OXI!

07/10/2015

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This week, a skirmish was won by the worker's side in The War of the Damned. The skirmish was the referendum in Greece last Sunday (Jul 05) about whether or not to accept the last "bailout" package offered by the European Troika (aka, "the European banks, the Institutions," i.e., the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)). Ever since the Greek government announced that a referendum would be held to get the will of the Greek people on the matter, Greece has been hit with a fierce campaign of fear and disinformation (i.e., voting "No" will push Greece out of the EU and the Euro; people will loose all their savings and their jobs, etc). It was also reported that polls showed that the referendum vote would be very close because most Greeks didn't want to leave the EU.

But when the rubber hit the road and the Greek people voted, the result was an overwhelming "No" ("OXI"). 61.3% of voters voted "No" and it would likely been more but for the fear campaign. This referendum was important because it expressed, once again, the groundswell of opposition by the common folk of Greece against the neoliberal policies of austerity pushed by the financial institutions of the ruling oligarchs. The vote does not change anything in that it will not force the oligarchs to back down or in any way mitigate austerity, but it clearly marks the lines between oppressors and the oppressed.

The oppressors were pretty quiet about the referendum results except for a few snide comments from the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and her office. Merkel said "Athens had wrecked any hope of compromise with its euro zone partners by overwhelmingly rejecting further austerity." The most overwhelming aspect of her statement is its hypocrisy. Athens has offered nothing but compromises to the point that they were betraying their mandate, and the troika (Merkel's bunch) rejected it all and refused to give an inch on their demands.

That silence extended to the US presidential candidates, none of whom said anything of substance about the vote, except for, of course, Bernie Sanders (Independent running for the Democratic nomination), who said:

I applaud the people of Greece for saying ‘no’ to more austerity for the poor, the children, the sick and the elderly...In a world of massive wealth and income inequality Europe must support Greece's efforts to build an economy which creates more jobs and income, not more unemployment and suffering.

I can't imagine, say, Jeb Bush or even President Obama saying such a thing, and neither did. However, Jill Stein (Green Party presidential candidate) said:

"From the cradle of Democracy comes the roar of the people!"

Ms Stein also offered a letter of solidarity on her website for people to sign in an expression of standing with the Greek people against the troika. The petition says:

We stand in solidarity with the people of Greece, for standing up to the extortion tactics of the big banks and saying no to austerity and no to the demands of the EU and IMF.

If you agree with the Greek referendum outcome, I urge you to sign Ms Stein's letter.

Without question, Greece is being punished for their defiance of austerity. Because the troika will not extend Greece time to meet its IMF payment, and because "the European Central Bank on Monday decided not to expand an emergency assistance program," and Greek banks have been closed since the week before the referendum. The Greeks, who have been suffering under austerity, will suffer even more to throw it off. But it seems they are willing to do just that to break free.

The biggest problem the oligarchs have with Greece is the example they are setting for other peoples. If they break free of austerity, others will want to do the same. Already, the citizens of Austria are seeking a referendum on leaving the EU, and the British people are petitioning their government for a referendum on austerity just like the Greeks. And then there are SYRIZA-like political parties in Spain, Portugal, and Ireland that are left-leaning and seeking to restore democracy to their countries.

I was delighted to see the Greeks' landslide rejection of neoliberal austerity. I know it will only stiffen the oligarchs' resolve to crush democracy and the Greek people's resistance, but this is a fight for survival that is forced on the common people of the world. In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway said:

...it is a time of difficult decisions. The fascists attacked and made our decision for us. We fight to live.

It is the same today. In fact, today's War of the Damned is a continuation of the one raging since at least Spartacus and through the Spanish Civil War. Every generation is forced to fight it in one way or other. I hope that the Greek referendum has opened the door to a spreading resistance. It may be that in the resisting, oligarch crimes such as climate engineering will be exposed and eventually stopped.

Whatever happens from here out, life will only get more difficult for everyone. The stakes are no less than the future of humanity and all life on earth. How will it play out? Who can say. These are unprecedented times. But I believe that staying on the high road of affirmation that life should go on and that people have the right to live free, requires that the importunities of evil be replied to with a firm and resounding, "NO!"

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PS  Fri 10-Jul-2015 16:11 EST
It has just been reported that the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, has offered the Troika a deal that basically accepts their last austerity package. It includes $13 billion in budget cuts, increasing taxes (on the commoners), and increasing the retirement age--all the things the Greek people just voted against. The EU Finance Ministers will review the package on Saturday (Jul 11). If the Troika follows form, they'll reject this offer and demand even greater austerity. But even if they accept it, it will be clear that the referendum was futile in regards to the Greeks struggle for relief. I expect they will take to the streets again. and their fervor for revolt will spread.


 
 
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This week I received an email from Mountain Travel Sobek (an adventure travel company) that featured some of their European trips. One of them was Spain's Camino de Santiago. The trip they offer takes a group down the length of the Santiago de Compostela Camino in ten days. It's a combination of hiking, driving, touring historic sites, and staying in hotels over the whole five hundred mile route. I'm sure it's an interesting trip at over $5K plus plane fare per person, but I would not consider it to be "making the pilgrimage."

I won't be making that MTS trip, but just seeing the ad reminded me that I've written a good bit about pilgrimages and journeys of self-discovery in book reviews and in these journal entries. I'm even writing a fictional account of such a journey for my coming short stories anthology. It's apparently a major theme for me, but then, it has long been a major theme for storytellers since Homer. Characters making a journey where they end up being different from when they started, is just too powerful a metaphor for the journey of life for the storyteller to ignore. When the journeyer's change is for the better, their story is an inspiration. When it's for the worse, it's a warning. When people purposefully enact the journey in their lives by deliberately going somewhere for the sake of spiritual discovery, then the journey becomes a pilgrimage.

Such journeys, by definition, involve the pilgrim's finding a higher reality--God, nature, spiritual powers, the oversoul. Indeed, that finding is the pilgrim's very purpose. In literature, it often involves tests of the pilgrim's resolve and mettle that he must pass before being rewarded with the reaching of his goal, or the solving of his problem (often via a new insight). Such testing implies refinement so that the pilgrim is a better person by journey's end (or has reached a "higher level" in one way or another). Such testing and refinement with reward is seen in the classic journey-tales of The Odessy and The Lord of the Rings, and is a large feature of Paulo Coelho's account of his journey down the Spanish Camino in The Pilgrimage.

It seems that people of a certain level of thoughtfulness reach a point where they want answers or insights that have eluded them so far. Whether young or older in age, they have often been challenged by events that engender loss and deep questioning. I described this prompt for pilgrimaging in my review of Cheryl Strayed's book, Wild, as:

In such a work, you won't find definitive answers or endorsements of anybody's dogmas. But in looking at the collective of such works, you'll find a literature that is spiritually infused. And that spirit is simply asking the question: "What the Hell is this all about?"

The answer is not usually a definite one, such as "forty-two" in Douglas Adam's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Rather, the answer revealed by the journey is an enlightenment that guides the pilgrim through the remainder of her life journey. Even when there is a definite solution found or act performed in the journey, such as in LOTR where the goal is to throw the ring in Mount Doom's fires, the pilgrim is left for the better (so the hobbits are able to "scour the Shire" of ruffians when they return home).

These are the attributes I've observed in the "journey" stories (fiction and nonfiction) I have reviewed and pondered. Whether the pilgrimage is one involving esoteric trials and communion with powerful spiritual forces (re: The Pilgrimage, The Camino), or is a more mundane hike that produces insight very personal to the pilgrim through the physical challenges of the journey and opportunity for introspection (re: The Way, Wild), it is in its very essence the meeting of the pilgrim seeker with the wider world, from which, up to this point, she has been estranged.

Though I have found much inspiration in the works I've cited so far (even Douglas' comedy), I think Wild is the most definitive of what I'm talking about because it is so very gritty and down-to-earth. Ms Strayed was prompted to her pilgrimage by life problems she was failing at dealing with, and her resolution-journey was a pause, or reset, that brought her to a point of enlightenment where she became able to cope. Her insight came from the physical challenge and communion with nature that represented her engagement with the wider world. My question, though, is whether such a journey today is even possible.

Ms Strayed's journey was up the Pacific Crest Trail, which is a 1000+ mile trail that follows the ridge of volcanic mountains that span the western coast of the US. She made the trip in 1995. How different would such a journey be today when California is suffering a monstrous drought with no break in sight? Would the higher elevations have less snow but be more treacherous where the ice is there but thin? Would streams and lakes be so toxic from SAG-sprayed aluminum, barium, and mercury to render purification systems useless? Would intense UV levels from a depleted ozone layer make extended time in the sun too dangerous? Would the vista of Crater Lake be marred and choked of inspiration by persistent SAG lines overhead (assuming the pilgrim is awake enough to see them)? How would all this alter the pilgrimage's potential for insight?

These questions are just as applicable to any of the classic pilgrimages, such as Spain's Camino, and to any engagement with the wider world. Beyond a lack of resources, my basic hesitancy about making any "bucket list" travels (such as to Machu Pichu) is the anticipation of sorrow from seeing the geoengineering happening at a sacred place, and being subjected to concentrated levels of the aerosols in airplanes.

So where does this leave the seeker? Is the pilgrim's path to God forever obscured by a haze of toxic nanoparticulates?

I think these questions lead us to the larger consideration of humanity's struggle with evil. It is simply a struggle that has become so pervasive on earth that we cannot avoid it. We can pretend it does not exist, so that even as we suffer from its relentless destruction, we live (or fail to live) in the consequences of that thing we refuse to name.

Even so, I believe that humans will continue to pilgrimage because their drive for understanding and need for insight is so strong. In the face of evil, and in the spite of it, they will make their journeys because they reach a point where they just can't go on as before. It's just that now, if the pilgrim is honest, she will find in addition to her insight that there is a struggle that has been brought to her. She must deal with it, or else the meaning of her pilgrimage will be lost.

I think it is my fate that my pilgrimage be a literary one. If so, then I hope it is a trail that is helpful to others making a more physical journey. It is no less daunting in scope and just as prospective for insight.

Ultreya!


 
 
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Here's a few thoughts that came to me from events of this week.

The fast-track authority for the Trans-pacific Partnership has passed in the US Senate and House, making passage of the TPP (later this Autumn) a near sure bet. The fast-track authority's passage was a narrow thing, indicating, I believe, popular resistance. That resistance just barely stopped the fast-track in the House a couple of weeks ago, but the oligarchs will not stop until they get what they want, and so, they did.

In an article for Common Dreams about TPP and the fast-track passage, Ralph Nader tells us why this is such a bad thing:

Make no mistake. If this was only a trade treaty – reducing tariffs, quotas, and the like – it would not be so controversial. Yet, the corporate-indentured politicians keep calling this gigantic treaty with thirty chapters, of which only five relate to traditional trade issues, a trade agreement instead of a treaty. The other twenty-four chapters, if passed as they are, will have serious impacts on your livelihoods as workers and consumers, as well as your air, water, food, and medicines.

You can find the full article here and it's well worth reading.

So far, I haven't noticed any spirited endorsements of the TPP from the leading presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton has been quiet about the fast-track, but I think she recently made some lukewarm statements about TPP being a bad idea or needing to be reworked, or some such. Remember, the Clintons gave us NAFTA and TPP is NAFTA on steroids.

Of course, Bernie Sanders is all-out against TPP and he has been garnering a lot of grass-roots support. Despite the mainstream media's attempts to pooh-pooh him as merely an annoyance for Hillary, he has been pulling in larger crowds than her and polling higher in favorability ratings (i.e., "more trustworthy," etc).  This doesn't mean he'll win the Democratic nomination--I don't believe he will--but it further indicates a significant resistance from the public to what's going on in US federal government. It's like they are finally beginning to realize that something is not right.

Though I like most of Bernie's rhetoric, I think it most likely that he'll garner a lot of supporters, lose the Democratic nomination, and throw his support to Hillary (he has said he'll do that if he loses). This is the usual scenario for progressive candidates that run as Democrats. It means supporting them is still supporting the appalling status quo. That's why I won't support Bernie.

But I see that Jill Stein is again running as the 2016 presidential candidate for the Green party. She did so in 2012 and that's when I discovered her. Her Wikipedia entry says this about her:

Jill Ellen Stein (born May 14, 1950) is an American physician who was the nominee of the Green Party for President of the United States in the 2012 election. Stein was a candidate for Governor of Massachusetts in the 2002 and the 2010 gubernatorial elections. Stein is a resident of Lexington, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Harvard College (1973) and the Harvard Medical School (1979). Stein was endorsed for President in 2012 by Noam Chomsky, a linguist, author and activist, and by Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and war correspondent, among others...On June 22, 2015, Stein formally announced that she would seek the Green Party's 2016 presidential nomination during an appearance on Democracy Now!.

Listening to her talk is a different experience from listening to the Demo-Publican candidates. You get informed, intelligent commentary from her as opposed to the nonsensical pablum and sound-bites of the others. See for yourself in this Truthout interview. So if I get the opportunity, I'll be voting Green.

Why all this political stuff from me again? Because the stakes are high. This is a time for humanity like no other and that can't help but reflect in all my writings, including the fiction. I found a very good overview of those stakes in a video posted on the Geoengineering Watch website. It was put out through the "hacker" group, Anonymous, and I really don't care for their "commercial" part of it (like the music video at the end), but the most of it is a presentation by Dane Wiggington and it's one of the most cogent I've seen him do. You can find it on the Geoengineering Watch site here.

As I said, people seem to be finally realizing that "something's not right." I was alluding to this when in a recent review I did for John Hogue's Kindle book, The Essential Hopi Prophecies, I said:

We live in a time of converging calamities bearing towards a near-future that even nonreligious people see as apocalyptic. People seem to sense this even as they deny it with actions that say "tomorrow will be like today." The fear that tomorrow may actually be different, even much worse, prompts us to look for some sane direction through the anticipated storm.

These are tough times and I think the key to getting through them will be our reliance on each other. We have to form our community and trust it. As the Hopi said: "For we are the ones we’ve been waiting for."


 
 
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I mentioned in my last journal entry that I intended to read again, H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. I have done so and was amazed to see not only how well the classic remains an engrossing read, but how it is so much a picture of the world here at the start of the 21st century.

If you haven't read Mr. Wells' book but have only seen movies made from it, I recommend  you do read the book.  I think the story is best appreciated as Mr. Wells wrote it, but it seems all the movie versions felt the need to "update" it. I think much is lost in doing that (note that Jeff Wayne's musical version holds pretty true to the spirit of the book and retains the nineteenth century setting).

The War of the Worlds is the story of an invasion of the earth by Martians in the late nineteenth century (the book was first published in 1898). The Martian technology as described is, of course, dated by current standards although Mr. Wells was amazingly prescient in some regards (such as in describing Martian machines that function under no apparent control).

But the main power of the book, to me, is its depiction of a vast, "unsympathetic" evil's assault of the ordinary world. This assault is preceded by a buildup of events--cylinders (Martian "spaceships") falling to earth, Martian technology seen killing humans--yet people resist recognizing the danger. Even when the Martians are on the march, people hold onto their normalcy bias and refuse to believe what is happening. To Mr. Wells' journalist narrator (today we would call him a freelance writer), this steadfast resistance by people to accepting the reality of their perilous situation was the most remarkable aspect of the story he relates. In his words:

The most extraordinary thing to my mind...was the dovetailing of the commonplace habits of our social order with the first beginnings of the series of events that was to topple that social order headlong.

In other words, while the Martians fortified the pits created by their landing, prepared their war machines and killed anybody that got too close, people not far away looked around themselves and noted: they were still employed, their gardens produced food, the trains still ran, the theatre was still open. To anybody that warned, "The Martians have landed!" they would likely say: "Nothing's happened yet," and go about their business.

One passage, I must quote at length, is a beautiful picture of this attitude. The Martians were advancing on the little town of Weybridge. The journalist observed that a lot of people there were resisting the imperative to flee:

    The soldiers were having the greatest difficulty in making them realise the gravity of their position. We saw one shrivelled old fellow with a huge box and a score or more of flower pots containing orchids, angrily expostulating with the corporal who would leave them behind. I stopped and gripped his arm.
    "Do you know what's over there?" I said, pointing at the  pine tops that hid the Martians.
    "Eh?" said he, turning. "I was explainin' these is vallyble."
    "Death!" I shouted. "Death is coming! Death!" and leaving him to digest that if he could...The soldier had left him, and he was still standing by his box, with the pots of orchids on the lid of it, and staring vaguely over the trees.


This normacly bias is very strong and it probably has some survival value. For instance, I think it was a major reason people didn't panic in the run-up to the Y2K crisis, in addition to the vested interest of the corporate power structure in keeping things operating by computer. But it can also lead to people behaving like lemmings running over a cliff when a crisis finally hits. In Mr. Wells' story, many people died by not fleeing until they saw the Martians coming--flashing their heat rays spreading poisoned gas over the countryside. Those that did get away caused a refugee crisis that only added to the suffering.

Mr. Wells was a student of history and so must have had some insight into the mechanics of calamity falling upon large human populations. Those mechanics must be classic, because I was struck with how the book foreshadowed our situation today--not in the application of technology, but in people's reactions to conditions that are becoming more and more apocalyptic.

I see the cold, unsympathetic Martians as metaphors for our world's ruling oligarchs (the Rothchilds, the Rockefellers, the Bushes, the Clintons, the Bilderberger membership, etc). Their quest for world domination is just as relentless as the Martians and just as brutal to the human masses. The most active battlegrounds right now are in the Greek fight against the European Union banks, the resistance in Donbass to Ukrainian aggression, and in the skies over our heads. The "fighting machines" they use are neoliberal policies of austerity, "Free Trade" agreements, militarized police, and Fox "News."

Many voices of scientists and activists are raised in warnings about the unprecedented dangers of global warming, climate change, and Statospheric Aerosol Geoengineering (SAG). Their cry to all of humanity is nothing less than "Death is coming!" It seems most people ignore them as they make Facebook entries with their smartphones about their "valuable orchids."

In his novel, Mr. Wells made a comment about the designs of the invading Martians that also applies (so far) to our Martians (oligarchs):

They do not seem to have aimed at extermination so much as at complete demoralisation and the destruction of any opposition.


The "destruction of any opposition" sounds like an aim of the Project for the New American Century--a think tank that informed, and provided personnel to, the last Bush administration. I think demoralization is also a chief aim of propaganda concerning the unending war on "terror," the need for draconian security measures, the Russian-and-China "threat," and such.

This is difficult material to deal with, but it is so pervasive that I am compelled to deal with it in this journal. If I didn't, I'd be like the man worrying over the value of his potted flowers when he is in imminent danger of being burned to a crisp by psychopaths with high-tech weapons.

And so this is where we stand at this point in human history. We are under assault by forces whose powers seem God-like. When you get past the delusion and the denial, and you are fully aware of the reality and gravity of the situation, there comes to you a visceral change. It is partially a success of the "Martians'" demoralization plan and partially a consequence of seeing things as they are. Mr. Wells also understood this. His protagonist says:

I felt the first inkling of a thing that presently grew quite clear in my mind, that oppressed me for many days, a sense of dethronement, a persuasion that I was no longer a master, but an animal among the animals, under the Martian heel.

I see this disillusionment in the writings of so many activists. It is particularly egregious when you understand the reality of SAG, and are aware of the constant spraying, the other-worldly sky, and you spot the SAG trails in movie scenes. You become grieved that our Martians have taken from us the very inspiration of a sunny, temperate day.

In The War of the Worlds, the salvation for humankind comes from the earth herself. At this point, I don't see how that can happen in the real world, but I don't discount the possibility. Things could turn around over some presently-unsuspected factor. If it does, and humanity survives the apocalypse, I wonder if it will be for our betterment on the other side of calamity.

Mr. Wells chose to end his story on the upbeat, with his protagonist and his family surviving, and humanity rebuilding. But that ending is with the recognition that humanity's survival was pretty much a matter of luck, with no assurances that the disaster won't repeat--the Martians could return, better prepared. Even so, his narrator believes humankind has learned from the experience of its near-demise:

It may be that in the larger design of the universe this invasion from Mars is not without its ultimate benefit for men; it has robbed us of that serene confidence in the future, which the most fruitful source of decadence...and it has done much to promote the conception of the commonweal of mankind.

The price people paid for this education is their loss of confidence in the future, but they are also more appreciative of the importance of the common good. I hope humanity in the real world can reach that same place. If we can do so and finally throw off the bounds of the dominator culture with its endless competition and exploitations, then it may be we can get our confidence back as a species. But that would be a boon for succeeding generations. Meanwhile, we have to struggle with our Martians.


 
 
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With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter...Yet...minds...regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.  (H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds)

The above quote is from the famous opening paragraph of H. G. Wells classic science fiction tale, The War of the Worlds. I have not read the book since the sixth grade but I'm thinking I'll read it again soon and do a review of it and probably make some comments here. Until then, though, the book came to mind as I thought about current events and the world's dire situation, and I parsed the quote accordingly.

It seems to me that the people around me go about their business with infinite complacency, unaware of any potential dooms despite the evidence flying overhead through milky skies, the obvious lies from voices threatening war, and the lessons of recent history. Their assurance is that life will be the same tomorrow as today, and that no ill of world events will disturb their ability to live and to aspire for upward social mobility.

In Mr. Wells' story, that complacent assurance evaporated when the Martian cylinders began to fall. In our world, I think it will evaporate with the next phase of the financial collapse that erupted in 2008. A lot of economists and financial gurus are seeing this next collapse as a strong possibility in the fall of this year (2015). See here and here. That possibility is likely one reason for the Jade Helm "training exercise" during that same time period. If people panic and take to the streets, the military will be ready to clamp down.

Mr. Wells described his Martians as "intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic" and showed them moving resolutely to achieve their ends with no thought for their extermination of humanity. I believe this is an apt description of the earth's ruling oligarchy. They believe themselves to be dominant, with the God-like right to control us, the earth, and even the weather. I've written a few journal entries about Stratospheric Aerosol Geoengineering (SAG) because I see it as humankind's most imminent threat to our survival. The extent of the SAG program is mind-boggling as evidenced in this presentation by ex-meteorologist, Scott Stevens. SAG operations are like the red weed of Mr. Wells' book. They make the skies look alien in the same way the Martians' red plant altered the English countryside.

And now the oligarch's plans (or even just their common desires) are culminating with the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP). A "fast track" bill is being pushed through the congress that will allow the TPP to also pass quickly through the legislative process without debate or amendment, and only a yes-or-no vote. The fast track has already passed in the Senate and the administration is now trying to force it through the House ASAP before opposition from "constituents back home" can influence the congressmen. The TPP was negotiated in secret and the few leaks that have emerged show it to be a democracy-killer and a facilitator for corporate world rule.

To quote Julian Assange, Wikileaks publisher:

It is a mistake to think of the TPP as a single treaty. In reality there are three conjoined mega-agreements, the TiSA, the TPP and the TTIP, all of which strategically assemble into a grand unified treaty, partitioning the world into the west versus the rest. This "Great Treaty" is described by the Pentagon as the economic core to the US military's "Asia Pivot". The architects are aiming no lower than the arc of history. The Great Treaty is taking shape in complete secrecy, because along with its undebated geostrategic ambitions it locks into place an aggressive new form of transnational corporatism for which there is little public support.

The Martians of Mr. Wells' book had an overwhelming technological advantage that made our "war" with them impossible for us to win. Beating them in combat was only possible in the imaginations of the deluded. In the real-world, nuclear war is just as unwinnable although our government doesn't seem to think so. They continue to push Russia to blows over Ukraine and prod Iran, Syria, and other flash-points to confrontations that all could go nuclear.

With all these converging and reinforcing crises, what can save us? That is the question that the discussion of all this, outside the mainstream, always comes to. I've seen much speculation and a lot of pessimism in the consideration, but no consensus on an answer. In The War of the Worlds, humanity's salvation came unexpectedly from the earth itself. Having no immunity to earth's virulent microbes was the fatal flaw in the plans of the unsympathetic Martians, and it defeated them where human guns could not.

I wonder if our home-grown Martians have overlooked some similar detail that will spell their doom and so allow the rest of us to live free of their oppression. Could that liberating detail come from Mother Earth herself, who is so oppressed as to be virtually under attack? Only time will tell. I expect it will be a short time.

I think people's complacency comes from their "normalcy bias" that keeps them living in a bubble for survival reasons. On an individual level, it works as long as the wider world doesn't intrude. When it does, the experience can be shattering, and I expect it's our fate to be shattered. If we make it beyond that point, we won't "rebuild," we'll just struggle to survive amid whatever remains.

NOTE: Wikileaks says: "The Obama administration is trying to gain "Fast-Track" approval for all three TPP deals from the US House of Representatives as early as tomorrow (06/12/2015), having already obtained such approval from the Senate." There is some resistance to it in Congress, but God only knows if it will be enough.


 
 
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I read a lot about bubbles in the alternate press. They are a common metaphor for people living in a system of delusion that describes the world as one that can be comprehended, exploited, and enjoyed forever. This common bubble provides a world without limits, where people can pursue dreams and careers, "be all they can be," and provide security for their family. Storms pass, leaving eternally blue skies, delicious mysteries beckon, and the weather is uncontrollable.

In this bubble, the United States is governed by the rule of law and seeks only to encourage democracy abroad. Candidates in elections offer a clear choice in governing philosophy, and they seek to sway the electorate ("the people") in order to gain office. The police exist to catch criminals. The military defends us against evil. No NATO country would start a nuclear war. God is on our side and will soon condemn the evil people and establish Heaven on earth.

I understand the bubble, I lived in it for a long time. It is often spoken of derisively by intellectuals and the alternate press. That's understandable but I think it may be too harsh. The bubble serves a function of emotional protection and is probably an evolutionary artifact. To have it burst is difficult. Emerging from our bubble means leaving our comforts and our certainties for their opposites. It means being designated "the enemy" by those with vested interests in keeping the bubble intact.

The bubble is a warm, comfortable place that promotes sleep. The early twentieth century philosopher, G. I. Gurdjieff, said that human consciousness was a continuum from deep sleep to wakefulness and that most people (i.e., 99.9%) spent their life much deeper in the sleeping end than in the waking end. I think there is much truth in that, and it follows that if a person becomes sufficiently awake, their bubble bursts (i.e., they loose a lot of their delusions), and they have to find new foundations for their lives and learn to live with uncertainty.

I have to admit that my bubble burst some years ago and it has been difficult to live in the much darker world revealed. Dreams faded. Hope became hard to come by, but I have been trying to find it and hang onto it. My "inspirational" journal entries come from that quest and, since they are my most popular, I think many people are in a similar place. Or at least, being vaguely aware that things aren't right, they reach out for hope.

I am currently writing three short stories (closer to novellas, actually) that contain this "hope in a dark world after busted bubble" theme, and I plan to publish them in an ebook anthology later this year (keep an eye on my website for news about that). My hope is that they will be engrossing stories with an undercurrent that stimulates bubble-bursting thought.

Often in my quest for hope I look for insight from the writings of John Hogue because he is both a scholar of prophecy, and a careful student of history and current events. He recently published a book of Predictions 2015-16 that is an informed overview of the current world situation with predictions as to what is coming. (You can find my review of Predictions 2015-2016 on the book's Amazon page or here on Booklikes).

In his book, John also addresses the problem of not giving into despair over the dark look of world events and situations. He finds hope for change at the level of the individual, and so encourages us to:

...shift augured attention away from what you can’t collectively prevent, to what you can and are empowered to change. Make yourself a revolution of one human being and the dewdrop becomes a revolution for the whole human ocean...The only revolution that matters is You being the World, not the world waking up to your consciousness.

Such a shift of our attention is the bursting of the bubble. It's not easy but I think it comes down to whether we want to live with a comfort that is not real, or see things as they are with the risk drowning in a wave of vile intents. I tend to choose the latter because I at least want to "know what hits me" when it does.

But I won't live in despair. Being more awake also shows me, as Tennyson says in his brilliant poem, Ulysses:

Tho' much is taken, much abides;

And, free from my bubble, I can fight the good fight, become a revolution of one, and above all, not give up:

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


 
 
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By your leave, I'll pause my weekly journal essays to make a "news and views" entry. I had wanted to write about the idea of global warming leading to a sudden shift in climate that could actually bring on the next ice age, but I'm not ready for that one, yet. So, for those of you following, I'll make a quick update on the status of my writing projects and on a few world events.

Regarding my writing work, I'm still working on my first Dentville novel. I have finished the entire draft and just need to make my editing passes. Then I'll want to get some professional editing done on it and I need to save some money for that. So I don't know when that book will be published.

Meanwhile, I am compiling an ebook of short stories that I'm excited about. It will be a collection, in one volume, of many of the stories I've already published, though all them will be revised. It will also contain at least three new stories. All of the stories (probably 8 to 10 of them; my short stories tend to be long) will be preceded with commentary (author's notes) to describe my reasons for writing them and provide some background for each. The commentary will constitute an over-arching essay on the theme that runs through all the stories--characters trying to find hope and a reason for living in the face of a collapsing and terminal world system.

The picture I've attached to this journal entry is related to a thematic symbol in one of the new short stories the collection will contain. The picture is of a bunch of roses I bought for my wife for Mother's Day, and the symbol in the story (which will probably be called, Apocalypse Diary) is "cut flowers." It'll make sense when you read it.

Apocalypse Diary will likely also be the title for the collection. I hope to have it done by the end of this summer. I'll keep you posted on that.

When the collection comes out, I also intend to give my website a make-over and even launch a new website with its own blog. This will be my publishing site to promote my work under the name of Arbordin Park Press. Its blog will be more literarily focused than this one. It will generally be about books that contain themes similar to my work--living in a time of collapse, surviving in a dark world system, the importance of not destroying the earth's ecosystems, etc (all in a SciFi-Fantasy-Speculative thriller wrapper). I will write the blog but I might occasionally solicit a guest blogger. I will continue these journal entries, leaving them more personal essay/political in nature.

My work tends to be infused with what I see happening in the world and with the way I understand western civilization  "operates." For that reason, I've made a few journal entries where I talk about what's happening with several current events. Here's a brief update:

Greece is still not out of the woods financially and it looks certain to default on its International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans. It has made enough payments on its debt to keep it afloat, but it is literally going loan-note-to-loan-note. The SYRIZA-led government is having to choose between paying the country's debt and funding social programs to care for the suffering Greek people. The IMF is turning the screws and the people are protesting. It is just a matter of (a short) time until it defaults, which is what all the serious commentators expect. It is looking more and more like Greece will pull out of the EU and turn to Russia and the BRICS countries for financial help. Already, Russia has invited Greece to join the BRICS banking system (which is independent of the EU/IMF).

I'm reading a lot of economics commentary that's predicting another financial collapse--bigger and badder than that of 2008. There's much speculation as to what the "trigger" for this collapse will be. It could be Greece's default or a thousand other things, but it will basically be from the great Ponzi scheme of world finance reaching its end. That is, the world economy is based on debt (which is basing something on nothing) and it will finally become common knowledge that there is too much debt for anybody to pay back. For example, the European banks that are holding Greek debt will lose a large chunk of their "wealth" when Greece acknowledges that it can't pay it, and thereby making it worthless. See this article.

The fighting between Donbass and Ukraine is flaring again after the feeble cease-fire that I expect was only a delaying tactic to allow Ukraine to regroup. An "advisory group" of some unsavory people and war hawks (including Sen John McCain) has been formed to help the neo-nazi government of Ukraine keep the neo-cold war going.

The bill to allow "Fast Track" passage of trade legislation (principally, the Trans Pacific Partnership Act) was voted down in the US House but approved by the Senate. It is certain that the Fast Track will be reconsidered by the House and approved due to intense pressure being applied to the Congressmen by the White House (and God knows who else). The TPP is important to the elites as it will promote corporate world rule (internationally trading corporations will be able to sue governments that have laws that hurt their profits). There is a similar Act being negotiated (in secret) for the Atlantic side of the world.

And operation Jade Helm is still on schedule to be run in the southwest US in July and September. Ex-soldier and West Point graduate, Joachim Hagopian, has written a brilliant article about why this warm-up for martial law has prompted grave concern among those US citizens paying attention.

There's more happening in the world, but that's about I can bear to think about right now.


 

The Way

05/07/2015

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...since all things are new, you see only the beauty in them, and you feel happy to be alive. That’s why a religious pilgrimage has always been one of the most objective ways of achieving insight.

Coelho, Paulo (2009-10-13). The Pilgrimage (p. 35). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.


I am not Catholic, and am at best, "spiritual but not religious." Even so, I became enamored with the Santiago de Compostela Camino ever since I read Shirley MacLaine's book, The Camino. The idea of this spiritual pilgrimage that is traditionally Catholic but with ancient, spiritual antecedents, captured, somehow, my longing for insight into the "why" of this world, and my desire to see beyond the bubble into the reality of "what is." And so The Camino became one of my favorite books and I developed a deep respect for Shirley MacLaine as a fellow seeker.

I also discovered Paulo Coelho from his wonderful little book, The Alchemist, where the author offered a tremendous parable of what life is really about and how we should live it. Then I discovered that Mr. Coelho also traveled down the Camino and wrote a book about his insights from the journey. He called that book, The Pilgrimage, and it also became one of my favorites.

So what is it about this ancient path from the Pyrenees to the Atlantic Ocean across northern Spain that inspires such devotion? Is it the idea that St. James' bones are preserved at the end of the trek? That Kings and Popes have made the journey over the ages? Or maybe that the road follows a major leyline (paths of Earth energy)? I don't know; maybe all of the above. It may be just the simple need to believe in a place and an act (the walk) that acknowledges the faith and desire of the seeker to humble himself to a higher power, trusting that insight into why she is here and what it all means, will be granted. Or maybe just the exertion of asking the question and making the quest is all that is required to open the seeker to input from a high spiritual connection.

I had heard that a good movie to watch for those curious about the Camino was The Way, made by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen. I watched it recently and added it to my canon of loved inspirational dramas.

This movie was one of 7 that was a collaboration between the father and son team. While it was not a thriller or a scifi/fantasy blockbuster epic, it was obviously a labor of love. I understand that Mr. Sheen had made the pilgrimage with his son, Taylor, and wished to express his love of the trek in a documentary. His son Emilio (The Breakfast Club), however, thought the journey would be best expressed in a drama. They finally agreed on the latter and The Way was the result.

The story is of an American ophthalmologist (Tom), a man in his sixties, who receives word of his son, Daniel's death in France. Daniel had died in a storm in the Pyrenees mountains after being only one day on his journey down the Santiago de Compostela Camino (The Camino). Tom travels to France to retrieve his son's body and learns there the facts surrounding his son's quest and death. He also learns about the Camino and so makes the bond between his estranged relationship to his dead son, and his son's desire to make the pilgrimage. So he decides to make the Camino journey himself, scattering the ashes of his son along the way.

In making the pilgrimage, Tom encounters some fellow pilgrims who become his reluctant (to him) partners. One is a Dutchman with an appreciation of recreational drugs, a Canadian woman who is walking to find the strength to quit smoking, and an an Irish writer who is seeking to overcome his "block." Tom's challenge is to overcome his own cold veneer and learn to open up to life and to the goodwill of others.

Walking the Camino is an act of faith. It is one that most people, in modern society, will judge as crazy for all but the religiously fanatic (often judged as a kind of insanity). It is one of those acts that takes one outside the norm of existence and threatens to expose the bankruptness of a normal, day-to-day life. It is therefore both understandable and dangerous. This idea is expressed in the movie in an early scene of Tom's remembrance of a conversation with Daniel about his choice of life vocation (or his "non-choice"). Daniel had said to his father:

You don't choose a life, dad. You live one.

Tom can't understand what his son is saying here. How many parents do? We want our children to be safe and cared for, so that they don't suffer in their lives. We want them to have the assurance of no worries about food, shelter, clothing, and all the extras. If we wish them spiritual comfort, it is usually in the form of religous dogmas. What if they figure out for themselves that thing we are missing? They might want to walk the Camino, and place greater value on that experience than the sum of Bill Gates' checking account. Can we accept that? Understand it? If we're lucky, maybe we'll take up the quest ourselves.

It is said that walking the Camino brings about change in the pilgrim. Shirley MacLaine says:

This can be disturbing and frightening because it means that through this energy one becomes a more psychic being--for better or for worse...The experience of complete surrender to God and self is the motivation behind most people's attempt at the Santiago de Compostela Camino. (Shirley Maclaine, The Camino, p5, 2000 Pocket Books edition)

Perhaps the value of the Camino and other pilgrimages is that challenge to our bodies and spirits that the pilgrim is forced to struggle with. The struggle will take up the motivations the pilgrim brought with him and reveal the truth or delusion in them and that will be the pilgrimage's lesson to the receptive soul.

The Way is a quiet expression of faith. Not in the religious sense, but in a deeper, spiritual one that affirms universal good and its power of transformation. The central character, Tom, has grown to middle-age, closed off from love of family and friends by a shell hardened over time. The breaking of that shell is the Camino's lesson for Tom that leaves him a better person.

Finding out who we are and the power we have is the primary value of pilgrimages. Here's to seeking yours.

Ultreya!

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P.S.
The Way captures the natural beauty of the Camino, but there are a couple of scenes where the sky is marred with obvious SAG artifacts. There is a message in that, I believe, that was untended by Mr. Estevez. It just shows me that our quest for truth and inspiration is done against the backdrop of an unspeakable evil.


 
 
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I missed posting a journal entry for last week because I was taking a little R&R trip to Myrtle Beach, SC. It was our first time there and it was a nice trip that included time with our granddaughter. There were a lot of Facebook moments, but I know the followers of this journal want more than that. For any such trip, they want my observations on how it relates to the world situation or what inspiration I pulled from it that we all can learn from. So OK, fair enough.

Myrtle Beach is a major resort area. Its main business is tourism and there are very many resorts, hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, and every kind of attraction/shows that anyone could think of to extract tourist money. There's nothing wrong with that other than that it's done on top of all the ills of modern life. The whole area is an example of suburban sprawl and that struck me on the ride over--the endless highways, power lines, featureless shopping centers with their acres of parking lots, garish billboards and garish "welcome centers." Most people don't notice all that any more than they notice the SAG trails overhead, but I've become sensitive to it all. Even though there are spots of beauty (or at least, not eyesores), the subconscious question has to be: "In the face of societal collapse, is all this worth saving?"

One thing I would not want to save is the crass commercialism that supports the sprawl. I could see that the "timeshare virus" was active in the area. We encountered two instances of sales-persons offering discount tickets to attractions in exchange for a time of "just listening" to a sales presentation for a timeshare. Now, we stayed in a resort apartment that was someone's timeshare, that is, we were "renting" the little two-bedroom apartment on the edge of a golf course that someone had purchased as a timeshare. It was certainly more comfortable than a hotel and probably less expensive. Renting the place for a few days was certainly much better than owning it, which would be like another mortgage. It would only make sense, to me, for someone with a lot of money and a desire to make (at least) yearly trips to the resort area, but the sales reps push them like "Breaking Bad" meth.

We didn't take the reps up on their offers. I have learned my lesson about timeshare presentations. They are the definition of hard sales and I've had to break from my normally calm demeanor twice, with much rudeness, to fend off such attacks at Disneyworld and in Mexico.

Back at Myrtle Beach, we did visit one "spot of beauty" at the Broadway at the Beach shopping and amusement center. This was a boardwalk around a big lake or inlet surrounded by restaurants and shops. At one end was a small amusement park and the Ripley's Aquarium. The aquarium was pretty cool and it featured a "tunnel" walk through a tank that  contained sharks among other fishes. It was neat to see and I took a lot of pictures, but always with the realization that sea-life is dying off even faster than life on the land, and huge parts of all the oceans are dead zones. That's the reality behind the fun.

We took this trip over the weekend of April 25, which was Earth Day. The weather was mostly sunny though colder than normal (and some rain did come through and it kept us from visiting the actual beach). SAG spraying was lighter than usual. I've heard it was the same throughout most of the US and I suspect they held off since people might be a little more cognizant of the bizarre skies during a "nature" holiday. But they didn't stop altogether and I got a good picture of a SAG trail and spraying artifacts over our apartment's back patio. That's the reality behind the fun.

At one point, we were having breakfast at the resort's $8 buffet. It was in a large room with windows at one side that overlooked the palm and shrub-lined street and let in a lot of sunshine. At one end, a video projection covered a section of a wall. It was of a sunset over a beach with a sound track of shushing waves. It was a nice touch, and it reminded me of the 1973 movie, Soylent Green.

At the end of that movie, an old man (played by Edward G Robinson) is voluntarily euthanized because he can't take anymore of the horrid condition that life on earth has become. So he takes this option that is provided to everyone by the ruling powers and, as he lies dying, he is shown a huge video of natural scenes of earth as he remembered it from childhood--the way it "used to be." We're at that point now. I doubt the skies will, in my lifetime or my sons' lifetimes, return to what they were in my childhood.

Even so, with the holdback of the SAG spraying this weekend, the weather was closer to normal than I've seen it for a while. The sky was bluer and the clouds almost looked natural. It makes me think that if the ruling powers did stop the spraying, then the weather would return to a more normal state than many activists think (though there would be a "rebound" of severe weather and we would be far from being "out of the woods").

So you might be asking yourself at this point: can't he just relax and enjoy himself? I often ask myself that question, and the answer is that sometimes I can. I did have some relaxing moments over the weekend and I didn't talk about any of this. It's just that it's always there, and I know it. That's the reality behind the fun.


 
 
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This last Friday (Apr 17), I attended the 2015 Carolina Writing Workshops event at the Columbia Convention Center. It was not a "workshop" in the sense of groups working on something and having breakout sessions and such, but rather, it was several presentations throughout the day on subjects related to getting published. The central event (in my opinion) was the "Writers Got Talent" session where four literary agents critiqued a one-page piece of writing (usually fiction) submitted by the workshop attendees. That session was the eye-opening, takeaway for me.

The event started at 09:30a. I got there a little after 09:00 and found that most of the other attendees had already arrived. They (about 40 in number) were by far a group of middle-aged author wannabes looking for information, inspiration, and a break. Just like me. A big draw was that the event offered (for an additional fee) the chance for attendees to "pitch" their work to a literary agent in the hopes of persuading them to make an offer of representation to traditional publishers. More on that below.

The event offered roughly hour-long presentations on a number of subjects of interest to aspiring authors:

  • Your Publishing Options Today
  • Everything You Need to Know About Agents, Queries & Pitching
  • How to Market Yourself and Your Books: Author Platform & Social Media Explained
  • How to Get Published

These were all presented by the same person, Chuck Sambuchino, who is an accomplished and knowledgeable veteran in the the writing and publishing industry. I found him to be very outgoing, likeable, and with a humorous nature that infused his presentation style. He works for Writer's Digest magazine, blogs for them, and is a freelance editor when not writing his own books and teaching this Writing Workshop. I had thought the workshop might be slanted towards traditional publishing but was pleased to find Chuck very balanced in his approach to talking about publishing options.

This was the first such workshop I've attended and it struck me as a window into the reality of publishing--seeing and hearing from people who are working in the industry--that I've only read about until now. It verified a lot of what I've read, both by what Chuck and the agents said and by demonstration. So I learned a lot and took a lot of notes, especially when Chuck was talking about pitching and How to get Published.

Throughout the day, attendees were pitching their work to the four literary agents. I considered doing this as well, but was hesitant to spend the extra money ($50 per 30 minutes with an agent). Not only did I feel my manuscript wasn't ready, the idea of paying for the pitch time just didn't sit right with me. You don't ordinarily pay agents to consider your work and if you send them a written pitch you don't pay for that. I think it would have been fairer to just open the pitching to all attendees.

There was no extra fee, however, to submit the first page of your manuscript for a panel critique, promoted as Writers' Got Talent. This was done in the spirit of American Idol and the idea was the judges (the four literary agents) would hear the first pages read (by Chuck) and then offer their comments. I submitted my first page from Power of the Ancients and it turned out to be the very first one read.

There were two critiques of my page that were made mostly by two of the agents. They felt there was too much description (basically at one point) and two little action ("something needs to happen, quick"). They offered these critiques for just about every submission read and, according to Chuck, these are the two main critiques that cause agents to reject manuscripts right off the bat. Beyond that, what most impressed me about the agents' critiques was the the vitriol in them. I mean, they really ripped most of the submissions and did so with a caustic, "this sucks," attitude. Two of the agents in particular did this. I felt offended by that, and mine was not nearly as ripped as much as the rest. Good comments were few-and-far-between.

Maybe it's just the nature of their jobs and the fact that they read so many such submissions every day, and it leads to their being jaded. Later, Chuck made the comment that agents "look for reasons to reject a manuscript." I had heard that before and it's apparently true. Now I'm sure that the sheer volume of manuscripts and pitches they receive forces them to seek to narrow down the pile quickly. But that strikes me as the same situation where a professional is "too busy." Like the optometrist or dentist who is so busy they can't devote more than a set time to each patient whether the patient's condition calls for it or not. The patient is nothing more than a commodity. There is something wrong with that.

This is the point where I'll hear: "Yeah, well, that's just the way it is, Foy. It's dog-eat-dog out there and you can't be a pussy..." I know there is truth to that, but it's the truth of Mother Culture.

Whatever the reason for the agents' harsh attitudes in their critiques, what I did NOT hear from them was any positive indication of why they were agents. That is, there were no comments about the satisfaction in finding an author with a story they could get behind. There was no indication of a desire to find literary work that inspired and said something, and getting it to the world. I'm not saying they did not have such desires, it's just that, if they did, they didn't express them in the course of the workshop.

Still, as I said, positive comments for the one-page submissions were few, but one was allowed to my offering in an agent saying: "There's some beautiful prose there."

All-in-all, though, the workshop was, to me, well worth the fee. Though overwhelming at times, it verified much of my reasoning for taking the publishing path I'm taking, and offered insights into how I can continue and what my options are. My aim is to provide information, inspiration, and entertainment to those who honor me with their readership. I know you're out there.