World War IV

Another day, another gig in Iowa. Tonight’s event was a Gin Blossoms concert by the Des Moines river. I spent most of the night tired from a late return from Madison, WI this morning. I also spent about 15 minutes debating our position to a young, naive Republican Limbaughist. She argued poorly so spent most of the talk changing the subject. I kept telling her “you aren’t convincing me to change my mind” and correcting her incorrect comments.

Most of yesterday was driving to and from Madison for another Ween concert. This show ended up being the rocker I wanted in Des Moines, and I banged my head on and off depending on which song they played (“Dr. Rock,” “It’s Gonna Be a Long Night,” and Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” stood out). I heard many songs that weren’t in the other show, this sold out, and the audience of mostly college kids roared and sang along to most of the songs.

At one point in the show, Gene Ween, the lead singer, told the crowd that they had a nice day in Madison. They caught a free classical show in the park near the capital and watched CNN in a sports bar. When he said this, I instantly wanted him to speak out against the growing violence that fills our media channels. The Madison crowd would’ve loved it and roared in approval. I sensed this because I saw many overtly anti-Bush shirts all night. One said “I’m an enemy combatant and I vote.” Another had Bush sucking the Statue of Liberty’s neck.

On the long, late ride home, Jess and I got into a great conversation at the end of the schlep. She waxed optimistic while I played the devil and threw questions at her that I’ve had and heard over the past few months on the road. “What will it take to wake up the people who support the war? The people who don’t?” “Is our campaign worth working on? Will we make a difference?” “Is it worth it working within our system? Starting our own?”

There have been moments at the events I work where I want to run around screaming “why the hell are you [insert activity] while World War IV is spiraling humanity into never ending chaos?!” I felt like doing that at the Ween show and realized that many of those folks probably are acting out against the violence in some form or other and were taking a break for the show. Tonight at the Gin Blossoms, people were mostly just getting drunk on a Friday night. Over in Wayne County last weekend, folks seemed to be continuing a ritual of gathering around country culture. But whenever I’m in public, I sense the thin veil of ignorance; a thick shroud of clouding reality with religion, technology, sports, drugs, and shopping.

Heading into Burning Man this month, I’m a bit concerned that I won’t have much fun because of the sense on impending doom that I’ll bring with me. While on the Playa, I’ll be in a media blackout and in a sort of subconscious 3-D reality. My black cloud will most likely follow me around out there, and I plan on being the same person that I am in San Francisco or Des Moines: a human who’s concerned about our sharply defined, superbly efficient capability to destroy one another. And, being that there are few rules in Black Rock City, I may actually scream “why the hell are you out here having fun when there’s WW IV going on!?”

sigh. As always, I remain firmly rooted in the belief that sharing creative, nonviolent culture and focusing on the cracks within this clouded Wal*Mart reality will keep me sane and optimistic. What else do I have other than loving myself and looking for the small things that show me how this capitalistic system is failing. I set up the games in a small farmer’s market this Wednesday and a 13-year-old boy tried the high-striker out. He came back to the table later 100% curious about why I was there. We had a great discussion about the budget, and he got the fact that the Pentagon wasted our money. I told him to go to our Web site and he said he would. “Can I e-mail you from your site?” he asked. I said yes. “Good, because I’ll have a lot of questions.” Jess just drove the Pig Mobile to Des Moines from Vermont and shared many stories about the amazing people she met along the way. She got free coffee at truck stops, offers for free hotel rooms, discounts on mechanic work, and monetary donations. One man, who had just recently almost died from a hear attack, told her that she’s changed his life and given him hope to vocally protest the ongoing wars.

Another crack that sparked my imagination is Miss Rockaway. This collective art project will soon depart from Minneapolis and sail down the Mississippi in a veggie-oil fueled houseboat made of found materials. They plan on boating the whole length of the river, stopping to set up skill share and creative endeavors that can only raise awareness for one’s independence from the system. Sparked by Swoon, an amazing NYC street artist who sticks to her radical values, I hope to have the games meet them in Iowa. I was shocked and gladdened to see that apolitical Chicken John himself was part of the collective, providing a bus as transport and his skills as a mechanic and performer.

Even in po-dunk Corydon, Wayne County, I was shocked to see a hillbilly man (teeth missing, wearing overalls, bearded, and 100% country) spend 15 minutes at the games. As his kids played, he indicated that he was sick of Bush and his money-eating war machine. He gave me a few bucks and tried the high-striker himself, gleefully visualizing Bush as the thing to strike.

I, like so many other concerned people, have no real solution for this ongoing tragedy. I do believe that changing the world does not take place at the UN building in New York City, or anywhere in Washington, DC. Change begins from within. In 1999, I made a sticker to give away as a gift at my first Burning Man. It said “autonomy begins within.” Now, headed into my fourth Burning Man, I want to take that belief back there. I want to find people there who remain concerned about the default world as burners call it. Just like most programs, to use the metaphor, that world can be rebooted.

As WW IV rages in Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba (?), Mexico, Nigeria, and many other places, WW IV rages in our hearts and minds. Are we going to numb ourselves from the feelings that rise up from this conflict, or are we going to face reality and widen those cracks that will reboot this done world? All it takes is one person’s conviction that they do matter in the scheme of things.

Maybe we all should scream “why the hell are you [insert activity] while World War IV is spiraling humanity into never ending chaos?!” at some point soon.