George Carlin on why he likes disasters and people under pressure, and why the planet is doing just fine. He discusses political stance and also societal beliefs on the environment, and the Earth’s resilience towards bombardment by pollution.
from George Carlin: Jamming In New York (1992)
Thank you… I appreciate it… I appreciate that [has a sip of water]… good to have a little sip of this, the water, I assume, is still safe to drink in New York huh? [Audience reacts negatively] Actually, I gotta be fair with you; I’m only setting you up a little bit. It’s just… it’s not a trick question but it’s just a set-up cause I don’t really care about the water, to tell you the truth, I just love to hear the answer to that question. I ask that question everywhere I go. Everywhere I go, I say: “How’s the water?”… Haven’t got a positive answer yet… not one. Last year, I was in 40 states, 100 cities. Not one audience was able to say to me: “Yes, enjoy some of our fine local water! It is pure and it is good!” Of course, I know a lot of people don’t talk that way anymore but nobody trusts the local water supply. Nobody! And that amuses me, I like that, I admit I’m a bit perverted but it amuses me that no one can really trust the water anymore and the thing I like about it the most is: it means the system is beginning to collapse and everything is slowly breaking down.
I enjoy chaos and disorder – not just because they help me professionally – they’re also my hobby. You see, I’m an entropy fan. When I first heard of entropy in high school science, I was attracted to it immediately. When they told me that in nature, all systems are breaking down, I thought: “What a good thing! What a good thing! Perhaps I can make some small contribution in this area myself.” And of course, it’s not just in nature, in this country, the whole social structure… just beginning to collapse, you watch; just beginning now to come apart at the edges and the seams and the thing I like about that is that it means it makes the news on television more interesting, makes the television news more exciting, makes it more fun. I watch television news for one thing and one thing only: entertainment! That’s all I want from the news: entertainment! You know my favourite thing on television? Bad news! Bad news and disasters and accidents and catastrophes. I wanna see some explosions and fires! I wanna see shit blowing up and bodies flying around! I’m not interested in the budget; I don’t care about tax negotiations; I don’t wanna know what country the fucking Pope is in! But you show me a hospital that’s on fire and people on crutches are jumping off the roof and I’M A HAPPY GUY!!! I’M A HAPPY GUY!!! I’M A HAPPY GUY!!! I wanna see a paint factory blowing up! I wanna see an oil refinery explode! I wanna see a tornado hit a church on Sunday! I wanna see people— I wanna know there’s some guy running through the K-Mart with an automatic weapon firing at the clerks! I wanna see thousands of people in the street killing policemen! I wanna hear about a nuclear meltdown! I wanna know the stock market dropped 2000 points in one day! I wanna see people under pressure! Sirens, flames, smoke, bodies, graves being filled, parents weeping… exciting shit! My kind of TV! I just want some entertainment! It’s just the kind of guy I am! It’s the kind of guy I am! You know what I love the most? When big chunks of concrete and fiery wood are falling out the sky and people are running around trying to get out of the way!
Exciting shit! That’s why I watch auto-racing. That’s the only reason I watch auto-racing: I’m waiting for some ACCIDENTS man!!! I wanna see some cars on fire! I don’t care about a bunch of redneck jackoffs driving 500 miles in a circle! 500 miles in a circle? Children can do that for Christ sakes! Doesn’t impress me! I wanna see some schmuck with his hair on fire running around punching his own head trying to put it out! I wanna see the pits explode! I wanna see a car doing a 200mph cartwheel! Hey, where else besides auto-racing am I gonna see a 23 car collision and not be in the son of a bitch?! And if a car flies out of control, lands in the stands and kills 50 spectators, FINE, FUCK ‘EM!!! Serves ‘em right; they paid to get in, let ‘em take their chances with everybody else! Just means more fun for me! More fun for me!
Hey, at least I admit it. At least I admit it. Most people won’t admit to those feelings. Most people see something like that on television, they’ll say: “Oh isn’t that awful? Isn’t that too bad?” Pbbt! Lying asshole! Lying assholes! You love it and you KNOW it! EXPLOSIONS ARE FUN!!! And hey, the closer the explosion is to your house, the more fun it is! Did you ever notice that? Sometimes, you have the TV on and you’re working around the house, some guy comes on television and says: “6,000 people were killed in an explosion today…” You say: “Where?! Where?!” He says: “…in Pakistan.” You say: “Aww fuck Pakistan! Too far away to be any fun!” But if he says it happened in your hometown, you’ll say: “WHOA!!! HOT SHIT!!! COME ON DAVE; LET’S GO LOOK AT THE BODIES!!! LET’S GO LOOK AT THE BODIES!!!” I love bad news! I love bad news! Hey, the more bad news there is, the faster this system collapses. Fine by me! Fine by me! Don’t bother my ass! Don’t bother my ass none! I’m glad the water sucks. I’m glad it sucks. You know what I do about it? I drink it! Unless… unless it really smells, if it really smells a lot like sulphur, then I might buy a soda. But it’s gotta be a soda loaded with chemical additives! I like a lot of chemical additives in the things I eat and drink!
See, I’m not one of these people who’s worried about everything. You got people like this around you? Countries full of them now: people walking around all day long, every minute of the day, worried… about everything! Worried about the air; worried about the water; worried about the soil; worried about insecticides, pesticides, food additives, carcinogens; worried about radon gas; worried about asbestos; worried about saving endangered species. Let me tell you about endangered species all right? Saving endangered species is just one more arrogant attempt by humans to control nature. It’s arrogant meddling; it’s what got us in trouble in the first place. Doesn’t anybody understand that? Interfering with nature. Over 90% – over, WAY over – 90% of all the species that have ever lived on this planet, ever lived, are gone! Pwwt! They’re extinct! We didn’t kill them all, they just disappeared. That’s what nature does. They disappear these days at the rate of 25 a day and I mean regardless of our behaviour. Irrespective of how we act on this planet, 25 species that were here today will be gone tomorrow. Let them go gracefully. Leave nature alone. Haven’t we done enough?
We’re so self-important, so self-important. Everybody’s gonna save something now: “Save the trees! Save the bees! Save the whales! Save those snails!” and the greatest arrogance of all: “Save the planet!” What?! Are these fucking people kidding me?! Save the planet?! We don’t even know how to take care of ourselves yet! We haven’t learned how to care for one another and we’re gonna save the fucking planet?! I’m getting tired of that shit! I’m getting tired of that shit! I’m tired of fucking Earth Day! I’m tired of these self-righteous environmentalists; these white, bourgeois liberals who think the only thing wrong with this country is there aren’t enough bicycle paths! People trying to make the world safe for their Volvo’s! Besides, environmentalists don’t give a shit about the planet. They don’t care about the planet; not in the abstract they don’t. You know what they’re interested in? A clean place to live; their own habitat. They’re worried that someday in the future, they might be personally inconvenienced. Narrow, unenlightened self-interest doesn’t impress me.
Besides, there is nothing wrong with the planet… nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine… the people are fucked! Difference! The planet is fine! Compared to the people, THE PLANET IS DOING GREAT: Been here four and a half billion years! Do you ever think about the arithmetic? The planet has been here four and a half billion years, we’ve been here what? 100,000? Maybe 200,000? And we’ve only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over 200 years. 200 years versus four and a half billion and we have the conceit to think that somehow, we’re a threat? That somehow, we’re going to put in jeopardy this beautiful little blue-green ball that’s just a-floatin’ around the sun? The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through all kinds of things worse than us: been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drifts, solar flares, sunspots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles, hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages, and we think some plastic bags and aluminum cans are going to make a difference?
The planet isn’t going anywhere… we are! We’re going away! Pack your shit folks! We’re going away and we won’t leave much of a trace either, thank God for that… maybe a little styrofoam… maybe… little styrofoam. The planet will be here, we’ll be long gone; just another failed mutation; just another closed-end biological mistake; an evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas, a surface nuisance. You wanna know how the planet’s doing? Ask those people in Pompeii who are frozen into position from volcanic ash how the planet’s doing. Wanna know if the planet’s all right? Ask those people in Mexico City or Armenia or a hundred other places buried under thousands of tons of earthquake rubble if they feel like a threat to the planet this week. How about those people in Kilauea, Hawaii who build their homes right next to an active volcano and then wonder why they have lava in the living room?
The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we’re gone and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself cause that’s what it does. It’s a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed, and if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: The Earth plus Plastic. The Earth doesn’t share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the Earth! The Earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the Earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place: it wanted plastic for itself, didn’t know how to make it, needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old philosophical question: “Why are we here?” PLASTIC!!! ASSHOLES!!!
So the plastic is here, our job is done, we can be phased out now, and I think that’s really started already, don’t you? I mean, to be fair, the planet probably sees us as a mild threat; something to be dealt with, and I’m sure the planet will defend itself in the manner of a large organism. Like a beehive or an ant colony can muster a defence, I’m sure the planet will think of something. What would you do if you were the planet trying to defend against this pesky, troublesome species? Let’s see… what might… hmm… viruses! Viruses might be good. They seem vulnerable to viruses. And uh… viruses are tricky; always mutating and forming new strains whenever a vaccine is developed. Perhaps this first virus could be one that-that compromises the immune system of these creatures. Perhaps a human immunodeficiency virus making them vulnerable to all sorts of other diseases and infections that might come along and maybe it could be spread sexually, making them a little reluctant to engage in the act of reproduction.
Well that’s a poetic note and it’s a start and I can dream can I? See, I don’t worry about the little things… bees, trees, whales, snails. I think we’re part of a greater wisdom that we won’t ever understand, a higher order. Call it what you want. You know what I call it? The big electron… the big electron. [Imitates electronic hum] It doesn’t punish, it doesn’t reward, it doesn’t judge at all. It just is and so are we… for a little while…