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Greetings!

We are pleased to inform you that your contributions to the greatest research effort ever on the confluence of human and machine learning into a single all-powerful source of knowledge, wisdom and capitalist domination are of the utmost importance and always welcome!

Making the world a better place for all is a massive undertaking and we would be nowhere without the generous efforts of you, your family members, colleagues, friends, business partners, classmates, pets, auto mechanics, health care professionals, insurers and personal assistants (Hey, Alexa! Hi, Siri!) to stay connected, to share and spread the wealth of your lives with our systems and in our spaces. Every day you empower us to dig deeper into understanding much more than just purchasing patterns and streams of demand; you help us comprehend the complexity of human desire; the content of long and short range bucket lists. Because of you and your unfettered thirst for more choices, better selections and unlimited access, we are able to tell you more and more about

  • who you are
  • what you need
  • where you can get it
  • why you deserve it
  • and why anyone who would counter that can climb under a rock, no love lost!

As purveyors of this bright new future, we value every click, keystroke and swipe you make. These seemingly simple actions help us to unlock the secrets to true human understanding and the consolidated wealth of a steadily shrinking class of digital overlords and provide us with the fuel we need to build the bridges of enlightenment for all and for much less than we ever thought it would cost! Your participation is vital and essential and we want to make sure you know how grateful we are.

You are the future we’re building for.* We see you.

Ever in your service,

Tech’s Top DOGS (Digital Overlords Governing Surveillance) 2017

 

*Some restrictions may apply. Full benefits in limited supply. First come, first served. May the better man win (literally). It’s a dog eat dog world. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Survival of the fittest, baby.  Smile pretty, we got you covered.

 

 

Not Another Think Piece

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Old story, never ending

let me tell you about all the think pieces in my head.

they are circulating and bubbling, surfacing then submerging.

They are the last thing you and I need:

one more carefully phrased analysis of the %&+## fix we are in.

And I have several,

just waiting, gathering steam or dust or mold or I don’t know what.

Think piece upon think piece that we don’t need right now

or tomorrow or next week.

But let me say this:

If kellyanne puts her feet on the sofa while important company is over,

it doesn’t matter.

If he says ‘you people are doing amazing work’ and means it,

it doesn’t matter.

If he says ‘you people are doing amazing work’ and doesn’t mean it,

it’s what we expect

and it doesn’t matter.

Or that picture of all those grinning white men

again in expensive suits plus one white woman using thumbs up

to indicate their satisfaction at agreeing to pollute more streams more thoroughly from now on.

Seems grim.

But it doesn’t matter.

And what doesn’t matter doesn’t score change.

We can raise our eyebrows to the high heavens,

quote one official falsehood after another ALL DAY LONG and into the night,

And still it does not matter.

 

There is talk of blood and soil and unity because

you and I know most likely whose blood will flow,

whose soil will be lost

and that unity is for decoration.

The only honesty to be found is in the hate that rises,

the agency morale that soars,

the billions of clicks this reality show is generating

daily.

 

meanwhile some ridiculously wealthy men (or perhaps just one named Robert who cares a lot about what he cares about and we are definitely not in that mix)

find more avenues than they can count to

impose their narrow lily white vision of a future

we won’t want to be a part of.

If it’s too much trouble (and expense) to kill us all,

general subjugation will do.

So cleverly shackled by chains of our own making:

unlimited streams of data which belong to them

not us.

which earn them profits, but not us.

yes we will keep paying into our demise click by clickety click click while they

(the bad guys) steal our elections,

manipulate our emotions,

corrupt our media and feed us our own helplessness

in the face of white male mediocrity gone wild.

 

So many think pieces I might pen

to report, compare and contrast

the devastation of what is and will be.

I will spare you.

 

We could talk about the white male effect

which seems to explain a lot

but doesn’t account for all the white sisters who sold us out.

There’s of course this rise of extremism

among the ‘lost boys’ who have turned to Pepe and 4chan

as symbols of their defeatist indifference.

There are too many explanations

and more understanding no longer feels like a help.

I will think my piece

and save you the trouble of too many more thousands of keystrokes to decipher.

Because in contrast to all this

your time is valuable

and matters

so use it

for good.

please.

Thank you.

 

image: NY Public Library Digital Collections

 

 

 

 

Document 2017

The peaceful transfer of power

We all watched it happen: the shaking of hands, the sitting through ceremony,

hands on Bibles. Peaceful Transfer

of power.

To witness the immediate consolidation

and abuse

of power.

To stomach the legislative complicity of

that abuse of

peacefully transferred power.

If this is where we are after 10 days,

where are we likely to be in 100 days?

I am told not to despair,

that we will fight back. Yes.

But all that power we handed over,

so peacefully

Is being used to frighten, silence and beat

us all.

If you think this is not you,

just wait.

Unless you belong to someone in that room

applauding each fresh signature of doom,

don’t believe that this won’t catch you

someday.

People will bow to authority before they recall

their humanity and

acknowledge yours.

Each of us has power and often we hand it over

because we trust,

we have faith,

we believe

that others mean us no harm.

What we forget is how poorly

we understand harm when it is not us

but our neighbor,

our colleague,

the guy across the street, city, county, country

whose livelihood, dignity, existence

is at stake.

‘No harm done’ we say so easily

because we followed protocol

when it came time.

We witnessed the peaceful transfer

of power.

Laws will be broken.

Orders will be given.

People will suffer. Always.

And that room of self-satisfied men

will know

That they got the power cheap at a

fake news rummage sale.

And they will hoard it and flaunt it

and use it against us,

because we gave it to them,

we handed it to them through

our quirky institutions and unspoken appetite

for criminal political theater.

The power they got peacefully handed over

will be the instrument of our undoing.

It already is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parallel Lines

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I am awash in feelings right now. It’s after midnight and I can’t imagine what advantages sleep will bring. My Twitter feed is overflowing with the unfolding tragedy of the new US Presidency. Today it is the Muslim Ban executive order in effect, which involves the detainment, questioning, and/or potential turning away of citizens from 7 Muslim-majority states. We don’t know which further affront to human rights and democratic process will follow. But by now, many of us are confident that more anti-human measures are in store.

And it’s Saturday, a Saturday on which I was attending and presenting at a conference for middle level educators. I listened with interest to engaging speakers, got into conversations with old friends while welcoming new contacts, and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to create some workshop magic for a group of educators. There was great food, a warm hospitality and plenty of laughter.

Saturday – and I led a session on using social media and blogging for professional growth. I had three folks from my school attend including two administrators. There was a lot to celebrate. I felt happy being among educators from schools all across Europe. Educators are my people.

Still, the reports keep rolling in. Protests at major US airports are growing. The New York City Taxi Workers have called for a 1 hr strike on transportation to and from JFK airport. Families have been separated. Fear levels both within the US and without is rising, not only about the implications of this order but everything that could possibly follow. Unchecked.

I went out to the evening celebration and had fun chatting with new acquaintances and eventually shaking a leg on the dancefloor. The conference attendees were a strikingly white crowd, mainly of American and British descent with a few other nationalities sprinkled in. I am used to this – being the only black person in the room. This is my every day norm, and a result of multiple life choices. We were celebrating the end of a successful conference and the dancing felt good. “Joy is also a form of resistance.” I read this week in my Twitter feed.

I checked my phone on the way home, catching up on developments as the tram rumbled through town. It’s Sunday here now and the bad news will not let up. Whatever individual victories I can call my own today or yesterday or even tomorrow are dwarfed by the scale of human suffering that is systematically being exacerbated by policies put in place by a few powerful white American males in suits.

We are always living our lives in context. And often – perhaps more often that we recognize- contexts is the correct phrasing, covering foreground and background, subtle and overt, praise-worthy and fear-inducing. Today I was reminded of how these contexts can ride in parallel, cross paths or even collide all within the space of me being me.

Saturday to Sunday.

image via Pixabay.com

The Unsettled Here and Now

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I’m going to get personal for a minute here.

Sometimes I can be particularly observant of what’s going on around me and also in me. At present it feels like my powers of observation are a little out of whack. And I think this has to do with my increased traffic on social media platforms.

Since the US Presidential election, I’ve delved more deeply into my online engagements. Twitter has become my primary news source as well as my go-to space for a sense of community in troubled times. As incredibly grateful as I feel for the tremendous wealth of good will, necessary political resistance, and human warmth I experience, I also recognize the slow drain on my attentional and emotional resources.

Every day and on every tweet that I raise my #resist flag, I know this is what I must do, at the very least. I have picked a side and it happens to be against the incoming administration and majority aggressively Republican legislature. Even though I am geographically very distant, I experience the sense of dangerous and targeted upheaval on a very personal level. I fear for individuals as well as systems. And as I watch a group of overwhelmingly white, straight, so-called Christian males parade before multiple TV cameras and announce their policy plans, I feel sickened to know how quickly the country will likely find itself flat on its back not knowing how it got there.

I fear for our individual and collective exposure through our very willing and often enthusiastic embrace of digital tools and platforms which offer us convenience, speed, and seemingly unlimited choice. We are, at the same time, in fairly constant danger of becoming hostages of all the data we give away daily. With our clicks and instrumentalized acquiescence, we have created our most sophisticated and unforgiving monsters yet, which still maintain a miraculously rosy veneer of being society’s new great helpers.

All told, I’m feeling a lot of fear.

At my core I am an educator. My dialogues with students provide some of the richest contours to my thinking and doing. I look forward to starting classes soon in order to get grounded again; to be brought back to my core mission of helping students “Get fit, get better, and get along.”  We’ll have conversations about how we include, nurture, challenge and respect each other. They will remind me about the importance of fair play and being kind to one another. They will remind me to keep working on being my best. Perhaps more than at any other time in my teaching career, creating a classroom where fairness, openness and care are built into everything we do is the most important work I can do – for my students and for myself.

 

image: Spelic/@edifiedlistener

What Vision? Whose Vision?

While we haven’t landed yet, we can see the ground coming closer and we’re scared.

OK. Below is the post I wrote before I found a clarifying statement AT THE BOTTOM of the offending document. So please read the post as is with my first understanding.

Recently, the Fraternal Order of Police (the largest national law enforcement union, apparently) released it’s proposed actions* for the incoming US President in his first 100 days. It’s not an overly formal document so that it is easy to understand what this group is asking of the new leadership.

Among other things, there is a general sentiment of “make policing overly powerful and unaccountable again.” Hurry up and repeal whatever safeguards undocumented children and adults have and deport them as soon as possible. Restore local police access to military weaponry. Reverse most recent presidential initiatives to reduce police authority in use of force. As a letter representing an organized body of law enforcement employees, it is more than disconcerting to hear what their most immediate priorities are in a new political climate.

This document is just an example. An important example because it draws my attention to a larger issue of what members of law enforcement hold as a vision of the world. While many police departments claim to “serve and protect,” reading and understanding this list of priorities made me ask – what vision of the world, its citizenry and their role to members of US law enforcement hold?

When charged with the tasks of maintaining law and order – how are you most likely to see people: as helpers or potential wrongdoers? How are you likely to perceive the way of the world – as primarily good and fair or as harsh and unkind? When you encounter the citizens you are sworn to protect – do you see them mainly as keepers or breakers of law and order?

I am not assuming that it always has to either/or. I believe that organizational context, geographical and historical frames will influence how any police officer takes up his or her given duties. But in speaking on behalf of a vast number of law enforcement members, the Fraternal Order of Police, clearly expresses  a prevailing world view and a set of political imperatives.

I ask these questions, too, because the rise of the president-elect and his supporters has given life to many new visions of what the US can and should become in the months and years to come.  We need to interrogate the content and sources of these new visions and recognize that there will be many. Every group will have its special set of desires and parameters to fulfill and will seek to arrange these with the new power structures as best possible.

So as we discover many mores such disturbing documents, let us not flinch from grasping the possibilities which white supremacists, militia groups, Wall Street tycoons, oil barons and several others see opening before them. There are ways that they see and envision the world which would hardly occur to many of us. We must keep asking, asking, investigating, interrogating.

 

Now here’s that clarifying statement from the FoP:

Please Note: This document is a predictive summary of potential actions that the Trump administration may take in its first 100 days and is based on statements from the campaign and media reports up to the time the document was distributed to FoP members. It is not an advocacy document and does not represent the FoP’s agenda for the first 100 days of the incoming administration. It is an advisory to our members as to what may happen when the new administration takes over.

Given that disclaimer, I see that I have unfairly assumed ill of the law enforcement union. At the same time, I see that I am not alone in my concern and outrage at what the document nevertheless reveals. If the incoming administration did in fact pursue these measures, how then would law enforcement act?  What is the connection between executive direction and on-the-ground compliance?

If this is not an advisory document, what would an advisory document then look like given these anticipated steps? This is where the vision question becomes all the more significant. If national law enforcement has a vision – what does it really look like and is there a chance that the objective to “serve and protect” will remain as intact priorities?

The FoP mission statement:

To support and defend the Constitution of the United States; to inculcate loyalty and allegiance to the United States of America; to promote and foster the enforcement of law and order; to improve the individual and collective proficiency of our members in the performance of their duties; to encourage fraternal, educational, charitable and social activities among law enforcement officers; to advocate and strive for uniform application of the civil service merit system for appointment and promotion; to support the improvement of the standard of living and working conditions of the law enforcement profession through every legal and ethical means available; to create and maintain tradition of esprit de corps insuring fidelity to duty under all conditions and circumstances; to cultivate a spirit of fraternalism and mutual helpfulness among our members and the people we serve; to increase the efficiency of the law enforcement profession and thus more firmly to establish the confidence of the public in the service dedicated to the protection of life and property.

“… support and defend the Constitution of the United States…” Looks like they may well have their work cut out for them.

Still Not Funny – On not giving in to humorlessness

I’ve been moved by a number of things I’ve read in these last few days. Blog posts, Twitter threads, news analysis and more. I’m listening. I’m processing and wondering.

I work with children during the day. I insist that we work to be fair to each other and kind and respectful; that we play our games safely and involve everyone. If I raise my voice, I have told them, it probably is because I have a concern about safety. I’m afraid someone might be hurt. They understand this even if it may surprise them in the moment. We have a relationship and trust each other.

My 9 year old and I were talking at the dinner table. He has a gift for the dramatic and was applying it while assembling his hamburger fixings. When I mentioned his tendency to dramatize, he responded: “You didn’t raise me to be humorless.”

Humorless is a interesting word choice for a 9 year old.

It’s true and he’s right, I haven’t raised him or his older brother to be humorless. On the contrary, humor is central to our relationships. This is good to remember as I feel my humor running low these days.

I’m frustrated by a lot of what I see in mainstream media, particularly in its highly conciliatory coverage of the US President-elect. There is so much focus on what he says when we know after a nearly 2 year campaign that he fabricates, lies and denies on a regular basis. His word is never his bond.

The unbelievable rush to generate clicks overrides every design to report with integrity. The examples are far too many and egregious to list. Painting neo Nazis as young, stylish folks, actually discussing if Jews are human on CNN, raising the question if the Vice President-elect was “harassed” by the cast members of Hamilton…and on and on. I keep shaking my head –  although disbelief is not an option I’ve told myself already.

I cannot laugh. I keep wondering – where are those helpers that Fred Rogers’ mom always told him to look out for? Where are the opposition leaders among our elected representatives? Because the catastrophe is upon us and just getting started.

So I’ve made my peace with the fact that there will be no saviors. I feel like many of us are experiencing a crisis of expectation. We keep believing that things will happen differently: it won’t be so bad, it’s only four years, that he won’t be all bad… Our false and completely inaccurate expectations – based on convention, level of privilege, and/or ignorance are leading us down a path towards our own destruction – and we’re walking it. Perhaps there’s a little apprehension in our step but because so many of us want to believe – That we’ll be alright, that they don’t really mean us any harm – we follow like the children behind the pied piper – oh how we fall in line.

If the New York Times or Washington Post aren’t  bent out of shape at the proposed cabinet members or the recent convention of white nationalists in Washington, DC praising the incoming President complete with Nazi salutes, well then, it can’t be so bad, can it? But precisely this must be our cue. The sign that something is very rotten, not in Denmark but in these divided United States.

Even as I am overwhelmed with anger, disappointment and frustration – my sons have not raised me to be humorless. On the contrary.  As I find my own way to resist the spectacle of the current developments, I will need to hold on to my capacity for humor, laughter and fun. To my sons and my students, I owe them at least that much.

Special thanks to Eric Spreng for his wonderful essay on why we need to write ourselves free from despair which helped me write this post in the midst of my confusion.