Posts Tagged ‘activism’

42 Reasons Why A Jetpack Won’t Make You Happier

With all the recent internet hoopla surrounding October 21, 2015–a random, then-26-years-in-the-future date from a well-loved film, I thought this new music video was appropriately timely.

While fairly blunt in its execution—they don’t have the poetry or nuance of Neon Bible or Suburbs-era Arcade Fire—I still must say Bravo, YACHT!
As Robin Hilton writes in her introduction to the ‘Future’ video, “Disappointment is part of America’s DNA. It is as though its citizens are born with the desire for something better, fueling much of the country’s entrepreneurial and creative output; but even if everyone had personal jet-packs by now, they’d still be left unsatisfied. And much of what’s produced to fill the void is just ridiculous.”

As usual, I would certainly zoom out for the big picture and revise to say that disappointment isn’t uniquely something American, rather it’s part of civilization’s DNA. DQ sums it up nicely in one of his most exhaustive passages (bear with me, it’s a good one):

“For hundreds of thousands of years, people as smart as you had had a way of life that worked well for them. The descendants of these people can today still be found here and there, and wherever they’re found in an untouched state, they give every evidence of being perfectly content with their way of life. They’re not at war with each other, generation against generation or class against class. They’re not plagued by anguish, anxiety, depression, self-hatred, crime, madness, alcoholism, and drug addiction. They don’t complain of oppression and injustice. They don’t describe their lives as meaningless and empty. They’re not seething with hatred and rage. They don’t look into the sky, yearning for contact with gods and angels and prophets and alien spacemen and spirits of the dead. And they don’t wish someone would come along and tell them how to live. This is because they already know how to live, as ten thousand years ago humans everywhere knew how to live. But knowing how to live was something the people of your culture had to destroy in order to make themselves the rulers of the world.

“They were sure they’d be able to replace what they destroyed with something just as good, and they’ve been at it ever since, trying one thing after another, giving the people anything they can think of that might fill the void. Archaeology and history tell a tale five thousand years long of one Taker society after another groping for something to placate and inspire, something to amuse and distract, something to make people forget a misery that for some strange reason simply will not go away. Festivals, revels, pageants, temple solemnities, pomp and circumstance, bread and circuses, the ever-present hope of attaining power, riches, and luxury, games, dramas, contests, sports, wars, crusades, political intrigue, knightly quests, world exploration, honors, titles, alcohol, drugs, gambling, prostitution, opera, theater, the arts, government, politics, careers, political advantage, mountain climbing, radio, television, movies, show business, video games, computers, the information superhighway, money, pornography, the conquest of space — something here for everyone, surely, something to make life seem worth living, something to fill the vacancy…”

If My Ishmael had been written in our early 21st century instead of the late 20th (or if Quinn ever decides to update it), he could easily add the high-tech gadgetry that YACHT parodies in their video—“social media apps, wearable technology, VR, drones, self-balancing scooters (“hoverboards”), selfie sticks, Soylent, vape pens”—to the end of his list^ of “the endless, sad parade of distraction-enticing creations pawned off as advancements”.

Before it can be challenged, we must recognize the truth that this ‘disappointment’ is not an innate part of human nature, but rather is directly caused by the ‘Great Forgetting’ and the system of oppression and exploitation—civilization itself—that grew out of it.
You are not an app. Regain the human potential that has been taken from us without our consent. Remove these distractions; learn to recognize, combat, and resist the system that continues to dole them out year after year, each one more pointless and destructive than the last.

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Riots, revelers, teams, and tribes

Whenever local public outrage boils over following a flashpoint murder of an unarmed person of color by a member of the State’s domestic terrorism arm (read:the Police), I usually see at least one social media post by an educated, left-leaning friend like this:

In other words, when a large number of (largely) Caucasian college students and/or sports fans get together in public to celebrate their chosen sports team’s victory by overturning automobiles and burning couches, it’s usually depicted and described by the Media as ‘reveling’…

But when a large number of persons of color get together in public to express their frustration over what has become increasingly clear is the systemic murder of members of their community by those who exist to supposedly ‘serve and protect’ those communities, it’s usually described by the Media as ‘rioting’.

Please note that I’m not addressing looting—which does occur in connection with both types of unrest. Looters, as far as I’m concerned, are a few bad apples making the larger group look bad: criminals, plain and simple, who are taking advantage of unrest in order to commit crimes.
What I am addressing is folks getting together in public, in connection with recent events, to protest—by-and-large nonviolently—police abuses.

Why this difference in how these types of unrest are described? It’s not entirely about race—you have to take a step back and look at the big picture:
42915The reason why sports-related riots are depicted as ‘reveling’ and mass protests are depicted as ‘riots’ is this: because in the sports riots, violence is directed horizontally, contained within the bottom of the pyramid, and it only serves to reinforce arbitrary divisions between artificial tribes (sports teams and their fans). However, the violence (or even non-violence) of a protesting populace is directed in another direction: upwards—from the bottom of the pyramid towards the systems of violence, power, and control at the top…and that’s when the militarized tacti-cops and their SWAT vans come out to play:
7052b-ferguson2bmilitarized2briot2bpoliceThe current power systems in place recognize that the violence of rioting sports fans doesn’t pose a threat to them, and so the ‘revelers’ are allowed their night of diversionary couch-burning fun. Jerry M. Lewis explains quite adeptly how,
“In America the rioting is typically with young white males, and it’s always after championship play or an important playoff game. Why do they do it? It’s a way they identify with the victory. Fan violence becomes an act of sporting success. They can’t dunk a basketball, but they can be violent, which is a metaphor for athletic success.”

Indeed! Being a sports-fan now is primarily a passive pursuit (sit and watch TV)—unless your team wins, in which case, you’d better prove you’re a true fan and flip that car.
And why is this behavior seen “typically with young white males”? As Daniel Quinn writes,

“For ten thousand years you’ve believed that you have the one right way for people to live. But for the last [four] decades or so, that belief has become more and more untenable with every passing year. You may think it odd that this is so, but it’s the men of your culture who are being hit the hardest by the failure of your cultural mythology. They have (and have always had) a much greater investment in the righteousness of your revolution. In coming years, as the signs of collapse become more and more unmistakable, you’ll see them withdraw ever more completely into the surrogate world of male success, the world of sports.”

It’s a great irony—only after abandoning a tribal society in favor of a hierarchical, pyramid-shaped one, our culture found that its men still needed tribes to belong to and identify with…and so professional sports teams were born. Now, if you want to join a tribe, instead undergoing a painful initiation ritual, all you have to do is go out and buy a jersey and some facepaint, and scream louder and burn more couches than the other team’s fans—it’s macho posturing in the same way that tribal folk for a million years have been painting themselves up to both show their affiliations, and intimidate other groups. Unfortunately, at the core of this modern incarnation are petty, arbitrary divisions that only serve to distract and divide an ignorant population—to say nothing of the ubiquitous and constant advertising!

A quick note on folk music and outdated memes

Alynda Lee Segarra … noticed that her own people — music makers and music lovers — would regularly sing along with choruses about killing women, comfortably accepting gender-based violence as part of the ballad tradition. No more, she said. “The Body Electric” was her intervention.” (Ann Powers, writing on NPR’s music blog).

Might I say that it’s ABOUT DAMN TIME someone in the national folk-music scene took this head-on?

Look, I like ‘traditional folk’ music as much as the next guy, but when the memes encoded in a ‘traditional’ song (no matter how beloved) are completely status quo, I will never be able to give a shit about it: I’m not so blindly loyal to a given style of music that I’m going to listen/learn/perform a song just because it’s old.

Face it: the devaluation of feminine life–the meme at the heart of this woman-killin’-murder-ballad genre–has been a ‘traditional’ part of Our Culture for the last several thousand years…and as readers of this site will know: I got no time for that shit. “Get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand”, and all that.

(Pretty much the only murder ballad I’ll listen to is Okkervil River’s “Westfall”, and the main reason is because it doesn’t just describe and then stop after the murder (as so many ‘traditional’ songs do) but goes on and at least has *something* to say.)

Why I Do What I Do.

We interrupt our regularly-scheduled programming…
While I normally reserve my non-television-related posts for the off-season, I have to share this while it’s still hot off the presses.

A great bit of weekend reading is just out from Robert Jensen, taken from his recent print publication and entitled “Rationally Speaking, We Are All Apocalyptic Now“. It’s a tight, less-than-1,000-word essay, and it’s absolutely spot-on.

‘What oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed’, indeed.
This is the reason why I continually espouse the genius of Max Brooks’ WWZ. This is why The Matrix is one of the most unappreciated blockbusters ever. This is why I just wrapped up a 12,000-word project on Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs (and I’m just getting started). This is why I read Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings is apocalyptic to its core: epic Life-affirming adventuring against Industry threatening to bring about the End of the World). This is why I have a very hard time listening to most music, watching most TV, or reading most fiction—I don’t like to turn off my brain; I like to think, and I like to think about these kinds of things ^ because they’re important.

Doomsday Preppers: Jay Blevins

The season’s next episode (‘Bad Times All the Time’) opens with a look at a Bible-study-group-turned-neighborhood ‘prepping network’, something we haven’t seen on the show before. The group seems pretty sizable, comprising 20 families, 75 to 100 people in total (right there’s yer tribe!).

jayblevinsWe focus on one Jay Blevins, former LEO, husband and father of three living in Berryville, VA (near Washington DC).

Like most folks on the show, his issue is the “breakdown of social order following economic collapse.” However, Mr Blevins also displays an astute understanding of the world Our Culture has made. While I think a lot of people know deep down that these things are true, our ambient Mother Culture has been doing her best to keep us oblivious, or at least distracted. The way he sees it, the “world will soon enter a global depression—causing unemployment worse than the Great Depression—that could collapse civilized society altogether.” He goes on to say that “When people can’t get jobs and can’t feed their families, that will set them off”, due to the “very thin fabric that holds together civilized society.”
I really like the way he words this concern, instead of saying ‘economic collapse will end the world as we know it!’ like so many on this show do; it shows he’s aware that to talk about Our Culture is to talk about Civilization, and he is aware—however subconsciously—that Our Culture is not Humanity.  Of course, to take the inverse corollaries of his statements reveal the price we’ve paid for our ‘progress’—that the destruction of Our monetary-wealth economy would not collapse uncivilized societies, thanks to the very thick fabric that holds together those cultures—the creation and imposition of an economy based on property-as-wealth (as opposed to one based on tribal-support-as-wealth) being one of the chief differences between un/civilization.   This, of course, is where my rewilding-as-survival drive of the last five years comes from—once I recognized the inherent weakness of our civilizational experiment, compared to the inherent strength of so-called ‘primitive’ cultures, I knew which one would still be around in a hundred years.

In the event of a panicked, jobless populace swarming his ’burb, Jay is prepared to rely on what Law Enforcement calls the “Circle of Force”—starting with verbal commands, and moving through hand-to-hand, pepper spray, impact/blunt weapons, edged weapons, on up to handgun and finally rifle. Makes an impressive display on the garage floor, but I’m not too sure about the ‘samurai sword’ his wife picks up.
So, to implement that Circle, he decides he’s going to make some pepper spray at home. DIY spirit! He mixes up a few batches and loads them into his ‘delivery systems’—Super Soakers!, which is totally awesome. Some might think it’s silly, but the ol’ watergun can be surprisingly versatile: when I was a youngling, one of our cows got a nasty abrasion on her side, which made her too mad to let us doctor it. I filled up a squirtgun with hydrogen peroxide, pumped it up, and cleaned the wound from a safe distance behind a fence! I even got my name published in a farm magazine for my ‘Hundred-Dollar Idea’!
Well, Jay mixes up his homemade pepper spray, and then ‘recruits’ a few buddies to be his guinea pigs. The unlucky sods charge his backyard while Jay does his best to aim for their eyes; they get it right in the faces and fall to their knees, but it doesn’t seem to affect them as fast as Jay would like. Still, for making fairly-effective improvised chemical defenses, you’ve gotta give the guy props.

As a test of their neighborhood defense plan, part of the network stage a mock assault on the Blevins castle. The bottom windows are boarded up with plywood hurricane-style, but with the addition of a two-by-four across the windowframe on the inside, with a threaded bolt holding the two tight together. The second-floor windows they leave open, to facilitate an ‘atrium effect’ (firing down is way easier than firing up); sounds like a winning strategy. They run the drill with airsoft guns, and decide that anyone who goes so far as to break into a well-defended house is going to get massacred. I’m not sure how realistic their scenario is, because in a horde-of-urban-refugees situation, I imagine people trickling in at first, not coalescing into groups until later. But hey, it’s all hypothetical.

The experts give Jay 58 points for 8 months initial survival time (I’m guessing that doesn’t take the whole neighborhood network into account), telling them to get a plan to heat their house in a long-term grid-down situation, and for once I actually agree with them (of course, I’m pretty sure our underlying rationales are different).
Why is the Blevins’ house not prepared for life off the grid? Because the forces that govern our culture are unable to imagine a situation in which the grid does not exist—the foundation thinkers of our culture believed that our way of life is normal, natural, and the one right way humans were meant to live.
Like our culture as a whole, houses built within that culture are designed to be one-size-fits-all answers to shelter, heating, cooling, and sanitation. This is why houses are identical whether you live in Toronto, New York, Moscow or Paris, the same way that Our Culture (people sell their time at ‘jobs’ for money to purchase locked-up food) is the same in Los Angeles, London, Beijing, or Mumbai. A properly-designed home should be a product of its local environment, while providing for its inhabitants without reliance on the fragile grid. A woodstove would be a good start, but a intentionally-designed, celestially-aligned house (big southern windows to take advantage of winter sun) could provide heating and cooling with no effort on the part of the homeowner; a rain catchment system would provide water, and a humanure set-up would provide sanitation without the need to pollute clean drinking water (which, in the grid, must be treated with toxic chemicals).
The civilized system has been compared—rightly, I might add—to a Machine. As Max Brooks is fond of explaining, “How many parts are there in a car? I don’t know, but it only takes one to make it break down”; our culture is no different, and from his comments, Mr Blevins seems to recognize that.

In his post-filming update, we see that not only has Jay turned in his tactical cop duds for friendly flannel, they’ve also planted a big garden and fruit trees, and started canning. Thumbs-up!

The Green Man Says: Day of Action

Ten years after the Seattle WTO riots, Monday, November 30 was again a date of protest, as activist groups across the nation organized and took action as a prologue to the upcoming climate talks in Copenhagen.  In the Commonwealth, students made plans to call attention to issues of coal-fired power plants, mountaintop removal mining, and other unsustainable practices on their campuses.  An independent group of students planned a series of “banner drops” on Transy’s campus as part of this national event, only to have the banners removed within mere minutes of being unfurled.  Apparently,  the Administration found accusations of “greenwashing” and Dr. Seuss’s Lorax to be a serious threat to campus wellbeing, and called the Physical Plant to yank them down.

The very fact that a banner quoting Dr. Seuss (“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot,/nothing is going to get better – It’s not.”) was almost-immediately ripped down is very telling; it’s almost a microcosm of the issues surrounding the environmental movement.  I really don’t think any of these students were looking for trouble or wanting to cause a fuss; instead, they were just trying a more visible way to get the attention of the campus community, because apparently, nothing else seems to be working.  Giving people food for thought–as these banners were meant to do–can help change opinions, but how is this to happen if said banners are quickly removed?

In the end, it all comes down to the status quo.  Old, tried-and-true institutions (the coal industry, for example, though there are many others) got where they are today by avoiding change, for fear of being inconvenienced or reasons of economy.  In a conversation with Fareed Zakaria earlier this year, Thomas Friedman (author of Hot, Flat, and Crowded) remarked that, instead of a supposed “green revolution”, “We’re having a green party. … You’ll know the green revolution is happening when you see some bodies—corporate bodies—along the side of the road: companies that didn’t change and therefore died.”

In a recent Newsweek article (“The Plan That Saved The Planet”), Al Gore urged us to give our answer to environmental issues“—not in words but in actions.”  On November 30, a handful of Transy students decided to do the same; hanging some sheets from windows and trees to send a message for just a few minutes to say, “We know what’s going on.  Most of you may be apathetic or slaves to the status quo, but some of us want to see some change around here.”

And as an aside, pointing the finger of greenwashing at the administration (as one of the dreadful banners did) is completely justified—making a big deal about sustainability initiatives while at the same time demonstrating an irrational fear of fallen leaves requiring the daily use of gas-powered leafblowers? Yeah, that’s greenwashing.