The Fox and the Bear

disjointed thoughts on the climate crisis and fascist earth

I have a day job. And I believe #extinctionrebellion and #gretathunberg have not gone far enough: at all. They should call for a worldwide radically democratic takeover of the world's governments. Since our governments are increasingly right-wing xenophobic controlled by the rich climate-denying cesspools, and like David Wallace-Wells writes in The Uninhabitable Earth, earth is on its last legs. We simply cannot let this happen. For our children.

I am generally not known for hysterics but despite cutting formal ties with #extinctionrebellion it might not actually be that they are too militant, but perhaps not militant enough. The increasingly powerful elites around the world are consolidating their power in a kind of world dictatorship surveillance state engineered by the likes of Silicon Valley and Beijing where although there might not have ever been according to Astra Taylor—still the remanences of democracy and social movements are being destroyed. Indeed I think it only a matter of time before #extinctionrebellion #earthstrike and even the kids of #fridaysforfuture will be forced to turn violent like the Hong Kong protesters. They will be egged on by police states like the US and cyber-attacked by the People’s Liberation Army and will be forced to fight back. It will indeed be the Third World War—the war for resources. A kind of every man for himself, pitting young against old, everyone against immigrants and minorities, a general free for all blood bath from which civilization could not recover. David Wallace-Wells laid out the scenarios in his book The Uninhabitable Earth, and even since its publication places like the US have gotten that much more inhospitable and violent, heatwaves are shattering records, and social unrest in the form of these protest movements and xenophobic mass shootings is only growing. Greta Thunberg started out quite innocently at the Riksdag but her's be fighting words and the shit is about to hit the fan.

An article I wrote under my real name about killing off Facebook (since taken offline for security reasons) may have been a bit harsh to some who rely on the social network, and respect the technology Silicon Valley has built. But since I wrote this article I have been enlightened to some of the technical means which could retake the internet back to its idealist phase. These fall under the rubric of the Fediverse and importantly the W3C Recommendation called ActivityPub.

There is a lot to go over to understand what could be the implications of the burgeoning #Fediverse and its backbone ActivityPub, but as in most of my posts I will try to keep it rather simple although the technical and social aspirations of these are enormous: nothing less than the transformation of the web to a (more or less) corporate free, equal footing, zone of unimpeded communication.

The Fediverse refers to a parallel network to that run by corporations like #Facebook and #YouTube composed of a multitude of separate servers run by individual independent admins or groups that work in tandem to provide the services to a particular app. Apps include the popular social networking app Mastodon, and an alternative to YouTube called PeerTube. Indeed, I always wondered why the web seemed to have turned its back on peer-to-peer technology: I guess the copyright wars could hint at the answer. But in the Fediverse there is no central power, each node/server in the system is on mostly equal footing and operates according to its own standards. These federated networked apps use ActivityPub as the means to integrate all of these disparate server instances into one network, where, for example, writing a blog post on Write Freely will show up in someone's Mastodon feed (incidently, this website uses Write Freely). It is the antidote to the walled gardens of Facebook and Twitter which are built to keep the user individualized within these respective platforms.

With ActivityPub and the Fediverse one can once again glimpse the vision of the utopian internet pioneers like Tim Berners-Lee who envisioned a rather commercialess zone of free expression for purposes such as academic research, socializing as opposed to what he calls “the commercialization of friendship”, and really a slew of interlocking purposes now closed off by the surveillance capitalistic approach of the current internet sovereigns.

The Fediverse also does not end the possibility to entrepreneurship. For example, I tried setting up my own Mastodon instance on a DigitalOcean droplet but after a couple of days was stagnating. Along comes Hugo Gameiro who runs a service called Masto.host where he will set up and host the instance for you but give you admin controls, so you are fact in control of your (federated) network without having to be a Linux genius.

As mentioned, The Fox and the Bear uses Write Freely which is a stripped down blogging platform that provides just the basics one needs to well, express themselves freely.

Working in the Fediverse is a truly liberating experience, freeing you from the surveillance capitalism of Facebook, Twitter, Google and their ilk, where there is little to no corporate influence, where ads are essentially non-existent, and where one is free to choose and switch platforms as they like and maintain a lot of the content and followers as they interact and produce new content.

The Fediverse, as its name implies, is a really ambitious project, or rather set of projects, that could offer the way forward on a stagnating internet more caught up in scandal and #racewar than in providing the utility and freedom it once promised.

I encourage you dear reader to research concepts like the Fediverse and ActivityPub and the individual apps these make possible and hopefully go ahead and spin up instances of your own. This can only strengthen the Fediverse and make it into a real alternative to the increasingly commercial surveillance oriented machinations of Silicon Valley and Beijing #bigtech.

I am not formally with #extinctionrebellion anymore, nor am I with the Green Party in my Canadian riding, but I support them both. This is why I tried to suggest to #XR to invite Greta up here when, announced today, she will be sailing to North America to attend two important climate conferences at the UN in New York and in Santiago de Chile in December. I reminded #XR Québec that Montréal saw the most students protest for Greta's #FridaysForFuture strike earlier in the year then anywhere else in the world 150,000 strong. Well #XR sort of shot me down saying that Greta's invite and associated actions were already being planned and then scrutinized me before allowing me to attend an outreach night. Well, as previously written down I have gone underground with the sensible notion, I think, of protecting my activist identity so I can continue to work. I feel things will only get more nasty, and Greta will exacerbate an already Civil-War like atmosphere in the US. I love many aspects of #XR but do not enjoy continuously being tested for my Green credentials⁠—isn't it enough I want to get involved again after my time with #XR UK? Actually I am going to keep my distance as it seems to me #XR is becoming less of a democracy. I sort of understand, to radically accept the truth about climate change could mean enforcing some kind of green dictatorship to mandate new laws, institute rationing, and generally sweep away all vestiges of our runaway neoliberal society. I am coming to weigh such a position although don't like it much. I am hoping to pose a question like this to Greta when she apparently will make an appearance in Montréal: she is about the only one left who has street cred with me.

(originally written Canada Day July 1, 2019)

The biggest protest movement on earth right now I feel—in terms of importance — is what’s going on in Hong Kong. I was part of Extinction Rebellion and they hold a close second, but Hong Kong could well hold the key to change in China, and increasingly as goes China so goes the world, in terms of technology especially. With their being set to control AI and 5G, we better be put on guard lest we all become part of China’s answer to 1984: The Social Credit System they are increasingly using to control every aspect of their population’s lives.

As Trump cozies up to the world’s dictators—he is now set to resume trade talks with Xi Jinping with nary a word about human rights of the extremely authoritarian Social Credit System, the persecution of the Uighurs, or anything else that is not business-oriented and vaguely humane — the world is watching as country after country fall like dominoes in a recap of the 1930s. Push back is necessary and it seems one of the only relevant places it is coming from is Hong Kong, right now.

The United States of Umair Haque and Chris Hedges

umair haque pretty much sums up the decrepit state of affairs of the United States under Trump. An authoritarian deeply unequal society, wholly split, and awash in guns and a faux religiosity to justify its deeply immoral deeds such as the current concentration camps it is running on its borders.

A second voice I would add to Umair’s who I deeply venerate is Chris Hedges. Chris, chased away from his gig at The New York Times because of his opposition to the second war in Iraq, has been writing books and essays for decades now about the end of the American Empire. Indeed, if it is ending, AOC notwithstanding, who do you think will take up the mantle?

Why Hong Kong

I had one friend from Hong Kong who I spent a summer with in the tape room of a local television producer for whom we were interning. It freaked me out as a Canadian once when she stood to attention and recited some British ‘ode to the queen as I assume little Hong Kong pupils learnt back in the day before the handover. She is an artist now somewhere in Berlin or Tel Aviv but I remember that recitation as a sign of British rule.

Now Hong Kong faces other repercussions of rule, not the least of which is eventually being subject to China’s Social Credit System, for which they are rebelling. Xi Jinping, ruler for life in Mainland China, would have his crony government renege on its one country two systems promise, and prosecute perpetrators of one of its so-called crimes back in China.

With China’s new Belt and Road Initiative set to control more and more of the world’s economy, and its tech companies burrowing further into everyone’s ICT infrastructure, we must stand on guard as the Canadian national anthem proclaims. Canada is one of the countries paying the price for its own act of rebellion, following an American extradition order and arrest months ago of the founder of Huawei’s daughter— Huawei being exactly one of the Chinese tech company’s that endangers us, it being the world leader in 5G equipment.

I am Canadian and feel some patriotism for my country, as it sidesteps a lot of Umair and Chris’ criticism, but with our current elections slated for October and our leader Justin Trudeau set for a loss against the more right-wing conservatives, how long will our backbone hold?

Famous Canadian and Montrealer Leonard Cohen sings about that infamous protest in Tiananmen Square in his song Democracy.

While Cohen’s sings of Democracy in the USA, it is now in retreat, where it never did exist in China. But in Hong Kong, small D democratic freedoms were instilled by the British and as these protests make plain: they are in danger by a resurgent totalitarianism in China.

I think the grand bargain that is Chimerica may become the new threat as America copies China in its surveillance state strategies, so that Leonard Cohen’s thought that America will be itself resurgent in its democracy is indeed naive.

I have commented on Medium about my dislike of Joe Biden, thinking that he is in fact dangerous in his moderate stance, since in these perilous times for the environment and democracy, the hardcore progressivism of people like AOC and Greta Thunberg are necessary. But if the Democrats lose, which becomes more of a possibility under Biden in my opinion, Trump’s second term becomes a hardening of authoritarianism in the US, as does Jinping’s if the Hong Kong protests result in failure.

On this Canada Day, I am watching with rapt intensity. Right now the cops are moving in on the protesters and I am shuddering to think what hangs in the balance.

#algorithms are the enemy

The truth is I am confused. I read most of a book called The Failure of Nonviolence: From the Arab Spring to Occupy which argues that when it comes to what counts, those actions predicated on non-violence failed. I wonder what #PeterGelderlooos, the writer of the book, would think of #gretathunberg and #extinctionrebellion in their equal (to these failed movements) adamancy for non-violence. I am torn on the matter. I am in a rather privileged position, not having to work that much and living a pretty high standard of living. I have a sister in the 0.1% who buys me what I need, and a father who provides me free room and board. Who am I to complain? Well, despite these privileges, after my time with #extinctionrebellion this year and reading many books on the climate crisis I am in a state of almost total climate grief. I have a brilliant daughter age 12 who I only met once—she is in the states and attends one of the best middle schools in all of the greater New York City area, and I am stuck in Quebec and am a double or triple minority being English speaking, Jewish, and some kind of political and #ethicaldissident. I have to ask existential questions like what will become of my daughter, what will become of me, and what will become of our ugly but precious civilization? With Australian reports documenting how our way of life will likely end in 2050, it beggars the question can the tactics of #XR and #Fridaysforfuture, largely protest and civil disobedience really work? All the tech that governments and corporations run in concert only points to the further marginalization of the lower classes which count more than 99% of the people. Are we already living past Judgement Day? How can I go on luxuriating in relative comfort when I know past the doors of Elysium only a dark chaos lies on the horizon. Grief, fear, hopelessness all pervade. It is a tragedy as I remember being happy and optimistic once. Perhaps it is time to fight back even harder.

I just deleted all my #XR stuff. I could not handle the climate grief and do not want to be swept up in a movement like a true believer. I am in a personal movement of one, with no followers, but lots of up and coming infrastructure. And so it goes.

Indeed I am a real person with a real job working for software companies. I'll leave it at that to protect my anonymity. I went through school pretty consistently until I landed in college where I first had a kinda breakdown. They said I was bipolar then as they say now. I say I read The Human Zoo then, and Clear Bright Future now and consequently refuse to conform to our current society. I don't know or have a definitive opinion on capitalism but I see how our civilization has been built on power and exploitation and for a longtime have been working towards its downfall and consequently our regeneration into something new, way way before #extinctionrebellion joined us on the scene. But I always oscillated back and forth from my middle class life and corporate jobs. Then there was the time I fathered a child, discussed more in other posts. The question was always to indeed dedicate myself full time to my innermost beliefs and become a full time activist, or to keep this activity on the back burner while I kept my full time job. As mentioned in a previous post, I just ditched a lot of my political affiliations with the notion that no, I cannot give up a comfortable life for a full time fight. I am not sure about this decision because:

  • The world is literally falling apart because of the climate crisis and we may not have much time beyond 2050 to even live a semblance of a stable life.
  • Especially Trump in the USA, but around the world governments are dropping like flies to right-wing xenophobic parties and leaders in a recap of the 30s leading up to the genocidal World War II. Witness the recent explosion of violence in El Paso.
  • Income inequality has exploded worldwide so any semblance of equality and democracy is a facade.
  • Algorithms from powerful tech companies are increasingly controlling our lives for commercial or worse purposes like the control wielded over the Chinese and Russian citizenry.
  • These factors combined are rapidly converging to transform our lives into the worst dystopian nightmare conjured by minds like Kafka, Orwell and Huxley

So you can see, writing pseudonymously on a Write Freely instance might be one of the only freedoms left until they track down my IP and I am added to a long list of the disappeared. So how to reconcile alter egos? This is a developing story.