Breadth of Freedom (2020Jun21)

Sunday, June 21, 2020                                             5:52 PM

Breadth of Freedom   (2020Jun21)

In the 1950s, the Pulps, as they were called, were considered a bad influence on children, along with Comic Books. This was the mind-set for which the Fifties are famous: some topics of conversation were forbidden, and others very definitely frowned upon.

But even the 1950s were broader-minded than the preceding decade—and this could be said of each the 20th Century’s decades. The acceleration of transportation and communications made ‘decades’ the new normal for a changing world.

Prior to the Industrial Explosion, humanity was regional, parochial, and only managed significant change in terms of centuries. And prior to the early cultures of the Mediterranean, change in humanity’s condition is measured in millennia.

Today’s Americans measure change by four-year presidential terms (whether they are first or second terms is immaterial). But the 1950s stands out as the last-gasp of a slower, more-ignorant American public. Communities still considered themselves close-knit enough for conversational taboos to keep uncomfortable ideas and issues from coming to light.

I am most impressed by the human habit of being irritated by a change in subject-matter. In olden times, saying anything unusual was a good way to get beat upon—if you weren’t a witch or a troublemaker, you were just simple in the head.

We have no conception of the communal irritation that ‘free’-ish thinkers were subjected to. The phrase Fulton’s Folly is still known, echoing down history as a reminder that his entire community laughed in Fulton’s face for years while he developed the first working steamboat.

In Salem, centuries earlier, women were being executed for looking funny at someone. We have no idea of the power of peer pressure, in the days when a community was tighter than most modern families.

It is only the disruption of Science and Reason that have levered humanity out of its built-in communal dysfunction—and I know, if civilization should happen to crash, that freedom-from-bullying will be the thing I’ll miss most.

The effects on me are curious: I would be at risk in many countries—not realizing that religious talk can be fatal, or other unconventional thoughts that may be illegal or dangerous to express—and it wouldn’t be safe for me to bring my library to many countries. Even in more conservative American regions, I could easily disgrace myself, just by being my usual discursive jabbermouth.

But one really has to read science fiction to get the full scope of the revolution in thinking—publicly-debated, social thinking—that liberal America (and most of Europe and Japan) enjoy. Asimov, Clarke, Sturgeon, et. al. were writing for the pulps in the fifties—because the idea of leaving the Earth was one of those ‘Beat-that-guy-up’ Ideas that ‘serious’ people had pooh-poohed forever.

Soon after, several things happened: People left the Earth, and the USA was spending billions to catch up. Arthur C. Clarke was awarded the patent for TelStar, the first telecommunications satellite in geo-synch orbit, because he published a pulp story that described it in exact detail —which kinda shut up all the naysayers. Then there was Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” and Kurt Vonnegut’s take on the far side of sci-fi—and humanity.

The amazing concept of interchanging numbers with characters, into something called ‘programming’—for a thinking machine, no less, was kept a deep secret, from the end of WWII onward. Had the Nerd Revolution not been swept off their feet by Intel, and further titillated by the globe-spanning power of the Internet, Computer Science might yet be a state secret, rotting in storage like Indy’s Ark.

Instead, we have an explosion, not only in new tools of digital magic—but an explosion of concepts, borne of the instantiation of such things as databases, real-time feeds, multi-player gaming, etc., etc. Alan Turing probably never considered the swath of established businesses (and business practices) that digital technology would erase from history, like horse-buggy-whips. Digitalization is changing more than business—it is changing the world. I hope no one was attached to our existing socio-economic culture—‘cause it’s going fast….

Watch Yourself (2020Jun10)

Wednesday, June 10, 2020                                               4:22 AM

Watch Yourself   (2020Jun10)

Traditionally, the American Male will jettison his family responsibilities, lose his last urge towards decency, and let fall his last shred of ethics—all in his quest for wealth and power. If he avoids arrest, and gets hold of a lot of other peoples’ money, we call that success. If these poor bastards are the winners, I’m proud to be a loser.

Then, these same animals will try to act all ‘elitist’, as if being a pure piece of shit made them better than us. This is the American Dream in its actuality—pretending your money makes you special.

Oh, if only it were true! If only rich people weren’t a uniform mass of assholes. Imagine that confused pol, Biden, as our knight in shining armor! Imagine being reluctant to criticize that asshole Bezos, just because Trump is jealous of him. Imagine people taking anything Zuckerberg says seriously.

Imagine having a whole TV cable channel devoted to lying, in crooks’ favor. Imagine a media empire with the same goal. The owner of The Inquirer made an industry out of lying to us—and blackmailing celebrities—and he’s all good. If only decent people had a sense of vengeance, he’d be looking over his shoulder, for life.

The people shouting the loudest are scared for all they have to lose—their dirty money, their respectability, their privilege. It all sits on a knife edge, balanced on the inertia of society. Now they’ve shifted the center of balance on society’s inertia, they’re shouting louder than ever, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”.

Fortunately, although people are ever concerned with money, Society, as a whole, doesn’t concern itself with bill-paying. Society reacts. So watch yourself.

And, on top of all that… (2020May04)

And, on top of all that… (2020May04)

Citizens are still working hard at the American Experiment. They’re marching (and masking) and protesting and calling for reform–as well they should. Respected Generals, forced by the disgraceful behavior of our ‘Administration’, are speaking directly to the public.

Think about that. Think about what it would have felt like, if a member of the Defense Department had ever done that with a real president. And imagine how we would have reacted! There’s even a movie about it, called “Seven Days in May” (I highly recommend both the movie and the original novel).

Now, that’s with a Real President (back when we have some judgement in our voting). Incredible though it may seem, former-secretary Mattis is not calling for a Coup. He is merely breaking the long-standing gentlemen’s agreement between big-shots–he is telling the American people what an a-hole our ‘president’ is. And he is doing it, not to overthrow, but to preserve our Democracy.

Trump is a confused old man who thinks history is not only Over, but oughta be Rolled Back a mite. Our American Experiment continues, whether that rich, old fuck likes it or not. I knew this would happen. No overgrown brat gets to spit on our legacy, borne in blood, for year upon year, without eventuaslly pissing off all Americans, as much as I was pissed off on his first day.

& Yes, the Racism is Bad–our national shame, that disgraces us in the eyes of civilized countries–but let’s not forget, we’re still in the middle of Trump trying let this virus run its course, kill 2-3% of Americans, and call it a win. The job of containing the virus still waits for the United States to begin a serious effort.