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America Me Politics

The Tree of Liberty – In Defense of Government – An Anarchist No More

Project AmericaJust as I’ve had to shed clothes that no longer suit me or fit my needs, I have often had to shed labels that no longer are suitable. I wrote some time back about why I cannot , in good conscience, describe myself as a Muslim. Yes, I converted, but that was mainly because I had to in order to marry my wife. My conception and belief in God is such that it doesn’t matter what label I choose, they can all fit or none of them can, but I certainly don’t pray in a prescribed way five times a day, I’m not fasting during ramadan, I eat bacon, I drink alcohol, and – well, I’m sure you get the point. I’m not a Muslim – though I am a man on the path of God who frequently submits his own ego to the expressed will of the divine – but that’s another story.

Through my teens, twenties, and even into my thirties – I was very much able to describe myself as an anarchist. For me, as for many people, the term was more of a statement of what I was against than what I was for. I was against the use of force by a coercive government, I was against bureaucracy and taxation without representation, I was against tyranny by the majority, I was against centralized control and decision making that left the individual out of the process.  To some extent, I can still say that I am not a fan of those things. If you had asked me what I was for, I believe I would have said I was for personal responsibility – I still am. I have simply come to the conclusion that Santa Claus is more plausible than a society where all members take personal responsibility and act in a mode of enlightened self interest.

That is what has changed. In travelling the world, studying diverse cultures and history, and meeting countless people – I can say that I am pretty certain about one thing.

THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE GIVEN A CHOICE WITH NO IMMEDIATE CONSEQUENCES WILL CHOOSE IN THEIR OWN IMMEDIATE SELF INTEREST REGARDLESS OF LONG TERM CONSEQUENCES TO THEMSELVES, OTHERS, OR SOCIETY AS A WHOLE. 

A simple example is firewood. If there is one tree that provides wood for fires and no one regulating it, you can be sure that the dead wood will first be harvested and hoarded, then the accessible branches will be stripped, and then someone will come along and cut down the rest of the tree.  Those who held back to share are left in a position where they must now buy what was a community resource and there is no longer a tree to provide dead wood next year. That is the true tragedy of the commons. You either grab as much as you can while the tree is standing or you end up beholden to those that did. The idealist is left to complain and theorize. What a bummer.

The only way to prevent the tree being looted is to have the threat of force i.e. enforcement which can roughly be translated to government. Government, when it comes down to it, is a body of enforcement whether it is a dictatorship, a democracy, or something else. Someone has to carry the stick which will be used to enforce laws for the common good – it can be an individual who appoints themselves through brute force or it can be an institution created and backed by the people.  Government, i.e. an enforcement agency, is essential because the majority of people are either unwilling or unable to make decisions that extend beyond their own immediate self interest.

The problem, of course, is that the government itself is much like the tree. It can also be stripped and looted. First someone comes along and takes all of the dead wood, then someone a bit stronger comes and strips the branches, and finally someone comes and takes the rest of the tree and the rest of us are left beholden to them.  It’s a much more dangerous situation than being left without wood though, because the government can then be used AGAINST the people for the immediate self interest of those who have seized control. At that point, the people are either forced into serfdom or when conditions become completely unbearable, they are forced to rise up and seize control of the enforcement agency from the thieves who have stolen it. Such was the case in the Arab Spring, the Russian Revolution, the French Revolution, and the American Revolution. In fact, every popular revolt is such an uprising against unbearable conditions.

The challenge at that point is to create a system which has protection against thugs seizing control. This is the point of our checks and balances in the USA. The President is kept in check by the Supreme Court and the Congress, the Congress is kept in check by the Judiciary and the Executive, and the Judiciary is kept in check by the President and the Congress – at least in theory. Also in theory, all of these bodies are directly accountable to the people. The problem, is that when we allowed corporations to lobby and interfere in elections, lobbying, and appointments – we were giving the wealthy people behind those businesses a bigger axe to cut down the tree with. Suddenly decisions were being made that were of greater benefit to business than to individuals – short term decisions that lined pockets at the expense of our future. That’s the problem, that’s where we stand now.

Given all of that, I can’t describe myself as an anarchist. We need a government. We need a threat force. We just don’t need a government and threat force that is working to make us all into serfs. The current government is killing the future for us and our children, grand-children, and generations to come. By favoring business over education, profits over parks, and the needs of the few over the needs of the many – our government is slowly screwing our backs to the wall – they are stripping the tree  right in front of our eyes. At what point does common sense dictate that we stand up and defend the tree of liberty?

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America Me

The Junky American Life of a Renaissance Redneck

We’ve been back in the USA for a little over three months now, though it seems like it has been longer – while there is good and bad to be had in America, one thing is for sure. This American Life can be difficult. For us, it’s been pretty easy thus far – far easier than it is for immigrants who come here with nothing. Sacramento, California is filled with immigrants from Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Mexico, the Philippines and elsewhere in the world and we’ve met many of them and shared stories of life here.

Most of them, we’ve met at the two garage sales we’ve had since we got here or at garage sales where they were either selling or shopping. Hanane has also befriended an Afghan family at a free lunch program for kids that is held at a nearby park. Like I said, for us, it is relatively easy since we both speak English fluently, I have friends and family who are supportive and helpful, and I at least, literally wrote the book about how to survive in the USA without a job – so I have a good understanding of how to maximize my resources, earn money through hustle, and leverage good deals through eBay, craigslist, used book stores, and garage sales.

Our income since we got here has been about 1/3 from my writing and web development, 1/3 from ad renewals on Vagobond.com, and 1/3 from garage sales, ebay, junk, and craigslist. We are extremely fortunate in that I’ve created a lifestyle where we can earn money no matter where we are so long as we have an internet connection. Even so, we have burned through 3/4 of our savings and still don’t have a house of our own.  We have been staying with our friends in Sacramento but that time is coming to an end very soon.  I’ll explain that in a second.

As I mentioned, we have had two garage sales since getting here – primarily from  a huge garage sale I bought the remnants of for a hundred dollars but also from picking things up from the free listings on craigslist, bargain hunting at Goodwill, other thrift stores, and garage sales, and always being willing to take what other’s don’t want. Even with the two garage sales we still have a truck load of possessions now and our daughter has great educational toys, clothes, and all she needs. We have the best bed I’ve ever owned, beautiful oriental carpets, and plenty of hobby items and decorative stuff.  And…it’s time to move on.

The Afghans are living three families to a small apartment here, don’t speak English, and can’t find work. They push their kids around in a grocery cart because they don’t have a stroller. We’ve given them a lot of kids clothes, toys, and baby things and Hanane has tried to explain about garage sales, thrift stores, and the free section of craigslist but they don’t speak Arabic or English and she doesn’t speak Farsi – for them, life is much harder. The Iraqi’s seem to be faring better as they gather at the Arab American Learning Center and all seem to have cars and a bit of money – some left Iraq with money but left behind property and family, many of them have suffered huge losses. In every case, they have been extraordinarily kind.  We gave an Iraqi family all of the leftovers from our last garage sale rather than take it to Goodwill and they told us that they were going to distribute it to new immigrant families who are arriving here.

Sacramento is cheaper than the Bay Area but it’s difficult to find a two bedroom house for less than $1200 a month and landlords want first, last, and deposit.  Apartments run from $500 up but the neighborhoods and conditions tend to be pretty rough. We could easily do that, but when I started considering life here, I realized that we’re in a medium city that is far too hot and far from the ocean or forests. While there is some culture here in the form of museums and theatre – I would much prefer to have beach access, hiking trails, and lush forests. I’d rather live in a small town and have nice trips to other places than live in this big city and have no money left over to spend. I’ve always loved the Oregon Coast and so after a trip there to confirm that Hanane too enjoyed it – we’ve decided to move there. My writing and online income can easily pay our rent and expenses and I will have more time, energy, and focus to spend on new projects and enjoying life (not to mention more money because the rents where we are looking are significantly lower than in California).

So, I bought a jeep, had a tow hitch put on it, and we’ve started packing our stuff. In a few days, we’ll go celebrate Sophia’s 2nd birthday with my mom and I’ll do a little work over the weekend and then I’ll take a quick solo trip up to Oregon to rent a place for us. After that, it will be time to pack up the family and move to our real American life. I can’t wait to go crabbing and I’ve always wanted to learn to fly fish – I’m heading towards the life I’ve always wanted – that of a Renaissance Redneck. I just hope my wife can get into food preservation, gardening, and home crafts…but we will see.

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America

The fat stream of junk-milk that squirts out of America’s bloated tits

Despite my intention to come to the USA and grab a job with some start up that wanted to use my editing, management, and/or SEO/SEM/SMM expertise to jump to the next level – what I’ve found in the USA is something all together different. Companies aren’t interested in hiring a 41 year old guy who has been running his own small business from all over the world for the previous five years –

What they are looking for is 28 -30 year old professionals who have been working for Fortune 500 companies since graduation and who offer a working pedigree that can be touted on a website About Page.  There is just no way I can fit that. I managed to get a handful of interviews in my first month back in the USA but all of them sort of ended with the same “We are impressed by what you have been doing, but we’re not sure that an entry level position  would work for you” – and, needless to say, none of them are offering me executive positions.  I had one hotel in Vallejo offer me a position as GM but it only paid $2000 per month – not enough to take care of a family in the bay area – so I passed.

Housing has been almost as difficult. It turns out that landlords now aren’t happy with cash up front. They want to see proof that you can deliver 3x the rent amount every month. Uh, hello, I just moved my family from literally the other side of the globe and I’ve been taking just fine care of us and puttin us up in four and five star hotels – but sorry, I don’t have a steady gig at McDonalds. Yeah, go fuck yourself – especially the guy that asked me to pay first, last and deposit of $1500 each and still wanted to consider my credit report and see where my income came from – he wasn’t as bad as the guy who said “Hey, you do web development? I’ve got a great domain (it wasn’t) – why don’t you do all the work and we will get rich together?” Yeah, no thanks. I’ve got better domains than that you jackass – you should have offered me free rent instead of moving a bunch of hillbillies in  two days later (no offense hillbillys).

I’m still earning enough to get by and part of that comes from the fat stream of junk-milk that squirts out of America’s bloated tits. There is so much stuff here that one can’t help but be satiated by the stream. Garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores, yard sales, the bins, free stuff on craigslist – you name it.  We are living on the throw aways of the world here. I’ve been pimping myself out as a garage sale saviour and so far have turned several sales into success where they might have given away the farm if I hadn’t of spoken up.

As I write, my wife and our room mates have just come back from a garage where the lady was giving away 25 lb bags of rice, canned goods, frying pans, pyrex, and so much more. We’ve filled our housemate’s garage to the brim with free stuff and more keeps coming. We are selling it on ebay, having garage sales, and trading/selling stuff on craigslist. It’s astounding. We are very lucky to have a place to live and keep all the copious amounts of stuff this bloated tit is feeding us.