Citizen of the Internet

Many fancy themselves citizens of the world. I think they just haven't traveled far enough. The sentiment of anti-nationalism is a fine one to hold, but I know I'd rather be safe and sound in my American home than wondering when the rebels (or pro-government forces) will decide on a whim to sack my dwelling in Syria. I'd rather be able to argue with local missionaries about the very concept of god than be wondering what my method of execution will be if my neighbors in Egypt learn that I have rejected Islam.

I'm not proud to be an American, and while there are many explicit and implicit bounds placed over US citizens, I'm still more free, overall, than those in the rest of the world. It's sad that it's the case, but where else is economic, government, and personal freedom so favored to the individual but in America? The former British colonies that did not rebel still follow a very British style of government and allowance. In Australia you cannot own or import a decently powered green laser. Why? Because people were flashing them at airplanes as they were landing--which in America would result not in banning the device, which is used responsibility by thousands, but by apprehending the pranksters. Europeans as a whole are fully socialist now, especially the Eastern European countries like Hungary that at this point are essentially communist in their ideology, if not quite totalitarian enough to resemble Leninism and Stalinism. In the US, you are more capable than ever of starting your own business and building almost anything you desire. If you work hard and are lucky you can even create a billion dollar business, but while those are rare a modest income isn't too hard to achieve. In Israel, citizens are forced to join the military for 3 years (male) and 2 years (female). (Without debating the merits of such a requirement--I think it probably makes sense for Israel and its people--the US has "selective service" which, except in times of crisis, means it is voluntary to join the military.) Most of the world's countries are tiny, which makes travel outside the borders difficult and/or annoying, while in the US travel between states is as easy as driving over the border. If I am physically assaulted in the US, the police are available and I can have my justice.

Well, not in all parts of the US, but the ones that matter. In the US it's very easy to move if you don't like where you are, and there are helpful, charitable people everywhere if you need a little help.

Before the Internet was the Internet, The Hacker Manifesto was written. In it is the spark, and a challenge to the citizens-of-the-world-types.

We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias... and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it's for our own good, yet we're the criminals.

Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for.

Emphasis mine. See, the world-citizen-types, they swallow one of the revolutionist lies, that all men are created equal. Many of those who signed the document with that phrase certainly didn't believe it in their core, they knew better. Does anyone really think that with the intelligence Jefferson had, he didn't see any contradiction? Franklin certainly did--or at least he made himself believe the lie when he freed his slaves. I think they would have agreed with George Fitzhugh, that if they set their slaves free, they set their slaves to their deaths.

The Hacker Manifesto touches on an important related point:

we've been spoon-fed baby food at school when we hungered for steak... the bits of meat that you did let slip through were pre-chewed and tasteless. We've been dominated by sadists, or ignored by the apathetic. The few that had something to teach found us willing pupils, but those few are like drops of water in the desert.

I know everyone is a hacker these days, but few have anything resembling a hacker mentality of intense curiosity and such disdain for boredom, ignorance, and helplessness that they banish such things with knowledge.

My point here is that people bring up examples of the poor and unfortunate climbing the social ladder and becoming very successful, and they use these people to argue their false premise that all are created equal. The truth is those people who succeed are special in some way, and would have succeeded given almost any starting point.

So many bemoan the lack of education, be it funds, teachers, or performance. But what is really lacking is the desire to learn. Some people would really prefer slavery, and many make a good job pretending at slaving with their low-wage low-skill labor jobs, barely surviving, with no ambition for better. When they cannot pretend at slaving, they revert to the tribal nature.

A bad concept of free will goes in hand with the false premise. "A poor dumb person could pick themselves up by their bootstraps! Look at this example!" Yes, they could, conditionally however on them having a certain mind. For so many people, they lack this kind of mind, and at the present time it is not possible to alter that. In the future? Maybe, that's a noble goal to strive for.

In America specifically, there has never been so much opportunity, nor so much squandering. Education is free for those who seek it. Companies are easy to form for those who want a shot at money. The citizens are largely charitable and are often willing to help out those trying to help themselves.

I have veered from my original topic, but this needed elaboration.

The Hacker Manifesto lays out some requirements for being a citizen of the Internet, but it does not go far enough. An Internet citizen is "without skin color, without nationality", and I would go further to say without religion. An Internet citizen is without gender. An Internet citizen is without Party. An Internet citizen is without sexuality. Furthermore an Internet citizen is without distance and border, has a choice in their identity, and has absolute free speech--something not even America has. An Internet citizen protects themselves and asks no one else to protect them, something that is much harder to pull off offline. (I'm glad that I'm protected from brutishness in America.) An Internet citizen has no fixed allegiance, the extent of group formation is as ephemeral as the groups of routers messages are passed through. Groups are useful for whatever their temporary purpose is but should not be maintained for too long. Status is granted by a utility function with several inputs, two of which are achievements and intelligence. Some readers may interpret my "without sexuality" requirement as saying Internet citizens should be asexual--this is the wrong interpretation and the mark of an inferior intelligence. When "without skin color" is written, does that imply one should turn inside-out? It means it's not important as one's identity.

Perhaps the only real requirement for a citizen of the Internet, from which the others follow, is this: keep your identity small.

There is a constant danger in being a citizen of the Internet. It is starting to believe that most everyone else is like you or other Internet citizens you meet. This is not the case. Not everyone online is a citizen of the Internet, and not everyone offline is not one. Do not underestimate people's incompetence, ignorance, stupidity, malice, patience with inefficiency, immorality, apathy, solipsism, or insanity. The offline world is a scary place, which is why I'm glad to be in a wealthier part of America. There are cannibals out there.

Posted on 2012-08-24 by Jach

Tags: philosophy

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