Sunday, April 21, 2013
What is acceptable behaviour and what is taboo? And does government have a role?
When you see 5 year olds strutting around in heels, mini skirts and boob tubes whilst singing the latest Rihanna songs at the top of their voice, what does that say about our society? Are these young children being best served?
There was a recent out cry about a clothing line from Victoria Secrets aimed at high school kids. In our capitalist system are young girls fair game or should they be protected from such influences?
Libertarians would argue that advertising is not coercion and short of physical force, individuals and organisations should be free to plug what ever they choose to whoever they choose. After all this is nothing more then free speech, and no one is forcing you to listen.
To me this is a very simplistic argument, and one that chooses to ignore the lessons of history. The people who promote such arguments the most are the rich and the powerful. The same people that profit the most from selling everything and anything using any means necessary (short of force).
As for the history lesson. The twentieth century is full of examples of people that exploited the fears and insecurity of the massess to satisfy their own ends. From Hitler in Germany to Pol Pot in Cambodia, there are numerous examples of where the powerful have used propaganda to get the masses to perform their biding.
Mind control is real. The question is as a society what do we want to do about it? If every magazine is full of pictures of Kim Kardashians arse. What is that saying to young women? And what is it saying to young men? More importantly what is it not saying? What important social and political discourse has been eclipsed by such trivia?
But is it just trivia? I don't think so. I wouldn't go as far as to say that it is all one big conspiracy, but there are vested interests in keeping the masses dumb and docile. How else would 1% be able to dominate at the expense of 99% in a so called democracy?
The same mechanism is used in politics. US elections have become affairs that can be bought. Sophisticated propaganda techniques are used without limits to secure votes. Everyone despises "negative campaigning" whilst everyone does it. Why? Because it works! If it didn't politicians wouldn't spend millions on campaigning and end up indebted to their pay masters.
But this is the way it has to be right? To constrain the propagandist would jeopardise our freedoms and for Americans could be deemed unconstitutional. I argue the opposite. We collectively have a responsibility to protect each other from this deafening barrage of misinformation.
I would go further, by saying that democracy simply doesn't work with such a cacophony as a back drop. What is needed in a functioning democracy is an informed public. Yet if the facts are unfavourable to your interests then factual information is the last thing you want to expose the public to.
The ruling elite worked this out as early as the 1920's when Edward Bernays began to perfect his art of public relations. If anyone was in doubt of the power of propaganda the rise of the Nazis during the 1930's left no one in doubt.
So where are we today? I think this quote from a native American Indian who spoke on a reservation at the turn of the 20th century sums it up well:
"The white man has many wonderful things, but he cares not whether his people are wise"
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Every time I hear of yet anther massacre like this in the US, I think back to my time living in Atlanta and the loneliness and disconnectedness I felt whilst living in the centre of a beautiful and vibrant city.
My feeling is the people responsible for such massacres are an extreme manifestation of a wide spread desease that is affecting much of US society - disconnectedness.
I had no true friends in Atlanta, my only friend was the dollar. With dollars I could buy a smile at the coffee shop, or at the Mall, in fact anywhere where people were hoping for a tip. Atlanta is known for it's strip clubs where for a few dollars you can become Gods gift to women for the evening, and for a few more the girls will offer even more. Everything is on the menu for the right price.
Georgia's finest offering up their bodies in exchange for a down payment on a Louis Vuitton handbag. She gets to buy the handbag that makes her feel like somebody, and he gets to physically connect with someone, again to make him feel like somebody.
The other institution that had a roaring trade in Atlanta is the Church. The dollar was central here too - 10% tithes please. No longer is it acceptable to place what you have into the collecting bowl. No, what was required was a cheque, or a direct debit mandate directly from your bank. Those who didn't offer up, were named and shamed.
During my time in Atlanta I spent time in both institutions, the Strip club and the Church, and whilst both on the surface offered some semblance of human connectedness, neither delivered what I would describe as a sense of belonging.
So what has this got to do with Massacres? Well I never quite understood how people could live without feeling like they belonged to something. I longed back to my childhood growing up in Tottenham, North London where I had a strong sense of belonging. I started to feel more British then I ever had, I started actively supporting Spurs again, my local soccer team back home, trying to hold on to a sense of identity and place, something that wasn't on offer to me in Atlanta it felt.
Surely this sense of disconnectedness must manifest itself somehow, and sure enough I began to realise it does. The idea of lauding my relative wealth over poor young ladies who were trying to make the rent or buy that bag that would make them feel like someone didn't appeal to me. Instead I chose to talk to a few and befriend them.
Off with the make-up and the heals, they became mothers, sisters, daughters, just trying to get by. They didn't believe the hype themselves, yet they were caught in a system, where the only way they felt they could get on was by subjecting themselves to ritual humiliation. Connectedness to them meant making someone else feel big, whilst making themselves feel small, all in exchange for a dollar.
I began to see the internal world of Americans. Fear, insecurity, depression, and even mental illness. My first response was, what about your families? Why can't they help? Then I began to realise that normal family ties had been stretched to breaking point. Everyone had it hard, and no one wanted to become a burden on anyone else, so the the most loving thing to do is to dig deep, muster all your mental reserves and do whatever it takes to stand on your own two feet.
As a Brit, coming from our over bloated welfare system, there was something admirable about these girls, standing on their own two feet and not relying on anyone. Yet it wasn't lost on me, that perhaps if the men throwing money at the club, spent that money in taxes instead, then these ladies could be provided with the help they need to get a decent education and not have to shake their arse for a living.
Likewise with the tithes at the Church. Couldn't that money be spent more purposely then building yet another extension to the Church itself?
For Americans, collective action to address social problems is tabu it seems. America was built on rugged individualism, and as I say there is a lot to be admired about that. Taken to extreme though, what are the consequences of each individual being left to himself?
An expression of individualism is the teachings of Ayn Rand. Rand like no other modern philosopher I think, epitomises modern day America. Gone are the religious overtones and sense of community that have always held together small town America, and in it's place we have the worship of the self. I as God. Individual will expressed through the power of the dollar; and the exaltation of selfish material gain, with scant regard for anyone or anything else.
Unlike others I won't be advocating gun control as a quick fix remedy. I think the problem goes much deeper. What can Americans do to tie in the loners, the people at the periphery to make them feel like they belong? To bring back a sense of community, and avoid the kind of alienation that in extreme leads to the type of massacres that are occurring far too often?
Note: Following the debate on gun control over the weekend, I think I will add my voice to the call for greater controls. Young people the world over sometimes find it difficult to find their place in the world. Most however don't have access to their Mom's favourite toy, a semiautomatic Bushmaster Assault rifle. It really does beggar belief that there is a lobby that espouses that it is a good idea to have such a thing casually laying around the house.
Saturday, July 02, 2011
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Monday, May 03, 2010
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Whilst I still think that Giles point is tangential to what Uncle Bob had to say, I think it is a profound one. That is, that any proclamation that requires free thought is likely to be unpopular. This lack of popularity doesn't equate to failure however, it just means that such ideas are more likely to benefit the few, rather then the many.
Uncles Bob's use of Smalltalk as the epitome of failure, rather cleverly raises the spector of fear, and as we all know fear is the great motivator of the masses. So if as a Ruby programmer, you want to be in a job for the foreseeable future, then make sure and do TDD. It's kind of like a Mom using threats to make sure that the kids eat their greens.
Whilst DHH and Tim and Paul Graham, are fundamentally right, they don't address the psychic of the average mainstream programmer, which is mostly dominated by the fear of not finding a job. So in a way this brings me back to were I started. Sometimes being right isn't enough. Sometimes you need to be effective too, and whilst fear is the worst of motivators, Uncle Bob is addressing the world as it appears to the vast populous, which is an effective tactic.
The world that is Giles reality is a rarefied place and the few people and languages that live there are likely to remain obscure for some time to come yet. The last interesting point is that it appears that DHH has out grown the community he created. This is hardly surprising. Like I say followers don't think for themselves, they rely on others, and as Rails becomes ever more popular, the community will become dominated by followers, just like what happened with Java.
For someone like David, this influx of non-thinkers must be nauseating.
Anyway as you would expect, the Smalltalk community is up in arms. James Robertson has this post. And Giles Bowkett makes this response entitled "What Killed Smalltalk: My Balls". Giles response, demonstrates IMHO complete ambivalence to what is actually happening in mainstream programming today. Whilst IMHO Uncle Bob clearly has his finger on the pulse. I have never been a full blown member of the Smalltalk community. I've always been one of those people on the side lines, using Smalltalk for fun and hoping to get a Job that would allow me to write Smalltalk commercially, but never being fortunate enough to do so. I think that gives me a more balanced perspective. I am neither a curly bracket or square bracket zealot, having lived most of my programming career with both. Whilst I've always admired the Smalltalk language, I have noticed that the Smalltalk community has a tendency to be insular and inward looking (with no sign of those balls Giles speaks of). Anyway, here is my comment in response to James Robertsons blog post. I thought I'd post it here (with some minor edits), since I know that very few people take the time to look at Smalltalk blogs:
There are two audiences here. One audience are the 20 somethings who were merely a lusty glint in their fathers eye when the clash of C++ and Smalltalk was taking place in the 1980's. The other audience are the people who where actually there.
For the 20 somethings, I think there is a lot in this presentation to get excited about. First of all it makes the point that good ideas can fade. It also makes the point that great languages provide the programmer with great power. With this power comes responsibility. As developers we have a choice. We can allow ourselves to be dumbed down and given dull tools so we won't hurt ourselves, or we can become responsible and disciplined to the extent that we can be trusted to use sharp knives. This message is an important one. The other great message, Smalltalk, which is now being discussed amongst a new young audience. If any of these young kids are half as curious as I was at their age, then we should expect downloads of Squeak to spike this weekend...
As for the other audience. The people that were actually there. It is easy to dismiss this presentation as a pile of BS. Well it mostly is, but to engage with it only on a factual level is to miss the point. This presentation is not for us. Bob Martin is not a Smalltalk programmer and never was. I was on one of his OOD courses in the 1990's and he asked who in here as used Smalltalk? I was the only person to sheepishly raised my hand. He then went one to castigate Smalltalk, saying that you couldn't use it for anything serious because it would lead to a mess once you got to more then 10K lines of code. Back in them days Bob was a curly bracket language zealot.
I'm glad that James has admitted that that back in the 90's the Smalltalk community suffered from arrogance too. I read Giles response and it sounded more like a tirade. The mainstream developer community at the moment is in flux. They trusted in vendors only to be let down. Now they are looking for new leaders. Most of them are followers, if they weren't they would have self educated themselves long ago, and Uncle Bob wouldn't be able to get away with his historical inaccuracies. The Smalltalk community are in a great position to provide leadership. The Agile movement came from Smalltalk, TDD from Smalltalk, Ruby from Smalltalk...
So why isn't the Smalltalk community doing so? Why wasn't a Smalltalk programmer giving this keynote instead? Where is Alan Kay when you need him or Dan Ingalls? Is it because we've all got a reputation of being grumpy old men? It is up to the Smalltalk community to make themselves relevant to these new young kids. Bob is doing his best to tell a story second hand. The Smalltalk community should be telling this story itself. Looking in the mirror at yourself and your own short comings, is much harder then pointing fingers at others.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Q: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
A. (craftsman): Practice, practice, practice.
A. (consultant): Pay a respected market research company shedloads of money to write a report that concludes you're already at Carnegie Hall, and then make a killing selling maps and directions (even though you've never actually been there)