Sunday, October 31, 2010



I don't care that much who you vote for, or if you vote. I'm far too at peace with the universe, I think, to really be phased by it. Or even affected by it. I'm far too used to, and comfortable with, poverty, couch surfing, my life savings constantly being erased to keep the car I live in running, small game hunting, winter camping, living with girlfriends, living in a car, etc... I don't really expect any of this to change whoever is elected. Whoever wins, whoever you vote for, whether you vote or not, I am going to still be parking my car on your street and sleeping in it with a lot of layers on and peeing in a pee bottle so as not to attract attention and/or risk an arrest for "indecent exposure" by urinating publically. That is not going to change whoever you do or do not elect.

A Democratic president was elected two years ago, and from 2006-2010 the congress has been controlled by democrats. They've passed some things, I am told, that will make health care better, that will take effect in a few years, and I should vote for them again to keep this future change I have seen nothing of myself in place.

The irony is that, for me, the quality of my own life have actually been better under Republicans. That's right. In 2007-2008 I made over, about, $20,000, most of it from March-August, being head waiter at the third largest restaurant on the East Coast. I saved about $7,000, and had another $2,000 invested in some keyboards I liked. I was able to take a few months off, like, 9 months off, to try living in some different cities, to drive across America 4 times, to learn about the country, visit the deserts and the mountains, and tour in a band that- despite all the sacrifices- some people actually liked.

Of course, all this was based on tips trickling down to me from some of the most corrupt, tax payer subsided, bought off, third world exploiting, parasitically wealthy scrooges human society has yet succeed to begat. Indeed, though, by this very narrow litmus test of personal economic success- damn the consequences- I actually had a better, easier, freer life in the days of George W. Bush!

In 2008- the year of Hope and Change- the economy, well, collapsed and I as you may know was deeply affected by it. In May of 2008, when things still seemed ok, I got a decent paying waiter job within 1 week of moving to a new city where I had decided to start a new life. By September things were slowing down and on September 26th I was laid off. I sold a lot of music gear that fall and winter to keep my rent paid.

I didn't qualify for unemployment. You see, I had been working consistently since 2003, all through college, at different part time jobs. I worked for Tower Video, two coffee shops, hosted and waited tables at restaurants. After college I worked my butt off on 16 hour shifts- some days not sitting down once and barely eating- for a year and a half at a fancy Georgetown restaurant. I decided to save my money by living cheaply so that I could travel and learn more about America. This was the source of my undoing, you see, because unemployment is based on your income for the first four of the last five financial quarters. Because I was traveling while living on savings for most of the first four of the last five financial quarters, the government website calculated that after all those years of paying taxes, they would help me live by paying me $50 a week. Sure. Thanks America. My rent is $535 a month. I submitted the application anyway because even this would help somewhat. I'd still have to sell my possessions to survive, but hopefully I could just sell less of them.

I remember the day Obama was inagurated. I was walking around downtown Denver that day with a tie on and my resumes in my notebook, futilely trying to submit them. That week I had called 58 different restaurants, and spoken to managers to ask if they were hiring. I got one interview but it did not turn into a job. At one point while I was walking back home I ran across my former manager. A super energetic, Republican, ex-marine, he asked how I was doing. I said I was doing fine. What the hell am I supposed to tell you, ex manager? My life sucks and thanks for laying me off but I hope you are well? Hmmm...

In February 2009 I took the LSAT test at Denver University to satisfy the nagging of my family as well as my own intellectual curiosity. The test went longer than I had calculated and by the time I got back to the car in the parking garage I was greeted with a $50 parking ticket. As usually happens, bad luck comes not as single spies but in battalions. I turned on my phone and checked a voicemail that had been left while I was taking the test. It was from the unemployment office. They told me they were deleting my application for unemployment because someone in Georgia- where I hadn't worked since 2003- had already filed an application with my SSN. I spent about 45 minutes filling out that application online and they just told me in a voicemail that they deleted it all.

They gave me a number in Georgia to call and I called it and couldn't figure out how to talk to a human. By this point I was so damn frustrated with it all I decided to just say "screw it". This system is a total mess and even if I was able to navigate it it would barely help at all.

Finally in February I started working for a restaurant on East Colfax that illegally stole 20% of our tips every day. This was illegal according to the Colorado Division of Labor. When I called the Division of Labor and spoke to someone there they said they could send the employer a letter if I liked asking them to please refrain from stealing our tips. This would, of course, just make the employer fire me. They said I could hire a lawyer and they recommended no one. I looked a few up. Most employment related law firms just represented employers, not employees. The one lawyer I did talk to said he'd charge me $250 an hour and keep half of whatever I win, with postage and photocopying fees taken out of my half. I told him to forget it. A few weeks later, after I had started to guide river trips for tips only as a first year guide, me and half the staff quit in protest over the greed and intolerable micro-management of the restaurant owner.

After that I started driving dump trucks, street sweepers, skid loaders, and using pressure washers for $11.50 an hour. That was pretty cool I guess. I could work all week and at the end of the week when bills were paid I was still broke. I worked harder and faster than anyone else and after 6 months, after I already told them I was quitting to move to a better job in Utah, I got a whole dollar raise. It was kinda validating, but um... not exactly the kind of life I want to have forever.

It has been two years of the Democrats... maybe the emergency stimulus bill helped some people. Maybe things would be worse if it didn't get passed. I don't know. If anything I was only affected by it indirectly. But I'm not convinced that Republicans, if John McCain had won, wouldn't have done some identical kind of bill. All throughout the fall of 2008 they were bailing out different big companies faster than I could learn who these companies were and why they deserved money.

They say some parts of the health care reform bill will kick in later and I should be patient. Well, for starters, have you ever tried telling your bill collector to be patient, and that you'll pay they back in a few years once Congress gets around to implementing health care cost reductions?

I got sick last summer in the desert and went and got a prescription at a hospital and they sent me a bill for $285. This summer when I got sick and went to the hospital for a prescription I got a bill for $483 and another bill for $69. One moral of this story is that if you get sick and need to go to a hospital, go to Allen Memorial Hosptial in Moab, not St Mary's hospital in Grand Junction. Another moral of this story is that, after all is said and done in Washington, if something bad happens to you, you are still on your own. Because by the way, I actually HAVE health insurance, and I still get these bills. My car insurance also doesn't cover blowouts, flats, or tow trucks to pull the car out of the hole. On my own for that one, too.

They talk in Washington about "big government" and how it is bad because it makes us lazy cause we should all be hard working independent people. A lot of the people who talk this talk are from states (like Arizona, or California) whose populations wouldn't exist if Big Government money to the tune of billions of dollars didn't come along and build damns and irrigation projects to support human life and agriculture. Official hypocrisy aside, let's consider the pathetic reality of most hardworking, "independent" people today- independently skinning squirrels, independently eating rice and beans, independently moving back in with Mom and Dad, and independently shivering when they can't afford to turn the heat on. I've been able to avoid directly applying for government assistance for two years of hard ups and downs and I tell you all this independence is about to kill me.

So let's say social safety nets are pretty good things, and we should protect them against right wing assaults. Fine. But they can't be relied on, and politicians who say they are for them can't be relied to make sure they reach the people who could use them. There are millions of people like me who fall between the cracks, get lost in the web of paperwork, or who hurt enough to be able to use some help but for one bureaucratic reason or another are some how not qualified to officially recieve it.

Whoever is elected whatever they are talking about with words and paper and typed sentences and television clips- when things go wrong and you are hurt or your car gets screwed up- you are going to have to fix it yourself. If the rent needs to get paid you are going to have to sell you stuff and pay it, and when you are tired of that, or of working all week just to be broke at the end of the week when the bills are paid- so you decide to live in your car or your tent or at a hostel on a work exchange to save money- you are still going to have to pay to fix that car yourself when it decides to break and no one- Democrat or Republican- is going to be there to hold your hand.

Whispers of change. Yes. Hopes and whispers, closeted whispers, not unlike several thousand soldiers in our military, hushed, repressed, silent, prayers of hope, for marginal, trickling, potential change in years to come...

Let's stop talking about hope and fear and dreams. Let's start talking about reality.

The reality is that the war in Iraq is not ended. I was at the Waffle House in Atlanta, a week ago, when a fellow who is not politically radical or an activist gave the best summation of this war that I have heard in years. He said, "Apparently the war in Iraq is over, but for some reason my buddy is deploying there next month." Yes, they are still torturing people in their dungeons. Saddams' dungeons. Our dungeons. Abu Graib, check points, raids, jails, detaining folks without trail and without lawyers... Yes, the government we support there is completely corrupt, and yes, the country will fall apart without our guns. The only reason the "terrorists" there are killing our troops less is because we've been able to buy them off, for a while...

Afghanistan is a similar picture but with a much higher casualty rate, and a much lower level of government "functionality", insofar as that word could actually be used to describe the Iraqi government. The people we support there have careers equally characterized by opportunism and corruption though misogyny and the drug trade generally figures more prominently in their day to day operations. With billions in fake development funds being siphoned into fake "non-profits" and white western experts being paid more per hour than an Afghan makes in a month to study people and recommend things and start projects that never get finished... yes... the word is quagmire... disillusion, bibery, extortion, murder, suicide, prostitution, rape... these are other words... just language, for you and me, just analysis... but LIFE for a few million people we'll never meet and, deep down, the bombs we drop really don't care about. After a trillion dollars and a decade's worth of concerted efforts of the world's most "developed", "civilized", and "democratic" nations; Islamic Fundamentalists in Afghanistan have MORE power and MORE influence than they ever have.

More Troops!

Perhaps foreign affairs really do occupy too much of our attention. Indeed, our economies are collapsing, and Republicans scream for "Deficit Reduction" in spite of the trillions these wars have consumed... they are significant... but on a geologic time scale... even on the human time scale, they are insignificant, mere blips, minor tremors, aftershocks, footnotes on the path of a way of life completely unsustainable and structurally incapable of maintaining itself three, four, five, even, SIX generations from now?

The water is over allocated. Public transit cannot function efficiently in a sprawling, suburban environment, even IF the will did exist to try it out. Agriculture is pumping the aquifers dry and field flooding, crop rotation, and yes, even drip irrigation (though it does so a lot slower) are turning fields to salt. The food we eat is not even food. The foods we subsidize and celebrate cause obesity and tooth decay, diabetes and heart attacks. Cardiac wards are the largest part of many hospitals- even though cardiac problems are among the easiest to prevent. To keep the aisles full, the illusion of choice, and Freedom, alive, the animals we eat live knee deep in their own feces and are kept, for now, alive through a diet of high powered antibiotics, e-coli on their meat killed (mostly) in chlorine-ammonia baths before being dyed back with food coloring to meat-color. Swine flu was a tremendous wake up call, that, predictably, went ignored.

The challenge of our generation to develop a sustainable energy policy remains, of course, unanswered. Obama was for "alternatives", we voted for him as a vote against the "Drill Baby, Drill!" crowd, remember? Well, not quite. You see I was so busy appreciating the irony of Obama opening up hundreds of miles of coastline to deep sea drilling exactly one month before a deep sea oil rig blew up and half killed an ocean that I couldn't quite remember what forgotten insinuations of solar-wind "alternatives" I was supposed to have been thinking about two years ago when it was time to vote for CHANGE!

Natural Gas as "transition" fuel? Hmmm... Um. Natural gas is a fossil fuel that pollutes the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. The wells we drill to tap its reservoirs are made possible by injection thousands of gallons of toxic, secret, chemicals into and below the water table. The "transition" is about as meaningful as a junkie trading crack for heroin.

Heady issues, big picture issues, development issues, intellectual issues... future issues...

Maybe, there are closer issues? Like... the fact that we continue to imprison more people than any other country and we spend tens of thousands of dollars keeping them fed and housed in prisons more closely reminescent of some chapter from Dante's inferno than anything even remotely "rehabilitating?" How about front loading the system with schools, for EVERYONE, that don't suck? Woah, what the hell kind of crazy idea is that?

Even if the schools WERE better... even if mom didn't work two or three jobs to keep the family alive and dad wasn't dead or divorced or in jail... there's really no point to funding education where an economy doesn't exist that values an education. When job growth is in the part time, short term, low wage, no-benefit service sector... city "growth" is dominated by big box retailers and small towns revert to the benevolent feudalism of Wal Mart; their historic downtowns left to wither and die for the sake of fast food, gas stations and retailers popping up along the interstate... really, what is the point of even offering a decent education? They're only going to be that much more pissed off at you when they're tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars MORE in debt AND they realize their degrees are worthless.

End the wars. Abolish the military. Turn the bases and camps into colleges and get every teenager and 20-something a bachelor's degree by 2015. Do nothing to change wage structures and income inequalities. You'll have a revolution.

Supreme court justices... filibusters overrides... votes... balance...

It doesn't matter. You say it does matter. And you are right. But it doesn't matter. Don't vote for the Democrats, the Republicans will win. Vote for the Democrats, elect them, allow them to discredit themselves by betraying they're electorate, remain at home, stay indoors, donothingtocounteracttherabidfulminationsoftheright. Watch Rebublicans win. Continue to pay for your own damn tow truck and your own damn emergency room bills.

I don't really care, who you vote for, or if you vote. Will some things change in an election year? Maybe. Will you notice? Probably not...

I'm not concerned about me. I can poach a deer and I can live in a car and I can sell the remaining music gear I still own. I'll get by, one way or another, for another 6 months until- thanks to god- the sun will shine and the ice will melt and I will leave your world of bickering, cities, food stamps, and parking meters to return to Utah, guiding, open air and the hostel and the bunkhouse. Whatever it takes, I'll pull myself through it, and so will you, and whoever wins the elections, government bandaids over the worst social problems will continue to improve, or devolve, at the slowest, marginal pace...

It's not about who you vote for. It's not about what sign is on your lawn. It's not about the sticker you get to wear.

It's about what you do the other 364.25 days of the year.

You'll live, somehow, and die, much the same way whoever is in power. It's not about you, or your one cause, or your marginal, self-limiting and all encompassing atomized identity. Leaving politics to politicians is a recipe for disaster. Leaving politics to politicians that are bought and sold by corporations whose loyalty is to profit-driven shareholders and NOT the environment, You, Majority Rule, or anyone living in the Middle East, is a recipe for collective suicide.

If you think voting Democrat or Republican is going to make this a more equitable, environmentally sustainable, just, fair, or economically responsible country... well... I don't think you even Exist!

Because, deep down, it's really just the fear, isn't it? And the repetition, and the ingrained, predictive habits. You never really had a choice, or freedom. Your vote was assumed, taken for granted, calculated, and gerry mandered away years before this election, or next election. Millions of dollars were spent in campaigns to sway "undecided" voters so clueless, uninformed, manipulable, selfish, and child-like they did not have the sense or principle to have already decided a party attachment to loathe and choke beneath by the time they were 18. It's this least informed, least intelligent, unpredictable segment of the population that really determines which way elections go.

This doesn't mean that it doesn't matter if you are smart, compassionate, well read, historically-informed, and up to date on current events. Of course that matters. But if you are going to limit your political intervention on this planet to the two dozen or so election years you're hoping to be lucky enough to live through, well, then I think we are all just fucking doomed.

The politicians are tools. All of them. They will lie to you. And they will fail. If they do not fail, it is because they are helping, somehow, rich corporations to make more money. That is the only thing you can really count on.

If we want to really have this planet be a nice place to live in, we need to get out of this shell. We need to tear down this paradigm of the prison-oligarchy we live in. We need to organize a protest. We need to form a new party. We need to go door to door. We need to cold call strangers. We need to devote hours of our lives to attending meetings, and making sure other people will actually come to them. We need to learn how to listen patiently to people we disagree with and try to figure out how to best articulate the things we believe in. We need courage and we need grassroots organizations and we need to fail. And we need our organizations to fall apart. And then we need to learn from that and build better organizations. And if we are not willing to do that, to take democracy seriously, and be active participants in deciding what kind of political options we are going to have as a society in an age of unsustainability, limited, dwindling resources, energy crises and decline...

Just go. Back. To. Your. Cave.

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