Saturday, July 14, 2007

New Insight

So last night my roommate and I were talking for a while. It was one of those conversations that're really honest and intimate where you don't want to even leave to use the bathroom or get water, lest you jinx yourself and lose that. It's sad those conversations are so infrequent and so thus fragile that one has to walk on eggshells around them. Anyway, I saw this parallel.

He and I are often at odds because of something I've written about before: when he interacts with others, he often has an eye toward justifying all of his statements so as to forcefully compel others to listen to the logic and act accordingly. I don't like that approach, and often am much more free-flowing and less rigorous with my ideas, more prone to accepting something new than rejecting it. That's not necessarily a good thing, but I do try to temper it with an increased suspicion of ideas that are supportive of rather than subversive to the dominant culture.

Anyway, I realized that, as Jason points out, these opposing perspectives co-exist in primitive life. The hostility and defensiveness of rational argumentation are of akin to the hostility and defensiveness of the tribe in relation to those outside of the tribe. Likewise, the generosity of spirit, the desire to give the benefit of the doubt to others and the tendency toward acceptance that I tend to emphasize are akin to the openness and non-judgmentalism that exists within the tribe.

It's kind of an old refrain, but balance is key. It's not really feasible to be empathic with everyone, monkey-sphere and all. But it's also a denial of a real spiritual and psychological need for nonjudgment to always assume others disbelieve you and to temper your words and feelings in order to be able to justify their rationality in the eyes of others. I think that not only is it not wrong to apply different standards to different people in your life, but the desire to have universal standards is an artifact of empire, and the desire for everyone in the world to live the same (destructive) way. Multiplicity of beliefs and behaviors are good and necessary in a local world. Cultural relativism and all: to the extent that they allow a group to exist sustainably in a given ecological and human community, their beliefs are acceptable, and cannot be judged by a universal yardstick.

That's kind of tricky, though, because the manifestation of treating people differently is very different in a tribe that exists self-sustainably in a given region, and does not have effective control over the lives of others, versus in empire where the impact of elites is felt way beyond their locale, and where inequity manifests itself in the diminished capacity of the 'other' to exist. I understand this, and anticipate this criticism. I don't know what the answer is, aside from the fact that we will re-localize at some point in probably the not-too-distant future, and what will emerge after empire has tapered down is a multiplicity of cultures who may be ethnocentric, but whose ethnocentrism will still leave room for other ways of life.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


I often think of things that I'd like to say here, but forget by the time I get around to writing. I'll hope my keystrokes will spark my memory a bit, though.

One of my favorite primi bloggers pointed out in a post on barefooting that nothing, really nothing in civilization is an improvement on what nature developed. I'm inclined to agree, though the hard-liner in me who's been burned before would temper that a bit. The reason I mention it is because I read a book recently, Living Green, about basic eco practices. It's a fine book for what it's worth, and I like that it drives home the point that not just food but topical products can impact our health. That means sunscreens, shampoos and all the rest. That's something I didn't fully recognize until recently. Now, my natural tendency is to avoid any cosmetic-type product not just because they're wasteful in manufacture, but because they're probably poison.

Anyway, he emphasizes the importance of an organic bed, since we spend so much time on beds, and off-gassing is a huge health concern. I looked into this a bit; organic beds are more than a thousand dollars, and that's probably on the low end of the cost spectrum. Plus organic cotten sheets, pillows and blankets, and now we're talking huge, hefty sums of money. One could make this very expensive investment, or one could start sleeping outside on grass and dirt. It's free, it's good for our immune systems, it's probably better for our backs, and it's better for our breathing, since indoor air pollution is typically worse than outdoor air pollution Once again, wildness is the path of least resistance.

And on the barefooting note, I've been experimenting with that a bit, too. It's fun, though my feet are barely able to deal with it. A little at a time, though. This is another example of wildness and nature being the path of least resistance. Nike has a shoe for runners that mimics not having a shoe at all. Why not skip the middleman?

Another thing I've been doing is not shampooing. My hair actually feels pretty good, though occasionally gets matted together. But it's great. Just give it a good rub down the couple times a week that I shower, and it's all good.

I was speaking to a friend a couple days ago, about what to do about the state of the world. I'm not sure what sort of impact big actions will have, but for me, de-conditioning myself to empire is where it's it. It's fun and personally meaningful. Anything further I think has to stem from that. That exuberant joy I feel about these things is basis of the important aims I have now- learning primitive skills, including the often neglected but absolutely vital interpersonal skills of speaking one's truth and relating to others in deep and true ways, and raising healthy vibrant children. Those are the tasks that speak to me. And I think they're worthwhile.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


I'm reading this book, For Your Own Good, and it's really pretty good. Not fantastic, but really helpful and I'm sure especially so for folks who haven't been exposed to this.

Anyway, empathy is a big theme and the fact that its commonly blocked off in parents when it comes to the suffering, degradation, humiliation and general trauma they often unconsciously inflict on their kids.

I thought about my roommate, who mocks the sort of spiritual ideas I'm sympathetic to, the idea of gods and spirits and whatever. (My feelings aren't really fixed, which is part of why he's so critical of them). I think about an expression I'm sure I've used, and one I've heard often, "I just can't understand how someone could believe in gods and ghosts and spirits (and all that other mumbo-jumbo)." And I realized that part of why I'm sympathetic to these ideas is because I'm trying to understand the world from the point of view of some of the nature-based people who I look up to in some ways. Jason at Anthropik talks about cultural materialism, and how ideas are grounded in lived reality, and how it just makes sense for a forager to be an animist, in the same way that its pretty nonsensical to an urban person these days to be an animist.

I don't think it's good to be proud not to understand something in this way, to cast it off and demonize it as incomprehensible, and foreign and other in various ways. Ran makes this point- it's not good enough for Indians to say they just didn't understand the ways of the civilized. We have to do better for the future, and make sure that we understand full well why the culture of empire is absurd, based on experience. It also doesn't work for (not) understanding people who committed evil acts. In the book, Alice Miller tries to uncover some of the context for Hitler. Hitler's no easy guy to have empathy for, and certainly his actions aren't something we should feel compelled to sympathize with. But what she aims to do is provide context, to understand cause and effect, and see the background for acts like these not to re-assign blame, but to pro-actively work to change this in the future so these circumstances don't repeat themselves.

The books falls a bit flat for me in that it, like I guess many theoretical treatises, tries to make its theory the final word, when I think lots of other elements were at play, namely the generalized debasement of life, not limited to the debasement of childhood, and the increasing distance between our context and the ones we evolved in. Miller seems to suggest that if we raise kids in a way that is empathic and not cruel, all misdeeds will be avoided. And that makes sense as far as it goes, but I think the understanding of what constitutes cruelty has to be expanded beyond where she may place it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hello again, friends

Thanks, Marcy, for edging me along to post again. Things have been pretty alright for me. I'm in a new apartment with a long-time friend, and in a newish job, so there's been some transition. I'm most proud of the fact that my student loans are aggressively being paid off, and after my most recent payments are processed, I'll have less than $3K, meaning, I think, freedom to travel and learn some skills by the new year. I may end staying at my job a whiel longer to save a bit, but that's to be determined in months to come.

I've read some interesting things since last I posted, most notably The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, by Sandor Ellix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation. It helped inspire me in a renewed way to eat more exclusively locally and to try lots of different vegetables.

Also watched What the Bleep Do We Know, which was alright, but not great. I mean, I'm really open to a lot of that out-there stuff, and it was fun to watch the movie with my roommate and my partner, who seem often to be at odds philosophically. My roommate is much less open to these ideas, and I think he's a good example of seeing one's worldview as a fortress rather than a prison, as Ran articulates. I really do think that how he and I differ is that he's a lot more suspicious and guarded, and I'm (perhaps naively) more willing to open and benevolent toward new information. I understand- he comes from a family who he thinks don't always form ideas based on reason, and often on received wisdom, which often means the 'wisdom' of the dominant paradigm, and rationality is the way to combat that. He's also a middle school teacher and is faced with illogic and prejudice, which reason is a defense against. I mean, it's hard, and I am sympathetic to where he's coming from, but I just prefer to be more (foolishly) open to crazy ideas and I want to accept things that may not make 'sense.'

On the other hand, I really do retreat to reason and use that as my defense when I am forced to interact with prejudiced people, folks who are misogynist or homophobic, and so in some ways my openness is contingent upon being in a supportive environment where all the tedious stupid popular misconceptions and biases are not present.

Hopefully that makes some sense.

More to come, I hope. Thanks for reading, y'all.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


There's been one hell of a lull in much of the anti-civ blogging corner of the world that I inhabit. Ran's solid, and has regular material, and Marcy's also got lots of insights to share. Same for Sara. But Casey down by the river is gone, Free Range Ted is gone, none of the Anthropik folks have posted much in a long time. Jack Trace has been gone since before 2007, Devin's not had much to post recently, and Frank Black's had only a handful of posts since the new year. And Dan, too, has been transitioning and not posting much.

I'm no better. I guess it's just that sort of season, when those of us in wintertime want to hibernate and are generally less active. It could also just be that we're collectively moving through these ideas, and feeling our way toward other avenues of exploration.

I read a book recently, Pig Perfect, which was pretty interesting. Food's been a important issue to me since before I began writing this thing, and I'm getting around to a lot of interesting material. This one's pretty good- the author writes mostly well, and always retains my attention. He covers a lot of topics, some with less élan than others. I felt he was a little clunky when he started talking anthropology, but he did pull out some good points. I guess Charles Mann makes similar points, but this guy, Peter Kaminsky discusses how much of what conquering Europeans saw as wild nature in the Americas was actually nature out of balance. Mann talks about the role the Amerindians played in shaping the physical environment here, but Kaminsky looks especially at the role of large mammals like buffalo. He cites a researcher who suggests that the vast forested canopy was not the 'climax community,' but the result of the decimation of ecosystem altering big game.

What I thought was kind of interesting was that, if this were true, maybe this culture isn't acting so terribly out of place. This is only a half-formed idea, but maybe the continued existence of more open grassland environments which were punctuated by thick forests in between, suggests that some guiding force is at work to make things not go terribly awry.

But then again, I don't even have my facts straight, and the grasslands might well be not the same regions as old forests, and in nay event, the buffalo are still gone, the indigenous humans are still gone, everything is poisoned and we're collectively miserable and violent. So whatever the guiding force is that may be helping us in some ways, it also is letting us work through the consequences of many of our other choices.

One other thing that I've noticed a lot in some food-oriented books that look at agriculture's emergence: the authors often talk about how domestication just came about naturally and was an extension of the relationship the farmer-to-be and domesticated animal-to-be already had. It's not always explicit, but it's often implied. It seems a convenient way to skirt the fact that 90% or more of human history (depending on who you define as human) was non-agricultural, and to thus recuperate agriculture as something that's part and parcel of being human.

I mean, fine, I eat domesticated animal foods, as well as domesticated plant foods, and some wild forms of each, so I'm not saying that it's necessarily bad for you or that there aren't ways to do it better. But let's be honest- most of our food traditions, if you take an honest and long look at it, didn't involved substantial dairy, unfertilized eggs, grains or beans, and had minimal to no processing, at least not of the sort we see today.

It's just so duplicitous when authors like Nina Planck criticize paleo diet advocates, and hoodwink the reader's sense of context by making 10,000 years seem like such a longe time. I mean, no doubt, it is, and it's probably hard for most of us to consider taht sort of era. But don't ignore the legitimate point that, next to 990,000 years, 10,000 actually doesn't look like so much.

Anyway, much love, y'all.

Friday, February 23, 2007

What/Who to Trust

I was speaking with my boss today, and she mentioned that you shouldn't have more than one egg yolk because of the cholesterol. I just yesterday read a section in Real Food, in which the author talks about the political nature of the official rceommendation of 300mg or less of daily cholesterol. As the account goes, the group of sciemtists in charge of this were not looking at any studies- they came up with a number based I think on what folks were then consuming, on average, and roughly halving it, in accordance with the idea that cholesterol consumption is tied to heart disease.

So I told my boss this, that there is no scientific reason for that, and she recounted some of the trite dismissive allegations of global warming skeptics, 'You can say the same thing about global warming.' And I said that the majority of the world's scientists agree on the basic tenets of global warming. She asked where I heard that, and I said I didn't remember, and she noted that wherever I read it could have been lying or mistaken. My co-worker chimed in that all of the major peer-reviewed publications have been in agreement about the basic ideas of global warming for decades. I tried to point out that general consensus doesn't mean everyone agrees on every point, or that everyone will ever agree on anything, but I'm not very good at arguing, and I don't think she wanted to hear that, so it was sort of left at that. She said, back to the egg yolks thing, that her mother has high cholesterol and her doctor told her not to eat too many egg yolks.

I didn't want to get into a long conversation about how her doctor could be wrong too, and lots of people can belief a mistaken idea, and I knew she would be very defensive, and suggest essentially that, because I didn't have the hard facts to force her to believe it, that I wasn't really credible. One thing about my boss is that she can be very defensive and unreceptive; I should start working on Ran's suggestion to try in these moments to expand my sense of self outward and spread love, but I'm afraid of the pain it will probably cause initially.

It's just so frustrating trying to interact with people who are defensive. I used to love it, because I'd have my facts and figures down, and logically force people to ackowledge and accept my position. It's so violent, and I don't have the energy for it anymore, or, I hope, the spiritual will.

All of this highlighted another thing to me: what are we to say when others won't accept your words or ideas? If my boss wants to say that the peer-reviewed articles on global-warming aren't valid, or that she won't believe them, what is there to do. I think that once we stop experiencing things ourselves, this realm of doubt is cast upon us and all our ideas and exchanges. I mean, if someone doesn't wnat to think something, short of maybe some Orwellian sort of torture, one can't force them to. And why should I want to force them, except for self-serving reasons? Having a set of shared understandings does make coexistence easier, thhough, so that's one reason.

It can get tricky, and I think it's related to solipsism. The exchange just reminded me, in a roundabout way, that we aren't grounded, and when we live in a world of ideas and man-made constructions, it can be hard to remind people that others exist outside of oneself.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

More Food Stuffs

Here's a great article by Michael Pollan I read a week or two back, but never mentioned.

He makes a few good points that I really like. He suggests more greens, less grains, eating in traditional ways (which as I've come to learn via the Weston A Price Foundation, often has mre wisdom than we at first may recognize), and he also responds satisfactorily to an issue that I've often been troubled by with from low-carb diet advocates. That is, while they like to point out that 'people have been eating less fat and more carbs, just like the authorities say, but have been getting fatter' in the last generation, that criticism has been addressed by John Robbins in The Food Revolution. Robbins response, like Pollan's, is that, sure that's what the recommendations are. But what's going on on the ground in people diets is, they've just been eating more carb-rich food, and shitty carbs like white grains and sugar. You can't really say that there's a mass experiment underway in which people are eating low-fat and hight-carb diets, and hey, look how bad it is; the truth is, people haven't actually been eating this way, so fair's fair- don't trace the obesity epidemic on the by-the-letter USDA guidelines that aren't being followed.

Makes me think about the criticism of low-carb diets that I haven't seen adequately addressed: our brains need carbs for energy, and ketones that result from high-protein consumption, are unhealthy for us. Now, it could be an issue in which there's just a fundamental clash of interests and perspective, with some people saying ketones are bad, and others are good (like with saturated fat or cholesterol). If that's the case, one has to sift through the competing info and figure out what seems legit, what seems like petty politics, and what the conclusion ultimately should be. I'll keep that all in mind.

Anyway, my food choices are ok. Kind of a two steps forward, one step back deal. I was ill recently, and got very lazy and ate out more frequently than I had been because I didn't have the energy to prepare food. I've also had some white rice and flour, which I had eschewed totally for a while. I'm seriously considering eliminating grains entirely for a while, maybe a week or two. I just feel so gross after eating crappy starchy food. I'll focus on more greens, fewer fruits (which I tend to overeat at times) and good quality meats and eggs. I'm also planning on experimenting with EFT, which may be kind of hokey, but so am I often.

It's unfortunate, though, if I avoid grains, because I just started making sourdough bread, and was hoping to keep working on it. My first loaf was pretty ok- dense, which I can work on, but slightly sour in taste and pretty nice.

On the positive side, I remember a week or two ago, I hadn't had grains all day, or most of the day, and had some coconut oil and felt energized in a different sort of way from carb-energy. Sort of a cleaner-fueling energy, if that makes sense. I was barely conscious of it, but with more time away from grains and with green, I suspect I'll have a chance to explore it more.

Also, there have been some serendipitous events recently as my worldview is widening, which
is encouraging me along the way.

Much love, friends.