Protest

I keep my mouth shut and seldom declare my stance on tabled issues in public. I avoid stirring the pot for the sake of it and do what I can to preserve my nonpartisan relationships. But when it comes to legislation or executive decisions that may invariably keep my mouth shut against my will, I speak up.

I learned a lot from Hollywood in the five years that I studied and worked in Los Angeles. I respect and support the industry’s need to fight piracy. To produce and spread content on a sustainable scale requires considerable revenue chains that dare not waver. Due largely to the size of teams necessary to complete them, films will always be expensive to produce. Losing control of your content – and thereby losing the ability to recoup costs on your production – is a huge issue and must be curtailed.

That said, I do not respect Hollywood’s conservative grapple-hold on content in an antiquated scarcity model. While the studios contend that they make more by staggering the release of a film across all mediums, these rigid exhibition windows from theater to home regularly deprive hungry consumers of content they want to consume. The Hollywood release model is effectively inspiring piracy – not because people want to maliciously destroy the industry, but because people want to consume content and cannot do so when and where they want. Street vendors in the third world do not sell ripped DVDs as an attack on studios or because tickets are too expensive; they do it because Hollywood failed to make the content available in their market. Contemporary piracy stems more from accessibility issues than anything else. Hollywood is utterly failing to provide. By holding product close to the chest, the entertainment industry is failing to reach customers, scale brands at the contemporary pace necessary to survive, and collect the money of eager and willing fans. The media industry is killing itself. They need no help from pirates.

Out of desperation and a lazy aversion to change, entertainment turned to lobbyists to craft a bill that would effectively give our government the power to censor or shut down websites. There are constitutional ways to fight piracy; the Stop Online Piracy and Protect Intellectual Property Acts are not it. To learn more about the bills, I encourage you to watch this video.

Tomorrow between 5am and 5pm MST, I will join many Internet companies – including Wikipedia and Google – in protesting these bills by shutting down my site. You will not be able to read my blog.

Under the First Amendment, we have the right to contest any act abridging the freedom of speech. We have the freedom to protest and stand up for our rights. Do not dismiss protests as mass whining or vanity noise. Without protest and public forums for opinion, women would not have the right to vote and many of us would still own slaves. Do not take the freedom of expression lightly. Celebrate your voice at every possible turn. Use it when you can.

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Webocracy (The Path to Fixing Our Government)

We can no longer blame it on Gen-Y pessimism alone: the American public has fallen out of favor with the United States Government. With the public approval rating of Congress down to 9%, there is an impending need for overhaul. Legislation is wrought with wasted time, private interests, and partisanship. More critically, the legislative process no longer moves as fast as the systems it governs. The business and technology landscapes are changing so fast that no bill can keep up. And they are changing due in a very large part to the same platform we need to embrace to optimize our nation: the Internet.

Albert Wenger inspires me with his thoughts on Wikipedia, Occupy Wall Street, and the Possibility of an Open Congress (I’ve been enjoying Albert’s blog – for tech lovers out there, I encourage you to keep up with it). I think the idea of an “open-sourced government” is very romantic and worth exploring. The thought of communities online authoring bills together through an iterative platform like Wikipedia or Google Docs sends shivers up my spine. Nothing could be more true to democracy than millions of people collaborating together on the laws that govern them. Online, everyone can have a voice. Money, class, race, and stature play negligible roles. Everyone can work together and focus on the job at hand. Everyone can work together for the common good. I want to see a community online like that. I want to be a part of it. I want to have input. A multiple choice ballet is not enough anymore. It’s time to migrate the future of our nation forward. It’s time to build a Webocracy.

Outside Congress and legislation, does anyone else have other ideas for open-sourcing different aspects of our government?

A New Form of Independence

First page of Constitution of the United States

Thomas Jefferson swore “upon the altar of god eternal hostility against any form of tyranny over the mind of man.” The United States of America was formed against the tyranny of dictatorship, a dictatorship that ruled over life, thought, and the soul. We celebrate our Independence from that dictatorship today.

Two hundred and thirty-five years later, we face a new form of tyranny — one less obvious and far more dangerous than the kings of old. Those tyrants ruled with pain and fear. We knew who they were and hated them for it. Today’s tyrants rule with something far more deceptive, manipulative, and resourceful: money. We have all been sold on the value of profiteering by our teachers, parents, media, and leaders who define success by the dollar. We have been raised with the drive for wealth. Money clouds our minds. Greed, our sin; the masters of Greed, our tyrants. And we are only making it worse.

As organized now, few (if any) businesses are democratic. Corporate structure is not unlike an Empire of old: a company’s Founder and/or CEO, its king; the Board of Directors and Executive Officers, its appointed officials; the Shareholders, aristocratic citizens with stake but marginal influence; and employees, the ruled. In this model, citizens do not have the power. Individuals hired into a company have little say in its operation, for fear of being fired; they are predominantly slaves to the will of the Owners.

We are servants, and they are our kings. We buy their products. We work for them to put food on our table. We hustle soulless moderate-wage jobs to cover health, rent, insurance, college loans, and car payments. We are dependent on corporations, so much so that our government twists our tax revenue to bail them out in time of need. And we do nothing to organize against them. Unions barely scratch the surface and have lost traction. Businesses continue to accumulate wealth and are now more powerful than ever before. Profits are going up while jobs and salaries are going down. Large corporations, wealthy elite, and corporatist officials are stockpiling cash to muscle, bribe, and buy us into their profit margins. Money dictates our electoral process. Personal and public debt is higher than ever. Millions of Americans and their freedoms are trapped in a ruthless money game.

Capitalism itself cannot be condemned because it is a free person’s right. And it shall not be blamed. But like all rights, the freedom to economize can be abused. It has been abused. Some organizations, namely conglomerates and banks, have become more powerful than the governments they are legally filed under. In 1999, the United States empowered commercial banks by allowing them investment banking privileges and stake over corporations. Many governments, including our own, are now indebted to, and therefore leveraged by, financial institutions here and abroad. World power now lies in the hands of those with capital wealth and to whom others are indebted. And we gave them that power: corporations are recognized by our laws as living entities with individuality. Unlike real human beings, however, we recognize companies as immortal. Businesses have been granted deity status under our laws. We write about, study, subscribe to, and praise them like prophets. Conglomerates are now our Gods.

Money is not holy, nor is it human. We cannot revere it above the human spirit. Greed now rules over the mind of man, and it must be defeated. However, declaring independence from greed will not be as easy as sailing to a new continent and bleeding the enemy dry. It will take a revolution. It will take an aggressive and confident democratic mass movement against corporatism.

The battle should not be between left and right, for that is a political cage match staged by elitists looking to turn a profit on the cultural war effort. No, the battle should be between corporatists and anticorporatists. Between the greedy and the charitable. Between profiteers and humanitarians. We can experience radical human progress in our lifetimes if we look past regressive profitability cycles to make more human investments. Our civilization could “go green” if natural resource and vehicle companies stop holding back in an effort to perpetuate profits. Our civilization could visit other worlds if investors looked past whether interstellar travel was a “good investment.”  Our civilization could cure countless diseases and save millions of lives if pharmaceutical companies shake their unfounded fear of putting themselves out of the drug business. Our civilization could do so much more if greed wasn’t tugging the reins.

We must wake from denial and the status quo and stand up to established powers. We must respect ourselves and each other. We must not rely on elected officials, for legislative processes are too slow and cumbersome for meaningful change. We must protect and better-educate our impressionable youth. We must reorganize our economy to respect different kinds of intelligence and education. We must empower leaders and businesses organized for efficient democratic progress. We must not lecture our friends, but instead inspire them to stand up to their jobs and their bosses. We must see the dollar as the enemy and look past our own checkbooks. And we must support each other in brotherhood and community.

Let us band together and see to it that our freedom survives through the night.

We are America. We are free. Happy Independence Day.