I’ve been meaning to write at greater length about several topics. But reality keeps getting in the way. (Very annoying thing, reality.)
So here are the short versions, plus a couple of mini-rants.
The Long Now Foundation “… hopes to provide a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common.” Brand and company note oh-so-correctly that, “Civilization is revving itself into a pathologically short attention span.”
Ironically, it’s that very thing that has kept me from posting more and earlier about this project.
I also intended to reflect upon the contention in this charming BBC article that failed inventions are a great thing.
No time. There’s the link. Reflect away …
Mini-rant #1. Over the weekend, MJR sent a link to this blindingly stupid article on why it’s just dandy-fine for governments to surveil everybody. (To sum: How can the government know who’s a terrorist or a kiddie-pornster unless it constantly watches everybody?)
I would have just dismissed this article and its very lame argument, except that I was intrigued by the author’s passing reference to his being from a society that had no appreciation for or expectation of privacy.
So I looked him up. It turns he’s known as one of Canada’s leading intellectuals, though born in Hungary.
Now, perhaps I’m just not intellectual enough to have heard of him. Or perhaps, being a good American, I just assumed that nothing other than beer, hockey, Mounties, and assorted famous actors and singers ever came out of Canada.
But I was appalled when I learned that the author of this dreadful paean to government supremacy considers himself a classical liberal — that is, an individualist who believes in small government. Also, Canada, I have to say that if this is the best you can come up with for an intellectual, you’re better off sticking with hockey. Whatever else it is, this article is poorly argued and poorly conceived.
George Jonas (for that be the fool’s name) opens his argument with various sweetly benign — and notably fictional — examples of rulers sneaking out of their palaces in disguise to find out what the little people think of them. Why, how cute.
He goes on from there to assume that today’s omni-surveillance is both that quaintly old-fashioned and that benign. (If only it were that fictional!) He ignores the many real-world historic horrors of real-world surveillance from Cardinal Richelieu to the STASI. He ignores the chilling effects of real world omni-surveillance on everything from personal relationships to political freedom. He pays no attention to the fact that surveillance leads to persecution, blackmail, and murder — and that even “innocuous” metadata can justify slaughtering us. He’s oblivious to the notion that it’s more important for the people to know what “their” government is up to than it is for the government to know every daily move one of us makes. He ignores all the big questions about power and where it rightly resides.
This. Not only from a “classical liberal.” But from a man whose family escaped the Holocaust when he was a boy. From a man who fled Soviet persecution as a young man.
Oh yes, he does give a nod at the very end to fact that government is ultimately more dangerous than many of the things it pretends to protect us against. But his nod in that direction is badly phrased, easily to misunderstand, and hardly makes up for the foolishness that comes before.
Getting long here, so I’ll truncate Mini-Rant #2 — especially since Joel and his commentors have already ranted in fine style.
I’ll just say that while it’s true that college freshman may tend toward embarrassing arrogance and freshmen at the Ivies are probably most prone to the condition, that Princeton chick takes the cake for blinding lack of self-awareness.
So there the brat sits on her perch at Princeton — whining about how every white male in the country is more privileged than she.
My one-legged, poverty-stricken hermit friend Joel. Privileged. Every poor slob trying to take care of a family on a blue collar income. Privileged. More privileged than Miss Princeton Priss.
This would be hilarious if I could believe that 10 years from now, this chick would be laughing at her own pretentiousness, bigotry, and cluelessness. What’s scary is that most likely she’ll spend the entire rest of her career in academia or public “service,” where she’ll never get a reality check. But the rest of us will have to deal with the realities that people like her create.