Cold Iron

Crying Faerie: This is an image of a crying faerie that I found online.In fantasy stories and role-playing games, “cold iron” is a particular kind of metal that’s harmful to Faeries. Since this special iron is so dense and banal, ethereal and magical creatures like the Faeries feel weak and sickly in its presence. If a Faerie is wounded by a cold iron weapon, their wound will not heal properly. Cold iron is also resistant to Faerie magic, making it the perfect tool for creating a world in which the enchanting, creative, dreamy qualities of the Fae are banished from human sight.

For a long time now, I’ve felt as though the world we live in, especially here in the Heartland of the American Empire, is built on a foundation of cold iron. This cold iron cage offers us a great deal of stability, security, and prosperity that many other war-torn and impoverished nations may or may not look to with jealous eyes. The truth, though, is that there is a growing divide between the few who hold most of the wealth and the many who linger in relative poverty. All of our hopes and dreams of being a role model for democracy and freedom are shackled by the cold iron chains of racism, sexism, homophobia, ecocide, and the like. And at the end of the day, the icing on the cake is that the entire system is held in place not by brute force, but by social engineering and economic coercion. In other words, the Empire goes about its dirty business because we “choose” to allow it. But is it really a choice, or is it the result of billions of dollars worth of social conditioning? Even though many of us may be free in our bodies, we are still kept in chains by our growing tendency to let the corporations and the government do our thinking and dreaming for us.

To me, this is the greatest sorrow of our society — a sorrow that perhaps only the Fae can truly appreciate, since it is they who have the greatest love for the beauty of our hopes, our dreams, our passions, and our fantasies. We have given our capacity for dreaming over to the corporations, and they have left us with a grey inner landscape devoid of the rainbow colors of any genuine sense of wonder, inspiration, and freedom. They have taken our hearts and filled them with banal aspirations toward earning a few more dollars, paying off our debts, getting a slightly better health care plan, enjoying a few Disney films, and ultimately devoting our lives to the service of the Empire. They’ve taught us to trade our time and our dreams for a few measly copper coins, and our freedoms for the cold iron cage of authoritarian security. And in the end, they tell us that we have no one to blame but ourselves for any material, emotional, or spiritual poverty that this lifestyle leads to.

At least in a crude authoritarian society, the banality is external — a cruel, unthinking brute who will hurt us for disobeying the will of the Leader. Our society, however, is currently under the sway of the most advanced and comprehensive social engineering efforts in human history. Modern technology allows repeated messages of patriarchy, militarism, heterosexism, racism, ecocide, and the like to be woven together through multiple forms of media such as TV, radio, movies, music, Internet, and beyond. This creates a multimedia environment that follows us from cradle to grave, telling us who we are, how to think, how to act, how to live, what to believe, and even what to dream, all in the service of the corporate and government “leaders” who hope to extract power and profit from us.

What could be more banal than that? An entire inner landscape devoted not to our genuine dreams and passions, but rather to the profits of the few. It’s as though someone took the entire Amazon rainforest and leveled it simply to build an empty parking lot.

And so, I feel the cold iron surrounding me, and surrounding all of us, suffocating our capacity to color outside of the lines, live a different life, and dream of a better world. When you have an authoritarian standing in front of you with a cold iron weapon, you at least have a chance of recognizing that your freedom is being denied you. But when your whole social reality is a cold iron cage, and every audio and visual cue tells you that you need to conform and perform for the Empire in order to survive, then you begin to lose your inner capacity to hope, to dream, to long for a better world where true freedom is your birthright and your reality. And if you truly can’t dream of any life other than the cold, banal routine of work, school, and conformity that has been laid out for you by your teachers, your bosses, and your neighbors, then you have lost even the hope of one day finding your way to freedom.

When humanity ceases to dream, to embrace its passions, to envision a world of magic and wonder just beyond the horizon, then what hope is there for a life of true freedom? If our only source of inspiration and imagination lies in the movies and TV shows churned out for us by the corporations, then how can we ever find our way to a world where life is about more than the cold cash of corporate profit?

These are questions that I often ask myself… and at times, these questions are very depressing. In fact, I would go so far as to say that my physical tiredness and thinness are at least partially a result of the strain that this “cold iron” of the Empire has placed upon my body and my heart. I am Fae at heart, and I can feel myself withering in the presence of the banality that is Corporate America. I feel such ecstatic love for the people around me that it leaves me feeling sad and sick inside to see so many of them searching for some sort of inspiration, and fascination, and renewed sense of hope and meaning that they just can’t seem to find in shopping malls, and dead-end jobs, and remakes of movies that weren’t even that good in the first place. It makes me even sadder to see the larger number who aren’t even searching anymore. And in the moments when I can see beyond the effects of this banality on my fellow community members, I find myself looking out into the world only to realize that the Empire is marching forward in our name, wielding the cold iron weapons of corporate exploitation and military domination in order to reshape the entire world in the service of our endless consumerism and obedience to corporate dominance.

Cheery stuff, eh? The good news, I suppose, is that the same qualities that make this Empire so good at manipulating people are also the qualities that leave it so open to change. The whole system of media dominance and social indoctrination is set up to ensure that our very hopes and dreams fall into line with the dull grey paths that the corporations and government have laid out for us. In other words, the key strength of the system is that it mostly relies on controlling our inner landscape rather than using brute force to demand our obedience. The trick, then, is to break free of their oppressive mental and spiritual influence… to learn how to discover our own hopes and dreams again, independent of what the corporations and government tell us that we want or need. If we can do this, then their spell over us is broken, and they must either fall back on brute force to control us or simply accept the fact that we are finally free.

Isn’t it interesting that the future of humanity, and the future of life as we know it, may depend on reawakening our power to hope and dream? Of course, dreaming alone will not be enough. Once we’ve pieced together the common aspects of our visions for a new society, we’ll need to apply our passion and our discipline to the task of making those visions a reality. In the end, though, it all starts with a vision… with a moment of inspiration in which we realize that another world truly is possible, and in fact has already begun, even when surrounded by the banality of the existing systems of control. Once we truly realize this, we have cast aside the heaviest cold iron shackle holding us back from our path to freedom. Once we have reclaimed our ability to dream a dream that takes us beyond the cold confines of what the corporations and government have laid out for us, we have truly reclaimed our freedom. And once we learn to work together in pursuit of the dreams that we share, the world will become a place of beauty unlike anything that most of us can currently imagine.

So, in spite of the fact that so much time and energy and money has been thrown into the task of manipulating and limiting our hopes and dreams, there is still a chance for us to find our path to freedom. As we dance, and sing, and write, and read, and organize for a better tomorrow, the cold iron bars that lock us in the dungeons of Empire will bend and crack. There may be moments of chaos and confusion as the old structures collapse, but together, we can build a shared reality that embodies a more genuine spirit of freedom and cooperation.

This is my dream… and in time, if it’s a dream that many people share, it may very well become a reality. If any of this makes sense to you, let me know… and together, maybe we can find our way to the next revolution.

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Forbidden Philosophies

I’d like some feedback on an idea of mine. As some of you know, I’m thinking of resuming my public speaking efforts. This would involve leading workshops such as Intro to Permaculture, Intro to Climate Change, Intro to Peak Oil, etc. As a side project, though, I’m also considering a talk, or a series of talks, called “Forbidden Philosophies” or something similar.

“Forbidden Philosophies” would explore several perspectives that are currently either taboo or looked down upon in our society. Current topics include:

* Anarchism. What does the A word really mean? Would “non-hierarchy” lead to social upheaval, or would it give people more freedom?
* Polyamory. What is polyamory? Does sharing intimacy with multiple partners ruin the integrity of all relationships, or can some people find true love with more than one person?
* Magic. What is magic? Is it real or imaginary? If it’s real, how does it work, and why don’t we see people getting turned into toads?
* Naturism (aka Nudism). Why do some people want to walk around naked? Should people be allowed to be naked in public?

Of course, there are plenty of other “forbidden philosophies” out there. But these are some of the ones that I actually believe in. Therefore, I always enjoy sparking public dialog about them.

So, what do you think? Does this sound like a good series? I know that it may alienate some of the people who would like me to stick to eco advocacy, but then again, it may also spark some dialog with people who aren’t really into hugging trees. If other people think that these are topics that might actually spark some interest in the community, then I’ll be happy and eager to organize a series. Who knows… maybe I could even wrap up the series with a debate between myself and a staunch conservative who thinks that all of these ideas are the work of the devil… 🙂

Let me know what you think. In the meantime, if you want to talk about any of these topics themselves rather than the series as a whole, you know where to find me… 🙂 Either way, it should be a good dialog…

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Making a Difference: Housing Co-op

The next idea in my “Making a Difference” series isn’t exactly a new one. It’s been tried before elsewhere, and I’ve even suggested it before here in Carbondale. But it still hasn’t happened — and so, the stubborn Taurus in me is going to keep pushing this idea until I can find other people who feel similarly inspired.

The idea? Start a housing co-op.

A housing co-op is any form of housing where ownership (or at least rental) of a house (or houses) is held collectively. All decisions that affect the house(s) as a whole are made cooperatively by the members, and all maintenance/housework/etc. is organized by and for the members.

There are many benefits to a housing co-op, and many challenges as well. Here are some of the benefits:

* Owners have more control over the circumstances of their housing — not as much as a sole owner, of course, but much more than an isolated renter.
* Expenses tend to be lower, and quality of living higher, because there is no landlord extracting a profit.
* Flexibility of housing: Your housing co-op doesn’t have to be a big house with a bunch of roommates. It can take on other forms, including: an apartment building with separate living spaces; a trailer park with separate trailers; a lot or block with separate houses; a tenant-union-type group for people who are renters with the same landlord/neighborhood but don’t all live under one roof; or several buildings which blend alone-space and community space.
* Intentional Living: Some housing co-ops have a theme — all students, or all vegetarians, or all gaming geeks, or all activists, or all ninjas, etc.
* Participating in a weekly or monthly meeting gives owners experience with grassroots cooperative decision-making (i.e. democracy, which the U.S. was supposedly founded on).

And here are some of the challenges:

* You generally have to be at least a little more “involved.” This means going to a regular meeting, whether once a week or once a month. How important it is to make it to most/all meetings depends on what kind of housing coop it is.
* If you have other people under the same roof as you, you have to hope that they’ll keep up their end of any chores, meetings, etc. In other words, if your fellow members are bums, you might have to deal with dirty dishes, laundry on the floor, etc. (Or if your fellow members are neat freaks, you might have to listen to them complain because you don’t scrub the floor with a toothbrush every single day.)
* If you don’t have an already existing co-op to join, you have to start a new one. And even if it’s a simple one, it’ll take at least a little time and energy to think it through and talk it over with other prospective members.

The good news is that most of the challenges are easily manageable, and most are things you would encounter in any roommate situation. Being roommates is, in fact, a very simple form of cooperative housing.

So why is a housing co-op going to make a difference in the world? Well, there are a number of ways:

* We may save money by sharing resources — rent, and possibly even food money, time, energy, etc., depending on how we set it up. And extra money in the hands of cool people is a cool thing, whatever they may choose to do with it.
* We may get to know our neighbors/roommates better.
* We may get practice cooperative decision-making.
* We may form interest-based housing co-ops to support each other around some particular interest or quality we have in common.
* We’ll be supporting a shift in thinking — away from the idea of landlords and towards the idea that everyone should be in charge of their own housing situation.

Does any of this sound like a good idea to you? Good! Let me know what you think of it all. And since I’ve pledged to get as specific as possible with these “Making a Difference” ideas, here are a few simple and specific ideas about action steps you can take if you like the idea of cooperative housing:

* Talk to other people who share your interests. Not everyone who talks about it will actually go through with the idea, but this can help you to learn more about housing co-ops and think about what you might be looking for in a housing co-op.
* Organize/Join a discussion group. Discussion groups about “new ideas” are helpful because there may be many people who like the sound of an idea, but aren’t familiar enough with it to invest time and energy in it until they actually see it unfolding.
* Be roommates with people who share your interests. And in saying this, I’m not just talking about finding a roommate you can tolerate, or a roommate who is your friend’s friend. Think about what’s most important to you in life — whether that’s art, politics, ecology/environment, music, computers, gaming, etc. You may already be doing this to a degree… if so, talk to your current roommates about it, and keep these qualities in mind the next time a housing/roommate decision.

If I can find at least two other people who are interested, I’d like to co-start a housing co-op with a focus on eco-activism and/or eco-spirituality. This would probably entail being roommates for a year, seeing if we get along, and clarifying what if anything we would like to be a next step [i.e. incorporating, trying to own rather than rent, how to rotate members in/out, etc].

If there’s some other type of housing co-op you’d like to start, I’d still be happy to give you a hand and direct you to any information or resources you may need.

And if you really don’t like the sound of housing co-ops at all… well, that’s cool too. That’s why I’m coming up with a whole SERIES of ideas! The world needs a lot of change, and not everyone will agree on what needs changing, or where each of us may fit in. So, let’s explore as many options as possible and find as many people as possible who are interested in a similar approach.

I hope to hear back from some of you soon, whether you love this idea or hate it with a passion. In the meantime, I’m off to grab some dinner and/or flesh out a few of the other ideas I’ve got on tap for future blog entries.

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Making a Difference: An Unconventional Approach

So… how would you like to make a difference in the world?

As many of you know, I’ve been writing for several years now about my views on the world’s problems and possible solutions. During that time, I’ve sought to make a difference in the world in a variety of ways. Public speaking… activist groups… community businesses… independent media… these are just a few examples of the places I’ve put my time and energy, searching for the power to change things for the better.

I’d like to believe that I’ve made an impact in the community. I’ve met good people, and we’ve done more together than any one of us could have done individually. Even so… there’s still so much more to be done. With that in mind, I’m going to spend the next few months searching for unique, innovative, specific, cooperative, and powerful ways that I and other kindred spirits can make a difference in the world.

I’ve already got a few schemes brewing. It’ll take time to work out the details, and it’ll take time to come up with a few other ideas to round out this batch of revolutionary projects. But in the meantime… since I’ve long had a flair for the dramatic… I thought I’d start this out with the most far-flung idea of them all. And if all goes according to plan, YOU may be the one to make history!

So, what’s this idea? Alright, hear me out…

Do you believe in psychic abilities? Do you believe in the power of human consciousness to interact with the world in ways that established science currently doesn’t understand? If not… well then, this message isn’t for you. Stay tuned for the next few blog entries, where I’ll be discussing other ideas that are grounded in political theory, psychology, and sociology rather than anything “unconventional.” But if you DO believe in psychic abilities… and you DO believe in the power of human consciousness to create change in the world… then keep reading.

For years, I’ve walked in two separate worlds… the political world, and the spiritual world. In the political world, I’ve witnessed horrors the likes of which most people would not believe… in the spiritual world, I’ve witnessed wonders the likes of which most people can scarcely imagine. For a long time, I’ve wanted to adopt a course of action based on the insights of both worlds… combining the liberatory potential of political theory with the liberatory potential of spiritual experience.

One of my favorite authors, Starhawk, has gone a long way in doing just that. It was quite a treat to spend two weeks last summer attending one of the Earth Activist Trainings that she co-taught in Missouri. But so far, I’ve met precious few people in Southern Illinois who share both interests. There are the dedicated, passionate, activist-types who taught me everything I know about revolution… and there are the insightful, intuitive types who taught me everything I know about spirituality. Inevitably, there is overlap… but the people who talk politics mostly want to stick to politics, and the people who talk about spirituality often focus on personal empowerment rather than community organizing. I’d almost go so far as to say that it’s taboo for political people to talk about spiritual or psychic stuff, and vice versa.

I want to bridge that gap. I want to find other people, in Southern Illinois and elsewhere, who share an interest in both “progressive” politics and psychic awareness. I believe that if we gather and talk amongst ourselves, something powerful and exciting will inevitably emerge. I already have a specific project in mind for anyone out there who may have significant psychic abilities… if you are such a person, I have a very specific approach that we can take to making a powerful positive difference in the world very quickly. But even in the absence of any psychic prodigies, I’d like to get together with other people who share an interest in both (A) progressive spirituality [psychic abilities, personal empowerment, etc.] and (B) progressive politics [eco issues, anti-authoritarian perspectives, cooperative economics, etc.].

So… are you up for the challenge?

If so, you know where to find me. It’ll be an uphill struggle, but also a very rewarding journey. When we join forces, adventure and excitement will surely await us as we explore the outer reaches of human experience! What could be more pioneering than an effort to explore the boundaries of individual consciousness and community organizing simultaneously? If the forces of conformity do not smite us where we stand, we’re bound to discover something interesting.

And if you’re not up for the challenge? If all of this sounds like a bunch of hooey to you? Well… like I said, I’ll be getting back to some of the non-psychic projects soon enough. What can I say… it’s a full moon tonight, and the lunar energies that you may or may not believe in have me feeling even more restless and wild as usual.

Either way… hopefully we can all agree that there is hope in the world. I was feeling rather exhausted, depressed, and even a bit combative this morning… but as soon as it came time to do my radio show, I felt a renewed sense of hope and inspiration. Sure, there’s a lot of madness and destruction in the world… but as long as we set aside time to be with our friends and talk about what’s important in life (be it politics or personal), then there’s still hope that our children, and our children’s children, will live in a better world.

I’m off to celebrate the full moon… I’ll be back soon though with more to share. As always, I’m eager to hear from you as well… let me know what you think, and maybe together, we can figure this all out.

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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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