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Fatwah / February 13, 2012

Let me tell you the game I was playing with a kid I love. He’s almost nine and has been into tough guy myths lately. He works out, so he’s extraordinarily strong for his age and thinks he’s safe against getting attacked. So I asked him:

“A guy attacks you. What do you do?”

“Defend myself.”

“You died. Try again. A guy attacks you. What do you do?”

“I defend myself!”

“You die again. A guy attacks you. What do you do?” Tears formed around his eyes.

“I wasn’t even ready! I didn’t have time to think!”

“Exactly my point. A guy attacks you, what do you do?”

“Uh, I uh…. uh…”

“Too late. You died again. Why don’t you take a minute to think and we’ll play again in a minute.” He sat there with a sour look on his face. After sixty seconds, I started again.

“A guy attacks you. What do you do?”

“I run away!”


“To a crowd or policeman.” Pretty good answer for a kid, but not good enough. At least I got him thinking about it. Now, I’m certain that this game we played will save his life someday so I don’t feel guilty about pressing his boundaries. I bought the kid an ice cream and took him back to his house… in my molester-van of course.

All joking aside, people are pretty bad at statistics and don’t realize that life is a Monte Carlo simulation (look it up geniuses)(ok, don’t): if you decide you want to live with a 1 in 118 chance of getting violently attacked each year, like in San Francisco, then you’d better have a bunch of life insurance because there’s a high statistical probability you’re going to die or at least get seriously fucked up over your lifetime. Now the crazy thing is that if you decide you’re a bad ass because you lift weights or took a self-defense class, you’re probably going to improve the odds that you’ll be murdered. You’ll, as a former friend once said to me, seek out gory glory—that is, you’ll do stupid shit in the name of some solipsistic superhero fantasy and get murdered for it. People who have never been desperate can’t imagine the depravity of the desperate. Mostpeople (to borrow from ee cummings) set their phasors on stun when their attackers are Klingons who only use the kill setting and don’t believe in a ‘fair fight.’ What I mean by Monte Carlo is that you’re disposable. You’re just one of many people just like you, who survived to read this essay. Think about that: Just. Like. You. For example, in San Francisco a few years back, a family was massacred by some gangsters in a crowded street in a case of mistaken identity. Personally, I’m in that intersection frequently enough that it could have been me that was murdered. Instead it was a dad and two out of his three sons. On the quieter side of the city, a teenage girl got prison yard rushed by a psycho with a knife and nearly killed her. It’s a known fact that gangsters hate walking up hill, so you’re usually safest at the top. But somehow some lunatic ex-con who spent too much time in the sensory deprivation chamber just happened to pass by and in a psycho-schizo-fucker-fury, stabbed her a bunch of times.

People are afraid of calculating the odds, so they pretend that odds don’t exist. I used to be one of them, but then the going got weird and I turned pro… yes, I’ve been reading Hunter S. Thompson again. In Hey Rube Thompson brutally analyzes the psychology of odds-making and explains his vicious methodology for exploiting rubes for sport and profit. In his betting methodology for football, he makes the great point that teams are often differentiated by their performances in the beginning, middle, end of the season and post-season. A team with an oppressively daunting win-loss record can fall apart in the post-season as ordinary blunders cost them the game (“Getting Braced for the Last Football Game” Hey Rube, Page 131). As a flamboyant and sloppy chess-player I am keenly aware of the way blunders shape the game’s progress. The greater an individual’s sloppiness or willingness to abdicate control to fate, the worse his or her fate is likely to be. I’m accused to being a control freak, but I have always instinctively been congruent with Dr. Thompson. People are animals and if you truly understand their casual depravity, then you know that it is essential to be intolerant of what are often characterized as a minor ‘character flaws.’ A selfish friend is your divinely designated cattle-car-on-the-way-to-the-concentration-camp assassin. Don’t worry, you’ll provide your pal with the practice s/he’ll need to survive.

Until I started reading Hey Rube I didn’t realize that I’m a natural gambler, but I don’t bet money. I think that’s stupid. No, I bet my life. Don’t ask why. I’m getting better though—I’ve stopped hanging out in dark parking lots wondering who’s going to murder me (I have danced between the glass shards of hostile 40oz bottles). In fact, more than ever, I realize the truth of what my friend, Doctor Ishmael once told me before he became a psychology professor: “You spend so much time in the alleys looking for the maniac who is going to kill you. And then one day, you realize you ARE the maniac in the alley.” Since he once chased a hippie with a machete for getting too close to his art studio shack, you know he’s a quality person—or at least you know his heart is in the right place. I have learned that by expanding one’s imagination, one can improve one’s odds of survival. To survive in modern California, this is a must. I am surrounded by con men, transients, earthquakes, crooked cops, fuckfaces, friends, Oakland, anxious billionaires and millionaires, illegal immigrants, and the stoned remains of the best minds of my generation—which, depressingly, aren’t even that good. Throw into the mix a bunch of high technology, guns and a port that connects us directly with China and I feel like I live in a low-budget Bladerunner take-off. How could I not be a degenerate gambler? Safety isn’t safety around here—highrises are where the high-casualty jobs are around here. An earthquake, an ancient power transformer blowing out in the middle of downtown San Francisco, a terrorist attack, a North Korean first strike… living here is an act of gambling. Idiots make hundreds of thousands of dollars (what normal person dares dream of millions anymore, save that single one for retirement?) while geniuses serve coffee around here—we are all gamblers, at least around here. We all believe that frantic, focused work can give us that jackpot at the end of the Castro street rainbow.

So why shouldn’t revolutionaries haunt the glass spires of downtown San Francisco? To quote a friend “I don’t do Oakland.” Why do I need to go all the way out there to get my class war on? I know I’m being unfair, but I am xenophobic, agoraphobic and claustrophobic. I prefer grinding my teeth. A phalanx of the wimpiest protesters allowed me to buzz them on the way to my office without so much as a Molotov Cocktail to make me hustle. I recalled how a mere nine years ago, I was nearly torn apart by Critical Mass during their 10th anniversary for trying to form a human chain to enforce the traffic lights. Yup! A gang of recreational bicyclists is more likely to get violent than a protest against plutocrats in America today. Don’t get me wrong, if they attacked me, they’d be attacking their own kind. When did suits become class enemies? The real wealthy don’t wear suits. If you need to wear a suit to work, you are probably not a plutocrat. Maybe you work for them, but so do the rest of you yutzes. My death-by-mob would have been totally unjust had the occupiers ran at me with shivs and speared me with their Occupy banner handles. I can imagine it now: “financial autopsy shows that a member of the fiftieth percentile was murdered by a scion of the ninety seventh percentile. The victim wore a suit, so the murderer was acquitted.” Instead, I was confronted with florescent lights and Bloomberg updates in the elevator—all presumably sucking down a lot of fossil fuel and former Soviet nukes. As I rose to heaven—my office in a building somewhere in San Francisco—I thought about how it would be just my luck to be ensconced in the center of American power and get murdered by something as trite as an office shooter. All the martial arts in the world, all the preparation, all the imagination I have at my disposal—none of it would stop me from eating a nine millimeter bullet. I drank my coffee and got to work.


Read more:, Khakjaan Wessington, Fatwah

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Add your own

  • 1. coprologie  |  February 16th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    as a weirdo and an outsider i don’t like this person because he probably wouldn’t like me

    i have a lot of ‘character flaws’ yet for some strange reason i feel as if i am much more likely to be passenger than engineer on the white boxcar express

  • 2. Oaklander  |  February 16th, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    If you live in San Francisco then you ARE the class enemy.

  • 3. motorfirebox  |  February 17th, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Yeesh, this old argument again? “You carry a gun so you must be a borderline psychopath with Dirty Harry delusions!” “Nuh uh, I’m a disciplined warrior-saint who has a deep respect for both my weapon and the filthy brown people who force me to take their lives!”

    There’s never any room in that particular back-and-forth for someone who isn’t afraid to admit to being genuinely terrified of the world around him.

    Seriously, they faux moral superiority of “If someone’s going to kill me, at least it will be a completely random happenstance that no amount of preparation could have prevented” is just as flawed and just as false as the old “I’ve got a gun and I’m a badass and I’ll outshoot any criminal scum who tries to take my stuff”.

  • 4. Jefferson  |  February 17th, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Totally sub-Exile. This dude has the attitude but not the chops.

  • 5. Jesse  |  February 18th, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    None of us are going to survive. The best we can do is live free of fear and that’s not going to happen by gunning up. Freedom from fear comes from looking to a higher purpose than survival. I found freedom from fear as a volunteer firefighter. It felt great. Fucking capitalism, investorism, survivalism, it’s all cowardice. Cringing, gut sickening cowardice. Stand up and fight for community; fight for truth and the common good and be liberated from from fear.

  • 6. CensusLouie  |  February 18th, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    Good lord. This article is a mess. It reads like one of John Nash’s schizo moments.

  • 7. Zhu Bajie  |  February 19th, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    “Sorry, friend. But the revolution ain’t happenin till the Chinese finally get around to invading this shit-hole.” — Adam 33

    To quote Qian Long, emperor of China:”We have everything we need; you have nothing we want.”

  • 8. Zhu Bajie  |  February 19th, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    “Where the fuck did Dolan go?”

    Another tour of duty in Suleimaniyya, I think.

  • 9. Zhu Bajie  |  February 20th, 2012 at 12:27 am

    “You all are utterly tense and utterly paranoid.” — 49. Punjabi From Karachi

    Too true! Siberia, Central Asia, SE Asia have much more to offer invaders. The US has no mineral resources any more, only fat, lazy, whiny, people.

  • 10. MikeJake  |  February 22nd, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    I swear I know that dude in the picture.

  • 11. SAMO  |  June 29th, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Dude, you’re afraid of Oakland?
    That’s hopster Valhalla,the new-old Brooklyn,
    even the NY Times signed off on it.
    (no way were they coerced by realty,
    rich people have enough money,
    complete poppycock
    that they’d accept bribes)
    “Poppycock” – that’s how “15%ers”talk right?
    I’m trying to connect with you MR yippie,
    in noway do I think
    you’re a waste of sperm.
    My friendly advise –
    ditch the suit, it makes people nervous,
    go to “Out of the Closet” on Polk ST
    and get a dress,
    everyone knows trannies are super tough,
    I guarantee nobody will fuck with you then.

    I’m being an unreasonable asshole,
    they’re scary mean people in SF.
    (where did the bad man touch you?)
    You’re scared of everyone on the wrong drugs in the ‘Loin?
    True – the Tenderloin is a UN of malcontents,
    you probably pass through it going to SOMA or wherever..
    ..Yeah they’re bat-shit crazy, real psychopaths,
    crack is wack – can’t say Keith Haring didn’t try to warn them.
    But the sociopaths in offices are marginally more dangerous,
    I’ll take a dozen zombies over a CEO any day,
    those fat pasty fuckers are mean,
    see what they did to poor Iceland?

    “rose to heaven”?
    That’s not sarcasm that’s a Freudian slip.
    Office building elevators give you erections Lil’ Wessy?
    I’m not judging MR yippie,
    art-deco gets me all kinds of wet.

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