The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 13.5

July 31, 2010

"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’ 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 continue to grow or face internal strife as their aggressive members will 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 to the Dark Goddess: $6 / $9
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 marketting 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.
Brian Voth - Creator of Fireaxe

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