node created 2012/06/17
last changed 2013/02/04
Only the strong go crazy. The weak just go along.
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.
If you can read this, thank a teacher.
As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews us how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow-creatures. [...] This virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings. As soon as this virtue is honoured and practised by some few men, it spreads through instruction and example to the young, and eventually becomes incorporated in public opinion.
"The Descent of Man" (1871)
I can understand the hesitation of my generation, indeed it is no longer mere hesitation; it is the thousandth forgetting of a dream dreamt a thousand times and forgotten a thousand times; and who can damn us merely for forgetting for the thousandth time?
"Investigations of a Dog"
A world without borders has become the panopticon, a jail where we are bound by ever-peering eyes of our peers.
Rio de Janeiro, incidently, is not the poor part of the country, that sort of the rich part of the country. It's not the northeast, where 35 million people or so, nobody knows what happens to them, or cares. But Rio de Janeiro, that's where people are looking, the rich parts. And this journal is a science journal, kinda like Science in the United States. It was studying malnutrition. And here's the figures it had for Rio de Janeiro: infants from 0 to 5 months, severe malnutrition, meaning medically severe, 67%; 5 months to a year, 41%; a year to 5 years, 11%. Now the reason of course for the decline, from 67 to 41 to 11, is that they will die. So that's what happens under the conditions of the economic miracle, like in Guatemala.

Now, it's a little wrong to say that the people die. The fact is, they don't die. We kill them, that's what happens. We kill them by carrying out policies, supporting the regimes of the kind that I've described. And by intervening with force and violence to suppress and destroy any attempt, however minimal, even on a speck like Grenada, we've got to stop any attempt to bring some change into this. That's the history of our hemisphere.
No matter which slogan they write on their banners, once they feel they are no longer under the strictest and most vigilant control of those they purport to represent - they will behave the same. Once the relationship between citizens and the government changes from owner/hired manager to subject/ruler, there's no other way it can go.
They [governments and corporations] take whatever is available, and in no time it is being used against us, the population. Governments are not representative. They have their own power, serving segments of the population that are dominant and rich.
I feel like the inability to focus for long periods of time is holding back progress in many areas. If we can't even stay away from email for a few days, how can we clear our minds of conventional thinking?
The U.S. is, of course, concerned over Iranian power. That is one reason why the U.S. turned to active support for Iraq in the late stages of the Iraq-Iran war, with a decisive effect on the outcome, and why Washington continued its active courtship of Saddam Hussein until he interfered with U.S. plans for the region in August 1990. U.S. concerns over Iranian power were also reflected in the decision to support Saddam’s murderous assault against the Shiite population of southern Iraq in March 1991, immediately after the fighting stopped. A narrow reason was fear that Iran, a Shiite state, might exert influence over Iraqi Shiites. A more general reason was the threat to “stability” that a successful popular revolution might pose: to translate into English, the threat that it might inspire democratizing tendencies that would undermine the array of dictatorships that the U.S. relies on to control the people of the region.

Recall that Washington’s support for its former friend was more than tacit; the U.S. military command even denied rebelling Iraqi officers access to captured Iraqi equipment as the slaughter of the Shiite population proceeded under Stormin’ Norman’s steely gaze.
There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all that springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white's their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
- I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.
The fanaticism of the elite cadres, absolutely essential for the functioning of the movement, abolishes systematically all genuine interest in specific jobs and produces a mentality which sees every conceivable action as an instrument for something entirely different.
"The Origins of Totalitarianism"
Why can't we state what we mean, what we think, what we're uncertain about, what questions we'd like to discuss in order to foster discussion instead of provoking it. Playing devil's advocate is fine when it's understood what's going on and why you're playing devil's advocate, but when there's ambiguity you play this game of "yes I said that I didn't mean it though" which ends up sounding weak as it does in those case. Devil's advocate is a great cognitive strategy for exploring an issue together, but it's a very poor conversational strategy.
The third world is not a reality, but an ideology.
Ah, yeah. We're gonna go to Mars. And then of course we're gonna colonize deep space. With our microwave hot dogs and plastic vomit, fake dog shit and cinnamon dental floss, lemon-scented toilet paper and sneakers with lights in the heels. And all these other impressive things we've done down here. But let me ask you this: what are we gonna tell the intergalactic council of ministers the first time one of our teenage mothers throws their newborn baby into a dumpster? How are we gonna explain that to the space people? How are we gonna let them know that our ambassador was only late for the meeting because his breakfast was cold and he had to spend half an hour punching his wife around the kitchen? And what are they gonna think when they find out, its just a local custom, that over 80 million women in the Third world have had their clitorises forcibly removed in order to reduce their sexual pleasure so they won't cheat on their husbands? Can't you just sense how eager the rest of the universe is for us to show up?
"Complaints and Grievances"
Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.
As long as we continue to have children, or accept people having children, we have chosen - as a species - to not give up on them, and their descendants.

Preserving a livable environment, and preferably much more than livable, is simply a duty springing from that fact.

There is no need for any deep philosophy, to care for the environment is - essentially - a consequence of choices already made.
I have no problem with leaning in. Really I don't. If you are going to puke on someone's shoes, you had best lean in a little, lest the spatter hit your own glorious footwear. [..] But if it's real, substantive change we're after, then we'd best be talking about organizing and collective action.
For there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

  • Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
  • Jobs for those who can work.
  • Security for those who need it.
  • The ending of special privilege for the few.
  • The preservation of civil liberties for all.
  • The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.
These are the simple, basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.
Knowing that leaders elsewhere frequently ignore or praise violence, I’m appreciative that our leaders consistently condemn violence perpetrated by individuals. However, these same leaders provide a bad role model for citizens when the state itself employs its power to trample human rights.
Most Americans are educated in name only — we do not have the comprehension of ideas that would be required to think for ourselves, and we also are not trained or encouraged to do this. Not only are we unable to think creatively, we don't even possess this expectation, and this is not an accident.

There are many vested interests that prefer us as we are — in government, religion and in corporate America. Think how much more trouble we would be if we could think for ourselves. Not only would we be much more difficult to govern (to the degree that politicians would have to explain their actions), we would be much more alert to the public stupidity that so often surrounds us.
Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.
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.
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
Take, say, the Bernie Sanders campaign. Which I think is important, impressive, he is doing good and courageous things, he is organizing a lot of people. That campaign ought to be directed to sustaining a popular movement which will use the election as kind of an incentive, but then go on. And unfortunately it's not. When the election's over, the movement's gonna die. And that's a serious error.

The only thing that's gonna ever bring about any meaningful change is ongoing, dedicated popular movements which don't pay attention to the election cycle. It's an extravaganza every four years; you have to be involved in it, so fine, we'll be involved in it. But then we go on. If that were done you could get major changes.
If you care about other people, that’s now a very dangerous idea. If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself. Maybe you can become rich, but you don’t care whether other people’s kids can go to school, or can afford food to eat, or things like that. In the United States, that’s called “libertarian” for some wild reason. I mean, it’s actually highly authoritarian, but that doctrine is extremely important for power systems as a way of atomizing and undermining the public.
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
Order is not pressure which is imposed on society from without, but an equilibrium which is set up from within.
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.