Gibran’s The Prophet on Time

March 24, 2020

You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable.

You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons.

Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing.

Yet the timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness,

And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.

And that that which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space.

Who among you does not feel that his power to love is boundless?

And yet who does not feel that very love, though boundless, encompassed within the centre of his being, and moving not form love thought to love thought, nor from love deeds to other love deeds?

And is not time even as love is, undivided and spaceless?

But if in your thought you must measure time into seasons, let each season encircle all the other seasons,

And let today embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing.


Gibran’s The Prophet on Talking

March 17, 2020

You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;

And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.

And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.

For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words many indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.

There are those among you who seek the talkative through fear of being alone.

The silence of aloneness reveals to their eyes their naked selves and they would escape.

And there are those who talk, and without knowledge or forethought reveal a truth which they themselves do not understand.

And there are those who have the truth within them, but they tell it not in words.

In the bosom of such as these the spirit dwells in rhythmic silence.

When you meet your friend on the roadside or in the market place, let the spirit in you move your lips and direct your tongue.

Let the voice within your voice speak to the ear of his ear;

For his soul will keep the truth of your heart as the taste of the wine is remembered

When the colour is forgotten and the vessel is no more.


Gibran’s The Prophet on Friendship

March 12, 2020

Your friend is your needs answered.

He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.

And he is your board and your fireside.

For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.”

And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;

For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.

When you part from your friend, you grieve not;

For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.

And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.

For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

And let your best be for your friend.

If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.

For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?

Seek him always with hours to live.

For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.

And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.

For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.


Gibran’s “The Prophet” on Teaching

March 7, 2020

No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of our knowledge.

The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.

If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.

The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.

The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.

And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.

For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.


Gibran’s The Prophet on Self-Knowledge

March 2, 2020

Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.

But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.

You would know in words that which you have always know in thought.

You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

And it is well you should.

The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;

And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.

But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;

And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.

For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”

Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”

For the soul walks upon all paths.

The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.

The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.


Gibran’s The Prophet on Reason and Passion

February 26, 2020

Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgment wage war against passion and your appetite.

Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody.

But how shall I, unless you yourselves be also the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your elements?

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.

If either your sails or our rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.

For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.

Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion; that it may sing;

And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.

I would have you consider your judgment and your appetite even as you would two loved guests in your house.

Surely you would not honour one guest above the other; for he who is more mindful of one loses the love and the faith of both.

 


Gibran’s The Prophet on Laws

February 21, 2020

You delight in laying down laws,

Yet you delight more in breaking them.

Like children playing by the ocean who build sand-towers with constancy and then destroy them with laughter.

But while you build your sand-towers the ocean brings more sand to the shore,

And when you destroy them, the ocean laughs with you.

Verily the ocean laughs always with the innocent.

But what of those to whom life is not an ocean, and man-made laws are not sand-towers,

But to whom life is a rock, and the law a chisel with which they would carve it in their own likeness?

What of the cripple who hates dancers?

What of the ox who loves his yoke and deems the elk and deer of the forest stray and vagrant things?

What of the old serpent who cannot shed his skin, and calls all others naked and shameless?

And of him who comes early to the wedding-feast, and when over-fed and tired goes his way saying that all feasts are violation and all feasters law-breakers?

What shall I say of these save that they too stand in the sunlight, but with their backs to the sun?

They see only their shadows, and their shadows are their laws.

And what is the sun to them but a caster of shadows?

And what is it to acknowledge the laws but to stoop down and trace their shadows upon the earth?

But you who walk facing the sun, what images drawn on the earth can hold you?

You who travel with the wind, what weather vane shall direct your course?

What man’s law shall bind you if you break your yoke but upon no man’s prison door?

What laws shall you fear if you dance but stumble against no man’s iron chains?

And who is he that shall bring you to judgment if you tear off your garment yet leave it in no man’s path?

People of Orphalese, you can muffle the drum, and you can loosen the strings of the lyre, but who shall command the skylark not to sing?


Gibran’s The Prophet on Clothes

February 16, 2020

Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful.

And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in them a harness and a chain.

Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and less of your raiment,

For the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.

Some of you say, “It is the north wind who has woven the clothes to wear.”

But shame was his loom, and the softening of the sinews was his thread.

And when his work was done he laughed in the forest.

Forget not that modesty is for a shield against the eye of the unclean.

And when the unclean shall be no more, what were modesty but a fetter and a fouling of the mind?

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.


Gibran’s The Prophet on Buying & Selling

February 11, 2020

To you the earth yields her fruit, and you shall not want if you but know how to fill your hands.

It is in exchanging the gifts of the earth that you shall find abundance and be satisfied.

Yet unless the exchange be in love and kindly justice, it will but lead some to greed and others to hunger.

When in the market place you toilers of the sea and fields and vineyards meet the weavers and the potters and the gatherers of spices,

Invoke then the master spirit of the earth, to come into your midst and sanctify the scales and the reckoning that weighs value against value.

And suffer not the barren-handed to take part in your transactions, who would sell their words for your labour.

To such men you should say,

“Come with us to the field, or go with our brothers to the sea and cast your net;

For the land and the sea shall be bountiful to you even as to us.”

And if there come the singers and the dancers and the flute players, – buy of their gifts also.

For they too are gatherers of fruit and frankincense, and that which they bring, though fashioned of dreams, is raiment and food for your soul.

And before you leave the marketplace, see that no one has gone his way with empty hands.

For the master spirit of the earth shall not sleep peacefully upon the wind till the needs of the least of you are satisfied.


Gibran’s The Prophet on Houses

February 6, 2020

Build of your imaginings a bower in the wilderness ere you build a house within the city walls.

For even as you have home-comings in your twilight, so has the wanderer in you, the ever distant and alone.

Your house is your larger body.

It grows in the sun and sleeps in the stillness of the night; and it is not dreamless. Does not your house dream? And dreaming, leave the city for grove or hilltop?

Would that I could gather your houses into my hand, and like a sower scatter them in forest and meadow.

Would the valleys were your streets, and the green paths your alleys, that you might seek one another through vineyards, and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments.

But these things are not yet to be.

In their fear your forefathers gathered you too near together. And that fear shall endure a little longer. A little longer shall your city walls separate your hearths from your fields.

And tell me, people of Orphalese, what have you in these houses? And what is it you guard with fastened doors?

Have you peace, the quiet urge that reveals your power?

Have you remembrances, the glimmering arches that span the summits of the mind?

Have you beauty, that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain?

Tell me, have you these in your houses?

Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and becomes a host, and then a master?

Ay, and it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires.

Though its hands are silken, its heart is of iron.

It lulls you to sleep only to stand by your bed and jeer at the dignity of the flesh.

It makes mock of your sound senses, and lays them in thistledown like fragile vessels.

Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.

 


Gibran’s The Prophet on Joy and Sorrow

February 1, 2020

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.

 


Free Speech Is Key To Freedom

January 28, 2020

In view of the latest fuss about “controversial” speakers at VPL, I thought it worthwhile to republish this piece I wrote about five years ago:

* * * * *

Regular readers will be well aware of my absolute antipathy to censorship. And I mean absolute. I can conceive of nothing that anyone could think or say that should be disallowed simply because someone else thinks it somehow “wrong” or “dangerous.” Even Nazis, pedophiles, and Rupert Murdoch should have the right to peddle their ghastly trash.

Given my position on this, it is more than disappointing to read that so many students at Oxford and Cambridge have decided that censorship is no big thing and should even be encouraged to protect, they say, the weak or different (their definition) from being distressed. A debate between abortion legalists and pro-life activists was cancelled:

“Christ Church’s student committee, aka the Junior Common Room, voted to ‘inform College Censors about the mental and physical security issues surrounding the debate’. And it seems the College Censors agreed, stating that they were keen to ensure ‘students’ emotional wellbeing’ by ‘avoiding unnecessary distress, particularly for any residents who may have had an abortion’ …

“Here’s the president of the Cambridge Union Debating Society, Tim Squirrell, explaining in the Tab why free speech isn’t very important: ‘I’m proud that we’ve started to consider the social impact of debates on those that they concern, rather than believing them to be academic exercises which happen in an intellectual vacuum… It’s about time we recognised that and started thinking responsibly and considerately about freedom of speech.’ Here’s McIntyre making a similar free speech-qualifying point: ‘The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups.’

What he is saying, of course, is that these “marginalised” groups are too stupid to understand the point of debate and therefore we should keep them in the dark because “we know best” and have to protect them. This is just another version of the Trotskyite vanguard mentality — “we know best what the working class needs and so we will rule and control them.”   Very dangerous bullshit, especially when it comes from what are considered to be the cream of the next generation.

My grandfather lived at a time when socialists had to set up their own newspapers because they were banned from writing about their “pernicious and devilish” ideas. And even then their presses were attacked and destroyed. In my own lifetime, LGBTQ folk were not allowed to spread their “perversions” and “filth” through mass media or through the mails. It took us a long time and much pain and effort to overcome those two censorships.

Now these effete so-called intellectuals want to throw us back into the dark ages of barbarism and elite control. Well “fuck them!” I say.


Gibran’s The Prophet on Work

January 27, 2020

You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.

For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.

When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.

Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison? Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.

But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,

And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,

And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.

But if you in your pain call birth an affliction and the support of the flesh a curse written upon your brow, then I answer that naught but the sweat of your brow shall wash away that which is written.

You have been told also life is darkness, and in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.

And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,

And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,

And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,

And all work is empty save when there is love;

And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another …

And what is it to work with love?

It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.

It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.

It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.

It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,

And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.

Often have I heard you say, as if speaking in sleep, “he who works in marble, and finds the shape of his own soul in the stone, is a nobler than he who ploughs the soil.

And he who seizes the rainbow to lay it on a cloth in the likeness of man, is more than he who makes the sandals for our feet.”

But I say, not in sleep but in the over-wakefulness of noontide, that the wind speaks not more sweetly to the giant oaks than to the least of all the blades of grass;

And he alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving.

Work is love made visible.

 


Gibran’s The Prophet on Eating and Drinking

January 22, 2020

Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light.

But since you must kill to eat, and rob the young of its mother’s milk to quench your thirst, let it then be an act of worship,

And let your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still more innocent in many.

When you kill a beast say to him in your heart,

“By the same power that slays you, I too am slain; and I too shall be consumed. For the law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand.

Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven.”

And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart,

“Your seeds shall live in my body,

And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,

And your fragrance shall be my breath,

And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.”

And in the autumn, when you gather the grapes of your vineyard for the winepress, say in you heart,

“I too am a vineyard, and my fruit shall be gathered for the winepress,

And like new wine I shall be kept in eternal vessels.”

And in winter, when you draw the wine, let there be in your heart a song for each cup;

And let there be in the song a remembrance for the autumn days, and for the vineyard, and for the winepress.


Gibran’s The Prophet on Giving

January 17, 2020

You give but little when you give of your possessions.

It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.

For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?

And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the over-prudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?

And what is fear of need but need itself?

Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, thirst that is unquenchable?

There are those who give little of the much which they have – and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.

And there are those who have little and give it all.

These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.

There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.

And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.

And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;

They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.


Anarchism on The Drive — Tonight!

November 24, 2019

Erica Lagalisse will be talking about her recent book, Occult Features of Anarchism: With Attention to the Conspiracy of Kings and the Conspiracy of the Peoples, tonight at the People’s Co-op Bookstore, 1391 Commercial from 7pm to 9pm.

Erica Lagalisse is an anthropologist and writer, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the London School of Economics (LSE), and board member at The Sociological Review. Lagalisse’s doctoral thesis,“Good Politics”: Property, Intersectionality, and the Making of the Anarchist Self, explores anarchist networks that cross Québec, the United States and Mexico to examine contradictions within indigenous solidarity activism and settler “anarchoindigenism”. The comparative work also throws into relief the idiosyncracies of university-educated Anglo-American leftists, and draws on anthropological, feminist and critical race theory to show how they have preempted the black feminist challenge of “intersectionality” by recuperating its praxis within the logic of neoliberal self-making projects and property relations.

As always, the event is free!


The Far Right : A Warning

November 4, 2019

A short while ago, I wrote a long review of Nancy Maclean’s Democracy In Chains which is a clear and precise history of the modern far right in the United States. It explains the economic theory and practice behind the Koch Brothers, the Sinclairs, Charles Schwab, and the other ultra-rich purveyors of extreme capitalist-libertarianism.  This is important background material for any Resister. Two other recent essays bring the story up to date and fill in some blanks about the far-right’s organization and methodology.

Michela Tindera of Forbes Magazine has an illuminating piece about just one of the raft of organizations with wholesome sounding names that were developed and financed during the right’s fight against Obama.  Only recently activated transparency legislation allows us to see that Americans For Job Security was actually a front for right-leaning billionaires such as Schwab, and the Fisher family, the deVos family, and others to place millions of dollars secretly into political campaigns.

Another group — the Council for National Policy (CNP) — is profiled by Anne Nelson in Salon magazine. It is this group that has been “grooming” Mike Pence to take over when Trump finally tips over the edge.

“Over the past few decades the traditional GOP has been overtaken by partisans of the Radical Right, now entrenched in the party’s infrastructure. This shadow network of hardline organizations, activists and donors stands ready to outlast the Trump presidency. The story of the CNP, a hub in this network, is a case study in how the durability and strategic capacity of right-wing institutions have shaped the American political landscape. The Council for National Policy had its origins in the Southwest, where the social agenda of Christian fundamentalists and the economic interests of the oil industry converged. They founded the CNP in 1981 to capitalize on the election of Ronald Reagan; Reagan’s former attorney general, Edwin Meese III, would serve as the CNP’s president from 1993-1997.

The organization meets several times a year, maintaining secrecy for its membership and its proceedings. But a 2014 membership roster was leaked and published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, illustrating the span of the political network: major donors such as the DeVos family; evangelical powerhouses such as Southern Baptist leader Richard Land; and heads of influential media interests, including the Salem Media conglomerate. Kellyanne Conway has belonged to the CNP’s executive committee, and Jay Sekulow, lead attorney on Trump’s personal legal team, has served on the board of governors. The organization also, critically, includes the heads of membership organizations such as the National Rifle Association and the Susan B. Anthony List (a group that funds anti-choice candidates), whose ground troops can be deployed in coordinated political canvassing. In the words of former CNP president Richard DeVos (father-in-law to Education Secretary Betsy), the CNP convenes the “donors and the doers …”

“Over time, the CNP partnerships evolved into a well-oiled machine, in which big money, regional broadcasters and ground troops advanced its interests in ways that were often neglected by the national news media. Mike Pence appeared at various stages of his career. One co-founder, Morton Blackwell, claims to have trained some 200,000 conservative candidates and political activists through his Leadership Institute — among them Mike Pence …”

“The strategists of the CNP are keenly aware of the formula that won them the White House in 2016: Hillary Clinton’s campaign, focused on the national media, won the popular election by three million votes, but lost the Electoral College by some 80,000 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The CNP may be hoping for a repeat: wagering that the impeachment furor in Washington will play out in the national media without moving the swing states — and that the Democrats will be too distracted by the drama to notice.”

These are serious organizations that mean to do us harm unless we go along with their socialism for the rich, austerity for the poor line of propagandizing.   We need to keep a close eye on them and their surrogates if the Resistance is to win in the end.


Democracy In Chains

October 8, 2019

There are plenty more libertarian role models available in our culture than there are anarchistic ones; and given the apparent similarities between the two concepts of individual liberty, I occasionally have to remind myself why I am an anarchist and not a libertarian. It’s the economy, stupid, and everything that flows from that.

  • Libertarians believe in the exploitation of the capitalist system (stripped of State-imposed rules and regulations) and the supreme sanctity of private property no matter how acquired; many have a tendency toward exclusionary -isms (racism, sexism, nationalism, fascism); they believe in no government other than that which protects their interests and assets (police, army, judiciary; jails);
  • Anarchists conceive of a non-exploitative production/consumption system and have a strong tendency toward inclusive community building; they believe in autonomous self-government by individuals and consensual groupings only.

We are currently living through an experiment in which the Libertarian fringe has taken control of the central government.  Earlier this year, I was read an article about how the GOP in Missouri were working to overturn a state constitutional amendment improving ethical governance that passed overwhelmingly by popular vote just a month ago. They noted:

“the Republican Party’s newfound disdain for democracy. Republican leaders across the country have tried to make voting more difficult; to keep some Americans from voting; to interrupt vote counts before they are complete; to gerrymander in the extreme; and now, in Missouri, to repudiate a constitutional amendment approved by 62 percent of the state’s voters.”

Everything in that paragraph is true, except that the Republican’s dislike for genuine democracy is hardly “newfound.” I have been reminded of this most recently through reading Nancy MacLean‘s vital Democracy In Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right;s Stealth Plan For America. which is a book that every resister needs to read to understand what it is we are facing.  The thesis of the book is that current libertarian bent of the far rights financiers (a la Koch brothers and too many others) is fuelled and driven by the political-economic theories propounded by James M. Buchanan who was awarded the Nobel Prize for economics in 1986.  Buchanan developed his theories in the 1950s and 1960s when the current wave of capitalist barons were being educated.  [Page number references are to this volume).

“Buchanan believed that “majority rule, under modern conditions, had created … a risk to capitalism … The goal of the cause, Buchanan announced … must shift from who rules to changing the rules … the cause must figure out how to put [constitutional] shackles on public officials.”  [pages xxv-xxvi]  “A government based in the naked principle that the majority ought to govern, Calhoun [had] warned, was sure to filch other men’s property and violate their liberty.”  “The power to tax is the power to destroy,” wrote F.A. Harper. Democratic government was increasing “the power of certain persons to destroy other persons.” [6, 132]  Buchanan said modern rules fail to establish ironclad rules for “curbing the appetites of majority coalitions … There are relatively few effective limits on the fiscal exploitation of minorities through orderly democratic procedures.”  [150]  “The project must aim toward the practical ‘removal of the sacrosanct status assigned to majority rule’.”  [184]

Buchanan first made his name opposing taxes to pay for schools.  If a constitution enabled what Buchanan would call socialism — “which in Virginia’s case meant requiring a system of public schools — it would be nearly impossible [to achieve] his vision of radical transformation, without changing the constitution.” [72]  An important supporter, Oliver Hill, NAACP lawyer opposed to tax-paid vouchers for private schools, opined that: “No one in a democratic society has a right to have his private prejudices financed at public expense.” [69]  This group of thinkers were often opposed to educating the masses at all. As Gordon Tullock put it: “we may be producing a positively dangerous class situation” by raising their sights. [106]

More broadly, Buchanan criticised modern economics and its value system

“because the very idea that inequality was a bad thing led to looking for remedies, which in turn led the discipline toward an applied ‘mathematics of social engineering’.” [96-97].  He  “wanted not just to rein in taxation and regulation, but also to dethrone the dominant paradigm of Keynsian econonics that was the core of the mid-century social contract.”  [136]  A later disciple, Paul Ryan said “public provision for popular needs not only violates the liberty of the taxpayers whose earnings are transferred to others, but also violates the recipients’ spiritual need to earn their own sustenance.” [213]  Liberty Fund economist Gary M. Anderson alleges that public health is nothing more than “a device use by organized interest groups to redistribute wealth to themselves.”  [214]

And Buchanan’s theories began to enter the realm of social conservatism.  A Virginia petition of the early 1960s was very clear about its position:  “Individual liberty is a higher good than racial equality.”  [94]  The Goldwater campaign of 1964 openly attacked the Civil Rights Act on Buchananite-libertarian grounds, complaining

“that it used coercive means to make all conform to the values of the majority, in violation of the liberty of the white minority that opposed it.” [84]

Buchanan eventually came to believe that

despotism may be the only organizational alternative ... There was no glossing over it anymore: democracy was inimical to economic freedom” [151-152]  Charles Koch called Greenspan and others “sellouts”  because they sought “to make government work more efficiently when the true libertarian should be tearing it out at the root.” [135]  Buchanan “valued economic liberty so much more than political freedom that he simply did not care about the invitation to abuse inherent [as in Chile] in giving nearly unchecked power to an alliance of capital and the armed forces.”  [165]  He wrote in 2005 that those who fail to save for their future needs “are to be treated as subordinate members of the species, akin to … animals who are dependent’.”  [214]

Given the static two-party system in the US, it came as no surprise that Buchananite disciples discovered the Republican Party as a ready-made vehicle for political advancement.

“But while these radicals of the right operate within the Republican Party … the cadre’s loyalty is not to the Grand Old Party … Their loyalty is to their revolutionary cause … The Republican Party is now in the control of a group of true believers for whom compromise is a dirty word”  [xxvii-xxvii]

Political theorist S.M. Amadae says Buchanan “was mapping a social contract based on ‘unremitting coercive bargaining’ in which individuals treated one another as instruments towards their own ends, not fellow beings of intrinsic value.”  [151]

*****

This is a significant addition to our knowledge of how the elites run our lives and what they have in store for us.  Well worth the read.

 


The Scythe, Modernity, & the Crash To Come

September 30, 2019

For those of you who are keen on fighting back against the tyranny of modern technology, you could do a lot worse than read Dark Ecology” by Paul Kingsnorth.  It is a fairly long piece (by internet standards) but worth every minute you spend with it.

Each summer, Kingsnorth teaches the use of scythes in England and Scotland and in this article he uses the scythe as a surrogate for other simple tools when compared to modern machinery.  He explains the delight one gets in using a scythe, but remarks that most people use brushcutters these days:

“Brushcutters are not used instead of scythes because they are better; they are used because their use is conditioned by our attitudes toward technology. Performance is not really the point, and neither is efficiency. Religion is the point: the religion of complexity. The myth of progress manifested in tool form. Plastic is better than wood. Moving parts are better than fixed parts. Noisy things are better than quiet things. Complicated things are better than simple things. New things are better than old things. We all believe this, whether we like it or not. It’s how we were brought up.”

He really hits the nail on the head when he confronts critics who claim that he and those like him are simple-minded back-to-the-earth idealist dreamers:

“Romanticizing the past” is a familiar accusation, made mostly by people who think it is more grown-up to romanticize the future. But it’s not necessary to convince yourself that Paleolithic hunter-gatherers lived in paradise in order to observe that progress is a ratchet, every turn forcing us more tightly into the gears of a machine we were forced to create to solve the problems created by progress…

Critics confuse “a desire for human-scale autonomy, and for the independent character, quirkiness, mess, and creativity that usually results from it, with a desire to retreat to some imagined ‘golden age.’ It’s a familiar criticism, and a lazy and boring one. Nowadays, when I’m faced with digs like this, I like to quote E. F. Schumacher, who replied to the accusation that he was a ‘crank’ by saying, ‘A crank is a very elegant device. It’s small, it’s strong, it’s lightweight, energy efficient, and it makes revolutions’.”

Kingsnorth looks closely at the “green movement” of the last century, noting how badly it failed:

“The green movement, which seemed to be carrying all before it in the early 1990s, has plunged into a full-on midlife crisis. Unable to significantly change either the system or the behavior of the public, assailed by a rising movement of “skeptics” and by public boredom with being hectored about carbon and consumption, colonized by a new breed of corporate spivs for whom “sustainability” is just another opportunity for selling things, the greens are seeing a nasty realization dawn: despite all their work, their passion, their commitment and the fact that most of what they have been saying has been broadly right—they are losing.”

Worse, he says, we now have neo-environmentalism, often described as simple “ecopragmatism” but which is “something rather different” as described by the PR blurb for Emma Marris’s Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World, one of the movement’s canonical texts

For decades people have unquestioningly accepted the idea that our goal is to preserve nature in its pristine, pre-human state. But many scientists have come to see this as an outdated dream that thwarts bold new plans to save the environment and prevents us from having a fuller relationship with nature.

Or, as Peter Kareiva, says:

“Humans degrade and destroy and crucify the natural environment, and 80 percent of the time it recovers pretty well.” Trying to protect large functioning ecosystems from human development is mostly futile; humans like development, and you can’t stop them from having it. Nature is tough and will adapt to this: “Today, coyotes roam downtown Chicago, and peregrine falcons astonish San Franciscans as they sweep down skyscraper canyons. . . . As we destroy habitats, we create new ones.” Now that “science” has shown us that nothing is “pristine” and nature “adapts,” there’s no reason to worry about many traditional green goals such as, for example, protecting rainforest habitats. “Is halting deforestation in the Amazon . . . feasible?” he asks. “Is it even necessary?”

Kingsnorth responds:

“If this sounds like the kind of thing that a right-wing politician might come out with, that’s because it is. But Kareiva is not alone. Variations on this line have recently been pushed by the American thinker Stewart Brand, the British writer Mark Lynas, the Danish anti-green poster boy Bjørn Lomborg, and the American writers Emma Marris, Ted Nordhaus, and Michael Schellenberger. They in turn are building on work done in the past by other self-declared green “heretics” like Richard D. North, Brian Clegg, and Wilfred Beckerman.”

Kingsnorth argues that these neo-conservatives are misunderstanding the problem, probably deliberately:

“What do we value about the Amazon forest? Do people seek to protect it because they believe it is “pristine” and “pre-human”? Clearly not, since it’s inhabited and harvested by large numbers of tribal people, some of whom have been there for millennia. The Amazon is not important because it is “untouched”; it’s important because it is wild, in the sense that it is self-willed. It is lived in and off of by humans, but it is not created or controlled by them. It teems with a great, shifting, complex diversity of both human and nonhuman life, and no species dominates the mix. It is a complex, working ecosystem that is also a human-culture-system, because in any kind of worthwhile world, the two are linked.”

“The neo-environmentalists, needless to say, have no time for this kind of fluff. They have a great big straw man to build up and knock down, and once they’ve got that out of the way, they can move on to the really important part of their message. Here’s Kareiva, giving us the money shot in Breakthrough Journal with fellow authors Michelle Marvier and Robert Lalasz:

Instead of pursuing the protection of biodiversity for biodiversity’s sake, a new conservation should seek to enhance those natural systems that benefit the widest number of people. . . . Conservation will measure its achievement in large part by its relevance to people.

There it is, in black and white: the wild is dead, and what remains of nature is for people. We can effectively do what we like, and we should.”

He looks at the future through the eyes of the past:

“Look at the proposals of the neo-environmentalists in this light and you can see them as a series of attempts to dig us out of the progress traps that their predecessors knocked us into. Genetically modified crops, for example, are regularly sold to us as a means of “feeding the world.” But why is the world hungry? At least in part because of the previous wave of agricultural improvements—the so-called Green Revolution, which between the 1940s and 1970s promoted a new form of agriculture that depended upon high levels of pesticides and herbicides, new agricultural technologies, and high-yielding strains of crops. The Green Revolution is trumpeted by progressives as having supposedly “fed a billion people” who would otherwise have starved. And maybe it did; but then we had to keep feeding them—or should I say us?—and our children. In the meantime it had been discovered that the pesticides and herbicides were killing off vast swaths of wildlife, and the high-yield monoculture crops were wrecking both the health of the soil and the crop diversity, which in previous centuries had helped prevent the spread of disease and reduced the likelihood of crop failure.

It is in this context that we now have to listen to lectures from the neo-environmentalists and others insisting that GM crops are a moral obligation if we want to feed the world and save the planet: precisely the arguments that were made last time around.”

“What does the near future look like? I’d put my bets on a strange and unworldly combination of ongoing collapse, which will continue to fragment both nature and culture, and a new wave of techno-green “solutions” being unveiled in a doomed attempt to prevent it. I don’t believe now that anything can break this cycle, barring some kind of reset: the kind that we have seen many times before in human history. Some kind of fall back down to a lower level of civilizational complexity. Something like the storm that is now visibly brewing all around us.”

This is a sad pass we have come to.  Humanity has been too clever by half.


The Anarchists Amongst Us

September 11, 2019

Philosophically and politically, I have been an anarchist for a very long time. However, I find myself embedded within this capitalist web and I’m frankly too comfortable to do much these days except pontificate from the heights of theory. There are, however, true anarchists that live among us, living as anarchists.

They are perhaps not as obstrusive as they once were, but they are with us nonetheless. These true anarchists are the hobos. They travel where they want, do what they want when they want, and work as they need. They are burdened by no quantity of possessions and leave little or no footprint on the environment.  They are the modern equivalent of the pre-Neolithic hunter-gatherers.

Unfortunately we are forced to define by exclusion here, to overcome a long-held societal belief that hobos are bad folk. We are not talking here of tramps and bums, nor even of the urban homeless. As the late “hobo doctor” Benjamin Reitman, P.h.D, noted,

“a hobo works and wanders, a tramp dreams and wanders, and a bum drinks and wanders.”

Tramps and bums are seen as lazy, alcoholic, or dirty but authentic hobos are none of these, according to 2003 Hobo Queen Mama Jo LeCount. They are migrant workers, honest friends, and grateful stewards of the earth. A true hobo will always offer to work a chore in exchange for food and shelter. Handouts are for bums.

hobo2

In North America, Civil War soldiers seeking a way home spawned the hobos and they were propelled by further economic necessity during the Depression years. Today, to live as a hobo is generally a lifestyle choice.  I am reminded of this by a fascinating article in the Smithsonian magazine that looks at wannabe hobos and the annual Hobo Convention in Britt, Iowa.  Thousands

make the trek each year to convene with their fellow wanderers in joyful celebration and community at the convention, held in Britt since 1900. The week long event, which often includes weddings and parties, is filled with hobos and “hobos at heart” alike.

Mama Jo LeCount describes the hobo life as an “adventure” and there is certainly something in that.  The road trips many of us made around the world in the 1960s (in our hippy search for something that may or may not have been just drugs) were hobo-like in that adventurous sense.  However, most of us did those trips knowing that, at the worst, we had middle class parents and/or a full-employment economy to come home to.

For the true hobo, however, there is no backstop and their choice of lifestyle is much more serious than just “adventure”.  I am certain that the absolute freedom to choose — the essence of true anarchism — that is essential to the lifestyle is at the heart of their choice.  I’ll add it to my ToDo List to get to Britt one year and talk to them about it.