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On Political Idealism in Our Time

money

Here’s the thing: Most of my friends on the left are idealists. They believe that if they support and elect the right people we will have a just, egalitarian, and ecologically sound society. They have purity tests to decide on acceptable candidates. They blame the Democrats for being weak, or for being to corporate. They either think they can win at electoral politics merely by voting, or they think that the current system of global capitalism will be overthrown in a glorious revolution.

They can’t see that no matter whom they elect, none of those things will come to pass. The purist of hearts, if elected, would hurl themselves against a powerful and ancient system, only to be corrupted in turn, or destroyed.

I am not an idealist. There will be no revolution and if there were we would die in droves. The streets would run red with our blood, not the blood of the ruling class. Yes, we can march, for now. But, to the ones pulling the strings, destroying the planet and beggaring our children, this is a small annoyance, nothing more. We are insects to them.

They have always been with us, the parasitic aristocrats. They have run this country at other times, but perhaps never as completely as they do now. They hated the new deal, and the rise of civil rights. They are old school, and much better at statecraft then those who believe as we do.

They have planned long and well for this day. And they have won. At least for now.

For those who say the two parties are the same. that is not true. The Democratic Party is full of principled men and women who always prove to be ineffective at creating any real and lasting change. They have, over the last decades, managed to reign in the worst policies of the Republicans, a wholly owned subsidiary of the global capitalist class. But, they too believe in things like free trade being necessary to democracy and that privatization is good for everyone, and that we should show our good faith through compromise. They can’t see that this is tantamount to negotiating with terrorists. They believe these things because they want to be reasonable, and because these things are common wisdom. What they can’t see is that the common wisdom is merely a set of right wing capitalist talking points. It is like a fish not seeing what water is.

We can’t win because they have set the agenda. Because they have framed the debate. Because they have seized the narrative and corrupted it. And they have done this so thoroughly that their philosophy seems like common sense to most people.

You may think me a cynic, but I am not. Seeing clearly is not cynicism. No, I have very little hope for an immediate good end to this story. In time, the earth and her patterns will put a stop to it, but that will not help the 99.9 percent of humanity seeking relief from this psychopathic enterprise.

What then shall we do, if neither peaceful protest, armed revolt, or faith in the laws will do any good? For me it is simple. Be good. Do good where you can. Vote, of course, but don’t expect that to do much but fend off the worst. Act locally, and prepare to be self-sufficient. Grow food, and share. Live with grace, and walk in beauty, the beauty found in every day things. Love your family, your friends, your home, and your natural surroundings.

These are great forces, the turning of the great wheel. As Gandalf told Frodo, we do not get to choose our time, only how we acquit ourselves living in it. Love is a great force too. This is what I choose, as I have the power to do so. As do we all.

 

The Politics of Plutocracy

I have been reading various posts attacking Obama and Clinton from the left. I too would prefer a fairer and more conscious world. But–here is the thing. We live, at this moment, in an oligarchical plutocracy. This means that the people we elect to the highest positions don’t have nearly as much power as you think. Oh–they can accomplish things on the purely social sphere–marriage rights, marijuana decriminalization, things like that. As long as they don’t put a finger on the cancerous heart of the corporatocracy.

On the one hand, it matters who you elect because the Republican thugs are in ALIGNMENT with the true rulers and will give the color of law to all manner of evil things while at the same time turning back the clock on social issues to the mid-nineteenth century.

But, the converse is not true. If you elect someone who is not a true member of the plutocracy, and is not in alignment with the ruling entities, they can only do so much. You have no idea what is going on behind the scenes, or what pressures they are being plagued with. If we hand them a Republican congress this slows whatever progress might have been made to near zero. As has been the case with both Obama and Bill Clinton. We will never know what could have been accomplished if Mr. Obama had been given a super majority in the congress.

A bad president can place wretched appointees to the agencies created to protect the public and ensure the smooth running of our society. And, when a Republican gets to pack our Supreme Court it only gets worse.

As for the charge that Obama or either of the Clintons are trojan horses or traitors to the left, two things:

What would have been the outcome if McCain had won in 2008 or Romney in 2012? Would the progressive cause have been advanced? And what about now? Does any thoughtful person really believe Hillary Clinton would have been worse than this?

I know it’s not fair–the game is rigged and the two party system is broken. But it is what we are living with right now. There is no magic pill. We lost control a long time ago.

Secondly, what do you think would happen if we were able to elect an Elizabeth Warren or any other member of the progressive wing? They would very soon become “traitors” themselves, or die. See paragraph one–We live in an Oligarchical Plutocracy. The president doesn’t have nearly the power you think, unless they are fundamentally aligned with the Plutocrats–the enemies of democracy.

So, what do we do? Ah, the impossible question. I would suggest starting with getting out of the cult of personality, stopping the ad hominem attacks on Democrats, no matter how disappointing they may seem, and looking for real points of influence. Keep voting for the best candidate that can actually win. Think strategically. Under our present system, it is about which party controls the house and senate. That may mean being OK with a blue dog in some districts.

If we are ever to change this, the change will come from the bottom up. To those who favor a frontal assault I would remind you to remember who has the heavy artillery.

That is part of why I moved to the desert. To start a sustainable low impact homestead where I have a chance of surviving the difficult days ahead.

And I am always looking for other points of influence. My goal is to be like water, which can cut a gorge through bedrock given time.
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Is This the Hill You Want to Die On?

Earth

This phrase has become popular lately. The implication is usually that whatever it is you are fuming over is not worth it. But–is ANYTHING worth making it that hill?

First of all, I would like to look at the language. I like to think in terms of things I LIVE for, not that I would die for. And there are a great many things in that basket. Love, beauty, good friends, the natural world, the critters, good food, work that I can love, curiosity over what makes it all tick, the future for our children and their children, and so much more. We all have a list like this. It is what keeps us going.

The thing is, there are strong forces trying to destroy all of these things. It started with a misrepresentation of Adam Smith and John Locke and other enlightenment philosophers. This was used by politicians, media, and most importantly, the plutocrats to create a corrupt modernity whose chief feature is capitalism unbound. And it is killing us all.

Given these circumstances, it is clear what hill I am willing to die on. The war for the future of our species and much more is upon us. I know where my honor lies. I hope that there are enough of us.

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Food Insecurity and What we can do About it

May 12, 2011 3 comments

When These Squash Mature They will Feed us all Summer

One thing that keeps coming up over and over again as I travel the country and as I hang out in my Sonoma County home is the lack of food security for those living in poverty in the United States. Food security is an issue everywhere as large corporations have colonized both our supply and our production capacity. But, as prices skyrocket, the system now in place hurts poor people first, and hurts them worst. There are many right now that must choose between food and electricity.

What can be done? The first line of defense is to grow a garden, whether it is on land you control, or in little containers. Whether you do it alone, or with friends and neighbors.  Just get out there and grow some food. This is the weekend for the 350 Garden challenge. All over the country people are starting first-time gardens and taking control of their own supply of fresh produce. For more information on this movement, here is a link: http://www.350.org/en/about/blogs/growing-bigger-350-home-garden-challenge

If you don’t know how to grow your own food now is a good time to start learning. There are master gardener groups in many areas that can help answer questions. The people at your local seed supply will be able to suggest good plants for your eco-system. There may be a free or very cheap class at your local junior college. Or, you could just ask around till you find someone in your world that is a class A gardener. Gardeners love to talk about what they do. Just ask.

Once you get the garden in, there are a few other things you can do. Join or start a locally sourced meat-buying collective. Shop at local grocers and at farmer’s markets. Get to know the people that feed you. Even if you live in the city you can ask questions about where your food comes from, and make wise decisions accordingly.

It is also necessary to get involved politically. The corporations in the factory farming business and in the convenience food business have a vested interest in controlling what you eat. They make periodic attempts at making self-help around food illegal, usually using safety as an excuse. As if human beings haven’t been feeding themselves from this good earth for untold millennia. It is our job as citizens of these United States and this planet to resist these food-control laws. And if they do manage to pass such a law, to use civil disobedience by continuing to produce and share our own food.

Madison Wisconsin- The Protest Continues

March 22, 2011 3 comments

Capitol Square

I arrived in Madison WI on Saturday March 19th. When I got to Capital Square there were several hundred protesters walking around the Capitol Building. This is a small number compared to the week before, when at least 200,000 people had descended upon the capitol to welcome the 14 senators who had fled the state several weeks earlier to prevent Governor Walker’s union busting bill from being passed. They left because the GOP dominated senate still need them to create the necessary quorum for a vote on any bill that is primarily fiscal in nature. In the end, Walker had tried to do an end run by saying that the “Budget Repair Bill” had nothing to do with money. So the senate passed the bill without the 14 and without the required 24 hour notice. There was an immediate legal challenge which the governor lost and has now appealed. Now focus is on recalling him and his cronies.

But, even with fewer numbers the signs of protest were everywhere, and the protesters themselves were filling up every café and bar as they ended their day with some hard earned refreshment.

At that point I had checked into the local hostel, and though I no longer had three days of road grime on me I still had not slept in some time. The moon was full that night, and I decided to go find some food. The first people I met were a couple of local progressives that had been here for the whole thing. I will never forget sitting there at the Old Fashioned across from the capitol as the sun went down. They bought me a couple of beers and shared their dinner with me as they explained some of the fine points of Wisconsin politics. I can’t remember everything we discussed, but I do remember feeling so much better after a hard three day ride. Also, I learned that the place I needed to go was Williams Street (Willy to the locals) and there I would find a great thrift store, a food co-op, and plenty of good coffee.

Everywhere I go in this town people are talking about this. I asked a woman in a bar what her favorite thing was about the protests. She replied that it was the amazing sense of community. For several weeks there had been a little city

Everywhere There Are Signs

within a city in Capitol Square. People from all over the world, including Egypt, were sending food for the protesters. An amazing gift economy sprang up. For her, it was the community. But her friend had a different idea. He said he loved it that no matter where you went in town, everyone was taking part, even as they went about the mundane business of living. If you saw someone taking out the trash, they would be wearing a recall Walker t-Shirt. A baby stroller passing you miles from the square would be sporting a Kill the Bill sign. There were and are signs everywhere.

A bartender at a brew-pub across the street from the hostel told me about the day Walker pulled the skullduggery. Everyone was getting ready to go collect signatures for the recall effort when he got a tweet to get to the square right away. By the time he arrived there were 10,000 people. The capitol building is supposed to be the people’s house. It is supposed to be open to the public. In the first several weeks of the protest people had been sleeping inside the building. Then the governor had ordered the building cleared for “cleaning” and pushed everyone out. Now, people were pushing back in again. The police, whose sympathies were clearly with the protesters, would leave one entrance unguarded as they rushed to another. Many officers would change in to protest t-shirts as soon as they got off shift. Now, all but one entrance to the building is nailed shut.

Don't Mess with the Badger

Yesterday I walked up to Willy Street and finally got completely full at the salad bar at the food co-op. I got into a conversation with a substitute teacher who filled me in on the process for doing a recall. As the conversation developed we began to get into the psychological and philosophical problems presented by the dirty politics of the 21st century. She said she believed that Scott Walker is a sociopath, and I concur. When it comes to voting, people on the left are so often left with voting for an ineffectual or corrupt representative to keep a patently insane candidate from winning. But I have come to understand that though the candidate may be insane, and the citizens who vote for the candidate may be duped, the ones financing the whole thing are neither crazy nor stupid. They are just plain evil, and they have a well thought out plan that they have been in the process of implementing it for a long time. The great instability we are experiencing now is the end game. As we discussed this we began to wonder aloud-What makes a multi-billionaires so discontent with their lives that they have to go after even more of the available resources in the world? Why can’t they be happy and gracious and pay their fair share gladly? Why do they need ever more power and money, grabbed at the expense of those less fortunate? Why do they want to consign the entire world but themselves to slavery or starvation? And that, my friend, is the very definition of an imponderable.