Saturday, December 29, 2007

Derrick Jensen, Zoos, and Wisconsin Public Radio

Recently, I got lucky. Joy Cardin (Morning show host at WPR) accepted my request to have Derrick Jensen on her show to talk about his new book: Thought to Exist in the Wild: Awakening from the Nightmare of Zoos. The show went really well. It was related to the story about the tiger that escaped from the San Francisco zoo.

You can listen to an archive of the show HERE.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Where Do Our Bodies End?

This essay by Jack Forbes contains a fundamental wisdom that most of us have had socialized out of us long ago.

Excerpt from essay: "Most of us have been taught to think of our body as a physical structure, isolated from everything else. But if we think of it as a living system, then a different picture emerges. Traditional indigenous thinking points towards an open system, connected with the Universe and the Creator.

"In the mid-1970s I wrote down what I had been saying in many Indian gatherings: "I can lose my hands, and still live. I can lose my legs and still live. I can lose my eyes and still live. I can lose my hair, eyebrows, nose, arms, and many other things and still live. But if I lose the air I die. If I lose the Sun I die. If I lose the Earth I die. If I lose the water I die. If I lose the plants and animals I die. All of these things are more a part of me, more essential to my every breath, than is my so-called body. What is my real body?

"We are not autonomous, self-sufficient beings as European mythology teaches.... We are rooted just like the trees. But our roots come out of our nose and mouth, like an umbilical cord, forever connected to the rest of the world.... Nothing that we do, do we do by ourselves. We do not see by ourselves. We do not hear by ourselves.... That which the tree exhales, I inhale. That which I exhale, the trees inhale. Together we form a circle." (Forbes, Columbus and Other Cannibals, 1992, pp. 145-6, and Forbes, A World Ruled by Cannibals, 1978, pp. 85-6 ). "

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Earth Roof is Done

A week before the snow fell we finished up our earth roof. It took us about 8 days to complete this. I have no idea how many buckets we hoisted up there. It had to have been thousands, it sure felt like thousands. And we couldn't have done it without the help of family and friends.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

School Shootings

A little over a year ago "Fifteen-year-old Eric Hainstock walked into Weston High School, armed and aiming to be heard Friday morning; then, authorities say, he committed a crime that reverberated across the country.

"Hainstock shot and killed his school's well-respected principal, John Klang, a 49-year-old father of three who attempted to wrestle a handgun from the boy in a school hallway, authorities allege in a criminal complaint filed Friday afternoon." Source

When it comes to school shootings almost no one talks about the system that creates the shooters. When it comes to this issue I think it is time we start to do so. This essay by Daniel Quinn is a good place to start.

Quote from Quinn's Essay: When our children start becoming murderers, we typically don't wonder what's wrong with the system that's turning them INTO murderers, we wonder what's wrong with THEM. Imagine an assembly line that out of every hundred vehicles turns out one that is horribly defective. Then imagine--instead of examining the assembly line--taking the defective vehicle out and shooting it. Then, when the next one comes along--instead of examining the assembly line--taking THAT one and shooting it. And when the next one comes along--instead of examining the assembly line--taking THAT one out and shooting it.

I was amused last year when, after the Jonesboro massacre, the prosecutor of THOSE boys vowed to go after them so fiercely that he was going to SEND A MESSAGE to the youth of America. And what was the message? WE'RE NOT GOING TO PUT UP WITH THIS SORT OF THING. Understand that? We're not just going to put up with it!

We're not going to CHANGE anything--no no, everything's perfect the way it is. We're just going to punish the hell out of you. And that'll send a message. So the NEXT bunch of boys who think of massacring their schoolmates will stop and say, "Wait a second! Hey! What was that message about massacring your schoolmates? Oh, I remember now. If you massacre your schoolmates, they're going to send you to jail for a thousand years. Or is it two thousand years? Well, I guess if it's going to be a thousand years, we'd better not massacre our schoolmates. If it were only twenty years or fifty years, then we could go ahead. But a thousand years, wow. I can't do a thousand years."

Was that the problem in Columbine--that these boys just had failed to get this message? Were they under the impression that they were just going to get slapped on the wrist for gunning down their classmates and blowing up a school and crashing an airplane into a city block? Did they do all that--or plan to do all that--because they had the mistaken idea that no one would mind?

No, it's perfectly clear that they were not under any illusion about the consequences of their actions. They expected NOT to survive their adventure.

The question I want to leave with you as designers is this. How have we gone about nurturing children who have so little to live for and so much to hate that they'll happily throw their lives away if they can murder 500 classmates, blow up a school, and crash an airplane into a city block? Please don't tell me about violent video games and violent music. Instead, tell me how we've gone about nurturing children who WANT violent video games and violent music, who THRIVE on violent video games and violent music.

In general (it can be said with reasonable justification) natural selection works on this principle, "If it doesn't work, do it LESS." Any gene that works against reproductive success tends to be eliminated from the gene pool--is found less and less in the gene pool until it finally disappears. Doing less of what doesn't work is a principle that is practically instinctive to the human designer. But when it comes to our social organizations, the people of our culture follow a very different principle: If it doesn't work, do it MORE.

I almost always get a laugh with this statement. I'm not sure whether it's the shock of recognition or if people just think I'm kidding. I'm certainly not kidding. The principle is best seen at work in the institutions dedicated to maintaining the stability of our structures and systems. It's an anti-evolutionary principle, a principle that keeps anything new from happening.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Neighbor to the North

Check out this blog by a neighbor of mine just to the north. The feelings of happiness overwhelmed me after reading his most recent posts. It's always good to know there is someone out there that has a deep awareness of how destructive this culture really is.

Quote from his blog: Today, this civilization is the dominant force on the planet. Other ways of living are purged, 1984 style, from our history books. We are taught that nothing relevant happened before the first village attacked its neighbor in pursuit of more farmland.

This world-spanning civilization has denuded the majority of arable land on the planet, and is quickly running out of fossil fuel resources. Humanity as a whole is now at a crossroads that will determine the viability of the Earth to support complex life.

It should not surprise us that this manner of social organization was not created to benefit us. It was created to benefit the intellectual descendants of the elites who insisted that, "Gee, wouldn't it be a great idea if you all would dig holes in the ground and grow more wheat -- while I sit here and guard it?"

Humanity has spent most of its history free of heirarchy. Equality is not a liberal dream -- it was the reality for nearly every human being who lived prior to 10,000 BC.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Website Discovery

I just ran across this website. It sums up a lot of the way I think in new and creative ways.

I especially like this essay and excerpt:

Rule No. 7 - You are allowed to compete with other species for food, but not to wage war on them.

As Daniel Quinn points out in his book, Ishmael, lions may not like the hyenas that compete with them for food and territory and will sometimes pick fights with them, but lions don't organize all-out, genocidal war against hyenas as you humans do against any species that dares to eat "your" food, with your pesticides that indiscriminately poison everything that comes near "your" crops, or your "predator control" programs that seek to exterminate the bears, wolves, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, hawks and eagles, etc., that occasionally prey on "your" sheep, cattle, chickens, etc.

What you humans fail to realize is that trying to deny competing species access to the food that you claim as yours alone can only lead to eventual ecological devastation. The other species that compete with you for food exist for very good reasons: Because biodiversity helps preserve ecosystem stability and health (see Rule 5, above) and because they form an important part of the food chain. Just one of many examples: Wolves do not just eat "your" sheep or cattle, they also eat deer, and the extermination of wolves in much of North America has therefore led to widespread ecosystem damage due to the severe overpopulation of deer in such areas as the northeastern U.S.

This is one of the reasons why Timberwolves were wiped out in the State of Wisconsin during the early 1900's. It would be nice if atleast the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources would acknowledge this.

I don't think there is any argument that can stand against the rule quoted above (In other words The Biological Law of Limited Competition as talked about in the Ishmael Trilogy).

Monday, October 15, 2007

False Choices and Voting

I can't help but think about the quote below when following the presidential race of 2008 and the Wisconsin state government state budget bill that hasn't been passed yet.

A classic device of power—and this is true whether we’re talking about emperors or perpetrators of domestic violence—is to present their victims with a series a false choices whereby no matter which the victims choose, the perpetrators win and the victims are further victimized. Nazis, for example, sometimes gave Jews the choice of different colored identity papers. Many Jews then focused, reasonably enough, on trying to figure out which of these colors would more likely save their lives. Of course the color of the identity papers made no material difference: the primary purpose of the choice was to divert victims’ attention from the task of unmaking the whole system that was killing them. In addition, this false choice co-opted victims into believing they were making meaningful choices. In other words, it got them on some level to take responsibility for what was being done with them. If I am killed it is my own fault because I chose the wrong color.

Now, would you rather vote Democrat or Republican? For which major corporation would you like to work? Which shopping mall has the best deals this
weekend? Do you want privacy or security?
Derrick Jensen in Welcome to the Machine.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Cain Is Still Killing Abel

Another Columbus Day has passed and Cain is still killing Abel.

"In Ishmael, I made the point that the conflict between the emblematic figures Cain and Abel didn't end six or eight thousand years ago in the Near East. Cain the tiller of the soil has carried his knife with him to every corner of the world, watering his fields with the blood of tribal peoples wherever he found them. He arrived here in 1492 and over the next three centuries watered his fields with the blood of millions of Native Americans. Today, he's down there in Brazil, knife poised over the few remaining aboriginals in the heart of that country." From Daniel Quinn's essay: Our Religions: Are they the Religions of Humantiy Itself .

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Plan

I found this essay by William Kotke to pretty inspiring, especially the quote below. It illustrates how insane it is to "lock up our food."

The thrust of technology is to simplify living systems. One can average a stated number of pounds of red meat by cattle grazing a rangeland ecosystem. Cattle eat mainly grass but if one looks at the multiplicity of species that eat plants it is seen that far higher production of red meat could be gained per acre by harvesting the rabbits, pronghorns, deer, elk and other species because each species eats different plants such as grass, forbs, bushes and such, giving a seamless and non-destructive cropping of the ecosystem. It is because of the manageability of the cow that the industrial system ignores and eliminates the other species that would actually be more productive. This is done for "efficiency" resulting in surpluses (profits). Industrial mass production monocropping has produced a simplified diet. In the supermarket we see a wide diversity of packaging but the basic food is wheat, corn, potato and rice. With Permaculture we greatly increase the diversity of our foods which will assist our health, our abundance and our community food security. In a decentralized system with local control, we can grow much more food for people than can the industrial system grow food for "surpluses." William Kotke

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


This excerpt about friendship from a talk Guy McPherson just gave really spoke to me.

I turn to Aristotle for my favorite definition of friendship: a relationship between people working together on a project for the common good. Without the common good, we might as well restrict friendship to drinking buddies. The distinction is as clear as that between being a citizen and being a consumer. Sadly, I suspect most Americans don’t know the difference. Public health is a paradigmatic example of the common good, making us friends in the Aristotelian sense.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Second Time Around

The other day we watched What a Way to Go for the second time with a friend of ours, it was a lot better the second time around. Wow! After it was done my friend looked over at me and said, "That was probably one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. There is a years worth of reading packed into two hours."

I agree. If you want to know why this culture is so descructive and unhealthy to live in definately take the time to check this out. It's well worth it!

Here is a blog post talking about the effects it had on a person that recently watched it.

Also, if you want to check out some really funny comics take the time to visit Minimum Security.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Awakening to the Insanity of Civilization

Here is a really good essay by a young psychiatrist talking about his personal journey after coming to the realization that civilization is not sustainable and is unhealthy.

Quote from article: Early on in medical school, around 1997, I first read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. The book, which explores the origins, history, future and challenges of modern industrial civilization, changed my thinking more profoundly than anything I had read up to that point and exposed me to a number of concepts that would influence my life forever after. Though at the time I may have related more personally to some of the symptomatic consequences discussed by Quinn, ultimately the most fundamental realization to which I was first exposed at that time was the book’s overall conclusion that civilization as a social structure is inherently unsustainable and unhealthy for human beings.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fifteen Panels Done

We have fifteen panels done and one more to go. More pictures coming soon.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Healing the Mind/Body Split

I just ran across this link to a thread that was started on IshCon well over a year ago. The link was posted by Ran Prieur. I really want to explore the thinking behind this when I get some time. Mostly because Willem tied the Art of Tracking into it, which absolutely fascinates me!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Systems and Relationships

Here is a response that Tamarack Song had to an essay by Jason Godesky about Permaculture and Agriculture. Alot of the time most of us forget it's all about relationships, I think anyway.

If you haven't yet, I encourage those of you with an intellectual interesting the effects of agriculture, to take Glenn's suggestion and a look at Jason Godesky's piece at [Essay Address].

Not knowing Jason or having read much of his writings, I can only comment from my impression of this particular piece. It appears to be pretty solidly a systems approach, which has him immersed in clarifying semantics and identifying and labeling symptoms. If done well, it can be a self-satisfying task.

The pitfall of the systems approach is that it lacks perspective. Systems analysts define the issue from the perspective of the issue, and thereby come up with issue-based analyses and solutions. The analysis appears to fit the situation, and the resulting solution may appear to work, and yet the core imbalance which brought about the situation was never identified. Think of it as controlling a fire by focusing on the fire rather than the reason for the fire.

Rather than a set of systems, life is a web of relationship. When one area of the web is torn, it affects the entire web. No longer will the web respond in its intended way to the crashing force of a Grasshopper flying into it; no longer can Spider respond to the crash in her time-honored way. Tamarack Song

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Freedom and Life

Are we really free? When we here politicians talk about defending and protecting our freedom, are they talking about the kind of freedom Derrick Jensen talks about in the essay below?

One of the primary fictions that governs our lives is that we are in any meaningful sense free. Our way of life is predicated on freedom, and is freer than any other way of life that has ever existed, we tell ourselves endlessly, drearily, compulsively, as sleep-deprived we look out the window at the concrete walls of a subway tunnel, on a cattle car carrying us too slow yet too fast toward a job we do not love to make money to buy things we do not want, in a life carrying us too slow yet too fast toward an end—death—for which we are not prepared, having never really lived.

We are slaves who know next to nothing of freedom. Sure, there are endless diversions available for those who have the money to afford them, and there are, for example, endless varieties of sugar-laden drinks to give us energy and make us fat: recognizing that us in this case is the very rich, and recognizing also that these sugar-laden drinks come at the cost of destroyed aquifers below those whose water is stolen (and we could of course perform the same exercise for our endless varieties of toothpaste, cars, electronic devices, and so on). We have the freedom to consume, and then consume, and then consume some more. We have the freedom to exploit and to be exploited, and then to exploit and to be exploited some more.

But we do not have the freedom to not live under an exploitative, hierarchical system that is killing the planet. This culture systematically destroys non-exploitative, non-hierarchical, sustainable cultures. That’s what it does. It systematically destroys all alternatives (try living as a hunter-gatherer as part of a functioning natural community on Manhattan Island), which means it destroys the ability to say no to participating in it, which means that participation in it is not voluntary, not free. It systematically destroys real freedoms. It systematically destroys landbases. And this renders the “freedoms” we do have—which should in all reality be called “freedoms™”—pointless, because the freedom to live on a planet not being killed is the most important freedom of all. It is, in fact, the only one that really matters: without a living planet, you have no freedom, because you have no life at all. It doesn’t matter how many freedoms™ you claim—even the freedom to change jobs you hate, even the freedom to vote among corporate-owned representatives—if you can’t breathe the air and can’t drink the water (except the water they sell you).


The “answer” to the problem of us having few real freedoms is not to demand more freedoms from those who are enslaving us in the first place. Unless we have the power to back up these demands and force change, the demands™ are really nothing more than begging. Rather instead we need to take so-called freedoms away from those in power. We need to deprive the rich of their freedom (and ability) to steal from the poor, and to deprive the powerful of their freedom (and capacity) to destroy the planet.

Here’s how I came to understand that. I often give talks, at universities and elsewhere. Just before I walked on stage for one such talk, the person who brought me there whispered, “I forgot to tell you, but I publicized this as a speech about human rights and freedoms. Can you make sure to talk about that?”

I nodded agreement, although I had no idea what to say. Everything that came to me was tepid, along the lines of “Human rights and freedoms are good.” I may as well say I’m for apple pie and the girl next door. As I walked on stage, however, I suddenly knew what I had to say. “Most people,” I said, “who care about human rights and freedoms and who talk about them in a meaningful fashion, as opposed to those who use them as a smokescreen to facilitate production and implement policies harmful to humans and nonhumans, usually spend a lot of energy demanding the realization of rights and freedoms those in power give lip service to. Sometimes they expand their demands to include things—like a livable planet—people don’t often associate with human rights and freedoms. People have a right to clean air, we say, and clean water. We have a right to food. We have a right to bodily integrity. Women (and men) have the right to not be raped. Some even go so far as to say that nonhumans, too, have the right to clean air and water. They have the right to habitat. They have the right to continued existence.”

People nodded. Who but a sociopath or a capitalist—insofar as there is a difference—could disagree with any of these?

“But,” I continued, “I’m not sure that’s the right approach. I think that instead of adding rights and freedoms we need to subtract them.”

Silence. Frowns. The narrowing of eyes.

“No one,” I said, “has the right to toxify a river. No one should be free to do that. No one has the right to pollute the air. No one has the right to drive a creature to extinction, nor destroy a species’ habitat. No one has the right to profit from the labor or misery of another. No one has the right to steal resources from another. No one has these freedoms.”

They seemed to get it.

I continued, “The first thing to do is recognize in our own hearts and minds that no one has any of these rights or freedoms, because clearly on some level we do perceive others as having them, or we wouldn’t allow rivers to be toxified, oceans to be vacuumed, and so on. Having become clear ourselves, we then need to let those in power know we’re taking back our permission, that they have no right to wield this power the way they do—they do not have that freedom—because clearly on some level they, too, perceive themselves as having the right to kill the planet, or they wouldn’t do it. Of course they have entire philosophical, theological, and judicial systems in place to buttress their perceptions. As well as, of course, bombs, guns, and prisons. And then, if our clear statement that they have no right fails to convince them—and I wouldn’t hold my breath here—we’ll be faced with a decision: how do we stop them?”
A lot of people seemed to agree. Then after the talk someone asked me, “Aren’t these just different ways of saying the same thing?”

I wasn’t sure what she meant.

“What’s the difference between saying I have the right to not be raped, and saying to some man, ‘You have no right to rape me’?”

I was stumped. But then I realized there’s an experiential difference between these two ways of putting it. A big one. Pretend you’re in an abusive relationship. Picture yourself saying to this other person, “I have the right to be treated with respect.” Now, that may developmentally be important for you to say, but there comes a point when it’s no longer appropriate to keep the focus on you—you’re not the problem. Contrast how that former statement feels with how it feels to say: “You have no right to treat me this way.” The former is almost a supplication, the latter almost a command. And its focus is on the perpetrator.

For too long we’ve been supplicants. For too long the focus has been on us. It’s time we simply set out to stop those who are doing wrong.


I used to teach at a university. My primary task as I saw it was to simply accept, cherish, and praise my students into becoming who they really were. I didn’t so much need to teach them as I needed to provide a safe and supportive environment where with my encouragement they could learn. Many felt a freedom—there’s that word—they had never felt before. And they flourished under that freedom.

I often wondered what I would do if I had the same students for not one but two quarters. And I always came up with the same answer. If this first quarter was about liberation, the second would be about responsibility. Every person needs to learn and experience—incorporate, that is, take into the body—both. And they’re inseparable. Either without the other becomes a parody, and leads to inappropriate and self- and other-destructive behaviors generally characteristic of unconscious or unintentional parodies. Responsibility without freedom is slavery. As we see. Freedom without responsibility is immaturity. As we also see. Put them together and you’ve got an entire culture consisting of immature slaves. As we see as well, unfortunately both for us and for those we meet. These parodies may be very good if you’re interested in growing the economy, but they’re very bad if you’re interested in life.


What, then, does it mean to be responsible? How can one become responsible?
Maybe it will help to know what the word means. Let’s take a walk through a dictionary. “Responsible: liable to be called upon to answer.”

Now, let’s follow back the etymology. “Responsible: 1599, ‘answerable (to another, for something),’ from Fr. responsable, from L. responsus, pp. of respondere ‘to respond’ (see respond).” Let’s keep going back. “Respond: c.1300, respound, from O.Fr. respondere ‘respond, correspond,’ from L. respondere ‘respond, answer to, promise in return,’ from re- ‘back’ + spondere ‘to pledge.’ Modern spelling and pronunciation is from c.1600.”[i]
To be responsible is to promise in return. The questions become: to whom is this promise made?

And in return for what?

This goes to the heart of the “problem” of our lack of freedom, and more deeply to the heart of what is wrong with this culture.


Who feeds you?

What is the source of your life?

To whom do you owe your life?

If your experience—far deeper than belief or perception—is that your food comes from the grocery store (and your water from the tap), from the economic system, from the social system we call civilization, it is to this you will pledge back your life. If you experience this social system as the source of your life, you will be responsible to this social system. You will defend this social system to your very death.

If your experience—far deeper than belief or perception—is that food and water come from your landbase, or more broadly from the living earth, you will make and keep promises to your landbase in exchange for this food. You will honor and keep and participate in the fundamental predator/prey relationship. You will be responsible to the community that supplies you with food and water. You will defend this community to your very death.

When the social system into which you’ve been enculturated is destroying the landbases on which all life depends, that question of who you are responsible to—to whom you make and keep your promises—makes all the difference in the world.


My dictionary defines freedom as “the condition of being free of restraints.” That is not possible. It’s not even desirable. We all have restraints. The absolutely crucial questions include: What are those restraints? Who restrains us (us or someone else)? Why are these restraints in place? and, Whom do these restraints serve? Another way to put this is: we all serve someone or something. Whom or what do you serve?


Here are some more questions. To whom will you be called upon to answer? By whom do you wish to be called upon to answer?

With every word I write—especially when what I write scares me—I think about these questions. And here are my answers I come to every day. I write for the salmon, and for the trees, and for the soil beneath my feet. I write for the bees, frogs, and salamanders. I write for bats and owls. I write for sharks and grizzly bears. When I find myself wanting to not tell the truth as I understand it to be—when I find the truth too scary, too threatening—I think of them, and I think of what I owe them: my life. I will not—cannot—disappoint them.

And I consider myself answerable to—responsible to—the humans who will come after, who will inherit the wreckage our generation is leaving to them. When I want to lie, to turn my face away from the horrors, to understate the magnitude of what we must do and what we must unmake, to give answers that are not as deep and clear and real as I can possibly comprehend and articulate, I picture myself standing before humans a hundred years from now, and I picture myself answering to them for my actions and inactions. Them, too, I will not—cannot—disappoint.

I can sometimes lie to myself. I could probably even lie to you. But to them—to all of those to whom I hold myself responsible—I could never lie. To them, and for them, I give my brightest, deepest truth.

I do this so that they will be free from the restraints of this awful culture, so that they will be free to be truly responsible to themselves, to the land where they live, and to those who come after them.

[i] “Online Etymology Dictionary.

As I was reading up on Open Space Technology I dug this quote up by David Bohm.

When you listen to somebody else, whether you like it or not, what they say becomes a part of you..... the common pool is created, where people begin suspending their own opinions and listening to other people's .... At some point people begin recognising that the common pool is more important than their separate pools.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Teaching and Building

We're in the process of building a cordwood house right now, and I'm interested in the methods of teaching tracking and nature awareness through mentoring. So, I think this quote by Ran Prieur is absolutely essential to keep in mind for both of these activities.

In hindsight, it would have been better for my hut-building project if I'd never read any books about building, or accepted any technical advice... because instructions destroy motivation. The best teachers understand this, and don't instruct their students at all but seduce them into figuring things out on their own. How-to books, nine times out of ten, are not an aid in doing but a substitute for doing -- the spiritual energy gets burned up in the imagining. And now I'm almost at a dead end, because so many ways of building have been killed for me by reading about them. The only way I can proceed is to do something that (as far as I know) is totally new.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Another Blog

I'm going to be starting another blog focusing on getting beyond our current modes of schooling. It will mostly be filled with information and articles that I have ran across in the past. Someday I will than convert that stuff over to a webpage that I plan on putting together for a future organization or nonprofit or indigenous unschool that I would like to start in my area.

Here is an interview I'm going to include on there.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Your Own Myth

Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth. Rumi

Yeah, I Wonder

"People are ready to run wild into the woods again and to be as Heathenish as ever if you do not prevent it." Increase Mather

" seems pretty clear to me that an urge to destroy underlies many of our activities, then mused, 'I wonder how much of that urge is base on a need to eradicate those who represent other ways to be, and who thus remind us of what we're losing.' " Jensen quoted out of The Culture of Make Believe. pg. 202

What are they/we so afraid of?

Monday, May 14, 2007

School Days Are Done Now

School Days are Done Now

Graduate, your school days are done now
What did you learn from those days?
Do you know what the system expects of you, Graduate?
Is it what you're heart desires, graduate?
There is a path waiting for you our there
Which one are you going to take?
What role are you going to play?
Clock ticking away
Death one step closer
The paths are waiting for you, graduate
Who are you?
How are you going to fit?
Control and coercion
Freedom and responsibility
Slave and master
Love and life
Machine and predictability
Spontaneity and play
Your free to choose, graduate
This is your day


The basis of the panoptic sort is the remote, invisible, automatic and comprehensive sensing of personhood and the classification, evaluation, and sorting of individuals into groups for efficient training, rehabilitation, or elimination, based on their value to the economic and political elite who control the sorting.

The most highly valued are the rich and other rulers; They are given the primary fiscal benefits of the sorting system. Also high in the hieracrchy are those trusted strategists who can make sense of the vast information apparatus. Below them are technicians who are privy to the data by the surveillance machines. Below that are the people of the middle class who enjoy enough benefits so that their sense of privilege out weighs their nagging feeling of never quite reaching the top. (From the point of view of those who run the system, the value of the middle class is to provide the bulk of the surplus value.) Below the middle class are working-class people, who run and maintain the machines that produce consumer goods. They, too, enjoy enough benefits to keep them at work, to give them the illusion that they're living a good life, and to keep them from looking for a different way to live. And as Henry Ford saw early on, it is essential in an industrial system to give at least some of the workers enough pay to buy at least some of what they build, or else the system's inevitable production has no outlet. Toward the bottom of the value scale are those who are "of little substance who carry the sick, bury the dead, clean and do many vile and abject offices."* But even the unemployed and the homeless are of some value to the system. For example, they keep wages low by making sleeping under a bridge seem the only alternative to the treadmill of rent or mortgage. Below the value scale altogether are those who will not partake of the benefits of the system, because they provide the system's servants with alternative visions and lifestyles. Because the existence of these alternatives cannot be tolerated, lest the servants become restless, those who live these alternatives must be banished from the servants' view, or destroyed altogether. Welcome to the Machine pg. 112-113

Welcome to the real world, graduate.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

He Is Already Dead

After spending about a month of really trying to understand John Trudell's point of view by listening to his music, watching YouTube videos, watching Trudell:The Movie, reading his poetry, and reading interviews, I think I might have a bit of an understanding of that point of view. After the FBI killed John's family and collected 17,000 pages of information on him, he said that he visited a very dark place for awhile, and what saved him was that some "lines" appeared to him. He has been following those lines ever since. He said they saved his life.

Last night this passage from Derrick Jensen's book, A Language Older Than Words was calling as I was thinking about John's description of the dark universe he visited after his family was murdered (which John says was an act of war performed by the FBI.)

In the seventeenth century the Zen poet Bunan wrote, "Die while you're alive and be absolutely dead. Then do whatever want: it's all good." We are, of course, already dead. There is no hope. The machine is too powerful, the damage too severe. There are too many child abusers, too many rapists, too many corporations, too many tanks and guns and airplanes. And I'm just one person: I can't do anything. You're dead right, so what the hell are you waiting for? An Irish friend of mine once told me his favorite saying: "Is this a private fight, or can anyone enter?" Give up. Capitulate. Realize there's no hope, then have at it. If you're dead, you have nothing to lose and a word to gain.

Trudell died, and now he has "nothing to lose and a world to gain."

This culture clearly has a death urge. We are obviously trying to kill ourselves. Maybe most of us have to die first before we can expect this death urge to go away.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Clarity and Consciousness

Here is a really clear and coherent post by TwoRoadsTom (Bill Maxwell) over at IshThink that I think fits in well with some of my recent posts talking about animism and John Trudell's perception of a vibratory reality.

When asked to explain animism as a religion (as opposed to the dictionary version), I consistently say that it is the belief that everything possesses an animating, motive force, which, if I was to translate that into more 'popular' vernacular, means that everything is "alive" and can make decisions.

On a certain level, this is completely valid; choices are made consistently on a quantum level, based on variants that affect that particular quanta state. Decisions made through what we term"consciousness" are merely more complex variants of the same theme; our decisions are based on everything from what we eat to how we were raised to what the temperature is now to a thousand other variables...

I've also taken a fancy to the idea that spirit is 'breath', that wonderful energy that circulated through a system and lets it do what it does. For some, like rocks, breaths are drawn in much larger cycles than are insects (did you know rocks 'breathe?' They actually exude and take in gasses from the atmosphere. Just found that out. Fun stuff). When I die, my particular animating force goes away and all the little 'fires' that are left are devoured by other creatures to add to their life.

Let's have a little more fun with it though. Straight from a traditional healer's mouth (saw him lecture -- free btw at a university -- on Tuesday), he talked about the 'gods' of the Central American pantheons.
Take "Tlaloc" for example. Books say "god of Rain." Wrong answer. Linguistically, Tlaloc breaks down into two words; Tlal = Earth & Loc = Liquid. Literal translation is "Liquid of the Earth". Actual translation is the evaporation cycle! The Mexica knew moisture drew up from the ground and the waters and came back as rain. So Tlaloc describes a process which begins in the ground and ends in rain. The "great spirit" of rain, the animating force that makes rain work.

So, why treat everything as if it's an anthropocentric representation of a human? For two reasons: (1) It's easier to remember, because we are geared towards social interactions within our own species (2) it allows a greater capacity for empathy for other species if you place them within a 'human' context. You may not understand your cousin's rationale, but you can still love him as family. Now if your cousin happens to be a raccoon, it makes it a smidge more difficult but still possible if you try very hard. And if you've been trying for thousands of years, you've probably figured out a whole host of ways to communicate that we first generation goofs haven't even thought of yet.

And finally, on a strange but practical note. Alright... let's say we consider 'spirit' as energy. Fine. Let's say we break it down to 'quantum choices' for decision making. Simplistic but fine. Lastly, we treat things through the lens of being human -- all the while understanding that they are also different than us -- because it facilitates communication. So what's the point? Why not strip away the metaphor and be done with it?

Here's why. Because the First Nations were right. It is one big damned mystery. I'm a cynic by nature, have been all of my life. I love studying all of the whacky phenomenon out there and don't believe most of it. I started going to a sweat lodge about a year ago. The tales told there are amazingly dense and rich with metaphorical information (including the relationship between the tree's life cycle and the heating of the stones of the lodge + many, many other interesting facts). I've prayed in that lodge
in a respectful manner, fully expecting simply a great, time tested purification ritual.

Then my prayers started getting answered, way beyond statistical chance, and in ways that astonished me. I experienced a sweat which saved my father-in-law's life. I've seen incredible healings occur, seen small miracles occur. How?!? How is this happening if the spirits are just descriptors of processes? The truth is they're more than that and I don't know how or why and that doesn't matter one bit. It's a mystery, one that doesn't solve life's problems or make you a saint but instead connects you to the world in wondrous and sometimes frightening ways.

No, I'm not saying everybody should go rush out to a sweat (though you should! ). What I'm trying to express is this: when people say that animists are talking about 'gods' and 'spooks' (to quote an earlier posts) they are talking about much more than that. And if you think they are just talking about physical processes that have no specific 'connection' to us, well, they're talking about much more than that, too. I'll be damned if I know exactly what's going on but I could spend a rich lifetime trying to figure it out.

I suppose that's our (us trying to dive out of civ) next issue. To experience more of this so we can plug into the cycle once again and explore this intense complexity that is life.

I've had similar experiences when it comes to sweat lodges. All I can say it is simply one big mystery, too.

Here is a great 15 minute video with Trudell talking about the vibratory reality we are a part of and what it means to have power.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Identity Crisis

This post is inspired by this amazing post by WildeRix titled: The Inhumantiy of Animals.

So you want to know why we are so unhappy?

Do you want to know why at the end of our day the feelings of disctontent, anxiety and incompleteness stop by to visit?

We have forgotten who we are.

Now it's time to take a look at that scar.

And remember who we are.

We are the Seventh Generation. (Click on the song titled: Crazy Horse *)

*Crazy Horse, the opening track on Bone Days, for instance, deals with the Indian belief that we are intrinsically connected to the earth.

"One does not sell the earth that people walk upon - we are the land? How do we sell our mother? How do we sell the stars? How do we sell the air? … possession, a war that doesn't end…" (from Crazy Horse, John Trudell, Bone Days, on Daemon Records, 2002)

"I think we wrote Crazy Horse, well I wrote the lyrics to it in 1988-89, somewhere in that time-frame," recalls Trudell. "Well actually I wrote the lyrics for a project called "Oyahte" which came out of Europe, out of Paris, so I wrote the lyrics for that project … Jean Richard was producing it. He and a man named Tony Hymas (keyboard player, Jeff Beck Band).

"I wrote these lyrics and Tony and Jeff Beck made the music to go with these lyrics, so it was a whole different performance. So whatever agreements were made on that, were made on that, but I had these lyrics that I wanted to use within my own style. And so right around the beginning of 1990, we came up with the music that we have for it now, and we've been performing it live since then. It's just that we've never got around to recording it until now."

Native themes...for everyoneAlthough many of his songs are written with and around Native themes, Trudell is quick to note that he writes his songs for all people - and these days, with the world "being turned into an industrial reservation, the next Indians are a different colour than us. The next Indians are their own citizens," says Trudell.

"When Bone Days came around, I thought that what I wanted to do with this particular CD is - I wanted to open it and close it - Crazy Horse at the beginning and Hanging from the Cross at the end. I wanted to open it and close it specifically around Native themes.
" I wanted the opening and closing song to be straight, up-front that this is Native. And everything in between, I wanted it to reflect that it could be any person. The story that goes on in between, inspired by Native but not limited to Native experience."
(Rest of interview HERE.)

Monday, May 07, 2007

John Trudell, Animism and Providence

This post is more of note to myself.

I just found this amazing interview with John Trudell talking about his music, reality, spirituality, Christianity, and tribalism.

Corbett: Shifting our conversation, I wondered on your thoughts about Native American spirituality. What are whites seeking when they explore American Indianspirituality? What's the draw?

I think they're trying to find their own memory. Because remember, everybody on the earth is a descendant of a tribe, even the whites. If you go back far enough in their ancestral history, they come from tribes. But the way technologic civilization works is it erases the memory. The civilizing process is to erase the tribal memory or the ancestral memory. So if you look at most Caucasian people, they don't even remember their Great Grandparents. Or if they're the Mormons, they got this lineage thing stashed away somewhere where they can follow them by name all the way back to wherever, but they don't know anything about them. They don't know what their spiritual perceptions of reality were. They don't know their practices, how they lived with the earth. They know none of that, so they have none of that memory. So on one level, you've got all these people running around trying to be somebody they're not, and they're trying to make a fast buck at it while they're doing it. But the people who are gullible enough to come to them, they're trying to find a meaning and that reality we were talking about earlier. They're tying to find their way back to reality. And the deal is, if they don't understand what they're doing, when you enter into praying, or you enter into ceremony and start doing these things what you're doing is, you are reaching for answers into things you're not connected with. And when the answer comes back, it's just gonna end up confusing you more and taking you further and further away from what it is you're seeking.

Daniel Quinn mentioned in his book Providence that we all shared the animistic worldview at one time. This was the only universal religion (For lack of a better word right now) that has ever existed among humans.

Is this the memory "whites" are trying to find?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Freedom and Sitting Bull

From the perspective of a man who has experienced freedom. And a great account of how our culture forces other cultures to live our One Right Way.

“This land belongs to us, for the Great Spirit gave it to us when he put us here. We were free to come and go, and to live in our own way. But white men, who belong to another land, have come upon us, and are forcing us to live according to their ideas. That is an injustice; we have never dreamed of making white men live as we live.

“White men like to dig in the ground for their food. My people prefer to hunt the buffalo as their fathers did. White men like to stay in one place. My people want to move their tepees here and there to the different hunting grounds. The life of white men is slavery. They are prisoners in towns or farms. The life my people want is a life of freedom. I have seen nothing that a white man has, houses or railways or clothing or food, that is as good as the right to move in the open country, and live in our own fashion. Why has our blood been shed by your soldiers? . . . The white men had many things that we wanted, but we could see that they did not have the one thing we liked best,­freedom. I would rather live in a tepee and go without meat when game is scarce than give up my privileges as a free Indian, even though I could have all that white men have. We marched across the lines of our reservation, and the soldiers followed us. They attacked our village, and we killed them all. What would you do if your home was attacked? You would stand up like a brave man and defend it. That is our story. I have spoken.” Sitting Bull

Creelman 299-302

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Derrick Jensen's New Anti-Zoo Book

Derrick Jensen's new book, Thought to Exist in the Wild: Awakening from the Nightmare of Zoos can now be purchased from him in both hardcover and softcover. If you want to purchase them from it looks like you'll be waiting until June 15th.

I got the chance to read Thought to Exist in the Wild through Derrick's Reading Club. It is well worth the read. I highly recommend it, like the rest of Derrick's work.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Derrick Jensen has been Rescued!

Well, if you haven't heard, Derrick Jensen was kidnapped a few days ago. But thanks to heroes like Urban Scout he was rescued. And someone was lucky enough to capture the rescue on film. Check out this video.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New Hero: John Trudell

A few days ago my friends took me up to Duluth, MN. to a viewing of the documentry Trudell: The Movie. Afterwards we got the chance to hang out with John and ask him questions about anything ranging from his past activism, what he thinks about the powers that be, and his music and poetry. I'm really glad that I went. John has a lot of knowledge and wisdom to share when it comes to talking about this mess (Global warming, overpopulation, species extinction, spritual crisis, etc.) that we are in.

I highly recommend checking out the documentry about John and the fifteen minute talk about clear and coherent thought. I'll post the trailor to Trudell: The Movie and a video of the short talk below.

Trailor for Trudell: The Movie.

And here is the video link to the fifteen minute talk about introducing coherency into the reality of energy :

Monday, April 16, 2007

Derrick Jensen's Talk on YouTube

For those of you who aren't familiar with Derrick Jensen's books these two videos are an excellent primer. A few years back I attended one of his talks in Minnesota. The videos and his talk were very similar.

Endgame Video One

Endgame Video Two

If you haven't read Endgame, I highly recommend it! Derrick puts forth a really good argument on why we need to take down civilization as as possible.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut Dies At Age 84

The amazing human being and author Kurt Vonnegut died today at the age of 84.

Here is a really good essay titled: Cold Turkey, that he wrote in 2004.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Trap

It IS possible to get out of a trap. However, in order to break out of a prison, one first must confess to being in a prison. The trap is man's emotional structure, his character structure. There is little use in devising systems of thought about the nature of the trap if the only thing to do in order to get out of the trap is to know the trap and to find the exit. Everything else is utterly useless: Singing hymns about the suffering in the trap, as the enslaved Negro does; or making poems about the beauty of freedom outside of the trap, dreamed of within the trap; or promising a life outside the trap after death, as Catholicism promises its congregations; or confessing a semper ignorabimus as do the resigned philosophers; or building a philosophic system around the despair of life within the trap, as did Schopenhauer; or dreaming up a superman who would be so much different from the man in the trap, as Nietzsche did, until, trapped in a lunatic asylum, he wrote, finally, the full truth about himself—too late. . ..

The first thing to do is to find the exit out of the trap.

The nature of the trap has no interest whatsoever beyond this one crucial point: WHERE IS THE EXIT OUT OF THE TRAP?

One can decorate a trap to make life more comfortable in it.

This is done by the Michelangelos and the Shakespeares and the Goethes. One can invent makeshift contraptions to secure longer life in the trap. This is done by the great scientists and physicians, the Meyers and the Pasteurs and the Flemings. One can devise great art in healing broken bones when one falls into the trap.

The crucial point still is and remains: to find the exit out of the trap. WHERE IS THE EXIT INTO THE ENDLESS OPEN SPACE?

The exit remains hidden. It is the greatest riddle of all. The most ridiculous as well as tragic thing is this:


It turns out that the trouble is not with the trap or even with finding the exit. The trouble is WITHIN THE TRAPPED ONES.

All this is, seen from outside the trap, incomprehensible to a simple mind. It is even somehow insane. Why don't they see and move toward the clearly visible exit? As soon as they get close to the exit they start screaming and run away from it. As soon as anyone among them tries to get out, they kill him. Only a very few slip out of the trap in the dark night when everybody is asleep. [pp. 470-471. From The Murder of Christ, 1953.] Wilhelm Reich

How do we get out of the trap? Do you know anybody that is?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Heroes Journey

This is going to be sort of a vent and journal entry.

The Heroes Journey: I don’t want to follow the prescribed paths that have been laid out for me by this culture. And I’m really surprised more people don’t feel this way.

Reading other peoples accounts (missionaries, anthropologists, pioneers) of how other cultures lived it’s pretty obvious this culture is pretty pathetic. Most of us have to pay taxes just to live on land. Most of us spend 13 years of our life in a school building learning information we don’t need or want to learn. Most of us work at a job that is so monotonous and mind-numbing that we have to drug ourselves just get through the process. Most of us have to buy and eat foods that have been poisoned with pesticides and herbicides that will eventually give us cancer. Most of us contribute to an economic system that is making the planet uninhabitable for future generations. Most of us will have to use all the assets we accumulated at the job we hated to pay for medicines and housing in our old age (Hell, some of us won’t get the chance to watch out assets dwindle away in our old age. We’ll die before that happens).

This culture really is a death trip. Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

There I said it. It’s documented for the world to see. Most people won’t allow themselves ever to say it.

It’s going to be a tough journey. But I won’t go down those prescribed paths. And this isn’t going to be a selfish journey. I would like to see as many people as possible take the heroes journey and reject the prescribed paths too.

Ran Prieur writes: For me, the point of dropping out is not just to selfishly escape while others are still suffering. The point is to get myself in a position from which I can fight better and build the foundation for a society where everyone's free. This world is full of people with the skills and knowledge to build paradise, but they can't even begin, because they would lose their jobs. The less money you need, the more powerful you become.

Ishmael was the catalyst for this journey. It showed me there are other ways to be outside this cultural prison’s walls.

See you on the other side.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Reading This Morning

I usually wake up around 5:00 AM in the morning. What I usually do before everyone gets up is read, journal for the Kamana program, and sometimes go sit quiely in the woods to listen to the birds greet the sunrise with their songs.

This morning I ran across a few interesting things that I know I'll eventually use. So I want to write them out here for future use.

Right now I'm reading Animal Tracking Basics , by Jon Young and Tiffany Morgan. This is really an amazing book for anyone that wants to get started in tracking and naturalist skills. It's full of exercises, stories, quotes by experienced naturalists and trackers, and neat facts like the one I'm going to post below.

Here is the fact by Daniel Gray: "Did you know that kestrels can spot voles while flying over a field by using an infrared scope mechanism in their eyes to pick up the lines of the animals' urine along their most used tunnels."

And also this quote by Tom Brown Jr. out of Animal Tracking Basics: "Not only is an animal a instrument played by the landscape, but the landscape is an instrument played by the animal. Thus the spheres of animal, plant, and land come together to form a whole."

While journaling the Nightshade plant family for the Kamana program I ran across this little tid bit of information out of Tom Elpel's book, Botany in a Day: "Our European heritage of witches flying on broomsticks comes from these hallucinogenic plants. An ointment containing Atropa and Hyosyamus was rubbed on the broomstick then absorbed through the vaginal tissues by 'riding' the broom"(Emboden)

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Cuba And Peak Oil

I'm responding to comments in previous threads here. For some reason I can't respond to them anywhere else.

Locke wrote in the previous post: I didn't hear your question on the show. I think they might have edited it out.

It's possible they could've edited it out because it was so close to the news. They have never edited anything else of mine out before. I don't know. It is kind of wierd though.

# # #

Scout posted a really good power-point presentation over at about how Cuba handled their Peak Oil crisis. It's really to bad more people in the United States are not talking about solutions like the ones in the presentation. I don't think the crash would be so messy if they were.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Public Radio and Global Warming

Thank you for your comments about my letter in my last post, Willem and Sonny.

This morning I called into another show on WPR (Wisconsin Public Radio) about global warming. This time the guest was Joel Rogers from the Apollo Alliance. What he basically was saying is that we can have a sustainable civilization, system of capitalism, and so on. He has an article in this months issue of The Nation Magazine talking about that.

I think it was in his book Welcome to the Machine where Derrick Jensen talks about how no government is capable of taming and controling the megamachine. Anyway, I called in and said that basically what the guest is proposing is impossible. Because any system that takes more from the landbase than it gives back is inherently unsustainable, therefore civilization has always been and always will be unsustainable. And I also said that since civilization has always been based on slavery, and the wage slavery that is a part of capitalism can never be fair or just.

Well, he started off his response saying he didn't agree with my premises. The rest of the response is what most of us have probably heard hundreds of times already, " there are many benefits to civilization. With the right restraints and management we can have our cake and eat it too, and so on. Of course, the response was more indepth. I just can't remember all of it right now.

I often wonder when guests are asked questions similar to the one I asked that after show they actually let them percolate into their conscious?

"In order for us to maintain our way of living, we must, in a broad sense, tell lies to each other, and especially to ourselves. It is not necessary that the lies be particularly believable. The lies act as barriers to truth. These barriers to truth are necessary because without them many deplorable acts would become impossibilities. Truth must at all costs be avoided. When we do allow self-evident truths to percolate past our defenses and into our consciousness, they are treated like so many hand grenades rolling across the dance floor of an improbably macabre party. We try to stay out of harm’s way, afraid they will go off, shatter our delusions, and leave us exposed to what we have done to the world and to ourselves, exposed as the hollow people we have become. And so we avoid these truths, these self-evident truths, and continue the dance of world destruction". D. Jensen

You can listen to my question if you click HERE. The program is fairly easy to find on the archive list. It would be Joy Cardin's March 28th show at 6:00 AM. My question is about 35 minutes into the program, just after WPR's middle of the show newsbreak.

Monday, March 26, 2007

System Failure

Sonny comments on my last post:

What I meant was to picture when people worked so many hours they didn't have much time with their children. Those children go through school and think it's what their parents worked for, to give them that. Actually it isn't, their parents' taxes paid for the school, but those who had time to take a civic advisory interest and choose what kind of schools to build and what school laws to have were these industrialists and their social set, as in the citation. Then the children of one generation pass it on to the next, adding some extracurricular activities, trying to build "the American dream" school experience for them. Some of them are forgetting the horrors of school or think they can paper them over with a little more activities. The reason that in a way almost all of us "don't know better" is a cultural rift: industrialization, urbanization, immigration, mass schooling, all acting together, that separated culture that might have been from culture of the television-consumer-driver age.

I think in a way this just another aspect of the Great Forgetting. It's terrible. No wonder we feel alienated.

Here is my response to what the teacher had to say about my first letter:

This letter is a follow up to Zachary Tranmer’s response to my letter titled: “Limited Choices”.

He mentions that his perspective is that of a teacher for the past nine years and as a parent with two children in the Spooner School System (one a recent graduate).

I first of all want to point out that I’m not attacking teachers here; I’m criticizing the effects of the coercive educational system they teach in. I’ve had some really great teachers and some really horrible teachers in the past. Mr. Tranmer may be one of those great ones, I don’t know.

But his perspective may be clouded because he has a lot invested in that coercive system I’m criticizing. If what I sad is true in my last letter (That 12 years of
compulsory schooling breaks the will of many children, it stifles their sense of curiosity and wonder, and teaches them to wish away their time) for the vast majority of students, than Mr. Tranmer is forced to face the fact that he teaches, and his children participate, in that system. By his defensive letter he is obviously not going to allow any criticism of it.

Mr. Tranmer also pointed out that I portrayed a bleak picture of life in my last letter. Well, he missed a very clear distinction that needs to be pointed out here: the educational systems and wage slave systems that I’ve criticized are NOT life. I’m sorry he’s lumped them together as one, but I have not. One can enjoy life immensely and hate their job or school. We are complex beings capable of different emotions.

He than goes on to say “It seems our lot is to have our creativity and wonder stifled at an early age by being placed in an institution where our choices are few and all decisions are made for us. We spend years watching the clock, wishing we were elsewhere only to end up in a dead-end job living a meaningless life. We than die afraid after spending time on life support.”

Mr. Tranmer has just described what most of us experience living in the Modern Era. And fortunately, I’m not alone in saying this. Philosophers like: Lewis Mumford, R.D Laing, Sigmund Freud, Derrick Jensen, Daniel Quinn, and so many others have said basically the same thing. A trip to the local library would reveal all of this. Wasn’t it Henry David Thoreau that said, “ Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”?

The coercive educational and wage slave systems of this culture are actually something quite new in the history of humankind. That gives me good feelings. Because it illustrates that there are other ways to educate and labor, and that is a very important realization when it comes to facing the problems we face.

I will still be voting no to both school referendum options on April 3rd. It’s a statement against the coercive educational system that most of us dreaded waking up for on our school days when we were kids.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

More on Schooling

In the last post Sonny commented: "What he said in opposition isn't even fully true, modern school was mostly designed to produce factory workers, and the children of factory workers accepted it and passed it on their children because they didn't know any better."

This is so true. Here is a small section from an essay titled: Against School, that John Taylor Gatto wrote for Harper's Magazine in September of 2003.

It was from James Bryant Conant-president of Harvard for twenty years, WWI poison-gas specialist, WWII executive on the atomic-bomb project, high commissioner of the American zone in Germany after WWII, and truly one of the most influential figures of the twentieth century-that I first got wind of the real purposes of American schooling. Without Conant, we would probably not have the same style and degree of standardized testing that we enjoy today, nor would we be blessed with gargantuan high schools that warehouse 2,000 to 4,000 students at a time, like the famous Columbine High in Littleton, Colorado. Shortly after I retired from teaching I picked up Conant's 1959 book-length essay, The Child the Parent and the State, and was more than a little intrigued to see him mention in passing that the modem schools we attend were the result of a "revolution" engineered between 1905 and 1930. A revolution? He declines to elaborate, but he does direct the curious and the uninformed to Alexander Inglis's 1918 book, Principles of Secondary Education, in which "one saw this revolution through the eyes of a revolutionary."

Inglis, for whom a lecture in education at Harvard is named, makes it perfectly clear that compulsory schooling on this continent was intended to be just what it had been for Prussia in the 1820s: a fifth column into the burgeoning democratic movement that threatened to give the peasants and the proletarians a voice at the bargaining table. Modern, industrialized, compulsory schooling was to make a sort of surgical incision into the prospective unity of these underclasses. Divide children by subject, by age-grading, by constant rankings on tests, and by many other more subtle means, and it was unlikely that the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in childhood, would ever re-integrate into a dangerous whole.

Inglis breaks down the purpose - the actual purpose - of modem schooling into six basic functions, any one of which is enough to curl the hair of those innocent enough to believe the three traditional goals listed earlier:

1) The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can't test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.

2) The integrating function. This might well be called "the conformity function," because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.

3) The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student's proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in "your permanent record." Yes, you do have one.

4) The differentiating function. Once their social role has been "diagnosed," children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits - and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best.

5) The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin's theory of natural selection as applied to what he called "the favored races." In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit - with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments - clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That's what all those little humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain.

6) The propaedeutic function. The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.

That, unfortunately, is the purpose of mandatory public education in this country. And lest you take Inglis for an isolated crank with a rather too cynical take on the educational enterprise, you should know that he was hardly alone in championing these ideas. Conant himself, building on the ideas of Horace Mann and others, campaigned tirelessly for an American school system designed along the same lines. Men like George Peabody, who funded the cause of mandatory schooling throughout the South, surely understood that the Prussian system was useful in creating not only a harmless electorate and a servile labor force but also a virtual herd of mindless consumers. In time a great number of industrial titans came to recognize the enormous profits to be had by cultivating and tending just such a herd via public education, among them Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.

Thank you for your comment, Sonny.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Response to Last Weeks Letter to the Editor.

Here is a response to the letter I wrote to the editor of our local newspaper. Last year I had another teacher respond to one of my letters too. (It's the second letter)Isn't it ironic how the people that are employed by the system seem to be the the most uptight about anyone who criticizes it. Wasn't it Upton Sinclair who said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." Upton Sinclair

Can do better

I am writing in response to last week’s letter from Curt Hubatch entitled “Limited choices.” My perspective is that of a teacher for the past nine years in the public education system in Webster and as a parent with two children in the Spooner school system (one a recent graduate).

Hubatch certainly portrays a bleak picture of life. It seems our lot is to have our creativity and wonder stifled at an early age by being placed in an institution where our choices are few and all decisions are made for us. We spend years watching the clock, wishing we were elsewhere only to end up in a dead-end job living a meaningless life. We then die afraid after spending time on life support.

And the culprit responsible for this dismal succession of events is our public educational system. So he will be voting “no” on the upcoming referendum as a way to strike back at this sorry state of affairs and to redress his 15-year-old grudge. How sad for him.

Contrary to Hubatch’s belief that our education system was designed to teach us to wish away our precious time, it actually was implemented as a means for society to formally pass on its culture, beliefs, and knowledge to our children.

The role of education in our country has evolved over the years, until now universal mandatory education is considered the norm and a foundation of our democracy.

At all times though, it has been influenced by and has reflected the prevailing attitudes and problems of the larger society rather than being a source of those problems. It is certainly an imperfect system and its outcomes arise directly from the quality of the teachers, students, parents, and resources the local community put into it.

The current building situation in Spooner reflects what occurred in the Webster school district about six years ago. The high school building was old, dilapidated, and increasingly inadequate to meet the current building and education standards. Several failed referendums were finally overturned after an open house brought many members of the community into the building to see what the conditions were. Voters realized that as a community they could do much better, and the referendum passed by an almost two-to-one majority vote. The results have been dramatic.

Morale among the students, staff, and community has increased. Community pride is very evident and really came out when their basketball team made a run in the playoffs that paralleled Spooner’s.

People use the facility for adult education classes, including a licensed practical nurse course and a University of Wisconsin-Extension Master Gardener class using the ITV [interactive television] facilities.

Community members use the weight-lifting room, and in the winter some walk the halls for exercise. There is an annual community talent show that packs the combination cafeteria/auditorium because of the enhanced seating, lighting, and sound facilities.

The drama department has produced several full-scale musicals, including West Side Story and Grease, that provided numerous students an opportunity to succeed in areas outside of the classroom. The new facility has allowed community members to choose to exercise their creativity and wonder in a variety of ways.

My children had and are receiving what my wife and I consider a first-rate high school education in Spooner. The school district offers students a wide variety of opportunities that include academics, athletics, music, drama, technical courses, driver’s ed, and community involvement. And all of this in spite of and not because of the present facilities.

The teachers, board, and the administration have done a marvelous job keeping the district viable in the face of increased state and federal education mandates and a concurrent decrease in revenue.

The present limited financial situation and the need to maintain an increasingly outdated structure is going to force some very hard choices. Future cutbacks are going to have a very negative impact on the ability of the district to carry out its goal of providing a quality education to as many students as possible.

In the April election, my wife and I are going to check “yes” in both boxes [new high school and additional program funds]. We are choosing to pay more money in property taxes and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to do this. We consider it money well-spent and an investment in the future of our children and community.

If the referendum fails again, the school district will somehow manage to muddle through and do what we as a society require it to do.

But we can and should do better.

117 Months

I suppose you could call this a journal entry.

For 117 months out of my childhood I had to sit in a classroom for close to eight hours a day. I didn’t have a choice about this; it was the law of the State of Wisconsin. And my parents couldn’t home school me because they were wage slaves.

I’m 32 years old now. And now that I’m in my thirties I’m really starting to realize and wake up to the effects of that 13 year process of schooling. Ran Prieur puts this well here:

I think the answer is that power isn't actually being taken but being blocked, in nonhumans by simply killing them and in humans by socialization that begins in infancy, punishing people for having a will of their own, for being aware, for channeling any bottom-up power, until by age 30 most of us are barely alive, almost as Philip K. Dick wrote: "Not a person but a sort of walking, hiding symptom of their way of life."

I’m reading A Language Older Than Words probably for about the fourth time. The book just keeps getting better the more times I read it. These two small sections jumped out at me this time around.

In order for us to maintain our way of living, we must, in a broad sense, tell lies to each other, and especially to ourselves. It is not necessary that the lies be particularly believable. The lies act as barriers to truth. These barriers to truth are necessary because without them many deplorable acts would become impossibilities. Truth must at all costs be avoided. When we do allow self-evident truths to percolate past our defenses and into our consciousness, they are treated like so many hand grenades rolling across the dance floor of an improbably macabre party. We try to stay out of harm’s way, afraid they will go off, shatter our delusions, and leave us exposed to what we have done to the world and to ourselves, exposed as the hollow people we have become. And so we avoid these truths, these self-evident truths, and continue the dance of world destruction. pg.2

He had a point. Newspapers lying to serve their own interests go back as far as newspapers themselves. The turn-of-the-century historian Henry Adams put it as clearly as possible” The press is the hired agent of a monied system, and set up for no other purpose than to tell lies where the interests are involved.”

Newspapers manifest the culture as a whole. Just as it is true that any father who would crush a child’s will would not be able to speak of it honestly, so, too, a culture that is snuffing out life on the planet would necessarily lie and dissemble to protect itself from the truth. Environmentalists lie, industrialists lie, newspapers lie. Parent’s lie, children lie. We all lie, and we are all afraid. Afraid to not know what is going on, and even more afraid of finding out. The opposite is true as well. Honest discourse is the first and most important step in stopping destruction. Pg.68

This is one of the main reasons I had to sit through all those hours in a classroom being cut off from beautifual and dynamic community of life. It was to perpetuate the lies!

Now I’m going to go sit quietly in the woods and listen to birdsong. Something I should have been doing over twenty years ago, or at least playing out there.

Why oh why wasn’t there someone around in my community to offer something like an Invisible school?

I hate this culture.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Limited Choices

Last week my letter to the editor was published in our local newspaper. I wrote about schooling because on April 3rd the taxpayers in our school district will be voting for a referendum to see if we should spend more money on building a new school. It's been voted down for over ten years now.

Limited Choices

I hate spending money on things that don’t work, simply because I work to hard for money to just throw it away.

You see, now that I’ve had approximately fifteen years to start to shake off the effects of schooling, I’m starting to see why I was forced to go to school. And it wasn’t to foster wonder and curiosity, which is the real meaning of education.

I’ve learned the system of schooling was unintentionally (according to some thinkers it was intentionally), designed to teach us how to wish away the most precious gift we’ve been given: our time. That is why the clock is the most important piece of technology in the classroom. How many times did you, or do you, look at the clock wishing for that bell to ring?

We only have so much time here before we die. And time spent doing one thing is time lost that could’ve been spent on another. That’s the way the economy of time works. You can spend time doing something you love or on something you hate, it’s up to you.

When the tragedy arises is when you don’t get to choose how you spend your time. This is what the system of schooling does so well, it chooses how your SUPPOSE to spend your time. Eventually we become so accustomed to this that we forget we actually have a choice in the matter. Before we know it most of us are then spending our time at jobs we hate to pay the bills. And more sooner than later were looking back on a life that could’ve been lived another way. This is one of the reasons why I think some people are so afraid to die; they haven’t truly lived life to its fullest, so they end up in hospitals being kept alive by machines. It’s a sad story for many.

When any system denies an individual their basic freedom of choice they don’t last long. And I’m not talking about “false choices” here. As philosopher Derrick Jensen writes, “There is an important difference between making a choice and selecting an option from artificially limited alternatives. In order to make a choice, that person must be free not to choose.” In an extreme example, lets say you’re given a choice to choose as to which one of your two best friends should live and which one should die, if you pick neither you die yourself. That’s an example of limited alternatives. The alternative of not participating in some type of schooling doesn’t exist for children.

Why spend money on a system that limits how children spend their time? I will be checking both “NO” boxes on the April, 3rd school referendum vote.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Preparing for Collapse

Thanks to Willem over at The College of Mythic Cartography for posting this slideshow titled: Closing the 'Collapse Gap': the USSR was better prepared for peak oil than the US, by Dmitry Orlov. Orlov lived through the Russian economic collapse.

I especially like Slide 24: "There are some things that I would like the government to take care of in preparation for collapse. I am particularly concerned about all the radioactive and toxic installations, stockpiles, and dumps. Future generations are unlikely to able to control them, especially if global warming puts them underwater. There is enough of this muck sitting around to kill off most of us. I am also worried about soldiers getting stranded overseas – abandoning one's soldiers is among the most shameful things a country can do. Overseas military bases should be dismantled, and the troops repatriated. I'd like to see the huge prison population whittled away in a controlled manner, ahead of time, instead of in a chaotic general amnesty. Lastly, I think that this farce with debts that will never be repaid, has gone on long enough. Wiping the slate clean will give society time to readjust. So, you see, I am not asking for any miracles. Although, if any of these things do get done, I would consider it a miracle.

It really would be a miracle!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Derrick Jensen Interview on New Dimensions

Here is an interview with Derrick Jensen on New Dimensions. You have until March 26th for free downloads!

Program Description:Ecologist, activist, and prolific author Derrick Jensen asserts that the human species is not by nature a plague species. Indigenous people lived for tens of thousands of years in harmony with the planet that sustained them. The difference between those cultures and what westerners think of as civilization is, in essence, our perception of the world. Jensen notes, "The principle difference between Western and indigenous ways of being is that even the most open-minded Westerner generally views listening to the natural world as a metaphor." Further, the predominant culture is not characterized by open-mindedness, since to that world-view; nature is a commodity. Jensen argues that the key to change and life sustaining action is rooted in seeing nature as sentient-a being worthy and deserving of personal relationship. In this dialogue he compares and contrasts both world-views as he has encountered them in his life. The good news, he asserts, is that because so much is messed up there's a way for everyone to get involved.

Derrick Jensen is an environmental activist, lecturer, teacher and author of Listening to the Land (Context Books 2000); A Language Older than Words (Context Books 2000); The Culture of Make Believe (Context Books 2002), and Endgame, Volumes I and II (Seven Stories Press, 2006)

Topics explored in this dialogue:
Who knows what to do to live
What is a penopticon
What is really good about everything
being so messed up
What are the three rules of a dysfunctional culture
What is a writer's job

Friday, March 09, 2007

UrbanScout just started a really cool website called

Here is the description of it:

REWILDinfo: study, teach and converse. This brand new site has two parts, the first part contains a forum for rewilders to talk about rewilding, the second part contains a wiki serving as a free online field guide to rewilding. Come start a conversation at the forum and add your knowledge to the field guide today! Please tell all your friends to check it out too.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

When I Grow Up

I'm 32 years old. And looking back to when the question started being asked of me of, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" My answer would've been that I want to help people escape from our cultural prison*. And to help me make my case I would've dug up these question and answers with Ran Prieur.

1.Question: Dropping out is elitist because not everyone can do it.

Ran Prieur: People who make this criticism are failing to grasp the basic situation. This society is a prison. If we're all in prison, and you have a chance to escape, do you refuse on the grounds that not everyone can escape? If you find yourself in an unusually thin-walled cell with good digging tools, you have a moral obligation to escape -- and then to come back and help others escape. That's the key, and the difference between what I call "dropouts" and the elite. The elite don't want us to be free because they depend on our enslavement. I never stop fighting to get people free even when it goes against my shallowest interests. I want my friends to quit their jobs, even though they'll have to move out of their places where I now sleep free on the couch. Life will get more challenging but I'll have closer allies.

2. Question: Isn't it hypocritical, or contradictory, to use the resources of a society you despise?

Ran Prieur: No. What's wrong with taking advantage of something you despise? If you were in a prison camp, would it be hypocritical or contradictory to steal food from the guards? To find ways to avoid forced labor but still eat? If you're Frodo in Mordor, do you refuse to disguise yourself in an orc's uniform because orcs are bad?We are in Mordor. We are in a big prison camp[*] that's very subtle. As I said in the essay: it's not about being pure or avoiding guilt -- it's about getting free. If you're a swallow, living in the woods, and they cut down your beloved woods and put up a bunch of barns, what do you do? You live in a barn! Scavenging is a temporary tactic, an adaptation to this wasteful society. When we can't scavenge, we'll adapt in other ways, surf whatever wave keeps us free.

3. Question: Hey, you preach about separating from the system, but you're on the internet!

Ran Prieur:See the swallow metaphor above. The reason to avoid connections to the system is to maintain autonomy, not to avoid guilt. So I'll use any by-product or resource I can, as long as there few or no strings attached. I'll especially use a resource like the internet, a powerful tool to find allies and to transform human consciousness. As William Kötke says, not only is it OK to use the resources of the present system to build the next one, ideally all its resources would be used that way.For me, the point of dropping out is not just to selfishly escape while others are still suffering. The point is to get myself in a position from which I can fight better and build the foundation for a society where everyone's free. This world is full of people with the skills and knowledge to build paradise, but they can't even begin, because they would lose their jobs. The less money you need, the more powerful you become.

*Daniel Quinn talks a lot about our cultural prison in his trilogy of: Ishmael, My Ishmael and The Story of B.

*To learn more about why Ran is calling our society a prison camp, I would recommend reading The Culture of Make Believe, by Derrick Jensen. This book will forever change the way you see this system that we are a part of.