To the Other One Who Got Away

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I’m scared. Have been for a while. Ever since I met you I’ve feared losing you. Even though I never really had you, and never really will.

I recognized early on that we were different. That we had separate life trajectories. That our souls could never really merge like I so wanted. Too bad it couldn’t stop me from wanting you. From trying to make something of us, even though I knew there was no chance at success. From straining against that great foregone conclusion, just to be able to dream for a little while. Just so I could lie myself into having a little hope.

Because really, that’s what made you so damn irresistible to me: hope. You’re young, sweet, innocent, hopeful. Functional. Whole. Everything I could have wanted to start off a future full of possibility. Everything with which I could try to restart a broken life. You were so irresistible that I couldn’t stop myself from staying by your side for a little while, even knowing the whole time that nothing would come of it. I just needed to hide in your shadow for as long as I could manage. No matter the inevitable end.

And honestly, the thought of seeing you with someone else terrifies me. Even though it’s what’s best for you. Even though it isn’t just a possibility, but an unavoidable outcome. It must be, because you still have a chance at a normal, happy life. I don’t. I’m damaged beyond repair, abnormal beyond understanding, and tortured beyond solace. I can never give you what you need. But even though I know this, I still can’t let you go.

That’s because I can’t let go of what you represent. You remind me of true, hoping, trusting, pure, untainted love. That beautiful and undying affection when childhood friendship blossoms into full romance. What I once had. I can’t let you go because I can’t come to terms with the fact that it’s over. The time when I lived that euphoria is gone forever. And if I embrace that harsh truth I just don’t think I can keep on breathing.

So I plead with you to stay. Beg you to go. Because I can’t work up the courage to live with either outcome.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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I Always Got Along With Cuba

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According to news reports, we, as Americans, are finally going to start getting along with Cuba. Apparently, I’m now on speaking terms with the denizens of the island nation off the coast of Florida. This is news to me: I don’t ever remember ceasing communications to begin with.

I apologize in advance if this comes across like an ideological rant, but I feel it’s important to step back and realize exactly what’s going on here. The politicians, pundits, and news media outlets would have us believe that this is a great coming together of peoples, setting aside their differences at long last. Don’t be fooled. All this means is that the U.S. and Cuban governments are considering ending their criminalization of honest friendship and trade.

Make no mistake: there was never any great rift between the Cuban and American peoples. That was a lie perpetrated by the governments of each respective nation in order to justify their conflict. There is no voluntary citizen embargo. There never was a unanimous people’s decision not to travel between the countries. There were only government mandates, people’s will be damned. A select few deciding personal and business relationships between hundreds of millions of people, based on their own petty disagreements.

And yet, even when we are finally moving past all this, there are still those who push for maintaining severed U.S.-Cuba ties. Set aside for a moment the rhetoric about safety, national interest, and sending the wrong signals to dictators. These people are saying you can’t be friends or business associates with whole collectives of people. And if you try, they will stop you by force. They will show up to your business meetings armed and force you to disband. They will force your planes to stay grounded and keep your ships from setting sail. And they will shoot you if you resist. All because they believe it is their moral right to force entire peoples into pointless enmity.

I’m not saying violent dictators should be ignored. There is an appropriate response to oppressive governments. If they send armed forces to kill, destroy, and occupy, those forces should be crushed with an iron fist. Even in that case, though, the peoples of the respective nations should be free to engage in whatever peaceful relations they see fit.

I am willing to have relationships with the whole world. I buy from a Russian, have tea with a North Korean, sell to an Iranian, and form a friendship with a Cuban. I don’t care what the U.S. federal government says; they don’t represent me.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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Liberty’s Last Hope Is in New Hampshire

For anyone who values liberty, it can easily seem like a lost world. Between a ballooning federal debt, massive tax and regulatory burden, and an increasingly violent and pervasive police state, hope for a free and peaceful world is hard to come by.

Hard, but not impossible. Thankfully, there is indeed hope, in the form of a determined group of liberty activists that’s growing by the day: the members of the Free State Project.

With libertarians spread far too thin to see any definitive impact at reducing the size and scope of government, a group of liberty activists hatched a plan to focus their efforts in one geographically small, low-population area, starting with New Hampshire: the Live Free or Die state. The original goal was to get 20,000 participants to sign a pledge to move to New Hampshire, where they would participate in the electoral process in order to whittle away at the state from within. Now, while some participants do still enter politics to make a change, many more have joined the struggle for liberty in other areas, from starting agorist businesses that do not take part in the government tax structure, to filming police and holding them accountable, to civil disobedience. So far, over 16,000 signers have pledged to move once the 20,000 number has been reached, and almost 2,000 have already moved without waiting for the final number to be achieved.

The brave early movers have turned an already-free New Hampshire into a much freer place. Dozens of these Free Staters have been elected to public office, passing (and blocking) legislation by Free Stater margins, including passing a broad marijuana legalization measure through the State House (though it ultimately failed because of veto threats). A case (involving the Free State Project president herself) over the right to record police made it all the way to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and won, affirming the Constitutional right to film interactions with police. Entire warrantless checkpoints have been effectively neutralized by massive coordinated activism efforts. These successes have not gone unnoticed by the establishment. State representative Cynthia Chase even called out Free Staters as the biggest threat to her big government agenda, and called on the state to pass increased measures to limit their freedom in order to force them out.

A team of intrepid filmmakers made an hour-long documentary, 101 Reasons: Liberty Lives in New Hampshire, to show off all the ways liberty activists are winning in the Free State, and to inspire others to do the same. By studying what works there, we can replicate their successes elsewhere.

Liberty isn’t dying everywhere. It lives in New Hampshire. We can roll back the government by attaining a critical mass of activist movers. We can have liberty in our lifetime.

Joël Valenzuela is the publicist for the 101 Reasons documentary. He also runs The Desert Lynx.

Back to the Frontlines

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I took a break from my life of tireless activism in the Free State to visit my former home of Arizona. I was soon reminded of why I left, why I went Galt.

People the world over remain preoccupied with survival. With finances. With hobbies and fulfillment. And, most importantly, with the eternal quest for meaning. An unlucky few of us see the world as it is, in a state of slavery and oppression. Yet, we are powerless to change that unfortunate human condition. And so we are forced to live out our constant quest for fulfillment, only with the added weight of knowing the world to be fallen.

That was me most of my young professional life, only I lacked the realism to give up on the world. When all my aspirations for success in love and labor fell away, all I had left were dreams of a better tomorrow. Instead of attempting one last futile grasp at what I had lost, I made a desperate search for the frontlines of liberty, to spend what was left of my life in service to a mad dream.

How did that desperate stand pan out? The best way to judge that is to see what happened when I tried to step back into my old life.

The short version is that I couldn’t go back. Too much had changed, and it saddened me to see old friends and colleagues in the same jaded scramble for a better version of nothing special. Never before was the distinction between existing and living so clear, and I was grateful to be a member of the second category.

The truth is, some elements of New Hampshire are an idea boom town. People with radical ways of thinking and even more radical passion are moving from across the world to the one place humanity can make a stand for a bright future. While the rest of the world remains preoccupied with making its jail cells more comfortable, in the Free State people are clawing an escape tunnel out of the very granite. What I experienced by visiting my former home was hope withdrawal.

And as I write this I’m returning to my new home, and will barely have set foot on New Hampshire soil before I rejoin my activist brethren in the struggle against oppression.

Back to the frontlines.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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Mideast Conflict: A Blanket of Hatred

ISIS

Xenophobia has always been regarded as an internal problem for states, and while many governments have taken some kind of measure towards educating people against it, often it seems to end up on the back-burner. However, the long term consequences of persisting xenophobia are beginning to show.

Media attention has recently been given to ISIS as the world is beginning to wake up to the threat they pose. Meanwhile, hundreds of Muslim and activist teens have run away to join the ranks of Jihadist fighters. How did this come to happen, and who must be held responsible?

A brief summary of the past two decades:

– 1990: Iraq annexes Kuwait. The official reason quoted is that Kuwait had been accused of stealing oil from Iraq by slant drilling, opinions on the true reasons are divided.

– 1991: The US, Saudi Arabia, the UK and France and later Kuwait form a coalition to fight off Iraq’s occupation. Iraqi forces are bombarded by air and sea, and a ground assault follows. A ceasefire is declared 100 hours after the ground campaign is launched. Vast numbers of chemical weapons are apparently found and destroyed. President Saddam Hussein is allowed to remain in power.

– 2001: UK and US carry out bombing raids on Iraq in an attempt to disable its air defense network. This is part of an effort to disarm Iraq on the part of the UN by request of the US on the grounds that the Iraqi government refuses to allow the US to inspect for unconventional weaponry.
Military commander of the Afghan Northern Alliance Ahmad Shah Massoud is killed by a suicide bomber.
9/11 terrorist attacks on the US trigger a global uproar, war is waged in Afghanistan by the US with international support.

– 2003: US invasion of Iraq with international support begins. US forces take Baghdad. Former President Saddam Hussein is captured, tried, and executed by the new Iraqi Government. Iraqi militant group Tanzim Qaidat Al-Jihad Fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn (an Al Qaeda offshoot) joins forces with insurgent Sunni groups to form the Mujahideen Shura Council, they declare the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) shortly after.

– 2011: Civil war breaks out in Syria. President Bashar El Assad’s government fights groups of civilian rebel fighters. Casualties are in the tens to hundreds of thousands. US refrains from intervening at first, but decides to support and arm the rebels when Russia lends its support to the Syrian government.

– 2013: ISIL joins the civil war on the side of the rebels, and the name is changed into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The conflict is still ongoing.

– 2014: Al Qaeda disowns ISIS, the official reason quoted being their brutality. They have been accused of war crimes, religious persecution, mistreatment of civilians, sexual violence, and slavery.

Now, much of the media would rush to brush them aside as terrorists and fanatics, then move on to the more interesting news about the war effort. On the other hand, activists and conspiracy buffs will rush to blame the US government for its mishandling of foreign affairs with Iraq over the past two decades, and by the looks of the timeline above they would be quite right to do so. However, there’s a deeper fundamental truth to be learned from the current state of affairs: the reality of western blanket antisemitism.

This may seem entirely off topic, and that is due to a complete misrepresentation and misuse of the term antisemitism over the past century. While the term antisemitism is has been used almost exclusively to mean hatred of Jews, the etymology of the word suggests a far broader intolerance. Antisemitism refers to the entire Semitic ethnicity, that is to say of North African, Middle-Eastern, or Arabian descent. Hatred and racism against people who would broadly be categorized as Arab, therefore, is technically antisemitism.

Now examine Western attitudes towards Arabs over the past decade. With wars being waged constantly in the Middle-East and North Africa under the pretext of fighting oppressive dictatorial regimes and hunting down terrorists, these notions have come to be associated with Arabs in general. Western Governments engaged in various degrees of ethnic profiling as Arabs (and Africans) worldwide were arrested of charges of terrorist affiliation.

People in Europe and the US grew wary and suspicious of anyone with Semitic traits. Muslim and Christian Arabs alike became targets and social pariahs while they worry for their families caught in the war back home. The added barriers to immigration meant large numbers of refugees had to cross borders illegally, leading to public resentment and social isolation. Today, a significant portion of Western society is incapable of separating the terms Islam, Islamism, Jihadism, and terrorism.

This blanket treatment of Arabs regardless of their origin and faith is the reason why so many youths from across Europe and the US have gone to join the ranks of ISIS. These teens and young adults have grown up in a society that demonizes their culture and heritage, and resent the people who judged them for crimes they didn’t commit (and of which they were very likely victims). To them, ISIS is a way to strike back at those who have wronged them.

However, while blanket antisemitism in the Western world has contributed significantly to ISIS’s cause, it cannot be solely blamed for the group’s savagery and brutality. The roots of the hatred and resentment that aided ISIS’s rise lies in Sunni Muslim repression and marginalization in the region. ISIL could only have been established with help from the Sunni insurgents who sought to escape the repression they suffered under Saddam Hussein’s government. The Syrian Civil War was largely sectarian in nature by most reports, with the rebel groups consisting mostly of Sunni fighters. This better explains their eagerness to join forces with ISIL and form a single entity.

No good can possibly come of ostracizing and marginalizing people based on blanket associations and rash generalizations. Society could be significantly more functional and safe if people were willing to set aside their misconceptions and collaborate towards a common, mutually beneficial goal. The rise to popularity of ISIS among certain inhabitants of the western world is a sad example of the ultimate failure to do so. So please, try to be kinder to people you do not understand. It could make all the difference.

ASqrminiAlon Starkman, a reserve non-commissioned officer for the Swiss military, is a contributor to The Desert Lynx.

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Anarchist’s Guide to Voting

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Do you believe in a world without government? Follow the Non-Aggression Principle? Hold that voting is violence? Then this article is for you. I’m going to tell you why you should vote.

No, I’m not here to tell you to vote for pro-liberty candidates who will in turn enact legislation that will reduce the size and scope of government, thereby making you more free. While that’s certainly a convincing argument to some, I’m not addressing this to those who would be persuaded by it. No, I’m talking to the cantankerous anarchist who refuses to legitimize the system. Who makes more election-day posts about why voting is useless than partisan politicos make about why it’s useful. I’m talking to you. Yes, you, you incorrigible bastard.

Voting is active dissent. “If you don’t vote you can’t complain.” Ever hear that? That’s because by not having a presence in the electoral system, you’re allowing people who do vote have complete say over your world. You’re passively accepting your fate. Not that it makes any difference, but if you vote and it doesn’t work, then you get to complain that voting doesn’t work.

Voting for lost causes terrifies the establishment. Elections are rigged. The system is stacked in favor of the two-party system and its favorites. They’ll never let anyone with a chance of making a difference get elected. But if they’re going to cheat, make them work for it. Send them a message not in your own personal online echo chamber, but instead in their world. Vote for the proverbial (or literal) Ron Paul, and watch with glee as the media and party heads struggle with increasing incompetence to hide the black sheep’s increasing popularity in the polls. Watch with pride as more and more disillusioned voters wake up to corruption of the system.

Voting allows you to make a mockery of the system. The government relies on a semblance of legitimacy in order to rule, the sacred myth of representative democracy being the foremost pillar thereof. So spray it up and down with metaphorical graffiti. Vote for the Easter Bunny. Vote for John Galt. Vote for Vermin Supreme. Who knows, maybe one of them will get elected to some smaller office. Wouldn’t that be a fun spectacle to watch on the faces of the state’s ardent defenders.

The system is violent. It is unrepresentative. It is a farce. Yet, for the time being, we are all forced to live under its oppressive thumb. So make like a good anarchist and resist. Struggle like an insubordinate child. Give your overlords grief and spite at every turn. Voting is the only situation where they still pretend to care what you think. So let them know what you think. Go vote.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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War Always Comes Home

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You can’t assemble a totalitarian war machine and expect it to never come home. Sooner or later, all those military-grade weapons end up in your own back yard. Pointed at you.

Over the last several decades, we’ve seen the rise of militarized law enforcement. From no-knock raids to Ferguson under armed occupation, America is beginning to look a lot less like the peaceful land of the free and more like a land where only the brave dare venture. Even sleepy little towns in New Hampshire are getting armored assault vehicles, despite hundreds taking to the streets in protest. Weapons of war are in our streets, and they’re here to stay.

Many ardent critics of America’s transition into the land of checkpoints and armored personnel carriers supported military interventions and occupations abroad. The argument goes, fight them there so they don’t come here. Heavily-armed patrols and universal inspections are easier to tolerate when they aren’t in your back yard, especially when accompanied by the expectation that they will never, ever, happen at home.

As it turns out, that expectation was foolish. The war has come home. To begin with, America’s civilian law enforcement increasingly benefits from tactics, training, and close ties with its military. Train cops with Navy Seals and give them a “war” on drugs to fight, and it’s hardly surprising when officers begin to view the people more like enemy combatants than civilians. With dispositions and training more suited to fighting a war than keeping the peace, it’s easy to see how an otherwise peacefully-solved conflicts could escalate into violence and death.

Next, state and city police departments are stocking up with some heavy equipment. Much of this is either direct military hand-me-downs or made available through federal grants. This means that federal defense spending approved under the assumption that none of it would be used against Americans is being employed for just that purpose. Local government, always aware of the popularity cost of raising taxes and fines to fund various projects, simply can’t say no to free stuff.

Finally, many military-style operations, though carried out by local law enforcement, are funded by the federal government. A prime example of these are so-called sobriety checkpoints, where police are paid by federal money to hold regular checkpoints arbitrarily detaining motorists. Slowing traffic and harassing citizens in a sleepy little town is hardly something that would be deemed cost effective in a city budget meeting. Provide the funding for free, however, and the objections simply wither away.

The tanks have come home to roost.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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Free Talk Live appearance (Porcfest 2014)

Appearance on Free Talk Live at the Porcupine Freedom Festival, talking about moving to New Hampshire for the Free State Project, Bitcoin, cop blocking, and all kinds of good stuff.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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Peaceful Society Through Martial Arts (Porcfest 2014)

A strong people is a peaceful people, and widespread practice of the martial arts is a key way to develop the kind of society ready to not be governed. Talk delivered at the 2014 Porcupine Freedom Festival in Lancaster, New Hampshire.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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Privilege Should Be Celebrated

White_Boy_graffiti,_San_Bruno

The hills are alive with the sound of privilege-shaming. Whether it’s white, male, heterosexual, affluent, first-world, thin, attractive, animal, mineral, or plant privilege, chances are someone’s asked you to check it. If there’s anything about you that makes you better off than anyone else, you should be made to feel guilty.

Well I’m here to tell you that privilege shaming is a cancer upon society, and its proponents are the scum of the Earth. It’s useless, counterproductive, and overtly harmful. Here’s why:

Privilege can’t be helped. Ripping on people for being born better off than you is entirely useless because they can do nothing to change it. Was someone born wealthy and with greater access to education, health, and professional networking opportunities? That can’t be undone, and attempting to do so, to destroy a privileged person’s life to the point where all their natural advantages are undone, sounds pretty sinister to me. Additionally, some aspects of privilege can’t be changed. To persecute people based on their race, gender, national origin etc. sounds an awful lot like racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Aren’t those supposed to be bad things?

Privilege is a “victimless crime.” Sure, people benefit from privilege, but no one suffers by its hand, unless you consider envy as suffering. The health, wealth, happiness, and stability of an individual or group in no way harms others. Removing privilege makes no one better off while definitely making some people worse off. No one benefits. Just as no one suffers from privilege in the first place.

Privilege is a red herring. When privilege shamers work their dark art, what they’re really targeting isn’t privilege itself, but rather privilege disparity. Such a disparity is in part caused by natural circumstantial variations that can’t be avoided, and partially by oppression of underprivileged groups. That oppression is the real target, the real bogeyman in this story. Focusing on tearing down the privileged distracts from the true mission of making us all better off.

Privilege shouldn’t be shamed. It should be celebrated.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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School Is Obsolete – Alternative Self Education (Porcfest 2014)

The modern-day university system is obsolete. In an age where access to the world’s repository of knowledge is in the palm of our hand, there are much more efficient ways of education. Talk delivered at the 2014 Porcupine Freedom Festival in Lancaster, New Hampshire.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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Gaza Casualties Speak Volumes

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It’s that tragic time of year again when the Gaza Strip erupts into flames once more, and the usual suspects are quick to paint the tragic and complex issue with the black-and-white brush of their own agenda. And of all those metaphorical brushstrokes, the numbering of casualties on each side is the most revealing. In more ways than intended.

This year the popular propagandistic narrative is that of an evil, genocidal juggernaut of an Israel against a poor, downtrodden Palestinian people, like cattle before the slaughter. According to this fable there are only two sides, two groups, in the conflict. Every act of destruction falls on the conscience of every last person in Israel’s territory, and every dead body on the other end of the border is an innocent child.

Back to reality. There are, in fact, four main groups at play here: the people of Israel, the people of Palestine, the Israeli Defense Forces, and Hamas. The first two groups are simply trying to mind their own lives, and scurry for cover whenever the bombs start to fly. The other two are military groups, ostensibly charged with the safety of their corresponding civilian population. In reality, as in all wars, all this amounts to more death and destruction than protection.

Notice that key word: war. This isn’t a one-sided aggression here; it’s a two-sided armed conflict. Two organized forces are lobbing explosives at each other, with civilians caught in the crossfire. Omit all mention of one of these two sides, and the conflict ceases to make sense. It starts to look like a vicious, genocidal Israeli force is senselessly intent on pounding Gaza into the sand. And while that narrative is very useful for purposes of anti-Israel propaganda, it is not even remotely grounded in reality.

Now about those oft-quoted casualty figures, which show far fewer lives lost on the Israeli side. Using the two-group fantasy scenario, it seems like a brutal massacre of the Palestinian people. Using the four-group reality where you have two armed forces supposedly championing the safety of their respective civilian populations, a different truth comes into focus: the Israeli Defense Forces are much better at protecting their civilians. IDF members are clearly identifiable via uniforms, quickly sweep friendly noncombatants off to safety, and take the fight as far away from those in their care as possible. They even make overtures and attempts to minimize civilian casualties on the other side. Hamas members, on the other side of the equation, are often indistinguishable from civilians, fire into civilian populations, operate out of civilian areas, and make no perceivable effort to reduce the instances of death and injury on the Palestinian side, let alone the Israeli camp. When it comes to protecting its own people, the IDF handily outclasses Hamas.

There are great, complex issues at play that spark hostilities, with plenty of blame to spare on both sides of the border; and a continued effort to address these issues is necessary if we are to even dream of peace. However, when it comes to war, and condemnations thereof, we really have to be equitable in criticisms of both armed forces. Before blasting civilian casualties caused by Israel with any kind of honesty, we must demand Hamas wear clearly recognizable uniforms, target only military installations and personnel, and remove their forces from civilian populations, including sending their organized armed forces across the border to do battle in an area devoid of Palestinian noncombatants. At that point we can actually address grievances on both sides, and work towards true peace.

War is hell, and its agents are demons. We would do well to recognize all members of their ranks, and hold them all equally accountable.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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I Am Bowe Bergdahl

When reading the story of American POW Bowe Bergdahl, I couldn’t help but think: that could’ve been me.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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Activism vs. Slacktivism

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“The winner in a political contest is determined by the number and the effectiveness of the activists on the respective sides.” -Morton Blackwell

Activism is a great way to effect social and political change. Unfortunately, it’s often confused with its lazy, ineffective, poser cousin: slacktivism.

Are folks struggling just to get by? Are the wars still going on? Is there an acute deficiency of low-carb bread at your local supermarket? Wrongs aren’t going to right themselves. Get some markers and some cardboard and take it to the streets!

With a couple of caveats. First, note the key element in the word “activism”: “active.” If the key to effecting social and political change involved inactively complaining about all of society’s ills, it would be called passivism. And while there is a place for us keyboard warriors to attempt to convince friends and family and debate the finer points of philosophy without cease, it’s no substitute for real activism. At some point you have to leave the house, engage with real people, and make your voice unforgettably heard.

Second, activism must be effective. You can go out and demonstrate everyday without fail and still fall short of your objectives. Simply communicating your views isn’t enough. You have to craft a focused message, word it in a concise, impactful way, and stay on target. You must find a public forum for your message where it will be heard to its maximum potential. You need media coverage of your activism that is positive and far-reaching. And, most important of all, you need to show up consistently, with sufficient numbers, in an organized fashion.

Activism is there on time without fail. Slacktivism shows up when it feels like it. Activism plans briefly before executing. Slacktivism is permanently stuck in the planning phase. Activism knows what it’s doing beforehand. Slacktivism haphazardly shows up and sees what will happen. Activism shows restraint in tone and scope of messaging. Slacktivism shouts and rambles without thought to the intended message getting through. Activism is an organized, well-oiled, effective machine. Slacktivism is chaos, equal parts laziness and lack of self-control.

Activism is professional. It’s work. It’s the real deal. Slacktivism is amateur and fake. What approach will you use to advance your cause?

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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The Ballad of Rich Paul

Rich Paul, legendary civil disobedience activist most known for his work in marijuana activism, tells his incredible story of inspiration, courage, and struggle.

A joint (no pun intended) production with the Rebel Love Show.

Government Only Understands Force

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“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” – Mao Tse Tung

Behind every eloquent speech, every lofty ideal, every claim of legitimate governance, there lies a wicked undercurrent of deadly force. Behind all resistance to the purportedly legitimate system there also lies a steely backbone. We saw that steel on full display at the Bundy Ranch.

The state realizes its edicts through force. Disobey a law and you’ll be fined. Refuse to pay the fine and you’ll be arrested. Resist arrest and you’ll be shot. It’s that simple. Upset enough people, though, and you’ll quickly find yourself facing down an angry mob the likes of which you can’t disperse. A government must therefore exert only as much coercive control as it can without provoking the entire populace to revolt. That’s the eternally delicate balance between man and state.

Some states, namely those with a disarmed populace, push the balance further than others. We saw that during the 20th century in communist countries as well as the Third Reich, where untold millions of innocents were rounded up and murdered by their governments. All because they didn’t have the means to defend themselves, to dissuade the state from carrying out the worst of its planned atrocities.

In the battle for Bundy Ranch, we saw both the armed and unarmed populace at play. Unarmed and defenseless were the cattle, and as such they were rounded up, massacred, and dumped into mass graves like so many innocent victims of the state before them. The human protesters, despite remaining peaceful and nonviolent, faced abuse as well.

Then they came back with guns. Now, armed federal agents had to face armed militia members. No more was it a case of simply beating up protesters and hoping it doesn’t look too bad on camera. It had become a real standoff with real risks. Firing on the militia members would have meant being fired upon themselves. It’s no surprise it ended in peace.

Ultimately, humans can be convinced to commit morally reprehensible acts upon their fellow man. Add personal risk to the mix, however, and you find that it’s far easier to convince people to end each other’s lives than it is to risk their own. Take that commentary on humanity as you will. The takeaway: Back up your peaceful actions with implied willingness to use forceful self-defense when necessary.

Peaceful warriors work through peaceful means. Fight through nonviolence. Use love, unity, and moral courage to defeat violence, coercion, and evil. But they keep their proverbial powder dry.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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Bundy Ranch Woke Up Conservatives to Police Abuse

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Before the recent incident at the Bundy ranch, it was easy for conservatives to ignore the issue of police abuse. Not anymore.

Police brutality in America has gone largely unnoticed by the general, unaffected public for years. There was a time when mentioning the issue to the average white American would draw nothing but blank stares. Ask black America, however, and you would be sure to get a much different picture. The Rodney King incident of the early 90s, where a savage beating by police was caught on film, woke the rest of society up to the violence that can take place when armed officers are given the right to the legitimate use of force and are left unwatched: they use said force illegitimately.

The Occupy movement brought to light once again the nasty propensity of those with power to use it for abusive purposes. Cop Block’s valiant efforts to bring light to police abuse further woke up libertarian and left-of-center groups. The missing element? Conservatives. The amount of sympathy for victims of police brutality from right-of-center is extremely lacking. Getting beaten on by police? Why are you breaking the law? Get a job and maybe you wouldn’t be up to no good. Why do you hate America, you damn hippie?

Until now. The Bundy Ranch incident flipped the whole cliche on its head. This time, it wasn’t hippies or ethnic minorities being beaten, tasered, and attacked by dogs. It was cowboys, rednecks, and other assorted middle-class conservative Caucasians.

It’s easy to dismiss the concerns of those different from us. People half a world away who look different, speak a different language, and hold different beliefs are easy to ignore and marginalize. Even citizens of the same country, even of the same ethnicity and language, can be mentally separated as different, and their suffering ignored. But when you see armed thugs abusing people who look like your mother, father, brother, sister, cousin, or close friend, disassociation becomes impossible. You must feel. You must see the violence of the system you used to rationalize. And you get angry.

Police abuse affects all of us. Now all of us know.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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Do We Really Want Gender Equality?

Photo credit: Darren Kirby

Photo credit: Darren Kirby

Gender equality, and how to implement it in modern society, has been on people’s minds for several decades. We’re supposed to want it. I know I do. I can’t wait for the day when all humans enjoy equal rights to live their peaceful lives as they see fit, and can partake in a society that will allow them to do so without harassment.

I’m ready for gender equality. But how about the rest of us? Is society ready for more than just the parroted old feminist notions of a bygone era? For truly equal genders?

If so, we need to start granting paternity leave to new fathers. We need to make sure men are equally represented as cosmetologists, paralegals, executive assistants, botanists, and early childhood educators. We need to ensure men are able to secure scholarships to go to college, and seriously address the male unemployment crisis.

We need to ensure equal legal protection for both men and women. We need to stop moving to the other side of the street when encountering a man walking at night. We need to be blind to gender in cases of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child custody. We need to address the human rights crisis of criminalizing males at hugely disproportionate rates. We need immediate action to stop the rape epidemic that affects men everywhere.

We need to end the war on men known as “rape culture,” which discriminates against an entire gender by treating them all as deviants and abusers. We need to ensure men are allowed to express their sexuality without judgment. We need a Penis Monologues. We need to remind overweight men that fat is beautiful, and end dating discrimination based on their weight. We need equal representation, and compensation, in prostitution, cheerleader teams, “breastaurants” like Hooters, and any profession that leverages sexual attractiveness as an integral part of the job.

Alternatively, instead of waging an all-consuming crusade to socially engineer away the different societal habits and placements into which men and women have naturally fallen, we can focus on equal rights. On ensuring that members of each gender are equally granted the freedom to peacefully live their lives as they desire. And then leave them be to carve their own destinies, no matter how similar or dissimilar they may be.

It’s time to decide if we as a society, as a culture, and as individuals, are truly ready for real gender equality. I know I am. Are you?

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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Is U.S.-Russian Rivalry Only for Show?

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The United States and Russia put on a good display of being at each other’s throats. But what if that rivalry is nothing more than a show?

As I covered in my last article on the relationship between the Russian and U.S. Intelligence Services, it’s according to Intelligence that governments plan their negotiations and decide whether or not to put forth a plan for military deployment. This is a perfectly normal and sensible approach to foreign policy. However, the line is crossed at the point where Intelligence Services are used to create situations where deployment would seem viable, e.g. by manipulating intelligence and cooking up statistics.

Russian and U.S. foreign policy has been both very intimately and very discretely linked in the past few decades: wherever the U.S. deploys its troops, they find themselves faced with enemies armed with Russian weaponry and gear; and whenever Russia cracks down on former Soviet allies for insubordination, they very often find themselves facing rebels armed with supposedly stolen or smuggled U.S. weapons. At the same time, Russia often sends the U.S. warnings when it is about to launch an attack in the Middle East, and threatens to stay out of the conflict and leave the U.S. to their own devices (for example the deployments in Syria and Iraq), while the U.S. calls Russia on what it calls infringements of human rights and impingements on the sovereignty of its neighbors. And yet, neither ever actually personally intervenes in the other’s affairs!

In the past 30 or so years, Russia and the U.S. have very clearly avoided direct confrontation. Some might say that this is out of fear that a third World War might break out, and they would probably be right with regards to the original reasoning behind it all. However, in the past decade or so, it seems as though the two superpowers are just maintaining appearances while allowing each other to pursue their goals.

The underlying question is this: Why would two former rivals allow each other to gain in strength and influence? Surely, it would be in their interest to keep their opponent from getting stronger, thereby securing their own position as the world’s superpower. One possible conclusion is that they have a common interest in keeping everyone else out of the game. While one uses their power and influence to keep a rising force from becoming an actual threat (either by crushing them through deployment or by bringing them under their influence and control) the other underhandedly fuels the opposing side’s war effort and gains commercially. This would explain how small resistance groups and guerrillas end up well enough equipped to put up a significant enough fight for a prolonged war effort to be maintained. And nothing fuels a state’s economy like war.

At the same time, rivals remain rivals, and while their interests might coincide both sides, they have very distinct plans that are unique to them. And these most certainly include plans to gain an advantage over the other. Perhaps it’s a case of keep your friends close and your enemies even closer?

ASqrminiAlon Starkman, a reserve non-commissioned officer for the Swiss military, is a contributor to The Desert Lynx.

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The Walking Dead vs. the State

Photo credit: Roland Molnár

Photo credit: Roland Molnár

***SPOILER ALERT: Please, do not read any further if you have not completed watching the entirety, including the season finale, of Season 4 of the AMC television show The Walking Dead and you don’t want anything spoiled for you.***

The Walking Dead TV series, in its first four seasons, has developed an increasingly dreadful and serious tone combined with gripping action and drama, garnering more attention than any show currently on air. But there is much more beneath the horror sci-fi apocalyptic setting itself. The content and message of the show contains a clear allegory to present day reality that bear deep philosophical implications.

For starters, Rick and his group spend the first half of the season attempting to successfully live as a peaceful family of farmers that seem to simultaneously suffer in an unrelenting environment of horrifying violence, forced to defend themselves by any means necessary from a plague of death. Still, the protagonists enjoy momentary prosperity by both respecting individual property rights and behaving communally. As a unit, they are righteous folk who live as they believe is good.

Rick and his people are also tragically under constant siege, not only by undead monsters, but various living human fiends. These immoral people represent the state. They initiate countless threats against our innocent friends. They assault, pillage, betray, and hold hostage. They are the illegitimate government (redundant though that phrase may be).

First, take the vile Governor (a character literally identified by name as the government), who starts a bloody turf war over the farm. Our protagonists offer peace and coexistence, but the Governor instead chooses to invade the territory after killing Hershel and many of his own. Then, after Rick and his friends are split apart by the conflict, we meet a gang of disgusting, thuggish criminals, one of whom attempts to rape Carl, a relatively defenseless young boy. These men purport to abide by a code of justice, but they are really just brutes that murder and deceive both hapless victims and each other. And finally, the finale unveils a new enemy, the cultish, possibly-cannibalistic, totalitarian regime that occupies Terminus. It has lured the protagonists and who knows how many others into its trap, falsely promising sanctuary, and now has taken the group captive.

This season was finely crafted and executed in an artistically, visually, and emotionally raw way. Now we are faced with a situation in which the only hope for our friends to survive will be for one of three things to happen: 1) the Terminus state to ALL be killed or disarmed, 2) the Terminus state to completely withdraw its threats, return all weapons and stolen property, and let Rick and his people go, or 3) for Rick and his people to forfeit their freedom and suffer their own enslavement.

True, The Walking Dead is far from reality in that it is a science fiction horror show about the undead apocalypse, but an important supporting element of the horror is a psychological one. What could be more frightening than to consider that the pain and injustice inflicted by those who wrongfully claim authority, as depicted in the show, is actually something that we experience today?

MDqrminiMiguel Duque is a contributor to The Desert Lynx.

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