People With Minds
Tuesday, December 22, 1998 by Dave Winer.
Good morning DaveNet readers!
It's late December, for sure. It's cold cold cold in the Bay Area. It's winter, but not our winter. Somehow it got lost and we got Colorado's weather instead! Brrrr. Please, if you're in California, stay warm.
It's a good time to be hibernating. Music on the box, more sad James Taylor tunes. He misses everyone, even before they're gone!
Do me wrong, do me right, right now baby, go on and tell me lies but hold me tight. Save your goodbyes for the morning light, but don't let me be lonely tonight. Hmmmm. He's so sad!
Hey even on a cold day it's OK to put on some warm clothes and go for a walk, watch your breath, be happy that your coat is warm the sky is clear. Test your vision. Go to the top of a hill and have a look.
What do I see?
I was born in 1955. I grew up in the sixties and early seventies. With hindsight, had I been just one year older I would have been drafted to fight in Vietnam. Instead I wrote, rallied and rebelled. I did the best I could to fight the government with the limited resources available to a teenager. It was frightening to be a young man in those times, with so little experience to base decisions on, and if you made the wrong decision, you could die.
Washington not only lied to us, they tried to kill us, and they were successful with 50,000 men of my generation, gone, dead, their lives ended. As they say, people died for our freedom, and it's not always the way they tell it in the history books.
It was a humiliating death. We were old enough to die for our country, but we weren't old enough to vote. It was time for the previous generation to go, and they didn't go easily. They killed a lot of people on their way out, not just young Americans, but far-away people of all ages in southeast Asia.
The men who died in Vietnam gave us the power to tune out on Washington. They played a big role in the downfall of Nixon. They were the marker for how horrible power in Washington could be. So we got rid of Nixon, and subsequent Presidents were refinements of the answer to Nixon, people we could tune out on, the well-intentioned nice guy. Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and now Clinton.
Successively better airbrushed, more and more tuned to polls, fighting for the center, telling us what they think we want to hear, trying to nudge the numbers up, but not relying on the minds of the electorate. They were smart not to rely on our minds, because there was no evidence that we wanted to use our minds.
Now I think, I hope, we're at the end of that road. My generation, Clinton's generation, is running this country. We can be forgiven for our cynicism. Why would we look to Washington for leadership? Best not to look. We take drugs, watch TV, and fall deeper and deeper asleep. It's not that Clinton lies, we lie. We say we're alive, but are we?
I listened to the House debate on Saturday after tuning into the committee hearings over the previous few weeks. I was struck by the formality and ingrained respect in the words they use. "I rise to speak!" they say (except on the committee where they remain seated).
I found myself fascinated, much as an employee would be fascinated to snoop on a boardroom discussion. I imagine that like me, most Americans had no idea what a congressional debate sounds like. We could all learn a lot from this. I may be your opponent, I may be at war with you, but my words are stronger and more powerful if they are presented with respect for our mutual intelligence and integrity.
How differently they talk among themselves. The same people who spew spin on Larry King actually make a lot of sense when they rise to speak their cause in Congress.
The New York Times published an excellent reconstruction of the events that lead to the impeachment.
This is great fodder for the historians. Watching CNN, PBS and CNBC over the last few days I find the stories told by scholarly historians most interesting. They don't paint the event as a Republican conspiracy. In fact, they're pretty sure that history will say that Clinton played a major role here.
The most revealing quote from the Times piece, for me, came from Mike McCurry, until this fall, the White House press secretary. Asked what caused the impeachment he said: "It's a consequence, first and foremost, of the president's appalling behavior."
It must have been very frustrating to be a member of the House (or White House) with integrity while Clinton's reckless lying was going on. I totally understand why they voted to impeach. If I had been a House member, I would have voted that way too. If I were McCurry I would have resigned. And if I had voted that way, or resigned, no matter what the polls say, I would have no regrets.
Oh the Republicans and the Democrats.
Saturday we saw two sides locked into their ways and neither of them giving.
The Democrats hurl the nastiest ideas, talking about violence and coups d'etat, Gore still talks about the wisdom of the US electorate. They're still talking in soundbites, leaving everyone to decide which side they're on now that things changed so much.
No one asks for our support directly. It would raise too many contradictions to do so. They talk over our heads to our fear, if we calmed down and pieced together the statements they repeat, over and over, we'd see that they're still lying. They're still doing it. Amazing.
I think right now the Republicans are a little ahead of the Democrats, they are deliberately going against the polls, and I totally support them for doing that. The polls encourage childish judgement on the part of voters. They give power to people who don't vote. They shouldn't be encouraged. It's no way to run the country with the biggest bank account. It's no way to run a country with nuclear missles deployed in submarines.
Do you think the Republican leadership, in total disarray now, didn't get that they were committing suicide?
I've listened to Henry Hyde talk. I've listened to what he actually says, not what the Democrats say he says. He's stubborn for sure, but he isn't stupid. Here's what he says. Clinton pushed us too far.
That speaks for me. Let's come together on one thing. Integrity matters. Why? There's a high way to live and a powerless way. In our power, a word means something. If I can trust your word, we can work together.
To me the argument isn't between the Democrats and Republicans, it's between the minds of the people and the government. It was just the luck of the draw that a Democrat was in office when the shit hit the fan. I wouldn't read too much into the partisan differences, I actually think they're irrelevant.
Here's the truth, bald and unvarnished. The people impeached Clinton. Read the Constitution for an explanation. Government of the people, by the people, for the people. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.
It's over, it's done. There's no point arguing whether the acts are impeachable. They are impeachable because impeachment has happened.
Impeachment is war, but it is non-violent. The Democrats who say this is violence are spinning big lies. It's the opposite of violence.
War is shocking. This is definitely war. We are shocked. No surprise there.
We truly live in a great country because we can fight a war without killing anyone. That's the most respectful way to do it. We can do it with our minds, expressed through our votes. No need to blow each others' brains out in this war, the Constitution, a totally revolutionary charter, very wisely provides a way to overthrow the government without anyone dying.
The war is between minds and mindlessness. Integrity versus lies. Working together versus drifting nowhere. Evolution versus mere survival. Power versus powerlessness.
The other side appeals to our wish to go back to sleep. It's as if they have a sign "Please leave your brain at the door." But the media, TV and the web, also carry a revolutionary message, however briefly and softly. Let's reach higher. Let's wake up and be powerful instead of reveling in our powerlessness.
The Vietnam War is over. The generation that gave us all those horrible choices is gone. Our generation is in power now. What's our vision for this country and for the world that we lead? Will we go back to sleep or will we do something wonderful with the chance we have to improve the world?
I'm sure of this. Nothing good can come from tuning out on the issues of our day. And there's no denying that the primary issue is integrity.
This fall I've been focused on thinking and vision as I write a new level of server software running on Windows and Mac. It's unusual, I know, for a software developer to explore these things, but if you want to make software for people with minds, as I do, it pays to study this stuff.
Thinking and vision are two undervalued concepts in our age. A thinking mind has a thirst for information, is flexible when new information comes along and has a curiosity to understand how things really work.
Vision is our ability to see. What do you really see? What's really here? And how does it compare to the first impression? In a rush to judgement we shut down our minds. Gut instinct can save your butt in an emergency, but it can also limit vision.
I've written about this a lot. Software forces discipline. You can't debug a program with shoddy thinking. Early last week I found a major bug in the software that had kept me from finishing. The bug had been there for a couple of months. Any day I wanted to find the bug I could have. It wasn't until I got over my fear, rolled up my sleeves and did the research that the bug was revealed, and in an instant, fixed.
My market, both as a software developer and a network developer are people with minds. There are already plenty of places to get a dumbed down experience. I want to work with people who enjoy, use, exercise and develop their minds.
In November I said: "Show me where the thinkers are."
It was really a rhetorical question. My mission is to develop the web as a deep medium. To get thoughts and vision to cross-pollinate, to inform, to inspire, and to invent. This is the value of the web for me. Sure, it's nice to be able to buy things on the web, no problem there, but what I'm looking for is profit thru elevation.
So here's an invitation to bring your mind to the web. I've said many things in this piece that are certain to stimulate a response. Let's try an experiment. Please write a thoughtful response but instead of emailing it to me, post it on our website yourself, thru this page:
It takes about two minutes to log on, to become a member. 964 people have already joined and I bet we can support another ten thousand. Come join the conversation. We need more people with minds and new information and curiosity and vision.
Our door is open. People with minds are welcome here.