Anchor for this item posted by Bernard Tremblay at Monday, December 23, 2002; Monday, December 23, 2002

Some folks are talking my language!

Nearly 30 years ago I realized my cohort in uniform didn't really give two hoots about the fact that Pinochet and his neo-fascists were overthrowing the elected government of Chile with our help ... we "special breed of cats" had the secure delusion of fighting to make the world safe for democracy, but part of that comfort was the impunity of not looking at what was there for all to see. (Needless to say by brothers' wilfull ignorance was topped by the civilian population's.) A decade ago I was was shocked beyond sanity to find that, though I was doing the 60-hour week thing for years to get our quality product out ontime (a system that would land aircraft safely in the worst of storms), my fellows had a simpler agenda: max the buck. Now I ask you, how do people expect this global system to produce other than death, disease, and devastation when they have gutter ethics? (Masquerading behind the usual plausible denials, of course ... hey, everyone's busy! truth is relative! who the fuck do I think I am, anyway?!

Richard Sennett's Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism is a real clarion call. (Now don't get me wrong ... it's all there in Plato's Republic, of course ... Chapter XVII is it? where Socrates describes how, generation after generation, parents' vices dishearten and distort you. And, a good deal more recently [1993] M. Scott Peck wrote that "Our illness is incivility: destructive patterns of self-absorption, callousness, manipulativeness, and materialism ... ingrained in our routine behaviour". But while Sennett lacks Peck's elegance, "Corrosion" cuts like a newsmagazine feature.) Have a glance at Chapter One ... the "cultural conservative" Sennett describes gives me the whillies; sophisticated, arrogant, and self-righteously heartless ... a real "winner", and just the sort that would press an aggressive agenda of globalizaation.

I spent this afternoon with a young couple on the street ... just kids, just street kids, and certainly not thriving in any sense ... but still twinking with something like affection. These I can see being open to the authenticity and honest engagement that makes for a basic bliss. The "winners" of new capitalism? vampires, sychophants, sociopaths, hypocrits ... pathological, if not actually psychopathic. And really, what part of this is so hard to understand?

Like spoiled children, the majority of our community think they can shrug off their civil responsibilities and still benefit from civil society ... they want their slothful indulgence and their peaceful security too. Isn't that sad?! (Over the past three days I've been having a running discussion/argument with a software guru in Europe ... his notion of anti-globalization is that it's made up of people who are against the internet. A brilliant fellow, and succesful businessman, but practically brain dead when it comes to the consequences of rampant top-down development.)

p.s. I spend a fair amount of time puttering around the Mozilla project. Yesterday I happened across the webpages of one of the early Netscape programmers (and Netscape was a pretty damned kewl project in its day). At the end of one of his essays on how programming can be done well, he offers this glimpse into the consequences of "new capitalism":

"But now I've taken my leave of that whole sick, navel-gazing mess we called the software industry. Now I'm in a more honest line of work: now I sell beer. Specifically, I own [a nightclub] in San Francisco."
In a longer piece on the same subject, this prince among hackers [/jwz/] wrote:
"you can divide our industry into two kinds of people: those who want to go work for a company to make it successful, and those who want to go work for a successful company. Netscape's early success and rapid growth caused us to stop getting the former and start getting the latter.