Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

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Times Between Words

Quiet evening; I got a lot of stuff to bring down to Occupy, but the recent snowfall caused a tree to fall across power lines so I wasn't able to get downtown to deliver them.

The night before, I was down there at a GA meeting where we were haggling over support for a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood. I am reasonably supportive of the idea, but think it's more of a start to a discussion about how corporations should work in society; right now, there is considerable legal convenience in the legal fiction of corporate personhood; we know how they work in the legal system through a mix of assuming a legal personality like a human and then adding specifics. Ending corporate personhood destroys the basis for how they're treated, which is fine but creates the need for us to then provide new defaults. For example (using my obviously non-lawyerly legal analysis, which may be wrong), right now a corporation can sue other corporations in court for breach of contract, because they are treated mostly like a person and because a person could do that. Would ending corporate personhood end that? Should it? (Probably not...) At the same time, we might reasonably want not to grant the right to free speech to corporations (and banning advertisements would be fantastic!). Anyhow, I consider ending corporate personhood not a thing worth spending a lot of time on right now; electoral reform strikes me as far more important, as it has the potential to get politicians more genuinely working for their constituents and changing the shape of public discourse. My analysis is pretty much that of Lawrence Lessig's, and I've been doing my best to push it at Occupy.

I've dealt with two main irritations at Occupy.
*Some people cannot STFU about entirely unrelated issues, like the Israeli-Palestine conflict. It is very hard to have a reasoned, careful discussion about what would ideally be nuanced positions for a complex issue when others are just chanting slogans in front of a crowd. I would not characterise the chants as anti-semitic, and I am not bothered by them being anti-Zionist (Zionism, as just another form of patriotism, is disgusting in the way that all patriotism is). I am bothered by the bloody stupid and unjust solutions they have for a messy situation. It is too late to end Israel, and doing it now would be unjust. If we could've prevented its formation, that would've been great, just like if we could've prevented the european colonisation of the Americas, but that boat has sailed and the facts on the ground are different now. We should not accept the status quo of Israel as-it-is-now, but it's irresponsible to uproot it. Simple, neat, and wrong. And, nothing to do with occupy. Fine for private conversations, not so fine from the mic.
*Some other people want to stifle any discussion of politically divisive matters, as if all we need is to get people together, get them to hug, and suddenly the rest of the world will unfold with some kind of justice acceptable to us all. That's not how things work. A failure to respectfully, intelligently, and passionately talk with friends, neighbours, coworkers, and people in our town on politics, religion, and the like is an American sickness. We need to end that. The person whose only political engagement is watching TV is the person who is fed positions and is controlled. We don't need to talk politics all the time with everyone, but we do need to be willing to have it as a topic.
*Anti-police - There was this dude who was travelling the whole country touring the Occupys. He had a lot of worthwhile observations, but unfortunately he's also been doing his absolute best at stirring up anti-police sentiment. I've been doing my best to limit the influence of that voice and get people ready to argue against him whenever he does that; I want relations to be situationally-appropriate but not intrinsically hostile, in contrast with those with anarchist leanings who don't accept the basic idea of authority; they've been trying to get people to "not talk at all with police for any reason and make it clear they're unwelcome in our camp". I think they're turning their back on basic necessities of civilised life. A particularly amusing slogan this dude spouted (that some people parroted) was "Who pays for the cops? The 1%". Last I checked, we pay for the police with taxes, and the police are not on anyone's side; they enforce laws. We may be willing to do direct action when causes are important enough, and sometimes laws are broadly unjust (two different matters there, note), but generally laws and police and jails are good things.

It's hard to get a lot of people to agree on anything, particularly when the most effective answers take knowledge of our governmental structures, laws, history, and politicians. I regret that I don't have the skills needed to better steer people towards what I think are the right answers, and that at least in this movement, slogans are the highest level of political analysis that are accessible to most people. That said, at least 20% of the people are open to deeper ideas once one can get them to pay attention. I'm wondering if I might be able to lead a discussion group or get some time with a microphone. It's not that I have all the answers (there are a number of problems that I have no idea how to deal with), and I am learning how robust the democratic process is in the GAs and find it deeply encouraging. We need a more intellectual approach for the bigger problems of our society though.

Maybe I should write a booklet with my recommendations, make a bunch of copies, and hand it out at these things.

The coming travel to NYC and then Greater Cambridge will be interesting. I'm a bit embarassed because sometime in the last week I bashed my forehead against something, and it definitely left a mark (gave me weird headaches for a day or two). I wish I remember what it was, but I more wish it were not visible. I'm starting to figure out the things I need to know to decide between TED and MIT (if it comes to that). I am nervous about both in very different ways:

*Is there a dress code?
*Would I be able to go to all the TED talks?
*Are the employees there interesting intellectuals?
*Is the job there one where my skills are appreciated and would I be able to contribute more than the limits of the job? (little update: the "Head of Technology" job is not the only one I applied for, and it's not the one I'll be visiting to interview for; they want a "Web Engineer", and I'm hoping a Systems person like me would be even better!)
*What's the pay/benefits like?
*Exactly how in love with NYC am I? Would not doing this mean missing out on an opportunity I've been looking for (living in NYC) for awhile?
*Would I miss working for a university?
*How can I swing a transition from this into grad school next?
*Does NYC still do the goth-industrial thing at all?
*Where's a good place to live in NYC?

*What's the pay/benefits like?
*Would Greater Cambridge feel too small for me?
*Does Greater Cambridge do the goth-industrial thing?
*I haven't dug into stuff related to OS kernels for ages; do I still have the skills to do that?
*Would I feel as much like a social outsider at MIT as I did at CMU?
*How can I swing a transition from this into grad school next?

It sounds kind of weird to say it, but I'm also concerned about the dating pool in both cities. NYC has a lot more people, but Greater Cambridge is described as being much more intellectual. I am utterly sick of being alone, and really want something to convince me that I am not likely to end up mostly alone for the rest of my life.

I'm trying to figure out reasonable apartment prices in both places, still.

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