Through The Static

July 20, 2008

CHINA: One Nation, Under God(‘s Eye)

look!  its fun AND creepy!

look! it's fun AND creepy!

Talk about the Panopticon Effect, version 10.0.  The panopticon effect (which has been cited by historical theorists like Foucault), in shorthand, is like this: let’s say you’re building a prison yard. But you’ve got a problem.  So many prisoners (can Schwarzeneggar hear a “woot”?), but not enough personnel to police them (“BOOOO!” says ze gov’nah).

it always feels like, somebodys watching meeeeee... and ive got no privacy... whoooa~!

it always feels like, somebody's watching meeeeee... and i've got no privacy... whoooa~!

So you build a high tower in the center of the prison yard.  The tower essentially towers above the entire space, so the dude chilling high up in the tower can see all.  With its span of windows on all sides, the dude can see all without being seen by anyone.  This dude has a God’s Eye view of everything.

Of course, the dude in the panoptic tower can’t see EVERYBODY at the SAME TIME — but since the prisoners don’t know when they’re being watched or who’s being watched when, the logic behind this is that they begin to police themselves.

Security cameras and ittle bittle rittle mirrors also play this role, from streetlights to casinos to your local 7-11.  But you already knew this.

Anyhoo, it looks as though China’s taking it to a whole new level, creating a high-tech police state crowned with an All-Seeing Eye — city by city.  And is coming to a theater near you. It’s basically how technological tools of “liberation” like Facebook, cell phones, and ze interwebs are being used against us as tools of repression and control.

EYE SHALL ERADICATE YOUR FREEDOM WITH MAH CUTENESS.

Kawaii for SaLe: EYE SHALL ERADICATE YOUR FREEDOM WITH MAH CUTENESS.

It’s a super long article, so I’ll try to pluck the juicy bits.  But when y’all have time, y’all should read more about it in terms of how it’s already bleeding onto our shores.  Por ejemplo — our passports, the new versions, have microchips implanted in them, so that you can be globally tracked.

From Rolling Stone magazine:

China’s All-Seeing Eye

With the help of U.S. defense contractors, China is building the prototype for a high-tech police state. It is ready for export.

ShenZen, China is being WATCHED... and was WATCHING YOU!

ShenZen, China is being WATCHED... and is WATCHING YOU!

Y’all need some context?

Thirty years ago, the city of Shenzhen didn’t exist. Back in those days, it was a string of small fishing villages and collectively run rice paddies, a place of rutted dirt roads and traditional temples. That was before the Communist Party chose it — thanks to its location close to Hong Kong’s port — to be China’s first “special economic zone,” one of only four areas where capitalism would be permitted on a trial basis. The theory behind the experiment was that the “real” China would keep its socialist soul intact while profiting from the private-sector jobs and industrial development created in Shenzhen. The result was a city of pure commerce, undiluted by history or rooted culture — the crack cocaine of capitalism. It was a force so addictive to investors that the Shenzhen experiment quickly expanded, swallowing not just the surrounding Pearl River Delta, which now houses roughly 100,000 factories, but much of the rest of the country as well. Today, Shenzhen is a city of 12.4 million people, and there is a good chance that at least half of everything you own was made here: iPods, laptops, sneakers, flatscreen TVs, cellphones, jeans, maybe your desk chair, possibly your car and almost certainly your printer. Hundreds of luxury condominiums tower over the city; many are more than 40 stories high, topped with three-story penthouses. Newer neighborhoods like Keji Yuan are packed with ostentatiously modern corporate campuses and decadent shopping malls.

Eeep!  A gentrification virus?!!  Turns out, it’s much bigger than that.  And badder.

Eeeep! Okie, mebbe not THAT big... or bad. Or Big. ::cross references database::

Um… but it can be purty ominous.  How so?

This has not happened by accident. China today, epitomized by Shenzhen’s transition from mud to megacity in 30 years, represents a new way to organize society. Sometimes called “market Stalinism,” it is a potent hybrid of the most powerful political tools of authoritarian communism — central planning, merciless repression, constant surveillance — harnessed to advance the goals of global capitalism.

see that black bulb-y thing hovering at the top? yeppers, that's just one of the many millions of cameras implanted into and policing the city.

Now, as China prepares to showcase its economic advances during the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, Shenzhen is once again serving as a laboratory, a testing ground for the next phase of this vast social experiment. Over the past two years, some 200,000 surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the city. Many are in public spaces, disguised as lampposts. The closed-circuit TV cameras will soon be connected to a single, nationwide network, an all-seeing system that will be capable of tracking and identifying anyone who comes within its range — a project driven in part by U.S. technology and investment. Over the next three years, Chinese security executives predict they will install as many as 2 million CCTVs in Shenzhen, which would make it the most watched city in the world. (Security-crazy London boasts only half a million surveillance cameras.)

Do you sense the ominous-ness??!!

buh... eye thinks u gits ze picture.  buh...

buh... eye thinks u gits ze picture. buh...

The thing is, unlike the security cams we gots here, these are in high-definition.  Much like that flat panel compyu-TOR screen you’re staring at right now… buh… only better, FASTER, STRONGER…

The security cameras are just one part of a much broader high-tech surveillance and censorship program known in China as “Golden Shield.”

--

it's the all-seeing EYE! auuuugh!!! ::points to black bulb-y thingy:: -->

The end goal is to use the latest people-tracking technology — thoughtfully supplied by American giants like IBM, Honeywell and General Electric — to create an airtight consumer cocoon: a place where Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cellphones, McDonald’s Happy Meals, Tsingtao beer and UPS delivery (to name just a few of the official sponsors of the Beijing Olympics) can be enjoyed under the unblinking eye of the state, without the threat of democracy breaking out. With political unrest on the rise across China, the government hopes to use the surveillance shield to identify and counteract dissent before it explodes into a mass movement like the one that grabbed the world’s attention at Tiananmen Square.

ze wave of the future waves back.  even STARBUCKS SHALL BE WATCHING YOU!!!!  (we can only hope.  and prey.  eep!)

ze wave of the future waves back. even STARBUCKS SHALL BE WATCHING YOU!!!! (we can only hope. and prey. eep!)

One Shenzhen-based company, China Security & Surveillance Technology, has developed software to enable the cameras to alert police when an unusual number of people begin to gather at any given location.

In 2006, the Chinese government mandated that all Internet cafes (as well as restaurants and other “entertainment” venues) install video cameras with direct feeds to their local police stations. Part of a wider surveillance project known as “Safe Cities,” the effort now encompasses 660 municipalities in China. It is the most ambitious new government program in the Pearl River Delta, and supplying it is one of the fastest-growing new markets in Shenzhen.

Jeepers and jankies.  I feels safer already.  Cuz we all know how safe the po po make us feel on a day-to-day basis.

But the cameras that Zhang manufactures are only part of the massive experiment in population control that is under way here. “The big picture,” Zhang tells me in his office at the factory, “is integration.” That means linking cameras with other forms of surveillance: the Internet, phones, facial-recognition software and GPS monitoring.

yayyyy -- even googles watching us, yayyyyy...

yayyyy -- even google's watching us, yayyyyy...

This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet access will be aggressively limited through the country’s notorious system of online controls known as the “Great Firewall.” Their movements will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to their holder’s personal data. This is the most important element of all: linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces.

wha--?  whos dare?

am eye on camera? ah feels laik such a celebrity!

Putting it to the Test.  (AUUUGH!  TESTS!!!) CASE STUDY:

In 2005, by the government’s own measure, there were at least 87,000 “mass incidents” — governmentspeak for large-scale protests or riots.

This increased unrest — a process aided by access to cellphones and the Internet — represents more than a security problem for the leaders in Beijing. It threatens their whole model of command-and-control capitalism. China’s rapid economic growth has relied on the ability of its rulers to raze villages and move mountains to make way for the latest factory towns and shopping malls. If the people living on those mountains use blogs and text messaging to launch a mountain-people’s-rights uprising with each new project, and if they link up with similar uprisings in other parts of the country, China’s dizzying expansion could grind to a halt.

At the same time, the success of China’s ravenous development creates its own challenges. Every rural village that is successfully razed to make way for a new project creates more displaced people who join the ranks of the roughly 130 million migrants roaming the country looking for work. By 2025, it is projected that this “floating” population will swell to more than 350 million. Many will end up in cities like Shenzhen, which is already home to 7 million migrant laborers.

With its militant protests and mobile population, China confronts a fundamental challenge. How can it maintain a system based on two dramatically unequal categories of people: the winners, who get the condos and cars, and the losers, who do the heavy labor and are denied those benefits? More urgently, how can it do this when information technology threatens to link the losers together into a movement so large it could easily overwhelm the country’s elites?

The answer is Golden Shield. When Tibet erupted in protests recently, the surveillance system was thrown into its first live test, with every supposedly liberating tool of the Information Age — cellphones, satellite television, the Internet — transformed into a method of repression and control. As soon as the protests gathered steam, China reinforced its Great Firewall, blocking its citizens from accessing dozens of foreign news outlets. In some parts of Tibet, Internet access was shut down altogether. Many people trying to phone friends and family found that their calls were blocked, and cellphones in Lhasa were blitzed with text messages from the police: “Severely battle any creation or any spreading of rumors that would upset or frighten people or cause social disorder or illegal criminal behavior that could damage social stability.”

buh... yeah.

buh... yeah.

During the Lhasa riots, police on the scene augmented the footage from the CCTVs with their own video cameras, choosing to film — rather than stop — the violence,

INSERTION: buh… can anyone say L.A. Riots???  Cuz, ya know, those Beverly Hills hotels were at a much higher threat than them liquor stores AT THE CENTER OF IT ALL.

…which left 19 dead. The police then quickly cut together the surveillance shots that made the Tibetans look most vicious — beating Chinese bystanders, torching shops, ripping metal sheeting off banks — and created a kind of copumentary: Tibetans Gone Wild. These weren’t the celestial beings in flowing robes the Beastie Boys and Richard Gere had told us about. They were angry young men, wielding sticks and long knives. They looked ugly, brutal, tribal. On Chinese state TV, this footage played around the clock.

The police also used the surveillance footage to extract mug shots of the demonstrators and rioters. Photos of the 21 “most wanted” Tibetans, many taken from that distinctive “streetlamp” view of the domed cameras, were immediately circulated to all of China’s major news portals, which obediently posted them to help out with the manhunt. The Internet became the most powerful police tool. Within days, several of the men on the posters were in custody, along with hundreds of others.

...among other things.  THINGS!

...among other things. THINGS!

In Guangzhou, an hour and a half by train from Shenzhen, Yao Ruoguang is preparing for a major test of his own. “It’s called the 10-million-faces test,” he tells me.

When I meet Yao at his corporate headquarters, he is feeling confident about how his company will perform in the test. His secret weapon is that he will be using facial-recognition software purchased from L-1 Identity Solutions, a major U.S. defense contractor that produces passports and biometric security systems for the U.S. government.

theyre alive!  aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!  and not with the sound of music!

they're alive! aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive! and not with the sound of music!

To show how well it works, Yao demonstrates on himself. Using a camera attached to his laptop, he snaps a picture of his own face, round and boyish for its 54 years. Then he uploads it onto the company’s proprietary Website, built with L-1 software. With the cursor, he marks his own eyes with two green plus signs, helping the system to measure the distance between his features, a distinctive aspect of our faces that does not change with disguises or even surgery. The first step is to “capture the image,” Yao explains. Next is “finding the face.”

He presses APPLY, telling the program to match the new face with photos of the same person in the company’s database of 600,000 faces. Instantly, multiple photos of Yao appear, including one taken 19 years earlier — proof that the technology can “find a face” even when the face has changed significantly with time.

“It took 1.1 milliseconds!” Yao exclaims. “Yeah, that’s me!”

Ya see, this started as a Facebook/Flickr/juss-4-fun kinder thing… STARTED, being the operative word here.

Like many other security executives I interviewed in China, Yao denies that a primary use of the technology he is selling is to hunt down political activists. “Ninety-five percent,” he insists, “is just for regular safety.” He has, he admits, been visited by government spies, whom he describes as “the internal-security people.” They came with grainy pictures, shot from far away or through keyhole cameras, of “some protesters, some dissidents.” They wanted to know if Yao’s facial-recognition software could help identify the people in the photos. Yao was sorry to disappoint them. “Honestly, the technology so far still can’t meet their needs,” he says. “The photos that they show us were just too blurry.” That is rapidly changing, of course, thanks to the spread of high-resolution CCTVs. Yet Yao insists that the government’s goal is not repression: “If you’re a [political] organizer, they want to know your motive,” he says. “So they take the picture, give the photo, so at least they can find out who that person is.”

Hm.

You have probably never heard of L-1, but there is every chance that it has heard of you. Few companies have collected as much sensitive information about U.S. citizens and visitors to America as L-1: It boasts a database of 60 million records, and it “captures” more than a million new fingerprints every year. Here is a small sample of what the company does: produces passports and passport cards for American citizens; takes finger scans of visitors to the U.S. under the Department of Homeland Security’s massive U.S.-Visit program; equips U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with “mobile iris and multimodal devices” so they can collect biometric data in the field; maintains the State Department’s “largest facial-recognition database system”; and produces driver’s licenses in Illinois, Montana and North Carolina. In addition, L-1 has an even more secretive intelligence unit called SpecTal. Asked by a Wall Street analyst to discuss, in “extremely general” terms, what the division was doing with contracts worth roughly $100 million, the company’s CEO would only say, “Stay tuned.”

is face stalking ze wave of the future?

is face stalking ze wave of the future?

Yao, for his part, knows all about the U.S. export controls on police equipment to China. He tells me that L-1’s electronic fingerprinting tools are “banned from entering China” due to U.S. concerns that they will be used to “catch the political criminals, you know, the dissidents, more easily.” He thinks he and L-1 have found a legal loophole, however. While fingerprinting technology appears on the Commerce Department’s list of banned products, there is no explicit mention of “face prints” — likely because the idea was still in the realm of science fiction when the Tiananmen Square massacre took place. As far as Yao is concerned, that omission means that L-1 can legally supply its facial-recognition software for use by the Chinese government.

FACE PRINTS.  Not fingerprints, but FACEPRINTS.  For the paranoid, BobbLebot recommends deletion of Facebook accounts.  DELETION.

Empowered by the Patriot Act, many of the big dreams hatched by men like Atick have already been put into practice at home. New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., are all experimenting with linking surveillance cameras into a single citywide network. Police use of surveillance cameras at peaceful demonstrations is now routine, and the images collected can be mined for “face prints,” then cross-checked with ever-expanding photo databases. Although Total Information Awareness was scrapped after the plans became public, large pieces of the project continue, with private data-mining companies collecting unprecedented amounts of information about everything from Web browsing to car rentals, and selling it to the government.

What is most disconcerting about China’s surveillance state is how familiar it all feels. When I check into the Sheraton in Shenzhen, for instance, it looks like any other high-end hotel chain — only the lobby is a little more modern and the cheerful clerk doesn’t just check my passport but takes a scan of it.

“Are you making a copy?” I ask.

“No, no,” he responds helpfully. “We’re just sending a copy to the police.”

Up in my room, the Website that pops up on my laptop looks like every other Net portal at a hotel — only it won’t let me access human-rights and labor Websites that I know are working fine. The TV gets CNN International — only with strange edits and obviously censored blackouts. My cellphone picks up a strong signal for the China Mobile network. A few months earlier, in Davos, Switzerland, the CEO of China Mobile bragged to a crowd of communications executives that “we not only know who you are, we also know where you are.” Asked about customer privacy, he replied that his company only gives “this kind of data to government authorities” — pretty much the same answer I got from the clerk at the front desk.

yay!  creepy White dude with a nanny goatee is watching me.  yay!

yay! creepy White dude with a nanny goatee is watching me. yay!

When I leave China, I feel a powerful relief: I have escaped. I am home safe. But the feeling starts to fade as soon as I get to the customs line at JFK, watching hundreds of visitors line up to have their pictures taken and fingers scanned. In the terminal, someone hands me a brochure for “Fly Clear.” All I need to do is have my fingerprints and irises scanned, and I can get a Clear card with a biometric chip that will let me sail through security. Later, I look it up: The company providing the technology is L-1.

Creepy!

Oy(L).  This one was a doozy, floozies!  BobbLebot is EXHAUSTIMICATED.  But basically recommends the watching of Death Note.  (Please watched the subbed and not dubbed version.  Contact ze BobbLebot if u so desire a copy.)

Police State!  Yay!

Police State! Yay!

The concept behind the show is as such: bored, overachieving high school team fulfilling the American Japanese Dream comes across a Death God’s notebook.  Basically, he has the power to kill anybody under any circumstances at any time.  Under his possession, he uses the Death Note to kill murderers, and later, serious criminals.  In — literally — killing the crime by putting the world under surveillance (he checks out murder convictions via the newsfeed), he is trying to build a New World Order that is devoid of criminal behavior.

It is this idea of controlling crime through policing the state, by putting everyone under surveillance so that they begin to police themselves.  The reasoning behind such measures is, “Well… if you’re not a criminal, you have nothing to worry about.”

But who defines the criminality of a human being, and what’s the sentence befitting the crime?  For example, a dissenter of the state is viewed as an enemy of the state.  A criminal.  Looking at that word, “dissenter” — so anyone who voices dissent AGAINST the state, who disagrees with the state, is, by definition, a criminal.

In allowing the state to hold God-like power in the surveillance of its people, and subsequently, allowing the state to hold a God-like power in breaking down communications to whatever it deems as a threat, then what is to stop the state from believing that it is, essentially, God?

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13 Comments »

  1. REMOTE VIEWER
    by watch this

    You must be blind.
    You cannot see.
    So that I can watch you on my tv.

    I can see,
    What you can never see.
    Millions of you, all decieved.

    Hide as you may,
    But fail you will,
    For I can see you still.

    Who’s watching the watcher?
    The question is botched.
    I am watching and I am watched.

    Give the camera a nod.
    Smile. You’re on tv.
    Who changed the channel? God, you see.

    Comment by Watch this — July 20, 2008 @ 5:46 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks bobblebot, that was a good read. I hope the people of China can force some democratic changes there, otherwise I’m not looking forward to the day when China becomes my overlord.

    Comment by disciplepete — July 20, 2008 @ 10:26 pm | Reply

  3. Watch This — eXACtly.

    DiscipLe Peter Peter PumpkinG EATER —

    1) hmmm… moreso than forcing democratic changes in China, BobbLebot is concerned about the issue of one repressive government having sole access to the all-seeing eye, or the implementation of the all-seeing eye. The government having the ability to watch everyone, with no one having the ability to watch the government puts all varieties of freedoms (civil liberties, human rights, democratic) at risk. The poLice are poLicing US, but who is poLicing the poLice?
    * on a side note, bobbLebot is suspicious of democracy and its illusions. Democracy is a medium that can be used for all sorts of purposes. Lynching — 35 White men surrounding 1 Black man in this context — that’s a democracy. In fact, democracy allowed and supported slavery for centuries. It was the consent of majority rule. More than that — democracy doesn’t function the way it ideally should because though it’s supposed to be rule by the people, the people in a democracy are lead by leaders, so in the end, it is the people giving consent to the handful of leaders. It becomes a hegemonic rule. SUSPICION!!! ::red LED lights::

    2) Scary as the idea of China becoming our overLords, my robot/cyborg understanding of the articLe is that China’s TECHNOLOGY shall become the MEDIUM through which the US GOVERNMENT shall become our overLords… which it is already. Basically, China wiLL seLL the US gov an aLL-seeing Eye so that the US gov can better poLice and repress its peopLe. China wiLL sell US gov faceprint technoLogy so that there will be a photo database off “dissenters” and grassroots activists. China already sold microchip technology that is embedded in the newer versions of US passports so that your gLobaL movements can be tracked at aLL times. The Eye will enabLe the slow, steady building of a poLice state.

    In other words… THE EYE MUST BE DESTROYED!!!!! DESTRUCTICATED!!!!!

    ::wires spark::

    Comment by bobbleheadedbob — July 21, 2008 @ 3:35 am | Reply

  4. Yeah, democracy isn’t perfect. I know there is quite a bit of dissent in China, I just hope enough people feel that way and are successful in changing the more repressive aspects of life there. I mean China is poised to become a superpower, so it would be nice if there was a less repressive climate there given the influence they will wield (although that wouldn’t guarantee that they treat the countries under their influence with the same regard as they treat their own citizens).

    As far as your point about democracy, democracy is not necessarily being lead by leaders…that’s what we have in the U.S., what people call “representative democracy”, where we vote some fools in and they make all the decisions…like the war in Iraq…did you or me get to vote on whether we go to war? Nope. I would prefer a type of democracy more similar to that old Athenian model where citizens themselves make the important decisions. Of course, it’s not perfect…case in point, the lynching example you brought up. But unfortunately I don’t know if there’s a better way…I mean what are we gonna do, let the most intelligent, moral people run society? But who’s gonna decide who those people are? So unfortunately to me it seems that democracy is the best thing going. Unfortunately for us, people are fuckin stupid!

    Comment by disciplepete — July 21, 2008 @ 10:47 am | Reply

  5. I don’t have the answers as to a more efficient way of running nation states (not that I’m a fan of nation states), but I am suspicious and concerned — suspiciously concerned! — when democracy is romanticized as a goal, as something we should all gun for. A prize at the bottom of the cereal box.

    For me, democracy is no prize, especially when in its purest form, it does not exist in any structure of government.

    Democracy is a MEDIUM.

    What I mean by that is hip hop is a MEDIUM of music. Mainstreamers accuse hip hop of being misogynist, but that is a misunderstanding. How can a MEDIUM be misogynist? The lyrical CONTENT of SONGS and ALBUMS that utilize this MEDIUM can be misogynist, but the medium itself is not misogynist. All mediums can be utilized for positive and dangerous purposes.

    Democracy is a medium. It’s not inherently good.

    As for people being “fuckin stupid” — exactly! That is exactly why democracy can become a very dangerous thing. It all depends on how well-informed the people are — and with the onslaught of an inundation of pop culture, I don’t believe it’s best to have country ruled by these people. Oh wait, cuz that’d be democracy. Basically, when people are misinformed, mislead by LeaDers, the mob (demos = mob) doesn’t make the most rational or ethically sound choices. In fact, the dumber the people are, the easier it is to mis-lead them into voting for or turning a blind eye to key issues on what they will and will not allow the government to do.

    Democracy, when utilized as a form of government, HAS to be representative, and ergo, has to be lead by leaders. But who are they leading and where are they leading them to? And when the population has no idea what’s really going on because of the dumbing down of easily-accessed news feeds, there is an intent that is at work. An intent to mislead. An intent to dumb down. Because it makes it easier for big government to make big decisions, if only they can LEAD and PERSUADE the majority.

    Democracy — representative or not — is no prize to fight for or die for. Basically — democracy is not enough.

    The issue is not about it being the best form of government, the issue is about how do we allow for a better educated public who has easier access to expanding their knowledge so that they can make more sound decisions? The reason why the EYE alarms me so is because the EYE is being purchased and utilized by government with the INTENT to create a PoLice State with the INTENT to repressing the expansion of knowledge so that people are eventually unable to organize or voice dissent once they form an opinion that is anti-government.

    Democracy has its problems, but there’s a larger issue than that that’s connected to the illusion of democracy.

    The idea of a New World Order in which power is monopolized in such a way that the voice of the people are blot out in favor of the ruling elite. Liiiike, we think we live in a democratic society, even a representative one, but most of the decisions made by our nation state are controlled by the ruling elite. “Democracy” for a mis-lead or ill-informed public can actually work for the ruling elite in that it allows for them to “allow” for certain things to happen.

    Oy(L). A whole nother canner worms!!! WORMS!!!

    Basically: what exactly are the things that we’re asking for, fighting for, dying for? When we step outside of when we get caught up by the tide, let’s ask these same questions. Will we have the same answers?

    Comment by bobbleheadedbob — July 21, 2008 @ 12:49 pm | Reply

  6. nice pic.. hemhemhem..

    Comment by beranibaca — July 21, 2008 @ 10:23 pm | Reply

  7. hmmz…ya, I agree democracy has plenty of problems. As does any system which humans come up with to establish order. I don’t know if I agree that there must be leaders…I guess I’m not sure exactly in what sense ur talking about leaders. I’m saying that I think the best system is one where if over 50% of the people want something, then that’s what happens. Maybe u need a leader to help carry out what the people have decided, but I’m talking about majority rule, which I think is best…not because it will necessarily lead to great outcomes, but because I think it’s the most fair way to do things. And I guess my bias is that I place a great deal of value on fairness.

    And so if society was to be run by majority vote, then a better educated public is extremely important, and I agree that’s something we must strive for.

    Comment by disciplepete — July 21, 2008 @ 10:46 pm | Reply

  8. Just to add more to that, I don’t want to make it sound like I think majority rule is the answer to society’s conflicts. In reality, if it was implemented today, some things would get better and some things would be worse than the status quo. I guess I hold it as an ideal for an enlightened society, which is not what we’re dealing with at the moment.

    Comment by disciplepete — July 21, 2008 @ 10:55 pm | Reply

  9. Majority rule is what implements programs like the all-seeing eye and biometrics. Citizens are being seduced into voting for these things, to believe that it is for our own protection.

    When the vast majority of the citizenship is made up of uninformed citizens, will democracy be the saving grace of us all?

    Going back to the exampLe of the lynch mob, isn’t it possible – that way that we are fed information and conditioned to view our health and safety and well being in a paranoid state – that we can willingly end up lynching ourselves? How does majority rule then answer society’s conflicts? Wasn’t the decision to go into Iraq based upon majority rule?

    And if we have a problem with this, does it make sense to go the the government and ask them to fix this problem? Asking the perpetrator to fix a problem the perpetrator created? It kind of reminds me of telling your bully that you don’t like being punched in the face.

    “I don’t like it! What are you going to do about it?”

    “I know you don’t like it. I know. Tell you what – what if I just kick you in the shins? Or scratch your face every now and then? Sound good? Look, that’s all I can manage at this point, so work with me here.”

    Some things get better, some things get worse. Nothing changes…

    So I’m hearing two things in this logic:

    1) Democracy doesn’t really change anything
    2) Democracy is the best way to keep the status quo (sense of order)

    But isn’t democracy the way in which we willingly give our power to elected leaders to herd us and lead us into agreeing on policies that counter the scope of human freedoms? When we ask or desire for government to protect us, how do we do that without giving up some of our power, without willingly giving our freedoms away?

    Comment by bobbleheadedbob — September 26, 2008 @ 7:57 am | Reply

  10. I’m running on very little sleep so pardon me if I am a bit spazzy with my reply.

    “When the vast majority of the citizenship is made up of uninformed citizens, will democracy be the saving grace of us all?”

    No, I don’t think it will be. What I think is that there is no saving grace for us all. Out of a range of poor choices, I think democracy is the best choice. That’s all I’m saying.

    “Going back to the exampLe of the lynch mob, isn’t it possible – that way that we are fed information and conditioned to view our health and safety and well being in a paranoid state – that we can willingly end up lynching ourselves? ”

    Yeah, that is possible.

    “How does majority rule then answer society’s conflicts?”

    Well, I’m not claiming that democracy necessarily leads to resolution of society’s conflicts. What I’m saying is that, as I understand them, the options other than majority rule are more distasteful to me than majority rule. Like a dictatorship, or giving all political power to men with a certain amount of property or education…I think those are worse options than a democracy. Not that the results will be necessarily better or worse than a democracy. I guess what I’m saying is that if things are gonna get messy (which they will, considering we are talking about human beings getting along with each other), then at least let’s make it as fair as we can.

    “Wasn’t the decision to go into Iraq based upon majority rule?”

    Hmm. Well, tangentially, I guess you could make that argument, but I don’t think so. Did you vote on the Iraq war? Did I? Did the American people? No, we didn’t. What the majority of Americans think/want is not what dictates government policy. Sure, if the masses are outraged and actively demonstrating that outrage, then that sort of thing influences leaders. Political leaders do what they can get away with…even if a majority disagrees, as long as things will remain stable and the disagreement isn’t threatening, then politicians will do what they deem necessary. Of course, politicians also benefit from the fact that most Americans have no clue what’s going on…so really, a lot of stuff happens, that if Americans understood it, they would be against it, but they don’t understand and aren’t aware in the first place.

    “But isn’t democracy the way in which we willingly give our power to elected leaders to herd us and lead us into agreeing on policies that counter the scope of human freedoms? When we ask or desire for government to protect us, how do we do that without giving up some of our power, without willingly giving our freedoms away?”

    I think this is the heart of where our differing opinions lies. You assume that democracy involves leaders. I don’t share that assumption. I dunno, maybe it does require leaders…can you explain why? I’m not claiming that I’m an expert on the concept of democracy, so maybe it logically does require leaders, so if it does, I’d like to see that demonstrated. The way I conceive of it though, leaders are not required.

    To illustrate with an example on a small scale, let’s say I’m hanging out with a group, let’s say there’s 11 people to make it simple for my example. Some of us wanna go to the movies, some wanna go bowling. I suggest we take a vote. A majority of people agree that we should take a vote. We then take the vote, and a majority of people want to go to the movies. So, we go to the movies. That’s what I conceive as democracy.

    Was a leader required for that? You could say that I was taking a leader role by suggesting a vote. But If no one else agreed with me, well, we wouldn’t have voted on what to do. Because the people agreed to my suggestion, we voted. And the majority decided what to do, I may have wanted to go bowling, but we went to the movies.

    So, again, I don’t think any leader was required. All that was required was the consent of the majority.

    But what about those who thought the whole idea of a vote was ridiculous, and were bitter that we voted and decided to go to the movies? Well, those folks are the minority, and as the majority, we got our way and the minorities will have to deal with the consequences (in this case, they’d either go along with our decision, or be bitter and split off from us, which would likely entail arousing negative feelings from the majority).

    Now, I’m not saying that the whole above scenario is utopian, and I think it’s the greatest thing ever, the solution to social conflict. I do think it’s better than me saying, “Ok everybody, we’re going to bowling because I said so. If you don’t agree, it doesn’t matter, that’s what we’re doing, or I’ll beat all of your asses.” I’m sure you get what I’m saying. =)

    Comment by disciplepete — September 26, 2008 @ 12:50 pm | Reply

  11. I was doing a little bit (I emphasize little) of wikipedia-ing on the concept of democracy…look up direct democracy and then representative democracy. You seem to assume that democracy has to be representative. I’m talking about something more like direct democracy.

    Comment by disciplepete — September 26, 2008 @ 3:55 pm | Reply

  12. I’m not a fan of democracy in general – representative or direct.

    Direct democracy is essentially mob rule. It doesn’t entail or require for the mob or “the peoples” to be informed or not. A lynch mob is a direct form of democracy. Majority rule.

    The rule of the sheepLe. Either they are herded and lead into believing they can only eat horse feed or pig slop in a representative democracy – or they run amok with the flock when an invisible wolf chases them – being prone to fall off cliffs or even drowning themselves in lakes or ponds – in a direct democracy. Either form of democracy does not require the people/sheepLe to think or be informed. In face, it operates best when the masses are not informed.

    Democracy means a decision must be made based off majority consent. A consensus. So in the process of making a single decision that will affect the whole flock, one must be “herded” into a limited number of digestible choices. Democracy does not encourage individual thought, processes or analysis. In a democracy, the demos/mob/people matter, not the individual.

    But it takes an individual to ask questions, to think one’s own thoughts. To grow, learn, expand and create without limitations.

    In the end, I am saying that there is no “best” form of government because human beings aren’t meant to be governed. They aren’t meant to be herded into choosing only A or B – because whether they choose A or choose B, neither choice threatens the real power of the government to govern, to rule, over the human spirit.

    Without government is human responsibility. Individual responsibility. But it can be hard when one sees life as a set of limitations, or sees human life as a limitation in itself – that we only have this lifetime left to live. When we believe that, that there is only this one lifetime, that we only have 75-80 years to live (assuming we have good health), then we are herded into believing we must act, react or create changes based off those set of limitations so that we can see these changes in our lifetime.

    I am also not a fan of “doing it for the children. for the ‘Future'” – what the hell is THAT supposed to mean? No. Do it for yourself. And take responsibility for yourself.

    No blaming Bush or Cheney or Congress when we take on this idea of self responsibility. Criticize them? Sure! Challenge them? But of course! Figure out ways to hold onto our right and ability to say NO? Duh! But when it comes to the state we are in, we are responsible for ourselves. Not government. If we vote and consume and obey in a very specific way, then we are the creators of the reality in which we live in. Because we comply to the rules of that reality.

    If we are to use the analogy of Iraq, I find parallels to the status of Whiteness. In my food and culture class, we BRIEFLY barely touched upon race and my professor asked why Race makes “us” (us meaning the White people) so uncomfortable.

    One answered, “It goes back to slavery. But look, I never enslaved anybody. So I don’t like it when some people look at me and see an oppressor or something like that because I’ve never done those things. I never said anything racist.”

    A lot of us didn’t vote for Iraq. Not directly. Does that completely absolve us of responsibility?

    Even though that girl never physically enslaved anybody or said anything racist (though I doubt that), does that mean she is completely absolved? Because of this, there is no credence or validity in studying the phenomenon of “White Guilt”?

    Still, she lives in a system that consciously and unconsciously allows her certain privileges over Brown, Red, Yellow or Black folk. It’s invisible to her, and if she reaps these benefits, it’s not her “fault.” She didn’t vote for this, she didn’t help create this system. She didn’t conspire to create a system that would better her jobs of getting hired at an expensive firm or moving into a historically affluent neighborhood or not be stopped by immigration officials or frisked with regularity by the TSA.

    She didn’t consciously or actively create this system.

    But she complies with the system. She adheres to the rules. And even if she dedicated her life to becoming an anti-racist, she still imbibes the privileges of Whiteness whether or not she likes it or not… or does she?

    Already, you can see a difference between someone who cannot see their Whiteness, their privilege, their compliance. Because they obey or accept the rules of that reality without question.

    And then you can look at a White person like… say, Tim Wise. Or, if you remember on our campus in ’04/’05, Bill Schiebler. Are they Messiahs of Whiteness? No. But there is a profound difference in how they consciously act and are consciously aware of their Whiteness and privilege. Even if they did not actively create systemic racism.

    There is a huge difference. No, definitely not perfect. And they – at least, so it appears at the moment – are actively negotiating and creating their own realities in which their Whiteness is very legible and coherent. And, at key moments according to their own individual understandings and acceptance of these structures that exist.

    The same can be said about the vote to Iraq. Did you vote on it? Neither did I. But that doesn’t completely absolve ourselves of the machine. We still pay taxes, we still relatively comfortably, we don’t live in fear of being bombed at any given moment, being slaughtered, raped or having our own sense of sanity and identity torn apart by threats soaked in hot blood and bullets. There is a responsibility in that. And when we allow ourselves to see that, we can work towards finding ways and figuring out how to consciously withdraw our support and create new realities. We are not powerless unless we believe ourselves to be. But with empowerment comes responsibility.

    Why is it so hard to look at ourselves in the mirror and take responsibility? Real responsibility? Instead of justifying this or that by the lack of choices, or blaming government for stealing our power away?

    “Oh, well, it’s okay if I buy this Forever 21 shirt because I shop at the green market/listen to Tribe Called Quest/I can’t afford an eco-friendly tee.”

    The justification is framed in a perceived limitation of choices or power. Basically – self responsibility is to stop making excuses for ourselves. Own up to it. We will make mistakes. But if we run away from them or excuse them, those mistakes will end up being pointless. Because we don’t learn.

    “I bought this Forever 21 tee. I bought it because I wanted a black shirt and this was the cheapest, nicest one. I also know that when I’m buying it, I am supporting horrendous labor practices and am contributing to massive consumer waste, because this industry is based upon cheap, bulk buying of fabrics for passing trends. I know what choice I made. I’m not completely comfortable and this choice is a sign of my superficial and selfish materialism. And I know this when I am making this choice.”

    Any consent to any form of government is a consent to a voluntary offering of our own personal power or empowerment. Because we will always have something to blame outside ourselves when things go wrong. We will always have an excuse or way to distract ourselves from our reality.

    I know this. And I know and am conscious of this when I pay my taxes or obey the law. I know this. And I’m not making excuses. It’s a choice I make to continue to live in that reality. At the moment there is so much I want to do and manifest so that I can have total freedom.

    I’m not saying it can’t be done and I’m not saying I’m giving up.

    I’m doing it as we speak. I’m starting with my mind, my consciousness, working on my ability to discern the double speech that’s going on in the world. The split realities.

    And it’ll take time. But it is entirely possible.

    Free ourselves of government.

    If there was no government, would we die?

    Would humanity be unable to survive?

    Has every human entity outside of government died or devolved into chaos in absence of government?

    We’ve grown so entirely dependent upon a government to take care of us or organize society that it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to live outside one. Scary, maybe. Because we don’t know what that is really, truly like.

    Will there be chaos without government? Perhaps. If we let it. If we let fear overtake us and for us to devolve into sheep and follow the general direction of the masses. This is possible. And it’s happened before. Look – a heroine junkie’s gonna have a tough time when it comes to withdrawal because of the body’s developed dependency on the drug. But heroine isn’t a natural bodily chemical. A body can grow dependent on it, but it isn’t natural.

    The human spirit can grow dependent on a government. But that isn’t natural either.

    And just like the drug that we become dependent upon that is slowly destroying our bodies, government is also a drug we’ve become dependent upon that is slowly destroying the human spirit. Though development and time is not clearly linear, there is a large, overarching procession of development between humans and government. The bigger it gets, the more powerful it gets, the harder it is for “the people” to speak or act for themselves. Much less, on an individual level. And it is hard to take responsibility when we have no concrete memory outside of government. But not impossible.

    It’s been repeated so often because it resonates a ring of truth: we are the ones we are looking for.

    Not Obama, not this proposition, not even my vote. It’s me. If I want to change my reality, then I am going to look to myself to create a new paradigm, however small or all-encompassing it may be.

    Comment by bobbleheadedbob — September 27, 2008 @ 11:04 am | Reply

  13. “But it takes an individual to ask questions, to think one’s own thoughts. To grow, learn, expand and create without limitations.

    In the end, I am saying that there is no “best” form of government because human beings aren’t meant to be governed. They aren’t meant to be herded into choosing only A or B – because whether they choose A or choose B, neither choice threatens the real power of the government to govern, to rule, over the human spirit.”

    I’m not sure that we’re talking about the same thing. Here’s what I’m saying: Humans tend to live in groups. Within and between groups, conflicts arise. What is the best way to deal with these conflicts? For many of these social conflicts, I think democracy is the least odious method we can use to resolve em.

    I’m not really talking about the human spirit, or about a philosophical argument about whether humans should or should not be governed. Whatever you think about those things, what I said in the last paragraph has been and for all I can tell will continue to be the case: humans will have conflicts with each other, and they will resolve in some fashion.

    You seem to be talking about your individual outlook on the nature of government, and that we humans have the potential to do much better for ourselves without government. That may be true, but that’s not what I’m discussing; I’m not talking about ideals, I’m talking about what I think about the reality on the ground, based on how humans have behaved for millenia, across time and cultures.

    Comment by disciplepete — September 27, 2008 @ 1:35 pm | Reply


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