node created 2019/09/29
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
There is some confusion as to what magic actually is. I think this can be cleared up if you just look at the very earliest descriptions of magic. Magic in its earliest form is often referred to as “the art”. I believe this is completely literal. I believe that magic is art and that art, whether it be writing, music, sculpture, or any other form is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words, or images, to achieve changes in consciousness. The very language about magic seems to be talking as much about writing or art as it is about supernatural events. A grimmoir for example, the book of spells is simply a fancy way of saying grammar. Indeed, to cast a spell, is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people's consciousness. And I believe that this is why an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world that you are likely to see to a Shaman.

I believe that all culture must have arisen from cult. Originally, all of the facets of our culture, whether they be in the arts or sciences were the province of the Shaman. The fact that in present times, this magical power has degenerated to the level of cheap entertainment and manipulation, is, I think a tragedy. At the moment the people who are using Shamanism and magic to shape our culture are advertisers. Rather than try to wake people up, their Shamanism is used as an opiate to tranquilize people, to make people more manipulable. Their magic box of television, and by their magic words, their jingles can cause everyone in the country to be thinking the same words and have the same banal thoughts all at exactly the same moment.

In all of magic there is an incredibly large linguistic component. The Bardic tradition of magic would place a bard as being much higher and more fearsome than a magician. A magician might curse you. That might make your hands lay funny or you might have a child born with a club foot. If a Bard were to place not a curse upon you, but a satire, then that could destroy you. If it was a clever satire, it might not just destroy you in the eyes of your associates; it would destroy you in the eyes of your family. It would destroy you in your own eyes. And if it was a finely worded and clever satire that might survive and be remembered for decades, even centuries. Then years after you were dead people still might be reading it and laughing at you and your wretchedness and your absurdity. Writers and people who had command of words were respected and feared as people who manipulated magic. In latter times I think that artists and writers have allowed themselves to be sold down the river. They have accepted the prevailing belief that art and writing are merely forms of entertainment. They’re not seen as transformative forces that can change a human being; that can change a society. They are seen as simple entertainment; things with which we can fill 20 minutes, half an hour, while we’re waiting to die. It’s not the job of the artist to give the audience what the audience wants. If the audience knew what they needed, then they wouldn’t be the audience. They would be the artists. It is the job of artists to give the audience what they need.
He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.
We're constantly being bombarded by insulting and humiliating music, which people are making for you the way they make those Wonder Bread products. Just as food can be bad for your system, music can be bad for your spirtual and emotional feelings. It might taste good or clever, but in the long run, it's not going to do anything for you.
The greatest calamity which could befall us would be submission to a government of unlimited powers.
Where could we be now if we hadn’t repressed half of our society throughout our entire history?
If you want a tyrant, create anarchy.

Once you understand that it isn't as easy as saying "its just the system, man"... you understand that the path to liberty requires maintaining these institutions and guarding them from corruption.

Absent the institutions we have tyranny.
Absent moderation of the institutions we have tyranny.

You have to moderate them. Its not easy. Its really hard. And while you are doing it many players will whisper in your ear to pervert them to service one end or another. But those roads all lead to tyranny.
I have also been on the Earth a long time. Making measurements.

Ice is there, yes. A few hundred miles less ice on the glaciers. I assume that you can tell the difference between an ice cube and an ice sheet. Or is it all filed under ice?

Bloody hell.

Storms have always been there. In different places, with different moisure content.

Maybe the Khmer Empire thought the same as you, just before they died horribly. They'd moved the atmospheric rivers by several hundred miles. Sure, there was rain. Just not near them, because they were idiots.

Don't copy them.

The temperature has risen to levels that are higher than what they should be given prevailing conditions. But that's not as important as the gradient. The gradient has never occurred in historic times, or indeed any time since the last asteroid strike.

But you ignore that and assume all gradients are equal, all numbers are equal.

They are not.

The Khmer discovered this too late. This time, you're playing not with millions of lives but billions. Ignorance isn't going to save even one of them. There is no plea bargain with physics.
Meanwhile geeks, who do understand how computers work, instead of developing technologies supporting encryption and pricacy by default, have instead hopped into bed with big data and the NSA. There are more geeks helping the NSA builds a Stasi apparatus than there are geeks working on building a truely anonymous and untappable internet.
The idea that privacy can be traded away transactionally is a misrepresentation. Privacy is a choice; depending on who I am interacting with I will withhold certain information about my life.

If someone convinces a friend or family member of the lie that they can trade privacy for services, then my communications with them are compromised without my consent.

This is all about every being's right to choose to be private. The idea that it's okay to impinge this right as long as someone thought of it as a transaction is morally bankrupt.
You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, that is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid.
At elite conferences, they wonder how to regain trust, or otherwise deal with the rising atmosphere of populist discontent. They acknowledge that something is deeply wrong. But they dare not lay the blame at their own feet, caused by their own overreaches and dysfunction. Anyone who did would immediately be under suspicion. No longer one of us, but one of them. So, those who might otherwise lead the difficult but necessary elite self-critique instead keep their mouths shut, or they say the wrong thing without ideological, psychological, and social preparation for the consequences and get cast out. Only the true believers incapable of self-critique, the incompetent, and the cynics, remain as voices in the public forum. They talk in circles, never quite able to correct course and come to any new conclusions, except the need to double down on current ideological practices.
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.
That one new feature you added? That sparkly, Techcrunchable, awesome feature? What did it cost your user? If the result of your work consumes someone’s cognitive resources, they can’t use those resources for other things that truly, deeply matter. This is NOT about consuming their time and attention while they're using your app. This is about draining their ability for logical thinking, problem-solving, and willpower after the clicking/swiping/gesturing is done.


But even if we can justify consuming our user's cognitive resources while they're using our product, what about our marketing? Can we honestly believe that our "content marketing" is a good use of their resources? "Yes, because it adds value." we tell ourselves. But what does that even mean? Can we honestly say that "engaging with our brand" is a healthy, ethical use of their scarce, precious, limited cognitive resources? "Yes, because our content is useful."

And that's all awesome and fabulous and social and 3.0ish except for one, small, inconvenient fact: zero sum. What you consume here, you take from there. Not just their attention, not just their time, but their ability to be the person they are when they are at their best. When they have ample cognitive resources. When they can think, solve-problems, and exercise self-control. When they can create, make connections, and stay focused.
I bought a seven dollar pen because I always lose pens and I got sick of not caring.
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.
[Q: can you conceive of any form in which you might support American military action taken, like the President's justification, in anticipation of an imminent and dangerous threat?]

Why don't you generalize it, and say, can you conceive of any action which any state might take? Sure, you can imagine such things. Let's say you're in Iran right now. [audience laughter] It's under attack by the world's superpower, with embargoes... It's surrounded by states either occupied by its superpower enemy, or having nuclear weapons. Little way down the road is the regional superpower, which has hundreds of nuclear weapons, and other WMDs, and is essentially an offshore US military base. And has a bigger and more advanced air force than any NATO power, outside the United States. And in the past year has been supplied by the global superpower with 100 advanced jet bombers, openly advertised as able to fly to Iran and back to bomb it. And also provided with what the Hebrew press calls special weaponry, nobody knows what that means, but if you're an Iranian intelligence analyst you gonna give a worst case analysis, of course. And has actually been publicly provided with smart bombs, and deep penetration weapons... They have a terrific justification for anticipatory self defense, better than any other case I can think of.

But would I approve of their bombing Israel, or carrying out terrorist acts in Washington? No, even though they have a pretty strong case, better than anything I can think of here. Just as the Japanese had a much better case than any that I can think of here, but I don't approve of Pearl Harbor. So yeah, we can conceive of cases, and in fact some of them are right in front of our eyes, but none of us approve of them. None of us.

So if we don't approve of them in real cases, why discuss hypothetical cases that don't exist? We can do that in some philosophy seminar, but in the real world there're real cases that ought to concern us.
Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.
I pity people who can't find laughter or at least some bit of amusement in the little doings of the day. I believe I could find something ridiculous even in the saddest moment, if necessary. It has nothing to do with being superficial. It's a matter of joy in life.
From inside a hamster wheel looks like a career ladder.