node created 2012/06/17
last changed 2013/02/04
That's the genius of our ruling class. They're so brilliant that no one knows they even exist. The political-science professors, perfectly sane men, look at me with wonder when I talk about the ruling class in America.

They say, "You are one of those conspiracy theorists. You think there's a headquarters and they get together at the Bohemian Grove and run the United States."

Well, they DO get together at the Bohemian Grove and do a lot of picking of Secretaries of State, anyway.

But they don't have to conspire. They all think alike. It goes back to the way we're raised, the schools we went to -- after all, I'm a reluctant member of this group. You don't have to give orders to the editor of The New York Times. He is in place because he will respond to a crisis the way you want him to, as will the President, as will the head of the Chase Manhattan Bank.
[..] an earnest purpose finds time or makes time. It seizes on spare moments, and turns large fragments of leisure to golden account. A man who follows his calling with industry and spirit, and uses his earnings economically, will always have some portion of the day at command; and it is astonishing how fruitful of improvement a short season becomes, when eagerly seized and faithfully used. It has often been observed, that they who have most time at their disposal profit by it least. A single hour in the day, steadily given to the study of an interesting subject, brings unexpected accumulations of knowledge.
Before the US invaded Iraq, when the President was talking about mushroom clouds and the Secretary of State delivered a PowerPoint about bio-weapons to the United Nations, I gave our leaders the benefit of the doubt.

Surely the military, the CIA, the NSA, the NRO, and the President must have secret information they cannot share with the public to justify the horrors of war.

Turns out I was wrong. It was a pack of lies, half-truths and poorly-substantiated rumors to justify a predetermined agenda.

After the 2007-2008 financial meltdown, when the President and the Secretary of the Treasury threatened the end of the world as we know it if the richest corporations aren't given direct cash infusions, I gave them the benefit of the doubt.

Surely our elected officials would never directly transfer hundreds of billions of dollars to the richest of the rich unless the alternative was truly grave.

Turns out I was wrong. It was a pack of lies, half-truths and poorly-substantiated rumors to transfer wealth from working people to the ownership class on an unprecedented scale.

So when the President stands before us today and speaks for 45 minutes without saying anything of consequence, without providing any evidence that the threat is so dire, so imminent, so cataclysmic that we must relinquish our freedoms to preserve our freedoms, I can no longer give him the benefit of the doubt.

No more vague threats. No more fear. No more intimidation. No more secrecy. These are fatal to a political system that relies on an informed citizenry.
The gold-digger in the ravines of the mountains is as much a gambler as his fellow in the saloons of San Francisco. What difference does it make whether you shake dirt or shake dice? If you win, society is the loser. The gold-digger is the enemy of the honest laborer, whatever checks and compensations there may be. It is not enough to tell me that you worked hard to get your gold. So does the Devil work hard.
Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book does not shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we'd be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like a suicide. A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe.
Letter to Oskar Pollak, January 27th 1904
After the game, the king and pawn go into the same box.
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.
As many critics have pointed out, terrorism is not an enemy. It is a tactic. Because the United States itself has a long record of supporting terrorists and using terrorist tactics, the slogans of today’s war on terrorism merely make the United States look hypocritical to the rest of the world.
"American Hegemony: How to Use It, How to Lose It" (2007)
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.
Those who lead the country into the abyss
Call ruling too difficult
For ordinary men.

Ah, what an age it is
When to speak of trees is almost a crime
For it is a kind of silence about injustice!
"To Posterity" (1939)
And the cover of Vodafone's Digital Parenting is a picture of three lovely-looking little kids, about eight years old, all sat in a line on a sofa, where they're all absorbed by handheld devices and computers and screens, and they're not interacting in any meaningful human way. And all through Digital Parenting are all these disguised advertorials about "edu-taining" software that you absolutely need to buy. Vodafone's Digital Parenting. It's like the fox's guide to chicken security.
The real isolation comes from the need to transcribe every external perception into a shallow internal one before acknowledging it.
If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.
Software development has changed a lot in the last twenty years, to be sure. The rapidness of web distribution has made older development practices seem quaint and antiquated. But something that's not antiquated, or shouldn't be, is providing a service that does what claims, that provides more value than it takes back, and that earnestly cares about the way it gets used, not just about the fact that its use can be sufficiently assured so as to obviate concern for its quality.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

Home

by Warsan Shire
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here
[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"
From a philosophical viewpoint, the danger inherent in the new reality of mankind seems to be that this unity, based on the technical means of communication and violence, destroys all national traditions and buries the authentic origins of all human existence. This destructive process can even be considered a necessary prerequisite for ultimate understanding between men of all cultures, civilizations, races, and nations. Its result would be a shallowness that would transform man, as we have known him in five thousand years of recorded history, beyond recognition. It would be more than mere superficiality; it would be as though the whole dimension of depth, without which human thought, even on the mere level of technical invention, could not exist, would simply disappear. This leveling down would be much more radical than the leveling to the lowest common denominator; it would ultimately arrive at a denominator of which we have hardly any notion today.

As long as one conceives of truth as separate and distinct from its expression, as something which by itself is uncommunicative and neither communicates itself to reason nor appeals to "existential" experience, it is almost impossible not to believe that this destructive process will inevitably be triggered off by the sheer automatism of technology which made the world one and, in a sense, united mankind. It looks as though the historical pasts of the-nations, in their utter diversity and disparity, in their confusing variety and bewildering strangeness for each other, are nothing but obstacles on the road to a horridly shallow unity. This, of course, is a delusion; if the dimension of depth out of which modern science and technology have developed ever were destroyed, the probability is that the new unity of mankind could not even technically survive. Everything then seems to depend upon the possibility of bringing the national pasts, in their original disparateness, into communication with each other as the only way to catch up with the global system of communication which covers the surface of the earth.
"Men in Dark Times"
Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.
An idea is not responsible for the people who believe in it.
What frightened me in your essay was the gospel of love which you begin to preach at the end. In politics, love is a stranger, and when it intrudes upon it nothing is being achieved except hypocrisy. All the characteristics you stress in the Negro people: their beauty, their capacity for joy, their warmth, and their humanity, are well-known characteristics of all oppressed people. They grow out of suffering and they are the proudest possession of all pariahs. Unfortunately, they have never survived the hour of liberation by even five minutes. Hatred and love belong together, and they are both destructive; you can afford them only in the private and, as a people, only so long as you are not free.
Working on mass surveilance systems because the tools are technically exciting is akin to using molecular gastronomy to produce a portion of human feces.
Google Plus is like the movie Dark City. It's a group of technical aliens picking apart the human experience, trying different scenarios in order to find out what the human soul is.

Once per day, humans wake up and find themselves in its meticulously-constructed parallel universe, doing things as ordinary humans do on other websites. Their activities, such as appreciating music and searching for lovers, feel familiar, necessary and meaningful, but at the same time, the unsettling atmosphere prevents the existential questions from settling deeply repressed where they should be. Instead, we're left wondering, "Why are we doing this here?" Isn't there something better? Is there a Shell Beach out there somewhere? Couldn't I just do this all myself on 1999-style website and live a more natural life?
At some point we all have to stop saying "well I'm a {baker, hacker, librarian, truck driver,...}, why should I worry about these problems?" and realize that this is world-altering stuff happening, and if you want your little corner of the world to survive, you have to mobilize to protect it, even if that means doing a little less of the things you normally do.
For the idea of humanity, when purged of all sentimentality, has the very serious consequence that in one form or another men must assume responsibility for all crimes committed by men and that all nations share the onus of evil committed by all others. Shame at being a human being is the purely individual and still non-political expression of this insight.
"Organized Guilt and Universal Responsibility"
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction.
Maybe people will get as sick of Twitter as they once got sick of cigarettes. Twitter's and Facebook's latest models for making money still seem to me like one part pyramid scheme, one part wishful thinking, and one part repugnant panoptical surveillance.
Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.
I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility [that is, the later judgment of historians] has to make up for the want of legal responsibility [that is, legal consequences during the rulers' lifetimes]. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which . . . the end learns to justify the means. You would hang a man of no position, . . . but if what one hears is true, then Elizabeth asked the gaoler to murder Mary, and William III ordered his Scots minister to extirpate a clan. Here are the greater names coupled with the greater crimes. You would spare these criminals, for some mysterious reason. I would hang them, higher than Haman, for reasons of quite obvious justice; still more, still higher, for the sake of historical science....
I know of no more encouraging fact than the ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. It is something to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so make a few objects beautiful. It is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look. This morally we can do.