Kiwiburn 08

Kiwiburn is the New Zealand Regional version of Burning Man. It’s a freaking great time and you should seriously go.

Kiwiburn 08 is 1-4 February. Tickets are already on sale; cheaper early bird ones.

Check out the site, read the principles and survival guide so you have some idea what you’re getting into, and start planning awesomeness today 🙂

Bohm is da bomb

I reckon that David Bohm may be the most significant thinker of the late 20th Century. Intellectually, I want to have his kittens.

terror in new zealand

So has terrorism has come to little ol’ New Zealand? My attitude to the “war on terror” does not need restating.

Not following local media, and having little or no internet access of late, my awareness of the recent terrorism raids in New Zealand and their fallout has largely been word-of-mouth, or what people I know are blogging. I just checked out nz indymedia’s coverage, too.

As far as I can tell, after a period of SIS surveillance, the police have chosen to arrest a number of activists of various stripes. The charges appear dubious – dubious in the sense of justifying use of the Terrorism Suppression Act, and dubious in the sense that the media is choosing to report the police spin on events which in and of themselves have legal explanations; a “terrorist training camp” in the Ureweras that is otherwise used as a retreat camp for troubled youth, and so forth.

Anyway, as horrendous as this is, on the whole, I think it is a good thing that this has happened, as it raises general awareness of the laws of the land – laws which apply to you regardless of whether or not you are aware of them.

That we had allowed the terrorism laws to go through without proper scrutiny or debate during the hysteria following 9-11 was a significant failing of our democracy. That the laws are maybe now being abused, seemingly exactly as they were feared to be used, to quash genuine dissent and target legitimate peaceful protest movements, is sad, but not a surprise. That it is on the front page of the newspapers and gives us a chance to talk about it is a good thing. As successive revelations of the overstepping of power and the sheer absurdity of ongoing police actions mounts, they damn themselves. If they were seeking the justification of their powers through their actions, it seems they are failing.

While we need to wait and see what facts can be proved, from my experience with activist circles, I find it impossible to take any “terroristic” threat from them seriously. People who spend substantial portions of their free time and energy protesting and denouncing the use of torture, the bombing of civilians, violence and oppression against minorities and indigenous people worldwide, and generally committed to non-violent direct action – and who are totally identified with that role to the point of ineffectualness through being so damn holier than thou – are unlikely to turn around and decide murder and mayhem is any sort of useful approach. Especially in New Zealand. Especially as any movement without a massive amount of underlying community support always fails. Again, as these are the people who study the lessons of history, they are aware of it.

This helps to show how the spectre of terror has been invoked in modern life; undefined, pliable to political need, and fundamentally lacking in meaningful reality in practice.

I cannot discern a meaning or rationale to the state actions. Who benefits from these actions, done now? (I am assuming here the absence of any serious or credible threat – a common event following the high-profile busting of “terrorist cells”, as the wonderful documentary The Power of Nightmares demonstrated in detail.) Is this just the use of power come unhinged? Inevitable once the power was granted that it would be abused.
{EDIT: Hmm. Just came across arguments that the arrests are to create the political climate to enable passage of more anti-terrorist legislation.}.

However, if the purpose – as argued within activist circles – is purely intimidation – another form of SLAPP, as it were, to raise the risks and costs of getting involved in democratic dissent (it is no surprise Peace Action Wellington are already fundraising for legal costs) – then even if the charges fail and the affair fizzles, the message will be stamped in the minds of the populace. Standing against us is ruin. And worse, the “narrative reality” of terrorism will be established; further moves against “terrorists” become commonplace.

What disturbs me a little is the timing, in the broadest sense of things. The stakes are getting higher. Environmentally we need action – government led, not corporate led, for governments concern is the wellbeing of their people, while corporation’s concerns are for their profits. Peak oil too cannot be contained by market forces. New Zealand has serious potential to be a world leader, especially in environmental issues. We are part of the mostly white, english speaking, first world. When we do things differently we show the rest of the world how things can be.

More and more people are quietly asking themselves exactly how long can we go on doing nothing while current trends continue. So this move towards state repression is concerning, because activism is necessarily going to increase in the coming years; this affair’s most relevant outcome is as a precedent.

On the whole, since we can still talk about this directly, I would encourage people to get involved. These are our rights at stake. This case is a flashpoint for the future of our freedom in this country. There is a real potential for things to get worse – our laws are not yet as draconian as our Western allies, and I really don’t want to live in a fascist future, or even a contemporary one.

This website seems to be the coordinating point for action.

Things No One Ever Tells You About The Economy

(This article originally appeared in Salient a week or so ago.)


Things No One Ever Tells You About The Economy
by and (c) Billy the dancing moose 2007 (www.undulatingungulate.com/blog)

It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.
– Henry Ford

Each day we are told that we must obey as the economy – or rather, her priests, the economists – dictates. It is claimed our wellbeing as a nation, as people, rests paramountly upon our economic health. But almost no one understands how the economy works. The proof of this is simple: if everyone understood how the economy actually works, it would stop working instantly, because we would refuse to continue doing as we are, and the economy relies upon our belief in it to function.


Money Out of Nothing

Money is created out of nothing. This right was stolen from governments by the international bankers they became indebted to in wartime – wars in which the bankers funded both sides. Economies can be expanded or contracted by controlling the money supply. In 1790, Amschel Rothschild, head of the richest banking family ever, declared he did not care who made the laws of the land so long as he had the right to print the money.

Money (at least in America; I’m curious as to whether the situation is the same with our own Reserve Bank) is created by the purchase of government bonds, which are a “promise to pay”. Bonds are paid for electronically by the Federal Reserve – completely out of nothing – the money exists because they say it does. This money is then transferred to banks who lend it out at interest. However, due to fractional reserve lending, the bank can lend ten times as much money as they hold. (If you tried to do this, you would be arrested for fraud.) Banks thus create money when they lend it.

Now, if a bank has one million dollars worth of bonds, it can lend ten million dollars. (None of which has any material reality.) Say it lends at ten percent. So a year later it gets back eleven million dollars. But the first ten million never really existed, and the extra million that gets paid back represents real productive labour which has been co-opted by the banks. They did nothing for this except steal the monopoly over the creation of money.

Money does not have to bear interest. There is no necessity for this. It is simply theft. There’s a reason Jesus threw out the money-changers from the temple. Interest free money can be issued, and has been done often throughout history. (e.g. Abraham Lincoln did during the US civil war.) Actually, anyone can print money, too, as it is just a promise to pay. All that backs money is the belief that the issuer will someday pay.

The Economics of Illusion

Essentially we are enslaved by debt to money created out of nothing. Money used to mean such and such an amount of gold or silver, but in the 1970’s the US dollar – the currency every other currency was measured against – went off the gold standard. Now money is a tradeable commodity. (This happened around the same time as the era of deregulation and the removal of restrictions to movement of capital across borders began.)

Trillions of dollars worth of speculative capital travels the world each week, seeking to turn a quick profit on fluctuations in exchange rates. These sums of money dwarf the world’s GDP. Organised attacks on a currency by enormous hedge funds can sink a country’s currency.

Money is worth only what we believe it is worth. The methods by which this belief is established have increasingly little to do with any physical reality.

Barring a plague or drought, what is the difference in material resources – people and raw materials, physical stuff that exists – between a depression and a boom? Absolutely none. The only difference lies in or beliefs about what is happening; or in the availability of capital. But the availability of capital depends only on how much is arbitrarily created; this is controlled by central banks.

Ain’t that a bit weird? Think about it for a minute. What is actually being made, real stuff that people are doing, no longer runs the world. The financial markets – speculation on speculation about what does not exist – and those unaccountable private individuals who control the money supply – are running the real things.


The Biggest Con Job Ever

(This section is largely an edited chunk from one of my unpublished novels :P)

The con is the individualisation of profit and socialisation of risk. An easy example is the government – that is, the public – paying billions for research and development costs for military, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies who then make private profits from discoveries based on that research. But that’s small fry compared to the real con.

Speculative capital can go almost anywhere, and it will be invested wherever it will get the highest return, which is likely as not the place with the highest risk. As you can imagine, that can have major destabilising effects on a local economy which may already be volatile.

At some point investors lose confidence in a country or a currency and panic, trying to get their money out before it collapses, which worsens whatever crisis the country’s economy faces. The currency devalues, and they end up in massive debt to their overseas creditors. The IMF offers to bail them out, but only if they follow the prescription set out for them. Now, part of the trick is the IMF is funded by taxpayers from its member nations – the public. Remember that.

The IMF is run by market fundamentalists – people who believe that markets run brilliantly and should be left to run without “interference” from government. And they have one prescription, based on their
faith. Fiscal and monetary austerity, privatise everything, and remove restrictions on capital flow.

Monetary austerity means using the billions received in IMF loans to artificially prop up the local currency long enough for the creditors to be paid back at a better rate, a lot of which is done with the money received from the IMF, so when you look at it, the IMF loan was for the benefit of the international financiers, since they get the money. And if the IMF loan doesn’t get repaid, then the taxpayer bailed out the financiers who made a bad decision. But why wouldn’t they make a risky decision if they knew they’d get bailed out?

Fiscal austerity means raising taxes and cutting spending, which lowers aggregate demand, that is, the total demand from all sectors. When it’s high it is good for workers’ wages and production but less good for profit, when it is low there is less employment and production, which in theory combats inflation. In practice austerity demolishes social programs and increases the ability for creditors to be repaid. This all makes more sense if you take the intentional stance, so to speak, to the policy, and read it as if it is designed to make sure the lenders get repaid. This isn’t the IMF’s job, but it has
been acting like it is.

Meanwhile local companies are going broke. Then, since the privatisation and financial liberalization prescription requires rules about foreign ownership and investment to be lifted, overseas finance – from a certain point of view, the same money – can come in freely and buy up assets at a fraction of their value, in a way that would never be allowed normally. The scale this is on is humongous. Banks, corporations, land, infrastructure, bought up for nothing. The entire shape of the world changes in the hour of the wolf before dawn, a new form of colonialism that most of the colonised are barely aware has occurred.


Why No One Ever Tells You These Things About The Economy

In the New York Times of March 27, 1922, former US President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted:
These international bankers and Rockefeller-Standard Oil interests control the majority of newspapers and the columns of these papers to club into submission or drive out of public office officials who refuse to do the bidding of the powerful corrupt cliques which compose the invisible government.

In the New York Times of March 26, 1922, the Mayor of New York, John Hylan said: “The warning of Theodore Roosevelt has much timeliness today, for the real menace of our republic is this invisible government which like a giant octopus sprawls its slimy length over city, state and nation… It seizes in its long and powerful tentacles our executive officers, our legislative bodies, our schools, our courts, our newspapers, and every agency created for the public protection…
To depart from mere generalizations, let me say that at the head of this octopus are the Rockefeller-Standard Oil interest and a small group of powerful banking houses generally referred to as the international bankers. The little coterie of international bankers virtually run the United States for their own selfish purposes.
They practically control both parties, write political platforms, make catspaws of party leaders, use the leading men of private organisations, and resort to every device to place in nomination for high public office only such candidates as will be amenable to the dictates of corrupt big business.
These international bankers and Rockefeller-Standard Oil interests control the majority of newspapers and magazines in this country.

Interesting how 80 years ago this could be spoken of openly by respected men in positions of power, whereas nowadays those words are only spoken by people stigmatised in the media as “conspiracy nuts”. Maybe the international bankers bought the rest of the media, too? Check out the latest edition of The Media Monopoly by Ben Bagdikian for details on how a handful of people own over 90% of the world’s media.

There is way more to this. Please check out “The Money Masters“, an astonishing history of banking and economics, available free to download online if you look for it. Try Google Video.

And, of course, the real reason no one tells you these things about the economy is that if everyone knew this stuff, there would be a revolution.

So go tell someone.

Strange days at the end of the world

Well, that’s sort of how things feel. Massive uncertainty during change. So it goes. An excuse to practice going with and being open to the moment. And the moment is often filled with wonderful things if only we make the effort to notice.

My brother gets out of hospital tomorrow. Where exactly he is going to go, and for how long, is unclear.

Change is the end of one world and the start of another (though, of course, they are the same). It is the name we give to the poor view of the process we possess.

(Oh yeah, I went along to see Richard Heinberg, peak (and post) oil guru speak a few days ago. Will blog it when I have time, as it was pretty excellent.)

The Educated White Slave's Future

(This originally appeared in Salient a week or so ago as the cover feature. A new one called “Things No One Ever Tells You About The Economy” will appear in next week’s Salient.)

The Educated White* Slave’s Future
(c) 2007 Billy the dancing moose (www.undulatingungulate.com/blog)

“Keep you doped with religion, sex and tv/and you think you’re so clever and classless and free/but you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see” – John Lennon, Working Class Hero

Debt is the modern form of slavery. When you are in debt, someone else owns you – your time, effort and labour – and calls upon you to make whatever sacrifices necessary until the debt is serviced on terms they dictate. (Upon a moment’s reflection language reveals much which is hidden – we “service” debts. Servants give service to their masters. Mortgages, literally, are a contract signed “on death terms”.)

How the system works to enslave the Educated White Slave

“Well you get what you pay for/And freedom’s real high priced” – Axl Rose

So they tell you that to escape a future of menial labouring tedium, you need an education. And to get an education, you need to go to university. And unless your family is rich and your parents generous, that means getting a loan, often committing to 30,000+ of debt before you have the faintest fucking idea what debt means.

However, that qualification you are getting into debt for is itself merely a qualification to become a cog in someone else’s machine. As Bill Gates noted frankly when speaking to a graduating class at an ivy league university, they were never going to be as rich as him. They had wasted years of their lives training to become his employees. He had spent those years of his life starting his own company out of his garage.

Anyway. Once you have the loan, and whether or not you are lucky enough to graduate, you will need to get cracking on paying off that loan.

That right there is where your loss of freedom becomes apparent. They’ve got you.

Instead of leaving university, fresh faced, full of bright ideas about how to do awesome things and effect positive change in the world, and eager to get out and make a difference (as we might hope would occur when our brightest hopes for the future leave institutes of higher learning), you need to get a job to pay off the loan.

The Squirrel Trap

An education grants access to a job with a certain level of comfort and lifestyle attached. As a young member of the elite, with no dependents and more money than you’ve ever seen in your life, life seems pretty sweet. You can buy new clothes, DVDs, big TV’s. You can eat out every night and drink away your paycheck every weekend. You can plan a few weeks jaunting in South Asia or somewhere cheap and interesting, even while chipping away at your debt. Years of noodles and baked beans fade from memory. Your flat becomes shiny, modern and impersonal, instead of mouldy, run down and charming.

That thump was the trap closing behind you. Soon you will forget anything exists outside of the box, as they repeatedly tell you that this is “the real world”.

Fuck them.

Comfort is the enemy. You can have all the trappings of success. Only too late will you realise you are no longer willing to live without them. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

What is key is you are forced to give up your freedom. At the very point you should be choosing the direction to head in your life, the choice is made for you .

Conformity Pressures

Humans have evolved as social, tribal creatures. We face massive conformity pressures. To survive it is vital to maintain group affiliation and membership. (For an analysis of these pressures, see the work of Howard Bloom.)

In Foucault’s analysis of the prison, he notes how we have internalised discipline – we no longer seek to control and enact revenge on the body, we seek to control the mind, and restrict the allowable range of behaviour. The system has gotten very good at this over the past hundred years. We meekly obey.

Inside the box trap, you lose your intellectual freedom. You cannot think for yourself. You are a cog. The cog’s role is not to think. It is to obey and turn the wheel. Serve the companies interests. Subsume your individuality to the culture of the government department. The rat pushes the lever and gets the reward.

To keep your job, you cannot rock the boat. You must conform, or at the very least, give the outward impression of conforming.

If you doubt this, try going against the system in any meaningful way, and see what happens. Ask enough questions and refuse to go along obediently long enough, and you will likely be defined as “mentally ill”. Since what is “normal” varies between cultures and countries, mental illness is a completely culturally relative designation.

Under the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), checklists are provided outlining what needs to be present for a specific illness to be diagnosed. The only element common to all is the requirement that the combination of symptoms be somehow severe enough that the person cannot function in society.

In practice, this means the ability to go to work. The system doesn’t care care how damn miserable you are, so long as it can pump you full of pills that keep you able to go to work and service your debt. (You will doubtless be able to confirm this among people you know.) Not only that, financial ties between the pharmaceutical companies which make the drugs prescribed for an illness and the psychological bodies responsible for defining the illnesses and their treatments – a corrupting conflict of interest – are a known fact.

As an eloquent piece of graffitti chalked on upper Cuba St many years ago asked, ‘What does it mean to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society?”

What all this means is you cannot look at the world around you and apply your newly minted and trained intelligence to the creative application of working out what is going on, and how it could be different and better. That’s not how it works. Because if you rock the boat you lose your job, and if you lose your job you can’t pay your debt. And if you can’t pay your debt you face imprisonment or bankruptcy. So you have to conform to a bullshit system.


Coercion

The past century has seen the rise of a sophisticated industry of human manipulation – originally called propaganda, now called public relations and advertising – which changes with each updated psychological model of how human beings work, growing ever more accurate and powerful in the ability to control our actions unconsciously while allowing us to think ourselves free (see, for example, Coercion by Douglas Rushkoff, or the superb BBC documentary Century of the Self).

Once you are in the box trap – actually, your entire life – you are bombarded with images and messages designed to influence your action. These influences do not have your best interests at heart, but instead those of the influencer.

We are under massive pressure to live a certain way, look a certain way, maintain certain standards. All of which are external, artificial, and motivated by someone else’s desire to get rich. Happiness is presented as ownership of products. Identity is presented as being defined by the products we purchase. Group membership and identity are mediated by cultural signifiers which take the form of possessions.

You need money to buy this stuff, as well as pay off your lurking debt. In fact, you will probably get into more debt to buy this stuff.

But what does it matter if you get a credit card when you are already habituated to being in debt? It is a way of life. This is the real world, of course. There is no other way. And you have to buy the stuff otherwise you’re a loser! (The “feeling” of poverty is relative to your surroundings. We are all rich compared to over half the world’s population, but because of the artificially stimulated desires for possessions, we feel poor if we don’t have these things.)

And then there’s a house to buy, the ultimate trap, the ultimate debt. The mortgage, on death terms.

All of this is a fast track to a mid life crisis when you realise you have pissed away the best years of your life in the box trap instead of pursuing what you really want out of life. But never really had the choice, back when it mattered, because you were serving your debt. (We also “serve” prison sentences.)


The Nature and Meaning of Freedom, and How to Reclaim Your Freedom and Identity

The squirrel trap is easy. The path to it is lined with bait and the box is lined with cushions… but the box is a lonely and unfulfilled place, and a luxury prison is still a prison. What does the box trap have to do with you? With who you actually are inside, the free spirit, wild child, beautiful dreamer? With what you want to experience in your body and consciousness? With what you know to be right, and just, in a corrupt world where the leader of the “free” world is a dangerous moron who advocates unending war and torture on the basis of lies.

You need to get out of debt whilst retaining your freedom; figure out how to escape the squirrel trap and do what you really want. (Otherwise, enjoy your slavery.) Alternatives exist. They are more fulfilling and fun, but harder at first.

The system is designed around the nuclear family. A pair bonded couple with children are enslaved for the duration of their working life to pay for the house, then raising of their children (a prime source of economic manipulation).

One way to start your escape is by acting as an economic collective or cooperative. (Now, this needs trust and really good communication, and to not be dealing with munters. Choose wisely.) Get together with your tribe, your crew, the people you trust. Work out how you want to live and make it happen. Buy a house between ten people, not one or two. It will take a tenth of the time. Now you have a base. Then see what else you can do.

Yes, this will mean a different form of relationship between people. They will be the interactions of free people, not slaves. They will be unpredictable. However, the more who choose freedom create a new context, a new system. Where are these courageous ones to come from if not the educated elites? What is the responsibility of your position? The opportunities you have been given in this life by grace, luck and genetics?

[Next week: Billy the dancing moose tells you things that no one ever tells you about the economy, and explains the roots of the debt system of slavery.]

—–

* Just getting your attention. While debt enslaves all regardless of skin colour, white males tend to be more ignorant of their slavery; if you’re a minority or female, you’re probably well aware how fucked you are.

www.undulatingungulate.com/blog

Television: Tune Into Static

[This article originally appeared in Salient a couple of weeks ago. I’m resisting any temptations to rewrite or expand it.]


Television: Tune Into Static

by Billy the dancing moose (www.undulatingungulate.com/blog)

Do you watch television? Or play Playstation or Xbox on a television set?
Congratulations. You’re a drug addict. But not in the way you may think.

People often tell me they watch television to relax. Of course, given the physiological effects of the medium of television on the human brain – not the content – it is actually impossible not to relax while watching television.

This is Your Brain on Television

Within about 30 seconds, your brain waves change from mostly beta-waves, indicating awareness and alert attention, to mostly alpha-waves, indicating a daydream-like state and a receptive lack of attention. (An activity like reading, by contrast, produces mostly beta-waves.) Further, the left hemisphere of the brain, the logical/analytic centre, tunes out while watching television, and processing switches to the right hemisphere, which deals less with rational processes and more with non-linear emotional processes.

Does this sound like old news? It certainly should, as it has been known for decades. The research covered above is that of Herbert Krugman in 1969. In his words “…the basic electrical response of the brain is clearly to the medium and not to content difference…. [Television is] a communication medium that effortlessly transmits huge quantities of information not thought about at the time of exposure.” (Need I point out that Krugman is one of the pioneers of modern advertising?)

When brain activity switches from the left to right hemisphere, it releases a spike of endorphins, beta-endorphins and enkephalins. Endorphins react on the opioid receptors in the brain – the same receptors as the opiate class of drugs (opium, heroin, morphine, etc) react with. While produced naturally in the body, endorphins are structurally identical to opium and opium derivatives.

Drumroll please… you’re a fucking junkie. If you are a heavy television user and attempt to stop watching television long term, you will experience anxiety, frustration, and depression. (Hey, aren’t these the very sensations you watch television to alleviate, and chill out from?) Studies have shown that TV is tough to kick – especially for the poor (or most of us) – with similar withdrawal symptoms to kicking heroin.

The Engine of Public Manipulation

Watching TV produces an altered state in the viewer, a dissociated chemical trance of the same type as that of extremely addictive and illegal drugs, yet televisions are ubiquitous, and vast numbers of ordinary citizens watch television many hours a day.

Why is this state of affairs allowed? The powers of State which make marijuana, psychedelics, nitrous oxide, and now even party pills illegal, benefit from the populace being hooked on television. And the powers of Commerce benefit from a captive narcotized audience.

Since JFK and Camelot, modern politics is conducted by television.

But when we watch television, the higher brain function regions (midbrain and neocortex) shut down, and we are less able to process information critically. Most activity shifts to lower brain regions, like the limbic system, otherwise known as the reptile brain, the home of our deeply embedded “fight or flight” reactions. These largely operate outside of conscious awareness.

Politicians exploit this by appealing to our base drives. Have you noticed during the ridiculous, impossible, and frankly non-existent “War on Terror”, that we are exhorted to be very very afraid of the boogeyman? (I mean, Islamic Fundamentalist Terrorists.) No matter how demonstrably false and absurd the claims are to reason, the fear message is constantly delivered via television to bypass our reason and draw a response from our reptile brain. This response leaves us helpless to manipulation by our “leaders”. (See “The Power of Nightmares” BBC documentary.)

George Bush would not be possible without a world hooked on television.

Further – the neo-cortex, the part of the brain used in distinguishing fantasy from reality – is switched off while we watch TV. The televisual fantasy is perceived as real and processed outside of our higher conscious functioning, yet we receive a large proportion of our information about the world via this medium.

Speaking of manipulation… have you noticed that the ever present television advertisements often don’t make any sense? That it can be really hard to work out what the product is? This is because advertisers know that they are speaking directly to your unconscious. There is no point in making an appeal to logic, because your logic went to sleep thirty seconds into the experience. Modern advertising is a scarily sophisticated science of persuasion. (Check out the documentary “Century of the Self” if you want to know more.) Images are designed to create emotional associations and manipulate us at the reptile brain level of our consciousness.

And remember, television is funded by the advertising. TV stations sell an unwary captive narcotized audience to advertisers. Nobody involved in television wants you to kick the habit. Television makes the population easier to control for the powers that be, easier to access and influence for the corporate despoilers of the world, and the programmers are merely the middlemen.

What are the long term social effects of mass drug addiction?

Junkies exist in a flat state of numbness. The external world does not matter, only the next fix.

Have you noticed the world seems to be going to hell since the 60’s and widespread adoption of televisual crack throughout the West? We complain of being isolated and unhappy yet struggle to rouse ourselves to give a damn about anything that involves getting off the couch – away from the opium box, away from the pusher. Is there a relationship between modern social malaise and alienation, apathy in the face of oncoming environmental catastrophe, war crimes by Western powers pursuing ceaseless unjustifiable wars, and most people being junkies?

Hell, maybe.

And now a word or two from the late psychedelic visionary guru Terence McKenna on the social effects of television:

“Most unsettling of all is this: the content of television is not a vision but a manufactured data stream that can be sanitized to ‘protect’ or impose cultural values. Thus we are confronted with an addictive and all-pervasive drug that delivers an experience whose message is whatever those who deal the drug wish it to be. Could anything provide a more fertile ground for fostering fascism and totalitarianism than this? In the United States, there are many more televisions than households, the average television set is on six hours a day, and the average person watches more than five hours a day—nearly one-third of their waking time. Aware as we all are of these simple facts, we seem unable to react to their implications. Serious study of the effects of television on health and culture has only begun recently.”

(For instance, recent Otago University findings that heavy television viewing – more than 2 hours a day – in childhood leads to increases in attention problems in adolescence. We gleefully adopt technology without understanding its effects on us.)

“Yet no drug in history has so quickly or completely isolated the entire culture of its users from contact with reality. And no drug in history has so completely succeeded in remaking in its own image the values of the culture that it has infected.
“Television is by nature the dominator drug par excellence. Control of content, uniformity of content, repeatability of content make it inevitably a tool of coercion, brainwashing, and manipulation. Television induces a trance state in the viewer that is the necessary precondition for brainwashing. As with all other drugs and technologies, television’s basic character cannot be changed; television is no more reformable than is the technology that produces automatic assault rifles.”
*

Ready to turn off your TV yet?

Kicking The Habit

William S. Burroughs, renowned author of Junky and Naked Lunch, and probably the greatest modern writer on addiction, states plainly that the point at which someone quits junk is when they find something better to do that they cannot do while on junk.

In this case, you will stop watching TV when you get a life.

If you are trapped in a cycle of work/school, then home and television, dissatisfied and numb with your lot, then you need something better to do. So what are you gonna do?

Frankly, I don’t think it’s my place to tell you. Maybe go hang with some friends, do something creative, interesting, or exciting, make something, do something, and have a great fucking time. Get involved with your community. There’s a lot that’s fucked up in the world and there’s only us junkies lying around to fix it.

And frankly, the cool people aren’t staying home watching TV. They’re way too busy doing cool stuff.

Tune into static

Here’s one suggestion for something you can do right now. Go to your television, take out the aerial, turn the set on, and leave it on as a reminder. The content does not matter. What it does to your brain does. And personally, I find that static gives a reassuring end-of-the-world ambience that keeps me sharp.

Tune into static. If you’re going to sit around on heroin, know it. When people come to your house and ask, tell them why, drag out this article. Give a damn about yourself and your friends and family.

Remember, the first step in overcoming an addiction is admitting it exists. You cannot free your mind if it is turned off. If your mind is not free, you are not free. If you are not free, you are a slave.

References/Further reading

* Terence McKenna, FOOD OF THE GODS; Bantam, 1992. (p218-220)

For more on social control via appeals to our unconscious minds, go onto Google Video and download both “The Power of Nightmares” and “Century of the Self”, superb BBC documentaries by Adam Curtis.

www.disinfo.com have a great article on this material. Search for “television” on their site.

Some books to start you off:
“The Perfect Machine” by Joyce Nelson
Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander.

And you are all doubtless capable, should you turn off your televisions long enough, to Google for the many resources to be found on the web.

www.undulatingungulate.com/blog

[There’s actually a bunch more recent research on this stuff since when I did the research for this… check out Aric Sigman’s “Remotely Controlled”.]

better update

My brother has largely recovered his functioning. He can talk and use his hands and arms again, and the tubes pumping out of him are filled with a much more reassuring colour. Given that this time last week he could make no voluntary movements and had no neurological responses (like, no reflexes; like, if you shine a light in his eyes, the iris doesn’t respond), this is pretty amazing.

The abbreviated version with the benefit of hindsight seems to be: kidney failure led to blood poisoning from his meds, while a blood clot blocked the bladder which led to a serious infection; the combination of these led to a toxic overload (particularly the blood poisoning) which caused a more or less complete neurological shut down. Combating infection, restoring kidney function, and unblocking bladder have allowed blood to sort itself out and recovery to commence.

This was all pretty unclear for most of the week, which was quite an emotional rollercoaster. Quite impressed with the hospital, though. Gained a lot of understanding of how they work through watching for a week.

The irony of this coming during our first respite break in over four years is not lost on us.

briefer update

I’ve spent a lot of time at the hospital this week. Things are very much “wait and see”. Today he was better than yesterday for the first time in a while, but still a very long way from good.

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Another article in Salient, either next week or (probably now) the week after. This one is called ‘Things No One Ever Tells You About The Economy”.

brief update

My brother has taken a serious turn for the worse, losing about 80% of his functioning in the space of a few days. He is currently in hospital. Nothing immediately life-threatening AFAIK, but things are all a bit ghastly.

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I have another article in this week’s Salient – for some reason it is the cover feature – entitled “The Educated White Slave’s Future”.