Don’t Just Vote, Get Active

Don't Just Vote, Get Active!: This image is taken from the "Don't Just Vote, Get Active!" campaign organized by CrimethInc and others in 2004. I wrote about this campaign and its relevance today in one of my blog entries.Back in 2004, there was a campaign by the CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective and its allies called “Don’t Just Vote, Get Active.” This campaign argued that whatever our thoughts may be on voting versus non-voting, we should still focus the bulk of our enegry on direct forms of action rather than the indirect approach of voting for candidates. Rather than asking politicians or businessmen to act on our behalf, we should reclaim our power by engaging in directly democratic community organizing and forms of demonstrations which achieve direct results (i.e. interrupting systems of oppression in some direct way rather than asking that they be interrupted). This campaign was an effort to find common ground between people who see voting as endorsement for a corrupt system versus those who see it as a strategically important tool in seeking social change.

Don’t Just Vote inspired a lot of people and mobilized a lot of them into action. Some of them voted; some of them didn’t; all of them sought ways to participate more directly in the political process. Sadly, Mr. Bush was “re-elected”, and Don’t Just Vote faded from prominence. But I’d like to take a moment now to rehash and retool some of their arguments for the current context and issue a call to action of my own.

Voting is a very serious issue. Throughout history, many have fought for our right to vote, and some have even died for it. It is one of our few (if not only) means of participation in the systems of power. And yet, the entire system itself is flawed beyond salvaging. Instead of voting on issues, we are asked to vote on candidates — and these candidates are selected for us by two corrupt political parties and the handful of transnational corporations and businessmen who fund them.

In theory, voting could be one of the great foundations of a truly free and directly democratic society. But in its present form, is it just a brutal mockery of all things free and democratic? If the system of voting asks us to choose between Hitler and Stalin, must we carefully weigh which man is likely to kill less people and vote accordingly?

As usual, I’ve sought to find a golden mean between these two perspectives — a delicate balance of the strengths of each which provides an unexpected and powerful solution.

The Don’t Just Vote campaign is a part of that mean. It shifts the primary focus of our quest for greater freedom and democracy away from the halls of power and into the hands of the people. Our struggle to create a better society is not defined by who we do or don’t elect to office every 2 to 4 years; instead, our struggle is defined by the work of our own hands, and the voices of our communities coming together in pursuit of a better life and a better world.

Personally, I’ve decided to vote. In fact, I’ve decided to endorse an independent political candidate, which I’ll be doing in my next entry. But I haven’t chosen to join a third party, or to spend any substantial amount of my time promoting a third party or any other voting-related initiative.

Why? Because I believe that our greatest hope for better communities and a better society lies in the hands of the people, not the hands of a party or a politician. Even with all of the horrific things I’ve seen in this world, I still believe that we, the people, have the power to act in a free, direct, and democratic manner in the service of a better life for one and all.

I will vote because I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do so. I will vote because I want to lend my support to those good people who do believe in using their political party as an engine of social, economic, political, and ecological change. I will vote because I am so very tired of the madness that surrounds me in the public and social arena, and so terribly desperate to take a public stand against it that I will grasp at straws in order to do so.

But in the end, voting is something that I will only do every couple of years when the opportunity arises. It’s something to do, but it’s not enough. In the end, the important action — the action that will make or break the future of my life, my community, my society, and my world — is the action that I take on a daily basis to promote the spread of noble values and qualities such as freedom, social cooperation, direct democracy, and ecological wisdom.

Don’t just vote, or not vote. Get active! Talk to your family, friends, neighbors, and fellow community members about issues such as global climate change, green collar jobs, health care, and ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tell the people in your life how you feel about these and other issues, and ask them what they think. Find ways that you and those close to you can make a direct difference in your own life and the lives of those around you.

Maybe you believe that Politician X is definitely going to bring a great change to Washington. Or maybe you think that there’s not a politician alive who genuinely cares about the good of the people and the planet. Either way, if we want to live in a more free, cooperative, and ecological world, we’re going to need people on the ground in every community to make that happen.

So whatever you do or don’t do on Election Day, be sure to take action on the other 364 days of the year. I can guarantee to you that corporate lobbyists, oil tycoons, war mongers, and other malevolent forces don’t take a break the other 364 days of the year. So why should we? However great or small you contribution may be, I can guarantee you that it will be appreciated by someone, somewhere, somehow.

If you’re like most human beings, you like reading, watching, or hearing about the stories of heroes. Now is your chance to be an everyday hero, or perhaps even an extraordinary one.

I look forward to hearing where your adventures are taking you, and I’ll be sure to let you know where my adventures are taking me. In the meantime, good luck, and don’t forget to have as much fun as humanly possible along the way!

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More Gaia Woes

Gaia's Orphans Black T-shirt: In preparation for the release of Gaia's Orphans, I've created an online shop filled with GO merchandise. This is a photo of the black T-shirt. Be sure to check the shop out, and let me know if you have any suggestions or product requests. As the release This fall must be the season for mindless pawns of bureaucracies to throw unexpected wrenches in the gears of my life. First it was the Facebook ban, and now it’s Gaia’s Orphans. Yes, that’s right folks — I have once again been harassed for putting the word “Gaia” on a T-shirt.

The trouble started a year or two ago. I’ve been working on a book titled “Gaia’s Orphans” for a few years now, and I’m not entirely sure if or when it will be complete. About a year or two ago, I made a simple website about the book as a way of exploring ideas for the book’s eventual promotion. Since CafePress lets you design items for free, I designed a few simple T-shirts and buttons which say things like “Gaia’s Orphans” and “We Are All Gaia’s Orphans.”

Shortly after I uploaded my images to CafePress, I received a cease and desist letter from an attorney speaking on behalf of PI, Inc, a company which claimed to hold a registered trademark on the use of the word “Gaia” on T-shirts. The letter demanded that I discontinue selling my shirts, and that I pay them money according to how many shirts I had sold.

Their tone was quite demanding, and their letterhead quite impressive, but I’m not easily intimidated. I replied politely but firmly, saying that their claim had no merit and that I hadn’t sold any of the shirts yet anyway. Once they realized that there was no money to be gained from their extortion tactics, they quickly broke off contact.

When I didn’t receive any further contact, I assumed that the matter was settled. However, a few days ago, I received an email from CafePress stating that a different employee of PI, Inc. had contacted CafePress directly and asked for my T-shirts to be removed. CafePress placed all “Gaia’s Orphans” content on “PENDING” status and informed me of the reason why they had done so.

In practical terms, this hasn’t created a difficulty yet because the book won’t be coming out anytime soon. But as a matter of principle, this second attack on my creative self-expression and religious freedom made me very angry. I sent a somewhat formal but openly scathing letter to PI. Inc demanding that they withdraw their complaint and have CafePress reinstate my content. Their response was very dismissive and somewhat mocking in tone, threatening legal action if I continue infringing on their trademark.

That’s the gist of the story so far. Unless I receive further contact from PI, Inc., I’m going to take a few days (weeks?) to reflect on the situation, talk to my friends/associates/contacts, and decide what my next move should be. In the meantime, as always, your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

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Heart Full of Ecstasy

Mountain Ecstasy by Maxfield Parrish: This is the painting "Mountain Ecstasy" by Maxfield Parrish.Ecstasy.

No, I’m not talking about the drug. I’m talking about the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual experience of an all-consuming bliss that is both immanent and transcendent in nature. I’ve been feeling this again lately, so I thought I’d share what I feel.

Words can never explain the beauty and power of this experience. Words can, however, present us with imagery that evokes our memories of whatever fleeting moments of ecstasy we may have experienced. In this way, words can be a simple but powerful form of magic, reawakening our consciousness into an echo of our previous experiences of ecstasy.

Ecstasy is in the racing of our pulse, the widening of our eyes, the sudden silence of our otherwise chattering minds as we find ourselves in the presence of incomprehensible beauty. We may feel it when we find ourselves bathed in the radiant glow of a sunset, or immersed in the verdant vibrance of a meadow, or enraptured in the eager embrace of a lover. In these moments, there is no denying what we feel, and no containing what we feel without a great deal of willpower and a greater amount of sorrow.

Ecstasy is a manifestation of the deepest, truest form of love — a love which demands nothing in return, and which radiates the purest of joys simply in response to the presence of the subject of that love. This radiant experience can arise out of any form of love: a love for our living Earth; a love for the brilliance of human creativity; a love for one or more of our fellow humans; or any other love that leaves us in awe of something greater than ourselves.

This love, however, isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Where there lies great passion, there can also lie great sorrow and suffering. Deadly smog and neon lights can blot out the beauty of sun, moon, and stars. The human spirit can be twisted and broken by the banality and viciousness of a society gone mad. The ones we love can be taken from us through death, destruction, disagreement, confusion, self-absorption, and betrayal. At times, we may look upon these realities of life and feel our heart wrenched by a terrible feeling which rivals our former joy in its depth, complexity, and power.

And yet, in its own way, this too is a form of ecstasy. We only feel such profound suffering and sorrow in the presence of true love — and so our deepest and most hurtful experiences of anguish and despair serve as testaments to our love.

I used to wonder why people closed their hearts to love to varying degrees. But now I understand all too well. Love is a wild, restless, explosive, untameable force of nature that transforms and tears apart everything in its wake. When you open your heart to love, you open it to both extremes of this ecstasy — the transcendent bliss of a hopeless romantic and the inescapable anguish of a romantic who has lost all hope.

Some people say it’s not worth the pain. Most if not all of us insulate ourselves from this maddening force of nature with a strong measure of apathy, numbness, and self-restraint. We open our hearts to no one, or only to a select few who have slowly but surely gained our trust. We may at times feel like something’s missing in life, but at least we have sense of comfort, security, stability, and perhaps even peace.

But I say it’s not worth it. I say that no amount of security or stability is worth the cost of living in fear of our own passion and potential. I say that we should embrace our love for ourselves and each other, and embrace our creative inspirations, and embrace any path in life that sparks an ecstatic experience within us. I’ve started doing so, and I encourage you to do the same.

When I open my heart to love, I feel alive — more alive than I’ve ever felt before in my entire life. When I open my heart to love, I feel the fires of passion arising within me, and the strangling constraints of social expectations burning away all around me.

In the past, whenever I felt the sting of sorrow or the slap of a social constraint telling me how to think or feel or live my life, I started holding back on my love, dampening the flames of this fire burning within my heart. But now more than ever, I can see that this internalized repression of my own passion for life was killing me, and that this dampening of my own flame is worse than any amount of suffering that embracing my love may bring. I can see that people all around me are dampening their own flames in their own ways, and it fills me with an overwhelming, relentless, wild, untameable desire to become a living force for the liberation of our innermost passions and deepest experiences of love and ecstasy.

And that liberation starts with me.

I know I’ve written on these themes before, and I know that in the past I’ve been searching for some way to unleash this inner fire. But I’ve come to realize that all of this time, I’ve been looking for some external solution. I’ve been looking for some dramatic event, or some golden opportunity, or some profound experience, or some brilliant idea, or some incredible person to come into my life and open the door to freedom and self-actualization.

But I can feel something different now. I can feel something shifting inside of me. I can slowly but surely feel a strength welling up within me that I’ve never known before. This love, this passion, this ecstasy that I’ve invited into every fiber of my being is transforming me. Yes, at times it’s brought me more anguish and despair than I would have even imagined possible. But it’s also made me who I am, and who I am becoming.

I’m becoming someone who feels in my heart what I previously searched for in the outside world. I feel a growing strength and security; I feel a rising sense of freedom and empowerment; I feel as though the chains that have held me back for longer than I can remember are finally falling away.

For longer than I can remember, I’ve looked high and low for a spot of solid ground where this inner flame of mine would be safe and free to shine. Now, I’m finding that spot of solid ground within me — in my body, in my heart, in my mind, in my spirit.

This is the start of a whole new dimension of personal empowerment and liberation. The flickering flame has suddenly grown steady, and my inner fire is ready to shine. There’s nothing more to wait for, and no force in the world that can stop me from unleashing this fire within.

This is big news. This is such big news that I don’t even know where it’s going to take me. But I’ll be sure to let you know once I know. In the meantime, I’m off to bed. I’ve got quite an adventure ahead of me, so I’d better rest up now while I still have the chance.

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State of the Revolution, Fall 2008

For over two hundred years, the President of the United States has taken the time once per year to deliver an address to Congress about the state of the nation. Sometimes, this was simply a written message that was read to Congress by a messenger. Other times, it has been a speech delivered personally by the President himself. Ever since the term of Franklin D. Roosevelt, this address has become widely known as the “State of the Union” address.

As a social anarchist, I’m not a big fan of Presidents and the disingenuous speeches they give. I am, however, a big fan of addressing public issues of local, regional, national, and international significance. As citizens of an allegedly free and democratic society, I feel that it’s our right — indeed, our duty — to talk about such issues and make our own decisions about them. Therefore, I’ve decided to issue my own State of the Revolution address.

A well-informed person could write an entire book on the subject. Sadly, I must admit that I’m not as well-informed as I’d like to be. Revolution is ideally a global affair, and my knowledge of international affairs is minimal, gleaned mostly from the Daily Show and internet chatrooms. My awareness of national and regional struggles is only slightly more expansive. Therefore, I will keep my thoughts relatively brief and mostly focused on the potential for revolution as I see it in my life, my community, and my region.

First, though, a few words on the international scene.

Globalization continues with each passing day. The question is no longer whether or not humanity will start to function as a single global society, but rather what form that global society will take. Will the world be a place of freedom, independence, and relative harmony, or a place of domination, centralized authority, and perpetual violence? Both tendencies seem to be experiencing a renewed resurgence, so it’s hard to say which way the struggle will go. The fate of the world for the next several hundred years, though, will probably be largely decided by the current and next generation.

I’ve been happy to see a greater focus internationally on global climate change and other environmental crises. The US could learn a lot from the work of other nations on these issues. But then again, the transnational corporations are continuing to become more entrenched in the global economy, surpassing small nations with the vastness of their wealth. And nobody really seems to be paying enough attention to Peak Oil. Sure, there’s the surface dialog about high gas prices, especially in the US and a few other places. But who is really ready to cope with the fact that from approximately this point forward, our oil supply will start to decrease?

Nationally, it’s been heartwarming to watch Bush’s poll numbers plummet — yet disheartening to see that nothing is being done about him, and probably nothing will be. There are mountains of evidence indicating that a sitting President has willfully deceived the American people and lead them into a war of aggression. Where are the massive general strikes? Where is the militant popular movement demanding for him to be impeached and tried for war crimes? Do people not appreciate the depths of his crimes, or are they just not willing or able to act on them?

Regionally and locally, I’ve been excited by a resurgence of environmental and social activism. This new wave of action (or at least the portion of it that I’ve been following) is largely student-led and consists of a wide array of reformist, radical, and revolutionary actions and campaigns. I think that people my age and younger are starting to get tired of being viewed as amoral consumers and starting to get tired of watching their lives and their futures ruined for a cheap buck.

The one fatal flaw of most of this activism, though, is a lack of revolutionary strategy. Reformist groups seek to challenge and petition corporate and government agencies without questioning the very existence of such authoritarian and inhuman institutions. Radical groups go a step further by seeking to oppose and disrupt oppressive institutions, yet often lack a progressive strategy for change and a constructive vision for forms of social organizing to replace the corporations and the centralized governmental bureaucracies. If we don’t get our food/energy/information/etc from the corporations, then where will we get it?

As I see it, then, the biggest challenge facing progressives, radicals, and revolutionaries today is to take all of this renewed dissatisfaction with the likes of Bush and channel it into forms of organizing that are effective, strategic, and revolutionary in nature. That way, we can take all of this energy people have and turn it into a powerful force for positive and lasting change.

We have all of this pent-up frustration over what Bush and the men around him and before him have done to this country and this world. What we need most right now is a way to draw all of this frustration together and channel it into actions and organizations that have a real chance of uprooting the authoritarian power base and sowing the seeds of a more free and democratic society.

I have some serious and specific ideas on how to go about this. For the past few months, I’ve been looking off and on for other people who share an interest in this sort of far-reaching strategic thinking and how to apply it here in Carbondale and throughout Southern Illinois. I encourage all people who are interested in strategic organizing to contact me and share their thoughts.

To be honest, it’s been rough going. But I’ve talked to a few other people about it on a few different occasions, and we all seemed to feel a sense of hope and have our own unique ideas to contribute. Therefore, as harvest time approaches and the students return to town, I’m hoping to see a resurgence in strategic thinking and planning. Really, I’m hoping that other people will get a project like this going and I can just come along for the ride! But either way, my heart lies with this effort to draw people together under the banner of strategic visioning and community organizing, so I will go wherever my heart takes me.

On a personal note, I would say that the State of the Revolution in my own life is looking much better than it has in a long time. For a while there, I was letting my exhaustion, frustration, and depression get the best of me. Now, with the help of a combination of yoga, prayer, and quality time with friends, I’ve seen a significant improvement in my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. This renewed foundation of personal empowerment has started spilling over into a renewed inspiration to take on creative projects and community projects.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a book called Revolution of One. This book outlines a collection of personal practices and community organizations that can help each of us to build our power and reach out from that place of empowerment to do good in our community and our society.

At the time, this approach to revolution was still fairly new to me, and I found myself bogged down in a series of personal challenges before I had the time to fully understand and implement the very strategies that I had just written about. But now, with a bit more experience under my belt and a bit more time for personal healing, I find myself taking to heart the lessons that I first learned while I was writing this book.

At some point in the next week or two, I plan on rereading Revolution of One. It’s a quick read, and it’ll help me to stay on track with this renewal of focus and purpose. Without even thinking about it, I’ve found myself intuitively applying some of the strategies and tactics contained therein with surprisingly good results. Therefore, I intend to reflect on what I’ve learned and shared with others, and what I’ve finally started to benefit from personally. From this kernel of positive personal growth, I can grow once again into the role of community organizing and perhaps even broader regional visioning. Together with other kindred spirits, I can do my part to leave the world in a better state than I found it.

Revolution is a daunting task. A true revolution challenges and transforms all aspects of life, from our innermost thoughts and feelings to the most broad and impersonal institutions of state, national, and international power. But ultimately, revolution starts and finishes with a shift in consciousness: a feeling that something is not quite right in the world; an understanding of how a better world might come into being; and a relentless drive to turn that vision into a reality.

This, then, is the State of the Revolution. The world is still in a sorry state, and our efforts to do something about it lie strewn about us like so many disparate strands of thread. But the fate of the world is in your hands, and in my hands, and in all of our hands. So let’s do whatever we can to honor this feeling inside of ourselves that something is not quite right in the world of today. Let’s work together to clarify and strengthen our understanding of how a better world might come into being. And most of all, let’s embrace our relentless drive to turn our shared visions into a better reality.

In the fires of our passion and the light of our vision, a more free, more cooperative, and more ecological world will be born. Any doubts of this that I may feel from time to time melt away when I look into the eyes of a fellow revolutionary, see the same fire that burns in my own heart, and know that we will not rest until our dreams of a better world have become a reality.

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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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