Endings and Beginnings

7 April, 2011

This is the last post here. I’ve moved my blogging and other writing to a brand spanking new home at catvincent.com and I hope you’ll join me there.

Here’s a link to my new RSS feed – don’t forget to change it!

Thanks, folks. It’s been real.


A Citizen of the Internet – first thoughts

9 December, 2010

“A constitutional amendment was offered to create a new fourth branch of government for American citizens whose ‘primary residences were virtual networks’.” – Bruce Sterling, Distraction

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.” – John Perry Barlow

“The general concept is simple, there are people that want to send a message that the Internet is a sovereign territory” – Barrett Lyon

————————-

I do not trust the government of the country of my birth. I do not feel any loyalty to them, or any other country, whatsoever. At best, I see them as an especially powerful mafia I have to kowtow to and buy services from. The closest thing to patriotism I have ever felt is to the Internet.

So, why can’t I take Internet as my nationality?

Barlow’s Declaration of the the Independence of Cyberspace is now nearly fifteen years old – which coincidentally is about how long I’ve been online. The internet was a very different beastie back then.

In the last couple of days, the fallout from the Wikileaks affair has spread far and wide. Julian Assange is in a British jail on what even skeptical observers note is a rather enthusiastic prosecution of an alleged sexual assault charge. Few doubt the real reason he is there is pressure from the US government. Ranking members of that government have called for his assassination. Wikileaks has been hit by multiple DDoS attacks – and, perhaps inevitably, Anonymous have responded with a wave of DDoS attacks of their own against targets which have supported the pressure on Wikileaks and Assange (from Paypal, Mastercard and Visa to the Swiss bank who froze his assets).

On the same day as Assange was arrested, the US Dept of State sent out a press notice, thus:

The United States is pleased to announce that it will host UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from May 1 – May 3 in Washington, D.C. UNESCO is the only UN agency with the mandate to promote freedom of expression and its corollary, freedom of the press.

…New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.

I’m not quite sure what is worse – the staggering hypocrisy of this, or that the US think we’ll not notice that, or that they simply don’t care.

My own country’s government – run by a weak coalition government which is acting like they have a landslide mandate – is cutting vital services to the poor and disadvantaged to pay for deficits caused by their banking pals’ having been caught running the largest Ponzi scheme in human history… and their representatives have the gall to blame those poor and disadvantaged for the financial mess. Students are taking to the streets in protest. They are not my rulers, except by virtue of monopoly of violence and general habit.

When we’re at the point where The Economist refers to Anonymous as “a 24-hour Athenian democracy” I think it’s time to at least consider the idea. (Although, as my esteemed colleague David Forbes points out, that also means unruly mobs…)

There’s plenty of precedent for dual-citizenship (such as my being both a citizen of UK and EU), as well as transnational exemptions based on residential status – think diplomatic immunity. (And if ever there was a system that sums up the idea of privilege overriding local law, it’s diplomatic immunity… though as a quick-and-dirty way to get Internet Citizens protected, granting all such citizens diplomatic status under the Vienna Convention would do nicely! After all, every Internet Citizen is potentially a post-state actor unto themselves…)

There’s also precedent in such ideas as the World Citizen aspect of the Bahá’í Faith, as well as libertarian proposals for independent states such as Sealand.

Citizenship implies abiding by, and contributing to, a social contract. Doing Your Bit. I have to tell you I’m far happier doing that for the internet than for any state. It’s rules, customs and rituals make more intuitive sense to me than any state I have ever heard of. And yes, I would cheerfully give up my right to vote in the UK and EU for the rights and responsibilities of Internet Citizenship. (Dear David Cameron – that’s what a Big Society really fucking means.)

(Of course there’s intrinsic problems with being Citizen Internet. As I was writing this, I had an ISP issue that required multiple reboots of router & 2 hours on tech support. The physical infrastructure of the internet is indeed reliant on meatspace hardware located in post-Westphalian states. But then again, a huge amount of the wealth and culture of those states is now internet-based… some form of detente is surely negotiable. And perhaps the Wikileaks fallout is the first ugly step towards such a detente.)

(I’m also very aware that saying The Internet is a gross oversimplification of a whole bunch of different, sometimes competing, cultures. A key issue would be finding some common ground among all users – from attitudes to censorship to trolling to vandalism. But having a set of ground rules all citizens can accord to is surely the first necessary step for a citizenship, yes?)

The single biggest issue with declaring the internet as a sovereign territory is that nation-states have nothing to gain, and much to lose, from this. But then again, that doesn’t make it unthinkable – those nations once also had a lot to lose by making slavery illegal. (I can imagine quite similar arguments from them, too – “We own that! You can’t take our property!”) The quote from Bruce Sterling’s political SF novel Distraction comes from near the end of the book, after a post-financial crash US has to negotiate with a new power within it’s borders, nomadic tribes who conduct most of their social admin and political apparatus online (think Whuffie on steroids). I can easily imagine circumstances where the US would have to come to an understanding with non-state (or rather, post-state) actors. Another quote from Distraction goes, “Politics is the art of reconciling aspirations”.

OK – so let’s assume through some miracle the Powers That Be allow Internet to be recognised as a nationality. There’s a rotating crowd of randomly selected Anons sitting at the UN or something. What does that actually do?

One advantage I can see is that all those Blue Laws which use the phrase “based on the prevailing standards of the community” go away. My community is the Internet. Our standard for sexual freedom is /b/. (Obvious exception – and perhaps a necessary precondition – is zero-tolerance of actual child pornography and images of actual rape.) I also imagine that property and privacy laws would develop rather differently… the most important part for me is that those who wish not to play the same games as their home state have somewhere to call home. It would also be somewhere (for a rather virtual definition of ‘somewhere’, of course) where organisation to survive failed states and other antiquated tribes can be accomplished.

No doubt existing state actors would cause all kinds of problems for the Internet Citizen – governments tend to do that. But then again, they do that between each other – as the Wikileaks cables clearly show.

And for the states which claim to be democracies, it’ll show one possible result of truly sharing power among the people.

——————

NB – This isn’t a working proposal. It’s not even really a manifesto, yet. It’s perhaps just a naive dream… but it’s one that obsesses me increasingly. If anyone has useful ideas to contribute to this, sing out!


It Gets Better – if you make it so

24 November, 2010

Two things…

A quick plug for my review of the Grant Morrison – Talking With Gods film, which is up at Plutonica.net

But more importantly, this:

Of all the many videos that have come along as a result of the It Gets Better campaign, many of which were moving and well-intentioned, this is the one that really hit home for me. It’s from the Scottish SF writer Hal Duncan. It’s sweary as fuck and kind of vicious. It’s also one of the few which notes that to a suffering, bullied teen, a bunch of folk telling you It Gets Better might not actually be that helpful to hear.

Hal’s approach brings the passion of bitter experience to the question. I think it’s a rant every bullied kid, every potential member of the Tribe of the Strange – gay, straight or whatever – could stand to hear. Take it away, Hal:

(Thanks to Jon Courtenay Grimwood for first sharing the link)


New – Mason Lang, fuckyeahconsciousness

15 November, 2010

A couple of bits of news…

The first part of my long-threatened look at movies, memes and such went live at Weaponizer last week. The Mason Lang Film Club is going to start by looking at the “Your Reality isn’t Real” boom of 1998-9, which gave us films like Dark City, The Truman Show and The Matrix. Join Me!

Also, a new venue for me to rant about minds and consciousness and such – a Tumblr group-blog set up by a few pals keen to save and expand on the increasingly complex Twitter threads we’ve been having. So take a peek at fuckyeahconsciousness.tumblr.com if that strikes your fancy.

The next Guttershaman is also on the cards, plus whatever else crops up. Nice for things to be getting busy again.

(Also, big thanks for the quiet but kind comments about my last post.)


Back in Black (and Blue)

6 November, 2010

Here’s why there’s been such a gap since last post, why writing’s taking ages generally and… well. A big part of why I’m me, really…

I get shy about remarkably few things. I’ll happily tell tales of wild sexual exploits and magical combat engagements, as true as I can (some of those stories get... involved.)

The thing I get most shy talking about is the state of my health. And it’s only after seeing the bravery and skill with which my beloveds Kirsty Hall and Jolane Abrams have come to deal with their own illnesses – and especially Kirsty’ brave, heartfelt blogging on how her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’s affected her life and art practice, and Jolane’s ayahuasca trip reports (hers always aimed at healing herself and others) – that I’ve come to a point where I can accept my health issues, and even talk about them… hopefully not quite to the lengths many in middle-age seem to want to!

I’ve never been a fit lad – at school I was ‘The Odd Boy who doesn’t like sport’ of the Bonzo Dog song. Half-blind every summer with hay fever, I sat on the sidelines & read scripts for Drama club. (With inevitable consequences re. bullying.) After a childhood on the low, badly-fed end of poor working class, brief jobs then dole… not a lot of healthy choices. I did study martial arts for a time in my 20s – and ironically it was a much later dojo accident 6 years ago, resulting in a bruised foot that turned to gangrene, that led to the next discovery – of my having type-2 diabetes.

After they scraped the pus and rotted flesh from my double-sized black and green right foot, twice (delightfully, the term for this op is ‘debridement’), the resulting rather cunty-shaped wound was left open to granulise – repair from the inside out. This resulted in near 3 month in bed with a fucking great crater in my foot that went down to the bone.

You want pictures? Perverts…

My right foot, in 2004 – about 2 weeks post-ops

They pulled 6 feet of bandage out the hole after first op, like a magic trick.

So, that was 6 years ago.

One thing they don’t tell you about diabetes generally is that has so many knock-on effects. Such as weakening immunoresponse so that the smallest cough virus (man-flu, if you insist) elevates to full flu.

And, when like last year I got yer actual H1N1 Swine Flu… that was me flat out for 3 months. I got over that, but the diabetes ain’t going away any time soon, I still get bugs real easy – and now I’m informed I have a bone spur in one heel (also something diabetics are prone to). Fixing that, short of an op (had too many in past 6 years – on foot, tendon sheathes in hands and mutant wisdom teeth buried in my jaw – ta) recovery means reshaping my gait, using shoe inserts designed to shift how my feet land. Knock-on effect of that – knees having to learn new ways to bend, are beginning to weaken.

Recently I got to the FUCK THIS SHIT stage with it all. My bad health gets in the way of so much – wanting to write more, share my ideas with fellow minds, go places to do so or just to meet friends…

So I’m working on this, big-time. Slow but strong. Grinding. Finally, I feel freed from the odd geas I seemed to pick up young, that self-work using magic was somehow cheating. So I’m doing little healing workings to help me either fix what I can or strengthen what I can’t fully fix. Since I throw a bunch of imagery part-derived from Wilhelm Reich (orgone-visualisation stuff for one) I’m calling the work Blue Grinding.

I WILL to be well. I will be well.

So… that’s why there’s not been much going on here for months. Not just my health, but that of so many people I love, has been at risk for months – some very seriously but, thankfully, not many fatally.

But the Blue Grinding is starting to take effect. I’m well enough to walk a bit more (hoping to travel to London for a day soon) and those flu-bugs are finding me harder to riddle.

And the more well I am, the more I want to do.

This is not intended as a pity-party, or a call for “there, there” replies. It’s a statement that I want to do more, be more active, write more, share more with my remarkable friends and people yet to encounter. That, ill or not, diabetic or not, part-lame or not…

I’m Back. In Black. (And Blue.)

Thanks for reading.


Testing… this thing still on?

31 July, 2010

A quick catch-up post, partly to test new-fangled Safari plugins, mostly to let both my fans know what I’ve been up to – which is, mostly, reading postmodern tomes & combining them with the great paranoid SF movies of the late ’90s, and from there to…

Well, suffice to say both my immediate writing projects – Guttershaman of course, and the long series on movies with messages, to be known as “The Mason Lang Film Club”, coming soon from Weaponizer – are now being rethought bigtime – but unassembled less than I feared. Something on both those fronts coming soon.

And probably a bit on Inception, or I lose my movie mystic badge…


Doctor Who and the cheapening of sacrifice

26 June, 2010

Trying to nail this down quickly after watching last episode of the first Matt Smith season of Doctor Who. Much as I loved the episode and season in many ways, there’s a huge painful flaw running through the show since Russell T Davies brought it back, and sadly it seems Stephen Moffatt has inherited it.

In this universe, personal sacrifice doesn’t mean shit.

Multiple times now, we’ve had major characters either trapped on the other side of an unassailable void or full-blown dead after sacrificing themselves for the greater good… and after a few minutes, just long enough for the audience to get a bit weepy, they magically come back.

And they just fucking did it again.

Jack Harkness. Rose Tyler. River Song. Rory. The Doctor himself. Indestructable ‘cos the plot requires it, or ‘cos they’re Special. Only ever Mostly Dead (and this episode even had that phrase, so it’s not like they haven’t seen Princess Bride…).

For me, this makes any sacrifice they make utterly meaningless.

Other than that, it was pretty good…

EDIT:

1. Of course there will be those who say about my Who concerns “it’s only a kid’s show”. True – but as wife-the-shaman points out, what message then is the show teaching our childrens? Trust mad strangers? Tears bring back the dead?

2. The real contrast in attitude to death/sacrifice in this incarnation (heh) of Doctor Who is summed up for me by the Fifth Doctor’s attitude to the death of Adric – his angry refusal to even consider changing history to allow him to not die sits uneasily with the current tendency for waving the “make it all better” wand.

EDIT 2 – After rewatching with my teenage son.

I thought that the real sacrifice had been Auton Rory, the nobel warrior/troubador who sat by his beloved lady’s side for 2000 years – just sitting, thinking and fighting. After that amount of time, you’re either a warrior supreme or raving mad, possibly both. But even that loss is retconned – Meat Rory has Auton Rory’s memories, it seems.

But once I got over the previous hole, just let it get all Mythic on me, and loved it much more. Well enough to take a few cool ideas to muck around with, on how The Doctor sort of turned himself into a story and when he was retold by Amy (+DNA from tear) he reboots from backup.

It’ll be interesting to hear whet the synchromystic folk think. (Top thoughts – at this point both Amy & Rory are demigods and… as for The Lonely God –  what kind of god is Doctor Who?

He’s a trickster-god, of course! (Wife-the-artist, often cleverer than I, looked down at me and said “well durr...”)

And the Doctor has a married couple on his hands, to show him how that works… perhaps making his next meeting with River even more significant?


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