Monday, May 23, 2005

Public Coordinations

By now everyone knows how General Motors made sure that good public transportation would never materialize in any foreseeable, practical future. For the city developing fastest in the early 20th Century, Los Angeles, the city that needed current sensible design the most, GM bought up huge lots of key land. The corporation could bring its full power to resist any claims of eminent domain. By comparison, seeding DC with lobbyists to talk down efficiency and public interests was chicken feed.
Still had the public any mind in its own interests, GM and DC could have been gotten around, if not defeated.

How about TV? How come the public didn't march on DC to demand that TV be paid for by those interested in watching TV? A paying audience has a big say, even if it's an indirect say, a delayed say, in what it's fed. Coke was a nickel. Pay a nickel for a Coke, send a nickel to the network: I want Shakespeare! I want Dickens! I want naked girls! Coke would still be a nickel, and for a dime we'd have a Coke, and with it, Shakespeare, Dickens, naked girls ... And no commercials! (Look at the price of Coke now! And look at all the commercials!)
Did the networks seed DC with lobbyists? Notice how it's escalated. Ad allotments encroach further and further into the entertainment. (pk has elsewhere commented on how the "entertainment" is itself largely advertising: for the network, for the culture, for the nation ...) I know of no Spooners or Thoreaus or pks running around agitating for politically free TV ("free" meaning you pay for it, pay for what you want) while the networks were sinking their tap roots deep into the economy; but that doesn't mean there weren't a dozen of them: the dominants control the lighting – and otherwise, shadow is our natural condition.

My life in the early 1970s was devoted to offering the public a cheap, government-free internet. Since 1995 my life has been devoted to broadcasting the public's many missed opportunities: none more important that the public remaining asleep until the Pentagon, a few universities, and CERN foisted an expensive internet on us instead. Don't get me wrong: the internet on which you read this is certainly better than none; but it's a far cry short of what nearly all ignored in 1970, 1971, 1972 ... (I know that I'm a pariah, I can't know, I don't know that anyone can know, quite how many actual sabotages were involved: plain inertia can explain most if not all of it.)

Perhaps in seventy years everyone will know how pk and his cheap, free internet were sabotaged.
Hey, that would mean that we're very lucky! That there would actually be people in seventy years to believe anything: anything at all!
(Jared Diamond sees cultures like the United States lasting that long and longer: and he's studied it closely. And he's smart as hell. Still, I'm not so sure.) (Partly a Christian hangover, partly hope.) (A desire for revenge.)

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Experience versus Theater

I want to establish two basic pictures, then overlap them, jiggle them, get new patterns.

Bees spend most of their time in the hive: a bee-made environment. Honey bees are social creatures. The busiest worker, the farthest ranging forager, still spends a great deal of time lounging around the hive, while other workers work. One-third of the time the forager ranges the hive's environment; two-thirds of the time the bee is surrounded by BeeCity. Wolf pups spend their most helpless days in the den: a natural environment modified by mother wolf: at least to the extent of her warmth, her fur, her tits ... her licking up their crap after them. But the pack of wolves work much of the whole of their land environment. They may tred lanes but they don't pave highways, erect structures, legislate laws. New paths are seldom trod: and when they are, they'r'e cut by the alpha wolf: alone. Man as a baby lives in a totally artificial environment: and as an adult worker still encounters only managed environments. "Reality" for TV means a carefully managed cast wearing scripted costumes on some "island": surrounded by producers, directors, coaches ... cameras ...
The alpha buck may blaze a new trail; some young buck who hasn't won a confrontation yet may go off into the woods all withershis; the tenured professor 99% of the time covers ground already well mapped, and generally by others.
Even our language, though it resists management, is perpetually tampered at. (I just wrote a piece for example on societies, with political motivation, forever recasting the meaning of

That's one picture, sketched briefly. The other is that any thing, any institution for example, is potentially ambiguous. That is, a school may be used to train engineers, as well as possible, as fast as possible; or a school, even the same school, may be used prevent learning, to govern and stunt it. If the student is doing math twelve hours a day, then the student is not likely to be also reading Wittgenstein, or writing manifestos. The society may send a young man to West Point hoping for a follower who can also lead, technically proficient at war, to be put in harm's way; or, if Eisenhower's White House hears of imminent attack, grandson David could be sent to West Point to keep him out of harm's way.

We live not on earth but in a world, a social artifact. The Jew who resides at 112 West 112th Street, apartment 3A, does not live in the same world as the Baptist who resides at 112 West 112th Street, apartment 3B. The kid who goes to Friends Academy does not learn of the same world as the kid who attends PS 189. The guy who digs ditches for a living does not work in the same world as David at West Point.
And our managed environments are managed for shifting agendas in a society of ever-shifting powers. One senator is committed to oil: finding it any where, any way; another is committed is keeping water for the cattlemen; down the hall is a senator committed to getting water for the sheep herders. All the talk is of the people ... whatever the hell that means. One upon a time all the talk was about God, or about the Church. Before that, all the talk was about rain magic.

Eden is not Nature; though Eden is palmed on us as though it were nature. This and that world is palmed on us as though it were the earth. This and that culture palms itself onto its (not typically voluntary) members as though it were life. Man is a subset of life, one of many. Confusion however is to the advantage of the managers.I joined the navy to see the world
And what did I see? I saw the sea.
That was a funny gag in 1946. Though as we grow up and die off, fewer and fewer people will remember what the song was about. Navy recruiters advertised See the world. Hell, people had come home from WWI and they had seen Gay Paree.I pause to interject a Tolstoyism. Few people, including the educated, have a clue what their motives are: until they read about them in the paper, or are told by some priest, or some Freudian. After the priest, you can say, "The devil made me do it." After the Freudian, you can say, "I couldn't help myself."
In all cases, our managers, would-be and actual, want us all to be in the same story.
Any of these points can be expanded indefinitely. I intend to expand some. But I quote the post-war musical to bring the concept of synecdoche into our weave. Synecdoche is the figure by which we say Behold a sail when we mean Look at the boat. We symbolize a whole by a part. As I have argued nature was already using synecdoche when it programmed caterpillars to climb toward the light in order to find food. Leaves are not a part of light, but they are generally found, by caterpillars, in the direction of light. The association has worked, keeping caterpillars alive, for many a year. And, you see, my point is that cultures also use synecdoches, associations: sometimes to enlighten; more often to confuse.

I'll go on about schools when I return.