Hi there, I hope you’re doing well. Welcome to this week’s 1-2-3 Tech Miscellany. It’s still less tech and more miscellany, but nevermind — Let’s begin…
Reading time: 5 minutes
Part 1 - Essay
Survival Of The Friendliest
I know something about you that you might not know yourself.
You're a communist.
No really! But don’t worry, this is not some kind of McCarthyesque witch hunt. It’s just a friendly reminder of the facts. Let me explain:
The Oxford English Dictionary defines communism as:
A theory or system of social organisation in which all property is owned by the community and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs.
Community. Sharing. Getting what you need. It all sounds fine and dandy, right? Ok I know history tells a different story. But let’s just forget about that whole communism-always-seems-to-end-in-a-bloodbath bit for a moment. It will undermine my argument.
Even though we live under a capitalist, neoliberal society — the antithesis to communism — humans still live their lives according to communist principles (the good ones that is). They're staring at us in plain sight. But they're so normal, so obvious, we’re blind to their existence.
Communism is especially evident in our homes. It's also worth noting, the word economy derives from the Greek word “okionomia.” The word literally means “household management”.
Picture dinner time. Your family are gathered around the table and you make a polite, but routine request: "Darling, would you be so kind as to pass me the ketchup?” And hey presto, the ketchup is passed to you. Or how about bed time? Many of us share a bed with our partner. “Night hunny bun” you gush. “Night cutie pie” comes the comforting reply. Parents even share their stuff with their children and everyone “contributes according to their ability and needs.”
Anthropologist David Graeber called this kind of cooperation “everyday communism." And it seems, humans can’t get enough of it.
Take the workplace as another example. Some people carpool with colleagues, others treat a workmate to a coffee now and again. Heck, a few might even stay late to help a colleague tidy up their presentation due for the next day.
And then there's strangers. Have you ever charged someone asking you for the time or directions? How about holding the door open for someone, or letting their car out of the carpark first? With strangers, we share our parks and plazas, our songs and stories.
And we do all of this because it feels natural — because it feels right. We do all of this, expecting nothing in return. But we take comfort in the knowledge a stranger will return the favour soon.
Believe it or not, the communist ideal underpins capitalism too. Many companies depend on community and the kindness of strangers to survive. Think of all those hotel and holiday reviews people post online — be it on Trip Advisor or Airbnb. How successful would Facebook be if we didn’t give them access to our memories — for free?! What if we refused to share our thoughts and opinions on platforms like Twitter or Reddit?
As Common As Muck
“The things we share are known as the Commons. From a community garden to a website, from a language to a lake — as long as it’s shared and democratically managed by a community. Some commons are part of natures’s bounty (like drinking water), others are human human inventions (websites like Wikipedia)." - Rutger Bregman
We take all of this sharing for granted. It’s only when someone buys that shared space that people ask, hang on a second, doesn’t that belong to everyone?
In Istanbul in 2013, hundreds of thousands took to the streets to oppose the demolition of Gezi park for a shopping centre. Gezi Park was one of the last public green spaces in a city of concrete. Turks fervently believed it belonged to everybody.
For millennia, the entire earth’s surface was like Gezi park. It "belonged" to everyone. It was part of the Commons. Our nomadic ancestors had no clue of private property or nation states.
Today of course, things are markedly different. In some places water has been privatised, in others our health has been converted to a marketplace. Everywhere else, advertising billboards invade public spaces.
Surely we’d be better off under communism?
Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m trolling you with all of this talk of communism. I’m simply trying to get back to the original meanings of stigmatised words — using communism as an example. The word ‘communism’ derives from Latin word ‘communis’ which means common or universal.
Nassim Taleb once said:
With my family, I’m a communist. With my close friends, I’m a socialist. At the state level of politics, I’m a Democrat. At higher levels, I’m a Republican, and at the federal levels, I’m a Libertarian.”
Taleb argues, the larger the group of people you have together, the less trust there is and the more cheating takes place.
Since childhood, this notion has been ingrained in us by culture. We learn selfishness is part of human nature — that we’re natural wheeler-dealers, unable to bypass our selfishness for solidarity — at least not without State supervision.
But what if that perception is wrong?
There’s a huge amount of evidence showing humans are actually altruistic beings. We’re capable of negotiating, making agreements, pooling and protecting resources, all with a view to sucessfully managing the Commons — with little supervision and bureaucracy imposed from high.
Just like the protests in Gezi park, where a common cause dismantled barriers between conservative Muslims and secularists, nationalist Turks and Kurds — under the right conditions, solidarity could be galvanised between unlikely foes in other circumstances too.
The climate crisis could be that unifying force for humanity, leaving us not just safer from extreme weather etc, but with societies that are fairer and safer in all kinds of other ways too.
If only we could find a better vision, where binary oppositions between left and right, capitalism and communism, state and market, no longer exist — where all of these “dirty words” could be reset and allowed take on the best parts of their original meaning.
I don’t know, I’m just riffing here. But there has to be a better way.
Part 2 - Good News
Quietly Quashing Conspiracies
Reddit kicked QAnon off its platform — entirely! They’re just not sure how they did it. Still, this was no mean feat. Outside the dark web, Reddit is where the bat-shit-crazies first went to attract a mass audience.
Hooray For The Animals!
Poland, the world’s third-largest fur producer is banning fur farming. Ritual slaughter for export and wild animals in circuses will be prohibited too. France are doing similar. “It is time to open a new era in our relationship with wild animals.”
Part 3 - Some Nice Things
Wearing your mask like this, is like wearing your underpants like that…
Operation Get-The-Kids-Out-Of-The-House is complete!
Until the neighbours call social services about the feral tree-dwellers at the end of my garden, my kids are lovin’ life under lockdown. It’s thanks to my brother-in-law — the brains of the operation — I just sawed a few planks and hammered a few nails.
Thanks so much. Bye for now — Scott