How to Vote

I do not typically write about politics. I have found that politics as a conversation topic falls in line with religion and food as being the three most utterly useless things to try and discuss with people. Everyone has already made up their mind, and has absolutely no interest in what you think except to turn around and tell you how you are so wrong you have actually become sub-human in the process. This is why I am not writing about politics. I am writing about voting.

During this election, just like every election since I’ve been paying attention, a segment of society says they are going to make a stand by not voting. I wanted to say to these people “congratulations, you have struck on the single most pointless protest imaginable.” You, by refusing to vote, have indistinguishably joined the other forty percent of Americans too apathetic to vote. Your grand gesture of defiance is no more noticeable than a grain of sand on a beach. A grain of sand three feet under the surface of a beach no one goes to because of toxic waste and frequent shark attacks.

If you want to protest the system I suggest doing something with a little more imagination and pizazz than you brought to your last English midterm. Here are some possibilities I officially do not suggest due to potential legal consequences:

  • Pick up a paper ballot and eat it in front of the staff before walking out.
  • Pick up a paper ballot, go in to the bathroom and shout out “I need another!”
  • Pick up a paper ballot, tear it up, and throw it on the floor.
  • Spit in front of the voting booth (not on the voting booth, that may spread disease, but the floor is already disgusting).
  • Go into the voting booth and refuse to leave. Say you can’t figure out difference.
  • There are usually people outside trying to get last minute votes for their candidates. Host an impromptu oral exam. Ask them questions about the differences between the candidates. Ask real questions about the candidates’ policies. Bring the answers with you. Vote for whoever knows the most about the candidate they are supporting. Make it a big spectacle if you want.

That is how you vote for a new system. Simply not voting is apathetic and ignorable. Doing any of the above or anything else you can think of is a vote for a new system. A protest of the way things are. If you simply do not vote, at least do not kid yourself. You voted alright. You voted “yes, I’m fine with the system the way it is.” If this is not how you want to vote, it is your responsibility to act up. To make a scene. And to vote against the status quo. If you are shy, you could even just do a write-in vote for “none of the above.” If enough people vote that way it will get attention.

Voting is not limited to election day either. Your every action is a vote. And being mindful of this is enough to make real changes in our personal lives, potentially changes in the lives of those around us, and even national or international changes.

Voting starts with what you buy. Every dollar you spend is a vote. If you spend a dollar at Walmart you have told Walmart you approve of them. You approve of their business practices, the way they produce their products, the way they treat their employees, and all the rest. Not only did you vote for it, you directly paid for it to continue. You voiced your support and they listened. If you protested Walmart coming to town, do not hand over your money because they came in anyway. Doing so tells Walmart they actually are wanted, and those who protested were just confused. They wanted Amway products or something.

It is not just Walmart. If you do not want to support OPEC, Exxon, etc, then do not buy gas. If you do not agree with DuPont Chemical, or Monsanto, or Weyerhaeuser, or whatever…do not buy their products. Your purchase of gas, of non-locally produced food, of paper made from rainforest, etc voices your support for the system and all it entails. You voted in favor of unsustainable agricultural practices doomed to leave the human race in famine. You voted in favor of the rich versus the poor. You voted in favor of imperialism. You voted in favor of the destruction of ecosystems so complicated no human technology or society has even come close. An ecosystem so unique that in 3.5 billion years of life and nearly 200 million square miles of planet (510 million square kilometers) it has only ever appeared once. And you voted to destroy it so you could eat oranges in January? Because the t-shirt was three dollars less?

If you buy a t-shirt made in Bangladesh you voted in support of the slave labor used to produce it. In support of the toxic chemicals leached into the ecosystem. In support of the corporations that profit from it. Without your support none of it would be possible.

Every action you take is a vote. Most people are voting in favor the status quo. Why? Because its easy. Why you do it is understandable. Its hard to vote against the status quo in this way. It requires planning, foresight, talking to people who live near you. Imagine it! Actually knowing the person who grows the food you eat. Who knitted the sweater that keeps you warm. Imagine the insolence of it all. Telling the status quo to take a hike, and embarrassing a different way all in one fell sweep.

You cannot help but vote. So vote with your convictions. Vote with courage. And remember to vote on November 4th.

Losing the Battle of Words

This may come as a surprise to some of our readers. But I’m coming out against “going green.” That’s right, I think every single person should turn to the governments and corporations with green initiatives and go :-P. Being Green once meant something, it involved a concern for the environment, an awareness, and a choice to do no harm. Now its a clever marketing campaign. So, fellow concerned humans, we have lost the word Green.

Am I over reacting? Aren’t these initiatives a good thing? Yes and no. They’re a good thing in the sense that its something. At the same time they are the most damaging attack on the environmental movement in history, because it leaves the uninformed believing something productive is being done. But since these changes are little more than a bandaid on a broken leg. What these so-called “Green” companies are really doing is soothing a finally somewhat-riled populace back into complacency. A complacency that essentially gives these corporations and governments a green light to go ahead and do whatever they want, so long as they bill it as being environmentally responsible.

Frostburg State University recently began its Green initiative. I’d give you a link and the name of initiative but it has had seven names in as many months as they endeavor to come up with something clever. They ordered fancy plastic recycling bins, and overruled an suggestion the school simply put stickers on the trash cans they already have. They are buying a increasing percentage of their electricity from so-called renewable sources. They brag amount how much it is, because it shows how serious they are. Too bad they aren’t serious enough to turn the computers off on the weekends.

Organic food producers are generally viewed as being a highlight of our generation’s burgeoning awareness. Unfortunately, Organic(TM) is owned by the government, not by the movement. So organically grown food has to meet certain standards, but the reality is many times the animals and plants live no better or more sustainably than the industrially produced versions. When there are local, family farms treating their animals well who cannot legally claim their food is organic. “Free-range” chickens often live in a barn their whole lives. They’re “free-range” because during the last week of their lives a little door in the back opens up on to a 2 by 2 foot pen most of them never find and couldn’t fit more than a couple chickens. In the mean time, birds kept in a chicken tractor do not qualify.

The next time we have a phrase, we need to trademark it. That way it can’t be twisted out of our grasp and made to serve consumerism.

– Benjamin Shender

The Mountain Top Quarterly

The Mountain Top School has announced the creation of a quarterly magazine to host articles from any writer taking any perspective on the concept of creating a new future for humanity. The magazine will be available for free in PDF form, or available in bound copy at lulu.com for the price of printing. This could potentially be a wonderful contribution to the general movement, allowing all of these disparate voices to be heard in one place. Or it could be absolutely nothing. So spread the word! All articles meeting the criteria will be published, even if you are a completely new voice. See the details here.

– Benjamin Shender

What They Don’t Want You To Know

In the middle of the eighteenth century, Europeans went to war with a tribal group called the Ohio. This war was a part of the larger Seven Year’s War (French and Indian War). The whole affair was fairly typical of the time. The Europeans lied to the Ohio, and then tried to steal what they wanted. When the Ohio fought back they became the target of genocide. The fact you have probably never heard of it is also not atypical. To most people the American expansion west came with the Natives simply vanishing off the face of Earth. The fact this is nonsense rarely registers. The truth is the Natives were slaughtered both purposefully by acts of war and aggression, and accidentally by disease and cultural contamination.

The war was not a small one. More people died on each side than during the whole of the Spanish-American war, even though most people who never heard of the Ohio can at least dredge up a vague recollection of the Spanish-American war (“yeah, one of my teachers talked about that. I don’t remember much about it.”). The Natives offered a number of possible alternatives to the war, including the complete acculturation of the Ohio. The Europeans rejected them all and pursued the extermination of the Ohio, who naturally took exception to the European plan.

This was also typical, the more civilized a society becomes the more warlike it tends to be. Until the Europeans made contact in 1492, the Natives of the Americas had no experience with the concept of total war, and they never really embraced it like the Europeans did. And in this not unusual war, the Ohio lost, which was abouquet_captives.jpglso not unusual. At the end of the war each side agreed to return their captives to the others. The freed Natives ran with joy back to their people. The whites had to be bound and dragged back to white society. The children were especially unhappy about it. Although this instance was one of the most dramatic, it was also not uncommon. Indeed, it became so problematic several colonies and later states, made defecting to the Natives punishable by death.

Miranda and I have agreed to write this article because we have both heard people asking, “why would people forsake modern civilization willingly?” The answer we give here is simple: because they always have. Given a simple and straightforward comparison, civilized people the world over give up everything they have been socialized to want at the drop of a hat. Why? Because they want something better, and when they see they can have it they grab for it. The only reason modern civilization still exists at all is a combination of carefully told lies. First, we are better off today, civilization is a story of constant progress from then to now. Second, it would be impossible to change anyway. And third, any attempt at something better is doomed because either “they won’t let you” or because “people are too stupid.”

To the first, this has been disproven so many times over I can no longer even seriously write a rebuttal. Read any scholarly work on native peoples in comparison to modern civilization published in the past fifty years. Seriously, any one at all. They had little illness, better health, more free time, and at least as much art, music, dance, religion, and philosophy as most modern people do.

Second, of course it is impossible. Why is it impossible? Because no one will do it because everyone knows its impossible. Its a very clever lie, no one can come up with a really successful counter example of success because few ever try. And few ever try because it is “impossible.” Except, there are examples of success to varying degrees. Everything from the circus (dead in most countries) to Dancing Rabbit (still going strong) is a success to one degree or another. What actually seems to be impossible is learning how to do better from mistakes, rather than learning from failure not to try.

To the third: if they will not let me, that is fine. I was not actually planning on asking for permission anyway. “They” can either keep up or be left behind, but I for one will not be stopped by a faceless “they” who are apparently only interested in money and power. I am not even convinced “they” exist. As far as too stupid goes, we seem to have reached a place where the rest of the human race (excepting us and those we are complaining with) are so stupid and incompetent that it really is a wonder the government is not handing out pamphlets entitled “How to Breathe and Make Fart Jokes.” Believe it or not, almost all of us are quite capable of making decisions and living a lifestyle we spent the better part of 3 million years evolving.

Beyond the examples we have at the edge of expanding civilization, we even have historical examples of people within civilization embracing nomadism and collectivism. No, I am not talking about communism, which was neither nomadic nor terribly collective.vasnetsov_acrobats.jpg

Throughout the Middle Ages, there were caravans of traders and tinkerers who moved through Europe. Sometimes these people were genuine Gypsies, other times they were not. While generally valued as traders and tinkerers, these people were never welcome for long. Because if they stayed in one place for too long, people would begin to disappear. It did not take long for towns to figure it was the nomad’s fault. What took a while to become clear was the people who disappeared willingly left their lives to join the caravans, which they obviously saw some appeal in.

Another very common example of this same phenomena is the circus. People actually did run away to join the circus. No one runs away to join corporate America, in fact, joining corporate American is what happens if you do not run away. Of course, the circus as such is almost completely dead in the United States now. CirPhoto by, Harvey Henkelmancus performances are a corporate business like any other. You can even buy stock in Barnum and Bailey. There are some circuses as such still running around the world though, and they still strike people every year as a better way of life than the one being offered to them by modern society at large.

We wrote this in response to several people who have asked why we thought people would choose to abandon civilization given the chance. Our response is simple: because whenever given the choice, we always have.

– Benjamin Shender and Miranda Vivian

The Degeration of Communication

This article is a little off topic, and really more of a rant than anything else. But its been bugging me for a while.

We’ve done it. It took thousands of years of development, but we’ve finally done it. The first breakthrough was a series of improvements in paper and ink, allowing for our writing to survive with a greater degree of legibility for longer. Perhaps the biggest break through until the 1800s was the movable type printing press (a technology that can easily be used sustainably by the way). And then telegraph lines, phone lines, and now communication satellites. With the Internet we have, for all intents and purposes, true instantaneous communication between any two people anywhere on Earth. And now that we have finally achieved this truly remarkable feat, we have lost the ability to communicate. The irony would have had Sophocles in stitches.

What we have lost is obvious in some ways, and hidden in others. The most obvious thing we have lost is the ability, or even inclination, to use correct grammar. Using our language correctly isn’t difficult or complicated, but it does require a certain degree of mindfulness that our era does not reward. To write correctly requires that you pay attention to what you are writing, which is difficult when the only thing we reward is the speed at which the finished draft can be delivered. This has so thoroughly ingrained itself into our society that most teachers no longer even try to teach grammar to students.

This is the most obvious when we examine commas. Teachers either tell their students to “do whatever sounds right” or “do not use commas.” Neither of which is helpful. What sounds right may not read right, and commas have three uses, only three uses, and they must be used when those three situations occur. They are used to separate elements in a list. They are used with coordinating conjunctions (see above for an example using the word “and”). And they are used to separate a dependent clause from the remainder of the sentence. It sounds more complicated than it really is.

Another thing we have lost is the art of the argument. The Greeks and the Romans raised this to a high art that scholars in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance tried to duplicate, and only occasionally succeeded. But we consider it verbose and obfuscated. With instant communication came the sound byte. Now we have to capture an argument in a single catch phrase, which is ultimately only the conclusion of the argument. The argument itself is no longer heard or even always made. This has had another effect, since the argument is no longer being made we can no longer analyze the argument. So we are left with either accepting or rejecting the conclusion as given. A determination we make with no better information than whether or not we think it sounds good.

Perhaps the most regretful change of all is that we have lost the art of the insult. We live in an age in which we can insult people that a century ago we would have never even known existed. And now the most brilliant insult we can muster is “yo mama.” Once people could call each other mangy cur; filthy vermin; or even an uncouth, dishonorable, degenerate vagabond. And the reason we have lost this once beloved art form is a combination of two changes. First, we now live in the age of the sound byte, while the best insults tend to the form of soliloquies. And second, quite frankly, most people don’t know enough words to avoid sounding repetitive.

And so, I beg you, please. Even if you can’t figure out a comma. Even if you won’t make a complete argument. Please, come up with something a little more devastating than the sentence fragment that is “yo mama.”

-Benjamin Shender

The Modern Nomad

How many of us just wish to pack up and move away? I know I do, frequently. As it happens, I am a person who does pack up and move away rather often. There are others out there. Some that desire a move, and some that move as often as possible. It may be that their family moves around a lot. It may be that their job requires them to move. It may be that they are college students and have to switch dorms or houses every few semesters. It may be that they are part of a culture that is nomadic by nature.

The circus is a community of nomads. A circus community is similar to a small town. A small town that happens to be on wheels. It is a community that lives, eats, works, and travels together. Community kitchen on wheels, offices on wheels, bedrooms on wheels, and in some cases if the circus is large enough, a school on wheels for children. They stop only to entertain along the way. And resupply as needed, of course. Everything they need is carried with them. Every person within the circus is important. They could be a ticket seller or they could be the master of ceremonies. Either way, they are a community and no person is more important the rest. The circus folk are modern nomads.

Similar to the circus is the carnival. Carnival workers tend to be likened to that of gypsies and are often accused of cheating customers whenever they can get away with it. Whether they do or not, carnival people spend so much time together, they become family. They become a community and are also modern nomads.

Those that enjoy the RV lifestyle are also nomads. Primarily these people are retired individuals who have become tired of living in one place. They are people that love to travel and would ideally do it for the rest of their lives. The majority of RVers travel with the seasons. Travel south during the winter months and in the north during the summer. This lifestyle is more family based, because instead of moving an entire town, they move their house. While they primarily spend time with their families or alone, depending on who they are traveling with, they tend to make new friends easily when coming across another RVer. Many RVer’s live off of retirement money, work at campgrounds temporarily, or make products to sell and live off of those profits.

Another modern nomadic is the Boat Dweller. They are similar to the those that travel in RV’s with one major difference; they travel in a boat. And rather than traveling by roads, they travel by water. When they dock for an extended period of time in boat yards, they become part of a boat neighborhood. Though it is temporary, those that live at the neighborhood on the water become a community. Then, as the weather clears, others leave, or the seas call to them again, they disperse, leaving their little neighborhood behind. Communication with the land can be tricky of course. Luckily, the Internet, cell phones, and satellite communications do the job to keep these nomadic individuals in contact.

Then there are those that may not even consider themselves nomadic. These are people that can’t seem to stay in one place. They move as often as possible, even if it is just a block away. They get rid of things regularly, not wanting anything to weigh them down. They are highly adaptable, able to adjust to a new town and a new house quickly. They thrive with change. These are people that are not likely to be happy living in one house for the rest of their lives. These are people that one day might be in a circus, or living on a boat, or driving about in an RV. Or, perhaps, these are people that would adapt well to living within a community of people that live off the land, live off the grid, live sustainably, and move around regularly.

Perhaps they feel within them what many have forgotten. Our ancestors moved with the seasons. They followed the herds they were hunting. They used the land and then moved on before they destroyed it.

I don’t believe that any of us were meant to be sedentary.

– Miranda Vivian

The Nature of Rebellion

Societies change when a sufficient number of people rebel against the status quo. So, what is a rebellion?

Most people simply define a rebel as someone who is against the status quo. But this does not really fit very well. Believing that the status quo is bad is not an action. And, if nothing else, rebellions are certainly active.

But perhaps more damning to that point of view is that being against something is not the same as being for something. Successful rebellions always have a goal. They know what they do not like, and more importantly, they know what they want to replace it with.

Most people who are considered rebels today, and the majority of people who consider themselves to be rebels, would be better classified as being counter-culture. They act in opposition to the dominant culture in protest, but these people will never change society as a whole. After all, their beliefs and practices are based on being different. They define themselves based on the dominant society, on not being “the man” or “square” or what have you. If they were to actually become the dominant culture, then they would be “the man” or “square” or whatever. Indeed, their very existence actually strengthens the society they believe they are acting in opposition to.

There are three mechanisms by which such counter-cultural action strengthens society. First, it serves as an outlet for people who might otherwise work towards a new society. Second, since they are in opposition to the dominate culture, many people may find aspects of how they “rebel” distasteful. This distaste leads them to the conclusion that, if this is the alternative, then the society as is must not be all that bad after all. The third mechanism is fairly self-fulfilling. Since all these people who are rebelling against the dominate culture are unable to make any substantial change then people conclude that no change is possible. The fact that the counter-cultural movements have no interest in changing society at large is fairly irrelevant.

Of course, changing societies is possible. The main issue is that you need rebels. Real ones, not guys with black lipstick. A real rebel sees a situation they do not like and makes an active effort to change it into a situation they do like.

A real rebel would not see our modern society and go put on a trench-coat. A real rebel would try to figure out what they did not like, what they would prefer, and how to make the first become the second. If a real rebel saw what the world was and hated it, they would invent a society for themselves, without regard for the society at large. This means both that they would be willing to change anything that did not suit, and that they would not change something simply because it was there. If such a person managed to convince enough other people that their vision of a new society was better than the current one, then we would have a revolution.

-Benjamin Shender

Nemoism

There has always been a lot of dissension between primitivists, anarchists, survivalists, Ishmaelites, etc over the perceived bastardization of their causes. Basically, everyone is sick and tired of being confused with everyone else.

One of the main problems is that all of these groups have different levels and most carry a lot of baggage some people would rather avoid.

Primitivism may mean anything from refusing to use anything invented after 10,000 BCE, to believing indigenous people live in a better way than we do, to believing that abstract thought is evil.

Anarchism can mean anything from wearing black trenchcoats and cursing at people who couldn’t care less about your rebellion to blowing up powerplants and everything in between. Many so-called anarchists are more interested in chaos than in anarchy.

Survivalism could be the hard-core guy living alone in a cave. He could also be the guy who makes sure he always looks both ways before crossing the street. Some have bunkers full of rice. Others make sure they have a knife and cigarette lighter.

Ishmaelites can simply think some of Quinn’s ideas are good or they may think Quinn is the second-coming and anything anyone else says must be wrong.

In response, many people simply refuse to categorize themselves. This can work, except that it makes communication very confusing and you always sound very self-important claiming that you are so unbelievably cool and unique that there is no word that can describe you.

People who do this usually end up coming across as either so arrogant that it causes physical pain in nearby plant life, or a lot like a ditzy valley girl claiming she’s “spiritual” or a “wytch.”

So, here we come. Luckily, we’re so unbelievably cool and unique that we can solve this problem. From now on primitivanarchisurivialishmaelites will called Nemoists. Nemoists support sustainability, living with the land instead of against it, community, and not dying. Nemoist comes at the conclusion of a long selection process that we spent all afternoon on. Terraism came in at a close second. But the CIA insisted we change it. Other contenders included scientism, naturism, wearerightism, communism, and Bob.

This takes effect immediately.

-The Management
  Benjamin Shender
  Miranda Vivian