Tag Archives: Obama

Cheaper Sneakers

What does president Obama have in common with The Flight of the Conchords? I’ll spare you the impossible puzzling: you already read the answer. ‘Cheaper sneakers’. Check Obama’s Vox interview at 29 minutes 45, and our New Zealanders’ song at 1 minute 30. Now, before you go wild on the far-fetchedness of suggesting a liaison between these two fragments: I’m not trying to convince you that Obama is a fan, nor am I revealing that Bret and Jemaine are the true rulers of the planet.

Imagine you could label the soundbite ‘cheaper sneakers’ and trace it wherever it is spoken or heard, written or read and repeated or not. You would be able to see it move between videos, to people, to texts and vice versa.  You’d see it reproduce in brains and come out of new minds all the time, rippling ever onwards through society, back and forth between the digital world and the other one. Now and then it would probably even appear out of nowhere. I imagine that if you could follow it, you would see it travel through the noosphere in much the same way as bacteria or viruses travel through the biological world. If you could track down ‘cheaper sneakers’ and study it’s behaviour wherever it goes, you would probably call the fragment alive.

Why has this co-occurence triggered me? Why ‘cheaper sneakers’? Why not ‘the dance floor’ or ‘I have a dream job’? What makes this one so special? Well, whether it happens quickly or in slow motion, the song of The Flight of the Conchords perpetually bounces around in my head. The instant Barack mentioned the sneakers, it surfaced to my awareness. It sounds catchy, doesn’t it? Cheaper… sneakers… . It’s got groove. But most of the power of this catchy combination of words comes from what it symbolizes. A field of tension between the rich and the poor. It is the product of hard, unfair work done in Bangladesh, that’s comforting our feet. A spiritual friction. I knew I would write this article the instant I heard him mention it.

‘Cheaper sneakers’ is a dimension of thoughts encapsulated in an appealing sound and an image. The fact that Obama used it in this Vox interview indicates its enormous political power. Mark my words: you will hear it more often in the context of the equalizing economy. It is turning into a discursive weapon that can be used to silence political opponents.

Now: are politicians using these words or are the words using the politicians? If politicians depend on the composition of strong soundbites for their power, how much in control are they, really, of the course of mankind? What is that force inside these words that pushes them into our brains? If the words big people herd live double lives, how much influence do these people truly have?

Being able to measure the movements of soundbites through the digital and analogous worlds would, I don’t doubt it, provide us humans with a spectacularly humbling view upon ourselves. And who knows, with the increasing registration of absolutely everything, perhaps one day we will do such measurements. I think it would be fun to see.

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Access

We curse the spies. N.S.A: the evil-doers. But we have ourselves to blame.

If you were given the choice, would you rather be safe or be free? Security, the absence of fear. Edward Snowden wants mankind to be free, and chooses life in exile. And fame.

Obama’s response: the US spy agency has prevented over thirty terrorist attacks in Germany alone, just by overhearing our phone calls, and reading our e-mails. We should be grateful.

I have personally never feared terrorist attacks, even now that I live in the capital of The Netherlands (who joined the wars in the Middle East). They are too helter skelter to fear, really. And their scale is too small. Almost like natural disasters; hitting merely when they hit. But we humans would like to control everything. If, of the six billion people around, one wants to wreak havoc, is that a valid reason to spy on all? And what if there are a thousand criminals? How many people’s privacy have the same value as another person’s life? What if it’s your life?

There are many sides to this issue. Say it works. Say you can truly prevent terrorist events in this way, does that resolve the problems that motivate these people to attacks? How about this one: if government agencies can see us pick our noses while holding our genitals, then who else can? Or this: where will this stop? Are we heading to Orwell’s ’84? Will we have to justify every dialogue one day? To whom?

Once again, the human nature has been tempted, and once again, it has fallen into the trap of curiosity. Instead of addressing important questions in a timely debate about cyber ethics, most media and the mob blame the bad guys for doing what they do. What many people fail to see, is that the access to our privacy is a vital property of the global network we are building.

It is the purpose of telecommunication to provide access. Using this medium means being heard on a larger scale. We are bringing our self-image to the surface for all others to admire, but when indeed we are seen, we start to scream. Whether it is the government who hears you, or your parents, or a group of obscure individuals who are up to no good, you are the one who gives them this chance. Internet without spies is like friendship without conflict.

We are entering a time in which transparency has a different meaning than it had before. Instead of moaning, be aware of it next time you plug your soul in.

Persociety

I recently saw a few nice one minute videos on the history of the English language. One of them opened my eye to the fact that William Shakespeare invented about 2000 words. I think that’s really cool, and it reminds me that I also like to make up words. Persociety for example. It’s in the subtitle of this blog, yet I didn’t explain it so far.

You have probably noticed that persociety is a fusion of personality and society. It’s inspired by Jung’s theory that in our subconscious we are all connected. In essence, our personality is not independent of the society we live in nor is our society – which may have many shapes and scales – distinct from our personality. We consequently shape society with our personality, and society shapes our personality. It’s two way.

Persociety is the personality of society. As I am part of society, it is also partially my personality. So when I write: I am happy that Barrack Obama won the elections, this is not just me. In fact, I barely have a clue who that person is, nor do I know anything of his capabilities. I see him on the news and on youtube; he seems like a cool guy with a nice personality, but that’s it. Yet my society is happy, so I am happy. Persociety, can you feel it? Barack Obama is our persociety. It is the personality that we have chosen (yes we have) to represent us, thus also our personality. We can guess why, but none of us is entirely sure. It’s our persociety that determines it for us.

A different example: have you ever noticed how moving to a different country almost instantly makes you a different person? Speaking another language contributes to this effect. I felt this quite strongly in Peru, where I rose above the crowd far more than I do here in the Netherlands. Persociety. Change happens also over the years. Just compare some documentaries from 10, 20 and 50 years ago, and you’ll see what I mean. There you call it Zeitgeist, not to be confused with the conspiracy movie.

By showing what is going on inside me, I automatically take a picture of an existing persociety. That is what I do here. But I also have a mission. In this time of globalization, I spot that which is emerging as a global persociety. From a humble individual perspective of course, I’ll have a very limited view on what’s happening in China, India or Brazil, but I do what I can, and I’d like to invite all who feel te same to join in on this. I feel we’ll that somehow grow. To be able to keep talking about it, I had to make up this word. Do the same.

Persociety, because my dreams are our dreams.