Non-Flammable Information

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Flammable Information versus Non-Flammable Information

When Jan was in Nova Scotia last summer I was gathering debris fallen from her trees and burning it: spanish moss, twigs and broken branches, pine needles. Before she left I made sure there was a supply of old paper and a propane torch in her shed, so I could do everything, get tools, all from outside her house. I piled the debris at the waterline between lawn and lake, plentiful rainfall eclipsing the sandy beach shore of former, drier years. But when I went to use the paper to ignite the fallen festoons of moss, the bundles of pine-straw, the paper wouldn’t catch fire! It was a series of pages of color ads inserted with the newspaper. It must have been chemically treated to resist kindling. The paper burned but reluctantly, then went out. The day was also humid, that didn’t help.

Don’t forget: Flammable and inflammable mean the same thing: combustible.
Non-flammable is the antonym.

Hell, I could have gone back to the shed, found found some plain black and white newspaper, expecting it to burn better, but decided it was too humid to push it: I’d burn that pile for her another day. Meantime, the poor oak leaves would get a bit more light. And Jan’s property was otherwise cleaned up.

But since when does newspaper not burn? For all I know maybe all newsprint is treated with fire-retarding chemicals these days. When I was growing up cheap paper burned, with a fury. But newsprint isn’t the only thing newly fire resistant these days. The consumers of the kleptocracy have acquired such a tolerance for outrage that though they may smolder permanently they smolder below the kindling point.

will edit Compare cities! London, Rome, Tokyo … Chicago, San Francisco, New York’s Triangle fire … I’m not saying that the contemporary world is safer, or has fewer catastrophes; but it does seem to have far fewer catastrophic urban fires.

Alert for This but Blind to That

But there are other differences not too evident to the civilized mind. The school system, not just public school but colleges and universities, “private” as well as public, train the minds thus captured to be alert for this but blind to that. The Jew may be willing to commit mass murder to insist that his one god is named Yaweh: the Muslim will risk death to insist that the only god’s name is Allah: the Christian pounds a book, screaming that it’s written, Jehovah! Who has his mind open that maybe God’s name is Mildred? If God says anything non-familiar to us, we’ll torture the message bearer.

Information in a kleptocracy is self-censoring. The tyrants don’t have to torture everybody, their subjects keep their own lips zipped. No matter what happens, they keep their eyes and ears closed, and their mouths. Americans chant that they’re free: have a free market, free speech: while they’re compelled to go to school, pay taxes, serve the war machine, not look too closely at the prescribed bullshit.

One (of many) way(s) people in a kleptocracy accomplish this is to favor their natural preference for processed ideas — myths — to raw experience. Christians who believe that God loves them, that Jesus will forgive them no matter what, that Jesus volunteered to die for our sake, so that we can get away with murder, substitute fake remorse for real atonement, will ignore all evidence that they’re bound for failure and death whatever God thinks. Americans subscribe to the idea that they’re innocent, the good-guys: no records have to be kept of how many states the fed conquered, how many homes the army burned, how many bombs were dropped on gooks, how many land mines were salted in countries we had no formal war with …

Americans killed Sutter’ cattle, trespassed on his land, destroyed his civilization, stole his gold. He sued. $300,000,000 the court said California owed him. Ah, but not one penny had to be paid: the people of San Francisco burned the court house, scattered the judges. Then Washington DC wouldn’t even give him $50 as a pension!

More egregious is how the whole managed world these days won’t accurately represent how Illich proposed cybernetic data bases to promote freedom, humility, conviviality, how I, pk, offered to actually be the digital librarian, how my stuff got published but not republished, how the “histories” are silent on the matter … Major businesses don’t have to believe that managed data will wash in the long run; they’re making money in the short run.

Besides, they’re atheists, no matter how much they donate to how many churches: they do not believe in a long run. Let the truth assert itself after we’ve taken our profits: again: and again.

We Didn’t Do That!

No, no: we didn’t do that! And we can prove it! We didn’t do that because we wouldn’t have!

i’m butchering this something awful, when I straighten it out I also have to develop an alternate metaphor:
Some information gets received, but not transmitted. My girl friend understands much of what I say: not all, not fully, but she gets the gist. But that’s as far as it goes. When she tries to pass the info her friends scream at her, her children have no idea who or what I am.
Actually, it’s the opposite: her friends do burn: with indignation: you can’t believe what Paul says!
Should she give up her oldest friends? or give up me?
She doesn’t give up either: she straddles two contradictory worlds: that of the war addicts and mine: a would-be convivial Christianity. But that ship sailed, we’re all stranded, me too.
If we’re incapable of truth, if salvation is impossible, delusion compulsory, then choosing delusion by its flavor makes sense. Be happy, Polyanna is wise. There’s another title: Polyanna’s Socrates.

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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