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Tangentially Speaking

499 – ROMA 48 (From Chappelle to Kissinger)

By October 22, 20213 Comments

Coming to you from Antigua, Guatemala (the original “banana republic”), in this one, I get a few things off my chest, including American foreign policy, why Henry Kissinger is not welcome on my podcast, how group identity becomes desperately attractive in a time of crisis, and how that plays out in the LGBTQ anger-fest at Dave Chappelle.

The essay I read from by Molly Frances is here.

Join us Sunday (10/24) at 2:30pm (EST) for the festive live-stream of episode 500 on my YouTube channel, hosted by Anya Kaats and Mike Maher.

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Intro music: “Brightside of the Sun,” by Basin and Range; “You Haven’t Done Nothin,” by Stevie Wonder.


  • The problem with populism is that, even though they claim to rule according to the whims and worries of the people, it is THEY who decide *who* gets to be part of ‘the people’. Their tactics are meant to polarize society into two camps: those that agree implicitly with them are ‘the good people’, and those who criticize or object to their plans are ‘the conservatives’, ‘the elite’, ‘the rich’, ‘the adversaries’. The Enemy.

    Right now Mexico is suffering the rule of a President who has the same disdain for intellectuals as all the populists before him. He has publicly said that everybody who goes abroad to study and gets a higher degree are not to be trusted because they return home with selfish and ‘trickery’ attitudes. He prefers to govern with faithful minions that have (and I quote) “10% of experience and 90% of honesty.”

    I ask you, would you like to be operated by a surgeon with only 10% of experience?

    Now, you mention Kissinger and equate him with the ‘elite’ that ruined Cambodia, but you forget that Kissinger was only working under Nixon’s orders. And Nixon saw the Kennedys and the Ivy-leagued schooled as the East-Coast elite *he* despised –why he was just a simple country boy from a hard-working Quaker family, right?

    So I’m not against criticizing intellectuals who grow detached from the rest of society within their ivory towers of Academia –especially when it comes to Economics– but at the same time I am VERY worried when anti-intellectualism becomes a badge of honor in the political arena. These are the people who would do to Doctor Fauci what Pol Pot did to college professors.

  • Shelly Pearson says:

    Thank you for this episode. I 100% agree with you about Dave Chappelle and Henry Kissinger.
    I think that the enraged people at the edges of ideological extremes are both afraid and scary.
    I wonder if you have read all of JK Rowling’s tweets and comments on the trans community though. I dont think she is intentionally being hurtful, but I do think she has written some things that hooefully, someday she will grow to see as ignorant. I really enjoy this podcast and hope you safe from angry mobs. (I’m really serious about that.)

  • Todd Adams says:

    Hey, ‘another ROMA’ I saw when perusing, recently listened to it and also just finished episode 498 with the author of The Outlaw Ocean via your YTube channel. I really like ROMAs. Realize supporters of the podcast get extra content on Patreon as I’m recalling, and if I get my budget back do want to be a monthly contributor. Civilized To Death has been one of the most important deep dive subject starters in my life, would have been great to have had 30 years ago, but I’ll still take it here now in my 50’s with physically debilitating ill health. It seems that human beings inevitably scale up once in large numbers into sadist hierarchies – pick your century or millenia. Respect to you Chris on rebuking a Kissinger podcast invite with a straight out quote from Anthony Bourdain. Has perturbed me for many yrs that the U.S. State allowed Pol Pot to lead the extermination of millions after the American war on Vietnam, stopped ironically by those same Vietnamese who were supposed to be threatening us in the 1960’s. Pol Pot died at a ripe old age still saying without remorse that what he did was right. And as for Kissinger who still loiters in dark places at 98 years old, well, he will never die; his brain will just get uploaded into the Cloud (I borrowed that line). Evil people never say they are evil. They always claim a noble and rational purpose. Fast forward to present, watch for example the sinister ideology which is both public and intentional by some of our super elite would be dictators [free on, Unlimited Hangout channel, segment Dump Davos Sep 26, 2020] covering the just pre-pandemic Jan, 2020 keynote Davos speech. 3 existential threats to humanity: nuclear war, climate change, and The Global Useless Class which is You. And you will no longer be exploitable but rather something much worse, useless. And A.I. will expediently make all non-elites useless, so much worse than the norm of being exploited. Almost all people no longer relevant to our economic or political systems. The answer? With biometric computer power data on everyone, equally provided, all divine human souls will cease to exist and will become hackable human animals, and chaos to the planet will be avoided. I’m not the one saying this – they are. Believe them. Hitler meant it. Kissinger meant it. Pol Pot meant it. These fuckers mean it. I probably just lived my life in a rare time in the right place in which the outright subjugation of the many was not the norm. We’re trending rapidly back to that scaled up human baseline. I will say life nevertheless still has great value, people have great value, having meaning can help overcome so much, and within the imminence of any apocalypse whether just our own or for the many there can be much hope, appreciation, joy, humor, love and care. And orgasms. Onto another trend this podcast mentions. Words and labels are mattering much more now & I think a challenge is inventing new ones faster than old ones are co-opted. An example from this ROMA is Populism. An author named Thomas Frank does a couple of series on website (run by Cdn doc filmmaker Paul Jay) as an example. Populism in the age of oligarchs in the recession/depressions of the late 1800’s was poor rural farmers vs the robber baron elites. The populists were quashed. Again in the 30’s starting with poor rural farmers in America. They won that decade. This is social populism. We need social populism at a critical mass scale again. I don’t give a damn which country when or where. And this is not the same as national populism. That can be defined – at time of writing, and who knows what words might apply a year from now – by meaning my country is greater than yours and we will patriotically conquer yours to help our own. Think Mussolini. And don’t just leave it to dictators. I thought it crazy while watching a couple long Roman Empire series, that in then Constantinople, tens of thousands of people once died in mass riots in the 500’s AD while killing one another in the midst of Roman martial law and social political upheaval: with ALL this based on 1) Are You a Green, or, 2) Are You a Blue. Seemed ludicrous. Btw Green & Blue began as 2 of 4 chariot race team colors which was the big Roman bravado sport remaining after 400+ yrs of gladiator death games finally stopped in dramatic fashion about 404 AD (great story to look up if interested). From sport, to Blue vs Green, to me vs you, to riots, to mass killing, including me killing you, or you killing me. All as a fight between two colors. I now have a primetime seat getting to watch this silly idea foment in real life within cancel culture, vaxed or unvaxed, race, country of origin, segregation by bio-I.D. card; all the while living standards in a world of plenty continue to fall and this ledge of what we thought was normalcy crumbles beneath our feet. A quote from WWI just before gas was used to choke soldiers to death by burning out their lungs, by a German General, “The more civilization advances, the more vile man becomes.” I often use a phrase ‘we are technologically advanced but socially savage’. Rome was exactly this, heck every Empire was, and we with our modern sensibilities are not that far removed. Animals by species can act harmoniously (those harmless sex happy bonobos) or can set out to slay their own (those sly cunning at times even sociopathic and vicious chimpanzees). Animals are consistent and will do what they do. People can clearly do both. Human beings are social community and social self slaughter omnivores. Unlike our primate relatives we at least in theory choose our course. Perhaps. Maybe events will be typically just too large for any of us to individually scale. Maybe we just enjoy the journey amap savoring the moments, relishing in the highs and enduring with grit in the lows. Maybe we join a critical mass of resistance – against our would be 21st century emperors gleaning at mass human chains once again – whenever wherever using whatever we have to offer. Maybe we fall flat. Maybe we stand tall. Maybe we go forward. Maybe we give up. But one thing I that will not do is join any psychosis pitting neighbor against neighbor. All of us are in the metaphorical execution firing line from above. I may not like you but I don’t have to be your enemy. And saying all that I actually do really like most people. Just notice that currently fewer of them are liking me. Now it’s evident why I really like ROMAs. Gets you thinking about some real shit. Todd Adams, Alberta, Canada P.S. Pardon any typos; I’m not publishing this. Cheers!

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