Saturday, June 25, 2016

Brexit, Ad-blocking and the Blaring Trumpet.

What are you seeing from up there, Mr. Crow?
Two news stories this morning:
  1. Users of the internet can buy ad-blocking software that eliminates most advertising from showing up on their mobile devices. If we all bought the software, ad revenues that pay for the production of what we use on the internet would dry up and Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. would disappear, along with a myriad of research sources, amusement sites, etc. etc. In short, the death of the internet unless its consumers would be willing to pay large fees to maintain it.       We’ve long been able to watch nearly-free television because the pesky ads paid for it for us. Same principle.
  2. Britain has decided to exit the European Union. A lot of the Brexit hype stressed the economic and legal strictures the union put on Britain and the perception that such “globalization” benefits the wealthy and powerful and impoverishes the rest, and that softened borders makes it too easy for undesirables to get into the country.

Both stories are gloomy. They remind us that our unhappy marriage to corporate wealth and power is insoluble unless we’re willing to give up stuff we cling to like barnacles on a ship’s hull. The protestors against fossil-fuel dependency have to grind their teeth at the fully-justified accusations that they drive cars, fly in airplanes, use petroleum-sourced products routinely. We surely know that if the production and use of fossil fuels were made illegal right now, our lives as we know them would tank, bite the biscuit, kick the bucket, be flushed down the toilet.
      At present, only corporate or communal wealth and power is capable of building a car, manufacturing a smart phone, running a communications network, producing the necessary supplies of food, drugs, consumer goods and leisure opportunities that we either need or desire.
      Our local Lion’s Club is not about to take over the production of computers if IBM and Apple are defuncted. Churches and mosques, temples and synagogues would build lousy roads even if they were willing to attempt it.
      A commentator said that if we give people the choice of doing what’s right or doing what’s free, most of us will choose free . . . virtually always. No matter how much we rail against the tyranny of corporate wealth and power, we are bound to neglect the fact that it was our needs and wants that made them what they are, to forget who it is that fulfills our dreams. Let’s look to our own ethics first.
      We don’t want to know that the problems of climate change, earth degradation, wars and political conflict, etc., etc., are products of ours and our family’s and neighbours’ choices.
      Donald Trump is promising to take back America; his backers love the phrase but I’d venture to guess that most of them (including Trump himself) haven’t the faintest idea what that noble-sounding phrase actually means in practice. Brexit has started Britain on a road to “taking back their country.”        
     They will undoubtedly find in the end that “taking back the country” in the way they’ve visualized through rose-coloured glasses will be the equivalent of the proverbial “shooting oneself in the foot!”
      To my mind, there’s only one viable way to own both the resources necessary to provide us with the goods and services we need while keeping control over the excesses corporate wealth and power currently tend to admit, encourage. Shareholders guide the actions of corporate wealth and power, presumably, and if the shareholders are all of us—as is the case with SaskEnergy, SaskPower, SaskTel, for instance—we share in the direction setting and in the blame when mistakes are made. In such an environment, the need for a Brexit, for ad-blocking, for Donald Trump and his ilk wouldn’t arise to fuel our rage and imagined persecution.
       We should be able to kick out the management (our elected government) if the efficiency AND/OR the ethics of our corporations don’t pass muster!
      Unfortunately, private corporations now own the media, by and large, and we’ve been cajoled and “tricked” into choosing the governments that suit the wishes of private corporations even as we rail against them.
      There are plenty of photos of our real
enemy, people. They hang right above the sink in each of our bathrooms.
      For God’s sake, READ SOMETHING.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Hooligan Temptation

Creation is hard work, destruction is easy

Gangs of Russian, English (and other) hooligans are fighting it out in the streets at the Euro Cup of Soccer in France taking place right now, Hooliganism has become an adjunct of soccer, it seems, and its participants rehearse for battle, set out with mischief-making in mind, and equip themselves to practice their deviltry, the soccer game being little more than an opening for a greater goal—the perpetration of as much mayhem as possible.
      But hooliganism wasn’t invented by soccer fans. Free Dictionary includes a couple of definitions of the word, what it’s come to mean: reckless or malicious behavior that causes discomfort or annoyance in others; the termination of something by causing so much damage to it that it cannot be repaired or no longer exists. I would probably add, “the organized creation of straw men in order to experience the longed for, orgasmic high that comes from the act of attacking and burning them down publicly.”
      I think we all recognize the biology of hooliganism intuitively. It’s not only the good deed, the making of something wonderful that can bring about the physical and emotional euphoria our minds and bodies crave. Euphoria can be had—given the appropriate circumstances—from the destruction of the good deeds and wonderful inventions that others or we have created. Typically, we attempt to escape this fact by assigning blame or praise—as the case may be—to God and the Holy Spirit or to the devil who “made me do it.”
      I’m sorry, folks, but it’s all built into us by the very creative process that made us. Fight or Flight are defensive mechanisms for our protection, the adrenaline that fuels them lives on even when danger has to be invented—the straw man. It’s why we have games like hockey and football, where danger and battle are replicated in an attempt to achieve biological euphoria, even if only vicariously. But direct participation is limited and in the need to be a part of it, fandom emerges, and it doesn’t take much beyond Psychology 101 to predict that hooliganism will break out among those for whom the vicarious experience no longer totally satisfies.
      But even if soccer hooliganism can be controlled by policing and public indignation, there exists a hooliganism that’s far more sinister, that threatens—particularly in peaceful times—to erupt and grow to uncontrollable proportions. It can be characterized as it was in a bumper sticker during the Vietnam protests as “Have patience, you say? To hell with that. I’ve got a gun and I’m gonna kill something!” (My paraphrase; that would make a far-too-long bumper sticker.) The NAZI vendetta against Jews, Gypsies and gays was hooliganism developed to its logical and predictable conclusion; the diatribes and threats against the Notley government in Alberta is the thin edge of hooliganism showing itself; the rise of Donald Trump as a legitimate (politically) candidate for president of the USA is a result of neglecting, nurturing and then legitimizing hooliganism. The method of Trump hooliganism is “ the termination of something by causing so much damage to it that it cannot be repaired or no longer exists. The support Trump is getting from the National Rifle Association is completely fitting; the very act of purchasing and owning an automatic weapon is the entertainment of the possibility of hooliganism.
      ISIS, to my mind, epitomizes well the concept of hooliganism. There comes a point where achieving euphoria through acts of mayhem becomes habitual. There comes a time when—as Shakespeare’s Macbeth puts it—“I am in blood stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er.” When you’ve beheaded ten innocent men and women for a video, pushed 20 homosexual men off the roof of a tall building, burned a pilot in a cage and videotaped it, what likelihood is there that you will say, “Oh, I’m sorry. I was wrong. I’ll make it up to you and mend my ways.” Returning would be as tedious (read, impossible) as going all the way.
      ISIS is a criminal gang; we need to think about it as massive, organized crime rather than as a war of ideals. The Mafia, ISIS, Abu Sayyaf are not, in the end, ideologically or religiously driven. They’re Hooligans who’ve stepped in blood so far that the way back has become impossible. In for a penny; in for a pound.
      But here’s my ultimate concern: when followers of Christ and other prophets of peace, love and non-violence begin to compromise their own principles, begin to ignore, condone, excuse or applaud the hooligans, begin to take their euphoria from words and deeds of belligerence and de-struction, the way back is dangerously close to becoming impossible. When Christians start “packing,” I fear for tomorrow’s children. I fear for all minorities. I fear for women. I fear for the witness of the church, the witness of peace-loving Muslims and Jews, the witness of gentle-minded Hindus and Buddhists.
      Have we stepped in so far that returning would be as tedious as going all the way? 
     I sincerely hope not.