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A List of Campaign Promises in an Election Year Where There Are a Lot of Bees Around the Pool

Neoconservatives and Neoliberals (in unison with slightly different accents and each with checks from the bee lobby):

We've always had bees in this pool. We will skim off the ones who fall in and drown but you'll have to embrace certain bee-related realities to have a pool.

Far Right: We will drench the yard in DDT until nothing flies within 1000 miles.

Far Left: We will ask the bees nicely to leave.

Green: Do we really need a pool?

Libertarian: Not my yard, not my problem. But by the way,  I happen to own a line of bee-less pools so I can fix this with your support.

Anarchists: We drained the fucking pool and now there are no bees here. You're welcome.

Reality: Colony collapse disorder. Bee presence highly exaggerated.

What would you do if you didn't have to do that?

You will note, based on my writings, that I am not a huge fan of The State. To clarify, I was a fan of the 90s sketch comedy show, but I am not a fan of the lumbering octopus with ten thousand mouths on every rabid/blind tentacle converting everything they touch into fuel for its machinations, batting most of us around like a kitten playing with a dead sparrow. Therefore it pains me a little to admit this, but I have to keep expressing gratitude so here we go:

I have benefited from "welfare" programs. When I was working my old job, my hours were always shaved just under the line where I'd qualify for benefits, so I took a second job. I gave myself a double hernia lifting audio equipment racks that should have had wheels. This was stupid, as toil for its own sake always is. I was trying too hard to appease a control freak with 6 personalities at a job that was never going to be worth the wage anyway, telling myself it was The Right Thing To Do (TM).

We do what we think we need to do. "It seemed like a good idea at the time" is the slogan of our species.

In any case, I had no insurance and had two new holes in my abs with gut sliding in and out at random, accompanied by deep discomfort and occasional stabbing pain. Not a party I'd invite anyone to. I will spare you the roller coaster process of getting state health insurance, which I had begun months prior. Through some fluke, I got approved right before the accident. I saw a surgeon who did a double take because hernias aren't supposed to come in stereo.

The good doctor set me up with a quick repair, and after a recuperative period, I was myself again. I've been under the knife more times than most, and I can say with confidence that this experience was the most painless, in every sense.

Not too much later, my company got outbid, and I got laid off. I was lucky. I got a settlement that came out to a magic number, which was amusing and satisfying. They didn't fight unemployment either, so I pulled that for a while, looking for work, being a home Dad, and writing most of my book while my wife graciously bore the burden by slogging away though extra hours trying to do good in a bad place. I marinated in stress, and was at times downright awful to live with. It was the fire under my ass that needed to happen to begin the alchemical process, but it was hard on all of us.

I am grateful daily that I had the chance to have what was, in the grand scheme, a pretty easy time compared to most. You and I won't hear the stories of the people who never made it out of the pit, or most of the stories of people who have. What we hear about are those who hijack the system, because that's better for ratings. Bogeymen always sell. Corporate media must always satisfy the will of its sponsors to exist, and at this moment, its main sponsors do quite well by screwing people over and shifting the blame onto others, who may or may not exist. Good luck pitching a story on how things get and stay this way to begin with. If you want that story, you'll have to dig it up yourself.

I had a tough time, a dark night of the soul among many, but that's the game of life, and I was greeted with sufficient mercy to make it much easier than it could have been. The State is myopic and often backward, but there are good folks (well underpaid themselves) but trying to throw ropes into the quicksand, bless 'em. Yet I wonder, is there a better way?

To get on the list for a little help when you need it, you wade through automatic phone trees, try to catch the letters in the mail and respond before they cancel your request, and take numbers in crowded rooms, hoping today's the day. Think of an Emergency Department waiting room, but on a vast scale. If and when you get a real live human being, it's a crap shoot. Some of these people seem so willing to help but are so often bound up in regulations and quotas. Some of them seem mechanical and completely detached, hollowed out by protocol and acting against the will of their hearts. Some of them seem so burnt out on people at large that they have become sadists, downright overjoyed to stamp your application "DENIED." I was able to float because I had a good support network. What of all the people with nothing but themselves to lean on?

After listening to the latest episode of one of my favorite podcasts, I am inclined to consider one possible answer: Universal Basic Income. I can hear the gnashing of teeth across America. There's deep conditioning at work turning this idea into knee-jerk reactions, because at the surface the idea can sound a like an expansion of already broken welfare programs. At this moment we can't do that much worse by doing what's expected, so as the late Saint Prince suggests, let's go crazy. Let's get nuts. Let's actually look at how this idea could manifest in reality beyond daydreams of freedom from within the artificial cage of the All-American Verbal Hologram.

Scott Santens, who moderates the Basic Income community on reddit, sums up the idea thus: "Welfare is paying people to do nothing, while basic income is paying people to do anything."

In the current system we supply bailouts for people who lost their jobs or can't work, but it creates a vicious circle. The longer you're on welfare, the harder it is to get a job. The social stigma of being out of work makes it awkward when you're filling out applications. The jobs you're likely to get with a history of welfare might not pay much more than the welfare did. It's quite similar to the predicament of a felon returning from prison. It's no wonder that some people hustle the system and turn to crime to grease the wheels. It doesn't make it better, but you can understand. Whether you're on welfare or trying to make it on what's left of Social Security, if you depend on a tiny fixed income, you'll live a tiny fixed life. By contrast, in a system of basic income people suddenly ticking all the boxes of their basic needs would be far more free to do whatever work they wanted to achieve their wants, creating income through service and moving towardthriving rather than surviving.

This idea seems too utopian or hard to pay for because we're all so used to and invested in struggle. It seems complicated because to make it happen a lot of details will have to be addressed, but like a lot of paradigm shifts, at its heart it is a simple idea: Find the the poverty level, and make sure no one is below it. Suggest this, and people will say there's no money for it. What they mean is they're afraid their taxes will go up to pay for it. To this I say, the majority of your taxes are already going to things you'd prefer not to support, and that's true regardless of your politics. The money is always there for people who know how to put it where they want it to be.

Things could be very different. No one would have to claw for tiny raises and less managers would screw over their teams for bonuses. No one would have to work unpaid overtime. No one would have to destroy their bodies in endless toil for less money than it takes to pay the bills. No one would have to beg on the street. Crime would begin to fade almost immediately. Most people would rely less on intoxicants. People struggling economically in the midst of abusive relationships could finally leave their tormentors, no longer having to rely on them to survive. Families bearing the brunt of hardship in more graceful ways would finally get the relief necessary to allow them to pursue more meaningful work and a life of less stress and greater security. Parents who'd rather raise their kids than work could be where they want to be instead of having to trust strangers who charge them extortion-level prices for daycare. The frustrations built in to the way we do things now would stop turning people into demons.  In short, a whole lot of bullshit could just go away, at last. We could breathe again.

Children could grow up in happier homes. Rather than spending their formative years learning coping mechanisms to survive, they could soak up the foundation of security and presence that would allow them to truly learn, love, and live. A generation or two of that is exactly what we need to get off the Death Grid, and it's quite possible that nothing short of that will do the trick. For those already grown, the physical and mental healthcare crisis would begin to ease itself because that background survival stress permeating everything would recede and allow minds and bodies to function outside of the fight-or-flight cage so many of us are spending our whole lives in. With a basic income, perhaps less young people would feel they had no choice but military service to pay for school or support their families, and those who did choose to serve would have a way to live in better conditions when they got back. With time to become informed, there would be less support for war at all, and in time, resistance to many other forms of corruption and hustle. There are so many more of us being governed than doing the governing. If we began to get the joke, we'd have the last laugh.

We might see, at last, the return of the engaged citizenry, active in making their local and state governments behave rather than taking out their rage on the candidates that bob and weave for the TV cameras. Better yet, we might cut loose the parts of government we didn't need anymore. People would have the time to volunteer their time to help others and everyone would be lifted up a bit at a time. People would have the chance to pursue their dreams, not in that Hallmark card way but in full. Everyone would have at least the option to become the person they were meant to be, and every community would be richer for it. Some people would still do nothing, but that's already happening. Some people would find ways to hustle, but those people don't know any other way to live. They might come around, in good time. We lose nothing but waste if we try a different approach.

These are but musings of the moment. You can consider this one of many thought experiments on this blog. I believe this will happen eventually with or without our support and have many positive and negative social effects we cannot yet predict. In this it joins other currents of the future: automation of labor (which may force a basic income anyway), the second coming of virtual reality as augmented reality, the eventual ubiquity of personal 3-D printing, the eventual end of vulture capitalism.

Not Helping! Volume 1: wind-up Patriots

Dear countrymen (and we are countrymen, whether you think so or not), I know you're angry. We're all angry. The economy's in the toilet, the TPP (otherwise known as NAFTA 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO) will screw every one of us and is basically on the books. The elections are rigged. The rich grind the poor into spice for their lattes. I get it.

You need to know this, though. You're wasting your anger on trolling and harassing those of us you see as the enemy. You've been misled, as have we all. "United We Stand," I keep seeing on your bumper stickers, but you forgot the second half. Divided, we fall. We share the enemy, and it's time to start noticing its shape.
1. If you listen regularly to talk radio, or watch TV news, and if you really believe what you hear, you should know that you are being lied to by a league of hired guns who will literally say anything for money. They get their "talking points" from the people running this country into the ground, and always have.  I won't pretend that it's all on one side, either. The far Left is an agenda, the far Right is an agenda, and so on. Everyone has an agenda in media, but the majority of the venom pours out of daytime Right Wing shows.They know things are bad, because they helped them get that way. They're preying on your fears, and they are nurturing them for harvest come Election year.
2. You are clearly taking the bait, as if they had your best interests in mind. Remember, however, that bait comes attached to a hook. Listen to the commercials. THAT is who they care about. They love to mock and dehumanize any movement that threatens their masters, and by trolling the Facebook pages of grassroots organizations with bad news (the only kind you're going to find in your bought-and-paid for news outlets, by the way), you are doing their work for them. The dumber we look due to the distortion in the media (which your radio gods laughably call "Liberal"), the less you have to think about the possibility that we're right, and that you're one of us, under all the made up statistics and misdirected anger. Change is hard, and people would rather pass the buck, and that's why things have gone so wrong.
3. Your seeds of negativity will fall on the rock, dear friends. Smart people aren't really that worried by your catcalls because we know it's a bottomless pit to reach people with closed minds. You can wallow in your blame games and pessimism if you prefer, but they won't help you. Optimists are the ones who get things done, they see possibilities and they embrace them.  You wouldn't even have the Internet to abuse if everyone had your mentality.
4. Your inability to form sentences or use contractions betrays the ignorance that leads to this tragically limited world view. Maybe if your heroes at the top had invested in education instead of war profiteering, you'd be able to compose a coherent statement. In fact, maybe you wouldn't be so easy to control. Maybe you'd have learned compassion by now. Of course, that's bad for business, so that was never going to happen.
5. So many of you have obviously never even been to a protest of any kind, much less say, the Occupy camps or Black Lives Matter or the current Native protests against domestic pipelines that will poisonyet more of our precious groundwater. Many of you are not seeing the real issues because you're too busy "boycotting" a football player who won't stand for the anthem of the country that's hunting his brethren, or "evil" statues being erected to make a point about separation of church and state, or department stores that allow people you don't understand to use the bathroom, or whatever else you're damning with such enthusiasm. This is exactly how the enemies of real progress want it.

Before you harden your heart beyond the point of no return, go see for yourself. Go see that these protests are not just mobs of trust fund babies or the "welfare cheat" bogeymen you've been trained to believe are everywhere. These are not the enemy. These are your neighbors. Maybe even your friends and family. They are every bit as human as you are. They're out there because they're tired of being manipulated, tricked, and discarded. You probably have more in common with them than you can even imagine. You'll never know if you hide in your cocoon of cynicism.
We used to have something in this country called "community." It was replaced with gates and alarm systems and bickering religious factions, because the people taking advantage of us all depend on that fear and division to keep us from taking back our lives. It's been that way since at least World War II, and it will stay that way until people see it for the scam it is. What happened to "love thy neighbor," or do you only like the parts of the Bible that make you feel superior to others? What happened to "united we stand," or did that just go away because your 9/11 sticker faded? If you really care about America, try participating in it. Stop getting your opinions from other people, and stop hating strangers blindly. Get out there and look at the world, and talk to people, and think about what you found out there, and what it means. Then you can have an opinion of your own, like an adult. Until you do that, you are in real danger of becoming faceless, nameless, heartless, and useless, but remember, it's optional.

They want us at war with each other. They love it. Let's surprise them by coming together to be a force to be reckoned with rather than turned into income and votes.

Monkeys with rockets

Information doubles faster and faster toward some unimaginable end. In these accelerating times it is literally impossible to predict where humanity will be in ten years, much less a generation. It’s vital, therefore, to remember the power we have as we consider how to deal with this fundamental mystery that is at the bottom of all our constructions and also with the very real dangers outside our skulls. Not knowing quite where we’re from or quite where we’re going is a great reason to be kind and seek ways to help each other, but it can be terribly uncomfortable and makes many of us terribly selfish. We do our best to make it through the maze intact, guided mostly by the avoidance of inevitable pain and the pursuit of ephemeral pleasure. You’re beginning to understand why I’m a hermit by now, I suppose. These are not the conversations people want to have at parties. I could be wrong, or just at the wrong parties.