Multiplix, or Can We Thrive in a World of Murderers?

Monday and the recurrent conundrum: Why? Or more properly, What? Why do we find our attempts to live a good life so consistently frustrated? What is required to construct a functional ‘good life?’ Today we ask these questions, find more questions, and note the critical (desperate?) need for answers.

Plasticity isn’t everything, and Mondays tend to emphasize the radical bendiness of the everyday. We might think the reverse: Monday’s reputation generally inhabits ideas of the implications of the imposed work world, with its rules, requirements, and the tyranny of money (people of great wealth are reputed not to experience the Monday phenomenon). Given the nature of that tyranny, we slip & slide from one obligation, privation, or excess to the next, powered by the confidence that it all makes sense. However, on examination these assumptions fall apart, prove flimsy, ungrounded. Bendy. And on Mondays, we especially feel the oppression of that ongoing fallacy.

Cultivate a few houseplants or garden vegetables – geraniums, begonias, peas, kale. They are dependent on us for water & food, protection from the elements, and so on, all of which require some degree or other of income. On the other hand, generally when we remove human society from an ecosystem plants – considered rogue plants in the human social environment, because they invade our space – take over, repudiating in a big way any imputed dependence on humans and their economies. Those plants we cultivate, that become so dependent on our income to survive, are not, of course, plants in general – they are the plants we humans decide to invite into our world. Become part of that world, they are necessarily then, like us, dependent on income. But how essential is this dependence? Is it inherent, or imposed – and can we go guerilla? What would that “little war” look like?

While “guerilla” refers to warfare, the term has taken on the colloquial meaning of efforts that get around society’s “big guns,” circumvent the structures imposed by those in positions of power to restrict the freedom of the poor or disenfranchised. In this case, the effort suggested above is to circumvent the current economy as preached by those with all the power, lately referred to as the .01%.

Not unlike the medieval economy, reliant on serfs, today’s plutocracy continually reminds us how grateful we should be to participate in our enslavement to their dollars. We might mobilize based on the recognition that we really do want to live in a free society. Our guerilla effort might take the form of joining cooperatives, growing and giving away seeds & plants, &c.  Cooperatives place themselves in the cracks, trying, like rogue plants, to open up the concrete to the use of the organic, to efforts to form a society less greed-based.

Even so, don’t we need money to get the seeds in the first place? Members of the cooperative must have enough money to buy the ingredients/materials/seeds to begin with for the things they trade or sell thenceforth. Current efforts to form cooperatives share limitations consistent with similar efforts of earlier generations. Someone must have some funds to get it all started, funds generated through participation in the more greed-based society eschewed by the participants of the co-op. Still, cooperatives represent an effort toward social health, and an attempt to elude the dictates of the wealth-empowered minority.

What about micro-finance? Doesn’t that represent an alternative effort to combat the whole process? The micro-loan idea bases itself in financial assistance in the form of small loans to individuals in circumstances that we – with the leisure to complain about our own powerlessness in the face of a society controlled by the rich – find extreme compared to our own. This can make us feel we are complaining in the midst of relative plenty, and we should quit grousing or do so something, but that leads us back to where we began: what, how? And, should we be content with a society locked into a circular support system for the rich, just because we happen to enjoy better runoff than some people somewhere else in even less economically & politically free societies?

This author doesn’t imagine this essay to be a close examination of economic theory or sociology (note the lack of statistics to support assertions); it runs with the assumption of the reader’s familiarity with current rising unemployment, the accelerating rise of wealth to a smaller and smaller portion of society, and the ever-increasing tendency away from empowerment of the rest of us evidenced by the gargantuan sums required to say, run for public office. More, this essay attempts to make sense of the sense of being caught in a net, and the search for tools to extricate us from that net.

What are the implications of our responsibility? Where should we go with our observations on social inequity, personal frustration with, global extremeness of? What happens when we don’t participate? Increasingly, people are taking that route, creating networks similar to the hobo networks of earlier generations. When we decide to scrap the whole enterprise of running to catch up, we become “vagrants.” In other words, there are laws against not participating in the serfdom: ergo, succeed or end up on the streets, subject to privation and (with the added insult of) the continual indignity of possible incarceration. Society is eager to spend increasingly gargantuan sums keeping people in jail. Slave, hope to rise in the ranks, or fall by the wayside. So much for free society. The huge transgression of the ‘60s was to try to sidestep serfdom. The economic component of that effort largely failed – a result of human nature, or the nature of contemporary society? A combination, maybe.

The Buddha’s answer was to exit society’s net for the freedom of self-imposed poverty. Buddhism represents, among its manifold representations, a comment on the tendency of human society to breed the psychopathic individual. Devoid of empathy and motivated by the drive for power, driven by the need to take what other people have, to amass the ability to control other people, these people desire wealth so far surpassing need that they can, with apparent sincerity, perennially complain that they barely get by with what they have (note how many of our current .01% claim with a straight face that proposed tax increases will do them real harm). And, with the intense drive of the psychopath, they regularly arrive in positions of social and political power.

Some think the answer lies in psychotherapy – it’s a personal problem, not a social one. Perhaps, up to a point. We can all use a little more balance, but really – is it psychologically damaged to object to one’s society being run by psychopaths? Wouldn’t that be evidence of sanity? Again, we can ask “How can we fix ourselves?” but the more critical question remains: “In light of these observations, how do we live in this society, how do we change it, can we change it, ultimately, how can we bring a little more sanity into our world?”

The idea that the journey is more important than the arrival seems inherently ludicrous to some of us, but certainly the journey is equally important – the ends don’t justify the means. The point in asking these questions is not to gain temporary psychological relief; I really wish I had more answers. The point is to keep reminding ourselves that we need answers, we need to find out how to make a road paved with common sense and informed perceptions, and step out toward social equity. If a free society is too much to hope for, we need at least to make a freer society.

 

Catalog of Discontents; Anatomy of Despair (a bedtime story)

What did she eat today?

For breakfast, she made herself a smoothie: a cup of water, a handful of almonds, a big spoonful each of flax seed meal and oat bran; a small pineapple, de-crowned, peeled & cored.

For lunch, she had two small avocados, one kiwi, and a berry juice drink. For a snack later, she had another kiwi, and half a sea salt & almond dark chocolate bar.

For a later snack, she ate three pieces (not all at the same time; at intervals) of whole grain and seed bread, bare. For dinner, she used the same bread to make herself a grilled cheese & tomato sandwich, and a mayonnaise and tomato sandwich. It’s about an hour past dinner and her tummy feels stretched.

Yesterday she had a leaf from the garden and a bite of – what? – maybe it was an almond, and then for dinner she had some fried tofu & mushrooms, and some steamed frozen broccoli with butter. Also a very tiny amount of red wine – maybe a quarter glass.

She felt better yesterday.

Today she went to work; hour and a quarter commute time; some time spent creekside, standing barefoot in the grass and on the rocks. Before that, she did some Yoga & made the smoothie & said good-bye to M, who was headed for Wellington Lake to camp for two nights. The plan is for her to join him after work tomorrow, unless she’s too tired. She’s already so tired, and it’s only today, that she seriously doubts she’ll feel like a two-hour drive into the mountains after work tomorrow.

Today (at work) she tried to make meaningful contact with a lot of different people, with indifferent and infrequent success. She stood in one place for most of the day, though she did get to move around a little. She got off work at the peak of rush hour, so she went to N’s (currently absented) apartment to rest up a little – that’s where she had the three slices of bare bread – and collect her wits. She spoke a little with B as well. Wound it up, locked up, and drove home – easy drive, as they go, less than forty minutes, but she arrived home horribly tired, and lonely – here she is all tired out, and all by herself.

Writing the last eight paragraphs backs her away from the abyss somewhat; she no longer feels desperate, merely tired and physically uncomfortable in various ways. She thinks maybe what she needs is a good night’s sleep. Her hand bothers her, it’s a little sore, which is worrisome. The condition of the psyche is dull, rather than acute (does that revert it to chronic, technically? An interesting thought.).

Now that an idea has actually caught her constructive interest, she becomes more aware of how tired she is. She really should sleep, she thinks, if she can get feeling good enough to drop off . . . she heads off to bed to give it a try.

In Praise of the Convoluted Style

They say we should write every day: discipline. OK here goes. I write intermittently in my journal, using a pen & paper, a method I favor but which is unfortunately largely illegible to anyone else, partly by design (it’s a really very good way to keep it private) & partly because my thoughts outrun my pen, and the contest between them is a recurring example of the sacrifice of legibility to speed. However, this disjunction between expression and communicability keeps me in possibly a too-private world in the end, so here I go, trying it on in the virtual world. 

Today I feel really trashy in the personal not social sense, having been rejected from yet another employment opportunity, after investing a lot of time, energy, and feeling in the prospect of working at a job & location that initially appeared unattractive and unattainable anyway. The latter proved correct of course, while the former appeared increasingly through the process of approach not to be (correct, that is), which is not really any consolation. I find I can’t do these things without investing interest, however difficult it may initially be to drum it up, it always burgeons if I commit myself to the effort. I did meet some very nice people, who can complain about that?

Well everyone (practically) is familiar with this experience of not getting a job one (1) wanted and apparently also (2) needed badly to one degree or another; there can’t possibly be anything to add through the mediation of my comments on it, but that’s what’s with me today, so sorry, world of virtual communication, you get unemployment, specifically rejection after investment of significant effort, as your opening topic today.

Other comments: along the line of ‘no sincere effort is wasted,’ in the process of becoming even more knowledgeable about social media than I already was (within the library context) – which turns out to rather more beyond the average for my age & disposition than I expected – I discovered – much to the distaste of the literary, technical, and social snob in me – that getting more involved in Twitter has yielded access to a surprising & pleasing crop of connections who have provided really interesting information. Here I reveal myself to be old school in the disguise of a (relatively for my age) hip & tech-savvy writer-librarian. Books, paper, typography . . . still most beautiful.

One of my biggest barriers to communication is how tired of myself I so easily become, especially of my thoughts & words. Perhaps a condition endemic to writers, but I haven’t heard anyone else complain specifically of that dystopia of the spirit (crap, I don’t read enough is probably why). You might ask, if that’s the case, why bother to place this self of which you are so tired in the public view? Probably to give someone else that opportunity?

Helmut Salzinger: A Retrospective

Helmut Salzinger, Activist, Critic, Philanthropist, Publisher & Poet (1935-1993)

Salzinger’s critical theory work around the cultural revolution of the 60’s, his philanthropic activities & political activism, and his idiosyncratic voice, played an important role in literary arts in Germany. In his early career as a reviewer & music critic he wrote for the prestigious journal Die Zeit and for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung (The South Germany News). A selection of his articles for the German music journal Sounds written under the pseudonym Jonas Überohr, are collected in the volume Best of Jonas Überohr – Popcritik 1966-1982, published posthumously in 2011 (Philo Fine Arts) and his poetic and literary bibliography remains compelling and impressive.

In the early 80’s, after his stint as a reviewer at Die Zeit was terminated, he moved to a farmhouse in the moorland village of Odisheim on the North Sea. He named his home Head Farm, & after giving up on his initial idea of a commune there, lived more privately, exploring the surrounding natural environment, writing, and carrying on philanthropic activities to support the arts, and students, artists & writers.  He established the publishing house Headfarm Odisheim, and Head Farm became a gathering point for writers and thinkers. As well as books, Headfarm Odisheim published the literary magazine FALK, which appeared monthly for three years, 1986-1989, and was produced at Head Farm. A lifelong sufferer from diabetes, he died at his home in 1993.

Salzinger’s life is celebrated in the German Humus – Hommage á Helmut Salzinger (1996, Modick, Salzinger, Keller). However his work, largely not translated into English, has received little attention in the English-speaking world. With this documentary project Curmudgeonly Press hopes to bring more of Salzinger’s life and work to the English-speaking world.

The Retrospective will include three main components; a broadside and photo exhibit to take place at the Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe in Boulder, an opening event with live readings from Salzinger’s work, and an online interactive documentary. Additional readings and discussions will be held as well, time & place TBA.

Exhibit Opening
September 20, 2012
Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe

1203 13th Street Suite A
Boulder, CO 80302  Map

Exhibit
A selection of newly translated poems and excerpts from Salzinger’s essays, presented in broadside format, with photographs of Salzinger, his home and the eco-region that inspired much of his poetic work, friends, and colleagues, highlight images and writing representative of his work.

Reading
The exhibit opens with a reading of Salzinger’s poetry by exhibit author and translator Clara Burns.

Interactive Media Archive
The online component, built using Zeega (http://zeega.org), an html5 platform for authoring interactive documentary work, will incorporate exhibition materials as well as recordings and photographs from the reading, experimenting in a new medium for documentary expression that will expand the reach and influence of the project.