Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Poverty and The Post Office

So I'm at the post office the other day filling for the full-time mail carrier. While I was sorting mail the other carrier and I got to talking about how she and her group were raising money for a mission trip to Lake Atitlan in Guatamala. I mentioned that I've read a few books by a shaman from there. And he wrote that Lake Atitlan was one of the most beautiful places on earth. She wholeheartedly agreed and happily added the people were much happier than we in the United States are. Than all of a sudden the expression on her face changed and she got to telling me that how she couldn't believe how much poverty is there. Her reaction to the Guatamalan's poverty reminded me of what my grandmother use to look like when I would attempt to sit on her furniture with muddy pants.

I came to the conclusion to what their mission trip was about: fighting poverty in Guatamala. The next day I had half the notion to show her Marshall Sahlin's anthropological perspective on poverty:

"The world's most primitive people have few possessions, but they are not poor. Poverty is not a certain small amount of goods, nor is it just a relation between means and ends; above all it is a relation between people. Poverty is a social status. As such it is the invention of civilization."

I left the book at home and let it pass.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Labor Saving Devices

"Men have become the tools of their tools."--Henry David Thoreau

"We spend more time working for our labor-saving devices than they do working for us."--Ed Abbey

"By his very success in inventing labor-saving devices, modern man has manufactured an abyss of boredom that only the privileged classes in earlier civilizations have ever fathomed." --Lewis Mumford

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Don't Look

This morning I'm thinking about passing through the door backwards, avoiding responsibility, telling lies to ourselves and each other, believing in fantasies, lifting ourselves up above the earth, denial, etc...

"Everyone is looking down, and it's obvious that the ground is rushing up toward you--and rushing up faster every year. Basic ecological and planetary systems are being impacted by the Taker Thunderbolt, and that impact increases in intensity every year. Basic, irreplaceable resources are being devoured every year--and they're being devoured more greedily every year. Whole species are disappearing as a result of your encroachment--and they're disappearing in greater numbers every year. Pessimists--or it may be that they're realists--look down and say, 'Well, the crash may be twenty years off or maybe as much as fifty years off. Actually it could happen anytime. There's no way to be sure.' But of course there are optimists as well, who say, 'We must have faith in our craft. After all, it has brought us this far in safety. What's ahead isn't doom, it's just a little hump that we can clear if we all just pedal a little harder. Then we'll soar into a glorious, endless future, and the Taker Thunderbolt will take us to the stars and we'll conquer the universe itself.' But your craft isn't going to save you. Quite the contrary, it's your craft that's carrying you toward catastrophe. Five billion of you pedaling away--or ten billion or twenty billion--can't make it fly. It's been in free fall from the beginning, and that fall is about to end." ISHMAEL (pages 105-110)

"The point is that in order to maintain these lies--that we are really flying, that we can exploit a landbase (or planet) and live on it, and so on--we must keep pushing away physical reality, and we must keep telling ourselves these lies again and again. The maintenance of these lies is incredibly expensive psychologically, emotionally, intellectually, physically, financially, morally, ecologically, and so on." Derrick Jensen in WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND, pg. 209

Of course this leads to understanding what the basic laws of ecology are and what the law of life is.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Machine

I've been reading Derrick Jensen's What We Leave Behind and Welcome to the Machine.

"Machinery is the new Messiah,"--Henry Ford

We live in a machine age. To maintain prosperity we must keep the machines working, for when machines are functioning men can labor and earn wages. The good citizen does not repair the old; he buys anew. The shoes that crack are to be thrown away. Don't patch them. When the car gets crotchety, haul it to the town's dump. Give to the ashman's oblivion the leaky pot, the broken umbrella, the clock that doesn't tick. To maintain prosperity we must keep those machines going."--Richardson Wright

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


"You can never get enough of what you do not really want." - Huston Smith, scholar of religious studies

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Looking for Answers

Ever since I read Ishmael I've been looking for answers as to why the world is so messed up. Actually I have been wondering about this since I've been a child. It's funny, because when I read Ishmael I pretty much had the attitude that this is just the way things are, so deal with it and try to find some happiness in this life. Ishmael brought those important childhood questions back up to the surface again, and I'm happy for it.

One of the places I find myself looking for answers is Derrick Jensen's work. I can't tell you how many times I've found myself thumbing through his books looking for quotes. And this excerpt out of A Language Older Than Words has been on my mind lately. I said before I was going to write more on this blog, so I'm going to make myself do it, even if I am copying quotes.

Derrick asks: "Why is our behavior so predatory? What are the common factors among predatory cultures?"

"It's interesting," [Judith Hermann] responded. "The anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sunday looked at data from over a hundred cultures as to the prevalence of rape, and divided them into high or low-rape cultures. She found that high-rape cultures are highly militarized and sex-segregated. There is a lot of difference in status between men and women. The care of children is devalued and delegated to subordinate females. She also found that the creation myths of high-rape cultures recognize only a male deity rather than a female deity or a couple. When you think about it, that is rather bizarre. It would be an understandable mistake to think women make babies all by themselves, but it's preposterous to think men do that alone. So you've got to have a fairly elaborate and counterintuitive mythmaking machine in order to fabricate a creation myth that recognizes only a male deity."

The rest of the quote is what really interests me.

"There was another interesting finding, which is that high-rape cultures had recent experiences--meaning in the last few hundred years--of famine or migration. That is to say, they had not reached a stable adaptation to their ecological niche. Sadly enough, when you tally the risk factors, you realize you've pretty much described our culture." Pg. 350

This tells me that we all need to start paying attention to our relationships with nonhumans. That's if we want to stop the cycle of abuse in this culture.