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Where some ideas are stranger than others...

Mythologize suicide and martyrdom and you will create suicides and martyrs.
- Elizabeth Mondegreen

Webmaster was in on:
2024-05-17

The Moonspeaker:
Where Some Ideas Are Stranger Than Others...

Yet Another Online Enclosure Attempt (2024-02-05)

Seventeenth century painting by Abraham Storck of a harbour in amsterdam, via wikimedia commons. Seventeenth century painting by Abraham Storck of a harbour in amsterdam, via wikimedia commons.
Seventeenth century painting by Abraham Storck of a harbour in amsterdam, via wikimedia commons. The page for the image includes a reference to gmail for unclear reasons.

I appreciate that google's ongoing thrashing in the form of trying to enclose more and more "users" into corrals made up of web applications is not news. After all, back in october 2022 (e.g. here is a round up on the topic at techrights, Gmail Considered Harmful) google and microsoft began even more openly tag teaming in an effort to destroy the use of actual email clients, self-hosted email, and well-tested and supported related standards including imap and pop3. Part of what amazes me about the people who have been caught up in the steadily worsening products sold as "gmail" and "outlook 365" is that a significant portion of them are old enough to have rightly turned up their noses at AOHell and similar efforts to keep them dumb and helpless when surfing the web or otherwise using the internet. Younger people are often in the shittier position of being forced to use such pseudo-services and insecure software as microsoft, google, and yes apple products in order to complete and submit their school work or do wage jobs. More than one university has found the MBA gospel of cutting costs and infrastructure until all "value" has been stripped and the organization folds. Hence over the past five to seven years now, universities have been throwing away their own mail servers to replace them with "outlook 365" and have long tried to force students and staff to use microsoft products by "offering" them prepaid subscriptions to microsoft office products. The pre-payment is via tuition for students, so it isn't like they can opt out. Meanwhile, I suspect that for faculty the pre-payment is taken out of their professional development fund. Governments have been busy jumping on the microsoft cloud bandwagon, so that in countries like canada everyone can look forward to the rogers telecom company having an equipment failure that shuts down most banking and many services plus outages and security breaches through microsoft's collection of back doors. From what I have heard and observed, apple has become a junior partner as it has managed to capture market space formerly held by the blackberry.

These enclosure attempts online and in terms of software and hardware keep happening, apparently with the idea that it will finally become just like the firmspace enclosure of land to drive people into situations where they can only survive by working for wages for even the most vile of employers. The fight in that case isn't over yet, and there is plenty of real and ongoing successful resistance. Contrary to the pessimistic claims in some quarters that the online world is all done now, reduced to just a surveillance and propaganda system under the control of various militaries and their corporate frontmen, I do think that there are more options, even quite accessible ones. But if everyone can be convinced that there is nothing available except their poisoned offerings, surveillance, and generally miserable stuff, then it doesn't matter if there are any other options after all. The thing is, not everyone is so convinced at all, and in this I am not referring to the people who have decided the thing to do is to rush to an alternate version of the same thing that has collapsed or is in the process of collapsing, like "social media" and "smart phones." For one thing, online access is not universal or an easy thing for "everyone" to get and use as a matter of practicality. For example, regardless of whether they want to be "online" they can't because it costs too much, or the electricity supply is irregular or such that priority is to use it for necessities, so that if they do go online, they go online with a purpose, do what they have to do, and close the connection. Furthermore, it is quite clear that capitalism can't continue, and people understand this on a direct day to day basis. The cost of living is key of course, and more people are standing together to enforce their right to repair and continue using older hardware of all kinds. Where that hardware includes computers, there is a growing understanding and teaming up by people to insist on their right to use free-libre software that can be properly security vetted and patched to their satisfaction.

All of which leads me to a rather unexpected idea. What if there is a greater parallel between land enclosures and online enclosures than meets the eye. What if they in fact share that they are response to exploiters who are fearful lest their marks simply walk away and ignore them? Capitalist systems cannot survive without constant predation. Or if a less violent analogy is preferable, then it is like a hot air balloon: it can't stay in the air without constant renewal of its hot air, which means it constantly needs fuel to heat the air and a pump to keep the balloon inflated. Sure, a self-destructive air balloon pilot could dump all the weight attached to the balloon possible, but in the end it still comes down to somehow maintaining supplies and protection from the elements from the ground. So the various capitalist interests are hoping against hope to finally find the perfect, neverending means to maintain their power and profits by controlling who eats and how they eat, and where that can't be done too overtly like in "first world countries" by forcing everyone to be "online" to do necessary day to day tasks. Failing that, there is always spreading and fuelling addiction by inventing new ways to hijack the human dopamine system. Hence the ever-increasing number of legal, highly addictive opiates, the continuing policy of allowing drug dealers and their suppliers to run rampant while criminalizing their victims, the addicts. Then of course there are the somewhat newer addictions, like gambling and pornography, and newest of all social media.

But all of this indicates desperation and barrel scraping, and as I observed in a much older thoughtpiece, What If There is Nowhere Else to Go? once there is nowhere else to go, nothing else to find a way to profit from, and no means left that works to force people to continue in the same suicidal way, things get complicated. If running away or stealing from others are no longer feasible means to keep a system running, then like it or not, the general population are going to seek and try other options. I actually think one real option people may be looking at is actually shutting down what is currently "the internet" let alone "the web" as we know it. There are lots of respectful and useful ways to make use of the remarkable tools that computers are, and we humans are social animals who I suspect can't help but hear the siren call of enabling and maintaining hyper-long distance communication. But there are certainly more constructive and life-friendly (by which I mean all life, not just human) ways to do it, and people are onto them.

Copyright © C. Osborne 2024
Last Modified: Friday, May 17, 2024 19:30:40