The Coastal Post - December, 1997

The Post Is Free Thinkers

By Steve Simac

Financial exigency is a chrome-plated term for slowly going broke-or rapidly as the case may be. In the Coastal Post's case it's a little of both. I can't speak for the other writers of this publication (which is the best part about the contents), but I'll up the ante on last issue's "Send $1" bid.

Send me $100 and I'll give the boss $25 for a subscription, mailed to you monthly. Plus, I'll write an article about your pet peeve or commercial operation (unless you're franchising Korean BBQ's to reduce stray dog and cat overpopulation-I have to draw the line somewhere). It won't get front page, but we can get it in as a letter to the editor. We really do publish everyone.

That's how I started in this pearl of the west in 1986. Back then I was even more difficult to read. Some people have never heard of a dictionary or that it runs alphabetically. And we don't even have pictures. We are in the decline of the western world and literacy is limited to stamping in simplistic belief systems.

I'm an advocate of complexity. We're leaving the dualistic, dark/light, good/evil, true/false age and surfing a time-space wave into diversity, probability, not certainty, with many voices defining reality. The Post has been a forum for many different views, often in front of hot button issues, always guaranteed to stimulate your blood pressure.

The numerous writers for the Post rarely agree and share no political labels. Almost everything we write will enrage some people and delight others, but we rarely leave you neutral. We're balanced in our unbalance.

Now why would we want to anger people? It only makes enemies, polarizes the issues and is not conducive to advertising revenue, one may reasonably ask. Anger is red hot healing, purifying and defining. We would welcome it for the medicine it is, except that we've been trained in agreement and compromise.

Most Americans are in a consensual trance, an oblivious black hole of awareness. Any contrary voice challenging unspoken assumptions will raise their defensive hackles.

We aren't even born free. We are leashed from birth into going along with "common sense" and "rational behavior" because it makes for better lemmings.

At the Post, if we don't agree with the Cliff Notes, we make it clear that we disagree, we don't hide it in rhetoric or mask it in neutral observer tones. Speaking out is part of an evolutionary trend. Freedom of speech and the press is only an ideal if it's not used.

A brief history of media

About a century ago, newspapers in America began to modify their polemics, the strident tones and upfront political slant of the broadside, in favor of an apparently neutral terminology. Research had shown it would sell more washing machines, and modern media was born.

The product of the day was what the news wrapped around. Education becomes brainwashing, entertainment a commercial diversion. Repetition breeds agreement.

We are what we read, we are what we're told, and shown by example from the womb to the grave. We are embedded in a social and physical world, affecting it as it affects us, shaping us as we shape it. The world is changed by our voices just as it is shifted by our silence.

The Post is one of the many alternative media sources, but in Marin County is the only one. The other newspapers in this county are baby-boomer shopping catalogs and rarely even irritate.

Post-modern paradox

There is no One Truth, the idealized center of exact, measurable veracity. There is a party line, but at this moment in history, like a brief flower in time, there are many dissident voices all crying out their truth.

Those voices mold what we think of as truth. In a world of conflicting stories, we choose what to believe. Even 30 years ago it was true that Communism would conquer Southeast Asian countries like dominos. The bones fell helter-skelter and the truth is we didn't give a damn. Times change, truths change.

Advertising barrages shape our opinions about products. Truth is a commodity and corporations' campaign funding is protected as free speech, no matter how much it costs. This post-modern view of truth infuriates the hard-liners, the one-truth-by-Biblical authority crowd, but Darwin, Freud and Einstein ended their hegemony.

An elegy for a writer

Many of you remember that I claimed to have retired from the Post. Of course, I came out of retirement because of that plutonium thing, which is out-of-sight, out-of-mind 'til 1999, but I'm still writing. You have questions about my reliability and trustworthiness. You're not alone.

I am not a crook. I'm as trustworthy as the most trusted man in America, the one who told you about the domino theory on TV, and at least as much as the President. It's wise to question what you read, doubt what you're told.

Satire is inherently unreliable, guilt-free fiction, which questions authority. I veer close to actual terrain, but the map is not the territory. Words are not reality, even when they sting.

Then it's like a homeopathic remedy, Simax10x, a catalyst for convulsion and blotchy red splotches while handling newsprint, effective against pomposity and naked emperors. Insults against the wealthy and powerful are a goad under their saddle, a pea under their mattress.

I've been called a political gadfly, better than a tetse fly. I don't want you to agree with me, but to think for yourself-a crime, I know.

Shamanic Simac

It's magical that lining up tiny symbols translates in your head to words that resemble reality. Letters were given to the shaman by birds, it's said. They painted them on sick bodies or parchment hung around the neck. The symbols were given to Odin by the crows after he hung on the tree of life for three days. They were strong medicine, as well as a source of power and forecasting when carved into runes.

Those bones must have gotten tossed for millennia before they began to come up like scrabble and added value as written language. Spoken language is another miracle, believed by some cognitive psychologists to be an innate structure in our synaptic passages called into growth by verbal stimulation from other humans. You've got to talk to your kids if they're gonna learn how to speak.

Writing emerged 4-5,000 years ago in Iraq. Scribes stamped into clay tallies of commercial goods in the early days, but history, poetry and stories spread rapidly as literacy increased. Written words were sacred, a gift from the Goddess Inanna to the survivors of the Flood.

Written language still carries magic, spins out like a spider a web of ideas and abstract thought, gossamer thin but strong as steel when we connect with a strand.

The amazing thing is that Don Deane has published my strands since 1990 in the Post. I covered health, environmental and political issues. I wrote a series on the war on drugs in Marin, single-handedly subdued the major crimes boys, exposed the flaws of prohibition and wrote about medical marijuana when 215 was still 420. I am publishing a collection of the best of, soon...

This is a persona, a writing role. I feel like I have to explain, so you can feel freer to disagree, express an opinion, throw a tomato, send $1. Many people are afraid to stand out, to be disliked. I tell you, it's all good.

When readers call me vile, low and callous, it's healing. Like attacking Punch in the original burlesque satires, a staple in peasant entertainment. You think you don't need a scapegoat, but God forbid you should have to look at yourself. We're passing the hat, so you don't have to. Send $1.

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