Sunday, February 15, 2009

Same old trip it was back then....

Warning: personal blog

So I've been M.I.A. for a while.

there have been a lot of factors in play. I moved from Albuquerque back to Amarillo. There are a lot of reasons for my decision, mainly that my living situation was not stable, as well as my mental/emotional state. I've been getting myself reestablished in Amarillo, and now I'm back in school full time and looking for a new job as I left my old one two weeks ago. I've been itching to get this website up and running again and I think now would be a good time.

There's lots of fodder for me to pick upon and lots of new ideas swirling about my head.

Keep watching this channel and don't touch that dial.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pello ex Deo

My father has always hammered into my head: get a degree, get money, continue onto life and avoid poverty. When I was younger it made perfect sense. But the older I get, the more it settles uneasily with me. College is my goal, that's true. But it's not so I can get more money or settle myself into a capitalist world. It's so I can have a foot in the doorway of change. A chance to change my community. Maybe college will be a colossal waste of money, maybe I'll end up working minimum wage for the rest of my life. But at least I'll have checked off one of my goals in life. But aside from that, here's my rant:

I'm starving, I'm poor, my living situation is up in the air, but I'm not even going to get into that. My problem right now is with how all of us are forced into debt. By who? The government? Not really. Corporations? Yes they do have a part in it, but they are not the fundamental cause. The ugly truth is that: we force each other and ourselves into debt. The more I think about; the more I read about; the more I hear about the middle class, the more I become solid in thinking this. The middle class and the upper lower class are so concerned with status quo that we put ourselves into poverty trying to keep up. It's nothing new that we are a nation of debt. It's nothing new that the world of consumerism puts constant pressures on us to buy newer and better things through the medium of advertising.

But the ultimate evil is the one that we commit on our own: vanity.

It's not enough to have a working TV. We now have to get a flatscreen TV. Why? Because an office mate or friend was bragging about "how wonderful the picture is and how it just can't possibly be beat." (By the way, HD and regular television on a TV with a decent projection really is not that different, it's all in the mind). It's not enough to have a decent working car, we have to have the luxury model, the newest, the biggest, the meanest, etc.

To be honest (and yes this is speaking from experience--I lived with a boyfriend before he flipped shit and joined the army), if a couple who works minimum wage split a decently sized apartment (one bedroom or studio) that went for a $500+ a month, carpooled to work with the acquisition of a no-frills car with good gas mileage, invested in finances/stock markets/CD folders/etc (if that fits with your lifestyle), kept a minimum on their credit (maybe for that car they just bought or utilities) and focused on the bare minimums of necessity and frivolous luxuries--think how much better off they would be.
Instead women constantly redecorate their apartments and houses. Re-tile their kitchens, paint walls, buy Ethan Allen couches, designer brand trim, nag their husbands to buy espresso machines and new drapes every six months. Men buy Xbox360s, Playstation 3s, expensive televisions and electronics, power tools, and other gadgets. Most of these purchases are made beyond their means and/or on credit. Consumerism is to blame of course, but think about it: who are these people trying to impress? There is consumerism to meet personal satisfaction, and there is consumerism that is committed to meet the status quo.

The lower class are ashamed of looking lower class, so they go beyond their means to appear middle class. The middle class struggle to look a step above the middle class they are, so they go beyond their comfort limits to appear so. And of course the upper class sits there on their thumbs enjoying their wealth and oblivious to the rest of the world below them. Imagine how much more comfortably the middle class could live if they did not strive to achieve a status quo, or demonstrate to other members of their community just how affluent they are. Instead of buying a newer and better car, they could save that money to go to Spain or some other country. If they refrained from completely relandscaping their already green yard, they wouldn't be so hard pressed to pay for a dermatologist for the youngest daughter. The middle class indulge in extravagances that press their means in order to define themselves in the eyes of others.

I've been guilty of status quo consumerism in the past, and it has been something I have become increasingly aware of. Every time I pick something up I now ask myself:
1) Do I need it?
2) Can I steal it instead?
3) Who am I benefiting by buying this product? (corporation-wise and socially speaking)

I've now posed myself a challenge: to practice what I preach I consider myself an anarchist, and now is the chance for me to prove it. My challenge is: live with the basic necessities, and indulge myself in everything that is free. I realize it's a broad statement when I say this. And that's a dangerous thing to make. But I've narrowed down what I want my challenge to be:
1) Books and movies- My goal is to get all my reading materials from the library. But I aim to buy them second hand if I must buy them. I suspect the internet will be a useful tool in this. In both terms of pirating and purchase. I'd much rather give an individual money for an item than a corporation. My wonderful friend Marie who's a photographer in Chicago wrote on her site that "punks do not recognize the difference between corporate capitalism and personal capitalism, and therefore do not contribute to the communal good by learning the difference."
2) Clothing- second hand. I've actually found that clothes at thrift stores fit me WAY better than having to struggle with department store brands. Also, I've gotten better at tailoring my shirts to fit me. Sub-rant: Why....WHY IS IT SO FUCKING HARD TO FIND A SHIRT THAT FITS?! I have a modest bust, wide ribcage, triangular waist but HUUGE hips/love handles (depending on the fluctuation of my weight), so I invariably wind up with a shirt that makes me look like a raging clown. No more, my sewing machine is now my right hand. End sub-rant.
3) Food- I've boycotted fast food restaurants for coming up seven years now. It won't be ending any time soon. I'm now extending my boycott to all national chains. I'm instead focusing on local chains, family owned businesses or just downright fresh food. The more money that stays in a communal pool the better.
P.S. Boycott Tyson meats for the love of god, please?
4) Volunteering- I've recently become super-active in volunteering and I love it. I can't see myself stopping any time soon. My goal is to split my 'work' hours 50-50 between a paying job and volunteer work.
5) Work- I quit my job at my medium-town market chain store. And while I could live with that job economically speaking because it was a medium town marketed store with reasonable prices, the politics made me sick. It's nowhere near the par of Walmart which is why I'm going to refrain from bashing it too much. But the turnover rate was ridiculous. Why? Because of the lack of employee benefits (as well as respect) and the lack of decent store managers. I'm determined to make my next job one that contributes to the community instead of sapping away money from it as well as one that actually treats the employees like human beings.
6) Transportation- Now that it's spring/summer, I'm going to take full advantage of the bike my father's amazingly sweet girlfriend (and no it's not sarcasm, I really do love the woman) gave me (oh middle class that buys expensive sports machines and then leaves them to rust in the back yard....I love you, your loss is my gain). I want to see just exactly how much gas I save. Especially since both towns I live in on a rotating basis are relatively bike friendly.
6) Human interaction- I've been guilty of being short-tempered and standoffish towards others for a variety of reasons, many which I don't wish to get into now. I now realize how much I'm missing out on by doing this. I've got so much humanity in my heart that it kills me, and I think it's my responsibility to extend it towards others.

That's my sporadic, isolated, disjointed rant of the day/night. Enjoy.

Le Femme

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Short Things

Good News from Me:

1. Walking to work or the coffee shop if it's a mile or less away makes a huge difference in your mood.

2. Volunteering on a regular basis has introduced me to some amazing women and role models. I'm so happy I'm doing this, even if it's a crazy whirlwind of it all.

3. Belly dancing can make ANY woman feel sexy. I gave a performance with the lovely Al-Ahzar ladies at the UNM Women's hospital and it was absolutely beyond exhilarating. So many of the patients came out to watch all of us dance, it was nice to see a smile on their faces.

4. Just a little over 9 weeks until I start school again!

5. Time for me to start getting ready for another weekend of Food Not Bommmmmmbs! Yeehaw.

6. You find new friends in the most unlikely places (superlove)

The Bad News:

I'm currently having an apoplexy over this article.

You know....really? Come on. A 34 year old man with a camera sticks it up (the camera...mind you...) a 16-year-old girl's skirt and a panel rules that it's a-ok? Excuse me I'm going to let yet another lolcat picture express my upcoming heart attack from reading this.

Read the article and see for yourself.

Le Femme

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Where are your Heroes now?

I'm not a believer in heroes. It's an involuntary, knee-jerk reaction to cringe whenever I hear or read about someone talking about their 'heroes' or 'idols'. It's in my opinion that by placing certain people up on pedestals and giving them a token of immortality we rather demolish their humanity, which is a dangerous crime in all of it's unintentional evil. What do I mean by using the word 'dangerous?' I say dangerous because in making idols and/or heroes out of others, we forget to bring out the best in ourselves because we cannot recognize it when our attention is focused on others. This defies the entire point of humanity and the state of being a humanist. There is absolutely nothing wrong with recognizing other's good deeds and giving awards and calling attention to it. What is dangerous and wrong is making that person seem perfect, a statue of virtue. The person who is a public hero or an idol is just as human as the homeless man on the street. And conversely, the homeless man on the street is just as much a potential (or unsung) hero as the person who the public decries.

A good society would look at every single person on the same level, no matter what class, race, or creed. This is an incredibly radical concept called 'smashing divisions.' Free-thinkers, hippies and tree huggers have been attempting to introduce this concept for the past couple of centuries but it just doesn't seem to be getting into anyone's heads, much less the American society.

Another dangerous thing to do when it comes to heroes and idols is that we as as a population of human beings seem to give them our responsibility as individuals. We hear about particular persons doing good deeds, and we leave it to them to do good. Good deeds have nothing to do with religion, party lines or ideals. They have to do with the responsibility every human being fundamentally has to reach out to others.

Think about it. You're having a rotten day, nothing has gone right. The dog ate your underwear, you locked your keys in your car, the kids are sick and your spouse is indifferent. You go into the supermarket to pick something up, and in the checkout lane you come up exactly three dollars short of the amount to pay. It's the final straw. Then the person behind you hands you three dollar bills. It's that little something that stays with you, that leaves an indelible mark, where a complete stranger showed you kindness in a moment of need. If that's what it takes to be a 'hero,' then why don't more people do it?

Where are you when the person in front of you is short of change? Where are you when you see the elderly woman struggling with her bags. Where are you when you hear about a homeless feeding or a soup kitchen volunteer opportunity? That's a good question, where are you? I know the answer to this question. You're waiting for another hero to come along and do it for you.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 in jail for battling against apartheid. He spent almost three decades because he wanted to give people of all colors equal opportunity. He is considered a hero/idol because he brought the radical idea that no matter your skin color: you are equal. No matter your gender, your nationality, your creed, your race: we are all equal. Ask yourself, do you honestly practice what Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for? Do you treat anyone and everyone as an equal with each interaction? I leave the answer to you.

Why are you waiting for others to take up the arms? Why are you waiting for others to do your good deeds? You read that an environmentalist in the newspaper has devised a better method to reduce America's waste consumption, yet you decline to put the newspaper you just read in the recycle bin.

You read about how Germans ignored the Nazi's horrific regime and systematic execution of the Jews. Yet you turn a deaf ear when you hear a racist joke. Or even worse, you contribute to the same prejudice that the Nazi perpetrated.

You hear about a volunteer opportunity to help with homeless children and you reason to yourself: "well I'm just too busy, I'm sure someone else will pick it up." You're wrong. It's your responsibility as a human, ethical human being to help.

You see someone drop their papers/change/books and you don't stop to help. In doing that, you contribute to a person's humiliation and helplessness. Does that sound ethical? Does that sound right? Or are you just waiting for a 'hero' to come along and help that person?

We all have the equal opportunity to be a hero. By looking past gender, skin color, or nationality, you are being a hero. By offering a helping hand to another in a time of their need. Or just a single friendly hand for no particular reason, you are defying every single boundary that society and human nature by default has placed on you. So many people talk about the decline of Western civilization, and we're all looking for a savior, a hero. What we fail to realize is that we are the heroes. We just simply have not yet picked up our capes and jumped off the ledge.

In writing this, I have come to a conclusion. The reason we have such select few people that we consider 'heroes' is because we are all too afraid, too self centered in our own miserable existence with no intention of improving it, to be on the same level as them. It is those few, select heroes (note I took the quotations out of that) that have the pure strength and bravery to do something tremendously good. And they have the same circulatory system, arms, legs and brain that every single one of us do. They are as human as any of us.

We are all equal.

Where are you?

"Kill your idols become your own."

Sunday, March 2, 2008

An Ode to Texas

One of the bloggers that I subscribe to, HackLawyer, put up a post on February 29th that I believe hits home for everyone. And since I have critical issues with the judicial system overall, this infuriates me. Here is a quote from the post, and if you click on the quote itself, you'll be taken to the post in its entirety. The title of his post is 'One in 100 U.S. Adults are in jail,' this should say it all.
The nationwise prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing the grand total to 1.6 million behind bars. Another 723,000 are in local jails. The number of adult Americans is about 230,000,000, meaning that for the first time in history, one in every 99.1 adults is in prison.
And guess who's the leading state in incarcerations? Texas. My home state. Unbelievable.
Texas' school system is in underfunded and in shambles. The high school I attended and graduated from in 2006 went from being one of the best schools in the district to being classified as the worst school in two short years. Drop out rates are rising all across Texas, nothing relevant is being taught in the schools; I can't even remember being taught about Desert Storm in my American History class (because it was a government sanctioned massacre, no matter how you paint it, eh?)

Rapes, murder and violent crimes are on the rise in metropolitan areas, especially in my hometown: Amarillo. The economy is taking a swan dive akin to the one Rush Limbaugh takes every time he opens his mouth (and sweet Jesus in a handbasket of gardenias I hate Chris Matthews), the judicial system is clogged to high heaven. The police force is too busy stopping every vehicle for minor infractions to feed money into their county systems instead of actually providing public safety in the terms of catching rapists, murderers and violent criminals. And what's the solution to all these problems? Throw more people in jail. Yes, convicted criminals that the state of Texas' taxpayers feed, clothe and build more jails for.

To quote the report: in 2005, it cost $23,876 to house an inmate. $23,876?!?!?!! This is more than I make in a year. For the most part I am a law abiding citizen (meaning I follow a set of ethics that the state laws seem fit not to prosecute me for), I work 35 hours a week if I'm lucky and I'm about to try to put myself through college on a $12,000/year salary. That's a pretty steep price for punishment. Most people would say "then don't spend that much, cut back on their provisions." The problem with this is, no matter the criminal, they are still human beings--as violently as some may disagree. They deserve all rights of a human being: food, water, clothing and shelter. The fact that $23,876 on average is spent on an inmate a year is not quite the issue, it's the number of inmates that this money is spent on. It's common knowledge that most convicts in a prison are in for a nonviolent crime. This is $23,876 spent on a person who is not a physical menace to society. This is why people should be outraged. We basically pay $23,876 for a person convicted of insurance fraud. This alone should infuriate anyone who pays their taxes.

And not to mention that the prison system is inherently racist. There are higher imprisonment rates for blacks and Hispanic males as a whole. Read the article yourself for further facts. This common knowledge and common sense, but the bare bones facts, printed on paper in a federal report are revolting. The report shows as a whole how exploitative the judicial system has become, both financially and socially. It's a parasite, funneling money from taxpayers to support a burgeoning prison population, and it's a population in which at least 1/3 of the inmates are not violent and should in all actually not be in prison.

United States citizens as a population are fueling this problem. Why? Because they do not recognize this problem in its entirety. Prison has become a cultural norm. Why? Because everyone knows someone who is or has been in prison, or they have been in prison themselves. So they accept the fact that people are given lengthy jail terms for the most minor drug infractions (concerning marijuana, hash, etc.), credit card as well as other types of fraud, and other non-violent crimes. And in stark contrast, rapists are given probation. A man who physically and sexually assaults a woman can be set free back into society under the terms of a probation while the victim looks over her shoulder for the rest of her life. For ever rapist that is given probation, three third strike offenders for marijuana are given life sentences. Yet the average person does not address this issue. Or they protest, but shell out their tax money and keep their mouths shut when their opinion is called for in the legislative system. There is something vastly wrong with this situation.

For this, I call for civil disobedience.

Yes, it's a funny picture, but it's a serious situation. I recognized the situation of prison system overpopulation but now it's crucial that Americans do something. I have problems with the concept of prison and how it's supposed to keep society safe. But for the sake of the argument, I will concede to violent criminals being committed to the prison system. But that's the Anarchist in me, and like I said: the concepts of Anarchy are for the future. I do not believe drug offenders should be incarcerated, nor should any offender of a non-violent nature. We live in a democracy now, and we as citizens have the ability to change our system as a collective- and believe it or not that is a very Anarchistic concept.

I do plan on becoming active in movements to reduce the number of non-violent criminals put in the prison system. And I am toying with the idea of Civil Disobedience as demonstrated by Henry David Thoreau. If I'm paying taxes to Uncle Sam against my will, I sure as hell am not going to pay for someone who committed insurance fraud to sit in jail while a rapist is free on probation. There are many things wrong with today's world. But this is something that United States citizens can fix, if they can just put their voices out where the judicial, legislative and executive branches can hear them. With the sad state of today's economy, school systems and society as a whole, the last thing we should be doing is unjustly contributing to the social carnage that prison causes.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Oy gevalt

So now that the weather here in Albuquerque is beautiful again. I've started walking as much as I can these days. I never understood why people actually flat out refuse to walk anywhere that is less than a mile away from them. Just think about how many fewer obese people America would have if everybody decided to walk the half mile to the convenience store or (in my case) work. Today was one of the first days in about four months give or take where I could walk comfortably to the coffee shop. I had forgotten how much walking forces you to look around you and soak up your surroundings. It also gives me a good excuse to opt out of the daily jog that I usually force myself to do (yes I hate intentional exercise I'm not afraid to admit it, shut up).

Plus since $4/gallon gas is coming our way, I'd like to save as much gas as humanly possible.

Moment of reflection and observation over.

Yesterday I came home to my apartment and there was a packet on the clip outside (you know that thing that apartments (especially gated ones) do: the monthly newsletters and announcements). I didn't really pay attention to them, I was just thankful that it wasn't yet another notice to pay my water bill. But this morning I woke up and went into my living room to watch a movie in order to make myself wake up since I gave up caffeine (Darjeeling Limited is a great film by the way, very quirky and somewhat pretentious, but thoroughly enjoyable), and while clearing off my futon I found one of the pieces of paper that was part of the packet that made my jaw drop and go "OH MY GOD."

Background story: a lot of people in my apartment have small dogs. There's a strict rule about picking dog poopy. Most of the tenants do, but of course there's always the dipshits that don't and therefore ruin many a person's lawn walking adventure.

Anyway, the piece of paper that I'm talking about said:
"Tattle-tails! If you see a violator of our strict pick-up pet policy, please report it to us." Followed by little blanks for the violator's name, a description of the pet and the location where the offense took place.

1984 anybody? Jesus Christ in a handbasket of gardenias. I want to smack myself and the people who drew this ridiculous thing up. I wish I had a scanner so I could show this truly unbelievable piece of paper.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Day I Became an Anarchist

I used to think Anarchy was idle dreams, a lazy thinker's paradise. For the past six months I've been good friends with two men. Every weekend we get together and drink a few 40 ozs of Mickeys and drunkenly launch into intellectual discussions.

Most of these discussion inevitably veered towards today's society, government and the social infrastructure. In nearly all of these discussions my two friends have argued till they were blue in the face the benefits of Anarchy in place of the government we have today. And in all their efforts I stonewalled them and offered solutions for change in terms of today's government. I'm not going to lie, I am in love with the idea of the democracy the founding fathers gave us. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that today's democracy is not even a shadow of what our forefathers gave us.

For the past three years I have been pursuing the hope of fixing our failing democracy. I have tried to put my whole heart in the support of a democratic, restructured government. I have tried to 'rock the vote.' But every time a candidate comes on the television, all I can think of is how sick and tired I am. Sick and tired of what? Sick and tired of watching people I don't know run my country, my state, put laws on my body. And I am given a choice as to what to 'settle' for in terms of what kind of laws I want. And right now I am living in the ultimate fear that if anyone but Obama and Hillary get elected, I will lose every single right to my body. That is a godawful fear, and it angers me that my own government makes me feel this fear. I have spoken about my ideals and my beliefs in terms of the direction of government and society to a few individuals, and those individuals have said: "you are an Anarchist."

But still I hung on to the hope of a good, fully cooperative government in the future, and I fought to achieve it. But then it happened. I had my thunderbolt.

It happened on a trip through Texas. I got stopped in Kauffman county outside of Dallas, Texas. I was going the same speed as the other cars around me, but I was the one who got stopped. Was I driving over the speed limit? Yes. Was I driving recklessly? No. Four years of driving without a collision with another moving car shows I know how to handle a vehicle. As I was sitting there while the state trooper was writing my ticket, I sat there thinking about how fucked I was. I work a retail job at $7.15 an hour, I pay over half my income to rent, the other half to my bills. How was I supposed to pay a huge ticket? Then it hit me: this ticket is a product of the system of today.
That state trooper did not stop me because I was a risk to other drivers in terms of my speeding. He stopped me to meet the quota. He stopped me to hand me a ticket that I couldn't afford to pull more money out of me to feed the government. I was not given the trust that I deserve from my government to travel freely, in my eyes, the government has extorted money from me. I asked the state trooper how to handle this ticket in terms of court appearances since I lived in a different state. He had no answers.
What is this? I knew that if I voiced my dissent and displeasure, he would most likely ask me to step out of the car and search my vehicle (which was packed with clothes and my personal belongings). So I had to sit there and take it. That's what hundreds of people do every day in situations like these: they sit there and take it. Like a communal, government sanctioned financial rape. The people are supposed to have trust in our government, namely our police officials. This is akin to asking a victim to trust her assailant. Unless the Stockholm syndrome is rampant, this is depravity--pure and simple. Who can honestly sit here and say "I trust my police squad and my government and my city system. I trust them to treat me fairly and consider my situations."
My previous resistance to Anarchy was due to the fact that I did not believe it would fix the problems with today's world. But while sitting there in my car waiting for my ticket, I came to realize that it isn't supposed to be a solution for today's world. But tomorrow's world. I was thinking in the wrong terms. I am an anarchist because I believe in communal trust. I am an anarchist because I believe the police officer should have stopped me if I was a danger to others. But I also believe that society should raise their proteges so that they are NOT a danger to others. I believe in communities, trust, and communication. Do I believe that Anarchy is possible in today's world? No. The next generation? No. But through the generations, and how we build up our future with our children, it could be possible. And at least the collective out there can focus on providing an alternate view for others who are sick of the system. It took me this long to realize the true nature of my beliefs, and I still have a lot to learn. But it's a breath of fresh air to finally see clearly just what I believe and why I believe it. And it is something for which I shall fervently strive.

Thank you Chris, David and Brian for making me see the face of my dreams that I ignored for so long.

--Le Femme