node created 2019/09/29
Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.
Unanimity of opinion is a very ominous phenomenon, and one characteristic of our modern mass age. It destroys social and personal life, which is based on the fact that we are different by nature and by conviction. To hold different opinions and to be aware that other people think differently on the same issue shields us from Godlike certainty which stops all discussion and reduces social relationships to those of an ant heap. A unanimous public opinion tends to eliminate bodily those who differ, for mass unanimity is not the result of agreement, but an expression of fanaticism and hysteria. In contrast to agreement, unanimity does not stop at certain well-defined objects, but spreads like an infection into every related issue.
[Humans] have been genetically programmed through hunting behavior: cooperation and sharing. Cooperation between members of the same band was a practical necessity for most hunting societies; so was the sharing of food. Since meat is perishable in most climates except that of the Arctic, it could not be preserved. Luck in hunting was not equally divided among all hunters; hence the practical outcome was that those who had luck today would share their food with those who would be lucky tomorrow. Assuming hunting behavior led to genetic changes, the conclusion would be that modern man has an innate impulse for cooperation and sharing, rather than for killing and cruelty.
"The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness"
Being a victim of oppression in the United States is not enough to make you revolutionary, just as dropping out of your mother's womb is not enough to make you human. People who are full of hate and anger against their oppressors or who only see Us versus Them can make a rebellion but not a revolution. The oppressed internalize the values of the oppressor. Therefore, any group that achieve power, no matter how oppressed, is not going to act differently from their oppressors as long as they have not confronted the values that they have internalized and consciously adopted different values.
My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it. So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one's actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.
My life is a hesitation before birth.
Diary, 24th January 1922
What's particularly strange about this set of personality and style attacks is what little relationship they bear to reality. Far from being some sort of brutal, domineering, and angry "alpha-male" savage, Chomsky - no matter your views of him - is one of the most soft-spoken and unfailingly civil and polite political advocates on the planet. It's true that his critiques of those who wield power and influence can be withering - that's the central function of an effective critic or just a human being with a conscience - but one would be hard-pressed to find someone as prominent as he who is as steadfastly polite and considerate and eager to listen when it comes to interacting with those who are powerless and voiceless. His humanism is legion. And far from being devoid of hope, it's almost impossible to find an establishment critic more passionate and animated when talking about the ability of people to join together to create real social and political change.
It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: --

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!"
The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.
People think that the law or the Constitution will always provide a failsafe, but that is only a piece of paper if the people have no backbone and don't push back.
Why shouldn't I work for the N.S.A.? That's a tough one, but I'll take a shot. Say I'm working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I'm real happy with myself, 'cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never met, never had no problem with, get killed. Now the politicians are sayin', "Oh, send in the Marines to secure the area" 'cause they don't give a shit. It won't be their kid over there, gettin' shot. Just like it wasn't them when their number got called, 'cause they were pullin' a tour in the National Guard. It'll be some kid from Southie takin' shrapnel in the ass. And he comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, 'cause he'll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And, of course, the oil companies used the skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them, but it ain't helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And they're takin' their sweet time bringin' the oil back, of course, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and fuckin' play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain't too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy's out of work and he can't afford to drive, so he's got to walk to the fuckin' job interviews, which sucks 'cause the shrapnel in his ass is givin' him chronic hemorrhoids. And meanwhile he's starvin', 'cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat, the only blue plate special they're servin' is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I'm holdin' out for somethin' better. I figure fuck it, while I'm at it why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president.
"Good Will Hunting"
The USA has a huge military budget because:
[1] it values its freedom and independence
[2] it values its allies and trade routes
[3] it costs the USA a lot more to get any measure of military might since it does not have a conscripted military and its materiel is not made by government suppliers.

The USA has a huge military budget because:

[1] it has whipped it's population, and that of a significant portion of the worlds population, into a frenzy of fear and paranoia, by maintaining a permanent war status since the end of WWII. Whether hot or cold, the USA has waged war against non-enemies, aggressively supporting brutal dictatorships around, killing millions in defence of "freedom and democracy" around the world. The USA as "protector" of the "free world" has been holding the human species hostage to the possibility of imminent extinction via nuclear weapons for nearly 70 years now. This in the name of valuing its freedom and independence.

[2] it has decided that the best social control mechanism for social pacification is to provide the lowest possible cost for goods and promoted consumerism as ersatz status symbols for a largely disenfranchised permanent underclass. In order to secure such cheap access to goods, the USA must dominate all world trade and be able to dictate prices for resources, resource extraction, production and distribution. This in the name of valuing its allies and trade routes.

[3] it spends a lot less money for the size of our military than any other country would for a similarly sized and scaled military because 18 year-old's with no prospects always form a cheap labor pool( "sold" as in soldier, comes from Roman Latin, daily wage-worker), particularly if one can convince them that they are serving their country men in the name of noble goals and values like "freedom and democracy". And because military production in the USA has always been "dual-purpose", a civilian feel-good, while producing weapons of mass destruction.

The USA has co-opted a tremendously large section of it's so-called private market for dual-purpose: production of disposable goods, while supplying the worlds largest military with an endless production line of "goods", of which no good can ever come. Most major manufacturing firms in the USA would not be economically viable if it were not for this arrangement. Boeing could never make it solely producing commercial air-liners, the market for such is not large enough, but if the Pentagon needs x number of fighter jets, missiles and rockets every year, which must be constantly restocked, due to usage in wars or due to degradation from not ever being used, they can show a profit for their civilian production lines. The same is, and has always been, true for GM, Ford, GE, etc.

The USA has not, historically, HAD a "health service" because we traditionally left health to the people themselves, the private sectore, and communities and states (The US Constitution says nothing about healthcare, and it explicitly says that anything it does not assign to the federal government belongs to the people and to the states)

The USA has not, historically, HAD a health service, because immiseration is a constitutive part of maintaining an exploitable permanent underclass. During the first 250 years of American history, surplus value, ie. profit, was made primarily by either a) stealing the indigenous peoples lands or b) exploiting "free labor", ie. slavery. Following the civil war profit has largely been made by exploiting those born into inter-generational poverty, both here and around the world. The majority of Europeans who immigrated to the USA during the first 150 years of colonization were debt-prisoners, ie. the then european permanent underclass. The USA has proudly cultivated cultural identities for the permanent underclass, going back almost 350 years, nowadays we call them "rednecks", the "n-word", and "mehicans".

The constitution, written for the most part by by the 18th century 1%, actually went to lengths to prevent the existence of a standing army. The USA has been violating it's own constitution every day for nearly 70 years now by maintaining the largest scale military ever seen in world history in direct opposition to our founders intents. With a media hell-bent on scaring the bejesus out of everyone 24/7, covert intelligence services, dedicated primarily to propagating domestic propaganda(be scared, be very scared), and brutal police forces, who routinely terrorize, denigrate and humiliate our permanent underclass, we have held our population in line through domestic terror, knee-jerk reactionary patriotism, dog-whistle ethnic discrimination, and cultural envy as a function of permanently denying the permanent underclass of the USA access to the "freedoms" and "democracy", which supposedly are those things that make America all so great.
Sure, having a walkable urban center where everyone lives close to the things they need and they don't create dystopian traffic is great.

But company housing, tenements, indebted servitude, working hours from can't-see until can't-see, is all a spectre from our not-so-distant past which we have mostly forgotten about. Well it's coming back. A labor revolution gave us such amazing leaps in dignity and basic humanity which were sorely lacking after the eruption of the industrial revolution. We take that entirely for granted now, like it can't come back and get us. It can.

People in America are just not educated enough about the horrors of the labor revolution. Our own, not the communist's overseas. Unions exist in this strange historical agnosticism, and people only know them as some kind of cartoon, a mob-ruled bureaucracy that enables hilariously lazy laborers to cite ridiculous rules and get in the way of progress. Well they weren't always that way. It is not common human decency that stops the captains of industry from merely hiring private police forces to mow bad workers down with rifles and artillery. That's our past as well as our cyberpunk future. That stuff can come back if we don't keep maintaining the levee between it and us.

People have an instinct to normalize and rationalize things which happen slowly compared to a human lifetime. Well there's a very real and disastrous difference today in how people work and maintain a decent living. It's becoming more and more like back when a decent living was only reserved for the insanely wealthy, the richest of the rich. Everyone else toiled in disease and squalor fourteen hours a day, breaking their bodies, without any possessions of their own; everything belonged to the company, and they worked just for the privilege to live a week at a time. It really wasn't that long ago. We like to hope that if it comes back we'll still be behind the fence of the upper-middle class, safe from the horror. But the vast majority of us won't.

Working is taking up more and more of our days. Gone is the 8 hours work, 8 hours rest, 8 hours leisure. It's going back to "as many hours as you can physically go without sleep" once again. No benefits, no retirement, no healthcare, no affordable higher education, no affordable family housing aside from company closet tenements with communal utilities, next to a corporate campus but far from a town center. Out in the suburbs with one company store. That will come back in our complacence. Fewer opportunities than our fathers.
Facebook is designed for, and in fact is designed to prey on, the computer illiterate.
He that is kind is free, though he is a slave; he that is evil is a slave, though he be a king.
I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority, by someone recognized wiser than oneself.
Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.
War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world.

To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.
Few are guilty, but all are responsible.
I'm sick of reading internet arguments about polymorphism and browser monoculture and borrow checking and static linking. Someone please tell me where I can go on the internet to read biologists arguing about their favorite animals.
The way to overcome this situation is to create real political parties. To have real political parties, the people must participate and make decisions, not just come together every four years to pull a lever. That is not politics. It is the opposite of politics. If you have mass popular organizations that are functioning all the time - at local, regional, and international levels - then you have at least the basis for democracy. Such organizations existed here in the past.
If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.
Pessimism comes from the temperament, optimism from the will.
.. it's why I don't go on Fox news. I don't go on CNN either, because the most you're ever gonna get is 4 to 6 minutes. And so you have to use the language of easily identifiable clichés in order for the audience to resonate. And if what you're thinking doesn't fit within those clichés, then you become unintelligible. And that of course has now been carried out through the wider culture.
Once upon the time, I worked for an organization named "Department of the Citizens' Safety". It was in a different time, in a different country, and I had not had a chance to say no - I knew computers, a few Western languages, and had passed (or failed) a bunch of IQ and psychology test. I had barely gotten my first star, and had only a few missions under my belt when the government fell, and I found myself out on my ass, forbidden from holding any government jobs at a time when the only legal jobs were either government, or you had to create them yourself.

I'm fine now. I am neither dead, nor in organized crime, the way three quarters of my colleagues ended up. I know, now, that I was working for some pretty evil people, and what I was doing was pretty evil. I have pretended being a priest, and wiped my ass with the secret of confession, I have infiltrated literary clubs, and framed the most brilliant of their members for not-so-petty crimes, and I even killed in the line of duty once. It's all in the past, and I'm not even bothering to hide my IP - if you find out who I am, I'll just tell you that I was making shit up - on the internet, no one knows you are a dog.

That said. Never in my life, not before, not since, had I felt that my life was so simple, that what I was doing was so right, that I was going to bed with such a clear conscience. And of course, never have I felt as powerful and untouchable, but that's a much easier state to achieve.

When you work for this kind of organization, there is a support structure, a camaraderie, an atmosphere that insures that you are either out before you actually start, or that you are happy and confident with what you are doing, and the only real people are your colleagues. Well, at least it was for me, then. But I doubt the US NSA is testing, vetting, training and supporting their personnel less than my old country did in the late eighties.
The intellectual tradition is one of servility to power, and if I didn't betray it I'd be ashamed of myself.
The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise...
People have a series of rationalizations. People say for example that science and technology have their own logic, that they are in fact autonomous. This particular rationalization is profoundly false. It is not true that science marches on in defiance of human will, independent of human will, that just is not the case. But it is comfortable, as I said: it leads to the position that "if I don't do it, someone else will."

Of course if one takes that as an ethical principle then obviously it can serve as a license to do anything at all. "People will be murdered; if I don't do it, someone else will." "Women will be raped; if I don't do it, someone else will." That is just a license for violence.

Other people say, and I think this is a widely used rationalization, that fundamentally the tools we work on are "mere" tools; This means that whether they get use for good or evil depends on the person who ultimately buys them and so on.

There's nothing bad about working in computer vision, for example. Computer vision may very well some day be used to heal people who would otherwise die. Of course, it could also be used to guide missiles, cruise missiles for example, to their destination, and all that. You see, the technology itself is neutral and value-free and it just depends how one uses it. And besides -- consistent with that -- we can't know, we scientists cannot know how it is going to be used. So therefore we have no responsibility.

Well, that is false. It is true that a computer, for example, can be used for good or evil. It is true that a helicopter can be used as a gunship and it can also be used to rescue people from a mountain pass. And if the question arises of how a specific device is going to be used, in what I call an abstract ideal society, then one might very well say one cannot know.

But we live in a concrete society, [and] with concrete social and historical circumstances and political realities in this society, it is perfectly obvious that when something like a computer is invented, then it is going to be adopted will be for military purposes. It follows from the concrete realities in which we live, it does not follow from pure logic. But we're not living in an abstract society, we're living in the society in which we in fact live.

If you look at the enormous fruits of human genius that mankind has developed in the last 50 years, atomic energy and rocketry and flying to the moon and coherent light, and it goes on and on and on -- and then it turns out that every one of these triumphs is used primarily in military terms. So it is not reasonable for a scientist or technologist to insist that he or she does not know -- or cannot know -- how it is going to be used.
Yes, we have had disarmament conferences and limitations of arms conferences. They don't mean a thing. One has just failed; the results of another have been nullified. We send our professional soldiers and our sailors and our politicians and our diplomats to these conferences. And what happens?

The professional soldiers and sailors don't want to disarm. No admiral wants to be without a ship. No general wants to be without a command. Both mean men without jobs. They are not for disarmament. They cannot be for limitations of arms. And at all these conferences, lurking in the background but all-powerful, just the same, are the sinister agents of those who profit by war. They see to it that these conferences do not disarm or seriously limit armaments.
"War Is A Racket" (1935)
I've heard quite a lot of people that talk about post-privacy, and they talk about it in terms of feeling like, you know, it's too late, we're done for, there's just no possibility for privacy left anymore and we just have to get used to it. And this is a pretty fascinating thing, because it seems to me that you never hear a feminist say that we're post-consent because there is rape. And why is that? The reason is that it's bullshit.

We can't have a post-privacy world until we're post-privilege. So when we cave in our autonomy, then we can sort of say, "well, okay, we don't need privacy anymore, in fact we don't have privacy anymore, and I'm okay with that." Realistically though people are not comfortable with that. Because, if you only look at it from a position of privilege, like, say, white man on a stage, then yeah, maybe post-privacy works out okay for those people. But if you have ever not been, or if you are currently not, a white man with a passport from one of the five good nations in the world, it might not really work out well for you, and in fact it might be designed specifically such that it will continue to not work out well for you, because the structures themselves produce these inequalities.

So when you hear someone talk about post-privacy, I think it's really important to engage them about their own privilege in the system and what it is they are actually arguing for.