Like many people these days, I’m looking into ways to deal with, shall we say, changing world circumstances. This is going to be a condensed version of my thoughts on this subject: I’ll probably do something more fleshed out later.
Short version of our current situation: our civilization rests upon extremely complex, delicate technology that runs a limited number of operating systems controlled by a relatively small number of companies. The vast majority of the market is run through one of these companies. This includes a large amount of commerce, communication, research, news, entertainment, and even basic things like being able to perform simple office operations. This means that these companies are de-facto the government: if you say or do something they don’t like, they can simply withdraw their services from you. Since they aren’t formally the state, they suffer no legal consequences, and if it looks like will they can simply use their money and influence to ensure that the people who will support their interests get into power (we just had a large-scale object lesson in this fact).
Now, the reason they can do this is that, as noted, most of the country is dependent upon them for basic services, including business services. If, say, you sell books through Amazon then if Amazon decides to cancel your account, you would simply be out of luck as far as the world’s largest retailer was concerned. Are you really going to sue Amazon? Do you think that would go well?
The important point is not to hurt these companies (that’s not really in our power), but as much as possible to prevent their being able to hurt us. If I stop using Facebook, for instance, the impact on Facebook is functionally nil. But it means that Facebook cannot censor or de-platform me.
And even beyond the possibility of punitive measures, there’s simply a question of control of property. As many gamers have discovered, when your ‘property’ is stored on a company’s server behind an account wall, then there is nothing at all preventing the company from altering or even simply destroying it. Hundreds if not thousands of video games have been destroyed in this way over just the past few years.
Now, if you ‘own’ something on Amazon – say, a movie – then there is nothing that could prevent them from altering or even removing that content. Unless you were able to download and run it offline, that property which you paid for is gone forever.
In short, you do not have decision making authority over your own property under these circumstances, which means it is not really your property. You rent it.
Ladies and gentlemen, we basically have a defacto version of Socialism in this country. It’s just that we are managed by a collaborative collection of corporate entities that include the one called the State, rather than a single such entity. Oh, it’s not full socialism yet: we still have some options, but in practical terms it’s pretty close.
As a matter of fact, these labels and categories of thought really aren’t very useful anymore. It isn’t going to be the government that seizes all property in the future, or not just the government. It will be the state plus a handful of companies that will rent you ‘whatever you need’, provided you toe the line. If you buck the trends and get uppity, then they’ll deny you service and preen themselves as being just like those businesses who fought segregation or refused to do business with South Africa until apartheid was lifted. Because that is how they see you; not as an individual with certain rights, but as a backwards sub-human who needs to be forcibly shown the error of his ways and taught that they have no place in today’s world. They think they are making the world a better place (and, more importantly, proving themselves to be good people) by punishing you.
Which brings me to my point.
The way to counter this trend is not through full boycotts of Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc. If you can well and good, but for most of us, that’s simply not practical (itself illustrative of the problem). Rather, the first steps to take now, for most of us, is simply to diversify. Not to eliminate our use of these platforms, but our dependency on them.
First and foremost, learn to accept inconvenience. The whole reason these companies have been able to lure us into this position is by offering convenience and low costs. Get your mindset to where you can accept a functional, but less optimized product if it means a greater guarantee of freedom. Me, I’m in the process of switching from Microsoft Office (frankly a con-job to begin with) to LibreOffice. I miss some features of Word, especially full-screen support (which alternatives like OpenOffice do offer, but at the cost of other problems), but it’s worth adjusting my workflow in order not to have the threat of losing version support or having to pay for software that I don’t get to own.
On that subject, always have an alternative for anything you use the internet for, and where possible make it your primary platform. So, use MeWe in addition to or as an alternative to Facebook, and let your audience know you are doing that. Upload videos simultaneously to DailyMotion or BitTorrent and to YouTube.
It is a bit trickier for business matters like self-publishing owing to questions of rights, simultaneous publishing policies and so on. I’m still looking into options there. But the point is to be able to say that the loss of any one of these platforms will not destroy you or lose you anything permanent.
The benefit, of course, is that the more people who do this, the less cost there will be for any one person. The more people use MeWe, the more useful it will be as a platform. The long-term goal, of course, is to get something like actual competition in the internet again, but that’s beyond the scope of any individual efforts.
Likewise, back up your digital property wherever possible. Remember, if you do not own the hard-drive it is stored on, you do not own it. This goes for movies, Kindle books (I’m looking into ways to back those up), videos, software, games, you name it. If you cannot run it offline, cannot transfer it from one hard-drive to another, or if it is dependent on a subscription service then you do not own it.
The Cloud? Anything you own on that is like having you things in a storage locker where the manager keeps the key. He wants to lock you out, he can do it (also remember the manager has dirt on the DA and every elected official, so nothing will happen to him if he does). I don’t care what their privacy agreements say: those only apply to people, not to lawless subhuman racists who dare to question the integrity of our democracy.
Not saying never use the cloud, just know what it is. Just like in gambling: nothing wrong with it as long as you understand that any money you gamble with should be looked upon as spent. Anything you store on the cloud is not being stored on your property, so use at your own risk.
Again, the point here is simply to eliminate dependence on any one platform as much as possible. The point is for us to maintain authority over our property and our businesses. Since the internet is such that one must be dependent on others to maintain a presence on it, the goal is to be in a position where the loss of any one of those supports does us as little harm as possible.