I don't belong here

This was written Monday 2012-08-27, about a week ago. I haven't really found anything more to add to it—it's just been sitting here as a draft—so I'll post what I've got.

On Wednesday 2012-08-22, I had occasion to go from the train station in Ottawa to the downtown core (maybe 10-15 minutes' walk south from Parliament Hill). The weather was comfortably cool (unusual in recent weeks), so I decided to walk it. The path I have historically taken when walking this route has taken me along a footpath through a forested area at the end near the train station, parallel to the road but separated from it by maybe 15 to 50 feet of trees, depending on the point along the path where you measure.

When I got there, it was gone. Someone had put up a chainlink fence cutting through the forest and slaughtered everything on the side of that fence next to the road. Instead of being a pleasant forest, it was a dismal lifeless patch of dry dust. (In the week since starting this draft, I've investigated from the other direction. Some 3/4 of the path still exists; it just dead-ends at the chainlink fence.)

I felt vaguely sick to my stomach for the rest of the day.

Thinking about it, once I could think about it without feeling little but grief and resentment, it occurs to me that such things are inherent in our value system. We value things (via labels we call `money') in a system that evolved long ago, when humanity was scarce enough that the planet was, effectively, infinitely large. This would not be a problem, except that we never fixed it when our population grew to the point where `the planet is infinite' is no longer a workable approximation.

In particular, we drastically undervalue things such as forested land, valuing them not for themselves but rather for the ways we can slaughter them and use the space for dead things we construct. (Then we wonder why our lives seem to feel so dead. Like, duh.)


When the last river is poisoned,

 When the last fish is caught,

  When the last tree is cut,

   ...we will find that money cannot be eaten.


Put this together with some other things...

I've ranted elsewhere about how I feel like a member of a conquered people. How many conquered peoples are happy fitting into their conquerors' culture?

I've also ranted about the disaster that is Internet governance.

And about how I don't like the direction the computer subculture is going.

A friend of mine, when discussing this, writes that he "hold[s] a value system from another time or place. A place where you worked for the same employer for most of your life (like my Dad did) and get recognized and promoted for the good work you do, because you do good work", and that "I'm not fit in any way, shape or form for the modern society. I'm not a specialist, I'm not power-hungry or ruthless, I'm not hellbent on jumping on the latest internet crazy or fad without weighing the consequences...".

I'm with him on that.

He also gave me a very good phrasing for why I don't like the current stampede to keeping one's data out of one's control. At one of my workplaces, for example, there seems to be a fad for turning our corporate information over to Google. Google calendaring. Google VoI telephony. Google email. Google Docs. Why they think it's sane to turn our critical data over to an organization which not only has no incentive to treat it well but has an incentive to treat it badly I have no clue. The friend I mentioned above put this as "[t]hese apps don't cost you anything [monetary], but they sure as hell aren't free. Google is not in the business of making apps, they are in the information gathering business. And if they can offer you all this stuff for no [overt] cost, apparently business is very, very good right now...".

He's right. Collecting your data is worth enough to Google that they not only can afford to eat the cost of providing all those backends and writing those programs, they're making a bundle of money besides. See xkcd #743; I see no reason to think Google will be any better.


This leads me to conclude that I simply don't belong in this world.