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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

Dear angry white men (Trumpism and the way forward)

I wasn’t going to write about this subject because I find it a little hard to take this situation seriously, but this article in The Guardian (Angry white men love Donald Trump) got to me. It’s so easy for any educated or even well informed person to mock the current state of the US election circus. Really, Donald Trump as the leading Republican contender? It’s the movie Idiocracy come to life. It’s beyond that. It’s a bigoted, ignorant, narcissistic business mogul turned reality show star running for president. It is, if you really think about it, the president we deserve, but for fuck’s sake, can’t we hold off the apocalypse just a little while longer still?

But I want to ask why. Why this climate, and why now? What I take away from this article is pain and fear. So much fear. The world is shifting. It kind of has to. It is due for a shift and the long-held dominating power structure is shifting away from white men. There are just too many people now to maintain it. There are too many women and too many people of color offered education and a place in the sun.

The young angry white men are scared. They don’t know how to exist in a world where they are not on top of the food chain. Affirmative action, feminism, the acknowledgment that centuries of imperial power is responsible for their status, and not – as many would like to think – just reward for their hard work.

This fear manifests right now in absurd men rights movements, excessive harassment against any female public figure and a weapons fetish that refuses to even acknowledge its own deadly consequences.

Let’s pause right here to acknowledge Men-are-from-Earth.-Women-are-from-Earth.-Deal-with-itthat most men have managed this shift just fine. My father’s generation, the baby boomers, went from having stay at home moms to working wives in 20 years and it was fine. Sure, they might still have some hiccups with accidental racist language, but overall, they did fine. The Gen X and Millennial men, they did even better. They learned to talk about their feelings and communicate with their wives. Sure, that led to other problems and higher divorce rates but overall, violence against women is down and women enjoy so many rights now that before was only offered to men.

So why Trump? Why now? Personally, I believe that Trump is a radioactive narcissist who has no real interest in being president; he just wants power and equates being talked about to real power, but it’s easy to have an opinion on Trump. It’s harder to discuss why. Why do angry white men who, for all intents and purposes are very much still on top of the food chain, feel so pushed aside?

Because we don’t talk about these things in our culture. We don’t allow men to feel scared or vulnerable. How could we? When the lifeblood of our culture is an imperialist military machine that feeds on young bodies, domestic and foreign, how can the image of men be anything but strong protector. If you are not an actual soldier, you better be handling your shit at home like a boss; without complaint, without mercy.

holdhumaityThe image of women is that of natural caregivers. A lot of us are (not all, though.) I find that women fit easily into the sustainability movement. You just extend your care from family and home to the whole planet. I think it is natural to want to protect the place from which life springs. I see that as the least radical thing to spend your time doing. Just as I don’t find it radical to say that fathers are just as important as mothers.

We don’t talk about the fact that women need men, too. They create balance in a wholly different way than just a group of women. A place of employment need men and women. Men keep women from becoming too gossipy and pack-like. Men can lift heavy items and reach high shelves. Women can soften tensions simply by being there. Women keep men from becoming too crude and, yes, pack-like.

I love my relationship with my husband. It is a little different than those with my close girlfriends, and I’m glad. I feel safe with my husband, more so than I do on my own. I know that I can be on my own, but I don’t want to. I think that’s the key. I enjoy being a member of a political party (The Green Party) but I don’t hate the members of the other parties. I enjoy being a writer and I don’t want to be anything else (ok, maybe a filmmaker if I’m being greedy) but I am so eternally grateful that not everyone else wants to be writers, too. Can you imagine a world in which we are all writers? Nothing would ever get done, we would starve to death, but all our bookshelves would be alphabetized and kitchen drawers neat and tidy due to excessive procrastination!

The shift is happening. The new world is coming whether we like it or not. It is your job to show mindfulness and compassion to those in pain. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard. Because if it is one thing 2015 showed us it is that mocking someone’s pain will never lead to positive change. Dear angry white men, we are not here to steal your place in the sun. We want to stand beside you and join forces for a more inclusive, healthy and sustainable world.

P.S. a universal basic income and higher corporate taxes would go a long way to alleviate your fears that immigrants are coming for your job, too. Just sayin’ :)

Freedom, i-dom, me-dom, where’s your we-dom?

I am still reeling from the past couple of weeks. Not since 9/11 did the world descend so quickly into fear, hate and racism. It’s frightening. But I’m also starting to think this is a generational issue.

I just turned 32 this week. (Shout out to my fellow Sagittariuses – we are the freedom seekers, commitment-phobes and world travelers!) I know everyone likes to rep their generation as the best ever, but my generation – the tween/teens of the 90’s – was so far the only generation to grow up in a time where world peace seemed, not only possible, but right around the corner. Sure, the were a lot of awful civil wars and bloody massacres in the 90’s, but there was no one threat to the world. The two generation before had the Cold War to deal with, before that the actual World Wars. Before that, poverty and disease were the norm and there was no such thing as global media. Take into consideration that the average age of politicians is around 60 years old. They were raised in, and still live in, a slightly more black and white world. War is peace. Peace is war. And that’s before you take into consideration all the special perks and benefits that comes with being tight with the military industrial complex. The world is still ruled by old men. So we are special, us pre-9/11 children, nudged into our little bubble of 90’s liberty.

And I took full advantage. I traveled to over 30 countries on five continents before I turned 25. I never felt unsafe. Not even when I was mugged at midnight in a border town in Uganda, or on the Trans-Siberian railroad in the middle of literally nowhere across the Russian tundra. I’ve never felt unsafe around armed guards in airports; morocconightskynot in America, not in Bali, not in China. When my friends and I have been stranded somewhere we don’t speak the language, inevitably, we find rides. Once I was stranded alone in a Turkish airport as it was shutting down due to a “weather incident”, so it was probably terrorist related, but a man who barely spoke English found me in a crowd of thousands of upset travelers and managed to book me the last seat on the last flight to Sweden (I was going to Norway.) To this day I can only assume it was because of my blonde hair. And finally, the night in Morocco with my best friend being taught Arabic by two boys on a rooftop under the stars. Shukran.

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That’s the world I live in and I refuse to surrender it to the warmongers and fear-mongers. This is not some arrogant, I-am-invincible bullshit. I know war is real, I know fear is real, but I also know that war is an economic investment by the elite. War has never not been about money, power and resources. There is no such thing as ‘just war’, no matter how much my political science textbooks would like to think so. Religious fanatics will always think their war is just. Western democracies hide behind the concept of just war to placate their morally righteous populations, when it’s really all about that money, money, money. Ask Dick Cheney. He never even bothered to hide it! But I would rather die than live in their world and that’s why I crammed as much life as possible into my young years. I know I might die at any moment due to this bullshit. But I will not waste any of my breaths cowering from it.

Which brings me to refugees. You would think the refugee population (now at a record 60 million people! Up from 45 millions just 2 years ago) would be easiest population to sympathize with. Imagine leaving behind everything you know; your house, your job, your possessions. Fleeing for your life and not knowing if your family is safe, or even still alive. The stories coming out of Syria are horrific. Young men who have no interest in military or political affairs being pulled out of their homes at gunpoint and forced to join an army that is terrorizing the rest of the civilian population. They fucking flee. Any rational person would do so. I would think it’s the right of every human being to not involve themselves in violence. I don’t know what kind of trauma has to happen to a person for them to happily point a weapon at someone and kill them because they feel different about the world we live in, but tens of thousands of people have to make that choice every day.

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This could happen to you, or me. But right now, today, I don’t have to make that choice so I choose to stand with those whose choice is taken from them. Those who have lost everything. As I grow older I learn that the world will never be perfect; there will always be strife and suffering. Life is uncertain, except that one day you are going to die. You can live in fear of that, and cushion yourself in an autocratic elite-run state, kept artificially alive due to the slave labor of others and a security apparatus not afraid to kill everything that moves. Or you can embrace the fear, and move past it. Live in kindness. What a concept.

I think M.I.A. absolutely nailed it with this song. I haven’t been so moved by a work of art in a long time. (Video won’t work outside YouTube, please click the YouTube link after clicking ‘play’)

Ask yourself if any of the definitions and illusions you have about yourself are God-given and set in stone. Your ego, your freedom, your privilege. Is any of it earned, or even real? But the plight of our brothers and our sisters is real. Let’s focus on that.

The TPP is a nightmare and I don’t understand corporate greed

So it’s finally here. After years of fear-mongering among activists groups and Wikileaks, the full TPP text is finally released, on Guy Fawks day, no less! A complete corporate coup d’etat. A takeover of the state and a reemergence of divine power only rivaling that of long dead kings and popes. And the verdict? It’s worse than we imagined.

And by we I mean the handful of activists and awake citizens around the world. In the US, maybe a couple of millions of people. 5 millions, if we are lucky. Not enough to sway an election, or even make much noise. We fare slightly better in Europe, Australia and Canada. They actually like their universal healthcare over there and are willing to put up a fight. So-called developing countries are way ahead of us on this one. They have been screwed over by multinational corporations for over a century. They know the score. When big business with no allegiance other than maximizing profit moves in, it is bad news for citizens. They don’t care that they pollute the river; their children are not drinking from it. Their children are at a boarding school in Switzerland. They don’t care that the price of medicine goes up 5000%. They and their family have access to the best doctors money can buy.

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The TPP, or Transpacific Partnership, is a 5544 page document covering every aspect of modern life. This particular “trade” agreement covers the 12 nations around the Pacific ocean and 40% of the global economy, but agreements for the Atlantic ocean is already well on its way with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), followed by Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which somehow manages to be the most diabolical of all. TiSA wants to privatize EVERYTHING. Health, school, post office. Because, really, it is about time you start paying for that street light outside your home. Or how about the roads you most frequent? Better start saving. It’s only fair, after all, that firefighters get paid first, out of pocket, before they put out the fire in your home. Anything else would be socialism!

Yes, I’m getting silly because the whole thing is ridiculous. I don’t understand corporate greed. I mean, they already own, what, 80% of the world’s capital? Why are they so hellbent on squeezing out the remaining 20%? Why can’t they let “middle class” families have an extra $500 in their pocket a month to eat at a fancy restaurant once in a while, or take an overnight trip? Ordinary people in “modern” countries already spend at least 70% of their paycheck on bills and expenses. It’s not much left to have fun with or experiencing something new. The financial reality in the US is insane when you really break it down.

decayinghouse1 in 5 children go to bed hungry. 1 in 3 household are below $30,000 in annual income, which is the poverty line. You can’t afford anything outside bills and fast food, and when that depressing lifestyle becomes too much, you seek comfort and escape in drugs, and soon you and your family won’t even have a place to live. There are nearly 2 million homeless people in the US at any given time and 18 million vacant houses. But you can’t have them because, money. If you raise the annual income to $40,000 that’s 2/3 of the US population. So a family of 4 have an extra $10,000 a year but most of that is probably going to health insurance because at $40K a year, you are “fancy” in America. If you and your family want any kind of fun that has to go on a credit card. The average American family has $16,000 in credit card debt. Combined that’s 2,3 trillion dollars spent but not yet paid for by the American people.

Because they can’t pay! Wages in the US has been stagnant or declining for most people for over 30 years. 90% of the jobs created after the 2008 recession have been in low paid or part-time service jobs. 90% of the capital gains after the 2008 recession have gone to the 1% aka the millionaires and the billionaires. America is scraping the barrel at this point. There is nowhere left to squeeze.

Why, you ask? Let’s crank some more bankofanywherenumbers. Half of the world’s wealth is now in the hands of 1% of the population. Studies have found that every month around $20 billion are off-shored by multinational corporations. That is, tucked aside in anonymous bank accounts to collect dust and not be useful for anyone. American corporations tuck away $2 trillion tax free. For less than 20% of that the US could have free universities and maybe healthcare, too. The oil industry collect over $5 trillion (!!) a year in subsidies from tax payers around the world. That’s how much it takes to keep an industry going that is responsible for massive polluting and climate change. Of course, the American military costs around $600 billion a year to keep operating, and that’s the number they are willing to release.

They already have all the money! Why do they need every last bit of it?? Why are they willing to watch billions of people suffer and struggle in an eternal losing battle for a decent life? And who are the elusive ‘they’? The scary thing is, it’s not always ‘they’, it’s us, too. We turn a blind eye and excuse all sorts of misery. Is this level of greed part of human nature or is it an abomination, a cancer? Or is it normal, and it is kindness and generosity that is unnatural? I don’t know. No other species exhibit this level of greed. They just take what they need and get on with it.

Enter the TPP. So, since you already have no money after paying bills and are already $16,000 (plus student loan) in debt, prepare to pay even more for health care, school, electricity, banking, basic services all while the environment around you deteriorates rapidly because under the TPP it is illegal to sue corporations for environmental damage. Illegal! But they can sue you, the tax payer, if your activism for a clean, healthy Earth infringes upon their right to make money. I wish I was joking. Leading environmental agencies have called the TPP a nightmare.

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It doesn’t stop there, however. Now that you are enslaved to your crummy job probably paying less than minimum wage, and you can’t go outside in your little spare time because the air is toxic after all the oil spills and forest fires, what hope of entertainment is left? The internet, right. At least no one can take away your creativity? Your god-given right to express yourself as a human being? Sorry, but yeah. The TPP will not only slow down non-corporate websites the way SOPA and PIPA threatened to do (both were defeated in Congress, probably because their corporate masters knew that a bigger beast was forthcoming) it will also intensify copyright to the point where if you upload anything on the internet that resembles anything under corporate ownership, it will get promptly taken down and you could get sued. Yeah, that means that YouTube video of your daughter singing Frozen songs. Copyright will also extend 70 (!) years after the creator died. Which means any form of expression for anything you like, created in your lifetime, is off limits. Goodbye, creativity. Hello, blind conformism. Your cultural heritage now belongs to a small elite. Suppressing knowledge that could spark new thoughts and a potential revolution? Gee, where have I heard that before? Just in every religious and political dictatorship ever. The only difference is this time it is a corporate dictatorship and profit is God. And they don’t need to burn books anymore because books are boring and the Kardashians are on. And you will know that, whether you like it or not, because it’s advertised on Facebook, on TV and in magazines. Banning knowledge is out; drowning in useless knowledge is in.

imaginationisendlessThat last part is serious because I truly believe what we are dealing with here is a crisis of imagination. People have lost the ability to imagine a better future, and that’s why we are in this mess in the first place. We can thrive without corporate overlords dictating our every move. Our lives don’t have to be written as depressed wage slaves before they even begin. It starts with waking up to what lunacy is going on. Laugh in the face of tyrants. It makes them a whole less scary. Laugh at the people protecting the status quo as it is something worth protecting. Figure out what really matters to you, and fight for it.

Socrates, Jesus, Galileo, Da Vinci, Marx, Einstein, King, and any other historical person worth remembering is on your side. They laughed, too. Then got to work.

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I am a visitor here, I am not permanent (The Snow Leopard review)

It’s amazing how many lives one is allowed to live if one only pays attention. When I have a depressive episode, which can last anywhere from weeks to over a year, it’s like my life has pressed pause. I remember very little and no new core memories are made. I cease to live and simply exist. As a writer that is pretty terrifying because my passion is about stringing together events and emotions to create something worthwhile. When my life frequency hums so low it is hard to remember what it’s like to vibrate in unison with the planet, the universe and all other life. At those time I am extra grateful for all the hard work of other writers who help me remember who I am, and that we are all so very much alike.

I was raised on, among other things, audiobooks. My aunt worked, and still works, at the local small town library and has a passion for books. For years throughout my formative years she would keep us in a steady supply of at least two audiobooks at the time. For something close to a decade I would fall asleep to voices and stories and I still have the hardest time falling asleep to only my own voice in my head. Eventually I grew up to be a sullen teenager and the audiobooks stopped for about a decade, but lately thanks to Audible and phone apps, they seem to have made something of a renaissance.

I just finished The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen and that’s what sparked this post. It’s a remarkable recording, mainly because it’s an older Matthiessen reading aloud the adventures of a younger Matthiessen to a group of his closest friends towards the end of his life. This book topped several best-of travel memoirs lists and it’s one of my favorite genres. It’s pure accident I happened to find the audio version before a print copy but I’m glad I did. The recording is a little hard to get into. He speaks slowly, he is an old man, after all. But he speaks with passion and compassion, and some of his insight is startlingly perfect, even to a younger woman.

Matthiessen, a writer, sets out on a journey to climb the Himalayas with his friend in the 1970s. He is in his 40s and has just lost his wife to cancer. He has young children. He has traveled extensively, but an inner search for peace brought him to undertake this difficult journey at this time while his companion hopes to catch a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard, only spotted a handful of times by westerners at the time. The book burns slowly. He takes notes every day, through September to November. Most of he notes are about the trek and the local Sherpas that are hired to help carry their bags. He also meditates on his life back home and the journey that brought him here. He has excellent insight into universal truths of humanity, be they male or female, westerners or easterners, religious or non-religious. When traveling in these parts of the world, you can’t help but be fascinated with Buddhism and the simple, unfathomable life the villagers lead. Maybe you have to have experienced it yourself as an outsider to really grasp how hard that emotion is to convey because the last thing you want to do is to belittle them, or make them seem strange and exotic. Matthiessen manages this difficult task brilliantly, and I think that’s why the book has had such lasting effect.

It is, perhaps, one of our greatest struggles as educated westerners, this constant search for peace and balance. I’ve struggled with it a lot lately, and as usual, the book I need appears before me at just the right time. When Matthiessen sees a crippled child, no older than four, drag herself by her elbows along a stony path high up in a small mountain village, his natural instinct is to get her help, somehow, someway. But when the child reaches him, she offer an incandescent smile in a grimy little face. And he moves on, which was his only option to begin with, because what does he know of this child’s life if she is able to greet a stranger in such a way.

Whatever peace he finds is fleeting, and he does not shy away from his less flattering actions and emotions, as well. Fleeting peace, fleeting insanity. It can all be found in the solitude of the mountain. I don’t want to give away whether they saw the snow leopard or not, because it’s the driving mystery of the story. Eventually he comes to terms with the fact that if he does not see the snow leopard, it’s because he is not ready for it. And he accepts that, like a westerner, he is “forever getting ready for life instead of living it each day.” Which is a sentence I have written myself, time and time again. Not sure if it is a western problem, or just a writer problem.

The book brought back vivid, vivid memories of my own travels, which have been on hold for the past five years while standing still in beautiful Hawaii. Eventually, everything becomes ordinary and I stopped seeing Hawaii with my traveler’s mind. I stopped seeing the rain forest on volcanic mountain peeks, covered in mist, looming in front of me, mysterious and ancient, as I step off the bus. I simply saw my commute, stressing across the street trying to beat the oppressive humidity. But today I saw them, overlapped with the tales of the Himalayas in my earbud, and even further in my mind’s eyes, all the places I have been so lucky to visit.

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Some memory imprints are purposeful; you make a conscious snapshot that you can always return to and feel exactly as you felt then. Some of mine are watching the sunset and then the endless starry night over the rolling hills of Uganda. Visiting an empty monastery deep in a silent Mongolian valley. I felt so out of time, I honestly expected dinosaurs to come trampling down. The first shower after a four day train journey spanning the entire Russian tundra. Ordering my first meal in Beijing. Getting lost on the islands of southern Laos while trying to spot a rare dolphin that will soon be extinct. Holding a koala in Australia. London at night with a beautiful blonde, 2 AM after-parties with characters out of Alice in Wonderland. Spending my 22ed birthday alone in Beverly Hills, learning that location means nothing without the right company. Some imprints are accidental, ordinary occasions that become momentous, like meeting my would-be husband in a dive bar at 3 in the morning where neither of us wanted to be but still, somehow, were.

As a writer I flick back and fourth through those moments, recalling how I felt, now removed, still having sympathy for that girl. At 30, feeling old and spent, with no clear path to how to finance the rest of my life while holding on to some shred of sanity, I became someone else. I dedicated myself to learning the absolute truth about the kind of world we live in because knowledge is free, yet I’ve also learned, comes with a price. “God offers to every mind a choice between repose and truth. Take which you please – you can never have both”, said Ralph Waldo Emerson. Truth or repose, said Matthiessen, in my ear today, quoting Emerson. I want both, of course, but for now I’ll settle for becoming a traveler again.

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Scientifically speaking, past, present and future are all the same. Who you are at the end of your life is who you had the potential to be all along. And in that sense, everything is alright, always.

Climate change is personal

Re: The Point of No Return – Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here

I haven’t been writing much over the past year. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, it’s more that I don’t see the point. I’ve been struggling with depression on and off, and the worst part of depression is that everything seems rather pointless, in a vast existential kind of way. For me, at least, it’s a chicken and egg situation. What came first; intense knowledge of the impending doom of climate change triggering this mindset, or a built-in depression that leads me to seek out knowledge justifying my doom and gloom mood?

Most days I’m fine. I’m actually really good and I still have a hard time accepting just how blessed I have been in this life. Surrounded by love and support, countless trinkets and material items that make me very happy, lucky to have seen so much of the world at such a young age. Truly happy in my marriage. But still. What’s the freaking point of it all? My mother says it’s all this idleness. It would drive anyone crazy. She probably has a point. Plus no regular source of income leads to a certain stagnation, especially when one spent their 20’s flying off to exotic locations at the drop of a hat. So I finally got a job that I can feel good about, helping out good people with plenty of time to write on the clock. Again, I’m just too damn lucky for my own good. This is just background information. I don’t want anyone to actually feel bad for me because I don’t.

I’ve been thinking maybe I’ve just got too much education for my own good. I don’t think there has ever been a time when philosophy and thinkers have been especially encouraged but it feels extra hard today for some reason. Slogans like “in the age of information ignorance is a choice” sound very progressive and hard hitting but let’s get real. Ignorance is encouraged more than ever.

We are drowning in useless information. Opinions and emotions are encouraged over facts, which are considered boring. It’s all about your emotions. Or other people’s emotions, on reality TV. But real-real emotions, like depression and the inability to fit into today’s very narrow and rigid success paradigm, are highly discouraged. Because it might lead others to question their place in the system. I feel like I do this a lot when speaking to people, and I feel bad about it. So I laugh it off and apologize for being a “downer”. I’ve learned enough about depression to understand that it is a false reality, and not one worth spreading. If you have a solid grasp on your meaning of life, hang on to it with all you’ve got. Unless of course it harms anyone else. Don’t be a psychopath.

I spent some time questioning whether or not I am a psychopath or at least narcissistic. I’m pretty sure these things fall on a scale and if 10 is Ted Bundy and 1 is Mother Theresa I am maybe a four or five. I tend to be pretty self centered and I will bite your head off (metaphorically speaking) if I’m hungry or tired, but I also suffer from an overload of select empathy. Stories about animals suffering leave me in tears. I can’t really enter pet stores and shelters. I have two white little bunnies that I love like crazy. To me, one of the most amazing aspects of being alive is to have a little (or big) creature show you love and affection in return. We can’t really communicate and they have no inherent reason to trust me, but they do and we co-exist and show each other love.

climate-change-lungsI guess, to me, that is the core of being alive. If the universe is just one big experiment and all living things on this planet is a one-in-a-trillion coincidence among billions upon billions of empty stars and planets, then the reason we are here must be for the universe to experience itself through life, joy and love. This is a beautiful planet. Animals have beautiful, trusting souls. Individually, most people are beautiful, too. But collectively? We have near destroyed this planet. Maybe I was drawn to study sustainability to understand why. I have most of the facts now but I still don’t understand the way.

Fact: in the last 40 years 50% of all species have gone extinct. Fact: every second 5 babies are born but only 2 people die. Fact: since the 2008 financial crash 99% of all capital gain has gone to the 1%. In 2016 the 1% will own 51% of the planet’s wealth.  Fact: catastrophic climate change is now unavoidable. 150 years of industrialized civilization has essentially rendered the planet close to incapable of supporting life.

I think most people would like to think these things aren’t connected because once you realize that they are, it will change you. I will most likely not have children. I think in decades rather than lifetimes. I am so grateful for the wonderful three decades granted to me. I hope to have at least a couple of good ones more. I’m not naive enough to wish for decades of stable employment but I do wish to infuse my life with as much meaning as I possibly can and maybe make a small difference, maybe with my writing or maybe in a way that will surprise me. Because I am grateful I do not fear death, but I would like it to be on my own terms; not starving, fleeing violence. Over 50 million people (the world’s refugee population has increased 50% in the past 5 years) already find themselves in that circumstance right now. It will not get better. Our window to “fix” the world have closed and greed was the culprit.

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Climate change. Such an innocent word. Unlike war there are not a handful of people responsible. In a way, we are all responsible, and then none of us are. I didn’t build the factories but I benefited from them. I didn’t kill wildlife but I couldn’t stop it either. I didn’t poison my beloved oceans but I live a lifestyle that require 100 000 ships to sail them at any given moment.

The sadness I feel in my heart stem mostly from the fact that it doesn’t have to be this way. This beautiful planet could provide for us, given the chance. We don’t have to destroy it to survive. What an insane time to be alive. It seems against all logic but maybe, in the big, big picture, things were meant to play out this way. Our amazing, crazy species came so far in such a short time. We created things that rivaled the beauty of the universe. We saw, learned and felt wonder. We allowed the universe to experience itself in a brand new way. And now the party is over. We are the last loitering guests. Only here to witness the demise of the lions, tigers and polar bears. In in some 20 million years the planet will re-balance itself and perhaps give life to new species. It’s more likely than not, given that it has already done that six times in the past 4 billion years. Maybe this, all of this creative genius combined with senseless destruction, had to happen for whatever will rise next to be born. And in that way, I get less sad. It’s almost comforting.

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I’ll still keep fighting for a more sane world. I’ll love and take care of my little bunnies, my husband, my family and friends. I’ll try and help out where I can, write when I have time, travel some more when I have money. I’m still excited about all these things. I hope you are, too. I hope you are living a life that is meaningful to you, while remaining mindful to the world around you. That’s it. That’s all you have to do, really, that’s the only thing the universe requires of you. But you still don’t get to slack off, though. You still have to fight bullshit institutions and bullshit jobs, created only to keep a system that decayed long ago on life support. Try voting for candidates who want real change (not just saying it.) Start a new political party, or join one that is still not corrupted to the core. The unknown is scary, but the good news is, it really can’t get much worse at this point so let’s try something new. Let’s try politicians who put climate ahead of everything – even bribes and personal security. The media dictates what we care about. That’s a pretty important responsibility – make them fucking earn it. You have to help make advertisement-based corporate media obsolete simply by ignoring them, and by supporting journalists and writers with integrity. Most of them are freelance these days, or barely getting by. Cutting bullshit from your life will leave a void for a while, and that emptiness is going to be filled with sadness and questions, but don’t reject it. Just let it happen.

And what happens on the other side of all that? Maybe nothing. Maybe you only get to go quietly and/or screaming into that good night knowing that at least you tried. You may even earn yourself a smug ‘I told you so’ when shit really hits. But maybe, just maybe, we can also become the ‘change’ in climate change.

Why are you so hung up on capitalism?

I’ve been reading articles on alternative economic models for a few years now and inevitably, in the comment section, several people will argue feverishly that what sustainable-minded people are calling capitalism is crony-capitalism and that real capitalism is the best thing ever that could happen to human beings. It’s a state where true freedom resides. It is the alpha and omega of our existence, and we should be so lucky to experience it some day.

I don’t get it. You realize that you sound like religious zealots, right?

At least for now, I feel this is where the conversation stagnates. We are all so caught up in labels that we can’t see the forest for the trees, which is ironic, since all our trees are being cut down in the name of capitalism, capital, and short-term thinking.

Sustainability doesn’t care about your labels. It doesn’t care about capitalism or socialism, which has been so wildly distorted in the American mind that it is unrecognizable to someone from Europe. Whatever system that existed in old Soviet, it certainly wasn’t a system for the social good of a country. The social democracy we see in Scandinavia today is the closest thing we have to a utopia, voted so by decades of global happiness indexes, but take my word for it, we still spend a great deal of our time complaining and bickering politically.

Sustainability ranks above all of this. It only has one unifying goal: for nature and humans to co-exist. We need nature to exist. For some strange reason, political ideologies and capitalism fail to take this into account. And then logic dictates, in our time of crisis, all of the above has been made irrelevant.

Trade is certainly not a political ideology. Trade and interaction is found in nature, too, to better ensure the survival of species. So capitalism doesn’t get to patent the concept of trade. Trees, plants, birds, mammals and even the soil all work together to create a state of balance. Humans, with bizarre hubris, seem to consider ourselves above that balance. We will have trade in a post-capitalistic society. Maybe not the selfish, greedy kind, but the natural kind, found in nature.

Sustainability is not political ideology, even though it is labelled as such right now. It is a scientific fact required for survival. Right now scientists are trying to calculate how much it would cost, in dollars, if the bees were to go extinct and we all had to pollinate our own plants for food. It was something like $30 billion a year. Hello?? Does anyone realize how ridiculous this all sounds? Not the scientists, of course, they are doing a fine job highlighting how out of touch our society has become.

Crony-capitalism. Corporatocracy. Plutocracy. Oligarchy. Democracy. Dictatorship. Does it even matter at this point? Does arguing over definitions on the internet make you feel part of the solution at all?

A friend told me that they wish the Earth would be attacked by aliens soon, so that human kind could come together and face an external threat, and maybe that would become the start of global cooperation. A time when we truly realized that we are one people living on one planet. But I don’t know. At this point I would wager a bet that we would spend most of the time arguing what to call the aliens, and then, obliteration.

So talk to me about universal basic income. Talk to me about resource based economy. Or the gift economy, or how we can manage a 20 hour work week for all without entering a financial black death where 1/3 of the population succumbs. Give me fresh, new viewpoints that no one has thought of before. But please don’t try to tell me that an 18th century ideology can somehow be fitted to the 21st century and 7.3 billion people on the planet. Unleash your imagination. It’s a lot more fun to live in the future.

This article is brought to you by the comments on today’s awesome article in The Guardian: The end of capitalism has begun

Review: Night Film: A Novel (2013) by Marisha Pessl

IMG_2856Wow. I don’t normally write a lot of reviews but sometimes I feel compelled. I have been transfixed since Saturday by Night Film: A Novel. I have literally done nothing else. I’m the kind of book nerd that, when I had to go somewhere, I bring the book with me just so I can be around it. I’ve dreamed about it two nights in a row; the book and tiny flashlight I use for reading late into the night falling to the floor when I can’t keep my eyes open. Yeah, that level of obsession.

This book is perfect for me because of the subject matter, of course. I love film, I breathe film, it is my first love. At the periphery of the story is reclusive cult filmmaker Stanislas Cordova. Author Marisha Pessl crafts this character and his entire career and work of art with startling realism to the point where all I want is for him to be real. In the book he has a massive, cult-like following – his career spanning form the late 60’s into the 90’s after which he disappeared from the world. Never appearing in public and the disturbing nature of his films, all which are impossible to find outside the dark net black market and underground secret screenings, Cordova’s legend grows and grows. He is a filmmaker who encourages you to live fearlessly by confronting your deepest fears and desires. Sovereign. Deadly. Perfect. If Cordova’s films do not drive you to madness, they will set you free.

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What really sets this book apart is the delicious bonus material sprinkled through the book. TIME magazine articles, Vanity Fair articles, screen shots from the dark web, hospital records and notes really make this book come alive – and you believe. You believe in Cordova. Then there is an app for your phone with even more material – unlocked by scanning the right pages. Audio, interviews and even a film snippet and posters from Cordova’s films come to life in your hands. The only book I can really compare it to is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, which is amazing experience. That book is a “manuscript” from multiple people about a house that is larger on the inside than it is on the outside – and everyone who has read the manuscript has gone mad.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself so let’s start at the beginning. The story begins when Cordova’s daughter Ashley is found dead in an apparent suicide. This sets disgraced investigative journalist Scott McGrath on a quest to find out the truth about the elusive Cordova once and for all. This being a classic noir story McGrath is as usual a tortured but pretty bland protagonist. He is joined by a quirky 19 year old actress and a 25 year old James Dean-esque pretty boy with secrets. It seems unlikely but somehow it works.

The book is almost 600 pages long with twists and turns and a parade of interesting characters that all add to the legend of Cordova. I noticed that most of the low reviews on Amazon either said that the book was too long or that there were too many characters, but I only feel satisfaction that she did not let one stone unturned and the story moves with enough speed that all the different locations seem fun and interesting. And in the background looms The Peak, Cordova’s multi-million dollar mansion in the country side, which he has not apparently left since his wife drowned on the property 30 years ago and where he now makes all his movies.

“You’ll find that great artists don’t love, live, fuck, or even die like ordinary people. Because they always have their art. It nourishes them more than any connection to people. Whatever human tragedy befalls them, they are never too gutted, because they need only to pour that tragedy into their vat, stir in other lurid ingredients, blast it over a fire. What emerges will be even more magnificent than if the tragedy had never occurred.” – Night Film, p. 377

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It’s obvious that Pessl is a huge movie buff. The skill with which she crafted Cordova can only come from a true love and understanding of film history. I was not surprised at all to read on her website that one of her favorite artists is David Lynch (same as mine) and that she studied film and television. There is a certain power to artists who are able to create their very own universe. Tarantino, Jarmusch, Wong Kar-Wai are others I deeply admire. I can’t get over the absolute brilliance of creating a fictional cult filmmaker who lives in his very own Neverland where he creates his stories of truth and horror. In the real world, this is not possible – but what if? Once your imagination crosses that mental door step, there is no limit to the artist’s power. The myth of the man will forever be the truth, and the work will have to speak for itself. Eventually the novel blurs the lines between reality and the supernatural. Myths have the power to do that, especially when the truth is allowed to be so distorted and unconfirmed.

rscordovaThat’s what the book spoke to me about. It wasn’t really about the mystery of finding out the truth about Ashley, the truth about Cordova or The Peak, although that was important, too. I was blown away by Pessl’s ability to create a myth, which are becoming rarer and rarer in our society today. I wanted Cordova to be real because he was an adult fairy tale. An artist in absolute control, freed from commercialism, free to live and breathe his art. That doesn’t really exist anymore – it probably never did. But the myth is beautiful.

Sure, I felt tinges of jealousy throughout but more than that, I just love being a fan so much. I don’t actually think I’m capable of creating something so complete, ripe with all the longing and mystery and beauty we desire from art. But who knows. I think books tend to find you at the right time for a reason, and I’m feeling so inspired and ready to go into my unknown worlds right now. Small victories, I’ll take them. And feel blessed to exist in a world so full of creativity and beauty, always trying to press against that ceiling (or basement) holding new insight into the human experience.

The book ends the way it has to, of course, although I was in too deep to see it coming. It’s a book about obsessions that makes you obsessed with it. Are you investigating a reclusive filmmaker or are you in one of his films?