Thursday, October 7, 2010

Role Playing Games

Of all the strange things! I end up watching Fellini's 8 1/2 right after watching the Social Network and then end up listening to some talk on NPR about that suicide from Rutgers. Not so strange? Lots of you were doing the same thing? The only strange thing is that I will weave a thread among goings-on so utterly disparate that they shouldn't have threads woven through them. Well, that's what I do. I have a track record to keep up.

So here's what's bugging me. The assumption during the discussion on NPR is that this guy is "gay." Apparently, it would be entirely wrong to suppose that maybe he doesn't see himself as gay, and that's the problem. As painful as it must be to be gay in "our society," I'm pretty sure that lots of people have sex with all sorts of genders and still fall short of self-classification in one category or another. Lots of people want to project roles which, if the truth were told, don't entirely become them.

And then the "Obama Administration" gets tagged with pushing for enhanced wiretapping powers and I get this powerful feeling of cognitive dissonance, like what? Hunh? Isn't that more characteristic of the Bush Administration? Isn't Obama the friend of civil liberties? It reminds me of an other thing the "Obama Administration" tried to pull off maybe a year ago, about executive privilege or state secrets or something like that. I wish my memory were any good.

I remember talking myself down then, that he (whoops, I said "he" and I really meant the "Obama Administration") was trying to bring something into the light of day; to engender debate about something which was being kept in the dark, purposefully, so that it could be exploited under the radar. Maybe it was a posture? Maybe it was a careful and clever political move; announce yourself on the side of your adversaries just to stimulate the right kind of above-board debate.

I'm sure the old wire-tapping law needs updating. But the way the debate was being framed made it sound as though they wanted to enshrine in principle the idea that no kind of information technology should be developed which it would be impossible for the government to pry into. Hunh??

Just because it was fairly trivial to tap into a circuit-based phone conversation doesn't mean that the government has some sort of fundamental right to keep that avenue open. What went from aligator clips on the very circuit which carried your voice, had to be abstracted to catching your conversation at the point of connection among increasingly complex and highly virtual switching equipment so that the encrypted and segregated digital stream between you and your interlocutor can be patched out to a government sanctioned eavesdropper.

But it was easy enough to do, and we already knew that the phone company kept track of how many minutes we had talked and to whom. It's the only way that we can trust them to bill us accurately. But now what about when talk is not only cheap, but utterly free??!!! Why would we want them to track us at all? Maybe so that we can remember who we talked to and what we said? I sure could use some of that.

On some television discussion, I heard the proposed expansion of the law likened to the notion that all bathrooms should be constructed with a built-in peephole for government use only, and only with a court order. Yucky, creepy, disgusting and ridiculous. If some important criminal or terrorist plotting is going to get done in a bathroom, let the government spooks go to the trouble of installing surveillance equipment, please! And then make them document its removal so that we may go about our business in privacy again. Just be careful about your roommates!

Same with any kind of digital communications developments. Let them break into your house or your computer and install the same kind of spyware which terrifies us all now, because it might get onto our computer by some kind of web-site drive-by, or some phishing expedition we fell prey to. The government doesn't need some kind of company-provided way in.

We need them to help us keep the bad guys out, and the bad guys always seem to find a way to use those built-in peepholes, and everybody mistrusts the government these days just as much as they do the so-called bad guys. But do you trust your spouse? Check with Fellini on that one.

If we can be comfortable that even the government can't get into our private and confidential information, then I think we can be a lot more comfortable about conducting our businesses by means of electronic technologies. The government should be helping us to get that done, and not getting in cahoots with the bad guys who want to sneak into our private affairs.

So, back to that poor supposedly gay fellow at Rutgers. I don't think we exactly want to ascribe the ability to make a person commit suicide to anther party apart from oneself, do we? Precisely the same societal confusion would attend this fellow if he were gay or if he were afraid of being considered gay when all he desperately wanted was to be attractive to the hot females who were immune to the charms of a violinist.

Back in my day, sexual experimentation was almost a political mandate. Now, you have to be committed to your role, even when you won't commit yourself for more than a night to your sexual partner-in-crime. Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture? Is it all just role play? Is actual leadership even possible?

Obviously I know nothing and want to know even less than that about this particular case. I'm not outraged at the breech of privacy - it seems fairly inevitable, given the gender-role extremes which our culture gravitates toward. Hotness in women is now some kind of imperative. Or has it always been? Fellini depicted a world-class film director capable to have any among the starlets he might cast. The Social Network depicted a callow nerd coder not allowed in to the network of cool. So he took it over, this network of cool, and then he had the sense to make himself sexually exclusive. Cool!

With the unerring radar of the socially autistic which we celebrate so severely now in our economic arrangements, Zuckerberg sat back and observed the animal behaviors of the best and brightest among us at Harvard. He heard what they said about themselves, and then observed their behaviors and placed his bet with the stuff which they, embedded within the social imperatives from which he had been excluded,  could not admit to themselves about themselves but were allowing themselves to be driven by anyhow.

I've made the case elsewhere that J.D. Salinger was precisely that kind of autist. Bill Gates surely is, as is his understudy Steve Ballmer. Steve Jobs, the lot of them, all make plays on the stuff we can't admit to ourselves about ourselves, and then they marvel that we allow them to accrue so much power. Imagine the amazement the ragheads (I wonder what nice things they call us?) felt when they saw the trade towers come down. How could it have been that easy? It couldn't have been that we built the towers that much too tall with that much excess hubris?

I suppose it could have been an administration plot, but why bother looking for that when you have their behavior all on record. The actions of 18 or so uneducated plotters were "allowed" to divert the national agenda of the most powerful economy on earth? Or is this what the power brokers had in mind all along? Come on people, it's not that complicated!

Anyhow, it makes me nervous now when all the educated and enlightened and politically correct people start calling for the prosecution of these college freshman for the commission of hate crimes. They all sound like Glenn Beck, sanctimonious about our collective values, while overtly talking about sending people to hell and back for transgressing them. I hate to see that kind of thing among liberals, but there you go!

I have to wonder why we can't get our act together. Why we can't be reasoned and reasonable and why the ones at the pinnacle of our society still want more and hotter and newer every day all the time. Why we want to have strong opinions about stuff we not only don't have any way to know all the facts about, but which we wouldn't be able to understand even if we did. I wonder, will we ever be able to trust our steroid soaked leaders, or will we always suppose that they are just the same as we would be with that much good fortune?

And anyhow, someday soon, not only will we take our privacy back, and not allow the Googles of the world to store that much private stuff about us to tempt the powers that be into snooping them. They posture against the Chinese so-called Communist single-party government which is all hepped up on conflating the sexual and the political as a way to keep people scared about exercising liberties. Maybe we will actually figure out how to trust one another. Yeah someday real soon. Meantime, let's all keep yelling at each other about how stupid and narrow minded you are.

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