Tuesday, 25 March 2014

5. Mrs. Nussbaum

Knock, knock, knock…

Yes?....Who is it?

Hello Ma’am, my name’s John Smith and I’d like to give you an information packet about an organization I work with called “The Brotherhood.”

The Brotherhood?

Yes, ma’am. As you’ve probably noticed, the economy is in terrible shape. There are many people who are suffering from this and our goal is to help them survive.

Oh that’s nice.

Yes. We think so. Thank you. What makes the Brotherhood special though is that what we’re really doing is helping these people get organized to help themselves. You know… “give a man a fish and he eats today, but teach him how to fish and he can eat forever?”

Yes, that makes a lot of sense.

Well listen Mrs...


Yes, Nussbaum. Thank you. Mrs. Nussbaum... If you have a few moments I’d be happy to explain what we’re doing in greater detail. Or if you’d like I can come back at a more convenient time.

Could you come back at 6 o’clock this evening? You can join my husband Bob and I for dinner. This sounds like something he might be interested in.

Ok Mrs. Nussbaum, that would be great. Thanks for your time and I’ll see you all at 6 o’clock this evening.

Later that evening...

Knock, knock, knock...

Good evening. You must be John Smith?

Yes sir I am. And let me guess... you must be Mr. Nussbaum?

That’s it. Come on in and have a seat. Dinner will be served shortly.

[lots of small talk omitted, Mrs. Nussbaum serves dinner and they all start eating]

So... John... Tell us about the Brotherhood.

Well... as I was explaining to your wife earlier this afternoon, the economy is in terrible shape and many people are hurting. So many people are loosing their jobs, their money, their families, and their homes. It’s really terrible. We the Brothers have had enough of this and are organizing to do something about it.

What can you do? This economic problem is so large nobody can fix it. With all due respect, what prayer do the Brother's have of changing anything?

I agree. And in fact, realizing the actual truth of that statement is the first step towards a solution. You see, the present economy is so totally built on unsustainable principals that it’s completely doomed. There is no solution for it. Our only choice as people is to either lie down and die now or stand up and try to adapt to the new reality.

Yeah, the system really is fucked, that’s for sure. But what can you do about it?

Our basic idea is that we take our Brothers and we teach them to work together in order to help themselves. This one simple step is the most amazingly powerful thing we can do. For example, let me describe the experiences of four of our recent recruits, Andy, Billy, Curtis, and David.

Before we found them, they were all individually homeless and lost. Each of them had to always carry their meager possessions with them, lest they be stolen. Each of them individually had been assaulted and robbed by the police. Individually, they had no encouragement and no direction so it was an uphill battle to pull themselves together in order to improve their lot. Finally, their isolation, boredom, and loneliness fed their tendencies to abuse alcohol and other drugs. Pretty grim situation, eh?

Yeah, sounds like a bleak life to me. So what did you do about that?

In the Brotherhood, as a starting point we organize our men into four man “squads.” The most able is the squad leader and he’s assisted by the assistant squad leader. The 3rd and 4th ranks are held by new recruits, in the order of their accession.

The four men I just spoke of were all individually in pretty bad shape when we found them. They would not be much better off if we tried to get them to organize together. None of them had sufficient skills, leadership, or self-discipline to contribute. But we didn’t just dump them together. Each one of them was assigned as the 4th member of an existing squad.

Oh! I see... so now the other three members of each squad can provide a stable foundation for the new member to heal and develop?

Exactly! And heal they do. To get them started, we give them a hot shower, a medical checkup, a hair cut, some clean clothes, and a lumberjack-special meal. They think they died and went to heaven!

Yeah, I bet they do. Hey, are there any of them Virginians in your heaven? <sly grin>

I can’t say for sure because I haven’t been there yet. Not even sure if I even qualify. But anyway...

Yeah, so what happens to the recruits? What do the squads do ?

The new recruit gets two nights and one day of rest and recovery. They usually spend most of their time sleeping.

But on the morning after the 2nd night, they wake up at the ordinary time that the rest of the squad does and they are given orientation. Now that they’ve rested and recovered some, and their heads have cleared a bit, it’s time for them to decide if they’re going to join us or not. As you might have noticed, one element of the cultural decay in today’s world is the lack of respect for freedom and free choice.

Yeah, anything not prohibited is mandatory, right?

Exactly. In today’s world “freedom” has been reduced to little more than a choice like "heads we win... tails you lose."

The new recruit is told that he is free to go at anytime. And he really is free to go. But while he’s with us, he’ll keep the same schedule that the other men do, he’ll do the same work that they do, and he’ll be subject to our rules and discipline during his time.

Wow, this sounds like the army, except for the free-2-go bit.

Yes, intentionally so. There’s a lot of benefit to be had in careful organization of a man’s time. You know, idle minds, workshops of Devils.

Yeah, I hear ya.

The Brotherhood has a model schedule for the squads to follow. Newly formed squads start with this schedule, but they have some discretion in adapting it to their circumstances. Also, the various squads are also deployed for various Brotherhood duties and their schedules must accommodate said duties.

What sort of duties?

I’ll get to that in a moment, but first, let me explain the basic schedule. It’s important that the men go to sleep and wake up at a regular time. Anybody who’s ever had the freedom to keep their own hours can attest to the fact that sleep can get major fubared when you can nap during the day, and stay up late at night. Then, when you need to rise and shine at 6:00am someday, it’s impossible to sleep the night before. We don’t let that happen and it’s the squad leader’s duty to lead the way.

When they awake, they do exercises, eat their breakfast, clean up their surroundings, shit, shower, ‘n’ shave, and generally get ready for the day. Depending upon the day’s agenda, they may do the shower later. We believe that maintaining physical fitness is important for both health and defensive reasons. Many people look at us a “bums” or some sort of sub humans that are deserving of abuse. We don’t start trouble, but we aim to end it quickly when it starts.

Yeah, that makes sense.

Then, it’s off to do the day’s work. As I said, each squad has different duties. Let me describe a few examples:

Physical Labor

One of the things we do to support ourselves is we hire out for physical labor. That’s usually some combination of hard, hot, cold, dirty, unpleasant, what have you, work. A labor squad is where most new recruits start. Unless they have a very valuable skill that we really need, then the labor experience serves as bonding/hazing for the recruits. It’s something anybody can do, no special training need apply. Labor is great for physical fitness and it's also an excellent method for the Brothers to develop good work habits. You know, come to work on time, just fucking do the work and not complain about it, don’t argue and fight about who has which perk or privilege, etc.

Yeah, I heard that before!

It starts them on their development path upwards in the organization. Although they start as Recruit 4, they eventually rise to Recruit 3, Assistant Leader, and finally Squad Leader if they can handle it. But they have to learn how first.


Hey Bob, what do you do if your company has a field of valuable supplies or equipment? Even a simple fence is expensive and something big ‘n’ bad enough to keep out the Marines costs a bit more. And fuggedabout video cameras. Those are easier said than done for too many reasons to rag on here and now. So how do you keep your stash secure?

Let me guess… hire one of your labor battalions?


If all you need is some men to stand around looking mean and ugly to keep the bad guys at bay, then you’ve come to the right place. But wait, there’s more! They can also do cleaning and yard work. Maybe you need somebody to inspect incoming shipments. Maybe… there’s 100 other things people are easily trained to do under these circumstances.

Finally, our men need a place to live and sleep. Being homeless kind of pisses all over that ideal and if the men can pitch their tents inside your compound during the night, then they and your stuff are much more secure.

Yeah, that sounds secure. But how do I know your men won’t just do the stealing themselves?

That’s a good question and a deep subject. Much of what we’re doing depends upon the systematic development of integrity and trust. But how about we defer that issue until later? I promise that I’ll address that issue much more thoroughly in a moment.

Ok. Go on…


Next, we have Farmers.

Some of our squads maintain gardens and farm animals. However, as you might guess, this takes some specialized skills and not everybody is suitable for it. Also, the idyllic life of the farm is viewed as a plum assignment so there’s a reward for brave and loyal service element built in.


Next, we have Chuckwagon squads.

We accumulate food and cooking utensils and instruments from a variety of sources. We find that it’s much more efficient and nutritious to organize a central kitchen that many squads dine at, than it is to deploy the men supplied merely with whatever random soft drinks, cigarettes, and peanut butter crackers they individually have.

Supply Depot.

Next, we have a Supply Depot.

We accumulate surplus and donated everything and somebody has to baby sit it and manage the flea market. Some squads are dedicated to that.

Barber shop and Laundromat

Other specialist squads include Barber Shop and Laundromat.


Oh yes, did I mention we have Hospital squads?

What? A hospital?

Eventually yes. But even now, you’d be amazed at how much bang-for-buck there is in simply organizing a medical squad. Anybody with any rudimentary medical / first aid training, armed with a beginning collection of aspirin, cold medicine, band aids, etc. can form the humble beginning of such a thing. I’m afraid we don’t yet have any Cat Scanners, Proton Beam thinga majingies, or nano celluar repair gear quite yet, but we do the best we can with what we have. Best of all, you sure can’t beat the price!

Hmmm… Is it even legal to do that? Isn’t somebody practicing medicine without a license?

Probably not, probably so. Matters not to us. But that’s a legal risk we’re taking. And while we’re on the topic, let’s discuss another important angle to this plan. You caught the bit about practicing medicine without a license. Maybe you didn’t realize you need a license to cut hair also. And there are probably some payroll issues and worker’s comp and unemployment insurance problems as well.

The bottom line is that almost all of what we are doing is in fact illegal according to the existing “law” of the land. And this, my friend, is the core of the problem. The existing law has been somehow hacked and converted into a weapon of mass oppression explicitly designed to disrupt our ability to live. It is our belief that all these rules and taxes are smothering we the people. Not merely smothering, but in fact have a more sinister purpose of intentionally fostering weakness and dependency in pursuit of the goal of control of the people.

We totally reject all of that and we are engaging in some heavy-duty non-violent civil disobedience in order to implement our plan. We are building our own systems and we will take care of ourselves. Which leads us to the next specialist squad of:

Liar, Liar

Yes, some of our men have legal expertise and they help us with our legal woes. With or with out a license.

Wow, John....This all sounds very interesting and you make a very persuasive case. Nevertheless, you left out a few details. Perhaps you can fill in some blanks?

Sure, shoot.

My biggest concern is the trust issue. These guys are not certified or licensed and, let me guess, some of them may even have, shall we say, unsavory pasts? Am I right?

Right on every point. Let’s see how we can deal with those issues. Let me start by asking you a simple question. Do you trust the government or banks or insurance companies?

Fuck no!

Funny you say that because those are three of the most highly regulated and licensed institutions in the world and they go to enormous length to try to persuade you trust them. How about doctors? If they remove the wrong kidney during an operation, who’s fault is it, your’s or theirs


Yeah, exactly…. When they accidentally hook your brain up to the Internet instead of the monkey’s brain, you not only get no apology or compensation but they bill you for the procedure because your insurance company doesn’t cover monkeys. And the Feds bust your ass for animal cruelty...

Hmmm…. Yeah, that’s exactly what would probably happen….

Exactly… yeah, your woes would never end if that happened.

So let’s see if we can find a better way to deal with trust. Hmmm... Hey, I know! Do you trust your wife?

Uhh…. Well, uh…. Most of the time I do. So long as I can see her that is <winks at wife>

Did you check her credit score or do a criminal background check before you married her?


Why not? How can you trust strangers? But seriously, I assume that in the beginning, you two were strangers and she probably had much more to fear from you than you from here, am I right?

Damn straight!

So you developed trust the old fashioned way. You informally started by taking small and simple risks. “Hey, will you watch my books while I go to the restroom? Sure” You return and the books are still there. This is an example of how trust starts and develops. Also, was she a total stranger or did you know her from school?

Oh, I knew her from school. I think all the boys knew her <grin> 


Another important part of the trust issue is an institutional commitment to ethical behavior. This is an important issue to the Brotherhood and we deal with it very seriously. When was the last time the government or a bank resisted doing evil because it was unethical? Do you think the big cheeses in those organizations deeply and sincerely care about the ethics of what they do and demand ethical quality from the lower echelons?

Confucius is alleged to have discussed the issue of legalism vs. personal self-discipline and responsibility. If people have self-discipline then they can ordinarily be relied upon to make reasonable decisions. But if they only have legalism, then they spend their days gaming the system instead. Sound familiar Bob?

Yeah, it sure does.

So we have a similar situation with the Brotherhood. First of all, we know who’s trustworthy and who’s not because we have much more experience in dealing with the men. Part of our development process is that we ask people to engage in trust building exercises. For example, let a crew come over during the afternoon and mow your lawn. You meet them, they meet you. You all begin to develop a personal connection to somebody you know, instead of remaining frightened by an abstract risk.

We also can provide numerous references for the particular people on any squad. Granted a new recruit will not have any references. So if references are important to you, then you won’t get a squad with new recruits.

Finally, consider the four-men-to-a-squad policy. The men start off as strangers as they join the squad, one-by-one. The men who behave themselves and keep their squad clean are the ones who rise to the leadership role. If a single squad member violates the trust of any of our outside clients, we dissolve the squad, assign the people to new squads, and start over with them. A man alone is susceptible to temptation. But if he’s working with other men, then collusion must take place. This of course can happen, but it’s simply less common than an individual going bad.

Well Mr. Smith. This is all very interesting and I appreciate you taking the time to explain all this to us. I'd like to help you all with your effort. I'm not quite ready to ditch the wife and join the org, but are there lesser methods of providing assistance?

That's great. No need to lose the existing life. If it's working for you, keep at it. We do need and appreciate all the help we can get, so why don't you take a peek at the back of our brochure. You can see the long list of things we need.

    We need work. We have men who can do yard work and security guard work. Also handyman and auto mechanic.

    We need donations of non perishable food.

    We need any surplus junk or garbage you don’t want. Call us and we’ll get rid of it for you.

    We need tents, sleeping bags, blankets, coats, and generally camping supplies and equipment.

    We need land to pitch our tents. Imagine the extra security you’ll have at night knowing that your trusted security squad is camping behind your home.

    We need land for gardens.

    We need storage space.

    We need use of a class room/meeting room.

    We need teachers to organize classes in everything there is to know. If you’re a doctor, nurse, lawyer, mad scientist, or whatever; if you know something and are willing and able to teach it, we have a squad who wants to learn.

    We need legal help.

    We need political advocacy. To the extent that you participate in any conventional political decision making, such as interacting with the City Council, we need friends who will say nice words on our behalf.

    We do not need financial donations. Our Brotherhood is a sincere effort to help our people. We do not want to taint our image by hustling you for money.

Well thank you Mr. Smith. I again thank you for your time and, rest assured, you'll be hearing from me.

Thanks you for your time as well Mr. and Mrs. Nussbaum. And thanks for the fine meal! Feel free to contact me at your convenience. Have a nice evening.

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