Freedom is Free!

When you do things for free, or ask very little in return, it’s very easy to get taken for granted. GNU is such a thing, and I wanted to take a moment to say something.

Pretty much everyone has heard of Free Software, or Open Source Software by now. If you use a computer, particularly for the Internet, it is nearly a certainty you are relying on Free Software at many levels. For example, most websites are served by the Apache Web Server, which was created and is maintained by the Apache Foundation along with many other technologies. Back in 1995, most websites were served by a web server developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. When the author of the NCSA web server, Rob McCool, left NCSA, development of the web server software stopped. The Apache project came into being from a group of webmasters who wanted to continue developing the software into something ever more powerful and useful. Now, for over a decade, the Apache HTTP server has set the bar for all other web servers.

There are many other free technologies we take for granted, too. The Internet domain name system, for example, that translates the names you type into your browsers and email clients into IP addresses. Or NTP (Network Time Protocol) that keeps computer clocks synchronized across the world. Even such things as LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) that companies like Microsoft have taken, twisted and made their own within their closed Active Directory systems. And, of course, the Linux kernel.

Interestingly, Linux was just emerging into something useful to more people than specialized hobbyists around the same time Apache began. But even a decade before this, Richard Stallman of MIT had a radical idea: he believed that software should be free. And by “free”, Richard meant free, as in free speech, unshackled by any rule of tyranny, and meant for everyone.

That was almost 25 years ago. In fact, the birthday of the GNU Project is coming up in just a couple days, on the 20th. Steven Fry, which surprised me, has some wonderful words to say about GNU software, and free software in general, in a short video statement he gave for the anniversary. Nobody seems to appreciate the truly profound revolution that Richard Stallman started all those years ago. But this man, with his keen technical skills, his highly developed sense of ethics, his humility, and his generosity, fundamentally re-wrote the very fabric of the information revolution. If I have a modern day hero, Richard Stallman, that kind and insightful lunatic, is the man.

When Richard broke with “just the way things are”, software was locked into monolithic entities and controlled by the few. In his words:

The modern computers of the era, such as the VAX or the 68020, had their own operating systems, but none of them were free software: you had to sign a nondisclosure agreement even to get an executable copy.

This meant that the first step in using a computer was to promise not to help your neighbor. A cooperating community was forbidden. The rule made by the owners of proprietary software was, “If you share with your neighbor, you are a pirate. If you want any changes, beg us to make them.”

The choice for Richard became a moral, or rather ethical one. In 1984 he quit his position at MIT so he would be free of any interference and wrote a C compiler that he released to the world. This was the genesis of the Free Software movement, and continues to the be a fundamental basis. Over a decade later, Linus Torvalds released the Linux kernel under the GNU public software license. By this time, the cooperative software development paradigm, founded upon sharing, openness and mutuality was beginning to pick up some serious momentum. By combining the Linux kernel with the GNU operating system, people had, at last, totally free and open use and control of their own computer systems.

Today, as the efforts of developers across the world continue to make and improve upon their proud and beautiful creations, a growing number of people are turning to Free and Open Software for their daily computing needs. Some do it because free is a good price, while others do it because free means freedom, in every sense of the word.

As a testament to the power and profundity of what Richard has accomplished, all we need to do is look at the pathologically closed, dark and nefarious world of intelligence agencies. The ranks of their own people are now speaking of “Open Source Intelligence”, which is a movement to bring as much light as possible into what is hidden and closed from us.

All of us owe a great debt to Richard Stallman, and also to the people ceaselessly working on the GNU projects, the crazed and bickering little geniuses who continue proudly enhancing the Linux kernel, and all the thousands of other projects that have made the Internet into the whacky and wonderful thing it is today.

The number of websites and programs written from Free Software are too numerous to count. The fastest computers in the world, manufactured by IBM, are now powered by Free Software. Even your TiVo, a happy part of your daily life, runs on Free Software. And Apple Macs running OSX? Well, that’s FreeBSD Unix.

So here’s a toast to Richard Stallman, and the GNU Foundation, for their 25th birthday. And another toast to all you hackers out there making the best software humankind can make. And a toast to you, too, you nitpicky, set-in-your-way end users. Because we care about you, and want to make you happy. And we want you to be free. Just because you ought to be.

Addendum: More information on Free Software and its struggles to maintain its freedom can be found in a subsequent post.

Comic courtesy of xkcd.com

Jake and the Curious Case of the Magic Tennis Ball

Jake and the mysterious ballThere is no easy way to say this. Not for me, at least. If I were insane it might be easy. Or maybe harder. I can’t tell. And although that could make me sound insane, I think it more likely proves I’m not. Besides, I have no empirical evidence that I’m insane, and our legal system says I am innocent until proven guilty. But we know the state of that. No matter — it’s up to both of us to judge.

Now, I’m pretty aware of my surroundings and I’m not clumsy. Nor am I prone to hallucination. I am also very skeptical. So maybe I shouldn’t believe my senses. Is that insanity? But skepticism of my senses, I can cope with.

Something inexplicable happened today. Those of you prone to hard-core reason will probably dismiss this. Rightly so. I pretty much dismiss it myself, but I can’t, at the same time. Because I was very much aware and in control at the time of the occurrence. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the occurrence was impossible.

I play fetch with Jake, a dog, every day. He likes playing with two balls at once. These are tennis balls. They are thrown from a contoured, solid plastic extension that grips the ball, resulting in longer throws with less effort. The balls are gripped tightly.

I throw the balls hard and fast, with accuracy. This takes a keen awareness of the ball within the grip — both the ball’s weight and the angle at which the grip is held and moved. It is part of the throw — an extension of my awareness. I do not drink, take drugs, nor any medications. I was not tired. There seems to me a very low probability that my senses were playing tricks on me.

I picked up a ball from the ground. Jake always sniffs it. It was firmly seated in the grip. As I raised the thrower up in the air, I was aware of the ball’s weight, while Jake took off running, anticipating my throw. He stopped, and turned around, staring at me. I held the thrower and the ball in the air, as we watched each other, him crouching and hopping slightly from side to side, tail wagging, preparing for the catch. This throw would hit the ground with a thwack about four feet in front of him and to the right, bouncing once in an arc that would land it in the bushes, which he would leap and pounce upon to retrieve it.

Here is the impossible bit. I know! As I started to throw the ball, everything was nominal. Then suddenly, there was no weight in the thrower. This was not an unusually hard throw. The thrower whizzed in the air with my throwing motion, but it was shockingly light — there was no ball. The ball had vanished.

I know! I must be mistaken. But I firmly seated the ball in the grip. Jake sniffed it before running. This is all very routine. I heard no ball drop, which I would do, had it. Startled, I searched all around upon the ground for it, in a large radius, methodically. It was nowhere to be found. Jake always sees where the ball goes. This time, he was just standing out there dumbfounded, then started running around sniffing, looking for it, too.

Nobody has to tell me that it’s far more likely I only imagined putting a ball in the thrower, or that somehow I wasn’t aware of it leaving the thrower at some point before or along the toss. I know that it’s far more likely I made a mistake, than for a ball to just vanish without a trace. But, at the same time, I know that it did. The ball simply vanished. And, for the rest of the time, we had only one ball to play with.

And Coleena, down there in Belize, I know what you’re thinking. It’s just like Ted the poltergeist who used to hide things. I was reminded of him, too. After today, I feel like I should be the one living in a land where lizards run around on their hind legs.

I suppose this is a deserved irony after harping on scientists to follow their own precepts within science. I’m also reminded of making my mom cry, when the newspaper accidentally printed the date one day into the future, and I backed up their mistake, making her think she had lost a day somehow. I suppose I’m thankful that I almost never know what day it is. And, that a ball impossibly vanishing only sparks a deep curiosity, rather than some flavor of panic.

Actually, I’m a little pleased that it happened. Is it because I am reminded that life is, blah blah blah? No. Because it gives me something to write about? Not at all — in fact, I’d rather not write about it. But I feel obligated. You see, something impossible happened today, that only me and the dog know about. It was a small, silly thing.

It’s just that there is something about the inexplicable that ought to be shared. Particularly when you might be thought insane. Perhaps it is a test of character, or a confession of fallability. Or being honest, despite inviting ridicule. Maybe hearing about it could help someone else to feel less isolated within their own experience of some apparent impossibility. I have no idea. And that, is a little bit fun. Except for the price tag, at least.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to repeat it.

Your Word, My Twitching Cat

If you ever decide to do it, you might regret studying philosophy. The cliché of the philosopher, angry, wild-eyed and rambling incoherently is not always so far from the mark. The same holds true for poets. Bedfellows, once again. But why, in the name of all that’s holy, are they like this? Well, it’s usually not their fault. It’s everyone else’s.

You see, people say things. And usually, it’s more akin to burping than speaking. I do concede that burps do have a certain charm. There was a burp in the previous paragraph: “in the name of all that’s holy”. It didn’t need to be there. It said nothing, really. However, it did accomplish something. It drew attention, like a big belch, while simultaneously offering a hint of comic relief. This helps soften the edges of the subject matter: that angry, raving lunatic philosopher.

Unfortunately, using that phrase will just make him madder. He’ll feel manipulated and simultaneously disgusted by the use of such a transparent device. You can’t blame him, really. After all, his senses have been honed to take in every word, instilling each with the collective nuances of any surrounding words, concepts and the larger framework of philosophical positions. And you just threw down a greasy doughnut wrapped in a water-soaked rag, to the ground, at his feet. Why not rave like a lunatic, particularly when everyone is doing the same thing all the time, everywhere?

Like I said, you might regret studying philosophy. But scientists ought to be required. Unfortunately, since scientists seem to instill the “language” of mathematics with the access to truth, there is little reason for them to study the broader disciplines of philosophy. I think they might change their minds, however, if they could see all the soggy jelly doughnut trails they leave behind. I’m going to try showing them a few, without challenging any of their theories or methods. Non-confrontational. That’s because I’ll be holding my little philosopher’s glass sphere in one hand, and the twitching dead cat of the poet in the other. Yes, I know it sounds yummy. Straight from the lunatic’s cook book. Secretly though, it will be little more than a brief exploration of semantics with a splattering of ontology, revolving around the celebrity of scientists that has recently emerged. Now pay attention, I’m trying to help.

“…in the name of all that is holy…” Holy: purity, sacredness, an unchanging otherworldly force beyond humanity. All things that are holy, brought together — the entirety of all otherworldly sacredness, under one roof. And then, given a singular name. That’s what philosophers hear. The twitching dead cat hears that, too. That’s what drives us mad, when people carelessly fling a phrase like this about. Even when we know it’s a burp. Sometimes, especially when we know it’s a burp. But not always.

The point being, when you are trying to convey something to another person, other than mutual burp-fests, your choice of words and phrases are very important. Why would an atheist wish to evoke images of God and sanctity when discussing evolution? (the question is rhetorical) The phrases do have an impact whether or not we intend it. It perpetuates a way of thinking which can be very much at odds with your goal. The tricky part about phrases in common parlance is that we disregard their impact by telling ourselves they are devoid of meaning by the sheer preponderance of their overuse. However, it might be surprising, even to those who feel apart from their culture’s historical traditions, just how tied we truly are to the cultural forces from which we emerge. Our language does not escape it. Our use of language certainly does not. In many ways, even the fundamental shapes of our consciousness are formed, in large part, by the long, ponderous histories we inhabit, simply by coming into being within a culture.

Now here is something that only people knowledgeable in information systems understands. Remember the hot girl, or hot guy that comes up to you, saying their computer is “broke”? You know that it probably isn’t broke. More likely, some program isn’t working how this hot body expects. You ask them, “did you see an error message?” And then they smile, and laugh, saying, “I’m so dumb with computers. I don’t know anything. Can you look at it?” nudge, wink. These people actually think it is cute not being able to answer a simple and obvious question. My dead cat twitches.

Scientists, most of you are the same in your use of language when communicating with the public. You do not always look carefully at the larger contextual meanings of the words you choose. This is not good writing. It is not poetic. It is not even cute. And worst of all, you do both yourself and your audience a disservice when you do not carefully choose your words.

For example, the Discovery Science Channel is one of the largest disseminators of various cosmological sciences to the masses. Several programs mention the Big Bang Theory. Almost without fail, the narrators or scientists say, basically, “the universe was created from a singularity, unimaginably small.” What does this mean? Something used a singularity to create the universe? A singularity created the universe from itself? The word “created” inherently implies that someone is doing something, resulting in a creation of some sort. I don’t know of any mathematics or postulates that predict someone is creating something within Big Bang theory. It is far clearer, and more accurate, to say “the universe emerged from a singularity,” even though such a thing seems impossible.

That being said, I suppose it is possible that these scientists and narrators who use the word “created” might have an agenda in doing so. Perhaps they are promoting Creationism. And strangely, even though most Christians, at least, do not like the Big Bang, that theory is probably their best shot at keeping God as close to the traditionally-perceived Creator as possible. Alternatively, perhaps these scientists and narrators use the word “created” to better allay religious people’s skepticism, to draw them more readily into the theory. Although devious, they would, at least, escape criticism for a use of blundering words.

Another common error for commentators, though in this case usually not scientists, is referring to the “vacuum” or “nothingness” of space. Although the twitching cat likes this, the glass sphere rattles in alarm. Space is not a vacuum — it contains stuff. Saying that space is a vacuum is flat-out wrong. Also, space is not nothingness. Space is something, even if we do not know what it is. Nothingness is what space is expanding into, though even that is misleading, because it implies that nothing is something that can be expanded into. So telling folks about the nothingness between planets or galaxies is patently misleading. People adopt their ideas of what space is, very early on. It is apparent for anyone teaching physics how difficult it can be getting people to re-think their assumptions, let alone deceptions, later on, when it becomes necessary.

What exactly is this “something” that we call space, that others choose to call “nothing”? I have no idea. And neither does anyone else, with any certainty. But regardless of our ignorance, is it not best to admit that we do not know what comprises the fabric of our physical reality? Why should we perpetuate an error, whether purposefully or by the accidental means of sloppily-chosen words?

I know that many scientists would like their pet theories accepted by both the scientific community and by lay people. However, no badly chosen words, nor the implementation of marketing techniques, will result in a theory’s acceptance. But if you are a snake oil salesman, it might get you some funding. I suppose a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

The final point does not lay with ill-chosen words. It lays within the context of how facts and theories are presented. People want to believe, and people want to understand their existence, even when it may appear they are not so concerned. Scientists have a great deal of specialized knowledge and the public often looks to scientists for impartial answers. That is a heavy responsibility for scientists to bear. But it is immensely important that scientific ideas are presented for what they are: theory or fact. Spend time placing the ideas within an objective context that admits any shortcomings or questions remaining unsolved. Reveal your skepticism as strongly as your convictions. In other words, if you are truly interested in furthering knowledge, present yourself in a truly academic way that will bring your notions to light while allowing the possibility you might be wrong, or at least not entirely right. Though it may not always seem it, people like helping others. And they will. And you can help them, particularly when you are not simply furthering your own agendas. We lay people are getting rather good at recognizing snake oil salesmen, any more.

But, all the being said… love ya! Seriously. Thank you…

The Value of Understanding

First Atlas Event at the LHC

It may seem I have focused on “dissing” scientists lately. The focus of my irritation is mainly limited to theoreticians who fancy themselves somewhat more than scientists, who overlap, stepping into other disciplines with flagrant disregard, without bothering to educate themselves first. In this, they commit the same transgressions they complain about. Actually, I admire their chutzpah, too.

Experimental scientists, on the other hand, rock. They are the blue collar grease monkeys that stick their fingers into the light sockets to find out what will happen. They get the job done. They are the detectives and the judges, having the final say about the theoretician’s abstract arguments, as well as their own. In general, they are a more humble lot, without necessarily being any less imaginative or knowledgeable than their theoretical counterparts. Of course, theorists, being who they are, would generally disagree. But that doesn’t matter.

There are some people who would argue that science has not improved our lives. It has. And it has done so because there are people curious about how everything around us works. We help them go about exploring their curiosity while simultaneously reaping the benefits. It is a good relationship. Unfortunately, that relationship is sometimes strained.

For example, Europe’s Large Hadron Collider has recently wandered into the mainstream’s attention. This is not altogether accidental — scientists realize their funding is largely dependent upon the goodwill of the masses. They have learned to improve their marketing skills, usually by exploiting the ever-hungry egos of theoreticians eager to be elevated to celebrity status. But in doing so, they have provided an excellent service, bringing many modern scientific questions to the attention of we lay people. It is unprecedented.

Unfortunately, being new to the multiplicity we throngs of monkeys represent, scientists appear to make a naïve assumption. That is, monkeys are reasonable. We are not. We are interested in those things which make us happy. We do not like things that make us unhappy. Reason makes scientists happy. But it does not, necessarily, make all the other monkeys happy. So, what to do? Well, let’s find some common ground. What makes everyone happy? It would be a very large orgy indeed, making everyone happy through sex and love. It would also be both impractical and messy. Perhaps the next best thing for we cute little hedonists? How about money?

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is huge, and quite expensive. It is, in most ways, the most powerful and complex machine ever constructed, drawing upon a dizzying array of disciplines. The LHC employs thousands of people, bringing Europe once again into the forefront of high energy particle physics, and likely, physics in general. People desire to go where they will be free, and feel they have a chance at a good future. And for scientists, Europe has all the candy.

The question is, in terms of candy, how much did Europe have to pay for this massive influx of brain talent? The answer is, just about the same amount as the United States would have paid to build the Superconducting Supercollider (SSC), which would have been even more powerful and already in operation years ago. Unfortunately, it was too expensive for our tastes. Spread out over the construction time, the LHC has cost Europe approximately $1 billion per year to build. To put this in perspective, the United States is perfectly happy literally burning money on war at a rate that would build one SSC, or LHC, each and every month.

Instead, we paid just over one third the price tag for the SSC, creating the superconducting magnets, excavating over 20 miles of earth, and building the facilities in Texas. It cost us several billion dollars. However, instead of completing the project, we closed it down. The facility in Texas is now used instead as a training ground for military exercises in the “war on terror”. I can remember the day, so many years ago, when I learned the SSC was canceled. I was standing in the office of a government technology mogul at Battelle Memorial Institute, discussing a study I did on the effects the Internet would have on society; specifically government and industry. I was dumbfounded. I found it impossible understanding how Congress could cancel such an important project, particularly after spending so much money. The reasons were fascinating, and dispiriting.

England is experiencing similar debates right now concerning their financial contributions to the LHC. What I learned from the failure of the SSC is that the people making and influencing decisions are not altogether unreasoning. They make sense. However, they lack utterly any perspective that might allow them to see the oftentimes subtle, yet enormously revolutionary occurrences that inevitably spring from the pursuit of “pure science”.

Pure science is not, by definition, tied to any industry or money concern. It is the pursuit of knowledge, for the sake of knowledge. This is where all the good stuff happens. Discoveries are oftentimes unpredictable, and the consequences of those discoveries, surprising — and sometimes they are even revolutionary. As proof, most science laboratories have information systems in place that track unexpected results that can, later, be more fully explored. These systems are considered invaluable. Commercial laboratories often call these systems “Intellectual Property Management Systems”.

This represents the second reason scientists are marketing their research disciplines to the masses: it will hopefully educate the bureaucrats who determine the flow of funds. We see the debate this generates in action during a recent interview with Brain Cox, one of the newest science celebrities, on English television.

But, to our credit, the United States did go on to fund a large majority of the International Space Station. Anyone who watches the numerous astronaut interviews over the years cringes as the question inevitably arrives: “What benefit do we get out of the ISS?” At least, with each re-hash of the question, the public learns more. And in all honesty, it boils down to something very simple. The truly important stuff, we just don’t know. Yet. But maybe it’s worth finding out.

It’s natural to say, also, that money spent on colliers or space stations would be better spent feeding our poor, offering them medical services, or repairing our nation’s infrastructure. There is no ethical way to argue against that, reasonably. However, the issue is blurred when you consider that at least one-third, or possibly even one-half, of our country’s money is spent for war. Might it not be a worthy endeavor, drawing our attention toward the stars, or perhaps the inner workings of reality itself — in place of war? If we do, I suspect we might rediscover the better portions of our humanity that we seem to have misplaced.

I do speak of the hubris engendered by many theoreticians. It is hubris, imagining we can both understand and manipulate the components of reality. We may be mistaken. There may not even be components of reality to understand an manipulate, in the most fundamental sense. But I admire the theoreticians for trying, even when they do, so often, get caught within the trappings of more petty pursuits that may instead hinder scientific advancement. They are, after all, human, too.

I want to support science, for the pure sake of discovery and understanding. I want to learn from scientists, philosophers, poets, musicians, and even the consistently vexed clerk at the local 24-hour market. I don’t want to kill people. And I don’t want to be killed. I want to share what I’ve learned, too. I think, mostly, because it’s ours.

So this is what I hope, from our latest efforts, happening not within the shores of the United States. May we find things even more helpful than the observation of anti-matter annihilation within the substance of our bodies. May we find cures more useful than the directed streams of subatomic particle beams. May we find ourselves communicating even closer than quantum entanglement, through spooky actions at a distance. May we discover what gives us weight. May we learn to see new dimensions all around us. May we learn what binds us to the world. And, may we realize soon with certainty, that fundamentally we are, all of us, the same.

I know. There are issues in that. But in the interest of uniting around something besides death, how about we save taking on that problem for later. I’m inspired, Europa! Thank you.

And back at home, on our winding trails, one last thing. Good journeys to you, Mr. David Foster Wallace. Thank you, too.

Poke, Poke. Smooch

Get out!I don’t know about you, but sometimes when someone is poking you with a stick, you just need to grab hold of it and beat them back with it a few times, just for good measure.

So, ok. We ate the damn fruit. Where’s that forgiveness? And why do we need to be forgiven, anyway? Was it your apple? Or are you just pissed off because we didn’t do what we were told? I just don’t see how that is freedom.

Personally, I think we could do a lot of really nice, great and cool things with the knowledge and abilities that we have. Yet here we have some lady coming onto the ruler stage who would rather burn down the apple tree than let us eat an apple. Apparently, that archangel must know better than God. Or maybe she’s so beautiful that God only talks to her, telling her what we need to do. Now that’s some vanity. An angel who thought themselves so wonderful and beautiful. Falling from grace, through vanity. Sounds familiar.

What is it that causes so many leaders, based in religion, to relentlessly drive doom and gloom into people? And then, preach about positivity… I suppose it isn’t a coincidence that similar techniques are used in interrogation and domination. And possibly why bondage is all about “trust”. Perhaps we’re really not as complicated as we might imagine, when it comes to influence and control.

Maybe it is difficult choosing between the person that will dominate you, straight to your face — and the person who would provide you with an illusion of self-determination. Sadly, that’s what is left to us in our political system and our business world. Mutuality has given way to agendas. And systemically, this is held in place with iron.

This recent strike by the Aerospace and Machinists Union against Boeing has an almost surreal quality. There is a hint of old-world nostalgia, like imagining one of those frame-clicking black and white movies with no sound. People’s unions against unfair labor practices. What a joke, right? They’re actually hurting those corporations. And that hurts us. What’s to keep Boeing from moving their assembly to China where they can save a bunch of money, just like Cheney’s Halliburton, moving to the Middle-East? The threat of the US Government refusing to buy from them? Or other US companies? If our government doesn’t buy from Boeing, there are plenty of other governments who will. And US companies will buy from whoever has the best price — and Boeing’s prices would be better off with a labor force from China.

But, like all “free” markets, the rain will trickle down to us eventually. Clear from China. I honestly don’t know what is keeping Boeing here. A sense of loyalty to Americans who only want to see how much money they can take from Boeing? Or maybe Boeing doesn’t believe we would buy from foreign companies, like Air Bus. Yes, more change is afoot.

Strangely, we have a few neighbors who are Republicans, and union members, and are currently on strike. They are very upset with Boeing for not meeting more of their demands. I suppose this isn’t much stranger than gay Republicans, though such comparisons would likely cause some fascinating in-fighting. Unfortunately, these labor issues, and nearly all issues related to corporations and the economy, are no longer differentiated in any substantial way by any party lines.

That’s why I am now advocating anarchy. Go on, everyone just run around doing whatever, whenever. Everyone is equal. Well, except for those assholes who get big sticks and make everyone else do what they say, setting themselves up as rulers. Hmm. Back to feudalism. A little like the anarchy of free markets, I’d imagine. Or do you have religion? It is a conundrum…

It was more than a little bizarre reading today about a girl who killed herself because scientists were switching on the Large Hadron Collider. She had been told that the LHC would destroy the earth when it was switched on. Actually, lots of people are believing this. I suppose she was upset that she would be killed. So she killed herself. I know! There are lots of people who don’t really think things through. But, at least her death was squarely within her control. It was a free choice. Sort of.

We know that the government, and more accurately, the people with power, are only concerned about maintaining and furthering their “elevation”. They accomplish this by providing for the needs of corporations because corporations can continue to elevate them even after they leave government. They help us only to the extent that they must, to gain and maintain their positions. Yes, there are a very few exceptions, but those exceptions are powerless. And it is a rare person of character indeed who can pass through those forces ethically and morally in tact, to achieve such powerlessness.

I believe that any true change will not appear at the top. True change will be local and it will be individual. Contrary to our given paradigm, change must result from a trickle up effect. Our smallest decisions can have far-reaching consequences, even though we are conditioned to believe otherwise. For us, individually, to take a stand, even on issues that may appear insignificant — for us to hold true to what we know is the right and good thing to do, despite any potential consequences — is a monumental force. Others will see it, in real life. It is tangibly felt, and effective. We must ourselves actively do what we expect from others.

How else can we expect our leaders to stand up for what is right, despite any consequences to themselves and their families? But we do expect them to, because we know that change must come. But how can we expect this of others, if we are not willing to stand for change ourselves? Do they truly have such awesome and far-reaching power, to make change happen all around, for us, like some convenient service? I do not think so. But we do have that far-reaching power. Each of us.

We are the ones who must stand firm in our convictions: convictions that are beyond any incidental cultural or belief system, but are instead fundamental to humanity. Truth, perhaps being the most important. Fairness. Mutual respect. It is astonishing how willing we are to compromise these. And as such, it is not so surprising that we are in the situation we are. With each decision we make, we create the world we inhabit. Even when it’s a secret. Especially when it’s a secret.

Now there’s a yummy apple. It’s an ancient apple, too. But we’ve eaten it. And so has everyone else. They know as well as you. There are no excuses. Now, watch for the prodding angels. You’ll see them all over any more. You can beat them up. Or, if you prefer, give ’em a big smooch. They could use it. We all could.