Like so many of us I get pulled into that click bait garbage in my new feeds and waste my time watching or reading fake or trivial stories online.
I don’t particularly want to wade into this US election debate (I really do) but something has been driving me nuts for weeks & any time anyone brings up the whole “Clinton email scandal” bullshit. Knowing what I know about the technical architecture of email servers, blah-blah-blah, the whole question of who-had-private what-and-what is really the wrong question. I see it more one of three realistic scenarios: (a) the emails were encrypted, which they should have been because email is literally the least secure of all internet protocols and no one should ever send anything over any email that you wouldn’t write on the back of a postcard and send through snailmail, and this whole thing is complete MOOT and shut up about it or (b) the US government is IGNORANTLY using non-encrypted email to send classified information, in which case they should all be fired for gross incompetence and Clinton should more be likely lauded for (accidentally) using a private server that was probably and statistically MORE secure due simply to security-by-obscurity or (c) the emails were STRATEGICALLY non-encrypted, in which case Trump is a dumb-ass for shining a light on a tool that was probably acting as a false information channel as part of a vastly more complex security operation… and by the way, smooth move dip-shit. Go read about Alan Turing and the Enigma code dilemma to save me writing a whole essay about meta-information. Either way, if you’re angry about it, you’re almost certainly angry for the wrong reasons, so can we stop talking about it now?
I’ve been distracted lately by this sense of a world I can’t quite get my head around: we live, as it turns out, in an era of intolerance, an era of fear, an era of hate.
Online. In the media. In politics. Everywhere.
And the thing that bothers me the most, I think, is that we seem to continue to play along with this act of normalizing it all. We’re collectively moving the measuring post into deeper waters… and wading in after it.
That should be what scares you too.
I’ve been dabbling in the news media more. It’s a broken little world we’ve got here, at least if you read the stories that bubble to the surface. I try to keep my focus on the horizon. I try to look off in the distance and see the bigger picture. Sometimes it tough. Sometimes it requires a machete to clear out the weeds and see that long view. But it’s there.
I know what you’re thinking right now. You think this is about Trump. You’re half right. But only half.
I’ve been watching this game in which I have minimal skin and trying to be objective about it. I care, but at the same time I don’t need to care as much as many others. I’m sheltered by a layer of geopolitics that will probably keep me more isolated than I really deserve. That said, I tend to judge people by their passion: his seems to be himself, so I as you can imagine I don’t judge him highly. But at the end of this game, whatever it is, and whatever comes of it, what is more interesting to me is that he is a symptom of something so much bigger.
Trump isn’t the problem. He’s a self-serving fool, but still just a guy. What is bigger than him, bigger even than his ego however, is that he is a symptom of this era in which we are living: an era of hate and intolerance and fear.
An era when we no longer debate, we lash out.
An era when we don’t converse with those whom we don’t agree, we threaten.
An era when we fold our rage not into productive and positive change, but into acts of hateful glory and abstract violence.
There was this span of time in the eighties, and reaching back into a time before I have clear memories in the seventies, when we felt like we were moving towards a world with less of this. I don’t want to romanticise then. The eighties was a shithole of punk angst, gleeful intolerance, and cold war fear mongering… but at least the trendline seemed to be on the up. Then. And even in retrospect. We were trying to be better, I think. It felt that way.
In 2016, given Brexit and US Politics, and the Twitterverse of Hate, and the hundreds of millions of angry people voicing their indignant rage at this thing we call political correctness through votes, violence, or whatever, I see two scenarios:
First, this might be a new normal. I fear this is the likely scenario. I fear it in that it keeps me awake at night, in that I’ll need to prepare my daughter for a world that will judge her and hate her and spurn her for simply being her: a thinker and a do-er and a girl and a kid with a nuclear family. I fear that we’ve let loose a rage that will snowball. I fear that we’ve hit a critical mass of communication, and that the rage will overpower the good and when the act of tweeting fails, and the act of voting fails and the act of shouting in the streets fails, the angry and the desperate will cling to their last recourse, which will be to rise up and tear apart this frail little society we’ve built.
Or that second scenario is that I’m misinterpreting this act. Maybe we’re not normalizing it at all. Maybe this is spurn of rage at the end of a dark night. Maybe this is the death rattle of a most terrible bit of humanity. It’s often darkest before the dawn, it is said. Perhaps there is something to hope for when the sun comes up again.
Don’t let the door hit ya’ll on the way out. In my continuing and passive-aggressively brooding battle to not-so-quietly ignore all the trolls of the digital universe, a new chapter unfolded yesterday.
CBC announced that they will soon be stopping all anonymous commenting on their news websites. Huzzah!
If you haven’t witnessed this (now soon to be thankfully extinguished) flame of our broken culture, check it out (a) before it’s gone forever and (b) knowing in your soon-to-be-bruised heart & soul that this failed forum is scheduled to be doused with a big old bucket of cold, fresh, common sense. Finally.
Of course, the comments on the “we’re changing the comments” story were just amazing. Virtual temper tantrums, claims of censorship with tax dollars, and weak little banners being lifted claiming rights violations and the end of free speech. All of this from a troupe of folks who (1) are the first in line to electronically shout, yell, scream, pounce, and derail anyone or anything that conflicts with their own narrow viewpoints and (2) have really only been asked to put their names on their vitriolic trolling.
The free ride for trolls is coming to an end. No more climbing out from under the publicly-funded CBC bridge to yell at passer-bys.
And guys, it’s not that I’m against you having the right to say what you want to say. I’ll set my own efforts out as a model: Go build your own bridge. Go make your own website, blog, channel, or feed, then write, record, say whatever you want. When all of our collective “precious tax dollars” are no longer being used, luring & railroading us, we who are crossing the good-faith bridge of a public website, we the average, unsuspecting readers treading along with the hope of reading real news, written and edited by trained reporters, but rather tricked, corralled into reading your oft-hateful and agenda-driven drivel tacked unfiltered at the end of those otherwise-useful articles, when that no longer happens… then we’ll see something very interesting. We’ll see just how many people actually care to actively seek out and read what you have to say.
After all, there’s no charter right to fame or an audience.
Now here’s the rub. I write all this but I also get that there is fundamental need for some form of anonymity online… somewhere. There is always an argument to be made, and I will be the among first in line to defend that notion, that the ability for persecuted or risky opinions to see the light, that this is fundamental to our efforts to maintain a free and open society. We need a place for minority opinions to be published anonymously, to protect people who can’t publish those ideas without overt prosecution or censorship — the wrath of other people, governments, corporations, or whoever — and we should support that. Freedom for anyone to publish their ideas is what the internet has provided us with as humans, and virtually everyone who wants to find out the method how, has the means and power.
What we do with that power, bent for good or evil is a whole other problem, but I digress…
I would argue the point, however, that (a) the comments section of a public news website is not the ideal location for this anonymous and gaping hole, and in fact if anything has proven counter-productive to that purpose, and (b) more importantly, very few of the trolls arguing the particular point of open, uncensored discourse are actually arguing that point by their own example. My own experience of reading (and receiving) such discourse –on CBC.ca and on this very site of mine– has been one that almost always is more on the side of laser-focused censorship by bored & righteous individuals –trolling– than the defense of a so-called safe space for unpopular opinions …as so many seem to claim. Trolls, and there are always trolls, climb out from under any bridge built in good faith and demand a toll and our fealty to their disjointed ideas.
Thus, anonymity in the comments sections of online publications is a failed experiment, it kindles a dank, dark corner for trolls to hide, and it’s time to find a better way to have these conversations. Safely. Secretly if need be. But not that way.
In the end, I suppose, we’ll see how many people are willing to share such angry and destructive ideas when their name needs to be stamped on them. It’s control, yes, but I don’t think that it is censorship; It’s reclaiming a public a space for civil conversation. We need that, too. In 2016, we need that more.
And the trolls? There will always be trolls. We all know that. But they’ll just need to work a little harder, and go find other bridges to hide under.
I’m tired of this. Everywhere I turn, people shitting on themselves. On us.
I was waiting in line at a downtown Starbucks & buying a coffee this morning while the guy ahead of me –roughly my own age and dressed in a fairly nice business suit– ordered his $6 latte while he chatted to someone on the phone.
Now, to be clear, if you eavesdrop in a circumstance like this it is –socially and morally, I assume– considered fair-game, because the rudeness of talking on the phone while being served in a busy cafe trumps the rudeness of eavesdropping on (and later blogging about) someone else’s conversation.
But I digress…
the world was about end because of our elected politicians
The gist of this overheard conversation, at least as far I could gather from my eavesdropping, was this: our anti-hero, latte guy was having a business-type conversation and explaining to someone (who seemed to live somewhere outside of Alberta) about the current political & economic situation inside Alberta and why in his opinion (and I’m paraphrasing here) the world was about end because of our elected politicians.
If you’ve been tuned-in to anything relating to current events in Alberta in the last year –and here I’m referring to news, radio, television, internet & social media, newspapers, political groups, social gatherings, holiday dinners or (apparently) eavesdropping on conversations in cafes– you have very likely heard something like this: people shitting on our government, our province and our home. Shitting on themselves. Shitting on all of us. And that’s really —really— about the kindest way I can put that.
you have the right to complain all you want
I’m not going to waste any words here trying convincing anyone to break out of their political viewpoint. We all have reasons for supporting who we support, and there was a big change less than a year ago. The rules changed. Complaining is our right, of course. And you have the right to complain all you want. But I will spend a few words commenting on the impact that this is almost certainly having nearby and all around the world.
Let me put this as (probably overly-) simply as I can: everything you say, write, do, or share has an impact, somewhere and somehow, big or small, intentionally or not. Our brand. Our image. The impression that our home as a place to live, work, play, and invest as much hinges on how we are perceived by the world as anything else. Yes, taxes play a role. Yes, legislation plays a role. Yes, government is important. But your impact through your actions –yes, YOURS, and I know math is hard but it– either adds to the value of that image or subtracts from it. Yours may seem like small, individual impact, but we’re a lot of people when you put us together, and all that negativity is starting to compound.
In other words, you’re either a shitter or a shoveller, and collectively it starting to seem like we’re making a really big & stinky pile of shit.
Now, perhaps you are recently unemployed. That sucks, and I’ve been there. But when you spend your time writing vile messages on social media & fomenting angry insurrection in Facebook groups you compound the impression that this is a terrible place with terrible problems. You’re a shitter.
You may be someone who just took a wage freeze for a job that is already taxing your spirit to the breaking point. I feel your pain more than I would ever write about. But when you call the radio with angry, vague rants about the government you further vandalize our brand as a vibrant place to be living and working. You’re a shitter, too.
It could be that you are retired, watching as the value of your investments slide and wondering how you’re going to live the post-work lifestyle that you’ve been promised your whole life. I get it: I myself think about what the economy is going to be like in 25 years and wonder if the money I squirrel away every month will ever be enough. But this province needs your patient wisdom now more than ever, not the panic you spread through ranting about some fantasy-based memory of a past government that was –and let’s be clear– just more politicians, amiright? You, sir, are definitely a shitter, and one that should know better.
you are literally spreading bad vibes about us like a cancer through the economy
Or, you might just be that guy, a latte-buying businessman angry about politics that don’t align with your own, chatting with a client half way around the world. First, hang up the phone while you order your latte dude. Rude. But also: I get the resentment you feel at not feeling represented by your government, and it’s frustrating, but you are literally spreading bad vibes about all of us like a cancer through the economy. You. What you just did there. You’re a shitter. You’re shitting on all of us. Stop it. Not cool, latte guy, not cool.
People tend to (mistakenly, I think) have this sense that the economy is some kind of magic or random or uncontrollable force that we just need to ride and deal with: in reality, it’s a global perception of value and spirit. It’s about how much confidence real people shuffling around real money have about us and what we’re selling. And sure, we’re selling natural resources. But we’re also selling ourselves. Us. We’re selling the idea that we’re worth hiring, worth buying from, and worth working with. We’re selling our brand and our image as a place and as a group deserving of the investment of time and money and emotion and effort by others.
This isn’t automatic. It’s earned.
Yet, when we give the impression that collectively we don’t even believe any this of ourselves, when we shit on ourselves over and over and over, even if it seems like a satisfying reaction to a tough situation, well… what can I say? Even I wouldn’t buy that.
Sure, it may be your right to complain, but it’s your responsibility to understand something else: that all of your complaining doesn’t come without a cost to all of us. Now, go start shoveling instead.
The part of a laser that takes ordinary photons, concentrates them, and points them all in the same direction. That part is not the laser or the light or the result, but the laser wouldn’t be the laser without it.
As of this morning, Canadians have ceased to be employees of the mega-corporation of Canada Inc, headed by a secretive and oligarchical CEO who assured us every day that he was in control that we shouldn’t worry our little heads over things like rights and freedoms and should rather just do our jobs, set the economy on a pedestal, and be good, quiet little workers. Instead, with the swearing in of our twenty-third Prime Minister, I am happy to say that we are once again citizens of a rejuvenated country, led by a young man who’s outward objective seems to be restoring the notion of representative democracy, and the essential, core idea of that democracy: that power is borrowed from below, not bestowed from above. As citizens, we all once again have a powerful stake in the course and success of this country and we will pull ourselves back from the brink of the arrogance and uncertainty of that path that our previous, single-minded leader has taken us on for nearly a decade. Agree or not, and whatever the future may hold for us as a nation, it is a good day for hopeful government and open governance.
That people and politics is like a volcano: it lurks there under the surface bubbling and boiling away until an election or budget cracks it open and then there is molten anger flying everywhere.
The provincial budget came out today, and say what you will about politics or partisanship, it really gets me down when one party or one group trounces on public servants as so-called overpaid slouches. Being one, I may be biased, I admit. But please keep a few things keep in mind before you decide to generalize and bash anyone in any career. In every workplace there are employees that span the gamut from just-ok to amazing: people get up, go to work, and do a job, and most of them do it very well. This applies everywhere. Anywhere. You may think government work is a cushy, over-paid gig, but in reality those jobs are a lot more rare than the anecdotes of government naysayers may have led you to believe. Public servants are not deserving of any particularly special treatment, but likewise they are people who have chosen a career path that, in many cases, has been based on opting to contribute their skills and abilities to a big kinda-corporation we call government with the goal of providing services and programs that improve the places we all live. That, and as a tax-paying citizen, we’re all YOUR employees… and when that public vents about failed bureaucracies and inefficient systems the result is often the exact opposite of what they might hope: the amazing people who do amazing things get burnt out and leave while the rest of us average, hard working folks stick it out and fill in the gaps with fewer resources, bruised confidence, and the knowledge that there are a lot of people who would cheer to see us fail. So hug a teacher, thank a nurse, and maybe buy a coffee for that IT guy who spent his whole weekend restoring your free public WiFi when it went down.
In the days following the recent federal election (and given that a judicial recount is underway in a nearby riding) it’s been interesting to see a number of comments on social media urging us to “hurry up and get rid of paper ballots.” I think the best argument I’ve ever heard against electronic voting, however, is that of scalability of attack. I mean, I’ll acknowledge that there are likely as many ways to commit electoral fraud as there have been elections, but nothing is going to add to the success of potential future attempts better than when we put all our vote into a computer and enlist software to be our agents of trust in our democracy. To hack ten thousand cardboard boxes with a few hundred ballots each would require a nationally coordinated effort involving hundreds or thousands of conspirators. On the other hand, to hack an e-vote would require one determined nerd and a twelve pack of Mountain Dew.
Democracy in action? Someone stole the election sign off my front lawn today.
Finally. It’s nearly over. For better or worse, whether we begin another span of broken democracy or a renewed stretch of an uncertain but hopeful future, by the time many of us go to bed tonight we will have a solid idea of who our next federal government is. It has been a divisive and frustrating few months. Canada is as partisan and divided as I personally have ever known it to be — be that due to perception or reality I cannot say. But, as I write one last thing about this election, I do encourage everyone and anyone reading this to vote today, no matter who you support: I will also add one final opinion. In the eleven years we’ve lived in our house we have also lived in a riding that was taken for granted by the parties in charge. We never saw nor barely heard from our MLA nor our MP. They didn’t represent us, and I couldn’t tell you what they ever did for our riding or the people who lived there. As I was cutting my grass on weekend, at one point in the dwindling afternoon hours, both my sitting MLA and my MP-candidate of choice were standing on my street, and I having already voted, got to have a real conversation with someone who potentially could be my democratic representative in Ottawa. Maybe my perception is skewed. Maybe chance was smiling on me. Or maybe I’m cherry-picking evidence to support my own delusions. But deep down I think that there are still politicians who understand the point of a democracy: to be smart about ideas, to be engaged with the electorate, and to represent the people who make up this country. You may not like any of the leaders, but if that’s the case vote for someone who will represent you and not just be another backbench vote for a leader who doesn’t.