I've been away for a while working on a couple of book projects and trying to figure out how I might survive over the next few years as I grow older, broker and ever less employable. I've been without substantial work (a nice way of saying hard core unemployed) for five years now. I've gotten too old to get hired in my old profession of Instructional Design, and the jobs aren't out there like they used to be anyway. It's been a difficult road for me, just as it has for so many others – those sleeping rough on the streets or under bridges and those limping along on charity and credit like me. Virtually no one in Washington gives a shit about any of us, rare exceptions noted.
After five years of zero income and having to spend thousands in deductibles following my recent medical adventures, I'm reduced to nothing, financially speaking. Everything I've ever owned (which was never very much) is gone, and in a strange way I don't mind. It's a kind of liberation. Life is simpler this way. It does make it difficult though. Even with drastically lowered expectations and a monk-like attitude, poverty sucks.
My saving grace is a thing you may have heard of: Social Security. I will soon be receiving monthly payments from SSA. After five long years I will soon again have an income. I guess in the eyes of our plutocratic overlords that makes me a moocher or a taker or a sucker on the government's teat – but, like I say, it's a lifesaver for me. Not to mention that it's money I paid into the system to begin with. May what-gods-may-be shed what blessings they can on those who fought for Social Security. I'm not the only one for whom it has been a life saver – same for Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, unemployment, etc. God bless those who've done yeoman's work to help others even with so many hateful people fighting them every step of the way. These people are saints. The former, not the latter.
Life's hard enough without your own government doing you dirty. People looking out for each other, that's the way it's supposed to be. Please don't ever let anybody (even Democrats) take these things away from those who need them. In fact, all of these things desperately need to be strengthened. With the assault on the poor and working class ongoing, with the exportation and just plain disappearance of jobs ramping up not down, we need to start thinking, like Switzerland, of a guaranteed national income. People deserve to be able to live decent lives as free of unnecessary suffering as possible. If society cannot supply people with meaningful (or at least tolerable) jobs with a living wage, it needs to supply the necessities of life in some other intelligent fashion. The Swiss are way ahead of us on this. If you follow that link, also check out how their system provides for direct political action. What a great idea. The complete opposite of what we've got – a system that prevents it. We could use some of that Swiss mojo.
OK, since I am not Swiss or a citizen of a more enlightened and compassionate nation, you may be asking how I will survive on $12,000 a year. It can be done I suppose. A lot of people are doing it – though with terrible difficulty, I expect. This is catfood territory. I can't see how I could make it work for me here in the US of A. That's why I'm leaving.
After much planning and scheming I will soon be winging my way to
South America Costa Rica (I was going to be coy and leave it at South America, even though it's technically Central America, but since those I least want to know where I'm going already know, what the hell) where living on Social Security-level wages is a more reasonable proposition. I will dwell in the jungle subsisting on mangoes, bananas, coconuts and such. I will paint on canvas, write on a legal pad and snooze in a hammock. I will wear shorts and flip-flops. I will lay in the sun. I may get a parrot or a monkey. Not really, but I might get a dog. I will take the bus into town when I need to use the Internet or commune with the NSA. I will not have a 'smart' phone. I will be free.
At least until they succeed in taking my Social Security away. Hopefully by then I will have sold some books or something, maybe some paintings. Perhaps my escort service for lonely gringas will be in the black when it happens, or maybe I'll sell one of my inventions: computer in a hat or the history machine. The computer in a hat is a form-fitting (think WWII fighter pilot) hat providing a direct brain/computer interface. The advantages are obvious.
Computer In a Hat – Early Prototype
Computer In a Hat – More Advanced Prototype
The history machine allows its user to dial in any place on earth and any time in history and zoom in or out to observe it as it happened. You can't participate or have any impact, you can only watch. Wanna know how Machu Pichu was made? Dial it in and watch it happen. Fast forward, flyable POV camera and everything. Caveat: both inventions have a couple of details yet to be worked out.
Here's one of my latest Photoshop 'paintings'. It's called America in Transition:
Here's a little tribute I did to Carter Camp, RIP:
Here's a great picture I recently found lurking on my harddrive of Ben Masel (RIP) in Austin at Netroots Nation '08. That's CTLiberal in the foreground (hope she's doing well):
So, we're off to Costa Rica. Mijo is going with me, in fact he's going ahead to scout around. He leaves Sunday (Yikes! That's tomorrow!). He'll do well. Smart kid, fluent in Spanish. I've been brushing up on my Español myself, though I'm way behind. I found a very cool language learning tool that seems very well-designed, is free and has no advertising. It's duolingo.com. I'm getting a lot of good use out of it (note: this advert is entirely unpaid for and unsolicited, mentioned more as a public service).
Daniel is still pursuing permaculture and hopes to eventually found a teaching permaculture farm/artists' colony. He also plans to do some vagabonding and travel writing using our jungle lair as a home base. I plan to paint, write novels and support mijo in every way I can. Though I am fairly worthless and he will mostly be looking after me.
My reasons for leaving 'the homeland' are many, starting with my personal economic circumstances and ending with a number of matters that, were they to be specified, could become quite contentious – and that is not my purpose here. Suffice it to say that I am done with the Democrats (not the rank and file, they're still my peeps, but the politicians who could not possibly have been a greater collective disappointment). I consider them to be second only to the Republicans in terms of their betrayal of democracy and meaningful change; two wings of the corporate party as it is often put; more-or-less equally responsible (yes I know, we can argue about that for decades but like I said, more or less) for what's happened here: the wars for profit; the 1% bathed in hideous glory; the rest of us screwed; our 'fiddlin' while Rome burns' climate policy, this giant screwjob we call an economy, etc. And worst of all the meanness, the sheer meanness of it all. How hateful of a people are we?
Don't answer that.
Our political system has represented no one but the very worst Americans, the greedheads, the know-nothings, the bullies, the chicken hawks, the mean-spirited warmongers, the selfish climate-denying assholes, the racist and bigoted elitists, those who put profit and their own personal wealth above everything to the point of condemning posterity for crass economic gain...IOWs, the 1%. Theirs is the character of the nation we've become. I've always loved what this country was supposed to be, which only makes the pain of what it has actually become that much greater.
I'm not making any final pronouncements or blanket condemnations. It's all very complicated and everything is in flux and, in an environment such as this, things are very much subject to change. Real, meaningful actual progress is something for which I will always hold out hope. People should certainly keep fighting for it. But as of now: democracy is dead; privacy is dead; net neutrality is dead; the 1st, 4th, 5th and 14th Amendment's (at a minimum) are dead, while Citizen's United, the Keystone Pipeline, the TPP, TIA and the Patriot Act are all very much alive. Our government, drunk on its own power and festering with corruption, is out of control. Banksta gangstas and war criminals run rampant. Greed and madness rule here in humanity's most dangerous hour. What could possibly go wrong?
For the last 50 years of my life, from the time I first started paying attention, say around November of 1963, I have watched as our country got crazier, meaner, and less accountable (not that we started from a very high place, mind you – and it may simply be that my awareness grew over time and not necessarily that we were sliding backwards as fast as it seemed – still). Along with millions of other lovers of peace, sanity and justice, I've protested, marched in the streets, voted, organized, written and blogged in the cause of progress while watching it stymied at every junction. The people who really run this country, none of whom are politicians, don't want progress and aren't going to have it. They've made that abundantly clear. They don't care who you vote for. They'll get their way regardless. That simple and unkind truth has never been more obvious. It has also never been more self-evident that this is a death sentence for humanity.
I don't mean to reduce any of you to any one thing, you are so many things, but one thing you are, as an American citizen, is a victim. You've been screwed. Some of you know it damned well and some of you don't. Some of you think you can vote your way out of this. You can't. The system you are turning to for help has you right where they want you: caught like a bug in a web, a rat in a trap, believing you have a way out when you don't – for those to whom that applies anyway. It may not be all that many kossacks at this point, I don't know, but it's a sizable segment of the larger population. When you only have one system to believe in, people really want to believe in it – all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Breaking out of the only system you've got, however dysfunctional, is a tall order, a tough nut to crack, but it's the challenge we face. Without a major paradigm shift, we're done. This is do or die. People get ready.
The time has come for us all to not only think outside the box but outside the box that one came in. And it's time for us all to stop cooperating in our own murder.
FWIW, and I do recognize how very little that is, I recommend paying attention to: Bill Moyers, Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Henry Giroux, any and all who push back against all that is so very wrong (as for kossacks, you know the ones), and (I say hopefully) the new Greenwald venture in adversarial journalism (and fuck everybody who hasn't had a new thought since their minds ossified back in the Cold War era, including all those jealous spooks threatening to kill Snowden because they don't have the balls to do the right thing like he did). The aforementioned visionary rebels, and those like them, represent what small hope is left for intelligent resistance/transformation in an age that has witnessed the death of personal freedom, the corruption of the American political system, the dismantling of the Constitution, the demise of the open Internet, and the hard and bitter end of dissent – something I hope we are all smart enough to give a shit about.
I thought about just fading quietly away but couldn't resist saying bye to my friends. You may see me again, I don't really know. We may in fact have net access where we end up, which is yet to be completely determined, and I may not be able to just walk away so easily. There are still things to be known, conversations to be had, battles to be fought and so on. It would probably be even harder on mijo, who grew up with the net, it's in his DNA. But there is a very powerful sense in which I've come to view my snuggly little window on the world, my democratizing electronic connection to the hive mind, my thinking appliance, my conduit to friends far away, as a serpent in the basement. I swear, some folks would fuck up a wet dream.
So long, all my friends. Adios, muchachos. Till we meet again.