The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'survival values'
New market research has revealed that Mac users are snobs, upper-income-bracket elitist aspirational types who see themselves as better than the PC-using rabble, while, seen from the other side, PC users are cheapskates.
Meanwhile, a filmmaker has made a documentary about the intense loyalty Maccies feel to their brand, which bears out some of the findings:
Violet Blue, a popular blogger and sex columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, who also features in the film, says: "First of all, I've never knowingly slept with a Windows users ... that would never, ever happen."Anyway, back to the Mac-users-are-snobs thing: the description of the difference between Mac users and PC users reminded me a lot of (Mac user) Momus' recent paraphrasing of the right-wing anti-intellectual argument against liberal cosmopolitan elites:
The intellectual is not one of us. We are ordinary folks, he is a member of an elite. We gravitate around right wing ideas, he's left-leaning. We're family people, he screws men, women and children. We farm, he stays in the city, with his intellectual elite, or on campus, corrupting the minds of our youth. We're religious, but the intellectual is an unbeliever. We run to fat, he stays thin. We're patriots, he's a cosmopolitan, equally at home with foreigners as with his own kind. He puts loyalty to ideas before loyalty to his people. We have the church, he has the liberal media.I'm wondering whether Microsoft or Dell or whoever didn't miss a trick in the few years after 9/11 when Americans (and, to a lesser extent, other Westerners) fell into a right-wing populist groupthink, dissociating themselves from straw-man liberalism. Perhaps, had they run ads playing on the stereotypes of Mac users as potentially disloyal rootless cosmopolitanists, they could have converted some Mac sales into sales of PCs and copies of Windows. After all, when your country's under siege, you don't want to be seen to be distancing yourself from your compatriots, however symbolically.
Police in Durham have raided a BSDM sex cult after hearing that a woman was being held against her will.
The 29-year-old woman is said to have voluntarily attended the sect after finding out about it over the internet.
She later contacted a friend in United States, who then contacted the police, saying she wanted to leave but couldn't as she had burnt her passport and return ticket.The Kaotians are apparently a group who keep to a master-slave lifestyle based on John Norman's Gor books, a series of BDSM-themed sword-and-sorcery novels published in the 1970s, fallen out of print (allegedly because of feminist groups putting pressure on the publishers), and now eagerly collected by an underground of gimp-masked acolytes across the world, many of whom see them as an ideal for living; in a sense, they've become a sort of Atlas Shrugged for the BDSM set.
I wonder how long, with this publicity, the Gor books are going to stay out of print. I imagine that, in today's post-political-correctness age, when everybody is free to hold whatever opinions they have, the more abrasive and "politically incorrect" the better, something like a kitschy-sounding pulp novel series with BDSM overtones would seem more like a hipster trash-culture collectible, to be filed quasi-ironically alongside one's Russ Meyer DVDs, 1970s European lesbian-vampire movies and copy of Wisconsin Death Trip, than a threat to womens' liberation. (In fact, it could perhaps even be argued that Gor would fit in with the regressive, neo-Hobbesian muscular-nihilist values of our times.) All some entrepreneurial soul would have to do is license the copyrights from the John Norman estate and run off a run, bound in fetishy leather and priced at a premium, and they'd effectively have a licence to print money.
More recently, I saw an unidentified tabloid's take on the story. It's interesting to note that they stressed that Norman was a university lecturer and philosopher, as if to suggest that the pernicious influence of academic/intellectual culture was somehow to blame for such grievious lapses of decency.
(via Boing Boing)
If this article is to be believed, the young people who grew up in John Howard's Australia have taken the Tory government's values wholly to heart:
The language of the Howard Government on religious minorities and refugees has resulted in a generation desensitised to the very human realities and manifestations of global inequity and ethnic difference. When Howard talks of "queue jumpers" and "illegals" to describe refugees, there is a knee-jerk tendency among young people to apportion blame rather than feel empathy. This is a state of affairs that Howard has personally overseen, a significant paradigm shift that entrenches a deep and pernicious ethos of social hierarchy and privilege.
Simultaneously, there is a tendency of young people to flock to evangelical religious movements in the past five years, particularly in the outer suburbs of our capital cities. Without wishing to speak disparagingly about young people seeking spiritual depth, we can say that within these new popular religious movements disengagement with mainstream political reality is fostered. To many of these groups, "family values" becomes a code for being anti-gay, anti-euthanasia and anti-abortion. It is alarming to hear how frequently young people today embrace this kind of neo-conservatism, almost like a race to see who can be more right-wing.
Moreover, with Howard's constant talk of a very white-bread brand of traditional family values being paramount to a good society, we have seen a sudden rush of young people to get married early, get a home loan and shift to the suburbs at the first opportunity. This obsession has even extended into the gay community, which after fighting for 30 years to keep the government out of the bedroom, now appears to be fighting for the approval of Howard for their relationships.
Coupled with this, we have witnessed in Australia a new kind of hyper-consumerism. The social centre of town on any given evening is now the local shopping centre. Young people are all too eager to get the biggest credit limits possible, and max their Visa cards out with the casualness of a walk in the park. Indeed, the Howard era has brought us closer to US style ultra-materialism, where "retail therapy" is the new buzz word. Feeling bored or depressed? Better get to Chadstone shopping centre. The so-called metrosexual male has become little more than a crass marketing ploy.The lack of empathy, hyperconsumerism and devil-take-the-hindmost mentality could be the same Hobbesian muscular nihilism witnessed in the United States. Though the rise of US-style right-wing evangelical churches and acceptance of conformistic ideas of "family values" is more alarming, especially coupled with the thread of intolerance for difference hinted at. Australia may be changing, on a deep level, into one large Red State, one in which nonconformity is something to be punished and straightened rather than embraced.
An interesting link from Momus: Market research firm Environics has conducted a survey of changing values in America, and come up with some disturbing conclusions. Over the past 12 years, their results show, the meta-values underlying American society have shifted away from engagement within society towards a paranoid, Hobbesian, every-man-for-himself world-view; this has fostered both libertinism and authoritarianism:
Looking at the data from 1992 to 2004, Shellenberger and Nordhaus found a country whose citizens are increasingly authoritarian while at the same time feeling evermore adrift, isolated, and nihilistic. They found a society at once more libertine and more puritanical than in the past, a society where solidarity among citizens was deteriorating, and, most worrisomely to them, a progressive clock that seemed to be unwinding backward on broad questions of social equity. Between 1992 and 2004, for example, the percentage of people who said they agree that the father of the family must be the master in his own house increased ten points, from 42 to 52 percent, in the 2,500-person Environics survey. The percentage agreeing that men are naturally superior to women increased from 30 percent to 40 percent. Meanwhile, the fraction that said they discussed local problems with people they knew plummeted from 66 percent to 39 percent. Survey respondents were also increasingly accepting of the value that violence is a normal part of life -- and that figure had doubled even before the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks.The research was done by plotting survey responses on a rectangular "values matrix", with two axes: authority-individuality and fulfilment-survival:
The quadrants represent different worldviews. On the top lies authority, an orientation that values traditional family, religiosity, emotional control, and obedience. On the bottom, the individuality orientation encompasses risk-taking, anomie-aimlessness, and the acceptance of flexible families and personal choice. On the right side of the scale are values that celebrate fulfillment, such as civic engagement, ecological concern, and empathy. On the left, theres a cluster of values representing the sense that life is a struggle for survival: acceptance of violence, a conviction that people get what they deserve in life, and civic apathy. These quadrants are not random: Shellenberger and Nordaus developed them based on an assessment of how likely it was that holders of certain values also held other values, or self-clustered.
Over the past dozen years, the arrows have started to point away from the fulfillment side of the scale, home to such values as gender parity and personal expression, to the survival quadrant, home to illiberal values such as sexism, fatalism, and a focus on every man for himself. Despite the increasing political power of the religious right, Environics found social values moving away from the authority end of the scale, with its emphasis on responsibility, duty, and tradition, to a more atomized, rage-filled outlook that values consumption, sexual permissiveness, and xenophobia. The trend was toward values in the individuality quadrant.(If I recall correctly, fulfilment and survival are at the two opposite extremes of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, with individuals whose survival needs are met progressing to focus on fulfilment needs. Could the reversion of the focus to survival be the result of respondents perceiving that their survival needs are threatened?)
On a related note: here is a PDF file of a presentation analysing British political opinions along similar lines, and finding that, while the old labels of "left" and "right" are less meaningful, opinions are divided along two axes: the Socialist-Free Market axis of economics and, more significantly, the "Axis of UKIP", which sorts respondents on their opinions on crime and international relations. At one end are the Daily Mail readers, who believe in isolationism and capital punishment, and on the other end are "chianti-swilling bleeding hearts" and cosmopolitanists. The centre of gravity is a little towards the UKIP end, which is why xenophobic, fear-mongering tabloids sell so well. The presentation also has diagrams of the distributions of positions by political affiliation and newspaper choice, with some interesting results.
Interracial violence erupts on a Sydney beach, as a standoff between Lebanese "gangstas" and Anglo-Australian surfers escalates, with the Anglos joined by Waltzing Matilda-singing neo-Nazis, who in turn end up beating up anybody non-Anglo-looking. Apparently the trouble had been brewing for a long time, and escalated when some Lebanese gang members went on a rampage at Cronulla, the surfer gang called for "patriots" to reinforce them, by when the bampots took charge. It turns out that far-right racial-nationalist groups modelled on the British National Party took an active role in organising the riots, and while the Prime Minister has condemned the violence, one of his media allies, right-wing talk radio host Alan Jones boasts of having led the charge, by reading out text messages calling "Aussies" to "support the Leb and wog bashing day". And, of course, Australia's answer to Little Green Footballs is providing another rallying point for the "Aussie" nationalists.
And yes, that did say text messages. Apparently both sides called in the cavalry through a tree of text messages. Sydney's ultra-violent Lebanese gangs (who, it must be said, are not representative of the mainstream of the Lebanese community) are said to mobilise quickly through mobile phones (actually, weren't some of the notorious Sydney gang rapes from a few years ago, also said to be committed by the gang members, organised spontaneously by mobile phone?).
And it would be folly to airbrush away the reality that what started the Cronulla tensions was yet another provocation by the aggressive, repugnant Lebanese gangsta culture - itself an alien subculture within the Lebanese community - which has given Sydney dozens of shootings and murders, a spate of gang rapes, hundreds of sexual assaults, and thousands of deliberate racist provocations at Darling Harbour, the eastern and southern beaches and some of the big clubs in western Sydney, along with Canterbury Bulldogs rugby league matches.
At its worst, this culture had overtones of civil war, as the Kanaan gang sprayed the Lakemba police station with gunfire. One of those who took part in this attack was Saleh Jamal, now in jail in Lebanon on weapons charges. He has turned to Islamic fundamentalism and wanted to explode a terrorist bomb in Sydney before he fled the country.Now, the surfers and right-wing bovver boys seem to have also adopted this tactic, and used it as an excuse to beat up anyone they see as "un-Australian". So now we are seeing an age of flash mob rule. We live in interesting times.
There are more reports of the violence here:
I saw a group of three well-dressed 40-ish women drinking Breezers standing atop a retaining wall chanting at the police. I saw a group of four teenage girls (typical tanned 'Northies' Shire-girls -- long hair, short skirts and massive sunglasses) being interviewed by ABC radio with 'Multiculturalism Doesn't Work' stickers on their backs. I saw a fifty-year-old man wearing an 'Osama Don't Surf' t-shirt. I've never seen that many people in Cronulla before.
It wasn't too long before a rumour started spreading that a train full of Lebs was on its way to Cronulla (it was like an insane game of Chinese Whispers, there were stories going through the crowd that Tom Ugly's and Captain Cook Bridge had been closed, that the Bra Boys had arrived and that the kiosk at North Cronulla was under siege because it was owned by Wogs), so everyone was off to the station, via Cronulla Mall.
But many locals were involved, and for the most part loving every minute of it. There were plenty of units and apartments decked out in Aussie flags with parties overflowing into the streets, proud to be a part of what was just a disgusting day. How so many people could be getting pleasure from this was just impossible to comprehend. It was part machismo bullsh*t and part mob-mentality but it was mainly just ugly racism. It no longer had anything at all to do with two lifeguards getting beaten up last weekend, it was all just hatred towards a group of people who weren't even there.A family-friendly festival of nationalism and hatred. Perhaps next time they can book Prussian Blue to play on a stage?
In 1950, a book titled The Authoritarian Personality posited the claim that, far from being alien, fascist tendencies were commonplace in American society. The book is best known for the "F Scale", a test of how inclined one would be, should the opportunity present itself, to don the jackboots of authoritarianism. The test consisted of a number of multiple-choice questions, with the answers added to give a score; in that sense, it's an ancestor of numerous OKCupid tests and LiveJournal memes.
The F Scale is not perfect: for one, it focuses almost exclusively on a strain of traditionalist, right-wing authoritarianism, ignoring other strains, such as Soviet-style social engineering. (This could be because one of the authors was the famous Marxist critical theorist Theodor Adorno, and/or because authoritarian utopianism à la Lenin never had more than niche popularity in the US, where the research was carried out.) However, according to this article, it's more relevant today than it was when it was written:
In the June 19, 2005, issue of The New York Times Magazine, the journalist Russell Shorto interviewed activists against gay marriage and concluded that they were motivated not by a defense of traditional marriage, but by hatred of homosexuality itself. "Their passion," Shorto wrote, "comes from their conviction that homosexuality is a sin, is immoral, harms children and spreads disease. Not only that, but they see homosexuality itself as a kind of disease, one that afflicts not only individuals but also society at large and that shares one of the prominent features of a disease: It seeks to spread itself." It is not difficult to conclude where those people would have stood on the F scale.
Consider the case of John R. Bolton, now our ambassador to the United Nations. While testifying about Bolton's often contentious personality, Carl Ford Jr., a former head of intelligence within the U.S. State Department, called him a "a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy." Surely, in one pithy sentence, that perfectly summarizes the characteristics of those who identify with strength and disparage weakness. Everything Americans have learned about Bolton -- his temper tantrums, intolerance of dissent, and black-and-white view of the world -- step right out of the clinical material assembled by the authors of The Authoritarian Personality.
One item on the F scale, in particular, seems to capture in just a few words the way that many Christian-right politicians view the world in an age of terror: "Too many people today are living in an unnatural, soft way; we should return to the fundamentals, to a more red-blooded, active way of life."
An Australian study has found that drivers of four-wheel-drives (SUVs) are often obese, reactionary, intolerant and aggressive
, and have crew-cuts and rottweilers named Winner:
A new study has found that city owners of large four-wheel-drive vehicles are less community minded than other drivers, less charitable, more likely to be homophobic and have a low opinion of indigenous culture.
The Australia Institute study has also found they are more likely to use force to get their way.
Two thirds of their drivers in the city are overweight or obese. They also had a lower regard for the welfare system than the general population.In other words, 4WD drivers are model members of John Howard's Relaxed and Comfortable Australia. One could almost say that not owning a 4WD is un-Australian.
I haven't been paying enough attention to France's rejection of the EU constitution to comment insightfully on it, but Momus has:
It seems to me that a very similar thing has happened to Europe that has happened in the US: the people voting Yes to the EU constitution have the same educated, urban profile as the people voting Democrat in the last US election. And in both cases they've been defeated and outnumbered by less tolerant, less affluent and educated, more anxious, irrational and xenophobic people from smaller towns and country areas. People who feel like outsiders to the political process are now, with splendid passive aggression, exacting their revenge by dealing it blows. In many cases these people are also outsiders to the process of wealth creation: strip away the blue coasts and the big cities and America loses the economic powerhouses which make it the world's predominant power. It's the same in Europe: the people now determining the shape of the continent are the insecure poor, unwilling to share their meagre income with Polish plumbers and Turkish bakers, but also unwilling to admit their economic dependence on the dynamic city folk and political elites they've just dealt a slap in the face.Perhaps this is a good thing for trans-Atlantic peace. Perhaps the red-state Americans and the French Non-sayers can realise that they have a lot in common, put aside their hatreds of each others' countries and unite in a big joyous pogrom of their respective inner-city liberal-cosmopolitanist elites, shortly before devolving into a new dark age of poverty, superstition and xenophobia.
Momus weighs in on the Michael Jackson trial, painting it as a tragic triumph of warlike Spartan puritanism over a future of limitless, polymorphous opportunity:
One of the reasons the Michael Jackson trial is so unfortunate is that the world of Either-Or will pass judgment on a creature of Yet-Also. The world of clear, unambiguous categories will pass judgment on someone who flies Peter-Pan-like over the binaries that confine and define the rest of us.
Jackson is what all humans will become if we develop further in the direction of postmodernism and self-mediation. He is what we'll become if we get both more Wildean and more Nietzschean. He's what we'll become only if we're lucky and avoid a new brutality based on overpopulation and competition for dwindling resources. By attacking Jackson and what he stands for -- the effete, the artificial, the ambiguous -- we make a certain kind of relatively benign future mapped out for ourselves into a Neverland, something forbidden, discredited, derided. When we should be deriding what passes for our normalcy -- war, waste, and the things we do en masse are the things that threaten us -- we end up deriding dandyism and deviance.
Mind you, from what I heard, the court case is not about Jackson's deviant refusal to fit into binary categories or to obey the stern laws of the joyless, unimaginative "Never-Fly", but about whether or not he buggered some children. And surely if he represents a viable future of humanity and is convicted or otherwise put out of action, some alternative, non-child-buggering manifestation of Homo Sapiens 2.0 will come along and carry on the Great Work. Surely Mankind's salvation from a soul-crushing dystopia of war, sexual puritanism and manufactured mass entertainment doesn't literally rest with one man.
Meanwhile, in the LiveJournal comments for this entry, there is an interesting tangent, quoting a New Scientist article on Michael Crichton's latest book (a thriller which paints the scientific basis of environmentalism as fraud and environmentalists as fanatical terrorists):
When I visited America during my time working for Greenpeace International in the 1990s, time and again people would say to me "we really don't approve of the way your organisation blew up that French ship", or words to that effect. It happened once at the end of a meeting with a lawyer in Philadelphia. He was defending Lloyds of London against a suit filed by Exxon after the Valdez oil spill. He wanted to thank me kindly for all the excellent free technical information I had furnished him with in support of his defence, but he really hadn't enjoyed having to talk to me because my people had murdered somebody in New Zealand.
How could it be, I used to wonder, that Americans got the French secret service's sinking of the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior the wrong way round so consistently? I encountered the phenomenon in no other country. I never knew why for sure and still don't. Whatever the explanation, it happened so many times to me and my colleagues that I had to conclude it was something cultural.
Which sounds like cognitive dissonance in action. Perhaps, to many people in the U.S., the claims that the French government blew up a Greenpeace ship jar so much with their beliefs about the nature of environmentalism (according to this New York Times article, 41% of Americans consider environmental activists to be "extremists") that they have to mentally correct the "error" in the reported facts, turning them around to make more sense.
For those who break into a cold sweat every time they drive the Hummer out of the gated community, Ford have a new solution for 21st-century urban survival: the Ford Synus, a "rolling urban command center" which looks somewhere between an armoured bank truck, an obscenely large SUV and a Mack truck, and features rolling shutters over windows and bullet-resistant glass, whilst providing mini-home-theatre comfort inside. It's currently a concept vehicle only, and possibly a joke, though it should sell well in places like South Africa (especially if they supply under-door flamethrowers as an optional extra), and should last until inner-city criminals get RPG launchers. Or perhaps it's just a status symbol for rappers and movie stars.
A report from the Human Rights Council of Australia says that Australia is moving towards an authoritarian state under Howard. Among the symptoms of this are a political climate dominated by fear, insecurity and division, and the "de-legitimising" of dissent., including, for example, through the demonisation of those with alternative views and the restriction of their resources and public standing, the council says.
There are increasing controls on information, while potential dissenters are co-opted or even coerced, for instance through exploiting growing financial dependence on government and use of provisions in contracts.
There has been a radical shift in how government business is done, with tight constraints on the capacity for dissent. "All but the bravest" will avoid speaking out as more organisations become dependent on government funding.
(Wasn't Howard going to revoke the tax-exempt status of charities that become involved in political debates (as opposed to just handing out soup or blankets)? Has that gone through?)
Though at least here we have the
Democrats Greens; on the occasions that Labor shows some backbone, they can blunt the worst of the government's legislation. Unlike in the US (where third parties only serve to leech votes from their respective lesser evil) or the UK (where the upper house is comprised of hereditary peers, gradually being replaced by anointed political cronies; I'm sure a true believer in protecting the interests that matter from the friction of excessive democracy like Teflon Tony won't be in any hurry to bring in proportional representation.
Speaking of which, Blair is planning to lower the voting age to 16 in Britain. Not sure what he'll do to prevent outbreaks of Greenism and socialism in the Houses of Parliament; introduce US-style first-past-the-post voting, count on British youth being less given to rocking the boat (see also: Greg Palast's rants about the Brits habitually deferring to their betters where Americans would raise a fuss), or just sign over enough sovereignty in international "free trade" treaties to render Parliament no more relevant than a student union?
(Speaking of Palast: have there been any counterexamples to his assertion, of British subjects forcing the powers that be to overturn odious legislation through protest or civil disobedience? Wasn't that what happened to Thatcher's poll tax?)
Forbidden thoughts on 9/11, ranging from political thoughtcrime and hate-mongering to just people getting in touch with their inner sociopath.
"I used to think all firemen were hot. I now think they are slimy. At least four times last October I was in a bar where a fireman was so forward and sleazy, saying things like 'It's been so hard. You can't believe it' while pawing me. I'm sure his buddy who died running into a building on fire would feel vindicated by this slimeball getting laid, but I'm not going to participate." -- Anne, 31, an advertising sales manager in New York
I read [the New York Times'] 'Portraits of Grief'... as object lessons in why one should never aspire to be a model employee.
"The day of 9/11, [my friend and I] spoke frequently, as we always did, being that we were inseparably close. The next day she called and said that she was walking in her neighborhood and some 'Indians wearing saris' were walking down the street and she spit on them -- it was her patriotic duty."
And then there's the response of British artist Damian Hirst, best known for chainsawing cows in half, who acclaimed the terrorist attacks as a work of art; echoing what Laurie Anderson said (many years ago), that terrorists are the last true performance artists. (Wonder what will happen when Hirst next sets foot in New York; I imagine quite a few people would see it as their patriotic duty to grab a Louisville Slugger and form a welcoming committee for him.)