Writing Pyramidos

Pyramidos FB coverWriting a book is a major undertaking regardless of how many times that you have already gone through the process in the past. Since I have taken up writing full time I have had a couple of opportunities to ghost write books and prior to that I had already published several of my own efforts. Easily the most difficult and perhaps controversial types of books to write deal with occult topics that are often misunderstood and usually misinterpreted.

Pyramidos front coverMy latest book; Pyramidos: Self Initiation in the Aeon of Horus, has its genesis in a series of correspondences between myself and a magician of considerable knowledge and experience. Having both found success in our practice of magick we both find ourselves in a position of offering guidance and advice to novices at the occult arts and we discussed potential strategies for providing useful and practical advice for these students as they embark upon the Path of the Wise. This original inspiration ultimately led to writing a comprehensive book on the symbolism and practical performance of one of Aleister Crowley’s least well known magical compositions; the Pyramidos Ritual.

The Provenance of Pyramidos

The Pyramidos Ritual was written by Aleister Crowley in 1906-8 to be the ceremony of first initiation for his new magical order of A.’.A.’.. Its structure and movements are based upon the Golden Dawn Neophyte Ceremony that Crowley had been using for eight years and had previously attempted to develop into a unique new style of magick in 1900. As an occult composition the Pyramidos Ritual represented a definite evolution of Hermetic magick from a lodge based, Masonic styled practice into an individual spiritual pursuit that put the onus for progress and development almost entirely upon the solo practitioner.

sign-of-osiris-slain sketchFirst presented as Liber DCLXXI vel Pyramidos, A Ritual of Self-Initiation based on the formula of the Neophyte, by Aleister Crowley, A.’.A.’. Publication in Class D it was never published in full and even Crowley’s closest acolytes only ever received the instructions in sketch form, left to flesh out the full details for themselves. Although there is sufficient detail included in Liber 671 for an assiduous student of Crowley’s magick to expand it into its full form, it requires a fairly comprehensive understanding of the Golden Dawn system of magick upon which it is based. The instructions also assume that there is a general familiarity with the literature of occultism and that the novice is proficient in the basic theory of magick, at least as Crowley expounded it.

divider_hadit

From Essay to Tome

As the ceremony of first initiation, and a general pattern for practical magick, every novice at Crowley’s system of magick will come up against this fundamental book of instructions, usually early on as they come across references to it in his other works. Magick in Theory and Practice has a great deal of useful, instructional material for the performance of the Pyramidos Ceremony and Liber 671 is cited directly in the footnotes. It is also mentioned in other works by Crowley including Liber Tau and Liber Israfel and it is the recommended structure for the composition of the ceremony for the invocation of the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel in the instructions given for that operation in Liber Samekh.

Pyramidos front coverIn the days before the internet, this obscure ritual was very difficult to obtain, ensuring that novices didn’t come into possession of it before they were prepared to come to terms with the details of preparing to perform it. The web changed all of that and now there are a number of versions of Liber 671 easily downloadable online. As these once difficult to obtain texts can now all be found on the internet it seems impractical to attempt to restrict their use and so, after much consideration, I decided to try and create a useful, practical guide for novices to use in their study of this central, foundation work of ceremonial magick.

Originally I intended to write an essay that could be distributed to students (my colleague is associated with a number of Probationers in A.’.A.’. that are approaching this milestone in their magical careers) but as I delved into the material I soon realized that the Pyramidos was much more complex and had deeper roots in Western occultism than it appeared to on the surface.

Another issue that I considered was the language of the source material which has become somewhat archaic in the century since it was written. The Golden Dawn Z Documents, an invaluable source for the study of ceremonial magick, are especially difficult to get through as they are steeped in high sounding language and suffer from a chaotic structure that makes them difficult to study. When I revisited these sorts of obscure documents, and after speaking to a friend who had struggled with the obscure language of the Victorian gentleman occult scholar, I saw that there was a genuine need for an explanation of these fundamental principles of ceremonial magick in plain terms.

Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley

Many of the sources that contributed to the composition of the Pyramidos Ritual, like The Book of the Spirit of the Living God are obscure and often buried within other books. Even if a student of magick knows where to find them, they may not be able to obtain them all and I came to the conclusion that the most practical option would be to assemble all of those sources into one volume where their connections could be more easily studied. At the same time, to provide the best possible practical guide to the use of these various techniques I decided to explain them and their connection to Crowley’s Pyramidos Ritual.

The result was that what began as a simple essay on a magical ceremony grew into a comprehensive book about a Thelemite style of self initiation and the magical heritage of Crowley’s system of magick developed for the newly dawned Aeon of Horus. The final result, Pyramidos: Self Initiation in the Aeon of Horus is a practical examination of the basic Elemental magick that emerged from Victorian occultism at the end of the nineteenth century and evolved into an eclectic, modern spiritual practice in which Liber 671 is a definite and significant step.

Pyramidos: Self Initiation in the Aeon of Horus includes 15 illustrations and a comprehensive bibliography of references that contributed to the composition of this dynamic ceremony of high magick art.

Pyramidos: Self Initiation in the Aeon of Horus is available now for $39.95 (plus postage and handling) from:

Buy Pyramidos: Self Initiation in the Aeon of Horus

Pyramidos by DG Mattichak Jr $39.95

Pyramidos by DG Mattichak Jr $39.95

 

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The Dawning New Age of Books

PRINTSince the first printing of the Diamond Sutra in 808, the business of book publishing has evolved through many permutations as succeeding developments in technology have altered the process of making and selling books. Prior to 1450, when Johannes Gutenberg built his first moveable type printing press, the production of books was a labor intensive process and books were expensive items beyond the reach of most people. By 1500 there had been eight million books printed in Europe, more than had been produced in over a thousand years since the fall of the Roman Empire.

Martin-Luther-1532

Martin Luther- bestselling self published author

The advent of the printing press was a revolution in book publishing, taking the control over the process out of the hands of the church and placing it into the hands of the common people for the first time. By 1500 the moveable type printing press had spread across Europe and produced in excess of 20 million copies, with that volume being multiplied tenfold in the next hundred years. When Martin Luther published his tract; Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences on 31 October 1517 it was funded by his supporters and used the network of European printers to spread the reformation across the world. Within two months it had spread across Europe and by January 1518 it had been translated from the original Latin into German for dissemination to a wider readership.

Booksellers and Publishers

With sales volumes in the millions, the newly emergent industry of book publishing became big business very quickly. Generally, booksellers commissioned volumes from printers, producing their own copies of the popular books of the day. Obviously this meant that original books published by one bookseller were being copied by many others, and the original author was not receiving royalties for their work. As literacy rates improved across Europe and America the demand for new authors with original material increased, inspiring booksellers to look for emerging talent, establishing the first modern publishing houses.

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Kudos and Criticism in Cyberspace

cyberstalker

The anonymous face of the web

Once the domain of faceless corporations and tech savvy cybernerds, the internet has become the virtual playground of the Twenty-first century. The boom in internet use that has resulted from the rapid uptake of digital technology, and which has seen the number of websites grow to over 600 million in 2013 has made cyberspace a very familiar place for the majority of the 2.4 billion users that now regularly access the web . Having this level of instant access to the web has added a new, conceptual kind of social interaction to our normal daily discourses.

Sites like Blogger or WordPress, Tumblr and Facebook have generated an online subculture that shares (and often over-shares) their experience, knowledge or even random thoughts with anyone that cares to read or watch them. Like everything else that we create, this subculture generates both a light and a dark aspect to its application.

Facebook Turns Ten

stalking-on-facebook

Happy Tenth Birthday Facebook!!

In a recent post to his timeline Mark Zuckerberg gushed effusively about how fantastic the first decade of Facebook has been for him personally. He waxes lyrically about the humble beginnings of what has gone on to become an almost global phenomenon that has, in many ways, redefined the nature of our social interactions as we enter a new millennium. While most of the MSM focused on Zuck’s enthusiasm for the Facebook community that has evolved, my personal takeaway from his edict was his reflection on why he was ‘the chosen one’:

“When I reflect on the last 10 years, one question I ask myself is: why were we the ones to build this? We were just students. We had way fewer resources than big companies. If they had focused on this problem, they could have done it.
The only answer I can think of is: we just cared more.”- Mark Zuckerberg

To commemorate the momentous occasion of the decennial of Zuck’s vision becoming a reality the 1.23 billion Facebook users are invited to view an online video look back of their contribution to the site. Looking over Zuck’s own video I didn’t see evidence that he cared any more than the average guy and the sanitized infographic that Facebook released to illustrate its evolution from a small student networking site at Harvard into the second most visited site on the internet notably skips past some of the less well received experiments that have been made on the website in the past ten years.

While Zuckerberg tries to focus on the positive things to have come out of Facebook, saying “It’s been amazing to see how all of you have used our tools to build a real community. You’ve shared the happy moments and the painful ones. You’ve started new families, and kept spread out families connected. You’ve created new services and built small businesses. You’ve helped each other in so many ways”, along with the opportunity to build that network of Facebook friends comes the temptation, overwhelming to some, to use the social sphere to less constructive ends. This dark side to the Facebook phenomenon is one that Zuck and his team are less comfortable talking about and, as anyone that has tried to have an offensive image or comment removed from the site will already know, Facebook really doesn’t give much of a fuck about how its users abuse their newfound freedom to comment on anything and everything that happens in the world.

How Web 2.0 Changed the World

Facebook stalking meme

A two way street?

In the age of Web 2.0 technology that has put the power of the internet into the hands of the average user, social media has created a platform that has encouraged people to engage with others on the web. This has created an environment where whatever you do or say either on the web or offline, there will be those that either love it or hate it and, with the immediacy of the access that is now available to users, their kudos or criticism can now be uploaded for very public consumption in a snap.

The technology for Web 2.0 has been around since the late 1990s but it didn’t reach anything near its full potential until 2006 when internet connectivity finally became a standard part of most households. It was the usability of the new configuration of the internet that made it a viable product that average people wanted to be engaged with. Blogging became a cool pastime for ordinary people and sites like MySpace and Facebook evolved the interwebz into a public forum where people (often unwisely) aired their differences with as much regularity as they shared photos of their cat or their dinner.

“The new Web is a very different thing. It’s a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. Silicon Valley consultants call it Web 2.0, as if it were a new version of some old software. But it’s really a revolution.”- Lev Grossman Time Magazine, You- Yes, You are Time’s Person of the Year, Monday, Dec. 25, 2006

This early description of Web 2.0 delineates the advantages of having this level of individual connectivity in glowing terms without even a hint of the shadow that it also has the potential to cast over its billions of interactions. In 2006 it was perhaps too early to see how this new technology would change the way that we interacted with others and the impact that having anonymous (or nearly so) access would influence the attitudes and behaviors of individual users.

In its most constructive form this interaction, even when it is critical, is one of the best things to have evolved out of the interwebz and the ultimate extension of the original intention behind Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision of the web as “a substrate for humanity, as something on which humanity will do what humanity does and the questions as to what we as individuals and we collectively do, are still just as important and just as much as before, up to us.”

This concept of the interwebz as a place where we do “what humanity does” raised the question of what is and what isn’t appropriate behavior in cyberspace. Even Berners-Lee saw the potential for the misuse of his invention, saying “I suppose the question is to what extent the people use it for things which should seriously concern us. For example, are people using the web to get information about how to do illegal things, whether it’s to make explosives, how to kill people, poison people, or whatever it is. So there’s a certain amount of danger that this tool can be used for bad purposes. It’s a very powerful tool.”

The Importance of Kudos to Business

yelp-bad-reviews

The cyber-complaints department

Of course the real reason for the development of Web 2.0 hasn’t been so that we can all Tweet our latest insignificant thoughts or post selfies on Instagram. It is designed primarily as an advertising medium to support that most human of activities, buying and selling. It has become such an integral part of the sales funnel for many businesses that a corporate presence on the web is as essential as a brick and mortar showroom to success. Many businesses now rely on their online advertising to attract customers to the sales floor.

To facilitate this emerging market sites like Epinions began to appear that took advantage of the ability for users of the new Web 2.0 technology to add their information to existing websites in the form of reviews. The intention was (as Epinion’s byline puts it) to provide a platform for “unbiased reviews by real people” and the service has been such a great success that most estimates indicate that as many as 92% of internet users read reviews and 89% say that reviews influence their purchasing decisions. The demand that ecommerce created for online reviews has spawned a long list of similar websites in the decade or so since this new feature was first added to the purchase funnel.

Websites like Yelp, Google+ Local and Local.com have become standard reference points for consumers that are looking for anything and everything that they want to buy. At the same time, because of their very nature these sites have become a soap box for consumers to express their feelings about products or services that they have paid for. Because satisfied customers are less likely to tell others about their purchase experience (studies indicate that dissatisfied customers are inclined to tell between 9-15 people while 13% will tell more than 20 while satisfied customers only tell 4 to 6 people about their positive experience) these review sites have become a controversial tool in the online marketing world. On one hand they provide an easily accessible touch point for new customers to discover a business while on the other hand they create a platform where it is more likely that disgruntled consumers will air their grievances against the business. This requires that businesses take a very proactive and narrow path in managing these online properties and a workable code of conduct for dealing with this new aspect of their advertising.

Negative SEO and Facebook Bullies

negative-seo

Black hat SEO

The importance of these online directories has increased as internet usage has moved towards being a mobile activity and smart phones have allowed us to access information about businesses and their products on the spot. Because of the immediacy and the user relevance of all of this data, search engines rate it very highly and use customer reviews as one of the key indicators for assembling the SERPs for business or product related searches. This, in turn, gives those businesses that have more customer interaction at the top of the search results. If those interactions are generally positive then the influence on potential customers will also be generally positive but, as it would seem is more likely to be the case, if the reviews are negative then this will be the impression that is created for a new customer that has found a business via one of the search engines.

In the highly competitive world of business this creates an opportunity for (unscrupulous) operators to flood their competitors’ directory listings with negative reviews in an attempt to divert new customers away from their showrooms. This sort of practice is more prevalent in some industries like the restaurant trade where a good rating on Urban Spoon or Zagat can make quite a lot of difference to the weekly takings. The practice of spamming (that is really what this amounts to) your competitors’ online listings like this has become known as negative SEO and it has come to be viewed as a definitely ‘black hat’ online marketing technique. In fact, it is frowned upon so much that it is one of the surest ways to be banned from most of these sites and even Google will eliminate your URL from their SERPs if they catch you at it.

Business directories are only one place where this sort of underhanded use of Web 2.0 platforms goes on and, because most brands keep some sort of social media presence, sites like Facebook are also prime targets for these tactics to be used. And, because all of the users of these networks are ultimately presented almost as a brand themselves, sites like Facebook also create a place for people to leave their opinions about others where they are very likely to be seen by all of their friends and family. This is the doorway to the darker side of social media that Zuckerberg skates around so carefully in his reminiscences on the evolution of his new social tool.

The online Bully

The online Bully

If negative SEO attacks can have so much power in the business world (it is currently illegal in many countries) how much more influence can a negative social media campaign have against a private individual. Three factors make social media the perfect medium for making assaults on someone’s character. Firstly, the nature of social sites means that many of the influencers in a person’s life will be connected with them via their webpages and so anything that is written on them will be highly visible in their peer groups and to employers etc. Secondly, the prevalence of mobile technology and the suitability of social media to an always connected environment make access easy and, finally, the ability to disguise a true identity behind an alias so as to preserve anonymity and avoid direct responsibility often empowers people to do things on the web that they may not do in meat space. All of this has seen the bullying move from the schoolyard to the internet and stalkers now follow your trail through cyberspace rather than by hiding in the bushes in your front garden.

Virtual Crime and Punishment

cyber crime scene

The scene of the crime

As is the case with most new technologies that come along, legislation to govern our use of the internet has been slow to develop. This is most likely due to the lack of a clear definition for the use and misuse of new technologies as people become used to dealing with them and find ways to use them which, whilst not illegal (at that moment), are not in accord with society’s expectations. So, as people begin to use new technologies, new laws evolve to govern their misuse and where computers are involved, the complexity that they represent naturally generates complex legislation to govern the purview of their lawful application.

The laws that govern our use of cyberspace are generally divided into legislation against specifically digital properties, like hacking someone’s email account or Facebook page, and using digital technology to make a personal attack on someone. The hacking laws were developed (at least here in Australia) late in the 1990s to protect computers against hackers and to make creating malware an offence. These laws are covered in Division 477 of the Federal Criminal Code (1995) and outline a range of high-tech crimes that have evolved out of the digital age. In short it says:

“A person is guilty of an offence if the person causes the unauthorised access, modification or impairment of a computer or the data held in a computer with the intention to commit, or facilitate the commission of, a serious offence against a law of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory (whether by that person or another person) by the access, modification or impairment.   Penalty:  10 years imprisonment.”

The second kind of legislation took much longer to evolve in the Parliament as its effects are far more insidious and difficult to prove. The boom in social media use has also created the conditions for the development of new interpersonal forms of communication and, while many of these new connections are very positive they have also created the conditions for their abuse and the new crimes in cyberspace at the beginning of the new millennium are cyberstalking and cyber bullying.

In June 2011 the Victorian Parliament amended the stalking laws to include the use of digital technology to harass someone. This law, now called Brodie’s Law, is an amendment to the Crimes Act (1958) and especially affects the Stalking and Personal Safety Intervention Orders acts (2008 and 2010). It makes it an offence to use the internet or a phone in a threatening, harassing or offensive way, making threats, stalking (including messaging someone to harm or scare them), accessing internet accounts without permission, defamation (spreading lies to intentionally hurt someone’s reputation) or encouraging suicide and carries a penalty of 2 years imprisonment.

How Far is Virtually Too Far?

This second type of virtual crime is much less concrete that the older anti-hacking laws simply because terms like ‘threatening’, ‘harassing’ and ‘offensive’ admit to a certain openness of interpretation. Unlike creating a virus that tries to steal users’ data (like credit card numbers and bank account details) from their hard drive, the effects of cyber stalking can be hard to pin down and their effects aren’t always as obvious as the case of the young woman for whom the law in Victoria has been named.

change.org logo

change.org logo

The recent death of an Australian celebrity which was apparently a suicide that was, at least in part, motivated by a bad reaction to cyber bullies, has once again brought the issue into the very public spotlight of the mainstream media. For the moment at least, this has put a very public face on the usually unknown victims of these crimes and has generated a huge amount of sympathy from the public that has seen over 40,000 signatures being added to a petition on Change.org demanding that the government and social media sites like Twitter take a stronger stance on cyberbullying. Of course the petition doesn’t have any concrete definitions for any of its demands and so it is really something of an empty gesture but at the same time it encourages us to ask where the line in the virtual sands lies between the use and the abuse of social media sites. At what point does sharp, stinging criticism become offensive harassment and exactly when does satire step over the line and become character assassination?

Because personal cyber-attacks come directly into the victim’s home via the web or their mobile phone it seems to share a lot in common with traditional domestic violence and for this reason the cyber specific stalking laws are amendments to the statutes that govern intervention orders. Generally, a transgression of acceptable cultural norms or a violation of another person’s rights in the form of indexed criminal behavior is a commonly accepted, although broad definition of domestic violence. Closer examination reveals that it is really a cluster or pattern of interrelated behaviors, which cannot only impact another person’s freedom and rights but also effect various aspects of physical health and emotional wellbeing and a comprehensive definition of domestic violence now includes all behaviors that exert physical force to injure, control, or abuse an intimate or family member, forced or coerced sexual activity, destruction of property, acts which threaten or abuse family pets, as well as nonphysical acts that threaten, terrorize, personally denigrate, or restrict freedom (Psychological Abuse in Violent Domestic Relations, edited by Daniel O’Leary, PhD, Roland D Maiuro, 2004). At the moment this defines behavior that would be considered to be cyberbullying or cyberstalking.

This implies that when your tweets shift from disagreeing with a point of view on some topic to making denigrating comments that refer to the person rather than what they have said that you may have strayed into cyberbullying territory. Similarly, stalking some celebrity or even just harassing someone that you don’t like via their Facebook page by leaving denigrating or purposefully damaging comments may be illegal and constitute a serious indictable offence regardless of whether you have any physical contact with the person or not. In addition, comments that you don’t consider to be offensive and which weren’t made with any intention of causing distress may be interpreted as being abusive by the person that receives them and, potentially, by the magistrate that they approach for an intervention order to make you stop making them. It is this uncertain level of interpretation that will continue to make these internet laws a point of public discussion for many years to come.

All of this also makes it a sure bet that the operators of the huge social media sites like Facebook and Google+ aren’t going to involve themselves in the social morass by taking responsibility for monitoring or removing any potentially litigious content until the definition of what is abusive on the web is much more clearly defined. In the meantime, as these issues become more commonplace it still may be alright to jump onto your friend’s Facebook account while he’s passed out to post embarrassing pictures of him, but don’t be surprised if he slaps you with an intervention order for your trouble.

 

References:

Facebook’s Decennial

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/02/03/facebook_10th_anniversary_social_network_turns_10_looks_back_at_its_history.html
http://www.dailystar.co.uk/tech/363872/FACEBOOK-TURNS-10-Here-s-ten-fun-facts-you-never-knew-on-Facebook-s-10th-birthday
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-04/facebook-turns-10-the-social-network-in-numbers/5237128
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook

Web 2.0

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0
http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/W/Web_2_point_0.html

Online Presence Statistics

http://www.reviewpro.com/reputation-research-statistics-2767
http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130604134550-284615-15-statistics-that-should-change-the-business-world-but-haven-t

High Tech Crime

http://www.afp.gov.au/policing/cybercrime/hightech-crime.aspx

Criminal Code Act (1995)

http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2012C00776/Html/Text#_Toc339546822

Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Act 2011

file:///C:\Documents%20and%20Settings\D%20G%20Mattichak\My%20Documents\Downloads\11-020a.docx
http://www.justice.vic.gov.au/home/safer+communities/crime+prevention/bullying+-+brodies+law
http://www.findlaw.com.au/articles/4793/cyberstalking-and-the-law-.aspx

Charlotte Dawson Cyber Bullying Petition on Change.org

http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/the-australian-government-charlotte-s-law-tougher-cyber-bullying-legislation

Psychological Abuse in Violent Domestic Relations, edited by Daniel O’Leary, PhD, Roland D Maiuro, 2004

http://books.google.ca/books?id=pv6XIjT4MpUC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

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Layering Social Conventions on Facebook

Middle-Finger-1

Communications in the Digital Age

I had the experience of being formally ‘unfriended’ on Facebook recently and it gave me pause for thought about the way that social media has changed the way that we interact with people in the Digital Age. While the naysayers and luddites trumpet on about the internet having a degenerative affect on our social skills, this incident showed me that, in fact, quite the opposite is true. Facebook has added layers of complexity to our basic relationships that its designers doubtlessly never dreamt of as being a part of their user experience.

In many ways, this act of unfriendliness demonstrated how much the internet has added to our social interactions in microcosmic form. The trouble all began when I made a new friend. Seemingly, this is an innocent enough thing to have done. I first met the new friend on Facebook and we later became acquainted in meat-space and our cyber-friendship evolved. The problem with this was that a certain faction among my old friends harbored animosity for the newly acquired acquaintance which simmered away until it finally reached a zenith of social necessity.

It seems that the catalyst that finally necessitated the drawing of cyber-battle lines revolved around the evergreen motive for online hostilities (at least in the uber secretive world of arcane occult societies)- the publication of an image on a website. As I happened to be the designer of this particular piece of real estate in the blogosphere, I was approached to remove the offending picture. My reply was, that while I was the web designer I was not the webmaster and their request should be directed to the owner of the website. Apparently, inflammatory e-mails were exchanged like cannonades across the void of cyberspace and, after these opening hostilities, ambassadors were sent out to inform all of the parties not directly connected to the conflict between the two warring states, but who have pre-existing diplomatic ties, exactly which side they are not on. And so it was that the embassy from one side delivered my “unfriending” in a formal manner so that I could be made aware of the general disapproval in my choice of associates.

In synopsis; the “unfriendly” notification informed me that the “unfriender” (let’s call him ‘the party of the first part’) had had a very nasty message delivered via his inbox from my webmaster friend (hereafter referred to as the party of the second part) and, as I was the obvious connection between them (I still don’t quite know how when this is actually a squabble between witches and I am not, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever want to be a witch of any description whatsoever), that I (referred to as ‘the party of the third part’) was to be banished from the part of cyberspace currently under the control of the party of the first part (and their immediate associates). I know- it is complicated from where I am looking at it too.

Unfriend

One Less on Facebook

Now, I have been “unfriended” in the past but the process is generally not so formal. The usual practice, as most of us would already be familiar with it, generally involves being deleted quietly from someone’s friends list and barred from having access to the private information and innermost thoughts that they post for 1 billion people to read on the web. This added facet to the “unfriending” process at first seemed like a call back to the schoolyard where your 3rd grade buddy told you that he couldn’t be friends with you anymore because the cool kids said so (it is also kind of like the way that your buddies’ spouses tell them not to go to the pub or play the horses with them anymore). Obviously, the “unfriender” could have just clicked on the delete button and been done with it but taking the time to send me a note to inform me of my impeding state of “unfriendedness” implies a deeper communication (unless the cool kids got to him).

This added layer of intention is a part and parcel of the social media experience and has fundamentally changed the way that we interact socially. In the dark ages before the interwebz (yes there was such a time), nobody would write somebody a nice note to tell them that they had decided to scratch their name out of the rolodex. Communications with people that you had chosen to “unfriend” tended to fall into one of two categories; legal proceedings or death threats. Nobody’s mum made them sit down and write the kid down the road a nice note to say that they weren’t allowed to play with them anymore- you just avoided them at the pub and stopped answering the phone when they called.

Dislike

When will Facebook add this essential function?

The separation afforded by the internet has made it possible to add a layer of complexity to the process of dumping someone from your birthday party invitation list. It allows you the comfort of being able to let them know exactly which character flaws you cannot abide, express your disappointment in their life choices and still maintain the mask of regret at having to sever ties, creating an image, at least internally, that you have done everything possible to save the relationship with an otherwise irredeemable rogue. Not only is this process of justification a salve for your conscience but it allows you to cut off the party of the third part on your own terms- or so you think anyway.

Where, except on Facebook could social interactions develop such levels of complexity?

How to Unfriend Someone on Facebook- Mashable

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The Opening Salvos in the Election of the Next Wizard of Oz

Unless you live in The Land Down Under you are probably unaware that Australians will be called upon to exercise their democratic right to elect their next Fearless Leadership to sit in the (somewhat) hallowed halls of the Parliament on 7 September. Our duly elected overlords have been softening the populace up to the idea since the beginning of the year when then Prime Minister Julia Gillard (remember her? me either) announced the auspicious day as 14 September.

A Political Sacrifice

Winning the favor of the voting public

Since then Julia has become the former PM and the former PM Kevin Rudd (of Kevin 07 fame) has been reinstalled in the top job (it isn’t as confusing as it sounds) after a “Night of the Long Knives” during which the shadowy men in grey suits of the Australian Labor Party sacrificed Ms. Gillard on the Altar of Political Propriety in an effort to reinstate their previously high popularity with the electorate in the face of the rapidly approaching Day of Reckoning. This sacrifice was held to appease the Kraken beast of poor performance in the Polls of Public Opinion and, in the time honored tradition of the Westminster Parliamentary system, the party threw the sacrificial victim into the volcano to gain the favor of the gods so that the people would love them as much as they had once done.

Almost the first thing that the new PM did was to announce a new election date and kick off the 2013 Labor campaign in earnest. His opposition in the upcoming bout, Tony Abbott, seemed reasonably ready for this turn of events and pushed the start button on the Liberal’s efforts to win government in response. With the armies of the two opponents assembled on the field they drew the battle lines by informing the Australian public of the important issues that they would debate in the coming weeks and the battle commenced.

What This Election is About

Rudd vs Abbott

Rudd vs Abbott
photo- Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Both leaders began by telling the voting public what the upcoming election will be about- which is handy because we thought that it was about the economy (or at least 38% of us thought that it was kind of important to debate). In fact, according to Kevin, the election will be about a “New Way” in government that moved away from the “wall-to-wall negativity” that has been dominant. Meanwhile, the Fearless Leader (FL) of the Liberals told us that it is “not about Mr. Rudd, it’s not about me, it’s about you” (I think that an ex girlfriend said that to me once).

So now that the issues have been made so clear to me, I settled in to watch my fourth favorite spectator sport (behind cricket, Formula 1 and Australian Rules Football), politics. The opening salvo was fired on both sides when the protagonists met for the first Leaders’ Debate at the Press Club. In this opening round, the two leaders really didn’t say anything new and really limited themselves to squaring up to the opposition and testing his defenses. In spite of what they both said, the election will be decided by the economic policies that are put forward and the track record that both parties have accrued.

Show Me the Money

In the red corner (Labor), Kevin has the strong Australian economy and a less fascist approach to dealing with refugees that arrive here (but only slightly left of the Liberal Fuehrer). His weakness is his record of being hard to work with and for making unilateral decisions. In the blue corner (Liberal), Tony is strong on rhetoric and focused on finding fault with the government’s current efforts but has a fiscal weakness that can only grow into a serious debilitation unless he explains how he is going to slash taxes and still pay for everything (without slashing social services to do it).

Kevin veritably beams as he says the words “Triple A Credit Rating” and the clouds part as the Light descends from the heavens and angels trumpet him in his glory. Tony grimaces at this same phrase; in the current global economic situation it is tantamount to a Political Weapon of Mass Destruction (PWMD). His feeble efforts to remind us that Kevin took the nation from a surplus (i.e. we had money in the bank) to a $250 billion deficit are drowned out by the national pride at having a better credit rating than most of the Western World. The reality is that they are both right and they are both wrong.

The surplus that Tony keeps banging on about was achieved through the sale of the national telephone network, Telstra, which was in itself a major disaster for Abbott’s predecessor John Howard (George Bush’s arse kissing buddy who was dubbed a “Man of Steel” by George Dubbaya for jumping striaght into the War on Terror in 2001). Kevin’s AAA credit rating came on the back of a mining boom that was fortuitously timed to offset the crashing global economy and which is now winding back as the orders for Aussie minerals goes into decline in a recessive world economy. So, in the end, they are arguing about money that they don’t have to spend anyway.

Same Sex Marriage and Other Social Media Driven Policies

The Simpsons Same Sex Marriage

Even Homer’s on board with it

Another formidable weapon in Rudd’s armory is his announcement of a conscience vote on the issue of same sex marriage. This issue is currently accounting for a large percentage of the newsfeed on most social media sites as countries around the world pass laws to recognize these unions. It is such a contemporary hot button topic at the moment that Obama cites it as a major ideological difference between his government and the policies of the Russian president Putin. With that kind of exposure it is an issue that already comes with a highly polarized and focused support mechanism that any politician that is worth his salt would try to leverage.

Apparently Tony isn’t on Facebook very often because in his words same sex marriage is “an important issue, but not the most important issue” and he vaguely promises to put it on the table at some time in the future.  On the other hand, Kevin’s finger is on the pulse of the people when he promises to put his conscience vote to the Parliament with 100 days of being reelected. This exposes the real weakness that is endemic in the Liberal camp with handling social media and the internet in general while Kevin is obviously more tuned in to the pace of cyber opinion. He also understands the widespread feeling that Australia should be a part of this modern zeitgeist by being at the forefront of these sorts of sensible libertarian movements, rather than following the lead of other countries.

Refugee Boat Welcomed by the RAN

The Royal Australian Navy Welcomes Some New Visitors
photo news.com.au

Another issue that has social media working against both sides is the stream of refugees that arrive on Australian shores every week. As of April 10 this year there had been 75 boats carrying 5031 asylum seekers that had arrived illegally in Australia. That amounts to about 15,000 refugees arriving here every year which, when compared to the 60,000 that apply for asylum in the US or the 300,000 that arrive in European countries every year is quite small. In fact, according to the UN, Australia accepts only about 3% of the asylum claims made in industrialized countries and that the levels of refugees arriving here remain very low in comparison. The issue of their illegal status is also Liberal bunkum as Australia is signatory to the UN Refugee Convention that makes it legal for people to enter a country to seek asylum regardless of how they arrive.

This works against Tony and the Liberal Nazi Party and he is constantly beating the “Stop the Boats” drum even though it is physically impossible to do anything to curtail the exodus of refugees. When asked how he will stop them he has no answer and that is because it would be illegal for him to send them away. In the red corner, Kevin is talking tough about setting up refugee camps in Papua New Guinea, but this is just an obvious band aid solution that will be dropped like a hot potato as soon as the Labor Politburo is back in the driver’s seat. The reality is that they are arguing about something that neither of them has any control over (again).

Taxes and More Taxes (but Never Less Taxes)

Tony Abbott in the Ring

Tony Takes One on the Chin

Neither leader wanted to discuss the details of their tax plans in the opening round of the great bout. Abbott claims that he will scrap the carbon tax while Rudd points a finger at him and accuses him of planning to raise the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Of course the voting public of Australia understands that he is a Liberal and so when he gets into office he will tell us that it is just too impractical to unwind the carbon tax now and so we will be keeping it. Liberals have developed a habit of turning about face on their policies that they use to get themselves elected when faced with the economic realities of governing.

He has also proposed that he will scrap the current government’s National Broadband Network (NBN) scheme and implement his own which, he claims, is $60 billion cheaper. Again, Tony’s inability to understand the cyber age that he lives in has led him to make a bad call as millions of Australians see a future with dial up internet speeds interfering with the live streaming of their favorite American television shows. At the same time Kevin has inherited the much publicized NBN scheme which is popular with voters (because it will improve the quality of their television streaming experience) and so this is another area where Labor seems to have the upper hand.

The pillars of every good election campaign season are education, health and aged care. Apart from telling us that his government wouldn’t be able to afford to help us pay for the education of our children with plans to scrap the Schoolkids Bonus which effectively adds between $400 and $800 to the tax bill of families for every child that they have in school. His reason is that “we just can’t afford it” and he assures us that he is being “honest and upfront” about it. Giving him a mandate to govern on that basis really just opens the door to further social welfare cuts that we “just can’t afford” if he becomes PM. Neither side wants to discuss the ins and outs of their funding plans for aged care which begins to beg the question of “can we afford to get old?”

The State of Play

Kevin on the Comeback Trail

Kevin on the Comeback Trail
photo: news.com.au

When Kevin Rudd executed his coup in late June, the Gillard Labor Government was in dire straits in the opinion polls. This was largely due to the impasse that was created by the formation of the minority government after the 2010 election that made her dependant on three independent Members of Parliament to pass her legislation. It was partly due to her ineffectual style of leadership that continued to allow the Rudd splinter faction to conspire against her. At the same time Tony Abbott has droned on with the same slogans for years and this has created a public image of him as a naysayer who has been reduced by his years in the political wilderness of the opposition benches to opposing everything just because that’s all that he’s got.

Since the Night of the Long Knives in June, Kevin has rallied from the lows of Gillard’s alarmingly low 29% approval rating to a respectable 50% (it was as high as 52%) while Abbott can rally only a meager 34% . Of course this is not about electing the Prime Minister and the two party preferred polls show that the opposing sides are now running neck and neck. The Rudd factor has brought the Labor Party’s election hopes back from the dead (much like Kevin himself) but it has only leveled the playing field.

That is only Round 1 and as we approach the designated day there doubtlessly be a number of gaffes and contradictory statements made by both sides that will ultimately decide the difference between them. Kevin Rudd needs to convince that he can maintain a steady hand on the tiller as he guides the nation through the treacherous waters of the delicate state of the world’s economy while still providing the services and support that got his party elected in the first place (more or less). Tony Abbott has to convince us to trust him in the face of his lack of exact figures or concrete policies. So far the most amusing thing to come out of the campaign is Tony Abbott’s words of wisdom; “No one, however smart, however well-educated, however well experienced, is the suppository of all wisdom”. We can only hope that there is more high quality campaigning like that over the next month.

The Election Debate

Abbott & Gollum Meme

Tony’s Largest Obstacle
photo: Facebook

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-12/leaders-release-surprise-policies-during-election/4879798

http://au.news.yahoo.com/election/a/-/article/18453916/leaders-debate-election-2013/

Refugee Statistics

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1295782/Asylum-seekers-Where-Australia-stands

http://www.news.com.au/world-news/ten-myths-around-asylum-seekers-arriving-on-boats-in-australian-waters/story-fndir2ev-1226676024840

http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/ois_rfa_fr_2012.pdf

http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Asylum_statistics

The Polls

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/poll-delivers-another-crushing-blow-for-julia-gillard/story-e6frg75f-1226668492405

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-23/newspoll-shows-labor-support-receding-after-rudd-bounce/4836658

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