The provocation is probably first with the Moldbug Reactionaries, which is to consider the scope of which all of the American dialectic is false and incomplete. The second is something I have engaged upon through Niall Ferguson, Robert Conquest and George Orwell. That is to determine the depth of which the moral case for Marxism & Socialism and their materialism can and should be taken. Prodded and poked along by the New Oxonian and John C. Wright, I have been considering why atheists fail, and if they should. As always, I keep tabs on Nassim Taleb, Dan Ariely and to a lesser extent Robin Hanson to see how it is people are generally deceived. And of course I have Steven Pinker to thank for his marital naïveté. The grand provocateur that more people than me have been watching is, of course, Donald J. Trump whose effect on so many people is thunderous. I am a little bit frightened that people are so easily frightened.
But I must continue my vigilance against wishful thinking, as crabby as it makes me. And I must keep my eyes aware of the massive powers of institutions and their leaders, no matter how small, insignificant and contrite it makes me feel for having not been adopted (brilliant soldier of intellect that I am) by significant powers that be.
So in the past week I have been struck by the notion that all of the soft sciences are wrong and that we don't actually know about human behavior what we think we know. Because if we actually knew, we would be better at controlling and predicting it. Which is to imply that there is more coercion going on in those enticements that make up our consumer society than we ever thought probable. In other words 1984 is here and we think our tolerance for Big Brother is voluntary. I'm sure I could write other provocative statements of that sort, but let's leave that to the future, shall we?
Start next HERE: The Amoral Society:
It is sometimes asked why the social sciences don’t make progress the way the physical sciences do. The answer is invariably that it’s because the social sciences deal with much more complexity. I disagree. There’s plenty of complexity in the physical sciences as well. The answer, I believe, is that progress in the social sciences is being blocked by moral beliefs. More precisely, the social sciences are pervaded by moral beliefs to an extent that not only disincentivises research into areas that potentially challenge them, but to an extent that prevents social scientists from even asking questions.
One thing I have always done is to question the relevance of / accuracy of studies that tend to help Americans understand themselves. These studies are almost never done in a global context. And furthermore our studies of things people do or think in other countries are almost always predicated on a domestic controversy. We never hear anything about Sweden unless it's to compare their healthcare system to our own. We never hear how people in Spain view single parent families.
As my scope widens to the aspects of the fate of Western Civilization, I am reminded of this quote and conversation. To Act Against Reason. So that's what I'm bringing into the mix. Some sense that the history of sociology in America is more a form of social control and political exegesis than a form of actually learning and understanding how people live in society.
The Conservative Brotherhood is a group of African American writers whose politics are on the right hand side of the political spectrum. Expanding the dialog beyond traditional boundaries, they seek to contribute to a greater understanding of African Americans and America itself through advocacy and commentary.
Old School Core Values:
We are African Americans of all backgrounds and ethnicities. We are proud of our heritage, and respect the lives, triumphs and tribulations of our forebears in this country and beyond. We aim to represent their greatest hopes for us and honor their memory.
The United States of America is our home, not simply by default but by choice. We take our duty to our home seriously and we defend it. We seek to improve it by our work and values and leave it better than we found it.
We are extended families and we put family first. It is the primary organization to which our lives are dedicated. We fight for the proper upbringing of our children. We demand respect and consideration of our elders. We love and support our brothers and sisters.
We work twice as hard and sometimes get half as far, but we work with dignity and we expect and enjoy our rewards. We are not materialistic but we know the value of a dollar. We seek self-improvement through creativity, dedication and effort in our jobs, businesses and partnerships.
We have abiding faith in God and the principles of righteousness. We strive to be true to transcendent values and take the long view of our purpose on Earth. We conduct ourselves as vessels of spirit and we guard our own souls and the souls of others from corruption.
We believe in the rule of law and rights of people to be free and to determine their own fate. We fight tyranny and oppression of all kinds keeping in mind the battles of those who struggled and died that we might be free.
We believe in a tolerant and open society, and we welcome all people to enjoy its benefits and responsibilities.
The American middle class has front row seats to antics of a disconnected elite who rule over their society in irreplaceable ways. Social media is overrun with that which is genuinely better and genuinely reactionary trash, but the format of the mainstream and most importantly it's producers, have not changed.
I want to put words in your mouth. Words like Viacom and Disney and Fox and ESPN, and I want you to tell me if they are serving the proper role of the fourth estate. And then I want you to talk about Penguin and Basic and Hachette and Springer Verlag and tell me where the gap is. The way Americans talk to each other is through a set of media that up until the accident of the Internet, may as well have been a highly controlled propaganda machine. And I think the result is that we have a dysfunctional journalistic elite that are wholly unsatisfactory to America's professional class. IE, the academy is fighting, talk radio is fighting, churches are fighting, political organizations are fighting. Everybody is fighting to get the long form of the truth out there because there is an elite of 2000 blonde anchorpersons who refuse to use big words or be honest about history. So everybody is fighting to get themselves in the picture. Everybody is publishing selfies because nobody feels honestly represented.
AND. Because we have been told that we're all precious snowflakes, we cannot conform to any sensible set of coherent values and stop fighting for self-representation. So the fights continue.
This is why people fall for the identity politics of total triumph. They have not been showed how to live a life without spectacular dynamism. We don't need spectacular dynamism and revolutionary movement. We need something simple and reliable that we can verify for ourselves. We need something we can try at home. We need the confidence that we don't have to have 4K television lest we miss the next big thing. We need to be OK.
Today's cosmopolite flies from pillar to post. Not even something as simple as wheat can be reliable in their hands. The entire food supply chain of America has been traumatized by glutin. Like MSG and red dye #2 before it, these perfectly harmless things have been used to usurp common sense. But how can we trust elites who sell us Nexium one year and then sell us lawsuits against Nexium in the next? Life in America sounds like a drug commercial, idealized family living over a soundtrack of 25 debilitating side-effects. How about we just accept that we die? How about we just accept that all of this new-fangling trendiness is superfluous? How about we just eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, rice and beans, meat and potatoes?
I say the enemy is the New Materialist. He has shaken the foundations of common sense and delivered the masses into the hands of charlatans. It is not that the charlatans are any different or better than before, its that Americans have failed to respect their own native instincts and have been made almost permanently insecure. They fall for anything, in a world where tweeting is making a stand.
I've been abusing history lately because I don't have the luxury of spending time with people who think like me. So I've been hunting among authors and books for stories that give me some feeling of what it's like to be a Russian. The reason is the same as the reason I read Dickens a few years back. I'm expecting the death of public optimism and a separation of classes, so I want to know how people keep their heads in such circumstances. I think I've learned something, and now I'd like to share it.
One of my life quotes is from Rabbi Hillel. "Where there is no hero, you be the hero." It means taking responsibility for keeping a level perspective when hope dies. Along with Hillel, I have over the past few years been reading Lovecraftian stories. I have this compelling need to understand what it means to fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run. In Japanese, there is a strange irony in the term 'domo arigato' which can be interpreted not only to mean 'thank you very much', but also 'thank you very much for the obligation to return the favor that you have now placed on me'. We may have lost some of that here when we reply to 'Thank you' with 'No, thank *you*.' The old response was 'You're welcome', which implies, feel free to ask again and I will respond again in kind. But that's a bit too much responsibility. Saying 'you're welcome' is tough. Civility is tough. The social contract is tough. In America, the social contract is under stress.
If you ask me what I feel about the election of Donald Trump, then I have to say this. Most clearly this is a rejection of what became the new normal under Obama, but also a reiteration with exclamation points of the same kind of reckless populism that elected Barack Obama the first time. The expression 'Yes we can' never escapes my mind without the implication 'because we are the majority and we have the votes'. Having the votes, is of course what democratic rule requires, and in the US, it requires money too. Whose votes and whose money are things we think we know but probably don't. But money and votes are aggregated by the infernal machines of party politics in America and dreams and wishes are pasted on top of that machine. The optimist in me looks forward only to a sort of glorious sacrifice. It's an unusual attitude for an American, but it gives me a great deal of comfort to know that I am not too comfortable. I do not let this discomfort poison my relationship to my fellows or to the common man. Instead, I look at history and world events and try to figure out what's keeping me out of war, and prison. The answer is 'plenty' and that plenty is what I look to. What keeps the buildings standing? Why does water keep flowing? Who keeps the electricity on? The Constitution and the infrastructure of this nation are simple enough to understand, as are our basic needs as people. It shouldn't be so hard to keep all that alive, so long as too many people don't take too much for granted.
All of us are subject to wishful thinking. No matter what actually happens in our lives, we project ourselves into other people's situations, or what we perceive them to be. Of course there are limits. There are certain people with whom we cannot identify at all. We say that we could not possibly be like that. I cannot identify with people who eat dogs, or practice female genital mutilation. They are the Other. All this is personal and psychological. I have come to recognize how much of our politics has abandoned the rational and calm and been hijacked by the personal and psychological, but I think this is to be expected under certain circumstances. I view this particular phenomenon largely as a consequence of the Culture Wars which has undermined that which we used to call 'E Pluribus Unum'. Whatever the reason we have moved from pluralism to populism, the consequence is the same. It's winner take all with no real sympathy for those perceived to be the Other. But we have even gone beyond that, to even project whom our political opponents cast as the Other. So people believe that somewhere they are hated and repudiated and all of those Others are voting for the Other Candidate. This is the characteristic of what we have just witnessed, and for those who were surprised at the victory of Trump, they simply presume that there were more Others out there in America than they ever suspected.
I should go on to say in particular that I find it so perverse and strange that people found it not only comfortable but compelling to argue that all of the racists and sexists were siding with Trump, and this was the defining element of his campaign. So it stands to reason that they were, in the spirit of a winner take all populist contest, dismissive of these opponents and considered them to be part of the great unwashed Other Americans. But that was the personal and psychological wishful thinking of people who were not interested in pluralism. How would they build a compromise on a zero-tolerance policy for dog-eaters and genital mutilators? But the actual terms and conditions of 'racism' and 'sexism' of America's Other voters was never defined, no more than anyone accurately measured into a moderated focus gun-grabbing, police-shooting, influence-peddling, weed-smoking, email-smuggling, muslim-hating, crotch-grabbing, or bible-thumping. It became an all or nothing wish to banish such Others into shameful oblivion. These were the terms of the American presidential election with the aim of destroying the opposition with aggregated majorities. What was surprising was how differently these majorities came together outside of the lines of both parties.
The energy and force of the Democrats was contained in the personna and campaign of Bernie Sanders. Whichever kind of socialist he was or is (I think grossly uninformed, narrow-minded but principled) his stripe of populist rhetoric carved out a new set of partisans from the Democrats. That which Bill Clinton, the most charismatic and clever politician of our era, had solidified, Sanders dislodged with aplomb. Neither Obama or Bill Clinton, even with the assistance of George H. W. Bush could elevate Hillary Clinton in the eyes of the general public. Sanders won the hearts and minds of the newly energized Left and the Democrat machine stabbed him in the back.
The career-long calculations and aspirations of Ted Cruz came to a rude and abrupt halt in Indiana. More than any of the hundreds of twists and turns of the election season, the crude disrespect of the crowd of Hoosiers telling Cruz to shutup and leave is the marker for me. Democrats must have been utterly confounded by Cruz' failure, as they have been focused on him as the apotheosis of social Christian Conservatism, that thing they believe to be the very heartbeat of the Republican soul. I think Cruz parading his Stepford family was too clever by half and that someone between him and Huckabee might have tapped that vein more properly. But I am a great deal more sensitive to the rudderless ramshackle that is the GOP as it struggles between its desire for power and its need for principle. Trump took all of its oxygen. Trump vacuumed all of the crumbs of the Tea Party and then moved them to orbital speeds, escaping the grip of gravitas of the Republican Party over the American Right. Trump is the ultimate RINO Conservatives have always feared, and now they will have to face the fact that Conservative principles will, from this moment forward, be a permanent minority of public opinion. Here is the clear failing record of three presidential elections they could not triangulate, and they've been trounced by a reality-show bounder.
All of that emotional investment has produced a litany of gut rumbles, weeping and wailing that I was able to ignore, with some patience. I have developed a strong stomach for the democracy of the masses, and it is not the mood of the people or even the subjects of their psychological obsessions that I measure. America is its traditions and its infrastructure, both of which are in jeopardy owing to its inability to transmit the energy and dynamism of its actual champions into the corridors of public service. The government we have cannot be hotrodded, its wheelbase is too long. People will have to get out and walk to freedom, come back and build a new chassis. Trump is not that builder. He is the madman who will chop the top and do donuts, orange hair blowing in the wind. America will not move forward, it will spin in place and knock over a lot of cones and maybe a bollard or two. At the end of four years, we will choose a sober mechanic, and perhaps we won't be so afraid of the blowtorching we need.
In that long walk to freedom, America will discover its legs. That is my expectation. There are no free rides. There is no comfortable backseat.
"How many programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?"
"None. That's a hardware problem" -- old joke
What a lovely thing is work. Putting your brain to somebody else's business and being paid to do so is the desire of every prisoner of the mind. And thus I have been reinvigorated from an unexpected corner. Operations. Hard drives. Routers. /opt. I have just recently discovered the joy of Linux server administration. I have to admit it's a lot more fun when you have three dozen very large servers to administer and everyone around you is quite comfortable that you have root. But this was the joyful gap that I didn't realize existed in all the years I endeavored to pull teeth in corporate IT and get the environment my brilliant developments deserved. I am three degrees of separation from end users, and for the first time in memory, I don't particularly mind it at all. I'm working for the machines.
What's doubly ironic about this is that I made a fairly loud exit from the world of Enterprise six years ago in abject frustration, looking desperately to find my place among open source and the clouds. Now, I want nothing more than to build my own datacenter in my garage. I want a DIY cloud, which is to say a big rack of hardware and some virtualization software. What would be lacking from a real cloud would be a real API, but that will be me. I'm the API of my own cloud and the captain of my soul. I think that making this move towards the machine is the fulfillment of yet another yearning on par with my move to stoicism. I had only thought I was dealing with reality in politics, but what I actually hungered for was the history of political philosophy. Similarly what I want in computing is access to the evolution of hardware and networks. Applications and clicks are as ephemeral as slogans and votes. Everybody does it without thought, what really counts is infrastructure.
Only I see where the whole cloud infrastructure game is going. It's going to oligopoly, with the fourth wildcard. Between the intellectual, legal and industrial capture of Google, Amazon and Microsoft is that nasty fourth thing called the Dark Web, and its next monstrous intervention will be the zero-trust tier of blockchain computing. If you don't know, then consider the history of Bitmain, and know that a man named McAfee is still alive. There is a future out there populated with hackers and systems that are much more immune from the sorts of ordinary disasters and bugs that destroy the lives of Enterprise IT jocks and their sheepy user base. There are two kinds of systems in the world, those who have survived hurricanes of DDOS attacks and those who are still wearing bunny slippers when it sprinkles outside. They don't know what a torrent is. They may not ever learn until it's too late. For those of us who will populate masts we would rather not be lashed to in the coming storms of cyberwar, the hedge is personal hardware and power, private networks and circles of trust. Or so it seems to me right now.
It turns out that grepping log files and shooting pistols are both loads of fun, and skills that require years of practice. But they're also fun. Shooting the zombies of tomorrows apocalypses will not fall merely to the burnt out crusaders longing like for the halcyon fields of home and bipolar yearning for honorable death. It will be fun.
So the first thing that I've done is resurrect a couple old machines from the scrap heap. My old MacBook Pro is now an Ubuntu machine. There's nothing in the Mac world that I need on that machine when I think about it, and bloat has really taken over. It's getting rather obvious and tiresome, Apple. Cut it out. That and an old 386 Dell will host lightweight stuff as yet to be determined. But right now they're running Consul and Zerotier (more on them later). Next I want to get a physical rack and a discarded Dell MD1000. That, I will fill with 7200 RPM terabyte hard drives and lower my cost of S3 storage, which I can and probably will just move all to Glacier. My S3 bill just peaked over $40 a month. No can do. Since I have gotten the new 256GB iPhone, there is essentially no reason for me to have that extra duplicate copy of my 100k pictures on S3. And I'm pretty sure that I have everything Flikr on my own drives too.
The big deal and central object of The Wall is my investment in Vertica and reference data. So I'll have a relatively high powered database server running so that I can practice spinning up entire orchestrated things around referenceable datasets. IE. click on this package and get a full 'enterprise' quality query space, stuff that almost nobody does. I expect to get under the community wire with open source tools, and I am especially looking forward to using Fugue as its applicable to instant-up a data reference stack. The collaboration between AWS and VMWare will help a lot, as will a lot of Hak5 reruns and r/homelab.
Big fun coming.