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The Cotard Delusion of Freedom

Today is the day that Chelsea Manning regains her freedom from a torturous incarceration which flagrantly defied international law. At least theoretically she will be free, because sensible minds realize she will unfortunately be stalked by Uncle Sam to her dying days, and that there are likely a great many patriotic bigots who will be eagerly anticipating ever catching her alone. In America, everybody is king rat.

In keeping with my long-held theory that the industrialization of the arts was the definitive “the end is nigh” moment in history, the terminology of rendition has become grossly distorted in modern jargon. Before, the syntax generally applied to creative acts, such as giving form to a pencil sketch or performing a piece of music. Currently, rendering more often means for a federal agency to forcefully abduct someone without trial, to extradite them away to a secret place indefinitely to be subjected to torture, even murder. That is what Wikileaks founder Julian Assange could shortly be facing, should god-fearing American plutocrats have their way. He has been facing this potentiality for a long while now. I’m not saying the man walks on water, but the opposition he faces, the opposition that the bulk of humanity faces, has a capacity for fucking with life unmatched in all of history. As Manning’s experiences can certainly attest.

Remember that in the early evening hours of 15 October of 2016, Wikileaks was cold-cocked, later confirming that internet connections had been severed from Assange’s tiny apartment at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Just two days later it was confirmed that the government of Ecuador was itself responsible for the act, violating the trust of Assange and the entire Wikileaks network. And free speech advocates aplenty.

A week later, while Assange was forced to convey messages to insiders for posting online and updating the public, investigative journalist, film-maker and professor Gavin MacFadyen, who was a long-time friend and mentor to Julian Assange, suddenly passed away. Interestingly, MacFadyen’s work, which included co-founding the non-profit Centre for Investigative Journalism, at some point resulted in his being banned from Russia. I would imagine a ban on one of his closest friends would make the idea that Assange might ever be subservient to the Russian government downright insulting. Wikipedia states that MacFadyen’s passing followed a short illness, but we must truly wonder at the timeliness of this, in light of the enemies being made by Wikileaks among American political elite. Especially considering how this was not even the first strange death among the Wikileaks inner circle in the past year. Trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy, Assange could attend none of these funerals, which I suspect helps to explain his more erratic behavior of recent months. Grieving is rough enough without living under the impression that the CIA could assassinate you at any given moment, night or day, and inevitably get away with it, too.

The Ecuadorian government’s actions contradict the words of the President of Ecuador himself, Rafael Correa, in an interview with Abby Martin filmed some months prior for the super-informative documentary series, The Empire Files. In the conversation, Correa plainly states how offended he and his nation’s best interests were by Chevron launching a negative PR campaign against his administration, and of using trade agreements to exert undo pressures on a foreign body. All tactics which his government later capitulated to, regarding Assange, on behalf of an obvious influence from within the American state department. Around that same time, in another interview also conducted by Abby Martin, Guillaume Long, Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, unironically gushed about his country’s successes at rejecting Neoliberalism and exerting its own sovereignty into international systems. We now know that what he really meant was by pulling its knickers down as their embassies bend over to appease the whims of the governments of other nations entirely.

And for what exactly? Knowledge is power in its purest form, and Assange making ten million-plus documents public is a threat only to groups wishing to wield ultimate control over all information, down to your very own personal secrets. Like it or not he performs the function of a Prometheus reborn, stealing thunder by embarrassing governments to enrich the freedom of their citizenry. But in this world where not much credence or thought is afforded to equating data-mining by corporate or governmental parties to identity theft, and thus subjecting it all to copyright laws, who truly owns what, and by what earthly rights?

Has nobody considered how data-collection groups such as AT&T, Google and the NSA by design already possessed their own copies of these ten million-plus documents and more, and have been exploiting the information for their own purposes all along? The difference being that while they use the information to control the public, Wikileaks puts it all on the table for the public to decide for themselves what to make of it all. Imagine what a whole world populated by informed people might be capable of. Assange has said before that the docs vetted and published by Wikileaks belong to history, and not to any particular group. Any and every attempt to limit access to knowledge, no matter the party or circumstances, must be taken as cause to floor the brakes. Censorship is never excusable. Criminalizing whistle-blowers is synonymous for insisting upon an uninformed populace.

Even Glenn Greenwald, who has remained vocally opposed towards Assange’s preference for too rarely editing or censoring any of the Wikileaks releases, has also stated on many occasions that privacy should apply to the public and transparency to public officials, and not the other way around.

If we want a better world, then we must accept that a society where accountability is vilified and lying is sanctified is just not worth condoning. Instead of placating increasingly corrupted regimes, society must piss on its voter registration cards and ship them to the White House if they really want to make a difference and change the system. When charges can be fabricated and laws re-written after the fact in secret courts with retroactive implications then nobody is truly safe. Render a truly brave new world in its place, one free of manufactured threats or money-worship or inhumane cruelty or anything else so religiously thrived upon by the past and present Powers That Be.

Creative thinkers have battled for years to safeguard their respective Intellectual Properties from being misused, stolen or thrown into the non-ownership law of the jungle of the Public Domain. More copyright attorneys should consider involving themselves in how corporations like Facebook eagerly help themselves to our personal information, because now all digital information is actively taken from its rightful creators and re-appropriated by questionable government intent, with big businesses alike sharing in a monetization of this black market identity theft regardless of the claims of their public relations spokespersons or their terms and conditions or bullshit senate hearings. That which claims total ownership of all information including our privacy is also claiming total ownership of what constitutes our own psyches.

I think the web puts people even further apart. We are compelled to give more and more weight to our online presence, to conduct more and more aspects of our lives online, and I think there is massive dark sorcery to blame, pushing us to happily create effigies of ourselves by way of avatars on whatever accounts. Our profiles are homunculi, our interaction with this technology is a containment spell, like forcing a daemon’s shade to be bound inside of a pentagram on the garage floor. We are trapping ourselves, a little at a time. People think they are getting something valuable out of it, when in truth the rewards are impermanent and the unseen costs are extravagant.

And there is nothing that criminals can do with online datum that tech companies and governments are not already actively exploiting.

The monetary sums enabling the surveillance of everybody are astronomical, trillions lost by the Pentagon over the years thus explained, but such efforts would never be made unless the potential profit was deemed far greater. Are we really expected to believe that such tech firms are only compelled by force to participate in governmental games of cloak and dagger, while somehow staying untouchable for tax avoidance schemes measuring untold billions of dollars across multiple continents? One of Obama’s last steps as President was to assert that the tax code must be re-written to incidentally make tax evasion easier for such companies, a step which Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin is set on furthering. Seamless continuity.

For that matter, while idiot hacktivist kids who only read headlines were busy patting themselves on the back for the unpopular Trans-Pacific Partnership trade treaty apparently getting shelved in one of Trump’s first steps as President, they missed how later that same day Trump met with a number of CEOs, promising “massive” cuts to regulations and corporate taxes. Which are fundamentally what the TPP and its sister trade deals TTIP and TISA were all about, taking power from democratic governments and granting it to multinational corporations. The trade deals are dead in name only, but nobody seems willing or able to draw that conclusion.

Maybe as evidenced by the long list of complaints from Occupy Wall Street to Standing Rock, the greatest unseen symptom of the diseased thinking that our society embraces is in allowing ourselves to be convinced that not only is money apparently synonymous with opportunity, but that money itself is the one and only doorway to opportunity. And now everyone watches the clock, waiting for Leonard Cohen’s miracle to come.

For the purported sake of survival, as we allow the pursuit of capital to become the primary focus of our lives, we lose our independence in the hollow unification of brand loyalty. I will even argue that objections to cultural appropriation are the nationalistic equivalent of brand loyalty, either way preferring monopolization to its opposite, diversity. We lose our initiative and our integrity in allowing talking heads to do the thinking, passive-aggressively enabling our governments to be run as businesses and our neighbors to be treated as commodities. It’s very much a self-fulfilling thing, because if the government is indeed representative of its people, and the people concern themselves entirely with financial survival, financial gains, then how else should such a body of power conduct itself? We are not our nation though, just as we are not our culture, yet we leap to their defense while our actual individual selves are stomped into the sod by our nation and our culture alike.

What exact lengths the government would truly go to for this information has only ever been lightly acknowledged to the public, which is why blowers of whistles like Edward Snowden get so many Twitter followers. While entire offices setup specifically for data collection have since begun parking their windowless vans elsewhere, largely due to the chances taken by Snowden, Manning and Assange, attempts at legitimate reforms are painstakingly duplicitous and nobody with open eyes could possibly still believe that anything less than everything is not being mined to this day.

In more recent years, as conservatives and liberals increasingly become indistinguishable under their Wall Street backing and sabre-rattling, so too has the reach for data-collection gradually faced a kind of brick wall. The ease in which the public willfully shares themselves digitally, the means for capturing all digital data-sets and the capacity to store every last scrap of it, even the encrypted bits should a future date ever happen to arrive where decryption is easy as pie, is now redundant. The majority of peoples among the wealthier half of the world’s nation-states, while still a minority to the greater global population if we’re being honest about it, live and die online, with every iota of their identities now on file with the surveillance state apparatus. As incredibly unhealthy as such a system inherently is for every single participant therein, how might such an affront be combated, when all digital information, our ideas and our knowledge, our dreams and our very identities, are spied upon, stolen, suppressed and/or re-purposed openly and without reproach by the gumption-addled Powers That Be?

Stop voting and stop filing taxes, burn your credit cards and stop giving banks your service. Stop living beyond your means to keep up with mindless trends, purchasing things which nobody honestly needs with the pennies earned from making dollars for those outside your circles of family and friends. A person’s credit rating unto itself can neither create or destroy life, so stop affording it similar importance. And in the doing, stop giving the Peeping Toms of the government and affiliated tech firms so much to absorb. Embrace invisibility, embrace intangibility. View the flow of electronic data as alternating current, not direct current.

In terms of controlling the ebb and flow of information online, which looks to be the ultimate currency, consider how Prohibition failed because it strengthened the bootleggers of the underground into a full monopolization of their trade around the federal regulations. If an enterprise might be compelled to muster up methods to avoid the threat of ramifications for questionable acts, then the questionable acts increase exponentially. And that can be a two-way street well worth occupying. Debasing privacy and security online only builds a stronger underground, which is where I see the entire surveillance issue going. WiFi jammers will be outlawed long before guns ever will.

Yet the ones with power to enact visceral change are precisely the ones who would suffer most by said change, so adequately pro-privacy/pro-security initiatives will never legally happen in reality, especially not with the secret courts this government democratically enjoys. Petitions, demonstrations and appeals courts, etc, are all pointless endeavors. Litigation costs money, in which circumstances grassroots alone could never provide the necessary funding to compete with the billionaires, especially when the population at large is the proverbial onion being bled dry through low wages and excessive taxation dictated by those same billionaires. We now have countless examples that laws can and shall be retroactively re-written in favor of governmental business interests and political bank-rollers, in which case fighting fire with fire is useless. If one side’s abilities to change the rules are limitless, then an altogether different game is necessary.

I think the only viable action of self-defense would be in boycotting the cults passing for American tech companies. In today’s world money and power are particularly synonymous, so you cannot confront the one without also confronting the other in the doing. And again, if they deprive you then you can in trade deprive them in fair turn. Minimal paper trails, minimal digital trails equates to lesser the blemishes on your conscience. Simplify the obstructions to what your life really is, what your life really could be. Reject the plethora of unnecessary middlemen and costly red tape from what constitutes your actual happiness and the happiness of those around you. Unchained, reach for the fucking stars, not for the latest overpriced gadget from some corporation that gives more to lobbyists than pays in taxes.

As dark forces care to obsess over your email, your text messages and phone calls, etc, and the promise of the Internet of Things transforming your private spaces into recording studios, then even limiting your actions to what you perceive as squeaky-clean speech patterns broadcast from slightly more trustworthy foreign servers guarantees no safety. The Guantanamo Bay prisoners could probably tell some tales about how easily those who are completely innocent might still be persecuted. Manning was jailed specifically for doing the right thing. It is entirely up to you and your best interests whether you enable Capitalism, whether you enable the invasive data-mining conducted by the American government and its laundry list of business partners. Of course, pulling back from the world is not an easy life. Boycotting freely whatever products equates to a literal hunger strike far more often than not. But if life holds any inherent value, then any and every sacrifice is warranted.

What would be lost, honestly? If your livelihood would be affected by such a massive unplugging, then maybe you should take precautions to safeguard real control over what you claim as your own. When your Etsy store closes shoppe after the nukes fall, you might need to learn an actual trade, like moonshining or prostitution.

If in politics there can be a difference between anarchism and nihilism, then so too in theology can there be a difference between atheism and non-theism. Spiritually, I will not thank the gods for things I have done right, but neither will I blame the devils for things I have done wrong. Socially I go to great lengths to ensure that I avoid situations where others might take credit for things I do right, but equally will I avoid situations where others might take blame for things I do wrong. Individualism means freedom, but it also means responsibility and accountability.

If this sounds impossible, then you are not free. Certainly not any freer than Julian Assange, even with the twin U.N. rulings in his favor.

I believe those persons choosing to pull back from or exit entirely online activities over the surveillance fun, are doing it right. Give yourself a cloak of invisibility with which nothing can be spied, for good or ill. Boycott the system, the network, the noosphere in favor of finding and protecting and retaining ownership of your knowledge and your identity. Your ancestors lived intriguing lives without these gadgets that make such impossible demands of our days and nights. And besides, if you live out even one one-hundredth of the adventures you watch on television instead of actually watching said television for hours upon hours the way that you do, Vault 7 notwithstanding, your life will undeniably prove to be far more worthwhile a thing.

And living more of your life offline only makes you as antisocial as the zillions of people born on this planet before Tim Berners-Lee.

I’m insisting that kindred spirits be known as Butlerian Jihadists. The Butlerian Jihad played a key point in the back-story to the epic science fiction novels of DUNE authored by Frank Herbert. Set far in our future, a wave of Neo-Luddism goes bombastic to end mankind’s absolute slavery to the machines which dominate every element of their livelihoods and compel their dependence, the machines having long-since already outgrown the conjoined designs of Industry and State which formulated them to begin with. If the means of production is the nature of your own identity, supposedly the only thing that sets us apart from the animals, then taking it back becomes all the more urgent.

No authority in all of existence can claim ownership over ghosts.