Beggars Collide

If there was a nickel for every leftie I’ve pissed off with the expression of my views, I would not be rifling pay phones for change. This suits me fine, as do dimes and half-dollars. I didn’t start writing in hope that everyone would agree with me all the time; anybody that did agree with me all the time would have to be some kind of crank. Back in 1992 when precious few people were making even the littlest peep against the slimes and arrows of outrageous fortunates, ninety-nine out of a hundred of my irate readers were right-wingers; now they’re all liberals. I guess this is because, what with Obamarama and all that, folks on the Left think their day is finally coming. On that, we agree. I just happen to think it’s a different day. Maybe (certainly) I’m just a big party pooper, but in the name of Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all, knock off acting like ‘hope’ is something that has energy and can perform work. It doesn’t and it can’t. It’s just an emotion. We’re talking about an abstract noun. Hope is just an affective meaning we apply to future events, of no more substance than amusement, irritation, or tridecaphobia: a feeling, an idea, nothing more. The first thing the Left in this country has to do is abandon hope. Then maybe we can get something done.

Here’s a sample of a typical correspondence from an irritated reader whose hope my prick deflated:

“To be a progressive, you have to have some hope, and you obviously have none. One question, why do you bother lecturing progressives and liberals? You know nothing they do matters. Oh, yeah of course to see your name in print.”

This is purest horse shavings. Who the hell says a progressive must have hope? Intentions might be better. What matters is plans, and the will to put them into action. I’m about 95% certain that I’m going to die some day. Hope otherwise as I may, it won’t influence the outcome. So the plan is to stay alive as long as possible. Fair enough. But don’t I hope there’s an afterlife? I don’t. Rather than pray a magic book turns out to be right about death and we all turn into cloud-fairies if we’re very, very good, I have a plan: to cease to exist. In this world, the next world, or any other world. Which isn’t a bad thing. To cease to be ‘one’ is to become a part of ‘all’ again, mingled with the rocks and trees, bowler hats, photons, dust, antimatter, stars, marmalade, and the gossamer fish-bats of Alpha Centauri. Is that so bad? To die is merely to give up the illusion of self, and join the rest of the universe in the endless atomic dance. That said, if there is another life after this one, I hope it’s less expensive. But you see? There’s hope again. Hope is futile. Action is what matters. Deeds, not words. Don’t hope, but plan. And then act upon your plan. Make it into motion. There’s an old saying, “If wishes were horses, beggars collide”, or something. Hope is just another word for ‘wish’. I wish a right turn on red was legal in Manhattan. What does that have to do with my credentials as a progressive?

Lecturing, yes. I do that. But the beauty of the written word is that you don’t have to read it! So it’s not really even a lecture, is it? Rather, the problem is liberal/progressive types have been living without the slightest whiff of opportunity to make fuck-all happen in this country for so long that 1) they’re surviving entirely on wishful thinking, and 2) they’re forming a circular firing squad. Look, people, I would love it if Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton or Zippy the Pinhead for that matter won the presidency and announced they were going to remove human rights from corporate entities, ensure all Americans got free healthcare, pull our military out of Iraq within the fortnight, and instead of spending 60% of our red ink on war, we would spend it on the invention of a substance that not only cured cancer and reversed global warming, but was chock full of the good kind of cholesterol. I’d love that. But it’s not going to happen, and if you’re hoping one of these candidates is a stealth socialist, this would be a good time to start huffing lacquer thinner. Am I saying of progressives that “nothing they do matters”? No, I’m saying most progressives don’t do diddly squat. I don’t, and neither do you, probably. That is, unless you’re working your little toches off right this minute to transform the way America does its business. Sure, I do a little work for change, like write essays and send letters and march in marches and sport a bumper sticker that reads “Impeachment Is Too Good For Them”. Is that enough?

Of course not. I need to start a political party called “The Independent American Party”, with a platform consisting of human rights, revocation of corporate citizenship, the end of fossil and mineral fuels, and right on red in Manhattan. I have not started that party yet, so hoping meanwhile that Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi or whatever corporate spokesperson makes it to the White House will say, “I’ve lost my taste for the never-ending gravy-flavored orgasm of infinite profit”, then go all Che Guevara on the Establishment, is plain embarrassing. If you think this is what the 2008 election is all about, you’re not only hoping and wishing. You’re dreaming. But it is easier to attack a venomous old Cassandra like me for daring to point out the incredibly obvious, than to admit you’re high on a fantasy that Things Are Going To Magically Turn Around. A suggestion: rather than waste your time writing to me (except with lavish praise or book offers), get out there and do something– like found a political party. I’ll work for it.

The same reader quoted above continues with the following speculation:

“Sometimes I think this site [Counterpunch] is paid for by the CIA or the Republican party. Goal: keep progressive activists depressed and discouraged. [A]nd inactive. And hey you’re pretty good at that.”

With all due respect to the reader that took the time and effort to respond to my words, this is the most miserable, gutless, whimpering jelly-wobble cop-out piece of snark that it is possible to express, and also the most common. It’s like listening to the non-athletic kids in gym class accusing each other of ruining their throws when they fail to get the basketball even halfway to the hoop. I know what I’m talking about. I was one of those kids. Are we on the Left such delicate flowers (pansies, for example) that we cannot face a little flinty-eyed examination of the dangerous terrain ahead? Are we so sensitive and artistic and in touch with our feelings that we can’t so much as hear a word of dissent on our side without wagging an admonitory finger? How dare I fail to click my heels together three times and say, “There’s no place like home!” What a bunch of wilted pussy-ass vegan guitar-plucking Birkenstock dingleberries we must be! No wonder we get the shit kicked out of us on a thrice-daily basis. We deserve it.

So don’t come crying to me, unless you have an interesting counterargument to make. I reserve the right to bitch and moan just as much as I see fit, which after all is one of those unalienable rights you used to hear about, and if somebody else sees fit to print it, that’s nobody’s business but his and mine, unless of course you’re interested in reading it, in which case as always caveat lector and argle-bargle away. But if you’re going to use some ill-tempered asshole like me as an excuse for not doing anything, if you’re depressed, discouraged, and inactive, is it not possible I say this only out of compassion, of course, because I deeply care Is it possible you’re being just an ickle bit precious? You don’t really imagine the Left is in such appalling disarray because me and my radical ilk in our grubby basement Biergeschäfte aren’t members of the Sunshine Optimist Club. Pull yourselves together. Neither Obama nor Clinton is an authentic progressive. Not even close. Sure, you can make the best of it. That’s what I’ll be doing. But don’t deceive yourself. “These are not”, to quote the prophet Kenobi, “the droids you’re looking for.”

That said, my grousing is probably counterproductive, guilty as charged, a moaning streak of paralyzed piss with nothing good to say about anybody, an armchair anarchist with all the spunk of a gutta percha dildo. But I’m not depressed or discouraged. Why would I be? We Americans were born in a rich and powerful land in a time of relative ease. For most of us, sacrifice has been elective and hardship largely self-imposed. We haven’t been invaded or overthrown, nor have we endured pandemic or famine The U.N. has never thrown sacks of rice at us out the backs of trucks. We’re so soft, so exquisitely coddled, we enjoy the incredible luxury to wince at harsh words– words that, like hopes or feelings, have no corporeal substance, no power but the power we surrender to them. The real problem is that you and me, O constant reader, are both so wrapped up in our precious little feelings and our comforts and our rainbow-colored utopian dreams that we’d rather huck blame at each other than do the hard work that needs to be done.

I admit it, I’m sort of froze up myself. If these are the candidates we get, after all the Right has done to drive the public to the Left, I have no idea where to begin. But I’m also not floating in some kind of fragile, nitrous oxide-scented bubble of hope, dizzy on moon-bims. We have to be realistic about the situation. It’s hope, finally, that makes us sell out. We get so downtrodden we’ll do anything for a chance at that happy dreamed-of outcome: find substance in the airiest speeches, comfort in the slightest promises. Hope springs eternal. That’s what makes it such a useful tool of the elites in power, better than gunpowder. For every promise they make, there’s an “if”: if you get me elected, if circumstances are favorable, then it will be done. The “if” is just a wish in disguise, and it almost never comes true. If we just elect more Democrats, or elect more Republicans, or send more money, maybe next time, if Whereas a well-considered plan, acted upon with vigor and determination –a robust third-party movement with a simple, encompassing platform, for example– really can make hope into reality. Until then, I console myself with the occasional check from the Republican National Committee, and of course seeing my name in print.

BEN TRIPP, author of Square in the Nuts, is a hack in many mediums. He may be reached at






Ben Tripp is America’s leading pseudo-intellectual. His most recent book is The Fifth House of the Heart.