Tuesday, January 24, 2012

SOPA: Just Some Thoughts

If you've been online recently, you've no doubt heart about SOPA- the Stop Online Piracy Act. Basically it's an Act that would give the American government enormous power over the internet. With this act, the government can shut down a website, pretty much no questions asked. If the government feels a website is infringing on an American copyright, they would have the power to kill the site. Ultimately this could mean giants like Facebook and YouTube could hit the bucket for generating copyrighted material.

Now there are many, many blogs, videos and general rants about how this Act is Nazi-esque, liberty-destroying, straight from Hell etc. I think I'll do something a little different. Hopefully, it will at least bring something new to the table other than just "SOPA HAZ 2 DIE!!!"

First of all, piracy sucks. Artists are struggling from lack of income that should be rightfully theirs. Many new artists have an extremely difficult time getting started with all the piracy going on. So, really, not having SOPA limits Freedom of Expression to a degree as well. I want to see piracy be dealt a serious blow. Point one in SOPA's favour, but most would say that this is where the good points end. From here it's supposed to get draconian.

The main point of this is not to defend SOPA, but just to keep things in perspective. What's the worse case scenario? I would say total internet shutdown with the exception of official websites. Is this a cause for mass panic and a taking up of arms? I've gotta be honest, I don't think so. 

Maybe I look at things differently. After all, I didn't grow up with the internet and I didn't start using it regularly until about five-six years ago. Now that I'm an "adult" (officially, last September), I view the internet largely as a neutral force. The way many people rail against SOPA you would swear SOPA was targeting healthcare centres or NGOs. The internet has undeniably done good: it gives free, up-to-date information on nearly everything and it gives people a way to express themselves globally. That said, the internet is by no means Paradise. The same efficiency that can bring about the good, can bring about the bad and outright ugly. The internet can provide stalkers with convenient information about their chosen targets. Stalkers, pedophiles, thieves etc can find crafty ways of learning this information (e.g. masquerading as an anonymous 12 year-old or trusted friend, family member etc) or can piece information together (e.g. Facebook walls saying "Me and my family are off to St. Louis so don't panic if you don't hear from me in a week" = happy burglar). The internet provides an environment where bullies can thrive. Bullies can post nasty things about their victims and these can potentially be on the internet for as long as the internet lasts and able to be seen by the world. It's also often a place without consequence. Some sites are well-governed by moderators, but many are not. The internet is a breeding ground for pornography. Gone are the days of sneaking the stuff under your mattress, now you can have it in the comfort of your own laptop. To those out there with a "boys will be boys" attitude towards porn, I'm not talking about pampered Playboy bunnies here, but child pornography, filmed abuse, sadism etc. I've already mentioned pirating, of course. Someone who is more technologically savvy could tell you more.

All these things will happen with or without the internet, of course. The internet just makes it that much easier, faster, more efficient. Again the internet is neutral. Like most neutral things it's something we could do without.

Many will complain of that Freedom of Expression will be getting the axe if this Act is passed. Hardly. I expressed myself through my words, my clothes, my art etc long before I started this blog. Our ancestors expressed themselves long before the internet was thought of.

Many will also complain that the Act is a welcoming of ignorance. Again, hardly. There's always books. After all, who needs Wikipedia (the encyclopedia that Jar Jar Binks can edit) when you have the Encyclopedia Britannica, written by leading experts?

If the internet becomes a corporate playground, will I be entirely uneffected? Of course not! There are forums and sites that I will dearly miss and people I only contact online that I will shed bitter tears over. But in the end if SOPA has its way (which, by the way, I seriously doubt), my life will not end and neither will my freedom nor will my search for knowledge and truth. It was fun while it lasted, but the Lord giveth and the Lord hath taken away.

All this only if the Act is passed and if the Act is taken as far as people fear. As you're voicing your opinion about SOPA, all I ask, political and technological dunce that I am, is that you keep things in perspective. Please don't start a war over of this.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Nearing the Starting Line

I'm almost ready to begin my brave undertaking. I've been debating with myself whether I should read the books in chronological order or use the ten year reading plan. I wanted to do chronological order, because I thought it would be neat to see Western thought slowly taking shape over the centuries, but eventually I decided to go with the reading plan.

The main reason that, if I went with chronological order, I would be swamped with certain authors for a significant time. A few months of Shakespeare wouldn't hurt me, but a few months of Freud? Oy! My imaginative, romantic heart couldn't take it.

The reading list looks pretty well thought out and it looks like it's designed to ease the burden a bit and provide breathing space. Long books are divided into parts and authors' works with extensive bibliographies are spread out. Whether or not I'll finish the books before or after the ten year timeframe is anyone's guess.

Here's the reading plan:

http://www.greatconversation.com/10-year-reading-plan

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Brave New Direction

I apologize for my fickleness, but I've decided to scrap my Paradise Lost anticipation for something more ambitious, but at the same time easier to manage. I am going to attempt to read every book in the Great Books of the Western World collection. Plato, Shakespeare, Freud, Tolstoy, everything. It's quite an undertaking. The introductory book, I'm told has a reading plan of a whopping ten years. I'm 18 right now so even if I get through these books in that time, I'll be 28. I won't be following a reading plan though, I'll be taking this at my leisure, because I want this to be enjoyable and not a chore. I love to read though, so hopefully it will balance out somewhat. Not that there's a hurry.

I've actually read a few of the listed works already (and greatly enjoyed them). So far I've read Paradise Lost by John Milton, Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso by Dante Alighieri and Apology by Plato. If all the books are like these, I should have a great time. Realistically, some will probably be more of a chore than others. The works of Freud, for example.

I plan on chronicling my journey through the Great Books. When I'm finished a volume, I'll post my thoughts. I'm not sure if I'll do one post for every volume or multiple posts. Time will tell, I'll keep it fluid. These are not going to be professional reviews by any stretch. Truthfully, I probably have no right in judging these great works. But, hey, that's part of the fun! If you're looking for quality analysis and theory, go elsewhere. Consider me your fellow layman.

Before I end I better say why I chose this over anticipating Paradise Lost. I don't want this blog, like my journey through the Great Books, to be a chore. And why should either be? Following the news for Paradise Lost might go good for the first year or so, but once the anticipation hits the 'crazy stage' (new news everyday), it becomes very hard to keep up. Basically this would become stress I don't need. Especially if I start getting followers and they expect my thoughts whenever a news story hits. I also have a strong feeling the movie is going to be terrible. As a fan of the book, I expect to be disappointed. I'd love it if I'm proven wrong, but that's what I suspect. No, instead of looking to the future, I'll look to the past. That's okay, I like the past.

So there you have it. I'll probably still post the occasional blog on random topics, but from here on out it's all about the Great Books. I'm not sure when my first post will be, so don't hold your breath.

Here's some information on the Great Books of the Western World if you don't know what it's all about:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Books_of_the_Western_World

Catch you on the flip side.