a.nihil

the smallest triviality can become the vision that wipes out the world.

Part one

This is a reddit comment by u/enteirush that I found interesting. Reddit, like any other media and social media platform has its share of discourse maintenance by foreign actors that vary from country to country. China, the US, Russia, Turkey and to an extent every other country tries to curate and maintain a public image as they wish. To see a whole collective of people under respective brand names – Chinese, Maltans, Sudanese.., 1 billion people that fit into a simple category because of a country name.

The conversations are about us and we form identities we want to inhabit, our professions, our street and our countries. The doctors are our heroes and so are the bus drivers. These are labels given to individuals who share a profession, a collective will. We identify with and imagine people while living indoors, hooked to screens, this is heroin awash into every waking minute. Heroin, that's transmitted through screens connected with invisible tubes and wires, the internet. Our societies are now built in our minds, where there is no resistance to what we are confronted with. These are the manipulations we allow.

我在这个问题下稍微写一点最近在YouTube和Reddit上带节奏的经验心得。我不是键政侠,也不打LOL没有直接和老美巨魔过,但是跟老美交流还是有点经验

I'm here to share some of my experiences baiting people on YouTube and Reddit. I'm not a keyboard warrior, I don't play LoL and I haven't overtly trolled Americans before, but I still have some experience conversing with them.

要点一:不要明确站中国,用户名也不能一眼看过去是中国人

这不是懦弱或者不自信,而是一个基本操作问题。设想一个印度人要(正当地)批评中国房价过高人民住不起房,网上大多数人第一反应估计是“先把你10亿低种姓贫民百姓的住房解决了再腆着脸来说吧”。然后对方无论说什么我们都不会认真辩论。同理我们要是想在美帝的版块里带节奏(注意是带节奏而不是巨魔),第一不要表明自己的中国人身份。

Requirement #1: Don't explicitly show you're on China's side / Your username shouldn't make it obvious you're Chinese

This doesn't make you seem cowardly or insecure, rather, it's a simple manipulation tactic. [blah blah some rant about Indians being poor] Likewise, we need to hide our identities when baiting (remember: baiting, not trolling [?]) Americans.

要点二:话语范围要和美国人一致

他说美国抗疫比瑞典好,你说中国10天建医院;他说美国测试不如韩国,你说中国医护装备好——这都属于话语不一致。想让对方接受你的观点就要在对方的话语体系里骂美国,按照美国人的方式来骂他们。如果一个印度人来批评中国开口就是中国没有种姓制度不利于形成稳定的社会结构,你肯定觉得他脑子有问题。同样我们不应该过多地考虑我们想让他们接受什么,而是他们能接受哪些话题上的辩论,然后尽力把话题往有利于我们的方向上引。

Requirement #2: Your style of discourse must align with those of Americans

If they say the America's coronavirus strategy is better than Sweden's and you say China built a hospital in 10 days... if they say America's testing is worse than South Korea's and you say Chinese doctors are well-equipped... there's no real discussion taking place. If you want the other side to accept your attacks on America, you need to imitate the way Americans argue amongst themselves. [blah blah cut some other rant about the Indian caste system] Similarly, we shouldn't overthink what views we want to implant in their heads. Rather, we should base our arguments around views that they are willing to consider, and then bait them further in our direction.

比如我最近在Reddit上比较成功的论调之一就是揭示了“美国政客根本不关心人命,只在乎选举”“社会各界上层人士为了他们的利益而撒谎让平民买单”,得到了不少积极回应。这些是他们可以认同的东西。政治上,你怎么喷都是可以的,喷川统,喷科莫,怎么合适怎么来。

Some topics that I've used to success on Reddit:

“The US government doesn't care about lives, only elections”

“The elites lie to the middle class to protect their profits”

I got a lot of replies saying these things because they identify with these viewpoints. Anything goes when it comes to politics – attack Trump, attack Cuomo, just use whatever works.

要点三:在互相辩论的氛围内假装站美国的台

而且这样站台一定要有不合理性——其实找到这种不合理性很容易,但你如果直接在一个问题上指责美国某一点,对方会潜意识地反驳你;如果你支持这一点,对方会找出合适的逻辑来反驳你的立场而达到你带节奏的目的。假如一个印度人跑来跟你说,我觉得你们中国高考招生制度不行,各省招生不公平,我们多数人估计也是先辩护再说;但如果他说我觉得我们(注意第一条)高考招生制度很好,北京的教育资源就应该向北京户口倾斜,那就轮到你来说高教资源分配不公了。

Requirement #3: Pretend to be on America's side in your discussions

Importantly, you need to be somewhat illogical – it's actually really easy to do this. If you directly accuse the US of something, people will rebuke you; instead, if you pretend to support the opposite view, people will use mental gymnastics to argue in favor of your actual position. [Wow, this CCP lemming just discovered the power of reverse psychology! ...and cut some other contrived example of an “Indian” criticizing China's school admissions system]

比如在一个“加州州长下令医院做回溯尸检,检查截止到去年12月的死亡中是否有新冠肺炎死亡病例”的帖子下,有一条回复是“为什么只检查到12月?”我直接回复:“因为再往前就可能会暴露美国才是新冠发源地,这对我们在国际上的声誉影响太大了。一定要坚持中国是第一个报道病例的国家。”对此我得到的回应是“抱歉,查清事实比要面子更重要。”

For example, under a post titled “Gov. Newsom Orders All California Counties To Review Autopsies Dating Back To December”, someone asked, “why stop at December?”

My response: “Obviously they don't want to push it too far back as to suggest the virus started in the United States. I'm not being sarcastic here but if we ended up being the first country having Corona virus we would look really bad in the international community. Keeping China the first country to have reported the virus is necessary.”

Note: Found the comment chain here and pasted it word-for-word

我也不是什么大V,没有一呼百应的能力,但是如果能帮一些看到这个回答的人在美国网站带节奏的话就很好了。

I'm not a big V [something like the blue tick on Twitter] and I can't summon an army of followers, but I'll be happy if can spread the word with this post and help others troll American websites.

—————————————

This block of text explains the US political system and how to sow divisions between the left and right.

I won't translate everything but I'll highlight a few snippets.

居然有人看,感觉我不多写一点对不起观众啊……我就补一点美国政治基础,和我针对美国不同人群的对线策略。

美国的联邦制保证了每个州都是独立主权,其主权和联邦政府高度对立。很多民主党州的民选官员都以和联邦政府对立作为拉选票的卖点。比如明尼苏达的总检察长Keith Ellison说起自己对联邦政府提起了多少诉讼,和多少州的总检察长联合起诉联邦政府的时候,语气满是自豪。这和密苏里总检察长起诉武汉一样,都是他们拉拢选票的政治手段,不需要做过多的解读。然而这种分裂的现状我们完全可以利用。

首先要明确我们带节奏的目的是什么。要想扭转中国在国际上的舆论劣势可以说是不可能做到的,毕竟这么多年的洗脑和宣传,我们的舆论势力根本不在一个层面上。我个人认为最好的做法是继续分化美国人,把他们的注意力从中国身上拿开,让他们重点关注美国的负面信息、对美国政治愤怒就行。川统的甩锅是转移矛盾,我们如果没有实力和他们正面硬甩,那就尽量把他们的注意力转移回美国内务,增加他们对美国国内事务的愤怒和失望情绪。

... the West has brainwashed and spread propaganda for so long that we can't change our perception on the world stage. Instead, we should incite division within America to distract them from China, and make them hate their government...

对于民主党选民,有好几种矛盾可以激化。一是民主党内部腐败和无能问题,挑拨拜登和桑德斯的支持者:对拜登支持者就嘲讽拜登不会说话,没有魅力,对付川普必死;对桑德斯支持者就嘲讽他不是真民主党人,无法团结民主党对抗川普,失败活该。二是挑拨联邦和民主党州之间的矛盾,不断重复联邦根本不在乎蓝州疫情,克扣蓝州医疗物资,放任蓝州人民死亡,以至于蓝州需要大量私下行动自保(比如伊利诺伊州长绕过联邦偷偷从中国进口大量物资,因为怕被联邦截胡;加州州长掏加州的钱帮其他蓝州购买物资,因为联邦给的缺斤少两),把仇恨转移回联邦政府上。三是挑拨红蓝州之间的矛盾,这个涉及到政治正确,对程度的把握有点难。注意的是蓝州选民已经很痛恨川普了,没有必要引导他们针对川普;最好是引导他们痛恨整个联邦政府,从政府结构上摧毁他们的信心。

Ways to sow further divisions in the Democratic Party: Say that the Democratic establishment is corrupt and useless, and then inflame Biden and Sanders supporters: Say Biden has trouble speaking and has no charisma, and that's he'll lose against Trump. Say Sanders isn't a real Democrat and he can't form a coalition to beat Trump, and that he deserves what's coming.

Next, exaggerate the conflict between the federal and state governments. Constantly mention that the federal government doesn't care about blue states, that they're confiscating medical supplies and leaving people out to die. [paraphrases some recent news headlines] Direct their hatred towards the federal government.

Third, inflame the divisions between red and blue states... remember that blue states already hate Trump so there's no reason to bait them into targeting him. Instead, you should make them hate the entire federal government and destroy their trust in the system.

对于共和党选民,一是尽量放大共和党人和川普之间的矛盾。比如放大Rand Paul和川普不对付的报道,放大Romney和川普的矛盾。最近佐治亚州长跟着川普说要重开经济结果反被川普泼冷水,也可以拿来做文章。二是从基督教角度去攻击,往哪个方向都可以,反正目的是激化政府和教会的矛盾。你可以搬出牧师不遵守居家令组织礼拜被罚款的新闻来骂政府干预教会,也可以搬出牧师举行礼拜结果染病挂掉的新闻来嘲讽牧师。总之就是把注意力转移到他们自己的矛盾来,不要关注中国就行。

For the Republican Party: Emphasize conflicts between the GOP and Trump himself. Emphasize news reports about Rand Paul and Romney disagreeing with Trump. Highlight how Trump turned his back on the governor of Georgia when he announced the state would reopen. Attack them using a Christian perspective, inflame the divisions between church and state. [gives example of pastors ignoring stay-at-home orders]

对于中间选民,把川普自我矛盾、川普和政府内科学家的矛盾摆出来就行。这个不展开说了,国内的文章写了很多

最后如果有人有其他想法欢迎在评论里补充~过两天我如果有闲心再补写一下对美国选举政治的解析

For moderates/swing voters: Post about Trump's self-contradictions and disagreements between him and his own cabinet. You can use examples from our own [Chinese] news sources about this. Post your thoughts in the comments below~

——————————————

更新一个最近刚得到一些积极回复的帖子。我把全部的回复都附带翻译截出来了,并没有刻意筛选。

这主贴是个新闻:芝加哥一个护士几周前告诉她朋友说她吓得要命。现在她和她孩子都死于新冠肺炎,她丈夫勉强活了下来。

截图的回帖串是回复一个主回帖:母亲是护士,我非常担心她。我尽量不来这里看帖子,不然我后半天都会心惊胆战。我的截图就是回复这个主回帖的整串帖子。

有人直接来给中国网站打广告我倒是从来没想到过( • ̀ω•́ )✧

Posted a screenshot of this thread which he considers a successful bait operation

#propaganda #internet #media

The current racist trend is to attribute the COVID-19 to the Chinese, holding them responsible for the global catastrophe that followed. The Chief Marketer behind this campaign is the American President himself and perhaps for a good cause. Holding the Chinese population accountable for what has transpired in the months after is equivalent to blaming a child from a broken home for her bad grades. The conspirator in this catastrophe is the saving-your-face regiment, the Communist Party of China (CPC). A party that has some uncomfortable questions to answer:

  1. Why weren't the findings about the new virus not revealed to the world much earlier?
  2. Why were the initial whistle-blowers and journalists bullied and reprimanded?
  3. To what level has the COVID-19 infected data been obfuscated?
  4. What level of transparency can be expected in the future, considering that a hard line route is being preferred for the treatment of critics over the CPC's handling of the pandemic.

The CPC will of course deceive the world with its debt, trade and manufacturing muscle, after all China has to deliver what we consume. This is a unique situation where the whole world mollycoddled by the consumption capitalism has to suddenly see why its faith in constant purchasing was flawed. The secret was in the factories hidden from from the eyes of the consumers. Designed in California, Manufactured in the P.R.C.. It also shows the fact that a brutal, authoritarian State has slowly been amassing enormous and irreversible power over the last decades and that it is time to examine our choices.

The future of the world and the internet seems to rest on the infrastructure provided by Chinese companies. China has now attained a starture worthy of imitating. With the eradication of the first wave of COVID-19 in the country through its autocratic means, China has a steady supply of countries of wanting to emulate the same model with the same privacy invasive technologies. By also claiming a moral victory against the virus (and playing part victim), China is looking to further cement its place as a trusted ally in global politics. This is a role that America is very happy to cede to China at the moment – while Trump flexes the CPC slowly creeps up in his oversight.

We should see for what it is, a surveillance state with little regard to human rights. The Communist Party of China is the architect of this glowing global status and it is not in the mood to relinquish the hard gains. The CPC with its history is a dangerous master to be in power, just a decade ago the War on Terrorism was still in full swing and democracy was the solution to all the problems in the world. We need to decide which ideological doctrine shapes our future international society. Unless it has some degree fairness and equality at the heart of it, the Communist Party of China doesn't have a chair at the table.

#China #COVID19

Death of the Global Superhero

In the next years there will be a Hollywood blockbuster with sad faced, somber actors who will play doctors and kind Samaritan. The cast and crew will encompass the whole racial ensemble of Hollywood actors. Billions will be minted, award ceremonies will be awash with tearful messages of support and celebrity charities will be overflowing with money. Black lives will matter, brown lives will matter, pink lives will matter and what not. There will be catchy slogans telling that the world cares, this movement will be copied by the movie industries elsewhere — similar stories of heroism and imitation will pop in India, China and Nigeria. Real questions of inequality, political shortsightedness and sheer human stupidity will be replaced with Hollywood's Will to Live, and the beauty and brilliance of life will be exhorted.

The reminder to all this egoistic future celebration should be: the virus has made us prisoners of our own homes and selves. There are things stronger than us that are smaller than us, and we are not invincible nor are we our economies.

The sap stories peddled by America for decades have come tumbling down in the face of a crisis the country has crumbled under. There are no glamorous American heroes that save, all the flag wielding patriotism and in your face soft power posturing can now stop. Same is the case with the Chinese or Indian national heroes. The complacency of China, the governments should also be considered. The Communist Party of will be winning the first prize with commendable participation from the Republican Party in the US and whoever the fuck is ruling in Iran. They are collective evidences of the sheer ignoramity with which political systems work without considering the people. If future wars have to be waged then they have to be in the schools and then in the countries. The enemies have never been outside, they were always with us, laughing in plain sight.

There needs to be a cultural upheaval to begin with. The rise of the American superhero, globe-trotting billionaire and the influencer can finally have some checks, the fantasy is only an inadequate extension of the capitalistic muscle. This is not something that is isolated to the Americans or the Chinese but the “hero” syndrome prevails everywhere. When we look for hope we find none because the sources of this hope have been long confined to the unglamorous sidelines. This is the time to take a call and examine our heroes and how we worship them, as with the gods they have come out to be fake.

The global recession that will surely follow will be the biggest hope. The mindless consumption will fall down and so will the way we approach media and films, what would give us hope in the hopeless times sure to follow? The class hatred will only become deep-rooted and so will be the inequality. If the recession becomes something deeper and far more tumbling, the hunger will provoke deeper questions on the way the world around has been narrated to us. Structure upon structure based on the selfish greed of what it is to be a person: the collective and the community destroyed for all purposes except for the town hall meetings Mark Zuckerberg seems to prefer. Now between all the solidarity that the government seems to be demanding of us and asking us to act in the best interests of everyone else, it is important to question the model of individualism much of modern society is built on.

This individualism is also the breeding ground for the (hero)ine, dismantling the ideology behind will help us pave way for a more hopeful blueprint of who we are and where we want to go as a collective.

#Capitalism #America #COVID19 #China

and his pots, pans and candles.

Hail Modi

Narendra Modi hasn't seen much crisis since his coming to power than the ones he has created himself. Demonetization, the CAA-NRC fallout and the abrogation of the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution are a simulated reality for him, where he created response to the world he built. The COVID-19 crisis however is something out of his dictatorial territory, it has flummoxed him and his followers and the reaction and messaging is clear and fair. There has been no live press meets but only taped words of distant balm. The first time he addressed the nation on the 19th of March, his response to the situation looked more like a middle-aged Indian's knee jerk reaction with spiritualism, dharma and a loud ritual thrown into the mix. On paper his instructions read more like a recipe to a bhajan than a pandemic response.

The reaction to the “soft” voluntary lockdown on the 22nd of March and the we-will-bludgeon-you-to-death version unleashed two days later. Millions of daily wage laborers left broke and homeless had to fend for themselves before the government machinery woke up to repeat some numbers. They still are repeating those numbers, with more preference given to covering up the situation and giving a narrative than answering questions that matter. As is the case with the Chinese, the Indian culture also values social image more than the truth, not answering a question would equal to the problem not existing. Given that India's health spending is just over 1% of the GDP, the response shouldn't come as a surprise.

Mr. Modi plays out the crisis to his core base of exhausted high caste, middle-class uncles whose end value of education is reduced to a certificate and for whom there exists answer for every problem in “Indian culture”. His appeals for banging pots and pans, lighting lamps and dancing in the streets appeal to the emotional Indian, while the rational one flinches, her voice taken away and drowned in the sea of maniacs for whom devotion has taken the place of reason. This is a planned gimmick, a testing ground to see how servile the country's populace are. The people have obliged without raising a furor, for the first time it looks like the unity of the people is detrimental. A strange fear creeps in when does not comply, almost as if a mob would be waiting outside with torches, demanding compliance.

With an easy prey found in terms of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, the Modi government can shake off all future blame for the spread of the pandemic — it was the Muslims who did it, always. Not a word that the government didn't wake up almost until three weeks into March and then implemented a haphazard plan that looked good, not because of structure because of the emphasis. Mr. Modi's has shown time and again that he'd prefer using a nuclear bomb where simple mosquito spray will suffice, but it is not the end result he and his political force are after but the sheer spectacle of it. It is not to be forgotten that this man was facing severe opposition for his controversial anti-minority bill (read Muslim) and also presided over a brief pogrom in Delhi in February.

All these issues are clean from Mr. Modi and his party comrades hands now, the COVID 19 couldn't have come at a better time for them. In a country where information is scarce, the official narrative and all the theatrics are enough to substitute a cohesive response. We need to remind ourselves that Mr. Modi likes subtly comparing himself with Mahatma Gandhi. He is one indeed, a wolf under Gandhi's skin.

#India #Modi #COVID19

A picture of humanity is painted as that of a species moving forward together. It moves forward and it moves together but not at the same times. There is a certain expectation of working with each other for our mutual best interests but the underlying motive of this work is selfishness. There is something to desire as an individual towards working for a collective good — I work to build something because I get something in return, I want more peace in the world because that lines my pocket at the end of the day.

The picture of humanity that we have in our heads, as a species working towards justness while we are confronted with the not so just parts of it in our day-to-day functioning. The cracks are visible on the very top — how our politicians function and businesses dredge their way through the colloquially held ideas of fairness. Not that these entities are heartless but to be a part of the elite there needs to be a certain sense of self which entitles itself more than others. The root of power comes from a solid entity and if it is a person, group or committee ruling a faceless majority their identity should be superhuman to begin with. The learning to this is all around us: when we see students being educated or children taught the foundations of what is theirs, we explicitly lay out the terms of what is desirable to the self first before anything else. This is also not a false view because the survival surrounds around the I.

The problems of poverty, income inequality, climate change, racism, oppression, misinformation can all be talking points but the messaging is been loud and clear: if it doesn't suit our self interest, then it doesn't suit anything else either.

Discourse is immediate — instant replies, instant comebacks and instant information. Our attention spans are small when it comes to keeping tabs on complex information systems and perhaps this design flaw makes us want easily digestible responses and narrative to things that are happening and have happened. This where the right biased media or propaganda have an upper hand, their narrative is simplified and easy to digest. The facts are appealing and for the lazy mind after day's work it seems the most appropriate reasoning. Who has time to read a longform article or a thorough research to make a point on a subject when the discourse is about being involved in a thousand subjects at once. Coronavirus, anti-immigrant troubles in Italy, Brexit, Trump, fascism in India, Hekmatyar, a space probe closest to the Sun. These are all happenings I have to know something about, each fractured in their space and narrative, yet I am an authority that sits in the center processing them, to what point?

This is where the idea of being liberal and open falters, there is simply too much information to process and an acute sensitivity to be open to which the world doesn't offer much weight. An ordinary day demands that I fit well within the means of the system and say yes to the narratives of every day. Going to work, paying taxes, engaging in a healthy relationship. These acts need a certain conformation and simplification narrative, the soft operational spot of the right wing bias. Though a large degree of responsibility should be laid on the thought process of a fascist, one has to agree that the means of the fabricating mechanisms should also be accountable. The problems exist in a specific world, while we battle with the problems we should not forget to look at the world itself.

#fascism #media

Numbers give us a false sense of security where we think that the numbers mean a lot. The revenues from blockbuster movies, YouTube video views, salary statements, the lottery and in a more local sense, the hits on this very post. When numbers are used for optimization in matters involving a more aesthetic sense, things start looking sterile and factory produced. Think of generic Netflix shows, TV news, movie stars fading in oblivion because of formulaic choices and mines depleted with all that was in and around them destroyed. All these factors rely on numbers, mostly on the amount of wealth they signify. This reliance on numbers translates into the pursuit of the infinite which is anything but what we are.

Optimization in the economic science involves looking back at a particular sequence of events and making them better to get a statistically better output in the future. This always assumes that there is a load of back dated data to fall onto, otherwise this assumption falls into the realm of fortune telling. We are so used to seeing numbers being advertised, manipulated and varnished to us that they determine our choices as a rational actor. Our society also rewards this mass dependence on numbers – never before in history has such computing power been available to humans that is able to glean over trillions and trillions of streams of data trying to find patters and future predictions.

This calculative prowess has also permeated into our psyche, we think like a data amassing program: collecting, tracking, measuring for efficiency and optimizing. The results for this are everywhere, what we eat, how much we run, how much we work and how much devote to every little minutiae that can be fracked and traded about our lives. Headlines get repetitive, porn becomes saturated, all the choices we're presented with dizzy us to the point where we know that there is no pleasure without the products we seek but there's no pleasure with them either. This optimization is at work in every act we do — studying, working, planning way ahead into the future. What this statistic does to us is to reduce us to than what we are, making us solely focused on the limited supply of money we are all in the hunt for.

It's crazy how the need for increased profitability has changed the US.

The easiest way to do this is to raise prices, but consumers & retailers react poorly to this, and will move to your competitor if they haven't yet raised prices. So, instead, you need to reduce costs.

The easiest way to reduce costs is to reduce the size of the product. What had been 18oz is now 17.75oz. What was 17.75oz is now 15oz. But consumers catch on.

Next you reduce the cost of ingredients. Switch to cheaper produce, like Budweiser has. Negotiate better deals with your suppliers (which forces them to do things such as what's in this list.) And maybe you do less R&D, figuring that the products you're putting out there are good enough.

At some point, you've hit bedrock without completely destroying what your product was. So now you have to look elsewhere. First, they stagnated wages. When your sales increase more than you raised salaries, you've increased profitability.

Of course, it turns out that employees don't like not getting their bonuses, or having their annual performance bump be less than inflation, and they find new jobs. So now you're losing your best people, and they're taking years of knowledge of your business out the door with them. Solution? Layoffs! Let the lesser people go.

Technology makes this easy. People can work harder, longer. You give them laptops, so they have no reason not to work from their couch at night. You offer them email apps for their phones (which you stopped providing), so now they can respond to emails 24/7. Each employee now has the responsibility of 1.5-3 employees of several years past. They're working more, and ultimately less happy and less strategic than when you had more people, but you're paying for fewer people, so profits!

You hit bedrock here at some point, too, where you're at the fewest people you can have to run your business. What's next? Attorneys! That was where businesses went. What do you really get out of your attorneys? All they do is tell you “no.” So you cut back on their retainers. This led to there being more students in law schools than new legal positions. This led to the average length of time to become a partner going from 7 years to 12 years. This led to there being a huge amount of attorney positions not on partner-track. Being an attorney became a pretty bad career choice for most people.

But even then, you still need lawyers, so you cut back as much as possible. What's next? IT! They don't make us any money, they just cost us money! Oops, now we just had a data leak. Oh, well.

And, lately, they've turned to ad agencies. “Why are we paying people to make sure someone knows our products exist!?” Expecting more for less, meaning the 25 year old overseeing their digital presence is working 70 hour weeks, because they're the only one staffed.

In the long run, chasing profits has meant cutting back on every step. Fewer employees making less money at the company, at its suppliers, at its attorneys, at its ad agencies, etc. One company I worked for cut back on cleaning, first by outsourcing janitorial work, then by removing the waste bins at every desk so that we had to use communal ones (meaning there's less for the outsourced janitors to do), then by reducing the days the janitors came in from 5 to 2.

This means that the disposable income for every one of those former roles is reduced, meaning less money to buy these products in the first place.

And this doesn't even get into the lunacy you see happen with some PE buyouts, like Simmons decimating employee pension funds. Or Huffy bike going from a US company that manufactures in the US to a US company that manufactures in Mexico to a US company that manufactures outsources manufacturing to China (after selling their machinery to Chinese factories) to a Chinese company that manufactures in China.

Where does the money go? Well, shareholders, which are usually banks owned by billionaires. And to the c-suite, which often have golden parachutes into the 8 and 9 figures. Basically, making the super rich even wealthier. Because that money is not going to the janitor now coming in 2 days a week. It isn't going to the senior manager now doing the job of his laid-off associate, and the job of his laid-off director. It isn't going to the attorney doing doc review in a basement. It isn't going to that 25 year old running their entire $2.5M digital ad spend. It isn't going to the IT partner being asked to keep their data safe on a shoestring budget. It isn't going to the factory employee that makes their packaging. It isn't going to the kid stocking their products on Walmart shelves. The dollars we're spending to buy those products are going to the people making $10MM a year and above.

This is also a matter of our consciousness, numbers have been so prominently around for thousands of years, when people lived shorter and had lesser expectations from the life around them – their life itself was part of something bigger than what they could understand. Today we have an answer to everything and the possibility to know that there is no answer to some things. We have become hyper aware and there is no mysticism in the way we view things. Being poetic or romantic is a hapless tool against a calculative world, everything must have a value, every action, interaction is a path towards a transaction. It is a world of keeping with appearances to go wherever the money takes you. In cities, enclosed in small flats and eating from cans and praying for the arteries to line the insides proper for a few more years.

If the only pursuit of mysticism is something that is created by man then it is a boring life to live. It shows that as a collective we are a narcissistic species, unable to worship anything but ourselves. Five hundred years down the line our fears will go into history with explanations that seem to avoid us now. Yes, for most parts we have not been asked if we want to live here, we just are and it is only animal to exist without thinking. The aping for more and more, regurgitating the planet through ourselves we appear like rats in pursuit of their own lives. And in numbers and hunger we are like these rodents, look at our numbers, look at our progress. Is this group masturbation progress? The laws, the cultural expectations, our thought are limited by who we are and it is vital to acknowledge it more than we do now.

The managers, billionaires, politicians, advertisers, editors, content creators, god men, purveyors of truth and righteousness, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, vegetarians, climate change deniers, fascists, pacifists, comedians, actors, musicians and this entire hive mind of human bullshit including me can go fuck ourselves. Knowing that there is no meaning to anything is a huge power if we can acknowledge it but first, we have to ditch those false gods and their idols because the numbers means nothing if there is no-one to count. If everything matters then nothing does and the opposite also applies. To know it all amounts to nothing shows us sensitivity to the little pockets of beauty we are surrounded with everyday and all we need to do is to stop counting.

(Credit for the quoted part – u/BeamerTakesManhattan)

#economics #IncomeInequality #happiness

Why is it expected that a person is always connected to the internet and within the reach of an email account, WhatsApp or Instagram? Why is it that the default mode of communication is over WhatsApp and if one chooses to not be on the platform there is an actual loss of information. Smartphones are also an ubiquitous presence in the public spaces of modern cities where having one is always assumed by default. Payments, check-ins, money transfers, security procedures to access critical apps all require a smartphone with internet access though it isn't implicit that a person should own a phone in the first place.

The internet as a highly deregulated space has a feeling of being a privatized version of the Wild West where the big landowners can do what they want to do and the plebs are at the mercy of these anarchic overlords. Sure, there is a lot of utility to be made with the helps of the tools provided by these corporations, but at what cost? This belief by the general populace that everyone is connected to one of the data exploiters is problematic as any reasoning would only evoke suspicion, as that's what we've been trained to believe. The internet for most parts is still has a very nascent presence in our lives. Most of us weren't born into it, and so we don't know what happens behind the screen – the assumption that if it looks good then it is good applies to our day-to-day usage of the internet.

Getting a job requires a cellphone number, having a twitter account needs a cellphone number, opening a bank account needs one and in a country like India, the government itself starts a bio-metric surveillance project that connects all IDs to a phone number and a person. Even a mundane shopping experience needs one to give a phone number to 'unlock' special benefits and people do so because they're not educated on what the drawbacks of doing so entail. This means that not wishing to have oneself not surveilled means that not having access to State machinery and simple conveniences. This gate keeping helps in perpetuating existing power structures without giving scope for people to move up hierarchies, as who wants to give up political power and status? The inequality index of power should also be considered along with money and this index is closely tied with an omnipotent entity knowing everything about you.

For now, it's hard for one to say how the internet propaganda machine can be used to manipulate us, as our own biases are not visible and the traces of any programming done upon us is further obliterated by the echo chambers of communication the algorithms build around us. We are far into the future where predictive mechanisms know more about us than we do about ourselves and in that extent it feels like the cellphone has become a bionic implant put inside us by a rogue corporation. It is the case anyway, the phones suck all our time through online slot machines of apps and websites, all luring us with an overload of junk information trained to dose us with the right hits of dopamine. The phone listens to us, knows what we think and sees what we capture. It has an eye to the world and another staring directly into our faces for all the time we let it gaze at us. It has a cold, mathematical dissemination with which it investigates and classifies us – for purposes of making us buy more and think less.

I think the luxury offered by the smartphone + the internet is something we will not let go easily, it is an addiction that triggers us, like Opium wars of distant past. Since the government and the people are hooked onto the dope shouldn't force me to become a user. This is the time to exercise my rights further as a citizen, if we are all equal even in a hypothetical sense then it is only fair that what I know of myself should be restricted to me and if entities larger than me choose to consume my data exhaust then they should open their black box algorithms and show me what's up inside. The internet and technology has brought a significant change in my quality of life, yes, and that comes with a price. That price shouldn't be my own self and that too not with my dopamine addled consent.

If I want to junk my phone and cull my internet personality I should be able to do so. If the being registered in a more direct surveillance project is mandatory then the terms have to be clear through law or through coercion. This would at least entail a direct participation for or against the current methodologies in use. The current policy of subliminal nudging only accounts for a deeper disorder while hiding the real fight. I say bring it on, we are all in this together.

#data #algorithms #SurveillanceCapitalism #facebook #google #privacy

or fuck your Thunbergs and other false Jesuses

Fridays for the Future, Extinction Rebellion..streets around me are full of hope and excitement for activism, young students going to demonstrations and coming back with badly designed flyers and a general conversation at workplaces and university cafeterias about that friend that has gone vegetarian or vegan. Oat milk replacing cow milk, soya and legumes taking the place of meat. There is no problem for a society to shift towards healthier and environmentally conscious avenues, but the dialogue with which we're immersed in this transition bothers me more. For now, it is mostly a narrative in the educated classes of developed nations making them united for a cause that is suitable for some armchair activism and subtle lifestyle changes in their otherwise saturated, mono-dimensional lives. This is what it feels like, something greater than themselves, a replacement to a God and money they have seen dying over the years.

Yes, money is dying in a way. It offers nothing that we don't know and the rush of making and spending money has become predictable, turning ourselves into self-optimizing machines in the process. The areas for insight in the developed world are few, almost every aspect of daily life has been made efficient with precision. This is no space for humans as it has been too desensitized, it is hard to believe that we as a species ever came from the jungle to having domesticated plants and some millennia later be where we are. In retrospect is cause for the discontent, money asks too much from ourselves to be in possession of it, and we have to drive ourselves bone dry to achieve its objectives.

This lifestyle dysfunction turned towards a very real problem of climate change creates interesting avenues for discussion and how this problem can be solved with a Utopian tinge. It is the same reasoning for the counter-cultural movements that happened in the West (I have absolute contempt for this word. West of fucking what?), coupled with the booming businesses of yoga, mindfulness and organic food. This brings me to the point, where did the opposites for all these modes of living arise in the first place? Considering India as an example, one sees that the country was introduced to fast food, economic liberalism and unchecked expansionary capitalism as a response to a globalized world view first created by the powers in the developed world. Now, the fancy pants in Europeans capitals boast about their all-grain vegan diets and lactose + gluten free milkshakes while on the other hand India gets hooked onto greasy burgers and deals with the problem of unchecked capitalism taking over the psyche of its residents.

Then comes along, conveniently, the issue of climate change and the fad of activism in the West. People dance behind wagons playing deep techno, screaming in between the need for a better planet. Sure, this activism is for the greater good. But the good has to happen within the domain of the system they are living in — the protests and demonstrations still happen in a very controlled space under the auspices of the local police and perhaps the local intelligence community. So the change first appears in form of corporate acceptance where companies greenwash at every possible instant: at bus stops signs, petrol stations and inside supermarkets while buying oranges in winter. The irony is not visible as this messaging is confirming one's own beliefs but a taking a deeper look one sees the invisible hand of capitalistic trickery in play.

A time will come when political action will be taken against polluters and new trade deals will be signed under the pretense of the environment. The rules will be written by the polluters and the blame will be shifted to all those barbaric people in the developing counties. India should not consume so much coal, Indians should not be throwing plastic in the water, Indians should not follow the American dream and buy a car and whatever the fuck they need. This would create an optimum business creating situation where the polluters find new technologies to tackle with the problem they have created in the first place. Then they will shove it down everyone's throat in a rent seeking push to fatten their bottom line and the circle exists where these rich countries become richer with the blame fair and square always on the countries that are historically poor because of colonial and economical conquests of these rich countries in the first place. It is in this context the armchair activism of the average Westerner is problematic, it aims to solve a problem without tackling the inherent system within which it functions, because who wants to let go of the luxuries of living in a hyper-capitalistic society? Capitalism always tries to find newer methods of profit generation and the climate crisis is a cow waiting to be milked and slaughtered.

The effects of this activism is not yet seen in India but for now there is rampant deforestation and a reliance on energy guzzling devices and cars. That is a symbol of prosperity and changing this view just when it has come within reach will seem hypocritical. The aims of the Thunbergs and your local café hipsters it should not involve holding colorful placards but engaging people across the world in conversations. What the climate crisis is about is essentially a problem with consciousness itself — we have at some point forgotten our origins as animals and have gone so deep in immersing our make-believe reality that we forget that the planet is a home shared between millions of species. It is not going to be solved through sanitized protests that don't involve all the stakeholders and by that it means looking beyond borders and creating a common culture of understanding and some foundation in economics.

Our enemy is not the polluters but the system itself. As people, we have a common cause ahead of us, this should not become another trope for unequal exploitation as that would be the perfect recipe for global strife. Technologies should be freed of their patents and the knowledge of our future should be free for all. Remember that the planet does not have borders, we do.

#climatechange

Schools in our country have remained as, in essence, “middle-class” institutions, in the worst meaning of the word. Middle and secondary schools, which belong to the state, and therefore, are supported through people’s taxes, through taxes which are also paid by the working class, cannot be attended by anyone other than the young sons and daughters of the bourgeoisie, who enjoy the economic independence necessary to be able to carry out their studies to the highest standard.

A child from the working class, even if he is intelligent and in possession of all the abilities needed to become a knowledgeable person, is forced to waste his talent on other pursuits, to become a rebel, or to educate himself; that is to say (apart from some notable exceptions), he is forced to become a half person, a man who has not been able to give all he could have, if he had been completed by and made stronger through the discipline that school offers. Knowledge is a privilege. Schooling is a privilege. And we don’t want it to be that way. All young people should be equal in terms of knowledge.

The State shouldn’t be paying for the schooling of those who are just plain mediocre, merely because they are children of the wealthy; equally it shouldn’t be excluding those who are intelligent and more than capable, just because they're the children of the proletariat. Middle and secondary schools should be for those who have shown themselves to be worthy. If it is in general interest that they exist, even if they're supported and ruled by the State, it is also in general interest that all those who are intelligent enough should have access to them, whatever their economic background. The sacrifice of the collective is only justified if it is for the benefit of those who really deserve it. The sacrifice of the collective should be made so as to give economic independence to those who are talented, so that they can dedicate their time completely to study, so that they can study in earnest. This problem is dispensed off entirely if education is not under the purview of the State but private, for-profit entities, which will automatically pivot towards one form of meritocracy – money.

The working class are excluded from middle and secondary schools because of current societal conditions which mean that there is a division of labour among men, in a most unnatural manner; it is not based on individual ability and therefore, devastates and corrupts production. This class has to fall back on subsidiary schools; those of a technical and professional orientation. These technical schools were established on a democratic basis, yet, because of the antidemocratic provisions of the State budget, they have gone through a transformation which has destroyed their very essence. Now they have mostly become accessories to the classical schools, an innocent outlet for the petty-middle class obsession with finding a job. The admission fees which are constantly on the rise, and the practical possibilities which they offer for life, have made these schools too somewhat of a privilege. The majority of the working class is excluded from them, automatically, because of the uncertain, random life that the wage-earner is forced to lead; a life which does not go hand in hand with following a course of study.

The working class needs a school which is neutral. A school which gives children the possibility of educating themselves, of becoming men, of acquiring the general knowledge needed to develop their individual character. A humanistic school then, as the ancients and the most recent men of the Renaissance intended it. A school which doesn’t mortgage the child’s future or constrain his will, his intelligence, his conscience, so as to set him off on the road with a fixed destination. A school of liberty and free initiative and not a school of subjugation, where people are quasi-mechanized. Even the children of the proletariat should have the power of choosing from all the possibilities available, all areas should be free to them so they can fulfill their own individual purpose in the best way possible, and consequently in the most productive way possible, not only for themselves but for the rest of the society. Vocational schools should not become a breeding ground for monsters, dryly educated for a job, without being given broad ideas, broad knowledge, without any spirit at all; just an accurate eye and a steady hand. Through professional education too, men can be allowed to break out of their childhood; as long as this education is just that; educational, not merely informative, not just the study of manual procedures.

Certainly, for the harsh industrialists, it might be more useful to have worker-machines instead of worker-men. Yet the sacrifices which society makes in order for progress, in order for the best, most perfect men to fly from its nest, who themselves will help to improve things even further, should see a wealth of returns which benefit the whole of society, not just one type of person, or class.

It’s a problem of rights and of power. And the working class should be on alert, so it doesn’t suffer even more oppression, as it has suffered so much already.

— Antonio Gramsci, edited for easy digestion.

#education #workingclass #inequality

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