"Man, these Dark Ages suck. It's like perpetual squalor and filth ruled by superstition and communal guilt," moaned Fritz.
"Would you shut up on that Dark Ages talk? I hate you! Who are you to call this anything? We's making progress every day!" Hans refuted.
"Well, for damn sure it's not the Age of Enlightenment. And any progress being made is too damn slow for me."
The pair approached a small Germanic village with a curious sign stating "No Witch Burning!" Hans spoke with a triumphant smile.
"Just take a look at that sign! You's the one always going on about how backwards people is about witches and burning them and such."
"Damn, how could I be wrong?"
"Well, you is, Fritzy! They using your own words!"
Fritz continued walking into the village while in a high state of conflict. On one hand, the prospect of running into true enlightenment thrilled him to the core. On the other hand, having to listen to Hans rub it in to no end thrilled him not. Fritz spotted a village leader and excitedly inquired of the sign.
"That's correct, sir. We do not burn witches here. We passed an ordinance against it and it's strictly enforced. Zero tolerance!"
Fritz wholly succumbed to finding at last an oasis of light and sanity in a world gone mad. "That's wonderful news! I admire your conviction! So you truly do not believe in witches?"
"Of course we believe in witches! That's why we live such miserable lives is because of them."
"But your sign! If you blame them for your ills then why have that sign?"
"Just because there are witches doesn't mean we can burn them."
Fritz was initially crushed but hoping to at least find a half-measure of humanity. The villagers have to yet to wake up to the fiction of witches but are self-aware enough to realize they don't have the moral authority to kill. That's certainly a step in the right direction.
"Well, I'm glad to hear you don't kill them. I want to commend you on your level-headedness and humane outlook. Any step away from savagery is a good one!"
"Oh, don't get me wrong. We'd love to burn those witches! We just found it's not a cost-effective solution. Ever try to clean up the mess after a witch burning? Have to pay people a fortune to rummage through those ashes with the charred bones and stench of burned skin. No, sir. Days of burning witches are over for us without a new revenue stream."
Fritz sighed and decided even though they were doing the right thing for the wrong reason that was something with which he'd have to be satisfied. Still, there's no shortcuts to a future without a good heart.
"Tell me then, what do you do when you find a witch?"
"Easy. We shun them, deny them employment and shelter, and hope to induce them into suicide. So much more cost-effective!"
"Some fucking enlightenment!" snorted Fritz as he continued on his way. Hans remained unusually quiet on their exit from the impoverished berg.
Gregor was the cop who came out when I had my check stolen from a mail box and subsequently washed. I was fascinated that someone from Russia would end up a cop in freaking Dallas, Texas. So it was he who gave a name I could contact on my trip to St. Petersburg. Returning to Russia would not be on the scale of my returning to Japan, only a small fraction of it. But retracing my century old steps would still prove a bit unnerving.
What I didn't know was that the name I'd been given - Boris Bresnevsky - was a Russian Oligarch. Talk about stepping into another world! I find myself riding along in this armored limo with private escort cars both front and behind in a virtual mobile fortress. Somehow, I'm thinking, Mark Cuban doesn't have to travel like this and he's a billionaire too. But Russian capitalism is more naked in its aims than the American version. They don't wrap it in pseudo-morality or make a religion of it like we do. They boil it down to the basics of kill or be killed.
Boris is taken with me because he sees this as a chance to show off to an American - and in his mind all of America. Luckily, he doesn't ask the dreaded question that puts up a wall between me and the world: what do you do for a living? That left him free to imagine I was whomever he wished me to be as his audience. After all, who wants to play bigshot to a freaking janitor?
"Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
"Russia mafia - like you [i.e. Americans] like to call it - has been around centuries. Stalin and everyone who follow was just more czars taking from poor. Same game, different names. But criminals like me could figure ways to get what we need. We weren't going to roll over and die. KGB liked to pick on weak and innocent 'cause they easy targets. They was the real criminals. Monsters in the night."
My head's spinning listening to Boris as I look out the window at passing landmarks also telling their tales of history and witnessed brutality. Boris is needing to justify himself, seeking my approval. Nobody who knows me would give a fuck about getting my approval. I hate when I get caught in these lit fuse situations.
"But Soviet life made us hard like iron. Communist party pigs expect everyone to live like dogs. But Boris is no dog! They kill to stay in power. We kill to eat. Now they don't have the power but we still have to kill. This seem scary to you, eh?"
"Sort of. Someone once asked me how's life in the free world and I asked what's fucking free about it?"
"Ah! You understand!"
"But it seems you're taking a lot chances here, having to surround yourself with guards and watch every move you make. Is that limp you have from a previous attack?"
"Yes. They blew up parked car right as my car pass by. My driver killed. I got lucky. But if I die that day then so be it. While I breathe I live well."
"That's a dangerous life."
"All life danger! We Russians are losers. We try to drown in vodka and kinky sex but that's why we such miserable creatures. That man called us a riddle in enigma but that's because we choose to lose. Who does crazy thing like that? Then we have pretense to like this negative life we create and that traps us in staying same way like with Putin. We stupid but we have pretense we like it that way. Not such a hard riddle."
That sentiment makes Boris smile, using insanity as both a shield and a weapon. Of course, I can't reveal I've gone way further around the block than he ever dreamed. He's proud of his edgy existence even though it's obvious he feels a fool living his life as a perpetual target. Boris is looking for a way out like we all are - but he will never have the guts to choose that.
Gives lectures on Christian risk arbitrage
"In America, we choose to win. But they don't let you win unless you're a whore. So winning is really losing. I say to myself all the time: what's the point of being rich if I have be like that asshole?"
I said the remark in all innocence but then I quickly recoiled fearing Boris was thinking it might apply to him. He took it the way it was meant, however. Always walking on eggshells. Sheesh.
"You're not like other Americans I meet. They speak of their country like a church. You know better. I like that!"
"Oh, it's not that I'm any better. They've just failed to properly bribe me."
Boris thinks on that for a second then starts to uncontrollably laugh. He's isolated in his world and the only people who understand him are his rivals who are looking to erase him from the face of the earth. I think it would be interesting to watch him among his own kind and see how he negotiates. I get the feeling he harbors a hidden side just for that.
"Yes, you are different American. Buy maybe you be happier being rich even if asshole like me."
Boris gives me this sly look and sure enough my suspicions were confirmed he keeps parts of himself hidden away, always calculating and sizing people up. I could shock him by showing him how deep I am into that world, but stay in character instead. Always better to let them think you a non-threatening fool.
"I just don't think I could live like this always looking over my shoulder waiting for a bomb or men with guns. Seems like a real high stress existence. Whole point of being a billionaire is so you can be free."
"Every life here stress! Even dishwasher looking down barrel of gun. Poverty is cruelest weapon! It kills like any bullet. [I've got him making the points I usually make!] You can run out this door and be away from Boris the target but don't fool yourself. Wherever you go in Russia, you will never be free. We make giant jail for ourselves so live best you can. Only place to go is inside Vodka bottle. You want to be free. Tell me where free is!"
I could have told Boris that only a clear conscience brings freedom but then he knew that already.
The new "gig" economy is really the old pimp economy coupled with an app. You can "partner" as their whore, doing all the work and taking all the risk. They love telling you how wonderful it is being used and abused! You see it in their ads. The so-called gig economy is the greatest profession for liars since lawyers were invented. Read all about it!
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Freaking monsters. Uber's CEO, Travis Kalanick, is especially evil, a gloating sociopath feeling entitled to pillage and plunder like the butt pirate he is. Like many deluded fools he confuses legal with moral. Jesus spoke how CEOs will be "severely punished" but in the meantime we have to live with these Nazi fuckers roaming freely among us. With these guys every night is the night of the long knives, relentlessly trying to stick it in any way they can.
Shouldn't you be able to make money on your own time?
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Meet Uber, your new BFF! They finally had to put some truth in advertising in their numbers and no longer make wildly exaggerated claims on the money you make, especially about obscuring the difference between gross fares and net income. They now promise a measly 576 a week in fares. Take away Uber's cut, gas, insurance, massive auto depreciation and lack of benefits and what do you have left? Minimum wage.
The new app mafia is out in full force flooding craigslist and other outlets scouring for suckers and the hard up for just about any service you can think of. You take all the risk and they take all the profit. Something happens to you? Tough luck, pal! Pay your own medical, no income coming in, no paid vacations. Know why they call you a partner? Because people are always polite when acting evil. America just can't shed her robber baron fetish.
The tech industry is infested with magical thinking. It's one thing to ask if androids have dreams as a metaphorical literary tool, it's quite another to believe binary data has a soul - and many, many do. It's interesting reading of future fantasies spoken of as inevitable fact in news articles. It certainly separates the realists from the religious (and many atheists subscribe to tech religion). Arguing with them as is pointless as arguing with any religious person.
We spin this as creating a brave new world. Attach the word "tech" to something and it automatically adds an air of sanctity to it. Technology is wonderful and as an understanding of Nature is something I truly believe in. (I do believe, however, we are dealing in lower-level mechanical forms of it.) But everybody believes in something however false a god. This isn't the beginning of anything, it's the ending. Technology can't build us a soul but it sure is tragic watching us try.