Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tune In, Turn On...

This theme is rolling around our little circle as well as in my head. I really don't know how to answer the question. I don't even know how to pose the question.

What makes someone a "dropout'? What is a better term for "dropout"? What are we (am I) trying to achieve anyway?

I think casemeau started this and it was continued at Patriot Earth and then it was spotted at Village Blog. I'm sure others have discussed this issue for quite a while, but I am only noting what prompted me to write about it at this time.

This is a tough subject because it reveals our weakness and compels us to put up or shut-up.
-Casemeau is living in a van and trying to work out his next steps. He took the first step.
-Ian is soon to leave us and head to Ecuador. He has taken the first step. And, I loved the photo he posted a while back that inspired me to post the image for this entry.
-Ran has taken the first step and then some.
-Deanna has learned so much about living in the wilderness and living off the land.
-Jack has his van and is shaping his vision.
-Kevin and Rebecca have taken a giant leap and are sharing their journey with us all.
-Ted has wrestled with his demons over his next step and has kindly shared those moments with us all.
-Jason and Giuli have researched and reported and reflected on how we got here, where we are likely to go, why we do what we do and what is likely in store.
-Juris: Doctor of Doom bangs the warning drum hard so others will hear.
-Comrade Simba unashamedly reveals his strengths and his weaknesses and his humanity on this path.
-Nigel seems to be at about the same place on this path as I, only on the other coast.
-He who is nameless at Survival Acres is providing resources and information for those on the path.
There is also Aaron and Devin and Marcy and all the others I've left out only due to my ignorance.

It shocks me how many of you I feel I know in some strange way due only to these entries. We all have friends, families, lives, dreams, difficulties and demands, yet we all make the time to share pieces of ourselves with one another. Thank you. I really, really appreciate it. I know that our little conversations give me hope and encouragement, even when they are contentious.

I have been a typical American boy my whole life. I was born in a city, raised in the country and live in the country now (by choice). I did well in school, was well-liked by my peers and believed what those in authority told me. I started to think outside the box while in college, but was urged by my patriotism to serve my country when I felt she needed me. Later, I found that my country wasn't always being straight with me. I found that all those others in authority were not being straight with me either. I lost faith, yet found it again. I work in a capacity that allows me to serve my community, do what I love to do and still have time for a life. In the midst of this, my family and I have been rethinking what "life" is. Typical story and I only tell that bit to let you know where I am coming from.

I aspire to drop out. My presence in this community of ours is primarily because I wanted to get out of this thing we call civilization. One site led me to another which led me to Ran's site which led me to yours. So Peak Oil and collapse and anti-civilization and conspiracy is all well and good, but I am here because I don't want to be here. I want to be somewhere else. At the time I started looking around, I had no idea what I wanted (I still don't) in a practical sense or what "dropping out" meant, but I know I wanted to do it. As time has passed, I've learned much from all of you and had my ideas shaped in different ways. Your fingerprints are all over this little lump of clay. I really don't feel the need to define it or feel approved in order to know that I am actually doing it (rather than pretending to do it). It doesn't matter to me if you feel I am a poseur or the real deal. But I do think it is important that we at least talk about it, so I'm glad the subject has been moving around. I am, for whatever reason, somehow invested in your successes and your failures.

I'm sure my take on this is not yours. That doesn't make me right or wrong, just different. I am comfortable and relatively happy in all this civilization. Yet, I have been granted the gift of seeing it differently, just as most of you have. I've been able to see things as they are rather than as I'm told they are. My experiences and yours have shown me that there can be another way. I want to take the red pill. But it is hard to take the red pill unless someone like Morpheus is there to explain it to you and tell you that, yeah, it will be tough, but we'll make it.

I have no desire to codify, categorize, define, describe, encapsulate or explain what "dropping out" might be. It doesn't matter. They are only words. Words are not the thing, they are only a written or vocal symbol of the thing. They are a tool to allow us to make our thoughts known to others. You all know what "drop out" means to our circle.

Sure, perhaps there is a better term or phrase that could be used to describe this little cult to those who are not members. We could use less negative words or words without the baggage. In the end, we each know what we mean. And even if we don't all mean the same thing, I think we understand one another.

All I want to do is make sure that we all know one thing: dropping out is serious shit.

As Devin said, "Dropping out is NOT a fucking club. Dropping out has no fucking criteria." This reminds me of what Tyler Durden said, " Hitting bottom isn't a weekend retreat! It's not a seminar!"

My point is only to make clear that "dropping out" or whatever term we use to describe it is so much more than just dropping out. Sometimes we become so enmeshed in the mechanics of the immediate task we lose sight of the bigger picture: Dropping out is treason.

I like to call it "non-compliance". Again, it is just a word. Different heroes have shown their displeasure with the world by various forms of protest. Gandhi and Martin Luther King were not violent, but they were "in your face". They needed to show their displeasure by public protest. Those who drop out are an even heartier lot. We can simply vanish from the pubic eye and still make a great impact on the world. There is no need for publicity, attention or notoriety. In fact, that could work against us. In the end, it is most effective to simply disappear.

“I choose not to comply.”

Dropping out is the single most radical and dangerous thing we can do. It says that the American dream is really a nightmare. It says that Miss America is a whore. It says that the job, mortgage, 2.3 children, dog, station wagon and two-week vacation is tweaked Kool-aid we are forced to drink. It is saying that the Emperor has no clothes. It says that everyone is wrong. We can't have that now, can we?

It isn’t a full frontal assault on the “the man” or the “the system”. Doing that would make us terrorists or rebels or malcontents. That would let them imprison or shoot us.

It isn’t sitting in a peaceful circle holding hands and singing songs. Sure, that is nice and may even have some effect, but in the end we pick up our guitars, start up our cars, drive home to our HDTVs and lawns and go to work the next day.

Opting out is so hard because it is the one thing the “man” has made certain we cannot do! That must mean it is the most dangerous thing we can do and the most damaging to "him." You can protest all you want and it is fine. You can even go too far and cause trouble. Fine, we'll just send you to jail. We can deal with that. Even when you are in prison you are still part of the system. Your name is on a list. You have people who earn their living by watching you. Your name is still spoken. You have a role. But you can't just disappear. It isn't allowed. You can't live in the woods. Those woods are owned by the "man". They will force you to come back or put you in prison (back into the system). You need to contribute in some way. You can work and pay taxes, or you can be detained and have taxes spent on you so your presence justifies the system. You can't have it any other way. You are not allowed to live under any other reality.

-When you drop out, you don't pay taxes. No taxes means you're not funding the system that controls us.
-When you drop out, we don't know where to forward your mail, ask you questions, see what you are doing or use you in any way.
-When you drop out, you don't work so you can make money to buy things. No consumption doesn't help the corporations or the government that run this system.
-When you drop out, you are saying that the system doesn't matter. The system hates that most of all.

It reminds me of the most painful thing you can do to someone after a breakup: forget them. Some folks weep and grieve and suffer after a break-up. Some become bitter, resentful and angry. You talk about your past love behind their back. It may seem like a negative, but it is your way of keeping them in your life. But when you really break it off, you don't care who they are seeing or sleeping with or what they are saying about you. It doesn't matter. It is over. It has no meaning. It is irrelevant. This is what dropping out should be like.

Dropping out is, in essence, ignoring this world and fashioning your own. That is too dangerous to be allowed by civilization. Even if you rebel in the traditional sense, you will often get assistance by being offered "rehabilitation". Or, sometimes you will find those who sympathize with you and offer you support in some fashion. When you drop-out, you are on your own (or at least in the company of a small band who look out for one another). Sure, there may be others who know about you, but that doesn't matter. You are doing this because YOU must, not to please or impress or research a book. If others agree and are along for the ride, that is fine. But if they go off the path, you stay on the path.

Dropping out takes time. It may not happen all at once. It may unfold in stages. It may reveal itself in strange ways. Regardless, it is too radical to be allowed.

Again, this is my definition, so if you don't agree I won't argue. You are as correct as I. But dropping out, to me, isn't scaling back or tightening your belt or doing more with less. Dropping out is dropping out. It is the single greatest thing we can do. It is the single most difficult thing we can do. It is a weapon greater than all the bullets the man has. Unfortunately, it scares me even more than all the man's bullets.

To all those who are currently on the path, I am praying for you and looking for your footsteps to guide me. Good luck.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely gorgeous post. Thanks. And thanks for the encouragement to us all. Fine, fine words, Frank Black. Thank you.

December 08, 2006 12:57 AM  
Blogger Jack Trace said...

I agree, very fine post.

"Dropping Out" is revolutionary and difficult and serious and beautiful all once. You describe it well.

December 08, 2006 3:26 PM  
Anonymous nigel said...


You've got a great voice to your writing, and there's a lot of truth in what you say. Your point about how the system co-opts rebels, through prison or success is really important.

I think it points to a crucial fact -- any positive resistance requires creativity. What can we do besides Molotov cocktails and folk songs?

I'm learning a lot from watching you figure that out!

December 08, 2006 4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome post
although I am pretty un-well-known around here as I lurk mostly ;-)...
I feel I am soo not as alone as I feel in my day to day experiences when I read the blogs of those you mentioned who are courageous enough to stand up and speak out about all this craziness we have been born into.... all this 'fake' freedom we were taught/programmed we had.

Anyhow...lovely thoughts you expressed!!

December 08, 2006 7:05 PM  
Blogger Archangel said...

Bravo, Frank!

This is where it's at, and I second the notion that we can all use each other to find ideas and inspirations as we try to make our way out.

Good luck and good journeys to all!

December 08, 2006 8:23 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

Knock it off man; you almost made me cry.

beautiful stuff... and yes, serious shit indeed, if I wasn't half insane, if the conservative midwesterner I was raised to be suddenly woke up, he'd be mortified, absolutely, undeniably, unequivocably terrified.

December 09, 2006 2:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I call myself a dropout or a bum, depending on how I feel, where I am, the alignment of the label on the Pepsi bottle. I live in a travel trailer wandering about the country with my two cats. I worked the corportate slave system for many years because I enjoyed it but it threw me out when I aged so here I am living on little, going where I feel like.

December 09, 2006 1:47 PM  
Anonymous devin said...

Cool. That Tyler Durden quote fits perfectly.

This vision of dropping out resonates with me the most: "In the end, ... to simply disappear." No grandiosity. No saving the world. No ego. No "I've dropped out more than you." No "I've adopted the dropout 'style' more than you." No "if you don't stop hurting me I'm going to run away and you'll really be sorry." Just a nonattached smile, and goodbye.

But when we "forget" a breakup, it's not possible to "forget" in order to hurt someone else. You can't have let go if you still have any desire to hurt them. It's the same sort of reverse effort as "Don't think of an elephant" -- in order to not think of an elephant, you have to think of an elephant. In order to "forget" someone in order to hurt them, you haven't forgotten them at all.

In this same vein we cannot "drop out" in order to make an impact on the world. The impact will happen, but that's not the point. All too often we get caught up in our grandiose ideas and visions of how powerful and important our actions are. Not to be a downer (well, to anything but our egos at least) but in this system we don't really matter, and we have to recognize that. This system doesn't care whether we drop out or not, who are we kidding?

All of our desire to drop out and to run away seems to be coming from a place of trying to matter, trying to make a difference. We all have an intense desire to belong, to be valued and appreciated for who we are. But by setting our sights on "civilization" we're setting ourselves up for hopelessness and despair. We'll never save the world, we'll never make any sort of tangible difference in a system this large.

So, when we're talking about "the system" and "civilization" I think we really mean our families and friends. This is where the power is, this is where all of the conflict and pain and emotions are coming from. It's so much easier to be grandiose and think about the effect we'll have in the future when we reach our dropout destination, than it is to think about telling our parents/grandparents/friends/lovers who we are and facing that. And I might have to do some soul-searching why the idea of dropping out as disappearing resonates with me, here. It's so much easier to think about "dropping out" as disappearing than it is to think about dropping out as centering yourself so much that you can be yourself around your family and friends without fear or any compromise of your integrity. I want to be solid and strong enough to be myself even in the face of fear and anger by those who I'm closest to.

Because ultimately, I don't want to disappear, and for me the fantasy of "dropping out" is the fantasy I mentioned earlier: "I'm going to run away and you'll really be sorry". I have family and friends that I don't want to "drop out" from, in any kind of physical location or "run away" sense. I've spent three months here at the Teaching Drum realizing that "dropping out" isn't what I'm looking for at all. All I really want, in the deepest sense, is to be loved and appreciated for who I really am. I don't want to be lonely. All I really want is to go home.

All I really want is to go home.

So. I'm not dropping out --
I'm going home.

- Devin

December 09, 2006 4:07 PM  
Blogger Frank Black said...

Thank you to all for the supportive comments. There is so much to this issue that I'm certain I (and you) will ruminate more in another post, if for no other reason than to purge what is in there. It is like going through a pile of laundry: You remove the socks on top and find... more socks? a t-shirt? a thong? There are a couple things I will clarify that I made too ambiguous.

The only thing I will clarify here is Devin's point about "forgetting". I didn't intend to make the term negative. I meant it to be used in the sense of "the natural result of experience." Meaning, I wouldn't forget someone I loved dearly and with whom I've shared a portion of my life. Things happen that are often painful and require a parting of the ways, but it doesn't negate the value of the relationship. But when used in the context of civilization (personified as an ex-lover) and its rules, we find we were deceived from the beginning. There never was a love. It was all a means of using, exploiting and imprisoning us through deceit. In that case, there is nothing to remember other than the lesson learned. You move on and understand that your eyes are open and looking ahead, not behind. The experience is with you, but the person is of no consequence. All that is back there is more deception.

I know that is still not clear, but it is the best I can manage without being my normal wordy self.

December 10, 2006 8:28 AM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

In just wanted to say I loved your use of 'non-compliance' to describe what you're doing. It's a good piece of beauracratic terminology and a very accurate way of describing how the 'system' would see our actions.

It'll be good to use when people start using 'dropout' as a badge of honour or to describe their clique

December 20, 2006 10:17 PM  

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