Saturday, November 30, 2013

Democracy not for Everyone

Unpublished letter to the Toronto Star:

The clamour about Justin Trudeau's comment of Chinese success is misplaced (Rookie mistakes still hamper Trudeau's chances, Nov. 14). The complaint is based on the belief that democracy is the best form of government for all people everywhere and at all times.

Does anyone believe that, if China were a democracy, so many millions of its citizens would have been pulled out of poverty, and so quickly? To achieve such success in so short a time, those in charge had to be ruthless. (Thomas Hobbes would agree.) China is the envy of Western democracies because it is a tyranny, a tyranny with which those same defenders of democracy are most anxious to do business.

The noise extends to Trudeau’s admiration for Cuba’s American-inflicted struggling to get out of its economic and political past. Complainers object to the torture perpetrated on that island. Yes there is torture, but it is done by the American military in Guantanamo naval base. Does that mean one cannot express admiration for the United States?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rogers Uncommunications Ltd.

Exactly what is Rogers Communications communicating?

A recent promotion brochure shows a young couple snuggling, well, sort of. Why are they are not looking at each other? Each is on their own smartphone, their thoughts elsewhere. Why they are smiling? Is it because they need not communicate with each other? Or prefer to talk to someone else? They are alone together.

The relevant website tells us that smartphones help"turn down time into data time." Rogers considers being together as down time?  "Data," whatever that may encompass, is more important than talking to the person beside you? Rather than communicate with the person in front of you, the website suggests the user "socialize on Facebook" or "invite a buddy to the new bar".

This promotion was followed by others which promised: "Share your data like never before (BF mine). And "Discover like never before."" Again the question, What is data? Like what you had for breakfast? Like that your dog is sick? Like what is there is to discover?

The Internet has led to "the death of distance," proclaimed British economist Frances Cairncross. In  the Rogers promotion, technology has created distance between people in the same room.

A recent issue of The Atlantic correctly observed, "Social networking has alienated us." Like yea Rogers?

Alienation is not what Marshall McLuhan had in mind for his Global Village. With contemporary technology, the more we connect, the less connected we are, the lonelier we become.

To the Rogers promotion, I suggest a caption: "I am never so lonely like as when I am with you."

Should you phone Rogers, you will be put on a 15-minute waiting priority. This is the multi-billion-dollar company that brags about its speed of communication.