I recieved a new keyboard for Christmas, and I've been feeling a lot of feels recently, so I figured I should write some things down on, uh, digital paper. This is a mish-mash of some thoughts I've been having.
Considering My Role in Capitalism
I am generally very critical of captialism and the effects production and capital have on life on this planet. I think that we as human beings could do a lot better for ourselves and the rest of the planet by producing less and being more thoughtful about our consuption, particular about food products and products which need rare earth metals. The global system of capitalism drives pollution in the Bronx, deforestation for palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Madagasgar, narcotrafficking gangs in the Americas, and indignant protests in Europe about immigrants from other continents. Capitalism is responsible for many ills in the world. It has also produced and enabled many things I enjoy a lot.
Many of the things I appreciate that capitalism has possible are products and items. I enjoy tinkering with computers and eletronics, and I've spent a fair amount of money in the past 7-8 years on new and used electronics. These are made from plastic, steel, aluminum, and other metals, and come shipped from far away places in cardboard, plastic, packing foam, newspaper, and shrink wrap. All of these purchases contribute to further and future demand for production, and it is my personal choice to purchase these products. This production happens in other countries, with materials that need a lot of power and heat to produce, and leave behind industrial waste that needs to be properly disposed. Given that I don't really trust corporations to do the right thing if it costs money (the right thing here is not polluting, and caring for industrial waste properly) I ought to include that into my considerations when thinking about buying tech. Or any product, really.
This past year I have gotten better at bring the manufacturing process into my decision-making process, but I still ignore it or push that thinking aside when it is convenient for me. For Christmas I bought my brother a Raspberry Pi, which is a very small computer board, so that he could tinker with it and find interesting projects to make. When I was purchasing it I didn't think about where the silicon and bauxite and gold in the board were mined; what kind of conditions the mine operated in; whether the mining companies had good records on not being conniving polluting bribers (hint: probably not); how those metals were processed and cleaned and how much potable water was probably made radioactive in the process; whether native peoples were screwed out of land and profits for the materials (if the mine is in Canada, the US, or Australia, highly likely); how much it cost to transport the metals to other factories that would make them into the computer board that I bought a few weeks ago. There are many concering parts of the supply chain.
Perhaps there is too much to think about. After all, I am one person thinking about global demand and hundreds of huge multinational companies, millions of jobs, and a system of economics that runs the world. Does my personal choice even matter? When looking at global systems and consumer trends, definitely not. So to conciously buy less as a moral stand is purely for my own ego and sense of
Economic and Class Position
Another factor of capitalism in my personal consideration is that I was born into and continue to be in a supremely privilaged position in the US and the world. I have a very comfortable position in the world. How do I reconcile my position in the middle class with the bloody, murderous, cruel and genocidal nature of historical and current capitalism?
First and foremost is the history of US economic power. Black slaves were the economic engine of the US. Slavery was so profitable that the money traders, banks, clearinghouses, shipping companies and investors made from the cotton industry funded the industrial revolution in the second half of the 1800s. Black slavery is literaly the historical base of modern US economic strength. Black people have never been compensated for this. All of the money went to powerful white people. This by itself, not even considering the next century and a half of oppression and de-facto slavery, is justification for reparations to black people in the US. If you disagree with this, and are therefore wrong, please read Ta-Nehisi Coates' piece The Case for Reparations. If you have already read it, best to read it again.
There are also the myriad people exploited throughout history in the name of capitalism, mostly by Western European countries and the US (this is not to say other economic systems do not and have not exploited people, but I'm discussing capitalism right now).
Given this, how does someone in my position respond? How do I justify the place I've been gifted by fortune of birth?
The simple answer is I can't justify it, so I have to work to change the system as it stands. I can recognize that mnay peoples' lives are better, healthier, more enjoyable and less agonizing because of the production of goods and the liberal flow of capital. That does not elimnate the innumerous problems capitalism causes. Many, many other people are already working to break and reform the system. On that note, change is definitely a vauge word, and I will be reading, talking, and thinking about what that best means to me in the coming year. However, I will primarily be looking at the work of people the systems of capitalism oppresses as to effectively change the systems one has to listen to those the system harms. Of course, all of this may just be overwrought bullshit from another reasonably-liberal white man without conviction. A project for 2015 is to make sure that these words are not hot air.
Proprietary and Open
I've been using GNU/Linux as my only computer operating system for 4 years now (I also dabble in FreeBSD. Adopting an open source/free software operating system isn't just making sure my fancy new keyboard works properly and downloading Flash, it's also a change in philosophy. Now I try and use as much open source software as I can, including dropping Dropbox and setting up my own Owncloud server for calendar syncing. I now regard open source as the default, and am nonplussed by having to use proprietary software on other operating systems to do tasks which I do easily with open source tools on Linux.
Because of this mindset I am no longer impressed with the marketing of "proprietary" software or firmware. I was reading a description of fancy headphones today (which I have no intention of purchasing; see above) that touted their "proprietary technology" as giving them an edge in sound quality. This is obviously supposed to impress the customer and imply that the company has imbued the product with its special sauce, but to me sounds a bit odd and not really a desireable feature.I guess the FSF propaganda has gotten to me and I do believe that open source and free software is a better choice for several reasons. There are several ways open source software and culture is problematic, but I'll dig into that another time.
I understand that closed-source software (proprietary) has its place in the software industry, but I'd rather use as little as I can get away with. So the idea that I'd want proprietary software in a product is humorous to me, but I am not the target for those marketing words I suppose.
Addendum: Many times when I am trying to help my dad or brother with small computer issues I will become frustrated with their OS (They both have Windows, though different versions). Now that I am used to one particular way of solving a problem, I am frustrated when a similar easy way does not exist on their computers. When first switching to GNU/Linux I heard people say similar things, but I couldn't really relate to that frustration. Now, I feel initiated. At least I had my brother running Linux on his laptop for a year and a half. That was pretty cool, in retrospect. Might switch my dad over when Vista EOLs, and damn I just checked the date: April 11, 2017. A while yet.
Here's some neat music as a reward for wading through all this drivel. A while back I starting looking into getting more Creative Commons-licensed artwork, including music. The website Jamendo is excellent for finding new music by various bands, although the selection is somewhat light. I found a band called Xera, which is an eletrontic-folk-ambient Asturian band. Their website is here. The link to their Jamendo page is here. Here are a couple of my favorite songs of theirs:
Because I would be writing a little blurb about Xera, I did some research about the region they are from, Asturias. It is a small region in northern Spain west of Galicia and east of Basque country, as show on this map
The language map of Asturias is also fascinating. Because it is a mountainous region many dialects have evolved so that a region slightly larger than New Hampshire has a dialect map like this
If you got to here, you are a trooper, and thank you. Happy new year all!