The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Critique of Politics #8: Diversions and Wedging—Civil Discord and the Moral Bankruptcy of States

Critique of Politics #8: Diversions and Wedging—Civil Discord and the Moral Bankruptcy of States
By Tim Krenz
For: Hometown Gazette
July 30, 2019

Anyone who owns any kind of power has one goal before all others: Hold on to that power! The nature of that power contains within it the power to make choices, for self or for others, depending on the nature of the system. If humans submit to the laws of nature and of nature's god, then the liberty to choose among a larger range of alternatives translates into a higher and wider scope of liberty for the most people. Hence, the freest and widest choices available for as many citizens as possible means a much freer civil society than if only one person or a few of them made all the decisions for others. The more liberty for individuals to choose has usually meant a more just, and a wiser, system of government within which all must live together.

Of the same coin, powers for a leader or powers for the masses of individuals come with very definite responsibilities for that gift of liberty in nature's laws. Those duties include: to do good for the most people at the same time; to protect from any harm whatsoever the young, the old, the sick, and the infirm, and all who cannot protect themselves; to allow others the same freedoms, liberty, and choices one demands for oneself; and to assert and defend the principles of one's own sense of right and wrong for the benefit of the whole society. Failing any of these measures of duty for a stable, free, just and enduring public trust, then that civil society cannot last long as a free, self-governing system for all citizens. In that case, the society becomes the playground of the few most powerful at the expense of the rest. Furthermore, ignoring any of these requirements a free society needs to cope and manage conflicts and change, then that failed experiment in free society will face its own, and terminal, moral bankruptcy. That society will collapse swiftly, dangerously, violently, and indefinitely.

With the ambitions to maintain control of political power while delaying the mass recognition of moral bankruptcy in the society, diverting and dividing the public becomes the single most effective and efficient means for leaders to extend the fiction of both their control over events and the solvency of their rule.

Almost everyone may have heard of “panem et circenses,” the Latin phrase for “bread and circuses.” Roman rulers of the patrician and Praetorian ranks gave the plebians (the masses) subsidized grain for cheap bread and plenty of addicting entertainment. Keeping bellies full and distracting the public's attention from critical issues and events worked until the shatteringly swift collapse of the Western Roman Empire as a coherent entity. The breads and circuses diverted the attention from the internal decay, with grain and games itself part of the decay encouraging the ignorance and apathy of the public.

The Romans and their Byzantine brothers in the Eastern Empire also used a policy of “divide et impera,” or “divide and rule” or “divide and conquer.” In this logical construction of the foreign and domestic policies of the great political powers, rulers keep the enemy (the competition), and even their own subjects and citizens in constant conflict between each other. This leaves the opposition weak and the ruling power(s) stronger. Rulers know that if the opponents of any institution or party ever unified by common ideals or alliances of convenience, the power that rules or the elite few that support them would have a more difficult time defending or justifying their reign of power. At that stage, like France at the beginning of their revolutionary and Napoleonic eras, the ancient regimes of the old power(s) would collapse, suddenly, due to their moral bankruptcy.

With diversions, modern nation states bring updated and sophisticated breads and circuses to their heights. Anything to distract the public works to the advantage of the power that rules. The Nazis in Germany named Joseph Goebbels' grand institution the Reich Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda for very sound reasons—effectiveness and efficiency. The ministry both diverted attention from Nazis crimes against people and kept the Nazi faithful followers supportive, and eventually complicit, in those very same crimes. Now the world even surpasses the Twentieth Century's superlative tool of diversion, the television, with the combined effects of the near-instant internet, massive free content, and, ironically, subscribed on-demand programming.

Modern politics with weapons of mass manipulation refines the divide and rule/conquer methods of old. While chipping away at the legal means and ethical standards of moral dissent, and with a promotion of a mass conformity, a new, partly voluntary coercion of the public trust has crept into political dialog. This silent bomb in a very quiet war of dividing nations uses the “wedge” weapons in the modern divide et impera. The wedging principle used by influential institutions forms two distinct groups, neither willingly powerful enough to displace the other, but both benefiting from the absence of other choices that could undermine the two dominant factions. It has drawn distinct lines, defining one side and the other. More options would weaken the two ruling sides, because the third or other choices could shift some alliances of principle or interests. Oddly, and truly, the leaders of two sides have more in common with each other than they do with the rank and file members of their factions.

Wedging issues abound. Look near and far, and a thoughtful, critical, open-minded citizen can see it. Some of the more obvious ones: abortion, immigration, private firearms, socialism versus capitalism, liberalism or conservatism, force versus sanctions, war versus diplomacy, the struggle with Islam (and over Israel), and the many-sided problems of race, sex, religion, income, age, and health discrimination. These wedge issues exist not just in North America, but world-wide. It has become all too convenient for rulers everywhere to have such neat piles on each side. Why? Effectiveness and efficiency.

Maintaining diversions and sustaining wedges in the public—and avoiding deeper examinations of motives and consequences—creates a far too dangerous situation for a free society to survive with ease. Drawing lines pushes all but the rulers into an “Us or Them” mentality. Really, the issue should come down to “We!”: United, for freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom from fear, and freedom from want. With a “WE” identity, the rulers can rightfully become the “THEY” who oppress and steal our liberty of self and our choices!

Can a society self-govern itself, without a few who think they should make our choices for the mass majority? How well has self-government ever before worked? The people of the world and all nations have choices to make. The problems will not leave on their own account. Neither will the manipulations of leaders to stay in power for themselves change much unless something drastic happens. When it happens, if it does, indeed, it will come suddenly, brutally, and at great cost.

The present dilemma exists because people take too much of their own opinion too seriously, (like myself) and fail to understand that politics, governing, liberty, and the future of humankind do not have clean and neat answers. Democracy, that great last hope for the American republic to resolve its differences, allows citizens to reconcile and cooperate, to manage a peaceful resolution of conflict and change. Unfortunately, people forget or just resent the fact that other people get to vote, too. Voting, a choice made, preserves liberty, especially when the losing side has incentive to remain loyal in opposition. A winner who wants to take all will end up taking all liberty from everyone, except from themselves. Stay forewarned. And hold on to your power! WE need it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sub Terra Vita: Chronicle #55: My Valley, My County—Revisited

Sub Terra Vita: Chronicle #55: My Valley, My County—Revisited
By Tim Krenz
January 31, 2019
For NormalcyMag

“My valley, my country!” I exclaimed in the first of these chronicles in Sub Terra Vita, my “underground life.” What did I mean then by “my valley, my country?” Does my meaning remain valid? What does it mean to me now?

In writing these sketches and mini-memoirs, I talk throughout of those personal experiences and stories of life here, the living stage drama of the St. Croix Valley. In my spirit, the topics grounded themselves upon the influences of my family and its heritage, my friends, my surroundings, and the meandering that shaped my own life and formed the hidden histories that abound in this homeland—my valley, my country.

I feel, deeply, a duty to share, reflect and expound on them. I know some stories and they should say things that help others to understand the people and place we call home. With perhaps too much pride, I mentioned in the first chronicle of having a direct family lineage in the St. Croix Valley going back nearly one hundred and fifty years. My great-great grandfather homesteaded in the East Farmington area just south of Osceola. However, even as a fifth generation descendant to this land, I claim no propriety over the valley's story but only as it extends over my personal life—seeing it, hearing it, touching it, trying to understand it.

Many families, past and now, have put frustration, blood, tears, sweat and loved ones into this ground. These underground life chronicles try to honor those peoples. May they continue to do so, as we live toward the future today. Because of these reasons, “my valley, my country,” meant a spiritual kinship with the valley, one that only seeks to nurture all and not demean anyone or anything. For this, my statement remains valid. I care about my home, my homeland in Western Wisconsin , the valley of the St. Croix River.

Moving onward, what does “my valley, my country” mean to me now? Times change and time changes. Things have to evolve, and so does our perspective.

Along with the oldness of the St. Croix Valley, new people and their families have come. Whereas the passing of time regenerates the soil when nurtured and fed with the old things that expire, new people, new ideas, new ways, new forms can bring an invigorating and creative tension that allows a vibrant life to flourish. The values of the old things here complement with traditions and customs the new innovations and the growth of the modern world. Indeed, without the wise mix of the old added to the new, unstable relationships between people, and between them and the material, creates turmoil and destructive tendencies beneficial to no one. Without the creative, positive tension in the process of renewal, the valley would wither and die by staleness and depletion. After that, it would snuff itself and its value to the world by becoming the opposite of a home, just a place without character. As residents who need to care, we can not accept the wrong alternatives. It seems better to focus and work toward the positives.

I care about my home, my homeland, in this corner of the world. Because we all should care, we must contribute good, inclusive ideas and by our deeds preserve responsibly the things that make the valley of the St. Croix River more than just a place to rest and run. We need to keep and improve it as a home for us, now and for later. When I started writing the Sub Terra Vita Chronicles four years ago, I intended to explain the past formed by my memory. “My valley, my country,” meant that I recognize my debts to others who lived or passed this way. They gave me a vibrant, comfortable homeland in which to live. I still seek only to share my experiences, but in this chronicle I would like to see how my experiences going forward may take shape.

“My valley, my country,” remains my mantra for now. A mix of customs and traditions survive but the new and interesting developments should stay relevant. Times change. Physical developments change with them. If traditions pass, culture remains based upon and growing from them. A culture provides the bedrock of sanity and values, and stability, in the change of time and appearance. Like bedrock, like strong personal principles and character, culture grips to the land and water and how people use them. We grow from the experience.

In a land and water, indisputably one symbiotic whole anywhere, we have connections to past, present and future. Both land and water as one and the people and habits the other, all combine to improve if we have the willing effort to grow healthy. We must recognize these attributes—land, water, people, and culture—as one indivisible and undivided whole of the St. Croix Valley. We must recognize our common interest and the multiple denominators as the single, whole, indeed absolute ONE.

The St. Croix River may divide two states, Wisconsin and Minnesota. In spite of that, it impresses all people on both sides of the water with the strong physical reality, and with an almost spiritual bond of history, commerce, fun, and recollections. The course of the river flows like a spine, the nerves to the stem of our consciousness about both its presence and meaning. It has a pure beauty itself, even farther north upriver. Without realizing it, the river provides our reason for life here, even if we remain unconscious of that fact. It has immense kinetic power. The river, though, keeps its own sacred secrets, too. In it meanderings, ever changing its course and barriers by erosion and time's hard pounding science, the St. Croix River's life has its own reasons perhaps unknown to us. It can make comedy in our memory. It has, also, sadly too often brought tragedy as well. That defines its pure power in a non-human, almost mystical form.

Luckily, the national scenic riverway recognizes its sanctity and works volumes of near-magic in spells to keep it purer, cleaner, healthier, and usable beyond most other modern waterways. Without the river we would posses no valley from which to draw its life blood of good water. With the river, children and adults who grow up here had many rites of passage, from canoeing, camping, boating, fishing, swimming; from viewing the expanse from high rock cliffs; from sitting on sand bars exposed when the electricity generating dam in St. Croix Falls slows its discharge. The fun, if respecting the river's power, gives great hope. If not respected, as we tragically re-learn often, it can also take dreams away. These powers give the river the stories of our lives here.

As a kid in Osceola, Wisconsin, born at the old hospital on the top of the bluff overlooking the river, I have always had attachments to that water, and definitely to the land around it. My friends and I, even with my family, spent incalculable time on the St. Croix River. We swam, we paddled, we motored, we camped, we jumped (luckily, no one died—many others have), we explored, and we grew. On its edges of land above, on the islands in the coursing stream, on the backwaters, in the swamps, on its bridges, and in the water itself, we learned to respect it, for its massive effects and for its dangers. We saw its characteristics, its curiosities, and its scars made by human misuse. The St. Croix River, like the entire valley, has its nooks, corners, its concealments—everywhere. Wiser minds took precautions to help the river survive long ago. Today, we benefit from that.

By neutral intent, the river offers no malicious motive to humans or animals. As people who live here or who visit our land and water, we all get to enjoy it. Treat the waters and the land around it well, and the stories grow. Misuse them, hurt them, taunt it with acts of stupidity, carelessness, irresponsibility, or deliberate abuse, and the river will haunt us in the future.

In many ways, both good and bad, the St. Croix River treats its guest and the valley's children with the fate that timing, chance, purpose, or accident calls our odds. This fact holds true for lifetimes. It holds true each season. The river's character possesses qualities neither demon nor deity. It will continue to arbitrate the destiny of all of us in some way. Like any home, the valley around the river ties into those odds of fates. It stays true, never false. It will stay true as long as we treat life here true and never falsely.

The surrounding land in the St. Croix Valley feeds all the watersheds to the St. Croix River itself, so the water and land hold the present life and the future destiny of this homeland. “My valley, my country.” The common connectors of land, water, people, and culture, move forward. This forward movement needs to keep the St. Croix River as the key to the narrative we will write. We need the river to enjoy this place fully. Therefore, we should keep always in our mind and spirit this link of our past, the now, and the coming time. Keeping the story strong, we can keep this place a good home.

The river and the watersheds that feed it give a custom and tradition to carry forward. On the other hand, how many people actually know their home well? Regardless of other places we can visit and see, we all need and should want to know our home better. I challenge everyone, the old and the young, to explore and experience this place, this valley, this country. See it, live it, think of it, absorb it into the memory and the sense. Realize what this place means, and why we want it to grow better while still keeping the values of the old. All of the valley's nervous system; the creeks, the hills, the big ridge line, the old farms, the old ruins, the new buildings, the appropriate way to renew the community, all provide a body for our consciousness. All things here must connect.

Use the opportunity to know it wisely. Use it in peace, and share the story. Only in this way can we preserve the narrative of our times, enrich our lives, and learn that we all must consider ourselves neighbors who can get along together. The commons of the St. Croix River give us that life-saving opportunity, to unite around our wonder, and not divide over the irrelevancies.

Building the story with a common language of our culture here in my valley, my country, we can grow and transition to even better achievements. We will meet the future with the confidence of moral gain and not the fears and uncertainties of material addictions. We can only go about the future smartly if we know the facts and even the inspiring myths of ourselves as people of the vallley, and of our home as land and water. We can meet the future as ONE.

What does “my valley, my country,” mean to me now? It means living prosperously in every sense of the words. It means a shared understanding with my neighbors of what we have at stake. Yet, now it moves beyond me. To me, it truthfully becomes, “Our Valley, our Country!”

Low Adventures: Trekking the Superior Hiking Trail #9: Kennedy Creek and a Little Light in Overthinking the Weight

Low Adventures: Trekking the Superior Hiking Trail #9: Kennedy Creek and a Little Light in Overthinking the Weight

By Tim Krenz
February 8, 2019

In our numerous trips to the Superior Hiking Trail in northeast Minnesota, Craig and I made great adventures, but we also competed. While we walked the same distances, climbed the same hills, and usually did the walking one of us close behind the other, the competition between us centered around which one of us carried less weight in his backpack. I always lost that race to the lightest weight.

In our next trip to the trail near the shore of the giant Lake Superior, the stifling, steaming heat of that second weekend of July 2005 afforded us the opportunity to cut massive amounts of weight from both our bags. With daytime temperatures that weekend in the high ninety degrees (F) range, we would need no heavy sleeping bags, and no massive coats and sweaters. I thought I had learned the lesson of the appropriate clothing to carry on a much earlier trip. For a one night walk from south to north on a section of trail to Kennedy Creek, we would not even bring complicated camping gear like cook kits. All these factors had their advantages, for both of us, even if my quest to carry less than Craig turned out more discomfiting over the course of the one night.

The day before our trip, on a Friday afternoon at my house in Amery, Wisconsin, I had to move some things in a closet to access some of my gear for the trip. In a far too complicated sequence of events to explain here, I picked up a short but full, and heavy, filing cabinet. I heard a crack and I felt a rip pull me in my back. Well, I thought I put the trip the next day in jeopardy. Thankfully, by the time Craig arrived early Saturday morning from St. Paul, I woke up feeling better and able to go walk with a pack.

Before we left, and while my girlfriend, Looey, talked with Craig, I threw out the heavy shit in my bag, repacking it into a lighter, more nimble, “less-Tim-stuff-than-normal” amount of gear. On my scale, I weighed my pack and belt kit at exactly thirty-two pounds. I had not packed so lightly for a camping trip since Boy Scouts. Unfortunately, following our three hour drive to where we planned to catch the shuttle bus, I lifted Craig's pack. His backpack still weighed less than mine! Disappointed, as always, I fell back on that old justified rationalization: “I carry the shit we need, that you use, but won't carry!” HA!

Walking the trail from the shuttle stop to one of the Kennedy Creek campsites we hoped to secure for the night, we sweated in that horrid heat. I felt, and Craig looked, completely drenched in perspiration. At the top of a hill, with no trees growing on the hard rock surface to obstruct our view, we could clearly see the big-big lake a short way to our east. The sunshine hammered that rock so hard that it literally burned hot and stinging when I sat down to rest. On those types of days without breeze, I now learned, the steam rose from the lake's surface in a tall and solid, shroud-like, wall of water vapor—hanging there like a curtain in a sky-high theater stage. I then found another power of nature that I never knew existed. I wondered at the immense forces of the gods of the wind, when calm, if Apollo drew his chariot close above the world.

On that rock, as we drank fluids greedily, an older woman, perhaps early in her fifties, and wearing tan slacks and a white, short-sleeve blouse, walked up to our lookout and chatted with us. She had ridden a shuttle, too, and just enjoyed the walk along the Superior Hiking Trail on that icky stickly, hot July day. Craig and I had sweat rushing down our faces, and we tried to catch some shade under the small shrub trees that grew among the lichen-covered rock. This woman, to our amazed and incredulous disbelief, showed not a drop of salty sweat in her hair, on her face, or on her clothing. After she moved along, and while we sat there a spell more, Craig joked that she must have carried a solar shower and changes of clothing in her small day pack on her back in order to stay fresh and clean.

We arrived at our camp around 1 PM, following a short but draining 2.4 mile total hike in the heat. We found the site nice but heavily used. After sitting around for a good part of the afternoon, a nursing student from North Dakota State University, a guy named Matt, walked into the camp and asked to share the site. We agreed, but when some women walked in to ask the same thing. Before Craig and I saw them, Matt had eagerly told them we had no room and they left to the second, already occupied site up the trail. (Idiot!).

While Craig read one of his pulp fiction books, I read the front sections of several newspapers, before we would use them to build a campfire. Although hot as hell, we needed a fire. Not bringing a stove to cut our weight, a nice fire later in the evening would serve a double purpose for cooking and the age old entertainment when camping: setting the scene for campfire stories. Matt had no idea about what would come at him that night. Yet, that afternoon, I learned a couple of lessons while hungry and eating from a giant bag of plain M&M chocolate candies. First, it took little effort to eat a pound of them unconsciously. Second, in bitterly hot weather, M&M's can very well melt in your hands and not just in your mouth! I had the candy coloring all over my hands and I needed to wash my them with soap in the same stream where we drew our water.

When supper time arrived early that evening, for me more out of boredom than the pangs of hunger, Craig used the one piece of cook ware he did bring: A small quart-sized aluminum camp pot for making our coffee and for boiling water over the fire. We looked incredulously while Matt, the student, used his ten piece camp cook kit of stainless steel, copper-bottomed dishes to make a delicious looking pasta dish with white sauce. When Craig got the stream water boiling, he and I used it to re-hydrated noodles, veggies, and chicken parts in prepackaged styro-foam cups. Later, now really hungry since I ate all the candies, I chewed on venison jerky and dried fruit around the campfire as the night entered. Dark will come quickly in the thick forest when the sun starts to settle over the hills. We kept that fire small but nice, and I enjoyed it and more snacks. To my intense jealousy, Matt roasted a juicy cheddar-wurst sausage over the fire. It smelled and look fantastic. Oddly, he did not use a stick from the forest. From his overstuffed pack, he had removed and extended a heavy-looking, metal, telescopic weenie roaster. I could only envy his culinary choices after our very Spartan meal of noodles, fare fit for a helot.

Around the fire, Craig spent the rest of the evening chatting with Matt, but the student did not have much to say. Craig must have needed to release all of his pent up boredom having only me to talk with him on so many previous trips. Poor Matt got an earful for a few hours, most of it stories from Bill Bryson's book, A Walk in the Woods, about Bryson's experiences on the Appalachian Trail with a guy named Steven Katz. Craig loved that book, and it provided him with a large part of the inspiration for staring this Superior Hiking Trail. I liked the book, too, though I heard the stories told, retold, and re-retold many times. In Craig's and mine's experience and our shared antics on the trails, we usually wondered which one of us represented Bryson, leaving the other poor one the personification of curmudgeon Katz. We still argue about that today, from time to time. I always defaulted to Craig fitting the description of Katz, as a tall, burly guy with a scruffy beard while camping

Tired, and surprisingly without back trouble until that evening, I turned into the Eureka two-man tent around 9:30 PM. I laughed to myself as I could just imagine poor Matt driven to tears by his boredom about a book he never read, explained to him by one of the consummate story tellers on the Superior Hiking Trail. I do not think Craig lacked for camp fire story telling skills. He always impressed me on that score. I do think Matt, however, just did not have it in him to listen, or laugh, or anything. I heard Craig's voice clearly but not a word from Matt as they sat around the dwindling campfire. After a while, Craig took to giving tips on carrying lighter weight packs and smarter, cheap gear.

Craig must have made it to the tent before midnight. I had barely slept. In my eagerness to remove weight from my pack, I brought only my self-inflating air mattress and two awfully thin sleeping bag liners. I did not realize how cold the forest at night would get once the sun's July hammer stopped heating the anvil of the earth. The dark, cold woods almost froze me that night. All night I slept miserably. At one point, in sleepless delirium, I rolled my back into something. I put my hand behind me to find out what I hit. To my shock and horrification, I realized I had my hand on Craig's ass! Quickly, I scooted my entire body over more to my own side by the tent door, as close as I could get and still stay in the tent. Morning came early, and tired and cold, I rolled out of bed to make a fire.

Craig and I packed up our gear that morning and drew two liters of water each into our bottles from the stream below our site. Craig then realized how freaking useless water pump filters get. They weigh a lot, everything gets contaminated anyway, and people do “things” in the same water from we drink. From that day, on Craig's useful suggestion, we never carried the pump again but instead would always treat the water with Puritabs. If necessary to get out particles, we could skim the water through our dirty socks. It would taste no different from the normal, filtered stream water itself.

In camp, getting ready to head to the truck, we watched in feigned shock when Matt packed his over-sized back pack. He even had extra things hanging on it. Craig supposed later that Matt must have carried 50 to 60 pounds of gear. I could easily see that point, considering the type of cook kit he carried. It reminded me of how much gear I carried when starting these camping and hiking trips three years prior. When ready, Matt went south and Craig and I headed north.

That Sunday afternoon, in the hotness and the breezeless air, Craig and I walked up what we titled Mount Motherfucker, a huge, hulking hill. To our relief, the trail eased up on switchbacks and not straight up the side. At the top, we found a look out view of the lake, now farther in the distance. Where in the thick of that hard wood forest the trees parted ways, we found a spot with a rest bench. After that tortuous climb, we almost brazenly prayed for a breeze. We got that almost-prayer answered—almost. While sitting, exhausted and drenched with sweat, the tree leaves rustled just slightly. It lasted a shorter time that it takes to write this sentence. We had a tantalized feel of cool, ever brief. Who says prayers will not get answered?

On the homeward stretch toward Craig's little green truck, we passed two guys coming south from where they camped at Sawmill Dome, a little round hill with a rock top. They had passed our campsite the day before, heading north. They had had no water since the previous night. Having almost drank all of ours, we shared and split with them the remains of the half liter Craig and I each had left in our supply. From their delirium and gratitude, we labeled them with the Trail name, “The Touched Ones.”

Of course, as it never fails, the trail took the path of most resistance about a mile form the road where we parked. It went up a high hill, skirting some low lying marsh that blocked the exit from the trail. Walking the edge of a cliff above the road, following the trail, I had to step over washed out parts that gulley-knifed off the ledge. One trip or stumble and the world would have hurt as gravity would have come up at me in a torrent.

The walk down the dirt road passed uneventfully. As always when finishing a section on the way to the car, I whistled the famous tune from The Bridge On the River Kwai—that colonel's march or something, otherwise known as “Comet—It makes you vomit. . .” We gratefully drank the extra water we stowed in the truck and it went down like hot tea. The truck cab itself felt like a furnace. On the way driving south toward Two Harbors, MN, Craig and I stopped at a coffee shop along the highway. We both ordered smoothies, which promptly melted before we got back to the car. Instead of ice cold drinks, we drank lukewarm, raspberry milk. The drink nonetheless refreshed us, with sugar at least, as the steam continued to vapor upward and high from the huge lake behind the little coffee shop building. The trip done, we drove back three hours to drop me off at my home, a drive without many words but with satisfaction of having done yet another low adventure on the Superior Hiking Trail.

Critique of Politics #7: The Personal Narrative and A New Participation in Civil Political Society

Critique of Politics #7: The Personal Narrative and A New Participation in Civil Political Society
By Tim Krenz
June 5, 2019
For Hometown Gazette

Do you have power? Do you have REAL political power? Absolutely, yes you do.

Social norms can mistake the act of voting as the last obligation and last resort for an average individual to express opinion and preferences in political affairs. Outside of the professional or volunteer in the aptly named political industry, we little understand the vast, latent, and unexplored potential of the average citizen's impact beyond voting. Individual votes, sought by a candidate and their supporting lobbies and committees, do eventually add up to the entire turn out of voters, and one side wins and everyone else loses.

Voting itself gets lost in the collective, where a sole and single person may think their vote means either less by not following the conventional viewpoint; or that the single vote means more by voting with everyone else. In the end, for many who vote, voting ends as the passive-aggressive frustration of casting a ballot to choose between the same evils—the evils we have always had when people abdicate their participation except on election day. We can no longer allow such passive practices by the majority of the population, not just those who decline to vote. Neither can we continue the elite domination of the system by the fewer and the wealthier. Look where the two-party system has taken the country, and the world. The result of the damage to government and policy by only passively participating every year, two years, four years or six, has increased. The house divides, more. It will not stand. It must change, or we will suffer the consequences.

Instead of arbitrary choices of evil and evil, we can change the norm. How do we make the change? We first must change the minds of more people, the ones heretofore not participating in solutions and the ones propping up the political institutions which cause the problem in the first place. Then, we must unleash the sleeping social power of everyone to effect the political and social changes. We have no other course to saving the government of the American people or the world at large. Again, to repeat and repeat and repeat, things must change, or we WILL suffer the consequences.

How can we change minds, to recognize our personal power over politics—beyond merely voting? It starts with the most important act of regaining control of our own personal narratives, in our lives, our civil society, and about our political-economy. Too often, we as a society, our huge collective mass, falls prey to the sound bytes, ideas, policies, advertising, public relations, “spin,” and all the other propaganda which accompanies the noise in our daily lives. For whether one thinks of political advertising and media campaigns, or commercial and business advertising, or anything designed to instill an idea or persuade someone to vote or buy in a certain way, it amounts to nothing more than organized and targeted manipulation—i.e. some type of propaganda.

Furthermore, modern society has fallen prey to the phenomena of social media, a new primary source of news, opinion-sharing, and personal interaction. We need to call it by a proper name of “anti-social media,” and nothing more than a collectivist attempt to manipulate the opinions and preferences of disconnected people separated from physical contact to each other. Social media as tools has good uses. When used to influence people's choices, it has done damage to civil society. We can only deny its impact on the politics of division and personal isolation to our long-term peril.

Things brings us back to regaining control of our personal narratives, and critically, control over our stories, beliefs, values, morals, principles, and the ethics by which we can live in good conscience. In the age of political systems defined by an increasing conformity to the popular line, a personal narrative can better filter the lies of leaders and followers. A political system—possibly now or shortly in the future—based on corruption, coercion, violent enforcement, and conflict to divide and rule people can only survive by propagating the lies that create collective conformity.

What lies? We can find some glaring ones, for example: that countries need to wage aggressive wars of prevention; that children and other innocent people killed and wounded in conflict only count as “collateral damage,” and not human victims of a moral crime; that we have no responsibility to help and/or feed the hungry poor of the world; that having extravagant amounts of more money, more property, more toys leads us toward happy spiritual fulfillment, and that we should emulate the rich by stealing our own self-respect to become one of them; that capitalism and socialism differ in that both do not eventually create and operate a systemic state welfare for the elite and wealthy; that the country have only two viable options in politics, the left and the right, instead of the correct, ethical and moral side; that individuals cannot make a difference where they live for a better neighborhood or a better earth. These lies have germinated into the national dialog and we have reached the point of their almost permanent deception.

As for the personal narrative, how does one begin? Think of yourself. Have any readers ever written—actually put pen to paper—a statement of personal ethics and principles by which they can live a good, honest and conscientious life? I challenge readers to start with that. State those things that you can do that will help. State things by which you will always stand, in the moral imperative of doing and protecting right and opposing wrong. What will you endorse and support that meaningfully helps change the world in your mind and your neighborhood for the better? What wrongs must you ethically not support and even oppose with every asset and fiber of your conscience and body? Then go on to further refine these questions: “Who am I, really? Where am I in life? What do I do? When do I need to do more and make hard choices? How can I become a better neighbor, and in turn create a better world? Why must I help create a peaceful, positive change?”

Start the personal narrative with those. Stick to them as best as you can. Obey those laws that you must, especially the Natural Law that you must withdraw consent from the fraud and the lies the world and its leaders want to impose. Take seriously your responsibility to your family and your employment. Change begins at home. But if enough readers do this personal narrative only once, it can translate into some rather important accomplishments. However, unless we understand our own personal narratives, we would only remain part of the deceptions.

Use this personal narrative as your starting point and guide-post in all your personal actions and efforts with others. The action can extend to unlimited ways and means of creating some fairly powerful effects. For, in all seriousness, we live on earth for two reasons: To love our fellow humans and to help them if we can. (If we cannot do those, we should not make things worse). If we apply this narrative and guidelines, and our supreme purpose in life to politics, the world has some chance of surviving the lies and conflicts resulting from them. We would do so only to our great benefit. The change begins with us.

Critique of Politics #6: War and Peace in an Age of Liberty

Critique of Politics #6: War and Peace in an Age of Liberty
By Tim Krenz
For: Hometown Gazette
April 4, 2019

As many definitions exist for the terms “war” and “peace” as for the concept of liberty. In this follow up to the “Critique of Politics #5: War and Peace in the Epoch of Conflicts,” it seems proper to begin with a definition of our terms of reference.

In the first decades of the 19th Century, a brilliant Prussian political theorist, Carl von Clausewitz, a general who fought against Napoleon, declared in his book On War, that “war is a continuation of politics [or, elsewhere, “policy”] by other means.” In that unfinished book, he also described war as “an act of violence” that compels one enemy to abide by the will of the other one. Almost all modern political scientists and leaders use these definitions as a chapter and verse recitation in their writing and thinking on strategy and armed conflict. By contrast, in some lack of intrinsic value, and a poor imagination, these same type of commentators use a default definition of peace as only the absence of wars, or the intervals between them.

Restricted or outmoded definitions can block proper decision-making and/or, by implication, eliminate rationality from the policies used to achieve the goals of nation-states. Limited, or outdated, terms can lead to poor choices; those choices getting made between a narrower range of options. In situations where war and peace tense in balance one way or another, in the age of nuclear weapons (or other mass destructive technologies), a bad choice could lead to the extinction of civilization. History orders that a better strategy at anything, politics or business included, comes with a range of options wider and greater than the choices allowed an opponent.

With all the modern acceptance of Clausewitz's definitions, thinkers and leaders should remember that he died before he thoroughly edited and finished his monumental work, which he wanted to do in extensive revisions. As a result, On War itself has very little refinement throughout most of it, contains superlative ambiguities, and some disquieting contradictions. Even so, it rightly stands as a work of some brilliance on the philosophy and logic of politics, policy, strategy, and warfare. In the context of its modern analysis, the book applies mostly to the Pre-Nuclear Age, to his time of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Era. At that time, war had become the creature of the state, used for reasons of state, and benefiting or endangering the nation-states as they existed. In that horrible era of continuous upheaval and war, weapons consisted of gunpowder, steal, flesh (both men and animals), and intellect.

For the past century to our own time, two world conflicts and the frigid distrust of Cold War enmity had made war a “total” proposition, as foreseen by Clausewitz, when nation-states put absolutely ALL of their resources and efforts into fighting it. And much of what Clausewitz said of warfare in the early Industrial Age applies fundamentally to the doctrine and strategy of nuclear weapons. The logic of politics, the reasons of policy, his observations on human nature, and the philosophies on conflict—mostly remained relevant and will inform every generation of strategists and for the emerging and undiscovered technologies. Used twice in combat, in August 1945, nuclear weapons added a restraining horror to the use of war for reasons of nation-state policies. Social scientists added a new concept when they realized that using nuclear weapons would destroy both the aggressor and the responding party in what they termed Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.).

In deciding on war as a political tool to compel an opponent to submit, leaders since the invention of nuclear weapons keep wars small, limited, marginal in gains, but heavy in innocent victims who do not care about theory but suffer the reality of state-endorsed killing and destruction. On the other hand, since no one can win a modern, total war, nation-states use the ambiguities around “less than total war” as a way to increase their advantage over opponents, in ever more subtle and deceptive ways. In the realms of Cyber Warfare, bio-weapons, or Artificially Intelligent weapons, nation-states might fight wars and end them before the other side even knew it fought or lost key battles. In these cases, war as defined by the continuation of politics by others means holds increasing relevance. And still, as a definition of policy, goals, objectives, and even actors, this definition limits thinking. All of this, of course, will only benefit nation-states endanger common people. The victims of war do not care about definitions unless it lessens the sufferings and moral and human cost of conflict.

When the world has traditional nation-state wars, civil wars, and even the propaganda wars (against drugs, crime, poverty, terrorism, culture, climate change, etc., etc.)—all creatures of the nation-state—the new and updated definition of war becomes more necessary. From here, we can proceed. As emphasized in Critique #5, almost all human conflict (wars) come(s) from some wicked natures of human greed, fear, ambition, or jealousy. Period. How does the conflict interact? Whether battling for land, food, fuel, water, ideology, philosophies/religion, or pride—all described as “interests”—war happens when powers compete with each other for dominance. For only by dominance can one side serve itself and force the other to choose to continue or quit. These interested powers, from nation-states to gangs to networks to terrorist to freedom fighters, all face in the end the stark choice: annihilation in resistance or slavery by submission. And since governments of nation-states hold the monopoly on the use of violence and coercion, in essence the nation-state determines these choices and results.

In the age of weapons that would, could, and might wipe out human civilization as we know it, the concept of war, total war, or escalating conflict, or even accidents of the instinct (by fear, greed, ambition or jealousy), ALL needs to end. No one person has ever made this work, because, sadly, they relied on the nation-state to make it happen. The result of their efforts ended only with larger, more monopolized nation-states and their arbitrary use of violence and coercion. What can we do?

To lessen the incidence and results of war in the Nuclear Age, we must wither away and end the powers of the nation-state. If nation-states, and the wealthy who rule them for their own gain, benefit from conflict then we must not have them anymore. A tall order? Yes. Feasible? Absolutely. How?

First, we can keep our patriotism and our concept of countries intact. On the other hand, we must curtail the absolute power of the nation-state and its monopoly of money and violent coercion against the interest of its own citizens. Second, democracy and the power to rule and apply laws must devolve and decentralized to the common denominator where people live. Smaller political units, based on grounded consent and assent to shared interest at local areas allows civilization to function, without chaos, but without the harming effects of nation-state coercion and violence. Third, self-responsibility for the body politic and to take personal action to guarantee the peaceful actions of society (including contracts, safety-nets, etc.) must permeate the spirit of everyone: Only we can prevent conflict by our thought and actions for right and against wrongs. Fourth, a true free-market of ideas and commerce, without the coercion of the nation-state for the benefit of the super-wealthy, protect peace and common interests. It does so by the assertion and consent of those allowed to govern themselves where possible. It also governs the group's interest when such group decision-making becomes necessary.

With this process of withering the powers of the nation-state, war becomes less likely. Sadly, few people have the imagination or the courage to face the work of liberty. If so, we have little hope.