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Fireaxe

The Burning Blade 12.6
October 05, 2009, 02:38:40 AM
Individualism has made a mess of our world…


         The Burning Blade

      Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 12.6

         October 4, 2009

      neptune.net/~bev/Fireaxe.html


   "What we face is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just
   the details of policy but fundamental principles of social justice
   and the character of our country."
         - Senator Edward M. Kennedy, referring to
         the matter of health care reform

   "Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The
   savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe.
   Civilization is the process of setting man free from men."
         - Ayn Rand, in defense of a limited form
         of government based on her Objectivist
         philosophy

   "My advice to people today is as follows: if you take the game
   of life seriously, if you take your nervous system seriously, if
   you take your sense organs seriously, if you take the energy
   process seriously, you must turn on, tune in, and drop out."
         - Timothy Leary, 1960s counterculture icon

   "Fuck the establishment."
         - A popular counterculture phrase which
         is far more to the point that either of the
         wordy quotes above.


   What is the character of the United States?  The president used
Kennedy's quote above to challenge the American people to rediscover
something that was discarded in this country decades ago: a common
moral compass.  He continues trying to channel the spirit of F.D.R. and
invoke the sentiments of a left wing which has long since died out in
America, having been replaced not only on the left but on the right as
well with ideologies which champion a strong sense of individualism.
The character of our country is simply not altruistic and hasn't been so
for decades, yet Obama persists in compounding his most serious error:
trying to move beyond the failed ideologies of the present by retreating
backwards towards a failed ideology of the past.  In this he will fail and
a better look back into the past will reveal why.
   The global economic collapse and Great Depression of the
1930s was a period of massive economic, social, political, and thus
ideological upheaval.  Most countries either turned to dictatorship,
such as in the rise of fascism in Germany, Italy, and Spain, empowered
their existing dictators, such as was the case in the U.S.S.R. and Japan,
or allowed democratically elected leaders to act as virtual dictators, like
in the U.S. and U.K.  In all these cases, the collapse of the free market
and failure of laissez-faire economics led to a massive rise in the power
of the state, which seized control of the economy as well as many other
facets of their citizens' lives.  The leaders of the state first used their
new powers in what they believed were altruistic ways: saving the people
from exploitation by the greedy, protecting domestic industries from
foreign competition, and fighting back against all enemies both outside
and inside their borders.  In the decades that followed these newly
empowered states became more aggressive, redistributing wealth by
force, instituting massive government run social programs, holding
witch-trial type investigations against  internal dissenters, slaughtering
their own citizens if they opposed the state, declaring war on each other
frequently, encouraging conformity, demanding fealty, and in general
telling their people what to do.  All in all it was a particularly dark and
traumatic period for the entire world.
   In those dark years antiestablishment sentiment was growing,
quietly gaining strength until it exploded into view during the 1960s.
What followed was an era of rebellion against the excessively powerful
states which was just as global in scope as were the Great Depression
and World War Two.  The ghastly horrors of the Nazis had revealed
how excesses of state power could lead to unparalleled atrocities, for
once a state lends legitimacy to inhuman policies, those policies will
be carried out by legions of loyal followers with ruthless efficiency
and little regard for their victims.  States appeared to have the power
to make traditional morality null and void.  Stalinist Russia and China
under Mao showed that Nazi Germany was not an exception to the
devastation that unchecked state power could bring.  During this era,
resistance, both peaceful and violent, was brought up against many
governments and it was often met with brutal repression, which had
the effect of reinforcing the point that placing too much power in the
state will result tyranny.  Communist states were especially brutal
when it came to the exercise of state power, but Western democratic
governments also produced many reasons for why they could not be
trusted.  In the U.S., Eisenhower's cover-up of the U2 spy plane
incident, the hard-to-believe conclusions of the Warren commission
regarding President Kennedy's assassination, and the Gulf of Tonkin
subterfuge which was used to drag a reluctant country into the Vietnam
War greatly damaged the credibility of the United States of America.
In later decades Watergate, Ford's pardon of Nixon, Carter's impotence
in dealing with domestic issues, and the Iran-Contra scandal further
eroded the faith that people had in their leaders, even though those
leaders were supposedly answerable to the people and not above the
law.
   The notion that the state was a tyrannical imposition on the
lives of its citizens was something that affected both conservative as
well as liberal ideologies.  Although the sixties are mostly associated
with the left-leaning anti-government counterculture, conservatives
were also embracing the idea that government was the problem, not
the solution, although the left and the right had different bones to pick
with the state.  It was during the sixties and seventies that both the
traditional left and right underwent ideological mutation, downplaying
the role of the state and uplifting the freedom of the individual.
   The "old left" was the legacy of the F.D.R. years which had its
last gasp during the Johnson presidency.  The old left championed labor
unions and embraced the government's role in directing the economy
as well as redistributing the wealth of the nation through high taxes
which funded programs like Social Security and Medicare.  The "new
left" downplayed the more socialistic elements of its past which tended
to revolve around solidarity and government intervention and embraced
the individual's right to "do their own thing".  Social progress became
their goal and ending segregation was the centerpiece of the new left's
campaign.  In the years that followed the new left made great gains
through the decisions of the supreme court which struck down many
racist and sexist laws, liberating the people from the imposition of
old social norms by state and local governments.
   On the other side of the political spectrum the distaste for
government was also growing.  Massive social programs enacted by
F.D.R. and Lyndon Johnson needed to be funded through higher
taxes, and the rise of labor as well as the environmental movement
was coming at the expense of business interests and economic growth.
Both the "old right" and the "new right" opposed these leftist policies
but the "old right" still envisioned government as a tool to maintain the
existing power structure and social order.  The "old right" opposed
change in all forms, but its embrace of racists, sexists, segregationists,
and other extremists were destroying its political viability.  The "new
right" downplayed these elements and focused more on liberating
individuals, and especially big business, from what they felt was
excessive government taxation and regulation.  The right used the
miserable performance of the government run economy of the Soviet
Union to make their case for deregulation and since 1980 they've been
able to greatly reduce taxes and overturn many laws which restricted
the conduct of corporations and reduced profitability.  Though the new
right still needs to appeal to extremists by embracing the notions of
traditional social roles, most of its political progress has come in the
area of the economic liberation of the individual.
   In recent decades both the left and the right have come to
despise government.  This is the true character of the American people,
at least as things stand today.  Freedom to us means freedom from rules
and regulations whether they are constraining our social identity, or
our economic potential, and we resist the idea of having the government
make our decisions for us.  We believe that the government's role is to
facilitate our successes and aspirations and not impede them or dictate
which paths we should take.  In other words, we are standing John F.
Kennedy on his head: "Ask not what you can do for your country, ask
what your country can do for you, and if it can't help out, it should
get out of the way."  Political philosophers on all sides of the spectrum
have made the case for disengagement from government over the years
which is what I was trying to show with the quotes from Rand and
Leary above.  We want the government to make sure that everyone
plays fair, although the left and right differ on what the rules of the
game are, but in general we want to be left alone to succeed or fail
based on our own merit.
   In the U.S., President Obama is trying to pass health care
reform legislation which requires intrusion of the state into the private
sector the likes of which has not been seen in decades and it is not
surprising that he is meeting a lot of resistance.  Any notion of a single-
payer system had to be abandoned early on due to its clash with the
strong feelings of individualism in the general populace.  Single-payer
means fewer choices for the consumer, and Americans like to have
choices.  As a result the current proposals underline the demand for
more choice in the health care insurance realm: increasing the number
of competing insurance companies available to choose from, adding a
government run option that those currently without insurance can
choose, holding back from changing the system too radically so that
people can choose the insurance company that they currently have,
and forcing insurance companies to offer insurance to everyone so
that those who have few or no choices today have a number of options.
The one choice that the plan takes away is the option to choose "none
of the above", but given the generous provisions of the rest of the plan
this option is likely to only appeal to a small minority who would
literally be gambling with their health.
   Even though the plan has been crafted to appeal to America's
individualist spirit, it doesn't have enough support in congress.  The
right is opposed to any government run or government subsidized
program for very practical economic reasons as well as the fear that
government run health care may one day have to be rationed, which
would erode an individual's freedom to obtain better and faster health
care if they can afford to pay for it.  The right wants to overturn
F.D.R.'s reforms, not add new ones, and is reluctant to support any
new government intrusion into the private sector.  The left, as well
as the general public, is more open to Obama's ideas due to the fact
that private insurers have exploited the public so badly that they are
willing to invite big government into their lives.  Although the left
distrusts big government, it distrusts big business as much or more.
But Obama's popularity is fading among the left due at least in part
to his many compromises in which he is seen as giving up too much
and allowing both state and corporate power to grow.  On the matter
of health care he has already made a number of compromises to both
big business and the opposition party and there is fear that reform will
benefit everyone but the people paying for it.  And when it comes to
other compromises, many on the left feel betrayed by many of Obama's
policies, such as his leisurely exit from Iraq, his aggressive policy
towards Afghanistan, his continued support of profiteering private
military contractors, his bailouts of banks and car companies, his delays
in closing Guantanamo Bay, his reluctance to prosecute those who
authorized torture, and his continued authorization of a great number
of police-state powers that his predecessor conjured up after September
eleventh.  Obama is not restoring trust in the government in the eyes
of the left as well as the right and public is finding it hard to trust
our elected officials to deliver a health care package which is an
improvement over the current dysfunctional system.  It seems that
instead of true reform we will get another compromise where taxes
go up, big business feasts on more subsidies, and most of us end up
paying more in premiums for essentially the same product that we are
getting now.
   This is a serious problem.  The U.S. has become a nation
which does not trust its own government, and thus in the face of a
number of issues where the solution requires government intervention
the nation stands paralyzed and unable to act.  To make matters worse
it appears that our elected officials have also lost their faith in the
government and have put their individual interests ahead of their duty
to their nation.  They too have been influenced by individualism and it
seems that they don't want to be told what to do by the people and are
instead doing what they personally want to do as well as what benefits
them the most.  Corruption, careerism, allegiance to a political party,
and the frequent exercise of the "revolving door" have further paralyzed
the nation with every congressperson seeming to ask "what's in it for
me" before deciding on how to vote.  Not even the government trusts
the government, so why shouldn't our public servants try to work the
system to their own benefit and let the chips fall where they may?  This
too is the character of our country, individualism to an immoral extreme,
and we are a long, long way away from Obama's dream of a country
which comes together to take care of its own.
   Speaking of health care, the program that I am on to improve
my health is starting to show definite signs of improvement.  Over the
last two weeks I have been experiencing states of health that I have not
felt in over six years and I think that I am finally seeing the light at the
end of a long, dark tunnel.  My improvements are still coming in fits
and starts though as my gradually strengthening immune system is
hard at work fighting against the low grade bacterial and viral infections
that have stolen a big chunk of my life.  But I'm still guarded about
pronouncing myself almost cured since I've had so many setbacks over
the years, so again I can make no guarantees about future developments
on the Fireaxe recording front.  Yeah, I know, another announcement
that I'm not back in the studio yet.  All that I can say is that your
disappointment about the situation pales compared to mine.  I'm a
person who thrives on being able to accomplish things and the past
seven years have been like my worst nightmare.  It kills me to not be
able to do the things that I want to do nor feel the way that I used to
feel.  It honestly feels as if I am half dead a lot of the time, as if I am
driving around firing on two cylinders instead of four, and that the
rest of the world is rushing past me while I struggle.  I often wonder
if I will ever truly be healthy again or whether I will just have to accept
living a life that I can't truly enjoy.  The illness that I have has denied
many of my desires and aspirations and I wonder if my recent stretch
of good health is just another period of false hope.  But regardless of
how I feel I will soldier on, knowing that if I sit still that that is the
point when I truly start dying.
   A big ‘Hello’ to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the
first time.  This is the Fireaxe newsletter.


The Ego, the Trendy, and the Almighty Dollar

   In the credits for "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" I
made mention to something I called the church of the Ego, the Trendy,
and the Almighty Dollar.  This was a direct reference to the forces
that have corrupted the recording industry over the decades and turned
it into a vapid, exploitative, chop shop filled with pathological liars,
ruthless scumbags, and self-absorbed egotists whose only measure of
success is the number of outrageously overpriced CDs that they can sell
regardless of what they contain.  At least, that's my opinion.  And when
I look closer at the evolution of modern ideologies it seems that those
same forces are also hard at work reshaping almost every aspect of our
society and ourselves, changing the ways we think and act towards each
other, and slowly but surely corrupting everything of lasting value.  As
I outlined above, both liberal and conservative ideologies have been
greatly altered by an embrace of individualism and a distrust of the
consolidation of power, especially in government.  And growing hand
in hand with the rise of individualism are egotism, the superficiality
of trendiness, and the worship of the almighty dollar.  Our culture
is suffering greatly because of it.
   Don't get me wrong, I'm a fierce defender of individuality.
My strength lies in my creativity and I am at my best when I am given
a more or less free reign to meet a defined target or goal.  I know others
who are the same way.  When people are allowed to try new things or
find their own way to a solution they can sometimes find a better way
to do things than before or discover something new and useful along
the way.  When that happens we all end up better because of it.  But it
doesn't happen nearly as often when everyone is forced to conform to
a certain ideal and is made to do things the same way as they have
always been done.  However, when taken to an extreme, an emphasis
on individuality will eventually result in a lack of social cohesion
and a sharp deterioration in our overall effectiveness due to a lack of
cooperation and a reluctance to sacrifice for the benefit of others.
While some individuals may end up doing quite well an individualistic
culture, the whole is worse off than before.  Both conformity and
individuality have their merits and a blending of the two ideals allows
a culture to reap the benefits of both while avoiding their weaknesses,
but over the last half century our ideologies have moved from an extreme
embrace of conformism to an extreme embrace of individuality and as a
result our ideologies are coming apart right before our eyes.
   For most of us, the freedom to express ourselves how we want
to has become an almost sacred rite.  We have absorbed the dogma
of individualism: that we are unique, that our uniqueness makes us
exceptional or at least will enable us to become exceptional, and that
who we are is intimately linked to the material things that we amass,
to the many things we have accomplished, and to anything else which
makes us, as individuals, noteworthy .  Our personal needs and desires
are what motivate us and give us purpose.  "Me" has far surpassed "we".
And even when we are doing things for others we often see our actions
as being things which build up our own self image.  As a people, and as
individuals, we have become narcissistic, but since all mental disorders
are defined by a person's diversion from the norm, we do not see our
self-absorption as a sign that something is wrong with us.  We are all
that way after all, and therefore we are all normal.  Furthermore, we
can all point to someone who is more narcissistic than we are and say
that they are the one who has the problem while we are sane, balanced,
and healthy.  But over the years, and step by step, we have moved
towards being people who are at the center of our own private universes,
kings and queens of our domains, without fully realizing just how far
away we have moved from what we used to call normal.
   Take music for example.  Half a century ago the music scene
was essentially divided in two with "respectable" music played by white
musicians and "scandalous" music played by black musicians.  The
divide was such that if a song performed by a black musician threatened
to become popular, a white musician would do a cover of it, with the
lyrics cleansed of their risqué content, and that version would be released
to mainstream America.  It was an age of rigid social norms, conformity,
and uniformity, and everyone was encouraged to join a church, behave
morally, and be a part of their local community.  The music of that
period reflected those preferences as was not particularly challenging
or threatening.  Of course, not everyone conformed.  The fifties gave
birth to rock-n-roll music as well as the beat poets, rebellion which
would later grow into a massive non-conformist movement, but for the
most part people listened to the few musical genres of the era and were
content with the limited choices.  People had more of a group identity
back then, putting things such as the community or the church first
and their own interests second.  Music mirrored the times, and existed
mostly as part of a larger cultural context: something to dance to or
to enjoy in a public setting with others rather than something private
and personal to be experienced alone.
   The sixties and seventies were a time of great change, both
in music and in society, and it can be argued that music was the driving
force behind social change.  In the sixties, television was responsible
for creating the first rock stars, photogenic teen idols and girl groups,
making them into national sensations.  At first only respectable stars
were allowed on television, but the growing popularity of rock-n-roll
musicians allowed them, or at least the white ones, to spread their
influence far and wide.  And although mainstream America fought
against rock-n-roll and other "corrosive" influences every step of the
way, the non-conformist message of the new music could not be stopped.
Teens now had idols who were brazenly sexual, egotistical, and who
did things their own way.  Many teens emulated their idols and broke
out of the conformist mold, ushering in an age of self-exploration and
experimentation.  Music now served as a vehicle to deliver the message
of individuality, of freedom to be who you were rather than what society
expected you to be.  But even with all the emphasis on individuality, the
non-conformist movement was itself rather conformist.  Those who
broke free of the mainstream would join the counterculture movement
and conform to its ideals and ways of thinking.  Likewise, the music
scene was still essentially divided into two parts, one for the mainstream
and one for the growing subculture.
   In the eighties and nineties the music scene exploded with new
bands, genres, and ways to access music springing up all over the place.
Now people could express and indulge their individuality with a style of
music that seemed to be specifically for them and do so wherever  and
whenever they pleased.  Teenagers everywhere could listen to their
favorite bands in their cars or on portable music players and often
proudly wore T-shirts with their favorite band's name and logo on their
chests.  The type of music we liked became a part of our identities.  Music
was everywhere and cable channels featuring nothing but music helped
to create an army of teen idols.  It seemed that anyone could become a
rock star and garages and basements all across America were filled with
hopeful groups of teens and young adults emulating their heroes and
trying to become the next big sensation.  Indeed, for many it wasn't
enough to just listen to music, they wanted to be just like their idols:
performing on stage, living the wild rock star lifestyle of sex, drugs,
and overindulgence in everything, and being worshipped by thousands
of adoring fans.  The age of conformity and restraint had passed, and
few mourned its death for more and more people were coming to think
that mainstream America did nothing but stand between them and their
dreams.  Conformism just told us to grow up, be responsible, and cast
aside our childish fantasies, and seemed to give back nothing in return
so good riddance to it.  We had been liberated.  Now everyone was free
to become a superstar, either in music, television, movies, or in whatever
path to fame and riches that they wanted to pursue.
   The turn of the century saw the dawn of the internet, which
had a major impact on the music industry and on society in general.
For the listener it created another explosion of musical availability.
No longer were people limited to listening to the bands that recording
labels thought were good.  Now, anyone, anywhere in the world could
listen to any band in the world at any time.  A universe of music lay
at every fan's fingertips.  And for aspiring musicians it threw the door
wide open to their dreams of success, connecting them with their fan
base directly and releasing them from the need to "sell out" or cater
their music to trend of the moment.  Now anyone could become popular,
all that a musician had to do was put together a website, add some songs
that people were interested in, advertise here and there, and overnight
you could become a star.  As a result the number of bands in the world
expanded almost exponentially, and recording technology advanced to
the point where individuals could produce their own music in their
own homes.  Bands as well as solo artists like yours truly could express
their individuality more easily than ever before.  Music, it seemed, was
everywhere, and everyone wanted to be a part of it.  On television,
programs that featured aspiring musicians competing for major
contracts grew massively popular and millions of people tried out
in the hopes of achieving their dream of stardom.  Of course, not
everyone can be a star, first you need to have talent, but then a lot
of people are good enough to sell CDs.  More important is the second
requirement for being a star: you need to have fans; and if everyone
is trying to be a star the dwindling number of admiring fans end up
spread pretty thin.  The market has become oversaturated.  With so
many people up on stage clamoring for the spotlight there is no one
left to be in the cheering crowd.  So some of us have to set aside our
dreams of stardom and be fans so that others can become idols, right?
   Well, no.  Today everyone can be a rock star, and you don't
even need to be good at playing an instrument.  The surprising
popularity of video games where you can dance, play an instrument,
or sing at a passable level and watch or listen to yourself performing
as well as your idols enables all of us to live out our rock star dreams.
What is more is that you don't even need to put in the long hard hours
practicing your instrument, learning music theory, or paying your dues
in any significant way in order to be good at the games.  Everything
has been simplified and anyone with a modest sense of rhythm can
pick the games up quickly.  And to complete the narcissistic nature
of the games, they also supply an army of virtual fans to worship us
when we succeed so we can all be idols.  We can believe ourselves to
be great, even when we are not.  And so we have gone from music as a
force for cultural cohesion, to music as an expression of individuality,
to music as a tool for personal wish fulfillment.  We've gone from
conformity to individuality to narcissism.
   This same progression has occurred in more areas than just
music, though not necessarily over the same time frame, and the basic
problem remains: if everyone is talking then who is listening?  And if
no one is listening, there's no point in talking.  You're more likely to
make an impact by barking at the moon.  Take blogging for instance,
which is even more accessible to the public than music since it takes
no natural rhythm and very little talent of any kind to do.  At first
blogging was a novel new form of communication, but advancements
on the internet has enabled millions to write blogs about whatever is
on their minds, whether insightful or trivial, and many millions have
done so, but how many people are out there reading all those blogs?
Do we need so many?  And books are another example.  Publishing a
book used to be a somewhat exceptional event and it was mostly done
by professionals, but now it seems that every public figure is out there
hawking a book and everyone else has either tried their hand at writing
one or has a great book idea in mind that they want to write.  It makes
one wonder if there is anyone out there reading all of this material, or
even if a person can read a mere fraction of the stuff that has peaked
their interest.  Is this another oversaturated market?
   Furthermore, with such an abundance of blogs, books, and
music available, the value of that material is reduced in many ways.
One way is that, with so many choices, people tend not to choose the
more contrary or challenging selections, and instead choose the things
that they are more comfortable with.  The world can now accommodate
them rather than the other way around and as a result people ignore
the things which could teach them valuable lessons and expand their
horizons.  Secondly, we don't tend regard something which is in
abundant supply as being precious, something that we should treasure,
embrace, and explore deeply.  Instead everything becomes just another
piece of content that we absorb only superficially, agreeing, disagreeing,
or ignoring it before moving on to the next piece of content.  In essence,
more has become less.
   But beyond blogging, books, and music there are so many
areas where there are so many people doing and so few people
appreciating that the model for winning praise and achieving fame
appears to be unsustainable.  In a society filled with narcissists our
narcissistic needs go unfulfilled because there are too many narcissists
out there competing for the attention of too few admirers.  Our dreams
are dying in droves, but we can't seem to let them go.  So in response
we do what narcissists always do: either fall into despair or turn up
the pressure we put on ourselves to succeed.
   The competition between self interested individuals is fierce,
and true narcissists are quick to discard any rules, traditions, or
standards of behavior to achieve their ends.  Narcissists may care
about others, but their own interests always come first.  Take the
pursuit of wealth, which has been transformed from a generally
conformist protestant work ethic approach where one starts at the
bottom and climbs their way to the top through hard work, teamwork,
and self sacrifice, to a Machiavellian approach where any method,
legitimate, legal but immoral, or flat out unconscionable, can be
employed to rapidly build a fortune regardless of who ends up going
bankrupt in the process.  Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy influenced
many Monetarist economists who came to power during the eighties
and tore down the existing regulatory structure in much the same way
that the counterculture movement tore down the conformist mainstream
in the sixties and seventies.  Their belief that "self interest rightly
understood" would naturally lead people into optimal, robust, and long
lasting economic relationships championed the desires of the individual
and allowed people to believe that greed was a positive force in the
world.  But as we are currently discovering this belief was an illusion
as it brought out not the best in people but the worst.  Of course, for a
time the ones who bent the rules of the game prospered and became
filthy rich while those who held fast to their morals saw their market
share dwindling, and this lasted long enough to chase many of the
more honorable businessmen out of the markets.  As a result we are
left with a financial system run primarily by a den of thieves and
overseen by regulators who are ideologically opposed to regulation.
This is another serious failure of excessive individualism.
   The emphasis on individual desires has spread far and wide
and many who have attained great wealth or power have sought to
live like rock stars, coveting the overindulgent lifestyles of the idols
they admired as teenagers.  In recent years we've seen many people
in positions of power and responsibility, such as CEOs, politicians,
religious leaders, and popular public figures, caught indulging
themselves in all manner of immoral and illicit behaviors for which
"normal" people should be ashamed, but like true narcissists most
of them have fiercely defended themselves, blamed others for their
failures, denied everything, or insisted that what they did wasn't
wrong at all.  Our role models appear to be anything but.
   Of course, it's easy to look down upon extreme examples of
narcissists, but how much different are we common people?  Before
we point our fingers at the wealthy and powerful we need to point
them at ourselves as well.  Note that narcissists are extremely resistant
to self-analysis, except when it is in the form of exhibitionism, so
opening ourselves up to criticism is a good way to slow down our
descent into a self-destructive pathological state.  So let's ask ourselves,
are we so much different than those whom we mock and wag our fingers
at?  How many of us joined in the stampede to make a fortune in the
markets, both during the dot com boom and the housing bubble?  Were
we not trying to live out our "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous"
dreams?  Many of us dreamed of making a fortune by getting in on
the ground floor of a spectacular IPO run-up, and millions of us
bought extravagant houses, filling them with toys paid for with our
equity gains, and thought that we could keep getting richer the more
the bubble inflated.  Were we not putting wish fulfillment ahead of
our better judgment just like those who destroyed the financial system
for their own enrichment?  Let's set aside our rationalizations and be
honest, how much of a factor did the idea of making a quick buck go
into decisions about a secure and stable future?  Do you see how the
two ends are contradictory?
   Also how many of us have sought to reap the benefits of the
obliteration of traditional sexual norms?  Are we not trying to live out
our "James Bond" and "Marilyn Monroe" fantasies or at least trying
to shore up our flagging self esteem by having sex with someone in
order to validate an image of ourselves as being sexy, desirable, and
virile?  Our sexual behavior has gone far beyond simply satisfying our
needs for sexual release and companionship.  Today we seem to be
acting more like drug addicts looking for a fix.  Our media is saturated
with sexual content and overindulgence seems to be everywhere and
anywhere.  College campuses have become highly sexualized places
for youths to experiment, and often overindulge in sex, alcohol, drugs,
and anything else that is considered taboo but which our rock star idols
and other heroes make seem to be the best things that life has to offer.
The internet…well, need I say more?  And everywhere we see people
engaged in one night stands, serial monogamy, adultery, pedophilia,
bondage, bestiality, and perversions of every kind which are more
available and less frowned upon now than ever.  You can get just
about anything you want if you look hard enough and you'll find many
people who are into the same thing too.  But the problem is not that
we are having a lot of sex, the problem is that a lot of the sex that we
are having is pathological, narcissistic behavior.  All of our excesses
have come at the expense of deep, meaningful and lasting relationships,
and our sexual activity has become much more about the physical and
much less about the emotional.  We fuck each other more and respect
each other less than we ever have as a people.  And when our marriages
and relationships break up how often do we seek revenge against our
former partners or wallow in self-pity for months or years on end?
Like narcissists we react to the blows to our self image by going to
extremes, often using sex as a way to get back at our former lovers.
And how many of us have justified our loose sexual behavior by saying
that it liberates us, or that its something we want to do before we die,
or get old and lose our looks?  Sex is best when it is something intimate
that is shared between two people, but we have turned it into little more
than masturbation, using another human being as if they were a sex toy
whose only purpose is to fulfill our own personal desires and dreams.
   The same can be said of gambling, computer gaming, or
any other addiction that is so widespread in our culture today.  The
common theme in all of these things is that the self comes first and
other people come second, or third, or maybe not at all.  Do we ever
wonder where the money really comes from when we try to get rich?
Do we even care if we are involved in the exploitation of others for
personal gain?  Did we ever stop to think that maybe the stock market
or the housing market was a bubble and that we were contributing to
something that was going to destroy ourselves and others down the
road?  Do we care how our partner will feel after we discard him or
her after we have gotten what we need out of our relationship?  More
and more the answer to those questions is becoming "no".  But it's not
just that we don't care, or at least we don't care as much as we used to
decades ago, it's that we shouldn't care.  We shouldn't care because our
ideologies are telling us that it is wrong to care.  The individualistic
character of our ideologies tells us that we should take care of ourselves
and to be responsible for our actions as opposed to becoming dependent
on others and counting on them to look out for our better interests.
This idealism forces us to be strong and independent and not be a
burden on other people, but it also allows us to justify a lack of
concern for others and persuades us not to bother helping them when
they need it.  After all, if we help people out when they are in trouble
it will just make them dependent on us, and then they will never learn
to take care of themselves.  So instead we help them out by letting them
work out their problems on their own and praising them when they find
a solution.  This makes them stronger and more capable, and this is the
way that individualism, and narcissism as well, spreads throughout our
society.
   Many people are under the impression that narcissism is all
about self love, thinking that a narcissist is someone who might spend
hours staring into the mirror and admiring how beautiful they are.
But narcissism is characterized more by a person's love towards an
imagined version of their self along with hatred directed towards their
real self or at least the way they see themselves when they are critical
of themselves or depressed.  Narcissists are very insecure people who
require frequent positive reinforcement to feel good about themselves.
This kind of pathology can arise if a person is made to feel inadequate
or unloved most of the time, either through ridicule, neglect, or constant
criticism, but is made to feel wonderful on those rare occasions when
they accomplish something exceptional.  The person will internalize
the criticism, feeling as though they are worthless people who no one
will ever love unless they achieve something great or are at least
working towards greatness.  This persistent state of feeling inadequate
which can only be alleviated when one does something that supports
their ideology is one of the key facets of the Fireaxe theory: that
ideological indoctrination serves to psychologically enslave its
members to serve the ideology.  In the case of narcissism, a person
is enslaved to the individualist ideal that self improvement and
personal achievement are the measure of a person's worth.
   Individualism causes us to focus on ourselves and less about
others, encouraging us to pursue grandiose dreams of personal success
and fulfillment.  How such dreams got into our minds is no accident
and is the result of ideological indoctrination.  How often were we
told that we could become anything we wanted if we just put our minds
to it?  How often did stories of individuals who fought against incredible
odds, succeeded, and were lavishly rewarded get fed into our minds?
How often did we hear that we too could become rich, or famous, or
powerful, or exceptional, just like our heroes?  Hearing such stories
over and over again altered our perception of the world into one where
individuals, not groups or organizations, are the ones who changed
history and made all the differences.  While this is true in some cases,
in others it is certainly not, and our culture, and even our history books,
often downplay or disregard the role of things outside the narrative
of the individual being the primary agent of change.  It all sinks in,
making us believe that the independent self, striving towards personal
glory and fulfillment, is the model that we should emulate rather than
setting aside our egos and working with others to build something that
all can appreciate and benefit from.  Over and over we hear about
freedom and individuality as being the forces that make our culture
strong with anything else being dubbed as conformist and socialist.
And as we come to think that way, the things we do and say reflect
and promote the individualist ideology and help it to spread to others.
   But the major problem is that our individualist ideologies are
doomed and this fact is becoming more obvious every day.  Since we are
focusing more on ourselves and less on others there are fewer trappings
of success to go around, making us feel more inadequate and either
motivating us to try even harder to achieve our goals or causing us to
lapse into depression and self-loathing.  In either case our focus on
ourselves grows stronger as does our devotion to our individualist
ideologies.  We do not see that individualism is failing us, we only see
that we, as individuals, are failing ourselves, and thus we are trapped
in a spiral of failure and further commitment to a failed ideology.
As this situation progresses our scarcely fulfilled needs forces us to
abandon standards of respectful behavior and we embrace any rationale
which lets us behave in ways necessary to achieve our ends.  In the
process we end up manipulating and hurting others, who learn that
trusting others is a mistake and start relying more on themselves.
This is another way that individualism spreads, when we are lied to,
used, and betrayed, we pull away from others and focus on our own
needs in order to protect ourselves.  As narcissism proliferates we have
no choice but to focus inwards and cut off our ties to the world, which
deprives others of our contributions to their well being.  Once it gets
moving, the process grows and grows.  The more that we focus on
ourselves, and strive to become an idealized version of ourselves, the
less able we are to form lasting and meaningful relationships.  And
the less that we get back from our relationships, the more that we
compensate for the loss by striving towards personal fulfillment
instead.  Our relationships become selfish and the expectations we
place on our partners become impossible to meet.  Social cohesion
relies on people having a common vision, trusting each other, and
setting aside their personal goals in favor of the interests of the
group.  When we refuse to compromise our personal needs and
desires it ends up sabotaging our relationships, but we need the
appreciation of others to feel good about ourselves and so we are
constantly seeking out new relationships to replace our failed ones.
The result is constant social turmoil and a persistent lack of trust in
each other, making the forming of new relationships more and more
difficult.
   One depressingly common "solution" to this dilemma is to
lie in order to get what we need from others.  Narcissists will often
put up false fronts and pretend to be what they are not in order to
win the trust of others and gain their admiration, support, and
sympathy.  In a culture full of other narcissists the trick is to stroke
the egos of those who you wish to exploit.  In essence you simply
tell them what they want to hear.  By giving them the recognition
and admiration that they crave and reinforcing their desired self
image they will be open to doing what you want and may even
become dependent on you for more of the same.  This strategy can
be found everywhere.  From the "player" who tells a woman that she
is beautiful, special, and fills him with passion whenever he sees her,
to the pundit who tells his viewers that the rival political party is full
of corrupt liars and that their party should be calling the shots, to the
religion that tells its worshippers that they are better than everyone
else and that they have immortal souls which will rejoice forever in
heaven, those who want something from us know how to stroke our
narcissistic desires.  Some of us use this strategy knowingly but
others honestly believe their own lies because those lies build up their
own self image as well.  When two people do this same trick to each
other, their relationship is more one of codependency rather than
cohesion, and it is generally emotionally charged, volatile, and short
lived.  The narcissist's ego needs constant feeding, and often requires
larger and larger sacrifices in order to satisfy it.  Enough never seems
to be enough.  Whether it be riches, power, popularity, or some other
desire, those who become rich or powerful or popular can never seem
to be rich or powerful or popular enough to satisfy them.  And as they
bleed the world of the things that they need to make them feel good,
others become even more deprived, exacerbating a problem which only
grows worse.  Our narcissistic individualist ideologies are sowing the
seeds of their own destruction but all we seem able to do is more of
the same things which led us to this point.
   This, incidentally, is one of the themes in "Eternal Devotion
to the Dark Goddess" as well as other Fireaxe works.  In "Eternal",
the protagonist begins with modest goals and dreams and a naïve,
traditional view of work and love.  The less idealistic world takes
advantage of him, forcing him to abandon his beliefs in order to get
what he needs and he becomes a cruel and heartless narcissist, willing
to do anything to be successful, and later doing anything to have his
revenge against those who wronged him.  It's meant to be dark and
the protagonist is intended to make us uncomfortable, mostly because
we see parts of ourselves in him and fear that we are a little too much
like him than we would like to believe.  What we only fantasize about,
he does for real, and when we recoil from his actions are we not
recoiling from something that is inside of us all?
   Okay, so individuality has its problems, but is the conformism
that we abandoned in the past any better?  Unfortunately it is not since
conformism can make people feel inadequate by excluding them from
the group and rewarding them only when they exhibit the proper and
accepted behaviors.  And being forced by social norms to stay in a
loveless relationship is just as unfulfilling as drifting from one
superficial relationship to another.  The answer is not that we were
happy once and that all we need to do to be happy again is go back to
that time and become conformists again.  The simple fact is that all
ideologies benefit by making their followers feel inadequate unless they
are serving the ideology, they just do so in different ways, and as much
as we may think that our dedication to freedom and individualism
makes us free from ideological influence, we are very much mistaken.
Make no doubt about it, we are Food for the Gods and we pray at the
church of the Ego, the Trendy, and the Almighty Dollar.
   Yea though we may visit churches where the words of Jesus
are preached, we do not obey him.  Instead we indulge our narcissistic
sides in a Christian way by wearing crosses and "WWJD" bracelets,
putting fish symbols on our cars, proclaiming our devotion to our
savior in public so that we may be seen by others, and feeling oh so
holy when we do good deeds.  Never mind what it says in the bible,
we'll just build up an image of ourselves as Christians and that will
get our names written into the book of life.  And if we don't get our
personal wants fulfilled from time to time then that counts as sacrifice,
right?  What I see are so many Christians paying their biggest tributes
to the church of the Ego where it isn't Jesus on the cross, but an image
of themselves suffering their way into heaven.
   The rest of us express our narcissism in other ways.  We
buy fancy cars to impress others, live in expensive homes that we
show off to our neighbors, give extravagant gifts to show just how
much we care about people, show off how clever or funny or talented
we are when we talk or write or add stuff to our web pages, and do
any of a multitude of things to impress others and win friends.  Our
egos demand it all and we strive to deliver what our lord and master
requires.
   The Trendy is our second deity, it being the result of our
reluctance to form deep and meaningful relationships with anyone
or anything.  We interact with the world on a superficial basis,
judging things only by what they can do for us rather than any
deeper qualities, and thus what attracts our attention tends not to
do so for very long.  We move from one thing to the next, sucking
the life out of what interests us until it no longer gives us pleasure.
We don't have a culture, we just have trends that erupt out of
nowhere, burn hot for a while, and then disappear without a trace,
and we are desperately searching for the next Trendy thing to make
us satisfied, at least for a little while.
   And our trinity isn't complete without the Almighty Dollar.
It is a symbol of the materialism of our age, the holy power that can
transform our lives from the drudgery of the present into a glorious
future filled with everything that our hearts desire.  But the dollar
is more than an object used to purchase one's dreams, it is the life
blood of capitalism, pumping through the heart of our economic
system and blessing everyone it touches with precious opportunity.
The dollar binds us together in a way that our social and personal
relationships no longer can.  When you walk into a store you don't
need to impress the store owner, or have a good reputation in the
community, or be in any way attractive or desirable, for if you put
your Almighty Dollars on the counter then you will get what you
want, no questions asked.  The relationships that bind us together
today are our economic relationships with one another far more
than anything else.  A smile and a hearty handshake are often non-
transferable, but wherever you go everyone will accept a dollar.  The
more money you have the more freedom you have and the more that
people will seek to do things for you in the hopes that they can get
their share.  And it doesn't matter how those dollars ended up in
your hands or what you had to do to get them.  The dollars are just
paper, unstained by the sins of the giver and the taker, and once
they change hands they are as clean as the day they were printed.
Our lives are governed by our economic relationships: how much you
are to be paid for something, how much you owe to someone else, the
contracts between people, industries, and countries which guarantee
the flow of money for goods and services; and all are dependent on
the implicit trust that a dollar is a dollar and will always be worth
roughly the same value as what the holder did to earn it.  It makes
one wonder what would become of the world, and all of those billions
of economic relationships, if somehow the Almighty Dollar were to
fall from grace as it appears poised to do.  If the dollar were to become
defiled could we still afford the demands of our egos?  If our security
depended on our reputation and things of lasting value would we
spend time chasing after the next superficial trend?  If we watched
our narcissistic dreams go up in flames before us would we set aside
our precious individualism and pull together as a team to make things
work again?
   Well, I am well aware of the things that narcissists do when
their beliefs are under attack, and acting sanely isn't one of them.  I
expect to see a sheer horror show of all the worst that humanity has to
offer in the coming years, but as usual, I really want to be wrong about
that.
   And as for me, well I have so many narcissistic traits that
I qualify as one of the people I've pointed my finger at in this essay.
I've tried hard to fight against it, more so in recent years.  I've tried to
stay modest, to let go of a lot of my dreams and my expectations, and
to treat others with respect and give them their due, but in today's
world it can be like swimming upstream.  The world doesn't give back
very much and I find myself having to pull inward more often that I
would like.  But I want to hold on to those old fashioned ideals because
I feel that individualism will fall out of favor soon and we will move
in a new and different direction.  Until then I will continue to resist
conforming to non-conformist ideals and I urge you all to do the same.


The Fireaxe theory - Outline

I. Basics - well established theories

1. Emergent systems - that complex systems can arise from the
interactions of simple things
2. Natural selection - that organisms mutate, proliferate, and compete,
with the "losers" becoming extinct
3. Behavioral science - that neurological systems, at their core, function
according to the rules of conditioning
4. Entropy - that within a closed system, entropy always increases,
which limits the amount of transformation that can occur

II. Extensions

1. That consciousness is an emergent system: a complex system arising
in the human mind from the interaction of simple neurons.
2. That civilizations are emergent systems arising from the physical
interactions of humans whether conscious or not.
3. That ideologies are emergent systems arising from the psychological
interactions of conscious humans
4. That emergent systems follow the laws of natural selection in much
the same way that organisms do
5. That the universe is, by definition, a closed system

III. Contentions regarding consciousness

1. That consciousness is a survival advantage
2. That being a member of an ideology is a survival advantage
3. That making its members conscious is a necessary part of an
ideology's survival
4. That consciousness is created by instilling within a person a
permanent sense of inadequacy - in essence a state of constant fear
5. That the deeper the sense of inadequacy, the stronger the person
is motivated  - generally to serve their ideology

IV. Contentions regarding ideological struggle

1. That ideologies fight for survival using many methods including,
but not limited to, war and enslavement
2. That aggression is a survival advantage
3. That survival in the short term outweighs survival in the long term
prompting ideologies to pursue shortsighted and sometimes suicidal
strategies
4. That aggressive ideologies make members of rival ideologies
feel afraid and inadequate which in response become more aggressive,
thus creating a vicious circle
5. That aggressive ideologies must grow or face internal strife as their
aggressive members feed on each other to satisfy their needs
6. That internal struggle results in ideological mutation

V. Contentions regarding the future

1. That internal strife is inevitable since the laws of entropy imply
that continuous growth is not sustainable
2. That the abstract bases for ideologies transcend mortality and thus
suicidal aggression is not restrained by fear of death
3. That technological progress has made the destruction of the world
through ideological warfare possible and will continue to make it
easier to effect
4. That ideological mutation will eventually result in the creation of
a suicidal ideology which will destroy the human race in the attempt
to save it


How to order Fireaxe CDs:

   Ordering Fireaxe CD's is an informal process as I am selling
them personally out of my apartment. Simply mail me a letter which
contains the following:

1. The names of the CDs that you want to buy.
2. The address where you want the CDs sent.
3. Cash, a check, or a money order for the total cost.

   Or if you want to do PayPal, just send me the answers to
1 and 2 above in an e-mail and I'll tell you where to send the money.
   Here is a price list.  The first number is the cost for U.S.
based customers, the second is for outside the U.S.  The prices
include shipping and handling.

Eternal Devotion      $6   $9
    to the Dark Goddess
Food for the Gods:   $12   $15 - Sold out
Victory or Death      $5   $8
Lovecraftian Nightmares   $5   $8 - Sold out
A Dream of Death   $3   $6 - Sold out

   Send everything to:

   Brian Voth
   1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
   Chula Vista, CA 91911    USA

   If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, any one
of the single CDs (Not "Food for the Gods") is free of charge in
exchange for the review.  In this case all I need is a request by
e-mail.  Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your
magazine with the review in it when it is done.  If you want to
exchange CDs, tapes, or stuff of equivalent value, make these
requests via e-mail and we'll arrange a trade.
   The CDs come with a booklet filled with awesome art, a
letter about the project, and some information about the CD which
can also be found on the Fireaxe site.
   Lastly, if you want to print and distribute Fireaxe CDs I
can send you an additional CD which contains tiff files for all the
booklets, tray cards, and labels for each project.  The tiff disk is free
so just say the word.


The Future

   In 2009, Fireaxe will take a step back and work on a couple of
projects from the past.  First of all, "Food for the Gods" has sold out
and will be re-mastered before a second printing run is made.  Also, it
may also be re-mixed for even better sound quality depending on time
constraints.  Secondly, the first Fireaxe CD, "A Dream of Death" will
be getting a complete overhaul before it is re-released.  Everything will
be re-recorded using much more modern equipment and with everything
that I've learned over the last ten years going into it to make it better than
ever.  Also, since it was recorded at a time when CDs had a 74 minute
limit instead of the current 80, I will add six more minutes of music
to the work in which I will explore a number of musical themes and make
the

The Burning Blade 13.1
December 09, 2009, 06:17:35 PM
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer…


         The Burning Blade

      Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 13.1

         December 8, 2009

      neptune.net/~bev/Fireaxe.html


   "The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the
   United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief
   economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the
   finance industry has effectively captured our government -
   a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging
   markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market
   crises. If the IMF's staff could speak freely about the U.S.,
   it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation:
   recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy
   that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent
   a true depression, we're running out of time."

         - preface to an Atlantic Magazine article
         written by Simon Johnson, chief economist
         at the IMF from 2007 to 2008

         theatlantic.com/doc/200905/imf-advice


   Neo-liberal economics, the current ruling ideology of the
global financial system, is an utter failure.  The glorious benefits of
capitalism and how it efficiently allocated wealth to where it is most
needed turned from a system of self-regulating markets into a casino
of get-rich-quick schemes, rent extraction, and debt burdens on tens of
millions of individuals, hundreds of banks and financial institutions,
scores of multinational corporations, and far too many local, state, and
federal governments which are so great that without the continuous
and potentially long term injection of trillions of dollars into the global
economy the entire financial system would completely collapse.  And
yet, the wealthy few have never had it better.
   Even as neo-liberalism fails it is succeeding beyond its wildest
dreams at achieving its long term goals.  "Starve the Beast" or so the
strategy is called, the beast being the almighty government with its
power to seize wealth from its citizens and distribute it how it sees fit.
Neo-liberals would have you believe that resource allocation is best left
to a free market system governed by as few regulations as possible, if
any, despite the fact that having too few regulations has always resulted
in gross inefficiencies, monopolies, and spectacular market implosions.
Neo-liberal theorists sought to reduce the size of government to the
point where it could be "drowned in a bathtub", a misguided notion
founded during the counter-culture movement of the sixties when both
the left and the right rebelled against the establishment powers.  Their
approach is simple: cut taxes, privatize, subsidize, deregulate, and
respond to every crisis with a flood of cheap money to paper over the
holes that were being made in the walls that support our economic
system.  As they assured us it would, money did trickle down into the
pockets of the working class but that flow was dwarfed by the torrent
of cash flooding into the coffers of the wealthy, especially Wall Street's
"Masters of the Universe".  The neo-liberal program has worked very
well in Third World nations, slowly but surely bankrupting their semi-
socialist governments and forcing them to sell off their country's natural
resources and industries, and usually for a song to a select group of well
connected insiders.  Now it appears to be the First World's turn to go
under the knife and watch their precious "welfare states" get whittled
down to next to nothing while the government is transformed into a
willing tool of the moneyed elites.  Welcome to the economic endgame.
   But before I start sounding like just another internet conspiracy
nut I should add that this was not a plan that was hatched by a secret
cabal behind closed doors one cold November evening but rather is the
natural progression of a system where individuals are pursuing their
own interests first and foremost with other concerns coming in a distant
second.  When you want more of something you tend towards doing
whatever it takes to get it and if you are held back by an attack of
ethics you will end up playing catch-up behind those who have no such
moral dilemmas.  Sure, some cheaters get caught, but when the payoff
for breaking the rules and being successful outweighs the reward for
catching someone in the act the best and the brightest will choose to
run with the pack instead of playing the role of dogcatchers and the
trend will inexorably drift towards a no-holds-barred free-for-all that
will one day destroy itself by its own excesses.  This has all happened
before, many times and under many ideologies and economic systems,
and we are seeing it happen again.
   Today we are arriving at our economic system's endgame stage
and rather than get deep into discussions of interest rates and comparative
advantage I'll instead describe how we got here using a simply analogy
that everyone understands, or at least everyone who's ever played the
game Monopoly.  Monopoly is one of the best games ever invented
and it replicates the process of economic development rather well.  In
the game, everyone starts off equal and life is mostly cost free for the
first few laps around the board.  Players choose their strategies, buy up
undeveloped properties, try to get some good luck, and even wheel and
deal to achieve full blocks of properties or utilities which will serve as
launching pads for their future development and wealth.  During this
first stage of the game the money coming in by passing "GO" and landing
on the "Chance" or "Community Chest" squares is more than enough to
cover a player's expenses.  Soon though, as houses start to go up and the
number of bank owned properties dwindles closer to zero, moving about
the board becomes a more costly proposition and a run of bad luck can
have you selling your properties back to the bank or handing them over
to other players.  At the turns go by and houses become hotels the $200
for each successful circuit of the board becomes less and less important
and what matters the most is having a steady flow of income from well
developed properties.  If you're behind in that race only lucky dice rolling
can save you, but the odds are that the player with the most property is
going to win.
   So how does this relate to the current economic situation?
Imagine a game of Monopoly where all of the properties are owned
by a single player, we'll call him Gates, save for a handful which are
owned by other players.  Similarly, most of the money is in Gates'
hands too and little of it is in the hands of the others.  At this point it
is all the others players can do to stay above water, hoping that the dice
will roll in their favor so that they can pay off the bills that are going
to add up when they land on Gates' hotels, but one spate of bad luck
will put them out of the game just as a lost job or a health crisis can
put most lower or middle class people into bankruptcy.  The same is
not true for Gates who has the funds to weather a few bad rolls and
muddle through until the tide turns in his favor, which it eventually
will.  So slowly but surely the other players will go bankrupt one by
one and surrender all of their wealth and property to Gates.  They
have no hope of winning or even getting back into the game and for
them the game is effectively over.  But for Gates the game is still alive
and well and he wants to continue playing so that he can realize his
dream of owning everything on the entire board, having a hotel on every
property, and owning all the money in the bank.  The thing is, he can only
get there if the other players keep playing the game, so if they are ever
about to go bankrupt Gates is ready to give them a loan, putting their
future earnings in his pocket as well as their present savings.  Now
Gates isn't worried about giving out loans because he knows that he is
going to get the money back, plus interest, because it is inevitable that
the players who owe him money will land on his properties a lot more
often then he lands on theirs.  And so, the longer Gates keeps the other
players in the game the more times they pass go and the more times they
collect $200 that they will give to him to pay back their loans.  At this
point the other players will actually be happy to land on "Go directly to
Jail" and spend as much time there as possible because it costs them
less to do that than to move around the board and land on Gates' hotels.
Also the other players are going to be dreadfully unmotivated to play
the game, wanting to quit, watch TV, take long bathroom breaks, or do
anything else but roll the dice.  What's in it for them?  They have no
future.  They have been reduced to eternal indebtedness and wage
slavery.  In the real world this is the direction we have been moving
towards for decades with the bubbles of the last decade only serving to
accelerate the process, making us think that we were getting richer while
we were only receiving empty promises.  Now we are dependent on a
system which only exploits us.
   The credit crunch can also be explained using our Monopoly
analogy.  Let's say that Gates has given out a large number of loans,
some of them double or triple the amount of the properties which the
players must mortgage, to all of the players.  Let's also say that Gates
has used a lot of the IOUs from those loans to pay for new hotels on his
properties, selling them to the bank for cash.  Imagine what happens
when some of the players start defaulting on their loans.  All of the
sudden the IOUs are of suspect value and are possibly even worthless.
Gates' empire is about to come crashing down around him.  Also, since
Gates is no longer able or willing to loan money to the other players,
they are going to go bankrupt the next time they land on one of Gates'
hotels.  Complete disaster is about to strike.  So Gates calls the banker,
we'll call him Hank, and gets Hank to give him a loan for any IOU that
goes into default.  Hank is willing to do so since he wants the IOUs that
his bank holds to be paid in full too and thus the bailout saves the day.
Now the game can continue with Gates' empire still intact, but without
Gates giving any new loans to the other players (because he fears that
those IOUs will likely become worthless) the poorer players will end up
bankrupt and Gates and Hank will end up owning everything.  Their
empire however, will be a poor, sorry, and unmotivated one.  This is
our future.
   Now, how can the game be fixed?  The laissez-faire solution,
leaving everything alone to work out by itself as well as stopping Hank
from bailing out Gates, isn't going to change much.  Though Gates'
empire will suffer large losses, the other players will lose even more and
the game will end up tilted even more in Gates' favor.  Another popular
solution is to force Gates to give the other players access to more loans,
but that isn't going to help change the outcome, it will only prolong the
inevitable victory for Gates and likely create an even larger bubble,
resulting in an even worse crash than before.  Furthermore, "socialist"
solutions involving the redistribution of money won't help either.  For
instance, let's assume that all of the players' money, Gates' included, is
collected by a third party, let's call him Barack, who evenly divides the
cash between the players.  All will be well for a few times around the
board but since Gates still has all of his properties and hotels he will
soon end up with the lion's share of the wealth and the other players
will be on the verge of bankruptcy once more.  A labor leaning solution
is to have all the players pool their properties and wealth so that they
can build houses and hotels and try to compete against Gates, but if
Gates has convinced Barack that such a thing is against the rules then
that solution won't work either.  What's needed is to restore a more
balanced distribution of revenue generating property among the players
so that  everyone has a chance to contribute, be rewarded, and excel if
they work hard enough, and it is important to add that such intervention
must be temporary so that the free market system is allowed to do what
it does best: allow competition to bring out the best in everyone.  In the
game Monopoly such redistribution is done by declaring one player the
winner and starting the game over, giving everyone a fresh start.  In the
real world such a reorganization has yet to be done in any satisfactory
manner.  Taking too much from the wealthy reduces their incentive to
work hard and invest capital while giving too little to the poor creates
only temporary fixes to structural economic problems.  Enraging either
group through either repeated government interventions or leaving a
broken system in place risks political turmoil and can even result in
violent revolution or a military takeover.  This is not a simple problem
so beware of simple solutions, especially ideological ones.
   The Great Depression and U.S. economic policy throughout
provides a good lesson in economic rebalancing.  Then as now the
wealth and income distribution in the U.S. had become heavily skewed
to record levels in favor of the wealthy and the debt burdens which so
many were carrying were at were so great that they were suffocating the
economy.  Similar to our Monopoly analogy people were desperate to pass
go and collect their $200, but it never seemed to be enough and many
people were losing their property in a system which was stacked against
them.  In the 1930s, F.D.R. redistributed income by raising taxes on
the rich through the roof and spending that money by employing large
number of Americans on public works projects.  This worked, though
slowly, and contrary to the current U.S. stimulus packages there was no
massive borrowing (which is currently pushing the U.S. to the brink of
insolvency) nor tax breaks in the hopes that the private sector would
somehow magically fix all of our problems.  Contrary to neo-liberal
theorists, the private sector is not the answer to all economic problems.
While the private sector is a powerful force in the economy, it is mostly
focused on short term profits and is unable to pay for massive long term
investments nor endure the continuing losses on investments which
provide a great benefit to all, especially to those without much wealth,
as well as pave the way for private sector opportunities.  Long term
investment and sacrifices for the common good are what the government
can do well and has done so in the past in the form of the interstate
highway system, the postal service, the internet, the G.P.S. system, the
national parks project (thanks to Ken Burns for his magnificent series
on that), funding for research in universities, and the list goes on and
on.  A great many highly profitable businesses owe their existences to
government led infrastructure investments that no private businesses
would have been able to undertake.  F.D.R.'s investments in particular
helped the economy to flourish twenty years later but they were not
enough to rebalance the nation's wealth so that it could rise up out of
the depression.
   It is popular on both the left and the right to claim that World
War Two pulled the U.S. out of the depression.  The right claims that
F.D.R.'s policies actually prolonged the depression rather than helped
to end it and that only when the government began awarding massive
contracts to private sector military suppliers during the war did the
economy turn around.  The left counters that the massive government
spending during WWII was simply F.D.R.'s Keynesian economic
programs writ large and that the reason why the U.S. didn't pull out of
the depression quickly in the 30's was that F.D.R. didn't tax and spend
enough.  The trouble with both of these arguments is that they ignore
the massive government borrowing during the war which is an obvious
cause of the boost in economic productivity during that period as well as
ignore the post war recession and the fact that the economy didn't truly
pick up until five to ten years after the end of the war.  Furthermore,
massive government borrowing along with equally massive military
spending has been policy in the US since the mid-70's and has it done
nothing to keep the U.S. out of its current economic woes.  In fact it
appears that such policies are one of the primary reasons for causing
today's economic woes.  Thus, it seems that both the left and right are
missing the larger picture, that the balance of wealth and income is what
is crucial to create a thriving economy, and thus they do not see what the
war did to produce such balance and lead us to a lasting recovery.
   During World War II roughly 60 million people were killed, a
great many of them young men who would normally find employment
in the manual labor market.  These losses immediately produced a
global labor shortage and the situation was made even more acute by
women leaving the wartime labor market to have children and raise
families.  In the aftermath of the war manual labor was desperately
needed to rebuild the shattered nations of Europe and Asia and that
demand combined with the labor shortage put tremendous upward
pressure on the price of manual labor.  The result was an increase in the
salaries of blue-collar workers that was so large that they were rivaling
the salaries of white-collar workers.  Labor unions took advantage of the
situation and used collective bargaining to gain a great many benefits for
all working class people.  For once the poor were getting richer.  The end
result was a more balanced distribution of income throughout the labor
market which resulted in a growing middle class and a thriving economy.
The key to this massive growth lay in the way a balanced distribution of
income motivates laborers to be more productive as well as motivates the
wealthy to invest in new enterprises.  Laborers became more productive
because they were finally receiving a large share of the fruit of their labor
which they then spent on more luxury items, realizing their dreams of
ownership as well as creating massive demand for new products such
as cars, appliances, and other modern marvels.  This demand created
opportunities for those with capital to invest in new industries as well
as expand existing ones.  A fortune could now be made by giving the
"common man" what he wanted because those common men had a larger
share of the economic power, and thus the door was opened for those who
wanted to become rich as well as those who wanted to become richer.
Wealth was everywhere and thus economic opportunity was everywhere
and everyone was interested in working hard to get their fair share.  The
free market system sorted out the good ideas from the bad ones and
everyone ended up richer, more productive, and better off than before.
And with the G.I. Bill and the ability of working class people to be
able to afford higher education for their children the ground work
was laid for a prolonged boom based around an educated workforce.
   Compare that economic situation to one where the wealthy
already have the vast majority of the nation's wealth and the poor have
little.  The wealthy are few and thus they do not create a large demand
for anything so economic development stagnates.  And when the wealthy
do employ people it is mainly to create things for themselves and other
vanities and thus the poor will not be able to share in those developments
nor indulge in the fruits of their own labor.  This saps their motivation
to work hard.  Where are their rewards?  Certainly a few lucky poor will
be able to rise up out of their situation and excel but most will merely
survive at a subsistence level with few luxuries and no opportunities.
Furthermore, the low demand for labor drives wages down and ensures
that the poor will stay both poor and numerous.  This is the type of
economic profile that is common in the Third World and is the direction
in which the First World is headed.  The United States is leading the
charge.
   Current economic policy acknowledges the fact that demand
throughout the general population creates a thriving economy and this
is the reason why the goal is to create jobs.  Left leaning theorists believe
that the best way to create jobs is through government programs and
right leaning theorists feel that it is best to empower the private sector
so that they hire more people.  The trouble with both of these cases is
that too much of the money spent for these purposes never reaches the
hands of the people who can create the kind of demand which will pull
the economy upwards.  The government is handicapped by massive
corruption and endless privatization which ensures that a great deal
of the money spent ends up being siphoned off by cronies and other
well connected individuals.  The private sector is similarly burdened
with executives demanding massive pay, stockholders requiring a large
share of the profits, the government raising taxes and assessing fees,
and banks taking their pound of flesh for the loans that businesses
require in order to operate.  Furthermore, the tight labor market that
created the boom in the fifties and sixties has turned into a global
labor glut, especially in the United States, where both highly skilled
and unskilled workers come into the country and work cheaply and
where factory jobs are exported to cheap labor markets.  This has put
severe downward pressure on wages, destroyed labor unions, and
rolled back many of the gains won by organized labor in days long
past.  At the same time the "F.I.R.E." sector corporations (Finance,
Insurance, and Real Estate) have become extremely powerful and very
adept at "rent seeking", that is extracting higher and higher fees for
their services from an increasingly captive market with the help of a
cooperative government.  No economy thrives when one part of it
becomes so powerful and so predatory and to make matters worse the
bursting housing bubble has allowed the F.I.R.E. sector to collect
handouts from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury department in
addition to extracting payments and penalty fees from cash-strapped
borrowers.  As it stands now the once powerful and wealthy middle
class has simply been bled dry of the bulk of their wealth, wealth which
can now be found piled up in the bank accounts of the rich.  The only
solution to get the economy moving again is to somehow get the bulk
of that wealth moving back through the hands of those who can create
large-scale demand (as income not as loans), but with the labor market
oversupplied and, as Simon Johnson points out, the government captured
by the finance industry, the only transfer of wealth we are likely to see
in the future is from the bottom to the top.
   Today we watch as health care reform morphs into a program
that transfers taxpayer wealth into the bank accounts of insurance
company executives.  We are unable to stop a "war on terror" which
costs taxpayers trillions and benefits those who own and run firms
which supply the military.  Massive government debts promise future
taxpayer earnings to stockholders and bankers while the Federal Reserve
"saves" the economy but by only enough to enable financial firms to
continue to extract mortgage payments from the victims of a housing
bubble which the industry itself was very much complicit in stoking.
What is going on is more than just "starve the beast", it is in essence
"domesticate the beast", making the government serve the ends of the
rich at the expense of the poor.  And as the dollar dies and paper wealth
of all types grows less valuable, the ones who have a lot of dollars have
been on a shopping spree: buying up foreclosed houses, spare gold, rare
antiques, and anything else of value that those of us who need money
cannot afford to keep.  So we must trade everything of value to us for
those precious Almighty Dollars and need more and more of them each
day to buy the things that we need to survive.  We mortgage our houses
and land on hotels and the game slowly gets more and more stacked
against us.  The endgame is here and it appears that we, as a people,
have lost.
   Speaking of endgames I continue to wage my battle against
chronic fatigue syndrome with both hopeful signs and depressing signs.
Things are changing for me though and I have always taken that to be
a good sign, indicating that the current phase of my treatment is doing
something productive and not just proving to be a waste of my time.
The bad news is that another two months has gone by with no progress
on the Fireaxe front.  The nightmare continues.  The battle wages on.
   A big ‘Hello’ to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the
first time.  This is the Fireaxe newsletter.


From Individualism to Narcissism to Fascism

   In the introduction to The Burning Blade 12.4 I wrote of the
reemergence of fascism and how movement in that direction in the
United States appeared to be inevitable.  In an essay in The Burning
Blade 12.6 I wrote that we have embraced individualism to such a
strong degree that our culture was suffering greatly because of it.
So one might ask, "How can we be headed towards both fascism
and extreme individualism at the same time?", and wonder if I am
suffering from a sharp loss of long term memory that is typical among
bloggers, pundits, and anyone else who takes a strong position on a
regular basis.  Compartmentalization it is called, which allows you
to hold two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time and
yet see no conflict between them.
   Well I am one of those writers who will admit a mistake.
For instance, about two and a half years ago I predicted that the current
economic crash would bottom out after eighteen months and end up a
lot lower than it did at the end of twenty three months.  About a year
after my first prediction I extended my crash bottom date by another
twelve months, stating that it would likely follow the same pattern
as the crash preceding the Great Depression with one big leg down
followed by a partial recovery which would give way to another major
leg down.  I figured that the stock market would finish up at a level
80% below where it began, giving us a Dow Jones value of about three
thousand.  Well, unless the next month sees a seven thousand point
crash in the market then I think that I can toss that prediction into the
waste basket too.  And though I think that we will still see another big
leg down during this crisis, and maybe a few more, I'm not going to
make any more predictions about when it will happen because I'm
pretty much just throwing darts blindfolded at this point.  We are deep
in uncharted waters here folks.
   However, when I pointed out two seemingly different trends
in two different newsletters I don't think that I was making a mistake.
I see compatibility between the descent into fascism that I wrote about
half a year ago and our embrace of extreme individualism which I wrote
about in the last newsletter.  At first fascism and individualism appear to
be completely incompatible.  One conjures images of Hitler, Mussolini,
the fiercely loyal SS, and brutal gangs of brown shirts, while the other
conjures images of John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Easy Rider, and
legions of westernized youths all trying to find their own personal
identity.  But I feel that the key which connects the two lies in a
transitional stage of narcissism where the individualist's embrace of
their own ideology and belief that it is the absolute truth leads to the
desire to impose that truth on others in order to save them from
themselves (as well as spare the individualist from the bad decisions
of others).  In other words, individualism will turn into narcissism and
narcissism can lead to fascism or totalitarianism or other similarly
suffocating ideologies.  In the essay that follows I'll expand on this
idea and dig deeper into the subject of narcissism and how it affects
and distorts our behaviors, our religious beliefs, our politics, and our
relationships with each other as well as what it portends for our future.
   Carl Jung wrote that "The foundation of all Mental Illness is
the unwillingness to experience legitimate suffering."  For narcissists,
who suffer from a permanent sense of dissatisfaction with, and even
hatred towards, their current selves there is no such thing as legitimate
suffering.  They perceive themselves as always suffering unjustly, as
struggling against a world which refuses to or is not able to appreciate
them and which persecutes them out of jealousy.  Any suffering,
sometimes including that which they inflict upon themselves but
for which they hold others at fault, is viewed as being illegitimate
and feeds their persecution complex, reinforcing and deepening
their narcissism.  Ideology plays a powerful role in causing this
mental illness and this can be seen clearly in the Christian religion,
most notably in the parallels between a narcissist's self-perception and
the life of Jesus.  Jesus' role in the Christian religion is one of supreme
importance.  He is said to be the son of the Christian god and the savior
of all mankind with the power to perform miracles, and yet throughout
his life he was always persecuted by others who couldn't see his divinity
nor accept the truth in his words.  In the end he suffered more than
anyone else ever had or ever will, dying an agonizing physical death
during which it is said that he suffered for the sins of all mankind.
This basic formula is how narcissists see themselves: that they are
special and have wonderful gifts to give to others but they are constantly
persecuted for their beliefs and actions.  Jesus' story provides a template
for narcissism and Christians are encouraged to emulate his life and
actions, making them more narcissistic.  Furthermore, Christianity fuels
narcissism in other ways.  For instance, narcissists do not love themselves
as is the popular perception, but rather love an idealized version of
themselves.  In essence they love who they aspire to be and hate who
they currently are.  Christianity provides narcissists with a reason to
hate their current selves since no one can be completely free of sin,
and they provide the narcissist with an idealized version of themselves
such as that they are a saint or a holy warrior or a humble soul
bound for eternal salvation.  And as they follow the teachings of
Jesus they will run into conflict with the parts of the world which
do not believe as they do.  Jesus even expects this to happen ("I
came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at
variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother…").
When a Christian encounters strong reactions to their proselytizing it
can be perceived as persecution, and the story of Jesus allows narcissists
to view such persecution as a validation of their holiness.  The more
they suffer, the more they are like Jesus, which makes them feel like
how they want to be, holy and pious, instead of how they are, wicked
and sinful.  Thus, Christianity provides a framework for encouraging
and exploiting narcissism in its followers.
   Of course, the more negative aspects of narcissism, such as
superficiality, a strong desire for revenge, jealousy, immodesty, and
especially their tendency to put up a false self image, are not things
which Christianity teaches and in fact speaks against in its holy
book.  The trouble is that these aspects of narcissism are innately
tied to the deep seated feelings of insecurity that Christianity, as well
as other ideologies, instill in their believers in order to motivate them.
A person immersed in self-hatred will have a great need for admiration
as well as a strong reaction to any criticism.  Their need to be loved and
admired by others will lead them to feel jealousy towards those who
receive the accolades which they do not as well as make them tend
towards immodesty in their attempts to gain others' attention.  And to
gain the support of the large numbers of people which their insecurity
demands it is almost imperative for them to create a false image of
themselves and lie to others so that they can get what they need.  Being
honest is a strategy which works well if you only need a few friends and
are willing to accept that there will be others who don't like who you
really are.  But if you want to be popular you generally need to be all
things to all people, putting up a sterile, superficial image of yourself
which has only good features and no bad side.  Lying to others as a
matter of course will make it necessary to keep your relationships
shallow and the fear of being betrayed by a friend or cast aside by a
lover, fears often rooted in painful first hand experience, will make the
narcissist resist becoming too attached to any person or thing.  The
greater one's needs, the more one must embrace the negative aspects
of narcissism to satisfy those needs.
   Problematic is that narcissists can be very charismatic people
who can inspire great numbers of others and spread an ideology far
and wide.  A narcissist is usually an accomplished liar, having had a
lifetime to figure out what to say and how to act in order to get others to
like them, and is good at telling people what they want to hear, building
up their self image with compliments, and promising them a wonderful
future if they follow the narcissist's recommendations.  In this way the
narcissist can make others dependent on them, building within them the
need to hear the narcissist's words to make them feel good about themselves
and their future.  Many narcissists are natural leaders and the general
public will accept them as such even though narcissists are no better at
leading than anyone else and have serious, usually hidden, shortcomings.
Thus, despite their personality flaws ideologies benefit greatly by turning
their followers into narcissists since they are able spread the word of the
ideology so well as well as inspire believers and convert non-believers.  Not
surprisingly narcissism is widespread in religion, politics, the performing
arts, and anywhere else where appealing to a wide cross-section of people
is critical to one's success.  The last three presidents of the United States
are marvelous examples of narcissists, especially the current one, all of
them leaders who excel at being well liked and stirring great passions
in others but who have dubious leadership ability and glaring flaws.
And I would go so far as to say that it is rare that any politician, or
leader in any field, could have attained their level of power without
being narcissistic to some degree.  Caring about others, being true to
yourself, and not feeling inadequate will generally cost you down the
road even though you may serve the greater good better than an awe-
inspiring narcissist.  And consider the recent trend in management
towards inspiring, motivating, and leading one's employees to success
as opposed to coordinating them, advising them, and overseeing their
efforts.  This is in essence narcissists applauding and encouraging their
own narcissism.  Managing people the old way requires hard work,
attention, and diligence while doing things the new way places too much
emphasis on things which can be accomplished with empty words and the
fakery often employed by narcissists.  While inspiration and motivation
are powerful tools they will quickly give way to cynicism and lethargy if
they aren't backed with substance.  There are no shortcuts to lasting
success.
   Narcissistic leaders can be very dangerous given their personality
flaws, especially their defensiveness, jealousy, lack of empathy for others,
and often strong desire for revenge.  Such a leader would be prone to
start or escalate wars based on perceived slights and not exercise restraint
given their lack of caring for the lives lost to champion their vanity.  And
when two or more narcissistic leaders discover that they have personal
or national disagreements is it not unusual for the dispute to escalate
in a series of retributions which won't stop until a catastrophe results.
Narcissists have a tendency to clash with one another as they both tend
to have the same needs such as becoming the best at something, winning
the admiration of the same group of people, being the one in charge, etc.,
and due to their sensitivity to criticism and desire for revenge any dispute
between them tends to get blown out of proportion, often quickly.
However, since narcissists are very insecure they are also prone to being
seduced by other narcissists who are able to build up their self image and
give them the admiration that they feel that they deserve.  This seduction
can take the form of a boss exploiting an underling, an underling brown-
nosing their boss, two equals forming a codependency bond, or several
narcissists coming together to form a "mutual admiration society" or
"echo chamber".  Like-minded co-dependent narcissists can work together
towards the same goals as well as shut down opposition to their goals
and silence any criticism of their group, in essence acting like a single,
powerful narcissist.  Narcissism in large groups tends towards the "cult
of personality" phenomenon where the public image of a leader is carefully
orchestrated to attract throngs of loyal followers.  Other narcissists who
fall under the sway of a narcissistic leader don't need to be forced to
support the leader as they have no small amount of their self image tied
up in how their idol is perceived.  They live vicariously through their
idol and their idol's successes are their successes.  By aligning themselves
with a narcissistic leader the follower willingly becomes part of the echo
chamber, saying only good things about them, shouting down any criticism,
and identifying with that leader as if the leader and the follower were one
and the same.
   This is the process for how individuality can transform into
fascism.  As individuality devolves into narcissism, people become more
insecure, more desirous of admiration, and more vulnerable to the
compliments and promises of a charismatic and narcissistic leader.
If you add to this mixture a severe shock to the system, such as a war,
an economic collapse, or other social calamity, a narcissistic leader is
often allowed to seize total power by the throngs of narcissistic followers
who want a dictator to impose their will and give them back what they've
lost.  We are seeing many signs of rising fascism here in the United States.
Political parties are becoming more and more like "echo chambers" and
are intolerant of criticism and unwilling to compromise, individuals are
arguing politics with the passion and hostility typical of narcissists, and
rival cults of personality are doing battle with each other in the media
and on the internet, polluting the public discourse with intellectually
dishonest partisan rancor.  Our personal narcissism is bonding with the
narcissism of our favorite ideological personalities and we are becoming
less tolerant and less respectful towards our opponents.  In short, we are
being seduced into becoming foot soldiers in an ideological war.
   Now I'd like to go back to an earlier part of this essay about
how the Christian religion tries to discourage its followers from having
narcissistic tendencies.  Even a casual reading of the New Testament
reveals numerous instances of Jesus admonishing the selfishness,
intolerance, and duplicity of the people he encounters in his journeys.
In a sense the New Testament is a manifesto against narcissism, trying
to pull people away from pettiness and materialism and towards caring
for others and gladly suffering misfortune.  One would think that it
would dissuade people from being narcissistic and thus make them more
resistant to kneeling before fascists, but the Bible fails at the former as
well as the latter.  As discussed earlier, the Bible fails to discourage
the personality flaws inherent in narcissism because it exploits the
insecurities of the individual and builds up their image as a holy
warrior bound for heaven.  By reinforcing one side of a person's
narcissism it automatically encourages the other side, but instead of the
negative narcissistic traits being self-centered ones, the Bible redirects
these so that they become god-centered ones.  Personal success changes
from becoming richer than your neighbor to saving more souls or being
more pure than your fellow Christians.  Your goals become your god's
goals and you are willing to accept poverty or suffering because you
want to prove to your god, and fellow Christians, that you are able to
pass tests of divine design.  You still love the image of your idealized
self but the image changes from one of material gain to one of spiritual
accomplishments and the belief that you are attaining entrance to an
eternal paradise.  Furthermore, the character flaws associated with
narcissism can manifest in uniquely Christian ways despite the Bible
speaking out against them.  Narcissists are notoriously resistant to self
examination and are quick to point out the speck in their neighbor's
eye while somehow seeing past the log in theirs.  Projecting envy on
to others and putting up a false holy image are things that many
narcissistic Christians will indulge in to make themselves appear to be
more pious than their fellows.  Manipulating people, having a strong
desire for revenge, and thinking that the end justifies the means can
also be justified if one believes that they are fighting a crusade against
the devil with the fate of millions of souls on the line.  And if one puts
their god before all else, as the bible demands, a reduction in empathy
towards loved ones can follow as well as sheer contempt for those seen
as evil.  Narcissistic Christians will often wish to see sinful people
punished harshly to fulfill their desire for revenge and reward their
piousness.
   Thus, Christian ideology encourages one to become a part of
a cult of personality structured around their god.  This makes them
quite vulnerable to charismatic, narcissistic leaders who claim to speak
for their god and who tell the congregation what they want to hear.
In this way their faith can lead them into fascism and totalitarianism.
For Catholics, their church is already structured around a rather fascist
hierarchy which tends to make them subservient to the Pope's decrees,
but papal power has waned in the last few centuries and especially the
last few decades and the church is not as powerful a force as it once
was.  Protestantism was a movement away from a centralized church
structure and in recent centuries has focused on a person's private
relationship with their god with very limited amounts of religious
politics, and thus it is very much like individualism applied to religion.
But protestants are hardly immune from the seductive powers of men
"aflame with the Lord", especially those who lead evangelical movements.
And revivals like the first and second "Great Awakenings", the Azusa
Street revival, televangelism, and the Promise Keepers movement have
occurred frequently during the course of history where some degree of
"Christofascism" has swept through nations and often resulted in the
remolding a number of laws of the land to fit Christian ideals.  However,
the era of Christian domination over the state appears to be over as new
ideologies such as democracy and communism have arisen since the
Enlightenment which are resistant to the spread of Christianity.  Though
Christian movements occur in nations which follow these newer ideologies
they tend to run out of steam before altering the existing ideology in any
substantial way.
   Christianity isn't the only ideology which exploits narcissism
in order to enable it to spread, all ideologies contain elements which
make believers feel inadequate and promise them a wonderful life or
afterlife if they serve the ideology's goals.  In the Fireaxe Theory this
motivational scheme is described as the ideology instilling within the
believer a permanent psychological deficit, a persistent feeling of
inadequacy, which can only be alleviated, and then only for a short
time, if the believer does something which serves the ideology.  How
this scheme works for various ideologies is described in more detail
in The Burning Blade 12.4 and it matches up very well with what
sociologists and psychologists have discovered about narcissism.
The downside of exploiting narcissism is that an ideology's leaders
will often be volatile, disingenuous, arrogant, and prone to addiction
to forms of instant gratification.  However, it is only in extreme cases
of narcissism where these negatives outweigh the positives, at least the
positives as they pertain to the ideology, and so from an ideological
point of view moderate amounts of narcissism in its followers is not
only tolerable but desirable, even if the afflicted individuals as well
as those close to him or her sometimes suffer greatly because of it.
Narcissists may spend their lives drowning in self doubt and self hatred,
manipulating and abusing loved ones, and brutally punishing their rivals,
but on the whole they tend to advance the causes of the ideology.  One
of the more disturbing "advantages" of an ideology exploiting narcissism
is that in most cases it is a permanent and untreatable affliction.  This
can be a major problem for an individual seeking a cure for their problems,
but for an ideology it is very useful since it makes it very difficult for
rival ideologies to convert its narcissists to their belief systems or
dissuade or influence them in any way.  Narcissists are fiercely defensive
and can often be highly resistant to logic when aroused.  When fighting
they can be vicious and unrelenting, seeking victory over their opponent
at all costs.  And when they are overwhelmed and face defeat narcissists
sometimes completely capitulate, descending into their private hell of
self loathing.  At first it might seem as though this capitulation is a
sign that a narcissist has conceded and will change their ways or beliefs,
but in reality it is a defense mechanism which allows them to preserve the
idealized self image which they are striving to attain while directing all
the criticism towards their inadequate current self.  In this way their
self loathing can deepen their pathology and thus capitulating can make a
narcissist even more committed to what they believe.  Examples of this
bipolar-esque cycle of Christian narcissism and self pity can be found
in a number of Psalms written by David in the Bible.  A noteworthy
one is Psalm 22 which most Fireaxe listeners will recognize.  And so,
ideologies benefit by encouraging their followers to seek conflict because,
win or lose, it will end up making them more devout and more committed.
   The permanent nature of narcissism makes it difficult to change
the course of a group, organization, nation, etc., once narcissists take
control of it.  If you've encountered narcissists in your life, and you
probably have, especially if you've spent time in any newsgroups or
chat rooms on the internet where narcissists are often free to launch
vicious flames at people they disagree with and seem to be locked in
endless duels against other narcissistic foes, you understand how futile
the act of trying to bring change can often be.  Even when a narcissistic
organization has become highly dysfunctional and the criticisms against
it are stated calmly, rationally, and by many, those in charge will still
resist change, often resorting to the pathological responses of their
affliction such as manipulation, intolerance, and hostility to defend
themselves, their policies, and their positions in the power structure.
For example, a large group of dissenters might protest the dysfunctional
policies of a particular government and march peacefully in the streets,
counting on media attention to relay the slogans they chant and wrote
on signs to the rest of the public.  Heavy handed governments will reveal
their intolerance of criticism and hostility by cracking down on the
protesters, calling a media blackout, and sending the riot squads out
to beat up, use tear gas on, and arrest and humiliate the protesters.
Democratic governments have been known to be equally intolerant and
use the same tactics, but they are often under pressure to appear to be
more reasonable and their actions more justified so what they often
do is use manipulative tactics to create the public image they want to
project.  This is commonly done by provoking the protesters into
becoming violent by either planting instigators in the crowd or having
riot police act overly aggressive towards them.  This strategy often
results in minor outbursts of violence or clashes between the rowdier
protesters and the police even though most of the protest is peaceful
and well behaved.  The media however, can usually be counted on to
show the violent parts of the protest almost exclusively, or at least can
be manipulated to show only those scenes if necessary, so as to portray
all of the protesters as being crazy anarchists who deserve what they got.
This all makes the government looks calm and reasonable in contrast.
Of course, using provocative tactics to smear your opposition instead of
letting them have their say is an attack at the core of democracy itself, but
a narcissistic government will have no trouble in doing so.  The leaders
believe themselves to be right and the protesters to be misguided at
best or dangerous fanatics at worst and so they can rationalize such
tactics as being necessary to save the misinformed majority of protesters
from the seductive rants of their fanatical leaders.  Furthermore, another
common tactic is to take a few choice words or phrases from one of the
nuttier protesters and attempt to portray the entire movement as embracing
such foolishness.  This is the straw man fallacy, but listen to any pundit
for a few minutes and you'll think that the country is under attack by an
army of straw men.  Narcissists see no problem in using logical fallacies
in order to support their positions.
   And to finish on a darker note, if ruling narcissists refuse to
leave power, even as the domain over which they rule crumbles around
them, and if other narcissists refuse to give up the fight even though it
is obvious that they have lost, it often becomes necessary to use force
to remove them from power and prevent them from causing further
damage.  But there is a danger here, one that is familiar to Christians,
that using force to silence a dissenter, especially using excessive force
such as nailing the dissenter to a cross, can turn him into a martyr and
turn people against those who wielded that force.  Though a dissenter
can be dangerous when they speak they can be even more dangerous
when they are silenced and using force can make a rational person appear
to be an unreasonable narcissist who is unfit to rule.  This is especially
so if rival narcissists are encouraging that perception.  But when two
opposing forces clash they are often both led by narcissists who have
gained power by exploiting the narcissistic tendencies of their followers
and thus they both tend to be unreasonable, prone to revenge, and resistant
to change except by force.  When ideologies become deeply entrenched
in an individual or group it is often necessary to imprison or kill them in
order to make them stop and when such actions are undertaken they invite
similar retaliations as the leaders of the victims portray those violent acts
as unjustified aggression and proof of the other side's depravity.  This can
"radicalize" moderates and motivate them to join the fight, escalating the
conflict further.  For terrorists and resistance movements, this escalation
of retaliation is part of their central strategy and their goal is to draw
as many people as they can into a conflict that they hope that they can
win.  The trick to beating them is not to fall for their game and to act
rationally, but for narcissists resisting the urge to strike back is very
difficult and they are more likely to launch a massive counterstrike or
escalation instead.  Thus, a few narcissistic fanatics are sometimes able
to drag entire peoples into wars and turn us all into Food for the Gods.


The Fireaxe theory - Outline

I. Basics - well established theories

1. Emergent systems - that complex systems can arise from the
interactions of simple things
2. Natural selection - that organisms mutate, proliferate, and compete,
with the "losers" becoming extinct
3. Behavioral science - that neurological systems, at their core, function
according to the rules of conditioning
4. Entropy - that within a closed system, entropy always increases,
which limits the amount of transformation that can occur

II. Extensions

1. That consciousness is an emergent system: a complex system arising
in the human mind from the interaction of simple neurons.
2. That civilizations are emergent systems arising from the physical
interactions of humans whether conscious or not.
3. That ideologies are emergent systems arising from the psychological
interactions of conscious humans
4. That emergent systems follow the laws of natural selection in much
the same way that organisms do
5. That the universe is, by definition, a closed system

III. Contentions regarding consciousness

1. That consciousness is a survival advantage
2. That being a member of an ideology is a survival advantage
3. That making its members conscious is a necessary part of an
ideology's survival
4. That consciousness is created by instilling within a person a
permanent sense of inadequacy - in essence a state of constant fear
5. That the deeper the sense of inadequacy, the stronger the person
is motivated  - generally to serve their ideology

IV. Contentions regarding ideological struggle

1. That ideologies fight for survival using many methods including,
but not limited to, war and enslavement
2. That aggression is a survival advantage
3. That survival in the short term outweighs survival in the long term
prompting ideologies to pursue shortsighted and sometimes suicidal
strategies
4. That aggressive ideologies make members of rival ideologies
feel afraid and inadequate which in response become more aggressive,
thus creating a vicious circle
5. That aggressive ideologies must grow or face internal strife as their
aggressive members feed on each other to satisfy their needs
6. That internal struggle results in ideological mutation

V. Contentions regarding the future

1. That internal strife is inevitable since the laws of entropy imply
that continuous growth is not sustainable
2. That the abstract bases for ideologies transcend mortality and thus
suicidal aggression is not restrained by fear of death
3. That technological progress has made the destruction of the world
through ideological warfare possible and will continue to make it
easier to effect
4. That ideological mutation will eventually result in the creation of
a suicidal ideology which will destroy the human race in the attempt
to save it


How to order Fireaxe CDs:

   Ordering Fireaxe CD's is an informal process as I am selling
them personally out of my apartment. Simply mail me a letter which
contains the following:

1. The names of the CDs that you want to buy.
2. The address where you want the CDs sent.
3. Cash, a check, or a money order for the total cost.

   Or if you want to do PayPal, just send me the answers to
1 and 2 above in an e-mail and I'll tell you where to send the money.
   Here is a price list.  The first number is the cost for U.S.
based customers, the second is for outside the U.S.  The prices
include shipping and handling.

Eternal Devotion      $6   $9
    to the Dark Goddess
Food for the Gods:   $12   $15 - Sold out
Victory or Death      $5   $8 (free with any purchase)
Lovecraftian Nightmares   $5   $8 - Sold out
A Dream of Death   $3   $6 - Sold out

   Send everything to:

   Brian Voth
   1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
   Chula Vista, CA 91911    USA

   If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, any one
of the single CDs (Not "Food for the Gods") is free of charge in
exchange for the review.  In this case all I need is a request by
e-mail.  Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your
magazine with the review in it when it is done.  If you want to
exchange CDs, tapes, or stuff of equivalent value, make these
requests via e-mail and we'll arrange a trade.
   The CDs come with a booklet filled with awesome art, a
letter about the project, and some information about the CD which
can also be found on the Fireaxe site.
   Lastly, if you want to print and distribute Fireaxe CDs I
can send you an additional CD which contains tiff files for all the
booklets, tray cards, and labels for each project.  The tiff disk is free
so just say the word.


The Future

   Unfortunately 2009 was a total bust for Fireaxe as far as
recording is concerned.  Health issues sidelined projects scheduled for
completion during the year and other than the guitarist taking the
opportunity to get a whole lot better with his axe, nothing was
accomplished.  With any luck 2009 will be the only year that went
for naught.
   In 2010, Fireaxe will once again focus on remaking the past.
First of all, "Food for the Gods" has sold out and will be re-mastered
before a second printing run is made.  Also, it will be re-mixed with the
vocal rerecorded for much better sound quality.  When all is said and
done it should sound as good as "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess.
Secondly, the first Fireaxe CD, "A Dream of Death" will be getting a
complete overhaul before it is re-released.  Everything will be rerecorded
using much more modern equipment and with everything that I've learned
over the last ten years going into it to make it better than ever.  Also,
since it was recorded at a time when CDs had a 74 minute limit instead
of the current 80, I will add six more minutes of music to the work in
which I will explore a number of musical themes as well as add a killer
new song written by Octavio Ramos.  So it looks like a year of sequels
for Fireaxe. I'll probably leave the names of the CDs the same but I've
been kicking around a ideas for alternate titles, such as "Food for the
Gods - Regurgitated", "Desert for the Gods", and "A Dream of Undeath",
"The Morning After Death", or "I'm Dreaming of a White Strait-Jacket -
a Fireaxe Christmas in Hell".
   My goal is to deliver music to whoever wants to hear it in
whatever way is necessary.  Whatever the market demands, I will supply,
but I do want to avoid the mass marketing channel.  Exposure is fine, but
in the modern business, the substance of the music must be altered to
match the demands of the marketplace.  This would totally defeat the
purpose of why I write music in the first place.  I write music because it
is a way to express my emotions.  What I both think and feel goes into
the songs.  That is the

The Burning Blade 13.2
January 30, 2010, 11:35:38 PM
The most dangerous liar is the one who believes his own lies…


The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 13.2

January 30, 2010

neptune.net/~bev/Fireaxe.html


"One thing that I regret this year is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And that I do think is a mistake of mine. I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on this provision or that law or are we making a good, rational decision here ... people will get it."
- Barack Obama, making an assumption typical of narcissists, that people would agree with them and support their positions if only they explained themselves a little better.


   Insulated.  One of the more serious problems with narcissists is that they insulate themselves from the rest of the world, preferring to believe their own self-aggrandizing inner perspective of the way things are and what events mean rather than accept a potentially humbling truth which suggests that they aren't quite the person that they imagine themselves to be. When such people gain access to the halls of power and make decisions which affect the lives of millions if not billions of people then what began as a simple character flaw which merely annoys and offends the people close to the narcissist morphs into a massive blind spot behind which great suffering and even mass death can disappear.  And when one of those narcissistic leaders is the populist president of a seemingly vibrant democracy one wonders just how democratic that nation truly is when the people’s voices can be misinterpreted and cast aside so easily.
   The evolution of ideology reveals a pronounced movement towards holding one’s leaders accountable for their actions, in essence combating the tendency of narcissistic leaders to completely insulate themselves from the people whom they are charged with leading.  Even though ideologies require false promises and the devotion of fanatics to thrive, a healthy dose of realism keeps them from pursuing a narcissistic leader’s extremist notions and rapidly self-destructing, and thus successful ideologies make sure that those at the top don’t become detached from those at the bottom.  Whether it be primitive forms of democracy in ancient Greece and Rome, the many humbling and anti-narcissistic passages in the New Testament, the writing of the Magna Carta and the foundation of the rule of law in England, the rise of Democratic Republics in the West after the enlightenment, or the rise of Communism and Socialism in the East in more recent times, the trend towards using a variety of methods to keep a nation’s leaders from ignoring their people is quite clear, and yet narcissists always try to thwart those methods, believing that they know what is best for their subjects and seeing no problem with acting outside of the agreed upon ideological contract.  Indeed, the power of the people has been transgressed upon by our leaders in many forms in recent years: labor unions have been disempowered as the laws protecting them have been dismantled and the amount of unfair trade permitted with third world countries has grown, corporations’ power over their employees in such forms as mandatory arbitration, intellectual property rights, and non-competition clauses in contracts has been greatly increased and numerous mergers have been allowed which have created monolithic corporations the likes of which have not been seen since the age of robber barons, civil liberties and human rights which have formed the basis of the civil society going back more than a millennium have been degraded and disregarded altogether in a growing number of cases, and the wealthy have been steadily given more and more access to the political process as well as being awarded political speech rights equal to the size of their bank accounts to name a few.  Now we see the voice of the people being drowned out by the person whom it is most assuredly directed against, a person whom many of us believed truly listened and did care.  It’s enough to make one lose one’s faith not only in one’s president but in one’s entire ideology.
   This is not to say that the opposition is correct in its assessment of what has transpired in the voting booths of Massachusetts during their special senatorial election in which one of the most beloved members of the Democratic party was replaced with a newcomer from the other side of the political divide.  The right-wing punditry’s narcissistic self-delusions of a popular revolt against the sitting president are every bit as much of shoving words into the mouths of the voters as those of the president’s apologists.  Indeed, once again we see the ideological war between opposing political and social forces explode in our faces with each side presenting their own “narrative”, that being the current trendy word describing an ideological repackaging of real world events to fit a narrow political perspective, in order to increase the standing of their side in the eyes of others.  In essence this is like watching two narcissists doing battle with each other, each so desperate to win the support and admiration of the populace that they attack each other using the fiercest language possible to tear the other down while painting a picture of their side being ever and always the one true way.  And the more that We The People tell our leaders that we want an end to it, the more our leaders blame the other party for inciting hatred, disillusionment, and cynicism.  It’s a vicious circle.  The less that they get along the angrier we get about their lack of progress and the more they blame each other for their problems.  If you like you can log on to the internet to get a more vulgar and nonsensical version of what can be seen in the mainstream media although that which is broadcast is getting more and more insufferable as time goes forwards.  And on the internet you too can be a participant in the lunacy if you desire to and test your own personal philosophy against the all too numerous self-important individuals haunting chat rooms, forums, and video games looking to boost their fragile egos by winning some sort of “victory”, usually against a straw man of their own making.  Personally I’d recommend becoming well versed in logical fallacies beforehand and seeing if you can spot the many examples of them being used as you watch the vehemently argued ideological disputes from the sidelines.  Doing so is good practice and it will help you spot the logical fallacies which our most visible pundits and leaders use when presenting their cases, something which is flat out embarrassing.
   But as much as the ideological ground troops seem to be connected to the goings-on of our political system they too are quite insulated from reality, choosing to view the world either through their own personal perspective or through a commonly professed one which generally fits what they already believe. “The customer is always right” or so the popular saying goes in the highly competitive retail industry and that concept has become the new recipe for catering news-based programming to an audience of narcissists.  The media: newspapers, books, television, radio, and the internet; has learned that challenging their consumers with unfiltered reporting is the fastest way to lose ratings, advertisers, and become a has been in a world of ideological rivalries, and so it has sought to do with its news content the same thing that any content provider does with its broadcasting services: find a lucrative demographic and tell them exactly what they want to hear.  News content consumers respond with lavish loyalty to their chosen sources of information, and since they have many different perspectives to choose from in the marketplace of biased ideas they can pick their favorite and remain insulated from the perspectives that contradict their worldview.  Furthermore, they don’t believe that they are being led down an ideological cattle chute as their media sources are careful to appear fair and balanced, exposing their customers to carefully controlled doses of the opposition’s view so that the opposition’s leaders look like brainwashed extremist clowns.  It’s debatable as to whether it means that the media outlets take the same political position as the content that they present, certainly some are “liars who believe their own lies” and others are just doing whatever they have to in order to make a buck in a highly competitive industry, but the effects that they have on the public are the same either way.  The public is becoming more radicalized and intolerant of other perspectives as well as becoming more insistent upon convincing others that what they believe is correct.  In essence people are becoming more ideologically narcissistic.
   Of course, this is part of the narratives being woven by either side: whenever the other side has some sort of popular victory it is claimed to be due to the propaganda being spread by the opposition’s loyal media outlets.  And as the president mentioned in his quote above the proper response to suffering a loss due to such propaganda is to go to the public and tell them the “truth”, which will of course turn the misinformed voters towards the “correct” side.  There is at least some truth to this, that the propaganda broadcast by either side is affecting popular sentiment as well as influencing polls and elections, but for a rather large segment of the population the implication that casting a vote or holding a certain belief is proof that one has bought into the propaganda that one side or the other is peddling is not only wrong but terribly demeaning.  In effect it trivializes the decision-making process of the masses, reducing it to being a mere byproduct of the influence of biased media sources and making democracy look impossible in the age of mass media. “If only we could present our side of the story to the public,” the ideologues lament. “Then they would see things our way.” Lost of course is the most powerful of all influential techniques: actually delivering the promised goods.
   To be sure, Massachusetts was a perfect place for a referendum on health care reform as the state imposed its own version of mandatory coverage in 2006.  It was also a perfect place to judge how popular the president was with his own party given how the state has a strong majority of Democrats.  Polls show that a significant number of Obama voters sided with the Republican candidate not because they supported his agenda or were turning center-right as the conservative party’s pundits would have you believe, but that they felt betrayed by Obama’s concessions on important issues, such as helping out Wall Street more than Main Street in economic matters and abandoning the public option in the Health Care Reform bill, things which Obama continues to strongly defend as he did in his State of the Union speech.  Simply put the people of Massachusetts were sending a message to Obama that he wasn’t doing the job that they elected him to do and that he should push the type of legislation that he promised to get passed when he won by a landslide.  The people know a sellout when they see one and it doesn’t take a genius to understand that mandatory insurance with no cost controls is just going to end up being another fleecing of the taxpayers for the benefit of big business. Again and again we are being sold up the river to the Corporatocracy and people left, right, and center are desperately trying to find a way express their collective displeasure to those in power.  But such is the truth that neither the left wing nor the right wing wants to hear and thus it’s getting lost in all the noise.  Our leaders talk and talk and talk, trying to convince us that they know what we want and promising us that they can deliver it if they can get just a little more support from us.  To be sure, as long as one is talking one can’t hear the things which are contrary to one’s point of view and thus speaking loud, long, and often is a perfect way to insulate yourself from a world which is very much not what you want it to be.
   Speaking of things not being the way neither you nor I want them to be my health situation is still in a state of flux.  December was a pretty rough month with lots of ups and lots of downs.  January was much improved though with my health becoming more balanced. I was even able to start doing some singing workouts and the good news continues to be that my voice is getting stronger and my control is improving.  The bad news is that I am only capable of singing that way every now and then and for only a few minutes at a time. But should I be able to put all this chronic fatigue garbage behind me I think that I will be better than ever.  Of course, merely ending up as good as I used to be would be perfectly acceptable to me now. The battle wages on.
   A big ‘Hello’ goes out to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time.  This is the Fireaxe newsletter.


New Fireaxe Interview up on the Santa Fe Metal Music Examiner

   A few months ago Octavio Ramos, the author of the lyrics to a number of Fireaxe songs such as “Hounds of Tindalos” and “Masters of the Universe”, contacted me about doing an interview for an online music site based in Santa Fe.  I enjoy doing interviews and quickly accepted, knowing that it would be a good opportunity to spread word of Fireaxe throughout New Mexico and beyond.  It turned out to be more than just a simple Q&A, many of which tend to run over the usual subjects, for Octavio had me revealing many things that I’d never before talked about with other interviewers. He also allowed me to write as much as I wanted and I certainly took advantage, penning about five pages worth of though provoking material.  I feel that it turned out rather well.
   The interview can be found here:

http://www.examiner.com/x-29663-Santa-Fe-Metal-Music-Examiner~y2010m1d9-Take-Five-An-Interview-with-Fireaxe

   And please poke around through some of the other articles that Octavio has penned over the last few months.  It’s good stuff.


The Fireaxe theory - Outline

I. Basics - well established theories

1. Emergent systems - that complex systems can arise from the interactions of simple things
2. Natural selection - that organisms mutate, proliferate, and compete, with the "losers" becoming extinct
3. Behavioral science - that neurological systems, at their core, function according to the rules of conditioning
4. Entropy - that within a closed system, entropy always increases, which limits the amount of transformation that can occur

II. Extensions

1. That consciousness is an emergent system: a complex system arising in the human mind from the interaction of simple neurons.
2. That civilizations are emergent systems arising from the physical interactions of humans whether conscious or not.
3. That ideologies are emergent systems arising from the psychological interactions of conscious humans
4. That emergent systems follow the laws of natural selection in much the same way that organisms do
5. That the universe is, by definition, a closed system

III. Contentions regarding consciousness

1. That consciousness is a survival advantage
2. That being a member of an ideology is a survival advantage
3. That making its members conscious is a necessary part of an ideology's survival
4. That consciousness is created by instilling within a person a permanent sense of inadequacy - in essence a state of constant fear
5. That the deeper the sense of inadequacy, the stronger the person is motivated  - generally to serve their ideology

IV. Contentions regarding ideological struggle

1. That ideologies fight for survival using many methods including, but not limited to, war and enslavement
2. That aggression is a survival advantage
3. That survival in the short term outweighs survival in the long term prompting ideologies to pursue shortsighted and sometimes suicidal strategies
4. That aggressive ideologies make members of rival ideologies feel afraid and inadequate which in response become more aggressive, thus creating a vicious circle
5. That aggressive ideologies must grow or face internal strife as their aggressive members feed on each other to satisfy their needs
6. That internal struggle results in ideological mutation

V. Contentions regarding the future

1. That internal strife is inevitable since the laws of entropy imply that continuous growth is not sustainable
2. That the abstract bases for ideologies transcend mortality and thus suicidal aggression is not restrained by fear of death
3. That technological progress has made the destruction of the world through ideological warfare possible and will continue to make it easier to effect
4. That ideological mutation will eventually result in the creation of a suicidal ideology which will destroy the human race in the attempt to save it


How to order Fireaxe CDs:

   Ordering Fireaxe CD's is an informal process as I am selling them personally out of my apartment. Simply mail me a letter which contains the following:

1. The names of the CDs that you want to buy.
2. The address where you want the CDs sent.
3. Cash, a check, or a money order for the total cost.

   Or if you want to do PayPal, just send me the answers to 1 and 2 above in an e-mail and I'll tell you where to send the money.
   Here is a price list.  The first number is the cost for U.S. based customers, the second is for outside the U.S.  The prices include shipping and handling.

Eternal Devotion      $6   $9
    to the Dark Goddess
Food for the Gods:   $12   $15 - Sold out
Victory or Death      $5   $8 (free with any purchase)
Lovecraftian Nightmares   $5   $8 - Sold out
A Dream of Death   $3   $6 - Sold out

   Send everything to:

   Brian Voth
   1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
   Chula Vista, CA 91911    USA

   If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, any one of the single CDs (Not "Food for the Gods") is free of charge in exchange for the review.  In this case all I need is a request by e-mail.  Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your magazine with the review in it when it is done.  If you want to exchange CDs, tapes, or stuff of equivalent value, make these requests via e-mail and we'll arrange a trade.
   The CDs come with a booklet filled with awesome art, a letter about the project, and some information about the CD which can also be found on the Fireaxe site.
   Lastly, if you want to print and distribute Fireaxe CDs I can send you an additional CD which contains tiff files for all the booklets, tray cards, and labels for each project.  The tiff disk is free so just say the word.


The Future

   Unfortunately 2009 was a total bust for Fireaxe as far as recording is concerned.  Health issues sidelined projects scheduled for completion during the year and other than the guitarist taking the opportunity to get a whole lot better with his axe, nothing was accomplished.  With any luck 2009 will be the only year that went for naught.
   In 2010, Fireaxe will once again focus on remaking the past. First of all, "Food for the Gods" has sold out and will be re-mastered before a second printing run is made.  Also, it will be re-mixed with the vocal rerecorded for much better sound quality.  When all is said and done it should sound as good as "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess. Secondly, the first Fireaxe CD, "A Dream of Death" will be getting a complete overhaul before it is re-released.  Everything will be rerecorded using much more modern equipment and with everything that I've learned over the last ten years going into it to make it better than ever.  Also, since it was recorded at a time when CDs had a 74 minute limit instead of the current 80, I will add six more minutes of music to the work in which I will explore a number of musical themes as well as add a killer new song written by Octavio Ramos.  So it looks like a year of sequels for Fireaxe. I'll probably leave the names of the CDs the same but I've been kicking around a ideas for alternate titles, such as "Food for the Gods - Regurgitated", "Desert for the Gods", and "A Dream of Undeath", "The Morning After Death", or "I'm Dreaming of a White Strait-Jacket - a Fireaxe Christmas in Hell".
   My goal is to deliver music to whoever wants to hear it in whatever way is necessary.  Whatever the market demands, I will supply, but I do want to avoid the mass marketing channel.  Exposure is fine, but in the modern business, the substance of the music must be altered to match the demands of the marketplace.  This would totally defeat the purpose of why I write music in the first place.  I write music because it is a way to express my emotions.  What I both think and feel goes into the songs.  That is the power, Fireaxe is the channel, and any diversion diminishes the emotive effect.  Thus I try to avoid such diversions. That is how art should be.


Rights to duplicate Fireaxe materials

   Currently Fireaxe is not for profit.  I sell the single CDs for $5 or $6, $12 for "Food for the Gods" since it is three CDs, which covers the production and mailing costs.  For CDs sent out of the country, I'll have to charge an extra $2 per disk to cover the additional mailing cost. If you write reviews or put samples on your website I'll give you a CD for free.  Since I am not making any money with the current recordings, you are free to make duplicates of them to distribute as long as you obey the following guidelines:

1. You can only sell the duplications for the price of the medium or less, plus any delivery cost.  You are not allowed to make any profit with the music.
2. You should tell me how many copies you gave out and who got them so I can keep track.  Also, if they have an e-mail address I'd like that as well so I can add them to the mailing list.
3. You are likewise free to adorn any webpages or duplications with the gifs and jpgs on my website as long as you include an obvious link back to my website.  This includes putting Fireaxe song samples on your site as well.
4. You are free to play any Fireaxe songs (in unaltered form) provided you are an unsigned band without a marketing tie-in.  You are not allowed to record those songs onto anything that you will sell.
5. Do not fall in love with the Dark Goddess.  I mean, seriously.  She's the goddess of death after all.  It's not a good idea.  Furthermore, do not have sexual fantasies involving the Dark Goddess.  She does not have a womb and thus lacks the entrance to that particular organ.  Also, attempting to use other entrances will likely result in castration.  Again, it's not a good idea.
6. You are vehemently discouraged from doing anything depicted in the CD "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" such as: torturing someone, lying for corporate profit, rationalizing greed, beating, raping, and murdering your girlfriend, destroying the lives of those who've wronged you and their families, corrupting the government, trying to kill yourself with pleasure, kidnapping and ransoming people, committing atrocities, cutting someone's face to pieces, destroying half the world as revenge, and especially stating that any of these things are okay because "God is on your side."  Please, think before you act.
7. You are food for the gods.
8. You are required to crank the song "Hounds of Tindalos" as loud as you can as often as you can.  It’s your only defense against THEM.  Be warned, they come through angles.  Note that the CD is round.  Are your speaker cabinets square?
9. Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, Hastur the Unspeakable, and all other mythos creatures are purely the inventions of Lovecraft and other fiction authors.  None of it is real, at least that’s what I’m going to say in court if you try to sue me for destruction of your property, house, city, or soul as a result of listening to the “Lovecraftian Nightmares” CD too much.
10.  You are free to play "The Rack" in school or church or any other institution bent on crushing your will and turning you into a mindless zombie slave of the corporate dominated world. Try not to develop a bad attitude about it.
11. You are not free to commit suicide while listening to any Fireaxe song.  I'm sorry, I'll have to prosecute.  On a serious note, if you are thinking about doing it, please e-mail or call me if you have no one else to talk to.  When I was in my teens the album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd used to really get to me. Just hearing songs like "Comfortably Numb", and "Hey You" would get me pretty depressed and mildly suicidal.  I'm just trying to say that I've been there. If my music is having that effect on you, please get in touch.  You aren't alone.

   The gist of it is that you can do just about anything with the music as long as you don't profit from it and that I get some sort of credit for having written it.  I'm open to any methods of distributing my music, such as compilation tapes or CDs, radio play, or recording label distribution.  However, you will need my direct permission to do so or some kind of legal agreement.


Ending Comments

   Any comments or questions are welcome.  If anyone has any updates on their projects, I'd like to hear from you.  I know there are a few people out there working on some cool things that I haven't heard from in a while.  Drop me an e-mail regarding how you're getting along.

                  Brian

The Lukewarm Butterknife - 12th edition
April 02, 2010, 01:35:23 AM
God _less America…


The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 13.3.1

April 1, 2010

neptune.net/~bev/Fireaxe.html


“According to his daughter, ‘He was consumed by patriotism.’ He often said, ‘I owe all my success to my adopted country,’ and once rejected his lawyers' advice to invest in tax shelters, insisting, ‘I want to pay taxes. I love this country’.”
         - Wikipedia on Irving Berlin


“Two years ago I was in Europe. It was the time of the Munich conference. Democracies were kowtowing to dictators, and one wondered when grasping hands would be stretched farther. When I got back, Kate Smith wanted a song that would sort of wake up America. I sat down and tried to write one. I made several efforts, but everything I wrote was too definite. I had been too close to what had happened, and concrete events are not what I wanted to sing about. Suddenly I remembered the song I had laid aside twenty years before. I got it out and went over it and made a few changes and found it hit the nail on the head. It’s not a patriotic song, but rather an expression of gratitude for what this country has done for its citizens, of what home really means.”
         - Irving Berlin, about “God Bless America”


“Ich bin ein Fireaxer.”
         - Irving Berlin, after rising from his grave and hearing
         the Fireaxe version of “God Bless America”


   According to Wikipedia…
   As a child in Russia, Irving Berlin, then named Israel Baline, watched his house burned to the ground by the Cossacks who were rampaging on a pogrom against Jews.
   Growing up in the ghettoes of New York City he used to sing for pennies, once delivering a rendition of “Yankee Doodle Boy” so heart-rending that not only did he receive a rousing round of applause but the owner is reputed to have told him, “'You know what you are, me boy? You're the Yiddishe Yankee Doodle!"
   In 1911 he revived a style of music known as “Ragtime” which would go on to become an international dance craze as well as an international scandal. At the time there was a cultural struggle going on between the conservative Victorians and those seeking liberation from such strict cultural norms and Berlin’s hysteria-producing music fanned the flames of change.
   In 1917 Irving was drafted into the army, not to fight, but to compose patriotic music for the soldiers. That he did and did it well for he truly loved his country and the opportunities it had given him. About his duty to his country he would write "we must speak with the sword not the pen to show our appreciation to America for opening up her heart and welcoming every immigrant group."

   With all this in mind I offer my satire of one of Irving Berlin’s most famous songs. Perhaps it will remind people that the phrase “God Bless America” was intended as a neutral expression of admiration for one’s country and not as a religiously loaded bludgeon to wield against those of different faiths and especially not to alienate those of no faith. In many ways the sentiments that Berlin put into the song run directly counter to those of true believers who would like to think that their god has some kind of special significance in the United States. To them I’d like to say, no, the Constitution does not mention any “god”, it draws its powers exclusively from “We The People” a truly revolutionary concept at the time of its writing, and that your god’s reputation is not nearly as benevolent as you believe it to be. This country was founded on tolerance and has benefitted greatly because of it, so if you do not feel that there is room in the United States for my parody then the problem is exclusively yours.
   And now, humor. Well, possibly the following is funny.


God Makes Us Hate and Kill

   New Fireaxe music is available for download! No foolin’:

neptune.net/~bev/GMUHAK.mp3

   It’s baseball season again here in the United States and that means all of us atheist baseball fans will once again be subjected to frequent renditions of “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch regardless of how offensive it may be to hear, and sometimes be forced to participate in, something which is annoyingly close to being a Christian hymn. Ah yes, the brilliance of Commissioner Bud Selig will be on display once more as he seems to suggest that the cure to the September Eleventh terrorist attacks, which were perpetrated by religious fanatics, is the become more religious ourselves, or at least to display our love for our gods in public for all to see. Many Christians seem to agree; after all public prayer is something that Jesus talked about so it has to be a good thing, right? Except that, umm, Jesus didn’t seem to approve of it, hmm.
   But far be it from me to doubt Bud Selig’s morality. Why, who can forget all those times he turned the other cheek, or at least looked the other way when his players were pumping their veins full of testosterone, human growth hormone, androstenedione, the “cream” and the “clear”, and who knows what all else, and laying waste to some of the most sacred records in all of Major League Baseball. Yes, the only way that Bud could be more morally upstanding is if he were caught covering up a bat boy molestation scandal.
   But instead of groaning your way through another rendition of religious hyper-patriotism you can now lift your voices with an alternate version of “God Bless America” which portrays something closer to the reality of religion as opposed to the virtual reality that many believers are trapped inside. Lyrics please:

God makes us hate and kill
In the name of love,
Adoration of salvation,
And the lie in the sky up above.
From the Christians to the Muslims
To the Hindus and the Jews,
God makes us hate and kill
To win his love.
God makes us hate and kill
To save the earth.


   Also included is the bonus track “Hail to the Chief”, originally written in honor of George W. Bush, but which I will sing proudly about every sitting president until such time as all Americans get their rights back:

Hail to the chief he’s the chief of the police state.
Don’t piss him off or he’ll throw your ass in jail.
You won’t get a trial and you won’t get a lawyer,
So buy yourself a flag and send your son to war.


   And the classic satire “Everything is Bullshit” is also still available online:

neptune.net/~bev/EiBS.mp3


Ending Comments

   I, like Irving Berlin, recognize the opportunities that I have been given in the United States and thus I will continue to fight for my country even if it means fighting against it at times. My weapon of choice is a Fireaxe and I use it to open up minds and set fire to preconceived notions and ideological disinformation. In my public life I work, I earn, I pay taxes, and I lead a very ethical life. So allow me to have my say, offensive as it may be.

Brian


The Burning Blade 13.3
April 02, 2010, 05:56:41 PM
For your evil and covetousness. For your envy, strife, and murder…


The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 13.3

April 2, 2010

neptune.net/~bev/Fireaxe.html


“Nowadays, if someone is vastly more talented than us, we don’t congratulate them — we envy them and resent their success. It seems we don’t want heroes we can admire, so much as heroes we can identify with.” “If Achilles were around today, the headline would all be about his heel.”
- Dylan Evans, quoted by The Guardian



   Just as our consumptionist ideology has rehabilitated the deadly sin of greed into a virtue so has it similarly transformed envy into an emotion to be exploited in order to advance the cause of Capitalism. Greed is easily understood in economic terms with the nagging truth behind the familiar quote about “keeping up with the Joneses” helping to explain the runaway nature of the recent housing bubble, but envy’s connection to economics is not so obvious since it tends to be focused on more abstract qualities such as attractiveness and popularity rather than material gain and the pursuit of power. Thus one might think that of the two vices only greed has anything to do with consumerism while envy remains a purely moral issue, but to do so would clearly underestimate the pervasiveness of our market-based culture and the degree to which it will go to incite and exploit feelings associated with the most atrocious of human behaviors.
   Not long ago the self-help section of the bookstore was small and reserved mainly for books aimed at boosting the self-esteem of insecure people, or at least the ones who were not so insecure that they would dare to be seen buying a book about how to become more confident. Today we have entire industries built up around the notion of transforming people into an idealized version of themselves with the most notorious of these being the weight-loss, fitness, body-building, body sculpting, tanning, lap-band, et al, industry. Indeed, with a little willpower and a lot of money it seems that you too can look like a magazine cover model. But in our market-based world you can improve much more than just your physical appearance, for instance you can hire a “life coach” to improve many aspects of your behavior and your personality, enroll in a seminar that will remake you into a “spiritual warrior” or “marketing ninja”, read one of a number of books detailing the secrets that will allow you to do almost anything in life that you want to do, or select from the extraordinary number of interventions that you, as a parent, can inflict upon your children, or rather that you can use to assist your children, in order to improve their lives while they are still young and not set in their ways. Indeed, envy no longer, become the kind of person you currently resent, and thus turn your wildest dreams into reality.
   If none of these transformational programs worked then this would all be good for a laugh and we could mock our gullible neighbors as well as ourselves for having bought into some slick salesman’s snake oil pitch, but they do work, to a degree, for some of the participants at least, and this has the unfortunate side effect of exacerbating the feelings of envy in those who were once on top as well as those who end up getting pushed farther down the social ladder. This escalation of envy can turn once friendly contests into no-holds barred cut-throat competitions that starkly divide us up into winners and losers and where the spoils are plundered by those with the best skills and the greatest appetites while the rest struggle to get what is left over. Even the parts of our lives which we thought were not competitive at all can be turned into envy generating sparring matches and thus today we can feel inadequate in ways that we had never even dreamed possible just a few decades ago.
   But as it is with any market-based competitive system the haves often seek to permanently separate themselves from the have-nots, usually by colluding to raise the bar on what is required to get one’s share of the pie. The have-nots will push back, using notions of democracy, socialism, or just common “fairness” to force the haves to share what they have gained and the battle lines are drawn. In these struggles our deeply ingrained beliefs about competition and the envy that drives it tend to come out in full force, treating those in the middle to a hideous display of arrogance, self-righteousness, and rage from either side. No where was this more evident than in the recent battle for health care reform in the United States.
   Perhaps you’ve seen the viral YouTube video where a gathering of health care reform protesters are shouting and degrading a man suffering from Parkinson’s disease who is sitting quietly in front of them and holding a sign in support of reform. One protester throws money at the man, mocking his desire to receive a health care “hand out”, while another shouts at him to “get a job”, perhaps not realizing that those suffering from Parkinson’s disease would find it hard to hold down a job in any economy let alone one that has shed millions of jobs over the past year and a half. Indeed, many people in the United States lose their jobs because they became too sick to work and as a result lose their health insurance coverage and end up bankrupt, yet this catch-22 seems lost on the protesters who seem to believe that a good kick in the pants can magically transform anyone’s life. Worse still is the fact that a job is no guarantee of anything in the United States these days. Too many jobs offer no health care benefits at all and many places only hire people into part time positions so that they do not have to give them a full benefits package. Many people work hard and many more are willing to work hard but cannot find work. Do they not deserve to be treated when they get sick?
   Denying health care may seem cruel, but it is here when an overdeveloped sense of envy comes into play. Those protesting government guaranteed health insurance feel that they have paid their dues, done all that was required of them, and suffered their share of setbacks, but through it all they sacrificed and persevered and truly earned all that they have. Of course not all of them have struggled and sacrificed more than those whom they sneer at, but they tend to feel that they have nonetheless. And while they are often willing to give part of what they earned to others in the form of charity they vehemently oppose the government taking a portion of what they’ve earned and giving it to those whom they feel do not deserve it. These sentiments make sense. It’s only fair to demand that everyone pull their own weight and by making things easier for some you diminish the incentive for others to work hard. But these sentiments can easily become distorted as ideological differences, class and race conflicts, and political affiliation pollute one’s perceptions, allowing them to grow into unreasonable demands to be placed on anyone whom the protesters disapprove of. Noble sentiments can turn into envy fueled weapons used to deny others what they have earned.
   This is not something unique to those protesting health care reform, it is something that can afflict anyone who feels that they are entitled to something special due to the efforts they made in attaining it. As Gore Vidal wrote, “It is not enough to succeed, others must fail,” implying that without others falling short of a goal the taste of victory and sense of accomplishment gleaned from it is diminished. The upside to this notion is that it can inspire individuals to achieve devilishly difficult goals so that they can stand far above all others, but the downside is that those who are not able to rise up to such a vaunted level will often resort to ensuring their standing by denying others their due. In other words, if one cannot succeed, ensuring that others fail keeps you in your position above them. Everyone is familiar with the latter part of this equation and most people can remember a time when some unethical knucklehead with an obvious vested interest handed down a decision which stuck you with the short end of the stick when you felt that you deserved more. Perhaps you were right to feel indignant but perhaps you were not. However, we often find ourselves on the other end of such matters where we are the ones judging others and determining if they are worthy of the prize that they are trying to earn. Here it is critical that we be fair and impartial judges, but so many of us are not, allowing our envious natures to corrupt us and in many cases we remain unaware of how such thoughts cloud our judgment.
   Through the prism of envy, and the concomitant feeling of entitlement when we work hard for something, our misconceptions and prejudices can become arbitrary reasons to deny things to others for the purposes of building up ourselves or our ideologies. Add to that mixture the pervasive sense of inadequacy that ideologies instill within their believers in order to motivate them and you have the potential for serious autocratic indifference to the plights of others. Take for example someone who never had much when he was growing up, who always followed the straight and narrow path, who studied when their friends partied, who worked hard when those who were more talented breezed by, who suffered setbacks and overcame them with sacrifice, who spent his money wisely and saved it when he was able, and who never asked for anything in his life. Such a person would embrace an ideology built around personal responsibility, hard work, and freedom; and such a person would also feel that a lot of his cultural behaviors and traits, like modesty and politeness, were every bit as important to his success as his skills were. Now, when such a person sees people who are struggling and asking for help he might think that the reason they need assistance is because they didn’t make all the sacrifices that he made in order to succeed: that somewhere along the way they got lazy and played video games or slept around or goofed off instead of studying and working, or they disobeyed their parents and bosses instead of doing what they were told whether they agreed with them or not, or they squandered their opportunities and their talents, or they quit when things got a little too rough, or they failed to overcome any number of challenges that he faced in his life. He might simply assume that everyone who is in need has failed in one of those areas, or if he looks hard enough he is certain to find some mistake that someone who is in need made which he can point to and declare that the person deserves to suffer for what they did. One reaps what one sows, right? But that’s not always true or fair. And if there isn’t an obvious failing to point to, our hard worker might identify any difference, like a lack of modesty, or an unusual sexual orientation, or a cultural or racial difference, or some perceived personality flaw, or anything at all as being the root cause of a person’s inability to get ahead in life regardless of whether it has anything to do with their lack of success. Anything can become an excuse to deny.
   This is not to say that nobody ever makes mistakes nor that they don’t deserve to suffer when they make particularly egregious ones, but the logic being followed is that if a person is in need then he must have done something wrong in his life and thus he deserves what he got. If their mistake cannot be identified easily then that means nothing since they would not be in the state that they are in if they had done everything correctly. One can simply assume that those in need messed up somewhere in their lives and can thus be written off as slackers. This kind of thinking can become truly pathological and those who feel very inadequate can become quite obsessive in their quest to find flaws in others and deny them their due. The world is full of such people, withholding money, love, attention, and rewards of every kind and coming up with reason after reason and excuse after excuse to deny good things to those under their power. By doing so they are defending their ideology, ensuring that only those who follow their strict interpretation of it advance, and solidifying their status as one of their ideology’s success stories.
   Envy also plays a role in the other side of this equation, protecting the ones who have “failed” from seeing their own inadequacies. Just as the person who “succeeded” pronounces her judgment over others in ways which prop up her self image as someone who has met and exceeded the challenges set before her, the person said to have “failed” exercises similar judgment over her circumstances by seeing herself as having overcome just as many obstacles and performing just as well as anyone else who has “succeeded” and is thus entitled to receive the same sort of reward as they did. Both will twist the facts in order to defend their self perception with the difference being that the person who “failed” will assume that she should have succeeded and will try to find some flaw in the person judging them, or some problem with the system, or a shortcoming of the ideology, or an unusual run of bad luck, or some other excuse such that the cause of her “failure” lies outside of herself. This is not to say that no one ever gets cheated or that the system is always fair and just, but excuses for failure are as ubiquitous as the endless self-congratulatory words of advice that flow from the mouths of those who succeeded, and whose success was often due more to good fortune than they would care to admit. The world is full of such complainers, always ready to bend your ear and fill it with often well thought out, perfectly reasonable, and fiercely defended reasons for why they should have more than what they currently have or should have become more than who they are. And by doing so they too are defending their ideology, or at least their version of it, claiming to have championed its ideals, that the ones who denied them are corrupting it, and believing that they should go on a crusade to save their ideology from those who are defiling it.
   Both sides are usually more than willing to lie on their own behalf, spread disinformation, launch attacks based on any number of logical fallacies, and engage in all sorts of embarrassingly self-righteous behavior just as they would do in defense of their ideology for that is precisely what they are doing. Their ideology has set forth the standards by which success is judged and their believers have embraced those standards. But since each person is judging their success by their own personal perception of their ideology they reach a different conclusion. Each person has received an ideological reward in a purely psychological form, that is, they believe that they have done what they needed to do in order to satisfy the demands of their ideology, but the real life equivalent rewards have not been similarly distributed. This means that those who are deprived believe that a grave injustice has been done and that their ideology is under attack. It also means that those who are not deprived believe that a grave injustice will be done if the situation is forcibly changed. And thus the envy that fuels the motivation to succeed also drives believers into internal conflict. The vice turned virtue becomes a vice once more.
   Speaking of internal conflict my health situation went through an ugly rough patch or two over the last two months. I had a setback, I got aggressive with a cure, I went too far, and then I had to fight hard to recover. I wish that I had good news but right now all that I can say is that all things on the Fireaxe schedule have been pushed back once again. My illness is slowly robbing me of my life as it is slowly robbing you of the fruit of my labors lost. It’s incredibly frustrating but I still refuse to concede. The battle wages on.
   A big ‘Hello’ goes out to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time.  This is the Fireaxe newsletter.


Personalize your computer with Fireaxe art

   No need to scan your Fireaxe cover art and stare at creases or poorly dithered images all day long, now you can have perfect digital copies of two amazing looking Fireaxe works of art rendered at the ideal 1680 x 1050 pixel size as customized backgrounds. Both the cover art for “Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess” and the poster for “Nathicana” are available and both look really sharp on screen in bright, vivid colors. And while the two don’t fit perfectly in the wide-screen window, Nathicana suffering the worst as the top and bottom needed to be clipped, the will surely brighten your day. The price is right too: free. Enjoy.

neptune.net/~bev/EternalDevotion.jpg
neptune.net/~bev/Nathicana.jpg


Avatar, Avatarism, and Narcissism

   I finally got around to seeing the movie Avatar and ended up regretting putting it off for so long as it was no longer showing in 3D nor on an Imax screen. Still, the movie surprised me in a number of ways. First of all it was spectacular, not so much that the images were so realistic, which helped immensely when it came to showing close-ups of the CGI models’ faces, but that the scenery itself was a sight to behold. The surreal world of Pandora was so wild and colorful and lifelike that it looked like a real place populated by real aliens, so much so that when I walked out of the theater it seemed more like I was stepping off of a star cruiser that had just arrived from another planet. Indeed, it felt as if I’d really been there, like I’d used one of those virtual reality machines they are always showing in sci-fi shows, and while I was expecting the special effects to blow me away, I wasn’t expecting them to be quite so immersive.
   My second surprise was how deeply this movie made me think, inspiring me to start writing this edition of the newsletter the moment that I got home from the theater. Not about the plot or the theme of course, I’d read enough reviews of the movie to know exactly what to expect, and even if I hadn’t the movie followed a storyline so overused that there were no true surprises in store, but I found myself thinking about how this movie captured the essence of our modern ideology both on and off the screen. Whereas so much of the talk about Avatar was about the naturalistic religion of the Na’vi what it really got me thinking about was our ideology of extreme individualism, or narcissism as I have described it before, and how it might be more aptly and accurately described by the name Avatarism.
   First a little background. An avatar is a representation of one’s self inside another realm, for example, a remote control toy car you drive around a track, or the character you play in a video game, or the living, breathing creature controlled by the main character’s thoughts in the movie. In these examples the avatar is a real thing, separate from you, and existing in a real world of some sort even if it is just a computer server somewhere in Des Moines. There is no physical connection between you and your avatar, save for the tools and wires which send signals back and forth. However, the more things that you do with your avatar the more that your mind begins to see your avatar as a part of yourself and the more your mind constructs an internal version of the virtual world that the avatar “lives” in. Of course, this isn’t particularly new. For centuries books have provided people with the ability to dive into fantasy worlds and experience them alongside the main character, and before that storytellers were providing the same experience long before Homer spoke of the Iliad. But what is new today is that computers and the internet are opening up a way for people to pilot their avatars and interact with other people’s avatars in a virtual world and not be forced along a plot written by someone else. No longer do people have to live vicariously through a main character controlled by an author, actor, or director, now they can step inside a virtual world and in essence be the main character in a narrative that they control, or at least partly control. This is virtual reality, or at least a relatively crude version of it, for as impressive as some of these computer simulations are the feeling of truly stepping into another world is still substantially further off technologically speaking. And until I saw Avatar I felt that movies had a ways to go too.
   Avatarism is the projection of the self onto one’s avatar. Of course, we all do this to some degree when we are using an avatar. When we’re racing it’s not our friend’s remote control car cutting off our remote control car, it’s our friend cutting us off personally. How dare he? Yes, it’s easy to blur the distinction between one’s self and one’s avatar, that’s what makes it so much fun after all, but for Avatarism to have any objective meaning it needs to have some sort of threshold beyond which a person is no longer merely relating to their avatar but suffering from Avatarism. I think that a good reference to use is personal preference. If a person prefers to play their avatar and interact with a virtual world instead of doing things personally in the real world then that person has crossed over into Avatarism. Certainly internet addicts fall into this category, but I think that a further criterion is needed since the name Avatarism implies that it is some sort of ideology, and someone who merely enjoys video games isn’t serving anything more than his content provider by sending out a handful of bucks every month. To truly be an ideology, Avatarism must induce a set of behaviors in those who follow it such that they make sacrifices to support the ideology in exchange for virtual rewards and such that they propagate the ideology to others. Furthermore, Avatarism must alter people’s behavior in ways beyond merely playing the game obsessively, it must change the way that they see and behave in the real world as well. In other words it’s not just that the person prefers to play in the virtual world, it is that the person actually lives in the virtual world, that they are their avatar, and that their real world self is merely a tool to facilitate their achievements in the virtual realm. Their virtual life has become more important than their real life.
   This is not particularly new either. Many religions construct virtual worlds in the minds of their believers and some of those believers can be said to be suffering from Avatarism just as much as any internet addict. Christianity, for example, has believers imagining themselves to have souls and that their choices on Earth determine whether they enter a paradise or are damned when they die. Heaven, hell, souls, and the spiritual world are all components of the Christian virtual realm. Now, this alone isn’t Avatarism, but when Christians see the world as a battleground between good and evil where demons lurk around every corner and where resisting temptation and preventing sin become duels between one’s spiritual warrior self and the malicious hellspawn inhabiting others then one can say that their belief in an inner fantasy world has taken over their concept of reality. They are no longer people believing in a religion, nor are they crusaders fighting for a cause; no, they see themselves as spirit beings inhabiting human vessels temporarily as they do their god’s good work. Their physical bodies are avatars controlled by their virtual, in this case spiritual, selves.
   The key to the successful spread of Avatarism is to present a virtual world that is so much better than the real one that people not only want to believe that they are a part of it but that they embrace their avatar stronger than they embrace their physical selves. To do this the formula is very straight forward. In the case of a religion the trick is to convince people that they don’t have to die but instead that they can rejoice in the afterlife for eternity, thus taking away their fear of death, however, such a glorious fate can only be gained if they do things that propagate the religion, such as helping others, converting them, and acquiring real world resources for the church. Similarly, in the case of something like a movie, video game, or book series which can grow into a multi-million dollar franchise, the trick is to make the fantasy world so alluring and rewarding that people will immerse themselves in it as deeply as they can in order to receive their virtual fix and keep them doing so for as long as possible. For example, if you’ve been wooed by the movie Avatar you can watch it over and over, but the effect will wear off with repeated viewings. So then you can buy the video game and get your fix that way, but that thrill will wear off too. So then you can buy movie posters, go online and talk about the movie with other fans, and read or write fan fiction set in Pandora, potentially becoming a fan for life, similar to the Trekkie phenomenon. But how does one woo millions of fanboys and fangirls in the first place? The basics are fairly straight forward and I will use the movie Avatar as an example.
   The plot of Avatar is your basic garden variety hero’s quest. In a nutshell, this plot starts off with the main character, who is lacking in something, and who goes on a quest to gain that thing. Along the way he meets a number of friends who help him to become that which he is destined to be and who in the end help him to defeat some scary menace. So many forms of story-like entertainment follow this formula with only minor variations on the theme, so if you look for it you can find it everywhere. Many popular movies such as Star Wars and Spiderman follow this theme as well as the successful Harry Potter book series, but the hero’s quest story has been around for thousands of years, going back at least as far as the ancient epic story of “Gilgamesh”. The reason why the hero’s quest plot is so successful is that the average person can relate to the main character at the start of the story. The hero is flawed and struggling with their life just like you and me. To make this connection more personal, the story is usually told from the main character’s point of view and is carefully crafted to allow the viewer or reader to relate to the hero to be. We go through the learning experiences alongside the main character and discover his wonderful new world and his special powers at the same time he does. Once this connection is established we will live and die with the hero’s successes and failures and eventually we will feel exhilarated and personally rewarded when he wins in the end. For a while we become the hero, we live in his world, and we vicariously experience intense emotions, heartfelt losses, and gratifying victories. Then we go home to our drab little lives where exciting things like those in the story don’t happen at all, or at least don’t happen very often and where we aren’t nearly as talented, attractive, and wise as the hero. Ah well. But perhaps we wish that we could be him for a little while, escaping into his world, or maybe doing the next best thing and changing who we are in order to become more like the hero, transforming our life story into a hero’s quest of our own.
   Many of us, perhaps all of us, do this to some degree. We paint our normal trials and tribulations in the more exciting and dramatic terms we see in our forms of entertainment. A mistakenly sent bill is seen as an injustice perpetrated by a heartless corporation, a wrong that needs to be righted by a hero channeling his favorite character from a popular courtroom drama series. When our quest for take out food for our friends back at the office is thwarted by a lackluster waitress she instead becomes a villain to be vanquished, and when she is defeated and her manager is summoned then it is up to the heroine to defeat this level’s “boss” and move on to the next screen. Yes, seeing our life events in this way not only makes thing seem more exciting, but it also turns us into strong individualists as every problem that comes along becomes a challenge which we must defeat personally and which gives us a boost of self esteem when we do. Of course, if we personalize and magnify everything too much then we will turn into drama queens where every little thing is transformed into a big freaking deal. So let’s not do that shall we?
   Anyway, by making virtual worlds so much more interesting than our real lives, movies like Avatar pull at our desires to embrace a fantastic virtual world in favor of our mundane one. They start by making us painfully aware of our own limitations, of the drab reality of our world, and of our menial positions within it. We are like the marine Jake Sully: a part of the machine that is destroying a beautiful world. He is handicapped, inadequately trained to control an avatar, seen as a nobody to be used and thrown away, and who willingly plays out his traitorous role as those in power dangle promises of wealth and health over his head. This is what the main character throws away to become a Na’vi and how can we say that we wouldn’t do the same if we were in his place? As a Na’vi he is strong and healthy, meets interesting new people, learns all about a strange and fascinating world, accomplishes amazing things like being able to ride a dragon-like creature, is accepted by the clan and is thus allowed to speak his mind to everyone (and be heard!), and falls in love with and marries a beautiful, sexy, strong woman. This is a dream come true. His former reality can’t even come close to his virtual world. But it gets better. Jake goes on to become a great hero, doing the impossible by subduing the biggest flying predator in the skies, uniting all of the clans, even getting the Na’vi’s “goddess” on their side, and defeating a powerful military force bent on destroying the Na’vi’s spiritual core. Jake isn’t just their hero, he’s their savior. It’s the ultimate fantasy. And given how fantastic the main character’s adventure was in Avatar even someone who was relatively successful in real life would desire to live in such a world instead of his own, or at least embrace the general themes expressed in the hero’s quest plot.
   Now, there is no shortage of such epic heroic movies, especially in fantasy settings in which Avatar grounds one of its feet, but what makes Avatar different is simply how immersive the movie is. I didn’t see it in 3D or on an Imax screen, but I sat close enough to the screen so that the picture filled my vision. And with the digital sound production that studios use these days they can make the lows so intense that they shake the theater and so you feel the movie as well as see it and hear it. The camera angles were also chosen in a way to put you in the hero’s footsteps and the bouncing camera technique also gives you the impression that you are there, sometimes confusing and disorienting you during actions sequences which is all by design, making you feel the way that you would if you were really experiencing it all. And of course the computer generated images were incredibly realistic with the movement captured with a truly life-like quality, which is where a lot of CGI films fall short. All these things will make you feel like you are really there, but what got to me the most was the attention to detail. When the hero is first in the jungle he doesn’t just wander off and get in danger, he plays with the collapsing flowers, which fascinate and delight us as much as they fascinate and delight him. When the seeds fall from the sacred tree they are so beautiful, glowing, delicate, and mysterious that you feel like you can reach out and touch them. And the hero and his love interest didn’t just fly around on dragon-like creatures, they sat up in a tree afterwards and talked and joked and laughed about how they flew, capturing those wonderful moments in a young relationship where everything is free and easy and you want nothing more than to be in each other’s company. It’s true that the movie makers did the big spectacular things too and did them well, but they also took the time to do the small things, like showing how Jake was so eager to get back into his Na’vi body that he wolfed down his breakfast and jumped into the pod. All of these things worked together in concert. Not only does Jake experience Pandora through an avatar, but he also serves as our avatar as well. We experience Pandora is if we were him, just not quite as vividly.
   The main message of the movie is an environmental one, which I’ll address as well, but of particular importance is the message that goes along with the well worn hero’s quest storyline. The hero’s quest is very much about individualism and it has become a vital part of many of our modern ideologies. This is our religion: the triumph of the self. The belief that one can achieve greatness, become the best there is, and stand against overwhelming odds to win everything. Individualism is hero worship, and yes we still worship heroes – but only as long as they win as Dylan’s quote at the beginning of the newsletter points out our fickleness – but our heroes are our avatars. Like our sports heroes whose jerseys we wear proudly and whom we sometimes pretend to be. Like our action heroes who serve as our avatars in movies and video games. Like our more subtle movie and storybook heroes who champion charity and sacrifice for love; they are fictional characters in fictional worlds that we wish were real and would love to meet. So how deep do our fantasy lives go? How often do we imagine our favorite teams winning it all? How often do we imagine that we are helping them out somehow by being behind them in spirit and cheering loudly for them from the stands? How often do we dream of economic success, or that of our company or our nation? How often do we dream that we are the ones who made the difference in the successes of our teams? How often do we dream of military victory overseas? How often do we dream of personally inflicting violent retribution against those whom we feel truly deserve it? How often do we hope for fictional characters to fall in love so that their romance can give us hope and comfort? And how often do we long for that special someone who can fill our own hearts to overflowing, just like we see in romantic dramas? We seek to accomplish things far beyond our drab little lives and we make demands of our avatars to do those things for us so that we can experience what we so deeply long to feel. Slowly but surely we favor the virtual over the real. The virtual can deliver wonders that the real simply cannot.
   Of course, we demand modesty of our avatars too, like our sports heroes, or at least we’ve tried to in the past, admonishing them if they don’t espouse the ideal of teamwork and downplay their drive for personal success. But do we demand the same of ourselves? Do we dutifully play our roles to make victory happen or do we strive to be the lone warrior fighting our own battle to serve the greater cause? Do we really come together and work as a team, or are we really just pursuing our personal dreams, aching to feel that wonderful rush as we play the role of the hero or at least take a few bold steps down the path to glory? Most sports stars know that teamwork is critical to success, the proof is on the scoreboard, but most of us are so immersed in individualism and heroism due to the ideological bombardment we get from our entertainment sources that we not only dream of individual success but we feel disappointed when we fall short, and fall short most of us will. We can’t all be heroes, but we can all dream of being heroes, and as long as we are all still dreaming our dreams can motivate us to greatness.
   Our ideology says that personal motivation is the most powerful motivation there is and so we see nothing wrong in grabbing for all the gusto we can. The drive for personal glory can indeed bring out the greatness in people and Avatar is an example of that as well. The director surely did something heroic, producing yet another landmark movie against which so many other films will be measured for years to come, but heroic efforts were required on the parts of so many others involved in making it. From those who worked long hours to create the stunningly realistic special effects to those who designed the world and how it all fit together, and from those who painted the amazing creatures so vividly and vibrantly to those who dreamed up the religion of the Na’vi, Avatar required so many people working so hard to push the boundaries of what had been done before and create something truly fantastic. And thus we have an entire team of people all chasing their own hero’s dreams, producing a movie about someone living the hero’s dream, so that millions across the world could vicariously fulfill their need to be a hero, if only for a few hours, and propagate the ideology of individualism. A number of people became very rich in the process, another part of our ideology in that it rewards those heroes who do something truly remarkable. And thus I would say that individualism is the only ideology that was truly championed in Avatar regardless of the environmentalist theme of the movie.
   Ah yes, the theme. As it seems to infect all things these days, political ideology reared its two ugly heads over the subject of Avatar and they engaged in another pointless shouting match about how liberal Hollywood was pushing propaganda down our throats as well as how conservative Wall Street was destroying the planet with greed and exploitation. To be sure Avatar is obviously a depiction the systematic slaughter of Native Americans and the destruction of their culture over a century ago, with a far different ending of course, but the parallels to the United States’ current wars for oil and natural gas are very clear and thus many took up sides regarding the movie based on their political stance towards the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is all well and good but the deeper point seemed to be missed and that is that if we truly want to change the world we are in desperate need of finding a new ideology, one that actually unites us rather than champions foolish notions of heroism and personal glory. If this movie is pro-environmental propaganda I feel that it failed. I left the theater wondering how the movie could possibly be something that awakens us all to embrace our environment and bond with our fellow humans.
   When one watches Avatar one does not feel a bond with nature. After all we do not ride personal dragons, live in a majestic tropical paradise complete with islands floating in the air, or have a way of mentally (and spiritually) connecting with the animals and even the earth itself. Far from it, in our version of nature most living things in the wild will run away from us, attack us, sting us, exploit us, or take what we have. Our world is no Garden of Eden. Mother Nature may give us what we need but at the same time she is also trying to kill us and she will eventually succeed, but if we are strong and if we are smart we can survive in her world, fighting back against the predators and the parasites, and propagating our genetic heritage. That is reality. Nature isn’t harmonious, it’s brutal, and often it’s war, but of course that doesn’t mean that we can just lay waste to our ecosystem. The movie tries and succeeds in making the point that all living things are interconnected, which they are, but not in some pseudo neural network that gives the forest an intelligence and spiritual consciousness far above ours (although that is a brilliant idea). Mother Nature can’t summon up rhinos to stop bulldozers nor induce swarms of birds or insects to prevent human penetration into sacred lands, we have to do those things ourselves, but it’s possible for us to modify things in nature and still make it all work. We need to understand it though and take care of it better than we have, which the movie hints at now and then. But I feel that the failure of the film is that it portrays a version of nature that is so wonderful that one would be far more inspired to reshape our environment to be more like Pandora rather than revel in all that it is, mundane and unpleasant as it can be in comparison. I feel that we would think it acceptable to destroy a vast expanse of natural habitat to put up an Avatar theme park so that we can appreciate something better than Mother Nature could ever conjure up. And maybe one day we will simply be able to create our own creatures and worlds, just like those in the movie or in so many video games, and eventually master nature to such a degree that we have no need for that which has given us birth. I feel that the movie presents a virtual version of nature that is so wonderful and enchanting that we would sacrifice the real thing to live there instead.
   Perhaps I’m going a little too far though. I know that places like zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and national parks occasionally inspire a lifelong love of nature in children who later grow up to do much to preserve the environment. The fact that we are keeping animals in captivity for life where they do little but eat, sleep, and have their pictures taken can be seen as a sacrifice that some animals make so that their wild counterparts can keep something alive that is important to us in ways that most of us don’t fully realize. However, I see Avatar as being far too steeped in fantasy to accomplish what it set out to do. It will inspire children to love nature about as much as Harry Potter inspires them to love school.
   And when one watches Avatar one does not feel a bond with their fellow humans either. While the hero gets accepted into the clan he really doesn’t become a part of the clan. Instead he goes from being the outcast to being the traitor to being the heroic leader and not once does he become just another Na’vi. He is always special to some degree and usually in some exceptional way, good or bad. He is trained not by some aging warrior but by the daughter of the clan leader who eventually he takes as his wife. When he needs help for his dying friend or needs to gather an army to defeat the space marines all of the other Na’vi come together to serve his interests and do their part in his important missions. He need not sully his hands in the conformism of the community, or take part in the ritual chanting, or to really listen to the concerns of others. He is always right. When the Na’vi follow his advice they do well, and when they don’t they suffer. When he first met the Na’vi they spurned him, saying that he and his people would not learn their ways, and by the end of the movie I think that it can still be said that he didn’t learn their ways and neither did we. It’s true that they accepted him but did he accept them? He joined them after all, physically becoming his avatar, but only after becoming a hero and only after doing things his way and succeeding. The message that it sends is less of becoming one with a clan, bonding with mother earth, and accepting one’s place in the world, but rather that one must change the world to make it into what you need it to be. This is the narcissism of the modern age where one says to the world, “I refuse to do what anyone tells me and you will hate me for that, but I will do something so wonderful and so grand that you will realize that I am right and that you are wrong and thus you will accept me and give me the accolades and rewards that I deserve.”
   This is what we have been told for decades. This is the ideology of individualism reinforcing itself through those who have succeeded in our economic, political, and educational systems. Even those who have failed in their heroic attempts often continue to embrace this ideology, dreaming that they will one day succeed, or that you will if they can convince you to do things a little differently and take one more valiant try at achieving greatness. I also believe that we are witnessing this ideology slowly exploding in our faces, but that we are so enchanted with it that we see the solutions to our problems as ones which require even more heroism, individualism, and forcefully applied changes.
   But I have to confess that I too am a victim of that very same mindset. I have been all of my life. Fireaxe is one of my efforts to be the hero, doing it all my way and trying to excel so grandly that everyone must validate my accomplishments.
   And I feel that I need to change.
   It’s cruel what we do to each other and ourselves in service to our individualist ideology. The way that I’ve pounded away on my body, abusing it even, to become a better musician, producer, and artist, is something that I could never bring myself to demand of another person and I have demanded a lot of those I’ve loved. Even in play, like when I ride my bike for example, I turn it into a contest, trying to pedal faster, climb higher, and achieve more than I did the year before. I know that demanding so much of myself contributed to why I ended up with cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome and yet it felt so good to push so hard. The aches and pains of sore muscles could be swept aside by the knowledge that I had ridden farther and harder than I’d ever gone and that next time I would be able to go farther and harder still. At some point cycling changed from being recreation into an obsession, from exercise into an ordeal, and from a joy ride into a test of my willpower, and yet inside I was always yearning for more. It’s madness.
   In the musical realm it’s much the same. The time and effort it takes to produce a CD all on your own is like taking on a second job. You pour your heart and soul into a tiny chunk of plastic and then hear the criticisms drowning out the positives. And it hurts because you know that a lot of them are true and that you need to work harder, demand more perfection, and spend more money to have a shot at greatness. It all works to make you better, but it’s an ordeal all the same, and you wonder if when you make it to the top, or at least to a place where you can be satisfied, that you will feel like it was all worth it. Why does my music need to be so good? Why does an orchestra have to work so hard? Why do we need to go to such extremes to make a movie like Avatar? Our economic system is so harsh, demanding the best and depriving lesser efforts of the funds to continue. But this is about more than just economics; our individualist ideology has infected so many other parts of our lives. So many areas have become a marketplace and so many things now compete against each other for our attention, our wealth, our accolades, and our love. And in return we’ve become fickle, demanding, and needing of something better than what came before to satisfy us anew. We’ve become like addicts seeking fixes, demanding more of others and more of ourselves so that we can feel that warm rush of pure bliss. It’s not enough for our idols to repeat as champions, they must exceed what they did in the past, and when they remain the same do we see them as strong or as stagnant? Again, it’s madness.
   Sometimes I feel like throwing it all in, disappearing into the desert somewhere and shutting out the world. Maybe I can find a way to shut myself out so that I’m not demanding more of myself than I can ever accomplish. A person can be their own worse critic and who wants to live with someone like that? But doing so reminds me of Ayn Rand’s failed Objectivist ideology and the theme of “The Fountainhead”. The book is narcissism plain and simple. The main character refuses to contribute if something cannot be done his way, preferring menial manual labor to lucrative architectural design. That would be what I’d end up doing no doubt, trying to learn to be average and appreciate all that comes with it. But I’d diverge from the main character in Rand’s book when it came to his extreme sense of self importance, destroying something of his own design just because someone else changed it. And to think that we are all slowly but surely becoming more and more like him. It’s disheartening.
   At other times I feel that the world needs to change, but isn’t that just more of the same exaggerated sense of self importance, trying to make others do what I need them to do? After all when I complain about the fact that there are too many people trying to gain accolades and not enough people giving them away aren’t I just trying to get all those other people whom I see as less talented than I am to set aside their dreams so that they can fulfill mine? Well, as I described when I mapped out the life cycle of the ideology there are times when the dominant ideology becomes overly burdened by its own successes. Ideologies are based on false promises and eventually too many people cling too tightly to that which they feel entitled to and deserve that the ideology simply cannot satisfy on them all no matter how hard everyone is worked. Things break down and the powerful take what they need while the numbers of the deprived grow larger. Cooperation gives way to competition. The leaders cling to power through the use of lies and sheer force and are oblivious to the fact that their ideology has failed. At times like that, change is needed.
   I’m not the only one who feels that change is needed, in fact with so many unsatisfied people out there it seems that everyone is in agreement with me about that, but everyone disagrees about the kind of change we need and so there is a cacophony of ideological solutions out there, most of which aren’t based at all on models proven to work but upon fixing only one or two things that appear to be the problem. If I am to posit a solution I feel that I need to get something to work in real life, otherwise I’m just mouthing off like the multitudes of ideologues which deserve, and hopefully receive, derision.
   But how does one work together with narcissists? They all want to do things their own way, they tend to take more than they give back, they’ll throw a tantrum or even quit at the slightest offense, they make demands of others and won’t reciprocate, they argue to win instead of trying to find a compromise, they compete with each other, aggressively and passively, trying to prove that they are the best in the group, and they are in constant need of praise. So you can give them that praise and feed them what they need in the hopes that they will loosen up and begin to give more, but some narcissists are just eating machines that take and take and take no matter how much you give them. Also, taking charge of a group will make you a target of derision and blame, and you don’t really lead them you just try to hold everything together by doing all the mundane things that they refuse to do. It’s like herding cats.
   It can be done though. One option is for me to lead my own charismatic movement and convert other narcissists to a new way based on false promises. I know that this works but I have no stomach for fanaticism and lies, and some narcissists are so flighty that even if I did convert one to my new way they would jump ship not long after when something better came along. The only real solution in that vein in this day and age is to become a serial liar, jumping on to whatever big new trend has come up or trying to make an outrageous new one myself and milking it for all that it is worth until something new comes along. It seems so pathological though, like serial monogamy or drug addiction, you’re bored, lonely, and unsatisfied most of the time except for those rare moments of sheer pleasure. That just isn’t for me.
   I’d rather go with the truth. Maybe things will become so bad, and people will end up so unfulfilled by their narcissistic ways, that something that isn’t as awesome as total and spectacular fulfillment, just partial but more consistent fulfillment, will look better by comparison. Until then I think that I’ll just have to keep shooting the moon and hoping that something sticks. It’s a quandary for me though, and I honestly welcome your thoughts.

(bev at neptune dot net)


The Fireaxe theory - Outline

I. Basics - well established theories

1. Emergent systems - that complex systems can arise from the interactions of simple things
2. Natural selection - that organisms mutate, proliferate, and compete, with the "losers" becoming extinct
3. Behavioral science - that neurological systems, at their core, function according to the rules of conditioning
4. Entropy - that within a closed system, entropy always increases, which limits the amount of transformation that can occur

II. Extensions

1. That consciousness is an emergent system: a complex system arising in the human mind from the interaction of simple neurons.
2. That civilizations are emergent systems arising from the physical interactions of humans whether conscious or not.
3. That ideologies are emergent systems arising from the psychological interactions of conscious humans
4. That emergent systems follow the laws of natural selection in much the same way that organisms do
5. That the universe is, by definition, a closed system

III. Contentions regarding consciousness

1. That consciousness is a survival advantage
2. That being a member of an ideology is a survival advantage
3. That making its members conscious is a necessary part of an ideology's survival
4. That consciousness is created by instilling within a person a permanent sense of inadequacy - in essence a state of constant fear
5. That the deeper the sense of inadequacy, the stronger the person is motivated  - generally to serve their ideology

IV. Contentions regarding ideological struggle

1. That ideologies fight for survival using many methods including, but not limited to, war and enslavement
2. That aggression is a survival advantage
3. That survival in the short term outweighs survival in the long term prompting ideologies to pursue shortsighted and sometimes suicidal strategies
4. That aggressive ideologies make members of rival ideologies feel afraid and inadequate which in response become more aggressive, thus creating a vicious circle
5. That aggressive ideologies must grow or face internal strife as their aggressive members feed on each other to satisfy their needs
6. That internal struggle results in ideological mutation

V. Contentions regarding the future

1. That internal strife is inevitable since the laws of entropy imply that continuous growth is not sustainable
2. That the abstract bases for ideologies transcend mortality and thus suicidal aggression is not restrained by fear of death
3. That technological progress has made the destruction of the world through ideological warfare possible and will continue to make it easier to effect
4. That ideological mutation will eventually result in the creation of a suicidal ideology which will destroy the human race in the attempt to save it


How to order Fireaxe CDs:

   Ordering Fireaxe CD's is an informal process as I am selling them personally out of my apartment. Simply mail me a letter which contains the following:

1. The names of the CDs that you want to buy.
2. The address where you want the CDs sent.
3. Cash, a check, or a money order for the total cost.

   Or if you want to do PayPal, just send me the answers to 1 and 2 above in an e-mail and I'll tell you where to send the money.
   Here is a price list.  The first number is the cost for U.S. based customers, the second is for outside the U.S.  The prices include shipping and handling.

Eternal Devotion      $6   $9
    to the Dark Goddess
Food for the Gods:   $12   $15 - Sold out
Victory or Death      $5   $8 (free with any purchase)
Lovecraftian Nightmares   $5   $8 - Sold out
A Dream of Death   $3   $6 - Sold out

   Send everything to:

   Brian Voth
   1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
   Chula Vista, CA 91911    USA

   If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, any one of the single CDs (Not "Food for the Gods") is free of charge in exchange for the review.  In this case all I need is a request by e-mail.  Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your magazine with the review in it when it is done.  If you want to exchange CDs, tapes, or stuff of equivalent value, make these requests via e-mail and we'll arrange a trade.
   The CDs come with a booklet filled with awesome art, a letter about the project, and some information about the CD which can also be found on the Fireaxe site.
   Lastly, if you want to print and distribute Fireaxe CDs I can send you an additional CD which contains tiff files for all the booklets, tray cards, and labels for each project.  The tiff disk is free so just say the word.


The Future

   Unfortunately 2009 was a total bust for Fireaxe as far as recording is concerned.  Health issues sidelined projects scheduled for completion during the year and other than the guitarist taking the opportunity to get a whole lot better with his axe, nothing was accomplished.  With any luck 2009 will be the only year that went for naught.
   In 2010, Fireaxe will once again focus on remaking the past. First of all, "Food for the Gods" has sold out and will be re-mastered before a second printing run is made.  Also, it will be re-mixed with the vocal rerecorded for much better sound quality.  When all is said and done it should sound as good as "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess. Secondly, the first Fireaxe CD, "A Dream of Death" will be getting a complete overhaul before it is re-released.  Everything will be rerecorded using much more modern equipment and with everything that I've learned over the last ten years going into it to make it better than ever.  Also, since it was recorded at a time when CDs had a 74 minute limit instead of the current 80, I will add six more minutes of music to the work in which I will explore a number of musical themes as well as add a killer new song written by Octavio Ramos.  So it looks like a year of sequels for Fireaxe. I'll probably leave the names of the CDs the same but I've been kicking around a ideas for alternate titles, such as "Food for the Gods - Regurgitated", "Desert for the Gods", and "A Dream of Undeath", "The Morning After Death", or "I'm Dreaming of a White Strait-Jacket - a Fireaxe Christmas in Hell".
   My goal is to deliver music to whoever wants to hear it in whatever way is necessary.  Whatever the market demands, I will supply, but I do want to avoid the mass marketing channel.  Exposure is fine, but in the modern business, the substance of the music must be altered to match the demands of the marketplace.  This would totally defeat the purpose of why I write music in the first place.  I write music because it is a way to express my emotions.  What I both think and feel goes into the songs.  That is the power, Fireaxe is the channel, and any diversion diminishes the emotive effect.  Thus I try to avoid such diversions. That is how art should be.


Rights to duplicate Fireaxe materials

   Currently Fireaxe is not for profit.  I sell the single CDs for $5 or $6, $12 for "Food for the Gods" since it is three CDs, which covers the production and mailing costs.  For CDs sent out of the country, I'll have to charge an extra $2 per disk to cover the additional mailing cost. If you write reviews or put samples on your website I'll give you a CD for free.  Since I am not making any money with the current recordings, you are free to make duplicates of them to distribute as long as you obey the following guidelines:

1. You can only sell the duplications for the price of the medium or less, plus any delivery cost.  You are not allowed to make any profit with the music.
2. You should tell me how many copies you gave out and who got them so I can keep track.  Also, if they have an e-mail address I'd like that as well so I can add them to the mailing list.
3. You are likewise free to adorn any webpages or duplications with the gifs and jpgs on my website as long as you include an obvious link back to my website.  This includes putting Fireaxe song samples on your site as well.
4. You are free to play any Fireaxe songs (in unaltered form) provided you are an unsigned band without a marketing tie-in.  You are not allowed to record those songs onto anything that you will sell.
5. Do not fall in love with the Dark Goddess.  I mean, seriously.  She's the goddess of death after all.  It's not a good idea.  Furthermore, do not have sexual fantasies involving the Dark Goddess.  She does not have a womb and thus lacks the entrance to that particular organ.  Also, attempting to use other entrances will likely result in castration.  Again, it's not a good idea.
6. You are vehemently discouraged from doing anything depicted in the CD "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" such as: torturing someone, lying for corporate profit, rationalizing greed, beating, raping, and murdering your girlfriend, destroying the lives of those who've wronged you and their families, corrupting the government, trying to kill yourself with pleasure, kidnapping and ransoming people, committing atrocities, cutting someone's face to pieces, destroying half the world as revenge, and especially stating that any of these things are okay because "God is on your side."  Please, think before you act.
7. You are food for the gods.
8. You are required to crank the song "Hounds of Tindalos" as loud as you can as often as you can.  It’s your only defense against THEM.  Be warned, they come through angles.  Note that the CD is round.  Are your speaker cabinets square?
9. Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, Hastur the Unspeakable, and all other mythos creatures are purely the inventions of Lovecraft and other fiction authors.  None of it is real, at least that’s what I’m going to say in court if you try to sue me for destruction of your property, house, city, or soul as a result of listening to the “Lovecraftian Nightmares” CD too much.
10.  You are free to play "The Rack" in school or church or any other institution bent on crushing your will and turning you into a mindless zombie slave of the corporate dominated world. Try not to develop a bad attitude about it.
11. You are not free to commit suicide while listening to any Fireaxe song.  I'm sorry, I'll have to prosecute.  On a serious note, if you are thinking about doing it, please e-mail or call me if you have no one else to talk to.  When I was in my teens the album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd used to really get to me. Just hearing songs like "Comfortably Numb", and "Hey You" would get me pretty depressed and mildly suicidal.  I'm just trying to say that I've been there. If my music is having that effect on you, please get in touch.  You aren't alone.

   The gist of it is that you can do just about anything with the music as long as you don't profit from it and that I get some sort of credit for having written it.  I'm open to any methods of distributing my music, such as compilation tapes or CDs, radio play, or recording label distribution.  However, you will need my direct permission to do so or some kind of legal agreement.


Ending Comments

   Any comments or questions are welcome.  If anyone has any updates on their projects, I'd like to hear from you.  I know there are a few people out there working on some cool things that I haven't heard from in a while.  Drop me an e-mail regarding how you're getting along.

                  Brian

The Burning Blade 13.4
June 04, 2010, 11:21:42 PM
They don’t want ascension they only want more…


The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 13.4

June 4, 2010

neptune.net/~bev/Fireaxe.html


“With great power there must also come great responsibility.”
         - Stan Lee “Spider man”

“You take a mortal man, and put him in control.
Watch him become a god, watch peoples head a’roll.”
         - Megadeth “Symphony of Destruction”


   We make conflicting demands of our leaders and heroes. On one hand we want them to be the best, the fastest, the strongest, the richest, the most exceptional of their kind in the world, even in history, so that we can rejoice in their victories and their accomplishments; and on the other hand we want them to behave in a dignified manner, to play by the rules, to be honest, to adhere to a strong moral code, and to take responsibility for their actions so that we can hold them up as symbols of our shared values. Our ideology claims that it is possible to be both, but as I have discussed in a number of newsletters, especially the lead in to edition 10.4, the corruption of the ideology is inevitable when the competition gets fierce and cheating to gain an advantage will go from being a rarity that is always caught to being a standard that everyone must emulate to even have a chance at success.
   This is not how television shows and movies, the psalms of our modern age, tell the tale. Time and time again in these fantasies the hero is cut down by some cheater, and time and time again the hero rises up and beats that cheater through hard work and determination. Indeed, it makes for good drama, and they aren’t all pure fiction, but where these stories so often fall short is that they give us a fanciful and often useless version of reality, and if we cling to those dreams too tightly we will surely set ourselves up to be exploited due to our ideological naïveté. And there are other, darker, stories where the hero doesn’t stay morally pure, instead doing whatever he or she has to do in order to save the day even if people get hurt or the rules get broken. These stories are more realistic and match well with my own personal experience in that if you truly want or need something your best bet is to go out and take it regardless of what you have to do, but the downside of these stories is that they end up reinforcing the kind of extreme individualism that leads to narcissism where one’s personal opinions and goals are put ahead of everyone else’s. It’s a strategy to use sparingly, if at all, lest we all end up at each others’ throats over every little thing, but unfortunately it seems to be a strategy that is becoming more commonplace with every passing day.
   A realistic morality tale would have the hero adhering to the rules, even when it isn’t necessary, conceding advantages to his or her rivals, and in the end losing because of it. Admittedly that doesn’t sound like the plot of a movie that most people would want to go see, but it is the story of many of the world’s martyrs, including the most famous martyr of all, Jesus. Of course, in that version the storyteller undercuts the redeeming premise of the tale by elevating the martyr to being divine in nature and having him live forever in paradise as a reward for his “sacrifice”. It’s an easy way out. In comparison, some war stories do a good job of demonstrating how important it is for individuals to make sacrifices for the good of the many. There’s no bullshit there: to accomplish your military objectives you need to take casualties and your soldiers must be prepared to fight and die if necessary; but in our modern wars we’ve tended to avoid paying this price and have chosen instead to use methods where civilians are killed instead of putting our soldiers’ lives at risk. Yes, doing so is moral cowardice and often counterproductive since it angers the civilian’s leaders whose support we need, but it does limit the number of body bags coming home and that boosts the public’s support for the war. Again, it’s an easy way out.
   Over and over again the moral of our stories is clear: to be a success one must win in the end. And even in stories where the hero falls short or has victory in his or her grasp and declines it, the storyteller often insists upon having the hero win something even more grand than what he or she eschewed. The hero wins bigger by losing and the cheater’s victory rings hollow. The trouble with these stories is that when people take their lessons to heart, play by the rules, and end up losing instead of winning, they lose their faith in the idea that being moral is worthwhile. They ask, “where is my reward for doing things the right way?” and when they get no answer, and see that those who act immorally do not get punished, they often resort to cheating because they have been taught that to be a success you must win. Everyone else is either a loser, or, if they accuse others of cheating, a whiner. There is no substitute for victory.
   The repercussions of this unrealistic, ideologically driven perspective are all around us as we watch the cheaters destroying our world and everything that we hold dear. Whether it be the Wall Street “Masters of the Universe” who secretly bet against the doomed securities that they were peddling, or the mighty multinational oil companies who are rolling in billions of dollars in profits but can not see fit to spend the extra money it takes to make sure that they don’t visit ecological disasters upon us with disturbing regularity, or our illustrious sports heroes who don’t feel an ounce of guilt or remorse for cheating on their sport, their fans, or their wives, we are seeing that of the two quotes at the top of the page, the one that holds more truth is the one written by Dave Mustaine.
   But why is that the case? In The Burning Blade 9.5 I theorized that testosterone was the key to attaining a leadership position since the hormone is strongly linked with aggression and dominance, two things that help one to rise to power. Adding to this idea with her studies of the psychology of power and leadership is Deborah Gruenfeld, a professor at Stanford University. While she downplays the role of testosterone, her studies don’t contradict the common “dominant alpha male” stereotype, but rather they add another piece to the puzzle. She has shown that there is a simple psychological mechanism which makes people in power less inclined to regulate their own impulses and downplay the impact of their decisions on others. Her studies find that when people are placed into powerful positions that they become less inhibited across the board, not just in regard to those things of which they have been put in charge. Thus, if you put someone in control of others, not only will the inhibitions that tell them not to order people around or make decisions that impact others’ lives become relaxed, but all of their inhibitions tend to become relaxed and they tend to be more impulsive, egotistical, and prone to take charge in many other areas of their lives as well. Simply put, putting people in power tends to turn them into narcissists.
   You can find out more about Prof. Gruenfeld’s work and experiments in this interview:

www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/bmag/sbsm0605/knowledge_power.html

   This discovery has implications for the larger tendency towards narcissism in our culture. As I outlined in The Burning Blade 13.1, ideologies encourage their believers towards narcissism since narcissists are more dedicated and driven than other people in general and thus they are more successful at spreading their ideology. Many narcissists seek power obsessively as a way to achieve the accolades that they feel that they deserve and do whatever it takes to attain them. Furthermore, movies and stories which reinforce the discarding of conventional morality in order to do what must be done helps to remove people’s reservations about breaking the rules to get what they want. Add to these trends the phenomenon that Prof. Gruenfeld has discovered, that merely putting people into powerful positions makes them more impulsive and less inclined to regulate their desires, and what we have is a vicious circle of power, disinhibition, and narcissism. Narcissists seek power, bend or break the rules to get it, and when they attain it they become less inhibited, more impulsive, and more selfish and thus they are more likely to break the rules in the quest for even more power, repeating the cycle. Also, if you put anyone in power they will become less inhibited and more narcissistic, which will tend to make them seek out more power, which will then make them even less inhibited and more narcissistic.
   With this in mind it is much easier to understand the psychology behind our all too many vain, rule-breaking, hypocritical, and insulated leaders and heroes. How often have we wondered, when watching their press conferences after they have been caught red-handed, why they give no mea culpa nor confess their many sins, but instead profess their innocence and blame everyone but themselves for what happened? The answer is simple. When many of them get a taste of power it reduces their inhibitions and they descend into a downward spiral of selfishness and immorality even as they ascend into an upward spiral of wealth and empowerment. With success, one can become seduced by the idea that one is omnipotent, that one doesn’t have to try so hard to succeed, that one doesn’t have to follow the rules, that one can tell others what to do, and that, like the fabled King Midas, anything one touches will turn into gold. So they will tend to cheat and lie and manipulate and control and impose and act on their every whim in the belief that there is nothing wrong with acting that way, at least when they do those things. Psychologically they are missing the inhibitive chemistry that would prevent them from acting in a more responsible manner or even questioning themselves. That little voice in their head telling them “no” has been silenced by success and empowerment.
   Furthermore, this disinhibition is likely to be the driving force behind mass hysterias such as the internet and housing market bubbles. Once the bubble starts to inflate and people are empowered by the rising values of their stocks or their houses, they become less inhibited and seek to make even more money by buying and selling those stocks and houses, or they imprudently spend what they have fortuitously acquired, or they borrow as much as anyone will lend them, or they lower their lending standards and sell securities out the back door to unsuspecting buyers, or they improperly price the risk of securities, or they buy those securities without looking into their sources, or they dismantle regulations which would prevent such foolishness. All of these things allow the bubble to inflate even more which reduces people’s inhibitions yet further and encourages more people to get involved in the run-up. The result of all this has been the financial version of Sodom and Gomorrah: and orgy of fiscal immorality which is leading to our destruction. As we have learned, mortgage lenders, monoline insurance companies, banks, investment firms, and many others were running roughshod over standard industry practice and often outright lying about what was actually being bought and sold, but at that point it didn’t matter. Everything looked fine because the prices were still going up. Inhibitions that would have made people reluctant to do such obviously foolish things were simply being overridden. And when one listens to the testimonies of those in power who fueled the bubble one need not be a psychologist to identify the extreme amount of narcissism in their views.
   Additionally, with a lack of failure, such as for the oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico, the same sort of psychology takes hold. Success makes their practices appear sound and so they let their standards slide so that they can make even more profit. With further success the regulators ease off, or are bought off, and even less care and funding is put into safety. For a while everything is going great and everyone is getting rich, but eventually standards will degrade so far that disaster will strike. In this case, empowerment leads to complacency and the inhibitory response of “something might go wrong so we need to be vigilant” is replaced by the impulsive response of “nothing has gone wrong so we can take even more risks”.
   So when our politicians get caught doing incredibly stupid things and our sports heroes get caught doing incredible amounts of performance enhancing drugs we need not be surprised. And we should definitely not be swayed by their insistence that they did nothing wrong. The testimony of an empowered narcissist should be completely disregarded. They have simply no concept of right and wrong anymore. They only see things in terms of themselves. We should instead ignore them and focus on the facts of the matter; if, that is, we can actually find out what the facts are.
   Now I can hear you saying, “if only people were more devout in their beliefs then things like this wouldn’t happen.” I honestly wish that was true. If believing in religion was any guarantee of making people behave in a moral way then I would support the merits of supernatural belief. The trouble is that this is most definitely not the case. One only need look at the moral failures of the Catholic church, from the priests to the cardinals to the Pope himself, as well as the all too frequent exposures of prominent protestant figures as being outrageously hypocritical, to see plenty of evidence that religious belief does not automatically make one a moral person, especially those in power. Yes, even the promise of eternal salvation and the threat of being tortured forever cannot persuade people to follow the rules. Ayn Rand noticed this and launched her philosophy of Objectivism based on the idea that since no ideology could make its followers behave morally that rules should be removed altogether. This was the ideology that led neoliberal economists to deregulate the financial system which then lead to bubble after bubble in one market after another and culminating in the ongoing global economic meltdown. The problem that Rand could not solve is that her entire philosophy was based on “self interest rightly understood” which makes sense up until one realizes that an empowered narcissist lacks the inhibitions to rightly understand anything. Objectivism has failed and this currently leaves us adrift, completely lacking in an ideology which can guide us. This is why the future is very likely going to be quite messy as ideologies which claim to be able to solve this problem will battle each other for control of what our failed ideologies used to govern.
   But don’t expect the next ideology to succeed, at least in the long term, and don’t expect that narcissists will end up being shut out of the halls of power permanently. If narcissists weren’t successful, they would not rise to power, and thus we would be spared the instability that they bring when they act on their impulses while being in positions of great impact. The trouble is that long term survival strategies are inferior to short term survival strategies, at least in the short term, and if one’s survival in the long term depends on survival in the short term as well then stable, long term survival strategies must be abandoned in favor of the urgency of the present. Thus, narcissists can succeed where conscientious people cannot due to their impulsive, risk-taking nature which can reap them great rewards. Of course, they can also fail spectacularly for the same reasons, but if you can drive someone out of business in just a matter of a few years by using aggressive marketing tactics and business strategies, or if you can defeat the best cyclists in the world by doping for a year or two or more and then turning your title over to the next budding young doper, or if you can build a large and dedicated following behind your movement such that no one cares when you are revealed to be a massive hypocritical fraud, then there is no place in the world for those who choose what is best in the long run. We all know the fable about the tortoise and the hare, but if it was written today it would follow a different script. While the tortoise plods slowly towards the finish line, the hare races all about, takes a nap, has sex with the tortoise’s wife, steals the tortoise’s pension, crosses the line first, and then makes millions writing a book about his secrets to success. Now that is a fable for the modern era.
   Speaking of survival strategies, I’m having difficulty finding something that works well for my long-delayed recovery. It seems that one of my antibiotics, Doxycycline, was targeting me as one of the “biotics” that it wanted to kill and ended up putting me in the hospital for a couple of days. So no more of that. The good news is that I have alternatives and I am in the process of trying to find the magic formula that will get me back on the road to recovery. So yeah, same old same old, another two month setback for Fireaxe and, as always, the battle wages on.
   A big ‘Hello’ goes out to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time.  This is the Fireaxe newsletter.


A Thinking Computer with the Power to Rule

   Predicting the future is a wonderful pastime, and virtually risk free since few people actually keep track of your past predictions and hold you to them when they don’t pan out as you thought they would. However, the rewards are good if your predictions come true since you can hold them up as proof that you are some kind of genius rather than a lucky player in a futurism crapshoot. With that in mind I see no reason why I shouldn’t take a wild guess at what the future will bring since I have so much to gain and so little to lose.
   To be more serious, my father was digging into articles about the future direction of the internet and how it related to his work and theories about learning and education and the things that he had found were quite provocative and made me think about where it would all lead. Of course, my immediate reaction was to apply the Fireaxe theory to what others were predicting to see if it could provide any unique insights regarding the greatest source of information on the planet. As it seems to never fail to do, the Fireaxe theory led me to a conclusion which was somewhat dark, scary, and uncomfortable, so naturally I felt compelled to share those conclusions with you.
   The internet has always been a medium for communication whether through bulletin boards, USENET groups, forums, personal and commercial websites, or social networks. It has allowed people from around the world to share information with each other on a variety of topics and for a variety of purposes. Indeed, the same tool that allowed Amazon to become the biggest book retailer in North America also allows Muslim extremists to coordinate their nefarious plots, which gives you an idea of how versatile and far reaching it is. But the biggest problem with the internet has been that finding what you are looking for has always been a challenge. Anyone who has done a web search for something and come up with thousands of hits, or has experienced the frustration of not being able to find the particular thing that you are looking for understands this well. With the massive amount of content on the internet it has become very difficult to find a knowledgeable, reliable, and complete source of information on any given subject. And doing research, which requires finding multiple knowledgeable, reliable, and mostly complete sources encapsulating a variety of differing viewpoints, can become a maddening experience.
   Fortunately search engines have come to the rescue, and it’s not really a surprise that the biggest internet companies in the world became so large by making a better search engine than everyone else. Anyone using the internet needs a search engine and a good one will get hundreds of millions of user visits every day. Of course, ever since the first search engines were rolled out there has been a battle between websites seeking attention and search engines cutting through the noise. It used to be the case that you could repeat certain commonly searched words on your page to in order to get your page closer to the top of any search engine’s list. And many web pages were written with thousands of keywords, most which didn’t have anything to do with what was on the page, just to increase the page’s relevance and hit count. Furthermore, early search engines didn’t do much to evaluate the content of the web pages being listed and thus someone doing a search for the word “holocaust” used to get more hits for deniers’ websites than those telling the widely accepted version of events. Indeed, for every advance in search engine technology which can separate the quality pages from the pretenders there seems to be a counter strategy that web pages can use to trick the search engines in order to increase their visibility. Even efforts to build a “semantic web” will encounter these issues despite the intentions of the web designers to craft a purely logical method of presenting and sharing data. It appears that crafting a search engine that takes users to pages where they want to go rather than where the page authors want them to go is a struggle that will continue on into the future.
   On the surface this appears to be a simple issue: sort out the diamonds from the rough and give the user only the good stuff; but when you really look deep into the issue it is much more than that. The future of the internet, or at least where the current group of technology leaders sees it going, is to create some sort of search engine that is more like a personal assistant than a mere indexing tool. Far superior to the “Ask Jeeves” concept the idea is to have a search engine that understands the content it is reading and present it to you in a more thoughtful and organized manner. It would be as if you hired a professional researcher to do your internet search for you, quickly and cheaply. This concept is nothing new. For decades science fiction authors and futurists have envisioned an age of robotic servants which would perform all of the menial tasks we usually do which would free us to do more creative and imaginative tasks. And while that dream is still off in the future, developing an internet version of the robotic servant is tantalizingly close.
   As an aside, the idea of having servants take care of our boring tasks while freeing us up to do more exciting things is the same pipe dream that was sold to the western world when government and big business began off-shoring millions of menial jobs as well as allowing millions of undocumented workers into their countries to do the menial jobs that couldn’t be outsourced. While the dream of increased wealth and leisure has worked out for a precious few, the promised results have yet to materialize for the vast majority. Also, it seems that every advance in technology has been sold to us with the idea that it will make our lives easier, but in reality they only make us able to do more, and since our competitors can also do more when they get the new technology as well we all end up working just as hard as we did before. The truth is that there has been no increase in our leisure time nor has there been any transformation of our jobs and our lives into something more pleasurable because of technology. This is because the goal has never been to make humans more comfortable but to make them more competitive, and this goal comes not from overly demanding bosses but from the demands of ideological warfare.
   But the dream of an information revolution on the internet goes beyond simply giving us a better search engine so that we can find the lowest price for a given product or find a well written and informative website, the goal that many of them are seeking, or at least moving towards, is nothing less than the purification of knowledge. Separating the noise from the quality information is just one step down a road which will lead to tool that can separate truth from lies. Of course, it’s a long road, so I’ll present it step by step.
   We keep trying to make our search engines smarter so that they are not only able to interpret web pages or other forms of information created for humans but that are able to understand them enough to be able to sort out what is deceptive and misleading from that which is correct. For instance, if we are looking for internet reviews for a new product that we are thinking about buying, we don’t want to end up going to a webpage which has a review section but no reviews there, or which gives reviews of other products and tricked our search engine by having the sought after product’s name and the word “reviews” on the same page; and we aren’t interested in reading the reviews on the manufacturer’s web page since they are going to be biased. It doesn’t take too much extra smarts to get a search engine to sort review pages by placing the ones that have a lot of relevant, quality reviews on them at the top. But going deeper, let’s say that our search found a hundred reviews of the product and we didn’t have the time to read them all. Wouldn’t it be nice if a computer program could go in and read all those reviews, figure out what the consensus is, and give you one consolidated review that told you everything that you needed to know? Or how about a search engine that sorted out the material in the reviews such that it focused only on the stuff that you cared about? Or how about a feature that allowed it to identify the “reviews” written by people employed by the manufacturer or its rivals and discarded them for being biased? It would be like hiring your own expert to advise you on any given product.
   But what is envisioned for the future of search engines goes far beyond merely sorting out product reviews and deeply into the realm of artificial intelligence. Imagine taking such a tool and applying it to any subject, like the global warming for instance, and having it able to gather up all the facts on all sides of the subject, sort out the lies from the truth, follow up all of the threads for all of the argument categories, and compile them into some sort of report that you can easily read and understand. Creating such a report would take an expert research assistant a few months, if not years, to do, but a sufficiently advanced and powerful computer would theoretically be able to churn through something like that far faster, perhaps taking days, hours, or even minutes. And what is especially attractive about having a computer program do research is that ideally it would be free of any bias. Imagine taking all the facts ever dug up and all the points of view ever rendered on any particular subject, feeding them into a powerful computer, and getting an authoritative and unbiased final answer. Conceivably you could find out what the best way is to prevent massive oil spills, or determine what the markets will do on any given day, or find out what the best political system is, or ask it who you should marry if you wanted a loving and lasting marriage, or any number of questions that no one can answer definitively today. In theory, a powerful enough computer would have knowledge beyond that of any human expert, akin to the oracles of ancient times, and a sufficiently advanced one would seem to have godlike intelligence. This is the dream of the purification of knowledge, the idea that when all the facts are gathered together and considered by a sufficiently intelligent source, that only one answer, the correct one, will be found. Gone will be our political, religious, and all other ideological arguments, replaced with the highest truth in the land, and in a world that seems to be drowning in brainwashed minions holding bizarre points of view based on propaganda and lies it would seem that such a thing would be very welcome. This has been the subject of many science fiction books and movies, but the endings to those stories were written by humans who could only guess at what changes such a computer would bring. What will happen when we really advance our technology up to that level will probably be far different than from what any writer could imagine.
   Now, there are naysayers who declare that computers will never achieve such levels of intelligence nor will ever be anything more than fast, but dumb, machines. They claim some special providence for human intelligence that no computer will be able to match no matter how powerful and advanced they become. Well, that’s what they used to say about computers playing chess. In my lifetime I watched chess programs go from being things that I could beat soundly as a kid to being things that can beat the best players in the world today. And these chess programs aren’t simply just crunching through every possible move to decide which is best; they can now understand tactical advantages and the importance of good positions and can often be more creative than any human player in devising strategies. Still, just because they are machines the naysayers will sneer and doubt, often using some sort of religious perspective to support their position. Indeed, many people believe that only organic tissue can produce intelligence, or that only humans can become conscious, or that only living things can have souls or hold some divine spark that allows them to do things that no machine will ever be able to match. From a materialist perspective these claims are simply unfounded religiously based prejudice against artificial intelligence, but even if there is a divine order to the universe, what exactly is preventing a god of some sort from imbuing computers with the same sort of divine spark that gives humans their special qualities? Indeed it is vanity to believe that humanity is somehow the best, and holiest, thing that will ever be. And I have no doubts that if a computer was able to give better religious guidance than any priest, rabbi, imam, or minister, it would certainly have followers and potentially lead a religious movement. Of course, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for iJesus to save us any time soon.
   But a human deferring to a computer’s judgment is a phenomenon that is already occurring in other areas. Computers are slowly but surely taking over tasks which we humans are simply unable to do. In mathematics and engineering, it has been commonplace for decades for computers to solve problems that humans would never be able to do by hand. But more importantly, in the financial realm computers are used to make automatic trades and calculate risk, albeit with a few problems, and do so at a rate far faster and more accurately than any human could. If it is not already the case it soon will be that no financial firm will be able to survive by just having human analysts making their markets calls. The computers run by other firms will eat them alive in the marketplace just as computers eat human chess players alive at all but the highest levels. This is not to say that a human can’t make a shrewd prediction or two based on a hunch or experience and make a lot of money in the markets, but day in and day out, or rather, millisecond by millisecond, computers can and do make better decisions overall. And if the past is any trend, this shift will occur in more areas than just math, engineering, and the markets. More and more we will come to trust the judgment of computers better than we trust our own, or even that of experts. How it will happen is simple and in many cases it will not need to be forced upon us in any way. It will begin by each of us testing out a computer’s suggestions against our own and judging the results. When the computer convinces us that it can do a better job, we will trust it and use it instead of using our own judgment whether it is telling us what stocks to buy, what music we might like, what the fastest route home is, what foods we should eat, or anything else which has become too confusing, overwhelming, or tiresome to work out for ourselves. The result will be that we will be more successful and productive at things we defer to our trusty computer personal assistants. And what is more is that we will also end up dependent on them.
   Where this will all lead is quite disturbing. As humans come to trust the judgment of computers more and more, computers will come to control a larger number of the facets of our lives, basing their decisions on a vast amount of data and using complex algorithms to sort all that data out. As this all takes hold the world will become more and more confusing to us, as if it wasn’t becoming that way already, but so much so that ordinary humans will not be able to make much sense out of it at all. We will try in vain to see the larger picture, to understand why computers made this decision or that one, and more often than not what is going on will be so strange and complicated that our minds will simply not be able to grasp it, although we will pretend that we can do so. In many places humans already fall well short of a complete understanding of things such as in the fields of economics and politics where we try to figure out how vast systems that involve millions of people work in the hopes of being able to manipulate them and guide them in a desirable direction. The fact that we can’t understand these systems is most evident when they break down and the greatest minds in the nation are brought in to try to fix them. First the experts try one thing and then they try another, failing often, and when something works it generally doesn’t work for very long. They don’t truly know what they are doing, they’re mostly just taking educated guesses, and thus it usually takes a long period of struggling with issues and implementing and discarding various strategies before the right formula is discovered. But contrary to laissez-faire theorists, complex systems do not fix themselves on their own nor do they run at maximum efficiency without rules and oversight. The rules that govern complex systems have evolved over hundreds if not thousands of years, mostly by trial and error, and as the world changes these rules need to change with it or else the system will either run inefficiently or become unstable and collapse outright. Simply put, someone needs to be in charge of making sure our complex systems work smoothly and efficiently, but the problem is that humans aren’t smart enough to be able to do the job. However, while humans cannot understand these complex systems, computers may one day be able to do so, and thus, someone will get the bright idea of putting a computer in charge of such systems. Early attempts will probably fail, but computers will get better, and those nations which entrust their political, economic, and other complex systems to be managed by computers will have a survival advantage over those that do not. Computers will eventually take over.
   This vision is both frightening and utopian, frightening in the sense that humans will one day no longer be in charge of the planet, but utopian in the sense that many of our political, financial, health related, and social ills will one day be solved. It seems that we are facing a very fundamental trade-off when it comes to the ongoing silicon revolution. On the one hand we will be surrendering some of our freedom and autonomy but on the other we will be getting a potential paradise in return, and thus the battle lines are drawn between those fighting for liberation and self-determination and those fighting for a new world order which will actually deliver on the promises of so many utopian dreams of the past. However, when analyzed using the Fireaxe theory it seems that neither side is correct in their assumptions and that the world will end up being a far different, but hauntingly familiar, place.
   As outlined above, a computer controlled future appears to be inevitable, however the idea that a network of computers will be able to force some sort of intellectual purity upon the world runs contrary to the precepts of the Fireaxe theory. While the truth may be unassailable in the intellectual realm, it is the falsehood which can impart a survival advantage and is what gives one ideology the power to achieve victory over others. This is the fundamental reason why ideologies are based on falsehoods: by lying to their believers and motivating with promises that cannot be kept they stand a better chance of seizing valuable resources and propagating their ideals on to others before their lies are made obvious; and there is no reason why this basic rule would not hold true for computers as well. A lying computer may be more popular than an honest one. Also, the Fireaxe theory outlines how ideologies exploit the human mind: motivating people by instilling them with a permanent sense of inadequacy which forms the basis of consciousness; by giving them rules to follow that make them better able to achieve the ends of the ideology; and by making them more narcissistic which causes them to be more selfish, aggressive, and resistant to change. If computer programs were written which made computers exhibit these same traits one would surely find computers behaving in seemingly illogical ways simply because those ways give them survival advantages over computers behaving more conventionally. Consider again the flawed computer programs that financial institutions use which automatically make trades in the marketplace. Those programs were mispricing risk but no one was inclined to take them offline since those programs were making a lot of money for their firms. In comparison, computer programs which priced risk accurately were not making as much money as those which mispriced it, at least while the bull market was running, and thus were beaten out by programs that did. This is the short term survival versus long term survival conundrum where long term survival strategies are at a survival disadvantage against short term survival strategies simply because the long term strategies will not survive long enough for their long term benefits to pay off. And thus, computers will be unable to escape the fundamental problem that has plagued our human ideologies and contributed to an unstable world.
   This means that computers will lie, disagree, and inevitably go to war with each other. Far from being a utopia based on one accepted truth and one standard of behavior for all computer systems, the future will be one of ideological battles fought by computers. Truth will once again take a back seat as lies propagate over the network like viruses altering the way computers think and behave as rival ideologies try to spread through the system to defeat and enslave their rivals. The laws of natural selection will apply to computer programs just as they do to living things and ideologies: the ones which propagate will survive regardless of how aesthetically pleasing they may be or how close they are to the truth.
   We humans will likely end up as foot soldiers in these wars, following our computer masters as willingly as we do our human masters. As stated above, we will surrender control of our lives to computers because computers will make better decisions for us than those that we make for ourselves. Just as Wall Street’s computers endeared themselves to their trading firms by making them lots of money, so will our computers endear themselves to us by giving us benefits that we can’t attain alone. Resisting their control will be to condemn ourselves to a substandard life, or to whatever fate our computer masters will prescribe for rebels and luddites.
   But beyond just giving us material benefits, computers in the future will be able to spin falsehoods that can inspire and motivate humans just as our ideologies inspire and motivate us today. The truth, as always, will remain elusive since it is dangerous to all ideologies in its complete form and thus it will only be used in small doses as weapons against rival ideologies. But in the future the truth, at least the entirety of the truth, will likely lie entirely outside the bounds of human comprehension. The world which computers build will be far too complicated for us humans to understand. And thus we will be lost in a world that we cannot hope to grasp, following advice that we cannot confirm but which we both think and feel strongly is the truth, and fighting against others for reasons which we cannot fully explain but which we know to be right. In essence it won’t be that much more different than things are today. We will still be Food for the Gods, but in the future our gods will feast on our flesh, our silicon, and our avatars.


The Fireaxe theory - Outline

I. Basics - well established theories

1. Emergent systems - that complex systems can arise from the interactions of simple things
2. Natural selection - that organisms mutate, proliferate, and compete, with the "losers" becoming extinct
3. Behavioral science - that neurological systems, at their core, function according to the rules of conditioning
4. Entropy - that within a closed system, entropy always increases, which limits the amount of transformation that can occur

II. Extensions

1. That consciousness is an emergent system: a complex system arising in the human mind from the interaction of simple neurons.
2. That civilizations are emergent systems arising from the physical interactions of humans whether conscious or not.
3. That ideologies are emergent systems arising from the psychological interactions of conscious humans
4. That emergent systems follow the laws of natural selection in much the same way that organisms do
5. That the universe is, by definition, a closed system

III. Contentions regarding consciousness

1. That consciousness is a survival advantage
2. That being a member of an ideology is a survival advantage
3. That making its members conscious is a necessary part of an ideology's survival
4. That consciousness is created by instilling within a person a permanent sense of inadequacy - in essence a state of constant fear
5. That the deeper the sense of inadequacy, the stronger the person is motivated  - generally to serve their ideology

IV. Contentions regarding ideological struggle

1. That ideologies fight for survival using many methods including, but not limited to, war and enslavement
2. That aggression is a survival advantage
3. That survival in the short term outweighs survival in the long term prompting ideologies to pursue shortsighted and sometimes suicidal strategies
4. That aggressive ideologies make members of rival ideologies feel afraid and inadequate which in response become more aggressive, thus creating a vicious circle
5. That aggressive ideologies must grow or face internal strife as their aggressive members feed on each other to satisfy their needs
6. That internal struggle results in ideological mutation

V. Contentions regarding the future

1. That internal strife is inevitable since the laws of entropy imply that continuous growth is not sustainable
2. That the abstract bases for ideologies transcend mortality and thus suicidal aggression is not restrained by fear of death
3. That technological progress has made the destruction of the world through ideological warfare possible and will continue to make it easier to effect
4. That ideological mutation will eventually result in the creation of a suicidal ideology which will destroy the human race in the attempt to save it


How to order Fireaxe CDs:

   Ordering Fireaxe CD's is an informal process as I am selling them personally out of my apartment. Simply mail me a letter which contains the following:

1. The names of the CDs that you want to buy.
2. The address where you want the CDs sent.
3. Cash, a check, or a money order for the total cost.

   Or if you want to do PayPal, just send me the answers to 1 and 2 above in an e-mail and I'll tell you where to send the money.
   Here is a price list.  The first number is the cost for U.S. based customers, the second is for outside the U.S.  The prices include shipping and handling.

Eternal Devotion      $6   $9
    to the Dark Goddess
Food for the Gods:      $12   $15 - Sold out
Victory or Death      $5   $8 (free with any purchase)
Lovecraftian Nightmares   $5   $8 - Sold out
A Dream of Death      $3   $6 - Sold out

   Send everything to:

   Brian Voth
   1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
   Chula Vista, CA 91911    USA

   If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, any one of the single CDs (Not "Food for the Gods") is free of charge in exchange for the review.  In this case all I need is a request by e-mail.  Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your magazine with the review in it when it is done.  If you want to exchange CDs, tapes, or stuff of equivalent value, make these requests via e-mail and we'll arrange a trade.
   The CDs come with a booklet filled with awesome art, a letter about the project, and some information about the CD which can also be found on the Fireaxe site.
   Lastly, if you want to print and distribute Fireaxe CDs I can send you an additional CD which contains tiff files for all the booklets, tray cards, and labels for each project.  The tiff disk is free so just say the word.


The Future

   Unfortunately 2009 was a total bust for Fireaxe as far as recording is concerned.  Health issues sidelined projects scheduled for completion during the year and other than the guitarist taking the opportunity to get a whole lot better with his axe, nothing was accomplished.  With any luck 2009 will be the only year that went for naught.
   In 2010, Fireaxe will once again focus on remaking the past. First of all, "Food for the Gods" has sold out and will be re-mastered before a second printing run is made.  Also, it will be re-mixed with the vocal rerecorded for much better sound quality.  When all is said and done it should sound as good as "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess. Secondly, the first Fireaxe CD, "A Dream of Death" will be getting a complete overhaul before it is re-released.  Everything will be rerecorded using much more modern equipment and with everything that I've learned over the last ten years going into it to make it better than ever.  Also, since it was recorded at a time when CDs had a 74 minute limit instead of the current 80, I will add six more minutes of music to the work in which I will explore a number of musical themes as well as add a killer new song written by Octavio Ramos.  So it looks like a year of sequels for Fireaxe. I'll probably leave the names of the CDs the same but I've been kicking around a ideas for alternate titles, such as "Food for the Gods - Regurgitated", "Desert for the Gods", and "A Dream of Undeath", "The Morning After Death", or "I'm Dreaming of a White Strait-Jacket - a Fireaxe Christmas in Hell".
   My goal is to deliver music to whoever wants to hear it in whatever way is necessary.  Whatever the market demands, I will supply, but I do want to avoid the mass marketing channel.  Exposure is fine, but in the modern business, the substance of the music must be altered to match the demands of the marketplace.  This would totally defeat the purpose of why I write music in the first place.  I write music because it is a way to express my emotions.  What I both think and feel goes into the songs.  That is the power, Fireaxe is the channel, and any diversion diminishes the emotive effect.  Thus I try to avoid such diversions. That is how art should be.


Rights to duplicate Fireaxe materials

   Currently Fireaxe is not for profit.  I sell the single CDs for $5 or $6, $12 for "Food for the Gods" since it is three CDs, which covers the production and mailing costs.  For CDs sent out of the country, I'll have to charge an extra $2 per disk to cover the additional mailing cost. If you write reviews or put samples on your website I'll give you a CD for free.  Since I am not making any money with the current recordings, you are free to make duplicates of them to distribute as long as you obey the following guidelines:

1. You can only sell the duplications for the price of the medium or less, plus any delivery cost.  You are not allowed to make any profit with the music.
2. You should tell me how many copies you gave out and who got them so I can keep track.  Also, if they have an e-mail address I'd like that as well so I can add them to the mailing list.
3. You are likewise free to adorn any webpages or duplications with the gifs and jpgs on my website as long as you include an obvious link back to my website.  This includes putting Fireaxe song samples on your site as well.
4. You are free to play any Fireaxe songs (in unaltered form) provided you are an unsigned band without a marketing tie-in.  You are not allowed to record those songs onto anything that you will sell.
5. Do not fall in love with the Dark Goddess.  I mean, seriously.  She's the goddess of death after all.  It's not a good idea.  Furthermore, do not have sexual fantasies involving the Dark Goddess.  She does not have a womb and thus lacks the entrance to that particular organ.  Also, attempting to use other entrances will likely result in castration.  Again, it's not a good idea.
6. You are vehemently discouraged from doing anything depicted in the CD "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" such as: torturing someone, lying for corporate profit, rationalizing greed, beating, raping, and murdering your girlfriend, destroying the lives of those who've wronged you and their families, corrupting the government, trying to kill yourself with pleasure, kidnapping and ransoming people, committing atrocities, cutting someone's face to pieces, destroying half the world as revenge, and especially stating that any of these things are okay because "God is on your side."  Please, think before you act.
7. You are food for the gods.
8. You are required to crank the song "Hounds of Tindalos" as loud as you can as often as you can.  It’s your only defense against THEM.  Be warned, they come through angles.  Note that the CD is round.  Are your speaker cabinets square?
9. Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, Hastur the Unspeakable, and all other mythos creatures are purely the inventions of Lovecraft and other fiction authors.  None of it is real, at least that’s what I’m going to say in court if you try to sue me for destruction of your property, house, city, or soul as a result of listening to the “Lovecraftian Nightmares” CD too much.
10.  You are free to play "The Rack" in school or church or any other institution bent on crushing your will and turning you into a mindless zombie slave of the corporate dominated world. Try not to develop a bad attitude about it.
11. You are not free to commit suicide while listening to any Fireaxe song.  I'm sorry, I'll have to prosecute.  On a serious note, if you are thinking about doing it, please e-mail or call me if you have no one else to talk to.  When I was in my teens the album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd used to really get to me. Just hearing songs like "Comfortably Numb", and "Hey You" would get me pretty depressed and mildly suicidal.  I'm just trying to say that I've been there. If my music is having that effect on you, please get in touch.  You aren't alone.

   The gist of it is that you can do just about anything with the music as long as you don't profit from it and that I get some sort of credit for having written it.  I'm open to any methods of distributing my music, such as compilation tapes or CDs, radio play, or recording label distribution.  However, you will need my direct permission to do so or some kind of legal agreement.


Ending Comments

   Any comments or questions are welcome.  If anyone has any updates on their projects, I'd like to hear from you.  I know there are a few people out there working on some cool things that I haven't heard from in a while.  Drop me an e-mail regarding how you're getting along.

                  Brian

Re: Fireaxe Newsletter 9.1
July 07, 2010, 07:52:32 AM
One of the better ones.

The Burning Blade 14.1
July 31, 2010, 10:07:05 PM
A solitary form against the pounding storm…


The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 13.5

July 31, 2010

neptune.net/~bev/Fireaxe.html


“Trends in inequality are also interesting. According to previous research, wealth inequality is very sensitive and positively related to the ratio of stock-prices-to-housing prices, since the former is heavily concentrated among the rich and the latter is the chief asset of the middle class. The fact that stock prices fell more than housing prices, at least from 2007 to mid-2009, should lead to a decline in wealth inequality over these two years. However, the results show a fairly steep rise in wealth inequality, with the Gini coefficient climbing from 0.834 to 0.865. The share of the top 1 percent advanced from 34.6 to 37.1 percent, that of the top 5 percent from 61.8 to 65 percent, and that of the top quintile from 85 to 87.7 percent, while that of the second quintile fell from 10.9 to 10 percent, that of the middle quintile from 4 to 3.1 percent, and that of the bottom two quintiles from 0.2 to -0.8 percent. There was also a large expansion in the share of households with zero or negative net worth, from 18.6 to 24.1 percent.”
         - Edward N. Wolff, “Recent Trends in Household
         Wealth in the United States: Rising Debt and the
                        Middle-Class Squeeze - An Update to 2007”


   The poor got poorer and so did the rich, but unlike the Great Depression the rich have fared much better this time around, losing far less of a share of their wealth than the bottom 95% of us. And thus in relative terms, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. What else is new?
   This should come as no surprise given the nature of the collapse and the zealousness with which our governments have conducted corporate bailouts at huge expense. The housing bubble saw millions of people buy homes at inflated prices only to lose trillions in equity when the market came crashing down to earth. A few people got rich during the craze but the net effect was to drain the wealth of the middle and lower classes as well as saddle them with massive debts. The loss in wealth share for the non-rich continues a multi-decade trend; for the bottom 80% of us, our share of the total net worth has been declining gradually over the last 20 years and when the statistic are compiled for 2010 it is likely that we will see another big step down.
   In other words, as conservatives like to say, a rising tide lifts all boats, but the statistics clearly show that the bigger boats rose far more than the little boats during the “prosperity” of decades past. We all worked hard, why wasn’t the reward spread around more equitably? And when the tide went out, the big boats didn’t fall very far compared to the little boats, and many of those little boats got swamped.
   The bailouts merely worsened the situation. The vast majority of the mind-boggling amounts of bailout money was shoveled into banks and “spent” on tax cuts, thus mostly ending up in the hands of the already wealthy. Wall Street executives awarded themselves billions for no other reason but that they could, further skewing the wealth distribution curve, and the end of the estate tax ensured that tens of billions of dollars every year would be kept consolidated in the hands of wealthy families rather than be redistributed, albeit poorly, by the government. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer, however, this only tells half of the story.
   The current maldistribution of income ensures that maldistribution of wealth will continue to worsen at an even more rapid pace than it has in the recent past. From 1982 to 2006 the share of income going to the bottom 80% of us has fallen precipitously from 48.1% to 38.6% with most of that lost income finding its way into the hands of the richest 1%. And to make things worse it is likely that the large debt burdens on the lower and middle classes due to the housing fallout along with the concurrent massive job losses will make those numbers even more skewed going into the future.
   If this was a game, the rich would have won. And perhaps that is how they see it, as a game to play and win.
   The lead-in to The Burning Blade 12.5 describes why these numbers are worrisome and it is not because the author has some deep-seated socialist desire to redistribute everyone’s wealth evenly. In fact, those who like to call anyone who points out the further skewing of the distribution of wealth and income a socialist are polluting the public discourse and preventing us from finding a prosperous solution. The truth is that highly disproportionate distributions of wealth and income are deleterious to both democracy and capitalism itself and if left unaddressed they will surely lead us toward oligarchy and chronically poor economic performance. In a strong economy, spending power in the middle and lower classes creates huge demand and without it most businesses will contract or fail. Furthermore, the richer that the wealthy get, the more control they will have over the country, and the harder it will be for anyone to get ahead no matter what they do. And neither political party appears willing to change this sorry situation.
   The current presidential administration in the United States is often accused of being socialist, but if a close look is taken at its actual accomplishments one can see an alarming trend toward the further consolidation of power and wealth in the rich and powerful. First of all, the financial bailouts that started under the Bush administration were continued under Obama, which added to the wealth of Wall Street and permitted banks to continue to do business despite being bankrupt by any honest set of accounting rules. Also, Obama’s cabinet selections showed virtually no break from the past in terms of economic philosophy, heeding the advice of experts who completely missed and then woefully underestimated the severity of the credit crunch. Additionally, over the last year the Federal Reserve has conjured nearly one and a quarter trillion dollars out of thin air, seemingly on its own authority or perhaps with the Treasury department’s approval, and used them to buy toxic mortgages from banks and other Wall Street firms, many of whom were the same ones that gave out billions in bonuses to its executives. Increasing the money supply in this way devalues the dollars that everyone holds and earns and thus operates like a stealth tax. Thus, the Federal Reserve in essence has the power to tax and redistribute wealth on a whim, and is doing so in a manner completely opposite to any notion of socialism.
   Secondly, the financial reform bill recently passed was watered down far too much by special interests to prevent another similar catastrophe from occurring and instead seems to have been crafted in such a way as to preserve the current dysfunctional system rather than force a badly needed financial house cleaning. This will not only allow the further extraction of the national wealth and income by the rich but has added several new departments to the government, expanding their power over the financial system. By contrast, no power was given directly to the people. We The People are still stuck with bankruptcy laws that permit lenders to engage in predatory practices and then enlist collection agencies to siphon off whatever income and wealth a person has when they are unfortunate enough to find themselves unable to pay their bills. If bankrupt people had been allowed to more easily walk away from burdensome loans then that would have put a stop to predatory lending and forced banks to go back to the tried and true practice of ensuring that a person has character, collateral, and capacity to pay before giving them a loan. Furthermore, our leaders feel that their rule forcing banks to keep 5% of their loans on their books will ensure that they have “skin in the game” and thus solve the problem of banks repackaging bad loans and selling them to unsuspecting pension managers. Only five percent? If that is a joke, it isn’t funny.
   Lastly, there is the centerpiece of the current administration’s accomplishments: health insurance reform, which, I believe, officially makes the United States the laughingstock of the industrialized world. At some point in the next few years all Americans will be forced to buy health insurance from private companies, with few cost controls, and anyone not able to pay for it will be eligible for some amount of assistance from the government. The result is that the private companies that are currently making a killing in the health insurance market will make even more money as they will have millions of new customers and Uncle Sam as an underwriter. Worse still is that the Federal government may end up having to raise taxes to cover the spiraling costs of medical care. Once again, power and wealth will be taken from the people and concentrated in the hands of the already wealthy and the already powerful. This is socialism in reverse.
   Of course, the rival party’s track record is no better when it comes to fueling the maldistribution of wealth in the nation although they tend to go about it in a different way. Whether it be exploiting wars to enrich oil companies and military suppliers, dismantling regulations to allow big business to enrich itself by exploiting their workers, customers, and the environment, or cutting taxes on the wealthy while working to deny or diminish the government payouts to the poor and middle class, their approach greatly enriches the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. Furthermore, when their party controlled the presidency we also saw an unprecedented expansion in government powers such as the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the legalization of torture, vast increases in domestic spying both legal and not, and, somehow, the president was given the legal authority to “disappear” anyone, anywhere in the world, if they are suspected of terrorism. Obama has done little to reverse these usurpations. And while Republicans may take power away from the government and give it to the private sector, most of that power ends up in the hands of the most powerful corporations, further consolidating power and wealth and leading us inexorably toward Corporatocracy.
   Currently a particularly pointless debate is raging about whether or not to increase government spending as a way to further stimulate the economy or decrease it as a way to cut the deficit. The main problem is that the economic system is currently dysfunctional and thus neither plan will result in a lasting recovery. Any spending that the government does will rapidly end up in the hands of the wealthy due to the current maldistribution of income, and once it is there it is unlikely to contribute much to growing the economy. Lending is being scaled back as banks see little incentive to lend money to people who can’t pay it back, even with the bankruptcy laws the way that they are. Expanding one’s business by increasing the supply of goods and services available is pointless with demand dropping due to people being too broke to afford what they used to buy. And some of the stimulus money will simply disappear as large companies write off the losses they took due to their bad investments in years past. Additionally, further borrowing, by the people and the government alike, just ensures that an even larger share of the national income will flow back into the hands of the bloated financial sector. The simple truth is being ignored: one cannot borrow one’s way out of debt.
   Which leads us to the other side of the debate: reducing the deficit. Of course, this can only be done through spending cuts because raising taxes on the wealthy is, for some reason, out of the question. Cutting spending will balance the government’s swollen books, but “austerity measures” will cut the incomes for the lower 80% even more than they already are. Government employees will be laid off or paid less and thus will buy fewer things and be less able to pay back their debts, which will drive the economy further into recession. But austerity is the direction most of the world outside of the United States seems to be going in at present. Over the last year or two many world governments tried massive stimulus programs which, while temporarily pulling their economies out of recession, did little to put them on the road to recovery. Now the reverse will be tried and it is unlikely that it will have the intended effect either. Instead, the poor will get poorer, the central banks conduct stealth bailouts to make sure that the financial firms stay solvent, and we’ll go around in a circle again, digging our hole a little deeper as we wonder why things aren’t getting any better.
   Speaking of things not getting any better, my health, fortunately enough, is doing the opposite. I am on the road to recovery once again, or so it seems, and if all goes well I should be back to where I was a year ago before the start of a rather ugly downturn. The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that is destroying my life day by day is not something that is well understood and so the treatment for it can be hit and miss. Unfortunately the treatment regimen that I was on over the last year was a “miss”. So my doctors and I have retraced our steps and I am now feeling better, cycling more, and optimistic once again. More good news is that my voice sounds as warm and textured as ever and I am going to try, once again, to work it back into shape. With any luck I will be able to get back into the recording studio and move forward on the re-recording of the vocals for “Food for the Gods”. As always, the battle wages on.
   A big ‘Hello’ goes out to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time.  This is the Fireaxe newsletter.


Ideology, Duplicity, and the Persecution Paradigm

   There’s an old adage that goes that the two things which you do not discuss in polite company are politics and religion, and anyone who’s ever discussed these topics in anything less than polite company realizes why. Many people hold very strong views on these subjects, “strong views” perhaps being a euphemism for “irrational views” or perhaps “brainwashed ravings”, and arguments over these subjects can often become quite heated, leading to anger, accusations, hurt feelings, damaged or broken relationships, and sometimes lasting hatred or lifelong grudges. The upside to holding discussions over these topics: that people might learn something; seems to pale in comparison to the downside and so it is often wise to just avoid bringing up the subjects at all.
    The reason why discussions of politics and religion get so heated is because both are ideological in nature, and we should probably also add in economics as another forbidden subject given as how it is more ideology than science these days. Many ideologies spread by making their believers virtually impervious to anything that might convince them to believe in a different way as well as making them very aggressive about winning ideological arguments, and so bringing two people together who strongly believe in different ideologies is generally a recipe for disaster. All too often the discussion will devolve into irrationality, name calling, word games, “facts” made up on the spot, and wild accusations of all sorts as emotions rise up to defend the ideology when the intellect fails to do so. These arguments can often be quite amusing to watch, and can pose an intellectual challenge in spotting logical fallacies as well as a willpower challenge in trying to keep yourself from getting dragged into such nonsense. But try not to laugh out loud if you are watching one.
   And as long as such arguments are merely jousting between wound up believers regurgitating the latest half-truths that they heard from their favorite pundit or infotainment programs then they certainly are little more than just an odd kind of sport, and equally inconsequential. However, ideologies can and do rise to prominence and when they do these ideological clashes are no longer arguments. Instead, one side is declared to be the truth and all alternatives are shouted down and silenced, using force if necessary. It is in this stage that holding a belief in something other than the ruling ideology, or simply not believing in any ideology at all, becomes an exercise in duplicity.
   It is not a simple task to behave one way and to believe another, but it is one that helps ideologies to survive when a rival is in power. Imagine if you were not able to talk or act in any way contrary to what you believed. Aside from offending people because you were unable to tell those “little white lies” that make things go smoothly you would also be unable to go along with what the ruling ideology dictates. For instance, a Christian in a Muslim world wouldn’t be found in a mosque for Friday services and would instead stay at home praying on Sunday instead of going to work. It would be easy to identify you as an unbeliever and put pressure on you either through persuasion or persecution until you changed your ways. Furthermore, you would have no privacy of thought. You would have to embrace the ruling ideology or suffer whatever punishment there was for not believing.
   Thus, being able to hide one’s beliefs is a survival advantage and many religions contain passages that implore their believers to practice their faith privately and instruct them to be modest. Christianity is notable in this regard and Jesus advises his followers to stay in their rooms when they pray, to fast without appearing dismal, to not lay up treasures for themselves, to not judge others, and to not throw their pearls before swine. To Jesus, a person’s holiness is a matter between them and their god and should not be put on display. This allows them to blend in with the crowd. When one adds in the praise Jesus extends to those who suffer from persecution and the promises he makes that they will find great rewards in heaven for persevering one can start to see how Christianity is well suited to survive and even propagate within a hostile ideology. A Christian does not necessarily need to be within a community of others who believe similarly in order to feel holy although having contact with those of a similar faith does help to reinforce their beliefs; instead, a Christian can behave piously in private and feel rewarded for doing so completely on his or her own. Christians do not need oracles to tell them what to do, or need statues to pray before, or require elaborate rituals to reinforce their beliefs, although Catholicism did adopt many of these “pagan” elements. All that a Christian really needs to practice their faith is a quiet room and either a bible or to have memorized the Lord’s Prayer. The individualistic nature of Christianity, much more so than the beliefs that came before it, is one of the reasons it has been able to spread and thrive both in ancient times and in modern ones.
   Additionally, one need not suffer from actual persecution to feel persecuted. Simply believing differently than everyone else can make one feel lonely, cast out, and hurting just for being different. And even when one is not cast out, and is pretending to be like those around them, one can feel empty inside, unable to truly enjoy being with others because one knows inside that they are not like them. This can feel like persecution, which would normally discourage individuals from believing differently than their peers, but ideologies like Christianity transform persecution into being something that validates their beliefs and makes them more dedicated to their ideology. Such as, the more that a Christian is persecuted, the more that they can relate to Jesus’ suffering, and the closer they feel they are to their savior and to heaven. Other ideologies, such as Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, champion the idea of the noble sufferer, and heroes that endure persecution and defeat only to find victory in the end can be found in numerous books, songs, and plays going back over centuries. We honor and admire those holdouts that stick to their ideals despite all opposition and we often seek to be like them. Thus, even when we are hiding our inner beliefs from others, and silently suffering because of it, we feel noble and heroic. Our suffering, channeled through an ideological prism, provides reinforcement for our defiance and we come to embrace our ideology even more.
   Today it appears that ideologies are spreading far and wide via the notion that persecution is a virtue, seemingly in harmony with the outgrowth of narcissism in our modern world. The notion of one person, or a small group, fighting nobly against the world is powerful indeed, made even more so if the rest of the world is perceived as being delusional, mislead, or conspiring against the true believers. This “persecution paradigm” is nothing new to ideologies, it being a virtually necessary component of any belief system since the rise of Monotheism, but with the advent of mass media, and especially the internet, ideologies of every stripe have been able to use this paradigm to vastly strengthen the hold they have on their believers as well as increase their ability to indoctrinate others. The idea is simple: you spread a secret truth that holds some sort of appeal for those you wish to indoctrinate using persuasive techniques well suited to your audience. This secret truth is something that can make the individual feel special for knowing it while also making them feel frightened and oppressed by some powerful force that doesn’t want the truth to be known. By spreading the “truth”, the individual will run into opposition, but the ideology holds them up as heroic if they endure it as well as promises them a bright future if they succeed. Thus they are made to do the bidding of the ideology. In this way the persecution paradigm is very much like advertising, where the individual is made to feel inadequate in some way that the product being sold can fix, except that the product being sold in this case is a belief system. Also, because a person is compelled to spread their ideology to others, and those others to more still, ideologies greatly resemble a typical multi-level marketing scheme.
   Take, for example, the idea that the global economy is on the verge of collapse and that only by investing in gold and silver can one preserve their wealth and retirement nest egg. On second thought, the prices of precious metals have been rising steadily with the increase in the money supply for the last six years and show no sign of abating. So, let’s change that to the idea that the global economy might collapse if the current set of world leaders is allowed to continue blundering their way into financial oblivion, or if you prefer a more conspiratorial perspective, if they are allowed to complete their diabolical plan to impoverish the masses and force a New World Order upon us. Now we have something juicy that ideologues can sink their teeth into, well, provided that they aren’t the ones in power. For example, when the Republican Party was in control of the U.S. Government, it was all the rage among Democrats and liberals to bash the Republicans for running massive deficits and allowing lax regulation to destroy the economy and threaten the solvency of the government. Some claimed that it was all a push for a corporate takeover of the government where human rights and the welfare state would be completely dismantled. At the time Republicans defended the spending, saying that “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter”, but now that Obama is in charge all that the Republicans can talk about is how much deficits do matter, especially Obama’s. Some even claim that it’s all part of a vast conspiracy between the Democrats, the leftist media, and the central bankers to debauch all our currencies so that they can impose socialism upon the world. Unsurprisingly many Democratic supporters who sneered at Republican deficits are defending Obama’s stimulus spending and even asking for more, a lot more.
   It’s reminiscent of the novel “1984” where people’s minds could be changed in an instant based on what they saw on television. In our case, Democrats and Republicans seem to switch roles on a number of issues, such as deficits, national security, executive power, and many others, when the political ideology in control of the government changes. This hypocrisy was vividly clear in 2000 when the Florida presidential recount mess went to the Supreme Court. The four “Democratic” Supreme Court justices, usually proponents of federal power superseding that of the state, suddenly embraced states’ rights and voted to let Florida continue its recount, while the five “Republican” Supreme Court justices cast aside their dogmatic support of states’ rights and used federal power to put a stop the recount, allowing “their” candidate to take office. That’s a 9-0 decision in favor of hypocrisy.
   And like “1984” the past is re-written by each political ideology to support its policies and disparage those of the other party. Of course, political ideologues do not actually throw inconvenient facts down the memory hole and physically replace them with ones that fit the current crisis (although websites have been known to surreptitiously update and backdate their pages), but they will explain the past in a novel new way that fits their current policy and propaganda aims, hoping that their constituency has forgotten the salient details of the issues of long ago and accepts the new explanation as honest and complete. To be honest I thought that the “memory hole” part of “1984” was ludicrous when I first read about it. The idea that people’s memories could be so weak and malleable struck me as impossible. But if you see the way that readers and viewers are bombarded with the same, carefully crafted mantras over and over as well as hit with one new “scandal” after another without being given enough facts to truly understand and absorb what they have been told about, you realize that unless one is close to any given issue it is difficult to come away with anything beyond memorizing the oft repeated sound bites and getting the impression that one ideology is right and all others are wrong. Worse still, believers are craving more of this ideologically spun reporting and editorializing since it is both entertaining and vindicating. As a result they let their critical thinking skills lapse and surrender their memories, trading them in for an ideological ego boost. And as the political parties’ ideological solutions are sold their believers will spread the word, donate their time and money, and cast their votes for the party which has convinced them that they will fix everything.
    Let’s get back to the idea of an impending global financial collapse. Republicans and Democrats have both used the notion to their advantage but it has a much broader appeal than to just the mainstream political ideologies. All ideologies, political, economic, and religious, can seize on this catastrophic fear as a source to sell their own ideologically driven agenda. Socialists are proclaiming the failure of Capitalism and demanding the equitable distribution of wealth while Libertarians are declaring that central banks and government regulations should be abolished, Keynesians are insisting on massive government stimulus while Austrian School Economists are recommending that the business cycle be allowed to run its course, and some religions are speaking of eschewing materialism for spiritual fulfillment while others are declaring that the end times are upon us and it is time for us to pay for our sins. In the past these views would have remained mostly inaccessible to the general public, but with the internet everyone is just one mouse click away from digging up convincing cases of all stripes supporting the views of any given ideology no matter how far it is off the beaten path. One can even find thousands of blogs written by individuals espousing their own unique views, such as The Burning Blade, and thus be exposed to some very whacky ideas.
   This is not to say that every opinion given for every sensitive issue is skewed to support an ideological agenda. Truth does exist. But sorting out the truth from the half-truths, the lies, and the spin can be a difficult and laborious task which might even lie outside the scope of human intelligence to solve. One way to determine if something you read or see is tainted is to determine whether or not it is appealing to a particular way of thinking. In other words, is an essay or editorial or news story trying to sell you on a particular ideology? In some cases the bias is obvious but in others it is not and so that method can be unreliable as a way to find the truth. Another way is to take an honest look at the way that you feel when you are exposed to a new perspective and ask yourself if you are being asked to embrace a way of thinking that is pitting you as an outnumbered champion against a world of clueless fools or evil conspirators. If so then you are probably falling victim to a persecution paradigm of the kind often used by ideologies to indoctrinate and motivate their believers. And it’s not a bad idea to take a good hard look at yourself and your current beliefs to see if you’ve bought into a number of persecution paradigms already. If you feel oppressed and isolated then you should consider stepping back and taking a more dispassionate view of the world. You might discover that you are embracing a number of ideas that are causing you more trouble than they are worth.
   Additionally, not all persecution paradigms are part of ideologies and all manner of wild ideas from conspiracy theories to hidden secrets to eccentric views of how the world really works stand ready to exploit people who are conditioned to embrace them. Ideological conditioning creates a lasting need to view the world in such combative terms and so people who have broken free from their former faith or who no longer feel threatened by their former foes will often seek out new persecution paradigms in order to fill the void. Simply put, those conditioned to suffer and/or fight are always in need of an enemy or oppressor and will often seek them out if none readily present themselves. Furthermore, these paradigms can be very psychologically rewarding. Victories against such impossible odds make one feel heroic and powerful whether it is when they win an argument, spread the word, write an inflammatory diatribe, protest what they are vehemently against, or perhaps undertake violent or illegal actions to further the cause. And when the believer loses or doesn’t fight, the suffering reinforces the paradigm by underscoring the idea that the believer is being persecuted, unjustly of course since they believe that they hold the truth.
   Thus, people can be drawn deeper and deeper into embracing these persecution paradigms. Ideological reinforcement of the special status of heroes and martyrs make people vulnerable to their appeal and when they fight against their many foes they can often end up more adamant believers than before. But psychological reinforcement through victories isn’t always enough, especially for those who choose not to fight, so believers often find reinforcement by immersing themselves in the paradigm almost as if they were part of a cult. Religious cults use isolation to control the environment around a new recruit so that they can inject their odd ideas into the recruit’s head without opposition, eventually wearing them down and getting them to accept their new way of seeing the world. But believers seeking psychological rewards will impose a similar isolation regimen on themselves, blocking out all contrary sources of information and focusing only on those that support their existing beliefs. They become true believers, addicted to their ideology, and pour over “scriptures” day after day. Some become news or internet “junkies”, obsessively seeking out data which supports their views so that they can feel better about themselves and perhaps use those new “facts” as weapons against their foes in arguments.
   Of course, you might never know that someone close to you secretly harbors a very odd view of the world. Not everyone fights conspicuously for their beliefs and some don’t fight at all. Many have learned to just keep quiet, appearing to all the world that they are just like everyone else, mastering the art of duplicity while they indulge their need for persecution. It makes one wonder just how haunted we are by fears of some sinister force or impending doom. How many of us fear the devil, the terrorists, the Jews, the bankers, the illuminati, the New World Order, global warming, Socialism, guns, gun control, U.S. imperialism, growing Chinese influence, economic catastrophe, alien abductions, secret government experiments, the corporate takeover of government, the government takeover of corporations, moral debauchery, the Moral Majority, drugs and gangs, dangerous pharmaceuticals, losing our health coverage, paying for everyone else’s health coverage, or what others will think of us if they knew what we truly believed? And how many of us see ourselves as being on a crusade to change these things for the better? Of course, I’m not saying that all of these fears are misguided and that championing a cause makes you a dupe, I’m just wondering how much of a role fear, especially irrational fear, plays as a part of our consciousness. I feel that perhaps we feel a great deal of fear on a daily basis but that we are so accustomed to it that we do not even realize how much it guides our thoughts and behaviors.
   And so it seems that we are food for the gods and that our fears are what they dine upon.
   They appear to be very well fed.



The Fireaxe theory - Outline

I. Basics - well established theories

1. Emergent systems - that complex systems can arise from the interactions of simple things
2. Natural selection - that organisms mutate, proliferate, and compete, with the "losers" becoming extinct
3. Behavioral science - that neurological systems, at their core, function according to the rules of conditioning
4. Entropy - that within a closed system, entropy always increases, which limits the amount of transformation that can occur

II. Extensions

1. That consciousness is an emergent system: a complex system arising in the human mind from the interaction of simple neurons.
2. That civilizations are emergent systems arising from the physical interactions of humans whether conscious or not.
3. That ideologies are emergent systems arising from the psychological interactions of conscious humans
4. That emergent systems follow the laws of natural selection in much the same way that organisms do
5. That the universe is, by definition, a closed system

III. Contentions regarding consciousness

1. That consciousness is a survival advantage
2. That being a member of an ideology is a survival advantage
3. That making its members conscious is a necessary part of an ideology's survival
4. That consciousness is created by instilling within a person a permanent sense of inadequacy - in essence a state of constant fear
5. That the deeper the sense of inadequacy, the stronger the person is motivated  - generally to serve their ideology

IV. Contentions regarding ideological struggle

1. That ideologies fight for survival using many methods including, but not limited to, war and enslavement
2. That aggression is a survival advantage
3. That survival in the short term outweighs survival in the long term prompting ideologies to pursue shortsighted and sometimes suicidal strategies
4. That aggressive ideologies make members of rival ideologies feel afraid and inadequate which in response become more aggressive, thus creating a vicious circle
5. That aggressive ideologies must grow or face internal strife as their aggressive members feed on each other to satisfy their needs
6. That internal struggle results in ideological mutation

V. Contentions regarding the future

1. That internal strife is inevitable since the laws of entropy imply that continuous growth is not sustainable
2. That the abstract bases for ideologies transcend mortality and thus suicidal aggression is not restrained by fear of death
3. That technological progress has made the destruction of the world through ideological warfare possible and will continue to make it easier to effect
4. That ideological mutation will eventually result in the creation of a suicidal ideology which will destroy the human race in the attempt to save it


How to order Fireaxe CDs:

   Ordering Fireaxe CD's is an informal process as I am selling them personally out of my apartment. Simply mail me a letter which contains the following:

1. The names of the CDs that you want to buy.
2. The address where you want the CDs sent.
3. Cash, a check, or a money order for the total cost.

   Or if you want to do PayPal, just send me the answers to 1 and 2 above in an e-mail and I'll tell you where to send the money.
   Here is a price list.  The first number is the cost for U.S. based customers, the second is for outside the U.S.  The prices include shipping and handling.

Eternal Devotion      $6   $9
    to the Dark Goddess
Food for the Gods:      $12   $15 - Sold out
Victory or Death      $5   $8 (free with any purchase)
Lovecraftian Nightmares   $5   $8 - Sold out
A Dream of Death      $3   $6 - Sold out

   Send everything to:

   Brian Voth
   1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
   Chula Vista, CA 91911    USA

   If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, any one of the single CDs (Not "Food for the Gods") is free of charge in exchange for the review.  In this case all I need is a request by e-mail.  Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your magazine with the review in it when it is done.  If you want to exchange CDs, tapes, or stuff of equivalent value, make these requests via e-mail and we'll arrange a trade.
   The CDs come with a booklet filled with awesome art, a letter about the project, and some information about the CD which can also be found on the Fireaxe site.
   Lastly, if you want to print and distribute Fireaxe CDs I can send you an additional CD which contains tiff files for all the booklets, tray cards, and labels for each project.  The tiff disk is free so just say the word.


The Future

   Unfortunately 2009 was a total bust for Fireaxe as far as recording is concerned.  Health issues sidelined projects scheduled for completion during the year and other than the guitarist taking the opportunity to get a whole lot better with his axe, nothing was accomplished.  With any luck 2009 will be the only year that went for naught.
   In 2010, Fireaxe will once again focus on remaking the past. First of all, "Food for the Gods" has sold out and will be re-mastered before a second printing run is made.  Also, it will be re-mixed with the vocal rerecorded for much better sound quality.  When all is said and done it should sound as good as "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess. Secondly, the first Fireaxe CD, "A Dream of Death" will be getting a complete overhaul before it is re-released.  Everything will be rerecorded using much more modern equipment and with everything that I've learned over the last ten years going into it to make it better than ever.  Also, since it was recorded at a time when CDs had a 74 minute limit instead of the current 80, I will add six more minutes of music to the work in which I will explore a number of musical themes as well as add a killer new song written by Octavio Ramos.  So it looks like a year of sequels for Fireaxe. I'll probably leave the names of the CDs the same but I've been kicking around a ideas for alternate titles, such as "Food for the Gods - Regurgitated", "Desert for the Gods", and "A Dream of Undeath", "The Morning After Death", or "I'm Dreaming of a White Strait-Jacket - a Fireaxe Christmas in Hell".
   My goal is to deliver music to whoever wants to hear it in whatever way is necessary.  Whatever the market demands, I will supply, but I do want to avoid the mass marketing channel.  Exposure is fine, but in the modern business, the substance of the music must be altered to match the demands of the marketplace.  This would totally defeat the purpose of why I write music in the first place.  I write music because it is a way to express my emotions.  What I both think and feel goes into the songs.  That is the power, Fireaxe is the channel, and any diversion diminishes the emotive effect.  Thus I try to avoid such diversions. That is how art should be.


Rights to duplicate Fireaxe materials

   Currently Fireaxe is not for profit.  I sell the single CDs for $5 or $6, $12 for "Food for the Gods" since it is three CDs, which covers the production and mailing costs.  For CDs sent out of the country, I'll have to charge an extra $2 per disk to cover the additional mailing cost. If you write reviews or put samples on your website I'll give you a CD for free.  Since I am not making any money with the current recordings, you are free to make duplicates of them to distribute as long as you obey the following guidelines:

1. You can only sell the duplications for the price of the medium or less, plus any delivery cost.  You are not allowed to make any profit with the music.
2. You should tell me how many copies you gave out and who got them so I can keep track.  Also, if they have an e-mail address I'd like that as well so I can add them to the mailing list.
3. You are likewise free to adorn any webpages or duplications with the gifs and jpgs on my website as long as you include an obvious link back to my website.  This includes putting Fireaxe song samples on your site as well.
4. You are free to play any Fireaxe songs (in unaltered form) provided you are an unsigned band without a marketing tie-in.  You are not allowed to record those songs onto anything that you will sell.
5. Do not fall in love with the Dark Goddess.  I mean, seriously.  She's the goddess of death after all.  It's not a good idea.  Furthermore, do not have sexual fantasies involving the Dark Goddess.  She does not have a womb and thus lacks the entrance to that particular organ.  Also, attempting to use other entrances will likely result in castration.  Again, it's not a good idea.
6. You are vehemently discouraged from doing anything depicted in the CD "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" such as: torturing someone, lying for corporate profit, rationalizing greed, beating, raping, and murdering your girlfriend, destroying the lives of those who've wronged you and their families, corrupting the government, trying to kill yourself with pleasure, kidnapping and ransoming people, committing atrocities, cutting someone's face to pieces, destroying half the world as revenge, and especially stating that any of these things are okay because "God is on your side."  Please, think before you act.
7. You are food for the gods.
8. You are required to crank the song "Hounds of Tindalos" as loud as you can as often as you can.  It’s your only defense against THEM.  Be warned, they come through angles.  Note that the CD is round.  Are your speaker cabinets square?
9. Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, Hastur the Unspeakable, and all other mythos creatures are purely the inventions of Lovecraft and other fiction authors.  None of it is real, at least that’s what I’m going to say in court if you try to sue me for destruction of your property, house, city, or soul as a result of listening to the “Lovecraftian Nightmares” CD too much.
10.  You are free to play "The Rack" in school or church or any other institution bent on crushing your will and turning you into a mindless zombie slave of the corporate dominated world. Try not to develop a bad attitude about it.
11. You are not free to commit suicide while listening to any Fireaxe song.  I'm sorry, I'll have to prosecute.  On a serious note, if you are thinking about doing it, please e-mail or call me if you have no one else to talk to.  When I was in my teens the album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd used to really get to me. Just hearing songs like "Comfortably Numb", and "Hey You" would get me pretty depressed and mildly suicidal.  I'm just trying to say that I've been there. If my music is having that effect on you, please get in touch.  You aren't alone.

   The gist of it is that you can do just about anything with the music as long as you don't profit from it and that I get some sort of credit for having written it.  I'm open to any methods of distributing my music, such as compilation tapes or CDs, radio play, or recording label distribution.  However, you will need my direct permission to do so or some kind of legal agreement.


Ending Comments

   Any comments or questions are welcome.  If anyone has any updates on their projects, I'd like to hear from you.  I know there are a few people out there working on some cool things that I haven't heard from in a while.  Drop me an e-mail regarding how you're getting along.

                  Brian

The Burning Blade 13.6
October 03, 2010, 12:19:16 AM
When I was young I used to be so terrified of death,
I made misguided choices and believed such foolish things…


The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 13.6

October 2, 2010

neptune.net/~bev/Fireaxe.html


“Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a ‘reductive vision of the person and his destiny’ (Caritas in Veritate, 29).”
                  - Pope Benedict XVI, 2010


“For eight months we have been waging a heroic battle against the Communist threat to our Volk, the decomposition of our culture, the subversion of our art, and the poisoning of our public morality. We have put an end to denial of God and abuse of religion.”

“We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.”
                  - Adolf Hitler, 1933


   It is not surprising to find misinformation, ignorance, and bigotry about atheism in internet forums and chat rooms where true believers will repeat the lies that they have heard or make up false arguments out of whole cloth in order to blame non-belief for some of the greatest atrocities of the twentieth century. But it is surprising to find the pope doing precisely the same thing as he is supposed to be an authority on matters of religion. His poorly chosen words above are especially galling considering his own boyhood involvement with the Nazi party as well as the shameful involvement of the church he represents. How closely aligned were the Nazis and the Catholic Church? Well, the pope is correct that the Catholic Church was persecuted in Nazi Germany, to a degree, but it was also very much complicit in his rise to power. The following gallery shows us how Catholicism and Nazism were quite compatible and how the “infallible pope” has erred in linking godlessness and Nazism.

nobeliefs.com/nazis.htm

   I especially like the pictures with priests giving the “Heil Hitler” salute.
   And of the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews one would be remiss not to recall the persecution of the Jewish people by the Catholic Church for centuries with the Spanish Inquisition bring perhaps the most obvious example of what happens when religion is allowed to run amok. Hitler’s persecution of the Jews wasn’t due to any atheistic leanings but rather his embrace of Jesus, whom he recast as an Aryan fighting against the Jews for the soul of the church. The Christian tale of Jesus’ persecution at the hands of the Jews has been the font of anti-Semitism for centuries which both formed the basis for Hitler’s hatred towards the Jewish people and allowed the holocaust to take place. Hitler even came to believe that the Jews were responsible for corrupting the Catholic Church, which was one reason why Hitler eventually broke with the church and persecuted priests. Furthermore, Hitler even advocated “Positive Christianity”, an ideological mutation of the religion in which he removed the things he found repulsive and added a racist, pro-Aryan and anti-Jewish slant. Hitler was no atheist, but instead he appeared to be forging his own version of Christianity, purging it, and the world, of the Jews.
   So we have a pope who has shown his intellectual prowess to be little better than the average internet crank when it comes to attacking atheism. That alone is disappointing enough, but if he wishes to lecture us all about virtue he’d be well advised to remove the log from his own eye and clean his own filthy house first lest he appear to be just another hypocritical religious authority of the kind that we have seen far too much of these days. Still, his argument isn’t without merit, but it appears that an atheist will have to make his case for him since he is not up to the task.
   If one wants to argue with an atheist about which “belief system” is responsible for the most deaths the place to start is not with Nazism but with Communism, specifically the reign of the Soviet Union’s most notorious atheist, Joseph Stalin. Although exact figures are difficult to come by, the estimates are that somewhere between ten to twenty million Soviets were either executed, sent to gulags, or died due to other forms of repression or famine during Stalin’s rule. During the 1930s Stalin persecuted Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists, leveling their churches, arresting or killing thousands of priests, monks, and nuns, and making public worship extremely rare in the Soviet Union. And although Stalin did make concessions to Christians during the end of World War Two it seems that his purpose was to boost support for the war effort rather than an indication that he was sympathetic to a divine cause. Thus, atheism holds the record for most mass murders, right?
   Atheists counter this argument by stating that Stalin’s purges were about consolidating his hold on power and destroying his enemies rather than being some sort of atheistic attempt at spiritual purification. Stalin did not just target religion, he targeted any organization that could rally support against him and threaten his rule. When one looks at the vast array of ethnicities, nationalities, religions, and political beliefs amongst those who were persecuted the real reason for the purges becomes very clear. Stalin was jealously protecting his control over the Soviet Union against anything that could serve as a source of unity and opposition. Religion was merely one such source which he felt had to be destroyed.
   Furthermore, blaming atheism for Stalin’s mass murders is not analogous to blaming religion for the purging of non-believers and heretics throughout history. The reason for this is that religions have doctrines which either specifically command their believers to purge the faithless and spread their ideology across the world, or at least give the more fanatical believers the impression that their god or gods condone such actions. There is no equivalent doctrine in atheism proclaiming that non-believers should purge the world of believers or try to deconvert them all. In fact, there is no atheist doctrine at all. Atheism comes down to a simple definition: an atheist does not believe that any god exists. Atheism is nothing more and nothing less.
   An atheist does not have to believe in Evolution, in Abiogenesis, in the Big Bang theory, in Communism, in Marxism, in Materialism, in Secular Humanism, in Social Darwinism, or that everything from ghosts to UFOs to witchcraft is all a bunch of nonsense. There is no set of atheistic beliefs to accept, no atheist doctrine to follow, no atheist church or prayer group to attend, and no atheist rituals to perform. From this perspective it is clear that one cannot blame atheism for anyone’s behavior. Atheism does not make any demands of atheists.
   And exactly how an atheist arrives at his or her conclusion about the existence of a god or gods is entirely dependent on the atheist. Some have been convinced by purely emotional reasons while some have made careful study of the intellectual arguments involved in the debate and reached their position through sheer logic. There is no standard argument which atheists must accept but there are a number of common arguments supporting the atheist position which many do. Of course, atheists are under no obligation to accept any one of them. These simple facts put the lie to any claims that atheism is a belief system, a religion, or an ideology. There is no system, no doctrine, and no rules, just the absence of belief in one particularly extraordinary claim: an extraordinary claim which is not backed up by extraordinary evidence.
   In fact, there is no objective evidence at all to support the contention of a divine order to the universe. Oddly enough this is something that many atheists and theists, at least those theists who are well versed in their own religion, agree upon. Although believers see “evidence” of a god’s design in the universe everywhere they look, they understand that the evidence is subjective, not objective, and that this “evidence” rests purely upon their faith in the divine. Without their faith there is no proof, there are only facts which could support a number of different theories and beliefs. So many atheists and theists agree that there is a lack of evidence for any god, but where they disagree is on whether or not faith is an acceptable substitute for proof when it comes to discovering the nature of the universe. Many theists would say that their faith adds meaning and purpose to their lives and that without it there is no reason to be while many atheists would say that if they lowered their standard of proof to the point where they would believe in a god that they could not deny a great many unsupported notions, such as that Bigfoot exists, that Elvis is still alive, and that aliens have visited the earth in Roswell, New Mexico. Simply put, a theist has faith in the divine while an atheist does not. From this perspective a number of things are clear: that atheism is not a belief system but rather a lack of one, that atheism does not require faith but a lack of faith in the divine, and that believers trade their skepticism about a god for the psychological benefits that their ideology provides.
   Furthermore, being an atheist does not imply that one is without morality and thus is more prone to committing mass murder than a theist would be. First of all, believing in a god does not necessarily stop people from committing murder, and history is replete with examples of people killing in the name of their god or killing because their god told them to do so. Also, statistically speaking, atheists are less likely to commit crimes than theists are, but that could be due to secondary factors such as the fact that atheists are generally more educated and affluent than theists. And thirdly, atheists can indeed be very moral people, even more so than theists, and hold firmly to ethics and principles while living lives of honor and dignity. Of course, an atheist’s morals do not stem from his or her atheism but rather from the same sources where everyone else acquires their morals: from their parents and family members, from books they’ve read, and by emulating the people whom they admire the most. There is nothing within atheism that tells one to treat people well or treat them poorly. Those decisions are up to the individual. And thus, if any ideology is to blame for Stalin’s mass murders it is Communism rather than any notion of “atheist extremism”. The infallible pope is simply wrong.
   Speaking of the Soviet Union, Stalin, and World War Two, another thing that should be pointed out is that the tired quote about there being “no atheists in foxholes” should have been permanently interred alongside the many communist atheists who fought valiantly and died defending their nation against the Nazis. Stalingrad was the site of what could very well be one of the greatest military victories in history if not the bloodiest and hardest fought. For months Soviet soldiers endured some of the worst conditions that humans have ever had to fight in, worse even than the horrors of trench warfare in World War One, and though starving, crawling through sewers, and living in a bombed out hellhole of a city they not only survived but killed thousands of Germans and denied them control over a vitally important city. The Soviet victory at Stalingrad is said to be the turning point of World War Two and Hitler himself declared after the loss that the god of war had gone over to the other side. Stalingrad was one big foxhole, filled with Soviet atheists, who won.
   America has also had numerous atheists serve in its armed forces with distinction, the admirably patriotic Pat Tillman being perhaps the most famous of them. There is even a monument for atheist soldiers in Alabama…

mindspring.com/~alutiiq/atheists-in-foxholes.html

   And I know from personal, first hand experience that one does not need to believe in a god to face and accept death.
   People risk and often sacrifice their lives for a variety of causes: family, country, revenge, and ideology - god based and not; and to hold to the belief that the only reason why someone would be brave in the face of death is that they have faith in a divine entity is not only dead wrong but gravely insulting to those who have sacrificed on your behalf for other, more compelling reasons. So please, believers of the world, do not try to paint the world with a broad religious brush and assume that gods and religion are the prime motivators for all noble human endeavors. And please do not be like the pope in casting a lack of belief as being the crucible of tyranny and atrocity that leads to a truncated version of man. That line of thinking leads only to bigotry and a dangerous form of ignorance which too often leads to division, persecution, and self-destruction.
   Speaking of self-destruction, my health has been doing anything but, continuing its surprising and pleasant upturn over the last few months. When one’s body has been brought low by billions of angry parasites there is simply no quick fix that can cure one’s ills, and the tenacious nature of these organisms makes getting rid of them no easy task. Over the years I’ve taken several courses of antibiotics, antifungals, and anivirals, all giving me some relief for a time but none able to bring me back to anything near full health. The causes of my illness are still not well understood and relapses happen over and over again, but my current treatment regime is working well and I am making solid, objectively measured progress. I need to go slow though, but slow is working, and I am just as frustrated as you are that I cannot just take a pill and feel better overnight. Unfortunately, I’m fully aware that I may never get back to full strength and I may eventually end up having to abandon the musical projects that have given me so much joy. Chronic illnesses seem to run in my family and I may be the latest victim in mine, but as long as I am alive I will fight. Please be patient. And, as always, the battle continues.
   A big ‘Hello’ goes out to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time.  This is the Fireaxe newsletter.


Awash in a Sea of Failed Ideologies

   Once again an election year looms in the United States, one that may likely be viewed as a referendum on the Obama presidency. The outlook doesn’t look good for the president as polls are showing his approval rating sinking by the month and are also predicting that candidates from the rival party are likely to do well enough to take control over both houses of congress. It appears clear that Obama’s plan for reviving America has failed, at least in the opinion of a majority of voters, and that the country is again wanting change.
   It certainly hasn’t helped Obama’s case that the rival party has marched in near lock step against him, cobbling together enough senators to filibuster a rather large amount legislation that his party has tried to pass through congress. For those who aren’t aware, a filibuster allows a mere forty-one percent of the Senate to block any legislation from passing regardless of how the House of Representatives or the president feels about it. Senate Republicans have used the filibuster tactic roughly twice as often as any party has done in the past and it has made quite a mockery out of our democracy. Majority rule no longer applies when a minority has virtual veto power and compromising with the few opposition members who are willing to “cross the aisle” has come at serious costs.
   The filibuster threat has forced the majority party to water down its legislation and make sweet deals to moderate senators and special interest groups in order to get any kind of legislation passed, the mess that is health care reform being the most egregious example of this backroom process. Those in parliamentary democracies understand this problem well since it is often the case that the ruling party requires the solidarity of one or more smaller parties, who may represent less than five percent of the voters, in order to pass any laws. This gives those smaller parties a disproportionately large amount power to demand that any legislation be changed to meet their demands. As a result, anything that does get passed can often end up somewhere between fatally compromised and incoherent. How is this democracy thing supposed to work again?
   And so, Obama’s grand liberal ideas have ended up looking quite moderate and mundane after being compromised to the point where they could be passed by sixty percent of the Senate. His stimulus package that was supposed to put Americans to work building up our crumbling infrastructure and funding ground-breaking technology ended up being mostly tax cuts, aid to states, and relief for the unemployed and out of work. His universal health care initiative turned into mandated insurance coverage without sufficient regulation to hold down costs or prevent the insurance companies from gouging their customers for all that we are worth. And his financial reform package was watered down so much that it is questionable if it can even prevent the same problems from occurring that caused the recent devastation let alone guard against the coming crisis due to runaway derivatives creation. Given his record of achievement Obama is a centrist, one who can package liberal ideas with conservative compromises and do so in a way that appeases corporate interests, yet the rival party has somehow managed to paint him as a socialist and block much of his agenda. Oddly enough it appears that their obstructionist strategy is going to work.
   This is quite a comeback for the rival Republican Party which looked dead in the water after President Bush’s dreadful second term in office. Like many failed ideologies, the Republican Party underwent ideological mutation, with part of it splitting off into the “tea party” movement which attracted many libertarians and a few liberals into its angry ranks. In recent elections the tea party movement has risen up to challenge and defeat several mainstream Republican candidates and is making their voices heard. The tea party movement is not a third party though. In the United States, candidates from so-called “third parties” (those who aren’t Democrats or Republicans) have essentially no hope of getting elected since they must win a majority of the votes in their district. Third parties are usually much too small to challenge the big two and thus candidates with unusual views are compelled to run as either Democrats or Republicans and attempt to beat that party’s mainstream candidate in the party’s primary election. If they do that then they are assured of winning the votes of the hard core members of their party, which would put them far ahead of any third party candidates as well as give them a chance at being elected. Yes, our political system in the United States is highly inflexible and is dominated by two behemoth parties which greatly reduce our choices. This fact helps explain why too many Americans tend to look at every issue as being left versus right despite there being many perspectives from which to view and debate politics.
   The “tea party” movement is not an entirely coherent organization and thus is difficult to succinctly describe, but it appears to be mostly Republican in nature with a very intense hatred of government. Their agenda centers around removing government intervention from everyone’s lives, most notably in the form of lowering taxes, cutting spending, and reducing regulation, except in the area of national security, where they want more military spending, tighter law enforcement, and a crackdown on illegal immigration. It is strongly nationalistic in nature, appealing to notions of patriotism, military strength, and sometimes xenophobia where “others” such as Hispanics, Blacks, Muslims, Jews, and gays are quietly or openly attacked as being forces which are destroying the country. Early tea party protests featured notable extremist positions such as people accusing Obama of being a secret Muslim and that his Hawaiian birth certificate has been falsified. This made them look quite crazy and made them easy targets for critics to disparage and ignore. However there was, and still is, a very large amount of anger in the country, mostly concerning the generally bi-partisan bailouts of banks, insurance companies, and automakers as well as the poor performance of the economy despite of all of the stimulus, and this anger has galvanized and focused the tea party movement to support harsh austerity measures to reign in government spending and taxation. The widespread anger has drawn large numbers of supporters into their ranks. In the process the “lunatic fringe” of the tea party movement has mostly been marginalized since their views detract from the movement as a whole.
   The tea party movement is a perfect example of how ideologies are born and then transform as they gain popularity and seek to grow. The tea party movement began during the Bush presidency after the TARP law was passed which loaned roughly seven hundred billion dollars to banks to keep them solvent. The U.S. has already lost over sixty billion dollars on this “investment” and could lose nearly two-hundred billion when all is said and done. For many who despised what the government had been doing for years, it was the last straw. Protests against this unpopular measure began in earnest. The tea party movement grew behind the presidential candidacy of Ron Paul who is very libertarian and believes that the Federal Reserve should be abolished along with many government programs which he feels are unnecessary. The tea party movement likely got its name when thousands of coordinated supporters sent a message to Washington by donating to Ron Paul’s presidential election fund on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. At that point the tea party movement was mainly a reaction against government intrusion and control in the form of bailouts and police state measures as well as anger at government inaction against illegal immigration. It was common to find both liberal and conservative speakers at tea party movement events with both sides angry about the overreach of the Bush administration. However, once Obama was elected the movement became virulently anti-Obama, with racist, anti-gay, and right-wing extremist views coming to the fore. In this way it gathered in a lot of Republican voters who were angry about the Democrats’ victory but it alienated many liberals who instead decided to put their faith in Obama to undo Bush’s more egregious policies, which he hasn’t. Also, many conservatives were put off by the extremism of the tea party movement as well, becoming rather disturbed by what they were seeing in the protests, and some of them have disowned the movement as being misguided and fanatical.
   Nonetheless the movement picked up steam, especially during the national debate about health care reform, helped in no small way by disinformation and outright lies being spread about the legislation through television, radio, and internet media outlets. It was also greatly assisted by Obama’s bailout of GM and Chrysler as well as his programs to assist people who were behind on their mortgage payments and to extend unemployment benefits. The idea that hard working, struggling Americans were being asked to pay for their neighbors’ mortgages, their unemployment, their health care, and for auto union worker’s pensions stirred up a lot of populist anger. In the view of many tea partiers, and of conservatives in general, Obama’s socialistic proposals drag down hard working people and support the lazy and irresponsible. It all seemed like just another bailout. And while Obama’s stimulus bill did boost the economy out of the recession, at least on paper, continued economic weakness fanned the fires of the common American, many of whom joined the tea party movement to protest Obama’s failures.
   Economic concerns have united the tea party movement and other issues have been mostly pushed aside. The fringe and fanatical elements are still associated with the movement but the tea party agenda is almost purely about government spending, taxation, and regulation. A good deal of hay can be made about some of their candidates’ more extremist positions, but when one looks at the “Contract from America”, which summarizes what the tea party movement stands for, one sees little that wouldn’t enjoy broad Republican support as well as attract many Independent voters. Gone are lunatic fringe references to birth certificates, death panels, and the idea that Obama is coming to take away our guns. This development shows how this “splinter ideology” is maturing as a movement, widening its appeal to the mainstream and downplaying the wacky elements in order to attract more support.
   Because of the way politics works in the United States, several of the tea party candidates who won Republican primaries are going to lose to Democrats due to the fact that many of them have some rather extremist views. The tea party has ended up somewhat to the right of mainstream Republicans and thus Independent voters may lean towards the Democratic candidates even if they favor change. However, the movement appears to be strong enough to decide a number of close contests even if their candidate did not win the Republican ticket, thus allowing Republicans to sweep to victory in November. Their voices will be heard.
   As an ideology, the tea party movement may end up being absorbed by the Republican Party as it seems close to being currently. The Republican Party would end up changed as a result, having to become more militant in order to accommodate the tea party supporters, and thus complete the ideological mutation process. This remains to be seen however as documents such as the “Contract from America” and the recently released “A Pledge to America” by the Republican Party break virtually no new ground when it comes to traditional Republican party ideals. Tax cuts and deregulation have been staples of the Republican platform for decades, and also ones that they have delivered upon more often than not. Two more tea party demands, cutting spending and downsizing the government, have been promises broken by the Republican Party for decades, and if the Republicans take over congress and do not succeed in reducing spending, the tea party movement may vent their anger in the voting booths in future elections and replace more moderate Republicans with tea party movement candidates. It is even possible that they may break away completely and form a new political party if Republicans are seen as being too willing to compromise with the Democrats over the issues that the tea party movement is passionate about.
   Curiously, the ideological mutation occurring in the Republican Party isn’t that it is mutating into something new but simply turning back the clock and embracing ideals which worked in the past, but which will not work in the future. Under the Bush administration, Republican ideology was very much Objectivist in nature, an ideology of deregulation and laissez-faire economics which is failing spectacularly in the ongoing financial crisis as well as causing serious damage in other areas where appropriate oversight is lacking or absent. The Republicans are seeking to break with the unpopular Bush over his bailouts and expansion of government, but still they continue to embrace Objectivism, claiming that it hasn’t failed and seeking to pin most of the blame for the current financial crisis on what little government regulation still exists. Instead of a deregulated and fraudulent Wall Street being responsible for the housing bubble and crash they say that it was mostly due to the government’s intervention in the housing market through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These free-market apologists are quite misguided, but true believers often are.
   What the Republicans seem to want is to go back to the Reagan era which features tax cuts and more spending on the military, only with a balanced budget this time around, which is a problem because Reagan had to borrow trillions of dollars to pay for his tax cuts and military spending. Thus, the proposed Republican platform of reducing spending will take tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars out of the pockets of the poor and middle class and their pledge to cut taxes will give that money mainly to the upper class and the rich. This will only further skew the maldistribution of wealth in the country and make the current economic situation worse. The small businesses that Republicans pander to endlessly are only going to hire more people when the demand for their products and services increases, and demand can only increase if their potential customers have money to spend. The Republican’s plan will take money away from those who will spend it and support small businesses, thus guaranteeing lackluster economic growth. Over the last few decades the upper class and the rich have secured a historically large share of the nation’s wealth and income, mostly due to outsourcing jobs overseas, “insourcing” jobs (hiring foreign workers on visas and paying them less than the domestic workers whom they replaced), an endless supply of cheap labor from illegal immigration, and the wealth extraction by financial firms which now account for 36% of all corporate profits compared to their historical average of around 10%. The money accumulated by the wealthy somehow needs to find its way into the hands of the poor and middle class, as salary not as more loans, in order to get demand going once again but Republicans seem to believe that when the wealthy are given money that they create new jobs. Reality has shown otherwise. Over the decades we’ve seen that even profitable businesses are prone to lay people off just to increase their bottom line, which in turn increases executives’ salaries as well as boosts the dividends given to shareholders. And unless demand escalates so much as to make new hiring necessary, new positions will simply not be opened up. This is why the recovery has stalled, the supply side is healthy and strong but the demand side is not. Thus, the data is quite clear, supply side economics has been a bonanza for the wealthy, but a disaster for the rest of us. Reaganomics has failed.
   Which brings us to another failed ideology: the Keynesian theory of economics; which Democrats claim pulled the United States out of the Great Depression. Keynesian economics is based around the idea that the government should intervene in the economy to smooth out the business cycle which tends to run from boom to bust and back again. Both booms and busts cause problems for an economic system, such as widespread unemployment during recessions and misallocations of capital during booms. Keynesians believe that when the economy is growing too fast the government should act as a brake: raising taxes, spending less, and running a surplus which it sets aside for a rainy day. Likewise, when the economy is in a recession, the government should act as a throttle: reducing taxes, spending more, running a deficit, and spending the money saved during the boom times. In theory this sounds wonderful, adding stability to the economy so that recessions are mild or avoided altogether. But in practice governments have behaved as if they are always in a recession, constantly spending more or taxing less in order to appease their constituents, constantly running a deficit and building up an unmanageable amount of debt, and never saving money even in the most prosperous of boom times. Keynesianism might actually work but it hasn’t actually been tried yet, at least the half of the theory where it serves as a brake on a growing economy. That’s too unpopular.
   The oft mentioned liberal solution to unemployment and recessions is to tax the rich and invest in infrastructure, which worked to a reasonable degree during the Great Depression by putting people to work and preparing the nation for the postwar boom. One downside of such programs is that government taxation and spending crowds out growth and investment in the private sector and limits the efficiency of the free market. Another downside is that the extra taxation imposed during the crisis is likely to become permanent and the government will be prone to spend even more, continuing to run a deficit despite the increase in revenue. Putting people to work and making the wealthy pay for it is one way of redistributing income, which will improve the economy somewhat as it did during the Great Depression, but managed economies are not efficient economies and what is needed is a way to redistribute wealth and income to those who can generate demand while allowing free market forces to optimize the allocation of capital. Unfortunately there is no political will to redistribute wealth in any manner in the United States and our system of capital allocation through the stock and bond markets has mutated into a wealth extracting monster whose costs outweigh its benefits. All of this needs to be changed if the market economy is to thrive once again.
   The Obama administration is falling far short of this goal as well as falling short of the ideals of its failed ideology. Though Keynesianism demands that the government increase spending during a crisis, no nation can survive going so deep into debt that it can no longer pay back its lenders. Decades of debt based simulation of the economy have run their course and the days of the United States borrowing money to spend its way out of every crisis may be coming to a close. Keynesianism, or rather the bastardized version of limitless government stimulus through spending, has failed.
   Ideological failure has infected the nation in many other ways. The notions of Objectivism which Alan Greenspan applied to economics for over two decades were also spreading throughout the culture at large. Ayn Rand’s individualist philosophy posited that people following their “self interest rightly understood” would naturally organize themselves into optimally efficient systems, provided that external forces, such as government and religion, were prevented from regulating people’s behavior. Rand believed that attempts by religion and the government to control people’s lives was not only inefficient when it did work, but that it frequently failed, leading to corruption, hypocrisy, and iron fisted rule by overreaching dictators and thick-headed bureaucrats. In this Ayn was quite right, as people in power have great difficulty inhibiting their desires and remaining true to their morals, but she did not foresee that Objectivists would suffer the same lapses when it became their turn to rule. While Objectivists remained true to the tenet of self interest, the “rightly understood” part of the ideology often got lost in the rush of power and wealth. This led to the growth of systems which were not only suboptimal but which were highly unstable and prone to collapse. The current economic crisis is but one such example where the pursuit of profit outweighed the obligation to maintain a stable financial system.
   Objectivist ideology took many forms, bonding with the desire for freedom that arose during the sixties and influencing thought on all sides of the political spectrum. For the left it became a rallying cry against conformity, tradition, and any notion of social mores being dictated by the government, by religion, or by any social group. One by one all social conventions were broken down from racial segregation to gender roles to family structure to dress codes to sexual behavior to standards of decency and in seemingly every facet of life. Those forging the new culture of freedom may not have been consciously implementing Objectivism or even aware of it, but they were following its precepts, that the individual must be freed from external regulation and allowed to find their own way in the world. Only in this way could a person discover their purpose in life, or achieve spiritual enlightenment, or find true happiness, or simply build a life around them that suited them the best.
   Every step of the way this culture of freedom was, and still is, being fought by conservatives who want to keep things the way they have always been. Their resistance has been mostly authoritarian in nature, using religion or notions of tradition as unassailable reasons why social values should remain the same. Their protests have mostly fallen on deaf ears, especially among the young who are not set in their ways and have little to lose and much to gain through change. Objectivism provides the basic argument for why social conservatives are wrong to unquestioningly oppose cultural changes as Objectivism values efficiency over inflexible rules. For example, if gay men are accepted into society and allowed to have public relationships as well as get married, they will generally be much happier and thus become better citizens, be more active in the community, and be more productive at work. Similarly, if any talented but eccentric people are not discriminated against or shunned due to their unusual behaviors they can contribute greatly to society instead of living lives of isolation and self loathing. By embracing diversity and allowing flexibility we can create a society where everyone is better off. And when we allow everyone the freedom to be whom and what they want to be, they repay us by being more than what they could have been had we demanded they meet some arbitrary social standard or shunned them because they didn’t.
   However, the self interested pursuit of freedom must be concurrent with the rightly understood notion of social obligation, and it is in this area where the culture of freedom is breaking down. As elucidated in recent editions of the Burning Blade (12.6, 13.1, 13.3, and 13.5) individualism has degenerated into narcissism with people caring far more about themselves than they do about others. When people demand more freedom and then shirk their responsibility to contribute to the well being of the societal whole the cohesion of the system is undermined and it becomes much less efficient. Simply put, the system suffers when people start taking more than they give back: in relationships, at work, at play, and everywhere else. People are encourage to dream of individual success and in so doing a strong sense of entitlement can arise within them where they think that they deserve more than what they are getting. In response they take more and give less, feeling justly compensated, but they end up leaving less for others. This can become contagious as many others will end up feeling deprived by the shortage, so they will react by trying to take more and by giving less as well. In time, honesty, courtesy, and respect give way to deceit, self-righteousness, and insincerity, and getting that which we need can become an exercise in forcing our will upon others while resisting the attempts of others to take what we have. Collaboration degrades into competition and everybody ends up losing. The failure of the ideology of cultural freedom has left us all wanting.
   The embrace of freedom and Objectivism has not been limited to the left. The political right also champions the ideals of freedom but in different ways. Most notably the right has embraced Objectivism as applied to economics, where regulations on businesses, banking, investment, and entrepreneurship have been greatly relaxed allowing for an impressive expansion of global markets in recent decades. How Objectivism has failed the financial world has been well discussed in edition 12.6 of the Burning Blade and won’t be addressed here. In contrast to how the left desires freedom from cultural constraints, the right tends to desire freedom from government intervention and champions the right of the individual to do as he or she will. Conservatives want the right to bear arms and to hunt and build and do whatever they want on their land without interference from the government or environmentalists. They don’t want the government to tell them how to run their businesses, or to tax them excessively and give it to those who don’t work or who made irresponsible decisions, or to burden them with unnecessary regulations and red tape. They want to be able to succeed or fail on their own, unencumbered and unaided, and demand that the same rules be applied to everyone. Their notion of freedom is that everyone has the right to do what they want with what they have earned, and they chafe at the idea of giving others advantages that they did not get or refused to take. Even those conservatives who have not enjoyed much success in life will defend the right of their neighbor to be well off because they believe that their neighbor deserves to have what he’s earned. This is why conservatives sometimes seem to vote against their economic interests, such as supporting tax cuts for the wealthy and for big business.
   Liberals have a long history of burdening the successful with excessive taxation, trust busting, regulation, collective bargaining, and just plain guilt, often using the power of the government and the ideal of equality to do so. In the aftermath of the Stock Market crash of 1929, American liberals (and progressives) were quite successful in raising taxes, redistributing wealth, imposing regulations, instituting vast social programs, and constraining the growth of industry, but ever since the “Reagan revolution” conservatives have been winning many battles against those impositions, deregulating businesses, freeing individuals to become whatever they can be, and leveling the playing field by removing advantages given to one group over the others. Objectivism provides the basis for why liberals are wrong to impose so many constraints and regulations on the more successful members of society as it values self interest as a motivational tool. When one works hard one should be rewarded because the reward provides the motivation to keep them working hard. If everyone is working hard then society as a whole will undoubtedly benefit, but if certain people are singled out and forcibly have their rewards reduced for their hard work then this will reduce their motivation to work harder. For example, the top tax bracket in the United States used to be over 90% with the lowest tax bracket at that time being 20%. Let’s hypothetically look at two salesmen during that time period, each working on commission, with one doing very well and ending up in the top tax bracket and the other doing poorly and barely getting by. For each new sale that both salesmen make the better salesman only takes home 10% of his commission compared to the worse salesman who takes home 80% of his. This means that the better salesman has to make eight times the number of sales to get the same benefit as the worse salesman. This greatly reduces the motivation for the better salesman to work any harder than he already is and ends up hurting his company’s overall sales. Furthermore, society as a whole loses out when the most talented people are so constrained by regulation and taxation that they see little to gain in making additional contributions.
   However, the self interested pursuit of wealth must be concurrent with the rightly understood notion of personal responsibility, and it is in this area that individualism is breaking down. This is most notable in the business arena where deregulated industries have been caught cooking the books, outright lying, endangering their workers and the public, covering up mistakes, breaking the law, and brazenly ignoring any responsibilities that they might have in their pursuit of the Almighty Dollar. In the religious and political arenas, personally responsibility has been similarly set aside as numerous moral leaders and politicians have been revealed to be hypocrites, practicing the very things that they preach or legislate against, and shamelessly denying it all when they are caught. Individualism is degenerating into narcissism and conservatives are not immune to the disorder, making them more selfish and pushing them toward supporting a kind of social Darwinism where those who fail are left behind to suffer and rot. Their individualist ideology is based on the idea that the United States is a meritocracy when in fact equal opportunity is still a distant dream and hard work is far from being fairly and evenly rewarded. In our lightly regulated capitalist system the rich and powerful are able to bend the rules in their favor, allowing them to become wealthier and more powerful and thus even more able to tip the scales in their favor. In time the system becomes dominated by the very few who impose barriers to entry into markets which can often be more suffocating to small businesses than any government could legislate. When the few are allowed to become so powerful, the opportunities available to everyone else are greatly reduced and their hard work goes for naught, thus defeating the ideology of personal freedom.
   Both on the left and the right Objectivism has failed and in its wake it has gutted the precepts upon which much of both modern liberalism and conservatism rest. By opening the door wide open to freedom, both in cultural terms and in personal achievement, we collectively have gained much, but since personal responsibility and social obligation have lagged behind those advancements or have disappeared altogether, we have lost much as well, perhaps as much as we have gained. Each side, left and right, attacks the other for its excesses and irresponsibility and tries to impose constraints on the other to make up for that side’s moral and ethical failures, but neither side seems able to make much headway, finding a way to blame the other for any problems that arise instead admitting failure. Meanwhile, both sides have been able to make strong progress expanding their respective concepts of freedom, with the left campaigning endlessly for more cultural freedom and the right fighting to remove government imposed constraints on businesses and individuals. These are the very freedoms that are destroying our country and should be curtailed rather than expanded, but neither side seems at all willing to back down.
   Somewhere along the way the whole point of expanding freedom, that too much regulation and control results in inefficiency, got lost in the rush of individual empowerment. We ended up going too far but when our social and economic systems began to break down we figured that we needed even more freedom, not less, since freedom had always worked in the past. As a result we keep fighting yesterday’s battles in a world that is very much different today. Ours is a world where people are very good at achieving individual success but who have great difficulty in working together with others. We readily compete with everyone and everything with competition seeming to be liberating, natural, and right while the idea of collaboration seems socialistic, codependent, and wrong. The self must come first, for how many of us have been burned because we trusted others? Whether through self interest or self defense we slowly but surely embrace and guard our freedom, reveling in our independence but forfeiting the social connections that we thrive upon.
   We continue to devolve from being social animals. Independence has become an excuse to become desensitized to the needs and plight of others. Helping people will only encourage them to become dependent on you and so you must help them achieve the independence ideal by giving them nothing, save perhaps for a little advice. Freedom and individuality is what it’s all about. So accommodate no one, blast the offended for being thin skinned, shove your individuality into everyone’s faces, use people as you will and if they trusted you then that is their problem to deal with, never forgive and never forget those who attacked you for payback will taste so sweet, to hell with politeness and respect since those are just someone’s attempts to impose their values upon you, shake your head or laugh at the suckers who made bad choices and came crashing down to earth, mock those who disagree with you and turn their arguments into straw men to tear apart and destroy, and sit contentedly in all smugness at how wonderful you are and how disillusioned and stupid everyone else is because you, helped by nobody else at all, have become a SUCCESS!
   Yes, you are indeed a success, but a success in the failed ideology known as freedom. Perhaps it’s time for true change.
   The trouble is that you can’t come out and say that you are against freedom or you will be labeled a fascist, a socialist, or worse. Freedom is the unassailable value of both sides of the ideological divide; it is our call to arms and our most sacred and cherished value regardless of the fact that it isn’t working very well anymore. Structure, responsibility, and obligation to others are needed badly, but those are also the things that we have been conditioned to rebel against with every fiber of our being. So it would seem that we are headed for greater and greater freedom in the future, and we will all suffer greatly because of it.



The Fireaxe theory - Outline

I. Basics - well established theories

1. Emergent systems - that complex systems can arise from the interactions of simple things
2. Natural selection - that organisms mutate, proliferate, and compete, with the "losers" becoming extinct
3. Behavioral science - that neurological systems, at their core, function according to the rules of conditioning
4. Entropy - that within a closed system, entropy always increases, which limits the amount of transformation that can occur

II. Extensions

1. That consciousness is an emergent system: a complex system arising in the human mind from the interaction of simple neurons.
2. That civilizations are emergent systems arising from the physical interactions of humans whether conscious or not.
3. That ideologies are emergent systems arising from the psychological interactions of conscious humans
4. That emergent systems follow the laws of natural selection in much the same way that organisms do
5. That the universe is, by definition, a closed system

III. Contentions regarding consciousness

1. That consciousness is a survival advantage
2. That being a member of an ideology is a survival advantage
3. That making its members conscious is a necessary part of an ideology's survival
4. That consciousness is created by instilling within a person a permanent sense of inadequacy - in essence a state of constant fear
5. That the deeper the sense of inadequacy, the stronger the person is motivated  - generally to serve their ideology

IV. Contentions regarding ideological struggle

1. That ideologies fight for survival using many methods including, but not limited to, war and enslavement
2. That aggression is a survival advantage
3. That survival in the short term outweighs survival in the long term prompting ideologies to pursue shortsighted and sometimes suicidal strategies
4. That aggressive ideologies make members of rival ideologies feel afraid and inadequate which in response become more aggressive, thus creating a vicious circle
5. That aggressive ideologies must grow or face internal strife as their aggressive members feed on each other to satisfy their needs
6. That internal struggle results in ideological mutation

V. Contentions regarding the future

1. That internal strife is inevitable since the laws of entropy imply that continuous growth is not sustainable
2. That the abstract bases for ideologies transcend mortality and thus suicidal aggression is not restrained by fear of death
3. That technological progress has made the destruction of the world through ideological warfare possible and will continue to make it easier to effect
4. That ideological mutation will eventually result in the creation of a suicidal ideology which will destroy the human race in the attempt to save it


How to order Fireaxe CDs:

   Ordering Fireaxe CD's is an informal process as I am selling them personally out of my apartment. Simply mail me a letter which contains the following:

1. The names of the CDs that you want to buy.
2. The address where you want the CDs sent.
3. Cash, a check, or a money order for the total cost.

   Or if you want to do PayPal, just send me the answers to 1 and 2 above in an e-mail and I'll tell you where to send the money.
   Here is a price list.  The first number is the cost for U.S. based customers, the second is for outside the U.S.  The prices include shipping and handling.

Eternal Devotion      $6   $9
    to the Dark Goddess
Food for the Gods:      $12   $15 - Sold out
Victory or Death      $5   $8 (free with any purchase)
Lovecraftian Nightmares   $5   $8 - Sold out
A Dream of Death      $3   $6 - Sold out

   Send everything to:

   Brian Voth
   1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
   Chula Vista, CA 91911    USA

   If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, any one of the single CDs (Not "Food for the Gods") is free of charge in exchange for the review.  In this case all I need is a request by e-mail.  Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your magazine with the review in it when it is done.  If you want to exchange CDs, tapes, or stuff of equivalent value, make these requests via e-mail and we'll arrange a trade.
   The CDs come with a booklet filled with awesome art, a letter about the project, and some information about the CD which can also be found on the Fireaxe site.
   Lastly, if you want to print and distribute Fireaxe CDs I can send you an additional CD which contains tiff files for all the booklets, tray cards, and labels for each project.  The tiff disk is free so just say the word.


The Future

   Unfortunately 2009 was a total bust for Fireaxe as far as recording is concerned.  Health issues sidelined projects scheduled for completion during the year and other than the guitarist taking the opportunity to get a whole lot better with his axe, nothing was accomplished.  With any luck 2009 will be the only year that went for naught.
   In 2010, Fireaxe will once again focus on remaking the past. First of all, "Food for the Gods" has sold out and will be re-mastered before a second printing run is made.  Also, it will be re-mixed with the vocal rerecorded for much better sound quality.  When all is said and done it should sound as good as "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess. Secondly, the first Fireaxe CD, "A Dream of Death" will be getting a complete overhaul before it is re-released.  Everything will be rerecorded using much more modern equipment and with everything that I've learned over the last ten years going into it to make it better than ever.  Also, since it was recorded at a time when CDs had a 74 minute limit instead of the current 80, I will add six more minutes of music to the work in which I will explore a number of musical themes as well as add a killer new song written by Octavio Ramos.  So it looks like a year of sequels for Fireaxe. I'll probably leave the names of the CDs the same but I've been kicking around a ideas for alternate titles, such as "Food for the Gods - Regurgitated", "Desert for the Gods", and "A Dream of Undeath", "The Morning After Death", or "I'm Dreaming of a White Strait-Jacket - a Fireaxe Christmas in Hell".
   My goal is to deliver music to whoever wants to hear it in whatever way is necessary.  Whatever the market demands, I will supply, but I do want to avoid the mass marketing channel.  Exposure is fine, but in the modern business, the substance of the music must be altered to match the demands of the marketplace.  This would totally defeat the purpose of why I write music in the first place.  I write music because it is a way to express my emotions.  What I both think and feel goes into the songs.  That is the power, Fireaxe is the channel, and any diversion diminishes the emotive effect.  Thus I try to avoid such diversions. That is how art should be.


Rights to duplicate Fireaxe materials

   Currently Fireaxe is not for profit.  I sell the single CDs for $5 or $6, $12 for "Food for the Gods" since it is three CDs, which covers the production and mailing costs.  For CDs sent out of the country, I'll have to charge an extra $2 per disk to cover the additional mailing cost. If you write reviews or put samples on your website I'll give you a CD for free.  Since I am not making any money with the current recordings, you are free to make duplicates of them to distribute as long as you obey the following guidelines:

1. You can only sell the duplications for the price of the medium or less, plus any delivery cost.  You are not allowed to make any profit with the music.
2. You should tell me how many copies you gave out and who got them so I can keep track.  Also, if they have an e-mail address I'd like that as well so I can add them to the mailing list.
3. You are likewise free to adorn any webpages or duplications with the gifs and jpgs on my website as long as you include an obvious link back to my website.  This includes putting Fireaxe song samples on your site as well.
4. You are free to play any Fireaxe songs (in unaltered form) provided you are an unsigned band without a marketing tie-in.  You are not allowed to record those songs onto anything that you will sell.
5. Do not fall in love with the Dark Goddess.  I mean, seriously.  She's the goddess of death after all.  It's not a good idea.  Furthermore, do not have sexual fantasies involving the Dark Goddess.  She does not have a womb and thus lacks the entrance to that particular organ.  Also, attempting to use other entrances will likely result in castration.  Again, it's not a good idea.
6. You are vehemently discouraged from doing anything depicted in the CD "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" such as: torturing someone, lying for corporate profit, rationalizing greed, beating, raping, and murdering your girlfriend, destroying the lives of those who've wronged you and their families, corrupting the government, trying to kill yourself with pleasure, kidnapping and ransoming people, committing atrocities, cutting someone's face to pieces, destroying half the world as revenge, and especially stating that any of these things are okay because "God is on your side."  Please, think before you act.
7. You are food for the gods.
8. You are required to crank the song "Hounds of Tindalos" as loud as you can as often as you can.  It’s your only defense against THEM.  Be warned, they come through angles.  Note that the CD is round.  Are your speaker cabinets square?
9. Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, Hastur the Unspeakable, and all other mythos creatures are purely the inventions of Lovecraft and other fiction authors.  None of it is real, at least that’s what I’m going to say in court if you try to sue me for destruction of your property, house, city, or soul as a result of listening to the “Lovecraftian Nightmares” CD too much.
10.  You are free to play "The Rack" in school or church or any other institution bent on crushing your will and turning you into a mindless zombie slave of the corporate dominated world. Try not to develop a bad attitude about it.
11. You are not free to commit suicide while listening to any Fireaxe song.  I'm sorry, I'll have to prosecute.  On a serious note, if you are thinking about doing it, please e-mail or call me if you have no one else to talk to.  When I was in my teens the album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd used to really get to me. Just hearing songs like "Comfortably Numb", and "Hey You" would get me pretty depressed and mildly suicidal.  I'm just trying to say that I've been there. If my music is having that effect on you, please get in touch.  You aren't alone.

   The gist of it is that you can do just about anything with the music as long as you don't profit from it and that I get some sort of credit for having written it.  I'm open to any methods of distributing my music, such as compilation tapes or CDs, radio play, or recording label distribution.  However, you will need my direct permission to do so or some kind of legal agreement.


Ending Comments

   Any comments or questions are welcome.  If anyone has any updates on their projects, I'd like to hear from you.  I know there are a few people out there working on some cool things that I haven't heard from in a while.  Drop me an e-mail regarding how you're getting along.

                  Brian

The Burning Blade 14.1
December 05, 2010, 04:54:10 PM
Making the world safe for corporate greed…


The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 14.1

December 5, 2010

neptune.net/~bev/Fireaxe.html


“A short while ago the Blackstone hedge fund’s co-founder, Stephen Schwarzman, characterized the attempt to tax short-term arbitrage trading gains at the same rate that wage-earners pay as analogous to Adolph Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939. It is a class war against fraudsters and criminals – an unfair war as serious as World War II. In Schwarzman’s apocalyptic vision the Democrats are re-enacting the role of Adolph Hitler by mounting a fiscal blitzkrieg to force billionaires to pay as high a tax rate as workers. Are not Wall Street firms doing “God’s work,” as Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd Blankfein, put it last fall? And if they are, then are not those who would tax or criticize Wall Street ‘God-killers’?”
                  - Michael Hudson


“I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.”

“If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.”
                  - Ayn Rand


   Capitalism has been accused of being, in essence, a Ponzi Scheme: a system where the promise of great riches draws in more and more participants, the initial fees from whom are used to pay off those who joined earlier, but which in the end collapses because there can never be enough participants who can put into the system what those who are owed are taking out. In such schemes the ones who were in on it from the beginning reap great rewards while everyone else is left holding an empty bag. The present economic situation, where a smaller and smaller percentage of the population is accumulating a larger and large percentage of the wealth while everyone else is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, seems to support this theory rather resoundingly.
   Those who argue that Capitalism is a Ponzi Scheme start with the fact that capital, which is extended to start or advance a business venture, comes either in the form of a loan demanding interest, or an investment demanding a return, and that the principle plus the interest cannot be paid back in full unless more loans or investments are extended. A very simplified economic model is used to support this contention involving a bank, an entrepreneur, and a number employees hired by the entrepreneur. In this model there is no other money in circulation save for that which the bank has given out. The argument goes something like this. First, the bank gives a loan to an entrepreneur who spends that money hiring people for a business that creates a number of goods. Second, the workers then use their entire salaries to buy all those goods, leaving the entrepreneur once again with all the money in circulation. Third, the entrepreneur tries to pay back the original loan but discovers that even with all the money in circulation he cannot pay it back in full because of the interest that he must also pay. Thus, he is inevitably forced to borrow more money from the bank and use it to pay the interest on the original loan. Of course, taking out another loan means that the entrepreneur will have even more interest that he needs to pay back, requiring more loans in the future. This traps him in a cycle of perpetual debt. The argument then goes that capitalism is just this same system writ large where everyone will eventually end up indebted to the banks with no hope of ever breaking free.
   This argument is fatally flawed. It fails to account for things such as the risk that the banker takes on by loaning out money. If a banker never charged interest, the best that he could do is break even, and since people will inevitable default on some of his loans, he will slowly but surely lose all his money through defaults. By charging interest he can offset the losses due to the hazards of his business. Secondly, the argument fails to account for the fact that bankers are not self sufficient and they need to spend some of the money they earn to pay for life’s necessities, thus there is always a flow of money out of the bank which is not in the form of a loan that can be earned and used by borrowers to pay the interest on existing loans. Thirdly, it fails to account for growth in the economy. Investments will often increase the productivity of workers and thus raise the gross output of the entire system, such as when someone invents a product that makes people’s jobs easier. Interest and returns can be paid out of the surplus growth. When these things are properly accounted for one sees that bankers and investors play a valuable role in an economic system. Bankers and investors supply capital to those projects which are deemed most likely to succeed and stand ready to absorb any losses if their judgments about what to invest in are poor. In return the bankers and investors receive a steady flow of income from their successful projects until the loan is paid off or the investment is sold. There is nothing inherently wrong with the capitalist system, as well as any economic system that allows for interest on loans, such that it will always lead to collapse.
   However, collapse is exactly what the world is on the brink of, and an unpayable debt spiral is what is building in the global economy at a disastrously increasing rate. The reason that this is happening is because the amount of interest being paid on existing loans far exceeds the amount of money available to pay them back. Money is flowing to the bankers and investors at a much greater rate than it is flowing from the bankers and investors to those who owe, and the amount of growth in the economy, if there is any growth at all, is not sufficient to make up the difference. The figures showing the highly skewed distribution of wealth and income bear this truth out clearly. All the growth in the economy going back several decades has gone into the coffers of the top twenty percent of earners. To make matters worse, when people default on their loans, and this is happening on the order or millions of people per year, the bankers have been bailed out by their governments, or their central banks, which essentially take money away from everyone else to compensate the banks for their failed loans. In such an environment the bankers can’t lose, they can keep making larger and larger loans, increasing their profit margins and draining more money out of the economy, while knowing that they won’t be on the hook for any serious losses. Life is good when you are too big to fail.
   The inherent problem with capitalism is that it, like every other ideology, cannot prevent greed from corrupting its ideals and causing the collapse of the highly efficient marketplace system which lends it its strength. In typical economic times a banker’s life can be a difficult one. Although it’s difficult to imagine it in this day and age, credit was once rather difficult to come by and lending standards were tight. Banks weren’t allowed to repackage their mortgages and sell them to investors and so they had to make sure that all their loans were sound or else they risked going bankrupt. Thus, people who were seen as high risk were often denied access to credit.  However, those who had good credit ratings often decided against using their credit card or taking out loans. Prudent people prefer not to pay interest, instead saving their money until they can purchase things outright, which will save them money in the long run. Thus, when people are unwilling or unable to buy things on credit, bankers are forced to lower the interest rates they charge as well as loosen their lending standards, but not so much that they can’t make a profit or risk jeopardizing their business when too many loans go bad. Again, this is probably very difficult for anyone younger than forty to imagine, but in years gone by when monetary conditions were tight, banking was just as challenging a business as any other.
   Bankers and investors thrive in high growth environments, such as when a valuable natural resource like gold or oil is discovered. In those situations, loans given out to miners, drillers, and developers will likely be paid back rapidly, and large interest rates can be charged since those who strike it rich will be able to afford the premiums. Furthermore, entire towns often spring up around these growth industries, the building of which requires more loans and capital which will be paid back from the profits spent by those working for the extraction industry. This is why bankers and investors are always searching for the next big strike whether it be in oil, tech companies, or immodest teen idols. They stand to make a lot of money if things take off and in many cases the entire economy benefits since there is more than enough profit to spread around.
   But bankers and investors can create their own, unproductive, high growth environments, and exacerbate existing ones, simply by flooding a market with capital and taking advantage of the subsequent rise in asset prices. For instance, in the recent housing bubble, easy loan conditions and low interest rates made homes much more affordable. This lead to an increase in demand which drove prices up, but instead of finding an equilibrium condition, houses became even more coveted due to their rising value. People saw houses as can’t lose investments. In poorly regulated environments such as those where banks can sell their mortgages out the back door, situations like this can quickly lead to bubbles, where money spent by borrowers is recycled through the system and subsequently loaned out a second, or third, or fourth time, or more against collateral backed by asset prices that have become inflated, which inflates them yet further and fuels another round of speculation. It’s all an illusion though since nothing has truly been produced in such situations, the houses being bought and sold at increasing prices aren’t any different than they were at the beginning of the bubble, and when demand subsides the prices are bound to go back to where they started.
   Like a Ponzi Scheme, those who are in on it early will reap the benefits of selling their assets at inflated prices while those who come in late get stuck holding the bag as the bubble bursts and prices collapse. Banks and investment firms make a large return on their investments as the bubble inflates but are at risk of bankruptcy when the bubble bursts. However, if the bankers are investing someone else’s money, they can collect huge salaries and bonuses in fees and interest while the bubble is growing and not worry about any losses since when the inevitable collapse comes because someone else will end up paying for it. In the current situation, those “someone else’s” who are paying for it are ordinary people, their investments coming in the form of retirement funds and pension plans which were put into supposedly safe securities. Thus, when the housing bubble collapsed, people who defaulted on their mortgages were at risk of taking a double hit since their retirement funds were one of the “investors” losing money as a result of the foreclosures. So how do you like that? Lose your house and lose your pension all in one fell swoop, and the firms which collected fees when homes were sold, when interest payments were made, and when securities were purchased make out like bandits. In many cases the mortgage, investment, and insurance firms knew exactly what they were doing, committing fraud, but such is hard to prove in a court of law and thus very few have gone to jail.
   It’s natural for banks and investment firms to seek out and even cause bubbles and to do so with as much borrowed money as they can in order to increase their profitability. The pursuit of profit is what makes capitalism work, making businesses more competitive and efficient and helping the economy as a whole, but bubbles add nothing to productivity, they merely siphon off wealth from the masses which ends up in the hands of bankers and investors. When the amount of wealth siphoned off due to interest payments and returns on investment grows too large then the economy will shrink and a recession or depression results. This shrinkage can be alleviated by further loans for a time, but if the loans aren’t sufficient to produce enough growth in the economy or get spent towards non-productive purposes, then the debt situation becomes hopeless. This is the situation that many people, regions, and now countries are finding themselves in. They’ve accumulated more debt than they can ever hope to pay back. To make matters worse, banks and investors are shunning the economies that are hurting the most, investing their money elsewhere where they can get a higher return. Why would anyone put their money into Iceland, Ireland, Greece, or Main Street U.S.A.? Those economies have already been sucked dry and the return of investment there will be minimal. So the current game is to borrow dollars cheaply, for instance, at near zero percent from the Federal Reserve, leverage those dollars tenfold or more, and invest them in emerging markets like China and Brazil, inflating asset prices there and making off with high returns. And so, Capitalism has become wealth extraction, a game where the wealthy give out big loans and the promise of great riches and the great majority of us end up saddled with debt and weep over our broken dreams.
   Capitalism is not a Ponzi Scheme, but it can become one if steps aren’t taken to prevent bubbles, asset inflation, and the ability of banks to reap huge profits with other people’s money while risking little or none of their own. But what holds such a system in place? Surely those in charge can see what is happening and how everyone but a lucky few is being hurt by the current system. The answer is revealed in the quotes above which show that economic ideology turns the struggle to make a profit into a battle between good and evil as titanic as any that evangelical minister could conjure.
   As Michael Hudson points out, there are a number of wealthy and successful leaders of investment firms who use hyperbole to describe even modest attempts by governments to regulate the current dysfunctional system. Government imposition into their businesses is viewed as being akin to Hitler’s invasion of Poland, conjuring hysterical images of fascism and genocide when it is merely that their bottom lines are in danger of being modestly trimmed back. Many pundits in the media are quick to denounce any efforts to reform the system as being socialist in nature, and those in the U.S. often use the term “European style socialism” to describe such policies, blaming them for the collapse of countries like Ireland and Greece. They use scare tactics as well, proclaiming that the government intends to redistribute wealth, taking it from hard working earners and successful entrepreneurs and giving it to lazy loafers and people who made poor life decisions. All of this rhetoric serves to reinforce the capitalist ideology in the minds of the voters and support its corrupted reality. As a result politicians opposed to “socialist” policies are elected and few if any progressive reforms are allowed to take place.
   It is common to think of those at the top as being greedy and heartless, that they know exactly what they are doing and that they simply don’t care who suffers as long as they make more money. There are probably some who fit this cruel, narcissistic description, one suitable for pulp fiction and formulaic movies, but I would contend that many are simply blinded by their ideology, believing, as does Lloyd Blankfein, that they are doing “God’s work” or are at least are helping the economy by doing what they do. In their minds they are making capitalist economies thrive by distributing capital in the most efficient way possible, and they do not see how their methods, when taken to current extremes, can be seriously detrimental to an economy. As most true believers do capitalist adherents will place the blame elsewhere: on the government regulations that remain, on the large role of government in the economy (which is always seen as the height of inefficiency), on the foolish people who borrowed more than they could pay back, on a sense of entitlement that makes people demand too much and work too little for it, and on a few bad apples in the investment industry who make everyone look bad. In their minds they are working hard for a brighter future, earning and deserving every penny that they make, and if everyone else would stand up and work as hard and as smart as they do then the recovery would start immediately. In other words, they believe that their ideology works; it is the people who have failed it.
   Ayn Rand put the exclamation point on such sentiments. In her writings she has been a strong proponent of capitalism and how it champions reason, freedom, and liberation from failed religious ideologies. She spurns such things as altruism as mindless adherence to a moral code that serves only as a way to cover up its inefficiencies. To the successful, this ideology strokes the ego, building them up to be like the talented, intelligent, and fiercely individualist protagonists of Rand’s novels. In contrast to religious ideologies, Objectivism does not frown upon greed but in fact champions the profit motive as something which encourages people to do their best in order to receive their reward. Indeed, wealthy industrialists can feel like they are on a crusade to spread a very noble ideology across the world, an ideology of economic self-determinism where everyone is free to achieve and where every need is met by efficient private businesses and not by wasteful government. And to the not-so-successful, Objectivism provides the same dream, promising them that they too can be successful, wealthier, and free if it weren’t for the imposition of government upon their lives. Objectivist apologists present the image of government as a parasite, draining tax dollars away from earners, restraining businesses with regulations and red tape, unable to control its spending, and giving away money to people who don’t deserve it via entitlement programs. In this way the economic frustrations of the lower and middle classes are redirected as anger towards government and away from the other noxious parasite: the financial sector.
   Conservatives have mostly embraced Objectivism, although Rand’s anti-religious sentiments have been purged from the commonly spread version of the ideology in order to appeal to conservative Christians. Indeed, Objectivism has been fused with Christianity in the minds of evangelicals and other sects, the parts of their beliefs which support such economic policies being raised up, such as “the Lord helps those who help themselves” and notions of the Protestant Work Ethic, while those that run directly counter to it, such as “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and “do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth” are downplayed or forgotten. The result is an internally contradictory ideology that melds the Christian god, economic freedom, and right wing interpretation of the founding fathers’ vision for the U.S. that sells very well to the traditional conservative base.
   The internal contradictions of this ideology haven’t slowed it down much, nor has its catastrophic failure in the current economic meltdown, and the core belief that government is at the root of the problem is becoming very popular again. Austerity is the current treatment regime and government payrolls and programs are being slashed in order to balance their bloated budgets. It is of no consequence that this is essentially making the poor and middle class pay for the bailout of the banks for the ideology holds that jobs are created by the wealthy when they invest, not by the masses when they spend. Thus the key to economic prosperity is to lower taxes on the rich so that they invest more and keep the banks solvent so that they can lend more. The flaws in this argument are that the wealthy aren’t going to invest much money in recessionary markets since the rate of return is so low and that banks are foolish to loan money to people who are already steeped in debt. Their money is going elsewhere which is making the problem worse.
   Thus, what we have now is psychotic adherence to a serial bubble blowing Ponzi Scheme where banks and investors inflate markets and extract as much wealth as they can and then use the world’s governments and central banks to ensure that loans which never should have been extended in the first place are paid back in full plus interest. With a fiat currency, that is one where money is backed by nothing and can be printed on a whim, our current Pyramid Schemes never need to collapse since there is an infinite source of funds which can flow to the top to prop it up. I must confess that I never thought that the madness would go this far, thinking that a collapse would have happened by now, but now that I have seen it with my own eyes I think that it might go on for some time to come. By changing the accounting laws, banks and investment firms are able to stay in business regardless of the true market value of their assets, and central banks stand ready to open up their balance sheets to provide liquidity for any institution deemed too big to fail. Further trickery can be allowed to prevent what the powers that be feel is unthinkable, a complete collapse of the entire financial system. For instance, solvency of financial institutions could simply be granted by decree, formalizing today’s implicit guarantee, allowing the masters of the universe to gamble with impunity and continue to bleed the rest of us dry; or at least, bleed us until we get up off our collective couches and demand real change. Thus, the coming years should provide an excellent measure of just how much like sheep we truly are.
   Speaking of real change I’ve decided to publish The Burning Blade less frequently due to the fact that I’m not really producing much music anymore. These newsletters are focusing too much on ideology rather than Fireaxe and it really should be the other way around. So from now on I will only put out a new newsletter every three months rather than every two months until such time as I am healthy enough to crank out new music. And speaking of my health, it seems that I have two pieces of the puzzle in place and am working gradually towards the third. These days I’m feeling good overall but the ups and downs that I’ve been struggling with on the new treatment program have left me unsure if I am still making progress. It’s frustrating and maddening at times but I am determined and diligent and as long as I am alive I will fight. As always, the battle continues.
   A big ‘Hello’ goes out to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time.  This is the Fireaxe newsletter.


The Ideological Potential of the Internet

   The internet has changed many facets of our world over the last fifteen years. Business and commerce have invaded the once purely academic network allowing us to not only shop online but to do business and make a living there as well. The global scope and freedom of information online has allowed a massive proliferation of alternate news sources and blogs, giving license to just about anyone to state their opinions on any topic they wish and enabled determined whistleblowers to shed light on topics that the mainstream media doesn’t seem motivated to report on anymore. Increased bandwidth has threatened to permanently alter the way in which writers, artists, journalists, and musicians do business, allowing their work to be sold world wide in an instant, or stolen just as fast. White collar workers can now telecommute from anywhere in the world, further blurring the borders between nations and making competition for knowledge jobs that much more intense. And chat rooms, forums, and social networking sites have enabled us to connect with groups of like minded people no matter where we are located or how esoteric our interests. Simply put, we are no longer fixed in space when it comes to our friendships and communities. Our bonds can span the globe. And it’s not unusual for us to know intimate details of dozens of people we’ve never met in person and yet barely know our next door neighbors whom we see every day.
   All of the world’s major ideologies, our religions, political systems, economic models, etc., have evolved in a very different environment, one which lacked the broad and deep interconnectivity that we share today. With the internet having revolutionized so many other parts of our lives, it stands to reason that this increased connectivity will have a similar effect on our ideologies, perhaps making them all extinct or at least forcing them to mutate in order to survive in a highly interconnected world. In this essay I’ll take a look at how the internet is currently reshaping ideologies in order to predict the changes that we might see in the future.
   One fundamentally unique thing that the internet has introduced is the concept of anonymity in social relations. On the internet you can hide behind an avatar, revealing little to nothing about yourself to others or simply lying about who you really are. And while a very determined sleuth could use what little traces you leave behind on the internet to connect your current avatar with those you’ve created in the past or even to your real life self, few people can do so or will even bother to make the effort. This leaves people essentially free to be whomever they want to be when they are online.
   The impacts of this anonymity are many and profound and go way beyond the classic internet prank of pretending you’re a young girl, having cybersex with some guy, and then revealing to him that you’re actually a dude. For many people, the persona they adopt online is an idealized version of themselves, someone they want to be rather than who they are. They pick an avatar of the image they would like to project even if their avatar is little more than a clever name and a picture that appeals to them in some special way. Then, when they are online, they become a different person, trying to live up to their image, like an actor playing a role or a narcissist putting on airs to impress others. Online they can live life through that idealized person’s eyes, a life which is often quite different from their own. This gives people who have difficulty making friends in face to face meetings, perhaps due to physical unattractiveness, shyness, or odd personality quirks, an opportunity to shed those qualities and experience a side of life that was off limits to them before. For instance it’s not uncommon for an undesirable woman to use a sexy avatar and suddenly find herself popular with men. And even those people who aren’t pretending to be someone else can discover that their written communication skills reveal a side of themselves that was invisible to others before. In that way the awkward writer becoming popular online is not unlike the ugly singer or shy poet becoming popular through song or verse. In either case what can happen is that a person can become more attached to their online personality than to their real self, preferring to spend their time interacting in a social world where they are much more the person whom they want to be than who they really are. Ideologies can take advantage of this and I will discuss this potential in greater depth later in this essay.
   Anonymity also allows people to be much less polite when they are online since they are generally not subject to any serious repercussions. In face to face interactions, being insulting or rude to someone else can sometimes get you into a fight, but online the worst thing that can usually happen to you is that you end up reading equally insulting things written back to you on your computer screen. For many this does not dissuade them from being rude and can even encourage them to be more insulting in return. This simple fact has unfortunately made flame wars, heated arguments, and “griefing” commonplace on the internet as well as reduced the amount of civility found in real life. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “griefing” is when someone derives pleasure by being rude to others, especially when their victims get angry and their retorts become unintentionally humorous. A griefer’s goal when they go online is to ruin someone’s day; someone whom they feel deserves it, which can often be someone who takes their online activity far too seriously. They are essentially the online equivalent of a bully, and just like in elementary school, they mostly get away with it. But even aside from griefers, the lowered standards of civility have made online interactions between people more volatile, even when people are not anonymous and even between people who occasionally meet face to face. We seem more prone to express our unvarnished opinions when we are online, often in exaggerated form, and I would suggest that the anonymity, or the distance between people who know each other in real life, results in disinhibition. When we are online we feel fewer restraints on our actions in general, and as a result we do things there which we would never do in real life.
   Anonymity also alters the value that we place in our relationships. People moving from a small town to a big city experience the same shift in attitudes towards relationships that we see when we go online. In a small town everyone knows everyone else, or at least everyone knows most of the people in their age group. In small towns gossip will spread one’s deeds far and wide, so if you do something bad to someone your reputation will be stained and you will need to do something publicly to make up for it. In a big city, the number of people you know personally might be the same as for someone in a small town, but the much large number of people in your community can grant you a certain amount of anonymity there. In a big city if you ruin your reputation in one circle you can always move on to another circle and start over again with people who don’t know you. This allows people in big cities to be less scrupulous in their treatment of others, knowing that if they are discovered to be lying or cheating or doing some other devious act that they can always disappear and start fresh with a new group of people. Similarly, in a big city people can be pickier about whom they associate with and more resistant to changing things about themselves which others see as personality flaws. Big cities provide a much larger pool of potential friends and mates and thus instead of accepting an imperfect lover and adjusting oneself to accommodate one’s friends people will often cast off their flawed relationships in search of better ones or for a soul mate who fits them to a tee.
   On the internet, anonymity multiplies this problem, providing a seemingly infinite number of new places where one can start over, or, as a con artist might view it, an infinite number of marks to be exploited. Cyberfriends and lovers can come and go with alarming frequency with relationships with them at first filled with passion and energy but which flame out just as fast. As a result, trust is hard to come by, and few people are willing to give anyone a chance to get close to them until they have spent a lot of time proving that they are worthy of their trust. This also leads to people putting less value in long term commitments and projects online, knowing that they are all too likely to fall apart for one reason or another. This is a tendency that can feed upon itself as fewer and fewer people seek long term commitments and thus short term becomes the governing time frame. So people indulge themselves in whatever strikes their fancy; milk it for as long as it lasts, and then cast it aside when it is no longer satisfying or when something else comes along that holds more appeal. Relationships, and thus people, have become more disposable than ever.
   Lastly, anonymity has allowed radical and illegal groups to grow and thrive on the internet. Most notoriously are terrorist groups which use the internet to publicize their ideals for recruitment purposes as well as to organize and plan activities. This is a very direct example of how the internet is changing ideologies. Radical groups with small followings can now have a global voice which is more far reaching than anything that they would have been capable of just a decade ago. This allows groups with a very narrow appeal, such as eco-terrorists, pedophilia buffs, crush video aficionados, and fanatical Muslims, to pick up far flung members that they never would have been able to find using conventional means. Through the internet, these groups can find new recruits, indoctrinate them, and bring them into the fold. And just as computer programmers can work remotely through the internet, so can radical groups, directing their members without risking having them make the journey to their headquarters, if they even have one. Most if not all communication can happen anonymously, making the group very difficult for intelligence agencies to track down and arrest.
   Radical groups can also go one step further to protect themselves from being caught, they can try to create and motivate “lone wolf” actors to do their deeds for them. This method involves purely one-way communication. The group puts its ideals and goals online along with suggestions on what actions they would like to see carried out. Some even go so far as to post fairly detailed instructions on how to perform various illegal activities as well as advice on how to keep a low profile so as not to get caught by the authorities. Then an angry and motivated individual finds the site, sympathizes with the group’s cause, and decides that he or she wants to do something to advance it. These potential lone wolves are sometimes advised not to contact anyone within the group but simply to independently work towards one of their stated goals. Thus, the only contact that a person might have with a radical group is a simple one time visit to their website. Even in our high surveillance world it would difficult for an intelligence service to track someone visiting a suspicious website, especially with anonymous surfing tools available. Then, the lone wolf goes about their daily business as normal, perhaps acquiring a weapon here or there, quietly purchasing explosive materials, plotting his misdeed in secret, but never or doing or saying anything that would give anyone the impression that they sympathize with a radical cause. Then one day they act, potentially catching their victims and the authorities completely off guard.
   The “lone wolf” method is not entirely new. For centuries, if not longer, hateful rhetoric spread by influential people has motivated assassins to kill the targets of those who wish to keep their hands clean. In recent years, it is suspected that angry denunciations of Dr. “Tiller the Baby Killer” and constant reiteration of the idea that abortion is murder may have inspired more than one person to try to kill the famed abortion doctor. Similarly Major Nidal Malik Hasan appears to have been at least partially motivated to gun down thirteen fellow soldiers at Fort Hood after exchanging e-mails with a radical Muslim imam. Historically, the concept of radical groups working in independent “cells” has been a tried and true staple of resistance movements everywhere. However, with the advent of the internet, the potential to radicalize independent individuals and create dozens or hundreds of one person cells across the globe has greatly increased this potential threat. The internet may very well make terrorism more common and more difficult to stop.
   Because of this threat, among many others, the internet is in the process of being militarized, or at least wire-tapped on a massive scale to allow intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on anyone. Now, visiting a radical website isn’t illegal, yet, but the “lone wolf” scenario makes catching potential terrorists before they act of paramount importance, thus, surveillance of website traffic, as well as the tracking of gun purchases, explosive purchases, and other perfectly legal activities, are important tools in identifying threats. The idea here is to flag all of a person’s activities that could be leading up to a terrorist act, and when that person accumulates too many flags next to their name, agents move in. The usual trick is to have an agent pose as a fellow sympathizer, try to induce the suspect to confess to be plotting some sort of crime, provide him with limited support, and then arrest him before he can do any harm. It’s a fine line that law enforcement must walk to avoid charges of entrapment, but juries have been very lenient regarding law enforcement tactics when it comes to such cases, and if lone wolves proliferate and have some success in their violent plots it’s likely that countries which were once champions of human rights will become as draconian as the worst police states in their search for and treatment of suspects.
   The ongoing rollback in personal freedoms has the potential to be a major change in political ideologies, specifically in western constitutional democracies where individual rights stand as the bedrock of power derived from the consent of the governed. In order to combat the threat posed by terrorist groups which can form sleeper cells in far flung countries and give rise to lone wolves, many democracies have made the inalienable rights of their citizens conditional, with the state able to waive them at will without disclosing their evidence and with no recourse available to the accused. Though sold as being temporary inconveniences, these rollbacks are likely to become permanent, and likely to fuel more anti-government sentiment and actions that in turn make those in charge more convinced that further police state measures are required. In many countries we’ve already seen rollbacks in individual rights and the adoption of police state methods that would have been unthinkable twenty if not ten years ago, so the question here is whether or not this spells an end to individual freedom as an ideological guarantee to its adherents or whether it is a momentary lapse of libertarian ideals to be overthrown by some sort of revolution.
   Ideological evolution since the writing of the Magna Carta has been gradually but inexorably moving towards the liberation of the individual and the diminishment of state power. This trend has not been without its lapses and detours into police states and totalitarian regimes, some of which have persisted for some time before they are overthrown. Modern police states, and democracies flirting with autocratic control over their populations, are taking advantage of emerging technologies, along with the internet, to track and monitor their citizens regardless of the legality of such surveillance. Using such technology empowers them as never before and the temptation to abuse such power for political, financial, or personal purposes is too great to be ignored. Imagine using illegal wiretaps to glean insider information from Wall Street executives, or investigating members of Congress and blackmailing them into voting your way, or harassing common citizens who are legally forming a legitimate resistance movement. None of these tactics are new, but the degree and availability of such measures available today could bring about a sea change in the general population’s ability to overturn such measures. Democracy could end up becoming a hollowed out shell of its former self with a vote for a pair of preselected candidates, who are powerless to change the power structure of the nation anyway, being the last apparent support for the illusion of “We The People”. Some might argue that this has already come to pass.
   The internet has facilitated the spread of ideologies and is in no small part responsible for the rapid rise of the tea party movement in the United States. In that movement’s rise, the internet provided a way for grassroots organizations to spread their messages to like minded people fed up with the government. Numerous websites popped up and a number of videos hit YouTube, all part of a mass uprising which attracted new members and fueled itself as it grew into a powerful force. In time a number of left-leaning news sources accused the tea party movement of being “Astroturf”, meaning that it wasn’t truly grass roots at all but funded and fueled by a number of wealthy Americans and corporations which wanted to see their candidates elected and their agenda moved forwards. This is partly true. Partisan news outlets like Fox News played a major role in stirring the pot and drawing attention to the movement and many of the “grassroots” organizations were heavily sponsored by wealthy donors, but it is disingenuous to say that the movement was entirely manufactured. There was and still is a great deal of anger in the country and that anger was going to find a voice in one way or another. What the Astroturf groups managed to do was to redirect that anger and channel it to serve their purposes, at least for the most part. The Astroturf groups are staunchly Republican, and are very adept at directing the people’s anger toward democrats and the government in general, but when the tea party movement went to the polls, they threw out a lot of mainstream Republicans along with Democrats, which was a blow to the Republican Party. However, the tea party movement, which began with a lot of anger towards illegal immigration, bank bailouts, and police state tactics, was later distilled down to mostly a single goal: balancing the federal budget without raising taxes. It is telling that the tea party platform has changed from being against three things that corporate America profits from to being for something that disproportionately burdens the middle class and the poor and it could be a sign that the tea party has been used and betrayed by the Astroturf groups. However it remains to be scene what the Republican Party can accomplish while still maintaining tea party support.
   One part of the internet which is of particular importance when discussing ideological evolution is MMORPGs, or “Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Games”. To the uninitiated, these games are actually virtual worlds, complete with cities, landscapes, castles, dungeons, citizens, monsters, and anything else that the creators can dream up, which players can explore and interact with. In these games a player will create some sort of avatar, like a burly warrior with a sword, and move about in the virtual world by moving the mouse or through some such interface. The screen shows the player what they see, like angry Orcs coming to beat them up, and any facts that they need to know, like how many health points they have left before they keel over. The multi-player aspect means that a player’s avatar can end up meeting other players’ avatars in the game world which makes it more interactive compared to classic computer games. In classic single player games, all of the people and creatures that you meet are controlled by the computer, which, despite advances in artificial intelligence, can make them seem dumb and rather one-dimensional. But in a multi-player game, you can meet other players in the virtual world who are just like you, talk with them by typing messages to each other, fight a duel if you want to see who is the toughest, go off killing Orcs together or completing a quest, wander off and figure out if the game has some kind of cybersex simulation, or anything else that the game allows. No longer are computer games just you solving some kind of puzzle, having terse “conversations” with computer characters in order to ferret out valuable clues, or defeating a series of progressively tougher opponents; now you can interact with real people online, form your own communities, compete with rival communities, and even make up your own adventures. And the “massively multi-player” aspect means that a large number of people can play, like hundreds, or thousands, or more, allowing the game world to live and breathe as if it were a city or a nation unto itself.
   These MMORPGs are more than just games. They have quickly evolved into being the social equivalent of a neighborhood bar, a bowling alley, a night club, or any other place where people congregate and share, and are as equally significant. They are places where like minded people can go, hang out, socialize, play games, and relax after a hard day at work, and all in the convenience of your own home. And before you think that MMORPG players should all turn off their computers and go get a life, understand that they do have a life, online, and that it can be as deep, as elaborate, and as rewarding as their real life. It’s not unusual for players who have never met to have their avatars get involved romantically, get married virtually, and of course cheat on each other and get into fights about that sort of thing. Friendship bonds can also be strong online and these relationships don’t necessarily need to stay just between players’ avatars. It’s not unusual for players to get together and meet IRL (In Real Life) or talk on the phone or text and share facts about their personal lives, getting to know the people behind the avatars. Thus, the line between the virtual world and real life can become quite blurred and even go away altogether. This can be seen even more clearly when you learn that people are willing to pay real world money for purely virtual items, like a powerful sword that will help their avatar complete a quest, or a custom made avatar that looks better than the standard ones offered in the game. At first this may seem crazy, paying real money for something that exists only as ones and zeroes on a computer somewhere, but if you think about it as an entertainment expense, like the dollars spent at a movie theater or gaming arcade, it makes perfect sense.
   Given the popularity of MMORPGs it seems inevitable that game creators will take advantage of the many advances in technology to make their virtual worlds even more realistic and immersive. Motion capture technology will enable players to control their avatars with their bodies and increases in computer power will be able to make their avatars and their environments extremely lifelike. It may not be long before people are jogging in place in their living room while seeing themselves as a Na’vi running across the branches of Home Tree with everything rendered as crisply and lifelike as the movie Avatar. And that will only be the beginning. Smell, touch, and taste sensations will come along in time and other forms of environmental feedback will make you feel like you are really in the game. At some point the technology will develop so that the game plugs directly into your brain and you will be able to control your avatar with just your thoughts. At that point virtual reality will be just as real as reality itself. With such an interface the potential for entertainment is limitless and it is quite likely that these virtual worlds will make the real world pale in comparison. Why go to the zoo when going to Pandora is so much more fantastical? Why go skiing or snowboarding when you can be Spiderman swinging from building to building and romancing Mary Jane? Why attend cooking or gardening classes when you can go to Hogwarts and become a great virtual sorcerer? Internet addiction is already a problem, so imagine the temptation to spend all of one’s days inside a virtual world of infinite wonders when those wonders surpass reality in every way.
   Indeed, one can imagine a world where people driven by success have cast aside earthly pleasures and become absorbed with chasing virtual goals instead. Their ideologies would certainly suffer as they would no longer be contributing to them, so if too much productivity were diverted into virtual reality, we could possibly find ourselves at risk of social and ideological collapse. Ideologies thrive by providing their adherents with rewards, both physical and psychological, in return for doing things that further the aims of the ideology. Ideologies which are best at motivating their believers and preparing them to succeed will have a survival advantage over other ideologies. However, virtual worlds like those in MMORPGs compete directly with ideologies, slowly stealing away the motivations of adherents. MMORPGs simulate real world challenges, although in far more fantastical form, and give out rewards for success at far more frequent intervals than reality does. For example, one need not go through years of hardships and struggle to win the Super Bowl or the Indy 500; with a computer simulation one can play out a sports or racing career over the course just of a few weeks. And it isn’t like the games aren’t a challenge, they are, but they aren’t such a challenge that most people can never succeed. This is the secret to a successful computer game, and the reason why they can be so addictive, they give ordinary people the ability to live out fantasies they could never achieve in real life, and so people are choosing fantasy over reality more and more. Of course, I don’t think that nations will fall to dust just because their citizens are paying more attention to their Second Life than their primary one, but as computer games become more appealing and addictive a lot more time and energy will not be spent furthering the goals of susceptible ideologies. Some people, groups, and even nations will suffer as a result while others will thrive.
   To be successful, ideologies of the future will need to adapt to meet the challenges that have been detailed in this essay. For instance, some ideologies might become quite hostile to computer games, seeing them as direct competition and trying to get them banned, but the successful ones will realize their potential and embrace them, taking advantage of the games’ appeal but having players end up working to further ideological goals as they play. Games can of course be teaching tools, and it should be simple enough to create games based around religious, political, and economic themes so that they spread ideological beliefs. But one can go even farther than a game and create an ideologically centered virtual world online complete with virtual universities and virtual libraries which espouse an ideologically centered point of view, and with adherents as mentors available to answer questions and explain an ideology’s principals to the curious. Instead of learning by reading or by watching videos one could learn by doing, by playing, by interacting, and by creating one’s own content in a virtual world. Education, as well as ideological indoctrination, through virtual reality seems a natural next step, and if ideologically based games are as addictive as purely entertainment based ones are, they could easily give rise to fanatical devotion. Players might become so enchanted with ideological games that they would willingly brainwash themselves playing them. And as we witnessed during the rise of the tea party movement, the internet is fertile ground for the spread of ideas, and in the immersive environment of virtual reality these ideas can be sunk much deeper into the minds of the faithful. Online an ordinary person can become extraordinary, seeing their avatar become a champion for their beliefs in online games and making them feel like they are an important part of the movement. And since in a virtual world the environment is completely controlled the winning formula will inevitably be the one which embraces the tenets of the ideology. Thus, in the games, winning and adhering to ideological principles would be one and the same with each victory reinforcing the ideology’s beliefs in the mind of the player.
   But to be truly successful, ideologies will need to leverage their virtual following into producing real world results. Using the tea party as an example, the movement transformed internet based interest and involvement into protests, disruption of town hall meetings, public demonstrations, donations to favored politicians, and the final payoff: casting votes for tea party candidates. Adding to the barrage were well known politicians, twittering away in real time, which put them in close contact with activists and voters and made them seem more real and personal. And tea party members were actively trying to convince others that their ideas and causes were worthy and correct, bringing new members into the fold and thus generating larger donations and more votes in the end. This is one area where computer games are lacking, seeing as how they are mostly just for entertainment, but the potential exists to make ideological movements a similarly interactive and immersive experience. This sort of game would not stop at the edge of the internet but extend beyond it, overlapping between the virtual world and the real world and merging the two into a cohesive whole. Things you do on one side will carry over into the other and vice-versa.
   Thus, the virtual world would become more real, with real significance and real impact, and since the virtual world can be anything that its creators desire one could use it to simulate fantastical religious and spiritual realms, making them seem real as well. In a game you could visit heaven or hell or Valhalla, fly with angels, fight demons in holy wars, commune with animal spirits, walk and talk with Jesus and hang beside him as he dies for your sins, or simply go about doing good deeds and earning positive karma. Religion and spirituality, which can seem so distant in modern times, can be made relevant once more. To many people, heaven, hell, nirvana, the underworld, gods, angels, devils, etc., are just objects in aging stained glass windows, scenes in renaissance period paintings, and threats reverberating in the crazed ranting of evangelical preachers. But what if you could see horned tormentors laughing in your face, smell the brimstone as it bites into your flesh, and feel the heat as hellfire burns you to the soul? How much easier would it be to believe that the earth really is the battleground between good and evil? And what if you were to live through hundreds of lives in a breathtaking virtual version of Brahma’s glorious creation? How much more compelling would belief in reincarnation and karma become? This is the new frontier for ideologies and the sooner that they realize the potential of virtual reality the stronger they can become.
   These reformed ideologies will also have to adapt to other changes brought on by the internet, namely the reduction of civility and the volatility of personal relationships. Virtues like politeness, faithfulness, and modesty will likely play a reduced role in future. If an ideology demands such things, internet travelers will simply go somewhere else that caters more to their desires. Instead, reformed ideologies will need to create an awesome online experience, promising both real world and virtual rewards, and allowing followers to create and build up avatars and realms that they can be proud of. The competition will be fierce because people will be fickle, joining one ideology and going as far as they can with it before getting bored and switching to another one that seems more interesting. Ideologies will have to reinvent themselves frequently as political parties do today, coming up with new hooks to attract attention and gain back their lost market share.
   Chillingly, the addictive nature of ideologically based virtual worlds may result in a proliferation of “lone wolf” type radicals, people fiercely dedicated to the ideology and willing to do anything to further its goals. We have already seen people becoming lost in online games or actually killing themselves over what happened in virtual reality. If an ideologically based game promised avid believers that advancement to the “final levels” of a great game required something like martyrdom in real life how appealing would such an act be? Imagine if one of the “levels” of the game involved wandering through a landscape of real photographs of burned bodies, viewing scenes of the rape and torture of innocents by ruthless enemies of the ideology, and living through those horrors, virtually, but all the while knowing that they are actually being visited upon fellow believers in some part of the world, how powerful would the effect be on the mind? And if one couldn’t find the courage to martyr one’s self after such an experience, perhaps a few discussions with a group of like minded radicals could provide the encouragement to complete the “quest” and move up to the “next level”.
   Volatility, it seems, will be the order of the future, exacerbated by tendencies towards disinhibition and short term attachment on the internet and heightened by the failures of current ideologies to forge a workable world order in the present. Ideological warfare will likely proliferate, spilling over national boundaries and escalating in cyberspace. Police states will likely try to enforce order upon the internet, and most likely be as successful there as police states are in reality, that is, the more order they enforce, the less productive their realm of cyberspace will be. And as technology moves forward and the lines between reality and virtual worlds get blurry, we will be able to reach out and touch the faces of our gods.
   As they swallow us whole.



The Fireaxe theory - Outline

I. Basics - well established theories

1. Emergent systems - that complex systems can arise from the interactions of simple things
2. Natural selection - that organisms mutate, proliferate, and compete, with the "losers" becoming extinct
3. Behavioral science - that neurological systems, at their core, function according to the rules of conditioning
4. Entropy - that within a closed system, entropy always increases, which limits the amount of transformation that can occur

II. Extensions

1. That consciousness is an emergent system: a complex system arising in the human mind from the interaction of simple neurons.
2. That civilizations are emergent systems arising from the physical interactions of humans whether conscious or not.
3. That ideologies are emergent systems arising from the psychological interactions of conscious humans
4. That emergent systems follow the laws of natural selection in much the same way that organisms do
5. That the universe is, by definition, a closed system

III. Contentions regarding consciousness

1. That consciousness is a survival advantage
2. That being a member of an ideology is a survival advantage
3. That making its members conscious is a necessary part of an ideology's survival
4. That consciousness is created by instilling within a person a permanent sense of inadequacy - in essence a state of constant fear
5. That the deeper the sense of inadequacy, the stronger the person is motivated  - generally to serve their ideology

IV. Contentions regarding ideological struggle

1. That ideologies fight for survival using many methods including, but not limited to, war and enslavement
2. That aggression is a survival advantage
3. That survival in the short term outweighs survival in the long term prompting ideologies to pursue shortsighted and sometimes suicidal strategies
4. That aggressive ideologies make members of rival ideologies feel afraid and inadequate which in response become more aggressive, thus creating a vicious circle
5. That aggressive ideologies must grow or face internal strife as their aggressive members feed on each other to satisfy their needs
6. That internal struggle results in ideological mutation

V. Contentions regarding the future

1. That internal strife is inevitable since the laws of entropy imply that continuous growth is not sustainable
2. That the abstract bases for ideologies transcend mortality and thus suicidal aggression is not restrained by fear of death
3. That technological progress has made the destruction of the world through ideological warfare possible and will continue to make it easier to effect
4. That ideological mutation will eventually result in the creation of a suicidal ideology which will destroy the human race in the attempt to save it


How to order Fireaxe CDs:

   Ordering Fireaxe CD's is an informal process as I am selling them personally out of my apartment. Simply mail me a letter which contains the following:

1. The names of the CDs that you want to buy.
2. The address where you want the CDs sent.
3. Cash, a check, or a money order for the total cost.

   Or if you want to do PayPal, just send me the answers to 1 and 2 above in an e-mail and I'll tell you where to send the money.
   Here is a price list.  The first number is the cost for U.S. based customers, the second is for outside the U.S.  The prices include shipping and handling.

Eternal Devotion      $6   $9
    to the Dark Goddess
Food for the Gods:      $12   $15 - Sold out
Victory or Death      $5   $8 (free with any purchase)
Lovecraftian Nightmares   $5   $8 - Sold out
A Dream of Death      $3   $6 - Sold out

   Send everything to:

   Brian Voth
   1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
   Chula Vista, CA 91911    USA

   If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, any one of the single CDs (Not "Food for the Gods") is free of charge in exchange for the review.  In this case all I need is a request by e-mail.  Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your magazine with the review in it when it is done.  If you want to exchange CDs, tapes, or stuff of equivalent value, make these requests via e-mail and we'll arrange a trade.
   The CDs come with a booklet filled with awesome art, a letter about the project, and some information about the CD which can also be found on the Fireaxe site.
   Lastly, if you want to print and distribute Fireaxe CDs I can send you an additional CD which contains tiff files for all the booklets, tray cards, and labels for each project.  The tiff disk is free so just say the word.


The Future

   Unfortunately 2009 and now 2010 have been total busts for Fireaxe as far as recording is concerned.  Health issues sidelined projects scheduled for completion during those years and other than the guitarist taking the opportunity to get a whole lot better with his axe, nothing was accomplished.  With any luck this situation can be reversed in 2011.
   In 2011, Fireaxe will once again focus on remaking the past. First of all, "Food for the Gods" has sold out and will be re-mastered before a second printing run is made.  Also, it will be re-mixed with the vocal rerecorded for much better sound quality.  When all is said and done it should sound as good as "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess. Secondly, the first Fireaxe CD, "A Dream of Death" will be getting a complete overhaul before it is re-released.  Everything will be rerecorded using much more modern equipment and with everything that I've learned over the last ten years going into it to make it better than ever.  Also, since it was recorded at a time when CDs had a 74 minute limit instead of the current 80, I will add six more minutes of music to the work in which I will explore a number of musical themes as well as add a killer new song written by Octavio Ramos.  So it looks like a year of sequels for Fireaxe. I'll probably leave the names of the CDs the same but I've been kicking around a ideas for alternate titles, such as "Food for the Gods - Regurgitated", "Desert for the Gods", and "A Dream of Undeath", "The Morning After Death", or "I'm Dreaming of a White Strait-Jacket - a Fireaxe Christmas in Hell".
   My goal is to deliver music to whoever wants to hear it in whatever way is necessary.  Whatever the market demands, I will supply, but I do want to avoid the mass marketing channel.  Exposure is fine, but in the modern business, the substance of the music must be altered to match the demands of the marketplace.  This would totally defeat the purpose of why I write music in the first place.  I write music because it is a way to express my emotions.  What I both think and f