March 21st, 2006


Living in Check

Sometimes, it seems like I have managed to put myself in check in life -- I don't feel as free as I really want to be, and it feels that every move I make is either to escape something or to meet a need. My motions are nestled by necessity, and this is not entirely comfortable. I think I'm starting to understand more about why this is. Somewhat but not entirely related, there is a fascinating (and long) conversation on livejournal that I wish I could share with y'all, but it is friends protected by the original poster for the safety/comfort of all of the people involved. Sometimes people are good enough to ask, in a concise way, questions that are close to things that I've either been curious about or things that are otherwise of practical (and philosophical) interest to me. It is a wonderful gift when this happens from someone with more of an audience than my blog, and I see answers that I would probably not get if I asked myself. I don't think being in check necessarily means endgame is near, at least in life, although it may indicate that some larger changes are in store before one emerges into the clear again. Am I making them yet? I am not sure.

A coworker recently had a disk fail on them, and they did not back their data up onto the shared space I provided. After much testing, I believe the disk is largely toast. Fortunately, some of the people in Psychology computer support know of a company called Gillware that does data recovery for very attractive rates/conditions. Given that this is at least a year's worth of research for the coworker involved, it is probably worth $400-$700 to try to recover. Let this be a warning to everyone though -- back your data up. You never know when hardware is going to fail on you, and if losing it all would be incredibly painful, invest a bit of time every now and then to do backups of the important stuff.

I am increasingly convinced that named parameter lists in Perl are a good thing. They're a bit of a pain to set up, and they uglify all the code they touch, but there's no beating the convenience they offer in calling syntax, offering defaults, and as a surprise, generalisability. As an example, I do a lot of mod_perl coding that glues databases in various forms to the web, typically with a lot of additional specific functionality. In starting a new project of this type, I normally copy a lot of code out of POUND (my Wiki/BLOG software) into the project repository (I use subversion now for version/code management), tweak it, and then start customising for the application. This works well, and saves me a lot of effort. However, sometimes I find myself extending something in one version that isn't applicable to the other. It would be nice to be able to pass a "personality" flag to those functions and have them be truly shared, and to add new parameters without worrying about parameter order to old functions. Named parameters break down borders between code, and fluidise things, which is generally a good thing (if sanely done). I wish perl helped me out a little bit more with the gruntwork at the top of each header. I could use source filters, but those modules are very .. scary.

It is officially spring now, and so we really missed most of the winter unpleasantness this year in Pittsburgh. Weird.

I have a few resolutions I am going to try to meet.

  • I will try to be more pleasant to be around
  • I will try to keep my apartment cleaner
  • I will clean my home directory and my inbox, and try to keep them cleaner
  • I will try not to get behind on important things
  • I will try to go to sleep at a slightly more reasonable hour
  • I will try to write somewhat less in my BLOG and much more on my website and Wiki
  • I will try to eat even healthier, and exercise more (the latter will be easier because the weather is probably on its way to getting nice again)
  • I will play more intellectually
  • I will try to be more smooth when I am attempting to interest people in relationships
  • I will continue to stand for integrity and not follow my drives when they would lead me towards things that would make me less able to respect myself

Coronation of the Missing King part 1

This is part of a two-part entry, one entry on my actual blog (also available as a lj feed), and one on my mostly-questions livejournal account. If one or the other is not up, be patient or nudge me. As always, I mostly say what I think here, and I mostly ask leading questions there. Y'all, of course, should read and be subscribed to both.

Marx had a theory of nations and history that included a certain notion of progress. It has been widely misunderstood that he sees evolution along the lines he laid out as inevitable, with individuals being relatively unimportant. This perspective is not true of either Lenin or Marx -- Marx wanted to make a clean break from the social role of philosophers in history, declining to settle into a doctorate programme in order to take up involvement with the worker's struggle and radical causes. He saw the good philosopher as an agent of social change (which I agree with). Lenin refined this by making a distinction between agitators and philosophers in a movement, whereby agitators take a single or small set of ideas/facts and present them compellingly to a lot of people, and philosophers/propogandists take a larger set of ideas/facts and present them compellingly to a few people, each using different media. In both, the action of individuals is helpful or necessary to create social advances. Neither of these is explicitly or necessarily democratic -- instead, as with many social changes of the past, the end is to convince enough people that forces can be arranged to overcome resistance to change. Some historical changes in ownership of production, such as during the French Revolution, involved considerable struggle between many factions, while others have been more gradual and peaceful. Some transitions, such as the transition from colonial slavery to more local economy, are mixed according to their circumstances (contrasting Algieria, India, China, and Persia's struggles and current state can be enlightening). A reconstituted Marxist economics must take into account the various additional types of capitalism that have developed, and the difficulties they pose both for dismantling the system and the coming re-evening that capitalist economies will face when wages equalise. The struggle for Communism is no less than a struggle for continued civilisation, and provides both the greatest challenge/risk/danger that humanity has known and is the most necessary to rescue us from tyranny and privilege. It is neither wholly an economic struggle nor is it solely a political struggle -- these concepts under Communism are entwined. Some aspects of liberalism, many of which are privileges for the wealthy, the only people who can really enjoy them now, must be kept as prized as they are today. These aspects of liberalism, such as legal equality for men and women, are prizes in any society, from the most illiberal (Hussein's Iraq) to modern secular societies such as those in Europe. Other aspects of liberalism, such as rights to own businesses and the right to a fully private contract are harmful to society and must disappear as instruments of unacceptable control. Communism requires both a certain willingness of the people to operate within the system until generations are raised and educated in it and a commitment to building appropriate virtues in present and future generations of society. As peasants attached to traditional ways of living and nobles accustomed to privilege had difficulty adapting to mercantilism and capitalism, the people of today will need time, education, and in many cases generational shifts to fully adapt to a new society. Initially, as the new society forms, it will be fragile to the efforts of powermongers (especially ex-capitalists). Completing plans for transitional times is critical to ensure the exclusion of these people from power, these plans including both social and legal measures. The tragedy of the Soviet Union under Stalin resulted in the deaths and flight of the Soviet intellectual elite and broke the faith of the people in construction of a newer society, destroying any chance for the societal advances that would make the system work, and turning the Soviet Union from a beacon of success into an embarassment. Construction of the new society will require certain preconditions (some of which can be met while the restructuring is underway, some of which are essentially prerequisites). It is amazing how much modernisation the Soviet Union managed to provide to a backwards society and economy -- a deeply traditional and religious people with inadequate technology for more than a primitive level of efficiency of labour initially made reasonable and rapid headway against both of these issues. Different challenges face us today, from issues of reputation among people who should be allies to managing the traditional programme, the latter being significantly more important. Unlike under the Soviet Union, productive efficiencies provide material resources sufficient for universal literacy and connectedness, an end to starvation, and breathing space for transitional inefficiencies. Cultural transformation is necessary to reduce the impact of Evangelical Christianity (and other religious impediments), while at the same time putting an end to the new opiate of the masses, consumerism and the cynical, greedy, and hostile-to-integrity life it suggests. Apathy and the "easy path" represent a nihilism that is more difficult to recover from than the most fundamentalist of regimes (although the struggle between the two may provide some breathing space for the reemergence of our struggle). Agents of cultural advancement, even in directions that are not directly in the direction towards socialism, can be recognised as having had positive effects. Kemal Ataturk, or more relevantly Tsar Peter, despite being of a family that, when conditions were more advanced, were removed from power and purged for the good of society, nontheless contributed in their time in the establishment of modernity in Russia. It is characteristic of the great to guide society in better directions and disrupt the status quo. It is the duty of great Communists to do so while working to provide the education and reasoning that will make radical openness possible as quickly as possible. To destroy the existing power structure and not establish a new society, as the anarchists would do, is a blind move that does nothing but set the stage for the rapid reestablishment of something resembling the old order. However, to fail to provide radical openness quickly enough creates a deadly inertia that leads to revisionism and/or eventually a degenerate worker's state. These are many of the issues facing Communists today, and several areas which I am interested in working through.

Oh, an apology to people reading this on livejournal -- I officially no longer care if lj's infrequent and often-broken RSS/Atom scooper decides that it will not scoop my BLOG often enough, or when it does, it decides it can't resolve, or when it catches up, it puts entries in the wrong order. It's crap, but if it helps y'all read me, so it goes. I have helpfully provided accurate time information and a link for y'all so you can see when I actually posted things.


Coronation of the Missing King, part 2

This is part of a two-part entry, one entry on my actual blog (also available as dachte_feed), and one on my livejournal account. If one or the other is not up, be patient or nudge me. As always, I mostly say what I think there, and I mostly ask leading questions here. Y'all, of course, should read and be subscribed to both.

What historical figures do you most admire for transforming society? I am primarily thinking of national leaders, but others are eligible as well, if you think they merit it. Do you think that the role of leaders should be to reshape how people think, or to reflect them? Do you prefer statesmen (typically defined as reshaping the people and/or acting with significant autonomy) or politicians (presumably representing the thoughts of the people)? To phrase it another way, should the people be looking for people they can respect, or people they can control? Are there circumstances where you would approve of politicians/philosophers acting against the will of the people, or managing the nature and timing of consultation of the people, for some notion of a greater good? If so, under what circumstances, and is it important to rejoin the public opinion at some later time?

Also, do you respect philosophers less if they are involved in activism? Take, for example, Soros or Chomsky.
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