I live with a hot little Anarchist

(my wife wrote this a few weeks back…)

Taking Back the Reigns

“We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.” –George Orwell

I have long been a political junkie. It’s fair to say that in the absence of any interest in hockey, or soccer, or football- politics is my sport. Through the years I’ve enjoyed the complex maneuvering and attempts to manipulate, the gleeful shock of the media and public alike when a politician slips and falls, the ensuing excitement when his comrades in power swiftly kick him or her over the cliff rather than risk contamination. It’s all very titillating, as blood sports are apt to be. What I’ve come to resent is that I’m not merely a spectator but a participant, or more accurately a benefactor, without my express consent. I cannot choose not to attend a game, or the game, because the arena has grown and grown so that it now encompasses every facet of life, every inch of the planet.

In everything else, if I grow bored or disinterested, decide that it’s not a worthy expense in terms of money, energy, or time- I can opt out. I’ve divorced, changed careers, moved, I’ve altered my lifestyle- but I cannot of my own free will make the decision not to fund the government and the innumerable mandatory schemes it sees fit to impose. I have accepted this fact over the years as necessary for the greater good. Unhappy with this government, I’ll vote for that one next time, and then another the time after that. My allegiance is to values, not a particular team. The disturbing fact that I’ve had to come to terms with though is that my sport is about as relevant as synchronized swimming. It has not been an easy transition for me, and I have fought just as hard with my own conscience as I have with friends and acquaintances in an attempt to justify the necessity of good government, to defend the notion that those equipped to pull off this feat simply aren’t in play yet. “The game’s going to pick up, I promise you. The next one will be better.” The problem being- while a proponent of good government, I’ve never actually seen one in practice.

Award winning journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger offers, “This is not to say parliamentary politics is meaningless. It has one meaning now: the replacement of democracy with a business plan for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope, every child born.” While this may sound extreme, I would go one further to propose that democracy has existed more within a dreamy mindscape than any realized reality. Take the Canadian example- in the last election the Conservatives won a majority government based on the confidence of 1 in 4 eligible voters. You would be hard pressed to explain just how this math works out to any school age child, but so it is. The Conservatives now run the House with an iron fist, shushing not only opposition members but members of their own party who dare to disagree. Hardly in keeping with Harper’s victory speech in which he said that, “We are intensely aware that we are and we must be the government of all Canadians, including those who did not vote for us,” but no less than we’ve come to expect from this, one of the world’s leading democracies. (something about fact that they don’t represent even those who did vote for them)

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges points out that, “There is no way to vote against corporate power. Citizens have no way to bring about the prosecution of Wall Street bankers and financiers for fraud, military and intelligence officials for torture and war crimes, or security and surveillance officers for human rights abuses.” Still, we trust in democratic government to the extent that we continue to participate, to finance it, and to herald its virtues. Our politicians understand our fanatical attachment and use it to garner public support for war mongering that might otherwise be unpalatable “just spreading democracy folks, don’t worry- we’ll be out as soon as we secure their resources, er, freedom.” We believe in the principles of democracy for good reason though- the premise that citizens, given a voice, will act in the public’s best interests is a noble one and, I believe, in essence true. It is in believing that a hierarchal, authoritarian power structure will ever represent the truest values of democracy that we err, where we enter into Orwell’s doublethink.

Let’s examine the global economic crisis briefly, or as I prefer to call it: the failure of a human construct based on nonsensical models in the netherworld. Firstly, I would like to express my undying admiration for the people who managed to anthropomorphize the economy to such an extent that mere mention that it is “in crisis” sends even the most pragmatic of persons into a tailspin- brilliantly done old chaps! It doesn’t matter that the average person can’t explain why or how things took such a drastic turn for the worse, never mind the basic mechanics of “the economy,” we are willing to do whatever we can to save it. We will work harder and longer, do with less, sacrifice our neighbours- whatever it takes. There is a definite Twilight Zone element to the whole thing but you’d be wrong to deny the spin doctors credit on this one. Hedges observes, “There is nothing in 5,000 years of economic history to justify the belief that human societies should structure their behavior around the demands of the marketplace. This is an absurd, utopian ideology. The airy promises of the market economy have, by now, all been exposed as lies.” Yet we continue to structure our lives around those lies.

Now let’s look at the crisis in real terms. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine reports that the suicide rate in Greece rose 40% in 2011- a complete reversal of the pre-2007 trend which saw rates steadily declining. There has been an exponential rise in HIV, as well as outbreaks of malaria, West Nile virus, and dengue fever directly related to cuts in preventative programs. Likewise, Mental Health Europe estimates that requests for antidepressants have risen by 28% between 2007 and 2011, while European countries deepen cuts to healthcare by up to 50%. The European Parliament warns, “that the economic and financial crisis is a threat to human rights as a whole, including civil and political rights… in particular that it has had detrimental effects on access to food, health care and education for the most vulnerable groups in society, in both urban and rural areas, and has resulted in dramatically increased poverty levels globally” among other dire observations and predictions.

According to an economic report at “Money Morning” the real unemployment rate as of April 2013 in the United States is 13.9% (AEIdeas reports 11.3% for the same period, CNBC 13.8%); this without the sunshiney outlook presented by the government and related institutions that bring the percentage as low as 7.5% by discounting the existence of large segments of the population. 633,782 people in the United States are homeless and this number is expected to increase as 85 billion in sequestration cuts take effect. In Canada the government spent a large part of 2012 slashing environmental programs and legislation in hopes of stimulating the economy, whilst encouraging (read: legislating) people to work more, retire later. One step further, the Canadian government is hard at work preventing people from collecting unemployment insurance (a program citizens are forced to pay into, and is sold as “insurance”), and making cuts to the Canada Revenue Agency at the same time that the Auditor General reports that the CRAs uncollected tax (expected to be hidden in offshore tax havens) has risen to roughly 29 billion in the last seven years. But regardless of the toll of the financial crisis on people in developed countries, there is no argument that those in developing countries have been impacted more drastically and in greater numbers.
 
Author Derrick Jensen’s premise that, “The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below,” is evident throughout history, but perhaps particularly so in today’s “financial crisis”. From American taxpayer money being used to bail out financial institutions even while many taxpayers found themselves without employment and forced out of their homes, to the Cypriot banking crisis which saw account holders locked out of their accounts or allowed to withdraw only small amounts of money in increments with unemployment over 14%, all the while the ruling elite discussed what portion of public money could be seized to secure more loans. As Jensen elaborates in his book Endgame, “Within this culture, economics—not community well-being, not morals, not ethics, not justice, not life itself—drives social decisions.”

The economy is a failed experiment no more or less utopian than the belief that authoritarian rule is required to manage communities in a sustainable and egalitarian way but we cannot see clear to challenge the status quo in a meaningful way. We embrace the evil we know for fear of the unknown, which might be understandable but for the fact that history and current events should be enough to demonstrate that we ought to at least to consider the alternatives. The semi-popular notion that collecting more money through taxes may help to fund ailing social programs neglects the fact that we are funding a dysfunctional machine, or a well-oiled perfectly functioning machine dependent on your perspective. If government’s priority was to fund social programming- it would, but where do the cuts happen first in so-called hard times?

Hardly anyone would disagree that these are desperate times. What is stunning is how easily the public is persuaded by government and mainstream media claims that ‘we’ve turned a corner’, or are about to, and continue to be willing to put all of our money and faith into an inherently corrupt and irreparably broken system. It’s a mark of desperation but also willful ignorance that can only be explained by cognitive dissonance. Faced with the reality that our governments have prioritized corporate and banking interests over public interests, but that a democratic government is the best form of representative government, we must pin all of our hopes on the next political candidate or party to put the public interests first. In the words of George Orwell, “if you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself,” so I am going to say out loud what so many of us know to be true but are afraid to acknowledge- we cannot trust government to fix the situation. In fact, the only thing that we can trust is that our governments will do whatever it takes to preserve their power and that does not involve engaging in meaningful dialogue with the public, let alone direct action as a result of such a conversation. It’s not personal; it’s how the system works.

You may have cottoned on to the fact that what I am suggesting as our only real alternative is anarchism, and some of you may be starting to squirm in your chairs. Please, bear with me- anarchism is not what you’ve been led to believe anymore than you can believe government when it tells you that the problem is the solution. But there has been a remarkable and sustained public relations campaign that has even anarchists refusing to identify themselves as such. In an interview with Ziga Vodovnik, renowned historian Howard Zinn observed that, “The term anarchism has become associated with two phenomena with which real anarchists don’t want to associate themselves with. One is violence, and the other is disorder or chaos. The popular conception of anarchism is on the one hand bomb-throwing and terrorism, and on the other hand no rules, no regulations, no discipline, everybody does what they want, confusion, etc. That is why there is a reluctance to use the term anarchism.”

I would be hard-pressed to disagree that public opinion favours the notion that anarchism is a destructive, violent, and chaotic movement. It’s quite simply wrong though, no matter how widespread the belief, as many of our collective thoughts have proven to be. In uncharacteristically simple terms, Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus) at MIT describes anarchism as, “… a tendency that is suspicious and skeptical of domination, authority, and hierarchy.  It seeks structures of hierarchy and domination in human life over the whole range, extending from, say, patriarchal families to, say, imperial systems, and it asks whether those systems are justified.  It assumes that the burden of proof for anyone in a position of power and authority lies on them.  Their authority is not self-justifying.  They have to give a reason for it, a justification.  And if they can’t justify that authority and power and control, which is the usual case, then the authority ought to be dismantled and replaced by something more free and just.”

I suspect that the aversion to anarchism can be attributed not to a single lie though, but to a series of them that we have been conditioned to believe, ironically while holding the dissonant view that democracy is the hallmark of an evolved society: people can’t be trusted, people can’t organize without a leader, people are inherently selfish, violent, and unable to reach the consensus required to accomplish large goals. These truisms don’t apply to you, of course, but to your neighbour, or those persons of a different race, economic status, educational background, sexual identity, religion, political affiliation- whatever difference is easiest for you to distrust. Sure we think it best for everyone to have a voice, but…

The fact is that people organize selflessly without authoritarian intervention all the time. We see this in everything from people organizing to clean up trash in their communities and on the side of the highway, local fundraising activities to improve community infrastructure, community building efforts, financial support of a local family in crisis, and much more. Perhaps nowhere is it more obvious than in times of emergency though. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane in history, Occupy Sandy volunteers (an off-shoot of the wider Occupy movement) were not only some of the first on the scene but also the most effective organizers as reported by the New York Times (and multiple other media outlets) in their article, “Where FEMA Fell Short, Occupy Sandy was There”. Indeed while critics of the Occupy movement described it as “unorganized” and “ineffective”, the Occupy movement has continued to mobilize volunteers, raise funds, and distribute donations across a multitude of communities in crisis.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is a nongovernmental organization that sees doctors travel all over the world, frequently into dangerous conflict zones, risking their lives to save others. Why would doctors of all people, who earn a considerable wage working in hospitals and private practice, leave the comfort and safety of their homes to help strangers- sometimes strangers with whom they disagree with completely on ideological grounds- potentially never to return? Although government and media would have us believe that it is the few, those exceptional human beings who warrant special interest stories, who are willing to go to great lengths to help another almost any of us would answer a direct call to assist.

Would there be crime in an anarchist society? No doubt. There is crime now, in an authoritarian society. Funnily enough, declaring something illegal and setting punishments ranging from incarceration to murder (or as the Americans prefer to call it, “capital punishment”) has not deterred criminals. But the notion that more people would steal or commit murder if it wasn’t illegal is nonsensical. I haven’t personally killed anyone not because I’m not allowed to or fear punishment so much as that it would be wrong. I don’t operate on the assumption that this makes me exceptional- I suspect that my neighbour, and yours, and the person without neighbours, have the same moral compass. If we were to use the case of murder as an example, governments are responsible for more deaths worldwide (generally in pursuit of resources acquisition, or power) than all individual cases taken together. Yet governments remain immune to prosecution, even when evidence exists that those acts were committed in contravention of international law. Not only that, regardless of your own personal values, you are required to finance these actions with a portion of your daily wage.

“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume,” says Chomsky of our modern world. Key in this statement is the silent pact between government and people. Their job is to tell us why we need them and ours is to believe them, no matter the incongruence. But from the Arab Spring, to the Occupy and Idle No More movements, to the current protests in Turkey and Brazil (and too many others to list here) people are waking up to the realization that governments cannot be trusted, and that representative democracy exists more in the streets than in boardrooms and back rooms. The violent backlash against these movements is evidence that governments are concerned but not to the degree that they won’t continue to favour private interests, from opening the public purse for private consumption to loosening regulations that would make corporations accountable, all the while tightening control of individual liberties. They are not truly frightened because they know we won’t dismantle the system, we’ll just elect new players to the game.

While the problem of government may seem insurmountable and we will undoubtedly have to exist alongside it for some time to come, there are definite steps that we can take towards freedom, perhaps none more important than to credit ourselves with the power imbued in us. We can think for ourselves- start questioning authority, require reasoning over dictates. Of media reports, we can ask ourselves “who are the stakeholders in this story?” Challenge authority when it doesn’t make sense, even if it involves breaking the rules. Support other rule breakers- divide and conquer remains one of the surest ways to victory and our governments make frequent use of this tool. Especially support the rule-breakers when they flout absurd regulations- like offering you farm fresh eggs in an area that doesn’t approve of farm fresh eggs, or harvesting rainwater, or not asking permission to build a deck in their backyard, or building that deck out of milk cartons if they so choose.

Determine what it is that you really need, and then see if you (or a neighbour) can’t supply that need. If you can afford to invest in alternative energy- do it, build a greenhouse or garden to provide your own produce, support a local farmer by buying direct, pay someone local- better yet, trade services or goods. The less money you need to support yourself, the less involved you will need to be in the cash economy, and the less money you will pay in taxes. Form or support community cooperatives. Again- especially support those community cooperatives if government shows up with a stick because those organizations haven’t met all of the guidelines. Protest, loudly and often, where abuses occur. Protest not just the irreparable damage to our planet but every abuse that occurs in your name as though someone had attached a banner bearing your personal endorsement- because it is no less than that. There are considerably more ways to reclaim our power than there are ways to subjugate us.

Progress on solar panel mounts

I am extremely happy with my new tractor. The other day I moved more dirt with it in a couple hours than I could have in several weeks with a shovel and a wheelbarrow. Berming the north side of the earthbag home is well under way. Next I used the loader to flatten out the spot where the solar panels will be set up. Kind of odd actually that it needed doing at all. We live in a place so flat that on a clear morning, you can see the back of your head. Image

But there it was, a small area that the previous landowner had built up to place his fuel tanks on stands. There was also an old windmill there that had come down. Digging it out with the backhoe was fun and easy compared to the manual digging out of an old satellite dish. I frigging love this new tractor.

Tomorrow the concrete truck is coming to pour the blocks for the solar mounts. I built the forms using wood from pallets and some plywood that I keep reusing for various things.Inside the forms are some rebar cages I made and then welded to the vertical posts. Image

Putting the cross bar in place would have been impossible without the loader. It’s a fifteen foot length of 4.5″ diameter x .335″ wall steel at the top of 8 foot posts. All the pieces are hot dipped galvanized so everything should last a very long time.

There is still plenty of work to do before I can tell the power company to pack sand but we are making good progress. It’s going to feel really good to flip that breaker switch to turn the panels on.

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Midnite disco combiner box

 

My wife has worms!

Well, actually I think they are mine, but we have agreed to share. We recently acquired some composting worms from some friends, and then bought some more. Apparently the castings (what the worms call their shit) from these little critters makes the best soil on the planet. It can also be made into compost ‘tea’ by mixing it with water. So far, this years seedlings seem to be loving it.

The worms live in a plastic tote. We put in a bedding layer of shredded newspaper, some food for them and that’s all it takes. Soil starts ‘happening’. For food they eat whatever fruit and vegetable scraps we have. And we have a lot. This year we bought a juicing machine so there is a lot of pulp created for every glass of juice. By the way, juicing is excellent. I am still amazed at some of the great tasting concoctions we come up with.

The worms need air, so I drilled some holes in the plastic totes and then covered them with some metal window screen. Instead of gluing them in place, I heated the plastic with a butane soldering iron and then pushed the screen right into the plastic.

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These worms have five hearts and one ass. This is what comes out.
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drilled with 1″ hole saw

 

Our future is at the Dump

I still can’t believe the things people just throw out around here. A while back during one of my scavenging trips to the transfer station (collection point for the dump) I found a perfectly good large monkey wrench. I later saw the same one in a hardware store for $90. A week before I picked up an almost new compound miter saw at the same place. Last week I scored 50 2×4’s during someones home renovations. At the same place I was able to get 6 new 1/2 sheets of 3/4″ plywood. All this was headed for the dump. At least $250 worth of good wood that I got for free. My current project list includes a new dog house and chicken coop so these materials will go to good use. If they had made it to the dump they would be added to a huge pile until there is enough to set it on fire. Crazy.

On a rocket stove forum I follow, one person said that where they live they can’t even find an old oil drum to build their stove. They are from a part of the world where everything gets used and reused till there is nothing left. It could easily end up that way here if people continue with their current practices.

What a shame really that so many valuable resources are just discarded, to be crushed, burned or buried. People in this society pretty much accept they will get a new cell phone every year, and a new car every five years or so. Toilets are flushed with drinking water. People are paying for bottled water that is filled with the same water that comes from the tap for free. Recently I attended a seminar on harvesting rainwater. It was disappointing. The jist of it was – don’t do it – your not allowed except for underground irrigation. That’s just complete bullshit. I’ve been drinking nothing but rainwater for over two years now (filtered through a berkey). I know there are people who have broken away from corporate control and the resulting mindset that goes with it, but not nearly enough. Walk around any city and ask yourself, what would your great grandparents have to say about what they see?

I think future generations may just be a little embarrassed, knowing that they came from a long line of complete retards.

Bring the Spring!

Still plenty of snow here at the domestead, but I’m starting to feel the warmth in the sun’s rays. Soon though, the trees will be budding and the gophers will be humping. And as usual, we have a long list of projects we are anxious to get to as soon as the weather allows. There’s the berming of the earthbag house, a new dog house, a chicken coop, gardening and hoop houses and many more. pv_mountOne project I’m excited about is mounting our solar panels.I’ve finally decided on what kind of mount to get and it should be ready for delivery in a couple weeks. It’s being built by my solar supplier. I chose his setup because he really overbuilds things. Quite a plus since we both live in very high wind areas.

In the last three years, my wife and I have shoveled countless tons ( I estimate at least 500 tons) of dirt, clay, sand and gravel by hand. We both agree we now have enough experience shoveling and that nothing good can come of shoveling another 500 tons. So…. a very welcome addition to the domestead is….
mahindra_3616_4WD_HST_tlb-studio_779px

We go pick it up this weekend. We were supposed to get it last week, but were snowed in and could not get off the property. I figure more more dirt can be moved in less time than if I had 50 wives with shovels. (It’s a good thing my wife and I get along so well since even one wife with a shovel can be extremely dangerous.)

Open Source

I work with computer junk to make my living. I’ve learned and forgotten hundreds of software programs in the last 25 years. Sometimes I have to install, learn and test ten programs looking for just the right solution to a problem. I’ll keep the one that solves the business task at hand and delete the other nine. And then shit gets updated, bought out by someone or just plain won’t work on the new operating system. So it all starts again. GIS involves a lot of hardware and software with constant moving targets and shifting benchmarks. The worst part is that all this crap costs a lot of money. The bundle of software programs I use to make 3D mapping for infrastructure planning costs many thousands of dollars. The data costs are quite high as well. I can make some pretty cool maps and digital models, but it is very expensive to do.

Until now. There is now a lot of very powerful, very cool software and data available for FREE. If you have ever spent hundreds of dollars to buy Micro$haft Office only to be forced to spend more on an upgrade so you can read a docx file from someone who got sucked into upgrading before you, there is an alternative. A program called Open Office works great, is easy to install, works on PC or Mac, has ALL the features, and is FREE.

GIS geeks will find that QGIS is quite powerful, easily competes with E$RI’s overpriced stuff on many levels and of course is free (there are others as well). And why pay Micro$haft lots of money for their SQL offering? MySQL is just as good and unless you plan on replicating across many servers, it is completely free for full functionality (other options here as well).

Whatever you use computers for, check online to see if there are free solutions that work for you before you give the the bloated corporations you hard earned cash.

A quick sample of a portion of a relief map using free software and free data. It can even be published to a mapping web page in the cloud for free if I wanted.

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Of course, I’d rather be chopping wood or building with mud and straw, but it’s good to be involved in a variety of activities.

Tongue in Groove

I really like the look of tongue in groove ceilings in rustic homes. So I priced it out and realized it would be way outside my budget. I really dislike gyproc ceilings for all kinds of reasons, so what were we to do? One thing I thought of was using click lock laminate flooring and have even seen people online who have done just that. But it wouldn’t be the way to go for us. Cost, weight,  and difficulty of installing all made me look for another solution. So we came up with one that seems like it will work great for us. We used 3/8 plywood sheets, cut them into strips and stained them. Then they were put up using brad nails with my manual staple gun.

Speaking of ‘tongue in groove’ I’m so glad we are almost at the end of the American election season. It will be nice when the politicians just get back to ignoring the public and stealing from them.

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