How George Carlin Challenged Us to Wake up (and Why It Matters)
George Carlin is my personal hero. I am going to just straight up say it.
Certainly, you must have heard of him. Even if you did happen to be born after 1985. In case you haven't though, I would highly suggest that you do a bit of digging.
The greatness that is George fuckin' Carlin is just glorious, you guys.
George having existed is something that I am very grateful for. I remember my first time watching one of his comedy specials as a teenager. My dad is a huge fan of Carlin's work, and had the television on as background noise as he was busy cooking in the kitchen.
We only had one television in the house, so whatever was on was what I had to watch if I wasn't hiding away in my bedroom at the time.
I sat there with my magazine as I waited for dinner to be ready, flipping through the mindless cesspool of bullshit that is any issue of Cosmopolitan. I didn't pay much attention to the T.V. in general so it didn't matter much what my dad had on at any given time.
Then, the Comedy Network (I believe, I could be mistaken as the fine details here are rather murky) announced the name George Carlin. It was the roar of the crowd that got me to look up.
George was on the stage, gruff as ever. I mean, do we really know George to be anything but? And then, the magic happened.
As he spoke and got into his routine, I began to notice that George Carlin is a straight up, iron-balled, comedic genius. I quote this because George had a way of telling the painful, downright repulsive truth while disguising it as a joke.
It was funny, because it was true.
Quite frankly, it was George Carlin who opened my eyes to what the truth actually is, and validated that I was not alone in how the big picture felt to me.
He was the catalyst in what would ultimately spark my own passion, and that 1 hour special completely shaped my world view going forward.
Inside every cynical person is a disappointed Idealist— George Carling
Who Is George Carlin?
So, who exactly is this one-man stampede of awesome that I credit for changing me as a person you might ask?
George was a stand-up comic, actor, writer, and social critic who gained notoriety for his black humor comedy style. He was a "tell it like it is" bloke who used his platform to not only point out what the fuck is actually wrong with us as a culture, but to get people to think critically about what the reality is vs what we are being told.
In other words, George was a master at pissing people off.
Which he did on a regular basis, on stages all across North America. It wasn't long until everyone knew who George Carlin was. You either loved him or you hated him. There was no in between.
George was born on May 12, 1937 in Manhattan, New York. He was born into an Irish-Catholic family, however his parents had separated when George was only two months old. He was brought up by his Mother who was an Irish-American in a neighborhood that he would later refer to as "White Harlem", as "Morningside Heights" didn't exactly have a very tough ring to it.
His father abandoned the family once his alcoholism had gotten out of control, and as a result, George did not have much of a relationship with him. His relationship with his mother had also become strained over the years, as George had a rebellious spirit that didn't exactly bode well with his religious upbringing.
George rejected Catholism and religion entirely by the time he had hit early adulthood, having noticed that there had seemed to be a great deal of inconsistencies and plain nonsense that he simply could not accept as truth. George had made no secret of his criticism of the Catholic church as well as other religious belief systems, and has openly called foul on religious doctrine publicly throughout his career on stage.
He did a brief stint in the United States Air Force and trained as a radar technician. While being stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana, he began working as a DJ at radio station KJOE near Shreveport. It wasn't long until George's controversial narrative struck a chord with his superiors, and he was given a general discharge after being labeled as unproductive in 1957.
The Rising Star Of Controversy
George headed to Fort Worth, Texas where he met Jack Burns, a fellow DJ, in 1959. The two had made quite the connection, and decided to form a comedy team. They headed for California in 1960 where they created their first audition tape, and creating a morning radio show that they had decided to call The Wright Brothers which aired on KDAY in Hollywood.
From there, they would perform stand-up routines in local coffee houses at night. It wasn't long before those in the area started to take notice of Georges' fearless ability to openly criticize the social narrative, taking on topics that were otherwise considered taboo to speak ill of. He openly criticized the sheer lunacy of government and mainstream religion and had no qualms pointing out the blatant stupidity of people in general. It wouldn't be long until George would be filling out concert halls with those who couldn't get enough of his talent for telling it like it is and offering no apologies for doing so.
After 2 years of working with Jack Burns, the duo had decided to pursue separate paths, but would remain the best of friends for the remainder of their lives.
George hit stardom with his routine titled "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" and quickly gained speed in the USA. In fact, George was arrested for performing this routine while performing at Milwaukee's Summerfest in 1972, having been charged with violating "obscenity laws." George had officially cemented himself as a household name soon after his arrest, becoming the most loved and most hated comedian that had ever graced the stage.
The Wake Up Call
I owe so much to George Carlin. Having watched his routines from the age of 16 to now 33, his words and commentary have helped inspire me to keep talking, keep being controversial, and keep speaking the truth.
This is hard to do, man! I can tell you right now, I am almost always shunned, mocked, and straight up banned from forums for telling it as I see it. It sucks in a lot of ways, because it really does open ones eyes to the reality of the current state of affairs.
It is downright terrifying.
People who find the courage to challenge the status quo and push back against a narrative that is literally killing us are deemed to be social lepers at the end of the day, and there is no shortage of feelings of defeat when you are actually hated for simply staying real about it and flat out rejecting complete and total stupidity.
That is what it really boils down to: willful ignorance.
You can't live in the age of technology and remain an idiot. Well, you can, but it isn't because you lack the means and avenues to educate yourself to see through the smoke and mirrors.
It's because people make a choice to ignore anything that might cause some form of discomfort.
You see, the truth is scary. It really is. I can appreciate to a degree the reasons as to why many among us would rather stay within the realms of the safe zone and just ignore the reality that others face. But, let me tell you something:
Willful ignorance is a choice that you make because you enjoy a certain level of privilege on the social totem.
What is happening to those people is not happening to you. Therefore, it is a compromise of your own status if you dare challenge the abusive and oppressive structures that keep marginalized people in a state of total fear and despair.
It may not be obvious at surface level, but we are turning a blind eye because guess what? We are just as afraid of losing our "rank" as those "undesirables" are of losing their lives.
The thing is though, by remaining complacent to the atrocity that is going on in our own backyards (let alone everywhere else), we also hurt ourselves in the process. We just don't realize it yet. The stripping of certain benefits over a period of time might not look so bad when you see what is happening to those guys, right?
It was set up to work this way from the very beginning. George saw it, I see it, and so many others see it too. Because we see it, because we think critically, and because we are deeply concerned about our communities on a global scale, we feel an obligation to share our messages with anyone who will listen.
We do not wish to offend. We wish to create change. We wish to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and we want to hold Elitists and Corporations accountable for the havoc that they wreak across this planet. Additionally, we also want to point out how our own stupidity not only keeps us in chains, but also ensures that it will continue to get worse.
It starts with remaining courageous and refusing to be silenced, and it comes from a place of genuine love for humanity.
George taught me the importance of calling out the bullshit, and how living in denial only makes things worse. He also taught me the importance of not giving a damn about the backlash, because what is right outweighs the discomfort of an inconvenient truth.
George Carlin was a brilliant man, a social activist, and skilled linguist. He was a beacon of hope for those who felt ostracized and in some cases, abused entirely for noticing a serious problem and exposing it at the dinner table.
What George did was provide validation to those who were labelled as:
He saw that there are some real big problems in this world, he saw who the perpetrators were, he saw the corruption of both church and state, and he called them out. The man had guts, and I found this to be empowering.
The Grand Finale
Sadly, George Carlin passed away on June 22, 2008 at the age of 71 due to heart complications, and this loss was truly incredible.
Yes, he was up there in age, but I can't help but feel as though the world was so much better with him being in it. He had such a brilliant way with words, sarcasm, and pure wit. He knew how to convey his message in a way that was not only honest, but hilarious.
When you start to wake up to the reality of things, you have very little choice but to laugh. In fact, it is fairly mind numbing when you actually realize that reality is so goddamed ridiculous, it has actually become a comedy.
A tragic comedy, but a comedy nonetheless.
George took the tragic comedy that we call life and turned it into a masterpiece, and for that, I am grateful.
In closing, I will leave you with the single most important speech that George Carlin had ever made. The one that renders one speechless and leaves your jaw dropped as you realize just how bang on correct that it actually is.
Remember: they call it the American dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.
Are you a fan of Carlin's work? Why or why not? All views and opinions are welcome. Leave it in the comment section!
**When referring to people as "stupid" please understand that I do not mean this on an individual level. It is stated on a societal level, and the evidence that supports this notion is blatantly obvious when one considers the big picture.This is the end result of a terrified populace. And really, what we are experiencing is nothing short of terrifying.
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© 2018 Amber Slater