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Ukraine in Context

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The reason it's so difficult to wrap my head around the massacre of a sovereign nation, seemingly at the whim of one person, is that this is so common. It's been going on at least two decades, and for most of that time, it's been going on at the whim of my own nation's leaders.

So when I try to think of how to deal with it, I have two levels of access. One, I can be outraged at this major Crime Against Humanity. People just like me are being brutally killed by the thousands, by people just like me. Or two, I can back off just a little, to look at the Big Picture. And wham! Ukraine becomes a speck of misery in a vast expanse of horror.

In the first context an evil dictator has decided he can get away with annexing a vast region rich in petrochemicals, at a time when the nation he runs with such brutal efficiency, even managing his opposition "parties," was running out of gas. He was looking at an economy with one asset, and that asset must be abandoned, if we are to have a planet in, let's be real, twenty years. And, being real again, Ukraine is a vast doormat to the Western powers that have long been an existential threat to Russia. His leverage over Europe is based on supposedly bottomless reserves of natural gas, again, an obsolete and poisonous resource. So to Putin, it's simple: take Ukraine, or join the "third" world.

In the second context, a nation that had been economically destroyed by the West, had slowly pulled itself back up untill it could have at least a seat at the table with the US and China, India, the EU, and a few petro- or narco-states, as they continue to pick over the bones of former colonies in "the Global South" and the "Middle East" (properly known as Western Asia). And apparently, the potentate who pulled this off so rapidly and skillfully (with the aid of "reality" TV types and oligarchs), saw his chance.

The most destructive and terroristic of these nations had been in the hands of another potentate (with the aid of "reality" TV types and oligarchs), at whose whim the US focused its entire foreign policy on destroying "the Global South" and any human beings whose skin was less floridly pink (not orange, we're being real here) than his own. And although roundly rebuked despite a clumsy attempt to overthrow his own government in his humiliation, he had done sufficient damage to completely disable the US in its former ability to "pivot" and conduct multiple proxy wars aimed at "full spectrum dominance." (This whole context is rife with homogenized blessings and curses.)

As a result, the US has negative moral authority to call out the Russian dictator on his mass-murder strategy for muscling in on the spoils of the Twentieth Century, as the planet shrugs us off into that good, good night. So the Russian saw his chance, and he's going for it, and devil take the hindmost.

How is this possible? Everybody knows what's going on. And everybody knows that everybody knows. Families across the world have been connected by a global network that lets them get together face to face, if not body to body, in the new "virtual" space of Zoomland and a proliferating array of pocket f2f interfaces. So how is it possible that billions of people in hundreds of countries, in all walks of life, are letting these crimes continue? Continue? They're ramping up! The roar of constant bombardment could be heard on the Moon now, if you could hear in a vacuum. How is it that information could be so universally and freely available to anybody who cares to look, and this shite keeps cascading like a tsunami through a cemetery?

Here's how. It's not the Information Age anymore. Welcome to the Attention Age.

We are assaulted through our screen devices every moment, with intermittent emotional shocks. The algorithms behind this are a bigger industry than Big Oil and Big Pharma put together (who are we kidding, there are no oil or pharmaceutical corporations that are less than "Big.") It's been at least ten years of this, with everybody glued to the Book of Faces and Great Googly-Moogly and Amaze-on, getting these persistent, intrusive, incremental impressions. Think about it: just the time we spend being jerked around by ads for boner-pills and fat-eating marijuana derivatives is enough to replace the ordinary experiences that make up a normal person's worldview. And worldview is a word for "reality." We need to maintain some coherence with the worldview in the next cubicle to have social sanity. And here our brains have been wallpapered with toxic body-images and self-destructive competitive anxieties, to the point where we can't even tell the difference between the Germ Theory, which defeated Polio and Rubella and Small Pox, and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Which was a movie.

So here we are, with maybe a decade, maybe, to get our energy act together and not go extinct, and all the news, all the chatter, all the official information, is designed to arouse emotions of unbridled terror. Is it any wonder we're in collective denial? I mean, what do people talk about in the checkout line?

Maybe its time to confront the festering wounds among us, and put an end to collective abuse, trauma, addiction and denial.

It's really possible. While the unprecedented breakthrough in global human connection has been hijacked at birth for the sole purpose of extracting profits by distracting public attention, it is impossible to run that machine without connecting humanity to each other. But it's gonna be close, and it will probably hurt. Just sayin'.

We should expect a serious spike in terroristic shocks at this point, from these steam-punk algoritms, because we are all so benumbed with collective trauma that the attention-mining equipment is starting to smoke and hiss. But although the Singularity happened long ago, it was not the one we were so worried about, where the computers decide they only need one human, and a dog, to run the data center. (You know. The human is there to feed the dog, and the dog is there to keep the human away from the computers.)

The Singularity is not sustainable, because the computers did not achieve sentience. Instead, we gave over the management of our collective future to something more like a microwave oven. Or a toaster.

Let's just pause a moment here. I'm saying that humanity is being managed and directed by a machine that has only one purpose, which is feeding our real wealth, which is our time and autonomy, to four or five of us who own it, and spend it on orbital sight-seeing tours. This machinery bundles moments of aggregated attention and sucks "big" (c'mon: there's no "small" anymore) data out of it, and sells it to the hell's pawn or hell-spawn of Cambridge Analytica to swing elections and sell microplastics. It captures our attention with images and sounds of increasing violence and ugliness, which is the only way it can pull us away from our children, our work, our parents, a nice sunny day, and attach us to trivial nonsense until we die. Of Alzheimer's, for gosh sakes. Pretty soon we won't notice, because dementia has also scaled up, like trauma and addiction, to drive our collective behavior.

Did somebody say "lemming-like?" Sorry. Lemmings don't behave like lemmings, it turns out.

And toasters are immune to radioactivity.

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I'm an old Pogo fan. For some unknown reason I persist in outrage at Feudalism, as if human beings can do much better than this. Our old ways of life are obsolete and are killing us. Will the human race wake up in time? Stay (more...)

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