node created 2019/09/29
[..] being a weirdo with eccentricities and preferences wasn’t something that demanded medication and diagnosis and labels and highly precise rules for what’s normal and what’s not. You could be awkward. It wasn’t a big deal.

Now, that is no longer true. People are keeping score starting at five years old, boxing kids into limited futures of medication and unrelenting demands for strict behavioral protocols.

So, what changed? The schools. The doctors. The kids didn’t change. The adults did. The trend was to demand more from children, and thus force them into tighter constraints in adulthood. The trend was to try and force a society to do more with less, and to weed out the weak.

Kids have to do homework in kindergarten, and that is bullshit. They shouldn’t have homework until middle school, really. They should just be kids. They shouldn’t have anxiety about grades when they’re little. They should be permitted to exist as tiny little humans, getting a first look at a gigantic world. Up until age ten, they should just be exposed to what it means to be a person.
Ads are art to the same degree that cannibalism is gastronomy.
On the third day I was there, this guy who had picked me up in the Jeep, a corporal who I was ultimately going to replace, he and I were in the battalion intelligence section, we were sent down to the tractor park, the amphibious tractor park to meet a bunch of detainees. It was our responsibility to take care prisoners, and detainees were a classification of civilians, they were not combatants; they could be detained for questioning, which is why they were called detainees.

And Jimmy and I went down to the tractor park and two tractors came in, they had a whole bunch of Vietnamese up on top high flat-topped vehicles about eight or nine feet tall, and as the tractors wheeled into the park the Marines up on top immediately began hurling these people off, and they were bound hand and foot, so they had no way of breaking their falls, and they were old men, women, children, no young men, and I couldn't believe these guys were treating these people this way, and I turned to Jimmy and said, I grabbed him by the arm and said "What are those guys doing? We're supposed to be helping these people." And Jimmy turned to me and he looked at my hands on his arm, I sort of took them off, and he said "Ehrhart, you better keep the mouth shut until you know what's going on around here." I think it was at that point that I realized things were not quite what I was expecting.

It went downhill from there, and again I can't even begin to explain in the space of time that you have all the things that went into it, but I began to understand, it became obvious that the enemy was the very people in these villages around us, and we were in a very heavily populated area at that time, they were the enemy, or at least the enemy was out there somewhere and we couldn't tell one from another. And day after day our patrols went out and we ran into snipers and mines and snipers and mines and snipers and mines. I saw four armed soldiers the first eight months I was in Vietnam, and yet our battalion during that same period of time sustained 75 mining and sniping incidents per month, over half of them resuling in casualties. This is for a unit of about a thousand men. But there was no one to fight back at, and you begin to think, these people are the enemy, they're all the enemy. And then you go through villages and, you know, you get sniped at and so you call an airstrike in on the village and the whole village goes up, or you go through a place and you search it, and you burn houses and blow them up. The common perception, the notion I had when I was in high school was it was the Vietcong terrorized the Vietnamese population, forced them to fight against the Americans on pain of death. What I began to understand in Vietnam was that they didn't need to do things like that, all the had to do was let a Marine patrol go through a village and whatever was left of that village, they had all the recruits that they needed. I began to understand why the Vietnamese didn't greet me with open arms, why they in fact hated me, but of course that didn't change the fact that my friends were getting killed and injured every day and the only place that you could focus your own anger and fear was on those civilians who were there, and so it was this self-perpetuating mechanism: the longer that we stayed in Vietnam the more Vietcong there were, because we created them, we produced them.

None of that distilled itself into the clear kind of expression that I'm presenting now. What I began to understand within days and which became patently clear within months was that what was going on here was not what I had been told, what was going on here was nuts, and I wanted to get out. I knew if I was still alive on March the 5th 1968 they'd stick me on an airplane in Danang we used to call it the freedom bird and I could fly away and forget the whole thing. Turned out not to be quite so easy to forget it, but that was the notion, and certainly my last eight to nine months I ceased to think, I quite literally ceased to think about why I was there, or what I was doing. The sole purpose for my being in Vietnam at that point was to stay alive until I could get out.

And the reason for that is, you know, the kinds of questions that began to present themselves were just.. the questions themselves were ugly and I didn't want to know the answers. It's like banging on a door, you knock on a door, and the door opens slightly and behind that door it's dark and there's loud noises coming like there's wild animals in there or something. And you peer into the darknees and you can't see what's there but you can all this ugly stuff.. do you want to step into that room? No way, you just sorta back out quietly, pull the door shut behind you, and walk away from it. And that's what was going on, those questions, the questions themselves were too ugly to even ask, let alone try to deal with the answers.
The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.
There are more than a few people, especially among the cultural élite, who still publicly regret the fact that Germany sent Einstein packing, without realizing that it was a much greater crime to kill little Hans Cohn from around the corner, even though he was no genius.
"Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil"
Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don't even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich
"Prison Song"
An obedient population is extremely vulnerable to authority figures. The whole point of democracy is to create stability by removing that single point of failure, by involving so many people in everything that crazy or malicious individuals can not easily gain excessive power, and democracy is under no circumstances compatible with obedience: Either you think critically and vote in your own interest, or you are obedient and vote how the dictator tells you to. It's impossible to have a population that critically evaluates candidates and selects the best one and that also follows orders without regard to their own evaluation of that order.
There is a goal, but no way; but what we call a way is hesitation.
"Reflections on Sin, Suffering, Hope, and the True Way", #26
The march away from language continues. Facial expressions may be a rich form of communication but the kinds of ideas you can communicate with them are severely restricted. Literacy was hard won and now it seems like we're letting it go.
Arms are instruments of ill omen. When one is compelled to use them, it is best to do so without relish. There is no glory in victory, and to glorify it despite this is to exult in the killing of men. When great numbers of people are killed, one should weep over them with sorrow. When victorious in war, one should observe mourning rites.
If you are a writer for a specific nation or a specific race, then fuck you.
To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. 'Patriotism' is its cult... Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one's country which is not part of one's love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.
So what I’m proposing is that finance, and indeed consumer Internet companies and all kinds of other people using giant computers, are trying to become Maxwell’s demons in an information network. The easiest way to understand it is to think about an insurance company. So an American health insurance company, before big computing came along, would hire actuaries to set rates. But the idea of, on a person-by-person basis, attempting to decide who should be in the plan so that you could only insure the people who need it the least on an individual basis, that wasn’t really viable. But with big computing and the ability to compute huge correlations with big data, it becomes irresistible. And so what you do is you start to say, "I’m going to..." — you’re like Maxwell’s demon with the little door — "I’m going to let the people who are cheap to insure through the door, and the people who are expensive to insure have to go the other way until I’ve created this perfect system that’s statistically guaranteed to be highly profitable.”

And so what’s wrong with that is that you can’t ever really get ahead. What you’re really doing then is you’re radiating waste heat. I mean, for yourself you’ve created this perfect little business, but you’ve radiated all the risk, basically, to the society at large. And if the society was infinitely large and could absorb it, it would work. There’s nothing intrinsically faulty about your scheme except for the assumption that the society can absorb the risk. And so what we’ve seen with big computing in finance is a repeated occurrence of people using a big computer to radiate risk away from themselves until the society can’t absorb it. And then there’s some giant bailout and some huge breakage. And so it happened with Long-Term Capital [Management] in the ’90s. It happened with Enron, and we saw a repeat of it in the events leading to the Great Recession in the late aughts. And we’ll just see it happening again and again until it’s recognized that this pattern is just not sustainable.
The idea that a majority of gun owners are going to rise up and then support human rights is a fantasy of right-wing Americans who currently don't support human rights.

Functioning democracies are not propped up by guns. They are propped up by institutions heavily supported by the public. Institutions such as independent government agencies, independent courts, and free media outlets.
Believing in progress does not mean believing that any progress has yet been made.
The Third Notebook, December 4, 1917
When daily life requires turning a blind eye to the falsity of countless things we’re told, it weakens the power of language to sort truth from fiction.
You don’t know what order with freedom means! You only know what revolt against oppression is! You don’t know that the rod, discipline, violence, the state and government can only be sustained because of you and because of your lack of socially creative powers that develop order within liberty!
"And in her ears the little Seashells, the timble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming on on the shore of her unsleeping mind."

So, even as she rests, Mildred is surrounded by noise, by constant entertainment, just like she is during the day with her t.v. walls. Montag's society uses these seashells for two purposes. The first is to control information, and hence, thought and potential rebellion. If they are the ones controlling what information you get, they can tell you whatever they want, giving only one perspective, and painting a rosy picture so that people are never discontented. They also use the shells to relay important information. For example, when Montag escapes at the end, they send a message through all of the seashells for everyone to look out for him, and to turn him in if they see him. They automatically have a huge civilian army at hand, through the use of the seashells. Secondly, if people are constantly "plugged in," they don't have any spare time for their minds to be on their own. If people never have silence, they never think, and so never have the kind of discontented thought that come from meditation.

Mildred stays "tuned in" so much that she really has no mind of her own. In this sense, she is a perfect citizen of her society. I hope that these thoughts helped; good luck!
The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.
Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.
Caution in handling generally accepted opinions that claim to explain whole trends of history is especially important for the historian of modern times, because the last century has produced an abundance of ideologies that pretend to be keys to history but are actually nothing but desperate efforts to escape responsibility.
"The Origins of Totalitarianism"
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.
If we winter this one out, we can summer anywhere.
To them, violence, power, cruelty, were the supreme capacities of men who had definitely lost their place in the universe and were much too proud to long for a power theory that would safely bring them back and reintegrate them into the world. They were satisfied with blind partisanship in anything that respectable society had banned, regardless of theory or content, and they elevated cruelty to a major virtue because it contradicted society’s humanitarian and liberal hypocrisy.
"The Origins of Totalitarianism"
The story goes that Thamus said many things to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts, which it would take too long to repeat; but when they came to the letters, “This invention, O king,” said Theuth, “will make the Egyptians wiser and will improve their memories; for it is an elixir of memory and wisdom that I have discovered.” But Thamus replied, “Most ingenious Theuth, one man has the ability to beget arts, but the ability to judge of their usefulness or harmfulness to their users belongs to another; and now you, who are the father of letters, have been led by your affection to ascribe to them a power the opposite of that which they really possess.

For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise.
Phaedrus, 274e
Shitting on a canvas and calling it experimental so it will mean something gives us some nice information about people, but no useful information about art.
Idealism, foolish or heroic, always springs from some individual decision and conviction and is subject to experience and argument. The fanaticism of totalitarian movements, contrary to all forms of idealism, breaks down the moment the movement leaves its fanaticized followers in the lurch, killing in them any remaining conviction that might have survived the collapse of the movement itself. But within the organizational framework of the movement, so long as it holds together, the fanaticized members can be reached by neither experience nor argument; identification with the movement and total conformism seem to have destroyed the very capacity for experience, even if it be as extreme as torture or the fear of death.
"Origins of Totalitarianism"
Predestination was doomed from the start.
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.
Some bad companies: no big deal, no one's making you stay, leave if you don't like it.

Some bad unions: all unions are awful and the solution is to not have unions.
The writing of history is largely a process of diversion. Most historical accounts distract attention from their secret influences behind great events. The few histories that escape this restrictive process vanish into obscurity through obvious processes. Destruction of as many copies as possible, burying the too revealing accounts in ridicule, ignoring them in the centers of education, insuring that they are not quoted elsewhere.
Working on mass surveilance systems because the tools are technically exciting is akin to using molecular gastronomy to produce a portion of human feces.

Gold Leaves

Lo! I am come to autumn,
When all the leaves are gold;
Grey hairs and golden leaves cry out
The year and I are old.

In youth I sought the prince of men,
Captain in cosmic wars,
Our Titan, even the weeds would show
Defiant, to the stars.

But now a great thing in the street
Seems any human nod,
Where shift in strange democracy
The million masks of God.

In youth I sought the golden flower
Hidden in wood or wold,
But I am come to autumn,
When all the leaves are gold.
The easy possibility to write letters must - seen theoretically - have brought a terrible disruption of the souls into the world. It is communication with ghosts, and not just with the ghost of the receiver, but with one's own ghost as well, which develops under the hand in the letter one is writing, or even in a series of letters, where on letter substantiates the other and can call on it as witness. How could the idea come up that humans can communicate with each other through letters! One can think of a person that is far away, or touch a person that is close by, everything else is above the power of humans. But writing letters means to bare oneself in front of the ghosts, which they are greedily waiting for. Written kisses don't arrive at their place, but get drunk up by the ghosts on the way. Because of this plentiful food they multiply so outrageously. Humanity is feeling that and fighting against it, it has, to disable the ghostly between humans, and to achieve the natural communication, the peace of souls, invented the train, the car, the airplane, but it's too late, apparently they are inventions made while falling, the opponent is so much calmer and stronger, and invented after mail the telegraph, the telephone, wireless telegraphy. The ghosts won't starve, but we will perish.
letter to Milena Jesenská (March 1922)
Small minds decay! Average minds delay! Great minds teach All-One today!
In the Hoover/FBI days, we had a chance - the Operation Snow Whites' and so on. Now, however, there is no such chance: the NSA has far, far too many safe-guards in place to protect itself, and has infiltrated - and controls, directly - too many so-called 'peace movements' and other groups that might have a chance at awakening the sheeple. We must be more diligent, and with greater resolve to fight back now, than ever before in history - because we are at the cusp of allowing a seriously evil influence over the world to have its will - whereas in the 60's and 70's, people were willing to stand up and fight, now hardly anyone will. At all.
Dig within. Within is the wellspring of good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig.
[..] the world today is not the world of yesterday. A capitalist oligarchy runs the world and forces us to consume in order to keep the gears of this rotten society on track. As such, the biggest market for video game consumption today is the mobile one. It is a market of poor souls forced to compulsively consume digital content in order to forget the misery of their everyday life, commute, or just any other brief free moment they have that they are not using to produce goods or services for the ruling class. These individuals need to keep focusing on their video games (because not doing so will fill them with tremendous existential angst), so they go as far as spending money on them to extend their experience, and their preferred way of doing so is through in-app purchases and virtual currency.

But what if someone were to find a way to edit the saved games and assign the items and currency without effort? That would be terrible, because it would help players consume the content much faster, and therefore run out of it sooner than expected. If that happens, they will have nothing that prevents them from thinking, and the tremendous agony of realizing their own irrelevance would again take over their life.

No, we definitely do not want that to happen, so let's see how to encrypt savegames and protect the world order.
Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.
I’m surprised how indifferent so many feel about the US surveillance scandal. Look up Germany’s history. I have spoken to people who lived in Nazi and Eastern Socialist Germany - the spying on your life by the State is one thing, but what it does to your friends and family in the long run is beyond anything you can imagine right now. You lose trust in people you love, every conversation becomes half lie/ half truth. It becomes part of EVERYBODY’s lives. Nobody is an exception. Ignore music, games or whatever you do right now and research the topic.
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
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.
not to become tired
but to hold out your hand
to the miracle
gently, as though to a bird
If you go to a desert, you will hear this mysterious voice: Be wise, protect your forests!
Too clever is dumb.
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
They who have put out the people's eyes reproach them of their blindness.
It is very sad then that so many children are hurried along and not given time to think about themselves. People say to them when they think that they have been playing long enough: “You are no longer a child. You must begin to do something.” But although playing is doing nothing, you are really doing something when you play; you are thinking about yourself. Many children play in the wrong way. They make work out of play. They not only seem to be doing something, they really are doing something. They are imitating the grown-ups around them who are always doing as much instead of as little as possible. And they are often encouraged to play in this way by the grown-ups. And they are not learning to be themselves.
The world is not sliding, but galloping into a new transnational dystopia. This development has not been properly recognized outside of national security circles. It has been hidden by secrecy, complexity and scale. The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen. The internet is a threat to human civilization.

These transformations have come about silently, because those who know what is going on work in the global surveillance industry and have no incentives to speak out. Left to its own trajectory, within a few years, global civilization will be a postmodern surveillance dystopia, from which escape for all but the most skilled individuals will be impossible.