Money Talk

I’d forgotten the power of the “so, how much money do you make?” faux pas to enrage in a uniquely immediate way, as if a fire had appeared in the couch, until my nine year old son aimed the question at his parents.

I flashed on the time I blurted the question out- just before dinner one summer…I believe the response went something like, “THAT is none of your business.” Our son persisted, wanting to know why it was forbidden to reveal our monthly cash flow to a fourth grader.  I stumbled, but my wife interceded, describing it as a kind of security concern, a softening of the none of your business line, but he wasn’t buying it.  Eventually relied on the “none of your little business young sir” approach, and he asked for a cookie as a kind of payoff for his silence on the issue.

His curiosity inspired me to do a little digging.  Have we recovered from 2008?  How is your average person fairing in 2017?

Those seeking office want to stress the impending or realized economic ruination of entire regions or demographics (usually what used to be the middle class), while those in office, or of the ruling party describe a land of plenty burgeoning with opportunity and the promise of more good things to come.  As is always the case, reality is the enemy of everyone in this case.  THE MARKETS require perpetual attitudinal upselling, as do sellers of anything.  Value is perception as they say- so the crazed eyes of Perception must be closely controlled and protected from off narrative doses of reality. So, what is the current financial state of the nation?

One measure speaks volumes.  Half of us cannot come up with 500 bucks to cover an unexpected emergency.  Despite job growth and a slight uptick in wages, the cost of basics like healthcare, childcare and food are eating up any gains made.

The short answer is- we are dining on a sinking ship.

Maybe our ship needs to sink, forcing us to consume less, rethink what is important, gain perspective on what we really need as opposed to what we have been conditioned to think we want.  You can find as much doom and gloom forecasting as you can handle. Here’s one.   Half of Baby Boomers have little or no retirement savings.  This fact alone is going to change how we live.  It will take some getting used to, but we stand to gain a lot living as we did for thousands of years, with our extended family.

Consider the C.I.A.

The Central Intelligence Agency is the prototypical shadow self mechanism of expansionist America- the mostly hidden, extra-legal strike force tasked with butchering opposition to U.S. corporate global dominance, aka American Interests.  With 16 other intelligence agencies to work, and or compete with for the intel money pie, CIA is top dog.  According to leaked documents outlining intelligence “black budgets” the CIA consumes the biggest classified money slice.  That’s right, the CIA is SO not your business, even their budget is too hot to handle.

In a society that supposedly values freedom, the rule of law and human rights, we seem largely unconcerned with the often nefarious activities conducted in our name, with our black tax dollars, by what amounts to a secret surveillance army with a license to torture, steal, maim and kill, whose activities are none of your damn business.

It could be argued that in order to have a chance at creating the stability and plenitude needed to grow our lofty stated values in a chaotic and dark world, we must assemble and maintain an adept force capable and willing to do the dirty work, to operate in the larger world where bad actors who do not share our values seek to harm or otherwise compromise our “interests.”

Certainly the individuals who join the CIA are typically highly motivated, intelligent and patriotic men and women…perhaps with a certain level of narcissistic egoism sprinkled in, but high functioning elite types get this naturally.  Who wakes up one morning and says, “I am CIA material!”  Many high functioning people are easily bored by the mundane and crave adventure and or danger.  And CIA is a dangerous gig.

Douglas Mackiernan, the first CIA officer killed in the line of duty, was killed on  April 29th, 1950, in Tibet.  The CIA did not publicly recognize Mackiernan’s service until 2006, when his name was added to the “book of honor” which contains the names of 84 others, with 33 redacted fatalities.

The CIA is in the curious position of having whatever operations it completes that may be universally applauded for big brained daring do and the preservation of America, Apple Pie and our stated values, largely kept hidden from the public, while the most evil operations, the ones usually discounted as insane conspiracy theories until confirmed by terse lawyerly admissions due to leaks, whistle blowers or the passage of enough time, get all the attention.

Compare…

CIA Timeline

Known CIA Atrocities 1947-97 

What to do?  The CIA represents a kind of bottomless hopelessness chasm where dreams of democracy and self righteousness are disappeared, or worse.  Sometimes the Crazy Punch tastes so good you just want to keep drinking.  A few years ago I viewed a bookstore chat with some unfamous CIA operative whose memoir was on sale.  The man was sharp, reasonable and thoughtful, fielding questions from history buffs and weirdos hoping to glimpse a real, in the flesh conspiracy zombie.  The man prattled on for an hour.  Near the end he made an off handed comment about how successful the CIA had been in Iran- toppling Mossadegh at the behest of oil companies because the fool wanted to nationalize Iranian oil fields!  His reasonableness was not shattered, and nobody reacted to his bland statement describing the overthrow of a foreign government as good baseball.  The Crazy Punch was that good. The man, whoever he is, was the perfect cool barbarian, ready to pillage and destroy calmly, with scholarly precision.

CIA website mission statement-

CIA Vision, Mission, Ethos & Challenges

Vision

CIA’s information, insights, and actions consistently provide tactical and strategic advantage for the United States.

Mission

Preempt threats and further US national security objectives by collecting intelligence that matters, producing objective all-source analysis, conducting effective covert action as directed by the President, and safeguarding the secrets that help keep our Nation safe.

Ethos

The officers of the CIA are guided by a professional ethos that is the sum of our abiding principles, core values, and highest aspirations. This ethos holds us on course as we exercise the extraordinary influence and authorities with which we have been entrusted to protect the Nation and advance its interests. CIA’s ethos has many dimensions, including:

  • Service. We put Nation first, Agency before unit, and mission before self. We take pride in being diverse, inclusive, agile, responsive, and consequential.
  • Integrity. We uphold the highest standards of lawful conduct. We are truthful and forthright, and we provide information and analysis without institutional or political bias. We maintain the Nation’s trust through accountability and oversight.
  • Excellence. We bring the best of our diverse backgrounds and expertise to everything we do. We are self-aware, reflecting on our performance and learning from it. We strive to give all officers the tools, experiences, and leadership they need to excel.
  • Courage. We accomplish difficult, high-stakes, often dangerous tasks. In executing mission, we carefully manage risk but we do not shy away from it. We value sacrifice and honor our fallen.
  • Teamwork. We stand by and behind one another. Collaboration, both internal and external, underpins our best outcomes. Diversity and inclusion are mission imperatives.
  • Stewardship. We preserve our ability to obtain secrets by protecting sources and methods from the moment we enter on duty until our last breath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Squeeze

It’s dark out there…don’t you know?

Stress related conditions are consuming our medical resources. Opioid addiction remains elevated, out of control.  The spike in heroin overdoses and deaths continues unabated.  70% of Americans are medicated, 11% are on anti-depressants.  Trumpism’s dark barometer and associated Lefty mental collapse has crippled reasonableness for good.  The world’s oceans are choked with waste.  And we are going insane.

“I work 70 hours a week, have for years.  My old man worked himself to death.”- Painting Contractor describing the American Dream circa 2013.

The ocean’s dead zones are hard to measure.

In descending order of prevalence a large percentage of the garbage is comprised of – cigarette filters, food wrappers and containers, plastic bottles, plastic bags, caps and lids, plastic utensils, straws, glass bottles, aluminum cans and paper bags.

The Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of Texas and nine feet deep in places.  How much trash inhabits our oceans is anyone’s guess…think of a really big number and then add metric tons and you will have made an attempt to grasp the ungraspable.  According to the LA Times, the top ten ocean litterers are China and a host of other Pacific Rim countries.

If we are honest it’s understandable why garbage ends up killing off large swaths of ocean, given the fact that almost everyone has a very short and thoughtless relationship with, let’s say, a plastic bottle.

Human is thirsty- Human is addicted to sugar- Human gathers change from the useless depression between the gear shift console and plastic carpeting covering the hump where the drive shaft or whatever spines along the car’s mid line- Human purchases sugar based beverage- Human guzzles beverage- Human throws bottle to the passenger side floor- forgets about bottle- Human needs car to become presentable for some social engagement, or is tired of looking at the thickening waste patch approaching the passenger seat’s lip- Human and bottle and assorted refuse part ways- Human begins new waste patch assembly process.

Where the plastic bottle goes is of no concern.  Even if we consider Bottle’s fate, surely it is sorted, melted and reborn to be sucked and belched at countless times before dissipating into unrecognizable forms, or being transmogrified into a plant holder or tote bin.

These ocean murdering Asians, nearly all of them anyway, have no idea where their trash ends up and even if they did, cannot control the waste disposal industry.  Like unimaginably wasteful Americans, they are living unconsciously, eyes to the ground, trying to find a way out, often through behaviors destructive to themselves and the planet.

The key to understanding how we got into this MESS is complicated and goes to the very nexus of our bizarre and growing affluence to misery ratio, which shows us that soft living grows a brooding sense of disconnection and misery- certainly less misery than starvation, but as people scratch and climb out of subsistence living we seem to blow right past some unmarked sweet spot, some sane mode of existence that provides enough for us to live in relative comfort without driving us mad.

In the United States, we experience the highest standard of living in human history, or so we are told.

stand·ard of liv·ing- noun.  The degree of wealth and material comfort available to a person or community.

The catch is, in order to generate our historically unprecedented degree of available material wealth, we have to consume at ever increasing levels to feed the engines of profit making, which then must seek out newer and bigger markets to generate a higher return for investors, or to keep up with ever increasing business costs as money is printed out of thin air, thus devaluing it- quarter after quarter, year after year.

To achieve this monumental task of permanent, unceasing growth, we have sacrificed our children, our souls and our sanity.  We are, it seems, hopelessly lost, out of control, asleep, deranged, terrified, stupefied, made catatonic by some ineffable force dragging us closer and closer to an air conditioned, well moisturized, snack laden and cutting edge doom.

But it doesn’t have to be that way- and deep down, we know it, we can feel the need for a monumental paradigm shift away from consumerism towards something like sanity, which for most people might be described as a life of engaged calm, productivity without the omnipresent Squeeze.

Squeeze– a seemingly inescapable and unending series of pressures endured by American consumer/workers that includes, but is not limited to-

constant financial gauging by companies providing services we think are indispensable or are mandated by law, endless downward pressure in the work place as company owners and managers pass along the insatiable need for growth and cost cutting to those below them (their version of the Squeeze), the constant perception that there isn’t enough time coupled with a compulsion to become overly busy and to fear silence and or calm, to find inactivity somehow pathological while complaining of constant fatigue, a despotic loathing of anyone perceived as not suffering from the Squeeze, a jealous hatred of the uncorrupted young and their bright eyed, still intact life force, a bitter treatment of the old, seen as impediments to a manufactured notion of prime of life happiness attainment that fosters deep narcissistic tendencies and on obsession with keeping up appearances on a complex, multi-level web of social and professional entanglements, a rabid obsession with work, the belief that one must suffer or be suspect, an unquenchable need to feel safe without the presence of statistically measurable levels of danger for most people nearly all the time, the sexualization of literally everything, a psychotic attachment to sports teams, celebrities and manufactured personalities, installation of the belief that all suffering has a cure that can be purchased and ingested, or eliminated through self help media, and finally…the cornerstone of our culture, economy and way of life…the deeply held belief that something is permanently and irrevocably wrong with you.

The Squeeze.  You can feel it, that tightness in your chest, the way your mind will not stop jabbering at you, your inability to really enjoy anything, to exist within the moment without classifying it in relation to some stress induced project you are keeping mental notes on, without having to capture it, document it for perusing at a later date- as if performing an autopsy on the corpse of your life’s moments, the moments you willingly missed attempting to stop time, to achieve marketing’s ultimate promise, to become eternal within a happy, pain free, extremely safe, somehow enriching and nourishing moment, to become the perfectly coiffed, athletically sexy, smart looking caricature you’ve seen in ads since your birth.  You are almost there…but something is missing, something needs to be improved, worked on, attained…if only (insert beef with spouse or world at large, fear, frustration, self hatred etc.) could be gotten rid of.

A growth obsessed consumer economy has two enemies, reality and a sense of contentedness.

The Deep State annexation of privacy is upon us.  The coma inducing post information age has made us numb, helpless.

What is real?  The less connected to reality you feel, the better it is for the economy- from military contractors to pill makers, all grow profits when you are stupefied, frustrated scrambled into one of two camps- the low information rageaholic, or the high information depressive.

Content, well adjusted people with a keen grasp on reality don’t buy shit they don’t need (and produce far less waste).  They are not as susceptible to conditioning and cannot be controlled as easily.  They lack the deep sense of unease held by those in the Squeeze- they slip through the Squeeze’s black embrace rooted in an unshakable sense of verifiable reality.  They perceive their faults as manageable and trust that common sense and a measure of talent of some sort are sufficient prerequisites to becoming a functioning member of a connected community.

They don’t want to be famous.

Without help from the latest self improvement guru, the adoration of the work obsessed, awareness of or concern with the latest gadgets, gossip or fad…they live flawed, beautiful, real lives…and they wreck the economy.

To combat the the self assured, reality based enemy, consuming culture effortlessly grows an infinite regression of markets to control and ingest the mental energy and capital of any and all niche groups.  Let Bill Hicks explain.

Marketing, advertising and the dark art of propaganda, aka public relations, cannot be beaten.  Any enterprise involving the exchange of money will be ingested, repackaged and formed to fit within the overriding consuming paradigm.

Bill describes the 1990’s in a two and a half minute routine.  Recall the very real ache for authenticity felt by young people at the time. Even rock stars were not comfortable with the phony nature of being a rock star, perhaps the least real occupation yet invented.  The PR people ate the 90’s up with a spoon.  Soon “authenticity” was on sale in the form of ratty clothes, very depressed sounding musicians, dark and hopeless movie characters etc.

This eventually gave way to the EXTREME movement.  Since experiencing an authentic life was a hopeless endeavor, you may as well eat extreme potato chips, listen to extremely obnoxious music that blended hip hop and funk metal, pay to watch movies awash in ironically splattered blood, sprinkled with pithy dialogue, spread extreme deodorant under your arms, and eventually tap out on extreme drugs like meth.

Adbuster magazine perfectly exemplifies what Hicks was talking about.  The magazine for anti consumerism hipsters, on sale for hipsters to consume, labeled issue number 79 from 2008 as “Hipster, the Dead End of Western Civilization.”

They have you.  You cannot escape.  You are doomed…and you can buy magazines and other media to confirm your darkest fears.

Maybe you should see a therapist.  Prozac?  Paxil?

This is what we tell the most sensitive and aware of our young people- and we wonder why millennials come across as half formed mental defectives.  Our economy as it is, is dependent on the rearing of hundreds of millions of new, ever more mentally hobbled consumers.  It only makes sense that we should be getting softer, less sure of ourselves, of reality, with each passing generation.  This slippage is simple economics as it relates to the core drivers of consumerism.

As the PR demons get smarter, obtain Big Data, and infect every aspect of life from cradle to grave, eroding our collective consciousness, we get sicker.  We die with dirty needles in our arms, we commit suicide, we are heavily medicated, numb, frozen in the final heart crushing Squeeze snuffing out our collective life force.

The futility is so obvious people are waking up like never before. Beware the near future of marketing.  It will be unrecognizable as marketing.  You are your own production company, and Big Data will surround you with yourself to the extent that you are your own advertising.  The anti-marketing market is too obvious and will be replaced by a bridging of the space between your thoughts and desires.  There will be no way to tell the difference, or if the desires and thoughts are really yours.  This is the future if we do not cultivate awareness in ourselves, our friends and most importantly in our children.  If you aren’t training your children to become media ninjas, you are abusing them.

The way out of the sickness is perfectly clear.  There is a revolution of mind going on independent of anything happening in politics. People are growing, building and consuming locally more than ever before.  But more importantly, the old methods of control are eroding.  This is why the new methods of control will not be perceived as controlling, but empowering.  Television viewership is in decline, ad revenue is plummeting, the alternative press is destroying what has passed as the media for decades, artists of every stripe have immediate world wide distribution potential requiring no transport, the gatekeepers are losing control and we have only just begun to glimpse the possible future.

Your job is to resist indoctrination, to discover a sense of self without craving the programmed consumer buzz, to face reality without believing you are an agent of control destined to sanitize life, to inoculate yourself from every barb or blow with purchasing power, fad or gadget.

Cheer up, you can do it…

P2P Foundation

LOCAL CURRENCY- THE BRISTOL POUND

SOLUTIONS

AGORISM

 

 

 

 

The Boot Stamping

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.  George Orwell

The mentally painful art of script flipping is in full swing as the first months of the Trump administration grind on- each day seemingly birthing a new “scandal” in which recorded phone conversations purport to show malfeasance of an unspecified nature; all linked to the murky and magical world of Russian influence peddling, a tired meme used like a leaking float toy to keep what’s left of the DNC oxygenated.

Despite Trump’s clumsy attempts at governing, his laughable, billionaire infested cabinet picks, his poorly written and seemingly unconsidered executive orders, and penchant for unnecessary conflict with anyone and everyone who chaps his milky white hide, he looks downright measured compared to the lunacy bug infecting what now passes as The Left.  Former “who gives a shitters” from 2009-2015 (when 2.5 million people were deported), are now rabid advocates for anyone and everyone wanting entry into the United States.  Social justice warriors are rioting to stop a gay conservative potty talker from giving a speech, as former peacenicks huff low information hysteria gas from a dark green tank labeled “RUSSIA.” Getting sauced on The Fear enables the otherwise more educated half of our political spectrum to become knuckle dragging idiots concerning Putin, Russia and the magic wand of influence they supposedly conspire to wave in the direction of the 2016 election, Brexit, Marie Le Pen, and any other movement that leans away from neo-liberal globalist talking points in the direction of nationalism.

In an upside down world, conservative Christians support Trump, the pussy grabbing pretend tough guy who hasn’t been in a church since forever.  At the same time, the script flipping births a Russia friendly RNC- if you count out war whore John McCain and other conflict addicts. This new found warmth comes from where exactly?

Who knows, now that the ultra secret world of state craft is both transparent and opaque in the post information brain scramble world of 2017.  Yes, it is here, the collided planets of Information and Disinformation have produced a debris field of bullshit a thousand miles wide, serving…somebody…?

Today the supposedly independent arbiters of truth, Wikileaks, have released a mountain of information apparently exposing CIA collection of everything, despite encryption, the law or any other consideration.  Given predictive software capabilities and the end of privacy, it’s difficult to believe the script flipping, post information era is occurring organically.  But maybe I’m just paranoid.

Baseball

To hell with the news, it’s time for baseball.

Every year, as February drags on, I consider moving to a tropical climate.  Then I remember the murderous summertime heat in Saint Louis and the fantasy vanishes.  The longing for warm weather is also a longing for the only sport I follow with any degree of passion or awareness.

Baseball is the greatest sport humans have yet invented.  Why?

  1.  Like the more unruly and unhinged game of life, baseball requires players to aspire to greatness as individuals, and as part of a team, to face challenges, humiliation, injury etc…before the cold judgement of God Statistic, an extreme form of accountability with every moment played recorded for posterity.  And yet, the numbers only scratch the surface of what each player and team brings to the game, so complex is the nuance, so fragile and fickle the momentum within each inning, game, season.
  2.  Baseball is long…really long, and that’s a good thing.  The regular season is comprised of 162 games.  This is a sadistic and wonderful aspect of the game.  You can’t hide individual or team deficiencies from the unrelenting daily grind of a Major League Baseball season.  The games themselves can be outrageously long.  Baseball is a 19th century hybrid of cricket and rounders and who knows what else.  Born in an era whose pace of life was unimaginably slower, baseball is a game that will not conform to the gnat sized attention span of most 21st century humans. Some complain, but I believe the slowness, the torturous stretches of time required to complete a season or game, to be one of the game’s greatest strengths.  People are forced to slow down, to contemplate the game, or perhaps chat with each other while sitting in the sun for most of an afternoon.  Spending too much time watching baseball?  Relax, mow the yard, take the kids swimming- there’s another game tomorrow.  Electronic devices have infringed some, but a day at the ballpark is meant to be a repose, a dislocation from frenetic gibbering digital NOW culture.
  3. The game is best when played hard and aggressively, but violence is rare.  You can channel aggression in baseball without maiming people.  There are “unspoken rules” related to respect that when infringed upon can lead to ugly bean ball episodes, often ending in clownish brawls that are mostly harmless wrestling with the occasional round house to the chops, or spike to the knee.  Out of thousands of games played each season, perhaps a half dozen ugly incidents will occur.
  4. Baseball played at the highest level is a kind of zen meditation.  All season long you hear players, coaches and analysts describing how yesterday’s heartbreaking loss needs to be forgotten to prepare for tomorrow’s game.  The difficult and mystic art of “letting go” and living completely in the present, is the most prevalent cliche in baseball.  When players describe “being in the zone” at the plate, they are describing an enlightened state of consciousness where the mind is still and they “just let it happen.”  The cultivation of mental toughness is another hallmark of the game.  The very best players will have to persist during long stretches of failure which requires an enlightened perspective, a deep commitment to the present and an iron faith that even the worst slump will also pass away into oblivion.
  5.  Baseball is a thinking person’s game.  The amount of strategic thinking employed by managers and players during a game is staggering and beautiful to watch.  Analytics have been absorbed into the game, but great managers and players are lifelong students of the game and the infinite number of situations that can arise during a game, pitch by pitch, out by out.  This brainy aspect requires great powers of concentration to be sustained over 162 games…at least.
  6. Unless the idiots in the MLB marketing department have their way, baseball will have no time limit.  It could take 200 innings, but to win a game you have to get 27 outs with the lead, or attain the lead in extra innings then defend it for three more outs.  This means the best, luckiest, toughest, or most inspired team on any given day always has at least a chance at a comeback, at redemption.
  7. The deep, in your bones baseball fans are the greatest and most sane of any sport.  The torturous nature of a game that is so rooted failure, but also peppered with moments of awe inspiring accomplishment, athleticism and workman like proficiency instills in life long addicts an acceptance of life (and baseball) as it is- three parts struggle, disappointment and loss and one part pure bliss. Baseball fans learn to enjoy the art of bitching about their team with fellow addicts, and in the same bull session, describing an amazing play or at bat or crafty managerial move.  A real baseball fan evolves, is eventually broken by the game, learning to let go of expectation and craving for victory and is left with an enlarged sense of gratitude for the enduring beauty of the slow, maddeningly beautiful game.