22 veterans commit suicide every day while more than 60,000 homeless veterans wander the hopeless landscape of a dying country that forgot about them a long time ago. And the organization charged with taking care of veterans – the Department of Veterans Affairs – has become notorious for delaying claims, losing paperwork, and ultimately denying benefits. But these are not “mistakes.” The system isn’t “broken.” The agenda of denying benefits to combat veterans cannot be described as anything but deliberate, especially after numerous VA whistleblowers provided evidence that the government intentionally pushes vets toward suicide, employing time tested tactics to systematically deny benefits. Two years ago we presented a the life and struggle of a Missoula area Vietnam veteran named Lance Michael Hartley and his unbelievable struggle to gain health benefits through the VA. Now, two years later, we can report the incredible follow up to an already intense story.
Ever get so caught up in your way of thinking that you lose sight of how others see the world? Our personal ideologies tend to imprison our minds in set patterns of habituated thought. Blogger Chris Bisignani refers to this tendency as, “The Framework Game”. In a similar vein, Trey Spruance coined the phrase “Wizard Prison” to encapsulate his observation that the most esoteric and powerful human frameworks tend to tempt the practitioner into thinking only in terms of their specific discipline at the expense of all other perception; astrologers sometimes attribute everything – even the inconsequential – to the planets, while scientists often dogmatically dismiss anything unseen – even in the face of overwhelming evidence – as delusional fantasy. This human propensity to confuse symbols for reality may comprise the beginning of enlightenment. According to the philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, the ability to observe without evaluating constitutes the highest form of intelligence.
Have you ever noticed how mountains and shorelines are similar to snowflakes, or how tree branches are similar to blood vessels? This concept is known as Self Similarity. We humans are composed of trillions of cells, and in-turn are part of a biosphere composed of trillions of organisms. We are all part of the single pattern of nature regardless of scale. From the timeless spiral of galaxies to the spiral eddy in the kitchen sink, the pattern is the same. As above, so below. There is no separate world around us. We are the world. Realizing our own fractal nature, we’ve begun constructing mathematical models to better understand it; from the Fibonacci Sequence to the Mandelbrot Set and Gosper Curve and beyond. Understanding the predictability within complex systems might help us unlock the secrets of the universe, for we make our greatest discoveries amid the chaos; not in spite of it. If we learn to embrace our own fractal communion with nature, perhaps we can find peace within.
The death of net neutrality this week gives ISPS carte blanche to bogart the net, sell website packages and limit access the way cable companies do (incidentally, most ISPs also happen to be cable companies). Telecom giants insist they just want to put the internet on a “different legal footing” as a euphemistic dodge that ultimately equates to a severe threat to the internet as we know it. So our new FCC chair, Ajit Pai, put out a PSA entitled “7 Things You Can Still Do After Net Neutrality,” assuring us all that we’ll still be able to “gram” our food, post photos of cute animals, binge watch shows, and other inconsequential activities. But he got really excited about the fact that we’ll still be able to “shop for Christmas presents online,” because nothing says “Happy Holidays” like mindless holiday consumerism. So the Church of Stop Shopping joins us once again to remind us all that we don’t need to buy a gift to give a gift.
What is Christmas all about? Why do westerners place conifer trees in their homes every December? Why does Santa wear red and white, come in through the chimney, live at the North Pole and fly a sleigh aided by 8 Reindeer? How have ancient folkways incorporated themselves into our culture without us even noticing it? Do the religious motifs surrounding “water into wine,” burning bushes and Saint Nicholas constitute a clever cover story regarding hidden instructions for accessing spiritual dimensions? Why does every Sun God – including Krishna, Dionysus, Horus, Yeshua Ben Hur, et. Al – share December 25th as their date of birth? Why do all of the Sun Gods throughout history share the virgin birth, 3-day death, and resurrection motif? And what could any of this have anything to do with the mushroom-eating traditions of Siberian Shamanism? We promise that by the end of this show, the glittering lights, sleigh-bells, gingerbread, and fir trees will all make a lot more sense.
Disney has gone over to the dark side. Their acquisition of Fox might indicate this, but so does their exploitation of the Star Wars brand every holiday season. They now attempt to erase the magic of the original stories by exploiting profit potentials that only exist because the original films were the honest expression of our infinite being, and a reminder that there is good inside the most evil among us, and evil inside the most compassionate. The original films were an expression of film as a medium explicitly designed for dissent, representing a unifying perspective that deeply touched and inspired millions. It seems rather obvious that the American Empire might want to co-opt and redirect our attention away from tales that allude to its hypocrisy. So Disney are gradually inserting themselves as the principal cultural icon of modern American life. The good news is that this reign of psychological terror can end as soon as we grow tired of their electronic hallucinations.
Immediately following California’s passage of recreational marijuana, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a brutal crackdown on the cannabis industry. At a time when Gallup finds 64% of Americans favor legalization, his announcement confirms the extent of our government’s desperation and ineptitude. In a country with the largest prison population on the planet, disconnected authoritarians like Sessions increasingly demonstrate the dangers of centralized government power. As such, he may have inadvertently done more for states’ rights than any other politician in modern US history. With more Americans subjugated than ever before, the totalitarian hypocrisy of Sessions’ and his ilk signals the importance of political decentralization. But let’s not champion legalization, which has become a euphemism for usurping natural rights and then selling them back to us. Decriminalization, on the other hand, implies the government will cease to fine and imprison people for nomogenic crimes. Freedom cannot be said to exist so long as nature is made illegal.
Deified in death, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has become misunderstood, and this misunderstanding is robbing us of the essence of his character and crusade. His martyrdom has undermined his message. Honoring him on the cheap with holidays and commemorations, we have sanitized and oversimplified a man who fearlessly challenged America’s status quo, vociferously opposed the Vietnam war, and declared poverty as the greatest of society’s evils. Though truly one of America’s greatest democratic, public intellectuals, his memory has been reduced to that of an idealistic dreamer, remembered only for his 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech. Americans are surprised to learn that his final year on earth was characterized by the declaration that “America is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” So we endeavor to renew the authentic memory of this remarkable revolutionary whose true legacy warns us that those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.