Friday, October 15, 2021

A Change in the Weather By Bretigne Shaffer

 “May you live in interesting times…” – Someone a long time ago in China

It was windy this morning. Little bunches of leaves on sticks litter the sidewalk. Too big to be twigs, too small to be branches. The tops of trees swish around in the sky above my mom’s qi gong class in the park, and I remember how surprised I was when I first visited China – 35 years ago now – and saw all the old people doing tai chi and qi gong in the parks, the families taking their one child out for walks, people just getting on with their lives rather than spending their every waking moment battling the tyrannical state as I had imagined they would.

“It’s so awful out there! How do you stand it?” I hear over and over again from friends who don’t live in California, from friends who left long ago. And yes, I guess it is awful. I guess… but that’s just not what I see.

I run into a friend who owns a local business, and immediately say to her “the pilots!” Her eyes light up, and we talk for a few minutes about everything that’s happening.

“This is such an exciting time to be alive!” My friend says.

“Yes!” I agree. We talk about this incredible moment in time, the unprecedented opportunity we have to change things. All the work that needs doing on so many different fronts, and how little time we have to get it all done. We both leave the conversation more energized and eager to get on with that work.

To be clear: I don’t celebrate anything that the Federal government, or the government of California, has done over these past two years. Their actions have been devastating to millions of people’s lives, and literally deadly for millions of others. Much of what they have done is criminal, and I in no way endorse any of it.

But there is a silver lining, and it is this: These governments, and many more around the world, have taken a torch to their own credibility, to their own legitimacy. Never again will any thinking person accept unquestioningly the pronouncements of “public health authorities.” Never again will they turn to CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, or any other mainstream media outlets as “trusted” sources of information. And more people than ever before are aware of just how broken the worlds of scientific research and centrally controlled medical systems are.

As I leave my friend, the wind blows a lone cloth mask in front of me and it rolls across my path like a tumbleweed.

This wind. It’s tearing apart old alliances, old tribes, even long-held friendships. Even families.

But it’s also sweeping people into new groupings, pushing us together out of necessity, whereupon many of us realize: These are the people we should have had in our lives all along. These are the right alliances, better tribes. And it seems crazy that it’s taken this wild windstorm to bring us together.

By afternoon, the wind is in a real fury. Our giant inflatable pumpkin family has been blown across the yard and now sits huddled around our tiny weeping cherry tree. I go out and corral  them back into place next to the giant inflatable Halloween tree, and for a while anyway, all seems as it should be.

I don’t mean to suggest that any of this is going to be easy, or that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

My dad spent probably the last half of his life endlessly telling us all that “it” was “all coming down.” He passed away on December 29th, 2019, and there is some irony – or perhaps grace – in the fact that only a short time later, “it” did indeed begin its rapid collapse. What we are witnessing now are the death throes of a gargantuan, destructive, overfed, over-confident behemoth. My father would have recognized this, and I think it would have made him more optimistic than ever before.

This Thing is wailing and thrashing around now, and to be sure, it can still do a lot of damage. But it is not wailing and thrashing because it is strong, it is wailing and thrashing because it is dying, and its one plan for saving itself – enslaving a compliant population – is not working out as it had hoped. The thing is, the Thing doesn’t really understand humanity as well as it thinks it does, and it has grossly miscalculated. We are beginning to experience the results of that miscalculation – and yes, of course it could get even uglier before the Thing goes down.

We’re seeing some of that ugliness here in California… or so I’m told. All I see is a great, lumbering behemoth ready to be pushed over, and wide-open spaces ready to be built upon.

And we’re building. People are starting Private Membership Associations, in education and other areas. Here’s ours, modeled after the mutual-aid societies of a century ago, and with the mission of educating for a free society; creating healthcare that respects individual choice; and serving those with special needs and the elderly. Here’s another one, a grocery store selling organic products to its members, started by a couple in Penn Valley California – and there are many more coming.

People are exiting a broken system and they are creating anew. They are pulling their children out of government schools in droves (something that would have pleased my father enormously) and creating learning pods and other tools for homeschooling families; they are creating solutions to state control over travel; connecting people locally to support each other; and perhaps most importantly, they are holding criminal actors accountable for their actions, and in so doing, laying the foundations for a legitimate system of justice.

But so much more needs to be done. The systems that are failing are critical ones: Healthcare, food production and food supply chains, travel and shipping… and as they fail, the consequences can be deadly. Creating alternative systems is literally a matter of life and death now. Healthcare especially has reached a level of dystopian dysfunction and is in desperate need of rebuilding outside of the established, top-down, system (I gave a presentation recently about some ways in which that might happen.)

As I write this, union leaders and executives at Southwest Airlines continue to insist that the thousands of flight cancellations this past weekend had nothing to do with pilots walking off the job in opposition to the airline’s vaccine mandate for employees; The number of families choosing to homeschool their children has tripled from pre-pandemic levels; and people all over the world have been filling the streets for months now with peaceful protests against the imposition of vaccine passports. Their numbers are only growing.

I look outside, and the decorations from our gathering over the weekend are whipping madly from side to side. The Oktoberfest banners look as if they might take flight any instant now, and carry the whole back yard up into the air with them. The sticks on the ground are now branches.

There is simply no time to be disheartened by those who do not comprehend the problem, or indeed, who are themselves part of the problem. Never before in my lifetime have we been so close to tipping over the monstrosity that is the state, along with all of the stories and beliefs that support it, and never before has it been so urgent that we do so.

We’re going to tip this Thing over – just watch.

Or better yet, help us do it.