node created 2019/09/29
The story goes that Thamus said many things to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts, which it would take too long to repeat; but when they came to the letters, “This invention, O king,” said Theuth, “will make the Egyptians wiser and will improve their memories; for it is an elixir of memory and wisdom that I have discovered.” But Thamus replied, “Most ingenious Theuth, one man has the ability to beget arts, but the ability to judge of their usefulness or harmfulness to their users belongs to another; and now you, who are the father of letters, have been led by your affection to ascribe to them a power the opposite of that which they really possess.

For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise.
Phaedrus, 274e
Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it's from Neptune.
They told white workers who were earning pennies an hour, "Hey, you think you’re in trouble, but you’re better off than the blacks who can’t drink at a water fountain or go to your school." And they told straight people, "You’re better off than those gay people", right? And they pitted men against women. They’re always playing one group against another. Rich got richer — everybody else was fighting each other. Our job is to build a nation in which we all stand together, as one people.
Since the first CHRF protest in the 31st of March, we have been closely following the situation in Hong Kong. We would like to express our deep admiration for your bravery and persistence, and our sorrow for the price you have been forced to pay. At the same time, as Mainlanders, we would like to thank you for all you have done. Thank you - you are not only fighting for the freedom of Hong Kong, you are fighting for ours as well.

The Communists have been in power for 70 years. In these 70 years, the passion and bravery of the Chinese people has been slowly and inexorably worn down to nothing. When the people stay silent in the face of oppression, there can be no freedom. As Mainlanders, we cannot see hope, nor can we even express the deep rage and pain we feel. But your appearance has given us hope, a shining light of freedom in this dark land. You have shown us the true meaning of bravery, righteousness, and civil disobedience. You did not bow in the face of violent oppression.

30 years ago, when Beijing was thrown into a crisis, it was you who gave us the strongest support; 30 years later, when you needed ours the most, what you got was the misunderstanding and mocking words of the Chinese. As citizens, we feel ashamed. However, we want to let you know that there still is a group of Chinese who support you. We too dream of one day living in a just, free, and democratic society. We also dream that the light of modern civilization will one day shine on every Chinese.

Unfortunately, as citizens of the Mainland, we cannot stand with you in your fight for freedom. We dare not even say our names. Forgive us for our cowardice, but we want you to know you are not alone. We stand behind you.

Be careful. When there is life, there is hope.
The Obama Administration is dedicated to increasing terrorism. In fact it is doing it all over the world. Obama is running the biggest terrorist operation that exists maybe in history. The drone assassination campaign, special forces operations, all of these operations are terror operations.
My feeling then, and now, is that IF there is to be an army, then the burden of service should be shared, not assigned to the disadvantaged by one or another means, as in the case of all onerous tasks. That does not imply that those called upon to share the burden should necessarily agree. There are always cases where refusal is justified, and refusal to serve in Vietnam was, in my opinion, one such case. Same always. Garbage collection should be shared, not assigned to the disadvantaged, but if someone is ordered to dump toxic wastes in a schoolyard, he or she should refuse.
ZNet forum reply, February 3, 2005
We would rather forgive the evil proliferating all around us than the rebellion against it, which we mistake for the true evil.
There was a widespread conviction that it is impossible to withstand temptation of any kind, that none of us could be trusted or even be expected to betrustworthy when the chips are down, that to be tempted and to be forced are almost the same, whereas in the words of Mary McCarthy, who first spotted this fallacy: "If somebody points a gun at you and says,'Kill your friend or I will kill you,' he is tempting you, that is all." And while a temptation where one's life is at stake may be a legal excuse for a crime, it certainly is not a moral justification.

[..]

It is fortunate and wise that no law exists for sins of omission and no human court is called up onto sit in judgment over them. But it is equally fortunate that there exists still one institution in society in which it is well-nigh impossible to evade issues of personal responsibility, where all justifications of a nonspecific, abstract nature - from the Zeitgeist down to the Oedipus complex - break down, where not systems or trends or original sin are judged, but men of flesh and blood like you and me, whose deeds are of course still human deeds but who appear before a tribunal because they have broken some law whose maintenance we regard as essential for the integrity of our common humanity. Legal and moral issues are by no means the same, but they have a certain affinity with each other because they both presuppose the power of judgment.

[..]

What mattered in our early, nontheoretical education in morality was never the conduct of the true culprit of whom even then no one in his right mind could expect other than the worst. Thus we were outraged, but not morally disturbed, by the bestial behavior of the stormtroopers in the concentration camps and the torture cellars of the secret police, and it would have been strange indeed to grow morally indignant over the speeches of the Nazi big wigs inpower, whose opinions had been common knowledge for years. [..] The moral issue arose only with the phenomenon of "coordination," that is, not with fear-inspired hypocrisy, but with this very early eagerness not to miss the train of History, with this, as it were, honest overnight change of opinion that befell a great majority of public figures in all walks of life and all ramifications of culture, accompanied, as it was, by an incredible ease with which life long friendships were broken and discarded. In brief, what disturbed us was the behavior not of our enemies but of our friends, who had done nothing to bring this situation about. They were not responsible for the Nazis, they were only impressed by the Nazi success and unable to pit their own judgment against the verdict of History, as they read it. Without taking into account the almost universal breakdown, not of personal responsibility, but of personal judgment in the early stages of the Nazi regime, it is impossible to understand what actually happened.
When I was asked to make this address I wondered what I had to say to you boys who are graduating. And I think I have one thing to say. If you wish to be useful, never take a course that will silence you. Refuse to learn anything that implies collusion, whether it be a clerkship or a curacy, a legal fee or a post in a university. Retain the power of speech no matter what other power you may lose. If you can take this course, and in so far as you take it, you will bless this country. In so far as you depart from this course, you become dampers, mutes, and hooded executioners.

As a practical matter, a mere failure to speak out upon occassions where no statement is asked or expected from you, and when the utterance of an uncalled for suspicion is odious, will often hold you to a concurrence in palpable iniquity. Try to raise a voice that will be heard from here to Albany and watch what comes forward to shut off the sound. It is not a German sergeant, nor a Russian officer of the precinct. It is a note from a friend of your father's, offering you a place at his office. This is your warning from the secret police. Why, if you any of young gentleman have a mind to make himself heard a mile off, you must make a bonfire of your reputations, and a close enemy of most men who would wish you well.

I have seen ten years of young men who rush out into the world with their messages, and when they find how deaf the world is, they think they must save their strength and wait. They believe that after a while they will be able to get up on some little eminence from which they can make themselves heard. "In a few years," reasons one of them, "I shall have gained a standing, and then I shall use my powers for good." Next year comes and with it a strange discovery. The man has lost his horizon of thought, his ambition has evaporated; he has nothing to say. I give you this one rule of conduct. Do what you will, but speak out always. Be shunned, be hated, be ridiculed, be scared, be in doubt, but don't be gagged. The time of trial is always. Now is the appointed time.
Commencement Address to the Graduating Class of Hobart College, 1900
That God does not exist, I cannot deny, That my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget.
Everyone has an internal eye. It always watching. It has been slowly constructed by society at large and by your friends and family, and it checks you for unacceptable behaviour. If you have had it around for long enough, you actually start to believe that the eye is you, and that you’re “being reasonable” or some other rationalization.

But the eye isn’t you at all. It is a prison, and you have justified its existence by obeying it. It’s strong because you let it be strong.

But the secret, the part that’s amazing, is that it can’t do anything to stop you, even if it wanted to. It’s an eye. It can only watch. The rest of you is free to act as you wish.
It’s not that they’re bad people. It reveals an institutional pathology. There is an institutional structure that says that if you’re the CEO of a major corporation, which incidentally means that you have enormous influence in the political system, then you simply don’t care about what happens to the world in the next generation, including your own grandchildren. What you care about is profits tomorrow. It’s an institutional imperative.
The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.
In most modern instances, interpretation amounts to the philistine refusal to leave the work of art alone. Real art has the capacity to make us nervous. By reducing the work of art to its content and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art. Interpretation makes art manageable, conformable.
Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.
When you get more experienced most of these things make me laugh or cry (depending on the siuation); it does not matter what companies like FB, Google do; people on HN or Reddit will take it and do it to the extreme: we now ‘need to’ use React for everything; if it does not fit, just beat it with a hammer until it does. Kubernetes and microservices must be used for every tiny little part if the app even if it causes a lot more overhead in performance/memory use (computers are cheap and fast!) or debugging. Abstract almost everything! (Java + OOP, Javascript and the npm mess) to Abstract almost nothing! (Go w/o generics), Make everything reusable (left-pad), Rewrite everything in JS!, Rust!, Go! etc etc. Everyone is running after eachother and doing it more extreme and the end result is just as shit as if you would not have done that at all and just thought about it bit before opening some IDE and codegenerate you million lines of boilerplate with the instable and slow framework-du-jour. As an older coder I sigh when a codebase is taken out of the ‘mothballs’ even 6-12 months after creation and people cannot get it running because everything they used is outdated because the framework and library authors move fast and break everything all the time. And ofcourse it is in an outdated language / framework(Ruby on Rails is soooo pase) so noone knows anything , it uses the 358 most popular DSLs (350 unmaintained since january) at the time so unless you drank the same coolaid it is a nightmare spelonking adventure.

At least Dijkstra had sound mathematical reasoning for his arguments and wrote about them eloquently (and with good humor I may add); most of what is peddled in the hipster coding circles is a smooth talk by a gifted social media frontman that has no solid basis in anything besides that the person is popular. I do not even understand how people dare to put their name on complete messes like npm or one line npm packages unless it is a joke. I assume things like leftpad are in fact a joke; if they are not I would have to cry myself to sleep every night. So I just lie and say it is funny.
Once the door is fully opened, everybody rushes through. Once more-or-less targeted assassinations have been normalized by a government, you can be sure that it will be used by every government following them, and ultimately by every other government on the planet. Effective tools will always be used.

Be that mass surveillance, drone strikes, offensive cyber warfare or kidnapping people on foreign soil to fly them to torture camps.
You can't restart the internet. Trillions of dollars depend on a rickety cobweb of unofficial agreements and "good enough for now" code with comments like "TODO: FIX THIS IT'S A REALLY DANGEROUS HACK BUT I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S WRONG" that were written ten years ago.

Desert Pools

I love too much; I am a river
   Surging with spring that seeks the sea,
I am too generous a giver,
   Love will not stoop to drink of me.

His feet will turn to desert places
   Shadowless, reft of rain and dew,
Where stars stare down with sharpened faces
   From heavens pitilessly blue.

And there at midnight sick with faring
   He will stoop down in his desire
To slake the thirst grown past all bearing
   In stagnant water keen as fire.
You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.