Saturday, November 5
This past Monday, of course, was All Hallows Eve - an observance which is well over a thousand years old in the Christian church and probably a good deal older in various pagan traditions. In tune as we are with our cultural heritage, we chose to celebrate in the traditional manner: By running drunk and naked down Pearl Street wearing carved pumpkins on our heads.
I work in a huge complex full of doors with electronic locks that require a badge to open. I do not have a badge. This has me thinking about how bureaucracies are analogous to Unix systems. The more poorly designed and administered the bureaucracy/system in question, the better the analogy works. (If the system in question is instead a version of Windows, what you have is more like the administration of a port of entry to some very corrupt Central American republic.)
You could argue that the human elements of bureaucracies should work to ameliorate their structural flaws. I wonder why the opposite happens so often. On the other hand, I wouldn't be able to do my job if people didn't keep opening doors for me.
Last night I had this conversation that crystallized some things for me, so I'm going to partially steal some points from a guy named David.
One: A large part of the consumer aesthetic/ethic in places like Boulder, full of goods that are certified organic etc., is selling people absolution for their participation in capitalism, the industrial market economy, and the whole system of the world. (See last week's etown rant.) There is profit to be made here, but the product is largely illusory.
Two: You can't drop off the grid.
Three: Our liability is inescapable, carried in every participation in the system. Participation in the system is inescapable outside of some kind of ascetic primitivism. Awareness of this fact doesn't imply a particular response, but it seems necessary as a starting point. I think that this is part of what Kenneth Rexroth meant by "total responsibility".
Four: I may not be guilty of the actions of governments and other corporate bodies - in fact, simply accepting such guilt seems pernicious, akin to internalizing the moral strictures of a religion I don't share, or identifying myself with a nation-state - but I am implicated.
Five: None of this carries any particular weight with most people living in America. I don't know how to change that. With reference to my first point, encouraging people to buy indulgences in the form of organic certification stickers often looks suspiciously like an irrelevant distraction for the upper middle class.