Archive for June, 2011

DIY U: The Future Of Learning [Video]

Monday, June 20th, 2011

 The video  below appeared originally online at Fast Company  by Anya Kamenetz’s author of  DIY U:Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education.

The future of learning is open–and it’s in your hands. This video series, based in part on my book DIY Uexplains that while the higher education bubble may be overblown, there is an explosion happening in the edu-world, with technology and openness transforming content, social learning, and accreditation all at once. Part One explains what’s happening and why the old models no longer apply.

See the original post here.

Madness & Mass Society: Pharmaceuticals, Psychiatry & the Rebellion of True Community

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

The article  below appeared originally online at LOUDCANARY about Bruce Levine’s newest book Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite.

 Author and clinical psychologist Bruce E. Levine wants to tell you that many forms of depression, discontent, and a whole raft of diagnosed mental illness are nothing more than natural responses to the oppression of institutional society. In his book, Commonsense Rebellion, Levine contends that the vast majority of mental disorders are, to put it simply, profit-driven fabrications with no established biochemical or genetic causes. This interview with Dr. Levine was conducted several years ago for publication in LiP: Informed Revolt, but the growth of corporate pharmaceutical “solutions” to deviant behaviors has only grown since then. Dr. Levine’s newest book, Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeating, and Battling the Corporate Elite, (Chelsea Green, 2011) is an exploration of the political psychology of demoralization and the strategies and tactics used by oppressed peoples to gain power in the United States.

Awehali: Bruce, you’re a critic of both psychiatry—the medical science of identifying and treating mental illness with drugs—and psychology—the study of human behavior, thought, and development. Are there substantial differences between the two?

Bruce Levine: When I first started out as a psychologist in the late 70s and early 80s, it was fairly commonplace to dissent from psychiatry—that’s why people became psychologists. They saw the pseudo-science of not only the treatments but of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) itself. Unfortunately, over the years, psychology itself has slowly aped psychiatry, and there isn’t that sharp a distinction between the two anymore. The American Psychological Association (APA)—the professional group for psychologists—now fights for prescription rights for psychologists. So I guess any psychologist who maintains a position that depression isn’t primarily an innate biochemical disease, and that the DSM is a nonscientific instrument of diagnosis, is a dissident!

I should say that back in the 1970s and 1980s, before psychiatrists had the backing of the drug companies, they had very little power. In fact, they were falling apart, as evidenced by so many movies that were making fun of them, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—which could never come out today. But back in those days, when [psychiatrists] weren’t in bed with the drug companies and didn’t have much political power, you saw movies like that come out. Now, psychiatrists have the media power; they’re able to describe the playing field of the controversy.

Let me ask you a blunt question, first: Do you think there’s ever any basis for diagnosing someone as mentally ill?

Well, certainly there are things that can happen in your brain to make you feel crazy. If you go on an acid trip and fill your brain with a bunch of foreign chemicals, and you act crazy—there’s something going on there. But when we’re talking about things like, for example, attention deficit disorder [ADD], or depression, most of these behaviors are problematic to society. And they’re too easily being classified in the same category as cancer and diabetes. It becomes a complicated semantic discussion of what an illness is.

Let’s just take one of the more obviously comical diagnoses, something fairly recent, like oppositional defiance disorder [ODD] —that one really makes a whole lot of things really clear.

[Interviewer convulses with knowing laughter.]

I mean, oppositional defiance disorder is a “disease” in the DSM, and it’s not something that’s arcane; it’s something that’s being used frequently. It’s a diagnosis given to kids whose symptoms are often arguing with adults, refusing to comply with adults, and basically being a pain in the ass with adults. And once you declare it a disease, of course, you move into chemical treatments or behavioral manipulations. I think for the majority of folks out there, not just anti-authoritarian types, they have the same reaction you did: You’ve got to be kidding. Don’t [they] realize that kids rebel against authority? So there you have an obvious example.

And then you move over to something like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD] or ADD, for which there are no biochemical markers, of any kind. None. If you have any doubts about that, just go to your doctor and say you think your kid has ADD, and ask her about the biochemical markers—she’ll say that there are none. It’s all behavioral symptoms that are used to diagnose it.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, a lot of people were looking for other explanations for why people were having problems, or creating problems for others. And in that era, prior to the drug company takeover, there were a lot more intelligent ideas. ADD/ADHD didn’t exist in the first DSM that came out in 1952, but I’m sure if it had been around, folks like Eric Fromm would have been talking about it as a form of passive rebellion. Oppositional defiance disorder is an obvious active rebellion, but most kids don’t have the courage, or they’re in situations where for them to actively rebel means they’ll get crushed—so they rebel passively. They go to a classroom and they stop paying attention; they just blow things off. Is it because they have no capacity to pay attention? No. And the research even shows that when you put these same kids in a situation where they’re either interested in the material or they’ve chosen the material, or it’s novel to them, all of a sudden these so-called ADHD kids can pay attentionn!

And that’s what I try to explain to folks: If you have diabetes or cancer, and all of a sudden you’re having a good time, the disease doesn’t go away. How can something be a disease when you put somebody in a different situation, and the “disease” goes away? That should tell you something.

But it’s in the interest, obviously, of drug companies—and psychiatry, because all they do is prescribe drugs pretty much nowadays—to view everything as a disease that needs drugs. It’s also in the interest of a society that doesn’t want to spend much money or resources on populations that aren’t fitting into the standardized order of things. One interesting aspect of this is that, more and more, it’s not just kids of color, but even suburban white Anglo-Saxon Protestant kids who can’t fit into the standardized order.

Click here to read the entire article.

About the author: Brian Awehali lives on the West Coast and writes primarily about nature, capitalism, and predictable disasters. He is a member of the Cherokee Nation and makes his online home at

Mike from Madness Book Review: Chasing Chiles

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Mike from Madness, a hot sauce reviewer, an innovator of chile recipes, as well as accomplished author has a book review for us. It is 1 part of a 2 part review for this chile pepper book. To see both reviews and get product information, please visit us at

Chasing Chiles looks at both the future of place-based foods and the effects of climate change on agriculture through the lens of the chile pepper—from the farmers who cultivate this iconic crop to the cuisines and cultural traditions in which peppers play a huge role.

Why chile peppers? Both a spice and a vegetable, chile peppers have captivated imaginations and taste buds for thousands of years. Native to Mesoamerica and the New World, chiles are currently grown on every continent, since their relatively recent introduction to Europe (in the early 1500s via Christopher Columbus). Chiles are delicious, dynamic, and very diverse—they have been rapidly adopted, adapted, and assimilated into numerous world cuisines, and while malleable to a degree, certain heirloom varieties are deeply tied to place and culture—but now accelerating climate change may be scrambling their terroir.

Over a year-long journey, three pepper-loving gastronauts—an agroecologist, a chef, and an ethnobotanist—set out to find the real stories of America’s rarest heirloom chile varieties, and learn about the changing climate from farmers and other people who live by the pepper, and who, lately, have been adapting to shifting growing conditions and weather patterns. They put a face on an issue that has been made far too abstract for our own good.

Chasing Chiles is not your archetypal book about climate change, with facts and computer models delivered by a distant narrator. On the contrary, these three dedicated chileheads look and listen, sit down to eat, and get stories and recipes from on the ground—in farmers’ fields, local cafes, and the desert-scrub hillsides across North America. From the Sonoran Desert to Santa Fe and St. Augustine (the two oldest cities in the US), from the marshes of Avery Island in Cajun Louisiana to the thin limestone soils of the Yucatan, this book looks at how and why climate change will continue to affect our palates and our producers, and how it already has.

Slow Gardening Now Available

Friday, June 17th, 2011

We are excited to announce that we received  Slow Gardening and they are ready to ship!

Inspired by Slow Food, an international movement that promotes local food systems and biological and cultural diversity, the slow-gardening approach can help us all appreciate and enjoy our gardens more, year in and year out. Felder Rushing, a well-known and truly one-of-a-kind garden expert, offers this practical yet philosophical approach to gardening—one that will help you slow down, take stock of your yard, and follow your own creative whimsy in the garden. Slow Gardening will inspire you slip into the rhythm of the seasons, take it easy, and get more enjoyment out of your garden, all at the same time.

Click here to see an excerpt.

Father’s Day Sale!

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Father’s Day is this Sunday—-and now is a great time to order some fine reading material for the fathers in your life. All books are 25% off as part of this special Father’s Day sale. Dad is sure to appreciate one of these books from among our best sellers! Here are some book suggestions for eight different kinds of fathers:

The Builder

The Passive Solar House is the perfect gift for anyone who loves building andusing their hands. James Kachadorian has written a practical guide with proven techniques for building homes that heat and cool themselves, using readily available materials and methods familiar to all building contractors and many do-it-yourself homeowners, whether Dad is a hobbyist shed builder or a professional architect looking to learn more about ecological construction methods. (Available in hardcover.)
Roundwood Timber Framing is for those dads who have ever thought of building and have an eye on sustainability. With over 400 colour photographs and step-by-step instructions to guide you through the building of anything from a garden shed to your own woodland house, this practical ‘how to’ book will unquestionably be a benchmark for sustainable building using renewable local resources and evolving traditional skills to create durable, ecological and beautiful buildings. (Available in hardcover.)

The Executive

Donella Meadow’s groundbreaking book Thinking in Systems  is becoming more and more popular among leading business strategy thinkers. Get it this year for the businessman in your life who is interested in proactive solutions to large-scale problems.
Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money, by Woody Tasch describes an unusual and compelling way of thinking about money, introducing concepts like soil fertility as a return-on-investment, and building capital systems that are based on community, preservation and restoration.

The Activist

In Get Up, Stand Up, a rallying call for activists everywhere, psychologist Bruce Levine explains how major institutions have instilled a sense of helplessness and fatalism in average Americans, and how we can regain a collective will to create change from the bottom-up.
For a personal, inspiring story of one activist’s rise from small-town fishing captain to full-time thorn in the side of multinational corporations, check out Diane Wilson’s memoir Diary of an Eco-Outlaw.  Wilson tells how she took her activism from local to global, protesting companies like Union Carbide and BP, and co-founding the women’s anti-war group Code Pink.

The Romantic 

Sex and the River Styx, Edward Hoagland’s newest collection of gripping essays, tells a poignant, often beautiful story about the process of growing older.  Named by as a “Best Book of the Month” for February 2011, this book has been getting rave reviews. Paul Theroux called it “a superb collection—-and more than that, a powerful narrative of the life—- of the man himself.” Men of every age will appreciate his take on love, sex, aging, travel, and the wilderness.

The Cook 

For cooks who want to use the freshest, most sustainable ingredients to create delicious, eco-friendly meals, Cooking Close to Home  is full of inspiring recipes and information about seasonal ingredients. The author team of Diane Imrie, a registered dietician, and executive chef Richard Jarmusz, created 150 original recipes for home cooks to try with food from their own back yards or the farmer’s market down the street. (Available in hardcover.)
Slightly more adventurous cooks might want to try something new, so how about Sandor “Sandorkraut” Ellix Katz’ book Wild FermentationLearn to make your own kimchi, tempeh, yogurt, beer, pickles, and dozens of other fermented foods—including, of course, sauerkraut!

The Gardener

If Dad enjoys growing food more than cooking it, check out The Winter Harvest Handbook, by Maine’s organic farming legend Eliot Coleman, called “one of America’s most innovative farmers” by writer Michael Pollan. Learn deep organic farming techniques that will keep you producing fresh vegetables all year long, even through cold northern winters!
Just off the presses Slow Gardening offers practical yet philosophical approach to gardening—-one that will help you slow down, take stock of your yard, and follow your own creative whimsy in the garden. Slow Gardening will inspire you slip into the rhythm of the seasons, take it easy, and get more enjoyment out of your garden, all at the same time.

The Scientist

In parts travelogue, climate change manifesto, and gastronomic ethnography, Chasing Chilies will appeal to anyone with an interest in where food comes from, why we eat what we eat, and how our effects on the planet are rapidly changing the foods we grow and consume. Written by an interdisciplinary team of self-described “gastronauts,” and spanning a year of travel throughout the chile-growing regions of North and Central America, Chasing Chiles might change not only your ideas that hot sauce in the cabinet, but also the way you understand and talk about climate change.
Metamorphosis has captivated our imagination for thousands of years. Yet it remains, largely, a mystery. In The Mystery of Metamorphosis, Frank Ryan delves into that mystery with the keen eye of a scientist, the skill of an expert storyteller, and the tenacity of a detective tracking down one of science’s least-understood phenomena. Nowhere else will readers find such a sweeping account of this strange and wonderful mystery—-or such a thoughtful, balanced presentation of why metamorphosis has landed center stage in debates over evolution itself. (Available in hardcover.)

‘The Conservative’

Marijuana is Safer compares and contrasts the relative harms and legal status of the two most popular recreational substances in the world—-marijuana and alcohol. Through an objective examination of the two drugs and the laws and social practices that steer people toward alcohol, the authors pose a simple yet rarely considered question: Why do we punish adults who make the rational, safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol? For the dad that may appreciate detailed information on the background and marijuana laws.

In Season: Book addresses gardening challenges for the 21st century

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

The article  below appeared originally online at the Statesman Journal about Carol Deppe’s new book The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times.

I recently was asked if I was familiar with local gardening guru Carol Deppe’s new book “The Resilient Gardener” (Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 2010).

The name was vaguely familiar, but I had not heard of the book. Oregon State University’s bookstore had it in stock, so I bought it. (Please don’t tell my wife I purchased another gardening book).

There really is no substitute for a regional authority. Deppe is a local gardener and plant breeder with a PhD in biology from Harvard University.

There are 12 chapters that run the gamut from “Gardening in an Era of Wild Weather and Climate,” which is chapter 3, to separate chapters on corn, beans and potatoes. I jumped to the one on wild weather and climate change. Deppe presents several points concerning climate change: Historically we have had radical shifts in climate regime both on a local level as well as global.

She makes a point that the local change can have a greater implication and impact upon our gardening habits, such as colder arctic air becoming the norm as opposed to an increase of a few degrees globally.

I particularly liked the part about how war, famine and climate change in the Middle Ages led to some wholesale changes in agriculture. Grain was the primary grain being grown in the 14th century. The little ice age that lasted from 1300 to 1850 changed all that. Grains do not like the cool, wet weather that persisted for years. The resulting famine, coupled with wars, encouraged the peasant farmers to diversify. They did this by growing vegetables, root crops, fruits, pasture and forage crops. Legumes such as peas and beans became more common, as well as raising forage for livestock. Animals became much more integral to farm production than they previously were. Rotation of crops became more common.

Does all this sound a bit familiar? Well it should; this is the agricultural model our forebears brought from Europe to America.

I’ll continue to share Deppe’s vision in future columns. If you can’t wait like me, just buy the book.

— Al Shay, consulting horticulturist

 Read the original article here. 

Talk Nation Radio: Diane Wilson on Diary of an Eco-Outlaw

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Award winning environmentalist and author Diane Wilson joins us to talk about her latest book, Diary of an Eco-Outlaw, An Unreasonable Woman Breaks the Law for Mother Earth published by Chelsea Green Publishing of White River Junction, VT. It’s a sequel to her first book, An Unreasonable Woman.

She was a 24 year old boat captain before turning into an environmentalist and the story of how that happened is both uplifting and at times shocking as she takes on Dow, Union Carbide and Formosa Plastics, trying to get them to stop polluting. Diane Wilson has been jailed fifty times for civil disobedience, and taken on people like Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and former BP CEO Tony Hayward. And a long list of many others, largely men, working at companies as security or working as CEOS. Diary of an Eco-Outlaw is sure to be another major success for author, Diane Wilson.

Click here to see the original post.

Diane Ott Whealy publishes book: a Seed Savers memoir

Monday, June 13th, 2011

The article below was originally appeared online at Decorah Newspapers about Diane Ott Whealy’s book Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver.

Diane Ott Whealy, co-founder of the world-renowned Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, has published her first book, Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver, and will launch its release at an author event hosted by Agora Arts Saturday, June 25, from 2 to 4 p.m. (For an interview with the author, see below).

Gathering is, at heart, the story of many remarkable individuals-true heroes of the land, including Merle Van Doren, preserver of the evocatively named Moon and Stars watermelon; Dan and Eli Zook, two Amish brothers who lovingly handcrafted many of SSE’s buildings; and Ole O. Lomen, aka Apple Lomen, whose 1898 orchard boasted 100 varieties of the fruit. And, of course, Ott Whealy herself, whose passion and perseverance helped what is now a major organization take root and flourish.

“To us,” she writes, “seeds were always connected to people-people whose stories, no less than good soil and spring rains, brought those seeds to life.”

Diane Ott Whealy publishes book: a Seed Savers memoir

Talking Points: Gathering – Memoir of a Seed Saver

An interview with Diane Ott Whealy

Q. Why did you write this book?

A. It was important for me to communicate to a new generation of gardeners and staff who work here that an organization succeeds because there are people who have lived it, dreamt it, and built it with an eye toward the future. This is not only my story, but also the story of Seed Savers Exchange.

Q. What inspired you to write Gathering?

A. I have always wanted to write. In the fall of 2008, George DeVault, the executive director at that time, and I were talking about “the good old days” of Heritage Farm and Seed Savers Exchange. I began to reminisce about how much had happened over the years and the many folks who helped create the fine organization we are today. What an adventure! He listened to the narrative of my childhood, my grandparents, of homesteading, raising a family and eventually building the nonprofit into what it is today. And when I was finished, he told me to clear my schedule and start writing and I never looked back.

Q. Is there a message in your memoir that you want to convey to your readers ?

A. The fact that amateurs can accomplish great things by starting small, keeping things focused, and being willing to make sacrifices while celebrating the gradual progress being made. A dream must be something you feel passionate about if you expect to inspire others to join in your effort.

Q. How did you come up with the title?

A. Gathering is the simple, beautiful thread that ties this story together. It’s about the gathering of people, seeds and stories. It simply had to be the title.

Q. Who is your book for?

A. The book is for people who want to grow something, whether it’s a seed, a family, a business or a dream of any size.

Q. In recent years, the word “heirloom” is used to describe many vegetables, especially tomatoes, but when you began your work was heirloom seed a common term?

A. More than thirty years ago, when Seed Savers Exchange started, no one knew what an heirloom was. We were pioneers in the heirloom movement which today is an integral part of any serious conversation about genetic biodiversity.

This was a movement that grew out of the backyard garden and its creative evolution continues to be played there today. In the chapter “Cover Stories” I wrote about a mid-1980s preservation garden illustrated by the photos of David Cavagnaro -a collage of diverse colorful tomatoes, peppers, corn, beans and eggplant. These images remain captivating to this day. As heirlooms have gained in popularity some of these odd looking purple tomatoes do not look all that strange to us now. SSE was ahead of its time. The fact that heirlooms have become players in the Slow Food movement attests to their quality taste and variety, indeed there is a tomato for every kind of cuisine, a bean for every pot.

These days everyone wants to talk about heirlooms because of their taste and variety but the story is more important than what meets the eyes or taste buds, it is about preserving our heritage for future generations.

Q. How did SSE began?

A. It started over 35 years ago with two seeds handed down to me from my grandparents and it grew from there, I am speaking about Grandpa Ott’s morning glory and the German Pink tomato.

I was not a trained botanist, but knew instinctively to respect the seeds, stories, recipes and memories. I knew that the loss of this genetic diversity could never be recreated. Family heirlooms were important and saving seed was the right way of communicating with the past and passing it on the future.

Q. What is the current state of Seed Savers Exchange?

A. Seed Savers Exchange has become one of the most important vehicles in this country for the storage and distribution of heirloom and other open-pollinated seeds. We connect gardeners from around the world with each other. Our 2011 Yearbook offers more than 13,000 varieties of seeds and plants grown by our members and offered to other members. We have approximately 13,000 members, and thousands of visitors come to Heritage Farm each summer to walk through our gardens. We offer 600 varieties of seeds for sale to the public through our catalog-these sales support our non-profit mission and educate the general public about heirloom gardening, saving seeds and producing healthy safe food.

Q. The last chapter is titled, A Roosters Step. What does that mean?

A. My German grandparents were an integral part of my life growing up in Northeast Iowa. They peppered their conversation with many quaint sayings. One was “a rooster step.” Each day a rooster step gets longer after the first day of winter. The rooster step referred to the extra second of daylight which soon turned into minutes. The process was a slow one and nearly imperceptible. By the end of January it might stay light till 5:15 p.m. and by Summer Solstice, the longest day of summer, the days were a thousand rooster steps longer.

The story of Seed Savers Exchange is analogous to rooster steps-small focused accomplishments over a lifetime, day after day, year after year, added together created the organization that we have today.

Q. How does it feel to be part of an important movement in America and indeed the world?

A. I am thrilled that SSE has made a difference. We have not saved the world, but we’ve saved much that is precious. When Grandpa Ott handed us his morning glory seed, which is still the cornerstone of the Exchange, we were not sure of the support that we would find from others. What we did know is that if we had not treasured it, the seed would have died with him. It was up to us to keep it alive.

Seed Savers Exchange has become the connection that links likeminded gardeners together. Watching this grassroots movement grow into the respected organization it is today has been the most satisfying aspect of our work.

Seed Savers Exchange has been a labor of love for both Kent (co-founder Kent Whealy) and me. I remain grateful for the leadership he provided in launching and developing SSE into the organization it is today. Seed Savers is a wonderful achievement, it was our dream and we worked hard to bring about its success.

Q. When was the first time that you became aware of the fact that you were doing something important?

A.When I walked to the mailbox in Missouri in 1977 and found 30 letters. This flurry came in response to a small article in a newspaper back East. Soon our family’s roll top desk was inundated with seeds and letters. So began our organization.

Q. Now that you are involved with a professional organization do you miss the times when things were more casual and everything was still at the level of a dream?

A. As with every parent’s dream, I have wanted the organization to grow. Back in the day, it was just Kent and I and a very small staff. I opened every letter, read most of them and felt I knew the needs and personality of our membership. I was involved with all other aspects of the organization from handling the finances, fulfilling seed orders, working in the gift shops and gardens. I was involved in all decisions and plans for the future. I do miss that level of intimacy with every aspect of our operation, but of course that level of involvement is not sustainable.

Q. You have many seed collections, which ones are your favorite ones? Do you feel as strongly about flowers as you do about vegetables?

A. I love my self-seeding annual flowers, the way they take care of themselves. These flowers are not bred to order as newer breeds are. For instance, some are bred to be a certain size to fit in pots or on borders. Sometimes the scent is bred out as well. The old fashioned annuals add natural beauty to a garden, and the fragrant flowers attract useful pollinators and repel the not so desirable insects.

I don’t like to play favorites but certain flowers like Grandpa Ott’s morning glory has a special place in my heart. It is the seed that grew into a world class organization. I also feel the same way about certain vegetables. German Pink tomatoes always remind me of my childhood when mom would serve plates of sliced tomatoes sprinkled with sugar. Then there is a rainbow of colors in the peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, lettuce and everything between Rat Tailed radish and Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry. All are very self-sufficient and capable of producing food in addition to being beautiful in my garden. The resiliency of all this seed is magical and I never tire from watching the garden in action.

Q. Do you feel that your area has been affected by climate change? Have you personally experienced the unpredictability of the weather in growing your produce from seed?

A. Heirloom or open-pollinated seeds have diverse genetic makeup. When seed is planted in the same region year after year the seed naturally adapts to local climate, pests and diseases. For example, the German Pink tomato has been grown in northeast Iowa by my family for nearly a century. Over that period of time this plant has thrived through many challenges from pests and climate changes.. Our policy at SSE is to grow seed from storage on a rotational basis so that it is given a chance to adapt to a changing climate. We are a seed bank, but the best way to preserve our seed heritage is by having our seeds grow in gardens throughout the country.

Q. If you had to do it over again would you still have chosen to move to Iowa?

A. We were looking for paradise and indeed we found it at Heritage Farm. This is still true twenty odd years later as I look out my window at the fertile valley surrounded with lime stone bluffs, trout streams, and white pines. Of course we are a bit off the beaten path, but this has not been a problem for our members and visitors who, like us, don’t mind following a path less traveled.

Click here to read the orginal post.

Z Magazine reviews Get Up, Stand Up

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

The article  below appeared originally online at Z Magazine about Bruce Levine’s newest book Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite.

Dissident psychologist Bruce E. Levine first posed the provocative question, “Are we too demoralized to protest?” in an article published in the November 2009 edition of Z Magazine. Public opinion polls have shown over the years that politicians and their policies remain out of touch with the popular will in terms of numerous issues, including the Wall Street bailout, health care reform, and the Afghan war. This democracy deficit in the United States, however, has been met by a glaring “resistance gap” especially when compared to other nations. Taking this phenomenon into account, Levine follows up on his initial inquiry about the state of the American public in his latest book, Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite. Through five concise, compelling, and easy to read chapters, the author delves deeper into the question of our national psyche and its potential to resist a corporate-governmental power structure he deems the “corporatocracy.”

  After laying out a brief description of what the corporatocracy (or corporate state) looks like and how it manipulates our political and personal lives, Levine asks, “Are the people broken?” Citing Lawrence Goodwyn, a historian of late 19th century populist movements in the U.S., Levine echoes the scholar’s sentiment that “individual self-respect” and “collective self-confidence” had been the building blocks to democracy movements and still can be. In assessing whether or not these two core concepts have been withered down in contemporary times, Levine examines key political events of the last decade. Starting off with the Battle of Seattle, the author strikes a tone of hope before turning to the presidential election that was held the following year. The two notable outcomes from Al Gore’s campaign against George W. Bush were the illegitimacy of Bush’s victory and the total deflation of Ralph Nader’s third party bid. As Levine notes, despite feeling disenfranchised and angry, a mass of Democratic voters did not vehemently protest the inauguration of the Bush administration and a deflated Green Party politic would never really recover following the aftermath of the 2000 elections.


When the first term of the Bush presidency launched the Iraq War in 2003, massive and historic demonstrations took place in the U.S. and around the world one month prior to the onset of hostilities. Social critic Noam Chomsky noted then that these anti-war protests marked an improvement from the times of the Vietnam War for its “pre-emptive” demonstrations. In the years since the occupation of Iraq, and Afghanistan before it, however, peace movement protests have diminished in size and momentum despite their increasing unpopularity. Following the election of Barack Obama, Levine examines labor unions as well as the Tea Party political phenomenon. On the latter, he astutely notes that despite all the expressed anger, the contemporary Tea Partiers display no will to engage in civil disobedience, unlike their historical namesake. Taking stock of all that has transpired in the last ten years, Levine characterizes the situation as “light resistance to major oppression” presumably looked upon with much favor by an emboldened corporatocracy.


Looking into how it all came to be is where Get Up, Stand Up sets its sights next. Levine outlines numerous cultural factors that have culminated in the people assimilating “learned powerlessness.” Without setting them within a context of a masterminded conspiracy of the corporate state, he nonetheless shows how the corporatocracy has been able to take advantage of television, the Internet, advertising, consumer culture, the education system, resulting student-loan debts, the corporate media and elections, just to name a few, in terms of breaking down individual self-respect and collective consciousness and supplanting social isolation and demoralization in their place. New technological innovations in the cultural landscape differentiate the present day from the time of 19th century populists and each individual critique is a book unto itself, so the treatments of the subject are brief, yet cogent and compelling.


From that etiology, Get Up, Stand Up moves along to propose a number of ways to reenergize a dispirited public. One of Levine’s main focuses is on morale. Differentiating it from what is known as “positive psychology,” he notes similarities between personal depression and political passivity. Morale, the author contends, comes from small victories at the grass-roots level. Redefining the personal is political framework psychologically, Levine next likens “battered people’s syndrome” to “corporatocracy abuse” and offers tools and suggestions for overcoming immobilization and giving oneself a boost in belief that things can indeed change. The prescription for the personal/political ailments of social isolation is genuine community building that can lead to both individual self-respect and collective self-confidence. 


Get Up, Stand Up ends with suggestions, solutions, and strategies for successfully waging battle against the corporatocracy. For starters, Levine returns to the populist movement of the late 19th century and the historical analysis of Goodwyn. Armed with individual self-respect and collective self-confidence, people had formed a democratizing movement through recruiting, educating, and politicizing their swelling ranks. Of course, as history notes, the populist rebellion was thwarted through eventual assimilation into Democratic Party electoral politics. To avoid a potentially demoralizing repeat of history this time around, Levine places emphasis first on other avenues for action outside of the vote. He threads through the efficacy of mass demonstrations, strategies of disruptive power, and societal divorce through intentional communities based on workplace democracies. Levine also offers useful, practical advice for students in terms of ways of avoiding crippling debt at the onset of their adult lives. These are spaces from which small victories can emerge. The author writes of real life examples of organizations who successfully fight back to strengthen his thesis and bring it down from intellectual horizons to the grassroots.


Finally the author asks his readers if they really believe the corporatocracy can be toppled. Indeed, internalizing the question, how much of activism is fueled by the notion that the day will come when small victories culminate into liberation on a grand scale? This, perhaps, is the most pressing question as to whether Americans are succumbing deeper into the recesses of a psychology of oppression. As Levine reminds us, history has shown and continues to show that unforeseen variables can transform the battlefield radically. The release of his book comes at a time when revolts in the Middle East and North Africa serve as the latest reminder. “Days of Rage” were ignited following the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor—an act of desperation that sparked the transformation of long held grievances into a new sense of collective self-confidence that has gone far beyond the borders of Tunisia.


Whether it is the Arab Spring or mass demonstrations against austerity measures in European countries, social justice activists in the U.S. have definitely taken notice and are feeling reverberations of a growing global collective self-confidence. At the same time, the question of why no comparable resistance occurs here at home is inescapable. Get Up, Stand Up sets forth on that timely task with an overall framework that is innovative and provocative, starting the conversation anew.

Gabriel San Roman is a freelance journalist based in Orange County and is a contributing writer for the OC Weekly.


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Last Day to get Marijuana is Safer for $5.99

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

In celebration of Marijuana is Safer Facebook page reaching 500,000 fans we are offering a special discount. Use the code SAFER at checkout and get it for only $5.99.

Did you know that Marijuana is Safer than Alcohol? So why does current policy punish adults who make the rational, safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol?Already have a copy? Well, this is the perfect opportunity to get one for someone who needs some convincing.

About the book:

Nationally recognized marijuana-policy experts Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert compare and contrast the relative harms and legal status of the two most popular recreational substances in the world—marijuana and alcohol. Through an objective examination of the two drugs and the laws and social practices that steer people toward alcohol, the authors pose a simple yet rarely considered question: Why do we punish adults who make the rational, safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol?
Marijuana Is Safer reaches for a broad audience. For those unfamiliar with marijuana, it provides an introduction to the cannabis plant and its effects on the user, and debunks some of the government’s most frequently cited marijuana myths. For current and aspiring advocates of marijuana-law reform, as well as anyone else who is interested in what is becoming a major political battle, the authors spell out why the message that marijuana is safer than alcohol must be a prominent part of the public debate over legalization.

Most importantly, for the millions of Americans who want to advance the cause of marijuana-policy reform—or simply want to defend their own personal, safer choice—this book provides the talking points and detailed information needed to make persuasive arguments to friends, family, coworkers, and elected officials.

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