Archive for August, 2009

Nonsensical Economy & Champion Greenbacks – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Nonsensical Economy & Champion Greenbacks


by Jesse Wolf Hardin

www.animacenter.org

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I never gave much thought to money in my life, and usually vilified it in my mind when I did.  To this day, we live entirely on sporadic donations and a very few article sales, have no savings and prefer barter.  That said, money has never seemed plentiful enough to waste.  Yet looking at how our economy functions and what incentives our government offers, you’d think money was to burn.

Frankly, there’s something wrong with an economic system that depends on a constant increase in production, spending and debt just to avoid complete collapse.  Here’s how it works, just is case you didn’t fully understand: The economy suffers even if we spend and produce the same, exactly the same amount as the year before.  It requires not only that we buy ever more stuff, needed or not, but it also needs us to go into debt, the economy’s health depending increasingly on our purchasing things we cannot yet afford.  It’s sounds like something out of a bad science fiction movie, the ponderous creature that must constantly grow or die, needing to kill and eat ever more in order to remain on its feet.  All the frightened townsfolk need to do is figure out a way to slow it down and it will get sick and begin to die… but in the case of the ever expanding economy, if it sickens, we all suffer.  This is frankly nonsensical, and not a very promising model for doing business in a world that is of measurably limited size, created and then gifted to us with a finite amount of water for drinking, a specific number of acres suitable for farming, a still undetermined amount of minerals for industry, and at best only just so many salmon for sushi not matter how you shake your rod.

President George Bush said that spending was patriotic, and his mantra was to “buy, buy, buy.”  Current President Obama is mortgaging future generations by his monstrous swelling of the national debt, spending a mint in the emergency room trying to save the life a sick patient that had never done anything to contribute to its own long term health.  Such approaches stand in stark contrast to the sentiments and strategies of our national past, with frugality and savings being an aspect of the American spirit since the founding of the country and the sensible proclamations of cofounder Benjamin Franklin.  President Theodore Roosevelt came from a wealthy family and was militarily an unapologetic expansionist, but he was also a conservationist who wanted to see wildlife, coal and oil reserves conserved, and a conservative who believed in Americans saving their hard earned money so we would be well prepared in case of future hardships.  Even later President Franklin Roosevelt, who’s “New Deal” initiated the first Big-Brother management of social services in an attempt to crawl out of the economic depression of the 1930’s, still preached the importance of conserving and recycling precious materials like steel, and instead of being encouraged to dump their few dollars at the nearest strip mall, they were told that the most sensible and indeed American thing they could do was to grow a “Victory” garden and learn to generally make rich lives with less.

If there are any advantages to our system the way it works, it’s that it can fuel innovation and contribute to diversification.  And it’s great the way buying gives us a degree of individual and collective power.  We wouldn’t have to sign up for organized boycotts to start working in unison to influence the world we are in.  You don’t like a certain political leader?  Then refuse to give your business to any businesses associated with conglomerates that fund them.  Might take a little education on our parts, mercy sakes, but then we could start making every expenditure an informed decision.  Tired of work being contracted overseas?  Simple, pay a little more and buy American made.  Better yet, buy locally whenever possible, and be part of the solution for your own local economy.  If we want products that are made well and last long, instead of engineered to need regular replacement, then we need to research and buy the best made items we can afford.  Want to see less produced, then buy more used items, they’re often more cool anyway.  Can’t bear to see forests clearcut for pulp?  Pay for recycled or tree-free agri-waste paper instead.  We need to know what we truly need and most want, and then search out the best as well as the best priced, instead of going for the cheapest possible at WallyWorld, or making impulse purchases of crap that we’ll soon pitch in the closet or garage and never look at again.

I believe I’d really have enjoyed being alive at an earlier date when both words and money were spent carefully, when meaningful conversation was of more importance than accumulation, when free time for having fun was seen as more valuable than owning more toys, when a good friend was considered worth more than a thousand investors, love more precious than gold and one’s word more bankable than a lawyer-penned contract.  That said, if cash is to be “king” like the classified ads often claim, then we might ought to consider making every purchase a personal decree.

 

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Whether we make conscious spending decisions or not, we verily decide the culture we are a part of, not only who will lead it but what it will look like.  We could be equipped by vehicles that run for years without repair, long lasting tools powered by wind generators or who knows what, stores stocked with hard goods from somewhere besides Chinese sweat shops, our homes furnished with real wood and lovely if sometimes pre-owned material, if we only we insisted upon it and spent our unreasonably powerful dollars accordingly.  The fact that our political leaders range from puppets to paternalists, that 2/3 of what’s on the variety store shelves could be considered disposable, that multinational corporations are expanding while small town businesses close, that new cars only last a few years and come with tacky plastic body parts, is all determined by the spending choices we together and separately make.

If I feel guilty and out of sorts going into that monolithic, many-tendriled discount store, saddened at the sight of the resigned blue-vested workers, shuddering under its flickering fluorescent lights and all-seeing cameras, it is not just because of the low wages paid its laborers, the jobs lost to the Orient when it orders its merchandise almost entirely from there, or the laid-off stateside workers now struggling to pay even the discount store prices for the food their family needs.  If I feel sickened, it is also because I know this particular monster – the same as our national economy – has to endlessly eat and expand its repulsive bulk if it is to survive… and I, in my haste to get a bargain on imported raspberries and an air cleaner for the Jeep, have helped to feed it.

As I learn more, I increasingly intend that my scarce but powerful dollars speak loudly in support of individual liberties and my own personal values, that they impact the world I am a part of, if not always to an evident degree.  I no longer see the few computer encoded greenbacks in my wallet in the same entirely unpleasant light I used to.  They are my weapons of justice, agents of love and good taste.  They are my champions, few but now purposeful, dedicated and directed for an intended good.

 (feel encouraged to forward and post this essay elsewhere)

Stilted Writing and Dishevled Hair – The Importance of Negative Reviews

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Our book “I’m a Medicine Woman, Too!” has finally received its first Negative Review on Amazon.com.  Thank you to “H. Sanders” for the spirited rebuttal, we loved it.  I am not, however, as stung as I am dismayed.  After all, this was to the one book carrying forth with sweetness the most unequivocally positive earthen, progressive message.  As a result there was no text indicting our dominant culture for somehow communicating to 90 plus percent of children from every generation and social class that they are somehow inadequate, can’t trust their feelings, have to compromise in order to fit in and surrender their dreams just to get by.  Nor was there a paragraph – however helpful it might have been – with me explaining to Rhiannon the ways in which women and girls in particular have been and still are dismissed, held back or pigeon-holed into limiting roles.  There are, I should also point out, no illustrations showing Rhainnon’s terrible sadness over learning of the disappearing rainforests, children starving on the streets of Mexico City, or the shredding of individual liberties taking place in her time, no drawings of clearcut forests where few medicinal herbs can grow.  And none of the looks of anger that accompany her resolve to heal, better and beautify this world.  What, then?

Maybe there’s some indication of the buttons we managed to push, in the complaints of reviewer “UU Parent”:

“This book is a great concept, but the writing and illustrations never allow it to reach its full potential… writing which ranges from didactic to stilted.  The illustrations are disappointing and amateurish–hopefully a few will eventually be available for viewing before purchasing. All the women are portrayed as long-haired neo-hippies wearing flowing dresses (think Renaissance festival garb), with the exception of poor disheveled Annie Mae who is in denim overalls.  It’s a nice concept to marry an intro to botany with Girl Power, but somehow the attempt just falls flat and never reaches its full potential.”

I did not, as I have done in the past, set out to alienate or discomfort anyone.  That said, I worry about any artwork, writings or whatnot of mine that fail to stir strong feelings, raise hackles, mangle preconceptions, shred illusions, expose lies, prompt difficult changes, threaten established orders, or prompt unwanted attention from agencies of control.  While IMWT! may not be threatening enough to the dominant paradigm to deserve its its own dedicated governmental task force, it apparently isn’t without the power to offend.

-Wolf

(If you have ever bought anything on Amazon, you can leave your own review of IMWT! by Clicking Here)

Technology: Making Purposeful Choices

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Technology: 

Making Purposeful Choices

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

www.animacenter.org

 

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Like it or not, we live in a largely technologically defined age, an era in which almost everything we do makes use of or is influenced by the wonders of industry and science.  Having no agenda of its own, this powerful force can be harnessed to create everything from valuable new diagnostic tools for doctors to less laudable modern weaponry and mind control, from the long lasting solar electric panels I power this laptop with to dreadful nuclear warheads whose blast seems to briefly outshine even the sun.  Brain implants can be put to use by doctors to help patients manage their seizures, or just as easily by an intrusive future government seeking to further increase its control over all aspects of our behavior.

Some people think acts is if technology as our earthly savior from discomfort and suffering and certain remedy for every problem our relentless tinkering might ever cause… while many of our friends consider it an evil genie unleashed from its bottle, from which no good is believed to come without unjustifiably harmful and dehumanizing results.  Indeed, it will never be a cure all, nor (believe it or not) would the world suddenly become a peaceful paradise if every high-tech creation were to disappear.  If we’re to serve as the conscious, deeply feeling and highly discerning co-creators of our world and reality we evolved to be, we need to be able to see technology for the hugely complex, dual-edged sword that it is, and then act accordingly  We need to define our relationship to inevitable innovation not in terms of acquiescence or adoration, cynicism or rejection, but rather, personal responsibility and astute, mindful selection.

To begin with, we must understand that technology is not now nor will it ever be solely benign.  Those solar panels I mentioned earlier make no noise, create no exhaust, and allow us to get by without buying electricity from conglomerates that dam nearly every flowing river or burn polluting coal.  On the other hand, their manufacture required a number of potentially harmful processes, beginning with mining of its basic and finite materials.  Worse yet perhaps, is that the same kinds of solar cells also power American surveillance satellites that are or have the potential to intrude upon the private lives its own citizens.  Genetically modified foods contribute to production but at great risk to ecological integrity and the continuance of evolution itself.  The petroleum based herbicides and pesticides that have helped farmers feed the growing population of the world, have also damaged human and wildlife health.  Life saving antibiotics have spurred new forms of viral disease, and those given to livestock have reduced the immune response of people eating them.

Other effects are not so easily discerned.  Case in point:  A person grows stronger by pulling a load, pushing hard against an obstacle, or rising to a mental challenge.  Thus to the degree it ensures ease and comfort, technology threatens to take away the very sources of our strength.  It promises the possibility of us living hundreds of years through the use of synthetic bionic parts, and yet it is our awareness of the finite nature of life – of how relatively short our life spans are – that we come to fully appreciate, value, and concentrate on each precious present moment.  It can accelerate our day to day activities and increase our production, but unless we take careful countermeasures we may find ourselves experiencing things on a more superficial level, having no time for the depth of relationship and understanding that lead to wisdom and enlightenment.  Because technology gives us the means to manipulate appearance, we find ourselves increasingly surrounded by the artificial, with a reduced capacity to know the difference.

It is our job, then, to carefully examine and bodily intuit both the many benefits and possible problems, with not only the things we buy and subject ourselves to but also their components and the processes by which they were produced… in order to ascertain their likely impact on us, on the human psyche itself, the precious diversity of culture, the well being of other species and our shared environment, and the needs and direction of the living planet.

The most appropriate and defensible technologies are those which deplete the fewest resources and do the least damage, while accomplishing the most good… not just for people but for the rest of the living world as well.  Appropriate means not “efficient” so much as beneficial and beautiful, leading us not away from self, earth and spirit, but ever deeper into those experiences and relationships we think of as “natural” or “spiritual.”  Likewise, the most “sustainable” technology is not which can be sustained the longest, but that which helps sustain the spirit and integrity of human life, of other life forms, besieged habitat and the planetary whole.

The Apple laptop I write this on was created out of plastics made from oil, which contributes to the pressure for more drilling in sensitive places like the pristine Arctic National Refuge.  There’s environmental damage and pollution associated with the production of its computer chips, and those hours spent on it writing about spirit and the natural world are hours that could have been lived outside, directly engaged in practical matters or a personal quest.  Does this mean that folks like ourselves, working to preserve nature and heal human kind, should reject the latest tools of technology?  Of course not, that would only be relegating such tools to people who may have more interest in managing or exploiting our world.  Nor should we ignore or downplay the personal, social and environmental cost of our using them.  Instead, we can contribute to the balance by making the most of such existing technologies, putting them to work for the best of reasons, on behalf of even the most non-technologically focused causes.

We are not served by “either or,” black and white thinking.  Life is too complex for that, and our potential choices and actions too important.  What we need instead is to see, distinguish, understand, appraise, and discern between between the ever larger field of options.  When we’re in touch with our aware, feeling selves – with spirit and the will of the land – we naturally know what technologies to diss’ or to use, well as when and how, how much or how little.  We are born to be response-able decision makers and not strictly antagonists or converts, empowered and informed by our connection to the rest of enchanted creation, impelled by a force deep inside ourselves, committed to sustenance and significance, healing and love.

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