9 04 2014

written by Martin

Twenty years ago, when I was living in Vermont, a friend of mine moved from there down to middle Tennessee to join a startup permaculture community that was going to be centered around one of the big names in permaculture–honestly, I forget just who.  She returned to Vermont a few months later, saying she had been unable to get along with the guy well enough to stay.  We’re not talking boyfriend/girlfriend here, just being members of the same team/community.  Apparently, she was not the only person who couldn’t make it work with this particular guy, whoever he was, because he is no longer here in middle Tennessee, nor is there a twenty-year old, permaculture-based community in this area, to the best of my knowledge.

While I would love to be proved wrong about this and have members of this community emerge from obscurity and say, “We are here, we have been here, and here are at all the amazing things we’ve done in 20 years,” this apparently failed community is only one of a number of examples I could cite.  It seems that the tricky part of manifesting the long-term vision that permaculture demands isn’t molding the landscape, but forming and keeping together a community of people who can forge a common vision and implement it.  The same holds true for the whole spectrum of groups committed to “paradigm shift,” including, to name the first few that come to mind, political/environmental activism, the Transition Town movement, and healing centers and intentional communities. I have seen such difficulties arise, and disrupt communities and movements, numerous times over the course of my life.  That’s what I’m going to be discussing in this blog post:  what I have learned from my 40+ year involvement with intentional communities.

In college, I joined Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and was one of those who burned his draft card in Central Park in the late 60’s.  I attended enough SDS meetings to become discouraged by its failure to address the egos and emotions of those with a neurotic urge towards leadership and/or martyrdom, and its failure to “be the change it wanted to see.”ghandi Later I moved to San Francisco and witnessed the unravelling of the Haight-Ashbury as a viable community.  (In retrospect, my own neediness and lack of social and material skills probably helped propel that downfall, although I’m sure it all would have come apart just fine without me!)  I joined a small group that aspired to the model Robert Heinlein created in the science fiction novel “Stranger in a Strange Land,” but that succumbed to the neuroses of its founders within a month.  I slept for one night and one night only at a Digger crash pad that had slid so far down the tubes that people were peeing in a sink full of dirty dishes, because the toilets had long ago stopped working.  (OK, that was actually on the Lower East Side of New York, but it was The Diggers.)  I attended what turned to be the last meeting of the San Francisco Diggers, where those who had been in the movement for a while bemoaned the fact that they didn’t own the buildings that they were trying to maintain as The Free Store and the Community Kitchen.  I met several times with a group of people who were getting together to buy land in southern Oregon. That disintegrated in the face of actually coming up with the cash necessary for the deal.  I hung out with the folks from the Harbinger Community, who had the use of a hot spring/resort hotel north of San Francisco.  They lasted a few months before dissolving in a cloud of bad drugs and irresponsible people. Read the rest of this entry »


16 04 2011

We passed the equinox on the last full moon, replete with a once-every-twenty-years “super moon.” and my wife and I observed the occasion with our neighbor Ed Haggard and his posse of drummers, singers, and dancers, who are known around Nashville as “The Love Drums.”

The gathering was very sweet, if a little bizarre–it was held at a private hunting reserve about an hour and a half west of Nashville, in a well-appointed lodge decorated with stuffed animals, isolated in the middle of 2,000 hilly, wooded acres, very private and quite lovely.  I suspected, and our hostess confirmed, that this was unlike any other gathering the lodge had  ever  witnessed.  It felt like a tribe of barbarians partying in a Roman villa.

But there was nothing debauchy, raunchy, or even uncouth going on, just several dozen people celebrating life, the end of a long, cold winter, and the beginning of a wide-open spring, as we enter a time when it is increasingly obvious that unintended environmental effects are snowballing and there is no telling what once-in-a-thousand-years catastrophe will surprise us next.  In that situation, the best way to be prepared is to stay loose, and dancing and other forms of celebration are an important part of staying loose.

A huge, sturdy coffee table  the size of a small stage dominated the “dance floor,” and the first dancers on it were perhaps a half-dozen 7-8 year old children, gradually joined by adults.  This all-ages, inclusive vibe (there was plenty of silver hair present, too, and all ages in between) is one of the things I enjoy most about Ed’s “Whizbangs,” as he calls them, and one of the reasons I feel much happier dancing at a “Whizbang” than at a bar–and, believe me, I’ve done my share of dancing in establishments that sell alcohol.  (One of my favorite singer-songwriters, James McMurtry, says of himself, “I’m not a musician, I’m a beer salesman.”)

Ed and the central core of the Love Drummers were at one end of the room, but many “audience” members also drummed, adding their own flourishes to the music.  That’s one of the things I appreciate most about the Love Drums–the all-too-common separation into “audience” and “musicians” is blurred, if not erased.  This is not “entertainment,” in which a passive audience hopes to be impressed by the performers’ charisma.  This is a participatory  event, a–dare I say it?–communion.   Of course, rock n’ roll has long delighted in the energy that cuts loose when an audience gets up and dances.  That’s some of the magic of the Grateful Dead, just to name one band strongly affected by their audience.  In the Dead’s case, the scene outside the venue frequently turned into a heavily countercultural “temporary autonomous zone,”  and was as much a part of the show as the music.  At the Love Drums’ equinox gathering, I felt that same sense of community.

Here’s a story for you.  In the late summer of 1970, I went to a Grateful Dead show in San Francisco, and was dismayed to find most of the audience sitting on their asses, expecting to watch the Dead play.  I got yelled at by people behind me when I stood up to dance.  They were mad because they couldn’t see the band.  (There’s a word for people who like to look but not participate.  Not my kink, thanks.)

The Dead settled into “Lovelight,” and who popped out on stage to duet with Pigpen, but–Janis Joplin.  And what did she and Mr. McKernan do?  They chewed the audience up and down for not dancing, but to no avail.  I finally migrated to the back of the room where a few people were moving to the music and enjoyed the last half of the show, anyway.  Just a couple of weeks later, Janis was dead from a heroin overdose, a broken heart, and too much, too soon.

That was forty-one years ago.  Janis, Pigpen, and Jerry are all gone, but the Love Drums remain, and ya gotta work with whatcha got.  So there we were, one big happy family, dancing the night away.

Next day, when I opened myself up to news from the big bad world outside, I found out that Aashid Himons, best known as the focus of a band called “Afrikan Dreamland” here in Nashville back in the eighties, had died on that full moon day.  He had been ill for years and hadn’t played in public in a very long time, but in many ways he was the spiritual father of Ed and the Love Drums, and a great practitioner of informal, participatory music.

“African Dreamland” consisted of Aashid playing guitar or keyboard and singing, backed up only by a couple of drummers, for most of the history of the band.  This made for very simple but deeply moving music, music that benefited from, but did not depend on, the modern miracle of amplification.  Another dimension of their music was its subject matter. Aashid liked to say that he played “message music” rather than “mating and dating” music–not that a fair amount of mating and dating didn’t go on to the infectious grooves he laid down, but his music helped propagate his vision of a just and peaceful future, not just the continuation of the species.

Music: Afrikan Dreamland, “Apartheid”  (excerpt)

And that’s where we get to yet another core difference between music like The Love Drums, Aashid, and the Grateful Dead, and the music you are likely to hear in a bar on a Saturday night.  Most popular music is unreflectively about “mating and dating,” but some musicians are aware of the close link between music and magic, that songs are not just poems set to music, they are also incantations, spells that help create a certain state of mind, for better or for worse.  To me, it was not coincidental that Janis Joplin, for example, who sang so many songs about heartbreak, died young, or why somebody was killed at Altamont while Mick Jagger sang “Sympathy for the Devil.”  What you pay attention to, you get more of, as a teacher of mine used to like to say.

These qualities, conscious intention in  the music and conscious fusion between the musicians and the crowd, are, to me, defining qualities of the music of “the new paradigm.”  And, as I said, those of us who play and appreciate this new paradigm music are, in a sense, barbarians to America’s Roman Empire.

The Empire depends on people who are willing to be cogs in a vast machine.  We are not.

The Empire depends on people who will not challenge its authority and priorities.  We do.

The Empire depends on people being good consumers.  We realize that “consumption” is a fatal disease, and do not look for happiness through the accumulation of material goods.  Whoever dies with the most toys is not the winner.

The Empire depends on people accepting shallow, dysfunctional relationships and mediating their emotional pain with pharmaceuticals.  We insist on listening, expressing, and feeling deeply, and on giving people the room they need to go through their changes, even if it means they get a little weird for a while.

Differences such as these are very threatening to an empire whose established religion is, as I have said many times before, radical fundamentalist materialism.  The Empire fights back  by finding material ways to push  against the influx of barbarian sensibilities.  One way they do this is through building codes, such as the complaints that have just trashed Sizwe Herring’s Earth Matters community garden.  (More on that next month!) Another way the Empire fights back is through the war on some drugs.

Let’s face it.  The real reason our government is so unswervingly, unscientifically opposed to the legalization of marijuana, mushrooms, mescaline, ecstasy,and LSD is because these are the portals through which barbarians enter and undermine the Empire.  These substances unleash the unfettered inner barbarian in those who take them, and that is more terrifying  to the empire than bomb-toting Middle Easterners..

For instance, in the 80’s and 90’s, our government spent 10 years infiltrating a circle of chemists who were making LSD and ultimately sent them all to jail.  The government has not exhibited this kind of diligence against the alleged threat from Al-Qaeda.  If that had been the case, those airplanes would never have hit the twin towers. Similarly, the DEA massively infiltrated those “temporary autonomous  zones” at Grateful Dead concerts, sold people blotter paper with no LSD on it, and then arrested them for intending to buy an illegal substance.

The DEA’s entrapment of young, open-minded, overly trusting American youth sent tens of thousands to jail, where some of them remain to this day.  Even the ones who are no longer incarcerated remain scarred and scared, “rendered infamous,” often unable to vote or find employment because of their “criminal record,” their life paths thrown into disarray by the time and money sucked from them by the legal system.

Since “the war on some drugs” was declared, America’s prison population has quintupled, with nearly half a million prisoners incarcerated for drug related “crimes.”  We’re talking about 2.3 million people behind bars, with an additional five million on probation.  The US now has a higher percentage of its  population jailed than any other country in the world, although I suppose you could argue that some highly repressive societies, like China, North Korea, Burma, and Singapore have effectively incarcerated their entire populations.

I would like to submit that the many voices who urge an end to America’s Inquisition against the inquisitive because it has ruined so many people’s lives don’t understand the Empire’s logic.  The Empire wants to ruin the lives of the inquisitive, because it’s easier and cheaper to simply exclude people than it is to actively imprison them.  Just as China periodically “lets a thousand flowers bloom” in order to identify and silence dissident voices, so the Empire has a vested interest in using the “war on drugs” to identify and neutralize those who oppose its policies.  Even if someone who appreciates the virtues of marijuana manages to avoid legal strictures, he or she is effectively barred from running for public office because of the danger should an opponent uncover the candidate’s “dirty little secret.”

The Empire’s offensive against our barbarian invasion will, I believe, ultimately be in vain.  As radical fundamentalist materialists, the Empire’s minions don’t understand that the material substances they have outlawed are, in a way, merely catalysts, catalysts that have set a process in motion that cannot be stopped by even the most draconian enforcement of the drug laws.  (By the way, I have never seen or smelled any marijuana at a Love Drums Whizbang.)  Once it has been opened, a human mind is almost impossible to close, because the memory, the feeling, of openness persists, and never stops protesting any attempt to shut it down or close it off.  The “barbarian” mindset, I believe, is of a higher order of being than the anthill, cog-in-a-machine state of mind demanded by the Empire, whether in English or Chinese.  “Barbarianism”will out.

Now, many people will say, “This all sounds very noble, but you doped-out hippiedippies aren’t the real barbarians, you’re just play-acting, spoiled, naive, children of the Empire.  The real barbarians are in the slums of Mexico City, Rio, Lagos, Cairo, Kolkata, Beijing, and Capetown, and if they have half a chance they will eat your vegetarian lunch and then barbecue you for the meat course.  Face it, without that ‘Empire’ you love to hate, you’d be toast.”

I think that’s off-base in several directions.  The first thing we have to understand is the interplay and differences between “third world” and “fourth world.”  Fourth world people are tribal, and live in balance with nature.  There aren’t a lot of them left, but, in the best-case scenario, that’s what we barbarians will recreate here in the heart of the Empire.

Most traditional fourth-world people have been sucked out of the fourth world into the third world, which is the vast belt of urban and rural poverty that characterizes human life on those parts of Earth’s landmass that lie, roughly, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn—that part of the world where you don’t need a well-insulated house to survive the winter, and are thus free to live in greater poverty than you can get away with in colder climates.

But, as so often happens, I am digressing.  Fourth world people don’t have much money, but don’t feel poor.  Third world people don’t have much money and do feel poor.  Many of these third-world people retain the social and survival skills of their fourth-world heritage.  Give them half a chance and they’ll go back to fourth-world life.  They all know they were happier that way. It’s just that the Empire, the first world, pushed them out of their sustainable lives by expropriating their tribal lands and forcing them into a money economy.  I believe that, if they were ever given the choice, the people of the third world would rather grow, hunt, or herd their own lunch than eat yours or mine.

What the Empire fears when it looks at the third world is not the people, but its own greed and suppressed guilty conscience.  When we who are undermining the Empire complete our mission, the Empire will release its hoarded and ill-gotten wealth and the people of the third world will be able to transition, in place, not backwards but forwards into a new, even more fully conscious, fourth world.

I wish I could say I think the process will be all rosy and peaceful, but there are so many people, and so many resources that have become so depleted, that I think widespread strife and loss of life will be part of the great readjustment.  I’m not happy about that.  Every human being is precious, unique, and capable of deep insight, and it is a tragedy when a life is extinguished, with or without those amazing capabilities being realized.

Does it seem as if we have wandered a long way from The Love Drums and the equinox, from Aashid and Earth Matters?  From a “Deep Green Perspective,” we haven’t moved an inch.  We’re just gazing in (hopefully!) wonder at the macrocosm that contains those microcosms.  You can’t look at it this way all the time, but it’s important to see it this way some of the time.

music:  Ed Haggard and the Love Drums–“Haitian Bolero”


3 04 2008

Whoever Bohadan Pilicinski is, he seems to have some familiarity with how covert ops work.  That said, it is surprising that he didn’t turn his highly critical viewpoint on the official explanations of the event; he notes that two of the hijackers rented a room from an FBI agent without either, apparently, spotting the other, and he seems to accept the idea that jet fuel (kerosene) could create a fire hot enough to melt steel, etc….hey, this is just one piece of the puzzle…

September 11 was a third-rate operation
By Bohdan Pilacinski

In late April of 2001, just five months before the September 11 attack date, Mohamed Atta was stopped for driving erratically late at night near Ft Lauderdale, Florida. By then, the pilots all had their licenses, final-phase planning must have been under way. Yet, here was Osama bin Laden’s field commander for the entire operation, driving a red Pontiac (though 15 years old), with Arabic stickers, and no driver’s license, or at least none he would show. 

Warned and lucky, Atta was told to show up for a court date, with a license, or a warrant would go out for his arrest. He got the license but failed to show. Ten weeks later, he was stopped for speeding, but unaccountably no computer coughed up a warrant. Now Florida has reciprocity; so at least in theory and for no good reason, the September 11 attack team functioned its last four months with an arrest warrant out for their leader in 50 states.

Having sorted out the contestants in their publicly touted “mastermind” of the month contest, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) released this disclosure of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, (so successfully water-boarded in Pakistan). Zacarias Moussaoui, who’d presumably attracted Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) attention by advising his flight instructor that he wasn’t much interested in take-offs and landings [1], hadn’t been a member of the 9/11 teams at all; he was being held in reserve. Why? Because he was a belligerent loud-mouth and hence a security risk. As he so proved.

Point is, any decent handler with minimal judgment and authority would have yanked Moussaoui out of the country within days of this assessment. But no, he was left scheming on his own, possibly with consequences for al-Qaeda more severe than we know … such as forcing the attack date.

No license, sloppy driving, even Arabic stickers; worse, an unbalanced agent working solo. These aren’t just lapses in the learning curve of an amateur operation; these are ludicrous standards for operational security in any clandestine organization.
In the orchestrated fear campaign pursuant to the attack, we were systematically inundated with extravagant claims for al-Qaeda’s potency, reach, cohesion, dedication, vision and Satanic focus. Dr No on petrodollars! Everything Vladimir Lenin could wish he’d had or been! Of course much of this has since – in the jargon of the financial press – been “subject to downward revision”; yet, to this day, insistence on al-Qaeda as a formerly monolithic, then metastasized, demon pathology of epic capacity for terror and evil, has been virtually obligatory throughout the US media: left, right and center. 



9 02 2006

The United States of America took a giant step towards becoming a totalitarian fascist state this month with the confirmation of Samuel J. “Muss”Alito as a Supreme Court Justice, and now there is an argument over whether another step in that direction—the Bush junta’s domestic surveillance program– should be allowed to stand or whether that might just be too much.

Bush, Cheney, and Gonzalez are taking the rather Orwellian stance that their clear violation of the FISA law is not a violation of the law, because the President can do anything he wants during wartime, and we’re at war—except that we are not, by the way, legally “at war.” The resolution that the Senate Democrats so spinelessly approved gave Mr. Bush permission to use all necessary force to go after Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, but that is not the same as a formal declaration of war any more than a separation agreement is a finalized divorce. The Bushoids are stretching the truth here, and mostly getting away with it. No wonder they think they can act outside the law.

The administration is insisting that it’s only interested in people directly linked to Al Qaeda, but my sense is that this is just like all the pressure to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge–it’s intended to set a precedent which can then be followed with more outrageous demands.

And what’s the state of the Onion? It’s enough to make you cry! Mr. Bush finished his speech with “God Bless America.” I say, “God help America!” This country is cruisin’ for a bruisin’. We had as much right to invade Iraq as the Nazis had to invade Poland, and now all the chickenbleep neocons are working it up for a nice, clean air war against Iran. Whomp that tar baby one more time, Mr. Rumsfeld.

Not only are the cowards in the government outraged about being called to account for their illegal surveillance program, they’re all upset that it was revealed. They say it’s a serious blow to our intelligence effort, and that heads will roll when they find out who leaked it.

Our intelligence services’ intelligence quotient must be pretty low if they think that people in the U.S. (or anywhere else) who are talking to Al Qaeda DON”T assume that their phones are tapped. I mean, what are they expecting to hear? “Hassan, it’s me, Mahdi. Our sleeper cell will be meeting tonight at 8PM at the Public Library. Look, we need to talk to Osama about this bomb we’re building for him. Is he there? Could you put him on the phone? Hey, Osama, baby, how’s it goin’? You’re staying in Brindaban-alQat, eh? Like it there? That little hotel by the wadi, that’s where you’re staying? Yeah, that’s my uncle runs it, tell him his nephew Mahdi sez “hello” and I’ll be thinking of him and all the folks back home when we blow up that refinery at 15th and J streets in Houston next week.”

C’mon, guys, get real, they were on to your surveillance long before the New York Times broke the story. You want to prosecute someone for really screwing up our national security? Then give up the guys who outed Valerie Plame and quit playing hide-and-seek with Fitzgerald. Valerie Plame really was on the front line in the effort to keep dangerous weapons away from dangerous people, and you guys blew her cover and destroyed the network she had created, destroyed a working intelligence effort that was keeping harm from being done, and for what? Because her husband told the truth about your lies. How do you sleep? George? Dick? Don? Condoleeza? How do you sleep?

I don’t know how Senate Democrats can sleep, either, except for 24 of them. Twenty spineless cowards who claim to be Democrats joined with the Republican majority to shut down debate on MussAlito’s nomination. Forget about abortion, forget about his apparent willingness to say what people want to hear in order to get a job. This guy is behind the “Unitary Executive” theory of U.S. government 100%., and the Unitary Executive theory basically throws our whole system of checks and balances out the window and concentrates power in the hands of the President. The Bush junta has succeeded in stacking the Supreme Court. We’re stuck with a pack of relatively young, conservative creeps there for maybe the next thirty years, guys who will uphold the intrusive power of corporations and the U.S. government whether it makes sense or not. Thank you, Senate Democrats—sincerely thank you to the two dozen who tried to stop this, and a big “thanks for nothing!” to the ones who kissed Bush’s ass.

And, by the way, Rahm Emanuel, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign committee, has announced that the committee will not be supporting peace candidates in the 2006 election, in spite of the fact that the war is hugely unpopular, in spite of the fact that a Democratic peace candidate came within a hair of winning a traditionally Republican district in Ohio last year and the war is even less popular this year. The Democrats are putting their money on candidates like Tennessee’s Harold Ford, who wants to throw another 375,000 U.S. troops into Iraq so we can “win.” Harold, I got news—we ain’t got another 375,000 troops, and we have no more right to be in Iraq than the Germans had to be in Poland—how many times do I have to say that before it goes national?

Well, most Democrats are whores—they’ll say and do what they think they must to get elected. The Green Party is a political party that stands for peaceful resolution of disputes, whether it gets us elected or not. And this year, with many Democrats trying to out-hawk Bush on this criminal war, it might just get a bunch of us elected. I’m ready.

music: Laurie Anderson, “The Day the Devil Comes to Get You”

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