You have probably recognized over the past few years that I’m adding less content about nutrition and health in the direct sense. Instead, I have chosen to focus on much asked for recipes and topics which explain our world, including the foundational understanding of science. This is crucial as our ethics in healthcare and social order are increasingly eroded at such a velocity that it has gone unnoticed by many.
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My 2022 Christmas gift guide, therefore, is less about owning more stuff. It is a collection of good books to read — or, as I must do, listen to. These books explain the foundations of our civilization and how our social contracts with government and society were undermined starting with the Industrial Revolution. This is vitally important to understanding everything from what is good to eat to how to measure your true state of health to God.
Books by David Graeber
When I stumble across the work of someone who finally connects dots for me, I go deep. David Graeber, who unfortunately passed on to the other side while in Italy in September 2020, was the guy to do this for me in 2022. His books take a hard look at the myth of free market capitalism as different from its much maligned nemesis, communism. By reading his books, we begin to appreciate that capitalism has failed miserably and taking its last gasps of air, wants to bring the rest of us down. Here are three of his books I listened to while gardening this year:
- In Bullshit Jobs, Graeber examines the existence of completely made up jobs for which people get handsomely paid. Think middle management, telemarketers, banking and insurance goons and many players in the health industry, while devaluing the work of housewives, teachers, nurses, and others in caring professions or useful workers such as garbage collectors for the vital work they do. We could summarize these jobs as having little to no impact on society as a whole and in many ways such jobs may cause harm. A good way to spot such a job is to ask how would society function without a particular job. Would it grind to a halt, stay the same, or be better off without it? The past three years have given us no shortage of examples to draw from. Another important point is that, if our current system didn’t create so many bullshit jobs, the way communism did in the Soviet Union, we’d all be working 15 instead of 40+ hours per week. According to Graeber, these jobs exist only to give the illusion that capitalism is thriving, calling the entire system “greed propped up by inflated prices of necessities.” Excellent read as we contemplate how we want to restructure society over the next few years.
- What does it mean to ‘owe’ someone? Did you know that credit was the original form of debt repayment? Is it true that money was created to pay off a ruler’s debts and is NOT a reflection of his financial success? Debt: The First 5,000 Years teaches us about the social contracts we have unwittingly taken part in, tracing this concept of owing someone for a service or product throughout the ages. This book explains that barter was never the original exchange between individuals, then goes on to lay out the many forms of payment used across cultures, as well as the establishment of what we call money. In an age where money has been reduced to numbers on a screen, which can easily be hacked and removed from one’s account, this book provides important considerations for the kind of system we might prefer to place in its stead.
- If you thought you lived in a free society, think again. Capitalism takes a surprising amount of rules to make it work. Many of these useless rules are encompassed in a little something called, ‘bureacuacy’. The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy explores bullshit jobs created to devise and subsequently enforce such rules. Enforcement is important to note as the threat of violence or actual violence are often the repercussions for not following the rules. Think about the rules of where one can sit, stand or eat and who will enforce those rules, if one breaks them. Now, you get an idea of what he’s talking about although he views the concept from many angles with many definitions. It is important to note that many of these rules come from corporations seeking ever higher profits. Think about licensure to ply your trade or rent extraction, which is really just legalized extortion. Any way you slice it, violence (literal, structural, financial, etc) is a tool of the weak. All this bureaucracy, such as the absurd process of applying for student loans or the red tape involved in getting power of attorney for a hospitalized relative, creates vast inequities in society. In other words, rules are merely a tool in a game of domination.
White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America
If you thought ‘white trash’ was a term thought up by black people, think again. Alternately known as “waste people”, “offals”, “rubbish”, “lazy lubbers”, and “crackers”, white trash was a term used by upper class British to describe the less fortunate amongst their race.
In White Trash, Nancy Isenberg upends assumptions about America’s supposedly class-free society. Poor whites were central to the rise of the Republican Party in the early 19th century, and the Civil War itself was fought over class issues nearly as much as it was fought over slavery. Reconstruction pitted poor white trash against newly freed slaves, which factored in the rise of eugenics.
For those who believe that only race or class are the source of our social ills, this book proves that it’s both. Excellent read. Excellent audiobook.
This Will Be Funny Later: A Memoir
Growing up in the shadow of celebrity is not something most of us have to contemplate. We’re lucky.
As daughter of sitcom star, Roseanne Barr, Jenny Pentland’s life was a literally on view to the nation. Everything from TV show storylines to her mom’s off-screen relationships served to destabilize and derail what otherwise could’ve been categorized as a pretty normal life.
In and out of mental institutions and fat camps throughout adolescence, I’m surprised Jenny can even read, let alone write a book with so much feeling and depth as this one. It made me laugh out loud, cry uncontrollably and even gasp in astonishment. Read by Pentland herself, This Will Be Funny Later is easily my favorite listen of the year.
You can read my full review here.
The Psychology of Totalitarianism
History students often wonder why the Jews dutifully marched off to their “noble deaths”, even signing their property over to their Nazi captors. In The Psychology of Totalitarianism, Professor of Clinical Psychology Mattias Desmet deconstructs the societal conditions that allow such a collective psychosis to take hold.
As he explains, totalitarianism came into being as the Enlightenment ushered out God, replacing Him with man’s intellect as supreme being. This idea has gained such momentum that today it has become heresy to even raise questions about how others think. Very much like the religions it replaced, this cult of the mind can only survive through controls such as censorship, name-calling and total control.
Somehow, Desmet manages to keep the book extremely engaging despite the weight of what may seem like a dry subject. Furthermore, he stresses that despite its seemingly all-encompassing nature, totalitarianism always fails.
Family Wealth: Keeping It in the Family –How Family Members and Their Advisers Preserve Human, Intellectual, and Financial Assets for Generations
What’s the difference between families like the Rockefellers and the Fords and normal people? We attempt to create wealth from generation-to-generation, while they pass it on through a system of family governance and joint decision-making. The result is that all participating members of the latter are able to pursue their individual callings, and to avoid the financial dependency and loss of initiative that can all too often be an unwanted consequence of financial success.
As the world around us restructures, anxiety is running high. While I suspect this pre-Covid information on building family wealth may need some tweaking by removing investments from corrupt corporations, this book lays out what is possible when the family learns to stick together.
FOR THE KITCHEN & MORE
As always, these recommendations take into consideration not only foods and supplements that are friendly to your body, but also other products that might make food prep easier and even save you a bit of money.
As energy prices soar, many of us need all the help we can get at reducing the amount of energy expended on cooking. Enter Zega Cookware. I got a couple of these last year to test run. They aren’t perfect, but they definitely work. They heat up fast! Even pairing the lid with a regular pot helps them heat faster too! Personally, I find that I want to give a blast of heat just before serving gets food to the perfect temp,
“Sciency” types think these remedies are simply bunk, but my experience is that many of them work like gangbusters! These can be used directly under the tongue, in a glass of water or even as perfume.
Bach is the brand from Europe that everyone knows, but Hawaiian Rainforest Naturals is produced right here on the Big Island using the wisdom of the ancient Hawaiian healing practices. Give the gift of aloha to yourself or a loved one this year and support a small business.
If you’re looking for a coffee alternative, I’d suggest you check this stuff out. Rasa makes different blends of coffee, tea and cocoa with adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms for energy during the day and better sleep at night. While the “dirty” one was indeed gross, some of the others are actually pretty decent. Do they work? They do for us, but some reviews have complained that they don’t. That said, a symptom such as fatigue isn’t always caused by the same mechanism that adaptogens work on, so don’t expect miracles!
What do you do when your college-aged student jumps on the bandwagon of fake milks? Compromise! Instead of the garbage that comes in tetrapaks and plastic bottles with all the additional sugars or additives (perhaps a few make claims to the contrary — I stopped looking), The Nutr allows her to quickly and easily whip up plant-based milks from scratch whenever she wants. Part blender, part heater, there’s no need to heat a separate kettle or pot, or pull out a cumbersome blender. It’s a nice little gadget to have around even when I just want to make a little tofu.
When my 11-year-old began enviously eyeing our morning brew, I remembered the folks over at Crio Bru making real unadulterated cacao which can be brewed much like coffee. Note that this isn’t cocoa in the traditional sense. It’s made from fresh ground cacao beans. Add a little sweetener and your favorite milk for a more well-rounded experience!