Saturday, November 4, 2017

Too Good To Be True: Information Wanted To Be Free But...

Our relative the Kennebec River spilling out of its banks the morning after the nor'easter of October 30, 2017.

I had noted that it was eerie living in a pocket of apparent calm, uneasily enjoying a remarkably warm autumn in New England while Houston flooded and the Florida Keys were leveled and California burned and Puerto Rico went without electricity or potable water for weeks on end.

To those who choose not to see, the occupation of the entire planet by the U.S. military is largely invisible; its role in global climate catastrophe, even more so.

Let's make cider and gather leaves to till into our gardens, said the people around my neighborhood. Should we harvest the carrots and leeks yet? Then came the rogue nor'easter of Halloween eve.

My husband stands on the road I drove on my morning commute about an hour before several pine trees fell on it, taking  power lines down with them. I drove under a downed power line before encountering this barrier a half mile later. I abandoned my car after Mark rescued me by driving as far as he could from the opposite direction, and then hiking through the woods to where I was stranded.

Suddenly almost half the households in Maine were without electricity. For many, this meant without heat as well. Temperatures began to dip toward frost overnight and people were sleeping at my local school while they waited for power to be restored. Some people are still waiting, and others have been told restoration is not possible without rebuilding the infrastructure.

No showers or blogging for this household. We cooked by candlelight and scuttled around storing frozen food in various alternative spots, watching as the contents of our refrigerator slowly died. We took sponge baths with water heated over a woodstove. We charged our phones in the car or at work. First world problems.

The Hallmark card sentiment that every sunrise is a blessing could not truly be felt until I had been in darkness 12+ hours several days in a row.

Ditto the wonder of light spilling from last night's full moon.

So it is in this context that I encountered news that social media platforms are groing dim,  visibly being brought under kleptocracy's control.

I was saddened, but not surprised.

The internet with its troves of curated information always seemed to me too good to be true

Like the sexual revolution of the 60's, when for a few years pre-AIDs affluent baby boomers had access to reliable birth control, drugs that cured venereal disease, and liberation from the Puritan inhibitions claiming our sexuality and its expression were deadly sins. Something that good and free just doesn't seem to last.

Facebook began censoring two thinkers I've come to rely on -- Australian Caitlin Johnstone and fellow Mainer Bruce Gagnon -- even as Congress heard testimony that social media companies must do the dirty deeds, or be themselves punished.

From Andre Damon's reporting published on the World Socialist News website (a non-corporate news and opinion site which, incidentally, no longer appears as a source turned up by a Google search even though I've gone to it many times over the years):
Over the course of four hours, senators argued that “foreign infiltration” is the root of social opposition within the United States, in order to justify the censorship of oppositional viewpoints.
Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii demanded...that the companies adopt a “mission statement” expressing their commitment “to prevent the fomenting of discord.”

The kleptocrats are worried and well they should be. Talk of gutting mortgage deductions --  the primary middle class tax shelter -- is a harbinger of austerity for the many. History shows that discord inevitably follows homelessness, hunger, or watching a loved one die from lack of affordable health care. Poor people and, disproportionately, people of color have known this all along. Those of us who've been coasting on our white and class privilege are about to have a rude awakening.

As the lights flicker on and off in the gathering gloom, I hear an out of season tree frog chirping in a warm November before dawn. Neighbors have noticed no birds at their feeders this fall. I suspect the frog's song may the requiem for our unsustainable lives on this planet.

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