When You Complain About the Poor, It Says More Than You Realize


I keep hearing middle-class people complain about the poor. It’s so embarrassing. If I heard you complain about poor people, you should know that my assessment of your intelligence dropped about forty points. Complaining about poor people only makes you look like a jerk. There’s no way around it, and the poorer the people around you are, the uglier it looks. Save yourself the humiliation.


Complaining about the poor reveals more about you than you might realize. Complaining about the poor makes you look stupid because it shows that you don’t understand how our system works. If you are going to embrace our capitalist system, and enjoy the accouterments of the American middle-class lifestyle, it’s about time you saw some of the displaced refugees who lost their home to your money. If you can’t stand to see poor people enduring miserable conditions all around you, maybe you aren’t cut out for the middle-class after all. Taking offense to the poverty around you reveals how little you know about our economic system and advertises the small-minded, self-centered ignorance of the complainer.


Small-minded, self-centered ignorance is actually a pretty broad-spectrum problem for the middle-class, and it works against them in so many ways. I mean, if the middle-class didn’t live such a stupid, wasteful and destructive lifestyle, and behave so much like sheep, mindlessly consuming everything in sight, wherever they’re led, more bright young people might want to be like them. Lately, the middle-class has become so stupid and repulsive that a lot of people, I think, perhaps most people, would rather live on the streets, or even commit slow suicide with drugs and alcohol than become like them.


If the middle-class were populated with more bright, intelligent, curious, thoughtful people, more bright young people might aspire to be like them, and be more willing to subject themselves to the discipline it takes to become one. When the middle-class project their greed, their stinginess and their resentments, it shows off that small-minded, self-centered ignorance in the most repulsive possible light. That’s what happens when middle-class people complain about the poor. Bright young people start to realize how stupid and/or crazy the middle-class really is.


Hearing middle-class people complain about the poor should remind us all that the middle-class has more mental problems than those poor souls who inhabited the Palco Marsh for so many years. The middle-class have no idea what is going on around them, and their lives are completely out-of-control. The middle-class consume far more drugs than the poor. The middle-class consume far more of everything than the poor, yet they constantly cry for more. It’s pathological.



The American middle-class lifestyle is a kind of psychosis. The middle-class is a kind of communicable mental illness, and the people who suffer from it tend to conform to each other and relate to mainstream media, more than they do to reality. Conformity matters to them. Because they live in an alternative universe made mostly of media, and rarely have unmediated encounters with reality, the middle-class look to each other to reinforce their shared hallucination.


The more middle-class people interact with each other, exclusively, the more vivid their hallucination becomes, and the further from reality they get. The further from reality they get, the less they are able to deal with the demands of the real world. When the middle-class express consternation, frustration and aggravation about the poor, we need to remember that they live in an alien world where their actions have no consequences, the government protects everyone, and corporations are our friends. The middle-class inhabit an expensive, destructive, fantasy, and they have gotten so far lost in this fantasy that reality has become offensive to them. At times, they even lash out at it. Do not kid yourself, the middle-class are sick, dangerous, drug-addicted people, and something must be done about them before they destroy everything.


These days, most intelligent people recognize the American middle-class lifestyle for the apocalyptic plague that it is. Anyone with any brains can tell you that the American middle-class lifestyle is killing the planet. Even the American middle-class knows it, but they don’t care. They are so strung-out on that hallucination that they don’t even care if it kills us all. They’re like, “Well, if you can save the planet without inconveniencing me in any way, then go for it, but otherwise, fuck it.”


So, bright young people look at the middle-class and think that only an idiot would live like that. Scientists look at the middle-class and say “We have to stop living like that, and no one should never live like that again.” Nonetheless, the middle-class still insist that everyone live like them, and they intend to punish anyone who tries to live differently. How crazy is that?


We can solve problems. We can’t make people smarter, or less crazy, or less prone to addiction, but we could relieve stress, reduce harm, and create the kind of situation that would spawn innovative solutions that work, if only the middle-class could just face reality. The problem is, the longer they go without facing reality, the uglier reality gets, and the uglier reality gets, the harder it is to face.


I don’t think it makes sense to complain about the poor. The poor are doing the best they can with the limited options available to them. The middle-class on the other hand, have options and resources at their disposal, but are too stupid and/or crazy to escape their mass, ecocidal, psychosis. I’m not sure we can reach the middle-class with ideas anymore. They might be too far gone, but it’s the middle-class that needs to change. If they’re smart, they’ll make that change when reality looks them in the eye. If not, they’ll make that change when reality smacks them in the face. Either way, they’ll change.


Landlords Threaten Last Bastion of Hippie Culture in SoHum


The more they try to beautify this town, the uglier it gets. The people with money in Garberville think they can cover up injustice with a fancy new facade, and blot out dysfunction with a fresh coat of paint, but the more they try to cover it up and push it away, the more their ugliness sticks out like a sore thumb. We see it in the hideous orange fence that surrounds the Town Square, excluding everyone from our central commons, and now we see more of it in actions taken against Tigerlilly Books.


Tigerlilly Books, also known as Paul’s Bookstore, at the North End of Garberville is the last surviving hippie business in Garberville. Paul Encimer has been a pillar of this community for decades, and few people have done more to serve the community than he has. In fact, that’s why landlords Childs, Hodges, and Sinoway and their Manager Jenny Edwards say they are evicting him.


In the “Two Week Notice” dated 9/23/16, they claim that Paul is in violation of his lease because “the premises are being used to store and distribute goods other than books.” Further, they demand that he “must not store food, clothing, or items/provisions other than those that relate to a bookstore and not to distribute such items from the premises.” Paul, and his recently deceased wife Kathy, have, for decades, helped match donations to needs in this community, through their bookstore,


…and Paul still maintains a community free box in front of his store. If you have extra coats, blankets, tents or sleeping bags, Paul knows who needs them. Apparently, charity is grounds for eviction in Garberville.


By far the biggest distribution of food that happens at Paul’s Bookstore is the, once-a-month, Mountain People’s Food Buying Club. Members of the club order food from a catalog, at wholesale prices, and once a month, a truck unloads a pallet of groceries in front of the bookstore. The whole club helps unload it and sort it all out. This cooperative community grocery project rose out of the ashes of the long defunct Co-op in Ruby Valley, which Paul was also involved with. The Co-op in Ruby Valley was a central hub of back-to-the-land, hippie culture, back in the day, and when the Co-op went under, that culture retreated to Paul’s Bookstore. Paul doesn’t just run a bookstore, he keeps that culture alive.



Besides being THE place to pick up a book, meet the cool people in town, and catch up on the latest gossip, Paul’s Bookstore has cultural and historical significance. For a short time, after the rednecks killed the Indians and cut down all of the trees, but before the dope yuppies sucked the salmon streams dry, a bunch of idealistic young people, called “hippies,” inspired by new ideas and psychedelic drugs, moved out here to escape the rat race, and to learn to live differently. Those back-to-the-land hippies gave us alternative energy, owner-built homes, composting toilets, organic farming and California sinsemilla. Paul cultivates the last surviving remnant population of “back-to-the-land” hippies in SoHum, at his bookstore in Garberville.


The achievements born from this brief flowering of a creative counterculture stand in stark contrast to the long, dark history of violence, exploitation, and stupidity that otherwise characterize the history of white settlement in this area.


For this reason alone, we should preserve hippie culture wherever we find it, but we’ve been told, time and time again, that hippie culture is the key to our economic future as well. Will we ever learn? Today, hippie culture has all but vanished from the hills, but it still survives at Paul’s Bookstore in Garberville, at least for now.


Paul’s bookstore keeps hippie culture alive, and reminds us of what community looks like. Not only does Paul keep his shelves stocked with the ideas that shape hippie thinking, he also lives up to the ideals of hippie culture. He has opposed every war since Vietnam. He still has the sea turtle costume he wore in the “Battle for Seattle” WTO Protest, and he has chained himself down inside his congressman’s office. Paul has organized free meals, and run emergency shelters. Paul is a fountain of knowledge about hippie culture, community organizing and non-violent resistance, and he’s all too eager to share that knowledge with anyone who’ll listen.


Today, the dope yuppies circle him like sharks. Drug dealers dominate the local culture now, and they bring an entirely different set of values from those of the hippies. Drug dealers don’t care about community. That’s why they became drug dealers in the first place. Drug dealers only care about making money, and drug dealers like to show off their money.




Drug dealers care a lot about their “image” because they can’t talk too much about what they do for a living, and because dealing drugs is a pretty low-status job. So, drug dealers use their money to appear wealthy and sophisticated, and to draw attention away from the the very sleazy nature of their business. It’s the same way with strip clubs and pornography. The marque reads: “Entertainment for the Discerning Gentleman,” only because the sign reading “Live Nude Girls” brought in enough money to renovate the club. They didn’t change what they did for a living, they just changed their image.


Now that a new cadre of greedy, image-conscious, dope yuppies have taken to laundering their money through Garberville’s downtown, they’ve declared war on anyone who doesn’t have the look they’re looking for. They’ve made it clear that they don’t want no commie food club or hippie free box in their town, and they sure as hell don’t want anyone to give food, warm clothes, sleeping bags or tents to people who need them. They want to get as far away from the “hippie” look as possible, and Paul just doesn’t fit into their sharp new upscale image of Downtown Garberville.


It’s not enough that Sohum’s drug dealers exterminate charity in their own heart, they insist on sterilizing the whole town. When they say, “Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t have any services for poor people down here in SoHum,” they say it like it’s a strange coincidence. They should say “We’re greedy pricks here in SoHum. We don’t share, and we like to bully people. If we find you asleep, anywhere in this town, we just might beat you to death with a stick, just for kicks. Not only that, if anyone in this town tries to help you, we will crush them. That’s how little we care and how much we want you gone.”


You can’t build real prosperity from greed, injustice and exploitation, and you can’t escape the poverty created by the War on Drugs. The profits of prohibition are cursed. The skeletons hidden behind the new faux-stone facade going up downtown, and the bodies buried under the Garberville Town Square will haunt this town for generations. Paul’s bookstore on the other hand, stands as a shining beacon of hippie culture, in a vast, dark, violent sea of predators and bottom-feeders. As a community, we can’t afford to lose it.


Hillary V The Donald


I don’t usually write about national politics because the USA seems like a lost cause to me, and following the machinations of the federal government makes my head hurt, but this current presidential campaign has gotten too ridiculous to ignore. It’s almost too ridiculous to make fun of. I still expect Trump to rip off his mask, revealing Andy Kaufman underneath. That’s how unbelievable I find Trump, but no matter who gets elected this November, it’s all downhill from here.


We’ve already gotten used to choosing a lesser of two evils, but this year, the evil runs pretty deep on both sides. On one side we have clever, cunning, and connected evil, vs stupid, rogue, egotistical evil, on the other. Intelligence in the service of evil is formidable. Stupidity defeats itself, and egotism always has a blind side. Do you prefer the deliberate, calculated evil of a team with a proven track record, or do you want reckless, wanton, spontaneous evil? How does one make such a choice? It’s a matter of perspective, I suppose.


Strange things happen when the world falls apart. As the US Empire progresses from decline to collapse, only the denial and bad habits of the American people animate the rotting corpse of democracy. We go through the motions of having an election because it allows us to believe that we have some control over the government, and that it serves us, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. As push comes to shove in the New World Order, the question becomes, “Who can manufacture consent?” Increasingly, it looks like the answer to that question is “no one.”


Dissatisfaction with the US government is high right now. Everyone is fed up with the federal government, but instead of abandoning it, and looking for an alternative, too many people want some knight in shining armor to ride in and rescue the princess from the evil dragon. A lot of people thought Bernie Sanders was their knight. Other people see Trump that way, I guess, but pretty much everyone knows that Hillary is there to feed the dragon.


In fact, they’re all there to feed the dragon. Presidential politics is a contest to see who can feed the most people to the evil dragon. Bernie convinced us that he could tame the dragon. Hillary wants to ride the dragon, and Trump wants to be the dragon. It’s still the same evil empire, and the people serve the empire, not vice versa. That’s how empires work, including this one, regardless of what they taught you in school.


For Hillary, it’s like this: Do you want to vote for the Wall St. candidate?  Do you want to vote for the banker’s candidate? Do you want to vote for the medical industry and health insurance industry candidate? Do you want to vote for the candidate supported by the people who have been dissecting you and eating you alive for the last few decades? Fuck no!


Think about it. Sure, Hillary Clinton is, far and away, the most qualified candidate for the job, but the job is bending humanity to the will of our Wall St. overlords.


Maybe we don’t want the best, most qualified person in that position. Maybe we want an incompetent buffoon in the White House, just to give humanity a fighting chance. Maybe we can use Trump’s ego to our advantage. Since all he cares about is his own popularity, he may actually respond to public pressure, Then again, we may not like how he responds.


Trump really took the Republican Party by storm, and it shows. The GOP looks like New Orleans after Katrina. They’re up to their eyeballs in filth. Everything they’ve worked for for the last 160 years, is now smothered in raw sewage, putrefied garbage, and toxic pollution. The fact that he’s surging in the polls is like that hot Louisiana sun, cooking it all up into some scary-ass gumbo. The Republican leadership is afraid to touch it, let alone taste it, but now they’re stranded in it, sitting on the roof of what’s left of their house, trying to decide whether they can get along with those pretentious New York liberals, or get behind that wacko outsider who doesn’t know what “Aleppo” is, rather than hold their nose and dive in to swim with the slime.


On the bright side, for Republicans, I think a Trump presidency could do a lot for the image of previous Republican administrations. For instance: Donald Trump makes George W Bush sound intelligent.


Donald Trump makes Dick Cheney appear reasonable and compassionate.


Next to Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan comes across as deep, and not at all vain,  and Richard M Nixon seems like a nice guy.


Proud Republicans everywhere can thank Trump for that.



So, it seems like a toss-up to me. We can have more of the same,


…or we can have cheeze-doodles in Cool Whip.


I think we should take it as an indication of how fed-up people are with what they are being fed, that cheeze-doodles in Cool Whip looks good to them.



SoHum Needs Rehab


On the radio the other day I heard two women talking about the cannabis industry in Humboldt County, and the challenges they face from new regulations and changing market forces as cannabis becomes legal. They talked about “bad press” as one of those challenges. Apparently, Humboldt County’s cannabis industry has come in for some bad press lately. Specifically, they talked about the recent article in Reveal, by Shoshana Walter, about sex abuse and human trafficking in Southern Humboldt’s marijuana industry.


The women on the radio admitted that it was a fair article, and that the facts contained in it were disturbing, but they talked about it from the perspective of how this article negatively effects the Humboldt Brand. The story itself revolved around several different woman who had been lured back to remote SoHum cannabis farms with the promise of work, and then held against their will and sexually abused. Most of the women profiled, never went to the police, so the perpetrators remain at large, in our community, presumably. I can see where people might not want to buy pot grown by rapists, if they have a choice, and I can see where this kind of bad press might hurt the Humboldt brand, but that’s not what shocked me about this conversation.


What shocked me, was what the women were not talking about. They were not talking about the very serious problem described in the article. They were not talking about rape culture in our community. They were not talking about how we can prevent rape in our community. Even as harvest season draws neigh, they were not talking about setting up an emergency phone line, or starting a campaign to raise awareness, and discourage this horrendous behavior by local landowners perpetrated against transients. No, they were talking about how “bad press” tarnishes their brand.


A couple of weeks ago another local teenager beat another old man, nearly to death, in the Town Square in Garberville. Besides rape and human trafficking, local teenagers beating old men with baseball bats is another chronic problem around here. Admittedly, it’s not as sexy as the human trafficking story, but it still has the potential to bring bad press, and it certainly happens often enough. We laugh off the graffiti-covered, vandalized, and burned-out vehicles on our county roads, but someone might make a picture book called “The Wreckage of Humboldt County.” What would that do for your brand?


We have a problem. It’s not a matter of branding. It’s about what the War on Drugs has done to us, and what we have become. We have a problem. We have a problem that money can’t solve. It’s a cultural problem that drags down our quality of life, drives social dysfunction, and leads to most of our “bad press.” If we could face facts and work together, we could beat this problem, but first we need to admit that we have a problem.


We don’t have an image problem. This problem effects us much more than it effects how other people see us. The rapes and the murders and the beatings happen in our community, and they involve our people. Who cares what Reveal readers think of it? We create a culture of violence and coercion here in our community, because our community has been shaped by the violence and coercion of the War on Drugs.


We all feel economic pressure. Some of us buckle under that pressure, give up and turn to drugs. Most of us work entirely too much, and pay taxes in hopes of enjoying the few hours we have to enjoy our lives in a decent civilized society. Meanwhile, some of us decide to cheat the system. For whatever reason, we overlook the harm it causes. We tell ourselves that it’s OK and that everyone does it, but internally, it corrupts us.


Profiting from prohibition is like drinking the blood of the community. Before long, you divide the community into two groups of people, “our people,” the people you love and nourish with your illegal loot, and “those people,” the ones who buy your product, do your work, take your order and stock your grocery shelves, whose blood you drink to survive. Here, we try to build a community from people who cheat the community for a living, and we wonder why we find it so draining.


At one time, the cheaters had plenty of money. They were generous and eager for any opportunity to improve their image, which lead to a whole wave of non-profit organizations who sprang up to accommodate them. These groups survive by getting dope yuppies drunk and telling them how great they are for supporting this work. In this way, the community was able to suck back some of their own blood. It worked for a while, but it’s not exactly what you would call, “functional.”


Today, legalization isn’t just about converting illegal enterprises into legal enterprises. It is about people who have cowered in the shadows their whole lives learning to stand up and become pillars of the community. It’s about people with few skills and wildly unrealistic expectations experiencing economic pressure they’ve never had to deal with before. It’s about facing that economic pressure, head-on, without cheating, and learning to do something else for a living. In other words, it’s about rehabilitation. It’s about time we faced the fact that we need it.


The War on Drugs attracts the worst people, and it brings out the worst in people. The cruel hand of the War on Drugs has twisted and warped our community for more than 40 years, and for all that time we’ve hidden it behind a veil of secrecy. As we move towards legalization, and the gnarled, twisted beast we’ve become, steps into the light of day for the first time, the truth about what we have become could easily make a bigger impact on Humboldt County’s reputation than the quality of our weed.


We’ve got two or three generations of dysfunction to overcome. Forty years of suspicion, secrecy and lies. Forty years of unrealistic expectations. Forty years of “us vs them” thinking. Forty years of corruption and parasitism. Forty years of gambling with your life. Forty years of stress. Forty years of CAMP, and ripoffs, and rats and mites and mold and mildew. Forty years of war.


Forget about trying to compete in the new legal cannabis industry. We’ve got rapes and murders and senseless hate-crimes going on, right here, all the time. We’ve got real problems, and our dysfunction presents a much bigger challenge to our future than competition in the cannabis industry. We have a lot of healing to do, and we need to go through a process of truth and reconciliation. Until we come to terms with what we have done, and what has been done to us, this war will never be over for us.



We need to tell the truth about what happened to us, and how it came to this. We need to reconnect with our own humanity and relearn empathy. We need to learn to live honestly and stand on our own two feet, before we try to step into a bigger pair of shoes, and we need to learn to live within our own means, without the overblown expectations of a dope yuppie. Those things will make our community stronger in the long run, which will make SoHum a better place to live, which makes us all richer, regardless of how much money we have.


We can’t control the marijuana industry, and we can’t prevent legalization, but we can change our culture. We can change our habits and build inclusive community values. We can refuse to tolerate rape in this community. We can offer a safe place, and an emergency phone line for women in trouble, and we can stop whipping our young men into hateful violent frenzies. We have a lot of work to do here in Southern Humboldt, but it’s not about building the Humboldt brand, it’s about rehabilitating our community, and it’s about time we got to work on that.


SoHum’s Latest Embarrassment


If you want to see, first-hand, why you can’t build a community with people who cheat the social contract, come to Garberville to see just how dysfunctional a town dominated by drug dealers and real estate leeches can be. From the vandalized and burned-out vehicles along our county roads, to the open hostility towards the poor and homeless in town, to the online comments that stack up, like so many stale crackers, beneath every slab of “Hardin” cheese, SoHum shows off its dysfunction with a breathtaking lack of self-consciousness. It’s embarrassing, frankly.


A number of people approached me on Friday to ask if I planned to write about our latest embarrassment, namely, the hideous orange fence around the new Garberville Town Square. The Garberville Town Square, as the Garberville Town Square Association reminds us, is on private property. So, the owners of the Garberville Town Square have decided that they don’t like the way the public uses their space. They’ve fenced it off with repulsive orange plastic temporary fencing, and asked the Sheriff to evict anyone who dares set foot in it. The Garberville Town Square Committee announced this 60 day closure, just as the annual influx of seasonal workers and cannabis tourists began to arrive to celebrate and bring in the Fall harvest.


Every year, right about this time, every pot-smoking free-spirited freak and hippie in the world thinks about coming to Humboldt County to get high, camp in the woods, and make some money trimming weed. Some of them actually go through with it. Trimming remains a huge bottleneck in the cannabis industry, and with so much recent expansion, the need for temporary workers at harvest time has only increased. People wouldn’t keep coming back if they didn’t find work, and people do come back, year after year. It’s a thing.


Cannabis attracts a really diverse group of people, trending towards the young and enthusiastic, from all over the world. Trim jobs especially appeal to foreign travelers looking for a way to make some money without a green card. Some of them have never seen a mature cannabis plant before. Few of them will make a career of trimming weed, but all of them want to spend a few weeks buried in marijuana and have some cash money to show for it. It’s also a great opportunity to meet people, share stories and make friends.

trimming pot

Every year, these people show up. Every year, they have nowhere to go, so they hang out in town, and every year, people in town get angry, call the cops, and rout them out and fence them off from anyplace they try to congregate. Neighbors’ complaints about people congregating in the Garberville Town Square, especially after dark, prompted the Town Square closure, and the ugly orange fence. I understand that having a whole lot of rambunctious young people in town can impact your life in a lot of ways, and I sympathize, but it’s not like you didn’t know they were coming.


It really amazes me that a community that depends so heavily on the marijuana industry, could treat the people who make that industry profitable, so badly. If you want the people who love marijuana and smoke marijuana every day to think highly of “the Humboldt Brand,” it seems to me that you would want them to enjoy themselves, and feel good about the time they spend here in Humboldt County. Instead, we try to make it into a war zone for them, in hopes that they will leave, but they stay anyway. Thanks to the War on Drugs, they are used to living in war zones, and have come to expect this kind of treatment.


If we had any sense around here, we could turn harvest season into the biggest tourist draw of the year. It could become a two month festival, that makes Reggae on the River kind of money, week after week until it starts to rain. Just open a huge campground, down at the Community Park perhaps, park a few food trucks down there, open a canteen, offer “trimmer training” courses, set up a flea market, a cafe, and plenty of porta-potties, and keep it all out of town.


A lot of people come here looking for work, and the industry, as it stands, genuinely needs most of their labor. The more we cater to their needs, the more of that money we can keep in our community. The infrastructure necessary to accommodate the people who come here every year would not cost that much. It wouldn’t look like much of a status symbol, nor would it provide a scapegoat to vent pent up frustrations on, but it would solve the problem, help the Humboldt brand and create new opportunities for economic diversity which we desperately need.


Instead, we cultivate this escalation of hostilities. We vent. We build fences and hold town meetings. We pass around photographs of human feces like we’ve never seen it before. We pass new ordinances to criminalize poverty, and sleep, and asking for help. We go out into the woods with tazers and video cameras and cops to harass, humiliate and evict our poorest neighbors, and now, for this year’s twist, we fence off our charming little Town Square as though it’s contaminated with radioactivity.


It never works. It didn’t work last year. It didn’t work the year before. It didn’t work the year before that, and it won’t work this year. They’re coming. You can’t stop them any more than you can hold back the tides, or prevent the next earthquake. They’re coming. They’re young. They’re excited. They’re having fun, staying up late at night, taking drugs and blowing off steam, just like you did when you were their age, and they’ll be here until it starts to rain. It’s a fact of life. The sooner we face that fact, the sooner we can solve the problem.


The people who come here for the harvest season really appreciate cannabis. These people love weed, and Fall harvest provides the opportunity to build the Humboldt brand. If people have a good, positive experience while they are here, whether or not they make any money, that could easily translate into a lifetime preference for cannabis products bearing the Humboldt name. Now that prohibition has all but ended, people have lots of cannabis choices. Brand loyalty can easily make the difference between success and failure in the legal market.


If we can just face the fact that people need a place to be, and make space for people, we can solve a lot of problems, relieve a lot of stress, and create a lot of new economic opportunities. We can’t keep pretending that we’re just a normal quiet small town and that we have no idea why all of these hippies keep coming here every Fall. We can’t make them go away, but we can solve problems, make peace, and make money, if we can just face facts and take responsibility. That is, we could, if we were that kind of people.


“Blood Diamond”

blooddiamond girl

I’ve written about stupid names for strains of weed before, but now I think I’ve figured out why stupid names matter. To market weed effectively, the cannabis industry needs names that appeal to the intellect and aesthetics of a 15 year old boy. I smoked weed for the first time on my 15th Birthday. I think a lot of people start smoking weed at about that age, so the same logic that applies to naming a hip-hop artist or a professional wrestler also applies to naming weed.

pro wrestler

You need a name that sounds cool to a 15 year old boy. That’s why we have pot called: “Green Crack,” “God’s Pussy,” and “Chem Dawg.” From that perspective, the latest “hot” strain around here, “Blood Diamond” fits the bill. I would have bought “Blood Diamond” weed when I was 15, and I would have liked the name too. I haven’t smoked any “Blood Diamond” yet, but it gets rave reviews, from everyone except trimmers.

trimming weed

To me, it’s all just “weed.” I’m sure I’d like “Blood Diamond” weed if I smoked some. I like all weed, and most of the weed around here is pretty good. Don’t ask me to tell you which weed is better. If I’m high on good weed, the last thing I want to think about is how this weed compares with the last weed I smoked. I’m high now. That’s what matters.

what matters

I think “Blood Diamond” is a poetic name for weed right now. The term “Blood Diamond” was coined for diamonds mined in conflict zones where they fund bloody civil wars. Many brutal conflicts rage in, diamond rich, Central Africa. Warlords use the money they make from mining and selling these diamonds to buy weapons, ammunition and supplies to advance their personal ambitions of wealth and power through violence and bloodshed. The UN Banned the import of diamonds from conflict zones, but the black market has ways around such things, so “Blood Diamonds,” diamonds from Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Angola and a few other countries, still find their way onto young women’s fingers here in the US.

engagement ring

Now “Blood Diamond” marijuana is finding its way into America’s bongs. While “Blood Diamonds” in Sierra Leone finance a bloody civil war fought by child soldiers, “Blood Diamond” weed supplies an army of underage street dealers who risk violence, expulsion from school and jail time, on the front lines of America’s War on Drugs.

Marijuana deal in school

In war zones, arms dealers will happily accept payment, in diamonds, for weapons and ammunition, so warlords dig for diamonds to finance insurgencies that terrorize and destabilize fledgling democracies. In Trinity County last week, cops raided a house in which, in addition to the typical, industrial quantities of cannabis, and commercial quantities of hard drugs, authorities found over a hundred firearms and more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition.

guns corner

Conflict zones have no environmental regulations. In Central Africa, brutal warlords use forced labor to dam rivers, and dig dangerous mines in the riverbeds to find “Blood Diamonds.” Here in Humboldt County, greedy growers clear forests, bulldoze natural habitat and drain salmon streams to grow “Blood Diamond” weed.


“Blood Diamonds” sparkle as bright as diamonds mined in peaceful democracies like Canada, and most diamond dealers have a “don’t ask; don’t tell” policy. The same can be said for the marijuana industry. Cannabis consumers rarely know much about where their marijuana comes from or how it was produced.


“Blood Diamond” is just another meaningless moniker designed to brand cannabis and appeal to prospective 15 year old clients, but it says a lot about the cannabis industry and the War on Drugs with an elegance and sense of irony I really admire. Apparently the product is pretty good too. I can only assume the grower who developed this strain, knows the industry, and the plant, very well indeed. I appreciate his honesty and eloquence.

honesty eloquence

Sizzla, Community Values, and the Mateel

sizzla reggae on the river

I do not enjoy criticizing local nonprofits, but the recent controversy around the the Mateel Community Center’s choice to book “Murder Music” superstar, Sizzla, to headline this year’s Reggae on the River deserves a bit more attention, because it points out some of the pitfalls of importing someone else’ culture rather than developing our own.

we develop culture

I’ve never understood the local fascination with Reggae Music. I love Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff. I’ve heard some other reggae music that I liked a lot, but I’ve heard more insipid, preachy, banal and just plain lame reggae music since I’ve moved to Humboldt County than I’ve ever heard before. Listening to the radio around here often reminds me that the global reggae music machine produces plenty of pap that’s every bit as vapid as the American Top 40, as well as religiously themed pop music that rivals Christian Rock, for subtlety and depth.

christain rock

I have deep respect for Rastafarian culture. It’s not my culture, but I respect Rastafarian history, tradition, beliefs, and religion. I know that a lot of people find their strength in Rastafarianism, and I think that’s a beautiful thing, for them. I am not the son of the son of an African slave. I do not live in poverty in a violent ghetto on the outskirts of a tropical resort city built to serve rich white tourists, and I do not know whether Emperor Haile Salassie is the messiah or not, but he doesn’t mean a lot to me personally.

haile salassie

Like Christianity, like Islam, like Judaism, many people take Rastafarianism seriously, and receive a lot of personal strength from it. Like Christianity, Islam and Judaism, Rastafarianism has apparently spawned some embarrassingly popular, if not seriously threatening, fundamentalists. It happens to every religion, it seems. I mean, what’s the point of finding your personal strength, if you can’t use it to whip some non-believer’s ass once in a while?

church malden

Dance hall music star, Sizzla, obviously enjoys tremendous popularity among reggae music fans, in spite of, or perhaps because of, his strong belief that homosexuality is evil. According to Sizzla, homosexuality is so evil that it is OK to kill homosexuals. In fact, he thinks it’s a good idea to kill homosexuals, and he wants to kill homosexuals. We know that he feels this way because he’s written these sentiments into the lyrics of his songs and stated as much on stage.

sizzla attacks gays

A lot of religions have issues with homosexuality, if not sexuality in general. I don’t understand why religions focus so much time and energy on telling people what not to eat and who not to have sex with, but I think it at least partially explains why most of us are not particularly religious, and why the people who cling to religion the most are often people who don’t get enough to eat, and/or don’t have enough sex.

sexual frustration

We all know gay people, if we’re not gay ourselves, and hopefully, all of us know that it’s NOT OK to kill gay people. I’d like to think that’s a community value we all share around here, but you never know what kinds of ideas people nurture in the privacy of their own minds. For instance, if Sizzla were notorious for his calls for violence against bankers, or real estate tycoons, or drug dealers, I wouldn’t be writing this column. Instead, I’d be writing about this great show I just saw, and about an inspiring artist who tells it like it is.

music isnt just sound


Apparently, that’s how reggae fans see Sizzla. His message resonates with people. I don’t get it, but Sizzla’s music means something to a lot of people. He is highly revered in Jamaica not only as a prolific artist, but also as a community leader, and a strong voice in the Rastafarian movement. Many people here in the US want to hear his message too. I don’t understand Sizzla’s appeal any more than I understand his hatred of gay people, but that’s OK.

sizzla ethiopia

There are lot’s of things about lots of cultures that I don’t understand, but I do understand why you might not want to invite Sizzla to play at your community event, especially if you value the gay people in your community. I’m not worried about other cultures; I’m worried about the culture of this community. Here, in Humboldt County, we value gay people. We appreciate the contribution they make to our society, the diversity they bring to our community, and we love them as friends and family. I would think that this would make Sizzla a very poor choice to headline our biggest community event of the year.

Sizzla-ROTR 2016

The Mateel Community Center was well aware of Sizzla’s anti-gay rhetoric. A similar controversy erupted several years ago when a private promoter booked Buju Banton to play at the Mateel Hall. A protest erupted and the show was canceled. At that time Sizzla was already recognized as one of eight reggae artists labeled “Murder Music” for their blatant endorsement of violence against gay people. The Mateel also knew that booking Sizzla would sell a lot of tickets.

reggae on the river poster 2016

As it turned out, Sizzla’s infamous hatred of the LGBTQ community made him an irresistible bargain for any promoter willing to invite him into the US. The Mateel Community Center, working with the few promoters who were willing to weather the inevitable shit-storm of criticism, made it possible for Sizzla to tour the US for the first time in seven years, and he kicked off that tour at Reggae on the River.

homophobia boycott

We smoke as much weed as Rastas, and we have as much hair as Rastas, but we’re not Rastas. We’re Hippies. Remember? We were once a persecuted minority united by a spiritual ideal too, but we believe in free love. We had some other ideals too, but we’re all still pretty much on board with the idea that any kind of sex is cool, so long as everyone involved in it is an adult, and wants it. Our “local culture” remains fairly amorphous, but I feel safe in saying that we’re a fairly sex-positive community. Come to think of it, we might have a more distinct cultural identity if we didn’t try so hard to drown it in imported Jamaican music.

rastafari has no place for hippies

Near as I can tell, weed is the only real connection between Jamaica’s Rastafarian culture and the community of Southern Humboldt. When I talk to people around here about Reggae on the River, they talk about the history of this community, and they talk about the money. They get big dollar signs in their eyes and talk about how much money it brings into the community, how all the schools and fire departments make their budget there, and they talk about how much weed they sell at it. I’ve never heard anyone around here describe it as a religious revival.

get high reggae on river

I’ve been to Reggae on the River, twice, once as a volunteer and once as a vendor. It’s been a while, but I remember that I had fun. I like getting high as much as anyone, and Reggae on the River is all about getting high, or Irie as the Rastas say. I saw a lot of white, middle-class lushes at Reggae, the kind of people you would expect to see at a hippie drug festival, but I also saw a lot of Rastas in the audience, clearly Reggae on the River means something to them too. In fact, Reggae on the River may mean more to them than it means to us, at this point.


Still, this is our community, and we have facilities like the Mateel Community Center, to promote culture, and to promote culture that supports our community values. The Mateel chose Sizzla to headline Reggae on the River because the “Murder Music” stigma made him a bargain, and that bargain made Reggae on the River profitable this year. Apparently greed is our only true community value.

money talks

Maybe values are just more trouble than they are worth. I mean, if wealthy communities like ours can’t afford them any more, and poor communities sharpen them into offensive weapons designed to kill, maybe we’re better off without them. How much different would it be, really? We’d still have plenty of vapid pop music, and tons of drugs. I’ll bet most people would hardly notice the difference.

top concerts long