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Upsetting conversation - Journal of Omnifarious

Aug. 14th, 2008

03:14 pm - Upsetting conversation

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I became really angry over some things pleiade37 said today. She criticized my friends in a way that was sort of fair, but also not, and rather exceedingly rude in my opinion. I have my theories about what's going on here, but those aren't for public consumption. Aside from that, I would like to talk about what she said.

Her specific criticism was that my friends complain bitterly about our society being a classist one while enjoying the benefits of such and/or not doing anything about it but complain. She then named a few specific exceptions among people I know.

I pick my friends very carefully. One of my biggest criteria, often not so consciously applied, is that my friends are a net positive to the world around them. I do feel that money is in general a mediocre to poor measure of this. But I pick friends who do not at base treat life as a negative or zero sum game.

I am frequently frustrated by the specific complaint pleiade37 voiced. I deal with it by trying to always be willing to talk about things and convince people and trying to show people actions they can take, like insisting on using Open Source software. Though, on a bit of reflection, I believe that pleiade37 also has a mistaken perception colored by her personal background.

A lot of her friends are from the world of high finance. I tend to not have a lot of respect for these people as a whole. I feel that they tend to either be 0-sum people, or people who create a net benefit for themselves and either a net negative or break even for everybody else.

Most importantly, I feel they are wedded to a system that is flawed (as any system is) and currently creates unjustifiable concentrations of wealth and political power. They are so wedded that they see everything through the filter of that system and can't step outside it to see that it's just today's agreement for a game we've all agreed to play and instead see it as somehow being so fundamental that it represents the true nature of reality.

At their most myopic, these people can begin to believe that all ways of measuring value can be reduced to the symbols in the system they know how to manipulate so well.

But that doesn't mean that I don't think there's some fundamental truth wandering around in there somewhere. I like pointing people at Linked: The New Science of Networks because it shows a glimpse of this fundamental truth. And it says that there will always be concentrations of both economic and political power, no matter what system is in place.

I've refined my idea of what a good system is based on that book. And in my mind, steep power law curves are worse than shallow ones as they imply that things are much more concentrated at the top and there's much more of a monopoly situation. Secondly, systems in which nodes with little power can become nodes with a lot of power relatively quickly and painlessly when they demonstrate a greater ability to generate value are also very important.

I think what we have in the US (and what much of the rest of the world has because of our dominance) has been slowly degenerating in both of these respects. But I don't really think the people deeply involved in the current economic system can really see that, or if they can, can't see how it might be changed since they see the current economic system as somehow inviolate and unchangeable.

In that sense, they are no better than the friends I have who complain and don't do anything to try to change things. In fact, I think that publicly complaining about a problem is often an important component of fixing it, so I feel that recognizing and saying something about the problem is better than not.

Current Location: 2237 NW 62nd ST, 98107
Current Mood: [mood icon] angry
Current Music: Doves - Willow Song

Comments:

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From:mystic_savage
Date:August 15th, 2008 05:46 am (UTC)
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Classism bothers me more than racism or sexism because our own entitlements are so invisible to us. Until we fail. I'm acutely aware of where I am in the class structure, because I'm not in the class that I was brought up in. Also, I'm acutely aware of my privilege, aware that I'm not an 8 year old working long days on a cocoa plantation, aware that when I buy a mars bar, I'm contributing to that kind of economic oppression that results in people who have never tasted chocolate picking cocoa beans in horrible conditions.

Staying aware of class structure and real people and how they differ from the images of the people we see in the media or amidst just our friends -- that's one of the big reasons I think taking the bus is a good thing. And I think complaining is a good thing...it raises awareness...it allows one to find companions who have similar complaints...and that kind of community building is a small step on the road to activism. So yeah...bring on the complaining. Particularly about blind capitalism and its consequences.
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From:cooncat
Date:August 15th, 2008 06:54 am (UTC)

I find it interesting

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...that this post starts off being unhappy about her comments about your friends, then turns into criticism of hers.

Is your point that her friends are no better than your friends, therefore her point is moot?

I might feel persecuted if my friends were judged in one lump, which is one reason why I suppose I don't gravitate to one extended group of them.
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From:omnifarious
Date:August 15th, 2008 08:21 pm (UTC)

Re: I find it interesting

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Well, I felt kind of attacked. And I sort of what to defend my friends, because my friends are one of the things in the world I'm the proudest of. Perhaps counter-attacking isn't the most productive strategy here, but I'm not sure what else to do.

And I really do feel that the upper class in our society is currently rather broken in a number of important ways. If you look at my Open Source projects, and a lot of my personal philosophy about things, I work hard to create things that either discourage the formation of hierarchical power structures or encourage the dismantling of existing ones.

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From:daisykitten
Date:August 15th, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)
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From:omnifarious
Date:August 16th, 2008 12:08 am (UTC)

Re: I find it interesting

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I feel that frequently people who are poor are making choices that directly lead to their state and that they frequently continue to make poor choices over and over again.

I also think that intervention programs that do not address this fundamental issue are bound to fail. And I think state run intervention programs are inherently bad because they both have a tendency to hand out money without helping people make better choices, and because they tend to create situations in which the people are even less likely to make good choices either because they feel obligated or feel like they are a burden.

The state is run by people with a lot of political and economic power. It will always choose to do things such that those people stay in power and the people who are not in power will never get it.

The state is a tool for maintaining the concentration of wealth and power I complain about. It would be against the interests of the state for it to be otherwise.

I guess if you find these opinions of mine disappointing, you'll just have to stay disappointed in me for having them.



Edited at 2008-08-16 12:09 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]
From:omnifarious
Date:August 16th, 2008 06:13 am (UTC)

'disappointing' opinions about poor people

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daisykitten deleted her posts, but she was talking about opinions I have about poor people that I've posted previously that she considers 'disappointing'.

I believe that she's referring to this post.

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From:oniaka
Date:August 15th, 2008 07:58 pm (UTC)
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Classes have always existed. They always will. And there is nothing that we can really do about it. And every class, will be complaining about every other class at some point.

The poor will complain about the frivalty and waste of the rich, and how they dont care about anyone but themselves. The rich will complain that the poor are the scum of the earth and the criminal element of society. And everyone in between will be complaining about them both.

We can, through activism, create more classes, or lessen the number of them. But there will always be classes. One just has to look for their own happiness within their class and stature. If you can do that, then the whole class system wont bother you.

We are all dealt our hand of the cards of life. It is how you choose to play your hand that matters.

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From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 21st, 2008 01:03 pm (UTC)

Class structure

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Actually there have not "always" been classes. Class structure and the concentration of power seems to occur (historically) with the advent of "civilization". Its first known occurence is in Sumer, about 3100 bce. This concentration of power is thought to have been a response to full scale warfare between city states, as previous to this period all signs in the area suggest a fare more egalitarian culture.

This point is supported by the fact that most tribal structures, in aboriginal cultures tend to be egalitarian. So the idea that class has always been with us and that there are no alternatives is mistaken.

The difficulty is seeing outside ones cultural perspective (consensus reality), to see other choices or even that other choices exist. The consensus reality we are raised in, saturated with and have trained our brains (engrams) to accept makes this very difficult, even for people trained to do it. Our options become limited by what we believe are the possibilities.

-Artos
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[User Picture]
From:oniaka
Date:August 22nd, 2008 01:34 am (UTC)

Re: Class structure

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Since you decided to point out how wrong I was, allow me to point out the flaw in what YOU said.

Even in tribal communities and such, there is still a class system. There are classes seperated by sex, and age if nothing else. There are those that work the fields, there are those that do crafts, there are the hunters, ect. These are all different classes, with different rights, privaledges, and responsabilities.

Using big colorful speech, and citing crap from thousands of years ago that would not work today in our particular clime, does not prove your point of view.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 25th, 2008 09:54 pm (UTC)

Re: Class structure

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Well, that was an odd response.

Please note, while you were wrong in your statement, I was not implying a lack of tribal structure in mine, simply that tribal cultures have less structure then civilized culture, and that the structures in tribal cultures are not, generally a class system.

Class structure tends to limit population movement from one class to another. Power is not generally shared by all populations in a class system, certainly not equally. Class systems tend to be hereditary. If you are born to parents of a particular class, chances are you will be of that class yourself as will your children. I could go on, but I think my point is made.

None of these things are true of the structures in most tribal cultures. Yes, there are groups that gather, fight, plant and hunt etc. but these groups, and the roles and/or jobs they do are, by and large available to anyone within the tribe that has an affinity to their activities.

Generally, what ones child is in a tribal structure is not based on what there parents are. Are there exceptions? Yes of course. Is there a continuum for these cultural norms? Yes of course. I believe I did say that tribal cultures were generally more egalitarian. I did not say they were absolutely egalitarian.

No offense, but to equate simple cultural structure as class structure seems kind of uninformed, not all structure is class structure. I guess if I were making your argument, I’d research the topic a bit more first.

As to my colorful fancy language, I apologize if I’m speaking in a way that makes you uncomfortable. I write and speak pretty much like I think. If that’s unpleasant or intimidating for you I apologize, it wasn’t intended as either. And as to the thousands of years ago thing, well, those that don't know the past are very likely to repeat it. The fact is that right now, in many parts of the world including ours, other cultures do exist and we have the option of adopting those things about them that are useful and make sense.

-Artos
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