...And I'll tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it... -- Bob Dylan

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Don't Legalize!!!!

It seems as though there is momentum building toward a day when marijuana use and sale will be legal.  This is the libertarian's and the pothead's best dream come true, and I admit that I have often yearned for such a sensible policy decision.  The war on drugs does untold damage -- not only is it completely ineffectual, it also causes crime, violence, and increases economic disparity.  So legalizing it, I've often thought, is a good thing.  Wrong.

Just imagine if you will that future day when pot is marketed and sold by the likes of Phillip-Morris, Pepsico, Wal-Mart and Monsanto.  Just imagine what a sweet deal legalization could be for all these mega corporations, who will most likely simply make deals with the existing cartels in Mexico and Columbia, and then draw in incredible profit margins bringing the stuff into the US and selling it in mass quantities.

I'm not against marijuana use, both medicinal and recreational, but what I am against is our current global corporate economy.  One the other hand, the current underground economy in which small growers grow and sell the stuff in informal networks is exactly the kind of economic model on which we should rebuild our whole economy.  The only problem is this god-forsaken war on drugs, which introduces a whole slew of problems into the existing network (the fact that the underground network survives so well even with all these externally-imposed barriers is testament to how strong small local economic networks are.)  The war imposes greatly increased startup costs and overhead, violence, mistrust, and, with all these, encourages consolidation. 

So what we should be doing is not legalizing, but simply defunding the war on drugs.  Just let the underground networks survive, leave them alone, and I predict we'll see the most efficient, safe, well-run sector of our economy in no time.  Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of hope that this will come to pass.  As soon as we pass the threshold in which pot use becomes socially respectable enough to be legal, I predict that the corporations will once again see dollar signs in their eyes and pounce on it.  And smother us all -- potheads or not.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gandhi Meets the Matrix

So I recently re-watched The Matrix (movie) and was reminded again that the idea that humans are cancer is not new nor mine.  The idea was articulated in that movie by one of the (apparently) evil "agents" of the computer that dominates and enslaves the human race.  It was one of those instances in which a scriptwriter attempts to momentarily confuse the viewer, when this agent of evil is torturing one of the good guys.  But wait a minute, he says something we know to be true, so, even for a moment, are we to think that maybe this bad guy isn't so bad after all?  Maybe fighting against this evil computer is not only pointless, but also misguided?  Then after that brief moment, we return to the vivid and chair-gripping action we paid good money to see, and all ambiguity is gone once again.  Whew! close one.

There's no need for ambiguity, you see, because the "evil" that the computer (or "Artificial Intelligence") perpetuates is enslaving the human race, even though almost nobody is aware of it.  So while the computer provides for everyone an illusory and yet seemingly real existence, it is evil because it deprives us of the one thing that we seem to think is worth fighting for -- our freedom.  (It would probably be more correct to call it "freewill" in this context.)  The implication of this scene, and really the whole struggle on which the film is based, is that it matters not whether there is truth in the statement that humans are cancer, it only matters that we fight to maintain our freewill, even if that freewill is only an illusion.  (Just as the computer provides an illusory life, part of that illusion is a certain amount of freedom.  It is not altogether clear from the film [at least the first one] if freewill exists outside the illusion created by the AI.)

Is freedom more valuable than truth?  If it turns out that our conception of freedom exists only to gratify our egos, is it good to kill and destroy whatever gets in the way of our maintaining that freedom?  I wonder about these things.

It occurs to me that I'd like to do a re-make of this movie, one that takes the basic precept of the script but takes out all the violence and with it all the violence-glorifying implications.  In Keaneau Reeve's role, I'd cast a Gandhi-like character whose enlightenment is not "the one" that can fight the machine, but the one who learns how to non-violently non-cooperate with it, and teaches others to do the same.  Come to think of it, maybe that's what really happened in India nearly a century ago, and we've all been living in an illusion since then.