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.

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Charlie Eagles: the Ethical Thief [2/2]

‘It was wise to give up,’ Charlie continues. ‘With the inherent risk, every time I stole something it was like rolling the dice, really a form of gambling, so I had a pretty good run.. Towards the end, people asked me, as I was asking myself, if I wanted to go bigger. I could have. Upscale, invest money, rob banks.. but that was a lot of investment, and I decided that was not the direction that I wanted to go.

If something went missing in my area people began to assume that I did it. As it was – I figured it out one day – if I divided the number of items I was stealing, say, by the number of hours in a day, I was effectively making at least one dollar every 90 seconds. I effectively retired in my 20s. Not by stealing money, just by retrieving things for others.’

How do you feel about property now? Should we still have individual property, is it critically important?

‘I’m not really attached to money or items. Could I live without my computer? No. Without my phone? Yes. But mainly I’m attached to my computer because of all the ideas I’ve written down, the artwork, the concepts that are on it.

My point of view has evolved..from when I was young. [Looking at] ex-smokers or ex-alcoholics, they are the biggest “smoking is bad” or “alcoholism is bad”, the same  with migrants: some migrants will suggest that migrants are the biggest problem in society. Being an ex-thief, I’m not very “you must be protective of your things”.. it’s the connections between people that have more value, your evolution as a person, the advancement of society and how we all function together as a collective. That’s far more important than: “I have stuff.”

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I think we distract ourselves with stuff too much these days. There’s too much focus on consumerism. My father had the view that those with the most toys wins, but wins what? Wins how? I disagree with that view. I think it’s destructive to society and the world around you to have that view. “I have the most toys therefore I’m the best regardless of the fact that all of you are worse off. Whatever, I don’t care.” It’s not helpful. It’s not assisting growth in any way, shape, or form.

Everything that exists in nature is in a constant state of growth or decay, whether it’s suns, or plants, species, whatever.. except for some human concepts like God. God is an unchanging thing that can’t work because it doesn’t work the way anything else in nature works. I’m not saying that any particular belief system is wrong but that everything natural in our world is changing. ‘”My stuff is good” can’t work because it doesn’t work the way anything else in nature works.

I think that the way we relate to objects should be more organic in that way. Yes, things come into your life and leave your life, and accept that. Rather than just go: I need to gather more stuff.

If I have something that’s beneficial to other people, I’ll often just give it away. For example, if I have friends or flatmates that are short on money..I’ll just lend them some money. But when I lend money, it’s not money I need.. if it doesn’t come back then I know that’s a risk I’m taking.

Ideas are valuable, but like money has no value if it’s stagnant, if you have an idea and keep it to yourself, you may as well not come up with the idea. What’s the point? it’s not doing anything. If you share it, you might connect it with somebody elses ideas and we end up advancing.’

Do people have the right to cause indirect harm by hoarding? Should we have a society where people are able to hoard stuff for themselves?

‘Yes. If everybody was very giving and outgoing with everything, that [would] become a weakness. The same if everybody was selfish and greedy. You need a balance. We need different types of people.

As has been covered in many books and graphic novels, if everybody is the same, then everybody has the same advantages, but everybody has the same weaknesses. If everybody is the same, you only need one event to wipe out everyone. You need variety to give strength to the species.

One of the things I like about Australia is that we’re a multicultural society. Having people from different backgrounds gives us different perspectives, which gives us different answers to any problems which come up. I see that as Australia’s strength. [Migrants wanting to change things] is a good thing, because it means we’re [being inclusive] of different perspectives.

You’ll find with my views that there’s a time and place for everything. That [something is] not necessarily wrong.. where it’s right. There is too much focus on might is right, those with the most toys wins and that’s been used an excuse for the Reaginist type capitalism to support the super-wealthy, at the expense of everybody else. We need some people like that. Should we all be like that? No. But we need some people with that kind of drive.’

I read that when Donald Trump was building his empire, his big trick wasn’t his ability to make awesome deals, it was in manipulating local councils, influencing them to muscle people out of properties using eminent domain so that he could then buy them and then raze properties, or do whatever he had to in order to build one of his casinos.

Is there ever a situation where eminent domain is valid? Should government have the power to say: you know what, we need to take your stuff because the bigger picture is more important?

‘Well, yes. There is a need for governments and councils and so forth to make judgement for the benefit of the people. The example you gave of Trump is not for the benefit of the people. It’s for the benefit of one person and his corporate greed.

Am I upset for Trump doing that? No. Because he was following on the idea of capitalism…operating within that sort of objective. The council was the one at fault, their job was to look after the people to protect them from predators. Trump was doing his job.

It is a good example of how our..capitalist..model needs to change. Looking at it a different way, if you changed the way governments worked with people, would that scenario have come up? Possibly. There’s always going to be corruption..somewhere, but you can minimize the effects. If you can reduce the avenues and opportunities for corruption to gain a foothold then you’ll reduce the effect of that corruption on society.’

Obviously you’re very big on the importance of human and civil rights e.g. everyone should be able to take on opportunities and hopefully the means to take up those opportunities, for the betterment of society. But it’s implicit that as a basic unit of society, the individual is critically important. If we don’t protect individuals, then what’s the point? So can a person ethically be sacrificed, their property taken, their choice devalued..?

‘You’re talking about the offset of the individual versus the collective. This is one of the big issues that have been discussed for decades, at least, if not centuries, and this is brought up a lot in capitalism versus communism.

Communism is about the collective and the sacrifice of the individual versus capitalism where the rights of the individual are seen as more important than the health of the state and community. What I want to see [is a situation] where both have the opportunity to grow. You’re not sacrificing one or the other, and I believe it is possible.’

A balancing act...

Not even a balancing act. I don’t see why it should be seen as a competition. I’m not saying we need to sacrifice individual rights so that society gets better. I’m not saying we should all move to communism. I don’t see how that’s going to work. You start sacrificing individuals, you end up with mess just the other way.

Where the actions and the rights of the individual can support the community and the greater good, the actions and the rights of the community can support the individual. They can both be held aloft. This isn’t a black or white, they don’t have to be opposites, they both can be supported.

..With what I’m proposing, there’s nothing stopping individuals and their successes. It’s just your motivations and your successes. The drive of the individual pays back to the community. So by your drive, by your actions, you support the community, and the community supports you.’

People go: “Oh! You’re sacrificing the individual for the collective!”, well no! It doesn’t have to be.. it can be each person working together, gaining more..’

I just want to clarify that, these aren’t necessarily my objections, I’m more predicting the kind of knee-jerk responses you might get from readers, coming from certain preconceived ideas or from association with various political groups. I’m considering what ideas are they going to have in response, and what are their questions going to be.

‘You’ll get a lot of people like that when we present these ideas, as I did when I was first exposed to these ideas. “Oh my god, this is never going to work!” It’s too dreamy, or it’s too left-wing, or it’s too communist.. something like that.

“Capitalism has broken it’s restraints and is running amok. That being said, it’s not a monster that needs to be killed, it needs to be tamed. But that in itself isn’t the solution, we need more.”

All I ask you to do is think about it. Think about how it ties in together, think about the reactions to the changes [to be covered soon], think about whether it would be better or worse, and why, in comparison with our present system. What you will find, as I did, is that the present system is not only inefficient, it is failing to the point where it’s basically already failed. We just don’t know it. We are at a stage where we need to change how we do things. We’ve gone from feudalism and so forth.. we need one of those changes again. We’re at that level, we just don’t want to admit it. Capitalism has broken it’s restraints and is running amok. That being said, it’s not a monster that needs to be killed, it needs to be tamed. But that in itself isn’t the solution, we need more.’

 

Jessica Chloe Grey

My first legitimate model shoot was with the kind heart of Jessica Grey.  An amateur model hailing from Hobart, Tasmania, Jess was eager to secure some experience, and was happy to work with me as a fledgling, would-be photographer.

Jessica Chloe Grey

Jessica Chloe Grey

I would say that Jess aims to be a commercial model, happiest front and foremost in the photo. Hence, looking and feeling her best dolled up, I first considered office and business district locations where we might position her as a glamorous city girl. But in consideration that it was one of her first shoots, and certainly mine, I decided to setup something a little quieter: a foray into the Hobart Rivulet Park.

While I am happy with these shots, there are always lessons to be learned. In this case, I think we could have taken more close-ups. I was aiming for something like “candid girl next door, captured chilling out in the park.” As natural as possible. My yearning for Jess to be an element of rather than the object of the session is reflected in a multitude of shots taken with Jess looking off into the distance, but  in retrospect, some of the best may have been where she was in her element, working face to face with  the camera.

This speaks to the tips I’ve been given: choose the right model for the right shoot. But as a first effort, I think we were effective together.

For any legitimate queries on her availability, please, contact Jessica Chloe Grey through Facebook.

 

Charlie Eagles: the Ethical Thief

At one time in his life, Eagles worked as a professional thief. Hearing the story, I’m reminded of Bruce Wayne slumming it in Batman Begins, learning the dark side for the sake of gaining knowledge for the light.

He lounges against a long black counter in his sunlit kitchen. Lean and somewhat bedraggled, clothed in a black t-shirt and faded jeans. A fresh coffee sits to the side. He picks it up occasionally while speaking, but his hands, for the most part, are busy gesticulating.

‘[Working as a thief] you’re always in a state of paranoia. While it’s a 9-to-5 job, you’re always worried that you’re going to get caught, that something is going to go wrong. In a way, it’s like being a police officer – you never switch off.

It wasn’t anything glamorous.. Robin Hood stealing from the rich and giving to the poor or sneaking through mansions stealing jewellery. It was nothing like that. Most of my work was in item retrieval. For example: a couple breaks up, the guy won’t return a necklace which belonged to the girl’s grandmother. She would hire me to retrieve and return that necklace. It’s essentially about risk management: because it’s an illegal job there’s a lot of observation and planning. You want to reduce the amount of risk required to get the job done.’

How did you become involved? Was it simply a situation where you were having a chat with someone one day and they asked ‘Could you do this for me?

‘Well, not exactly. I’d been stealing things for a while. I was a thief for 13 years, 6 of those I was working for others.

The first thing I stole was a pen. And the one time I was caught by police, I stole the policemen’s pen. It was a fountain pen.. big surprise from me, being an artist.

I was forging documents for people at first. As an artist I had decent handwriting so it worked. Then they might ask: ‘Oh, well, if you happen to be good at stealing stuff, could you retrieve this for me?’ Because it was something that I was doing anyway, I had no problem with it.

I never took anything that someone needed. It would be just the cream from the top – the little thing that no-one notices, that no-one cares about, the things you would never miss. Two dollars worth. You do that en masse.. it pays really well.’

Last time we spoke you elaborated on your philosophy, and your ideals, designing a new country as a teenager.. How did you reconcile that interest and drive towards making a new ethical world with being a thief?

‘Well I wasn’t a thief because I needed to be. When it comes to doing something illegal, there are basically two types of people: those who do it because they need to..and those who do it for psychological reasons.

[Those who turn to criminal activity are often suffering] under the government crackdowns we have on welfare, the hunt for “dole bludgers”, and [other unhelpful government interference] making it harder for people to get work. This forces more people to be unemployed, putting them in increasingly difficult circumstances, so they turn to other means to support themselves. The actions of our government effectively increase crime when they leave people with no other choice.

Then there are those who are doing not because they need to, but for psychological reasons.

As a child I began to live two lives. There was the person I presented myself as to keep my parents happy, where I was everything that they wanted me to be, and then I had my life.
The first time I wanted to run away from home, I was 4. I knew that there was no way I could support myself, the government wouldn’t let be on my own, and the only other option was to live with a different family, which could have been worse anyway, so I stayed. I developed an attitude of independence and self-reliance. I knew that I had to generate my own income, but there was no way anyone was going to hire me when I was that young.

But, being a thief grew more out of that thrill of doing something you know you shouldn’t be. It made me aware that I was alive. To be inside someone’s house, right around the corner from where the owner is standing, two feet away, getting in and getting out with no-one ever knowing you were there, that adrenaline rush.. I don’t think I slept that night.  It became a way for me to form my own identity, proving to myself that I was no-one’s slave, that I could be me, and developing my own understanding of who I was.

You could say that yes, I was a parasite, living from the property of other people but within that, I was also being generous. Like Robin Hood, I was shifting items [between owners], and would never take something that people needed.

I developed rules – no stealing from friends and family, never take something that someone needed, and I also developed an understanding of property. Items don’t have a view that they belong to you – that teaspoon..

[Charlie gestures to a discarded teaspoon on the counter]

‘I claim it as my teaspoon, but it’s not, that’s just my view of the teaspoon. A teaspoon is an inanimate object, it doesn’t care. The same thing applies to all of our stuff – we don’t really own anything. The only thing we own in our life is our decision to be alive, or not.’

I presented the same argument in college. Someone might argue, “No, that’s my laptop.” No, you can call it that, but your possession of it is simply a social agreement.

‘When you claim something as your own people agree with that because it’s simply easier to agree with you, than to debate with you.

I came to realise that it was similar to the hacker’s mindset of breaking into computers simply to share information, because they believe in the freedom of ideas. If I have an idea, it would be selfish of me to keep it to myself if others can benefit from it. It’s the same principle, applied to property. In some tribal cultures, they don’t have an idea of theft, everything belongs to the tribe, to the community. A person uses it for a time, but then it’s returned for the community to use.

So in a back to front kind of way, I developed a community-minded mindset like that. I didn’t break anything – to me, if I broke into someone’s house and they arrived home screaming “I’ve been robbed!”, then I haven’t done my job. Because I would plan most of the jobs, I would also observe the results. So often, I would steal something and then watch how that would affect them. In some cases, I would steal something that someone needed, realise it, and then return it. It didn’t happen often, but it did happen. In some cases, by removing an item from a person’s life, I’d improve their life. So in a sense, I was mindful that there was respect for other people.

It probably sounds like I’m making excuses, trying to say that thieves are better people. Don’t get me wrong, I was a bad guy, but my point is that it changed the way I viewed the world, in comparison with the way that society told me things should be. I was basically testing my own views, ideals, and morals, leading me on the path of: What is right? What is wrong? What should change? By developing my own ideas, I wasn’t a sheep. It helped that my mother was a journalist, and questioned me on everything, but this was just another part of developing an idea of how the world could be.’

I can relate to that. Growing up, I was never a thief, but from the age of 8 or maybe younger I began to question the world. On the one hand, my mother always raised me to question everything, to question everyone, to never blindly accept the word or authority of anyone, or accept things simply because someone suggested “that’s the way it should be” or something like that.

I also saw the hypocrisies of society, the two-faced bullies of the world, contradictions in religion, the imperfections in our systems.. I thought: there’s got to be a better way.

I made the philosophical decision to simply dump all of it. Rather than just go along with some bullshit that everyone else was happy to go along with, I decided to search out the truth for myself, and form my own morality. And so I did. But taking it to an extreme! I did in some cases, whatever I wanted to, on a full-blown path of deciding my own ethics for myself because the code of the world simply wasn’t good enough.

If the world couldn’t live by it’s own standards or respect me by them, why should I follow the leader?

‘Yeah, that’s basically what I was getting at. In my father’s case, he was very much a capitalist, a businessman chasing after money. While what he did was legal, he probably caused far more damage to people than I ever did as a thief.

I did some quite vigilante-type stuff as well.. for example, somebody was a bully at school, beating up kids or whatever. They came back to their room to find their room gutted – like there was simply nothing in it, not a speck of dust. Vacuumed. I shifted everything.. just to make a point. Being a thief was probably the thing I’ve been best at in my life. People look at my artwork and say “Oh, you have amazing artwork, blah blah blah..” but my being a thief was my greatest success.’

Meeting Charlie Eagles

Strength, compassion, dignity.

These three words are written on a little whiteboard, pinned to a set of metal shelves just inside the entrance to Charlie Eagles’ bedroom. It may as well serve as an office: the door is usually open, and his friends enter readily. Boxes of Warhammer gear sit at the front of shelves packed with classic novels and an aging collection of CDs. A Guy Fawkes mask hangs above a wall of reminders: personal to-dos, money lent, favours to be returned.

‘Is that a quote?’ I ask.

‘It’s basically a distilled version of my outlook on life. Strength, compassion, and dignity are the traits I try to embody. Inner strength, compassion for others.. I always try to help people if I can, and I remind myself to be a decent and respectful human being.’

Below the three words are written two dot points:

  • Life; if you’re not having fun there’s no point!
  • If the world is not better for you being in it, then you’re just being a burden!

Charlie stands at 6’2″. At 41, his shoulder-length hair carries a streak of grey, but despite the age, he lives with the spirit of a teenager: anything is possible, ideas can and do change the world. He carries an effortless confidence behind a gentle, friendly, and open demeanour. If Charlie had a catch-phrase, it would be: ‘I’ll do what I can to help you.”

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When I mentioned that I was looking to move away from shooting landscapes to explore portraits, Charlie was the first to volunteer as a subject.

‘So I was thinking,’ I began, ‘that [as part of my portraits project] in order to capture the essence of people, to help them reveal who they really are, or how they would like to be perceived… it might be best to start by building a basic profile of whoever I’m looking to work with. Spend time with them on a regular basis so that I can capture them in their element.’

‘I’m not sure if you’ll really get to the essence of a person if you look to describing them by their habits, or what they do on a daily basis, though’, Charlie suggests. ‘For example, you might see me most days sitting in my bedroom, playing computer games, or reading a book. But that’s far from defining who I am or what I’ve achieved.’

When I first asked Charlie how he envisioned himself i.e. if he could fully express himself in physical form, what would he look like? All he could specify was a ball of fiery, white, clarifying light. Knowing Charlie and his motives, this wouldn’t be a misleading depiction.

The ideology he presents argues for the growth of human society into something organic and integral, where humans might work together voluntarily, not as pawns of an all-encompassing system, but preferably in mutual understanding and interest in a greater good. There is no room in his vision for the disconnected Randian hero, but neither is there room for the corrupt politician, lawman, or CEO. He sees the world as possessing ceaseless boundary for growth yet holding the maintenance of our humanity as of crucial importance.

A dynamic man, and a thought leader, Eagles is a dreamer who has experienced the world as few do: from prosperity to poverty, by choice.

‘My father always wanted to make his first million by the time he was 40,’ Charlie relates. ‘He reached it at 41. By the time my parents divorced, they were worth several.’

‘Wow.’

‘He is almost the complete opposite of me. He’s greedy, self-centred, obsessed with money and financial success. He’s short, squat, a dwarf-shape, blonde and blue-eyed. But he and I, we do share the same fear, of getting to be an old man, where you can’t do anything and realising that you haven’t. For him, life was about “those with the most toys wins”, “greed is good”, etc. Whereas I want to leave a legacy and make the world a better place. If people don’t appreciate me, then I had no effect, no value.’

Charlie unearths a stack of books from within the mass of shelving.

‘I was raised on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Machiavelli’s Prince, How to Win Friends and Influence People, all of that kind of stuff…’

He tosses me a copy of Ricardo Semler’s ‘Maverick!’

‘That, is probably the best management book that I’ve ever read.’

He also offers a copy of No Logo, and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

‘I’ve read Maverick,’ I offered, ‘and Nineteen Eighty-Four I read as a teenager. I’ve read most of Orwell. It’s a good depiction of the dynamics of different groups in society, and ironically [the events in the novel] are so close to where we are now. People with a keen eye who can see the greater movements within society can recognise these poignant warnings but it doesn’t…’

‘People take it as simply naysaying…’

‘..Or they dismiss things as if it were conspiracy theory.’

Charlie’s voice piques with an idea.

‘One of the things I came to realise about myself is that I love finding patterns. Everybody’s brains work well, but in very different ways, even among geniuses. I’m good at perceiving patterns, particularly among society and groups of people.

The other part of me is that I like improving things, and making them more efficient. It’s like looking at a jigsaw puzzle and seeing a piece in the wrong spot. It may be very similar to what should be there, but not quite. I have this drive to achieve balance. Combine that with patterns and it becomes an obsession: Society is wrong. This piece of the jigsaw should be here.’

“With the right change, we could erase a whole mass of problems in an instant. We waste so much time putting Band-Aids on symptoms instead of fixing the over-arching problems.”

‘I can relate to that…’ I interjected. ‘Seeing the greater issues in society and knowing that there are ways in which they could be easily fixed, if only we had the right implementation.’

‘These problems could be so easily fixed,’ he agrees. ‘Take universal basic income. It’s an easy solution, to a big problem. A whole spectrum of problems in society could be fixed, but I can’t move the jigsaw piece.’

Charlie laughs and one can sense the familiar ring of one laughing in the face of futility. He’s lived with this frustration for so long, like a general at an impasse in a war, with no action left to take but to laugh in the face of an impossible situation.

We went on to conduct interviews over several sessions, and by my second visit, Charlie had drawn up a basic graphic illustrating the points to a plan for refurbishing Australian society:


 

Benefits of capitalism without the drawbacks

Have

(These together will lead to a self-sustaining system.)

  • Universal Basic Income
  • New Constitution and Republic (based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
  • Only 4 taxes.
    • 10% GST
    • 1% tax on electronic money transfers
    • Import tax
    • Smokes and booze tax
  • Socialistic capitalism (All businesses are co-ops)
  • Free telecommunications (encourages communication and business)
  • Public bus services based on or sourced from Tesla
  • “Energy quotient buildings”

No

(Because they would be superfluous!)

    • Income tax
    • Luxury tax
    • Social security
    • Minimum wage

‘This all fits within a mantra of mine,’ he explains. “Change the system, to change the symptoms.”

Eagles suggests that a lot of help in society is targeted to addressing the symptoms of problems, rather than the root cause. His aim is to identify and to solve those causes, resolving most issues, at once. ‘If you don’t believe me, just look at the patterns in society, and they’ll show you the truth.

My one concern with all this is that… people will take me as too idealistic. Not that I think anything in this article would surprise anyone, well maybe five people that I know on social media.

[As a child] for a long time I’d wondered why there were so many things wrong with the world. In a typical journalistic approach my mother asked, “How would you do it differently?” So I started writing down ideas, and those ideas started to merge and mesh. By the time I was in my early to mid-teens I started to collect these ideas together into a book, basically defining how to build a new country. Like Lenin began from Marx, and the founding ideology of America, I felt that we needed a new ideology with the fresh ideas we have today, thanks to the evolution of technology, science, social advances, and our global society.

I felt that we could live by something better than a code written some 200 or even 2000 years ago. But these were the ideas of a teenage boy. I’d do it very, very differently today.

“I could say that as a child I had a dream that I was friends with everyone in the world, and all my friends were friends, but it doesn’t say nearly as much as:

I was a teenager who wrote a book full of ideas to help save the world.”

I’ve participated in marches, rallies, and protests for just about every good cause you could think of, helped countless people.. strangers come up and thank me for the help I’ve given them. I’ve saved people I’ve never met, changed their lives, changed national law! I’ve driven illegally over half of Australia, been overseas and seen things you wouldn’t imagine. But then I meet someone on the street and they’ll suggest that I’m simply a bum because I don’t have a car, “get a job”.. for fuck’s sake, there’s far more to life than money!’

Despite his lofty origins, Charlie currently works as a roadie. He recently returned to study at University, and works with Amnesty Australia when he’s able. And of course, he makes extensive time available to assist friends with activities such as conducting interviews for a fledgling blog..

I offer my perception: ‘I think you’re a good example of someone easily misjudged by common standards of success. From the outside, people can assume so little by these shallow ideals of what a person should have, or be, but you’ve obviously accomplished so much in your life.’

Over this series we’ll explore the more interesting aspects to his history, alongside the ideas Charlie presents, and how and why he believes they would benefit society.

Sympathy for the Criminal

I often find myself debating, or at least wishing I could make headway in debate with people unwilling to consider various criminals as human. I’ve long found it horrifically ironic to see would-be lynch mobs ready to tear a person down for a crime they have or have been alleged to have committed.

Easy case: If we present capital punishment as a response to murder, there’s an implicit endorsement by a state of the act of murder. So how do we explain to a criminal that violence is okay, but only as long as it has the endorsement of enough people? Oh, wait, but then only if we’re on the winning side, or if there are more of us..

I believe these attitudes are entirely counterproductive for everyone. I’d like to present my perspective.

When I was younger, acting like a jerk was my response to what I perceived as an unfair world. And I was quite the jerk.

I had reached the following conclusions by the time I was 16:
The majority of people were hapless sheep, the remainder were manipulative jerks taking advantage of them.
I had long since ceased expecting to be respected or valued as a person by people I’d never met, and perceived this as being simply because I was ‘different.’
I fought it as a kid, tried very hard to fit in and be accepted, I truly wanted to help people and the world, until I accepted the idea, unfortunately, that my efforts were wasted.
Developing a mindset like that, you lose any sense of obligation for fair dealing and positive treatment of others. Why be loyal to a self-destructive system which seems to be hostile to your growth and well-being, as an intellectually curious and critical individual?

We tend to forget that people even in our neighbourhood may have lived completely different lives with a set of experiences quite alien to our own. It’s these experiences which shape a person, what they expect from others, and their responses. A single event in a person’s life can inflict permanent change upon them, modifying how, why, and to what degree they can function.

But I digress. These negative perceptions of the world stayed with me, slowly evolving throughout my early to mid 20s, before I met someone whom demonstrated that even if I couldn’t change the world, maybe I could still be a positive force, which the people around me would appreciate, leading to a happier life for myself and those around me.

I never say that it’s right to commit criminal acts but I know exactly how it can be to find yourself pitted against the world. Punishment doesn’t change or diminish criminal activity because it’s simply perceived as systemic hostility by those used to encountering violence (whether physical or otherwise.)

Incidentally, this is why we shouldn’t continuously berate or beat our kids, especially if they don’t comprehend what or why they’ve done wrong. They will learn that violence is an acceptable way to solve problems or to get people to do what they want which is, I would say, a fairly counterproductive way of dealing with people. It would also teach them to hide when they’ve done wrong, that parents and/or authority figures are not approachable with some or all issues, and in some cases, that accidents are never acceptable. Consider the repercussions of just that last case – if everyone caused damage and never sought to fix it, or to make amends, because they feared punishment, how could we hope to survive as a society? How could you run an enterprise effectively with employees who cover up mistakes?

It’s for these reasons that I often take the sympathetic stance, even when reading about the worst criminal cases. There’s always another side to the story, and many people are not necessarily beyond saving. Evolution as a species, changing the underlying problems which foster the creation of the maladapted is far more important for society than labeling and judging people, and locking them away.

The Salamanca Massacre

I write from the bowels of hell. Splinters of the fading sun fall through from a grate resting by the pavement. Sometimes the wall scrapings catch a taste of the world outside. It’s havoc on your fingernails, though. Occasionally I catch the scent of the flowers; the pedestrian feet ignore us. They’ve buried us down here. We are the shunned, selected as example to the rest.

There are 30 of us to the cell. The feeding trough is beginning to overflow. If nothing else, we know they have no shortage of water here to spray us with. A cleaning is inevitable. They need to ensure sanitation. Jimmy overheard one of the guards – we can’t be recycled for the next parade if we rot.

We gathered like pigeons, in the park. Limbs flittering, eye-mouths jabbering like moths in the lustre of the tree-shattered sunlight. The camerapeople skittered like spiders, clutching their eyes, loins hungry for the spectacle.

‘Please move back. A parade will be coming through. These orders are to guarantee your safety.’

The official gestured with open palm for the enthusiastic to stay behind the barricade.

publicorder1

Flyers were clutched in their fists

There were amplified voices, warnings from the speaker:

‘Today presents the beginning of public order, and the end of public safety. To mark this occasion…a parade.’

As the machines arrived, there came the strained screaming of bagpipes. We were children in the meadow, gaping mouths and skirt-tugging roustabouts for an execution. As the authorities began barking their orders, the police cars rolled in from behind. The trap was complete. Lured by the promise of entertainment, comfortable in our submission to power, celebrating the dissolution of our freedom as the guns began to fire. We became the art.

They chose a few at first. With small fisted weapons, a casual demonstration. They were no more than officious men with water pistols. We laughed.

But as the crowd swelled in the square, soon we were outnumbered. We laughed again as they leapt on a poor fellow, tearing the paper heart from his chest. ‘He’s a lucky one’, spake the barrister’s wife. ‘Caught in the camera eye, he’ll make the papers.’

The cannon was unveiled and water thrust into the air. The remnants of public safety dissolved. Too late, we acknowledged the sacrifice we had made. The trade-off, as the same tools we commissioned to ensure our safety had been employed, refashioned, for public order. But where did the line ever lie? As ever, we were happy to sacrifice, to let go of the ignominious struggle of servitude in catering to our personal desires. Only the criminal need be afraid in the name of public security. Alienation leads to political pessimism, they say. You’ll become a lonely sap, a hiding homebody, paranoid and awkward.

They handed us questionnaires.

The state is currently undertaking a survey into the psychic life of its citizens, in order to determine how much repression will be needed in the coming months and years. We already have your details on file..

‘We don’t need government’, they reminded us. ”We are government.’

We cheered as the cannon was deployed, oblivious to our participation in the dissolution of our individuation. No less than promised. The cannon shot about the clearing, searing the spectators. We laughed as several of us were caught in the spray.

‘MOVE!’

‘MOVE!’ they screamed.

They rolled over the baker’s son. Flattened him into the grass. By that stage he was no more than a pixel in their presentation.

When the field was littered with the dead, they left. But the bastards had laid mines in the grass. As the field cleared, the children emerged, twitching like coked up rabbits, bounding into the fray like deer, no.. as crows. For they danced among the corpses, performing cartwheels of carnivorous exaltation as the warning cannons left behind showered anyone who came too close to the killing field. But see, even the children volunteered.

The crowd began to disperse, many no more enlightened than when they had arrived. Somewhat wet, somewhat damaged, still oblivious. We were taken by public spectacle, enraptured and grateful as public safety was transmuted into public order. The primacy of ‘private’ was lost. We studied the surveys which queried us on our habits and preferences. ‘If you could be insignificant, in what manner would you prefer to be humiliated?’
‘On a scale of 1 to 30, how much life dissatisfaction powers your drive to self-medicate with state-sanctioned substance abuse?’

It was our answers that delivered us. But once we’re paper we’ll be perfect.

For crucial information on the dangers posed by the unrestrained individual please approach Officers Amy Spiers and Catherine Ryan.

The Minister for Public Order insists your safety is their prime concern, this seditious nonsense was entirely unauthorised and shall be invalidated at the meeting of Cabinet. We thank you for your participation in democracy.