Swatinem Blog Resume

The Problem with walled gardens

Mumblings about current events

— 13 min

Well, we live in exciting times! And to say the least, some of the developments are a bit disturbing. Some of the things have been developing for years and people didn’t much care about it.

# Exclusive Society

The way I see it, most of these things follow a grand scheme, which I would say is that society is getting more exclusive, by which I mean that exclusion, and excluding people is getting more commonplace.

There is the blatant example of individuals or groups of people being blocked or censored, companies refusing to do business with others, or the fact that we are being coerced into accepting terms and conditions which are troublesome, out of fear of being excluded from a service. Or trade restrictions that can even exclude whole countries from participating in the normal world as we know it.

If you think even further, we see that we have less and less control over the things we own. Increasingly, the world is relying on the cloud and services offered by it. When your mobile phone, or even your car is tied to some kind of online account / identity, it is not too far fetched that the hardware you bought for hard earned cash can be turned into an expensive paperweight remotely.

Not to mention this certain biological nemesis that can as well ostracize everyone who is not willing to comply with whatever is mandated.

# Laws and Justice

The thing is, we as people, and also companies and governments are well within their rights to do what they do. Or are they? No one can force us to be friends with someone who, for example, puts pineapple on pizza. A fancy-ass restaurant is not obliged by law to serve you if you come there without a shirt. A company is not forced to hire someone that is not fit for a job. And a company does not need to conduct business with everyone.

There are surely limitations, laws and so called terms of service, or codes of conduct. You know, those boring-ass legal documents that seriously no one ever reads. But you kind of have to "accept" them in order not to be excluded from a service. Those documents kind of state under which circumstances a company does business, or ceases to do business.

It is really interesting though that in most cases, the company that for example de-monetizes or outright censors or blocks a content creator rarely points to a specific reason for its actions. They just say its violating the terms of service and thats it.

Because there are things like anti discrimination laws. Remember when I said that a company can reject an applicant, maybe because they found someone who is better qualified. The company better not give any reason for refusing to hire that candidate. Because if the company says they refused to hire because the candidate likes pizza with pineapple, that candidate can sue the company.

The other way around as well. A company can fire someone for various reasons. However if they clearly say that the reason is that the employee eats pineapple pizza, things might end up in court.

Usually though, when one party decides to cancel a contract for whatever reason, there are laws that say under which circumstances that happens. In most cases, you have to have due notice. A landlord can’t just bring the eviction squad one minute after the rent is overdue.

The problem is that most of the service providers that we rely on do not really give due notice, they don’t have a formal process to contest the decision, and in general the decisions can seem extremely arbitrary.

Hey, maybe someone found out that the person in question likes pineapple pizza and they decided to just refuse to process payments that were made to that person or company.

So there are end-user, or business contracts, and laws that govern those. Maybe anti-discrimination laws make sure that a certain group of people is not being excluded because of some discerning characteristic. Maybe other laws say that certain people have to be excluded.

I am not sure about the details, but I think there are even essential services which are forced to serve you. For example, what if the postal service just refuses to deliver your mail, maybe because the mailman saw you eating pineapple pizza?

# Sovereignty of Nations

Also, we live in a globalized and connected world. And we also have a lot of business or other kind of relations that cross borders. Businesses want to exchange goods, etc. And there are international agreements and laws that say under which rules and conditions that has to happen.

Maybe a country mandates by law that there has to be pineapple on every pizza sold? A foreign company better put that pineapple on the pizza or otherwise they miss out on all the profit they might make.

Sure, there is a certain country in this world that likes to play world police, and tell other sovereign nations if, and how much pineapple there has to go on the pizza!

And sometimes there is disagreement and compromises. Take disputed borders as an example. Country A claims the border includes a pineapple plantation, while neighboring country B wants that pineapple plantation for themselves. If a multinational corporation wants to do business in both countries, they have to abide by the laws of that respective country. Which means that if you use for example an online mapping service of that company, it will show different borders depending from which country you use that service.

In reality, a company may be forced to censor certain content, or to fork over private data to government institutions or implement backdoors. Its just the way things work. If company A wants to do business and make profit in country B, they better make sure to hand over all the personal details of people who do not like to have pineapple on their pizzas.

Things get crazier when you realize that some of these conditions can prevent fair taxation of foreign companies, or prevent any kind of technology licensing, essentially keeping a whole country in the stone-age by refusing to share all the nice things with them.

Maybe a country just doesn’t want to respect international patent law, and with a bit of industrial espionage they can reverse engineer everything. Or maybe we finally see the value of having open standards that are not subject to copyright, patents or other kinds of restrictions.

The problem is. Countries have laws, and when the justice system and the courts decide that by law, it is not allowed to advocate putting pineapple on pizza, then a court order may force a company to cease to have business relations with other companies or people. But when a company decides this on itself, then its more like vigilantism.

We have armed people running around on the streets executing their own form of justice on others that eat pizza, with or without pineapple. These big oligarchic companies just became judge, jury and executioner. All based on their opinion on what belongs on a pizza and what does not.

Maybe the reason the courts are not working properly is because the justice system is overwhelmed with fights over patents and copyright claims?

# Propaganda and Censorship

Thing is. We put ourselves into this mess. We followed the smell of delicious pineapple pizza and didn’t even notice that we sold all our freedoms while munching on it. We ended up with this giant propaganda machine, that can just block and silence everyone who dare to speak against putting pineapple on pizza.

We don’t even know by which rules it operates. The thing we know is to better follow whatever they say, or otherwise fear losing your job, fear losing all your family photos that you have uploaded into the cloud, or fear being able to start your car.

If the machine says you gotta eat pizza with pineapple, you gotta do it and better fake that you like it, even if deep down you almost choke on it.

Remember the question: By which rules do those companies operate? At times it seems like they just follow the loudest mob. Just reverberate the opinion that will most likely make their share prices skyrocket, or will guarantee them the most profit.

The problem is that people are way too gullible to all this. Use the propaganda machine the right way and the people will actually demand that every pizza has to have pineapple. Just like we have to shut everything down and destroy the livelihood of a lot of people, and maybe even a lot of interpersonal relationships. Because propaganda made us believe that this is the only way.

And there will be zealots. I used to know a fanatic that literally said:

When I meet someone, I ask them what kind of pizza they eat. And then I decide if I want to be friends with them or not.

# Divide and Conquer

By now we have an extremely divided society, which likes to compartmentalize everyone. Interestingly, there is two categories here. Things that you were just born with, which are dictated by genetics, and things that are opinions, tastes and something that you chose to believe.

We know its not just to treat people differently depending on what combination of chromosomes they were born with. So why is it such a problem what kind of pizza people prefer?

It seems to me that some people are turned into radical fundamentalists. It is interesting that the terms "religion" and "evangelize" come to my mind. It is a bit similar I would say. You want to convince others of your choice of pizza. Because yours is the best, and all the rest are just garbage. If you have to, you will ostracize them, put them into jail or worse.

You are absolutely convinced that you are fighting for the good cause. That pizza without pineapple is the right thing to do and everyone who eats is with pineapple is committing a crime!

It is offending to you even existing in the same room as someone who prefers pineapple pizza.

So yes. We are living in an extremely divided society. The thing that I still haven’t quite figured out is: who benefits from this? Sure, in the current situation the one who can afford to get tested or vaccinated sure enjoys more freedoms than one who can’t. But I’m not sure if it is that simple. And even if it is, people are too busy arguing among themselves if they should wear masks or not.

Its also a bit comical how even the respect for laws and law enforcement personnel is eroded when you read about the police harassing little children and confiscating sleds. LOL.

# Privacy and Politics

The only thing that is really private to us, thus far at least, is our thoughts and minds. And we do need to share that. Because there is so much beauty, love, innovation, humor, and ideas in there. Some ideas may contradict your own. But thats okay. I laugh about writing this. But hey: It is okay to have different opinions! Except for what kind of pizza to eat! If it is the wrong kind, I will hate you and make your life miserable. Nah, just joking.

We need to have the freedom to express ourselves. To have a safe space to speak our mind. To challenge the status quo. To think outside of the box.

Do we live in a society where you must not defy the eternal leader, or otherwise fear death? Or do we actively encourage to be challenged intellectually. Maybe someone else has better ideas than I do?

Most of these things are opinions. And those opinions end up being policy and law. Because some time ago it was decided that some voted representatives will make a majority decision on this. This is what we call democracy. In some parts of the world, it works differently than in others. I don’t want to go into too much detail here.

Anyhow. One problem I see in politics is lack of privacy. There has to be some kind of transparency, yes. But on the other hand, when you can actually see online how each member of parliament voted makes it way too easy to coerce, blackmail, bribe someone to vote a certain way. Party discipline is a thing, and maybe someone doesn’t want to get kicked out of the club, so they better vote the party line even if their consciousness tells them otherwise.

We need to have secrecy of the vote also in parliament! Otherwise its just a joke.

# Conclusion

Well this has been long. And a bit emotional. Like I said, somehow we are more attached to the things we chose to believe in.

In general, I feel both quite chill, and afraid at the same time. So you say 1+1 = 3, or wait, is it 1+1 = 5. Doesn’t matter, just do your thing. (2 + 2 is 4, minus 1 thats 3, quick mafs!)

Its just that I’m a bit disappointed. We came quite far from darker times where you were discriminated against based on the skin color, genitalia, or a patch sewn on your jacket. While we are still far away from true justice, haven’t we learned anything? Why do we start start fights over wearing, or not wearing masks? Why are we even debating discriminating against people based on whether they are vaccinated, or not. Vegan or meat eater.

But you might say, I know that pizza with pineapple is better. It is the right thing to do! And it is okay to shove it down peoples throats who hate it. Because the ends justifies the means.

I disagree. And I live in a time right now in which I actually have to be afraid to speak my opinion. Shoving pizza down peoples throats is wrong! It does not matter which kind it is!

I do believe in freedom. Freedom to express an opinion. To not be censored and blocked for it. I might not agree with the opinions that are being expressed. But I do fight for the right of expressing those. Because I believe that is the right thing to do. And I do believe that it should be laws decided upon with a democratic process, enforced by courts, which decide what is okay and what is not.

Ordnung muss sein. ;-)

And we need to take back control over our services and our data. The big oligarchs literally have us by our family photos and means of communication. We need free and open networks, protocols, instruction sets, operating systems, devices, etc, etc. Federated, decentralized, peer-to-peer. With the right to repair, and to modify. To copy and to encrypt. It might be more work than just forking over the key to your lives to some private company, but it might just be worth it in the end.

Others may disagree.

Anyway, this really got a lot longer than anticipated.

So the real conclusion here is: I do like pineapple pizza. And I like to eat my Nutella bread with butter.

Why? you might ask. Why does it even matter why? I will ask in return.

I have friends who prefer it either way, and thats okay.