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Patient Zero September 16, 2017

Posted by voolavex in Social Issues, Social Media.
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“The thing I really care about is the mission, making the world open.” Mark Zuckerberg. Wired 2010.

Thus spake Zuckerberg.  And with a certain amount of youthful naiveté, he and his colleagues unleashed upon this planet something so alluring, so fascinating, so innocent that not a soul could have imagined, as did J. Robert Oppenheimer, post A-Bomb, that they had become death.

Does that sound harsh?  I don’t believe it began harshly.  Zuckerberg is a genius and has a good heart by and large – not bad attributes to possess. And because he seems to also possesses a healthier moral compass than many of his generation, I am trying to envision how he could have envisioned Facebook as anything but an asset to the world and a force for openness and harmony for the planet Earth. And I wonder if he still believes this or has suddenly realized, as the mushroom cloud of social media blotted out the sun, that he had weaponized  the world at the same time. Facebook has placed that little angel on one shoulder and that little devil on the other.  Both are multi-lingual and each ones single job is to persuade.  I think I would be harsh to characterize “social media” as a pathogen, yet it begs for this descriptor too.  Some folks catch it and others seem immune.

On this very day,  this man and his creation are being named as the villain in the Russian US 2016 election debacle.  What if it had been MySpace or another social media site?  I suspect Zuckerberg did not stop to think about the balance of good and bad on this lonely plane; anymore than Bell did when he got a dial tone.  Or a HAM Radio Operator when he first smelled the bacon.    Yet, because, as a species, we have been created with very bellicose instincts  and lots of greed, it might have been examined.  And those clubs that cavemen wielded were not for show.  And dragging women by the hair is a gender based tradition. We wage war constantly. We do not wage peace.  Religion short-cons the species to hope for peace – but it has never actually said we would get it.  But we got war; maiming, murdering, torturing, raping and pillaging.   Nobody human ever wanted to buy the world a Coke. Still, I don’t think Zuckerberg realized that the monster he had created would metastasize like those brooms and buckets in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Or the Spanish Flu. Or AIDS.

So now we have a very small whirling planet, beaten and pimped by anyone who can figure a way to get more from their own “brand”. ( FYI – a brand is a hot iron poker that burns an ID on the skin of animals (and people). You can have your logo tattooed  onto your own skin. In my mind they are very similar). Does anyone truly imagine Mark foreseeing this?  Do you think he created an algorithm for this?   Of course not.  Even J. Robert could see what he had unleashed.  I truly do not believe this was on Mark’s mind.

It’s far cry from the “Harvard Face Book” to the lethal air it has become. The air that is pumped into our lives every single second. But it is an entity of many minds and voices.  A hydra. Or even simpler, swamp scum.  We  now know about too much and now we know about too little and there is no fix either way.  Don’t blame Mark Zuckerberg.  Do not shoot the messenger.  He did not invent us.  He did not program us;  we each relied on our basest and best instincts – as we saw fit – and stirred the pot.  If anything Mark is Patient Zero. His simple idea created the plague that has engulfed the planet. But remember this.  Just like Marie Curie for example, he did not create immunity for himself and I rather think he must realize it by now.  As much as I reject the idea of “changing the course of history” his  creation has raised questions for me.

Consider an old saw, but absolutely true today.  Once the genie is out of the bottle – he truly cannot be put back.

 

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Town and Gown Antics – Cambridge 2009 August 3, 2009

Posted by voolavex in Social Issues.
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“On July 16, 2009, (Skip) Gates returned home from a trip to China to find the door to his house jammed. His driver attempted to help him gain entrance. Responding to a report of a possible break-in, a Cambridge police officer arrested Gates and charged him with disorderly conduct after a confrontation. Prosecutors later dropped the charges.[10] The incident spurred a politically-charged exchange of views about race relations and law enforcement throughout the United States.[11]”  Wikipedia.
 
I have been following the Skip Gates saga since it started; the many twists to the story are fascinating and while I don’t think any “dialogue” of race has been started I do think it’s worth noting how polarized people have become over this incident and for interesting reasons.  Here’s one:
 
I was born in Boston and have lived in Cambridge.  It is its own city with its own police force.  Having said that- the Cambridge PD are not hired by or from Harvard.  I think there are people that imagine that Cambridge attracts a better,  more educated kind of cop.  In fact,  the City of Cambridge draws their police form the same gene pool that Boston PD does.  Good or bad – these are local folks for whom the idea of being a cop is a good salary, respect (maybe), a nice pension, medical insurance, overtime, camaraderie, better than a gang and you get to carry a gun.  You become the law.  Not everyone should become the law.
 
Skip Gates is a distinguished Harvard professor who lives in a lovely home in Cambridge.  He was disabled at 14 and requires a cane to help him walk.  He has degrees from Yale and Clare College, Cambridge (UK).  He is a Ph.D.  His area of expertise is African American Humanities and related fields.  His list of honors is a long one. 
 
James K. Crowley is a sergeant with the Cambridge Police and is the responder to the call of a possible burglary in progress at an address that happened to be Gates home.  A passer-by called it in.
 
Did I mention it was broad daylight – around lunch time. 
 
I think everyone behaved poorly;  Gates was jet-lagged and Crowley was over zealous.  When Crowley established it was indeed Prof. Gates’ home he should have simply said – “sorry – we have to check every call for service” and left.  Gates should have cooled his jets. Crowley or someone in the CPD instead called for back-up.  He asked Gates to step outside.  Gates got really irate and mentioned Crowley’s “momma”.  Gates was then handcuffed and arrested for DISORDERLY CONDUCT”.
 
Let’s review – Crowley has the gun, Gates has the cane, Crowley is overwrought, Gates is furious.  A crowd has also gathered.  Look at all the police.
 
NB: Black people do not get treated by the police – in general – the same way white people get treated. This is not Black paranoia – this is experience.  Black parents train their kids how to act when pulled over by a cop.  Do you imagine white parents do?  The main idea is not to get hurt or worse and stay out of jail.  We have all heard of Driving While Black.  This is a real thing – not a Dave Chapelle sketch.  DWB embraces every possible experience Black people could have with the law, even when they are the victim.  Deny it, sputter, shake your head.  But I been there. And I am not the Black person in the car or store or house.
 
White folks don’t think this happens at all and Black folks wish it wouldn’t happen so often.
 
So the other day a woman, whom I know from my area,  and I were chatting and the subject of Skip Gates came up and she went off. Like a bottle rocket. And she was specific – she hated Gates; hated his interview on TV with Ethiopian Jews years back when she says he lied about these Jews  and hence he was an asshole , a liar and no good.  (She is a 60-something Jewish lady who says she’s a Democrat and loves the President).  The Cambridge Police, she claimed, were not like other police and were polite and reasonable and they were specially trained to be police in a university area and better than other cops.  And Gates lied and he did it.  And I just stood there. She was so angry and so adamant that I feigned “gotta go” and went.  We were not having what I consider a “chat” at that point.
 
So what have we learned through all this ordeal – including beer at the White House?  Did it become a teachable experience for  all of us who swim in this multicultural ocean?  I don’t know – I jumped in and got bitten by a shark.  I suspect she could have been arrested for disorderly conduct as her voice got louder – but no passerby called 911.  Just as well.