Dave Pollard's chronicle of civilization's collapse, creative works and essays on our culture.
A trail of crumbs, runes and exclamations along my path in search of a better way to live and make a living, and a better understanding of how the world really works.



May 31, 2010

Links and Tweets of the Month: May 31, 2010

Filed under: Preparing for Civilization's End — Dave Pollard @ 21:47

hughmacleoddinosaurPREPARING FOR CIVILIZATION’S END

Financial Industry as Organized Crime: A new documentary film “Inside Job”, demonstrates that the recent hijacking and sinking of the global economy was a deliberate criminal conspiracy by the financial industry. The collapse of the Soviet Union was followed by the takeover of their economies by organized crime. It appears the criminals in the US couldn’t be bothered to wait for the collapse of that country’s society. Salon interviews the film’s writer/director.

Here Comes the Rage: Ilargi argues that Obama has now shown total inability as a leader in all three of the key crisis areas facing us in the decades to come: economy (bailouts), energy (offshore drilling), and ecology (BP disaster). Unfortunately, this will just make most people look for another leader to take his place, instead of realizing that no one can solve these problems for us.

Closing the Barn Door: Sharon Astyk explains why political solutions are always designed to “fix” yesterday’s crises, not to avert future ones. “Now we’re concerned about everything.” Too late, my brother, too late, but never mind.

The Anti-Psychiatry Movement: Last month Toronto hosted an international meeting of “victims” and “survivors” of psychiatry. Speakers and attendees argued it is a pseudo-science whose fraudulent practitioners work in concert with Big Pharma to pathologize and profit from the perfectly understandable anxieties we all feel in this horrifically overcrowded, crisis-riven, violent global society. They claim, persuasively, that it is our culture, not us, that is sick and needs to be fixed. Of course the political and corporate powers were outraged and are lobbying to prevent public funds being used for such exposes in future.

ADHD Linked to Pesticides; Cancer Linked to Chemicals; Slaughterhouse Work Linked to Crime: New studies suggest that industrial chemicals in our air, water and food are not only poisoning our bodies, they are damaging our brains, and that they are a major cause of cancers. Thanks to Tree for the links. In the same vein, Prad links us to an article showing that industrial slaughterhouse workers not only become desensitized and deranged by their work, they are also prone to commit crimes in their communities.

Immigration’s Generation Gap: I argued last year that two of the biggest social issues of the coming decade would be immigration and the right to die. A new study suggests that boomers, who tend to be progressive on most issues, are the opposite on immigration issues, and that the issue substantially pits the young against the old.

LIVING BETTER

Listening Posts: Quarterly meetings of reflective citizens, to see what is emerging as the consensus of what is really happening in the world. “A sharing of preoccupations and experiences.” Thanks to Amy Barnes for the link.

Consensus Decision-Making: A link by Jeff Patton to four articles by Laird Schaub (who I just met last week) on better decision-making through consensus. A good companion to Tree’s consensus articles.

POLITICS AND ECONOMICS AS USUAL

Going Mainstream, Selling Out: What is it about fame, position and the spotlight of the mainstream media that makes courageous progressives turn into cowardly, don’t-rock-the-boat conformists? Keith Farnish calls out Joss Garman.

California, Going Broke: Sam Mills’ story shows how one state is abusing its citizens in its effort to cut costs.

FUN AND INSPIRATION

Real-Time View of Ships in the Salish Sea, from fellow Bowen Islander Bob Ballantyne (not limited to the Salish Sea; you can see location and details of ships in all major shipping areas of the world). Note: Doesn’t work in Firefox.

Meetings, Bloody Meetings: A hilarious take from Ann Nichols on everyone’s least favourite activity. Add this blog to your blogroll. Thanks to Tree for the link.

The Secret Life of Plants, from the BBC (thanks to Dale Asberry for the link)

How Recipes Should Look, link from Jerry Michalski‘s amazing Twitter feed (as are the two items that follow)

Real-Time Visualization on Steroids, from Britain’s Royal Society for the Arts

104 Cognitive Biases: A visual study guide

Civilization: “Are you tired of primitive living?” A great video satire. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.

remember who you are

THOUGHTS FOR THE MONTH

From Pamela Slim (via Gaping Void): You, less than, is a lie. Remember who you are.

From AV Flox (also via Gaping Void): A child would not hesitate to pack up a sleeping bag and sleep on a pier under the stars with you. (Thanks too to Hugh Macleod at Gaping Void for the cartoon at the top of this post).

From Imagine Alternatives (via Tree): Finding ways not to call the police.

From Rumi (via Panhala)

Let yourself be silently drawn
by the strange pull of what you really love.
It will not lead you astray.

From Melissa Moore: On the Eve of Turning 12

May 30, 2010

What I Haven’t Said

Filed under: Preparing for Civilization's End — Dave Pollard @ 21:40

NASA BP OIl Spill from Space

the BP Oil Spill, as seen from space (NASA)

I have received a lot of questions from readers this past month, most of which fall into three categories:

  1. Why have I not written about the BP oil spill?
  2. Why do I not participate more in the comments threads on my blog, or respond to most of the e-mails people send?
  3. What’s up with me these days, anyway? Why am I not getting on with what I have so publicly intended?

For the past few weeks I have been keeping a diary, offline. It’s a record of a personal crisis of belief I’ve been going through, which the last few blog posts (and the dearth of blog posts this year) have hinted at. I’m going to try to capture some of what I wrote there in this post, to try to address these questions without the full sturm und drang of the diary. Beware — considerable rambling ahead.

.     .     .     .     .

Last year I wrote, in a poem:

i do my best these days to still my mind and listen, sense and give attention,
not to think of what it means or represents,
or feel the grief of gaia’s loss that haunts me everywhere:
but just to sit and be here, now.

though i cannot.

you’ll always be a part of me, and i of you, my land, my love, my teacher too.
we’re so alike: untidy, neither natural nor civilized, a little sad, a little wild,
a little worn, untamed and proud
and every year
a bit more silent.

thank you for your voice, your gentleness with me,
the other creatures that are part of you
and all you’ve showed me of adapting and of wisdom.

i understand at last the message you’ve proclaimed
for all who dare to hear, since life began a billion years ago:
a whisper in the wind, a rustle in the rain,
a baby’s peep, a robin’s song, the turtle’s ancient swim to spawn,
the senses’ spell, the cry of love and joy
and being one with all,
and welcome always,
everywhere.

This is how I feel. These feelings seem different from the feelings most people have. They need no consolation. They need no words. To most people who share my company they are disconcerting, because they seem socially disengaged, impersonal. They are “present with gaia” feelings. They are profound, roiling, and when people get too close they can be hurtful, since they are connected to a deeper and more intense mix of grief, anger, restlessness, helplessness, guilt, self-pity, rage, impatience and self-loathing that is tied to my awareness of how we humans have fucked up this world, with the best of intentions, and all the suffering that is causing. It is what I call my “unbearable grief for gaia” and probably why I have sublimated my emotions so much for most of my life.

When they burn themselves out, these feelings have, in past, most often led to periods of dark depression. In good times, and especially more recently, when I have been free of the anxieties of day-to-day life, these feelings soften and dissipate, leaving me exhausted and then unfeeling, detached, disconnected. This beats depression but it is the antithesis of the reconnection I claim to be seeking.

So I’ve been going through these annoying cycles of connection, emotion, and detachment. They are getting me nowhere, and are very difficult for others to have to put up with, since the connection to gaia is impersonal, quiet, wordless, leaving the people who are with me feeling shut out, and then the subsequent emotion drives me to want to be alone so I don’t hurt anyone with the overflow of anger and emotion. This is what has been behind my silence on this blog for much of this year, after last winter’s burst of enthusiastic intention.

.     .     .     .     .

gaping void hierarchy hugh macleod

cartoon by hugh macleod

One of my readers has (indirectly) described my writing as arrogant “doomer porn” — a wallowing in hopelessness, a presumption of knowing more than I do, and an excuse for inaction. This is an articulation of what many have said to me throughout much of my adult life, though it has less and less effect on me as I get older. I think that is why my readership, and my zeal for blogging, have both tailed off of late. People tell me to “get real”, to shut up and do something. But I think we pessimists are the real realists, and it is the optimists, the light greens, the technophiles, the new-age’ers, the “global consciousness raising” believers, who are the unrealistic idealists. I am tired of debating with them, because the debate is futile. We have evolved incompatible worldviews.

I have been spending more and more time in what might be called ‘alternative’ culture over the last two years. It is refreshing — progressive, open, vulnerable, experimental, and relatively informed. But it is no more my culture than the mainstream culture I masqueraded as belonging to from adolescence until 2008. My culture is an idealized one that doesn’t exist, and perhaps never will. I belong to the land, as part of all-life-on-Earth, but I am misanthropically alone.

I appreciate the importance of embodying and living what we believe, because all our feelings will not make the world a better place. At the moment, however, I don’t even want to embody what I believe most needs to be done. I don’t want to work hard to organize, to protest, to blockade, to create something difficult that will take years to realize. If I could find collaborators who care about the same things I do, and they were willing to do this ‘hard work’ I would be pleased to help in areas where I have something valuable to contribute and where I have passion.

I think that’s highly unlikely however. The “doers” of this world are not like me — they are practical people with patience and perseverance. I am, as many have said, a dreamer. My gift is imagining what’s possible, not realizing it.

I probably should be more modest, therefore, in my intentions, at least publicly. I am so tired of letting people down (which ultimately comes back to letting myself down, and that whole self-loathing thing). I am so tired, period. I just want to do what I do well and have passion for, and be who I am. Why in this world is that so hard?

Perhaps I am just meant to be an artist and not an activist. I recognize that the world probably doesn’t need more artists, and desperately needs people who are activists; fewer dreamers, more “doers”.

Or maybe not.

As much as our education system extols activism and self-sacrifice in the public interest (without it, we are taught, there would still be rampant slavery and women would be even more subjugated than they are, and Hitler would have imposed his dreadful solution on us all), I am not so sure now. From 37 years in the corporate world, for example, I have learned that many corporations do enormous and relentless damage, but also that what they do is the sum total of what their poor clueless loser employees believe in and do, with the best of intentions, and has almost nothing to do with what the poor sick sociopaths at the top believe or want to do.

signe-wilkinson

cartoon by signe wilkinson, from gocomics.com

The ghastly BP oil spill is not the fault of a small group of evil people, nor would it have been averted if the leader(s) of BP and the other organizations now playing the blame game, cared more about the environment. I am beginning to believe the same is true of all social organizations. The importance of leadership, and of change initiatives, I think, are vastly overrated. We are, each of us, just the space through which stuff passes. No one is that important, or consequential, and no one is in control.

That is why I have written nothing about the oil spill, or about the thousands of other ecological (and economic, and political, and social, and technological, and military, and educational, and health) atrocities that are occurring every day. There is no one to blame, no “root cause” other than human nature itself, and no “solution”, so what is the point of writing about it? This is just who we are, collectively, doing our best and discovering that we can do no better than bring about the sixth known great extinction of life on this planet. I applaud activists (at least the ones who know what they are doing), and their energy, their passion, their dedication, their patience and relentless perseverance. I wish I had what it takes to be one of them.

Perhaps then, for those of us who do not have what it takes to be an activist, it is enough to be an artist. To imagine what’s possible. To re-create. To express ourselves. To reflect what we see and what we feel.

And what we care about.

.     .     .     .     .

conversation

Artwork “In Deep Conversation” by Irish artist Pam O’Connell

Some readers have expressed annoyance that I do not join in the conversation in the comments threads on my blog, or by replying to most e-mails. As I’ve said before, this blog is, first and foremost, my device for talking/thinking out loud, more like graffiti than conversation. I’m sorry that this makes some readers feel invisible or not cared about.

I’m coming to believe that we don’t really know other people, and the connection and understanding we think we have with people, especially online, is largely delusional. We imagine who other people are, and imagine their context for saying what we think they think they’re saying, so we believe we know what they intend to say, what they mean, when we don’t know at all. We cannot.

I am weary of conversation, and of, as GB Shaw said, the illusion that communication has occurred. Language is a clumsy and often dangerous tool. So I am choosing to converse less, not because I don’t care about the feelings and views of those who want to talk, but because I can no longer pretend to understand what those I converse with really mean, and really feel, so the whole conversation seems like a mix of con-game and self-delusion. Ultimately, as the Paul Simon song says, we hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest.

At the same time (and this may seem to be a contradiction of what I have just said), I suspect that what each of us says (through writing, art, music, speech) is more important than we might believe, because our ideas and knowledge and insights have viral power; they influence others who pass them on to others so that we will never know how substantial their impact is, even after we’re gone. Unfortunately, we will probably also never know how exactly they took our writing or our art. This is the paradox and power of poetry, and of art, and graffiti, and even of well-done rhetoric. What the reader or listener precisely understands or feels as a result of what has been written or said is not important, and may not even be predictable. What is important is that with words, we move people. To think differently. To believe differently. To see things with new perspectives and insights. We writers and artists are just agents, precipitators of viral change that will occur over decades and generations and centuries. The direction of that change is something we cannot predict or control.

We write, we draw, we speak, we sculpt, we sing, we decorate our homes and our bodies, we do what we do, because we can’t not. We do what we must. It is in our deepest natures to self-express, and we each do it our own way.

So I’m sorry if you feel I’m not hearing you, not participating in the conversations my blog posts spark. I read you, I hear you, and I do care. But my job, my calling, is to write, and I think I’m reasonably good at that. I am neither as competent at nor as passionate about conversation. So each time I have the inspiration and the time to read or write or converse, to attempt what TS Eliot called “a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate, with shabby equipment always deteriorating, in the general mess of imprecision of feeling”, most often that passion expresses itself in a new article rather than a conversation about something I have already written.

I hope you understand.

.     .     .     .     .

Thanks to my readers, and especially thanks to Tree, Cheryl and Vera, for helping me think all this through, and for your patience as this blog continues to evolve to be what it is meant to be.

May 18, 2010

The Hard Part is Finding People Who Care

Filed under: Preparing for Civilization's End — Dave Pollard @ 23:54

don quixote picassoQuite often first-time readers of this blog, or who hear that I have a blog called “How to Save the World” ask me to sum up, in one sentence, the answer to the question implied by this blog’s name. My response has generally been to smile and shrug off the question, and then explain what this blog is about:

  • Understanding how the world really works (not the oversimplified crap the education system, corporatists, politicians, and mainstream media feed us, but not a conspiracy either — it’s very complex, evolved as it has for understandable and well-intentioned reasons, and no one is in control), and
  • Exploring models of better ways to live and make a living, both in the short-term (through experiments like the Transition, Permaculture, Intentional Community, Gift/Generosity/Relationship Economy, and Unschooling movements) and more fully in the longer term, when our civilization collapses, which I believe will occur through a protracted series of cascading crises, in this century.

And of course, if we’re going to “save the world” we need to build our own connections, capacities and competencies, and we need to work to undermine and defeat the worst aspects of industrial civilization.

So I didn’t expect I’d ever be able to provide a one-line answer to “how to save the world”.

But I was re-reading some of my recent creative works (since I intend to do more poetry, short story, speculative fiction, music and art composition this year) and I came across this line in a recent story I’d written:

The hard part is finding people who care.

And I thought: That’s what I should say when people ask me “how to save the world”. For a whole series of reasons:

  1. In our individualistic western society, we try to do far too much alone. We need to organize, to cooperate, to collaborate. But we’re all so busy, so distracted, we don’t (most of us) have time or energy to learn what needs to be done, or to help get that work done. Finding others who can help, and know and care to do so, is even harder.
  2. Enthusiasm drives a huge proportion of human endeavour. If we don’t really care, we will be hesitant to act, and we’ll give up easily in the face of adversity.
  3. In my book Finding the Sweet Spot two of my key points are: (a) never start an enterprise alone; first find partners who share your passion and have complementary skills, and (b) the work you’re meant to do lies at the intersection of what you do uniquely well, what is needed in the world that no one else is precisely meeting, and what you have passion for.
  4. We all need love to keep us going. Finding love is all about finding people who care.
  5. Before we can care about something, we need to know about it. The important issues in the world today are complex, and it takes a lot of work to really know about them. So finding people who know, and who also care, is really hard.

I have no answer to “How do we find people who care?” and so, I admit, answering the question “How do we save the world” by saying “The hard part is finding people who care” is kinda like answering a question with a question. But I think it’s an honest answer, and one that can lead to a very important conversation on the huge challenges we face connecting, organizing, adapting, and collaborating to address the daunting and intractable problems of our time, problems which have us wondering “how to save the world”.

While I have no answers on how to find people who care, I have a few thoughts:

First, perhaps instead of asking people we’ve just met what they “do” (usually “for a living”), we should ask them what they care about. What keeps them awake at night. What they would die for. And likewise when others ask us what we “do” we should deflect the question and instead tell them what we really care about. If there’s an obvious disconnect between what we/they do and what we/they care about, that in itself should be the basis for an interesting and soul-searching conversation: Why the disconnect, and what can we do about it? And if the conversation resolves that you and the other(s) you’re speaking with care about the same things, then so much more will have been accomplished than in you had merely exchanged data on your current employment.

My sense is that many of us are so disconnected from our feelings and so busy doing what we must that we don’t really know what we care about ourselves. So perhaps our ‘homework’ before seeking people who care about the same things we do is to explore inside and outside ourselves to discover what we really care about. Not what we’ve been told we should care about, not what we’ve imagined we would care about, but, when we really know ourselves, intellectually, emotionally, erotically, intuitively, sensually, somatically, what we really care about, at heart.

Another realization I’m coming to is that in order to discover if someone cares about the things you do, you first must establish a relationship with them, to give them context to understand what the issues are you care about, and why, and vice versa, and to establish a basis of trust, since talking about what you really care about isn’t something you’re going to do comfortably and easily with strangers. This investment in relationship building is expensive — it requires a major investment of time.

Most of us try to “filter” the people in our lives to hone in on those who care about the same things we do. But those filters (especially the online ones, including our blogs and other social networking media) are pretty rough, and they can filter out the wrong people. Perhaps instead of looking so far afield, casting a global net, we should instead be looking closer to home, looking in the place that, for whatever reason, we have selected as our “place”, to see if the people who care about the same things we care about have been drawn to this “place” for the same reasons we have. Perhaps the “filter” of chosen place to live is a better, simpler one than the ones our online social networks employ? And while the anonymity of the web is a safer, more comfortable place from which to assess possible partners for projects of passion, for relationships and collaborations that matter, maybe we need to put ourselves out there, raw, in the physical place in which we’ve chosen to live, and dare to tell the people right there what we care about, and why, if we really want to find the people who care about those things, too.

The people we’re meant to love, and live with, and make a living with. The people we’d give our lives for.

May 17, 2010

Thinking About Feeling

Filed under: Our Culture / Ourselves — Dave Pollard @ 01:34

gapingvoid-scared

cartoon by hugh macleod

“Though we rush ahead to save our time, we are only what we feel” – Neil Young, On the Way Home

In Grade Two I learned not to feel. Until then I felt everything, with all my heart — I fell in love for the first time when I was five, and the world was perfect. In our neighbourhood we’d play tag or hide-and-seek or football or go skating or just bounce a ball against the steps to see who could catch it, until the sun went down and we could hardly see, or in the winter until the moonlight and lamplights made the new-fallen snow glisten like diamonds, and our hands and feet got numb from the cold and we’d stoke the wood fireplace in the temporary shed beside the outdoor skating rink. And we’d sing our hearts out. And cry inconsolably for hours when a tiny bird crashed against our windows and our attempts to nurse it to health with sugar water in an eyedropper didn’t work. And stories were as real as life. And we’d get so intoxicated by some moment of simple joy we’d  laugh until we fell down or threw up. And we’d race home in torrential and violent thunderstorms, fearless, drying ourselves sitting in front of the hot air radiator, with the smells of dinner coming from the kitchen.

But in Grade Two something changed. Some of the kids at school started to lie. Or to threaten to hit you or take something from you. Or they’d say things just to be mean, even the girls. Where everything had been cooperative, collaborative before, now everything was a competition, and if you weren’t smart, fast, coordinated, tall, unblemished, well, you were a loser. If you were good at school but not smart in other things you were a suck, which was worse than being stupid. And for the girls you loved, it was no longer enough to be authentic, to care, to be imaginative and playful and faithful. You had to be handsome, clever, worldly, funny in a new and impossibly complicated way. You had to be something you weren’t, and couldn’t be, and didn’t want to be.

It became dangerous to feel too much. The twisted kids who you used to feel sorry for discovered they could manipulate others, and in the anarchy of the schoolyard they suddenly had power. It was like they were inflicting the damage inside them on everyone else and no one was saying anything, as if what they were doing was normal, or impossible to stop. Kids who’d been in boarding schools or juvenile detention centres bragged about how tough they were, that they were survivors and you’d better get tough or life would get very hard for you.

So I learned to stop feeling. I withdrew into myself, and was labeled a “shy kid”, which I’d never been, and for nearly ten years I lived in a world of my own, a “daydreamer”, a disengaged and marginal student, an “underachiever”. I would let homework pile up until I was sick with dread about getting caught out, and then work like mad to get most of it done, but I’d never really get caught up. If a girl talked to me, which happened rarely, I would almost pass out from anxiety, from not knowing what to say. I was completely disconnected from the world and from myself. I couldn’t dance, or swim, or do sports. I was no fun. I just wanted the world to go back to the way it once was. Eventually I forgot what that was like; it was too hard and painful to remember. Finally I stopped feeling lonely because I couldn’t remember or imagine any other way to be. That was the last thing I stopped feeling.

I was rescued, in my last year of high school, by an Unschooling pilot program that I’ve written about elsewhere on this blog. My adult life was, until recently, plagued by bouts of deep depression and chronic anxiety, but at 18 I had broken through, become functional, learned to love again, and to believe (perhaps too much) in myself. I had become, after years detached from reality, an incorrigible idealist, and still am, for all the good that’s done me. When you live inside your head, in your imagination, every dose of hard reality is a blow, a disappointment, a fall from brief and fleeting grace. But I had learned to be clever at a few things, thanks to my peers, and that cleverness and a renewed self-confidence combined to make my adulthood one of almost uninterrupted success, at least in the ways that our society measures it — position, money, material possessions. Purpose.

I was happy with my success. I was, most of the time, numb. The one feeling I had that came up fairly often was anger, and it was ugly, so I learned to suppress it. I was good at suppressing things in myself. I’d had a lot of practice. And when crises came up I coped with them the way I always did — a mix of retreat into depression, anxiety, procrastination, and, finally, figuring out all by myself what had to be done and, when there was no other choice, doing it.

Thirty years later I woke up and realized that what I wanted in life was not the many things I’d achieved and acquired, and that in their pursuit and accomplishment I’d forgotten about the things that I once thought were most important: Ending the devastation of our planet, which was now being perpetrated by, mostly, stupid white men of my own once-idealistic generation. Stopping the suffering of animals. Bringing human population back to sustainable levels. Bringing equity and justice and dignity and opportunity to the 99% of the population who struggle all their lives against impossible and unfair odds just to survive and to be, once in a while, happy.

For the last decade, most of it chronicled in this blog, I’ve tried to understand how the world really works and why it’s so awful (at least, to an idealist), and what we could do to create better ways to live and make a living. I’ve learned a lot, and, I told myself, as soon as I retired I would put this new knowledge, and my new health (the result of overcoming a terrible illness four years ago, also well chronicled in this blog), to good use.

This year, I retired.

For the last few months I’ve lived the life most people dream of — retired comfortably from paid work, living in a paradise, debt-free, worry-free, loved, loving, open to love, very healthy, free from any onerous responsibilities or commitments, and free to do (or not do) whatever I want each day.

    As some people warned me might happen, I’ve become a bit lazy (and perhaps hazy) as a result. I’ve made far too little progress on my What You Can Do (to make the world a better place) list of intentions*. So what am I doing with my time? Bottom line: I’m not spending any more time on reconnection, capacity/competency building, activism, new model creation, reflective and creative activities  than I did when I was working full-time (i.e. still three hours a day). The six hours a day (average over a seven-day week) I used to spend working I now spend in play, in cooking and housekeeping.

    I tell myself I deserve to spend some extra time playing — just doing whatever I feel like doing on the spur of the moment each day — as part of the transition from paid work and as part of learning how to manage my days effectively and responsibly now that I have no external demands on my time.

    But I have this gnawing feeling that, freed from anxiety, I’m actually getting ‘spacey’ — even more disconnected from the real world, and from my feelings. For example, I recently hiked around the Island to three of Bowen’s best beaches, and then played around with the photos I took of them, for hours; and I used telephoto pictures, Google maps, Google earth and triangulation tools to identify most of the mountains and houses I can see in the distance from my new house. And I’ve spent quite a bit of time meeting new people and attending various events I would never have found time for when I was working, just for fun. These are pastimes, diversions.

    All of it has been somewhat disconnecting, and left me disengaged from the real world. These activities are mostly pretty superficial and emotionless. I’ve begun to wonder whether, suddenly finding myself without other people making demands on my time , telling me what I must or should be doing, and without constant feelings of time pressure and expectations — my freedom from anxiety has become freedom from feeling.

    What is it I’m ‘diverting’ myself from? Why is it that I’m only really connected with my feelings:

    • When I listen to good music,
    • When I fall in love,
    • When I play with animals, or
    • When something, late at night, usually connected with water, or wind, or light, or the sounds of wild creatures, stirs my heart?

    I came to this island, this paradise, for sanctuary — protection and healing. Sanctuary from what?

    In the gorgeous Reid & Shamblin song “I Can’t Make You Love Me“, made famous by Bonnie Raitt, about not having a choice when it comes to love, there’s a line:

    “You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t”

    What is the matter with my heart?

    —–

    [*My 'Report Card' on my five sets of 2010 Intentions, to date:

    1. Some aspects of my morning Reconnection practices (meditation, exercise, presencing, art/music composition, gratitude, body/senses/feelings/instinct awareness, letting go, and spending time in wild places) get done periodically. But it's hardly a daily practice.
    2. I've made limited progress in starting my afternoon Capacity/Understanding/Competency Building activities, Activism projects and New Model Creation activities.
      • I had intended to increase my competency or capacity in ten areas: presentation skills, conversation skills, demonstration skills, creative writing skills, self-awareness, facilitation skills, problem/stress management, life balance, time management and empathy. I've taken a few workshops but I don't think I've made any significant headway (e.g. from my work on empathy I've mostly learned that I'm misanthropic). I have been learning to cook, and to host. And I'm still learning how the world really works, which is endlessly time-consuming.
      • My first set of Activism projects (facilitating collaborations of people working to find creative, effective, ideally non-violent ways to stop the Alberta Tar Sands, and factory farming) haven't made it past the early planning stages.
      • Likewise my New Model Creation intentions -- other than a bit of writing I've done next to nothing to advance any of my four favourite better-way-to-live models/movements: Unschooling, the Gift/Generosity/Relationship Economy, Intentional Community, and Transition to a post-civ society. And my novel/film script, imagining a strange, joyful, amazingly diverse post-civilization human society, remains unwritten.
    3. My evening Reflection and Creation practices (blogging, creative writing, music composition, dance, play, drawing and photography) started well, but (except for play) have since slowed. My blogging pace is the slowest it's ever been.]

    May 13, 2010

    Vegan

    Filed under: Our Culture / Ourselves — Dave Pollard @ 09:13

    why-im-veganDon’t read Jonathan Safran Foer’s new book Eating Animals. You don’t want, or need, to hear the results of his extensive, hands-on research into factory farming. You don’t want to hear yet another reformed vegan tell you:

    • The six main reasons to be vegan:
      1. to reduce the ghastly and endless suffering of billions of thinking, feeling creatures;
      2. to live healthier and longer;
      3. to reduce global air and water pollution, land degradation, water shortages and climate change impact;
      4. to reduce the risks of pandemic diseases carried by genetically identical, sick, mutilated, confined chemical-soaked animals;
      5. to eat (when the external costs and agribusiness subsidies are factored out) less expensively;
      6. to end the atrocities and human psychological damage that occur in industrial animal slaughterhouses;
    • “Someone who regularly eats factory-farmed animal products cannot call himself an environmentalist without divorcing that word from its meaning.”
    • “The controversy around PETA may have less to do with the organization [and its tactics] than with those of us who stand in judgment of it — that is, with the unpleasant realization that ‘those PETA people’ have stood up for the values we have been too cowardly or forgetful to defend ourselves.”
    • “The power brokers of factory farming know that their business model depends on consumers not being able to see (or hear about) what they do.”
    • It’s a myth that “free-range” or “organic” animal products are more humane than factory farmed products.
    • [quote from a rancher of unmutilated, undrugged, un-genetically modified animals, one of the dwindling number who now collectively produce less than 0.5% of US animal products] “Michael Pollan wrote about Polyface Farm in The Omnivore’s Dilemma like it was something great, but that farm is horrible. It’s a joke. Joel Salatin is doing industrial birds. Call him up and ask him. So he puts them on pasture. It makes no difference… KFC chickens are almost always killed in 39 days. They’re babies. That’s how rapidly they’re grown. Salatin’s organic free-range chicken is killed in 42 days. ‘Cause it’s still the same chicken. It can’t be allowed to live any longer because its genetics are so screwed up… These aren’t things, they’re animals, so we shouldn’t be talking about good enough. Either do it right or don’t do it.”
    • Many of the workers in modern industrial slaughterhouses find the atrocities and suffering they witness every day so desensitizing that they become deranged sadists, and slaughterhouse owners ‘cover’ for the horrific acts they then routinely commit on animals.
    • The American Dietary Association has repeatedly confirmed that “vegetarian [including vegan] diets are appropriate for all individuals during all stages of the life-cycle, including pregnancy, infancy, adolescence, and for athletes…[and such] diets tend to be lower in saturated fats and cholesterol and higher in fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals…[and] are often associated with a number of health advantages, including lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower risk of hypertension, lower risk of type 2 diabetes… and lower cancer rates.” In addition, they note that vegetarians and vegans have more optimal protein consumption than carnivores, since excess animal protein intake increases the risk of osteoporosis, kidney and urinary tract diseases and some cancers.

    You don’t need to read the book. You know all this. There are reasons you still consume animal products, that are, inevitably, factory farmed. Eating is, after all, a social activity. It makes people really uncomfortable to tell them you’re vegan, and talking about it is hard. It’s even harder to replace all the animal products you use (especially eggs and dairy for baking and flavouring) with vegan alternatives, and to find replacements for the ‘processed’ products (sauces, desserts, breads) that you buy because it takes time to make them from scratch.

    So here’s what you do. At least, here is what I’m going to do, as I take the last small step to being vegan, all the way, all the time:

    • Learn the list of 5 reasons for being vegan in the diagram above. Partly to remind myself, partly to answer the “why” question that others always ask. My approach is not to debate, not to defend, but to be ready if someone is really ready to listen.
    • Get a button that says, simply, vegan, and wear it on days when I am going to food stores or restaurants.
    • Use the Veganomicon cookbook for all my meals. This book is wonderful, unintimidating, practical, easy, delicious and funny.
    • Keep a copy of Eating Animals to give to anyone who is ready and wants the facts.
    • Be prepared for dinner invitations. Let the host of dinner parties know in advance that I’m vegan and that I’m serious about it. Know which restaurants in the area I’m going to be eating in, have vegan options. If I know I’m going to be eating at a place with no vegan options, eat in advance.
    • I don’t have non-vegan family members living with me anymore; if I did, I’d tell them of my choice and that I’m serious about it, but that I will never impose it on others.
    • Become sufficiently proficient at vegan cooking that I don’t need to fret when I’m cooking for or hosting non-vegans. Tell them in advance that all meals will be vegan, and what the vegan alternatives will be for milk/cream (for coffee, cereal), eggs and cheese. There are alternatives.

    Not so hard after all.

    May 12, 2010

    Integrating Six Models of a Better Way to Live

    Filed under: Preparing for Civilization's End — Dave Pollard @ 01:23

    Natural-Society-Model

    Since I’ve retired I’ve been spending more time meeting with people in, and learning more about, six movements that are proposing, and working to implement, models of a better way to live. My motivation for this is simple: I believe our industrial civilization is going to collapse (in cascading spasms) in this century, and I want my grandchildren to have the tools and knowledge to deal with the crash and, if they survive it, to create a more sustainable society in its aftermath.

    The six movements are:

    1. The Transition Movement: Originally developed to allow communities to prepare for the End of Oil and make the transition to a low-energy, renewable-energy future, this movement has now expanded its scope to encompass preparations to adapt to the effects of inevitable dramatic climate change in the coming decades.
    2. The Permaculture / Cradle-to-Cradle Sustainability Movements: Although the term “permaculture” is being generalized to include anything and everything related to economic and ecological sustainability, at its core it is about natural, sustainable food production and local food self-sufficiency. The Cradle-to-Cradle movement is the analogous (to permaculture) approach for production of other goods, with everything reused and restorable so there is no waste, no loss of value, ever.
    3. The Intentional Communities Movement: This movement is principally about encouraging cooperative and collective housing, though it extends to helping people find others with common values and helping them build on these values, and deal with the challenges of communal living, such as achieving consensus and resolving conflicts.
    4. The Unschooling Movement: This movement offers a model of self-directed learning, guided by mentors in the community, to replace the industrial education system. It appreciates that we are all born with the capacity for and love of learning, and that by practicing we learn how to learn, and if we trust children to follow their passions they will learn what they need to learn to thrive, better than any institutional system can teach them.
    5. Holistic / Well-Being Movements: There are many movements looking to improve upon the industrial health-care systems of the world, but they tend to have these qualities in common: (a) they believe preventing illness and injury is preferable to treating them, (b) they treat the patient and caregivers as equal partners and believe patients are perfectly capable of self-diagnosing and self-treating many illnesses and injuries, and (c) they appreciate that the body is a complex interrelated organism that must be cared for holistically, not like a machine with independent parts.
    6. The Gift/ Generosity/ Relationship Economy Movement: This cooperative movement recognizes that the industrial economy is built on manufactured scarcity and manufactured needs, and that this is unsustainable, unhealthy, and anti-social. It stresses the value of relationships, collaborative effort, filling real human needs, and passion and voluntary energy over the dubious and manipulated “market” value of “stuff”. It can operate without money or other medium of exchange, at a time when currencies have become fragile, volatile, and inequitable.

    These movements don’t have heads, gurus, controlling organizations or centralized management. That’s why I describe them as movements. They are organic and largely self-organized. And all six movements are fundamentally community-based, and may not scale particularly well. Their practitioners share stories and practices of what has worked and what has not, and respect that each community is different and must therefore ‘realize’ the principles of the movement differently.

    I’m fascinated by all six of these movements, and by the struggles each is having getting traction in our teetering industrial society. It’s heartening to see that their members are starting to talk with each other. The next meeting of the Fellowship for Intentional Communities has a session on the Transition Movement, for example, and the Village Building Convergence, an ambitious and well-established “make our city more livable” program in Portland has a whole workshop on the Transition Movement this year. (By the way, I’ll be attending both events later this month in Portland — let me know if you’re going, or if you’ll be at the Unschooling event in neighbouring Vancouver WA also taking place at the end of the month.)

    It seems to me that all six of these movements offer a piece of the puzzle of how to live better than our current industrial society/civilization currently allows. I thought it might be useful to see if we could fit all six pieces of the puzzle into an integrated model.

    Here’s what each of the six movements could bring to such a model:

    1. The Transition Movement:
      • A sense of urgency and specific common purpose (the need to prepare for impending energy, ecological and perhaps economic collapse), as well as momentum and cellular organization experience
    2. The Permaculture / Cradle-to-Cradle Sustainability Movement:
      • A practical method for achieving community-based sustainable production of food and manufactured goods
    3. The Intentional Communities Movement
      • Methods that can enable real communities to form, self-organize, achieve social and political objectives collaboratively and deal with conflict peacefully
    4. The Unschooling Movement
      • A process for learning that can be used when the institutional, industrial education system collapses, or before
    5. Holistic / Well-Being Movements
      • A process for optimizing community well-being that can be used when the institutional, industrial “health care” system collapses, or before
    6. The Gift/Generosity/Relationship Economy Movement
      • A means for organizing economic activity that is not based on scarcity, money, competition or coercive exchange, but rather on our natural generosity, love, trust, and passion to solve problems and meet real needs cooperatively

    I see the Transition Movement as the umbrella “adaptive change” movement, since I think it can and must broaden itself to accommodate adaptation to economic collapse, and with it the collapse of health care, education and other institutions. I see the Gift/Generosity/Relationship Economy Movement as the natural community-based economic model, the one that will work sustainably when trade, currencies and centralized globalized corporations collapse. I see the Intentional Communities Movement as the social and political model, the one that will show us how to live together peacefully and cooperatively once more in community, instead of under large inflexible centralized governments and the tyranny of lawyers and law-enforcers, since most governments are likely to go bankrupt and simply cease operating when civilizational collapse begins.

    I’ve tried to depict this in the diagram above, but I have a number of concerns with it:

    • It’s missing a lot of the subtlety, the nuance, the context for when/how the various institutions and systems in our civilization are likely to collapse, and how they are so totally interdependent. Perhaps I need a story to show how each of the integrated movement’s “parts” would fit into the new model. It’s hard to show an organic system with a bunch of boxes, and I can’t see how to show the interdependence of the system’s parts in a diagram.
    • Essential to many or all “parts” of the Natural Society Model are (in addition to community): love, conversation, story-telling, trust, natural enterprise, responsibility, passion, and stewardship, but I don’t know how to represent them on the diagram.

    I’d welcome any thoughts on how to pull this all together and present/represent it better. Is there a better name than “Natural Society”? How might this be pitched to the hard-working people in each of the movements in a way that is constructive, inviting, and collaborative, rather than appearing to subsume or layer more responsibility onto them? Or is this attempt to integrate them a waste of time and energy — will they find ways to work together naturally when they recognize the advantages of doing so?

    May 7, 2010

    The Ten Most Important Questions I Heard at Northern Voice 2010

    Filed under: Using Weblogs and Technology — Dave Pollard @ 22:46

    pc vey cartoon

    I‘m at NV10, the annual bloggers’ conference in Vancouver BC, and what has impressed me most so far is the questions I have heard. With dozens of rapid-fire simultaneous sessions, there is not enough time for thorough answers, but the social networking is great, and the questions sometimes are more important anyway. So here are the ten most important questions I’ve heard (or overheard) at this year’s conference:

    1. If you want to start doing something new that you’ve been putting off because you didn’t have time, what are you going to stop doing in order to make time for it?
    2. How can we do a better job of identifying and inviting the ‘right’ people to meet and engage in conversations on subjects that matter?
    3. Why do we always end up focusing way too much on tools, instead of on processes and relationships?
    4. How can we create enough space and time to listen to substantial stories, enough so that we really understand what’s going on and why, and really learn from them?
    5. Why do so many people still talk about “creating community” and “building a culture of x” when these things are organic and evolutionary and cannot possibly be created or imposed?
    6. How do we set boundaries (spatial, temporal, and psychological) for, and balance energy spent on, individual vs group vs network vs community activities?
    7. Why do we feel so compelled (aesthetically and commercially) to ‘enhance reality’ by retouching, photoshopping, and otherwise making things larger and ‘better’ than real life?
    8. Why is the gap between traditional educational institutions and those in the educational vanguard, those using new technologies, processes and ideas, becoming wider and wider?
    9. Why has nothing come along to make blogs obsolete, or to significantly update/improve them?
    10. Is self-directed learning (unschooling) only for kids with good genes and/or devoted parents, or can it be effective for anyone who hasn’t been damaged by institutional education?

    May 4, 2010

    What Are You Going to Do When the Internet’s Gone?

    Filed under: Using Weblogs and Technology — Dave Pollard @ 21:18

    jackzieglercartoon

    Cartoon by Jack Ziegler in the New Yorker. You can buy his stuff here.

    What are you going to do when the Internet’s gone? That is the question that no one dares ask. I’m not talking about Net Neutrality and the takeover of the web by corporate interests. I’m talking about its simple disappearance, as infrastructure that’s simply unaffordable and unsustainable in a world of economic, energy and ecological collapse, stops working and falls apart.

    The technophiles, the “bright greens” will tolerate no such talk, of course. They believe with a religious passion that technology will solve all the world’s problems (and let us live forever to enjoy the resultant eternal bliss of allknowingness). But the “dark greens” — the post-civs who see our society collapsing (“all civilizations do”) probably in this century — want to believe too. They want the Internet to help them organize resistance to the corporatists and globalists who are exacerbating the crises driving us off the edge of the cliff, if not in time to stop it, at least enough to be able to piece together some alternative models of how to live sustainably that the survivors (our grandchildren) will be able to use.

    So asking this question generally raises a lot of scowls from all sides. Even the corporatists have become utterly dependent on it for the information and communication systems of their dysfunctional and plundering empires. A world without the Internet is simply…unthinkable.

    Until you think about it. Consider that:

    • The Internet is a huge user of electricity and related electrical and telecommunication infrastructure. That infrastructure, as invisible as it is, requires massive amounts of continuous maintenance.
    • During the Great Depression of the 1930s, one of the first things to go was reliable phone and electrical service. The utilities went bankrupt like everyone else, because their customers couldn’t afford to pay the bills, so the utilities as a result couldn’t afford to pay repair, maintenance and service people to keep these services operating. (When farmers abandoned their unsustainable, monoculture farms, they left notes on their doors inviting other migrants to stay and take care of their homes to ward off poachers, and left the doors unlocked. No power, no phones.)
    • The Internet requires, for most of its value, a huge number of ‘volunteers’ working mostly at the ‘edges’ providing millions of hours of free labour to write the software to keep it running and to keep its content current. Most of these volunteers are people who have a source of income (other than the Internet) that allows them to volunteer this effort in their ‘spare’ time. No full-time jobs, no time for volunteer work.
    • The hardware that allows us to use the Internet is utterly dependent on large-scale, inexpensive global trade in metals, minerals and materials, some of them rare and scarce. You can’t build computers, servers and telecom lines from materials you can find locally. When global trade grinds to a halt, made worse by the end of cheap, affordable oil, where are we going to get these things? And what happens when supply of these materials simply runs out and there’s no money to research and develop alternatives?

    Just as in the last Great Depression, the collapse of essential information and communication infrastructure won’t happen all it once. It will be a gradual decline. The first signs, I think, will be the loss of the generosity economy features that have made the Internet so ubiquitous — the free software and free services that advertisers and ‘free-mium’ service buyers and enthused volunteer labour funded. There are already some disturbing signs of this happening: Gaia.com, a large blog platform, has folded; Friendfeed has been bought out by Facebook (which, despite its immense popularity and reach, has surprisingly small revenues and must be operating on razor-thin margins); Yahoo has been closing many of its services and is rumoured to be in difficulty. And all the wonderful stuff we have from Google comes thanks to advertising revenues, even though there is almost no evidence that such advertising is effective.

    So what you’ll see, I think, is a lot of consolidation, disappearance of free services (Ning recently announced it is abandoning all its ‘free’ services, and their customers) and an annoying increase in fees (the giant global right-wing news empire News Corp is again planning to start charging for its content). “The end of free” will drive millions of Internet readers (and writers) away. Advertisers will then flee. What will be left will be tons of people using ‘free’ bandwidth to try to download huge amounts of ‘free’ music and video, and ISPs will then find relatively little resistance to them bringing in huge increases in bandwidth fees (and the end of fixed rates). If you’ve ever dealt with the outrage of ‘roaming’ charges for data, imagine such charges for all use.

    The next wave of the Internet’s decline will be when the next long Depression begins, probably in a decade or two. When communication and electrical service becomes intermittent as utilities cut back, Internet service, having been marginalized by the events described above, will be considered a non-essential service, and regularly shut down in favour of more critical uses of these services. And then, as PCs become less ubiquitous and people get used to finding alternative ways to get their information and entertainment, and as the availability of components and materials falls and their cost increases, computers will start to become community resources rather than personal ones, and you’ll have to go to the library or the neighbourhood school to find one in working order. And eventually even these will break down, and people will, as they always do, find workarounds.

    I’m sure most readers of this article are shaking their heads, saying this will never happen. And I’m sure that most readers who are also students of history are probably nodding their heads, saying they can imagine this, and perhaps it wouldn’t be so terrible. True innovation blossoms when there is a real human need that is not being met, and the need for information and communication and entertainment is eternal. How to evolve and adapt to the end of the Internet? Maybe like this:

    • Instead of downloading music and film, create your own music and theatre, in live performance
    • Instead of taking photos, draw, paint, sculpt
    • Instead of blogging, write a journal, and meet in your community and share stories and ideas, cook together, rant, organize, build something together
    • Instead of playing online games, organize a real-space scavenger hunt, eco-walk, or bicycle rallye
    • Instead of taking online courses, unschool yourself in your own community, and learn about your place… or show/teach others what you know (including, most importantly, teaching children how to think and learn for themselves)
    • Instead of organizing online petitions and complaining online about the state of the world, go visit your local politician, get involved in community activities that make a difference (disrupt, show your outrage, satirize, or create something better)
    • Instead of looking for health information online, set up a local self-help health co-op, offering preventive care, self-diagnostic and holistic self-treatment information
    • Instead of porn… well, use your imagination

    How well will you be prepared to adapt to the end of the Internet? Are you dependent on it, now, for critical information you need, for connection with those you love and those you seek to love, to work with, to partner with, and for what brings you joy or blessed escape? The biggest uses of the Internet today are music, porn, health information, games, and amateur photo/video sharing. To the extent you use the Internet for any of these things, do you have a way of doing them, with no or low technology, when the Internet’s gone?

    And in the meantime, don’t take the Internet and all its ‘free’ offerings for granted. It’s a rare window of incredible opportunity, and it won’t last forever. Like everything else in our overwrought civilization, it’s unsustainable.

    So blog like hell while you can.

    May 1, 2010

    Links and Tweets of the Week: May 1, 2010

    Filed under: Preparing for Civilization's End — Dave Pollard @ 22:50

    sixselves

    the six selves — a model of reconnection with ourselves and with all-life-on-Earth that I’ve recently developed (more on this in an upcoming post)

    PREPARING FOR CIVILIZATION’S COLLAPSE

    This Sucker’s Going Down…: Two of my most informed sources on the economy are warning that our overwrought, overstimulated and fundamentally ruined economic system is now teetering, and it’s time, if you are still invested in equities or worse, to head quickly for the exits. Jim Kunstler notes in a blog post ominously called “A Still Moment”:

    This sucker is going down because the train of bankruptcies underway has a remorseless self-reinforcing power to provoke more and more bankruptcies at every stop along the line as every promise to pay is welshed on. The mortgages will not be paid and securities will not pay their investors and the banks will choke on the bad paper promises in their vaults and the pension funds will not pay their beneficiaries and the states and counties and municipalities will go broke and not pay their employees and creditors, and the federal government will not be able to “print” new money in sufficient quantities fast enough to compensate for all the money not being paid up-and-down the line… and one morning we will wake up and discover that all those promises to pay were sham promises based on no productive activity whatsoever… and that will be a sad day…

    So many forces are roiling around ‘out there’ now that it’s hard to believe that the authorities in government and banking can keep the illusion of normality going a whole lot longer. The possible litigation against Goldman Sachs-style frauds by a thousand aggrieved victims is enough to paralyze the system. Meanwhile, trillions in credit default swaps are ticking away like dirty bombs. Greece is going down, with Portugal, Spain, Ireland, and the UK standing by to go next. Nobody can pay their bills. Before long, the old folks won’t get their checks. Then the poor folks.

    …And Automatic Earth Gears Up for the Fallout: In an equally ominous development, Stoneleigh has quit her job to help transform her blog (with Ilargi) into a full-time multi-faceted information centre to help the millions of victims of the coming economic collapse to prepare and build resilience to deal with it.

    Unschooling Debate Heats Up: You probably know I’m a huge fan of radical unschooling and in particular PS Pirro’s unschooling manifesto. What I haven’t talked about is that when the collapse of the three E’s (economy, energy, ecology) comes, there will be no money for public education, and probably not enough to keep private schools going either. So we’re going to have to work in partnership with other parents in our communities to homeschool and/or unschool the community’s children. As an average, disengaged student who came late to unschooling and was transformed by it into a scholar and a competent writer, I’ve come to believe that, with patience and the freedom to make mistakes, every child can thrive in a self-directed unschooling environment, even with little or no parental guidance. So I was surprised when the brilliant and informed Sharon Astyk took a shot at unschooling enthusiasts, saying it was no panacea and wasn’t for everyone. Of course I passed this on to PS, who has written a very smart response. Please read both posts — it’s an important debate.

    The Bright Side of Doomers: Vera Bradova, who has labeled us post-civilization bloggers and back-to-the-land types predicting the end of our civilization in this century “doomers”, has two good things to say about us: (i) we’re past denial, and awake to ho the world really works, and (ii) we’re doing interesting, useful and contagious things to address the challenges, not just complaining. “The main point of their stance is sound: moving out of the infantilized, catered and untenable modern lifestyle and into one that is based on self-reliance, sanity, community. They are the resilience pioneers.” Right on.

    LIVING BETTER

    Living the Generosity Economy: Interview with a Melbourne Australia restaurant whose menu has no prices. Thanks to Tree for the link.

    POLITICS AND ECONOMICS AS USUAL

    The Trillion Dollar Fraud: John Talbott in Salon explains why the Fed, which is not a government agency and which is, quite overtly and deliberately, controlled entirely by the banking industry, is so fiercely opposed to being audited.

    Billions Spent on Psych Drugs — With No Net Benefit to Patients: A new book Anatomy of an Epidemic by award-winning journalist Robert Whitaker concludes that psychiatrists and Big Pharma have been working together for decades to conceal evidence that both “industries” fail to improve the mental health of most patients. Excerpt from a Salon interview:

    The problem is that psychiatry, starting in 1980 with the publication of the DSM-III, decided to tell the public that psychiatric disorders were biological ailments, and that its drugs were safe and effective treatments for those ailments. If it suddenly announces to the public that a long-term NIMH-funded study found that the 15-year recovery rate for schizophrenia patients was 40 percent for those off meds and 5 percent for those on meds, then that story begins to fall apart. By not reporting the results, psychiatry maintains the image of its drugs in the public mind, and the value of psychiatrists in today’s therapy marketplace.

    Joe Bageant Takes on the Media: Joe lashes out at Anderson Cooper and the rest of the overpaid celeb entertainment media cabal. Excerpt:

    We’re gonna “develop” and “stimulus” our way out of what is happening now — which is that we are fast becoming a slave labor workhouse planet. Now let me see here — hmmm — who is in charge of development? Oh yeah, the global financiers.

    There is no way the world’s working people can win in the long run, which is getting pretty damned short, or even survive, except by joining the worker struggles, of China, Asia and Africa and India. The idea that American workers are the same as the Asian and Latin American and African working people goes down hard in American gullets… As a people, they’ll never ever accept that fact, because they’ll never know it for at least two reasons. (1) They are  too over worked and undereducated to find out for themselves, and (2) American corporate media machinery will never let them hear of it. Americans are screwed, blued and tattooed.

    And for that I blame Anderson Cooper. That’s right, CNN’s boyishly good looking, sincere faced, Emmy Award winning Anderson Cooper. Let me explain.

    Between the corporate and financial elites and the slobbering masses stands the American Information Class — the reporters, talking heads, news anchors and pundits. In short, the entire gaggle of meat puppets and journalism hacks who have been cultivated and bred to be clueless by the university industry and others serving our corporate empire. In other words, serving global capitalism, and the national fictions it maintains, including that sizable piece of corporate feudal turf known as America.

    Former UN President Speaks Out: Father Miguel D’Escoto at the alternative People’s Congress on Climate Change and the Environment describes the UN as “The Subjugated Nations”, a dysfunctional dictatorship of the West (the security council), and lashes out at the US wars of occupation in the Mideast and the need for Latin America to plot a new course. Thanks to Tree for the link. and the one that follows.

    What if the Tea Party Were Black?:Imagine that hundreds of black protesters descended on DC armed with AK-47s. Would they be defended as patriotic Americans?”

    The Future of Publishing: A great article in the New Yorker by Ken Auletta on the fight among Amazon, Apple and Google for publishing dominance, and what it means for a struggling publishing industry (books, magazines, newspapers and all other matter of intermediated information and entertainment). Highlights:

    David Rosenthal, the publisher of Simon & Schuster, says that his company is racing “to embed audio and video and other value-added features in e-books. It could be an author discussing his book, or a clip from a movie that touches on the book’s topic.” The other major publishers are working on similar projects, experimenting with music, video from news clips, and animation. Publishers hope that consumers will be willing to pay more for the added features. The iPad, Rosenthal says, “has opened up the possibility that we are no longer dealing with a static book. You have tremendous possibilities…” [now you're talking]

    A close associate of [Amazon head Jeff] Bezos puts it more starkly: “What Amazon really wanted to do was make the price of e-books so low that people would no longer buy hardcover books. Then the next shoe to drop would be to cut publishers out and go right to authors.” Last year, according to several literary agents, a senior Amazon executive asked for suggestions about whom Amazon might hire as an acquisitions editor. Its Encore program has begun to publish books by self-published authors whose work attracts good reviews on Amazon.com. And in January it offered authors who sold electronic rights directly to Amazon a royalty of seventy per cent, provided they agreed to prices of between $2.99 and $9.99. The offer, one irate publisher said, was meant “to pit authors against publishers…”

    Although critics argue that traditional book publishing takes too much money from authors, in reality the profits earned by the relatively small percentage of authors whose books make money essentially go to subsidizing less commercially successful writers. The system is inefficient, but it supports a class of professional writers, which might not otherwise exist.

    THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK (POETIC EDITION)

    From David Whyte (thanks to my new friend Dawn Smith for pointing me to the three poems/thoughts that follow):

    SWEET DARKNESS

    When your eyes are tired
    the world is tired also.

    When your vision has gone
    no part of the world can find you.

    Time to go into the dark
    where the night has eyes
    to recognize it own.

    There you can be sure
    you are not beyond love.

    The dark will be your womb
    tonight.

    The night will give you a horizon
    further than you can see.

    You must learn one thing.
    The world was made to be free in.

    Give up all the other worlds
    except the one to which you belong.

    Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
    confinement of your aloneness
    to learn

    anything or anyone
    that does not bring you alive

    is too small for you.

    Also from David Whyte from his talk Being at the Frontier of Your Identity (available as a free podcast on iTunes):

    You have to enunciate the exact nature of your exile…

    find the ground of your own attentiveness to the rest of the world…

    It is frightening to do this because as soon as that true presence makes itself known, enormous parts of you are going to disappear, die, fall away…

    But at the same time, everything you are doing or not doing suddenly makes sense, [including an appreciation of] what is standing in the way of your real life…

    You must turn towards your vulnerability…

    And remember: There is no path that goes all the way.

    From Mary Oliver (a partial excerpt):

    WILD GEESE

    You do not have to be good.

    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.

    From the free downloadable e-book Believe Me: A Storytelling Manifesto (thanks to Tree for the link):

    We all want to look back at the story of our lives, and know that it made sense. — the author, Michael Margolis

    If you’re going to have a story,  have a big story, or none at all. — Joseph Campbell

    There is no greater burden than carrying an untold story. –  Maya Angelou

    Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives —the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change— truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.  —Salman Rushdie

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