November 8, 2016

One date that makes it tough to concede that I have citizenship in the US of A is November 8, 2016. First thing this morning when I woke up in Bern, I checked on the election results. I was glad that I had gotten some sleep. The day has not been easy.

I’m Swiss too. I am also a Swiss politician, and as such I have decided that I would not vote in US elections, and so it has been for more than thirty years. For more than thirty years, I have not voted in US elections. Today I feel sorry for all of my American compatriots. I don’t regret my choice. 

I feel sorry for those who voted Trump, he will not make America great again. He will not even make America better. You are still in the losers lot, you will become further disenfranchised and the class struggle will continue. It just isn’t the class struggle that Marx talked about.  

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I feel sorry for those who voted Clinton, she may represent all the ugly things that the establishment represents, but she is miles ahead of the pack, and she could have been a good president, given a chance. Frankly, I don’t give a shit that she is a woman, but I would trust her to make it work for all of us. I feel sorry for all of those of you libertarian and higher ground intellectuals who wasted your vote on a candidate with no chance; you can’t distinguish your idealism from real politics and you don’t have a clue on how to be pragmatic. It’s not a good day to have US citizenship. It is a day to reflect. 

 That is, I say yes to the rainy days, I say yes to the rainbow, and I still don’t like umbrellas. Don’t let the crises go to waste. Start rebuilding humanity.

 

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Change, Technology, Learning and Adaptation

Euan Semple concluded a recent post with an interesting observation:

Comparing the levels of technical competence of my kids with those of my non internet friends and comparing the peaceful majority at the student demonstrations in London to the wistful recollection of more politically engaged times amongst my middle class friends, I find myself wondering if the children are becoming grown ups and the adults are succumbing to voluntary infantilisation.

via – The Obvious? – Parents, children and wikileaks.

More than three years ago I asked another question that somehow seems rather on target:

After all, secrecy is still the currency of power. What are the power gate-keepers to do when secrecy ceases to be a valid currency because what was secret has become common knowledge?

In the face of change, inertia takes you into denial, survival will force you to adapt.

 

Technology, oh you siren of sirens!

It has been a while since I posted a few lines to uncondition, and your guess is as good as mine as to what the reason might be, although I do have plenty of excuses, and some are far better than others.

In an unexpected turn of events last September I found myself once more decorating the halls of academia with a mandate that I have found much too good to turn down, and that on occasions has also made me question my ability for rational decisions. The thing is that I have been looking into various aspects of technology, in particular those that have to do with international trade. It is all fun, and I do like working within a legal framework and be involved in policy at various levels. Political and legal philosophy remain some of my best bedtime readings, but not only. My own involvement in parliamentary procedures has given me a good taste for the workings, functions and movements in politics, and it remains an experience that I would not have wanted to miss.

I have often been asked about this whole thing of e-democracy and using the Internet as a democratic tool and what not. Although the answers seem to lurk unappealingly and simplistically uninspired, the whole issue is quite fascinating. First, there are issues of democracy. What is democracy?

My very own opinion is that humankind is not ready for democracy, but like with any ideal, and democracy is an ideal, humankind is fascinated by it and keeps on trying it out, exploring, experimenting and just about wrestling with it in all its modalities. Democracy and capitalism – pros and cons – do dominate the social discourse of these days, credit crunch and all providing just the right kind of illustrative examples for anybody to make their point one way or the other. Building arguments these days is like building houses, however some architects are better than others, and some materials are more solid than others. I like sand castles.

Some call me a nihilist, others want to label my fiction more on the absurdist side, and I can only hope that my scientific and academic work lacks any of those labels and goes more towards the critical reasoning side of thought. By choice and birth, I am clearly not an existentialist and that may indeed constitute one of my biggest blind-spots or prejudices. That said, I still like Nietzsche and Kafka, but usually not on an empty stomach.

In my feed reading today, an article about Proposition 8 caught my attention. It did catch my attention perhaps because over lunch time I was discussing with a graduate student peace building processes and how to address the issues of their failure. It is the kind of discussion that leaves me inspired, but then also gets me very distracted and away from work that is perhaps a bit less fascinating. Peace building is to me a very sexy item on the intellectual agenda. Somehow I see here a bridge that needs to be built between peace building and our understanding of self-governance. Democracy is just one of the paths that we are currently exploring in self-governance: sometimes it works, often it doesn’t and to boot, there is not much of a shared understanding of what it is.

In this IHT article about Proposition 8, what is striking to me is the one sentence “Eightmaps.com is the latest, most striking example of how information collected through disclosure laws intended to increase the transparency of the political process, magnified by the powerful lens of the Web, may be undermining the same democratic values the regulations were to promote. ” Clearly, the regulation mechanism failed, and technology was there to enable the failure. We have here an issue of privacy, or privacy versus transparency.

On this issue, it may be wise to get one’s head around Timothy Macklem’s Independence of Mind and give chapter 2 a good read, in particular the section that deals with privacy and liberty where we are kindly reminded of Pierre Trudeau’s words that “the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation”.

With that thought in mind, do recall that the Internet is just a communications logistic tool that is easily accessible to a minority of the world’s population. Eighty percent of the world’s population has no idea or access to the Internet.