This one is more aimed at naysayers who still want to pretend that technology is neutral. Perhaps anti-civ community members could use this example if/when they find their selves in a discussion with someone that just doesn’t get it.

So, there’s a TV series called ‘Black Mirror’, which is a pretty good critique of technology. A couple of weeks ago, I happened to watch the first episode of Season 3, which revolves around a woman’s struggle for popularity. The world she inhabits is nothing more than an exaggerated form of today’s obsession with ‘likes’ and ‘upvotes’, wherein people have a social rating out of 5, which determines much of their future interactions with people. People who have a rating of more than 4 don’t want to be seen with people who have less than 4, and so on. Turns out this nightmare may not even be much of an exaggeration…

nosedive

Because…the other thing I’ve been doing lately is looking for apartments and roomshares (within a 45 mile radius of Fairfield, CA, if you know of anywhere good!), and many of the prospective roommates and landlords are using a service called Roomster to vet people. I can understand people wanting to use something to give them a bit of peace of mind  about the person they’ll be sharing with or renting to, but there appears to be something nefarious about Roomster.

In order to sign up for Roomster, you HAVE to have a Facebook account. Having not had one for many years, I was not happy about making one, but the need to have somewhere to live is more pressing than the need to stick to my principles rigidly, so I made an account with some vague details and added my family and few friends.

After signing up, I was immediately told that my account had been deleted because it did not conform to their standards. After pressing them further by email and asking that they reinstate it so I could contact certain people about their apartments/rooms, I was told that my ‘social graph’ was not good enough. So basically, I did not have a high enough rating to use the service.

[EDIT: After probing further, I’ve discovered that the ‘social graph’ means how many friends you have (on Facebook, not in real life) and how often you send short, insubstantial messages to them. The logic of this setup (including the association with renters) means that a person who uses a computer to constantly post information online is seen as more social than a person who eschews the computer in favour of real interactions. More virtual madness…]

Perhaps this is overly anecdotal to be of any value to others, but I just thought that it was an interesting example of how technology creep works. Might the day come when a Facebook account itself is compulsory, if not by law but because all other service providers want to use it to interrogate the concept of ‘who you are’? Might they treat you according to your ‘social graph’?

These are dark days…

Imagine that all of civilization is a single small village. Of course, it is much larger, but I will give you a simple metaphor. Civilization is more complex than my metaphor only by multiplication. I will explain,

For now, let us imagine that the only harmful behavior in this village is prostitution. Nearly all the women in the village must to work as sexual slaves for the men so that they can eat. And they are not allowed to leave. They are the property of their slavers. The payment they are given is really only ‘upkeep’ on property, so that this use and abuse can continue.

Let us imagine finally that this village depended on prostitution as if all the women manage to run away, most of the men would leave and go off alone or in small groups, and there is no village left. So actually, the reason for being, for this village, is sexual slavery. This is Rape Town.

Now let us consider the arguments of the man that says something similar to this:

“I know Rape Town is wrong. Rape is unforgivable, and the formation of this town was the worst mistake ever. I will no longer taking any part in the rape. But I don’t want to leave, and I think I can be happy just making some kind of a life in whatever way I can”

Continue reading “A World of Rape: why we must leave civilization behind (a metaphor)”

Some visitors to this site may have heard something about the 1903 story of ‘Topsy the Elephant’, or about the headline that  ‘Thomas Edison electrocuted an elephant’ .

What I want to convey in this short piece is the argument that reducing stories like this down to just a couple of factoids (or basing one’s knowledge on these reductions) is an approach that will cause one to miss several important points, and often to accept mistakes and misrepresentations. In other words, if we want the best understanding, we should aim for as comprehensive research as we can muster.

So what are the facts in this case, and what can they tell us?

Firstly, we are told that at the time of her death, the elephant in question was a prisoner of Luna Park. But how did she get there?

“…Born in Southeast Asia around 1875, Topsy was secretly brought into the United States soon thereafter and added to the herd of performing elephants at the Forepaugh Circus, who fraudulently advertised her as the first elephant born in America…”

So our quest for truth and understanding of this story begins with the hunting and capture of a wild animal on the other side of the planet from where she ended up, which tells us instantly that this is a classic example of how the globe is spanned with a single civilization (as Zerzan repeatedly points out) that has a huge reach when it grabs what it wants. And yet again, we see how capitalists will completely obliterate and invert the truth in order to try and generate more profit. After all, the circus owners were in competition with the famous (or infamous) Barnum, and wanted to get an edge over him.

The next thing we can learn about this elephant is that the name the Forepaugh Circus chose and forced on the poor animal – ‘Topsy’ – was taken from that of a slave girl in ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. How fitting! Again, a clear sign of how the pathology of domestication is identical whether it applies to the enslavement of non-human animals or other humans.

Continue reading “Edison and the Elephant: questioning facts and values in a ‘topsy-turvy’ world”