War on Drugs or War on Cognitive Liberty?

An interesting TEDx discussion of the use of mind altering substances, including ayahuasca and marijuana, and the relative stigma associated with these drugs in our culture, as opposed to the glorified stimulants and depressants such as caffeine and alcohol. It’s interesting to ponder why it is that drugs such as LSD, ayahuasca, MDMA, and marijuana, which have successfully been used therapeutically or for treatment of such problems as PTSD and addictions, are villainized in our culture. On the flip side, we have substances that numb us to reality and our selves and are highly addictive, and quickly create chronic health problems, yet are celebrated. Heck, some people even group standards of the American diet such as meat, refined carbohydrates and alternative sweeteners and stimulants (like energy drinks) into the latter group of substances that repress the individual’s physical, mental and spiritual health. Let your mind play:

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Small Farms Find Affordable Care Act Not So Affordable

“Obamacare,” as it is affectionately called, has been slowly creeping into our lives. While this legislative maneuver was pragmatic–such  sweeping reform could not be implemented overnight–the incremental adoption perhaps bears the imperceptible perk of stealth. While many are dreaming of a world where Americans have access to desperately needed health care, this massive piece of legislation is integrating itself into the fabric of our country in ways that cannot be easily undone, and will slowly reveal itself to add more gunk to the gears.

Easily, the most controversial aspect of Obamacare is the “Mandate.” What is mandated, however, is not simply for the individual, but also for businesses. Businesses with fifty or more employees are required to provide a health care plan for their employees, or pay a fine ($2000 per employee), just as individuals are required to purchase insurance or pay a fine.

The impact on small businesses, especially those that hire seasonal help, such as farms, is enormous.

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 “A lot of farmers may think they are immune from the law, but this is the biggest change to health care since the creation of Medicare or Medicaid almost 50 years ago,” said Matt Coffindaffer, regulatory affairs manager for the National Council of Agricultural Employers. The Federal Register notices on the law have run about 14,000 pages and three federal agencies — Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor and the Treasury Department — are responsible for implementing 550 separate provisions in the law.

The devil is in the details, as they say, and these details (a.k.a. regulations) are still being worked out. You can read more about farmer’s fears here.

Nothing Funny About It–Comics, Politics, and Propaganda

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It’s no secret that comics and graphic novels are a forum for discussing politics, social policy and propaganda  On one end of the spectrum, we have creations such as Maus, a Pulitzer prize-winning exploration of Holocaust survival, and Persepolis, a depiction of growing up during the Persian Gulf War of the 80s. And on the other end we have characters such as Superman and Captain America, WWII propagandists extraordinaire. Somewhere on that spectrum lies series like V for Vendetta and The Invisibles, each having to do with common man rising up against authority, be it governmental or corporate.

No stranger to social and political commentary for profit or provocation, DC Comics is at it again, hedging their bets with a double release in May 2013. In this increasingly divided world of haves and have-nots, DC is releasing two companion titles in May 2013, inspired by current events: “The Green Team” and “The Movement;” Meet the 1%, and the 99%.

The Green Team will explore such questions as “Can money make you happy?” and “If you had unlimited wealth, could you use that to make the lives of people better?” I wonder in what issue Female Force Ayn Rand will make a cameo? SuperWealth/SuperPower  is a common theme, popularized with the likes of Batman and Iron Man. So what’s different about the DC Universe now?

According to the creator of The Movement, which is supposed to follow the adventures of the 99%, Power is not one single entity, but nameless and faceless masses that may not even know each other. Read what she has to say in an interview with Big Shiny Robot:

The Movement is an idea I’ve had for some time. It’s a book about power–who owns it, who uses it, who suffers from its abuse. As we increasingly move to an age where information is currency, you get these situations where a single viral video can cost a previously unassailable corporation billions, or can upset the power balance of entire governments.

And because the sources of that information are so dispersed and nameless, it’s nearly impossible to
shut it all down. I’ve been in countries where the internet is heavily censored, but they can’t possibly keep up with millions of users from every corner of the world.

The previous generations of superheroes were not created to address this, it’s a legitimately new frontier, both for the real world and for storytellers.

The thing I find fascinating and a little bit worrisome is, what happens when a hacktivist group whose politics you find completely repulsive has this same kind of power and influence…what if a racist or homophobic group rises up and organizes in the same manner?

It makes you wonder where the next battlefield will be.

Frankly, by the middle of the interview I forgot she was writing The Movement, and instead thought she was sympathizing with the 1%. Maybe DC isn’t hedging as much as it appears.

Interestingly, DC’s release date is right in the ballpark of another publication, created by individuals sympathetic to the 99%.Though no official release date has been announced, those supportive of the Occupy movement, have been hard at work on a collection of essays, art, and comics have planned to release an Occupy Comics Anthology for Spring 2013.  I’m sure the timing is just a coincidence. The contributor list for Occupy Comics is lengthy and peppered with veterans of the comic book world. It includes none other than Alan Moore, of V for Vendetta fame. Alan Moore’s work inspired millions of the 99%, to the iconic point of putting an anonymous face to the Occupy Movement. Interesting he’s not working with DC on this one, eh?

There are some that think comics have moved away from meaningful social commentary. In common parlance, comic publishers have “sold out.” Perhaps that’s true. A glance at the list of contributors to the Occupy Comics Anthology, as compared to those creating and contributing to DC’s latest attempt at art-influencing-life would certainly support that notion.  It could be interesting to see what the creators of each series do with their opportunity to speak to current social unrest…or it could be yet more encouragement to drink the Kool Aid.

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Links of Interest

About Occupy Comics Anthology 

Alan Moore Occupy Comics Teaser