Modern Consumer Technology

October 24, 2007

Every day the efficiency of capitalism brings us new, joyous innovations in it’s drive to take us to a future utopia where robots do all the washing up, we no longer have to go to work and have more time to devote to family violence, shopping, drinking and messing up the minds of the next generation.

My favourite all-new, brilliant, fantastic innovation is the all-new, brilliant, fantastic juice carton. Gone are the days when you had a vague dotted line with “tear here” loosely associated with some perforations designed to make the carton almost entirely impervious to any sort of tearing whatsoever. That is unless the person doing the tearing was a body builder or your mom in which case it gave quickly and unexpectedly leaving juice all over you, your mom and, when available, the body builder.

Then she gave you a couple of bucks to bog off and not tell your father that there had been a strange man in the house so you ran off and bought cola instead. Anyone short of a mom or a body builder eventually resorted to scissors or, if brave and co-ordinated, a knife.

Nowadays there are no such troubles. You unscrew a convenient plastic cap under which there is a convenient plastic ring-pull attached to a surgically clean, medically sound, save-the-children foil seal. A quick pull disconnects the ring lightly and easily from the foil, having no useful affect whatsoever, and is discarded in a bin before taking a knife and piercing a convenient hole in the top of the carton.

Which is good news as 30 years on your mother is now in a home and the body-builder is running California.

 

Utopia- not far now!

The most important issue about the latest Bin Laden tape has been skirted over and the world at large is just lucky to have such a prescient mind as mine at the ready to catch it: who does Osama Bin Laden’s beard- dye and trim job? It is so wonderfully stylish. He looks 20 years younger. Perhaps only 70… maybe 73.

The lack of hair salons and convenient chemists in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan are legendary, leading to a tourist trade limited to Islamic fundamentalists, opium- questing hippies and Boris Johnson*. One is led to assume, therefore, that over the last 6 years or so Bin Laden has not only kitted out his cave with the necessary dialysis machine for his failing kidneys and video editing studio (running on linux to foil American Imperialism- ahaha ahaha hahahahahah!) but now, too, a hair salon.

Perhaps the US forces in Afghanistan on Bin Laden’s tail should start looking out for particularly well groomed shepherds and, with what one hears about shepherds, particularly well groomed sheep, too. They should consider, and investigate, the possibility that Bin Laden has brought in an image consultant to help with his new promotional idea of “one peaceful Iraq with every Islamic U.S.A. purchased.” It sounds like a television shopping idea to me. But wait… don’t buy now! Could Al Qaeda finally be tapping into the American market’s sensibilities and shopping patterns?

I expect to see the next video with him in a hot- tub with 12 virgins promoting the benefits of an Islamic martyr’s life or, more precisely, death**. Capitalism creeps in everywhere and, as things continue forward, Al Qaeda could allow the infidel to pay for their ignorance with VISA rather than, as is usual, their lifeblood and that of their families, their friends, their aunts, their dogs and chickens.

Look out Pat Robertson… here comes an Obama for the Whitehouse and an Osama for the lighthouse.***

*- running for mayor of London, has stupid hair… do catch up.
**- that, as always, would be in the small print which is read very quickly at the end of the advert and never discernible to anyone.
***- seeing the light: a dig a Christians. Yes, I know it’s lame and doesn’t really work terribly well. So what? It rhymes, it’s 1am in the morning and I, quite frankly, am beyond caring.

I have been waiting for a psychological backlash to the most shallow generation in history: the tweeny label- whores from hell. What we may come to see as the “bling” generation.

Sucked into the advertising mire more than any generation in history. People have sought guidance and self- definition through the ages from Drugs, Religions, Warlords, Pacifists, Prophets, the Famous and the Fatuous. This was the first to start to look to possessions for guidance. The pendulum always swings back and forth and, as usual, at the tip of the conservative end of the swing was an annoying war that finally sends the pendulum back. It has been building, though, for quite some time and just needed (mixing my metaphors badly) a trigger.

I remember well this from fight club, Tyler Durden: Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.

Born in the 70’s I have been through the swing away from the Love, Liberalism and Peace of the late 60s and early 70s to the money- orientated conservatism, large hair and bad pastel suits of the early 80s, through the grunge gender anonymity and unshaven women of the late 80s and early 90s and on to the vicious capitalist label feeding frenzy of the turn of the century.

This global warming thing we finally noticed (I did a school project on it in 1984- took the governments of the world 23 yrs to catch up to a student who spent less time in class than George W. does at work), of course, will not be stopped and I wonder how, at the tip of the green touchy- feely renaissance the other end of society will spin things and what they will place on the table to get society to start the swing back towards conservatism.

Will recreational space flight be it? Immersive computer games to get away from the mess when people get exhausted from over-caring? Or are they smart enough to have worked out enough ways to market the new green movement in such a way that they can profit from it? I think so. I take all 3 but in reverse order.

Looked at dispassionately neither side of the swing has any better claim to sanity. From the one side of rich warmongers and authority to the poor vegan touchy- feely side there is plenty of nonsense. But if there is nonsense to be had I prefer the pendulum at the point where we stop caring too much about possessions, allow dull people to take drugs to make them more interesting, stop caring too much about our jobs and start enjoying our sexuality more but women still shave their armpits.

Pools have a shallow end and a deep end. So, sometimes, do I.

Save the Humans!!!

March 26, 2007

Maybe 0.5% of humans give a crap about endangered Bengal Tigers. Perhaps a few more know what a greenhouse gas is. Maybe, at a push, 2% of humans on the planet know about global warming and care. The fact is that in the large scale of things all of this doesn’t matter. The idea of “Save the Planet” is patently ridiculous. None of this is causing the actual planet irreparable harm.

It’s screwing it up for the average mammal, though. Including you. The earth does not need dolphins, polar bears, Bengal Tigers, gorillas or, indeed, humans. Extinctions on a massive scale are perfectly normal in our little backyard here on “the unfashionable outer spiral arm” of the Milky Way.

“Save the Planet” is meaningless. It makes you want to take the placard from the average dumbass protester and beat them repeatedly over the head with it. Sometimes violence is the answer, ask a Bengal Tiger.

Whether the planet gets hit with meteor strikes, nuclear war, global warming, industrial toxicity or famine the next time Oprah Winfrey is on an eating spree- so what? The planet doesn’t care and if it, or she, wipes out 99.99% of all species the planet will just have another equivalent of the Cambrian explosion with a whole lot of new, interesting species that can find another way entirely to fuck up their environment and become extinct.

So I am sick of idiot, goober do-gooders going on about the environment. They miss the point. I too, this human being, want dolphins, Bengal Tigers, polar bears and gorillas to survive. For me. For my friends. For the children I am still trying to avoid having. For the grand-children they might be able to avoid having if I am unsuccessful. And so-on.

We want to save the cuddly animals and the beautiful animals because we find them inspiring, because we find them endearing. They reflect us and what we used to be. They are fascinating to watch on a wildlife show- although are much more dull at a game reserve where someone has not cut down 9,284 minutes of footage to 30seconds of action narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

We want to save them for us. And we know the beautiful and cuddly animals cannot survive in an ecosystem without the slimy, gross or downright creepy creatures so, what the hell, we don’t mind them living too. Except for Republicans, we are starting to think America and, indeed, the world would be better off without them.

This is, in fact, a “Save the Humans” message. We are the ones that need the rainforests, the clean rivers, beautiful Bengal Tigers, elegant Kingfisher, domestic cats, majestic whales and, at a push, lawyers (hi, sis) and politicians to survive. Even the slimiest of creatures has a purpose in this world and in our ecosystem and we have to allow them to survive for our sake.

This is midnightjester saying: “Save the Humans!”

I spend a lot of time knocking naked capitalism for it’s viciousness and lack of consideration in a world of the “valuable individual.” It’s probably about time I put in some sort of counterpoint argument if, for no other reason, than I am traditionally an argumentative bastard and in the face of no one to argue with today I may as well argue with myself. That and, of course, I am meant to be out having a run right now but it’s raining so I feel the need to pretend I am doing something else more important.

I am all for a more equitable distribution of wealth. I do not believe any society I know of on earth is quite ready for full blown egalitarianism. yet. However, capitalism has driven the economies of those countries who have embraced it to amazing levels in a short period of time.

This excess of wealth, held in the hands of the few, whilst having plenty of negative effects has also created huge scientific and technological advances. The idea of space tourism exists only because of this situation and, of course, the costs will gradually come down till it is far more widely available.

Whether there is a way for this sort of advancement to happen in an egalitarian society is up for debate. Capitalism is fuelled by insecurity which fuels consumerism which, in turn, fuels growth in wealth. It is a negative force with some positive effects. An egalitarian society moves people away from insecurity, decreases consumerism and therefore may well slow growth, we just do not know for certain. It is a land unexplored.

Suffice to say the long-term survival of humanity, the drive of our DNA, lies in expanding off our home planet which will only be habitable for a limited lifespan. For all my pontificating over egalitarianism it is something that could have, without a predecessor of naked capitalism, led ultimately to the extinction of humanity.

Then again, egalitarianism may fuel greater creativity allowing humans more time to expand their minds creating cheaper, more viable options in all technologies.

It would be interesting to see a country try and implement it. With the pendulum swinging once more (finally) away from materialism and also capitalism as a philosophy, rather than an economic tool, the time may be ripe for someone to give it a shot.

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This is a piece about cultures, about nations, about values and happiness. It is about pride, jingoism and justice, whatever that may be. It is also about South Africa, my miracle country, about 50% too long and it might be preachy as all hell- or it might be insightful. I imagine I will only be able to tell myself when I re-read it some months from now. In other words: you have been warned.[on re-read it is too long and needs to lose the last 2 paragraphs to be a decent piece]

For many years I was, in many ways, a typical white South African woeful of the backward nature of my nation stuck out on the tip of Africa. Seeing massive potential but also seeing it squandered by ignorance, squandered by self interest, suqandered by bickering and distrust.

politics_bush_cheney.jpgThe more I see of our turning world outside this country’s borders the more I laud my home and it’s achievements. I look at the USA and messrs. Cheney and Bush and wonder at the lack of criminal investigation into their dealings. The idea of a government contract foregoing the tender process and being simply handed to a company the “Hander Outer” (right hand man of “The Decider”) used to be a Chief Executive of and still holds shares in is ludicrous and alien to me in darkest Africa.

I do not say that dodgy politicians in South Africa may not try to undermine the tender process: they do. I do not say that when they are caught they do not see some favour and cronyism when it comes to how their sentence is dealt with: they do. But they are investigated, tried and, if found guilty, sentenced by one of the most independent and least corrupt judiciaries in the world. We, after all, are a country with a special division of police simply for investigating corruption, specifically government corruption. The only one I know of.

In the USA I do not even hear talk of an investigation by the FBI into Cheney and Bush. In the UK Tony Blair is interviewed but “not a suspect” in the cash-for-honours scandal. How can the leader of the party that gave away knighthoods for cash not be a suspect? Are they insane? Does he not have a clue how his party is funded? When they get given hundreds of thousands of pounds does he assume “what lovely chaps” and move on? Does he not ask why their names are also on the honours list put forward to the Queen? Not a suspect? What toadying, sycophantic rubbish.

politics_yengeni_boesak.jpgWe, as a country, in recent years, have fired our vice president, put out to pasture dangerously unstable politicians like Winnie Mandela and slammed into jail (if briefly) a number of our politicians (Yengeni, Boesak) for dodgy dealings. When was the last time a UK politician went to jail? Archer had to be hounded by a national newspaper into a jail cell.

In the USA, who was the last senator in office put behind bars? Last congressman? The only person brought up on any sort of charges in recent years was their former president- and this over trying to get some under the table nookie from a fat, unattractive intern who doesn’t clean her clothes often enough. Don’t tell me it was about “whether he lied under oath,” that is rubbish. It was no-one’s business in the first place whether the man was getting laid occasionally and when the question was asked any decent judge would have told a prosecutor to stuff it.

Yet, the same skepticism of South Africans of all colours toward their government and lack of belief in how great we are is part of what will keep us honest. The UK has the same skepticism toward their leaders but their attention has wavered from their government’s activities as the population is distracted by the most capitalist of enterprises: building wealth.

A country which lauds their leadership and believes their own propoganda of how great they are is doomed to be steamrollered by the powerful with just a small squeak as liberty disappears. The USA has been, to outsiders, a police state at least since the 80’s and now starts to look fascist in it’s approach and attitudes. If anyone reads Orwell’s 1984 and then reads the speeches of Bush and Cheney can be in no doubt to the direction in which they are heading, with the UK not too far behind.

big_brother.jpg“FREEDOM IS SLAVERY”: every American must give up some civil liberties to protect freedom.

“WAR IS PEACE”: the war on terror must be fought with troops for the world to achieve peace.

“IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”: the media must not report what the government don’t want them to as it ’emboldens’ the enemy.

I could go on but considering the comparisons to 1984 are currently being made by every first-year university student in the world this piece is already dangerously fatuous in it’s outpourings.

My confusion comes wherein I believe national pride (not to be confused with jingoism) is a positive force, not a negative one. Jingoism is where you laud the greatness of your country regardless of it’s actual behaviour. National pride is when you laud it for achievements you, personally, believe worthwhile. The safest, most easily gauged and most beneficial source of national pride must be sport as it is also the most easily engaging and widely watched of human achievements. Much more so than science, academia or art- which is why so much money is available to it.

So, if it is this influential it is something we should pay attention to, a great deal of attention. It influences countries behaviours and attitudes. Things like fair play, honour or a win- at- all- cost attitude will filter to the populace. Our South African rugby team winning the world cup after isolation from international rugby for close to 20 years- and the sight of aour first black president, our universally loved Madiba, standing next to the winning Captain wearing a rugby shirt (Rugby being traditionally a whites sport- soccer a black sport in Apartheid South Africa) did a great deal for unifying the country. But since those days of amateur sport over professional sport I have seen my favourites start do display that win- at- all- costs- mentality, seen them cheat with impugnity, and ne’er an eye is batted. Where is the outrage at cheating? Where is the desire for a fair society?

The last time I saw a player do something I was proud of was in cricket and the player was in later years to become a self-confessed cheat- taking bookmaker’s money to adjust player scores (but not to throw games). His moment came in a game against Australia, our traditional chief rivals, in a World Cup game (I seem to remember). Australia were 9 wickets down (the game in it’s dying embers, 2 balls left with 4 runs to get and the game decided if a man goes out- a real Hollywood ending if Hollywood knew anything about cricket) when Shane Warne (Aus), in an effort to avoid being out when taking a quick run, illegally hit the ball a second time- away from the fielder.

South Africa appealed (umpires cannot intervene in cricket unless appealed to- cricket was once a game of gentleman who admitted when they were out and simply walked off the field of play) and the umpires were about to send him from the field with South Africa winning the game by default and Shane Warne in shame. Hansie Cronje approached the umpires and withdrew the appeal. There was now one ball left, four runs needed from it (ball hit to the boundary) and South Africa won by bowling Shane Warne, the cheat, out. Like I said, Hollywood stuff. We showed great sportsmanship and win or lose I was proud of the way our team had conducted themselves, I was proud to be a South African that day.

The last time I saw a sports association do something I could be proud of was that previously mentioned scandal over betting and cheating. Every national team in the world, bar none, was involved. Bar none- I kid you not. South Africa was the only country to ban players: Hansie Cronje, a national hero, was not even allowed to coach at school level, commentate on crcket games or have any official involvement with any cricket team ever again. All the other world associations protected the cheats, hid evidence and generally thwarted the investigators. The only South African involved to escape punishment was Herschelle Gibbs who admitted he happily took the money from the bookmakers and then completely failed to do what they asked. I was proud that we exposed the cheats and banned them, no matter how much I wished Hansie, a much loved captain for what he did for us, had not been involved.

These are things where national pride affects a country. Affects the way it does business and the social behaviour of it’s citizens. I have seen the behaviour of these teams and those in football, the sport I have always enjoyed the most, deteriorate. I think, without doubt, that it affects the psyche of the countries involved. The youth, above all others, are convinced that cheating is endemic in every sphere of society and the odds on their success in life are stacked against them. The sad thing is that they are not wrong.

In America, for instance, the middle class is dwindling as real wages have decreased and time at work increased since the 1960s. Everything we are brought up to believe valuable- property, posessions, family have become less affordable yet company profits- the ones who have allowed wages to decrease, continue to rise. Where is the outrage?

Countries with democracies are having them corrupted by rich people with unregulated donations the politicians could not achieve power without. Where is our outrage?

We are having less time to ourselves, to see our friends, to build families, to expand our minds and enjoy our lives. Where is your outrage?

We are told how many husbands or wives we can have as if it is some universal truth, whether we can sample some drugs and not others, whether we can get treatment for illness based on our income. Should I not be outraged?

We allow the phrase “it is just business,” the coldest most hateful phrase in the human lexicon, into general usage to justify all means of behaviour destructive to our societies, our neighbours, our friends and ourselves.

Outrage is not enough. Do something. Write a letter to a senator, a congressman, any politician, a company that uses child labour, a television station, a sports association. join a union to fight for a better wage- it’s not just for blue collar workers. Whatever part of your life is most affected.

[should have ended here]

The internet gives us all a powerful medium to effect change. Five days ago I started my contribution. I have decided not to be outraged but proactive. I have decided to do my bit for a change. I put up a website called sportscheat.org where players are shamed for cheating, where visitors are encouraged to sign a petition, write letters to television, sponsors of cheats and sports sportscheat_nas_01.pngassociations. In the first 4 hours it had 350 visitors and 70 signatories. I have committed myself to an hour or two a day to try and make a difference in the world.

What will your contribution be?

sportscheat.org

jester

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dry_riverbed_200×293.jpgI was 12 years old in 1984, the year I wrote a school project outlining the case for global warming due to “greenhouse gasses” as well as ozone depletion by CFCs* and how they were different issues but interconnected nonetheless. Of course there were no resources back then. It wasn’t in the scientific magazines or newspapers or anything.

I had to go out in the back yard and conduct my own experiments with weather balloons measuring emission levels at different atmospheric pressures. I took a 7 month trip to the antarctic, learning how to run a team of huskies in the process, to get ice samples down to 14 metres to measure historical greenhouse gas levels. Yes, I must have been an adventurous little 12 year old to have such startling, new science at my fingertips in 1984.

Being 12 I would not have used very big words nor would I have used particularily complex language in my description of the evidence. I realise, now, that global warming and rising ocean levels is my fault entirely. If only this irresponsible 12 year old had sent his simple report to the US Senate, Congress and business lobbies- written in terms they could comprehend, action might have been taken and the US might have used it’s international clout to effect international change in emissions. As it is, all they had was access to the very best scientists, technology and informational resources that money could buy (or could be threatened out of people with military action or torture).

“But everyone knows that scientists speak in odd and confusing terms. They have always got those funny sums and are so stupid that they can’t even do them with numbers- they have to put letters in instead. I mean, obviously the blokes at NASA need them, especially them ones that look at the stars, and were accordingly budgeted vast resources to hire 12 of the very best astrologers money could buy- one to specialise in each of the 12 signs of the Zodiac. But really, other than astrologists they’re all just guessing stuff. Really. Aren’t they?”

That, ultimately, turned out to be the problem. A scientist, unlike an astrologist, seldom claims absolute knowledge over a domain. They work in a combination of facts and probabilities. Fact: increased levels of carbon emissions in the air lead to the heating up of the planet and disturbance of it’s weather patterns. Fact: levels of carbon emissions in the atmosphere are increasing. Fact: we produce a lot of carbon gas emissions. Probability: is that we are affecting the carbon levels in the atmosphere, leading to global warming, rising sea levels, devastation in the third world and most tragically- another fucking movie sequel: this time to “Waterworld” by Kevin Costner.

Businesses didn’t want those to be the facts and talked to their marketing companies and, well, since when has marketing worried about facts? So “big business” are the culprits? Yes. And we were the culprits, too. The information was there. What of our consumer culture, the famous self-correcting nature of capitalism? We, the caring public, would of course stop buying items that weren’t eco-friendly, wouldn’t we? We, the educated 1st world masses would keep up to date with international news and scientific development rather than watch a rerun of Will and Grace! We would keep ourselves informed. We would save the day…

We have known for a long time about global warming, put it out of our minds and have leveraged our children and grandchildren for a $10 discount on a television. The same way we are leveraging the lives of people in poor countries for that self-same $10 discount on sneakers, footballs, T-shirts, iPods and DVD players. It is something we will continue to do for years to come. I, personally, see no way of stopping it.

The ideology of capitalism is no less entrenched than the ideologies of Christianity and Islam in our world. What will make people tell their legislators: “I will pay $10 more, I want to look after the interests of my neighbour today”?

*- and that ozone depletion may well be a cyclical thing merely exacerbated by CFCs.

sa_flag.jpgI live in South Africa. In crime-ridden South Africa. In Beautiful Cape Town. In the murder capital of South Africa. In a place ruled by fear where “no-one is safe*”. Where crime is out of control. Apparently.

These are, all of them, the views of our local television and print media. Media who rely on advertising. media who rely on readership. Media who rely on grabbing our attention and on holding it. There is no better attention getter than fear.

We continually refer to ourself as the crime capital of the world yet we are one of the few third world countries to provide anything near accurate statistics. China, India, Russia, Nigeria, Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico, and Pakistan have no reliable numbers and in some cases no numbers at all. Even where you have statistics certain murders, like honour killings in Muslim states, are not included.

I have lived here in Cape Town for 14 years straight, since before our first democratic elections. In that time no member of my family nor any one of my friends has ever been murdered. When I owned a bar with upwards of 300 regular clients who I knew well, would drink with and chat to not one of them ever told me of a close friend or family member criminally murdered. There was always “my mother’s cousin this” and “my cousin’s mother that”, all third-person tales but never “my dad was shot in the head last night and my mother raped and killed.”

I do not want to detract from the pain and suffering of those it has happened to, and I promise you it has happened- in your country too. But in this attention-seeking world where people have no time to have a life worth speaking about, where we no longer discuss philosophy at dinner, where politics is debated in sound-bytes not substance and religious coversations alway end in someone shooting someones dad in the head and raping their mother we humans are desperate for conversational topics that will give us attention.

Crime is an attention-getter. Fear is an attention getter. Telling ‘ghost stories’ is an attention getter. I firmly believe in the old axiom: “never let facts ruin a good story.” I am, at heart, a teller of tall tales and interesting anecdotes. I like to play with words. But I try and garner attention from humour, from the positive. It is far, far easier to attract attention and galvanise people with the negative. Ask these people and organisations: Hitler, Stalin, Moussolini, Al Queda, Neo-Nazis, Christian Fundamentalists, George W. Bush, Isreal, Tony Blair, Fatah, Hammas… I will not bother going on. You get the point.

Just so you know i am not claiming a Utopian State here in South Africa and that there is crime. Here is a list crimes I and my family have had to ‘survive’ since 1994.

Me: 1994- car stolen (inconvenient), 2003- cellphone stolen from bar, 2003- hit by drunk in a bar (are you looking at my bird? Yes. Wallop.)

Mother: 1996- car stolen, 2006 house break in (slept through it).

Father: 2004- tools stolen from garage, 2005- front door key stolen by someone doing work on the house (changed lock), 2006- front door key stolen by someone doing work on the house (changed lock).

All of the above is merely mildly annoying, not tragic. None of us now lives behind an electrical fence or razor wire. We still live our daily lives with doors unlocked. I still go out drinking. I got another cellphone. My car was insured. And through all this the most traumatic crime I had to deal with was the way the insurance company screwed me on my claim.

Although we do have higher crime in South Africa than first world countries, it is not nearly as bad as the hysterical media portray. It is true our police are ineffective against it: we have more crimes per police officer to deal with than Europe and less budget for training and the technology to assist them. We do have corruption in our police force as does every country in the world. I can, with confidence, state that looking at our statistics for crime and the size of our poice force that I cannot see them getting our violent crime down to first world levels with things as they are.

For all our vocal complaining and apparent fear when I, at a dinner with white and coloured friends, no black people**, bring up questions like “what do you think the causes are?” everyone says “poverty” first. Quite a few of people say “culture issues” and the ones who are not coy or who are drunk say what the people who say culture issues really mean, “black South Africans have no respect for human life.”

We all seem to agree that poverty is the problem. So, if you are bitching about crime and poverty is the leading cause- “what have you actually done, personally, about it?”

“We pay our taxes,” is the reply. Okay, what if that isn’t enough? What if that means we only get out of this in 30-50 years? Are you willing to pay more taxes?

“We already give 30-40%, the government should be able to do it’s job with that!” But, of course, it cannot. It cannot raise company taxes either because it wants more jobs to come to the country. It cannot raise taxes on fuel because that will push up food prices (transport). It cannot get more money without raising taxes. And whats more I think we are right not to want to pay more taxes. Governments should not be trusted entirely. The whole concept of democracy is based on distrust of our leaders. About 40-50% is the highest we should give directly to government.

What of the “culture” issue. The same people who say “black people have no respect for human life” are usually, in my experience, the same people who own guns. They are also the same people who are obsessed with their right to protect their property and “will shoot anyone who tries to rob me!” I would not dream of killing someone for trying to steal my television or my car. I might want to give them a bit of a kicking but that is natural anger. A prominent Afrikaans rugby player recently (last 10 years) killed his own daughter by emptying his gun into one of the family’s cars being backed, engine off, out of the driveway in the early hours of the morning. She was sneaking out to meet friends. If he respected life over property his daughter would still be alive.

These are also the same people who complain about beggars at traffic lights. I cannot give to every one and I cannot give every day. But when I cannot give I smile, ask them how they are today and then politely refuse. Respect. Most of these people would rather not be there. Many would prefer to have a job. For the professional beggars who pressure you and guilt you there is no reason to get angry. If they carry on you say, “I did say no, to carry on is really not nice. Please stop. Now.” If they still pressure me it becomes: “Now you’re being impolite, I will remember you and never give anything to you.” The next time they are at that light I remind them. Not angrily. Respect.

A culture clash is not the problem. A general culture of disrespect for the suffering of others and human life prevails in all communities in South Africa. Our property is more important than our neighbour’s well being. Oddly another country with the same philosophy has an unusually high murder rate. America. Covered well in Michael moore’s “Bowling for Columbine”.

The fact is, if we want a crime-free South Africa the first thing we need to do is show that we give a crap about the people who have nothing. Whether you give your time to a building project on Sundays as free labour. Whether you can afford R15000 to buy a plot of land and build someone a small house. Whether you can go to a poor school and offer R1000 per month to pay for an after-school sports program. If we want a better life for ourselves we not only have to pay taxes to pay for infrastructure, we have to make direct contact with the people who have little or nothing and let them know: we give a shit.

midnight jester

* Newspaper Headline, supposed quote from head of our top police unit.

** Black, white and coloured are not insults in South Africa, just convenient reference points. I pity all of you in other countries who have to tiptoe around these words.

Playing the Long Game

January 31, 2007

The jester gets dull and preachy about egalitarianism*, long game plans, sex and public nudity. Except for the bits about sex about public nudity.

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We in Democracies are familiar with the societal short game plan. The short game plan or ‘Short Game’ has come about because our democracies are based on the rights of the individual rather than the good of society as a whole. For instance: our system of law is based, in theory if not in practice, on the premise that we would rather 100 guilty men walk free then an innocent man go to jail.

Hence the “beyond reasonable doubt” ideal in the USA and the “preponderance of evidence” in the UK. So an OJ Simpson can walk free at least some of the time and in return we demand that we are never, ever incarcerated for something we did not do. If we were worried about the good of society first our legal systems would convict on “the balance of evidence.” If you look 51% guilty then off you go. No more dodgy Presidents or Prime Ministers.

The Short Game Plan has landed us with the war in Iraq, reality television, poverty in Africa, global warming, a failing format in first world education and Oprah as the highest paid entertainer on the planet. Our prediliction to judge purely on how things are affecting us now leads us to vilify George Bush, Tony Blair, Christians, UFOlogists, Saddam Hussein, Ricky Lake and my Aunt Mildred and her Stupid Blue Hair.

But 100 years from now how much will any of these things matter and if they do, what might the world think? Historically we can see what a difference small decisions might have made that could have had a huge effect on history: Moses remembering his map before leaving the house and not having to rely on Gods directions; Adolf Hitler’s mom giving him a hug from time to time; the English leaving the criminals in England and emigrating to Australia’s sun and surf instead of the other way around (England would be winning the cricket, for one).

In 100 years the middle east conflict may have escalated and result in the death of everyone except 3 men, 4 women and a goat named Ahmed who all decide this religious intolerance thing was a dumb idea and just a fad anyway, begin wearing bright colours and start a commune, vindicating George and Tony and their invasion of Iraq.

Ricky Lake’s trash talking not-at-all-coached guests may inspire North Americans to finally switch off the TV and read a book instead if only to make absolutely sure they do not become those people on television.

In 100 years time Christine, Jesus Christ’s sister may have popped down, much to the embarrasment of the atheists and apologised for the delay in the second coming, “which was meant to happen, rather dramatically, on the eve of 2000 but my brother has been bogged down designing an 180 hole golf-course in heaven since 1998 and you know how these projects get out of hand…”- which is why she diceided to step in and organising everything. She is very upset that the whole egalitarian society-thing hasn’t been properly sorted out yet and what’s all this worry about drugs: when “Dad” made all the animals and plants for man he just wasn’t just screwing around. And not to worry all you athiests, satanists, reborn christians and other hated groups: it was universal peace and love and understanding, not a private club. Oh, and chuck that book you’ve been using, it’s way too full of inane, mysoginistic bullshit.

In that same future My aunt Mildred may have had her “Blue Hair keeps out the alien voices” theory proved right as UFOlogists announce they have made contact with their first alien, Steve, who works ‘in accounts’ near Betelgeuse IV and is sorry for ruining all those crops but he thought they were insured and “didn’t the patterns look pretty, though.”

So, hindsight is not really 20:20. Hindsite is long-sighted. Things get clearer the further away from them you get because the context gets broader.

In the 20th century we have been raised less and less over subsequent generations to look at the big picture or long game plan. Time was, even in the west, when planning was done not only for the children but the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Building wealth and security was something you did over multiple generations. It’s not long ago that clothed and fed with a roof over your head meant pretty well off. Poverty did not wear, as it does now in the first world, $100 or even $50 sneakers.

To my point: Every movie I have ever seen portraying an ideal future, a utopia, shows an egalitarian* society. All with equal access to amenities, all with little time spent working and more time spent thinking or creating as robots take over most menial labour, no concept of wealth or anyone being above another in power. Influence, status and respect based on behaviours (whether they be physical, intellectual or creative achievements) rather than accumulation in wealth and power. I, certainly, could live with that.

The standard capitalist argument is that an egalitarian society creates no incentive or drive and is therefore doomed to fail. If people are not allowed to achieve wealth and power as an aim then they will get lazy. This agument is a failure in the face of evolutionary-driven mammalian behaviour. Mammals use status to find a mate. Remove wealth and power as aphrodisiacs and people must concentrate on social achievement of whatever kind for status. Status drive becomes a positive influence rather than a negative one.

So, can anyone out there conceive, by thinking a long game, how we get from where we are and our current direction, to there? For the first time ever there are societies that can afford advanced egalitarian societies. Capitalism has driven first world economies to that point. But to actually get to an egalitarian state will require the overhall of negativity toward social programs. All of these are caused by the negative marketing attached to communism. The detach between socialist ideals and communist ideals need to be broken permanently.

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* e·gal·i·tar·i·an [i-gal-i-tair-ee-uhn] Pronunciation Key

Show IPA Pronunciation

adjective

1. asserting, resulting from, or characterized by belief in the equality of all people, esp. in political, economic, or social life.

–noun

2. a person who adheres to egalitarian beliefs.

 

I was just thinking of a logical extrapolation of my ‘static time’ idea: (1) that time is a set dimension, unchanging; (2) that we occupy a set part of; (3) that we can only experience a small part of at any point in the same way that you only see the bits of the other 3 dimensions that are right in front of you, too. (ref#1)

This must come from a unconcious connection with a theory I read in New Scientist from Nick Bostrom called the “Simulation Argument” (ref#2) from around 2002, shortly after the release of “The Matrix” and “Thirteenth Floor”.

His format is useful here so I will nick it. This theory would assume that we are not, as his suggests we probably are, actually living in a computer simulation run by sentient computers or, alternatively, other humans, plants, hyper-intelligent bacteria, attractive female aliens with beehive hairdos saying “show me more of this earth thing called kissing”*, trans-dimensional beings with an uncanny resemblance to white mice, the Monster Raving Loony Party or any combination thereof.

At least One of the following propositions is true:
(1) the human species will go extinct before mastering the dimension of time and our movement through it; (2) any human civilisation mastering time would decide not to use that ability or technology to interfere with events; (3) post-human beings from the future are now, and always have been, around us affecting events and we now live, and always have lived, in the best possible world that we as a species possibly could at any point in time.

So, if you don’t like it, lump it. Or if you wish to remonstrate with “the management” about how things are going: leave a complaint buried in a ‘time capsule’**.

* Red Dwarf. British Comedy. If you haven’t seen it: do.
** a dull excercise forced on children in the 80s by deluded but well-meaning teachers who thought archeologists of the future might be awed by uncovering a sealed, plastic container containing a Star wars action figure, a picture of the class’ pet hamster, “Harold”, and a half-page synopsis of international affairs written by a 9-year-old.

ref#1: https://midnightjester.wordpress.com/2007/01/11/the-nature-of-time/
ref#2: http://www.simulation-argument.com/

Summary of “Simulation Argument”: his paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.