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The Moral Compass Issue

Front of the Book

Philosophical questions about good and evil probably don't crop up in your everyday life, but they do for Phoenix Jones.
December 1, 2011, 12:00am

ILLUSTRATION BY JOHNNY RYAN Dinks aren’t as sturdy as you might like to think, especially when they are secretly stuck into holes they probably shouldn’t be in. Men have a higher chance of snapping their dongs while cheating on their spouses, according to a recent study conducted by Dr. Andrew Kramer, a urologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center, who surveyed 16 men who had broken their penises between 2004 and 2011. (Probably because they were tired of fucking their wives and gave it a little too hard to the new girl, but that’s just our guess.) Also contributing to penile pain were sexual encounters under “out-of-the-norm circumstances.” We asked Dr. Dick how to prevent this unfortunate condition. VICE: Your report says that people screwing in weird places are more likely to break their cocks. Can you give some examples of these dangerous locations?
Dr. Andrew Kramer: Situations such as sexual relations in elevators, public restrooms, and at work qualify. If a man chooses to have an affair or deviant, kinky sex, how can he protect his penis from snapping like a twig?
By placing your hands on the woman’s hips or somewhere on her body to control the downward force that could result in the penis buckling. Is a man more likely to result in a broken penis if he’s cheating with a man or a woman?
I didn’t study this, but I’m sure homosexual men have fractured their penises as well, and that the penis can buckle against an axial force in a similar way. Why is it called “breaking” when there isn’t a bone in there? And for that matter, where did boner come from?
There are no bones in the human penis, although I’m told the dog has a bone of some kind in its penis. I think this is a slang term because the erection is hard and straight and resembles a bone.

PHOTO BY COREY ADCOCK Violence-plagued Indian Reserves like the Samson Cree First Nation, where a five-year-old was recently killed in a drive-by shooting, and the Sandy Bay First Nation, where a woman was beheaded, underline just how fucked up rez life in Canada has become. Some reserves are starting to resemble Brazilian favelas: Gun crime and incarceration is soaring, HIV rates are on par with global highs, and more than one-third of aboriginals haven’t graduated from high school. The real kicker is that this massively impoverished group (totaling more than 1.1 million people) is not only statistically the youngest but also the fastest-growing population in Canada. The other problem is no one in Canada gives a flying fuck. The federal government doesn’t have any revolutionary plans in place, and the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development department is a monetary black hole. It’s no coincidence most serial killers in Canada have targeted Native women, because cops don’t give a shit about them. Before the nation’s most prolific serial killer (Vancouver pig farmer and convicted murderer of 50 women Robert Pickton) was caught, Aboriginal prostitutes in Vancouver went to the authorities with information. “I have a friend that went to the cops in 1998 and told them about Pickton’s whole farm,” said Anishinaabe activist Audrey Huntley, who worked in East Vancouver with prostitutes. “They called her a ‘junkie ho.’” There’s no denying the stats: Amnesty International maintains that Native women are five times more likely to be killed by violence than other women. Not to mention, young men are joining gangs faster than ever before, resulting in frequent gang wars. Police have been accused of indifference when it comes to Aboriginal crime. Instead of dealing with the issue, the government continues to preserve archaic policies like the 19th-century Indian Act. “Ten percent of cases will involve Natives, and the reality is they’re the hardest to solve,” said a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer. “Witnesses won’t come forward, there’s gang silence, or just overall distrust of police.” He added, “They think [cops] are the enemy. Sometimes I don’t blame them.”

TESSA FROM AUSTRALIA I would probably fly to New York and go to Tasti D-Lite. It’s this frozen-yogurt place that is amazing. They have a thousand flavors. I would sit there sampling them all until I was covered in yogurt, and then I would vomit and die.

GERTRUDE FROM ROMANIA My child, I’m an active Orthodox Christian. God is the only one to decide when we die. But I’d take a cherry blossom to our great poet Mihai Eminescu’s grave. Eminescu was translated into 64 languages. 64! Better than Shakespeare. He was the last great Romantic. And love, as you know, is the salt of life.

SYLVAIN FROM FRANCE I recently attended some lectures on survival where I learned that if you put seven drops of bleach in your water tank, the water will stay immune to a biological attack. So I would probably do that and then I would barricade myself at home with my girlfriend.

GEORGI FROM BULGARIA I won’t hide. I’m a brave man. I’m a pilot so if the Lord sends us a threat, I’ll retaliate. I have a hell of a lot of weapons in my possession.

DARRYN FROM CANADA I’d try to make amends for an entire life of heartache and pain.

GIACOMO FROM ITALY I’d like to climb a human pyramid like in Kylie Minogue’s “All the Lovers” video. Have you seen that?

MIKE FROM THE NETHERLANDS I think I would smoke weed and drink alcohol in such an amount I wouldn’t even witness the end of the world.

VALERA FROM RUSSIA First off, I definitely wouldn’t believe that shit. It is never gonna happen! But I wouldn’t want to randomly die from a dumb-ass faggot who maniacally shoots everyone on the street.

SOFIA FROM SWEDEN I would bring all my favorite people to Tropical Island outside Berlin for the best 24-hour party ever.

AME FROM THE UK I would eat really good food and buy a lot of really cool shoes. I am a Buddhist after all, so I don’t believe it will end too badly.

LAMORRIE FROM THE US I’d try to piss off all the cops, take their guns, and shoot them—not kill them—just shoot them. Then I’d probably hijack a taxicab and build my own ark like Noah, like the movie 2012.

TAIRYN FROM THE US I’ll write more music, then put it in plastic so it could survive the water. Oh, and my journal too.

DAVID FROM AUSTRIA Nothing. God is giving and God is taking. God has everything. We’re all in his hands. The whole world is tainted.

PHOTO BY PETER TANGEN Philosophical questions about good and evil probably don’t crop up in your everyday life, but they do for Phoenix Jones. For more than two years, Phoenix has been patrolling the streets of Seattle at night in his custom yellow-and-black bulletproof suit, breaking up fights and helping strangers in distress. He’s one of the best known of the “real-life superheroes,” and lately he’s been getting a lot of attention in the media after being arrested for breaking up what he thought was a fight with pepper spray (they were actually dancing). This guy has quite the moral code, so we asked him to explain it. VICE: Do you believe that true evil exists in this world?
Phoenix Jones: Yes and no. I used to think that some people were literally just evil and beyond comprehension. I work with autistic kids—I used to, at least, before I lost my job. And they’d do things that I would consider to be extremely rude. Like what?
One of them bit me and took chunks of flesh out of my arm. I thought, “Why would you do that to me?” But when you put yourself in their situation, you realize that their lack of communication forces them to make a statement that you have to respond to. And they do things that other people may see as unconscionable. When I realized what they were doing, I started applying it do different things I’d seen in the world. Take Hitler for example: If you read his autobiography [sic], you realize that he had a kind of messed-up childhood, with a father who wasn’t really around, and because of that non-presence, you realize his father represented a certain ideal. If you know the way his father looked, and if you consider the way Jews looked—he really internalized that fear and hatred for his father, and in his way he was making the world better by getting rid of the chance of people turning out like him. Even though it’s wrong, and I totally don’t agree, it’s a different way to look at the whole scenario. I think most people are trying to better themselves, and have confused ideals about what will better themselves. So, for you, doing something “good” means that you’re trying to protect people from themselves—like parenting.
That’s exactly how I would describe it. I went through my house and baby-proofed all of the electrical sockets so that none of my kids would electrocute themselves, and that’s kind of what I feel like I do with the city—I just go through and baby-proof all of the sockets, and if a person rips it out, I have to go back and fill it in again. If you could address the world for five minutes, what would you say?
If I could have the entire world listen for five minutes, I wouldn’t say anything, because that’s 90 percent of the problem with people: We’re talking but we’re not listening. If you were listening you would understand people better, we would have better communication, and we would understand how to solve 90 percent of our problems without violence.

BY WOLFMAN JAGOFF In September, a local radio station in Elasha Biyaha, a suburb of Mogadishu, held a really fun Koran-recitation contest for kids. First prize was an AK-47 and $700. The runner-up was also bestowed with an AK, along with $500, and the award for third place was two live hand grenades and $400. It was sponsored by Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab, which is basically Somalia’s version of the Taliban. There was even a bonus question-and-answer round, which included stumpers like “Which war was martyred brother Sheik Timajilic killed in?” Most important, the competition provided a much-needed break from typical Somali radio programming, which mostly consists of recordings of gunfire, explosions, and animals growling because of an ultimatum from insurgent group Hizbul Islam declaring music to be “un-Islamic.” Even Al-Shabab official Mukhtar Robow was impressed, remarking, “Youths should use one hand for education and the other for a gun to defend Islam.”

ILLUSTRATION BY MEL STRINGER Australia is great. We ranked number two in the UN’s Human Development Index for 2009-10. Sure, we were behind Norway, but do you know how much pickled herring you are expected to eat up there? It seems second place isn’t good enough for everyone because some Western Australians wish to secede from the rest of the nation. They want to kiss federation good-bye and do their own thing. Sukrit Sabhlok, the academic director of Liberty Australia, says Western Australia (WA) is “currently getting ripped off by the other states. It’s one of the most productive states in the country, but it has to pay money to the federal government and it doesn’t get enough license to do its own thing.” WA’s gross product per capita is $81,795, by far Australia’s largest, and much of that juicy money flows east. Benjamin Marks, editor in chief of, declares “the rationale behind secession is simply self-ownership. Since we are each the rightful owners of ourselves, it is our right to secede from government, to evade tax, to employ people for whatever they’re willing to work for, to consume drugs, to deal drugs, etc.” But how would Westralians provide education, utilities, a police force, and all that junk? Secessionists believe, under a free market, those services would actually improve. According to Marks, government monopolies “provide an inferior quality product at higher cost than if there were competing providers to contend with.” And patrolling the border? They wouldn’t need to worry: “The borders between Westralia and the Empire of the Canberra Kremlin would not have much need for police protection on the Westralian side. I guess the Canberra Kremlin might want to build a wall to stop all the productive inhabitants from fleeing to freedom in Westralia.” Precisely how WA could successfully secede is murky, as there aren’t any real provisions for it. It’s been tried before, and it failed. In 1933, a referendum on WA secession was held, with 68 percent voting in favor. The proposal went limp when the UK House of Commons effectively refused to even consider it. Sixty-nine-year-old secretary of the defunct Western Australian Secession Association Walter Morris gave up after 18 years of arguing the 1933 referendum was still valid. He says, “Ultimately, in the long run, after a great deal of turmoil, probably violent, I think everything will go back to smaller identities, national identities. People will turn inward and start looking after themselves.” That sounds nice, doesn’t it?

PHOTO BY JULIE WIDNER When Bryon Widner, a founder of the Vinlanders skinhead gang, married and started a family, he decided it was a good time to put his racist past behind him and start anew. Turns out that’s not so easy if your face and neck are completely covered in racist, violent tattoos, such as a blood-soaked razor and swastikas (try explaining that when you drop off your kids on their first day of school). Bryon was ready to douse his face in acid when his wife contacted One People’s Project, an anti-hate group in Philadelphia. They put him in touch with T.J. Leyden, an ex-neo-Nazi who left the movement and now runs an organization called StrHATE Talk. With T.J.’s help a donor was found to fund the removal of tattoos from Bryon’s face, neck, and hands. It cost $35,000 and took 25 painful surgeries over the course of 16 months. He now suffers from migraines, pigment damage, and never-ending death threats. “There’s no owner’s manual,” Bryon says. “You just do the best you can.”