Hackers, Pirates, Brats

The Afghanistan Wikileaks story has gotten progressively more interesting in the weeks since it broke.  Initial critics rightfully blasted Julian Assange’s outfit for endangering the lives of those who have collaborated with NATO forces.  When prompted in a July 28th  interview by Today‘s Merideth Vieira, the Australian-born Assange admitted (to his credit) the possibility that further killing could result from his leak campaign.   So in an effort to save lives from American “murder,” as Wikileaks alleged in their famous Apache helicopter video from earlier this year, the once prodigy hacker and his crew have wrecklessly endangered the lives of others.

The leaks also have the secondary effect of making cooperation with American forces less appealing to any potential partners in future conflicts.  For this, some observers have concluded that Wikileaks is basically an enemy of the United States.  Its no coincidence that Iceland happens to be a base for the site or that Pirate Bay, Sweden’s ridiculous information liberators, have extended a hand of complicity to securely host the leak documents.  It would seem silly to think that Scandinavians have been conspiring in enmity against America, but such a postulation is not far off the mark.  In terms of international relations theory, these countries are known as freeriders.  Iceland is a quintessential case.  During the Cold War, America operated bases there and since that time, Iceland’s military has been virtually nonexistent.  So its not surprising that there has come to be such contempt for the military, or the idea that outside of their sheltered paradise, there exists a brutal world that sometimes necessitates the use of force.

Swedish pirates and Icelandic scofflaws are just the tip of the iceberg of today’s self-indulgent wannabe hacker heroes.  Recall the modern day anarchist, who instead of hurling a bomb like a good nineteenth century revolutionary, thanked today’s finest industrialist by hurling a pie in his face.  This was the case for Bill Gates when he visted Belgium in 1998.  So if you aspire to invent new technologies, increase worker productivity, and bless humanity by single-handedly launching an information revolution, not only will governments seek to double tax your earnings and capital gains, you should also expect occasional vollies of pie as your just dessert.  While Assange aspires to liberate secrets from the vaults of the state, those like Pirate Bay seek to terminate copyrights and all intellectual property protections.  To these starry-eyed warrior geeks, no secret is worth keeping, and all information should be freely accessible.  But if we compelled all computer code to be open-source or all pharmaceuticals researchers to immediately disclose their formulas, the only ones who would produce these goods for us would be the spoiled hacker types who do this stuff on their spare time.  They have no comprehension of economic utility or value, or their necessary relationship to work and sacrifice.

Perhaps these hacker pirates are best seen as little leather-clad Neos who feel they have moral license to run around with their figurative guns blazing, reducing Agent Smith’s marble lobby to flying chips and plaster.  In a top-notch piece by the Christian Science Monitor, former CIA officer Jerrold Post explains that the same psychological motivations of spies holds true for the Afghanistan Wikileakers.  While some people betray secrets for money or sex, others are motivated by ideology or ego.  And whether we consider the American private who initiated the leak or Assange and Pirate Bay who obliged, its the confluence of ideology and ego that satisfies these bored, ungrateful, uncomprehending brats in their quest for significance and belonging.  How sad it is that so much energy and talent of youth are poured into counterproductive and downright dangerous channels.

Bootstraps versus Knapsacks

The California state budget fiasco has afforded me some free time recently, so I’ve been doing some spring cleaning.  Among the relics I unearthed from recent months were the collected handouts for a class  on race taught at my church last year.  It was a sad reminder that leftist agitprop had infiltrated the Sunday classroom.  I mean no disrespect for those who earnestly pursue God’s will in matters of race and justice.  Yet,  the ideas propagated in those papers and discussions contribute to an unhealthy, counterproductive worldview.

One particularly troubling area of the race curriculum is its prescribed journey from bootstraps to knapsacks.  Since I first encountered these two concepts in the same context, they have always seemed at odds.  Bootstraps and knapsacks are mutually exclusive; people tend to love one and hate the other.  In one corner is the classic “up by the bootstraps” idea that hard work begets success in America.  As an alternative, progressives offer the red pill notion that any comfort, success, and prosperity are owed instead to an “invisible knapsack of privilege.”  No, you can’t make this stuff up.  The  idea originated in the 1980s with feminist Peggy McIntosh.  Now if you take success and prosperity to be synonymous with  being white, you have the original gist of the knapsack.

McIntosh’s personal revelations notwithstanding, I find the knapsack lacks effective explanatory power from where I stand as a mixed race, conservative man in a tremendously free and prosperous society.  I find it more relevant to look at success in America as a general whole rather than assume that success is the exclusive reserve of some monolithic group called  “whites.”  Yet knapsack proponents are eager to showcase McIntosh’s writing as a contrast to bootstraps in the hope of inducing an aha! moment that race is integrally relevant to American success.  Any serious-minded person who encounters these two tangling visions must decide which one will ultimately color (no pun intended) their own life at the everyday level.

In their existential tendencies, knapsack and bootstraps could not be more divergent.  In spite of its good intentions, knapsack supplants bootstraps’ twin senses of gratitude and agency with a new malaise of victimhood and guilt.  In doing away with bootstraps, knapsack denies us the ability to thank our parents, ancestors, and even our Creator for their respective roles in contributing to our current comfort and success.  From its secular Leftist roots, knapsack can only give us an impersonal, monolithic explanation that oppression is the true father of our prosperity.  Its as depressing as when Luke Skywalker discovers that Darth Vader is his dad. Progressive Christians mean well when they attempt to carve a path for American repentance, but they damage worldviews when they uphold knapsack and dismiss bootstraps.  American history is marked more by opportunity than by oppression.  But supposing the facts to be in dispute, such an assertion would be better defended in a separate post.  Existentially, bootstraps thinking cultivates an “attitude of gratitude” that in turn nurtures desire for stewardship. This then necessitates individual accountability, and all three of these are integral to Christian living.  Knapsack, however, turns us to navel-gazing and perpetually renewed  calls for dialog that might make good sound bites but do little to effect meaningful change.  Instead of attending ponderous powwows that reinforce progressive dogmas, Christians sincerely pursuing what is right and good should look critically at knapsack thinking and reclaim as their own the virtues of the bootstraps ethic.

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