theblacksquid's random thoughts

theblacksquid's personal blog

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room.”

Sounds like something you hear everyday, doesn't it? With the kids on their phones all the time, complaining if they don't have internet access and when someone talks shit about a topic that's sensitive to them?

Guess what? That quote at the beginning is by Socrates, from Plato's Republic. Punching down and belittling the youth isn't new, and somehow, the people being told that grow up exactly to be the kind of people that say the same to their own younger contemporaries. Maybe we should stop doing that? It's getting- wait...

It already is old.

Not just in general, but especially in today's world where the younger generation really does have reasons to be both be absolutely livid and be wrapped in overwhelming dread and sorrow.

Climate Change is set to irreversibly end the world as we know it. [1]

Rise of global fascism [2] set to destroy what little freedoms we still have in this ever-growing gap between the rich and poor [3] in this capitalist hellscape we find ourselves in.

This isn't to say that some of the “overly sensitive teenagers” arguments are purely without reason. However, the examples that they give me, like in the countless “triggered millenials” and “SJW OUTRAGE” vids on Video Uber (Youtube) all either point to misdirected anger, provocation into anger by trained hucksters like Mr. Punchable Face, Ben Shapiro, or Manufactured Outrage in order to garner attention and sell either an idea or a product. (Full disclosure, I'm also selling you on an idea as we speak, but that's really just how communication works.)

But hey, details, right?

Someday soon, probably too soon, we're gonna need to band together for common causes if we're going to survive the next coming decades, and we're gonna need the energy, commitment and manpower that they could provide. The concentration camps (Yes, honest to horribleness concentration camps) at the southern US border are just grim previews of what billions in the world will experience once the worst of the extreme weather and rising ocean tides begin rearing their heads.

I hate to sound like a Sunday school pastor, but once that happens, the world will be split into exactly two camps: Those that'll fight against the horrors the powerful will inflict upon the weak, or those by apathy, or even outright collaboration, enable them.

We're gonna need each and every hand we could get once SHTF, and nothing breaks the spirit more than seeing your friends on the opposite side of a war. Belittling and denigrating people who would otherwise be on your side would prove disastrous, because those who are alienated from the rest of society are pushed to extremism and acts of senseless violence especially at the whims of “strong no-nonsense leaders” like Trump, Duterte, Mussolini and Hitler

And if I'm starting sound hyperbolic about a lot of this, then I apologize. One way or another, the severity of our siuation cannot be understated. At the very least, we stand to gain more from realizing each other's vulnerabilities and form our collective action from there than being at each other's throats.

So maybe we can just agree that today is the worst time to be punching down on the youth?

I don't normally watch television, but the rest of the family still does. Among the few times I watch TV with them, I can't help but notice that as more TV ads got more self-conscious, the more their themes began to shift to more or less these two things:

  • Surviving the “harsh reality” presented in the ad in some way or,

  • Getting ahead of others so you can get the things you deserve in life

All well and good that the “mainstream narrative” is now starting to acknowledge how horrible life is, but the fact remains that the things they're selling, are almost always band-aid solutions to problems that are bigger than the individuals they're trying to sell to. And if you'll allow me, they may even be doing that on purpose.

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”

  • Edward Bernays, Propaganda

Read that last sentence again. It comes from the Father of Modern Public Relations, and literally wrote the books on the subject that all advertising firms and PR teams use. He goes on to say that a manufacturing plant of any kind cannot wait for the public to ask for their products, but instead must proactively make their product be something they want to buy. Only this will justify the costs and expenses to build one.

And so the skin care companies will remind, and magnify, your own perceived ugliness, banks tempting you with the promise of “experiences worth more than money”, among other things. If we go to the root of why we lack basic needs, and why our emotional and mental needs are all neglected, we will see plain as day that these things are being held back from us in order to profit from us.

They create repackaged identities and ideas that divide us rather than bring us together against the ones killing our collective soul.

For as long as we live in a capitalist regime, where profits reign supreme, the messaging that we will continue to see on television, on the billboards and everywhere else, will be the kind that legitimizes the status quo and the business' role in it.

I've heard it said before that people don't need to protect their privacy online because they've got nothing to hide, or nothing of value to protect. That's wrong, because we have so much to protect, even if you don't use the internet for commerce and banking. A stalker is a stalker is a stalker, whether or not it's an individual or a government doing the surveillance.

Up until a few decades ago, people lived in physical spaces almost exclusively. Telecommunication usually meant sending a message through the postal service at best, or shouting across the street at worst. It's in these physical spaces that people connected, worked and made things of value. Control over these spaces usually meant control over the people that reside within them, and much of it is still the same today. It's this control that rulers and despots want to claim.

In today's age of hand-held black mirrors connected by unseen forces that tap into a parallel world made of our collective knowledge, dreams and fears, an entirely new dimension is added to our lives. Because the big social networks and eCommerce giants aren't seen as just “websites” anymore. They've become part of (at least in populous urbanized areas) our daily lives. We LIVE in them now, as much as we do in our homes and workplaces. Anyone who's seen the fallout of a “Facebook Breakup”, or worse, “Cyber-Bullying”, understands how much this other dimension of reality we've built around ourselves affects our lives.

It's this previously non-existent space, this world within a world, that the Powers that Be want to have power over, and “Knowledge is Power” can't be more true than in the Internet. Using current technologies, they can track, not only your apparent activity, but your long-term decision-making processes and browsing patterns. Using this knowledge, they know more about you than you'd know about yourself (if you haven't taken steps to know yourself with the same kind of cold disinterest. It's hard). Using this knowledge, your behaviors can be manipulated by “providing personalized recommendations” that are “tailor-fit to suit your needs”.

The client I work for at my company uses similar information to drive towards maximizing revenue and customer retention. Seeing it work with the kind of efficiency it has makes me shudder to think of how more sophisticated machines can do the same for governments that don't have the people's best interests in mind.

Robert Heinlein of Starship Troopers fame popularized the saying that “There's no such thing as a free lunch”, and that's certainly true for the Internet. Without taking action to hide our identities and encrypt our activities on the web, our information and that of the people we care about are all going to be used by ones that only care about their own goals. Because in this world twisted by greed and ambition, if you think you're getting something for free, then you're the thing that's being sold.

Sometimes we learn important life lessons from people who've come before us, our parents, older relatives, teachers, etc. Sometimes we become inspired by something we read in a book or online and it becomes the guiding principle in our lives.

This story is about neither of those things.

It was Jan., 1, 2017, and me and my friends spent the New Year's holidays at another friend's house in Batangas. As we were packing up to leave that afternoon, we decided to have dinner at Tagaytay City, and have their famous beef bulalo. Good stuff and if done well, it is to DIE for. If you have a heart condition, you might actually do because of the amount of cholesterol in the warm and delicious soup.

Conveniently enough, the jeepney terminal for the climb up the mountainside road going up to Tagaytay City was just a five-minute walk from our dear host's home, who was coming along with us to Metro Manila to go back to work after the holidays. Having known each other for the better part of a decade, our group has developed a kind of weird sponteneity that leads to ideas like:

“Wouldn't it be cool if we just climbed up to Tagaytay instead?”

I don't remember who mentioned it anymore, but I remember the “Are you SERIOUS right now” grin I was wearing after hearing that, knowing it was gonna be met with woots and other positive reactions from the rest. Not wanting to leave the relative peacefulness of the Philippine countryside for the dirt, smoke and noise of the Metro, I found myself agreeing to this ridiculous idea.

I did NOT know what I was getting myself into.

At the foot of Ligaya Drive, the road that goes up the mountainous trail up to Tagaytay, we pulled up a map online and got an estimate travel time of two and a half hours worth of walking. “Sounds doable”, “Sure”, “Okay then” and other remarks to that effect met the result. And against the better judgement of ourselves, the jeepney drivers at the terminal and onlookers, we began the ascent.

Now, I would like it to be known that the reason why my friends were so confident about the climb is that on top of the path being mostly a four-lane asphalt highway, two out of five of our group had prior experience with climbing mountains. Unlike myself, who was out of shape and had absolutely no experience in mountaineering.

The slope kept getting steeper and steeper until it came to a point where a single wrong step would've ended in us rolling down the asphalt. Add that to the fact that walking up an incline takes more out of you than on level ground, and soon I am out of breath, my heart was trying to bash its way out of my chest and my legs feel like wet, heavy clay dipped in pure PAIN. I obviously wasn't the only one feeling the pressure as we took breaks every 20 or so minutes.

Half of the way through, I was starting to get asthma attacks and our 10-minute breaks started turning into 20-30 min breaks so I could recover, but none of my friends made me feel bad about causing the delay or give me shit about being weak. Later on, they even took turns in carrying my bag for me. They started playing music and singing to the tune of Porter Robinson's “Shelter” during the last quarter of the climb. During the final steps up into the city, when we all looked out into the overlooking view of Batangas and Laguna, their lights looking like distant stars spread out into the cosmos, only then did I realize that I couldn't have, wouldn't have done this alone.

I would have given up if I was alone. I would've given up if my friends had left me there.

We climbed the same mountain together and faced the same challenges, but our individual limitations and vulnerabilities made the journey different for each of us. But, everyone understood each other's limits, helping where they can, and standing together for them where they can't. What would've been a hellish experience for me if I did it alone, was turned into one of my best in recent memory by being together with people that understood me, and had the same goals as me.

This unity has a name, and that name is “Solidarity.”

Where others are united by common hatred, greed or ambition, or even common strengths, their unity is fractured by competition and destroyed by their perceived weaknesses in each other. On the other hand, where individuals, recognizing each other's differences, background, vulnerabilities and needs, unite under a shared goal, their bond is unbreakable. There won't be a contest of “who's more” or “who's stronger” unlike those united because of shared strengths because one does not seek to enforce respect, only to lose it at the first sign of weakness. There will be instead only the comfort in knowing that someone understands you, and has gone through (and is going through) the same shit as you do. Add a common purpose to the mix and you have yourself a potent cocktail for social change.

Even if that purpose happens to be as simple as having Bulalo for dinner at Tagatay City.

Even harder being a broke-ass, unemployed anarchist.

You see the world beginning to fall around you. You're watching the world slide into fascism and literally burn in some places, and you desperately want to do something about it. You know that unless you're part of the priveleged class, you won't be able to do it alone.

So you go and try to recruit your friends, who are all still going through their own bouts of ennui because of the things they've learned about the world, or desperately trying to survive another day at work.

You want to SCREAM. But you can't, because you're worried that the friends you got on your side, will break down with you.

I know that there's a whole lot more I can do to better this situation, and a lot of them will involve having to do those things myself, but a social movement of one is no movement at all.