Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monks aren’t going to make money anymore!

A fragment of a blog post that I managed to salvage from my crash... What did I mean? I have no idea. Obviously, I was thinking a lot about issues of financial ethics, even before my computer crisis.

It's been a month now, so I'm beginning to to let my grief go, and it is seeping away, slowly. I keep trying to explain to myself and to others what it was I lost. My obsession with data perhaps borders on the clinical. I spent a year (2010) figuring out how to salvage metadata—not just song files themselves, but also play counts, play dates, ratings, and album art—from my two previous computers.

Not just how to salvage it, but how to combine libraries together so that they became a seamless whole, and in February of this year, after a full year of trying, I managed to do it. So I experienced exactly eight months with my beautiful, whole, complete iTunes library, which gave me more pleasure than perhaps is reasonable. I obsessively catalog actual photographs from actual concerts for each of my Bob Dylan and Bob Marley bootlegs, for each Elliott Smith demo, for each inherited mp3. When a song plays, I check the last-played date and remember where I was when I last heard a song.

Remember that night when we sat around and listened to _____ while we both spread art all over the floor and collaged and drew? Remember where we were on __/__/10? Remember the last song we played on Secret? Remember that night when friends came over and we stayed up until three in the morning listening to ____? When I see the long strings of __/__/11s, I remember.

I did. But all of those blanks are now empty forever. It's like losing a year of my life. Even if I get all of the music back that I remember I had, which I should be able to do for the most part, that metadata is gone. And losing all of that photographs from that year, too—losing my catalog of the summer's wildflowers that were supposed to sustain me through the long winter, losing the film of my niece painting in her bedroom in Oak Park, losing the footage of my runs through the back of the land with Shadow in front of me, the footage I wanted to compile into an Aroostook County documentary. The loss is the destruction of memory, and that's what hurts.

The worst thing is that it came from a company I trusted. Maybe the only company I continued to trust. I feel so foolish for trusting it wouldn't happen, for trusting a multi-national corporation that doesn't give a crap about me or my data. They've been extremely helpful, but it's still a matter of corporations having absolute and complete control over most of our lives. If they control our memories, then don't they control our lives?

I can't help but think that all of them would be happier if lost my data forever because then I'll be forced to buy it again, forced to participate in the consumer economy and contribute to their bottom line.

My politics have become rather radicalized as a result of living in Maine, and I encountered complete shock last week when I realized a friend living elsewhere hadn't even heard of the Occupy movement. It's increasingly difficult for me to sustain a belief that money itself is not inherently evil. That what's evil is the influence that people with money have over our lives and our politics.

Listen to this podcast, if you have a spare second: Republic Lost

Lawrence Lessig believes that the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement need to unite, which is the most revolutionary idea I've heard in a while. Free-market capitalism and liberal politics are not contradictory. Crony capitalism and liberal politics are. Crony capitalism, the way that corporations and the rich control policy through campaign contributions, is corruption, pure and simple. All of us can agree on that, and all of us can insist on change. I believe in democracy, in the Republic and I hope I can do my small part to again seize control of my own life.

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