The Burning Blade
Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 14.1
December 5, 2010
"A short while ago the Blackstone hedge fundís co-founder, Stephen
"I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism;
"If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism
Schwarzman, characterized the attempt to tax short-term arbitrage
trading gains at the same rate that wage-earners pay as analogous
to Adolph Hitlerís invasion of Poland in 1939. It is a class war
against fraudsters and criminals Ė an unfair war as serious as
World War II. In Schwarzmanís apocalyptic vision the Democrats are
re-enacting the role of Adolph Hitler by mounting a fiscal blitzkrieg
to force billionaires to pay as high a tax rate as workers. Are not
Wall Street firms doing "Godís work," as Goldman Sachs chairman
Lloyd Blankfein, put it last fall? And if they are, then are not
those who would tax or criticize Wall Street 'God-killers'?"
- Michael Hudson
and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason.
If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it
consistently, all the rest follows."
that men have to reject."
- Ayn Rand
Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 14.1
December 5, 2010
"A short while ago the Blackstone hedge fundís co-founder, Stephen
"I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism;
"If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism
December 5, 2010
"A short while ago the Blackstone hedge fundís co-founder, Stephen
"I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism;
"If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism
Capitalism has been accused of being, in essence, a Ponzi Scheme: a system where the promise of great riches draws in more and more participants, the initial fees from whom are used to pay off those who joined earlier, but which in the end collapses because there can never be enough participants who can put into the system what those who are owed are taking out. In such schemes the ones who were in on it from the beginning reap great rewards while everyone else is left holding an empty bag. The present economic situation, where a smaller and smaller percentage of the population is accumulating a larger and large percentage of the wealth while everyone else is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, seems to support this theory rather resoundingly.
Those who argue that Capitalism is a Ponzi Scheme start with the fact that capital, which is extended to start or advance a business venture, comes either in the form of a loan demanding interest, or an investment demanding a return, and that the principle plus the interest cannot be paid back in full unless more loans or investments are extended. A very simplified economic model is used to support this contention involving a bank, an entrepreneur, and a number employees hired by the entrepreneur. In this model there is no other money in circulation save for that which the bank has given out. The argument goes something like this. First, the bank gives a loan to an entrepreneur who spends that money hiring people for a business that creates a number of goods. Second, the workers then use their entire salaries to buy all those goods, leaving the entrepreneur once again with all the money in circulation. Third, the entrepreneur tries to pay back the original loan but discovers that even with all the money in circulation he cannot pay it back in full because of the interest that he must also pay. Thus, he is inevitably forced to borrow more money from the bank and use it to pay the interest on the original loan. Of course, taking out another loan means that the entrepreneur will have even more interest that he needs to pay back, requiring more loans in the future. This traps him in a cycle of perpetual debt. The argument then goes that capitalism is just this same system writ large where everyone will eventually end up indebted to the banks with no hope of ever breaking free.
This argument is fatally flawed. It fails to account for things such as the risk that the banker takes on by loaning out money. If a banker never charged interest, the best that he could do is break even, and since people will inevitable default on some of his loans, he will slowly but surely lose all his money through defaults. By charging interest he can offset the losses due to the hazards of his business. Secondly, the argument fails to account for the fact that bankers are not self sufficient and they need to spend some of the money they earn to pay for lifeís necessities, thus there is always a flow of money out of the bank which is not in the form of a loan that can be earned and used by borrowers to pay the interest on existing loans. Thirdly, it fails to account for growth in the economy. Investments will often increase the productivity of workers and thus raise the gross output of the entire system, such as when someone invents a product that makes peopleís jobs easier. Interest and returns can be paid out of the surplus growth. When these things are properly accounted for one sees that bankers and investors play a valuable role in an economic system. Bankers and investors supply capital to those projects which are deemed most likely to succeed and stand ready to absorb any losses if their judgments about what to invest in are poor. In return the bankers and investors receive a steady flow of income from their successful projects until the loan is paid off or the investment is sold. There is nothing inherently wrong with the capitalist system, as well as any economic system that allows for interest on loans, such that it will always lead to collapse.
However, collapse is exactly what the world is on the brink of, and an unpayable debt spiral is what is building in the global economy at a disastrously increasing rate. The reason that this is happening is because the amount of interest being paid on existing loans far exceeds the amount of money available to pay them back. Money is flowing to the bankers and investors at a much greater rate than it is flowing from the bankers and investors to those who owe, and the amount of growth in the economy, if there is any growth at all, is not sufficient to make up the difference. The figures showing the highly skewed distribution of wealth and income bear this truth out clearly. All the growth in the economy going back several decades has gone into the coffers of the top twenty percent of earners. To make matters worse, when people default on their loans, and this is happening on the order or millions of people per year, the bankers have been bailed out by their governments, or their central banks, which essentially take money away from everyone else to compensate the banks for their failed loans. In such an environment the bankers canít lose, they can keep making larger and larger loans, increasing their profit margins and draining more money out of the economy, while knowing that they wonít be on the hook for any serious losses. Life is good when you are too big to fail.
The inherent problem with capitalism is that it, like every other ideology, cannot prevent greed from corrupting its ideals and causing the collapse of the highly efficient marketplace system which lends it its strength. In typical economic times a bankerís life can be a difficult one. Although itís difficult to imagine it in this day and age, credit was once rather difficult to come by and lending standards were tight. Banks werenít allowed to repackage their mortgages and sell them to investors and so they had to make sure that all their loans were sound or else they risked going bankrupt. Thus, people who were seen as high risk were often denied access to credit. However, those who had good credit ratings often decided against using their credit card or taking out loans. Prudent people prefer not to pay interest, instead saving their money until they can purchase things outright, which will save them money in the long run. Thus, when people are unwilling or unable to buy things on credit, bankers are forced to lower the interest rates they charge as well as loosen their lending standards, but not so much that they canít make a profit or risk jeopardizing their business when too many loans go bad. Again, this is probably very difficult for anyone younger than forty to imagine, but in years gone by when monetary conditions were tight, banking was just as challenging a business as any other.
Bankers and investors thrive in high growth environments, such as when a valuable natural resource like gold or oil is discovered. In those situations, loans given out to miners, drillers, and developers will likely be paid back rapidly, and large interest rates can be charged since those who strike it rich will be able to afford the premiums. Furthermore, entire towns often spring up around these growth industries, the building of which requires more loans and capital which will be paid back from the profits spent by those working for the extraction industry. This is why bankers and investors are always searching for the next big strike whether it be in oil, tech companies, or immodest teen idols. They stand to make a lot of money if things take off and in many cases the entire economy benefits since there is more than enough profit to spread around.
But bankers and investors can create their own, unproductive, high growth environments, and exacerbate existing ones, simply by flooding a market with capital and taking advantage of the subsequent rise in asset prices. For instance, in the recent housing bubble, easy loan conditions and low interest rates made homes much more affordable. This lead to an increase in demand which drove prices up, but instead of finding an equilibrium condition, houses became even more coveted due to their rising value. People saw houses as canít lose investments. In poorly regulated environments such as those where banks can sell their mortgages out the back door, situations like this can quickly lead to bubbles, where money spent by borrowers is recycled through the system and subsequently loaned out a second, or third, or fourth time, or more against collateral backed by asset prices that have become inflated, which inflates them yet further and fuels another round of speculation. Itís all an illusion though since nothing has truly been produced in such situations, the houses being bought and sold at increasing prices arenít any different than they were at the beginning of the bubble, and when demand subsides the prices are bound to go back to where they started.
Like a Ponzi Scheme, those who are in on it early will reap the benefits of selling their assets at inflated prices while those who come in late get stuck holding the bag as the bubble bursts and prices collapse. Banks and investment firms make a large return on their investments as the bubble inflates but are at risk of bankruptcy when the bubble bursts. However, if the bankers are investing someone elseís money, they can collect huge salaries and bonuses in fees and interest while the bubble is growing and not worry about any losses since when the inevitable collapse comes because someone else will end up paying for it. In the current situation, those "someone elseís" who are paying for it are ordinary people, their investments coming in the form of retirement funds and pension plans which were put into supposedly safe securities. Thus, when the housing bubble collapsed, people who defaulted on their mortgages were at risk of taking a double hit since their retirement funds were one of the "investors" losing money as a result of the foreclosures. So how do you like that? Lose your house and lose your pension all in one fell swoop, and the firms which collected fees when homes were sold, when interest payments were made, and when securities were purchased make out like bandits. In many cases the mortgage, investment, and insurance firms knew exactly what they were doing, committing fraud, but such is hard to prove in a court of law and thus very few have gone to jail.
Itís natural for banks and investment firms to seek out and even cause bubbles and to do so with as much borrowed money as they can in order to increase their profitability. The pursuit of profit is what makes capitalism work, making businesses more competitive and efficient and helping the economy as a whole, but bubbles add nothing to productivity, they merely siphon off wealth from the masses which ends up in the hands of bankers and investors. When the amount of wealth siphoned off due to interest payments and returns on investment grows too large then the economy will shrink and a recession or depression results. This shrinkage can be alleviated by further loans for a time, but if the loans arenít sufficient to produce enough growth in the economy or get spent towards non-productive purposes, then the debt situation becomes hopeless. This is the situation that many people, regions, and now countries are finding themselves in. Theyíve accumulated more debt than they can ever hope to pay back. To make matters worse, banks and investors are shunning the economies that are hurting the most, investing their money elsewhere where they can get a higher return. Why would anyone put their money into Iceland, Ireland, Greece, or Main Street U.S.A.? Those economies have already been sucked dry and the return of investment there will be minimal. So the current game is to borrow dollars cheaply, for instance, at near zero percent from the Federal Reserve, leverage those dollars tenfold or more, and invest them in emerging markets like China and Brazil, inflating asset prices there and making off with high returns. And so, Capitalism has become wealth extraction, a game where the wealthy give out big loans and the promise of great riches and the great majority of us end up saddled with debt and weep over our broken dreams.
Capitalism is not a Ponzi Scheme, but it can become one if steps arenít taken to prevent bubbles, asset inflation, and the ability of banks to reap huge profits with other peopleís money while risking little or none of their own. But what holds such a system in place? Surely those in charge can see what is happening and how everyone but a lucky few is being hurt by the current system. The answer is revealed in the quotes above which show that economic ideology turns the struggle to make a profit into a battle between good and evil as titanic as any that evangelical minister could conjure.
As Michael Hudson points out, there are a number of wealthy and successful leaders of investment firms who use hyperbole to describe even modest attempts by governments to regulate the current dysfunctional system. Government imposition into their businesses is viewed as being akin to Hitlerís invasion of Poland, conjuring hysterical images of fascism and genocide when it is merely that their bottom lines are in danger of being modestly trimmed back. Many pundits in the media are quick to denounce any efforts to reform the system as being socialist in nature, and those in the U.S. often use the term "European style socialism" to describe such policies, blaming them for the collapse of countries like Ireland and Greece. They use scare tactics as well, proclaiming that the government intends to redistribute wealth, taking it from hard working earners and successful entrepreneurs and giving it to lazy loafers and people who made poor life decisions. All of this rhetoric serves to reinforce the capitalist ideology in the minds of the voters and support its corrupted reality. As a result politicians opposed to "socialist" policies are elected and few if any progressive reforms are allowed to take place.
It is common to think of those at the top as being greedy and heartless, that they know exactly what they are doing and that they simply donít care who suffers as long as they make more money. There are probably some who fit this cruel, narcissistic description, one suitable for pulp fiction and formulaic movies, but I would contend that many are simply blinded by their ideology, believing, as does Lloyd Blankfein, that they are doing "Godís work" or are at least are helping the economy by doing what they do. In their minds they are making capitalist economies thrive by distributing capital in the most efficient way possible, and they do not see how their methods, when taken to current extremes, can be seriously detrimental to an economy. As most true believers do capitalist adherents will place the blame elsewhere: on the government regulations that remain, on the large role of government in the economy (which is always seen as the height of inefficiency), on the foolish people who borrowed more than they could pay back, on a sense of entitlement that makes people demand too much and work too little for it, and on a few bad apples in the investment industry who make everyone look bad. In their minds they are working hard for a brighter future, earning and deserving every penny that they make, and if everyone else would stand up and work as hard and as smart as they do then the recovery would start immediately. In other words, they believe that their ideology works; it is the people who have failed it.
Ayn Rand put the exclamation point on such sentiments. In her writings she has been a strong proponent of capitalism and how it champions reason, freedom, and liberation from failed religious ideologies. She spurns such things as altruism as mindless adherence to a moral code that serves only as a way to cover up its inefficiencies. To the successful, this ideology strokes the ego, building them up to be like the talented, intelligent, and fiercely individualist protagonists of Randís novels. In contrast to religious ideologies, Objectivism does not frown upon greed but in fact champions the profit motive as something which encourages people to do their best in order to receive their reward. Indeed, wealthy industrialists can feel like they are on a crusade to spread a very noble ideology across the world, an ideology of economic self-determinism where everyone is free to achieve and where every need is met by efficient private businesses and not by wasteful government. And to the not-so-successful, Objectivism provides the same dream, promising them that they too can be successful, wealthier, and free if it werenít for the imposition of government upon their lives. Objectivist apologists present the image of government as a parasite, draining tax dollars away from earners, restraining businesses with regulations and red tape, unable to control its spending, and giving away money to people who donít deserve it via entitlement programs. In this way the economic frustrations of the lower and middle classes are redirected as anger towards government and away from the other noxious parasite: the financial sector.
Conservatives have mostly embraced Objectivism, although Randís anti-religious sentiments have been purged from the commonly spread version of the ideology in order to appeal to conservative Christians. Indeed, Objectivism has been fused with Christianity in the minds of evangelicals and other sects, the parts of their beliefs which support such economic policies being raised up, such as "the Lord helps those who help themselves" and notions of the Protestant Work Ethic, while those that run directly counter to it, such as "render to Caesar the things that are Caesarís" and "do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth" are downplayed or forgotten. The result is an internally contradictory ideology that melds the Christian god, economic freedom, and right wing interpretation of the founding fathersí vision for the U.S. that sells very well to the traditional conservative base.
The internal contradictions of this ideology havenít slowed it down much, nor has its catastrophic failure in the current economic meltdown, and the core belief that government is at the root of the problem is becoming very popular again. Austerity is the current treatment regime and government payrolls and programs are being slashed in order to balance their bloated budgets. It is of no consequence that this is essentially making the poor and middle class pay for the bailout of the banks for the ideology holds that jobs are created by the wealthy when they invest, not by the masses when they spend. Thus the key to economic prosperity is to lower taxes on the rich so that they invest more and keep the banks solvent so that they can lend more. The flaws in this argument are that the wealthy arenít going to invest much money in recessionary markets since the rate of return is so low and that banks are foolish to loan money to people who are already steeped in debt. Their money is going elsewhere which is making the problem worse.
Thus, what we have now is psychotic adherence to a serial bubble blowing Ponzi Scheme where banks and investors inflate markets and extract as much wealth as they can and then use the worldís governments and central banks to ensure that loans which never should have been extended in the first place are paid back in full plus interest. With a fiat currency, that is one where money is backed by nothing and can be printed on a whim, our current Pyramid Schemes never need to collapse since there is an infinite source of funds which can flow to the top to prop it up. I must confess that I never thought that the madness would go this far, thinking that a collapse would have happened by now, but now that I have seen it with my own eyes I think that it might go on for some time to come. By changing the accounting laws, banks and investment firms are able to stay in business regardless of the true market value of their assets, and central banks stand ready to open up their balance sheets to provide liquidity for any institution deemed too big to fail. Further trickery can be allowed to prevent what the powers that be feel is unthinkable, a complete collapse of the entire financial system. For instance, solvency of financial institutions could simply be granted by decree, formalizing todayís implicit guarantee, allowing the masters of the universe to gamble with impunity and continue to bleed the rest of us dry; or at least, bleed us until we get up off our collective couches and demand real change. Thus, the coming years should provide an excellent measure of just how much like sheep we truly are.
Speaking of real change Iíve decided to publish The Burning Blade less frequently due to the fact that Iím not really producing much music anymore. These newsletters are focusing too much on ideology rather than Fireaxe and it really should be the other way around. So from now on I will only put out a new newsletter every three months rather than every two months until such time as I am healthy enough to crank out new music. And speaking of my health, it seems that I have two pieces of the puzzle in place and am working gradually towards the third. These days Iím feeling good overall but the ups and downs that Iíve been struggling with on the new treatment program have left me unsure if I am still making progress. Itís frustrating and maddening at times but I am determined and diligent and as long as I am alive I will fight. As always, the battle continues.
A big ĎHelloí to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time. This is the Fireaxe newsletter.
The internet has changed many facets of our world over the last fifteen years. Business and commerce have invaded the once purely academic network allowing us to not only shop online but to do business and make a living there as well. The global scope and freedom of information online has allowed a massive proliferation of alternate news sources and blogs, giving license to just about anyone to state their opinions on any topic they wish and enabled determined whistleblowers to shed light on topics that the mainstream media doesnít seem motivated to report on anymore. Increased bandwidth has threatened to permanently alter the way in which writers, artists, journalists, and musicians do business, allowing their work to be sold world wide in an instant, or stolen just as fast. White collar workers can now telecommute from anywhere in the world, further blurring the borders between nations and making competition for knowledge jobs that much more intense. And chat rooms, forums, and social networking sites have enabled us to connect with groups of like minded people no matter where we are located or how esoteric our interests. Simply put, we are no longer fixed in space when it comes to our friendships and communities. Our bonds can span the globe. And itís not unusual for us to know intimate details of dozens of people weíve never met in person and yet barely know our next door neighbors whom we see every day.
All of the worldís major ideologies, our religions, political systems, economic models, etc., have evolved in a very different environment, one which lacked the broad and deep interconnectivity that we share today. With the internet having revolutionized so many other parts of our lives, it stands to reason that this increased connectivity will have a similar effect on our ideologies, perhaps making them all extinct or at least forcing them to mutate in order to survive in a highly interconnected world. In this essay Iíll take a look at how the internet is currently reshaping ideologies in order to predict the changes that we might see in the future.
One fundamentally unique thing that the internet has introduced is the concept of anonymity in social relations. On the internet you can hide behind an avatar, revealing little to nothing about yourself to others or simply lying about who you really are. And while a very determined sleuth could use what little traces you leave behind on the internet to connect your current avatar with those youíve created in the past or even to your real life self, few people can do so or will even bother to make the effort. This leaves people essentially free to be whomever they want to be when they are online.
The impacts of this anonymity are many and profound and go way beyond the classic internet prank of pretending youíre a young girl, having cybersex with some guy, and then revealing to him that youíre actually a dude. For many people, the persona they adopt online is an idealized version of themselves, someone they want to be rather than who they are. They pick an avatar of the image they would like to project even if their avatar is little more than a clever name and a picture that appeals to them in some special way. Then, when they are online, they become a different person, trying to live up to their image, like an actor playing a role or a narcissist putting on airs to impress others. Online they can live life through that idealized personís eyes, a life which is often quite different from their own. This gives people who have difficulty making friends in face to face meetings, perhaps due to physical unattractiveness, shyness, or odd personality quirks, an opportunity to shed those qualities and experience a side of life that was off limits to them before. For instance itís not uncommon for an undesirable woman to use a sexy avatar and suddenly find herself popular with men. And even those people who arenít pretending to be someone else can discover that their written communication skills reveal a side of themselves that was invisible to others before. In that way the awkward writer becoming popular online is not unlike the ugly singer or shy poet becoming popular through song or verse. In either case what can happen is that a person can become more attached to their online personality than to their real self, preferring to spend their time interacting in a social world where they are much more the person whom they want to be than who they really are. Ideologies can take advantage of this and I will discuss this potential in greater depth later in this essay.
Anonymity also allows people to be much less polite when they are online since they are generally not subject to any serious repercussions. In face to face interactions, being insulting or rude to someone else can sometimes get you into a fight, but online the worst thing that can usually happen to you is that you end up reading equally insulting things written back to you on your computer screen. For many this does not dissuade them from being rude and can even encourage them to be more insulting in return. This simple fact has unfortunately made flame wars, heated arguments, and "griefing" commonplace on the internet as well as reduced the amount of civility found in real life. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, "griefing" is when someone derives pleasure by being rude to others, especially when their victims get angry and their retorts become unintentionally humorous. A grieferís goal when they go online is to ruin someoneís day; someone whom they feel deserves it, which can often be someone who takes their online activity far too seriously. They are essentially the online equivalent of a bully, and just like in elementary school, they mostly get away with it. But even aside from griefers, the lowered standards of civility have made online interactions between people more volatile, even when people are not anonymous and even between people who occasionally meet face to face. We seem more prone to express our unvarnished opinions when we are online, often in exaggerated form, and I would suggest that the anonymity, or the distance between people who know each other in real life, results in disinhibition. When we are online we feel fewer restraints on our actions in general, and as a result we do things there which we would never do in real life.
Anonymity also alters the value that we place in our relationships. People moving from a small town to a big city experience the same shift in attitudes towards relationships that we see when we go online. In a small town everyone knows everyone else, or at least everyone knows most of the people in their age group. In small towns gossip will spread oneís deeds far and wide, so if you do something bad to someone your reputation will be stained and you will need to do something publicly to make up for it. In a big city, the number of people you know personally might be the same as for someone in a small town, but the much large number of people in your community can grant you a certain amount of anonymity there. In a big city if you ruin your reputation in one circle you can always move on to another circle and start over again with people who donít know you. This allows people in big cities to be less scrupulous in their treatment of others, knowing that if they are discovered to be lying or cheating or doing some other devious act that they can always disappear and start fresh with a new group of people. Similarly, in a big city people can be pickier about whom they associate with and more resistant to changing things about themselves which others see as personality flaws. Big cities provide a much larger pool of potential friends and mates and thus instead of accepting an imperfect lover and adjusting oneself to accommodate oneís friends people will often cast off their flawed relationships in search of better ones or for a soul mate who fits them to a tee.
On the internet, anonymity multiplies this problem, providing a seemingly infinite number of new places where one can start over, or, as a con artist might view it, an infinite number of marks to be exploited. Cyberfriends and lovers can come and go with alarming frequency with relationships with them at first filled with passion and energy but which flame out just as fast. As a result, trust is hard to come by, and few people are willing to give anyone a chance to get close to them until they have spent a lot of time proving that they are worthy of their trust. This also leads to people putting less value in long term commitments and projects online, knowing that they are all too likely to fall apart for one reason or another. This is a tendency that can feed upon itself as fewer and fewer people seek long term commitments and thus short term becomes the governing time frame. So people indulge themselves in whatever strikes their fancy; milk it for as long as it lasts, and then cast it aside when it is no longer satisfying or when something else comes along that holds more appeal. Relationships, and thus people, have become more disposable than ever.
Lastly, anonymity has allowed radical and illegal groups to grow and thrive on the internet. Most notoriously are terrorist groups which use the internet to publicize their ideals for recruitment purposes as well as to organize and plan activities. This is a very direct example of how the internet is changing ideologies. Radical groups with small followings can now have a global voice which is more far reaching than anything that they would have been capable of just a decade ago. This allows groups with a very narrow appeal, such as eco-terrorists, pedophilia buffs, crush video aficionados, and fanatical Muslims, to pick up far flung members that they never would have been able to find using conventional means. Through the internet, these groups can find new recruits, indoctrinate them, and bring them into the fold. And just as computer programmers can work remotely through the internet, so can radical groups, directing their members without risking having them make the journey to their headquarters, if they even have one. Most if not all communication can happen anonymously, making the group very difficult for intelligence agencies to track down and arrest.
Radical groups can also go one step further to protect themselves from being caught, they can try to create and motivate "lone wolf" actors to do their deeds for them. This method involves purely one-way communication. The group puts its ideals and goals online along with suggestions on what actions they would like to see carried out. Some even go so far as to post fairly detailed instructions on how to perform various illegal activities as well as advice on how to keep a low profile so as not to get caught by the authorities. Then an angry and motivated individual finds the site, sympathizes with the groupís cause, and decides that he or she wants to do something to advance it. These potential lone wolves are sometimes advised not to contact anyone within the group but simply to independently work towards one of their stated goals. Thus, the only contact that a person might have with a radical group is a simple one time visit to their website. Even in our high surveillance world it would difficult for an intelligence service to track someone visiting a suspicious website, especially with anonymous surfing tools available. Then, the lone wolf goes about their daily business as normal, perhaps acquiring a weapon here or there, quietly purchasing explosive materials, plotting his misdeed in secret, but never or doing or saying anything that would give anyone the impression that they sympathize with a radical cause. Then one day they act, potentially catching their victims and the authorities completely off guard.
The "lone wolf" method is not entirely new. For centuries, if not longer, hateful rhetoric spread by influential people has motivated assassins to kill the targets of those who wish to keep their hands clean. In recent years, it is suspected that angry denunciations of Dr. "Tiller the Baby Killer" and constant reiteration of the idea that abortion is murder may have inspired more than one person to try to kill the famed abortion doctor. Similarly Major Nidal Malik Hasan appears to have been at least partially motivated to gun down thirteen fellow soldiers at Fort Hood after exchanging e-mails with a radical Muslim imam. Historically, the concept of radical groups working in independent "cells" has been a tried and true staple of resistance movements everywhere. However, with the advent of the internet, the potential to radicalize independent individuals and create dozens or hundreds of one person cells across the globe has greatly increased this potential threat. The internet may very well make terrorism more common and more difficult to stop.
Because of this threat, among many others, the internet is in the process of being militarized, or at least wire-tapped on a massive scale to allow intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on anyone. Now, visiting a radical website isnít illegal, yet, but the "lone wolf" scenario makes catching potential terrorists before they act of paramount importance, thus, surveillance of website traffic, as well as the tracking of gun purchases, explosive purchases, and other perfectly legal activities, are important tools in identifying threats. The idea here is to flag all of a personís activities that could be leading up to a terrorist act, and when that person accumulates too many flags next to their name, agents move in. The usual trick is to have an agent pose as a fellow sympathizer, try to induce the suspect to confess to be plotting some sort of crime, provide him with limited support, and then arrest him before he can do any harm. Itís a fine line that law enforcement must walk to avoid charges of entrapment, but juries have been very lenient regarding law enforcement tactics when it comes to such cases, and if lone wolves proliferate and have some success in their violent plots itís likely that countries which were once champions of human rights will become as draconian as the worst police states in their search for and treatment of suspects.
The ongoing rollback in personal freedoms has the potential to be a major change in political ideologies, specifically in western constitutional democracies where individual rights stand as the bedrock of power derived from the consent of the governed. In order to combat the threat posed by terrorist groups which can form sleeper cells in far flung countries and give rise to lone wolves, many democracies have made the inalienable rights of their citizens conditional, with the state able to waive them at will without disclosing their evidence and with no recourse available to the accused. Though sold as being temporary inconveniences, these rollbacks are likely to become permanent, and likely to fuel more anti-government sentiment and actions that in turn make those in charge more convinced that further police state measures are required. In many countries weíve already seen rollbacks in individual rights and the adoption of police state methods that would have been unthinkable twenty if not ten years ago, so the question here is whether or not this spells an end to individual freedom as an ideological guarantee to its adherents or whether it is a momentary lapse of libertarian ideals to be overthrown by some sort of revolution.
Ideological evolution since the writing of the Magna Carta has been gradually but inexorably moving towards the liberation of the individual and the diminishment of state power. This trend has not been without its lapses and detours into police states and totalitarian regimes, some of which have persisted for some time before they are overthrown. Modern police states, and democracies flirting with autocratic control over their populations, are taking advantage of emerging technologies, along with the internet, to track and monitor their citizens regardless of the legality of such surveillance. Using such technology empowers them as never before and the temptation to abuse such power for political, financial, or personal purposes is too great to be ignored. Imagine using illegal wiretaps to glean insider information from Wall Street executives, or investigating members of Congress and blackmailing them into voting your way, or harassing common citizens who are legally forming a legitimate resistance movement. None of these tactics are new, but the degree and availability of such measures available today could bring about a sea change in the general populationís ability to overturn such measures. Democracy could end up becoming a hollowed out shell of its former self with a vote for a pair of preselected candidates, who are powerless to change the power structure of the nation anyway, being the last apparent support for the illusion of "We The People". Some might argue that this has already come to pass.
The internet has facilitated the spread of ideologies and is in no small part responsible for the rapid rise of the tea party movement in the United States. In that movementís rise, the internet provided a way for grassroots organizations to spread their messages to like minded people fed up with the government. Numerous websites popped up and a number of videos hit YouTube, all part of a mass uprising which attracted new members and fueled itself as it grew into a powerful force. In time a number of left-leaning news sources accused the tea party movement of being "Astroturf", meaning that it wasnít truly grass roots at all but funded and fueled by a number of wealthy Americans and corporations which wanted to see their candidates elected and their agenda moved forwards. This is partly true. Partisan news outlets like Fox News played a major role in stirring the pot and drawing attention to the movement and many of the "grassroots" organizations were heavily sponsored by wealthy donors, but it is disingenuous to say that the movement was entirely manufactured. There was and still is a great deal of anger in the country and that anger was going to find a voice in one way or another. What the Astroturf groups managed to do was to redirect that anger and channel it to serve their purposes, at least for the most part. The Astroturf groups are staunchly Republican, and are very adept at directing the peopleís anger toward democrats and the government in general, but when the tea party movement went to the polls, they threw out a lot of mainstream Republicans along with Democrats, which was a blow to the Republican Party. However, the tea party movement, which began with a lot of anger towards illegal immigration, bank bailouts, and police state tactics, was later distilled down to mostly a single goal: balancing the federal budget without raising taxes. It is telling that the tea party platform has changed from being against three things that corporate America profits from to being for something that disproportionately burdens the middle class and the poor and it could be a sign that the tea party has been used and betrayed by the Astroturf groups. However it remains to be scene what the Republican Party can accomplish while still maintaining tea party support.
One part of the internet which is of particular importance when discussing ideological evolution is MMORPGs, or "Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Games". To the uninitiated, these games are actually virtual worlds, complete with cities, landscapes, castles, dungeons, citizens, monsters, and anything else that the creators can dream up, which players can explore and interact with. In these games a player will create some sort of avatar, like a burly warrior with a sword, and move about in the virtual world by moving the mouse or through some such interface. The screen shows the player what they see, like angry Orcs coming to beat them up, and any facts that they need to know, like how many health points they have left before they keel over. The multi-player aspect means that a playerís avatar can end up meeting other playersí avatars in the game world which makes it more interactive compared to classic computer games. In classic single player games, all of the people and creatures that you meet are controlled by the computer, which, despite advances in artificial intelligence, can make them seem dumb and rather one-dimensional. But in a multi-player game, you can meet other players in the virtual world who are just like you, talk with them by typing messages to each other, fight a duel if you want to see who is the toughest, go off killing Orcs together or completing a quest, wander off and figure out if the game has some kind of cybersex simulation, or anything else that the game allows. No longer are computer games just you solving some kind of puzzle, having terse "conversations" with computer characters in order to ferret out valuable clues, or defeating a series of progressively tougher opponents; now you can interact with real people online, form your own communities, compete with rival communities, and even make up your own adventures. And the "massively multi-player" aspect means that a large number of people can play, like hundreds, or thousands, or more, allowing the game world to live and breathe as if it were a city or a nation unto itself.
These MMORPGs are more than just games. They have quickly evolved into being the social equivalent of a neighborhood bar, a bowling alley, a night club, or any other place where people congregate and share, and are as equally significant. They are places where like minded people can go, hang out, socialize, play games, and relax after a hard day at work, and all in the convenience of your own home. And before you think that MMORPG players should all turn off their computers and go get a life, understand that they do have a life, online, and that it can be as deep, as elaborate, and as rewarding as their real life. Itís not unusual for players who have never met to have their avatars get involved romantically, get married virtually, and of course cheat on each other and get into fights about that sort of thing. Friendship bonds can also be strong online and these relationships donít necessarily need to stay just between playersí avatars. Itís not unusual for players to get together and meet IRL (In Real Life) or talk on the phone or text and share facts about their personal lives, getting to know the people behind the avatars. Thus, the line between the virtual world and real life can become quite blurred and even go away altogether. This can be seen even more clearly when you learn that people are willing to pay real world money for purely virtual items, like a powerful sword that will help their avatar complete a quest, or a custom made avatar that looks better than the standard ones offered in the game. At first this may seem crazy, paying real money for something that exists only as ones and zeroes on a computer somewhere, but if you think about it as an entertainment expense, like the dollars spent at a movie theater or gaming arcade, it makes perfect sense.
Given the popularity of MMORPGs it seems inevitable that game creators will take advantage of the many advances in technology to make their virtual worlds even more realistic and immersive. Motion capture technology will enable players to control their avatars with their bodies and increases in computer power will be able to make their avatars and their environments extremely lifelike. It may not be long before people are jogging in place in their living room while seeing themselves as a Naívi running across the branches of Home Tree with everything rendered as crisply and lifelike as the movie Avatar. And that will only be the beginning. Smell, touch, and taste sensations will come along in time and other forms of environmental feedback will make you feel like you are really in the game. At some point the technology will develop so that the game plugs directly into your brain and you will be able to control your avatar with just your thoughts. At that point virtual reality will be just as real as reality itself. With such an interface the potential for entertainment is limitless and it is quite likely that these virtual worlds will make the real world pale in comparison. Why go to the zoo when going to Pandora is so much more fantastical? Why go skiing or snowboarding when you can be Spiderman swinging from building to building and romancing Mary Jane? Why attend cooking or gardening classes when you can go to Hogwarts and become a great virtual sorcerer? Internet addiction is already a problem, so imagine the temptation to spend all of oneís days inside a virtual world of infinite wonders when those wonders surpass reality in every way.
Indeed, one can imagine a world where people driven by success have cast aside earthly pleasures and become absorbed with chasing virtual goals instead. Their ideologies would certainly suffer as they would no longer be contributing to them, so if too much productivity were diverted into virtual reality, we could possibly find ourselves at risk of social and ideological collapse. Ideologies thrive by providing their adherents with rewards, both physical and psychological, in return for doing things that further the aims of the ideology. Ideologies which are best at motivating their believers and preparing them to succeed will have a survival advantage over other ideologies. However, virtual worlds like those in MMORPGs compete directly with ideologies, slowly stealing away the motivations of adherents. MMORPGs simulate real world challenges, although in far more fantastical form, and give out rewards for success at far more frequent intervals than reality does. For example, one need not go through years of hardships and struggle to win the Super Bowl or the Indy 500; with a computer simulation one can play out a sports or racing career over the course just of a few weeks. And it isnít like the games arenít a challenge, they are, but they arenít such a challenge that most people can never succeed. This is the secret to a successful computer game, and the reason why they can be so addictive, they give ordinary people the ability to live out fantasies they could never achieve in real life, and so people are choosing fantasy over reality more and more. Of course, I donít think that nations will fall to dust just because their citizens are paying more attention to their Second Life than their primary one, but as computer games become more appealing and addictive a lot more time and energy will not be spent furthering the goals of susceptible ideologies. Some people, groups, and even nations will suffer as a result while others will thrive.
To be successful, ideologies of the future will need to adapt to meet the challenges that have been detailed in this essay. For instance, some ideologies might become quite hostile to computer games, seeing them as direct competition and trying to get them banned, but the successful ones will realize their potential and embrace them, taking advantage of the gamesí appeal but having players end up working to further ideological goals as they play. Games can of course be teaching tools, and it should be simple enough to create games based around religious, political, and economic themes so that they spread ideological beliefs. But one can go even farther than a game and create an ideologically centered virtual world online complete with virtual universities and virtual libraries which espouse an ideologically centered point of view, and with adherents as mentors available to answer questions and explain an ideologyís principals to the curious. Instead of learning by reading or by watching videos one could learn by doing, by playing, by interacting, and by creating oneís own content in a virtual world. Education, as well as ideological indoctrination, through virtual reality seems a natural next step, and if ideologically based games are as addictive as purely entertainment based ones are, they could easily give rise to fanatical devotion. Players might become so enchanted with ideological games that they would willingly brainwash themselves playing them. And as we witnessed during the rise of the tea party movement, the internet is fertile ground for the spread of ideas, and in the immersive environment of virtual reality these ideas can be sunk much deeper into the minds of the faithful. Online an ordinary person can become extraordinary, seeing their avatar become a champion for their beliefs in online games and making them feel like they are an important part of the movement. And since in a virtual world the environment is completely controlled the winning formula will inevitably be the one which embraces the tenets of the ideology. Thus, in the games, winning and adhering to ideological principles would be one and the same with each victory reinforcing the ideologyís beliefs in the mind of the player.
But to be truly successful, ideologies will need to leverage their virtual following into producing real world results. Using the tea party as an example, the movement transformed internet based interest and involvement into protests, disruption of town hall meetings, public demonstrations, donations to favored politicians, and the final payoff: casting votes for tea party candidates. Adding to the barrage were well known politicians, twittering away in real time, which put them in close contact with activists and voters and made them seem more real and personal. And tea party members were actively trying to convince others that their ideas and causes were worthy and correct, bringing new members into the fold and thus generating larger donations and more votes in the end. This is one area where computer games are lacking, seeing as how they are mostly just for entertainment, but the potential exists to make ideological movements a similarly interactive and immersive experience. This sort of game would not stop at the edge of the internet but extend beyond it, overlapping between the virtual world and the real world and merging the two into a cohesive whole. Things you do on one side will carry over into the other and vice-versa.
Thus, the virtual world would become more real, with real significance and real impact, and since the virtual world can be anything that its creators desire one could use it to simulate fantastical religious and spiritual realms, making them seem real as well. In a game you could visit heaven or hell or Valhalla, fly with angels, fight demons in holy wars, commune with animal spirits, walk and talk with Jesus and hang beside him as he dies for your sins, or simply go about doing good deeds and earning positive karma. Religion and spirituality, which can seem so distant in modern times, can be made relevant once more. To many people, heaven, hell, nirvana, the underworld, gods, angels, devils, etc., are just objects in aging stained glass windows, scenes in renaissance period paintings, and threats reverberating in the crazed ranting of evangelical preachers. But what if you could see horned tormentors laughing in your face, smell the brimstone as it bites into your flesh, and feel the heat as hellfire burns you to the soul? How much easier would it be to believe that the earth really is the battleground between good and evil? And what if you were to live through hundreds of lives in a breathtaking virtual version of Brahmaís glorious creation? How much more compelling would belief in reincarnation and karma become? This is the new frontier for ideologies and the sooner that they realize the potential of virtual reality the stronger they can become.
These reformed ideologies will also have to adapt to other changes brought on by the internet, namely the reduction of civility and the volatility of personal relationships. Virtues like politeness, faithfulness, and modesty will likely play a reduced role in future. If an ideology demands such things, internet travelers will simply go somewhere else that caters more to their desires. Instead, reformed ideologies will need to create an awesome online experience, promising both real world and virtual rewards, and allowing followers to create and build up avatars and realms that they can be proud of. The competition will be fierce because people will be fickle, joining one ideology and going as far as they can with it before getting bored and switching to another one that seems more interesting. Ideologies will have to reinvent themselves frequently as political parties do today, coming up with new hooks to attract attention and gain back their lost market share.
Chillingly, the addictive nature of ideologically based virtual worlds may result in a proliferation of "lone wolf" type radicals, people fiercely dedicated to the ideology and willing to do anything to further its goals. We have already seen people becoming lost in online games or actually killing themselves over what happened in virtual reality. If an ideologically based game promised avid believers that advancement to the "final levels" of a great game required something like martyrdom in real life how appealing would such an act be? Imagine if one of the "levels" of the game involved wandering through a landscape of real photographs of burned bodies, viewing scenes of the rape and torture of innocents by ruthless enemies of the ideology, and living through those horrors, virtually, but all the while knowing that they are actually being visited upon fellow believers in some part of the world, how powerful would the effect be on the mind? And if one couldnít find the courage to martyr oneís self after such an experience, perhaps a few discussions with a group of like minded radicals could provide the encouragement to complete the "quest" and move up to the "next level".
Volatility, it seems, will be the order of the future, exacerbated by tendencies towards disinhibition and short term attachment on the internet and heightened by the failures of current ideologies to forge a workable world order in the present. Ideological warfare will likely proliferate, spilling over national boundaries and escalating in cyberspace. Police states will likely try to enforce order upon the internet, and most likely be as successful there as police states are in reality, that is, the more order they enforce, the less productive their realm of cyberspace will be. And as technology moves forward and the lines between reality and virtual worlds get blurry, we will be able to reach out and touch the faces of our gods.
As they swallow us whole.
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
- 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
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:
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.
Unfortunately 2009 and now 2010 have been total busts for Fireaxe as far as recording is concerned. Health issues sidelined projects scheduled for completion during those years and other than the guitarist taking the opportunity to get a whole lot better with his axe, nothing was accomplished. With any luck this situation can be reversed in 2011.
In 2011, Fireaxe will once again focus on remaking the past. First of all, "Food for the Gods" has sold out and will be re-mastered before a second printing run is made. Also, it will be re-mixed with the vocal rerecorded for much better sound quality. When all is said and done it should sound as good as "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess. Secondly, the first Fireaxe CD, "A Dream of Death" will be getting a complete overhaul before it is re-released. Everything will be rerecorded using much more modern equipment and with everything that I've learned over the last ten years going into it to make it better than ever. Also, since it was recorded at a time when CDs had a 74 minute limit instead of the current 80, I will add six more minutes of music to the work in which I will explore a number of musical themes as well as add a killer new song written by Octavio Ramos. So it looks like a year of sequels for Fireaxe. I'll probably leave the names of the CDs the same but I've been kicking around a ideas for alternate titles, such as "Food for the Gods - Regurgitated", "Desert for the Gods", and "A Dream of Undeath", "The Morning After Death", or "I'm Dreaming of a White Strait-Jacket - a Fireaxe Christmas in Hell".
My goal is to deliver music to whoever wants to hear it in whatever way is necessary. Whatever the market demands, I will supply, but I do want to avoid the mass marketing channel. Exposure is fine, but in the modern business, the substance of the music must be altered to match the demands of the marketplace. This would totally defeat the purpose of why I write music in the first place. I write music because it is a way to express my emotions. What I both think and 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.
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:Brian Voth - Creator of Fireaxe
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.
- 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.
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