Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Thinking for ourselves

If a person has poor information about an issue, he will make poor decisions regarding that issue. Our technology has advanced to the point that simply being able to do something is irrelevant. We can basically do anything we want to, from producing limitless amounts of food or destroying entire cities in a flash. More than ever, what matters most is that we want to do the right thing.

Some people want us to do the wrong thing. They would have us destroy ourselves, as long as it benefited them. The easiest way for these power-mongers to control us is to limit our access to information. We, the people, need to develop a communication system that provides us with the best information possible; we need as much information as possible, we need it to be as accurate as possible, and we need it to be presented in usable form. To create a system that serves us well, we must make sure that it is controlled by us and not some special interest that could seek to undermine our decision-making ability.

Our communication system has radically changed in the past few decades. I suspect that the core communication technologies (transmission, storage, etc) will soon be practically perfect, so that change may slow down. However, the way that we use these technologies is still changing rapidly and will continue to do so for quite awhile.

I will repeatedly return to this theme while writing for this blog. In fact, Eternal Vigilance itself is an experiment in communication. I don't know where the "information revolution" will take us, but am going to try to make something good out of it. This will affect every aspect of our society--commerce, politics, and even religion--so we need to pay attention to it.

What we can do:

Directly: Start producing and consuming citizen-centered media.
  1. Learn how to use web syndication tools. It's not hard. Try the Thunderbird mail client.
  2. Find independent information sources that you would like to hear from. Find their XML feed, and sign up. Sign up for the Eternal Vigilance XML feed. I would like to collect a list of feeds from websites that produce a low volume of high quality content regarding specific issues that relate to the focus of Eternal Vigilance. Please let me know of any.
  3. If you care about some issue, educate yourself and start a blog here at Blogger. Post a comment here, and tell anyone who you think might be interested.
Long Term: Learn about the potential for citizen-centered media. Study the potential for controlled media, and the tricky ways that the media elite try to control our behavior.
  1. You may enjoy this video from the Museum of Media History, speculating on the future of our media systems. (Slashdot article)
  2. Check out the WikiMedia foundation: Wikipedia is their flagship project, while Wikinews is their newest and most ambitious project. (Slashdot article)
  3. Pay attention to manipulative techniques used in media. A common technique is to distort the meaning of words, or use words in an ambiguous way. This can have particularly strong effects on the meaning of statistical information. Media producers may also include non-verbal cues or unspoken assumptions.
I highly recomend the novel 1984 by George Orwell. Orwell examines many methods of thought control, and gives a lot of attention to manipulation of the means of communication. Orwell also wrote some good essays about the themes covered in 1984.

Remember to tell me about any blogs that complement Eternal Vigilance.

Related topics:

Thinking aids, Citizen-centered media, Media Manipulation

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Congress almighty?

The Supreme Court is currently deliberating on whether Congress has the Constitutional power to absolutely prohibit marijuana. If the court decides in favor of the Federal government in this case (Ashcroft v. Raich), then the Constitutional principle of enumerated powers will be as good as dead; Congress will have the power to regulate any human activity unless otherwise stated in the Constitution. The "interstate commerce" clause will be interpreted so broadly that Congress can overrule state law even if all activities take place in that one state (not interstate) and all goods and services are provided without charge (not commerce). This would be the end of one of the major limits on the concentration of power in the Federal government

A more detailed discussion of this case can be found in this article from FindLaw.

What we can do:

Directly: Not much, as this is in the hands of the courts.

Long term: Help re-establish an appropriate balance of power between the state and federal governments by:
  1. Studying the US Constitution and it's history, and deciding for yourself what is an appropriate separation of powers
  2. Encouraging state and federal officials to implement that balance of power. In this case, allow states to regulate the use of marijuana within their borders by supporting Congressional acts such as the "Truth in Trials Act" and the "State's Right to Medical Marijuana Act".
Related topics:

US Constitution, Medical marijuana, Representative government