node created 2012/06/17
last changed 2013/02/04
Yes! You can give away all of your personal information to Apple, Google, and Facebook AT THE SAME TIME. This is unprecedented. The stupid should be ecstatic over this.
I'm more than ever of the opinion that a decent human existence is possible today only on the fringes of society, where one then runs the risk of starving or being stoned to death. In these circumstances, a sense of humor is a great help.
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid... You refuse to do it because you want to live longer... You're afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you're afraid someone will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you're just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.
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.
The world gets improved in fits and starts, in small ways more than in large ones, and thanks to the unseen, unthought infrastructures that undergird it more than the civic or scientific or artistic victories we celebrate in the streets or in the theaters.
It really is the central view of, certainly, American and British media stars, that when, especially people with medals on their chests, who are called generals, but also high-ranking officials in the government, make claims, that those claims are presumptively treated as true without evidence, and that it's almost immoral to call them into question, or to question their veracity.

1/5 of a degree C is not a "tiny amount".

Sure, it makes no difference to whether you want to put a sweater on, but that's not the point. The troposphere is vast, and 0.2 C represents an immense amount of kinetic energy, which in turn drives dramatic changes in circulation and precipitation patterns. You can get a sense for this by calculating how much energy an average of 0.2 C represents.

Start with this: how much does a cubic meter of air weigh? Have you ever thought about that? A cubic meter of dry air at sea level weighs about 2.7 pounds. How much energy does it take to raise 2.7 pounds of dry air by 0.2 degrees? It turns out you can look that kind of thing up. It takes about 245 joules.

Now take that 245 joules/m^3 and multiply it by the volume of the troposphere. As you recall from calculus, you can approximate this by taking the surface area of a sphere 6,371,000 meters in radius and multiplying by the troposphere's roughly 11 km height. You should end up with a figure on the order of magnitude of 10^18 joules.

Or you can think of that as being roughly the same as 20,000 Hiroshima sized bombs. Granted the density of air 10 km up is somewhat less, but we haven't factored in the gigatons of water vapor in the atmosphere. Or interactions with the oceans; most of the excess energy goes into the oceans, and that in turn affects climate in countless ways. That's how palm trees grow in Southern Britain, even though Cornwall's further north than Maine.

And yet... You just can't feel a 0.2C change. Then again you can't feel the Coriolis force either, but that can bend a subtle pressure gradient hundreds of miles long into a cyclone, a feat no human agency can resist, much less match.

Scale matters. If there's anything scientific and mathematical literacy should teach, it's that. That's why the future of the planet can't be trusted to a semi-literate ignoramus.
Look, I’m stupid, all right? I’m not some brilliant person. I’m a little child. You know the emperor’s new clothes? I can see the naked emperor, just because I’m a little child-minded person. I’m not smart. I mean, good scientists are like that. They have the minds of children, to see through all this façade of all this other stuff that they know is stupid nonsense. They just don’t see it the way other people see it.
interview by Shirley K. Cohen (1995)
The only way to live on this planet with any human dignity at the moment is to struggle.
"Committed To Life" by Asian Dub Foundation
The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.
This is the danger of the "dark age of journalism", as it has been called. The training of the old Reuters reporter is replaced by one of political and corporate collusion. The separation between newsrooms and public relations agencies growing ever thinner as reporters rush to fill space at all costs, regardless of truth. [..] The collapse of journalism combined with complex, fast-changing technology offers a wealth of opportunity for propagandists. In the soil of ignorance, fear can easily be sown.
The main part of the economics that don't make sense is trusting a secretive technocratic savior, wielding trillions of dollars of resources, to actually give a shit about helping out all the low-level peons who initially funded the system. It's an extremely elitist vision, that, by people's parents handing over investment money to a small cabal of technological geniuses, their kids will be handed a post-scarcity utopia on a platter --- instead of the wealthy technocrats simply joining forces with the rest of the oppressive oligarchy, laughing at the suckers who gambled away their children's futures on promises of technology serving the people rather than vice-versa.
I do not look on a human being as a machine, made to be kept in action by a foreign force, to accomplish an unvarying succession of motions, to do a fixed amount of work, and then to fall to pieces at death, but as a being of free spiritual powers; and I place little value on any culture but that which aims to bring out these, and to give them perpetual impulse and expansion.
But our present State is a dictatorship of Evil. “We’ve known that for a long time,” I can hear you say, “and it is not necessary for you to remind us of it once again.” So I ask you: If you are aware of this, why do you not stir yourselves? Why do you permit this autocrat to rob you of one sphere of your rights after another, little by little, both overtly and in secret? One day there will be nothing left, nothing at all, except for a mechanized national engine that has been commandeered by criminals and drunks. Has your spirit been so devastated by rape that you forget that it is not only your right, but your moral duty to put an end to this system?

If a person cannot even summon the strength to demand his rights, then there is nothing left for him but destruction. We will have deserved to be scattered to all corners of the globe, as dust before the wind, if we do not pull ourselves together in this eleventh hour and finally summon the courage that we have been lacking till now. Do not hide your cowardice under the cloak of cleverness! Because every day that you delay, every day that you do not resist this spawn of hell, your guilt is steadily increasing, like a parabolic curve.
The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.
We’re going to live in a world unless we do something quickly in which our media consume us and spit in the government’s cup. There will never have been any place like it before and if we let it happen, there will never be any place different from it again.
A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once.
"Julius Caesar"
It can be hidden only in complete silence and perfect passivity, but its disclosure can almost never be achieved as a willful purpose, as though one possessed and could dispose of this "who" in the same manner he has and can dispose of his qualities. On the contrary, it is more than likely that the "who," which appears so clearly and unmistakably to others, remains hidden from the person himself, like the daimon in Greek religion which accompanies each man throughout his life, always looking over his shoulder from behind and thus visible only to those he encounters. This revelatory quality of speech and action comes to the fore where people are with others and neither for (the doer of good works) nor against them (the criminal) that is, in sheer human togetherness. Although nobody knows whom he reveals when he discloses himself in deed or word, he must be willing to risk the disclosure.
"The Human Condition"
See, this is the thing that everyone knows and no one says. You follow the drugs, you get a drug case. You start following the money, you don't know where you're going. That's why they don't want wiretaps or wired C.I.s or anything else they can't control. Because once that tape starts rolling, who the hell knows what's going to be said?
"The Wire"
It is the fundamental duty of the citizen to resist and to restrain the violence of the state. Those who choose to disregard this responsibility can justly be accused of complicity in war crimes, which is itself designated as ‘a crime under international law’ in the principles of the Charter of Nuremberg.
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.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
From the totalitarian point of view, history is something to be created rather than learned.
"The Prevention of Literature" (1946)
The internet was our garden. And a beautiful garden it was. Sure, some fed agency created it, but let's face it, they used a fraction of the lot and we didn't really care for their supersecret bases they had littered about. There was so much empty space in between! And that lot we cultivated. We built a few nice trees and in their shadows we relaxed, we planted beautiful roses and yes, a few fruits and vegetables because, hey, it's always better if you grow it yourself. And ... heh, well, yeah, we had a few corners here or there where we grew that "special weed", ya know, but nobody really gave a shit, it was just us.

We were pretty good gardeners. Well, you pretty much had to be in those days, if you didn't know your way 'round with rake and shovel, you didn't really get much out of it. Still, we were quite happy with it. So happy actually that we thought we should share that. I mean, there's so many people out there who don't even know just how great the garden is! And we invited them in. They looked around and, well, most of them didn't quite "get" it. Sure, it was nice, here or there, well, if you're into botany, that is, but it's kinda hard to get around and find your way through the jungle, and using a machete wherever you go, phew, hard work! But a few of them stayed. They didn't quite know what they do, but we handed them a few saplings and some seed and some actually managed to learn a thing or two about gardening. Sure, of course a few smartasses tried to steal our stuff, but we usually didn't have much of a problem to whack them with our shovel and get our stuff back. And, heh, yeah, we, too, went into each other's yards and played some pranks on each other, painted their roses black and the like, but it was all in good fun! And hey, they sure liked our ... ya know, "special stuff". They still had no idea how to grow it, but they were quite willing to help us share everything with everyone, as long as they got their share, too. And, well, why not, pass the blunt!

That was about when the corporations noticed that, hey, where did all the people go? They took a look at the garden and they went batshit crazy. I mean, sure, we knew that it's great, but we never saw anyone go so insane about it. They saw it as the next big thing to make money with, and we laughed. Money? With this? Dude, you can't make money out of a system based on freedom and sharing! Everything in here is free. Yeah, in both ways.

True. You can't make money in such a system. Unless of course you change the rules. And changing the rules, they could.

I can't help but think that this must be how the natives of the US felt after they were "discovered". Because we had to face that there are suddenly areas in what we considered OUR garden where we couldn't go anymore. Worse, something that was the staple of our culture, going to a guy who did something great and asking him for a sapling of his wonderful tree. Became anathema. Instead of you SHOULD imitate and build on top of mine, the new creed was you MUST NOT. This rule, of course, did only surface after they themselves took from our gardens what they could possible rake together quickly. You might understand our utter disbelief and of course outrage when we noticed that turnabout is not fair game.

Well, we have had our share of trolls and nuisances before. Long before we already had to deal with people who trampled through our gardens or were a general pest. Our solution was simple, we took our superior gardening skills and whacked them from here to next week with our shovels 'til they either learned to play nice or left for good. This didn't work out so well this time. No, not because they had the better gardeners. But they didn't need to. They had a much more powerful weapon in their arsenal: The law. First, they ensured that the laws would benefit them, and then they used it against us. And despite how despicable it may be, we have to admit that it is quite efficient to have others take care of your battles, especially when you know that you cannot win a conventional war.

And now we're sitting here in what's left of our once beautiful garden. The once mighty jungle has been tamed and civilized, what used to be interesting and a land for explorers is now divided into lots that you may buy instead of simply use. You can get there easier now... well, if you prefer using long winding roads to a direct route, but the long winding roads are necessary so you pass by all the billboards that block your view to what's really interesting. Of course you may not step anywhere, only where you're allowed to, and don't even think about taking anything, rest assured it's for sale, not free.

So we're sitting here now, at the edge of something we once knew as beautiful and free. We're looking at it and we wonder what we did wrong. Where did we fail? And I can only come up with one solution for when we try something like this again: Don't invite the masses in. Keep it to yourself. It's the only way how you can really keep it. And the only way you can do without a camo net over your herb garden.
Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
We have to abandon the idea that schooling is something restricted to youth. How can it be, in a world where half the things a man knows at 20 are no longer true at 40 - and half the things he knows at 40 hadn't been discovered when he was 20?
What is finished... is the idea that this great country is dedicated to the freedom and flourishing of every individual in it. It's the individual that's finished. It's the single, solitary human being that's finished. It's every single one of you out there that's finished, because this is no longer a nation of independent individuals. It's a nation of some 200-odd million transistorized, deodorized, whiter-than-white, steel-belted bodies, totally unnecessary as human beings, and as replaceable as piston rods... Well, the time has come to say, is dehumanization such a bad word. Because good or bad, that's what is so. The whole world is becoming humanoid - creatures that look human but aren't. The whole world not just us. We're just the most advanced country, so we're getting there first. The whole world's people are becoming mass-produced, programmed, numbered, insensate things...
I love to watch and encourage and thank the plants I see pushing up the sidewalks. That is the work we should be doing, and they are leading the way, teaching us how, these plants reaching through the concrete from the soil to the sky, these ants and birds and spiders going about their lives, all remind us that all times and in all places - even in cities - ecstatic life continues beneath the machine, waiting for the chance to return, to recover, and to reenter into relationship with those of us who are ready to live.
"Welcome to the Machine"
Show me a people unwilling to be vigilant about their liberty 24/7, and I'll show you a government happy to lord over them with absolute power.