I’m not sure Eric Clapton is the greatest guitar player ever. I can think of a number of other guitar “gods” that seem in his class (Carlos Santana and Lindsey Buckingham, to name just two). But I am pretty sure the late (great!) George Carlin was without peer. I can’t think of anyone else who lasted longer (50 years!), worked harder, gave us so many classic bits or been more consistently good. He died in 2008, at 71, having done his 14th HBO special just four months earlier.
I thought he went through an angry period (the 1990s, maybe?) where he seemed to lash out indiscriminately at everything and everyone. He seemed a little less funny to me then, but he was never really wrong… just angry. I only ever really disagreed with him once.
And that was on his view that you shouldn’t vote.
He had a bit about how you bought into the process by voting and lost any right to complain about the result. You only had the right to complain if you didn’t vote.
You could object to the process only if you didn’t participate, otherwise you had to accept the outcome without objection.
Comedy relies on a certain truth value (or as Stephen Colbert would put it: truthiness — a wonderful neologism), and right off the bat, Carlin’s assertion doesn’t work for me. Even the first time I heard it, many years ago, my brain went, “Whoa. Hang on there! That’s not right.”
And when your brain does that, it spoils the joke — it stops being funny.
What magnifies what you might think is a minor point is that Carlin has, from the beginning, been precisely aligned with the idea of a fundamental right to complain. It’s a freedom we have here that he held near and dear to his being.
All comedians hold that as a core principle. It’s what makes comedy so precious.
That’s what sets alarm bells ringing when Saint George asserts that anyone could lose the right to complain. Your brain goes, “Uhm… George? Almost every other word you’ve ever said disagrees with that.”
At least mine does.
Once you take that away as preposterous, he’s got no other reason to not vote.
It is one thing to agree to a process so that an incredibly varied group of people with widely conflicting goals can somehow move things forward. It is quite another to suggest you can’t criticize the process or the outcome.
It makes as much sense as arguing you can’t criticize something from the outside, that you have to be inside, participating, to have the right to criticize. (In some ways, that’s actually a more supportable argument.)
The whole thing is eerily similar to, “America. Love it or leave it!” It’s anti-Carlin!
Which — at least for my USAnian friends — brings me to my point:
And complain if you don’t like the process. Or the result.
Complain loudly. Or make a joke.
People died for it, you know. Or got beaten. Or jailed.
So go vote!
Our friends at WordPress also want you to go vote, and they’ve whipped up a neat tool to help. Here’s the tool:
Pass it on! To include it in your own post, just stick the following into your post:
[ voter info tool ]
(But, do it without the spaces I inserted for readability!) You can get more info here:
And now, here’s George!!