wikileaks, truth, and illusion

While I was at the beach Wikileaks and Assange went stratospheric. I haven’t caught up on most of the details, but had been keeping an eye on it before I went away. Here are some musings.

Julian Assange has WMD

Regardless of their truth value, the sexual misconduct claims against Assange are being used politically to distract the discourse from the revelations of wikileaks. Sex scandal is easier to write about than the detail of political machinations which go against the prevailing propaganda line.

And, like WMD in Iraq, it is a politically acceptable solution, to allow the targetting of an anointed and demonised “bad guy”; in this case to enable a chain of extradition of doubtful legality in the name of vengeance and to protect the freedom to conduct lawless wars.

Remember, Iraq could be invaded by simply being mentioned in the same sentence as Al-Qaeda and 9-11 often enough for a majority of americans to think they were related, and that Iraq was even responsible for 9-11. In the same way, wikileaks, Assange, sexual assault are being deliberately associated.

However, Assange’s alleged sexual misconduct, and what wikileaks is and does, are two totally different things. It feels ridiculous to need to make the distinction, but the discourse needs clarity.
As Anonymous points out, “Neither Wikieaks nor its founder have been charged with any crime in connection to any of the published leaks.”

(Rape and sexual violence, etc, is a serious thing in society, and a conversation that needs to be had; but it is a separate conversation from Wikileaks.)

Wikileaks: Right or wrong?

Wikileaks is not perfect. But perfection is an unreasonable standard, invoked by those choosing to ignore the staggering systemic imperfections they can live with daily as the status quo. Reality is a moral quagmire of grey zones. You do your best, operating in an imperfect world.

If there was nothing to hide, wikileaks would not exist. Those who live in glasshouses are in no place to cast judgement.

Wikileaks is a response to the twisted reality we live in. As it holds up the mirror, do you complain too loudly about what you see?

Wikileaks = napster.

Sharing digital media online has increased exponentially since napster was taken to court.

The attempt to punish wikileaks will fail to achieve its actual goals of stopping leaks. It is the blind reaction of a wounded monster.

The genie is out of the bottle. There are many other leak sites. The principle is established and the means will increasingly be in our hands. The pace and intensity of leaking – of truth coming to light – will increase. And this is on average going to be a very good thing.

What I want to see is ChinaLeaks. NorthKoreaLeaks. RussiaLeaks. Let’s truly globalize and democratize this openness.

The End of Make Believe

I am coming to view the fable of the Emperor’s new clothes as one of the most important statements about human psychology ever made. (The earliest recorded form is actually a very old Arab story, from, if memory serves, the 12th century, or possibly 1200 years ago, memory being funky like that; I am tempted to apocryphally attribute it to the Sufis, who have a way with such tales.)

In ‘Here Comes Everybody’, Clay Shirky talks about the phenomena of “everyone knows everyone knows everyone knows” as a metric of when change happens. This means, for example, I know something, I know you know it too, and you know I know you know it. At this point, the pretense cannot continue. (He gives the example of the year the Berlin wall came down. Everyone knew the situation was fucked, everyone knew that everyone knew the situation was fucked, but when a stream of unchallenged public protests went on, everyone knew that everyone knew that they knew, too, and then it changed.)

Wikileaks achieves the state of everyone knows that everyone knows that everyone knows.

Wikileaks is not revealing anything new, or at least surprising, to informed observers. Yes, US conduct in Iraq has been appalling. What is new is now we can’t pretend it isn’t, reassured by official spokesmen. We can point to the proof. Yes, the US puts inappropriate diplomatic pressure on other countries, and what is said in public does not match what is said in private. Now we can’t pretend. We can point to the proof. Etc.

Wikileaks makes it hard to pretend not to know – by providing proof of reality, it changes the stakes, and the perception of reality. This is the revolution it poses – a means for the child to say the emperor has no clothes, and for all to hear.

Truth vs Illusion

Thus ultimately, the Wikileaks saga is about truth vs illusion in the modern world. And I am on the side of truth, because, ultimately, illusion kills, and living under illusion brings suffering. Truth kills and brings suffering, too, of course, for that is the nature of our world. But such deaths and suffering by truth are unavoidable; deaths and suffering by illusion are avoidable.

[Edit: this is the most interesting thing I have read about the what and why of wikileaks, and particularly where Assange is coming from. A must read if you are interested in this.]

oral history of nz terror raids

An interesting artifact:

On October 15th, 2007 an estimated 300 police raided houses all over Aotearoa New Zealand and arrested people based on warrants issued under the Terrorism Suppression Act. Lives were turned upside down as the police searched for evidence of ‘terrorism.’ This book is a collection of oral history interviews of people affected by those raids and the aftermath: defendants, friends, family, supporters and other people subject to the state’s coercive powers on that day.

Free PDF download (right click that link to download; you can also buy it) from Rebel Press.

reading 2010: final vol


Psychomagic – Alejandro Jodorowsky

Woo-ha! The book I have always wanted from Jodorowsky but didn’t know I wanted. Two book length interviews, chronicling the intertwined development of his creative and spiritual lives, culminating in his development of a highly idiosyncratic style of therapy. Jodorowsky is larger than life in every way, and this is a massively entertaining account of an artist achieving enlightenment. Exactly the right book at exactly the right time; totally recommended. Fabulous, superb. As ever, his art seems tame compared to his life. And recall that Holy Mountain was decades ago, and he has been nonstop doing awesome crazy shit before and since. Works as more or less a companion piece to his bio The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Mystical Dimensions of Islam – Anne-Marie Schimmel

Classic study of Sufism, its history and development. Excellent.

Millennium – Felipe Fernandez Armesto

Never uses a simple word where a complex one will do. But yeah, a really exceptional study of the last thousand years of world history, with excellent human level detail and great sweeps. Particularly valuable as a comparative study of human empires, giving equal time to those who achieved much but fell by the wayside.

The Seven Basic Plots – Christopher Booker

Exceptional tome analysing why we tell stories. Identifies 7 basic forms of plot, and argues fairly convincingly from a Jungian archetypal perspective that they are really about providing models for achieving psychological integration of the Self. This is part one of four. Where it gets interesting is when he applies this, describing how things have changed, and why, in the past two hundred years, and how it applies to culture and identity and more.

Extremely stimulating. Will probably get a full post at some point. Recommended to all who have an eye on story as a profession, if only to work out why you disagree with him.

A thousand rooms of desire and fear – Atiq Rahimi

Short novel by afghani writer. Man, Afghanistan is fucked and in pain, and has been for a while. Beautiful and sad.

Who is Bugs Potter – Gordon Korman

Found this at the bach and ripped through it. Loved Korman as a teen. Man, these books go. Fun.

Tomorrow When the War Began – John Marsden

Found this on the street one day. Pretty solid, good grip on teen dynamics, really tight and tense. Can see how this is the start of a wildly successful series.

Endless Things – John Crowley

Final book in the Aegypt Quartet. Which is one truly colossal novel in four parts that took 20+ years to emerge.

Again, the sequence deserves a full post sometime. But in short: a while back I blogged Russell Hoban saying “The real reality, the flickering of seen and unseen actualities, the moment under the moment, can’t be put into words: the most that a writer can do – and this is only rarely achieved – is to write in such a way that the reader finds himself in a place where the unwordable happens off the page.”

Aegypt achieved more of those moments than anything else I have read. Just sublime. Effortlessly – well, subjectively – beats the living crap out of most fiction.

The speculative chapter about Giordano Bruno surviving his execution, and how, and what he did next, basically destroyed my mind in terror and exultation and opened a rent in space-time. Books are cool.

For the first time ever I am writing a fan letter to an author.

Aboriginal Men of High Degree – AP Elkin

Classic study from the early 20th century of aboriginal karadji and their powers. (Was a primary resource for Eliade’s Shamanism.) Fascinating, and stark; aboriginal culture lost a hell of a lot through contact with the west, and this study was from when living memory knew about what it had lost.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – JK Rowling

The Harry Potter cycle will get its own lengthy post soon. Oh yes.

The Call of Silence – Abdullah Dougan

Complete text of the Tao Te Ching, with a commentary on it by an NZ Sufi sheikh. Seriously amazing.

Our Life with Mr Gurdjieff – Thomas de Hartmann

Russian aristocrat and noted composer who, with his wife, followed Gurdjieff for twelve years, sticking with him closer and longer than anyone. Amazing account of working with a master, and life in Russia during wartime, and Europe, and the world.

When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World

The 200 years of the Abbasid Caliphate. Includes stuff about Haroun Al-Raschid, famous as the Caliph in the Arabian Nights, and his reign. Fun evocation of a fascinating time – a high point in culture in many ways not eclipsed until the Renaissance.

The Imperial Capitals Of China – Cotterell

China is seriously different than everywhere else. Geography and history are the same thing.

the dragon reborn (robert jordan), the high king (lloyd alexander), several harry potter novels (4, 5, 6), how to win friends and influence people (dale carnegie), a book on Babylon: Myth and Reality by a museum, and Richard Bandler’s ‘Get the Life You Want’, which is really pretty brilliant, after 30 years of changing people’s brains.

Have started Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants, which looks as thought it has the potential to be truly brilliant. And The Conquest of Morocco, which looks interesting, if, say, you wanted to travel to Morocco soon.

back from the beach

it was most excellent.

anything happen the last couple of months I should know about?

merry christmas, etc.