Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Review: endgame volume 2 chapter 3

February 11, 2011

In the chapter entitled “Importance” we learn that Jensen doesn’t equate civilization with species. The argument he’s making is not fueled entirely by misanthropy or racism.

Reviewing a book chapter by chapter, sometimes this happens. I don’t really know what to make of this section. Is this just, and I say just, but the threat I’m sure is real, a way of shaking off the racists, windbags, nihilist people haters, conspiracy theorists who would be attracted to the idea of taking civilization down?

Because in prefering the indegenous over civilized, Jensen flirts with race. He flirts with eugenics. Because race isn’t just hatred of those outside, but the impure element within the race. Jensen has given talks, a lot of talks. I’ve been to enough to know, that someone in the crowd will stand up and criticize one race for breeding too much. Here he’s addressing, more dismissing, “do something, or shut the hell up” those who think the problem is breeding (racists).

It’s an interesting story about the racist who shuts the hell up. But it’s probably not a good idea to think the racists have been dealt with. We’re probably going to be discussing the problem again later.

Review: endgame volume 2 chapter 2

February 11, 2011

“The state of emergency in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a concept of history that is in keeping with this insight.”

John Berger quotes Walter Benjamin in Hold Everything Dear.

The quote is clipped by Berger, so it’s presentation clipped is here more for discussion than argument. Because as Benjamin wrote it, (see number 8 (and here the translation is “emergency situation” )) we are to clearly realize that our task is to bring about a real state of emergency. And this is clearly what Jensen is trying to convince us to do.

Let’s not lose our heads. I’m riffing on the sense of urgency behind Jensen’s call to action. The picture pretty much speaks for itself. Jensen begins chapter 2 of volume 2 describing the scientific prediction of this news article. Our last date is 2100. And Jensen writes, “We also know that most of those who act will not do so with a level of urgency commensurate with the situation.” and he ends the section with the line “Civilization needs to be brought down.”

Jensen is older than I am. I mention this because I’m old enough to remember bomb drills. Sure this article is about the 50, but things didn’t improve in the 60, and in the 70 we were still getting under our desks to be prepared for the big one. Prince sang Ronnie talk to Russia, 1999. These songs didn’t come out of nowhere. During the the cold war we all lived in a state of emergency, that, maybe it was because I was young, but since 9/11, the state of emergency seem less threatening. The problem for revolutionaries is this need to create a real state of emergency, in this eternal “state of emergency”.

The problem with lines like “Civilization needs to be brought down.” at least for me, is I see this lone guy jumping on a squad of riot cops. Don’t be that guy. That’s not even advice, because if you are that guy you’re already gone.

For the book review part of this post Jensen tells us in this chapter that “This abandonment ( of autonomous moral responsibility) is central to everything that is wrong with this culture, and it is central to the explorations in this book.” And in this chapter Jensen tells us, “The solution is to reintegrate, to feel what we feel, to determine our own moralities (large and small scale) and to act on them.” So here in chapter 2 we’ve made it to the center of everything that is wrong with our culture, and we’ve got the solution.

He defines the terms strategy and tactic, so we can discuss the plan. But he also discusses violence, hate and dualisms. He also continues to do those things with the concepts I mentioned in chapter 1. And interestingly, coincidentally he defines rationalization in almost identical language to my definition of stupidity in the post on chapter 1. Rationalization he defines as “the deliberate elimination of information unnecessary to achieving an immediate task.”

At the end of the chapter we’re asked to put down the book and imagine the world we want. I should probably put a sketch of my imagined world down here. I desire the spread of autonomia; the development of complex relationships, through local councils, co-ops, community, love. I desire real direct democracy and free education. I think if we were more developed we’d be better able to solve our problems.

Review: Endgame Volume 2 Chapter 1

February 9, 2011

Frank Zappa observed, “It’s not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with stupidity, and make it work for you.”

Oh no. Oh no.

It’s me, the disappointment is all mine. I’ve been on the lookout for a good and revolutionary plan of action for more than two decades. I’m an eternal optimist. I dive in with open expectations and in this case, in the case of Derrick Jensen‘s endgame, I feel the disappointment deeply. Jensen has come up, his name, that he’s the leading edge philosopher of the radical movement, has somehow, I’m sure the internet has something to do with it, come into my consciousness. Me. I want change, I want radical change, so when Jensen became a topic of discussion on VMC, when the possibility of a discussion of a radical call to action presented itself, because it is hard to talk about radical ideas, flipping through volume 2 of endgames, and I also flipped through 50 ways to stay in denial while the world burns, and this difficulty, this frustration of trying to connect with others at a radical level is something Jensen and I share, so yes when the possibility of a discussion presented itself I took it. I am taking it. This is it. This is the beginning of a long look at Jensen’s endgame.

I’m starting in the middle. It’s as good as any place to start. And I only have a copy of Volume 2. So I can’t start at the beginning. The sentence that stands out in the first chapter of the second volume comes immediately after the first break. Jensen writes “I am not stupid.” The act of writing that begs the question. Ok. Derrick. If you’re not stupid, who is? Me? Your reader? Because in eight pages, in the Chapter entitled “We Shall Destroy All Of Them” you’re presenting an argument/call to action that takes as its motto a telling line from the ethos guiding the actions that oppress us and the planet, and then ask us to take that motto on for ourselves, as a call to action to destroy our oppressors. There is a whole lot of stupidity here. Jensen has clearly been dismissed before as a stupid reactionary, part of his argument is spent dispensing with that dismissal.

Had I started at the beginning, I imagine, I can’t know for sure because I didn’t start at the beginning, but I imagine there would be much more basis for, or maybe not… I mean part of Jensen’s frustration is that he’s not really telling us anything we don’t already know. Everybody knows that deforestation, mining, milling, pulping, bleaching, cooling, fertilizing, pesticides, energy and manufacturing waste is threatening the health of every living thing, and yes, deniers included, the inconvenient truth of climate change has us all conscious of living in end times. It was in the 60’s that the Lorax gave us the word “UNLESS” and today no one, not a single person living in our civilization is unaware of the impending planetary doom of industrial growth.

Jensen has some concepts (being fair) and does some things with them that might come up later, but here in this review of the first chapter in the second volume I want to deal with stupidity. Here too, I’ll agree with Jensen that civilization, our civilization is the problem. We have been created in and by this civilization, so we are of it, and all his criticism of the civilization, that it is stupid, insane, and death-driven apply to us as well. Look at Jensen’s plan, in a nutshell to make war on the war-machine. It is stupid, insane and death-driven. The criticism, by extension applies to me and you. We are stupid, insane and death-driven. But here like I said, I’ll only deal with stupid.

Our civilized way of thinking is to dismiss the stupid, insane and death-driven, which is ourselves, and Jensen, he’s one of us. This dismissal preserves the self, maintains the stupid, insane, death-driven self and perpetuates civilization. So lets not be dismissive.

Let’s engage with Jensen. Let’s develop ourselves. Because the opposite of stupid is not smart. There are a lot of smart people doing the stupid, insane and death-driven actions that Jensen wants to destroy. We’re not really looking for an opposite, what we’re looking for is a way out of stupidity, which is a closed, limited way of thinking and acting on limited thought. What we want to do is develop, and that means incorporating everything, it means developing our ideas out in the open, with others, for good and revolutionary action.

Dialogue on Belief

November 27, 2010

This essay was the starting point.

¨belief occurs between the recognition of alterity and the establishment of a contract. It disappears if one of the two terms weakens. belief no longer exists when difference is effaced by a process tending to equalise the partners and give them a mutual mastery of the contract; it no longer exists when difference becomes excessive through a breach of the pact.¨

no.1: so… the contract dissolves according to the development of dialogue ? co-operation? so belief is always in crisis because it is representative of an in-between space but is the expression of positioning?

no.2: Belief in what? In the relationship between “partners”?

The temporality of “belief” in that passage is puzzling. A contract is either established or it isn’t. As such, the establishment of a contract would seem to cancel “belief.”

me: In the quote belief exists in inequality. The grandest beneficiary of belief is God, the absolute authority and most unequal of relationships.

It’s not the contract that dissolves with co-operation, but belief; belief in general.

This idea is puzzling because we no longer relate outside capitalism. There was a time when friends lived together as equals, out of this arose the notion of democracy. The equality necessary for living happily together defined a household. In equality you know your friend.

In capitalism all relationships become a form of exchange. The other is not known, it is belief that allows us to proceed without knowing.

When we give to a friend we know, there is no expectation of return.

When we expect a return from an other, we can only believe. Getting to know the other replaces belief.

I think Nietzsche said something like that. [ “Here the ways of men divide. If you wish to strive for peace of soul and happiness, then believe; if you wish to be a disciple of truth, then inquire.” – Nietzsche ]

so I hope belief is temporary, for the sake of democracy, equality and justice.

no.2: This seems a little quaint, no?: “There was a time when friends lived together as equals, out of this arose the notion of democracy. The equality necessary for living happily together defined a household. In equality you know your friend.” …

E.g., slavery, which preceded capitalism (and was practiced to some extent by the Haida Indians of the Pacific Northwest).

“In capitalism all relationships become a form of exchange.”

This overstates things, rather.

me: no. It doesn’t seem quaint to me. There was a momentary practice out of which the idea of democracy was born. That practice is gone. The idea of democracy in capitalist practice is confused. Property relations are not equal.

And I don’t think you can overstate the damage done and being done by capitalist ideology and practice.

no.3: Please name a time/country/system when we were all equals and friends, Rodger.

Democracy has never in fact happened and this stand in we are under only causes harm. (People should stop saying Communism only brings corruption and dictatorship since neither idea has really been properly tried and Communism only given a fraction of the chance).

Justice is a confusing term that no one understands and which has always been used as a bull flag to whip public sentiment toward supporting atrocity.

I don’t think the comments are “quaint”, they just don’t make any sense.

me: @no.3 Come on.

Look, no.2 was puzzled by the temporal quality of belief. Why is this puzzling. What word doesn’t possess a temporal quality?

What I suggested is that capitalist ideology might be the cause of this confusion. It might also be the source of your understanding, and questions. Capitalist ideology tends to totality. Your statement that Democracy has never in fact happened is correct only if democracy need be total.

So no I can’t point to a historical moment of total democracy. But neither can you point to a total fascism, there was resistance. What I can point to, and it’s noted in Aristotle’s Ethics, is a time when friends would live together in Greek households, not all households were democratic, and not everyone in a household was equal, but the practice of equals managing household affairs gave rise to the concept of democracy.

You can actually tonight practice democracy in your own home. The practice of democracy has existed and can be practiced tonight in small spaces. If totality is the prerequisite for change, we might as well give up on the notion right now.

But change can be incremental. Have you heard of the theory of evolution?

no.3:‎ “But neither can you point to a total fascism”. I wouldn’t try.

I wouldn’t make sweeping statements about “justice”, “democracy” or “equality”, either. None of us really know what those things mean and they only ever cause harm.

me: I’d argue that it’s not knowing what justice, equality and justice mean that is both the cause and effect of said harms
no.3: I wouldn’t. Those words are meant to be bull flags and distractions. Let’s admit that they are that and only that so we can get at the issues.
– end –

Some notes at the end of October

October 28, 2010

I posted two “dialogues” today. One of the dialogues has been joined by another writer since the posting. We’ll see if anything comes of it.

I’m also looking forward to any discussion surrounding Paulette Regan‘s new book.

I don’t know if it comes across in the “dialogues” but I’m going to, here, in this post, note a sense of frustration. The mystic dialogue ends on a spastic note. And in the crowdsourcing dialogue I never really make communication. I make an attempt to show that I have understood the responses, and seek confirmation that I am being understood, but it appears that no communication has actually taken place. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt someone I was talking to was actively avoiding the ideas I was trying to inject into the conversation. The mystic converser avoids direct contact with ideas through a discursive style, and the capitalist in socialist clothing converser is simply dismissive.

Orwell mentions this kind of slippery socialism. (I’ll find the reference later) The thought goes that socialists want justice and equality on the level of thought, but they subconsciously know that real justice and equality would remove their privilege, so the movement sabotages itself. You can’t have your privilege and equality too. The contradiction short circuits thought and action.

There are political activists willing to think and act for equality in spite of what it means for their privilege. A very recent and obvious example is Alex Hundert. He has literally given his freedom to speak against dominant narratives. What has happened to Alex is real (Radical suggestion – Realism), and outrage, not acceptance, is the appropriate response. It’s hard to be positive knowing that this is happening.

I have a dialogue about The Power of Now that I’ve yet to post. It’s a huge back and forth email correspondence that covers the entire book. I mention this as a possible source of research into the mystic mind. The debates between evolutionists and creationists was between contradicting sources of authority. The debate became heated when a group of scientists began to blame a group of Christians for cuts to the governement funding and for the weak state of education. Christians are useful at this point for capitalist governments which are slashing education and social budgets. It’s confusing because George W. Bush was a proclaiming Christian, and the President of the United States, and slashing funding to social programs, but the austerity measures imposed by capitalist state organizations are the practice of an ideology of profit, of capitalism. There’s an authoritarian anti-democratic aspect to the extra-governmental economic policy-makers. The noise of the debate between authoritarian scientists and authoritarian Christians was a mere spectacle because niether had the authority to be won in debate.

But Orwell and his explaination of the inability to deal with the contradiction might help us understand what was going on. The real authority, economic policy makers, the military-capitalist complex, trade agreement that strip the working class of power, is also that same body that funds universities and scientific research. The complex has a mystique, with the invisible hand of the market economy, and an authority unchecked by democratic process, a certain kind of Christian flocked to this authority and power. This certain kind of Christian became the scape goat. The reality is that if you name the complex, you die. Ok. that might be a little dramatic, but funding dries up. In the case of Alex, you go to prison. In Dreams of a Final Theory there’s a story how physicist named the goal of a project, The God Particle to help secure funding. So there may be some validity to the charges of a Christian block against scientific funding, but only some. The military-capitalist complex is profit, power and control driven. The complex is also in a position of power, from this complex issues the policy that shapes our world. Christian in general are critical of the world, but their analysis, as it is, usually blames the powerless for much of the world’s problems.

Scaffolding might be necessary. What I mean is a general education of the converser. We are at war with the mystics. More presicely we are at war with ourselves. Until very recently in human history all we knew was from God. The struggle for democracy comes of age during the 18th century, but clearly the ideas of reason, freedom, equality, self-government were not unopposed by the power those ideas were developed to oppose.

Wisdom was couched in religion. It came from God. See the Book Of Wisdom for an example. It would be a mistake to not take this Wisdom seriously. The mystics prior to the rise of Scientific Philosophy had a monopoly on Wisdom. This wisdom was packaged in a fear of authority. This wisdom validated the right of Kings. But this wisdom, was wisdom.

The Bodhisattva vows can help us understand the danger of dealing with unprepared minds. One of the 18 vows states that you are not to teach emptiness to those whose minds are unprepared. There is wisdom in this. As Orwell showed we tend to swerve around mental contradictions avoiding, and unconsciously ignoring them. One phenomenon is conspiracy theory. Teaching criticism should be reserved for the prepared mind. Today is schools and in general an objective scientific thought process is the basis for education, but a residual cultural mysticism still exists. I’m working on the theory that the more mystical minded who learn of the world are susceptible to conspiracy theory. It’s a working theory.

Through November I am going to blog every day. I might sign up at NaBloPoMo, or I might just do it. Either way, and it sort of follows from the rambling here. I’m going to blog Negativity and Revolution. I came across this article searching for the book link) You’re welcome to join me. Here’s a review.

Moving House

October 16, 2010

When I give the time since I last did something, like say, it’s been a little over a month since my last blog post, I often find myself back in the confessional of my youth. I note this, only as a note. It has nothing to do with what follows, and what follows (as yet unwritten) I can say with some certainty will be a collection of loosely related notes.

Since the first of this month I’ve been without a home internet connection. And in the weeks prior to the first of this month I was packing up everything for our second major move this year. I want to note the nostalgia that comes over in the packing stage, and it may be that with three children, and being a collector, and living with a collector, a better word might be keeper, we’re definitely keepers of cards, letters, diaries, photos, ribbons, teeth, hair, drawings, paintings, toys, lunch pails, books, magazines and a being a keeper means having an interest in the things being kept. So packing is a slow process as all those interesting things are examined as they are moved into boxes. The experience is overwhelming, at least for a writer imagining the possibility of typing out the experience all at once.

There is an idea here. Once I’m settled in this new place, and I’m guessing that might be another couple weeks, I’d like to occasionally go through the collections, and write about something that inspires. That may not have come across earlier, but the overwhelming I was talking about was in part inspiration to write, just too much inspiration all at once.

There sure are a lot of reasons working against writing regularly. If it’s not too much inspiration, it’s too little, and inspiration hasn’t even been the biggest issue behind my low word count.  This post is pointless, and really, the only writing I ever do is a kind of incoherent rambling, but I’m more often than not blocked by a desire to get it right and then put it out, of course I never get it right. I think I’ve managed to overcome that block, we’ll see.

So much has changed over the past year, not just changing buildings. When Jimi Hendrix asks, “Have you ever been experienced?” I’d today answer that I have. I am definitely experienced, after a lifetime of sheltered experience, I’ve been in some pretty hairy spots, but until this past year, I’ve never had pure experience. I’ve been telling people that I’m enlightened. That I’m the motherfucking buddha. And I’m not kidding. I have been experienced.

I have seen The Trotsky, which is worth seeing. The scene where Leon’s being interviewed by the ex-Prime Minister’s son, and his lawyer/lover pulls the plug on the interview as he’s about to reveal that he is in fact the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky is relevant here. It’s crazy to claim enlightenment (or reincarnation) or any other form of mysticism. Eckhart Tolle suffered a psychotic break and sold millions of copies of the book that puts his psychosis right out there, but he’s still crazy. I can’t yet articulate the enlightenment other than through jokes. I am not really the Buddha, not even the motherfucking buddha, but I have definitely been experienced, lived a series of epiphanies, become enlightened.

I started writing up Siddhartha a few years back but never finished. I should give it another try, with all this enlightenment talk. There was also something about fatherhood I wanted to write up but never got around to it.

And finally I’ve come to terms with work for hire. This is part of my enlightenment and best left for future articulation. I’ve had an issue with maintaining my personal integrity in work for hire. As a person, I have no interest in manipulating others. If you are not interested in something, it ends there for me. I can not sell anything. Wouldn’t win your vote. I let the worst happen before giving up my own, even hypothetical, autonomy. Your autonomy I will not mess with. It’s not morality or an ethic, of course I will develop it into an ethic, for now it’s more on a level of personal comfort. So while I was a full-time stay-at-home parent, I was expecting to go back into teaching when the time came. But now as a part-time stay-at-home parent looking for part-time work-for-hire the thought of teaching is repulsive, at least in the regular classroom with kids who don’t really want to be there.

I’ve found something I like to do and will start writing about it as soon as I’m settled. The content will fit seemlessly here, but I’ll also be posting it on a work-based blog. There might be some editing. We’ll see. Always a work in progress…

I survived 9/11

September 12, 2010

It’s September 12 and I’m still writing.

I’m struggling with purpose, or the idea of “a-point-to…”

But I’m starting to understand writing as something communal, not necessarily communicative; more present (or presentation, maybe) than persuasive. This is an endless pursuit, and I, sometimes, feel pointless, but I also question this feeling/reaction. Why is an endless discussion pointless? Even the question reiterates a logic out of which the question itself arises. An endless discussion becomes multi-directional. In our culture being without direction is a problem to be solved. And yet, as well or in addition, we are accustomed to fear the long and winding roads of exploratory dialogue. This fear may keep us from understanding each other and the world we live in.

If there is anything that can be labeled [truth] it will not be communicated with a quote-length or bumper-sticker length unit of thought. Even a book-length unit of thought will fall short of the understanding we call [truth]. My guess is that a theory of living well demands a unit of thought measured in years of action. And this unit of thought, to carry understanding, will not exist in isolation, I’m guessing it will rise out of a community of thinkers (teachers/learners/friends and neighbours (gardeners?)).

I’d like to make a few notes, make marks of a few conversations, both live and on-line, that happened yesterday.

The first is an old friend’s facebook status:

“The mass is forever vulgar, because it can’t distinguish between its own original feelings and the feelings which are diddled into existence by the exploiter.” – D.H. Lawrence.

And today, September 11, is his birthday….

The second took place on facebook over a couple days. I have a problem with the word detachment, maybe with spiritualism in general. I like the melancholy science: the teaching of the good life that makes distinctions. It may be just language choice but I do prefer a language where one can make a distinction between what one feels about an event, and the event. The feeling is distinct from the event.

This language is different but can mean the same as detachment. I guess the problem I have with the word detachment is that it can remove one’s consciousness from the sphere of the other or the event, and I prefer to remain within the sphere of the other. I prefer to remain attached yet aware of distinctions. My working model for the good life is motherly love. Can you see how the idea of viewing the world with a spirit of detachment might make me sad?

The third conversation I’d like to mark took place at a block party, a neighbourhood writer/gardener and I were talking and I tried to discuss the “happening-to” quality of consciousness. We do make choices, but I wonder if we have that much control over our consciousness. If we were rational consciousnesses I’d like to think that we’d have more esteem for each other.

I told a story of a change in my conscious that I was aware of, but did not control, did not choose. My change from consciousness of the spirit world to conscious of a world without spirit happened to me. It wasn’t the result of a deliberation of facts and arguments. It happened to me in an instant. I made no choice.

The way I pronounced that there are no ghosts, I think I came off as a truth freak. She said, “So now that you’ve found a concrete truth you’re spreading the word?” But can you imagine a street corner preacher whose message consisted of the sole fact that there are no ghosts? What are you supposed to do with that truth?

That exchange has got me thinking. What are you supposed to do with truths? I guess that without the shimmering of ghosts you can see the world more clearly. Without the veil of spirits you can see dirt more clearly. Without spirit, the idea of revolution loses a lot of its emotional charge. Our feet feel more firmly planted in the soil, real soil, the dirt out of which our food grows. The digging of dirt, turning the soil, and the seasonal quality of living connect more surely. And somehow the need to justify, or be understood by others pales to the clarity of dirt.

The last conversation I want to note also happened on facebook. I’ve often been amazed by the honesty of people on Facebook. The media presents a picture of the world politicians want us to see. Most of us are aware of the difference between what we read and what we see, but rarely does the systemic ethic come across in official sources. I removed the name, because it’s really not that important. This comment expresses something honest about 9/11 and what’s since transpired. Children are actually dying to sustain our way of life. If you see this clearly can you not want change?

[name removed]: We can’t place our modern thinking and morality on cultures that have not evolved yet. No one in the western world would wish for war, but just remember how we acted 1000 years ago and then you can understand their mindset. The danger is if we do nothing, then we have forgotten our responsibility as caretakers of the world. The sustainment of our way of life for our children and future generations will cost someones child’s life.”

Water off a duck’s back

August 31, 2010

The rains have started falling here in Vancouver. It’s the kind of rain that brings with it a feeling it won’t end any time soon. My two youngest children are at a neighbour’s house playing inside with their kids, and two neighbourhood kids are here inside playing with my oldest. We’re all inside today.

We took advantage of the weather and cleaned the aquarium, after a month or so of neglect. This summer has been a whirlwind of daily activity. It’s a local motto “If the sun is shining, we go outside.” or “the tv is off” there are local variants to the motto, but the point is, sunshine is a precious resource not to be squandered.  Greenie, however, seems to enjoy her overgrown space. Greenie is a five year old Green Terror. She lives alone. Here’s another lesson picked up quite spontaneously by a five year old, “If you don’t want to be lonely, don’t eat your friends.” That sort of sums up the long and sordid tale of our aquarium’s inhabitants.

Greenie, originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque.

And now I’m taking advantage of the weather to catch up on some writing. I tend to plan to write more than I ever in fact write. I even write about what I plan to write instead of actually writing, but those who write know planning is the easy part, actual writing is hard and takes time. Writers love rainy climates. Tom Robbins writes an ode to the writerly Northwestern climate in his Ducks Flying Backwards. If you live on the wet coast and write, you should read this.

I’ve been meaning for months to write up Alternatives to Growth. The praise for the book is on its website, and inside the book’s front cover, so I don’t need to add to that. What I’d like to do right now is situate it in a discussion of the Left about the Left. I say “like to” because I don’t think I’m quite capable of doing that sufficiently, but I have a vague idea, and we’ll find out soon enough just how inarticulable it is.

I’m a lay-writer,meaning not part of the academic left, not an expert/master, so the left I will be writing of may be neither the common nor the academic concept of left.  There’s nothing more common than newspaper columnists, so when I came across Rick Salutin’s article on the Left, I suffered that motion sickness so often caused by immaterial logic. In this article, Salutin holds a concept of the left, he looks in two places, doesn’t see his concept of the left and in newspaper writer style concludes in his opening that the left doesn’t exist; equating the left with a phantom limb.

For Salutin the Left is manifest in a political party and plays its role of difference within the hierarchy.

More marginal parties, like the old Reform or the old CCF-NDP, play a different role: they float innovative ideas like populist democracy or socialism. But a narrow focus on power means a shrinking focus on those ideas. Why notions like democracy or socialism, which have (or had) lots of general appeal, fare so poorly in an electoral context is a mystery I’ll leave for a more contemplative time.

The left is a historical concept for Salutin. It would be too simple to dismiss Salutin as a relic, because upon a deeper reading this little article totally blows my mind. Someone once said that we see things as we are. You can follow that line to a conclusion that to know the world you must know yourself. This line is often corrupted by new age spiritualists who fixate on knowing your true self, and then discounted as new age spiritualism by more realistic thinkers who fixate on objective reality. Salutin’s writing shows this type of error. He holds an idea of a real left. When he looks in the world for this reality he can’t perceive it.

There’s an old anarchist line that the problem with scientists is that there are too few of them. Salutin could benefit from a more scientific method in his writing. This article is exemplary. It’s incredibly short, but contains a whole world of conceptual confusion. Salutin is literally writing down things he can’t see. The concept he’s looking for is blocking his vision, but his senses are in working order.

If you’re a genuine left commentator like Yves Engler (Who? you say) with four good books to your credit, you probably financed your magnum opus on Canadian foreign policy by working nights at a Montreal hotel and only rarely sneak onto those left-wing channels.

Here Salutin reveals a “genuine left commentator” but because this writer is rarely published in the mainstream, and because right wing confusionists complain of the left wing mainstream, Salutin concluded that there is no left wing media, and this is generalized into no left, even though he can clearly see Yves Engler.

He introduces us to one of the left and then asks:

where is the phantom Canadian left? Who is it? Is it?

Then he goes on to say that “there’s lots of left activity but not much definition.” I’m not exactly sure how to read this. There is “left activity” but no left? Whose definition is at issue here?

The old centrepiece of socialism is either missing or under heavy, tentative reconstruction. (I’d put my money on an anarchist version.) Unions, once the left’s backbone, are in serious decline precisely when most working people need a way to resist the power of an increasingly compact corporate sector. It’s unclear whether labour can rejig itself to meet that need. There’s lots of disparate activism to support foreign “struggles” (Haiti, Free Gaza) along with environmentalism, save public health care, etc. But in mainstream party politics, or in the mainstream media — Poof! Now you see them, now you don’t.

He again tells of left actions but that they’re not mainstream, or even acknowledged by the mainstream he can’t see a left. What’s amazing is that the mainstream media’s trick of denying dissent any logic or rationale, and sometimes the very existence of dissent, this form of magic, this slight of mind has confused Salutin to the point that he can’t even see what he’s written down.

It’s within this confusion that I will be discussing, another genuine left commentator, Conrad Schmidt’s work. (at some point in the future).

Communal Fire

August 26, 2010

Kate had a meeting about one thing or another on Salt Spring Island, so we decided to take the opportunity to camp out on another island. We spent the night at Ruckle provincial Park .

We drove to Tsawwassen and took the ferry to Swartz Bay and a ferry from there to Salt Spring Island. The camp sites at Ruckle Park are walk in. So we parked the truck in a parking lot and walked our gear to site 44. H picked the site. Near, but not too near, the toilets, and close to the water. H knows that you don’t want to be too near the toilets because they smell. The day was spent swimming and hiking. And at the end of the day the moon rising over the water was beautiful. I tried to take a picture, but I only had my cell phone and couldn’t capture anything.

There was a fire ban, so the Shared Fire Rings were empty, but I like the idea.

I think this place would be a great destination for our next bike trip. We haven’t ridden to Tsawwassen yet. I think it’s around 30k. The ride once you get on Salt Spring is 10k. I’m thinking it would make a great weekend bike trip. There’s no reason to only take bike trips in the summer. Summer is the time for longer tours, but overnight trips would be great preparation. You’d need to carry less clothing, and food on an overnight trip. And sleeping on the ocean in different types of weather would be great experiences.

Bike touring is a long term family project. Weekend rides would be good practice. For camping to be enjoyable, I think you need to do it well. What I’m going to start working on is creative cooking. Cooking well is part of living well. Tasty meals are a reason to live. And as we continue to camp/tour/travel I’d like to develop cooking skills that travel.

Moose sighting

August 21, 2010
Starting out, originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque.
We left for our bike camping trip to Newcastle Island on Tuesday morning at about 10:45 am. Not the earliest get away, and this is after a Monday night of packing. At about midnight when the packing was not just a creative editing process, but continual additions I started to get a little cranky. (We’ll deal with this in an upcoming post, but let’s just make the note here that I can get cranky.)

The top of the Lion’s Gate Bridge, originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque.

The ride from East Van to Horseshoe Bay is a pretty good pedal for anyone, but load camping gear and supplies for a  family of five and a dog on your bike and that ride, at least for this 40 year old, is daunting. I do have a bit of a sense of humour, or more accurately a sense of the ridiculous, so I could crack a smile after a bit of time passed.

This is the second year for the bike trip, and there is a philosophy, or an ethic behind the trip. After reading Hold on to Your Kids, a few years ago, I started thinking about things we could do as a family. Camping is an easy one. Kids love it and I’m a fan myself, but I have issues with car camping. I do it, I car camp, but I have issues with burning gas and the militarized capitalist system in general. So the idea of bike camping had appeal.

Problem is that we have 3 children under 8. The two little ones can’t pedal their own weight, so we’ve got to carry them and all their stuff. Luckily in 35km we can pedal to some sweet campgrounds. We ride to Horseshoe Bay, take the ferry to Departure Bay, ride a kilometre or so and take a small ferry to Newcastle Island.

Last year I carried two kids and gear on my bike. This year one was on a trail-a-bike. This made room in the trailer for a cooler. At some point the kids will be on their own bikes and we can disperse the weight, but for now I’m carrying pretty much everything.

There’s a tent, sleeping bags (5), sleeping pads, towels, clothing, a kitchen, cups, bowls, plates, cutlery, a cooler with food for 4 days. There’s not a way I can think to bring less than this. But the little ones brought their suitcases filled with toys. I could have saved a little weight by packing for the girls, but there’s an area that’s tough at this age. The kids love packing their own bags.

Our son rides his own bike. He packed and carried his own bag. He gets the idea that you only bring what you need. He also revels in wearing the same clothes for days on end. He loves the idea of washing your clothes as you ride. Check out Return of the Scorcher, for among other things, some tips on bike touring. Eventually the girls will understand the need for less, but you see the picture, the toys are the least of my worries.

Moose sighting, originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque.

Beach, originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque.

Horseshoe Bay Village, originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque.

There are no cars on the Island so that is a plus. There are good biking trails and hiking trails and beaches. We take a day to get there, and a day to get home, and spent two full days exploring the island. The day we left, the kids wanted to stay. That’s a good sign. As we were packing up to leave, the kids were talking about coming back. I think we’ve found something we can do together that we all enjoy.

We didn’t bring anything we didn’t use, and there were things we didn’t bring that we could have used. There is an idea of practice here. We want to be a bike camping/touring/travelling family. As the kids get older we will go further, for longer periods.

Last year we rode multiple days to Porpoise Bay, we stayed in hotels, backpacker hostels (there’s a picture of us on this page, Rene was 7 here, notice one girl in the trailer and one in the seat), and campgrounds. We mostly ate at restaurants. This year we brought the cooler so eating wouldn’t be as expensive. We’re hoping to learn over the years, to become better touring cyclists. The cooler idea comes from a session with Gwendal Castellan at the Bike Doctor on Broadway last summer. We also learned to use a pressure cooker to make a camp stove much more efficient. That was a good session to attend. Later we saw his bike at the Museum of Vancouver during their bike show.

One trap I want to try to overcome is the gearhead trap. Camping can be a consumerist event. This pull to purchase your way into a lifestyle, is a tendency I need to be on guard against. Our bikes and trailers are not just for touring, but our main everyday mode of transportation.

My bike is 10 years old. My xtracycle kit is 4 years old. and our trailer/stroller is 5 years old. The stroller was used daily the first 4 years of its life. We have literally worn the wheels off the thing. The first set of stroller wheels failed after about 2 years, and were replaced free of charge by Cambie Cycle. That replacement set just failed. We now use the jogging wheel attachment for hauling groceries. Like I said we used it as a cart everyday. We have regularly overloaded the thing. You can see from the picture here that it can handle quite a bit of weight. We don’t use it to carry kids anymore, so I’m more apt to treat it with a little less respect for stated limits.

I’m going in to detail about this trailer because while the chariot is a purchased solution, and it can be the mark of a gearhead (obssessive-compulsive consumer), it can also be the mark of a greasemonkey (hacker/tinkerer/smith). The chariot is a smooth moving piece of machinery that you can actually use. I’m eventually going to fashion it into a touring trailer at some point. This is an area I want to stick with in my posts. Camping/touring is a consumer field, like pretty much all fields. What I’m interested in is ways of purchasing that are not wasteful.