Thursday, October 10, 2013

The technological imperative: if it can be done do

Tarot card: The (blasted) Tower or The Tower of Babel: karmic blowback; as a man sows, so shall he reap; fruta amarga

           The world really does seem to be weirding out lately, on many fronts. Recently, from "leaks" and now a documentary presented on Brazilian television, we learn that our Communications Security Establishment Canada hacked into computers run by Brazil’s Mines and Energy Ministry. Since Canada and Brazil - last time I checked - are supposed to be friends, this is a most unfriendly kick in the cahones. The Brazilians seem hopping mad, at least. (Do you blame them? This is exactly the kind of behavior Steven Harper gets on his high horse about when it's China's or Russia's government that's engaged in industrial espionage on their "friends". "Do what I say, not what I do.." - right.)

         Various hypotheses have been proposed concerining the rationale for such behavior (not evident!) The following Maclean's magazine article is informative and looks at things from several hypothetical angles. It is definitely worth the effort of reading..


          The author of the article takes a somewhat contrarian tack and argues that Canada was in reality paying some kind of "debt" to American intelligence agencies. But what really caught my attention was a fascinating remark from one of the talking heads interviewed for the article. Get a load of this:

"And why, then, did the Americans want to snoop on Brazil’s mining sector? Probably, just because they could, says Wark. Metadata collection analysis, which makes it possible to get a picture of the volumes and networks of telephone, email and Internet traffic across the globe, has given so called signals-intelligence agencies such as CSEC and the NSA enormous powers. The NSA, in particular, has amassed tremendous capabilities, and it has shown a propensity to test the limits of its new tools. “They probably weren’t interested in the content [of whatever they would find at the Brazilian Mining and Energy Ministry],” says Wark, “they wanted to see what they could do.” And they entrusted their junior partner, Canada, to carry out the task: Regular burden-sharing among allies." (emphasis added)

           The oft-reported hubris of the engineer, technician, magnate, empire.. One does "it" just because one can (and to hell with consequences). Here the cult of gigantism, the vertigo of power, the identification with what is mighty (and the inevitable inflation that goes with it - megalomania)

           The bigger they are, the harder they fall..

               The dude on the left (ancient flying reptile) is extinct, one notes. (The one in the middle makes up in arrogance and uber-hubris for small size.. and so is in trouble also.)

                Of course, there is the more conventional interpretation of the government's hacking into the Brazilian Mining Ministry. It, though, offers little, if any, comfort: Canada's federal system is totally subservient to corporate interests, particularly those of the petrochemical industry, centered in Steven Harper's home province of Alberta. This interpretation, too, makes sense if one studies how the Harper government has attempted to defund, control or it other ways denigrate the work of serious climate change scientists. Coming to grips with climate change would mean switching to other sources of energy than petroleum.. Again, the Harper government has taken great pains to gut federal agencies who deal with protecting the environment in some way, reducing their staffs till they become ineffectual puppets, rubbing stamping whatever is put before them. (Shades of late, great Rome - sumus novi romani?)

 The gods blind those they would destroy - Sophocles
Hubris /ˈhjuːbrɪs/, also hybris, from ancient Greek ὕβρις, means extreme pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

wikipedia Hubris

            Some additional insight into the psychology of hubris is provided by no less a luminary than Aristotle.

"Aristotle defined hubris as shaming the victim, not because of anything that happened to you or might happen to you, but merely for your own gratification.[4] Hubris is not the requital of past injuries—that is revenge. As for the pleasure in hubris, its cause is this: men think that by ill-treating others they make their own superiority the greater."

          You see a lot of contemporary populism in this!

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