. Since I’ve started working here I've watched seasons pass, friends die and nations fall yet I am no closer to my dreams than when I started.
MAN Yeah, we've noticed you've had a bit of a morale problem lately. It’s gone on your permanent record, and we brought in a consultant to micromanage your every move until your performance has improved or he can find a reason to fire you, whichever comes first. BOY We both know I have no choice but to go along with this and act like I’m happy about it. MAN I like your honesty, but I never want to hear it again. NARRATOR A few more years later… MAN Great news! The company finally found a way to offer you retirement benefits! BOY I assume you found some way other than just giving it to me. MAN This is one of those things where the mathematics is far too complicated for you or anyone you know to ever understand. So you'll just have to trust me on this. Now, sign this paper. It’s in your best interest. well, aren't you going to sign it? BOY You don't understand. I accepted a long time ago that my retirement plan is death.
The War on People
SCENE: A woman is standing in front of a judge in a court room.
JUDGE Order in the Court! This case in now in session. Will the defendant please state her name? DR. JUSTICE My name is Dr. Michele Justice. JUDGE You’ve been charged with growing ten marijuana plants in your house. Tell the court how you plead before the prosecution states their case. DR. JUSTICE Before we go on, tell me who this “prosecution” person is. JUDGE That’s the person whose job it is to make sure you go to jail for as long as possible and pay as much money in fines as possible. DR. JUSTICE I’d like to call a mistrial. There’s no reason or justice in having someone here whose sole job it is to ruin my life. JUDGE Don’t worry. We’ll lend you a person whose sole job it is to fight the prosecution and defend you even if you’re guilty. DR. JUSTICE What if my representative is an idiot with no experience and the prosecutor is a sociopathic genius with decades of experience?
JUDGE Then you’ll be going to prison for a long, long time, and after you get out you won’t be able to get a decent job for the rest of your life because of your criminal record. DR. JUSTICE This is absurd. I demand better protection from this villain. JUDGE Don’t worry. Twelve of our peers will listen to both sides of the case and vote democratically on your fate. DR. JUSTICE Isn’t it a conflict of interest to have my peers judge me? JUDGE By “peers” I meant, “total strangers.” DR. JUSTICE Are they experts in the law? JUDGE No, not at all. A lot of them aren’t experts in anything. They’re pretty much failures in life. DR. JUSTICE What are the chances they’ll be sympathetic to my case? JUDGE Not good, because the prosecutor will get to screen them and remove any he doesn’t think he can manipulate into voting to send you to jail and ruin your life. DR. JUSTICE So you’re going to put my fate in the hands of a group of people who have been stacked against me, have no legal training and don’t want to be here? Then on top of that you’re going to let a highly skilled, manipulative sociopath twist their perception of me?
JUDGE When you put it like that it really does sound bad, but I can assure you it’s a great system. DR. JUSTICE Has anyone innocent ever been found guilty? Or has anyone guilty ever been found innocent? JUDGE Both literally happen every single day. DR. JUSTICE I’ll tell you what, why don’t you let three impartial detectives investigate my case, and I’ll let them have the final say on my verdict. JUDGE You don’t have that option. DR. JUSTICE What options do I have? JUDGE None. DR. JUSTICE So how do I get options? JUDGE First you go to prison, and if you survive then you spend the rest of your life learning the legal system and spend your life savings appealing your case until it goes to the Supreme Court, but the legal system will try to stop you every step of the way. DR. JUSTICE Is it the Supreme Court’s responsibility to objectively stand up for human rights and challenge the system when it fails to serve the interests of the people?
JUDGE For every case where that happened I can point to three where it didn’t. DR. JUSTICE What about you? I’m talking to you right now. Can’t you help me? JUDGE I don’t have the authority. DR. JUSTICE But you have the authority to destroy my life and by proxy the lives of my family? JUDGE That’s correct. DR. JUSTICE How is that justice? JUDGE That’s how it’s always been done. So it must be right. Now, you were caught with ten marijuana plants. How do you plead? DR. JUSTICE Before I answer that, why is it a problem that I had ten marijuana plants? JUDGE Because it’s against the law. DR. JUSTICE But why is it against the law? JUDGE Because it’s bad for you.
DR. JUSTICE I’ve got 30 tobacco plants growing in my back yard. Why don’t you arrest me for that? JUDGE Because it’s not illegal. DR. JUSTICE Why not? Millions of people die every year from tobacco, and nobody has ever died from marijuana. In fact, marijuana has medicinal properties. JUDGE Can you prove that marijuana is medicinal? DR. JUSTICE Until you prove that tobacco is medicinal I don’t see why I need to. JUDGE Well, marijuana will also get you high, and anything that makes you feel euphoric has to be illegal. DR. JUSTICE Cigarettes and alcohol get you high too. JUDGE Alcohol was legalized because prohibition led to an unprecedented rise in organized crime, and the majority of Americans wanted it legalized. DR. JUSTICE Everything you just said is true about marijuana, and there are tons of academic papers written about it. JUDGE Too bad this is neither the time nor the place to have this discussion.
DR. JUSTICE I’m about to be sent to prison…by you. This is exactly the time and place to have this conversation. In fact, I’d say this conversation is long overdue. JUDGE I’m sorry, but you can’t question the law in a court of law. DR. JUSTICE Can I at least pick my punishment? I’d rather get whipped than go to jail. JUDGE We can’t whip you. That would be cruel and unusual punishment. DR. JUSTICE Will I suffer any inhumane treatment in prison? JUDGE You’ll almost certainly be beaten, stabbed and raped. You’ll live in constant fear. You’ll barely get enough nutrition to survive, and you’ll get as little medical care as possible. And you’ll be coerced into working in a sweatshop. DR. JUSTICE Is there any way I can improve my odds of surviving in prison? JUDGE Since you’re white your best bet is to join the Arian Brotherhood. DR. JUSTICE So your solution to crime is to force criminals to join organized crime rings? DR. JUSTICE Uhhhh. JUDGE
How much would it cost to send me to prison anyway? DR. JUSTICE About twenty four thousand dollars a year. DR. JUSTICE I’m a doctor. I’d pay that much in taxes if I were able to go back to work. JUDGE Well, that’s all the more reason why you shouldn’t have broken the law. You’re costing the tax payers twice. DR. JUSTICE No. You’re costing the tax payers twice by sending me to prison for no reason. DR. JUSTICE There is a reason. Marijuana users have to be arrested to keep society safe. JUDGE Smoking marijuana is a victimless crime. Absolutely no one gets hurt by it. Even if it were as dangerous as alcohol or cigarettes, it still wouldn’t be as dangerous as prison. Sending people to jail for marijuana possession is like shooting them in the head to stop them from shooting themselves in the foot. Wouldn’t people’s taxes be better spent enforcing victim-full crimes and rehabilitating violent criminals? DR. JUSTICE Honestly, as long as I get a paycheck every month I don’t really care. DR. JUSTICE Doesn’t it bother you at all that this system is designed to set people up to fail, not to facilitate justice? JUDGE People who can afford a high priced lawyer aren’t set up to fail. Neither are politicians.
DR. JUSTICE That’s completely and utterly unfair. That’s not justice. JUDGE Not my job to care. DR. JUSTICE Reason is dead here. Well, why don’t we just skip this charade and send me to your for-profit human kennel you call a prison. JUDGE Fantastic. Send in the next victim in the war on people.
Some are More Equal than Others
SCENE: An innocent looking little girl is standing in front of Congress talking to an elephant and a donkey.
GIRL Can I ask you guys something? ELEPHANT Sure. You have the right to say whatever you want in this country. DONKEY Just like we have the right to monitor whatever you say. GIRL I’m not legally required to wear a burqua or a hajib when I grow up, am I? ELEPHANT Heavens no! It’s not the government’s place to tell you how to dress. DONKEY That’s your boss’s place. GIRL Oh, great! So I’ll always be able to take my shirt off wherever a man is allowed to take of his shirt then, right? ELEPHANT Heavens no! That would be indecent. DONKEY You’ll be free to work in a strip club after you turn 18 though…wherever strip clubs are legal.
GIRL So let me get this straight. It's 2011, and I don't have equal rights as men! ELEPHANT If you want to get nitpicky about it, no. GIRL What if I don't think this is being nitpicky? DONKEY Either way, it's still the same. GIRL Why don't I have equal rights, again? I thought I lived in the land of the free? ELEPHANT Not enough people have complained about it loud enough. So they voted for your subjugation through their collective silence. DONKEY ...but if enough people did complain about it we'd have the police mace, taze, beat and arrest them. GIRL But isn't the point of having rights that you doing need anyone else's approval?
ELEPHANT If you want to get nitpicky about it, yes. DONKEY ...but we're not nitpicky.
GIRL If it's all the same to you, do you think you could just sign my freedom into law real quick? That wouldn't take long, would it? ELEPHANT It'd take as long as it takes to sign a piece of paper. DONKEY ...but we're really busy signing other pieces of paper. GIRL What's more important than equal rights for women? ELEPHANT Tax breaks and bailouts for the ultra rich. DONKEY ... and cracking down on protesters advocating economic equality. GIRL I've got an idea. What if you give me this one thing, and maybe that'll make people feel like you're doing something for them and they won't be so upset about the rest of the stuff you're not doing? ELEPHANT I like the way you think, but... DONKEY We don't want to set a precedent. If we give you an inch the next thing you'll be asking for a mile. GIRL I'm sure if you do me this one...favor...you'll go down in history as civil rights leaders.
ELEPHANT *ugh* our arms are still aching from having them twisted to let gays serve openly in the military. DONKEY ...and from patting ourselves on the back afterwards. ELEPHANT I don't know what you're so upset about anyway. You could live in Saudi Arabia. Then you'd have way less rights. GIRL By that logic I shouldn't complain about economic inequality because I could live in a country that America exports all its sweat shop labor to. DONKEY Now you're getting the hang of it! ELEPHANT I'll tell you what. You can make a petition on the white house web site, and if enough people sign it we'll look at it. GIRL I already signed a bunch of those petitions. All you give me is dismissive, non-answers. I'm not even going to try that anymore. DONKEY Wow! You're really getting the hang of this!
The Tent Issue
SCENE: A woman is standing in front of a judge in a court room.
JUDGE Dr. Michelle Justice, three weeks ago you and several hundred other protesters were arrested for camping in a public park. How do you plead? DR. JUSTICE Before I answer that I have a few questions. First of all, I paid for that park with my taxes. So that makes it my park. So why would it be a crime for me to camp in my park? JUDGE Correction. It’s everybody's park. So since everybody has a right to use it then nobody can use it in case someone else wants to use it. DR. JUSTICE Did someone complain that they couldn't use the park because I was camping there? JUDGE No, but you camping there was a health and safety issue anyway. So it was imperative that you be removed. DR. JUSTICE If it's so imperative that my health and safety be secured that you won't allow me to camp in a park then it should also be imperative that you won't allow police to beat, mace and taze people camping in parks, right? JUDGE You answered your own question. The cops beat, maced and tazed everyone camping in the park for their own safety. So the end justified the means. DR. JUSTICE
You don't see that as the means defeating the purpose? JUDGE Justice is blind. DR. JUSTICE Or maybe in this case, retarded. So is there a nation-wide ban on all long-term camping due to health and safety concerns or does that ban only apply to protesters? JUDGE It only applies to protesters, of course. DR. JUSTICE Why is that? JUDGE Because protesters are a public nuisance. You get people riled up and create a volatile atmosphere that could result in harm to yourselves or others. DR. JUSTICE If all of that were true, then the end would justify the means though because we were camping to protest against how multinational corporations have used corruption and bribery to shape the nation's laws to allow them to exploit their workers and customers at an unconscionable cost in human life and dignity. JUDGE Even if what the corporations did was immoral it was still legal. So that makes it okay. The real issue here is that you just admitted to camping on public property. That means you're about to go to jail where you'll undoubtedly be raped and stabbed. DR. JUSTICE But I was camping as a form of protest. So I invoke the legal immunity reserved for citizens performing their civic duty to protest against injustice in their representative government. JUDGE
What you just described doesn't exist. DR. JUSTICE But if any form of protest can be labeled a public nuisance at best and terrorism at worst then any corrupt politician can call on the law enforcement officials they control to violently and totally squash any protest against real corruption that has a real negative impact on the lives of human beings.
JUDGE But if we set the precedent that you're allowed to protest then you'll protest about everything and never stop. DR. JUSTICE Assuming that's the greater of two evils we can still compromise. How about if citizens get legal immunity to protest only in cases where corruption has led to the deaths of millions of people and the destitution of even more? JUDGE Nope. Order must be maintained. DR. JUSTICE Are corruption, systemic manslaughter, economic inequality and misery considered order? JUDGE This country has 4% of the world population and 25% of the world prison population. DR. JUSTICE It's a well-established fact that poverty and income inequality lead to higher crime rates. So in a sense, when you protect income inequality creators you're not protecting job creators. You’re protecting crime creators. JUDGE
You’re forgetting another very important fact. By prosecuting illegal campers I'm also protecting the grass you're killing with your tents. DR. JUSTICE I fail to see how the cost/benefit analysis adds up in favor of protecting a few square feet of grass at the expense of millions of people's lives. JUDGE It’s just not my job to look that far ahead. DR. JUSTICE Whose job is it then? JUDGE The Supreme Court. DR. JUSTICE How does a person get on the Supreme Court? JUDGE They’re appointed by the politicians you're protesting against for being compromised by the corporations you're protesting against. DR. JUSTICE Is there any legal avenue I can use to hold corrupt politicians and their financial backers accountable to crimes against humanity that are equivalent to a trillion armed robberies and tens of millions of cases of manslaughter? JUDGE I’m afraid the system is designed so the higher up the chain of command you are the less accountable you are. So no. DR. JUSTICE Shouldn’t that be the other way around?
JUDGE Not if you want to maintain order. DR. JUSTICE By "order" you don't mean "the safety and dignity of the majority." You mean "the power structure that allows the rich to exploit the poor? JUDGE By "order" I mean "the way it's always been done." If that's the way it's always been done, then yes. DR. JUSTICE We’re really in need of heroes right now. Why don't you stand up for truth, justice and the American way by refusing to punish protesters?
JUDGE I got a family to feed. There's no way I'm sticking my neck out for anyone else. Just look at where that got you! DR. JUSTICE So that's how it's going to be then? JUDGE E ver y man fo r hi mse lf. I sn’t t hat what Jesus a nd t he fo und ing fat her s sa id ? DR. JUSTICE No.
The Land Lord
SCENE: A young boy is sitting at a desk in a bank talking to banker.
MAN How can I help you? BOY I just turned 18, and my parents kicked me out of the home I’ve lived my entire, sheltered life in. MAN So you need an apartment then? BOY I’d rather buy than rent. I’ve been saving all the money I made working through high school. You can run my credit check. MAN That won’t be necessary. I can tell you right now that you can’t afford to buy property. Your only two choices in life are renting and dying homeless in the street. BOY Those are my only choices in life? MAN Well, you could also go to jail or join the military. Both are very popular choices for people like you. BOY I guess I'll rent. How much does that cost?
MAN It costs as much as possible. BOY I can only afford $100 per month. What can I get for that? MAN You can't rent a parking spot in the city for $100 per month. BOY So how do I survive? MAN Not that anyone cares, but you could rent a room from someone who can't afford their mortgage and has been forced to sublet. BOY That sounds confusing. Which government office handles that? MAN It doesn’t really work that way. You have to figure it all out yourself. BOY What if I'm not good at this? MAN Then you deserve to die in the streets. BOY Well, I'd really rather own my own place instead of renting so I can live by my own rules and establish my own space in the world. I don't want to live with psychotic strangers. Aren’t there like some kind of low cost government-owned young professionals dorms I can live in? I don't need a space bigger or fancier than a prison cell.
MAN You mean like projects for white people? No, that doesn't exist, and even if it did I'd sponsor a politician's career and get him to privatize it. BOY Why would a politician do that for you? MAN Because he owes his career to me. Of course, he'd tell the voters who think he represents them that I'll be able to provide a better product at a cheaper price. BOY Will you? MAN Of course not! There'd be no point. I'd charge the highest price possible for the cheapest product. BOY Why? MAN Obviously, so I can keep as much money as possible for myself personally. BOY Huh. I guess it's a Good thing the government doesn't offer affordable housing to young professionals. MAN Come to think of it, maybe I should get my representatives to have the tax payers build those so they could privatize them and sell them to me for pennies on the dollar....Hmmm. BOY At least if you ran a slummy privatized young professionals dormitory then I'd be guaranteed to have a place to live.
MAN No, you'd still be in the same position you are today because I can't get exorbitantly rich without charging exorbitant prices. BOY But you won't get any of my money if I can't afford rent. MAN But I'll get more from the people who can pay. So the cost/benefit analysis adds up. BOY I'll just rent from someone else. MAN Everyone charges as much as possible. BOY What the hell? Is everyone evil? MAN Banks have made mortgages so expensive that everyone ends up paying twice what their property is worth in the current housing bubble. BOY So since everyone got charged twice what their house was worth they have to charge twice what's its worth when they sell or rent it. MAN ...to break even, but its standard procedure to try to make a profit. BOY So the system is designed so that everybody has to shank their neighbor just to get by?
MAN See? It's nothing personal. Your land lord's not evil, just screwed. BOY You mentioned earlier that we always pay twice what a house is worth in the current housing bubble. MAN If you take out a standard 30 year mortgage, yes. BOY But what do you mean current housing bubble? MAN Nothing costs how much it's worth. Everything costs as much as people will pay for it. So as long as you're living anywhere worth living you'll pay more than your property is worth. BOY Why does this process have to be so confusing and complicated? MAN The only way Banks make money is by taking it from their customers. So it's in their best interest to take as much money from their customers as possible. That's why it's so hard to buy property. BOY How do banks get away with that!? MAN Because that's the way the entire economy works. Every time you open your wallet to take money out or put money in someone is going to take as much of it from you as they can. BOY That sounds like a recipe for poverty and homelessness.
MAN Well, you don't become the richest man in the world by factoring that into the cost/benefit analysis of your actions. BOY What about bill gates? He's like the richest man in the world and he cares about people. MAN Well, after I earn my first $70,000,000,000 selling the cheapest product for the highest price while paying my workers as little as the market will allow I'll give away a few billion I'd never have used anyway to buy my way into heaven too. BOY With that much money you could sponsor every politician's career in the country. MAN With that much money I'd be above the law and wouldn't care what politicians do, but yes. If the need ever arose I could make the government dance. BOY I guess I won't hold my breath on getting those government-owned low cost young professionals dorms. MAN Well, if you can't afford to rent in my economy then you can count on going to jail. So in the end, you'll get a room after all. BOY At least you won't make any money off of me.
MAN Actually, I own the prison, and the company I own it through is traded on the stock market. So the government pays me for every person I have in prison, and the more people I have in prison the more money my stocks are worth. It's a win/win situation! BOY The prison system is a privatized social service? Does that mean you provide the cheapest product at the highest cost? MAN Let me put it this way. There aren't enough vitamins in a prison meal to keep a sea monkey alive, but my kids eat steak and lobster twice a week. BOY At least when the police send me to your human kennel I won't have to work 40+ hours at an unfulfilling job I hate for minimum wage. MAN Actually, I got your political representatives to waive the basic human rights of prisoners. So inmates work in sweat shop conditions that would otherwise be illegal. BOY I don't remember voting on that. MAN Why would I put that up for a vote? That’s not in my best interest. BOY Well, I’m not going to work in your sweat shop. It's not like I'll need money to survive in prison. MAN You'd think that, but I've made it pretty damned hard to live without money...even in my prisons.
BOY So it's even expensive to live in prison? MAN ...as expensive as it can be. BOY Damn. How much does it cost to die? MAN It’s like anything else. It’s as expensive as it can be. BOY Can I ask you one more question? MAN Sure, but if this takes much longer I'm going to start charging you. BOY What do you think the meaning of life is? MAN It’s like anything else... BOY ...to pay as much as possible because life is as expensive as it can be? MAN Ha. Ha. Well put, but I was just going to say, "Fuck you."
The Equality Myth
SCENE: A man is standing in front of Congress talking to an elephant and a donkey.
MAN Hey guys, I have a question about political philosophy I was hoping you could help me with. ELEPHANT We might be able to help you. DONKEY Just don't ask us any questions about history. MAN The declaration of independence says all men are created equal. What does that mean? ELEPHANT It means everyone is entitled to the same freedoms and rights. DONKEY ...at birth. MAN Can anyone ever have a different amount of freedoms and rights? ELEPHANT Well, I mean you have to allow for a few exceptions...for the greater good. MAN So who and what are the exceptions to the rule that all people should be equal in the eyes of the law?
ELEPHANT Obviously politicians have to have some immunity from the law. DONKEY ...so we can do our jobs representing the public will that is. MAN Give me an example. ELEPHANT We can profit off of insider trading. MAN Who else is held to a different standard of accountability than the average tax payer/voter? ELEPHANT We decided diplomats visiting the country are exempt from half the rules that apply to the citizens living here. MAN How is that legal? DONKEY Nobody asked you that are how. MAN Do all foreigners have more rights in this country than those born here? ELEPHANT Ha ha ha. No. That would be insulting! DONKEY Only foreign politicians have more freedom in your country than you.
ELEPHANT We pretty much don't acknowledge that anybody else is human. MAN How so? DONKEY We gave ourselves the right to lock up pretty much any foreigner in secret prisons and torture them indefinitely. MAN Doesn’t our military overthrow governments that do that sort of thing? ELEPHANT ...if our government has something to gain from it, sure. MAN I thought the troops fought for freedom and equality. How is that possible when the government they're backing doesn't support freedom and equality itself? ELEPHANT Because the troops are literally slaves themselves. DONKEY Yeah, calling them second class citizens is an understatement. MAN That’s 1% of the population! How can you take that many people's rights away? How is that legal? ELEPHANT It’s totally legit. The uniform code of military justice allows us to legally strip human beings of the rights and freedoms guaranteed to them in the constitution and the universal declaration of human rights.
MAN Who wrote the uniform code of military justice? ELEPHANT AND DONKEY We did. MAN I’m confused how you can just give yourself the right to void other people's rights. ELEPHANT Well, the troops signed a contract waiving their rights. MAN Why would someone sign away their rights? ELEPHANT Well, we didn't really stress that that was part of the deal when we got them to sign. MAN What did you stress? DONKEY That signing would make them a hero. We even gave some of them a few thousand dollars as an extra incentive. MAN So that's how much human rights are worth in this country? A few thousand dollars?
DONKEY That and free medical care.
MAN That’s very generous of you to give the troops socialized medical care, especially considering you've created such a stigma against the tax payers funding their own socialized medical care. ELEPHANT Slaves are expensive. We don't want them falling apart. MAN About that. If you can sign your rights away for a pay check then they're not really rights, are they? And if people can have different levels of freedom then we're not really all equal are we? ELEPHANT But it has to be this way to protect and maintain freedom and equality. MAN You’re saying the leaders have to be exempt from the law, and they have to control an army of slaves drawn from the civilian population in order to ensure the freedom and equality of the civilian population...at least the ones you haven't sent to your massive networks of for-profit prisons. ELEPHANT You get an “A plus” in political philosophy. MAN Have we ever tried actually giving everyone equal rights and freedoms unconditionally? ELEPHANT Many Native American tribes lived that way. DONKEY ...before we ordered our army of slaves to kill them in the name of patriotism. MAN Would it be unpatriotic to ask for everyone to be given equal rights and freedoms now?
ELEPHANT So you're saying you don't agree with the current government? MAN ...yes? ELEPHANT That makes you an enemy combatant in the war on terror. You just exempted yourself from what few rights you had been enjoying at our leisure. MAN The people won't stand for this! DONKEY Ha ha ha. Tell that to Bradley Manning when you see him.
A Gentleman and an Officer
SCENE: An enlisted soldier is carrying a lot of military equipment and wearing a helmet that is too large is talking to a military officer who is wearing sunglasses and standing under an umbrella. Behind them is a barbed wire fence.
SOLDIER Hey, how's it going, buddy? OFFICER Oh hell No! I am an officer! You will render me a salute and address me as, sir! SOLDIER Why would I do all that? OFFICER Out of respect for how awesome I am. SOLDIER My parents taught me that respect has to be earned, and I don't know you. For all I know you could be a complete scum bag. OFFICER The mere fact that I earned the rank of officer proves how glorious I am. SOLDIER So what did you do to become an officer? OFFICER I partied my way through college on my parent's savings and then went to a few months of officer training school.
SOLDIER That’s cool. I worked my way through college and got promoted to manager. I was also senior class president and went to leadership camp 4 summers in a row. So maybe you should salute me and call me sir. OFFICER Nope. You didn't go to those few months of officer school. So no matter what you do you'll always be a lower form of life than me. Anyway, you're lacking the experience of being an officer. SOLDIER What’s your job again? OFFICER I sit at a desk and do paperwork all day. SOLDIER Hmmm. I'm a network administrator. I build computer networks. I also train and manage a group of 10 workers responsible for millions of dollars of equipment, and we don't know the meaning of the word, "excuses." come to think of it, I remember your name from our trouble tickets. You have no idea how to use a computer. OFFICER I’m paid to lead, not fix technical problems. SOLDIER What’s your degree in again? OFFICER Engineering. SOLDIER Wouldn't a degree in psychology or communication or even business serve you better as a leader? I mean, engineers have like the worst reputation for having bad social skills.
OFFICER Never question my authority again. SOLDIER What if you're wrong about something? Can I question you then? OFFICER That would be disrespectful. You can only question me if I let you and only if you do it like you're tiptoeing on egg shells. SOLDIER I was raised in the Bronx, and I don't have much respect for people with thin skin. What happens if I don't salute you or address you like you're my daddy? OFFICER Then I'll give you progressively worse punishments until you salute me or I send you to jail for failure to obey a direct order, and when you get out you'll get a dishonorable discharge that will prevent you from getting meaningful employment for the rest of your life! SOLDIER That dishonorable discharge part is pretty rough. That's kind of like a more politically correct way of shooting someone in the head. OFFICER AND don't you forget that that'll always be hanging over your head as long as you wear that uniform. SOLDIER So basically, if I don’t salute you then you’re going to shoot me in the head. OFFICER Basically.
SOLDIER So I’m not really saluting your out of respect at all. I’m saluting you out of fear. OFFICER Only if need be. SOLDIER So that’s the philosophy on leadership you learned at that glorious training school you went to? You learned you’re better than everyone else, you don’t have to listen to anyone, and if your subordinates don’t massage your ego then you’re morally obligated to shoot them in the head? OFFICER Well, it sounds bad when you put it like that, but point in fact…yes. SOLDIER You’re not a leader. You’re a dictator. OFFICER You just got yourself a dishonorable discharge. SOLDIER What for? OFFICER Failure to conform and disrespecting one of your superiors. You’re undisciplined. SOLDIER So thinking for you constitutes a lock of discipline? OFFICER Obviously. How can you not see that?
SOLDIER Wow. You no longer live in reality. Well, I just have one more question before you destroy my life for not subjugating me to you. OFFICER Ask away. I have a few more minutes before its happy hour at the officer’s club. SOLDIER What do you think of the phrase, “All men were created equal?” OFFICER Sounds like a bunch of liberal hippie bullshit. That’s not what I joined the military to defend.
Home Sweet Home
SCENE: A young boy is sitting at a desk in a bank talking to banker.
MAN Welcome to Big Bank. How can I help you? BOY Well, I’ve been spending my short, irreplaceable life working just to pay rent. I need to buy a house to secure my financial and emotional independence. MAN Oh, you're a first time home buyer!?! How exciting. In that case I'm your best friend, and you can trust me with your life. BOY What a relief. I'm so glad I walked into the right bank! And I liked how you called me a "first time home buyer." It makes me feel like buying a home is going to be so affordable and easy. So where do we get started? MAN Let me look at today's interest rate and see what we can lock in. BOY What do you mean "today's" interest rate? MAN It changes every day, naturally. That's why it's so important to rush into locking in a rate that will follow you for the next 30 years. BOY Why not just has one interest rate that stays the same every day for everybody?
MAN Because we wouldn't make as much money that way. BOY Are there any other fees that will follow me for the next 30 years? MAN Of course. There's a mountain of taxes. BOY Why do I have to pay so much in taxes to buy a house? MAN You have to pay as much taxes as possible on everything. BOY Fair enough, but after I pay the house off I won't have to pay any more taxes on my home, right? MAN Wrong. You'll always have to pay property tax or the government will seize your home. BOY But that means I'll have to work until I die! MAN ...not if you save your money and build up a nest egg while you're young. BOY But I have to go into debt to buy a house, and you put ridiculous service charges on my savings account. MAN For a small upfront fee and recurring service fees we can hook you up with an investment manager, but let's focus on the house right now.
BOY Okay. So other than an arbitrary interest rate and a never ending stream of taxes are there any other fees I have to pay? MAN There are too many to explain, and the seller is going to try to make you pay all of theirs. So you're going to have to hire a real estate broker to negotiate the sale. BOY My head is spinning. Just tell me this. If I buy a $100,000 house then how much am I going to end up paying? MAN About $200,000. BOY Does everybody end up paying twice what a house is worth? MAN Not the people who can pay for the whole thing upfront. BOY Well why aren't houses advertised as costing twice what their worth? MAN Then you'd be less likely to buy. It's better if we reassure you then make your head spin and then pressure you to sign when you feel like you're past the point of no return. BOY Why does it cost so much to buy a home? Are the banks running low on money or something? MAN No. We don't even loan you money we have. We just summon it out of thin air.
BOY And what happens to my house if I can't afford to pay off my loan? MAN We sell it to someone else. BOY Do I get back the money I put in up to that point? MAN No. We keep that. BOY So if nobody can pay off their loan you can just keep selling the house forever? MAN Yes, but you have to understand that when you foreclose the unpaid difference comes out of our pocket. BOY Oh, I get it now. So if everybody defaults on their loans then you'll go bankrupt. MAN No. Then the government bails us out, and the tax payers fill in the gap in our balance sheet. BOY Oh, so since the tax payers paid off all those houses then the people who defaulted on their loans get to keep their houses...since they'll have been paid for, right? MAN No. We just keep all that money and keep selling the same houses over and over again. BOY So where does all that extra money you'll be making go?
MAN Executive bonuses. BOY So why doesn't the government just nationalize all the banks, give everyone an affordable flat interest rate and use bank profits to fund badly needed social services... or at the very least use that income flow to cover the buyer's property taxes? MAN We would never let that happen. BOY Now I understand why renting is so expensive. I think I'll just go homeless and avoid your predatory lending practices until I've saved enough to buy a house outright. MAN It's illegal to sleep in public places. The Occupy Wall street protesters can tell you all about that.
Intervention with a Pop Star Part 1
SCENE: Two girls are standing in a hallway next to a door talking. Then they go through the door where they meet a psychologist.
NARRATOR One day in Los Angeles… FRIEND Okay, pop star. This is where your fan club meeting is. POP STAR This is a weird place for a fan club meeting. Pop Star and her friend walk through the door. Inside is a psychologist’s office. A man is sitting in a chair. POP STAR Oh no! Only one fan showed up?!?! And he's old!?! DR. PHILPOT This isn't a fan club meeting, and I'm not a fan per se. My name is Dr. Philpot, and I'm a clinical therapist. Your friend brought you here today for an intervention. POP STAR Is that like a total make-over?!?! DR. PHILPOT If it helps you can think of it as a make-over for the mind.
POP STAR Are we both going to get a make-over? FRIEND No. I'm good. Call me when you’re done. The friend leaves. POP STAR Okay, so how does this work? DR. PHILPOT Just lie down on that couch and get comfortable. Then we're just going to talk. Pop star sits down. Why did you change your name to "pop star?" POP STAR Because that's who I am, and that's what I do. DR. PHILPOT So you feel your new name is more honest and straight forward? Is that the message you're trying to communicate? POP STAR Sure. That and it tested well with focus groups. DR. PHILPOT Let’s talk about the messages you're communicating in your song lyrics. POP STAR Like, almost all of my songs are about relationships.
DR. PHILPOT Your target audience is mostly teens who are preparing for the rest of their lives while wrestling with big decisions and big changes. So why is it that most of your songs focus almost exclusively on the topic of relationships? POP STAR My songs totally prepare teens for life. It's like one of my earlier songs said, "All you need is love." DR. PHILPOT In another song you said, "You ain't got anything if you ain't got love." Do you believe that? POP STAR I backed that up in the song, "love lifts us up where we belong." I mean, it's where we belong. How can I make that any clearer? DR. PHILPOT Have you ever considered that this extreme emphasis on love might be oversimplifying life a little and possibly distracting or confusing the younger and more impressionable members of your audience? POP STAR Distracting them? From what? What else would I sing about? DR. PHILPOT For starters, what about education? You could implore young people to travel, to question their beliefs, to think logically. In a word, self-improvement. POP STAR That’s so not romantic! DR. PHILPOT Actually, it's the foundation of romance. How can you know who will make a compatible life partner if you've never defined or refined who you are? Furthermore, the less you've defined
yourself the harder it is to achieve happiness because you haven't defined your wants, goals or expectations, which make them impossible to fulfill. POP STAR Whatever. Self-help books don't complete you. Finding the perfect person does. DR. PHILPOT Two incomplete people can't complete each other. And again, how will you know who you're compatible with until you fully understand yourself? POP STAR When you meet that perfect person you just know. DR. PHILPOT But upon first meeting someone you don't know anything about them. POP STAR Why do you need to know everything about them? So you can judge them? So you can measure them? Love is blind. The whole point of love is you accept the other person just as they are. DR. PHILPOT See, the message you're sending to children there is that they don't need to improve themselves, and they should endure any manner of neglect and abuse by their partners in the name of a fuzzy ideal. This is not a solid foundation to build lasting, meaningful, healthy relationships on. I mean, do you believe a woman in an abusive or unfulfilling relationship should get a divorce? POP STAR Uh, duh? Obviously. Any man of mine better walk the line. DR. PHILPOT Have you ever considered writing a few songs that define the preconditions of a healthy relationship or set useful boundaries? Maybe even songs offering advice on how to achieve compromise?
POP STAR You’d have to be stupid not to know that stuff already, and why is it my responsibility to teach them that anyway? DR. PHILPOT Because you're a pop star, and Children see you as an authority figure. Also, remember that people listen to your songs over and over again. So your words get pounded into their memory. And when the only thing they hear from you is that the only thing they should be focusing on in their life right now is getting in a relationship and staying there, it can have a profound impact on their priorities. The fact that some of them might not be smart enough to see that makes it all the more important for you to shape your message responsibly. POP STAR You’re acting like I’m killing people. What’s the worst that could happen? DR. PHILPOT People may rush into unhealthy relationships, stay in abusive relationships, neglect other responsibilities, kill themselves after a break up or simply feel incomplete when there's no reason to. POP STAR Do you really think so? People will always think with their genitals, which is what love songs are ultimately appealing to. How will that ever go out of style? DR. PHILPOT Culture is always evolving, and its evolving faster now than ever before. Counterproductive norms are becoming obsolete in a fraction of the time it took before the invention of the internet. Codependency can't remain the norm for ever. Ignorance is becoming more and more taboo, and it's only a matter of time before enlightenment goes mainstream. The only question is whether your career will be riding that wave or be crushed by it. POP STAR You’ve given me a lot to think about. I'm going to have to talk to my manager about this. Before I go though I have one question. You said you weren't going to bother appealing to my emotions or my sense of right and wrong. What would you have said if you thought that would help?
DR. PHILPOT Tonight I want you to spend an hour gazing at the stars and contemplating the beauty, scarcity and value of life in this universe. Then ask yourself, if you had a chance to make your brothers' and sisters' lives even a little better then how could you possibly pass up such a profound opportunity?
SCENE: An enlisted soldier is carrying a lot of military equipment and wearing a helmet that is too large is talking to a military officer who is wearing sunglasses and standing under an umbrella. Behind them is a barbed wire fence.
SOLDIER Trainee Moon reporting for duty. OFFICER Hold it right there. You're not a member of the in-crowd yet. Until you complete your indoctrination ... I mean training ... you will be referred to as "trainee Moon." SOLDIER Sorry about that. So what will we be doing in basic training that will turn me into a higher form of life worthy of a separate title from the general population? OFFICER We'll start by waking you up extremely early every morning with disorientatingly loud noises. Then you'll dress in uniform clothing and go through a rote process of lining up in a formation to chant a rote oath of unquestioning loyalty to the group. SOLDIER Cool. Why do we do all that? OFFICER What part of unquestioning loyalty don't you understand? SOLDIER Sorry. What happens after that? OFFICER
Then you'll spend a few hours in a class room learning about the glorious history of our group and why it's the best organization in the world. You'll also learn all the unique symbols that we wear on our clothes to distinguish the ranks of our pyramid shaped authority structure, and you'll learn the in-words and gestures we use to communicate inside the group. SOLDIER Speaking of history, Will we learn where you’re...I mean our glorious organization learned these training methods? OFFICER That's not covered in the material we provide you. SOLDIER Okay. What next? OFFICER Then you'll learn to march in formation and respond to commands as a group. SOLDIER Will the jobs we do after basic training require a lot of marching in formation then? OFFICER No, never. SOLDIER So what's the point of learning how to march in a group and perform repetitive, rote drills on command? OFFICER It builds discipline and esprit de corps! SOLDIER Sooooo your idea of discipline isn't so much to do what's philosophically responsible per say but rather to do whatever our authoritarian leaders say to do without referencing one’s own internal moral compass?
OFFICER The leaders of the pyramid shaped authority structure define what's right and wrong for you. They are your moral compass. SOLDIER So I'm just supposed to have faith in them... like they were the pope or something? OFFICER Right...except that their authority supersedes any religious leader and/or doctrine in the world. SOLDIER Okay, let's get back to the topic of marching. What if I don't follow your commands precisely? OFFICER You and your entire training group suffer severe retribution. SOLDIER Hey, why does everyone get punished if one person screws up? OFFICER It motivates you to succeed and to hold each other accountable. SOLDIER So you're conditioning us to condition each other? OFFICER Affirmative. SOLDIER ...and this builds esprit de corps, does it? OFFICER Affirmative.
SOLDIER What does "esprit de corps" stand for again? OFFICER it's Latin for "The spirit of the body..." it's the inevitable sense of pride and unity you feel with the in-group once you come to base your identity on being a member of the group and see the world through the perspective of the group. SOLDIER ...sort of like a church? A church congregation would have esprit de corps then, wouldn't it? OFFICER Yeah, but they're pussies. They don't kill people. SOLDIER Speaking of killing, when do we exercise and learn survival skills and get weapons training? OFFICER You’ll have an hour of exercise each day, and you'll spend a week camping at a mock base where you'll fire a gun once. We also have an obstacle course there. It's pretty fun. SOLDIER Do we get any other training? OFFICER You’ll spend a lot of time learning to fold clothes and clean your barracks to precise requirements. SOLDIER ...so your job is to teach us how to fold clothes and perform marching drills we'll never use?
OFFICER My job is to convince you that you're worthless as you are and that true worth is measured only by your elevation in the organization. As you get better at following my commands I'll get nicer, but once you start feeling comfortable with me I'll tear you down again even if you're doing everything perfectly. I'll repeat that emotional roller coaster all the way through your indoctrination ... I mean training ... until your graduation ceremony where you'll receive the mark of the in-group. SOLDIER So you're going to be with us 24 hours per day? OFFICER No. I've got to spend some time with my family. SOLDIER Right. So when do I get to spend time with my family? OFFICER no. no. no. you'll be cut off from the outside world and your traditional support structures. You’ll literally be locked on base, and Communication with your loved ones will be severely limited and will only be allowed as a reward for demonstrating obedience and conformity. SOLDIER So who will watch us when you're gone? OFFICER I'll appoint a certain number of trainees in your group to police you. SOLDIER Hmmm. will you give them a special title that distinguishes them as authority figures and me as their subordinate? ...and these "leaders" will be able to discipline us anyway they want as long as it doesn't leave a mark?
OFFICER In the good old days we used to be able to beat the crap out of you... SOLDIER Wasn’t the Stanford prison experiment shut down for doing the exact same thing? OFFICER Keep up that kind of talk and I'll reprimand you and the rest of your fellow trainees. SOLDIER What if I never stop questioning the logic of the rules or the authority of the leaders? OFFICER Then we'll kick you out of the group for failure to conform. SOLDIER So let me see if I got all this straight. The only people allowed to stay in the group are those who conform their behavior, accept the values of the group, identify with the group and never question the pyramid shaped authority structure? And basic training focuses less on technical field training and more on conditioning new recruits mentally to accept, embrace and enforce the in-group's unique version of reality? OFFICER Sounds like you could be a basic training instructor someday...as long as you can learn to keep your thoughts to yourself. SOLDIER Dude, this is a cult. Everything you've told me is text-book brainwashing procedures. OFFICER Wrong. I don't know anybody who has ever been brainwashed, and the purpose of basic training is to make you a man.
SOLDIER Well it wouldn't be very good brainwashing if everybody knew they were brainwashed. You just said you don't tell recruits you're brainwashing them. You tell them you're making them into adults. But the training techniques you mentioned don't make you an adult. They strip you of your identity and values and replace them with mindless obedience. That’s the opposite of being a fully self-actualized adult. OFFICER I’ve never been so insulted in my entire life! How many times do I have to say it? This isn't brainwashing! SOLDIER You’re getting angry because your programmed schemas conflict with the evidence, which is triggering your defense mechanisms. And look in any brainwashing text book...it's literally text book brain washing. Hell, its streamlined brainwashing. If I wanted to start a cult and indoctrinate new recruits I would have the best chance of success by copying your methods as precisely as possible. OFFICER That’s it. I’m kicking you out of basic training for failure to conform, and I'm giving you a dishonorable discharge that will prevent you from getting meaningful employment for the rest of your life! SOLDIER Well that's not cultish at all. OFFICER Out!
A man is standing in front of the White House talking to an elephant and a donkey.
MAN Hey guys. I'm thinking about running for congress, but I'm a little confused about what the job entails. Can you help me? ELEPHANT Sure. We've been doing this a long time and have the system worked out pretty well. DONKEY Streamlined even. MAN Here's the thing. I want to get elected to represent my voters, but it seems like I'll be passing laws that affect the whole nation and sometimes the whole world. So how is that fair for all the people from different states who didn't vote for me? ELEPHANT We sort of have a "don't ask. Don't tell." policy when it comes to that. DONKEY Don't worry about it. What people don't realize won't hurt them. MAN What about this "S.O.P.A." Bill that will effectively destroy free speech on the internet? That was introduced by a congressman from Texas and has the whole world in an uproar...for good reason?
ELEPHANT Yeah, but the rest of the representatives in congress could shoot the bill down...if we wanted them to. DONKEY So the balance of power evens out in the end. MAN That's a relief. So if people contact their congressmen and express their disapproval of a bill then their congressman will have to represent their expectations? ELEPHANT No. MAN No? DONKEY No. MAN So what happens when a person sends a letter to their congressman? Doesn't he or she read it and then act on the wishes of their voters? ELEPHANT NO. An intern reads it and either throws it away or sends a canned response back. DONKEY ...and then throws the voter's letter away. MAN So congressmen are under no obligation whatsoever to represent their voter's expectations?
ELEPHANT No. The voters can elect someone else to take their place next election cycle if their representatives' actions don't incidentally meet their voters' expectations. DONKEY So congressmen have a strong incentive to represent their voters...or to keep them in the dark. MAN But if the representatives never act in the interest of the voters then couldn't the representatives get voted out perpetually while the voters never get what they want no matter who they vote in? ELEPHANT You're oversimplifying things. DONKEY In reality the voters get a lot of what they want...and a lot of what they don't. MAN Surely there's a law that says representatives can't go back on their campaign promises though, right? ELEPHANT nah. That happens all the time. MAN Doesn’t that piss voters off? ELEPHANT Yeah. That’s why we groom our candidates to be as vague as possible in their campaign promises. MAN When you get right down to it the voters really just have to hope their representatives...represent them.
DONKEY It never hurts to grease the wheels with massive campaign contributions. ELEPHANT You can also move to Washington D.C. and become a politician yourself or become a full time lobbyist. And really, if you don't do that then you have no excuse for not having your views represented. MAN ...unless they want a life of their own, which is what I thought government was supposed to give them. I just don't see how congressmen can call themselves representatives when there's no way to hold them accountable to their voters, especially when they're more or less on the payroll of campaign donors and lobbyist who are doing everything they can to buy all the influence in the government. ELEPHANT Well, it's a good thing nobody asked you. MAN So what do you call a government where the people elect leaders who don't represent their interests? ELEPHANT I don't know, I Do you know what you call someone who speaks out against their leaders... DONKEY A terrorist! MAN So what are you going to do? Send me to Guantanamo bay? ELEPHANT No. Once we pass the S.O.P.A. bill or something like it we'll just stop you from being able to spread your dissenting ideas.
DONKEY Now if you'll excuse us, our lobbyists are calling.
Intervention with a Pop Star Part 2
SCENE: Two girls are standing in a hallway next to a door talking. Then they go through the door where they meet a psychologist.
NARRATOR One day in Los Angeles… FRIEND Okay, Pop Star. This is where we're going shopping. POP STAR Hey, I know this place. The last time you brought me here I had an intervention with Dr. Philpot about how anti-intellectual my music was! Pop Star and her friend walk through the door. Inside is a psychologist’s office. A man is sitting in a chair. DR. PHILPOT Welcome back, Pop Star. POP STAR Damnit! I knew it. This is another intervention. What gives?! FRIEND I guess you'll find out. Call me when you’re done. The friend leaves the room. DR. PHILPOT Why don't you have a seat, pop star?
POP STAR I'm not sitting down. I don't need another intervention. I already stopped singing songs that glamorize co-dependency. DR. PHILPOT This is about something else. Please have a seat. I promise you'll benefit from what you’re going to hear today. POP STAR Fine. Whatever. Pop Star lies down on the couch. DR. PHILPOT Your friends asked me to have an intervention with you about how you handle money. POP STAR What's wrong with how I handle money? I don't have any debt. Oh, I get it. You're going to try to tell me I spend too much on partying, right? DR. PHILPOT Sort of. To illustrate my point, let's talk about some of the uplifting songs you've written since your last intervention. POP STAR Well, There was "man in the mirror, "Another day in Paradise, "Heal the World," "Where is the Love," "Walking on Sunshine," "What a wonderful life," "That's what friends are for," "You get what you give," "Never Surrender..." The list goes on. I'm on top of the charts right now. DR. PHILPOT Yeah...about that. POP STAR I believe the word you're looking for is, "Congratulations."
DR. PHILPOT Yes, congratulations. You've filled the world with an unprecedentedly positive message of hope and change. Tell me now; have you seen that change in the world? POP STAR Totally. It's like a whole new world out there. It's like living in Disney Land. DR. PHILPOT There's not any poverty, gangs, drugs, domestic violence, war, famine, fear or collapse going on anywhere in the world? POP STAR Well, if you count that stuff... DR. PHILPOT Yes. Yes those count. POP STAR Well, that's just all the more reason to stay positive. DR. PHILPOT And what do you do in your personal life to stay positive? POP STAR Bitch, I'm rich. I guarantee you that money can buy happiness. I can make all my wildest fantasies come true with the snap of a finger. When I'm sad I throw money at the problem, and all my friends are just as rich and wild. DR. PHILPOT So it's pretty easy for you to stay positive then? POP STAR The fact that I only sleep with models that will let me do anything helps too.
DR. PHILPOT ...of course. What would you say if I told you it's harder for some people to stay positive? POP STAR I'd say you should hold on and persevere no matter what. DR. PHILPOT Would you tell slaves to hold on and persevere no matter what? POP STAR There's no such thing as slaves anymore. DR. PHILPOT Let's pretend there are. POP STAR I'd tell them that help is on the way. DR. PHILPOT What if help isn't on the way? POP STAR I'd tell them to keep on believing. DR. PHILPOT Believing in what, exactly? POP STAR Themselves? Their leaders? God? I don't know. Something inspiring like that. DR. PHILPOT How is your message supposed to help them if your message is vague to the point of being useless?
POP STAR Who cares? The whole situation is hypothetical anyway. DR. PHILPOT If it's hypothetical anyway, then humor me, and tell me what you would tell your fans if they were slaves on a plantation owned by superman and In fact, every slave plantation on the world was owned by a different super hero. So nobody had any hope of rescue since their heroes were the ones enslaving them. POP STAR I'd sing the world a song about respecting yourself, holding your leaders accountable and standing up for yourself in the name of truth, justice and the human spirit. Hey, I think I'll use that idea on my next album...even if it's based on a hypothetical premise. DR. PHILPOT What would you say if I told you that you were a super hero? POP STAR Thank you. In fact, that's what I'll call my next song, "Hero." DR. PHILPOT You don't understand. You're one of the heroes in the hypothetical slave world....except that it's no hypothetical. It's metaphorical. POP STAR That's ridiculous. I don't own any slaves. Ask my accountant. DR. PHILPOT And what is a slave, exactly? POP STAR A slave is a human being you own and have a receipt for.
DR. PHILPOT Does the mafia need a receipt to force a girl into sex slavery? POP STAR Okay, fine. NO, but it doesn't matter, because I'm not forcing girls to have sex at gun point. DR. PHILPOT True... but it raises the question though, what exactly is a slave? At what point would you call yourself a slave? Suppose your manager kept 100% of the money you made and kept you in his dog house. Would that be slavery? POP STAR Yeah, that'd be slavery. DR. PHILPOT What if he didn't keep you in the dog house? What if he left you to sleep in the streets and expected you to show up and work for him every day? POP STAR I'd kick him in the nuts! DR. PHILPOT Okay, calm down. What if he let you keep 1% of the money you made him so you could afford to buy your own house, raise a family and make all your dreams come true? POP STAR 1% isn't a favor, that's an insult. DR. PHILPOT Well, what if it were 3% or 7% POP STAR If I'm doing all the work I better get all the money.
DR. PHILPOT Well, your manager is doing a lot of work booking your gigs and such. Doesn't he deserve a fair share of the profits? POP STAR Sure, as long as it's fair and I have my freedom. DR. PHILPOT What if he gave you a fair share, but in order to buy anything you had to buy it from another slave driver who charged you 100% of your wages so that you didn't get to keep any money for yourself? Would you still be a slave then? POP STAR No, but the end result would be the same I guess. DR. PHILPOT Well, that's the reality of life for most of the human beings on this planet. POP STAR Yeah, I know. I wrote the song, "Heal the world," remember? What's the point? Are you trying to guilt trip me into giving more money to charity? DR. PHILPOT Well, if your producer kept 90% of the profits you made and it cost 100% of your wages to survive, do you think it would help you much if your boss gave 1% of his savings to charity? POP STAR No, but I'm not a slave driver. So I don't know why you're asking me. DR. PHILPOT Hmmm. How many people does it take to put on a concert and make and sell all your merchandise?
POP STAR Uhhh. Dozens? DR. PHILPOT How many people do you work with who are so filthy rich they have to do drugs to get creative enough to come up with ideas how to spend all their money? POP STAR ...Just me...and my manager. DR. PHILPOT How many of your employees are drowning in debt just trying to put a roof over their heads and send their kids to school? POP STAR ...most of them. DR. PHILPOT Well, in your song, "In the Air Tonight" you sing about watching a man drown when you have the power to save him.... POP STAR Yeah, that's not what that song was about. DR. PHILPOT Whatever, the point is, would you consider it manslaughter to let someone drown when you have the power to save them? POP STAR Yes. I would make a categorical imperative out of that. DR. PHILPOT Well, your fans and your employees are all drowning, and the only reason you're not is because you're standing on their heads.
POP STAR Wow. You're so pessimistic. You need to be more optimistic. DR. PHILPOT I'm not being pessimistic. I'm being realistic, and you're not being optimistic. You’re being apathetic. POP STAR You're so mean. DR. PHILPOT If the truth sounds ugly it's not because of the way the messenger looks. POP STAR So what? You want me to give away all of my money? You said yourself; if everyone else is being greedy then charity is just pouring blood into a sieve? It doesn't address the underlying problem. DR. PHILPOT If you believe that then I want you to ask yourself, what can you do to address the root cause of poverty and wage slavery other than throwing a fraction of your blood money at the problem... like you've been doing? POP STAR Can you just tell me what to do instead of asking me leading questions? DR. PHILPOT I ask leading questions, because patients tend to automatically argue with anything they don't want to hear, and the reason they see me in the first place isn't because they need the obvious pointed out to them but because they refuse to acknowledge the obvious. But I trust you. So I'll tell you the truth, but it will be the end of our session. I don't want to give you time to argue with me. I want you to go home and rethink your life, objectively.
POP STAR Deal. DR. PHILPOT You've already answered most of your own questions anyway. POP STAR I have? DR. PHILPOT You should pay your employees more and charge your customers less. POP STAR But they'll still get overcharged by everyone else, and then I'll be lowering my head closer to water. DR. PHILPOT But you'll be setting a precedent and sending a message that can be amplified if your songs reflect your cause. POP STAR Will that be enough to make a difference? DR. PHILPOT If nothing else, you won't be a brazen hypocrite anymore. Your question is moot anyway. What you can do, you must do. Even if it doesn't change the world, it'll still help those within your broad sphere of influence. POP STAR Wow, you really know how to guilt trip a girl.
DR. PHILPOT All I did was state the truth. If that makes you feel guilty then that's your conscience trying to tell you something. And with that, I think we should end your intervention. Will you promise to go home and think about the things we've talked about? POP STAR I do, but I have to confess. I'm scared to risk what I've got on one man's guilt trip. DR. PHILPOT If you have enough money to make your dreams come true, and your dream is to find answers, then hire someone who answers questions. POP STAR I guess two minds are better than one... Hmmm. maybe I'll hire a whole monastery of intellectual monks. DR. PHILPOT I suppose that's a start. Well, you're friend is back. Looks like Our session is over. Good luck, pop star. POP STAR Thank you, doctor Philpot. I Promise I'll make the world proud.
SCENE: A student is standing in a classroom talking to his teacher.
STUDENT Hey, bro. Can I ask you something? TEACHER First, let's get one thing straight. I'm a professor with a doctorate degree. So you will preface my name with the word "doctor." STUDENT Sorry. It's against my religion to address other people with a higher title than me. TEACHER What!? That's not in any religion! Which religion do you think said that? STUDENT Reason. My religion is reason. TEACHER Silly boy, that's not legally recognized as a religion. STUDENT ...only because it's based on reality. TEACHER I don't have time to argue with a child about how you expect the world to operate. Just address me with a higher title than you, and let's move on. STUDENT No. Not until you give me a reason why.
TEACHER I didn't go to eight years of school for nothing! STUDENT Yeah, you went to eight years of school for an education and a higher pay check. TEACHER ...and to deserve to be called doctor by people foolish enough to be born after me or poorer than me. STUDENT Will I get to be addressed with a higher title just for doing whatever benefits me for eight years? TEACHER No. It only counts if you do exactly what I did. STUDENT Don't get me wrong. That's cool that you went to school for so long, but I still don't see how that obligates me to subjugate myself to you. TEACHER Oh, children are so naive it makes my head hurt! Look, I went to school for eight years. How do you not understand that? STUDENT So who else gets to demand that other people stroke their ego by addressing them with a higher title? TEACHER Military officers, judges, politicians, clergy and bosses in general.
STUDENT So basically, anyone who controls other people deserves to be addressed with a higher title, and anyone who is controlled deserves to subjugate themselves? TEACHER Now you're talking like a mature adult! So what did you want to ask me about, boy? STUDENT Well, doctor, I just wanted to know if I passed my last assignment. TEACHER Yes, you passed, but you got a C, and I know you can do better. So I just have to ask, are you on drugs? STUDENT No, it's just that I didn't care about the assignment. So I didn't bother wasting too much of my precious life on it. TEACHER You have a piss poor attitude, son. STUDENT I'm not your son, and I don't see how I have a piss poor attitude. TEACHER It takes so much hard work to get a college degree because a college degree is a badge of maturity that proves how much hard work you're capable of doing. STUDENT Dude, this class has nothing to do with my career path. Why does it make me a failure if I don't do well at something I don't want to do and will never do again?
TEACHER I'm a doctor, not a dude, and it seems like the real question is why you're wasting my time if you don't even want to be in this class!? STUDENT Your school made me takes this class for no other reason that I can see other than to charge me more money! TEACHER You kids are so naive. STUDENT If I'm naive then you should have no problem rebutting my observation with facts. TEACHER Colleges don't make students take superfluous classes just to make money. We're not here to make money. We're here to educate young minds. STUDENT So I suppose text books don't cost $130 just because you can get away with charging that much. TEACHER Well, point in fact, text book prices are a racket. Everybody knows that, but nobody will do anything about it. STUDENT Everybody also knows that the higher the cost of tuition rises the higher the glass ceiling rises for the poor. TEACHER What liberal, biased news anchor did you learn that "fact" from?
STUDENT ..All of my social science classes. If you're going to force me to become a debt slave for the rest of my life to get a college education, can you at least make the classes relevant and useful? TEACHER But every class is relevant and useful! If you took it at college then it must be! STUDENT I learned in Logic 101 that that's a circular argument. Qualify your statement. TEACHER Every class you take was made by a person with a doctorate degree who is smarter than you. So if you don't understand its value then the reason why must be because you're not as smart as the people who designed your curriculum. STUDENT "Appeal to authority" is another form of logical fallacy. I'm going to need you to try harder. TEACHER Look, all of the work you're doing in college is preparing you to succeed in business in ways you'll understand only after you get out into the work force. STUDENT So after I start working at another job other than all the ones I've already had I'll understand the profound value of writing essays nobody (even you) wants to read, cramming references into said essays and giving Power Point presentations to people who don't care about topics that I've just been introduced to? TEACHER Yes. You see, for the rest of your life you're going to work for totalitarian dictators who need you to perform personally unrewarding tasks to make your bosses rich, and they'll need you to delegate more loathsome tasks to people younger and poorer than you. So it's essential that you're conditioned to accept bullshit as the norm now.
STUDENT So you're training me to be a good house nigger? TEACHER That word is insensitive. Use the term "house slave" instead. STUDENT I thought you were supposed to teach young people how to think. TEACHER No, but that sure sounds good on paper, doesn't it? STUDENT So why do you offer classes on logic? TEACHER I was just joking. There's no big conspiracy. Most of this school's faculty is just woefully incompetent because they all went to schools that prioritized testing and profit over education. ...and they generally have less training in formal education than high school teachers. STUDENT Wait. If they didn't study how to become teachers then what did they study? TEACHER They studied how to become professional students, of course. STUDENT That explains so much. Is that why every professor acts like the world will end if we can't write academic research papers with tedious references? Because that's all they've ever known. TEACHER No, it's because schools build their reputations on the journal articles their grad students produce. So if we train everyone to be professional journal writers whether you want or need that, then statistically, some of our students will make us look good.
STUDENT Wow. You're so destroying society. I'm filling out a student complaint form. TEACHER BWHA HAHAHAH HA AHAHAHAHAHAAHA!
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