Tuesday, April 29, 2008

William Engdahl's Financial Tsunami Essays #1

Wonder what all the buzz is about with banks and world finances and mortages and all that mysterious stuff? And how it affects you?

This is the first in a series of essays published on-line by William Engdahl. This one covers one of the main reasons for what is now called a world financial grid-lock in the banking industry. Engdahl explains a lot for us non-financial types, a lot more than the mainstream media would dare to explain, else the whole country would be hunkering down for the upcoming world financial crises.

Here's the link:


Links to more essays in this series will be forthcoming.

Here's to keeping an open mind in these challenging times!
Mike Childress

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Deep Ecology by Bill McKibben - Excerpts

Deep Ecology: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future.
Bill McKibben. 2007. Holt Paperbacks, New York. ISBN-13 978-0-8050-8722-2


… new research from many quarters has started to show that even when growth does make us wealthier, the great wealth no longer makes us happier.

The key questions will change from whether the economy produces an ever larger pile of stuff to whether it builds or undermines community – for community, it turns out, is the key to physical survival in our environmental predicament and also to human satisfaction.

In the face of energy shortage, of global warming, and of the vague but growing sense that we are not as alive and connected as we want to be, I think we’ve started to grope for what might come next.

Three fundamental challenges to the fixation on growth have emerged. One is political: growth, at least as we now create it, is producing more inequality than prosperity, more insecurity than progress … By contrast, the second argument draws on physics and chemistry as much as on economics: it is the basic objection that we do not have the energy needed to keep the magic going, and can we deal with the pollution it creates? The third argument is both less obvious and even more basic: growth is no longer making us happy.

Wars are fought over oil, not over milk, not over semiconductors, not over timber.

Most of all, perhaps the very act of acquiring so much stuff has turned us ever more into individuals and ever less into members of a community, isolating us in a way that runs contrary to our most basic instincts.

Cargill, Inc., controls 45 percent of the global grain trade, while its competitor Archer Daniels Midland controls another 30 percent.

Four multinational companies control over 70 percent of fluid milk sales in the United States … Four firms control 85 percent of global coffee roasting, and a small group of multinationals handles 80 percent of the world trade in cocoa, pineapples, tea, and bananas. The merger of Philip Morris and Nabisco in 2000 created a food conglomerate that collects nearly 10 cents of every dollar an American consumer spends on food. Meanwhile, five companies control 75 percent of the global vegetable seed market, and their grip on the market is tightening as the seed companies patent more and more genetically modified varieties and prevent seed saving.

Steven Blank of the University of California at Davis predicts that America may soon “get out of the food business” because it “will become unprofitable to tie up resources in farming and ranching” that could be better invested elsewhere … Blank is an extreme example, but standard economic thinking basically agrees: the country is better off because people have been freed from working in the fields to do something “more productive”.

Hogs produce a lot of waste, much more than people do. One farm in Utah, with 1.5 million porkers, has a sewage problem larger than that of the city of Los Angeles. In North Carolina, one of the centers of what boosters call Big Pig, hogs outnumber citizens, and they produce more fecal waste than California, New York, and Washington combined.

Seventy percent of the water used by human beings goes to irrigate crops.

In the 1890s, roughly one-quarter of the cropland in the United States was used to grow grain to feed horses, almost all of which worked on farms.

The number of farmers has fallen from half the American population to about 1 percent, and in essence those missing farmers have been replaced with oil. We might see fossil fuel as playing the same role that slaves played in early American agriculture – a “natural resource” that comes cheap.

In much of the world, 40 percent of the truck traffic comes from the shuttling of food over long distances.

If all you are worried about is the greatest yield per acre, then smaller farms produce more food.

… why don’t we have more small farms? Who the relentless consolidation? There are many reasons, including the way farm subsidies have been structured, the big guys’ easier access to bank loans, and the convenience for politically connected food processors of dealing with a few big operations. But the basic reason is this: we have substituted oil for people.

At the moment, subsidies essentially underwrite consolidation: almost a third of all federal farm payments go to the largest 2 percent of farms, and almost three-quarters of the payments go to farms that are among the top 10 percent in size.

Ever wonder why soybean products can be found in two-thirds of all processed food? It may have something to do with the fact that “about seventy percent of the value of the American soy bean comes straight from the U.S. government. [Elizabeth Becker]. Ditto for high-fructose corn syrup. Essentially, we are subsidizing Cheetos.

Our live may not be making us particularly happy, but the institutionalized anti-individualism that marked the Soviet and Maoist experiments was infinitely worse.

It’s important to realize that working together is not some freak Amish trait – it’s what all people did before they had machinery powerful enough to enable them to work alone.

We don’t need each other for anything anymore. If we have enough money, we’re insulated from depending on those around us – which is at least as much a loss as a gain.

Localism … offers a physically plausible economy for the future, and a psychologically plausible one as well: an economy that might better provide goods like time and security that we’re short of.

Almost all of us now take our cues about how to live less from the people around us than from the people we see on television; we live not in our own cities and towns but in the generic Southern California nowhere that streams in through the coaxial cable.

There are communitarians and social conservatives and progressives for whom “community” has become a magic word, a mystic goal. But it is our economic lives, even more than our moral choices, that play the crucial role in wrecking or rebuilding our communities. We need to once again depend on those around us for something real. If we do, then the bonds that make for human satisfaction, as opposed to endless growth, will begin to reemerge.

Clear Channel brags a good deal about its “public service”, which mostly involves running those free ads from the Ad Council. That’s different from the idea that the radio station is there to actually serve a community.

The modern radio industry is utterly focused on you. It’s entirely set up around the idea that you are a part of a predictable demographic whose tastes can be reliably commodified as alternative country or classic rock; the whole premise of talk radio is that you can go all day without hearing an opinion you disagree with – Rush Limbaugh’s fans, after all, call themselves dittoheads.

Television, of course, is so expensive to produce that it has to chase the largest possible audience, and the Internet, though useful in many ways, by virtue of its design splits people off into narrow avenues of interest. Radio is the ideal broad community vehicle.

A generation ago, in his book Human Scale, Kirkpatrick Sale noted that indigenous societies from Australian aborigines to Great Plains Indians seemed to cluster in collections of about five hundred individuals – a small enough number for everyone to know everyone else, large enough to provide a sound gene pool.

Besides food, the most important commodity in our lives is energy, and at first blush it seems almost impossible to localize.

Americans are the energy-use champions of all time, requiring twice as much fossil fuel to power each of our lives as even the citizens of the affluent countries of western Europe.

We’re used to thinking of solar power as a set of panels up on the roof and a set of batteries down in the basement, supporting a grinning, graying hippie happy in his off-the-grid paradise. But there’s something too individualistic about this model: it’s the hippie’s power, for him.

When they burn coal, an enormous amount of the energy is wasted as heat that simply goes up into the air; one recent British study indicated that 61 percent of the energy value of coal just disappears.

A car is the ultimate expression of individualism; a cross walk is about community.

The hyper-individualistic idea that I need to go exactly where I want to go exactly at this instant, and with the radio station I want playing on the car stereo, is relatively new, but very powerful.

The knowledge that you matter to others is a kind of security that no money can purchase.

Most progress toward local economies will probably arise not so much from grand visions as from slow modifications.

“The fussy, trendy, anachronistic rooflines, cupolas and turrets in contemporary subdivisions,” wrote one architect, “are palliative attempts at endowing these spiritless developments with aesthetic substance.”

… in 1900, in the state of Iowa alone, which was then crowded with small farmers, there were also thirteen hundred local opera houses, all of them hosting concerts. “Thousands of tenors,” writes Robert Frank, “earned adequate, if modest, livings performing before live audiences.”

Once it gets rolling, the building of connections can accelerate quickly. We learn once again what skills and gifts our neighbors possess, and they become valuable to us again, literally valuable, people we can start to depend on for some of our food, our fuel, our capital, our entertainment.

China has more than a hundred cities with populations topping a million; by some estimates, it needs to add an urban infrastructure equivalent to Houston’s every four weeks just to keep pace.

Ninety-five percent of the population growth this century will occur in the cities of the developing world, “overwhelmingly in poor cities, and the majority of it in slums” [Mike Davis].

Most people in the developing world still have so little that more money means more satisfaction and the sacrifices of community for stuff are worth making. But those who have begun to “make it” have also begun to resemble Westerners in less-than-happy ways.

A connectedness to place is no kind of desirable life if it brings only a single meal a day, or children are unable to attend school for lack of food and books, or options for wage earning are degrading and soul-destroying.

In India, 60 percent of the population works on the land. If you “modernized” their agriculture to the Western ideal, 600 million people would need to find new jobs, not to mention new places to live, new cultures, new identities.

The “tragedy of the commons” really reflected what happened when hyper-individualism came into contact with older, more community-oriented ideas about the land. In fact, all around the world, as long as communities remained intact so did the commons; there exist forests, pastures, and fisheries that have been collectively managed for millennia.

It takes a village to raise a child, indeed, and to raise a crop.

… as the Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has pointed out, for instance, hundreds of millions of squatters and black-market business owners could get an immediate boost of capital if their governments simply deeded them the land they already occupy and granted them licenses to operate without making them navigate labyrinths of corrupt bureaucracy.

Somewhere there’s a sweet spot, that produces enough without tipping over into the hyper-individualism that drives our careening, unsatisfying economy. The mix of regulation and values that might make such self-restraint more common is, of course, as hard to create in China as in the United States; far simpler just to bless an every-man-for-himself economy and step aside. But creating those values, and the laws and customs that will slowly evolve from them, may be the key task of our time, here and around the world.

The standard conservation-development approach … would be to construct a “biosphere reserve,” with some core areas where nothing could go on, and some buffer zones within hunting or agriculture or whatever. But the Shimong tribesmen were not keen on giving up control of their land (indeed, the literature is full of accounts of what can happen on such reserves once the government takes control: “conservation refugees” forced from their homes, and angry locals busy poaching).

Just like us, people in the developing world need dignity, security, identity. Some of these can be achieved through economic growth, and some of them can be undermined by it. Negotiating modernity requires creativity.

Europeans now provide more than 50 percent of all the civilian development assistance in the world, and 47 percent of all the humanitarian assistance. Our government provides about a third as much assistance, gives much of that aid to corrupt regimes, and ties nearly 80 percent of it to agreements to purchase U.S. goods and services.

European unemployment rates are higher than ours (though some economists have pointed out that we simply don’t bother counting “discouraged workers” and that having 2 percent of the potential male adult workforce behind bars further reduces our total).

Does “quality of life” mean anything? Here’s perhaps the most important statistic: in recent years, while, as we have seen, Americans grew steadily less satisfied with their lives, the percentage of Europeans predominantly satisfied with their lives “increased … from 79 to 83 percent.” As the economist Richard Layard concludes, “The decline in happiness is largely an American phenomenon.”


Thomas Dorr [U.S. Undersecretary of Agriculture for Rural Development]
… the right scale for farms in the future will be about 200,000 acres of cropland under a single manager.

Benjamin Friedman
[Carbon dioxide] is the one major environmental contaminant for which no study has ever found any indication of improvement as living standards rise.

Brian Halweil
In terms of converting inputs into outputs, society would be better off with small-scale farmers. As population continues to grow in many nations, and the amount of farmland and water available to each person continues to shrink, a small farm structure may become central to feeding the planet.

Daniel Kahneman
[Hedonics:] the study of what makes experience and life pleasant and unpleasant. It is concerned with feelings of pleasure and pain, of interest and boredom, of joy and sorrow, and of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. It is also concerned with the whole range of circumstances, from the biological to the societal, that occasion suffering and enjoyment.

Michael Pollan
Mexico’s scarce water resources are leaching north, one tomato at a time. It’s absurd for a country like Mexico – whose people are often hungry – to use its best land to grow produce for a country where food is so abundant that its people are obese – but under free trade, it makes economic sense.

Jules Pretty
For as long as people have managed natural resources, we have engaged in forms of collective action. Farming households have collaborated on water management, labor sharing, and marketing; pastoralists have co-managed grasslands; fishing families and their communities have jointly managed aquatic resources. Such collaboration has been institutionalized in many local associations, through clan or kin groups, water users’ groups, grazing management societies, women’s self-help groups.

Charles Schultze
Harnessing the ‘base’ motive of material self-interest to promote the common good is perhaps the most important social invention mankind has achieved.

Daniel Taylor
Development is typically viewed as a snapshot, but you have to understand it’s a process. It began at the beginning of time, and it’s going to go to the end of the future. Your job is to go with the flow.

James Twitchell
Much of our shared knowledge about ourselves comes to us through a commercial process of storytelling called branding … ten percent of a two-year-old’s nouns are brand names.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Freedom Manifesto by Tom Hodgkinson - Excerpts

The Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste.

Tom Hodgkinson. 2006. Harper Perennial, New York. ISBN 978-0-06-082322-1


I have tried to bring together three strands of thought into a philosophy for everyday life; these are freedom, merriment and responsibility, or anarchy, medievalism and existentialism. It’s an approach to life that is also known as having a laugh, doing what you want.

In seeking freedom, I would define myself as an anarchist. In anarchy, contracts are made between individuals, not between citizen and state.

How to be free? Well, like it or not, you are free. The real question is whether you choose to exercise that freedom …

Anxiety suits the status quo very well. Anxious people make good consumers and good workers. Governments and big business, therefore, love terrorism – they adore it, it’s good for business.

Anxiety is the sacrifice of creativity in the service of security. It is the giving up of personal freedoms in return for the promise, never fulfilled, of comfort, cotton wool, air-conditioned shopping centers. Security is a myth; it simply doesn’t exist. This does not stop us, however, from constantly chasing it.

Belief in the abstract invention ‘career’ is a middle-class affliction. The lower orders, wisely, don’t quite have the same faith in progress and self-betterment as the bourgeois classes and neither do members of the aristocracy.

And now more than ever before, the middle classes attempt to impose their career ethic on everyone else. This is called ‘government’.

Governments sell themselves by promoting the idea of ‘equal opportunities for everyone to make the best of themselves’ when really what they mean is ‘equal opportunities for every slimebag to rat on his friends and colleagues in order to worship the false god of career advancement.’

Career is just posh slavery. And career is an institutionalized putting-off a paradise deferred.

Career, then, is a Protestant invention and an ideal for living that would have been impossible in the more fatalistic Catholic medieval society.

‘Learn a craft’ is what I suggest to young writers who contact the Idler: carpentry or blacksmithing or gardening or upholstery; such pursuits sit alongside the life of the mind very well.

Clearly we need to find a town of 50,000 people, 50,000 freedom-seekers, put a wall around it, declare it an independent republic and get on with things on our own. The medieval cities demonstrated to [Prince] Kropotkin that, left to our own devices, we can do a much better job of organizing our affairs than any government.

Solar panels are anarchy in action.

And as for your plans for the future? Well: we all know the Jewish joke: How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans.

… our resentment makes it hard for us to escape. Resentment can be a barrier to freedom.

Resentment of others – ‘It’s all right for you,’ the feeling that life is just that little bit easier for everyone else around you – is the first manacle that must be cast off in the quest for freedom.

The problem is not that people are different, but that they do not respect differences.

For some unfathomable reason, everyone seems to want an expensive watch. But isn’t it mighty peculiar that what is in actual fact a symbol of slavery should also have become a status symbol? Wearing a watch indicates to others that you have bound yourself to the modern industrial tempo.

It is one of the triumphs of the capitalist project that the slave-driver is now inside us, which saves an enormous amount on the wage bill.

We should abandon the expression ‘free time’, because it implies its opposite, ‘slave time’.

As the unusual German historian Johan Huizinga says in The Waning of the Middle Ages, modern man sees himself primarily as a worker, and this is the great change. No praying, no fighting, no working the land. Just work, hard work.

Competition is a slave’s creed. We think that by beating up the other guy we elevate ourselves, but, in fact, we are debasing ourselves to the level of a slave. To be competitive is a sign of submission as, really, it just means that we are carrying out the master’s wishes.

… ‘financial services’ – and there’s a euphemism for usury if ever I heard one …

… debt has been compared by many to a modern form of indentured labour. You get into debt, and then you are stuck in a job you hate in order to pay off the debt. This helps the system, as it means that most of us are more or less kept quiet and toiling.

It is credit, not cash, that makes wealth: apparently, rich people are often simply more spectacularly in debt than the rest of us.

To free yourself from the cycle of work-spend-debt-work, simply stop consuming and start creating.

Don’t make luxury into a meaning.

We desire things, we are attached to things, we believe that things will make us better. This process serves the postponement of desire which is one of the characteristic features, indeed a motor, of large-scale capitalism. The desire for things produces a restless craving, and this restless craving leads us into the world and into our schemes for betterment.

This is how capitalism works: through a constant stream of disappointments which encourages the spending of more and more money.

To work hard to produce useless items of nothing and then to make that the sole purpose of living – this is the insanity of desire.

So, put simply, if you have somewhere to live, enough money to buy or produce good food, friends, books and plenty of booze and cigarettes, then how bad can life be?

Desire and modern capitalism preach that means are unimportant and that ends are all: ‘I’m only doing my job.’

… fear is actually rather convenient to the smooth functioning of an orderly society. A docile population which is terrified of the authorities in their various forms, whether supermarket, bank, school or boss, and afraid of other human beings, will more likely depend on objects and institutions to give them guidance, solidity, security and a sense of meaning.

Fear keeps us observing life rather than living it. We are spectators rather than participators.

Fear is a tool of control. It is fear of punishment that will keep a classroom quiet and make the teacher’s job easier; it is fear of the sack that will keep the grumbling workers quiet. Fear is also an efficient controlling device. It also helps us to fulfill our roles as consumers. It is fear of life itself that keeps us spending in the arcades and typing our credit-card numbers into websites.

One source of fear is certainly the education system. Little children are fearless, imperious anarchists, and the education system works and works on them over a period of fifteen years to instill docility so that they won’t complain too much when they end up with a boring job.

Life is about nothingness, so go and create your own life and enjoy it. Everything is vanity, fiction, conditioning, self-created, mind-forg’d.

Vanity and absurdity are the same thing – mere creations of man’s imagination, utterly without meaning.

Governments do too much and they do most of it badly.

Politics is not the art of running a country, it is the art of persuading the people that they need a set of paid politicians to run the country.

… the final insult is that we pay the government between a quarter and a half of our income for the privilege of being patronized and bossed around.

There is a real alternative to elected governments. It is self-government, or anarchy, or running one’s own affairs without relying on external authority.

Anarchy is about the creative spirit fighting the cowed spirit, and the battle has to start within ourselves.

What can we do to be ourselves, rather than trying to conform and contort ourselves into a uniform model? Well, we can start simply by ignoring government. The best way to smash the state is to take no notice of it and hope it goes away.

An important mental step in escaping the power of government is to understand that to some degree, we ourselves are complicit with the problem. By not acting for ourselves, we allow others to act for us.

In the existential world, where life is absurd, you may as well create your own life.

In order to keep bureaucracy and taxes to a minimum, we will earn small amounts of money and instead do favours for each other. We don’t want affordable housing, jobs and shopping centers. Those are slave’s perks, handed down by authority, which may be more or less lenient according to whichever government fate has installed. What we want is to create our own little aristocracies, as D.H. Lawrence has it. We want soil, caravans and trees, smallholdings, vegetable patches, art and crafts. And beer and books. That’s all.

Government is a license for people to kill and rape each other; government creates the killing and raping while pretending to prevent it.

Machines have never liberated us from toil, due to the fact that they need minding by a human being and are owned by the capitalists, in whose hands they become instruments of enslavement and prolonged boredom.

The accusation ‘unprofessional’ means ‘You did not behave like a machine today.’

Digital technology may supply you with what you want, but it won’t supply you with what you need.

The future is always about machines. But I don’t think about the future; I think about the present. The future is a capitalist construct. The past teaches us that the future has let us down, and let us down many, many times. Dreaming of some kind of technological utopia in which the machines will do all the work has failed us before, and it is failing us now, with our new faith in digital technology.

… the fact is, the past is a great treasure store of good ideas for living, ideas that were actually applied and whose results we can see. The problem with ideas of the future is that they are untested; they are all speculation, fantasy.

The very thing that we take on board in order to provide us with security – a home – seems to offer instead only anxiety and a feeling of being trapped.

The mortgage, which puts all the burden of buying a house on the individual, is the logical outcome of the individualization of ownership. But the reality is that in being sold the idea that we should all own our own house, we have simply given into a giant usury con.

We need to diffuse land ownership, ban usurious mortgages, stabilize rents and bring house prices right down. We could perhaps do this by simply losing interest in money-making.

The problem with vagabondage is that big governments can’t stand it. They hate the chaos, the unruly elements, the sense that people are wandering around the country doing what they like. When governments increase in power, they all have a resentful way of cracking down on vagabonds.

Putting a lot of time and money into mortgages and the ‘dream home’ is never going to be more than a distraction from the real issue, which is you, and your state of mind.

The family, which should be a source of pleasure, fun, cosiness and nourishment, seems everywhere to produce misery, anger, door-slamming, shouting, cruelty, fighting, death and abuse.

The modern family merely represents a financial burden – in other words, an inducement to take jobs you don’t like.

The commodification of childcare is another of the unhelpful effects of capitalism. You earn money doing something you don’t like in order to pay someone else to ‘do the childcare’, i.e., look after your children.

By confirming the existence of a problem, you create a market. That is why the pharmaceutical industry is forever creating new illnesses; that is why the insurance industry is forever creating new fears; that is why the government is forever creating new enemies.

The wonderful thing about children is not their so-called innocence but their passion, their passion for life and living. This can take the form of tears or laughter, and we need to get it into our heads that tears and laughter are both to be welcomed. You can’t have one without the other. They may even enjoy it – like the medievals, who seemed to embrace all extremes of passion. It is this passion that we need to find in ourselves.

We are fatally over-scheduling our children and creating a nation of useless dependents unable to do anything for themselves apart from the spectacularly useless and costly occupations of computer games, tennis and ballet. We are creating a generation of children who don’t know how to play.

Quality of life has been sacrificed to quantity of life. Living as long as possible rather than living as well as possible – that seems to have become the goal.

Fear of pain, indeed, might be seen as fear of life, since life is pain.

Pain will never leave us. Live with it. Instead of putting energy into destroying pain, we need to put energy into creating pleasure. Pleasure for yourself and pleasure for those around you. Sex, music, dancing, beer and wine, good company, good work, merry cheer: these are the antidotes to pain, and they are of course only pleasures because we know pain. Without pain, there would be no pleasure.

Private pension plans claim to sell you ‘peace of mind’, i.e., freedom from fear, but the reality is the opposite: they sell us fear and then sell the apparent solution to that fear – money.

So, when it comes to pensions, I am firmly of the ‘eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die’ school. Belief in pensions produces a kind of slavery. If you don’t believe in pensions, then you believe in yourself and you believe in looking after yourself. This makes you free.

Funnily enough, the people who encourage others to worry about the future are those who want your money now.

It makes perfectly logical sense that in societies based on a collective ideal, manners and rituals are of the highest importance, whereas in societies based on a competitive ideal, manners are useful only as a means of getting what you want.

Disintegrating manners are a sign of a disintegrating society.

Don’t bother setting up free republics or moving to a country which offers more liberties. Simply declare yourself to be an independent state. Do not involve and coerce others. This is the only way we will effect a proper revolution.

Self-importance is a trap, because the moment we start to think that we actually matter is the moment when things start to go wrong. The truth is that you are supremely unimportant, and that nothing matters. All of man’s striving is for nothing; all effort is wasted. To realize that everything is meaningless is tremendously liberating, since it then leaves us completely free to create our own lives and ignore the plans that others have for us.

So we can see why artists and writers traditionally tend towards Roman Catholicism, while Protestantism is the religion for the serious man of business, the practical man.

We are all supposed to want to become rich. Wanting to be rich is one of the motors of a competitive world. Wanting to be rich is what keeps us striving, working, fighting, struggling, competing, conning and abandoning morals. And wanting to be rich is the precise impulse that is exploited by the people who actually do become rich, the usurers and the investors, the market manipulators, because they exploit our greed for their own ends. Wanting more money removes us from enjoying the present; it is therefore a Puritan trait. We should celebrate what we have. Wanting to be rich is actually the first desire that must be cast off in the pursuit of freedom.

Do it now. Give things away for free and money will lose its power over you.

… since shopping is today seen as our patriotic duty, to be thrifty is actually to be unpatriotic, and therefore it gives one a pleasant sense of rebelling against the state.

It is not thrift as self-denial and the preaching of sobriety, industry, frugality and virtue to the lower orders that I am recommending; it is more a spirited reclaiming of one’s own finances.

We should also be thrifty with our time, and that means not rushing through things and not wasting our time by giving it to an employer.

The tragedy of the nineteenth century was that Western man came to see himself, first and foremost, as a worker. Life became a serious business. Frivolity, mirth, play, ritual, dance, music, merriment, dressing up: those childish pleasures, all central parts of life for the nobles, priests and peasants of old, had been under constant attack since the middle of the sixteenth century.

Make money out of what you are doing anyway. In my case, I spend each morning writing and reading, and the rest of the day is given up to household work: gardening, cleaning, baking … The evenings are for drinking, eating and talking.

Education itself is a putting-off, a postponement: we are told to work hard to get good results. Why? So we can get a good job. What is a good job? One that pays well. Oh. And that’s it? All this suffering, merely so that we can earn a lot of money, which, even if we manage it, will not solve our problems anyway? It’s a tragically limited idea of what life is all about.

If the mortgage company owns 90 per cent of it, how can this be said to be owning your own house? Instead, you are in slavery to two authorities, the employer and the mortgage company. Fall behind on these payments, and the mortgage company will literally take your home from you. Therefore, you will subject yourself to all sorts of humiliations at work out of fear of losing your job.

Relaxing the hold that work has over your life and replacing it with play can be a slow and gradual process. The key to enjoying a life beyond full-time employment is to realize that, once you stop working full time, you start to become a producer, a creative person, rather than a consumer.

Be a jack of all trades; abandon perfectionism. Embrace the creed of the amateur. Do it for love, not money.

If you enjoy your work, then it’s not work. As my friend Sarah says, the trick to living free is to wake up every morning and screech: ‘Morning, Lord, what have you got for me today?’


Matthew de Abaitua
[Retirement:] secular afterlife.

St. Thomas Aquinas
Abstinence in eating and drinking has no essential bearing on salvation: The kingdom of God is not meat and drink … the holy apostles understood that the kingdom of God does not consist in eating and drinking but in resignation to either lot, for they are neither elated by abundance, nor distressed by want.

Simone de Beauvoir
Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.

Aldous Huxley
There will never be enduring peace unless and until human beings come to accept a philosophy of life more adequate to the cosmic and psychological facts than the insane idolatries of nationalism and the advertising man’s apocalyptic faith in Progress towards a mechanized New Jerusalem.

John of Brunn
A man who has conscience is himself the Devil and hell and purgatory, tormenting himself. He who is free in spirit escapes all these things.

E.M. Forster
Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.

Masanobu Fukuoka
Humanity knows nothing at all. There is no intrinsic value in anything, and every action is a futile, meaningless effort.

John Keats
Beauty is truth and truth beauty,
That is all ye know and all ye need to know.

C.S. Lewis
I believe a man is happier and happy in a richer way, if he has ‘the freeborn mind’ … and in adult life it is the man who needs, and asks, nothing of the Government who can criticize its acts and snap his fingers at its ideology.

Penny Rimbaud
Our lives are uniquely and intrinsically our own. It is a responsibility that few seem willing to bear.

Bertrand Russell
Democracy, as conceived by politicians, is a form of government, that is to say, it is a method of making people do what their leaders wish under the impression that they are doing what they themselves wish.

Jean-Paul Sartre
It is … senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are.

Henry Suso
…Untrammeled freedom … When a man lives according to all his caprices without distinguishing between God and himself, and without looking before or after.

Leo Tolstoy
… even if the absence of government really meant anarchy in the negative disorderly sense of that word – which is far from being the case – even then no anarchical disorder could be worse that the position to which governments have already led their peoples, and to which they are leading them.

Raoul Vaneigem
The consumer cannot and must not ever attain satisfaction.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Jim Willie's Hat Trick Letter - 16 April 2008

This link takes you to an unfortunately valid diatribe about the U.S. financial, political, and economic situation as it stands at present. It pretty much tells it all like it, sadly, really is:


Jim Willie posts a public commentary about once a week. This is about the only commentary that gives a valid big-picture perspective on what is going on in the world - as opposed to the Pollyanna sound bites you will find in mainstream media. What the talking heads employed by Our Masters tell and assure us today must be kept in the perspective of what they told us yesterday - and Jim Willie is about the only person out there who reminds us of past proclamations.

Perspective is in miserably short supply these days ... and Truth is virtually absent.

Keep your eyes, ears, and mind open.
Mike Childress