What personal experiences have I had with social power? Well, I’d like to think of myself as being very socially powerful, just about as powerful as the next guy.
The phrase “just one person” normally represents a disheartened attitude, shared amongst those who feel that as individuals they lack the power to manifest significant or meaningful changes in the world around them. I believe this negative attitude is the result of a culture that focuses it’s attention more on the desires of the individual than those of the collective. It’s true that there may be no politicians or bureaucrats running for election that represent my values and opinions exactly, and it’s true that by voting for candidate A or B I am not voting for someone who will truly represent me, but I don’t think this makes my vote worthless. Instead, one needs to consider their values and desires and how those may be shared and thus amplified by forming affinity groups.
Another example of my massive social powers; I am a vegetarian. By not eating meat and by eating fewer animal products I hope to reduce the demand for such products, and hopefully reduce their production. I believe such a change greatly lessens my impact upon the environment, reduces my responsibility for the suffering of other creatures, and encourages a lifestyle that is more considerate of my own health. Now, my dietary choices by themselves aren’t going to bring the massive livestock industry crashing down, but that doesn’t make them insignificant.
The smallest of my social powers here is probably that of my money. The money I would otherwise be spending on meat and animal products represents the most minuscule fraction of the industry’s income. The CEOs and financial accountants were most likely not shaking in their boots upon my deceleration of vegetarianism. Some of my more potent powers include my ability to be a model for others. If I can live a life according to certain principles and be just as happy as (or even more so than) others, then I am setting an example of a goal that is easily attainable. Such modeling sets the stage for others to act with their own social power. At the same time it is an act that challenges social norms. Simply by being concerned about the impact of the food I eat I am shifting away from the standard operating procedures. Advertisers tells us that meat is a material, not an animal. McDonalds tell us that large hamburgers equate to machismo. The USDA (under lobbyist influence) tells us that milk is the best source of calcium. Making your own decisions based on your own research and understanding terrifies all of them.
My powers extend into the garden as well. Along with other members of G.R.U.B. I plant vegetables and other palatable plants on land donated to our organization by members of the local community. We grow organically and redistribute the harvest amongst community members and ourselves. By directly connecting myself to the source of my food, I have discovered another social power. I am no longer as dependent on others (in so many different ways) to sustain myself. I have discovered the taste of autonomy, and it is much like the taste of tomatoes, radishes, broccoli, beets, basil, butternut squash, chard, kale, peppers, potatoes, and green beans.
The gardening group is composed entirely of volunteers and is a non-profit organization always open to those who want to help, learn to grow, or just get their hands dirty. If I can share my experience with others and allow them to find such social powers within themselves, then I really am a social force. If just one can influence another, and they in turn can influence more, the social power is amplified and enriched. What can begin as the vision, values, or hope of one person can grow into a movement that unites communities and fills bellies, or it can falter and collapse into nothing. I guess it all depends on how you look at the idea of “just one person”.
Article the first: an essay by Mike Tidwell entitled “Forget the light bulbs: Part II “, which draws a comparison between the current environmental crises and the civil rights movement, in terms of the value of both voluntary personal change and radical and wide sweeping changes in legislation.
The problem is we’ve somehow forgotten how it’s done. Martin Luther King famously and repeatedly asked, “Why should we wait one more day for our freedom? Why?” King resisted public pleas to go slow; to let voluntary measures work; to understand that some people just can’t change very quickly. No, King said, America must have a new set of laws that address the great moral urgency of now!
So why — with Arctic ice vanishing, and hurricanes getting bigger, and sea levels rising — why are we still politely urging Americans to change a few light bulbs and voluntarily spend a little more for a hybrid car? What breakdown in ethical thinking prevents us from insisting that all serious conversations on this topic focus on demanding governmental standards that allow only 50 mpg cars into the marketplace? In other words, given the great ecological, economic, and moral implications of global warming, why should we wait one more day for clean, efficient energy? Why? (More…)
The second article is a comparative piece by Jon Rynn entitled “Is this an emergency?”. In it he compares the massive and ultimately essential actions undertaken by the US Federal government upon our entrance in to World War 2, and the large scale changes that must be enacted to save some vestige of the natural environment.
Can you imagine a U.S. president summoning the car companies into the Oval Office, forging an agreement to stop making automobiles for five years, and instead convincing them to pump out high-speed rail, light rail, trolley rail, and buses? Can you imagine construction companies agreeing to not put up any more single-family houses, but instead putting up Platinum LEED near-zero-emissions apartment buildings and commercial buildings, each with geothermal exchange systems for heating and cooling and solar roofs for electricity? What if road construction companies agreed not to pave any more space, and instead built the rails for the new rail systems? And what if the coal companies and nuclear energy companies agreed to work with GE and others to put up only wind power and solar thermal farms? What about ADM and ConAgra agreeing to help the agricultural sector eliminate the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and factory farming? (More…)
A hypothesis: Cooking is seen as emasculating unless it’s a) something done as a favor to the woman who usually does the cooking, in which case it can be manly as long as it’s done infrequently and poorly; or b) something performed and described as a sport. (more…)
In the same disappointing way that cooking has escaped the male gender norm of being “the provider”, it seems that the development of actual responsibility has fled the scene of college students “living on their own”. Pride is taken in toast and ramen, and it’s “strangely cool”, “hella weird”, and generally confounding to my classmates when I offhandedly mention ingredients
“Mozzarella? Why do you need mozzarella? Isn’t that cheese?” “Well yes, I need it for some lasagna I’m making, it’s also good with tomatoes and basil and olive oil.” “Damn, you cook? My mom likes oil” “Yeah, I guess me and your mom both like to eat foods.”
I’ve noticed a norm amongst first, second, and even third year college students to completely shirk the process of learning to cook for as long as possible. I pounced on the opportunity like a tiger starved for meat; it was only about a week into my freshman year of cafeteria food that I began to ache for a proper kitchen. Being a vegetarian certainly accelerated the process. I’ll leave it to the suckers to survive on saltines and redbull.
I’ve been playing guitar again, despite all odds. Two songs have been written, and one of them recorded. I’ll post them both once collaborations have completed. I can feel more music coming on. I want to return to the way of superfunmixes and dirty shows. I feel like this is within my reach, and also, my arms are long and skinny. I don’t really like to be brief, but concision is as concision does.
Gosh, where are my internet manners? Both of the following videos come from the pile of internet richness that is If You Make It. Lots of other great videos there too, some Paul Baribeau, some Ghost Mice, some Kickball, some Wildebeest, and tons more. If you want an audio-video taste of some of the best punx/alt-folk/pop-punk off the Left Coast, this site is for you. Three cheers for the long tail effect!
I found these two but moments ago, it’d be a damn shame not to share. Frances Quinlan of Hop Along Queen Ansleis melts my face off with her voice. Gotdamn.
First up, Bruno is Orange
Followed by Workers
Bless these internets, for they have revealed thine bounty.
I rode over to GRUB garden #5 tonight to do a little evening weeding; much easier to work in the setting sun. I pulled weeds for maybe two hours as the shadows around me crept across the yard, the yearning shade. Pulling sprouts of grass while listening to Yo La Tengo’s The Sounds of The Sounds of Science is a nice thing to do. Cool damp soil, sitting in the shade, collecting worms, soil caked onto my shoes. The broccoli is coming in nicely, and there are ladybugs abound to combat the aphids. I wrote in the GRUB log about what I did and how the garden was looking, beginning with “Dear Dirt Diary…” That’s my little land.
I cut my hair tonight, but it sounds more dramatic if I say I cut off all my hair. I did have a lot, and now I have very little. I’ve heard it makes me “look five years younger” and is “hell of cool”. Neato. I attempted the shaved head + “beard” + “mustache” as my brother recommended, but it didn’t really work. Clean shaven all around, that’s the ticket. Maybe someone will hire me now that I don’t look like a damn California hippie anymore. I’ll admit I’m not sure why, but I really do like being able to see the shape of my skull. Maybe it’s because that’s where my brain is, that’s the shape of thinking, that’s where all my heat escapes, that’s where a car would kill me, that’s where I smacked into a table when I was a little boy, that’s where my hair was.
A shower washed off all the dirt and all the hair.
I want to write about the satisfaction of gardening. Not that I’ve experience any vast quantities of said pleasures, but today I witnessed the possibility.
Tending soil, pulling weeds, learning the flora, today was my first day working with GRUB. A local volunteer organization focused on organically Growing Resourcefully [and] Uniting Bellies. Driven by dedication and donation GRUB has already started six gardens, most of them in the backyards of generous community members. More gardens are planned, and there is already a long list of people who want to volunteer their time, land, or other resources. Eventually, the food grown will be distributed amongst those who donated, and other community members who subscribe (as with a CSA).
I’m excited to use my bike to deliver hay and trowels and vegetables. I’m excited to dig trenches and to arrange rows of broccoli and okra. I’m excited to be amongst people who work towards a solution.
My last post wasn’t very constructive, and again I find myself torn. On one hand I can look at something like that Vogue article and say “well, they’re doing it all wrong! There are much more effective actions they could promote, such as vegetarianism or having fewer children or giving up your car or seizing control of a government that sells out it’s own population!” I can get really frustrated. If it’s not part of my solution, then it looks like part of the problem.
But on the other hand, at least Vogue is talking about it. It may be under the pretext of advertisements and fashion, but neither of those are indelibly stained as evil. If progress is to be made I don’t actually believe it must begin with violent revolution or industrial collapse. If the right changes are going to be made they must be committed by populations, not groups, not individuals. It may take longer and the path may be paved with the sellouts of green consumerism, but it’s still pointing in the right direction.
But. But. But. When you talk about the destruction of ecosystems, or the planning of hundreds of new coal plants, or mountain top removal mining, or the inbreeding of the USDA and big agriculture, or the radioactive “national sacrifice” areas of the midwest, or the spread of indomitable GMO crops, or the constantly widening gap between the the rich and the poor, or the fact that my children will live in the world we’re all building today, who can afford to wait?
Spa: Chill out and forget your worries about the planet at an Irish spa which uses 100 per cent eco products and goes to great lengths to minimize its impact on the environment. www.monart.ie
Buy things you don’t need, but first make sure you fly to a different country to do it. If not for the carbon emissions of your flight, what else would you atone for alongside other eco-relaxers? Have another facial, the green avocado is shipped in fresh from Mexico!
Weekend Away: Take a holiday away from the hustle and bustle and pollution of the city. You’ll find yourself as close to nature as possible, sleeping in a canopy bed, eating by candlelight and even collecting your own farm eggs. Choose your retreat from among farms in Hampshire, Somerset, Cornwall and Wiltshire. Prices start at £195. For more information visit www.featherdown.co.uk
Again with the travel. Perfect your pastoral patronage at any one of these finely manicured meccas of the mother Earth. Nothing says “I’m of the 95% of the population that has nothing to do with the agriculture that feeds us all!” like finding the idea of collecting eggs novel. Maybe they’ll let you pet a cow! Don’t confuse this with a real way of life though, it’s only a holiday!
Chocolate: Give yourself a treat while helping others — not something which can be done too often — with Montezuma’s latest ranges of chocolate, sourced from Papua New Guinea and Peru. The company enforces the highest ethical and horticultural standards, so you can pig out with a clear conscience. www.montezumas.co.uk
Helping others - apparently it’s maybe hard to do. Consuming chocolate made from cocoa grown half a world away, now that’s easy! Also my conscience has been cleared? Thank you very much!
Gimmicks: If you thought you couldn’t get greener than gardening, think again. Decorate your garden with recycled planters made from old tyres (£50) or a bird box with a roof planted with seeds (£30). www.henand hammock.co.uk
Hey look, something that maybe the eco-readers of Vogue could make on their own! They might even look around and find other ways to reuse… oh wait, it’s just a fucking gimmick.
Shop: He was divine as Mr Darcy, and now actor Colin Firth has turned his hand to eco-retail, with the help of his wife, Livia, her brother, Nicola Giuggioli and entrepreneur Ivo Coulson. With the view that it’s ‘practically immoral not to care about the planet at this time’, Eco aims to be on hand with advice to help people live a more sustainable lifestyle. Eco is at 213 Chiswick High Road, London W4. www.eco-age.com
If you can’t find the time to educate yourself about what prefixes like eco- and enviro- mean, or to understand what makes a practice or product sustainable, or how to not be a dick to the rest of the world, you can pay this company to figure it out for you! Enforcement of new responsible lifestyle not included.
My Anthropology prof. offers up some additional reading between classes, and one article really caught my attention. Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change by Claudia Deutsch, published in The New York Times August 29, 2007. (Available online here, go here if you need an account.)
Essentially, the article reveals the shocking truth that “the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.” It goes on to detail how many animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and The Humane Society of the United States are pushing for environmental groups to bring this connection into more prominence.
“You just cannot be a meat-eating environmentalist,” said Matt A. Prescott, manager of vegan campaigns for PETA.
Damn Right. Fucking Bloodmouths.
Eating green (local, little-to-no-meat, organic) isn’t as easy as buying a Prius or changing your light bulbs, but it’s way easier than having to explain to my kids in 30+ years why there are no more viable oceanic fisheries/why the icecaps are nothing more than an urban legend/why rain forests can only be seen in museum dioramas/why their life expectancy is less then that of their grandparents.
Maybe that’s a stretch, maybe I’m taking the associations and possible risks too far. Still preferable to underestimation though, no?
I killed my rear wheel a little while ago. Luckily I didn’t have to experience it fail while I was riding it. I guess this is supposed to teach me to ride wheels with more spokes, or to jump off fewer curbs, or to learn some respect for the black art of the wheelsmithe.
One of the perks of riding in Chico is that Paul Components is just a few blocks away. I rolled in today (on a borrowed rear wheel) and picked up a new rear hub. Machined from a three inch round bar of 6061 aluminum, anodized black, high flange, 32 hole, sealed bearings, and a design that makes me sigh. What a dreamboat of mechanical design, permit me this lusting: