Monday, May 22, 2006

Fear Survey

Former Vassar schoolmate, talented artist, and the man who took over the reins from this author as Vassar College Ultimate Frisbee captain, Curtiss Calleo, sent along the below Survey on Fear:


When you were a child, what do you remember being most afraid of? How did you overcome your fear? Did you ever overcome it?
Stage fright. I overcame it, first by asserting my voice in college as an outspoken member of a couple club-level sports teams (Ultimate Frisbee and Ski) I became captain of, and then later on by forcing myself to act while living in Prague during the early 90's. Not a very good actor, but I did manage to overcome that fear to a degree. Still, I am one of those odd types who craves to have one's voice heard, but prefers to operate behind the scenes. Recently, forced by the fact that no one else is doing it, I am making my voice heard within the blogoshpere in a more overt front and center manner.

What are your biggest fears now? Tell us how they manifest themselves...
My own country's blindness to it's own flaws that threaten to destroy us and the world. Manifestation? Fight! I am writing my ass off and trying to create a bottom up sideways, grass roots internet-enabled capitalistic alternative that values "Democracy of Touch" on a par with "Democracy of Pocket". Individual agency is where it all begins. Nothing changes because we don't believe it can and do nothing. Self fulfilling prophecy.

Are you afraid of terrorism? Tell us when and where you are afraid, how, etc...
Yes. I live in NYC, ground zero for dirty bombs, biological attacks or worse. The current Administration has made me feel less safe and I want them the heck on outta here. I would also think two or three or four times before taking a trip to the Middle East these days.


"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"
No, WE have many things to fear. Illegal detention, wiretapping, global warming, Jungian shadow projection of our worst flaws upon the other that allows us to always blame the other guy...

I, on the other hand? I only have fear to fear. And that's the problem. A whole lot of I's relying on WE to do the something's they never do themselves and then wonder why nothing changes.

"There would be no one to frighten you if you refused to be afraid."
There'd be many things to frighten you, you just wouldn't be afraid, which might be kinda dumb. You might end up dead.

We NEED to be afraid sometimes if only to protect ourselves or the ones we love. When was the last time, for instance, that you, as a white guy, Curtiss, walked through East New York late at night by yourself? Hung out cattishly upon a hot stove? Walked past that guy with the gun pointed at you?

But to be afraid of bogeyman's of our own making? Ones that we actually create by giving encouragement to those who would have us fear them? That's a different story altogether.

"Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security"
Yes and No. That's a broad statement. Suffice it to say that, as per the question above, sometimes it's okay to trade the liberty to hang out in a burning building for the security of getting yo a$$ outta there. But again, as per the above question, to trade liberty and security for hegemonistically "framed" threats to our well-being cynically propagated by our own leaders to suppress dissent, yet ungrounded by any reasonable measure of emotional, spiritual or bodily rational risk/reward analysis? You tell me? It's as silly as all those folks who won't fly only to hop into a car to pick up a loaf of bread 2 blocks away.

You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible."
Hmmm. I see a lot of alive people out there without either trust or belief. Seems to me that statement needs to be addressed on a case by case basis. That said, I believe that belief in people and life is the only route to a better world than we currently occupy and is the difference between man, animal and inanimate.

The ancients anthorpomorphized the universe and ascribed intention and will to it in order to empower themselves. Why? Because that is the route to the possibility of a better world in a universe of "good" and "bad" alike indifferent on a collective level to the indvidual spirit. Speaking only for myself, I prefer death to lack of trust and belief and believe myself not alone. Choose trust and belief over cynicim and despair and you have already changed the world if only because you have changed yourself. As far as that goes, it's not that "life becomes impossible" without trust and belief but that a better life becomes impossible.

Silencing Those Who Speak of Those Who Are Not Silent

"Don't Pay Attention and It'll Go Away" Quoth the Tongue of the Mouth

A while back I did a Gothamist interview with  Artist and Electronic Civil Disobedience (ECD) Pioneer, Ricardo Dominguez. Electronic Civil Disobedience (aka Digital Zapatismo), is front and center at the heart of the 21st Century's invisible arms race for control of Cyberspace and beyond.

Think of ECD as a 1960's mass sit-in updated for the Information Age. In addition to brick and mortar spaces, protestors also occupy virtual spaces, and instead of 100 participants there might be a million participants variously converging towards a single online "target" or diasporically seeding trans-global flash-mobs. That's good news for "the people" out there yearning to have their voices heard in a world tending ever more towards corporate oligarchy, but it's bad news too because "the evil ones" have access to the exact same technological power as the "good guys." What's more, the barbarians aren't just at the gate; they are already inside it because everyone is everywhere and nowhere all at once.

Imagine North Korea hanging out by Times Square, The Eiffel Tower, The Coliseum and London Bridge all of a piece times a thousand and you can begin to get a sense of why Digital Zapatismo makes governments around the world quite nervous.

Now, in all honesty, while it seems to me that many of the ECD movement's tactics are harmless, amusing and even creatively and artistically poignant -- imagine for instance, flooding the White House Website with bogus URLs in order to obtain error log results that proclaim "Justice.html does not reside on" -- I can't say as I'm a huge fan of the movement, if only because it runs the risk of creating a world-wide web of Citizen Naders without 1/100th his integrity or intelligence. You only need a very small number of obstinate anarchists to really screw things up for the rest of us.

Say, for instance, (this is made up!) some animal activists attack "The Apprentice" website because Donald wore a leather jacket on the show? The thing is I need my Trumptosterone fix, I need to see that extra footage from the Board Room firing scene and those damn activists are getting in my way!

Point is, Electronic Civil Disobedience, just like bombs or guns or persuasive rhetoric, is a powerful weapon, and in the wrong hands can be used in quite destructive manner. Given that, you'd think, of course, that it would be something we might want to talk about. No?

So why this nagging dread that the mere mention of ECD will invite surveillance of my online activities by my own government?

How absurdly dissociated from reality we are when we can no longer even talk openly about the threats we face as a nation. If for no other reason, this exponential-noded silence laden with collective fear, suspicion and mistrust, is reason enough to think twice before discounting ECD all together.

How odd now how wrong Orwell seemed just twenty years ago.

A Warmonger Explains The Iraq War to A Peacenik

From the Email Archives...

By Anonymous

PeaceNik: Why did you say we are we invading Iraq?

WarMonger: We are invading Iraq because it is in violation of security council resolution 1441. A country cannot be allowed to violate security council resolutions.

PN: But I thought many of our allies, including Israel, were in violation of more security council resolutions than Iraq.

WM: It's not just about UN resolutions. The main point is that Iraq could have weapons of mass destruction, and the first sign of a smoking gun could well be a mushroom cloud over NY.

PN: Mushroom cloud? But I thought the weapons inspectors said Iraq had no nuclear weapons.

WM: Yes, but biological and chemical weapons are the issue.

PN: But I thought Iraq did not have any long range missiles for attacking us or our allies with such weapons.

WM: The risk is not Iraq directly attacking us, but rather terrorists networks that Iraq could sell the weapons to.

PN: But could virtually any country sell chemical or biological materials? We sold quite a bit to Iraq in the eighties ourselves, didn't we?

WM: That's ancient history. Look, Saddam Hussein is an evil man that has an undeniable track record of repressing his own people since the early eighties. He gasses his enemies. Everyone agrees that he is a power-hungry lunatic murderer.

PN: We sold chemical and biological materials to a power-hungry lunatic murderer?

WM: The issue is not what we sold, but rather what Saddam did. He is the one that launched a pre-emptive first strike on Kuwait.

PN: A pre-emptive first strike does sound bad. But didn't our ambassador to Iraq, April Gillespie, know about and green-light the invasion of Kuwait?

WM: Let's deal with the present, shall we? As of today, Iraq could sell its biological and chemical weapons to Al Quaida. Osama BinLaden himself released an audio tape calling on Iraqis to suicide-attack us, proving a partnership between the two.

PN: Osama Bin Laden? Wasn't the point of invading Afghanistan to kill him?

WM: Actually, it's not 100% certain that it's really Osama Bin Laden on the tapes. But the lesson from the tape is the same: there could easily be a partnership between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein unless we act.

PN: Is this the same audio tape where Osama Bin Laden labels Saddam a secular infidel?

WM: You're missing the point by just focusing on the tape. Powell presented a strong case against Iraq.

PN: He did?

WM: Yes, he showed satellite pictures of an Al Quaeda poison factory in Iraq.

PN: But didn't that turn out to be a harmless shack in the part of Iraq controlled by the Kurdish opposition?

WM: And a British intelligence report...

PN: Didn't that turn out to be copied from an out-of-date graduate student paper?

WM: And reports of mobile weapons labs...

PN: Weren't those just artistic renderings?

WM: And reports of Iraqis scuttling and hiding evidence from inspectors...

PN: Wasn't that evidence contradicted by the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix?

WM: Yes, but there is plenty of other hard evidence that cannot be revealed because it would compromise our security.

PN: So there is no publicly available evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

WM: The inspectors are not detectives, it's not their JOB to find evidence. You're missing the point.

PN: So what is the point?

WM: The main point is that we are invading Iraq because resolution 1441 threatened "severe consequences." If we do not act, the security council will become an irrelevant debating society.

PN: So the main point is to uphold the rulings of the security council?

WM: Absolutely. ...unless it rules against us.

PN: And what if it does rule against us?

WM: In that case, we must lead a coalition of the willing to invade Iraq.

PN: Coalition of the willing? Who's that?

WM: Britain, Turkey, Bulgaria, Spain, and Italy, for starters.

PN: I thought Turkey refused to help us unless we gave them tens of billions of dollars.

WM: Nevertheless, they may now be willing.

PN: I thought public opinion in all those countries was against war.

WM: Current public opinion is irrelevant. The majority expresses its will by electing leaders to make decisions.

PN: So it's the decisions of leaders elected by the majority that is important?

WM: Yes.

PN: But George Bush wasn't elected by voters. He was selected by the U.S. Supreme C...-

WM I mean, we must support the decisions of our leaders, however they were elected, because they are acting in our best interest. This is about being a patriot. That's the bottom line.

PN: So if we do not support the decisions of the president, we are not patriotic?

WM: I never said that.

PN: So what are you saying? Why are we invading Iraq?

WM: As I said, because there is a chance that they have weapons of mass destruction that threaten us and our allies.

PN: But the inspectors have not been able to find any such weapons.

WM: Iraq is obviously hiding them.

PN: You know this? How?

WM: Because we know they had the weapons ten years ago, and they are still unaccounted for.

PN: The weapons we sold them, you mean?

WM: Precisely.

PN: But I thought those biological and chemical weapons would degrade to an unusable state over ten years.

WM: But there is a chance that some have not degraded.

PN: So as long as there is even a small chance that such weapons exist, we must invade?

WM: Exactly.

PN: But North Korea actually has large amounts of usable chemical, biological, AND nuclear weapons, AND long range missiles that
can reach the west coast AND it has expelled nuclear weapons inspectors, AND threatened to turn America into a sea of fire.

WM: That's a diplomatic issue.

PN: So why are we invading Iraq instead of using diplomacy?

WM: Aren't you listening? We are invading Iraq because we cannot allow the inspections to drag on indefinitely. Iraq has been delaying, deceiving, and denying for over ten years, and inspections cost us tens of millions.

PN: But I thought war would cost us tens of billions.

WM: Yes, but this is not about money. This is about security.

PN: But wouldn't a pre-emptive war against Iraq ignite radical Muslim sentiments against us, and decrease our security?

WM: Possibly, but we must not allow the terrorists to change the way we live. Once we do that, the terrorists have already won.

PN: So what is the purpose of the Department of Homeland Security, color-coded terror alerts, and the Patriot Act? Don't these change
the way we live?

WM: I thought you had questions about Iraq.

PN: I do. Why are we invading Iraq?

WM: For the last time, we are invading Iraq because the world has called on Saddam Hussein to disarm, and he has failed to do so.He must now face the consequences.

PN: So, likewise, if the world called on us to do something, such as find a peaceful solution, we would have an obligation to listen?

WM: By "world", I meant the United Nations.

PN: So, we have an obligation to listen to the United Nations?

WM: By "United Nations" I meant the Security Council.

PN: So, we have an obligation to listen to the Security Council?

WM: I meant the majority of the Security Council.

PN: So, we have an obligation to listen to the majority of the Security Council?

WM: Well... there could be an unreasonable veto.

PN: In which case?

WM: In which case, we have an obligation to ignore the veto.

PN: And if the majority of the Security Council does not support us at all?

WM: Then we have an obligation to ignore the Security Council.

PN: That makes no sense.

WM: If you love Iraq so much, you should move there. Or maybe France, with all the other cheese-eating surrender monkeys. It's time to boycott their wine and cheese, no doubt about that.

PN: I give up!