Sunday, 25 September 2016

Being ill-at-ease in the present moment

Do you ever suddenly feel compelled to:

-glance at your smart phone, to check the news perhaps
-eat some junk food
-drink an alcoholic beverage
-smoke a cigarette or marijuana
-watch TV
-catch up on social media
-play a video game
-get angry at someone
-take a opioid related pill of some sort
-drift off into a fantasy, perhaps about being rich and powerful

-purchase a commodity

If you answered yes to any of the above, you may be suffering, at least some of the time. Also, you are 'normal' in this day and age, where I say normal as in common or average. All the scenarios listed above originate from feeling ill-at-ease in the present moment. Engaging in any of the behaviors is a desperate escape tactic. Why would anyone not feel at ease in the present moment? And how do these escape tactics work?

Not feeling at ease in the present moment is an unnatural state that is conditioned by living in modern western neoliberal civilization. The basic unease can be caused by unresolved feelings from difficulties in childhood, yet rather than dealing with them directly through psychological or spriritual means, the system directs people to escape through distractions instead. Engaging in the distractions usually means spending money or consuming more media propaganda messages. People must be conditioned this way by the system because happy people who are at ease do not spend, and consumer spending is critical to prevent the economic system from collapsing.

People in our society are taught from an early age that striving and earning money with which to buy things is of utmost importance. This puts people on a hedonist treadmill that never ends, because people can never be satisfied for long with commodities. Finding satisfaction in things is the collective delusion our society suffers from. Real satisfaction in life is found outside of the consumerist system. But no one really dates mention that in the media, lest they lose their precious advertiser clients. The side affect of all this striving is unhappy people and a trashed planet.

Ingesting a psychoactive substance like alcohol or caffeine or any drug appears as a way to get into a more peaceful mindset. The mind says, "If only I had [this], then I would feel okay". As for consuming media images from a smart phone, or a video game, or a television program, it has a two-fold function of acting like a drug, and also distracting you away from the reality of your life. Having a daydream is along the same lines, although you provide the imagery yourself, rather than from a digital screen. Finally, getting angry at someone is in it's own category, though the fundamental function is the same. By getting all amped up about a perceived injustice, you generate a sense of pseudo-aliveness from the feeling of superiority over the target of your anger and the self-righteousness of punishing on them.

But why bother with these cheap temporary tactics that all have at least some negative side effects each? Just meditate on the fact that life is how it is, however it is. If you see life how it truly is, you are freed from a delusion of thinking it would be better some other way. You will be able to spend more quality time with your family as you will be less focused on escaping to your phone while you go through the actions in body only of being with them. You will save money by not needing to upgrade your computer to play the latest game. You will have less resentment towards you as people receive the brunt of your anger less and less often. The planet will get less polluted with packaging garbage if you stop trying to buy your way to happiness.

I would like to point out that it is not the necessarily always a sign of fearing the present moment to partake from the list above. For instance, if you go to your friend's house and he offers you a choice of craft beers, you would accept one gratefully not out of a desire to escape a feeling of unease. Some careful self-reflection is needed at all times though when accessing items from the list as to your true motive.

If you look at indigenous societies, there are little known instances of their having hard-core drug addicts or members who just wanted to watch plays or accumulate material possessions. They had a different ethos than us. Perhaps if we as a people change our ethos to one of appreciating the present, planning ahead less, focusing less on our material condition, striving less, and fostering relations more, we would lessen our suffering.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Consolations and Transistions

In my last post, I discussed the blue pill and red pill worlds. Staying in the blue pill world (neoliberal world of increasing wealth inequality, precarious employment, increasing commodity exchange based relationships, climate change), is easiest, so I'll give some advice on how to survive it without going crazy. As for the red pill world, the way there isn't currently known, but I'll discuss what a path to it might look like. 

In the current neoliberal world, there is a political and media system in place that is not amenable to change and cannot be reformed. It is a system where $464 billion dollars was spent world wide on marketing (in 2011). That is money that could have been spent on useful things like education and healthcare, that was instead diverted to creating enemy propaganda messages instructing people to consume commodities. Therefore, firstly minimize your exposure to advertisements. Use an ad-blocker in your browser. If your smartphone doesn't allow ad-blockers, try to use it less for internet browsing. Be aware that public relations messages constitute about half the content in the news (example: an article about a great new drug for treating high blood pressure is actually a paid advertisement by a pharmaceutical company). Better yet, get away from screens as much as possible, and be aware of status anxiety.

Status anxiety comes from wealth inequality. It was described by Rousseau in Discourse in Inequality as "amour-propre", a condition where one's self-esteem depends on the opinions of others. In countries with higher wealth inequality, those at the bottom strive harder to attain higher status. Status is usually derived from material possessions, such as cars and clothing accessories, but can also come from experiences such as vacations. This appears why those of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to be arrested for theft - they simply cannot keep up any other way. Those of less wealth are also subject to higher risks of stress, obesity, and mental illness, likely from the $464 billion worth of advertising that are exposed to, yet can't comply with since they haven't the funds. Reducing wealth inequality would ease a lot of societies ills, but that will not happen because wealth inequality is the system. In the meantime, the best way to avoid amour-propre getting too inflamed is to be very wary of who you compare yourself to. It is perhaps better to seek the company of those of approximately similar wealth. Such an action however has the terrible side-effect of atomizing society even further. If one is wealthier than a friend, avoid flaunting it - as an example avoid posting stylized photos of your new luxury car all over social media.

Try to maximize face-to-face contact. Stay in shape, ignore the junk food ads and eat healthily. Remember the maxim "Happy people don't go shopping". Don't be fooled for a moment by any messages stating that the consumer has the power to change the world. The idea that taking shorter showers or recycling more could make a difference is just a way that the system tries to get people to blame themselves. The sad fact is that even if one individual becomes vegan, takes short showers, bikes to work, and recycles diligently, it won't make any difference overall, and climate change, environmental destruction, and mass species extinctions will still occur. Having some equanimity about the future is beneficial.

* *  *   *    *     *       *

Towards a way of life in balance with nature, as exemplified by indigenous cultures around the world. Exiting the neoliberal rat-race needs a place to go, and the system tries to leave nowhere left to go. Private property is a key aspect of the system, and is one the main reasons that the native people of North America were forced to live on small reserves. Since every inch of the continent is owned, purchasing land would be required at the moment. Real estate and farmland speculation, both highly antisocial behaviors, are rampant, so a group purchase of land, out a purchase after a real estate bubble pops would likely be required. The land would need a source of fresh water and an arable area to grow crops, as well as a forest for timber. A source of clay would also be useful for pottery. The group of people living there would need to have a common culture, possibly created anew and agreed upon. They would need to form a tribe with common values. Primitive technologies would need to be rediscovered or relearned. Anthropological studies would be a good source for this. Once established, the tribe could show case their accomplishments to the world. There would initially be some dependence on the system for goods that couldn't be immediately produced by the tribe, but a the tribe progresses to a true indigenous life style and build up their crafting capabilities, less and less goods would be required from the industrial system.

To clarify again why living as indigenous people does allow the use of advanced technologies, is that advanced technologies require capital, division of labour, bosses and employees, pay inequality, wealth inequality, dependence on a vast system, resource depletion, depredations and pollution. For example, if solar photovoltaic power is used, what is to be done when the voltage regulator malfunctions? There would be no way to repair it without an entire industrial complex. At the base of this complex is low paid workers, many of who suffer nerve damage from the chemicals they must use, are paid barely enough to pay their bills, and who unjustly create huge amounts of surplus value that makes its way into the hands of corrupt officials who then speculate on real estate ramping up wealth inequality even further.

The monolithic neoliberal system which has spread to the entire globe will try to keep chugging along until the planet is crippled, at which point it will collapse, leading to a red pill world that has to cope with the environmental aftermath. As for a sooner transition - thinking still required, action awaits.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Red pill or blue pill?

Do you take the blue pill? You wake up in a car dealership. It's a Saturday. You are presented with a bill for $472.81 to fix your car, which you mainly use for commuting to work and running errands. Despite working at your job diligently all week long, you have no food to eat, and need to stop for groceries. To save time on your precious day off, you get fast food on the way there. Your waist expands, you are now a statistic in the obesity epidemic. All the drudgery and lack of beauty of city life leads you to become part of the one in ten people in industrialized countries who takes anti-depressants regularly. You drink more alcohol than you think you ought to, and wonder why those who live in cities are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia, all else equal. You have lots of bills to pay with more on the way. You try to relax, but with all your debt your mind keeps drifting to the fact that as your weekend comes to a close you must be ready to be back on work - with it's employer-employee money-based relations - Monday morning at 8 a.m. sharp.

Take the red pill? You wake up in the country side. You have no advanced technology, and no electricity, because that would require a system of debt and money-based relations, and unremitting toil to keep it all running. You have no possessions, other than your clothes and basic tools and cookware. Your shelter is basic, just enough to keep out the wind and rain. You rely on a community of handicrafting for your necessities. Some grow flax, some extract fibres from the flax, some weave those fibres into linens. Some brew beer. Some hunt deer. Your only requirement for the day is to get a bit of food by harvesting it or by barter, and to help out others around you in your community. Otherwise you can relax with your family and pursue your hobbies. Medical help is basic. No police, no government, and no taxes, no asphalt, no cars, no smog, no debt. Lots of fresh air. Does this sound like a crazy way to live? Unheard of? It's of course how people lived for the tens of thousands of years before the industrial revolution and the advent of capitalism. It's how indigenous people live. It's sustainable, and there are many people across the world who have not been put to the wheel of capitalism who live this way today.

“Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men, we didin't have any kind of prison. Because of this, we didn't have any delinquents. Without a prison, there can't be no delinquents. We had no locks nor keys therefore among us there were no thieves. When someone was so poor that he couldn't afford a horse, a tent or a blanket, he would, in that case, receive it all as a gift. We were too uncivilized to give great importance to private property. We didn't know any kind of money and consequently, the value of a human being was not determined by his wealth. We had no written laws laid down, no lawyers, no politicians, therefore we were not able to cheat and swindle one another. We were really in bad shape before the white man arrived and I don't know how to explain how we were able to manage without these fundamental things that (so they tell us) are so necessary for a civilized society.” 
― John (Fire) Lame Deer

Friday, 9 September 2016

Message to the citizens of the world III

This comes from Anonymous, and I am simply relaying it (posted below). I could not have said it better myself. Canada is an oil producing nation. Our trade with the States and their Federal Reserve system has been compared to a payment of tribute to their empire. 

Please see my post entitled 'The Ritual', to highlight my point the economy is not based really on money, but on getting people to squander their lives by going to work and performing repetitive labour day in day out, as is the custom of slaves. Far too much of the benefit of the drudgery goes to the elite through taxation to pay government debt. If we could get a system going where our earnings work for us and not a foreign military industrial complex, we could conceivably reduce the work week to 32 hours and still maintain the same standard of living.

To reduce debt would require re-working the current debt-based banking system, where every dollar in circulation represents a debt that was made. After viewing Money as Debt 1, 2, and 3 by Paul Grignon, I begin to worry the problem is not the banking system but the system itself. Debt is required by the system, because debt keeps people working. Eliminating debt would lead to less people working, which would lead to prices rises as factories would have to pay more to attract workers. High unemployment is viewed as bad, but no or very low unemployment is the capitalists' worst nightmare. If everyone owned their own home and had to work only enough for the basics, then immigrant workers would be required by the system to arrive to fill the job openings. This would lead back to an unequal society and is basically the system as it is now. Each generation arriving starts off doing the hard work, but has the chance to advance generationally through tiger-parenting. All that striving.

So, the current system won't allow a new banking system that leads to freedom from debt. Which means to eliminate debt, a new system would be required. However, a new system can never be arrived at democratically, due to the influence of money in democratic politics. The elite, who currently enjoy the situation of wealth inequality, will liberally pour their money to get the candidate who essentially maintains the status quo to be elected. Only with no campaign donations of any sort could democracy really work. No election signs, no advertisements. All that would be available would be word of mouth discussions. This would be 2-way communication, so unlike that from watching TV or listening to the radio. Gandhi referred to democracy as the vehicle that keeps capitalism running along. Spengler called democracy a religion of money.

As the money system and the political system maintain the current situation of increasing wealth inequality, I'll discuss another way in my next blog post.

Message to the citizens of the world III, by Anonymous:

At this point in history virtually every human on this planet is enslaved whether they know it or not. This is not the crude and primitive slavery of ancient times, it does not rely on whips and shackles to keep the oppressed in their place. These tools have been rendered obsolete by much more sophisticated methods.

That most of the enslaved are unaware of their condition and would in fact argue fiercely that they are free is a testament to the effectiveness of these invisible chains.

You've heard the expression "Money makes the world go round". There's truth in that.

Money is the prime motive for human labor in modern civilization. If you want food, shelter and clothing you must have money, and unless you are part of the tiny minority who have more money than they could ever spend in their lifetime, then you must work, beg or steal for that money. That's why you get up in the morning to go to work even if you hate your job, and that's why the specter of unemployment is more terrifying for most people than the prospect of spending 50 years of their life performing menial tasks within the confines of a florescent lit cubicle.

Of course in western countries some are fortunate enough to have pulled away from the brink and do not live in fear that their basic needs will be met, at least for now, yet they keep spinning the hamster wheel. Why? Because money and the bling it buys have become symbols of status and prestige. Money offers an illusory form of social validation, but even those who are not caught up in distinguishing themselves by how much they accumulate still must acknowledge the social stigma that comes with poverty.

The combination of these primal motivators: the need for food, shelter, clothing, and social validation, is a very powerful force. It's enough to drive humans to engage in all forms of activity, even to the point of harming themselves or others in the process. The accumulation of money is therefore an accumulation of social and psychological power, and those who control the creation of money control this power at its source.

So who controls the creation of money? Well in the case of the U.S. dollar, it's not the government. This shouldn't be an earth shattering revelation. The fact that the Federal Reserve is a private institution owned by a cartel of the world's most powerful banks is quickly becoming common knowledge; even the mainstream media doesn't deny it at this point.

However the full extent of what this means is only clear when you understand how the banking system really works, and unfortunately this is something we aren't taught in school. Once you have it explained to you in simple terms you'll understand why.

Every dollar in circulation is loaned into existence by a bank. The process begins with the Federal reserve when they loan out money to the U.S. government and to other entities. You've probably heard this talked about before, especially in regards to the interest rate on these loans which the Federal Reserve raises and lowers depending on economic conditions, but what is never talked about in the mainstream is the fact that the Fed isn't actually loaning out money that they have, they are merely typing those dollars into existence on a computer. You may be inclined to believe that this money is based on some physical backing like gold, but you would be mistaken. The Federal Reserve hasn't owned any gold since the 1930s.

When the Federal Reserve loans money to the U.S. government, the U.S. government gives the Federal Reserve government bonds in exchange. These bonds are simply written promises to pay back the money that was loaned to them with interest through taxation. So to be clear here, the government is taking out a loan from a bank that is creating the money out of thin air, and they're expecting you the tax payer to cover that loan. The absurdity of this arrangement is even more obvious when you realize that up until 1913 the U.S. government created its own money, and had no need for a bank to play the part of a middle man.

That new money loaned out by the Federal Reserve enters circulation through banks, accumulates in banks, and in the end the banks end up holding all of the cards, but not necessarily for the reasons you may imagine. Contrary to popular belief the majority of money in circulation isn't actually created by the Federal Reserve, but rather by the ordinary banks that businesses and individuals use for their checking, savings, and mortgages. How is this possible? Well, like the Federal Reserve, ordinary banks are allowed to loan out money they don't have. There are of course restrictions. Banks are only allowed to loan 10 times the amount that they actually have. So if Wells Fargo has 1000 dollars they can loan you 10,000 dollars, and they expect you to pay back that 10,000 dollars plus interest. This is called fractional reserve banking; 75% of all money in circulation is created in this manner.

Now as bad as this may seem it's really only the tip of the iceberg. Most banks structure payment plans so that for many years you are paying almost nothing but interest and only start paying down the principle gradually. The result of this strategy is that in most cases you pay far more in interest when you purchase a house than the house itself is worth.

So here's the real question: If all money is created through loans, where does the money come from for to pay for the interest? Let's say we reset the system to zero, loan 1000 dollars into existence and charge 7% interest. We now have 1000 dollars in the system but we owe 1000 dollars plus interest and that's more.

The money to pay the interest doesn't exist, never has, never will. This would be obvious if there were only one loan being issued to one person in this manner, but when performed on a global scale the reality is hidden, and is transformed into a game of musical chairs where the person ending up without a seat faces bankruptcy and financial ruin. The interest insures that there is always more debt than money in circulation.

Because every dollar in existence is tied to a debt this creates an unseen force that draws those dollars back to the banks, like gravity attracts a physical object to earth. The catch here is that it is the work of the people that moves that money.

Every hour that you work to pay back a loan or to keep the government from throwing you in jail over income taxes is an hour worked for the banks. The total receipts from personal income taxes just barely covers the interest on the national debt, and even the principle on that debt all ends up back in the hands of the banks. Once you understand that the money that the banks loans out isn't actually an asset, but is in fact a piece of legal fiction it should be clear that you are working for these banks for free. This is a cleverly disguised form of slavery.

If you manage to maintain your monthly payments then you are a successful slave, and you are allowed to keep the material comforts that come with that status, but if for some reason you fail to make your monthly payments then the bank or the IRS comes takes your house, your car and anything else you have of value. If somehow even with this enormous financial advantage the banks still manage to get themselves into trouble you the taxpayer will be forced to bail them out. No matter what the banks win. To say the game is rigged is an understatement.

You might be inclined to think that if you live outside the United States and don't use dollars then this situation has no bearing on your life, but you would be wrong. The dollar is both the world reserve currency and the only currency in which oil is sold on the global markets (this is often referred to as the petrodollar status). This means that where ever you live, whether your country is an oil exporter or an oil importer you are affected.

If your country is an oil importer you are effected by the fact that in order to keep your country running you have to acquire dollars. To acquire those dollars you have to send goods and services to the United States or to someone else who did. You too are a slave to the bankers.

Likewise if your country is an oil exporter you are affected by the fact that you send your oil to the U.S. in exchange for this debt based money. You are exchanging something of real and tangible value for digits on a screen. If for some reason the leadership of your country grows tired of this arrangement and tries to pull off of the dollar you'll quickly find the United States military at your doorstep ready to open up a can of democracy on you. Iraq learned this the hard way when they switched their oil sales to Euros in 2000 and Libya when they tried to organize a gold based currency for Africa.

Debt based money is a masterpiece of social engineering, the ultimate tool of the ruling elite, and yet in reality the whole thing is nothing more than a construct of belief.

Our chains are chains of the mind, and the path to freedom must also begin in the mind. If we want a better future for our children and grandchildren we must work right now to reach a critical mass of awakening.