Details We Don’t Need to Hear

June 30, 2009

In the last few weeks, the entertainment world has lost some true luminaries.

First it was Ed McMahon, then Farrah Fawcett, followed by Michael Jackson and Billy Mays. Three out of the four were easily classified as ‘natural’ although it would be nice if someday cancer can be removed from the list of natural causes.

Billy Mays grew up in McKees Rocks (a few miles from Pittsburgh) which was within ten miles of Crafton Heights – where I called home. Our age difference ensured that we never had an opportunity to meet while we were both living in Pittsburgh. That’s a shame because he seemed to be a real likable fellow.

All four of these celebrities lived busy stress-filled lives. While I have no way of knowing for sure, they all may have used some substance – prescription drugs, street drugs, or alcohol – to unwind from their daily grinds. However, it seems that Michael Jackson is the only one who abused those substances.

People might get upset with such comments, but when the nanny of his children tells reporters that one of her duties was to pump Michael’s stomach when he’d taken an overdose of drugs, we have to recognize that he was an habitual abuser.

But wait! The Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are already in front of the cameras – they simply cannot pass up a good photo opportunity – praising the man for all he did for popular music. When asked about Michael’s problems, they quickly point the finger of accusation at Elvis Presley. (It’s interesting that they didn’t show up in Memphis or wherever to help Elvis’ family plan his funeral.)

The “someone else has done something worse” tactic is used all too often by people who refuse to admit that their ‘hero’ could do anything wrong. The same happened when Bill Clinton finally acknowledged what he was doing with Monica. His defenders, rather than saying “that was wrong” pointed the finger at Richard Nixon.

Defenders of Richard Nixon are quick to point the finger at Franklin Roosevelt – after all, didn’t he die while spending a quiet weekend with his mistress?

Why can’t people simply say, “What he did was absolutely wrong.” And leave it at that. No ‘buts’ about it. Yes, the man was a tremendous entertainer, however, he sent the wrong message to many of our youth. Drugs and deviant behavior are fine as long as you’re a super star! Is that what we want our children to grow up believing?

But Wait! There’s more! If you act now, you’ll realize I’m paying tribute to the guy who convinced my step-daughter and my bride that laundry isn’t truly clean unless Oxi-Clean is put in with the regular soap.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to work on the kitchen.

Frightful Predictions for the New Year

December 29, 2008

I wrote the following article in 2005, but as we head into 2009, I believe its message is worth repeating.


In 1962 I read Nineteen Eighty-Four. It was written by George Orwell in the mid nineteen-forties and published in 1949. Another book I read that year was Brave New World written by Aldous Huxley and published in 1931. I didn’t realize how old those books were until I did some research for this article.

I found it even more surprising that another predictor of the future, H.G. Wells, wrote some of his best stories before the turn of the last century. The Time Machine was published in 1895, and War of the Worlds in 1898.

Orwell was the only one of these three to make a specific time frame for his predictions so unforgettable. So it’s rather easy to point out the fallacies of his foresight. Or is it?

There are many people in this country and throughout the world who truly believe Big Brother is alive and well, and watching everything we do. I don’t know about Big Brother, but I’m guessing the banks and credit bureaus have more information than we would like them to have. The IRS probably knows a bit too much as well.

If you have any doubt about the people questioning the reality of Nineteen Eighty-Four take a surfing trip on the Internet. Do a “Google” search on “1984” and you’ll discover a number of web sites that claim the Patriot Act is just the beginning of the end of our personal liberties and freedom.

Personally, I’m going to stay out of that debate; I can see pros and cons on both sides of the issue. But there is another group of radical thinkers that has me more concerned. I discovered their web sites by doing a search on Brave New World. Before discussing the radical thinkers, let’s explore some aspects of Aldous Huxley’s book.

One of the main premises of Brave New World is that society is controlled through the use of drugs. People are fed a daily ration of drugs that keep them dumb and happy. If the slightest hint of depression is sensed by one of the citizens, he or she is sent on a “Soma Weekend”. In other words, a heavier than normal dose of drugs is administered and the person goes to la-la land for days at a time.

Aldous Huxley also made famous the term “test tube” baby. In fact, that’s the only way babies were made in the future Mr. Huxley foretold. In the end, the desire of a couple of humans to procreate the old fashioned way was one of the factors that caused major problems in the futuristic society.

Although countless readers of the book have long ago forgotten any dates mentioned in Brave New World, the predictions are not as easily overlooked. There’s no doubt many of the readers of this article know at least one couple who have given birth to a “test tube” baby. Whether the child resulted from artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, or any other artificial means, science can rightfully take credit for the little bundle of joy.

The use of drugs in the future society of the Brave New World is another matter that should not be ignored. That part of the story should grab the attention of anyone – including those still trying to figure out what “in vitro” means. The United States government has been fighting a losing war on drugs for decades, but all of the attention has been directed toward the illegal “street” or “recreational” drugs. What about the “little purple pill” and all the other prescription drugs? Should we consider the drugs approved by the Federal Food & Drug Administration to be a problem?

Why not? We’re living in a society that is constantly looking for ways to avoid pain and stress. Considering that this same society is the basis for much of the pain and stress we suffer, it would only seem right and proper that science do something to make our lives more enjoyable.

Is this sort of thinking similar to accepting the restrictions of our liberties brought about by the Patriot Act? In both cases, we are allowing changes in our lives that go against much of the moral teachings of our forefathers. We permit the government to have greater power over us in exchange for protection from terrorists. And we allow ourselves to be drugged to avoid the annoyance of our day-to-day lives.

What is especially interesting is that an anti-depressant prescribed by a doctor can be abused just as easily as any other drug. But that’s not seen as evil. Using a “street drug” for “recreational” purposes is seen as evil. An overdose of a prescription drug can cause physical impairments just as alcohol does, but the problems derived from prescription drugs are far more acceptable.

The line has become a grayish blur. A “Soma Weekend” may still be seen as a bit safer than an LSD trip, but nonetheless, something to be frowned upon. However, if current trends continue, we may be taking our future vacations in a lab – with a host of attendants dressed in white administering the proper drugs to give us the perfect trip.

With the proper promotion, it could be widely accepted. It could create a whole new industry. Such a facility might just replace Disneyland in the eyes of Super Bowl athletes.

But wait! There’s more! As if mind control through the use of drugs weren’t frightening enough, there’s a radical group of intellectuals calling themselves the “BLTC”. They believe that we humans owe it to ourselves to be forever happy – but not through the use of drugs. How pass√©!

“BLTC” originally translated as “Better Living Through Chemistry”, which was the slogan of DuPont Chemicals. The name was created with the tongue firmly in the cheek, but that is the only joking matter with this group.

BLTC recognizes that our science and technology has progressed far beyond the popping of pills. They believe that humans can be genetically engineered to always be happy. They, in essence, are combining the two basic premises of Brave New World. They want to create test tube babies and give them a lifetime supply of happy pills.

Neither Nineteen Eighty-Four nor Brave New World was written as a strictly science fiction novel. Orwell was quoted as saying Nineteen Eighty-Four was written, “to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society they should strive after.”¬† Huxley saw his Brave New World as “a dark vision of a highly technological society of the future.” In other words, they were both making political statements about the evils of the society in which they were living and warning people of the dire consequences that awaited us if we did not change our ways. Perhaps the warnings are still valid.