Lazy Luddite Log

26.11.08

Memory Insurance

It is three years since I started blogging (with this blog) and with that in mind I am writing on the topic of memory. The late and wonderful Carl Sagan in his documentary Cosmos made reference to how humans can draw on three kinds of memory. To start with there is the memory of genes which all living things have. Then there is the memory of brains that animals possess. Finally there is that which is unique to humans - Sagan described this final form of memory storage as books and then went onto extol the virtues of his local library. I think we can recognise however that books or 'texts' (which has become a very loosely defined term at the hand of wanky academics) can include all forms of information storage devised by humanity and can include the written word (stored in whatever medium) as well as recorded images and sounds.

At another site I refer to how a sufficiently complex set of interlinked web pages could simulate a conversation with me. I was facetious. But over time the longer ones blog gets the more memory one deposits into the Internet of what one is like - how one thinks and feels... what interests one has... who one interacts with...

So here there is an expanding reflection of me. It is a very much selective reflection but still it provides a memory of me. It is one that I more than anyone can draw on. And just as a song or a photo can remind one of much more than just that short snatch of time, so too a blog entry can evoke recollections of other things related to it in time or subject matter.

To finish off - here is text from my original weblog entry. It and many others can be looked at using the Archives on the sidebar.

I have been using the word 'luddite' in relation to my internet use ever since I got an email account at Monash University back in 1991. These days 'luddite' refers to someone who resists or resents new technology. For more info on the history of the term go to the 'Trivia' link on my sidebar. I am slow to make use of new technology and get frustrated if ever I lack a working understanding of something.

And I never get into technology just for its own sake. It has to somehow facilitate my involvement in something that interests me specifically. So I have never had a mobile phone because having contact with everybody all day long is something that has never attracted me. On the other hand I do have an iPod because listening to music while in transit is lots of fun. Using iTunes to put together ones own lists of tracks is fantastic because the different combinations and sequences of songs help one to explore the relationships that exist between and within a variety of musical genres. But that is another topic...

Labels: ,

16.11.08

Tiresome Terminology

I have been barely acting or even thinking in a political way lately. And I am enjoying the hiatus. However the habit of a lifetime of conducting internal political discussions is still there and fills in some of my time while sitting on the bus or whatever. One thing I was thinking the other day was how frustrating and deceptive I find many terms in politics. They simplify. They make cunning implications. They almost always are the product of someone pushing some barrow. And even if they are pushing a barrow which I may identify with they can still bug me. Here I discuss just a few of them. They cover a wide variety of issues and my comments will presumably affect different readers in different ways...

Permissive Society

This one is a bit out-of-fashion now but then those that use it tend to be behind the times anyway. It refers to a society in which one is permitted to do stuff. What sort of stuff? Well stuff that the user of the phrase has some issue with. The simplification arises from suggesting that we live in a society in which everything is permitted. In this as in all cultures some things are permitted and some are forbidden. There are also some things in a grey area - the kind of things that tend to get 'sin taxes' placed on them like legal substance abuse and gambling. Those who use the term are suggesting that too much is permitted and they are specifically objecting to things that contravene notions of 'traditional family values' or standards that were assumed or pretended to in some past 'better' time. For this term I take the tack of embracing it and turning a negative into a positive. So in a permissive society one can engage in hippy free love if one is so inclined but one can also preserve traditional values if one prefers. This is a marked contrast to a more restrictive society in which one adheres to traditional values simply because one has to. Surely something has value if one had decided for oneself to be that way? I suppose that depends however - some of us just like to control others.

Wage Slavery

We still have bone-fide slavery in the world. It is rare but it exists. It involves one person owning another and controlling them in pretty much anyway one wishes. This is a far cry from the situation of having to decide between starving in the village of ones ancestors or moving to the city to work long days in difficult conditions for a pittance that nonetheless makes one better off than if one had stayed home. Wage Slavery is a convenient way of drawing attention to a very important issue and emphasising how awful it is. But in the process it serves only to diminish our understanding of both the condition it describes (shitty labour rights in developing nations) while also making us loose a sense of how atrocious true slavery is.

Capitalism

There are plenty of nouns that if attached to a particular institution are fine but they tend to get generalised to much bigger things - capitalism is just one of them. It is one thing to say that a multinational corporation or even a corner store is capitalist. It is another thing to say that all of society is capitalist. I say this in particular because capitalism is silent on a whole array of issues - it may provide one with sex toys but then has nothing to say on how they are then used. Only some of the decisions and actions we take from day-to-day are affected by capitalist considerations. It is only one of many phenomena that go into making society what it is today. If you try to look for that big top hat from Monopoly sitting on the scalp of the world you will be looking for a very long time because the world wears all sorts of hats.

Cultural Imperialism

For me imperialism is what empires do and an empire is a very political thing. For me to say something is imperialist I have to see the apparatus of the state (e.g. police) enforcing it. Nobody forces me to have Coke or Pepsi sitting in my bath during a party and yet some would identify that as evidence of American 'cultural imperialism'. Or what of the fact that a German friend of mine speaks excellent English in part because of all the cool music and movies coming from the UK or US? Some would call that 'cultural imperialism' as if 'nations' or 'cultures' are rarefied edifices that never change and never interact. Once more I object to this term because it makes a mess of a complicated topic and diminishes our understanding of what an empire truly is.

Political Correctness

Whoever invented this term was particularly clever. Nobody likes politics. Nobody likes to be corrected by others (even if they themselves have very particular notions of how the world should be). And yet in pretty much every society we have taboos. We have censorship of one kind or another. We have things that we say and do only in particular settings. Other words for these restrictions include 'courtesy' or 'politeness' or 'manners'. Was it ever right-and-proper to point and stare at a disabled person? Or to imply that someone is inferior on the basis of circumstance or background? In the end I think the problem for those who embrace the term of Political Correctness (as distinct from those who are accused of promoting its practice) is that they once got to dictate the terms and are sore that they now have to share this power with others. In society now what is right and wrong is an openly contested thing and different perspectives become ascendent in different facets of how we live. In a free society "you win some you lose some" is the norm. But by ranting "Political Correctness" one can give the impression that only one perspective ever gets its way.

And in the end I suppose that is what annoys me the most with all these terms - they give the impression that the problem is all-encompassing or that the opponent is all-powerful. It may serve some need in us to think we face impossible odds but - geez - can we get a bit of perspective every now-and-then?

Labels: