Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Journeyman Chronicles: Part 4

Return from the Darkside

Those that follow closely will note that it has been some time since I have posted.  I could conveniently blame life for throwing too many distractions my way, but that would only be partly true.  Sometimes we find ourselves lost on the Darkside, alone in crowded rooms, alienated amongst family, and unable to understand why we can’t find our way.
I would love to say that that I have found my way back into the light again, but I have been fooled by it so many times.  What at first appears to be brilliant illumination, sadly resolves into just a mere shadow.  A cruel deceit, it fades, stranding me again in darkness, alone.  The Darkside does not play favorites, it is not kind, and does not care how hard you have tried.  It is stone, hard and unyielding, and it will not just give up because you have had enough
After a time, my wanderings lead me to another small, dim patch.  This time it is real, it is light.  A mere wisp of a flame to hold off the darkness, but it is there.  I cling to it, desperation feeds hope.  Is this the way out?  Tears stain my face, as I scramble across the midnight landscape, sharp edges tearing at my flesh.  The pain will not stop me this time, I will cross over.

And then I am there. Blue skies, sunlight, a fresh wind blowing in the trees, it is as I remember it.  Right now I am home.  I have been gone a long while, things have changed.  I don’t trust my memory; my time on the Darkside has made me question what is real, what is just a trick of the imagination.  It seems like this is the place; this is my house, this is my wife and these are my children.  I am home, I begin to weep; I let waves of emotion splash over me.  I am home, I am home…I can’t stop repeating it, but it is true.  I am home.  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

It’s all Fun and Games until the Apocalypse Happens

First, let me assert that I am always on the side of reasonable preparation for those natural disasters that may occur from time to time.  I am all about being prepared for those eventualities, having the right tools and skill sets to be safe in the path of a natural disaster.  I have a first aid kit for home and car, I know how to perform CPR (which, as an aside, any parent of small children should know) and I have several other skills that would be useful in an emergency situation.  We even have a food stuffs put up for “just in case”, along with candles for the occasional power outages.  We are sensibly prepared for life in a tropical weather zone, where hurricanes are a possibility.  We have plans for escape ahead of a really bad storm, with rally points for friends and family at different locations.  We review these plans regularly, and we are sure that all of our measures are as well planned as possible.

Now I will concede the point that we could be more prepared.   I will go so far as to question whether we are adequately prepared for any and all eventualities, but in the end I believe that there is a fine line between reasonable preparation and what could only be described as a certain type of obsession.  If you are spending a fortune on survival rations, weapons, ammunition and other toys for TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World as We Know It), you probably find what I would consider reasonable woefully inadequate.  With the televising of the Doomsday prepping community, America is seeing the marketing of a perverse preoccupation with the end of all things.

Consider the following:  Let us assume that a prepper and his family has prepared for the inevitable collapse of civilization.  They have packed up their bug out bags, collected their ammo, fueled up their four wheel drive SUV, and relocated to their elaborately prepared bunker.  As they close their armored door to the chaos around them, they are firmly committed to surviving the final collapse.  Six months pass, the world as we know it devolves into the worst parts of “Mad Max”.  Our prepper hero and his family emerge from their bunker, triumphantly join hands, kneel in prayer, and…promptly become the kings and queens of the rubble pile that used to be civilization.  The world of fast food and the internet is gone, along with air conditioning, cell phones, electricity, modern sanitation and the other things that we have come to expect from 21st century America.  Ahead lay poverty, deprivation, and misery the likes of which no one alive today, outside of the Horn of Africa or the Sudan, has ever experienced.  There will be no more Twinkies, Diet Coke, or Snickers; just misery, pain and a few very unfortunate survivors. 

So what then is the attraction of Prepping?  To be the king of the pile of debris that was once modern civilization?  Which begs another question: Like the man who knows he is going to die, and then finds a way to make it inevitably happen, are all these preppers actually contributing to an inevitable collapse just by the very fact that they are doing all these things?  Will prepping actually cause the collapse to happen?  By its very nature, “prepping” encourages a paranoid and obsessive nature from its adherents, which is not to say that these people are crazy or ill, but just slightly odder than nature would have intended, or that most feel comfortable with.

Now how does this create a collapse event? Let’s imagine that the prepper community begins to focus on one particular individual who is the acme of the movement.  He jerks meat with ease, hunts like a forest predator, can make a fire just by the reflection of his awesomeness alone.  He makes Bear Grylls look like a girly man, and has better facial hair than Grizzly Adams.  He is the ultimate survivor.  Drop him in the middle of nowhere with nothing more than a toothpick, a piece of gum and good intentions, and he can “MacGyver” civilization back into existence.  Let us also assume that this person has seized upon social media to educate his fellow preppers on the ways of survival.  He blogs, tweets, facebooks, and YouTube’s with the best of them; thousands of followers watch and read about his exploits as he prepares himself for the end of the world.

Now let us take this one step further, and imagine that one day a tweet goes out; “Run for the hills! This is it!” A video goes up on his channel, just showing nothing but “Run for the hills, the time is now! Be safe.” Over and over, images of chaos and collapse followed by that message and he suddenly stops updating his blog, no further tweets come from him.  He just drops off the air.

A portion of his group, laugh derisively, thinking that their “leader” has finally blown a brain fuse and gone off the deep end, and decide that they will stop following.  Most of his audience, take a quick pause, look at the chats, the news, and not seeing the world being consumed in a fiery flood, go back about their daily business.   Another, smaller, more intense group however, they see this as a signal to grab their bug-out-bags, ammo, food, and families and head for the back of beyond as fast as their SUV’s will take them.

They don’t look back, they don’t stop to analyze, and they don’t have debates or discussions.  They bolt. A screeching of tires in the middle of the night and they are gone.  Now their neighbors who have been watching  with a perverse glee as “Apocalypse Boy” and his family go through their “preparations”, notice that they are gone, and in a hurry at that.  Then they start asking, “Why? What did they know that we don’t? “; Before long emails, tweets and text erupt across the infosphere, all indicating that some dire event has or will shortly occur.
Now let’s go one step further.  Let us assume that a series of small events happens.  An earthquake, a tornado or even just a local power outage; events that are totally unconnected, occur.  Or worse yet, some nefarious group of malefactors decide to seize on the growing sense of chaos and push the whole thing over the edge.  Maybe they are jihadists, anarchists or maybe they are just doing it for the lulz, but whatever their motivation, they decide that they will throw a few gallons of highly flammable liquid on an already smoldering fire, just to see what happens.  All that is needed is the right tipping point, and the whole Jenga game that is our society topples over into madness.

Suddenly what has been the preoccupation of a group of outliers and extremist “wackadoo’s” is now being acted out on live television.  With 24/7/365 news coverage so tightly coupled to the tweets and posts of the hoards of the infosphere, what might have just been idle rumor mongering and gossip is now considered “fair and balanced”.  All our malefactors of cyberspace have to do is hack a few twitter accounts, post a few videos, and a paranoid and distrustful society erupts.  You don’t think it can happen?   Ask Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.  Nations who for decades had endured hard line oppressive dictatorship, saw their governments evaporate in a paroxysm of civil war, all manipulated by an initial upwelling  from the internet.

So what happens next in our scenario?  Well, imagine the worst parts of the post-Katrina aftermath erupting in every major metropolitan area in the United States.  In a nation where people will raid the shelves of the local grocery store bare on just the whim of inclement weather, it is not too hard to imagine what that same nation now full of fearful and paranoid people will do.  Looting, rioting, and chaos; then as the government merely tries to restore order, any force will be interpreted as a “crack down” by an intolerant “regime”.  The usual finger pointing will ensue with the Left and the Right trying to blame the other for the “excessive force”.   As the government becomes more and more paralyzed by “systemic inertia” people will start taking things into their own hands, and what was just a minor “molehill” event has now spiraled into a “mountain” of a disaster.
None of this actually is the result of anything.  Lies, rumors, misinformation and bad science have positioned us to react from a place of pure emotion.  We have surrendered our reason to paranoia, and our intellect to passion.  We all know that there is something wrong, but we can’t put our fingers on it, but all it will take is just a push.  Maybe at most a few, and like a cheap rubber band, we snap.  Sudden collapse, due to nothing but an inclination toward that result, fostered by a culture of paranoia, brought on by nothing more than an illusion, triggered by our “fight or flight” instinct.

Now I submit all of this to you, mostly with tongue placed firmly in cheek, but you would have to admit that there is more than mere supposition at work here.  Are preppers really bat-guano crazies, hoarding for the Apocalypse?  Some, who have taken it to the extreme, could certainly be considered as such.  Most are just folks who know a little bit of precaution, prevents a lot of misery.  But in a world where we seem more and more to have surrendered our reason to the lowest common denominator, can we ever be sure that we aren’t being manipulated into a situation where we are poised on such a fine edge, that we fall over into the abyss with nothing more than a light push.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Carl Sagan, as part of the Voyager project, turned the cameras back on Earth, and captured a pale blue dot, the size of a pixel, in the darkness.  “That is here”, he said.  “That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you have ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.  The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar’, every ‘supreme leader’, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there- on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam ”

This is your home.  This is the sum total of all you know.  This is the totality of all your parents, grandparents and so on; all the way back to your knuckle-dragging, fur-clad, ancestors.  This is the abode of life as we know it.  And though there are millions of other worlds that might be like it in our universe, this is the only one like this one that we know for sure has intelligent life.
When you stand upon the highest elevation and look around, all that lies beneath your gaze, that vast distance to the horizon is just a small portion of the immensity that is Earth.  And as large as our homeworld is, it is such a small place when compared to the mind numbing expanse of the Cosmos.  It is all so very big, and we are such small and fragile things.

We are small fragile things connected to each other by our existence on this planet.  This planet is not just an American planet, nor is it commanded by any other group.  It is all of ours.  Not just one group’s home; but all humans, all life, cling to our world as a newborn to its mother’s teat.  This world shelters us, feeds us, not just the nourishment from our agriculture, but it feeds our very souls.  It is as much a part of us as we are of it.  In the distant future, when humans from Earth go out to that stars, their symbol won’t be a flag of any nation, but the image of our blue-green, teraqueous globe, against a black field.

What that image will show, is that we are one species.  That we have out grown our tribal hates, our juvenile bigotry, and blinding superstitions.  We will walk together into the future, and across our world.  It will, by necessity, be a world without divisions.  It will be united, by our common humanity, not by force of arms.  It will be a mature society, having thrown off the emotional tantrums of adolescence.  I will not live to see it.  In point of fact, none of us will.  Generations yet unborn will live and die before we get there, but get there we will.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Journeyman Chronicles: Part 3

The Unmentionable Darkness Along the Way

The path has never been vaguer; it is nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding terrain.  There is no definition, just mere hints, fading away into the impenetrable darkness.  Ruins of what was, what might have been are strewn about, decaying in the foul mist.  I stumble about in the dim murk, lost.
I miss the light, the warmth of the Summerlands, where all was carefree.  We were young then, and troubles seemed so very far away.  I was happy, bathed in the light of the noon day sun, with a gentle breeze, and the crystalline sounds of chimes in the distance.  It was so simple, to run, play and be free in that gentle world.  Pain was a scraped knee or a childish crush unrequited.  It drifted away as quickly as it came.  But summer does not last forever.

Now I cross a dark, ruined land.  No map, nor lamp to guide my way, I try to move forward.  I fall, I get up, and I fall again.  I am bloodied, bruised; the pain is a fire, blinding me. Why am I here, where is the light, where are the gentle breezes?  Why have I lost my way so profoundly?  I thought I knew all the answers.  I knew the size and the shape of the world, I had everything calculated when the journey began.  How foolish I was to even try to go this far, how juvenile that I thought I could find my way. I want to lay down my burdens, and just stop blundering about in the pitch black darkness of this never ending night.

Hamlet’s lament comes to mind, and I wonder if just surrendering to the darkness is the end to all of this.  The bogeymen, just beyond my reach, murmur in the ebon dark.  They speak in wretched voices, saying things dark and malicious.  Their venomous tirades try to pull me into those places that I do not want to tread.  I don’t want to go down this road anymore.  I don’t want to be here anymore, I refuse to give in today.  Tomorrow may be different, but today, now, I keep feeling my way, looking forward to the light, continuing my journey to the west.  I will welcome dawn, when it comes.  The bogeymen will turn into piles of clothes on the backs of chairs, their words mere echoes in the unmentionable darkness along the way.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Year of the Dragon

In Chinese mythology the dragon is the most auspicious of all astrological signs.  It brings with it the manifestation of masculine energy, the embodiment of the yang.  The five toed dragon rules all as the representative of the Mandate of Heaven, the imperial symbol.  Its curled form bringing a natural power, dynamic changes and a purposeful ferocity; it alters the world, submitting it to the order of the Universe, a higher order than that imposed by any man.

The dragon speaks to our most ancient fears.  It crawls through the most primitive parts of our brain, where the simple hairless ape tries to make sense of a reptilian predator.  It was a vicious, cold-blooded bringer of death, a scaled killer of innocents and an arbiter of final dispositions.  It has haunted our nightmares, and also invaded our dreams.  It inspires our imaginations, giving wings and flight to our fantasies.

In this year, we will see change.  Change is the essence of all things.  In a universe that does not acknowledge our presence, it merely signals the next phase of our existence.  We move from order to chaos, to a new order.  Entropy expands and we are along for the ride.  Politics, the Economy, the world at large is coming apart, or so it seems.  But what if there is a higher order in our chaos?  What if we lack the perspective to see the good, when all around us are manifestations of evil?

What if, as the Doomsday Clock moves towards midnight, we have our finest hour?  What happens when we achieve our highest aspirations, our greatest clarity, in the midst of societal self immolation?  When faced with such destruction, can we be the people that we have always aspired to be?

As the dragon makes its inevitable way across the night’s sky, do we rise to the occasion, inspired by its strength, steeled with the knowledge that by standing in the face of the fire, we will overcome all obstacles.   Or do we bow to the inevitable, that bad men motivated by lust and greed will enforce the tyranny of the strong over the will of the just.  The hour is not too late, but the clock is ticking.  The dragon, the world and our fellow humans await our answer.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Journeyman Chronicles: Part 2

With No Way as Way

                There is a brief moment when you realize that the universe and everything else that you take for granted, isn’t exactly what you thought it was.  You are instantly overcome by circumstances so out of your control that you question the very nature of reality itself.  Up is in fact down, left is now right, black is white, and things that made sense just a few moments ago, now seem all too “Lewis Carol”.  You have fallen down the rabbit hole, and reality is not that comfy cozy thing that you have become accustomed to.
                That brief span of time is known as an “oh-no” second, as in “Oh no! I just sent that personal email to all!”  Chaos is more than a collapse toward entropy; it is a twisting, yawing mindbender of an event that smashes our ordered, mundane world like a giddy toddler knocking down building block towers.  With all the subtly of a gloriously demented game of Jenga, our lives can suddenly collapse from order into a frightening freefall of epic fail.  In the blink of an eye, we are spun about on the wheel of fate, only to find ourselves succumbing to the vagaries of chance.
                In the past I would cry and bemoan my circumstances. Now, I am beginning to find acceptance of the uncontrollable nature of life in the 21st century.  I am learning that there is no way, there is no path.  The route ahead is unexplored and hazardous, full of dreadful missteps and wondrous adventures.  Yes, there be dragons and dangerous shoals ahead, but they are not showstoppers, just merely obstacles to be avoided, worked around.
                I only know that my time is finite and my destination lies far to the west, beyond the setting sun.  With the clock ticking, I set out once more. My course is uncertain; will it lead me to the solution, or another dead end?  Who can say; I only know that my path is built one stone at a time.  I carve it out between sunrise and sunset, step by step, fighting chaos, clinging to order, hoping, dreaming, laughing, loving, one day…one moment at a time.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It’s All Political Theater; or Why I Don’t Care about Election 2012

Last night, the people of Iowa spoke.  They spoke about a nation whose leaders are not in touch with its citizens.  They spoke about people who are out of work, or underemployed.  They spoke about their religious convictions, and how their faith influences their conduct.  They spoke about a freer nation, a “shinning city on the hill”, a beacon for the entire world to see.  They spoke about a place where a man can rise from the most humble beginnings and achieve whatever levels of greatness and wealth that he can apply himself to obtain through the sweat of his own brow.  They talked about family values and tradition.  They talked about making the right types of change, not just slogans, but finding the true and descent America that we all know exists.  Unfortunately, no one listened.

Our political process has descended to the point where our elections have become just another act on the grand stage of American Politics, where we get a lot of sizzle, but very little steak.  We have gone from the indispensable man, to the interchangeable one.  Left or Right, it no longer matters who is residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, because that person is no longer running the show. If they ever were, they definitely aren’t now.  I suppose that I could make the usual screed against the special interests, but the fact is that the people who really run this country aren’t even visible to the average person.  Our country has been surrendered to the professional politicians, career bureaucrats, mass media manipulators and plutocrats who feed our addictions with 24/7/365 drivel carelessly spread across 500 channels.

The people who should run this country aren’t the political class; they certainly shouldn’t be the media. They should be the people that we see in the mirror every day.  Without us, the government can’t govern.  The government cannot run without the consent of the governed.  When enough people decide that they “aim to misbehave”, then governments get scared.  Ask Muhamar Quaddafi if he was afraid of his people.  You might find the conversation a trifle one sided, as he was pulled out of a drainage ditch and shot in the head by angry partisans, who mere months before had been fearful of his wrath.

The sad fact is that going from hard left to hard right, only results in a tank slapping nightmare, where the corrections get more and more fierce until finally we lose control and slam into the inevitable pavement of history.  Our nation is facing the greatest challenge in its history.  Whether the people will surrender their freedom for what basically amounts to government cheese, or do we finally throw off the shackles of societal engineering, and learn how to go our own way.

The government does not belong in our schools, homes, houses of worship, and not our businesses.  It should not determine who marries whom, nor what happens in a woman’s body.  As my favorite brown coated starship captain is fond of saying, “I just want to go my own way.” I want to be able to walk my path, to create a place in the world for me and mine, and not to be bothered with those who insist upon foisting their “agenda” upon a simple man.

In the end, this election is not about winners and losers, neither left nor right. It will really be about the perpetuation of a system by which the common man is disenfranchised, marginalized and finally, reduced to little more than a pawn, a pathetic piece moved at the whim of faceless masters, whose mediocre machinations belie their limited intellect and dearth of vision.  Our loyalty and freedom sold for the simplistic comforts of social justice, and the pale, impotent light of compact fluorescent bulbs.