Archive for July, 2009

Life Without Us

Posted: July 30, 2009 in Uncategorized

My friend and I had a discussion today about what the world would be like if humans were to disappear. The obvious answer is that the world, as a whole, would be much better off. WIth the ecocide that humans have inflicted on the natural world, it is clear that things would be quite different should we suddenly disappear. But it is not just the intentional killing of nature that is a problem, but the way in which the seemingly simple things we do have devastating effects on the earth. The problems are systematic, they stem from domestication, overpopulation, etc, etc. We are not the only ones having this discussion. My friend with whom I was talking brought the topic up because of a book she just read called "The World Without Us" that attempts to explore this very question, taking a very thorough look at just what the world would look like if we vanished. The conclusion is that the natural world would spring up with life unhindered. According to the book, the amount of energy expended to keep simple parts of civilization up and running, like bridges for example, is staggering- and literally so to nature. There are others talking about it too, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement is one rather drastic example. 

Perhaps as a matter of providence, I came across a song today by Earth Crisis, the 90's sxe hardcore band that deals with this issue. It's dark lyrics are actually quite hopeful to those of us who imagine a day when the earth will rise up and reclaim it's rightful place in this vast ecosystem.

Cities Fall by Earth Crisis

The hand of death is lifted
Across the land
The blight exterminates
None able to withstand
Demonic misanthropes
Unseen killing wins
Intentionally set
Upon humanity
Airborne agents infect
From the contagions inhaled
The particles transmit
Till immune system fails

Lives taken slowly
As the sickness spreads
No cure to defend
No cure to reverse
One by one – struck down
Nations end, cities fall
With the silent dead
Nations end, cities fill
With the silent dead

Man's creations collapse
Under the elements
Buildings slowly crumble
Away in the stillness

Lives taken slowly
As the sickness spreads
No cure to defend
No cure to reverse
One by one – struck down
Nations end, cities fall
With the silent dead
Nations end, cities fill
With the silent dead

The skyline decays
Now nature reclaims the earth
Vegetation returns
Civilizations fade
Birds above beasts below
Urbanscape unreconizable
Through broken canyons
Streams flow free
Fractured streets are filled with trees
Moss covered concrete
In ruins
In the absence of humans

Their lives taken slowly
As sickness spreads
No cure to defend
No cure to reverse
One by one – struck down
Nations end, cities fall
With the silent dead
Nations end, cities fill
With the silent dead

Practice Blatant Localism

Posted: July 27, 2009 in Uncategorized
This is more like a journal entry, a rambling for the sake of organizing my own thoughts. Read if you'd like. I'm sure someone can relate. 

I've been living my dream of traveling, and I have plans of continuing this journey for a bit longer. Plans, ah, what a nightmare… I should be free to live spontaneous, free of the oppression of such insignificant things as deadlines and plans. But plans plague me like a bad dream. I have a hard time going with the flow. I am having a bit of a hard time in general. I'm not sure the cause of my dissatisfaction with life on the run, but it seems to be gnawing at me. I'm so thankful for the experiences that I have had. My perspectives on things have changed completely and I have become the person that I hoped I would become. I have met amazing people and have been incredibly inspired by the wonderful and radical things people are doing all over the country. I have seen amazing urban gardens, been the recipient of the hospitality of beautiful collective houses, and slept hidden in the forest keeping watch as defenders of the wild set up road blockades to protect ancient trees. But the more I do, the more I have this feeling that I want to be rooted somewhere, doing similar things. 

Traveling is also more difficult for someone like me because I have a bit of a reserved personality at times. I love meeting new people and sitting around campfires hearing other people's dreams and life stories, but more often than not, I want to be alone and reflect on all the experiences that build up so quick as you travel. 

But when I am stuck in one place, like I was in Florida before I decided to hit the road, I get jaded by routine. I recently heard someone say that everything is magic before it becomes routine. Perhaps there is a way to balance sedentary life with traveling- a way to constantly be gaining new experiences and insights, and meeting new people, while maintaining a sense of place. I think there is. But when you are young it is hard to find a sense of purpose in sedentary life. Well, that's if you refuse to live in the city like I do. I can't settle in a mangled sea of noise and concrete. There are so many options in a city, but this stubborn southern boy is not made for such a thing (…and the secret is neither is anyone). But finding a sense of purpose that feels right and that you can commit to for an extended period of time is hard at this age. My spirit wants to travel. It moves me across the country to and fro, not necessarily searching for anything, but just surveying the options, taking it all in and storing it for later contemplation.  
I have found some things that are worth settling my life around. I know because, while being my normal quiet self, talking about some these things can get me wound up and excited. Defending the earth, whether by stopping logging or mountain top removal, gets me excited. Specifically using direct action to defend the earth, not working through the system, but standing in solidarity with the trees, perhaps in front of them while blocking logging tractors. Herbal medicine and radical medic work gets me excited. I like fighting the dominant scientific medical system that takes health care out of the hands of the people and only treats the elite. And I like doing it by ignoring it. By taking healthcare back in my own hands, learning basic skills to heal myself and the community is a big and satisfying fuck you to the system. Community living gets me excited. After living in community, I don't think I could ever live without. Sharing resources and having a family of close friends is a value that I hold really tightly. 

So what do I do, where, how, when do I settle? I simply don't know. 

Is Money Immoral?

Posted: July 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

The following quotes are stern warnings from religious traditions and philosophers of old about charging debt (usury). Once upon a time, such a concept was considered grossly immoral. Have we become so assimilated into capitalist life that we have forgotten the inherent immorality in this filthy system?? I found all of these quotes on the website of the person who lives without money, a modern day voice crying out in the wilderness.


"Civilization runs on consciousness of credit and debt (knowledge of good & evil)"


Buddhism

"One discerns wrong livelihood as wrong livelihood, and right livelihood as right livelihood. And what is wrong livelihood? Scheming, persuading, hinting, belittling, and charging interestThis is wrong livelihood."

–Siddharta Gautama Buddha in his sermon on the Eightfold Path (Majjhima Nikaya Suttra 117)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judaism

If one has charged interest or taken increase– shall he then live? He shall not live! If he has done any of these abominations, he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.
— Prophet Ezekiel (18:13)

 

He does not put out his money at interest, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.  He who does these things will never be shaken.

–David (Psalm 15:5)

 

 

He who increases his wealth by interest and usury gathers it for him who is gracious to the poor.
  –Solomon (Proverbs 28:8)

 

You shall not charge interest to your brother–interest on money or food or anything that is lent out at interest.

  –Moses (Deuteronomy 23:19)

 

There were also some who said,

"We have mortgaged our lands and vineyards and houses, that we might buy grain because of the famine." 

There were also those who said,

"We have borrowed money for the king's tax on our lands and vineyards…  and indeed we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have been brought into slavery. It is not in our power to redeem them, for other men ha
ve our lands and vineyards." 

And I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words.  After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said to them,

"Each of you is exacting usury from his brother."

So I called a great assembly against them….

"Please, let us stop this usury!  Restore now to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also one percent of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have charged them."

–Nehemiah (5:3-7,10-11)

 

Note how Nehemiah was utterly apalled about even 1% interest!  This would be considered charity by today's banking standards!  This blows the argument of many self-proclaimed Jews & Christians who claim, along with many Muslims, Buddhists, & Hindus, that usury is "excessive interest," while "regular interest" is okay.  

 

Lo and Behold, the very Garden of Eden story is about lending at interest. 

Please see The Seven Headed Dragon: World Commerce

 

Christianity 

 

Forgive us our debts, even as we forgive our debtors. 

–Jesus (Matthew 6:12)

 

And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.
— Jesus Christ (Luke 6:34-35)

 

 

Jesus said, "If you have money, do not lend it at interest.Rather, give to someone from whom you will not get it back."

 (Gospel of Thomas 95)

 

Owe no person anything, except to love one another.

 –Apostle Paul (Romans 13:8)

 

He who takes interest for a loan of money acts unjustly for he sells what does not exist. It is wrong in itself to take a price (usury) for the use of money lent, and as in the case of other offences against justice, one is bound to make restitution of his unjustly acquired money.

  –Saint Thomas Aquinas

 

Many "Christian" businessmen theologians eroneously state that the New Testament is silent about forbidding interest.  But the New Testament clearly goes even a step beyond forbidding interest, telling us to lend, expecting nothing at all in return.  On top of that, we are to not even owe.  On top of that, we are to forgive all debts! 

 

Central to Jesus' message is that debt and sin are one and the same.

 

Lo and Behold, the very Garden of Eden story is about lending at interest. 

Please see The Seven Headed Dragon: World Commerce

 

Islam 

  Those who swallow down interest cannot arise except as one whom Satan has prostrated by his touch does raise. . . . . Allah does not bless charging interest, and He causes charitable deeds to prosper, and Allah does not love any ungrateful sinner. Surely they who believe and do good deeds and keep up prayer and give charity, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and they shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve. O you who believe! Be careful of your duty to Allah and forgive what remains due from charging interest, if you are believers.

(Quran 2:275-278)

 

And whatever you give in interest, so that it may increase in the property of men, it shall not increase with Allah; and whatever you give in charity, desiring Allah's pleasure– it is you who shall receive manifold. (Quran 30:39)

 

O you who believe, you shall not take interest, compounded over and over. Observe GOD, that you may succeed. (Quran 3:130)

 

And for charging interest, which was forbidden, and for consuming the people's money illicitly. We have prepared for the disbelievers among them painful retribution. (Quran 4:161) 

 

Even despite Islam's clear denouncement of all forms of interest, there are businessmen "Muslims" who pull the same trick as westerners, claiming that "usury" means "excessive interest" and that "regular interest" is okay.  Then there are others who disagree, yet support "Islamic" banking which claims not to charge interest.  Instead, the "Islamic" bank buys the item the borrower wants to buy and sells it to the borrower at a profit.  Charging interest under such pretense is even more deceptive than simply charging interest.

 

Hinduism

 A Brâhmana and a Kshatriya shall not lend anything at interest… 'He who acquiring property cheap, gives it for a high price, is called a usurer and blamed among those who recite the Veda.'

'God weighed in the scales the crime of killing a learned Brâhmana against the crime of charging interest; the slayer of the Brâhmana remained at the top, the charger of interest sank downwards.'

(Vasishtha, The Sacred Laws of the Aryas, Part II, Chptr 2, vs 40-42)

 

 

 Note how the Hindu Sage Vasishtha considered charging interest a crime worse han murder!  Real and blatant slavery of men, women and children, is rampant in India because of India's disregard for her own Hindu principles.

 

Greek Philosophy

No one shall deposit money with anyone he does not trust, nor lend at interest, since it is permissible for the borrower to refuse entirely to pay back either interest or principle."

 –Plato (Laws)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trade of the petty usurer is hated with most reason: it makes a profit from currency itself, instead of making it from the process which currency was meant to serve. Their common characteristic is obviously their sordid greed….  Hence of all the kinds of wealth acquisition this one is the most unnatural.

 –Aristotle (Politics)

 

My people are destroyed by a lack of knowledge.
-Hosea 4:6

Ever since moving to Chicago, my exposure to the police has severely increased. I have been in several direct encounters. I  have watched beatings occur, been arrested, and have gotten into verbal arguments (not ever a good idea, though I somehow actually won and changed the cop's mind). Yet prior to living in such an intense city and traveling to mass demos, my exposure to the boys in blue was quite limited. I knew that I was theoretically against the criminal justice system and would chant about not wanting to live in a police state, but until my direct exposure I didn't know just how against the system I was. 

Last week in my neighborhood the Chicago Police shot a 16 year old boy in the back, killing him. The cop is being charged with homocide. This is normal. On New Years day in California, a cop shot an unarmed man on the subway. Later that cop was killed by someone claiming revenge. These things happen. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I watched a queer friend of mine be beaten in the head by a cop while screaming  "I am not resisting!"  In Tampa when I lived there, the deputy of police was caught by Copwatch on video beating a pregnant women. He never got in trouble. Again, normal. The list goes on and on and on. The examples keep piling up in my head.

When I was at a tree sit in Oregon recently, one of the 60+ armed officers that responded to our small nonviolent roadblock told us that if we cared about the environment we should kill ourselves. I'm not just ranting. I mention these things because they will come as a shock to most people, and will probably be viewed with cynicism at worst, and disbelief at best, by most people. Well, to those who are living lives of privilege at least, and those living in more rural areas. Yet this will not come as a shock to people of color, low economic status, protesters, or the homeless. It is unfortunately the case that a lot of people still think that cops serve a useful role in society and would never cross a moral line beyond their duty to serve and protect. 

I think the reason that most people are not against the cops is that they have not been exposed to direct encounters. But I also think that a whole lot more people would be against the police force and the whole criminal system (prisons, etc) were they to know just what goes on behind the camera. There are so many white, middle-class and middle-aged anti-war activists who don't understand this issue because they have existed within peaceful, permitted rallies, pickets, vigils and other non-arrestable events that limit exposure to the police. Yet I have been thinking lately that these activists and the rest of the general public who have open-eyes and critical minds just might be able to get on board with police resistance if this knowledge of corruption was widely known. There are thousands and thousands of religious peace activists committed to non-violence who hold a lot of weight on the legislative level. To me it seems like there is no sustained anti-police movement in the U.S., though I think there could be one if knowledge of corruption, and the well documented research about the ineffectiveness of police (and increased violence due to police) were more widely known.

I am usually one to want to get things done through more direct routes, but this is a case in which public advocacy could potentially go great distances. If public opinion of the police were to be diminished, even just a little, there could be some concrete moves toward reform. Now reform is not the goal, but the goal would be chipping away at the the police violence and fear of violence that cripples mass actions, in turn making revolutionary attempts more possible. This is different than trying to spread advocacy through the mainstream, which is generally a dead end road. This is about advocating through the huge mass of activists who have just simply not been exposed to this issue, yet would be much more likely to jump on board. 

I'd love feedback to this post. This is something that I am going to try to talk to more people about in the hopes of moving forward somehow in the creation of an anti-police movement. The criminal system is intricately tied to the military system, it's just domestic. It's domestic war and it's being waged on people of color and those fighting for a better world… and it is unacceptable.