All the good seats are outside the system

Hi Joe,

I just caught you for the first time with your essay "Pissing in the Liberal Punchbowl Again". Just have to
say you made my day. You mirror so much of what I’ve come to believe. I
used to drive a Firebird and piss hundred dollar bills everywhere I
went. But my life was shit. I exited the system after one final
spending binge.

Now I’m essentially broke. Never waste so much as a paper towel (I tear them in half, usually, to make them last longer.) I don’t have much, but the capitalist bullshit in my head has subsided. I have lots of time to THINK about life.

Not that life is perfect now, but I feel better than ever, about myself, and about this amazing thing called life.

Dammit, now I’ll have to read your book!



Dear Rhonda,

Oh, I know what you mean!

For maybe 20 years I chased after the "things" that symbolized transcendence of my poor rural background — big historic house with several fireplaces, antique guns on the wall, complete silver service right down to the caviar ware. And when I was done, it all just sat there looking back at me from behind glass cabinets — and I was drinking too much and creating nothing. A couple of refinances later, I finally got the message. This stuff owns you. Because a system owns you.

Now I am debt free, writing what I want, and understand that capitalism is the name of that extractive monetary system. It is the wine press and we are the grapes. And I have come to understand that our elite monetary masters will continue to crank the press down on anyone who participates in this system. No matter how poor we think we are, there is plenty more to be squeezed from Americans.

I realized three years ago that the only solution for me was to simply leave, live somewhere else, at least for most of the year, and do right in the world each day and get a little writing done too. In a week or two that small dream will finally come true (see my "Under the Blue Mango"). And it will be the solution to absolutely nothing in the larger sense.

I had the good fortune of getting drunk with one of the world’s great sociobioligists about 30 years ago in the lounge of the Boulderado Hotel in Boulder, Colorado. And he said (to paraphrase) that man, the curious, tinkering, tool and gadget obsessed socialized killer ape cannot dissociate himself from his innate neurology. That he will go the way of any overly successful species — by overpopulation, pandemic, etc. He has already accomplished most of his own extinction by building ever more complex nests, food extracting and territory expanding warmaking systems and, will consume and destroy his environment, which in this case is the entire planet, not along a steady line but by orders of magnitude due to his ever increasing efficiency. He cannot change what he is, cannot change what made him successful in the first place. Nature loves species success. So the primate plays happily with the flood of mechanical puzzles and toys inside the systems of interconnected gadgetry, inside an entire world of comforting electronic tribal noise, the media drumming of the synthetic technological community his species has created, incapable of conceiving that there is a finite limit to the earth itself. He cannot look up from or outside his own evolution and neurology as a species.

"So why don’t you ever write that?" I asked.

"Because it would be like shouting into a storm. No one would hear me, and the apes would turn on me. So the best thing I can do is take care of myself and family, live intelligently and pray that I am wrong. But I’m not. So there is nothing to do but get a good seat, think about life and watch the show."

On that grim note we prepared to go our separate ways, and as he was leaving he mentioned that he was going to go to the New Guinea islands.

"For research?" I asked.

"Sort of. But mainly because all the good seats for the show are outside the system."

In our own respective ways, you and I have managed to score reasonably good seats to the show, with enough time and sanity to think about life and what we are watching. There are worse ways to live.

In art and labor,


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