Category Archives: Boring Thinky Stuff (Essays!)

A Proposal for Internet-ocracy

Standard

Every four years we must patriotically march into an in-closed booth and pen the fate of the country within a checked box. The weight of America – and therefore the world is cast between two extremes. Two prearranged meals. On one plate you have a chili and jelly bean salad. On the other you have a fudgesicle hamburger. Neither plate makes any sense, but the issues have already been prearranged. Your choices in this schizophrenic salad bar are few.

But the decision making process doesn’t stop there. The dishes are taken to back, where a chef, known as the Electoral College, makes the final decision for you. So maybe you chose the Chili and jelly bean salad. You like jelly beans, but chili gives you gas. But hey, at least having gas is better than eating a soggy hamburger, right? Well tough luck, the chef decided that chocolate soaked burgers are his taste – so you better eat it or beat it.

What am I getting at with this extended metaphor? I’m asking this. Why, in this day and age, does “democracy” have to be representative? In the days of our forefathers, it made sense to choose a representative government. Could you imagine millions of American citizens being shoved into the white house to vote on every single decision?

If only we had some kind of system where American citizens could just stay at home, and yet simultaneously join together in an intellectual cloud to cast their votes. Oh wait…I think that’s called the internet.

What if we had a governmental system in which every citizen was permitted to vote on every issue? According to the latest data on http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm, this year 78.3 % of Americans are wired to the internet. That represents a 151% increase from the year 2000. If the trend continues, in ten years almost everyone will be on the internet.

Imagine this: once a week a citizen is e-mailed a new issue to vote on. At this juncture of my argument, one might protest that the language of a bill is entirely complex for the average citizen to understand. Have you ever seen a bill? To read one you need ten lawyers and a microscope.

Yet here is my counter argument: Bills shouldn’t be impossible for the average person to read. Current transparency laws allow any citizen to read any bill that they wish. Yet the bill is usually so convoluted that the average citizen has no hope of understanding it.

My proposal is to have the citizens of an Internet Democracy write the bills themselves. The internet democracy will work much like an internet forum. The most popular bills will be voted to the top of the list for everyone to read, while the least popular will remain at the bottom. If you frequent the website Reddit.com, you’ll be very familiar with this system.

In an internet democracy, all users will be anonymous to promote honesty and prevent corruption. In this day of mass media conglomerates, too many voters are influenced by appearances alone. Don’t you feel uncomfortable when a politician is considered a viable candidate for vice president because of their status as an Alaskan beauty queen?

Also, to further prevent corruption, social security numbers as well as birth certificates will be registered with each username to insure that an actual person is voting – and not a spambot.

Doesn’t this give away too much personal information? Isn’t this incipient to the creation of a “big brother” state? Well, consider this. The government already has all of your personal information. Also, you’re about ten years behind if you’re not aware of the Patriot Act.

The last argument I anticipate about my proposal is that it could be easily corrupted. Because of course we don’t live in an age where politicians are the paid puppets of corporations, and they certainly don’t register dead people to cast votes; Also, Florida has never hid a massive amount of votes under the rug so a certain member of the Bush family and friend of Haliburton could enter office.

For the first time in history, we’re in an age where an actual democracy is possible, and less than a few clicks away. Total anonymity will cloak biases against race and gender. The merit of the issues will speak and not the drama of politics. Forever gone will be the two party system of jelly bean chili and sog burgers. Or as Trey Parker and Matt Stone said, “a douche and a turd sandwich.”

There may be trolls, spambots, and 4chan lurking in the shadows of a future democracy – but I say that corporate funded politicians are already the biggest trolls of all. Let us ban them forever from the server of justice, and create a clean system where the most popular meme will be democracy, and the greatest internet trend will be justice.

Sic Semper Tyrannis.

A Eulogy for Borders

Standard

Today, e-readers are enabling more authors than ever before to publish their work. Stories are cheaper and thus more people around the world are reading, which is good.

Yet with the death of the nation’s second most prominent book store marks the end of an era. Gone are the living, breathing characters who exited the two dimensional pages of a book to come to life. Dead is the tactile interaction with lore. And even more dead is the social meeting ground for screaming twilight fans, or dressed up wizards standing in line for hours in anticipation for the midnight release of the next Harry Potter Book.

You don’t usually think of a eulogy being spoken for a bookstore. Let alone a massive retailing enterprise. The purpose of a eulogy is to say a few words about a person before they die, to honor their memory, to celebrate the prominent moments of their life, so that while their life is over, their memory is immortal.

Borders wasn’t just a friend, but it was a family for me. Amazon may offer cheaper merchandise, but they don’t have restrooms you can use if you’re having an emergency.

When I was a child, Borders represented my indoctrination into the world of books. It offered a brightly colored, tactile, and tangible jungle for me to explore. I remember roaming around the towering shelves with a sense of wonder – hoping nothing would fall on me. The newest in 90’s hits played over the speakers: the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Smashing Pumpkins. The smell of coffee and chocolate banana muffins wafted into my nostrils. As I leafed through the pages of each book, a hundred different fantasies entered me through the touch of my fingers tips.

As a young adult I began my employment at Borders. Like any good book, Borders had its share of characters, and I have to wonder to myself – where will these characters make their home now?

When I signed up for the job, I was required to take an online personality test – which I failed twice – you can only imagine the effect on my self-esteem. Luckily, my friend Mel worked in the café, and as the old cliché goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know that counts.

As I worked at Borders, I realized that it was a haven for groups of people who weren’t into things like bars, clubs, or friends.

One of the gentlemen who resided in the manga section was an aspiring priest in his late twenties. Every day he wore goggles, sweat-pants, and drank an indulgence of soda water, almond, hazelnut, and coconut syrup. He described it as a carbonated Almond Joy.

Yet even more eccentric was the Mathematician. His formula for a tasty snack was a chocolate chip brownie microwaved at exactly 49 seconds. It didn’t matter what I was doing, even if I was cleaning the juice out of the garbage cans he would talk to me about his computer program that could predict the patterns of the housing market.

In addition to these lovable eccentrics, there were other story book characters who must’ve escaped from the pages of the books themselves; probably to use the restroom, or catch a nap on the sofa.

A gnome slept in the gardening section, although my boss argued that he was “Father Time”. More practical (and therefore more boring) was another co-worker’s theory that he was a hobo.

However, in this story I am going to insist that he was a gnome. But anyhow, everyday without fail, the gnome would come to the café to check the time and then ask for “a bloody cup of hot water.” What he used the hot cup of water for; I’m not sure, since he didn’t appear to have any tea on him.

One day, he gave me something he called his Business Card. It was the name of a Vision Improvement Center with directions to a pawn shop scribbled on top. He said if I wanted to make money, I should meet him there on Sundays. Perhaps he was going to show me his Gardening tools.

Santa Clause, a heavy but jolly man with white stubble, came almost nightly and always left a generous tip of five dollars.  Then he would complain about Obama, and the failure of the Borders Business model – which he ended up being right about. Perhaps this financial wisdom is what has been keeping Santa Claus in business all these centuries.

The people who weren’t regulars of Borders have consoled grieving customers by saying, “at least you can go to Barnes and Nobles;” Barnes and Nobles, a store with such a sterile atmosphere that you could safely get heart surgery on a shelf.

Borders was so friendly that we would let people sit in our cafe all day, use the internet, read books – all without buying a single thing. It was our ludicrously generous policies that ultimately put us out of business: Forty percent off coupons on everything and a free coffee for every five purchased.

If anyone let Borders fail, it was not the employees, but the poor decision making skills of the CEO. He had us try to sell “glitter balls” with each purchase, for five bucks a pop. Is it so hard to imagine why Borders failed when our best plan was “glitter balls?”

Yes, with death there is creation. We are entering an era reminiscent of the Printing Press boom of the 17th century. Scribes who embellished royal scrolls with gold leaf were replaced by legions of ink blocks. Ultimately the Printing Press was a good thing; it unlocked a world of literature for a class of people who never even held a book before.

Yet as I give this eulogy I struggle to imagine where Steve the Mathematician, the Garden gnome, Republican Santa Claus, Anime Geeks, Vampires, and Wizards will all live.

On the day that Borders died, the world became that much more two dimensional.