Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Beating to Windward

Ship analogies seem to be popping up everywhere lately. So I thought I'd add one, since I often think of my Beast of a van as a ship.

Sailboats cannot go directly into the wind. They must sail diagonally a few degrees off the wind, and "tack" to diagonally go the other direction and keep their course.
This is called beating to windward.

We all know we don't like the way things are shaping up in our country and world. We need to start talking about the world we want instead of bitching about the world we have. Coming to the realization that our government, economy, industry, environment, and current paradigm are going downhill fast was an important first tack into the wind. Now we need to make a second tack and really envision a positive future to take the place of systems that obviously don't work. The first step to creating a new reality is to envision what you want that reality to look like.

Last Saturday morning (before my fantasy turned to reality) I was walking back from the fabric store. A sign at an oil change place said "Your reality reflects your mindset." I though that was pretty deep for a Jiffy Lube, so I smiled, taking it as a sign, and went on my way. Lo and behold, apparently it was a sign.
Be careful what you wish for.

Sailing into the wind is usually not a very comfortable ride. It's windy, sometimes scary, and the waves break hard on the bow. But to get where you want to go, it is necessary.

We've been sailing downwind for too long. With the wind at your back, it is easy to become complacent. The temperature is pleasant, and you're surfing the waves.
Complacency is dangerous though. A sudden wind change, or a distracted captain can cause the boat to "jibe". A jibe is usually unexpected and often the deadliest thing that happens on a boat. The boom of the sail suddenly swings to the other side of the boat, knocking the complacent crew in the head.

We need to shake it off, and turn this boat around. Batten down the hatches, secure the cargo, and trim the sails, for there's a storm a' comin.

George Ure over at Urban Survival beat me to the "windward" post, though I thought of it several days ago. He has some pretty good suggestions for starting points;

"Wouldn't it be grand if had a national vision, meaning agreement on some very simple, easily action steps that virtually all of us could buy in to? Here are some thoughts, and while it's by no means complete, it's a starting point and you can add, or subtract, as you please:

America is going to be the first country to harvest the benefits of information technology. We are setting as our key objectives:

A 20-hour workweek (or)

A 40-hour workweek commanding a high enough wage such that only one family member need work to support a family of four.

We hold as a national objective the reinvention of the family as a solution to health and social ills.

In addition, we will offer incentives to families that care for aged relatives at home. We are going to value family values in a meaningful way instead of lip service.

We will achieve massive energy reduction though three major initiatives:

Ending regulations that are keeping small highly fuel efficient vehicles off our roads while in places like Europe that have proven their value.

Insulation retrofitting of every home in the country to reduce energy consumption by 50%.

Conversion of all lighting to energy efficient LED and other technologies.

Government will offer every family that lives off the grid for 30 days, or more, an income tax credit. The more off-grid time, the larger the tax credit.

We will establish an organic food supply and will achieve organic food independence again within five years.

These combined should reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 30% - or more.

We will require that every company selling manufactured goods in America demonstrate that all its workers, whether overseas, or in the US, are paid at least the applicable US minimum wage. Those companies which can not do so will be taxed in the amount equal to their exploitive labor practices and the revenue from that tax, equal to the amount of foreign worker underpayment, will fund unemployment and healthcare for American workers. And more; so great is the exploitation of developing country labor.

Further, we will require that any company doing business in America document its revenues coming from America and be taxed on those. Over the next ten years will will phase in a program whereby if a company sells goods in America, only expenses incurred in America will be allowed to offset that revenue before a revenue tax is applied..

We will reestablish sound money. We all know that the purchasing power of the US dollar has declined from $1 in 1913 to just 4.6-cents today. We are going to hold that value, and in doing so, we will again become a nation of savers. We will reinstitute gold and silver convertibility.

As we return to sound money, and the value of savings is restored, we will reinvest in American infrastructure. Except now, instead of making assembly line jobs, we are going to automate everything we can to harvest the bounty of technology.

We will institute a national usury law of 18%. This will apply to all companies, including and especially credit card operators.

American-English is the only language of the country and we will end all programs that are not part of a migration to our single tongue. While we respect differences of our cultural heritage, we must be able to communicate with one another.

We will set up a web site ( and we will find even more, better, and immediately actionable ideas.

Finally, we will create and install a system of government accountability with the following features:

We will strictly regulate lobbying with 100% disclosure and reporting.

We will ensure that no more legislation is ever passed that has not been read by each member of Congress voting on it.

We will install a recall system to hold Congress accountable and an online voting system, so that members of Congress can see what their home district wants at any time, and so that voters in the home district can see how their wishes are being carried out by folks who are supposed to represent them."

Read the whole post at

Not everyone agrees on everything, of course, but EVERYONE has the responsibility to think about the future they would like to create, and start dialogues to determine our course for the future. It's obvious our "captain" is asleep at the helm, distracted by greed and power.
It's up to us.
You and me.
Words have great power, and visions even more so.
Be careful what you wish for.

I for one am beating to windward.
HEADS UP.......TACK!!!!!


  1. are a constant sorce of amazement to me. Teaching us how to do work on a vehile, filling us with images of nature being peacefully enjoyed, and now bring us such a visual and informative post on sailing and staying the course!

    You are a pleasure to read, my7 friend!

  2. Thanks HermitJim. Glad you enjoy reading.

    Mark, local is GOOD. The more we produce locally, the less energy we use shipping. Not to mention the self reliance and communication with neighbors it fosters.
    Thanks for visiting.