Thursday, May 29, 2014

INDEPENDENCE, SELF-RELIANCE AND COMPETENCE (Part I)

--Leslie Fish  <;)))><


When the Revolution began, Americans already had roughly two centuries' experience with independence under their belts.

As settlers – voluntary or not – they'd been cast on their own resources, in an alien land, with no survival guides but the natives – and all too often they'd made enemies of the natives by trying to steal their land rather than, like Peter Minuit and Roger Williams, having the decency to buy it.  The earliest settlements, like Jamestown and Roanoke, were disastrous failures.  An embarrassingly large percentage of the Pilgrims, and other settlers, died in their first year. 

The survivors were practical, self-reliant, and competent in the extreme.  They'd learned to hunt, trap, and fish, and they'd learned which of the native plants were edible, or even medicinal, all from at least observing the natives.  They knew how to clear land and make good use of the resulting timber and stone.  They could build houses and barns, shops and ships.  They knew how to make pottery, tan and sew leather, mine and work the local metals, make their own clothing from the original fiber to the finished garment, and farm well enough to feed themselves and produce an excess to sell to their neighbors -- or local or even overseas merchants.  A lot of them were also literate.  To Americans of the 18th century, it was perfectly reasonable to strike out into the howling wilderness – in some cases, with nothing but an axe and a tinderbox – choose some amenable land and settle it, and within five years or less have a tidy house and prosperous farm or other business.

In brief, the average community – or even family, or even individual – contained in themselves all the knowledge they needed to survive and succeed.  That competence at self-reliance gave them their real independence.  Breaking away from British rule was only the last step.

That combination of personal competence, self-reliance and independence also caused a peculiarly American attitude toward work, which foreign travelers remarked on – an assumption that work itself contained a rewarding virtue, what was sometimes called The Dignity of Labor.  This was later to make America the richest and most productive nation in the world.  It was rooted in the assumption that personal competence and self-reliance, and working primarily for oneself, would reliably lead to personal success.  This was the basis of the great American dream: that anyone who was competent and worked hard could 'better' himself, start and improve his own business, and thereby end well-off if not rich, no matter how poor he started. 

Competence was the key – that and plenty of available land, physical resources to work on.  Americans had that, and built on it, for another two centuries after the Revolution – almost.

Remember that freedom has always had enemies, both foreign and domestic, and sometimes an unholy alliance of the two.  Well before the Revolution there were wealthy – often aristocrat – settlers who augmented their own competence with massive involuntary labor, first from indentured servants, then from outright chattel slaves;  these had a vested interest in keeping others from becoming competent, or self-reliant, let alone independent.  The old guild system of skilled-trade training had begun to break down;  trade-masters who had grown rich off the underpaid labor of apprentices didn't want to graduate said apprentices into full independent journeyman status, and therefore kept them from learning full competence so as to keep them as permanent 'servants'.  Of course, anyone rich enough to afford servants, for housework or farming or factory work, didn't want to lose them, either. 

The lust for cheap labor is an old, old sin, but it was in America that the relationship of competence and independence become clear.  Ancient and medieval empires certainly institutionalized slavery and serfdom, but they didn't discourage slaves and serfs from gaining skills, knowledge, competence, that would improve their efficiency and value.  Only in the American southern slave-states (admittedly, not all of them) were slaves forbidden by law to be educated.  It's also why, after the Civil War, a lot of previous Abolitionists made a point of creating schools for former slaves.  Americans had figured out the connection between education, competence, self-reliance and independence. 

Ever since then, a secret war has been waged between those who want to strengthen that path to independence and those who want to weaken it. 

Consider: after the Civil War thousands of new ex-slaves went north to the burgeoning industrial cities, where the American Industrial Revolution was taking off, seeking work.  It was quite legal then to pay Blacks lower wages than Whites for the same work, bar them from better jobs, segregate them in poorer neighborhoods and schools.  And of course it was illegal to organize labor unions.  This was a perfect situation for the unrestricted bosses to exploit the newly-freed Blacks. 

So why didn't they do it?  Why did they send agents to southern and eastern Europe to recruit the poor there to "come to America, where the streets are paved with gold"?  That campaign set off the great immigration waves of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which doubled America's population, but it would have been far cheaper to send recruiters into the Black areas of the south, or to Mexico.  Why didn't the bosses recruit there?

It comes back to knowledge and competence.  Unions were not unknown in America;  carpenters, cordwainers, printers and furniture-makers maintained the old Guild system, and had gone on strike for better working conditions as early as 1794.  The growing steam-and-water-powered factory system encouraged the growth of local unions and federations thereof.  The Knights of Labor was founded in 1869, the American Federation of Labor in 1886, and the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905.  Blacks (who were often cut out of skilled-trade unions, being mostly unskilled labor themselves) were aware of this, as were Mexicans who often crossed the border to work in America – even if they would usually take their money and go back to Mexico to spend it.  That knowledge the bosses found dangerous.  What's more, Blacks and most of the itinerant Mexicans spoke English, enough to understand the message of union organizers.  Peasants from eastern and southern Europe, the bosses assumed, would never have heard of labor unions, and in any case all spoke different languages and thus couldn't organize or otherwise plot with each other.

Well, that assumption backfired.  Those immigrants were no fools, and often not ignorant either. They were certainly aware of the power of Guilds (where do you think those had originated?), and knew about the progress of the new labor movement.  They also worked hard to learn English, learn American law and history, and become citizens as fast as they could.  This gave them the vote, as well as access to various – corrupt or not – political machines.  They grabbed the American Dream with both hands, and began the long course of class-climbing. 

So much for that tactic.  What, then, could the wealthy, powerful, and tyrannical do to suppress that troublesome independence?

(Tune in next week for the next exciting -- and outrageous -- installment.) 

            

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Lady of the Unicorns




Sad news, sad news.  On May 13th Morning Glory Zell died, losing a final battle with cancer.  With her passes an era in the history of Paganism in America. 

I saw her last at Pantheacon two years ago, where she and Otter-Ravenheart graciously sold my albums from their table.  I wish I'd had more time to talk to her then.

I met her first in Berkeley, more than 25 years ago, when I was singing for a Church of All Worlds celebration.  Coincidentally, that was when I first met my husband, Rasty-Bob Ralston, who was handling the sound system.  Again, I wish I'd spent more time talking to her then.

The longest time I spent talking to her was during the winter that I went up to the tree-planting ceremony at Forever Forests.  Rasty was filming the event, and I got to carry the battery-pack. 

That was also when I got to meet the two resident unicorns, Bedevere and Percival.  Bedevere was a very large wooly white goat, as big as a mule deer, with a cream-colored horn as long as my arm.  Percival was likewise big, with a short golden coat, black-and-white markings on his face that made me wonder if he wasn't really some breed of large antelope, and a black horn that crooked into a hook at the end.  I was understandably impressed, and later wrote a song about the visit. 

After sundown I sat at the fire with Rasty and Otter and Morning Glory, and finally had time to talk to her at length.  I asked her about the unicorns, and she told me an interesting tale about Percival.

The 'unicorning' process involves taking the kid within an hour of its birth, pushing the horn-buds (which aren't yet attached to the skull) together under the scalp, cutting the scalp open to expose the buds, cutting their facing sides flat and stitching them together with dissolving suture, then cleaning and stitching up the scalp.  The joined horn-buds grow together into a single horn, located right over the pineal body.  The weight of the growing horn, instead of pressing down on the temporal lobes, instead presses on the pineal body;  this not only leaves the temporal lobes free to expand but stimulates the pineal body, causing some interesting effects.  The animal's intelligence increases – and the goat is a smart animal to begin with – and so does the creature's size.  For some reason, it also develops an arched neck, like a horse, more than the camel-like neck more common to goats.  Also, having a manipulable tool where both eyes can focus on it, encourages the unicorn's intelligence.  The result is a large and very clever animal that doesn't look exactly like a goat.

The only problem is that you can't predict exactly how the joined horn is going to grow.  In Percival's case, the buds somehow turned to one side so that his horn grew straight for the first two feet, but hooked to the right at the tip. 

Undaunted, Percival learned to use this natural billhook as a formidable weapon – and tool.  Because he wasn't pretty enough to be a show unicorn, he had to take up practical work.  The Zells already had a chief stud-goat for their own flock, so they loaned him out to some neighbors who also raised goats but had been plagued by coyotes and feral dogs.  Percival took up the job with a will, quickly made himself king of the flock, and chased off the dogs and coyotes.  The couple who had borrowed him proudly showed Morning Glory pictures of a dead coyote that had been killed by a side-swiping blow from Percival's billhook horn.  He also happily impregnated all the does, who produced handsome kids and respectable amounts of milk.

But then Percival grew ambitious.  He used his billhook to pull down a fence, and led his flock to freedom in the forest at the top of the mountain.  There they couldn't be milked, and they happily ate the tree-seedlings that the Zells had planted in previous years.  Worse, Percival hooked down fences into neighbors orchards, where his flock gobbled up the fruit.  Worst of all, he took to raiding other neighbors' goat-farms and stealing away the does to add to his own flock, usually leaving the bucks who challenged him in bad shape. 

Now this was too much;  Percival had made himself a serious menace to the other farmers, and they had to stop him.  They organized a hunting-party, but took care to warn Otter and Morning Glory first, in the hopes that they could rein him in.

So Morning Glory took a short lasso, a saddlebag full of apples, and her most nimble-footed horse, and rode up the mountain to where Percival had last been seen.  Sure enough, in a lush mountain meadow, there she found the expanded flock and Percival in the midst of them, nibbling meadow-grass.  She got off her horse and left him ground-tied, took an apple in one hand and the lasso in the other, and walked out into the meadow.  Percival raised his head as she came near, and gave her a suspicious look, as if he knew why she'd come.

Morning Glory looped the lasso around her arm, held out the apple and talked to Percival, projecting psychically as hard as she could.  "Percival, this is it," she told him.  "The legend has come to life. You are the unicorn, I am your lady, and the hunters are coming to kill you.  If you want to live, you must come with me."

And Percival understood.  He stood quietly and let her walk up to him, then lowered his head to take the apple, and let her slide the rope up over his horn, over his head and around his neck.  Then he let her lead him back to her horse (where she petted him and fed him another apple), waited while she mounted, and then followed tamely as she rode back to the Zells' farm.  Fortunately, the rest of the goats followed too.  She brought them all into the pasture, handed out the rest of the apples, and closed the gate. 

Of course Morning Glory brought them a fresh bale of hay before she went in the house to phone the neighbors and call off the hunt.  Of course the Zells had reinforced the fence since Percival took off, but he could have pulled down the new one if he'd really wanted to.  He had the sense not to want to.  He stayed in that pasture, placidly munching grass and hay, while the neighbors came to sort out the goats and take theirs home.  The neighbors – fellow hippies, eco-freaks and Pagans – attributed the peaceful outcome to Morning Glory's magickal communion with Percival, but Morning Glory herself modestly insisted that Percival had the intelligence – and the psychic ability – to understand her and choose the wise course.

I never doubted her story at all.

A true Witch and a great lady has passed from our world.   


--Leslie <;)))><   )O(

Monday, May 5, 2014

Follow-Up on the Cliven Bundy Caper



Granted that Cliven Bundy is an ignorant old fool.  Ignorant: nobody has used the term "Negro" in nearly 50 years, and nobody has picked cotton by hand in the US in more that 20 years.  Fool: he should have seen the writing on the wall 20 years ago, and sold out like all the other ranchers in Clark County, Nevada.

It just so happens that my husband Rasty knows an ex-rancher in Clark County, right down near the Utah border, near Bundy's land.  This old buddy, who shall remain nameless, saw what was happening in Clark County a good long time ago -- and took much smarter steps.  He made a deal with the local Paiute Indians, got a grant from the US government, and turned a big chunk of his land into a "resort" -- complete with casino, run by the Paiutes.  From the rents thereof, he made enough money to afford full-time irrigation (a serious consideration, out here in the Great Southwestern Desert) so he could turn the rest of his land to farming.  He now farms (you guessed it!) melons, just like Cliven Bundy.  The melon really is a desert plant, but it needs a certain amount of water.  This clever ex-rancher found a way to pay for the water to raise the melons, so as to keep him on his family's land.

Bundy is an old fool who tried to keep on raising cattle, on land that the government wanted.  Yes, there's good evidence for that.  Consider:

( http://beforeitsnews.com/politics/2014/05/reid-bunkerville-llc-exposed-is-this-why-bundy-ranch-was-targeted-2618310.html)

By Susan Duclos

"(Before It’s News Exclusive) Public land records obtained by Before It’s News show a corporate entity partially owned by Senator Harry Reid is the owner of over 93 acres of undeveloped land within several miles of the Clliven Bundy ranch. Reid Bunkerville, LLC is listed as the current owner of four parcels of land on the west side of Bunkerville are within several miles of the Bundy ranch. This area appears to be slated for development in the future. 


While this will be explained, parcels numbers provided along with ownership proof, it is encouraged for everyone reading to go through the information, the documents provided, visit the links and come to their own conclusions, because this is just the data from public records. 


It tells a story of a man, Cliven Bundy, seemingly in the way of some lucrative business deals. 


Below are the parcel numbers of land which the Clark County Assessors Office lists as owned by Reid Bunkerville, LLC, who coincidentally updated their company records on April 17, 2014. The parcel map with ownership data will be shown for the three parcels Reid Bunkerville, LLC owns,  below the linked parcel numbers. 


REID BUNKERVILLE L L C DST-901 #002-26-301-002

REID BUNKERVILLE L L C DST-800 #002-26-301-004

REID BUNKERVILLE L L C DST-800 #002-26-301-005

REID BUNKERVILLE L L C DST-800 #002-26-701-001

 

While this will be explained, parcels numbers provided along with ownership proof, it is encouraged for everyone reading to go through the information, the documents provided, visit the links and come to their own conclusions, because this is just the data from public records.

 

To put some of this into context and to provide readers a starting point on why parcels and ownership listings are not only important but should be researched extensively, please note that three of those four parcel numbers above are listed as Bunkerville jurisdiction, where Mr. Cliven Bundy’s ranch is located. 


Parcels above and below are listed as owned by USA, jurisdiction listed as Mesquite, two examples of that shown below.


USA #002-26-202-001

USA #002-26-301-001

 

The last one listed above for Reid Bunkerville, LLC, (REID BUNKERVILLE L L C DST-800 #002-26-701-001) directly borders another parcel in Bunkerville, and shows the “owner” as Bureau of Land Management (BLM), not the USA as the examples above are.


REID BUNKERVILLE L L C DST-800 #002-26-701-001

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT #002-26-601-002

 

According to descriptions of the BLM, their job is to “administer” or “manage” public lands, yet they are listed as “owners” of the parcel directly connected to the Reid Bunkerville parcel."

     

There's more information at the website.  This is besides the attempted deal, which fell through, that Reid brokered with the Chinese solar-electric company.

 

It gets more interesting still.  Over the past few days a lot of Bundy's supporters, fearing a sneak attack on his ranch, took to patrolling the nearby roads to stop passing drivers and ask where they were going.  They didn't stop drivers from continuing on their way, but only asked who they were and where they headed.  The Nevada governor trumpeted loudly, with Harry Reid enthusiastically backing him up, that only police have the right to stop drivers on the road and ask them for ID, and that these "outsiders" (he stopped just short of calling them "outside agitators"!) -- who came mostly from other towns and neighboring counties -- were "intimidating" the local folk by wearing "guns!" openly on their belts (and of course nobody, including cowboys, wears guns on their belts in Nevada).  One telling comment he made was that the town of Bunkerville, just outside the Bundy ranch, has "only 1200 residents".  Hmmm.  Yet a week earlier Reid's supporters were claiming that Bundy's cows were actually a menace because they ranged "onto private property, onto the golf course".

 

Wait a minute.  A "golf course", in a town of "1200 residents"?  

 

A little more internet searching revealed that the town also includes a "resort", which has a golf course.  Oh, that explains it.  

 

It explains quite a bit, actually.  The BLM was supposed to "manage" the public lands "in trust" for the American people.  Instead, it's been "developing" the land for the use of, and for the benefit of, rich investors and politicians.  Very few ranchers -- or farmers, for that matter -- qualify in that category.  Here in the Great Southwestern Desert, ranchers need to rotate their herds on the public lands because they can't afford enough water (which costs a lot more than grazing rights) to plant their own land with pasture-grass that can feed their herds on their own lands.  This gives the BLM all the power it needs to force out farmers and ranchers so as sell or rent those public lands to the big rich -- unless those farmers and ranchers have the money or pull to "develop" their own lands and make the big money themselves.  

 

This has, in fact, been going on for many years.  I can tell you about how a rancher named Dobson was clever enough to turn his land into the town of Mesa, Arizona (where I used to live), for example.  Dumb old Cliven Bundy just wasn't smart enough to see which way the wind was blowing.  Maybe he should have consulted an investment broker instead of trying to keep on raising cattle.