Earl R. Rhue
Lived at Black Mountain in the early 70'sage 62

(Earl, Thyme (Tzippy), and Court at Struggle Mountain)
Interview with Earl at Struggle Mt. on Aug. 13, 2011 by Court Tefft

Court – It’s a beautiful summer day – sitting on the back porch at Struggle Mt. – while the band takes a break at our summer party with Earl a former Black Mountain resident.

Court – So what have you been doing for the past 35 years?

Earl – Laughs – as little as possible.

Court – Earl’s retired - a retired electrical engineer. “So after the energy crisis in the 70’s and gas and what not you decided to go back to school and get a degree at Berkeley in Electrical Engineering.”

After leaving UC Berkeley Earl got involved in defense work figuring maybe they would be on the leading edge of environmental solutions.

Earl – A lot of the breakthroughs in electronics were always govt. sponsored initially. This is contrary to popular opinion. Maybe government doesn’t create specific jobs but what they do is create whole damn industries (laughs) and if you don’t believe me you can just go to your internet better known as darpranet which was basically a communications link between scientists at various universities. So the next time anyone tells you …government doesn’t do anything…they started the whole damn Internet industry. Please understand that!
Faced with a time frame of massive layoffs Earl ventured out on his own “I really wanted to do work that would advance the community.’’

Earl - “Black Mountain was key to my eventually becoming more sensitive to environmental things.

Earl remembers the 80’s and how he was about to become vested in his companies retirement plan when he got laid off. “If anybody remembers the 80’s they were into a period of time where what they were doing was – they were merging corporations left and right. There were mass mergers because our President Reagan refused to deal with the Sherman anti-trust laws…and refused to enforce them. Companies were acquiring other companies…it was like corporate chop shops. They would do leveraged buyouts which is basically saying they would borrow a lot of money – buy out a corporation, strip it down – sell its parts off till they got more than enough money to pay back their lenders and then sell off the carcass and walk off with the profit and that’s what was going on in the 80’s.

Court – That’s how Romney made his money

Earl - That’s just how George Romney made his money He did nothing but perpetuate that and in doing that what you do is subtract from Americas production capability…you don’t enhance it.
Some would say what they were doing was making the market more efficient – most would say the market by being a market is inefficient by definition the market means you have choices that is not efficiency…that is the market! T. Bone Pickins (and other corporate raiders) were getting you to think exactly the opposite of what was being layed out in front of you. That was the madness that was going on at that time.

Unknown to his employer Earl starts a company on his own

Earl – “What these corporations were doing – they were looking for companies that had fat pension funds…just like the film Wall Street. – What they wanted to do was lay off all these people before they could get vested in their pension because all of that money would be theirs.

Court - There’s this idea out of the “divine market”…there’s some divine hand that regulates it for the betterment of all the people…it’s a bunch of crap.

Earl – It’s a damn lie! (laughs)…people just reciting this stuff over and over like the mantra that govt. doesn’t create jobs. That is a damn lie. It does (laughs)

Court – We were lucky, we grew up when America was strong and powerful people were on the move and things were getting better. Now it seems like were in decline, were going the other way. We have the haves and the have not’s…were moving into 3rd world status. There are third world communities within this nation, pockets of them that the press doesn’t cover, so a lot of people are not aware that they even exist.

Earl – Yeah, Yeah, and its deliberate. I don’t want to use the F word and by that I mean…. Fascism, but basically what fascism is is corporatism. People don’t seem to understand that a guy who runs a corporation is only in it for the money. I gotta refer back to Frank Zappa, “Were only in it for the money.” Governance is different. Governance is your trying to assist people to live. Corporations…that is not their goal. They don’t give a damn about you livin - they're in it for the money! If you let somebody who's in it for the money run your life…they will run your life so that they can make money, and it’s as simple as that.

Court – What I see across the board having been in public and private arenas is that it doesn’t matter there’s always waste. This idea that government wastes and corporations don’t, and that we should privatize everything because corporations are more efficient is an outright lie…it’s not true.

Earl (laughs) and that’s the reality of the matter – it’s just a function of life. You try to make things efficient; you try to do the best you can to make things run smoothly; but there’s gonna be mistakes; people are not perfect…end of story.

Court – There are the objectivists out there the Ayn Rand followers who are all about following your self interests and if everybody was just focused on themselves we’d live in some sort of a Utopia. Well that’s just a Utopian vision, it’s not reality. That’s the law of the jungle…that didn’t work, that’s why we created governments and communities and that’s why we lived on a commune.

Earl – This is where it goes back to Black Mountain – learning things like balance. I was a young man coming there and I was at a confused point in my life and I had to figure out a concept of balance around people and here’s something that I learned… which is how close to you get to somebody? you get as close as you can to feel their pain…to feel their reality but not so close that you get frozen in your emotion and your incapability of doing something. You have to have enough distance to find a solution to assist them otherwise you can get so close and hung up in the pain that you get paralyzed as well. In the case of being on a commune you began to see that… it was just one on one contact while everything around you was just quiet. One of the things was that the level of communication and the intensity of the communication increases and you have to learn from there.

Court – Tzippy (Thyme) just showed up which means you have to go soon. So how did you come to Black Mountain? You came with Spare, Sperry Robert, anyone else?

Earl – It was her fault – Tzippy use to visit Black Mountain and was living up there for a while and I was living in an apartment where she used to live and we became friends in Oakland. Sperry and I were roommates back in Syracuse University.

In Calif., Tzippy Spare and Earl were friends – Tzippy needed a ride back to Bl. Mt. – so they loaded up Spares van and headed there.

Earl – You gotta understand Sperry’s a farm boy and I was always a city slicker. I still remember his expression when we got up there and we were on this commune and people were trying to grow things and Sperry said “This is it man. I’m not going any place. I wanta be here…I’m not going anywhere and he started pulling his stuff out of the van and I said “well I agree with you Robert (Spare) and that’s how we ended up on Bl. Mt.”
At the time Fred and Fluellen and Tom said; “they seem okay let em stay” (laughs)

Spare and Flewellyn at Black Mt.

(Spare and Flewellyn at Black Mt.)

Court – So where did you stay?

Earl – At the time tall lanky Kevin Freeman had left and he had built the clear dome and I moved in.

(Kevin Freeman)

Court – So Fred and Flewellen built the tree house?

Earl – Yes and the first time I walked in there I was stunned, I was floored. They had stain glass in there... he did not have a right angle in that damn place. It was beautiful.

Tzippy – Fred later became an architect in Florida.

Court – So what did you learn from living on Bl. Mt. that carries with you?

Earl – One of the things that Vicky got me into was reading Don Juan the Yaqui Indian. When she introduced me to it – it was an answer to questions that I had in my mind… I wasn’t a Don Juan fan… I was a Don Juan practioner. Part of the transition was I started using drugs instead of the drugs using me. I started doing the walking and things like that because it was answering the spiritual questions I had.

Earl remembers a water crisis when the water pipes broke at Black Mt. in the dead of winter as an opportunity.

Earl – I started doing the things that I always had wanted to do and that is to say I wanted to work with my hands and just go in to do the dirty work. My grandfather was a janitor but he always wanted me to be better than him –they always pushed me away because I did well in school, they wanted me to do the abstract. I always wanted to learn to do things with my hands. Later on in my life I became an engineer where I could merge both of those types of skills as a way of looking at things.
And that was key. I knew in one way or another that I wanted to be a builder. When I left Blk. Mt., a year or two later I became the head puppeteer for the city of Oakland’s Recreation Department where I was designing things with my hands building puppet stages and making and sewing all the puppets. I was the head puppeteer for the city of Oakland for seven years. I got into drama. I got to express myself, still employing the things I learned from the Don Juan books. So Black Mt. was a turning point for me – where I finally got the rest where spiritually I came together and now I knew what I wanted to do.

Court – So that whole time frame was a spiritual renaissance for a lot of people and I’m assuming that stayed with you and how you approach life.

Earl – Yeah, we did some farming and organic food and one of the things I found the most amazing was I never really knew what corn tasted like. Come early Sept. I walked by and Tom said “hey want to eat some corn? Just eat it the way it is” and I said holy shit this stuff is sweet – I had no idea! At Black Mountain I learned because I had a farm boy who was my best friend (Spare) and I had Tom, who was trying to be organic because he was trying to come down to earth – laughs. He always walked barefoot. Anyway, I discovered food at Black Mountain, I started developing my love of salads and especially since the lady who started living with me – Vicky – she had this thing about spinach salads and to this day I’ve fallen in love with spinach salads. We ate a lot of bread and we ate greens and we ate rice.

Tzippy – At the time on Black Mountain, there weren’t a lot of elaborate emission policies… you know six months trial and probation periods. It wasn’t like that then. It was you’re here. People came … people left.

Earl – That’s right we were trying to learn how to be accepting in those days. I went to prep school in New Hampshire for awhile (Kimball Union Academy), at the time I was integrating the joint. So I always had a little edge to me and Bl. Mt. was kind of a way where I was trying to stop having that edge to me all the time. Ya gotta understand I was a black kid growin up in the Bronx but in my teen years I’m watchin blacks getting killed on TV and goin thru al this stuff.
Every time I went down south I’d have my northern ways- I would get into fights with whites, with blacks – I’d get thrown out of places and it would always get reported to my grandparents and my mother back north…that the boy is fighting al the time.
Little story – I went down to South Carolina when I was eight years old and I had a friend Greg. I saw a little ball in a store – a pinkie – so I walked into the store thru the front door and meantime Greg is on me all along the way saying “Earl you can’t go in there – He’s trying to hold me back. As I’m walking toward the guy in the store he’s retracting in horror and he says “little boy you can’t be walkin in” and Greg jumped up and said “mister he didn’t know any better he’s from the north” and I look at Greg like I wanta kill him and I say “I wanta buy that ball mister. So he says alright, alright but don’t you go walkin in the front door – next time you walk in thru the side.
Earl recounts how he left the store and was rally pissed at Greg. They got in a fight. Ten years later as Earl was about to go off to college he got a message from his family down south. Greg had been killed. When Earl asked how his grandfather told him “Greg stepped out of line.”

Earl - After that I became very political from like age 18 to 22. There was real anger in me – slash political violence. When I came to Black Mountain I said I have to knock off this edge. I wanted to learn how to live in peace again.

Court – So politically were you into the Black Panthers were you a Social Democrat? What were your politics at the time and how have they changed? Were you with Martin Luther king? Are you more conservative now?

Earl - No. You gotta understand when I was growing up, we had a picture of Martin Luther King and we had a picture of Malcolm X in the house.
My political involvement was a little caveat that I had to watch out for…I realized I was angry and violent and if we went out on one of those demonstrations where I had to be peaceful I couldn’t do it – so I could send money and I could help but I could not be right there. I didn’t want bloodshed but it was the whole thing of I’m not letting anybody push me around.
Politically I haven’t changed from that. I’m more like along the lines of a Bernie Sanders (the Senator from Vermont), that’s more or less the way I look at things.

Court – You’re not anti-capitalist?

Earl – No. The economics of this nation is this, it’s always been a mixed economy. Government needs to do the things that government does best. Let Capitalism do its thing. I do not want capitalists to run my life. Let capitalism be out there doing its thing but don’t let it run your life. If it runs your life it becomes fascism and you will not have a life.

Earl explains that government is the place where we can all participate to run our lives.

Earl – I’m an industrialist basically all I’m saying is you make a product; you sell it for the cost of the product plus your profit. I was a communer; I was not, in quotations a “communist”. I did not want government to run every aspect of everything. I do not want somebody’s whimsy to be able to run my life. So if it’s a mixed economy fine. There are things, policing, fire department, health care and several other things that need to be run by the government.

Court – I know you have to go – we’re doing this for the kids – any words of wisdom for the future generations?

Earl- Yeah, I want you to be whole human beings. I want you to grow up to be a whole human being. I want you to be able to sense and be. I want you to be able to express yourself. People are easier to get along with when they are getting what they want out of life. It’s when they’re not getting what they want that their more difficult to deal with. So the idea is assist humans and assist yourself to get what you want out of life as long as you’re not doing somebody in. I think of the words of Thomas Jefferson, our third president and really very much of a chief architect in the whole construction of this nation. Thomas Jefferson said “Sir your liberties end when the practices of your liberties inhibits the people from practicing their liberties…that’s where your liberty ends” and I try and understand that as far as the balance in life and I think the kids need to understand that.

Court – Thanks Earl