Monday, June 29, 2009



Charles Eisenstein’s essay, “The Ubiquitous Matrix of Lies” has haunted me for days. He writes regularly on the “Reality Sandwich” site, and was picked up last week on Carolyn Baker’s “Speaking Truth to Power.” Eisenstein is quickly becoming one of my favorite contemporary writers because I find his thinking so original, compassionate, and profound.

I think he has nailed perhaps the most important and yet most overlooked element of our deteriorating culture and empire – the debilitating effect of living and functioning in an atmosphere of falsehood. He begins with advertising slogans. “Coors Rocks Harrisburg.” Does anyone believe that Coors rocks Harrisburg? Of course not. Then there is the labeling of malls and neighborhoods. “Colonial Park Mall,” for instance. Neither colonial nor park, it is jut a boring boxy edifice. Needless to say, its food mart is not a “CafĂ©’ in the Park,” either. These are seemingly trivial examples. But, multiply them by how many advertising slogans and misdirecting labels that surround us each day, and begin to see how the illusions (or delusions) are created.

And, that is just the beginning. Eisenstein writes, “We live in a ubiquitous matrix of lies, a sea of mendacity so pervasive that it is nearly invisible. Because we are lied to all the time, in ways so subtle they are beneath conscious notice, then the most direct lies are losing their power to shock us.

The most shocking thing about the lies of the Bush administration was that those lies were not actually shocking to most people. Why do we as a society seemingly accept our leaders’ gross dishonesty as a matter of course? Why does the repeated exposure of their lies seem to arouse barely a ripple of indignation amount the general public? Where is the protest, the outrage, the sense of betrayal?

It is certainly not to be found in the person of Barack Obama. Just as there is little difference between Coors and Miller, so also is there little difference in the policies of Bush and Obama. I realize that this statement will provoke outrage from many of my readers. Sure, there are some differences between them – enough to establish Obama as a new brand – but the basic course of empire, of finance, the military, medicine, law, education, of the defining institutions of our society remains unchanged.”

“A new brand” – ouch. He’s right, though. If Obama et al were really devoted to “change” the way he said that he was, we’d be seeing brokers and bankers frog-stepped out of their offices in handcuffs and indicted for fraud and corruption – not handed billions of dollars worth of taxpayer’s money. No change is required if there are no negative consequences for criminal behavior.

Same goes for war crimes. “American do not torture,” Bush told us. Meanwhile, Iraqi men and boys were rounded up, beaten, raped, water-boarded, electrocuted, threatened with the rape and sodomy of their wives and children, and on and on with the administration’s full knowledge and consent. “They hate us for our freedoms,” Bush told us. Yeah, right.

Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were begun in order to gain permanent access to the last large stores of oil in the world, not to find Osama Bin Laden or Al Qaeda or spread democracy or to find the imaginary “weapons of mass destruction.” What a load.

Even 911 was a lie. Watch “Loose Change” on YouTube or the more recent Italian made “Zero: an Investigation into 911.” Just jaw-dropping.

The fact that subterfuge on this scale can be accomplished and maintained for years points to something even greater. It can’t be beaten by whistle blowers or courageous reporting. The truth is out there. Nothing is changing. Why not?

Eisenstein says that words don’t mean what they used to anymore. Because we have been continually lied to and so many things have been misrepresented, the words themselves are reduced in their impact on us. I would submit that it goes even further. I’d say that is goes back to being propped up in a baby rocker in front of the television so you can watch Sesame Street and learn to count with Count Dracula. And, it continues with being herded into daycare with your peers and being told vacuous bullshit all day. Then, you graduated on to public school where your teachers were forced to only repeat politically correct crap to you and you came to despise them. Then you went home and turned on the tube and watched dramas based on people lying and betraying each other and getting into trouble and then ducking the consequences. In between, there were the relentless commercials spewing countless lies and misrepresenting reality. And, when you weren’t watching TV, you went on dates that were just one exercise after another in manipulation and misrepresentation or whatever it took to get laid. Then you grew up and got a job that required you to say whatever was necessary to fit in, keep the boss happy, please the customers, or sell the product. Then you fill out the paperwork on your tax forms, your mortgage documents or whatever assorted forms with whatever contrived bunch of numbers and information that they want to hear or whatever you can get away with. Then, you take a break and watch “reality” t.v. , which, of course, is totally contrived.

In short, this is a nation of liars, and we are living in a putrid toxic soup of lies, falsehoods, and hypocrisies that corrupts and diminishes everything that it touches. Our word as a nation and for most individuals has no authority anymore. We are an idiocracy. Babbling morons … present company excepted, of course.

I believe that until we get our heads around this idea, and change over to a radical use of honesty, we will never heal what ails us as a nation and a people.

I think we lost heart when the Kennedy’s and Martin Luther King were killed, and while Vietnam dragged on an extra ten years after everyone knew it was sick and wrong. I believe that we have been damaged, wounded by the ruthless deceit of our government and those in financial power. We suffer many of the same symptoms as battered children or spouses. There is confusion where there should be outrage. There is denial where there should be curiosity. There is passivity where there should be action. There is a curious detachment to the world. There is an alarming dependence of drugs to assuage the psychic pain of a society driven to madness by words that have no connection with anything real. Lying not only wounds those lied to, it damages those who lie as well.

For that reason, I believe that the structure of our campfire is a small step toward healing. The native Americans worked this system out over the millennia to communicate with each other and foster wisdom and a sense of belonging. It is a great gift to us all:

Sit in a circle. Pick up the Talking Stick. While you have the stick, speak what is true for you. Nobody interrupts. Nobody contradicts or evaluates. Nobody tries to sell anything. Everyone listens. Then, somebody else picks up the stick. They say what is true for them. It might be different. That’s OK. Each person is heard and each person is respected. Those at the campfire are free to change their minds as they listen to differing perspectives. All are enriched and empowered by the process.

I think that the results of our campfire conversations are self-evident in the pictures that we are now sharing with each other. They are tangible evidence of the truth of our words. We have evolved together from ineffectual words and bitching about things to taking real steps towards creating a different paradigm. Like planting seeds, canning tomatoes, paying off the credit cards, turning off the TV, making real connections with each other, stocking up on necessities just in case, helping others in our communities.

Our Word is the source of our authority and personal power. The more truthful we are, the more respect we engender and the more confidence we have. If we are going to resist the tide of corruption and lies and create a better place after the collapse, it will require a radical commitment to honesty in all things. Without that, we will only be kidding ourselves.

Aho (I have spoken. The stick is passed.)

Here are the latest pictures of the garden. Things are progressing well. FINALLY it has warmed up and the greenery is responding. If the weather doesn't catch us off guard, we should have a productive year.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It’s a Rude Awakening from the American Dream


I just saw the saddest program on the PBS program, “Now.” It was about the sinkhole that thousands of college graduates find themselves in now that the economy has tanked and their loans have come due. They looked into the life of this very nice young woman and the horrid predicament that she is in. She came from a working class background. She was raised by a single mother who was a hairdresser. She bought into the American Dream story about how if you just work hard enough and get an education, life will be better and your horizons will be broader, etc. etc. So, she gets herself through school, earns a Masters degree in social work, specializing in parenting skills. In the meantime, she is raped, and is impregnated, but decides to keep the baby, and be a good mom in spite of the circumstances. So, now she’s got this darling little girl, and she’s trying her best to raise her. But, her student loans totaled $50,000 and already there’s an additional $20,000 in interest added on. And, she’s lost her job, due to the plunging economy. Barring some miracle, there is no way in hell that she will ever be out of debt. Student loans cannot be gotten out from under, even if one declares bankruptcy. The only way out is pay it off or die. Debt collectors hounded her into paying them instead of her rent. Then she got evicted. Now she and her daughter are temporarily living with a friend.

Now is when we usually think, “Oh, things will get better. Something will come along. She’ll get a job and it’ll straighten out.” But, I just ache for her. I know how it is. Nothing “comes along.” She will probably never marry. Nobody in their right mind would marry someone and take on that debt. In fact, she may find it difficult to even get a decent job due to her debt load. If she does get a job, her wages will be garnished forever. Any tax refund due to her for the rest of her life will go to debt collection. Welcome to the matrix. You are a debt slave, along with a significant percentage of your working class peers.

So much for “The Key to Success is a Good Education.” If you have to rely on loans to get that education, then it is a cruel lie that is a trap to enslave you. And, nobody lets you in on the secret. On the contrary, it is drummed into your head every day of your childhood and young adulthood that you must go to school at all costs. Whatever it takes. Go for the brass ring. Your diploma is your ticket to success. A lot of those professional jobs will not be coming back.

Now, it’s “Sorry, Sucka. Maybe you should join the military. I hear they are forgiving student loan debt if you join up and serve multiple tours…”

What’s another one? How about the talking heads all bobbing up and down in agreement to the slogan that “America has the best health care system in the world?” Hahahahaha!! Oh, and I love the line the Republicans have about Americans want to KEEP THEIR OWN DOCTORS. What friggin’ doctors? There’s forty million of us who don’t have a freaking doctor – or a dentist either! I guess my father didn’t actually die of an infection from PULLING HIS OWN TEETH because he couldn’t find a dentist that would take Medicare. Oh, I’m not even going to go down this road, because I’ve been there before and it’s just too much. You have your horror stories that are just as bad as mine.

“We are the most free people on earth.” Another howler; I notice that in that axis of evil totalitarianship, Iran, the people didn’t have to demonstrate in “free speech zones” in fenced cages about a mile from wherever a politician could see them. I noticed that their media covered the demonstrations, rather than ignore them like they do here. I know that not even Iran incarcerates nearly the percentage of their population that we do. Nobody in the world even comes close. Nobody. And, now, one can be imprisoned and held indefinitely without even being charged. Just great. “They hate us for our freedoms.” Yeah, right. I wonder how many four foot nine inch, 72 year old grandmothers get tazed in other countries for not being willing to sign a speeding ticket?

How about this one? “The Food and Drug Administration was created to protect the health of the citizenry. Yes, of course – a lot like the Bureau of Indian Affairs protected the Indians. If you believe that, you probably also believe that the “Federal” Reserve is Federal, rather than a consortium of private banks. Ha!

“We need to grow the economy. We either grow or die.” Since our whole economy is based on increasing interest (we even borrow our own dollars from the Fed),there can never be “enough.” We always need more. More money, more profit, more taxes, more houses, more resources, more people, more, more, more of everything. We are like cancer; uncontrolled growth consuming the host. No matter that we have depleted the lands, the minerals, the oil, the oceans, the seas, the rivers, the topsoil, the aquifers. We need more taxpayers, more customers, more soldiers, more servants, so we can all have more stuff and our owners can profiteer from our debt and our sickness and our service.

Well, in happy opposition to this litany of “more” I present this picture of one of our campfire brethren, Baz, from New Zealand. I don’t know for certain, but I am getting the impression that Baz is a minimalist. So refreshing in today’s world of over-consumption and never enough. See what you think.

Here is Baz’s security system:

He writes, “Mr Bumble guards the beans, strawberries and salad stuff. Not even I can get to it!

And the coup de grace is his second picture, the harvest:
He writes, “WARNING—Indian at Work .. it's winter time over here in New Zealand, so the garden ain't so flash. The tatey's are underground anyways so a pic of dirt just wouldn't suffice. I have an arrangement with the local wildlife—they eat my nuts, I eat them. You are what you eat! Don't care much for nuts anyhow. I call this synchronicity—Primitives called it, living in harmony with nature. Either way, the food comes seasoned already, with a nice nutty flavor. I harken back more toward the hunter-gatherer pre-'agricultural revolution' than post-. Possibly the native in me coming out, naturally once I've removed myself from Babylon. Not so-much an agriculturist. But OK with this 'fruit from the garden .. of earthly delights'. I'm the one on the left, incidently".

Despite the strange weather, most are reporting that their gardens are doing well and projects are advancing to prepare for the “Judgement Day” to come. Indicators from several different sources are looking at early Fall as to when things will really start to hit the fan even more seriously than they have already. If the dollar does tank, it will be more important to have useful tools, seeds, batteries, food, and items for barter than it will be to have cash. We still have a little time to circle the wagons, chop wood, carry water, and wake up from those dreams that have become a nightmare.

Friday, June 5, 2009


from Murph and Freeacre

At least around our place, the warmer weather and unseasonable rains are keeping us hopping. We are very close to having everything planted that we intended to plant. We put out the request for people to send photos of their efforts in the garden area and to provide food for them selves. This posting is about these efforts.

Isn’t it amazing that there is all the talk on the web about the economic collapse, increased cost of most everything, including food, and yet few sites talk and show what efforts are going into doing something about it on an individual level.

I just finished reading a book a friend loaned us; “Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal” by Joel Salatin. It talks about many of the problems with organic growing, general small farm problems, and the effort of the big food producers to eliminate the small growers and farmers markets. Recommended reading if you want to know what appears to me as a right on evaluation. The book left me wanting to chew nails.

Here are pictures from Caroline, an esteemed elder of our campfire, who lives on a 40 ft. city lot in the Central Valley of California. It shows what she has been able to do with a small 24 ft x 24 ft patio area. She says, "That's a tangelo in the right corner, raspberries next to it and a grape vine that's loaded with perlettes. I'll cover them with bags made of mesh later in the summer to keep the mockingbird and jay out of them. Then, when they're ripe, I'll put them in the trays from a dehydrator and set them (over a pan of water to keep the ants out) in the sun. In no more than 3 days, I'll have enough raisins to last me a year!" She also has mint, spinach, and salad greens. In a square of dirt, about 10x12 ft, she has a lemon tree, big compostpile, asperagus, tomatoes and butternut squash.

The next picture shows the free form planters that she has designed and built. She writes,
"The other pic is back by the house, where I'm rebuilding the planter.
It's not very clear what is going on. The backbone of the planter is
plastic-coated wire fencing. That's covered with plastic sheeting and
then shade cloth. The bottom couple of inches of the fencing is bent
90 degrees to go under the dirt, and is held in place with assorted
bricks I found lying around. Then every couple of feet, about half-way
up the sides, I put wires across to keep the sides from spreading when
it's full of dirt. This time, I'm trying strengthening the fencing
with the plastic landscaping board you can see running along the edge.
It ordinarily doesn't go there.

I've grown strawberries and all kinds of veggies in these planters --
they're about 8 inches deep and 3 ft across.

Thanks so much, Caroline, for sharing your efforts with us. It helps to show the differing ways that we can all work with what we've got to be part of the solution to the localization movement.

Here are some progress photos of our efforts.

Small very early lettuce box in greenhouse, we've been eating off it for around 6 weeks now, it just keeps right on growing back.

Keenly aware of photo op with Betty Boop, one of the new pullets.

Momma and litter, almost big enough to separate into another cage.

Shallot, onion and garlic bed

Sorta looks like a bald eagle chick. Supposed to be an aracana. Named her Alya because she looks so different from all the other chickens.

Now for some photos of one of our neighbors efforts. The lady works 10-14 hours per day on this and is an example of a real self sufficiency operation.

Blooming fruit trees and part of potato beds.

Chicken palace.

Onion and garlic beds

Climbing peas and bean beds.

Strawberry beds and berry bushes.

I reckon this is enough for today. A lot of new ideas for us to try in these photos. Our raspberry plants aren't doing so good. Don't know why. Blackberries want to take over everything.

Have a good week folks.