Day-to-day thoughts, technical information, a random grab-bag of thoughts, discoveries, and interesting little tidbits.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Poetry for Thought: Modifications of "First they came…" by Martin Niemöller

The original poem is as follows, translated from the German in which it was written:

When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.
- "First they came…" by Martin Niemöller

It's a good argument against political apathy. Just because what is happening politically is not happening to you right now does not mean it never will. We have a similar situation in the United States where the Republicrats (Republicans and Democrats are two sides of the very same party) are performing the very same act right under our noses, and it is up to us to smell the salts before it is too late.

To help clarify, I am going to wax poetic now. If you don't care for poetry, this is your cue to stop reading. ;)

It's funny

I was afraid of drugs harming people, so I made them illegal. It's funny, there seems to be harder drugs now.
I was afraid of guns killing people, so I made them illegal. It's funny, there seems to be more violence now.
I was afraid of immigrants taking jobs, so I made them illegal. It's funny, there seems to be more offshoring now.
I was afraid of a free market cheating people, so I limited it. It's funny, there seems to be more black markets now.
I was afraid of dissent breeding terrorists to kill people, so I made dissent illegal. It's funny, there seems to be more people protesting.

I was afraid of freedom, so I made it illegal. It's funny... I still feel afraid.

"First They Came..." US edition

When they came for those with vices, I remained silent; I had no vice.
When they came for the gun owners, I remained silent; I had no guns.
When they came for the Arabs, I remained silent; I was not an Arab.
When they came for the activists, I remained silent; I was not active.
When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out; I was not spared.

Thank you, I'll be here until Friday.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Stream of Counsciousness: Self-reliance and Societies

I will occasionally post stream-of-consciousness posts, just for the sake of getting a list of possibly-related concepts out of my brain and onto the global one. There are no guarantees that this will lead to a point, but you never know. Usually, something initiates the stream of consciousness, a website or a word, which I will call a "seed."

The seed site of this particular stream of consciousness:

I am an anarchist, with a bent on self-reliance and the free market. I do not like the idea of being dependent on anyone else, but I also believe in property and the benefit of free trade of that property. In fact, the field of economics began life as a system of barter in order to allow value to be measured by the use of a general-purpose commodity. Being the more valuable commodities due to their malleability, resistance to oxidation (such as rust), and relative rarity, gold and silver became popular mediums of exchange... especially when specifically-designed coins became the main purpose for those metals.

The use of metal coins were the first instance of money, and ever since then, people have sought to gain control of as many as possible, due to the belief that the more coins one had, the more command one had over everyone around them. They were, of course, right.

As time progressed, people worked less and less for their specific needs, and more and more for the vague needs that they might eventually have, because they had the money to purchase those things down the road. Money, as it seems, became more important than one's direct needs. In time, barter was all but forgotten in the haze of history, relegated to economists and history buffs; the average person scoffed the notion of barter as a quaint anachronism.

Barter isn't the only thing that was lost in the mists of time; self-reliance took a back-seat to the division of labor, and with the division, the role of the individual shrank to a small part of what one once was. Then specialization arrived to make the role of the individual much smaller.

Instead of a self-contained machine, each person became merely a piece of a much vaster machine, controlled by manager pieces, and ultimately controlled by a small number of people at a much higher level. These higher-levels go by different names, such as CEO, President, Congress, His Majesty, General, Carl Rove, Alan Greenspan, Warren Buffet, Ben Bernanke, Paris Hilton, and so on.

Society is basically the subsuming of the individual in the group. This is in no way limited to politics, but also in business, as well as religions, families, and even certain traits or ideologies.

The sayings that enforce this are numerous: We are a part of something larger. We are a community. We are a nation. We are a people. We represent white pride, or black power, or gender equality, or Allah's will, or the Power of Christ, or the middle class, or the common worker, or...

The list could go on forever to identify all the different groups of people out there representing... well, anything, and ironically, there are likely more groups than there are people who represent them. Why are they even important in the first place?

Some forms of grouping are beneficial. Individuals sometimes need the assistance of others in the pursuit of their goals. Examples of beneficial systems are families, friendships, and... deeper relationships. Communities themselves, the collection of neighbors, also have a beneficial purpose; people who live close to one another and know one another inevitably develop friendships all around, and will trust one another more than they will outsiders.

Outsiders. This is probably the most telling reason why groups are such a harmful influence. Outsiders are generally looked at with curiosity in better situations, and with scorn or contempt in worse ones. Suddenly, with the classifications of "insider" and "outsider," rational reason goes out the window, and emotional judgments are substituted for concrete thought. "Us vs. Them" is a major theme, using such arguments as "They want to hurt/suppress/ignore/enslave us," "They are the Enemy," "We have the favor of (name of specific deity here)," "The Man is keeping us down," and so on.

There are certainly some who obviously seek to unbalance things in their favor, but then, everyone does to one degree or another. Even the ones that are too blind to see it due to their own piety. I work every day to increase my favor. I've changed strategies several times, and I am in the process of doing so again. There is nothing wrong with working to improve one's lot in life. However, why the rage? If you fail at your goal, why is it someone else's fault? Can't you take responsibility for your own mistakes and failures without assuming that someone else's actions can be controlled?

Control. Why do people assume that others need to be controlled by something? If others need to be controlled, by whose standards should that control be? For a great many people, the control needs to be by the person making the assertion. After all, who better to decide how society should be than the one who is making the claim that society must be kept safe/secure/orderly/profitable/fed/housed/cared for. And each claimant has their own vision of how society can be kept safe/secure/orderly/profitable/fed/housed/cared for.

Vision. Whose is right? Whose is wrong? Is it always the "other guy?" Must I follow the dictates of the "other guy" in order for the "other guy" to feel safe/secure/orderly/profitable/fed/housed/cared for? Does the other guy really presume to know how I wish (or plan) to be safe/secure/orderly/profitable/fed/housed/cared for? Do I really have a say as to how I am safe/secure/orderly/profitable/fed/housed/cared for?

Forgive the constant "safe/secure/orderly/profitable/fed/housed/cared for," but ultimately, this is the full collection of platitudes that charity cases demand for the less-fortunates. I am living in an apartment, with a desk, chair, and a couple stacked mattresses, but I am comfortable. I have work, and I am doing fine for now.

However, my ultimate goal is not the same as many others. I don't care about a large pile of cash, infinite credit (from whom?), miles of land, phenomenal cosmic power, supreme command over the masses, mass popularity on a global scale, or even the kind of love that adorn the greatest ballads (whatever that means).

I just want to live on my own, on a moderate plot of land, probably somewhere between 3-5 acres, in a single-story house, with my own garden to provide me food, animals to provide me other forms of food (meat, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, etc.), a workshop to make all the things I need (tools, furniture, building materials, house extensions and modifications, appliances), generators to make my own energy, and a small (maybe 5-15K/year) income for the purpose of covering those few things I do need or want to purchase (raw materials, books). I want all these things to be owned by me, and me alone (no government telling me what I may or may not do with my own property).

And with this, the thought stream comes full-circle. I came across the above website during my research about plans for building tools, and the Journey to Forever includes an article (originally written in 1910) about all kinds of simple-to-make tools. It also includes an interesting article about the benefit of weeds. There is much more, but so far, these two, along with a dead-tree acquisition (Storey's Basic Country Skills), have given me a new set of plans; originally, it was just for the workshop alone, but if I can provide my own food as well as my own stuff, then it would be remiss for me not to make an attempt at it.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Election Issues

I support Ron Paul for president. I don't want four more years of a welfare-warfare state. I don't want four more years of Patriot Acts, extraordinary renditions, and draft threats. I don't want four more years of paying unconscionable amounts into a system that really only benefits the bureaucrats employed by it.

Now, I've had that sinking feeling for a short while, ever since the New Hampshire primary, wondering if it is even worth the effort to support a libertarian candidate who did not even finish in the top three in the "Live Free or Die" state. That night, I was absolutely depressed over that event.

However, as time went on, I considered some basic facts; all states prior to February 5 had delegates taken away from them, due to the fact that they WERE before February 5. Those states, while good PR for their winners, lost a lot of electoral clout by that stunt. But they also gave time to the hundreds of states voting on February 5th to consider their options.

Now, on the day of the New Hampshire primary, a very nasty smear piece came out about Ron Paul being a racist. What was the evidence? Articles in a single newsletter over a period of time, making statements that are on their face very racially inclined. However, how does one make the claim that a typewritten document reflects Ron Paul's personal beliefs? The only thing this proves is that during the time of these articles' publication, Ron's hand was a little too slack in quality control... which could be a bad thing in the Presidential race... if that slackness were to have persisted to this day, 15 years later, after having no doubt faced the accusations multiple times during his congressional run.

If he was slack then, and faced with those damning pieces of evidence of that slackness for all the congressional races since, I don't think he's going to be repeating that mistake, do you? And until someone can summon up an example of Ron Paul actually saying something incriminating, I am not going to put any credence to the claim that Ron Paul is a racist. And no, I refuse to fall into the guilt by association trap; racial groups support Ron Paul for the same reason that truthers, brothel owners, and anarchists (such as myself) are behind him.

Because we are being targeted by laws that are unconstitutional; just because hate speech is reprehensible (and a complete waste of otherwise good energy), this does not mean that it should be outlawed. Just because prostitution involves sex (and runs a risk of diseases) does not mean that the law has to puritanically crack down. Just because anarchy is marketed as the violent Darwinism of Mad Max, this does not mean that we support such a horrid lifestyle.

Just because the people oppressed by laws are supporting a candidate who supports freedom, does not mean that he agrees with them; in fact, the following quote perfectly sums up this particular situation: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

The movie "The American President" (rather apt for this situation as well) does this one better:

"America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad, because it's going to put up a fight. It's going to say, 'You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.'"

You want to claim that this is the Land of the Free? Then you cannot just protect popular speech. You must also protect the most vile, hateful, poisonous of speech imaginable.

Not so easy, is it? Perhaps freedom is a little too scary for you?

Ron Paul stands on the side of freedom, even at the potential cost of his election. He stands alone on many votes. He stands alone in a group of warhawks. He stands alone against the War on Drugs. He stands alone on a great many things, thereby not only earning the name "Dr. No," but also "Goldbug," "Unelectable," and worse by people who have forgotten the reason for this country's birth.

Such bravery alone makes him worth the Presidency.

Certain Thoughts from a Certain Mind

Blogs seem to be a good way to be respected for the expression of one's thoughts... never mind the benefits of organizing one's thoughts. However, do you mix the deeper topics with the less-cerebral topics like current events, or can you? After all, they originate in the same mind, and many times, one depends on the other for substance... the deep thoughts influence the lighter ones, while the light thoughts are what spur the deep considerations.

After a little time thinking about things, I decided to do two blogs, one dedicated to the deep topics, the conceptual paradigm-shifters and mental exercises, and the other dedicated to the personal and day-to-day events that often bring such exercises about... or something completely unrelated. No point diluting depth with trivia, right?

So, why even have a blog focusing on concepts and paradigms? Well, I tend to think differently than the people around me; strange looks are pretty commonplace for me. I consider greed, laziness, and ego as virtues, for example, and government and police as vices. I don't believe in equality, and certainly not in law.

All of the above would be enough to demonize me to the darkest pits of hell with very little effort, because the people who do the damning do not understand the concepts I live with, the assumptions and paradigm I understand to be a reality. So, it would be apparent that making a personal blog without another to give the supporting arguments for my assumptions would be a socially-suicidal move... forever relegated to the loons and kooks of the universally-despised.

Not quite something I look forward to, lemme tellya.

So, with the Certain Mind blog, I can at least give the curious the opportunity to see things from my side of reality. Maybe it can spread to the general populace? I'm not holding my breath, but who knows?

There will be a redesign of the layout; I don't plan to leave the generic templates in place for long... just for now until I have something that is unique and pleasing to the eye.