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Archive for the ‘society’ Category

The Golden Rule 2.0

This is a more funky/freaky version from Nick Herbert…

I have been contacted by alien ambassadors—or so they represented themselves. They took me by surprise, not in mind-merge but as voices in my head. They told me that to travel from star to star, nobody uses metal ships. They use the 2 = 1 experience in which one mind looks out at the world through two bodies. And where these two bodies could be located on different planets or galaxies. All spacefaring races use mind-merge to travel to distant worlds—they teach mind-merge to their young in kindergarten. All space travellers prize the capacity for deep intimacy as the highest possible form of intelligence. Most sentient beings possess no symbolic language at all but are fluent instead in a dozen different styles of mind-merge.

Learning to be a star traveler means practicing reaching out to other minds across the widest emotional gaps imaginable. If you wish to join the galactic club—say the aliens—there is no better practice than reaching without armor into the hearts of your enemies. As paradoxical as it seems, quantum combat may be mankind’s ticket to the stars.

I asked the aliens for some hints about practical ways for humans to achieve mind-merge. They laughed and said that there are dozens of nearby alien races who would love to teach mankind the "quantum facts of life" but they are inhibited by a deep cultural taboo. Humans have such an undeveloped capacity for deep intimacy that to mind-merge with us would be the alien equivalent of the sexual molestation of children.

Aliens won’t mind-merge with us but they did offer some practical advice for Quantum Diplomats-in-training—a way of thinking that would in their opinion optimize our chances for success in our own tentative attempts to merge minds with other beings: "Give out what you expect to get," was their advice.

"Give out what you expect to get?" I exclaimed. "That’s just another version of our Golden Rule, isn’t it?"

"Yes it is," the aliens replied, one voice speaking out of many mouths. "Perhaps you could call it Golden Rule 2.0. It may not seem like much to you now, but, believe Us/Them/We, to devise imaginative ways to show off your mastery of Golden Rule 2.0 is mankind’s first-class ticket to the stars. Putting out what you expect to get back is also not a bad way of handling non-quantum relations. But preemptive reciprocity will turn out to be crucial when humans learn how 2 = 1 really works, when humans actually learn to reap the consequences of the simplest and most important equation in the universe."

In closing, I would like to thank the aliens for their help in nudging our baby-step physics towards a radically new way of investigating this lovely universe. I hope to meet my alien advisors again some day in deep space where we will play/fight/copulate/study one another in the mutual unconditional surrender of quantum combat. I wish to thank again the Nobel Prize committee for giving its highest award (Nick holds up Nobel medal) to the son of Slovak-American immigrants.

And so, having opened Pandora’s Box by handing out the secret of WeaponX to every nation, I am ready to face the War Crimes Tribunal. There is no need for handcuffs, gentlemen. We are not barbarians.

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Building Communities

For the last two years I have defined myself as a filmmaker first and a community builder second.  Thus it is somewhat disconcerting to notice that all my community building projects are roaring ahead while my filmmaking ones are for some reason or another stalled.

This has compelled me to examine what I am doing and why.  While I love making films the best part of it is the writing, shooting and editing – especially being in production which is an incredible rush.  Development and money raising (the bit between the writing and the shooting) is much less interesting and not something that gets me going.  Whereas with the community building I love every aspect from the early stages (like the movie making manual) to guiding more mature communities (like the work I do for Shooting People).

So perhaps I need to redefine myself as a community creator first and filmmaker second. 

The other consideration moving me this way is that I’m really good at community creation – few others can do what I do in this area – while as a filmmaker there is far more competition and my talents are more moderate.  Perhaps it is the glamour of calling myself a filmmaker that I am a little reluctant to let go of…

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If I ran the Big Issue

RoughsleephackneyempireThis is a follow-up to my piece on begging.  After writing it I starting thinking about what a great concept the Big Issue is but how how much better they could do with a bit of creativity.  So here’s what I would do if I ran the Big Issue:

The Magazine

  • Sort out the content.  Get rid of the cleebrity gossip and vacuous interviews they create the image of a cheap badly printed HEAT.  I would go for meatier articles.  Think pieces, original fiction (both short and serialised), photo layouts.  I would try to get all my content for free exchanging the visibility and kudos of being in the magazine for content.   Seriously Top bloggers would jump at the chance to write pieces for the Big issue. I would develop it as a place for new voices and make it a "must read" and hence a "must write for".
  • I would start a BIG ISSUE graphic novel which could be an insrt or a section of the magazine.  I would get Warren Ellis to edit this section.  He could offer it to young comic writers/artist looking for a place to showcase their work.
  • I would drop the price to 50p.  You want it to sell like hotcakes and people to be dissapointed if it sells out and they do not have one.  Give other magazines a run for their money.
  • Extend the product range that vendors carry.  Do fun stuff that plays on the homeless angle like Big Issue soap and Big Issue carry bags.  Do consumables which people need the whole time like chewing gum.  Again compete on quality and price make the products competitive with the mainstream alternatives.  Compete by cutting costs on the supply side and using the charitable status to wrangle good deals from suppliers.
  • Get Hugh McLeod from Gaping Void to design the marketing and branding campaign.  You know he’d do an awesome job.

Happybivendor_1Big Issue and the concept of making homeless people effectively small business owners while counselling them is a fantastic idea – I just think they could do better.

I have said nothing about the charity side and the support side as I know very little about how that operates and will assume they are doing a good job there but could simply do with more income for themselves and the vendors.

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Begging

I’ve not yet given to beggars here in London (I normally do a bit) but after the constant institutionalised begging in India (and being picked on because you are a foreigner) one hardly notices beggars in London.

You have to shut off a part of yourself to beg, or rather most people do – very rare is the beggar who can look someone in the eye normally without shame or anger.  Likewise when we give money to beggars we normally shut off a part of ourselves.  We often give to get them to leave us alone and stop confronting us with their misfortune by reminding us how fortunate we are.  It is easier to pay a bit of money than to truly empathise with how awful some of these lives must be to reduce a person to the ignomity of begging.

Unlike say helping an old lady with her shopping giving to beggars is an act of charity which often does not feel good.  This is because we somehow know that this is a temporary solution and because the beggars themselves are not feeling good abut accepting the money.  Also the beggar is often trying to make you feel guilty or uncomfortable so you will give them money to make them go away form you.  Its like buying some bizzare form of protection.  We pay money the beggar goes and we could keep our hearts closed and not feel compassion.

This is what is great about visiting India – you pay money and then there is another beggar, and another, and another.  You cannot keep giving and buying compassion off.  So you then have 2 options, you can close your heart and try not to see people’s misery or you keep you heart open, acknowledge their suffering but only give ocassionally if it feels good.

There is a practical aspect to this also – while begging is very occassionally the only solution it is ultimately unsustainable and.  This was the genius of the concept of the Big Issue [1] in the UK.  Give down and out people a way to become economically active and cousel them at the same time and so allow them to help themselves out without begging.  Of course the Big Issue concept no longer works because the quality of the magazine is poor and the price is exhorbitant so buying one is simply charity by another means.

Keeping hiking the price while not looking after the quality of the magazine was a real mistake on the part of the Big Issue management as buying one feels little better for the purchaser than simply giving to a beggar.  I normally just give the vendors some money as I rarely find anything in the magazine worth reading. Far better would be to do a magazine which competed on merit but was only sold by the homeless.  Imagine if homeless people made less per magazine but instead of a few copies a day they sold hundreds of copies at a time this would do far more for their self esteem.

Even better still would be a range of products which are universal as magazine often have a "voice" and if people do not agree with the voice they will not buy the magazine – the same prejudice does not exist with say umbrellas.

[1] The Big issue is a magazine sold by Homeless people in the UK.  The homeless vendors keep most of the magazine’s profits.

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