Saturday, January 9, 2016

CRAIG EDWARD KELSO, Five Summers Ago Interview

For a while, a former student would interview me periodically. She found it a way to answer the questions she was getting and to probe me personally for her own reasons. I didn't mind. She transcribed them all, word for word. Even the laughs. Crazy how half a decade ago can be summoned in just one interview. This was previously published in late August of 2011. 


Q: How was your first summer?
A: Great. Really, really great. Such a beautiful time.

What did you do?
Mostly just got organized and into a kind of routine.

Like what?
Since I am now working regularly, I’ve been able to give myself a schedule, a rhythm. It’s cool. I walk all over the place. I am everywhere. I go to events, mostly free ones, lectures or in-stores by local bands. Art exhibits. I read like a madman. And a lot of former students turned 18, and it was so cute because one of their first acts as a newly minted adult was to contact me.

How did that go?
I was very, very nervous at first. My home phone number flew around, and I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be. But it has been overwhelmingly positive. I was so blessed with those kids. I think about them all the time, and I reference our projects all the time. Some were very upset with me, and they wanted an explanation of why I did what I did.

What did you tell them?
I tried to give them some context, that’s all. Once they heard some of the nuance, some the layers, they were not exactly comfortable with what happened but they better understood. Their calling and writing has helped a lot in my emotional recovery, I think.

What do you mean?
Well, as I’ve told everyone, I don’t give a flying fuck what anyone thinks about me … especially when they get their impressions second or even third hand. But my former students and I were very, very close. I’ve always said students can tell when you’re lying, when you’re a phony …

But you were lying and you were a phony …
… oh, yeah, I won’t deny that. I lived a lie. No doubt. I even lied to myself. When I think back to that time, what makes me somewhat more comfortable with myself now is how I believe I wouldn’t make the same choices. Anyway, I do think my former students know, deep down, I honestly cared for them and I never set out to hurt anyone. And when they called or wrote me, they expressed that in so many words. It was comforting. It was reassuring. I didn’t know I needed that, but I did. They were a major part of my life for a while.

How are your daughters?
My older daughter, LPoS, is doing great. She’s in college, working, volunteering, and running her own business. On top of that, she’s juggling an active social life and boyfriend. My younger daughter, Silly Willy, turned 6 this year. I still am not allowed to see her. Her mother is not the kind of person to compartmentalize.

Yeah, her mother cannot separate our marriage and my infidelity with Silly Willy’s need to have a father.

Aren’t you being a little hard on your ex-wife and easy on yourself? I mean, you did have a sexual relationship with an underage student. Shouldn’t your ex-wife be scared of what you might do around her daughter? I don’t mean to hurt your feelings …
No, no I understand. It’s a solid point, a good one. But my ex knew me well on at least that level, and she knew how much I loved and cherished Silly Willy. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt her.

But you did do something to hurt her.
Not to her, no.

You know what I mean. By breaking the law, by going to prison, you not only hurt her mother, which in turn hurts her, but you also robbed her of a father.
Right. I won’t argue with you on that score. You’re correct. That’s all true. But take LPoS’s mother, Concha. Concha was/is the most upset at me out of everyone. She didn’t break LPoS and me apart because she knew how much that would hurt LPoS. She was able to compartmentalize. Yes, I am a douchebag, but I love and cherish my children.

Do you think Concha allowed contact with LPoS because you didn’t cheat on her?
Oh, you’d have to know Concha. Concha is as rational and solid as a human can be. She can see bigger pictures, and she has incredible empathy. All the while, she still sees me as a colossal piece of shit. Ha. She always puts LPoS first, me second or final or whatever … which is the way it should be.

So have you gone to court to get Silly Willy back?
No. That is going to take some time. I cannot really go into all that needs to be done, but my present circumstances won’t allow me to make any legal moves. I just have to be patient.    

How is your money situation?
Grim. Really, really scary. It’s also exhilarating because I have to use all my mental muscles to survive. Every fucking penny counts. One slip, and I am done.

Do you still think you will be homeless?
Oh, yeah. It’s coming unless something drastically changes. I am so financially vulnerable. Ruin is always lurking around the corner.

But you have food and all that, right?
Yep. I can clothe, feed, and house myself at the moment. That’s a great deal more than others in my situation. They’re almost all homeless. Very sad. Very scary.

Do you still think you will go back to prison?
I go back and forth on that one. My current babysitter is a good enough guy. He’s hella strict. He’s all business. I’ve only gotten him to laugh maybe one time. Ha. He does not seem to be out to get me, and a lot of guys inside told me babysitters were utter bastards. He’s not, at least not so far. So as long as I have him, I should be okay. But a lot, or nearly all, of what he does is governed by rules and regulations out of his control. The good news is I do not do anything wrong. I have no drug or alcohol problems. I don’t break the law. I’ve been out longer than most guys in my situation. So I guess that points to good things in the future. I guess. Ha.

Do you still follow politics and current events?
Of course. We’re living in very exciting times. I am encouraged by movements away from government …

Like the Tea Party?
Fuck no! Ha. They’re all statists. They love the government, worship it in fact. They believe the US should be cop to the world. They believe in massive intervention of every kind, including the Federal Reserve. They’re good on some issues, and they do serve a purpose in the Republican Party. They did block some for-sure tax hikes, which is cool. But what they give they immediately take away with stimulus programs, like quantitative easing and the like, and their slavish support for militarization of every kind, local and foreign. I will say at least there is some debate in the Republican Party. There is none in the Democratic Party. They’re hopeless, a-moral, and constantly up to no good.

So you’re against the Democrats?
Yes, but not any more than I am against Republicans. I am against the state.

The state of California? Which state?
No, I mean the state as in the government. Government in all forms is an intolerable evil, and it should be given no shelter. I guess you would have to be on the ass end of government to understand how insanely corrupt it is. I’ve always had these leanings, but it did take this experience for me to see the destruction laws, law enforcement, and public employee unionism have on society. They work in concert, and they offer only darkness. I will spend whatever amount of time I have left alive doing what I can to educate about, and help eliminate, the incessant growth of the ever-encroaching state.  
You’re an anarchist, then?
Yes. Completely. Utterly. No equivocation. Without one single doubt.

Doesn’t anarchy mean chaos?
No. It’s doesn’t. It’s the absence of government as practiced by the state, which is by definition a monopoly on coercive violence. A monarchy, for example, is government by one, a sovereign. Democracy is government by majority, usually little more than a plurality (if that even), mob-rule. Anarchy throws them both out and asks to be left alone. Self-government. Volunteerism. Syndicates. Individual supremacy. No one has the right, neither by vote or by theological fiat, to force another to do anything. Period.

That sounds so simplistic.
Moral ideas are simple. Using Occam’s Razor we can cut through a lot of bullshit. What I find is how proponents of government expansion, both Left and Right, Progressive and Conservative, use excessive verbiage to justify their power grab. We must tax to feed and educate the babies, say the Left. We must tax to fight a global war on terror, say the Right. Both are for confiscatory monetary measures, and both claim the absolute right to jail anyone who won’t conform. They give us studies. They have gaggles of journals and focus groups. College professors are in the pocket of this sick dichotomy, this faux debate. This non-debate. All these groups and experts presume the legitimacy of the state, the legitimacy of coercion and jailers, as a starting point. Anyone who questions the right of the state to move in the directions suggested by either Conservative or Progressive groups, never mind questioning the moral legitimacy of the state apparatus itself, is considered a kook, at best, or a traitor at worst. Whatever the case, it is taken as a matter of course that we must have a government. Government is not a necessary evil. It is simply an evil, and there is no getting around that fact.

Wouldn’t everyone start killing one another without a government?
I don’t think so, no. Most people I know are decent, and they can take good care of themselves. They want no more to kill now or ever. When shown war, when shown prisons, when shown a DMV, a post office, an IRS agency, or any other government monstrosity, they tend, if only for a moment, to get it. They instinctively understand freedom, I believe. When they’re exposed to the things they love, from technological advances, art, music, literature, and so on, those things made by non-governmental organizations, by freely acting individuals, they tend to instinctively get the good of liberty. But real freedom takes a maturity the average American doesn’t seem to be able to summon. They’re too clouded by state worship and hot-button political issues like abortion, gay rights, and other tangential distractions. They’re easily manipulated away from philosophical principles.

You’re giving me a headache.

It’s ridiculous to think there couldn’t be a government.
Yeah, I know. Most people can’t conceive of anything close to anarchism. Freedom is getting harder and harder to visualize. It’s all tangled and twisted. They’re for less government intervention in/on, say, sexual issues (like abortion or homosexuality). But they’re for more government in the area of health care. They’re for less government intervention in/on taxation and business regulation. But they’re for more government in the area of military adventurism across the world. Combine the best parts, and you have freedom. You have peace and trade, unparalleled prosperity, and individual choice. Combine the worst parts, which is what we have in great supply now, and you get a quirky, tentative kind of wealth that ebbs and flows mysteriously, and perpetual war for an elusive enemy that changes as surely as the weather (and one day it just might be the weather), along with ever-eroding civil and human rights.


That’s crazy. I agree government does bad things, but throwing out all government is an extreme position to take.
No doubt. There is plenty to talk about when it comes to just how government should be dismantled. Some argue for gradualism, and they in turn wish to use mainstream political processes to accomplish incremental devolution. Others, like me, are completely fed up with the excuses and abuses, and see government as the worst possible of all worlds. I think there’s room for a reasonable position within those polls. But to be an adult, to be literate historically, to claim to be a principled actor … one must come to reject the use of force and coercion as means of social intercourse. And violence is easy to see when some poor homeless guy is having his brains beat in by local fuzz (as was the case recently in Fullerton, the dude was literally screaming for his father to save him), but it’s much harder to see with regard to confiscatory tax schemes aimed at producers (like the rich) or so-called wealthy. But they’re in many ways the same. They’re violations of your right to exist, the fundamental right, the axiomatic right of ownership. You own your body, and you should therefor own the fruits of that body’s labor … so long as all was earned keeping the nonaggression axiom in mind.  

But you’re so poor. Why would you defend the rich? Shouldn’t the rich be taxed a little to help you out, especially now when you’re struggling?
You’ve hit the temptation. It’s wildly maniacal when you think about it. And it’s impossible for that thought genie to be put back in the bottle once he’s let loose. I am poor. I am so poor I don’t even register on national poverty statistics. No joke. Most people would look at someone famously rich like a Bill Gates and say how it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if he had to fork over a little of his dough so that I could live somewhat better. At first glance it does seem the moral and right thing to consider. We’re taught the rich are rich because they’ve gotten lucky, were in the right place at the right time, and that their wealth comes at the expense of our poverty. It’s very important here to check our premises. Very important. Gates made his money by satisfying the consumer, by bringing her something she wanted. She voluntarily handed over money she earned. He wasn’t a king who inherited his money. He didn’t sack some godforsaken country and take land. He became rich by solving problems, filling a niche. There’s considerably more to the story, of course, but that’s a fairly accurate account. My poverty has nothing to do with his wealth. That’s the faulty part of our thinking. No one, not a single person, has been made poorer by Mr. Gates’ accumulative wealth. In fact, it’s just the opposite. We’re all made richer by allowing a Gates to do what he does: build, invest, and trade. And, in fact, he has the world’s largest philanthropic foundation, giving grants to solve problems he considers important. In any case, forcing him to give to me or people like me is immoral for the reasons I’ve stated previously, but it also diverts capital that could be used in directions we can’t even fathom like new inventions, etc. Those are two different arguments, but any way you slice it you want to live in a society that allows the rich to do with their money what they please.

Our country seems to doing okay even with taxes.
Sure, sure. That’s why I don’t always stick with the empirical or expedient arguments. They’re at times too easy to knock down emotionally. I think you’re wrong, however. I worked in one of the poorest cities in California, National City. Most of the residents there are somewhat new immigrants, a mix of Mexican and Filipino and white. They work incredibly hard. Two jobs. Menial jobs. Service sector jobs. National City cleans the houses of the wealthier burbs surrounding it, basically. Janitors. Mechanics. You get the picture. City services are hugely expensive due to the lock, death hold, local unions have on the populace. Cops, firefighters, city employees, school district workers routinely dip into the pockets of the community … which, again, is not exactly flush with cash. It is despicable. I’d say close to none of the city employees actually live in National City. They have newer model cars. They have fantastic salaries. They have incredible benefits. Their pensions are unbelievable. Rather than the local government working for the residents, it is the residents who work for the city employees. Crazy. So backward. At one time they had the highest sales tax in the state, and that was implemented solely to cover the filthy lucre of city employees. The city government has the local population so trained that it also uses eminent domain to take businesses away from some to give to others, building huge boondoggles like the waterfront properties. In fact, the city financed a huge condominium palace at the height of the real estate bubble. I actually spoke to the mayor, in passing, and told him that was a crazy idea. He just shrugged his shoulders at me. The conversion lost two-thirds of its value. Down the drain. Hey, it’s not his money he’s losing. That city should be rolling in cash. It has a hard working population, and parts of National City are on to-die-for parcels of land. Instead, it’s a crime infested shit hole. That is the power of government for you. That is a direct result of regressive taxation.

You make the problems sound black and white.
I think they are, for the most part. It does take a little thought and diligence to see the world through my eyes, but I think there’s some value to what I am saying. I hold no hope for any kind of roll back in the ways I’d like. But for me it’s a question of conscience. I have to follow my conscience, no matter the cost to me personally. I still act in the world, and I don’t go around grouchy and deflated. I see the good in life and in people. I also will not sugar coat what is happening as I see it. Great ideas not involving government intervention have seized the day in a lot of areas. The net is perhaps the best example, but even science is growing in significant ways away from officialdom. People are creating government-less societies in small pockets. Lots of cool shit is going on; you just have to be open to see it.

So you’re hopeless?
No, no, no. I am the opposite of hopeless. I am realistic, that’s all. I don’t want to have false hope. But I find the only way to achieve freedom is within your own personal life. Find freedom on your own, in your own way. That’s really the most important thing, finding it on your own. The relationships I form now are a kind of freedom. I love those. The people in my life at the moment are so very special to me. They’re where I find the kind of most satisfying freedom. 



No comments:

Post a Comment