Posts tagged “neo-luddism”

Need freedom? Forget USA or UK. Try UAE!

That’s right, the land of the free, the home of the brave, the good ol’ United… Arab…Emirates? Yes, indeed. Linda S. Heard has a biting piece that is on-point regarding the disintegrating freedoms of the United States and the United Kingdom. That piece was published at GulfNews.com (of the UAE, not USA or UK).

She points out a quote from American author hero Neil Postman,

Orwell feared the truth would be concealed from us, Huxley feared the truth would be droned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture [consumed by] an almost infinite appetite for distractions.

Take a look around. It certainly appears that Orwell and Huxley were both correct. As Heard puts it,

Unless we tear ourselves away from our pretty toys and distractions just long enough to remove our rose-coloured specs, freedom will be obsolete except as a slogan above the gate of the Ministry of Truth.

Was it our forays and follies in the Middle East that brought these notions to the Emirates? Hardly. The Emirates have been developing a culture that oddly mirrors the capitalism-as-religion model that the United States followed to our current sorry state, luring ex-pats (Hi, Gary!) with beau coup cash and the freedom (nay, responsibility?) of criticizing the hegemony of the United States. That is nigh-but-impossible for the Mainstream Media (MSM) to accomplish here or in the UK.

To quote the lads from up North,

…and yes, i recognize the irony that the very system I oppose affords me the luxury of biting the hand that feeds. But that’s exactly why privileged fucks like me should feel obliged to whine and kick and scream – until everyone has everything they need.

In the same breath, the powers-that-be claim to be spreading freedom around the world while quashing that same freedom at home. The time has come to say “enough”. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out how to express that sentiment best in your circle of influence. I wouldn’t want to be accused of having a “call to action” on here.

What better place than here, what better time than now?

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Finally, elected official understands “green”

I am hardly a poster child for the “green” movement. I’ll just come right out with that from the beginning. I don’t recycle in my home, I have multiple computers that are almost always on (yeah, yeah, wake-on-lan, I know) and my car is a 2002 vintage South Korean. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think green.

In fact, I think I should be the target of every “green” technologist out there. I am educated, middle class and I want to be green but the barriers to entry are just too high. Well, they aren’t that high, but they are too high when coupled with my laziness. Honestly, is it worse not to recycle or to take my recyclables, in my South Korean hoopty, to my friendly Wal-Mart recycling center so that monolith can profit from my canned goods and cardboard? This isn’t a straight-forward decision. Multiple crusades intersect at this point.

That being said, it fills me with a glimmer of hope when I hear elected officials, wherever they may reside, talking frankly (and correctly) about these issues. In an interview with CNET’s Elsa Wenzel, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom illustrated the attitude we all need to have about the so-called “green” movement: good, not great, so now what? In particular, I love his response to the possibility that global warming isn’t happening. (Ed: don’t get me started; when you can’t trust the government, all questions become valid)

Why should we breathe the fumes of other people’s cars? Why not clean the air? Even if there’s not global warming, there’s an inherent benefit that accrues in terms of health care costs. Taxpayers are all the beneficiaries.

Why wouldn’t we do green buildings to reduce our energy costs? Do we like not being able to develop on Hunter’s Point Shipyard? Why wouldn’t we want to invest in technologies to clean up toxic waste so that at least we can create an economic stimulus and take back some of those problems?

There’s nothing we’re doing that we shouldn’t be doing anyway. Period.

Here’s to you, Gavin. Slainte!

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The Luddite’s revenge? Vindication!

Ed. Note: It’s been a very long time since I posted anything to this space. The urge to write was gone for a while, so I didn’t. It is back now, so look for more to come sooner rather than later.

The Luddite is a fascinating character from the days of yore (read: 1770’s-1810’s). In our times, the term “luddite” has become a disparaging name to hurl at anachronistic dolts for doing little more than (insert annoying thing your technophobe friend/family does). I’ve done it myself, scores of times. However, after reading an old piece in Wired news today, my perspective has changed.

Don’t get me wrong:

  1. I still love technology and see it as important to modern living.
  2. I, myself, am not going to start smashing computer monitors or any other analogs for Lud’s loathsome stocking frames.
  3. Finally, for the record, I am not so obtuse that the notion of tech’s deleterious effect just now caught my attention.

No, rather than break the machines themselves, I suggest we embrace the Luddite mentality insofar as it makes our lives better. How? By breaking the hold the machines have on us. Technology is supposed to make life easier and it often does. But what about when it doesn’t?

Here’s an example torn from today’s headlines: I’ve been trying to get Windows Vista running on a new machine I built last week for over a week now. It has taken up the majority of my free time for an entire week! Who is to blame for this? The (clearly) inarticulate machine? Nope. Me. I’m to blame because I didn’t walk away and spend time with friends and family.

As James Surowiecki said in The New Yorker,

…the futurist Herman Kahn prophesied in 1967, Americans would enjoy thirteen weeks of vacation and a four-day work week. The challenge, it seemed, would be figuring out what to do with all our free time.

If only Kahn had been correct. Instead, as that article points out, we Americans find ourselves working the same amount as in 1970 while our Western European counterparts the French work 28 percent fewer hours per person and Germans work 25 percent fewer hours per person. This isn’t a matter of the French or Germans having better tech. It seems that Americans just don’t understand how to use technology to our advantage. Or could it be that Americans are simply being taken advantage of?

So, dear reader, join me in the New Luddite Movement (NLM)! We have but one tenant: make technology work for you, rather than you work for technology!

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