towards a fragmented internationalized internet

a nice mix of pipes and brazilian music

the real title for this post should be “why i don’t give a fuck about SOPA, and why the american internet must come to an end” but it was too long.

if you follow any mainstream website like wikipedia, reddit, facebook, etc, you may have noticed a generalized panic around something called SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. basically, some politicians in the united states want to change the internet context in a way that makes it very hard for website owners to accept user generated content. just go through the wikipedia article if you want to look more into it. explaining it is not the main focus of this post

just to contextualize, and help whoever doesn’t know how the internet works, i’ll do a short run-down about how things work, how they evolved, and why SOPA is basically irrelevant unless you’re living in the united states.

the internet is a collection of tubes connections arranged all over the world, connecting millions of computers. in order to know where something is, the internet we use (mostly, since i’m simplifying) uses a thing called TCP/IP, which is basically a little envelope with an address on it. that address is the IP address, which a huge number (232 addresses for the current version). since people aren’t good at memorizing big numbers, someone came up with DNS (Domain Name Service), which is basically a phone book with names (like google.com) and equivalent addresses (in this case, 74.125.237.147 for example). if you click that link you will still be taken to the google page.

it all works because at some point everyone agreed to use the same phonebook, the one provided by ICANN. here’s the catch: for .com, .net or .org, it is ICANN that controls the server (the directory with the addresses). now, ICANN is a non-profit corporation in the united states, which means it is governed by united states laws.

thanks to the nutty laws the united states have, the FBI and other entities can seize those top level domain names because the .com, .net, etc are united states domains anyway. here’s the catch though: if you use a domain from another country, e.g., .au, .pt, etc, the entities that assign and maintain the addresses are local to the respective country. this means that if your website is hosted in your country with your domain, you have nothing to worry about

these laws, if anything, will contribute to show that the internet as is is overly dominated by united states corporations and policies. facebook, twitter, google, etc, are all united states companies. but what if they were to be taken down by the new laws? what would happen? absolutely nothing. every other website that doesn’t run on an united states server would continue operating as usual.

recently we saw the power of this when the united states seized the domain names for wikileaks. they merely moved to a swiss domain name (from wikileaks.org to wikileaks.ch).

the software, the pages, content, etc, can be moved around the globe thanks to the distributed nature of the internet. the connections are owned by private companies, but these companies so far have kept from filtering any traffic, which means that it’s still possible, when faced with idiotic national laws like the ones in the united states, to move somewhere else.

this website however, has a .com domain, which means its address is under the united states jurisdiction. i might change that soon. let me just say i’m not happy about the way due process has been ignored in most of the recent cases, such as megaupload. my server is also in the united states, so moving all my stuff would be pricey, but worth it if these human rights issues remain unresolved

it is frequently flaunted by talking heads how the united states constitution is so unique in protecting fundamental rights. well, it most certainly isn’t the only one doing that, and this argument is usually one of pure ignorance. if facebook or twitter were to move to portugal for example, they would not only enjoy a better constitution without lobbying laws, but also be forced to comply with labor laws. if anything, tech companies love the united states because it allows them to make their own rules, their own labor laws, and their own censorship standards. in any civilized country, this would not fly.

this is why i don’t give a fuck about what the united states does or doesn’t in terms of their own internal policies. they are the worst example to follow.

i urge any netizen to look up their local internet and copyright laws and stay informed. during the next couple of years, we will see a deluge of changes in internet laws inspired by the united states debacle. it is essential that national policies aren’t drawn up out of united states fanboyism, but according to their people’s will and constitutions. and to do this, all we have to do is ignore the noise coming from the united states and beat to our own drum

the iphone punks

it’s been a long time since i posted, fact of the matter is my computer isn’t working at the moment, plus settling down and what not. despite that, i finally found some time to post here

i hinted at it on my last post. as i noted previously, i’m now living in australia. one of the things i did once i got here was go to the local anarchist book store and visit one of their people’s kitchens.

and truth be told, anarchists everywhere are pretty similar. concerned about gender issues, equality issues, racial issues, etc etc.

but life here is too good. the mining money, which comes basically from pillaging the aboriginal land and sucking out all the resources, makes life too easy. this surplus of money allows for an incredible standards for living. food from all over the world, beaches, sports, access to all kinds of technology, healthcare, education and services. fact of the matter is life is so easy that not even the anarchists find in themselves something to complain about beyond stereotypical catchphrases copied from the latest north american chomsky approved fanzine.

but this is not something exclusive to australia. the real title of this post should be “on the impossibilities of living virtuously while being a citizen of a privileged western society”. big cities are a mecca for activism, for vegans, queers, fixed gear cyclists or generally people who have enough free mind space to reflect and reshape their lives according to a perceived (though most of the times via propaganda) better, more virtuous way of living out their lives. cities are full of clusters of exuberant idiosyncratic ideological niches

but i argue that it is impossible to both enjoy the pleasures of modern western society and have a lifestyle that somehow would offset it. sure, a punk might dumpster dive for food, brew his own, steal and shoplift. but the artifacts that s/he carries, like cellphones, laptops and even clothes, are most of the time, if not all the time, made by exploited workers far away from their own sight. and while caught up in privileged problem debates like gay marriage, the real issues fall into the backdrop, and the hypocrisy of being both an activist for labor rights and owning an iphone completely ignored

one of the most shocking examples for me since i got here is how little is discussed and done about the aboriginal situation in the northern territories. all anarchists and activists i spoke to about this said basically the same thing: “yeah, the aboriginal situation is fucked up.”. full stop. then resumed whatever rant was on about some minor gender / economic situation they might be involved in.

this to me speaks to a deeper truth about most activist movements: bigger issues, bigger ideas, are left for the aging left wing activists that keep waving marx’s capital. the new young activist cares about a million tiny things that no one knows about, and none of the big things everyone cares about. carrying around the iphone while trying to be an activist is the perfect example of the cargo cult activism i’ve been denouncing for quite some time.

but certainly i wouldn’t end on yet another rant about how individualism has eroded virtue in our every day life.

what, in my opinion, makes this cargo cult activism so appealing is that it is intelligible. gay marriage is easy to understand. drug laws are somewhat easy to understand. labor laws? not so much. economy, property laws, native rights, etc, are issues that require a deeper knowledge, a desire to dive deep into what is involved in all these issues. it needs deep thought and reflective critical thinking, if you will. but most of the things around us are unintelligible. it is impossible to fully grasp what an iphone implies as an artifact: the extraction, manufacturing, propaganda, consumerism, externalization of costs, outsourcing of labor, etc. how could something so small that fits on the palm of our hand bring up all these issues? certainly having one wouldn’t be a problem.

but this is where we become complete suckers. if presented with one of these artifacts and a price tag, we accept the price as representing its cost. this is one of the greatest tricks the globalized market has achieved. nowhere in the price is the ecological footprint, the human footprint or the societal footprint. since money has no morals of its own, existing in this supposed aether of value, we gracefully pay from what we earned to support this incredible web of dependencies.

i believe the only way of fully restoring sanity into every day life is to have realistic prices (if we still want to live with currency) that fully reflect the whole chain of production. through lawful action prevent money from obfuscating what we are really buying into.

certainly i could go into a post-capitalism scenario. but today, i chose to take capitalism for granted and explore a possible transition.

ideally, it is my belief that no artifact should ever be both unintelligible and mass produced. it created this schizoid lifestyle where we eat greet but blog about it on blood laptops and smartphones

and above every thing else, i still can’t deal with the punks with iphones. oh how the mighty have fallen (if they were ever mighty).

this is why i am leaning towards exploring ideas like the civilization starter kit, which give us transparency for the whole supply chain. we have enough stuff. now we just need to learn how to use it