We've been CISPA'd again.
For a second year the US House has passed the embarrassingly vague Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a bill that could scatter your personal information like a tornado hitting a trailer park. Echoing last year, the Obama administration has threatened to veto CISPA if it fails to incorporate privacy controls, but we shouldn't have to rely on presidential intervention or the Senate's questionable wisdom to save us. Though Congress is gifted in the arts of incompetence and believes digital liberties only matter to basement-dwelling teens, we cannot entirely vilify the House, either. If there's one thing our representatives actually represent about us, it is our ignorance of technology.
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On December 21, instead of waking up to fire and brimstone, I woke up and read Mitch Horowitz's “Once More Awaiting 'The End.'” Horowitz looks at our apocalypse fetish and sees a society so jaded with the present it dreams of a break from routine, even if that break is a disaster. He also points out that, as we daydream about crisis, we are doing remarkably little to address real—literally real—issues. I like Horowitz's analysis, but there is more to our fixation on zombies, Mayan calendars, and novels about the Rapture than a desire to escape ourselves.
Behind much of the apocalypse talk and the questionably-ironic zombie preparation classes at REI is a sense that something fundamental is out of balance. It may be impossible to articulate but, on a low level, we feel a sense of disquiet.
I began thinking about disquiet as I was working on two sprawling radio projects. After recording long conversations with nearly four hundred strangers about the past and present, I began to hear a common refrain rise out of the clamor: the future was scary. Nobody could agree on the cause, but they shared a narrative structure.
Trespass. Punishment. Redemption—maybe.
The trespass could be anything from capitalist excess to withering family values, but in both cases, it resulted from hubris. Punishment always came in the form of collapse, whether environmental or economic, abrupt or incremental. If the story continued, redemption could look like a Norman Rockwell painting, Star Trek, or a massively depopulated planet of sustainable farms.
If I had been seeking our common humanity, I found it in a primal sense that we are about to enter the punishment phase.
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