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.




Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Dave's Not There



by Zvi Baranoff

If one has spent any time in Illinois Valley in the last three decades, chances are you have at least a peripheral awareness of David “Carver Dave” Newell. Anywhere that he could display and sell his unique, folksy artwork, Dave was there. At the Farmers Market, Dave was there. At craft shows, Dave was there. At the Barter Fair, Dave was definitely there. He was often strumming enthusiastically on a banjo tuned like no banjo you have heard before or will ever hear again. Dave considered the personal tuning Dionysian. With beard, floppy hat and walking stick, he resembled Odin, Norse god of war and poetry or perhaps Merlin of the Arthurian tales.

For years, there has been a sign in David’s driveway that reads “Dave’s Not There” with a wink to the Cheech and Chong routine. Now that Dave has made the transition to another dimension, the sign takes on an altogether different nuance. Like the brevity of his poetry (The Poem Said published by Left Fork Press) it still does not tell the whole story.

Dave will be remembered, but remembering is one thing and knowing or understanding is a horse of another color.

In 1989, David sold his house in San Diego, CA and purchased property in O’Brien OR. Public records show this to be true. This is the property that I refer to in other essays as Woodpecker Flats. According to David, he used a pencil hanging over a map like a pendulum to magically pick out the spot. He also claimed that Woodpecker Flats is shaped like a pentagram which is evidently untrue.

I lived on Woodpecker Flats for the last two and a half years of Dave’s life. Dave gave me an assortment of personal histories as well as histories of Woodpecker Flats but the chronologies often did not match up and with each telling details were added, deleted and reformed. I am not saying that David would purposefully mislead me about his history but he had a fluid sense of storytelling and as in the telling of a saga the details vary and just don’t matter much. Entertainment value and the deeper truths matter more than the actual words.

So, according to the saga, with the money from the sale of the San Diego house and with the decision making assistance of the floating magic pencil, Woodpecker Flats was purchased. Dave told me that he had cancer at the time and only expected to live another year, so they spe nt the rest of the money buying buckets of ice cream for everyone and other forms of immediate gratification. After a year they ran out of money and he wasn’t dead yet. So much for planning. From that point on, he lived without planning.

At Woodpecker Flats, there are various sculptures in varying states of decomposition. Clearly decades old, they were not meant to last forever, reminiscent of Tibetan Prayer Flags. As elaborate as they may be, after a project is finished, decay in place, the natural order of things.

David incorporated magical thinking into his understanding of the world around him. Space and time can warp in on itself. As in quantum mechanics and Erwin Schrödinger’s cat, anything is possible and we just make shit up as we go along. So, if a battery doesn’t hold a charge, maybe it will tomorrow. If the roof leaks, maybe it won’t the next time it rains.

Dave’s belief in the magic of the universe included faith that individuals are truly capable of anything. He would hire shade tree mechanics to work on his car based on the quality of the fellow’s story. The more outlandish the tale, the more likely he would seem to accept it. One claimed to be a fugitive pilot for a drug cartel. The fellow also claimed to have some sort of brain cancer, drawings on his scalp with a marker as proof. Needless to say, he did Dave’s car no good at all. It took Dave months to acknowledge this, but he still valued the entertainment quality of the absurdity, the comic interlude, the rhythmic contribution to the saga.

Privacy was sacred to David. He did not want “them” to have information about him so he refused to get customer reward cards from the grocery and hardware store yet he carefully filled out and mailed in Publishers Clearinghouse forms with the hope that Ed McMahon would appear with a giant check. After all, anything is possible.

David would occasionally express ideas about the sort of funeral he wanted. He envisioned a huge funeral pyre that would shoot flames high into the air. He wanted everyone from the Hari Krishnas to the Hell’s Angels to be invited. He wanted massive quantities of drugs and guns to be handed out as party favors. I assured Dave that absolutely NONE of these things would happen. Sometimes you needed to reel David in.  

Dave celebrated his 74th birthday the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. He passed away that week, peacefully in his home. He moved through this world and our lives on his own terms. He was working on art projects and making notes for the next book right up until the end. Somehow, somewhere, perhaps in an alternative universe, I am sure I will hear from David Newell and see him again.



Friday, March 17, 2017

Party or Not: What's a Green to Do?

by Zvi Baranoff

Now is not the time to build a national political party. Time is too short and there is too much critical work at hand to waste energy on a process that will not work. Circumstances may vary on a local or state level but "alternative" national level
political campaigns are counter-productive to a true Green agenda.

An Arizona statewide Green conference in Cottonwood
 in the 1980's with this writer in the middle of it all. 


There are deep structural impediments to creating a viable national "third" party. Unlike newer democracies, we do not have proportional representation. Electoral reform can be brought about to some degree on local and state levels through referendum or legislative decisions of existing governmental bodies (mostly controlled by Republicans and Democrats although some local city councils and such are nonpartisan). Maine passed a change to an electoral system of "preferential voting" which would open up a rational for organizing as a "third" party on the state level. Electoral reform to our national elections would require a Constitutional Amendment which takes years to bring about and broad popular and political support. Note that the Equal Rights Amendment never become law.

Without electoral reform first, the best result that a "third" party can hope for is to be the "spoiler". Because of our weirdly structured electoral system, it does not require a lot of votes to be the spoiler. In the most recent presidential election, Trump won six states by around 1% of the vote. He won the Presidency although he received millions of votes less than another candidate. None of the Above voters and non-voters in six states clearly tipped the scales. A 1% difference in two states would have resulted in a different outcome. That is math and physics.

In the 1980's Bernie Sanders was elected Mayor of Burlington, VT as a Socialist. At the time he was an example of the possibility of a "third party" success. His success has proved to be an anomaly.

As an Independent Congressman and then an Independent Senator, Sanders chose to caucus with the Democrats. He chose to run for President in the Democratic Party primary and did a hell of a job. Folks working with him also did a hell of a job influencing the rewriting of Democratic Party rules and writing a very good platform for 2016. The sections on criminal justice, drug reform and cannabis bordered on perfection. Environmental policy was fairly well presented as well.


The reason that Bernie Sanders, an Independent, chooses to caucus and work with the Democratic Party is that it is an effective strategy for now. If circumstances change, his options are open...and so are mine.

In reality, America does not have a two partys or a two party system. America has two large and somewhat shifting coalitions that are known as the Republicans and the Democrats. Only a broad coalition can form a government and one can pretty much only effect policy if one is part of the ruling coalition. That's the way it works.

Like the Greens in Europe, I choose to work, on the electoral level, within a coalition. Our electoral system, however, is structured very differently from most European democracies. Structure determines strategy. Form of organization needs to be based on what can be accomplished. The stakes are serious and the options are narrow. Hopefully we each make wise choices.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017



 Observations from Woodpecker Flats


 rambling and ambling generally forward
eventually getting to the point
and beyond

by Zvi Baranoff

I intend to aim at the truth. I expect to at least flirt and dance around with truth and even occasionally hit the mark. But telling the truth is a dangerous and slippery slope. Once you start, consequences are likely to spin rapidly out of control. Truth is hard to pin down. It is elusive and sometimes goes bump in the night. Fortunately, we are mostly protected from that danger. We have a general common agreement to accept lies and falsehoods as realities which of course allows us to continue on with our days of working (or, at least pretending to work) and consuming - keeping the whole game going. So, we stand in lines, wait our turns, pay our bills, mow our lawns...keep smiling and have a nice day. Who am I to rock the boat?

The board game Monopoly of course is familiar to most folks likely to read my ramblings. In order to play, all the participants have to agree to a set of rules and parameters that make that artificial reality true for the extent that they all agree to play that particular game. It's fun to play for a while. It's nice to just pass Go and collect $200. At some point however we fold up the board, put it away and play something else. It's only a game. 

Sometimes the board is overturned and the funny money is scattered all around. These things may happen when the common agreement to the rules of the game, the common acceptance of certain untruths, break down. In 1967 Yippies tossed dollar bills onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange from the visitors' gallery and nothing has been the same since. They secured the visitors' gallery.

After the Yippies knocked over the Monopoly Board in 1967


The untruth, distorted truth, fractured truth, lying is endemic in our culture, perhaps even encoded in our DNA. At the very time of creation, the Attribute of Truth questioned God on the wisdom of the creation project. God chose to suppress truth to allow creation to go on as planned.

Truth be told, Henry David Thoreau had a hell of a time getting his book Walden published, and with good reasons. What publisher in his right mind wants to publish a diatribe that urges people to stop consuming? Where's the profit in that? So, I shan't make that mistake. Please, consume to your heart's content. Most important, buy this book! Buy copies for friends and relatives.

What was true then is true now. We really mostly want to be entertained, and if we are deceived along the way, so be it. We love circuses, side shows, barkers, hustlers, hucksters and charlatans in all their modern incarnations. We love television, movies, the Internet, kaleidoscopes and magic lanterns - pretty things, shiny stuff, anything that glows we imbue with shamanistic power and defer our better judgement.

Of course, Thoreau played a bit of slight of hand with his presentation.  Henry David claimed to be a squatter. In truth he was staying with permission on a friend's land. He claimed that it was the story of one year at Walden, but in fact he took two years of hanging out to write the book. And of course he claimed that the book is about Walden and the color of ice and the local wildlife and such, but he really had a far more complicated hidden agenda.

So, following Henry David's lead, this is the simple story of aging Back to Land Hippies living at Woodpecker Flats and the garden and the deer and the rains and the snows. It is not an economic, political or cultural critique. We will seemingly bring an end to poverty, create shelter for the homeless, heal the planet and repeal the Law of Gravity because nothing can hold us down...but, it is only the ramblings of an old man, so please don't take any of it seriously.  The economic and political establishment has nothing to fear from these patterns of words that I draw out here. Stories are just stories. My writing reflects my heartbeat, memories, perceptions, obsessions, visions, delusions and hopes. These words won't shake the foundations of inequality, disrupt oppression nor open the prison gates. Those sorts of changes result from massive cultural shifts taking place well beyond our tiny pocket of rural minimalist existence and my limited powers of persuasion. Take it all with a grain of salt, but if my writing inspires your inner Dadaism, I suppose that would be an artful thing.

Not so long ago, one of the corporate publishing giants that dominate the book business had a successful run with a title that claimed that everything the author needed to know to navigate his universe he learned in kindergarten. Surely it must have been an incredible institution. Myself, I think I may have learned a thing or two in factories and warehouses and offices. I picked up a lesson or two in court houses and jails and prisons and probation offices. There are lessons to be learned in the streets, in squatter communities, in ghettos, in rural enclaves, in the suburbs. There is much to be learned in banks and in underground economies, from outlaw enterprises and nonprofit profiteers and some truely inspirational experiments of both the cooperative and individualistic kind. There is certainly much to learn from a compost pile and watching the patterns of flowing water can shake loose some very useful insights. It is a complex and nuanced universe that I transpire and likely you as well. I am surely still learning my way around.

We see the world around us largely through mythological patterns. What we think we understand of our history is examined through the dominant illusions that we choose to accept. Philosophies, ideologies and religions give us context and form to define and navigate the undefinable and unnavigatable. Truth be told, we are each doing time on Planet Earth and everyone is doing life without parole. No one gets out alive. That is a pretty good bet. Feel free to plan otherwise. Everyone has to do their own time and do it their own way.


                                      

Hippies on the Cover
Hippies here too!



I came up during the Vietnam War. Vietnam perculated into the American home through television and the evening news. Where you stood on the War determined which mythologies you chose to live by. Nixon's mythological Silent Majority (later morphed into the Moral Majority) competed toe to toe with the alternative mythologies of a Counter Culture, Woodstock Nation and such. Hair was on Broadway. Peter Max created psychedelic advertisements, 7-Up called itself "The Un-Cola" and the system, in many ways flexible, resourceful and clever, found a way to turn a buck on the whole thing. By the time most people heard of cool and groovy, it wasn't.

The schools, at least in theory, prepared us for adulthood but the only adulthood I could imagine was being shipped off to the Southeast Asian jungles with a likelihood of coming home in a body bag. This did not appeal to me in the least.  Shipped to Vietnam or tripping off to the Woodstock Nation was the binary choice I perceived even before I hit puberty. I decided when I was fairly young that I was going to be a hippie when I grew up! Long hair, nudity, lots of colorful clothing, rock & roll and pot! How's that for a career choice? Frankly, if I had known the how much work is actually involved in being a hippie, I might have charted a different life course. Ah, but I was young.

Push came to shove. People marched in the streets. Police rioted in Chicago and the National Guard shot students dead on a campus in Ohio. Lines drawn with seemingly no good way out. Airplanes were hijacked. Bombs were detonated. Weathermen and Black Panthers were contemplating armed insurrection. And then Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsburg and something like a million witches and hippies and crazies and students and workers and such converged on the Pentagon and levitated it and the illusion of power held by the Military-Industrial Complex just faded away for a minute and the Movement ended the Vietnam War. Yes, I know that the levitation took place in 1968 and the Vietnam War ended years later. In 1972, as a middle schooler, I campaigned for George McGovern, the anti-war candidate. Tricky Dick Nixon was re-elected in a landslide in spite of massive political opposition to the War, the ongoing destruction and gore in Asia, growing active acts of resistance on the homefront, the chaotic klaidoscopic images broadcasted on the Nightly News and the doors I knocked on for McGovern. Of course, it is all a matter of perception.

With the Vietnam War over and the draft on hold, the Counter Culture disappeared from the mainstream media. The very strange long-haired Charlie Manson and his pseudo-hippie followers had committed some bizarre crimes and having long hair became really inconvenient and it was much harder to catch a ride hitchhiking. The 60's were over I was told again and again. It had lost all it's marketable charm. It was time to give up such nonsense and dreams, get straight jobs and get on with growing up. I stuck out my thumb and bummed around, sleeping on beaches and in the woods and on the side of the road. Rumour had it that the Counter Culture was still out there somewhere and if anyone could find it, I could! And, of course, I did, and of course there is much to the story that we will skip over for now.

Many calendars later and after the turn of the century and then some, we arrived in Oregon in time for me to cast a vote to legalize marijuana.

We had left Florida where I had been stripped of my right to vote due to a bad taillight, a traffic stop, a highly questionable search, arrest and conviction for possession of marijuana. I turned 50 in a County Jail in Gainesville, Florida. I sat in a Federal Prison in Jesup, Georgia while state after state liberalized their pot laws and Colorado and Washington State legalized cannabis. I served over three years away and an additional period of Federal probation.

Barb at our temporary office in Eugene, Oregon


The first time we came to Oregon was in 1989. I was one of the editors of Green Action, a nationally distributed alternative publication out of Tempe, Arizona. Lots of folks, myself included, were inspired by the incredible success of the Green Party first in Germany and then spreading worldwide in the 1980's and had great hope that a parallel political and cultural phenomena could sprout in the USA. Independent groups across the country defined themselves as Greens and networking of various sorts was taking place. With the help of some very creative and far sighted folks like Stan Pokras of Philadelphia, we held simultaneous Green meetings in several cities linked by computers with dial up connections. At the same time, a somewhat ambiguous organization calling itself the Committees of Correspondence - a name drawn from  pre-revolutionary American history and totally obscure to anyone but a history buff - saw themselves as the vanguard of a developing Green Party for the United States. They were doing all they could to define the agenda, including a nearly pathological refusal to discuss cannabis and an ideological opposition to using computers for networking. Meanwhile, on another continent, in a country known at the time as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, there was a massive political reevaluation and upheaval taking place called Glasnost, in Russian meaning opening, which was shaking the foundations of Russian Communist Party orthodoxy. I picked up on the moment and published an editorial in Green Action entitled Glasnost for the American Greens with an unrealistic hope that a parallel thawing and opening could result an inclusive Green Party.

The Committees of Correspondence were holding a meeting in Eugene, Oregon with the intention of holding a national conference without remotely approaching on the issues of cannabis in any form - marijuana or hemp - as they hammered out positions on a range of issues for the yet to be political party. We helped organize a Smoke In to coincide with the Greens Conference and marched a Giant Joint directly into the stuffy meeting. The tension ran high while the organizers tried to figure how to keep us off their agenda as we filled their auditorium.

After a period of harried negotiations, they agreed to let a representative speak to the assembly for 15 minutes. Jack Herrer, author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes, stepped to the podium and presented the gatling gun version of the story of everything cannabis.

Glasnost in the USSR lead to a wave of change throughout the Soviet sphere, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dismantling of the Soviet Union. Ronald Reagan said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall," and it fell but it was folks in the streets of Berlin that tore down chunks of it, played music all night long and smoked weed on top of what remained as the illusion of the invincibility of the Iron Curtain came to a seemingly instant end. Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Reagan had become irrelevant to the events unfolding. David Bowie and his song Heroes had more to do with the mood of the day and the temperament in the streets. The folks in the streets gave up fear and the armed border guards chose not to shoot. Coincidentally, Barb and I were pulled over in South Jersey on the way to a marijuana activist meeting in our nation's capitol the very same day. A zealous officer decided it was his duty to search the fellow in the passenger's seat and I was arrested for possession of marijuana at the same time those folks in Berlin were smoking down the Wall. This was not the first arrest for me and not the the most personally traumatic nor politically significant either. This was merely one of millions of personal possession arrests that happen throughout our country. Nine time zones east of us Berliners celebrated a festival of liberty on the global cultural and political fault line that separated the East from the West. Meanwhile, in the USA...

I could not possibly have imagined, when I wrote Glasnost for the American Greens, that out of the liberalizing trends of Glasnost Russia would degenerate into a repressive, demagogic, nationalistic state ruled by Putin, or that in a comic imitation of Stalin's Communism, the COC Greens would follow through with a series of purges and rewrites of internal histories. In 2016, the Green Party, using the computer networking techniques that they disdained twenty-five years earlier, stirs the dust of disinformation, promotes itself as the pro-pot party, and their perennial presidential candidate, in direct conflict with the protestations of Russian Greens, cozies up politically and culturally to the Russian demagogue, all playing at least a minor role leading to the election of Donald Trump, a Putin wannabe, in the American Presidential elections. Truth stranger than any fiction.

This is the Giant Joint that we marched on the Greens. The following Monday we marched it to the local newspaper office. The kids playing on the joint are all grown up by now.

Around the same time that Barb and I were in Eugene helping to turn environmentalists on to weed and such, Dave and his family uprooted themselves from San Diego, California. They sold their inner-city home and purchased Woodpecker Flats, nine acres in Josephine County, Oregon, just north of the California border. Another coincidence. Things happen. They happen all the time and at the same  time. There are tales to tell that will weave their way into the fabric of this story, but not yet.

A little over a quarter century later, we are staying at Woodpecker Flats due to convoluted personal channels that lead to Dave's invitation. We are creating our current mythologies and trying to figure which end is up. The dominant myth of my creation is that of the One Old Man with a Wheelbarrow and a Shovel and how he adapts his environment as his environment alters him. We need the myths and we need to see through them to maneuver our way through this world of illusion.

Many years ago, far away in India, the God Visnu came to Tulsi disguised as her husband. Tulsi made love with the God Visnu. When Tulsi understood the truth and saw through the illusion she chose to disincorporate, leaving her Earthly personage behind. Her body became a river. Her hair became Holy Basil. Two Holy Basil plants, with our encouragement, grew in pots at Woodpecker Flats, in Southern Oregon, far from their natural Indian homeland.

I grapple with the concepts of "natural" and "organic" when I muck about in my garden, the cadence and rhythms of the words and the deeper meanings that we have infused the words with. Natural gardening has an esthetic that I appreciate and is worth encouraging on that basis. Esthetics appeal to me far more than the mythologies based in efficiency and manipulated scarcity of the dominant commercial food pyramid. Gaia worship may be hokey but not nearly the stretch of putting a dollar value on a vegetable or herb garden. I have to think of my gardening primarily as art and secondarily as therapy. Any harvest is luck, fate, the will of the gods.

The "natural" state of things, however, is decay, entropy and inertia. The "natural" state is decay in place. Things fall down, rot, break. Tooth decay, gangrene, piles of unwashed dishes and such are the natural order.  Anything we do to counterbalance this situation is a struggle against nature itself. Natural and organic gardening is anything but "natural". It is the careful manipulation of the elements of nature. It is the imitation of certain aspects of nature. A garden simply would not exist without the intervention of human nature.

The only thing naturally occuring in my garden are the weeds. Everything planted originated from some other corner of the globe. Nothing in the garden (besides the weeds) would grow without nurturing, soil enhancement and water. The natural environment and my natural garden are all together different things.

Beyond the nature of the environment, or more realistically within the nature of the environment, what is "human nature"? We are "naturally" industrious, lazy, honest, sneaky, trusting, manipulative, creative, destructive, etc., all at once. I am pretty sure of it.  Every moment, in our natural environment, it is our nature to make choices, or not. Humans are fairly predictable, except when they aren't. Expect what you will, but if there are people involved, allow for the unexpected to happen. It's only natural.

From the earliest cave drawings to the rhymes and games invented by children, to how we arrange our daily lives, we are artists by nature and by choice. We have the natural artistic ability to create myths and live by them, individually and collectively. In an instant, creating new canvases, painting new landscapes, opening portals to new worlds and cultures, we redefine reality, we levitate buildings, we bring down walls. Life is performance art on a high wire without a safety net. We define the terms of our relationship with the universe...oh yea, and then there is physics, economics, luck, social demands, fate, power relationships, legal statutes, private property and the law of gravity.

So, is this art? Well, I'll tell you the truth...there are many stories to be told from here at Woodpecker Flats and we have only just begun.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017



Who's Pie? Our Pie! We Own the Bakery!  
 Cannabis Liberation
Yippie!



by Zvi Baranoff

We made a practical political decision in the 1970's to develop the "Soft Strategy" and focus on a process of long term marijuana reform rather than an overall critique of Capitalism and Stateism. (For history buffs, note The Soft Strategy: A Yippie Manifesto For the 80's published in Yipster Times, March 1978.) By doing so, we intended to effect real change that improves the lives of millions, within the constraints of the system as it is. The broader social analysis moved to the back burner. The "temporary" alliances that developed span anarcho-communists and crypto-capitalists and all that falls in between, resulting in a blurring of ideology. The continued criminalization assured a murkiness of finances and the fuzzing of individual and collective resposibilities and accomplishments. The strategy, all told, has nonetheless resulted in long term measurable success.


We brought forth the concept of "Medical Marijuana" and developed the underground networks to supply the needs of often desperate patients while politicians were left to find their safe position. Support for medical marijuana, at least in the abstract, is now hovering around 90%, with medical marijuana legal in some form or another in most of the country. We effectively explained the distinction between hemp and marijuana, and have created the groundwork for an American hemp industry even with the support of a Republican dominated Congress. And the step by step process of decriminalization and legalization on the local and state level continues to move forward. We built broad and winning coalitions, bringing full cannabis legalization from a tiny minority position to a clearly majority backed position.

Up from the underground, the legal marijuana business is here to stay. The long term nature and structure of this newly legal business is still to be seen. I have heard much grumbling over the decades that legalization will lead to corporations like Marlboro and Budwieser controlling the marijuana business. The trend, however, may be toward the more subtle but equally corporate Starbucks and Whole Foods model, and the corporate "non-profit" model such as Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill Industries. (Gasp!) We live within a capitalist economic system and we can expect corporate organizations to dominate the emerging industry.

There are, however, other economic models that we can choose from and if we take the decisive steps now, we can help shape not only our industry but the entire economic direction of this nation for decades to come. Cooperative economic enterprises have great promise in general but may be particularly adaptable to the cannabis industry because of the counterculture roots. The examples of the Madragon model in Spain is particularly appealing but closer to home we have worker owned businesses like Winco, financial options like credit unions, consumer Food coops and energy cooperatives. Worker owned dispensaries, farmers' cooperatives, co-op processing facilities as well as consumer cooperatives are the key to maximizing the positive effect of the ongoing trending toward full legalization for both marijuana and hemp.

We are at a stage where the cannabis industry seems chock full of folks operating from self-interest with a "got mine" attitude and Green Rushers out for a quick buck. This may be understandable, but does not serve the interests of the movement in general. Indeed, we are potentially at a point of increased diversion between the interests of the movement and the industry. Folks that are now reaping healthy economic returns from legal cannabis need to fully understand that their continued security relies on the ongoing efforts of activists to defend and expand cannabis freedoms. The industry can help by preferential hiring for activists and ex-prisoners and by contributing a percentage of all income to organizations working on expanding cannabis rights. Segments of the industry that do not invest in the community risk losing the ongoing support of the community. These social concerns define a zone where the cooperative wing of the industry no doubt can take the lead.

Marijuana has deep roots in cooperative tendencies. Think back to the first joint you ever shared, passing from hand to hand in a circle down to the tinniest of roaches. Sharing is at the very core of our being. Legalization is not about the rise of a new capitalist strata. We define the future of cannabis by our actions. Cannabis Cooperativists, heed the call. Invest and work toward a cooperative cannabis future.

We must hang together or we risk being hung separately - with the hempen rope of our own making.