Real-Life Horror: Oh, What “Fun” It Is To Kill Birds For No Reason

What this blog post is not: a statement/judgment against, or any sort of commentary on or about the subsistence hunts, practices, et al, of Native people throughout the world.

Onto what my post is about:

I am familiar with all the nuances of bird hunting; allegedly linked to conservation, and other pro-hunting arguments like that, which are used to support and defend even sport hunting.

Here’s a prior, FAQ-style statement from the Michigan Humane Society about the hunting of doves: http://support.michiganhumane.org/site/DocServer?docID=281

Like in the below linked statement from PETA, I don’t agree that allowing hunters to go out and shoot migratory birds and other targets of sport hunting, etc. is an effective way to manage a local ecosystem. https://www.peta.org/issues/wildlife/wildlife-factsheets/sport-hunting-cruel-unnecessary/

Admittedly, I played Nintendo’s “Duck Hunt” when I was a kid. It made me sad even if it wasn’t real and I didn’t play it much after the first couple of times. And never once could I imagine going out and shooting a duck in real life.

I always hear the argument that violent video games make people violent, but it’s seemingly unquestioned that putting a gun in a child’s hand and taking them out into nature to shoot at an actual living lifeform, and terming it as a fun (or necessary) activity, doesn’t cultivate the callousness needed to commit a violent act.

Personally, I do not understand how shooting beautiful, defenseless birds is classified as a “sporting” activity–essentially considered a fun, entertaining pastime, and one that is even encouraged among young people.

Though only a handful of states have banned migratory/dove hunting, and it’s largely allowed in United States, I am sharing information about the birds my new home state allows people to hunt: https://ksoutdoors.com/Hunting/When-to-Hunt/Migratory-Bird. (There’s other wild species on the website that the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT) allows people to hunt and fish.)

(You know, nobody thought the passenger pigeon would go extinct, because it was so “plentiful” as is the current argument I keep reading about doves, to excuse/support hunting of certain doves now!)

I’ve heard firsthand accounts about hunters and their behaviors, locally. (I’m keeping the source anonymous for their safety, and keeping my relation of their account general, for the same reason.) During hunting season here in Kansas, I’ve been told that hunters routinely and knowingly trespass on private property, leave behind a swath of destruction and a mess on private land that has to be cleaned up by the property owners in question, and these hunters have deliberately shot at people in their yards/at their homes. 

If things like this happened to me, I would be raising all kinds of holy hell until something was actually done about it. I would consider that an absolutely unallowable state of circumstances. If one gun is fired, on private property, at a person/a person’s home, then why is anyone allowed to be shooting guns off out there in the name of “hunting”? Putting my feelings about sport hunting aside, I don’t understand why the KDWPT are continuing to issue permits, with these kinds of reported-to-law-enforcement activities going on. Yes, I’m from an urban area, but maybe because of that, I consider gunshots flying around in close proximity to people to be unequivocally unacceptable. To put it mildly. 

Also, if hunters are really out there disregarding known property boundaries, and are, in fact, shooting at people and their homes, what other rules and regulations are they out there flouting?

It makes me wonder why the local law enforcement/powers that be are so eager and willing to trust people who are out shooting things on a regular basis, and to reward them with hunting licenses.

Do you really think these kinds of irresponsible hunters are following other regulations as established by the KDWPT? (My common sense conclusion would be telling me that they aren’t, even as a new transplant to this sort of rural environment!)

Things like obeying the regulation for non-toxic shot, for example?

More information on the regulation here: http://www.huntingwithnonlead.org/state_info.html and on the KDWPT website: https://ksoutdoors.com/Hunting/Hunting-Regulations/Migratory-Birds/Non-Toxic-Shot-Non-Toxic-Shot-Only-Areas

If you’re interested, here’s a full list of the statutes KDWPT is regulating by law:

https://ksoutdoors.com/Services/Law-Enforcement/Regulations

How many of these are these gun-toters actually obeying these regulations? What’s the statistics on that, I wonder?

And, around the world, the following linked article states that illegal hunting continues even in countries with strong laws against hunting birds through the Spring migration period, and with an EU ban as well.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/aug/26/conservationists-appalled-at-illegal-killing-of-25m-birds-a-year-in-the-mediterranean

https://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/the-tradition-of-bird-hunting-in-malta/

So it makes me wonder why hunting is allowed to continue, because these numbers point to a trend where hunters move through an environment where there are no repercussions for their actions, they can act with total immunity against wildlife and nature, and they grow more and more confident they they can do whatever they dang well feel like.

So, I argue that the more hunting is allowed, especially for sport and trophies, the more hunters feel like they can take advantage of the (laxity?) of it.

I believe that because they have guns, and plenty of them, they start to feel they are immune, and they have the freedom to do whatever they want to.

Illegally hunt animals. (Poaching, anyone? https://ksoutdoors.com/Services/Law-Enforcement/Operation-Game-Thief)

Conduct activities such as those that were related to me by way of firsthand local accounts.

And, gee, I don’t know, storm the United States Capitol building, for example?

While I abhor hunting and the killing of all wildlife, especially as a vegetarian, maybe there are ethical, sustenance-only hunters out there. But, as the saying goes, “a few bad seeds” and all that. And it’s time to put an end to the “few bad seeds”. It’s well past time for humans to start making sacrifices for wildlife and nature, in order to restore the balance between the human community and those inhabitants of the natural world, even if you are resistant to adopting a more sustainable diet for the planet. 

Then when that balance is achieved and continues to be preserved, and human-caused climate change and widespread extinction of non-human species is a thing of the past, then you can talk to those who make more suitably stringent, and common-sense regulations about the “right to hunt”. And the powers that be might be willing to listen.

I might be willing to listen.

But I’m not going to listen, right now. This sort of mentality has dominated human thinking for hundreds upon thousands of years. And it’s time for it to stop. Especially with the whole natural world at stake because of our bad-seed choices, as humans. Yes, even mine. And I’m working as actively and as expediently as I can to undo what I’ve been conditioned by society to believe it means to be human.

It’s time for change. It’s time for our sacrifices, to repay all that animals and trees and nature have given us over the time humans have been on this planet. It’s time for humans to curtail their space and activities–to make room–so that wildlife in all its forms has room to once again thrive.

To (partially) quote the character Lindsey Brigman from the movie The Abyss:
“We all see what we want to see. Coffey . . . sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”

Here’s some links to people/groups that are looking with “better eyes”.

https://www.facebook.com/lovemourningdove/

In articles like “The Mourning Dove: An Animal Rights Article”  from All-Creatures.org, click link here.

I encourage all my eco-warriors, eco-writers, and just plain anybody who wants to write/has written a similar environmentally inspired blog post, to share their links in the comments.

The Magic of Reason

 

I love to indulge in the realm of the imagination. But how wonderful would Hogwarts be if it was real? I mean, yes, I would love to go to a school like that. But it raises the question on why schools today aren’t built more on the Hogwarts model. Why we’re stuck with rote learning*, instead of a model that actually encourages learning and knowledge gathering and excitement and exploration and critical thinking in students. (But that’s a whole other soapbox, for another day.)

So, lately, I’ve been more and more about engaging in the reality of things, and making this place a world I want to live in. I’ve always been dedicated to causes like animal rights and social change/justice, and my inner development is pushing me more into the realm of science, rationale….and action!

I hope I will always have access to fantastical worlds that my imagination unlocks, but burying my head in a pink, glittery sand of an alien planet? I don’t wish to immerse myself in my creative head so much that I forget animals are dying and the world is being destroyed.

This morning, on Twitter, this “magically synchronous” video appeared in my feed. (Okay, I’m lying–it really didn’t. I was designing a series of Star Trek-inspired rooms on YoWorld because they have a Celestial Vacation theme and other houses I wanted to take advantage of, and I was looking up the characters for inspiration and I ended up on John De Lancie’s Twitter page because I have ADHD and I just got sidetracked even though I’m not much of a celebrity-news consumer and that’s where I saw the video. https://twitter.com/johndelancie/status/1390708963092713474?s=20)

It could be considered “synchronous” in that I am also reading Kurt Anderson’s Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, but it’s not (I won’t bore you again with the path on how I FINALLY started reading it). https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35171984-fantasyland?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=5eQNsBcyas&rank=3

So, let’s take responsibility for the actions that have driven the world to the ruinous state it is in now. Let’s set the course for a new path of self-directed human evolution that works to undo the damage we have done to the planet (even it means we have to be uncomfortable while we adapt), and to ourselves. And have science, and each other, as our allies in this fight, instead of looking for a mythical force to save us from ourselves. As John De Lancie put it, let’s be our own “superheroes.”

*Disclaimer: My problems with rote learning and standardized testing and such come from my own struggles and negative experiences within the school system, and not because I’m a supporter of creationism and/or intelligent design.

Wednesday’s Book Look: Wild and Wishful and Out of this World

Sometime soon, I’m going to check out a little artsy town here in Kansas called Lucas. I’m still trying to figure out how to decide where I want to spend…well, if not the rest of my life, at least the next few years. Kansas is (relatively) affordable. When compared to places I’ve either looked at or lived in (Portland, OR, Seattle, Florida, New Mexico, Vermont), that is. Anywhere in New England is pricey, too, though I love the idea of living in someplace like Bangor or Salem.

Lately, I’ve just wanted to laze about and read books (anybody else feelin’ this) or *gasp* do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

But a mid-life crisis or whatever’s preoccupying me lately, is no excuse to be slacking off! Right? *laugh*

Still, I did manage to sneak in some reading amidst the moving and relocation planning (on top of work and writing).

And I managed to squeeze in a visit to the Great Plains Nature Center. Well, the center was closed because of the holiday, but it was a wonderfully overcast and drizzly day to walk the nature trails out there. https://gpnc.org/

It was rad to see the efforts to “re-wild” the prairie and such, but also sad. The traffic noise from the nearby highway/street was not only constant but incredibly loud. Can you imagine having hearing way more sensitive than a human’s and having to listen to that all day and all night?

By the by, this week is #BlackBirdersWeek2021, as organized and hosted by Black AF in STEM (https://www.blackafinstem.com/). Check out the events on the Black AF in STEM or on the Twitter page: https://twitter.com/BlackAFinSTEM/.

I’ve got two short stories coming out in environmentally themed anthologies. One is a cli-fi anthology called Terraforming Earth for Aliens (to be released soon), and the other is called Shark Week: An Ocean Anthology which is now available for preorder: https://books2read.com/b/md79dZ.

So, in my dreaming of a better world and a better livespace, I’ve been reading myself into other worlds as well.

In addition to reading a few of Tess Gerritsen’s books for the first time (what could be better than to read about a who-I-might-have-been alter ego, Jane Rizzoli), I’ve escaped into worlds wrapped around horror, around the paranormal, and around science fiction and fantasy.

Quick reads, but no less immersive. And I even got to visit New England, by virtue of one of the spooky tales in the journal, Dream of Shadows (Issue 1, December 2019). https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B07ZTXLC9L

And, until I’m able to move into a haunted house of my very own, I can live vicariously through the ghostly encounters trapped in the bound pages of ParaABnormal Magazine (December 2020 and March 2021). Though, within those pages lie a book whose powers I may not want to channel. https://www.hiraethsffh.com/magazines

While all the stories in Space & Time Magazine (Issue 135, Winter 2019) were wonderfully escapist (and the articles interesting), there was one story that I really cherished. There’s a part of me that never really stops thinking about, and missing, the members of my cat/animal family I’ve lost over the years. But, as the years fly by faster and faster, I feel the presence of my bygone and, hopefully, once again, cats even more strongly. As a result of these feline ghosts swirling around me, I found Jennifer Shelby’s “The Feline, the Witch, and the Universe” especially poignant. https://spaceandtime.net/

Even though I have taken in some (former) feral cat rescues, and they fill the too-quiet spaces of my introvert-bubble of an apartment, I still feel lonely without them. They’ve each filled a special role in my cat family unit, and I hold onto some perhaps unrealistic hope that I’ll see them again.

That we won’t be alone, out there, in one of the universe’s parallel dimensions.

Wednesday’s Book Look: Haunts, “Hard Times”, and…animals, of course!

So, it’s going to be Steampunk Weekend at the Old Cowtown Museum here in Wichita!

The Old Cowtown is a living museum with both historic and recreated buildings that represent the history of Wichita.

And, according to the book I just finished–Wichita Haunts by Beth Cooper–there’s plenty of ghosts and paranormal activity at the Cowtown Museum site. Here’s hoping they’ll be in attendance at the steampunk-themed event–better ghosts than a pack of hyped-up-on-sugar feral children running around! I’m gonna bring my copy of Wichita Haunts, and maybe I’ll get a ghostly autograph!

Seems like it will be a good pick-me-up for my case of the Springtime blues, either way! (Mild spoilers ahead. And, links for stuff in the post included at the end.)

Although, from the perspective of Les Egderton’s main character, Amelia Laxault, in his book Hard Times, I ain’t got no business having any kind of blues, seasonal or otherwise.

Amelia Laxault is a girl in rural, 1930s, East Texas.

Need I say any more? I mean, come on, the book’s title, Hard Times, should be a dead-drunk giveaway in itself. (Unless you didn’t have to read Grapes of Wrath in school, that is!)

Okay, okay: yes, it’s going to be just as dark, gritty, and gut-wrenching as you might expect. Put aside the box of tissues and just grab a dang bottle of whisky, already. Trust me, you’ll need it.

Also, there are dogs. You’ve been doubly warned.

As a PBR* chaser to Hard Times, there’s also dogs and cats (and a hamster!) in my short story “The Lights Went On In Georgia” which appears in the latest volume of the EconoClash Review (“Lucky Number Seven”, as editor J.D. Graves says in the introduction).

Poor animals. Even in fiction, their fates always seem to be at the terrible whims of humans. But you know, I was watching two PBS DVDs I got from the local library–A Squirrel’s Guide to Success and Animal Misfits: Odd, Bizarre, and Unlikely Creatures–and I couldn’t help but feel a little more optimistic amidst how sad I always feel about animals and nature, stuck on this planet with us.

I started to think how (we) humans have become disconnected from nature by all this technology (speaking of the industrial nature of the 19th century as reflected by Steampunk), and I wondered whether we’d actually dead-ended ourselves into an evolutionary stasis because of the artificially constructed environments we now move through almost primarily. Are we in a vacuum, binge-watching Netflix while nature and plants and animals are busy figuring out biochemical ways to evolve and adapt under our environmental onslaught?

Spec fic writers, get your pencils and paper out!

*PBR = Pabst Blue Ribbon, if you hadn’t figured it out.

Oh, and here’s the links I mentioned earlier. Unless you’re already dead-drunk on that there whisky, and haven’t made it this far in the post.

Steampunk Weekend at Cowtown: https://www.visitwichita.com/event/steampunk-weekend-at-cowtown/33057/ and https://www.oldcowtown.org/

Wichita Haunts by Beth Cooper: https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9780738582870

Les Edgerton’s Hard Times: https://bronzevillebooks.com/portfolio-item/hard-times/

EconoClash Review #7: https://downandoutbooks.com/bookstore/graves-econoclash-review-7/

The Squirrel’s Guide to Success: https://shop.pbs.org/XC8032DV.html

Animal Misfits: Odd, Bizarre, and Unlikely Creatures: https://shop.pbs.org/WB7702.html

“Five Things Friday” Interview with Author Jnana Hodson!

It’s another “Five Things Friday” interview! This time I sat down to chat (well, if “chatting” involved exchanging emails) with author, journalist, and poet (and Quaker!) Jnana Hodson.

Willow Croft: Based on your blog(s) and author profile(s), you have both past and present ties to the “hippie” counter-culture, and the Quaker religion. How would you determine the place and/or the need for a like counter-culture and/or spirituality in today’s world? What societal trends would you identify that point to a need for such social, metaphysical, and character-based “sea change” in light of the recent/current events?

Jnana Hodson: Freeing ourselves mentally from advertising-driven consumerism would be a huge start. Just how much is enough for you to be happy and healthy? Or secure? Sometimes less really is more. Our unease is really a disease that sits atop fear.

The environmental crisis, especially, has been compounded by widespread denial. For one thing, it’s technically “climatic instability” rather than “global warming,” something the Texas deep-freeze demonstrates while exposing the real costs of high-level greed and hypocrisy. Closer to home, many of those monster pickup trucks we see are macho insecurity, no? A Prius or Tesla or bicycle becomes a defiant corrective act, as does an electric lawnmower rather than a conventional gas-powered cutter. Small steps can add up.

As my friend Steve Curwood contends, environmental actions are ethical, much more than economic. They can be lifestyle, too, as in choosing to live in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood or raise an organic garden.

Racism, another big issue, has its roots in a desire to get ahead – quite simply, ahead of everyone else. You see it in the compulsion to move in a better neighborhood– one with better schools. Or on to a better job, better clothes, a better car, whatever. And for many of us, racism includes an unacknowledged assumption of Northern European superiority. It’s even embodied in the myth of the self-made man, to the exclusion of all who contributed to his rise. Or should we call it his attempted escape? Racism undermines the shared commonwealth – meaningful community – we need.

Fear also underpins the growing and costly militarization of America. It’s accompanied by soaring gun ownership, which becomes a matter of faith for many who have no intention of hunting, along with rising domestic violence.

You mention my Quaker practice, which I came to as a young adult, not knowing it had been the faith of my Hodson ancestors from the beginning of the movement in 1600s’ Britain. The Society of Friends, as it’s more formally known, avoids dogma and creed and instead emphasizes personal experience of what we sometimes call the Inward Light of the Divine. For Friends, this applies to every facet of everyday life and is embodied in simplicity, equality, peace, non-violence, and a community of kindred spirits. Not that we don’t have our shortcomings, but it does come down to an alternative Christianity of a radical sort.

One thing that it’s taught me is that individually, we’re pretty powerless. But put us together, and it’s like those bundles of bamboo, as the illustration goes. Nothing, apparently, can break them.

Willow Croft: I always try to include a food-based question, so how has old food pathways (via recipes and traditional/borrowed culinary practices) influenced your own eating habits? Do you uphold specific culinary traditions or has it evolved based on your current geographical location (e.g. your moves from the yoga ashram to the Pacific Northwest to coastal New England)?

Jnana Hodson: Oh, what a delicious question! I’ll warn you, though, I’m married to one of the world’s great cooks and she’s greatly expanded my awareness.

[There’s been quite a] revolution that’s occurred in American taste. When I turned vegetarian back in 1970, broccoli was exotic, and nobody could understand the concept of giving up meat. When I was growing up in the ’50s, most of my food came out of cans – even spaghetti! Chinese? It was chop-suey. I even remember my first pizza. As my dad would say, it was EYE-talian. I was maybe six or seven, and the aroma of oregano was exotic – I still recall that, all these years after raising our own herbs.

So vegetarianism opened me to new flavors, especially once I moved to the yoga ashram and lentils and dried beans were added to the mix. There I soon developed a knack for making bread each week. One Monday, I produced about 120 loaves, with a lot of kneading provided by my fellow yogis. Oh, yes, we were lacto-vegetarian and raised our own eggs. There’s a vast difference between those and what you find in the supermarket.

Region has definitely impacted my eating habits. Living in the Pacific Northwest introduced me to Dungeness crab and salmon as well as wild asparagus, which grew along the irrigation canals. I glutted out every May, knowing there would be no more fresh spears for another year.

Around then I came upon the Confucian ideal of no food out of season or place, which essentially points to freshness. The secret of great cooking across traditions, by the way, is the matter of respecting the ingredients, and that’s where freshness is crucial, as is knowing the difference between butter and margarine or the oils we apply. As my wife repeats, fat carries flavor. Just make sure it’s not rancid.

Regional influences include picking our own fruit in local orchards and obtaining unpasteurized apple cider, in season, as well as local cheeses. At one point, I lived near several large Amish communities in Ohio, where Swiss cheese was produced. In New Hampshire, a small country store a town away produces its own delightful cheddars and is well worth a visit. For several summers, we subscribed to a local sustainable fisheries delivery. Each week, we’d pick up a pound of what the local fishermen were harvesting rather than the common commercial varieties. Monkfish, anyone?

Gardening has had a huge impact, from asparagus to strawberries and buttery lettuces and early peas on to the range of real tomatoes – not those things you buy at the grocery. One year, we had fourteen varieties, each one distinctive. From the beginning of August till the first hard frost, I pretty much live on mayo-and-tomato sandwiches. Forget the bacon.

Joining in our Quaker Meeting’s once-a-month participation in Dover’s soup kitchen has also been eye-opening. Nobody serves soup these days, and for our turn, we do a chicken, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw dinner, which seems to be very popular. Cooking for sixty or seventy is quite different than a home dinner, but we try. We’ll be happy when we’re back to table service rather than the Covid-induced takeout.

With the kids now gone, my wife and I are downsizing and moving on to a place where scallops and blueberries are major harvests. She’s already planning the garden, as well as autumn trips northward to Aroostook County for fresh potatoes, with skins that simply melt away in your mouth.

Willow Croft: As a former journalist, how do you feel about the state of journalism today, what with the digital news trends, the howls of “fake news” heard ‘round the world, and the role social media plays in the process of journalistic integrity (or lack thereof)?

Jnana Hodson: Former? Please make that “retired.” I might not be on the payroll these days, but it’s still in my blood – and my dreams, too, usually with frustrations of trying to make deadline or fit everything on a page or adjust to a new computer system. Besides, much of my blogging can be seen as small-scale journalism.

Widespread anonymity and the lack of face-to-face accountability in social media have so far eluded the legal redress of libel and slander laws. Often, avoiding basic civility, too. Reputations can be destroyed overnight, without penalties to the perpetrators. That has to change, and likely will with some big court cases.

On the other hand, the video on smartphones has lifted the cover on police brutality and other injustices. So we do have a mixed bag.

Journalism has been in a tailspin for some time, even before the Internet whammy. We’ve had a declining level of literacy – folks simply reading – on one side. In the newsroom we used to grumble about the “bean counters” who kept expecting more output at lower cost from fewer resources. One thing for certain – the watchdog function has been seriously wounded – with consequences that will prove costly to the public at all levels. Good reporting is hard work, and sharp editing is essential. It’s a fulltime job, not an amateur role, and often needs some strong backup when those in power seek retribution. 

For the right entrepreneur, there’s potential to create a revolutionary digital news vehicle, if enough subscribers can be convinced to pay what they now do for printed paper. It could be a hybrid of written and spoken, with no reliance on advertising. I have some thoughts, by the way, on how it might differ from the generic newspaper we too often encounter today. It could certainly give rise to some fresh ways of covering a community.

Willow Croft: As a poet myself, I am always intrigued about the sources of inspiration other poets draw upon to create their poetic works. With your own poetry, is the past and personal memories more of an influence, or is your current life experience(s) more of a muse?

Jnana Hodson: Very much the now, even when that has me looking back. It’s been a discipline for exploring what’s before me, often from quirky or playful perspectives, before I let go and move on.

The clearing of my mind through meditation has been a strong factor, allowing intuition to bubble up. Sometimes I’ll scribble a short note to myself during the silence of Quaker worship, something I’ll develop and explore later. Similar things happen while showering, walking, or even driving.

Much of my work was done as a reaction to the constraints of daily journalism – often on the fly, like graffiti I revised and distilled later.

Sometimes they stayed short, like a headline. Maybe I wasn’t getting as far away from the newspaper as I thought. Other times, though, they were thrown into a blender – there’s good reason I’ve been called a Mixmaster Supreme. 

What evolves is often something like a dream, which has one foot in the past and the other in the present, not that they’re always obvious.

Willow Croft: Some of your blog topics touch on economics. What sort of economic model, or revolution, is needed to help transform the dual worlds of employment and community (social structure)?

Jnana Hodson: The poets Donald Hall, Gary Snyder, and Wendell Berry are important influences here.

Hall sees work as an embodiment of passion or a meaningful engagement, even when it doesn’t reward you monetarily. Writing a poem is work, as we know. In contrast, a job is something you do to pay the bills, and chores are unpaid things you have to do as a matter of life.

Gary Snyder has what he calls the Real Work. He also titled an early collection Earth House Hold, noting the Greek meaning of “economy.” Shall we start with its environmental awareness?

And Berry looks closely at family life as well as agriculture and community.

As Hall says, we’re really blessed when our work and our jobs come together as one. Unfortunately, what I’m seeing is a widespread denigration of the work aspect of our daily employment, and many of the higher paid positions are way out of line with their greater value to society.

Public policy has put labor and its compensation under attack for the past fifty years. All of the productivity gains have gone into the pocket of the top five percent of the population – much of that going to the one percent. People who still have jobs have been working longer and harder for less than before. And the reality is that most of those touted “entry-level positions” are dead-end jobs with no upward mobility. I’m really miffed when the employers demand “reliable transportation” while offering minimum wage. It’s an unhealthy situation, leaving many people desperate. Wonder why Megabucks are so popular? Or illicit drugs?

Raising the minimum wage is a good step but hardly enough. Quite simply, drastic corrective income redistribution is necessary. Not that we’ve really been able to talk about that. Wages in general can’t go up as long as we’re competing with Third World labor – and that extends to those call centers overseas. Yet just think of the inhibiting, negative emotional whammy the label “socialist” invokes.

Meanwhile, high-tech is eliminating many employment fields – think of travel agents, local stockbrokers, professional photography and developers, or print shops, all already gone, along with the local video stores. I’m wondering how long most local retailers can hold out once we’re free of Covid.

When I look at young graduates entering the job market, I’m grateful I’ve made it to retirement. I have no idea what I’d do in their place or how they’re ever going to afford a place of their own.

Surprisingly, some right-wing economists are reluctantly coming around to admitting the necessity of a guaranteed minimum income for everyone. I would see that as including universal health care – as others have noted, pegging medical insurance to one’s employer greatly discourages entrepreneurs from stepping out on their own unless their spouse has independent coverage – and that becomes a damper on economic growth. The redistribution should also include higher education. Graduates today are saddled with impossible debt for skills their potential employers expect scot-free. And that’s before we get to non-competitor clauses.

I’m still believe in E.F. Schumacher’s “small is beautiful,” which was actually happening until cargo-container shipping from China, abetted by “free trade” deals in Washington, wracked the American economy. Bernie Sanders, drawing on labor union economists, nailed that one.

Respecting all honest work is important. Covid showed us how essential trash collectors and nursing home staff are in the big picture. As a cub reporter, I learned that secretaries and janitors often know far more about an operation than the suit in the corner office does. That hasn’t changed. I’ve long come to see a good carpenter or plumber as an artist. ‘Nuff said?

One big shift I’ll encourage turns away from accumulating more possessions – most of us have too much stuff anyway – and toward services and activities instead. That is, quality of life over quantity. Individually donating to local causes and volunteering run along those lines. In short, we can use our time and our money to enhance the place we and our neighbors inhabit.

I’m anticipating that when the Covid restrictions are lifted, we’ll burst out into renewed social connections. It feels like ages since I’ve been to a poetry reading, a contra dance, or a pub sing. How ’bout you?

If you’re keen to hear more from Jnana Hodgson, please follow his Jnana’s Red Barn blog at https://jnanahodson.net/ or check out his book(s) on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Jnana-Hodson/e/B088BWJ35Y) or on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6916110.Jnana_Hodson).

The Wall*–An Essay by Willow Croft

*Read while listening to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”.

I was chatting with someone about a nonfiction book we are hoping to collaborate on, and we both have ADD so the conversation turned to social media (Okay, so I may have steered it a bit onto that topic).

But it has been on my mind lately, accentuated by an article/essay by Peter Derk I recently read, titled “Writers Don’t Need Social Media”: https://litreactor.com/columns/writers-dont-need-social-media.

I have been circling on this topic in my mind for a while now, and I finally got some clarity. “I want to have more control over my content,” I said. And the heavens opened and angels sang. (Well, not really, it was just another bland day in my rickety, stinky apartment.)

“I want to have more direct contact with people,” I continued. “Like through my blog.” And a bunch of other thoughts that sounded really good in my head.

And then I read Peter Derk’s post. And I picked up one of the books he recommended from the library: Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Now by Jaron Lanier. (I read it last night.)

And yesterday I was on Twitter, and I saw this tweet flash past–something about about how people have finally hit the wall in the COVID situation. And I paused, and scrolled back up, but then Twitter refreshed and the tweet was gone forever. And then I got really frustrated. And then I got mad at myself for how ridiculously frustrated I was and how much time I spent looking for that gem of a post. And I realised that this happened way too often with Twitter, and with elusive tweets from the people I follow. I realised how much I was missing out on even during the small window of time I allotted to Twitter.

And I thought, “What is it that writers really want me to do? They want me to read their books.” (Or artists with their art, etc.)

And that it is a very simple discussion, without all the noise of Twitter and social media.

Fantastic Author #1: “Willow Croft, buy and read my book.”

Me: “Okay!”

And the only complicated part of that process is that I (according to the actual quoted State of New Mexico standards back when I was living in that state) am classified at 153% below the national/state poverty level, and I generally have no money to buy books.

And that’s with a day job, before I was furloughed. Who knows what my classification is at now, here in Kansas, with still no day job.

But I still began thinking about the “wall” people have hit.

And I read Luther M. Siler’s venting-themed blog over his latest experience with online teaching. https://infinitefreetime.com/2021/01/26/venting-ignore/

This is probably not related to his point(s), but for years now I have decried the standardized educational system. In fact, I have vehemently spoken out against the increasing standardization of most things in society these days.

In fact, one could look at the whole COVID situation and think “Jeez, ‘they’ have us right where they want us.” And, no, I am not espousing any sort of conspiracy theory or dark forces behind the pandemic–besides, I am too busy trying to find work to entertain any thoughts about that on even a writer-inspiration front.

Talk about standardization, though.

I have witnessed the job hunt go from paper applications you fill out in stores to digital employment kiosks you have to stand there and fill out to “fill out the application online”, which I now interpret to mean that an algorithmic software that “fires” you before you can even say “Here’s my one-page CV/Resume that I have spent eons on consulting with experts and tailoring to the job at hand and even picking the correct font and layout and which your system is telling you I’m complete garbage even though I have an INCREDIBLY vast array of skills, talent, and experience.”

And now even many job search sites, which I considered a refuge in which to submit an actual resume/CV now have links that send you to the employer’s website, where it takes an hour to complete one application (ten times as long as it took me to fill out a paper application in the old days) so they can then “fire” you algorithmically.

And now, at least one of these job sites has a feature now where I have to take a STANDARIZED test to “prove” that I’m good enough to work for this company. (And I’m not even getting reimbursed for my time and energy and work. Hours wasted.)

Which I never am (good enough). In fact, let’s look at it statistically (even with my mad skills I think I have), I have been applying for a job-any-job-liveable-wage-job since 1995. I have been back to school twice (a BA and a Masters) On average, I’ve applied online for about five to six jobs a day, seven days a week. I even, back in the 90s, went through the phone book and dropped off/mailed letters and resumes to a wide variety of companies (One interview, where I was offered 4 dollars an hour.)

Temp jobs, substitute teacher, an educational aide job, where I earned $600 a month, hell job teaching sixth grade (re Luther Siler’s rant: teachers get it from all sides: parents, students, supervisors, staff, and other teachers), and jobs where I was told I had to keep to a verbatim script or I’d face wage or hour-reduction penalties (Florida’s Right to Work state at…non-work), and interviews where the conservative business clothing I borrowed money to buy was deemed “not good enough to work in her office”.

And I still have no job.

So back to my discussion about the wall.

Yes, the COIVD shutdown has been terrible in many different ways; job loss, social isolation, separation from friends and family, and even the painful, heart-wrenching illness and deaths of loved ones. It’s been well covered by better writers than I, and I don’t mean to belittle what you are going through.

But what I want to say–what the whole point of my blog post is that it’s not just COVID that is creating a terrible situation for all of us.

It’s that we are now face to face with the awareness of how bad things have been all along. Of what society has become. Of what we have become, and accepted, in order to live in the world today. And we hate it, all of it, no matter what our personal, political, and/or religious and spiritual beliefs are.

We have ignored the price we had to pay with the planet, with the lives of animals and nature and unpolluted water and air, with the lives of children and their health and minds and their free, creative spirits; and even with our own physical and mental health.

That the systems we created suck.

That, for many, our jobs suck.

That, for many, our lives have sucked and we didn’t even realize it.

That even if we thought our lives were great on the surface there was still a small, disquieting voice that whispered at us in the wee hours of the night: “Wake up, something’s wrong.” And you get up and check the already-locked doors and the alarm system and that the kids are sleeping safe in their beds and the pets are fed and the refrigerator door is closed and nothing is out of place, so you go back to bed and wait for the light of day. To wait for things to change. To be different.

But it isn’t. Because the truth is the world, too, sucks and by our own hands.

And COVID is a brutal reminder that we are now having to pay the price.

But things don’t have to continue to suck. We can sacrifice, shake off the sleep of rote conformist jobs and standardized school systems and social media and binge-watching and hate and fear and misery and commercialism.

We can build a new world, or we can just sit here in our isolation and hope and pray for the day when things can to go back to the same-old same-old sucky system.

Which will you choose?*

*As long as it isn’t storming the U.S. Capitol. Just sayin’.

The Myth of Humanity…

 

I dreamed last night that I owned a casino in South America and, to make things short, I was standing by a jungle river. This fellow that had been splashing around pulled a river dolphin into the shallows, where it (the dolphin) just floated about calmly. The guy got out of the river and, as he passed me, said “Keep an eye on it for me; I’m just going to my truck to get my tools. One blow to the head is all it takes, though, and I’ll have enough meat for me and my family all year.”

I stood there for a minute in the dream, watching the dolphin gently rest in the stagnant shallows at the river’s edge.

Then I acted.

I plunged into the river despite my fancy casino owner’s attire, and pushed the dolphin back into the river’s current. I stood there watching the dolphin swim downstream, and hoped it would be gone before the man came back. 

The man returned with his dolphin-killing club, and he angrily yelled to me from the bank, “Well, someone else downstream is just gonna capture it and kill it. So you didn’t save it at all.”

And I woke myself up out of the dream.

But for most of the morning (and even more than usual as of late) I’ve been musing on the reality of human nature.

And on the kind of human I really want to be, especially when aided by a perhaps typical mid-life transition experience.

Not that there’s any time for self-reflection and navel-gazing. The time to act is now (Actually, the time to act was many years ago…1960s? way before?), in regards to changing our attitudes to animals. To trees. To plants.

It’s time for humanity to be the one to make sacrifices. Dietary sacrifices, livespace sacrifices, personal-possessions sacrifices, mental and emotional sacrifices; to simply just let nature have center stage and top billing for once.

Because humanity in general hasn’t really been all that great in the past.

If you want to debate this, then I suggest you pick up the book I’m reading now: Sea of Slaughter by Farley Mowat. (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/291180.Sea_of_Slaughter) Then, maybe, we’ll talk. Or join forces and act, instead.

It’s why, I suppose, I like books in the crime/thriller/horror genre. Because it’s literature that’s often stripped of a rose-coloured view of humanity. There’s minimal illusion there. Human nature is revealed for what it often is–dark, twisted, sadistic, and cruel. It’s unapologetic, most times. (I’ve seen this cruelty firsthand in my years as an animal rescue volunteer and wildlife rehabber.)

Human nature such as in the book I just finished.

It’s One by One by Yawatta Hosby. (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18096817-one-by-one) A spooky, unrelentingly dark, twisted-mind story that takes you to a lakeside cabin deep in the backwoods of Virginia. Because what better place for humanity’s inner, and outer, demons to emerge than in a tragedy-ridden log cabin?

And, as for me, as one of too-many humans on this crowded planet, I hope to get better in the New Year.

Downsize my books.

Peel away society’s layers to get to the core of my true self.

Continue to transition to a vegan diet (Thanks for the inspiration, motivation, and recipes, Veganuary! Veganuary | Home | The Go Vegan 31 Day Challenge).

Read more, and watch less. And streamline my social media time.

Get a book published.

Find a place in the world where I can live in more direct connection, and in harmony, with nature.

And, in trying to come to terms with my own fallible human nature, I turned to the Satanic Temple, of which I am now a member. The Satanic Temple – Official website

What scary life changes do you have planned for the New Year, and the so-termed by some Age of Aquarius?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dark Side is Not So Dark After All: The Need for Satanism in the Twenty-First Century

Not too long ago, I was doing research for a short story involving demons and the Christianized concept of the devil, and I came across the tenets of the Satanic Temple.

The tenets resonated with me from the first read, especially as I’m entering into middle age, and, after some (non-philosophical) musing, I made the decision to become a member of the Satanic Temple.

The civic-minded nature of the Temple, the respect for others’ rights and freedoms, and, especially the “compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason” (as quoted from their tenets on their website: https://thesatanictemple.com/pages/tenets), which, of course, appealed to my nature as an animal rights activist and tree-hugger environmentalist.

In addition, I think organizations like the Satanic Temple are essential to combat the alarming trends and shifts in the world today (or, a continuance of imperialism and intolerance that is history’s long-standing legacy, but we can engage in that deep philosophical/intellectual conversation some other time) such as Donald Trump’s insane and greedy hate-filled antics, and the widespread climate change and loss of valuable non-human species.

As a card-carrying Satanist now, I decided to submit an essay for a Satanic voices anthology put together by publisher Daniel Cureton at Forty-Two Books, and edited by Faustus Blackbook, and I was very excited to learn it had been accepted for inclusion in this anthology.

Check out the diverse collection of essays, short stories, poems (and a fascinating creative nonfiction piece) to learn more about Satanism today!

Satan Speaks! Contemporary Satanic Voiceshttps://www.amazon.com/Satan-Speaks-Contemporary-Satanic-Voices/dp/1734006714/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=satan+speaks%21%3A+contemporary+satanic+voice&qid=1583328273&s=books&sr=1-1 )

I also greatly appreciated the review a fellow blogger, Assholes Watching Movies, posted (a blog which I’ve followed for years now) about the movie Hail Satan? Read the review here: https://assholeswatchingmovies.com/2020/02/28/hail-satan/

I’ve included the link for the Satanic Temple, should you wish to learn more about this organization: https://thesatanictemple.com/.

Just for posterity, here’s the link to the form of Satanism that continues to follow in Anton LaVey’s footsteps: https://www.churchofsatan.com/.

 

 

An Open Letter to Children (& Young Adults)

 

I am sorry that you have to follow so many rules and restrictions that may feel onerous to you as kids with lots of natural energy. Some of them I agree with, like not hitting or bullying, or even not being mean to yourself. I would not want any one of you to get hurt, even though you are just being kids and playing around, or feel bad about yourself because of what someone else did or said (including a teacher or a grownup). Some I like, like the indoor voices rule, as a means of self-preservation, as my ears ring at the end of the day from all the noise, even though I prefer a noisy, chatter-filled and laughter-filled classroom. Even as a substitute teacher, I want you to feel safe and respected, and if that means this challenger of the established order has to enforce the school rules, so be it.

I want to tell you to hang in there. Soon you’ll be a grownup too, and you will have the choice not to live by any of those rules and restrictions. You won’t have to walk in a “Four-S” line (for those of you who don’t know, it’s “Silent, Smiling, Still, Straight”). As one of us adults, you’ll have the perfect right to walk side-by-side and take up whole sidewalks with all your friends. Even on narrow sidewalks, even if it means pushing someone (walking single file, or by themselves) into traffic, so that you don’t have to be inconvenienced with walking single file, or interrupting the conversation with your friends. Although I would imagine the sounds of tires squealing or large metal vehicles crashing into each other to avoid the person you just pushed into traffic might also be a rude disruption to your conversation.

Speaking of conversations, you can forget all about that silly “indoor voices” rule. You can talk as loud as you want, wherever and whenever you want. In restaurants, in malls, in movie theatres, in libraries, at presentations or lectures, during plays or other performances, at zoos, and in wildlife areas.  Animals, especially, love it when you yell at them, at maximum volume. And, even better, you can talk when others are talking. And, when you get bored or tired of talking, you can get on your phone at any time you want. Even in we grownups’ version of school, the workplace.

You’ll also have the perfect right to throw a temper tantrum if you don’t get the flavor of drink that you wanted, or the food that you wanted to eat. Even better, we adults can ask to speak to the manager if our white chocolate mocha came without whipped cream and probably get a free drink out of it, or some other reward for complaining about the food or drink we ended up with.

Even though it’s against the law, you as an adult can get away with throwing trash wherever you pretty much want to. You can also leave messes in restaurants, in malls, in public bathrooms, in landfills, in the ocean and waterways, and all over in nature and the outdoors, if you want to, because “someone’s getting paid to clean it all up.”

And let’s talk about destroying property. Largely, us grownups have gotten a free pass on that as well. For thousands of years, actually. And not just a desk, or someone else’s work. A whole planet. Especially if you’re a big corporation. Yes, I’m talking about pollution, pesticides, and any of the million other ways we are “allowed” to destroy the environment, resulting in irreparable species loss, and point-of-no-return climate change.

So, kids, you, too,  will soon be a grownup, faster than your family wants, as time flies faster and faster for us when we get old. I only hope that you don’t follow our example, that you continue to make “good choices”, as they say in some schools, and that you become a better grownup than many of us that are currently out there, right now.

And, I am so, so sorry we’ve left such a mess for you to clean up, and have significantly destroyed the world that you are to inherit. I tried to make good choices, myself: using eco-friendly products, not using pesticides, cleaning up after myself, diligently recycling, eating a largely vegetarian diet and avoiding foods with GMOs. I don’t fish or hunt, but I do continue to drive my car. 

I only hope that you’re able to fix all of us grownups’ bad choices. Because, the way things are going, you won’t even be able to get paid for cleaning up the mess we grownups have left behind.

I’m not asking for forgiveness, or even that you accept my apology. Because no matter what kind of grownup that’s out there, we are all hoping you will be the generation that can fix the damage we’ve done to the world. Maybe that’s why we are so hard on you. And why there are so many rules–we grownups are trying to fix our own mistakes, and you kids have to bear the brunt and the burden of our bad choices.

From what I’ve seen of kids today (like kids suing the federal government over climate change), I have no doubt that any choice you make will be better than any we’ve made over the past tens of thousands of years.

Go out and take back your world. Make it into the world that you want to live in. Demand the education and the school that you want for yourself. It won’t be easy, but you also don’t have to wait to be a grownup to create the world you want to live in. You don’t need anyone’s permission but your own to begin the process. It will be tough to change the system, and overthrow the established order (don’t give up!). But do it with kindness and heart and compassion and respect and love. Because, as a kid, those are your strengths.

Mourning a Celebrity Childhood Friend…

 

 

Snooty the manatee has died while in captivity at the South Florida Museum.

I used to go see Snooty as a kid. I always felt sad that he was all alone in his tank at the museum. I used to daydream that I would sneak in afterhours and somehow manage to set him free. It seemed like a stark place to live, and the sounds were disorientating even to my human ears.

As an adult (90s/early 2000s), trying to be more active in animal rights causes, I had mixed feelings about visiting the museum. I had fond memories of the South Florida Museum, but I found it hard to go see Snooty in his lonely little tank.

Around 2012/2013 or so, someone I knew could get me into the museum for free, so I went. I was amazed to see that Snooty was still at the museum. But, this time, he had company. There were two other manatees (they were being rehabilitated, I believe) in the tank with him, so I felt a little better that he wasn’t all by himself.

Then I saw a post on someone’s Facebook page announcing that he had died. I figured old age, not being too knowledgeable on how long manatees lived in captivity.

But then I read the article(s). I’ll let you choose to read them for yourself, just in case you are as sensitive to animals as I am, and maybe have to steel yourself before hearing the news. Or want to avoid it altogether.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/07/24/snooty-the-manatee-dies-in-heartbreaking-accident-days-after-his-69th-birthday/?utm_term=.7abad7a7d5ee

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/23/538900625/snooty-the-manatee-dies-and-a-florida-community-mourns

http://www.bradenton.com/news/local/article163774463.html

I have been in mourning for gentle Snooty over the past week  few days that have felt like a week.

And been thinking a lot.

About the fact that there is less and less room for animals, plants, trees, insects, fish, or any of the other non-human lifeforms that are on this planet as well. Because we humans are taking up so much room. And that, by the time there is no more room for humans on a planet that will become uninhabitable sooner or later, there probably won’t be any non-human lifeforms left.

I read something about micro-living via the National Trust for Historic Preservation. But is it enough? Is anything enough to stop humanity’s destructive drive to fully dominate the planet?

I don’t know. I’m still trying to do everything I can to be more environmentally respectful, as futile as it feels.

I know that I miss Snooty, one of my few (make-believe?) childhood friends. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I hope he gets to live in a better world, surrounded by freedom and clean ocean water and other manatee friends and family. And I wish the same thing for animals and plants and trees and insects that have to live on the planet with us humans. May better karma be with you in your next life.