Charlie Eagles: A fresh Australia [3/3]

And so we hit the close. In this last article:

What if we could have free energy, under a system for localised, shared energy production? What if 75% of our government were rotated members of the public, like you and me?
What if eliminating drug law solved our drug problems?

Review the series here, beginning with Meeting Charlie Eagles.

Energy-quotient buildings

‘[The crux of this idea] drives business to solve our problem of renewable energy.

Each building [could be] constructed to an energy quotient. The efficiency of the building  will help, but to get over that mark the building has to produce energy [and/or] water.  It’s up to [construction companies] to decide what is the most efficient and effective way to get that building to produce power and/or water.

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This takes a city from using an external power source to the city having it’s own power source. This could be put into place, in my view, somewhere around a five year mark. From telling the public: this is what we’re going to do, to having it in place.’

One of Charlie’s friend’s pipes up at this point: ‘It takes longer just to introduce a carbon emissions scheme.’

‘Getting it through politics, yes. [laughs]’

‘No, no, no, with all of the bureaucratic thingies, you’re talking about wholesale changes on retail, wholesale, and then the administration of the electricity market, and then your government bureaucracies…’

This friend goes on to contest the idea, at length, with some in-depth detail on the nature and caveats of electricity distribution. Charlie responds thus:

‘Let’s assume, for example, that the energy created by a house is [designated by] the building company. They build the house, they build something with the house to generate energy.

Obviously, if everybody has solar, that generates problems in the market as far as supply and demand [per time of day] so that may be an example of where some building companies go to alternative methods. There might be a wind turbine on the house, or so forth. Which gives you a different market to what solar panels would, even though you’re fitting into the same grid.

The other point is that I was also going on the assumption that every building has a storage capacity for that energy, a battery system, and therefore it would feed off it’s own battery when it’s needed, and the excess after the battery would go to the city.

So, A. you have different choices of how you gain energy and B., you would have different choices of when you release energy, so you may store it, and then sell it at night, gaining a better price. Different size buildings and different size lands would give you different results.

[Because the excess power goes to the city] as the city expands, your capacity for producing energy expands with it. The abundance of energy lowers the cost so that energy will essentially be free. In turn, we could solve issues with water supply. Salt water costs a significant amount of energy to convert into fresh water. If we have cheap, fresh water that could provide cheaper, easier food production. After power, water, the problems of essential infrastructure are dealt with, we could focus on bigger things.’

 Election of government

‘Even a portion of government bodies should be comprised of members of the public. Kind of like jury duty. I would make it two-thirds or three-quarters.

At the moment, a majority of the members of the [reigning] Liberal Party for example, live and grew up in the same suburbs, went to the same schools, they’ve been insulated and have no real connection to the Australian people. They knew each other as children, they knew each others families, their houses were in sight of each other, that’s all they know. How can they make effective decisions for everybody else?

They have no idea what life is like on welfare, because they’ve never been on it. They don’t know what that struggle is like. Or to be homeless, or to try to get work month after month, year after year, and the best you can find is a casual, short-term dead-end situation. Or trying to be a student, [living] on an amount of money less than the dole. Everything gets given [to them].

If we rotate other people through these positions, we would have much more dynamics in our politics. Some people will make stupid decisions occasionally, but that won’t be the majority. It would certainly be no worse than the idiots we have now.’

Reducing the size of government

‘A lot of the ideas I’ve suggested reduce the size of the government.

Because you’re getting rid of welfare, you have less government departments, less government involvement. When you change corporations to co-ops, again, you’re actually reducing the size of government involvement.’

Drug laws

‘I think marijuana should be legalised – it should be sold and taxed at the same point of sale as alcohol. Every time that’s been done, and there have been trials, drug-related crime has dropped to twenty percent. Those selling cocaine, heroin, that’s dropped to thirty percent. This has been duplicated every time, just by legalising marijuana. We could kill the drug industry in Australia.

Portugal decriminalised all drugs and their illegal drug industry disappeared. Crime can managed by the way that the rest of us do things. Not by increasing punishments or sending every criminal to jail, that won’t change anything. Indonesia has the death sentence for those who smuggle drugs, and yet they still have an illegal drug industry despite that. The costs are simply higher as the risks are higher. They execute two people a year, nobody cares.

It’s [also] not really that hurtful. Yes, it can cause lung cancer because people smoke it. So eat it. Make butter out of it, put it in cakes, sell that at pubs. Ta-da! [laughs] Fixed problem! Would I have it? No. It makes me sick.


In summation:

‘Your life will be the same, but you’ll have more money, more opportunity, more self-esteem because you’re getting more rewards for your effort, you would know your rights, and the law, and have more input into your democracy.

If you lived in that world, and you looked back on ours, you’d think ours was bloody stupid.’

Charlie Eagles: A fresh Australia [2/3]

[Continued from Charlie Eagles: A fresh Australia [1/3] ]
Regulation of business

‘I think every corporation should be turned into a co-op. So, in a way, a socialistic capitalism.

Capitalism itself is not a bad thing. If that short-term view [the short profit cycle endemic to corporations] could be changed to a longer-term view IMGP5918then corporations can start being more beneficial. If you can get the byproducts of a company supporting the world around them, just as a byproduct of their doing what they do…then everything starts to work better.

Where every business is a co-op, the employees of every business become investors in the company. Only the employees can be investors. Banks would be building societies. The effect of that would be significant, but it won’t change the way that we live.

If you’re an employee, by going to work you become a shareholder. You get your wage, and then your share of the profits from being a shareholder. There’s no other training, no management secret to spend years studying, you simply get a separate payment into your bank account. In having one job, you would have three incomes: your share of universal basic income, your wage, and your return on being a shareholder of the business you work for.

Much of your life won’t change. You still go to work, pay taxes, come home and watch TV, buy stuff from the shop. But you have more opportunity.

You’ll feel like you have more money in your life, and you feel like you have more freedoms, because you will.

That fixes the finances of everyone living in the country. it’s not much of a change, but it gives you options. You change jobs, you change who you’re invested with. You switch banks, same thing. It amounts to less complications in your life.

You will get “Why would people run businesses if everybody’s a shareholder, what would be the point?” There are people that do that and they’re shareholders. Look at your Mom and Pop corner store, staff of 2. That’s pretty much the way they do it already! Nothing changes for them. The bigger the business, the better your returns.

Within the bigger businesses, your profits are shared amongst every employee, from the city offices to the country towns rather than being limited to a small set of individuals.
This comes back to what I was saying about “change the system, to change the symptoms” in that suddenly you have more money in rural areas. This encourages more people to stay in or move out to country towns, developing them, which will flow on to farming communities.’

Free telecommunications

‘An idea has very little value until it’s expressed. So if I have an idea, for example, a [method for] cheap and easy farming in third world countries. It has no value until the idea is put out there. Ideas grow when they mesh and merge with other ideas. So what you really want for the growth…of society and then the growth of mankind is for ideas to mesh and merge and join. This is how we’ve advanced from caves. Quite simply. If nobody got the ideas for farming tools or the printing press, then we wouldn’t have the world we have today.

So, to develop ideas, you really want a good level of education across society, academics particularly I guess, but you also want a way of getting [ideas] out there. You can’t necessarily rely on your media to do that for you.

Having an effective communication system means that problems in society will come to attention faster. You can deal with issues faster, you’ll be able to connect with people better, society will function better. So if you have free communication, you have a better connection of ideas which is advancing your culture, and advancing your people. So you’re putting yourself ahead in the race by streamlining how society functions.

This gets back to an idea which, from a military perspective, and you’ll see this in Sun Tzu’s Art of War, if you know more than your enemy does, you have a huge advantage.

If you translate that to a civilian situation…imagine your country is like an army, if all of your soldiers can communicate better..your chance of success, as an army, against an opposing force is greatly increased. If every soldier can communicate to every other soldier, quickly and efficiently..if I can talk to you better, talk to anybody in Australia better, then that’s going to be to all of our advantage. If I can’t communicate then problems come up on a massive scale. On top of that you’re also allowing businesses to connect to the market easier and faster as well, so you’re also increasing the nation’s finances, the exchange of monies and so forth.

So while it would cost the government money to have free communications, the benefits would outweigh it’s cost. It’s just a matter of reorganising how we do things.

Corporations..have a stranglehold on what people communicate. But if it was government-run, you wouldn’t have those controls, so therefore people could get whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, however they wanted, which would be fantastic for academics, education, businesses, and all sorts of things.

Tesla-powered public transport

‘I believe that we should have more and better public transport. The case for that increases as the population increases. The more people you have, the more people you need to move. If we [all rely on] cars, you have traffic problems, you need bigger roads, more roads, and arguably, the problem increases at a greater rate than the population. Particularly if you have one vehicle per person, which is fairly common.’

I’ve seen issues like that predicted if not present with Uber in some cities. A sudden burst of cars on the road, some argue, is going to lead to more problems that it really solves, even economically.

‘Going to school in Brisbane in the 80s, and into the 90s, I saw the Brisbane had a lot of traffic problems. The city was expanding, and they tried to increase traffic flows and increase the size of roads, those sort of standard ideas. It didn’t work, or wasn’t working fast enough. They were steadily increasing budgets and spending more money but not fixing the problem because the problem was just escalating [with them].

So they redesigned the public transport system almost completely. They increased the number of buses and trains, moved train stations, increased the size of car parks at each station and encouraged people to park there. They incorporated all public transport under one system. That actually solved their problem by shifting people away from private transport.

I would change the public transportation system so that public buses were powered by Tesla motors.

Looking at the Tesla Model S, the whole underside of the car, from the front to the back is a series of batteries, which effectively function as one. At each corner of the car is an electric motor driving that corner’s wheel. As you engage with the functions of the car, steering, gears.. computers translate that to each wheel. It performs roughly the same as any other car of it’s size and weight, but because it’s electric it has a faster pick-up time than a petrol-powered car in the same class.

In America and now in Australia, there are Tesla power stations where you can plug your Tesla car into the Tesla power stations, and they recharge your car for free. With the Tesla power stations, at least as I understand it, in America they’re covered by solar power. So it costs effectively nothing to power the power stations and therefore it costs nothing to power the car.

If you apply that to public service buses, then you’ve got a much bigger area for the battery, you can have a motor on each wheel, and plug it into a Tesla power station, just as you could with the car.

Therefore you could reduce the cost of running the bus dramatically, because you’re not paying for petroleum fuel, which these days is expensive, and it’s going to become more expensive. [Applying Tesla technology] to public transport, to me, seems like a logical solution.

Councils could have a contract to Tesla where Tesla would manufacture the drive mechanics of the buses, and the power stations. [This would be] on the condition that the public doesn’t pay to use public transport.

Tesla [win] because they have the sole contract to manufacture these, the public is winning because they’re no longer paying for public transport. Which moves people around, allowing them to get to work easier, to be more productive, it also moves ideas around faster, which means you get more development, and a better economy. You’re also reducing demand on petroleum which is not only better for the world from an environmental perspective but it’s also cheaper for the country.

I’m not using this to push the profits of [Tesla], it’s just that they are in the lead as far as electric cars, at the moment. There are many other companies that have electric drive trains on their cars, but they’re doing it more as hybrid models. They haven’t done it to the scale or affordability of Tesla. Making that sort of a demand to [Tesla] would increase demand in that market as well, [stimulating] competition for public transport solutions.’

Charlie Eagles: A fresh Australia [1/3]

When I first introduced Charlie Eagles, I mentioned his plan to revitalise and transform Australian government. He relates that it’s simply a first step, that by fixing issues in our own country we would then be in a position to fix issues with the world.

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‘One of the biggest problems in the world – and it affects us, it affects Africa.. are how third world countries relate to Western countries.

Developed countries are still, by and large, quite parasitic. We rely on smaller countries to supply our goods and services, the debts that they have keep our economies afloat. We can’t really save the planet until we fix third world countries, and we can’t really save them until we fix our own problems. It doesn’t matter whether the approach is on the human aspect, environmental or economic. At some point you realise, you can’t proceed until you clean up the mess your house is in.

We need to enable third world countries to grow into their own entities, encourage better living standards and economic growth. We can’t do that until we stop being parasitic, and to get there, we need to change how the first world operates within itself.

We’ve come a long way in the past 50 years, a lot of things have improved.. indigenous rights, rights for women, gay rights, environmental legislation, those needed to happen but we’re still so far off.

Plenty of people disagree with me:

“Women have got too many rights, men are an oppressed minority! There’s so much green tape on everything, I can’t make profit anymore!”

The thing is that we haven’t gone far enough.

More legislation isn’t the answer, we do have too many rules and restrictions, what we need is a change of attitudes and methods, a change of the system.

When Wall Street made it’s disaster and let the American people pay for it, the problems of the American people got worse. Rates of crime, domestic violence, drug abuse, all increased rapidly from that point. The more successful society is, the lower those rates are. Look at Germany, Norway, and so forth, these problems are virtually non-existent because they have such support for their people. There’s a direct correlation.

I would like to see society grow to a point where these issues are resolved as a byproduct of a successful design. The easiest way for a person or a business to be successful is by doing something that others won’t do, hence we have politicians rigging elections, corporations dumping toxic waste, and so on. I’d like to steer us in a direction where that [productive influence] is constructive rather than destructive.’

Your mantra is “Change the system to change the symptoms.” How would you change the system?

‘If I was to change a country, this one for example, there are some things I think would need to be done to improve rates of productivity, efficiency, for everyone and everything involved. For our collective future. And I don’t see any other way of going about this. I had initial problems with this idea, I think the world will debate it for a while before they settle on it as an inevitable conclusion.

(Over several sessions, I went on to prompt Eagles on the points of his plan, as outlined in Meeting Charlie Eagles. They are presented below, in condensed form, sans prompts.)

The Constitution

I would change our constitution to be based on the International Declaration of Human Rights. I want to have that taught all the way through school so that people understand what they can and can’t do, and what’s expected of them up to an international level. Kids should be taught the basics of Australian law in highschool as well.

We should become a republic with a Bill of Rights supporting that Constitution, that way we can make our own decisions without being directly affected by other countries, as we are.

Social security

Universal Basic Income should replace social security.

The basic idea is that everybody gets an amount of money [from the government] greater than the dole. It raises the basic living standard so that everyone has not only a basic subsistence wage but the ability to innovate or invest in business. It’s not welfare, it replaces welfare, as a citizen’s right.

The  concept is that the income is a royalty based upon your ancestors efforts in making your country as good at it is. It enables people to grow out of poverty. People need to be able to not only survive but to improve their lives, and to preferably achieve their goals.

“With [universal] basic income, everybody gets an amount of money greater than the dole. Everyone has the means not only to basic subsistence but the ability to grow out of poverty. That’s it.”

Most people in the middle and lower classes struggle to get by, day to day. They go to work, pay the rent, put food on the table so that they can go back and do it again, and their life doesn’t change. There’s no room to improve their situation because they have no avenue to do so. If we give them the finances to make choices, they can say: I can now pay off that debt, invest money in my own business, move to a better house, buy a car. Change their lives to become more effective. The theory is that everyone has the capacity, at a minimum, of being able to improve their situation.

That’s it. No questions asked, the money goes straight into their bank account, all they have to do is spend it. We’re not giving people free money, nor wasting it because it’s collected back in tax anyway.

People ask ‘Well how is that not socialism?’, or ‘How can we afford it?’ My answer to that is, you’re overthinking it! You don’t need all of this welfare state stuff, you can get rid of all of it. You can get rid of dole payments and the questions Centrelink [the welfare arm of the Australian Government] ask, like.. “What is the sexual preference and age of your flatmates?” Who gives a shit?

Why is someone paid to read that crap, how is that important in the face of the fact that if I don’t get this money, I’m going to die?! Instead of paying pointless bureaucracy to evaluate who is eligible for what, we can just take that money.. and give it to the people.

People say ‘But wait, why give money to the rich?’ ..It still costs less than paying the wages of the people who work at Centrelink! There are so few of [the rich] that you can actually save taxpayer money!

The other thing about Universal Basic Income is that people say: well if people didn’t have to work, they wouldn’t go to work.

People want to be valued and to feel like they’re achieving something, they want recognition. The way to do that, generally speaking, is to work.

So even if you give people enough money to take care of all of the problems in their lives, they’ll still go to work because they need to feel like they’re achieving something, even if their job was picking up rubbish. Not everybody wants to be a famous movie star. If there was a choice between being a  checkout chick and a famous politician or a movie star, realistically most people would choose to work at the supermarket because it’s far less stressful.

Taxation

I also think we should change the tax system. I think  10% GST is good, I think it should be on everything.

I’d get rid of income taxes, almost all the other taxes we have.

I would install a 1% electronic transfer tax so that every time you use EFTPOS, or an ATM, that’s 1% automatically done behind the scenes, you don’t even notice it.
It will affect corporations, and banks, which do millions of transactions per minute, because that’s a lot of money shifting very, very fast. That would make more money than 10% GST.

But what it’s taxing is not the everyday person. It’s mainly taxing businesses, and particular businesses that deal in money as their product. And it’s all done automatically.

“Imagine the effect on people if you have no luxury tax.
When the cost of a Mercedes Benz is not much more than a Ford.
When you have no income tax, you won’t have up to 40% of your income going directly to the government. [We] won’t need it.”

I would have an import tax, to offset imports from other countries and protect workers.  That’s only necessary while we have third world countries. If the situation in third world countries was improved, you wouldn’t need an import tax.

The final tax would be on only those things where you want to increase the cost for the benefit of people, for example the tax on cigarettes. It makes a stupid, large amount of money, but it’s there to discourage people from smoking, the same as the tax on alcohol. Marijuana, as well, if you legalise that.

You would have no other taxes. Income tax, luxury tax, all that tax, gone.

People will pay less tax, yet the government will be making more money, and there’s less tax forms to fill out.

Those most affected would be those dealing internationally and those dealing in say, cigarettes. But most people, they’ll only be aware of the 10% GST, which we already have.’

Charlie Eagles: Everyday Crusader [2/2]

Why Greenpeace?

‘You can’t have the world without people, and you can’t have people without the world. Greenpeace are big enough to make changes. I’ve been involved with the Wilderness Society as well, but that’s much more of a local or even a national thing. Greenpeace is big enough to make waves.

I’m very much into human rights, civil rights, helping people be better because there’s nothing you can do in this world without people. You cannot climb Mount Everest without other people. You cannot explore Antarctica, you cannot go into outer space without other people. You cannot mow your lawn without affecting, if not involving other people, somewhere along the line.

“…there’s nothing you can do in this world without people. If you get the people right, theoretically the rest of your problems will become a lot easier.”

Unfortunately, we don’t get the people right. Humanity still suffers from slavery, for god’s sake, or racism, and sexism, and all that rubbish which just makes our jobs harder. It makes all of our lives harder. All because we perceive some group of people, in fear, of being something that they’re not and so we create division where there really doesn’t need to be.

But people are just one half of the equation, the other half is minding our environment. it’s all part of the same thing, all a matter of responsibility. If we have more of a teamwork-focused and responsible approach to how we do things, we’ll have a greater positive impact on others, and our environment.

There’s no disunity here, it comes down to: how we engage in our world. We’ve had the industrial age, the computer age, I’d love to see an age of responsibility: where we [each] engage in our greater world, with each other, and bring forth a new way, a socio-political revolution if you like, a change of perspective and attitude.

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“I invest time with Amnesty to help people, I give money to Greenpeace to help the world.”

I remember reading in the past that Greenpeace had been labelled an international terrorist group. With that kind of drive at their core, can you, as with any group driven by an intense ideology, can you trust their information?

‘Greenpeace are on a list as a terrorist group?’

Apparently. They venture into international waters and attack say whaling ships sometimes. Maybe that’s an interference with business, but..

‘More to the point, they used to, they don’t anymore. They actually stopped doing that because that gave them [too much] negativity. There are groups such as…’

PETA?

‘Sea Shepherd. Which do those physical actions now, storming whaling ships and things like that. Also, any group that’s going to call another a terrorist, as we’ve seen in history, as with Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Russia, [the ruling party says] “this group has different ideas to me, they [need to be wiped out.]”

The outliers are tarred.

‘Exactly. They’re doing different to what I want, so they’re out. In some cases, even in Australia, Amnesty has been called a terrorist group. Australia says: We want to put people in [detention centres in] Nauru. Amnesty says: You can’t do that. So Amnesty’s a terrorist organisation, surprise, surprise…

That literally happened in Australia. Amnesty were basically pushing the U.N. message, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as a non-profit organisation.

I can’t see how Amnesty or Greenpeace are terrorist organisations, they just ask questions: “Is this right?”

I’ve noticed with a lot of groups, they’ll take an extreme example to influence the audience.

‘Yeah, emotionally manipulating the audience. Pretty much every group including corporations do that.’

But because they’d use that tactic, like any other, to elicit a response and to get people involved, can you necessarily trust all of their surface information? Or do you look into their campaigns for yourself and go: Well yeah, in this case that’s exactly what’s happening.

‘Well as with any idea, you should research it, it goes without saying, because there’s a lot of misinformation and propaganda all over the place from every organization, [as well as from] social movements, Facebook, politicians, corporations… if you have the time and the interest, and the motivation. As for emotional manipulation, it’s very difficult to motivate the public on the facts, whether you’re selling a product or getting signatures.

Does that make them untrustworthy? Well that comes to what they’re doing it for, and how it’s presented. If a company [says]: this frog is endangered, therefore you must support our company which is Shell Petroleum, well that’s false advertising, one doesn’t work with the other. If Greenpeace says: this frog is in danger from the petrol companies, we want to be able to protect them. Is that lying? Well, no, because that is actually the case. It’s not about the method, but [their purpose], always look for the pattern.

With Greenpeace and the Wilderness Society, have there been subjects you’ve disagreed with them on or campaigns you haven’t wanted to be party to?

‘With Amnesty, most of our disagreements stemmed from the ideas I developed as a teenager, but where our ideas were in conflict, I later decided that I was wrong. There was one situation where I disagreed with them and they changed.

Long ago, the Amnesty groups from various countries couldn’t protest about issues from their own country. I also saw that governments weren’t always a problem, more often than not, corporations are the source of an issue.

Since then, Amnesty has changed to allow say Amnesty Australia to cover issues of Australian origin, for example Nauru, but they’ve also shifted focus from making sure governments are doing the right thing, to making sure governments and corporations are doing the right thing, which is a huge change for Amnesty. Corporations have grown to shape what governments do, instead of the other way around, and fundamentally they make the decisions after you cut through all the crap.

As for the Wilderness Society and Greenpeace.. in the 80s and 90s Greenpeace were often promoting “save the cute and fluffies” and didn’t have a lot of idea on how [to practically achieve their goals.] There didn’t seem to be a plan, it was just “Oh my god, this thing is cute!”

Greenpeace has changed it’s position and has tried to protect the environment, looking out for it’s long-term potential while allowing humans [to live.] Their ideas have changed to where it’s a good idea to support them as opposed to them being just a bunch of tree-hugging hippies.

Something like the Wilderness Society is where I’ve had the biggest amount of conflict. They still have a fighting in the trenches, survivalist mindset, that they’re being assaulted. They started by fighting governments, and [had some large victories], but they still don’t have much of an idea on how to [effect long-term positive change.]

Yes the environment is important, but I would, for example, rather see a change to the way our cities work so that they are more self-sustaining. So that we don’t need dams, or power plants, or to cut down rainforests to survive. If we can reduce our footprint on the environment, we’ll save it. That was the source of my clash with the Wilderness Society.’

Charlie Eagles: Everyday Crusader [1/2]

You mentioned previously that you used to work for Amnesty Australia and Greenpeace. Could you tell us about that?

IMGP5952‘I first started volunteering in ’91, it was just typical volunteer work with Red Cross, Salvos [Salvation Army], that sort of thing. I went from there to do voluntary work with a disabled children’s school.

It was a very strange time, and a very busy time. I was finishing school, working at the disabled children’s school, I had my job as a thief, and I was working for somebody else at the same time, as well as extracurricular activities and sport. It was really exhausting, I didn’t get much sleep. Working at the disabled children’s school was one of those moments in my life that changed me.

Many years later an ex suggested I join her and volunteer with Amnesty. I thought eh, okay, they’re just another big organisation like Greenpeace, some big ideas but with very little impact on my life. When I first started working there, I was looking for the catch.. that piece I wouldn’t agree with. But as I became involved, I realised that their statements and beliefs, their views and what they were trying to achieve were almost exactly those conclusions that I had come to: how the world needs to be as opposed to the way it is.

[Initially] I fell into a lot of debates at Amnesty but eventually I realised that where there was a difference of opinion, I was wrong.

For example: as a teenager I thought that in a criminal justice system, an eye for an eye made sense. If a thief steals something, they should lose something of equal value in return, if a murder kills someone, well they’ve set their own punishment for themselves. As a teenager it made sense, and it’s something that can be easily grasped by people.

As I aged though, and thought about the world, I realised that view was wrong. The state needs to set a better example, it needs to be that thing which other people should aspire to. There’s no point in bringing people down to your level, because they won’t encourage change, you want to bring them up to a better level. This is where the state can’t have capital punishment, because you’re saying that killing is okay.

Along with that was the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights: the bare minimums which we should expect from each other, anywhere in the world, before we even try to achieve anything. The ability to live anywhere you want, the ability to marry whomever you want, the ability to not feel under threat at home or work.

They had discussed these ideas as part of the evolution of their ideals and moved past it. I was still holding on to old, childish ways of thinking.

Because of my experiences, living on a farm as a child, facing certain situations, I could face certain things and engage in certain work that others couldn’t.

My dream job would probably be to work as a Human Resource Manager for Amnesty Australia. Why? I could be the guy helping other guys, helping other guys save the world. As a job description, that’s pretty cool!’

Does any particular campaign stand out? Something you were proud to be involved with or especially passionate about?

‘Growing up, my father was quite an abusive man, my mother took the brunt of that. One day my friends at Amnesty told me that there was a team of people that needed somebody involved who had first-hand experience with [domestic issues], so I joined, hoping to help.

It was the Stop Violence Against Women campaign and 90% of those involved in it were women. Immediately they wanted to know why I wanted to be involved, as a male, the very thing they were trying to protest against.

I said, ‘Hang on a second, you don’t know anything about me, you don’t know my story,’ and so I told them about my father, my depression and anxiety, my mother feeling suicidal and going to the doctor with bruises, court cases.. in the end they were like “OK! You can join!”‘

Even in an organisation like that sometimes people lose sight of what they’re doing, they might have the right idea at heart but they miss that their actions run counter to what they’re trying to accomplish.

We went on to national meetings with representatives from the government, business leaders, corporations, industry members who were involved in the community, which led to changing the law.  All very exciting, flying all around Australia. Some of them I already knew from working with the Department of Economic Development here in Tasmania and those connections served me well. So that was one of my successes, going from being on the backfoot coming into the campaign to helping change the law.

The way we changed [domestic violence law] is not sexist at all, by the way. It’s very much about humans, the same rule can be applied to men or women, there’s no gender bias. A lot of meninists rant “Agh you’re giving women too much power! How are we supposed to date women, we’re already in trouble with them?” Read the rules, there’s no gender bias. You can have complete role reversal and still apply it.

The other success came from manning a stall at the Falls Festival, down here in Tasmania. We just had petitions for people to sign, items to give away, t-shirts and stuff, but a lot of people down there of course just want to see bands, get drunk and party. They didn’t want to be bothered by big questions suggesting the world’s getting worse, and so there were pretty much ignoring the stall. I got very frustrated at this, but by arguing with the Falls Festival committee, I had access to bands, and by speaking with them, I got bands like Regurgitator wearing Amnesty shirts and promoting us on the main stage. At that point it became trendy to have Amnesty stuff and EVERYBODY was at the Amnesty stall.

For the next couple of days we took the national record for the number of signatures for that type of event in that year. Most of the bands from that point were either wearing Amnesty stuff or promoting them from the stage. it was really cool seeing bands go on.. “Amnesty! Save the world! Sign some Amnesty stuff..” being part of that, it was fun. That just came from getting off my ass and doing something because I was frustrated..’

I find that’s what a lot of people lack, including me. Sometimes you might conceive of how something might be improved or.. say someone working with you might have thought ‘Hey, what if we could get the bands to wear our shirts?’, but they wouldn’t go and make it happen.

‘Why not?’

I’m just saying that I don’t think a lot of people would, because they lack the initiative or..

‘Because they’re too embarrassed or something?’

Or they doubt their capabilities.

‘When it comes to asking questions, there’s no harm in trying.’

Exactly! But a lot of people don’t..

‘I’m still extremely lazy! When it comes to observing patterns, seeing inefficiencies in the way people are working, seeing that one thing that could be changed which would make a huge difference. Most of the time I don’t act on that. I basically act on it when it’s annoying me so much that I have to fix it.

People look at me and go: “Oh, you’re so motivated!” 80% of the stuff I’m not doing! If I’m only solving 20% of the problems I see, what’s your problem?

I don’t hold myself very highly or have a particularly big opinion of myself at all, yet other people do, at times. The question is not how have I done things better, or my successes and so forth, that’s not the question.. the question is: why haven’t they?

I’m no better or worse than anybody else. So when you ask me what made me get off my ass and speak to those bands, to me the question isn’t: why I’m special, it’s what was stopping the 3 or 4 people working with me?’

I think people accept limitations because they feel they’re supposed to, or because at some point they’ve internalised the idea of a personal limitation, regardless of their ability.

‘Because society has shaped them to be as limited as they feel they should be? Why? How is that good for anyone?’

I agree, I’m just saying that’s what happens.

‘”Stick your head in the sand, it’ll be safer.” No, you’re no safer, you’re just blind to how unsafe things are!’

[laughter on both sides]

‘Be your own hero, be whoever you want, I really don’t care, but we’ve got an amazing world, we could be amazing people..

It’s particularly important right now that we stop seeing things as other people’s problems. People are like: “Oh, I like this government right now because my investments are doing well.” That is a very selfish, single-minded, pointless, useless point of view. It’s so frustrating.

I find it amusing when I get involved in debates and the other party is like: Wait, why are we even talking about this, it’s not like it effects either of us. On a bigger level, these issues affect all of us, there’s an essential human decency to strive for in the world.

‘Not only that, but we’re all interconnected now. People go: Oh, American politics, whatever, it’s irrelevant to us. Not at all, American politics affects Australian politics. Everything they do affects us! Who America chooses as their next President? It’s effectively like choosing our own President! The amount of impact it has on us is actually quite significant.

So things like that first meeting at Amnesty where I was questioned for being male.. I could have turned and walked out.’

But then you wouldn’t have changed anything.

‘But then I wouldn’t have changed national law, which made things better for everyone. Sure it wasn’t just me, but we are all part of that bigger picture, and that picture affects every part of our lives.

This is particularly important right now because, like the Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times”, these are the interesting times. Things are happening so fast on such a dramatic scale that it’s frightening. The only reason we don’t realise how important this time is, is because we’re in it. It’s always hard to see the impact and the shape of a situation while you’re in it. Someone standing on the outside can see the solutions, just like that. We need to step back. I can’t let it go.’

Battling the Insomnia Demon Pt. 2

Hi all. So, to recap, in Battling the Insomnia Demon I spoke about my efforts to curb my insomnia. Originally, I struggled with sleep onset insomnia – getting to sleep – which was resolved by taking small doses of melatonin. But then, when I would wake in the middle of the night, I would fail to get back to sleep, which is known as sleep maintenance insomnia.

I’ve since settled on Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder as a diagnosis. DSPS sufferers essentially have a “body clock” which runs longer than 24 hours. Our full waking day and sleeping night run longer than 24 hours, leaving us (when left unchecked) sleeping and waking later each day. This was the case when I was younger, and less apt to try to control my sleeping patterns.

Sleep researcher Dr. Piotr Wozniak suggests that disowning electricity aside, there are only two reasonable solutions to DSPS:

  • Free-running sleep with high productivity, good health, but schedules irreconcilable with the outside world
  • A stable 24 hour sleep cycle with god health, but decreased productivity

After my last blog post I took free-running sleep for a week-long experiment. This involved no sleep medications, good sleep hygiene*, and attempting to sleep only when tired, for as long as my brain deemed necessary. The result? Well.. I slept at most four hours per night and was awake for 24 hours+ at least twice.

*Sleep hygiene is essentially practising good habits to prepare us for a good night’s sleep. Things like: no TV before bed, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, minimizing noise light, stress, and heavy meals.

I decided to approach Piotr to discuss the subject.

“I am 99.6% confident,” he said, “that given total freedom, you can sleep like a baby. Perhaps you need just 4 hours, but your brain can excel given your [subjective, ideal sleeping time.] You need 1-2 weeks on a system to start getting consistent results.”

Adapting to any new system can take some time. We’ve trained ourselves to wake by alarm clocks, to wake at dawn. We risk breaking our ability to sleep naturally when we take sleeping medications. And despite our sleep schedules, we still retain the niggling energetic itch in our brain’s perception of daylight hours, no matter when or how little we’ve slept.

For any efforts to determine an individual’s ideal sleep phase, he writes, we need to throw away any and all interference, including sleeping medications, school schedules, clocks, parents, light, girlfriend, cat, etc. If we eliminate the chaotic elements that disrupt our sleep, a natural pattern should emerge, and from this, we can either constrain our sleep to match our life, or modify our life to optimise our sleep. Piotr encourages the latter, for overall health, productivity, and longevity, even if it puts us at odds with the machinations of society.

The rules for free-running sleep are as such:

  • Keep a meticulous log of every minute you actually spend asleep.*
  • Sleep only when you feel you will fall asleep quickly, whenever you need to, but don’t force it.
  • Eliminate all/as many sources of sleep interference as possible.
  • Avoid stress, caffeine, and alcohol, especially into the evening.
  • Don’t postpone sleep to far later than when your brain is ready for it.
  • Don’t nap beyond 7-8 hours after waking.

*A note from Piotr:

“Only true sleep should be logged. There might be some hazy points where you are not sure if you were asleep. You must decide/guess. Attempts without sleep have no place in the log.”

By following this system, we can track our sleeping hours (using software such as SleepChart), which will determine our propensity for sleep at certain hours of the day. We can determine our optimum time for sleeping, how long that comes after waking, and when we could expect to be awake on any given cycle.

After our natural sleeping cycle has been reasserted, if we wish for a ‘normal’, 24 hour sleep cycle, then we need to accept some constraints.

Piotr suggests the following:

  • Determine the length of the day. By free-running and tracking sleep we can determine the sleep we personally need, and subtract that from a 24 hour day.
  • Set a permanent bedtime, and permanent waking time, and stick to it.
  • Set a protected zone of 2-3 hours in which you avoid strenuous activity, TV, light, any real activity in the evening
  • Get strong morning light, even if it needs to be artificial
  • Eat less at night
  • Exercise in the morning

Piotr alleges that those whom have entrained themselves to this systematic procedure have resolved their sleep issues. They don’t get all the sleep they would wish to, but they are able to sleep consistently, and appropriately. Me? Until I’m in a position to trial eliminating sleep medication again, I’m going for a compromise of only trying to sleep when I feel ready to, with a little melatonin to instigate it. It’s far from perfect, but it works for now.

Battling the Insomnia demon

I’m going to take another departure from the Charlie Eagles series tonight.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve struggled with varying degrees of insomnia.

As a kid, I preferred late nights. My parents would often catch me reading books into the early morning. I always wanted to stay up late to be involved in whatever adults were doing, and it was a pleasure waiting for my Mum to get home from work at 2-4 am. School days were awful, as a result, but I didn’t enjoy my school experience enough to see the difference.

Into my late teens, I’d pull all-nighters and sleep through days, sometimes falling into something akin to DSPS (Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder.) DSPS sufferers have a circadian rhythm set to a period longer than 24 hours, leaving them rotating sleeping hours around the clock, if left unchecked.

But despite these interests in sleeping alternative hours, whenever I made a sincere effort to sleep regular hours, even when required by work or school obligations, I could never get to sleep “on time.”

After trying the majority of pills out there, I found melatonin, which resolved the problem for a little while. Melatonin is as natural as they come: it’s the body’s sleep chemical, developed in response to sunlight as received by the eyes. The caveat is next day drowsiness, especially on the typical dosage levels. I found I may as well have not slept for the effect on my brain the following day. Cutting the dose dramatically solved my sleep onset problems, to a large extent. I could guarantee at least 2-3 nights of solid sleep per week.

But recently, melatonin hasn’t been as effective. It began with my waking up in the early morning and failing to get back to sleep. It doesn’t help that I’m a university student which brings quite bit of anxiety about being incapable of effective (or sometimes any) study on the proceeding days.

The past week or so, it’s all gone to hell. I haven’t been able to sleep consistently, or for very long to the point I’ve had to request extensions and take time off in an attempt to solve it.

Having more sleep-deprived time on my hands than I’d care to, I have had the opportunity to do some further research.

First, I discovered the tale of Uberman. This is one of several alternative sleep cycles, allegedly practised by great, creative minds. On the Uberman schedule, you would sleep 30 minutes every four hours, theoretically adjusting the brain to compress sleep to just the “essential” dream sleep. Perfectly well rested and with many more hours in the day. Sounds fantastic, right?

Dr Piotr Wozniak and Professor Edward Gorzelanczyk of SuperMemo write that it’s an internet fad, especially attractive among insomniacs who see it as a potential solution to their woes, or supremely driven individuals seeking to get every productive second out of every day. In reality it may be the worst option for both, potentially destroying the brain’s capacity for REM sleep. These two state that sleep cycles can be shifted, but ultimately not altered in nature. Uberman adepts, sending in sleep  logs for research demonstrate in their inevitable accidental oversleeps a consistent adherence to a natural rhythm. It’s also apparently simply not possible to train your brain to jump straight to core sleep. Success stories are few and questionable.

Diving further into the veritable goldmine of their sleep research, I discovered an practice so simple and intelligent, you wonder why the world is so crazy as to not to be doing it.

That idea is free-running sleep. Sleep when you’re tired, whenever that is, let go of alarm clocks and set sleep times. It reminds me of how sleep might have been practiced before the modern age: in the natural way! Anyone with a working life, familial obligations etc. may struggle to adhere to such a proposal (especially if they possess a deviant sleep phase) but simply stated by Dr. Wozniak: “It is very difficult and usually very unhealthy to force your body and your body clock to do what you wish. It is far easier to do the opposite: adapt your life to your body clock.”

Consistent sleep loss literally damages your brain, and is linked to the development of chronic illness. I wonder are we so desperate as a society to achieve and keep up, only to destroy ourselves in the process? Especially those of us with creative, intellectual minds whom live by those minds. We should be protecting and fostering that intellect. Are the consequences not far greater in long-term reward?

But coming back to now. I’ve begun using the freeware SleepChart software developed by Dr. Wozniak to log my sleeping hours. Together with free-running sleep, it should help me to identify when my best quality sleep is achieved, to understand where and what is wrong in my sleeping patterns, enabling me to take an educated guess at when I should attempt to sleep, when I can expect to be awake, and to organise my life accordingly for maximum productivity. I also predict that, letting go of the anxiety on when I can sleep might contain my immediate insomnia so that I can get back to working effectively!

Fellow insomniacs with broken sleep rhythms could also use SleepChart to simply identify when the best time to go to bed is, to ensure being able to get to sleep, and then still live by an alarm. There are two caveats here: Wozniak writes that to establish a baseline you need to the flexibility to free-run sleep for a while first. Secondly, using the alarm clock will ensure that sleep deprivation, to some degree, will likely still continue.

For me? The symptoms of poor sleep have cost me dearly in work, study, and life for years. Missed opportunities, being let go from jobs due to performance issues, social issues from struggling to mentally engage with the world around me. Sleeping well on a consistent basis would be invaluable. I basically look and act like the narrator from Fight Club right now. So I’m going to try free-running sleep and see what happens.

The free-running sleep algorithm, as written in Dr. Wozniak’s Good sleep, good learning, good life is as follows:

Free running sleep algorithm

  1. Start with a meticulous log in which you will record the hours in which you go to sleep and wake up in the morning. If you take a nap during the day, put it in the log as well (even if the nap takes as little as 1-3 minutes). The log will help you predict the optimum sleeping hours and improve the quality of sleep. Once your self-research phase is over, you will accumulate sufficient experience to need the log no longer; however, you will need it at the beginning to better understand your rhythms. You can use SleepChart to simplify the logging procedure and help you read your circadian preferences.
  2. Go to sleep only then when you are truly tired. You should be able to sense that your sleep latency is likely to be less than 5-10 minutes. If you do not feel confident you will fall asleep within 10-20 minutes, do not go to sleep! If this requires you to stay up until early in the morning, so be it!
  3. Be sure nothing disrupts your sleep! Do not use an alarm clock! If possible, sleep without a bed partner (at least in the self-research period). Keep yourself well isolated from sources of noise and from rapid changes in lighting.
  4. Avoid stress during the day, esp. in the evening hours. This is particularly important in the self-research period while you are still unsure how your optimum sleep patterns look. Stress hormones have a powerful impact on the timing of sleep. Stressful thoughts are also likely to keep you up at the time when you shall be falling asleep.
  5. After a couple of days, try to figure out the length of your circadian cycle. If you arrive at a number that is greater than 24 hours, your free running sleep will result in going to sleep later on each successive day. This will ultimately make you sleep during the day at times. This is why you may need a vacation to give free running sleep an honest test. Days longer than 24 hours are pretty normal, and you can stabilize your pattern with properly timed signals such as light and exercise. This can be very difficult if you are a DSPS type.
  6. Once you know how much time you spend awake on average, make a daily calculation of the expected hour at which you will go to sleep (I use the term expected bedtime and expected retirement hour to denote times of going to bed and times of falling asleep, which in free running sleep are almost the same). This calculation will help you predict the sleep onset. On some days you may feel sleepy before the expected bedtime. Do not fight sleepiness, go to sleep even if this falls 2-3 hours before your expected bedtime. Similarly, if you do not feel sleepy at the expected bedtime, stay up, keep busy and go to sleep later, even if this falls 2-4 hours after your expected bedtime.

Cardinal mistakes in free running sleep

  • do not go to sleep before you are sleepy enough – this may result in falling asleep for 10-30 minutes, and then waking up for 2-4 hours. Ultimately you can experience an artificial shift forward in the entire cycle!
  • unless for natural reasons (no sleepiness), do not go to sleep well after the expected bedtime. This will result in missing the period of maximum circadian sleepiness. Your sleep will be shorter and less refreshing. Your measurements will be less regular and you will find it harder to predict the optimum timing of sleep in following days
  • do not take a nap later than 7-8 hours from waking. Late naps are likely to affect the expected bedtime and disrupt your cycle. If you feel sleepy in the evening, you will have to wait for the moment when you believe you will be able to sleep throughout the night

So far? I went from two nights of broken 5 hours sleep to a solid 7 hours last night, with dozing for 4.  I felt like I’d regained some level of ability to think coherently today.

But tonight, I may have messed up the rules. On the basis of the idea ‘only sleep when you’re certain you will’ I believe I waited through my peak drowsiness and missed the window. I went to bed at midnight, roughly 18 hours after getting up, which seemed like a solid plan. I’m writing to you now at 3.. wait, it’s now 4 am. But let’s see what happens within the next week.