Needlessly abject

I am not a teenager. I play one on the Internet.



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Go Bunnie, Go!

I read Bunnie Huang's blog because I long to be a hardware geek, but never actually do anything about it. Having said that, I couldn't help but comment about his Name that Ware posting for January, 2007, if only because he seems to feel much the same way I do about the recent trend of idiotic mass hysteria by the American public.

I believe that fundamentally, the most effective way to deal with terror is to not be afraid of it. I say take it with a stiff upper lip, ignore it, and live life like you used to, as a free society with great liberties and tolerance for all walks of life. Travel. Express. Build. Innovate. Research. Be an Individual. Be smart about who you trust, but still be willing to trust.

I agree with everything Bunnie says here, but I think that it's unlikely to happen, because living in fear is seductive, and because it drives a feedback loop that only amplifies itself. Don't misunderstand-- I'm not a conspiracy theorist who believes that this whole "War on Terror" is a big plot. I believe that what we're seeing is the manifest result of a confluence of the "best" interests of different social groups being advanced.

Terrorists want to inflict terror. That's what terrorists do. It's in the best interests of terrorists to have the American citizenry in mortal fear. The more terrified that the citizenry is, the easier it is for terrorists to inflict more terror. At this point, terrorists can inflict mass panic by doing nothing, while marketing companies put out lighted signs. This is, no doubt, cause for much celebration in terrorist circles, if only for the cost savings in materials and labor.

Most Americans (citizens and politicians) have lost touch with the fact that the government is sanctioned "by the people, for the people", and look at "The Government" as being a featureless black-box over which they can exert no influence. The American political machine has discovered how to exploit the two party system to create elections that pit candidates with no major differences against each other, and to spin everything such that the candidates have a superficial appearance of difference. The American political institution, as it exists now, wants only to perpetuate itself. Constituents are only too happy to oblige, so long as their districts continue to receive the gravy-train of tax dollars. The "War on Terror" has been a wonderful gravy train for pork barrel spending. To this end, the best interests of the political establishment lie in pumping as many tax dollars through the government as possible to keep average citizens happy, and to reinforce the public perception that the operation of government isn't something citizens have any material control over. The "War on Terror" is a great tool for politicians.

The average American citizen has little in the way of motivation or long term goals. I get the feeling that most of my fellow citizens are working hard and striving to make it to the next evening "reality" television show broadcast, the next major sporting event, or the next weekend. (Perhaps a few have a longer-term goal to buy another new SUV, obtain another home equity loan and sink deeper into debt, or get locked into another multi-year wireless telephone contract w/ a shiny new phone and some nice MP3 ring tones.)

We are an aimless, sedentary society. Human nature is to be lazy, fat, and "happy"-- to expend the least possible energy for the greatest reward. Life, in general, works this way-- sinking into a local minimum in a vast fitness landscape. It's also human nature to want some else to take care of life's details for you. I do think that people can rise above human nature, but they have to have their attention drawn to their human failings. Living in mortal fear, and asking "The Government" to take care of you is great, because it makes a convenient excuse for such a slovenly, fiscally irresponsible lifestyle. For those who profit from this mortal fear, pointing out the awful humanity of fat slob Americans is the last thing they'd want to do.

As far as I can see, it's a win / win scenario for all the parties involved! The terrorists get to inflict terror, the political machine gets to perpetuate itself and remain in power, and the average American citizen gets to fulfill their basic human desires to be complacent and "taken care of"-- sinking deeper and deeper into a warm, soft cocoon of materialism and debt while trying to seek comfort from the mortal fear they live in. Is it sustainable over the long term? Does it really matter?

I'm not scared of the terrorists, I'd like my freedom of speech and assembly back, and I'm damned tired of playing "security theatre". Being a late 20's / early 30's self-employed, unmarried, childless, fiscally conservative citizen who pays for his own health insurance, doesn't drive an SUV, owns a house, and doesn't have any credit card debt makes me feel like a hugely underrepresented demographic, both in government, and in American society in general. Worse, I know that I'll be paying for fellow citizens' lifestyle choices in the next few years-- right before China comes in and buys this whole thing out from under us.

Hopefully somebody comes out of this whole thing ahead. I don't know how to fix it, and I don't even think I care anymore. For my part, I feel fairly certain that the reward for my labor won't be what I'd like (an independent lifestyle, free from the interference of others, to live and work as I see fit), but rather will be a life of working to subsidize everyone else when we eventually have to "pull together" and try to bail the country out.

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