A car comes speeding up behind me. The speedlimit is 65 here and I am going 55 at best. There are mountains in the distance. They are snow capped rocky peaks, they look more like the peaks of ripples on a pond than the high vertical walls that make up most of the Sierra Nevada. From here they are maybe 30, maybe 60 miles away. I know the peaks, I first saw them from Bodie some time ago. They tell me where I am going, and how far away it is. They tell me how far I have come, anchoring me to a time in the past. I pull to the side of the road and let the car pass. There was a time when these peaks would be in view for days, when the ratio of time to distance was not equal to breakneck speed. I, caught in the present can not have that experience but I can slow down and turn my head a bit slower.
Towns come an go. It’s hard to imagine today but there are towns in California that lasted less than 5 years. Gold or some other precious mineral was discovered, a claim was made. 10 or 20 people would come in looking to make more claims. Soon a whole range of mountains or a whole valley would be filled with people scurrying about; people looking for wealth, those working for those who had found it, other people making their fortunes off scurrying of people. There were roads run, roads re-routed, railroads lain, stage coaches, and 20 mule teams hauling freight. Doctors and lawyers and shopkeepers came and did their business. Saloons and banks and rarely - thank the lord - a church was built. And then - gone.
Either the ore veins dried up, or the deposits played out or the cost to ship exceeded the value of what was being delivered. Sometimes, by a fire or a flood or some other force the land would reclaim itself and rebuilding just didn’t seem worth the effort. Industry requires investment, hard capitol and those who invest that capitol expect lofty and quick returns. The slow unsteady returns of an ore vein, the portage cost of new equipment to replace that which has failed, the risk of having bullion heisted while in transport do not merit the risk of rebuilding yet again. The big mines close, the camps surrounding them dry up, the scurry of men across the landscape peters out and the town dries up.
But not quite. The wheels of industry and river of capitol which turn them can not operate in the harsh frontier lands, but men can. The skeleton of the town begins baking in the sun, kept by those who have boomed one to many times. Men who are tired and more interested smooth decay than another big bust. They feed off of and serve the few who work alone in the wilderness; those who with simple tools, hammer, saw, pick, and shovel work a living off the land. They become the town. The wood dry and cracked, their skin. The main street dusty and forgotten their breath. They, the roads leading back into time.
And then it arrives. 10 days straight with only two objectives. The first, get to Lake Tahoe and hang out with the family for a few days. The second, make it back to LA alive. I don’t do vacation like most of my West LA compatriots. I’m not buying airplane tickets. I don’t have reservation in fancy or hipster hotels. No zip-lines, sun bathing, spa treatments, connecting flights, planed expeditions, scheduled tours, appointments, parties, hot tubs, or planned heavy drinking; my packing takes the shape of things I might need, to do the things that I might decided to do, in the area I’m likely to spend some time in. The plan is to drift and wander, to ride the current for a few days. The plan is; the road.
It’s 10 days living the way I choose not to spend the next few years of my life. Given the decision between being a modern nomad and taking up steady job doing work that’s not terribly fulfilling but that I’ve an aptitude for I took the job. It’s not a decision I regret but it is one I made half heartedly. It’s had it’s consequences, both good and bad, but more importantly it was as I knew it would be, a final decision. It was a commitment to a way of life. The kind of commitment few people even have the opportunity to make. Most people at my age are married, with children, and have long sense made some sense of their lives - by choice or by necessity. I had not. I took the job I knew would strip me of most of my free time, choose to live in an area I loath, and set about building a life. That decision was very telling and I am still coming to grips with it’s consequences.
So I leave my house and go. Not straight onto the road. No empty vast expanse open space. Not yet. That 10 days alone has taken on a new meaning in the last year. It means 10 days away from - apart from - the the woman I have come to love. If I do not open and close my trip with this woman, it means 3 weeks and I simply can see no reason why I would choose that. So I after packing, I leave the house and drive to her and her children.
The time is filled with conversation - not just words but the soft meandering of language - spoken, breathed, touched. Separation, is urgent. This next weekend will be the first weekend we’ve not seen each since we began dating. We do not see each other during the week. I am going away and for that, I feel guilty. Like I have stolen something precious from the woman I love, like some unseen actor has stolen something precious from me - I am that actor and I know it. We are important and this is the crux our language, our movement, the glances at each other over breakfast - soft, kind, and lovely important.
Just a letter I wrote to a friend regarding the Occupy Movement.
Disorganized mess isn’t neccesarially a bad description. There are any number of groups involved in the Occupy Movement at the moment. There are unions and immigrant rights groups, there Student pissed off about tuition hikes and Members of Anonymous pissed off about the corporate and state suppression if information, there are ex-home owners pissed off they got booted out of their homes and home owners pissed off their mortgages are upside down, there is the ACLU and La Raza and there are Anarchists and Communists and libertarians. And they are all there with their own agendas and they all want their own things, but today, for now they are all unified under a mast head: Taking control of the country from the 1% of wealthiest people and putting it back in the hands of the 99%.
Now I know that last sentence sounds like alot of hogwash and empty rhetoric. But if you look at the numbers over the last, 20 years there is no way to slice it where the top 1% of the population haven’t seen an insane rise in wealth with the middle and lower classes are either growing either at or slower the the Cost of living. In 1976 the top 1% of the country controlled 9% of the wealth, today they control 24%. 1995 to 2005 average works pay rose 4.3% while the average CEO’s rose 298%. I can keep going but I’m sure you get the point. Couple that with massive cuts in social programs and massive reduction in taxation and regulation for Corporations and well, the lives of people are really starting to suck while corporations and executives are rolling in money. There are alot of complex reasons for this; globalization, NAFTA, deregulations, lobbying, really aweful financial regulation, the wars we are fighting and so on but in the end none of those reason really matter and most people can’t articulate them. The truth is most of the protesters in the Occupy movement can’t articulate them either.
What the people in the Occupy movement can articulate is, “I can’t afford to go to school”, “I lost my home”, “30 years of my retirement savings were pillaged and my CEO walked away with millions”, “I don’t feel safe in my neighborhod”, “I have no hope. I can see no future. There is no way for me to get out of this mess.” and “Why do we support the wealthiest through hard times and let everybody else fend for themselves. Why do I have to sacrifice while while the rich are getting richer?” And so that is what they are doing and saying.
The structure of the occupy movement isn’t the easiest thing to comprehend. I’ll confess quite honestly that from the outside it looks like a mess. If you are used to looking for leaders and followers you’ll miss the entirety of what is happening down there. My experience at OccupyLA is an experience in Direct Democracy. As one of the speakers at the General Assembly put it the other night, “They say we are leaderless, I say we are leader-full” it’s a sentiment that is echoed through out most real grass roots social movements. People come together and then they work out their organization. Look back at the Civil Rights Movement, the labor movements of the 30’s and 1800’s, Ghandi’s India, Mandala’s South Africa, even the American Revolution all started out as a disorganized bunch of rabble rousers with various agenda’s who through consensus worked out and achieved goals. Did they know the goals when they started out, no. They knew they were pissed off, or unhappy, or starving, or oppressed. The “goals” of these movements came later. First they joined hands, and then they set out to change the world.
I understand your desire not to support a movement when you do not know where it is going. I share it. From the outside, and to some degree from the inside it looks like a revolutionary movement hell bent and destroying the American way of life in it’s entirety. There is some truth in that, there are people with that goal in mind. There are always people like that. Extremist always gravitate to the early phases of movements. They are in many cases the progenitors of such movements. But it takes a larger body of people to act, it takes growing a large concensus to get a mass of people to act. The people who want to overthrow the country or go burn down Bank Of America never get the popular vote and so they are forced to act alone or work with the group to achieve what they can agree on.
As for leaders and conformists, I agree to some degree. We don’t know everything and in a specialized society we have no choice but to rely on leaders. I don’t know near enough about the economics of the country nor about - oh let’s say particle physics to make good decisions in those fields. I require and trust the authoritative knowledge of others to make those decisions. The key word is trust, I grant my leaders trust which I reserve the right to withdraw. The people in the streets right now are withdrawing their trust.
Have we benifited from the current social order. Of course we have, the thing is the number of people who are benefiting from the social order is decreasing and it has decreased to a point where those who have fallen or at risk of falling through the cracks are starting to assemble.
Ah man this is way to long way way way to long and it’s way way way late. I hope you’re aren’t totally fried. I guess I am using this to kinda work out some of my own thoughts and of course I’m just happy to talk about something I really do care about.
The fundamental problem with dualistic political systems is that one side always takes the position of absolute rightness, seeks absolute power, sees the world as good and evil. Because it sees itself as good this side can not by virtue of it’s position easily assimilate new knowledge; while the other side which seeks out the efficiencies arrived from testing multiple world views can never control the social discourse as it sees value in the contributions of it’s opposing party. As such all dualistic political systems tend to fall in upon themselves once the complexity of their social, economic, and environmental systems outpace the growth of the ideological complexity permitted by the former faction.
The below is kinda backward. It is an open response to a private message. I will leave the sender and their original message private as they choose to open the dialogue privately.
I appreciate your thoughts *******. I will tell you that the things you are telling me echo things that I have posted against the Anonymous message boards. ( those are the people that are actually conducting the attacks on Palin, Mastercard, Visa etc ). All that I can tell you is what I am doing. I am attempting to defend my country from itself. Not to impose my opinion on others but to protect the ability people to inform themselves with real information.
I have, in the last few days, witnessed what I have most feared was coming to fruition in my country. I have watched the shutdown of an organization which is releasing verifiable information that demonstrate how our government actually does business. I have witnessed that shutdown happen in a way which literally subverted any concept of the rule of law. It could have happened by adding wikileaks to the terrorist watch list. It could have happened under an emergency session of congress. It could have happened under existing portions of the Patriot Act. Instead it was done by use of corporate power, a means that is not subject to judicial review, congressional oversight, or constitutional law. As such, I am engaging in activities which are not currently illegal but may soon so be, in order protect my country and it’s principles I have chosen to fight. Not to protect wikileaks but rebel against those who choose extralegal methods of subverting the freedom my government is sworn to protect. I have chosen to do that by supporting what they were attempting to destroy.
I am not convinced that wikileaks is the right to publish it’s information and as such I have remained silent on the matter for 3 years. That is until recent events. Those events convinced me that while wikileaks may not be right, that while it might be harmful, the people who shut them down are without a doubt wrong. That in fact the threat to my country and my values is greater from those who have chosen to suppress wikileaks than it is from wikileaks itself.
If you are assuming that I support Anonymous and Operation Payback you are wrong. What I am doing is quite different: what I am doing is helping keep truth and information flowing, what Anonymous and Operation Payback are doing is shutting down the flow of information. I am fundamentally opposed to such actions. One can not fight censorship with censorship. It must be fought with information, it must be fought in the open, and it must be fought with integrity. One must fight what one is opposed to with what one is for.
I would like to point out that your argument essentially amounts to “Shutting up is the best way to preserve freedom of speech.” or “The best way to preserve net neutrality is not to use it.” I can’t even begin to express the absolute absurdity of those arguments.
Those who agree with Joseph Lieberman that America should have an internet kill switch like that of China’s should go fucking live in China. Our society, our government, and what makes us a shining light in the world is our commitment truth, freedom, and the belief government should serve the people. (It can not do so when it does not use methods which are subject to the laws the people have put in place.) Those values are being challenged at their very core and I am fighting to preserve them. In fact, I am fighting for your right to tell me I’m wrong for doing it.
I believe that the free flow of information is the most important asset a democratic society can posses. The societies very survival is dependent upon what it knows. I am sorry that you do not feel the same.
Yes there are things that should be kept secret. Yes people should be prosecuted fore exposing those secrets. However the prosecution - or in the cases where the jurisdiction exceeds the boundaries of the sovereign nation - the censure, must be conducted transparently and in a ways that subject to constitutional law. That are open to public discourse, and that can be corrected over time if their reach is found to exceed the publics acceptable standards.
With that I really have nothing more to say in my defense. I have work to do. I believe I am doing the right work despite the annoyance I am giving to my friends, despite creating the appearance that I’m a zealot, despite the risks I am taking. Trust me I’d rather be reading, photographing, and writing poetry. My duty to my country, to society, and ultimately to humanity preclude me from engaging in those pleasures.
Also I would like to say. Do not pretend to spare me public humiliation, by withholding your opinions on my actions. If I am wrong, I deserve the ridicule and I will accept it publicly, as what I am working on is a public matter.
Sincerly and with good intent,
Please note I won’t be offering much more of a response to than this to anybody. I’m currently engaged in trying to move this conversation into a more public forum, so my time is limited. I will however read anything you’ve got to say.
The difficulty of facebook lay in it’s ability to describe the path of our lives. It is the point against which we can see both our past and our present. The roots from which we sprang, the present to which we belong, and by reflecting upon the two the future to which we are destined. It would not be a difficulty except that it is not simply a tool for our reflection and the reflection of those with whom we wish to share but also a tool by which the, shall we say, “graph” of our lives can be viewed by others whose intentions may be more aligned with manipulation than with growth and understanding.
By openly feeding our social relationships, by openly contributing to the domain of public social knowledge, we risk exposing ourselves not simply to those who we wish to grant the privilege of “relationship” but also to those who would spy quietly on our lives in search of opportunities to guide us toward their ends. Those ends, be they political, commercial, or personal are not necessarily wrong, they are not necessarily mis-saligned with our own desires or the puzzle into which we see ourselves fitting, they are however hidden.
My lineage ties me to propriety and holding things close to my chest. What I have learned leads me to believe that the “best” outcomes come from open communication, full disclosure, and sharing. I know much of who I am by knowing who you are. What each of us is, we are together. It is knowledge of the spectrum which allows us to understand the qualities of individual color.
With facebook however a large segment of that spectrum has been blacked out. Not only can we not say what occupies it’s space we can also not say where that space is. What is it’s relationship to the information we give it about our lives; what does it consume and how does it react to that consumption, what does it produce and what are it’s intentions with it’s production?
Those questions are difficult enough when we ask them of each other, when we ask them of our future selves, or of the future relationships we may have with others. With Facebook, Google, or any centralized system however their importance increases by an order of magnitude. Friends disappear, family becomes distant, employers come and go, none of these apply more than a little brainpower to predicting or influencing the course of our lives. When they do so they often open themselves to equitable levels of influence and scrutiny, which is to say that there is reciprocal trust.
The difficulty of facebook, or any centralized social graph I suppose, is that it exploits the trust which we feel with each other to feed an agenda which it does not disclose. It encourages community without subjecting itself to the responsibilities that being a member of that community entails.
polishing the lens brings new and peculiar views though never focus. we are not made that way. as the mind becomes light the body fades. as they become words, ideas fade. as it becomes known truth fades. and so we go on searching the hazy for symmetries afloat on a sea of resonance.
Walking from window to window watching water reform itself. From clouds to roof into pools and streams to gutters streaming off the house. Descent, separation, droplets, globules, dispersal patterns becoming splatter patterns in little lakes and rivers, the thin planes of water on the porch. Rings fan out as water arrives, plunges, and shatters on concrete. At the center of each ring a catastrophe, violence, disillusion as fragments repel upward arching and again descend. They arrive a second time onto the water plane though calmly this time - assimilating, giving off only a shimmering ripple of light as droplet becomes pool.
A hole in the sky. Blue, brilliant, surrounded by clouds irradiated by sun. All I see is silver lining. I sit at the table before a window gazing out. The cloud layer closest to me races by. A freight train, a circus train carrying elephants, lions, and phantasma. Look! Here comes the unicorn, giraffe, Icarus, and Chimera. A dancing seal, a racing tortious, and Allen’s beloved Hippogryph race by. The hippogryph? I’ve no idea what it looks like or what it is but I can feel it up there joyous and real as anything can be.
I decide to go to my new home. Rainbow. I step onto the porch and awe at the holographic ribbon of color which embraces the colosseum of monzogranite which is Gamma Gulch.
I am packed and leaving, traveling down the road-river created by tires, transformed by rain. The path forks and crests and rejoins itself. At the apex of the divergence, at the top of a hill a second rainbow - this time massive and grand, miles from end to end - begins it’s formation. As I drive on, as the road converges, the colors brighten, saturate, and the ephemeral becomes corporeal. The road is slow and soft. I flow with the streams that were once path - once hard and straight. The rainbow moves with me, accompanying me. I know it is illusion, I know the principles involved, I can tell you how light prisms through mist. I am overwhelmed. Water rises in me. Convulsion. Sobs. Streams and the movement of water - movement with water - through water - light. The road ends. The streaming desert path meets pavement. I stop at the crossing and breath. The path back to civilization begins here, this chapter of my life ends here. To the right the sun is setting amidst the clouds, cleansing the sky with darkness so that another day can begin anew. To the left the ribbon of light descends, the pavement rises, they merge into a continuos line. I choose the way of convergence. And I drive.
The sun rise here this morning is beautiful - so layered, so colorful, such soft light. I would that I could become it. Be the light rolling over mountains, mountains rolling over earth. Sky, clouds orchestrating it all. Be it all at once. Be beauty complete.
But in this shell, this limited consciousness unable to absorb but only to focus, to frame, there also is something sublime and I am grateful for it. I am grateful to sit here on the couch watching the bobcat watching me. We - taking in the morning sun. I am grateful to the rolling hills, their patches of snow, creosote, mesquite, and joshua tree reforming the light and offering it up as a gift to me. I am grateful that the mesa’s in the distance are there to hold the sky on their their flat table like surfaces. That the ranges beyond wave like music rising up from the earths core - Rachmaninoff’s piano violent and serene giving form to granite, sandstone, and schist. But mostly I am grateful to be the being who can take all this in one fragment at a time, give meaning to it. To not to be the sky, the clouds, the earth or the sunrise who will never know their own beauty.