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Book Review: Beyond Civilization



Over the next few months I aim to provide a number of capsule reviews of great books that readers will find helpful for Mobilizing.  If we want to re-imagine and re-build the world to be more fair and more sustainable, it’s good to know that we do not need to start from scratch.  In fact there are decades of good examples and existing methods that have / are now happening.  And luckily many of the people involved have taken the time to write down that they have learned, so we can get to our goals faster.

It’s also true, though, that in this “modern” era everyone feels very busy, and that they have little time to read books.  I get that, I do.  So I will make sure to only recommend works that are 100% on topic and worth the investment of time you will put into them.  You can study in your own pace, and read them in any order.  And by all means provide feedback as you go along.

That said, if you are only going to read one book, read this one.  “Beyond Civilization”, by Daniel Quinn, is a non-fiction book of short essays that was first published in the 1990’s.  Quinn is far more famous for his trilogy of novels that began with “Ishmael”, but we’ll discuss those another day.  BC is a very accessible book, meant to be read quickly.

Why should you care?  Well, mostly because he lays out a very clear overview of how our planet got into this mess, and more importantly, how we can alter course.  Any writer worth their salt can fill out a book decrying the problems that face society.  Quinn glances on that topic; and then moves onto the meat of the matter – why we keep making bad choices and examples of groups that made good ones.  It turns out that history offers up many lessons that most folks have simply overlooked.  Working from those lessons and examples, he then shares insights from a long life of study.  Put simply, you should care about this book because it will open up possibilities for solutions, not just be a grocery list of problems that you likely already know plenty about.

Beyond Civilization, by Daniel Quinn, published by Broadway books.  For those who seek to avoid the corporate behemoth that is Amazon, one might try instead Alibris – dot – com.  They work with Mom-and-Pop book sellers in Mexico, the USA, and Canada.  Most books cost around 3 bucks or so.


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Mea Culpa



Notes on 9-11, twenty years later.

This is the anniversary of a dark day in our country’s history.  It has also been totally eclipsed by the utterly horrifying death toll from a preventable virus.  So much so, that after this year I doubt anybody will be putting much emphasis on 9/11 anymore.  Too many folks are mourning their current lost loved ones to spend heaps of time on those of a generation ago.

I wanted to start this essay with “I told you so.”  It sure would have felt good, too; 20 years after warning y’all about the mistake of going to war to avenge a violent terror attack.  Who the hell would read that article though?  Nobody.

Nobody likes to be told they are wrong, least of all ‘Muricans.

We don’t.  We blew it on Viet Nam.  But then we spent the next two decades fellating ourselves with Rambo movies and Reagan and other such exciting fictions.  So when 9/11 occured, we were 100% ready and willing and able to make the same mistake again.  Then – – our short-attention span made it so that we turned away from the Afghan rebuilding project to double down and invade Iraq.  (I decried that invason too, to no avail).

We then whipped up some fancy ‘mission accomplished’ banners and photo ops, and… spent the next 19 years waiting to be greeted as liberators.  August of 2021 may have finally put that delusion to bed.  Somehow, I don’t think so.

I hate being Cassandra.  I do.  Nobody wants to hear the unvarnished truth, that much is clear.  But why?  How is it we would rather keep suffering, and keep on making other nations suffer; instead of doing the simple, basic work to fix the problems once and for all?  *This* question has become my life’s work.

There are solutions, by the way.  Never ever let anyone tell you these problems cannot be fixed.  Those folks are selling you something; and are not to be trusted.  We could never have built civilization in the first place, if we did not have solutions available for getting people to co-exist, within community.

So forget all about ‘I told you so’, and forget about who’s fault it is that we are in such a mess.  Focus your precious time on learning about solutions.  I have close to 20 essays up on now, and plenty of others have stuff posted here too.  That’s one possible place to start learning if you need resources.  For the busier or more skeptical among us, here (below) are some short takes that may be of use.

I am sorry that we’re still suffering.  Maybe I haven’t done enough to help relieve that suffering.  Maybe I can do more.  But it’s not about me, and it’s not about you.  It’s about the future. It really can be as bright as we want it to be.  Our biggest hurdle to overcome is simply inertia –  – and that’s a choice we make every day.

Simply change your mind, decide to find a new model to live within.  Better days lie ahead.

Further Reading:


Daniel Quinn shared this insight with us: Most folks would say that “the world was made for Man, and Man was made to conquer it.”  But of course that is just mythology, nothing about it is true.  It’s far more accurate to say that “the world is a sacred place and a sacred process – – and we are part of it.”  Our fundamental mis-understanding of how the world works is the key to knowing why we keep going on foolish crusades overseas, why we keep destroying the climate even though we know better, and so many other maladies.  It’s time to change those habits.

I often recommend this book, and do so again today because it’s more relevant NOW than ever before.  “Beyond Civilization” by Daniel Quinn.  See also: “Providence”, and the 3 “Ishmael” novels… which would make one hell of a great miniseries, if there are any TeeVee producers reading this post.

Speaking of ‘more relevant than ever’, Bucky Fuller’s classic book-length essay Grunch of Giants came out in 1970 for crying out loud; it’s too bad we’ve never taken his wise advice.


Here let us read in their own words, some post-war thoughts from a selection of unindicted war criminals.  They only barely register any remorse, and sure are twisting themselves in knots to justify their murderous idiocy.  NOTABLY ABSENT IN THESE INTERVIEWS: THE POINT OF VIEW OF ANYBODY AT ALL WHO WARNED AGAINST THE INVASIONS BEFORE HAND.  Such as Barbara Lee, Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein, Medea Benjamin, or any of the Gold Star Mothers.  Funny how the media is falling over themselves to ask the guilty how they feel about being guilty.  It’s too damn bad the media doesn’t truly want to prevent future mistakes since that would be bad for their ratings.  Le sigh.

For a more rational change of pace, this journalist ignored the fatuous glad-handers who lied us into war and instead talked to the soldiers on the ground.  If you’re in a hurry, skip the last entry and just read this one.


Here I offer a hat tip to my friend Alice Shikina, who has pointed me towards a far better means of conflict resolution – guided mediation & arbitration.  Groups such as SEEDS exist here in the Bay Area and similar ones are in most any big city near you.  We don’t have to spend our precious time being angry, or blaming the ‘other guy’.  We can instead work on listening and finding common ground.  There WAS common ground to be had with the Afghan people, for example, but we never once tried to find it.  We simply imposed a top-down model on them and then, were puzzled why they despised it.  What a huge missed opportunity.  Don’t you make that same mistake.  Check out the better options that are available and cost almost nothing to implement.

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Chautauquas and Lyceums and TED Talks, oh my!



Our future is in OUR Hands

We are aiming with Mobilized to create a vibrant forum for ideas.  “Big deal”, you might say, there are already places for that.

Well, you’re not wrong.  There was, in the earliest days of the web, a loose and wild forum called The Well.  The great and powerful Google had as it’s mission the goal of “bringing all the knowledge of the world to every person”… before it pivoted to a new goal of just making money off of what it knows about us.  That change was a real pity.  There have been sites such as Wiser Earth, which aimed to be a global directory of people and non-profit organizations so that collaboration could happen on a larger scale than ever before.  It lasted about two years, sadly; not long enough to create a legacy.  Huffington Post had a good run in its’ early days, sharing ideas widely and helping to boost its’ contributors in the public’s mind.

What’s important to know, is that as of this writing, there is not really a widely recognized forum online or in ‘meat-space’.  There are print publications such as YES! magazine, Tikkun, The Sun Magazine, and The Utne Reader, all of which which reach a population of hundreds thousands.  Great, but their reach could be even more broad, in my humble opinion.  Within social media sites there are plenty of good ‘groups’ but they also don’t reach enough folks outside of their own memberships.

Probably the most popular comparable live events right now are the TED talks, which do serve a valuable purpose.  Sadly, they also tend toward the ‘Gee-Whiz‘ and the ‘Shiny New Buzzword‘ in their contents.  Mobilized really wants to focus on the proven, the existing, and the hidden.  There are already, all over, groups doing wonderful work, but too many of them are laboring in obscurity.

So, how do we do that?  Well to begin with, we’re not trying to be a technology startup.  There is no secret sauce, no fancy algorithm at work here.  Almost all the underlying code behind Mobilized is made with off-the-shelf parts, such as WordPress.  There is zero reason to re-invent the wheel, and frankly the notion that one must do so has tripped up several earlier attempts at building a successful progressive community.  We take the approach of using the tools at hand to build our house.

Secondly, we are going into the future with an eye firmly on the past.  And that leads us to the point of this essay, a look at how America became America.  We can take many lessons from the past.  One of our best ideas as a nation was the Chautauqua movement.   It had it’s heyday from the 1870’s right up until the beginning of World War II.  In part, it helped spawn a Lyceum movement, the Vaudeville traditions in the theater world; and had an effect on the earliest days of the motion-picture industry.  Here’s why it was so popular: the average person, anywhere in the land, could go to a Chautauqua when it came to their town, and engage in spirited discussion with the brightest minds of the day.  It was direct, person-to-person, and offered a mix of local and national ideas and people; presented on a rotating basis.  So ideas could be hashed out and spread rapidly.  And they did.  In no small part due to these two movements, the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age were defeated.  The Great Depression was tackled too, and along the way no less than Susan B. Anthony, Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain became huge fans.  No part of society could, or wanted to, ignore the notion that average people could teach other average people.

Mobilized aims to help bring that back into common understanding.  In the present era, there may well be a place for tents and lecturers setting up in farmer’s fields.  There certainly is a crying need for an educational platform that is accessible to the masses.  And now, there exist enough robust tools for us to re-create the ethos of a Chautauqua on the internet.

We, the people, when it really mattered and the stakes were high, collectively taught ourselves how to better ourselves.  Now, in every corner of the world, the stakes are once again pretty high.  It is time for a new Chautauqua movement, and this one will be truly global.  So step right up, come on inside our virtual tent.  Welcome to the show.



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The Thirty-Years War.



The Big Picture: Middle school and high school history classes were weird.  It was very interesting stuff they taught, and I loved the coursework.  But none of it made sense.  Over and over again, they told us tales that made no sense – – by themselves.  How could it be, I wondered, that England and France would have a war that lasted for 30 years?  How could there have been a “100 year war”?  No one would have tolerated that, (I thought), so those books must be wrong.  

Turns out that they were right, just rushed to cram in facts.  All we were getting was the ‘Cliffs Notes’ versions of history.  Context was lacking because the system didn’t see the value of context.  Kind of ironic, given that the whole point of studying history was to avoid making the same mistakes… but that’s the ‘Murican way of educating: “buy bulk and save”!  No other criteria matters.

Le sigh.  Luckily for me, in time I did get enough book-learnin’ in to understand the hidden patterns.  So I was able to tease out the back stories, and history became less mysterious.  It also helps comprehension, I suppose, seeing that we are once again failing utterly to learn any lessons from the past.  We are right now blundering along.  Such a pity.  


For The Record: What do I mean?  Well, these past few weeks the media has fallen over itself lamenting the nearly 20 years our soldiers have been mucking about in Afghanistan.  As if it’s our “longest war ever”, as if ‘Murica gosh darn it just couldn’t help itself.  As if, this wasn’t our practice going back decades.  Don’t believe the hype.  One need only look to Iraq, which we first invaded in 1991.  That is… wait for it… a Thirty Years War!  We are still there, we have chosen to tolerate it all this time, and we have no plans to depart.  Suddenly, those Frenchies don’t look so odd anymore.  And we are far from alone in these bad habits.  The Brits have been fighting in Afghanistan, off and on, since 1839.  

And truly it is our habit, our main way of being.  Look at the Philippines – war broke out there in the 1880’s.  With the exception of WWII when it was held by the Japanese, we have been fighting there continuously ever since.  That’s well over 100 years now, with no end in sight.  Oh sure, you might quibble because nowadays we call it “the war on drugs” and declare that we are taking out terrorists who grow bad plants.  But ask any of the locals doing the fighting up in the hills, and they stake out the exact same revolutionary positions as their ancestors of the 1890’s.  Speaking of the Japanese, notice anything about them?  We still have military bases there, just as we do in Germany.  Again, you might quibble that now we’re all happy allies and friends…  I will simply note that it’s 9 decades since WWII ended.  If we are such good buddies, why don’t we trust them enough to leave their front porch?  This institutionalized violence has become so totally normalized and accepted that the media doesn’t even think to comment upon it.  

Which brings us to the point of the essay, our war here at home.  It has gone on without pause since the founding of the Republic.  I’m talking now of the war our police are waging on the self-same citizens of the land, those who are not rich or light skinned.  Britain, (and every nation since), went into Afghanistan to control the drugs grown there.  We have in 20 years there vastly increased crop yields for the poppies that become heroin – – 26 times more land is under cultivation now than in 2001.  Mission accomplished, indeed.  

But here, in the ‘homeland’, the war is fought differently.  In order to combat drugs, the big evil bogeyman “DRUGS”; damn near every cop sees crime on every corner.  Got an air freshener in your car?  You must be a criminal mastermind, you have to die.  Selling loose cigarettes?  Drug lord!  No more breathing for you.  Sleeping in your own apartment at night?  Enjoy your no-knock warrant as we murder your girlfriend, you wanna-be Tony Montana.  

We have a thirty-years-war going on right under our noses, you see.  And it’s being fought largely by the same people.  Most cops nowadays are ex-military.  They were surely messed up by tours in Iraq, etc. where the locals really did want to kill them – – and would try every chance they got.  It’s no wonder they see citizens as direct threats, instead of seeing them as the very people they are supposed to be serving and protecting.  It’s no wonder they are so trigger happy, even after being taught de-escalation techniques.  They do use those skills, somewhat, and that’s a good start.  Unfortunately, they only seem to choose to do that with white people who are storming our Capitol building.  “Oh, you’re here to murder the Vice President and members of the Congress?  Well here let me literally hold the door open for you, white person!  And yes, sure, let’s pose for selfies while we’re at it!!”  


Hurt people hurt people.  It’s high time we learned this lesson, and stopped producing wounded people in bulk.  We need justice for George, and Breanna, and now Daunte.  AND we need justice for the ones who will be along after us. Fewer wars will yield fewer warriors, and maybe we can break this cycle of misplaced violence.  We will all be so much better off, if we can do this.  It’s not going to be easy.  But it can be done, and step one will be for you to demand our leaders stop waging endless wars in our name.  You can do that, and you can do that today.  



Your Musical Selection: Killing in the Name, by Rage Against the Machine.

What they are saying:

“She was on the force longer than Daunte was alive. So I don’t know how you mistake one for the other. But let’s go back even further. Let’s say she actually thought it was a Taser. Let’s, in some freakish, strange, upside-down, Stranger Things world—let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. Why is she grabbing for that anyway? You’re out in suburban Minnesota. You’ll catch this man if you need to find him. There’s really nowhere to go. You got the license plates. The question is why did she feel the need to go for any weapon. For air fresheners? Why is that even the move? Regardless of what we think if it’s an accident or not, she shouldn’t have had her hand on anything, and you can see the look on the Black officer’s face afterwards in the bodycam. Like, “What the f**k are you doing?” I want to know what he thinks, without the protection of the blue line. So, no, I don’t believe her. I don’t think it was an accident.”

“I don’t want my country to be one where cops get to riot like they did at Lafayette Park or where cops get to blindly shoot into a home and kill the innocent occupants or assassinate a man even if he is accused of murder. I want my country to be the country they told me it was in elementary school.”

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We are One

Mobilized TV

Mobilized TV on Free Speech TV  takes a deep look at our world, the consequences of human activity on our planet, and how we can reverse and prevent existing and future crises from occurring. Mobilized reveals life on our planet as a system of systems which all work together for the optimal health of the whole. The show delves into deep conversations with change-makers so people can clearly take concerted actions.

Produced by Steven Jay and hosted by Jeff Van Treese.

Mobilized’s TV series Mobilized TV  premieres on Free Speech TV on Friday, October 15, 2021. All episodes appear:

Fridays 9:30 PM Eastern (USA/Canada)

Saturdays:  6:30 PM (Eastern USA/Canada)

Sundays:  8:30 AM Eastern (USA/Canada)

January 7, 8, 9, 2022

Leading Environmental Justice Attorney, Thomas Linzey of the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights is a leading force helping communities implement successful rights of nature laws. Find out how your community could take on big business to serve the health of all.


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