December 9, 2019

Weapons of Mass Deception

In reading an article about the world's biggest money hoarder, I came across a bit that highlighted the forces mounted against the human race. 

It reveals a lot about how our natural tendency toward frugality, and care for Mother Nature, is under relentless attack by cold, calculating, self-interested individuals.

"While other companies have tended to keep economists in centralized units, often working on forecasting or policy issues, Amazon takes a different approach. 
It distributes economists across a range of teams, where they can, among other things, run controlled experiments that permit scientific, and therefore effective, manipulation of consumer behavior."   

It is the manipulation that is the problem. And it isn't just the mentally ill money hoarders that are doing it. State governments have always been big purveyors of manipulation themselves. Both are getting more sophisticated in their efforts all the time.

When the forces of politics come together with the forces of commerce, it makes it difficult to see exactly where our freedom is that is so talked about.  

9 days after the World Trade Centre attack, George W. Bush told us it happened because the "terrorists hated the West's freedom". 

What freedom? All I see is manipulation and deception. Powerful forces are acting to manipulate the way we think, vote, act and buy. Their lies deceive us at every turn.

Unless we want to live as neo-serfs settling for a shrinking virtual freedom, or freedom-ish, or freedom light, we will have to resist the manipulation of one percenters and selfish political hacks.

A good start would be to 

1) start thinking for ourselves (it's a mental prophylactic). The truth is the best disinfectant, and each of us can do our part to seek and share facts that counter the corporate/government narrative formed through weaponized propaganda.

2) quit supporting the status quo through our buying of things we don't need, and

3) form a decentralized network together to tear the whole shaky shit house down by weakening trust in the lier's programming.

Will that be hard? Indeed, it will. 

However, being manipulated and deceived from birth to death for the profit of the few is not exactly easy, either.

December 4, 2019

Gardening And Green Garlic

Green garlic, potatoes, carrot from our last harvest beginning of December.

I took advantage of some recent warm weather to do our final harvest and close up our garden for another year. It was easy as there were only a few carrots, potatoes, beets, and our immature garlic. 

What also made it easy is that for the past 2 seasons we have not been cleaning our garden in the fall. Now we are done after we harvest, leaving the messiness to clean in the spring. 

From what I have read, insects find an uncleaned garden a more welcoming winter haven with lots of places to take shelter from the cold. I don't mind waiting until spring to do the tidying up after the winter residents have emerged.

Our crop of green garlic frozen for storage.

The most experimental part of our garden this year was planting our garlic late. Very late. Well into June late. We were not sure how it would turn out, but could not contemplate our garden without it.

The last time I posted about our garlic experiment, a reader (thanks, Alex) commented that green garlic was very good. We had never heard about eating garlic in this stage before, so this tip expanded our minds, our diet, and our garden.

We pulled up all the immature garlic and processed it. The top green parts we cut and froze. The bottom bits were baked, cooled, and then frozen with the greens. 

Some parts were baked to brown and crispy, and WOW were those bits tasty.

Initially everything went into a ziplock bag, but it still smelled strong (and by strong I mean yummy) in the freezer. I transferred the contents into two 500 ml canning jars, and this eliminated the odour leakage.

We thought we wouldn't be able to store garlic this year, because we did not get mature bulbs we could cure and hang in our pantry. We were wrong. Green garlic is great, and we have a quantity that should last a while.

For a moment I thought we might actually have to buy some from the grocery store. 

Not just yet. Garlic independence is still ours.

December 2, 2019

Catholics Condemn Crass Consumerism

While I think that Pope Francis is a good man, he and I disagree on many things. However, we are in agreement when it comes to consumerism. 

Here are a few things he said yesterday on the topic:

“Consumerism is a virus that attacks faith at the roots because it makes us believe that life depends only on what we have…”

“Things are not enough. Our greed grows and others become obstacles, so we end up feeling threatened, always dissatisfied and angry, raising the level of hatred. We see it today where consumerism reigns.”

“We must overcome the temptation that the meaning of life is accumulation, and resist the dazzling lights of consumption which will shine everywhere this month.”

“When we open our hearts, we gain the most precious gift that material things can never give us: peace.”

It is priceless to be neither troubled, nor afraid. That is the gift of peace, the antidote to consumerism.

Francis is right about that.

“While Santa brings an abundance of good things, Christ often condemned these things and the wealth they represent. 

- Russell W. Belk

November 30, 2019

It May Be Better Not To Have

The less I need, the better I feel. 

Right now I own less stuff than at any point in my adult life. And I feel great.

Poet Charles Bukowski felt that way, and I am sure monks feel that way, too. If you want to live as simply as possible, you may also know this feeling.

Henry David Thoreau said something along the lines that a perfectly prepared person could walk away from their village with nothing, and experience no problems.

It is a fortunate, and rare, person that could pull off such a feat (Peace Pilgrim comes to mind). But imagine the unlimited freedom one must feel in that unencumbered state.

This is something to remember during a time we are being arm-twisted to give gifts to everyone, whether they need anything or not. 

Here's a liberating thought - perhaps they would be better off without a gift. It is hard to fathom in an acquisitive culture, but it may be better not to have, than to have.

Sometimes when I am gifted something, my first sense is that it is a burden and responsibility that I would rather not have. I own something I may not need, my life is complicated, and my carefully nurtured simplicity has been thrown out of whack. 

Gift giving is a nice thought, and comes from a good place.  In the times such as we live in today, though, not gift giving might be even nicer. 

Not just today. It has always been this way. 

In this regard I give you Chinese Chan Master Ummon Zenji (862-949 CE). He would remind his students that: 

"however wonderful a thing is, it may be that it is better not to have it at all."

I end with my own Zen koan: 

What is the gift of no gift? 

And my answer (does a koan have an answer?): 

Freedom, simplicity, joy.

November 29, 2019

Fight Back - Observe Buy Nothing Day Today

Today is the designated day to fight back against obsessive consumerism, Buy Nothing Day. I highly recommend giving it a try.

Like me, you can fight back by not buying anything you don't need 365 days a year, or you can start small on this one day, then extend it from there.

The little guy in the picture has it right - he was not born an obsessive consumer. 

What does he want? 

Only what any unspoilt human being wants, like food, clothing, shelter, love, education, and total freedom from the evil manipulation of mentally ill money hoarders.

If I had kids, we would be out celebrating our freedom to buy absolutely nothing today. 

Just like advertisers say that you "have to get them young", we should be thinking about starting our little activists out while they still have some free brain left in their skulls.

None of us are consumers. We have been formed that way against our will.

Stand up today, buy nothing, and proclaim "I am a free person. I am not a puppet of the rich and powerful, and I will not obey their command to buy, Buy, BUY."

Today is for authentic living, free from the consumer world.

Have a good one.

November 27, 2019

Ethical Consumerism Is A Capitalist Fantasy

The term Ethical Consumerism is an oxymoron. It is a dream, a fantasy that business as usual types hope will extend current harmful ways of doing things. Don't be fooled by this industrial strength green washing.

In order to have ethical consumerism we would have to have an ethical supply chain. First there would have to be ethical resource extraction. Mining companies would no longer be able to hire thugs to murder indigenous activists blocking the mining sites that are destroying their livelihoods. 

Fomenting violent coups in order to mine resources such as lithium would definitely be out. 

Then there would need to be ethical manufacturing. If made ethical, companies would have to put people and the planet before shareholder interests, and the selfish motives of CEOs.

Retail interests would also have to act ethically. No more cooking the books, or fleecing workers to pad the bottom line.

At every stage corporations would have to do the ethical thing and take responsibility for any damage done while conducting their business. A study done showed that most, if not all, corporations would go bankrupt if they had to pay for the damage they do.

And what about marketing? Can you imagine ethical advertising? Neither can I. 

Advertisers wouldn't be able to lie anymore. Or manipulate us with things like "nudging" and neuromarketing manipulation. The entire industry would crumble when they could no longer manufacture desire through the use of nefarious methods of mind control.

The very greenwashing that brings us something as outlandish as ethical consumerism would become illegal. Greenwashing, and ethical consumerism would disappear into a void of lying blackness, never to be seen again.

Let us not forget the ethical banking system that would be needed to support all the other ethical endeavours. What would that even look like? No interest to be paid, or charged, because getting something without working for it is unethical.

Also, no more money laundering, or other dirty tricks. 

Wouldn't we also need an ethical tax regime? Large corporations and the uber wealthy would actually have to pay their fair share in such a system. 

And to guide it all, we would need ethical governance at the local, state, and federal levels. How is that going these days? Is propaganda ethical? Is jailing whistleblowers ethical? Is interfering in the business of other countries ethical? 

At best, ethical consumerism would lead to the end of consumerism. And along the way it might take down capitalism and the state, too. There is nothing ethical or logical about the greed, waste, corruption, and selfishness of our current system. 

Let them fail in a creative destruction the likes of which the world has never seen. That would be a welcome outcome. 

Anything less is a fantastical dream, because current ways can not go on for much longer.

So, what colour would you like your dragon?

Top ten least ethical companies (as voted for by "Ethical Consumer" readers):

  • Nestle
  • Monsanto
  • Amazon
  • Shell
  • Tesco
  • Barclays
  • Exxon
  • Wal Mart
  • Coca Cola
  • Primark 

November 26, 2019

We Are A Carless Household

One of these trailers would be nice for getting groceries.

This week our household becomes part of the exclusive group of households that have gone carless. We seem to be in good company. Car free lifestyles are becoming increasingly popular.

After 100 years of trying to get into cars, fatigued drivers are now trying to get out of their cars. 

For an example close to home, I only had to talk to my brother. I texted to tell him of my new experiment in car free living. He texted back that his family has been car free for a year. What?

Number one - that's awesome. Number two - I really must text my brother more often.

Millennials have been famously nonchalant about private vehicle ownership, much to the disappointment of the auto industry. About double the number of this generation do not own cars compared to the general population.

That same car industry has spent billions to convince us (and lawmakers) that their products are indispensable. 

Many today disagree, and it is not just the more recent generations. Many boomers are downsizing cars right out of their lives, and finding that they don't miss them. 

While the number of car free households in North America is still small (about 10%), that number is growing every year.

It is not only people going car free. Cities are getting into the act as well.

Many cities around the world are creating car free spaces, where people don't have to breathe smog, listen to all the racket, or feel that their lives are constantly threatened by inattentive drivers.

Around the world planners are working toward making at least the city centres free of automobiles. They want to reduce congestion, improve air quality, and increase the quality of life for the people in those areas.

What if, contrary to a century of advertising, freedom is not to be found in owning a car, but in NOT owning a car? 

That is what we want to find out. And if we avoid spewing tons of CO2 into the atmosphere while we're at it, so much the better.

As of now, we are a carless household, and we are excited to see what happens. 

Can we survive without a car? Will we come crawling back to the car industry, begging for our mobility back?

Or will we find liberation, and never return?

November 24, 2019

Awakening To Better Things

In the year 1200, Zen Master Dogen spoke about what he termed the Eight Awakenings. What he had to say is still relevant 800 years later.

The Eight Awakenings 

1. Have few desires.

2. Know when enough is enough.

3. Enjoy serenity and solitude.

4. Give diligent effort.

5. Uphold mindfulness.

6. Practice meditation.

7. Cultivate wisdom.

8. Steer clear of hollow discussions. 

I am imagining, and working diligently toward, a global awakening. It starts with personal awakening, which is somehow more difficult. First change yourself, then change the world.

Perhaps it will begin when we practice awakening number 8 at Thanksgiving supper.

Imagine an awakened mind. Imagine an awakened world.

What we think about the most is what we become.

I'm thinking about being better. Doing better. Creating better.

My affirmation today is:

Humanity is awakening to better things.

November 19, 2019

Extreme Gardening

Have you ever planted garlic late? Really late? What happened?

I went to the garden with a shovel yesterday morning, hoping to dig some carrots and potatoes. I also wanted to see what our late-planted garlic was doing.

Once at the garden I raised my shovel to take my first dig. Expecting a solid "chunk" sound, I instead heard a resounding "ting". 

The ground was frozen.

While I have chopped carrots out of frozen ground in the past (they were perfectly fine), it is not an activity I cherish. I stood down, and went back inside.

This year our garden got off to a slow start. We weren't even sure if we would plant a garden, thinking that we might move to our own place before harvest. With our house hunt progressing slowly, we decided to do a quick plant late June.

Anticipating a possible move, we did not plant garlic last fall. So we engaged in an experiment to see what would happen if we planted a very late crop. We hoped for a warm fall to extend the growing season.

While it has been generally warmish so far, we have had nights of frost and below freezing temperatures, interspersed by days of rain. Our kale, and the garlic, responded to cold by wilting, but both toughed it out and bounced right back as it warmed up.

The garlic is still small, and it never did put up scapes, an indication of the time to harvest the bulbs. We remain hopeful.

I pulled one a week ago to see what was going on underground. The bottom looked more like a leek than a garlic bulb. I plunked it back in the ground.

This week looks like it will be warm, so we will leave the garlic to mature some more. It could continue to be warm through December, if we are lucky.

Regardless, I have read that garlic is good to use at almost any stage of growth. 

I just have to make sure that when I go to harvest I hear "chunk" instead of "ting, ting, ting".

That's extreme gardening.

November 16, 2019

Boxes Of Shit For Sale

I don't usually do guest posts or re-posts, but in this case I couldn't help myself. The following post, "Avoid The Epidemic", is from Annarky's Blog, which is one of my daily reads. 

This post works on NBA nicely, I think you'll agree, and will make sense for those readers that will celebrate the upcoming season with a focus on love rather than things. 

Avoid The Epidemic

"It's coming down the tracks at full steam ahead, the over-consumption juggernaut. You are facing an epidemic  of over indulgence, you will be infected by the splurge of the hurry-panic virus, spread by advertising agencies attempting to switching your brain to 'Oh Gee, I must get in first before I miss all those wonderful boxes of shit'. 
Retailers will be sitting staring at their accounts, have they cleaned up enough to buy that new luxury yacht? 
Of course you could be rational and say I don't need any more shit, I'll just settle for having a great time with family and friends. 
Yes it is Christmas, they sell it as a time of good will, but they also tell you that you can't have good will without heaping on the debt and rampaging through the various stores grabbing never to be missed crap. Your friends will love you more if you will only spend lots of money on them. 
       Retailers refer to this time of year as the "golden quarter", this when they have to drag you apathetic lethargic shoppers through their doors, get you enthusiastic about shiny things, latest models, coloured boxes, that will bring eternal happiness, for a few moments. You can worry about the debt later on. 
       Let's make this a happy with family and friends Christmas, a shop free Christmas, a debt free Christmas, and have a laugh at the demented millionaire shareholders left with that mountain of shiny boxes of shit, the miles of tinsel, and all those latest models that will declared out of date by June or July. 
It is not too late or too soon to shut your eyes and ears to the advertisers blitz of jazzed up corny adverts. Let them do the spending while we can laugh our way through this good will season.

What a gift it is to wake up to the manipulation (not to mention the desperation) of those that have co-opted for profit, our celebration of nature and good will, while intentionally destroying both. 

Let's laugh, and dream, together.

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