node created 2012/06/17
last changed 2013/02/04

Desiderata

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.
Worry is a misuse of the imagination.
On May 27, the New York Times published one of the most incredible sentences I’ve ever seen. They ran an article about the Nixon-Kissinger interchanges. Kissinger fought very hard through the courts to try to prevent it, but the courts permitted it. You read through it, and you see the following statement embedded in it. Nixon at one point informs Kissinger, his right-hand Eichmann, that he wanted bombing of Cambodia. And Kissinger loyally transmits the order to the Pentagon to carry out "a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. Anything that flies on anything that moves."

That is the most explicit call for what we call genocide when other people do it that I’ve ever seen in the historical record. Right at this moment there is a prosecution of Milošević going on in the international tribunal, and the prosecutors are kind of hampered because they can’t find direct orders, or a direct connection even, linking Milošević to any atrocities on the ground. Suppose they found a statement like this. Suppose a document came out from Milošević saying, "Reduce Kosovo to rubble. Anything that flies on anything that moves." They would be overjoyed. The trial would be over. He would be sent away for multiple life sentences - if it was a U.S. trial, immediately the electric chair.
What I Have Lived For

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy - ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness—that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what—at last—I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.
"Autobiography"
In recent years, monopolistic tech giants have reaped fantastic gains in efficiency and cost savings, often at the expense of individual privacy and labor rights. To add “war profiteer” to that list would only further diminish an industry that, with equal parts naïveté and swagger, has so often failed at trying to do good.
It’s im­por­tant for us to crit­i­cize tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies. And it’s not hard, be­cause they’re full of shit.
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.
Naturally, one does not want to confront enemies that can fight back, but even much weaker enemies must be destroyed quickly, given the weakness of the domestic base and the lessons that are to be taught.

These lessons are directed to several audiences. For the Third World, the message is simple: Don't raise your heads. A "much weaker" opponent will not merely be defeated, but pulverized. The central lesson of World Order is: "What we say goes"; we are the masters, you shine our shoes, and don't ever forget it. Others too are to understand that the world is to be ruled by force, the arena in which the US reigns supreme, though with its domestic decline, others will have to pay the bills.

There is also a lesson for the domestic audience. They must be terrorized by images of a menacing force about to overwhelm us -- though in fact "much weaker" and defenseless. The monster can then be miraculously slain, "decisively and rapidly," while the frightened population celebrates its deliverance from imminent disaster, praising the heroism of the Great Leader who has come to the rescue just in the nick of time.

These techniques, which have familiar precedents, were employed through the 1980s, for sound reasons. The population was opposed to the major Reagan policies, largely an extension of Carter plans. It was therefore necessary to divert attention to ensure that democratic processes would remain as "hypothetical" as the peace process. Propaganda campaigns created awesome chimeras: international terrorists, Sandinistas marching on Texas, narcotraffickers, crazed Arabs.
Z Magazine (May 1991)
Stallman is just always swimming against the tide of what people actually want.

Isn't that the mark of a thinking man? A drug dealer gives people what they want; a thinker tells them what they should want. So what if they don't listen? That's the normal division of labor: the prophet warns and the people ignore him.
What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on this dread road? The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated. The worst is atomic war. The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth. Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
If something is right (or wrong) for us, it’s right (or wrong) for others. It follows that if it’s wrong for Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and a long list of others to bomb Washington and New York, then it’s wrong for Rumsfeld to bomb Afghanistan (on much flimsier pretexts), and he should be brought before war crimes trials.
Exasperation with the threefold frustration of action -- the unpredictability of its outcome, the irreversibility of the process, and the anonymity of its authors -- is almost as old as recorded history. It has always been a great temptation, for men of action no less than for men of thought, to find a substitute for action in the hope that the realm of human affairs may escape the haphazardness and moral irresponsibility inherent in a plurality of agents.
After the game, the king and pawn go into the same box.

What Do I Care

What do I care, in the dreams and the languor of spring,
That my songs do not show me at all?
For they are a fragrance, and I am a flint and a fire,
I am an answer, they are only a call.

But what do I care, for love will be over so soon,
Let my heart have its say and my mind stand idly by,
For my mind is proud and strong enough to be silent, 
It is my heart that makes my songs, not I.
Part of understanding the creative urge is understanding that it's primal. Wanting to change the world is not a noble calling, it's a primal calling.
Your stuff will start to puff up. Your paragraphs will start to get rotund with all the things you could say if you really wanted, but you can only hint. That's bad. It's bad intellectually and I think it's bad morally. It means that you become.. your contract is no longer with your readers. What I try and do, and the reason I write in longhand and write in isolation, is to say "The only person I have a deal with is the person who might read this. And I'll give them my best, and I don't care what the editor thinks, the advertising department thinks, friends and colleagues think." You try and live, as it were, as if none of these people counted. "What's the best account I can give for customers of this." Most of Washington punditry is nothing of the kind, it's... private letters written to other pundits and appearing in public space.
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.
And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don't want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.
We have a big argument here about whether Nicaragua and Cuba are sending arms to El Salvador. Well, I don't know, so far there's no evidence that they are, but that's not really the interesting question. I mean, you gotta watch the way questions are framed by the propaganda system. The way it's framed is, the doves say they're not sending arms, and the hawks say they are sending arms. But the real question, which is being suppressed in all of this, is, "Should they be sending arms?"

And the answer is of course, "Yes." [applause] Everybody should be sending arms. You see, that question is not raised. Just as if, somebody was talking in, say, the Soviet Union, and the question came up, "Should somebody send arms to Afghan rebels?" Well, of course not, you know, that's terrorism or something like that. The point is that it's perfectly legitimate to send arms to people who finally try to use violence in self-defense against a gang of mass murderers installed by a foreign power. Of course it's legitimate to send them arms.
Talk at UC Berkeley on U.S. foreign policy in Central America (May 14, 1984)
They kill and die, for this "precious land", right? And they both litter, whole place is filled with, like, Cheeto bags..

[..]

If they're forced to work together on something that helps everybody.. they might just find out they're not so different after all. [..] Let's say solar power, Israel's all sun... so, you're welcome.
Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.
People are going to shit all over your parade sometimes, and sometimes they’re going to be right. The solution is to not go planning parades through streets somebody else paved without asking them for directions.
The danger of computers becoming like humans is not as great as the danger of humans becoming like computers.
People who are willing to rely on the government to keep them safe are pretty much standing on Darwin's mat, pounding on the door, screaming, 'Take me, take me!'
Alt.Sysadmin.Recovery
I'll be honest with you
I hate war in all its forms
Physical, psychological, spiritual
Emotional, environmental
I hate war

And I hate having to struggle, I honestly do
Because I wish I had been born into a world where it's unnecessary
This context of struggle and being a warrior and being a struggler
Has been forced on me by oppression

Otherwise I would be a, a sculptor, or a gardener, carpenter
You know, I would be free to be so much more

I guess part of me or a part of who I am, a part of what I do
Is being a warrior, a reluctant warrior, a reluctant struggler
But, I do it because I'm committed to life We can't avoid it,
we can't run away from it

Because to do that is to be cowardice
To do that is to be subservient to devils, subservient to evil
And so that the only way to live on this planet
With any human dignity at the moment is to struggle
To build a bridge, you don’t need millions of people. You need enough people to build a bridge so that a million others can cross over it.
Once it sinks in how fucked we are, we need to examine why. Why is because we have some faulty thinking. Why do we have faulty thinking? Garbage in, garbage out. Figure out what the garbage is and who's shoveling it in your trough. First clue, follow the money.
Indeed during the recent dotcom mania a bunch of quack business writers suggested that the company of the future would be totally virtual -- just a trendy couple sipping Chardonnay in their living room outsourcing everything. What these hyperventilating "visionaries" overlooked is that the market pays for value added. Two yuppies in a living room buying an e-commerce engine from company A and selling merchandise made by company B and warehoused and shipped by company C, with customer service from company D, isn't honestly adding much value.
The Grand Inquisitor explains that you have to create mysteries because otherwise the common people will be able to understand things. They have to be subordinated so you have to make things look mysterious and complicated. That's the test of the intellectual. It's also good for them: then you're an important person, talking big words which nobody can understand. Sometimes it gets kind of comical, say in post-modern discourse. Especially around Paris, it has become a comic strip, I mean it's all gibberish. But it's very inflated, a lot of television cameras, a lot of posturing. They try to decode it and see what is the actual meaning behind it, things that you could explain to an eight-year old child.

There's nothing there. But these are the ways in which contemporary intellectuals, including those on the Left, create great careers for themselves, power for themselves, marginalize people, intimidate people and so on.
"Chomsky on Anarchism" (2005)