2 08 2014

youngstephenStephen Gaskin, who was my first spiritual teacher, died last month.  I want to take this opportunity to appreciate the man and his work.

Perhaps the first thing is to clarify is what I’m talking about when I say “spiritual teacher.,” and why I have chosen to let Stephen, and others, play that role in my life.

Let’s consider basketball.  If you really like to play basketball, you don’t just shoot hoops in your driveway.  You get together with other people who want to play, and, if you’re really serious, you find a coach, somebody who knows the game well enough to teach it well.  Life is like that.  We all find our teachers, spiritual or not.  If you want to make a lot of money, you might find a mentor who will show you those ropes.  If it’s your perception that the best things in life are not things, and if, for you, unselfishness is more important than selfishness, then you might want to get together with other people who feel that way and find somebody you respect who can show you those ropes.  Christians call that a congregation and a preacher.  Eastern religions call it a sangha and a guru.

That’s what I was looking for when I first went to California in 1968, but, raised as a secular Jew, I didn’t have a name or even a concept for it.  I just knew, when I went to my first Monday Night Class at The Gallery Lounge on the San Francisco State College campus, that I had found what I was looking for, like a drowning man who encounters a piece of flotsam big enough to support him and save his life.

Yes, meeting Stephen saved my life. Just as some people, even when they’re very young, know “I’m not heterosexual,” or “The sex of the body I’m in is not the sex I feel I am,” I grew up feeling that the society I was expected to enter on adulthood was not the society I wanted to live in.  Like many a young sexual misfit, this disconnect was the source of a great deal of anxiety, neurosis, and self-destructive behavior for me.  Connecting with Stephen, his teachings, and the Monday Night Class community that ultimately became The Farm pulled meout of the steep dive my life was in.  Stephen and the Class opened a magic door for me, into a world where I could  have a life, a family, and a community that were more in alignment with the kind of society in which I felt I belonged. The Farm, “Stephen’s family monastery” for all its imperfections, was the best home I ever had, a home I have been trying in vain to recreate ever since the community came unglued in the early 80’s.farm

Thank you, Stephen, for helping me and so many others live in a better world, even if only for a few years, and thank you for pointing me to Buddhism, which in so many ways has carried on the changes in me that you helped initiate. Thank you for my first marriage, for my children, my grandchildren, and my soon-to-be great-grandchild. My children, and their children, are all here because of you.

what I called "home" in the early 70's

what I called “home” in the early 70’s

Thank you for encouraging me to maintain a friendly but uppity attitude towards authority/mainstream culture. I am who I am because of you, and I have always been grateful to you for that. Now you are one with the Light!

To me, the overall importance of Stephen’s life is contained in one of his aphorisms:  “There’s something you can do that will make a difference for everyone.”  His life was a perfect illustration of that.

He didn’t set out to be a “hippie guru.”  He was teaching English and creative writing at San Francisco State; the department head was famed linguist S.I. Hayakawa, and, by some accounts, Stephen was in line to be Hayakawa’s successor.  Stephen started noticing that many of his best students were losing interest in academics, dropping out of college, moving to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, and doing something called “exploring expanded states of consciousness,” aka “tripping.”  Curious, he followed them and soon found out what they were talking about, a transition chronicled in his delightful memoir, “Amazing Dope Tales.”  Inspired, he quit his formal teaching position at the college, but started a class at San Francisco State’s “experimental college” to explore and discuss this phenomenon. The class started with a dozen people, shrank to six, and then grew, first to a few hundred and then to a couple of thousand people, becoming a coherent community in the Bay area, as class members began to share housing and evolve a common vocabulary and set of standards for interpersonal relations and group etiquette.  He began to talk of establishing a “home base” for the class–initially a storefront, but by mid-1970 he and others were looking for land in northern California.  Then Stephen was invited to speak at a number of college campuses around the country.  27midwife_ss-slide-B1N0-articleInlinecaravanA couple hundred class members asked to join him on the tour, travelling in their own converted schoolbus campers, and he assented.

Stephen’s original intention had been to settle back in California when the tour, which became known as “The Caravan,” was over, but the San Francisco scene, which had been in serious decline before the Caravan, had slid still further into cocaine and cash, while the “community that meets twice a week” (for Monday Night Class and Sunday sunrise meditation) had coalesced.  The heart needed a home.   Stephen conferred with his inner circle, took the pulse of the Caravan, and decided to head back to  Tennessee to settle because the people had been friendly when the Caravan had passed through, the climate was mild, and land prices were cheap, cheap, cheap–we would end up buying land for seventy dollars an acre.   He also favored heading for the middle of the country to get away from the counter–culturally crowded Bay area.  “We asked the people of Tennessee, ‘can we be y’all’s hippies?’ was one of his lines.

He always insisted that he was a teacher, not a leader, because “if you lose your leader, you’re leaderless and lost, but if you lose your teacher, maybe he taught you enough that you know how to keep going without him.” Well, he’s gone now, and, while I moved beyond Stephen and The Farm into Vajrayana Buddhism, he was the teacher who set me on the path, and I deeply appreciate him, for all his very human faults, and miss him, and am doing my best to keep manifesting his vision–creation of a sane, caring, sustainable society.  His life was a testimony to what one person can accomplish, starting from doing one little thing.stephenhead  His class of a dozen-thinned-down-to-six turned into a movement that altered, in a very good way, the lives of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people, moving them towards spiritual awareness, political and community activism, and more compassionate life choices.  The Farm, imperfect as it was, was an immersion course in a new, more open, trusting, and sharing paradigm, where, for a few years, at least,  compassion was paramount and money matters were peripheral.  I view my years on the Farm as a delicious taste of what life on Earth could be like for everyone, and I will always be grateful to Stephen for having dared to take the steps that created the reality we shared on The Farm.

stephen2I recently read something written by a woman who was born on the Farm, that expresses the reality of our daily lives so well that I asked her permission to reprint it here.

My understanding of what friendship is and means was developed on The Farm. The forever quality of those connections has molded my standard of what relationships mean. Being (brought up with lots of other kids) influenced my ability to cut straight to the chase and recognize genuine qualities in others, (enabling us to) bond in meaningful ways….. when we meet someone who is actually genuine, we appreciate it immediately. This is one of the most important things in my life and my moral code….always be genuine….. it isn’t always easy, kind, tactful, or convenient to be truly genuine with others, but it remains a goal….always on my horizons. …. that was one of the issues of integration into mainstream social interactions….I have had to (still have to) work at distinguishing between those situations when it is and isn’t useful or appropriate to expose the entirety of my self. Honestly, I’ve found that sometimes folks just can’t handle it….by ‘it,’ I mean the big picture perspective, or the honest-to-gosh truth about matters at hand. Sometimes people aren’t to be trusted with the entire package of truth the way (we spoke it on The Farm). They might not know what to do with it or how to integrate it or want to hear it. Sometimes it’s obvious that people don’t just want to be bothered with a genuine version of things, nor do they … care. I can think of several times when it would have saved me a lot of trouble if I had recognized falsity in what I thought was genuine…. As transplants, we have had to navigate through seas and oceans and bogs and jungles and deserts of social clues and insinuations, of customs and traditions, of unspoken rules for which people are held accountable.


There you have it, folks, from an independent witness. I’m not just making this up. Stephen’s one small step opened the door into a oldstephensaner world for thousands of people. Not every effort we make is going to pay off like his decision to start a class. In fact, it seems like most of our attempts don’t lead to much at all, and the same could be said of The Farm which, as a radical spiritual/political experiment, foundered in the early 80’s.

Whether this was purely the result of its internal difficulties or at least partially the result of government disruption of a group whose spokesman called for the reinvigoration of the movement that had ended the Vietnam War and toppled President Nixon is a question that may never be answered, one which I have dealt with in depth elsewhere. Even without The Farm as a flagship, the movement for a saner world continues to gather steam; but we are, it seems, still a long way from recreating the free, open ambience of that community in its heyday. Nevertheless, the overall lesson I find in Stephen’s life is that the mere possibility of success makes every attempt to make the world a better place worthwhile.

music:  Kate Wolf, “Brother Warrior

Grateful Dead, “Black Peter,” .”New Potato Caboose








66 responses

4 08 2014
David Jockusch

Thanks so much for this Martin. I am one who was and is moved by Stephen and The Farm. “If we love one another and care for one another, there is enough to go around.” was my intro. I sob as I type this.

4 08 2014

Thank you, David! It didn’t occur to me until I read the two pieces together on the air, but a lot of what Charles Eisenstein mourns as “no longer possible” is the kind of open, trusting community we had back then. “I put my fingers against the glass/And bowed my head/And cried.”–Bob Dylan, “St. Augustine”

6 08 2014

Martin: Some of my old college commune friends visited over the weekend and from them I learned Stephen had died a month ago. So I’ve been revisiting his books and those times in my life the past few days.

Though I was not part of Monday Night Class nor of the Farm, Stephen was my first teacher. I read his books over and over again until I had his voice in my head. He put things together in a way I found both compelling and right.

For years I thought I would eventually settle on the Farm, but I was young and wanted to see the world on my own, plus I wanted to pursue writing and computers. I had lived on a rural commune for a while and had seen how demanding that life was and how little time it left for such interests. Not to mention the broader context of Saving The World.

These days I’m a meat-eating conservative but I still honor Stephen and his influence, as well as you folks on the Farm. I’m certain you have all made a difference.


PS. I last posted here as Jack a few years ago. I’m calling myself JackSF for a less generic handle.

6 08 2014

Here’s a nice obituary of Stephen in the Telegraph, a conservative British paper with a reputation for its obituaries of remarkable, though not necessarily well-known, people.


9 08 2014

thanks, Jack–that is a sweet obituary!

9 08 2014

Thanks, Jack–I consider myself a conservative, too–we have only one small planet to live on, so we’d better conserve it for future generations!

10 08 2014

Well, to be clear I am a conservative of the right-wing Republican sort and I support politicians whom you have elsewhere, charmingly, called “sociopaths.”

While I agree we must conserve the earth, I don’t consider the planet nearly so fragile and limited as environmentalists believe. Furthermore, I am persuaded that current environmentalist policies tend to impoverish humanity, reduce freedom and encourage dishonest, corrupt, authoritarian governance.

IMO technology and capitalism have done more to raise the worldwide standard of living than environmentalism and spirituality. They’re often not pretty, but in the long-term they work.

Though I started as a student of Stephen and the Whole Earth Catalog, I came around to my position after years of observation, study and thought.

We share many of the same goals, but we disagree profoundly about the how the world works.

10 08 2014

On a lighter note … this weekend I got around to learning what happened to the Family Dog where Stephen gave the lectures transcribed in “Monday Night Class.” I’ve lived in San Francisco for years and driven up and down the Great Highway many times without seeing any building which seemed a likely candidate.

Turns out it was a building originally called the Ocean Beach Pavilion, which was built in the 1880s. Over the years it was remodeled as various music venues, a theme restaurant and even a slot car raceway, before being demolished in the early seventies.

The Family Dog was its next to last incarnation. The land has since reverted to greenery as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.


You wouldn’t know to look at Ocean Beach now but for much of the 20th century, it was San Francisco’s answer to Coney Island — a bustling beachside replete with restaurants, an amusement park, music venues and a huge indoor swimming pool up the hill — where thousands congregated on the weekends.

10 08 2014

First, some ground rules: I was on the debate team in high school. As I recall, each side made a statement, then each side got to respond to the other side’s statement, then each side got to make a short response to that, then over and out. That’s how I like to keep it: three rounds is about enough, less is OK. Just saying that in advance, before I launch into it….

Not that I expect to change your mind about any of this, but…

I obviously disagree very seriously with you about how fragile, not the planet, but the ecosystem on it that will support us,is, and from the various concrete measurements that scientists in a lot of different disciplines are taking, it looks like we are getting dangerously close to a tipping point, beyond which it will likely be a lot less friendly to the likes of us.

In a certain way you’re right about “environmentalist policies tend to impoverish humanity.” Some of us, myself included, are living way beyond our means, and we need to learn to enjoy ourselves more with less. Most of the people on the planet are a lot less wealthy than us Americans, and I think a “more ecological lifestyle” would actually mean a materially improved standard of living for them. It seems to help cut the birthrate!

As far as “reducing freedom,” etc., I personally am not impressed with changing peoples’ behavior from the outside, AKA authoritarianism. I think educating people so that they change from the inside works a lot better, and, in various places around the world where this has been tried, it seems to work pretty well. Again, educating people, especially women, seems to cut the birthrate.

The world will work the way it does, no matter how you or I think it will. That’s some of why I don’t see much sense in extended debates on the question!

10 08 2014

Thanks for the update! I’m glad to hear it’s been rewilded, or at least regreened–when I lived in SF, a friend of mine and I once sat on top of Potrero Hill and fantasized about tearing the city down and turning it back into natural countryside. Our dream is coming true, at least a little!

11 08 2014

Actually I’m not interested in debate and I made no arguments. I was simply laying out my position to be clear how my notion of conservativism is different from yours.

Red-blue debates are mostly useless these days — especially with a three-round rule. I know how many different forks in the road I’ve taken since I was young and mostly agreed with you and Stephen. Now we don’t agree on many facts nor on which facts are important nor an intellectual framework in which those facts are understood.

Unlike most people I know both sides of the red-blue divide from the inside reasonably well and I can see how each side keeps missing the points the other is making. Of course, I am currently persuaded conservatives have the better arguments, but I’ve changed my mind before and might again.

I am curious — assuming you aren’t entrenched in a belief that conservatives are “sociopaths” or suffer from some other deficiency — what you make of this divide and how we might nonetheless speak across it and find some manner of constructively engaging each other.

Many of my blue friends and blue communities ended their relationships with me when I started disagreeing with them. With those who remain, we have an understanding we will not discuss our differences any further.

Which seems sad to me — once upon a time I thought being liberal meant a generous and curious acceptance of such differences — but I’m not interested in losing any more friends and communities, so I’m content with that status quo.

I do wonder what it means for our country that we have become so polarized and separated that there is almost no temperate discussion across the divide. If you would like to compare notes on that, I’d be quite interested.

11 08 2014

In “Hey Beatnik!” I was intrigued by Stephen and the Farm’s efforts to get along with the citizens of Tennessee. I thought that was great, though I suspected the whole story was a bit more complicated. But whatever else might have happened, the Farm wasn’t burned down and the local police didn’t ceaselessly harass you into oblivion.

That spoke well of the Farm and of America.

BTW, there is a PDF version of “Hey Beatnik!” here:


I was grateful to find this. My copy of HB meant a lot to me, but was stolen a long time ago. Currently a used copy goes for $110 on Amazon.

13 08 2014

Yes, I would be very interested in following up on your comment, because the question, as you put it,

” I am curious — assuming you aren’t entrenched in a belief that conservatives are “sociopaths” or suffer from some other deficiency — what you make of this divide and how we might nonetheless speak across it and find some manner of constructively engaging each other…..I do wonder what it means for our country that we have become so polarized and separated that there is almost no temperate discussion across the divide. If you would like to compare notes on that, I’d be quite interested.”

is, I think, one of several that needs to be answered–and implemented–if complex life forms on the planet are to have a future. As I’ve turned this over in my mind since I first read it, I have come up with several different approaches, and I think I’m going to have to write them down to fully understand what they mean and where they lead. That’s not something I’m going to do right this moment, but appreciate your request as a call to organize my thoughts on the subject, including what I mean when I say “psychopath.” BTW, here’s an article in Forbes about the CEO-psychopath connection….http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2011/06/14/why-some-psychopaths-make-great-ceos/

Thanks again for the suggestion!

p.s….I was using “argument” in the debate sense, as in, “your view of the question.” I’m not interested in “arguing,” either!

13 08 2014

Thanks for the link!

14 08 2014

I was using “argument” in the debate sense as well.

My point is that red-blue debate is mostly useless because the two sides lack enough common ground to have a productive debate or argument. They too easily misunderstand each other.

In some cases the ground looks common but in fact the two sides understand the ground in different ways which are important.

Our current exchanges are a case in point as we blow past each other on the words: “conservative,” “debate,” and “argument.”

14 08 2014

I agree.

15 08 2014

My fantasy is that people spend much more time trying to understand each other then checking to see whether they really understand each other.

But that could take a college semester for one aspect of one issue. For most people it’s tough enough keeping up on basic current events.

However, the real problem IMO is that most people aren’t much interested in understanding the other side because they believe they already understand it well enough and they are more focused on defeating the other side ASAP because the other side is obviously, terribly wrong.

Jonathan Haidt is a psychologist who has made the only formal attempt I know of to study the red-blue divide outside a political framework. He sees the current problem in terms of conflicting value priorities of the two sides.

Here’s a good sample of his thinking from an excellent article:

Our task, then, is to organize society so that reason and intuition interact in healthy ways. Haidt’s research suggests several broad guidelines. First, we need to help citizens develop sympathetic relationships so that they seek to understand one another instead of using reason to parry opposing views. Second, we need to create time for contemplation. Research shows that two minutes of reflection on a good argument can change a person’s mind. Third, we need to break up our ideological segregation. From 1976 to 2008, the proportion of Americans living in highly partisan counties increased from 27 percent to 48 percent. The Internet exacerbates this problem by helping each user find evidence that supports his views.


I can imagine Stephen saying something like this, in his more colloquial way. That’s one thing I always appreciated about him: his ongoing effort to understand what goes on between people and how we could be more healthy together.

15 08 2014

AMEN! Stephen used to emphasize the importance of “coming to agreement,” of everybody understanding each other and the situation well enough so that the solution was obvious to everyone, and I think that’s ultimately the only way out of the quagmire-floating-over-the waterfall situation in which we find ourselves. The main thing it will take is a general willingness to participate and engage, and enough fluidity of mind all around so that everybody is willing to change their mind as appropriate. A tall order, perhaps, but considering the alternative….

18 08 2014

There’s a sort of Dear Abby column in the Village Voice these days in which Andrew W.K., a musician/entertainer, takes on questions from Voice readers. A recent column is titled “My Dad Is a Right-Wing A**hole.”


Andrew musters an impassioned response against lumping people into sides and condemning those on the wrong one.

Several commentators on conservative sites took notice of Andrew’s column and chimed in with similar thoughts. Peter Wehner, a Christian neoconservative who worked for the Reagan and both Bush adminstrations, today posted “Why We Dehumanize Political Opponents” in Commentary:

But where I think [Andrew W.K.] is on to something important is how many of us allow reasonable but pronounced political differences to dissolve human bonds. How politics and life are fairly complicated matters that we’re tempted to reduce to simplistic formulas. And how we often assume our vantage point is the only valid one and make very little effort to see things from the point of view of those with whom we most disagree. Andrew W.K. writes, “We cling to the hope that some day, if we really refine our world view and beliefs, we can actually find the fully correct way to think — the absolute truth and final side to stand on.”

This called to mind a recent conversation I had in which I found myself observing that there’s a crucial distinction that’s sometimes lost on me and among people whom I know, including those within my faith community.

It’s the distinction between believing in objective truth and believing we can fully apprehend and access it. As my friend put it, “I believe in objective truth, but I hold more lightly to our ability to perceive truth.” His wife added that she’s found we need to learn to live with greater humility, to live with open hands, faithfully seeking truth without constantly demanding certitude.


I think liberals and conservatives could talk across the divide much more if they would ease up on their need for certainty and bring a little more humility to the table.

19 08 2014

Good points. I am looking forward to putting my own response to your question, but meanwhile, we are in the crunch period for getting the rebuild of our house started in time to get it dried in before winter is too far along, and I’m having to concentrate on that.

In case you haven’t kept up with some of the back blogposts here, our uninsured, uninsurable house burned down last April, and it has taken this long to pull the planning and financing together. Meanwhile, we have been camping out on our land, which is fun, but kind of time-consuming compared to living in a house. Nevertheless writing, like playing music, is one of those things I just have to stop everything and do from time to time, so I’m reasonably certain I will respond by mid-September.

19 08 2014

Sorry to hear about your house. Respond as best works for you. Here’s to being “home and dry” before winter!

24 08 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch


I came across your site here looking for some background on “the Farm” and its origins and especially its transition (maturation or degeneration?) from Gaskin and inclusion to Bates and relative exclusivity with the hope of gaining some insight into what it truly was and what it has truly become. You allude to the possibilities of internal and external influences which I am particularly curious about. If you could direct me to where you have dealt with this in depth elsewhere so that I may read it I would be grateful.

As some explanation – I am someone not unlike yourself feeling and in 10+ plus years of adult life I suppose demonstrating “the society I was expected to enter on adulthood was not the society I wanted to live in.” The comparison with sexuality is interesting and not one which would have occurred to me so thank you for that. My interest in “the Farm” was related to my search for some type of guru/mentor/teachers and some type of right livelihood and perhaps it is serendipitous that I am now reading your work.

Because I can’t resist after reading the comments briefly weighing in on this “debate” (or whatever term you and JackSF are individually comfortable with, haha) over “red/blue” (which I normally just roll me eyes at). I am not sure if this is a generational gap between us (although its hard to imagine that 2 experienced, thinking men or for that matter anyone who remotely cares can not be aware of this) but politics is a joke.

The major parties exist to give the illusion of choice and change where there is little or none. It is fairly obvious that there is a continuity of direction and agenda regardless of who is the front man. It is also fairly obvious that moneyed interests dominate politicians and political decisions. It is further obvious that the political system was created to protect a moneyed minority from the “tyranny of the majority.”

The conservative and liberal “ideologies” are simple tools for dividing the common person and rallying him/her behind an overall interest which is not truly their own. Most of the sources of division are over matters of very little importance to our collective interest. A culture of division now exists but it is almost totally artificial ideologically (and as I assume we can agree division is totally artificial spiritually and/or scientifically) . We all want to live in peace and not suffer unnecessarily and we all value the natural world (we are of and dependent upon it).

“While I agree we must conserve the earth, I don’t consider the planet nearly so fragile and limited as environmentalists believe. Furthermore, I am persuaded that current environmentalist policies tend to impoverish humanity, reduce freedom and encourage dishonest, corrupt, authoritarian governance.” – Jack SF

I don’t necessarily believe in human caused global warming and recognize the political/business promoted version of this and definition and agenda of sustainable and green to be pretty much a scam, however your second sentence is quite the leap from in my opinion dangerous and flawed logic.

I assume by “current environmentalists” you are referring to political policymakers and stooges co-opting “environmentalism” to promote themselves and/or the agendas of business as usual (i.e. false environmentalists) and not tribes deep in the Amazon living in harmony with nature as they have for millennia (i.e. true environmentalists). Further your claim that the work of even the grayer, less (than Amazonian) pure environmentalists as individuals or groups at grassroots levels but uncorrupted by the inevitably more corrupted large moneyed organizations “tend to impoverish humanity, reduce freedom and encourage dishonest, corrupt, authoritarian governance” is dubious, if not absurd, and relative to the alternative policies of corporate/”anti-environmentalists” (whose propaganda incidentally is the source of “your” argument) is certainly absurd.

Of course so called “environmentalists” and “environmentalist policies” do work to impoverish humanity, reduce freedom…etc. but those are “so called” or in other words a wolf in sheep’s clothing which the NGO community is full of. To put it simply: A wolf in sheep’s clothing is still a wolf and not a factual basis for condemning the actions of sheep or sheep in general.

IMO technology and capitalism have done more to raise the worldwide standard of living than environmentalism and spirituality. They’re often not pretty, but in the long-term they work. -JackSF

This, in my opinion, is also an overly simplified and dangerous generalization. First of all, technology and capitalism are rooted and built upon some form of environmentalism and spirituality and therefore their contributions to worldwide standard of living (FOR HUMANS) can not be separated from environmentalism and spirituality. Secondly, finitely raising the worldwide standard of living is relatively worthless and arguably increases the capacity for worldwide suffering if it can not be sustained. Finally, nature (the environment) is pretty and is the only thing that has raised humanity and sustains humanity in any and all terms while high technology and capitalism have by no means been proven to work in any term. We are now arguably entering the stage of limits and decline whether you believe this to be true or not the era of high technology and capitalism (which I assume you mean as something stretching from the relatively recent renaissance period of 500 years ago or the even more recently arisen periods of industrialism, fossil fuels and technological explosion) is nothing in the scheme of human history therefore unproven as a long-term culture.

I rarely get involved in this debate and never on the internet. I’m not sure why I am today. Perhaps the two of you are special or particularly interesting to me in some way. I hope i could offer some insight and I hope to gain some in return and that my tone has been one of respect for my elders. As mentioned I am searching for my place in the world and as of yet utterly helpless to apply my abilities towards the success you both have achieved in that way and could use help in most forms.

25 08 2014

Ben–I guess you must not “debate this on the internet” very often–you’ve produced a blog post of your own down here in the comments section! :-) Most of your questions seem to be directed to my old classmate Jack, but here’s the answers to the ones that you seem to want me to address: for more info on possible subversion of The Farm, check out my posts “Edward Snowden and The Farm,pts. 1 and 2.”

As for getting anything done through conventional politics, I long ago abandoned the Democrats for the Green Party. (This blog is a compendium of essays I have read on a community radio station here in Nashville over the last nine years.) I don’t have a lot of hope for the political process, but it’s a platform from which to speak. At some point in my life, I decided I had to do my best to tell, and live, the truth whether it seemed to be making a difference in anybody else’s life or not. It makes it so I can look at myself in the mirror, look my friends in the eye, and sleep well at night, and those things are, I think, what’s important. Can’t be attached to influencing others, or saving the world. I do all I can, and it will do what it does.

26 08 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch

Thanks for the response.

I have since read “…Snowden and The Farm, pts. 1 & 2” which is interesting and informative stuff both specific to The Farm and otherwise. I have also read and enjoyed some of your other posts and gleaned a little more info on The Farm, old and new. For selfish reasons, I wish you named a few more names at The Farm and otherwise but I understand why you haven’t publicly.

I would say subversion is relatively certain based off of recent history. Your first hand experiences make an even greater case. Then of course we also live in a culture of propaganda and subconscious subversion, so in that sense it is absolutely certain.

At this point I am curious, among other things, as to whether the “new farm” is: 1. simply a watered down and amended to be acceptable to power, member of the hippie and/or green elite, interested largely or primarily in self aggrandizement and/or material gain; 2. the same as #1 but with the purpose of continuing with many of its original altruistic goals or; 3. was not only subverted but then co-opted for a whole different purpose (it was my curiosity about #3 in particular in relation to some questions that have arisen in my mind in the very limited knowledge I have of the new farm and a little bit of also very limited correspondence I have had with one of their big shots that led me to dig deeper and how i found you).

In relation to politics after hitting send I wished I had amended my statement to “red/blue party politics is a joke”. I would also add that you have certainly made a difference in my life by simply telling your story and entertained me at the same time. I will gladly read more.

26 08 2014

Thanks! I didn’t name names because all I am doing is speculating, and I can’t prove anything, just note that the circumstantial evidence is compelling. As to what “The New Farm” is, I’d say someplace in the neighborhood of 1 and 2.

26 08 2014

Ben: Greetings!

Your comments directed to me are rather a lot to respond to and, as I said earlier, I’m not looking to debate here. Also I don’t want to get too far afield from Stephen Gaskin, the honored subject of this post, nor do I wish to take up too much of Martin’s blog with my own ramblings.

I returned here on the occasion of Stephen’s death. His books were a big part of who I was as a young man in the seventies. If things had worked out differently, I might have ended up living on the Farm. However, I took other paths and came to other ways of seeing the world.

Nonetheless, I find I still respond to Stephen’s writing even though today I disagree with much of what he said politically. I’m looking to see how I might coexist with my younger self, as well as Martin, and now you, Ben.

My question is how do the three of us, for a start, engage at all. You roll your eyes at my concerns about red-blue. Martin generalizes about “Republican sociopaths.” Where do we even begin?

I like the way Stephen often directed attention to what we share — our belly buttons and our monkeyness. That doesn’t resolve the often real differences but it provides a context that includes everyone.

29 08 2014

For anyone wandering into this thread curious about Stephen, I do recommend his first book, “Monday Night Class.”

Brother Martin was in the right place and the right time (San Francisco/late sixties) to attend Stephen’s Monday Night Class in person. The transcripts of those classes were gathered into a slim volume with a mesmerizing cover — no words, just an octagonal Op Art mandala balanced on a vertex against a vibrant field of ultramarine blue. The book’s text was printed in purple ink on cream-colored paper.

I had never seen a book like that. I found it in my college commune library and fell into it like Alice down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.

The Class was just Stephen riffing on whatever was on his mind that week, often enough from his latest acid trip, then fielding questions from the audience in his friendly beatnik/polymath way.

It could be crazy stuff, but it still made good, spiritual commonsense. Stephen was no Charlie Manson or even Timothy Leary. He invited you to examine his claims critically. No small part of his teaching was to beware of having your mind copped by some fast-talker offering seduction or intimidation.

Monday Night Class was the crucible which forged Stephen and his students into a body which would tour the USA in a caravan of buses (covered in Stephen’s following book of transcripts titled “The Caravan”) and then start The Farm in Tennessee.

Today, hippies are the punchline to an amiable national joke about Boomers. I get it. Our excesses were obvious and silly. But if you were there and it touched you hard and indelibly, you know it went beyond the long hair, drugs and rock’n’roll to something deeper.

“Monday Night Class” is a primary source for understanding that era.

30 08 2014

Thanks, Jack, for both of these posts. I have had to focus my attention elsewhere, but, as promised, I will be writing about this, week after next. I really appreciate what you’ve said here, and I promise to help you understand better where I’m coming from with “Republican sociopaths.” For openers, I’m not blaming Republicans (like my father and father in law) for their political views. We’re all largely products of our environment.

And I’m gonna have to double check and see if I really made a blanket statement or was just referring to some CEOs…but..my mouth does get out ahead of my mind at times!

31 08 2014

Martin: Glad you appreciated my last two comments. They were from the heart. My hippie heritage, such as it is, remains an important part of me. It might amuse you to hear I have stood up to conservatives for hippie-punching.

I don’t regret my time as a hippie. Though the experiment failed in many respects, it was still necessary, I believe, and moved the world in important ways.

Human evolution is a long song.


You didn’t say 100% of all Republicans are sociopaths all of the time. You qualified the claim in various ways. It was still a pretty broad and nasty brush you were painting with.

* “Republicans may be sociopaths…”

* “…Republican sociopath counterparts”

* “…unlike Republicans, who tend to be sociopaths”

* “One major party, the Republicans, is largely sociopathic…”

* “Obushma and Biden are not a sociopath-and-his-bitch team like Cheney and Dubya.”

Google: “republican sociopaths site:https://brothermartin.wordpress.com/

1 09 2014

thanks for doing my homework for me :-) I promise to put my comments in their proper perspective next week when I write for my radio show on the 15th.

When I did a search for “Republican Sociopaths site,” I didn’t get my website, at least on the first page, but I got plenty of results. The first three:

Tea Party Republicans Fit The Mayo Clinic’s Description of …
planetpov.com › 2013/10/17 › tea-party-republicans-fit-the-mayo-clinic…

Republican Sociopaths’ Profile – Daily Kos
http://www.dailykos.com › story › 2013/05/09 ›
Daily Kos
May 9, 2013 – The Republican Party has bullied its way to power on numerous occasions. … doesn’t matter to the Republican Sociopaths because their intrinsic nature is
Rating: 9.8/10 – ‎5 votes
Oct 17, 2013 – Also consider how many of these traits were apparent in the GOP’s 2012 … The sociopathic hatred of women and minorities has been a .

Why the GOP is the Party of Choice for Sociopaths and …
http://www.politicususa.com › 2012/06/06 › gop-party-choice-sociopaths-psyc…
Jun 6, 2012 – The Republican Party has become the party of choice for sociopaths and psychopaths. By now it should be more than obvious why this is true.

So it ain’t just me, it’s the Mayo clinic, at least according to some people. More on this later!

(not sure why this looks so funny…it’s the first time I’ve cut and pasted from a search engine,though.)

1 09 2014

Martin: As Stephen once said, “Brush twice a day and check for head cop once a week.”

The Mayo Clinic simply offers a symptom checklist for Antisocial Personality Disorder. The Clinic says nothing about the Tea Partiers or Republicans.

Then other people, specifically those ill-disposed to the Tea Party and Republicans, decided that Tea Partiers and Republicans matched those symptoms. Gosh. I’m sure they were perfectly objective in reaching those assessments.

There are conservative polemicists who make similar attacks. Ann Coulter comes to mind — specifically her books about liberals: “Treason,” “Godless,” “Demonic” and “Mugged.” To her audience, those charges are dead-bang on. Personally I find Ann Coulter more persuasive than the Daily Kos.

It’s convenient to believe your political opponents are not just wrong, they must suffer from mental illness or moral deficiency. It saves a lot of time in trying to understand your opponents and engage their arguments. It also allows you to skip quickly to the fun part: feeling self-righteous and superior.

Both sides do this. I understand the dynamic, but I don’t think it’s constructive.

Do you?

BTW, Ann Coulter is a big fan of the Grateful Dead and even met with the band once. She has some silly idea that the Dead are about freedom and she likes that.


2 09 2014

Wanna write some about why you find Ann Coulter more persuasive than Daily Kos? (Some of my friends claim Kos is a CIA front?!)

Also, you said a while back that you thought in general that those who call themselves “conservatives” had better answers…care to tell me more about that?

I have an answer to your questions in preparation, but I want to give it some time to ripen, which I didn’t do with the search results i posted that you found so offensive.

2 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch


“Your comments directed to me are rather a lot to respond to and, as I said earlier, I’m not looking to debate here. Also I don’t want to get too far afield from Stephen Gaskin, the honored subject of this post, nor do I wish to take up too much of Martin’s blog with my own ramblings.”

Fair enough. I will take you at your word. (Mostly because it doesn’t matter whether this sounds to me like a convenient excuse to ignore facts that might upset your apparently firm beliefs and seems to run counter to your comments before and since, or not.)

In regards to your “question” of how we engage, I would say that your comments which I have quoted above are far from engaging. Perhaps we have a different dictionary or understanding of the word engage in this context. To me we have engaged and could engage further were one of us not avoiding it.

Quite honestly, as crazy as this may seem to you (not saying it does but I would suspect it might), I would love for you to turn my facts upside down or put them into broader perspective, blow my mind, and expand my consciousness – if that means I see the Koch brothers as gods on earth and the Tea Party convention as Shambhala then so be it. I wouldn’t be wasting my time here if I wasn’t at very least open to growth. If nothing else I very much want to understand you. Why you believe what you do – Is it based on logic and if so explain it? Is it based on intuition or faith? Etc.

Admittedly, I know little about Stephen Gaskin especially relative to you and Martin. I am learning some. I mean no disrespect to anyone living or dead. As stated the only reason I am commenting is in the hope of learning.

If my comments are not welcome, inconvenient, too much, annoying or in any other way objectionable please don’t respond and that is the last you will hear from me. Sincere apologies as well if this is the case.

2 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch

PS Jack,

To clarify or specify, I personally am intensely curious how your reverence for Stephen and as Martin calls it his “stripped down hippie zen” and the old farm are a foundation for your current politics. What influences and circumstances since your reading of Stephen’s ideas have lead you down such a seemingly, radically different path than Martin? Is it a question of different interpretations of Stephen’s thoughts? I would love to read your thoughts on this. From my perspective it is incredibly interesting (after reading Martin’s post above and others and your comments on Stephen) how the two of you have both been greatly influenced by Stephen’s ideas or his take on older ideas and have carried that with you to such seemingly radically different places. Perhaps would make an interesting collaborative post?

3 09 2014

I mostly find Ann Coulter more persuasive because I find the conservative worldview more persuasive than the liberal/leftist view found in the Daily Kos.

My point in mentioning Coulter was not to debate her superiority to the Daily Kos — that’s a very, very long discussion — but to underline, again, that I see things quite differently than you and most of your readers.

Assuming I’ve established my bona fides as a somewhat reasonable person in this forum, perhaps you might reconsider your position that people in my camp are, to whatever degree, sociopaths, or sociopathic, or otherwise mentally ill.

Just because you and I disagree strongly doesn’t mean that one of us must be mentally ill. But that’s the position, one way or another, in which I keep finding myself with my liberal/leftist friends.

I don’t see how we can have much of a conversation on that basis.

3 09 2014

I found the full Stephen quote in the Rockin’ Jody Morningstar chapter of “Amazing Dope Tales”:

I began to teach out loud, that there was such a thing as head cop, and that you could get your head copped, and that you ought to be sure you weren’t getting your head copped, and that you ought to know what the symptoms of head cop were. See your dentist twice a year and brush every day about head cop.

Rockin’ Jody was one of Stephen’s early tripping companions. Eventually Stephen came to realize Jody was psychologically manipulative to the point Stephen felt compelled to break off the relationship in order “to come out of it owning [his] own gourd.”

4 09 2014

This conversation is, I believe, very much in the spirit of Stephen Gaskin, who strongly believed that, by open, honest dialogue, people could arrive at a common understanding of “the truth.”

4 09 2014

Ben and I are both very interested in why you find “the conservative worldview more persuasive. And, just for the record, from my perspective, Daily Kos is more centrist than “leftist.” “Left” and “right” are terms that, for me, are increasingly irrelevant.

4 09 2014

And let’s not forget the end of that story, where Stephen recounts that Rockn’ Jody squared up and became “a shadow of his former self,” and didn’t seem to realize what he had lost….just sayin’…..

5 09 2014

Ben: By engage I mean interact constructively.

So far I gather that you and Martin have very different notions of right/left and red/blue from my understanding and what those may mean.

Martin is on record that Republicans are to some significant degree sociopaths, making me either a sociopath, a dupe of sociopaths, or a confederate of sociopaths.

It’s like we speak different languages and may not respect each other’s good faith or even mental health.

That’s not promising for constructive engagement. Furthermore, it strikes me as a microcosm of the misunderstanding and distrust found at the national level.

So, rather than plunge into a debate of Ann Coulter’s superiority to the Daily Kos or some such, I’d like to step back and find out what we do agree upon — even if it’s to agree about what we disagree about — and proceed carefully and respectfully from there.

5 09 2014

Ben: My divergence from Stephen and Martin isn’t a matter of different interpretations, but of a radically different understanding of the world.

I don’t believe a world of voluntary peasants is necessary or even workable. I don’t believe human nature changes much. I don’t believe the earth is on the verge of ecological collapse. I am not a pacifist. I think war or the threat of war is sometimes necessary. Similar to democracy, I think capitalism is the worst economic system except for all the others. I think technology is the way forward and is steadily raising the standard of living worldwide. I think most leftist efforts to transform society trade minor gains for major unintended consequences.

Martin: Those should be good clues why I find the conservative worldview more persuasive.

That said, I appreciate Stephen’s insight that “Attention is energy” and I respect his devotion to truth, free thinking, compassion and spirit. He also had a great sense of humor and could write well when he wanted. I’m grateful he handled his power as graciously as he did.

Even though I consider Stephen mistaken about many things, I’m still glad he made his contribution. I don’t believe I’m right about everything or even most things. I believe we make progress as we all put forth good, sincere effort. Stephen was a great example.

6 09 2014

Thanks for the response–reply is in gestation

10 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch


Without offending you I hope, I still have to question whether you are making a “good, sincere effort” to “interact constructively.” From my perspective it seems that you are inclined to make rather broad statements with very little supporting evidence. I challenged several of your statements and you have avoided responding. I have to again question why this is.

As you mentioned microcosms… one could semi-reasonably draw some parallels between the methods of your party and its owners in big business and your evasive refusal to support your claims with evidence and refusal to address evidence which invalidates your claims in favor of shifting attention to something less significant (sociopaths) or indirectly discrediting your critics (“out of respect for Stephen”) while attempting to maintain an absurd air of innocence, pragmatism, and altruism (an impartial logician concerned with the good of all people) while attempting to frame your critics as venomous attackers, uninterested in unity and incapable of constructive engagement.

“I think most leftist (read as “un-american” ,”commie”, “traitor”, “dangerous”, etc.) efforts to transform society trade minor gains for major unintended consequences.” (read we are like children unable to see the big picture – we want to put water on a grease fire – we immature idealists – etc.)

Of course you offer no evidence to support what could be read as veiled attack. Assuming this isn’t a veiled attack it is again in line with your previous statements: dubious but made as though it is so logical, such a matter of common sense fact that it need no further explanations. These statements reflect a worldview that is not inline with the ideals of cooperation and mutual understanding which, correct me if I am wrong, would be prerequisites for constructive engagement unless of course you are only looking to engage people in a subservient way.

Way up at the top Martin and I both responded to challenge your statements. If you have something to offer us why not respond? We speak the same language – English – and I assume your views are based on information and reason.

11 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch


My comments above are a bit harsh and probably to a degree unfair. It is rather frustrating when one is genuinely trying to engage and is met with reluctance which almost amounts to refusal. I understand your reluctance, in fact I share it, yet here we are for some reason. You make some valid points. Especially these:

“However, the real problem IMO is that most people aren’t much interested in understanding the other side because they believe they already understand it well enough and they are more focused on defeating the other side ASAP because the other side is obviously, terribly wrong.”
“It’s convenient to believe your political opponents are not just wrong, they must suffer from mental illness or moral deficiency. It saves a lot of time in trying to understand your opponents and engage their arguments. It also allows you to skip quickly to the fun part: feeling self-righteous and superior.”

Personally the “fun part” for me has nothing to do with self-righteousness, superiority or any sense of victory but is as I have mentioned above the possibility, and dare I hope the eventuality, of my intellect or consciousness being expanded.

Can we agree on this?

“Real conversation is never a compromise. Something dies in a compromise, but in a conversation something new is born. It is in this something, this ‘spirit of conversation’, that the universal and uniquely particular are fused into a work of art. As with design conversations with clients, what arises is better and more appropriate than either of us could have done on our own. Appropriate is a key word. Things are only appropriate if they meet the needs of the circumstance – and there are many needs: the surroundings, the wider community, the health of the earth, all have needs as well as those of the building users.” – Christopher Day

I read this today and I think it is a reasonable and agreeable starting point for what you seek. This is written in the context of design, specifically architectural design. It occurs to me and I assume we can agree that politics and government are essentially a field of design and that our government and political parties/ideologies could be easily viewed as the “building” mentioned in the final sentence of the quote. I might go further to say the moneyed elite controllers of government that I mentioned above constitute the “building users” in that sentence.

I am genuinely in search of that “something new” that is born. This is my purpose in responding to your comments. Let me begin again with some questions…

“IMO technology and capitalism have done more to raise the worldwide standard of living than environmentalism and spirituality. They’re often not pretty, but in the long-term they work.” -JSF

How are you defining “standard of living”?
You say “they work”, what does working mean in this context?
Can you offer some examples or explanation?

“We share many of the same goals, but we disagree profoundly about the how the world works.”

How does the world work? or where do we disagree profoundly?

“Now we don’t agree on many facts nor on which facts are important nor an intellectual framework in which those facts are understood.”

I don’t follow you here except the part about which facts are important.
Fact is fact right?
What do you mean by intellectual framework? or What is your intellectual framework?

“Unlike most people I know both sides of the red-blue divide from the inside reasonably well and I can see how each side keeps missing the points the other is making. Of course, I am currently persuaded conservatives have the better arguments, but I’ve changed my mind before and might again.”

What conservative arguments do you find better?

“So far I gather that you and Martin have very different notions of right/left and red/blue from my understanding and what those may mean.”

What are your notions of right/left and red/blue? What may they mean?

“I don’t believe a world of voluntary peasants is necessary or even workable.”

Define peasant in your mind? Does the term have a negative connotation to you? and/or imply a sacrifice?

Why do you believe such a world is not workable?

“I don’t believe the earth is on the verge of ecological collapse.”

What do you believe about ecology and the environmental state?

“I am not a pacifist. I think war or the threat of war is sometimes necessary.”

Which 20th century U.S. wars do you think were necessary and why?

“Similar to democracy, I think capitalism is the worst economic system except for all the others.”


“I think technology is the way forward and is steadily raising the standard of living worldwide.”

Define “way forward” and “standard of living”. Explain.

“I think most leftist efforts to transform society trade minor gains for major unintended consequences.”

Define “leftist efforts to transform society”.
Can you offer an example?

It occurs to me that I would have been wise to start with some questions. My initial response to your comments probably came off as not wanting to understand you although let me assure that this was not my intention. My hope was that you would (considering you have said that you have put considerable thought into your current position) have already considered my challenges and be able to offer some insight. For the record I have put considerable thought into your ideas so I am not dismissing them or challenging them from any other less genuine or considered place.

It is interesting to me what little I know of your road. It seems in some ways our lives in terms of ideology have perhaps been opposite. I was born in the early 80’s. My parents had hippie leanings but i grew up in suburbia not on a commune. In my generation hippies were not cool both because frequently they were our aging parents and teachers and because the propaganda and stereotypes of hippies as naive, lame, burnt out druggies who failed in their revolution were very powerful as was the lure of consumerism. The “hippies” of my own generation are mostly a bunch of posers and misfit fashionistas who think the movement was about drugs and music and who find it wise to put a sign on that says “arrest me for possession”. When I was 17 it was cool to be rich, powerful, ego-maniacal and heartless – the time of MTV cribs, gangsta rap, and dot com money. You wanted to be a hippie where as I wanted to be a rich lawyer. Like you I have gone in the opposite direction since but I still understand if not respect the “other side”.

For instance I find the “war on terror” as presented to the public as utterly ridiculous but I can understand the neo-con logic that places great strategic value on the control of middle eastern oil as the font of global military dominance. I no longer agree with the logic and never agreed with the plan but there is certainly a form of logic to it. I don’t subscribe to the belief that those in real power are stupid in the bumbling, simpleton sense.

As stated, I don’t have all the answers or really any of the answers. I am not good at denying the truth or ignoring doubts that creep into my mind. I hope this can assure you that I am sincere and looking to engage constructively.

Thanks for reading.

12 09 2014


That’s a whole lot of mindreading, accusations, and putting words into my mouth. Furthermore, you don’t seem to be hearing what I have actually said.

I have written about a million words online since 2000, much of that about politics. I’m not interested in peeling off another five or ten thousands words rehashing the Iraq War, climate change, Bush, Obama or what have you. My observation, as I’ve said repeatedly, is that those discussions don’t go anywhere because of the deeper disagreements between the sides.

That catalog of my beliefs and opinions was not meant as an attack but as a clarification of where I’m likely to disagree with you and Martin and why, since you both demanded it, I find Coulter more persuasive than the Daily Kos. I did not present that list as supported arguments.

You consider my respect for Stephen in this topic as an evasion for the debate you want to have. So be it. However, Stephen does matter to me and I would like to have more discussion of him here, in the topic Martin set up to honor Stephen and the possibility he represented.

If you want to have yet another standard political thrash, you won’t get that from me.

12 09 2014

On a lighter note, here’s a link to a gallery web page showing the beautiful mandala used on some of Stephen’s books. The link then segues into the artist’s other mandala paintings. You can buy museum quality prints at very reasonable prices.

Remarkable stuff. Clearly part of the Op Art movement led by Victor Vasarely as well as the ancient tradition of mandalas.


12 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch

One more chapter for my book here…

“I think technology is the way forward and is steadily raising the standard of living worldwide. I think most leftist efforts to transform society trade minor gains for major unintended consequences.”

My apologies for dominating this commentary for the moment. I have to respond to this. I am tempted to challenge this “standard of living” bit again in detail but I will refrain and let my previous comments mostly stand for the time being. I also off the top of my head would think that scientific breakthroughs and inventions of technologies tend to come from people, at the time at least, deemed leftist or the previous term heretical. Given my thoughts on some of these technologies I could agree with the second sentence but then obviously not the first.

For the purposes of my response I don’t consider the “far right” to be “conservative.” I think Martin is correct in his usage and that he and I are conservative on the basis of conserving the planet and its resources and on the basis of simple living and ancient wisdom. To me the “right” is perhaps better described as “preservative” of wealth and power in the hands of an elite class and very liberal in its methods. The “right” to me is big business and big actions of which the democrats and republicans are different sides of the same coin in serving (a coin in the pocket of).

Prior to great age of industrial technology we humble individuals had very little power to create major consequences. We needed collective action and since we were like everybody else there were checks and balances from every person considering cooperation. Now thanks to technology the individual can do considerable damage. He can pile up an acre of land with tires, douse with chemicals and set on fire for instance or pour a few barrels of chemicals into a storm drain or into the ground above a water source or rent a bulldozer and lay waste to a sensitive habitat…etc….etc.

Now some rightist (i’ve never heard the term and it sounds funny doesn’t it? quite interesting) efforts and consequences (as it is debatable i wont speculate as to whether the consequences are unintended or not): Ecological crisis, climate change etc. if you believe in it is the crown jewel of consequences; Fukushima; suburbia and inner cities; the rust belt and my home, Detroit; DDT; Fracking; wars from Iraq and Afghanistan to Vietnam to World Wars perhaps all wars; industrial agriculture. I could go on and on and on with examples these are just a few across a range of arenas and scales.

14 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch


If nothing else the record speaks for itself and I have I think thoroughly called your bluff at this point. I hoped it wasn’t a bluff but i’m not surprised that it apparently is. Your latest comments again for the thinking person are right in line with the observations I have made about you.

“You consider my respect for Stephen in this topic as an evasion for the debate you want to have.”

I never said that. Nor did I say I wanted to have a “debate”.

“However, Stephen does matter to me and I would like to have more discussion of him here”

Look at what I did say and see how this is another example. You obviously imply Stephen doesn’t matter to me. Again i have never said that and in fact I have said the opposite.

I also never said anything (let alone “demanded”) about Ann or Kos. I don’t know thing one about either nor do I care.

It was you who started the political talk. Martin made a brief friendly, lighthearted response. You used that to launch into an attack on Martin about sociopaths and to lay out some corporate anti-environmental propaganda and then what could be easily read as very disrespectful to Steven:

“Though I started as a student of Stephen and the Whole Earth Catalog, I came around to my position after years of observation, study and thought.”

Implying to the casual reader that years of observation, study and thought will logically lead one to your positions and away from Stephen’s.

I will let you get back to discussing Stephen (if that is in fact your agenda) with a bit of advice.

If you want to have a discussion about Stephen and not a “political thrash” (whatever that means) you would be wise to:
1. keep your irrelevant unsupported corporate propaganda political “truths” to yourself especially on a web site titled “Deep Green Perspective”;
2. stop repeatedly questioning people (“My question is how do the three of us, for a start, engage at all.” etc.) and implying that you wish to constructively engage.

Again the record here speaks for itself for anyone who cares to read it. I would caution the casual reader to pay close attention to JackSF’s words as they seem to be designed to mislead.

If you want to talk Stephen, then talk Stephen and leave the rest out. If you don’t want my responses then don’t attempt to slander me with innuendo or encourage the destruction of the planet and its peoples by presenting dangerous unsupported corporate “truth”.

Best Wishes,



14 09 2014

Ben: I understand we disagree about technology and the proper usage of terms like “right,” “far right” and “conservative,” and all the problems you attribute to technology and rightist politics. I get it.

My question is where do we go from here? It’s not like I don’t understand where you are coming from. I was a committed leftist for most of my adult life. I read through about 15 feet of Chomsky and other progressive writers. For years I regularly marched down Market Street and outside the SF Federal Building and Lawrence Livermore Labs.

But I don’t see things that way anymore and it’s not because I got hit over the head and woke up as some guy who blindly voted for George W. Bush. I thought through all of it and came to new conclusions.

Now I sit across from someone like you who is not much different from who I was twelve years ago and I don’t know what to say or how to even start.

15 09 2014

I think it’s healthy for us to listen to/read each others’ rants and accept them as genuine expressions. A lot of people, in my observation, become more conservative as they age. I think it was Winston Churchill, a widely-well-regarded conservative, who said, “If you’re not a radical when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative when you’re 50, you have no brain,” or something to that effect. Well, I have a different definition of “conservative” from most people, but I’d say I’m following that trajectory, in my own peculiar way. I still appreciate Noam Chomsky, but I think he, and I,and the whole movement that “conservatives” (who are actually, for the most part, “reactionaries” rather than “conservatives”[look it up]) consider “leftist” are the real conservatives these days, trying to conserve the Earth as a habitable planet in the face of corporate efforts to maximize profits, no matter what the consequences. We are “radical conservatives,” seeking solutions that go to the root of the problems facing the planet, rather than short-term fixes. Gotta go, cookin’ dinner!

15 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch


So you don’t want to talk about Stephen now? I’m confused. It seems like when its time to explain yourself you claim you want to talk Stephen. Then you want to come back with more vague questions.

“My question is where do we go from here?”

“I thought through all of it and came to new conclusions.”

Where do we go from here? First I would need to know where we are. What is the “here” you speak of. I understand you don’t want to “peel off thousands of words” (though you seem to have wasted a lot of words here still the same). What are the new conclusions you speak of? What is the justification for the new conclusions? It is impossible to know where we go if I don’t know where we are. I know where I am. I know where Martin is. Where are you? Go back and answer any of the numerous questions I have asked you. Give us some idea of why you believe what you do – some proof of “intellectual life” if you will. Or if you can’t or won’t do that, then answer your own question, where do we go from here?

A musical break here for Gang Starr’s “Put up or shut up”

You may want to stop assuming that you know where I am coming from. I don’t consider myself a “leftist” and I don’t march and never have. I’ve read some Chomsky (maybe 1 ft., years back) but i’m not a devotee. I’m not looking for a “political thrash” (at least i don’t think so – i guess I cant be sure because I don’t know what that means) or to rehash Bush/Obama, etc. I’m just a thinking man with a conscience trying to understand, get by in and get beyond this world (not in that order but rather all at once).

16 09 2014

Ben: Congratulations! You have crushed me like a grape. It’s Miller time. Sit back, put your feet up, pop a cold one and celebrate.

Martin: Aside from surrendering to the need to floss daily and set up automatic bill pay, conservatism didn’t creep up on me with age. I did a full 180 in about fifteen months.

16 09 2014

As promised, I’m sitting with your other comment, but this one doesn’t need a considered response! Me, I’ve been flossing daily for decades, and some of my bills are on autopay. Hmm…who knows where I’ll be at, politically by the end of 2015? :-)

16 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch


Ha. If only I was a drinker.

A little more seriously, it is you who have won. The suspense is killing me.

I guess I will have to forever wonder whether you are just an average idiot, a mediocre psy-operator, or an arrogant political genius unwilling to share your wisdom with little old me (if only I had done something different). Maybe a pervert, getting off on my attention? Or who knows. you see what I mean?

I guess my best hope is that this is a pre-promotion or trial for some leftist self help materials you will soon be releasing, so finally I can get some answers from you and maybe even start my 18 month path to liberation (or conservation? neither sounds quite right – you may have to work on that part of the pitch).

“Still lookin’ for that blue jean…”,

To All,

Its somewhat amazing and/or incredible to me that someone could be an informed, considered and long time committed leftist and then become a committed Republican (or vice versa). Hear me out… everything on one side is right and then suddenly (or gradually) everything on the other side is right? The only way I can wrap my mind around this is if the person is more concerned with being on a side than with actual issues, has a great need to be on a side or if the person has a massive epiphany (the latter would seem to question the degree to which one is informed and considered and the change itself would question the level and/or nature of the initial commitment) or maybe inherits a nice industrial portfolio. To describe oneself as a committed [insert political ideology] strikes me personally as somewhat odd in general as to me it implies the need to commit (where as I like my relations with ideologies to be open and sometimes casual – after all there are so many fish in the sea, they get old, they never turn out to be what you first think they are, and though they fill the same basic need, they all do it a little different and the experiences lead to a more complete understanding) which strikes me as unnecessary and probably dangerous if one already has their own ethical or moral values. I could understand if one identified with or leaned towards a side based on a few issues and then came to change one’s views on said issues or on the significance of said issues and/or grow beyond that side or better yet sides in general. The lateral move in the context is difficult to understand. These are just some thoughts turning around in my mind. If you have first hand experience with such a change it would be great to hear a few details.

18 09 2014

Since this discussion spills into the same territory as the one following “Can We All Get Along?,” but includes Ben, here’s a link you both might find worth checking out.

Click to access ICE-Depolarizing-American-Mind.pdf

I think it does a pretty good job of putting the history in a broader perspective, although I think some of its assumptions are sadly naive. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey was involved in creating it.

It includes a link to a simple “test” to help readers determine which of four political categories they fall into, and some “essay questions” directed to each category that are intended to help depolarize one’s attitudes.

18 09 2014

And Ben, I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but young leftists turning into old conservatives is nothing new. Most prominent example I can think of is David Horowitz and Peter Collier, who were closely associated with Ramparts Magazine, which was the Mother Jones magazine of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Both are now libertarian/conservatives. Britt Hume, now with Fox News, was Ramparts’ DC correspondent.

And, to some extent, I think, the demise of the collective period of The Farm came about because, as its inhabitants grew older, they became more like their more conservative parents. When we’re teens, some of us vow to never treat our kids the way we were treated. Not everyone keeps that vow.

18 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch

I’m the young guy in the conversation so please don’t you or anyone else hate to break things to me. I’m grateful for it. I welcome and invite it. If my previous invitations were vague I hope this is clear.

I’m not disputing that people outwardly “change” in this way. Hitler would be another example.

I am disputing the possibility that one can be truly informed and considered before such a change takes place unless said change was based upon something other than information and consideration. I am also making the observation that one can not say, with much integrity if any, one is/was committed to something one no longer supports/will support.

I am questioning not just you and your readers but also in my own mind if it is likely that such a change is simply an “outward change” (perhaps for perceived individual advantage or perhaps to avoid painful internal growth or…) at first glance dramatic but upon deeper analysis more or less superficial (like changing fashions) and thus not really change in the person or the person’s thinking and values.

The greater point, in the context here, is that people may be choosing sides or aligning themselves with sides for reasons other than the issues – that people are defined by their side rather than defining their side. Whether you are on the “right side” or the “wrong side” if you are simply parroting the party line you are on the wrong side. Further, if you are accepting anything as truth in this world without a lot of healthy skepticism you are on the wrong side.

It makes a lot of sense that people take up with sides because of coercion, social pressures or for opportunistic reasons (or a combination of the three). People are used to choosing in this way in general.

It doesn’t make sense that a person is truly informed and considered unless they step out of the neighborhood of their side and into the entire world. It is hard to understand the rich if you only know the ghetto and hard to understand the poor if you only know Beverly Hills and it is hard for the rich or the poor to understand humanity without understanding each other’s perspective and recognizing that we are one.

So, “Where do we go from here?”, first we need to understand each other’s perspective which requires honesty from the other and skepticism of self and an honest look at what is true self. In other words we need to be truly informed and considered – it is likely an impossible goal. One thing to consider is that it is foolish to take sides unless one is truly informed and considered.

You don’t have to choose a side in our society and you shouldn’t unless you know it is perfect – its not like choosing things you more or less need like a place to live or what to have for dinner tonight.

There is no room for sides other than the side of truth and love which you can choose but is hard to really thoroughly join until you know it is perfect.

You wont get the truth from a political party or any other institution. Our conversations or any ideological conversations wont go anywhere if we think we can change each other or if we are afraid to change ourselves. We can evoke change in others who are open to changing themselves. Which we all should be.

There is a whole comprised of all humanity, all life, the planet and the cosmos and the side of truth is the only side worth being on.

The coupling of “Can We All Get Along” and “Interbeing” is perfect.

Much love to you. Sincerely.

19 09 2014

Thanks, Ben. The co-incidence of “Can We All Get Along” and “Interbeing” was entirely, uh, coincidental. I am going to be away from my computer for the next couple of days and will respond at greater length when I return.

20 09 2014

Martin: Many, maybe most, people shift conservative as they age. Others, like David Horowitz, repudiate the left and flip right. There’s a difference.

Back in the 80s I met some ex-Farmies who had moved back to the Bay Area. They didn’t want to live on the Farm anymore, but they sure weren’t voting Republican either. I’ll bet they still aren’t.

In David Horowitz’s case his rejection of the left came after he worked closely with Huey Newton and the Black Panther Party. Horowitz had recommended Betty Van Patten, a white woman, to be hired as a secretary for the BPP. She was later found severely beaten to death. There wasn’t enough evidence to convict but there was little doubt by anyone paying attention that Betty was just another victim in the substantial Panther body count of the time.

Furthermore Horowitz discovered all his leftist comrades made excuses for the Black Panthers and all the leftist journalists refused to investigate the case because it might hurt the Panthers.

My point is that for many people becoming conservative is not an accumulation of small age-related changes, but is the result of a traumatic collision with reality, followed by a radical rethinking of their position.

21 09 2014

This is actually the first I’d heard of this particular case, since I was back in the woods in 1974 and not keeping up with all the radical news. I don’t know anything one way or the other about Horowitz’ charges about the Panthers being into murder and extortion. I personally don’t condone violence, and was always a bit concerned about the Panthers’ espousal of it. The life experience of a black ghetto resident is so different from mine that it’s hard for me, as a white guy, the child of privilege, to tell an African-American that violence is a bad idea. After all, my people have used it on his people. (My father’s family were small-time slave owners, and my namesake died at the age of 23 from an infected wound received while fighting in the CSA cavalry.)

The Panthers’ threats of violence were taken very seriously by the U.S. government, and many, many Panthers died as a result of overt or covert government violence. The unfortunate Ms. Van Patten could have been a victim of either side in that war of extermination, which the government, not unsurprisingly, won. The American Indian Movement, which The Farm extensively supported in the 70’s and early 80’s, has a similar “murder problem.” Leonard Peltier is only the tip of that iceberg. One common government undercover tactic in these struggles has been to put out the word that somebody (who is not a government spy) is a government spy. Nasty stuff, and it’s gotten a lot of innocent people ostracized at best, and murdered at worst. I can condone neither murder nor telling lies that are likely to get somebody killed.

Not everyone “shifts conservative as they age,” however. I have a friend who cut his political teeth on the Goldwater campaign in 1964, and now is part of the movement to shut down School of the Americas. He puts his butt on the line–has been arrested and done time on a couple of occasions. Not the way I choose to spend my life, but I appreciate him for it.

“The result of a collision with reality,” or the result of a collision with one’s conditioning?

23 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch


“My point is that for many people becoming conservative is not an accumulation of small age-related changes, but is the result of a traumatic collision with reality, followed by a radical rethinking of their position.”

This is my point exactly in challenging your statements. You call it, quite sensationally, a “traumatic collision with reality” (which is fine) but in simpler terms it would be called becoming informed. Sensationally, you say “a radical rethinking of their position” which in simple terms would be called considering.

So is it fair to assume that these people (yourself included) became leftists without being informed and considered?

Why then did these people and yourself become leftists?

Also i don’t see the logic. You find out that the Easter Bunny isn’t real and the logical response is to become devoted to the Tooth Fairy?

I would also love to hear your thoughts on my previous comment to Martin.

23 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch

Assuming the panther story is half-true, it still doesn’t make sense. As I mentioned in “can we all get along”, Bush lied about wmd’s and as a matter of fact caused the murder of many people (woman and children in Iraq by the thousands) but you and Horowitz haven’t jumped ship on the right. There were plenty of excuses and refusals to investigate in the Bush case as well.

What is the difference?

(Thought I might half seriously throw some slander back at you and question whether you and Horowitz are racists. I was going to leave that alone but then I happened to see on Horowitz’s wiki page that he has been several times accused of being a racist before. So I take that as a sign to follow my own line of thought…)

Bush, a white man, kills thousands of women and children, but they are “only” Arab’s? No disputing that he was behind their deaths right?

The black panthers, African-Americans (or in case you and Horowitz need a translation “N-words”), allegedly kill one person but she is a white woman?

You yourself admit that there is not enough evidence to convict anyone but then that “there was little doubt” and then, this nonsense proves a “substantial panther body count”. Blacks aren’t innocent until proven guilty?

Also, since when do the Black Panthers speak and act for the entire left? The police killed a lot of people back then and still kill some today. Are you opposed to law enforcement? Or better yet by your logic that would mean you are opposed to the entire legal system and the government that created it and then of course opposed to the history of western thought and european governance that spawned our government? Come on… you and Horowitz should be anarchists if you held the right to the same standards you hold the left to. Is racism the only defense against anarchy, is that your position?

23 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch

Racism another potential, commonality amongst the group of JackSF, Horowitz, and Hitler. Haha.

10 10 2014
Chris Johnson

I read every word and there is much for thought. As long as people are talking, they ain’t swinging at each other. But, in my mind, based upon long observation, the ” Right ” isn’t right, and the ” Left ” isn’t all we have left.
Onwards :)
My condolences to you, Martin. You were blessed to have had Stephen as a Teacher and friend.

10 10 2014

I wish Jack and I were in a less virtual relationship–we might have found enough in common to keep talking. It’s so much easier to have friendly disagreements with somebody when you experience their presence!

15 04 2018

[…] many years, we were partners what I still regard as one of the noblest and most nearly successful efforts I know of to put the human race on a saner footing, and it saddens me to see you now working for The […]

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