If there is one speech that makes my patriotism and desire to defend whatever is left of our freedoms in America rise to the surface, it is this one from Mario Savio (click on black and white video to hear the speech)…
There’s a time…when the operation of the machine becomes so odious,
makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part…you can’t even passively take part,
and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears, and upon on the wheels, upon the levers,
upon all the apparatus and you’ve got to make it stop,
and you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it,
THAT UNLESS YOU’RE FREE…THE MACHINE…WILL BE PREVENTED FROM WORKING AT ALL!
As Linkin Park says in their video, “Don’t fight the power and nobody gets hurt.” Indeed. Straight from the mouth of our Big Government.
To anyone taking the time to read this…I was just like you. Once upon a time.
Went to high school in rural Connecticut, had dreams of moving to California as soon as I graduated. Wasn’t too long before I was here and working part-time at Pic N’ Save making $4.25 an hour while going to the local community college living on Top Ramen and store-brand cereal. Just like you I worked hard, slowly moved up the ladder after working at several different companies. I had friends I went backpacking with, camping, and Friday night drinking. Eventually I graduated, and was earning a nice living. Dated plenty, eventually got married. Got a dog. Grill a decent steak. I remember the all-night club scene, but I don’t miss it. I had my turn, and I had fun. Lost most of my hair now, knees are starting to hurt more than usual, pants are getting tighter. Truck still runs good. Same truck I drove to California in when I was 19.
That’s all I ever wanted, and still want. I just wanted to keep moving forward, to keep moving up, to try some business ideas, to keep traveling around the world…I wanted to be left alone to work hard and enjoy my life. Maybe die with a smile on my face.
Political activist? Civil disobedient? Rally protestor? Anti-government blogger? Campaign donator? You must be talking about someone else.
I was the guy in the office who only voted so I wasn’t the only one walking around without the I VOTED sticker on my nicely pressed dress shirt. If someone asked me who I was voting for, I would say I had no idea and ask them what they wanted from Starbucks, I was making a coffee run. I was that guy.
Then the world changed around me or I changed and the world stayed the same. I’m not sure which. The wars never ended. It seemed like we were always “on alert” with a never-ending parade of villains who would destroy us at any moment. This fear justified endless conflict and invasion. The Gulf War started the year before I graduated high school and 22 years later it feels like it’s never taken a day off.
When I came to California in 1992 we were in a recession, so it was tough finding a job. Just eight years later what little I had put away in my 401(k) was devastated when the dot.com bubble burst, and the following year I was laid off as I entered my second recession in less than a decade. The following year I went house shopping, but the second recession had set me back and I wasn’t making enough money to buy a house. Three years later, after I had landed a new job and started earning a decent salary again I went back to house shop, but the housing bubble had suddenly launched home prices out of reach. It was then that I started looking for answers. Why were we always at war? Why was it that no matter how hard I worked, or how responsible I was, why did it feel like I was always fighting upstream, against some mystical tide that kept pushing me back, undercutting my progress? Where was this resistance coming from?
It was 2005. I was in my little apartment in California and I Googled, “Why are home prices rising?” A list of results came up, but I clicked on one called patrick.net. At that time, his website was nothing more than a daily compilation of articles from newspapers all around the country talking about home prices and the mysterious word “bubble” appeared in more than a few articles. What is this “bubble” they speak of?
From patrick.net’s article links I learned about housing bubbles and the herd mentality that can drive prices of commodities into unsustainable and irrational levels. But how unsustainable? How irrational? Without a frame of reference, how am I to know if this is a big bubble or a little bubble and where it will level off? Will I really “be priced out forever?” as all the Realtors kept insisting.
I was in Starbucks, sitting in a quiet corner. I was supposed to be studying for a test, but I was surfing the net reading about the housing bubble. I stumbled on a link to a paper written by Robert Schiller who like most people, I had never heard of. Of course now he is famous for his research work on housing bubbles and co-founder of the new and often cited Case-Shiller Index. Back then it cost me a couple bucks to download that paper from the Yale library (seems to be free now), but it was worth every penny. From his paper I understood that bubbles have happened through much of our history, and this latest one was no different except for the glaring fact that it was a monstrosity that made previous bubbles pale in comparison.
That was the beginning of the Angry in the Angry Woodchuck. The blog came later.
So here I was walking around with this very unpopular opinion about the housing market. It was uncomfortable to be me. People would talk excitedly and enthusiastically about home prices climbing and when it came time for my opinion, it was never well received. Nobody wants to be that guy. Everyone is excited and you’re the guy bringing everyone down. It was not a good time. My wife came back from a lunch with a group of her girlfriends and of course they discussed the housing market and since all of them were in the process of buying a house, they asked her when we were going to buy. She said that her husband had said the market was in a bubble that would collapse and that’s when we would buy. One woman’s sarcastic response was, “Oh…he’s one of t-h-o-s-e.” I’ll never forget how I felt when she shared what happened with me (for the record, my wife always agreed with my position). So not only was I the downer, I was the idiot in the room too. I felt so much like Cypher in The Matrix when he told Trinity he wished he had told Morpheus to shove the red pill up his ass. He preferred not knowing the truth either.
Meanwhile Alan Greenspan, the head of The Federal Reserve, was being quoted in the Wall Street Journal that the housing market was fine, Peter Schiff was being blasted by everyone that his doom and gloom prophecy about a housing crash followed by a recession was ridiculous and so was he, Senator Barney Frank in Congress was still on TV telling everyone how great it was that so many minorities were being served by this wonderful housing market, and almost no economist was willing to go out on a limb and speak the truth, all while the rating agencies were still giving all the investment companies that were heavily invested in trading mortgage-backed securities AAA ratings.
Not only was my position, even though it was based on facts, research and common sense not the popular opinion, it was the loathed and despised opinion that not even the White House, Congress, The Fed, the newspapers, the pundits, or anyone else except people being regularly referred to as “clowns” would talk about.
Not too long after, the market came crashing down and the recession was in full force.
I instantly realized two things. First…I was right. Second…despite the warm fuzzy feeling our public education system teaches us about our government, the government will in fact lie to its citizens…daily. The first gave me strength to believe in all my future opinions because they are based on as much fact, research and common sense as my first one. The second made me aware that our Government is not here to serve us, or help us, or inform or educate us….our Government is a machine that is here for itself. To grow itself. To feed on the power it takes away from us, for itself. The more it knows and the less you know, the more powerful the machine gets. You are incidental and quite inconsequential. Your labor is just fuel for the machine.
So for someone like me, knowing that the current housing market was in a bubble and about to crash was not enough. The next logical question is, what causes housing bubbles in the first place? The answer to that question also explained the dot.com bubble since the source is the same. It also explained the recession that was in progress when I first came to California. The answer to both of those bubbles includes a basic education on the effects of inflation. What causes inflation? The Federal Reserve. Why does the Federal Reserve cause inflation? To meet the monetary demands of the growing government machine. And on, and on, and on. So if you are willing to keep turning the pages, and keep feeding your inquisitive mind, you will find that the bulb in your head will glow brighter and brighter. The more questions you ask, the more questions there are, and I just kept going, and going, questioning and answering. I’ve read all the books I’ve listed on my blog, and as many again that I have not listed here yet, and I’ve never stopped reading. Just yesterday I downloaded two more books to my Kindle. It never stops getting brighter, this light bulb of mine.
And finally, over the years between 2005 and 2009, I reached the point where I had read enough books and articles and blogs that the full picture revealed itself and I finally understood the role that our own government plays in manipulating the economy, of controlling it for its own benefit, for the benefit of the politicians and the corporate elite, and all of it to our detriment. How we are just cogs in their machine where our opinion, our lives, our freedom, mean nothing to them. In the end, the tide that I had always felt undercutting my progress, was my own government destroying the capitalism and freedom we need to succeed. What I have achieved in my life, I am proud of, and I achieved it despite my government making it as difficult as possible, but I am angry because I know I could have achieved so much more, if government had just gotten the hell out of my way.
As you can see, my personal revolution was not lit on fire from some political ideology like the environment, homosexuality or illegal immigration, it was due to an economic ideology that all men are born free and should remain free so they can work hard and earn a living for their family and that Big Government is the antipathy to these freedoms.
So during my years of self re-education, what I had learned made me sick at heart. I realized the government machine had become so odious, that I could no longer take part, not even passively take part. And ever since that realization I have made a never-ending effort to put my body upon the the gears and the wheels and the levers to make it stop.
Political activist? Civil disobedient? Rally protestor? Anti-government blogger? Campaign donator? Now I am all of these things. Obama would label me a domestic terrorist just for writing this blog.
I had to include this Star Wars version of Linkin Park’s Wretches & Kings because I like to tell the TSA Agents at the airport they’re just mindless Stormtroopers who can’t think for themselves, so it seemed appropriate. Plus, it’s a damn cool video.