angstzeit: (Default)
People love talking about other people almost as much as they love talking about themselves. And few people don't want at least certain people saying certain things about them. As Oscar Wilde said: “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

And I do hear them regularly. A rousing chorus of them, singing an endless song of me.

They say I'm only using ten percent of my brain. I certainly hope so since I've made great strides in killing off the other ninety percent. I found a few good neural solvents in my day. Though truthfully, I'm not completely confident in what I am using. Sometimes it takes me a few hours to rise past dodgy in the morning. Perhaps I'd be better off using four or five percent—that ten comes up with the most crazy stuff...

They say, when idle, my hands are the tools of the devil. I do hope he gets better use out of them than I do. I can't tell you how many absolutely perfect ideas I've had in my head that somewhere around my hands came out all wrong. Unfortunately, you've probably read a couple...

They say I'd do so much better if I only applied myself. It is certainly true that I have been very lax in doing so. Sometimes I think they may have a point, but then they say the same thing about HeadOn and my mom says that stuff doesn't work for shit...

They say I should have known better. Oh, I did, I did. I just went ahead anyway.

They say...

They say...

They say it is better that I stay silent and be thought a fool, than to open my mouth and remove all doubt. I'm happy to have this chance to clean up any bits of suspicion lingering about regarding the great fool that I am. Fool I may have been to enter—but only true greatness can explain my return...
angstzeit: (Default)
People love talking about other people almost as much as they love talking about themselves. And few people don't want at least certain people saying certain things about them. As Oscar Wilde said: “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

And I do hear them regularly. A rousing chorus of them, singing an endless song of me.

They say I'm only using ten percent of my brain. I certainly hope so since I've made great strides in killing off the other ninety percent. I found a few good neural solvents in my day. Though truthfully, I'm not completely confident in what I am using. Sometimes it takes me a few hours to rise past dodgy in the morning. Perhaps I'd be better off using four or five percent—that ten comes up with the most crazy stuff...

They say, when idle, my hands are the tools of the devil. I do hope he gets better use out of them than I do. I can't tell you how many absolutely perfect ideas I've had in my head that somewhere around my hands came out all wrong. Unfortunately, you've probably read a couple...

They say I'd do so much better if I only applied myself. It is certainly true that I have been very lax in doing so. Sometimes I think they may have a point, but then they say the same thing about HeadOn and my mom says that stuff doesn't work for shit...

They say I should have known better. Oh, I did, I did. I just went ahead anyway.

They say...

They say...

They say it is better that I stay silent and be thought a fool, than to open my mouth and remove all doubt. I'm happy to have this chance to clean up any bits of suspicion lingering about regarding the great fool that I am. Fool I may have been to enter—but only true greatness can explain my return...
angstzeit: (Default)
They call it “Bloody Williamson”. Having been the scene of such lovely events as the Bloody Vendetta, the Herrin Massacre, the Klan War, and the Birger/Shelton War (which led to possibly the first aerial bombing of the U.S.). That was the county next to where I lived in Carbondale. And it was where my friends and I went shooting.

I was in a band at the time called Hippies with Guns and while we all had guns, I was the only one who looked like a hippie. I looked sort of like I do now—long, dark hair and a beard, except I was skinnier and younger. Hell, I even wore home-made tie-dyed T-shirts. This would be 17 or 18 years ago and hippies were very out. I was odd even in a college town.

My dad had just given me my grandfather's two .22 rifles. I was anxious to try them out and none of the usual shooting gang was available. So I decide to go out to the abandoned strip mine in Williamson County. I hop in my Chevette with day-glo flowers and fluorescent orange feet on it and head on out to the middle of nowhere.

For those who aren't familiar, a strip mine is a large gash in the earth, which leaves a long, narrow, steep-sided lake. This one has a path along the rim with a tall hill running alongside that makes a fine bullet stop. I parked my car by the road and headed back into the area where we usually shot and proceeded to plink away with the .22s.

This was all fine and dandy until I hear shots—a lot of them—coming from back the way I came. “Okay, maybe I'll shoot all my ammo instead of saving some.”

So, eventually, I'm out of ammo and the shooting—between me and the car—continues. “Well, maybe I'll just wait here a while and enjoy the lovely, uh, strip mine.”

After a while I'm feeling pretty silly and so decide to walk back to my car yelling, “Coming through,” regularly. I come around the bend to find three, very local, guys dressed in black—each with a 9mm semi auto and a military style duffel bag of ammo clips behind them and the shot-up remains of a table in front of them. I would not call the looks on their faces friendly.

I try to keep the vague smile on my face while smiling is the last thing I want to do as I picture the various nasty ways this can end—strip mines are a great place to dispose of a body. Interpersonal tension took on new meaning as I walked, seemingly forever, up to and past these guys. I manage a cheery (I hope) but non-committal “Hi.” A vague noise may have come from them. And then the worst part ...

When I was a kid, I used to hate walking up steps when it was dark behind me. I had that irrational fear that someone, or thing, was behind me and I'd start running as fast as I could so I wouldn't be caught.

Now my fear was not at all irrational as I forced myself to w-a-l-k c-c-c-calmly to my car knowing the bullets would probably get to me before the sound.





This is me about that time in a cemetery in Texas, wearing a Hippies with Guns shirt.


My car (later and post an accident--but that's another story). The stickers are actual 60s vintage.
angstzeit: (Default)
They call it “Bloody Williamson”. Having been the scene of such lovely events as the Bloody Vendetta, the Herrin Massacre, the Klan War, and the Birger/Shelton War (which led to possibly the first aerial bombing of the U.S.). That was the county next to where I lived in Carbondale. And it was where my friends and I went shooting.

I was in a band at the time called Hippies with Guns and while we all had guns, I was the only one who looked like a hippie. I looked sort of like I do now—long, dark hair and a beard, except I was skinnier and younger. Hell, I even wore home-made tie-dyed T-shirts. This would be 17 or 18 years ago and hippies were very out. I was odd even in a college town.

My dad had just given me my grandfather's two .22 rifles. I was anxious to try them out and none of the usual shooting gang was available. So I decide to go out to the abandoned strip mine in Williamson County. I hop in my Chevette with day-glo flowers and fluorescent orange feet on it and head on out to the middle of nowhere.

For those who aren't familiar, a strip mine is a large gash in the earth, which leaves a long, narrow, steep-sided lake. This one has a path along the rim with a tall hill running alongside that makes a fine bullet stop. I parked my car by the road and headed back into the area where we usually shot and proceeded to plink away with the .22s.

This was all fine and dandy until I hear shots—a lot of them—coming from back the way I came. “Okay, maybe I'll shoot all my ammo instead of saving some.”

So, eventually, I'm out of ammo and the shooting—between me and the car—continues. “Well, maybe I'll just wait here a while and enjoy the lovely, uh, strip mine.”

After a while I'm feeling pretty silly and so decide to walk back to my car yelling, “Coming through,” regularly. I come around the bend to find three, very local, guys dressed in black—each with a 9mm semi auto and a military style duffel bag of ammo clips behind them and the shot-up remains of a table in front of them. I would not call the looks on their faces friendly.

I try to keep the vague smile on my face while smiling is the last thing I want to do as I picture the various nasty ways this can end—strip mines are a great place to dispose of a body. Interpersonal tension took on new meaning as I walked, seemingly forever, up to and past these guys. I manage a cheery (I hope) but non-committal “Hi.” A vague noise may have come from them. And then the worst part ...

When I was a kid, I used to hate walking up steps when it was dark behind me. I had that irrational fear that someone, or thing, was behind me and I'd start running as fast as I could so I wouldn't be caught.

Now my fear was not at all irrational as I forced myself to w-a-l-k c-c-c-calmly to my car knowing the bullets would probably get to me before the sound.





This is me about that time in a cemetery in Texas, wearing a Hippies with Guns shirt.


My car (later and post an accident--but that's another story). The stickers are actual 60s vintage.
angstzeit: (Default)
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ...”

Equality is an oft-used term in America. That is in large part due to the words quoted above written by Thomas Jefferson in The Declaration of Independence—the document that set forth the new nation of America. Today, as much as ever (and possibly more), we wrestle with the meaning of equality for our nation and its future.

While Jefferson may well have been speaking to the equivalence of each human to another, he was actually addressing something very specific and crucial to the ability of America to declare independence: That no human had a God-given right to rule over another.

America was a colony of Great Britain, whose king ruled by divine right. Thus, to defy the king was to defy God. By stating that no human was created above another, Jefferson—and America—rejected not only the ability of one person to rule others against their wishes, but the ability of one human to profess the mind and nature of God to other humans. It was seen that the monopoly of God in governing was the root of tyranny.

It was not lightly that later, in the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, freedom of religion was so prominently placed. The men who wrote and approved that bill knew all too well that the conjoining of government and religion brought about the decay of both and the oppression of the people. For government is a human contrivance and therefore imperfect and inconstant. And so, its authority must be human, and it must be changeable to meet the needs of the people. This is as true today as it was then.

"Christians have an obligation ... to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life ...”*

This is why I view with great fear those in America who desire once again to attach God to the rule of the country. To once again suggest that some humans have special knowledge of the divine and have the right above others to rule is antithetical to the very basis of America. It not only works against the intentions of the founders and the documents of the founding of America but negates the argument for America's existence.

Is America the result of the miscarriage of God's will? Or is the freedom of each citizen to know and worship, or not, their God as they choose the ultimate respect to the “Laws of Nature and Nature's God?”ǂ


* George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries from his book The Changing of the Guard: Biblical Principles for Political Action.

ǂ Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence.
angstzeit: (Default)
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ...”

Equality is an oft-used term in America. That is in large part due to the words quoted above written by Thomas Jefferson in The Declaration of Independence—the document that set forth the new nation of America. Today, as much as ever (and possibly more), we wrestle with the meaning of equality for our nation and its future.

While Jefferson may well have been speaking to the equivalence of each human to another, he was actually addressing something very specific and crucial to the ability of America to declare independence: That no human had a God-given right to rule over another.

America was a colony of Great Britain, whose king ruled by divine right. Thus, to defy the king was to defy God. By stating that no human was created above another, Jefferson—and America—rejected not only the ability of one person to rule others against their wishes, but the ability of one human to profess the mind and nature of God to other humans. It was seen that the monopoly of God in governing was the root of tyranny.

It was not lightly that later, in the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, freedom of religion was so prominently placed. The men who wrote and approved that bill knew all too well that the conjoining of government and religion brought about the decay of both and the oppression of the people. For government is a human contrivance and therefore imperfect and inconstant. And so, its authority must be human, and it must be changeable to meet the needs of the people. This is as true today as it was then.

"Christians have an obligation ... to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life ...”*

This is why I view with great fear those in America who desire once again to attach God to the rule of the country. To once again suggest that some humans have special knowledge of the divine and have the right above others to rule is antithetical to the very basis of America. It not only works against the intentions of the founders and the documents of the founding of America but negates the argument for America's existence.

Is America the result of the miscarriage of God's will? Or is the freedom of each citizen to know and worship, or not, their God as they choose the ultimate respect to the “Laws of Nature and Nature's God?”ǂ


* George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries from his book The Changing of the Guard: Biblical Principles for Political Action.

ǂ Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence.
angstzeit: (Default)
I've been known to think of myself as a piss-poor excuse for a person. However, when I compare my life to the behavior of the United States, maybe I'm not that bad.

Me and money don't get along.
Yep, as soon as it arrives I'm trying to get rid of it. Managing it just escapes me.

But I'm not as bad as America. America spends like a drunken sailor. A very drunken sailor--tossing out billions like chump change. And even worse than me with the pathetic pretend skimping. "Oh, I just don't know how I can afford those necessities." What about that trillion you just dropped on the war without thinking?

What would you think of any person who ran their monetary affairs like the U.S. government? Yeah, that's what I thought.


I talk a good talk.
You might notice me doing it here. But do I walk the walk?
Land of the free and home of the brave. We love everybody. We have proper values. Right up until something we want is on the other side of our virtuous, noble values. There's always an excuse, isn't there? It's fine to kill those people. Supporting this dictatorship is okay for now. Well, that freedom is kind of annoying, right?

Would you trust someone who acted like America? Would you even like them? Yeah, that's what I thought.


I'm a coward.
That's right. When all those fantasies of bravery are put to the test, I crumple like paper. Am I sitting in a jail cell for standing up for what I believe in? Am I missing comfort to live the way I preach? Hell no.
But even I look good next to the cowardice of America. And the fact that, just like me, America will take any opportunity to spin its actions as bravery is just sickening. America has broken countless laws, even its own most fundamental ones. It is selling off its freedoms--the very reason for the country's existence. We've killed hundreds of thousands of people--at least. We regularly set policies that will doom our children and grandchildren. Why? Because we found out we're vulnerable, just like everyone else in the world, and we're reacting in mindless terror. Our leaders and media--like the endless thoughts in a paranoid neurotic's brain--drone on and on about the "threats" we face. And we tell ourselves we're brave when, like a scared homeowner with mice who covers their house with poison, we blindly try to destroy anything that even slightly spooks us; when, in fact, we're creating a more dangerous place for generations to come. We're too frightened to see that we're here because of our cowardly reactions in the past. And so we once again cast harm to the future to keep our precious little lives seemingly safe now. We have the gall to say it's our children we're protecting when we're really mortgaging their future to make not them, but us, feel safer.

What would you think of someone who suspected their neighbor of vandalism and so blew up their house? What would you think of someone who spent several times their salary on weapons while their family went hungry? What would you think of someone who thought themselves brave for killing women and children? What would you think of someone who hid behind their children and grandchildren? Yeah, that's what I thought.


My biggest challenge is to not feel this way. I fail every time.
angstzeit: (Default)
I've been known to think of myself as a piss-poor excuse for a person. However, when I compare my life to the behavior of the United States, maybe I'm not that bad.

Me and money don't get along.
Yep, as soon as it arrives I'm trying to get rid of it. Managing it just escapes me.

But I'm not as bad as America. America spends like a drunken sailor. A very drunken sailor--tossing out billions like chump change. And even worse than me with the pathetic pretend skimping. "Oh, I just don't know how I can afford those necessities." What about that trillion you just dropped on the war without thinking?

What would you think of any person who ran their monetary affairs like the U.S. government? Yeah, that's what I thought.


I talk a good talk.
You might notice me doing it here. But do I walk the walk?
Land of the free and home of the brave. We love everybody. We have proper values. Right up until something we want is on the other side of our virtuous, noble values. There's always an excuse, isn't there? It's fine to kill those people. Supporting this dictatorship is okay for now. Well, that freedom is kind of annoying, right?

Would you trust someone who acted like America? Would you even like them? Yeah, that's what I thought.


I'm a coward.
That's right. When all those fantasies of bravery are put to the test, I crumple like paper. Am I sitting in a jail cell for standing up for what I believe in? Am I missing comfort to live the way I preach? Hell no.
But even I look good next to the cowardice of America. And the fact that, just like me, America will take any opportunity to spin its actions as bravery is just sickening. America has broken countless laws, even its own most fundamental ones. It is selling off its freedoms--the very reason for the country's existence. We've killed hundreds of thousands of people--at least. We regularly set policies that will doom our children and grandchildren. Why? Because we found out we're vulnerable, just like everyone else in the world, and we're reacting in mindless terror. Our leaders and media--like the endless thoughts in a paranoid neurotic's brain--drone on and on about the "threats" we face. And we tell ourselves we're brave when, like a scared homeowner with mice who covers their house with poison, we blindly try to destroy anything that even slightly spooks us; when, in fact, we're creating a more dangerous place for generations to come. We're too frightened to see that we're here because of our cowardly reactions in the past. And so we once again cast harm to the future to keep our precious little lives seemingly safe now. We have the gall to say it's our children we're protecting when we're really mortgaging their future to make not them, but us, feel safer.

What would you think of someone who suspected their neighbor of vandalism and so blew up their house? What would you think of someone who spent several times their salary on weapons while their family went hungry? What would you think of someone who thought themselves brave for killing women and children? What would you think of someone who hid behind their children and grandchildren? Yeah, that's what I thought.


My biggest challenge is to not feel this way. I fail every time.
angstzeit: (Default)
The monotone whine of the EKG rang through the room.

“Charge to $300. Clear.”

Zap!

The drone continued.

“Damn. Charge to $600. Clear!”

Zap!

All looked at the flat line on the monitor.

“Perhaps if we injected some adrenalin in his poor heart?”

“Shut up Reid and bag him. Pelosi—resume compressions.”

The President paced back and forth, muttering to himself. Finally he stopped. “All right you two, go find some makeup and rent Weekend At Bernie's—we've got a show to put on.”

There, lying lifeless on the table, is the guy Bush just a couple of weeks ago called healthy and strong. Today, even billions in stimulation is too little too late. How could his regular doctor, Bernanke, have not seen this coming?

Like an athlete on human growth hormone and steroids, we have pushed our economy to new heights, winning medals for its feats. But unfortunately the medicine cabinet is empty, and it is getting more and more difficult to pretend everything is fine as the body falls apart.

First we put many more women to work so that families could keep earnings up with costs. Then the magic of computers came along. For 20+ years we've reaped the efficiency benefit from them. And as these began to lag we handed out credit cards like candy. Then we artificially raised home prices and sucked equity from them to keep funding the fantasy. The rich got richer and the rest worked harder or fell behind. The government has sunk deep into debt to cover the problems. We owe billions to other nations. Our trade is grossly unbalanced. Our money is shrinking and the braces of foreign money holding us up are drawing away.

And yet those in power are trying the old song and dance one more time.

We can keep dressing up this corpse--but it is getting to really stink.
angstzeit: (Default)
The monotone whine of the EKG rang through the room.

“Charge to $300. Clear.”

Zap!

The drone continued.

“Damn. Charge to $600. Clear!”

Zap!

All looked at the flat line on the monitor.

“Perhaps if we injected some adrenalin in his poor heart?”

“Shut up Reid and bag him. Pelosi—resume compressions.”

The President paced back and forth, muttering to himself. Finally he stopped. “All right you two, go find some makeup and rent Weekend At Bernie's—we've got a show to put on.”

There, lying lifeless on the table, is the guy Bush just a couple of weeks ago called healthy and strong. Today, even billions in stimulation is too little too late. How could his regular doctor, Bernanke, have not seen this coming?

Like an athlete on human growth hormone and steroids, we have pushed our economy to new heights, winning medals for its feats. But unfortunately the medicine cabinet is empty, and it is getting more and more difficult to pretend everything is fine as the body falls apart.

First we put many more women to work so that families could keep earnings up with costs. Then the magic of computers came along. For 20+ years we've reaped the efficiency benefit from them. And as these began to lag we handed out credit cards like candy. Then we artificially raised home prices and sucked equity from them to keep funding the fantasy. The rich got richer and the rest worked harder or fell behind. The government has sunk deep into debt to cover the problems. We owe billions to other nations. Our trade is grossly unbalanced. Our money is shrinking and the braces of foreign money holding us up are drawing away.

And yet those in power are trying the old song and dance one more time.

We can keep dressing up this corpse--but it is getting to really stink.
angstzeit: (Default)
So, I'm still left with the question of joining a contrived alliance in [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol.
It is supposedly an alliance of low vote getters. Organized by someone who lost a vote and left but was brought back by a special power. Their objective is quite clear and I now understand people's statements that this person has shown great potential in the game.

Obviously the alliance doesn't suffer from the problem of outlasting its goal since the contest will end. And organizing less fortunate people (with lower vote counts) is a time tested way of overcoming powerful individuals.

But there's something that sticks in my craw. Alliances of this type invariably come with an implied threat. Since each of the people in the alliance will be voting for each other, this immediately raises the lower vote count. So if one doesn't join, their chances of losing are greatly increased. If the alliance achieves the numbers they're looking for it almost guarantees that anyone who doesn't have some other external means of support (another alliance, large friends list, a following, etc.) will definitely lose before the members of the alliance does.

To those getting votes near the bottom, it is a do or die offer.

And just to make sure the alliance doesn't backfire by everyone joining, those who didn't get an invitation may petition the leader for acceptance with an essay as to why they should be allowed to join. I don't think many of the vote leaders will be accepted--and it belies the decidedly undemocratic bent of the alliance.

Am I any nearer to answering that question? Yes, I've already answered it. Just as I am the same idiot who went into a game of Diplomacy with the vow not to lie to anyone (a definite handicap), I will do or die by myself and the people I know and trust. As Gandalf said, only one hand can wear the ruling ring. I will not pretend to help strangers while working against them. I'll vote for people who I enjoy reading. And I'll try to produce entries others enjoy reading. Simple as that.

And this is why I fail at life. ;)
angstzeit: (Default)
So, I'm still left with the question of joining a contrived alliance in [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol.
It is supposedly an alliance of low vote getters. Organized by someone who lost a vote and left but was brought back by a special power. Their objective is quite clear and I now understand people's statements that this person has shown great potential in the game.

Obviously the alliance doesn't suffer from the problem of outlasting its goal since the contest will end. And organizing less fortunate people (with lower vote counts) is a time tested way of overcoming powerful individuals.

But there's something that sticks in my craw. Alliances of this type invariably come with an implied threat. Since each of the people in the alliance will be voting for each other, this immediately raises the lower vote count. So if one doesn't join, their chances of losing are greatly increased. If the alliance achieves the numbers they're looking for it almost guarantees that anyone who doesn't have some other external means of support (another alliance, large friends list, a following, etc.) will definitely lose before the members of the alliance does.

To those getting votes near the bottom, it is a do or die offer.

And just to make sure the alliance doesn't backfire by everyone joining, those who didn't get an invitation may petition the leader for acceptance with an essay as to why they should be allowed to join. I don't think many of the vote leaders will be accepted--and it belies the decidedly undemocratic bent of the alliance.

Am I any nearer to answering that question? Yes, I've already answered it. Just as I am the same idiot who went into a game of Diplomacy with the vow not to lie to anyone (a definite handicap), I will do or die by myself and the people I know and trust. As Gandalf said, only one hand can wear the ruling ring. I will not pretend to help strangers while working against them. I'll vote for people who I enjoy reading. And I'll try to produce entries others enjoy reading. Simple as that.

And this is why I fail at life. ;)
angstzeit: (Anthropologist)
Humans love alliances. And since chimps do too, it is likely that our ancestors going back millions of years have been doing it. It is most likely a hallmark of any social species. Once you have more than two individuals, there will be an alliance.

I'm thinking about this because I'm just like that, and the recent(and not so recent) machinations bubbling about in that microcosm, [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. I've just been invited to join an alliance. Now, for some time I've been in an alliance of sorts--there's people who I like and who like me and we have a real, if unspoken, interest in keeping each other in the competition and therefore an alliance. But from my observations, there is a difference between "organic" and "contrived" alliances.

My alliance is organic. It just sort of fell together by virtue of mutual interest and affection. It is nebulous and uncodified. Its borders are fluid and largely "natural" in that they flow out of general human interaction.

At some point in the past, most likely coincident with the use of complex communication, contrived alliances emerged. Alliances based, at least in part and often mostly, on intellectual, codified, goals. Everything from nations and religions to tree houses and gangs are examples. All functioning around that deep human feeling (instinct) that we're safer in numbers.

So what's the difference? In some ways not much in that both spring from the same instinct. But contrived alliances have a feature that can be good or bad depending on ones point of view (often inside or outside). They take on a life of their own. Organic alliances usually don't extend beyond a relatively small group of people. Once the group is large enough that the individuals aren't in close enough contact that they know each other then codification takes over. Rules are instated to determine who is in or out.

Another interesting phenomenon occurs as the strong, direct, emotional organic bonds fade with size--it becomes increasingly important to replace these with methods of mimicking those emotional bonds. Propaganda, ritual, hazing, dehumanization and violence against other alliances are extreme examples but all have their seeds in most methods of maintaining group cohesion.

Not surprisingly, alliances tend to form meta-alliances. These come in two forms--one obvious and the other maybe not so. Alliances with similar goals often join forces. Simply an extension of the power in numbers reason for alliance. But also alliances with opposite goals equally become part of a meta-alliance. For the raison d'etre of most any alliance is as much or more defined by what the group is against as much as what it is for. As much as the pride of lions is needed to maintain the alliance of a group of !Kung hunter-gatherers; other nations, other gangs, management, unions, political parties, etc. are needed to keep alliances together.

Certainly alliances of this sort produce some positive things--usually more so when they first form. But also many negative things--usually as they age and take on a life of their own. Contrived alliances seldom voluntarily dissolve. And as they outlive their original cause they usually become more corrupt and dangerous. How much human grief has come from such alliances?
angstzeit: (Anthropologist)
Humans love alliances. And since chimps do too, it is likely that our ancestors going back millions of years have been doing it. It is most likely a hallmark of any social species. Once you have more than two individuals, there will be an alliance.

I'm thinking about this because I'm just like that, and the recent(and not so recent) machinations bubbling about in that microcosm, [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. I've just been invited to join an alliance. Now, for some time I've been in an alliance of sorts--there's people who I like and who like me and we have a real, if unspoken, interest in keeping each other in the competition and therefore an alliance. But from my observations, there is a difference between "organic" and "contrived" alliances.

My alliance is organic. It just sort of fell together by virtue of mutual interest and affection. It is nebulous and uncodified. Its borders are fluid and largely "natural" in that they flow out of general human interaction.

At some point in the past, most likely coincident with the use of complex communication, contrived alliances emerged. Alliances based, at least in part and often mostly, on intellectual, codified, goals. Everything from nations and religions to tree houses and gangs are examples. All functioning around that deep human feeling (instinct) that we're safer in numbers.

So what's the difference? In some ways not much in that both spring from the same instinct. But contrived alliances have a feature that can be good or bad depending on ones point of view (often inside or outside). They take on a life of their own. Organic alliances usually don't extend beyond a relatively small group of people. Once the group is large enough that the individuals aren't in close enough contact that they know each other then codification takes over. Rules are instated to determine who is in or out.

Another interesting phenomenon occurs as the strong, direct, emotional organic bonds fade with size--it becomes increasingly important to replace these with methods of mimicking those emotional bonds. Propaganda, ritual, hazing, dehumanization and violence against other alliances are extreme examples but all have their seeds in most methods of maintaining group cohesion.

Not surprisingly, alliances tend to form meta-alliances. These come in two forms--one obvious and the other maybe not so. Alliances with similar goals often join forces. Simply an extension of the power in numbers reason for alliance. But also alliances with opposite goals equally become part of a meta-alliance. For the raison d'etre of most any alliance is as much or more defined by what the group is against as much as what it is for. As much as the pride of lions is needed to maintain the alliance of a group of !Kung hunter-gatherers; other nations, other gangs, management, unions, political parties, etc. are needed to keep alliances together.

Certainly alliances of this sort produce some positive things--usually more so when they first form. But also many negative things--usually as they age and take on a life of their own. Contrived alliances seldom voluntarily dissolve. And as they outlive their original cause they usually become more corrupt and dangerous. How much human grief has come from such alliances?
angstzeit: (Default)
His smile was huge, and not a little creepy. He sat with his fingers tented and looked me up and down. All my resignation had melted from me when I saw the pits and flames through the window behind him.

The office was simple and efficient—nothing to tell what task took place here. To my surprise, he looked nothing like his pictures. Not even like Cheney or Robertson, as I'd sometimes imagined. He was deeply ordinary—more like a mid-level bureaucrat than a Prince of Darkness. Only that smile to give him away.

“I see you made it. Excellent.”

“You don't scare me,” I said, trying to seem defiant.

“Why would I be an exception?” he said as the smile opened impossibly wider.

He leaned forward, “What, would you say is the worst thing about you, hmmm?

Heh, there's so many, it's not like I didn't know I was coming here.
What could possibly be the worst?

“Well give it some thought, we've got plenty of time ...”

My mind clogged on all the thoughts of my flaws. Finally, I suggested, “Money?” I have always been horrible with money. I lived off my parents. Yeah, that's right, off my parents. Not the sort of thing one readily admits, but this seemed like the best place, if there was one. And I couldn't even keep hold of that money. Always spending past my means and perpetually in debt.

“Really?”

“Yeah, I was greedy and then horrible when I got what I wanted. But that's about my upbringing, right? My mom never understood money. I just never learned.”

“Sure, sure. Your mom, definitely. But is that the worst?”

“Um, dishonesty?”

“We prefer to call it lying here.”

“Yeah, lying.” I'd lied. I supposed everyone did. But many of those crossed the line didn't they? “I lied to people. But wasn't that usually to spare their feelings?”

“Their feeling, not yours, eh? Oh, I'm sure that was the case. It would be terrible to make them angry or sad.” The smile deepened further. “But why did you lie?”

“Well ... I didn't want bad things to happen.”

“Like hurting people, right?”

“Right, I hate it when people get mad at me.”

“You hate it...?” He leans back, arms crossed against his chest.

“It feels terrible when people are mad or sad. I hate how I feel then.”

“How you feel ... sounds a bit ... selfish?”

No, I mean, okay, maybe a little, but...”

“So you're not selfish?”

“Alright. Yes, I'm selfish. Is that the worst?”

“I don't think so. What else do you have?”

“Well, I ...”

“I'm sorry, I didn't catch that.”

“I tried to take my best friend's girlfriend!” Happy?”

“Happy doesn't come near to explaining my feelings, but was that all? Something else about women.”

“I ... I dated a married woman. It was all a mess. But I was so lonely. I just wanted ...”

“What someone else had?” The smile seemed a bit more of a sneer.

“Not like that! I mean, why shouldn't I be happy? I was tired of being so unhappy.”

“Ah! So this made you happy? Cured your loneliness?”

“No, but ... I ... but ... this is the worst, right? I'm a selfish, horrid person who hurt people for my own purposes.”

“You were going to add self pity in there somewhere?” The smile beaming. “No, that's not the worst. Doesn't seem like you'll be able to dredge it up. That's to be expected since you couldn't do it up to now.” He stood up and motioned to the door. The door I came in. “You can go.”

“What?” I looked at the inferno behind him. “This is some sort of a trick, isn't it?”

“I suppose you might say that. But I'm not playing it—you are.”

“I don't...”

The laughter was soft but biting. “No, you don't. But that's just it, really.” He walked around the desk and put his arm around me, leading me to the door. “You've certainly done some very bad things, but the worst? All the years you kept beating your head against it. All the time you refused to let it go. It was never what you did, but that you never laid that out and left it behind. Never really admitted to yourself or anyone else your faults. So they clung to you and drug you to new lows of behavior. The answer was always so close, but you wouldn't have it—you just couldn't let go.”

He opened the door and there was the hall I'd come from. No lake of fire, no demons, no torture chambers. What was this about?

“You're letting me go? I don't get it, where will I go?”

“Doesn't really matter does it? You see, even after all this time, I can't come up with anything worse to do to you than you're already doing to yourself. Shut in a world of fear, you do my work for me. I can't tell you how convenient that is. So run along now, eternity is waiting.”
angstzeit: (Default)
His smile was huge, and not a little creepy. He sat with his fingers tented and looked me up and down. All my resignation had melted from me when I saw the pits and flames through the window behind him.

The office was simple and efficient—nothing to tell what task took place here. To my surprise, he looked nothing like his pictures. Not even like Cheney or Robertson, as I'd sometimes imagined. He was deeply ordinary—more like a mid-level bureaucrat than a Prince of Darkness. Only that smile to give him away.

“I see you made it. Excellent.”

“You don't scare me,” I said, trying to seem defiant.

“Why would I be an exception?” he said as the smile opened impossibly wider.

He leaned forward, “What, would you say is the worst thing about you, hmmm?

Heh, there's so many, it's not like I didn't know I was coming here.
What could possibly be the worst?

“Well give it some thought, we've got plenty of time ...”

My mind clogged on all the thoughts of my flaws. Finally, I suggested, “Money?” I have always been horrible with money. I lived off my parents. Yeah, that's right, off my parents. Not the sort of thing one readily admits, but this seemed like the best place, if there was one. And I couldn't even keep hold of that money. Always spending past my means and perpetually in debt.

“Really?”

“Yeah, I was greedy and then horrible when I got what I wanted. But that's about my upbringing, right? My mom never understood money. I just never learned.”

“Sure, sure. Your mom, definitely. But is that the worst?”

“Um, dishonesty?”

“We prefer to call it lying here.”

“Yeah, lying.” I'd lied. I supposed everyone did. But many of those crossed the line didn't they? “I lied to people. But wasn't that usually to spare their feelings?”

“Their feeling, not yours, eh? Oh, I'm sure that was the case. It would be terrible to make them angry or sad.” The smile deepened further. “But why did you lie?”

“Well ... I didn't want bad things to happen.”

“Like hurting people, right?”

“Right, I hate it when people get mad at me.”

“You hate it...?” He leans back, arms crossed against his chest.

“It feels terrible when people are mad or sad. I hate how I feel then.”

“How you feel ... sounds a bit ... selfish?”

No, I mean, okay, maybe a little, but...”

“So you're not selfish?”

“Alright. Yes, I'm selfish. Is that the worst?”

“I don't think so. What else do you have?”

“Well, I ...”

“I'm sorry, I didn't catch that.”

“I tried to take my best friend's girlfriend!” Happy?”

“Happy doesn't come near to explaining my feelings, but was that all? Something else about women.”

“I ... I dated a married woman. It was all a mess. But I was so lonely. I just wanted ...”

“What someone else had?” The smile seemed a bit more of a sneer.

“Not like that! I mean, why shouldn't I be happy? I was tired of being so unhappy.”

“Ah! So this made you happy? Cured your loneliness?”

“No, but ... I ... but ... this is the worst, right? I'm a selfish, horrid person who hurt people for my own purposes.”

“You were going to add self pity in there somewhere?” The smile beaming. “No, that's not the worst. Doesn't seem like you'll be able to dredge it up. That's to be expected since you couldn't do it up to now.” He stood up and motioned to the door. The door I came in. “You can go.”

“What?” I looked at the inferno behind him. “This is some sort of a trick, isn't it?”

“I suppose you might say that. But I'm not playing it—you are.”

“I don't...”

The laughter was soft but biting. “No, you don't. But that's just it, really.” He walked around the desk and put his arm around me, leading me to the door. “You've certainly done some very bad things, but the worst? All the years you kept beating your head against it. All the time you refused to let it go. It was never what you did, but that you never laid that out and left it behind. Never really admitted to yourself or anyone else your faults. So they clung to you and drug you to new lows of behavior. The answer was always so close, but you wouldn't have it—you just couldn't let go.”

He opened the door and there was the hall I'd come from. No lake of fire, no demons, no torture chambers. What was this about?

“You're letting me go? I don't get it, where will I go?”

“Doesn't really matter does it? You see, even after all this time, I can't come up with anything worse to do to you than you're already doing to yourself. Shut in a world of fear, you do my work for me. I can't tell you how convenient that is. So run along now, eternity is waiting.”
angstzeit: (Default)
I was maybe 9 or 10 when I felt my cocoon of childhood safety melt around me. It was terrifying to suddenly feel so alone and responsible. The acid trip I wrote about in a previous entry was a drug-enhanced repeat of this experience. It left a legacy of anxiety and depression. My drinking, my general desire to escape--escape that feeling of emptiness, loneliness, despair.

Since that time I've wandered through life, sometimes trying to fight against that emptiness, sometimes using something to try to erase it from my brain. My champion and his weapon began to build the fortress that would protect me. My ego with the sword of reason would hold that responsibility at bay, and shelter me from the cold, hard world. I needed nothing and no one else.

The word "law" gets thrown around a lot. From the Ten Commandments to gravity to jay-walking, an endless procession of people make rules for me to live by.

But all these laws have grated on me. Who is anyone to decide what is right for me? How can fallible humans make law? I can decide what is right for myself. Right?

Not so much.

My ego has constantly reassured me that it knows best. Despite the fact that I rarely lived up to my own ethics, I was sure I knew what was best for me. But events have changed that. I have been faced with my own lack of control. I have seen how useless my ego has been.

Then I read the chapter “We Agnostics” in the A.A. Big Book. It presented words from the minds and mouths of many other "rational" people who had found themselves trying to find escape or an answer in a bottle. It posed a seemingly simple solution—surrender to a higher power.

This is something I had thought myself incapable of. Not only that, but I was hostile toward the idea. Belief isn't rational. I've seen so many people do obnoxious and even horrible things in the name of god and law. I wanted no part of that.

But I've come to understand something—I'm like these people. Just like them, I have put my petty faults and desires first. Let my fears and jealousies rule my actions. I in the name of reason, they in the name of god.

That is not God or reason and that is not the Law.

So I have set about to bring my rebellious ego to heel and seek out the Will of God. To bring myself in line with the simple, natural Law of the universe. To abandon fear and resentment in favor of love and purpose. I need change no other. I need follow no other law. Because all right law comes from the Law. If I honestly and truly follow that, I will be right.


Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Love is the Law. Love under will.

These come from The Book of the Law by Aleister Crowley. Contrary to what some might believe, they are not an incitement to anarchy, but a call to each and every person to bring the Will of God into themselves and live thereby.
angstzeit: (Default)
I was maybe 9 or 10 when I felt my cocoon of childhood safety melt around me. It was terrifying to suddenly feel so alone and responsible. The acid trip I wrote about in a previous entry was a drug-enhanced repeat of this experience. It left a legacy of anxiety and depression. My drinking, my general desire to escape--escape that feeling of emptiness, loneliness, despair.

Since that time I've wandered through life, sometimes trying to fight against that emptiness, sometimes using something to try to erase it from my brain. My champion and his weapon began to build the fortress that would protect me. My ego with the sword of reason would hold that responsibility at bay, and shelter me from the cold, hard world. I needed nothing and no one else.

The word "law" gets thrown around a lot. From the Ten Commandments to gravity to jay-walking, an endless procession of people make rules for me to live by.

But all these laws have grated on me. Who is anyone to decide what is right for me? How can fallible humans make law? I can decide what is right for myself. Right?

Not so much.

My ego has constantly reassured me that it knows best. Despite the fact that I rarely lived up to my own ethics, I was sure I knew what was best for me. But events have changed that. I have been faced with my own lack of control. I have seen how useless my ego has been.

Then I read the chapter “We Agnostics” in the A.A. Big Book. It presented words from the minds and mouths of many other "rational" people who had found themselves trying to find escape or an answer in a bottle. It posed a seemingly simple solution—surrender to a higher power.

This is something I had thought myself incapable of. Not only that, but I was hostile toward the idea. Belief isn't rational. I've seen so many people do obnoxious and even horrible things in the name of god and law. I wanted no part of that.

But I've come to understand something—I'm like these people. Just like them, I have put my petty faults and desires first. Let my fears and jealousies rule my actions. I in the name of reason, they in the name of god.

That is not God or reason and that is not the Law.

So I have set about to bring my rebellious ego to heel and seek out the Will of God. To bring myself in line with the simple, natural Law of the universe. To abandon fear and resentment in favor of love and purpose. I need change no other. I need follow no other law. Because all right law comes from the Law. If I honestly and truly follow that, I will be right.


Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Love is the Law. Love under will.

These come from The Book of the Law by Aleister Crowley. Contrary to what some might believe, they are not an incitement to anarchy, but a call to each and every person to bring the Will of God into themselves and live thereby.

March 2016

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