August 17 (Thursday)

Including Mental Prepping
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Introduction

Politics is both easier and harder to understand than most people realize. People who think politics is hopelessly complex and confusing are wrong, while people who think they know it all are full of hot air. Politics is similar to math and language skills in that it’s based largely on logic and almost anyone can learn it, though it takes years to master it — just like math and language skills.

Political Prerequisites Word Cloud

Yet there are also some big differences between political studies and the three R’s. Most people start studying English (or whatever their national language is) and math when they’re very young — generally in kindergarten or first grade. Their formal studies usually end after high school, except for those who study English or math in college.

Most U.S. citizens probably don’t begin studying politics in earnest until they reach adulthood, if at all. Even then, they may have a hard time understanding politics because of a vicious combination of mental road blocks and external diversions, such as propaganda.

However, students generally aren’t introduced to politics until they’re a little older. In fact, one might argue that many don’t study politics at all; they are simply exposed to political ideas in history classes. Some schools — particularly high schools — offer classes in civics or government. However, the curricula are ultimately dictated by corporate interests whose goal is to “dumb down” students. Even students who study political science in college may not come away with a good working knowledge of politics.

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.
Jiddu Krishnamurti

Ironically, many aren’t even interested in acquiring a holistic understanding of politics. After all, there aren’t many high-paying jobs in the field of political activism.

Many people don’t really discover politics until they’ve finished school and get some experience in “the real world.” Many open their eyes only after a traumatic experience shatters the illusions created by a lifetime of brainwashing. Even then, their efforts to understand the world of politics may be hijacked by propagandists, including the media and, in many cases, their own friends and relatives.

So what’s the best way to not just study but actually understand politics?

Recommended Subjects

geography
psychology
sociology
criminal justice
natural sciences
political science
economics
communications
law
history
philosophy

You don’t need a college degree to understand politics. However, it is very important that you have some knowledge of a variety of subjects. History, geography, psychology and sociology are among the most important.

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
variation on an aphorism by George Santayana

Many people who are interested in political science as a career get a double major in political science and journalism or law. A person interested in international issues might study political science and a foreign language.

Natural sciences are very helpful if you’re interested in health or environmental issues.

10 Revolutionary Books

It would take several lifetimes to read all the worthwhile political and philosophical literature that’s available (unless it’s censored), but these are ten of my favorites.

1. 1984 (George Orwell) — Orwell is considered a genius inside the political arena and outside as well. A little disturbing, this book is thought by some to be inspired by the totalitarian state ruled by Joseph Stalin. It becomes a lot more disturbing when you realize Orwell is also predicting the future — with uncanny accuracy.
2. Animal Farm (George Orwell) — This is the other book Orwell is noted for. Like 1984, it can be a little depressing.
3. Desert Solitaire (Edward Abbey) — Desert Solitaire and Sand County Almanac were my Bibles when I was in college, long before I was really awakened politically. Desert Solitaire is as harshly beautiful as the arid rockscapes that inspired it. The late night discussion of culture vs civilization is truly inspirational. It’s also a great break from some of the more somber stuff Orwell wrote.
4. Mein Kampf (Adolf Hitler) — If Hitler was truly evil and deranged, why has his book been banned in various countries? Why do publishers refuse to republish it unless it’s annotated by propagandists? In fact, there appears to be a surge of interest in this book (the title translates “My Struggle”), even as many people are beginning to take a fresh look at Hitler. Even if he was evil, he was hardly any worse than Winston Churchill.
5. Motorcyle Diaries (Che Guevara) — This is the true story of a motorcyle trip across South America that opened the eyes of a young doctor who was destined to become one of the greatest revolutionaries that ever lit up the world stage. Or watch the movie. Viva la revolucion!
6. Open Veins of Latin America (Eduardo Galeano) — The late Venezuelan firebrand Hugo Chavez urged Obama to read this book, which documents generations of oppression and tyranny by the Yankee imperialists so many Latin revolutionaries have died fighting.
7. Protocols of the Elders of Zion (author uncertain) — The Protocols may be a conspiracy within a conspiracy. Mainstream accounts dismiss it as a forgery, and they have an elaborate argument to back up that claim — so elaborate it’s virtually impossible for an ordinary person to know what the truth is. Many fans, including Adolf Hitler and Henry Ford, have noted that the book is an example of art imitating life. In other words, the book may be true, even if it isn’t genuine. Which isn’t to say it isn’t genuine.
8. Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut) — Vonnegut was a supremely talented writer. He was also a survivor, having lived through the Allied bombing that turned Dresden, Germany into an inferno. This book, which was turned into a movie, captures the horror of war like few others. Read it and you’ll understand why Vonnegut learned to travel through time backwards.
9. Sand County Almanac (Aldo Leopold) — Far from stuffy, politics can and should be inspirational, even spiritual. But spirituality is ultimately based on the natural world, the world so many of us have deserted for the urban jungle. You don’t have to move to the Alaska bush or a deserted island, but you can never really be a whole person without some kind of communion with Nature. Read this book, then throw it away (or, better yet, recycle it) and find a secluded beach where you can meditate. Or take a trip to West Dakota and spend some time lying on the prairie, just staring at the sky.
10. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Naomi Klein) — The title says it all. Klein thinks there are some very powerful and evil people who like to make bad things happen on a massive scale so they can profit from the very people they have even more control over. Of course, she’s right.

Key Mental Traits

Everyone has a brain, but do you know how to think? For most U.S. citizens, the answer is NO.

The first duty of a man is to think for himself.
José Martí

The great majority of people in the U.S. and many other countries have been brainwashed to an amazing degree. If you think George Washington was an honest patriot whose greatest crime was chopping down a cherry tree and you believe the U.S. government’s explanation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, you have a problem. George Washington was an aristocratic slave owner, and millions of intelligent people around the world have rejected the government’s version of 9/11, which is full of holes.

Mental Traits

Good Bad
curiosity apathy
logic illogic
reasoning skills brainwashing
investigative skills peer pressure
skepticism blind faith
courage fear
ethics amorality
spirituality belief systems (e.g. religion)

But the problem isn’t limited to ignorance. Many people have poorly developed thinking skills. They may not know how to determine if they’re being lied to. In addition, their moral values may be warped by brainwashing via TV, Xbox and even their friends. Just as a person who’s overweight or has a leg injury can be deemed physically impaired, so can many people — probably including the great majority of U.S. citizens — be described as mentally impaired.

In general, you need pretty much the same mental traits scientists possess. However, political science requires even more courage and skepticism. Ethics and spirituality are arguably more important in the political realm as well, though many scientists (and non-scientists) are also guided by a sense of ethics and spirituality.

Learn to understand and take care of your mind. Just as athletes and dancers exercise and train their bodies, so should deep thinkers exercise and train their minds.

Thinking Skills

1. The Big Picture: The West (the U.S. and Europe) have been exploiting and tyrannizing the Middle East for decades.
2. Perspective: How would you feel if the United States was invaded by a Muslim country?
3. Comparison: The U.S. and Israel both have nuclear weapons; Iran has none.
4. Connect-the-Dots: A ruined Syria would make it easier for the U.S. and Israel to destroy Iran.
5. Reality: The U.S. government preaches human rights and democracy, but it has invaded and murdered over a million people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and other countries.

If you have a sense of logic, you may appreciate the five-step reasoning process illustrated here.

Let’s start by putting a topic or issue, issue or event in perspective.

We can start with a broad perspective, as we attempt to understand “the big picture.” We can then take a closer look, refining our perspective with techniques like role reversal and comparison.

Next, we move in even closer, looking for details that might help us “connect the dots.”

Finally, we can check the accuracy of our suspicions and theories against reality. An anchor makes a nice symbol of reality, because reality can help us steady, or anchor, ourselves in a sea of propaganda and confusion. In keeping with our maritime theme, we can similarly compare reality to a life buoy.

Cleaning up Your Mind

Most people have a hard time not just understanding politics but accepting it. Such people are often viewed as stupid because of their almost unbelievable inability to understand the obvious.

We usually ascribe differences in math comprehension to aptitude, which is essentially inherited. But one’s ability to understand politics is sharply limited by the degree to which one has been brainwashed, is crippled by belief systems or bows to peer pressure — issues that are seldom associated with math.

Going Nowhere

Most Americans talk about politics the way they talk about the weather. Very few people have anything intelligent to say becuase no matter how passionate they are about their favorite political party or issue, they simply don’t have a clue about politics.

Like a dog chasing its tail in circles, they’re addicted to the lesser-of-evils game, which only keeps us locked into a two-party-system. Oh, yes — most also support the troops that are costing us a trillion dollars a year, even as they torture and murder innocent people.

We might compare the average person’s mind with a corrupted computer hard drive. The only way to make the computer work properly is to erase the hard drive and reformat it.

In a sense, that’s what you have to do with your mind. You need to somehow unlearn (or at least temporarily ignore) some of the foolish or illogical ideas and thinking patterns that have been burned into your brain. You need to turn your brain into a blank slate that’s ready to absorb knowledge, rather than run away from it.

To put it another way, people who study math have to do just one thing — put knowledge in their head. But people who study politics have to do two things: 1) purge their mind of disinformation or flawed ideas, 2) then put knowledge in their head. On top of that, they have to scrutinize that knowledge to make sure it’s accurate.

Do you get it?

To understand politics you may have to put as much work into unlearning as learning.

Unfortunately, all these ideas can be very hard to understand, especially if you’re lacking in experience. If you’re new to politics, try getting involved (carefully). Attend a few public forums, ask people questions about local political figures and issues, and chat with some local activists. Then read the Politix 101 series again. It will probably be much easier to understand, and you may discover some of those local activists you chatted with are fake activists.

Experience

Anyone can memorize facts and become a walking encyclopedia. But it’s almost impossible to truly understand politics without experiencing it. It’s particularly hard to learn how to empathize with other people without experiencing the same things they experienced. And empathy is a key component of morality, which makes all the difference between growing up to be a freedom fighter like Che Guevara or an empty skull like Obama or Hillary Clinton.

Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.
Henry Ford

Fortunately, everyone gains some kind of experience from birth on. If you grew up poor, then you understand how miserable poverty can be. If you grew up rich, you have some insight into the mindset of the rich.

Millions of Americans attend crappy schools and wind up with crappy jobs that pay low wages and poor benefits, if any. Such people can understand the appeal of fairness and socialism, even if they’ve been brainwashed into believing there’s something sacred about free market capitalism.

But if you really want to understand politics, you need to get down on your hands and knees and put in some “dirt time.” Attend some local public forums, such as school board meetings, city council meetings and candidate forums. Better yet, attend school board meetings on a regular basis, and see if you can figure out what’s going on behind the scenes. Talk to other attendees and see if you can learn their names and occupations. Are they genuine, or are they undercover attorneys or cops? Are they corporate spies?

If you’re more ambitious, you might march in a protest or run for public office. (Having run for public office several times, I can tell you firsthand that it’s an incredibly educational experience.)

Writing

One of the best types of experience is writing. Comparing reading and writing is like comparing bowling and martial arts.

Learn as much by writing as by reading.
Lord Acton

When you read an article, you will hopefully retain at least a few pieces of knowledge. But if you research and write your own essay or article about that same topic, you will have a much better understanding.

Learning to write will also make you far more valuable to the cause. Merely posting intelligent comments on Internet forums helps the cause. As a bonus, good communications skills can help you find better jobs. There’s a reason the bad guys like to recruit people with degrees in political science and journalism or communications. A young writer

I don’t want to hear the words “I can’t write.” Some people have a better aptitude for writing than others, but anyone can learn how to improve their writing skills. Even if you were failed by the public schools you attended, you were surely required to write something.

So just take it from there; choose a political topic that interests you and write a few simple paragraphs about it. Then proofread it, looking for mistakes and things that can be improved.

Just do it!

Political Reality

When I first opened my eyes to politics, I had no one to guide me. I learned the hard way — by making mistake after mistake.

I’m going to do you a big favor and give you some vital tips that will give you a huge head start. If you don’t believe what I have to say here, that’s fine. Just jump in and learn for yourself. But I hope you’ll at least consider what you’re about to read.

First, you need to know that things are far worse than most people realize. Corruption and conspiracies are swirling all around us. We live in an era when we can’t trust our government, the legal system, the media, our employers and unions, even many of our closest friends and relatives.

At the same time, ordinary citizens also have some enormous personal problems, including apathy and ignorance (or stupidity).

That doesn’t mean things are hopeless. But if you want to sail the stormy waters of politix, you need to learn how to recognize and cope with a great diversity of enemies. Let’s start by learning the difference between mainstream, alternative and reality, using a tree as an analogy.

The Truth Tree

Genuine political activists share something in common with scientists: a reverence for truth.

But science and politics are very different arenas. While scientists passionately seek the truth, many people in the political arena try to hide it. When you wade into politics, you’ll find yourself swimming in a sea of propaganda.

Confused, you look all around for help. Suddenly, you see a majestic tree in the distance. Approaching closer, you hear the wind rustling the leaves, which seem to whisper “we know the truth.” But exactly where is that truth — in the leaves, the bark or the luscious red fruit hanging from the tree’s sturdy branches?

For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Herman Hesse

Mainstream Layer

The bark covering our truth tree represents the mainstream. In other words, it represents the more visible media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and probably your local daily newspaper. It also represents major TV stations.

The

But the mainstream is actually bigger than the media. The government is mainstream, as is much of Hollywood. Most of the people around you are also mainstream, likely including most of your relatives and friends.

Most people instinctively trust the mainstream; how could anything so big be corrupt? In fact, the mainstream, is amazingly flaky on close inspection, just like tree bark.

Alternative Layer

If you peel the bark off, you encounter a more durable layer that can’t be peeled away so easily. This is the alternative layer.

Instinctively, we seek out others for guidance, and we latch on to those who possess either hidden knowledge or seem to be a little smarter than us. Unfortunately, many alternative sources are little more than spider webs.

The alternative media are a refuge for more intelligent people who have discovered that mainstream society is one big lie. The alternative media are much more likely to publish the truth, often criticizing the mainstream in the process. But there’s a catch: The alternative media are actually working hand-in-hand with the mainstream!

The golden nuggets of information the alternative media tempt us with are typically things that are already well known to political insiders. Occasionally, they may hit us with a fresh idea that seems like a bombshell, yet isn’t. And you never know when they’re going to insert a lie, a half-truth or a lie of omission. They know how to play games.

Famous examples of alternative media include The Guardian, Alternet, Al-Jazeera and the Huffington Post. Seattle’s two most popular weekly newspapers — the Seattle Weekly and The Stranger — are alternatives. I used to be one of their biggest fans, until I discovered they’re just as sleazy as the mainstream Seattle Times.

The alternative media

This alternative layer is less flaky than the bark, so we trust it. But if you run your hands over the tree in a search for more information, you are led to forked branches that only leave you more confused. Each branch is a dead end. In desperation, you decide to dig deeper for clues.

Reality Layer

As you probably know, cutting a tree down reveals rings that represent each year of that tree’s life. Scientists can learn a lot about trees by studying these rings. Tree rings can thus be thought of as a history book, and studying history is a great aid in understanding politics. They also recall the sacred circle, a unifying theme in spirituality.

Patterns exist in our seemingly patternless lives, and the most common pattern is the circle.
Dean Koontz

We might think of this series of rings or layers as a reality layer which is part of an even bigger reality matrix. Once you understand the difference between mainstream, alternative and reality, you can learn how to get valuable information from each layer. After all, even mainstream sources have to tell the truth now and then, and even their lies can be very educational.

Reality
The truth blossoming in plain sight
As you learn more about politics, you will often be surprised to discover the truth you tried so hard to find was blossoming right under your nose all the time.

When you start extracting information from all three layers, you will suddenly discover the golden nuggets of truth you’ve been searching for. In many cases, the truth is hanging before your very eyes; you can think of it as the Truth Tree’s fruit and blossoms.

But don’t drop your guard, because there are propagandists everywhere; it is sometimes hard to tell what layer you’re in.

Reality can seem very strange to people who have worn blinders all their lives. In fact, opening your eyes for the first time and embracing politics can be likened to discovering a parallel universe. People who are still wearing blinders won’t be able to understand some of the things you tell them. They may think you’re a little odd, not realizing that they’re simply ignorant.

In this respect, a political student who discovers the reality layer can be compared to a scientist discovering the remains of a prehistoric dinosaur or a black hole. Reality can be fun and even addicting.

The Shadow People

Another popular political term is controlled opposition, which is just a fancy name for fake leaders. Examples of controlled opposition include Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, Bernie Sanders, Noam Chomsky, Sean Penn, Jesse Ventura and Alex Jones.

Controlled Opposition
Classic examples of controlled opposition, each of the men pictured above is a hero to millions, though a close look reveals some fatal flaws. From left to right, Sean Penn, Bernie Sanders, Noam Chomsky, Alex Jones, Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader and Jesse Ventura.

But we’ve already discussed controlled opposition, because it’s part of the alternative layer.

So we have the obvious monsters, like George W. Bush, Obama, the U.S. Congress and the corporate tycoons they work for. And we also have a small army of fake leaders (controlled opposition) who know how to lead us astray.

What else could they throw at us?

The shadow people. That’s my term for for the corrupt or evil people who surround us without attracting undue attention.

If you attend a city council or school board meeting, you may find a room full of people. You assume they’re teachers, parents and other ordinary citizens.

Light bulbPoliTip: So how can you know who to trust? Check out Friend or Foe? in Politix’ Tips section.

In fact, several of them are probably attorneys, and a few others may be media whores. There are likely a few undercover cops. Some could be friends or relatives of corporate executives or elected politicians. I once asked someone if they knew the name of a woman sitting next to Chris Jackins, a phony Seattle education activist, at a local school board meeting. (I had previously seen her visiting a school I worked at.) He replied, “Oh, that’s Governor Gary Locke’s aunt, Francis.”

Do you get it?

In the legal arena, we say that people should be presumed innocent until found guilty. But that notion is turned upside down in time of war. When a stranger approaches, a security guard may shout “Halt, who goes there?!” The stranger may be asked to show the guard some ID.

What few people realize is that we’re at war with our own government and the entire political system of which it’s a part. It sometimes seems as if we’re at war with ourselves.

It’s simply absurd to automatically trust people or organizations in the political arena. As you learn more about politics, you will become increasingly wary of not just strangers but even friends and people who claim to be political activists. There are some very simple tricks that can help you distinguish between friend and foe, but proving that any individual is on your side can be very hard.

Danger!

I don’t want to scare potential political scholars and activists away. The world desperately needs intelligent, caring people like never before.

But it is only fair to warn newcomers about the dangers one can encounter in the political arena.

Can you handle the truth?

We’ve already mentioned the frailty of the human mind. In the movie A Few Good Men, Colonel Nathan Jessup (played by actor Jack Nicholson) famously snarls “You can’t handle the truth!”

Like weight-lifting or ballet, politics can make strong people even stronger, but it can also drag weak people down.

In fact, there are countless millions of people who can’t handle the truth and therefore can’t handle politics. If you’re struggling with something that has scarred you emotionally, caring about a cause bigger than yourself could give you the strength you need to get back on your feet. Unfortunately, politics can also drag some people down. And the dangers aren’t limited to your mind.

Crackbook vs Jobs

Some employers monitor employees’ political activities. For example, some corporations warn their employees against saying the wrong thing on Facebook or other social networks. Indeed, many people have been disciplined or even fired because of things they posted on Facebook.

Coping with Fear and Depression

Let’s face it — politics can be depressing. But isn’t that true of life in general? In fact, life is often depressing because of politics — not because we study it but more frequently because we ignore it.

Nevertheless, there are political topics and incidents that are quite disturbing. And if you become an activist, you may also face persecution. So what do you do when confronted with fear or depression?

The most obvious solution for depression is to simply take a break. Instead of reading about corruption, torture and the horrors of war, read something inspirational. Or perhaps you can learn how others have coped with the horrors of war, as Kurt Vonnegut demonstrated in his book Slaughterhouse Five.

But there’s more to life than politics, so take a total break now and then. Go for a walk. Commune with Nature. Talk to people.

If you’re suffering from serious depression or other psychological problems, you should see a doctor.

The same rules can often help with fear, which is often exaggerated or even completely irrational. But if you really believe your well being is endangered, then maybe you should examine your tactics. Instead of leading protests or passing out leaflets, perhaps you should adopt a lower profile for a while. If Big Brother comes knocking on your door, there are very few people out there who will help you.

Please believe in THE POWER OF ONE. . . . Do not limit your vision and do not ever compromise your dreams or ideals.
Iris Chang

But please don’t give up. If you really, truly care about a cause bigger than yourself, then the world needs you. There are people around the world who depend on you, even if you don’t know their names and they don’t know yours. When you give up, they die.

If your boss is a right-wing warhawk and he discovers that you marched in an anti-war protest, he could harrass or discriminate against you. It might not be legal, but people often do it anyway.

Physical Violence & Legal Games

Even more shocking are the stories of protesters who are assaulted by the police. Political activists who rank especially high on the ruling class’ radar can even be assassinated. Examples include Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and possibly even President John F. Kennedy and Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone.

The bad guys can also play legal games. In some countries, people can be prosecuted and imprisoned for merely questioning mainstream historical accounts of WWII, particularly the Holocaust. Even in the U.S., criticizing corrupt Jewish organizations can get you labeled a racist — and possibly even accused of committing a hate crime...at the very time the U.S. and Israel are torturing and slaughtering innocent Muslims by the thousands.

So how do you protect yourself?

Take it slow.

First, let’s make a distinction between political studies and activism. The latter is far more dangerous. If you merely want to study politics, no one has to know; just be careful who you talk to and watch what you say.

If you become more outspoken, you will likely begin alienating friends and colleagues. That’s a good sign that more powerful people may be watching you — people who may have control over your education credentials, employment and salary. This is simply one of the prices activists have to pay.

There are ways to get around these problems. Some activists live in cities or countries where they are actually supported. Some are self-employed or independently wealthy. Some are supported by friends.

In summary, take it slow. It’s hard to be an effective activist if you don’t have a good understanding of politics to begin with. So, if you’re new to politics, forget about activism and just focus on learning.

And if you’re one of those special people who like to fight for a cause, please be courageous. If you chicken out and run away from politics, you will only make the bad guys stronger. Intimidation is one of their favorite strategies. Remember, knowledge is power!

Congratulations!