Election Day 2012 – Our Responsibility

There is a huge amount at stake this Election Day but, no matter what happens or who wins, we have to remember that the buck stops with us. We have the ultimate privilege and responsibility of deciding how we will live.

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.
~Eleanor Roosevelt

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Big Quitters Start Small

Quitting is an exercise like any other. You don’t have to rush in and try to deadlift the heaviest thing in your life. The big, scary weights aren’t going anywhere so you may as well start with something you can pick up.

For example, when I went to Mexico I quit buying facial cleanser. At first, it was just because I was flying hand-luggage only and it was over the 100ml size limit. So I took off without it. A few days of soap and water on the road and… nothing happened. My skin – long accustomed to expensive cleansers and moisturisers – remained exactly the same. It didn’t flake off or swell up or go greasy.

Now I use Dove bar soap once a day, which costs less than a quid and lasts for months. This represents a considerable savings over £6-£10 on a cream cleanser that lasts a few weeks, so switching has saved me a lot of money.

More importantly, once I realised that ‘cleanse, tone, moisturise’ is pure marketing bullshit I started wondering “what else do I really not need?”

Turns out I can live without a huge handbag collection and a closetful of impractical shoes. Nothing bad has happened as a result of only owning one winter coat and one pair of trainers. Sure, I still have loads of stuff I treasure and would hate to get rid of but it’s good to know I don’t need it.

Join the IQ Club

Join the IQ Club — because smart people know when to quit.

Quitting is good. Seriously. If you want to be happier right now quit something.

What bugs you? Your job? Your crummy relationship? The headlines? Carpooling? Organising play dates for your kids? Pretending to be interested in your friend’s kids? Grocery shopping?

Whatever it is, take a deep breath and say – preferably aloud – “I Quit.”

You can. You are an adult, of sound mind and free will. Act like one. Do not say “I can’t.” If you won’t, be honest and say that. But don’t say “can’t”.

We’ve been sold this bullshit that in order to improve our lives we need to do more. So we run ourselves ragged to work harder, go to the gym more, eat six small meals a day, be more sociable, catch up on the latest whatever, do up the spare room… the list runs on forever. As long as we play that game we’ll always be a few tick-boxes away from perfection, so quit.

What do you have to lose? Bad habits, bad relationships, boring friends, time-and-money wasting hobbies you don’t really enjoy, uncomfortable shoes, the respect of people you don’t give a shit about anyway.

The reason a lot of us don’t quit stuff is we’re scared to falling behind. Bollocks to that. Let’s stop chasing impossibilities and revel in taking control. Be a proud quitter.

Join the IQ Club by posting a comment saying what you’re quitting, email or Tweet @CilaWarncke with your IQ(uit) pledge. My favourite “quit” wins a bar of chocolate and a copy of “On Self-Respect” so hit me up and make it interesting!

Quote of the Day – Arundhati Roy

Thanks to a dreadful Guardian interview I have discovered the incredible Arundhati Roy. I had vaguely filed her in my mind as a contemporary novelist. How wrong. She is an artist, feminist, social activist and genius for life. This is an excerpt from her essay The End of Imagination.

There are other worlds. Other kinds of dreams. Dreams in which failure is feasible. Honourable. Sometimes even worth striving for. Worlds in which recognition is not the only barometer of brilliance or human worth. There are plenty of warriors I know and love, people far more valuable than myself, who go to war each day, knowing advance that they will fail…. The only dream worth having… is to dream that you will live while you’re alive and die only when you’re dead.

Word-Music: Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

Posted by Cila Warncke

Abraham Lincoln

An ill-remembered half-line lodged in my head today, something about seeing the right as God gave us to see and the rhythm beckoned me to track it down. I tried the Gettysburg Address first. Nope. Though it, too, swells with marvellous verbal music. The nagging phrase comes from the final paragraph of Abe Lincoln’s second inaugural address:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

This is the most famous part of the speech, but it frankly doesn’t match the rhetorical majesty of what preceeds it:

Fellow-Countrymen:
AT this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

Free Thinking – Fighting Capitalism from Within

Posted by Cila Warncke

I just finished Peter Chapman’s excellent expose Jungle Capitalists about ruthless banana baron United Fruit Corporation which ran Central America as its private fiefdom for most of a century – casually killing off unruly workers, uncooperative heads of state, uncharted jungle and anything else that got in its way. It got me thinking about the antidote to brute free market economics. Given that we live in an anxiety-riddled, security obsessed, paranoid late-capitalist society there are limited alternatives. You can’t drop out and live off the land anymore unless you’re rich enough to buy the land in the first place, and our high-tech culture makes it difficult to live a private life. It isn’t easy to shape your own existence, given the physical, legal and ideological constraints on personal freedom. There are people, however, who take on the challenge and look for creative ways to address the ever-present imperative to pay the rent while doing something that is personally meaningful and socially beneficial. These unsung freedom fighters fuck with the system by surviving within it while doing what they want to do – and by using their skills in constructive, cooperative ways. In a perfect world, it’s what everyone would do.

This is the first instalment of what I hope will become a long series of blogs profiling individuals and businesses that operate outside the prevailing paradigm. First up, Algo Mas – a 100% Fair Trade shop in Ibiza.

Thursday evening in the tiny village of Sant Miquel and the plaza below the Iglesia is full of children, music and the scent of home baking. On the corner, door and sky-blue shutters flung open, sits Algo Mas. This small Fair Trade shop has just celebrated its second anniversary and judging by the stream of locals who stop to say hello, it is firmly cemented in the community. Italian expats Valeria Cova and Aurietta Sala run the shop, along with Blanca Llosent. Aurietta and Valeria are Italian, but have each lived in Ibiza for more than 30 years and have fond memories of the days when visiting friends meant half a day’s walk through the countryside and dinner by candlelight. They are not hippie dilettantes, however, or airy fairy idealists. Algo Mas is the product of hard work, common sense and a firm commitment to the principles of Fair Trade. Click here to continue reading

A Place Called Home

Posted by Cila Warncke

HQ

HQ

It is finally, slowly, occurring to me that perhaps I’m not quite the wandering wonder I long to be. Though I am surprisingly okay with my wardrobe consisting of two dresses, three pair of yoga trousers, two bikinis, three vests and a Gap hoodie my spirit doesn’t exactly thrill at being in someone else’s space. Possibly I learned a little too well at Sunday school that it is better to give than to receive; in any case, I am a guilt-riddled guest. So far on my aventura Mexicana I’ve stayed at two hotels of middling quality and with two very lovely host families who have put me up in much finer style.

The niggling fact remains I’d rather live in my own cold-water shack than in someone else’s mansion. Hence my cross country flight (literally) from the seaside splendour of Troncones to my new home in Merida, Yucatan.

It sticky-hot, the plaster is cracked, the sidewalks are crumbling and I had to kill a giant cockroach in the sink before I could make breakfast yesterday, but it is, for now, home. So far I’ve learned that the cranky cat, Domino, who lives out back never shuts up – not even if you feed him – and that the internet is not to be relied upon (it bounces like one of those awful fairground balls they strap idiots into before flinging them skywards on giant rubber bands).

All of this is relatively insignificant next to the fact I have a big box of a room with a not-uncomfortable bed and two large, unprepossessing wooden tables I can strew with the usual litter of pens, notebooks, sunglasses, slips of paper, water bottles, dictionaries and USB cables. I have rearranged all the furniture so my bed is in the corner, surrounded by desks, leaving a big empty swathe of tile floor. My domain to survey from my queen-sized look-out post.

There’s no getting around the general bugginess of the place, or the smell of drains from the alley behind my en suite, or the mild panic of having to do something about paying the rent, but I like it. I like it because it’s mine. Perhaps I should reconsider that ‘property is theft’ tattoo. Or perhaps not.

Facing up to the narcotic appeal of having a place where I can just be, where I can spend a night being quietly ill from eating off frijoles refritos without interference, where – if so inclined – I can spend the whole day sprawled on my bed in my pants seeing and speaking to no-one, tends to make me more socialist. This psychological kick isn’t a privilege; it’s a right. A right which is, unfortunately, denied to vast swathes of the world’s population by the capitalism junkies who insist people earn a room of their own.

The way I see it, property is still theft. The sense of wellbeing I gain from this room has nothing to do with ownership. It doesn’t belong to me and would make no difference if it did. It could be owned by the government, aliens or an cohort of super-intelligent arthropods for all I care; all that matters is I have the right to stay here and, also, to go.

That is all that’s required. Ownership, deeds, papers are all simply used to buttress excess. People with overblown houses want locks on the doors and legal documents to protect them from the righteous impulses of those who have no house at all. In a state of equality, where everyone was comfortable and had the same basic rights of access and egress, there would be no privilege in ownership.

I didn’t mean to veer off into property rights, but that’s what happens when you have a space where you can sit and think: you do. Maybe that’s why the powers that be would rather keep the masses hustling for rent. It means they never have a chance to sit back and question the fucked-up system that has one hand around their windpipe and the other in their wallet.

What I was going to say is that I have discovered possibly my favourite food-spot in the world. Two minutes away is a tortilleria where you can get a dozen fresh-from the-griddle tortillas for 2 pesos. Tomorrow morning I’ll get up and shuffle around the corner. Dona Mary will fill a plastic bag with a palm-high stack of rich, earthy-smelling corn tortillas. I’ll walk home, warming my hands on the bag, then make a big pan of spicy scrambled eggs, a black coffee and sit cross-legged on my bed, smiling, and eat the lot.