The Informed

Mississippi Rose Album Release January 20th

Well I like to keep my blog pretty political, but I'm really excited to be releasing my album "Mississippi Rose" on January 20th so I thought I'd switch gears for a minute. Take a break from the craziness and enjoy something gentle and soothing. Hope you enjoy!





Happy New Year to all! For more, please visit: craiganthonymusic.com

Moving Forward in a Time of Crisis

November 8th will go down in history as the day the American people chose hate. The outcome of this sickening circus act is deeply disturbing for reasonable & thoughtful people around the globe, and for good reason. What was once merely fear has become reality. Where there was once hope, there is now despair. A world where racism, sexism and hatred are rapidly becoming normalized - this is the new reality. But we need to face that reality and move forward despite it all.



With 75 pending legal actions against him, not the least of which is the alleged rape of a 13-year old girl, the President-elect is clearly not a man of character. He has proven this time and again throughout what has been the most bitter, perverse and foul election campaign ever fought. The long list of allegations against him are familiar to all of us by now, and his equally long list of insults, of bigoted & racist comments have become part of our zeitgeist. His hate-speech has become the battle-cry of so many of his supporters, the violence he incites so embraced by the ignorant and hateful. There is no doubt in the minds of so many that the newly elected leader of the so-called free world is not a man of morality, honesty or decency. Vowing to "make America great again" (when exactly was that?) he is poised to turn the clock back on the hard-fought progress of the last 50 years. The right side of history is clearly of no concern to him, nor is the truth. As we saw more and more states turn blood red on the TV screen, our fears became reality and our hearts sank. A true representation of a country that has lost its way, of an empire in decline. As the cracks grow ever larger and the nation crumbles beneath itself, they have allowed their fear and anger to give way to hatred.

When we all watched his victory speech, many of us still in disbelief, it became clear that when this man is not spewing hatred, when he is not hurtling insults like a spoiled brat, he is completely ineffective, When he is not spewing hatred, when he is not hurtling insults like a spoiled brat, he is completely ineffective, powerless to move a troubled nationpowerless to move a troubled nation. While he spoke of unity, he was insincere. All that he could muster was a variation of a hollow, repeated phrase: "they're great people. Really great." Parents grappled with how they would explain to their children that this bad, bad man had become their President. And we felt a very real fear for our future in that moment, in a time when reason and equality need to take center stage more than ever before, not greed, lies, hatred and immorality. The sickness many of us felt in our stomachs then was overshadowed only by our sickness at hearing the words misogyny, racism, sexism, like some disturbing mantra of hate, repeated over and over again the world over. Make no mistake about it - the newly elected 45th President of the United States of America is a man who brags about grabbing women by their genitals without remorse. The newly elected 45th President of the United States of America is, in no uncertain terms and by his own volition, a piece of shit. Within hours of his victory, of the loss the world then suffered, articles began to appear discussing paths to his impeachment on the day he takes office. A unified nation seems far from possible now. The division he has helped create is now very, very deeply carved in the fabric of American society.

So where does this leave us, those among us that want a world of tolerance, equality and inclusion, of environmental resposibility and a world free of the ravages of poverty and of constant war? How do we take this terrible turn of events and move forward to tackle the real problems that we face together? As I write these words, there are protests happening in Austin, in New York, in San Fransisco and in Chicago as people chant "Trump is not my President!" And while some are taking action now, many feel crippled and are only left with the slight hope that he will destroy himself before he takes the Oath of Office. But hope is not enough. Not nearly enough now. This man has crossed all boundaries of decency and been rewarded with the most powerful position in the world. A position that he is not remotely qualified for. Hope is not enough.

While it's much more likely that civil war will break out in the US before any sort of revolution would ever be organized, the activists and supporters of democratic socialism and other just ideologies need to use this setback as fuel for a movement against hatred. There is no other choice now in these dark times. We all can make a stand against sexism - today. We all can make a stand against racism and hatred - today. Many are taking to the streets around the US to make this very stand at this very moment. We all have the choice in what Environmentalism, women's rights, immigrant's rights, LGTBQ rights - they are no longer separate issues, they are all one issue. The issue of what is rightwe buy, in what we do, in where we work and what we support. More than ever before, we need to speak not with votes (the winner of the popular vote did not win the Presidency need I remind you) but with resistance and with activism. We need to talk to our neighbours, to our colleagues and, yes, to those that support this deplorable man. More than this, we need a real leader now - not a President, but a leader outside of the political circus that can unite activists around the world to stand up for what is right.

Environmentalism, women's rights, immigrant's rights, LGTBQ rights - they are no longer separate issues, they are all one issue. The issue of what is right. If ever the world needed a wake-up call, this is it. If we are scared it's because we ought to be. If we are fearful, it's because we know we are heading into an abyss. The only thing left to do is to speak out against evil in all of its forms and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. We owe it to each other and to our children. Take your fear and make it a weapon of love. Do something, do what you can in any way to help the cause of justice. The future depends on it.

As Zach Stafford wrote in The Guardian just moments ago on the protests currently shaping up in Chicago: 

One woman saw this coming together of people of varying ethnicities, religions and sexualities as hope. “This is the America I identify with,” said Nicole Endenova, a young woman of colour, as she stared at the crowds.

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The Enraged Carnivore: How To Deal With The Meat-Eater's Rant

Consider this: if you were engaged with someone in a debate, and they happened to be gay and you told them that you're sick of hearing them preach about their rights, that they should keep their opinions to themselves, and that you are entitled to your own, homophobic opinions, they would remind you that it's not 1952 and to get with the times. They would remind you that we have emerged from the dark cave of suppressed human rights and we are the better for it. And they would remind you that while you may have the right to feel any way you want, you should probably keep out-dated opinions like that to yourself.


So why, then, is it ok for someone who loves their meat-eating ways to be cruel, hateful and preachy about the idiocy of your ways and at the same time defend their right despite the cruelty and environmental destruction associated with it? Beyond that, why is it ok that you are then asked to respect their opinion as they (clearly don't) respect yours? To those of you who understand food production and all of its problems, congratulations because you must already be vegan. But to those of you who espouse angry, hateful rhetoric and demand that we respect your opinion on meat consumption, for those of you who feel the need to voice an opinion rooted in cruelty, I have a few points I'd like to make:
Barney DuPlessis, Vegan Bodybuilder
Animal production for human consumption is the number one contributor to greenhouse gas emissions by a substantial margin. When you oppose the environmental argument, you are exposing your ignorance.

Animal production is almost always intensely cruel in its execution. When you oppose the compassion argument, you are also only exposing your own ignorance.

Animal protein is not understood by the general public, and the meat industry has worked hard to keep it that way. When you raise the protein argument, you are exposing your own ignorance and doing their dirty work at the same time by perpetuating false information. you are doing their dirty work by perpetuating false information Animal protein is not necessary - in fact it's harmful for the most part. For crying out loud, potatoes have enough protein for the human diet.

By simply adopting a cruelty-free diet that is kind to the environment as well, there is no implied contract that we will be perfect 100% of the time. We are human, we will sometimes make poor choices. Let he who is without sin...

Animal protein consumption is directly linked to heart disease and cancer. Irrefutably. Massive, large-scale studies have been done on this subject, and in counties that are now rapidly starting to adopt a Western meat-centred diet, these conditions are appearing in epidemic proportions.

Yes, we have incisor teeth, but so does the gorilla, a vegetarian. When you use that argument, you're really exposing your ignorance.

Just because we can ingest meat does not mean that we should. We may have had to for survival once-upon-a-time but we can now choose not to. Our bodies even release enzymes to fight foreign matter when we consume meat, recognizing it as harmful.

It is not your right, based on your traditions, your customs and your habits, to deny animals their freedom so you can harm them, enslave them and kill them. That’s not what rights are about. That’s injustice - Gary Yourofsky

Animal production for food requires about 10 times the resources to produce per calorie, in a world plagued by starvation.

Animal production emits more greenhouse gasses than the entire transportation industry.

Our rainforests are being decimated at a rate of a football field per second. A staggering 97% of it is for animal production. You may also know the term rainforest referred to as the lungs of the planet, something we will need down the road.

The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men - Leonardo Da Vinci

More than half of the water used in the US is for animal production. Californians eating meat are creating their own drought in a way.

The animal production industry, including fishing and dairy, is wealthy and powerful. They lobby relentlessly to ensure that policy is made in their favour, with no concern for the environment or human health, only for profit.

In poor countries, grain that could be fed to starving humans is generally given priority to livestock, which can then be in turn sold to wealthier people in why are we being asked to respect an opinion that supports and endorses cruelty?developed nations. That must hard to stomach, even for the most hardened and vehement carnivore.

An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language - Martin Buber

So, just as one would not expect a feminist to accept the sexist's viewpoint, and just as a homosexual would not be expected to acknowledge the homophobe's opinion, I ask again, why should we have to respect an opinion that supports and endorses cruelty? Please, give me just one reason why I should support a viewpoint that contributes to world hunger, massive deforestation, declining human health and massive greenhouse gas emissions?

I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man - Mohandas Gandhi

It is ludicrous to think that difference in opinion warrants mutual respect, especially when the opposing opinion in question not only stands for everything you are against but also appropriates suffering, defends oppression, and encourages the continuance of exploitation - Felix Samson

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An Open Letter To Our American Neighbours

Dear Citizens of the United States of America, our neighbours to the south, our friends,

We are writing you today because up here in Canada we are concerned - deeply concerned about what is happening down there.


In your insanely long election campaign process (our last federal one was 78 days, and that one set records) there is so much hate, racism, misogyny, and misinformation coming from your good ol' GOP, and in particular, from that bizzare-looking, silver-spoon weilding, multiple failed-business having Donald. Just the mere thought of him taking office makes most Canadians cringe. I don't think that you could find even one of us Canucks that likes this oaf. He is loathed as much as Gretzky is loved in our beautiful country. But you have spoken, and it's becoming clear that he is the favoured leader of this party, and by extension, the leader of what is now the world's pre-eminent hate group. The xenophobia, racism, intolerance and general desire to make America hate again is really starting to bug us. Scare us, actually.



Let me start by saying that we are a tolerant people - we say sorry even if it's your fault, we accept refugees from troubled parts of the world with open arms and we foster inclusion and acceptance. Maybe it's because we are not yet so full of anger. Our life is pretty nice up here, overall. Yes, we have some people that are still marginalized, but there are far less in numbers, and we are ashamed that we still have any at all. But we'e working on it as best we can. At least every single one of us has free healthcare. That's a beautiful thing, and if my government did not provide that, I would move to somewhere that did. Healthcare of the population is the first order of business, Healthcare is the first order of business, not world domination and military musclenot world domination and military muscle. And yes, you have a right to be angry because, amongst many other things, your government does not take care of it's basic obligations. How did you end up allowing them to do this? It seems bizarre and unfair from our humble vantage point. But hey, when your health, both physical and mental is in order, it's easier to see things clearly.

And so yes, we are concerned and we need to voice that. While I'll preface all of this with a good ol' Canadian sorry, I won't mince words here. You see, up here in the Great White North we observe your politics and your conflicts from a particularly unique vantage point. And from this slightly more socialist bent, we see things differently than you do. While there is much to admire about your great country, there is also so much that is deeply troubling, and because of your influence in the world, this is a big problem. And now you stand at a crossroads - a crossroads at which the fate of the world is at stake. On behalf of a generally much less divided country than yours, we plead that you make the sane choice for your next President.

We May Be Socialist But So Are You:

As the race continues for the nomination of your candidates, it seems more and more that this may end up a Sanders/Trump battle for the Presidency (or at least we hope Bernie makes the cut - he's very Canadian in his values). And, just as they represent two very polarized parties, they too represent such a wide gap in values and beliefs. But up here in Canada, a Trump would and could never rise to power as he has done in yours. And why is that? It's simple. It's because we are more socialist that you. I say more socialist because, whether you like it or not, you too are socialist to some degree. Socialism is not a dirty word - it provides us with universal health care, with a superior infrastructure (boy your roads are getting bad!) and a happier, healthier and more tolerant society. If socialism is a bad thing, then we clearly aren't doing it right because, like it or not, our people are better taken care of than yours. Yes, we are far from perfect, but we are also far better off.

Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet - Maya Angelou

Now while I love your country and have travelled it extensively, it hurts to see you in constant decline. And constant bipartisan bickering. What happened to compromise? Was that not once a hallmark of your great country? What happened to people coming together, working together with partisanship and ensuring that your political system works for all of your people and not just a few elite? When did you become a fundamental religious country? And I'm not talking about the Muslims, I am talking about the Christians - they've gotten entirely out of hand. Take it from us, religion has no place in politics.

America The Beautiful:

But don't get me wrong - yours is a great country that has achieved great things and produced some of the world's greatest people. The natural beauty of your varied landscapes, your magnificent cities, your landmarks and historical sites, So many inspiring leaders, so many great works of art. You invented Jazz music. You produced Hemingway and Fitzgeraldovercoming slavery, overcoming so many obstacles and persevering when all seems lost. So many inspiring leaders, so many great works of art. You invented Jazz music. You produced Hemingway and Fitzgerald. You made Louis Armstrong and Nina Simone. From sea to shining sea, you are a truly great nation.

But you are letting it slip away because of your bickering, and because of that bickering you are going so far as to consider a man like Trump. With all due respect, you should be embarrassed at yourselves. That is not the stuff of a great leader - that is a bully and a dim-witted elite. That is a man who is normalizing racism and misogyny. When the white supremacists endorse you, you need to reconsider if what you are doing is good for the country you supposedly love.

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves - Abraham Lincoln

Please Just Stop:

So as many of you somehow seriously consider Trump as a candidate for President, I urge you to stop and think. If he becomes your leader, you will find the world turning it's back on you. You will find a country divided, and a country turning back the clock on civil rights, the environment, and on foreign policy. Trump is an embarrassment to you, to the free world, and to Democracy. He is wholly unqualified to run your country, and he is only serving himself. Please think for a moment, and if you are turning to Trump because you are angry, then stop to think whether anger is getting you anywhere at all. If you want to make your country great again, all you need to do is take care of each other, plain and simple. United you stand, divided you fall.

Sincerely,
Canada


Let no man pull you so low as to hate him - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Street Art In My Way

A slight departure, a short story:


Perfect by Alexandros Vasmoulakis

There is a tangible way that something unexpected and juxtiposingly beautiful can move you, right in the middle of the day, right when you least suspect it. Minding my own business, weaving through the streets of my own individual urban decay, there is such grim and grey dullness to it all, only to be broken incessantly with the lusty colours and mindless chattering of the corporate message, the new, dominating 'street art' that decorates our cities; the adverts, meant to manipulate not just our feelings, but by extension our behaviour and our empathy, or lack thereof. and despite its proliferation and abundance, there is only one message that they provide.

There is also something profound in the way that such welcome counter-images to the corporate doctrine, meant perhaps to lift us from this banality, stirs our consciousness in a way that the ads simply cannot. But the ads, in their psychologically well-studied approach to the shaping of our mental environment, contain perhaps the most profound concept after all, far more than any Banksy or Shepard Fairey could convey, simply because of their frequency, and their dubious placement on what was once our very own landscape. The corporate ownership of our physical environment is no dull analogy for their ownership over our mental one. But still, I only notice the street art, at least consciously. although the advertisers, no doubt, have a louder voice.

Meanwhile with dull and heavy footsteps, the mass of humanity moves around me with the singular preoccupation of adhering to the whim of the giant billboards and transit-stop images, to pay for that which they have already used up, as the financiers of it all continue to reap their just deserts long after the fact. Some would say unwittingly, but this is not the case - they know full-well and they hate themselves for it, but they know. And so they stomp, and trod trough the muck of their particular urban desires as they are sold ideas which they, in their last glimmers of consciousness, can still conceptualize that they have no power over, none at all. In this they realize that their free will is an illusion and nothing more. and I realize that I, too, am one of them. 

And so the giant gleaming ads continue to shout amid the silent roar of the city. Until, like a sudden flash of light in a cave that has been darkened for aeons, there comes into view a piece of art, a simple stencilled image amongst the static, and so powerful in its simplicity. A ten-dollar sentiment against the billboards of the billion-dollar behemoths, and I, for one, realize that I still have a beating heart, at least for a moment as its dark message laughs with me or at me in its ironic darkness and dark humourlessness. 

And so I wonder, is the creator of this silhouette lurking in the shadows as I literally stop momentarily in my tracks, taken aback by the sudden appearance of this hieroglyph? I have to wonder, for all of the other imagery I can see literally screams for us to be self-obsessed, to need validation from any source, to require the tallying of likes in a world full of so much hate. So why would someone do this, only to leave it in its place to be destroyed, or covered, or scrubbed, and for no forthcoming validation? Why? Unless they come from another time or place, one in which they were not considered merely a useful idiot. 

To that I can only imagine, but I do imagine that artist lurking and waiting; not to know if they have been validated by my own arrest by their piece, but to know that they are needed in a world we no longer own.

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What The Skepticism Towards Mark Zuckerberg's Gift To Society Says About What We Think Of Mark Zuckerberg

With the birth of their daughter Max, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced on his now ubiquitous social media website that they plan to create a massive initiative to better the world. Mainstream media jumped on the news as a great act of philanthropy, but many critics are claiming that this is nothing more than a cleverly disguised PR move and tax-avoidance scheme. So why are so many people skeptical about the billionaire's motives, and what does it say about what we think of Mr. Zuckerberg himself? Are we so jaded by the abuses of the rich that we can no longer graciously accept him or any billionaire at their word?


By giving people the power to share, we're making the world more transparent - Mark Zuckerberg

What are the differences between Mark Zuckerberg and me? I give private information on corporations to you for free, and I'm a villain. Zuckerberg gives your private information to corporations for money and he’s Man of the Year - Julian Assange




When I read Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan's post to their newborn girl Max, I was genuinely moved. It is well-written, inspiring and just what we all needed to hear in these grim times - truly an inspiring piece. And I'm also happy for them in the arrival of their addition to their family - a very happy time for them indeed. I really wanted to believe that what I was reading was true, honest and free from any ulterior motive, but after it sank in a bit, and after reading the countless articles of varying viewpoints about this incredibly generous pledge, I found myself wondering why I felt more than a little skeptical of it all. Being such a high-profile individual, he has certainly had his fair share of bad press (as is to be expected of high-profile people) and in that sense, this was a brilliant PR move. And the structure of it all does raise some complicated questions about tax-avoidance motives, naturally (which is arguably a problem with tax law, and not Mr. Zuckerberg himself). But what really stuck with me was the fact that this initiative will have almost zero transparency by virtue of its structure, much like the man and his company - a company that has made the rest of us incredibly, vulnerably transparent.

Cautious Optimism:

In short, I want to trust him, but I struggle to do so. But I will wait and see, with cautious optimism, like most of us (some have expressed outrage that we don't just take him at his word entirely), and hope that this is untimely a good thing, and not just a mega-billionaire's messiah complex playing out on the world stage. I truly want to see this man make the world a better place (god knows he has infinitely more power to do so than someone of my means), and the optimist in me believes that the arrival of his daughter has allowed him see the world in a new way - that he has, as he says, a responsibility to make the world a better place. While I do think that his intentions are good, I think it's also important to bear in mind that the road to hell is paved with them.

However, those who have been quick to judge this initiative harshly need to take a step back for a moment and realize that, thus far, all that has happened is the creation of a limitedAt this point, it is nothing more than a pledge (albeit a very grand one) and the changing of money "from one pocket to another" liability corporation (not a non-profit charity, which has been the cause of much criticism) and even though it is not technically a charity, it still has the potential to do a lot of good, despite it's lack of transparency. Therefore, we all need to wait and see what he actually does with the money. At this point, it is nothing more than a pledge (albeit a very grand one) and the changing of money "from one pocket to another", as Jesse Eisinger said in the New York Times. While the nay-sayers do need to take it down a notch before judging too harshly, the man has given us much cause for skepticism, and that is what many critics are feeding off of in their response to it.

Mixed Reactions:

I don't know Mark Zuckerberg personally, and therefore I can't comment on his character as an individual - that would be unfair, and such speculation would serve no purpose. Besides, Zuckerberg is incredibly secretive and private in his personal life, so we don't really know all that much about this man who has had such a huge impact on the world. That being said, people clearly do have an opinion of him based on the actions of his company, its dubious beginnings and the importance he places on his own personal privacy, as the mixed reaction to the news of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative would indicate.

For the sake of argument, if this gift had come from, say, Nelson Mandela (who obviously did not have 45 billion dollars in his lifetime, but go along with this for a moment if you will), I suspect that there would be absolutely no speculation as to the motives of the decision whatsoever - it would surely be met with universal praise and joy, and it would give us sincere hope for the future of humanity. 

His Incredible Desire For Privacy:

But Mr. Zuckerberg is not Nelson Mandela, he's a billionaire businessman who has dramatically changed the way we interact with one another. While he has, on the one hand, created an empire around the idea of the transparent surrender of privacy in the Internet age, he remains highly reclusive and private in his own life on the other. When he purchased his home, he also bought all of the homes around it in order to protect that privacy. And while he vehemently denied the tacit cooperation of Facebook with the Prism project, that proved to be not true. As each backlash from of our erosion of privacy created by his website unfolded, he stood by his stance that this is the new world - one where openness and transparency supersedes the old model for the betterment of all. And yet he does not live this way himself. His billions provide a privacy that the rest of us could only dream of. Perhaps it is his prerogative to spend his money as he sees fit, but it does seem to contravene the philosophy of his company - a company that he himself says was never about making money, but about changing the world.

Facebooks Has Changed The World:

And change the world he has done - to a huge degree. But, we also need to ask in light of this pledge, to what effect? Is the world a better place because of Facebook? The evidence suggests that it is not - there is more isolation, depression and envy associated with prolonged use of the site. Couple that with the fact that your private information is sold to corporations, many of whom work to actively worsen society, and the business model starts to topple. Obviously, Zuckerberg would not share that viewpoint. He views his company as a kind of salvation for humanity. And yet he doesn't personally subscribe to the philosophy of his company in his own life curiously. And let's not negate the fact that Facebook is considered the biggest killer of productivity in the workplace. It's a huge time-waster, let's face it.

An Anectode:

I do have a real-life experience with the company that I think is worth sharing, at least in relation to their lack of transparency and social conscience. In 2010, a friend of mine had her Facebook profile compromised when she took her laptop into a major electronics retailer to be fixed. When she got it back, she no longer had control of the account, and the effect it was having on her life was nothing short of devastating. I tried to help her retrieve the account, but to no avail. The endlessly frustrating loop of feeding back this information to the company was incredibly disheartening, and the abuses this thief was perpetrating continued to grow, as did the effect on her personal life. She was popular, attractive and had several thousand friends on the site, and her profile was now full of hatred, prejudice and lies, not to mention the fact that this thief now had access to all sorts of personal information about her. She wasn't just upset, but genuinely scared.

Coincidentally, I had been planning a trip to San Fransisco for a while (such a great city), and I suggested she come along with us and we could pay a visit to their offices in Palo Alto in person and see if we could get the account deactivated. It seemed like it should be no problem - she could easily prove that the account was rightfully hers, and the moment of its hijacking was obvious. The experience was aweful and surreal, to say the least. The place felt less like a high-tech firm and more like a government agency with its high level of security and generally uncaring attitude. The person at the front desk was aloof, dismissive and holier-than-thou, and all she was able to do was provide a little card on which my friend could scribble down her concern, with a vague promise that someone would contact her. No one ever did, and the account still remains active all these years later. Her online identity was stolen, at least in regard to how much of our identity is now tied into Facebook, and it was easy to prove, yet they did nothing. Zero. While this bit of anecdote may not be indicative of how they operate on the whole, there do seem to be many other similar stories out there, and they clearly have no real recourse for people in this position. The point - they have no desire in being either transparent or compassionate when their product adversely affects someone's life.

Similarly, there is an incredibly complicated and contrived set of hoops to jump through if you decide to actually delete your account. Here's a post on the rather complicated 11-step process. It doesn't feel like the interests of the users are held in very high esteem in this company, despite their mission of openness and transparency in the world. He even went so far as to call the site's user "dumb fucks" for trusting him with their personal information, although he has since expressed regret at making the comment. While much good has arguably come from the site, there has also been bullying, suicide, and divorce resulting from its use, and it also has proven to be an easy place to recruit radicalized people to various insidious causes - much of which the company does little about.

What Are His Plans For A Better World?:

All of this adds up to an unsettling feeling by many of us regarding Mr. Zuckerberg's intentions with this initiative. On the face it may seem incredibly benevolent, but let's not forget the story of the company that earned the money, and its effect on our society. If his intentions truly are to make the world a better place, then perhaps Facebook might be as good a place as any to start. He may think that it has created a better world, but those of us in the real world know that that's just not true. One of the goals of his newly-created initiative is the "building of strong communities", yet isn't his company actually doing the reverse to some degree? Are we truly better off in our world of virtualized relationships?

And let's also not forget that he is a tech guru, not a visionary of world peace and prosperity. There are experts in these fields who have devoted their entire lives to their causes, yet Mr. Zuckerberg thinks that he has a clearer vision of how to accomplish these things. I would speculate that a lot of billionaires feel this way. The reason that he claims that this LLC was created was to give him the flexibility to not only decide how the world specificaly needs to be improved, but also so that some of the money can be spent on political lobbying, and let's not underestimate the importance of this. A registered charity is not allowed under the law to lobby politicians, but an LLC can and most certainly does. He clearly, by his own admission, wants to manipulate policy to his vision of what needs to happen in the world. A very dangerous undertaking from someone who is not an expert in the field.

I sincerely hope that this money will be spent for good, and his desire to help humanity is most certainly a welcome one in today's world. I sincerely hope that Mark Zuckerberg I hope that he isn't just setting himself up to be some sort of philathopic despotwill diminish the growing inequality, help provide education and funding to the third world, and ultimately, create a better world for not only his daughter, but for all children being born into this utter mess. If I could make an appeal to him directly, it would be that he simply gift the billions to those already working towards these goals and let those with the expertise guide the decisions.

All of this has a bit of a dubious undertone to it, but I hope that time proves that his intentions are true. While it's become clear from the response that many don't trust him and his motives, maybe it's time for the billionaires of the world to start being decent human beings after all, and he can lead this potential movement. I hope that he isn't just setting himself up to be some sort of philathopic despot. And to those who say that the critics are simply envious, I would ask them to look at the role Facebook has had in creating a world full of so much of it.

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The Internet Is Polarizing Society & Crippling Progress: What You Need To Know

The Internet, despite all of it's beautiful ability to connect, to inspire and to collapse the distances of space and time, is in fact distancing us, polarizing us, and inhibiting our ability to move forward. But it doesn't have to.


Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the Internet. Thank you, Mr. Gore. It's without a doubt the most transformative, life-altering, mind-bending technology to occur in my lifetime. When I was ten years old, my friend Sheldon and I would connect our Vic-20 computers via primitive modems that required we put the analogue receiver snugly into these rubber cups. If the seal was not just so, and the receiver didn't sit just right, you'd get errors which would result in a bunch of gobbledy-gook on the monochrome green screen (god I miss that thing). But when it worked, it was glorious. Our own personal network. We were on-line and it was a rush, although we were on a network of only two. Still, it was transformative for us, and even at that tender age we knew that we had the privilege to be living in an era of sweeping and unparalleled change. After an hour or so of typing messages back and forth, and working out the requisite bugs, we would get bored, say goodbye (ttyl), and go back to playing Gorf, silently smug in our secret understanding that we were on the thin cutting edge of the technological world.

A Man Performing A Google Search To Reinforce His Predetermined Viewpoint
Eventually, we both became a little more sophisticated, and with the advent of bulletin boards, AOL and the like, we were able to join larger communities. And so it went, until we arrived here, at the present day, living in the future of that which we could only have imagined so many years before. Yes, I love the Internet (is it still a capital "I"?), and it's a tool whereby great things can be achieved.  But I know how to use it, and sadly, the majority of users do not, and I'll tell you why.

The Filter Bubble:

You see, the funny thing is, after all these many years since the days of Sheldon and me wistfully creating our own digital universes (well, technically speaking they were digital-to-analogue-to-digital universes) there are still only really two people on the network. There's the Internet of you, and the Internet of them - and they are dramatically different from one another. It informs you in one way, and it informs them in another, entirely different manner. But this is not simply about the filter bubble that exists on the Internet, for that is only one component of the argument.

While the phenomenon of the filter bubble is becoming more common knowledge, it's still a largely unknown concept. In case you don't know, in a nutshell a filter bubble is when the personalization services offered by Google, Facebook, etc., feed you only like-minded viewpoints, and hide opposing opinions from your searches and feeds. If you've never tried this, Google something political with a friend, and compare results. On a larger scale, a filter bubble occurs when the like of FOX News compose a story by only researching one viewpoint, and selectively choosing information to fit and support that certain viewpoint. The information may not necessarily be wrong, but it is most certainly incomplete. A lie of omission, if you will.

If you need further proof to sway you to the existence of this phenomenon, pick a ridiculous argument; that the Holocaust never happened, that the earth is flat, that Al Gore invented the Internet, and get Googling. You'll soon realize that you can indeed support any argument under the sun if you want to. It doesn't mean that it's true.

Confirmation Bias:

The filter bubble also feeds into the phenomenon of confirmation bias, whereby a pre-determined viewpoint is proven by actively, if unwittingly, only learning about the supporting argument. We all learned in debate club that this is not how things are done, but this is how it's done on the Internet, especially inside the bubble in which most of us reside, happily unaware. Think of it like this: a filter bubble is the result of tailored, passive information gathering, whereas confirmation bias is when information is actively sought but in a biased, incomplete manner (only Googling supporting arguments compounded by Google tailoring results based on your known bias, for example). We won't get anywhere like this.

The Problem:

It's plain to see what the hazards of this information-shielding could potentially do to our society, and in fact already has. Politics has been shifting rapidly, and the left and right are more polarized than ever before. A healthy, bipartisan approach to politics no longer exists, particularly in the US, and progress has been crippled as aPolitics has been shifting rapidly, and the left and right are more polarized than ever before result in a time when radical progress is what we need. Along with this polarization comes a reduced empathy and understanding of one another, as we become a society of us-against-them. When someone only ends up being fed their own viewpoint, over time they become convinced that their opinion is the right one, and that everyone else is completely out to lunch.

And along with this polarization, we've received a whole other set of unintended consequences. Loneliness, isolation, despair and depression are greater than ever, as we become virtual friends and no longer real ones. The studies are in and yes, Facebook and other social media are isolating us, not the opposite. Who knew?

The Solution:

How, then, can we begin to utilize this wonderful tool called the Internet in a positive, constructive way, this tool at once so full of promise and freedom, and so utterly shackled and hijacked? As with any cognitive endeavour, the answer lies in an awareness, and a conscious application of that awareness to the problem. By understanding the problem, and sharing that understanding with others, we begin to get out of the darkness.

Darkness may reign in a cave for thousands of years, but bring in the light, and the darkness vanishes as though it had never been - Ancient Yogananda Saying

But beyond understanding, we need to ask better questions, be critical and seek out the other argument (an excellent article on the subject can be found here). We need to metaphorically revisit those debate club days in high-school and relearn those lessons. In short, we need to honour integrity in our arguments and in our collected and collective knowledge. Follow people on Twitter who don't share your viewpoint. Go on reddit and ask people with opposite viewpoints to enlighten you with their knowledge. Bear in mind, however, that they are likely suffering from confirmation bias themselves. Learn about the Internet's heinous bubble and how to avoid it. You can find some tips on that here. As well, here's a cool reference poster of logical fallacies, to keep you in check. It can be done, and done effectively. You can go from the Internet owning your mind, to being able to reclaim it entirely.

Take Responsibility For Your Mental Environment:

We live in an era where the natural environment has been polluted in insidious ways, but so too has the mental environment, and only on an individual basis can we defend against that and reclaim it. But with a mindful approach, it can be taken back. We need to realign our society with the values of the pursuit of truth above all else. Only then will we regain our integrity, our honour and our ability to know the truth of the matter. It's a fight for your mind, and the passive will lose this fight. If the battle is one of the mind, then education is the key to its victory.

After all these years I think maybe I'll dust off that old modem and dial up Sheldon for old time's sake. The information we exchanged on that network of two with our primitive computers was truer than most things I see on the Internet today. Truer and also much more fun.

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In The Year 2015, Why Does The Internet Remain Virtually Unused In The Direct Democratic Process?

How is it that, despite the information and social technologies we now have, we can't simply go on-line and vote for any and every decision our government proposes? Or anything related to our governance for that matter? Yet we can vote for our favourite American Idol contestant in a heartbeat via text or even by touch-tone telephone, and see the votes tally from far and wide on our television screens in real-time in front of our TV-addicted eyes? They'll tell you it's because of security reasons that we can't, at the same time as they complete million-dollar financial transactions on their smartphones.


And despite the existence of e-democracy in all its forms, and in all of the ways it can empower people (if used conscientiously), there have only really been a handful of attempts at on-line voting in the world. There still is no system to allow you to go to the respective government website, learn about the issue at hand, and if and when you feel informed enough on that topic, you could then cast your vote. Better yet, if you feel the issue is too complex and requires specific expertise, you could even delegate your vote to someone of your choosing who you trust to understand the issue and to vote ethically on it on your behalf. A system where you could vote on everything, every single, minute and mundane thing, right on up to the biggest issues, like if public bailout money should be given to wealthy bankers to distribute as huge bonuses. In theory, a system like this could exist one day, and all of this may indeed sound like a great system if put into practice, but the politicians will tell you that it's Utopian fantasy and would never work.

Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images.



And yet we queue up every four years or so, depending on which particular set of lines and which jurisdiction you live within, and just as some societies have done now for hundreds of years, we cast our vote for the all-powerful chosen one who will make all of our decisions for us henceforth, until we line up next time. Yeah, that's a great system - for nineteen fifteen. But this is 2015, and since it's obvious that the technology to operate society in a much more democratic way clearly not only exists but is also highly sophisticated (look at the sophistication of, say, Facebook - as a system and despite its general content of course), there must be a reason that it's not in use, or not at least being pursued in more than a casual way. Do the powers-that-be not know of the existence of the technology? Nope. Do they not know how it works? Sadly, nope. So why have there been no real steps forward to voting on public issues on-line?

Possibilities:

Maybe they think that no one will use it, since we're all a bunch of apathetic consumers anyway. After all, 132 million people voted on American Idol in 2012, compared to only 122 million for the presidential election. Well if we're apathetic, they must like it this way for some reason. I don't know about you, but if I suddenly had a say in the way I am governed for the first time in my life, I would be all over it. I can barely think of anything more appealing and empowering. Having an actual say in things - without even having to become a snaky politician in order to do it. I have no empirical evidence to support it, but I suspect a great many other people feel the same way, and would use this technology extensively.

The politicians, however, would surely say in dark rooms behind closed doors that the populous is too dumb, to uninformed, to be able to handle their own affairs - hence the existence of these more-equipped, more honest and more caring leaders that we've collectively appointed to handle what we cannot. To that I say, I'd rather delegate David Suzuki to vote for me on environmental affairs that may be beyond my grasp, than Stephen Harper, thank you very much. But I'll let that argument mainly speak for itself.

The Internet Security Argument:

So maybe it's because the Internet isn't yet secure enough to do this. I mean, with all the hackers and hacktivists and crooks out there, surely the fragility of the system is the reason we're not permitted to vote on-line on all the issues that affect our lives. There seems to be a lot of testimonial from security experts on the government payroll leaning that way, after all. 

But I, just like billions of us, go on-line to do my banking as I've done for years and years now, and that seems more-or-less secure, with only the (very) rarest of breaches. And I bet that there's people out there, including those very politicians, that have used that technology this very day for sums of money far, far grander than the paltry sum of my electricity bill. And I bet they didn't bat an eye.

Yes, there are legitimate security concerns with on-line voting, and it is certainly more complex than voting on American Idol, but thete are also many proposed solutions to those problems. Maybe the Internet is secure enough for this, and maybe, just maybe we're being fed some hogwash. In fact, it seems that the current system of voting seems to be riddled with so many so-called security issues, many of which could be eliminated with an on-line system, that perhaps a more refined approach would be a good thing after all. At least something to debate, not just cast aside.

The Real Reason You can't Vote On-line:

Perhaps, then, the reason they don't want to give you access to this type of voting is that they don't want us to be utilizing democracy in that way, that directly of a way. Wouldn't it render them redundant, impotent, useless and out-moded entirely? Surely they need the system to remain as it is. After all, when I line up every four years or so, I don't really feel like I have an actual choice in things anyway. It kind of feels like it's an illusion of choice more than anything. The reason, ultimately, must be the lack of political will to make this type of democracy (an actual democracy, not our current system) a reality.

Well, if that's the case then I call bullshit. BullshitThere is so much vested interest by the establishment in today's world to maintain the status quo that such a forward-thinking and empowering system would in effect topple their regime in light of the fact that things are really, really bad at the present moment, and despite all of the promises of change we've been fed, it's become pretty clear that the corporate and elite interests seem to wield far, far more sway than our votes ever have. And the interests of the public are rarely if ever being served any more by politics. Voting on all issues in the hands of the people would be a disaster for them. These corporate bastards really know how to get shit done. They're like Joe Peschi, but in even more expensive suits, and without baseball bats most of the time.

You see, I know it's almost cliché at this point to say it, but there is so much vested interest by the establishment in today's world to maintain the status quo that such a forward-thinking and empowering system of any kind would in effect topple their regime. The reason that you cannot vote for your elected leaders and for any number of issues on-line is not becase it will be hacked. It's because, if it was allowed to exist, they would be hacked.

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