January 4, 2011

A friend wrote this to me and asked if I might put it somewhere – something about about not wanting to offend friends and family. I haven’t changed any of it, and I rather like the sentiments, so why don’t you take a minute to reflect on the good ole Christmas spirit?
I have a confession to make: Christmas…really bothers me.
I mean, yes, there are the usual erudite bah-humbug reasons why Christmas is ridiculous: most of us aren’t really practicing Christians, the commercialism and competition surrounding gift-giving, the beautiful ideal that is never quite reached that leaves someone, without fail, weeping at the lack of perfection…I’ll spare us the rest of the rambling list about lies to children and poor translation of customs and symbols that has led to the Disney circus parade of characters that swarm over us in a dizzying tornado for just over a month each year.
What I WILL talk about, the part that bothers me most, is the rottenness of the warm fuzzy core of Christmas. More than Little Baby Jesus, Christmas is supposed to be about family and togetherness. It never really was about Jesus anyway: it’s a celebration after a year’s harvest. It’s a time to kick back amid the bounty of a year’s hard work and indulge in a little excess and catch up with people as the busy earth breathes a sigh after birthing of her muchness and prepares to roll over to sleep for a bit.
We get together to celebrate our successful journey through a year and to fight seasonally affective depression in the darkest part of the year. We remind each other that the growing season will return and we praise the sun for consenting to give us just a little more light every day.
We have lost any of the original relevances of our yearly celebration and most of us don’t miss it because that is not our reality anymore. Fine. But the sickness that plagues us now is that we don’t celebrate a job well done, we celebrate our yearly shortcomings and pray to the gods of plastic items that they will somehow help us assuage the guilt we carry for the sin of being too busy to have meaningful exchanges with people throughout the year. We hope that we can purchase something of value, since we’ve failed to make anything of value ourselves.
Our Christmas, with all its stress and expense and etiquette is a thick and glittery plastic sham that we uphold as a sacred social contract: You don’t call my bluff and I won’t call yours. But that emperor has no clothes, friends! Plastic crap and other novelties given under quasi-duress do not create a meaningful exchange.
My brother and his wife (who doesn’t really like me, I don’t think) dutifully got me a present because I am a box to check on the family list. They do not need to get me a present. I don’t really need anything or merit anything just because it’s Christmas, anyway. And besides, they have a new baby girl and Amber quit her job in November, so I know that the money can go to other things. But they did as we
all do: they wrote the list of all the people they are obliged to get gifts for, searched the corners of their minds for some quirk of mine, and went searching for a deal on something – not too expensive but jazzy enough to pass – that would fulfill the responsibility to get someTHING for all blood relatives, even those that have been off in other countries and on the other side of the state for some years now.
The want that gift to communicate that they ‘know’ me. That ‘knowing’ must then represent a bond and a connection. We still know each other, right? See – I know you like tea and art, so I picked out these TWO Thomas Kincaide mug/tea gifty set thingies! (It must not matter that we only see each other if I happen to talk to my sister on a day that they’ve actually come to town). It was the same with the other side of the family – I got a novelty chocolate-making set that is good for approximately 2 oz of prepared chocolate from my fiance’s sister. God help us.
I do not want to demonize my brother or my sister-in-law- they are fine people just trying to do the best they can at being adults. And I know there is a wealth of criticism reserved for those ingrates who would “look a gift-horse in the mouth.” A gift is a gift, right, and one should accept it graciously – that’s what we’re taught. But I think we’re taught that because gift-giving is so often not just wrong-headed, but wrong-hearted. THAT is the problem I see. Giving gifts just to check off the names on the list, or even giving gifts to make up for a year’s lack of meaningful interaction isn’t really giving at all, is it? It’s more like plastering a bandaid on a finger that isn’t cut or, worse yet, shoving a mug/tea gifty set into the hands of a guy who’s just lost a phlange…or his wife – it’s inappropriate. And while that kind of gift-giving may require some kind of monetary sacrifice it doesn’t actually represent love, thought, craft, work, or celebration of much of anything – at least, to my eye it doesn’t.
You see, I don’t WANT a novelty chocolate kit, even if it is Fair Trade Certified. I despise Thomas Kincaide and the cookies that came with each plastic-wrapped set contained milk whey and I’m lactose-intolerant. And I can forgive the whey and the novelty and be happy that these guys were thinking of me and trying so hard to find a match for me and a thing so I would KNOW they were thinking of me. But the unspoken burning truth on my tongue is that I do not WANT things from the people in my life. I don’t care about manufactured crap – in fact I rail against it constantly. Instead, I would like to spend more TIME with my brother. I want him to know just how much I love him and I wish more than anything that I could help him understand me, make me less of an uncomfortable anomaly to him (and the whole stinkin’ rest of the family, if I had my ‘d’ruthers). I WANT to be able to talk more easily with my sister-in-law…like maybe dig up some of the misunderstandings of our early relationship and settle them instead of pasting over them and pretending everything has always been dandy. I want for her to see that me just being me and living and breathing and having opinions isn’t any kind of judgment on HER. But I’ll likely not ever receive any of those gifts; instead I’ll forever get novelty crap that doesn’t even really suit me.
I say this, and I’m going to follow it with a truth about myself that will seem self-righteous, but bear with me: I do the best I can to make gifts for people at Christmas. I figure if I’m going to participate – and, hey, I have to admit that, for all the reasons it’s bullshit, I still like being with people and sharing good food and catching up – if I’m going to participate, I’ll do it on my terms and in a way that feels deeply satisfying. It helps that I am always hijacked and taken over by my right brain in the autumn.
It wakes me up at night and compels me to create. I meditate on the essences of the important people in my life and create things that I present to them at Christmas gatherings. Granted, I am bothered by twinges of doubt and embarrassment that my gifts won’t be understood, that they’re ugly, that they’ll never be used; my packages always look strange and out-of-place…sometimes they are foods or oddly-shaped, bizarrely-trimmed bundles or just naked products amongst the neat and glitzy packages and bows. But people always seem to like my inexpensive hippie-gifts best, and I think that it’s because my gifts represent a culmination and a connection and a communication – from my essence to theirs. It also demonstrates a sacrifice of time and creative energy that mass-produced landfill grist just doesn’t possess. I received a painting from my mother-in-law that she had done from one of my photographs. I was so – touched?, astounded?, overcome? – that I could hardly speak. In her way, she had used her art to give a nod to mine. THAT is a gift that is thoughtful, loving, meaningful, and, in a true sense, an offering of oneself. I think that’s what Christmas is supposed to be.
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Kalahari Capitalism

November 6, 2010

I read a news story earlier today that really illustrates my problem with this capitalism we let run our lives. In Botswana, in southern Africa, there is a community called the Kalahari Bushmen. They have lived in the area for 20,000 years, longer than any world empire, longer than we like to admit civilization has ever existed. Now, because of the discovery of the world’s richest diamond deposits on their ancestral homelands, these people are being pushed off their land by the government, which, oh, by the by – is in negotiations with Gem Diamonds, a global diamond mining company. (they call them production, but come on now – these things come out of the ground: you didn’t make them – you cut and polished them.)

The Botswana government is actively pushing the Kalahari out of their homes, capping off wells, taking away water distribution trucks, removing storage tanks and water pumps. The Kalahari Basin is mostly desert, and the people there depend largely on underground water to survive. Without access to water, people and livestock die, and so the people there are slowly migrating, abandoning their ancient culture for the benefit of their government and a giant diamond conglomerate – how much of the $3.3 billion dollar payoff will ever reach the disenfranchised Kalahari people? How many of those diamonds will come here, be sold to American young men to give to their loved ones? It staggers that anyone could do the calculus of diamonds against human and animal lives and come out in favor of this destruction. It requires a dishonest and myopic view of the exchange going on, one which does not value life, which does not value humanity, or history, or culture.

Let’s do that math right here – the government of Botswana stands to gain $3,300,000,000 dollars, or roughly 11 million $300 iPhones. The remainder of the diamond deposit, which surely is valued far about $3.3 billion – else why would Gem Diamonds bother to excavate it? – will go to a London-based Diamond group with no interests in Botswana. Aside from mining jobs, the company will not be putting money into Botswana or the hands of the Kalahari Bushmen, rightful owners of the diamonds being poached out from under them. Look at those mining job pictures; don’t you want to do that? It sure worked out well for those Congolese.

Let’s go a bit more into that math – $3.3 billion dollars is still a good bit of change. There are 2,029,307 people in Botswana, as estimated by the CIA. That means the government stands to gain approximately $1629.17 per person in this deal. Is that impressive? Would you stand by and let one of the most ancient living cultures die out for $1629.17? How many thousands of dollars will it cost the government to throw the Kalahari off their land? What will become of these people, these ranchers, once their livelihood is taken from them? Won’t they become beggars, nomads, a burden on the system they now are forced to survive within? In all likelihood, the government of Botswana will spend much of their ill-gotten gains dealing with the problems arising out of the destruction of a people. Already, they have had the most costly court case in their nation’s history – how many more will there be? Then there are the costs of mining – polluted land, destroyed water tables, demolished ecosystems – generations off damage, all outside the calculation. Thus, does it not seem the calculus of government and corporation is flawed here – they give no value to the damage they do, and thus even from an economic perspective, this is no good deal for the people of Botswana, or for the people of Earth. We are all poorer for the loss of people different than us, for the loss of good land, for the destruction of life.

Capitalism is worthless in determining true values – if the calculation does not include suffering, environmental damage, human and animal loss, culture, art, language, or history, then the value being cited is accepted only through ignorance or conscious malice. Are $3.3 billion in imaginary value and a lot of shiny stones fair compensation for valueless true wealth and beauty? Capitalism says yes, but intelligence, emotion, and honestly will say no.

Yet here it is, in naked violence – a people, the ancient caretakers of their land, are forced by the thousands out of their homes under threat of death by thirst, all so that a soulless corporation and a corrupt government can dip their beaks. A culture is destroyed, a way of life forever shattered, so that people in the richest nations in the world can buy price-inflated rocks they’ve been programmed to need through manipulative advertising. The irony? Diamonds, these supposed gifts of love, would be so common if not for the market manipulation by companies like Gem Diamond that there would no impetus to mine to mine them in Botswana at all. There you have it – naked greed, supply manipulation, open robbery, corruption of government, destruction of true value for artificial, all to fill an demand that was created by the diamond companies themselves within the past 80 years – I can think of no better epitaph for the whole corrupt crony Capitalist system.

When the supposed libertarians and capitalist sympathizers of the world talk about freeing business from government, they are romanticizing the encounter. They mistake who is in command. Capitalism is war, fought by different means. It is the pursuit of profit at the expense of every other value humanity has ever held dear. It is the religion of the libertarian that the government which does not interfere with business is the best sort, but in this world the problem is not governments fighting against or blocking corporations from their actions, but instead from massive multi-national corporations so powerful that they can buy governments and surpass them completely. A land of free capitalism is a land where life does not matter, where profit is God, where all value ceases to exist save ability to money. Money has no real value. You cannot purchase love, you cannot have a life-changing conversation in exchange for any amount of it, and once it becomes the standard of value, then all life becomes valueless.

We are not the first people to have discovered the terror of capitalists run wild, but ours is the first generation to have to deal with the deathless global amoebas of the modern corporations. The governments we have today exist because our ancestors created them – the regulations on business exist because unregulated business creates a feudal state, ruled not by divinity-claiming monarchs, but by the profit motive itself – in the end, everyone loses. There will always be a better competitor, a more efficient, less human method of creating that good or providing this service, and as the dollar signs pile up, so do the bodies. The impoverished classes swell – we have never had more poor on this planet than today. We have never had more wealth on this planet either. The tiny ruling classes of each society shrink, as the very highest among them crush the others to rise ever higher. The actions of all humanity have never supported fewer so well. The bonepile grows, and eventually the last Capitalist will succumb, the final victim of the system we created and which grew to consume us all.

I hope mass consciousness will turn against the cancer we have set loose upon ourselves. I hope that we will stop this suicidal run before Earth is rendered unliveable, before all human life becomes slave to profit. Today it is the Bushmen, tomorrow it will be another people who cannot defend themselves, and one day soon it will be your and my time as well. I will leave it here, with a man who knew what we are dealing with all too well. Benito Musselini -“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power”

-k

“If you’d like to let Gem Diamonds know how you feel about their business dealings, here is their contact page. Here’s the Botswana US Embassy’s info also, but I’m not sure they want to be involved in this sort of thing.

A Bright Future in Sales

April 28, 2010

I’ve been busy, not doing much in the way of fun but at least getting my feet back under me. This past week I did a metric fuckload of interviews, broke my personal oath to never work anything that required me to wear a suit in the process, but as luck would have it I managed to bail out of that noise quickly enough.

Actually here’s a fun story – last Thursday I had a reply to one of my endless resume submissions from a company downtown. Despite not knowing anything about them or their business I did an interview, didn’t honestly give a fuck about them because of the suit thing, so of course they loved my “confidence” and invited me to start Monday. Desperate for money and deeply foreboding I said sure.

Cue ominous music.

I almost didn’t go – it pretty much came down to my mom, Natalie, and my bank account telling me to get the fuck over myself. Money is important for survival they keep telling me. Don’t be an idiot. Besides, the salary offered promised to get me out of debt in a matter of months, and on the road faster than unemployment and I really do like not some bank’s bitch.

Monday bright and unhappy early I put on the whole jacket, tie, stupid shoes kit and went in to the office. I don’t even know to describe the loathing I was feeling for myself; I was pretty much ready to keep driving into Mexico, but I eventually hit the office and went inside to see the super-perky future coworkers.

“no fucking way” said the inside voice. “this is goddamn ridiculous.”

I was right, but I wish I could say I’d gone with instinct and walked back out. Instead I went inside, played fake Monday cheerful with the rest of the place, and got assigned to job-shadow a guy named Mike. We did that smarmy “hey nice to meet you person im going to be require to spend a lot of time around” greeting, got into his car, drove back north.

Mike was the first person in this whole scheme who actually told me what they did. Here’s the short version: we were going to drive to an area, park the car, and start walking into businesses one by one asking them to order office supplies from us. I’d just signed up to be one of those direct-marketing fuckers that the entire world wants to kill on sight. Pay comes on a straight commission, the salary and benefits in their ad having vanished, and work days would be 7:15am to 5pm, business professional dress required. All salespeople use their own cars and aren’t recompensated for jack fucking shit. I would have jumped out of the car window right then except for 2 things – first I really wanted to not die jumping out of the window on the highway and second there was this little thought that said “there will probably be a funny story at least.”

We drove into a business park in Mike’s “T” or territory, parked, and started walking. We pretty much just chose a direction and then followed the “tight to the right” method of walking into every single business in the righthand side of the world asking whether they would like to buy some office supplies from 2 guys in suits. I’m sure I didn’t help sales, because I was looking at faces exactly like my own would be if some asshole guys came into my work at 9am and tried to sell me something – on top of that, I agreed with them! Still, people are naturally polite to suits (which is why we’re wearing them) and we’d always manage to get just past that it’s-awkward-to-just-throw-them-out threshold before making our pitch.

Here’s how it goes:
Smarmy salesfucker – “Hey happy Monday” (big ole shiteating grin)
Victim – (confusion, polite smile) “Hi, can I help you?”
SSF – “We’re here to talk with whoever in charge of ordering your office supplies.”
V – (slow creeping horror) “Umm… That would be me. Some variation of no.”
SSF – “Well, we’ve got this great deal…”
V – “No.”
SSF – “Can I ask you some questions? (No pause) When you do buy office supplies, where do you usually get them?”
V – “Wherever is cheap and close.”
SSF – “and what if I could get you them cheaper? Would you be interested then?”
V – “No.” (please go away now very evident in body language.)
SSF – (Ignoring his victim) “I’m going to prattle on about some more shit and keep you from your work…”
V – “please god save me! (or) GET OUT (or) Sorry, very busy, leave now.”

It was soul-crushing. I hated us after 10 minutes, and we did 6 1/2 hours. The only thing I can say tempted me about this job was the inevitable supply of stories ending in “and then the secretary snapped and tried to stab me with a letter opener” sure to result from being the least-welcome man on Earth.

Mike was a cool guy though – he was pretty much my exact foil, a conservative, risk-averse, capitalist who desired little more than to get a steady job, a little wifey, and settle down to live the dream of corporate wage-slave suckery. Can’t say I understand him, but to each his own. Oh, and get this – 2 hours in, when I’m questioning whether I ought to just run screaming, he told me he had turned down a teaching gig in Korea to work this job. Not kidding – foreign teaching gig, door to door office supply sales. How often can you say you’ve met your exact opposite?

We did the power lunch, where I was forced by business park geography to break my fast food fasting, ate shitty tacos and talked pyramid schemes, I mean company advancement, I mean pyramid schemes. Essentially you work 50-60 hour weeks for $400-600 per week, grind yourself to death and hope for a promotion. After a year if you haven’t killed yourself, you can hang the tattered shreds of your soul on a $100,000 per year paycheck – or at least that is what the advertising says, and I trust advertising as far as I can spit a mouthful of office supplies.

What I do know is this – we talked to people in 93 different offices, from corporate banking headquarters to small-time startups to family-owned businesses. We saw a hundred vacant places, a catholic university, a WWII veteran’s museum, and about 25 psychiatrist’s offices. We talked to CEOs, secretaries, accoutants, a televangelist, and one poor guy who took the wrong smoke break.

And in all that time we sold not a goddam pencil.

Straight commission work – we made nothing. We lost money, since we both drove there, and I left my sandwich in my car, so I bought lunch too. We got a lifetime supply of unhappy glares, and I wore a fucking suit too.

On the way back to the office Mike was pretty glum, so we got red bulls and listened to country rock as I tried desperately to convince him to get out of the job, out of the country, out of his own life really. No dice – some people aren’t ever going to climb outside of the box. After talking with the boss and thanking both he and Mike for their time I quit as politely as possible and drove home.

I couldn’t believe people actually live like that -still don’t – and I had to blow off some nervous “what-the-fucking-fuck-is-wrong-with-this-world?!” energy so I ran to the rock climbing gym and threw myself up some walls. It’s kinda like 3-D chess, but hurts more when you put pieces in the wrong place. Whatever – it’s my current therapy. Did well, got up a couple walls I hadn’t managed before, met pretty girls and their rock-climber boyfriends, and eventually I was telling this same story to the manager and marveling over how people can let their awful job consume them so deeply.

That’s when he offered me a job.

I’m no idiot – I took him up on it immediately, and supposedly I’m starting soon. Combined with a waiter gig at a restaurant that’ll be opening in the next few weeks, it looks like I’ll manage to fit into the employed-broke-writer-working-below-his-skills stereotype, which is close enough to be a stereotype, but still not true. I’m happy with it, it lets me climb for free, and will surround me with happy, healthy people who don’t work 60 hour weeks for $600. The best part? Once I factor in gas costs I’d be doing 12-hour days for roughly McDonalds wages. Fuck. That. Noise!

Nothing left to do but celebrate with frozen yogurt and new rock climbing friends. Small victory for staying free, money I don’t have, but rarely does anything taste sweeter!

Ps – I’ll add a photo of me in a suit whenever I get over my present revulsion toward them enough to play dress up. I owe Marc that at the least!

Madrugada Rambles

February 1, 2010

I can’t sleep any more.

It’s because I don’t know what I’m doing. This shouldn’t bother me so much – I rarely know what I’m doing.  I’ve spent nearly a year flying by the seat of my pants, doing whatever seemed right in the moment, just living day to day as I saw fit.

It was wonderful.  Truly fantastic, if I am to be honest with myself.  Finally, in the unknowing, in the not planning, I had found a life that made me truly content, happy in the most basic way.
And now that’s over.

It wasn’t my choice – it wasn’t anybody’s choice.  Things just change, ebb and flow, with time.  The universe just does this, and it isn’t our place to whine or bitch about it.  Life back home, the life I left behind, abandoned like a prom night baby, walked out on and never looked back; that life caught up to me again.

Debt was a big part of it.  Family drama is a much bigger one.  People I love need help, and I can perhaps give it.  I might be a freer spirit, a selfish prick living a life based on doing on what makes one feel content and fulfilled, but what sort of complete shithead would I be to walk away from family?

Don’t answer that – I really don’t want to think about it right now.

There here it is, all of these thoughts – am I ready yet? – where will I go? – can I even work in the US? – won’t I just get trapped? – how the fuck will I even eat? – can I, this me, be happy there in that past me’s life? – all this shit, nonsense, worry, pain just rattling around in my head, and I’ve lost my coping mechanisms.

It was easy to quit smoking when I had sex on a regular basis.

All the little things that I take particular joy out of in this life, like singing into the wind in the back of a speeding pickup truck, running into the ocean with my pants on just to float out in the waves, spending an entire day walking circles aimlessly around a bustling city, making lifelong friends over coffee on a small couch, then saying goodbye forever – those sort of things didn’t happen before.  Those sort of things don’t happen in a place where the magic is dead.  Where is the place for someone like me in such a hard, rude, fast place as the US?  People who write poetry and sit around all morning watching the clouds pass by aren’t exactly in high demand.  Where is the productivity, the value, in any of the things I enjoy doing?  What if I just don’t want to become another wake-eat-work-shit-sleep automaton, desperately throwing myself into hobbies, activities, to pretend that I have some sort of meaning in my life?  Where’s the fucking place for that, huh?

Nowhere.  There is no place for that sort of bullshit.

Not in fast-food, fast-cars, fast-forward, faster-than-last-week, can’t-get-fast-enough modern society.  There’s no slowing down there – just full speed ahead until you shatter into a million pieces on the bricks, and everyone says fake shit and sheds crocodile tears over your corpse.  There’s nothing for me when I go back.  Not when I’ve sworn off the advantages of a self-destructive society.  I don’t want what it has to offer – the exact opposite is what I’ve found happiness in.

Is it possible to do what I need to, but also what I need too?

I’m being  a brat about it, honestly.  Just sitting, self-pitying, being a rock.  Me, the guy who tells every tourist, traveler, vagabond in their final days before returning to jail “go 110%, right into the final seconds, so that instead of sitting on that plane regretting the things you didn’t do, you’re that smelly, exhausted-looking guy all the other passengers whisper and point about, but secretly envy.  Live so hard, and so well, that you burn it all up in what you enjoy.  Have the best damn time you can while you can, before you’re stuck back home.”  I truly believe that, and yet I’m just loafing, lying around and wasting myself away.

Why can I give such good advice and then refute it in my actions?

It’s just – well – honestly, I didn’t see this end  coming so abruptly.  Whereas most people have a set date to leave, I haven’t had to plan anything, have deliberately avoided planning anything, since last February.  I tried to a few times, sure, but whenever you plan, you end up doing exactly what you planned to.  There’s no mystery, no adventure, no intrigue or desire or despair, pain, spontaneity, laughter, love, or authenticity to it.  You just do a list of shit, check the boxes and move on – it’s like having sex with your hand, or watching a movie.  There’s the barest outline of what you really want, but the reality, the truth, isn’t there at all.  I just got tired of fooling myself, and vowed no more plans.  Until now, that’s never been an issue.

Everything changes.

Now I need to plan something, or I’ll just be fucked completely whenever I get home.  I need a job, a life, money, an escape route, and above all, I need to be really goddamned sure that I don’t get stuck in that country any longer than absolutely necessary.   And I’ve forgotten how to even do!  What, do I make a list or something?  Should I start brainstorming, strategizing?  The most important decisions I’ve made in months have been decided by coin tosses, bets, sealed with kisses or handshakes.  Job hunting means walking door to door asking if people have work.  A resume?  That’s an insult to even ask for!  Just let me work for you, and if I’m not good enough, throw me out on my head!  What sort of fucked up system decided a contract was needed for that?

I’m used to a better life, that’s the real problem.

Make no mistake, life is better down here.  Simpler, poorer, rougher, harder, but better nonetheless.  It comes to a few things, I think.  People know each other, for starters.  They know their neighbors, who is fucking who, which dog belongs to whoever, when the neighbor’s  kid is going to have her baby, who was kissing in the park last night.  They talk, they keep up on the local goings-on, and they don’t isolate themselves from reality.  In the US, I lived years without knowing the first or last names of people who lived 20, 30, 50 feet away.  No idea who they were at all.  I’m certainly not the only one.  People know each other, and it shows in every interaction.  Further, they trust each other.  I was in a bakery today, buying a sandwich, and everything was on display right next to the door.  Not behind any doors, not covered by cameras or sensor tags, just loaves of bread, rolls, buns of any sort, sitting right next to the big fuckoff roll-up doors.

Bear in mind, this is a city of over 1 million people.  We’re not out in the countryside here.  Any asshole thief could walk right in and load up on free food, and probably even the cash register, since the employees were nowhere near it except when people were paying.  No, not here.  People don’t steal from their neighbors – not from people they know and care about.  And even if they don’t, it’s just not done!  Better to give people something, any day.  I could go for days, but let’s just concentrate on this for now – they have community here.  They have pride in their surroundings, know their fellow humans, respect each other.  You don’t see people stealing cabs, making old folks stand on buses, pregnant women lift ANYTHING.  They see the other humans around them, and live as if everyone mattered.

Try finding that at home.

I don’t know what to do, what I can do, but I do know that I will be just about the worst American in a while.  I’m giving away everything when I get back – everything I  can live without.  Considering I’ve been living from a backpack for a year, it won’t be a small pile.  I’ve been an ignorant, materialist, self-centered pig most my life, and it took this whole other life to realize it.  I can live just fine off of rice, beans, bread, and eggs.  I don’t need fancy designer pants.  I don’t need more then 3 pairs of any pants, really.  I don’t need heaps of things.  Really, all I need are friends, love, adventure, and the very basics of human comfort.  It’s not a tall order – the trick will be remembering it in the mindfuck and bustle of the corporatist world.  I guess I’ll just have to see how well I can hold onto my self and my values in the belly of the beast.

Keep smiling, and never let the bastards keep you down.

I’m going to bed. -k

A short letter to Seth

November 21, 2009

I wrote this to my friend Seth in response to an email he sent weeks and weeks ago – cleaning out the ole’ inbox, and that sort of jazz.  Anyway, what it comes down to is that there’s a bit in the middle that I think people ought read.  Sounds pretty arrogant, but hey, wouldn’t be me without it.

Hey dude!
Man oh man, it’s good to hear from you! I’ve been pretty friendless for a while now, since we all split ways.  Not completely – I spent a few weeks with Veronique, met some great people in Leon, but it’s just not the same as the amazing time I had living with you guys.  Having real, true friends is a precious thing.
I’ve had a terrific and terrible time lately – just got evicted 2 days ago at gunpoint, and things have been crazy.  I’ve gone from having my bar, house, cafe, theater to suddenly being homeless and drifting.  I think tomorrow we head north to Tikal, then to El Sal, then Nicaragua, then Panama, then Columbia to learn Paragliding.  I’ve no idea really.
Anyway, I think that politics and the system are unbeatable, but they are avoidable – you can figure out a way to have that whole world influence you as little as possible, and be perfectly happy living as such, but if you devote your life to fighting against the system instead of fighting for your own goals, then you will become an empty shell, as corrupt and poisonous as the very things you’ve been meaning to destroy.  The trick is to drop out – stop playing their games, stop selling your life, and find out how you need to live to be happy and whole on your own terms, in your own world.  We all create our own realities, and to focus your reality  around beating “them” won’t work because they don’t exist – we’re all victims of capitalism, from the guy at the top feeling empty and hopeless because his money doesn’t  buy happiness to the guy at the bottom starving in the streets.  We’re all victims, and to try to turn society against one portion of it is their means, their methods.  The ultimate act of rebellion is just to work together, to love everyone, to refuse to hate. If you can do that – and it will be difficult – then you will truly be free in this world.
I’d check out crime thinc dot com if I were you, but all together-like.  Miss you bud, and I love you, as you already know.  I’d love to do business things, but frankly, I can’t right now because I’m too transitory, too gaseous and ill-defined to be of any use – I’d be in the middle of setting up some deal and just jet off to Brazil or some shit like that.  I will of course have to work at that, have to work at something eventually, but for now I’d rather live as a drifter off what little I have, and just run – run – run as far as I can from American society.  I’m happier like this.
I really hope you and Beck are well – sounds like work and life aren’t too easy right now, but I know you guys, and you’ll make it work.  If you have to stay in the states it might be more difficult, but for now, I think you deserve to be near friends and family and loved ones.  Just remember – if you’re not happy with your life, you ought change it, because nothing is more precious then our short time here on earth, and to waste even a second of that is to insult and degrade yourself.  Burn it all up, every ounce of your life and self, so that when death and the Devil come to collect their due, there will be nothing left for them, and all your love and energy will be spread across the world, scattered to the winds.  That’s how I try to live, anyway.  Like I said, miss you, love you, and we’ll talk soon my friend.  -k
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