Our National Blood Sport   25 comments

Here in America, we had an election on Tuesday. Some of you may have noticed.

I have to admit, I still love Election Day. No doubt, that enjoyment is derived at least somewhat from the brief stretch of my life when I became veritably obsessed with politics. Bush the Second drove me crazy during his presidency, his policies diametrically opposed to many of my own beliefs and desires. During that time, my already established liberal and Democratic lean became more pronounced and partisan. I worked to elect Democrats, obsessed over political news, threw myself headlong into political blogs, did some political blogging of my own, and lived and died by election results.

It didn’t last that long. I shuddered at the 2002 mid-term results, backed Howard Dean with a vengeance in 2003, watched as he went down in flames in early 2004, got behind Kerry, wished fervently for him to defeat Bush, was crestfallen when he didn’t, rejoiced in the 2006 mid-terms, bounced around a bit in the 2008 Democratic primary, ultimately became sucked in by Obama’s candidacy, rejoiced when he was elected, and then quickly soured on the entire process as he pissed away the enthusiasm and support upon which he was swept into office and instead gave us little more than the third term of George W. Bush.

That’s the very brief and incomplete summary, and it’s one that I believe tracks with a number of people in this country. My relationship with politics is, of course, much more complex than that. I believe in the importance of local elections, I still find great value in the process of voting—as a ritual act if nothing else, as has been talked about in the comments of the most recent post at The Archdruid Report—and I still believe that representative democracy can be a good system of governance, though surely not the handed-down-from-God perfection that America’s leaders often like to cynically portray it as. Yet, I believe that our system—on the federal level, at least—has become hopelessly corrupted, utterly ineffective, and largely a sham in these dying days of the American empire.

Despite all those beliefs, I voted a second time for Barack Obama. Consequently, I enjoyed the hell out of Election Day.

And I can’t help but wonder: Why??

— ∞ —

Well, there are good reasons and petty reasons. In terms of the good reasons, I quite enjoyed watching gay marriage pass in Washington, Maine and Maryland and an anti-equality measure fail in Minnesota. I enjoyed seeing Washington and Colorado legalize marijuana. Here in Oregon, the marijuana legalization measure failed, sadly, though I suspect legalization will pass here in the near future, either by the state legislation or a future measure. There were other state measures that have immediate effects on myself and my state—private casinos, the legality of gillnet fishing, and the estate tax were a few—that all went my way. Local elections, of course, have a significant impact on me in a much more visible way than federal elections often do, and so I followed those with interest. They didn’t all fall as I voted, but none of the results seemed a disaster, either.

In terms of the petty reasons—though there is good in these, too, I think—I loved seeing the defeat of certain odious personalities, like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, Paul Ryan and Allen West. Hell, you can add Mitt Romney to that list; he seemed like a dick to me, to be honest. I enjoyed the election of Elizabeth Warren, who seems smart and empathetic, even if she also is as blinded by the madness of perpetual economic growth as every other federal politician. I found it fascinating to see the further rise of the electoral power of women and minority groups, as has been talked about endlessly by talking heads since the election, and took a petty satisfaction in the slightest of marginalization of white men—a hilarious apocalypse to certain commentators. However, I see a certain pettiness in that fascination because it doesn’t, in my mind, change the overall tragic trajectory of our nation and the industrialized world at large.

The pettiest reason of all for my joy on election night, however, was the way in which it served as base entertainment—as the same sort of competition spectacle as sports. Most of my love of Tuesday came from the simple joy of my team winning. It’s a sad statement, especially considering the fact that I find myself bitterly disappointed in and skeptical of my team. The Democrats are almost as clueless as the Republicans, wedded to the same horrific and destructive ideals of unending economic growth, environmental destruction, and cultural genocide. They worship at the same alter of industrialization, specialization, growth and all its attendant destruction. But they do it with a bit more of a smile on their face and a few throw away platitudes about how we don’t have to have all the attendant destruction, if only we elect Democrats. It’s horrifically cynical, complete bullshit, and arguably a more immoral argument than the Republicans’ argument that the destruction doesn’t actually exist.

And yet, I voted for it on Tuesday. And cheered when that argument won.

Why? Because that argument was my team, and on that bloodthirsty night, I wanted to see my team win.

— ∞ —

I could claim that this was about social progress, the rights of minorities, and the belief that people shouldn’t be discriminated against because of whom they love or what genitalia they were born with, the color of their skin or their religious beliefs (or lack thereof.) That is a seriously motivating factor. I don’t like the way so many GOP politicians seem to hate brown people, the way they demonize gays and lesbians, their too-often dismissive and clueless attitudes toward women, and their apparent hatred of reproductive rights. But to embrace the Democratic party in turn seems to me little more than a betrayal of that agitation against discrimination. The Democrats, after all, are also excellent at creating divisions for political gain (though perhaps not typically as effective as Republicans.) There’s no shortage of apocalyptic rhetoric on the Democratic side, casting Republicans as religious fanatics and demagogues who are opposed to the basic nature of progress. Rural and religious people are too often looked down upon. Cultural knowledge and tradition is dismissed at the behest of scientific specialization. College education is a sign of knowledge; lack of the same is a sign of ignorance. Abstract knowledge is valued over practical knowledge. And how about the incredible discrimination based on place of residence found in the drone murders of countless overseas individuals by the Obama administration?

Granted, these are broad assertions about the general fault lines. You can find Democratic and Republican politicians that buck these tendencies and ideologies. Much more importantly, you can find significantly more self-identified Democrats and Republicans amongst the general populace that don’t fall into these neat categories. In fact, in interacting honestly and openly with people on both political sides—and the many who refuse to affiliate themselves with either side—what you most often find is a population of people who don’t fit these neat categories at all, or whom have complex reasons behind their backing of these categories. You find individuals, informed by their own experiences and influences, rather than the cartoons that these people are cast as by politicians of both stripes.

And that, as much as anything, reveals the key to these divisions: each side’s greatest divisional tactics are in their castings of their political opponents, and their opponents’ voting base, as caricatures. Republicans—not just the politicians, but Republican voters—are ignorant and backward reactionaries, stuck in their outdated religious and cultural worldviews, completely devoid of empathy, violently against any social safety net and eager for those less worthy of them to die. They’re rural rubes and suburban hate-mongers who fetishistically cling to their guns, their religion, their hatreds and their fear and stand in the way of the glorious social and economic progress promised by Democrats. Democrats—not just the politicians, but Democratic voters—are elitist, urban intellectuals who hate religion and any sense of tradition. They despise American values, capitalism, democracy, rural folk, religious folk and entrepreneurs. They want to destroy rural communities and economies. They want to eliminate guns and the cultural traditions that come with them, destroy independence, enlarge government to the point that the entire country is completely dependent upon it, redistribute wealth and ensure that no one may rise or fall via their own hard work or lack thereof. They want a completely homogenized culture, where everyone thinks and acts the same and the government dictates all standards of decency.

Those are your caricatures. And guess what? When your opponents are this evil and outrageous, then politics can only be a war. It’s about stopping the other side, no matter what. It’s not about working toward solutions, it’s about eliminating a threat. And so it goes. So goes the theater, so goes the sport in which all that matters is the final score, in which all that matters is whether or not you vanquished your enemy.

— ∞ —

But in the midst of all this sport and theater is the crumbling of the American empire and the collapse of the industrial paradigm. We are running out of our fuels, tearing apart our ecosystem, straining under insane financial and economic policies, and clawing at each others’ throat with the crazed idea that if we can just kill the other side, we could fix all this.

Eliminating each other isn’t going to solve our problems, though. The only way to do that is to change the way we live. The only way to do it is to thoroughly and honestly evaluate the way we live and choose different, less destructive ways to live. The only way we can even begin to solve our problems—even to just stop making them worse—is to be honest with ourselves about our privilege, about the outsized ways we live, about our hyper-abundance and all the ways it destroys the ecosystems we live within and are dependent upon, as well as our own cultures, societies and sanity.

In The Unsettling of America, Wendell Berry writes about the need for “kindly use.” In talking of conservation, he notes that we can only preserve a portion of the land in wildness, and that, otherwise, “Most of it we will have to use” (p. 30, from the Third Edition published in 1996.) He notes that only a considered, kindly use of the land “can dissolve the boundaries that divide people from the land and its care, which together are the source of human life.” He speaks of this kindly use largely in the context of agriculture, but also makes it clear that this is a broader concept applicable to the entirety of our culture—and that kindly use of the land and the world is integral to a coherent and healthy culture.

This is a massive question. It is, essentially, the question for our culture. Indeed, it is a variant of the question for every culture: how to live well in the world. Without constantly engaging this question—and finding some successes in that engagement—any culture will ultimately perish. Despite our fervent proclamations to the contrary (perhaps most fervent amongst politicians) we are simply another species living upon this planet and within this ecosystem, and we are beholden to the same limitations and restrictions and necessities of good work and living that any other species is. If we don’t accept those limitations and restrictions and learn how to live and work well within them, we will die out as a culture. It’s as simple as that.

Numerous past cultures have actively engaged this question and thrived as a result of that engagement. They have suffered the consequences and made corrections when their use turned from kindly to destructive. They have made mistakes and had successes, but their continued survival was always dependent on the engagement of that question and the corrections necessary to fall more on the side of kindly than destructive. When they failed to make those adjustments and corrections, they collapsed.

As a culture, we do not engage this question nearly enough in our personal lives and we engage it almost not at all at a national level. Neither of the major parties is asking how we can engage in kindly use. It is not a question they have asked themselves and so it is not a question they will attempt to answer. I could create my distinctions between the two major candidates for President on various social issues and by allowing myself to buy into the caricatured divisions that both candidates so skillfully evoked amongst the population, but the reality is that both of them articulated and fought over an identical vision of America: one of extractive, destructive empire devoted solely to the comfort of its population at the expense of all other creatures—human, animal, and plant—on Earth. Neither of them even began to honestly engage the question of kindly use, and so both of them represent a continuance down the path of destruction. As important as I think many of the social issues that these two candidates use to divide this country are, they are completely and utterly subordinate to the ultimate question of kindly use. They, too, will become irrelevant if our culture collapses under our own destructive tendencies.

— ∞ —

On Tuesday, I voted. I allowed myself to fall into the spectacle and entertainment, the blood sport of national politics in the final days of the crumbling American empire. And, more often than not, my team won.

But when it comes to the trajectory of this country and the industrialized world at large, we all still lost. Because we chose between two people who have not even attempted to engage the question of kindly use, of how to live and work well in this world.

We are now suffering the consequences of our destructive use. We have been for many years. Tuesday was just one more data point amongst many that, despite suffering the consequences, we continue not to make the necessary and painful corrections, not to move away from our destructive use and toward a kindly use. Until we do, our culture will continue to crumble and collapse and our ritual blood sports will leave us nothing but further bloodied, further injured, and closer to death, no matter which side wins.


Posted November 12, 2012 by Joel Caris in Essays, Work

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25 responses to “Our National Blood Sport

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  1. Well put, sir – we are definitely of the same mind with regard to politics; both in particular and in general (I used to be highly addicted to the process myself – even tried to help create a third party here in Oregon back in the 70’s).

    As for the election, I joined the Pacific Green party earlier this year (mainly to help them get on the ballot) and voted green partly because their platform most closely resembles my own thoughts politically and partly to help
    ‘make a statement’ even though I knew they didn’t have the chance of the proverbial snowball in Hell

    I am relieved that Obama, et al, ‘won’, though I didn’t vote for him, but neither did I vote for the other guy(s).

    • Thanks, Martin. I strongly considered voting for Jill Stein for President and vacillated between her and Obama for awhile. In the end, I let myself get sucked into the emotion and tribalism of the campaign and ended up casting my reluctant vote for Obama. While Stein wasn’t my ideal President, either, she was sure as hell a lot closer than Obama. I should have voted based on that principle if I was going to cast a Presidential vote at all. I imagine from this point forward I’ll better stick to the principle of voting for whomever most fits my beliefs.

      So weird for that principle to not just be standard anyway.

      • Well, given that we’re somewhat stifled by the electoral college in this country, I suppose voting one’s conscience depends largely on where one is voting. Had I been in Ohio, for example, rather than Oregon, I would have voted Democrat pretty much all the way down the ballot. But I know, and appreciate, what you mean by getting “…sucked into the emotion and tribalism of the campaign…”, it’s happened to me as well – many times. And you may have noticed that I mentioned that I voted Green because of the platform, not the candidate.

        • That was another part of my thought process, Martin. Considering Oregon was a foregone conclusion, that made me all the more likely to vote Stein rather than Obama, both as conscience and message. Of course, I didn’t even end up doing that. If I had been in a swing state, I imagine I would have considered Stein even less. It’s an interesting phenomenon, considering how much I proclaim both Obama and Romney clueless and happy to lead us down similar paths of destruction.

          It would be REALLY nice to get instant runoff voting in place, even though it’ll never happen so long as the two major parties hold a monopoly on our politics.

  2. Excellent, as always, Joel. I agreed with, gee, I guess everything you said! I read The Unsettling of America many years ago, right when it first came out. It has informed how I have chosen to live my life since then, as I think I shared with you in an earlier comment. It bothers me that so many people still don’t seem to get it. Sometimes I think the most radical, revolutionary thing we can do is to just stop buying stuff! If you have a need, fill it yourself! Clothes, make them or wear second hand. Food, grow it yourself, or barter with someone who does grow it. (Such as yourself.) Need entertainment, go talk to someone. I find peoples lives so interesting that listening to someone else is quite often all the entertainment I need. And it makes people feel good when you listen to them
    And it upset me so much when Bush told us to “Go Shopping” after he invaded Iraq. What about all the beautiful young people who were FIGHTING? And losing their lives, or limbs, or minds? And mostly all of them from small town America and from the working classes. The disposable people. My son is in the Army, because there were no jobs after Obama’s election. (And I blame BUSH for that, not Obama, don’t get me wrong.) Thank God he was recruited to serve in the Honor Guard, so is stationed at Ft. Myers, not fighting overseas, but what about the rest of them? Only on Veterans Day are they remembered. I could scream! All these stupid wars, that the children of the middle classes and elites don’t dirty their hands with, and so no one cares.
    I’m glad you write every once in awhile. I like to see young people who get it.
    I’d say sorry for the above rant, but I’m not really sorry.
    Blessings, Joel, and, as always, Peace.
    Heather Caparoso

    • Hi Heather,

      I do remember an exchange with you in the comments about The Unsettling of America. It really is a grand bit of work, isn’t it? I’m actually rereading it right now. It’s worth the revisit, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you see more of it being referenced in future posts. And I agree that providing our own (much reduced and simplified) living is probably the most radical thing we can do, particularly in this country. That’s what I continue to primarily work on, with my share of successes and setbacks.

      I’m really glad to hear your son isn’t fighting overseas. It is fairly horrific how little we consider the human toll on both sides when we go to war, and how much our volunteer army (made up mostly, as you note, of those who are hard up economically) is forgotten about, aside from jingoistic and horribly cynical and manipulative evocations from politicians and others in power. I remember in 2004 when all the magnetic “Support our Troops” ribbons started showing up on cars. That seems perfectly fine for those who have family members serving and for those who actually are somehow supporting troops, via whatever actions, but I couldn’t help but wonder how many people slapped those magnets on their cars and did nothing real to support troops—in whatever way they interpreted that—and felt good about themselves.

      As always, the actions are for more important than the words. But we have far more words than action.

      I don’t mind the rant at all. Thank you for it, Heather.

  3. Wonderful post! Of course, I probably feel that way as I agree with you, right down the line. 🙂 . Like you, I was watching Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts. I’ve been familiar with her since she wrote “The Two Income Trap.” Since predictions cost nothing, I predict that Warren will be our first woman president.

    I also was tempted to vote Green. With all the predictions that it was a neck and neck race … well, that influenced me. And, I hadn’t even considered the … greater flexibility of choice I would have by not being in a swing state. Old dogs, new tricks. I keep forgetting about that pesky Electoral College and think (or thought) in terms of one person, one vote.

    Voting used to give me quit a thrill. It was the times I felt most “American.” Most patriotic. But, we’ve gone to mail in ballots here in Washington. Not near as thrilling as going to the polls, knowing my vote is canceling out my neighbors and getting really good home made cookies from all those little old ladies and men who used to operate the polling places. Getting my little “I Voted” sticker.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised to see Elizabeth Warren as the first female president. I believe Obama was elected to the Senate in 2004, right? Warren would follow a similar path (high-profile senate race, adored amongst the base, surprisingly fast run for president, historical candidate. . . .) Hell, Clinton might even be her main opponent in the primary! Probably won’t unfold that way, but it sure would be fascinating to watch.

      Of course, things need to also hold together enough over the next four years to not completely destroy the Democratic party brand, just by point of being the party in presidential power when things go really and truly to hell. I’ll be curious to see how the economy holds up over the next four years. I wonder if we can avoid another 2008-like shock to the system. We very well may, but I have a hard time believing the very tentative recovery is going to continue on largely unimpeded.

      As for the mail in ballot, I like it well enough. But then, I don’t think I ever voted without it. I’m pretty sure we had optional mail in registration in Clark County when I came of voting age and I signed up for it. There is a part of me that would like to experience an actual going to the polls. Maybe some day I’ll find myself in a state that still does it that way.

      • Clark County? Well, well. Evergreen grad, here. Class of ’67. Back when Evergreen was one high school with 500 students. We moved out there from Portland when I was 15. Quit a cultural shock. From a school of 2,500 that was very urban to a school of 500 that was very rural.

        • Well, I’ll be! Evergreen grad myself, ’99. Wasn’t so rural by the time I went. Suburban at that point, though even then I remember there being far more rural land within spitting distance of Evergreen than there is now. There’s just about none at this point. I don’t remember exactly how many students were there during my time, but I want to say it was closing in on 2,000.

          • Knew I liked you for a reason. 🙂 . When we moved out there from Portland in ’65 it was definitely rural. We lived on 112th, just a little north of Mill Plane. it was right before the 205 bridge was announced. Dad bought a two story brick with full basement on an acre of land … for $7,500. It was right next door to “Joe’s Place”, the truck garden and fruit stand. That’s still there, I understand.

            Down on Mill Plane was a little gas station, general store and bait shop. Owned by an old black man and his Native American wife. Their Banty chickens used to run back and forth across Mill Plane …. which was a two lane blacktop at that time. Now, it’s the 205 interchange and Fred Meyer store.

            Moving from a school where we didn’t even know what the principal’s name was, to a school where the principal knew everyone by name was quit a shock. Back then, Evergreen had a really active FFA (Future Farmers of America.) Riding the school bus through vast fields of mint, patrolled by flocks of geese. Now that land is all housing tract. It was nice going to a small school. There was so much stuff I got to do that I never would have had the opportunity to do at my old school. Everything from year book staff to directing the senior class play.

            I left home on my 18th birthday, and moved to an apartment downtown, just two blocks from the courthouse. $49 a month :-). Went a year to Clark College. I had started working for the Fort Vancouver
            when I was 15. Well, enough reminiscing about the past. My walk down memory lane probably puts everyone else to sleep :-).

            • Well, it certainly doesn’t put me to sleep. I love it! It’s amazing to think of Bantys running back and forth across Mill Plain there. If I’m remembering me useless facts right, that’s now one of the busiest intersections in the entire state of Washington. The north 205 offramp there is crazy during rush hour. God, to have known it when there were chickens running around there–it’s inspiring and depressing all at the same time. Vancouver inspires mixed feelings in me these days. It still feels familiar and like home in some ways, but it’s also the epitome of so many things I dislike about how we live as a society. I just really hate the suburban development patterns, and even though I didn’t move there until the 80s (and don’t really have any strong memories until more toward the 90s) I still remember the remaining rural land and how that was swallowed up–and can extrapolate from there as to what it must have been like a few decades previously. It’s such a damn shame to think of that tradition being lost–those farms and small businesses and real people and honest living–and being replaced with a sea of soulless strip malls and ridiculously wide streets and big box stores and traffic traffic everywhere. Guh.

              Joe’s Place is certainly still around–or was as of a couple years ago. I’m pretty certain still. A house and an acre of land there for $7500 . . . that’s amazing. My friend’s parents live in an old house not far from there, maybe a mile east of Mill Plain on 18th, so not far from Evergreen.

              The FFA was still going when I went to Evergreen, though I’m sure it was a far bigger deal when you were there. I wasn’t involved–I had pretty much no interest in farming at that point. It’s funny how different one’s life can turn out from what you expect.

              Went to Clark, as well. Got my AA there. Oh, to have had a $49/month apartment available to me! That would have been quite impressive. I actually love the old downtown-ish area between Mill Plain and 4th Plain, in terms of the old houses and neighborhoods there. It feels like real neighborhoods rather than the suburban nonsense that’s most of the rest of the city. They’ve had a fairly successful go at reviving the downtown core south of Mill Plain, as well, which is nice to see. And there are still some farms north of the city, getting on toward Ridgefield and Battle Ground. I was just reading about one the other day, Inspiration Plantation. It’s modeled after Joel Salatin’s farm. There are some permaculture projects and other such things going on in Vancouver, too, so it’s good to see that there are some people even in the suburban craziness who have some sense of the changes that need to happen and are attempting to make them happen.

  4. Is this mostly ‘dancing’ on the surface? (not that dancing isn’t enjoyable.. just distracting from the ‘drilling down’ that might be more useful). Professional sport is not operated for the benefit of the teams, players, or fans. It is for the enrichment of the…… wait for it… owners! Who are the owners in the political game? Of course, the same owners of everything else. Doesn’t history tell us that the owning 1% have always controlled the working 90% for their own aggrandizement? It seems to me that democracy has been the most serious challenge, so far, to their control, but they have successfully bought it off ….until this election? All that money!!* And what is the most obscene source of that lucre? check out the financial market. Usury has historically been universally condemned for good reason….. and until the current wealth ‘tap’ of debt-money (i.e., supply control) is turned off, our institutions and culture will continue to be ‘bought.

    ** Yes, but….all that money failed to buy most of the races!!! Oh joy! Well, just wait til $$ buys the ‘ground game’ success of the Dems… paying the door-to-door campaigners, just as paid signature collectors subvert the initiative process, et al. Money Never Sleeps…. O Stone.

    I agree, until humans live ‘ecologically’, as other species do, and become the ‘leavers’ of Ishmael, we (or at least 90% of us) seem to be on a self destruct path. Maybe our only hope IS democracy… but only when a ‘sufficient (to overcome election rigging) majority’ of the electorate become sufficiently aware of the truth, will common human-kindness overcome psychopathic cunning. (I put a lot of faith in our inherent generosity and sociability.) This election was exhilarating for a couple of historical reasons… it appears that a ‘sufficient majority’ DID see through the millionaires’ lies….. might we nurse a niglng hope?

    • While I do think there’s a great deal of corruption and a good amount of buying off of politicians, Nancy, I’m always a bit leery these days when that’s talked about at the expense of examining our own role in this corrupt system. As a people, we continue to allow two parties to dominate our politics. That could be changed. We continue to fail to educate ourselves. We continue to watch TV, absorb ourselves in the internet, and choose entertainment over information. We could all be more responsible citizens. We continue to consider democracy as little more than voting. We continue to make personal choices that reinforce the corrupt and cynical behavior of our politicians. We use too much energy, live too abundantly, fail to learn enough self-reliance and -resiliency, fail to work and participate within our community, fail to support local businesses over chain stores. We eat poorly, don’t cook, don’t know how. We don’t connect ourselves to the earth and don’t concern ourselves with the importance of natural systems, of knowing how they work and how they support us.

      I don’t know. Yes, there was more money on the Republican side, but the Democrats are just as delusional when it comes to our real problems. So is that a niggling hope or just one more sign of our seeming hopelessness? I don’t want to be too bleak. But yes, it is going to come down to us humans learning to live ecologically, whether we want to or not. We’ll either figure it out on our own or be pushed into that reality by forces far larger than us. My hope is we’ll take some ownership of that process.

      I can’t say I find it too likely, though, outside of pockets of people.

  5. I dream of a day when our two party system is “Green” vs. “Libertarian”….

    • That would be a little more honest a choice, yes? I would like to see that, though I’d like to see some other elements in there, as well. Can we get a party that reflects, say, many of Wendell Berry’s beliefs? How about a party focused first and foremost on relocalization? One focused on ecology and ecosystems and creating societal institutions organized around the principles of nature? I might be getting a little too far ahead of myself here . . .

  6. This election left me feeling hopeless. We have a black and white system trying to fix a country that is in desperate need of a full pallet of color. We can’t even begin to deal with any real problems. We have poured trillions of dollars into banks and wars. I’m really of a mind that believes the Tea party and occupy wall street basically wants the same things. I dream of a day the greens and the libertarians get together and kick the democrat/republican mono parties ass! Give me back my country. I’m a peace loving conservative who voted for Obama hoping for a stop to our militaristic ways. Dear Obama might as well of pissed all over his Nobel Peace Prize. We are so screwed.

    • I agree that there’s quite a bit of crossover between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, Dennis—far more than most people seem to think. This thought certainly isn’t unique to me, but if those movements ever bridge the gap, they could light fire to a populist revolt that could wreak some real havoc—political and otherwise—in this country. I don’t know if it would turn out well or not, but it would be a hell of a thing to see.

      And yeah, that Nobel Peace Prize was fairly ridiculous at the time and exposed to be an order of magnitude more ridiculous as Obama’s presidency unfolded.

  7. Hi Joel,

    The first half of your blog was doing my head in – and not in a good way…

    Things are not much better here. At least the Prime Minister is a female and a self acknowledged atheist. Respect. I’m always troubled when religion gets into politics and it has been on the rise here in the past decade or so. Perhaps it was always there? Who knows? Politicians are paid to do a job, they are our employees, they should just get on with it and stop all of this posturing.

    By the way, voting here is not a choice thing. It is compulsory and you are fined by the Australian Electoral Commission if you don’t vote. Mind you, it doesn’t take hours to vote like I was reading about over in the US. What’s with that? Smells dodgy to me. It should be a consistent process right across the country. To allow the states to administer the system is a recipe for disaster. Here it is generally done in less than 15 minutes.

    Politics, same compost, different day.



    • Hi Chris,

      Yeah, it’s a little silly how I can still get caught up in the nonsense of our national politics. Thankfully, I can usually bring myself back to the perspective from the second half of my post.

      Religion is always in politics in some way or another. If nothing else, it’s a major perspective for most people that informs their world view–which is going to have effects on how they act as a politicians and the sort of policies they support. There’s no real way to fully separate religion from culture from society from politics. It’s all tied up in a messy, nonsensical ball. But certainly, one would hope to keep politicians from utilizing government to actively promote certain religion. As you no doubt know, that’s an ongoing point of contention here in America.

      The long voting times here are ridiculous. A big piece of it is various voter suppression activities taken on by various elected officials and other groups working in conjunction with them. Voting wait times are significantly longer, on average, at polling places that serve minorities and less wealthy citizens. Some of this is structural, no doubt–less resources to properly conduct the logistics of elections. Some of it is the result of specific laws and regulations designed to make voting more of a hassle for less desirable demographics. A lot of people on both sides of the political aisle here wring their hands about supposed voter fraud. No doubt, that’s taken place at times, but it’s really these somewhat more legitimate voter suppression activities that make it harder to vote or attempt to scare off minorities from exercising their right to vote that are the bigger issue.

      Here in my state, we vote entirely by mail. It’s pretty simple. We get the ballot mailed to us, fill in bubbles, mail it back or drop it off at a drop box. The ballots are fed through a simple optical scanner or, when necessary, counted by hand. Seems like a good system to me, though I wouldn’t mind experiencing the particular social aspect of literally going to the polls on election day and casting my vote. But compared to some of the states out there, it’s a very sane system. Some municipalities actually utilize voting machines that don’t leave any paper trail at all. I find that insane. Also, unnecessarily complex and wasteful. What’s wrong with a piece of paper and a pen? It works perfectly fine. I find the tendency throughout our industrialized society to computerize things just for the sake of computerizing them to be completely ridiculous.


  8. Hey Joel and everyone here,

    In Australia, there are two main political parties. Labour, is probably the equivalent of the Democrats and Liberal is the equivalent of the Republicans. Labour is in power at the moment as they hold the majority of seats in the lower house (by one seat, mind you) and in the upper house Labour holds the majority of seats in a coalition with a few independents and the Greens party.

    The voting system itself here is not a simple first past the post system, but a preferential voting system (lower house) which leads to the most preferred candidate being elected and a proportional system (upper house) which works by giving the individual states equal representation even though they have vastly differing populations, but again you end up with the most preferred candidates. All in all, it’s a pretty robust, if complex system which mostly tends towards stable governments, whilst giving smaller parties a say.

    What I’m trying to say is that for the Labour government to get any and all legislation through both houses of Parliament they can easily get the numbers to pass it through the lower house. However, in the upper house they have to negotiate with the Greens, Independents and perhaps even the Liberals to get any legislation through. The Greens party sometimes votes against government legislation, so they effectively hold the government to ransom and can extract concessions and get their own agendas rolling to an extent.

    So I’m reading the newspaper the other day and I come across an article by the ecologist and author Dr Tim Flannery about the mammal extinctions going on in this country right now:


    By the way the reference to Peter Garrett was because he used to be the lead singer of a very successful Australian rock / punk band Midnight Oil who had very outspoken views on the environment, nuclear weapons, US – Australia relations – you name it, he was in it up to his eyeballs! Now he’s the minister for education:

    Given our political experience, I’m not at all convinced that a change in political parties, or the introduction of a new political party will result in any substantive change. Simply put, there is no national political solution, there are only local solutions.

    The lyrics to the song are well worth taking the time to read. The reference to Afghanistan was actually a reference to the Russians (it was written in 1983 after all):

    Conquistador of Mexico, the Zulu and the Navaho
    The Belgians in the Congo short memory
    Plantation in Virginia, the Raj in British India
    The deadline in South Africa short memory
    The story of El Salvador, the silence of Hiroshima
    Destruction of Cambodia short memory

    Short memory, must have a, short memory

    The sight of hotels by the Nile, the designated Hilton style
    With running water specially bought short memory
    A smallish man Afghanistan, a watch dog in a nervous land
    They’re only there to lend a hand short memory
    The friendly five a dusty smile
    Wake up in sweat at dead of night
    And in the tents new rifles hey short memory

    If you read the history books you’ll see the same things happen again and again
    Repeat repeat short memory they’ve all got it
    When are we going to play it again
    Got a short, got a short, got a short, got a short
    They’ve got a short must have a short they’ve got a short aah
    Short memory, they’ve got a.

    • Hi Chris,

      Agree completely that there are only local solutions at the end of the day. The obsession with the president, in particular, in this country is silly. And I say that as someone who has shared in that obsession in the past. National politics are not set up to solve our problems–they’re set up to advance the interests of certain groups and powerful people. I’m utterly convinced at this point that a national political system can only be as good or functional as the local populaces that it governs. Which means that our national politics are doomed to dysfunction and irrelevancy for the time being. Until we begin to live sane and coherent lives as a people, we can hardly expect our politicians to proffer and pursue sane and coherent laws and policy.

      As for Tim Flannery, I’m in the library at the moment so will have to check out that article when I have a bit more time. But I loved his book The Weathermakers and I have a copy of The Eternal Frontier that I’ve been meaning to read for a few years now. Soon! He seems like a smart fellow. I wish we spent more time here in America paying attention to such people and less to the political nonsense spewing out of Washington and the media on a daily basis.


  9. Hi Joel,

    Thanks for the thoughtful and balanced reply. Things aren’t much better here really. The last Prime Minister was deposed by a mining lobby group – seriously. The Weathermakers was a good read, although I was a bit stressed out by the end of the book. Yikes! Haven’t read The Eternal Frontier but will keep a look out for it. The Future Eaters book was outstanding. By the way, Tim Flannery was Australian of the Year a few years back, he’s a pretty switched on dude.

    Hey, it got to 31 degrees (about 88 Fahrenheit) here today and despite the lack of rain, things are still green, although I had to mow last week because of the fire risk. The nectarines and peaches are a bit stressed out from curly leaf which is a fungal disease so I spent half a day last week picking off infected leaves and feeding the trees. Oh well, hasn’t affected the fruit set yet. I’m having trouble getting onto the Internet now because it is light between about 5am and about 8.30pm now (another month and it’ll still be light till well after 9pm). So much to do. I’m trying to work out which fruit will ripen first and it looks as though it may be a close race between currants, apricots and cherries. Regards.


    • Hi Chris,

      Yeah, it’s been a few years since I read it, but the Weathermakers was indeed a bit stressful, from what I remember. Climate change is a bit unnerving, no doubt about it. It seems like The Eternal Frontier is the same sort of book as The Future Eaters, only it looks at the ecological history of North America rather than Australasia. I think I may read The Eternal Frontier once I finish my reread of The Unsettling of America. Then maybe I’ll get to The Future Eaters at some point.

      Nice to know you’re warming up as we cool off. Things are still green here, too—we haven’t yet had a hard frost to really knock things back. The grass is green but pretty eaten down by the animals. We’re definitely into hay-feeding time. A series of storms are about to roll in, though nothing like what we had the weekend before last, with 8-10 inches of rain and wind gusts up to about 100mph. That was some craziness.

      Glad to hear your fruit is still getting along despite the curly leaf. We had a good fruit year here—I’ll wish the same for you! You’ll have to keep me informed of what ripens first. Some fresh cherries sound pretty fantastic right about now.


  10. Pingback: The Power of Letting Go « Of The Hands

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