Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Peace and Prosperity is at Hand

  1. by Zvi Baranoff

We may be dazzled by the flag waving and the hand shaking and the document signing but a lot of multilateral and multilevel work went on behind the scene to bring us to this important historical moment.

Russia supplied a bevy of Russian call girls, highly trained in their profession. Dennis Rodman brought a couple of ounces of California's finest kush. China telecommunications firms assured world class quality phone service.

Of course, what clinched the deal was Donald Trump giving Kim the “best hand job ever” with promises of another session later on, according to White House insiders that would certainly know.

Details are still a little fuzzy but this is what we know so far:

Construction will begin soon on wonderful and glorious resorts in North Korea with high end condos and great golf courses and the most beautiful chocolate cake you have ever seen. The North Koreans assure that there is plenty of very reasonably priced labor sources at hand. While prison labor may not seem ideal at first glance, some see forced labor as a pathway to rehabilitation.

The North Korean regime has also offered to help the USA reform the American Prison System to eliminate waste and improve productivity in the often overlooked growth industry.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Realtors of an Alternative Reality

P.S. Etc.
Practical Solutions - Experimental Transitional Communities
Realtors of an Alternative Reality


We need to approach basic issues beginning at the base level.

There is a general view of the growing number of homeless people, pushed to the margins by circumstances and conditions largely beyond their control, as not only a problem but a tangle of nearly unsolvable problems. Almost totally missing from the public discourse is an awareness of the great potential just below the visual, easily observable surface.

There is a vibrancy to the shantytown, to the hobo camp, to a squatter's settlement that offers incredible opportunity.

Of course it is only temporary. Of course it is substandard and insufficient. It is also within grasp of voluntary action of free associated individuals without governmental funding, and we must start where things are.

With duct tape and bungee cords and tarps and PVC pipes, with broke down trailers, old buses, storage containers and sheds, shelter, at the most basic level, is possible in short time for all. Once we establish a security of shelter in place we have a foundation for creating longer term housing, sustainable gardens and small scale enterprises that serve community needs.

Everything begins with land. The ground under our feet defines our relationship with the spinning cosmos of the universe. When we can live securely in place we can use our labor and creativity to improve our lives and build on the foundations of our accomplishments. The Squatter’s Dilemma is that no place is secure so no efforts offer a longer term potential. Without securing the land under our feet, we have nothing to stand on, no place to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

With a secure relationship to the land, everything changes. A temporary shelter, be it a tent, trailer or shed, can become a more secure and permanent home given time, creativity, materials and the freedom of action. Without establishment of a physical security of place, none of us can transcend the trappings of the dominant economic forces that consume us. Any sense of a free market and self reliance must start with that basic level of security. To establish the basis of self reliance we need to bring swaths of land into a new form of ownership, removing property from the commodity relationship of real estate. To do so, we need to bring some land into a long term trust or collective ownership to foster the experimental development of free, self reliant and interconnected community.

Without land we are landless peasants, toiling for others with little to show for it. When we control the land under our feet the entire dynamic changes. That is real transition.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Left, Right and Forward

by Zvi Baranoff

Looking both left and right before crossing the street is good practice, but perceiving the political landscape in terms of "Left" and "Right" misses the nuances that may be useful for moving forward. Ideology only holds so much water. Collective action from a principled perspective can bridge ideological self-definition. Attachments to the "isms" is focusing on the schisms and misses the possibilities of finding common ground.
A Sofa Party is a political party where all the members fit on a sofa. In a Sofa Party it is fairly easy for everyone to agree. There are always differences of opinion once you get beyond the limitations of a sofa.
All political parties are perpetually shifting coalitions. If we look at the two (currently) main American political parties the shifting sands of political reality clearly show that ideology for them is quite dispensable. The coalitions are built around the possibility of hobbling together a short term political win and not based on fundamental social analysis nor long term social planning. The ("progressive") Republican Party of Lincoln brought an end to slavery although it took a protracted and destructive civil war that increased the centralized power of the executive branch. The Republicans grew into the party that represented the interests of business while the Democratic Party painted itself more so as the party of the working class.
Roosevelt's "Progressive and Working Class" Democratic Party was a coalition that included the racist, all white Southern Democrats of the Jim Crow era, Northern liberals, union activists, leftists and other fellow travellers. This coalition largely held together until Lyndon Johnson. Segregationists (Democrats like George Wallace and Lestor Madox) left over issues of integration, becoming Republicans and the liberal/left wing was frayed over the Vietnam War. After Chicago Democrat Mayor Daly's Police Riot at the Democratic Convention many on the "Left" simply did not feel real at home with the Democratic Party. Of course, the Communists and their allies had already been thrown under the bus during the House Un-American Activities hearings (the McCarthy Era).
The big questions that our nation have faced are not so simply divided into terms of Left or Right or Democrat or Republican. Slavery, Women's Suffrage, Integration, War and Peace, Prohibition, Birth Control, Censorship, Global Warming, Gay Rights...these are matters that call for broad social agreements yet involved deep social fissures. The coalitions that are built around such issues are complex. One party or another may come to power over such issues but no party can stay in power simply on the basis of positioning on a social issue.
The politics and ramifications of Alcohol Prohibition exemplifies the point. Many felt it was a "progressive" next step in social development along with women obtained the vote. Thirteen years later most progressives were firmly lined up for repeal. Staying out of foreign wars is a reasonably "progressive" position but a unified front against fascism was adapted by most of the American Left during WW II with the exception of committed pacifists. A "progressive" working class position is pro union yet historically many unions have developed nativist, xenophobic positions that exclude wide segments of the working class. A notable exception is the organizing efforts of the internationalist IWW (Wobblies) but they were marginalized within the labor movement. The "Environment" and "Progress"  also have the great potential to both unify or divide. Large scale projects like rural electrification may have seemed "progressive" at the time but in retrospect raise serious ecological concerns. Conservation of public lands likewise may seemingly serve the interests of one class or another, depending on the era and one's perspective. Ideology alone does not easily address any of these issues.
The "Progressive" Democratic Party took us into Vietnam. Democrats and Republicans kept the War going. Active opposition in the streets and a growing disillusionment throughout the general population as well as the committed military resistance of Vietnamese Nationalists coalesced to the point of the American withdrawal and the fall of the US backed Saigon regime. Now Vietnam is an economic trading partner.
Nixon declared a War on Drugs but it took decades to build a widespread anti-war sentiment. Many so-called "Progressives" were Drug War Hawks until recently, including such notables as Jesse Jackson.  A seismic shift has taken place and the calls for more enforcement and more punishment have all but disappeared. The coalitions built around drug reform and marijuana legalization reached way beyond the limits of ideological positioning and Party Lines. Some "Progressives" are still mouthing Prohibitionist positions and resisting Cannabis Legalization.
The German Green Party formed based on principles rather than ideology. They coined the slogan Neither Left nor Right but Forward. This is a useful way of approaching broad social issues because it allows us to get beyond our ideological perspectives and reach out to folks that self-define from ideological perspectives other than our own.
The best hope for moving forward on any broad social issues is when the ideological divisions break down and folks speak one to one beyond their limiting worldviews. Meeting with individuals or groups regardless of significant disagreement is the way to move resolutions forward.
Nixon met with Mao. Arafat met with Sharon. Dan Quale spoke at a Negro College Fund event. That did not mean that Nixon embraced Marxism any more than Arafat had become a Zionist and Quale did not become an Afro-American. Seeking common ground with Libertarians does not make one a crypto-capitalist any more than listening to Wagner or reading Ezra Pound means that one is a fascist sympathizer. The world is far more nuanced than that.
Folks that self-define by one political ideology or another do so because they find some common understanding but most people see, at least to some extent, beyond the "Party Line". Some Libertarians are quick to label everything "socialist" as Stalinism and many on the left are quick to write all Libertarians off as corporate stooges. Both elements fail to grasp the subtleties involved. However, I don't think it is unreasonable to hope for the development of a working class fusion that brings together individual liberty and common social responsibility into a largely voluntary cooperative culture and economy.
The terms left and right and liberal and conservative and progressive and reactionary are all shorthand that shortchange our hopes of discovering common ground. Ultimately we need to turn from such a self limiting analytical perspective to seek out what is true, effective and useful rather than what fits into our ideological molds. When we can stretch our world view, we can begin to see what can be. What is ahead of us is forward and not in the rear view mirror and surely not Left or Right. We must press for principle based solutions. As such, individuals that agree on specific policies, without consideration of ideology and political alignment, can find common ground and ways to work together. In States that have Initiative or Referendum processes, very broad coalitions can work together to bring about some very significant changes to social policy.
In no way, however, do I imply that a common political front can be formed with fascists or those with fascistic tendencies. There has been some unfortunate overlap of nihilistic perspectives and attempts to bridge the gap of the political fringes. There is a nebulous theory that with enough social chaos a popular uprising will lead to some sort of magical remaking of the social contract. The corollary is that anyone in stated opposition to corporations and the State are allies.  This sort of “thinking” leads to a dangerous path with no hope of any sort of positive outcome.
The most radical sounding positions and platforms are often distractions from bringing about the truly fundamental political and social shifts that are needed. They serve as a way to spin off support from the broader movement. To bring about a seismic shift in how American people understand and interact with the political process we need to be able to communicate transformative ideas in a way that connects with how they already understand their world. On the whole, Americans are not ideological.
Where a conservative argument can be presented for a practical solution, as in the harm reduction and economic consideration for drug policy reform, this is the optimal way of building a broad and effective coalition. Worth noting is that in the 2016 general election in Florida, Medical Marijuana garnered over 60% of the vote. In the same election neither of the two major party candidates cleared the 50% point and Trump edged out Clinton by a mere 1%. Clearly a fair number of conservatives voted yes on this issue.
We need to promote a transitional, postindustrial, environmentally aware and justice centered agenda through all the mechanisms available, including the electoral process, and that sort of platform transcends the traditional definitions of liberal and conservative and call for a whole new paradigm. All coalitions are temporary, relatively short-term relationships. The nature of the American electoral process deems necessary entering into an extended coalition relationship within one of the major political parties to be able to exert influence on policy decisions. At this time the only viable coalition open to this sort of analysis is within the Democratic Party. This is certainly true for at least the next two election cycles. In 2020 we will have the opportunity to put theory into practice, if we are part of the governing coalition. That is where the rubber hits the road. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Any Port In A Storm

by Zvi Baranoff

The Deathless Gods roam the earth and mix with the human race and one needs to be extra aware and considerate of their impulses and desires. To alienate any of the Gods is always a dangerous matter. it is way too easy to get on the wrong side of Deities and then it will surely not bode well.

All the forces that move all the universes are the actions of the Ancient Ones. Sometimes the Immortal Ones take human form. Special care is needed when meeting any stranger. A vagabond could be a Deity in disguise. Strangers historically were granted special honors. We washed their feet. We offered them the best cuts of meat. We gave them a safe and comfortable place to rest. What was once true is always true. One never truly knows who a stranger might be.

The Sons of the Gods found the Daughters of Man to be blissfully satisfying, if but fleeting company and would find opportunities for chance encounters in meadows or by streams. Sometimes a God would appear as a man, sometimes as half man and half wild beast. The offsprings of these sorts of liaisons are mortal, yet inherit some Devine attributes. Once there were many such children. They were warmly enveloped into the arms of their mothers’ families, clans and tribes. The children often grew to become heroes and leaders. Their descendants dwell amongst us.

Gods live forever and cannot pass the time purely with erotic adventures. They find other distractions to fill the infinite time. Our ways give the Gods many opportunities for stimulating interactions. They can choose up sides and influence the outcome of wars and commerce and games of chance and crops and hunting and fishing and all we take on by choice or necessity or habit. They bring about the rise and fall of great civilizations. Some shall win and some shall lose. Some shall live and some will surely die. The Gods are arbitrary and capricious. Their ways are not our ways. They are not bound by our codes of behaviour.

It is best to placate the Gods. The Gods however are finicky and not easily placated. They have their own rules and customs. The Gods hand out rewards and punishments liberally and without regard to merit. They demand loyalty and exactitude. They change their demands and expectations with the shifting of the weather and the time of day. They expect our worship. They demand sacrifices from us. We, conversely, are not particularly obedient creatures. We steal fire. We open boxes best left sealed. We eat from the tree that to us is forbidden. We find ourselves cast out, wandering, uncertain and afraid. An armed guard has been placed at the gates of the garden. We call out in the wilderness and only hear the echoes of our own voices.

How long is our exile? How very long? We are blown with the wind from place to place. We long for a past we do not remember. We think in languages that are no longer spoken. We dream of lands that even our ancestors had long ago forgotten. We carry the keys to houses we never lived in. We want to go home to homes we have never known. We are driven by the winds and the tides. We are carried off by armies. We are chased by wild beasts. We are caught up in storms. There are no useful landmarks and the road signs make no sense at all. The constellations are unfamiliar, the coastlines are unknown.

Our collective memories are unsettling. We are nostalgic for the forgotten and the unknown. Sometimes, for no logical reason, we are even hopeful.

We strived to please and we so rarely did so. That was not to be. Our fate was to be left by a loving mother in a basket, led by a trusted father into the darkest woods. We carefully left a trail of breadcrumbs so we could find our way back. We were imprisoned and enslaved but we still dreamed of home. We were sold by our own families into slavery. We traded our birthrights for meals and shelter. We told truths when we should have lied and lies when the truth would have served us better. We turned east when we should have turned west and south when we should have headed north. We were cast into pits of snakes and tossed to wild beasts and yet, somehow we live.

We watch for divine signs. We try to determine meaning from the flight of a bird, the leaves of tea, from entrails, from dreams, from the writing on the walls. We seek meaning in the words, the meaning behind the words and the meaning between them as well. We place a numerical value on each and every letter but the mathematics fail us. We seek wisdom from mystics and visionaries. We hear the words uttered by the unhinged and see the distorted visions of the intoxicated.

We were told to flee and not look back. Into the wilderness we ran, hoping to save our skins, but not all of us could resist the pull of what was left behind. Some of us get away but some are turned into pillars of salt or ashes or dust. Some sail free. Some answer the sirens’ song, drown and are shattered on rocks. We wander through deserts without end. We climb over one mountain and find yet another even higher to be climbed.

We speak foreign languages, broken tongues, pidgin conglomerations. Our speech is the blurring of all the sounds of all the lands that all of our ancestors passed through on their way. Our syntax is truncated. Our grammar is shaky. Our sense of time is uncertain and irregular. Our watches are all broken. Our calendars don't synchronize and the seasons are out of order.

We are the survivors. There is no inherent nobility to surviving. The pure have been martyred or languish in dungeons. They have been swallowed by sea monsters. They have been killed by dragons. By no right earned we exist and we survive only by the whims of the Gods. It is good to be blessed by the Gods, but it might be best to be ignored.

Humankind is born in labour and we labour throughout our lives. The Gods play. We build sand castles and the Gods bring waves. Horns blow and great walls fall. The towers built to confront the Gods collapse and the architects babel in confusion.The great monuments built by the priesthoods from the Pyramids to Stonehenge to the Kaaba, to Graceland stand forever.

We stand at crossroads, uncertain, confused. Some go this way and some go that. What would Jesus do? What would Odin do? What the hell should I do? It’s complicated and has always been so. We choose a path because we have no option but to do so. Our fate remains in the hands of the Gods.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Being Connected

by Zvi Baranoff

In the night sky the distant stars appear to be bright dots. One can visualize patterns in the stars. With no technology except observation and memory, our ancestors saw the stars as constellations and projected on the visualized images destiny over human fate. By seeing patterns and connecting the dots, ancient people would strive to connect to the forces beyond understanding. Now, in the digital age, we have a seemingly unlimited flow information and the nearly unlimited accumulation of human knowledge and creativity at the tips of our fingers. The dots have been replaced by pixels.  Because of pixelated proximity we have the sensation of connection, but that too is an optical illusion.

Everyone wants a good connection. Once, a good connection was the fellow you could buy weed from. If a guy was connected, it meant he was mobbed up. Now, when we say connection, we speak of the entire globe hooked together through a web and we can poke anyone anywhere instantaneously. A good Internet connection has become something like a necessity.  

There was a time when, if you wanted to reach out and touch someone you had to be close by. To communicate at greater distance we used signal fires or runners. Paintings on cave walls were yelling out “Can you hear me now?” long before mobile phone ads or Alexander Graham Bell showed up on the scene.

Communicating over distance involved travel or enough imagination to turn letters exchanged by slow moving mail into fluid conversation. Letter writing was an art and the practice was widespread. A letter was not limited to a number of characters by technological design and restraints. The length and depth of a letter was determined by the veracity of the writer. Then wires were strung from coast to coast and cables from continent to continent bringing the immediacy and convenience of cutting edge technology to the far flung corners of the once distant globe. Before long a telephone was to be found in almost everyone's home and pay phones in booths positioned on many corners. One could even call from one payphone to another if privacy was a concern.

I find it interesting that we still use the word “dial” when we speak of placing a phone call. When I was a kid, telephones had a rotary device that was an essential element to the function. It has been decades since that has been true. The dial was replaced by push buttons and the push buttons have been largely replaced by touch screens. Swiping and tapping is now the norm. While my phone is processing an electronic command and negotiating the labyrinth of cell towers and satellites involved the scrolling message on my screen reads “now dialing” or something to that effect.

It is not hard to imagine placing an online order from any remote corner of our planet and an automated delivery of anything you wish within an hour or so. I can imagine such things. All it takes is being connected. Interestingly enough, my tablet informs me often enough that I am “connected” but there is no Internet. While the gizmo shows an incessant scrolling symbolically representing an attempt to connect, I have lots of time to ponder the glories of our modern technological possibilities.

It won't be long, I suppose, before we will have the option of traveling from planet to planet and galaxy to galaxy, well beyond the familiar constellations. With long distance travels and communications it is best to not be sucked into a black hole. Of that I am fairly sure.

For years I used a basic cell phone and it worked pretty well most of the time in most of the country, until we got to this corner of rural Oregon. Woodpecker Flats, near the intersection of Loony Mountain Road and No Way is at the center of a communications black hole. Mostly there is no cell phone signal at all. If you walk up or down Loony Mountain Road there are some random spots where a signal comes through occasionally but mostly not at all. Driving north on the highway will bring you to the Rough and Ready Creek and the signal comes in pretty clear there most of the time.

Strangely enough, we discovered one spot about four feet from our camper where we could perch my cell phone and get enough of a signal to send and receive text messages sometimes. Leaving a cell phone out in the rain of course is a bad idea and may affect the way it operates. I speak from experience. I dried it out and it worked again for a while, but…

Public Internet access is sometimes available at the library in Cave Junction which is only about ten miles from Woodpecker Flats. The library is open thirteen hours a week and sometimes the Internet is working. Sometimes it works on and off. Sometimes they have a sign up that says they are waiting for the tech crew to show up and fix it any day now.

One has to take it all in stride. We have other sorts of concerns about connections that have priority over accessing the World Wide Web.

There are three extension cords that connect us to the power box that connects us to the electric grid. When too much power is pulled, like perhaps the extravagent use of a toaster, I need to pull on my boots and go flip the switch at the box. This is most likely when it is raining and at night so a raincoat may be useful and it requires a flashlight, hopefully with good batteries. We also have three hoses that connect us to water. When the water is not flowing you need to follow the source upstream. Most likely someone disconnected a hose. In the summertime when a lot of water is being used for gardens and bathing and such, the problem may be further upstream, at the well house where the pump needs restarting. In the winter, chances are the water is frozen and all you can do is wait. We keep a bottle or two of water around just for washing because when it gets real cold there will be no running water. It is wise to have some idea about how other sorts of things connect as well. You may have learned that most things tighten to the right  - Lefty Loosey, Righty Tighty - and that is mostly true. With connecting propane it is just the opposite and that is very important to know. A good propane connection makes cooking and heating water possible. A poor propane connection could be dangerous and running out of propane, especially when it is cold, is most unfortunate. You can expect that the propane tank will need replacing at night, when it is cold and rainy. It is best to figure out that you need to do this before you get naked and stand in the shower.

Living in the country involves a lot of driving. Ribbons of highways connect us if we don't mind the drive. Not all that long ago, although admittedly well before my time, if you used the word “drive” it usually had something to do with moving cattle across many miles of open terrain. The people that did the work of driving the herds were called “drovers” or “cowboys” and these folks rode on horses while driving. A teamster was a fellow that handled a team of horses strapped together to pull a wagon. Now we drive cars and trucks and the power of these vehicles is measured by horsepower, and a Teamster is a member of a union who may or may not drive a truck. A trucker is one who drives a truck and can also mean a go-getter.

Of course, that's all about to change. When the vehicles are all electric and are programmed to operate without our physical intervention, will we still speak of driving? What happens to all that fancy and all so smart technology when it enters the dead zone that surrounds Woodpecker Flats? Do you think the very smart cars will be able to find the way up Loony Mountain Road, out No Way, up and down our rutted driveway and distinguish which broke down trailer to park in front of? I am mildly optimistic that self-driving cars will be the norm before I become too feeble to drive myself. I wouldn't bet even money that any high tech gadget will evrr get me all the way home.

I guess we will see how it works out. Go ahead and try to get in touch with me if you want to know how it looks from out here. Telephoning is still touch and go. You can e-mail or text and chances are I will eventually pick up the message. Send me a letter as long as we still have a postal service and I will pick it up when I make it down the hill to the Post Office. No promises from me, how good my response might be. If you really want to find me, probably best all summer to look in my garden. In the winter I’ll be in the camper trying to stay warm, probably smoking weed. Come by and visit. That's called being connected. If you are here at night you can see the stars and between us we can decide what it all means. Maybe the patterns will make sense if we connect the dots.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Just Words At Passing

by Zvi Baranoff

This letter will bring little or no comfort. There are no words that will help.

I am sure others have already said all of the supposedly comforting things that we say to each other when death is the topic. You have been told that Mom is in a better place, she is no longer suffering, she is in the arms of God. You have been told that you will get over the loss.

But it seems unlikely to me that there is a castle in the sky with golden stools for those that pass to sit on. Lack of suffering is the absence of existence because life itself is suffering. If God is everywhere, we are all already enveloped in his arms, and that is a sentiment bordering on the meaningless. And the loss through death of one that we love is a loss that we never overcome.

Of course, all of those things that people say are untrue and/or not particularly helpful, but it is the sort of things that we say to each other at these times.

We were brought into this world without planning and travel without a map to a destination unknown. On the way, we do the best we can with what we have. We travel surrounded by pilgrims and pirates and fellow travelers of other sorts, yet we each travel the path primarily on our own. It is a long, strange trip for everyone. None of us can make the journey for another. No one can walk in another's shoes, but along the way we can share a blanket, a loaf of bread, a story, a dream, a thought, a moment or two.

Hang in there. It will continue to be a long, complicated and unexplainable trip. We share the same path. I share this moment with you.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Flies, Compost & Elections

Flies, Compost & Elections

by Zvi Baranoff

I have been told all my life that you catch more flies with honey then you do with vineger. Living as I do, I have a few insights about flies. I use a fly trap that is baited with a mixture that is made from putrified eggs and yeast and smells like decaying roadkill. If all you want to do is attract flies, a big pile of manure will do the trick quite handily. These are things to keep in mind as one considers elections, and how to turn the compost pile without getting too much shit on the boots and tracking it into the home. It’s good to have a practical outlook about such things.

The thing about elections is to a large extent they mostly don’t matter. Sometimes they matter some. Sometimes they matter a lot. Around half of Americans don’t vote most of the time which shows how we feel about all of that. Nobody for President would be a big winner if we were to count non-voting as a choice but our electoral system doesn’t work that way.

One needs to be realistic about what to expect from government before considering casting any vote. Myself, I expect little good from government and see large potential for harm. I maintain, I think, a fairly healthy distain for, well, most forms of organization and anyone telling me what to do and how to think. Government has a legal monopoly on the use of force to those ends.

There are governmental programs that consume resources by the truckload without solving the problems that they were supposedly created to address. Consider the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs. Talk about your Hundred Year Wars! Other governmental programs prop up large corporations with subsidies and incentives - corporate welfare - as environmental quality of this planet suffers from corporate exploitation of Mother Earth.

What do I want from my government?  Maybe anyone elected to any post should take Hippocrates's Oath. First, do no harm. If, in addition to that government can help facillitate good, that is the way to go. I am all in favor of problem solving and practical solutions. Government, particularly local government, has the potential of being a helpful element in such.

Mostly it is good when government stays out of the individual’s (my) way. Staying out of the way of how corporations operate however is a whole other thing and there’s the rub.

Over the last several decades some very nefarious folks have grabbed the reins of popular discontent. With a barely grazing touch of truth and an emotion ladened appeal that manipulates and misrepresents the causes of distress, politicians periodically ride the waves of discontent to seize control of the mechanisms of power. Ronald Regan came to the presidency with the slogan “Government is the Problem” and ushered in whole new levels of government interference in all of our lives. The War on Drugs was racheted up to new levels and prisons where built and filled, the military was expanded and debt was increased. Government is the Problem hacked away at social programs but Government consolidated and got bigger nonetheless and all the more at the beck and call of corporate interests.

The Sirens’ songs call again and again. Their songs are Pro Life, in favor of School Choice, support Freedom Fighters, believe in States Rights, oppose government overreach, love God and Country, want smaller government, denounce political correctness and advocate Free Speech, support the Right to Work and are anti-Establishment, especially against pointy headed liberals. The seemingly grassroots Tea Party fought against Health Care reform with the slogan “Keep Your Hands Off My Medicare”. Fascists marching in our streets chanting “Blood and Soil”. Like Odyseus’s sailors, we heed the Sirens and are dashed on the rocks.  

The political manipulators use themes that express libertarian values and tribalism with the goal of seizing and controlling the mechanisms of the State. They use the power of the State in a most non liberating manner.

At election time voter choice is essentially binary. Often it comes down to something seemingly like the paper or plastic choice at the grocery store. Someone will be elected and we will still have a government and it will probably serve corporate interests.  Yet, as distasteful as electoral politics may be, and as unpalatable a dish it will serve, abstaining is not a moral choice. Neither is voting for None of the Above third party candidates. We have to recognize the limits to the electoral system and do the best we can with what we have to work with. We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines.

We are at a critical historic juncture. Actions we take now are pivotal. Distopia is a not a choice and there is no constituency calling for more pollution, poisons, wars, prisons, poverty and all that, but there are politicians that are likely to steer the ship onto those rocks if given the helm. Ideally, we support candidates that will defend the planet, protect civil rights, facilitate non coercive cooperation and have a vision of a sustainable future for humankind. On occasion we need to hold our noses and vote for the lesser evil. It is a matter of medium and long term strategy. Much of the task to transform our economy and culture is outside the providence of government, but the type of government we empower will deeply effect the process of transition. We can cope with a government that doesn't help much but we cannot abide a government that blocks the way or crashes the ship. Remember, we are all in the same boat.

We are resilient and surely can find a pathway through this muck. Imagine a livable future and it can happen, but visualization is only the first step toward actualization. We can visualize world peace all day long but if we don't take effective action we might as well be visualising whirled peas. There is real work to do. Some of it is electoral. It might not be pretty and it will involve compromise and at times it may remind us of piles of manure but someone needs to shovel the shit and I don't see anyone else to do the work but you and me. Turn the compost pile, plan the garden and don't be distracted or dismayed by the flies.