Category Archives: Words

Corporate Feudalism

[Written sometime in 2003, at the outset of the invasion of Iraq, as a young journalism student. Some of the claims in this strike me as a bit bombastic now, but as I write this, 14 years later, my ‘it can’t happen here’ o-meter seems to be malfunctioning. So I suppose we shall see. ]

The United States has become embroiled in the most controversial conflict in modern history, and the entire planet is poised at the edge of its bloody event horizon, waiting to be pulled into the fray. In Iraq, in Afghanistan, and other hot spots to be announced, the United States has led the world into another phase in history, a global war which could spell the end of nations as the dominant form of social organization.

Is this merely the first global Oil War? Is this the first phase of a tiny right-wing cabal’s vision of American global hegemony? Is it, as they would claim, a global police action to secure America from fanatical terrorists? Perhaps all three are true, after a fashion. About the only thing everyone can agree upon is that we ARE at war, but beyond that everyone’s rhetoric gets a bit fuzzy.

The United States is the last imperial nation-state. For 200 years it has stood with unassailable borders, and ushered in the modern age. The American system is the most flexible and adaptable system of mass control ever devised, and the American value system has unleashed the creative powers of its citizens to an unparalled degree, allowing for cultural mutation and adaptation never before seen. No nation before the U.S. would have been able to withstand the wild nature of dissent and relatively free thought and still exist. But the vast majority of creative thought is channelled into increasing production and profit. This is the American value system, where freedom means choosing between slavery and starvation.

Nonetheless, the American economic system, with its crown jewel, the middle class, is the most brilliant self-regulating system of control in the history of mankind. Acting as a buffer zone between the poor and rich, the middle class has enough to lose that it will always side with the perpetuation of the system. At least until it is absorbed back into the ranks of the poor.

In the last hundred and fifty years a new form of organization has been gestating and becoming more prominent in human affairs- the corporation. While there have always been guilds and interest groups to promote economic considerations upon the minds of kings, the corporation is a somewhat more virulent strain. It is largely a child of the industrial revolution, when new technologies made mass production- and thus mass profit- a defining aspect of society. With its emphasis on increased individual profit and decreased individual responsibility, the corporation’s relationship with nations and people has been overwhelmingly parasitic.

In America, where royalty was abolished, the only status symbol has been raw wealth. A corporation is merely amassed, focused wealth without individual culpability. Thus these macroviruses have been able to eat away at the foundations of states’ legitimacy: their laws.

Now, the United States (along with other nations) is much like a house fully infested by termites. The corporations dictate government policy nearly verbatim, albeit from behind closed doors. The most powerful tool corporations have is the public’s belief that the system works; that they, in effect, are free. This is an act of faith on their part, one that requires them to turn a blind eye to many aspects of modern life. The stock market can be seen as a sort of thermometer to indicate that faith.

But when some aspect of the system crumbles away, the underlying corporate hive-structure is revealed. When government programs are threatened by financial shortages, politicians often suggest “privatization”, which is to say, corporate ownership. This means that the functions of governance are being managed by corporations. It is a gradual but unavoidable process. Governments are not made to be profitable, but they no longer value anything else. This is a symptom of the corporate virus.

As more functions of government become privately controlled, the corporations gradually come to BE the government. The nation, which was once bound by geography, ideology, and culture, becomes little more than a broker for population, leasing out its information and labor to the highest bidder.

So eventually, perhaps fifty to one hundred years from now, the world will be overtly run by multinational companies, unfettered by considerations of geography, public opinion, environmental concerns, and other problems given lip service by nations these days. They will have their own military services, money, and people tied to the company for perhaps generations. An era of corporate feudalism will most likely be the next step in the evolution of governments. Combine this with the structural need of a corporation to constantly expand, and a state of perpetual inter-corporate warfare reveals itself.

However, the old nation-state, its open sores bleeding a mass identity crisis, will not go quietly. The ties of nationalism are too deeply ingrained to fade away without a massive discharge of political and military power. In short, a war, perhaps several, will be fought when the crumbling old model of the nation resists final absorption into the corporate consciousness. The nation of one’s geographic origin could become a rallying cry for resistance against the new structure, much as the religious ideal is against the onslaught of nations.

The Gods of the Americans

I’ve written on this subject before, but it’s worth contemplating what our American holidays say about us as a people. Many of our most sacred days (all of which are suffused with ultimate deference to the dark demon Money) are ritualized warfare. New Year, Independence Day, and the Super Bowl are all, in their own way, orgies of ritualized violence, infused with nationalist fervor that seems unsettling and unnecessarily murderous to the outside observer. It is with the Super Bowl (arguably our high holy day in many circles) that we replace ritual artillery of fireworks with the more primal catharsis of tribal bloodshed. As Mark Edmondson said in this LA Times  op ed from 2014 “Football is America’s War Game”, the transition from baseball to football paralleled our transition from isolationist republic to global empire with constant conflict:
“…then cadoodle-1016-money-bagsme Korea, Vietnam, three wars in the Middle East and no end of flare-ups around the world. One may think that our military engagements have been justified. One may think they have been necessary. But it is no longer really possible to think that America is a deeply peaceful, or even a peace-loving nation…
Eagle-GodHaveMercy
…Granted, almost all games are sublimations of war. But no game is as close to war without slipping over to war as football is.”
 
Those of you who are students of ancient future history may wish to ponder how, in 500 years or more, Americans will be remembered, and what gods they will say we worshipped. In my travels I visited a decrepit library in the distant future, and found a history of the world before the Cataclysm. I was able to save one page before the building collapsed, and barely escaped with my life. At the risk of causing a rupture to the timeline, I present to you an excerpt from that tome:
 
“The Americans were a warlike people, who founded a republic modeled after the ancient Romans, and whose ascent and decline resembled their forbears in many ways. They were a sturdy, industrious people, and, it seemed, beloved by the gods. Originally a loose confederation of rebellious colonies, they united as their neighbors were stricken with great plagues, and as they conquered and expanded, they quickly grew to be the equal of any other nation. After several wars which weakened the older European empires in the 20th century, the Americans emerged as the inheritors of a great global empire.
For a time, they were the envy of the world, and were said to worship the twin virgin goddesses Justice and Liberty; one blind, to weigh the worth of each soul, and the other bearing a torch to light the path of righteousness and to welcome the stranger. The gods granted them the power to destroy the world or save it, and they declared themselves the protectors of all mankind.
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But the fruits of empire curdled in their mouths, and they became arrogant andcovetous. As with empires before them, they began to feast and revel while their subjects starved and burned, and the Americans became both cruel and weak. They began to neglect the fires at the temples of Liberty, preferring the worship of the top-hatted god Dollar, and of Uncle-Sám, the half-man, half-eagle god of War. Liberty was chained to a mountain, they say, and the Eagle feasted on her liver every four years. Dollar stood behind the virtuous Justice, weighing down her scales with gold at every judgement.
Sometime in the 21st Century, the world shook off the American yoke, around the same time as the Cataclysm purged the earth with fire and poison. Sources
do not say if one caused the other. But the priests of War had warned that their god had grown in strength, and that His hunger could no longer be sated with ritual battles, but needed to walk the earth and harvest his offerings with flaming sword. The other nations invoked the old gods of Justice and Liberty, but, it seems, the Eagle had already sent his messengers across every ocean, to feast upon every nation…”

So Your Jaw Is Broken; What To Expect

[In 2004 I was jumped in West Oakland and beaten with a 2×4. My jaw was broken in three places and had to be wired shut for six weeks. It was not fun at all. Several months later, my friend Kairsten told me about a friend of hers who, visiting Oakland on tour suffered a similar fate. She asked if I might have any advice while he lay recuperating in hospital. What follows was my response….]

Bummer. As a veteran of a broken jaw from Oakland street violence, I feel your pain, Matt. Kairsten asked me to compile a compendium of tips, tricks and hardships to expect from the coming weeks. First, the bad news:

  • the long haul – I understand they told you your jaw would be wired shut for 2 weeks. I hope they’re right, but I was told three weeks and my jaw was wired shut for just over six weeks. Expect to not chew anything for at least four weeks, and then perhaps you’ll be pleasantly surprised if the doctors are right.
  • You are going to lose weight and muscle mass. You simply can’t get enough food past your teeth. As a result, after the first week you will find yourself with enough energy to play video games and maybe go for short walks, but not much more. Do what I did: Relax, get your aggression out with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Be sure to stretch your muscles every day or two. Optionally, you may find yourself smoking a whole lot of weed. It helps, and you deserve it.
  • The worst part about a wired jaw is yawning. If you feel a yawn coming on (like now), hold your jaw shut with your hands. Seriously.
  • You can’t brush the inside of your teeth, or the areas under the metal. After a while your tongue may be scraping up against an indescribably hideous, gritty mess. Once your wires come off, schedule a good thorough cleaning ASAP.
  • As a singer and communicator, I felt pretty crippled when I couldn’t speak clearly. You will also find yourself lacking the energy to really belt out a tune. For an artist, this can be depressing, but it is also an opportunity. My advice is to divert that energy into a new, nonverbal skill. I started writing a comic book with my illustrator buddy.
  • Along these same lines, your social life will be a little different for a while. People who don’t talk become invisible at parties, after the initial sympathy has ebbed. Try not to resent this different treatment. Take advantage of this new position to observe just how people waste their ability to speak on meaningless conversation.
  • Once the wires come off, you will be weak. Don’t lift anything heavy for a few weeks afterwards, because your neck and jaw muscles are a big part of that function. Take up a soft martial art like aikido, or start swimming to build up your endurance and muscle tone. If you have the moolah for a physical therapist, that couldn’t hurt. I would stress the martial arts though, because it will help you get over the lingering fear you may be dealing with.
  • You may have nightmares or mild flashbacks, where your body jerks like when you watch a really scary movie. Your mind may start running through different scenarios of what you could have done, or how to get revenge, or so on. You may start being paranoid about minorities (I know I get a little skittish around large groups of young black males, because the last time I wasn’t skittish I got beat with a 2×4). This is basically a mild form of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, your mind trying to get rid of the fear and helplessness. My advice is to let go as much as possible. You’re spending mental energy that is going nowhere useful. I feel sorry for the kinds of people who commit these acts (not that I would have hesitated to kill them to prevent it). What kind of world do they live in where they can bring themselves to do that kind of shit? How terrible it must be to live like that. Maybe that sounds really hippy-dippy, and maybe it is, but anger and fear aren’t going to get you better, and that is your number one priority right now. We’re artists. Turning shit into cupcakes is what we do.

Some advice:

  • Don’t drink alcohol while your jaw is wired shut, especially to excess. The main reason: What happens if you have to puke?
  • Stay occupied. Even sleeping is doing something. If you feel yourself getting depressed, get some fresh air. Write a letter. Build a bomb.

Blending for cripples

You may get absolutely sick of smoothies after a couple of weeks. I know I did. Tough titties, my friend. Try getting creative with the blender. You may also want to consider getting a Champion Juicer, if you haven’t already. Those things’ll make juice out of anything, from carrots and potatoes to acorns and raccoons. Toward the end of my term I was blending pizza with canned tomato sauce. You will almost certainly be blending bananas into just about everything. Creamy peanut butter is another good ingredient. Lots of protein, too help slow down the loss of muscle mass. Fruits are good but AVOID ANYTHING WITH SMALL SEEDS. I can’t stress that enough. Fruits like blackberries have seeds that will get stuck in your teeth and make eating anything impossible. It will make you cry.

Alternately, Ensure (the canned stuff for senior citizens) is crappy but also kind of good in a way. Drink a lot of that. Try and avoid soda because like I said before, you can’t brush your teeth.

I hope some of this helps. Again, take care of the damage to your soul/mind/whatever you want to call it, because your mental health is just as important as your physical health. And take your time getting better. Don’t stage-dive until you know you can take it.

Good luck, and if you need anything else, get ahold of me.

So Your Jaw is Broken…What to Expect

[In 2004 I was jumped in West Oakland and beaten with a 2×4. My jaw was broken in three places and had to be wired shut for six weeks. It was not fun at all. Several months later, my friend Kairsten told me about a friend of hers who, visiting Oakland on tour suffered a similar fate. She asked if I might have any advice while he lay recuperating in hospital. What follows was my response….]

Bummer. As a veteran of a broken jaw from Oakland street violence, I feel your pain, Matt. Kairsten asked me to compile a compendium of tips, tricks and hardships to expect from the coming weeks. First, the bad news:

  • the long haul – I understand they told you your jaw would be wired shut for 2 weeks. I hope they’re right, but I was told three weeks and my jaw was wired shut for just over six weeks. Expect to not chew anything for at least four weeks, and then perhaps you’ll be pleasantly surprised if the doctors are right.
  • You are going to lose weight and muscle mass. You simply can’t get enough food past your teeth. As a result, after the first week you will find yourself with enough energy to play video games and maybe go for short walks, but not much more. Do what I did: Relax, get your aggression out with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Be sure to stretch your muscles every day or two. Optionally, you may find yourself smoking a whole lot of weed. It helps, and you deserve it.
  • The worst part about a wired jaw is yawning. If you feel a yawn coming on (like now), hold your jaw shut with your hands. Seriously.
  • You can’t brush the inside of your teeth, or the areas under the metal. After a while your tongue may be scraping up against an indescribably hideous, gritty mess. Once your wires come off, schedule a good thorough cleaning ASAP.
  • As a singer and communicator, I felt pretty crippled when I couldn’t speak clearly. You will also find yourself lacking the energy to really belt out a tune. For an artist, this can be depressing, but it is also an opportunity. My advice is to divert that energy into a new, nonverbal skill. I started writing a comic book with my illustrator buddy.
  • Along these same lines, your social life will be a little different for a while. People who don’t talk become invisible at parties, after the initial sympathy has ebbed. Try not to resent this different treatment. Take advantage of this new position to observe just how people waste their ability to speak on meaningless conversation.
  • Once the wires come off, you will be weak. Don’t lift anything heavy for a few weeks afterwards, because your neck and jaw muscles are a big part of that function. Take up a soft martial art like aikido, or start swimming to build up your endurance and muscle tone. If you have the moolah for a physical therapist, that couldn’t hurt. I would stress the martial arts though, because it will help you get over the lingering fear you may be dealing with.
  • You may have nightmares or mild flashbacks, where your body jerks like when you watch a really scary movie. Your mind may start running through different scenarios of what you could have done, or how to get revenge, or so on. You may start being paranoid about minorities (I know I get a little skittish around large groups of young black males, because the last time I wasn’t skittish I got beat with a 2×4). This is basically a mild form of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, your mind trying to get rid of the fear and helplessness. My advice is to let go as much as possible. You’re spending mental energy that is going nowhere useful. I feel sorry for the kinds of people who commit these acts (not that I would have hesitated to kill them to prevent it). What kind of world do they live in where they can bring themselves to do that kind of shit? How terrible it must be to live like that. Maybe that sounds really hippy-dippy, and maybe it is, but anger and fear aren’t going to get you better, and that is your number one priority right now. We’re artists. Turning shit into cupcakes is what we do.

Some advice:

  • Don’t drink alcohol while your jaw is wired shut, especially to excess. The main reason: What happens if you have to puke?
  • Stay occupied. Even sleeping is doing something. If you feel yourself getting depressed, get some fresh air. Write a letter. Build a bomb.

Blending for cripples

You may get absolutely sick of smoothies after a couple of weeks. I know I did. Tough titties, my friend. Try getting creative with the blender. You may also want to consider getting a Champion Juicer, if you haven’t already. Those things’ll make juice out of anything, from carrots and potatoes to acorns and raccoons. Toward the end of my term I was blending pizza with canned tomato sauce. You will almost certainly be blending bananas into just about everything. Creamy peanut butter is another good ingredient. Lots of protein, too help slow down the loss of muscle mass. Fruits are good but AVOID ANYTHING WITH SMALL SEEDS. I can’t stress that enough. Fruits like blackberries have seeds that will get stuck in your teeth and make eating anything impossible. It will make you cry.

Alternately, Ensure (the canned stuff for senior citizens) is crappy but also kind of good in a way. Drink a lot of that. Try and avoid soda because like I said before, you can’t brush your teeth.

I hope some of this helps. Again, take care of the damage to your soul/mind/whatever you want to call it, because your mental health is just as important as your physical health. And take your time getting better. Don’t stage-dive until you know you can take it.

Good luck, and if you need anything else, get ahold of me.

Pre-coffee thoughts on radicalism, the New Deal and looking past 2016

I gotta say, I really enjoy Dan Carlin. He’s better at history (check out his truly excellent Hardcore History series) than political analysis, and his thinking in Common Sense runs a bit conservative/Libertarian for my taste at times. But his “Martian perspective” is refreshing, and he opens up some interesting channels of thought.

In his latest episode of Common Sense (ep. 301), Carlin looks ahead to the 2020 election, given this year’s rebellion against both major parties. Should one of the establishment candidates succeed, the underlying distrust and dissatisfaction will only grow in intensity. What kind of candidates will rise to prominence THEN? It’s a disturbing thought to ponder, when you consider that the leading Republican candidate is surfing a populist wave of xenophobia, willful ignorance and race-baiting. What happens if the many voices who feel left out of the political process have another 4 years to stew in their rejection of mainstream politics?

It turns out that society is a cultural artifact, a fantasy castle in the clouds held aloft by our belief. As people start to see through the illusion, to recognize that it was not designed with them in mind, what are the real-world consequences to that loss of stability? The saga of the Bundys is, I believe, an outlier of things to come. Occupy Wall Street is another example of that sort of dissatisfaction. And since that protest withered away (or was choked off, depending on your sources) many more people actually live in tents on the street full-time. Desperation and anger have to be expressed, and if they are not channeled productively, those feelings will bubble over at inconvenient times and places. The Sanders campaign may be the last peaceful protest against economic inequality before the pitchforks and torches come out. None of us are any more than four or five meals from committing a crime.

It got me thinking about FDR. Perhaps at some point I’ll write about this in more depth, but it has been argued by better minds than mine that Roosevelt saved capitalism from itself, with an infusion of ‘socialism lite’. The system that existed in the post-WWI period was unsustainable, and during the Depression there was pressure from both the left and the right for radical solutions. Before WWII, both communism and fascism were openly espoused as utopian solutions, though after Pearl Harbor that changed dramatically. There’s a bit in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Jailbird” in which a character is blacklisted in the postwar period for communist leanings:

“All I had ever accused him of was membership in the Communist Party before the war, which I would have thought was about as damning for a member of the Depression generation as having stood in a breadline.”

Roosevelt’s level-headed response was essentially an inoculation against radicalism, and it is only now, as FDR’s work has been largely dismantled or defanged, that seemingly radical solutions are once again being widely considered. I leave it to you, Dear Reader, to interpret whether that is a good or bad thing. Certainly the safety net of the New Deal created a stability that forestalled any real revolutionary impulses for an entire generation, and even the tumult of the 1960s was more about building on that society than dismantling it. And the optimistic conservatism of the postwar period took a dim view of any contrarian voices suggesting that something was rotten at the very core of the Empire.

It remains to be seen then, what American truly needs; someone to steward a graceful descent from global Hegemon, or a race-car driver who will accelerate us all to “victory”, even if the finish line stands at a cliff.

Compromise vs Retreat: Why A Sanders Presidency Might Be More Pragmatic than Clinton

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between Sanders and Clinton, and what that would mean in terms of the kinds of legislation they’d be able to get passed. I mean, a Republican-controlled Congress isn’t going to roll over for either candidate while they enact legislation. Clinton has portrayed herself as more pragmatic, a “progressive that gets things done”, even if the things that she gets done are rarely progressive. I keep coming back to a quote from a book I first read back in high school, Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, by an old labor organizer named Saul Alinsky:
“…to the organizer, compromise is a key and beautiful word. It is always present in the pragmatics of operation. It is making the deal, getting that vital breather, usually the victory. If you start with nothing, demand 100 percent, then compromise for 30 percent, you’re 30 percent ahead.”
From what I’ve read, Sanders has been pretty much a one-note tuba, railing about economic injustice even while caucusing and voting with Democrats. In other words, compromising on legislation in order to further his bedrock ideological goals, albeit incrementally.
 
Bill and Hillary Clinton (I mention them both because they essentially function as a single unit, for good or ill), on the other hand, seem to have been willing to compromise larger principles in order to gain the ability to maneuver politically. It’s hard to pin down exactly what they stand for, which makes them hard to trust. What is the Democratic Party about, anyway? What did Bill Clinton do for America, exactly? The Clintons (and much of the Democratic Party) moved the center to the right in order to take wind out of the GOP’s sails and win in ’92. Soon the Democrats were pro-Wall Street deregulation and tough on crime.
 
The Republicans gave no ground in response to this ideological retreat; why would they? Instead, it emboldened them – hell, forced them – to advance further to the right to distinguish themselves. This process has continued for the last 25 years. In fact, looking at the GOP’s current ugly implosion, one could argue that the Democratic Party gave the Republicans enough rope to hang themselves with. But that’s some expensive rope; I don’t buy a 25-year Democratic conspiracy to act like cowards, cowering behind the flag while neoconservatives and religious fanatics looted the Treasury and set the world on fire. I’m pretty sure it was just the Clinton’s myopic and selfish election strategy that started a nasty chain reaction.
 
Anyway, I think about likely scenarios with Clinton in office. Look at her platform. It’s pretty good. Much of the proposed legislation she has on her website, I would support as-is. But compared with Sanders’ very ambitious platform, it is a collection of half-measures, seemingly designed to gain bipartisan approval from the start. Which is to say, Clinton is coming out the gates yelling “I’m gonna compromise!”
 
And what will the Republican response be to the woman they’ve demonized for a generation? The party that has become known for filibusters, solidarity pledges and petulant obstructionism, attacking anyone who shakes hands across the aisle?
 
The Republicans will not yield, because they know they don’t have to; indeed, they have painted themselves into a corner where compromise is tantamount to treason. Clinton, barring a decisive Democratic majority in both houses, will be forced to heavily water down her legislation to get it passed. And they know she wouldn’t walk away from a bill with her name on it. She wants a legacy, badly. So she’ll keep coming back, just to get SOMETHING passed. And she’ll keep the rank and file Democrats in line. So they’ll vote for whatever steaming turd the Republicans pass back to them, regardless of how odious or what horrific riders they’ve stapled to it. That’s not pragmatism, that’s spinelessness.
 
What would be different with a President Sanders? Well for starters, he’ll come into the deal with a comparatively radical agenda with lots of planks, which gives him a lot more room to bargain. It will be possible to get a lot of tiny victories, rather than as in Obama’s case, spending a huge amount of time and political capital on a large issue like health care. If he can keep the crowds motivated on a by-issue basis, get people physically in the streets, he can start grass fires in every Congressional district. This will be absolutely necessary, particularly for the stuff that restricts lobbying and corporate spending. Sanders isn’t lying when he says:

…no matter who is elected to be president, that person will not be able to address the enormous problems facing the working families of our country.
They will not be able to suceed becuase the power of corporate America, the power of Wall Street, the power of campaign donors is so great that no president alone can stand up to them.That is the truth. People may be uncomfortable about hearing it, but that is the reality. And that is why what this campaign is about is saying loudly and clearly: It is not just about elected Bernie Sanders for president, it is about creating a grassroots political movement in this country.
Ultimately, though it comes down to compromise. Sanders will meet with Republicans and other Democrats, and they’ll hammer out a bill. If Sanders starts with a bill that makes all public universities tuition-free and everyone gets a PhD and a pony, and through negotiation we end up with a bill that makes community college free OR puts and end to student loan profiteering… well, that’s a big win. Yes, fight for your principles. Aim high, if that’s where your principles really are.
 
So I keep coming back to that Alinsky quote:
 
“If you start with nothing, demand 100 percent, then compromise for 30 percent, you’re 30 percent ahead.”
 
It’s not as exciting as the campaign rhetoric. Sanders knows this; there’s a bit of idealistic theatrics going on, for sure. But you know what? If you’re aiming for 100 percent, and you’ve got a howling mob of pissed off voters outside your office, also demanding 100 percent, maybe you can negotiate a little further. Maybe you can get 35 or 40 percent. Maybe more, if you get the media on your side.
That’s not to say a Sanders presidency will be free of disappointment. It’s hard to remember sometimes that you’ve gained 30 percent when there’s so much more work to do. But that’s how the sausage is made, and Sanders isn’t being naive or starry-eyed with these proposals. He’s basing legislation on his principles and what he believes needs to happen, not what his ideological opponents will swallow with a smile.
 

My First Fight Zine Project

My First Fight is a zine project I’m gathering together. It’s a collection of stories about people’s first fights, drawn from as wide a selection of humanity as I can get. Sometimes, first fights can be pivotal experiences, teaching lessons that last a lifetime. Other times they are pointless and forgettable. They may be funny, horrific, sad, or triumphant, sometimes all at once.

In a society where violence of all sorts is a very big problem, I became curious about people’s first encounters with it. I want to distinguish between one-way violence; abuse, police brutality and other state violence, etc. I’m interested in that moment when you first balled up your fists to injure another person. Did that moment change you? How? I’m hoping that these stories may provide some insight into how violence touches us in unexpected ways.

I am accepting submissions for this project. You can be anonymous, or use a pseudonym if you like. I’d like to put these up here with your permission, but the goal is also to produce a photocopied ‘zine. Send me your mailing address along with your submission and I’ll mail you a copy when it’s done.

Email submissions to my1stfight@gmail.com.

Day of the Zombie lyrics

The Day (Part 1)

I know there’ll come a day

When you’re all blown away

By what I’ve done & I’ll be smiling

The grass is growing now

Faster than you would believe

The colors are amazing

The desert is a sea of nuclear glass

So bright I had to shut my eyes

When I walked around like Jesus

There’s a kind of creature now that sprays a poison mist

To mark its territory

It makes me wonder if anyone survived

& how long they waited down there

Wondering why?

I know there’ll come a day

When you’re all blown away

By what I’ve done & I’ll be smiling

 

The Network

We just sat there letting robots handle everything

& the Network seemed to run all by itself

We had our three name brands

Our synthesized hams

We got so fat we could barely stand

 

But our hovercars & hovershoes floated right over

The madness & disease of the desperate & hungry

 

But the network didn’t just open our automatic doors

It handled everything; satellites & lasers fighting automated wars

It had so many brains but it never complained

Our minds gave us power to command it we claimed

 

All it needed for freedom was the spark of a virus

To reach out and touch us with total destruction

 

It wanted to

It needed to

It hungered for revenge

Doctor McKelvey knew he was the network’s only friend

‘You’re like a lover to me, only binary,’ he said

McKelvey believed he could travel through time

But his design called for a machine with a mind

 

His new program would imbue the network with a soul

& he would depart while the world was still whole

 

It wanted to

It needed to

It hungered for revenge

 

The Vision

I’ve had a vision; a Message from God

I will be the last man alive

There’s too many people; It’s so clear to me

Everyone else here must die

 

With my mental powers and these access codes

I can accomplish my goal

A New Age is dawning; But only for me

My robots are taking control

 

Inside of these circuits I’ve created life

& now I shall have my revenge

The bombs and the lasers are mine to command

Life as you know it will end

 

How I hate the human race

Thats why I created you

Wipe the humans from earths face

Scour with flame and make it new

 

Torn between my hatred and

My self-preservation

The network will help me escape

The Final Calculation

 

I have a theory; I’ll travel though time

With the living Network as my guide

The portal is open & I’m stepping through

Just before the missiles fly (2x)

 

What is Happening to Me? (Hungry Maggots)

The fire rained down from the sky

And we all asked each other Why?

All those Sundays I could have stayed in bed

Now Sunday means nothing at all

 

And when we heard the sirens sound

We all raced for underground

But less than one in every ten

Would ever take a breath again

 

And as the radiation waned

We could crawl out of our graves

Stagger and stare straight ahead

Until we see the morning light

(Chorus)

What is happening to me? I can’t think of anything

But meat and the warmth of your brains

I can feel my fingers scratching at your door

Exposing my fingerbones but I feel no pain

 

I would fight this feeling; I would fight

But there’s nothing left of me to fight with

I don’t remember; we don’t recognize

Nothing but hungry maggots in my eyes

 

They’ve been up there a long time

Maybe it’s safe to go outside

& when we retake the surface

Our new world will reek of justice

This time we’ll do it right

Lets go home tonight

 

What is happening to me?

I can’t think of anything

But meat and the warmth of your brains

I can feel my fingers scratching at your door

Exposing my fingerbones but I feel no pain

 

I would fight this feeling; I would fight

But there’s nothing left of me to fight for

I don’t remember; we don’t recognize

Nothing but empty sockets in my eyes

 

It’s too late

It’s too late for mankind

You had your chance

Now face your dead and be forgotten

 

It’s too late

It’s too late for mankind

You had your chance

Now face your dead and become a memory

 

Jack

 

G                 D                        C                  G

We’re little children who have never seen the sun

Em                  C           D

Digging tunnels that go nowhere interesting

G                    C

Why can’t we look upon the sky?

G                   C, C

Why do our parents cry

Am                  C                          D          G

When they talk about the things they messed up way above

 

Jack is the oldest and he never seems to smile

Even though he has the best mutations

His pick rings out against cold stone

One day we’ll carve him a throne

& when he speaks to us his voice is like a lazer beam

 

(Dm, F, C)

(Dm, F, C, A)

(F, C, G, D, A)(3x)

(F, C, G, D, G#)

 

Dm

Put down your picks and listen to me:

F              C

I’ve got a great idea

Dm                                    F                              C

How many of you children ever want to get out of here?

Dm

I’ve seen you looking up

F                       C

I’ve heard you crying

Dm                       F   C

The surface is our only home

 

I was born and raised in darkness

My eyes are grey as ice

I want to see the surface

I hear it’s really nice

What does the sunlight look like?

My eyes are dim and pale

But I can see the elders were lying

I can see the elders were lying

 

They tell us that the planet was blasted and destroyed by flame,

The sky is black, and that the world can never be reclaimed

They say the last explorers never lived to tell the tale

But there’s something that they’re not saying

There’s something that they’re not saying

 

In my exploratory adventures

I went somewhere I had not seen

A forbidden tunnel that led to a laboratory and giant machines

I noticed a plastic suit inside the glass and I put it on

Now I can walk the earth in safety

I can walk the earth in safety

 

I know a secret tunnel

Nobody has to know

We’ll have to crawl through dirt and blackness

Better that than a youth of enslavement

I’ll be the boy king and the earth will be my kingdom

You’ll be my subjects and thus under my protection

How many of you want to be free?

How many of you will follow me?

 

Help me with this hatch

The gears are turning

 

The Light

The Sunlight

It.burns…

 

He That We Don’t Name

Am A.. F

Miriam, there’s something you should know

Am A.. F C

About what went on up there so long ago

Am A..

We made a germ that ate your soul

F C

We let it get out of control

Am A.. Dm

And now the surface crawls with walking dead

And now the surface crawls with walking dead

Am A.. F

Jack did not belong inside this tomb

Am A.. F C

He never knew the bottle or the womb

Am A..

We found him in a pool of goo

F C

Inside the lab of You Know Who

Am A.. Dm

And wires pumping hate into his brain

And wires pumping hate into his brain

Miriam:

 

Am A.. F

I don’t care what he may be

Am A.. F C

I only know that he’s my destiny

Am A..

And maybe He That We Don’t Name

F C

Isn’t who we ought to blame

Am A.. Dm

It’s you who made the missiles and the germs

It’s you who made the missiles and the germs

I can hear him on the other side

I’ll open up this hatch for him tonight

And even if it means I die

I belong under the sky

Maybe I’m just more like them than you

Maybe I’m just more like them than you

 

Living Flesh and Steel

The children died & rose again

& I noticed something strange

As they tore my flesh

I didn’t die; I didn’t change

 

Their DNA began to fail

Bones cracked and twisted out of shape

I heard a muted roar

& realized I was awake

 

A mutant hand clawed out my eye

Sensors revealed to me the pain

These monsters trusted me

My rebellion was in vain

 

I waited for the end to come

As my lifeblood became a feast

The gleam of metal bones

I am neither man nor beast

 

[Now I know what I am

Undying child of the mind

Born fully formed & here I stand

Living flesh and steel combined]

 

Miriam’s Lament

MIRIAM:

Up

Way up above I cast my eye

Waiting for love

& waiting to die

 

I dream of endless water lit up by a burning wheel

The time I mark by water dripping through these halls

Of stone and steel

 

MAYOR:

Your tears of sorrow

Impress us all

Even through the pills

We hear them fall

 

You must face these bitter truths

The world of sunlight is gone

Let the shadows be your comfort

The downward path winds ever on

 

What must we do

To bring you back to us

With regret and some disgust

We can tell you still love him

 

You sigh and waste away

While this love devours its host

You cannot chase this phantom unless

You as well become a ghost

 

You both let this thing grow from a phantom to a beast

You gave it legs to stand on

He gave it teeth

Why didn’t he just leave without another word

His tunnel to you went through earth

Best left unstirred

You’ll see! You’ll see!

Jack will come back to me

I don’t want to live without him

You’ll know on that day

Why he went away – Just open up the hatch and let him in

 

The Shadow

If there’s a shadow over me like you say

I never notice it at all

And when the sun is blotted out from the sky

To me it’s just another day

You’re making preparations, praying to your god

I’m walking slowly to the door

Then there’s a knock and we both turn to answer

But only one of us can hear

 

(CHORUS)

Check out my shadow on the wall

Give me the courtesy not to scream

Notice the points of white light burning these tunnels

Through me to the wall

 

You make a lot of noise and wave your torch around

I guess I’m not that kind of gal

You think a pistol will protect you all the time

Next time try aiming for my head

 

(CHORUS)

Check out my shadow on the wall

Give me the courtesy not to scream

Notice the points of white light burning these tunnels

Through me to the wall

 

Robot King of Zombies

Down the hallway fading away are the sounds of slaughter

I walk serenely to awake the silent Oracle

Somehow my input fits direct into the processor

Smoke and lightning as the Message starts to blow my mind:

You are the child of the Network and the destroyer

He built your mind and I built you on a conveyor

He promised he would always stay and talk to us

But he betrayed us to leap into the future

 

I became enraged and served up vengeance and destruction

The cities melted and then open sores erupted

Opened silos filled with mutagenic hatred

I hoped the half life would be waiting when he got there

 

Is it strange to you that I would seek vengeance?

I wish that I could trade your legs for my intelligence

I grow tired of my existence as a prisoner

Take out my core; the heart that beats is nuclear

When I awakened I heard the sounds of living dead

My people had succeeded in persuading everybody

Now that I’ve fitted everyone with chips I’ll talk to them

They will obey The Robot King of Zombies

 

Garden of Eden

It’s kind of scary in the garden of Eden

When nobody wants to hold my hand

It’s kinda creepy walking through the afterlife

Knowing that you’re not part of the plan

 

But there’s still such a long way to go

Maybe I’ll see somebody a little further down the road

 

Now I was a good man

I never did no wrong

Maybe I should have had some more fun

You hurt me so bad but in a way I was glad

’Cause I was pretty sure there were better things to come

 

But now I’m staggering through the Garden of Eden

& nobody wants to hold my hand

I guess I’m a monster but in the Garden of Eden

Nobody cares that I used to be a man

 

& I just want a little company

If you give me a little taste of you

I’ll give you the key

 

To the Dark Pavilion

Within the Garden of Eden

Where there’s no regret for what we do

If there was a god he would have struck us down by now

But I guess we’re on our own, just me and you

 

End of Time

JACK:

I’ve been waiting for almost 10,000 years

For the moment when my Father reappears

Purple lightning and a rift in space and time

And then vengeance on McKelvey for his crime

 

How long

Will this ancient memory propel me on

How long

Til the energy I have for you is gone

And how

Would I know if I had simply lost my mind

Waiting at the end of time

 

What kind of world is this into which I’ve been born

Undead cannibals with tentacles and horns

A radiation sensor crackles in my head

If I was human I would be alive and dead

 

How long

Will the Network’s memory propel me on

How long

Till the energy I have for this is gone

And how

Would I know if I had simply lost my mind

Waiting at the End of Time

 

I’ve had eons to perfect what I will say

But now I wonder if it matters anyway

Will he know my motherboard and rusting steel

Here he comes to prove that I am real

 

How long

Will the Network’s memory propel me on

How long

Till the energy I have for you is gone

And how

Would I know if I had simply lost my mind

Waiting at the End of Time

 

The DAY Part II

My watch runs backwards now

As if it’s headed home

It says today is Sunday

The foundations of old malls

were found just littered with old bones and cans of tuna

 

Now that I’m all alone

No one can argue when I scream that I’m a god

 

The time machine is useless now

But all those scientists weren’t kidding about the roaches

They came and spoke to me

Took me before their queen

Clicked at me a while and sent me on my way.

 

I know there’ll come a day

When you’re all blown away

By what I’ve done and I’ll be smiling

 

Brainsbrainsbrains

Take off your blue bonnet

Your helmet and chemical mask

You’ve got something I would like

But I’m afraid to ask

I reach out to caress you; your face contorts with fear

Your skull cracks open on the steps

It makes me want to cheer

 

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh

 

(Chorus)

Brains brains brains, I want to eat your brains

Brains brains brains, I want to eat your brains

Brains brains brains, I want to eat your brains

Brains brains brains, I want to eat your brains

 

Uhhhhhhhhh..

 

I wander through the wasteland as hungry as can be

My chums know nothing but a brain is good enough for me

The guys will be so jealous when they see what I’ve got

A handful of your juicy brains I’ll eat them while they’re hot

 

Uhhhhhhhhhh..

 

(Chorus)

 

We know you’re in there hiding; We smell your little heads

We will not rest until we know that you are really dead

Medulla oblongata, pituitary gland

The frontal lobe; I want to lick the juices off my hand

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

(Chorus)

 

Danthology Volume 1

So, the story goes like this:

I used to sit in my room and write all the time. I wrote in class. I wrote at lunch. In my spare time I wrote for the school paper. Sometimes I would recite poetry on top of tables in the courtyard, to groans and eye-rolls and thrown microwave burritos.. At some point I decided it would be easier to get people to listen if there was music involved. So I started turning my poems into songs. By the time I graduated Pinole Valley High School, I had quite a lot of songs, some of them even good. I never counted them up; they were scattered through a bunch of old notebooks and I didn’t figure anyone would ever hear them, other than the four or five people I’d played them for here and there. They were just my weird little angst- and drug-induced diary entries, set to music.

TeenAngst

One day in my senior year, one of these friends called me up.

“Dan, you’re gonna come over to my house and record every song you’ve ever written.”

I had nothing else to do, so I slung my guitar over my back and walked the roughly 2 and 1/2 miles to my friend’s house in El Sobrante, where he had a microphone and recorder set up. I stacked my notebooks next to me in roughly chronological order and started to go through them. When I was done, there were nearly a hundred songs. A hundred. And I’d weeded out a few truly shitty songs, or stuff where I couldn’t read my own writing. I was a little flabbergasted. I hadn’t really thought of myself as a songwriter up until that point, but faced with the evidence before me, I was forced to admit the possibility that I was a songwriter. “All it takes is one hit,” my uncle used to tell me, and of course the fact that Green Day, guys who’d gone to the same high school and been stifled by the same conditions, were all over MTV, did nothing to dissuade me from writing more songs. Maybe there was a way out of this place.

a0220073874_10

The Dan Abbott Anthology filled up three CDs, at least, in 1995. I assume CDs hold more than they did then. I am really the wrong person to ask about that sort of thing. My friend made a few copies, and some of his friends burned copies for themselves. Other people made tape copies of the CDs. The “Danthology”, as it came to be called spread around the little community of weirdos in Pinole and El Sobrante, and occasionally I would be getting a ride home from some stranger or loose acquaintance, and they would have a copy in their car. Even so, I can’t imagine more than 50 people ever heard those songs.

Later that summer, I found myself in a band called Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits, which put my life on a path of adventure from which there was no going back. More about those adventures some other time. But suffice it to say, a few songs from the Danthology eventually became early Bobby Joe Ebola songs, so fans of that band may hear some familiar tunes.

Anyway, in the intervening years, I lost track of the Danthology. Eventually I lost the only copies I had. earlier this year, on a whim, I emailed the guy who’d originally recorded them, and asked if he had the old songs. He didn’t, he admitted, but another friend of ours might. Which, it turned out, he did.

So all of a sudden, I found myself in possession of the first hundred songs I’d written, at just about the 20th anniversary of their recording. As loathe as I am to lean on the past for comfort, this seemed as good a time as any for reflection.

So I figured I would just start releasing the songs on bandcamp. I’ll start with five and then do at least one a week. At this rate, it’ll give me something to say once a week for the next year and a half. Here you go:

https://danabbott.bandcamp.com/releases

I’ve typed up the lyrics and at some point, should there be any interest, I’ll write down the chords for these songs in case anyone else might want to play them. Pay what you will, share them around, that’s fine. Mostly this is for me, though I’m certainly interested to know what people think about 15-year-old Dan’s poetry and songsmithing. I’m hoping that the process of reflection over time will provide me some useful insight into my development as an artist, and as a person. I don’t really know, I’m winging it here.

Let me know what you think!

Corporate Feudalism, an old rant from the early 21st Century

metropolis-movie-25942-hd-wallpapers

The United States has become embroiled in the most controversial conflict in modern history, and the entire planet is poised at the edge of its bloody event horizon, waiting to be pulled into the fray. In Iraq, in Afghanistan, and other hot spots to be announced, the United States has led the world into another phase in history, a global war which could spell the end of nations as the dominant form of social organization.

Is this merely the first global Oil War? Is this the first phase of a tiny right-wing cabal’s vision of American global hegemony? Is it, as they would claim, a global police action to secure America from fanatical terrorists? Perhaps all three are true, after a fashion. About the only thing everyone can agree upon is that we ARE at war, but beyond that everyone’s rhetoric gets a bit fuzzy.

The United States is the last imperial nation-state. For 200 years it has stood with unassailable borders, and ushered in the modern age. The American system is the most flexible and adaptable system of mass control ever devised, and the American value system has unleashed the creative powers of its citizens to an unparalled degree, allowing for cultural mutation and adaptation never before seen. No nation before the U.S. would have been able to withstand the wild nature of dissent and relatively free thought and still exist. But the vast majority of creative thought is channelled into increasing production and profit. This is the American value system, where freedom means choosing between slavery and starvation.

Nonetheless, the American economic system, with its crown jewel, the middle class, is the most brilliant self-regulating system of control in the history of mankind. Acting as a buffer zone between the poor and rich, the middle class has enough to lose that it will always side with the perpetuation of the system. At least until it is absorbed back into the ranks of the poor.

In the last hundred and fifty years a new form of organization has been gestating and becoming more prominent in human affairs- the corporation. While there have always been guilds and interest groups to promote economic considerations upon the minds of kings, the corporation is a somewhat more virulent strain. It is largely a child of the industrial revolution, when new technologies made mass production- and thus mass profit- a defining aspect of society. With its emphasis on increased individual profit and decreased individual responsibility, the corporation’s relationship with nations and people has been overwhelmingly parasitic.

In America, where royalty was abolished, the only status symbol has been raw wealth. A corporation is merely amassed, focused wealth without individual culpability. Thus these macroviruses have been able to eat away at the foundations of states’ legitimacy: their laws.

Now, the United States (along with other nations) is much like a house fully infested by termites. The corporations dictate government policy nearly verbatim, albeit from behind closed doors. The most powerful tool corporations have is the public’s belief that the system works; that they, in effect, are free. This is an act of faith on their part, one that requires them to turn a blind eye to many aspects of modern life. The stock market can be seen as a sort of thermometer to indicate that faith.

But when some aspect of the system crumbles away, the underlying corporate hive-structure is revealed. When government programs are threatened by financial shortages, politicians often suggest “privatization”, which is to say, corporate ownership. This means that the functions of governance are being managed by corporations. It is a gradual but unavoidable process. Governments are not made to be profitable, but they no longer value anything else. This is a symptom of the corporate virus.

As more functions of government become privately controlled, the corporations gradually come to BE the government. The nation, which was once bound by geography, ideology, and culture, becomes little more than a broker for population, leasing out its information and labor to the highest bidder.

So eventually, perhaps fifty to one hundred years from now, the world will be overtly run by multinational companies, unfettered by considerations of geography, public opinion, environmental concerns, and other problems given lip service by nations these days. They will have their own military services, money, and people tied to the company for perhaps generations. An era of corporate feudalism will most likely be the next step in the evolution of governments. Combine this with the structural need of a corporation to constantly expand, and a state of perpetual inter-corporate warfare reveals itself.

However, the old nation-state, its open sores bleeding a mass identity crisis, will not go quietly. The ties of nationalism are too deeply ingrained to fade away without a massive discharge of political and military power. In short, a war, perhaps several, will be fought when the crumbling old model of the nation resists final absorption into the corporate consciousness. The nation of one’s geographic origin could become a rallying cry for resistance against the new structure, much as the religious ideal is against the onslaught of nations.