When I was in college I voted for Bill Clinton. Yeah, part of it was in revolt. But being in Santa Cruz made me a liberal. Or a progressive. Or a socialist. Maybe even a communist. Once they closed the streets. People did art and wrote in chalk. I wrote, “capitalism is slavery.”
And I believed it was true. The logic was we need food to live. Being forced to buy food, forced us to work. And forced labor is slavery. Of course, life is more complex than a teen’s understanding of the world.
While living in Santa Cruz I hung out with radicals. But I am not sure I ever completely bought the program. Santa Cruz is a notorious community. With a well known college. It is in the nature of students to be liberal. Because it is in their nature to question power. And power is conservative. The town was full of ideas. And I was open to all of them.
To be honest I still like the concept of everything being free. Like at a Rainbow Gathering. But I am aware gatherings are for a short time. And they depend heavily on people with money. People who spent most of their year at jobs. I wish it could work as a permanent model. But I know it wouldn’t.
Still while involved with CAL-PIRG, I believed. It wasn’t as extreme. Maybe the first step in my migration to the right. We worked for good causes. Causes I still believe in. CAL-PIRG is based in part on the ideas of Ralph Nader.
When I moved to Portland I still was a hippie of sorts. I would still wear skirts from time to time. I spent time with radicals. And maybe a few eco-terrorists. War was wrong. Capitalism was wrong. The environment was good. Money was evil.
But I had a job. And I worked hard. Work might be the force which makes more people conservative. When you work for what you have. And you have to work long hours. At a job you hate. You question why someone should sit there and do nothing. Why should you give them anything. Or at least I did. Even though it used to be me sitting there asking.
I’ve never been the jerk who says, “get a job.” Though I may have thought it at times. But my silent judgement is still a judgement. And it is still wrong. What I have done a few times is buy food for people. While in San Francisco a homeless man told me something about money. They never have enough money to buy more than booze, he explained. And then someone gives them $100. Sure they could spend it on a lot of things. But old habits kick in faster and they spend it on booze. I don’t buy the logic. But I understand.
During my first stay in Portland I volunteered at a call center. We gave information to renters about their rights. It was free for callers. A semi-leftist cause. But one which also drew me to the right. Because it made me think also of landlord’s rights. And in a positive way.
During the late 90s the WTO, NAFTA, GATT, IMF, FTZs and the World Bank were the topic of protest. There was the protest in Seattle, which M told me she attended. There were a number of protests across the world. In fact right up until Sept. 11, 2001. If you look back everything changed. The movement disappeared.
When I started learning about politics I was on the far left. An anarchist. But in the true meaning. Not a nihilist. While living in Upstate New York I had read Chairman Mao’s book. On Guerrilla Warfare was about change.
Moving to New York was a simple choice. But I wasn’t as liberal anymore. At least not as much as some of my friends. Already I was trending right. This continued as I worked my job in Glens Falls. Again hard work changes people. And their ideas and views.
Later I lived in Portland again. I helped a different group. They were open communists. They had a good mission. But already I was losing faith. I had my doubts about taking and giving. Most of all my doubts about power. Albert Camus changed me. His book The Rebel most of all. It didn’t change my ideas. As much as it made me think about power. He pointed out communist rule was also flawed. At the end of the day in some of the same ways capitalism was flawed.
I took from Camus a value of the rule of law. An understanding of justice and mercy. And a fear of power. Every modern revolution he said made the state more powerful. His writing is full of compassion. A concern for the little guy.
At one point I posted a comment on a gathering website. It was based on my reading of Camus. I was critized. And knew I wasn’t a hippie anymore.
On a spiritual level I was also changing. When I left Bethany I dropped a lot. My former conservative ideas. My former faith. And I started from the ground up. This was part of my plan. I didn’t expect to be doing it so alone. But it made me stronger.
On the street I discovered the Krishna movement. Over time I fell in love with the believers and the faith. I’ve tried to go back to church. And failed. But when I go to ashram. It feels safe. More about Krishna will come in the future.