The Great Mystery of Consciousness

Consciousness is the greatest mystery, prevailing over our emotions, decisions, the experience of life and afterlife, the observability of the universe, and free will. We can never really know how it came to be, whether it even exists, and whether it’s “important”.

One speculation is that instead of binary, it’s a spectrum of complexity that all particles have a value in. Humans have developed the autobiographical self to the point of the ego, with the need to plan ahead, make goals, and alter the world. This could be an illusion presented to our attention, without any awareness involved. Assuming it’s not, the smartest animals have an advanced autobiographical-self element with memories just like humans, but have no development plans beyond fulfilling instinct. Does that disqualify them from the label? “Medium” level animals have most of the same instinctual tasks as us to complete, can feel physical pain, but do not have the same level of emotional feeling that primates, dogs, cetaceans, and other near-humans have. Machines that humans create, not usually understood as any different from static non-living material, have the consciousness of a programmed task to complete, which can be thought of as artificial instinct, perceiving and inputting data just like the living, but with no sense of the self or others, and assumably, no pain. Veganism is seen as more ethical than animal eating. As just another chemical reaction forcing one to abide by programmed survival, pain could be evolved out of an organism, perhaps one day the wealthy humans that have no use for it. Would being unable to experience something we consider as elemental to consciousness as suffering make them less conscious? Even non-mechanical particles “know” how they react with other chemicals, and whether they can stably exist or must decay, with no knowledge of the self or meaning.

Our emotional self can be seen as an obvious evolutionary creation, putting pain and happiness to failure and success in relationships that could lead to reproduction or cooperation, feeding our kin, and making possible the lives of the next generation. Our ego allowed us to create agriculture and population density, maximizing the simplest reptilian goals. These developments have brought both sustainability and the lack thereof, increasing the carrying capacity of earth, but decreasing the longevity of it as an appropriate environment for humanity, a fact our instinctual programming is not aware of. Evolution isn’t conscious. If it were, melding our emotions and actions deliberately, would that make us individuals less conscious, or does the random force of nature have the same manipulative effect? Wherever you draw the line of consciousness and unconsciousness, how could something so magical and un-secular-seeming develop from just a series of successful genetic mutations? I feel inclined to believe it’s more than the methodical advancement of brainpower having a side effect of advanced consciousness. Though quashable at any moment, if it were true that there’s a specific point of self-awareness coming into existence, would that be the most important thing in the universe, suddenly creating meaning?

We feel sorrow for a species or language going extinct, more so than individual deaths of strangers, but where’s the meaning behind that loss of category? Is it just revealing of our home’s temporality? We want the people we’re directly connected with to have better lives for longer, experiencing as little as possible of the emotional or physical pain that makes us unique compared to the machines we build or plants we eat. Sometimes, this is at the expense of everyone we don’t know. Those emotional connections that we can loosely associate with evolutionary instinct are not conscious. If each consciousness individual chooses to help family and friends, influenced by instinct, and not necessarily the human race in general, does that mean that humanity’s ultimate survival is unimportant, even to itself?

The evolutionary step of our ego came with massive consequences. It created the need to change the world around us in ever-novel ways, through agriculture, science, and construction. While we can assume the same kind of pain and awareness we have exist in other species and existed in humans before they started developing agriculture, the fundamental difference between the modern human behavior and the behavior of any other clump of particles in the universe is the denial and resistance towards nature. Is this ego conscious, or as automata as other physical needs and processes? Is everything we do, including intellectually, just to fulfill physical needs, with no realized inner influence?

Maybe we’re consciously aware there’s no meaning, while still feeling the burden of meaning through emotions. To cope with this and ward off boredom, we spend time not needed for physical survival on creation and consumption of art. That occupation of time, absolutely essential for sanity, causes you to lose awareness. Perhaps, the highest level of consciousness is recognizing that consciousness is pointless. Yet, how important is being aware and stepping outside of the machine-like completion and fulfillment instinct? Does feeling enlightened about meaninglessness make you somehow more conscious, more human? Do whales, with their great intellect but a lack of lasting material expression capabilities, experience this phenomenon? If so, perhaps they’re more conscious than us, more philosophical than the overburdened human.

If consciousness is a spectrum, does that imply a hierarchy of innate importance or greatness between species? Humans and animals share a meaningless instinct towards maximizing reproduction for species survival, as well as sentience observed by chemicals. We extend that survival to arts, unnecessarily long survival, destruction, and ethics, maintaining homeostasis and reason to live. We gain pain beyond physical: discontentment, boredom, loss of love, and anxiousness. These feelings are complex and difficult to experience and work through. Despite occupying our time, they’re accessory to the animal instincts. Even if “meaningless,” and even if we’re more of a passive experiencer than controller, they’re beautiful in a profound way. They assure us that, at least for a brief moment in time, an empty universe means something to someone perceiving it, and can be altered by something able to discuss what meaning is. Even the highest awareness is still just another element in a mysterious ecosystem, where we believe we can decide what gets us through the day, but we can never know whether that belief is true, what put us in the day, whether the day will be taken away from us, and who else has the experience of a day.

good life

Practically, a “good” life takes in a wide range of emotions and experiences, improves the lives of others, and minimizes inadequacy, or “missing out”, resulting in genuine confidence and self-acceptance. I don’t believe that a “good” life is necessarily a happy life. A fantasy life is the impossible ideal that everyone has the purpose of achieving, getting hits of happiness to keep you going on the endless path towards constant contentment wrapped up in some cultural goal, whether it be married life in a suburban home, or as the kingpin of an ever more powerful cartel, like Pablo Escobar and politicians. These hits of happiness along the way build the significance of the experience, even though they don’t drastically change your mental outlook. Truly content happiness is impossible, and death is inevitable, so the only real fruition is the misery.

This misery is fulfillment of your humanity. It’s the realest, strongest thing in the universe.  We feel consciously is centered around lost potential, things unsaid to passed loved ones and relationships that weren’t, but the misery’s strength is created by the potential you lived up to – those hits of joy from what was said, and the dates that were had.  Take a breath, and recognize that it’s the result of something viscerally meaning something to you, a concept much of the universe can’t achieve.

Our capitalist system requires you devote a large portion of your life to largely unnecessary work. If you have the privilege to, make this work as bearable as possible, ideally not completely counter to your ideals. If you have the privilege to quit a job you truly despise, do it. Do what you can to support labor, with the goal that one day humanity won’t be brought to desperation, mass exploited, and kept from work bearability. Embrace every chance you can for excitement, while spending your downtime aware that permanent fulfillment doesn’t actually come from having experienced certain sensations and emotions.

Recognize the future suffering a decision could cause you or someone else, and avoid oppressing others. Be aware of what others around you are facing, and consider what you can do or stop doing to improve their situations. That might include allowing them space, for solitude, or to express themselves. Ignore ludicrous financial growth (“success”) as a path to happiness. Continue reading, writing, eating, arting, relationshipping, and everything else we’re told will put us in a content place of enlightenment. All of these ward off boredom, and improve your current mood. If you need a destination to keep you en route, allow yourself the illusion. If the extreme emotion of pain at the end is enough of a destination, fly with that. If not, just feel the lightness of being in a meaningless world, while remembering to not be a terrible person.

Season Finale of The Primary Election: Disappointingly Anti-Climactic

The Primary Election 2016 season, running 24/7 on most every news network and website, has been a rollercoaster ride for the past year of airtime, but during the past month’s finale, we’ve seen great deescalation. Ratings are plunging. 

Last ditch efforts to make the election included the Elephants considering a wholly undemocratic contested convention, in which the winner that goes on to play a cameo in The General Election (premiering now, everywhere), is systematically chosen by the show’s producers, shifting around votes from long gone candidates to support either runner-up and mass murderer Ted Cruz, or far-behind and gently bigoted Uncle Kasich. The team’s regret for not getting Paul Ryan, the man too good to be true, attractive and poised to win, culminated with rumors that he could still end up the next President, with or without his consent. Unfortunately for the GOP, the will of viewers seems to be too strong to overcome, with Trump’s viewers passionate enough for violence over reality TV.

After defending the rights of trans people to use the restroom that matches their gender, Trump was hit with a weak punch by Cruz over the supposed “New York values” of tolerating other people. Predictably, Trump stormed New York, and shortly afterward gained mathematical inevitability, leading Cruz to declare ex-foe Carly Fiorina as the next Vice President of the United States, just before dropping out the election.

CeedLw6W8AA7IDpJust like Trump, Donkey contestant Hillary Clinton swept New York, despite the fact radical whippersnapper Birdie Sanders, 74 years old, is actually from Brooklyn. Questions were called about that episode’s legitimacy, with reviewers noting that the process rules disenfranchised Sanders’ youth scouts with a 6 month voter registration waiting period. Just like all previous critiques this year, nothing came of corruption being called out, networks chose to air the live Trump feed instead, leading people to slowly stop caring.

While the season may have a sad last few episodes, there’s no longer any chance of an underdog winning the show’s sequel, The General Election (premiering now, everywhere), unless you consider a billionaire somehow an underdog. Clinton’s not holding any punches, 92% to the finishing line to Sanders’ 58%, an insurmountable lead. It’s almost brutal to watch at this point, so many “Bernie Bros” have simply stopped, no longer posting the memes we all loved. Sanders’ took Indiana last night by six delegates, his consolation prize for raising over $20 million in donations averaging $27 each.

It’s been a solid year of entertainment, full of laughter, cringe, tears, and most of all, utter terror. The CEO of CBS, one of the show’s main partners, commented, noting, “Trump is good for us economically. So what can I say? The money’s rolling in, this is fun,”  Ryan would’ve made for a much less profitable election, and likely a landslide for the GOP establishment. Poor entertainment.  Just remember:

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Seattle First Hill Street Car

Seattle’s new First Hill Street Car (FHSC) finally went into service this month after facing indefinite delays, and its introductory free period has just ended. The modern trolley takes riders from Jackson and 2nd in the International District (just a block off from the southern terminus of Seattle’s former Waterfront line) to Broadway and Pike in Capitol Hill, both adjacent to Link subway stations. According to Google Maps, it’s slower than pretty much any other public transit option for that route, and about the same for some routes between non-terminus stations. Unlike many streetcar projects across the globe, Seattle’s has no signal priority, something even RapidRide busses have. This means traffic lights are not coordinated to the streetcar, giving it the same random chance that cars and traditional busses face. Additionally, they share the lane with regular traffic, and many of the tracks run in the slow right lane of the street, meaning delivery trucks and poor parking-jobs can strand it where a bus could just maneuver. This happened on one of my two rides, delaying us by ten minutes.

The South Lake Union tram (SLUT) has been plagued by the same issues since opening in 2007, giving it an average speed barely higher than walking at 5.37 miles per hour, compared to the Metro bus average of 13.8mph and Link Light Rail’s 27mph. It seems Seattle Department of Transportation didn’t learn much from the SLUT, with the FHSC running between a 4.7 and 6.8mph on average. Built in the Czech Republic, the trams fit 27 seated and 113 standing (140 total) passengers, compared to the newest 60ft articulated Metro busses that fit 59 seated and 57 standing (116), making the difference in capacity minimal and mixed in tradeoffs. In many ways, RapidRide faced the same half-assery in implementation, not ultimately meeting the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) spec that it set out to fulfill, and giving the public the idea that BRT just means, “paint it red”.

The new tram isn’t entirely a failure. Trains attract riders in a way no bus can. Riding one isn’t perceived as just the “poor” alternative to driving. People like trains, and generally have a negative view of busses. It’s true, the trams have a nice interior environment, seeming to provoke more conversation with fellow riders than a bus (generally, on how slow the ride is), offer natural light and panoramic views, and are clean and well ventilated. It’s smoother than any bus, has on-station payments that allow all doors to be used for faster boardings, and wheelchair and cyclist accessibility without delaying the ride thanks to a floor that’s level with stations and in-cabin bike racks. They’re also cute, in a very urban European way. While the upfront expense was massive, the operating cost is far lower than a diesel bus, and you can pretty much guarantee it’ll be around for the distant future, while busses can be erased by politics at any moment. Currently under construction, the SLUT will gain some of its own right of way and signal priority in March, hopefully improving speed.

Eventually, the City Center Connector portion will bridge the downtown-core gap between the two lines using dedicated lanes, making it fast and reliable. Perhaps, the FHSC will one day receive the same improvements that the SLUT’s getting. Still, low capacity trams are more emotion than practicality. Properly implemented Bus Rapid Transit can be as fast as any streetcar if given the same quality of stations and right of way, and can be as clean cheap to run as a tram by overhead trolleybus wires or battery power, yet it wouldn’t give the same warm feeling of urban love of permanent infrastructure.

The project was originally proposed as a compromise for not building a First Hill subway stop as part Link Light Rail’s U-Link expansion, which is opening March 19th on Broadway and at the Husky Stadium. Link is proper mass transit, offering grade grade separation (elevated and subway) and up to 800 passengers per driver. The streetcar cost $134 million to build, making its dollar per mile ($53 million) about 1/3rd that of Link ($160m), but seven times that of electric trolleybuses ($7-8m). All three have an operating cost per passenger mile far lower than diesel busses, and rely on our zero emission (but still environmentally problematic) hydro-electric grid. Some argue streetcars are at best a distraction from real progress, and at worst confuse residents about transit projects. I still like them, for all the irrational reasons to. This irrationality is of course why it’s easier to sell politicians and voters on transit improvements as part of a new train than to an existing bus line, even though the performance would be comparable.

Transfers between Sound Transit or King County Metro and SDOT streetcars only work through the Orca card, paper is not accepted.

The Gun Debate Deserves More Nuance

Following every mass shooting, a polarized and contentious media frenzy debates gun control, with one side responding to tragedy with a celebration of rights, and the other finding the continued inaction of Congress disgusting. The Democrats are homogeneously in favor of any measure to reduce gun prevalence they can pass, while the Republicans are universally 2nd amendment proponents, holding it as dear as their God.

After the latest incident, Obama called for the no fly list to also become a no gun list. The no fly list is a travel ban imposed on 47,000 names (resulting in many false positives) picked by the government, often as “predictive judgments,” without a trial or even notification. This post-9/11 policy has been declared unconstitutional by courts for lacking due process, notification and explanation of charges, and the ability for blacklisted people to clear their name (ACLU).

The right, backed by the NRA, cites again and again that “guns don’t kill people, people do,” and believe in their right to protect their families and private property with a firearm.  They argue that removing guns from lawful people will leave them to black market buyers, which has some merit. The oft-touted quote, “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” is arguably false, with just 3% of shooting cases between 2000 and 2013 curtailed by an armed vigilante, compared to the 13% by unarmed civilians, and 56% by the shooter’s own initiative (suicide or surrender) (FBI). The now-famous 1993 study in New England Journal of Medicine found people in gun-wielding homes were 2.7x more likely to be murdered. However, the 2.7x figure comes with guns as a risk-factor, as a controlled experiment would be nearly impossible. The murder rates of a group of gun owners is compared to a group of non-owners, so conditions of existing danger that might lead someone to buy a gun must be considered. All murders are included in that 2.7x, not just ones related to the victim’s firearm. The same study found being a renter as a risk-factor of 4.4x, yet we don’t blame the concept of renting, but rather the crime rates in wealthy suburbs compared to diverse cities, and the centuries of racist, inequality-spawning public policy behind that divide. I don’t mean to completely dismiss the studies, as cigarettes were found to cause cancer using the same method, and it’s the only realistic option to study the subject, but what they tell us is more nuanced than a snazzy headline can convey. (Kellerman)

Besides tightening gun show sales that avoid background checks, the Democratic Party’s efforts have focused on banning assault weapons, which are used in most mass shootings. These weapons aren’t materially different from others, as Eugene Volokh at the Washington Post explains:

To begin with, note that assault weapons are not fully automatic weapons (which is to say machine guns). Fully automatic weapons have long been heavily regulated, and lawfully owned fully automatics are very rare, very expensive and almost never used in crimes. As you might gather, bayonet mounts, barrel shrouds, pistol grips and the like don’t make guns materially more lethal. Guns that fit these categories may look more dangerous; but they aren’t more dangerous. Caliber does, because wider bullets are generally heavier bullets, but assault weapons aren’t defined by caliber size. The amount of gunpowder in a round does, because that too affects muzzle velocity, but assault weapons aren’t defined by this. For instance, the .223 rifles that are often labeled “assault weapons” have a much lower muzzle energy than familiar hunting rifles such as the .30-06. These days pretty much all semiautomatics and revolvers (and even other guns) fire quickly enough for any criminal’s needs; and again assault weapons aren’t defined by rate of fire.

All 462 mass shooting deaths in 2015 were undoubtedly tragic. However, accidents killed 130,557 in 2014, and suicide took the lives of 41,149 in 2014, half using firearms. These are the far more likely things to happen to any given individual, yet receive little to no political and media attention. In terms of other heavily publicized and contentious tragedies, 1,138 people were killed by police in 2015, 223 of whom were unarmed (The Guardian).

There are many issues relevant to guns in America that are completely ignored by both sides of the debate. The gun control laws we do have were largely racially charged, and even promoted by Reagan and the NRA. John Blake at CNN examined:

Before the Civil War, Southerners passed laws to keep guns away from slaves and free blacks because they feared slave revolts. After the war ended, Southern states passed laws that made it illegal for blacks to possess guns or ammunition.

The Klan’s rise was driven by the fear of blacks with guns, Kopel says. He quotes one 19th century lawyer who said that when the Klan took control of an area, “The first thing done was to disarm the Negros and leave them defenseless.”

These racial fears may seem like they belong to another era, but sometimes the present looks like the past, one historian says.

Later, gun control was passed to weaken the Black Panthers and civil rights movement:

The fears of black people with guns resurfaced during the 1960s. After a group of armed Black Panther members invoking their open-carry gun rights barged into the California state Capitol, lawmakers there passed the Mulford Act, banning the open carrying of loaded guns in public in 1967. The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed after race riots rocked the nation.

Guns are one of the most effective methods of suicide, and used as one more often by men than women, leading to a gender discrepancy in attempt/success rates. A gunless society exactly like ours may have fewer deaths from suicide attempts, but just like the nets put under the windows of Chinese factories, this ignores solving the issues that cause people to become suicidal. There are other equally effective suicide methods, too. While countries like the UK and Australia that passed sweeping gun control legislation indeed have fewer mass shootings than the US, their suicide rates are comparable, with the UK’s at 11.9 per 100,000, Australia’s at 11, to the US’s marginally higher 12.1. Firearm homicide rate in Australlia went down by 59% following their policy change, and though it’s difficult to extrapolate the policy’s direct effect on overall homicide rate due to external variables, overall homicide rate has declined by about 30% from 1.6 to 1.1, compared to the US’s 40% fall from 7.4 to 4.5 per 100,000. Though not to be directly attributed to the recent gun control laws, homicide rate actually had a peak in both Australia and the UK during the early ‘00s. Still, the discrepancy between 1996 and current UK or Australia pales in comparison to that of the US and other countries. Before and after legislation, Australia and the UK had both far fewer guns and a far lower homicide rate than the US.

Implementing gun control to solve violence ignores any structural problems. With domestic terrorists being overwhelmingly white men, we must consider white supremacy and patriarchy as factors, and work hard to end them. Our society’s economic system is hyper-competitive, stressful, and requires forever increasing output from each person, with any attempts for individual control over this process (via unionization) being considered a violation of the sacred “invisible hand”. Italian theorist Franco Berardi posits that neoliberalism is the true issue in Heroes: Mass Murder and Suicide. Jérôme Roos analyzed the book, finding:

What has been established at the level of the collective psyche in the last 30 years is “a suicidal form of the neoliberal will to win”: a relentless drive towards an ever greater need to reaffirm ourselves through self-destructive deeds. The supposedly “successful” become absolute workaholics; the “ordinary” are subjected to unrelenting stress and self-doubt; and the “failures” grow dependent on anti-depressants and sleeping pills, or systematic substance abuse as a form of self-medication. The weakest, most tragically, quietly slip away on their own.

A white young male co-pilot with no criminal connections deliberately crashed Germanwings flight 9525, killing all crew and passengers. The perpetrator suffered anxiety, stress, and depression from his work at Lufthansa’s budget subsidiary. Entry-level piloting is an incredibly competitive, poorly paying industry. One pilot remarked, “There’s a long queue of desperate young pilots looking for a first step on the career ladder and happy to take my place. If I don’t turn up for work one day, I might not be called again.”

The suicide-murderer had eyesight problems, and often received, but didn’t execute on doctors notes to excuse him from work, possibly afraid of the career ending consequences that can come even after going into the typical $75,000 of debt from training. That’s not to say we should excuse or humanize mass killers, just that we should understand they weren’t created in a vacuum of evil, but rather within a system of power, a system that idolizes people with the most power over others. As Roos puts it, “When pushed to its extreme and forced upon the mental lifeworlds of hundreds of millions of people, this anxious and disgruntled subjectivity of permanent stress and hyper-competitiveness is bound to produce monsters at some point – at least among a small, mentally vulnerable sub-section of the overall population.” The pilot was in a position with little power over the course of his own life due to failing health, and took many lives to maximize his power.

Guns are used as tools for the following:

  • Maintaining authority in hierarchy
  • Gaining authority/decreasing someone else’s
  • Taking private property
  • Stopping own private property from being taken
  • Changing the political or social order of world
  • Hunting for food
  • Sport
  • Suicide within this society
  • Working for someone else above you that wants to do any of the above

In a system with no unjustified hierarchies that put some individuals above others, most of these reasons are deprecated as being solely malicious. In a system like ours, using them to change the order of the world can result in the destruction of unjustified hierarchies, as we see the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (a libertarian socialist and feminist militant organization) attempting against the oppressive powers of Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and ISIS.

Suicide rates have risen over 60% since the beginning of the deregulation, anti-union, trickle-down economic policy era known as neoliberalism. This coincided with Reagan’s stripping of our flawed public mental health services, dropping patients in need of help on the streets. Republicans love to say the issue with gun violence is mental health, but never address the cause, initiate solving it, or admit that their policies exacerbate it. Obama has blamed Congress for inaction in response to mass shootings. In a culture that cherishes 303 million guns, mostly owned by the privileged, gun legislation akin to the United Kingdom’s is not going to happen. Narrowly focused, the democrats have been just as uncommitted to funding mental health.

Reddit user Cymbalstack stated:

Gun rights were for a very long time advocated by the radical left, seen as the primary way of combatting the capitalist state’s monopoly on violence. The irony is that now the most fervent gun supporters are the property-owning, white cis men who benefit the most from state violence.

Why do today’s liberals and progressives so readily appeal to the authority of law for protection? Why do so many assume that the capitalist state, which regurgitates media apologetics for white supremacists, turns a blind eye to physical and sexual assault of gender minorities, finances terrorists abroad and thrives off the murder and imprisonment of black and brown people, has any genuine ethical interest in the safety of its own population?

I’m not here to fetishize gun ownership, or claim that NRA lobbyists and open-carry wingnuts aren’t awful pieces of shit. But if we authentically care about social justice, we have to recognize that people of color, trans people, queer people, homeless people, and people with physical or mental disabilities do not have the privilege of being able to rely on the police for their safety. We need to support the right of oppressed and marginalized people to defend themselves. We need to acknowledge the the critical importance that armed, militant groups played in the Civil Rights movement, workers’ movements and indigenous resistance. And we need to stop conceptualizing state violence and the violence of individual reactionaries as two mutually exclusive categories, because they are part of the same oppressive force. There are no easy answers, least of all the ones handed down benevolently from above.

The same liberal folk that call out the police for killing 223 mostly minority unarmed civilian beg to hand them exclusive and authoritarian access to violence. Gun-supporters are predominantly the people that benefit most from state violence, and therefore believe those unable to feel safe in the presence of cops brought it upon themselves and deserve any consequences. The reformist action plan is an overhaul of the mental health care system, rejecting anti-union “right to work” legislation, stronger labor laws, and a slow shift in culture to teach-out white supremacy and patriarchy. Like many issues, reform alone is not enough, but improving people’s quality of life is always a worthy effort. Gun violence is a deeply complicated issue that cannot be distilled to accurate infographics supporting either of the dominant sides.

Capitalism Doesn’t Work For Us

INTRODUCTION

Capitalism, a system that relies on the exploitation and inequality of people and causes oligarchy, is not functioning, and if we don’t drastically change it, further climate destruction, automation, and financial meltdown-austerity cycles will lead to utter dystopic catastrophe. Violent crime continues to exist despite the countering force of judges, police, and laws. Perhaps there are no bad apples living in an individualistic vacuum of chosen evil, but bad systems that create them. With modern tools and facing issues as big as global warming, we have the ability to create a better, more democratic organization of humans that finally offers equality and freedom to all. Many bourgeois thinkers will state that capitalism is the best of all the bad economies. That assumes that the current most dominant economic and social systems must be the most functional and must have been implemented democratically, which are easily deniable. Capitalism has helped the most powerful members maintain and gain power over industrial history. If a population is starting off in a state with existing powers, moving to one that further accentuates that inequality makes sense for the only people able to change the system. However, we as a people are capable of living without the hierarchies of capitalism, the state, and gender and race inequality. Technology and data makes it more possible than ever, and crises caused by capitalism expose its laws as being fallible and flawed power structures of their time, not as the core part of human nature we’re taught they were.

AUTOMATION

Written in the early beginnings of industrialization, Karl Marx’s “Fragment on Machines,” chapter of his unpublished Grundrisse papers offers an ever relevant view on the long term viability of capitalism. Since the work’s time, abstract knowledge has become the main force of production, while menial labor has been forced to the fringes by automation, used only where it’s still cheaper (notably in places with a desperate population and few labor laws, like the US was before socialist movements). Under automated capital, “labour no longer appears so much to be included within the production process; rather, the human being comes to relate more as watchman and regulator to the production process itself.”

Marx noted the luddite, “workers’ struggle against machinery,” with Fordism dividing labor so it can make the process simple enough for automation to replace the worker, devaluing once skilled professionals.  Marx proposed “the general intellect” as the greatest nemesis to cognitive capital. Scientific progress makes a system that demands the cheapest and littlest amount of labor impossible to maintain. A single worker means nothing to the bosses, but annihilating the working class does that same to their privilege and profit. Yet, capital acts without thinking of societal externalities, so every individualistic corporation will do so. While this process destroys capitalism’s mechanism, it makes any socialistic effort offer an improved quality of life, as Marx concluded, “This will redound to the benefit of emancipated labour, and is the condition of its emancipation.” (Grundrisse)

Marx saw automation as a means for all people to enjoy a better life, stating a system that reduces, “the necessary labor of society to a minimum,” will set free artistic and scientific development for all. This was not just utopian idealistic thinking, but rather our capitalistic system, “is the moving contradiction, [in] that it presses to reduce labour time to a minimum, while it posits labour time, on the other side, as sole measure and source of wealth” (Grundrisse). Under an idealistically functioning market, workers can live abundantly by trading the wealth they obtained by producing something of value for the things they need, and with constant economic growth there’s always enough demand for labor that workers have some leverage to live well. That is impossible when the workforce is automated, so only the top capitalists get anything, until the remainder of society is in complete poverty. Marx’s posit rings true, but the revolutionary consequences have yet to manifest.

Russian philosopher Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) saw the then upcoming prevalence of electric light, central heating, and the dish and clothes washing machines as the end of domestic slavery that has controlled the lives of women (The Conquest of Bread). In the 1950s, these machines became incredibly prevalent, but they were still marketed towards housewives. The technology shift was not enough, culture had to change as well. In this era, Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique noted the crisis of depression in suburban housewives, describing a stifling lack of fulfillment with, “as she made the beds, shopped for groceries … she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — ‘Is this all?” (Feminine Mystique).

However, Kropotkin believed the future would bring something greater than personal machines of convenience, expressing, “It would only be necessary to create a department for every block of houses. A cart would come to each door and take the boots to be blacked, the crockery to be washed up, the linen to be washed, the carpets to be brushed, and the next morning would bring back the things entrusted to it all well cleaned. A few hours later your hot coffee and your eggs done to a nicety would appear on your table.” (The Conquest of Bread)

He went on to describe the absolutely misogynistic setup of familia kitchen, “‘Fifty fires burn,’ wrote an American woman the other day, ‘where one would suffice!’ Why should these fifty women waste their whole morning to prepare a few cups of coffee and a simple meal! Why fifty fires, when two people and one single fire would suffice to cook all these pieces of meat and all these vegetables? Why has woman’s work never been of any account? Because those who want to emancipate mankind have not included woman in their dream of emancipation, and consider it beneath their superior masculine dignity to think ‘of those kitchen arrangements,’ which they have rayed on the shoulders of that drudge-woman,” (The Conquest of Bread). Technology solved the brute work of this domestic slavery in the postwar era, which perhaps made the ensued cultural revolution of 2nd Wave Feminism possible. Still, our families bear a greater amount of work than necessary, and women receive the brunt of that load. Anarchist poet Oscar Wilde declared civilization and culture as requiring slavery, and a good future being one where that slavery is of the machine. The tools for this exist, but instead they’re being used to impoverish and displace the middle class, and cause environmental havoc. The creative powers have been taken away from workers, making their job meaningless, proprietary, and each employee replaceable, instead of allowing society to simply work less. With Marx’s vision unrealized, another possible path has become apparent: the rich individualistically and decadently living off of the automation they possess, no longer dependent on the impoverished masses. Employment in developed countries is now based mostly on the control of information, rather than the creation of tangible goods.

THE INFORMATION ERA

Information–art, science, medicine, and technology schematics–has a cost of production, but none of reproduction. This destroys the classic “price formation” based on supply and demand with physical scarcity. Under a perfectly functioning free market, there would be no reason to create shareable information, a horrific dystopia. The solution has been to rely on government backed monopolies through intellectual property rights to profit off of invention. The ideal of capitalism is for demand to lead to competition, driving down profit margins across the board, referred to as “toasterization”. However, a record company has exclusive rights to distribute a song, and will only allow it to sell for $1, because they have the exclusive legal right to it. In 1962, mainstream economist Kennith Arrow said that in a free market economy, the purpose of invention is to create intellectual property rights, and success of this is the under-utilization of information, an objectively bad thing for the world. As Paul Mason demonstrated in Postcapitalism, our economy is designed to prevent the abundance of otherwise freely replicable information (Paul Mason, Postcapitalism).

The entire arts industry, the thing that arguably makes life worth living, has to survive on monopolies. The supply of a song or film is infinite, and because of the monopolies that sell it (labels setting prices to each distributor), it doesn’t even fluctuate to maximize sales. Tech companies have made it easier to obey the law than break it through walled garden ecosystems like iTunes, Netflix, Google Play, cable, etc., while lobbying to track and prosecute the pirates. These companies rely on copyright law. When Popcorn Time, an open-source, community maintained torrent (a protocol that uses every user as a server) streaming application, offered an even easier experience than Netflix without paying, and with a full content library no single streaming service has, companies fought tooth and nail to kill it, never fully succeeding. Monopolies are the only way industries function with information capitalism. Sure, you can buy the same movie on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, etc., but you’ll find the prices are set identically. This is because of the very few record and film labels that artists need to give exclusivity to to survive. AT&T/Bell was the phone company, Google is the search/ad company, Facebook is the social company, Spotify is the music streaming company, Apple is the cellphone company (they make 90% of the profits for the industry. Everyone else sells toasters powered by Google, who profits on ads). In your neighborhood, there’s one internet company. They’re divided into territories. When Comcast tried to buy Time Warner, they argued that there wasn’t a single address where both of them offered services in the whole country, so it wouldn’t change their monopolies on providing a dumb pipe. In a different system, every human on Earth could have access to every film, song, and book ever made for very little extra necessary labor time. (Paul Mason, Postcapitalism)

The creation of that information is inherently social, influenced by other works. Music, software, and hardware designs are all derivative of prior works, changed just enough to not violate copyright or patent law. While a single person or company owns the code for a site they develop, that site was made possible by the work of thousands of people before them, creating the languages and frameworks, many of whom were part of government or acted collectively as part of the Free Open Source movement (like Wikipedia). Rewarding a single developer is a disingenuous application of these communal tools. Marx described these social advances as “the general intellect,” and capitalism as an economic model truly doesn’t seem applicable to it. While a worker may be paid to create something for a company, they still possess the ideas in their mind, able to rewrite on their own time. Once a creation goes into the public domain, its social value is priceless, but its market value is worthless. Turing Pharmaceutical implemented a 60-fold increase in price on an HIV medication it acquired that was already vastly overpriced, and despite being out of patent, had no generic equivalent because there simply weren’t enough customers for other companies to find the profit dwindling method of competing worth it, when investing in the monopoly is an option (Kliff). Shortly after this dystopic controversy, then-Turing CEO Martin Shkreli purchased the sole copy of Wu Tang Clan’s 2015 album for $2 million, giving him exclusive access to it for the next 88 years. He vows to never listen to it, minimizing the use value to humanity to zero.  Collectively supported creation of information for all could ensure its continued development and wide distribution, as it has done so with Wikipedia, a communist model that no private company can compete with. The market only develops things when it has capital and trust that there’s demand for it. Hence, the transistor that made all computers possible didn’t come along until the military created it. Everything from canned food to the McRib have been government efforts (Edwards). The internet started as military and was developed by educational institutions before it was realized private industry would benefit. The established powers don’t have much interest in truly shaking things up and changing the predominant industries, and they’re the only ones with the wealth to do so. (Mason)

NEO-LIBERALISM

Neoliberal policies, inspired by the Austrian School of economics and kicked off by Milton Friedman and Reagan, include union crushing, global trade deal creating, financial deregulation, and implementing regressive tax breaks under the fallacy of trickle down economics. Noam Chomsky points out, that despite what capitalists say, the US and other developed countries were not built on free markets, but rather protectionism. From early slavery and annexing Texas for a larger monopoly on cotton, to Reagan putting 100% tariffs on Japanese electronics while the US semiconductor industry was in crisis, stating “The health and vitality of the U.S. semiconductor industry are essential to America’s future competitiveness. We cannot allow it to be jeopardized by unfair trading practices,” (the unfair trade practice he describes is capitalism), success has been built on the back of public efforts. The US implements free trade when it’s on top, to reduce tariffs its exports, but does not apply the same rule to itself. Effectively, we socialize upfront cost and risk, but privatize the profit, just as capitalists want it. After World War II took us out of the depression, it was understood that any government stimulus spending works and is necessary for employment. To capitalists, social spending has the downsides of redistributing wealth, promoting democracy, and offering no direct benefit to corporations. Military spending is quite opposite. Stuart Symington, the first secretary of the Air Force, said in January 1948, “The word to talk was not ‘subsidy’; the word to talk was ‘security’. If you can get people to tremble in fear, you can carry out the subsidy,” and we can see this practice continuing today. Replacing public jobs with private contractors, from individual mercenaries to SpaceX’s ships for NASA, is by no means a “free market”.  The Pentagon has silently protected and developed almost every US industry. Boeing was given contracts for building military gear because of its prominence in the commercial industry, meaning the new technology paid for by the people would make it to the private sector. Almost every piece of technology in a modern smartphone was developed at one point by DARPA or MIT, and handed over to the private industry. The true technical leaps we’ve made are not from entrepreneurs, but by the government selling them to the public on fear. This is just how the private industry wants it to be. In a truly stateless capitalist system, corporations are going to want a state as soon as people realize there’s nothing to stop them from pirating information, no one to take the risk on innovation for them, or when the working class has been completely depleted of purchasing power. A government is natural to capitalism. (Noam Chomsky Neoliberalism & the Global Order talk)

While Reagan was no purist, he did implement some of the neoliberal policies he praised, including tax cuts for the wealthiest, firing of all 11,359 unionized air traffic controllers (Politico), passing the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act that removed New Deal-era regulations on the savings and loans industry, and the US-Canada free trade agreement (Wikipedia). All of these policies continued and escalated under the Clinton and both Bush administrations, and have had a massive human toll. While Americans could save around 10% of their income in the ‘70s, these policies brought that to zero. Real wages, previously perfectly aligned with the linearly increasing productivity (output per worker hour), have fallen and stagnated since the beginning of the neoliberal period. With modern technology and more information, the working class is creating 2.5x greater GDP for their bosses than when Reagan was elected, but take home no more of the revenue (The Atlantic). Suicide rates have risen 60% since 1970. With its hyper-competitive “way things are” that forces individuals to produce more and more with the goal of out-succeeding everyone else, physiologists have linked suicide and nihilistic mass murders to these policies, finding the permanent work and financial stresses of life lead to a few that break (Heroes: Mass Murder and Suicide, Berardi). (Noam Chomsky Neoliberalism & the Global Order talk)

Every time there’s an economic collapse caused by deregulation, the responses are austerity measures (cutting public services to mitigate government debt), wage cuts, and and government intervention in the form of bailouts to the corporations that took too much risk. This doomsday cycle only hurts the victims further and teaches the free-market perpetrators to keep making bigger risks, as the market will become suddenly more supervised when something goes wrong. Researchers Klaus Fischer and Martin Chénard studied the behavior of 73 banks from five countries that implemented financial liberalization policies, and created a mathematical model for the resulting boom and bust of economies. Over a decade before the 2008 crash in the US, they described the exact process, causes, and results, analyzing that, “The symptoms are typical: following financial liberalization, rapid growth of banking assets, large increases in interest rates, rapid deterioration in the quality of the loan portfolio, often undercapitalization of banks and, if the rules of the game allow it, excessive lending to bank-affiliated companies and then, failures. Then come the rescue measures: introduction of a government funded deposit insurance scheme, creation of body to handle rescue operations, injection of capital, etc., most likely preventing liquidation of banks by all means, all resulting in a huge transfer of resources from the economy to the financial sector.” (Financial Liberalization Causes Banking System Fragility).  Bloomberg concluded from an International Monetary Fund study that perhaps “the largest US banks aren’t really profitable at all. What if the billions of dollars they allegedly earn for their shareholders were almost entirely a gift from US taxpayers?” Martin Wolf of the Financial Times graphically described, “”an out-of-control financial sector is eating out the modern market economy from inside, just as the larva of the spider wasp eats out the host in which it has been laid.” In the recurrent times of economic crisis, the laws of value under capitalism, taught to us as part of human nature, are exposed as being flawed temporal power structures. The capitalist state must take the place of this with brutality to maintain the status quo, as we’ve seen at Occupy movements. The so-called purest form of capitalism is a complete failure, and in the less pure reality, the state is primarily a tool for corporations.

DEMOCRACY

Democracy is inherently incompatible with capitalism. Capitalism is based on inequality and the exploitation of others. The decisions of individuals are not in a vacuum, and advertising bought by the wealthy can shift the ideas of the public in ways an non-privileged persons voice cannot reach. If you have a so-called democracy, those with greater wealth will obtain greater power than others. This theory is directly observable: the better funded congressional candidate wins 91% of the time, and on average winning candidates outspent their opponents by 20:1. 60 individual donations have made up a third of 2016 campaign cash across all candidates, and half of money comes from donations above $100k—amounts only the ultra elite are giving. Lobbying to create gerrymandering that alters the power of different groups of people is another symptom, This has real life effects on representation.  One study from Stanford and Northwestern declared the US an oligarchy, finding public support has absolutely no sway on the likelihood of a bill passing. (Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page)

Gilens and Page conclude:

The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

Some members of the establishment are even proud of this—conservative commentator Ann Coulter and PayPal neoliberal billionaire Peter Thiel frequently express how they long for an America without political rights for women.

Further showing a lack of coherent democracy, a candidate’s media air time is perfectly correlated to their polling position. While it may not seem like intentional foul play, for many, these reports are where people first hear about candidates, creating a self-perpetuated, chicken or egg-like situation. From Fox News and CNN’s 24 hour cycle to Bill Maher’s weekly plead that the media stop talking about Trump (while devoting time to him), the only motive here is profit. Controversial candidates and their often prejudiced comments drove the record high ratings that CNN got during the second debate, and the following media coverage drove a shift in polls that skyrocketed Fiorina and sacked “Jeb!”. Ultimately, the ruthless maximization of profit and attention is the decider of representative elections. This sensationalist-demanding game leads perhaps the poorest people for the job to the top. John Dewey, a prominent 19th-20th century American philosopher and psychologist that was influential in reforming our education system, called for workers to be the masters of their own fate with all institutions under public control. Short of this, politics, “will remain the shadow cast by big business over society,” this is the state we’re in. Capitalism is supposedly supported by informed consumers making logical decisions. However, advertising that makes artificial and emotional distinctions between products and brands manipulates every consumer, so there’s no real logic. (Chomsky)

FREEDOM AND EXPLOITATION

We’re told that all of these issues are just a consequence of freedom. Sure, we’re offered some superficial choices. When we go to the grocery store to spend whatever we left from our wage after the necessaries of rent, transportation, taxes, and necessities, we can choose to enjoy either a Coke or Pepsi, and we gain desires for one or the other based on what unavoidable advertising and society teaches us. We can even choose between a Hyundai or a Honda. What the market doesn’t let us decide is a mass transit system, or anything else that requires communal, public decision making. Because of this, our infrastructure has completely stagnated for 60 years, and is far behind almost every other western developed nation. If this is the ultimate peak of human freedom, that’s not saying much about the concept. We don’t get an option of choosing the market as a system, and blind laws of economics that maintain the status quo, like private property and hyper-competition, are forced on us by the authorities using institutional arrangements. (Chomsky Can Capitalism Survive 21st Century) In societies before capitalism, individuals owned their own means of production, making something useful for themselves and trading the excess for other necessities. That empowerment has been stripped from the working class. (Kapitalism 101: Marx Law of Value)

Capitalism has continued the stark power differences between people of color and whites. Through the lasting impacts of slavery,  still recent redlining that prevented black people from buying homes, institutional racism in drug sentencing, the resegregation of schools, and increased difficulty getting employed, there’s a stark difference between the median net worth of the average white and black household at every single income bracket. Additionally, white people are more able to borrow money from family or friends in an emergency. White families have on average 13x the wealth of black families. This means that loss of employment can immediately put even middle class black people in debt, debt that can grow 40x over and be garnished from wages that were barely livable whole, in a way it simply doesn’t do to white people. Authorities benefit from dividing the people and creating racial tensions that keep their eyes down or on their own own level. (https://www.propublica.org/article/debt-collection-lawsuits-squeeze-black-neighborhoods)

Under Marx’s Law of Value theory, commodities have three values: use (meeting a social need), intrinsic (the hours of human labor that went into the product), and exchange (creating a comparison between the value of two things). Exchange value is unique to capitalism. Under it, production occurs solely to create exchange value, not for use. We have no inherent interest in the usefulness of our labor, only in its ability to reward us with exchange labor. Our job is not a means for personal satisfaction, but a means to buy it in the market with various products. Exchange value creates an arbitrary comparison between products. You read books to learn or be entertained, and you drive cars to commute, and both are considered necessities, yet cars exchange for hundreds of books. Aspects like desire and usefulness cannot be quantifiably compared across unrelated things, but the market relies on it. Individual’s labor power also has separate use and exchange values. A profitable company gets more use value out of a worker than the worker is receiving in exchange. This is the process of exploitation, and means bosses and workers have inherently opposing interests. This is quite different from terms like “free market” that suggest only informed, consenting individuals making mutually beneficial exchanges. (Kapitalism 101: Marx Law of Value)

There are plenty of empty homes that lay vacant to house all the homeless people of the world, yet the prospecting owners only care about the exchange value of the home. The use value of an unoccupied home is absolutely zero. We have enough food on the planet to feed everyone, yet millions starve because farmers don’t grow crops to feed people, they grow them to obtain exchange value. Giving excess food to people that need it costs more than throwing it away, so useful food is thrown away. We have the technology (wind, solar, hydro, electric cars, mass transit, trees) to solve climate change, yet energy production doesn’t shift for that communal concern, because energy production is not undertaken to directly meet human needs, but for profit. Our job is abstract  and our livelihood is meaningless to the people that control it.  It’s easy to forget that capitalism is just one of many methods to coordinate human productive activity. The quality of life for individuals and externalities from production are completely ignored in this method. (Kapitalism 101: Marx Law of Value)

Under a society producing for communal ownership, work would not exist to exchange, but to offer use value for society and a better life for every individual. Our society is most fascinated by artists, actors, athletes, musicians, inventors, and authors. These are the rare people that have fulfilling work meant to better themselves and society. Under another organization of labor, such experience of work could become universal. (Kapitalism 101: Marx Law of Value)

CLIMATE CHANGE

A 2012 World Bank report stated that if we continue on our path to 1,000 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, we’re in for “extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise,” all, “tilted against many of the world’s poorest regions.” In November 2015, 63% of Americans accepted climate change as the serious problem it is, compared to Latin America’s 74%, yet not a single major candidate for the largest US political party sides with the public’s acceptance of fact.

This is an issue for corporations who rely on coal, oil, and loose emissions standards. As Chomsky put it, there’s a, “dangerous tendency of public to pay attention to science.” They’ve got a solution. A recent research study found an overlapping network of the 164 organizations that create the most noise in denying climate change. The two sources that made up almost the entirety of the these organization’s funding are ExxonMobil, an oil company that itself has known the fact of climate change since 1981 and no longer publicly denies it, as well as the Koch Brothers, who have allocated $1 billion to spend on the 2016 presidential election (Bloomberg). Meanwhile, $120m coming from anonymous billionaires was routed through Donors  Trust and Donors Capital Fund to over 100 anti-science groups wanting to redefine facts as a polarizing issue. “We exist to help donors promote liberty which we understand to be limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,” an executive of Donors Trust defended the dark money organization that now beats Koch and ExxonMobil’s efforts seven times over. (The Guardian)

They don’t stop at dedicated organizations. The American Legislative Exchange Council and Heartland Institute have successfully lobbied to implement an alternative counter to factual science in science education curriculum. The House Committee on Science is lead by Lamar Smith, a crusader against factually dealing with global warming and evolution. 109 countries are on a renewable energy plan, the US is not included. Unlike China, the US refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol treaty to fight global warming. The powerful are worried about having 100 years of oil in our own soil, without thinking about what the world will look like after another hundred years of using oil. In 2012, applause was recorded in a transcript of  Obama telling us that, “producing more oil and gas here at home has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy. (Applause.) Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. (Applause.) Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states.  We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some,” (Whitehouse). These comments and the actions they speak of already sound disgustingly out of touch, and will mar our present political situation in the history books. Even with strong regulations, corporations will continue ignoring the externalities of their profit maximization, getting cleverer in the process. VW was subject to the set of emissions regulations that ended smog and acid rain in our cities, yet they specifically developed technology to break the regulation, having incorrectly calculated a maximization of profit, with no care for the human costs. Eyes open and marching for disaster, this is, and without revolutionary action will continue to be, the norm until the failure of the species, a bust that cannot be bailed out by firing teachers and firefighters.

CONCLUSION

Humans are not inherently greedy. In a time of racially-motivated social Darwinism that argued “survival of the fittest” meant competition and greed was built into our biology, Kropotkin offered inner-species cooperation as the true evolutionary need.

“In the animal world we have seen that the vast majority of species live in societies, and that they find in association the best arms for the struggle for life: understood, of course, in its wide Darwinian sense — not as a struggle for the sheer means of existence, but as a struggle against all natural conditions unfavourable to the species. The animal species, in which individual struggle has been reduced to its narrowest limits, and the practice of mutual aid has attained the greatest development, are invariably the most numerous, the most prosperous, and the most open to further progress.” (Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, 1902)

If every family of the human species competed with each other for useful territory and reproduced only within its line, our species would quickly obliterate.

At this point, continuing to accept our rulers can only lead to negative outcomes for the vast majority of us in climate, work experience, and democracy. We’re at unique spot in history that offers every human easier education and a greater ability to organize than ever before. There exist systems of production organization and democracy that reject the authorities that separate and marginalize people and ideas. They’ve been carefully thought up by great minds and have existed and succeeded in places and times far less hospitable production technology, like the Ukrainian Free Territory, Revolutionary Catalonia, and Paris Commune, each example ended only by larger powers in WW2. Today, Wikipedia, Linux, the Zapatista autonomous municipalities of Chiapas, Mexico with a population of around 150,000, and many existing housing and work collectives thrive on the same models of participatory democracy.
Goods can considered best off sustaining whoever they can, effectively ending the concept of stealing. An hour of everyone’s work can be equally respected, whether they bake bread, teach a child, or write a book, as all are incomparable and crucial aspects of human life. Information can become accessible to all and have its use value, rather than exclusive profit maximized. We have the solutions to climate change, we just need the collective decision making ability to implement them. The needs of people can be understood communally and unfulfilled ones can be met without capital, government injection, or a profitable market being seen. This is why there’s an updated Wikipedia article on almost every subject that benefited no individual in exchange value, but rather every single human with internet in use value. Our modern technology can help organize this and reduce the true menial work to a minimum, even in places where it wouldn’t be profitable to in our current system. We have a moral imperative to reject the power hierarchies of capital, state, gender, and physical appearance that make life arbitrarily more or less difficult for people born into different families.

T-Mobile isn’t your friend

T-Mobile announced a new program allowing its users on 3GB or greater cellular data plans to stream several video services at 480p with no cap. Net neutrality is the law that requires all web traffic be delivered equally by internet service providers. No company can pay Comcast to have their service arrive faster than their competitors, and Comcast can’t require all sites pay to be accessible. CEO John Legre has varied in his position on net neutrality, advertising his beliefs as “pro-consumer” to rally support for T-Mobile’s best interest, whether that means being for or against the FCC. The new program, Binge-On, is a clear followup from last year’s Music Freedom, which applies to some music services. T-Mobile notably does not receive any money from their music and video streaming partners that are allotted unlimited data, making it a less typical abuse. The FCC chose not to prosecute T-Mobile for this crime because they didn’t see any obvious gain for T-Mobile, or malicious intent. This time, however, T-Mobile insists it’s of no violation due to allowing any and all video services to join by making T-Mobile able to identify and throttle it to 480p. YouTube is notably absent from the launch lineup of 24 sites.

They’ve been feeding users controlled glimpses of the real nature of bandwidth. Monthly data caps have truly no real-life relation, as Comcast engineers have admitted. They’re purely a business and profit-based policy. Consuming data at a constant rate for 16 hours a day to fill a 5GB monthly plan would mean about 22Kbps of usage. An LTE cell tower can handle up to 128 users downloading at 100Mbps at any given time, half a million times greater usage. The issue for T-Mobile is not the amount of data its customers are using, but the pace and timing. This is why Binge-On is truly better for them than it is the customer; video is typically the highest constant bitrate consumers use, and by making it unlimited throttled to 480p (just 2.5Mbps on YouTube), they buy time on upgrading and expanding infrastructure to meet congestion.

Binge-On appears to be yet another perk that’s spawned Apple and Microsoft-levels of fanboyism, following the great leader John Legre. Legre became famous following his use of the words “bullshit” and “fuckers” to refer to AT&T and Verizon at T-Mobile’s conferences, the same technique that his Twitter foe Trump has succeeded with to make himself seem like a relatable, frank fighter against a vilified enemy. Binge-On was announced the same day the price of T-Mobile’s unlimited data plan increased by $15 a month. T-Mobile may be smaller than AT&T, and their programs at face value seem less evil than Comcast’s adding of data caps to 30 new markets that were previously unlimited, but anti-neutrality policies should never be commended.

Abortion is an incredibly simple debate. Can we stop bringing it up?

The true issue with abortion, whether you would personally (hypothetically) get one or not, is a human rights one. If you’re dying and my kidney would save you, I have every right to not give you my kidney, even though my second kidney barely affects me, and you’re a thinking, unique individual with a circle of people that care about you. It’s called the right to bodily integrity/ personal autonomy, and it’s an important right. It’s the reason someone can’t justify rape with utilitarianism by arguing their desire for sex is more important than another human’s desire to not have sex with them. I don’t personally believe a few cells with no thought, unique experience or insight, etc. have any more moral importance than any other random set of a few cells, like the sperm we certainly don’t cherish – I value a cherry tree more than the pit in each cherry, but even if you differ, which is certainly your right, that doesn’t change bodily integrity rights. As it is in hetero sex, males have all the power (whether or not to use a good condom, pull out) and females have all the responsibility (thinking about birth control beforehand, the entire fucking 9 month pregnancy if she’s in the 1% failure rate). Abortion isn’t an ideal experience, but taking it away is a step backward, increasing that dynamic. Additionally, restricting abortion disproportionally effects the poor – those that can’t really afford to raise that kid. Middle and upper class folks could easily drive to a freer state or fly to a freer country, like wealthy Polish and Irish women currently do. The poor are stuck with a huge financial burden. Many economists believe that Roe v Wade resulted in the massive crime dip that happened about 15 years after the ruling. Abortion and birth control access solves crime, unlike mass incarceration.

As the majority of Americans support abortion access (though this kind of right should not be a democratic process), Republicans have come up with a new trick: finding alternate ethical grounds to argue on. Planned Parenthood allows patients to donate fetal tissue to scientific research. Thanks to fetal tissue containing adaptable stem cells, this process has lead to huge advancements in medicine, including the polio vaccine. The institution that receives the tissue is on the hook for its transportation. Videos describing this process have become the talking point of GOP candidates, attempting to reinvigorate passion in pro-lifers with the sensationalist claim that Planned Parenthood is selling baby parts to the highest bidder.

Do Greedy People Tip?

When I came out as an anarcho-communist in 7th grade, almost every single non-ad hominem response went along the lines of, “it’s a great idea in theory, but people are greedy, so it doesn’t work in reality”. I’ve witnessed students and teachers of all backgrounds give the same spiel.

Then why do people feel compelled to tip in a system that allows corporations to not feel compelled to pay a livable wage?

The question simmered in my mind while bicycling home today after spending several moments figuring out the tip I should leave my hair stylist.

Under capitalism, profits to the top must be maximized. Pay is determined by the threshold where the loss of the employee would cost the business more than the wage. People understand this, and with a federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, they redistribute their own income directly to the worker. It doesn’t change the product they receive, it only brightens the day of a fellow human. This isn’t greed. The hard right often talks up wealthy charity as preferable to welfare, while still insisting people are too greedy to collectively own the goods they produce. Libertarian socialism is neither charity nor welfare. It’s fixing the problem of inequality at its root. Greed is not an innate principal of humans, we’ve just created power structures that fosters it and removes the direct human element.

Reddit’s Freedom Of Speech

1. Every decision made by Reddit isn’t made by Ellen Pao. There are quite a few people in management, like Alexis Ohanian. I do find the lack of a press release around the Victoria termination after such a public reaction strange, but even that is more PR-department stuff. Reddit is a large internet media company owned by a massive media empire (Conde Nast). We don’t really know what’s going on in the Victoria case (who made the decision, why they made the decision, whether that was a reasonable decision, all valid questions that Reddit and Victoria have the right not to discuss). They didn’t give her a respectful 2 week notice, which is disconcerting.

I don’t have personal insight into whether Ellen Pao is literally comparable to a brutal dictator or not, but for now I’m going to continue to try to avoid the worst of Reddit and find the best. I hope that Victoria will share her story, but until then, or other significant testimony or evidence, I’m not going to make judgements on this specific case. Reddit is a troubled corporation, but I’m happy users that blame the “SJWs” and actively support /r/FatPeopleHate, /r/shitniggerssay, and /r/transfags are leaving. Poor Voat.co.

2. Back to the controversy from 22 days ago, which seems to have regained attention: Freedom of speech is strictly a political right. It doesn’t mean anyone has to listen or provide a public forum for anyone else. It just means you won’t be prosecuted for what you say and you have the personal freedom to do so provided you’re not invading other people’s personal freedoms. When hateful and harassing speech is tolerated in a space, the “hated on” groups are not going to feel equally accepted to speak.

This is different if the “hated on” group has an active purpose of hurting others. Believing society should taunt, oppress, or execute people of a certain skin color, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity and not feeling accepted when you express that is vastly different from being born part of a group of people (that carries no innate motive to harm) and feeling suppressed. The former is a display of a community rejecting backwards-ass ideals, the latter is a display of intolerance. As a corporate member of the internet, Reddit has the right to do either one, and users have a right to leave if they aren’t comfortable with the result.

Ideally, speech should be moderated collectively (think a group coming to “fuck off, asshole” as a general consensus) in an organic fashion. Hate speech isn’t bad because it’s hateful, it takes advantage of and propagates power imbalances. This is why I can say Donald Trump is an asshole, as the billionaire is generally the person with more power in any situation. When a gender neutral bathroom is burned (as happened at my school last year), the very ability for gender non-conforming folks to go about their day is being attacked. You can’t say the same for a typical gendered restroom, which would probably be written up as a prank.

The law is different. You can’t realistically limit any speech without risking all. Reddit isn’t the US Government, and Reddit can’t prosecute you or destroy your life, unless its users post stolen nude photos of you, or accuse you of terrorism.

3. Blaming “social justice warriors” is fucking weird. Disapproving of intolerant views (racism, fascism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc) that specifically try to hurt a marginalized group is not intolerant. It’s disturbing that Reddit continues to profit off of enabling hate speech, as there are still plenty of neo-nazi, sexist, and all around terrible subreddits, and Reddit has only deleted a few notable ones. The first time Reddit “violated freedom of speech” was banning /r/jailbait, with users militantly defending their right to view child porn (lite), while ignoring the subjects’  consent they broke and the potential implications that might come from it. Then, the Snowden leaks made Reddit into a community of rightfully furious people about privacy invasion.  Suddenly these same users dropped their passion for protecting privacy when Celebgate happened, and once again became furious at Reddit for banning a subreddit focused solely on illegally distributing nude photographs of public figure’s without their author’s consent.