Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Theyrule.net

Just discovered this today - very useful:

They Rule aims to provide a glimpse of some of the relationships of the US ruling class. It takes as its focus the boards of some of the most powerful U.S. companies, which share many of the same directors. Some individuals sit on 5, 6 or 7 of the top 500 companies. It allows users to browse through these interlocking directories and run searches on the boards and companies. A user can save a map of connections complete with their annotations and email links to these maps to others. They Rule is a starting point for research about these powerful individuals and corporations.

Some of my favorite "maps"

Go to LOAD MAP>Popular

"All the news they see fit to print"
"Who really controls foreign policy"
"The Iraqi Governing Council"



Unapologetic Israeli propaganda

Hamas fires rockets into Israel despite truce

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Hamas's armed wing broke a five-month ceasefire on Tuesday by firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip after Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians over the weekend.

Hamas stopped short of declaring a formal end to the ceasefire, which began in November, and said the group was responding to Israeli violations of the shaky agreement.

An Israeli army spokesman said at least five rockets were shot at Israel on Tuesday, two of which landed near a southern Israeli town. There were no reports of casualties.

This is Reuters' logic:

Israel kills 9 Palestinian civilians, but that's not breaking a ceasefire.
In response to Israel killing 9 Palestian civilians, Hamas fires rockets into Israel, which kill no one, but that is breaking a ceasefire.

Pat yourself of the back, Media

I'm glad Newsweek and NPR all these other fucking assholes decided it was finally time to tell the country the truth about the bullshit surrounding Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman, since the government said it was okay.

Great, hard-hitting journalism there, you fuckers.

Sports, Politics, Culture

This is a sort of continuation of my earlier thoughts about why more Americans are interested in sports than are interested in politics/history/world affairs.

Just to eliminate any misconceptions that may have been derived from earlier posts for those who don't know me well: in general I like sports, particularly the NFL, the Steelers, sometimes during the summer I'll go see a baseball game, every once in a while I get to a hockey game, etc. I played baseball, football, basketball, and street hockey as a kid. But the level of interest I have in it is not on par with most of my friends. I like to get together with friends and watch the Steeler games, cheer them on, drink beer, bitch about the coaching, the refs, etc.. But I don't have as much of a wealth of knowledge about all the stats and trades and history or the playbook that many of my friends do. I'm not saying people should be more interested in things I am. In fact, I should be more interested in sports so I have more to bullshit about with people I know.

My question was more concerned with why people are interested in sports in the first place, why they use their brain power on it and not the things I use my brain power on. It has nothing to do with intelligence, it has everything to do with interest. Anyone who can analyse football and rattle off stats for every player would tell you it's not rocket science. I say the same thing about all the bullshit I talk about on here. It's not hard, especially with the internet, to access different ideas about economy and world affairs than what's presented in mainstream media. I'm not doing anything on here that requires any kind of college degree from an elite institution. What I do here, in the confines of this blog, I don't think is any more important than what a guy who blogs about baseball is doing.

And I never wanted to suggest that people being interested in sports in some societal ill based on violence that needs to be eliminated, which you can hear plenty of people who consider themselves anarchists. In a culture where hundreds of thousands of people fill stadiums every week, and hundreds of thousands only show up in Washington once or twice per year during the most stupid war in history, thinking all people into sports are stupid is an elitist opinion. And it's one I'm against personally. Any new society or anarchist utopia that I envision will most certainly include beer drinking and big dudes in armor crushing each other on Sunday afternoon.

I don't have problems with the sports themselves, I have a problem with an aspect of sports, and it's the same thing I have a problem with in the rest of society - the commercialism that disrupts the game and ruins the kind of team mentality that was prevalent during the 70s era of the Pittsburgh Steelers, just like the commercialism that disrupts and ruins the team mentality of American life. And most importantly - I don't think this sort of hyper-commercialism is inevitable - that team mentality has to die under the iron fist of high-dollar bullshit, arrogant asshole players, and stupid Superbowl commericals. If anything, the hyper-commercialism of sports and the glorification of players based on their arrogance is one of the things that pushed me toward being anarchistic.

What brought this on was, I was looking into some of Michael Albert's stuff after referencing him in my last post, and I downloaded a lecture of his and he was addressing what sounded like a classroom full of college students, and he hit on some points about political activism that always turned me off and I assume is what turns most people off during the few times I went to antiwar rallies or political meetings or even hung around so-called anarchist punks. You can download audio of this talk here.

The way that we don't just individually not watch sports, but the way that we get a gut, visceral hostile reaction to people watching or participating in sports. The way that we do that around religion - we are in the most sports conscious and the most religious country in the world. It is a little like if you were going to go to France and be an organizer, but not speak French. It's not wise - not if you want to win. Now if the reason you're going to France to organize is because you like the other organizers in France, and you don't give a shit about reaching the French public - okay - no need to speak French.....

For instance I went to State College in Pennsylvania... in a room with 300 people, all radicals, I could have picked 280 of them walking around the campus. That's how much like each other they looked and how much unlike the rest of the campus they looked... We have to understand something. On that campus, each Saturday, everybody goes to the football game, except the 300 people in that room. I asked people to raise their hands, "How many people had been to a football game?" Three people, all black, raised their hands. The whole rest of the room, no. And they were all laughing because of course they thought, at the beginning of my talk, I was pointing out how wonderful they were because they managed to rise above the horrible lifestyle and degenerate morality of their brethren on the campus. So then I said, "On the way here this morning I passed the sports bar" There's this huge bar, downtown State College, State College has a population of maybe 60,000, the stadium holds 80,000, and every Saturday there's 80,000 people in it. That should tell you something - football is this town....So I said "How many of you people have been down the sports bar to organize?" And the whole room burst into hysterics. They're all laughing and they think I'm making a joke. Meanwhile, if you're not organizing that sports bar, go to the beach. Because you're not organizing the campus - what are you doing? - That's the whole student body! How can you possibly write that off? And I honestly think if we ask what it is we're writing off, often times it is the writing-off of working class cultures and values and styles....[for example] McDonald's is unnaccaptable. Why is McDonald's unnacceptable? Is is unacceptable because it's a multinational, or is it unacceptable because working people eat there? Wwith good reason, not with bad reason. They don't eat there to get sick - they're not morons. They eat there because it's inexpensive and because it's actually not poison.... That doesn't mean McDonald's shouldn't be a target for us....but there's more than one way to talk about it. Every working class guy watching football in the afternoon knows that those people earn more [on that particular Sunday] than he or she earns in two years. It isn't just us who know that.

When he says “us”, he’s speaking as a person educated at MIT to a group of college students. I don't exactly know where I am in that "us". Even as someone who went to college and I consider myself somewhat anarchist, I feel more outside of them then I do on the inside. I not only walk past some of those people in the sports bar, on Sunday in the fall I'm one of them.

The thing that struck me when I went to my first war protest in DC in January 2003, was the vast amounts of “regular” people there. Most of the people weren’t hippies and anarchist punks, most of it was little old ladies and people who weren’t particularly freakish looking. The last one I was at, there were a few guys there that looked like they were right out of the Republican convention. And that’s the kind of thing that keeps me involved, because I hate elitists, whether they are elite CEOs or elitist anarcho-hippy/punks. So the "regular" people were there, but the organizers were egotistical assholes. Their speeches were mostly tirades against Bush, they did little to galvanize the crowd, theydid absolutely nothing to try to appeal to average American sensibilities.

I don't think much of what I say is in disagreement with most of the public. I just think these kinds of ideas are not presented very often in the mass media, which most of the public accesses. Every average joe out there will tell you that the government sucks, and that politicians are corrupt no matter whether they are Democrats or Republicans (even people who identify themselves as Democrats or Republicans will generally have this sentiment) and most people will tell you that the people with the money have the power, and average joes are shit on, and healthcare sucks, and no matter how hard you work, you'll still get screwed one way or the other. Where I depart from most people, I think, is that I don't believe this is inevitable, and that's one of the messages I want to get across to people I know.

I don't give a shit about communicating with anarchists or Marxists or wealthy liberal progressives (which is why I don't give lectures to classrooms full of them) because, as Albert says, there's no point in trying to fight the power unless you get a popular movement going. I do read certain authors who could be desribed as anarchist. They make sense to me, but their problem is, whether they like it or not, they can't communicate to anyone who's not college educated, because most of them speak in code about things that aren't taught in the kind of high school I went to. And all college education is is learning a set of codes that prevent non-college people from accessing ideas. You don't have to have some superior mental capacity to get a college degree. You do have to have access to money, or like me, federal loans that'll I'm still paying a decade later.

And even when they are far enough removed from academia to be able to speak without code, they write way too long posts that no one has time to read.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Greenwashing is COOL!

Celebrity Sheryl Crow is now saying that her comment about putting limitations on the use of toilet paper was a joke http://www.sherylcrow.com/news.aspx?&in=1

But this isn't the only instance of controvery with Celebrity Crow that has
caught the media's eye this week. What I still don't understand is why anyone would approach Karl Rove and bitch at him about global warming. What reaction did they expect? "Yes, Sheryl Crow, the power of your celebrity has convinced me! I'll contact the president immediately and tell him to sign the Kyoto treaty at once!"

I've written before about
how liberal celebrities serve power as court jesters. But I want to talk about something else here: This bullshit is all part of the greenwashing bandwagon of companies that opposed environmentalism for years, and are now suddenly environmentally conscious. We are supposed to think that if everyone in the world owned a hybrid car, and built an environmentally friendly house, we would live in harmony with nature forever, and continue our lifestyle in the pyramid scheme economy of infinite production to satisfy infinite need of the minority, leading of course to infinite waste. We should ignore that we're building 100 times more cars and houses than ever before, so even though individual houses and cars are becoming more energy-efficient, we're increasing total energy use exponentially, as long as we're "greener than the Jonses" we can feel good about ourselves as environmentally conscious individuals with individual moral actions. Another funny joke: rainforests are being cleared to make room for huge plantations to make palm oil for biodiesel production This is from Z Magazine, by George Monbiot http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=57&ItemID=9285

In promoting biodiesel - as the European Union, the British and US governments and thousands of environmental campaigners do - you might imagine that you are creating a market for old chip fat, or rapeseed oil, or oil from algae grown in desert ponds. In reality you are creating a market for the most destructive crop on earth.
...
In September, Friends of the Earth published a report about the impacts of palm oil production. "Between 1985 and 2000," it found, "the development of oil-palm plantations was responsible for an estimated 87 per cent of deforestation in Malaysia"(8). In Sumatra and Borneo, some 4 million hectares of forest has been converted to palm farms. Now a further 6 million hectares is scheduled for clearance in Malaysia, and 16.5m in Indonesia.

Almost all the remaining forest is at risk. Even the famous Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan is being ripped apart by oil planters. The orang-utan is likely to become extinct in the wild. Sumatran rhinos, tigers, gibbons, tapirs, proboscis monkeys and thousands of other species could go the same way. Thousands of indigenous people have been evicted from their lands, and some 500 Indonesians have been tortured when they tried to resist(9). The forest fires which every so often smother the region in smog are mostly started by the palm growers. The entire region is being turned into a gigantic vegetable oil field.

The solution is to drastically cut energy use, not to replace one enery source with another. And this will take more than a few optional actions individuals can take. Athough individuals improving their habits and lives to use less energy is a good first step, if we are to prevent the human race from eating itself, no less than a restructuring of our entire society will be required. A few websites I can think of off the top of my head offering some real solutions are
conev.org
social-ecology.org
http://www.zmag.org/debatelibmuni.htm - Debate between Michael Albert (Parecon) and Social Ecologist Peter Staudenmaier


Friday, April 20, 2007

Garbage rises

I wasn't going to comment on the recent mass murders, but I'm hearing a lot of outraged people from that campus and elsewhere asking the question – Why do they give him so much airtime? If you're wondering how sick the media has to be to turn a sociopathic killer into the next American Idol, I suggest you take advice from the title of this blog. This is how our current system works. There is simply too much money to be made in transforming garbage into celebrities. Ratings go up, advertising revenues go up, stock value goes up, and the culture suffers. They don't care about the qualitative aspects of the human experience, they care about numbers, and there is plenty of literature and radio and television which explains why this is a good thing, and an inevitable thing, being published and broadcast and uploaded every day by companies that benefit from this sort of pyramid system where garbage is rewarded.

I'll let Michael Albert explain, starting at 0:57







The question is, what can we do about it? First of all, ignore people who say there is no alternative (TINA, invented by Margaret Thatcher and which Albert refers to). Our current system is not a natural phenomenon, nor is it inevitable. In the whole of human life on earth since we evolved into what we are now, the hierarchical pyramid system has only encompassed a blink of an eye. The vast majority of humans throughout time have spent their lives living in egalitarian bands. If you could squeeze the history of human life on earth in a 24 hour day, our current system has only encompassed the past few minutes (perhaps I'm being too generous). Hierarchical systems have only been in place, at best, the past hour or so. Humans have evolved in egalitarianism, and many mental health professionals will tell you that a true sense of community is just as essential to an individual's health as water, food and sex.

Now, we all have to engage in our current system to survive, we are compelled to. So we have to create new systems within our own. But you can refuse to participate to a certain extent. (For example, I don't have a TV, don't listen to commercial radio, don't read mainstream magazines, subscribe to independent media, listen to many independent bands, etc, read mainstream news media only with a critical eye. That's just a very basic level that is just a self-serving way of non-participation to prevent myself from getting migraines.)

Relating back to the latest tragedy, some of the families of those murdered refused to give interviews to NBC because of their disgusting, profitable coverage. I wish all of the families would follow suit. Perhaps there should be an organized group that encourages non-participation of victims' families with big media. But as long as you have a system in place where garbage rises, this kind of coverage will remain in place. If there is enough pressure, the media may make minor adjustments, but it will continue to make profits (what else can it do?), and continue to promote garbage.

And it's important to note, even with sympathetic coverage, the media picks and chooses which tragedies to be sympathetic to. The families of murder victims go through the same anguish, whether they are Americans or British, or Iraqi or Afghani. Yet the media chooses to show sympathy for only certain groups. This really came to light to me with the subway bombings in London in July 2005. Yes, this is a terrible tragedy, but I cannot bring myself to feel more sympathetic to victims of terror who I don't know personally in London, Virginia and Israel than I am to victims of terror in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Palestine, yet this is what the media suggests. What would be the reaction if I put a message stating "We are all Colombians" on my office door? I would probably be reprimanded for bringing politics into the workplace.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Post Office to increase rates for small presses

Stamp Out the Rate Hike: Stop the Post Office

The rest of this post is copied from http://action.freepress.net/freepress/postal_explanation.html

"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
-- Thomas Jefferson, Jan. 16, 1787
What's at Stake

Our nation's founders understood the First Amendment would be worth little without a postal system that encouraged broad public participation in America's "marketplace of ideas."

Thomas Jefferson supported this with calls for a postal service that allowed citizens to gain "full information of their affairs," where ideas could "penetrate the whole mass of the people." Along with James Madison, he paved the way for a service that gave smaller political journals a voice. Their solution included low-cost mailing incentives whereby publications could reach as many readers as possible.

Other founders soon came to understand that the press as a political institution needed to be supported through favorable postal rates. President George Washington spoke out for free postage for newspapers through the mail, and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton -- no proponent of government deficit -- conceded that incentives were necessary to spawn a viable press.

The postal policies that resulted have lasted for more than 200 years, spurring a vibrant political culture in the United States. They have eased the entry of diverse political viewpoints into a national discourse often dominated by the largest media organizations.
Time Warner Rewrites History

All of this could change in 2007.

In an unprecedented move, the agency that oversees postal rates in the United States has quietly attempted to unravel much of what the founders accomplished. Earlier this year, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) rejected a postal rate increase plan offered by the U.S. Postal Service. Instead they opted to implement a complicated plan submitted by media giant Time Warner. (Click here to read the decision and click here for a timeline)

Under the original plan, all publishers would have a mostly equal increase (approx. 12 percent) in the cost for mailing their publications. The Time Warner plan overturned this level playing field to favor large, ad-heavy magazines like People at the expense of smaller publications like In These Times and The American Spectator. It penalizes thousands of small- to medium-sized outlets with disproportionately higher rates while locking in privileges for bigger companies.
Fight Back: Tell Congress to Act

The PRC has aligned itself with a media giant in an apparent effort to stifle smaller media in America. The stunning move is an unprecedented abuse of the agency's discretion. Congress must now step in to protect smaller media from these unfair rate hikes.

The Post Office should not use its monopoly power to favor the largest publishers and undermine the ability of smaller publishers to compete. It must be held accountable for a plan that could drive smaller publications to the brink of bankruptcy. With public involvement we can reverse the PRC decision and restore the postal system that has served free speech in America so well.

Demand a formal and open accounting of why more than 200 years of pro-democracy postal policy was abandoned.
Stop The Rate Hikes, Stand Up for Independent Media:

For individuals: Send a Letter to Congress and the Postal Service

For publications: Sign the Letter to the Postal Board of Governors



References:

John, Richard R. Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995).

Kielbowicz, Richard B. News in the Mail: The Press, Post Office, and Public Information, 1700-1860s (Greenwood, 1989).

Burns, Eric. Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism (New York: Public Affairs, 2006).

Fuller, Wayne E. "The Populists and the Post Office." Agricultural History 65, no. 1 (1991): 1-16.

Kielbowicz, Richard B. "Postal Subsidies for the Press and the Business of Mass Culture, 1880-1920." Business History Review, 64 (Autumn 1990): 451-88

Kielbowicz, Richard B. "Origins of the Second-Class Mail Category and the Business of Policymaking, 1863-1879." Journalism Monographs 96 (April 1986): 1-26.

Kielbowicz, Richard B., and Linda Lawson. "Protecting the Small-Town Press: Community, Social Policy, and Postal Privileges, 1845-1970." Canadian Review of American Studies 19 (Spring 1988): 23-45.

Kielbowicz, Richard B., and Linda Lawson. "Reduced-Rate Postage for Nonprofit Organizations: A Policy History, Critique, and Proposal." Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 11 (Spring 1988): 347-406.

Kielbowicz, Richard B. "Cost Accounting in the Service of Policy Reform: Postal Rate Making, 1875-1926." Social Science Quarterly 75 (June 1994): 284-299.

Nichols, John and Robert W. McChesney. Tragedy and Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections and Destroy Democracy (New York: The New Press, 2005).

Peters, John Durham. "The Marketplace of Ideas: A History of the Concept," in Andrew Calabrese and Colin Sparks, editors, Toward a Political Economy of Culture: Capitalism and Communication in the Twenty-First Century (Boulder: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004), pp.65-82.


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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Zapatistas

If you would like to give me a birthday present, you can give me a favor and read about the Zapatistas:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zapatista_Army_of_National_Liberation

And check out this trailer, and the whole movie available here.

A lot of people have "fall back" plans if their careers don't work out for them, if they end up alone, if something should "god forbid" happen to their loved ones. Like "if the band doesn't make it, I'll fall back on my college degree." or "If I don't make it freelancing, I'll fall back on my office gig."

My fall back plan used to be hobo - I used daydream about being a hobo and living in the woods ever since I was in high school - ways to find food, places I'd go, ways to get drunk. People from New York call bums hobos. I'm not talking about a bum. I mean a hobo like a dude with a name like "Mississippi Jack" or "Walla Walla Pete", a guy that moves around and rides the rails and works a bit and moves on and hitchhikes and tries to stay out of jail and have a miserable and free life like that.

In the past few years my fall-back plan was to max out some credit cards purchasing a 5 year supply of whiskey and disappear into the woods to drink myself to death. That's more of a prolonged suicide. No hope in that. But I've become more hopeful in the past few years, no small thanks to my new path in life and to revolutionary movements going on in the world like the Zapatistas.

My new plan, in case the shit hits the fan, is to move to Mexico and join the EZLN.








Friday, April 13, 2007

he tried

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chomsky on Iran

"If Iran was building up its military presence in the Gulf of Mexico, the US government would never take Iranian sailors prisoner. They'd just bomb the aircraft carriers to the bottom of the sea, and not one mainstream reporter would bat an eye." --Sloover, March 29, 2007

"It is, however, useful to ask how we would act if Iran had invaded and occupied Canada and Mexico and was arresting U.S. government representatives there on the grounds that they were resisting the Iranian occupation (called "liberation," of course). Imagine as well that Iran was deploying massive naval forces in the Caribbean and issuing credible threats to launch a wave of attacks against a vast range of sites -- nuclear and otherwise -- in the United States, if the U.S. government did not immediately terminate all its nuclear energy programs (and, naturally, dismantle all its nuclear weapons). Suppose that all of this happened after Iran had overthrown the government of the U.S. and installed a vicious tyrant (as the US did to Iran in 1953), then later supported a Russian invasion of the U.S. that killed millions of people (just as the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran in 1980, killing hundreds of thousands of Iranians, a figure comparable to millions of Americans). Would we watch quietly?"
--Noam Chomsky echos my sentiments (haha), with a bit more context, "What If Iran Had Invaded Mexico?" posted on Tom Dispatch, April 5, 2007

And also from Chomsky in the same article:
The Iranian-American consensus includes the complete elimination of nuclear weapons everywhere (82% of Americans); if that cannot yet be achieved because of elite opposition, then at least a "nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East that would include both Islamic countries and Israel" (71% of Americans). Seventy-five percent of Americans prefer building better relations with Iran to threats of force. In brief, if public opinion were to have a significant influence on state policy in the U.S. and Iran, resolution of the crisis might be at hand, along with much more far-reaching solutions to the global nuclear conundrum.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Great American Fear of Embarrassment

Continuing from the last post, I suspect there is a reason why, in modern American society, it's perfectly acceptable to be enthusiastic about sports and not about politics or other aspects of culture, such as music. Children are introduced to sports enthusiastically by adult members of the community. It is presented as something children can all engage in and be excited about, if not excel at.

History and governmental affairs, on the other hand, are presented in the most bland and boring format imaginable, with very little enthusiasm from teachers and other adults in the community. Thus popular delusions have been formed, that people interested in history are nerds, and people engaging in politics are those rich white men in Washington.

I was born in the mid 1970s, right after the disaster in Vietnam, and during a time of recession and a great deal of unemployment, when it should have been perfectly obvious the importance of educating about history and the actions of government, yet most of the adult members of the community didn't give a damn enough about their own society to even think about reforming the educational system. Was it fatigue after the political unrest of the 1960s? Had you given up?

And the time and place I was borne into were equally historically significant for what I'm thinking about now. At the same time steelworkers were being fired in droves, the Steelers were the champions of the world. I don't remember images of labor rallies on television, and getting together at gramma's to rally around the United Steelworkers, but I do remember the Superbowl on television, people dressed in black and gold, and Terry Bradshaw, and I'll always remember the Steelers as not only an NFL team but a deeply ingrained cultural aspect of growing up in Pittsburgh.

In fact, it's almost as though the great revolutionary fervor of western Pennsylvania workers, going back to the strikes and IWW activity in the 20th century, and even on back to Homestead in the 19th, and even back to the Whiskey Rebellion in the 18th, was in the 1970s transferred to support for a championship NFL team.

And I remember music, Irish music sung by all members of my family, from as far back as I can remember. Music was something I personally was brought up around as a participatory thing that was just as much a part of getting together with family as was playing whiffle ball with cousins or hot sausage in a crockpot. And they sang beautifully, better than anything you can hear on the radio.

There was also music that came on TV, on the radio, the commercialized music that you didn't need to experience with other people, that you didn't need to even leave your bedroom for, that you could experience as an individual, as we all have. You didn't need to go to a party, or even a show, if you had it on record. And soon when MTV came around, you didn't need to leave the house to see the band, because there they were beaming across the living room floor to your couch.

So as I was growing up in the 1980s music was more and more becoming a routine, image-driven, individual experience, and not a community experience like singing songs around a beer keg at a family party, or going to a show at a club and dancing. Politics and history had become something boring that those men in suits engage in, and only nerds are interested in, and it has little to do with people getting together and making their lives more tolerable and free. But sports remained a community function, something that fills stadia across the country, something we don't have to be embarrassed being enthusiastic about, an excuse for getting together with our friends, and something I was encouraged to participate in, whether I wanted to or not.



But people at club shows don't show enthusiasm for bands, unless they have attained an acceptable level of commercial fame or underground noteriety. It's not the bands - as always there are good ones and shitty ones. It's that people don't know how to have fun in a musical context. In short, they don't know how to party. Music is just the soundtrack of a party, it always has been, and, like a party, it's always been a participatory affair - if you're not in the band, you're singing along, if you're can't sing, you're dancing, and if you can't dance, you dance anyway.

I rarely go to clubs to see bands anymore because it's depressing as hell. I hate watching my beloved rocknroll go the route of symphony music or Shakespeare - where rather than participate, the audience politely claps at the end of a piece, then goes home early to watch television.

Yes, rock n roll has gone down the same path democracy has in this country - it has become a farcical exercise, simply because people are too embarrassed to participate. People show up, go through some motions, and go home. With music, they show up and clap. In democracy, they show up and push a button for one of two millionaires who have virtually the same platform. Less and less people even show up. Is it any wonder?

And just like people who have the nerve to show up at a club to have fun at a rock show - and I'm not talking drunk and beligerent people who like to slam dance when people around them don't, I'm simply talking about people who show up to dance and hollar and harmlessly make a fool out of themselves - like them, anybody taking actual political action, like civil disobedience, organizing, protesting, is regarded as a freak. I was personally called an "idiot" at a White Stripes concert for saying "wooo!" after a song, rather than just standing and clapping like everybody else - I wasn't dancing, wasn't particularly drunk, was silent during the songs, but when I showed the least bit of enthusiasm, someone was embarrassed enough to call me an idiot. I would expect to be treated similarly at an opera hall.

Also, two years ago my wife and I went to see a Shakespeare in the Park production of Twelfth Night that a friend of ours was producing. I decided to dust off my Oxford Shakespeare and read the play beforehand, and we also did a little Cliff Notesing online so we could get the jist, because it's hard to follow the language. Well, that play is goddamn hilarious. They served beer at the play, so we got a little drunk, and when Malvolio came out in his yellow socks, my wife and I lost it. The actor did it perfectly, we were laughing our asses off, with tears streaming down. Nobody else was laughing but one other guy. This is in one of those New Urban communities with a bunch of rich people, who I guess go to see Shakespeare to be able to say they went to see Shakespeare. People began to stare at us. I started to feel like an idiot. Don't you understand? It's SUPPOSED to be funny! Likewise, I KNOW I'm making a fool out of myself here at the rock show. And? You're supposed to! It's FUN! It's a RELEASE! It would be great if more people joined in.

And that's my point about democracy. It's not a rocknroll show, no matter how much the band rocks, if you just politely applaud at the end of a song, looking upon those who are there to have fun as freaks. There's no difference between that behavior and going to the symphony. It's not democracy if you simply show up and push buttons, and look at people who organize and actually try to change things through direct action as freaks. It's no different from living in a monarchy.

Of course, systems of power are always at work against any kind of popular organization, or cathartic self-expression. They have a heavy hand in manufacturing this embarrassment. Much of what’s known as “conservatism” in mainstream media has nothing to do with a philosophical outlook about government policy and political affairs, it’s an apolitical reaction to people who care enough about the state of the world to have an opinion about it. “Hippy” is the ultimate accusation from those with no opinion whatsoever, leveled at those who have any opinion critical of the United States government. Ironically, this is a word invented by big media to describe young people who attended rock n roll shows or engaged in any kind of political action in the 1960s.

So WHY do people refuse to participate? There are many reasons, but I think it can be boiled down to the fear of embarrassment. It's embarrassing in our current cultural climate to dance, to sing, to talk about politcs. The social network around music is crumbling, and the social networks of democracy are practically non-existant, but the social network around sporting events are thriving (and the only reason for this is that there is a lot of money to be made from it), so it's very easy to become involved in sports without being embarrassed but it's very awkward being involved in political action. People are afraid they might "offend" somebody who holds a different political belief from them, yet those same people are keen on offending people from a rival sports team.

When you are passionate, by the very nature of being passionate, you're opening yourself up to criticism, and in this modern American culture, there is PLENTY of criticism - not particularly to people who have certain opinions, but of people who have opinions AT ALL, people with any passion at all.

The main problem with this country is not that the assholes have gotten control, it's that those with passion, those who have opinions, who love to dance and make a fool out of themselves for its own sake, are being crushed by their own embarrassment, and all they need to do is to get off their asses and express their opinion, get in the street and take over, get your ass to a club and dance to a live band.

And to make this kind of passionate expression work, be it political expression or musical expression, you need many people participating, then the one guy at the club who says "wooo" doesn't look like such an idiot, when 100 other people are "woo"ing along with him.

One person screaming from a rooftop is an idiot, but 1000 people screaming from the rooftops is a revolution.