From: Subcommander Eben

Hello gentle reader, and welcome with all the glory we can muster to the second report of the T hree Think Tank — the only liberation capitalists hell bent on inventing a better walk in the park. We are uncompetitive in the global market, inefficient, and losing money rapidly. We are real, however (like Stevie Wonder’s "Fingertips"), so be, live, and be-live.

We are happy to cover the raging war between The American Lifestyle and your precious soul. The "metaphor" we slice this sucker with is the sell out, which is exactly why we’re so rich (yes, you’re rich) and why we’re so impoverished (yes, you are impoverished).

Here’s the deal: the world’s most powerful people are unhappy and dull, we seek TV shows and distraction over the human relationships and culture that could sustain. Our lives are the results: busy & tired, monoemotional, manipulated people, the celebration of violence, rise of the cavity creeps, economic depravity, loss of human-based culture, bad art, environmental destruction, Esperanto of the soul, reification, and massive loss of beautiful potential. We all puff on the causes—cars, television, alcohol, self-hatred, schools like prisons, gizmonitry, a herd mentality, bad food, making crazy money—they’re easier and more tangible than what we know is true.

Our point is, that as deadly as our history is, we have unprecedented freedom and power! Anyone can live communist but we wait for legislation to believe. Even the freshest leftists seem to believe primarily in better legal architecture, they just can’t figure out why the martyrs burn out so quick. We T hree say authority is never loving enough for a true life, let’s do it ourselves! Let’s take the privilege reserved for profit and use it ourselves. Not to guiltily give 4% away, but to honestly live the whole lot! Anyone making an honest living can dispense with charity unless you really like it. If we were better neighbors we could get rid of so much crushing bureaucracy, we’d go silly. Do hostile takeovers for the people. Today is going to happen anyway, so why not make it sing. Fill your stomach, untie your shoes, and treat yourself to the good life, we promise all the best.

CHAPTER I: YOU CAN’T BUY SOUL

1. Why we like cars more than houses

With the realization of how backward-ass and deeply fake our society is, many citizens pull away, mourning. Just as the death of a loved one sparks hurt, anger and despair, culture's death paralyzes our nation’s family. Unable and unwilling to feel special through the time-tested oldies of two parents, dance, respect, and ceremony; we turn to obliterated distraction, the post-modern hole into which even our greatest minds end up staring. Our families, our friendships, and our selves wilt as we race to water shopping malls and make dates with sitcoms—even the best of which get us nothing but 60 minutes closer to death.

We inhale entertainment and lust for the fake (fun, breasts, lifestyles). We turn on computers, get off on achievement for its own sake. We forget that our hearts want not cheaper cornbread but more butter, honey.

Some turn cars into love interests, their partners into pets, or themselves into magazine articles. We divide bodies until our feet forget the ground. We schedule a meeting and promise lovely memos but never seem to quite get down to it, so we get off once a day shopping, with porn or crack; we wallow in our frailty; light another cigarette; sit down and shut up. We move away.

We conform to the unfortunate void, amputating brain and gut. We go on antidepressants, ignore our family, believe in convenience, give in to self-hatred. We suck magazines like smack, lick movies like ice cream—anything to keep from feeling hungry all the time. We push ourselves into 9-5 routines and wonder why we can't sleep well. We adapt morals or pretend nothing’s wrong, we search for better idols. The best and brightest, the noisiest, the ones who would call shit, are cashed out—with ample paychecks, parental approval and partners. But even with the new cars and designer couches we all end up. Europe when you’re twenty, a Mercedes when you’re thirty, and a new girlfriend when you’re forty all make for some crazy fifty and sixties. Divorced, lonely, quiet, and mad is how far too many of us end up. We have a million words to make us money and almost none for what it is worth.

The enormous vacuum of care left by our cultural decay, by this race to our lowest common denominator, is easily filled by governments, cash-whacked conglomerates, affected artists, motivated retailers, and others who a) don’t know shit, and, b) don’t give a shit. We have less and less time to tell the difference but need meaning more and more. They get better and better at appearing to be what we want. As we fall apart, despair and desire into loneliness, they carefully comb our graying hair—with prisons, soda pop, shopping opps and waterless mops—until there's no one else around. Then, when we’re lonely and broken, they pop the question and secure our estate. Our kids are outraged but the union is legal, the HMOs and cable companies get written into our will. Sorrow is such good business it costs a life of savings to die.

2. Free white people.

As long as we shop out of boredom and in pain we cannot be surprised that our lives are painfully boring. Life and economy are virtually the same thing, it’s just that no one wants to grow your life. We afford everything right now—we’ve chosen food service and sales reps over home cooking and self-employment. We pick the cheap and convenient but hope to avoid becoming the same—investing our faith instead in complex and classy cars and clothes. As long as you define yourselves by how much you consume instead of what you do everyday, only lower prices can save your life. And our thin voices will waver, our children will try anything, and we will hold our breath till payday.

We can be safe and comfortable as long as we want, fake and half-assed as long as we want, but love will remain scarce as long as we do. We’ll keep jonesing for soul, the blues, punk rock, and authentic Indian food. We’ll secretly wish we were someone else. We’ll buy the authentic pants and drink the real thing, trying desperately to get power from the outside in, but we won’t be fooled. You can’t buy soul, personality, or experience—no matter what Warner Brothers or Master P want you to believe.

We know too well what’s going on, even if it’s never admitted. We advertise the newest chemicals with farms full of smiling black folks (Olestra). We stock our houses with ancient art, rugs made by children, and Jamaican music. In the whitest suburb you’ll hear "Yo, whus’sup?" We know that oppression reveals the truth, but we never turn the gun on ourselves. As long as we’re writing the book, all we have to do is make sure that everyone can read, and our job should be done. We're the best editors the world has ever seen, so why the lingering doubt, the bleeding ulcers, the anxiety?

We crave movement because we’ve got no action, the momentum of our errands keeps us from complete collapse. If only those curtains were a different color, we could relax with splendor. We go through faith like the stock market, in fact the whole world’s economy depends directly on our fiduciary—on faith in our own lives and economy. But keeping ourselves full like this, pulling falsely for the whole world leaves us tired and inflated. "It's glandular," we insist.

We consume first and last—an Ignatious nation—more than any in history. Our hunger is boundless, our whims vast. We believe wholeheartedly in things most have never even heard of. We provide confusing factory work for entire continents, sip southern America with breakfast. Our dreams rape corn fields and erect strip malls. One photo can make an village rich, but more often our distant tail slams people down by the scores. We will not be denied. Even out hated junk mail generates enough love to approve a quick clear-cut.

And it's taken care of, already packaged and bagged. Everyone else is doing it, too, it comes with napkins—what do you mean no napkins? That the free cup, tray, ketchup, lid and napkin cost more to produce than the food is no surprise, the democratic luxury of a 79 burger is leaving the garbage behind. We’ve decided that compact discs and high fructose corn syrup are more reliable luxuries than expansive and low fructose each other. We mine, make, buy, and sell two cars for every kid, more phones than best friends, an M-1 tank for every welfare mother, four million french fries per flower, and think that I, alone, am not affected. I am above it, unaffected. I read the best books ever written and don’t talk to people on the bus. I make time for my family and have health insurance. Hmmmmm.

4. Dreams multiplying like cancer. . . she wants to be a famous dancer

It would be easier if we weren't so anonymous. We crave full blown 3-D love but we’re a thousand miles from home, unmarried and underwise—in a city that offers us only linear fame or pointed obscurity. This is not where we grew up. We’ve locked up the elders and children who could cheerlead us unconditionally—who now is left to love this hot buttered soul? Or have we cooled it down to be recognized from passing cars? to fit in by standing out? Did we accidentally admit that no one has the time to read us and settle instead for splashy covers?

Cool people advertise a playground to sell their ghetto. They pollute their own water. True love is too expensive, the cool society figures. Who can afford to care about work, joke with traffic or free their unsupervised teenager? There can be no doubt, life costs money, and we plan to live it, in some bizarre vacationary future, but for now, for our now, meandering surprise, the risk of failure, and quiet unfolding are real life threats we chose not to afford.

To appease our underprivileged soul, which is nothing but meander and danger, we hire the stars—sports stars, porn stars, rock stars, poetry stars. We trust the experts will screw the best, I mean sing better, I mean play their best and be very exciting while our troops trudge drearily on, forgetting their ideals for the even more abstract rewards, their morale energized by lust but still in need of a day off. As the shelling continues it is guaranteed that tomorrow, just like Machiavelli explained, we’ll love our dictators more than ever.

But if credentials are important to our stars, they are an imperative to we the people. Even though we give it up cheap, there is no authority, no power but ours. We believe you if you believe us. We can’t have you wondering if we're smart enough to wrangle a new car or looking past what we authoritatively say to what we quietly and slowly do. Forget faith, we don’t even have the time. And the combine rolls on, converting acre after acre for more productive uses. The work is easier but crazy stressful. Our lives and motivations become obtuse. With our needs met in triplicate we adapt the curious gods of ambition and status. People who resist self-important goal-oriented (dare we say meaningless) behavior risk depression and impoverishment, not to mention insanity and unfamily. Unless you’re going all the way out you’re a hypocrite not to get along—who can say no to everything? Our awkward, unprocessed, uncertain lives are always one tax return away from the certain snap of our sit-com pimps.

It takes a nation of none to keep us down.

So why do we keep ourselves down? Why is it more preferable for macked-out millions to smoke, sterilize, gossip and shop than to make the sweet love we want? For what else could we be waiting? A better movie? The perfect car? There is no invisible hand, it’s simply more efficient to farm out our struggles, hopes and fears. We make money on both ends, and with cash our only yardstick, we're the indisputable world champs! It’ll all be over soon and distraction keeps us jogging towards a relaxing death and credentialed eulogy. We are well compensated to keep quiet. That’s the American dream, to get bought out, to play along long enough that we become oppressors ourselves, every man a dictator! No one ever told us how to get off, or what to do, or who life is about. Our teevees, schools and colleges all teach mostly "sit down and pay attention." Without God, it’s no wonder love (attention, care, time, meaning–whatever you want to call it) is in short supply.

Three doesn’t know much, but we miraculously learned this: if you want, in your lovely life, to be known and loved, then a) know it and love it yourself, and, b) take your time, baby! What we broadcast is what we receive—our shit is quite transparent. It’s easy to be confused and it’s easy to be drunk but it is of utmost importance to have plenty of time for the truth. It we've stopped talking about our jobs, our relationships, or our family then we can expect damaged goods in return. If you’ve stopped talking altogether you’re done for. Pablo won’t read love poems to people who never even mention lilacs. Check your top-ten and make sure, for they are your true love.

The Soft-Rad Paradigm

If we decide to create, and give up on consumption, then we decide also to reveal and give up on concealing. It's scarier, and harder, but like makeup—if you go out thinking you’re ugly—you will come home with people who agree, we make our own prophesies. Cover the mirror and listen—we like the way you look, we’ve been telling you. If you are trying to dress, act, or be cool, hot, or fresh, you will not be, guaranteed. We have too many dancing monkeys already, leave the new sunglasses at home. The truth is never lowered for a second, not for your special self, not because everyone else was doing it, not ever. To even get a taste we must elevate like crazy, avoiding what we were taught, what new agers want thought, and what our mate wants bought! We cannot both consume and be honest at the same time. We cannot waste and be important at the same time. We cannot get the best price and the best job. We are as cool and rich as we’re going to get so why don’t we have it all? Either we are building better lives, relationships, and jobs or we’re piling the same problems, a generation thicker and more competitive, in the path of our children and their children and their children. It makes the Hanford clean-up look easy.

According to some white and dead social scientists, "specialization leads to alienation." This is true, even without the bogus State U. semantics. We never dreamt of being account executives, so, as long as we are, what's to know—we're confused and bitter. We squash ourselves 10 hours a day, then try to pop beautiful and whole from the vise Friday evening, of course there's little to talk about and everyone seems crazy. The task of unpacking our whole life cannot compare to the carefully crafted Simpsons, especially when it’s already dark out. Better to order a half-rack and comb back that misunderstood hairdo. Partial solutions require impossible maintenance. Up or down, everything wants to point the same way.

But, please, please, please, don't put us off with guilt and don’t stop reading here. Our wackwardness is alright—for yesterday anyway. There’s no shame in evolution, that we’re the best animals ever. We were wired to lie, to kill, to overcome, to get over—we got the crop in! Our thumbs are for manipulating! Dogs will never have our glorious opportunity—but will we let slavery, our rape and pillage, our butchery be for nothing?! Are we human, all too human, or are we humane? Fuck softer toilet paper, where’s the Darwin dividend? We eat food pellets and wear water bottles like better rats, what happened to our early promise? When we were ugly and died all the time, all anyone talked about was salvation, family, overcoming desire, throwing off these chains and more dessert for the guests. Now that everyone’s a king—aren’t we even interested?

It’s our car alarm.

There are a number of ways to move from the present present into our immediately next present. Only one thing is certain: we will never arrive magically in a place to which we are not heading. We will not one day make so much money that our lives are on golden pond. The idea of retirement, that our life will someday become full when we can finally afford it, is a lie. From the first day we realize we're backing through life it will take years just to turn around. Cash will help, in fact it will allow it, but not beyond food and rent (we’re pretty set for clothes). But most people’s money will do little but unfortunately cushion their fragile lives, like a shoe luxuriously ignoring a worm. Freedom is dangerous and expensive, they will argue. They know that true security comes only in one rare and valuable form: the time, care and attention of other people. Nothing but love can save your life before you get sick.

We can pay more and more often for important things and thus make ourselves more important jobs. The American consumer drives the entire world economy (so no hating China until you talk to your neighbor). We employ everyone, why are we isolated, aggressive, and bored? The great Riz Rollins, when asked about his plans for retirement, responded quickly "Retire from what? I’ll do what I like ‘til the day I die." Mmmmmm, excellent point Riz. Retirement dreams are a sure sign that we have ample room for improvement.

The problem is that you can easily be born, raised and die these days without a single sight of anything resembling the truth. Only the crazy and heretical even get a glimpse. We’re more productive but work more than ever. We taught the world to compete now we’re afraid to get beat. We play ourselves like suckers. We believe that the 8 hours at work, that the 5 hours of TV, and the hour for the car don’t matter. It's not that gut dropping Sunday night, it’s the relaxation just before bed on Friday, it’s the hour of aerobics, the two weeks every August, the excitement on the way to the mall. The future we're saving ourselves for does not exist—let’s get off the pipe! In fact, it’s the cars, cable, and Khicken–the desire for that Barbee future–that keeps us from the potential that obsesses us. What we settle for is what we become, and so far the old folks homes are winning hands down. No TV show, new age workshop, yoga class, or high school in existence can tell us this—about our own lives, to stop listening and start talking, to stop settling for what is offered and make our own. They can’t, they’re the problem. They're built upside down, these authoro-cratic fakes—brilliantly backwards. Anything true we want we’ve got to discover ourselves, which is brilliantly described by William Blake thusly: "I must create my own system or be enslaved by another man’s."

You can go halfway around the world and still be lonely.

It’s not hard to hear the clamor, and many try to help other corpses up into gainful employment. This is beautiful heart. Thank you! Many of you rule the school! But in your rush to achieve, please don’t make us more authority—we need untestable, standardless love! There are enough collegiate technocrats sealed in social service skyscrapers to let the poor folks go for free. Don’t be afraid to work less and figure it out for a couple, ten years, you’re up against all history! Save yourself first and you’ll never burn out! In the old days (someplace), justice was built into work, family, diet, architecture, weather, and play. Now we’ve lost it and look only at work. Work work work work work! We all deserve more than the equal oppression of modernity’s mechanized unions. It’s a great half-step, and when the 16-hour work week is instituted worldwide, may it work for billions, but let’s admit it’s no goal before it comes true. Hell, even our government calls us customers. We must resist trying to legislate people a decent life instead of making and sharing glorious ones ourselves. This is not easy without religion, but have faith, we will not let you be left behind! For 2000 years, Europeans have tried to save the rest of the world with guilt, give it up, no more absorbing for other people. If one more gorgeous Hindu tells us about nose jobs, everyone’s fired!

Relationships are painfully slow and fragile compared to paperwork. (Infrequent, too!) They don’t slow steamrollers, they don’t hold water and they can’t be adequately proven, measured or enforced, but for all our surplus, they are rare and valuable—the only things that matter. There are no shortcuts—not believing our own hype, not serving four people at once, not writing it down to forget it, and not buying better presents. You need kids as much as they need you, and together you’re twice as strong.

Still, we have no five-year plan, we don’t even have five years. Not everyone can be a massage practitioner. There is little disposable income in organic farming, and as desperately as our kids need our time, there is no money, even as the Dow soars 25%. (That our kids and cash are at odds kills us every day.) Commerce and land use are so regulated that businesses based on love instead of growth are often illegal. But we’ve got billions we can appropriate right now—through organic unbagged vegetables, reasonable meat, pre-and-recycled toilet paper, soapier soap, and delicious local goodies! Every day on the bike robs $20 from Exxon and Pemco into your sustainable pocket! This can make us rich! But this time we must avoid such a pitiful fraternity, so no $1.50 Plastic Pimp bottled water and no health food to go-go. Like we said the packaging and distribution is more valuable than the product. Do you think Exxon, Goodyear, 3M, Westinghouse and General Motors care what’s refrigerating in that 18-wheeler? There’s a surplus for the first time ever, but the money rockers are hungry as hell we must love every dollar as ourselves.

We’ve hit every toe in town, but please remember, please, that we vote on each other every single day. You vote on me and I vote on you. If you want me to flip burgers, just order the double with fries. In Three’s hometown we approved five billion dollars for concrete without batting an eye (three sports stadiums, a few parking garages, on-ramps, HOV lanes, huge DOA transportation system). That’s enough for everything! (40,000 inexpensive houses returning $24M a month in rental income). Hell, even the interest could get anything. (Like 15,000 people working full time!) Nationwide, we spend enough on pets ($22B) to sextuple every income on Haiti. The math is sloppy, but the idea is brutally tight: we have the cash, when we drive, the bridge is built, but if we’re not commuting-not causing money directly-we have a shortage of care. We’ve earmarked billions up for post-it notes and pesticides, our priorities are as unfortunately clear as they are inexpensive and rich. We subsidize massively, but a dollar of our precious love is worth much more than a Slurpee—give em to a friend or hold on—it’s going to be a rough ride!

2. Chapter Two - A dance, a kiss, a song

Breakdown

Let’s slice human activity into needs and wants.

Our needs, our struggles to survive, are historically how we have defined ourselves and been defined. The brutal present and our response–if we got the crop in, if we are cold, what we’ve eaten—has shaped our literal bodies and figurative minds. The work was hard and funky, but it paid off big with life, dignity, and family. We created each day from the ground up while our brains screamed to be heard over our bodies complaints. Our grandparents, spouses, and kids were necessities. Nothing was post-anything.

Our needs require no explanation and the work we do to fill them stands absolutely. Farming, sharpening the axe, sewing, and cooking was all natural—no additives or preservatives! We weren’t quite as good as we wanted to be but our crooked rows and chunky clothes waited without shame until the time and care arose.

We knew working harder could get our family up. How good it must feel too—white carpets, smelling clean and delicious. Our aching backs and hungry guts held no nostalgia. Being better off was by definition being better. We don’t need to pick every ear of corn, fix every fence and wash every toilet ourselves. Give me a day off, I promise I won’t spill lemonade on the rug.

People + money = rich people

The promised land, our lemonade life-with-style, was the gravy we worked overtime to make. This is our wants—at first caramel apples and now fat-free potato chips–this is anything we didn't absolutely have to do but went and did anyway, some of which are almost as beautimous as our needs and some or which are worthless, the common thread being that they require extra time, resources and love.

From mom’s apple pie to the pattern on our socks and the song we’re singing on the way home, this culture is like gold stars to a preschooler. It eases the humiliation caused by running this gorgeous machine through the mud. It’s the future’s promise, a tender loving cure for the messy and hurt present. It is god, a basketball game, a new recipe. It is the delicious icing to struggle’s hard and dry cake.

Our wants relate directly to our needs and they do require effort, but they are not struggle itself. They are a playful and humane response to our all too human needs. They help us remember our capabilities, and safely hold our dreams. They are desire we can afford.

For thousands of years, our needs and wants were kept in a perfectly brutal balance. Disease, boll weevils, bacteria, unwashed hands, and broken legs all guaranteed the party would end too soon. Our aching feet heard only what they needed from our loud, overbearing brains. A decent life was out of reach, held first by nature, then geography, and finally by the men who conquered both. But now who holds our leash, our democratic leash? Everyone’s pointing fingers–at their parents, at men, at corporations and governments–but really, who’s holding?

Why do you need money?

In our amazing lifetimes a luxurious surplus has come into reach for hundreds of millions of souls. Through collective will and careful attention we’ve brought the land of milk and honey to many tongues. We’ve become god. Everything is cheaper. Nutrition and warm clothing?—nope—we’re doing three car garages, new couches and wow chips this week. Our jobs are frustrating but boredom is a more formidable enemy than pain, we have not perfected consumption and most movies aren’t really fun they’re just easier than doing it all ourselves.

We made a trade. We eliminated (and exported) much of our oppressive creative struggle. We sacrificed much to survive on this cold and demanding land, safety and the elimination of chance were not only more important than a child’s playful surprise, they paid the bills that allowed it. But Jesus was right—the only way to make money is to take it from other people—we freed ourselves by becoming better oppressors. Our kids know this, that we’re crazy, because we oppress them too, getting them ready to compete with our own rats. What they’re at-risk of, in this risk-free nation, is figuring it all dangerously out themselves! Most adults are safe because we’ve generally settled on stability, and although we’ll say it’s for our kids, twice as many of them have been pounded into poverty over the last thirty years–currently one child in five lives impoverished. Ask over and over what your wealth costs! From whom does it come? Who does it make safe, and from whom? Does it enable a free and prosperous community or does it try to protect you from needing one?

We have endured pain to meet our needs and this ensured us a strong culture. The oppressed may not be pure but they do own the truth. Cracked and dirty like our hands, our culture was once true like the shabby songs we sang. It was less popular and more scratchy and scary. Disney was great because it was a world we’d never know, a beautiful tune that someone else would carry, but now we are so fantasia we can’t distinguish our hallucinations. And the quiet songs of our bodies, our families, and of our work fade as we get more and louder stereos. Will we give up these turboed privileges just to be able to sing?

[End of the hard mean part.]

Chapter T hreee - Fly, bee, free

Strawberry Letter 23

We may not be biologically built for freedom, with our brainy muscles screaming at our timid hearts for comfort and order. Winning at evolution, which we have done, could be like a goldfish winning a jumping contest. There are sad indications—in places where humans have liberated monkeys from the struggle of natural selection by providing ample delicious food (garbage dumps) they get mean, dirty, and lazy. Luckily, people are smart, cause I'm definitely not going out like some dirty-assed monkey.

We’ve all but killed work. Brilliant. But how crazy that our new lawn chairs have left us confused, violent, and with more depression than faith. Are we warmed up or done? We could do 15 hour workweeks, but what would happen if we throw out our busy work? An even higher concentration of wealth? Already, the dearth of meaningful labor has reduced millions to permanent inadequacy. Will we accept absurdity as a condition of comfort? Create our own pain and suffering just to have meaning? Will we replace starvation with stress, fake the limp of struggle until every soft punk carries a gun? Will we give up on being and run around trying to become every day? If we are truly defined by what we do then how will we feel more important than our meaningless jobs and vapid leisure? Can we have fewer parents without everyone else staying a kid?

Slip out the breakers, break out the slippers.

If this is true, we have a luxurious but painful choice. The first option, currently chosen everywhere, is to give meaning to our meaninglessness, to take the details of our provided lives and magnify them into magnificent struggles, prop our Greek tragedy with more popsicle sticks. This will keep our lives organized around money. It will be easy. We can struggle for mag wheels and try to overcome last month’s jeans. We can get off on running errands, ignore slavery and be guilty of ice cream, overplan our vacations and endlessly perfect control. Many people do this, we attach emotion and care to nonsense, and we always seem to have enough people with whom to discuss the details.

But over time, loving the absurd—wearing pac man sweaters and documenting every film star, means that we will take the life we are given—by television, by the economy, by meteorologists—and subsist on false glory. We will continue to make ourselves more efficient for corporations–moving in more predictable and profitable patterns and thinking more productive thoughts. We will bend towards advertisements like deprived plants. Our best culture will be angry and fruitless dissent—like most punk and hip-hop. The smarter will consume the sexiest suffering—French films, Gangsta Rap, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan—but will still balk entirely at living their own. The rest of white culture will remain bland and profitable. We will consume exploitation’s profit around the world and we will destroy the planet’s resources with depression. Moral authority and spontaneity will tantalizingly escape us. Sensual food, a good poem, and the perfect flower will not be enough for those who have decided they cannot taste. This path is the easiest, best rewarded, most action packed, newest, and least corny. It is easy to do like a hobby, in addition to the rest of your life, you can even do it when you’re down. This path ensures our emptiness will have the best therapists and medication but cannot offer insight into the problem itself.

Hey everybody, we’re doing it!

Okay, okay—you’ve paid your readerly dues, here’s the good news—we’re already half done! The hard work is done. Marx knew we couldn’t avoid an interim of full-blown capitalism, the lefties won’t tell you this but it has exploded personal choice and possibility around the world but it’s true! Yes, at the price of indigenous culture, natural resources, and the sacred, but ask the people what they want, the list does include dope building standards. We have plenty of things to figure out and letting people decide for themselves has got to be on the list or we’re nothing but stingy old-school socialists. Let us die off if we can’t figure it out!

Decentralization, decolonization, and democracy have the best chances they’ve seen in years. A king’s ransom travels through our hands every day, all we have to do is make our changes and refuse to stop half-assed. Let’s cash some fat checks and see if we're smart enough to avoid the stomach ache. Make friends with a millionaire and jump on the dole. I see you lonely in that big house, turning up your stereo for attention, we’re beautifully ugly and perfectly backwards! We show it but don't know it—if we got together we’d have enough money, people and time to do whatever we want. The whole world is following our lead—let’s get it on!

There is no other time but now, sweet people. I know you were promised 76 years, that was a very useful carrot, but the right now is our only and slim chance. Next week will find us in deeper, uglier, and deader. >From the second we start it will still take years just to slow down. We won’t comprehend what we’ve lost for months. Our food, our transportation, our entertainment, and our conversations all need work, but we’ll get more kids, friends, better homes and tastier gardens! No one’s got faith in us–not the critics, not the newspapers, not the government, not even most churches–they’ve all bet against us. Luckily, the only question is do we believe ourselves? Do we believe our own untrained, wavering, crazy sounding selves? Does 9-5 office work make us sad for a reason. Are we born with the truth to be know anything else. Is the right path hard because we’re not supposed to take it or because that’s the only way justice can be sustained? Is it hard not to speak our hearts by design or accident. Do we crave quiet and tender moments because our destiny is to convince each other we are their superior? Listen to what your soul whispers and your body cries, I think we’ve got it going on.

Let’s get it on:

There is no way but the personal, so conduct your own check-up with our robot archaeologist: what food eating and with whom, how do I travel and why, what do I do with my sunlight? Do I consume or create: apple pie, music, pain & sorrow, stories, clean water, dance, poetry, love, personality? Do I want Al Green or Mariah Carey? Do I build or squash: surprise, kids, people who need a hand, loneliness? Does my health come from plants and movement or laboratories and machines? There's a lot of important work to be done and not many people doing it (especially us men folks) and even fewer paying for it. Let’s get it together, add whatever you have more of–time, money, heart, integrity! The more thorough and honest your inventory, the smaller your mid-life crisis, so ignore all your "value added" whatevers–television size, car niceness, income disposability, weight, wardrobe overtones–and look people in the eyes. The results will not be instant, we didn’t get here overnight, we’re not popping the silver bullet anymore, but if you go straight and children, animals and loving people don’t respond, it’s probably not straight.

We can smoke possibility and get off on ignorance forever, that’s part of the delicious horror of being human, but on the truth of our present moment we can never get over–we are what we do. Like Popeye, we am what we am, not what we think or say (although those are actions too). It is not our car’s stickers nor our magazine subscriptions, but that we squander so much love on magazines, cars, and stickers. It isn’t what our tennis shoes say (just do it), but that no one wears anything else (do just this). It’s an accumulation of time spent loving and hating, talking and being quiet, asking and telling. And more than we would ever admit, we write the script. Once we ignore the person and believe the t-shirt slogan, we’re unfortunately in deep—straight-A, post-modern, mack-to-the-future, mickey-fickin’, Big Wack-Attack macks, in fact. There’s a meeting of black holes at the mall.

Battalions of merchants, billionaires, advertisers, and industrialists fear this simple truth more than life itself. We are highly paid and highly motivated to prevent you from finding your creative ability. We are inside your schools, your government, your home, and your head right now, and we are strong. We have you feeling guilty about food, scared of black men, and so afraid to die that you may never live. We will say anything to have you believe, to have you love us, to get in your pants, but I will break rank to guarantee you this: we will not be there in the morning. The truth?—Your attention is all that exists. Your attention is money, your attention is love, your attention is power. You got it, we want it. If you pay your attention long enough to anything it will bloom, it is like sunlight, and the garden of our world looks exactly as we’ve left it. There is not one leaf out of place, not one weed is fake! We create insecurity to sell security. Self-hatred sells shoes. Faster! And we’ll never admit it but we do it all for you, there is no secret other. We can’t even get out of bed without your light. Mind this. Believe that you’re wealthier giving your money to us, that for you, newer is better, and that you are happier and safer in my car than ever before, even if you do have to work more to afford it, because here’s the trick—you must be certain enough to convince us as well. The lie is only as strong as our belief.

Where we'll draw a line that make sense we don’t know? Don’t freak on the car thing, you already spend more time with it than anyone you know. And don’t give us up, Us that is, we’ll all live with the results but the decision is yours. Every decision is yours. Make them deliberately and without distraction. With anger and with compassion. With love and with strength. Standards high or low, you will live there. Take your self seriously and with tender love–this decision is more important than even we would have you believe. It's your family, your job, your culture, it’s your soul. There are places nearby, where people we’d call poor get three hours for lunch, have living rooms without televisions, know and sing beautiful songs, dance, eat dinner with tons of family, have built-in day care, throw huge weddings, and kiss twice when they say goodbye—all it takes is a person to do it! These people don't have as much soda pop or computer chips but they don’t have as many anti-depressants or prisoners either. (They are trying to catch up, however.)

We all wanted television but the reality of a world without any songs is only a few price points away. This is us, people, we’re the most powerful in the history of the world, we get what we want, let’s make it real. We’re talented and strong and have no fear.

A new culture, one without Mickey Mouse, one funner than dropping out and getting stoned, one without the oppression of the blues and scorn of punk rock can contain all of these things but it must be fiercely focused on one thing: creation. We’ve become gods, so now we must create or we will destroy. We must choose, every day, to hold ourselves high like monks and nuns. We must withhold and reveal; absorb and overcome; allow pain and delight. We must uncover the secrets our grandparents put away. We must deny ourselves enough to create again. Not for god, not for the Man, not for ego, but this time for our own lovely selves and families. We must be the complex and creative, angry and weak, loving, needy, and nerdy beings that we are, tightening up and letting go at the same time. We need to leap-frog our impoverished culture and start distributing the goods, make our weakness a strength, find a new use for our hate. Have the fight, make up and still be better off. There is a shortage of truth and a shortage of teachers, but this may be a good thing, we’ll need a lot of self-made people to create a democratic culture smart and blatantly appealing enough to crush military-informationalism under it's own weight. We’ve got to engage, sound better, have more fun, be more brutally honest, attach heart to judgment, take back time for ourselves, and pool our knowledge immediately. The strongest movement will not concentrate on destruction but create brilliant replacements. It will make charismatic participants and reluctant instead of pandering leaders. It will find wisdom it didn’t even know it needed. It will be hungry like you’ve never known. It will be real life.

Nothing but struggle can keep us real and no one but ourselves can administer it with love. That’s the definition of a sell-out. Listen to everything and run it through your own brutal heart, as long as others take care of us, we are oppressed or fake, a nation of salesmen. We don’t need famine and disease to make us pure, but we’ve got to admit we’re weak and that there’s nothing else we can do. A valuable culture, one that we actually like, one that we actually sing will be honest up and down. We will say fuck irony, irony is waste. It won't be quiet, nice, or easy but we’ll never change the channel again—after giving up pornography for true love.

Getting smarter with less brain is our new full-time job. You can do it everywhere. We will be alive anyway—why not work for love? Snort the world's religions and exhale the deadly dogma. Being ignorant is losing, believe it all and see if you can come out the other side alive. Try some new pajamas or sleep in the nude. Say too much, bother the wrong person, call back, do it straight, be quiet—you know what you need to be bad-ass! If you’re starting from scratch and doing the work take your time, get greedy and needy. You will encounter resistance as many rats are violently attached to their cage, but no one worth your lovely care really wants you shot, shut or stuck up, leave all garbage with its creator. Tell everyone what you need and hold the best ones close, it will take many just to not feel crazy! Just try to get better every day!

2. Proposed 20 Story Building

Deep breath. We’ve all been made an object to nothing—to no subject that is. We all know more about anonymous newspaper experts, irrelevant anchors, new age knowers, celebrities and comfortable politicians than we do about ourselves. (In 1996 we spent $1.73 billion on Prozac.) We thought listening could teach us to talk, and that speaking was being. Start the deprogramming now: take back your mind, let go your hair and squish a few billboards, debunk the paralysis of boredom, make one thing sacred. We’ll clean our temples inside-out; sleep better than ever, and maybe, just maybe, rock the world with a kiss that kills the IMF!

It will hurt, we guarantee it. Creation is hurting. Consuming is more comfortable, safety more safe. Insane is the word we reserve for people who succeed at creating their own reality, tortured is what we call those who try, but what else are we to do now that we have the option to not live fake? We’ll feel more than we want to, at so-called inconvenient times, we’ll say the wrong thing every day, but we’ll also jump beyond the drunken monochrome of anger and depression, beyond feeling scared and talking always about other people. We’ll no longer hear ourselves laugh but feel it all around. We get to be animated and become intense—give ’em so much eye contact it hurts—but we’ve got to get real first. The work is worth it, and we’ll get there like a Mack Truck—so brilliant lovers or red-hot accountants—what will it be? Hold the dam if you want, I'm learning how to swim!

To be perfectly clear we are not suggesting people change. You don’t need ruffled pirate shirts, a new book, crystals, or motivational speakers; these are the half-assed half-truths of our own humdrum! Kill every buddha, leave this on the bus! We’re changed too much already, not unchanged enough! Don’t worry about becoming different, acting different, and dressing different (in fact, don’t worry about becoming, acting, and dressing at all). Be selfy, idiosyncratic, true to your own school—go backwards—break out that 2nd grade shit. If you can do it without hitting us, we’ll probably like the real you better.

Take yourself for a walk. Let down the drawbridge, get it out in public; the one that you used to tell people about, the one you used promise a novel or that you’d learn how to surf. Lengthen the leash, wipe away the petty things that fill up a day, and see if you can live through vacuuming, the line in the grocery store, work. See if you can believe that everyone else on the bus is as alive as you. After that it’s all extra credit, you may even find that once you know what you’re here for you have no time for looking around in stores and TV friends.

If recognition walked up right now, are you ready to be the beautiful and brilliant soul we know you are? Could you handle Neruda or Nin? Are you in practice? There are plenty of obstacles so don’t stop yourself. You will be a hypocrite, so admit it, it means that you’re gaze is above your feet. It will be the first of many loud and awkward mistakes that many will envy. Go slow. You may need a new job, lover, family, or pet, that’s what you’re here for, just don't move to another city and change your name, your current friends probably feel the same way. Open up your gut—put yourself first and admit how close a second the rest of us are. Track down the best people you can find, ask for help, and have the breakdown, you can’t know the middle without the other side.

We love that you’ve gotten this far so here it is—we are what we make—relationships, arguments, apple pies, money, kids, car parts, a dent in the movie theater's seat, tom kai talay, a better lilac—not the best or the worst but everything (especially what you’re doing right now)! And whatever we make today is more tomorrow. We’re a closed set but the sum of our parts grows greater than any whole. Consumers demand confusion, winners beat people, but only the creative can make anything, and only through creation can we define ourselves in the positive. Your attention is all anyone wants—you, me, your child, your lover, Burger King, Mumia, whoever—dish it out like the precious soul food it is. You will be amazed how delicious you are, I am too! Now get . . .

copyright 1997 Eben H. Carlson