Posts Tagged ‘change’

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!

Kill the K-cup


Single-use products like these need to be taken out back behind the shed, and shot.
Leave it to the Global North to be in such a hurry that it demands a complicated electronic machine to make single servings of coffee, that will likely either break (non-user-repairable) or be replaced (planned obsolescence) in two years, and creates non-recyclable waste with every use.
I signed it. Will you?

This culture of maximum convenience is also the culture of maximum harm.

For the record, the only responsible solution (if you have to drink coffee in the first place) is to head down to your local antique store, pick up a vintage moka pot:
buy organic fair-trade beans, and compost the grounds (roses love them). You may be slightly inconvenienced, but when this is the alternative, suck it up.

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.)

Doomsday Preppers: ‘the Lifeboat’

Season Three’s last episode—which I really hope will also be DP’s last as a series—starts off in south-central Texas, with a group of would-be survivors under the leadership of a fellow named Joe:
Joe’s segment of the episode feels like a throwback to seasons one and two, as this time it seems there’s no big Prepper Project to fixate upon and fetishize.
He’s worried about an impending cyber-attack, which he believes would see America “reduced to horse-and-buggy days, or at best the 1950s”. I’m not really sure what to make of that, I guess mid-20th-century tech was more analog than today’s digital gadgets, but they still ran on copious amounts of electric Juice, and so were still very much reliant on the grid.

In the requisite show-off-the-goodies bit, ‘nam vet Joe has stockpiled his little group of 28 with two years worth of food, 1500 gallons of water (which, at a gallon per person per day, is less than two months worth, so I hope they have a resupply plan), and a fancy ‘communications center’ full of radios he hopes to use to contact fellow survivalists.

There’s a segment where Joe and his well-educated wife D’Ann (pronounced Dee-Ann, apparently) get some folks together and talk about setting up formal schooling for their little post-disaster colony. Y’know, because as Joe says, “to reestablish society (*eye twitch*), you’re going to need education.”
Dude, don’t worry—when our culture’s little civilizational experiment goes belly-up sooner (more likely) or later (as it will, unless our dominant paradigm—Business-As-Usual—changes), the folks still hanging around will still be learning, just as people were learning long before our culture came along and started building pyramids. However, I’d probably bet their learning won’t be spent in a series of concrete boxes, in a little uncomfortable desk for nearly half the day for twelve years, memorizing the names of dead, old white men and the dates of battles against less civilized Others, probably all while being advertised at. I’d bet their ‘education’ won’t be designed to keep them out of the labor market until an arbitrary age at which point some of them will go become the reliable worker/consumer-cogs they’ve been trained to be, while some will go on to more of the same type of ‘education’, proving they can sit in little desks for four more years, before going on to be slightly-higher-paid worker/consumer-cogs. Because that’s how education works when your culture’s Way Of Life revolves around keeping your head down, being obedient, and collecting green paper (to be exchanged for locked-up food).
This piece does a good job exploring the issue, but in a less-grumpy package! Basically, children learn best when they’re allowed to follow their own interests and learn organically.
Unfortunately, Joe’s little post-disaster school begins by making an improvised blackboard, which is fine if your education system is all about rote memorization and sitting in rows. Then they weed through a bunch of donated books to be ‘preserved’ against digital obsolescence. They put a priority on ‘The Classics’ and Math and Science. I wonder how many of those ‘classics’ they themselves have read, and appreciate, and how many they’re just keeping around because they’re ‘The Classics’?

And then the other shoe drops, when Joe declares that he is “developing a lifeboat to ensure the continuation of humanity.”
Wait, what? Is he suggesting that his digital disaster of choice could somehow make the human species extinct? I understand that he’s worried about a “Level Three cyber-attack that will disable our tech-driven culture” (to which I roll my eyes and say sarcastically, ‘Oh no…’), but maybe I missed something along the way where he makes the leap from ‘grid-down’ to ‘Extinction-Level Event’?

Regardless, here’s (one of the many places) where self-identified preppers and I part ways. Folks on this show always frame their fear-arguments in terms of what would be lost in the event of their disaster of choice. I, on the other hand, imagine what would be gained (or regained) should something happen to cause our culture to take a little trip down the complexity ladder it’s built for itself.

Anyway, in the course of all this lifeboat-retreat-group stuff, there’s some father-figure drama between Joe and Welder Wes (a ‘security specialist with military experience’ who just comes across as a fuckup). There’s also some go-nowhere fluff where Wes tries to set off yet another improvised trap involving a shotgun shell (in the name of ‘perimeter defenses’). You know you’re dealing with Old Minds when borders are ‘hard’ (instead of fluid) and to be defended with force.
And, really? We’re meant to believe that their crack ‘military strategist’, a supposed ‘former Navy SEAL’, is this toothless cowboy-hobo ‘Catfish’? Give me a break.

What’s halfway framed as their Prepper Project is the guys putting a little work in getting their gyrocopter to fly. I dunno, while it looks like a helluva lot of fun to tool around in a small aircraft with apocalyptic pedigree:
the great Bruce Spence in 'The Road Warrior', for you unfortunates(and who wouldn’t love a bird’s-eye view of your own backyard?), it also looks pretty complex. To paraphrase Max Brooks, “How many moving parts are there in a [gyrocopter]? I don’t know, but it only takes one to break and take it offline.”

As his little sum-up segment, Joe espouses how “We live in a very fragile world that we created for ourselves. We’re reliant upon systems that are reliable as long as they’re untouched, but once they fail we’re in real trouble.”

Why is it that while I often agree with these folks’ opening and closing statements, it’s the in-between parts that leave me banging my head against the wall?

Doomsday Preppers: Robert

After a break for Thanksgivukkah, I’m back with season three’s next collection of elaborate survival-related construction projects, episode Survival is an Ugly Beast.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentFirst up is Robert (no last name) of somewhere outside Dallas, TX; the episode guide says he operates a ‘survival store’ in the area?

He’s a former serviceman (Airforce) and it shows. It’s kind of disarming, because his face really reminds me of Cody Lundin, except that Rob ’Roids is bald, sweaty, sausage-necked, and on the complete opposite side of the spectrum from the AboDude.

Anyway, Rob is “preparing for martial law”, *summarily execute mannequin*; so…that’s pretty telling.
As before, a minimal amount of time is spent ‘showing off preps’. Their around-the-house stuff isn’t horrible: in addition to two years’ worth of stacked foodbuckets, he has two pretty big pv-solar panels and a battery bank he claims can power the house for a week. Not sure if that’s a week of normal Amerikan usage (all the lights on, bigscreen TV, A/C, dishwasher, &c.), but if they were to preemptively adopt a low-power lifestyle, that stored juice might last them two weeks or more, post-disaster! Also, I’m not sure if the batteries are ‘saved’ for emergency use only or if they just use that juice day-to-day? I’m hoping the latter, though I suspect the former.

And while the narrator announces that “Rob makes his own bullets”, it’d be more accurate to say he’s a reloader. Which of course brings us to his ‘stockpile of weapons’, because “firearms are important at any time, but especially after martial law is declared!” Alright, if you say so.
Rob shows off his arsenal of overpowered, high-capacity boom-sticks, up to and including a .50-caliber rifle (“If you can’t stop them with this, you probably need a tank!”—which is apparently what he expects to go up against).
Ugh. Seriously, this kind of puffed-up, ‘guns equal masculinity’, fetishizing, overcompensation nonsense is possibly the most significant—yet overlooked-by-most—root causes behind the rash of school- and other mass shootings in recent decades. Of course, you’ll never hear that perspective on the network news, which instead focus on mental health and gun control, which are easy to ‘fix’ in our system’s traditional manner—all together now: make a Program and throw money at it, while avoiding introspection and discussion (which might lead to making actual cultural changes). Blerg.

Anyway, Rob links up with his ‘Nam-vet friend Gary, and decides the best way to protect his “family, supplies, and freedoms” is to surround his property with booby-traps. Honestly, I have a feeling we’re just seeing two grown men cutting loose and getting to act like boys for an afternoon. Because grown men making (and seriously considering using) booby-traps is all kinds of silly/disturbing, but goofing off with powertools and guns and building ridiculous, impractical ‘traps’ for shits and giggles sounds a whole lot like what I did with my buddies on the weekends in high school.

So, first up is an auditory alarm (tripwire + rat trap + shotshell), which doesn’t work. They bump it up a notch and move to tripwire + red phosphorus flares, which actually works, but will also probably burn down whatever tree you attach it to. Also, every single deer, coyote, or wild hog in the neighborhood would be setting off traps left and right. These are the kinds of things one must consider if you don’t want to do things half-assed.

Next up is essentially a punji-stick pit trap. Hey, don’t forget to smear ‘em with poop!
They ‘test’ it with a pig’s head. Whoo. I guess either Rob is only considering two-legged intruders, or he’s really hurting for wild game, because widespread use of spikey fall traps would result in a whole lotta dead-or-maimed critters.
Last up—because it’s not an episode of Doomsday Preppers without a tannerite explosion!—they put some boom-powder in some livestock tubs, surround with mannequins, and explode. Whoo.

Oh, and because context is for the weak, there’s a bit in which Rob tests out some one-way bulletproof glass. He shoots at it from one side, and then crawls into an empty oil drum and shoots up another mannequin. No idea what the point of that was, but for what it’s worth, enclosed metal spaces aren’t the best for shooting in without ear/eye protection.

And in the midst of all this, there’s a big chunk of drama spent worrying about a thunderstorm when Rob’s wife Wendy runs to pick up their daughter at school; she’s a little late getting back and Rob turns into a nervous wreck, because as he says, pretty much his only reason for existing is to protect them. Yet again—why not get the wife and daughter involved?: take a family survival course, get some skills and know-how, make sure every vehicle has a roadside survival kit, and hope for the best? I’m totally sick of all of these gung-ho, ex-mil Patriarchs thinking that the responsibility for family safety falls entirely on their shoulders—it shouldn’t.

The experts’ scoreless assessment pats Rob on the back for doing some TV-friendly stunts and suggests he think about storing seeds for food resupply. Rob responds with some corporate/military buzzword-y nonsense.

Doomsday Preppers: Kevin Barber

Like I said, ‘We Are the Marauders’ thankfully only referred to the previous numbskull. The other half of the episode consists of an update from a previous family profiled at the end of Season Two. And even better, this is a family that’s doing great things!
That’s right, Kevin Barber is back!

and, might I say, rocking a sweet suntan!

Last time we saw them, the Barbers had just packed up their suburban Kansas lives into a shipping container and moved to Costa Rica, where they set up a chicken coop and proceeded to eat a dozen kinds of fruit right off the trees.

They’re still required to have a single-issue preparedness motivator, so Kevin’s is still US&A Economic Collapse, but unlike pretty much every other person who talks into the camera on this show, Kevin doesn’t sound scared, paranoid, or like he’s spoiling for a fight, post-collapse. Instead, there’s just calm, levelheaded, healthy confidence. I wonder why that is? Could it be—just maybe—that Kevin seems to have peace of mind because his family’s survival plan takes a form that actually addresses his feared disaster? He’s not focused on hoarding guns, bullets, and purchased foodbuckets, or buttoning up in a concrete bunker—the Type I strategy held up by most would-be preppers as the one-size-fits-all ‘solution’ to every collapse contingency; such thinking is painfully inside-the-Box and as such only serves to play into the hand of the capitalist/consumerist system that bred the collapse in the first place. I have to believe the aura of fear that most preppers fairly radiate can only result from the realization that deep down, they know these ‘solutions’ are only temporary stop-gap measures: kicking the can, if you will, another six months or so further down the road (hmm, much like the US&A’s current infuriating pattern of debt-ceiling limit raising).
On the other hand we have Kevin Barber – who, instead of stumbling forward blind and unthinking, has hit the brakes on his suburban American daydream life long enough to take a good look at it, see what needs fixing, and make concrete changes to his way of life.

Down on their tropical homestead, we see Kevin and his wife setting up rain barrels for water storage, showing off their chicken coop, and compost system. In an extension of their last appearance, they’re now butchering their own chicken by themselves, AND they say some nice words for it before they dispatch it! Awesome.

However, the majority of the segment follows the family as they set up an aquaponics system, which unfortunately is chopped into five-minute snippets and spliced with said previous ‘marauder’ asshat. Blerg, I swear, the decision this season to intercut between segments has resulted in a whittling down of actual material by about half…which means the other half is spent recapping what we’ve just seen five minutes before. Ultimately I’m afraid it’s a chicken-or-egg quandary—is this kind of programming a cause of shorter attention spans, or simply appealing to them?

While they’re working on getting set up, a caption suggests that aquaponics may date back to the Aztec use of floating gardens (the chinampa system), which is a pretty cool idea; I’d never thought of it like that before, but it’s totally valid!
When the time comes for Kevin to dig the pits to put his various fish ponds and algae tanks in, he doesn’t foolishly attempt to do it single-handedly (as you might expect of a deluded, gung-ho, lone-wolf prepper)—he gets the neighbors involved! AND he speaks Spanish while working with them! Imagine that! Building community by coming to together to build a system that can contribute to a local, resilient economy! In other words, Kevin has taken a gigantic step towards true survival, a notion that terrifies Amerikans—he has ‘gone native’. How’s that for progress?!

In the end, this family is too cool. Major thumbs-up. Their ducks look to be all in a row, and they have the groundwork laid for a great life off the grid…now if people in this country would only realize that they could do the same thing, without moving to Costa Rica.