Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Is the border Arizona's primary problem?

Is the border "problem" really the most pressing issue we have to deal with today?

Well, let's see. The planet is heating up, we've run out of the cheap, polluting energy necessary to continue economic growth, our elders are overdosing on prescription drugs at a rate three times higher than all illegal drugs combined, biodiversity is disappearing at a rate high enough to be called the Sixth Great Extinction, our local economies are being sucked dry by the corporate and financial elite who have stolen our democracy, and the activist Supreme Court has made it easier for them to continue doing so--as well as greasing the skids to ensure all these other problems continue unabated.

For the past 100 years we've depended on Mexicans to pick our food, make our beds, build our homes, and now we want to build an apartheid wall and militarize the border in order for us to continue denying our responsibility to fix the mess we've created by scapegoating the oppressed.

Can someone please explain to me the thinking, and I use that term very loosely, behind all this?

The "we" I'm referring to is the Western industrial civilization on steroids that is known as the American way of life. We feel so entitled to this way of life that our political leaders insist that it is "non-negotiable" when trying to formulate even weak and vapid responses to the environmental and social collapse rapidly heading our way due to ecocide, injustice, and inequity.

There is indeed a whole lot of room for improvement. Which is what makes it all so frustrating for me. There is a readily available alternative in relocalization--a rational, practical, affordable process to develop a sustainable future--that could actually serve to improve quality of life for all life. But here in Arizona people have allowed themselves to be distracted over the border issue as if it's the only thing that matters.

I mean, we can't blame the Mexicans for the Colorado River going dry, as it doesn't even make it to Mexico any longer.

The idea that as rational creatures we could use our highly vaunted intelligence to reverse direction as we discover we're going the wrong way is a concept I've been using in my research, writing and community work challenging the growth lobby for about a decade now. I've also found myself recently paraphrasing, on a rather regular basis, a line from Swami Beyondananda (Steve Bhaerman): Maybe it's past time for nature's children to start acting like nature's adults.

Hmm, do ya think?

We (Americans in the generic sense) aren't doing enough to turn the ship of state around--squiggly lightbulbs and hybrid cars not withstanding. The American way of consumer life is still being sold to the developing world as the highest good they could possibly aspire to. This is done for no other good reason but to support and continue economic growth that actually only benefits a very small sector of the global population--to the ultimate detriment of the majority as well as to the planet that supports our lives and economies.

What I'm discovering in my campaign for political office is that quite a few people don't want to think about the actual issues and what could be done about them. They just want to slap a band-aid on a few symptoms (what I call the wounds of empire) and get on with their life. They want things to return to normal and don't want to think about the fact that normal is what got us to this point.

For instance, the current status quo fantasy is that we're not really running out of water in the Southwest desert. It is taken as a given that some technology will come along to allow us to "invent" new water supplies (this used to be referred to as alchemy). The only thing we need to do is secure the border and everything will be just fine. Then we can go back to paving over the desert so the tourists who come to enjoy the desert will be able to quickly and more easily get from one place where the desert used to be to another place where the desert used to be.

The tourists just better hope their cars don't overheat. And that enough Americans--75% of whom, according to the Pentagon, are too overweight and/or out of shape to qualify for military service--will be available and willing to do all that paving for a minimum wage with no benefits for an out-of-state contractor enticed here with tax exemptions and waivers of development impact fees.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

To Vote or Not to Vote: Strategies for Change

There is a significant percentage of people today who tend to equate voting (although often stated in more subtle ways) with an act of violence, and who counsel against participation in voting. The rationalization used for this is a form of the too-common mistake of confusing symptoms with root causes. The assertion is that politicians are engaged in murder, theft, and counterfeiting, and thus voting is an act of complicity. The next steps in this line of "reasoning" are often that 1) anti-social acts are the true and only goal of government, and 2) this evil government requires your vote to maintain its legitimacy, be ensured of success, and maintain the illusion of freedom of choice. Unfortunately, there is a particle of truth to all of these, especially the latter.

I don't agree with this line of reasoning. I'll start my thoughts on this subject by first saying that there's a difference between a politician, who is mainly interested in the next election, and a statesman, who is mainly interested in future generations. I also believe that the only true mandate of a democratic government is to protect the commons, which includes the physical and the social. Now, admittedly we're currently a long way from that. We neither nurture statesmen nor protect the commons. Quite the opposite, in fact.

So, let's look a bit below the surface to see why we're in our current sorry state. Let's connect some dots and see where we're headed and why we're in this handbasket.

The majority of politicians on the national level, regardless of party, are little more than tools of the status quo--which can be best summarized as the Industrial Growth Society and its practice of economic cannibalism. While local politicians are generally better at retaining some of their core humanity, they still believe in the inherent correctness of the status quo and seek to either protect it at any cost (the Right), or they believe there's nothing to be done about it other than maybe trying to minimize the damage, at least here and there, once in a while (the Left).

We the People unquestioningly accept this mythology and tend to buy into one end of the ideology or the other. We continue to proudly elect maniacs belonging to the monopoly of the duopoly (the two wings of the Corporate War Party) who promise either to control whichever minority group is being used today for scapegoating on every problem imaginable (the Right), or to throw slightly larger scraps over the wall to the peasants (the Left). As long as they can keep us fighting each other, their power remains assured. And, as long as we continue asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about their answers.

A growing segment of the population has shaken off this aspect of the consensus trance, but still allow themselves to be controlled by thinking that government built on dominator hierarchies that rule through force and fear is inherent to the very concept of government. (Cultural anthropology, for one, provides evidence to the contrary.) There is also widespread acceptance of the belief that anyone putting forth an alternative vision (or even a major reform of the status quo) is unelectable. (I mean, Fox News and CNN both say so, which must mean its true.)

But, because non-mainstream voices (those not vetted by the status quo) are allowed to be heard during the primaries, with the more radical voices safely relegated to third(non-serious)-parties, we are assured that democracy is being served, and we can safely go back to our Cheetos and "reality" TV and just forget about the oil running out and the planet warming up and our parents overdosing on prescription drugs. Oh yeah, and that damn border.

So, we withdraw from the democratic process itself. We don't vote because we're told if voting could change anything they'd make it illegal. (Jim Hightower, I think, or Emma Goldman, G.B. Shaw, Eugene Debs... ) We join the 50% of the eligible electorate who don't vote by believing the only ethical choice left is to withdraw our complicity from the electoral aspect of the culture of death--as long as it isn't killing us, anyway. Or at least only indirectly through processed food substitutes and contaminated water, polluted air and toxic soil. We believe that if we don't vote, we're somehow not responsible--and besides, it won't make any difference anyway. We don't want to believe what has been said since the days of Plato--that silence is complicity--so we just don't think about it.

Paul Ray, co-author of "Cultural Creatives," re-analyzed the thirteen years worth of data the book was based on from a political perspective and came to the conclusion that out of that potential 50% voter segment, only about 10% can actually be classified as alienated, ignorant, and/or apathetic. This 10% is actually the mushy middle the Clinton "strategists" went after, and were all excited when they got 1% of them to the polls. This means the other 40% are the largest potential voting bloc in the country, because the other half--the current bloc of active voters--are pretty evenly split (12-15% each) among Democrats, Republicans, and Big Business conservatives who have either liberal or conservative social values (and this is actually a false dichotomy, but that's another discussion).

So, the point I want to make is the importance of your vote, especially considering the rather small percentages of voters who provide the "mandate" for policies--about 20% in any given election--and much of that is not a vote for, but rather a vote against the other side. But let me add a caveat: For your vote to be meaningful we must work together to encourage and support candidates who are worth voting for; who are not only willing but determined to take on the status quo, and even more importantly, who will present pragmatic alternatives that work for people and planet instead of only for the profits of narrow special interests.

We can turn the sorry state of electoral politics on its head by becoming active in the democratic process--because democracy is not a spectator sport. Instead of remaining complicit with our silence, we can become actively engaged in helping remove the legitimacy of the status quo. We can encourage and support statesmen who will actively work towards real change instead of minor reforms. We can become advocates for electoral changes that can better reflect peoples values instead of their fears. We can champion Instant Runoff Voting, make elections day a national holiday, abolish the electoral college, require paper ballots or a paper trail on election machines that use non-proprietary verifiable software, and perform random ballot audits large enough to be meaningful.

As long as we remain satisfied that voting for the lessor of two weevils is the best we can hope for--or even more cynical, that this is the best that an inherently flawed humanity is capable of--we will remain complicit with a system that is about to push life over the edge of a cliff. Incremental changes in this system will not work; you cannot cross a 20 foot chasm with two ten foot leaps.

The way we practice politics and government today is nothing but a story. This means, as inquisitive, innovative and intelligent creatures, we can consciously choose to script a new story. But that's not going to happen if we withdraw from the system; if we shirk our responsibility and our innate ability to create a system that works for us and the planet we depend upon.

It is possible to vote and not simply have the government get re-elected. The more people who find the courage to do this, the sooner we'll start the transition into a sustainable--that is, life supportive--future. I, and many others, believe a political platform built on a foundation of relocalization--a practical, affordable process to build a sustainable future--where production of food, energy and appropriate technologies occurs much closer to the point of consumption is a rational first step. By weaving in a steady-state local living economy, and getting back within ecological and economic carrying capacity limits we can set off on a different path from the broken status quo that is destroying the biosphere and fueling the 6th Great Extinction.

Something I think the "potential 40%" of additional voters have in common is that they can see through the veil and they're tired of being lied to with false promises and crass fear manipulation. They're being joined by growing numbers of traditionally partisan voters fleeing the major parties and registering independent--the people I refer to in my campaign for AZ State Senate as those who are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

What all these voters need is someone to vote for who will do things differently--someone not beholden to--or enchanted by--the status quo and who's presenting a platform that both resonates with shared values and provides a systemic alternative that doesn't require empire and its exploitive accoutrements in order to improve quality of life. A relocalization platform provides this without requiring the destruction of our one and only life support system. We can't continue ignoring the inconvenient truth that there will be no justice, equity or an economy (free-market or otherwise) on a dead planet. And this is exactly what the status quo of Industrialism is delivering for no other reason than to increase profit and consolidate power in the hands of a self-proclaimed elite.

If you'd like more details of how these concepts fit into the political arena, and how they can be applied to grave issues of concern to a majority of people, please browse through my campaign website, especially the issues pages as well as for an expanded definition of relocalization. This platform is freely available to anyone else who is willing to embrace it. Consider it "open source." We have the opportunity to get this ball rolling; to provide leadership with a positive example the rest of the world is hungering for and can begin implementing themselves.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Campaign Kickoff and Headquarters Grand Opening

Here's the transcript of my press conference speech at the grand opening of our campaign headquarters July 16, 2010.

Good evening. I'd like to thank you all for joining us for our campaign kick-off and headquarters grand opening.

My name's Dave Ewoldt, and I plan on being LD28's next State Senator as an Independent.

The first question I often get asked is why a one-time Republican and long-time Green is running as an Independent. There are two reasons for this decision.

The first is that party politics is a distraction from the issues we must start dealing with. The energy supplies necessary to power global economic growth are running out, getting more expensive, and contributing to another impending crisis, global warming. Infinite economic growth simply isn't possible on a finite planet. We've handed our democracy over to elite special interests who put profit above people and planet. Here in Arizona, we also don't have the water supplies to continue rubber-stamping growth. But the response from both major political parties is to give us more of what's causing all these problems.

The second reason I'm running as an Independent is because there are more Independents in LD28 than Republicans, and between the two of them, they outnumber the Democrats, who are also becoming disillusioned with empty promises of hope, and becoming tired of being told there's nothing we can do about it.

The forlorn cry of supporters of the status quo, from both ends of the political spectrum, is for a return to normal, and they simply don't want to think about the simple fact that normal is what got us into this mess. However, since it's becoming impossible to continue denying that what we're doing isn't working, it's time to start doing things differently without falling back on the cop-out that change is not politically feasible. You know, when you find yourself at the bottom of a hole, the first rule is to stop digging.

The alternative I advocate may sound radical, but it's not as radical as killing our life support system, wasting our resources, turning our air, water, soil, and bodies toxic, and destroying the middle class to bail out the banksters. Some people insist that saying this means I'm calling for class warfare. Folks, class warfare is what we have now, and we're losing. Badly.

Doing things differently doesn't mean we have to give up our values, beliefs, and practices. Previous decisions we've all made can't be considered a mistake, we can't beat ourselves up that we were wrong, when those decisions were based on the best information we had at the time we made them.

So, the main thrust of my campaign is that the first thing we must become aware of is that there is an alternative to how we go about doing things; there is a rational response to these rapidly converging crises.

What we must do is become serious about becoming sustainable. My campaign platform is built on a foundation called relocalization. This is a practical, affordable process to develop a sustainable future--where production of food, energy and appropriate technologies occurs much closer to where they're used and consumed. It focuses on supporting and strengthening local businesses that contribute to our community.

The four top issues I'm applying this to in my campaign for Arizona State Senate are water, jobs, education, and the border. Relocalization provides a framework for addressing all of them. I'll take them one at a time and tell you what I'm going to do when I get up to Phoenix.

1) water (we're running out and "inventing" more to support a doubling of the population is a pipe dream), intelligent responses include conservation, charging for how much you use and the cost to deliver it, supporting water harvesting, shifting agriculture to drought tolerant crops that support local industries, and recognizing the connection between water and energy

2) jobs and the economy (infinite growth is uneconomic, and low-wage no-benefit service sector jobs make for a bleak future that increases the social costs we all end up paying), intelligent responses include supporting local investment in local businesses (main street not Wall Street), no tax breaks, exemptions or subsidies to businesses that export their profits out of the state, full cost recovery development impact fees (those who benefit from the amenities of AZ have a responsibility to help maintain them), rebuilding our infrastructure to be energy efficient and people friendly instead of car friendly, reclaiming the state's sovereign right to revoke corporate charters whose harms outweigh their benefits

3) education (Arizona is ranked worst in the nation and we're not preparing students with the necessary skills, starting with critical thinking, for a future that will not look like the past), intelligent responses include increasing funding for education and shifting educational priorities toward nurturing children's love for learning instead of simply being better test takers, supporting research in clean, zero-waste manufacturing, renewable energy, bio-tech, and becoming experts in sustainability so we can provide functional examples and provide the leadership the rest of the world is hungering for

4) the border (what we're doing is trying to slap band-aids on symptoms, and higher walls only lead to taller ladders) intelligent responses include dealing with the root causes, to stop the wage depression that results from NAFTA, stop off-shoring jobs in the attempt to win the race to the bottom, tie foreign aid to strengthening local economies, and accept our responsibility to care for those our previous decisions have harmed while we work on making things right.

For all of these issues, we must quit believing that slapping band-aids on symptoms will solve anything. Instead of being satisfied with the compromise of clipping branches, we must dig up the diseased root and replace it with a systemic alternative that works with and supports life.

As a people and as a state we are capable of doing so much better than what we're seeing coming out of Phoenix today. When it comes to speaking truths, we must remember that we the people are more powerful than we dare to believe. And we must begin exercising this power while we still have a bit of time and a few resources left to do so. When I make it up to Phoenix, my first order of business will be building bridges based on common values so we can work together to begin the transition to a sustainable future. With your support, we can make this happen.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dave Ewoldt Campaign Opens with a Community Party!

Dave Ewoldt, Independent candidate for Arizona State Senate from Legislative District 28, will be hosting a Gala Campaign Kickoff Weekend Friday, July 16th through Sunday, July 18th at the Ewoldt campaign headquarters at 2602 E Grant Road in Tucson.

This 3-day event will include a campaign kickoff press conference, presentations by the candidate, Transition Pima, documentary producers, musicians, artists, comedian(s) and important speakers. There will be ample opportunity during the weekend for the people of LD28 to interact with the candidate, learn how they can contribute to the campaign, and how Ewoldt´s platform can deliver solutions to the crises we all know we´re facing.

Mr. Ewoldt´s platform highlights remedies for social and political ills through sustainability, healthy local economies, and strengthening community involvement. Ewoldt says, "There is an alternative to the status quo. We don´t have to accept that the best we´re capable of is merely minimizing the harm. We already know what doesn´t work, so let´s start putting the pieces in place to develop what we really want."

Right up until Election Day, November 2nd, campaign headquarters will serve as the site of regular events produced and presented by the Ewoldt campaign, Tucson musicians, filmmakers, artists, groups, other partners and community organizations. Among the ongoing features of campaign headquarters will be exhibitions of art works produced by local Tucson artists, book exchanges and community conversations that start with an honest look at where we are, how we got here, and what we can realistically do about it with the goal of improving quality of life.

Please join us!

Event details:

Who: Residents of Tucson´s LD28, the Press and friends of the campaign
What: Campaign Kickoff Weekend for Dave Ewoldt for Arizona State Senate
When: Friday, July 16th, 4:30pm through Sunday, July 18th, 5pm
Where: Campaign Headquarters, Corner of Grant Road and Forgeus Ave
Why: For a better Arizona!

Excellent visuals. Energetic, Exciting, Dedicated People gathering to celebrate


4:30pm Press Conference
5:00pm Mingling Mixer - Music provided by Horace Tiggs III
7:00pm Candidate presentation - Q&A

ContinuousArt show by local artists*
Information tables - Issues and Solutions

12:00pm Really, Really Free Market - all afternoon
12:00pm Documentary Screening - J.T. Waldron´s "Sweet Remedy," Followed by Q&A
2:00pm Music - Chet Gardiner Band
3:15pm An Introduction to Transition
4:00pm Documentary - "End of Suburbia," followed by Q&A
6:30pm Musical Interlude
7:00pm Issues Forum - Water, Jobs & Economy, Education, Supportive Politics

Special guest Tohono O'odham comedienne Teresa Choyguha

Continuous Art show by local artists*
Information tables - Issues and Solutions

12:00pm Documentary Screening - "Power of Community" -Followed by Q&A
2:00pm Music and mingling
3:00pm Transition Workshop
5:00pm Farewell and Thank You

Continuous Art show by local artists*
Information tables: Issues and Solutions

*Local Artists

Chris Andrews
Diane Bonaparte
Laura Boles
Cal Cook
Julius Gordon
Becky Neideffer