Thursday, May 31, 2012

Good Deal!

On Tuesday afternoon, playing around with Pandora on my new Kindle Fire, I decided to set up a "station" centering on Earl Scruggs, who died two months ago at 88 but who remains one of my all-time favorite musicians. The only time I ever saw him live was also the first time I attended a musical performance that wasn't somehow related to classical music.

It was in Asheville, NC in the fall of 1963, I was eleven years old, and the events of it are shrouded in layers of retelling and remembering, so I don't know what the real truth of it was. What I seem to recall is that, by the end of the performance, there were as many people on stage as in the audience. Scruggs and Lester Flatt kept recognizing people in the audience and inviting them up--and all of them seemed to have come prepared, having hauled guitar, banjo and fiddle cases with them. It's likely they did ask a couple of people up, something they apparently once did quite regularly, but I doubt it was the way I remember it that night.

Anyway, Pandora "suggested" Scruggs before I was done typing, but also Scruggs, Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs. As I've been a Watson fan almost as long as I've been listening to Scruggs (Skaggs is a bit of a johnny-come-lately to this crowd), I clicked OK and got a set commencing with a collaboration amongst the three of them. "Good Deal!" thought I, remembering back to the title of my first Doc Watson album, bought in 1968 or 1969.

Though Watson grew up in the same area as my mother, I never had encountered his music before then. My mother, herself a classical musician, looked down her nose a bit at the mountain music. My grandfather, though, had probably heard Watson himself when, as a very young man, Watson played on the streets of Lenoir, my mother's home town. After all, my grandfather was an insurance agent and he made it his business to be often out mingling, talking with people, learning who was who and who needed what.

My grandfather was from Wilkesboro, about the same distance from Watson's home town of Deep Gap as Lenoir is, though in a slightly different direction. My uncle now lives in North Wilkesboro. When I was visiting him a few years ago, I was surprised to find that he was quite familiar with Watson's music, having forgotten all about MerleFest, the bluegrass festival Watson started and named after his late son and performance partner. It takes place in Wilkesboro.

When I first listened to Good Deal!, I was struck by the clarity of Watson's music. He was doing something a little different from Flatt & Scruggs or Bill Monroe or the Stanley Brothers. His wasn't quite the bluegrass of the time but somehow reached back a little further while keeping the sound quite modern. Unlike Carter Family recordings or others of the old-timey tradition preceding bluegrass, there was nothing dated about Watson, though I felt a connection that was missing in a lot of other contemporary mountain music. It was as though Watson was able to unmuffle the sounds of the past, making them the sounds of 'today.'

I never really thought of Watson as a guitar virtuoso (he was, of course, but that seemed a minor part of his art) but as that rare artist who really can, as Ezra Pound demanded, 'make it new.' Virtuosity itself pales against that sort of real creativity.

After listening to the Pandora "station" for a time while I read, I clicked over to The New York Times. I saw, of course, that Watson had died that day. He was 89.

He did the best with the hand he was dealt, and dealt the rest of us an even better one.

Rest in peace, Doc Watson. I hope you and Scruggs are off pickin' together somewhere.

Good deal!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sixteen Tons

Anyone with an Appalachian background understands the references in the old Merle Travis song (made popular by Tennessee Ernie Ford) "Sixteen Tons":
You load sixteen tons and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt;
Saint Peter, don't you call me, 'cause I can't go:
I owe my soul to the company store
Until the triumph of the unions (though maybe it's not so different, today), the mountains, like much of the southeast, were controlled by big companies... and not just coal-mining firms. Agriculture, cotton and furniture milling... if there was money to be made from it through the use of cheap labor, it was made.

The companies expanded. It wasn't enough to simply under-pay workers, but new ways of making profits off of them were found. Towns were built for them to live in, Kannapolis, NC being one of the best known and, perhaps, one of the best.

Though occasional companies towns were comfortable and made to improve worker life, most were neither. To make matters worse, many of the companies which owned the land and everything around, found they could make even more money by making it impossible for their workers to buy anything but that offered in company-owned stores. They could do this in a number of ways (included credit on harsh terms), but the most common was through payment via 'script,' company-issued notes redeemable only through company outlets and for company goods. Sometimes companies even 'did good' by this, offering items at reduced prices to their workers. Often, however, it did not work this way.

Appalachian literature is permeated by tales of lives warped by the systems of what amounted to bondage--and it is not too much of a stretch to blame at least a part of mountain poverty on it. The system, even though it could sometimes work well, wasn't tailored by and for the worker but for and by the company. This weakness ultimately led to its misuse (if "misuse" were ever not a part of it) and, ultimately, to its destruction. As time goes on, putative goals and real goals become increasingly separate and their differences more and more apparent. As time passed, no longer was it possible to convince the workers that the towns were established for their own good by those who knew best.

I was reminded of this when I woke this morning and clicked on a Diane Ravitch blog post. One of her readers, in a comment to an earlier post, had referenced "Sixteen Tons." Ravitch then makes an oblique comparison between the 'company store' and charter schools:
in the case of charters, now the fad du jour, it hands children over to wealthy benefactors or corporate interests. I don’t mean to suggest that either wealthy benefactors or corporate interests have evil intent, but that their interests may not coincide with those of parents and the community. Public schools are an instrument of democracy to the extent that they maintain a vital connection with families and their community.
This is exactly what happened with the company towns of the mountains and elsewhere. When the interests are not those of the people, eventually something will come about that does not coincide with the interests of the people. Democracy did not exist in company towns, and it will never be found in company (I mean 'charter') schools.

And democracy, we all would agree, is the only thing that can sustain us over the long haul.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Stopping Wildlife Poachers Isn't Easy and Can't Be By "Us"

The elephant that charged me.
During my Peace Corps years in Togo, I lived on the edge of a wildlife preserve called Le Fosse aux lions. Created out of what once had been twelve villages, by 1988 (when I arrived) it was the home of a herd of about forty elephants. My experience with one of them led to my essay "Elephant Morning," which led to my editing One Hand Does Not Catch a Buffalo, a collection of more than seventy pieces written by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who had served in Africa.

In 1995, five years after my Peace Corps tour ended, I returned to Togo to attend a wedding. In the meantime, I soon learned, all of those magnificent elephants had been killed and the twelve villages re-established.

Today, in The New York Times, Elizabeth Bennett of the Wildlife Conservation Society writes that all it takes to preserve wildlife is the commitment of resources and willingness to support security measures. She writes:
Until we provide the resources and security to safeguard the world’s great natural treasures, populations of great apes and countless other species will slowly wink out across the world, and our awe-inspiring natural heritage, the product of millions of years of evolution, will continue its slide into oblivion.
It's not quite so simple, unfortunately.

Leaving aside for a moment the neo-colonialist "we" of one addressing a rich audience in the ultimate metropole, Bennett blithely ignores the greatest reason for wildlife destruction and lack of security for it: national instability. Le Fosse was well-protected by Togolese government agents until the central government virtually collapsed in 1991. At that point, the people who had been removed from their homes so that the park could be created found guns (from Ghanaian relatives across the border, I have heard), killed the elephants, and re-built their villages.

No matter how much "we" spend now, no matter how much security is in place today, wildlife will never be protected effectively over the long term by "our" efforts alone. Real protection requires stable governments with iron-clad means for transitions of power. Until these are in place, everything else simply delays the destruction of the wildlife to the time of inevitable political collapse.

How can this be changed? How can stability be achieved?

First, "we" have to stop thinking about what "we" can do for "them." Political stability and protection and wildlife are going to come when the local population desire them. "We" cannot impose either on "them" effectively from outside.

The government of Togo established the fosse without consulting the people in the villages that were destroyed. The desire was to please foreigners and to promote tourism. This led to a disconnect between the government and its park and the people living around the park--and a great deal of anger. The surrounding villages had to absorb the population of the razed villages, straining area resources, making everyone poorer, though the government claimed that the resulting tourism would make them all richer (it did not).

Only if there had been a government in place whose first responsibility was to the people it governed, a government that consulted the population and actually listened to it and worked with it would it have been possible to save the elephants of northern Togo. No amount of "resources and security" from outside can provide that. The same is true everywhere. Until the local people actively support protection of wildlife, no lasting protection will ever be established.

There's nothing "we" can do to change that.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why We Spell Things the Way We Do

I had reason, recently, to think back on Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, particularly about the final scene on the merry-go-round or, more formally, the carousel.

That reminded me of the old carousel that used to sit diagonally across Surf Avenue from the Cyclone roller-coaster. It is gone now, but I loved it as long as I could, finding any excuse for taking a child upon it, reaching out for the brass rings and listening to the calliope as we spun around it.

One time, I asked the man who ran it (his retirement, I later learned, led to its closing) why, out front and above the entrance, the word "carousell" had that extra "l."

"The sign painter was paid by the letter."

He turned away and collected the next fare.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Full-Length Mirror of Philip K. Dick

Ending today, Simon Critchley has presented a three-part series on Philip K. Dick's Exegesis on the Opinion page of The New York Times. As I have used Dick's writings to illuminate points in each of my books on 'new media' (this, this, and this), in my book on home viewing of movies and even in my one on Quentin Tarantino, I was particularly interested to read what Critchely has to say.

Critchely concentrates on post-1974 Dick and, particularly, on the Exegesis, the thousands of pages Dick wrote over the last eight years of his life in an attempt to come to terms with himself, the world, knowledge and belief. He writes of Dick's view of what he was doing:
In a later remark in “Exegesis,” Dick writes, “I am a fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist.” He interestingly goes on to add, “The core of my writing is not art but truth.” We seem to be facing an apparent paradox, where the concern with truth, the classical goal of the philosopher, is not judged to be in opposition to fiction, but itself a work a fiction. Dick saw his fiction writing as the creative attempt to describe what he discerned as the true reality. He adds, “I am basically analytical, not creative; my writing is simply a creative way of handling analysis.” 
What struck me as I was reading this is that Dick's philosophical work certainly does extend far beyond the Exegesis but that it is rather unfortunate that it is this later, unpublished and unpolished work that draws most attention today.

Dick's consideration of the problems (and his struggles with them) posed in the Exegesis started early in his career. In the second of the installments, Critchely writes:
In the very first lines of “Exegesis” Dick writes, “We see the Logos addressing the many living entities.” Logos is an important concept that litters the pages of “Exegesis.” It is a word with a wide variety of meaning in ancient Greek, one of which is indeed “word.” It can also mean speech, reason (in Latin, ratio) or giving an account of something. For Heraclitus, to whom Dick frequently refers, logos is the universal law that governs the cosmos of which most human beings are somnolently ignorant. Dick certainly has this latter meaning in mind, but — most important — logos refers to the opening of John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the word” (logos), where the word becomes flesh in the person of Christ.
Even as early as Time Out of Joint (1959), Dick used the concept of "the word" as the heart of "reality," exploring its relation to received "truth" and our desire to believe. It also has a great deal to do with the idea of the mask, a concept whose implications reverberate through quite a bit of Dick's fiction.

Critchely concentrates on the gnosticism of the Exegesis in his series. In the third installment, he writes:
If you think that there is a secret that can be known that they are hiding from us and that requires the formation of a small, secret sect to work against them, then you have entered into an essentially gnostical way of thinking.
For Dick, as he explores what "they" are, what "hiding" means, what "us" is, what "secret" implies, and much more through his great novels of the sixties and seventies, gnosticism is a means of organization in face of worlds that consistently dissolve into chaos.

The Exegesis, while a stunning attempt at... something, is not the whole of Dick, or even the best of him. It's merely an attempt to finally come to terms with impossibilities that he had been exploring since his first sale, "Roog" (and his first published story, "Beyond Lies the Wub"), where nothing is quite as it appears. Dick himself liked to quote from Gilbert and Sullivan, "things are seldom what they seem, skim milk masquerades as cream."

Rather than starting with the Exegesis, if one is not already familiar with Dick's work but doesn't yet want to attempt the fiction, I would suggest turning to "How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later," a talk he gave in 1978. In terms of the fiction, the best starting point is probably his Hugo-winning The Man in the High Castle, though almost any of the books after that (not including VALIS, which is closely related to the Exegesis) could be a reasonable place to begin. The books are often confusing but, then, they are not meant to provide easy answers.

My favorites of Dick's novels are, probably, Confessions of a Crap Artist and A Scanner Darkly. The former isn't science fiction at all, and the latter is probably Dick's most depressing--and optimistic--book.

Dick may have considered himself a fictionalizing philosopher, but he was also a story-teller, and a damned good one. It is through his stories that his ideas are best approached. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Victorians on the Subway

A couple of years ago, when we moved even further out in Brooklyn from the City Tech campus downtown, I decided I needed something of a project for my two hours daily on the subway. Reading the books I had skipped over... hmm... sounds good. I have a potpourri of nineteenth-century novels I had never gotten around to.

The first was Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. From there to Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence (not nineteenth-century, of course, but set there--I had not yet developed any sort of plan but was doing no more than picking books off the shelf). Next came Anthony Trollop's The American Senator--and I decided I was ready for George Eliot. Middlemarch proved much more interesting than ever I would have expected (I had never cared for the one of her books I had read, The Mill on the Floss), so I followed it with Adam Bede, which enthralled me.

At that point, I realized I was establishing a pattern--and decided to go with it. The Victorian novel (loosely speaking) would become my subway reading fare. Dicken's Domby & Son, Thackery's Pendennis (among others), and I was on my way. Though I had studied Victorian literature in graduate school, I had merely followed instructor directions, never striking out on my own. Now, I would let serendipity establish the direction within the novels of the era.

My little stack of Victorians is wearing thin, however, and I began to worry what to do when it was finished. Martin Chuzzlewitz remains, a couple more Trollope and Silas Marner. Oh, and Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White. But not much more.

Fortunately, just as I was finishing Pendennis, my wife finally convinced me to buy a Kindle Fire.

Which I did, and immediately started loading it up with free books from Amazon and from Gutenberg.org. Among them are more Thackery, among them The Newcomes and the novel I am reading now (and am embarrassed to admit never having read), Vanity Fair. When I told a colleague that I was loving the idea that I was reading Vanity Fair on the subway, hidden on my Kindle, she looked at me, puzzled. Then it dawned. At first, she thought I was speaking of the magazine.

Suddenly, I have a wealth of reading material, much of it so gripping that it is disorienting when I have to pull myself from the fictional worlds or miss my stop.

The digital revolution may have killed the book, but it certainly hasn't hurt the novel.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Stephen Glass's Ceiling

When I teach Introduction to Journalism, I always show Shattered Glass, the 2003 movie about New Republic staff writer Stephen Glass who was discovered to have fabricated quite a number of stories--or parts of stories--over his short career. I don't show it simply as a cautionary tale, but because the movie details so well the processes of story creation and fact-checking, processes that Glass was able to manipulate so masterfully. Until it all fell apart, that is.

Somewhere along the line, I bought a copy of Glass's own fictionalized book about the scandal, The Fabulist. Until recently, I had never bothered to read much of it: I couldn't get beyond the little comic set-pieces or the sterile stereotypes. You could see the talent that made Glass's pieces in The New Republic popular, but also that this is a writer with all the depth and complexity of a clear pane of glass. Knowing the story, in other words, it is too easy to see right through him.

Yes, Glass's name makes it too easy to joke, to play on it--which is exactly Glass's own problem: he's a master at just that sort of wordplay. He's amusing in a facile sort of way and you want to root for him and his stories as a result. But, when you realize that he's simply doing the same thing over and over again, and that the only point to it is 'Look at me, I'm Stephen Glass,' you begin to get tired of it.

This week, I finally sat down and read the whole of The Fabulist, finishing it this morning. It was a peculiar experience, something like watching the film of a train wreck. Not the wreck itself, but someone's imagining of what we in the audience think a wreck should look like.

Glass doesn't try to inform or explain, but to imagine his readership and how they must see Stephen Glass. He then plays on that (when he's not sidetracked into his little comic sketches), completely sidestepping the greater topic that could have made this into a searing novel, the place of culpability in contemporary American society. Instead of a sweeping book, this one becomes small. At one point, he writes:
I was, and am, so sorry for how I hurt them. It pains me to even think about it. I apologize now: an insufficient apology, I know, to substitute for the one that should have come so long ago, and never did. I want to offer it even though I understand it will afford little comfort to the people I wrote about. (299)
This is someone, clearly, who has no real clue about the complexities of human interactions, who still believes that contrition can be sufficient--even while claiming to know that it is not.

Glass, now a lawyer, is trying to gain admittance to the California bar. He has not succeeded, so far, though it looks as though he finally will. I don't see why anyone would object. Though he is myopic, focused only on himself, he still could probably be an effective defense attorney, turning his considerable skills in availing his clients of every possible avenue of defense.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The School of Teaching Without Teaching, Part II

This morning, before leaving for school, I responded to Thomas Friedman's piece in today's New York Times. I wrote quickly. Though today is "reading day" before final exams, I am responsible for a good deal of advisement and needed to get to the college so that I can talk to students face-to-face. As a teacher, that's an important part of what I do, both in and out of the classroom.

It astonishes me just how little value is placed, in American society, on the personal interaction between student and teacher. Students crave it; even when they don't use it, they demand it be there. Time after time, we see that the most successful teaching occurs when teachers have substantial direct personal contact with students. That contact is not just in lecture halls (though that can be a small part of it) or even in offices. It is in the hallways, dining rooms, club meetings... in the dozens of small daily interactions that can lead to discussion and the sparking of interest.

We forget that the first great teacher in the Western tradition, Socrates, succeeded through discussion, not presentation, through challenging his students and responding to them.

With the advent of mass media through Gutenberg in the 15th century, teachers gained their first great tool since the days of Socrates, the mass-produced book. With copies cheap and easily produced, the book allowed teachers to expand their repertoire far beyond their own expertise, making reference and research possible for all students, not just the elite with access to what had been rare (and small) libraries. The book did not lessen the need for teachers. If anything, it expanded that need, for more people now demanded education. With books available, they wanted to know how to use them.

Only the rare person is a true autodidact. Even that person, though they may gaining learning while alone, gathers in knowledge created by others. No one starts from zero and recreates knowledge on their own. What books were (and are) good for, and what digital tools help with today, is access to the knowledge that came before. What the writer does, or the creator of the digital "courses" Friedman lauds does, is organize that knowledge and, perhaps, move it forward just a bit. But this does not constitute teaching, though it does provide opportunity.

Opportunity of this sort is only rarely taken advantage of by the individual alone. Few of us have the will and desire of Frederick Douglass, one of the only people successful in taking control of his education before it had really started happening and deliberately making others into his teachers:
The plan which I adopted, and the one by which I was most successful, was that of making friends of all the little white boys whom I met in the street. As many of these as I could, I converted into teachers. With their kindly aid, obtained at different times and in different places, I finally succeeded in learning to read. When I was sent of errands, I always took my book with me, and by going one part of my errand quickly, I found time to get a lesson before my return. I used also to carry bread with me, enough of which was always in the house, and to which I was always welcome; for I was much better off in this regard than many of the poor white children in our neighborhood. This bread I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge.
That dedication to the gaining of knowledge is unusual. From the very start, most of us need interaction with educated teachers who are focused on the task of instilling within us that desire to learn that Douglass evidently had by nature. Most of us need help in becoming learners, and that help can't come from books or digital platforms alone.

The belief that students all bring desire to learn with them, that everyone wants to learn, is mythical for all that it is pervasive. It is part of what Philip K. Dick is making fun of in that passage from the fictional The Grasshopper Lies Heavy that I quoted in the first of these two posts. The "kits" that Dick writes of are available, and have been available, for centuries--world wide. They are "books." Yes, they are still rare in some places, but they can be found everywhere. Those who want them, do find them, but most don't bother. Most of the time, the "kits" remained unused--or are used for other purposes (book pages, of course, make adequate toilet paper).

When the kits are used, when they become effective, is when they are augmented by real teachers, when it is realized that the kits are not now (and never have been) substitutes for the actual act and art of teaching all by themselves.

As I said at the start, it is "reading day" here at City Tech (or, as the students have started calling it, "C-Tech"). If the students are reading, it is because of a teacher--or even to spite a teacher. It is not happening simply because books (or even computers) happen to be lying around.

School of Teaching Without Teaching

In her novella Wise Blood, Flannery O'Connor has character Hazel Motes create the Church of Christ Without Christ. Thomas Friedman has apparently joined its contemporary offshoot, the School of Teaching Without Teaching. Certainly, he sounds like a true believer.

Friedman, and all those people at Stanford, MIT and Harvard (to mention just a few) who are touting new technological platforms that can offer "courses" to something like 100,000 people at a time also believe that they are seeing (and participating in) something new. In terms of education that can reach huge audiences, we've had a means for years: books. Though books alone have rarely proven sufficient for education, they have certainly been the sole tools in many cases--just as these online "courses" can be. In terms of technology, all that's being done here is creating digitally what experimental psychologists were creating half a century ago--but those today are doing it without the knowledge the psychologists were bringing to their projects and (more importantly) without having looked back to try to understand why those psychologists, almost to a person, abandoned the idea of focusing education primarily on teaching machines and programmed instruction. They didn't give them up completely, but learned that education requires a great deal more than technology. For most of us, it requires teaching--not just the "learning" that someone can do through books or computers.

One is not teaching when talking to a camera or when preparing a series of assignments and evaluations. One is abdicating from the hard work that is necessary on one side of the education equation. One comes to believe that technology alone is sufficient.

In my 2008 book Blogging America: The New Public Sphere, I wrote:
The point is that technology alone has no impact. It needs understanding, acceptance, and a place in a plant towards a goal.
It almost seemed, though, that the nation came to believe after the war that technology alone could solve any problem. But many, even in the fifties, of course, did recognize the weaknesses of this view, and understood that industrial might alone would not prove sufficient (something else many Americans had come to believe in the wake of World War II) to improve the world. Among these was Philip K. Dick, whose 1963 novel The Man in the High Castle contains within it pieces of a science-fiction novel by a character created by Dick. One of those passages goes like this:
"Only Yankee know-how and the mass-production system--Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, the magic names!--could have done the trick, send that ceaseless and almost witlessly noble flood of cheap one-dollar (the China Dollar, the trade dollar) television kits to every village and backwater of the Orient. And when the kit had been assembled by some gaunt, feverish-minded youth in the village, starved for a chance, of that which the generous Americans held out to him, that tinny little instrument with its built-in power supply no larger than a marble began to received. And what did it receive? Crouching before the screen, the youths of the village--and often the elders as well--saw words. Instructions. How to read, first. Then the rest. How to dig a deeper well. Plow a deeper furrow. How to purify their water, heal their sick. Overhead, the American artificial moon wheeled, distributing the signal, carrying it everywhere [...] to all the waiting, avid masses of the East."
Today, there are still people who have such idealistic visions... such as Nicholas Negroponte, with his One Laptop Per Child project. They forget that it is not technology alone that drives cultural change or creates new worlds, but the interaction between the old and the new--or between, to use the image created by Henry Adams, the dynamo and the virgin. (119-120)
Friedman titles his piece "Come the Revolution." A better title might be "These Aren't the Droids You're Looking For."

[I added a second part to this after arriving at school. It can be found here.]

Monday, May 07, 2012

For the Joy

The road makes me weep:
Dark are its signs and markers;
Harsh are its seasons.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Perhaps It's the Terms that Are the Culprits

An Australian musician named Dan Beazley has written a nice essay on music "piracy" that reminds me once again how we have allowed corporate copyright defenders define the debate over "intellectual property." Beazley writes:
Music fans who colonise the world wide web have embraced the remixing, curative, collaborative and sharing capabilities of Web 2.0 Technologies. They are motivated to take part in the frenzies created by community influencers intent on selling their sense of cool to gain social capital and present a self interest. While this free access to online music has lead to a surge in copyright abuse by these online communities, who the recorded music industry have labelled ‘pirates’, the value generated by allowing the message to be curated specifically for each community out ways any negative effect. While these virtual communities are often blamed by the industry for the drop in profitability of recorded music, the unbounded nature of the internet has also heralded the savior of an industry whose dominance in public consciousness and of the public’s purse, is dwindling. For the music industry it seems that piracy is not the problem, its the answer.
Though "outweighs" might be preferable to "out ways" (I can't help pointing it out--after all, I'm an English professor), Beazley's point is spot on.

Perhaps if what the corporations call "piracy" were referred to more often as "liberation," we could further right the debate. Beazley's use of "unbounded" is key here: our conception of creative products as "property" has led to a fencing in of what could be an abundant commons where all could share in the tremendous ensuing creativity (the creative artists most of all, believe it or not). "Liberation" itself has been unfairly tarred over the past few decades; perhaps a deliberate change in terms can alter that, as well. The type of ownership that has been extolled so heavily (more than ever since the Reagan "revolution") is meager and limiting, stifling both the present and the future and benefiting only the few instead of allowing the "property" to give to the whole (which would not even hurt the few--this is not a "zero-sum" game).