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It’s a Good Day to Face the Hard Things

October 17th, 2011

good-day

Please help me distribute this zine to the Occupy movement.

PDF link for digital viewing. Download this to read it on your computer.

PDF link for printing a distributable booklet. Download, print and run through a copier to double-sided copies. Fold in half and staple. The blank page is there on purpose so the pages collate with automatic feeders. I just realized it will be cheaper to run the cover separately and then collate it in. FYI.

Please let me know if there are problems.


To the Occupiers, Now and to Come:

October 11th, 2011

Things are organized in such a way that anyone trying to meet their needs by making an honest living must first pay into a process that abuses the common good. Both in the work that we do and the dollars we spend, power drifts away from us, only to be applied against us. This, I believe, is the real essence behind those currently occupying Wall Street in New York City, and now in cities throughout the country—of which Minneapolis is one. On October 15th, other countries are joining in.

There are very few for whom this process works in their favor. There are a lot more for whom it necessarily must work against. This is nothing new—it goes back to the days of feudalism. The promise of capitalism was the “middle class,” where one can dream big and work hard to make a meaningful life for themselves. The middle class was always an illusion, though. Capitalism is not feudalism, but only insofar as sharecropping was not technically slavery. While it seems we’re earning our keep, what’s harder to see is that the most powerful, most wealthy link in the chain has the power to take their cut off the top. It’s always been that way. What’s different now is that in 2008, those wealthy and powerful segments of our society lost at their own game. And the way this game is designed, when they lose, everyone does. Only, they lose a percentage of their bottom line and others lose everything.

This is not necessarily about greed. We are all part of the same ideological framework and we all, more or less, believe in the same fantasies. It’s easy to justify your place or demonize someone else’s, as we’re all given an ideological bag of tricks with which to do just that. We all learn that and it keeps us comfortable, apart—and functioning in the system as such. Profit, money, abstract value—however you refer to it—is an illusion. It’s something we made up in order to make life function in a large community. Tribes of such unmanageable size cannot do business on trust alone. But what we see now is that the illusion has become more important than trust. We cannot have that. Trust cannot be replaced.

What this is really about is respect. We are not trying to protect property, wealth or other illusions. We are trying to protect the common good. The so-called 1% are part of that common good. In fact, they need us to set things straight. This is about respecting the inherent logic of nature and the real wisdom of humanity. We need to get the message across to everyone that humanity should be trusted before fantasies.

We have the danger of falling into a moralistic, us vs. them mentality, ready to fight and spin our wheels endlessly. But the real enemy is not a “them” but an “it.” It’s made up of all the hard, dark, crystallized parts of human nature. Our society is one big pathological defense-mechanism-turned-machine and as a result our herd mentality operates on all of our most desperate instincts such as fear, greed and envy. The so-called greedy don’t create the greed, they’re just really good at the greed game, and thus they get rewarded for playing. And we’re taking in a backwards, mixed-up message whenever we feel guilty or small for not being “successful” enough. We need to learn, as a society, that such success is a disease; a society fueled by it needs to heal.

I’m looking forward to this thing growing and really taking shape. While I am not reproducing the means of producing my existence, I will be helping to occupy Minneapolis. I will try to get over my cultural programming and do as much as I am capable of. It’s not a battle; it must be a way of life. Let’s keep the conversation going. I’m sick of talking to myself about stuff like this!


Freedom and Capitalism: A Brief Note

October 9th, 2011

I saw a bumper sticker, blue and white with the little Obama logo, that read: “I’ll keep my guns and freedom, and you can keep the change.” I despise what the Right has done with the word freedom. It almost seems a dirty word, yet the concept is close to my heart. So it was with Karl Marx. It sucks that the existential crisis I have been in for the last ten years was being theorized about since at least the mid-nineteenth century. And today, protesters are occupying Wall Street for security in a system that doesn’t work and has never worked:

Capitalism seems different [than feudalism] because people are in theory free to work for themselves or for others as they choose. Yet most workers have as little control over their lives as feudal serfs. This is not because they have chosen badly. Nor is it because of the physical limits of our resources and technology. It is because the cumulative effect of countless individual choices is a society that no one—not even the capitalists—has chosen. Where those who hold the liberal conception of freedom would say we are free because we are not subject to deliberate interference by other humans, Marx says we are not free because we do not control our own society.

Economic relations appear to us to be blind natural forces. We do not see them as restricting our freedom—and indeed on the liberal conception of freedom they do not restrict our freedom, since they are not the result of deliberate human interference. Marx himself is quite explicit that the capitalist is not individually responsible for the economic relations of his society, but is controlled by these relations as much as the workers are.

Peter Singer, Marx: A Very Short Introduction, p. 91-92.

This “cumulative effect of countless individual choices” is the playground of ideology—a sort of organized societal schizophrenia. Ideology is full of contradictions, giving the media plenty of ground to call the protesters a bunch of idiots who don’t know what’s good for them, or at best don’t know exactly what they want. It’s obvious that things are not right; it’s too bad that it takes a crisis in the middle class to see it, because by the time it gets to that point, the problems all seem hopelessly obscured. Not to mention the fact that the lower classes have been struggling so long, they don’t even notice anything’s different.