The Internet Isn’t What We Thought It Would Be….

Back in the 1990’s I was an activist. Even while I was still in the Marine Corps, I was placing Greenpeace stickers on garbage cans in the barracks and trying hard to bring about little changes in consciousness – granted, it was probably the wrong place to do it and that might explain why I … Continue reading “The Internet Isn’t What We Thought It Would Be….”

Back in the 1990’s I was an activist. Even while I was still in the Marine Corps, I was placing Greenpeace stickers on garbage cans in the barracks and trying hard to bring about little changes in consciousness – granted, it was probably the wrong place to do it and that might explain why I was fairly miserable in the Corps – a person out of place.

When I got my honorable discharge and split that scene, I set out for an activist town. My choices were either Boulder, CO or Bellingham, WA and I went with Bellingham because I was born near there and I wanted the chance to spend time with my grandfather before he got too old and passed away (sadly, I missed that boat – after about two weeks, I realized his dementia made it impossible for us to get to know each other better than we had), but Bellingham was a wonderful choice.

I still consider it one of my two hometowns with the other being Honolulu, Hawaii.  Bellingham was a hotbed of 1990s hippie activism and before too long I was the head of a Citizen’s Initiative Group, working on campaigns to save frogs, a member of the Community Food Coop, and involved in Permaculture workshops, organizing protests, and by 1998 actively involved in organizing disparate groups to protest at the World Trade Organization talks in Seattle in 1999.  I’d also set up a magazine and website called Conchsense with the stated goal of uniting creativity and culture through the medium of the internet.

Back then – we thought that the internet was the great leveler – we thought it was the tool by which activists could finally level the playing field with the media and corporate interests by using citizen journalism, organizing online, and educating the public about the ‘truth’. We were all big fans of the X-Files back then and the tagline “The Truth is Out There” resonated with us.

When my friend, John Zerzan talked about how the leveling of the playing field was temporary and how the internet was an illusion that would disappear as soon as the establishment figured out how to regulate it, or even that technology was just a means of greater control of the population – I couldn’t see it. I didn’t want to see it. I wanted to see people being exposed to new ideas and changing everything. I wanted to see a better world and even though I’d read Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto when it was published  and heard the Green Anarchist arguments that sided with his own beliefs that all technology led to enslavement – I didn’t want to believe that.

And it’s only now that I start to realize that John and Ted were right.  Technology is the great enslaver. Whether we are talking about the technology of the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, or the information revolution – every bit of it has managed to enslave and blind the common man further from the truth of the matter – we are controlled by those who control the technology.

Those early days were a window and that window has closed. Facebook, Twitter,  and Google are publically traded corporations that have boards of directors and public relations departments.  Facebook feels justified to conduct behavioural experiments on users without their knowledge and you can be certain that Google and Twitter are doing the same.  Google is analyzing your mail and Facebook is looking at what you post and Twitter is sharing your userdata with the NSA and more.  They are justified in it – you agreed to their terms of service.

People make a mistake with these companies by thinking that they are empowered users with rights – they, we, are not. We are the products. Our information is the product. We are not the clients. The clients are the advertisers, the marketing companies and the governments that pay with treasure or privelidge – we are the chattel. Like slaves in tobacco fields, we provide the product and like masters in the antibelum manor houses – the internet companies figure out how to sell it and use the profits to enslave us further.

I know – there are many positive things which have come from the internet – too many to recount here – but in fact – the internet is the worst thing to ever happen to the human species.  I know too that I am writing this on the internet, that I earn most of my family’s bread and butter on the internet, and that without it – most of what I’ve done in this life might not have been possible. I know that and still I say that this is the worst thing ever created. Worse than atomic weapons. Worse than DDT.

We thought the internet would free people. Instead it has stolen their souls. It has turned them into sociopaths. It has destroyed much of what was good in the world – not all of it – but much of it.  Ted Kaczynski was right. Dammit.

Don’t believe me? Read it and comment afterward.

http://cyber.eserver.org/unabom.txt

A 99 Day Break from Facebook

UPDATE: Just a few days in and I already find that I have extra time on my hands. It’s amazing how when I have a spare moment on the computer or in the shop or at home, my mind says “Check out Facebook” and then when I don’t I realize – “Hey, I don’t need to be on the computer and can step away to do something else” – it’s amazing how much of my precious time I was killing with FB.

Yesterday, I saw an interesting proposal online – it suggested that Facebook might be contributing to general unease and unhappiness in the world.  I was already feeling a bit nauseated by Facebook in light of the recent behavioural experimentation the Facebook scientists have been conducting on users without their knowledge.

new-profile-picture

If you haven’t heard of it already, Facebook manipulated what stories showed up in the streams of users and then monitored what effect that had on the posting behaviour of those users.  They then, rather naively, published the results which showed that by manipulating what stories users saw, they could manipulate what kind of stories users posted.

So, the chances are that you have already been manipulated by Facebook. And that’s only the study they are telling us about…It was in that context that I saw a Danish group suggesting that a lengthy break from Facebook might make people happier – in general. And they created a website and campaign to encourage people to give it a shot. 99daysoffreedom.com

Upon hearing about it, my first reaction was – “Whoa, that’s three months, I don’t think I could do that – I use Facebook all the time.” and then, those words hit me…What exactly do I use Facebook for? I use it to see what my friends are posting, to try to post things that my friends might ‘like’ and as a sort of ego extension. I use it to try to increase my readership and once in a while I use it to buy or sell something.  The real question is Do I need it? The answer is very clearly “No”. I’ve lived most of my life without it and actually, I was happier with my use of my time during most of that time.  In fact, Facebook has more or less become a defacto boredom time killer and I don’t need to kill time…it’s my most valuable assett. I have so much stuff I want to do and haven’t been doing because I don’t have the time – but suddenly – if I’m not spending my time scrolling through platitudes pasted on nice pictures – or looking at other people’s vacation photos – I’ve got some time.

I mean, you want proof? I’m writing this. I’m not writing it on Facebook, I’m writing it on my blog which I’ve been sorely neglecting lately. You might be reading it on Facebook though because my blog automatically posts on Facebook without me logging in at all. I’m not logged into Facebook, I’m not checking to see if people ‘like’ me or what I post and I’m not being pithy, smarmy, or snarky.  It already feels good.

So here we are 99 days without logging into Facebook begins…if you want to see where it ends…you can see my countdown here..

And if you want to contact me – it won’t work to contact me on facebook. Try emailing me, commenting on this blog, calling me, or even sending me a letter.

 

http://99daysoffreedom.com/vago-damitio

Matter and Matters

Sometimes (actually most of the time) it’s far too easy to get caught up in this world of matter. This world of financial responsibilities, bills, wars, rumours of wars, and again financial matters – most especially money. Money, money, money, money, money, money, money.

laopirate

It’s what makes this ridiculous world go around. Right?

Nope.  Dead wrong. All the money can disappear and the world will keep spinning. All the bills can go unpaid and the world will keep spinning. All the credit can be ruined, all the bank accounts emptied, and all the money sucked up by a giant rainbow eating typhoon and still this old world will go on round and round.

What keeps the world spinning? Gravity. Strong force. Electromagnetic influences we don’t understand. Maybe even love if you are a poet or a certain kind of mystic, but money has abso-fucking-lutely nothing to do with the world going round.

Money has been making my head spin lately – it’s been affecting the way I see the world, it’s been affecting my moods, and almost certainly as a result – it’s been affecting my health and my relationships.  And – money has been quite effectively eluding me as I do everything I can to get my hands around it.  Money does seem to work like that – the more you need it, the more elusive it becomes.

Changes to Google algorhythms finally seemed to have cut off my ability to make money on a regular basis with my travel websites. Google banning me from the adsense program (and despite my inquiries – they won’t tell me what it was I did) closed another door.

Ebay has been a good source of income to my family – but recently I’ve been hit by scammers and frivolous returns – Ebay makes money from buyers, not sellers – so the whole system is set up to protect those who transfer their cash to ebay – which has created many great opportunities for scammers to buy things and then file frivolous claims. They get their money back, they keep the items, and they file insurance claims on damage – Ebay looks on as sellers get ripped off. There are so many sellers that I am sure those of us getting ripped off are considered acceptable collatoral damage.

I thought that getting a space in an antique mall would be a good way to move away from Ebay – and I found an antique mall that seemed to be moving in a great direction – but as soon as we got in the owner started going in self destructive directions by alienating  vendors and making other reputation ruining moves – soon we were just one of a handful of vendors hanging on in a huge emptying space. For the four months we were there, we paid $1000+ in rent and commissions while earning only about $650 and losing about $1800 in inventory – do the math and you can quickly see that it wasn’t working.  We bartered for another space in a different mall and have had about the same results.

Tables at the flea market in Eugene were another angle that I hit – with more success than in the antique mall – but the markets are infrequent and the crowds are very hit or miss. Tomorrow is the last market until autumn – we’ll go back, but we’ll miss the one tomorrow because tomorrow is also Father’s Day and here in Reedsport, the last day of the Annual Chainsaw Carving Contest – which is important for us – see below.

The best solution seemed to be opening a little shop of our own. For less than the cost of the antique mall space – I was able to rent a small shop in Reedsport right on Highway 101. Reedsport Antiques is now open.  We’re not making money hand over fist – in fact – for the hours I’m putting in, I’m definitely earning less than I’ve ever earned – but – in the first two weeks, we’ve earned enough to almost cover the rent – which is better than we did in any antique malls.  To cover the added expense of opening and running a shop I hoped that the last flea market, an estate sale we helped run in California, listing a large number of valuable items on Ebay for bargain prices, and shop sales would help – as I wrote above – all of them failed and when you count on money or need money from a source – that’s about the time that money runs away from you screaming.  It’s frustrating.

And of course, it doesn ‘t matter. It’s hard to keep that in mind. It’s hard to remember that. My $43k in student loans are deferred and growing through negative amortization. If I don’t pay them – the world won’t end. Our shop and all my hours are almost paying for the shop – but food and rent and insurance premiums need to get paid for from somewhere – and if they don’t – well, it won’t be the end of the world either.

Money matters…in this world of matter. We need it and the more we need it, the more it runs from us. That’s why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. There is a very real and very not understood law of cause and effect with money – which could very well be the reason we are put here, the challenge we are given to overcome, or could be nothing at all.  All of this could just be a dark comedy we created for ourselves and which is going to play itself out while the world keeps spinning and then be forgotten while the world keeps spinning as we disappear from the universe and return to the nothing we came from.

Money doesn’t matter.  I figured that out at one point. It’s time to figure that out again.

The Scammer – A Work of Fiction

The internet has made the world far too easy to exploit. Scammers have risen from the gutters to the auction sites and free classified sites where they prey on those struggling to feed their families or those struggling to pay their power bills. Young men in Edgecombe and Nash Counties who previously might have gone to UNC Greensboro or Falls Road Baptist Church now take to the internet with their new form of American social network self-importance and narcicistic facebook-esque hubris. They use brains that could otherwise be used for the good of the many for the good of their own ego and nothing else. When they are insulted, they take guns from their bleach blonde divorcee mothers and go on shooting sprees at their high schools or universities.

They leave their mother’s covered in blood among the wiggs she once thought made her stylish and they kill their classmates – or they simply pray on those who are trying to take care of their families.

Zachary Mitchell was one such boy. A boy who played basketball, loved the Tarheels, and made a little extra money scamming people on the internet. It was all so easy…until it wasn’t any longer. Then, suddenly, overnight – he found himself in a nightmare where $178 cost him everything he’d ever loved – and his entire future.

Before he recognized he’d fucked with the wrong person online, his older brothers were both dead -everyone had said the twins would do everything together – and they were right – even in dying. Witnesses saw a slender man come from the pine trees. Hiding within his own shadow was how one said it – but other’s thought it was only his imagination. His mother was next – the one who had worked so hard for him, defended him from his alchoholic father, and ultimately the one who lost all she had worked for so tirelessly, because her son was a scammer.

Here’s a bit of advice for narcicistic scammers…don’t fuck with people who live in violent third world countries. Don’t steal from those who are already struggling to make it. And don’t fuck with a bear when it has cubs to take care of. Might as well add – don’t make $178 the cost for everything you love.

No one really knows what happened to his family. Some say the boy went postal and killed them all before he skipped town and disappeared in the woods. Others say that he picked the wrong mark and paid the price. Still others say that he was dragged straight into hell by the slender man. No one really knows. No one really cares. He was a piece of shit anyway and deserved what he got because he only thought of himself and no one else.

The Real Problem with Islam – Economics of Interruption

There has been a lot written about Islam and since 911, about the problems with Islam. I’m not her for those, I’m here to bring up another issue. Economics.

Good Muslims who practice the 5 pillars of Islam are either poor or rich – there is no in between. The reason is simple – while it is nice to be reminded of your relationship with God five times every day – it makes it pretty hard to accomplish anything when you need to wake up 30 minutes before dawn, ablute (ritual washing), and then say your prayers. Then, you have to do the same thing four more times through the day. Close your shop, go to the mosque (or not) and wash and say your prayers. It’s not like washing once in the morning does the trick because if you fart or piss or any number of other things – you  must ablute again.

If you have sex, your body is considered dirty and you must do a much more in depth washing before talking to God. If a woman is menstruating, she is not allowed to talk to God – she is considered dirty. This and other rules encourage a negative attitude and perception towards the body and towards women in general.

Try to get a taxi during prayer time in a Muslim country. Good luck unless you get a bad Muslim, who generally are the ones who are willing to cheat and steal from you.  Want to know why there is so much despair and turmoil in Muslim countries? Because people are waiting for God to answer their thirty-five prayers per week, they are wondering why they are being punished, why their children are being punished, why their lives are harder than those of the west…

It’s simple – Islam interrupts innovation. It gets in the way of industry. It breaks your concentration. It makes you tired and grumpy. And then…you are forced to endure a month of no food or drink during daylight hours during which you lose the thread even further.  Ramadan is more than a celebration of God, it is a time of short tempers and fist fights in the street.

Generally, it is not a religion of tolerance or understanding. It is a religion of “Do it my way or die by the sword” and while there are many great souls who come from or have found truth in Islam – there are far more who condemn every non-Muslim to hell and death -either by the hand of God or through the hands of disenchanted youth who can’t understand why God is punishing them and their devout parents.

It is a religion that encourages laziness in the world through giving the ultimate excuse “Inchallah” If God Wills it  or “KanK’raa” It is written.

An Arab friend once told me a joke, the Arabs invented zero and have had nothing ever since. Funny, but more to the point would be that the Arabs invented Islam (which is perfectly suitable to a 7th century nomadic desert lifestyle of trade and warfare but which doesn’t work very well anywhere else) and have been waiting for God to answer their prayers ever since. It must be frustrating. Like wating for Godot.

I’m sure there are examples of extraordinary people who have made it work – just like there are extraordinary people with no legs who become skiers or track athletes – humans are remarkable – but for the most part – it appears to be a huge set of hurdles placed in front of normal people who would probably have a hard enough time getting by if they weren’t forced into a religion created attention deficit disorder situation and unable to do any task  without being interrupted and forced to stop.

 

A Memento of Henri Bergson – Christopher Nolan’s Memento

A Memento of Henri Bergson

by Vago Damitio

You may think that you are free, but you are not. You may think that each action you take is an unrestrained choice, but it is not. You ( and everyone else) are incarcerated in a prison that controls every action you take and every decision you make. Even the decision to be reading these words was already determined before you had read the title of this article.

You can stop right now….but obviously that is not a decision you were able to make, because you are still reading. I don’t want you to harbor any illusions, I am just as much a prisoner as you are. As I write these words, a series of circumstances have led me to a point that cannot be returned from. The sum total of my associations and memories combined with the intensity of my feelings about them have led me to this moment, as I sit and write these words, and while it may feel like this is voluntary, the truth is that I really have no choice in the matter.

How can this be? Just as you can stop reading, I can stop writing…but we have not. We have not been able to stop even though the idea was suggested to us both. We continue on. I am not alone in suggesting that memory has a much stronger hold upon the actions we take in the present than most of us care to admit. Philosophers have debated the case of free will. Thomas Hobbes and David Hume suggested that if one were not being coerced by an outside agent that one was exercising free will. This is a just and necessary argument. It is just because, as John Locke suggested later, if one can pause long enough to think about the effects of one’s actions, one is able to make a choice. It is necessary because if individuals are not held accountable for their actions, there is no basis for order in any society.

Necessary and just…agreed, but are they correct? What if the judgment that is made in the pause Locke speaks of is influenced by the perception of the individual making the judgement? What if even the ability to pause and consider an action before making a judgement is predetermined within the individual by the way that the individual views past experience and current events? If this is the case, than, just as you are still reading these words and I am still writing these words, other actions by other individuals may actually be predetermined and potentially mapped out by the most fascist of all prison wardens….memory.

The philosopher Henri Bergson said in his book Matter and Memory that

It may be said that we have no grasp of the future without an
equal and corresponding outlook over the past, that the onrush
of our activity makes a void behind it in which memories flow,
and that memory is thus the reverberation in the sphere of
consciousness, of the indetermination of our will.

Consider that for a moment, since you are reading this. I will do the same, since I am writing this. I am not certain, but I think that it implies that not only are we influenced in our current decisions by the events of the past, but that we let current events reshape the events of the past, thus, the past that we are basing our decisions upon, is actually variable. This confounds the issue even further. To return to the situation that we currently find ourselves in, are we reading/writing this because of past events or reshaping past events to justify our reading/writing of this essay? In either case, who is actually in charge and making the decision to read/write this essay?

At the risk of disappointing you, I must confess here, that I do not have an answer. This whole series of events has been conjured up by a viewing of a film directed by Christopher Nolan, Memento. In Memento, such questions are suggested and because of an earlier exposure to the works of Henri Bergson, they have come to light in this essay. Memento is the story of a man who seeks to avenge the rape/murder of his wife. This is compounded a condition he has called anterograde amnesia which does not allow him to build new memories. His memories are fixed in the past. Or so he thinks.

The film starts from the present and traces events backwards using the point of view of the main character, Leonard, a man who uses notes, Polaroid photos, and tattoos to remember what he is doing and who he meets. Things are not as they seen for Leonard. His condition makes him vulnerable to exploitation. In the end (which confusingly is actually the beginning), Leonard is forced to confront the fact that things may not have been the way he thought they were. He is forced in short, to ask himself if what he thought was the past which had driven him to the present, was really what he had thought it was. He is forced to consider his actions and whether they were justified based on his memories. Leonard, is lucky though, he only needs to remember to tattoo a justification upon himself and it becomes reality to him.

Can you find justification for your actions?