Monday, October 31, 2011

IOZ will always be my favorite b/c he so damn funny... but

Like ya'll-most everything: "you gotta hear man... you had to hear their early stuff":

From ye-bout four years ego:

The Eleventh Commandment

Why do people obey? Out of habit, and out of fear. But since habit is often just a symptom of fear, it's really fear alone. Fear of opprobium; fear of ostracization; fear of economic hardship; fear of giving offense; fear of arrest; fear of reprimand; fear of imprisonment; fear of death; fear of loss; fear of appearing foolish; fear of being ignored; fear of drawing too much attention; fear of seeming abnormal; fear of turing out to have been wrong all along. Ad inf.

Obedience is the first learned behavior. No is the first learned language. Socialization and education don't only impart a body of discrete knowledge, but teach children who in their infancy deferred only to their most immediate caregivers to operate in a complex network of subordinations, deferences, and accessions. In school, we learn to navigate these networks of demand. We learn when a parent outranks a teacher and vice versa. We learn to answer to our peers, to our teachers, to the principal above that, to security guards, to police, to familiar adults and unfamiliar adults, to coaches, to other public officials, then to bosses, to coworkers of greater rank, to experts, to the opinions of public figures, to government at all its levels, to the decisions of economic institutions, to creditors, to critics. The list goes on. This education is subtler, more pervasive, and far, far more effective than the other education. It's as thoroughly learned as a first language. Because it's so internalized, we rarely consider how ubiquitous are its uses. At nearly every moment of our waking lives, our minds are involved in determining what is appropriate and what is allowable.

Obedience comes naturally between caregivers and children because of the motivating prospect of withdrawn care. This is a rarely acknowledged fact, for we're relentlessly romantic about childhood. As we age, though, we learn to think of obedience as an altruistic act: a sort of perversion of the principle of non-intervention in the lives of others. "Do unto others as you'd have done unto you." To fail to obey convention; to break the law; to break the rules; to speak out of turn; to commit any number of minor infractions of etiquette or accepted decency; is to act against others. So we're told. It will make them uncomfortable. It will make them late for work. It will make their lives less pleasant. It will cause their days pass less smoothly. It will deny them the pleasures of public accommodation. It's just a mean thing to do.

Thou shalt not slow traffic on the autobahn.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mixing and matching to loosen the strangehold

If, as David Graeber has said, we already — and always — are communists (assuming people operate, quite often, on the idea: "each according to their ability, each according to their need)... and the gift based economy — as outlined by Mauss in The Gift (PDF), and explained in slides here by Dmitry Orlov — is also, to some degree, always present...

Then, how do we accentuate, what do we encourage? How do we bolster one piece of the ever-present whole, while minimizing the less desirable parts of the whole (for instance: the current dominant model of getting stuff you want and need: impersonal consumer capitalism).

Don't be afraid to mix n' match, right? If you can get a good deal from the impersonal capitalist system, take it, and spin it into supporting more exchanges based on reciprocal gifts. An example: I stroll into a bakery, and find a big pile of "day old" breads and muffins or whatever at 1/2 price. Maybe I just baked some bread, and don't feel like I really need it, but perhaps I consider a neighbor or friend who does (and it just so happens, I'll be walking past their place later). So I buy the loaf, I give the loaf away (obviously asking for no payment, and refusing an offer... I don't want this to be a complete transaction, right? It's better that other people owe you favors, just as you want to owe them favors).

Now, this is, quite obviously, not a "fix", or a way to eliminate impersonal consumer capitalism — because that will (probably) never completely go away. But it's a move. And a move I'd bet most of us already make... maybe we try to make it a little more often? Until reciprocal giving inches towards a more common practice. 

So yes: if all these systems of exchange are out there, feel no fear in mixing them together.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The beautiful knowing of dusty under-the-bed socks

After devouring Derrick Jensen's A Language Older than Words I picked a few titles from his bibliography. Findings: Neil Evernden is stunningly smart (this is, of course, based on what knocks my socks off and into a dusty corner under the bed... where those socks discover all kinds of cool ideas (as I type this, I can hear the chickens pecking away, scratching their claws into the grass, doing their thing... soothing sounds).

Anyway, I'm copying some thoughts from Evernden's The Social Creation of Nature. To simplify, the book asks: if we're tasked we "saving the planet", how come nothing seems to stick, and the same ole' shit keeps getting peddled under different names (Conservation, Sustainable Development, blah blah)? And his answer, simplified: when we the people of this culture talk about nature, well... we ain't speakin' the same language. We mean very very different things. And Evernden traces around for about 500 years of socially constructing the idea of what nature is (and, how humans are both involved in and distinctly different from what-we-call nature). I've found it to be a lovely read, and whenever I find myself discussing environmental issues, it's always so obvious that (with almost everything else) extremely diverse presuppositions about exactly what the fuck we're talking about makes discourse difficult. So this book will, I think, help people figure out how to talk about our unexamined assumptions. So here he is discussing nature, symbols and mythology, Roland Barthes:

But we also "speak" of nature through images. It is no accident that nature features prominently in the modern world of advertising, for that industry is largely concerned with effective communication, which inevitably means the effective use of signs. Since advertising requires a powerful means of conveying favorable impressions of the product in question, the possibility of juxtaposing emotionally positive images with those of the product is irresistible. It is not surprising then that nature is used in advertising much as it is in the promotion of a new morality or world-view: as a visible manifestation of normalcy and health.

Nature has become a powerful part of our vocabulary of persuasion. But even that puts it too mildly, for it is often treated as tehe very realm of the absolute. To be associated with nature is to be placed beyond human caprice or preference, beyond choice or debate. When something is "natural" it is "the norm," "the way," "the given." This use of "nature" affords us a means of inferring how people ought to behave—including what objects they ought to associate with, that is, buy. Yet the authority of that usage stems in part from its confusion with the other major use, nature the material given, nature as everything-but-us. In other words, the understanding of nature as the realm of external stuff, which is studied by science, lends an aura of objectivity and permanence to the understanding of nature as norm. The two mingle and interact so that we frequently lose sight of the distinction.

Indeed, one writer in the "communications" field, who has figured prominently in the emergence of the study now called semiotics, essentially equated nature with myth—not myth in the colloquial sense as superstitious or erroneous belief, or as primitive cosmology, but myth as an accepted story of the way the world is. Roland Barthes treats myth as something of a second-order sign, and a sign, in turn, as the useful outcome of the juxtaposition of a "signifier" and a "signified." If we combine a signifier, a rose, for example, with a signified, such as passion, we have the rose as a meaningful sign, as a "passionified rose." Once established, that sign has, as it were, a life of its own: it "means." Similarly,, on a second level we might take that sign as a new signifier which, in montage with a signified, creates a higher-order sign-system or "myth". And the danger of myth is that it will be taken not as a human creation but as an independent entity existing outside the realm of culture. It will be perceived, in other words, as nature, as a "factual system" when it is actually a "semiological system." And when we are able to remove the impression of human agency from our description of the world and insinuate a natural reality, we will appear to be dealing with indisputable facts.

But Barthes makes a surprising assertion in is discussion of mythology: he speaks of the need to "establish Nature is as historical." This seems contradictory, since we normally contrast the two as distinct and opposing realms. But he is speaking of the social use to which the concept nature is put, and the mixing of the two realms is a phenomenon of considerable importance. Barthes is especially sensitive to the creation of a "nature" myth, since mythmaking seems to him to be the way in which social ideals—and social injustices—become entrenched. They are immune from analysis or criticism once tehy cease to appear as human concepts and instead become perceived as eternal givens. In other words, once something is perceived as lying in the realm of nature rather than in the realm of society or history, it seems beyond criticism. By definition, it has nothing to do with us: we are not its architects. Why criticize a sunrise or a frog? That's just the way a frog or sunrise is, through nobodies fault. In fact, that is the way they were meant to be—an odd intuition, given that nature is no longer thought to have purposes or intentions. But this is the paradox: we resist the possibility of there being anything "human" in nature, including purpose and meaning, but then we proceed to use nature as a refugium for social ideals.

Back to me: useful, no? As it not unusual for me to stumble into a conversation in which  "that's just human nature..." kind of thinking and claims are bandied about, it's nice to have Evernden come through and clean up some of the rough edges... or, more exactly... he roughs up the smooth edges.

No smooth edges! That's where the bullshit is kept.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Incapable of Honesty: Everything needs to grow

Quite important, I'd say, to offer ourselves this occasional reminder:

An entity that is controlled by their stock price OR any entity that is driven by debt and interest — 1) stock price: any corporation 2) Debt: individuals, families, smaller businesses, governments — MUST GROW in order to survive financially. Industrial growth requires the destruction of the natural world on a large scale.

Is the path beaten? We're clear on this?

This is very bad, because growth isn't possible without intense destruction (and there is less left to destroy everyday), and the money we're using isn't real (by which I mean, it isn't directly connected to a debt, and there is no intention of ever repaying it) Side note: I recently saw a link to this: an asshole you might have heard of, Peter Schiff, laughing about how the American Debt can and will never be repaid. That is obviously true, but that idea is quite useful in getting your head wrapped around the idea that money isn't real.

Financial collapse has already taken place. It's just that the very powerful have a vested interest in pretending it didn't (creating more fake money, "qualitative easing" etc.), and they're going to consolidate their power, while using a bunch of misdirection and over-the-average-Joe's head nonsense about the nature of things.

Back to the point I'm attempting to hit: further growth (on a global scale) is impossible. Can't be done. Thanks. So when these assholes, like Barack Obama, talk about a Jobs Bill, let me translate:

Obama: We're going to take fake financial wealth (maybe... and just a little bit) from the rich, and then pay for the rest by creating fake money (the so-called American military and banks enforces the need for other countries to accept this money: see Hussein, Qaddafi) in order to get more people to work — often doing not at all useful things — so that they can have some of that fake money. And, so long as the fake money training keeps chugging, it can be used to get you a roof, food, a car, and whatever bullshit you deem "needed".

That is the plan. It is, needless to say, a very very very very very bad plan for the overall well-being of the planet.

Here's a plan worth working towards:

1) Dump property rights in the fucking trashcan. Over a million homes sit empty in this country. Most of these homes are shitty (not because they aren't "nice" but because they are designed with the accoutrements of industrial society) but they're better than camping outside in the winter. Idea: try to start sharing land in your neighborhood, if this is possible, for projects. Also, just start using city land as if it were everyone's to use. Do this with all unoccupied land, if you can think of something to do with it. In a minute, I'm going to pick-axe the grass in the unused parking strip across the way from the place I live, throw some cardboard over it, and add a few inches of compost (sheet-mulching) — in the spring it will be ready for seeds. A little less food that has to be trucked = preparing for the world we'll be living in.

If you're going to participate politically, focus your attention on property rights (I know, not easy)... because any talk about MORE JOBS and SHARING THE (financial) WEALTH is fucking insane. Work for money (jobs) is a shitty paradigm.

People are sick and dying because of stress and disgusting polluted food. Give everyone a home, and we'll take a little nick out of the stress factor... health just went up.

2) Stop thinking selling your time for money is a "good" thing (even if you like your job, in which case, that's great). I know it is currently necessary... I know I know I know. Unless you're willing to nomad (essentially illegal in itself in this place) you need to make money somehow — but stop thinking it is a good thing. It isn't. It is later than you think, you'll die soon, exchanging your time for money is a bad idea. What would you exchange your time for? Nothing! Which is not to say you don't do things... goodness no! Plenty of work to do. Obviously. But your life is not a fucking quid pro quo, damn it — especially one where the shitty end of the stick is exclusively yours to carry.

3) Turn off the fucking television. It is showing you the creatures of the corporations (media and the corporations who advertise there) who absolutely rely on their stock price. As we've already covered, they are inherently insane, and you'd be wise to get away from their message.

4) Use the computer to help you not need the computer. Habits are hard to break. Good luck. Use the machine to get yourself interested in growing food, building/modifying/repairing shelters, and then go do it. Oh, wait... plenty of other cool little hobbies can be picked up online, as you ween yourself away from the 'puter. I've recently taken to watching online drawing tutorials and practicing — fun!

Alright, I was going to ramble more, but the rain has stopped gushing, I'm getting out there.


(you are already prepared for) The Meaning of Life

Many have tried to reduce The Meaning of Life to a quotable (and ideally patentable) phrase or two, and in trying they did... they did... you know, something.

I — in just a moment — will render all past attempts meaningless, phony, incomplete.

You are ready? Yes. I am ready? Yes. Here we go:

The Meaning of Life, stated simply, is to: Prove Your Worth to All Those BETTER Than You!

Already Done, just follow the plan
Thankfully, our betters have already put the test in place. You and I, She and He, we're all taking the Meaning of Life test... today, yesterday, and tomorrow. Let's check the scorecard.

Will I prove to my betters that I know how to be a "team-player"? You're god damn right I will! I've played for TEAM "US against THEM" since high school, where I learned to mercilessly crush my opponent on the ball field!

Will I prove that I ignore my body, and that external measures like clocks and feed-times are how I prefer to sleep and eat? Just look at me, do I look like someone who listens to their body (farts, from years of blindly eating that which disagrees with them)? Look at these bags under my eyes! Do I look 50? God damn right I do... you'll be pleased to know, I'm barely 34 years old. I'm going to milk this body for every penny it can squeeze!

Will I prove to them that I know how to "carry myself"... just as everybody else? Here are my receipts from clothing stores found in every city in the land — and look, I used a major bank card. I walked past a homeless person this morning and didn't even — not for a moment — stop thinking about my career goals. And... I'm fucking green baby, as we speak, I'm climbing the waiting list for a Nissan Leaf... my Prius is going in the fucking trash can!

Will I prove that the I don't enjoy the drugs that my betters find un-fit for the masses? Here's my piss, my hair, and you can even take a lap around my asshole if you like... whatever you need! I'm drug-free! Now pass the slave-made sugar and coffee, I have some papers (with abstract figures representing the lives of plants and animlas) to push around.

Will I prove that I have no spine whatsoever, and no matter what piece of shit new deal comes my way, I'll accept it? A certain nothing is always better than an uncertain something... that's my mantra! Let's keep going, for King and Country!

And ladies, don't forget to smile, makes the boys feel better.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My day at Occupy Seattle

When the sun shines, and air and sun team up to create warmth — in October, mind you, with the cool daily drizzle ready to dominant the coming months — Seattle people would be wise to make-a-day-of-it. I went-a-protestin'.

Now, I've been to a few protests, and in those experiences, I've found it quite difficult to maintain interest and energy (chanting the same shit over and over, listening to rally speakers... I end up tip-toeing away within an hour... and on a sunny day? Fuck! I knew I wouldn't last long). Therefore, I went a slightly different route: character performance.

I figured I'd flip the argument — knowing that "bankers are bad", and "we're getting screwed by the rich and powerful" would be a dominant theme of the day — I designed to become the rich and powerful, and offer the good people of Seattle thanks for all they do for me... I became The Happy Banker.

The costume was simple: a dark suit was out of the question, so I went with the bounciest business attire I had on hand (pink and blue tie). I made a little paper-sun cutout, wrote "It's Always Sunny in Banker-ville" on one side, drew a sunglassed smily face on the other, and used a coat hanger to attach it to my shirt. I was reluctant to make a sign, but ultimately did, both sides were notes of thanks:

A) Dear American Mythos, Your Worship of the Rich and Hatred for the Poor makes me a Happy Banker!
B) Dear Police and Politicians, You Protect My Right to Pillage and Privatize the Planet. You're the best, all my love, Happy Banker.

The plan was to stroll around Seattle's shopping district (the Occupy Seattle protest/rally was in the same space) and thank people for all the banker-loving behavior they engage in. The protest itself, as expected, was concentrated in one area, with very little protestor to non-protestor interaction... there were a few circles where people seemed to be entrenched in discussion... but the majority of people were quietly standing around awaiting instructions (as you do). So, I jumped into character and went at it... here are a few of my go-to moves:

1) Chanting: "Spend! Spend! Spend! Spend! (as I danced down the street)
2) Encouraging people, "remember to keep voting for whichever party you vote for... a vote for them is a vote for me!"
3) Telling drivers (lots of rolled-down windows yesterday) that is was time for a new car (I only yelled this to people driving new cars)
4) Chanting: "Impulse Buy! Impulse Buy! Just put it on the credit card! Impulse Buy!"
5) Simply asking people if they used a bank card today, when they said yes (as the almost always did), I thanked them.
6) People that were either sitting or standing still would get a "why aren't you spending money?" or "Go shopping! Right now!"
7) Standing in front of the houses of JP Morgan and Bank of America, I demanded passers-by "give thanks and praise to your betters"

And a lot more of that kind of stuff. The pace proved exhausting. Most of my exchanges took place in the 4 to 5 seconds in which you can speak to someone as you walk past each other, and in such quick succession that I only had time to gasp a breath and readjust my smile before finding my next good consumer to praise — all told, I had hundreds of these exchanges. I took a harder line a few times. Standing in front of The GAP, I celebrated the mostly young-ish who entered and exited regarding how GREAT! it is to be an impulsive clothes-shopper... as opposed to the "unfortunate indignity" that Vietnamese seamstresses experience for 64 cents an hour. Needless to say, those exchanges contained some less-than-playful venom, combined with the "Huh?" quizzical glances from the kids who shop at GAP... and I returned to my safer style within a few minutes.

Stressing how idiotic consumerism is, rather than its effects on the distance people and places who are disproportionately crapped on, felt like a weak move on my part... but, I supposed most people would be more affected by the insinuation that they are foolish and wasting their own life rather than criticizing a slightly indirect series of actions that steps on a foreign stranger and the land base (because, ya know, nobody really gives a shit about any of that?).

The overall reception ranged from indifference to smiles and laughs (only a few "get a life" style retorts). Ostensibly, the pedestrians in Seattle's shopping district understood what I was up to... they knew I was mocking our often mindless consumerism and the disgusting nature of global capitalism, but since I wasn't threatening,   perhaps my message might have had a little more room to sneak in? I dunno. The 5 o'clock March went one way and I was going the other, I headed home, pleased with my performance, happy to have been able to enjoy the day.

Despite all my fun, the reality of this fucked up culture was most apparent as I traveled to and from the protest... daily evidence of the destruction, for those willing to look. I took the bus. From my house, there are two bus lines that'll get me downtown in about 10 minutes. One line is black and latino, poor and depressed — it runs early and often. The other takes a path along the water, catering to the well-to-do beneficiaries of the dominator culture — it runs only once an hour only on weekend afternoons (for obvious reasons). I took the fancy bus on the way up. The Happy Banker received full smiles and waves hello, people chatted me up and "admired" my action. This was predictable, good progressive behavior. On the way back, I took the depressed and oppressed route. Nobody speaking (certainly not to me). Heads down. Eyes averted. Everybody looked tired. I didn't see one person who looked to be enjoying their day.

That's what we should all be making a stink about. The permanent under-class that fuels a economic system designed to destroy everything and one it touches.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Life Alert!

On the couch with my sweet love, eating sunflower seeds, enjoying music, watching the baseball performance. Commercial comes on, I've seen this product before. The volume is off, so it's just the images.

Worried old lady looks spooked, old person writhing on the ground (image gets fuzzy and stained an odd color, to let us know the old person is damaged), next we see "good news, relief" face, fire fighter and paramedics, happily ever after... you know this ad?

I've probably seen an ad for Life Alert! a few hundred times (I watched the Price is Right with my grandparents for years), and never before has this it induced the recognition of what the advertisement is so clearly announcing:

Elderly American humans live alone, and in a space that they believe is just waiting to claim their life — their own home. Scared and destroyed... press a button and someone will come save you — this is a thrashing condemnation of the health of this culture.

What the fuck? Life ALERT! Their website claims that they, quote: save a life from catastrophe every 11 minutes!

Horrifying. Frail old people living alone, living alone, living alone? Old people live alone... bizarre.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Warden at Kid Prison Calls for a Walk-Out

School is the death machine — totally fucked. I know we all "know" this, but please, I ask you, spend a moment with that nugget of truth. Dream on it if you will. Don't allow your self to idealize what school "could be". It isn't that. It is the systematic normalization of coercion, or, more directly: the way kids learn to sell their time to something they don't want to do... the beginning of their end.

Get a move on: save the little ones from that which poisons them. Say something to someone, especially if that someone has kids.

Where does the critical mass kick in? Just pull your kid out, quit your job or whatever if you must and get a parent/child business of sorts (what?)... inaction is our great weakness — the reasonableness that instructs sending your kids to school is insanity.

They are your children! And that school is a house of the dominant culture. Don't let them go to that house. Come up with something less awful. You can do it.