{September 15, 2007}   another loss of innocence

I’ve been doing a lot of reading in the last few months. it’s been quite an eye-opener, so I thought it might be good to document what I’ve been reading and how it changed my perspective on stuff. I really should have started this at the beginning, since my bookmarks have gotten all jumbled up, but back then I hadn’t a clue what I was in for. :) so I guess I’ll just have to do my best now.

it all started way back in october-ish, really. one of my required courses for my first semester at SFU was PHIL 120, an ethics course. in one of my essays I was using the word ‘anarchy’, and the TA kept crossing it out, so I realised maybe it didn’t mean what I thought it meant. at the time I was too lazy to even check a dictionary, though, so I didn’t think about it again for quite a while.

then sometime in winter, I discovered some songs I liked that were by David Rovics, so I got some more of his songs… they seemed kinda nutty at the time, but I almost never delete music (even the pokemon songs downloaded by a kid I used to babysit) so I kept them, and they kinda started to grow on me.

sometime around the end of june or beginning of july, before our week-long vacation, I remember mentioning to pete that I wanted to actually learn some history – I had never paid much attention in school, ’cause school makes almost everything boring, but devon’s knowledge of history made me realise it could be interesting. I’m not sure what made me decide I finally wanted to do something about it this summer – maybe a video we watched, or maybe something I saw on pete’s computer… who knows.

anyways, pete recommended a book: A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn – and since it was one of the few books available entirely online, I started reading it. I didn’t really fancy the idea of searching for history books in english at a chinese library, and buying stuff on amazon can get kinda expensive, even before shipping.

It’s quite a good book. I’ve only reached chapter 6, though, because from there I started finding more things to read. and more. I discovered the site it’s on has a bunch of other interesting documents, most of which I also haven’t read yet.

I came across an assortment of random articles, either from irc, wandering wikipedia, or googling other stuff. I found this one on a bad day, and it made me sad, but somewhere on the internet is an article about some group who got to keep their garden – that lifted my spirits back up. I wish I could find the darn link. articles like this and this raised my curiosity – life seemed to be a whole lot more complicated than I had believed.
I started poking around more; I read a bunch of wikipedia articles (unfortunately I didn’t bookmark those) about various models of government and decision-making methods, like direct democracy and consensus democracy. I signed up to rss feeds for sites like mostly water. one thing that really shook me up was finding out that canada wasn’t above all the nastiness that made me not want to enter the US; our police could be kinda mean too, and our “peacekeeping” nation has been involved in some rather unsavoury incidents.

it’s pretty depressing to find out that the world isn’t the nice happy peaceful place you thought it was. I had a pretty sheltered childhood – I thought that most countries had learnt to get along, and that there wouldn’t be much war left. I thought organisations like the WTO were meant to *help* poor countries, not keep them poor so that we could have cheap sweatshop labour to support our modern lifestyles.

the more I read, the more I realised what a mess the world really is, and how unfair it is to all the poor exploited masses. it’s easy to put such thoughts out of your mind when you’re surrounded by shiny malls and everyone you know has enough food to eat, but out here in china I’m a little less insulated from the poor, and the pollution here is a constant reminder of how little the government cares for these people. at least the people here *know* that their news is censored, though.

one thing I noticed eventually was that some of the things I was reading about were mentioned in Rovics’ songs. also, one of those mp3s was missing the ending, and it was really starting to bug me, so I went and downloaded lots more. then I started looking into the stuff mentioned in the songs that I didn’t understand… like the situation with Israel and Palestine.

I found some really interesting articles along the way, including one about pirates. youtube’s got some good stuff too – video can be a bit more interesting than pages and pages of text, sometimes. :) I also ran across some stuff that sounded interesting at first, but then turned out to be totally loony.

after spending a large part of the day reading, I’d often go up to pete’s room to watch a movie in the evening. sometimes just fun movies, sometimes serious ones. The Corporation was a very interesting one. another must-see is The Take – it’s about workers in argentina taking over factories and making stuff work again after their economy collapsed (thanks to US guidelines on how to ‘improve’ their economy).

what’s most depressing is the feeling of helplessness – I mean, these a big multinational corporations and strong governments killing people and selling off our resources and generally screwing the planet in their insatiable thirst for power (which these days is equivalent to oil). movies like The Take gave me some small amount of optimism for the future. it’s also good to remember the great accomplishments of the past – outright slavery is now illegal, women can vote and are pretty darn close to having equality in canada, and we do have laws to protect the environment. people had to fight for all these things, and in the end they won. we still have to protect those things, though – our pesky human rights have a tendency to get in the way of corporations’ profits, so they keep trying to get rid of them.

eventually I remembered that phil paper, and decided it was about time I found out exactly what that word meant (well, I had read the wikipedia article already, but that had left me with more questions than answers). damn, that faq is big. I’m only on the second page so far – partially because I still have a bunch of other huge things I’m trying to read, and partially because there’s still this pesky studying thing I have to do occasionally. ;) however, what I’ve read so far makes a lot of sense, and reminds me a lot of the lessons I learnt from Free software. while I’ve noticed I have a tendency to want control, and want to act like microsoft, in the end I’m really happier when I’m working on GPL’d stuff and not trying to control anyone. I think a lot of the same lessons apply to real life – we just have some pesky problems to work around, like not being able to copy real objects so easily ;)

This post isn’t entirely accurate – I think there was some stuff that I thought I read online but actually heard about in RL, and simply writing the post has made me go dig up better links for some topics… I have a bad enough memory as it is, so trying to remember stuff that happened several months ago is hard. especially since I started writing this post over a month ago – it got interrupted by my vacation. :) anyways, I’m fairly busy with school stuff again, so I’ll just have to put my perfectionism aside and post what I’ve got.

I guess I might get some trollish comments on this post… whatever. I’m not so interested in getting into a silly internet debate about this stuff – I still have so much to learn. I just wanted to share some of what I’ve discovered, in case someone out there finds it interesting.

autocrat says:

Just want to say, right on.

Anarchism is a rich, and diverse subject – sometimes diverse to the point of being downright confusing; as one begins to explore the terrain one quickly finds a plethora of various different expressions, although 95% of it is all true to the same foundational insights.

I highly recommend the following short essay:

The anarchist faq which you link to is certainly an excellent resource; but by no means does it perfectly represent all anarchist thought/theory as it tends towards a more collectivist outlook.

Some other good resources:


Joe says:

You really shouldn’t base all your beliefs on readings from such narrow, biased sources. Junk-reading like Howie’s book will give you brain damage. His is not objective history, it is his interpretation and opinions.

stiibu says:

It really is shocking how incredibly sheltered and mislead we are. And it’s sad that it takes so much effort to rectify this. I can relate in so many ways to this post… even struggling with perfectionism! :P There’s so many great documentaries out there…. and like you said, they’re easier to digest. If you haven’t already seen them, you may want to check out The Trials of Henry Kissinger and America: Freedom to Fascism:

Also, SiCKO, but that doesn’t seem to be on google video any more. :(

stiibu says:

Oh, and it’s a good idea to take a history course or two at University. Everybody should. It *should* be required. :)

mat says:

No offense, but maybe you were just naive all the time and just now see not so nice things.

Yeah it can be depressing realising that what looked so nice is so bad in reality. Are there things we could change?
Definitely. One of the things we can change – and what you did apparantly – is leaving the state of authism. Trying to inform oneself and informing others.
Another thing everybody can do is deciding what to buy where. Not supporting practices you don’t like, but supporting things you do like eg. bying Fare Trade products, supporting local farmers by buying their products. Signing petitions by eg. AI …
Together we are strong, alone we are well … alone.

Some interesting documentations I watched on (to download them go to are: Tank Man (China ’89), The Century of the Self, Walmart High Cost of Low Pricesm Outfoxed and Why We Fight – War Sells.

I can not recommend many books, because most I read are in German, but some English books I can recommand are: Richard A. Clarke: Against All Enemies, David Brock: Blinded by the Right and Noam Chomsky: Understanding Power.

Also learning that there is not only one way, especially in economics, opened my eyes a lot. Political economy focuses on that. It was also interesting to realize that our system focuses on capital and not on labour. You can clearly see that by comparing the taxes on labour and on capital. One way to reduce unemployment and to support people would be to change that system – yet companies are very powerfull …

Here is an interesting article by Courtney Love describing the way the music industry works:
RMS has also some interesting points of view on that topic:

“Learning Curve – The United States and the Future of Pakistan”

Hmm I guess that list is too long allready, just pick what sounds most interesting, otherwise you’d have not time for anything else. ;)
Btw. thanks for linking to many pages, I guess you just reduced my free time. :D


Sjaddow says:

Hi Chani,

First, I can’t stop myself from commenting on your name. When I first saw it I thought of Dune – the movie. “Tell me of your home world Usul”. I haven’t seen the movie in years, but I still have vivid memories of it (It must have made an impression… ;). Then I read one of your posts about China, and I – incorrectly – assumed your name was related to China. When I finally read your about me page I felt joy upon reading your name actually came from Dune. Then I thought: “Why didn’t I think of that name when my daughter was born?”… You have a great name!

Since I found my way to your blog through Planet KDE, I have always looked forward to reading your post. I love your down-to-earth and personal way of writing. I really envy you being able to visit a country that must be vastly different from your own. For years I pondered to do something similar, but it’s too late now (I don’t think my wife and kids would be happy if I just packed my things and went, and I don’t think I could persuade them to come with me either)… :)

There are thousands upon thousands of sources out there containing a story claiming to be part of the truth. Some people will say that the less controlled sources, like the internet, is less credible than other sources, while other people will say the controlled sources are less credible. The most important thing is to process as much information as you can, and then critically analyze what you read. Way too much information is hard or impossible to verify. And way too many people do not critically assess what they read or hear. It’s so easy to let somebody else do the thinking and just believe… This has caused much grief in the past. This is causing a lot of grief in the present.

Regards and best wishes from Norway

Dan says:

Haiti is a far more fucked up situation than either of those two articles present. Aristide himself is far beyond the pale of acceptable corruptability, where his repeated rule was mired in heavily disputed elections and escalating violence. But then, Cedras was far more obviously destructive. We can only hope that Preval turns out to not suck so hard.

Of course, the previous claims themselves are under heavy doubt, with so much misinformation and absolute chaos in Haiti it’s best to consider anyone who claims to “know” what the state of the nation is to be full of shit. I doubt even any national really knows.

You have to consider the long sordid history of Haiti, and know it for the blight on colonialism and modernisation that it is. After such an eggregious display of utter mismanagement, complete failure, and horrifying casualties, followed by decades of rule under the terrifying Duvalier, it’s hard to imagine how anyone, not matter how well meaning, could get their hands in Haiti and not come out wretched.

This is not a means for apology, however. I don’t really see why Canada is involved at all; perhaps we have a significant Haitian population? And why on earth are we supporting the removal of governments that look well on their way to being unseated by the state itself? Why? What a fuck up.

The wikipedia article is surprisingly good for such a disputable topic:

Also, read the comments.

Now, if you really want to be horrified by modern American foreign policy, read up on the Philippines circa 1900. It also has a great wikipedia page with fun comments:

toni says:

Chani, You are very young to have awakened at such an early age. Actually, it is all quite enlightening and freeing. I was most impressed with the fact that you did read Howard Zinn’s book. Frankly, I would not pay too much attention to people like Joe It is quite obvious that he is a few omega’s short of a healthy brain. Now that you are starting the paradigm shift you will begin to make sense out of a lot more things.
You will begin to understand that wars are not fought for freedom, but rather money and power. The book on the Iraq War under the title of the “Emerald City” is good and read a lot of newspapers outside of the United States. The new news station that is coming should be good too. Your doing pretty good girl. And one more major thing. A college education has nothing to do with knowledge. You should definitely have one, but hopefully you continue reading and educating yourself outside of the classroom for the rest of your life. …….enjoy the journey ( and eat a lot of omega 3’s for brain health………..t

John S. says:

I really think you should be careful with radical ideas. Learn as much as you can about the radical ideas, but don’t let cynicism blind you. It is fun to talk trash about capitalism, corporations, and government, but it is easy to buy into impractical ideologies. At the end of the day, most of us just want to feed and house our families, not sacrifice them chasing some impractical ideology.

Let me give you an example about the falicy of cynicism. I own several houses, cars, and a small percentage of a company. Am I part of the greedy American corporate world who wants to live off of the poor man’s back? Now what if I tell you that I grew up in poverty and until 4 years ago I would of been considered “below the poverty line” (by American terms). I did labor jobs and mostly worked for minimum wage (or less). So in 4 years, I went from being part of the “exploited masses” to “greedy corporate pig” because I got an education and a job?

In my home country of Mexico, the southern regions have many socialist and communist who often refer to the northern region as “greedy rich people” because income and employment is up in the North. However, 25-50 years ago, all of Mexico was equally poor and everyone wanted to solve Mexico’s financial problems.

Why is it that when people stop being poor, they become the enemy? I always thought the point was that we wanted to end poverty. However, it seems the hidden message that many radicals send is that they want to get rid of wealth. It seems that the real agenda is that they want to keep everybody *equally poor*???

Take a millionaire’s wealth, give a dollar to 1 million poor people….now you have a million and 1 poor people.

That being said, I believe the source of all problems in the world is not greed and capitalism. It is tradition and history. Almost all of the fighting that occurs in this world is between ancient sects. The United States and Canada succeeded quickly because they had very little history to tear them apart….the problems that arose affected everyone equally, like slavery, women’s rights, and racism. Japan only rose up when people embraced science and knowledge over ancient traditions. Compare this to every country south of the United States and you see guerrilla wars with descendants of indigenous people who feel their traditions disappearing. Look at the histories of all of the countries who are fighting…and they are mostly fighting themselves.

n3storm says:

Hi Chani, anarchism is the truth because it tells you that in the actual world totally biased by capitalism and religions you have to look for the truth.

How does it really taste the black and red pill? Nasty, isn’t it, but has no additives XD

[…] another loss of innocence I’ve been doing a lot of reading in the last few months. it’s been quite an eye-opener, so I thought it […] […]

Lik says:

Yes take the advice of Osama Bin Laden and “mat” and read Noam Chomsky books. *rolls eyes*

You can guess the quality of the rest of the “literature” he recommends.

matt says:

that’s true, Lik. likewise, i stopped looking at paintings when i found out that hitler started out as an artist.

mat says:

@Lik Great argument you have. Just because you don’t like certain authors does not mean that they are bad, especially because you posted nothing to support that opinion.

Also keep in mind, that I never said these documentaries or these books explain the only truth. It’s input. What you do with that input is up to you. None can take your responsibilty to think, not books, not films.
How many of the books/films I mentioned did you read/watched to form your own (!) opinion?

How the Iranian democrazy was destroyed by MI6 and CIA:'état
The coup on Chavez: “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

@matt what’s your point in context with what has been posted above? Or are you just trolling?


Chani says:

mat: matt was being sarcastic to show how silly Lik was being. :) and yes, I was naive… I think I still am…

n3storm: er, what? you must be smoking something good, eh? ;)

thanks for the interesting links, everyone. I don’t think I’ll have time to actually read any of them for at least a month, though :)

one more note: having had my perspective on life shook up so much, I think I understand even better why religion is so popular. I keep finding myself wanting to *believe* in something, to find someone to tell me how to think… and that’s not good, because really I’d rather think for myself :) I have to keep watching myself, and making sure I consider things rationally and figure out whether stuff actually has valid arguments or not. that’s pretty draining some days. :)

Vide says:

I don’t want to “troll”, I don’t really care about what you wrote, I mean, I didn’t read it at all, cause I’m reading your blog through PlanetKDE and there isn’t one post on your blog related to KDE, and I really don’t understand why they appears on this planet. Plese talk to pko maintainer and ask him how to tag you posts so they don’t appears on pko if they’re not related to KDE. It’s just a matter of signal/noise ratio.

berkus says:

Welcome to the real world.

Lik says:

mat, maybe you should also look up some of the youtube videos of what Venezuela’s beautiful land and infrastructure looks like before and after Chavez. He is destroying the country. If it didn’t make me so sick, I’d think its funny how you “freedom loving” libs worship these sickos at the same time they repress their people and take other’s freedoms away. Noam Chomsky is an anti-American hack as is most of the other crap you recommend she read. Why not recommend reading some books written by _actual objective historians_ and then make up their mind rather than a bunch of slanted drivel that will make up their mind for them?

matt says:

mat> no, i wasn’t being serious. i was pointing out that an idea isn’t necessarily invalidated by its proponents. (this is sometimes referred to as “reductio ad hitlerum”. interesting discovery of the day: according to the fountain of accuracy that is wikipedia, this was leo strauss’ better creation ;-) )

lik> who shot who in the what now? by “actual objective historians”, do you mean “historians who support your point of view”? i think we should be told.

oh, and that courtney love article looks very much like a rip-off of steve albini’s much better “some of your friends are already this fucked” piece.

Lik says:

No, I mean REAL HISTORIANS — people who study and teach history for a living. They travel the world and write lots of books, look’em up sometime.

History and our world is not so black and white my friend. America is not all bad, America is not all good. No nation is all bad or all good. And MOST _average people_ in all countries are good people, who have very different beliefs and goals than that of the political establishment of their country.

Of course in some countries you will be imprisoned or executed for your opinions.

Anyway, this will be my last post here as my experience with hard lefties and hard righties has shown me that arguing with either is a waste of my precious time. Neither is interested in any information that doesn’t support their own world view.

Chani says:

lik: well then, I guess it’s good that you didn’t bother providing any information, eh?

vide: please talk to the maintainer yourself. :) several months ago I got a similar comment, and I did email the maintainer, but he was AWOL or something. I never got a reply. after I’d sent the email, several people said they enjoyed my posts even if they were off-topic, so I decided to just let it be… I’m not going to put any effort in either way.

I wish there was more kde content on here, really… it just seems like either I have no time or I can’t find anything to do.

toni says:

John S…….I think you missunderstand the definition of ‘corporate america’ and the secret lobbying that we are referring too. To get a headstart on the concept read the ‘Emerald City”…which talks about the green zone and the no bid corporate contract big $$$$ being made there. Ex.Halliburtons no bid contracts and the terrible things they have done to the troops and iraqi citizens to make a buck….YOU ARE NOT THE BAD GUY….you are what is making the country work….I also liked some of your ideas about where you came from…very interesting…..
Basically corporate america is the fraud that is being perpetrated in the world right now and the real reason for the invasion and spoilage of iraq and afghanistan…(i hope you understand iraq), but the latter invasion was neessary to protect the oil pipe lines being built….SEE THE DIFFERENCE???
Trust us, we know it is hard to keep up….it is an on going battle for people that want to live the truth……….. :) t

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