I Am the Nine Percent

If us land were divided like US wealth
I think the land is already divided like this. There is no "if".

Today I posted Cops Have No Morals, a depiction of one of the most eye-opening conversations I’ve ever had. It’s a story that is as much about corporate America and our capitalist society as it is about a police officer. Spoiler alert: in 1998 a police officer insisted that there was no such thing as a cop who cared about right and wrong, then went on to reveal the secret to success in Capitalist America.

I’m sure if you’ve looked around this site you can probably guess that I support Occupy Wall Street and my local version, Occupy Seattle, but at the same time I don’t particularly feel as though I’m one of the ninety-nine percent.

In the last few years, the economy has been very good to me. My income has steadily increased. I bought a condo after the housing bust and got a great deal at a low interest rate. I have a fancy corporate job with full medical and dental, doing something I love. I can sometimes spend nearly a thousand dollars in a month on restaurants alone. I have a sun room overlooking a golf course… well, a driving range and mini-putt. I have a guest bedroom with a liquor cabinet and I buy my weed by the ounce.

Then the other day, I saw this picture posted to Facebook and thought it was perfect, because I think that’s where I am. I am one of that nine percent.

I’m not a millionaire, of course. I’m not part of the one percent, but I don’t have any kids and have made good investments, but I see so many others out there who are struggling to feed their families, who would be devastated if they lost their job, and have no clue what they’re going to do about retirement. I don’t need to worry about any of that.

The main difference I’ve noticed between them and me? They chose to make careers out of things they felt would help society, things they felt needed to get done. I made a career out of something fun that would make money.

The reason I was able to do this, to think of only myself, to “look out for number one”, was because of what this officer told me. He taught me how to be selfish.

For years this speech creeped me out. I ran it through my head over and over again for years, and was horrified. But what’s truly horrifying about this speech, I found out years later, is that every word he said was true.

I had promised myself that I would never work for another corporation, that I would always do something to contribute, that I would always be humble, I wouldn’t do destructive things like drive a car or eat farmed fish and all that. After a few years, however, society beat me down. Every time someone tried to tell me the police were the good guys the officer’s speech ran through my head, telling me I was a fool for caring about right and wrong, and over the years, I simply gave up.

Since then I’ve worked for several companies that I felt were ripping off their customers, knowingly selling faulty products as well as companies whose sole purpose was to manipulate people into buying things. I’ve sat in meetings where we cracked jokes about how rational people should see us as evil. In one meeting with hundreds of people, a corporate representative literally told us that it didn’t matter what was true or not in our sales pitches. I can deal with this because of that officer who taught me how to shut off my sense of right and wrong.

I see teachers, firefighters and plumbers out there who saw a gap in society, something that needed to get done, and used that to guide their career decisions. They cared about society before themselves. A friend recently got fired for failing a pee test and had a hard time getting another job as a result. Turned out he was listing the job on applications because he felt some kind of moral obligation to be honest about his work history. I had to tell him, this is the real world. Nobody’s gonna reward you for honesty, and nobody’s gonna care if you tell a few lies. Manipulation and lies are an integral part of the financial game in America and every one of the one percent and the majority of the nine percent have accepted that and have blatantly exploited it, at the expense of the 90 percent. And they did it right under your noses.

And I’m part of the problem. I’m an anarchist and a socialist, but I behave like a capitalist. I’m a hypocrite. I know it’s wrong. I feel bad, but not bad enough to stop, because I love my job, I love my condo, and I love sushi and creme brule.

So just remember occupiers, those police surrounding you and the one percent they represent, they don’t care about right and wrong the way you do. Just remember that. Otherwise you will be truly shocked at what they are capable of.

Keep Wall Street Occupied – YouTube

I’ve been doing this for over a year now, but only to Capital One because they are insane with their mailings, to the point of harassment. I’m a bit less polite about it than this guy. I’ve recently started sending chocolate-smeared toilet paper.

I think what’s really important, though, is the communication he’s talking about. I want to write out a paragraph asking whoever reads the mailing to stand up and walk out on their job, or at least recognize that they are working for the enemy, working for the slave owners.

Oakland Policeman Throws Flash Grenade Into Crowd Trying To Help Injured Protester – YouTube

How can people see things like this and still try to tell me the police are the good guys? There is a fundamental flaw with a system supposedly designed to keep the peace that allows this kind of thing to happen. A fundamental flaw… or flat-out lie.

The system is not designed to keep the peace. It’s designed to protect the wealthy from the people who want to be treated as equals.

My First Mairjuana Smoke

I took the following from a draft of an autobiography I tried writing around 2004 that turned out to be too preachy and crazy to do anything with. There were only a few salvageable passages and this is one of them. The first time I ever smoked marijuana. A magical day.

Around 1995, halfway through high-school, I bought a Phil Collins album but have rarely listened to it over the years. However, one song truly caught my soul: Both Sides of the Story, and the line, “Sleeping with an empty bottle is a sad and an empty hearted man, but what he really needs is a job and a little respect and to get out while he can,” has always stuck with me. I thought Phil Collins had figured out the secret to understanding life and the universe, and somehow condensed it into one sentence: “We always need to hear both sides of the story.” Shortly after buying the album I wrote a story based on a line, which I also called, Both Sides of the Story.

I had a friend at school during this time who was willing to admit to me that he smoked pot. I believe that up to this point, people viewed me as too straight-edge to talk about something like this, but since I’d started writing, I’d gained more self-confidence and loosened up some of my attitudes about things. At first I looked down on him for smoking weed, as I still had this preconception that only fools do drugs and that it wrecks your life and makes you lazy etc, etc. However, I supported legalization, because as brainwashed as I was back then, I still didn’t see the point of imprisoning people when they’re not hurting anybody but themselves.

At one point I told the stories about mailbox bashing and driving around with a laundry basket full of water balloons, soaking pedestrians. I hadn’t done any of this stuff in a long time, but talked highly of it, and how much fun it was. I was quite surprised when he told me those things didn’t sound like fun to him at all. I figured since he smoked pot, he would be antisocial in other ways.

“I just don’t enjoy doing things that hurt other people,” he said, and shrugged it off.

So this statement changed me somehow. At first it baffled me how someone who smoked so much marijuana, which was supposed to make you stupid, could throw out such a simply profound and intelligent statement, and pass it off as simple common sense. It was so simple, yet somehow I had never looked at my actions in quite the way he presented them.

So I rethought my whole outlook on drugs. Perhaps they caused a person to slack off and become stupid… (except this didn’t seem to be the case with my friend as he got better grades than me.) but drugs didn’t make you a bad person.

And with the advice of good old Phil Collins, when my friend dropped me a note in class, asking me to ditch (I saved the note all these years and scanned it for you here) I decided I needed to see both sides of the story.

We are kidnapping you as soon as we can escape from this class. We promise we won't hurt or abuse you!
I still have this note in my box of mementos in my closet.

So we drove to a friends house, and at first we smoked off a joint. I was highly nervous, but my friends were so calm and non-chalant about it that they reassured me that we wouldn’t be caught. I took some hits, but couldn’t keep any down, coughing with the slightest inhale. We tried shotgunning (taking a hit from a person’s exhale, so the smoke is diluted) but nothing worked for me. I coughed everything out, no matter what we attempted.

(Around this same time Bill Clinton was claiming that he’d tried pot but didn’t inhale, then changed his story to say he inhaled but coughed it out. To his credit, he wasn’t lying. He was being totally honest; he was just totally ignorant of how marijuana works. Taking it into your lungs is all you need to get the effect. If you cough it out, it doesn’t have much less of an effect than taking a successful hit. I can totally picture Bill Clinton being totally stoned, probably shoving food into his face, laughing, and carrying on, all the while having no clue that anything’s different.)

So we went back to school . I kept saying, “I’m not feeling anything,” and they kept saying, “we can tell you’re stoned.”

I sat in the back seat, and one of the two said, “Hey, you wanna put Kalin in a bubble?” He put his fist to his hand and turned back toward me and began blowing, like he was blowing up a balloon. They actually had the joke coordinated pretty well, the driver flipping off the radio just as the other tied the imaginary balloon. They then pretended to have a conversation with exaggerated hand movements, moving their lips silently.

I kept saying, “Okay, very funny. I know this isn’t real.” But somehow it felt real, just the same. Then after persisting in the joke for several silent minutes, he turned again and popped the balloon, screaming “BANG!”

We went back to class, and found ourselves doing research in the library. I decided to just slack off and hang out. I kept saying that I didn’t feel anything, and my buddy was getting nervous that someone might hear. I was so confused. I’d expected demons or ecstacy or a profound vision. This strangeness… this differing perspective was not at all what I’d expected… the world looked a bit different somehow… but still I insisted I hadn’t gotten stoned.

My friend was so nervous of getting caught now that we were back at school, as I seemed to be talking about it quite openly. I wanted to stand up and tell everyone in the library, “Hey, marijuana isn’t evil. I thought it was all along and I just discovered it isn’t. It doesn’t rape children and it doesn’t blow up your brain, and it doesn’t bring any sort of irresistible ecstasy. It’s just a thing. That’s all it is. Just a thing.” But unfortunately, I didn’t do that.

Then it was lunchtime, and I ordered my regular meal, and sat with a bunch of friends, mostly girls. I always ate with similar groups of friends at school, but never had tremendously active parts of the conversation. I felt they saw me as background.

But today was different. I was more comfortable with everything. I scarfed down my sandwich, then got up to buy more food. I got up twice more during the lunch period for more food. I kept talking about how much I love to eat, but didn’t mention to anyone that I had just smoked pot. In fact, I didn’t even consider the idea that it was affecting my actions until much later. I started talking, and I don’t remember about what. It could have been profound intellectualism or nonsense, but more than likely it was a combination of the two; I don’t really remember. But I do remember how it seemed like these girls were hanging on every word I said. I remember a couple had been in very bad moods when they sat down but by the end of the lunch period, they were laughing and carrying on in this conversation that for once, was centered around me.

For many months after this experience, I thought I hadn’t gotten high. I thought it had no affect on me. However, I found myself with an increase of self-confidence after the experience. School became easier. My grades improved. My social skills improved. I allowed myself to relax a little.

And of course, I almost immediately began to apply my new found perspective to my writing.

Psilocybin Shrooms are Good for You

A friend emailed me the other day with a link to a couple new studies demonstrating that psilocybin mushrooms can have profoundly positive effects on personality. For me this is a “well, duh” situation, but it’s nice to have scientific evidence for the facts us hippies have known for so long. The first one has some quotes like this:

The earlier study had found positive psychological changes — documented by both participants and their family members and other associates — in calmness, happiness and kindness.

People became more curious and more interested in new ideas and experiences and in trying new things. “It ended up being the best experience of my life,” says 67-year-old retiree Maria Estevez.

“I was just able to drop ego totally and experience the world without all those filters”

Estevez says that she, too, has become more open and empathetic since taking psilocybin.

The other study had this to say:

Fourteen months after participating in the study, 94% of those who received the drug said the experiment was one of the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives; 39% said it was the single most meaningful experience.

their friends, family member and colleagues also reported that the psilocybin experience had made the participants calmer, happier and kinder.

many of Griffiths’ participants said they were left with the sense that they understood themselves and others better and therefore had greater compassion and patience.

I felt these same kind of effects twelve years ago when I first started using drugs. First it was the marijuana, when I was 18, which helped calm my mind and helped me focus in school, allowing my GPA to jump dramatically, within just a couple months of starting smoking. It helped me put an end to my teenage depression and almost immediately cured my chronic bowel issues, which I suspect were mostly stress related.

Then I tried mushrooms and the positive effects were even more profound. I remember before experimenting with these drugs I judged people primarily by their choice in music rather than the content of their character. I was selfish. I was a nice guy, but I was only nice because I knew it would benefit me in the long run. Mushrooms and marijuana helped me to find a deeper meaning behind being a decent person.

Most importantly though, these drugs helped me understand myself and how my emotions worked. There’s nothing else that can compare to this in terms of psychological and emotional benefits. I recall how lazy I was before using these drugs, wanting nothing more than to watch TV and eat junk food for the rest of my life, caring little about contributing to society or making positive changes. When I was a teenager I never imagined I could be as successful or as passionate or in as good of physical shape as I am now because there was no way for me to conceive of the myriad of ways I could make my brain work. Drugs, and specifically mushrooms, were pivotal in opening these pathways, allowing me to take full control of my life.

The studies mentioned empathy, and without a doubt the increased mental understanding that these drugs bring can notably improve a person’s ability to understand and care about others, but for me what’s most profound is the way I feel they’ve helped me to become more successful and intelligent. I’ve written three novels and a plethora of short stories. I’ve gotten emails from people telling me that my stories changed their lives. I’ve built web applications that have been used by millions of people. I truly believe that the drugs I’ve used and the careful way I’ve used them is one of the main reasons I’ve been able to be successful. I’m not even really trying, to be honest. All this time I’ve felt as though I’ve just been screwing around having fun, because I absolutely love writing code, almost as much as I love writing stories. While everyone else out there is struggling to feed their families, stressed out and hating their jobs, the only thing I have to get upset about in my own life, other than girls and relationships, is the fact that the job recruiters won’t stop emailing me trying to get me to come in for interviews.

So… I don’t know… I think it’s important for me to stop and appreciate the advantages I have in this world as a result of the drugs I’ve done. Sometimes I forget that many people have not had these experiences and do not have this kind of connection to their deeper self.