“4: Fuck Off Google
1. There are no “Facebook revolutions”, but there is a new science of government, cybernetics
The genealogy is not well known, and it deserves to be. Twitter descends from a program named TXTMob, invented by American activists as a way to coordinate via cellphones during protests against the Republican National Convention in 2004. The application was used by some 5000 people to share real-time information about the different actions and movements of the police. Twitter, launched two years later, was used for similar purposes, in Moldova for example, and the Iranian demonstrations of 2009 popularized the idea that it was the tool for coordinating insurgents, particularly against the dictatorships. In 2011, when rioting reached an England thought to be definitively impassive, some journalists were sure that tweeting had helped spread the disturbances from their epicenter, Tottenham. Logical, but it turned out that for their communication needs the rioters had gone with BlackBerry, whose secure telephones had been designed for the upper management of banks and multinationals, and the British secret service didn’t even have the decryption keys for them. Moreover, a group of hackers hacked into BlackBerry’s site to dissuade the company from cooperating with the police in the aftermath. If Twitter enabled a self-organization on this occasion it was more that of the citizen sweepers who volunteered to sweep up and repair the damage caused by the confrontations and looting. That effort was relayed and coordinated by Cri- sisCommons, a “global network of volunteers working together to build and use technology tools to help respond to disasters and improve resiliency and response before a crisis.” At the time, a French left-wing rag compared this undertaking to the organization of the Puerta del Sol during the Indignants Movement, as it’s called. The comparison between an initiative aimed at a quick return to order and the fact of several thousand people organizing to live on an occupied plaza, in the face of repeated assaults by the police, may look absurd. Unless we see in them just two spontaneous, connected civic gestures.From 15-M on, the Spanish “indignados,” a good number of them at least, called attention to their faith in a citizens’ utopia. For them the digital social networks had not only accelerated the spread of the 2011 movement, but also and more importantly had set the terms of a new type of political organization, for the struggle and for society: a connected, participatory, transparent democracy. It’s bound to be upsetting for “revolutionaries” to share such an idea with Jared Cohen, the American government’s anti-terrorism adviser who contacted Twitter during the “Iranian revolution” of 2009 and urged them to maintain it’s functioning despite censorship. Jared Cohen has recently cowritten with Google’s former CEO, Eric Schmidt, a creepy political book, The New Digital Age. On its first page one reads this misleading sentence: “The Internet is the largest experiment involving anarchy in history.”
With Google, what is concealed beneath the exterior of an innocent interface and a very effective search engine, is an explicitly political project. An enterprise that maps the planet Earth, sending its teams into every street of every one of its towns, cannot have purely commercial aims. One never maps a territory that one doesn’t contemplate appropriating. “Don’t be evil!”: let yourself go.
The West’s crisis of trust in itself, in its knowledge, in its language, in its reason, in its liberalism, in its subject and the world, actually dates back to the end of the 19th century; it breaks forth in every domain with and around the First World War. Cybernetics developed on that open wound of modernity. It asserted itself as a remedy for the existential and thus governmental crisis of the West. As Norbert Wiener saw it, “We are shipwrecked passengers on a doomed planet. Yet even in a shipwreck, human decencies and human values do not necessarily vanish, and we must make the most of them. We shall go down, but let it be in a manner to which we may look forward as worthy of our dignity”. Cybernetic government is inherently apocalyptic. Its purpose is to locally impede the spontaneously entropic, chaotic movement of the world and to ensure “enclaves of order,” of stability, and – who knows? – the perpetual self-regulation of systems, through the unrestrained, transparent, and controllable circulation of information. “Communication is the cement of society and those whose work consists in keeping the channels of communication open are the ones on whom the continuance or downfall of our civilization largely depends,” declared Wiener, believing he knew. As in every period of transition, the changeover from the old economic govern- mentality to cybernetics includes a phase of instability, a historical opening where governmentality as such can be put in check.
2. War against all things smart!
In the 1980’s, Terry Winograd, the mentor of Larry Page, one of the founders of Google, and Fernando Flores, the former finance minister of Salvador Allende, wrote concerning design in information technology that “the most important designing is ontological. It constitutes an intervention in the background of our heritage, growing out of our already existent ways of being in the world, and deeply affecting the kinds of beings that we are…It is necessarily reflective and political.” The same can be said of cybernetics. Officially, we continue to be governed by the old dualistic Western paradigm where there is the subject and the world, the individual and society, men and machines, the mind and the body, the living and the nonliving. These are distinctions that are still generally taken to be valid. In reality, cybernetized capitalism does practice an ontology, and hence an anthropology, whose key elements are reserved for its initiates. The rational Western subject, aspiring to master the world and governable thereby, gives way to the cybernetic conception of a being without an interiority, of a selfless self, an emergent, climatic being, constituted by its exteriority, by its relations. A being which, armed with its Apple Watch, comes to understand itself entirely on the basis of external data, the statistics that each of its behaviors generates. A Quantified Self that is willing to monitor, measure, and desperately optimize every one of its gestures and each of its affects. For the most advanced cybernetics, there’s already no longer man and his environment, but a system-being which is itself part of an ensemble of complex information systems, hubs of autonomic processes – a being that can be better explained by starting from the middle way of Indian Buddhism than from Descartes. “For man, being alive means the same thing as participating in a broad global system of communication”, asserted Wiener in 1948.”
The following part of this set of paragraphs above is something I have done in detail several times between 2012-2013 at Princeton in seminary with a Garmin F70 heart rate monitor.
“A being which, armed with its Apple Watch, comes to understand itself entirely on the basis of external data, the statistics that each of its behaviors generates. A Quantified Self that is willing to monitor, measure, and desperately optimize every one of its gestures and each of its affects. For the most advanced cybernetics, there’s already no longer man and his environment, but a system-being which is itself part of an ensemble of complex information systems, hubs of autonomic processes – a being that can be better explained by starting from the middle way of Indian Buddhism than from Descartes. “For man, being alive means the same thing as participating in a broad global system of communication”, asserted Wiener in 1948.”
The most dramatic result from my experience in seminary is the last part of dataset ten. It is from a situation in seminary where there was a military chaplain on a panel of possible careers at the seminary. He dressed up in full regalia, a formal military uniform crossed swords and cross on his hat. He told about how he had served in Iraq. The situation was very intense and scary as he shared the reality of what the American military does with the chaplain core to control the minds of young men in battle. He shared a “prayer” that he used to say over the soldiers before they would go into firefights called “Chariots of Fire” openly with the audience of M.Div. students. The “prayer” went like this (paraphrased from my memory):
Please send chariots of fire,
For us to ride into battle,
May all our gunshots be headshots,
May our bullets deliver the enemy to the ground,
Let the enemy’s bodies rest on the field and rot,
Revealing the white of their bones as a monument,
A testament of their evil for all time.
In that room looking at the chaplain, I imagined the next moment in the firefight as the something like the Haditha killings, marines inflamed with fascist rhetoric from their chaplain. A dehumanizing prayer to make poor Iraqis into evil enemies of the Free World, deserving of the death to be delivered to them en masse by a violent volley of automatic gunfire from M-16. I do not know if that is what happened, maybe as most of the time in the Iraq war the soldiers were going to clear out a house of insurgents bent on killing the Americans. What does it matter?
If you look at the data in post ten again closer you will see that my heart rate spiked to ~180 bpm.
Bear in mind I was sitting still in a chair looking at the chaplain and listening to his story about the war attentively. I wrote the following on the post on that day:
“Today, at approximately 6:30 in the recording my heart swelled with gift. I went for a walk, and then looked at the Christian Cross. I shared Aristotle’s teachings with a man from the West Bank, Wittgenstein’s teachings with a military chaplain, and I gave James Cone’s text to a kind women.”
The result from that experience was to walk out peacefully and give the chaplain a book, Philosophical Investigations by Wittgenstein. I said good luck in Syria you are going to need it. I pray for him and hope that he can see the error of his ways, read about Wittgenstein and learn about the real Gospel. It is not in serving the state, American Empire. It is found in Gift, random kindness. I may be crazy at times, but at least I am trying. I take the flood of anger that comes in ~180 bpm floods of mania and direct that into gift. That is progress. I am thankful for going to seminary. It gaves me a lot of strength of heart. In the pit of my hell, looking at fascist chaplain in the eyes and giving him something to deprogram him hopefully. He is not evil as the Iraqis are not evil, he is ignorant of how religion is being employed by the powers that be in the American military to mobilize him for a war of inhumanity being waged across the sands the Middle East to keep the machine going.
Mental illness shatters lives, but in the pieces, if one has heart and a strong stomach, the phoenix rises again into something entirely new. Social media for me is the glue to the fragments that constitute the bits of a growing social life scattered across several different states and different social types of people. Like a fern budding from a dark crevasse and reaching towards the light, I have been in a state of isolation for a couple of years and am just now reaching out honestly to others through digital means. I have had many interesting experiences since starting the use of honest discourse on social media. What originally started as an experiment in 2010 called the Art-Brain-Philosophy project has turned into a way of being. In 2010, I had the crazy idea to record all of my thoughts on Facebook by answering the question, “What’s on your Mind?” honestly and then trying to embed the thoughts into a digital representation of the brain. I worked on the idea in isolation and obsessively for bouts of time. In 2011, I found a set of free MRI data from a brain and even started a path towards turning the digital fragments that I had collected from my Facebook page into a blog called The Vortex (Art-Brain-Philosophy Project) into a mouse clickable 3D representation of the brain with the thoughts embedded into it as text boxes. When I look back at this post, I can see madness. Sure, but I can also see the beginning of an interesting teaching tool. I chose to blog about it to share how my life has healed and become so much more than the fundamentally narrow and status obsessed existence that we are taught to idolize by the prevailing strands of American thought.
On October 14, 2014, I attended a National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) meet in Decatur, Georgia. At the meeting we talked about a variety of topic related to various experiences the various attendees and me have had. From vocation issues to medical bills to symptoms, a camaraderie is established and shared at each meeting. In my experience, as a person who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder I the meetings are extremely helpful sources for support. During last night’s meeting, my friend (who has been sharing about a desire to writing a book on her experiences with schizoaffective disorder) and I talked about the idea of writing together. We tossed around the idea of writing a blog together with anyone else in the NAMI meeting who is interested in contributing. As an experienced blogger, I hope to introduce my friend to the modern world of e-writing in the 21st century.
A question that emerged from the conversation, that seems fundamental to the establishment of such a blog, is the question, “What are ‘mental illnesses’?” As the title of the group NAMI contains the words “mental illness” you would think we would be able to immediately come to a precise definition of the name. Not so… No one in the meeting could provide a good definition. Some candidates were:
1. The Oxford English Dictionary definitions for “mental,” “illness,” “mental illness.”[i]
1. Mental illness is a social construct.
2. Mental illness is an excuse to sell psychoactive medication.
3. Mental illnesses are brain disorders.
4. Mental illness used to be called “demon possession.”
6. Mental illness is a Western concept.
5. … anything else you can come up with (please provide in the comments) …
Mental illness is both a subjective experience and an objective reality (at least for those who live under the veil of modern Western medicine). For those who have been given labels such as schizophrenic, anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, manic depressive (bipolar disorder), schizoaffective disorder, etc. it can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to separate the subjective suffering from the objective Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders diagnosis category. One of the goals of this blog is to decipher, outline, and explore our various perspectives on this definition. As provided above, it may be possible to throw out various objective possibilities for what mental illness is. Therefore, upon reading these ideas of what mental illness is it one might say that they understand. However, the subjective experience of those who suffer from diagnoses are much more intricate, personal, and some might say twisted.
To me, mental illness means:
… on the negative:
1. Social isolation and divorce.
2. Losing jobs.
3. Deep depression.
4. Being disowned by my father.
5. Having to move back home.
6. Seeking pharmacological intervention and regular psychotherapy.
7. Feeling high above the clouds with ideas, writing projects, the cure to the spiritual condition of Man, and scientific advances.
8. … anything else I come up with on this blog …
… and on the positive:
1. Feeling in touch with the suffering of my fellow human beings.
2. Reaching out for spirituality as a way for seeing the world.
3. Exploring the worlds of philosophy and religion to seek out social frameworks for dealing with how society treats the weakened “other.”
4. Realizing everyone is, deep down, experiencing just as much suffering as me.
5. Learning how to write not just technical scientific papers, but also to write subjective narratives about various subjects I care about.
6. Learning to see through the deep evil that is capitalism (anything that puts a dollar sign on Life mind as well be called “Satanically evil.”)
7. Feeling in touch with those who are the targets of American war, racism, and sexism.
8. … anything else I come up with on this blog…
I recently left my work place in the back of an ambulance and ended up in the Grady Hospital emergency room. I am frustrated with how I have been dealing with stress. I anticipate the next few weeks I will work to create better coping mechanisms. One of which will be writing. Please hold on for the ride and read along in our journey. I am tired of seeing my life tossed around by forces internal and external to myself. I want to take control of the ship that is my life and live out a life of service and compassion. I am welcoming back into my life a regular meditation and exercise regime and hope to report back in future posts the benefits of these two additions to my life. I would like to get back into rock climbing, academia, powerlifting, running, and living the high level life of the body and mind. However, I am aware that life is there to be lived and enjoyed in whatever state one finds oneself in. Happy living!
[i] Mental, adj.1 and n.
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈmɛntl/ , U.S. /ˈmɛn(t)l/
Forms: lME mentale, lME– mental, 15–16 mentall, 16 mentalle.
Etymology: < Middle French, French mental (1371 as mentel , 1457 as mental … (Show More)
A. adj.1 (In all senses except A. 4 and A. 6 predominantly used attrib.)
I. Senses relating to the human mind in the most general sense.
Etymology: adj. + -ness suffix.
The quality or condition of being ill (in various senses).
Mental illness n. a condition which causes serious abnormality in a person’s thinking or behavior, esp. one requiring special care or treatment.
I am in sympathy with the cause of racial equality because of these experiences. I have been thinking a lot about how I see schools in Atlanta unequal with respect to education, and I want to work to improve that situation. My skin is not dark, but I have seen prejudice and ignorance. The Art-Brain-Philosophy Project in its current incarnation is an experiment in living. What would happen if everyone tried to be a little more honest and sincere? Why arm yourself for the battle that is each day when you can trust in the kindness of the other? A theme that I always come back to is:
It is harder to crack a prejudice than an atom.
Putting into words my support for the oppressed and identifying with this side is the first step towards a new, more serene way of being. See the positives above in my list and you will see why I value my short bouts of eccentricity through ways of using digital means to communicate. I am now in a place where I want to pick back up the Art-Brain-Philosophy Project in the brain imaging realm and try to create the original vision. I am tutoring a family with kids that want to learn how to design video games. I have started work with 3DS Max in this work and wonder if I could do something with that software that would help the Art-Brain-Philosophy Project reach reality? Art is the only place where what is discarded by society as “mental illness” and “blackness” can reach the realm of “normality.” I strongly support the creation of communities of trust and sharing around advancing the cause of embracing radically the “other” in all of his or her various colors and states.
This blog is a place where I will try to stick together these ideas into a cohesive unit. I feel drawn to writing as a past time and perhaps as a profession. I love being able to share the work of making life a better place for others through the written word. Expressing what is hidden and revealing the connections between states of darkness and states of light in human life, in whatever form they arise.
“No one can be viewed as the exclusive transgressor in regard to what is done. Rather, the more a person’s action seems to call for condemnation, the easier it is in most cases to show how the agent has in various ways been tempted and provoked and to show for how long the evil in that person has been nourished by the sin of others. Consequently, in all sinful actions a shared work and a shared guilt are involved.”
—Friedrich Schleiermacher, “On the Sacrifice of Christ That Makes Perfect,” in Reformed But Ever Reforming, trans. Iain G. Nicol (Lampeter, Wales: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997), 88.
We all need to work together to reduce violence. People need to be able to withstand the bombardment of images and words, the propaganda that is designed to inflame a perpetual state of crisis in the West to paralyze the masses as described here in To Our Friends.
“The daily profusion of news, whether alarming or merely scandalous, shapes our conception of a generally unintelligible world. Its chaotic look is the fog of war behind which it is rendered unassailable. Its ungovernable appearance helps to make it governable in reality. There is the ruse. By adopting crisis management as a technique of government, capital has not simply replaced the cult of progress with the blackmail of threatened catastrophe; it has arrogated the strategic intelligence of the present, the general assessment of the operations that are under way. This move must be countered. As far as strategy is concerned, it’s a matter of getting two steps ahead of global governance. There’s not a crisis that we would need to get out of, there’s a war that we have to win.
A shared understanding of the situation cannot emerge from one text alone, but requires an international discussion. And for a discussion to take place, statements need to be offered, this being one. We have subjected the revolutionary tradition and positions to the touchstone of the historical situation and sought to cut the thousand ideal threads that keep the Gulliver of revolution attached to the ground. We have groped for the passageways, the gestures, and the thoughts that might allow us to extract ourselves from the impasse of the present. There’s no revolutionary movement without a language that can capture the state we find ourselves in as well as the fissure of possibility running through it. What follows is a contribution to its elaboration. To that end, our text is appearing in eight languages and on four continents at once. If we are everywhere, if we are legion, then we must now organize ourselves, worldwide.”
To continue working through the insanity is normal, safe, and healthy. To see the totality of the Spectacle and try to do something about is heroic. Go out and do both, be a hero as a worker in the machine. A Neo in the Matrix, liberate the slaves with the Force. Jedi stuff. God knows we need some of it to keep Gaia going into the 22nd century.
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