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Surviving In The Corporate Republic 136

Posted by JonKatz
from the swimming-against-the-tide dept.
Individualism is the only response to corporatism. But it's lousy work with few rewards, rarely bringing promotion, wealth, or even much chance of success. Mostly, you just tick people off. Online, you might increasingly run afoul of corporatist laws and DMCA-citing lawyers. You do get to hang out with other grumpy, discontented people. Second in a series. (Read More).
[Thanks to the hundreds who provided enthusiastic feedback, pro and con, to Part One of The Corporate Republic. The responses were sharp and useful]

For those of us unhappy about the fact that we dwell in a Corporate Republic, where conglomerates increasingly dominate culture, politics and society, the issue isn't primarily economic. It's intensely personal: Can we live individualistic lives, express our own beliefs freely, develop our own value systems?

We have good reason to worry. Individualism and individuals are being continuously subsumed and marginalized in this evolving new nation. But as many people e-mailed in response to Part One: What are we supposed to do about it?

In the 60's people loved to talk about making a revolution. That seems out of place now. Corporatists aren't trying to kill us, they are quite happy to manipulate us; get us to spend, conform, behave and shut up; and punish and isolate us when we don't. Besides, corporatism makes a lot of people a lot of money and the beneficiaries, like the decadent and happy citizens of ancient Rome, are nearly anesthetized by what we are constantly being assured are good times. Who ever heard of a revolution occurring amidst the lowest unemployment in more than a generation?

To react at all, you have to buy the idea that something disturbing is happening. In our increasingly unconscious civilization, many people don't: "Big deal. This has been going on forever," e-mailed Jason. "Who cares?"

In the era of the techno-boom, denouncing corporatism means spreading bad news a lot of people -- even those most adversely affected -- don't want to hear. And unless you want to live like the Unabomber, it's nearly impossible to live, work or do business apart from corporatists. Sooner or later, like it or not, you'll be on one side or the other.

Any social or political movement has to have an ideology. Corporatism's is simple: profitability is society's dominant goal and everything -- creativity, privacy, freedom of expression, individualistic behavior, the political process, education, entertainment and culture -- can and should be subordinated to it.

But individualism, which has increasingly retreated to and thrived on the Internet, doesn't really have a coherent ideology, almost by definition.

That means that the first step towards any kind of survival is to transcend the suffocating boundaries of Left and Right in order to create an ideology of individualism. The second may be to wait for a political figure to emerge from the Net generation and define corporatism as the major problem its become.

This isn't imminent. As Senator John McCain has been trying to point out for several years now, corporatism has completely infected the political system; it serves as its primary underwriter, as it does for many colleges, universities, and cultural institutions. So don't look for the people who run the federal government to assert themselves against corporatism any time soon. These days, it's considered radical when the government proposes breaking a company like Microsoft into two gazillion-dollar behemoths rather than one.

Boycotting individual corporations isn't feasible in the 21st century, either. Boycotts are complicated, especially when most Americans are understandably confused about who owns what. Some of these companies -- Disney,AOL/Time-Warner -- are now so vast it would take a massive uprising to even dent their earnings. Boycotts are also somewhat repugnant to the free-market philosophy many individualists hold.

But a shared set of principles that individuals -- though they may differ sharply on many political, cultural and social issues -- might agree on, that's something people we can try:

To begin with, individualism ought to be recognized as a movement and a political philosophy. Individualism advances humanism, freedom, a free market that rewards individuals and small entities as well as conglomerates, embraces technology both as a means of expression and as a defense against corporatization.

Potential members beware. Individualism can involve some unpleasant choices. Corporatism viscerally punishes and isolates individuals. By their nature, individualists are discontented: persistent, obnoxious and unpopular, from the scoolkid who challenges a teacher in school, to the employee who irritates the senior veep. Individualism demands that its followers become critics.They raise questions many people don't want to hear, confront the growing conformity in our cultural and educational institutions, and put themselves at risk of losing positions and promotions and opportunities.

Their only reward is to join a proud community of other dissatisfied people, a community of social discontents. They are free to speak and think their minds. They are independent in an increasingly dependent world. They are affirming a long and glorious human struggle, from the Enlightenment to the American Revolution, to achieve autonomy and individual liberty. They are seeking a moral way to live in the world beyond simply fattening their portfolios. They can sometimes rise, and help other people to rise above the great levelling that corporatism imposes. People willing to undertake these risk might consider these ideas:

l. People need to wake up. We need a conscious civilization that acknowledges individualism as a basic human right. We ought to be able to express our own views, run our own businesses, pursue our own culture, develop our own software and hardware. We need family farming, local pharamicists, cranky local newspaper editors and website operators, and other small business ownership. We need diversity of opinion and thought in a homogenized cultural environment, the ability to develop innovative technology apart from monopolistic conglomerates. We need a new generation of political leaders who are not dependent on corporations for their survival.

2. We should acknowledge that economics matters (a lot), but it can't be society's only common goal. Nothing could be more morally bankrupt than a culture devoted only to making money, and to diverting work, technology and other institutions to that primary purpose. Free and prosperous markets are important, but corporate entities should also embrace moral and ideological values -- of their own choosing --apart from pleasing stockholders.

3. Individualism values a humane workplace. Workers are entitled to safe, creative and secure work environments, to freedom from continuous downsizings, re-structurings, layoffs and "re-engineerings." Though these practices unquestionably benefit the economy, they're rough on humanity.

4. Individualists celebrate, cherish and support non-conformity. Students, workers, citizens -- all have the right to their individualistic tastes in politics, lifestyles and aesthetic and cultural values.

5. Culture requires diversity; individualism starves without it. So culture needs to be liberated from corporatism. Conglomerates should be prohibited from corrupting and overwhelming institutions of technology, education, entertainment or information.

Just as Microsoft should never have been permitted to dominate the software market, neither should Disney, News America, Nike, Wal-Mart, Sony or AOL/Time Warner be allowed to dominate commerce and culture. This is a form of repression and self-censorship. 6. Individualism is increasingly dependent on universal access to technology. In our time, technology -- especially the Net and the Web -- has emerged as the greatest bulwark against rampant corporatism. Individualism still thrives online; in fact, individualism has been the dominant social and cultural characteristic of the most interesting parts of the Internet for nearly a generation. People with access to computers and the Net and Web have a certain intrinsic freedom of expression and access to information; that protects them from mass-marketed media that stifle diversity of thought. The more technology, the better chance individuals have to find space in a corporatist world.

The rise of the Net -- theoretically at least -- threatens the grip of that increasingly oppressive ideology. Online, we have the machinery to speak freely and loudly, at least until AOL/Time-Warner gets the Death Star fully operational. We can, if we choose, embrace the obligation of the individual to criticize, to use technology to become the pests of society, to challenge authority and conformity, to create public and private spaces dominated by individuals, not corporate entities. For this to happen, we all have to become critics. It's the first leg on the trip.

It's lousy work for which there are few conventional rewards. It rarely leads to success or victory, or brings anything but grief, but hell, somebody's got to do it.

So think of this as merely a starting point in developing an ideology of individualism.

(Next, Part Three: Shadowrunners and the Corporatist Wars)

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Part Two: Taking On The Corporate Republic

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  • >>We need a conscious civilization that acknowledges individualism as a basic human right.

    I'm not quite sure I understand the idea of "conscious civilization." Is this some kind of uber-mind, or statement that someone, society - civilization - is more than a collection of individuals, and can have a consciousness unto itself?

    >>2. We should acknowledge that economics matters (a lot), but it can't be society's only common goal. Nothing could be more morally bankrupt than

    Does the idea of a bunch of societal "common goals" seem to be totally contradictory to any form of individualism? Doesn't, rather individualism mean that each person is an end in and of themself, rather than just a cog in some "common goal"?

    >>markets are important, but corporate entities should also embrace moral and ideological values -- of their own choosing --apart from pleasing stockholders

    Come now, you've already taken it upon yourself to dictate moral and ideologica values. Don't back down now. Or, is what you're trying to say is that corporate entities should embrace "moral and idological values - of their own choosing", at least, so long as it fits into your own preset notions?

    >>3. Individualism values a humane workplace.

    Individualism is an entity, now? This is as contradictory to any real form of individualism as referring to the State as an entity. I'd jsut love to see Mr. Katz's response if the goverment were to say, "The State values a humane workplace for it's little pawns."

    >>Workers are entitled to safe, creative and secure work environments, to freedom from continuous downsizings, re-structurings, layoffs and "re-engineerings."

    Entitled to... at cost to whom? Is this still an "entitlement," even if it involves sacrificing other individuals - the company owners - to supply these "entitlments"?

    >>Though these practices unquestionably benefit the economy, they're rough on humanity.

    No rougher on humanity than a weak economy...

    >>4. Individualists celebrate, cherish and support non-conformity.

    Non-conformity as a value in and of itself is one of the largest farces ever foisted upon the world. Who's the biggest individualist, Mr. Katz: the person who listens to the "corporatist" music I've seen you condem, or the person who is controlled by what the majority of people like, and force to do something "non-conforming"?

  • Um, you denounce individualism, yet you say you wish everyone could do their own thing. That's pretty much what Jon's talking about. Call it "Freedom" if that makes you feel better.

  • by kvn (64836)
    I think that my linguistically challenged AC friend here is trying to say:

    Does this Katz drivel get published because someone thinks it's good, or just because he has written something interesting in the past?

    What? It's hard to be an individual in the land of sheep and cattle? Yawn... This isn't news for nerds, nor is it stuff that matters. I am getting tired of these crybaby Katz manifests...
  • [I]The problem is that the acquisition of wealth has become an end unto itself.[/I]

    That is indeed a problem. When reasonable people such as yourself step back and look at why "the system" exists, they see that economies exist to distribute resources. For a long time now, we've been using currency as a means of exchange - a level of abstraction that folks often mistake for the goal.

    Perhaps these days, with all the wonderful work done in game theory, we can find a better method of distributing resources than any we've tried so far. If we take as our thesis that there [i]is[/i] a better way to distribute resources, perhaps we can methodically arrive at a better solution.

    But, as you've pointed out, most of us have wholly bought into the current system. We believe in it to such an extent that we can't imagine any alternative other than socialism. And our conditioned resposne to that is repugnance, justified or not. So, effectively, there can be no debate.

    It's a tough nut to crack.
  • Brian: You are all individuals.

    Crowd: Yes, we are all individuals.

    Lone Voice: I'm not.

    While the principle is sound, the implimentation - people banding together in an effort to maintain individuality - is a paradox, both conceptually and in reality.

  • "Yep, basically money is what drives these companies. They have no divine right to our money. Be thankful that we have the right to NOT buy Windows and NOT buy Gap or Nike for their practices or failings. Some people (in poorer countries, or command economies) do not enjoy the wealth of options that western people have, and all of this moaning is frankly very annoying"

    This is an interesting statement. So your conclusion is that since conditions are worse in country x, we should absolutely accept what we have, and consider change or deviation from the status quo out of the question? Oh yes; interesting.

    "As middle class westerners, you have more options available to express yourself than ever before. People in the 1900s could buy a car as long as it was a black model T. Do you think choice has diminshed since then??? "

    Actually yes. Shortly after there were hundreds of companies selling autos. This evolved into a natural auto oligopoly due to efficient commodities of scale, standards processes, etc. Then japanese cars entered the market, with their reliability and overall quality, forcing the american auto oligopolies to increase quality in their products.

    "Most companies are not manipulating people for sinister reasons, it is because they are scared of this power and choice, and need to try everything in the book to stop you from moving on to something else - most companies realise today that customers are more fickle than ever. "

    You are analyzing this at the surface level of complexity.

    "What people like JK advocate through a thinly veiled socialist/marxist idelogy is that the intelligencia should decide what is good and what is not good for us, since people are nothing but sheep anyway. Surely better for the great men to control us sheep than corporations who only want our money? "

    I do not know how you come to this conclusion. His individualist assertions are surely vapid - yet, I could just as easily replace your supposition that it is marxist/socialist, to the objective reality of our representative republic. As an individual in such a system, all you can do is assert yourself, meet with representatives directly (letters, meetings) or indirectly (civil disobedience, march down on washington hoping to create coercion in the crowd, whatever), and vote.

    Further, I do not know where you are going with this argument, so I can not comment further.

    "I prefer to wield the little monetary power I have than give up my freedom to choose to someone else, who gets that choice because he deems himself my intellectual superior. "

    You over estimate your power as a consumer. Sometimes the natural evolution is congruent with the consumer and producer; sometimes it is not. Case in point: homogenuity in media industries. This is not good for the consumer. It is good for the businessman due to monopoly and increased advertising revenue.

    Also please do not accuse others of being marxist or propounding marxist ideas when there is no evidence of this being true. This is what some close minded individuals often do when there is talk of change -- "you damn commie, you're against all of us; america is an immutible force of nature that is the absolute best, and anyone propounding otherwise is a kook or a communist" etc.

    [... snip]
  • Imagine if computer programmers could be sued for every bug that causes harm. Brings, it right home, doesn't it.

    That would definitely be bad. You're right. But so would having to pay SuperHyperMegaCorp's lawyers. Of course, that's only a fear if you believe that our system of justice is imperfect as I do. Personally, I couldn't take the risk of having to pay for some corporation's team of lawyers if I lost my case. Since there's a chance that justice may not be served (like in the McDonald's case you pointed out), I wouldn't be willing to sue under the system you've proposed.

    As for the destitute...how would they sue under your proposed system? Right now, they can sometimes get lawyers to work for them on a contingency fee or even pro bono. Under your system, they would face the prospect of paying for the corporate lawyers. Would they still be allowed to sue, knowing that they can't pay if they lose? If so, who would pay those costs when such people lose? If not, then how is your system better for the poor than the current one?

    To me, the system you suggest is better for neither the lower nor the middle class. It is only better for the wealthy. Since they are a vanishingly small percentage of the people in this country, I can't support your proposal.
  • OMFG, what a great article. This is something that's needed to be expressed in a major public forum like /. for ages. Increasingly we're all faced by the pressure of corporations impinging on our freedom to do what we want and to do what's right. I just got to my university's computer suite to read /. after a lecture for the subject "Research Methods in Ecology". Today's lecture wasn't so much about research methods as it was about designing your research so it would be supported by corporate backers financially. Money above integrity once again. It's refressing to read an article like this, that hits the nail on the head to thoroughly.
  • You're either being dense, or my post wasn't articulated clearly.

    The situation is as such that it is acceptable to employ cheap labour in foreign markets. My pasting a PR article doesn't mean I agree with it in part or whole. My point was that he does genuinely believe that such acts are acceptable - and his "reform" efforts further illustrate this.

    "The facts are that Mr. Knight's corporation makes use child slave labor"

    Given I have not done any kind of research on Nike corporation, would you impart your information and source resources on me?

    I consult with several companies that also use foreign labour in the form of engineers from India. Do you consider it morally wrong because it is relatively cheap according to our standard?

    There are some that argue that the minimum wage is too low, and should be raised; so is everyone employing cheap labour for services and manufacturing doing something morally untenable?

    There are, of course, slight distinctions between acceptable and unnaceptable behavior. However, my original point was that this is acceptable behavior through repetition and no consequences. I was not vindicating his statements or actions - my opinion is actually largely irrelevant when trying to explain the behavior of others in a group whose function in the game I take no part in.
  • Boycotting individual corporations isn't feasible in the 21st century, either

    Sure it is. I'm boycotting [apc.org] Nestle.

    Boycotts are also somewhat repugnant to the free-market philosophy many individualists hold.

    Only if they are enforced by law or violence

    1....We need family farming

    Why? We used to have family farming, and most family farmers were dirt poor. Today, we have economies of scale and division of labor. Should we have family

    • iron foundries?
    • car makers?
    • drug companies?

    From an economic standpoint, the reason that we don't have family farmers any more is that they aren't competitive. Why should I pay higher grocery bills to support someone else's vision of family farming?

    2....corporate entities should also embrace moral and ideological values -- of their own choosing --apart from pleasing stockholders.

    AAAIIIEEEE!!!!!

    The need to return a profit to shareholders is one of the few effective constraints on corporate power. Lifting this constraint creates major problems of corporate governance.

    As a practical matter, the values that corporate entities choose--apart from pleasing stockholders--are protecting the jobs, perks, and compensation of their own top management.

    After that, it only gets worse. Do you really want people like Ross Perot and Bill Gates using their $Billions to advance their own personal moral and ideological values in a corporate--rather than political--arena?

    3....Workers are entitled to safe, creative and secure work environments, to freedom from continuous downsizings, re-structurings, layoffs and "re-engineerings."

    I have a safe, creative and secure work environment. This has a lot to do with the fact that my labor has high value, which in turn has at least something to do with the fact that corporations are free to lay off workers, so that labor moves to its best and highest use. (I've been laid off, and in a considerably worse job market than the current one.)

  • sarcasm>That's it! Let's all join together... as individuals. /sarcasm

    The best way to fight the corporate is with how you spend your money.

    ::Completely off-topic::

    Does anyone know of a list of the contents of Ted's 'Love Shack'... I am extremely curious as to what made up his library (any Katz, I wonder at this moment).

  • Someone moderate this back up. It's a serious point, succinctly put.

    You can't seriously attack anglo-american free-market capitalism with all its downsizing/etc. without fundamentally attacking individualism itself. Laissez-faire is probably the most individualistic friendly economic system around and, yes, you are going to have downsizings, re-structurings, layoffs, even the occasional "re-engineerings." But the only way to prevent this is to employ the violence of the state to make them illegal. Corporatism is evil because it is halfway to the constant, soul destroying totalitarian violence of communism/fascism. By his point 3 Katz seems to be advocating taking us one step beyond the evil of corporatism.

    That's the trouble with some of these fake individualists. They are statists who are just dissatisfied with who is on top.

    DB
  • For those of us unhappy about the fact that we dwell in a Corporate Republic, where conglomerates increasingly dominate culture, politics and society, the issue isn't primarily economic. It's intensely personal: Can we live individualistic lives, express our own beliefs freely, develop our own value systems?

    Yes.

    Look, just because every 14-year-old in America wants to buy a copy of "Oops, I Did It Again" by the Disney-backed bubblegum queen of the hour, there is no reason to think that my life is somehow affected by this. I can still download my copy of "Long Tall Weekend" by They Might Be Giants off their MP3 distribution site.

    It seems to me like you are the one trying to control people, not the corporations. If somebody wants to wear a Nike hat to look like like Tiger Woods, that's his own business. I'm sure he knows, when he's buying the hat, that Woods was paid to wear it. You can choose not to buy one yourself, but you should mind your own damn business if somebody thinks having one is cool.

    I can't help but detect a little insecurity. Were you the only kid in your class that didn't have a checkered pair of "Vans"? Did you feel like an outcast for not having a Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox? I think you should deal with these feelings, instead of whining about how everybody on your block but you is driving a Lexus. "They need to wake up because they are not being Individuals," you cry. "Everybody is the same except me. It's not fair!"

    If anything, we live in a time with more individuality, not less. In the 60's, society was pretty much divided between those who thought "Easy Rider" presented the ideal lifestyle and those who thought it had a happy ending.

    Walk into First Avenue in Minneapolis on any given night these days, and you will see punk rockers drinking right next to guys in suits right next to club kids in baggy jeans & gold chains.

    If all you do with your time is follow Media Trends (i.e., watch TV commercials, tune in to broadcast news, and read Wired), I can see where you might get the impression that we live in a world shaped by corporate images... but the real America looks absolutely nothing like what you see on a typical episode of "Friends".

  • His point is related to the conglomeration of media, which results in homogenous ideas held by the american people - this was not the case in the past, and it seems now that most media watchdogs have been relegated to being labelled charlatans and kooks; whereas, in the past, even the New York Times had very good editorial media watch dogs.

    Today most news is most often taken for truth. This is a logical fallacy.

    Furthermore, Chomsky describes this system in detail in his books and material readily online. Just make sure you don't enter a paranoid ignorant feedback loop after digesting his material.
  • What a silly notion. What about tribalism, social activism, movements, clubs and so on? Individualism can be one form of resistance, but certainly isn't anything that will threaten corporate nature. (I won't repeat a previous post pointing out the power of movements as apposed to individuals.) It is so easy to paint in black and white - if all you want is a line drawing. Corporations are all evil, individualism is good, nothing in between... True resistance as a society to the corporate ethic is education, it always is the answer to any 'evil' force in our society. It is groups of people who have the power to recruit, educate, press the issue into the societal spotlight - individuals who make a difference are frequently leaders of movements shortly thereafter. What do you do if you want to push society a bit further out of the corporate mindset? Tell your friends. Tell them to tell their friends.
  • This quote used to be my sig:

    Man's unique agony as a species consists in his perpetual conflict between the desire to stand out and the need to blend in.
    -- Sydney J. Harris

    Even "Individuals" band together with those like them, and that's probably the only thing we have going for us.

    I hate using words like 'us' and 'we' because I never presume to speak for everyone, but truth be told, there is a growing 'us'. The anti-corporate sentiment is growing. You might not think it, but Labor, environmentalists, netheads, are all moving in the same direction: against corporate domination.

    It's clear that the economy is the worlds focus now. The cold war is over, but the mentality hasn't changed: we're still fighting an enemy, still using the same tactics as we did in the cold war, but now instead of fighting against communism, we're fighting for free-market captialism and the World Economy. Yet, we're going about it in all the wrong ways.

    Just like during the cold war, it was democracy, civil liberties, and human rights be damned! We're fighting a good cause. Wasn't that supposed to change? It hasn't; the cause has changed, the tactics have not. Are YOU willing to give up your rights as a human because you want a better economy? If not, how can you sit idly by and let oppressive governments around the world do it to their people, with the full support of the US Government and the WTO?

    Pandering to corporations by the world governments, in the name of the economy, has got to stop. With labor, it affects both workers in other countries and workers at home. Obviously, companies will move their operations elsewhere, where it's cheaper, where they can exploit people all they want. With environmentalists, it's mostly the same thing: less controls or non-existant controls on companies environmental policies means cheaper operations; that's where the companies will go. With myself, and many others like me, its government sponsored corporate attacks on our rights as citizens, as human beings. I'm neither a strict environmentalist nor a union member, but we share something, a common goal, a common desire, and so they have my full support, just as, I'm sure, I would have theirs.

    If only they knew. I wouldn't say we're a quiet bunch (we, as in, those like me), but we're so different that the more traditional groups can't see our interests are anything of the same. The progressives (which is what they are) need to know we stand with them, they need to know we're in the same boat, and god dammit if we could get away from our computers for a little while and out into the real world maybe something would get done. Sorry, I'll stop preaching now :)

    I don't care who doesn't agree with what I'm saying. Go ahead and tell me if you want, I'm not listening. I just want to get the point across that we, those like me, aren't alone here. We've got a lot of people on our side in the traditional world, who just don't know they're on our side yet. Why don't we let them know?

  • I had that thought the other day.. that ultimately, shareholders are responsible for what a company does. The problem is.. they aren't. They vote, once a year, for the board of directors, and that ends their responsibilities. The way the market is structured, shareholders cannot actively and democratically run a company. That's not how it's designed.

    The real problem is money. If you take a publicly traded company, the board of directors MUST maximize shareholder value. That's their purpose for existing. That's the reason the company exists in the first place. People don't invest in order to create jobs, or change the world.. they invest to turn money in to more money.

    The problem, folks, is that we have no way to properly measure economic prosperity. A booming ecomony is one *potential* sign of a healthy country.. it is one aspect of human civilization. A booming economy should not be the desired result when running a country; it is simply an indicator of other things.

    The problem is that the acquisition of wealth has become an end unto itself.
  • The problem with this is that corporatism is a political system where the corporations have control of the legal system and while they don't hold a gun to your head, they pay off the politicians to do it for them. Corporations are the entities that play that game but it is possible to have corporations without corporatism.

    Example: Try importing sugar. It's very difficult and there is a quota system that limits quantities. This is why all your US soda is using High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) because domestic interests (like local sugar producers and ADM) who benefit from expensive sugar got a law passed that impoverishes Central America and raises their profit. If you try to dock your large sugar carrying boat without the requisite paperwork, Archer Daniels Midland isn't going to throw your tail in jail to protect their HFCS franchise, the US Custom's Service is. But they aren't acting for the people but as corporatist puppets.

    DB
  • by vlax (1809) on Monday May 15, 2000 @10:57AM (#1071309)
    Corporations do essential, absolutely necessary things. They collect taxes, enforce standards, make the enforcement of decent labour standards possible, and most importantly integrate complex chains of production in a relatively economically efficient way.

    Every industrialised economy, even the command economies of the former eastern bloc, had some kind of institution that functioned like a modern firm. They have had a variety of names, and a variety of legal definitions and statuses, but the basic machinery of management, division of labour, and intertwined responsibility have always been there.

    The persistent failure of alternative formulations suggests that the modern firm is an institution unlikely to go away, and that it is undesireable to replace it.

    The real problems revolve around who owns the firms, who operates them, and who regulates them, and in the end, what purposes they are designed and allowed to serve.

    I agree that the corporation's ideology is "profitability is society's dominant goal," and that that is a poor ideology, recognised as such by nearly everyone. As B. F. Skinner pointed out, we do good because good is rewarded, and we do bad because bad is rewarded. I'm not so sure this is true in such a simple way for individuals, but Skinner's dictum recapitulates the essense of natural selection. If long life and growth are the rewards of profits, organisations will be structured to seek profits at the expense of all else. They have to, because if they don't other organisations will displace them in the ecology of human affairs.

    Individualism at all costs isn't the answer. Without organising structures, every man and woman must depend on themselves for all their needs. It may be a sort of freedom, but it is the freedom of the caveman: the freedom to die alone when the machinery of society grins to a halt.

    There are alternatives. Rethinking the nature of ownership and the rights of labour has been the project of various liberal philosophies for two centuries or more. And much progress has been made. It is no longer possible to own another human in most places. Societies generally recognise that the structure of firms creates uneven dependencies and pass laws to ensure greater balance. Until recently, social insurance was a value of such great importance that even the demand for economic efficiency was considered secondary to it. These programmes were, and are, successful. The level of public wealth available in the industrialised world would never have materialised without it.

    An objection to the commodification of public culture is the single strongest thread of dissent in recent years. In days past, it was the commodification of labour that provoked rebellion, but today it's mostly culture. Both are undoubtedly bad things, but both can be amended.

    Karl Marx prescribed the only solution to the commodification of labour by demanding that the means of production belong to the workers. Although his specific programme is quite dated and less applicable to the modern world, the basic tenet remains strong.

    Take a look at Silicon Valley. One of the major factors in the success of the high-tech employment model is the liberal distribution of stock to employees and the relatively flat managerial hierarchies that insure local decision-making. Workers control those firms to an extent rarely seen in the "old" economy. Notions like total quality management and job rotation also serve to bring the workers more and more into the management, and indirectly into the ownership of companies. Surveys suggest that partially and wholly worker-owned companies out-perform fully private competitors on the average.

    This suggests that the basic Marxist prescription remains the most effective way to undermine these old injustices. When a corporation must be held responsible to the immediate interests of a crosssection of the public, it acts quite differently. The evil done by self-perpetualting boardroom oligarchies becomes less and less likely when many of its own owners stand to be damaged.

    The more contentious issue is the commodification of culture. No unified theory exists to deal with this problem, however, I note that it's scope diminishes when diverse and independent media are actively supported. The biggest music successes often start with underground recording, distributed independently, like the early Metallica, or grunge music. In some countries, publicly owned television stations with little or no advertising are able to set standards for content and culture that others must strive to equal in order to make a profit. Outside the US, most media markets support more than one newspaper.

    Developing networks that insure the funding and representation of independent media, limitations on advertising and perhaps even moving away from advertising as a model of financing for media might serve that purpose.

    But attacking corporations for doing exactly the things we reward them for is senseless. We need the corporations in order to support industrialised society and we can't change that. We can change what we reward them for doing.
  • We are the Individualists. You will be assimilated. Resistance means that you're a conformist!

    So be like us, since we are the Individuals!

    I was on the verge of deciding not to be an individualist, but now this article has convinced me that individualism is "cool" and that everyone else is doing it!

    Make me an individualist, too! Where do I sign up?

  • I've read your comment and personally found it very interesting. Could you please post links to the essay or more info about this approach. Or, if you prefer, email it to me at the address in the header.

    Thanks so much for the info.
  • Isnt an "individualist movement" somewhat of an oxymoron? 'Banding together to act for ourselves' doesnt make much sense to me...
  • I have found that many, many people don't really want to make their own decisions. Alot of people really like having someone else tell them what to wear and how to act (it's been the same throughout history). The people that stand up for what they believe in are almost always in the minority. The people that believe in anything are in even less a minority. Ignorance is bliss, being stupid and not making your own decisions may actually be more enjoyable for some.

    heh, BTW, I liked the guy that was talking about us all being individual the same way.
  • "We are all individuals, we are all different"

    "I'm Not!"

    I forget where that quote comes from, the buddy bears I think

  • I work with several engineers from India. They are highly skilled and bring salaries in the six figure range.

    How can you compare a highly skilled and educated engineer who makes a six figure salary with a nine-year-old girl who make 30 cents per day?

    Get real!

    Because amoral corporate pirates take advantage of corrupt "third world" governments and ultimately their citizens, does not excuse their amoral and highly destructive behavior. "Gosh, everyone else is doing it..." is no excuse!

    Finally, Nike's use of slave labor is well documented, and continues to this day.

  • ...at least Babel is trying. We're probably still the world's best kept secret.

    http://www.towerofbabel.com

  • The FCC has made LPFM (Low Power FM) [fcc.gov] legal, but it is under attack by the NAB [nab.org]. While the cost for the transmitter and antenna is not bad, ~$2500, the other costs associated with running a station and the difficulty of managing it can prevent folks from getting involved. Enter Open Source: we can create the rest of the radio station based on models of distributed communication and cooperation established on the Internet. Making it possible for people to speak their mind to the community and have the community interact with the station via the Internet. Technologies like FreeNet make it possible to share resources (music and information) so members of the radio station can easily produce the local content required by the LPFM license. Sharing the software to do this makes it easier for groups to slip out from under the corporate thumb.
  • "Even free market absolutist Milton Friedman says that lawsuits are more efficient market regulators than government agencies could ever be"

    You mean for those who have the money to prosecute, and those who can rally up enough support to warrant a lawsuit. whoops.

    Milton Friedman and his son David are both delusional.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    No. Katz is proposing that individualists adopt a common set of principles that will help preserve their individuality, but no more than that.

    It seems like a sound idea.
  • Individualism can involve some unpleasant choices. Corporatism viscerally punishes and isolates individuals. By their nature, individualists are discontented: persistent, obnoxious and unpopular...

    I'd like to think that we all consider ourselves individuals. I'm sure JK does, I'm sure you do, and I know I do. But no one out there is so much an individual that we stop being social.

    To what lengths do we take individualism? I'm sure JohnKatz wouldn't want to stop speaking English. He still uses his telephone and computer to communicate with the outside world, and most likely uses established, well known software to type up his rants. I don't know if he's a nudist, but I doubt it, and walking down the street, no matter HOW individual, you probably can't pick him out from a crowd. Fringe culture groups; punks, goths, retro 50s kids, ravers, hippies, etc, they're all different, but they're also all like someone else.

    I AM an individual. You are too. Even our friend John Katz is. But not going as far as saying "let the corperate world eat my soul", it's important to realize that some things stay the same. Humans are social animals. We need love and companionship, and seperating yourself on ALL levels isn't the way to accopmlish this. I know this wasn't the main point of the article, but remember that you're an individual, just like everyone else.

    The Good Reverend
  • Perhaps if you weren't blinded by your emotional assertions, you would have understood what I was writing. It's really actually impossible in many cases to extrapolate your isolated use of cheap labour to macro issues. For example, the current US economic boom is largely due to a lack of job security, and real wages that have not gone up in years to match inflation.

    "How can you compare a highly skilled and educated engineer who makes a six figure salary with a nine-year-old girl who make 30 cents per day?"

    Sure we can. In my illustrated case, they do not make six figures. They are both cheaper labour, and both accept these jobs because they are much better conditions than they are used to. Simple.

    "Because amoral corporate pirates take advantage of corrupt "third world" governments and ultimately their citizens, does not excuse their amoral and highly destructive behavior. "Gosh, everyone else is doing it..." is no excuse!"

    Whether it is an excuse or not is irrelevant.

    "Finally, Nike's use of slave labor is well documented, and continues to this day."

    I never held Nike in high regard before -- but really, thanks for the evidence.
  • Jon-

    I think you are overestimating the ability of the average american to "wake up" as you put it to corporate intrests and puppeteering. The "average" American after all, has an IQ of 100 and would score 1000 on the SAT, biased means of measuring intelligence, true, but useful nonetheless. In other words, by definition, half of all americans are below these measures of knowledge and intelligence. Posting here gives you the advantage of preaching to the choir (sp?) since I would argue that you would need to be of significantly above average intelligence to read and undestand /. I would contend however, that the average american is nearly oblivious to the corporate manipulations that he or she undergo on a daily basis. After all, a recent survey at ABC news put the number of americans who are against the breaking up of Microsoft at near 70%. So not only are most americans not cognizent of the manipulation they are undergoing, a large portion of them are incapable of waking up to that fact, even when faced with hard evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Megacorporation. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but in general this holds

  • Individualism is a fine thing. But really, how many people honestly wish to express their individualism and creativity? I've spent a good number of years on this planet and have arrived at the following realization:

    1. 80% of everyone takes life as it comes. They don't improve themselves, nor do they seek to destroy themselves. If they could live from hand to mouth forever, they would.

    2. 18% of everyone uses the system to better themselves. If there is a way to improve themselves within the system, they'll do it.

    3. 1.5% of everyone seeks means outside the system to better themselves. If there is a path other than the beaten one, they'll follow it.

    4. .5% of everyone CREATE paths that the people in #3 follow. They are the artists, dreamers and risk-takers who have the ability to see things differently.

    Individualism is a fine thing for people who wish to take advantage of it. Many people do not. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. The vast majority who exist within the system act a brake on those who would implement too many changes too quickly. When in balance, society proceeds and advances smoothly. When out of balance, excess change promotes revolution and anarky and excess inertia promotes stagnation.

    Corporations are ways to leverage resources and implement risky idea within a limited liability framework. If all shareholders were directly liable for the actions of their corporations, then there would be no advancement. There would be no exploration, technology, internet, or SLASHDOT (oh my!). Sure there are abuses; everything human is imperfect. But then everything is in a constant state of evolution - even us.
  • Anyone who reads Tocqueville can't be all bad. (Might as well lump in Voltaire while you are at it, though.)
  • Well spanked...

    I've spent a good number of years on this planet and have arrived at the following realization:

    Is there a source for that dialog, or do you fit into cat 3 - 4?

    It makes good sense, I was just wondering if it was original... ya know, credit where credit is due.

  • While we're all bearing the "real costs" of our actions why don't we do it for real and adopt a 'loser pays' rule. That's right, you sue, you win, they pay for your lawyer most of the time. That's good but if you sue and lose, you pay for his lawyer(s).

    This would preserve justice and weed out the idiot spectacles of people pouring hot coffee down their pants and suing McDonalds (maybe they should have stuck to grits).

    The problem with lawsuit happiness is that it changes behavior in a very bad way. Imagine if computer programmers could be sued for every bug that causes harm. Brings, it right home, doesn't it.

    DB
  • Boycotting individual corporations isn't feasible in the 21st century, either. Boycotts are complicated, especially when most Americans are understandably confused about who owns what. Some of these companies -- Disney,AOL/Time-Warner -- are now so vast it would take a massive uprising to even dent their earnings. Boycotts are also somewhat repugnant to the free-market philosophy many individualists hold.

    Not to be obnoxious, but HUH? Boycotts are very free market oriented. A free market allows buyers and sellers to agree to any arrangement that like (that does not violate the law). Jon seem to have fallen into the trap that a free market only allows you to select a seller based on price, but nothing could be further from the truth. I can decide in a free market to buy because the seller is my friend or cool or purple (notice the key word and tricky phrase: FREE).

    I try to order things like gaming materials and organic materials from a local store instead of getting them off the self at mega, mega land or an online discounter if possible. This may cost me a few extra dollars, but provides me with the continued existance of the local store, from which I gain other benefits. Although small, this is clearly in the realm of anti-corporatism and it is made possible by the free market.

    As MS shows, in fact, large corporations do not like free markets because free markets are their enemy once they reach a certain size (generally measured by market share). In fact, some argue corporations like a certain degree and type of government regulation because it raises the entry bar and prevents compeditors. With no compeditors, we can not choose someone else and must buy their product or go without.

    A boycott requires either: a non-essential item, an alternative source, or a substitute. The first is easy to deal with without a free market (you do not need it so you do without), but the last two rely on the free market to be possible. So boycotts clearly rely on free markets.

    The other direction works as well. Markets are a communication medium. A seller learns the desires of the buyer and his willingness to sacrifice for those desires through the market. Give people what they want and the market rewards you with increased sales. Fail to give them what they want and you are punished with reduced sales. Boycotts are just a method of translation: I want X (less use of sweatshops) which does not affect profit (the language of business). However, when everyone who wants X boycotts companies that do not supply it they translate it into the language of business (profit) and communicate the idea.

    Given that, I fail to see how boycotts violate free market principles. They merely represent my exercising my free to make business with who I choose for what I reasons I choose. Of course, this refers to voluntary boycotts, not government enforced ones.


    Herb

  • However, some folks I believe missed the expressed/implied concept and/or "I" am lost.

    I take your comments to mean that the term "I" is equivalent to the term "Humanity".

    The total being greater than the sum of its parts must be based on all parts being (like kinds, variable samples) statistically equal (within a set boundary of standard deviations) or no significant difference between all members of the human-race. A success for the individual is a success for humanity; Also, dominion over humanity is as tragic as dominion over the individual.

    Yes, the mentally and emotionally defective xenophobic bigot human would strongly disagree that there is one human-race, but who (someone) would want to listen to those Hitler-dictator types of individuals.

    Anyway, I felt you were asking the question that the naturalist (10's) and hippies (60's), flappers (20's) and disco-flings (80's) were all saying during their decades: "Is this all there is, lets see?" "Enjoy while you can, because it may all be gone tomorrow." .... Do we advance or wait for the end.

    Today we (some of US) see the "I" in Institution (Government, Religion, Corporation, Culture, Social, ...) as having dominion over humanity. As did the emperors of Rome, Napoleon of France, Hitler of Germany, Stalin of Russia, Kings, Queens, Dictators, ... all the others oppressed the individual that makes humanity an entity rather then a thing.

    We cannot be human without our individuality, and institutions can only define things. Yes, I believe that many of these institutions today are trying and succeeding at oppressing humanity.

    Don't forget the WTO and WMF type institutions ...............
  • Jon, let me say that this is, IMO, the best peice you have written that I have read. You're point is, I think, well taken: it is not important that any of us go be any particular thing. But it is vitally important that each of us go be something of our own choosing. Preferably this would be done after putting some thought into what exactly we each want to be, but the main thing is to do something, anything other than just default to following the programming that society gives us.
    In the book Ishmael, Daniel Quinn talks about "Mother Culture": that little, subliminal voice that is constantly whispering in your ear, telling you what you "should" do and what you society expects of you. We are all subject to the influence of Mother Culture; you can't escape from it, really. The important thing is to be aware of the little voice, and know what it is telling you to do.
    Your point, in a nutshell, seems to be that the corporations have identified Mother Culture, and are actively manipulating her to their own ends. Spend a couple of hours watching television (or reading a popular magazine) and you will know that this is true, and it has been going on for a long time.


  • Thank you, for a breath of reason...

    Do I hear a whisper of Rand in those paragraphs, though? ^_^
  • To begin with, individualism ought to be recognized as a movement and a political philosophy. Individualism advances humanism,
    Oh great. Individualism, as long as you belong to the religion of Humanism, rather than, say, Christianity, or Islam, or whatever.
  • Someone pointed out here that we're not talking about the old Marxist concept of workers controlling the means of industrial production... what we're talking about is who controls our culture and who sets the political agendas. We should be optimistic.

    Politically, Americans are waiting for a real alternative... the most amazing thing about the McCain near-nomination was that it came from the right. If there was a candidate with John McCain's apparent integrity running in the left's place against an obvious shithead like the Shrub, the coming election would be an easy call. But for a pack of Establishment types to break ranks and embrace McCain... that's impressive. David Foster Wallace's recent article on McCain in Rolling Stone laid it out surprisingly well - Americans under 40 really don't believe the hype any more. "Bulworth", for its flaws as a film and even just a premise, was a prophecy. The anti-corporate, no-bullshit candidate is coming. It'll take a few more years for this generation to percolate through the system, but they'll come.

    These candidates will be in demand because of the culture, and here there are some definite signs of hope. The most remarkable, all neatly in a row, all at the right time in the right place for the right market: "Fight Club", "Three Kings" and "American Beauty". Three outstanding films, three wide audiences, one underlying message: the old rules no longer apply.

    Not as obviously subversive yet examples of a deepening trend - "Pleasantville", "Truman Show", "Drop Dead Gorgeous", "Election", even the geek-trendy "Matrix". These aren't little art house flicks or obscure straight-to-video. It's no longer just one well-worn copy of "Heathers" at the video store - our viewpoint is becoming the mainstream. Fast.

    The daily paper falls prey to the free alterna-weekly and online news. The record store and bland corporate rock falls to MP3 and local artists. TV gives way to the net. Barnes & Noble loses to Amazon on the net and to plucky or niche real stores. Local TV news is relegated to the laughingstock status it's always deserved. Proprietary standards languish, open standards flourish. "Organic" is equivalent to "superior" in the supermarket and restaurant. Michael Moore just keeps going. "The Simpsons", ten years of stickin' it to The Man and counting. WTO/IMF protests. Adbusters. RTMark. Cluetrain. The Onion. Utne. The New Urbanism and the Geography of Nowhere. Strawbale and other ecofriendly building solutions. Home Power magazine. And yeah, Linux and the GPL.

    This isn't a fad marketing niche and it isn't a revolutionary fight for survival - it's a righteous memetic bandwagon, and it's gathering momentum. The signs are all clear as hell and pointing in the same direction. I don't know where the signs point to or how all these chips will finally fall, but it couldn't be more obvious: if you're not heading that way - you're heading the wrong way.
  • Perhaps if you weren't blinded by your emotional assertions, you would have understood what I was writing. It's really actually impossible in many cases to extrapolate your isolated use of cheap labour to macro issues. For example, the current US economic boom is largely due to a lack of job security, and real wages that have not gone up in years to match inflation.

    True, white collar crime does make me a bit angry and emotional. My apologies.

    The source of the "US economic boom" is open to a wide spectrum of debate, but I rather doubt that the boom is the result of "lack of job security" (fear of job insecurity has nearly vanished in the last three years for all Americans). I think our productivity gains explain the lack of "inflation."

    Sure we can. In my illustrated case, they do not make six figures. They are both cheaper labour, and both accept these jobs because they are much better conditions than they are used to. Simple.

    First, I live in the Silicon Valley, and I can assure you that Engineers from India are not cheaper than American Engineers with comparable skill sets.

    I'm also an engineer by degree (MSEE) and am quite familiar with our communities issues, and I can assure you that the vast majority of Engineers from India make six-figure salaries. In fact, they demand salaries in this range, by default.

    BTW - I forgot to give you a link to additional documentation of Nike's "business practices." Try this following link to Corporate Watch. [corpwatch.org]

    Whether it is an excuse or not is irrelevant.

    Although you may find such arguments "irrelevant," those of us who find amorality wrong, and too often a convenient excuse for malfeasance do find this quite relevant.

  • Well, I was trolling in an attempt to elicit a crazy response. Yes, I am guilty of omission. I sometimes like fucking with Chomsky readers on Usenet, and figured I could do the same here. Oh well, didn't work.

    I am fully aware of the complexity inherent in being complicit with morally untenable business practices, as evaluated by our modern society, exemplified by our history, and perfectly symbolized in events such as the boston tea party.
  • Oh, and:

    'The source of the "US economic boom" is open to a wide spectrum of debate, but I rather doubt that the boom is the result of "lack of job security"'

    loose monetary policy
    strong demand
    new and exciting tech markets!!! (see irrational)
    margin lending, credit, zero savings
    of course information technology, although often overstated

    "fear of job insecurity has nearly vanished in the last three years for all Americans"

    Lots and lots and lots of temps and part time workers in blue collar manufacturing, services and retail markets.
  • I agree with you completely. An individual is useless against corpratism. Individuals united however may stand a chance.

    What is a corperation?

    A group of collected individuals with a common goal.

    Fight fire with fire I say.

    The only problem I see here is that of the right of a company to exist. Corperations may not have the right of existance, but they do have the right to exist.

    It would be extreemly hiprocritical (spelling?) of us to deny them that right. A corperation has as much right to be here as we do. However they do not have the right to screw us over. It's our business that keeps their bussiness in business.

  • Oh, and:

    'The source of the "US economic boom" is open to a wide spectrum of debate, but I rather doubt that the boom is the result of "lack of job security"'

    loose monetary policy
    strong demand
    new and exciting tech markets!!! (see irrational)
    margin lending, credit, zero savings
    of course information technology, although often overstated

    "fear of job insecurity has nearly vanished in the last three years for all Americans"

    Lots and lots and lots of temps and part time workers in blue collar manufacturing, services and retail markets.

    I agree.

  • "Jon's reliance on the individual smacks too much of Ayn Rand. And just as Rand's political philosophy attributes charaterisitics that an average person cannot possess so does Jon's essay"

    No doubt, a smacking is in order for his presentation. Yes, it smacks of manifesto, and his presentation smacks of a progenitor imparting his moral and political imperative on potential followers.

    The difference between Ayn Rand is this: this forum is open to debate, therefore this is not a doctrinal belief system like objectivism, although it does use buzzwords like individualism, that the Rand hordes use endlessly (when in fact, it's really "come here, let us give you information so you can be *more* individual", when in fact, the translation is: "come believe our doctrinal belief system, and you will become incredibly intelligent and individual, and you will be saved from the threat of all those commie bastards").

    "No, if you want change I urge people to turn off their TV, put down their papers and meet together to discuss their concerns"

    Doesn't work when you're ignorant. Many american people feel there is something wrong, but are unable to express this beyond unarticulate expression of anger.

    My advice:

    Watch c-span;
    delve into political science, economics;
    obtain information from a variety of sources (various newspapers, the internet, books, whatever);

    Then when person x actually has a clear picture, problems, and possible solutions - then a political movement would make sense - given others who share the same ideas.

    Otherwise you get something like the WTO protests -- Lots of stupid morons making legitimate causes look like irrational, insane garbage that should be relegated to ignominy.

    Which brings us back to problems in education and media ...
  • The problem with using 'individualism' as a rallying cry is that within that context, the term has no content.

    When Jon Katz proposes individualism as a solution to the problem of corporatism, his logic is severely flawed. Why? -Individualism is inescapable. You are yourself - the point of the parent post, I believe, is that espousing individualism as a solution to any socio-political problem is foolish, since we are all individuals. We're all different. Many people will choose corporatism if offered a choice. It's not the best choice in my opinion, but that's the point: individualism doesn't somehow magically make everyone conform to my idea of what an "individual" would think.

    Freedom is one thing - individualism is another. In the context of logic and politics, they do not imply one another.

  • *holds up a severed head*

    You know what this is? Neither do I. But it's attention-getting, innit?

    Now, for all the Pro- and Anti-Katz sentiment wafting through /., I'm going to blithely ignore both Jon and his column on "Individualism" ("We're all different!" "I'm not!" ) in the interest of actually making a coherent point somewhere along the way.

    Each of us is, by definition, and individual. To state anything to the contrary implies that we've somehow become the Borg, and, goddammit, I wanted to be the first one with nifty implants.

    Nobody can tell us, deep down, what to think or feel. How we act is broadly governed by the social mores of our era, and those aren't just spewed out by some massive PR machine. They're learned from intelligent, caring human beings. Folks like our parents (I know you don't read /, Mom, but Happy Mother's Day anyhow). Our friends. Our teachers.

    We're all individuals. Period. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

    Now, I am constantly irritating my boss, and probably his boss, and almost certainly the boss above him, because I refuse to wear a tie, have unnatural-colored hair, and have no compunction about expressing my (often critical) opinion about the practices, procedures, and policies at the office. This has resulted in my being snubbed at promotion time, has led to friction about my representing the department at meetings, and has probably caused a lot of people a nontrivial amount of difficulty.

    I don't give a shit. I'm not here to make my boss happy, I'm here to be competent. If I was incompetent, I wouldn't keep getting paid.

    So they tolerate what can be called my "deplorable lack of personality" (to steal M. Crichton's one and only good line from Jurassic Park) because I am damn good at what I do.

    You see, Jon, that you don't have to be an isolationist to be individual. Perhaps you'd consider Neal Stephenson's approach in The Diamond Age and consider breeding subversiveness instead.

    After all, wasn't that what you had in mind when you said we needed a 'net head in the Oval Office? Rot from within? Divide and conquer? Fold, spindle, and mutilate?

    Okay, I'm done with my esoteric ranting. I had some karma to burn.

    Rafe

    V^^^^V
  • I think you're sort of missing the point here JK. Everyone, for the most part, already considers themself an individual. They choose to become the mindless clone drones they are and know no different. Probably 75% of our society is made up of these drones and so you will never win this war by trying to motivate these folks into action. This group includes all those people who watch tv and laugh when the tv audience laughs, those who listen to all the new pop music and always think it's something new, those people who actually think their vote counts for something but choose who to vote for based on what they've seen on television. This is the reality of America.
    Vast masses of unthinking workers under the control of greedy, power hungry corporations. The real tragedy is that I think even those in control of these corporations are as much a slave as the rest of us. The only way out of being a slave worker is to become a slave driver. It's a circle of sacrificing ourselves to nameless gods all in the name of money.

    On the other hand we are already hearing the first shots fired in a new revolution and they are deeply tied into our Internet community. For us that have grown up on the Internet and with opensourced software we have developed an expectation of freedom of expression and freedom from paying for everything we get. To a large extent our entire youth culture is now moving into this area and you can see the generation lines largely forming. For the first time in many years, maybe ever, we actually are putting an educational communications tool in the hands of the youth that doesn't rob them of their creativity and individualism. This is creating a generation that will bring the revolution. Their may be violence and people hurt on either side but for the most part this will be a slow transfer of power from the old to the young. Many of these youth may buy into the old system with all it's promises but there will be many who will not. Those such as the recording industry and other corporations who no longer serve any useful purpose will doubtless fight on but they are fighting the spectre of an unstoppable change and they will fall by the roadside for their efforts.
  • Make me your leader and I shall destroy all the false gods; temples of evil shall crumble to dust under the hand of the righteous!
    As for moral bankruptcy, we are far past that these days, with our demented civilization all whacked on money and sexual influence. It is time that we all rise, form a jihad against the corporations. It is time to fight for what is Good.

    When the pack animals stampede, it's time to soak the ground with blood to save the world. We fight, we die, we break our cursed bonds.
  • I think the truth of your observation is rooted in an error on Mr. Katz's part. I don't think 'individualism' is the core concept.

    Each person listening to his own intuition and expressing his own feelings is certainly an integral part of health, but this can be done in a group, even a group sharing common interests. This is contrasted to a corporate atmosphere which operates largely on the principle of authoritarianism - one person or group subjugating the will of another.

    "Individualist movement" is not an oxymoron, it is a paradox. Many (all?) truths are paradoxical and this does not invalidate them.

    But individualism, or healthy self-awareness and expression, is not the only facet of a healthy individual/group. 'Corporatism' is void of many aspects of soul. For example, capitalism promotes the idea of competition, but competition is not healthy. It creates ugliness, fear, and damage. Rather harmony is healthy. Realization of the potential of harmony is the next step beyond using brute competition to find balance.

    I think a deadness, a lack of awareness for the unity of life, and a lack of compassion are the cornerstones of corporatism, and I don't think individualism alone represents the solution. It is merely a component of a greater way of living.

    An important thing to remember is that corporations, like governments, are created and supported in every way by people. The sickness you perceive is merely a reflection of a diseased people. They (you, us) ultimately produce what is in their hearts and souls - in this case oppression.
  • I'll quickly summarize my position so that those who are interested can read the details below. Making the establishment friendly to individual expression means that the establishment must be changed. One highly effective means of changing the nature of the establishment is promoting change from within. That means fighting it on its own terms. The people that hold both money and altruistic intentions could bring about great change pursuing their altruistic aims in the same way many in America promote their corporate aims.

    Being a successful capitalist does not necessarily mean that one must abandon altruism societal goals . My background is in Economics and I currently work in policy analysis, so I feel I have a good grounding in how money influences politics and the shape of the establishment. I must agree that the groups most influential in policy making are those organizations that have great sums of money to support their causes. However, I do not see that all groups that are successful making money necessarily hold the same aims or ideals. In a nation where money and lobbying effort dictate a great deal of policy, there seems to be a great deal of room for altruistic capitalism. That is, successful companies, or individuals can promote beneficial change to the establishment the same way that unwelcome policies are promoted.

    Many people have a bad taste for special interests that are not viewed as being beneficial to the wider public. What if, all of the sudden, the desire to promote the public's ability to be individualistic became a well funded special interest?

    Fortunately we live in a time when a number of people and companies are making large sums of money using non-traditional business structures and plans. Many business models indoctrinate a certain establishment oriented attitude. However, new ground is being broken for successful companies that do not indoctrinate such principles. Think for a moment about the success of Slashdot itself. Also, I would like to refer you to ArsDigita [arsdigita.com]. Read the ArsDigita mission statement, and decide for yourself about the potential of altruistic capitalism.

    Many Slashdot readers are supportive of the Free Software Foundation and its aims. The Foundation is quite illustrative of an organization that has agreeable ideals and aims, but has taken it upon themselves to fight for change via established channels. The FSF is not a bunch of punks singing about the benefits of Free Software while refusing to wear ties. They employ button down lawyers advocating change for the good of the public using the most effective means possible.

    There is no reason other such organizations cannot do the same. Imagine for a moment that the creators of Slashdot took part of the money they received for joining Andover.net and organized a group of lobbyists to fight for the ideals of the Slashdot community. Now you may argue that such an effort would disagreeable because of the disparity of opinions held by the Slashdot community. I agree that such an effort certainly would suffer from the wide range of opinions among the constituency it represents. However, I argue that, once it decided on its aims, those aims would do much to promote changing the establishment in desirable ways when compared to the self-serving corporate aims of many other influential organizations.

    One may also argue that a "Slashdot lobby" would be insignificant when compared to the influence other organizations. I dreamt up the Slashdot advocacy simply to illustrate a point (and it just happens that Slashdot works perfectly in this respect). Slashdot is a successful company making money without losing its altruistic aims, and we live in a time when many other companies are doing the same. Principled, altruistic groups now have the opportunity to play ball the same way unprincipled organizations with money have been pursuing their goals. The success of companies making money in non-traditional business structures may mean a great number of well funded, altruistic people are ready to organize for the public good.

    I want to change the world. I am a principled man that thinks the establishment is not friendly to many things that I think people should be able to pursue. I have ruminated long and hard about how to best bring about change to the system. I could try and organize grass roots efforts, try and influence policy from the realm of academia , or I could make a shitload of money and hire my own lobbyists while running a business that does not compromise my ideals. I have decided to pursue the latter course of action.

    Maybe there are others out there like me. I urge those people to be as active as possible. Some people have made great sums of money under current economic conditions, but don't like what most people have to do to survive in the current corporate environment. I urge such people to try and affect change but exerting pressure for positive change using the same means that corporate America has proven so successful.

    "Slashdot D.C." - Lobbyists for Nerds

  • I agree completely. Corporate control of the media has done more to destroy democracy in this country than anything else in our history.

    Thanks! It's nice to know I'm not alone in this debate.

  • What you propose is not 'individualism' -- it is just the opposite. You want 'family farms' -- so you crush any farmer who is too succesful and grows beyond the family. You want curmudgeonly newspaper editors...until their paper is popular enough to expand past the small town it began in. You want a corner store -- but only so long as the owner doesn't turn enough of a profit to begin a chain. You want to keep business from 'controlling' technology -- but the only way to do that is via an all-powerful government which crushes anyone who is actually succesful.

    Furthermore, the concept of people gathering to declare that they are all individualists brings to mind the hilarious balcony scene from 'Life Of Brian', in which the crowd chants, in unison, "Yes...we are all individuals", then proceeds to beat the one man who says, "I'm not".

    Go back to being this generations' Fighting Young Priest Who Can Talk To Youth, and give up on trying to found a social movement based on concepts you clearly do not comprehend. Bruce Sterling failed with his 'viridian' claptrap, and you aren't in his league by a long shot. Social movements do not begin with someone says, "Hey kids! Let's put on a revolution! We can use my Uncles' barn!"

    As a final note, your good buddy McCain is behind both TV ratings and COPA, the 'sequel' to the CDA. You backed the wrong horse on this one.

  • An ideology of individualism...

    How... erm... Pythonesque !

    While I agree with Mr Katz that there exists a disturbing trend on our planet towards a low common demoninator determined by a small group of people I would, however, take him to task about the core problem.

    Historically, it should be apparent by now that most revolutions tend to follow a similiar pattern:

    1) Become dissatisfied
    2) Find someone to blame
    3) Blame someone
    4) Gather support
    5) Revolt
    6) Live happily ever after until someone decides
    _you_ are actually the one to blame.

    To blame corporations, government, greedy people, evil people, kings and queens, neighbours, black people, geeks, criminals ad nauseum for the ills of our world may be a masterstroke of intuitive statistical correlation but it does very little to identify the underlying causality giving rise to the observed correlations.

    I do not yet understand the underlying causality that has, as one effect:

    * A lack of integrity in a society growing proportional to the number of members of that society.

    Because I do not yet understand the underlying causality I will hold off and assigning blame and instead voice what little intuition I have on the effects I observe:

    * As the numbers of members of a society increases the number of interactions required for consensus decision making increases exponentially.

    * A lot of decisions have time-limits within which they have to be made.

    * Decisions which do not have a lot of diverse opinion informing them often tend to be poor.

    * Decisions made which exclude the opinions and needs of individuals concerned with the effects of that decision will often result in the individuals concerned feeling disempowered, angry and excluded making it even harder to achieve consensus on decisions in future.

    To name a few.

    These things are obviously inter-related and the situation is obviously complex. I can also, quite justifiably, be accused of not offering any answers.

    But if we do know that we don't know enough to even start thinking about a solution, let alone blaming anyone we might be more likely to create the time and space within which to search for understanding on a problem which has been with us since we first started building communities larger than a handful of people.

    Regards,
    antoine
  • I've already spouted my ideas for appropiate replacements before in this series of stores. I would agree that you can't make a revolution without a proper replacement but it's also true that revolution happens in society of it's own accord. This one is coming regardless of if we plan it and attack or just let it evolve itself. This revolution is a revolution that by nature must strip power not only from those who already have it but also from those who would lead the revolution. Sure there will be parts that go out of whack but I think not as much as you'd expect from most other cultural revolutions we've had. opensource wouldn't work for all of society, only intellectual property concerns, but the moral and personalities that give us such works would do well to show itself more in aour daily lives. Mainly I speak of trust and a sense of looking out for society above your own needs. Sure many free software projects have been made to scratch the authors own itch, but how many features have been added to scratch the itches of others? Look at how the community has responded since the negative ratings that came out of that stupid paid-by-M$ test for Linux vrs Windows. Practically all the weak points have been addressed. Not for anyone person but for the pride of our community in being the best. Everything we do is transparent to the world so we better do it well. Look at how many people are concerned about Microsoft trying to censor Slashdot or what is happening in the MP3 and DVD arenas. Honestly these legal outcomes will not greatly effect most of us who are most interested because we know how to get software that can't be bought/sold in the U.S. but we are concerned for our community and our communities freedoms.
  • My inclusion of Tocqueville was to further understanding of the democratic republic, and the potential problems therein. Modern social commentators are no doubt more versed in current problems of this great experiment - yet, Tocqueville is still just as relevant and allows the reader to figure the general point of extrapolation that descendents in his "field" - possibly allowing the reader himself to come to his own conclusions.

    The inclusion of Voltaire is, I think, irrelevant - although I could just as easily include him, Russell, Descartes, even Kant, Nietzsche; and then, even Gödel, then Von
    Neumann, et al

    All important, and all intelligent commentators and researchers on social, philisophical, mathematic, and scientific issues and findings. It would, however, be important to mention to the reader that he or she should follow the evolution of such ideas, and never take them as absolutely genuine because they are popular or in book format.
  • This is probably the first Katz article I actually liked, and I liked it a lot.

    I think it would be useful if we had some resources. We need a way to track things like corporate ownership. We also need a way to find out information about where and how our consumer end products are manufactured.

    some of this information is available, but not enough, and not easily enough.
  • Everybody you listed there is worth a look.

    There are four things that you can always count on the French for: Interesting political thought, fine wine, oboe reeds, and surrendering to the Germans. :)

  • Excellent point. I think the real ideological struggle for many of us individualists is understanding just how we can condemn 'corporatism' and the conformity it entails, without attacking the free market principles that made it possible. Capitalism is a game where every individual is an equally free participant. The problem (?) is that the winningest players tend to become mega-coporations -- and economic freedom translates into a new form of subtle, cultural oppression.

    But, as dbrutus points out, any restrictions on the free market come via the violence of the state.

  • Chomsky has his own website, www.zmag.org [zmag.org] with the same sort of like-minded people writing posts (you can sign up for an nntp logon for their discussion boards) to each other, devoted to ideological hairsplitting and engaged in the endless refinement of dogma.

  • Right on!

    Perhaps attending a few protests may be in order, eh?

  • The first ammendment of the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees (among other things) the right of the people to peaceably assemble. The right to voluntarily gather together for common purpose is fundamental to the American philosophy.

    I cannot move a boulder alone, but if get some of my friends together, and we push the boulder together, we can get it done. The computer I typed this message on could not possibly have been created were it not for those "corporatists" gathering together to get it done. I know of no *individuals* who could possibly pull off such a feat alone.

    Individualism? Bah! United we stand, divided we fall.
  • The difference between Ayn Rand is this: this forum is open to debate, therefore this is not a doctrinal belief system like objectivism...

    This is incorrect. A large portion of people who call themselves Objectivists, including many of Rand's groupies, espouse a doctrinal belief system. However, this bears little relation to the actual philosophy. It is easy to miss this, since Rand's own behavior was wildly inconsistant with the philosophical system she wrote about, but nonetheless, any reading of the actual philosophical texts of Objectivism quickly dispute the claim that it is dogmatic in any sense.

    Rather, the central premise of Objectivist metaphysics is that truth is absolute given a specific context. This is reflected in the heavy reliance on individual judgement and conscious decision making that is stressed repeatedly throughout both the fiction and non-fiction. Nowhere in Objectivist morality is there a list of 'thou shalt' and 'thou shalt nots'. Rather, there is a set of general principles which are applied to any given particular situation to determine the correct moral response. Individual judgementes may vary but the thinking is that rational human beings, if honest with themselves and the facts, will come to the same conclusion.

    Unfortunately, this has been very poorly misinterpreted and many self-proclaimed Objectivists attempt to make an intellectual short cut by taking specific examples and particular situations from the books Rand wrote and using them as a set of absolute moral laws. On top of this, taking after Rand's own dismissive and belligerent attitude, they have a poor tendency to throw around buzzwords as a means to discredit (mostly to their own minds) dissenting opinions. None of this is helped by the fact that her intellectual 'heir' is one of the worst perpetrators of both sorts of behavior.

    It is worthwhile to read the material in question and judge it on its own merit rather than relying on experiences or anecdotes of practitioners. Particularly with such a young philosophy. I believe it was Nietzsche who said that you can never judge an ideology by its first generation of adherents.

    Eric Christian Berg
  • Quoth the KatzMan:
    ...To react at all, you have to buy the idea that something disturbing is happening. In our increasingly unconscious civilization, many people don't:...

    I did not change that quote.You heard him,he said "...buy the idea...".In otherwise,he's peddiling his ideology in the same manner a corperation would market a product on TV or radio.By telling us things and not giving us verfiable sources like outside essays,newspaper collumns,books,etc. he is using the same underhanded tactics that big business like MS and AOL use to get us to use their products without telling us how they stack up against competitors.He tells us about how evil and wrong the corperate world is,and how we can escape this by picking up an "ideology of individualism" and following him off into the sunset.Uh,no thanks.I don't buy into people who seemingly abide by the philosphies of "do as I say,not as I do(or type as the case may be.)" and use Newspeak to their advantage.(If I just confused you,see the previous Katz article on the Corperate Republic.He opens with some Newspeak for us.)For if Jon truely loved individualism as he says,he'd give us verifyable sources that he derived his thoughts from that I could check and direct quotes.Why?That's just good essay writing.I learned that I my freshman year of high school.He should know this better than I,he worked for a freaking magazine!

    More from the Katz's mouth:
    "By their nature, individualists are discontented: persistent, obnoxious and unpopular, from the scoolkid who challenges a teacher in school, to the employee who irritates the senior veep."
    We're not "discontented...by their nature" Jon,we simply wish to do things in a way that is best for us.If that means disrupting the flow of things,oh well.That's just precieved as "discontent" by people that don't understand that simple fact.Individuals' attitudes towards authority are as varied as the people themselves.

    Katz Again:
    "People need to wake up. We need a conscious civilization that acknowledges individualism as a basic human right. We ought to be able to express our own views, run our own businesses, pursue our own culture, develop our own software and hardware. We need family farming, local pharamicists, cranky local newspaper editors and website operators, and other small business ownership. We need diversity of opinion and thought in a homogenized cultural environment, the ability to develop innovative technology apart from monopolistic conglomerates. We need a new generation of political leaders who are not dependent on corporations for their survival. "
    Smaller is not always better.Yes we do need more diversity of thought in business,but we don't need to destroy conglomerates to do it.We should create our own newspapers and distribute them at shopping malls and supermarkets,Have small bands sell CD's of their music for cheap to people outside of Walmart.Use the 'Net to find the political party that best fits our beliefs,etc.Just sitting here and saying stuff isn't helping.We need to start doing stuff,no matter how small,anything to start us off.

    What else have you got to say,Comrade?:
    "Conglomerates should be prohibited from corrupting and overwhelming institutions of technology, education, entertainment or information."
    How do you propose we do that?You don't give any details,which is another sign of crappy essay composition.

    Not another one!:
    "...to use technology to become the pests of society..."
    We've already proven we can be pests.Let's prove we can be intelligent netizens doing useful and intresting things,such as,but not limited to,explaining the uselessness of using filters as babysitters,showing kids how do do things on the PC other than surf the net and play games,creating intresting websites,not just some of the crap I see online,and explaining to parents that not everyone on the net is a pedophile or other such evils.And another thing:no more fscking warz d00ds and 31337 h4x0rs!I'm sick of them!

    One last thing:
    "So think of this as merely a starting point in developing an ideology of individualism.
    A better starting point would be a manifesto,a finished document about all the key things individuals value.The next step would be educating others about what our beliefs,giving them the facts and asking them to decide what they believe in more.Jon,if you can't take the time to think out and craft a manifesto that we can ponder and discuss,then you should of taken more time to craft your words better.Think about that next time you come up with a new ideology,a new revolution to fight.

    I'm really sorry if I rambled on folks.I usually don't,It's just that I had quite a few addendums to Katz's spiel.And I'm trying to be a troll.If that's how I come out,sorry.

    This hopefully coherent speech by:ComradePenguin
    --------------------------------
    Etot "sig" byit pisyat v Russki!
    (35.0% Slashdot nezdorovi.)
  • By their nature, individualists are discontented: persistent, obnoxious and unpopular, from the scoolkid who challenges a teacher in school, to the employee who irritates the senior veep. Individualism demands that its followers become critics.They raise questions many people don't want to hear, confront the growing conformity in our cultural and educational institutions, and put themselves at risk of losing positions and promotions and opportunities. Their only reward is to join a proud community of other dissatisfied people, a community of social discontents. They are free to speak and think their minds. They are independent in an increasingly dependent world. They are affirming a long and glorious human struggle, from the Enlightenment to the American Revolution, to achieve autonomy and individual liberty. They are seeking a moral way to live in the world beyond simply fattening their portfolios. They can sometimes rise, and help other people to rise above the great levelling that corporatism imposes.

    ...you've just reinvented the hippy!

  • That was supposed to read:
    ...And I'm not trying to be a troll...
    Sorry if I confused the hell out of everybody.
    ------------------
    Etot "sig" byit pisyat v Russki!
    (35.0% Slashdot nezdorovi.)
  • >We need a conscious civilization that acknowledges individualism as a basic human right.

    I'm not quite sure I understand the idea of "conscious civilization." Is this some kind of uber-mind, or statement that someone, society - civilization - is more than a collection of individuals, and can have a consciousness unto itself?


    No. It's a generic term used by some people smarter than me to signify the idea that most of the individuals/people living in our society and civilization are unaware, or as one could say, unconscious, of the various forces that work to shape their decisions.

    >2. We should acknowledge that economics matters (a lot), but it can't be society's only common goal. Nothing could be more morally bankrupt than

    Does the idea of a bunch of societal "common goals" seem to be totally contradictory to any form of individualism? Doesn't, rather individualism mean that each person is an end in and of themself, rather than just a cog in some "common goal"?


    Yes. However, there is nothing to say that I can not be an individual while still sharing with you and others around me some common beliefs, thoughts, and goals. As people will form groups based on these, we will find there are many sub-sets of society with different common goals. The key is to not allow any of them to supersede all others (which is what I believe Jon is suggesting is happening today. The common goal of 'profit' is wiping out all others.

    >markets are important, but corporate entities should also embrace moral and ideological values -- of their own choosing --apart from pleasing stockholders

    ... Or, is what you're trying to say is that corporate entities should embrace "moral and idological values - of their own choosing", at least, so long as it fits into your own preset notions?


    I don't believe that's what being said at all. In the current system, corporations are often hamstrung from wanting to pursue moral and ideological values by the commonly held notion that if you're not growing, you're dead. These corporations, if they are to continue operation, must continue to grow and provide benefits for the shareholders - and if moral or ideological considerations get in the way of that, they are punished for it, not only in lowered stock prices, but by lowered lines of credit and less exposure to the public in the media.

    I don't see Jon as suggesting that if pure profit is the be-all and end-all of a company it shouldn't be allowed to pursue that, but rather that other options should at least be viable ones. This of course requires a concious effort on the part of the individualists to support those corporations that are not purely profit-centric. Currently, this task is made more difficult by the media conglomerates which control the access to the useful information about who is doing what.

    Case in point - how often do we hear in the news about non-profit organizations that are actively working to make the world a better place - apart from when they buy their own air time? Now how often do we hear about the companies making the biggest profits? How often do we hear about the smaller companies making ethical, humane, and environmentally conscious decisions? Heck, how often do we hear about the decisions any company makes if it's not directly related to the bottom line? We hear all about various mergers going on - but we never hear about the real human effects that those mergers have. Were people laid off from AOL/Time Warner merging? Were wages/benefits affected? Were other companies forced out of business, their employees now all having to find other employment?

    >3. Individualism values a humane workplace.

    Individualism is an entity, now? This is as contradictory to any real form of individualism as referring to the State as an entity. I'd jsut love to see Mr. Katz's response if the goverment were to say, "The State values a humane workplace for it's little pawns."


    You're getting confused in semantics. Jon has previously stated the notion of recognizing individualism as a real movement. Therefore, yes, individualism is an entity, similar to how a corporation, the state (as a collective group of people who agree to relinquish certain freedoms in order to ensure others), a society, or a civilization is an entity. An entity need not be physical in order to exist.

    >Workers are entitled to safe, creative and secure work environments, to freedom from continuous downsizings, re-structurings, layoffs and "re-engineerings."

    Entitled to... at cost to whom? Is this still an "entitlement," even if it involves sacrificing other individuals - the company owners - to supply these "entitlments"?


    At cost to those who can most afford it. If it involves sacrificing the company owner's second new BMW in three years to ensure that no worker is reduced to a level where they cannot afford their mortgage? I don't see how you can argue with that. Look at wealth concentration statistics. There is *more* than enough wealth present in the United States to ensure that every single citizen in it need never worry about food or shelter. Shouldn't this be a priority in any group of "civilized" people? More of a priority than getting that new swimming pool?

    >Though these practices unquestionably benefit the economy, they're rough on humanity.

    No rougher on humanity than a weak economy...


    Humanity will survive a weak economy.
    Humanity will not survive itself if it continues with a profit 'uber-alles' mentality.

    >4. Individualists celebrate, cherish and support non-conformity.

    Non-conformity as a value in and of itself is one of the largest farces ever foisted upon the world. ...


    This I tend to agree with. A better way to say it would have been that Individualists do not denigrate, condemn, or work against non-conformity.

    KWiL

  • Hell, they even sell using NERD subculture!
    Rather Like Katz and "Geeks".Couldn't help but notice that in your posting.
    -----------------------------------------
    Etot "sig" byit pisyat v Russki!
    (35.0% Slashdot nezdorovi.)

  • "wait for a political figure to emerge from the Net generation and define corporatism as the major problem its become."

    There's no need to wait. While not of the "Net generation" there is a political candidate who "gets it" and has been fighting the forces of corporatism for more than thirty years. Supporting Ralph Nader [votenader.com] should be seriously considered by anyone for whom this is an issue.

    Voting for third parties is ofted dismissed as wasting a vote. But what's more of a waste, throwing your vote away toward the major parties (which will never change anything) or making your vote heard, even if that candidate doesn't win?

    Look at the web site [votenader.com], read his platform and issues, get involved.

  • Jon, I agree that corporations flood our senses with what to eat, what to wear, what stupid-ass gizmo we can't live without, what car to drive, what entertainment to watch. Corporations pollute in many ways.

    Corporations also by their very nature are not held accoutable for their actions. Bill Gates is never going to get arrested for what he's done with Microsoft -- all that's going to happen is that he's going to have to split up the corporation and have to make marginally less money than before.

    When people start to hold individuals inside of corporations and goverment accountable for their actions, then we'll be getting somewhere in breaking the iron triangle, as John McCain calls it.

    But when we don't even hold the president accountable for his infidelities in the White House, how can we expect people to hold individuals accountable for their actions hidden by the corporate banner?

    Corporatism is really just another form of tribalism. My tribe has a neat logo! My tribe gives me a job! My tribe feeds me! My tribe gives me self-worth! Corporations foster this tribalism through an all-out assault on the senses -- TVs, print, advertising -- and the Internet.

    I don't think making a 'tribe of individuals' is the answer. Making a tribe of individuals just makes you into a marketing segment that corporations need to 'reach'. But individuals exposing the hypocrisy of corporations -- that's where the answer lies I think.

    Hyping our own individuality is not the answer. Highlighting the fact that "corporations" are really the actions of individuals is a better solution.

    - Chuck the Bond King

  • Corporations are not the first organizations wherein the power and influence of the few is used to control the many. Most large religious groups are guilty of this practice and even the American government is constructed this way.

    So why don't the people rise up and wrest control of their lives from the those who would dominate them? Because they like their lives. They don't want to be awakened to the reality of their existence. This was one of the major themes of The Matrix. The reason democracy works is that the people who care enough to vote decide the outcome. Most people are perfectly content to wait to see all the new fashions, who will win the next big sports championship, or who will be elected.

    Let me put it this way, "small minds talk about people, average minds talk about events, and great minds talk about ideas." Start up a conversation with 10 people today. Let them lead it where they may... I would wager that at most two of those people will talk about something other than people or events.

    Fret not though, for this does not diminish the importance of individualism. Part of the article's argument centered on how unfair it is that one is marginalized by corporations and other entities for being an individual... I say, "Get over it!" The truth is that your decision is to be marginalized. If you want to be called names, made fun of, jeered- be different. Is it fair? Who said life is fair? The point is if you are not strong enough to withstand the masses don't charge against them. And if you do understand it is futile unless you change the majority opinion of what makes you different. Acceptance of homosexuality has flip-flopped many times in many cultures throughout history, is it a valid choice? Of course it is, but you have to accept the baggage. If you want to have blue hair in corporate America you had better be a damn good worker and it would help if you didn't deal directly with clients. The only real way to affect change is to organize.

    I'm ranting... Basically what I'm saying is that any choice is a valid choice, just take care not to get trampled by the herd. They like the stability and ease of the highly-controlled lives.
  • This feature suggests enforcing morality as the way of fixing problem. I think that will not lead to fixing the problem, it can make the problem worse. The additional rules will not became the part of solution. They will became the part of the problem.

    Look at current problem that can be named "Sexual Harrasment Prevention Sindrome". There is a real problem: abuse of position of power in realtionships that involve sex. But under current rules the phrase "you have two legs" can be considered as sexual harrasment. From my limited knowledge of psycology, this will cause greater emotional problems in most of peaple in US that are difficult to be recognized as such by native citizen because they are "norm". Luckly I'm not the citizen of US and I do not live in US. On bad side US promotes their living standards to my country.

    The interesting site about rules is at this link [melloworld.com]. Parts 0-2 was very intersting read for me. The rest is more questionable but is still interesting.

    I think that the solution is not the new right rules, but to convey understanding. Behaviour based on understanding need not be controlled. I was forced to clean teeth at my childhood, now I understand what will happen if I will not do it, and I does not need to be controlled now. Just talk their language, and explain why they (rather then we) need to change. The force solution will not lead to real change. It will lead to avoiding punishment.

  • actually, that's not so much the case anymore. China's huge problem looming on the horizon is how to downsize their bloated government industrial enterprises, while at the same time finding private-enterprise employment for the millions of urban workers who need "downsizing."
  • Finally, you are starting to write some very good stuff. Frankly, I read your old stuff, but it always felt empty, and I always though that you spent too much time regurgitating quotes. This series on corporate power and individualism is good though.
  • But the rules and regulations that you "cannot fight" are, at their root, wrong.

    Behaviour in a person which transgresses against a moral code is defined as immoral. The word "amoral," often used to describe corporate behaviour, suggests that the entity in question cannot be held to a moral code because it cannot understand it. Nothing that I have seen in my (admittedly hobbyist) reading of law suggests that there is any attempt to codify morality for corporations.

    Under contract law, for example, the decision of whether or not to keep your promises is an entirely economic one. If it costs less to repudiate your contract than to fulfill it, you are expected to repudiate it. "Natural" persons tend to attach a little extra weight to having given their word that they will perform as they have stated.

    Corporations are granted legal personality. They are run by people who have that all-important moral sense. On both counts, morally incorrect behaviour by a corporation must be considered immoral. We have granted corporations legal personality because it is economically advantageous to do so. If they are to have that status, then they must act the part.

    If we accept the possibility that there is a greater good than the economic one, then it seems that corporations must be forced to act in accordance with that greater good. I for one believe that the corporations should exist to serve the people.

    Things can and should be changed. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't get out of bed in the morning.
  • As I said in another comment [slashdot.org] Microsoft shouldn't be broken up. Bill Gates and his assistants should be in jail for committing a massive and successful conspiracy to defraud computer ISV's among many others. MS would survive in one piece but the impulse to harm others would be deterred by the real threat of becoming a jailbird.

    There are legitimate uses for the violence of the state but the list is very short and advancing the interests of corporations over individuals (or some corporations above others) is definetly not one of them.

    DB

  • JonKatz has just written everything I've been thinking about individualism, corporations, and society for the last five years. It is quite a boost to see these issues being discussed and debated on a high-profile site like /. and I hope that JonKatz will keep these matters in the eye of this community.

    Some people seem to take issue with the way JonKatz has defined individualism. I think he is right on. Individualism is a tricky thing and doesn't make for a great rallying ideology the way Marxism or religion does. You can't get a group of people together who will agree completely on what individualism means or what it should mean.

    But contrary to some opinions I've seen here, an "individualism movement" can be put together and be extremely effective. The best example of this was the 1964 Free Speech Movement in Berkeley (yeah I'm a Berkeley student, forgive the self-promotion). There, a very diverse group of people, some with antithetical opinions (campus Republicans and campus Communists) united forces to oppose the university's ban on political activism on campus. Mass rallies were held in the fall of 1964 to protest the abridgement of our constitutional rights, police cars were blocked. It took three months but the policy was overturned and free expression was allowed.

    "There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!" (Mario Savio, Berkeley, Dec 3, 1964)

    The words of the ground-breaking Free Speech Movement still ring true today, except the enemy is not the University of California, but corporations. It is true that fighting corporations is vastly more difficult than a single institution--where are you to direct your energies at? Who do you complain to?

    The answer must be our government. The most odious thing the corporations have done is to get their lackeys on the right to convince people that there is something wrong with government having a role in corporate activity. The very reason we have a government at all was to protect its citizens' rights, a purpose that is made clear if any of you were to read your Thomas Jefferson or James Madison.

    The only way we can get our government to do the right thing is to make our voices heard. The only thing that has more power in Washington than a corporate lobbyist is the vote. We have at our disposal the power to overcome corporate dominance of our government, and that is to demand that meaningful reform of campaign finance, to rein in monopolistic corporations, and to pass a new amendment to the Bill of Rights, protecting our civil liberties from the government AND corporations.

    Once this is done, we individuals will be free to behave as we like with regards to corporations. And of course, the true opposition to corporations must come from the people, but let us not forget that in the American Constitution and the government it intended us to have (but which we do not have today), individual rights and the American citizen have a strong and powerful ally.

  • The first question shouldn't be who benefits (rich or poor) but is there a benefit? Is the proposed change going to improve things for some people over the proposed costs.

    I would suggest to you that if we were to chop 15% off of medical expenses because doctors stop ordering uneccessary tests, the poor and middle class would benefit immensely. The problem of this insane tort system is that the costs are all too often distributed far beyond the ability of most to trace them and thus people assign blame inappropriately and choose bad solutions.

    As for your suggestion that suits would not be filed by the poor, I think that you would find a brisk business being done in loans to the poor to allow them to sue. Nobody would grant such a loan in the expectation that they would lose it which would weed out the nuisance suits but they could do it in the case of true injustice and share in the winnings. The wealthy would, of course, self-finance and maybe some of the middle class but in all cases you would lose the attitude of "hey let's take a crap shoot, we can always settle for $100k".

    DB
  • Check out www.lp.org and you might find what you're looking for already out there. Fundamental to Libertarianism is the basic concept that no person or group of people should be allowed to transgress on your person or property for any reason whatsoever. Therefore, any kind of censorship, limits on my actions (except those that transgress on another's person or property), or any attempt to disallow me from being as individual as I please is absolutely out of bounds. Individualists are pretty darn close to Libertarians, except Libertarians go farther to say that government should also stay out of the lives and activities of corporations, because to do otherwise clearly means they are invading on the property of the company owners, which is a crime (under Libertarian thought).

    Keep in mind that any power to control your property immediately places limits on your individuality (and liberty, including freedom of speech) to the extent that you value that property and wish not to lose it or its utility (a threat that those with the power to control your property can make).

    That is why fundamentally Libertarians do not separate Freedom of speech from Freedom to own property outright with no regulation - because you can't have one without the other (think of how "free" an individual would be if the government owned or could control literally all property owned by that individual, such that by falling into disfavor, that individual could find themselves homeless, penniless, and without food, clothes, and anything else). How free would that individual truly be to criticize those with that power, or to act in any way (individually) that might bring negative attention on themselves. Freedom of speech (and true individualism) is absolutely bonded with freedom to own property absolutely, with no form of regulation (including government involvement in big business).

    To ask for true freedom to be an individual, while simultaneously asking for government regulation on big business (which, don't forget, are ultimately owned by other people who may very well consider themselves individuals with the right to stay that way) is hypocritical and ultimately self-defeating.

  • "But attacking corporations for doing exactly the things we reward them for is senseless. We need the corporations in order to support industrialised society and we can't change that. We can change what we reward them for doing. "

    This is almost completely congruent with my own personal understanding of this issue. To extrapolate, we also understand that the system and structures that we grow up into also define us as individuals - as is the same for corporations. If the corporate heirarchy is profit and in this order - a) shareholders, b)customers, c)employees -- and the air is that act X is acceptable, or possible to get away with resulting in no consequence - it will be done.

    Therefore, rules in the game must either be abolished, modified, instituted, or the game itself must change. The contents of change in the game is entirely subjective to those modifying it.

    That is why one must be ever mindful of corporate hegemony, as with anything else considered unhealthy.
  • And unless you want to live like the Unabomber, it's nearly impossible to live, work or do business apart from corporatists. Sooner or later, like it or not, you'll be on one side or the other.

    I dunno John. It seems to me that there is more than two options here. When you say 'apart from corporatists' do you mean the actual corps themselves or anyone who buys into their thinking?

    Regardless of what you mean, there is another option. The choice to remove corporatism from your life without 'fighting' it. We have no choice but to live in this world (unless we choose to die). Therefore, we have to live with the people in it. This includes corporatists, individualists, communists, racists, etc... So instead of uniting against this threat of corporatism, I choose to be a true individual.

    I make my purchasing decisions based on what I want to buy. I eat rasin bran because it tastes good and has some nutritional value. I don't eat grape nuts because it gets stuck in my teeth. I don't care about the packaging or commercials or even what my friends like. I spend my money on things I like.

    So what I am doing is making up my own mind about where my money goes. Don't even start with me about corporate brainwashing or any of that crap. If I was being brainwashed, how would I even know??? Basically, you can't expect a bunch of individuals to band together and fight the evil corporations. Instead, look for people to make intelligent decisions about what they think is right. That is all you can possibly hope for (as small a chance as that is.)
  • I rather think the age of the dinosaurs is drawing to an end, not entering its golden age. I agree with J. Katz that the old nation-state system is controlled body and soul by corporations. The DMCA, RIAA lawsuit against Napster, the U.S. Patent Office's patent giveaway, the mega-mergers, and on and on prove it. But it seems more like the death throws of a dying system than immanent victory. How relevant are their victories in the face of things like FreeNet? They haven't got a prayer. An editorial by Friedman in the NY Times a couple days ago put it--surprisingly--rather well: technological innovation is proceeding so rapidly now that the old systems can't even pretend to keep up. And whenever you have a period of rapid technological change like this revolution never fails to ensue. The rapid technological change--well folks, that's us, our doing. We don't have to subscribe to 'individualism' or 'anti-corporatism' or any 'ism' to usher out the monopoles. We just have to keep on keepin' on. We finally got the ball, guys, let's just keep running with it and let them all tumble in our wake.
  • It is time someone popped the bubble of your faux intelligencia.

    Are you implying that everyone has the same intelligence? If so, you are sorely mistaken, and if not, then there is no bubble to pop, since some people must be smarter than others, and therefore constitue an "intelligencia"

    1. You can make a reference to a couple metrics(IQ and SAT scores), invalidate them, and then vaguely use them out of their basic context(scholastic performance prediction.) This is invalid. BTW...the average score is SUPPOSED to be 900. If its not, the curve is off.

    IQ is more of a measure of ability to learn rather than specifically a prediction of future scholastic performance. And granted, even barring that, I could see how both metrics would be interpreted as such, regardless, the ability to do well in school is a sign of inteligence. If you are just plain dumb, you probably wont do too geat in school, and your IQ and SAT scores would reflect this, and thus your general intelligence, I fail to see your point.

    2. If you were as intelligent as you assumed yourself to be, you wouldn't have put (sp?) next to a simple word like choir. Who's in the middle of the SAT pool?

    You assumed that I was smart, I made no such assumption, I freely admit that I can and will make mistakes, such as the spelling of Choir. I assume that since you point this out youve never made a spelling error in your entire life.

    3. It doesn't take a genius, or even a relatively bright person(ibid) to read slashdot. It is a website. It does not use an extraordinary level of complex grammar or concepts.

    This is true, but only if youve been in the computer industry for several years, or are an avid computer geek, some of the following words and acronyms found on todays main page: GPL, GNOME, BSD, Linux, domain name registy, Self Timed ARM provides low power consumption. Ask Joe Six pack on the street what any of those things means and youll get a big HUH? So dont tell me that slashdot doesnt have complex concepts or confusing words to the average american.

    4. It is truly entertaining that such an individualist such as yourself uses a report from ABC as evidence of the general populace's opinion, and thus ignorance. Furthermore, there are plenty of intelligent people who see the break up of Microsoft as treating a symptom and placating the currently irritated.

    who would you rather I quoted from? the Cato Institute? Theyre against the breakup too [cato.org]. ABC is perfectly capable of performing a survey. Also, just because somone is intelligent, doesnt mean that theyre "awake" as Katz puts it.

  • Excellent point, very "Bruce Lee"-like of you. But them, I suppose he learned it from Zen philosophies.

    Do you still have that essay anywhere, or are you still in contact with the teacher? It sounds like it would be a very good read.

    If you've got it, I'd love a copy (not necessarily digital, I can always type it in). Please contact me off-/., if you wouldn't mind.

    Thanks for the insight!
    This is my .sig. It isn't very big.
  • "Watch c-span;
    delve into political science, economics;
    obtain information from a variety of sources (various newspapers, the internet, books, whatever);

    Then when person x actually has a clear picture, problems, and possible solutions - then a political movement would make sense - given others who share the same ideas."

    Yep. I've done that for many years. Doesn't make me a genius or well informed, but the more I learned the more depressed and helpless I felt.

    But I do agree wholeheartedly on the idea of self *education*, I just doubt the corporate media outlets are really going to provide anybody with anything meaningful or that could be used to challenge the status quo.
  • It doesn't eh? Of course not.

    No, I don't believe that the big mega-conglomerate-Disney-AOL-Time Warner kind of guys get together in board meeting and plot how to make people "mutual" and conform to this grand idea of theirs of an ideally mindless deep-pocketed consumer to buy all their products. They don't have to.

    It is terribly hard to find competing lines of products that aren't owned by some corporation sometimes. Food isn't much of a problem, but clothes? The cost involved in purchasing clothes that aren't Gap or some derivative, or the store brand of something like wal-mart is ridiculous unless you buy used clothes; as I always have-mostly because I have trouble finding clothes that fit me. I am not a case of being "too large" or "too small" or whatever, like most similar complaints which I have seen publicly; I simply just don't have the body the designers of these clothes think I should, I guess.

    Before I get too deep in the big muddy though, my point was that these corporations, in all their federally protected glory, are gobbling up smaller stores which offer more individual choices. A friend of mine at university was complaining about the insistence of some professors of ordering their textbooks only from independent bookstores-seemingly only to keep them in business- and why, he asks. Sure, it can be a pain to not have a "one-stop shopping" sort of place around, but we do live in a small college town, and it doesn't kill to buy things from the small guys-if that it was you want to do...

  • ...they just don't understand that morality is useful to them. Unfortunately the decision makers in those corporations proabably still associate morality with that self-destructive BS that gets passed off as morality by religious types (and secular-humanists).

    The essence of sane legal morality is that you protect rights, because any system that allows their rights to be broken, allows yours to too, if the political wind changes. Interpersonal morality adds over that: that you don't want to damage yourself by faking reality (which commits you to living a lie).

    Once you've grasped those two things, it becomes obvious that it's the selfish thing to do to be moral.
  • Saluton,

    Some time ago someone on SlashDot pointed out the some time in the 1800's (early 1900's?) Corporations were given rights similar to induhviduals. I think its long overdue time to take that right away from Corporations. As a rule they haven't proved themselves responsible with property ownership rights - both land and intellectual property. How 'bout only induhviduals being allowed to own intellectual property and land? No doubt something would be lost and something gained (didn't Mark Twain say that for something lost there is always something gained or vice versa?).

    What would happen?

  • More than a tad.
  • by Hrunting (2191) on Monday May 15, 2000 @09:59AM (#1071397) Homepage
    Personally, I think there is no 'answer', but I know that individualism isn't the answer. You simply can't have it. Jon, for all your ranting and raving about how bad corporate America is, about how bad Microsoft is, what would you have the alternative be? Oh, rather than everybody living under the tyranny of Microsoft, let's all live under the GPL instead. The GPL is better than Microsoft's licenses, so we should live under that instead. Well, what if I don't want to live under the GPL? What if I want to make up my own license? What if I want to make up my own program that will be enormously successful, but use my own individual protocols, and to make sure they stay individual, I don't want you using them (so I'll just close them off to anything but my programs)? I'm an individual.

    I say, "Forget corporate America!" but I also say, "Forget all the hippy free software people!" too. Forget them all. Or don't.

    Do what you freakin' want. If you want to use Microsoft, use Microsoft. You're not a sinner because of it. If you want to be a politician and get your money from the NRA, go right ahead. It's your choice. Your live by your decisions. If you want to eschew all wealth and be a hermit out in the West Virginian mountains, then by all means do it. What I really hate, though, more than anything else, is some guy telling me that would should be more like something. That's just as bad to me as the Gap telling me that I should wear khakis to be cool or Microsoft telling me I should use Windows if I want to work with everyone else. It's the same damn thing.

    I'll do what I want, cause I don't want to listen to you telling me what to do.

    ps. This all reminds me of the scene in Election where the Tracey stands up to give her speech and says, "So vote for me. Or don't!"
  • by drivers (45076) on Monday May 15, 2000 @12:55PM (#1071401)
    Hey Garund,
    I took a look at your other post and you also made references to the pillar stuff. Sounds pretty cool... Can you email me a copy of that essay? My address is above.
  • "Individualists of the world, unite!"
    --
  • by unixadmin (181205) on Monday May 15, 2000 @10:03AM (#1071413)

    Leading social critics have long pointed out the vast lack of relevant information provided to the American public by the Corporate media. Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent goes into this subject in great depth, pointing out the high concentration of ownership of the corporate media by Americas corporate elite.

    Today, six conglomerates own 95% of the American news media. This concentration of ownership is generally realized in totalitarian states like Columbia, Argentina, etc. It is telling to note that virtually no Americans recognize this situation for what it really is: a corporate propaganda system. This corporate propaganda system is design solely to limit debate and confine the limits of debate to a pre-defined spectrum set by Americas corporate elite.

    This is a very dangerous situation, and this point cannot be stressed enough. The danger to our Bill of Rights could not be more pronounced.

    Finally, it should be understood why Americas corporate elite monopolize our communications media: they intend to inculcate the American public with the values, belief system and illusions necessary to contain the bounds of debate to predefined limits. Those limits - of course - are defined by corporate america, to the great detriment of all Americans.

    Make no mistake: corporate americas elite do not monopolize the media in order to present the un-varnished truth, but rather to manipulate and deceive the public.

    Jon Katz is one of the few Americans making this point and he should be complimented for doing so.

  • by Garund (154408) on Monday May 15, 2000 @10:14AM (#1071416)
    I read an essay way back in highschool about this stuff. It had an interesting conclusion. It was this:

    The establishment is run on rules and regulations, and it is almost impossible to win against them. They are immovable pillars of strength, so you have to be like water. The pillars don't care if you don't directly oppose them, so don't. Just go around them. There's always a way, so stay cool.

    Actually, it occurs to me now that the fact this essay was even made available is an example of its own conclusion, since it wasn't part of the strict curriculum; it was brought in and distributed by a man who also happened to be my favorite English teacher. Those who understood, 'Got it.' Those who didn't. . . Well it didn't really matter.

    The paper was not discussed or mentioned ever again, but those who were awake benefitted and learned. I've been following the advice in that paper ever since, and my life is pretty darn good. I have lots of friends, society at large respects me. (I've received multiple lines of credit from banking institutions who have told me point blank, (though very quietly), that they were going against all policy and were bending several rules in order to help me.)

    I'm not angry. I don't hate anybody. I have a smile for all. (I do, I admit, always dress in camoflauge. It's a war out there. That is, I wear an ironed shirt, and maintain a haircut and shaven face. It works. I get friendly service where enraged letter-bombers don't. It's very simple.) But I also work the hours I want, (if any), and NEVER for a corporation, and while I am not rich, I make enough to remain comfortable.

    Essentially, I think it's important to remember this:

    Corporations are the enemy. Not the people who infest them. You can always appeal to People, so long as you respect and love them, and love life. People are the infection, and they'll almost always be on your side, because when it comes right down to it, even the well paid hate the establishment which makes them get up at 6:30 in the morning to go to 10 hour a day jobs. Even the most right wing politician likes to walk on beaches and have friends. The trick is to be able to see the world from everybody else's point of view.

    That's all. Fight to maintain the things you love, but accept that you are never going to bring down the 'Man'. Anger is counter productive.

    Good luck out there.

    -Garund

  • Good peice Jon. Although I don't think the label "corporate" is all that accurate. Let me explain, prior to the flames arriving.. . First off, the whole thing is summed up in your one sentance.

    We should acknowledge that economics matters (a lot), but it can't be society's only common goal.

    Economics do matter, however greed is what is now driving our society and for large part our economic policy as well. Not to be a tree hugging democrate, but it wasn't till recently that I honestly thought about what was important to me in my life. Turn out it wasn't money. Granted we all need it to survive, but for the longest time that was the goal. More and more money.

    It's not that way for me anymore. I make a good living and am not about to go and sign up for communism, it's just my kids and family and "quality" of life mean more to me than money. It's nice to have a little serenity.

    This leads me back to my original point. There is no such thing as "Society's common goal" society is made up of individuals. The individual who think making more money will make then happier just out number the ones who don't. These individuals are paid to make their comanies money, specifically to make money for the investors. (more greedy people). It's an endless cycle. To bad there is only so much money to go around. This creates they "I'll crush anyone to get ahead" syndrome, (M$) and it'snot healthy for the society, the economy or individually.

    Again I enjoyed the article,

    Regards,
    -ttm

  • To steal a line form Dan Ackroyd: "Jon, you ignorant slut."

    Individuals never change anything for the long run. It is only mass movements that affect lasting change. Put Rosa Parks in the front of a bus in the South by herself in the early 60s and she will be beaten. Unite her with a movement of people organized for a cause and stick a camera in front of her and she can be a powerful force.

    Likewise, put Galileo in front of the Church and he will be punished and his work 'discredited'. Hell, the Catholic Church didn't let him out of jail until the 1980s. Yet, create a mass movement of people that values the quest for knowledge and ideas that arise and you will have a true change in society.

    Jon's reliance on the individual smacks too much of Ayn Rand. And just as Rand's political philosophy attributes charaterisitics that an average person cannot possess so does Jon's essay.

    Most 'individuals' today are symbols of a post modernist society rooted in Existentialism. Where meaning is not something objective, but rather subjective, a quest for identity that can be expressed by something as radical as pierced body parts, rock and roll, and profanity erupting form the mouths of babes. Such behavior is neither radical nor new, but rather the results of a commoditized rebellion, a product of the system that Jon somehow thinks individuals will somehow overcome.

    I'm sorry to disappoint you Jon but people are just to lazy, ignorant, or powerless to make any changes on their own. They rely on others to overcome their anomie, to be able to work together for a common cause. This is more true to America than anywhere else.

    Indeed, it is corporatism that has replaced mass movements, relegating them to little more than TV special interest segments. It's much easier to feel good temporarily by buying some fetishistic item of the minute rather than working on getting those drug dealers out of the neighborhood.

    Don't ever expect people to be motivated by the high end of Maslow's pyramid.

    No, if you want change I urge people to turn off their TV, put down their papers and meet together to discuss their concerns. Start with something small that a group of well organized people can overcome, something as small and local as getting Channel One out of their schools. Fight against the never ending encroachment of private property over community meeting spaces and segmentation of community into market demographics.

    Or did you miss the "Million Mom March" because you saw it not as a mass movement, but a collection of individuals?

    Now there is a place for leaders, and while leaders can be replaced or removed (why are leaders of left oriented and mass movements assassinated but not leaders of the right or reactionary movements?), it is the people behind them that make lasting change.

    Examples in US history:
    women's suffrage
    Civil Rights movement (including racial and sexual preference oriented movements)
    Unions
    Anti-Vietnam movement
    etc

    Movements that failed because of a reliance on individuals:
    AIM
    Black Panthers
    Reform party
    etc
  • by flibbertigibbet (181956) on Monday May 15, 2000 @10:31AM (#1071425)
    I would note that, while Chomsky is no doubt an intellectual giant in linguistics and political dissidence, he almost always paints his opponents irrational and naively optimistic.

    To the ignorant (read punk rockers who think he is a god), it is easy to take his information and spin as abolute truth. Further, the ignorant have a hard time distinguishing failures in a political and economic system from so called hordes of evil corporates bent on extreme self gain at the expense of others. This, of course, is just not the case, as it is more subtle than this.

    I would urge anyone reading his material to read further into:

    (a) basic macro, micro, and international economics
    (b) http://www.thenewrepublic.com/ -- slightly liberal, although moderate and balanced. Their formal debate with members of the IMF, WTO, etc is fairly interesting. Also check out articles from Robert Wright, the author of nonzero: the logic of human destiny (mix of game theory, evolutionary biology - and also happens to write fairly intelligent articles)
    (c) project gutenburg - Alexis de Tocqueville - democracy in america - V1 ftp://metalab.unc.edu/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/ete xt97/1dina10.zip -- V2 - ftp://metalab.unc.edu/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/ete xt97/2dina10.zip
    (d) www.c-span.org - they actually have some stuff on toqueville, but it is kind of sub par -- what you should really be looking for here is interesting senate/congress whatever hearings, especially those on campaign finance reform, individual rights, etc

The meta-Turing test counts a thing as intelligent if it seeks to devise and apply Turing tests to objects of its own creation. -- Lew Mammel, Jr.

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