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Lana Del Rey’s ‘Lust for Life’ makes you feel all your feelings

lately i’ve been thinking it’s just someone else’s job to care

who am i to sympathize when no one gave a damn?

i’ve been thinking it’s just someone else’s job to care

’cause who am i to wanna try?

but

change is a powerful thing, people are powerful beings

there’s a change gonna come

i don’t know where or when

but whenever it does we’ll be here for it

Lana Del Rey – Change

Most readers of this blog know my profound love for Lana Del Rey. She’s more than a pop star or even musician these days. An actual artist whose life is her art and vise versa. Like a Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch, her work can be analyzed endlessly and mean different things to different people and that’s ok. No rules, just an open door into your imagination where life can be more than the sum of its parts. She rightfully has a cult following of wayward teenage and millennial fans; some have even gone as far as breaking into her house just for a chance to sit and talk to her (that’s gonna cause some sleepless nights for sure!)

Her aesthetic is vintage Hollywood movie star, a heartbroken Jackie Kennedy, 60’s flower child, 70’s vixen, Janis and Jim Morrison all at once. That doesn’t change. The tragic love songs are still there, but her fourth studio album titled ‘Lust for Life’ is a departure from personal tragedies and the arrival into the 21st century. Lana looked up and saw her fans – the thousands of little disciples that pour all their love into her because she is something real in a wholly artificial 2017 world. So she wrote them the first single and opening track ‘Love’ – a love song for kids growing up today. She mixed hip-hop, like she loves to do, with her ballads on ‘Summer Bummer’ and ‘Groupie Love’, and has duets with Stevie Nicks and Sean Lennon. All very fitting. That’s what the critics are talking about.

But I want to talk about the other songs. For an artist, a young woman, who has been in the spotlight for just under six years, Lana has been remarkably apolitical. Most interviews with her are vulnerable, heavy with mood, and mostly concerned with Americana aesthetics. Her troubled romances, her underdog past, drugs, what it means to be an artist, her sunny California life in the Hollywood hills and at the Chateau Marmont. Two years ago she famously dismissed even the idea of feminism because her life was just fine. So it comes as a little bit of a surprise when you play ‘God Bless America – And All the Beautiful Women In It’ and hear the line ‘/God bless America /and all the beautiful women in it /may you stand proud and strong /like Lady Liberty shining all night long.‘ In our current Trump dystopia it’s impossible not to draw political parallels. It’s surprisingly moving. I teared up. And it wouldn’t be the last time either.

‘When the World Was At War We Kept Dancing’ and ‘Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind’ are nothing less than anti-war anthems for our times. A meditation on how to keep living normally, doing the things that make you happy, when a potential world war 3 could break out at any moment. When she breathlessly asks ‘is it the end of America?‘ there is genuinely nothing gimmicky about it.

In the middle of all this social upheaval she manages to slip in a little ‘mini trilogy’ of undying love songs that are the biggest callback to her first, and most popular, record ‘Born to Die (2012).’ They are ’13 Beaches’, ‘Cherry’, and ‘White Mustang.’ They are gorgeous. Perfect. There is nothing else to add other than you should experience them.

Which brings me to the finale. Thanks for sticking with me, I know there is a lot of gushing here. Just when you think an artist can’t possibly grow this much in less two years, she tackles what may be interpreted as climate change in a way it has never been done before in ‘Change’. I had tears streaming down my face before I even knew what was going on.

It’s a prayer. For the times when I feel like giving up. Feel stupid for caring so much. It hurts too much to love all the trees, the oceans, and animals, and see them killed, cut down and polluted, and be powerless to stop any of it. It hurts to care about the endangered snow leopards in the Himalayas that are being hunted into extinction by lack of territory and people closing in, so I shut myself off and go cuddle my little snow white bunnies because they are the only living creatures I was able to save and give a good life. But I can be more useful than that. I can’t save the world but I can participate, if I dare to try.

change is a powerful thing / people are powerful beings / trying to find the power in me

The final song on ‘Lust for Life’ is literally about choosing life, coming from the artist who introduced herself with ‘Born to Die’. Shake off your depression. Remove the gun from your head. Step into the world. A masterpiece like this was gifted to us on a Friday in July. I feel inspired. Lana created her own world and still remains attached to this one. The yin and yang of being an artist. It’s all here.

this is my commitment, my modern manifesto
i’m doing it for all of us who never got the chance

sometimes it feels like i’ve got a war in my mind
i want to get off, but i keep riding the ride
i never really noticed that i had to decide
to play someone’s game or live my own life
and now i do
i wanna move
out of the black (out of the black)
into the blue (into the blue)

Lana Del Rey – Get Free

Get the album in every possible format here.

Book giveaway ‘Utopia for Realists’ and updates in these dark days

Hi everyone – long time, no write. How are you all holding up in this year of the Lord 2017? It’s a daily struggle to maintain some sort of sanity in this post-truth world.

On one hand, not much has changed. The same players are waging wars and murdering poor people in the same regions. War is still the planet’s number one business. There are more refugees than ever, escaping violence or poverty, or both.

On the other, politics is officially now a reality show with hourly updates to keep us occupied and bemused. Getting your snarky observation of the day to go viral on Twitter for 8 hours seems to be the most anyone is capable of doing about that. I know that because checking in with the global progressive hive mind has become my safe space.

There is no escaping this presidency. You can’t ignore it. You can’t even look away. So here we are, the planet’s best and brightest, hopelessly riveted by the follies of a 70 year old grandpa with creeping dementia and casual racism.

Everyone who is capable is documenting it, of course. Everybody has an opinion. There is more or less a global consensus that this is a joke, but serious. A serious joke. We take comfort in the daily affirmations of smart people that our feelings are more or less true. Some mornings I start playing a political podcast on my phone before I even go into the bathroom(!) I am absolutely addicted to feeling sane, informed, and part of the solution. It’s like every morning my mind is erased and I have to build up my understanding of the world all over again. It’s exhausting. It’s unproductive. I need a new game plan.

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I keep coming back to this quote by Buckminister Fuller, inventor, architect, and systems theorist, who worked across multiple fields to broaden his understanding of the world. While it is vital to work to document injustice, corruption, and the shortcomings of the current hierarchies, that is the job of journalists. As citizens it is our duty to stay informed and process the information in order to do better in our daily lives. That’s how progress come about. But I feel like we are on a dead end street. We can move forward but the wall is there and we are going to hit it. The only way to avoid impact is to change lanes entirely.

Climate change is our canary in the coal mine. If we continue to live the way we do today, we will raise the temperature 2 degrees and over. With that change comes permanent droughts, food shortages, mass migration from the equator regions. There will be storms and floods, sea level rise. Half the world is still desperately poor. 8 men own the combined wealth of the 3,5 billion poorest people across Africa, Asia and South America. If every person on the planet lived like the average American we would need 5 planets worth of resources to fuel it all. Earth Overshoot Day, the day on which we have spent our yearly allotment of resources to keep us alive, comes earlier and earlier each year. In 2016 it was on August 8. Automation is already displacing workers, and as high as 50% of the workforce will be unemployable by as early as 2050. 9 billion human beings, the low estimate, will be seeking shelter and looking for food in a world not designed for us to thrive. It’s not going to be a good time.

But ok, this may be the most apocalyptic version. Maybe human ingenuity will prevail. Maybe we will beat our addiction to oil which forces us to be buddies with extremist regimes. Maybe we will invent large-scale biodegradable plastics. Maybe we will stop relying on war as the premiere business model for elites. Maybe we will find a gentle way out of late-stage capitalism. Maybe. So we’ve gotta try.

Look, even Mark Zuckerberg, one of the 8 individuals mentioned above, is trying to visualize a world beyond what we have now. Sure, it’s a pretty meaningless gesture on his behalf and all the wealth flaunting he does (What’s up, Kauai?) and it doesn’t help that he looks like an android while doing it, but the idea still matters.

Universal Basic Income is not a new idea. It’s almost 500 years old. It allows you to be a shareholder of planet earth. A handful of humans take land and natural resources to transform them into habitats and useful items for humanity at large. Most other humans are employed in the chain of transformation. The surplus profit that is created from this chain is currently going to the very top – those owners* of nature and all resources. The rest get pittance. The majority get less than $5 a day.

*Whether or not people should be allowed to privately own vast natural resources is a discussion for another day.

Universal Basic Income is the tax that those people would pay to us, every one of us, shareholders of earth. It would allow the general population the freedom to choose their work more carefully, and hopefully the bullshit jobs would go away all together. It would eliminate the need to invent jobs for the sake of “the economy”. It’s a guaranteed, minimum, survival paycheck for being an alive human being. Food and shelter, no more, no less.

It’s an idea worth being fired up about. And that, at least, is something productive we can do. Let’s talk about it. Learn about it. Spread it. Make it trend on social media. Force media people and politicians to take a stand, an actual for-the-people stand. To help get the conversation going, and to thank everyone still reading my sporadic updates, I am hosting a giveaway of this year’s most revolutionary book – Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bergman. I have two Kindle ebook copies up for grabs so click this link or the image below to enter.

UtopiaforRealistsCover

Contest ends June 9, 2017. Participants must be over 18 and live in the US. Sorry to all my international readers – I’ll figure out another way to host it next time. Even if you can’t enter, or don’t win, I really recommend this book – easy to read and wildly inspirational in these dark days.

Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bergman

UtopiaforRealistsPovertyEradicated

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I am more active on Twitter these days so that’s the best place to find me if you’d like to chat @honeythatsok Until next time, stay sane.

Shittown: The value of a life

Spoiler alert: Do not read if you haven’t started/finished the podcast S-Town – a seven episodes, six hours long glimpse into one man’s life by the best podcast team in the world. Originally teased as a murder mystery in the South, it quickly becomes something much more. An audio odyssey that ‘reads’ like a Southern Gothic novel, except it’s all true. It’s something that didn’t exist a week ago. It’s something brand new. I loved it.

Read More

How to combat “fake news” and “alternative facts”

The past few months, ever since Trump’s election victory, have felt like a relentless shock and awe attack on the senses. Every day there are more outrageous and offensive “news” to take in. Our ability to sustain a constructive defiance to monied interests is becoming dulled by the constant onslaught of new “breaking news” in the 24/7 media. This is really dangerous.

It’s dangerous because even intelligent and educated people are losing their ability to stay objective in the face of so much tabloid garbage, designed to attract eyeballs through clickbait headlines.

Yes, politics in the US, and parts of Europe, have jumped the shark. It’s a reality show. Yes, Trump is a historically bad choice for president. He’s going to make historically bad decisions, due to both his personality disorder and the people behind the scenes manipulating him. We should protest this. We are protesting this. But we also need to keep in mind the system which brought us here.

Money in politics is so bad in the US that most politicians are up for sale, and fundamentalist Christian groups in rural America have a lot of money, due to their tax-free status. Politicians now have to tailor themselves to appeal to this large voting demographic, and we get fundamentalist politicians. Their policies have drained the educational funding for 30 years so we are left with an abnormally uneducated population for a first world country. These people easily fall victim to wealthy and powerful organizations that prefer to stay wealthy and powerful in any way they can, and historically, religion has proven a very effective mean to that end.

But politicians come and go. They are the shiny new apps on your iPhone’s interface. There is a deeper operating system behind the screen that actually make the phone work. We don’t see it, so we don’t realize it is there most of the time. The state works very much in the same way. We call it the deep state. The invisible, yet powerful, people who work there have been around for decades. It’s their career and life’s work. Whatever influences them is kept out of the media. It’s off limits. But we know it’s there because we can see the public trail of it in the continuous policy in presidency after presidency. Regan’s neoliberalism and free trade. Clinton’s NAFTA and revoking Glass-Steagall. Bush paved the road for perpetual war in the Middle East, and Obama rendered those wars invisible with the use of drones instead of soldiers on the ground. Apparently drones need not follow the Geneva convention and the law of war, and can freely bomb and kill people indiscriminately in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Countries that, last time I checked, the US is not legally at war with. Now they are Trump’s drones.

But none of this matters now because we live in the age of “alternative facts.” It’s the natural successor of “fake news.” We have always had fake news, it is called tabloids. It was when tabloids and the mainstream media merged during the dot-com revolution, when news stopped being sexy unless it was filled with scandal, that our troubles really began. This has been a long time coming. It peaked with Trump, naturally, because he is a natural-born showman who took early advantage of “reality” television. This is the one thing he is good at – to play the media, make them hang on to his every word, and distort reality.

The press in the US and other parts of the west have been embarrassing for the past 20 years. While posing as “independent” the major networks and newspaper have become little more than stenographers for the state. This is the opposite of what the press is supposed to be. If the state wants to go to war, which states tend to do because it is profitable, reporters are supposed to be asking “why?” and report from all sides of the issues – not merely stoking the fears of the public the way it is currently doing. A truly independent press is the cornerstone of democracy. There are plenty of brave reporters out there asking difficult questions and presenting alternate realities than the ones that advertisers on TV want us to see. Unfortunately, they are under attack right now being labelled as “fake news.” We all lose if the reality being presented by monied interests is the only one we are allowed to speak of. That’s tyranny. That’s the dark ages.

We got played. There is no way around it. We got played when we decided the press could fend for itself and left them at the mercy of advertisers. The best paid journalists today read from a teleprompter, while investigative journalists try to piece together a salary from crowdfunding on the internet. Please, please take note that all the recent Russia hacking news and hysteria about “fake news” serve a deeper and more nefarious purpose. Sure, to delegitimize the independent press and reporters is one, but we also need to be asking ourselves why would the deep state apparatus, over 30 of the alphabet soup agencies, so desperately want to demonize Russia and reinstate the Cold War?

Chris Hedges is a great reporter to look into if you want a crash course in alternative narratives. A Pulitzer Prize winning wordsmith, with over 20 years as a war correspondent and investigative journalist, he traces misuse of power back to its source and fights for the destitute populations left behind by the narrow neoliberal worldview presented by the establishment. Check out this short and current interview with Hedges (YouTube) for a brisk reality check! Abby Martin is a kickass millennial journalist who has been very outspoken about this issue since the beginning of her career, and champions media literacy above all.

Offering a different perspective than the state is not “fake news.” We don’t need dangerous laws against a free and open press, which this hysteria seems to be aiming for. But we do sorely need more media literacy to navigate the choppy waters ahead.

 

For those interested, here are some of the journalists and publications I follow because they seem most rooted in the reality I can decipher (see how tricky this all gets?)

Truthdig | Democracy Now! | The Intercept | The Empire Files | George Monbiot at The Guardian

truthdiglogodemocracynowlogo
theinterceptlogotheempirefilesabbymartinthe-guardian-logo

 

 

 

 

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8 billionaires to rule us all

Oxfam’s annual inequality report is here and it is jaw dropping. Last year the organization concluded that 62 billionaires own more wealth than the poorest 50% of humanity. That was a shocking report. This year, 365 days later, the number of billionaires dropped to only 8 individuals that control the same amount of money as the poorest 3.6 billion people on this planet. The reason for this massive jump is that poverty in rural India and China has not improved and the combined resources of impoverished people is less than assumed last year, requiring less billionaires to match their number. The other 54 billionaires from last year, I assume, are still billionaires.

There is no other word for this than grotesque. 1 in 9 people go to bed hungry. Have you tried going to bed hungry? I did last night, in solidarity. I couldn’t sleep so I got up at 2am to make a bowl of cereal. It’s hard going to sleep hungry and it’s hard going to sleep angry.

The cost to end world hungry is estimated around $30bn a year. The US military spend that in a week. This group of billionaire men, led by Bill Gates who is allegedly the richest man in the world, is worth $426bn. They could single-handedly end world hunger for over a decade without seeing any decline of their personal comfort. Our fascination with, and celebration, of billionaires seem to me a malware in our thinking. Who do we celebrate hoarding of resources that condemn others to death and misery?

Billionaires become billionaires by avoiding taxes and then starting charitable foundations. This gives them more tax write-offs and the ability to control what causes their massive wealth should support. As if they know better than an entire country where resources are most needed; resources that through progressive corporate taxes used to be distributed by governments on health care, education and culture for all. These days we are lucky if we get a polio vaccine from the Gates and a mosquito net from the Clintons. Same difference, right?

This report, at the end of the day, is a criticism of capitalism. Some say this is simply capitalism’s endgame playing itself out, like monopoly; a handful of winners and starved, impoverished slaves the rest of us. Some claim, and I find this incredible, that monetary wealth is infinite and if you happen to be poor you simply need to become an entrepreneur and create money out of thin air. It’s all there ripe for the taking, and, I suppose in this reality, the endgame is that we are all billionaire entrepreneurs, all 9 billions of us, in the year 2050. And if you’re not it’s because you are lazy.

Wealth is tied to real estate and exploitation of natural resources. One could argue that these should be common heritage for all people. The current global economy demands that humanity use twice as many resources as the earth can replenish each year. In this new century we are learning at warp-speed how truly interconnected this world is. Financial equality will not automatically lead to a sustainable future but it is the first issue we have to address if we will have any chance of surviving as a species. Don’t just take my word for it. Stephen Hawking said so, too.

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Desensationalizing news and questioning reality

I’m really struggling with this whole “blame Russia” hysteria. I’m troubled by DT winning the election and it seems like a cosmic joke. I’m horrified by the people appointed to be in charge of departments that are supposedly for the common good, when they have all built their careers on enriching private individuals at the cost of social good. Secretary of education that sells private education. Secretary of state that runs the world’s largest oil company. Not that any of it is surprising. If you have been paying any attention behind the the scenes for even just a few years you know that the USA has been functioning as a private enterprise for the very rich for the past 30 years. Private prisons. Private healthcare. Private schools. Private mercenary squads in faraway deserts and during peaceful protests at home. Oil lobbyists setting the foreign agenda. The media faithfully reporting on it all, as though it was business as usual. Normalizing neoliberalism became their modus operandi. So there was press and it was free, but it did not speak truth to power.

The media likes to harp that the USA is not just a democracy, but the GREATEST democracy in the world. Well, that’s just silly. The US is huge. It is a very, very hard body to govern even when things are going well. Small countries can have good democracy. Population 10 millions or less. The US should be grateful if it has any semblance of democracy at all. So I think that is the notion we have to challenge first. The US is not a democracy. Stop saying that. It’s just not part of the equation and we can’t diagnose the problem unless we are operating within reality. In fact, Princeton University proposed that the US is an oligarchy just three years ago. It’s a sovereign state operated by a wealthy elite. The only difference is now everyone can see it.

Reality. I keep coming back to this word. It’s everywhere right now. This election, this alternate universe we find us in, Westworld on HBO.

Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?

westworld-doloresThat’s the opening line from the show. It’s a good one, because once you start to question what is real you’ll never get any sense of security back. What if our reality is just a computer simulation? The Matrix (1999) is one of the best movies ever made. Did we invent machines or did machines invent us so we could create the machines? Questioning reality has a long tradition in science fiction because it’s one of the most unsettling things to do.

So I’m struggling with the idea that the world’s only current empire, with over 900 military bases across the world, a bloated $700 billion military, and a global intelligence gathering system, is blaming another old world oligarchy of tampering with their elections. The same empire which has a 60+ years history of interfering with elections, down to assassinations, all over the planet; that less than 3 years ago was proven to be tapping the phones of world leaders everywhere.

The kettle here is pitch black.

Let’s remind ourselves again how empires thrive. Perpetual war. That’s how the elite gets rich. But the only way to maintain perpetual war is to keep the population in a state of constant fear. Once the fear lets go, the peasants will be less willing to send their able sons and daughters into perpetual war. Fear requires an “other”; a serial killer stalking in the night, or, when dealing with a country, a population seen as less than human. Russia was an awesome other. Strong, iron-willed, savage. Even though Russia essentially won WW2 with their loss of over 20 million citizens and was our ally they quickly became the enemy. For over 50 years the fear of the USSR kept feeding the war machine of the west. Pockets grew fat. Then the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. For the first time in history we dared to utter the words “world peace”. But then the Towers fell in 2001. The Middle East became the other. An entire religion became the other. But it must not be working so well since we are back nipping at Russia’s feet. (Not saying Russia hasn’t done awful shit, but this century it limits itself to mainly doing awful shit to its own population.)

In science you start with a hypothesis of how things may work, then you set out to test it. If it tests well, you form a theory and send that theory into the world to be proven wrong by other brilliant minds. Most theories are wrong. That’s why science is slow. The theories that can stand up to the scrutiny are usually small and kind of basic. Because that’s the level that humans are at right now. We are small and kind of basic and we make a lot of mistakes.

I heard an interview with a cognitive psychologist with a background in artificial intelligence last week on the fantastic You Are Not So Smart podcast. It blew my mind. You should really go listen to it because I will probably butcher his brilliance with my interpretation. Donald Hoffman said that humans are probably not equipped to understand what’s outside our reality because one’s reality is deeply connected with one’s biology. Through millions of years we have evolved to hone specific skills for dealing with our impression of reality, skills that it benefits us here. That makes sense. Our tail evolved away – we didn’t need it anymore. So understanding the reality outside our reality is probably not possible; our biology won’t allow it.

He likened reality to a computer desktop. If you want to compose an email you don’t need to understand what is happening inside the machine. In fact, that would probably just confuse most of us. Instead, we need a shiny icon on the desktop that says ‘email’ that we can click on. Our reality is the desktop. We don’t look under the hood because it makes no sense, it even impairs our ability to perform the task of sending emails. So we don’t question our reality because it won’t make it easier to live in it. It will probably make it harder, no, definitely harder.

But he has a theory. It’s a whopper. When thinking about reality we like to hold certain things as constant. Maybe it’s all a computer simulation but certain things are real, right? Things like atoms and molecules. Time and space. Quantum physics. That was definitely my assumption when I think about these things. Maybe we are just one endless universe among endless other endless universes but atoms were a thing. Part of the machine to construct reality. So he asked the very simple question no one else had before; what if they were not? What if all those things were just another part of the desktop that allows us to experience reality, not the machine itself.

Whoa, right? Strip an assumption down to its bare bones.

Then he did some super brilliant math and came up with an equation to test his theory. He sent it out into the physics world. Most thought he was nuts. But no one has been able to dispute his theory yet. So it still stands. It’s on the internet. You can take a crack at it if you like, cos that’s how science works.

My point with all this is don’t settle for the knowledge you have. I understand this whole “fake news” sensation that is sweeping the country can seem a bit scary. It’s scary not to know what to trust in. It’s scary to learn that what you held as truth may, in fact, be not. But as a child of the internet with a reasonably good education I don’t think it’s too hard to spot fake news. I ask myself: is this a tabloid story (personality-based)? Then it’s not news. Is this grounded in conventional science? Climate change is, but chem trails are not. Logic then dictates that I should be more worried about climate change than some unproven internet theory that no real scientist has taken an interest in. Is this information directly coming from the government? If it is, proceed with caution. Mainstream media these days tend to parrot the government with little critical comment. Most things the government does is benign but when it comes to conflicts and contracts there will always be corruption. One of the best advice ever given when it comes to investigative journalism and discerning reality is follow the money.

Don’t settle for information coming from just one source or outlet. Be skeptical of anything that is sensational. Reality is rarely sensational. This reality, our reality, it follows patterns of human logic which is essentially “how can I manipulate this situation to benefit me?” That might be trite and boring but, hey, that’s what evolution told us to do. Study history. Study history from multiple angles. With one foot firmly planted in history it will be hard to pull one over you.

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People power killed the TPP – not politicians

Progressives, liberals, left-wing, independents. I don’t care what we call ourselves. Those are just labels for easy consumption. Humans are endlessly more complicated than that.

This election week has been something else.

I’ve never seen such outpouring of grief and fear on my Facebook feed and the media in general. It should not be dismissed. But I’ve also seen otherwise calm and rational individuals react with superiority and indignation, which, up until Tuesday, was reserved for the “other” side. Those religious-based conservatives who just don’t “get it”, no matter how much we liberal-splain it. This is a mess, but at least we have finally established that trying to force the moral upper hand is rarely effective and tend to just deepen the divide.

But I’m not here to talk about that. The internet is drowning in articles trying to understand what the hell happened this past week. I’m here to remind us of our environmental, anti-war, and freedom of speech victories that people on both side of the aisle accomplished despite corporate corruption of government and career politicians.

I’ve been an activist for about five years. As I was pursuing my masters degree in sustainability, which I chose because I enjoy nature and I wanted to learn about the true state of the world, I quickly realized that the most important concept in sustainability is systems thinking, or thinking about the world in terms of systems. And each system is deeply interconnected and there is no way to tear them apart, except in the human mind. If I want to save the environment so that forests will thrive and snow leopards can roam, I need to understand everything about the global economy, which is only possible through intense study of history and how we maneuvered the industrial revolution and beyond. If I want to influence the economy to better support the environment, I need to understand and participate in politics. It’s been a long fall through the rabbit’s hole, to say the least, and I’m still tumbling.

In 2013 president Obama gave a speech that was essentially a green light for a boots-on-the-ground war in Syria, claiming the Assad regime had crossed the ever-important “red line” on use of chemical weapons. The media reported this with little editorial input. The internet buckled. Protests sprung up locally all over the country. The pressure on congress and senate grew so strong, through online and grassroots movements, their office phones and email accounts blew up. In less than a week the ‘war’ was called off. Drone strikes and secret missions continue to this day but a new American war was averted.

In 2015 we were fighting for the future of the internet and free speech. All (corporate) systems were a-go to pass a two-tier, pay-to-play internet law. It would mean that all commercial and corporate owned internet sites would get priority access and lightening fast speed, and all non-profit, independent and activist sites would be slowed way down unless they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for fast access. It would have been the biggest restriction of free speech in modern age. And it would have been permanent, with some ironclad intellectual property rights thrown in for good measure. Post a picture of Mickey Mouse on your website or Facebook profile? Disney could easily sue. It was so close to pass. But we beat it – with relentless petition signings, emails and telephone calls, marches in the streets. We didn’t get a lot of media attention (all the major media conglomerates wanted the bill to pass) but as it turns out, badgering your elected representatives does actually work. They are just people. Your vote got them their cushy position. They don’t want you to hate them. The internet is still an even playground, but don’t get too comfy. The next battle on net neutrality is sure to come.

And finally, the TPP. The Trans-Pacific Partnership. The latest and greatest in trade deals that would ensure total corporate control over the pacific region (US and Asia minus China) and 42% of world trade. It’s been called NAFTA on steroids. It has been negotiated in secret by 12 states and the world’s 600 largest corporations. It included 24 charters in which only 6 deals with trade. The rest has to do with intellectual property (again, ironclad, which not only disrupts your Facebook profile and online presence, but also would set scientific research back decades.) The scariest part of the TPP allows for a supernational corporate court which would, funded by billion-dollar corporations, allow them to hire the best lawyers on the planet who would then sue anyone that came in the way of those corporations ability to profit. If Coca-Cola wanted to drain your small town of its drinking water to make more coke there would be nothing, legally, that could stop them. Your local government would never be able to fight Coca-Cola in court and now, they would even own the court that decide the outcome. Forget about stopping climate change.

But guess what? Global mass protests and constant civic pressure has convinced politicians from both parties in both congress and senate that the people do not want more corrupt insider deals, and now the Obama administration is officially declaring the TPP dead, today, days after the 2016 election.

Dead! Can you imagine the millions of dollars spent on meetings all over the world for eight years trying to patch this thing together? The thousands of hours spent by some of the smartest people on the planet? Even Obama, who seems to care about the climate, has been peddling this for years. And now it’s just dead. Because the people are waking up and realizing what truly matters.

just-as-the-constant-increase-of-entropy-is-the-basic-law-of-the-universe-so-it-is-the-basic-law-of-quote-1It doesn’t matter who is president. It doesn’t matter what you call yourself. Progress tends to triumph, but the road there is long and bumpy. I find it helpful to remember that the natural state of the universe is entropy. That means as time, as we know it, progresses the universe goes from order to disorder. Everything from molecules to galaxies start out stable and good, then come apart. Except human progress. We are the exception that proves the rule. We have empathy and we can visualize the kind of future we want. This is real power.

 

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Is world peace possible? An optimist guide.

So, I don’t know if world peace is actually possible. People harm and kill each other over a number of silly things. But I know for sure that world peace is definitely not possible under the current, failing system.

Growing up I was told all sorts of things. Like, world peace is possible (this was the 90’s, you guys) and stuff like, world peace is probably not possible but be happy you live in such a nice country. I was confused. How could both things be true at the same time? It either is or it is not. But now that I’m an adult and well versed in multiple shades of gray, I realize it is both. We can have a better system that provides for all human needs but we can’t curb human nature and prevent all violence. The two are separate things. But, since I am an optimist, I choose to believe that providing for human needs will lessen the output of human violence and that’s why I am adamantly in this fight. Despite all evidence, I believe most people are good.

Human nature is human nature. It is mysterious. It is animalistic. It is brutal and it can surprise you. Where does human nature end and the strain put on us by the system we live in begin? Impossible to say, right? If everyone has their needs met, would there still be burglaries? Probably. If people have their sexual needs met, would there still be rape? A resounding yes on that, judging by the fact that 1 in 3 women will at some point in their life be victim of sexual violence. This is a philosophical question and there are probably a million different theories. Are man good or bad, or just stupid? You tell me.

Quick history overview. For 100,000 years a handful of human beings lived as hunter/gatherers. 10,000 years ago we domesticated animals and invented agriculture. 6,000 years ago the first city state arrived. Trade was invented. Rome came, conquered, and went. Millennia of different cultures clashed and there is very little to show for it left today. 300 years ago the industrial revolution. The machines. In the blink of an evolutionary eye we nearly wrecked the planet’s life sustaining climate. The enlightenment era (my fave, obviously) taught us to put things in perspective. The seeds of understanding other human beings were born. And what a fine fucking job we have done of it.

I don’t think I’m alone in this when I say the finest things man ever invented is sanitation and modern medicine. I love books, I love stories but I do not want to live on a planet without toilets and pain killers. The fact that I can poop, flush, and never worry about seeing the end product of that again is something I try to never take for granted. I will happily pay 25% of my earnings for a working sanitation system. Some of you might not feel the same way, but that’s my starting point.

We can have nice things when we work together. No man is an island. You were born and for the first 15 years of your life you were completely helpless. You needed a community to care for you and raise you. That community installed certain values into you. They may or may not be “right” or “true” but the community around you were at least real. Let’s acknowledge that the world is a big place and that it’s impossible to install the same values into every single being.

However, in the last 100 years we have come up with certain universal values outlined in the universal declaration of human rights. Slavery is bad. You can’t own people. Child labor is bad. Killing people for no reason is bad. War should follow very strict guidelines to minimize causalities. All pretty easy things to agree on, one would think.

But somehow, it is not. The world seems to be following a different set of guidelines, agreed upon by very few but nearly universally accepted. Hmm, funny that.

It is, of course, money. Money buys power, either outright or covertly. Follow the money. Who benefits, cue bono?

There’s not enough room in this article to tackle how every industry benefits from this system but we’ll do a few. The oil companies. First of all, who decided that it’s totally cool for a handful of people to own oil, a substance found deep in the earth that has been there for 60 million years (no people around then), but it’s not cool for people to own air or the sea? Why this arbitrary division of ownership of resources? Doesn’t oil belong to every single person on the planet? Especially considering that the oil industry is not profitable without the yearly $5 trillion subsidy by the global tax payer population? It is possible that I’m drinking crazy juice here and that I just don’t “understand the economy” but why can people own certain bits of nature but not others?

The banking industry is, as we all know by now, completely loony-toons. Money is created out of thin air by debt, e.g., giving someone $20,000 based on a piece of paper promising that they will pay it back through their future (not real) earnings plus 15% interest of money that has never been created and the only way to pay it back is to take it from someone else. So now we’re all in the rat maze, running around, trying to grab crumbs from each other, to give them to giant multinational entities that already hoard the majority of it.

It’s only natural that out of this system there would grow a political establishment at the beck and call of these giant industries. The politicians are not the problem, they are a symptom. They are despicable and nasty but they are simply playing the game. When they are rewarded it is because they play it well, not vice versa as sane people would like to think. Good politicians, in the system, are those who manage to steal, cheat, and grow rich and powerful. Bad politicians are the ones that don’t succeed.

In this system, war is good for the economy. Cancer is good for the economy. Natural disasters are good for the economy. Every dollar spent is good for the economy. It enhances the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and that is the only way economists know how to measure the health of a country. It is good for the economy if you hire a nanny to take care of your baby. You just created two jobs – your own that you go to, and the nanny’s. It is bad for the economy if you stay at home with the baby. Two jobs are now lost. You should be ashamed, citizen. It is better to be obese than healthy – more money spent on food and medicine. Better to change your wardrobe 4 times a year than mend and repair. Better to buy tomatoes than grow tomatoes.

Good for the economy but what is good for life? My best guess is spending time with your baby, raising him or her to be compassionate, amazing people. Feeling safe in your modest home. Eating healthy food that hasn’t traveled thousands of miles. To separate needs from wants and feel fulfilled when you have the former covered.

We, the first world, luxurious few, can do this within the system. But the majority of the world can’t. They have to work toxic jobs to keep a ramshackle roof over their heads. They have to eat whatever their small paycheck can afford. They get swept up in extremist agendas because they feel that it’s not fair that people in far away countries can sleep soundly when their tax payer money bombs are destroying neighborhoods on the other side of the world. They leave everything they own behind and join the ranks of 65 million other refugees, not because they want to, but because they have no choice, only to be told that, sorry, the world is full, go back where you came from.

In the current system there will be no peace. Peace doesn’t come with a hefty price tag. Peace is a outwardly static state that doesn’t require constant growth. Peace would be bad for the economy.

There is very little an individual can do today to change the course of human history. That’s probably a good thing. What a weight off your shoulder, huh? That doesn’t mean you still won’t get sad or frustrated with the way things are, and believe me, I have plenty of sad days where just being part of this giant cosmic experience of being human in 2016 makes it hard to function, but given the choice I’d still rather be alive than not. I can choose to take good care of the people closest to me. I can choose to take homeless animals into my care and give them a great life. I can choose to buy and eat healthy food grown with love. I can make my house a beautiful place where I love to be. I can be politically active and slowly, millimeter by millimeter, see my ideals become policies and shape society around us. The battle is never won, just look at the state of abortion laws, an issue supposedly settled in the 70’s. But it’s the fight that matter.

Given enough time a drop of water will eventually drill a hole in solid rock. Due to climate change we might not have a lot of time to get it right, but I honestly believe it is the fight that matters. What if a small plot of land was a birth right? A place to feel safe. Money for food, as universal basic income, was a birth right? A human right. Universal basic income and expanded property rights as human rights and a lot of the vast suffering we see today might disappear. It might not but it seems to me the most integral component of world peace in the traditional sense. Whatever psychological pain people carry and inflict on other people, that’s a different matter. But a more loving system should logically soothe those suffering. End the system that rewards greed.

Everyone will find different ways to make their truth heard. Sometimes those truths clash. How can we solve those without violence? I don’t know. Personally, I try to live my truth as quietly as possible. I vote for the Green Party (I don’t vote in the US but I’d vote green anywhere) because their cornerstone of all politics is a healthy environment and I agree with that. I try to grow herbs in my small apartment (not successfully) because I don’t have access to a garden but I want to keep in touch with being a steward of nature. I write for no compensation on the internet because writing is how I make sense of things and it’s the closest I’ve come to a calling. When I feel myself having prejudice thoughts I remind myself I don’t know someone’s entire story and if I was raised differently in a different place, I would believe in different truths, too.

Huge concepts. This is just a tiny article but it’s a conversation worth having. I’ll keep learning, absorbing, re-calibrating, thinking, talking. Maybe with you. Thanks for reading and spending your time with me.

Podcasts: reinventing the radio for creatives on a budget

Do you podcast? Either listen to and/or create. I think podcasts are great. I’m an internet nerd, and like most internet nerds I know you don’t talk about interneting in the real world, even in this day and age of social media, but I thought podcasts had gone mainstream by now. I was wrong. Not a single person I’ve mentioned podcasts to knows about them, and most even scoff at the idea that they would spend time listening to people talk on the internet. Oh well, their loss.

I’m a huge audiobook fan so podcasts seem like a normal extension to me. It’s like radio, but you are in control. You choose the topic and the people to listen to. If you enjoy any personality that has any presence online, chances are that they have been on a podcast or two. Podcasts aren’t really interviews – they are more like conversations between professionals and friends – and you get to listen in. It’s intimate. Especially not-really-famous artists and alternative media and lifestyle people thrive on podcasts so if you want to hear from a  different societal point of view podcasts and YouTube are your best bets.

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Joe Rogan Podcast is the gateway drug of many into the world of podcasting. His three hours conversations with people from all arenas of entertainment are interesting and funny, and you really feel like you get to know people well. You can listen on the go and it’s like having hundreds of friends in your pocket. It’s pretty neat. He releases several of these each week so you never run out of material.

I thought after the runaway success of Serial that podcasting was definitely going mainstream. Not so, it still firmly lives on the internet in the corners of Reddit and on Twitter, but it unleashed a flurry of true crime interest and spawned dozens of copycat styled podcasts. For this, I am glad. It led me into the world of fictional podcasts.

Let’s take a closer look at the medium of podcast. After the written word, it is one of the oldest forms of recorded entertainment. Just think of Orson Welles and his The War of the Worlds broadcast in 1938 that launched America into a panic that a real life alien invasion was happening. With the advent of TV and VHS tapes, radio kind of lost its luster. It was boring to have stories with no pictures. But only people in the industry could tell those stories on screen. It wasn’t until the internet it was possible for ordinary creators to broadcast their own stories to millions of people at little cost. And low budget style was fine, for a while. Now audiences are much more sophisticated and they demand high quality. And making high quality videos is still very expensive. Books are hard to write and even harder to advertise to find a decent amount of readers. So maybe it’s only natural that the radio came back in style, or better yet, was reinvented into the podcast.

Perks. Podcasts don’t require reading. A huge part of the population don’t like to read, and even those who do don’t have time for it. Podcasts are usually free of charge to the listeners, like radio. Podcasts can be made in a fairly short time on a small budget, unlike films. They can be consumed anywhere, directly from your phone, which is always in your pocket anyway. They make commuting and exercising more fun. In short, they are the perfect medium for today.

It takes a few tries to find stories you truly click with but when you do, oh boy, prepare to become a little obsessed. I’ll release a post about my favorites soon, and the wonders of having your imagination stirred so completely. In the mean time, do you listening to podcasts? Do you care to share the name of a particular favorite of yours?

Journey home.

In December I took a much-needed trip to Norway to see my family and friends. It was so grounding to be around people who have known me pretty much my whole life, and only want the best for me. Christmas at my parents house is magical. It’s a cozy red house in the forest atop a valley overlooking our town (pop. 5000) with a river running through it. All that was missing was the snow, but it was still felt plenty like Christmas.

Then on New Years Eve, because of unceremonious airline schedules, I flew to Los Angeles for a 1 night layover before my final destination at home in Hawaii. Exiting LAX at 10 pm, I checked into an anonymous airport hotel, took an unsatisfying bath, and crawled into bed as invisible fireworks started exploding all over the corners of the city.

I awoke with the sunrise and a billboard outside reminded me to watch Beasts of No Nations – thanks, Hollywood. Checking-in on a Hawaii-bound flight has to be one of life’s singular pleasures. I caught the 10 am Hawaiian Airlines non-stop to Honolulu. I felt a stir in my heart that has been dormant for quite some time – I was excited to be at an airport, I was excited to travel. Not even the 30 minutes line at Starbucks by the gate could kill my buzz. 2016 felt fresh and exciting – a whole year of opportunity. For someone whose default mode has been mildly depressed and stagnant for the past few years, I felt like I finally saw the world in color again. Clear skies and tropical flowers lined the way home.

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My beautiful husband greeted me at the img_4139airport and we spent 10 glorious days exploring our island and making plans for the future. Letting go of old dreams while reaffirming others – it feels nice to have a road map, at last, after so much wavering on my part. Little BunBun proving once and for all that he is a proper Hawaii-bun. Then my dear, dear friend Cassandra flew in for a visit. My fellow globetrotter, gorgeous and smart, we have explored 3 continents together; from living in a studio apartment in Beverly Hills, trips to Mexico, New Orleans, Toronto, London, Madrid, Casablanca and volunteering together in Uganda, Africa. I hadn’t seen her in person in 4,5 years but our conversation picked right back up like it was last week. Then I took her to all my favorite spots on Oahu and she treated me to champagne lunches and enough laughs to last the rest of the year.

I feel motivated. I feel happy. I feel home. How extraordinary.

I know emotions are like waves, highs and lows, and a peak like this won’t last forever, maybe not even till next month. But it’s nice to have a record of it, and photos, too. Hello, dear reader. I’ve been neglecting my blog as of late, struggling to find something worthwhile to say. There is almost too much to say in this world run by chaos and confusion. How do you cut through the noise? How do you know what’s important? I think I needed to find my calm island, mentally and with my feet. I hope you found yours, too, at least for the time being. I’m glad you’re still here.

xx,
Joey