When Lemmings March to War

Lemmings

In 1958, Disney produced a documentary, titled “White Wilderness,” depicting an epic migration of lemmings — a small, short-tailed vole which inhabits tundras and grasslands — culminating in the mass suicide of the lemmings as they jump together, en masse, off of cliffs and into the Arctic Ocean, where they promptly drown.  Thus was born a social meme that has persisted to the present, symbolic of unthinking conformity, even unto oblivion.  It is a useful meme, utilized pejoratively to describe human group-think behavior, characterized by going along with perceived majority opinion without rational assessment of the consequences.  As the narrator of the documentary, Winston Hibbler, explained, “A kind of compulsion seizes each tiny rodent and, carried along by an unreasoning hysteria, each falls into step for a march that will take them to a strange destiny.”

When I first began composing this essay in my head, it occurred to me that the fateful lemming analogy was perfect for the point I wanted to make, even though the analogy has now become cliché and worn.  The trouble is that the lemming mass suicide story is a complete myth.  As it turns out, the Disney filmmakers filmed the lemmings in Alberta, a landlocked province and not the natural home of lemmings, which they bought in Manitoba from some Inuit children, and constructed a set to depict the lemming migration, ultimately throwing the wee little rodents off the cliff and into a river, where they did indeed drown.  For this, White Wilderness won the Best Documentary Feature at the 31st Academy Awards in 1959.  In light of this new (to me) information, the lemming analogy becomes particularly apropos.

I recently logged out of Facebook in a fit of pique, expressing my profound frustration at the incessant drumbeat of allegations — and that is all they are at this point — that Russia, and now Vladimir Putin himself, hacked into the DNC’s and John Podesta’s e-mails in order to cast our “democracy” into disrepute, and more specifically, to throw the election to Donald Trump.  I stated in my sign-off message that “The conservatives are stupid, and the liberals are deluded.”  I could have just as accurately stated the obverse, that the liberals are stupid and the conservatives deluded.  My frustration is not limited to the liberals’ vapid and unsupported crying of foul that their dirty laundry was aired for all the neighbors to see, but also to Trump’s consistent and pathological demonization of Iran.

The problem is not that Clinton and her accomplices have made (up) the allegation that they “believe” Russia hacked into the e-mails which exposed her manipulation of the democratic and Democratic process.  (I will use “Clinton” herein to refer to her, her husband, the Clinton Foundation, the DNC, and her lackeys such as Podesta, unless specificity is required.)  The allegation alone would be normal for Clinton, whose penchant for playing fast and loose with the facts is well documented.  The problem is that this allegation is far more than a statement, but a coordinated, relentless, repetitive and well-funded plan of action, and that plan is plainly — as it has been for a long time with Clinton — to take this country to war with Russia.

The allegation that Russia hacked Clinton’s e-mail is, as of this writing, entirely unsubstantiated.  The CIA’s “belief” that Russia was behind the e-mail leaks, despite a lack of “‘specific intelligence’ showing Kremlin involvement,” is not fact.  That the FBI has “accepted” the CIA’s “belief,” as announced by the CIA, is not a fact.  That Obama “assures” us that he will, eventually, show us the evidence, is not fact.  In point of fact, this allegation has been repeatedly demonstrated to be resting on rickety stilts.

As the Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board opined:  “Instead of briefing the House Intelligence Committee about the alleged Russian role in hacked emails made public during the campaign – which Democrats desperately seek to blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss – the agency is leaking conclusions without facts to the Washington Post, New York Times and television networks. The media, naturally, are quick to report the anonymous bits of “blame Putin” information to the public.”

While exhibiting a lemming-like distaste for Wikileaks and Vladimir Putin, and a weak acceptance of the Clinton-propagated assumptions of bad faith, Sam Biddle wrote for The Intercept an otherwise scathing take-down of the Crowdstrike and FireEye reports commissioned by the DNC, noting that “CrowdStrike’s claim [is that] it was able to finger APT 28 and 29, described above as digital spies par excellence, because they were so incredibly sloppy. Would a group whose ‘tradecraft is superb’ with ‘operational security second to none’ really leave behind the name of a Soviet spy chief imprinted on a document it sent to American journalists? Would these groups really be dumb enough to leave cyrillic comments on these documents? Would these groups that ‘constantly [go] back into the environment to change out their implants, modify persistent methods, move to new Command & Control channels’ get caught because they precisely didn’t make sure not to use IP addresses they’d been associated before? It’s very hard to buy the argument that the Democrats were hacked by one of the most sophisticated, diabolical foreign intelligence services in history, and that we know this because they screwed up over and over again.”

Most damning is the memorandum issued by the Steering Group for the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), concluding that the e-mails disclosed by Wikileaks were not hacked at all, but rather leaked.  This group consists entirely of veteran intelligence professionals, including the whistleblower William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; and co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center.  VIPS explains the difference between “hacking” and “leaking” as follows:

Leak: When someone physically takes data out of an organization and gives it to some other person or organization, as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning did.

Hack: When someone in a remote location electronically penetrates operating systems, firewalls or any other cyber-protection system and then extracts data.

As the VIPS memo explains,

We have gone through the various claims about hacking. For us, it is child’s play to dismiss them. The email disclosures in question are the result of a leak, not a hack. ***

… the NSA would know where and how any “hacked” emails from the DNC, HRC or any other servers were routed through the network. This process can sometimes require a closer look into the routing to sort out intermediate clients, but in the end sender and recipient can be traced across the network.

The various ways in which usually anonymous spokespeople for U.S. intelligence agencies are equivocating – saying things like “our best guess” or “our opinion” or “our estimate” etc. – shows that the emails alleged to have been “hacked” cannot be traced across the network. Given NSA’s extensive trace capability, we conclude that DNC and HRC servers alleged to have been hacked were, in fact, not hacked. ***

As for the comments to the media as to what the CIA believes, the reality is that CIA is almost totally dependent on NSA for ground truth in the communications arena. Thus, it remains something of a mystery why the media is being fed strange stories about hacking that have no basis in fact. In sum, given what we know of NSA’s existing capabilities, it beggars belief that NSA would be unable to identify anyone – Russian or not – attempting to interfere in a U.S. election by hacking.

Despite these reasoned calls for evidence, the NYT and WaPo, together with other multitudinous organs of corporate, neoliberal/neocon mouthpiece media such as Time, CNN, et al, have continued to firehose the public information spaces with their innuendo, spin and half-truths, and the American liberals are mesmerized.  Liberals continue to march toward the cliff, chanting their spoon-fed mantras of “Russian hacking” and “compromised democracy,” all the while completely ignoring the fact that it was Clinton’s machinations to crater Sander’s candidacy which compromised the democratic process, not the exposure of those machinations.  But, assuming for a moment that the exposure, rather than the acts exposed, were responsible for Clinton’s loss, that would appear to be a salutary consequence for Clinton’s misdeeds.  Why should she not be punished for monkey-wrenching the Sanders candidacy?  The liberals cannot seem to grasp that this Escher-like twisting of these concepts demonstrates just how toxic truth has become for our political machine.

One example of this vacuous repetition is typified by Max Fisher, writing for the New York Times, who uncritically writes:  “This summer, when Russian hacking groups began releasing Democratic emails through third parties such as Wikileaks, many Americans suspected an effort to help Mr. Trump, who had promised to realign the United States with Russia.”  Now this is about three flavors of nonsense.  First, hacking has not been proven by anyone, nor has Russian involvement with any hacking.  Second, the “Americans” to which Fisher refers were actually quite incensed to find that the DNC and the Clinton campaign had conspired to disadvantage the Sanders campaign, particularly the Americans supporting Sanders, and the disclosures delighted the Americans supporting Trump, who were handed clear evidence of Clinton’s dishonesty.   How many untruths need to be contained in one sentence before it qualifies unreservedly as a lie?  The Russian-hacking meme was easy for the Democratic cabal to pull off the shelf because Clinton had been pounding away on her anti-Russian propaganda throughout the entirety of the campaign, indeed, throughout her career in public office, both as a senator and as Secretary of State.  Fisher at least admits that Russian fears of Clinton antipathy are founded in her own statements and actions, extending at least back to 2008, when she publicly stated that Putin had no soul.  Of course, Fisher and the NYT cannot admit that Clinton was hip deep in the coup d’etat which overthrew the elected Ukrainian government and installed Western-controlled oligarchs and Nazi enforcers in their stead.  He cannot admit that Clinton (and her boss, Obama) overthrew Qaddafi and blew up Libyan civil society in concert with the Muslim Brotherhood and “known terrorists in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group,” nor that she was responsible for running a ratline of weapons taken from Qaddafi’s arsenals, including sarin gas, which were then transferred through Turkey to Islamist elements seeking to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria.

Following a speech in September at the Brookings Institute, Clinton stated, “I have been, I remain convinced that we need a concerted effort to really up the costs on Russia and in particular on Putin. I think we have not done enough.” She has staunchly supported the most hawkish expansion of NATO, pushing the military alliance’s presence to the very border of Russia, demonizing Russia and Putin at every step.  Why in the world would Russia would feel threatened by this?

All of this is to say that words have consequences, and the liberal lemmings who blindly conform their thinking (such as it is) to Clinton’s and NATO’s war-mongering memes are being thrown off the cliff by the corporate power-brokers, all to present a deceptive image that evokes unexamined, misdirected, emotive dissonance, but they are still going into the water.  Like the lemmings thrown into an Albertan river by Disney filmmakers, I do not think that liberals are actually suicidal, but it certainly looks that way on film.  Do liberals really want to chant their way to war with a nuclear-armed Russia?

 

NOTE ON TRUMP:  Not much is known about how Donald Trump will perform when he ascends to the office.  But we have enough information to make some educated guesses, and the conclusions are not comforting.  His statements regarding Iran, for instance, are just as stupid, just as misinformed, just as sanguine as Clinton’s push for war with Russia.  This despite the fact that Iran has no modern history of offensive war outside its borders.  This despite the fact that every intelligence agency in the U.S., and Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, agree that Iran has not been pursuing a nuclear weapons program.  This despite the fact that the money the U.S. “gave” to Iran ($1.7 billion) was actually Iran’s money in the first place, money that had been seized by the U.S. following the 1979 Iranian revolution.  Trump has called this payment and the nuclear agreement “the worst deal ever negotiated,” and has promised to scuttle it.  This type of ignorance on the part of the POTUS is alarming and appalling.  I suspect there will be plenty to write about as this moron commences his destruction.

NOTE ON SOURCES:  Much of the sources I have cited in this essay are mainstream media outlets.  These corporate media outlets are famously inconsistent, and I certainly prefer more incisive and less propagandistic sources for my own edification, but it is helpful when writing an essay such as this to utilize sources that are routinely relied upon by those who will undoubtedly attack it.  So, for instance, citing to a Haaretz article on Mossad’s conclusion that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons takes away the spurious claim of bias.

Good Grief

A thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, in captivity sometime in the 1920s. The thylacine was killed off by European settlers in Australia who erroneously viewed it as a sheep killer.

“Telling the stories of recently extinct species is a way of capturing people’s imaginations to this end,” said Pearl. “It’s not science or statistics, it’s history, it’s real life – and in an age of cultural amnesia, storytelling inspired by historical events is a way to learn lessons from the past.”

The Guardian is not my favorite media source, but sometimes, they publish something that makes you wonder what the hell they’re thinking the rest of the time.  In my couple posts on this blog, so far, I think I have at least peripherally addressed grief a couple of times.  When you write a doomer blog, it is an essential aspect of everything you do.  As I told a friend the other day, “I don’t get a free ride from despondency, and I have my bad days, but if you realize that the reason for your despondency is that you cherish life, then that becomes your entire goal: CHERISH LIFE.”

Grief is, indeed, cathartic.  We have grief because it is a critical aspect of who we are, why we have survived and evolved.  We have to have it, and our civilization — like with so many other things — tries to remove us from it.  It is, after all, extremely inconvenient for people to grieve for the species they are employed to kill.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2016/nov/19/extinction-remembrance-day-theatre-ritual-thylacine-grief

Here is my question:  After we, too, have passed, who will tell the stories, myths and scary stories about us?  Who will have us lurking in the forest, or coming from the ground, or the water?  I fear there will be no lessons, just our debris.  I grieve this, too.

About Me

My name is Stone Lodge. My name is Bryan Walker. This is my coming out.

In Shoshone, the best I can figure, my name Stone Lodge is Nehweh Gahnin, which I also understand to translate more literally to “Rock House.” Having no native Shoshone speakers in my life, I hope I haven’t botched all that up; maybe one of my friends can set me straight on that one day. I didn’t ask for my name, nor did I choose it. Just like my other name, Bryan Walker.  When I was named Stone Lodge, it was as much a surprise to me when I heard my name as it is to everyone else to whom I am introduced. I was offered a naming ceremony by a Shoshone grandmother, a former member of A.I.M. who was at Wounded Knee in ’73. She was aware of my work with obsidian (I knap arrowheads, knives, axes, and general kitchen tools), our families joined, and she honored me with that offer. I accepted.

For those who will ask, I am Coyote Clan. Coyote, along with Crow, are my principal walk-besides, as well. Anyone who knows what that means will tell you that it is interesting medicine. I can confirm that. Also for anyone who will ask, yes, I do have Indigenous blood. On my mother’s side, I have Cherokee blood, although I am not sure if that gift pre-dates or post-dates Oklahoma, from where my mother’s father came into my lineage. I do not know much about my grandmother, but I believe that she was taken as the wife of a long-hunter, a profession exercised by that part of my family since at least the Revolutionary War. On my father’s side, I am Nimi’ipu. My grandmother (along with her sister) was taken from a canal bank by the Indian agent Stickney and “adopted,” as so many Indian children were. No one bothered with records, of course, and so I can prove none of this. But these are the stories of my family, the one half of my family proud of our connection to the People and Turtle Island, and the other half scandalized by it. I don’t think I am alone in this; I suspect many of the Indian children stolen throughout our history by the European invaders have descendants just like me, some longing to know the truth,  but stymied by the treatment of Indigenous, Blacks, and women and children generally as chattel.  I look white, with blue eyes, and I was raised white, with miners, loggers and cattlemen far more numerous in my genealogy than First Peoples. Thus, I lay no claim or entitlement to being Indian, but by my deeds and my voice, I assert that the People of Turtle Island have my alliance always, my love, and my respect.

I am often asked to repeat my name during introductions, sometimes more than once. People have different reactions to my name. My favorite was the one I received from a beautiful Lakota woman, while standing together in the lodge of Buffalo Field Campaign on a cold February night in West Yellowstone. Her name is Cheryl Angel, and she asked me, “What do you do with your name?” I fumbled my reply, looking for justification for carrying that name. (She teased me along this error by telling me, “You white boys get all the good names.”) But Cheryl knew what she was asking me, and I listened and heard. She also gifted me with repose, a release from the unease with which I carried my name.

I do not reject the name on my birth certificate, the certifying piece of state paper denied to my grandmothers.  I was born and named by my parents as Bryan Walker. I love my parents and my brothers, and see them often. I split and stacked wood for the winter with my father and brother a few days before I began writing this. They all know that I am also Stone Lodge, and they are peripherally aware that there is a world in which I carry that name and no other. But for them, I’m Bryan, and most of the things Stone Lodge thinks and does are not a part of a world they care to contemplate much. Which is another reason for carrying my name. It provides a separation for other people, and not simply me. Those separations are important in multiple ways, but one way is to permit very old familial bonds and friendships to continue, to retain the love and loyalty and familiarity with a people with whom I shared a culture for a life. I once believed what they still believe, and it is I who left that culture, it is I who has even turned back upon that culture, and so long as I keep Stone Lodge in the background, my family, as far as I can tell, pretty much perceives that I’m just an intense, overly educated guy with wacky ideas.  All of that they can tolerate. But not generally what Stone Lodge does. So my name offers protection to those who need to separate what I know and do from what they must continue to believe.

The EarthFirst!ers use “forest names” when they engage in some direct action. The homeless people in my life would call it a “street name”. I vastly prefer the former, since I vastly prefer the forests to streets, but the concept is the same. In some sense, I have carried my name in this way. I have been Stone Lodge when I went to other places, other communities, as an identity for that effort or campaign or action, or simply to keep my story to myself. Until Cheryl asked me her question, though, I felt I was using my name in this way. I wasn’t, though. When I did this, it was awkward and difficult for me, but I was carrying my name when I was acting, when I was following my heart and my brain toward action and situations that felt right. I was doing good; I just hadn’t associated my name with my hands, my head, my heart, or the wondrous experiences and adventures I had wrought with them, even though that is where the call of my name Stone Lodge was heard. A few days after I met Cheryl, while glassing the vast expanses of the Gardiner Basin, counting buffalo, I finally understood. Stone Lodge was no longer a name I carried. Stone Lodge is me. If I could re-live that momentary exchange with Cheryl, I would say to her, “I am here.”

And so I am.

I was a United States Marine. I joined, like so many, because I was dirt poor and poorly educated. It was my ticket out. It was Dad’s ticket out. My grandfather’s. Unlike anyone else in my family at the time, I went to school after the Marines decided I didn’t like their orders enough. I graduated summa cum laude from St. Edward’s University, in Austin, Texas. Three years later, I added a juris doctorate from the University of Houston. I moved back to Idaho – my home country – where I practiced law for nineteen years, until I resigned my license in 2014. Thus I have been well and truly institutionalized. And it did what it was supposed to do. It kept me believing, quiet and obedient, lawful and respectful, and for all that I was well-compensated, financially and socially. Fortunately, and unlike the Marines, I decided I didn’t like their rules before they figured it out, and left on my own terms.  I left a bunch of people scratching their heads.

I think some people perceive the resignation of my law license as an act, an event, something I could do in a piqued fit of unreasonable angst after a disappointment in trial, or some such thing. No. It was an agonizing four-year process, the first two of which I tried not to admit my destination. I had three gifts during this time. The first was my best friend, my partner, my wife, Cynthia Sage Tiferet. The second was an evil ex-wife, who taught me more than I otherwise would have learned, and who made it possible to deleverage, devolve, and disappear. The third was Occupy Boise, beginning in September 2011.

Most of the time I hear people refer to the Occupy movement, I just shake my head. People say that the Occupy movement (now referred to piously in the mainstream media as the “Occupy Wall Street” movement) failed to achieve longevity, or that it was “crushed” by the state (which is certainly true regarding some of Occupy’s actions, but not true of the movement at all), or that it failed to turn its momentum into political power. These statements conceive of the Occupy movement as a monolithic entity, a group of people without cohesive ideas for reform, a movement of the disaffected, unguided, directionless, and subsumed.  Although one can find evidence to support any of those aspersions, none of that is in the least relevant to how I conceive Occupy. Occupy, in my world, continues to exist. I have called Occupy my personal Big Bang, and everyone I have expressed that to has agreed that it was for them also. I went from screaming into the void, to an explosion of an entire network of people from literally everywhere. Occupy was, in my experience, birthed by people living in close, cold, uncomfortable quarters, sleeping rough on sidewalks and lawns, fixing meals with portable stoves, washing dishes for all the world to see, dealing with their waste, and in every moment when someone else took those duties, conversing with those other people who were there. And getting to know them. And learning that among their number were intelligent, good, caring, frustrated people, people you could rely upon, and some lifelong friends.

Some people would call (and have called) me a “Doomer.” A Doomer, in short, is someone who is convinced that not only are our socio-economic systems approaching collapse, but so too is our very existence. Some Doomers, such as myself and others, such as Kevin Hester and Guy McPherson, are convinced that civilization itself is already in collapse, and our planet is in the throes of a great extinction event, one caused by homo sapiens, and one that will mark our disappearance as a life form on this Earth. If these are your conclusions and you have arrived at them rationally, by observing everything around you, you really are not going to easily find a lot of company with whom to commiserate. Nobody wants to hear that shit. It’s a major downer. At the same time, there is a compulsive desire to do just that. You want to speak to other people who see the same things, and perhaps a stronger compulsion is to “wake people up.” It’s not that any of us can do much, or anything, about it, but as we observe the exponentially accelerating destabilization of systems around us, it is natural to seek individuals and communities who can be trusted to learn and share and work together, rather than fight, in ignorance, over critical resources that no longer exist — which is where most people will shortly find themselves (if they haven’t already).

I am extraordinarily fortunate that my wife is ever bit as much a “Doomer” as I am. We’ve developed together, although in overlapping ways, not co-extensively.  Cynthia Sage is about peace and love more than anyone I know, even while she’s a realist. She loves butterflies, and mourns their coming passing at a core level. She is crossing her fingers for a planet-killer meteor strike, so we don’t have to all go through the paroxysms of a drawn out, chaotic devolution. I would agree with her but for the fact that I maintain there continues to be value in witnessing this whole mess unfold.

Among Doomers, there is a ubiquitous thread of despair at the difficulty of finding communities just like that community that my wife and I found in Occupy. Certainly the mainstream media never got it right, nor political analysts and pundits. But that’s what it was for me: The sudden and all-encompassing creative expansion of relationships, and as a direct result thereof, of knowledge, wisdom, and love.

I was first-named legal counsel for Occupy Boise as it fought to maintain its encampment on the lawn of the old Ada County Courthouse, which it did, from November 5, 2011 until June 8, 2012. That case, U.S. District Court case, Watters v. Otter, 12-cv-76, D. Idaho, was my last case. And we won it, and I got paid, again, for being obedient. In my last declaration to the Court (the Hon. B. Lynn Winmill presiding), I expressed my outrage, in the subdued tones required of official judicial discourse, as follows:

12. In ¶ 25 of his declaration, Mr. Eppink addresses the media and public interest generated by Occupy Boise, not only locally, but statewide, nationwide and internationally. I would just add that Occupy Boise also gained the attention of the state and national legal profession, as well. I was interviewed by the ABA Journal, and quoted extensively regarding the instant litigation. “Occupy the Courts: The Nationwide Movement Has Left a Mixed Bag of Legal Results;” ABA JOURNAL, July 1, 2012, http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/articl/occupy_the_courts_the_nationwide_movement_has_left_a_mixed_bag_of_legal_res/  

Notably, one point I had communicated to the writer when interviewed was edited out of the article. I told Mr. Hudson, “Certain common threads can be drawn from these disparate cases in the sense that they are addressing the parameters of protected political expression and assembly. Unfortunately, as important as that work is, it does not get at the central message of the Occupy movement, which is the undue influence of corporate and financial interests upon the formation of public policy. So far, the attorneys – including those of us with the National Lawyers Guild – have been fighting to simply preserve the rights of the Occupy movement to make their central message heard.”

It is an unfortunate reality that the grievances that informed and motivated Occupy Boise’s assembly are almost never going to be addressed in the judiciary. Indeed, all the State need do to quash dissent is to – as was the case here – attack the ability of the aggrieved citizenry to voice their grievances at all.  Thus, Occupy Boise winds up fighting for the right to speak and examining the aesthetic priority
of grass, and the core message they sought to express is subsumed in that struggle, their central points diluted, diffused, and ultimately ignored by the political elite. It is in this way that the State, despite losing this lawsuit for their First Amendment violations, has prevailed in its central goal of suppressing dissent. And that realization has been the most difficult aspect of this case.

Para. 12, DECLARATION OF BRYAN K. WALKER IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFFS’ PETITION FOR FEES AND EXPENSES

I lost my objectivity during my representation of the good people of Occupy Boise. For that two years, I became my own client, more activist than lawyer, more outraged than strategic. There shouldn’t be any surprise about this, for when I attended the first General Assembly, I did not show up as an attorney. That’s not why I was there at all. Turns out, though, Occupy was quite effective at including and utilizing all manner of ideas and talents and training and energy.  Bar certificates were valued, and I got enlisted, which is quite remarkable, when I look at it in hindsight. Occupy got me to bend to a task for which the state had lost my allegiance. In late 2011, and certainly when we filed suit in February 2012, I did not want to be an attorney any more. By the time the last pleadings were filed and the last arguments delivered, I wasn’t an attorney anymore. When I made the quoted declaration above, I was no longer an attorney. The State’s attorney general deputies were comical, expressing best wishes in condescending tones, feigning concern that such a talented attorney might need a “sabbatical”. But it was a nervous pleasantry, and deep down where they feared to visit, in that veil between dreams and fears, they knew that I wasn’t opting out. They knew that I was rejecting their authority entirely, along with that of the State itself, and of the Courts. Occupy permitted me to express that rejection in a way that the State not only heard, but passed many laws and rules in order to thwart. I could not have asked for a more beautiful going-away present.

bryan-occupy

One of the people I met the very first day, September 27th, was Ritchie Eppink. At the time, he was working with Idaho Legal Aid, but he is now the Legal Director of the ACLU of Idaho. This change happened during the Watters lawsuit, upon which Ritchie was always lead counsel, and the brains and talent and effort behind the suit. A Fulbright scholar, Ritchie can read the federal judicial civil rights landscape like no one else I’ve ever met. I say that not simply to give him his due, which he will probably make me edit out anyway (he didn’t), but because Ritchie is the very catalyst for this essay. We were traveling through the desert of southern Idaho, returning from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this past July. I was waking up from my sleep through Utah, and he was ready to talk. And what he asked me was essentially this: “When do I call you Stone Lodge, and when do I call you Bryan?” I was stumped. I tried to wing it, but it turned out I really had to puzzle that out, and my friends seemed willing to help. Of course, we didn’t figure anything out, and I’ve had any number of awkward moments since then with friends who knew me as Bryan for a long time, sometimes interacting with people who only know me as Stone Lodge.

So I’m puzzling it out, and you get to watch me do it. If you want to.

One of the things that popped out of my mouth during that discussion, at some point, was that Bryan was my system name. And that is absolutely true. It is more than that, but it is that. I was, under that birth name, a Marine, an attorney, and a debtor. I swore oaths in three states, for the United States, for the Constitution. Lots of trees were killed with my name signed onto the pieces of paper that signified my existence, my status and my worth. I’ve been married and divorced under that name, and arrested under that name. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve been fingerprinted. I have made enemies of governors and mayors, and the State Police captains know my name. Rupert Murdoch’s private security firm, hired to “secure” the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, obtained my information from the State Police, providing to the ISP my surveilled photograph, captioned as a “Person of Interest.” (I got that little gem in discovery during the Watters lawsuit. That picture hangs on my fridge.) I was a prosecutor for a time, and I have been the instrument for the deprivation of liberty for reasons I find abhorrent, and for reasons I find just. An officer of the court, a peace officer. Stamped, memorialized, and cataloged. I sometimes wonder how many bytes I’m responsible for. Bryan is not going away.

But that is not what I do now. Bryan was wasichu. Stone Lodge is atonement.

In 2007, I read about the plastic island in the Pacific gyre. At that time, it was about the size of Texas. Now, I’ve lived in Texas, and my family is from there also, and I’ve got a pretty good idea how big it is. This was shocking to me. Why didn’t I know that before? Well, I got right onto e-mail, and sent out a missive to my colleagues, friends and family, complete with embedded pictures and links. And I heard nothing. Not one word, except from Cynthia Sage. As the days went by, I sent a smaller follow-up e-mail with new information. Nothing. The silence dragged on, and I processed a lot. Anger, confusion, sadness, hopelessness. I kept reading. This is when I “activated”, as Derrick Jensen puts it. (I wouldn’t discover Derrick Jensen until a few years later.)

For whatever reason, I swerved into economics first, and the more I read, the more I realized just how distorted our economy appeared. In 2007, I had a small 401k.  I was hit pretty hard by the dot-com crash, so as we became increasingly concerned about the economy, I withdrew all funds from my 401k, which we set aside for other purposes.  We took a 25% penalty, but that would be a lot better than what my colleagues suffered who left their money in the fund. I tripped across Charles Hugh Smith, the one who first hooked me on the potential or likelihood of collapse, the first one I recall talking about energy systems.  I watched the lecture of Dr. Albert A. Bartlett titled Arithmetic, Population and Energy, and watched it again.

In November, 2008, Barack Obama won election to the Presidency. Just a couple months before that, Lehman Bros. went down, was “allowed to fail,” and that insolvency rapidly cascaded, taking out AIG and Morgan Stanley in short order, as the exotic instruments (credit default swaps (CDS) and mortgage backed securities (MBS)) unraveled, there being insufficient collateral anywhere to cover the losses the gamblers had suffered on their Ponzi schemes. The Bush administration decided to bail the banks out, as institutions everywhere, including giants Freddie Mac, Freddie Mae, and the FDIC failed. I was furious when he did that. I voted for Obama that year for that reason alone (as opposed to not voting at all). Immediately after his inauguration, Obama (through the Fed) bailed them out some more. And then more. And he’s been doing it ever since.

So I woke up.  You know, I see a lot of social commentary that harshly belittles people with different positions, belief systems or ideas.  As I transitioned from unaware and ignorant, to aware and learning, I delved into a lot of things that I do not now agree with or which were subject to mistakes of which I was unaware, often only partly so.  I looked at Libertarianism closely, and while that quickly took me into anarchism, it taught me a lot that I am grateful to have learned.  Also, not all Libertarians are the same.  But one can identify some solidly defined “sects”, if you will, of this essentially political construct.  You have the constitutionalists, most often arguing that the Constitution has been subverted (which it clearly has), and that the Constitution needs to be restored (which it doesn’t), possibly by armed revolution, but first by infiltrating the political institutions and voting.  There are your fundamental christians, and a lot of these are constitutionalists, but those who are not simply apocalyptic have mental sugar plums of a Christian Republic (often white) expressing their vision of the world.  Ayn Rand (who I read while in the Marines) is a favorite of theirs.  And then there are the financial/economic Libertarians, who are particularly ignorant about a lot of other stuff beyond money.  Libertarians are, generally speaking, weak on climate and ecological matters, race relations (including Indigenous), and they’re mostly horrible capitalists.  It is common that their biggest complaint is government interference with their mining/drilling/polluting of the commons.  And yet, there are huge numbers of Libertarians who are aware of our precarious circumstances, particularly in the economic realm, and they increasingly oppose militarization of the police, and are questioning the role of the military.  (These are the ones who are not in the little club guiding the military-industrial complex.)  They actually know economics better than the anarchists I know personally.  They are often into natural healing, against Big Pharma, against gun control, and they build communities effectively.  They can tell you how to garden without tilling, or how to collect rainwater, or teach you how to shoe a horse.  They might trade you (as they have with me), a quarter of their home-raised, grass-fed beef (no hormones or antibiotics) for a referral.  The long and the short of this is, I identified as a Libertarian at one time, and I value, as people, Libertarians I know now.  Everyone who is chiming into our social media circus is at some point or another in a vast web of complex information and misinformation.  No one sees it all, and what is in front of you is not all you think it is.  So, just be kind to each other.  I might not agree with you, and I might tell you that, but I hope I am always addressing the concept we differ on, and not you, or me.  (I admit getting somewhat impatient with some of this election bullshit.)

Learning that shit took me awhile. I kept thinking the financial system would crash soon, and it kept not doing it. But I also kept learning the mechanisms they were using to achieve this magic. All of a sudden, with Obama’s lock-step continuation of what I thought was Bush’s game plan, I was presented with the perfect demonstration of the dichromatic character of the American political system: The Blue-Red paradigm. I learned that there is virtually no substantive difference between Democrats and Republicans. They are the same thing. It’s like everyone in America has those 3-D glasses on, with one blue lens and one red lens, and everything looks cross-eyed unless you’re in the theater, where they then overlap the picture so it looks 3-D. That’s the media fixing things for you, so instead of seeing red or blue, you see red, white and blue, and everything’s in hypnotic tune. But if you’re wearing them around the house, pretty soon you find yourself squinting and looking through either the red lens or the blue lens, but not both or you’ll puke. You really have to take the glasses off to be able to see straight, and the only way to do that is to learn, and accept the truth, even if you feel disoriented by it.

Now, if you draw a line from Obama back, arguably to the Revolution, you will find continuity if you always look to see who benefited, and how they did it. Our political parties are meaningless in America. At least for those who believe they are represented by them. The elites, however, are very fond of those parties. Those parties have the magical power to create, if you’re looking through the right colored lens, moral blindness. If it’s blue, you can’t see it through the blue lens. So Obama gets a pass for all of his crimes from all the loyal Democrats and liberals. And Hillary Clinton gets a pass, too, because their crimes are blue crimes. What crimes? And of course there are the red crimes, too.

This election cycle has been particularly rich in examples of efforts to direct Americans to focus on, and believe in, the political process. Recently, a Facebook friend asked me this question:

Stone Lodge: In your opinion, why would a vote for Stein be worse than not voting? I dislike the idea that not using my voice at all would be better than an attempt. ” The following was my response:

I hope you don’t mind a thumbnail-sketch of an answer, because that is all to which FB is conducive. If this election were between Jill Stein and Gary Johnson (maybe), then perhaps this would look like a real election. But that is not reality. You are not voting for a candidate or a set of principled policy choices. You are voting for, and thus legitimizing, a system, and that system exists not to further the rational policy sets of an informed citizenry, but to further aggrandize power and wealth to a small sub-set of the larger society. So many “leaders,” even those who themselves furthered that system, have warned us about this: Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Dwight Eisenhower, JFK, and Jimmy Carter, along with numerous generals, journalists and many extraordinary thinkers such as Orwell, Thoreau, Trudell, Goldman, Beard and Chomsky. If a person ascends to the highest political offices who frustrates this cabal, the cabal will — literally — kill them. (This is something Americans never seem to get. If our government will employ its military to overthrow governments and kill leaders who frustrate the profits of multinational corporations, why can they not understand that no method (crime) is out of bounds to maintain their power?)

You can vote for Stein. Go ahead, and then let me know how satisfied you are afterward. Let me know how far you believe your voice traveled. Frankly, by your excellent posts on social media and through your influence and education of those around you, your voice carries far far more weight than by casting your illusionary ballot.

The very reason for not voting is to remove your support of that system, to disclaim the legitimacy of the cabalists. You are not going to address climate concerns, human rights or problems of civil society by continuing to participate in the illusion that has been erected to funnel your outrage and dissatisfaction into allowed outlets for expression. The vote is not there to give you power, but to remove it from you. The only way you can claim and employ your power is to resist and oppose the structures designed to blunt it or sever it from your own agency.

The very purpose for the American political parties is to channel attention toward ends that have been decided by the wealthy and powerful long ago. The mechanism for doing this is the mainstream media, which, as it turns out, are owned by the wealthy and powerful. You are told what is important, why it is important, and all you need to do is vote and stay cool. Oh, and send your children to their wars.

Those of you who know me from Facebook are aware that I follow geo-politics fairly closely, although I’m a bit of a Europhobe, aside from Greece, who I really really feel for, and Ukraine, which is the most blatant crime so far in the 21st century. I follow the Middle Eastern wars. I was a marine, and marines do that, especially when they’re also Poli-Sci grads. When Saddam invaded Kuwait, and daddy Bush invaded him back, I was sitting on an assembly line next to friends from Lebanon, Nicaragua and Nigeria, who worked to keep me seeing straight on that. Astoundingly to me now, it was difficult for me then to understand the oil angle, but I never forgot it.

The wealthy and the powerful, such as Vice-President Joe Biden, send their sons to be the finance ministers for governments they’ve installed through coup d’etat. But Joe Biden is not the moving force behind the overthrow of Ukraine’s legitimately elected government. Halliburton is. And Exxon. And Raytheon. JP Morgan Chase, and Citi.

My point is that your so-called political leaders are not in charge, and if they’re not in charge, do you think you are represented by those who are in charge? One can look no farther than Standing Rock, North Dakota, to know the answer to that.  There is one reason and one reason only, that we have been in perpetual wars in the Middle East and Africa: resources. It is the defining moment for civilization, its ultimate conclusion always, conquest and theft, force and wreckage, the results on display for all who will just quit being mesmerized. Wake up, the movie’s over.

Before I get to the bad news, and while we’re talking about oil, let me say that my greatest conceptual leap forward, in my opinion, was when I began to study energy depletion, sometimes referred to as “peak oil”. It was then that I learned the importance of the exponential function in assessing “growth” claims, and all the normative wagons that get hooked up to those claims. If you haven’t already watched Dr. Bartlett’s video (linked above), I cannot recommend more strongly that you do. Over the past years, it has been those cranks most concerned about the ecology, the climate, and the imminent collapse in energy and of society itself, who have raised this simple, compelling point: you cannot grow infinitely on a finite planet. There is nothing controversial about this. Many people have written about it, in one way or another. Looking at just the top right shelf beside me, I can count these people who have expounded on this: James Howard Kunstler, Richard Heinberg, Jared Diamond, Noam Chomsky, Derrick Jensen. If you understand the exponential function, if you truly get what growth means, then you can start to de-mystify the barrage of propaganda to which each of us is subjected every day. Here’s the Cliff Note: Growth is no longer possible. We have reached our planetary limit, in terms of population, in terms of resource extraction and degradation of all major Earth systems, and now we get to contract. Radically. One of the best alliterations of this concept has been done by Derrick Jensen. But all of those other authors I named above are pretty much in agreement, and there are many more people in agreement, and the consensus is that we are at the tail end of an extinction event. And we get to watch it all unfold right before us, in our lifetimes. I’m pretty sure I won’t be the last one to go, though.

I haven’t meant to jump into expositions of economics or peak oil or climate change, or ecological collapse in this essay. That is not my purpose here. But it is important to know that all of these various disciplines, and cultural structures, and the explanatory bodies of work about our historical circumstance … these all inform me and interest me. The conceptual frameworks surrounding these seemingly disparate social studies tend to be insular, often even exclusive. Economists do not usually spend much time or energy on climatological studies, and peak oilers are derided by the oil industry (which knows they’re right) and the (particularly clueless and predatory) world of finance alike, and pretty much ignored by everyone else. This happens because the individuals engaged in these discrete endeavors must build their belief boxes in order to justify their actions, and they wall off narratives that challenge the moral worth of their efforts. They reject, ignore or simply do not comprehend critiques of the destructive aspects of their life work. Sometimes this is done consciously and with intention, but more often automatically, which is to say, not consciously and without intention, but rather from behind a filter that discards as valueless those critiques. And, worst of all, this allows them to just not care. Caring about the valueless is insane, right? This is a critical and formidable block to holistic understanding of our current circumstances, because all of the factors studied in these areas are all inextricably linked. They are connected, both historically, and in their present effects, and if you want to understand our situation right now (many do not), then the first thing to understand is that you can’t ignore any of it.

I did not reach my conclusion regarding our imminent extinction until fairly recently. As I said, I had to study a number of things and begin understanding their interconnections as parts of a system before I could begin to connect the dots. I watch the economy closely, not because its collapse would hasten our extinction (it could actually make extinction less likely or more prolonged), but because it will mark the beginning of the great dying. I watch energy depletion because the economy is built upon cheap oil. Our food is grown and transported with oil. Much of our modern environment is made of polymers derived from oil. Everything metal was mined and refined and defined using oil. The rare earth minerals in your windmills and cell phones, same thing. And the tar sands is the glaring message on the wall, the neon billboard that most everyone ignores, telling us that our oil bonanza is done. From here, it gets more and more expensive to do anything, not in dollar terms (which is always manipulated), but in terms of the energy we are able to put in to a system in exchange for the energy we receive from it. That equation is, right now, far less favorable than it was for hunter-gatherers, and the only way it was possible was through wholesale resource exploitation and extraction, and through debt. And, it turns out, all those resources, including debt, are themselves finite, and we also kill incidentally in the process of extraction and exploitation (such as, for instance, the genocide of indigenous peoples sitting on top of those resources). Right now, as I write this, hundreds of oil companies have gone out of business, marine shipping is faltering, pipelines are being desperately thrust through lands and rivers they should never touch by financing (debt) created to put consequences out to the future, and the United States is descending into militarized totalitarianism, attacking Native Peoples protesting the destruction of our sources of water. When the debt Ponzi comes down, when the collateralized debt obligations turn out not to be collateralized, when the letters of credit are no longer accepted, then the ships don’t unload, the trains and trucks don’t move, and the grocery stores become empty. It can happen in a day, or at least seem like it. When this happens, the authorities will strive desperately to maintain “control,” and they will do it violently. This is already portended, as anyone who honestly observes American policing and foreign policy can attest. But if you’re paying attention, you know all of this is already in process. We’re just waiting to see what the trigger is.

But let’s say the economy is just hunky dory, and all those great jobs numbers and growth statistics aren’t just fabricated bullshit. Let’s say that your job and 60” LCD screen are working just fine, that your kids are doing okay in school, and those people getting hit with tear gas and rubber bullets are “them over there”. Guess what? Things don’t go on, because we’ve killed our oceans. We’ve changed the chemistry of our atmosphere, and dammed our rivers and laden our waters with wastes and heavy metals. Some have proclaimed the Great Barrier Reef dead. We’ve burned and plowed the lungs of Mother Earth, for palm oil and coffee and timber. We’ve destroyed our seeds by genetically modifying them so they will not reproduce, to protect patents! This past September there was concern it would be the first ice-free Arctic Ocean in recorded history; ice minimum occurred on September 10th, and the Arctic ice pack has been building since. But the trajectory is that we will have an ice-free Arctic Ocean soon, maybe next year, or the next. Polar bears, orcas, whales, seals, sharks, tuna, oysters, they are all going away. And so even with your great economy, you’re fucked anyway, because within most of our natural lifetimes, our food systems will collapse, and as they do, desperate humans will spread the collapse in a cascading failure that would, alone, cause the extinction of nearly every life form that humans consider “complex”. But even without humans eating everything in sight, there are the global methane releases, increasing rapidly as the waters warm, and souping up the atmospheric greenhouse effect by magnitudes. It’s going to get HOT. Your crops won’t grow, and your livestock won’t live. Neither will you. Neither, by the way, will your religion.

And did I mention the 402 operable nuclear reactors globally (http://www.worldnuclearreport.org/The-World-Nuclear-Industry-Status-Report-2016-HTML.html) that all rely upon oil and highly skilled technicians and engineers to keep running? When the oil stops, when the ships stop, they all go Fukushima on us, except a lot of those plants will be a lot worse than Fukushima. (“Under practically all criteria, the Chernobyl accident appears to be more severe than the Fukushima disaster: 7 times more cesium-137 and 12 times more iodine-131 released, 50 times larger land surface significantly contaminated, 7–10 times higher collective doses and 12 times more clean-up workers. ” Ibid.) Think 1,000 Fukushimas, all at the same time and for millennia afterward, all over the world. Think we’ll still be eating sushi?

Sooo … that’s the bad news. We’re all gonna die. What are you going to do about it?

Me? I’m gonna be Stone Lodge.

Love each other.  We haven’t got very much time left.

triceatops-et-al-wiped-out

 

Introducing: Storm Clouds Gathering

If you, dear reader, have not yet discovered Storm Clouds Gathering, well this is a great place to start.  Progressives and Neocons alike detest SCG’s dismantling of their propaganda structures and narratives, their blind-folding of the American public, their criminality, and their profit-power motives behind their perpetual wars.  Enjoy!

World War III: Who Will Be Blamed?

The War Prayer

War in Your Name

O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it — for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts.  Amen.
~ Mark Twain, The War Prayer
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17801.htm (“Twain apparently dictated it around 1904-05; it was rejected by his publisher, and was found after his death among his unpublished manuscripts. It was first published in 1923 in Albert Bigelow Paine’s anthology, Europe and Elsewhere.  The story is in response to a particular war, namely the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902, which Twain opposed. See Jim Zwick’s page “Mark Twain on the Philippines” for more of Twain’s writings on the subject.  Transcribed by Steven Orso (snorso@facstaff.wisc.edu)”)

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

Your World is a Fiction

Americans need to come to terms with the fact that they live in The Matrix, a world composed of fake information designed to control thought and behavior.” – Paul Craig Roberts, Institute for Political Economy; The Grand Manipulation, Feb. 6, 2015.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened:—Behold! human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.
And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.
… and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?
And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?
And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?
And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?
To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.
And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision,—what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them,—will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?
And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take refuge in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?
And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he is forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.
He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day?
Last of all he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.
He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold?
And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?
[Glaucon] Certainly, he would.
And if they were in the habit of conferring honours among themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such honours and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer,
‘Better to be the poor servant of a poor master,’ and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner?
[Glaucon] Yes, … I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner.
Imagine once more, I said, such a one coming suddenly out of the sun to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness?
And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the den, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable), would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.
This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed—whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.
I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you.
Moreover, I said, you must not wonder that those who attain to this beatific vision are unwilling to descend to human affairs; for their souls are ever hastening into the upper world where they desire to dwell; which desire of theirs is very natural, if our allegory may be trusted.
Yes, very natural.
And is there anything surprising in one who passes from divine contemplations to the evil state of man, misbehaving himself in a ridiculous manner; if, while his eyes are blinking and before he has become accustomed to the surrounding darkness, he is compelled to fight in courts of law, or in other places, about the images or the shadows of images of justice, and is endeavouring to meet the conceptions of those who have never yet seen absolute justice?
Anything but surprising, he replied.
Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye; and he who remembers this when he sees any one whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of the brighter life, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of light. And he will count the one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other; or, if he have a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below into the light, there will be more reason in this than in the laugh which greets him who returns from above out of the light into the den.
That, he said, is a very just distinction.
But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong when they say that they can put a knowledge into the soul which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes.
They undoubtedly say this, he replied.
Whereas, our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being, and of the brightest and best of being, or in other words, of the good.
Very true.
And must there not be some art which will effect conversion in the easiest and quickest manner; not implanting the faculty of sight, for that exists already, but has been turned in the wrong direction, and is looking away from the truth?
Yes, he said, such an art may be presumed.
And whereas the other so-called virtues of the soul seem to be akin to bodily qualities, for even when they are not originally innate they can be implanted later by habit and exercise, the virtue of wisdom more than anything else contains a divine element which always remains, and by this conversion is rendered useful and profitable; or, on the other hand, hurtful and useless. Did you never observe the narrow intelligence flashing from the keen eye of a clever rogue—how eager he is, how clearly his paltry soul sees the way to his end; he is the reverse of blind, but his keen eye-sight is forced into the service of evil, and he is mischievous in proportion to his cleverness?
Very true, he said.
But what if there had been a circumcision of such natures in the days of their youth; and they had been severed from those sensual pleasures, such as eating and drinking, which, like leaden weights, were attached to them at their birth, and which drag them down and turn the vision of their souls upon the things that are below—if, I say, they had been released from these impediments and turned in the opposite direction, the very same faculty in them would have seen the truth as keenly as they see what their eyes are turned to now.
Very likely.
Yes, I said; and there is another thing which is likely, or rather a necessary inference from what has preceded, that neither the uneducated and uninformed of the truth, nor yet those who never make an end of their education, will be able ministers of State; not the former, because they have no single aim of duty which is the rule of all their actions, private as well as public; nor the latter, because they will not act at all except upon compulsion, fancying that they are already dwelling apart in the islands of the blest.
Very true, he replied.
Then, I said, the business of us who are the founders of the State will be to compel the best minds to attain that knowledge which we have already shown to be the greatest of all—they must continue to ascend until they arrive at the good; but when they have ascended and seen enough we must not allow them to do as they do now.
What do you mean?
I mean that they remain in the upper world: but this must not be allowed; they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in the den, and partake of their labours and honours, whether they are worth having or not.
But is not this unjust? he said; ought we to give them a worse life, when they might have a better?
You have again forgotten, my friend, I said, the intention of the legislator, who did not aim at making any one class in the State happy above the rest; the happiness was to be in the whole State, and he held the citizens together by persuasion and necessity, making them benefactors of the State, and therefore benefactors of one another; to this end he created them, not to please themselves, but to be his instruments in binding up the State.
True, he said, I had forgotten.
Observe, Glaucon, that there will be no injustice in compelling our philosophers to have a care and providence of others; we shall explain to them that in other States, men of their class are not obliged to share in the toils of politics: and this is reasonable, for they grow up at their own sweet will, and the government would rather not have them. Being self-taught, they cannot be expected to show any gratitude for a culture which they have never received. But we have brought you into the world to be rulers of the hive, kings of yourselves and of the other citizens, and have educated you far better and more perfectly than they have been educated, and you are better able to share in the double duty. Wherefore each of you, when his turn comes, must go down to the general underground abode, and get the habit of seeing in the dark. When you have acquired the habit, you will see ten thousand times better than the inhabitants of the den, and you will know what the several images are, and what they represent, because you have seen the beautiful and just and good in their truth. And thus our State, which is also yours, will be a reality, and not a dream only, and will be administered in a spirit unlike that of other States, in which men fight with one another about shadows only and are distracted in the struggle for power, which in their eyes is a great good. Whereas the truth is that the State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best and most quietly governed, and the State in which they are most eager, the worst.
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1497/1497-h/1497-h.htm The quoted portions of Plato’s Republic contained herein are from an eBook provided by Project Gutenberg. The quoted text (only) of the eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org.

BFC – Buffalo Haze, Horse Butte, MT, May 2015

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Preface:  Since I wrote this, back in May 2015, it has lain here dormant, unread.  Since I wrote this, Buffalo Field Campaign and their affiliates and supporters have achieved amazing victories on behalf of Pte Oyate.  The buffalo now grazed peacefully this past summer on Horse Butte, where the hazing operation described below took place just the year before.  That was their work, their tears, their blood, and their connection and symbiosis with the magnificent American bison.  Together with journalist Chris Ketcham, Stephany Seay, media director for BFC, won media access to the Stephens Creek buffalo trap, to witness and document the round-up of Yellowstone buffalo for slaughter and medical testing (followed by slaughter).  They have also seen their share of heart-rending tragedy, and I have been there to witness some of that.  The gutpiles littered the area around Gardiner, MT, when I visited for twelve days last February.  We counted the buffalo and watched as they migrated down from the Park and toward mechanized annihilation, and were joined in our vigil by the ravens and the coyotes.

If you long to do something – anything – to stop the madness of our destructive culture, if you want to strive to protect one being in the world that is irreplaceable, if you yearn to live and experience the stark brutality of the nexus between our murderous culture and raw nature, help BFC.  Go out there.  They will put you up, they will feed you, and they will give you a family.  They can use your donations, as well.

You can reach Buffalo Field Campaign @buffalowild on Facebook and Messenger, or writing to them at

    Buffalo Field Campaign
    PO Box 957
    West Yellowstone, MT 59758
    United States

 

A Buffalo Haze.

The wind began to whip up out of the South, blowing sand into my eyes from the towering sand bluffs atop which we stood.  We were just outside of the western edge of Yellowstone Park.  There were 130 buffalo, plus calves, along the East Bluffs, the very edge of the Park.  It wasn’t idyllic in any way; the buffalo weren’t just hanging out.  They were exhausted.  Mothers stood, so their red dogs could drink, if they could stand.  Many couldn’t.  The haze had been paused, after an intense cat-n-mouse, nine-hour rush that had started from the north side of Horse Butte, a large peninsula jutting into Hebgen Lake.  I stood with my wife and three BFC folks, volunteers and coordinators, just behind a deputy from the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office and two agents of the Gallatin National Forest, the older of those two training his replacement.  We were being cordoned off, and had been told by the deputy that we could go no farther than we were.  This followed our vehicle being boxed in by the head D.O.L. (Montana Dept. of Livestock) agent, Tierney.  His name is pronounced “Tyranny.”  Our team had been bouncing all around Tyranny all day, cutting off to the side, and getting in front of the haze.  Our friend Stephany knew her business on that, and her and Tyranny have history.

I watched in rapt wonder, helpless to record the moment with the Leica camera BFC had provided me, as I had gone through my initial charged battery, and the other four batteries I’d begged and borrowed throughout the afternoon were similarly discharged.  The sim card on my personal camera was full, as well.

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Horsed riders surrounded the buffalo.  BFC co-founder Mike Meese, along with Natalie (who Mike had “hi-jacked” from our crew) appeared on the north boundary, out of the trees.  Pat and Annie were 150 yards east of us, just inside the Park boundary, where the rules change regarding state agents.  We had people, in other words, scattered all among the buffalo and the cowboys.  It had been that way all day.

A bull broke out of the herd, transiting out of the firs and over the lip of the sand bluffs, heading toward the South Fork of the Madison, heading for water.  Another buffalo followed, then two more.  Bridger — called “Bridge” by his buds —  spurred his horse to the edge, dismounted, and led his horse pell-mell down to the river, to cut the buffalo off.  It didn’t work, entirely.  He and his horse did succeed in turning the followers, but the instigator beat Bridger to the water, and he was gone.  He didn’t pause to drink.  Freedom!

At least for awhile.  This haze is not a one-off deal.  It happens pretty much every day in West Yellowstone (“West”).