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nerdblog - musings, art, etc. of Derek Stevens: drkste@zoho.com

Balance or Destruction

We are in a strange dream where pandemic and violence rage on twin tracks, and totalitarianism claws its way into view using these phenomena as fuel. Meanwhile, many of us relegate ourselves to our homes and watch Netflix.

The virus continues to shape our lifestyles (unless you're so much an American Folk Libertarian that you just don't give a shit), and the streets in many major cities in the US are rife with protest at the systematic racism we have seen culminate in numerous indefensible killings of innocent black people by police. Both of these sources of tension create perfect oppotunities for totalitarianism both by state actors and private industries, particularly in tech.

On the one hand we have law enforcement and government fully aware of the threats on the streets in terms of the affiliations of threat actors and their corresponding danger levels, but deliberately misinforming the public about those threats. On the other hand, we have state and tech agencies taking advantage of the pandemic to put even more power in the hands of both of those groups to be in complete control of healthcare, education, and public life.

We are at a crossroads. We can either hand over our autonomy to groups that already have way more power than they by rights should, or we can foster that autonomy and our local communities and keep them strong in the face of these insidious demons.

What does this mean? I think it's pretty simple.

• Nurture your relationships with people! Friends, family, neighbors, that random dude in the parking lot who asked where you got that facemask. We're all in this together.

• Don't buy from large retailers unless you have no other choice (yes, this includes Amazon; and yes you probably have a choice -- do the research!)

• Buy local food -- hit up the farmer's markets, produce stands on the side of the road, get to know your local farms and gardens.

• Grow and share food!

• With regard to the food thing, organic is better too -- better for the soil, better for the body, and less money to agrochemical industry (industrial fertilizers and such are subsidized by the government, which -- other than the cost of certification -- is the main reason organic food is more expensive than 'conventional').

• When you need a device, get it refurbished, not new. Good refurbishing shops (I worked in one, I know) buy secondhand machines, soup them up, test them thuroughly, and stand by their work. It means less electronics in landfills and less money to the tech giants.

• If you really need a new device, admit it -- you don't need the iPhone 11 Pro. Try to go for the cheapest/least extravagant thing that still does what you need it to do.

• When using software, go for free and open-source software before a paid proprietary solution. You have a right to know how your data is being used, and you should exercise that right by choosing software that is transparent about its operations and free to modify if you aren't satisfied with it. As with devices, free solutions also keep more money in your pocket and less in the tech giants'.

• Stay informed! Read news from independent sources. Shout out to The Intercept for providing solid journalism on relevant topics in these trying times.

• Keep healthy -- wear masks and gloves in public, eat well, go for nature walks, and exercise your brain with art and music.

But mostly, let's just try to be excellent to each other, alright?