Virtual Solitary Confinement of Local Hearts and Minds

The album’s first track begins with a voice bearing clear pronunciation, tonal and inflectional marks of my stereotypic twenty-something, northern USan, college-educated, working class, urban, black male.

“Can you hear me?  Is anybody in there?
“I have no way of knowing if you can hear me.”

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

Click to see the larger image.

Click to see the larger image.

Albert Einstein: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of IDIOTS.” [Compassion, Albert; Compassion!]

This is a continuation of my concern with the Empire’s tightening of the fostered illusions of “democracy” in essentially a military/police-state environment that I discussed in Herding Humans. In fact, the weaving of these delusions by the US/NATO bloc has been a fundamental interest in all of my posts on Zero Anthropology.

This article is about the extension of the increasing alienation of the individual both from pride in his/her own work products – which aren’t “his”/”hers”, but the employer’s – and from the local landscape and human community where governance – increasingly complex, top-down, and armed – is beyond his/her personal influence and his/her personal concerns, because he/she is only there until a better opportunity arises elsewhere to earn more money to buy more “stuff”.

Let us begin to identify our vague topical fabric by weaving a region of observations and reflections using a few (bulleted) disparate items to give some form to the topography that I am led into by the suggestive power of the composite of these; for which I will point out a common resonance:  How the Global is over-running the Local.

  • From Doonsberry I am led to see that by using the most current digital social media as your contact with “society” and with geographic locations and layers of digitized resource maps, you are in the position of being a fully individuated UHUCU (Universal Human Capital Unit). Under the gossamer threads of the spun media illusion, you don’t notice the changes in your social network from multisensory, warm-bodied humans to ASCII units.
  • In most European small cities and towns people greet each other on the street, and wish “aproveche!”or “bon appetit” as they pass your table in the bar or restaurant. There is a strong, long history there of resisting the local effects of Empire; but even Europe is not immune to the transition toward global UHUCU adaptation.

Individuals in downtown Eureka!, like most US towns and cities, generally avoid eye contact and generally do not acknowledge the other person who is physically near them; each is busy digitally “communicating” with people who are important to them, usually NOT parents, grandparents, or neighbors unless ordered to “call me”.

That smiling, pretty woman sinuously walking toward me in the shopping mall, exthusiastically and loudly, says, with a charming smile, “Hi!” …

… though she is looking at me, she is not seeing me, or anyone in the mall, she is talking to someone in Chicago on the mobile phone stuck into her ear, and her facial expression sequences, her physical gesturing, her changes in pace and energy are all part of the communications that she is having with that person in Chicago, who so charges her battery. In a sense, that pretty woman is not really “here”.

It’s beyond Time and Space. It’s lift-off – time for the flames to lift off the marble table top where the spilled ethanol fuel has been consumed, time to hover in a blue aurora of ignited fumes above the shiny alabaster cities for a moment, then flicker out. We each become our individual Avatars; mind is in the Data Cloud; body is no longer necessary – you’ll be issued a body of your choice – except in special assignments, when the Commander will choose your Avatar – at times when Management says you are needed to manipulate the tangible universe that the technosphere has not yet completely automated.

  • I know of the value of eye contact, posture, touch, facial expressions and proxemics and even the smell of the other to developing what I consider to be a whole person; not separate from their community and society, but whose identity is determined, greatly, by the intersection of family and community and larger society; which is represented for the Chinese conception as “ren”, person, which is just that point in the matrix at the intersection of “I”, community, family-ancestry, and larger society.

The single ideogram Rén is a composite of two distinct common Hanzi, 人 (Man, a man, a person ) and 二 (two), with 人 assuming its common form inside another character, to which various interpretations have been assigned. One often hears that Rén means “how two people should treat one another.” While such folk etymologies are common in discussions of Chinese characters, they often are as misleading as they are entertaining. In the case of Rén – usually translated as “benevolence” or “humaneness” – Humaneness is Human-ness, the essence of being human. For Confucius the interaction of completely dependent infant and caring parent is the most emotionally charged human interaction, “To love a thing means wanting it to live…”.[2] The Way of humaneness is human interaction and through shared experience knowing one’s family. “Fan Chi asked about humaneness. The Master said it is loving people. Fan Chi asked about wisdom. The Master said it is knowing people”.[3] In other words, human love and interaction is the source of humaneness, the source of the human self. Another common interpretation of the graphical elements is Man or a man connecting Heaven and Earth.

All of these practices are the physical, or outward, expression of Confucian ideals. These are the observable behaviours of the members of society. Confucius, however, believed that in order for society to truly follow li, one must also adhere to and internalize these practices. The mentality involved in performing these rituals in society must not exist only there, it must be a part of the private life of the person. This is known as Rén.

And, it is the destruction of this aspect of what Sapir and I agree is “genuine”© human culture by the forces of Empire that I often find myself addressing in these writes for you. I am not an expert in much of anything, but I do claim to have a highly informed interest in the matrix of human society, language, culture, biology and history that forms my perception of any current situation that has a “news” report; and that is what I believe justifies my contributions of two cents here, two cents there in the round table at the Tribal Council.

Increasingly, I analyze the matrix created by my formal education and my experience in the real world, especially epiphanies about the pervasive power of the Global Military-Financial/Industrial Complex in recent years of 2009 to the present.

They are trying to tell the citizens something, without being explicit. It seems to come down to the proposal that the military government will determine who gets guns and who does not, on the basis of “background checks”.  When guns are finally outlawed, the government will have guns; and they will have drones with guns and multi-sensory intelligence-gathering capacity.

Is the Pentagon the global arm of the NRA?

  • And now, due to the alleged ‘influenza emergency of epidemic proportions’, we are strongly urged to get our influenza inoculations, just like Usama bin Laden’s family.

Are They kidding? Nobody I know has the flu. They just want my DNA; right?


  • Editors in the mainstream media mega-conglomerates have immense responsibilities to those Media Moguls such as the Murdochs. News from the major media purveyors on the Yahoo Home Page is sculpted both to provide an image of what the nation should think of current events and of the actors in them – indicating who is the Good Guy and who the Bad Guy using words like “regime” and “dictator”, “extremist”, “Islamist”, or “anarchist”, even when the object of scorn is cleanly elected – and to unite the citizens’ perspective behind the National Interests  and “culture” of “America”, not specifying which of the fifty “recognized nations” of the Americas and nearby island nations’ citizens they might be referring to by the notion of “American”, nor do they identify those Vital National Security Interests they are referring to.

The alternative, if you don’t like to view “news”, is to be shuttled off into watching SuperBowl or “The World” (read “USan”) Series of a game where grown men throw balls and hit them with clubs, some chasing the ball and the others running in circles; or the Presidential Debates; or the History Channel’s re-broadcast of the Legend of King David and the fictional History of Israel before the Cruel Diaspora.  … well, you can’t say that Albert Einstein didn’t warn us!

  • And then there is my paranoia over Windows 7. I have noted that Windows 7 takes control of the data taxonomy in My Documents, and rearranges the taxonomy of meaning domains. Those documents that I had arranged according to my own idio-taxonomy are rearranged into Windows 7’s taxonomy of my reality. For example, photographs that I had distributed into folders of mixed documents to which they are topically relevant, were copied and the copies put together in “Photos”, separate but incorporating my own folder of “My Photos”.

I get a message from an Irish colleague who confirms that this is NOT my imagination:

Another horrible habit gmail have is that they stick messages together that I don’t want stuck together. Everything that has the same “subject” is grouped together by them forevermore.. & the original stand alone message does not exist anymore in one’s mailbox. It only exists stuck among lots of others & there seems to be no way of unsticking all this mess. Also when a new message comes in, it’s placed last after all the other messages with same subject line – & then the print function says “print all” – with no other choice except “all”.. so for me who likes to print out my correspondence, that means printing out the whole shebang again & again to get the new tiny message which is inevitably at the end! My old “(at)” was not like this at all. New messages came in, as is perfectly logical, on top.. & one had no trouble whatsoever in printing just the new message. And one could keep same subject-heading for months & months if one chose to & it wasn’t a problem! Certainly no question of sticking messages together from different correspondents which might happen to have same subject heading, as gmail do in their wisdom – goodness knows why! Also they keep inviting me to access my email via google chrome (which I don’t like.. it has no print function would you believe!) & they don’t like that I access my email via internet explorer (which is of course a rival company, microsoft..) & I get messages telling me the system I’m using to access my email may not be reliable, etc… Thanks very much. Great news to hear when I’ve just joined this new email system & spent ages transferring oceans of stuff when it was still possible .. I could go on…

Now, to an “ethnoscientist” as I once identified, or to an ethno-linguist aspect that was my niche, this is serious business – forcing The People’s Taxonomy, especially my highly individuated taxonomy, into the Server’s taxonomy. This is messing with the Order of the Universe; imposing the Empire’s way of seeing things and organizing that perception into a Central Processing Unit’s engineered techno-based global worldview.

I wrote earlier about how Julian Assange documents the military’s penetration of all communication media, both personal and public, in his recent appearance on Democracy Now, and in his new book, “Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet”

When I go into my own computer, which serves as my own virtual memory, I must comply with the taxonomic framework of the Operating System, both to file my “data” and to express my “meaning”.

And, relevant here to ask: What is the role of digital information and communication technology in this Global Stockholm Syndrome Experiment? How does the Pentagon articulate with it?

Who is messing with my file taxonomy and that of my Irish colleague?

What is the intent of imposing their taxonomy upon my data and conceptual structure?

This is fundamental tyranny; similar to in both sound and meaning the USNATO governments’ warning of immanent “terrorist” threat against all USNATOans.

  • Seatbelts, helmets, Daylight Savings Time, social security numbers, standardized education examinations, your value preferences, globally displayed for business’s interests in you, geopositioned on an electronic mapping system embedded in your cell phone which expedites your individuation.
  • Such uniformity also eliminates the real “cultural resources”: not archaeological “sites”, but diverse cultural realities, world views, other cultures’ traditional philosophies of science and history.

We are given the impression in the media that all people, globally, need to think like we think, speak like we speak and then act like we act.  “We” are US.

This is rarely discussed openly in those media, but, if you have a hint on where to look, there are still crevices in the media wall that surrounds Truman Burbank’s home town, named “Democracy”.

This and related issues are confronted in an amazingly comprehensive manner in a film about two things: wine making, and the global wine business. Mondovino is a film that does an excellent job of relating this to what I want to discuss – how culture is being commoditized, bought and sold globally, rather than lived locally.

The limited worldview of the USNATO’s global forces is also discussed in some of the “alternative” global media, such as this article by Hamid Dabashi.

The author of that linked, mind-expanding, “alternative” article is himself among those non-Europeans. Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at ColumbiaUniversity. Let’s let a Persian speak for himself, for a change:

To be sure, China and Brazil (and Australia, which is also a European extension) are cited as the location of other philosophers worthy of the designation, but none of them evidently merits a specific name to be sitting next to these eminent European philosophers.

The question of course is not the globality of philosophical visions that all these prominent European (and by extension certain American) philosophers indeed share and from which people from the deepest corners of Africa to the remotest villages of India, China, Latin America, and the Arab and Muslim world (“deep and far”, that is, from a fictive European centre) can indeed learn and better understand their lives.

These are indeed not only eminent philosophers, but the philosophy they practice has the globality of certain degrees of self-conscious confidence without which no thinking can presume universality.

The question is rather something else: What about other thinkers who operate outside this European philosophical pedigree, whether they practice their thinking in the European languages they have colonially inherited or else in their own mother tongues – in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America, thinkers that have actually earned the dignity of a name, and perhaps even the pedigree of a “public intellectual” not too dissimilar to Hannah Arendt, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Michel Foucault that in this piece on Al Jazeera are offered as predecessors of Zizek?

Thinkers outside Europe: Why is European philosophy “philosophy”, but African philosophy is “ethnophilosophy”?

What about thinkers outside the purview of these European philosophers; how are we to name and designate and honour and learn from them with the epithet of “public intellectual” in the age of globalised media?

Do the constellation of thinkers from South Asia, exemplified by leading figures like Ashis Nandy, Partha Chatterjee, Gayatri Spivak, Ranajit Guha, Sudipta Kaviraj, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Homi Bhabha, or Akeel Bilgrami, come together to form a nucleus of thinking that is conscious of itself? Would that constellation perhaps merit the word “thinking” in a manner that would qualify one of them – as a South Asian – to the term “philosopher” or “public intellectuals”?

Are they “South Asian thinkers” or “thinkers”, the way these European thinkers are? Why is it that if Mozart sneezes it is “music” (and I am quite sure the great genius even sneezed melodiously) but the most sophisticated Indian music ragas are the subject of “ethnomusicology”?

Is that “ethnos” not also applicable to the philosophical thinking that Indian philosophers practice – so much so that their thinking is more the subject of Western European and North American anthropological fieldwork and investigation?

We can turn around and look at Africa. What about thinkers like Henry Odera Oruka, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Okot p’Bitek, Taban Lo Liyong, Achille Mbembe, Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze, Souleymane Bachir Diagne, V.Y. Mudimbe: Would they qualify for the term “philosopher” or “public intellectuals” perhaps, or is that also “ethnophilosophy”?

Why is European philosophy “philosophy”, but African philosophy ethnophilosophy, the way Indian music is ethnomusic – an ethnographic logic that is based on the very same reasoning that if you were to go to the New York Museum of Natural History (popularised in Shawn Levy’s Night at the Museum [2006]), you only see animals and non-white peoples and their cultures featured inside glass cages, but no cage is in sight for white people and their cultures – they just get to stroll through the isles and enjoy the power and ability of looking at taxidermic Yaks, cave dwellers, elephants, Eskimos, buffalo, Native Americans, etc, all in a single winding row.

The same ethnographic gaze is evident in the encounter with the intellectual disposition of the Arab or Muslim world: Azmi Bishara, Sadeq Jalal Al-Azm, Fawwaz Traboulsi, Abdallah Laroui, Michel Kilo, Abdolkarim Soroush. The list of prominent thinkers and is endless.

In Japan, Kojin Karatani, in Cuba, Roberto Fernandez Retamar, or even in the United States people like Cornel West, whose thinking is not entirely in the European continental tradition – what about them? Where do they fit in? Can they think – is what they do also thinking, philosophical, pertinent, perhaps, or is that also suitable for ethnographic examinations?

The question of Eurocentricism is now entirely blase. Of course Europeans are Eurocentric and see the world from their vantage point, and why should they not? They are the inheritors of multiple (now defunct) empires and they still carry within them the phantom hubris of those empires and they think their particular philosophy is “philosophy” and their particular thinking is “thinking”, and everything else is – as the great European philosopher Immanuel Levinas was wont of saying – “dancing”.

The question is rather the manner in which non-European thinking can reach self-consciousness and evident universality, not at the cost of whatever European philosophers may think of themselves for the world at large, but for the purpose of offering alternative (complementary or contradictory) visions of reality more rooted in the lived experiences of people in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America – counties and climes once under the spell of the thing that calls itself “the West” but happily no more.

The trajectory of contemporary thinking around the globe is not spontaneously conditioned in our own immediate time and disparate locations, but has a much deeper and wider spectrum that goes back to earlier generations of thinkers ranging from José Marti to Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, to Aime Cesaire, W.E.B. DuBois, Liang Qichao, Frantz Fanon, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, etc.

So the question remains why not the dignity of “philosophy” and whence the anthropological curiosity of “ethnophilosophy”?

Is there a They Who Develop the Roadmap for Our Future?


The cooperation of a “ruling class”, an “aristocracy”, especially within Europe and its former colonies, from Greece to London, New York/Washington DC, Canberra, Oslo and Rome; from ancient Egypt and Phoenicia to present day nations with monarchies, can hardly be denied. The “art” of Ruling The People – by whatever title – has often been a topic of philosophy and literature among the “educated” and privileged class of Empires from before written history and prominent in early historic and philosophic writings in Europe; thus we know the word, “Machiavellian”. The knowledge of how to rule, among these competing and cooperating empires was cumulative, and was shared, like Royal daughters shared in marriage between the Royals and competing, elite (because of wealth and social/military power) families from before Alexander the Great to our bonny Prince Philip from a Greek and Danish royal families’ marriage, is the perfect illustration of this wide network of those engaged in ruling The People of Empire.

Yes, I do think there is some sophisticated coordination going on; some long-term strategy planning in some Bilderberger back room or castle tower. I do believe in that Class Conspiracy Theory.  How can one look into this?

And, like Dr Science, THEY know more than We the People.

Information, it has been observed, is Power. And, THEY control IT (Information Technology).

Hamid Dabashi continues:

Gramsci’s conclusion is that the reason Kant can say what he says and offer his own behaviour as measure of universal ethics is that “Kant’s maxim presupposes a single culture, a single religion, a ‘world-wide’ conformism… Kant’s maxim is connected with his time, with the cosmopolitan enlightenment and the critical conception of the author. In brief, it is linked to the philosophy of the intellectuals as a cosmopolitan stratum”.

So, it is stated elegantly for recent centuries by Gramsci; but we have had such sophisticated global coordination in the domains of Euro-centric Empire for many, many centuries, millenia, during which this ‘cosmopolitan’ class has interwoven across the boundaries that they, themselves strategically drew for reasons I will discuss; have discussed.

With the new war technology, “Neo-colonialism” has removed its mask and is reverting to open military colonial occupation, both within USNATO’s own “nations” and “abroad”. At this time, supported by AFRICOM, a US Military global sector, the French have again invaded the Sahel area which they had previously carved out from parts of different indigenous societies’ traditional landscapes and named it Mali.

The “news” points out that without France, there would be no UN-recognized nation of Mali. Rather, it would be Tuareg traditional landscapes, controlled by those who are now part of the “extremists” who have threatened the “established government” of “Mali” – established and monitored by France. And if there were no Mali borders drawn, nor Libyan borders drawn, nor Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone … nor any borders other than long-agreed general territories for Tuareg and Berbers, (part of the “diaspora” of what was once called the “Nilo-Hamitic” speaking peoples, the root African peoples of the ancient Egyptian Empire before the Semitic displacement with the spread of Islam), nor for Bedouin, an Arabic-speaking tribe, for Yoruba and for all the established “nations” of indigenous peoples still remaining more or less self-defined and internally sovereign when not dominated with foreign-supplied military force; if these nations and their boundaries were not established by Empire, what would be there?

Mark Levine writes for Al Jazeera:

It is impossible to know how the map of Africa would have evolved without European colonialism to shape it. What is sure, however, is that the European “scramble for Africa” that dominated the 19th century – and in which local rulers played a willing part whenever it served their interests – ensured that European powers would create the territorial foundation for modern nation-states whose borders bore little correspondence to the ethnic and religious geography of the continent. Mali in particular was composed of several distinct ethnic, linguistic and what today are considered “racial” groups. Its brief and ill-fated union with Senegal at the time of independence in 1960 highlights the artificial foundation of the region’s states and their borders.

The lack of consideration for local ethnic, religious and cultural dynamics and the colonial imperative to arrogate as much territory under one rule as possible created a situation in which states with areas over twice the size of France and population groups which had little historical or cultural reason to live under one sovereignty and had few natural resources of comparative advantages to support themselves, were nevertheless forced to do just that; first, under foreign rule, whose main goal – whatever the “civilising mission” proclaimed by Paris – was to extract as much wealth and resources as possible and enforce control by whatever means necessary, then under postcolonial indigenous governments whose policies towards their people often differed little on the ground from their colonial predecessors.

Such a map of nations, drawn as agreed among those indigenous nations; bordered or with merging zones, given their traditional landscape place-names – not Britsh Explorers’ sweethearts’ names for mountains, rivers, or even regions – explained in their own terms, would be a different map; a different world as viewed from the inside; the Locals thinking globally; not being evaluated for European Correctness by Empire’s locally recruited Teacher of Their USNATO “civilization”.

Mark Levine, continuing, points out:

Indeed, even those countries which secured independence peacefully were structurally deformed by foreign rule and the establishment of states with borders that did not naturally correspond to the political and cultural ecologies of the regions in which they were created. As epitomised by the plight of the Mali’s Touareg communities (who are spread across the Sahel much like Kurds are spread across the countries of the Fertile Crescent), most states in West, North and Central Africa wound up including significant populations who were different from, and thus disadvantaged by, the group who assumed power. At the same time, post-independence governments were riven by corruption and narrow loyalties, with leaders who were most often unwilling to pursue or incapable of pursuing a truly national, democratic vision of development.

In such a situation, religion, which might have played a positive role in shaping morally grounded public spheres and economies, became marginalised from governance, while slowly taking hold in a toxic form among many of the region’s most marginalised peoples.

The Questions

What are the Great Game considerations for drawing such lines of recognized nations’ borders; such as those drawn to separate Afghanistan from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and its other neighboring “states”; a line that cut through the traditional nations of Nuristan and Pashtunistan; or in the boundaries given by Italy to Libya, dividing the Berbers and the Toureg from their communities in what they isolated as Mali; combining parts of the Manding, Kru, and Gola peoples into Liberia, or the US border with Mexico that cuts the Tohono O’odham in two.?

Who makes those considerations and who makes the final decisions?

We have, in past articles, discussed the Koch Bros, Edelson, and others as “Players” in the Great Game, the biggest of whom, no doubt, is known only to the initiated members of the Bilderbergers. We have mentioned that even the Kings and Queens are Pieces in that Game, although, some of the Royals are also Players; and the lines are sometimes blurred, as when a King, or even a Rook, becomes admitted to the Player class.

Barack Obama is a piece in play on the board who might win that step into “Player”.

As members of the Skull and Crossbones, we are sworn to secrecy; ‘pon penalty of death!

Thinking Locally

If groups are small enough for face-to-face familiarity; and the groups are stable in their communities over a few generations, they might be able to develop into a society having a developing genuine culture; a society that can function in such a close-up familiarity and mutual engagement in a common self-interest. For example, the number of people that might live in the Eel River Watershed of Humboldt County, California under a specific appropriate technological adaptation of human communities into the existing ecosystem with the least negative accommodations by the landscape and other forms of life therein integrated and co-evolving.

When I look at the axiom of Think Globally, Act Locally, I see that the new social media and communication technology as well as corporate/government movement of Human Capital for their convenience has had a conditioning effect upon the temporarily local hearts and minds of the current Gold Rush, Land Rush, Dust Bowl peoples following Opportunity, and necessarily upon the social fabric of any place they temporarily hold a “job” and have a residence. That presents a real dilemma for anyone who wants to organize locally

There is the fact that the capitalist economy/society has uprooted individual workers and families to serve business’s human capital needs in other places. The people having been conditioned to compete and to desire “stuff”, have little or no sense of collective responsibility for any environment, any landscape in which they are working. They do not expect to remain when the next “promotion” is offered, or another company in another city advertises a higher-paying job. They came to exploit Opportunity; they only want to make money, buy stuff at the lowest prices, and search for their next job at a higher wage in someplace else.

For the reasons cited above the human society of California’s Humboldt County, on the Northwest Coast of North America’s Pacific Ocean coastal zone, as I am acquainted with it, simply is unable to begin the most important change in this: “austerity measures”, including a reduction in the overpopulation of humans, to bring them into balance with the Carrying Capacity of the several watersheds and coastlines of Humboldt County, given the use of any known, specific “appropriate technology”.

These problems of developing deep familiarity with and a collective sense of responsibility for their home landscape and the trust, willingness and ability to cooperate and communicate is especially problematic as we seem to have already jumped from a preference for face-to-face communications to a preference for digital, global, social media communications, to “save time”, be more efficient.

Sidebar About “efficiency” and culture: In the town of Auch, in the Aquitaine/Occitan of southwest France, when I was comparing the length of the slow, thorough, energy efficient French washing machines and those in the US, praising the speed of “ours”, my wise host, Serge, whose washing machine above his dinner club – Corto Maltese – I was using, asked me pointedly:

Pourquoi vite?

I was caught in mid-stride.  Indeed! Why must the washing machine be faster? It is doing the work; you are free to use that time as you need or as you please; and the long wash cycles are evidently more efficient in getting my clothes deeply clean.

This is some of the community I found in Auch, at Corto Maltese, the dinner club and Auch’s alternative society’s music and meeting place. Serge, my host and owner of Corto Maltese is second from left. It was a creation of Michael, who is taking the photo and who gave it to me. Inside is his own global taste in music.

This is some of the community I found in Auch, at Corto Maltese, the dinner club and Auch’s alternative society’s music and meeting place. Serge, my host and owner of Corto Maltese is second from left. It was a creation of Michael, who is taking the photo and who gave it to me. Inside is his own global taste in music.

I knew he was right. The whole world of argument behind his counter-point to my praise of technology stood there in “Pourquoi vite? Ah!, my friends in Auch have savoir faire. The world of human interaction with each other, with food, and with work; at a human scale and human velocity was one aspect of another life-style that is one of the French Sacred Principles.

In order to solidify local community organization and discuss how to proceed, there is the necessity of actually having meaningful communication with shared meanings and shared values across the populations and businesses of this mix of the indigenous Yurok and Wiyot peoples from ancient past and the waves of recent invasions, including the Gold Rush, land “settlement” and “development, and the first Wal-Mart Store which just opened in the face of puny popular resistance.

Still, there are signs that it is possible to retain or to develop local unity and cooperation. Even here in Humboldt County there are examples, such as the small community of the isolated Mattole River Valley and its Watershed Restoration Project.

I review my old notions of parallel economic systems living in the world outside the Brave New World of technological entrapment; the hippy commune attempts – the discovery of the edges of the stage set as laid out in Truman Show when we discovered that a commune cannot exist both within and separate from a capitalist economic system in control of the “nation” where the commune is located. In the previous post I expressed it like this:

In 2010, at age 72, I had an experience that Peter Weir artistically represents using Jim Carrey playing Truman in The Truman Show. When Truman, rowing a small rowboat, bangs into the sky while trying to escape the town where he had finally realized he was a captive all his life, he recognized that even the sky was part of the stage set….         

A wise man once said to me, “Where there is fear, there can be no love.” In the founding of this country by its aristocratic executives, there was a fear of The People actually organizing themselves and gaining control of the government. Consequently, a clever system was devised to protect the government from the Common Man, and it was given the name “Democracy”, although that word was not used in the various declarations of these privileged men of power.

“Democracy” might have been the name of Truman’s home town.

Gore Vidal’s Inventing a Nation makes it very clear that The Founding Fathers were precisely those from whose domination We The People had migrated to the Americas to escape. Not trusting the Rule of the People, the Founders Footprint arranged a legal system, a financial economic system and an educational system incubating individuation, competition and patriotic expansionism which made the ideal of local community self-determination and popular rule impossible, while fostering an illusion that it was already so

Canned Identities

When social groupings become so large that we have only stock “avatar” images that we can choose from among abstract “identities” and virtual wardrobes in the communications on the electronic, digital social media, the identities and groups become fitted together by some information technologist someplace who either is given or develops a taxonomic framework for storing and retrieving these presenter identities and the identities of their topics.

Thus, an ethnically self-generated taxonomic framework for reality – based on cumulative shared, organic individual perceptions within a local cultural frame of reference, socially evolved over thousands of years – is replaced by the information technologists’ frameworks that are designed for machines communicating with each other about Empire’s program priorities in ASCII characters. No fully present smell, no color, form, no taste, no vibes.

So, this aspect of the destruction of genuine culture, globally, is one of the things I most am guided by in my thoughts. I am basically thinking out loud to you about these things, because that is what I do. My wish is to communicate with you about these things that I am thinking on and get feedback from different points of view.

In this way I can nurture the notion that I am actually sitting here with real people, both socializing and discussing this profound change that we are living through in this major period of technological blizzard that is directly linked to what I perceive as an attempt at forming society and individual mental structure and process around technology, globally; and pass this slavery off as Global “Culture”.

This, I regret, is all I have brought to this Council as my contribution to our gathering – my particular anthropology.

So, those questions asked at the end of the essay are to you; if anybody can hear me. Is anybody in there?

Hello! Hello! I have no way of knowing if you can hear me.

8 thoughts on “Virtual Solitary Confinement of Local Hearts and Minds

  1. Maximilian Forte

    While the debate about whether “virtualization” disrupts face-to-face sociality and undermines “real” community, roughly stated, is an “old” one (meaning, dating back 20 years at least), I am not sure it was ever convincingly resolved, and for me it has been reopened by basic reflections on personal routines that have changed drastically, so much so that I am developing a real allergy to the Internet.

    Take one small example out of an infinite number of other such anecdotes: acquiring a music album. Over 20 years ago, hearing a song in my head that would not go away, and wanting the album or the single as a result, involved some doing. One had to make time, get ready, go out on the bus, subway, etc., go downtown (because there was one), search through music stores, possibly bump into school friends along the way, stop somewhere for a drink or a snack, voyage back home, and then the moment of triumph! Finally being able to hear what was on that vinyl and spending the day immersed in it. There was time, space, and direct contact with people, with plenty of room for happenstance encounters, and learning of exciting upcoming events posted on some telephone pole.

    Here comes the Internet. MP3 file acquired in 2.158 seconds. Done. Efficient, fast, easy. Solitary, immediate gratification, moving right along to the next item. No journey, just another flicker on a screen laden with multitasking. Folded into work, a fake break.

    The Internet may be the gift the military gave which keeps on giving (back to the military), but I am not at all convinced that ANYTHING is better because of it, and more open to arguments that things have never been worse at least in part because of it. Sorry if I fail to do my duty in adulating the glory and goodness of almighty technology.

  2. Erich Kuerschner

    But Then It Was Too Late

    “What no one seemed to notice,” said a colleague of mine, a philologist, “was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people.
    “What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.
    “This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

    Full excerpt, “But Then It Was Too Late”

    more at my blog:

  3. gardenplot

    There are times when that “ethno-” prefix can be a real boon, quelling criticism while opening up an indulgent discourse space. As an anthropologist I sometimes wish that I could have used this lexical dodge in connection with my own work, in which I went fully native by becoming a quite competent practitioner of astrology and homeopathy. These two marginalized professions persist amazingly enough within the iron bosom of the empire because they have revelatory and healing impact for a sustaining clientele. But to understand why this is so (outside of stupid functionalist tripe) one must endure agonizing initiation rites to become that which the authorities shun.

    No fire-walking or flesh-piercing in this civilized arena. All one must do is hang out a naked shingle in place of that ethno figleaf.

    Were I able to identify myself as an “ethno-astrologer” or an “ethno-homeopath”, perhaps I would have been welcomed as an English-speaking exotic at various conferences themed around shamanism and native ways of knowledge. My learned colleagues would politely suspend their disbelief while I recounted ably documented instances in which ethno-astrologers were able to predict future events that did not fall along a trend-line; or where ethno-homeopaths were able cure deadly tropical diseases with inert sugar pills.

    As it is…Well, in your own words: “Hello! Hello! I have no way of knowing if you can hear me.”

  4. gardenplot

    Further to my previous comment…

    If you really wish to deepen the official silence, try replacing a master discourse with a subaltern one. To wit: On the grounds that marxism provides no means to predict advances and reversals in the global class struggle, undertake to periodize the stream of collective events, past, present and future, in terms of outer-planet alignments. Such an exercise will unleash the hounds from both right and left; but being muzzled in accordance with local ordinances, those ravening dogs will not be heard as they near the little white rabbit.

  5. John Allison

    I had intended to add this link to the “Sidebar About “efficiency” and culture: In the town of Auch, in the Aquitaine/Occitan of southwest France, …”
    The Acquitaine/Occitan is one of the ancient, pre-Roman populations/cultures that extended from north Italy to the Atalantic and across the Pyranees. Those peoples are still there, closely related to the Catalan peoples of northeast Spain. A submerged cultural group still resisting integration into Empire’s masses.

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