This week’s reading was more scattered than last week’s, which was focused mainly on US surveillance and politics. Still lots of interesting stuff this week — it’s amazing what comes to light when I allow myself to care.
I thought a lot this week about worker’s rights and democratic companies. I realized that Google’s workforce has no real decision-making power for the company — we do what the leadership tells us to do. This realization came with the awareness that it doesn’t have to be this way. Google does not have a worker’s union, but if we did, we could democratically control the company — the power is already available, we need only claim it. But we have no need to claim it because the leadership is doing a good job. All systems which rely on labor of the many are eventually democratic, the question is only how much resistance the many need overcome to affect the decisions of the powerful (however, I might stop classifying them as “eventually democratic” at the point where power’s resistance is physically violent). Hence education plays an incredibly important role: the more this is known, the more powerful the people are. But Google makes me wonder, how powerful should the people be? I like Google’s leadership, and honestly if Googlers were encouraged to vote on important company decisions instead of having them decided by the leadership, it’s not clear that Google and/or the world would be better off. Google is made of geeks whose views of the world are often idealistic, opinionated, and out-of-touch. I wouldn’t trust me to make good decisions for a company, no matter how many of me there were.
Chomsky noted that the USA must oppose the democratization of Iran because the census showed that 80% of the population supports Iran building nuclear weapons. It is fairly convincing that more countries with access to nuclear weapons creates more chance of total nuclear annihilation due to local political instabilities. I believe in democracy, but now I must ask: do I support a US-controlled oppressive monarchy as an alternative to a democratic, nuclear-armed Iran? Do I support US hegemony as an alternative to a yet-more dangerously unstable world? Am I only doubting democratization of Iran because I live in the USA? I don’t know these answers.
With those happy thoughts, here are the pieces I found notable this week. As always, comments and suggestions for further reading are welcome and appreciated.
- Kiev (Ukraine)’s government is murdering journalists and the Western media isn’t reporting it. It seems to be known that the Kiev regime is backed by the USA, though I can’t find anything definitive. This is complex and I need to research it more; I’m posting it anyway to raise awareness.
- Gazan Youth’s Manifesto for Change (from 2011, but still a goodie). This gives a good look into how the Israel-Palestine conflict is affecting some of the people there. It’s easy to empathize with them as human beings rather than the through radical militant story we have created.
- The EPA recently relaxed the requirements on allowable radiation levels in public water supplies even though it was found that radiation is more harmful to health than previously thought.
- Declassified FBI reports on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Interesting to look through, if nothing else to understand how the FBI works. On pages 61 and 68 there is some talk of the possibility of assassinating leaders of the movement via sniper fire, though the redactions are such that I can’t tell by whom. The following passage indicates that well-planned protests can be remarkably effective.
The protestors’ actions shut down the port of Oakland for more than 14 hours. If this movement were to spread to the port of Long Beach, the second busiest port in the United States, the disruption of port operations resulting in cargo reaching their required destinations late could have much more serious effects on the supply chain network in the United States. (p. 46)
- Talking about how much you get paid is protected speech; that is, you have legal recourse if your employer retaliates against you for talking about how much you get paid. Pay as a taboo subject benefits the employer, and contributes to pay inequality between men and women.
- The graphic design community is against “spec work”, for example logo contests, claiming that it devalues their industry. I support the community and will raise awareness of this type of exploitation when the opportunity arises.
- The State of Working America, a site that collects data and trends in US demographics. They published the book Failure by Design which analyzes the policies which led to the horrendous economic inequality we have today (I haven’t read it, but might).
The good news is that policy works, it does what it’s actually designed to do; the bad news is we designed it to do, in my view, a very bad thing.
- Walter White Supremacy, an essay about the racist themes in Breaking Bad.
The white guy who enters a world supposedly beneath him where he doesn’t belong yet nonetheless triumphs over the inhabitants is older than talkies. TV Tropes calls it “Mighty Whitey,” and examples range from Tom Cruise as Samurai and Daniel Day Lewis as Mohican to the slightly less far-fetched Julia Stiles as ghetto-fabulous. But whether it’s a 3-D Marine playing alien in Avatar or Bruce Wayne slumming in a Bhutanese prison, the story is still good for a few hundred million bucks. The story changes a bit from telling to telling, but the meaning is consistent: a white person is (and by extension, white people are) best at everything.
- The Catholic schoolgirl & the wet nurse: an important paper to read for social justice-aware people sharing about racism. It describes the way our narratives of racism both simplify and dehumanize the victims and make the oppressors invisible. I felt +1 to Nuance after reading this.