William F. Stockton (yesway) Wed 11 Jan 06 14:57
What connected people think about the lives of rural/agricultural folks doesn't change their psychological relationship to fastworld. The elections of Bush and Morales are both attempts to slow the pace of change, as is Al Qaeda. Reluctance to change may be more powerful than curiosity. Another take. <http://www.pbs.org/now/transcript/transcriptNOW140_full.html> KURT VONNEGUT: Look, we after two World Wars and the holocaust and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and after the Roman games and after the Spanish Inquisition and after burning witches, the public-- shouldn't we call it off? I mean, we are a disease and should be ashamed of ourselves. And so, yeah, I think we ought to stop reproducing. But since we're not going to do that, I think the planet's immune system is trying to get rid of us. DAVID BRANCACCIO: The planet is sort of trying to shed us as if we are some sort of toxin. KURT VONNEGUT: Look, I'll tell you. It's one thing that no cabinet had ever had, is a Secretary Of The Future. And there are no plans at all for my grandchildren and my great grandchildren. DAVID BRANCACCIO: That's a great idea. In other words a Cabinet post-- KURT VONNEGUT: Well, it's too late! Look, the game is over! The game is over. We've killed the planet, the life support system. And, and it's so damaged that there's no recovery from that. And we're very soon going to run out of petroleum which powered everything that's modern. Razzmatazz about America. And, and it was very shallow people who imagined that we could keep this up indefinitely. But when I tell others, they say; Well, look there's-- you said hydrogen fuel. Nobody's working on it. DAVID BRANCACCIO: No one is working seriously on it is what you're saying. KURT VONNEGUT: That's right. And, and what, our energy people, presidents of our companies, energy companies never think. All they wanna do is make a lot of money right now. ------------------------- DAVID BRANCACCIO: Well, I want to ask you about this. You ask in the book a question that actually you don't answer so I want to KURT VONNEGUT: I'm old. DAVID BRANCACCIO: But I want to-- think about answering this one. You write "what can be said to our young people now that psychopathic personalities which is to say persons without consciences, without senses of pity or shame have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and corporations and made it their own?" What can we say to younger people who have their whole lives ahead of them? KURT VONNEGUT: Well, you are human beings. Resourceful. Form a little society of your own. And, hang out with them. Get a gang.
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Wed 11 Jan 06 15:07
I almost always agree with Vonnegut 100%.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 11 Jan 06 20:11
So it goes.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 12 Jan 06 03:13
I'm in Milan. About to go out to the Duomo and that huge shopping arcade, where I always spend hours and never buy anything. No, Mr. Checho, there has never been a Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, Montenegrin, Macedonian, Kosovar, or splinter-republic UN protectorate edition of MIRRORSHADES; at least, not one that I ever heard of or got paid for. You know a good anthology? You ought to read Pat Cadigan's UItimate Cyberpunk anthology. It's, like, more ultimate than the first cyberpunk anthology. Vonnegut, Vonnegut.... KURT VONNEGUT: Well, it's too late! Look, the game is over! The game is over. We've killed the planet, the life support system. And, and it's so damaged that there's no recovery from that. And we're very soon going to run out of petroleum which powered everything that's modern. Razzmatazz about America. And, and it was very shallow people who imagined that we could keep this up indefinitely. *Why is it, I wonder, that elderly science fiction writers with failing health get into this "Mind at the end of its tether" syndrome? It's just like HG Wells in 1945: "well, the A-Bomb's been invented. And, uhm, I've got cancer. Therefore, annihilation is at hand." If you die, that's bad, and if a lot of people die, that's worse, but it's not some kind of clean syllogism that wipes the planet free of the human species. There's exactly ONE phenomenon that is swiftly and conclusively vanishing like a dissolved toxin, and that's the author himself. If civilization collapses, then it collapses, but the human race is scattered in tens of thousands of little enclaves from pole to pole. Even if all four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are whipping their skeletal horses into a lather, it's not gonna be easy to get ALL of them. ALL of them? Do the math!
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Thu 12 Jan 06 04:22
Still, one can hope.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 12 Jan 06 05:48
I think we're tempted to go apocalyptic in our thinking when we have the right combination of quakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, plague, polar and climate disruption, war, political corruption, and celebrity divorce. 2005 was just one of those years. Surely 2006 will be better?
Rick Brown (danwest) Thu 12 Jan 06 07:02
Naw. Bush is still in power.
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Thu 12 Jan 06 07:11
I think reading Vonnegut's opinions strictly in terms of his being old and ailing is unfair -- he's sounded similar notes for a very long time.
William F. Stockton (yesway) Thu 12 Jan 06 07:31
He was obviously being hyperbolic. The point I was trying to illustrate was that social recalcitrance leads to powerful political backlash that is, and will be, exploited by savvy manipulators of all stripes and it does, and will continue to, limit our ability to expand the benefits of globalization in any kind of even handed or fair manner. I referred to Vonnegut because - "I'm just this guy" - and he's, well, Kurt Vonnegut. Plus age lends perspective. My 95 year old Aunt, who has been all over the world (and has learned to use the internet in the last 5 years), says that she's never seen such turmoil and general insensibility. She has no fear of her own death, but she is quite worried about the life my children, and theirs, will have to live.
Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Thu 12 Jan 06 08:14
I'm not sure it's entirely correct to suggest that terrorists contribute nothing to the world (to respond to a post quite a ways back...) First of all, while it's true that terrorists tend to be more destructive than constructive, it's also true that insurgent networks in the past have managed to build entire alternate social support structures. One reason Israel has found it almost impossible to uproot HAMAS is that HAMAS led by establishing clinics and schools, not by blowing things up. That came later. Second, we can't underestimate the folkloric power of the terrorist, for lack of a better description. Societies have always had their heroic rebels and outlaws. I would say that the folkloric power of an outlaw group or terrorist goes up in fairly direct proportion to the power of the government they are opposing. Of course, with information technology, that effect could be greatly magnified. While terrorist organizations do not contribute much, in the end, that doesn't mean they are in danger of dying out. And frankly, in this day and age it doesn't take many of them to have a disproportionate and very ugly effect.
Frank Shannon (bumbaugh) Thu 12 Jan 06 08:53
Frank writes: Bruce- I was hoping for some crazy rants, but I guess we had to settle for reasonable discourse. Still if civilization collapses, the difference between 6 billion deaths and 6 billion and change deaths isn't going to matter to most of us. We should probably do what we can to avoid the collapse of civilization if possible. Right now I'm feeling like there is a balancing act going on which gets more and more difficult all the time.
clloyda (bumbaugh) Thu 12 Jan 06 08:55
"clloyda" writes: Terrorism has been added to the vocabulary of rebellious youth. There is a lot of it because there are many young people. Old people get them to strap on the bombs. The long range solution might be birth control, like in Freakonomics. When the population ages, who will do the work? Who will do the terror?
William F. Stockton (yesway) Thu 12 Jan 06 09:25
>The long range solution might be birth control, like in Freakonomics. When the population ages, who will do the work? Who will do the terror? I just heard about the extremity of the developing age demographic tilt occuring in China and India. How will the few young support the many old? What mechanism exists, or will arise, to provide for a Sino-Indian populace w/ an average age of 60 (projected for +- 2040)that expects to enjoy a new and improved living standard? Can we engineer our way out of a food/resources crunch of those proportions ?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 12 Jan 06 10:16
I don't think we're likely to confront the difference between six billion and six billion and change. Of course that isn't going to matter to most of us, because most of us would be dead. In another 200 years though, excepting of course for Ray Kurzweil, ALL of us are going to be dead, and if there were some human loose-change around, they would be human loose-change who had been around for two centuries. They, the people from two centuries from now, wouldn't care about us or Kurt Vonnegut; they would have some kind of business as usual under way. Apocalypse is an intellectual vice. If civilization collapses or takes a major hit, it's gonna be like living in New Orleans now, only on a planetary scale. New Orleans took its nightmare scenario and now they're arguing about real-estate. We don't have no New Orleans. We've got a wrecked New Orleans. Furthermore, next year we may well have a re-wrecked New Orleans. It may be that watching New Orleans get wrecked is the new normal. If half of New Orleans had drowned and we'd had to bury them all, that would have been very scarifying and traumatizing, but by now, they would STILL be talking about real-estate. In Hiroshima they talk about real estate. Outside Dachau they talk about real-estate. If the ecosystem collapses and half of us die along with Kurt Vonnegut, the survivors, which means half of us, will have to deal with the consequences for the rest of our lives. Talking about "Apocalypse" gets us absolutely nowhere. It just means we're talking about something unthinkable with theological terms, as if God would end the world for us because our imagination lacks capacity. Even if you're a Christian you ought to recognize that demanding an Apocalypse doesn't make it so; you're not the Boss, you don't get to end history on your own say-so. We need to get over talking about Utopia and Oblivion. Those are the kinds of mental blinkers that got us into this mess in the first place.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 12 Jan 06 10:25
I think echodog is right about Hamas. There are a lot of political parties with terrorist wings who ended up in government. Hamas might become a real government if they weren't clinging to a no-mans-land that gets rolled over, bombed and shelled by Israelis, Syrians, and Palestinians. A lot of terrorists have a Robin-Hood giveaway wing; Osama bin Laden was famous for charities and hospitals. They still have severe organizational problems if they can't get votes, though. Global guerrilla groups lack checks and balances, they can't redress internal grievances, they can't sign treaties, and they lack good mechanisms for transfer of power. Hamas gets votes. They might be able to achieve all those other things, too, in which case they might turn into the Irish or the East Timorese, some day.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 12 Jan 06 10:43
> Apocalypse is an intellectual vice. Deeply egotistical, too. Why, the idea that the world might outlive me! Apocalypse is vanity on a grandiose scale.
William F. Stockton (yesway) Thu 12 Jan 06 12:14
I don't think there's going to be an apocalypse. I'm more worried that Snowcrash World (a world devoid of a commons)will actually manifest. I don't want my kids to have to live in that world when they are old.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 12 Jan 06 14:28
You're assuming the Metaverse would have no commons?
William F. Stockton (yesway) Thu 12 Jan 06 15:36
I'm concerned that there will be nothing remotely resembling wilderness. That's why I bought some and set it aside. But I'm no Ted Turner and, even if there were lots of private landowners like that, it wouldn't be enough. The capital gang has a big headstart in every respect.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 12 Jan 06 15:54
Yeah. And with the new eminment domain law one can imagine a court deciding that private wilderness was economic blight, for that matter, and handing it over to a corporation. In some ways, with communication and garbage reaching the whole planet, wilderness as John Muir or even Ansel Adams knew it -- in a "modern" non-adversarial but "pristine" sense -- is already gone. Not that fighting for some land to be other than real estate is not worthwhile. Good for you for setting some aside.
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Thu 12 Jan 06 16:09
There's a big difference between having one New Orleans and having an entire world like New Orleans.
William F. Stockton (yesway) Thu 12 Jan 06 16:12
Make sure to include a well funded Land Trust in your Gang.
William F. Stockton (yesway) Thu 12 Jan 06 16:19
We have about a quarter of a world "like New Orleans". Check out Mogadishu, Madagascar, Manila, Mexico City, Mosul and that's just a few of the M's.
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Thu 12 Jan 06 16:26
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 12 Jan 06 16:30
I dunno... there are aspects of NOLA right now that are like no other place! The vast ghost-town of grey, drowned, rotting neighborhoods with a tiny rim of functioning city -- and the current fight about whether the city should return in a smaller footprint and who is not allowed to rebuild -- is pretty unusual. (I was just there, and posted pictures and comments here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gail/sets/1747668/ )
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