Sunday, December 4, 2011

America's Nervous Breakdown

In any period of enlightenment, there are certain adjustments that must take place, both inwardly to ourselves and outwardly in society. Personal realization changes our minds, in some way or other, revolution changes our world, similarly. Paradigm shifts, regardless of their qualifications or measurement, come and go. We need only look back in time to examine possible outcomes. We need only be aware of the shift in the present, to achieve the healthiest attitude toward it, whatever it may be.

In the 21st Century Enlightenment, our personal adjustment is one of a technologically achieved amalgam intellect, our societal result is a discovery of the systemic flaws in our designs. The internet, and more importantly, the uncontrolled sharing of information on it, has lead us to an unprecedented awareness of the mechanics of various aspects of societies problems, as well as an expectation that something be done about it. Thus, the revolutionary aspect of change, necessitated into action by way of a new intentionality. We are, after all, in our modern times and devices, nothing if not in control of our own systems, (or so it should be...)

When it comes to pass that the masses become aware of some gross injustice by the very people whom are meant to be in charge of being fair, no one should be surprised by discontentment, particularly when said injustice has a profound effect on the lives of the masses. Furthermore, any such discontentment, provided both time and force should grow into something that becomes expressed, often violently. (Although, not always. Violence is certainly not a prerequisite to revolution.) However, there is a deeper, further reaching aspect to the 21st Century Enlightenment that couldn't even had been imagined in any movements of the past. In modernity, we carry with us a firm understanding of the machinations of control. We've already pulled back the curtain and revealed the wizard, both within our psyches and societies. We know we're being manipulated, placated and systematically busied. We understand there needs to be some system of control to avoid having us live lives of chaos. We dare to presumed that we know better than those who hold power now. We go so far as to accuse them of being robber barons, because we've come to learn that they are. Previous revolutions may have had similar reasons for being, but ours leaves an unavoidable trail.

Yet part of the problem is, we know we're right. Our current frustrations are the predecessors of a nervous breakdown, brought on by the semantic deception of dialectical theses. Namely, the people in charge are the criminals and they must do more than simply point fingers in circles. Consider the current self-inflicted economic crisis as the impetus for a death blow. When the wizard behind the curtain is out to screw us, gets caught, then shrugs it off and blames someone else for it, we want our pound of flesh. When it turns out the that bad guys are the people who we thought were the good guys, we want justice that much more. When we're living in our car, eating food stamps because of the betrayal, how can we be expected to be anything but livid? Our breakdown is planned, the nervousness is fear of what it's going to take to stop it. This kind of control isn't given up without a fight.

Movements to occupy wall street are effective in raising some awareness of “a problem,” although not necessarily “the problem.” Simply put, the problem is that the interests of the government have become infiltrated by the interests of business, which have changed the nature of the system, to create the opportunity to profit off our losses. The cost of their crime is the failure of the system they serve, the price paid by the culprits is continued control. In the simplest terms, the economy is failing due to the lying and cheating of a very small group of individuals. These folks happen to populate the corridors of the most powerful institutions in the world.

The cross pollination of bankers and politicians, or politic and profit, of contraindicating ideologies is the stuff that leads to our predicament. The argument that this is conspiracy theory is no longer valid. This is conspiracy fact. When President Obama throws up his hands and says, “What can I do? Senate won't approve what it doesn't want.” He is not being exactly fair. By way of his inaction on things he could force and his appointments of guilty players, he is, at least, guilty by association. Therein lies another facet contributing to our frustration: Shall we occupy the White house? Occupy everything? Where do we draw the line? Are we too guilty by compliance? We do, after all, perpetuate the faulty designs of our predecessors: Producing waste in the name of needing to continue profiting. A solution to this problem, however, must remain to be solved at a later date: we have more immediate fish to fry.

This brings us to the next problem: how do you fry the proverbial fish, when there are so many? What if, in the process, you discover that you too are a fish, currently being fried? America's nervous breakdown is caused by the deepest running scam of all time: the fiat based economy, highjacked by an elite. Entrenched and secure, seemingly from all threats, the same folks keep turning over in the same positions. Kings of commerce, Traders of economies, complicit if not directly profiting, guilty by intentional inaction. This is the final screw, the last great snatching at the lone gold ring. Efforts to postpone the death of the free market, as it is incarnated, (an overly de-regulated liars contest based on an un-evaluateable imaginary tender,) only serve to delay the inevitable. Business, trade and profit must remain reasonable and warrant servicing the needs of individuals over profit. This utilitarian philosophy will come to fruition in time, with or without revolution now, as it is a means and the median always wins out.

The only way to speed solution to our doors is a complete changing of the guard, a shakedown not seen since the days of JFK. Government and trade must be separated, on all fronts, including militarily. Unfortunately, I think it's much more likely that our great distraction will win over our minds, our hearts, our wallets and our souls. Manipulations and distractions are the greatest, easiest, most effective way to trap our acceptance to any particular raw deal. The bigger the distraction, the better. Other leaders, in other moments of opportunity have brought about new paradigms with which to use the machinations at their disposal, in essence, creating the reality they desire, leaving you begging for the action they wished to achieve in the first place. These moments always appeal to baser, emotional, instinctual reactions than to the reasoned objectiveness that hindsight often provides. Nervous hands have itchy trigger fingers. These are the dangers of any revolution.

It could all be avoided. It's all based on things that don't exist. It's actually ridiculous.
America is in the saddest confused state of modernity and has no one to blame but itself.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

the 21st Century Enlightenment - Essays from the year 2011

My essays from 2011 delivered in an inexpensive paperback, available now. Includes my ongoing commentary on the state of the world, the occupy movement, the 21st Century Enlightenment and "the war on reason."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Celebrate the War of 1812?

Those of you familiar with my writing, in particular, those who read chapter seven of my book, (below) Anti-Social Engineering the Hyper-Manipulated Self, (now available as a free download,) know something of both my love of using intentionality to explain reality and my love of hating conservatism, in particular, the political variety, to explain the virtuous life.

My thoughts and feelings are not shared by Stephen Harper and Canadian neo-cons. This comes to no surprise for me or my readers. Some of you may have noticed that I tend only to write about this specific topic when an announcement of this ilk is made, or I otherwise get pissed off about how this country, (this world,) is run.

My latest complaint is centered around the Conservative government's decision to “celebrate the anniversary of the War of 1812.”

(I thought I'd let that sentence stand alone in your mind for a second. You know, so the ridiculousness could set it. “Celebrate the War of 1812.”)

Yikes. Well, before we start discussing the intentionality of the idea, or discover it's purpose by delineating the prior intention from the intention in action, let's take a look at what is being said by our government. These include but are not limited to statements like: “Celebrate the history of the war of 1812. Visit the sights, relearn the history, take in a museum, check out the re-enactments.” (Yes, they're paying, sorry we're paying, for re-enactments.) We're also paying for the restoration of historical sites, a national monument, coins and stamps.

Here are some relevant links:

This, I guess, should not surprise us. Conservatives are, well conservative. They like things just the way they are. That is to say, War is good business, War works. By way of being conservative, they have traditionally been supportive of the motives and methods of war. They like war, they think it should continue. Furthermore, by way of being Canadian, they are always playing catchup with Americans, the Kings of war. They have all but admitted that this is the kind of patriotism they wish to endorse. This is to be a nationalism based on our ability to enforce our ideologies.

So, again we should not be surprised that we are to toot our own horn about the one time that “Canadians” (in quotes because Canada wasn't a nation in 1812,) were able to kick some American ass. Now, if you know me at all, you know I think this is bordering on absurd and is, at the least, unnaturally stupid. Perhaps we should also celebrate the destruction of our Native peoples? Maybe build a monument to the wasteful poisoning of the world's largest fresh water supply? How about we design a coin and stamp commemorating our most famous mass murderer, Clifford Olsen? I wouldn't mind paying a few of my tax dollars for a statue in Ottawa of an eagle raping a beaver. But then again, being who he is, Stephen Harper wouldn't think of this as a problem. He condones it, approves of it, works toward it, hard.

Having made my rather subjective tirade clear, let's now take a look at what Mr. Harper and his neo-cons are actually intending by their actions. As usual, we will have to reduce their intentions to the base, the lowest common denominator. Yet, in this case, I think this is aptly done by the folks presenting the intention. This is what I find so shocking, if we are celebrating war, we are celebrating war. If we are specific in our celebrations, as in, “celebrate this or that war, with this or that people,” then we have narrowed it down enough. We're supposed to be thinking about war with America. Why?

It pretty obvious isn't it? Conservatives are conservatives because they don't want change. What's the opposite of war? Peace. So the real question is, why don't we celebrate peace? There's no money in peace. Simple answer for a stupid idea.

Conservatism is unnatural. Stephen Harper and those who support the ideas of conservatism are blocking progress. Natural systems, even those we design and allow to grow prudently, are flexible, dynamic systems that can, at the very least, change. Conservatives don't want change. They think everything is fine. They are very close to finding out the masses disagree. Everything is not fine.

I grow weary of the rampant ineptitude of modernity. Stop the humans before it's too late.

Further reading: (I've been complaining about conservatism for awhile...)

7. On the nature of reality & our perception of it.

This is Chapter Seven of Anti-Social Engineering the Hyper-Manipulated Self.
It's long and complicated, but it will serve you well to understand this... It is an integral part of anti-social engineering.
So here we are, in the twenty first century and the search for the self is still the most important philosophical pursuit of the day. At least so says John Searle, who is probably most famous for his work on Intentionality.
Any thought that is directed is an intention. This might sound strange at first, but “directed-ness” will be become clearer later. (Then it will become muddy again, then clear, and finally, if you survive, we will have some idea of how the “who we are” works in the “what there is.”) Intentionality provides us the terms necessary to appreciate the nature of reality and our perception of it.
Intentions form from within a network of other intentions and if fruitful, these intentions may grow into new intentions. (Similar to networks of associations making up paradigm in the Philosophy Generator.) Like the Linguists, Searle considers there to be no fundamental difference between the language used to express the idea and the idea itself, in formulaic terms. The idea has to be expressed in some way and while it's unlikely that everyone thinks in “word pictures” the ideas have to be formed, named, organized and correlated, if they aren't, we didn't have them in the first place.
Intentionality is our mental relation to the world. Intentionality consists of those states of the mind, conscious and unconscious, which in some sense are directed at, about or of, the contents of our minds. Intention does not mean just the desire to do something, as in “I intend to go to the movies tonight.” It does mean this too, but not only this. Intentionality also includes every conception formed in the mind, perceptions, feeling, desiring, almost every thought. (There are unintentional thoughts, but it gets more complicated than mere “accidents.”)
For Searle, and so it seems for us, there's only two ways for intention to go: in or out. In linguistics these two possible intentional directions are called the “word to world fit” and the “world to word fit.” These “directions of fit” tie into language and what we mean when we say anything. We either try to match our words to the world or vice versa. As there is very little difference in what we think and how we communicate what we think, let us call these directions of mind, as Searle does too, in their philosophical version of “mind to world and world to mind.” We either try to match our minds to the world or vice versa.
Imagine that I have given my wife a shopping list. My wife has the intention of getting the world to match the list, this is world to mind direction of fit. This might seem backwards. Perhaps you think that it should be mind to world. We are, after all, trying to get the contents of my mind (the list,) to match the reality we seek, (the world.) The key word is “to.” If it helps, think of it this way, (I am trying to get the) WORLD TO (match my) MIND. We are not trying to get my mind to match the world. The shopping list came from my mind and now my wife will attempt to make the world match the list, thus, world to mind.
Let's pretend that, in my wife's absence, I am now free to wrap the anniversary present I have bought her. So it wasn't my intention to get the items on the shopping list, or at least, this wasn't my primary intention. I just gave my wife the shopping list to get her out of the house, so that I could wrap her present, keeping it a secret. Let's not fail to notice that although I might have an overall intention in this scenario, intentions (like paradigms,) are also an interweaving mess of connections, which can get confusing. We will attempt to clear this up, as Searle does. (He credits British Philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe for the shopping list story. I have made changes to it for my own purposes.)
A world to mind direction of fit, such as a shopping list, is an order. It must be either obeyed or not. Let's take a moment to think about this before continuing. Can we imagine a scenario where this rule is false? A world to mind intention is something that we think, which then becomes a reality, if it is obeyed. Well, I can think of building a bicycle made of cooked spaghetti, but I wouldn't want to take it for a ride. This is true, but the intention itself is not in question, just the direction it travels. The spaghetti bike didn't roll by and inspire the idea in my head, it came from my head and I can either obey the intention, (try to build the bike,) or not. My wife, can make the world match the shopping list I have given her, or not. Thus her intention is the shopping list, which must be obeyed or not. The intention has what is called a “condition of satisfaction.” In order for the intention to be satisfied, the condition of “getting the things on the list” must be achieved. For me, my intention was to get my wife out of the house, which can either be obeyed or not. My condition of satisfaction would be the condition of “my wife leaving the house long enough for me to wrap her present in secret.”
If we reverse the direction of fit to a “mind to world” scenario intentionality no longer becomes a question of obey or not obey, but rather of true versus false. Let's assume, for illustrative purposes, that when my wife arrives at the grocery store, she is immediately followed by the store Detective. (We don't have to imagine why, let's just say he's practising.) As my wife shops, her intention is to find the items on the list and put them in the cart. She wants the world to match the list. As the Detective follows her around, he too makes a list of the items she puts in her cart. His list is mind to world direction of fit because it is the world that is providing the content of his thoughts. (He is changing his “mind” to match “the world.”) As my wife shops he jots down, Butter, Beans, Bacon... Finally, when the shopping is done and my wife is at the checkout, she and the Detective have exactly the same list. What demonstrates the difference between the list is what constitutes a mistake in the two directions of fit.
If the Detective gets home, looks at the list and says, “Oh, I'm getting sloppy, she didn't buy bacon, she bought pork chops,” he may change his list. It would be a mistake, but his list, a belief, could be changed, just by changing his mind. Thus the true/false dichotomy of the mind to world direction of fit. If my wife came home having made the mistake of buying pork chops instead of bacon, she could not correct it by just changing the list. Thus the world to mind direction of fit must either be obeyed or not obeyed. This is an important distinction for our overall understanding of intentionality, language and life: The world to mind direction of fit is a statement, it is a shopping list to be obeyed or not. The mind to world direction of fit is a belief, it is an observation about that list, which can be either true or false. Some might find it easier to think of it in terms of arrows going either into or out of our heads; Beliefs go in, desire comes out.
There are also “null directions of fit.” Just as with the W to M and M to W directions of fit, the null direction of fit takes into account the proposition posed by the idea, only because it is null, we take the proposition for granted. So if we think/say “Congratulations on winning,” it is assumed that you have won. We are not attempting to change the world, nor are we being changed by it. We are not making a case, we are not representing a state of affairs. There is still content to our utterance, just no intentional direction of fit. There is no “change to be made.” Nothing to obey and the belief (that the person has won) is included in the statement. (We don't say, “I believe you have won, so Congratulations.”) However, by this inclusion, these null states of fit contain or point to beliefs and desires. All statements, (or ideas, remember,) that have null direction of fit are also either beliefs or desires, or a product of those beliefs or desires. For example, if you're ashamed of your big nose, you have to believe that you've got a big nose, it has to be your desire to not have such a big nose, you got to believe that others think your nose is big and you can desire to attempt to conceal it, etc. The opposite is true as well, if you were proud of your big nose. So null states contain states that are not null. (Or, there is always some intentionality attached, even to the so-called unintentional.)
The basic forms of intentionality are belief/perception, where we represent things to ourselves (arrows going in) and the desires/intentions where we try to change the world to match our mind's contents, (arrows going out.) Some feeling and effects are outside the basic forms. What goes for shame and pride goes too for love, hate and admiration, etc. This represents the holism of intentionality. Holism, which should really have a W in front of it, is the recognition that intentional statements are often arranged in networks of intentions. There are parts to the whole, connected in any number of combinations.
Another facet of intentionality that helps to illustrate the definition of the word as something that goes beyond “meaning to do something” is the fact that even when unconscious, we are being intentional. This will also help you understand how “unintentionality” may not actually exist. For instance, you know that the sky is blue, even when your asleep. You're not thinking about the blue sky, or how the sky is blue, you're in a sound sleep, not thinking of anything. Yet if I woke you up and asked what colour the sky was, you would know. We understand that unconscious mental states are intentional if they are the type of thought that can be brought into consciousness, (it's hard to imagine a thought that you couldn't do this for. The possible absurdities!) We needn't consciously contemplate that we should drive on the right side of the road (in my country, anyway.) We also don't need to think about stopping at red lights, signalling to turn, pushing the clutch in before shifting gears, etc. This is because all of these things have become what Searle calls intentional “Background.”
Searle asks us to imagine that we have the intention of becoming President. One has to believe in and obey a whole series of intentions to run for President, but most of this is taken for granted. One doesn't have to think about how the voting process is going to require voters, or that these votes will have to be counted, or that you will run in the country in which you live, or that it will happen in the future, not the past, these things are “the Background.” The background also includes things that we do not take for granted, sort of the negative side of what we do take for granted, such as, one does not get elected president by hiding in a cave or committing suicide. This would be absurd, which is why I call this the “absurd background.” We don't take the absurd for granted except to not think about it because it is absurd. Why would we waste time thinking of all the things something wasn't just to know what something was? Only the opposite is helpful in ordinary life, when we can recognize that someone is feeding us an absurd idea, we can reject it.
At this point, we understand the intentionality of the mind as a representation of the conditions of satisfaction in one or the other directions of fit. Now we must discuss the “how” of the matter. What is it that satisfies the conditions? If the intention has the mind to world fit it is our perception of the world's intention that satisfies the conditions. If it is a world to mind direction of fit, we must “act” to satisfy our conditions. In other words, if the world throws a thunderstorm at us while we are camping, we feel the wind and rain, we see the dark clouds and lightning, we hear the thunder, etc. We have sensed the storm and by doing so we meet the world's conditions of satisfaction. (The M to W direction of fit means the storm is perceived by us, we must then determine it to be true or false. In the case of a storm, it is an easy decision. One can see the problem, however, if there was a clear blue sky and a fellow camper said, “A storm is coming, you'd better prepare.”) If we react to the storm, we simply do anything, perhaps we speak, “Get the food in the tent!” We physically move to gather up our belongings and put them away, we get into the tent ourselves to stay dry and warm, etc. The world will not change unless we act, and the world itself, just is.

Ultimately, we will find that action is what matters, for if everything remained an inactive intention, no conditions would ever be satisfied. There would be no intended changes to the world. There could be statements, definitions, beliefs, mind to world qualia that could be determined true or false. (“Qualia” means feeling or interpretation of thought, sort of “mental sensation.”) There could not be a rule to obey, a recipe to follow or any other world to mind phenomena that would require action. Action, after all, is what changes the world, whether it comes intentionally or not.

If this seems a little incomplete, that's because it is. You are very astute. Things are going to get a little more complicated now and it is important that you understand where we are, in order to see where we are going. I'll sum up, as simply as I can: Intentions are the mind directed. Put into the simplest format, intentions are information shared between the world and a mind. We have mentioned in previous chapters that, loosely defined, everything is information. This sounds silly, you might ask yourself, “how is a boulder, information?” The answer is simply, “it's boulder information.” You, (and your mind,) have to experience that boulder in some way, you can do so by realizing it is a boulder via your senses. What your senses are detecting, the intention of the boulder, is the “boulder information.” (Hold that thought.)

This “information” can only be directed in two possible ways, either from the world to you or the other way around. In one case, “mind to world” you change your mind to match the world, in the case of “world to mind” you change the world to match your mind. These are the two “directions of fit.” There is also a “null direction of fit” where you are not changing the world, nor are you changing your mind. Sometimes things we intend are just statements, information passed that doesn't really amount to anything, other than the information itself. For instance, if we say, “Congratulations on winning the race,” or “I'm sorry” we are not changing anything. We are able to take null directional fit propositions for granted. We assume that you are, in fact sorry, or that you do wish to congratulate the winner of the race. Because it bleeds into the background, (that which we can or must take for granted,) this information should now be background.

Let us now move on to perception and action. The two “acts” of mind that we, as bearers of mind in reality, must utilize to exercise our intentionality, or if you prefer, to simply be and do. Perception, is simply intention going into our minds, to be perceived. Action is intention going out of our minds, by our deeds out into the world. Again, let's not get immediately lost in the daily definitions of these words. We can easily interchange “perception” with “belief” and “action” with “intention” in our philosopher-speak. So imagine the following scenario and pay specific attention to the language: We believe the boulder we perceive lying in the middle of the road is true, (a condition of the satisfaction for the intention of the world) and we intend to act by swerving the car around it safely, which we can either do successfully or not, (a condition of satisfaction for our intention.) If this sounds again like the world is “thinking,” remember, the world's condition of satisfaction is met by either being true or false, either being or not being. We do the world's thinking for it. The intentionality the world offers us is for nought if we don't notice it. We are going to presume, as an Intentionalist does, that the world and all of reality exists. (However, while it is true the world is not thinking, if it helps you to keep intentionality straight in your head, please continue believing it is. It can't hurt.) Reality, I'll say again, just is. For us, the what (information) and the how (?) of reality are not our concern. We are working on and with what we have, the mind in the world.

Our condition of satisfaction, in our world to mind fit, the position of the bearer of mind working from within reality, is a question of act or do not act. So if I perceive a boulder in the road, I can swerve or not, I can also succeed or fail in my attempt. So I have what Searle calls a Prior Intention, (the desire to swerve around the boulder) and an Intention in Action, (the attempt) which is done with Bodily Movement, (which is either successful or not,) which determines if the conditions of satisfaction have been met. (I may abbreviate these terms: PI, IA, BM, and COS.) Let's assume I want to swerve around the boulder, this is my Prior Intention, called prior because it comes before the act. My brain says, “Let's swerve around that boulder!” And I respond to myself, “Obey!” The obey command is my Intention in Action because it causes my Bodily Movement. Then, for the sake of argument, let's say I am successful in my attempt, then my Prior Intention's Conditions of Satisfaction have been met. My PI was to swerve around the boulder, I decided to put that Intention into Action, I did so because my Body Moved, (followed by a whole heap of other causations: I tapped the breaks, I turned the wheel, I did all of these things having the “background” that I do.) So that, in the end, I swerved well around the dangerous boulder.

Now let's assume that I am not successful in my attempt to drive around the boulder. I hit it and crash my car. I perceived the boulder, I had the Prior Intention of swerving around it but for some reason, perhaps I was sleepy, I couldn't respond quickly enough. My body did nothing. There was no Intention in Action and therefore no Bodily Movement. Ergo, I crashed and the Conditions of Satisfaction for my PI have not been met. I have failed to obey. However, if I had attempted the swerve, tried but failed, had Intention in Action and Bodily Movement, I would have still failed to satisfy my Prior Intention of missing the boulder. The only difference being that, this time, I had gotten further along in my processing. The intention in action had given my body movement, but perhaps I just couldn't do the required driving and I hit the stupid boulder. So it seems that the world doesn't care why I fail to navigate my vehicle around the boulder. Which, I guess is true, the boulder just is, the rest is up to me.

So far in our boulder dodging example, we have discussed options for examining PI>IA>BM>COS and we understand the importance of the order of these terms. We have also assumed that I did perceive the boulder. With no perception of the boulder, no intention is possible and the world's intention would be, as of yet, unknown. Missing the boulder leaves us with two new considerations, either you are not noticing the boulder on the road or it's not there. If it is just that you are not noticing the boulder, you are about to discover the power of the world's intention in one mighty crunch. The boulder is real, in this case, so the world's C.O.S. is true. If the boulder was not real, was not on the road in your way, then the world's C.O.S. would not have been met. Boulder=false=no boulder. (At least, in our story.) We could say that everything that is, is a false “everything it isn't,” but who wants to? This is the background absurdity of the world again. If there is no boulder then you have no need to react. With no intention there is nothing for you to define conditions of satisfaction for.

Now suppose that it's not a boulder, it's a mud puddle that you confuse for a boulder. Your prior intention is still “Miss that boulder!” Your intention in action is still to obey, which you do with bodily movement. In one case, the first case of failure, you splash through the puddle, braced for impact one second and breathing a sigh of relief the next. “Thank goodness that wasn't a boulder!” The world has proven your perception false. In the second case of failure, you swerve around the puddle too sharply and your car rolls off the road, flipping several times in atypical Hollywood style. In this case you have failed to meet the COS of your prior intention of missing the boulder because, it is assumed, you meant that you intend to do so successfully, that is to say, without doing all the things you wouldn't intend, like crashing, dying, etc. (Again, it's easy to be absurd at this level of understanding. Stay focused on the positives.)

In all cases of our own failure to satisfy the conditions of our intentions, it is the world that proves us wrong. But what if it was a puddle but you thought it was a boulder and you navigated your way around it easily. You might continue on your merry way believing that the puddle was a boulder. Who's satisfying what now? There are two realizations that can helps us here, firstly, if you think there's a boulder there, there is a boulder there, until it's proven otherwise. (Not in a court of law, not word of mouth, not anything I'm going to have to just believe, we want proof, we want perception. “Show me the boulder!”) If it is proven otherwise, it never was a boulder. If, for instance, there was a witness to you swerving madly around a puddle, said witness could attest to there being a puddle there and specifically not a boulder. It might seem silly to say it in this example, but you've seen the exploration of misinterpreting the intentions of the world, in art and in life, constantly. (“No I never!” “Yes you did!”) You, by the way, are perfectly within your rights to denounce the witnesses' observation on the grounds that you can't speak for the world, just for your perception of it and you perceived a boulder in the road. (Yet the argument will not work, because perception is, at least partially, unreliable. The world just is, or is not.)
In all of these boulder/puddle examples, one simple rule stands above all, unwavering, “If the conditions of satisfaction of any particular intention are going to be met, they must be met as the intention dictated or they have not been met at all.” The intention in action is required for any conditions to be satisfied, but it must be for the prior intention.

Let's look at one more, much shorter example that Searle himself uses. Suppose you hate Bill and you decide you're going to kill him. You load bullets into your pistol, drink a fifth of scotch and get in your car. Your intention is to drive over to Bill's house and shoot him dead. (Philosophers love extreme examples.) Along the way you accidentally run over a pedestrian. You pull over to check on the guy, who turns out to be Bill and he's dead. You have not satisfied the conditions of your prior intention, despite the fact that you desired to kill him and you did kill him. The COS of your PI hasn't been met. You meant to shoot him. If you hadn't stopped to see if you could help whoever the poor bastard you hit was, you wouldn't even know it was Bill. Even if completely honest in court, you probably wouldn't be charged with first degree murder, because your lawyer would correctly argue that, despite your intentions, killing Bill, as you did, was an accident.

Now that we have a basic understanding of intention, information, direction and satisfaction, let's look a causality and how the background plays into it. You remember that our background is that which we needn't contemplate. This background is going to be different from person to person. (If we eliminate, as we have, the idea of the “absurd background.”) For instance, I'm terrible at golf. I've played only a handful of rounds and I'm not at all interested in getting better. For the sake of argument, imagine that I'm out on the green again, for another round of torture and I'm playing with my friend Peter, who's pretty good at the game. Peter has played since he could swing a club and in those thirty odd years, he's got his “game on.” When I'm at the tee, ready to whack the ball, God knows where, I'm intending, “Okay. Breath normal, head down, don't grip the club too tight, keep the left elbow straight, don't smack the ball, just swing, don't lift your shoulders, follow through, etc, etc, etc, etc. (Man, I hate golf!)” Peter, on the other hand, walks up to the tee and thinks, “Okay. I need this ball to go about three hundred yards, slightly to the right.” Whack! Peter's background is very different than mine, as determined by our golf intentions. My list of conditions of satisfaction is much longer than his. This is because he has hit about a million more golf balls than I have. He doesn't have to list all these separate intentions because they have fallen into his background. This illustrates how your background is going to determine differences in your intentions, relative to your experience. (Also, this helps define the overall goal of this book: Imagine how good at “thinking” one could be if the information presented could be transformed into background. Instead of having your golf game “on,” lets get your contemplation “on.”)

The direction of fit, also has a counterpart that, up until now, we have ignored. This is what Searle calls the “direction of causation.” Before we talk about the philosophical vortex that is created by looking at your watch, let's try some simpler examples. These examples, it is hoped, will illustrate John Searle's powerful statement, “Cognition and volition are parallel.” In addition, I wish to make clear the following: We represent how the world is in our perception and memory only by virtue of the fact that the world causing to be that way makes it possible. Our intention in action, our changing of the world, is the opposite; the world represents our efforts to change it only by virtue of the fact that we were successful in our efforts. What this means is, if we attempt to change the world, the change only occurs if we are successful and we only perceive success if the change occurs. At this point in our examinations, if your brain hasn't yet exploded, one of two things has happened, firstly, you think this sounds redundant or self-evident, which it is, so you are likely a very bright human being and we are halfway there. Now remember that secondly, we are looking at how it is that this relationship between the mind and reality is true. We want proof! Just because you know something to be real, doesn't necessarily mean you know anything about what “knowing something to be real” means. Ultimately, the truth of intentionality is, “We create much of the world in our minds.”
Perception and memory take place in the mind, but they are a product of the world. They are mind to world fit. (We change our minds to match the world.) The aim of perception and memory, the reason it seems they exist, is to represent the world to us, as it is and was. (Which we define as information to believe or not, to act on or not.) Perception and memory, while mind to world direction of fit, are world to mind direction of causation. The world, (reality,) causes our perception of it by virtue of the fact that we are here to perceive it. We are able to change it if we like. Action is the key difference, it is what makes the directions of fit and causation switch with each other.
Such is the power of the mind able to change the reality it perceives, inwardly by belief and outwardly by action. Yes, believing or intending is an action. It does not count as Bodily Movement though. Speaking does, not only because you move, but because it is through sending the intention out into the world that the world has the opportunity to change. (And also know that you think thusly.) You can have a mental intention, but it would never be known if you don't move. It is kind of a weird thought isn't it? We are all very lucky Stephen Hawking is alive now and not in some less technically able age.
So, we change our minds to be like the world and we change the world to be like our minds. We make these changes, however, because of the “influence” of the opposite end of our direction of intentional fit. If we change our minds to match the world, it is because the world has caused the possibility of the intention, (it's only because we can.) Thus world to mind causation makes mind to world intention in action. Action exposes the very core of reality, we have a meeting of all known possible transaction: The mind, the intention and the world. (The direction of causation is direct, if we say “World to mind” causation we mean, “the world caused my mind to...” If we say “mind to world” causation we mean, “I caused the world to...”)
Contemplate the following story from within the paradigm of intentionality as we now understand it. Try to keep in mind the apparent directions of intention and causation. I'm driving down the road. (IA) the world put the boulder in the road, I notice it as I'm driving, (world to mind causation.) I then create the Intention to swerve around the boulder (PI), I do (BM)(mind to world direction of fit.) Having passed the boulder successfully, I reach onto the passenger seat and pick up my pistol. I check that it's loaded. I'm going to shoot and kill Bill (PI) because he stole my Gordie Howe autograph collection. “What the hell?” SMUNK! (I just accidentally ran over someone...) I pull over and get out to check on the person I hit. It's Bill. “Wow.” I think. “I better put this gun away and call the cops.” Can you see the directions of fit and causation. Anytime you do anything you are changing what reality is. Anytime you do something it is due to something else being done. If you were to list how it is we know the directions, it might look like this:
“What is we want to do?” = PI = Kill Bill = MtoW Direction of Fit.
“Why?” = “He stole our autograph collection.” = Direction of Causation = WtoM
“What is it you're doing?” = IA = I'm driving to Bill's to shoot him = MtoW DofF due to WtoM DofC.
“Look out there's a boulder!” = WtoMDofC/MtoWDofF
“Swerve around it!” = WtoMDofC and MtoWDofF. In this instance, the PI+IA+BM= the conditions of satisfaction being met. (We're successful in swerving.)
“Look out there's a man!”= WtoMDofC and MtoWDofF. In this instance there is no IA or BM, so no C.O.S.
SMUNK (The sound of a body being run over.)
“Oh! It's Bill. I've killed Bill, but not the way I intended.” Excuse your odd indifference and think about this last sentence. If this is the conclusion of all these intentions, what caused Bill's death? Was it your intention, or the worlds? What conditions were satisfied, if any?
Finally, let's examine the idea of intention and causation being what is called “causally self referential.” Here we can examine the “Smunk” sound that was created when we ran over Bill. Who's intention was it to create this sound? (We are referring to the act that created the sound.) It wasn't my intention to hit Bill with my car. Let's assume it wasn't Bill's intention to be hit by a car. (But it was the world's intention to put Bill in front of my car, because it did, after all, happen. Remember, the world just is. Its intentions either are or are not, true or false.) What caused Bill to get hit by the car? Well, two things, Bill and me driving my car. Thus, this is causally self referential. Bill wouldn't have been killed by my car if both he and the moving car hadn't come together, creating the SMUNK. The smunk is what refers two parties, (the two selves, Bill and I,) to the causation. No me, no intention, no cause, no car, no Bill, no intention, no cause, then no event and Bill lives another day, (or at least, until I get to his house and shoot him.)
Let's examine the example of looking at our watch to help solidify the idea of the causally self referential. This is one of my favourite aspects of intentionality because of the feedback loop that is created by doing this act. I imagine this act with arrows of intention, coming from my mind, going out my eyes, into the watch. Then my watch sends its intention, in arrows, out of itself into my eyes, into my mind, which then goes back out, into the watch, ad infinitum, thus the loop. (Here, we can ignore the further maddening aspect of there being no actual “now” to speak of. Time never “holds still.”) When we want to know “what time it is,” we look at our watch. However, we can only look at our watch because we know it's there. It's only there because we want to measure and mark time. We only want to measure and mark time because the phenomenon of time is there to be measured and marked. Time is only to be measured and marked by our desire to do so. We need a watch to do so and we need to look at it as well. Thus, the circularity. To put it in intentional terms, time is world to mind causation and mind to world direction of fit because time is a factual product of reality that we must wrap our minds around. Time is also mind to world causation and world to mind direction of fit because we define all of time's parameters, then send those definitions out into the world. There are many other, simpler examples of that which is causally self referential: a stop sign makes you stop, but it does so because we've all agreed, that is what it's supposed to do. This self referential causation is sometimes known as “mind to world to mind.”
This ends our study of the individual's intentionality and moves us on to Collective Intentionality. Consider how it is that, when I come to a stop sign, it is not some mystery to be solved. It is a symbol that I recognize as intentional and I direct my intention toward it accordingly. The recognition is part of the process, (the perception part,) but the real power lies in the symbol's ability to cause me to act. Acting, as we know, is what changes the world. If you don't believe that a stop sign should be recognized as such, perhaps you will learn why it should be, that in some cases, collective humans create their own objective reality and do so properly. If this is a lesson you need to learn, I hope you have your seat belt on. This does not mean that we always act perfectly: war, law, money, government, these are the Institutional realities we may begin to now ponder. We will begin to see the importance of understanding what we have learned thus far; How people think about what they are doing is crucial to what they are doing and in some cases it's essential.
Collective Intentionality is necessary for Institutional Reality. We can define institutional reality as any paradigm that is entirely social. It is pure social engineering, something we must all agree on. Money is an institutional reality because we can never actually experience money without assigning belief to it. We can experience a piece of paper that has the markings we recognize as being indicative of money, but this is not the same thing. We can experience or discuss the idea of money in the same way we can experience or discuss the idea of a perfect circle. We cannot experience an actual perfect circle anymore than actual money. These things are only true in their ideal state, which only exists in our minds. However, there are institutional realities everywhere, in ordinary life.
Where individual intentions are “I believe, I desire” collective intentions are “We believe, we desire.” Searle reminds us that “We intend” is just, “I intend and I believe you intend.” Just like in cases of individual intention, we have the considerations of Prior Intention, Intention in Action, Bodily Movement and Conditions of Satisfaction. The difference being that now perhaps there is metaphysical distance between the prior intention of a group and my individual intention in action. For instance, the orchestra has decided to play a specific piece and I'm aware of my part in it. The prior intention of the group is to perform Beethoven's ninth, my intention in action is to play my part correctly. The individual's IA is derived from the groups PI.
One of the most obvious methodologies to establishing (and maintaining) institutional realities is to impose functions on objects. A shopping list and a dollar bill are not the same thing only because we accept what they represent differently. Function is at the discretion of the observer. The assignment of function is what differentiates the dollar from the list. These items we hold are both paper with ink on them, but when we look at them we see two distinct things, with two distinct functions. Consider even, just one type of thing, such as a collection of stones. If we were building a wall of mortar and stone, we would look for stones that would stack well. We have then assigned a function to the stones and have defined our conditions of satisfaction that have to be met, the stones must be shaped such that they are “stack-able.” We don't talk about “better or worse” stones, unless we assign a function to the stones. That function then has to be accepted.
Searle says we can define this assignation of function by either his Regulative Rule, which simply regulates the function (such as we drive on the right side of the road,) or by his Constitutive Rule which defines what the “thing” is, by declaring, “X counts as Y if C.” (A piece of paper counts as money if it has such and such markings and what not.) Here you may notice the difference of these rules, the regulative rule is like a suggestion that everyone follows. At some point, someone decided it just made sense for everyone to travel on one side of the road, and we do. However, the constitutive rule changes what something is, into something else. These rules are everywhere. If you take the Queen off of a chess board, she becomes just a small statue. Change the red-yellow-green paradigm of a traffic light into a spinning blue laser and watch the accidents pile up. Take all the letters of a sentence and jfdij fjdioiej djisodj. A constitutive rule says X counts as Y if C. Anytime you see it you are not dealing with a real thing, you are dealing with an idea, which can only be a representation of a real thing. All of institutional reality can be understood by contemplating collective intentionality, assignment of function and the constitutive rule. Much of reality is institutional. Thus, the value of our discussions.
Now let's examine how it is possible to assign function to that which doesn't even exist. Then we'll look at how we go even further in our daily lives to honour things that are just representations of functions that don't exist. (Which is another way of saying, there are things in this world that don't exist, that we honour as if they did and these things are even based entirely upon things that never existed in the first place.) If we had built that aforementioned wall, out of stack-able stones and mortar, perhaps we did so as a method of separating our village from the next. So to, would we have a stack-able series of intentions: We need a whole host of series to achieve any complicated task, particularly if cooperation is required, but here let's focus on how we have assigned function to the stones that make up the wall that also has a function assigned, as do we for building it, honouring it, etc, ad nauseam. (It doesn't really matter why it is that we need the wall, but we can assume that “they” are supposed to stay on their side and “we” are supposed to stay on ours.) Our wall is grand and very well crafted, it lasts for years and years. Over time it degrades, perhaps a generation goes by, maybe two or three. Finally the wall is gone, reduced to an odd section of stacked rock, here or there. Through the years the villagers from both sides have honoured the regulative rule of the wall and stayed on their side. Yet now that the wall is no longer there the villagers continue to stay on their sides. The odd stack of rocks, and/or just the idea of the wall, will now constitute the wall.
The wall, as an object, had an object function that we defined by the regulative rule. Our intentions are clear, “Here is a wall. It is here to keep our two villages separate.” All objects have object functions if we assign the function solely on the grounds of its ability to perform that function. For instance a knife is not a knife if it has no edge, a chair is not a chair if you can't sit in it. The wall starts out as an object function, but after deteriorating to near non-existence, it becomes a status function. The wall is no longer “an object” and can't fulfil its function. The wall's intention then becomes a “stand-in” for the real thing. Our acceptance of the wall constitutes the intention of the wall, but not the wall itself. If we honour the intention, the wall's being there is irrelevant. Searle reminds us to keep object functions separate from status functions at all times. The wall being there means that we don't know if the wall not being there will keep the villagers following the rule. Thus, status functions cannot be known if object functions are still present.
Money is doubly institutional, if there is such a thing, because the money is assigned its value, in the first place as a symbol and in the second place as a valueless fiat. Money, at least in America, is doubly false, doubly unreal, doubly useless. If you follow the evolution of money there are three basic types of currency evaluation: Commodity, things such as gold and silver. Then there's Promissory or Contract, where there are notes given “in lieu of Commodity.” (Which makes “notes” as valuable as commodity.) Then there is Fiat, which is arbitrary. Now when I first came to this discovery of Fiat currency, I went looking for more answers. I wondered if there could be such a thing as “meaningless money.” Unfortunately, it is a reality that governments, should they so choose, can just say, “this dollar is worth X” and we play along. I'm not an economist and frankly, I don't want to be, so I'm not going to explore this amazing farce anymore than to illustrate: Fiat money is a status function of a status function. The money itself, doesn't exist and it's based on a value that doesn't exist. Money is not there except in our belief. What does it say about us that we know this to be true, yet we still play along?
For John Searle, things are either brute facts or institutional reality. Institutional Reality works because we impose functions that define power. We're not assigning rules to frivolous things that don't matter, we are not constituting intentions willy-nilly, at least, this is my hope. So it seems that the things that we are asked to believe must be important. If they are, then surely they are worth mulling over. We are not asking about God here, nor even any grand scheme of society, we wonder about ourselves. By realizing when someone or something “asks” us to believe in it, in its intention, to create some reality out of an idea, we can begin to wonder about the value of following the rule. Institutional reality gives power to ideas through intention. It empowers either the X term or the bearers of X. “This note is legal tender” doesn't describe the note, it makes it what it is. It is one of the things created in our reality, yet only if we participate.
What are you creating in your reality?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Who are the 1%

As you know, the Occupy Wallstreet protests continue to spread.
One of the catchphrases you're already sick of is, "We are the 99%"
But who are the 1%?

Click here to read an article from the New York Post explaining that the "top one percent" are determined by average household incomes.
Which is missing the point. No one is protesting wages.
The 1% is not actually a numerical figure. It is not determinable by who cashes what cheque.

Here is an article that goes into much more detail about the real 1%, described by Citibank analysts as a plutocracy. Click here

So the 1% are the people who run the groups that have the greatest profits. For instance, a Bank's profits, lets' say, in the neighborhood of 6 billion per quarter. (Quite realistic.) So there will be bonuses for some and a short trickle down for those who gave "the extra effort." There will be the expected growth any corporation works toward.

The 99% knows these things happen. They happen in their lives too. (That is to say, if they have jobs and work hard, they too are rewarded.)

The problem is the descrepancy between our "leftovers" and your "leftovers."

Naysayers who come back with "if you take away bonus, you'll take away incentive." Again, are missing the point. Same with those of you who would argue that income tax shouldn't apply to corporate profit. Why not? Imagine what could be done.

Well, it has been imagined before.

I can tell you one thing, the 1% aren't anywhere near wall street. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Clicking the title above will take you to a article discussing the current protests taking place in New York.

For over a week now, a large group of protesters have been trying to garner the world's attention, with very little mainstream success. However, this is changing, as tenacity and time play out.

The message of the protest is simple, "bailing out wall street was bailing out crooks, who continue to steal." Again, not an old message, but the growing success of the movement might point to either an acceptance of a required change or a boiling over.

As the marketwatch article indicates, with protesters being brutally arrested at the beginning, then being taunted by bankers, threatening to "bath the dirty hippies in champagne," things could get worse before they get better.

Now it seems US Marines in dress uniform are beginning to show up to protect the protesters. Could it be that we might actually come to see the military face off against the police? What sort of shenanigans will occur if this group grows to an unmanageable size? Will numbers provide cover for the more aggressive groups that show up at major protests?

This is a story that could easily change things for America and the world.
The media won't be able to ignore it for much longer if things continue to heat up.
Read the marketwatch article by clicking the title of this post and keep your eyes peeled.
Some people think this is history happening before our eyes.
Here is a live link to the protest.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The War on the War on Drugs

Avaaz is sending a petition to the UN in an attempt to end the farce that is "the war on drugs."
Click the title above to open a link to sign the petition.
I have signed it and offer the following, thus spake I.

From Anti-Social Engineering the Hyper-Manipulated Self:

"I am slightly displeased with this intention "just say no" as it stands. I find the idea of merely saying no to be less than eudaemonic. If I had to give a reason for this fact, the simplest would be confusion and lack of clarity. It is, however, quite easy to point to the virtues to be found by not having drugs be one of our vices.

The golden mean, as we know, moves for each of us on a case by case basis, even from just within inside ourselves. I don't feel the same way about abstaining from marijuana as I do heroin. There must be someone who feels the same way about marijuana in relation to beer. I believe that you can use too much of any drug in much the same way you can be too adamant about legislating that no one can do any drugs. Virtue is about moderation.

If the moderation is imposed, it is not our choice. Morality cannot be legislated, despite our attempts to do so. Forced morality cannot be virtuous.

Therefore, "the war on drugs," like all hyper-manipulation, ony succeeds in producing inauthenticity.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Free ebook release

The link above will open a pdf.
It is Anti-Social Engineering the Hyper-Manipulated Self, in it's entirety, for FREE

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An open letter to Canadians

I received this letter, as a member of the council of canadians.
I thought you all should read it.
Thanks for your time...
Letter starts now:


The 2011 federal election was historic in many ways and most of us are still trying to process the outcome. It is crucial that we pause to reflect on its meaning and think carefully about the next steps we must take.

While it is true that the remarkable surge in support for the NDP means a more dependable progressive voice in the House of Commons than we have had for years, it is equally true that the most socially and economically right-wing government perhaps in Canadian history has just won a substantial majority in the House and - along with their control of the Senate - is now free to implement its agenda even if every member of every other party votes against it.

The Harper Conservatives are now free to:

- cut corporate taxes and transfer payments;

- go after public services, public sector workers and public pensions;

- allow the growth of private health services to undermine Medicare in the lead-up to the expiry of the Canada Health Accord in 2014;

- vigorously promote more unregulated free trade agreements like the Canada–European Union CETA, that will drastically curtail the democratic rights of local governments to promote local economic development, local resource sovereignty, or local food production;

- kill the Canadian Wheat Board;

- fast track the security perimeter deal with the United States that will violate the civil liberties of Canadians and give away crucial pieces of our sovereignty;

- kill the long-gun registry;

- continue to decimate environmental regulations, under fund source water protection, promote dirty energy projects such as the tar sands, gas fracking and Arctic oil and gas drilling, while ignoring the rights of nature;

- and spend our money on military equipment and prisons we don’t need and don’t want.

This means we at the Council of Canadians and civil society in general have our work cut out for us as never before.

However, there are important signs of hope. The Harper Conservatives do not have the support of the majority of Canadians. Almost 40% of eligible Canadian voters did not cast a ballot in the election and of those who did, fully 60% voted for parties other than the Conservatives. This means that over two-thirds of Canadians who were eligible to vote did not cast a vote for the Harper agenda.

As well, the presence of an opposition with a clear progressive agenda on trade, social and environmental justice and public services will create the opportunity for unparalleled (until now) collaboration between Members of Parliament and progressive civil society. While we have had good working relationships with some Liberal MPs on some issues, how frustrating it was to see the Liberals side with the Conservatives on signing trade deals with corrupt and criminal regimes in Peru and Colombia. Further, the election of the first Green Party member, Elizabeth May, will open the door for an environmental debate and dialogue too long missing from the House of Commons.

And, as Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew reminds us, we have fought battles against both majority and minority governments before and won. Unfair deals such as the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the Security and Prosperity Partnership were defeated by popular protest. Unfair trade deals are fought and won outside Parliament, in the court of public opinion, he points out. It was also public pressure that stopped Canadian troops from being sent to Iraq. Similarly, no matter how much Stephen Harper dislikes public health care (and is on record in his preference for private health services), he can go only so far in his dismantling of Medicare, so deeply loved and fiercely protected is this most important of Canadian social programs. And let Harper try to open the doors for commercial export of our water and see how far he gets!

In other words, this country and its values still belongs to the people. As our director of development, Jamian Logue, says, “Neither our democratic responsibilities nor our democratic opportunities ended on May 2. Democracy is a 24/7 pursuit. We have the right and responsibility to act beyond the ballot box.”

What is needed now is a coming together of progressive forces in civil society and the labour movement as never before in our country’s history. Social and trade justice groups, First Nations people, labour unions, women, environmentalists, faith-based organizations, the cultural community, farmers, public health care coalitions, front line public sector workers, and many others must come together to protect and promote the values that the majority of Canadians hold dear. And we must work with, and demand the active representation of, the opposition forces in the House of Commons. In particular, the NDP must oppose the Harper agenda with the full weight of its new power and the Liberals must redeem themselves by working alongside the NDP in defending the interests of the people of Canada.

As the old union saying goes, “Don’t mourn – organize!”. The Harper majority is unfortunately really due to our “first past the post” system. (An American friend writes that he and his colleagues are having trouble understanding how Stephen Harper is Prime Minister with way less than half the votes in Canada. This reminds us of the urgency to promote proportional representation.)

But support for the Harper agenda is paper-thin, as most Canadians do not share the values of this agenda. This then is our task: to work hard over the next four years to protect the laws, rights and services that generations of Canadians have fought for from being dismantled; fight the corporate-friendly, anti-environmental, security obsessed agenda that will come at us; and prepare the way for the kind of government in four years that does in fact, express the will of the people – one with an agenda of justice and respect, of care for the earth, of the more equitable sharing of our incredible bounty.

This will be hard work and will take a great deal of courage and commitment. But really, what more important thing do we have to do?

Maude Barlow


The Council of Canadians

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

On the right to Anonymous Cyberprotest

Marshal McLuhan talked about World War 3 being fought in cyberspace, with no distinctions between the military and the public. (He didn't use the word “cyberspace,” that was coined by fellow Canadian, William Gibson.) McLuhan, however did predict the world wide web, 30 years before its inception. His “global village” is now a technical reality and with it, coinciding with his other imaginings about our futures, we do find ourselves at least committing acts of cyberattack. On this matter McLuhan and I must agree. We have the ability, we have the motive, we have done the deed, to do so is nothing short of expected. 

We used radio in the same way, then television. It would be silly to deny the internet. In this discussion we will attempt to distinguish “cyberattack” from “cyberwar” as well as “cyberwar” from “cyberprotest,” as there seems to be some confusion, at least on the part of the media. It may be that this intention is actually “spin,” and we shall not fail to notice the opportunity for that spin to backfire. The internet is not television. The internet is a two way street. It would be unfortunate if, for instance, the idea of the freedom of the net became jeopardized because of a broad acceptance of that freedom as dangerous.

Firstly, we must agree that the idea of a cyberthreat is real. I'm sure this isn't much of a stretch for us. Like other technologies, we may not understand how they work, but as lay users, we are familiar with the idea of “infections, viruses, hacking,” etc. One of the more recent, popular (and admitted to) stories of cyberattack was the intentional placement of the stuxnet worm inside the Iranian Nuclear enrichment program. (Which, it is reported, put them back “months.”) I quote from wikipedia:

Stuxnet is a Windows computer worm discovered in July 2010 that targets industrial software and equipment.[1] While it is not the first time that hackers have targeted industrial systems,[2] it is the first discovered malware that spies on and subverts industrial systems,[3] and the first to include a programmable logic controller (PLC) rootkit.[4][5]
Different variants of Stuxnet targeted five Iranian organisations,[9] with the probable target widely suspected to be uranium enrichment infrastructure in Iran;[10][11] Symantec noted in August 2010 that 60% of the infected computers worldwide were in Iran.[12] Siemens stated on November 29 that the worm has not caused any damage to its customers,[13] but the Iran nuclear program, which uses embargoed Siemens equipment procured clandestinely, has been damaged by Stuxnet.[14][15][16][17] Kaspersky Labs concluded that the sophisticated attack could only have been conducted "with nation-state support"[18] and it has been speculated that Israel may have been involved.[19]

So here we have a very specific, targeted weapon used successfully by “unknown” sources. Cyberwar? I think not. Cyberattack? Yes. The attack came in the form of a program, placed preemptively and with malicious intent.

Later the same year, Wikileaks founder and international man of mystery, Julian Assange was arrested on charges of some sexual misconduct or other, (these concerns are of no importance to our discussion.) His arrest does nothing to address the true prior intentions of any who would prosecute Mr. Assange, namely, hiding the work that Wikileaks does exposing the corruption and deception of governments and corporations. (Or at least, this is what is claimed.) These forces, of course, reveal the real threat Wikileaks represents, by their complaints. This is a contest over our ideas on the possible typification of information. On one side we have the parties hoping to keep their wrongdoings private, on the other we have the parties attempting to expose them.

What we must notice here is the accuracy on the substance for which these accusation are hurled. When the public is free to examine, for instance, the emails coming and going from American embassies, we are not bringing up irrelevant talking points. We don't care (too much) if so and so hates you know who, we are much more interested in cheating, lying and trickery. These things that we refer to as “wrongdoing” are evidence of wrong being done. We all agree on that. So this contest isn't about what is being said, it is about the right to know what is being said. As such, we can center our discussions around the concept of information, versus the information itself.

I can understand the desire, ability and need to keep classified information hidden from the public. However, this information has already been released. We can, if we so choose, rifle through the info to discover its content. As it turns out, there isn't anything of any real importance in the material. If Wikileaks ever releases anything truly earth shattering, perhaps their desires could be founded. In the near future, Wikileaks promises to release documents proving the financial malfeasance of American banks. Again, I'm sure this release will also be contested on the grounds of a right to privacy, as opposed to the subject matter, proving guilt, or at least complicity. The point is, the information provided is only as powerful as what we do with it. If there is to be a revolution, information could start it, but it is the people on the street moving their bodies, waving signs or taking bullets, that make the indelible marks (if there are to be any.) Such is it that here again, we find ourselves discussing the rights to said information, rather than the info itself.

The point of our discussing the Wikileaks case comes to us in the form of the group known as Anonymous. During the time immediately following Assange's arrest, the media began reporting of the retaliation undertaken by “his watchdogs” on specific websites. These websites were those attempting to distance themselves from Assange (out of an apparent fear of guilt by association,) such as those responsible for hosting Wikileaks, funding the site, etc. Anonymous simply used it's might to shut down these sites, some for a few days, costing them millions of dollars. Assange claimed he had no affiliation with Anonymous, they simply undertook his cause. The media claimed they were “an army of hackers” “internet terrorists” and we were in the grips of a cyberwar. We were not.

The actions undertaken by Anonymous were a cyberprotest. There were a few interviewees on the tv who attempted to explain this to the media. However, “CYBERWAR” sound much more dramatic and malevolent than cyberprotest. (Herein lies a problem with any group that wishes to remain Anonymous, you have no spokesperson.) At the time I was angered by the attitude of the media and, as I am a bit of a geek myself, I sought out this mysterious group. As it turns out, I didn't have to look very hard and the reality of the situation was so blatantly plain that my anger with the media became disgust. Such is it that you find yourself reading these words, rather than some other....

Here are my unedited notes from that day...

The actions undertook yesterday by the group known as “Anonymous” exemplify the legal and moral right of anyone to expect free speech, to protest non-violently and how there is no difference between “the real world” and the “internet” in these matters.

First: Who is Anonymous?
For the most part, they are ordinary 21c young adults. Their numbers are reported to be nearing 10,000 but this number grows and shrinks dependent on the action taken place. They are not all teenagers, they are not all “hackers.” (Nor did any “hacking” take place yesterday, by the way, this action was all “above the board.”) I could be Anonymous, you wouldn't know. ( I happen to know a couple “hackers” so I asked them if they knew of anyone who admitted to being part of Anonymous. They said they didn't and I believe them.)

Second: Where is Anonymous?
Everywhere. They do have “homes” that they frequent, up until yesterday they had their own website and social network, all of which has been revoked. For the most part Anonymous operates on forums like the notoriously wild-west-like site 4chan. (“Wild west” as in, nearly lawless. You have been warned.) As well as other dark digital highways that even I won't venture into.

Third: What is Anonymous?
They are a group that wish to keep the internet intellectually free. Being human, they also protest other activities for which action has been deemed worthy. You or I may not agree with them, this is not in question, only the right they have to act as they do.

Fourth: What are they doing?
This is where the media have missed the mark completely. There is no hacking taking place. To be clear, what Anonymous is doing is analogous to a protest. It works like this:
-First members of Anonymous, or those who wish to “join the movement” download a specific program from certain sites, made available by Anonymous.
-They then install the very small program that connects them to a network of other “like-minded” operators in what has been dubbed “a hive.”
-The controllers of the hive direct it to a specific website and essentially press “go.”
-The targeted website is then bombarded with many computers repeatedly attempting to access it. The desired result is an “overload” of requests that shut the website down because it is unable to cope.

If it wasn't taking place on the web, people would realize that it is just a protest. It is exactly the same as 200 people heading down to city hall for a “sit in.” We all push into the lobby, we sit down, we have jammed the entrance, no one can get in. The only difference is, on the internet our presence is digital. This is cyberprotest. It is distinct from cyberattack because it is not a program, unlike the stuxnet worm, which was designed, implanted and left alone. This was a (very large) group of humans, choosing to do the work to make their computers part of the protest. Further to the distinction, cyberprotest does no damage to the system, cyberattack would.

If anything could be called a cyberwar, then it all must be called cyberwar, because both sides have never stopped attacking those they felt worthy. (Some attack simply because they can.) These attacks, by individuals and programs, such as worms or viruses, are cyberattack, by our proper definitions. A consistent and deliberate programmed internal damaging of systems. Cyberprotest on the other hand, only hurts your cash flow. It is the possible interruption of business. Perhaps, in the real world, if we did all march down to a bank and stuff its lobby full of protesters, we would get arrested. (Thus the advantage of Anonymity.) However, we could just be dispersed, and even if we weren't it is unlikely all of us would be charged criminally. If we were, it would be a misdemeanor, at most. Where the real advantage of cyberprotest lies, and point at which, paradoxically, we find a similarity in the truth about numbers, ask “What would happen if 10,000 or 100,000 or a million protesters showed up at the bank?” They can't arrest us all, and they would be wrong to. The exemplary opinion sticks. 

We are only humans, we are probably wrong thinking in our complacency, most of the time. These “blowouts” must be achieved from time to time. If we've been fighting a nonstop cyberwar since the inception of the possibility, and see no possible end, how is this any different than in the non-cyber world? The real world is the same, it is made up by those of us who choose to change it. One can only hope we each do so correctly.

When you reduce it enough, what you are left with is a simple and easy choice:

On one side you've got the people who want to rip you off and/or lie to you while keeping it all secret.

On the other side you've got everybody else.

Anonymous is on the side of everybody else and so am I.

We are all anonymous.