George Carlin: Discordian?
Discordian St. George Carlin had a massive impact upon my life.
I never met the man, mind you, I just really enjoyed his stand-up. In fact, he was the first comedian that I ever I saw live and in-person. I was 16 living with my dad in Denver and I rallied a bunch of my friends at the time to see him during his “Doing It Again” tour. I suppose it is only natural (and/or serendipitous) that Carlin was connected to another guy that I never met but whom also had a massive impact upon my life, Discordian Pope Robert Anton Wilson (RAW). In fact, Carlin was quoted as saying:
‘I have learned more from Robert Anton Wilson than I have from any other source.’
For the uninitiated, RAW was a popular counterculture author and speaker that wrote about conspiracy, language, religion, politics, and philosophy in both fiction and non-fiction. These themes were often explored by Carlin in his stand-up routines to hilarious effect. In 2008 he told the Associated Press:
“So my name is a footnote in American legal history, which I’m perversely kind of proud of.”
He is referring to, of course, his Seven Dirty Words bit that got him arrested in Milwaukee in 1972 on charges of “disturbing the peace” (he was freed on $150 bond and exonerated since the judge felt he hadn’t disturbed the peace and Carlin was well within his rights under the 1st Amendment. Here’s the routine that landed him in jail:
Ironically, when Carlin’s same comedy routine was played on a NY radio station in 1978 the Supreme Court sided with government censorship of the airwaves via licensing and sanctions because there was a chance that a child might hear the offensive language. Of course, as a child I’d heard the seven dirty words on the playgrounds of public schools long before I’d ever heard of Mr. Carlin, but then again expecting logic from the Establishment (unless it serves them, of course) isn’t really a reasonable expectation. If you listen to his material, it turns decidedly political after these events. Carlin seemed thrilled to skewer folks on the pike of their own hypocrisy. As it turns out, it appears that Carlin was really onto something:
In her new book, ‘Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing,’ Dr. Mohr claims the upper classes are just as likely to turn the air blue as less educated working class people. The group least likely to use swear words, says the researcher, is the middle class.
‘This goes back to the Victorian era idea that you get control over your language and your deportment, which indicates that you are a proper, good person and this is a sign of your morality and awareness of social rules,’ she said.
Carlin’s anti-establishment schtick endeared him to generations of libertarians, anarchists, and socialists as can be seen by the constant presence of Carlin memes popping up on social media.
Carlin lampooning the so-called “logic” of the American Justice System.
It is important to realize that Carlin was an equal opportunity offender and worked very hard to explicity aschew being labeled. The following meme really demonstrates the deep level at which Carlin was affected by RAW. For example, Carlin sums up RAW’s criticism of “natural rights” presented in ‘Natural Law, or Don’t Put a Rubber on Your Willy‘ very economically here:
Of course, Carlin’s summary of RAW’s critique echoes that of individualist anarchists Benjamin Tucker and Max Stirner but it does seem to illuminate an intellectual lineage of sorts for Discordians. St. George wasn’t just a critic of the government, he criticized any group that seemed to have the ability to bully the individual. In a 2007 interview in Las Vegas CityLife he made his political position as clear as it ever got:
“It’s a shame everything has to have a label. I feel that if I was figuratively dropped on the Earth and there was a political line, I would be just left of center. The difference for me is that conservatives are more interested in property values and rights and free markets, and liberals are more interested in human rights. In the end, there are people who don’t fit into the marketplace and are not equipped. I believe the government should step in where the free market fails.”
And if that weren’t clear enough:
Now many libertarians, especially those affiliated with the more Conservatarian strains of libertarianism may try to ridicule Carlin under the pretenses of economic “illiteracy” (or something similar) but if you understand the influence of Robert Anton Wilson’s brand of libertarianism you might better understand Mr. Carlin too. RAW considered himself slightly different than most libertarians:
“I am not that kind of Libertarian, really; I don’t hate poor people.”
But libertarians and anarchists shouldn’t stop quoting or meming Mr. Carlin over this. He just disliked labels and preferred to explain himself with comedy routines rather than potentially polysemic Orwellian one-word labels. In this way he again demonstrates the influence of RAW. RAW understood economics but instead spent a large amount of time educating about language games and the power of words. Perhaps a simpler illustration of how RAW’s influence seems to manifest itself best when he describes his relationship with atheism.
In the very same way Carlin was an enemy of Big Government, so too he was an avowed enemy of Big Religion and Big (G)od. In one short sentence, Carlin satirizes the strange relationship between one of the largest racist organizations in America and Big Religion:
But true to his Discordian roots Carlin manages to explicitly refuse the “Atheist” label too:
The Discordian Goddes of Chaos, Eris, was certainly a primary muse across Mr. Carlin’s career. The following clip hilariously illustrates this:
When Mr. Carlin passed away at the age of 71 from a heart attack, we Discordians lost a huge weapon in our War On Greyface (for more on Greyface click here). My only hope is that St. George passed peacefully with a smile on his face in recompense for the vast number of people whom he made laugh throughout his life.