Sunday, November 30, 2008

Red pill, Blue Pill time

Haven't posted for a couple of weeks- life happens, huh?

I also haven't been riding much. Since I moved my office to my home, I no longer need to ride 70 miles a week to commute.

Things are different now. I am not certain how deeply involved with the religion of bicycling I want to be. One fly in the ointment for me has always been that I think deeply about things. In this culture, that can be a liability.

Remember the movie "The Matrix"?

"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the Blue Pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the Red Pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."

~ Morpheus, a character in The Matrix

The protagonist had a choice to swallow a Red Pill, which would free him from enslaved humanity's collective illusion, or he could take the Blue Pill, which would allow him to forget that he had ever wanted to know what was real and true.

I took the Red Pill a long time ago, but I just haven't known how to live in a world where so few realize that they can even choose to wake up or not.

Bicycling was something I could believe in- a way to talk across the veil to the Blue Pill People. Now I am just not so sure I want to play that game anymore.

Some of my deeper thinking has been stimulated by Derrick Jensen- he writes well and thinks well. Here's some of his stuff:

Premises of Endgame

Premise One: Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.

Premise Two: Traditional communities do not often voluntarily give up or sell the resources on which their communities are based until their communities have been destroyed. They also do not willingly allow their landbases to be damaged so that other resources—gold, oil, and so on—can be extracted. It follows that those who want the resources will do what they can to destroy traditional communities.

Premise Three: Our way of living—industrial civilization—is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.

Premise Four: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

Premise Five: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice.

Premise Six: Civilization is not redeemable. This culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. If we do not put a halt to it, civilization will continue to immiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade the planet until it (civilization, and probably the planet) collapses. The effects of this degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.

Premise Seven: The longer we wait for civilization to crash—or the longer we wait before we ourselves bring it down—the messier will be the crash, and the worse things will be for those humans and nonhumans who live during it, and for those who come after.

Premise Eight: The needs of the natural world are more important than the needs of the economic system.

Another way to put premise Eight: Any economic or social system that does not benefit the natural communities on which it is based is unsustainable, immoral, and stupid. Sustainability, morality, and intelligence (as well as justice) requires the dismantling of any such economic or social system, or at the very least disallowing it from damaging your landbase.

Premise Nine: Although there will clearly some day be far fewer humans than there are at present, there are many ways this reduction in population could occur (or be achieved, depending on the passivity or activity with which we choose to approach this transformation).

Some of these ways would be characterized by extreme violence and privation: nuclear armageddon, for example, would reduce both population and consumption, yet do so horrifically; the same would be true for a continuation of overshoot, followed by crash.

Other ways could be characterized by less violence. Given the current levels of violence by this culture against both humans and the natural world, however, it’s not possible to speak of reductions in population and consumption that do not involve violence and privation, not because the reductions themselves would necessarily involve violence, but because violence and privation have become the default.

Yet some ways of reducing population and consumption, while still violent, would consist of decreasing the current levels of violence required, and caused by, the (often forced) movement of resources from the poor to the rich, and would of course be marked by a reduction in current violence against the natural world. Personally and collectively we may be able to both reduce the amount and soften the character of violence that occurs during this ongoing and perhaps longterm shift. Or we may not.

But this much is certain: if we do not approach it actively—if we do not talk about our predicament and what we are going to do about it—the violence will almost undoubtedly be far more severe, the privation more extreme.

Premise Ten: The culture as a whole and most of its members are insane. The culture is driven by a death urge, an urge to destroy life.

Premise Eleven: From the beginning, this culture—civilization—has been a culture of occupation.

Premise Twelve: There are no rich people in the world, and there are no poor people.

There are just people. The rich may have lots of pieces of green paper that many pretend are worth something—or their presumed riches may be even more abstract: numbers on hard drives at banks—and the poor may not. These “rich” claim they own land, and the “poor” are often denied the right to make that same claim. A primary purpose of the police is to enforce the delusions of those with lots of pieces of green paper. Those without the green papers generally buy into these delusions almost as quickly and completely as those with. These delusions carry with them extreme consequences in the real world.

Premise Thirteen: Those in power rule by force, and the sooner we break ourselves of illusions to the contrary, the sooner we can at least begin to make reasonable decisions about whether, when, and how we are going to resist.

Premise Fourteen: From birth on—and probably from conception, but I’m not sure how I’d make the case—we are individually and collectively enculturated to hate life, hate the natural world, hate the wild, hate wild animals, hate women, hate children, hate our bodies, hate and fear our emotions, hate ourselves. If we did not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we could not allow our homes—and our bodies—to be poisoned.

Premise Fifteen: Love does not imply pacifism.

Premise Sixteen: The material world is primary.

This does not mean that the spirit does not exist, nor that the material world is all there is. It means that spirit mixes with flesh. It means also that real world actions have real world consequences.

It means we cannot rely on Jesus, Santa Claus, the Great Mother, or even the Easter Bunny to get us out of this mess. It means this mess really is a mess, and not just the movement of God’s eyebrows. It means we have to face this mess ourselves.

It means that for the time we are here on Earth—whether or not we end up somewhere else after we die, and whether we are condemned or privileged to live here—the Earth is the point. It is primary. It is our home. It is everything. It is silly to think or act or be as though this world is not real and primary. It is silly and pathetic to not live our lives as though our lives are real.

Premise Seventeen: It is a mistake (or more likely, denial) to base our decisions on whether actions arising from these will or won’t frighten fence-sitters, or the mass of Americans.

Premise Eighteen:
Our current sense of self is no more sustainable than our current use of energy or technology.

Premise Nineteen: The culture’s problem lies above all in the belief that controlling and abusing the natural world is justifiable.

Premise Twenty: Within this culture, economics—not community well-being, not morals, not ethics, not justice, not life itself—drives social decisions.

Modification of Premise Twenty: Social decisions are determined primarily (and often exclusively) on the basis of whether these decisions will increase the monetary fortunes of the decision-makers and those they serve.

Re-modification of Premise Twenty:
Social decisions are determined primarily (and often exclusively) on the basis of whether these decisions will increase the power of the decision-makers and those they serve.

Re-modification of Premise Twenty: Social decisions are founded primarily (and often exclusively) on the almost entirely unexamined belief that the decision-makers and those they serve are entitled to magnify their power and/or financial fortunes at the expense of those below.

Re-modification of Premise Twenty: If you dig to the heart of it—if there were any heart left—you would find that social decisions are determined primarily on the basis of how well these decisions serve the ends of controlling or destroying wild nature.

More later, perhaps. Perhaps not.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Shady Grove is striped and signed for Bike Lanes

Partially, at least.

If you ride in Memphis for long, you will eventually ride Shady Grove. It is a good east-west connector route- pretty yards with lots of trees and flowers, slower, lighter traffic, and lots of other cyclists riding during great weather.

It has been partially striped for a bike lane now- from roughly Wolf River Boulevard on the east to Yates on the west.

I have ridden the new lanes from Yates to Wolf River Blvd twice- I think the lanes are properly designed. Coming from someone who is mostly anti-bike lane, that is a huge compliment!

And now the game is afoot- bike lanes can create as many problems as they solve. Many cyclists and motorists have dangerous and erroneous ideas about how bike lanes should work.

I'll be writing a more in depth post soon about how to ride (or not) in bike lanes, the "smart cycling" approach to bike lanes. There is the law, there is what people think, and there is what works-- they do not always correlate!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Overcoming Generational Weakness and Plastic Car-Culture / Toward a Re-Dedication to Conserving

I liked this - it has a lot that I believe in. I have been reading Jan "Depaver" Lundberg for years- his writing is one of the reasons we took out our concrete sidewalk at our house a few years ago. ~~ Cliff H

Reprinted in in its entirety from the Culture Change website at:

Overcoming Generational Weakness and Plastic Car-Culture / Toward a Re-Dedication to Conserving

Culture Change Letter #209, November 3, 2008

This essay asks what we Americans should expect from our leaders and ourselves when we are in a greater fix today, from climate distortion and petrocollapse, than in the 1940s when we had to go all-out to embrace Victory Gardens and conserve with a vengeance. Our resolve back then went far beyond encouraging the making and consuming of better cars! - JL

The idea of “progress” for succeeding generations of U.S. Americans and others comes increasingly though "conveniences" identified with science -- as our ecosystem, food security, civil liberties and financial well-being slip away. To speed us along we use more techno-products and procedures that are passed along, almost always unquestioned, through corporate marketing and our acceptance of agribusiness-derived fast food. When combined with the alleged “march of history" and other propaganda, the notion of our supposed “progress” and the more dangerous "progress" itself have been successfully foisted upon an unwary populace.

This trend has made people ever weaker as well as unskilled in critical ways. Whether mainly from petroleum dependence or from other factors, a change in the species has occurred in modern societies that was unanticipated by the previous generation. While signs such as rising obesity rates and birth defects tell us a lot, complete evidence and consensus are not forthcoming as conclusions aired on the nightly TV news. But we can observe intuitively and use historical perspective.

Weakness is more visible in recent years, as more human specimens are “untough” compared to previous generations of people who lived or worked outside and "enjoyed" fewer manufactured products. With our rapidly changing habits in modern civilization we are more susceptible to disease such as cancer. We lack awareness about our true relationship with our surroundings. Our weakness is reinforced the more ignorant we are, as we are constantly manipulated to believe in the benefits of sophisticated, devious social control that is seldom acknowledged.

Skills are defined for the masses of citizens only by the employer class and their lackeys in government and the education sector. Technical knowledge increases while general knowledge and wisdom are devalued. Specialization for employment is increasingly antithetical to practical or traditional skills, in that there is almost no relevance in modern job-skills toward physical survival or building community.

The modern consumer is part of a sad lot: piggies as depicted in the film WALL*E (reviewed on Culture Change), or surplus humans consuming each other as in the film Soylent Green. The notion of modern humans as less able and more helpless than ever is objectionable to those who “accept the deal right off the shelf” (from the song I walk the Earth). These include revolutionaries too if they have completely bought into industrial culture and do not question social control that developed since the agricultural and industrial revolutions. One thing revolutionaries and reformers don't bring up: the more people there are the weaker we are.

Safety through "progress"

One way we are pacified and tamed is through the relentless promotion of the myth of safety. We are told and convinced that today’s world is safer from barbarity or wild beasts than in past centuries. No more bloodthirsty hordes who swoop down, rape, behead and burn. Or threat from wolves or lions. Or from highwaymen who no longer lurk because highway interchanges have fossil-fuel lighting and corporate outlets to comfort us. This way of life must be protected, we are told, so we pay through the nose for wars that are more about profit and oil dependence than safety.

We are also told we are safer by use of chemicals and sterilization and antibiotics. But these products' injudicious use makes us weaker. For example, resistance to bacteria is through contact with it, according to recent findings. Building our strength and resistance (e.g., through detoxification) is not a significant concern or accomplishment of the capitalist medical cult.

Trusting experts or worshiping credentials is a scam. It disempowers perfectly intelligent and capable people so that they stay in line and believe bullshit. Of course, much wonderful knowledge is sometimes only gotten through hard work and focus. The concept of “genius” can be little more than the ability to focus and concentrate. But, for whose benefit?

The environment - a problem outside of ourselves?

One danger from trusting experts and specialists is ironically at play most heavily and tragically in the environmental movement. I don’t refer to the direct-action wing that brings out the best in many (but all too few) activists from all walks of life. I refer to the mainstream environmental movement that follows the ground rules of the polluting establishment and power structure. It’s ironic that most of those claiming to professionally defend Mother Earth -- which they do do in a fashion and to an extent -- are locked into conventions and rules that sell out the planet. The big environmental groups have obviously not succeeded in their mission to improve the state of the environment. They decided to stay in business above all. For example, not one of the big groups dared join or endorse the Alliance for a Paving Moratorium during its 1990-2001 run, although they lamented urban sprawl (only Friends of the Earth U.S. seemed to support our APM). They do some good things, but the ecosystem is clearly failing. Hoping for a different result by doing the same thing is called insanity. Lesson: DIY, do it yourself, don’t let anyone "save you" because they may be tied to Wall Street values (foundation funding, like political campaigns' support, comes from stock-market and other holdings). The environmental movement has paradoxically weakened us and the ecosystem by being a force for moderate reform instead of systemic change.

Questions that really question

One basic question the funded environmental movement and the education-establishment will not admit or teach us to ask: How can we condone the creation of this socioeconomic system –- the U.S.A. -- when it sprang entirely from invasion, racism, genocide, ecocide, and sexism? Such questions are avoided so that people do not question the legitimacy of the present society and its investments.

Another “unaskable” or "strange" question: What if no one is in control, in terms of understanding the whole system? The economy is so huge and diverse that it cannot be completely grasped in words and numbers. There's no one trained to have a commanding knowledge of key industries, consumer behavior, social influences, ecological factors, banking/fiscal/monetary workings, etc. This brings forward the disturbing question, "Does anybody understand fully what's going on?" A specialist can seldom be a generalist, and vice-versa.

When the populace is not looking any further than the struggle to survive or to divert itself (the word for “fun” in French is divertir), we don’t ask questions that can lead to meaningful political movement and change. Today most of us are asking, “What’s happening to my money?” rather than “Where is my money really?” A better question is, “Why is money the only measure and arbiter? What other power is there, and do I have some of it?”

Money is expected for doing just about anything and everything: activities spanning survival to enriching daily life and building a beautiful dream. In the absence of a real life with full potential, we settle for making our existence as comfortable as we can. Thus we do not obtain fundamental change in our surrounding physical and cultural environment. Ignore your dreams and you get waking nightmares.

A "solution"

As profoundly difficult as it may seem to solve these problems, we do have the guidance around us today that we need -- although it’s like a frail elder or ghost that we are too busy to notice. We have evolved and survived almost entirely thanks to traditional ways of indigenous and “primitive” peoples. They happen to be the only real model of sustainability, but you won’t hear that at your run-of-the-mill sustainability conference. An analogy for understanding the value of our past success -- before we literally loused it up with civilization -- is the track record of life itself: For the majority of the Earth's 4.5 billion years existence, since life began around 3.5 billion years ago, Mother Nature has been designing herself for efficiency, balance and harmony. We are her children. Speciation and diversity fit into niches for symbiotic relationships -- one grand family of life. To blow that off and knowingly cause extinctions is the act of a parasitic cancer that cannot see the benefit of preserving the host which is the web of life. So, nature’s design as the bulk of Earth’s successful, changing experience can be compared to tribal, traditional peoples’ being the key to and the bulk of human experience.

How can we compare this to today’s “reality” of what car we think we should buy to impress other people? If we can stipulate that at some point there are enough roads or too many roads, because we cannot afford to fix the vast, crumbling network, then we need a halt. This means using just the roads we have (for whatever purpose, which in future times without oil may be for other activities as much as transport). Therefore, at some point we would not fund or build any more roads. We need to think of cars in the same way: we have plenty of them, indeed too many. The 136-million car-population in the U.S. -- 251 million total motorized passenger vehicles -- is part of an ongoing and accelerating ecological disaster, and we have exported the car everywhere as best we could. Surely there are enough cars for us to use if we share them and limit them to essential use -- assuming we could keep using them if we deep sixed the oil industry by ceasing to buy all the products that refiners need to push on us. So, like the enough-roads policy, the policy on cars should be to make no more new ones; simply repair the ones we have as they do in Cuba. Here's what all this has to do with our generation's strength (or lack of it):

Toward a re-dedication to conserving, a la Victory Gardens

Through all the "infotainment," "news" and other distractions of modern life, we are occasionally reminded of all the recycling, rationing and other features of the successful effort in the U.S. during World War II to conserve and meet a national goal. The grassroots phenomenon of Victory Gardens is one of the best examples of making due through common sense. We need them now when our food supply is threatened by globalization, economic collapse and oil shortage ahead.

In World War II the U.S. citizenry was told, “If you ride alone you’re riding with Hitler.” Heeding that warning or accepting the sentiment was characteristic of a strong nation doing the rational thing at the time. Because,

(A) our great-grandparents were wiry-tough and were trained by their families for survival;
(B) Our grandparents were almost as tough as their parents;
(C) our parents less tough than theirs; and
(D) we are less able, less rounded (although more technological) than our parents; and
(E) our children are considerably weaker than our ancestors, if we only consider people's lack of skills and increased plasticization and radiation as reason to doubt our species' strengthening;

we can see what we have to overcome: to realize we must reject that the strongest thing we can do is hope for or call forth “clean, efficient cars made right here in America.” We can do far better. Just as we also are encouraged by Barack Obama to “Turn off the TV” for the sake of our children’s education, we need to turn off the killing CO2-spewing machine that eats farmland with road building: the car. This stance and cultural change will go a long way to removing the physical, moral, economic and political weakness we have allowed to be placed on us.

* * * * *

"WALL*E – A push-button fable," by Albert Bates:

I walk the Earth by Depaver Jan, a monaural one-track demo(MP3) from 2003 for the next Depaver Jan eco-song album

Car population statistics: