Presenting Uprising Chili

“In order to understand Uprising Chili—I mean really understand it, not just offer the same surface level appreciation that a cop might feel at a RATM show—I feel it is first necessary to consider the nature of leadership.

See, lately I’ve been reading this book by the name of ‘The Dawn of Everything,’ which makes a valiant attempt at explaining how the human race slowly transformed from tightly knit collectives with a vested interest in their mutual survival to fiercely individualist societies (an oxymoron if there ever was one) that can be so unequal as to provide a few members real estate, racecars, and rocketships while denying others the ability to harvest fruits and drink from streams.

It’s obviously a long story, the entire span of human history plus some in fact, and the weighty tome doesn’t pretend it is not…but in the interest of keeping today’s word count under 2000, I’ll just pick a point and make it: a central aspect of the Old School leadership practiced in some of the first nations of our world was the strict relationship between ‘power’ and ‘responsibility.’

What made these societies and their structures so different from our own is not that hierarchies and titles EXISTED, more that they were not fixed or permanent. The same way one can today be Prom King or Queen of the May Fair, titles of nobility were bestowed by The People and only maintained through judicious leadership and the proven results of Big Chief’s decisions.

The “Princes” in these societies had no real “power”…after all, they were just squishy little monkeys if they insisted on abusing the trust placed in them.

Instead, they were experts in their given field, say hunting or plant identification, and so their situational importance was acknowledged with social deference…these leaders could not simply give orders; they would be laughed at, disregarded, mocked…or hurt much worse. Instead, they had to explain in detail why every choice they made was a good, logical, and beneficial one.

Otherwise, again, everyone knows where you live.

It seems like at least as valid a way to organize society as the one we live under today, and indeed the book comes to the conclusion that where we once had fake kings and real freedoms, we now have to make do with real kings and fake freedoms. Sure, you’re free…but are you? Head to any national border, those seemingly nonexistent lines drawn on maps, and test your freedom.

Then have someone born in our beautiful host country do the same. Compare notes.

Here’s the takeaway: with no real ‘authority’ to speak of, these leaders had to instead rely on their potent powers of persuasion…if you can’t just bend people to your will at the point of a sword, it helps to be able to make a really good case for other people helping you do what you want done.

It’s no coincidence that the ‘Enlightenment’ of Europe that invited the everyday citizen to reconsider their relationship with the people who called themselves Kings and Queens throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries took place not long after Europeans first came into contact with the egalitarian social structures of the ‘New World.’

I suppose I have typed all that to say that I aspire to be one of these fake kings delivering tangible results…sure, I may refer to myself as ‘ringleader’ of The Pleasant Uprising, but I’m also aware of what that means in my best vision of a better world. Yes, I get a couple of special decorations (and wear them proudly), but what I also get in my precarious position of power i s a ton of work.

As it says right there in the bio, Warflower’s the onstage guy, the man with the moves, the mojo, and the mic…but hard at work in the background is yours truly. I personally book gigs, coordinate music, design promo, do outreach, and recently, started filling 30L pots with as much homemade chili as I could muster.

I do this because by taking the role of ringleader, I am taking responsibility for the outcome of the project. I have no power over any of my bandmates and would not seek it. I am not an authority figure…only the individual best suited to and most inclined toward the job at this time. Feeding the tribe is but one way I can show my care for the collective and not just their productive output.

That’s praxis, for those keeping score at home.

So, sure, I recently entered a local chili competition, but only to sharpen my skills for the more important work of fomenting The Pleasant Uprising.

All these thoughts swirled in my head as I stirred the latest batch of deepening crimson stew, this one meant to fortify the troops through a practice session leading up to our next gig at Kasava Taste, this Sunday, March 3rd.

With a spoon from the drying rack, I took a taste…bold, hearty, flavorful, just enough heat to be felt in the streets…that’s Uprising Chili.

Finally satisfied with my work and mumbling my revised lyrics to ‘Kung Fu Fighting,’ I transferred the chili to a travel bowl and set off for rehearsal…according to the band it was ‘sensacional,’ but if you’ve been paying attention, you already know that…after all, the bowl is the seat of my ‘power.’

What, you want a recipe, too? I mean, it’s more of a feeling than a formula, but I can do my best…ya take a bunch of meat, like 120 pesos worth, then brown it for a bit while seasoning it with the obvious stuff. Garlic and onions, you know.

Okay, so then take those beans you put in the slow cooker 4 hours ago (you did that, right?) then combine all of the above with plenty of tomato sauce and salsa verde, cumin, a habanero or 2, and whatever else is in your kitchen and sounds about right…maybe some cinnamon, red pepper flakes, strawberry jelly, whatever man. Just go with it. Taste it until you can’t stop tasting it, then serve.

Time is an ingredient and one of the tastiest…don’t forget to use plenty of it.

Speaking of which, I’ve been in a band for just short of six months now, and one of the more surprising lessons is that the music, honestly, comes close to last. Instrumentalists are common…what you need are people you can trust. Better to start with a friend, then hand them a bass…easier learning curve.

Thing is, a band, like a tribe or even a nation, only exists in the mind at first. However, if you can get enough people to believe in it with you, it becomes all too real…like a flag that supposedly rational adults will follow into gunfire.

Collective investment is one of our species’ most powerful forms of magic…Uprising Chili is a tangible product of that boiling cauldron.

Hope you’ll come sample another of our fine offerings this Sunday…hey, we’ll see what happens.”


  • AJ Freeman

    AJ Freeman is the hardest workin' man in tie-dye, writing weekly for the Mirror, hosting various vibrant activities, and bringing his vices to every event... in this sunny city by the sea, if you've come to have fun you'll probably see AJ around.

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