[p2p-research] The criminalization of using the commons

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Fri Aug 28 19:30:05 CEST 2009

Nathan Cravens wrote:
> depression

This from yesterday's Slashdot: :-)
"Slashdot | Depression May Provide Cognitive Advantages"
"Paul W. Andrews and J. Anderson Thomson, Jr. argue in Scientific American
that although depression is considered a mental disorder, depression may in
fact be a mental adaptation which provides real benefits. This is not to say
that depression is not a problem. Depressed people often have trouble
performing everyday activities, they can't concentrate on their work, they
tend to socially isolate themselves, they are lethargic, and they often lose
the ability to take pleasure from such activities such as eating and sex. So
what could be so useful about depression? 'Depressed people often think
intensely about their problems,' write the authors. 'These thoughts are
called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty
thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this
thinking style is often highly analytical. They dwell on a complex problem,
breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a
time.' Various studies have found that people in depressed mood states are
better at solving social dilemmas and there is evidence that people who get
more depressed while they are working on complex problems in an intelligence
test tend to score higher on the test (PDF). 'When one considers all the
evidence, depression seems less like a disorder where the brain is operating
in a haphazard way, or malfunctioning. Instead, depression seems more like
the vertebrate eye — an intricate, highly organized piece of machinery that
performs a specific function.'"

So, is the central problem in coming up with new ideas in p2p and open
manufacturing that people are not depressed enough? :-)

> To show kindness toward the weak in that culture
> was to become the weakness itself

Compulsory schools are essentially prisons. And they develop similar
cultures. The girl culture in schools in the USA seems to be becoming
especially toxic.
Perhaps most significant: The ratio of home-schooled boys to girls has
shifted significantly. In 1999, it was 49% boys, 51% girls. Now boys account
for only 42%; 58% are girls. That may well be a result of parents who are
fed up with mean-girl behavior in schools, says Henry Cate, who along with
his wife home-schools their three daughters in Santa Clara, Calif. "It's
just pushing some parents over the edge," says Cate, who writes the blog Why

And part of that is commercial:
   "Changing Childhood, Changed Children, Changed Schools: How Commercialism
Impacts Children in Schoo"
"Commercial culture leads to gender stereotyping in school and greater
separation between girls and boys. Teachers describe a diminishing of
overlapping interests between girls and boys.  Girls come to school often
preoccupied, as one teacher says, with “clothes, fashion, hair, and makeup,”
while boys’ heads are filled with male images of power and aggression.
Because of this, girls and boys find less and less common ground for playing
and interacting together"

Anyway, this is all part of why it becomes harder for peer cultures to
flourish as long as we have so many interwoven problems caused by the
mainstream military-industrial-schooling-prison-media complex.

> after too
> much sugar; not enough healthy food; 

The reason we don't get this "Honest Food Guide" popularized:
is an aspect of all this too.

Our intellectual commons about good eating is being poisoned for profit. So,
the air gets smoggy from burning fossil fuels for profit, but the Noosphere
gets smoggy justifying that and other things done for profit.

I remember the "four food" groups growing up in the USA; only later did I
learn the whole thing was a gift to the meat and dairy industries. Even the
newer official food pyramid in the USA is distorted.

It's hard to figure out what is true when there are so many people who get 
paid big salaries to pollute the intellectual commons with so much 
disinformation. And, of course, one can add to that the general confusion 
and uncertainty everyone has about some things.

The same poisoning of the intellectual commons is going on in the USA right
now about universal health care. The comedians are on to it though:
   "Jon Stewart Owns Glenn Beck on Healthcare Hypocrisy"

Have you considered a career in standup (or even sit-down) comedy? :-)
   "Brett Leake -- a sit-down standup comic"
That guy is awesome and gave me some good advice about humor writing at last 
year's "Humor Conference". :-) That's the only conference I've been to in 
many years, but it was a short drive away.
"Brett made television history when he became the first disabled comedian to 
appear on The Tonight Show (five times). Jay Leno said, "He broke up the 
whole room. People realized that here's a man with a disability and he's not 
gonna' let it bother him.""

You know what Brett says his "disability" is?
He has a degree in Economics. :-)

> So what is my role as so many long to have stated for themselves? My
> father’s last words as I recall, “Just be somebody… Just be somebody.” 

Well, everybody is "somebody". :-)

Maybe he meant, "Just be yourself?". :-)

But in the context of your next sentence, you seem to take it as criticism:
"This came from a man who saw his only son plunge from one distraction to
another, from television to computer game."

It's certainly a life-long puzzle for you that a few comments cannot do
justice. Parent-child relationships are generally complex and multi-layered.
I see that more and more being a parent now. And it's hard to learn how to
be a good parent. Just like it is hard to learn how to die well. It's kind
of on-the-job training -- you muddle through as best you can, and maybe you
learn something useful along the way, maybe even while dying. :-)

Anyway, it was a very heartfelt story. We so often give people's last words
so much importance. The most important thing is, he was thinking about you.
Giving advice is often a father's way to say he loves you, just like,
stereotypically, women show other women they care by commiserating or
echoing feelings, and men show other men they care by trying to fix a
perceived problem. For your father, the problem is obviously, how can he
help you even when he won't be there physically? So, he tries to do what he
can to the last, out of love. So, you can try to find the love, whether the
advice is useful or not. And you can take pride you were there for him, too.

One of the reasons I write so much is to give my child something to read,
with bits of advice here and there, if there is the interest later on. :-)

My father died alone in his sleep (85, heart attack), but in the process of
videotaping episodes of Star Trek for me and my wife to see (every two weeks
or so I'd come by to visit; he liked being my TiVo. :-) He'd often fall
asleep in front of the TV late at night, watching TV in a room he had added
on to his house. The last episode was a scary one about a visit to a Borg
Cube -- I hope that was not his last thoughts. He had gone swimming with an
senior citizens group  that day in a local school pool for the first time in
a long time; he might have overdone it (although between Vioxx etc. and what
now seems to be an unneeded stent, the medical industry was gunning for him
:-( -- he had a relative who was considered the oldest person in the world
for a time). But I still regret not seeing him the weekend before for
various reasons. But I am glad for moving back across the country years
earlier to spend more time with him.

I wrote about being with my mother when she died here:
I'm glad I had the "free" time every once in a while to visit with my mom.
One metaphor came to me as I would sit with my Mother (after probably having
done more medical intervention than we should have for her :-( ), after
having wheeled her in her reclining chair outside into a little circular
court to get some sunlight, near where cars and ambulances and delivery
vehicles came and went at the nursing home entrance. As I sat on a bench
besides her, one day it occurred to me that this felt a lot like waiting at
a bus stop for a bus to pull up. Sadder, of course, but still in some ways
the same. And I realized, there can be a lot of human worth in just waiting
with someone -- just waiting for the bus together, even if only one person
is going on a trip just then. And a lot can happen even while you are just
waiting. My child took some first steps in the court there on the grass,
while we all spent time there together in the sun. I got a lot of insight
into life and death just waiting with her. One can call it waiting, or one
can call it partying too, I guess. :-) As much as an eighty year old woman
with dementia and an oxygen tank who is starting to wonder who you are can
party. :-) But she still might surprise you with a smile. :-)

See, this is one of the things the market does not value much -- people
spending "free" time with others (including others near death). In fact, if
people spend "free" time just talking with others in their community, that
is *bad* for the market because they are not consuming. So, the more
purchasing can replace talking (including purchasing talking :-), the better
the market does. But maybe the worse the rest of us often do. That's another
reason we medicalize both birth and death.

There was a recent news item I saw a while back about how mainstream
economists had historically undervalued community. So, that is another
reason our society is so messed up.

We focus a lot on manufacturing on the OM list, but what people really need
most to manufacture, beyond some basics, is community. But, how much
training do people get in manufacturing community? There are some "social
entrepreneurship" training programs, perhaps:
"The Ashoka Foundation is trying to encourage people to use their
entrepreneurial spirit in the service of social goals. To inspire young
people, it has prepared a series of DVDs on leading global social

> P.S. What but of re-reflection, an adherence to a tone, but as best a craft
> of music or poetry?
> I wrote this while in a tent in Nacogdoches where I have lived for over a
> year now; this my second camp during this duration; as part of a frugal
> lifestyle of at least two years…

I take back what I said about you becoming a lawyer. That might be a waste.
Keep being a poet. :-)

I've been reading more of Micky Z's book online at Google; it is great. Some
pages that stood out for me:
   "The murdering of my years: artists & activists making ends meet"
   http://books.google.com/books?id=iBA7vACOwngC&pg=PA223&lpg=PP1 (life)
   http://books.google.com/books?id=iBA7vACOwngC&pg=PA227&lpg=PP1 (poets)
   http://books.google.com/books?id=iBA7vACOwngC&pg=PA230&lpg=PP1 (schooling)

The last page has a section of "Working Class Hero" by John Lennon:
When they've tortured and scared you for twenty odd years,
Then they expect you to pick a career,
When you can't really function you're so full of fear,

John Lennon was a poet; he accomplished a lot. :-)

But you know what, even for people who don't accomplish much of anything,
life can still be made worth living for themselves and others. :-)

Maybe outstanding accomplishment is overrated? :-) From Alfie Kohn:
       "No Contest: The Case Against Competition" By Alfie Kohn
If competitiveness is inherently compensatory, if it is an effort to prove
oneself and stave off feelings of worthlessness, it follows that the
healthier the individual (in the sense of having a more solid, unconditional
sense of self-esteem), the less need there is to compete. The implication,
we might say, is that the real alternative to being number one is not being
number two but being psychologically free enough to dispense with rankings
altogether. Interestingly, two sports psychologists have found a number of
excellent athletes with "immense character strengths who don't make it in
sports. They seem to be so well put together emotionally that there is no
neurotic tie to sport." Since recreation almost always involves competition
in our culture, those who are healthy enough not to need to compete may
simply end up turning down those activities. ... Each culture provides its
own mechanisms for dealing with self-doubt. ... Low self-esteem, then, is a
necessary but not sufficient cause of competition. The ingredients include
an aching need to prove oneself and the approved mechanism for doing so at
other people's expense. ... I do not want to shy away from the incendiary
implications of all of this. To suggest in effect that many of our heroes
(entrepreneurs and athletes, movie stars and politicians) may be motivated
by low self-esteem, to argue that our "state religion" is a sign of
psychological ill-health -- this will not sit well with many people.(Page 103)

The meshwork-hierarchy issue also blurs the lines of personal versus
collective responsibility for anyone's situation. Still, that is always
present in every aspect of daily life, as behavior emerges out of organisms
interacting with their environments.

It works in a lot of ways. The situation security professionals find
themselves in (which in my mind includes school teachers in schools) often
mold them in unpleasant ways. There is also the corrosive effect being a
guard and a grader has on mentoring relationships as well at the "teacher".
One way to approach this issue with current teachers is to ask them: "How
would your classroom bedifferent if only the kids who wanted to be there
showed up?" Teachers face a weak version of this extreme situation:
   "Prison horrors haunt guards' private lives - The Denver Post"
"Now these men and women, who face growing numbers of inmates in some of the
nation's toughest federal and state prisons, say they're increasingly
overwhelmed. They harden themselves to survive inside prison, guards said in
recent interviews. Then they find they can't snap out of it at the end of
the day. Some seethe to themselves. Others commit suicide. Depression,
alcoholism, domestic violence and heart attacks are common. And entire
communities suffer. ... Yet research suggests a staggering downside.
Correctional officers' life expectancy hovers around 59 years, compared with
77 for the U.S. population overall, according to insurance data.
Prison jobs promise a comfortable retirement, "but many of these guys don't
live long after they retire," said Dr. Gary Mohr in Cañon City, who has
treated guards who had heart attacks. Their work forces guards "to put up a
shield," Mohr said. "It's hard to take that shield off when you go home.
It's hard to open up to the wife and kids.""

Obviously most schools are not as extreme social situations as SuperMax
prisons (even though Gatto points out how they are interwoven). Still, there
may be some weak parallels, with more going on behind the smiley face
plastered on most long term teachers than even they might admit. Teachers
would need to retrain themselves to trust people to learn on their own and
without coercion after a lifetime spent coercing and surveilling students --
and that would take time. And as a guard above said: "You don't wipe this
out in a year. I don't know if it ever goes away." So in some ways,
"teachers" are worse victims of mass schooling than even the "students".

So, likewise, it is important to remember that the guards you dealt with in
some sense are victims of the systems we have created for ourselves too. As
someone like Thich Nhat Hanh might say, the oppressed must have compassion
for the oppressor, who is usually misguided and alienated. That is one way
to help avoid becoming like such people.
Not saying it is easy, of course. :-) And also, having compassion for 
someone does not mean accepting the status quo, of course. :-)

Thanks for your other comments, including about that irony I keep bringing
up about using abundance to create artificial scarcity. :-)  The book "The 
Diamond Age" has a set of scenes related to two children being homeless 
amidst abundance (they ran away from home). It has a reference to a "public 
matter compiler" that can print some simple things for free. But, there is 
usually no safe commons place to enjoy them without a specific affiliation. 
People might find it of interest.

And thanks to Dante for his other insights and practical suggestions.

--Paul Fernhout

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