a writer's blog

George Carlin on Customs

creed of reason

creed of reason

“Just when these American citizens needed their rights the most, their government sucked ’em away. And rights aren’t rights if someone can take them away.” —George Carlin

Another great skit by the great stand-up comedian George Carlin who died about two years ago (the one I already posted was George Carlin on Religion, and don’t miss out on Lewis Black either). I saw this one—on rights and customs—long ago and then managed to completely forget about it until Helly :-) recently refreshed my memory by sending me the link.

The unauthorized transcription, as always, is mine. Enjoy!

George Carlin—You Have No Rights

Here’s another one of these civic customs: swearing on the Bible. Do you understand that shit? They tell you to raise your right hand, place your left hand on the Bible. Does this stuff really matter? Which hand? Does God really give a fuck about details like this? Suppose you put your right hand on the Bible, you raise your left hand. Would that count? Or would God say: “Sorry, wrong hand, try again!” And what… why does one hand have to be raised? What is the magic in this gesture? This seems like some sort of a primitive voodoo mojo shtick. Why not put your left hand on the Bible, let your right hand hang down by your side. It’s more natural. Or put it in your pocket! Know what your mother used to say? “Don’t put your hands in your pockets!” Does she know something we don’t know? Is this hand shit really important? Let’s get back to the Bible, America’s favorite national theatrical prop. Suppose the Bible they hand you to swear on is upside-down. Or backward. Or both! And you swear to tell the truth on an upside-down backward Bible. Would that count? Suppose the Bible they hand you is an old Bible and half the pages are missing. Suppose all they have is a Chinese Bible—in an American court. Or a braille Bible, and you’re not blind! Suppose they hand you an upside-down backward Chinese braille Bible with half the pages missing. At what point does all of this stuff just break down and become just a lot of stupid shit that somebody made up. They fucking made it up, folks, it’s make-believe! It’s make-believe.

Now… alright… ok. Let’s leave the Bible aside we’ll get back to the science fiction reading later. The more important question is: What is the big deal about swearing to God in the first place? Why does swearing to God mean you gonna tell the truth? Wouldn’t affect me! If they said to me, you swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God, I’d say yeah! I’ll tell you just as much truth as the people who wrote that fucking Bible, how’d you like that, hm? Hah? Swearing on the Bible doesn’t mean anything. It’s, it’s kid’s… swearing to God is kid’s stuff! Doesn’t you, do you remember when you were a kid if you… if you told another kid something he didn’t quite believe he said, you swear to God? I would always say yeah, swear to God, even if I was lying. Why not? What’s gonna happen if I lie? Nothing! Nothing happens if you lie! Unless you get caught and that’s a whole different story.

Sometimes a kid would think he was being slick with me, and he’d say, you swear on your mothers grave? I’d say yeah! Why not! First of all, my mother was alive, she didn’t even have a grave. Second of all, even if she was dead, what’s she gonna do—rise from the grave and come and haunt me? Come and haunt me? All because I told a lie to an eight-year old? Get fucking real will you! Sometimes I would say, I swear on my mothers tits. Kids are impressed with things like that. I mean I don’t care about my mothers tits either, I don’t care if they fell off, fuck her. Not my problem, they’re your tits Ma, you keep an eye on ’em.

Swearing to God doesn’t mean anything, swearing on the Bible doesn’t mean anything, you know why? Because Bible or no Bible, God or no God, if it suits their purposes, people are gonna lie in court. The police do it all the time. All the time. Yes they do. It’s part of their job to protect, to serve, and to commit perjury whenever it supports the state’s case. Swearing on the Bible is just one more way of controlling people and keeping them in line, and it’s one more thing that holds us back as a species.

Here’s one more item for you, the last in our civics book: Rights. Why everyone in this country is always running around yammering about their fucking rights. I have a right, you have no right, we have a right, they don’t have a right… Folks, I hate to spoil your fun but—there’s no such thing as rights, okay? They’re imaginary. We made them up! Like the Boogie Man… the Three Little Pigs, Pinocchio, Mother Goose, shit like that. Rights are an idea, they’re just imaginary, they are a cute idea, cute… but that’s all, cute, and fictional. But if you think you do have rights, let me ask you this, where do they come from? People say, well, they come from God, they’re God-given rights… Aw fuck, here we go again… here we go again. The God excuse. The last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument, it came from God. Anything we can’t describe, must have come from God.

Personally, folks, I believe that if your rights came from God, he would have given you the right to have some food every day, and he would have given you the right to a roof over your head, God would have been looking out for you. God would have been looking out for you. You know that? He wouldn’t have been worrying about making sure you have a gun so you can get drunk on Sunday night and kill your girlfriend’s parents.

But let’s say it’s true, let’s say God gave us these rights. Why would he give us a certain number of rights? The Bill of Rights of this country has ten stipulations, okay? Ten rights. And apparently God was doing sloppy work that week because we had to amend the Bill of Rights an additional seventeen times. So God forgot a couple of things. Like… slavery! Just fucking slipped his mind. But let’s say, let’s say God gave us the original ten. He gave the British thirteen, the British Bill of Rights has thirteen stipulations. The Germans have twenty-nine, the Belgians have twenty-five, the Swedish have only six, and some people in the world have no rights at all. What kind of a fucking goddamn god-given deal is that? No rights at all? Why would God give different people in different countries different numbers of different rights? Boredom? Amusement? Bad arithmetic? Do we find out at long last after all this time that God is weak in math skills? Doesn’t sound like divine planning to me. Sounds more like human planning. Sounds more like one group trying to control another group. In other words, business as usual in America.

Now, if you think you do have rights, one last assignment for you. Next time you’re at the computer, get on the Internet, go to Wikipedia. When you get to Wikipedia, in the search field for Wikipedia, I want you to type in “Japanese Americans 1942,” and you’ll find out all about your precious fucking rights, okay? All right. You know about it. You know about it. Ya. In 1942, there were a 110,000 Japanese American citizens in good standing, law-abiding people, who were thrown into internment camps simply because their parents were born in the wrong country. That’s all they did wrong. They had no right to a lawyer, no right to a fair trial, no right to a jury of their peers, no right to due process of any kind. The only right they had, “right this way”—into the internment camps. Just when these American citizens needed their rights the most, their government sucked ’em away. And rights aren’t rights if someone can take ’em away. They’re privileges, that’s all we’ve ever had in this country, is a bill of temporary privileges. And if you read the news even badly, you know that every year the list gets shorter and shorter and shorter.

Yeah… sooner or later the people in this country gotta realize the government does not give a fuck about them. The government doesn’t care about you, or your children, or your rights, or your welfare, or your safety, it certainly doesn’t give a fuck about you. It’s interested in its own power, that’s the only thing, keeping it and expanding it wherever possible.

Personally, when it comes to rights, I think one of two things is true. I think either we have unlimited rights, or we have no rights at all. Personally, I lean toward unlimited rights, I feel for instance I have the right to do anything I please. But—if I do something you don’t like I think you have the right to kill me. So where you’re gonna find a fairer fucking deal than that. So the next time some asshole says to you, I have a right to my opinion, you say, oh yeah, well I have a right to my opinion, and my opinion is you have no right to your opinion. Then shoot the fucker and walk away. Thank you.


If you have something valuable to add or some interesting point to discuss, I’ll be looking forward to meeting you at Mastodon!

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