Call Me Pisher

“Call me pisher” is a Yiddish phrase from my youth, and it was used to instruct me in a very important lesson. (Though I hardly realized it at the time.) And since Yiddish speakers were often not particularly delicate persons, I’ll have to be a bit less than delicate today.

In Yiddish, pisher properly means pisser, and by implication a pisher is someone who is still pissing their pants as an adult. Obviously, it was a term of denigration, indicating a worthless person.

What “Call me pisher” meant in practice, however, was, “Go ahead and call me an asshole. I don’t care.”

Here’s how the phrase was used:

Person A: Yeah, but if you do that, they’ll say you’re a [commie, fascist, whatever].

Person B: I don’t care. Let them call me pisher!

This is actually an important lesson, because if you aren’t emotionally prepared to let people say bad things about you, you’re stuck where you are and will never escape so long as those people or others like them exist. That is, you’ll be frozen in place for life.

At some point, you have to say, “Go ahead; call me pisher.” If you cannot, you’ll never be fully free to act on your own will and your own judgments. The opinions of others will control you. Fear of their slanders and their gossip will paralyze you and own you.

And I’m not telling you that letting people call you “pisher” is without consequence. I’ve lost friends and even business associates because I said, “Call me pisher,” or some near equivalent. Some people will do that to you, just for the feeling of power it gives them.

Still, “Call me pisher” is a cry of liberation, and a powerful one.

When Do You Vindicate Yourself?

When we’re afraid to say, “Call me pisher,” we’re sacrificing ourselves to the people whose negative opinions we fear. We’re demoting ourselves and vindicating the collective.

But when do we vindicate ourselves? Is the majority always right? Is fearing the majority a reason to sell our souls? Personally, I quite agree with Wendy McElroy (paraphrasing Thoreau) when she pointed out that

every human being has a fundamental obligation to determine what is just and then to act according to his or her conscience, even if it contradicts the majority or the law. One’s moral conscience is what makes someone fully human.

No, that’s not an easy stand to take when you’re young, small, and weak, or when you’re under tremendous pressures. Been there, done that. And I suppose we all have. But that’s not where we should stay.

At some point we have to vindicate ourselves. We have to place ourselves apart from and above the collective.

In my opinion, the individual does stand above the collective, but you’ll have to make up your own mind. And that’s the point: You must make up your own mind and stand firm, no matter that they call you names.

And please understand this: If you want to grow as a person, your own approval must be paramount, leaving the approval of the collective (in another of the colorful phrases of my youth) to go pound sand.

Pass It Along

If you decide that this lesson is useful, please pass it along, and don’t be timid about it.

If you’ll have to let people call you names, tell your friends about it before you do so. (Or immediately afterward.) Let them see you stand up for yourself. Let them see you suffer for it. And let them see you standing stronger afterward.

More than anything, let them see that you’re a solid person precisely because of your ability to stand up for yourself and take whatever arrows may come. They need to see it.

As a bonus, your friends will be partly immunized against the bad things said about you. (But that’s a bonus. The protection it yields will never be more than partial.)


So, let them call you “pisher,” and be proud of it. Suffer for it if you must, but continue to cultivate that ability – cultivate your own position in your own eyes – and don’t surrender it.

Your future and the future of the world depend upon it.

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Paul Rosenberg

The 18-Year-Olds’ League


My dream of what could be.

In 2016, after realizing that humanity had been at war for some 6,000 years with seldom a break of even a single year – and very often in a dozen places at once – a simple thought appeared in at least a hundred young minds scattered across our planet:

It’s not the evil old men who keep all the wars going; it’s us, the 18-year-olds.

The problem, they saw, was that they kept obeying the bitter and rapacious old men. Swept along by authority and the fear of standing alone, they had been – for millennia – marching off to kill other young people exactly like themselves.

The 18-year-olds on the opposite sides of all the battle lines had been doing precisely the same thing: obeying the orders of their own bitter and rapacious old men.

And then a very simple thought struck them: If the 18-year-olds in every country agreed to not fight, who would?

After all, the old men never fought for themselves.

And so, being a generation gifted with worldwide communication, they began to find each other and to talk among themselves.

Some of them dug into military literature to see if they were missing something. Others read studies in the psychology of killing. A few researched guerrilla warfare. And then, one by one, they began to study economics, cooperation and consent.

Within months, they had no more doubt; war was almost wholly dependent upon them.

Old men with bloodlust would never stop the killing; once they passed 50 or 60 years old, they were never going to change. But that wasn’t really much of a problem, because a sufficient number of 18-year-olds could stop war anytime they wanted.

And so, in a matter of days, they wrote an agreement to be published in every country. They agreed they would carry it to their schools and to the streets of all their cities… they would eventually confront every young person in the world and encourage them to take their vow and add their names to the list of 18-year-olds who refused to march off to war.

Their agreement read as follows:

We, young men and women of all nationalities, hereby vow not to kill each other at the behest of old men and women.

We don’t want to fight. We do not want to die. We do not want to see our friends dismembered, nor do we want to dismember others… or even to assist in it.

We want to live and love. Most of us want families. All of us want rewarding lives. And we do not want to live with the nightmares of war.

If the old people want war so badly, let them go fight it. They’ve already had their families and careers.

Bitter old men and women will send us off to war forever if we let them. They’ve been doing just that, continuously, for 6,000 years; they’re not going to change.

The jungle warlord and the militant senator are precisely the same in this; they need war. For 6,000 years they’ve issued orders to us, and we – confused and obedient – have marched off, in thousands and even millions, to kill each other.

But no more. We, the 18-year-olds of the world, hereby affirm that we will not go to war. We will protect our home towns if necessary, but we will not march off, based upon the fears and intimidations of old men and women, to fight other 18-year-olds like ourselves.

We are confirmed in this resolve by the wise words of Albert Einstein: “Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.

We therefore jointly refuse. Let the old men kill each other if they care so much.

This, their agreement, was presented to young people in almost every school in the world, in thousands of town squares, and in countless homes. The names of more than 10 million signers were posted to Internet pages before they were certified as “domestic terror sites” and hijacked. After that, they moved to the DarkNet. At that point, the old men and women panicked, banned the evil, unpatriotic document, and threw thousands of the young people into jail cells.

But there were too many, and soon there weren’t enough obedient enforcers to attack the young petitioners and not enough government cages to hold them.

* * * * *

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Paul Rosenberg