I pledge allegiance to the world as it is
Before our eyes and in our nostrils;
To the world as it moves through us
As blood & bone, breath and sensation;
To the wind and sun as they touch our skin,
To the dirt beneath our feet and under our nails;
To the world before we took a-hold of it
With our ideas.
It has been a while since Iʻve written anything here and in the meantime Iʻve been elected to serve on our County Council – the local legislative and oversight body for our island of Hawaiʻi.
Yesterday the Council received a presentation by the narcotics unit of our police force on the presence of fentanyl in our communities. It was a grim discussion of course. The lethal dose of fentanyl is so minute that the police fear for their lives simply investigating crime scenes involving drugs of any kind. They asked for better protective gear to wear in such situations – basically hazmat suits.
The police officer in charge of the narcotics unit described how most fentanyl is manufactured in China, then shipped to Mexico to smuggled over the border into the US, and then brought into Hawaiʻi. A lethal doze of fentanyl is 2 milligrams and the amount of fentanyl apprehended by the police in the last year was enough to kill every resident of the island. And that is just what was apprehended.
It is a sad and horrifying situation, but it is also a strange kind of supply chain to contemplate – this axis of China and Mexico in supplying a drug of such potency to illicit drug consumers in the US. (Not all of whom sign on for fentanyl, as it is increasingly used to lace every other “recreational” drug, even relatively innocuous drugs such as marijuana.)
Chemical analysis of seized fentanyl can be linked back to a particular province in China, we were told. This degree of specificity – this tracking back into the Chinese province – makes me think of the Opium War in of the mid 19th century in which England used military force to maintain its market for opium in China, bombing Chinaʻs port cities with warships, seizing Hong Kong, and even attacking the capital city of Beijing , including the desecration and occupation of its imperial palaces. The Chinese government of the time was weak and corrupt. Civil wars in which tens of millions of people perished attempting to overthrow, or defend, the imperial order were happening contemporarily. It was a bad situation, made worse by the English and French military forcing the Chinese to legalize the opium trade.
This is not to justify the manufacture and export of illegal fentanyl in China, but the echoes of history are hard to ignore. It is not impossible, given the deterioration of relations between China and the Us, that the over-production of fentanyl is tacitly condoned. That there is even a bit of fentanyl war being waged. It is a strange world we live in, truly.
It is revolutionary, intellectually-speaking, to point out that the European Enlightenment – especially the suite of political ideals (liberty, equality, democracy)) that are still aspirational for most societies – was inspired by early European encounters with indigenous/native American thinkers. This is the argument that David Wengrow and the late David Graeber make in the first chapters of The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity; tracing Enlightenment ideas about liberty to the interactions of French colonial military commanders with the great Wendat (Huron) leader and thinker Kandiaronk. It is the earth-shaking first chess move in the argument that Graeber and Wengrow build throughout the rest of the book, an argument that aims to show that the conventional Western theories of the “general course of human history”:
1. Simply arenʻt true;
2. Have dire political implications;
3. Make the past needlessly dull. Continue reading “On Kandiaronk (The Rat): A Review of The Dawn of Everything”
What makes for a healthy rural community? Is there even room for such a thought in this world where it sometimes seems that any truly rural community is by definition under-developed, deficient, abandoned, lacking in dynamism, behind the curve, back-ward, almost horrifying to the sensibilities of the global capitalist elite. Its inhabitants are the subject of barely concealed scorn, or perhaps ambiguously romanticized as throwbacks to a kinder, gentler, less complex time. Either way they are not seen as full citizens and actors in the present political and economic moment, and often rural communities are seen as white savior projects – they must be saved from their truculence by some kind of development or program.
Or, if a rural area is fully integrated into the global economy, this has occurred, all too often, at the cost of its habitability. Giant fields or greenhouses tended by immigrant workers or, increasingly, robotic machinery. No one lives there. Not even the managers of workers or machinery, who commute from a nearby city perhaps. Different kinds of dystopia. Continue reading “Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia”
Hi everybody! I’ve been silent for a while. I’m not sure exactly why. Part of it is that I’ve been absorbed in a few projects, one of which has been standing up a resilience hub in my little town.
What is a resilience hub? It’s a kind of commons or community space: a place for people to get some help and to give some help to others. We are open three afternoons a week. We provide a free meal for whoever wants one, as long as supplies last, as well as a food bag of locally grown produce once a week. We provide access to laptops, internet, and printers, both 2-D and 3-D. We are starting a community garden. We hold classes in 3-D printing, gardening, saving/investing and calligraphy. We help people to access resources on the internet.
The hub is funded by Vibrant Hawai’i, a local non-profit, and our local Buddhist temple was kind enough to let us use their hall to house the hub. All of it came together, somehow, in confusion, haste, optimism, and utter chaos in September as part of the response to Covid19. We struggled for the first few months. It’s hard to start an organization from scratch, even with the best intentions and a source of funding. Luckily I had terrific co-conspirators – most of them people that I had never met before but who made a perfect team. Slowly we’ve picked up support and engagement from the community. People come by and donate produce, groceries, funds, and their time almost every day. It’s becoming a bit of a hangout for teens and for old folks, and a place for bit of help for the folks struggling on the margins.
I have been a fan of Chris Smaje’s blog A Small Farm Future for a while, and it has changed the way I think about what I do for a living and what we are all doing for our livings. Smaje’s eclectic but thoughtful posts, and the lively commentary that ensues, provide all the geeky pleasures of a graduate seminar run by a fair-minded yet passionate professor. Or even more accurately, all of the geeky pleasures of a beer-fueled conversation with a deep-resumed group of agrarian thinkers from around the world. Continue reading “A Retrospective on the Prospect of a Small Farm Future”
This Thanksgiving weekend I am thankful for Julian Hoffman, who manages to be – on Twitter @JulianHoffman – a good, kind, humble person. That is a difficult thing to do in a medium that rewards controversy, snark, and self-aggrandizement. Julian Hoffman shows it does not have to be that way: that you can be supportive of other writers and Twitter users, that you can post fascinating, subtle photos and video of the natural world, that you can showcase the work of those who are standing up for and nurturing the non-human world and their local communities. With a following in the thousands, he is successful by any rational, non-toxic definition of success as well, and his internet persona is a welcome tonic to the generally low internet standard of behavior. Continue reading “Quite Possibly the Nicest Person on the Internet”
The United States made the right choice after, to paraphrase Churchill, exhausting all other options. It would have been nice if we hadn’t gone down the Trump path but perhaps it was necessary to learn some lessons the hard way. Hopefully he will soon be a distant figure in the rear view window, but before we pull away it would be wise to learn what we can from Trumpism. So here’s my post-election blog. Continue reading “Election Aftermath”
Having already voted by mail in our tiny, over-whelmingly blue state, we wait, with bated breath and knotted stomachs, for the results.
The results of Tuesday’s elections for the US president will have far-reaching impacts – around the globe and on our individual lives. The results of the Bush v. Gore election, for instance, led to wars which called my daughter’s father, a helicopter mechanic for the Army National Guard, away to long deployments on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, and contributed, I think, to his early death. On a larger scale, the results of that millennial election meant that the US did not exercise its potential for global leadership towards lowering greenhouse gas emissions and reducing pollution, as might have happened under Gore. It is my daughter’s generation that will feel the impact of that election acutely. Continue reading “On the Eve of an Apocalyptic Election”
something right up the anima alley for the weekend from Dr. Sharon Blackie and two favorite networks: Daily Good and Moon Magazine