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User Journal

Journal Journal: Waking Up 14

*blinks, looks around* Hmmmm....wha?

Four years. Wow.

I've just realized that I've spent nearly every free moment of the last four years of my life playing WoW. That's why I stopped posting here, and really haven't been heard of on any part of the net except within the game. What an unbelievable time sink. Even worse than Slashdot!

I quit a few weeks ago. I'll probably go back to playing at some point, but I'd really like to include other things in my life again. I even made a facebook profile.

I have no idea whether any of my old /. friends are still here or not, but I figured I'd post just to let anyone who is around know that I'm awake.

For what its worth, I'm still married, I have an 18 month old son named Rowan, and I'm living near Denver. My website is doing well, but I'm still working a day job to help pay the bills and get benefits. Life has been pretty quiet, which is very nice.

I'll probably post more later...

User Journal

Journal Journal: I Got Married! 26

Yes, you heard me right, folks!

This is a formal announcement of the marriage of Eli Snyder to Rachel ("Rae") Amber Robinson, which took place on a beach near Fort Bragg California on the 26th of March 2005.

It was a beautiful ceremony performed by my sister-in-law Katrina (who happens to be a minister in the Universal Life Church). Only my grandmother Virginia, my brother Forest, and my two nieces Shyli and Meadow were in attendance.

Rae and I connect on a level which is nearly impossible to explain, except that those of you who have experienced it know what I'm talking about. I've never been so happy. I can't even begin to tell you. I feel like a universe of infinite beautiful possibilities has opened before me. I feel like saying any number of equally cheesy and sappy things, but I'll spare you ;-). I think you get the idea.

Role Playing (Games)

Journal Journal: I've Become a Crackhead 6

Actually, it's even worse than that. I'm addicted to WoW. Like, seriously, hardcore addicted already, like forgetting to eat dinner until the middle of the night and getting very little sleep for several nights in a row kind of addicted.

I know myself well, and I have never played MMORPGs before because I knew this would happen. But some very good friends of mine in Boulder are playing it, and I saw it as an excuse to do something with them.

It's fun. It's way too fun. I could quit any time, of course, I just don't want to. Yeah, that's the ticket...

Anyway, just in case anybody was wondering what happened to me -- well, that's what.

Also, in case any of you guys are playing too, let me know, I'd love to play with you. I'm Wolfthraine on Doomhammer and Eliduc on Suramar, and I'd be open to making another character to team up with a slashdot group of some kind. Maybe we could make a slashdot JE circle guild or something.

Seriously, kids, this game kicks ass...


Journal Journal: "Just can't live that negative way... 2

make way for the positive day!" -- Bob Marley

"To oppose a thing is to strengthen it." -- Frank Herbert

The Rastas say that Babylon must fall. And they are right. But I don't think this is intended as a call to action, a call for revolution. I think it's just a statement of historical inevitability. Any system which systematically destroys its support systems is doomed. It is only a matter of time.

So there is no point in trying to destroy the system, it's doing that perfectly well on its own. And, more importantly, destruction necessarily involves the destroyers in destructive karma. Who wants that? Bob Marley talked a lot about revolution, but if you look closely at his position, he was not advocating violence or destruction or even direct opposition.

"I believe in a spiritual war, you know. Some people think when we talk about war, them think we carry a knife or a gun -- no. We're dealing with a higher divinity, Rastaman Vibration which is pure light and Earth created, because Earth come back for what it want. Government is trying to be as powerful as God." -- Bob Marley

So what can we do, if we are not to fight, if opposition merely strengthens that which we oppose? What do we do, when confronted with such awesome power of destruction and negativity?

Build something better.

When I say to organize, I'm not talking about organizing to "fight the power." The power is way better organized and better funded than we will ever be. Don't play their game, they have the deck stacked and a full set of aces up their sleeves. Play something else.

The trick is to be positive. "Rastaman Vibration is Positive!" Bob said. This isn't easy, and I too fall into the trap of negative thinking, of focusing on the problem rather than the solution. It is hard because the problem is so big, it can be overwhelming. Don't be sucked into that trap.

Instead, we must work to define, to articulate, to express, to enact, and to instantiate, a new vision. We must build our own system of values, of ideas, and of physical and social infrastructure alongside the existing system. It can be done. It is not easy, but it is possible, and we must reach out to pluck from the possible the golden threads of the new tapestry of life.

To me, it seems we must begin at the beginning, where it all started in the first place, and build a new society from the ground up. So where did it start? Well, the events I described earlier as the Babylonian revolution are, of course, what they call in history the "agricultural revolution." I wanted to avoid this framing, because it implies that the revolution was a revolution in technology rather than ideology, and therefore, by our standards, a good, progressive step. But it is important to look at the technology of agriculture, and see how we can do it right.

The gorilla Ishmael, in the book by that name, did not suggest we return to a hunter-gatherer society. That would be foolish, as there is simply not enough land to support us all, and we would simply destroy what wilderness is left in the attempt. He said, "you consider yourselves an inventive people. Invent something."

Well, we have.

I said that the Earth was made for the glory of God, and humans were made to love and care for and protect it. So how does this ideal translate into agriculture? Well, obviously it means our agricultural technique must look very different from the one commonly practiced in our culture, that's for sure. But what would it look like? Clearly, it would put back as much or more into the soil and other resource sources as it takes out. Clearly it would encourage biodiversity and ecological health. It would produce abundant human food, but in all other ways it would resemble a natural ecosystem as closely as possible. It would employ the creativity and power of human beings in a manner protective of the Earth to create a greater abundance of life.

Such a system has been developed, and it is called permaculture. Those of you who know me well know that I've been on about it for some time. It was invented in the '70s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, a pair of paradigm-shifted former-takers. They reasoned that by studying and emulating natural patterns, agriculture could be made both more productive and more sustainable. In permaculture, the idea is to design a "food forest," a system very much like a natural forest which just happens to produce large amounts of human food and other human-usable resources.

Permaculture is not anti-technology. It can, in fact, be practiced at any technological level. It's not the level of technology, it's how you use it that counts. In permaculture, technology is used to nurture the Earth and encourage greater growth and health of food-producing ecosystems. Intelligent design is applied to create systems which are self-maintaining and sustainable and efficient and productive. These design principles apply to everything from architecture to energy technology to gardening to community design, and even extend into the social structural realm.

Permaculture is not destructive of existing wilderness. There is plenty of land out there which has already been devastated by taker agriculture. Permaculture replenishes and rejuvenates this land. It can even be practiced in cities. My best friend's father is turning Huston into a garden. It can be done anywhere.

Permaculture is not just an idea, it is also a movement, an organization. There are tens of thousands of people practicing it all over the world. They have institutes, they have communities, they have infrastructure and social networks and classes and books.

So if you are one of the many people I've talked to who understands what is wrong with the system, who can see how it is not sustainable and can never bring fulfillment and happiness to human beings and health to the Earth, but you don't know exactly what to do about it, my recommendation is this: take a permaculture course. Spend some time on a permaculture community. Buy a copy of the Permaculture Designer's Manual by Bill Mollison. It's expensive, but it contains just about everything you need to know to survive on this planet. Practice it where you live. Share it with your friends.

It's not just an agricultural movement, it's a cultural and political movement as well. To put it in political terms, it is an environmental initiative, a poverty and hunger initiative, an economic initiative, an energy initiative, and even a foreign policy initiative (people practicing permaculture don't use a lot of oil). Those who understand the principles of permaculture will naturally enact sustainable practices in their private and political lives. They will become involved in their communities, because permaculture is fundamentally community-oriented. They will work to preserve the environment, and to live in harmony with each other and with the world. Together, we can save the Earth, one square foot at a time.


Journal Journal: The Counterrevolution 57

You know, it's interesting, I've often heard conservatives say that "liberals hate America." I don't think I hate America. I think I love America very very much. But I define America as a continent, including all the land and plants and animals and people contained therein. Some Native Americans (the only Real Americans, regardless of what the new T-shirt says) call it "Great Turtle Island," and they lived in prosperity on it for thousands of years before we came and fucked it all up. I love that with all my heart. I don't think that's what conservatives mean when they say this. I think when they talk about "America," they are talking about what I mean when I say "the System." And I don't think I hate that either, because I don't think I hate anything, but if there is one thing I come close to hating, it's the System, which the Rastafarians call the Babylon System, and with good reason.

I just wish I could explain to them. It's just so hard. You can't really have it explained to you, you just have to see it. "Nobody can be told what the Matrix really is. You just have to see it for yourself." Doing acid helps, for some people, and I've done that. But I grew up knowing, at least to some extent, and I've learned much more since then.

Do you think fish know that water is wet? What color is air? Do you know what happened ten thousand years ago in Babylon? But of course you don't, if you don't even think Babylon existed ten thousand years ago. So how can I explain?

I'll try this. This approach is due to Daniel Quinn, from his excellent book "Ishmael," which explains all of this pretty well. It's a bit of an oversimplification, but it works well enough for illustrative purposes.

Imagine that Hitler won WWII. Imagine that he succeeded in wiping out all the Africans and the Jews and the Native Americans and the Asians, and established the Thousand Year Reich. And he burned all the books, and erased all the history, so that nobody ever knew that there was a time when everyone wasn't blonde and fair, or when there was anything other than a world fascist government. Imagine that, a thousand years in the future, a pair of tall blonde young men are strolling through the streets of what used to be Tokyo, and one of them turns to the other and says, "you know, I can't put my finger on it, but I just can't escape the feeling that we're being lied to about something."

Around ten thousand years ago in Babylon, there was a great revolution. We know this because we have archaeological evidence, assuming you believe in that sort of thing. And it's OK if you don't. It doesn't matter. Think of this as a myth. The revolutionaries were so incredibly successful that they wiped out everyone in the area who didn't agree with their radical revolutionary ideology. And it was truly radical, truly extreme, the most radical extremist ideology ever invented. They were so successful that they then proceeded to wipe out their neighbors, and then their neighbors' neighbors, and so on and so forth. And they kept on going, and every time they encountered a new people, they gave them a simple choice: join us or die. And many of them chose to fight and die, because the revolutionary ideology was so radical and extreme and, at least to them, odious, that they would rather die than accept it.

The revolutionaries won. In fact, they won so thoroughly, so completely, that there are almost none of their enemies left on the whole planet. Nearly everybody else has either joined them, or died, and their radical ideology is so incredibly pervasive that it rarely occurs to anyone to even think about questioning it, or for that matter, even noticing what it is. They have been called by many names, but the most common is simply "caucasians."

Their radical ideology is simply this: "the world was made for Man, and Man was made to conquer and rule it."

The revolutionaries were afraid, you see. They lost their faith. They were terrified that God would not provide for them, that the world God made would not take care of them, would not give them what they needed to survive. So they decided to take it all, and make it give them what they wanted, and if it wouldn't, they would crush it mercilessly, because it was theirs to do with as they pleased.

Nobody else had ever thought that before. It changed everything. And, in my view, it is completely, utterly, horribly, tragically wrong. In my view, the world was made for the glory and love of God, and Humans were made to care for and love and protect it. This is what we always believed, for millions of years, in one form or another, before these insane ultraradicals came along and put us in chains. And now we're so used to the chains, we notice them no more than a fish notices water.

What does all this have to do with the election? Well, the paradigm shift I keep talking about, it's not really anything new. In a sense, it's the oldest idea there is. The new paradigm rejects the revolutionary ideology and returns to what I believe is the system of thought humans were meant to have. It has been growing for some time now. But there has been a backlash, the revolutionaries don't want to give up their power and control, and they are trying to crush the counterrevolution. To me, Bush and his crowd are the ultimate symbol of this backlash. I think they intend to destroy the counterrevolution utterly, if they can. I don't think they can. But it's kind of a trip, to know that the most powerful forces the planet has ever seen are arrayed against you, and are intent on the total destruction of everything you love and the erasure of all that could give our species hope for ever and ever.

OK, so that's a bit overdramatic, and a bit silly. I'm sorry. But that's the only way I can explain why I feel so strongly about it. I don't know if you will understand. But that's how it is...

Incidentally, I think Jesus tried to explain all of this to us. "Consider the lilies of the field," he said. "Love thy neighbor," he said. But did we listen? Oh no, not us, we went right on ripping the lilies up out of the fields and killing off our neighbors like there was no tomorrow. And if we keep it up much longer, there probably won't be.


Journal Journal: Paradigm Shift 30

The concept of a paradigm shift was introduced by Thomas Kuhn in 1962 in his landmark work "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." During a paradigm shift, a very interesting phenomenon occurs. Some people adopt the new paradigm early and defend it vigorously. Others are gradually swayed as the evidence supporting the new paradigm mounts. But there are always some diehards who simply refuse to give up on the old paradigm no matter what. Regardless of what new evidence comes to light, they will make a series of increasingly unlikely assumptions in order to force the new data to fit into their obsolete worldview. This is of course completely permitted by the rules of logic, so the decision to abandon the old paradigm is inherently subjective -- at some point, you just have to decide that the logical contortions being undertaken by the fanatical adherents of the old theory are just plain silly.

Thus many people continued to believe that the Earth was flat, even long after people had actually circumnavigated it. They presumably thought it was all a vast conspiracy of cartographers. Thus many highly intelligent and skilled physicists, including Einstein, refused to accept Quantum Mechanics even while they were busy building it, because they could not abandon the idea of determinism. Thus many people still refuse to accept evolution, long after overwhelming scientific consensus and the vast preponderance of evidence clearly support it, because they simply cannot fit it into their worldview. The irony of this is that evolution isn't inconsistent with Christianity any more than a round Earth is -- if God wants to create a spherical planet, He can, and if He wants to create life by a process of evolution, He can do that too, He's God.

It's not that these people are stupid. Einstein was clearly one of the most intelligent people our species has ever produced. He just got stuck on something, and he couldn't get over it. He could not bring himself to accept that the universe contains a basic element of randomness, because "God does not play dice with the universe." Why not? If God wants to play dice with the universe, He can do that, He's God. But Einstein couldn't get over it, and he went to his grave trying to find some set of assumptions or "hidden variables" which would allow him to rescue determinism from the ravages of the Schrodinger's Cat "paradox." People are just like that. It happens to most of us, sooner or later.

It has been highly amusing to watch the contortions that pundits and the corporate media are going through to explain the recent theft of the erection. Exit polls are almost never wrong, and, as pointed out by Prof. Steven Freeman at the University of Pennsylvania, the odds that the exit polls were wrong in the same way in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are 250 million to one. If this sort of thing were to happen in some two-bit banana republic, everyone would immediately draw the obvious conclusion, especially if the results happened to favor the deeply entrenched incumbents and the incumbents' supporters happened to be in a position to tamper with the ballots.

But let the same thing happen in the US, and they immediately begin inventing spooks and specters, positing a shadowy Democratic conspiracy to fix the exit polls. They have no evidence for this, of course, nor have they proposed a mechanism by which it could happen or even a plausible motivation for doing so, and the alleged conspirators immediately backed off from their conspiracy, disavowed the exit poll results, and actually modified the results to fit with the official election tally. But they have to make this assumption, because they cannot bring themselves to abandon the idea that the system works, that corporations and government and the Republican party are benevolent and trustworthy and serve the real interests of the American people.

Oh sure, they will admit that there are some problems with these institutions. But they cannot abandon their faith in the basic goodness of the system itself. So they have to continue, in the face of evidence which has been steadily mounting for decades if not centuries, to make an ever more ludicrous set of assumptions in order to protect their worldview from the ravages of reality.

You must understand, I'm not just talking about conservatives here, mainstream "liberals" do this too. Their first loyalty is to the system, however liberal they may allegedly be.

A paradigm shift is occurring in our culture, and has been for some time now. Any paradigm shift begins with the observation that the old paradigm is inadequate, though that is only the beginning, and a new paradigm must be developed to replace it, subsuming the old paradigm and explaining its successes while expanding into new territory. And indeed, the new paradigm taking shape does this, combining elements from such diverse fields as Quantum Mechanics, Eastern mysticism, Christianity, anthropology, psychology, and general weirdness to form something completely new and radically expansive. But it begins with the insight that the system is broken, that the old paradigm has failed, that the hard, cold, mechanistic social darwinism (which often takes on the guise of "fundamentalist" religion, oddly enough) that gave rise to the industrial revolution and the ascendance of corporate capitalism is destructive and dehumanizing and fundamentally flawed.

I had the good fortune to be raised in the new paradigm. I knew that the system was broken by the time I was five years old, so none of this comes as a shock to me. Indeed, the only thing I find surprising is the tenacity with which people hold on to the old paradigm in the face of all the available evidence. There has been a massive backlash (I highly recommend this article, it's incredibly insightful and a wonderful read) against the cultural revolution, one of the most bizarre cultural phenomena in history, "a working class movement that has done incalculable, historic harm to working class people." Did you know that the "heartland" of America was a hotbed of socialism 100 years ago? Now, of course, they have fallen for what may well be the biggest and most expensive con in history.

But this should not come as a surprise. This always happens. There are always those who will not accept the new paradigm no matter what, and will fight to the death to stop it. They will go to their graves clinging desperately to the tattered shreds of their archaic worldview. It doesn't matter. Eventually, the adherents of the old paradigm simply die off, and their beliefs die with them, making way for the dawning of a new day. And so it goes, and so it will go again and again. Provided, of course, that they don't take the rest of us with them this time around.

User Journal

Journal Journal: This is for the Mad Poster 27

Hey Mad Poster, I just had to post this because it reminded me of you so much. I have no idea who wrote it, it was forwarded to me by a friend with no byline. It's very much in the spirit of Fuck the South, which also reminded me of you (you didn't write that one, did you?)

Anyway, for your amusement and enjoyment, I post this:

The Concession Speech Kerry Should Have Given

My fellow Americans, the people of this nation have spoken, and spoken with a clear voice. So I am here to offer my concession. I concede that I overestimated the intelligence of the American people. Though the true majority of people disagree with the President on almost every issue, you saw fit to vote for him. I never saw that coming. That's really special. And I mean "special" in the sense that we use it to describe those kids who ride the shorter school bus and find ways to injure themselves while eating pudding with rubber spoons. That kind of special.

I concede that I misjudged the power of hate. That's pretty powerful stuff, and I didn't see it. So let me take a moment to congratulate the President's strategists: Putting the gay marriage amendments on the ballot in various swing states like Ohio...well, that was just genius. Genius! It got people, a certain kind of fearful people, to the polls. The unprecedented number of folks who showed up and cited "moral values" as their biggest issue, those people actually changed history. These are the folks who consider same sex marriage a more important issue than war, or terrorism, or the economy! Who'd have thought the election would belong to them? Well, Karl Rove did. Gotta give it up to him for that.

I concede that I put too much faith in America's youth. With 8 out of 10 of you opposing the President, with your friends and classmates dying daily in a war you disapprove of, with your future being mortgaged to pay for rich, old peoples' tax breaks, you somehow managed to sit on your asses and watch the Cartoon Network while aging homophobic hillbillies carried the day. You voted with the exact same anemic percentage that you did in 2000. You suck! Seriously, you do!

There are some who would say that I sound bitter, that now is the time for healing, to bring the nation together. We in blue states produce the vast majority of the wealth in this country and pay the most taxes, and you in the red states receive the majority of the money from those taxes while complaining about 'em. We in the blue states are the only ones who've been attacked by foreign terrorists, yet you in the red states are gung ho to fight a war in our name. Blue state civilians are the actual victims and targets of the war on terror, while red state civilians are the ones standing behind us and yelling "Oh, yeah!? Bring it on!" As long as you can wave your high-powered guns and think you're actually free, you're pretty brave.

More than 50% of you Bush voters still believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. I'm impressed by that, truly I am. Your sons and daughters who might die in this war know it's not true, the people in the urban centers where al Qaeda wants to attack know it's not true, but those of you who are at practically no risk believe this easy lie because you can. As part of my concession speech, let me say that I really envy that luxury. I concede that. The President played on your fears, and you foolishly forgot that he was the one in charge when 9/11 actually happened. It was on his watch that al Qaeda struck, and not Saddam Hussein. I wonder if he told you that left-handed people were worshipers of the devil, if you'd actually believe that, too. Probably! How quickly history becomes distorted by those who shout their version the loudest.

Healing? We, the people at risk from terrorists, the people who subsidize you, the people who speak in glowing and respectful terms about the heartland of America while that heartland insults and excoriates us...we wanted some healing. We spoke loud and clear. And you refused to give it to us, largely because of your "high moral values". You thought you knew better: America doesn't need its allies, doesn't need to share the burden, doesn't need to unite the world, doesn't need to provide for its future. Hell no! Not when it's got a human shield of us pointy-headed, immoral, unconfrontational breadwinners who are willing to pay the bills and play nice in the vain hope of winning a vote that we can never have.

Because we're "morally inferior," I suppose, we are supposed to respect your values while you insult ours. And the big joke here is that for twenty years, we've done just that. It's not a "ha-ha" funny joke, I realize, but it's a joke all the same.

And, I make this pledge to you today: In the next election, there will be no pandering. Next time we will not pretend that the simple folk of America know just as much as the people who devote their lives to serving and studying the nation and the world. They don't! You've proved that by your foolish voting record. I'm talking to you, you ignorant, slack-jawed yokels, you bible-thumping, inbred drones, you redneck, racist, chest-thumping, perennially-duped grade school grads.

Thank you, and may God, and we always said He exists, bless each and every one of you and the rest of the world, even our enemies, in spite of your stupidity and hatred for the rest of His creation, which you're intent on letting Bush and his bully boys destroy.

The Courts

Journal Journal: We've Been Railroaded 25

OK, show of hands, how many people know that Corporations are legally considered to be people and are granted the same rights as all the rest of us under the constitution, including freedom of speech and equal protection under the law? Of course we've all heard this, but few realize that it's not actually true.

This utter nonsense has let to all sorts of problems. Walmart, for example, once stopped local communities from fighting its predatory business practices with laws designed to keep it from ruining local businesses, claiming these communities were illegally discriminating against it. Nike claimed it was allowed to lie to its customers because of freedom of speech, though the Supreme Court dismissed its appeal. This ludicrous fiction of corporate personhood has been used to justify all manner of blatant silliness.

In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled that campaign contributions by corporations, which ordinarily would be considered bribes or at least undue influence, count as freedom of speech and are therefore protected by the 1st Amendment. Oddly enough, Rehnquist wrote the dissenting opinion, in which he stated that the Court had made a mistake granting corporations the rights of people in the first place.

He was right, of course, except for one thing: the Court never did any such thing.

In 1886, in the case of Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, the Supreme court supposedly issued a decision granting the rights of full personhood under the 14th amendment to corporations. This landmark "decision" has been used as legal precedent for all the foolishness which followed. However, if you read the actual text of the decision, the Court never actually ruled on the matter in a legally binding way. Apparently, before pronouncing the official ruling, one of the justices said something which the Court Clerk, who happened to be a former president of a railroad company, interpreted as meaning that corporations are persons, and refused to hear argument on the matter. The actual ruling doesn't even address the question.

So this incredibly important legal precedent was written into the not at all legally binding summary of the case by a clerk who was a former railroad president. We've been railroaded.

Thom Hartmann wrote about this in his book "Unequal Protection," in which he gives a detailed account of how corporations have hijacked our human rights and used them to justify all sorts of practices which are not equal at all.

So why bring this up now? Because if this interpretation is correct, it changes everything. We've just witnessed the blatant theft of the last shreds of what was left of our democracy (a fact so obvious at this point I won't bother to belabor it) by the corporatocracy. Corporations have obviously accrued far too much power. Nearly everyone, on all sides of the political arena, can clearly see that at this point. It might just be possible to get bipartisan support for a movement to strip these behemoths of their constitutional rights and start discriminating against them in earnest. There might just be a legal loophole which would allow this to happen.

Of course, it would depend on having a reasonable Supreme Court. This seems unlikely, but there is one chance. It is possible that the administration will appoint judges on the basis of religion rather than politics as such, judges who are so incredibly reactionary that they oppose granting rights to people, let alone corporations. This would be horrible news in every respect except one -- that they might possibly be convinced to overturn this insane "precedent" and declare corporations to be non-persons.

The wonderful thing about such a movement is that it need not be national in scope. Individual counties and towns can pass laws stripping corporations of their rights, as Porter Township in Pennsylvania did in 2002. The constitutionality of the law then has to be challenged by a corporation. I'm sure people in my area would get behind such a law, and a series of such cases would put the issue in the national spotlight.

One can hope, anyway...


Journal Journal: Don't Mourn, Organize 26

This message is for the left. For you guys on the right, go buy yourself a drink or something. You've earned it. You've done well, and I congratulate you. May you live in interesting times. ("Would you rather die than betray your Emperor? This is not a trick question." -- Terry Pratchett, "Interesting Times")

Ah, the bitter taste of defeat. I know it well, which is perhaps why I seem to be taking it better than some of my comrades. I live in a very blue county in a blue state, and everyone was walking around today looking like it was the end of the world. I can understand and relate to this, and to some extent I feel the same way, but in my travels I have learned how to handle setbacks, and I want to send out some words of encouragement to all my fellow commie hippie freaks out there.

To properly deal with defeat, one must have what in Aikido is called "Takemusu Aiki," the Warrior Spirit in Harmony with Universal Love. Please understand, when I use the word "warrior," I am talking about a spiritual warrior, one who wages peace, not war. I am talking about a warrior in the sense of Carlos Castaneda, who said:

"The spirit of the warrior is not geared toward indulging and complaining, nor is it geared toward winning or losing. The spirit of the warrior is geared toward struggle, and every struggle is his [sic] last battle on earth. Because it is his last battle on earth, the warrior's spirit flows free and clear, and as he wages his battle, knowing that his intent is pure, the warrior laughs and laughs."

To the warrior, you see, there is no victory or defeat. There is no hatred of the "enemy," there is no bitterness, there is no remorse or recrimination or fear or regret. There is only the struggle, and the struggle continues. So don't mourn. Organize.

Here are some basic principles:

  • Love your enemy. Have compassion for everyone out there who voted for Bush -- they are only doing what, from their point of view and in their understanding of the world, is best for our country. Obviously we disagree about that, and we must continue to struggle against their ideology, but we must do it from a space of love and the desire to protect everyone involved.
  • Politics is not about elections. It is about organization. The elections are at best an afterthought, at worst a charade designed to distract you from real politics. Don't think too much about them. Work instead to change the values of our culture, to help people, to promote what you believe is right. If we do this, eventually the election results will follow.
  • Remember that we have made enormous progress. Think of where the culture of this country was 100 years ago. Think of where it was 50 years ago. Think of where it was two years ago. We've come a long way, and that is reason for hope.
  • Remember that this progress was made by enormous, intense, sustained popular struggle. People didn't just wake up one day and decide women should have the right to vote, for example. There was long, dedicated, organized struggle by a small but committed minority which eventually shifted the values of the entire culture. We can continue to do the same thing, but we must realize that it will be hard work, and be prepared for that.
  • Form local organizations. Get your friends together. Don't worry so much at first about what to do, just get together, you will find that there is plenty that needs doing.
  • Join existing popular organizations. I wanted to get this out in a hurry to articulate the basic idea, but I'll put out a list of what I consider to be good progressive organizations later, if you want to know of some. But we all know of some, and for whatever reason, many of us haven't joined them. Why? Do we consider ourselves "independent," are we reluctant to be "joiners?" Nobody is an island, and we cannot do this alone. We can only make progress if we join together. That will sometimes mean making common cause with people with whom you disagree about some things. Get over it. Think of the big picture.
  • Reframe the debate. George Lakoff of the Rockridge Institute has a lot of good things to say about this. Don't get sucked into using the language and ideological structure of the right. Use our own language, our own ideas, our own worldview, to frame the issues that matter to us. Think in terms of a nurturing parent model.
  • Think strategically. Lakoff has some things to say about this too. He says that the major real strategic initiative that the left has is alternative energy. This is a strategic initiative because it's not just an energy issue, it's a foreign policy issue, an environmental issue, a health issue, a third world development issue, an economic issue, all rolled into one. Promoting alternative energy is perhaps the best thing we can possibly do, the best cause around which to rally. And it is very hard to disagree with -- even the Emperor is all for hydrogen power, though he seems to think it's a source of energy rather than a battery.
  • Forget about the Democrats. They are corporate puppets, they don't represent us and they never did. Did you really think electing Kerry would magically fix things, end oppression and war and empire and destruction of the environment in one fell swoop? Of course you didn't. You just thought he might not be quite as bad. Well, he probably wouldn't, but if Kerry had won, we would still have essentially the same job ahead of us. The Democrats will never do it for us. We have to do it for ourselves.

What job? The job of changing the values of our culture. Once upon a time, the values of our culture were such that slavery was considered OK. That changed, and it was no accident, it changed because of mass organized popular struggle, and it was long hard work. Same thing with women's rights, civil rights, and indeed democracy itself (not that we have a real democracy, but it's closer than what we had 500 years ago, that's for sure). We can continue to shift the values of our culture toward compassion, equality, real freedom, love for the earth, and so on. That is our real work, and this election changes that not one tiny bit.

The struggle continues.

love and blessings,


User Journal

Journal Journal: The Revolution Starts NOW! 18

"Transmission third world war third round
A decade of the weapon of sound above ground
No shelter if you're looking for shade
I lick shots at the brutal charade
As the polls close like a casket
On truth devoured
Silent play in the shadow of power
A spectacle, monopolized
The cameras eyes on choice disguised
Was it cast for the mass who burn and toil
Or for the vultures who thirst for blood and oil?
Yes a spectacle, monopolized
They hold the reins, stole your eyes
All the fistagons the bullets and bombs
Who stuff the banks
Who staff the party ranks
More for Gore or the son of a drug lord?
None of the above fuck it cut the cord
It has to start somewhere
It has to start somehow
What better place than here
What better time than now?"
-- Rage Against the Machine

For the record, I consider this erection illegitimate, regardless of who "wins." We should be ashamed of this farce, people in real democracies are laughing at us right now.

However, we are seeing record turnout, and mass popular participation in politics. That is wonderful, and it's a very good start toward a real democracy.

On the one hand we are witnessing the death of American democracy. On the other hand, we are witnessing its rebirth.


Journal Journal: Lose/Lose or Win/Win? 13

There is a tendency on the left to view tomorrow's election as a lose/lose situation, and in many ways it is. For example, snjoseph made the extremely insightful observation in response to my "campaign finance" essay that the outcome of the election will not change who is running the country in any way. I agree with that. Nor will it affect policy in any really meaningful way: Kerry will not pull out of Iraq, he will increase defense spending, he will continue to allow the destruction of the environment, he will continue the American Empire project, etc. This is admittedly a little discouraging.

However, I think there's another way of looking at it. The election is also a win/win situation for the left, if we handle it right.

How could a Bush victory be a win for the left? Well, just look at the last three years. After 9/11, I pretty much gave up on this country. I figured it was going to swing way to the right and stay there. At the beginning of the war, it had something like an 80% approval rating. Things looked pretty hopeless. Since then, we've seen one of the greatest comebacks in history, a truly amazing mobilization of the left which has brought the political situation pretty much back to where it was in 2000. So in a sense, regardless of the outcome, we've already won just by being so active. There is an outbreak of democracy going on which is truly inspiring to watch. A lot of people have become involved in politics who would never have considered it before, something like 18 million new voters have registered, it's awesome.

I have to give credit where credit is due: we couldn't have done it without Dubya. By being so deeply evil, he has inspired the biggest mass-mobilization we've seen in this country since the sixties. Maybe even bigger than that. If he's erected again, you can expect the left to get really riled up.

Furthermore, if Dubya is re-erected, the administration will have to take responsibility for all the horrendous karma they've created -- make no mistake, the next four years are going to be very rough because of the decisions made over the last four years, and no outcome of the election will change that.

Now, in order to turn a Kerry victory into a win for the left, we must exercise discipline. We can't let "victory" take the wind out of our sails. A Kerry victory is only the first step, and it's really a very small step, toward the America we want to create. We have to use the momentum we've gained in the past couple of years to continue to struggle for peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability.

If we can do that, a Kerry victory will be a substantial win. Why so, if his policies are not all that different? It would be a win because of the message it sends, because of what it means about the last four years. As a bumper sticker put it, "if Bush wins, it means we like this shit." We have to tell the world that the last four years of horrendously ugly right-wing policy are not acceptable to us. The people responsible for this shit have to be removed from office, if only for the symbolic value of it. If not, we as a population are giving our consent to war, loss of our civil liberties, and destruction of the environment.

Now, please understand, I'm not saying Kerry will solve these problems. But at least, by electing him, we are saying that we want them solved, that we want something different, that we need a change. Otherwise, we are saying that we actually like this shit, and we want more of the same. That is unacceptable.

Personally, I would like to see Kerry win by a very small margin. That way, the conservatives will say the election was stolen, and we will then have a large segment of the population who has lost faith in the political process. Loss of faith in the process is the first step toward fixing the process, and it definitely needs fixing.


Journal Journal: Campaign Finance Analysis 15

One basic and obvious principle of American politics is that we have the best democracy money can buy. In order to even participate in the popular elections in any meaningful way, candidates must first pass the "wealth primary" and amass enough campaign contributions to mount a real campaign.

Because of the extreme importance of money in politics, one good way to get an idea of who the candidates really represent is to look at who is giving them money. This is no secret. Just go to Open Secrets and you can find out all about it.

What I find most interesting is the "top industries" charts. Of course most contributions to both presidential campaigns come from roughly the same industries, but you can get a pretty good idea of what interests are strongly represented by each candidate by looking at the differences. Most notably, the top two slots are reversed, with Bush getting the most money from "retired" people, while Kerry gets the most from lawyers. This is hardly surprising, given that "retired" presumably means "extremely wealthy" in this context, and Kerry and Edwards are both lawyers.

Even more interesting, though again hardly surprising, is the presence in the Bush list of "Oil and Gas" and "Automotive," which are absent from the Kerry list. This obviously represents the most skewed group, and it should be no surprise that these folks support Bush. On the Kerry side appear "TV, Movies and Music" and "Printing and Publishing," both absent from the Bush side.

The conclusion to be drawn from this is clear: Bush represents the oil industry and its associates, whereas Kerry is supported by the media. I guess there is a liberal media bias after all! Well, think about it -- who would you rather have in charge? It's obviously a lesser-of-two-evils choice as always, but it should be pretty clear who the lesser is in this case. Clearly the media has a much greater vested interest in maintaining the prosperity of the American middle class, for example, than the oil industry does, since oil can pretty much count on selling every drop it can suck out of the ground until it runs dry regardless of what happens to the American consumer. Think about it.

Also interesting are the "top contributor" lists, of which most of Bush's are corporate, whereas many of Kerry's are universities, interestingly enough, with the University of California and Harvard at the top of the list. Again the implication is clear: academia is more likely to support Kerry for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they are pretty smart folks, whereas it is hardly surprising that the corporate world tends to back Bush, since he's the best thing that ever happened to them.

So, in one corner, we have the ultra-rich, big oil, banking and investment and other major corporate interests, whereas in the other corner we have the lawyers, the media, and academia. Again, there are few good choices among that bunch (though I still have a soft spot in my heart for the good old Ivory Tower), but I think the better choice is abundantly clear.


Journal Journal: The Archetypes of the Election 11

I think it's about time I lived up to my name and delivered an analysis in terms of archetypes.

Archetypes are extremely important in politics. Unfortunately, the Republicans seem to understand this far better than the Democrats. The Democrats seem to think that politics is about issues, and on a conscious level it is. The activation of archetypes takes place on the level of the collective unconscious, and can be extremely powerful since it allows you to mobilize support from people who don't even understand the issues. There are a lot of people in this category.

In order to be successful in politics, you need to activate a positive archetype, and associate your opponent with a negative one. The Republicans understand this very well.

The Republicans have had amazing success with invoking the archetype of the Patriarchal Warrior. The Patriarch is a stern father who teaches his children discipline and strength. He is a conquering hero, who crushes evil with an iron fist. We rely on him for protection in times of danger, and the use of this archetype plays very well with the invocation of fear.

This is why Aaaahnold has been able to achieve instant success in politics. He is a walking archetype, and he has played the ultimate representation of the Patriarchal Warrior in many films. He doesn't even have to speak, he just walks onstage and there he is, the stern father, the conquering hero, in the flesh and ready to accept votes.

In the case of Dubya, he represents that all-american version of this archetype, the Cowboy. The Cowboy is the strong silent type, not good with words but effective in action, simple but good-hearted, humble but heroic. Bush plays this so well that it doesn't matter what his military or business record is like, people see him as a strong leader. It doesn't matter what he actually does. It doesn't matter how many times he lies, he will always be seen as a straight-shooter because that's what the Cowboy archetype is. It doesn't matter how much time he spends on vacation, he will be seen as hard-working because the Cowboy is hard-working. It doesn't matter how much arrogance he displays, he will be seen as humble and so on. People are not seeing him, they're seeing the archetype he represents.

But there is a weakness to the Warrior archetype as well, and the Democrats can make a lot of headway to the extent that they succeed in attacking it. There is a negative version of the Warrior, represented by Aaanold in Terminator I. It is the Warrior run amok, the destructive force that crushes everything in its path, killing indiscriminately. It is the abusive father who punishes without reason. It is chaotic, dangerous, out of control. If the Democrats can activate this archetype and associate it with the Republicans, they can neutralize the positive effect of the Patriarch.

Sadly, the Democrats are dealing with their own archetypal problems. Not so much by design, I think, but by default, the Dems have been associated with the traditional opposite of the Patriarch, the Nurturing Mother. The Dems are trying to compete with the Reps for the Patriarch archetype, but it won't work. They have been so deeply associated with female archetypes in the collective unconscious of America, it doesn't matter if their candidate actually is a warrior, he cannot invoke the proper archetype. The Deomcrats are, as our illustrious Governator would say, girlie men.

But this is not necessarily bad. We need the Nurturing Mother right now, in many ways. Whatever you may think of how we got into this position (I think you know what I think of it), we now find ourselves giving birth to a new nation. The Patriarch doesn't know how to do this, and he sucks at it. To the Patriarch, the Iraqi people are disobedient children who need to be punished. He cannot see that the punishment just increases the rebellion. We need the gentle nurturing love of the Mother to care for this nascent nation and nurse it back to health. We need the Mother here at home too; four years of the harsh rule of the Patriarch have left us bruised and battered, and we need some nurturing ourselves.

Unfortunately, the Republicans have succeeded in launching a classic archetypal attack against the Democrats. They have associated the Dems with a negative female archetype, the Menstruating Woman. In many ancient cultures, the Menstruating Woman is taboo, not allowed to work or prepare meals or leave the house or engage in sexual intercourse. She is considered hysterical, unreliable, inconsistent, overly emotional, and prone to bad judgments. She is considered unclean. According to the Republicans, the Democrats have PMS.

This is why the flip-flop campaign has been so successful. They have associated Kerry with the inconsistency of the Menstruating Woman, and it has had its desired effect, calling into doubt his ability to lead in times of crisis and war.

The Democrats can counter this attack if they remember that the Mother can be protective as well as nurturing. The mother bear fights to protect her cubs even more fiercely than the male. The Mother can be strong, consistent, and protective. If the Democrats can find a way to activate this aspect of the Mother archetype, they can neutralize the Republicans' attack and come out ahead in the race for the unconscious mind of America.

The Democrats need to get out their copies of Jung. Quickly.


Journal Journal: Body Language 14

The importance of body language cannot be overemphasized.

Consider, for instance, that according to the pre-arranged rules of debate, the networks were not supposed to show the candidates while the other was talking. This was obviously a concession to the Republicans, since it would protect Bush from his own subconscious mind, which must be trying to murder him in his sleep at this point.

The networks disregarded this rule, and this clearly was a huge coup for Kerry. While Bush talked, Kerry looked bright and engaged, listening attentively and taking notes. His body language said he was comfortable, in his element, present and paying attention, in command of the situation and of himself.

While Kerry talked, Bush grimaced and looked shifty, or stared into space vacantly. His body language said he didn't want to be there, he was uncomfortable, he was unsure of himself and having trouble remembering what to say. He looked like a deer in the headlights. God only knows what horrible punishment his handlers visited on him for this failure, but he clearly saw it coming and dreaded it. He certainly didn't look like a man in control of his emotions or the situation around him.

This breach of protocol by the networks may very well have decided the debate definitively in Kerry's favor. A lot of people were watching, I think, not so much to see where the candidates stood on the issues, but to see how well they handled themselves under pressure. I watched it at my health club since we don't have a TV, and I was sitting next to a middle-aged woman who kept talking about the differences in body language. She was very sensitive to it, she kept saying, "look at Bush's expression, look at him squirm. He doesn't want to be there." Stuff like that. I think a lot of voters will be swayed by that sort of thing.

It's easy to lie with words, but it takes real skill to keep your body from giving you away.

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The power to destroy a planet is insignificant when compared to the power of the Force. - Darth Vader