Tigers With Wings

My brother told me to do it.

Is the right to life human?

Who here wants to be good?
Who thinks this is the same as being a good human?
Is the highest good for humanity whatever benefits the human species?

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Is there universal good?
Is there a state of goodness that would include living beings from other solar systems and dimensions?

Who here thinks they would change if they learned something about themselves that turned out to undermine their standing as someone who wants to be good?

Is killing a Nobel laureate worse than killing a homeless person?

If what makes killing wrong is not the mental or social status of the victim, then what about their state of being self-aware justifies killing non-human beings?

We only take life in war because we see no other option. Many have sacrificed their own lives to defended our right to life. This contradiction points to universal values that go beyond the utilitarian view of morals.
The difference between killing in war and taking life when there is a choice is not subtle.
We who want to be good, know that needless killing is the deepest wrong.

We know intuitively and rationally that taking life does profound harm to goodness. What is the value of a world without good?
When there is no other option but to kill, we do not say that killing itself is right. All killing holds the shadow of an incompatible action that is only provisionally justified by the good lives we must then live – a burden that is too bright for many war heroes to bear the sight of.

What if the right to life is not ours because of our arguably undefinable state of self-aware consciousness?
What is our right to life, if it is not conferred on us by our superior evolutionary status?

Without technology how human would Steven Hawking be?

Do superior powers: of thought, of tech, of strength, or of awareness, bestow on their holder special exemptions from moral responsibility?
Or, do responsibilities increase with these abilities?
What ethical decisions come with the gift of our consciousness.

Is it morally wrong to normalize unnecessary death?
Is “humane” defined as “kind to all humans” or “kind to all”?
Is “humane killing” humane if it is unnecessary for humans?

Is the right to life weighted by the degree to which a member of “species X” fits into his/her own self-defined criteria of “species X”-ness?
Humanness is mired in circular solipsism.

What technology tells us about non-human animals is that they are also beautiful and complex, challenging our understanding no less than the mysteries of our own human species.

When we discover an exoplanetary alien species with complex brains and senses equivalent to those of farm animals, will we be moved to celebrate them and marvel at the wonder of their lives?
Would we be justified in taking alien life to sustain human life? What if they were incapable of defending themselves? What if we could eat beans instead and live in peace?

How much intellect does it take to leap beyond human biases to the simple insight that the universe is better with living beings than without? A respect for life is the universe respecting itself.
Respect for our own lives is morally inconsistent with disrespecting the lives of others.

Is it wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering and death on beings who’s only deficiency is their inability to defend themselves from us?

Is normalizing the taking of lives that lack higher consciousness compatible with my own right to life while I am sleeping?

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Decency

Morning flight to New York, my seat marinated in thousands of colony forming units per square inch, I breathe recirculated eructations from a menu of two and four-legged miracles of evolution that need no purpose but to be sliced thinly, and sealed tightly in plastic, for the minty fresh mouths of the decent and God-fearing. Tell me, what justification scheme simplifies years of nurtured growing into all-natural Bacon? Is it our all-natural superiority to every doomed creature that is not human? Compare an animal kill shelter to the hillsides where a future farm-to-table dinner stands, as I stood on vacation, taking in the same world, and feeling like I am thinking, but what is thinking if I do not understand? What is the carcass merit of a five-senses being, raised to be farted into the seat of an airplane, while I scroll through stories of saggy faced Republicans on my smartphone? Who are you to judge the hipster farmer who, while lovingly raising friends who warmly recognize him, calculates their dressing percentage, drop credit and twelfth to thirteenth rib marbling?

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Mad Intelligence

What is intelligence?
It seems obvious: it is taking input from an external source and using reason to test the consistency of it and building knowledge based on those tests.

It is surprising that there is an assumption that the human species is intelligent. All this evolution we stand atop with a smug air of “here we are, the crowning achievement of it all.” Using random mutation the chances against evolving a cow from a fish is more than the number of fundamental particles in the observable universe. How on earth did evolution manage to find its way blindly to so many viable life forms? Yes, if natural selection explained anything it would make the evolutionary story of any microbe the ultimate triumph over entropy. So what the fuck is human intelligence if our best theories lack any understanding of the universe we live in.

I will skip the philosophically rudimentary unraveling of reason. I will also assume no confidence in any attempt to judge the externality of a source. Add to that the concept of consistency which might as well be a creation of reason in its blindly circular game of knowledge that only serves to prop up its own solipsistic validity.

Any serious claim at intelligence is insanity. Anyone, be she scientist or priest, who claims to be intelligent is mentally ill by any standard you chose. To even claim ignorance is an aspiration beyond the attainment of all but the mad genius.
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Sink to New Heights

A hand extends from the sky,
High, above the clouds,
Out of reach of the ordinary
A celestial sink was installed
With a faucet, from which,
Satisfaction flows like water,
Where all acts are elevated
And outcomes, far and fleeting,
But gravity, like a mother’s love,
Upholds the flow in motion,
Beyond the purging drain,
no absolution, rather,
it is the spring of a stream,
That emerges as a river,
Serpentine through thirsty land,
To an ocean.

Sink to New Heights - from Poetic Revenge by Misha Bittleston

Sink to New Heights – from “Poetic Revenge” by Misha Bittleston

Stars and Swipes

Swipe - from "82 Dreamscapes" by Misha Bittleston

Swipe – from “82 Dreamscapes”

This is a commentary on how the political landscape is shaped by our choices as consumers – swipe to vote.

A purchase has become as politicized as a trip to the voting booth. Are the market forces of our buying decisions capable of supplanting the powers of democracy?
As paid lobby’s influence over politics becomes systemic, and corporations, brands and products become blatantly political, is voting already obsolete, and the swipe of a credit card is how we actually cast our vote?

In a political climate as polarized as it has ever been, how far are we from a time when everything we purchase is politically labeled? How long before product labeling and packaging indicates party affiliation? Next to the graphic for Kosher, Organic or Fair Trade there is a symbol designating a product’s political affiliation. How long before consumers demand to know if a purchasing decision is going to support or oppose the issues they stand for? We have pink products for breast cancer awareness. Is it just a matter of time before red and blue packaged products designate party affiliation?

Would companies change their politics to court consumers?
Are consumers politics influenced by what they want to buy?

Does the the political process no longer turn us on because political power is a tool wielded by wealth first and democracy gets the sloppy seconds?

In this dot drawing, Uncle Sam is reduced to a fun promotional character, overshadowed by the venerable credit card, which appears to have become the new American flag. The success of the little mascot seems to have resulted in so much swiping that it has dislodged the stars, leaving small craters. The once bold stripes have trickled down into a single magnetic strip, with the call of our patriotic duty from, die for your country, to buy for your country.

A Loud Letter

Distorted Letter

Loud Letter from “82 Dreamscapes” by Misha Bittleston

Hi, that’s me skateboarding at the top, it probably doesn’t need explaining but here’s what I’m saying: “This is a drawing of a letter, with words that can’t be spoken. Every word we use hides its meaning outside itself.  We define things in things we don’t seek to define.
Unlike definable words that hide in what they are not, the words in my drawing hide their meaning in what they are, but sadly lose it because they hide it inside themselves. For intelligence to exist we must hide it outside ourselves, for information to exist it must be entrusted to others, otherwise it is like a child who first learns to speak and assumes everyone else is speaking their own made up language too.
Before you could write did you put drawings in the mailbox and wonder where they went? If you drew a castle on the envelope, would it end up at a castle? What is meaning? Does it exist without words to hold it?
Before we learn to read: writings are drawings, text is texture, punctuation is dots, an invitation is a piece of paper, information is emotion.
Pictures are stored in minds and retrieved with combinations of letters (words), but words themselves are interdependent pictures (symbols), they have become transparent so the world can be seen through them, they give up their independence and rely on one another to hold meaning! Sound is distorted by emotion into meaning. Written so words resonate against each other to form new chords of meaning, in my drawing they have become too loud to be read  – between message and emotion. Intensity produces distortion. In this letter my words are amplified beyond recognition, so their meaning is overwhelmed.”

Interlocking concentric circles

Remember Me from Poetic Revenge by Misha Bittleston

“Remember Me” from Poetic Revenge by Misha Bittleston

This drawing has the words “remember me” over and over again, in the speech bubbles of repeating circles, like ripples that overlap.

Throughout the series “Poetic Revenge” interlocking concentric circles represent the chain reaction of destructive “remember me” actions and their repercussions. One of the only justifications given by the government for the American conflict in Vietnam was to prevent a domino effect1 of Communism throughout the world.
Were our actions based on nothing more tangible than the fear of what might happen if we didn’t attack them first? What about repercussions from the confused actions of the conflict itself?
In a world where some acts of aggression have seemingly endless and unstoppable reactions, how did the switch flip, from conflict to peace?

To explain the Vietnam War, the US government made the claim that the North Vietnamese military had attacked American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin, a false claim that has been objectively proven to have no factual basis.
In the War on Terror, the US government made the false claim that Iraqi leaders had connections to the 9/11 attack, Al-Qaeda and had Weapons of Mass Destruction that they would use against us.

President Lyndon B. Johnson regarding war in Vietnam: “the ultimate victory will depend on the hearts and minds of the people who actually live out there”.
President George W. Bush on the war in the Middle East: “Across the world, hearts and minds are opening to the message of human liberty as never before”.
Hoomi: “A war of reason and love not of blood and death will win people’s hearts and minds.”

In my concentric circles, a new rippling circle is started at one point but not at another, seeing it this way a non reaction becomes an action, like a war that is intended to result in peace, wars do end and not just because of inertia, but what makes an end to conflict possible? What kind of actions cause more reaction and what breaks the chain?
In Vietnam I couldn’t help asking myself how a nation must feel about another nation by which it has been mercilessly assaulted, and what drives or halts the impulse to retaliate.

It occurred to me that, when an artist makes something to be lasting, it is like my drawing taken literally, an attempt to be remembered, not too different from a war memorial, a plea to the world to remember, because to be remembered is to be validated.

What about destructive acts? From carving a name across a tree in the park, to flying a plane into a building, these are acts of attention seeking, demands to be remembered and validated.
Both these kinds of actions can have a ripple effect, like concentric circles, provoking other assertions to be remembered, so on and on.
Is it whatever makes the most attention getting “remember me” ripple, that gets remembered? Or that which causes the most chain reactions?

I kept asking myself why Vietnam took no revenge on the US. After the longest act of aggression and unspeakable horror in US history, in 1973 the United States stopped and it was over.

Are the people of Vietnam just so forgiving? Here I was, a welcome tourist, in a country where people who could have been my parents had come and burned their families alive.

Was it the fact that the US lost the war, and the Vietnamese people, though their country was decimated, were left vindicated and with their pride?

Is watching a world power retreat and concede to defeat, capable of quelling the drive for revenge?

After Vietnam, US political leaders admitted no wrongdoing, they had Watergate and the Pentagon Papers to do that for them, but the American people, and the influential cultural, social and civil rights leaders of the time, as well as some returning veterans, vehemently and passionately acknowledged guilt and remorse, to such an extent that in the last years of the Vietnam war GIs returned home to a shroud of shame. An unintended domino effect of the war set in motion an anti-war movement that mobilized world wide peace demonstrations, an international cultural awakening of community and love, recasting a decade of US aggression as an era of peace, love and understanding.

If the US had won, would Vietnam have turned to China for validation and joined with Russia in the war to end all wars?

If the powerful could acknowledge their faults and restrain the impulse to invalidate those who lash out at them, would that make the world a place where lasting peace could halt the domino effects of conflict?

Would acknowledging our mistakes and validating our opponents cause a loss of confidence and economic instability, or gain world respect, boost confidence in our integrity and free us from a life under constant threat of revenge?

The rich have the value the poor have the numbers

The Rich from Poetic Revenge

The Rich from “Poetic Revenge” Vietnam by Misha Bittleston

Boat Children - Halong Bay, North Vietnam, photo by Aja Marsh

Boat Children – Vietnam, photo by Aja Marsh

I drew this while traveling in Vietnam. I was trying to understand what the US was doing and why. Was it Capitalism versus Communism, or to spread Democracy to prevent the “domino effect” of Socialism. What really motivated the “longest war”, fought by the richest country in the world with most powerful military, where most of the casualties were women, children and farmers?

In my drawing, the flying puppy at the top is looking down impassively from above the clouds while underneath, clouds turn to flames, and a child who could be mistaken for a plant, fixes us with frightened eyes, which could have something to do with having a head covered with targets. To make a point Hoomi is standing on a pile of something.

When the United States bombed Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, the planes dropped, over 8 million tons of explosives. This was roughly three times the weight of bombs dropped by all sides in World War Two, and the explosive force was equal to 640 of the atom bombs used on Hiroshima, leaving more than 3 million people dead. (Gibson, 1986, p. 319.)

The American flyers sang songs about their work, in bars and clubs and quarters, after flying. Major Joe Tuso, who flew sixty-nine combat missions in 1968-69, later collected these songs. Many are full of fear. A few, like “Chocolate covered Napalm,” are anti-war. “Strafe the Town and Kill the People” (sung to the tune of Jerry Livingston’s 1955 “Wake the Town and Tell the People”) is full of angry irony:

Strafe the town and kill the people,
Drop your napalm in the square;
Do it early Sunday morning,
Catch them while they’re still at prayer.

Drop some candy to the orphans,
Watch them as they gather ’round:
Use your twenty millimeter,
Mow those little bastards down.

Strafe the town and kill the people,
Drop your high-drag on the school;
If you happen to see ground fire,
Don’t Forget the Golden Rule.

Run your CBU down main street,
Watch it rip off arms and hair;
See them scurry for the clinic,
Put a pod of rockets there.

Find a field of running Charlies,
Drop a daisy-cutter there;
Watch the chunks of bodies flying,
Arms and legs and blood and hair.

See the sweet old pregnant lady
Running cross the field in fear;
Run your twenty mike-mike through her,
Hope the film comes out real clear.

The politicians who ran the American War in Vietnam did not send their children to fight there. About 80 percent of the American soldiers who saw combat came from blue-collar families. The children of the rich did not go. Of the 1200 from the Harvard class of 1970 only a fraction of one percent were sent to Vietnam.
The government and the draft boards protected the sons of the rich. College students were not drafted until they finished their studies. And as the demand for men increased the army began taking people who had failed their intelligence tests. The US intervened in Vietnam on the side of a ruling minority, sending the American GIs, from working class families, to defend the rich against the poor in Vietnam.

War is an instrument of the investor class. Of all enemies to public liberty war should be the most dreaded, because it protects the interests of a few at the expense of many. War develops, as James Madison wrote in 1795, “known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.”

Empty Word City – talking about words without words

Empty Word City from "82 Dreamscapes" by Misha Bittleston

Empty Word City from “82 Dreamscapes”

Setting words free from their meanings:
voices are warm stretched air textures,
text a tedium of loop lines repositioned.

Like a city where, for a day
everyone spoke and wrote
spontaneous nonsense,
they all just woke up that way
as if nothing had changed.

In the city by late morning
the president is drawing,
without the words of their party,
party lines are line drawings,
with the debate come undone they’re stuck getting stuff done.

By mid afternoon all the lost meaning
that had spilled from all the empty words in the city,
and rinsed the fun out of freedom-
was being replenished,Empty Word City - detail
in scats replied to with scribbles
in faces meeting with motions.

Until someone, overcome
with triumphant realizations
started talking.

Dot Moment Interference – a dot is a moment.

Squished bug on drawing: Dot Moment Interference

this squished bug can be found in the top left corner of the “Dot Moment Interference” drawing it inspired.

In this drawing the dots are dissolving the text. The texture is becoming the words and their meanings which were held by abstract characters, confound the left brain and become visual artifacts, just as I have forgotten what I was writing, the dots overlay the words like moments in time, which is relevant because even though each dot only takes an instant, lots of dots take lots of time.

Each dot is a moment. Like a moment in time each dot is crisp and distinct, but like combined moments the dots together form interference, between waking and sleeping, day and night, attention and distraction we build up textures of time. This interference texture is my visual metaphor for time. What is preserved within the obfuscating mass of sharp points in time is vague images, here or there a late night dance party, summers on the pier, windy adventures along the cliffs, a friendly whale, but can you see the dancing feet, what socks we wore that day, what was on your mind, etc. However sharp each moment is, when combined they seem to cancel one another out, one sharp dot becomes a blur beside all the others. The squished bug is just another dot on the page.

Dot Moment Interference from "82 Dreamscapes" by Misha Bittleston

Dot Moment Interference from “82 Dreamscapes” by Misha Bittleston

When I am drawing on the train, trying to work with lines is limiting, but with dots I can use the movement of the train to build up textures and also use the jolting and rattling of the train to prevent me getting too caught up in fine details and keep my hand moving around the drawing.