American liberals/progressives are not that savvy, not yet. I hope they'll learn. And become truly radicalized activists. We don't have much time.
Thanks again for writing,
All best wishes,
6a. Subject: Your Recent Posts
From: Andrew Stretton <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, 11 Jan 2006 12:50:25 +1100
To: George Salzman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
First of all, thank you for your recent posts. Uncannily, the last two have been very aligned with where my thinking is at present. Over the past year I have been sitting on the fence, keeping one foot in the water of “accepted norms” and the other in so called “radical thought”. The latter is becoming increasingly “normal” to me as the days go by and I am finding it hard to find any justification in living life as I have done, in particular, as everybody does around me, in a place where conformity equates with comfort.
At 45 this is a scary prospect! That said, I am also beginning to realize that the anxiety I am experiencing is actually coming from NOT standing up and saying what I need to say. It is daunting indeed to face the possibility that the public expression of one’s thoughts, especially in a small regional community, may well lead to a life at the margins. However, the prospect of living my life without challenging the destructive path on which society seems hell bent on heading down would be even more unthinkable!
My thoughts are now turning to “how”. How do I best go about raising these issues, in the societal collective conscious, in a constructive, factual and truthful way? Your recent post, “Ideological conformity — an impediment to truth”, highlights this dilemma beautifully. After reading your “bleed the monster” post, I have decided that the very first step is to indeed start acting locally and to that end, I will be publishing a bi-monthly journal, name as yet undecided, for local circulation.
The year 2006 is going to be an interesting one for Andrew Stretton as he takes his first steps towards a more authentic life!
Thanks again for your e-mails they are a continued source of inspiration.
Talbot, Victoria, Australia
6b. Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2006 22:25:34 -0600
CC: Wayne Cooke <email@example.com>
I think I can appreciate the difficulty that the choice you want to make poses for you. Are you pretty much alone within your local community in terms of the understanding you've acquired of the degree of danger we are all facing? If so, that poses an additional hurdle. I think it's very difficult to sustain oneself in a situation of isolation (or near isolation). So I hope you will be able to answer successfully your all important question, “How do I best go about raising these issues, in the societal collective conscious, in a constructive, factual and truthful way?” And I hope you will be able to do it in a way that will engage people in your locality, even if at first there are not very many of them.
Someone who you might like to contact is Wayne Cooke, who shares many of the same concerns we have. He is putting a lot of effort into informational work within his locality. His initial contact with me was by the e-mail that I will put at the end of this note.
I'm glad you've found my efforts useful to you. I would like very much to keep in touch.
All best wishes,
6b.+ Asunto: Community...from Graham, WA
De: Wayne Cooke Wayne Cooke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Fecha: Sat, 24 Sep 2005 00:59:26 EDT
Para: George Salzman
I still remember looking up the word “serendipity” in the Pacific Lutheran University Library. Serendipity brought me to your website and I want to thank you.
An old copy of Science For the People, 100th issue, July, 1985 was in my garage. I was a subscriber. Admiring it again, I wondered if it still existed, and a google search led me to an obituary essay in praise of your wife, Freda, which led me to your own website. Before exploring further, your folders seemed to key in on what I have been doing here in Graham, south of Tacoma.
Before 2004, I was dismayed at the Bush government initiatives to strip away the progress of the past 70 years and worked to defeat him. I read a dozen books trying to understand “why” and wrote my “Book Reports” to educate others. They were received well and appreciated. After 2004, I was aghast at the obvious vote fraud and then started our local Democracy For America chapter. However, I also read Hubbert’s Peak and began to understand how the coming decline of cheap oil plus our military might was leading the PNAC group behind Bush to start their manipulations for control of world oil, beginning with Iraq.
I hold little hope for the continuance of our democracy. Perhaps some secret group somewhere is plotting an overthrow of this anti-people government, but the effects of an economic collapse caused by the permanent petroleum decline and the stupid economic policies of this government will trump any political change.
So I’ve read the books of Thom Hartmann, Heinberg, Kunstler, and soon the new book by Matt Simmons. A common thread in their last chapters suggesting what to do is the deliberate pre-planning for more cohesive local community along with learning to grow a lot of your own food, just like the great-grandparents did.
As a retired teacher, my farming skills were nil, but still I planted a tiny “community garden” in the middle of our 86th Street community, to catch neighbor’s curiosity. I’ve now finished a letter to over 100 neighbors, to be hand delivered at the end of the month, explaining the purpose of the garden as an example of a coming need, and suggesting a study group at the library to read and discuss these “peak oil” books and how our little local community can begin now to think about what plans might become necessary to help us help each other’s security, health, and survival when this valuable petroleum is no longer around to give us plentiful energy and warmth.
Dr. Penny Rowe, an atmospheric scientist in Tacoma, also started a small group to advocate local food growing and peak oil preparation. Prof. Mark Jensen, of PLU, also has a group studying this. Washington State University is hosting a two-day conference on Global Oil Decline Oct. 4th and 5th in Spokane, at which Matt Simmons will be a principal speaker.
I have written an essay, Planning for 2010, as a way of trying to get the message out to people, summarizing Heinberg's suggestions.
Dr. Lois Gustanksi is in Gig Harbor near Tacoma, writing and being a consultant on the idea of community. Others, too, are beginning to see the future as Kunstler's End of Surburbia sees it.
I lived on Mass. Ave. in 1950, and became quite familiar with M.I.T. then, as part of the World Federalist’s chapter on campus.
I’d appreciate any reply or suggestions you might make. Looks to me like we are going to be pushed into “community sharing” like it or not! Thank you. I want to become more acquainted with what you are doing.
7a. Subject: Re: New post - On ideology and truth: Evo Morales' speech
From: Harry M. Cleaver <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, 11 Jan 2006 07:19:04 -0600 (CST)
To: George Salzman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thanks for sending this. It was interesting and the first part an example of both the difficulties and a remedy available to our, as opposed to the corporate, media. The only thing I missed was a discussion of the Morales talk itself.
7b. Date: Thu, 19 Jan 2006 21:34:56 -0600
Thanks Harry for your note. It’s encouraging that my efforts aren’t entirely lost. You might be a bit surprised, as I was, that not a single person on the Science for the People discussion listserv responded. And really, it started out addressed primarily to that group with at least half of the article detailing confusion within that group.
The reason I didn’t discuss Morales’ 2003 talk was that my focus was elsewhere. I remarked that I agreed with that talk where I said, “It’s a fine, ringing statement by Evo, the brand new – as of December 18 – Bolivian President-Elect, with, from my perspective, the right (that is, left) ideology. Click here to read it.” But I left it at that. As it is, I think my essays tend to be too long.
All the best,
8a. Subject: Which? “The People”
From: Lucy Charlie <email@example.com>
Date: Sat, 14 Jan 2006 18:53:27 -0800 (PST)
To: George Salzman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Good to hear from you (as always).
I get a kick out of politicians invoking “The People” on behalf of whatever plan they have.
Even GWB does that. I think the problem lies in the fact that we/they are afraid to say which people. That makes sense doesn’t it. I mean, what is good for the working (the people) isn’t good for the financial elite (the people). Si? And from a politician’s perspective it is better to let people from every group wonder “Does he mean me?” Rather than to say I believe in the will of the “Working Class” people. Now that would be taking a position wouldn’t it.
But then where would that leave the academic lefties? Even though they do belong to the working class I think many of them get un-comfortable at that suggestion.
And how about the rich lefties of which there are a few. I guess they’d be left out.
So figuring out a way to say which “the people” are being spoken about is a little difficult. And that’s the truth.
I have never considered the fact that a commitment to an ideology would be an impediment to truth. But it sure rings true to me. It could be because I haven’t been much committed to an ideology for sometime. But when I think back on it, I’d say yep it does.
Although I did have a funny thing happen a while back at the Denver Airport. I was stuck there for a couple of hours due to a magnificent hail storm. While I was sitting in an uncomfortable chair making the most of it and reading a book, a pretty woman of 40ish sat down across the aisle. She struck up a conversation with me & we were talking about the storm, the delay and so on when she mentioned that she lived in Boulder and was going out to spend some time on the California coast with her long distance boy friend. She said “Boy I need a breather from these assholes I live with. People in that town are so narrowminded it makes me crazy.” I started to nod in agreement, we were in Colorado after all. A place I associate with small minded rednecks. But then I remembered she said she lived in Boulder, a town considered to be liberal by most people I know. So I said, “But I thought Boulder was a liberal town” She said, “Yeah that’s who I’m talking about. Those narrow minded liberals.”
Now I gotta tell you, I was taken aback. I had never thought of liberals as narrow minded. If I was god and I wanted to send Charlie Tripp a message, I’d do it via a pretty woman.
Anyway it started me paying attention to my narrow minded liberalness. I still don’t buy much thinking that is of a conservative vein, but I have to say that they can’t be all wrong.
Another way to think about it for me, is this: I love going to Oaxaca, I love many of the traditions and the public display of those traditions. It is one of the things we in the so-called modern societies are missing. I'd have to say that those folks holding on to tradition in Oaxaca are conservative. Just like many of the people trying to hold onto tradition in the U.S. So, why do I think it is great in Oaxaca and not in the U.S? It could be my liberal “Ain’t this quaint” attitude. Or maybe the folks in the U.S. that are trying to prevent same sex marriage are very closely related to the folks in Oaxaca that are trying to hold on to their traditions. Something for me to think about.
I love you George and I miss walking with you. Tell Nancy that Lucy and I said Hola.
7b. Date: Mon, 23 Jan 2006 12:39:40 -0600
Hey Charlie you old Berkeley redneck,
Good to hear from you. ... I hope you and Lucy make it down here before too long.
One of the absurdities that persists in all so-called representative democracies is the attention paid to the words politicians spout. Naturally the corporate media promote such nonsense because they want us to believe in the legitimacy of the electoral process. Manipulating the process in every conceivable way so as to get “elected” is what all the politicians devote themselves to. Outright stealing of “elections” is “old hat”. Of course you know all this, which makes me wonder why you even think about what a politician means by “The People” and which categories of the population – financial elite, working class, academic lefties, rich lefties, etc. – are supposedly included or omitted. Your conclusion, ‘So figuring out a way to say which “the people” are being spoken about is a little difficult’, is wrong. There’s nothing to figure out.
I think everyone has some ideological stance, i.e. no one is simply a neutral observer capable of objectively weighing “the evidence” and coming to supposedly unbiased views. The question for me is how strong is one’s commitment to that ideology. Also, I see a person’s ideology as including the individual’s entire value system and outlook on the world. I think there’s a good word for it in German, weltanschauung (world outlook, or philosophy of life). If a person is too doctrinaire, i.e. too extreme in his/her commitment to a particular ideology, that is likely to be an impediment to knowing the truth about some things. Incidentally, I use the term “the truth”, because I believe that the real world exists, is unique and that there are not different, contradictory truths. What there are are different, and conflicting understandings of the truth. I don’t accept the view one sometimes hears, “You have your truth and I have my truth” which suggests that both are equally valid, even if they contradict one another. Not so in my book.
What makes sense to me is to accept as fact that everyone is ideological and that what is important, aside from the nature of the ideology, is the degree of openness or, at the other extreme, dogmatism. I think it’s not good to be too doctrinaire. One of the people who wrote me in response to a posting on the War Tax Resistance discussion list, Candyce Hawk <email@example.com>, had, as part of her signature, a great quote from Bertrand Russell, “It's a good thing to have an open mind . . . just not so open your brains fall out.” I’d like to think that description characterizes me.
I just reread your thoughts about your Denver airport encounter, and realize you said nothing about the beliefs of the “pretty woman of 40ish” who needed a breather from “[t]hose narrow minded liberals” of Boulder. If she was just a hard-ass ignorant redneck* then her remark might be nothing but a slur, not much to labor over. In my experience I haven’t found liberals to be narrowminded, as that term is usually meant. Rather, it seems to me, what characterizes many of the liberals I know (among them some of my very good friends) is that they are more prone than I to accept as valid the cliché “There are two sides to every issue”, which suggests justification for contradictory views. I see them as too open-minded, not narrow minded. I think if there is a stark contradiction between the ‘two sides’ of an issue, an appropriate response to the cliché is “Yes, a right side and a wrong side.” I sure as hell don’t think of you as a narrow minded liberal, but as an ex-redneck-know-nothing who cheered with your construction crew buddies when the Ohio National Guard massacred students at Kent State University, but whose thinking has changed enormously due to your openness to new ideas.
Regarding so-called conservative ideas, I think there are two things going on here. The easier one to deal with comes from the widespread use, promoted by the corporate media, of the term “conservative” to include not only what were traditionally thought of as conservative ideas (for example, a preference for maintaining the gold standard instead of adopting fiat currency, which the U.S. did in 1933), but also brutally harsh attitudes towards all poor and oppressed people, who supposedly ‘should be left to fend for themsleves’. Such attitudes are truly reactionary, not conservative, and the misuse of the label ‘conservative attitudes’ for them is simply intended to give them a cloak of respectability and make them seem acceptable, reasonable. To speak of right-wing Christian fundamenatalists cheering for war as being ‘conservative’ is a total misnomer.
The term ‘conservative’ in its proper meaning raises a much more difficult issue. I believe that in most situations, unless they are horrendous and oppressive, people are more comfortable with the idea of living according to the customs they grew up with, preferring what is familiar to risking new and unfamiliar ways of living. This is the natural attraction that traditional cultures hold for the people in their societies. Individuals who are able to travel and seek adventures often do so, but almost always with the expectation of returning to their familiar homes and circumstances, that is, they are not so much abandoning what they know as taking a vacation and/or looking for excitement.
The natural adherence to familiar customs is of course the cement that keeps traditions in place. It is honest conservatism. The problem that ought to be faced is that traditions may be “good” or “bad”, which is a matter of judgement on which different people may disagree. Who is to determine if a traditional practice is beneficial, neutral or harmful, and how, if at all should efforts be made to change it? Some traditions are “good” for some people and “bad” for others; slavery is an obvious example.
Moreover, the larger constraints that often operate deserve to be considered. Take your very favorable view of the public display of Oaxacan traditions, many of which feature stylized dances. As you know, these don’t occur as a result of the desire of the indigenous inhabitants to perform here in the capital city. Traditionally, the dances take place in their small communal towns during festivals. Their “public display” in Oaxaca City is part of the government’s effort to attract rich tourists to the City, because the State is desperately impoverished and tourism provides a large part of its income. So well to do Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Mexicans and others come to see these commercialized “quaint” traditions, using their credit cards freely at hotels, restaurants, and for tours and transportation and that most important activity, shopping for artisans’ craftwork. And the local economy benefits, at least at the “upper echelons”. The young men and women who dance in these displays for tourists do so because they are paid for their performance, not as a way of adhering to their traditions. Unless struggling to get some money is considered a tradition. There ain’t nothing quaint about economic pressures.
It’s interesting that you mention folks in the U.S. who are trying to prevent same sex marriages. Here again, there’s a larger constraint operating; it’s not purely about maintaining traditions. Why should anyone want to be bound by religion or law to a hoped-for life partner? We all know that it has to do with security – what will happen if the couple is an unhappy one, if the two people come to detest one another? Should they be forced to continue, suffering together? And if not, under what conditions will society allow them to separate? In the name of protecting the well-being of each party, the state assumes the power to dictate the terms of divorce. Even two people who would prefer to live in a so-called common-law marriage are often pressured to “legalize” and “sanctify” their relationship. This is the case for gay couples, who are frequently denied benefits that other couples have, for example family hospital visitation rights and lower income tax rates. Without such pressures gay couples would have had no reason to seek “official recognition” or “religious sanctification”; they would not have struggled for “equal rights” through marriage and there would have been no contest over this issue between them and their religious opponents.
Well, that’s a lengthy response, but you raised a difficult question. Take care, and my best to you and Lucy.
* I’m using that phrase, “hard-ass ignorant redneck” without contempt, but to characterize people with strong, uninformed reactionary opinions, and with mostly rough, outdoor jobs, like your construction crew who celebrated when Nixon had the anti-Vietnam-War protesting students shot down in cold blood, saying they deserved it, the fucking bunch of commies. It’s not that the construction workers were stupid, but badly misinformed, deliberately, as is most of the population whenever the government and corporate press are beating the war drums.
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