Friday, November 21, 2003

Hello Hobopoets,
I just wanted to add a couple of suggested links -- the BlogMaster may want to eventually include them on the sidebar.

First off, The Budget Traveller's Guide to Sleeping in Airports:

Secondly, the razor-sharp political satire of Ted Rall -- in two media: scathing cartoons and scathing essays:

Thirdly, if you haven't already seen it, a great media-savvy introduction to the many downsides of factory farming:


Wednesday, November 19, 2003


by Bob Black

WORK IS THE SOURCE of nearly all the misery in the world. Almost any evil you'd care to name comes from working or from living in a world designed for work. In order to stop suffering, we have to stop working.

THAT DOESN'T MEAN we have to stop doing things. It does mean creating a new way of life based on play; in other words, a ludic revolution. By "play" I mean also festivity, creativity, conviviality, commensality, and maybe even art. There is more to play than child's play, as worthy as that is. I call for a collective adventure in generalized joy and freely interdependent exuberance. Play isn't passive. Doubtless we all need a lot more time for sheer sloth and slack than we ever enjoy now, regardless of income or occupation, but once recovered from employment-induced exhaustion nearly all of us want to act.

LIBERALS SAY WE SHOULD END employment discrimination. I say we should end employment. Conservatives support right-to-work laws. Following Karl Marx's wayward son-in-law Paul Lafargue, I support the right to be lazy. Leftists favor full employment. Like the surrealists - except that I'm not kidding - I favor full UNEMPLOYMENT. Trotskyists agitate for permanent revolution. I agitate for permanent revelry. But if all the ideologues (as they do) advocate work - and not only because they plan to make other people do theirs - they are strangely reluctant to say so. They will carry on endlessly about wages, hours, working conditions, exploitation, productivity, profitability. They'll gladly talk about anything but work itself. These experts who offer to do our thinking for us rarely share their conclusions about work, for all its saliency in the lives of all of us. Among themselves they quibble over the details. Unions and management agree that we ought to sell the time of our lives in exchange for survival, although they haggle over the price. Marxists think we should be bossed by bureaucrats. Libertarians think we should be bossed by businessmen. Feminists don't care which form bossing takes, so long as the bosses are women. Clearly these ideology-mongers have serious differences over how to divvy up the spoils of power. Just as clearly, none of them have any objection to power as such and all of them want to keep us working.

YOU MAY BE WONDERING if I'm joking or serious. I'm joking and serious. To be ludic is not to be ludicrous. Play doesn't have to be frivolous, although frivolity isn't triviality; very often we ought to take frivolity seriously. I'd like life to be a game - but a game with high stakes. I want to play for keeps.

Monday, November 03, 2003

The Steady Theft of Our Time
Pirated from Norman Solomon

One of the worst things about today's ultramodern systems of communication is hiding in plain sight: They waste our time.

Sure, gizmos like computers and cell phones and pagers can be real time-savers. But what's less obvious is the great extent to which high tech keeps us waiting.

Whether you're rich, poor or somewhere in between, time probably seems to be in short supply. And when intrusions keep draining away precious moments, you probably feel some combination of annoyance, frustration and anger.

The overwhelming nationwide response to the new do-not-call registry is a form of national rebellion against corporate time-stealers. "We need to appreciate the magnitude of what has happened," writes Fortune magazine senior editor Geoffrey Colvin. "America's stampede to zap telemarketers is a true grassroots movement, and a huge one. It shows how extraordinarily deep and intense people's feelings are about this seemingly minor issue."

During a two-month period over the summer, upwards of 40 million people in the United States signed up to declare their home phone numbers off-limits to the marketing juggernaut. But the do-not-call list speaks to merely one manifestation of an ongoing assault on our time. While a current TV ad blitz by a credit-card company is warning against "identity theft," we have yet to see a national campaign against a much bigger problem -- time theft.

In ways large and small, our time is being nickeled and dimed by corporate interests and government agencies that view it as worthless.

Consider how much time you've spent this year running gauntlets of phone carousels and waiting on hold while muzak and sales pitches fill your ear. It's remarkable how often there's "unusually heavy call volume" -- a double-talk phrase that could be translated as "your time is far less important than our overhead."

And more companies are using voice-recognition software to force callers to talk to machines. Those firms aren't paying us, so our time isn't worth anything to them. Better we should wait longer.

Increasingly, while callers are compelled to hang on, recorded messages are pitching products and services at captive ears. By any other name, this is another form of telemarketing.

Meanwhile, more traditional advertising on radio and television continues to waste our time while media companies are selling our ear-and-eyeball time to advertisers.

The Internet experience is also, more and more, an assault on our time -- and not only with the escalating barrages of spam from e-marketers. Just clicking through the pop-up ads on Web sites can be a real time drain.

The do-not-call upsurge is a barometer of how compacted our lives have become. The media environment, broadly defined, is constantly polluted with hollow claims on our time and attention.

Overall, the social fixations on commerce -- the structural raison d'etre of most media institutions -- relentlessly nibble away at our time. To the extent that it doesn't seem to belong to us, time comes to seem more like the property of unaccountable institutions and their functionaries.

Today, the media establishment routinely fails to cover the siege against our time as a huge quality-of-life concern. These are important issues. For instance: How much of your time gets squandered in traffic for lack of adequate mass transit? How much time have you spent this year waiting in line at an understaffed post office (while the Pentagon budget continues to spike upward)? How many government agencies and corporate firms keep you waiting "due to unusually heavy call volume" that isn't unusual at all?

While people in various economic strata are apt to feel an acute shortage of time, those with money are able to buy some time in numerous contexts. The affluent, and even more so the rich, are able to "buy pass" major inconveniences, like waiting for buses or doing tedious errands and tasks that people of modest means do for themselves.

An Anarcho-Religion of One
by Skald

I'm giving religion a rest for a while.

The problem with organized Buddhism is that it still has a tendency to force things-- meditation, contemplation, moral actions,..... there's a rigidity-- rules, customs, rituals of conformity: Bow three times to the statue, force yourself to sit, obey the master, don't touch the monks... and of course, like all organized religions... a puritanical streak of sexual prudishness and drug abolitionism. Social and societal norms trump the bigger truths. Monks, nuns, and priests bow to convention-- and the whole thing becomes another system of authority and control (though admittedly more benign than the Jewish-Christian-Muslim traditions).

Anarcho-Taoist-Zen: That's my religion. A "religion" without churches, temples, priests, prophets, rules, commandments. The essence of religion, said Joseph Campbell, is to say "yes" to everything. Yes to the world. Yes to the spirit. Even yes to suffering.

There's no way to avoid it-- true religion is always a religion of one. As soon as there are masters and servants, gurus and devotees, churches and temples, tithes and donations, priests and laypeople-- the "religion" is corrupted. Such a thing has already betrayed the central tenant of the Perennial Philosophy: Thou art That-- ALL things, ALL beings, are divine.... there are no chosen ones. Why give money and worship and obedience to monks, priests, or gurus? Wouldn't that effort be better spent on one's own liberation? Why bow to robes, sceptres, crosses, statues, beards, and shaved heads?

No more respect for spiritual bureaucrats.

Everyone their own priest, their own guru, their own master.

Religion, work, play, art, travel-- not separate. Religion is life. Religion is politics. Religion is food. Religion is sex. Religion is sleep. Religion is how you house and clothe yourself. Thoreau saw this.

Organized religions draw the spirit out of daily life and thus kill it. This is as true of Thai Buddhists as it is of American Christians and Malay Muslims and Indian Hindus and Israeli Jews.

Here's another entry for the Tao Te Ching:

That which calls itself religion is not.