Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Why hippies should be blocked on FriendFeed

I haven't really delved into the "gay" discussion that's been ricocheting around, and if you've been blessed to have avoided it, sorry - the time has come to talk about it.

It all started here in this David Risley tweet, a tweet for which he later apologized:

Does anyone else think its kinda gay that Google used a comic to introduce Google Chrome? A frickin' comic?

FriendFeed exploded because of Risley's use of the word "frickin'." Oh, wait a minute, it was something else. Anyway, this particular comment caught the attention of a lot of people:

Simian: I think David needs to be sent on a trip to Berlin to study Germany's history and where it went wrong. The use of language against other people is horrible. I won't allow it to be used that way here. David is very close to getting a block. - Robert Scoble

Loren Feldman posted a video response, but also said the following in print:

Robert Scoble is dangerous because he’s an idiot, is afraid of language, and quite simply doesn’t have the brains to speak about anything of substance or importance. You can imagine my dismay when he tries to talk about the holocaust on friendfeed.

Now I haven't been to Berlin, but I've been to Mulhouse, a town in France. I talked about Mulhouse several years ago, but let me restate what I found there.

When I visited the Cité de l'Automobile in the summer of 2000, I saw a car created by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche:

The inventor and creator of the Volkswagen, a one Dr Ferdinand
Porsche, had his own office in the early 1930's "Porsche Buro" in Stuttgart Germany. He worked there alongside about ten other people as a consultant and engineer for other companies....[I]n early 1931 he designed car that had many of the features of the first Volkswagen. It had a very streamlined design a central frame with the engine in the back and independent suspension. The car was built by the mc-producer Zundapp who were planing to start car production at about this time. The first test drive of this car took place in 1932 but because of the demand for motorcycles Zundapp lost interest in developing the car any further. After this Dr Porsche was approached by another company NSU who had planned a small car with a 1500cc engine. The result was the 'Type 32'...however NSU then backed out of the project but several prototypes had already been built and tested.

So, what happened next?

By this time Hitler had gained power in Germany [and] Dr Porsche realised that his car was suitable for the new roads planned in Germany. In 1934 DR Porsche delivered a memorandum to Hitler where he promised to have running prototypes ready in 12 months. The time that followed was hectic for the Porsche Buro three test cars were built and tested in the autumn and winter. An extra 30 cars were then built by Mercedes-Benz and were inspected by state employed inspectors. The name of the car was then changed in 1938 to the 'KDF-Wagen' just before the car exhibition in Berlin. The name itself was taken from the slogan 'Kraft Durch Freude'. In Berlin Hitler announced that the Volkswagen, the peoples car, was finally finished . The building of the factory then began in 1938 but only a few civilian cars were built until production was altered due to the war.

And about that slogan Kraft Durch Freude? It was the name of an organization:

The NS Gemeinschaft Kraft durch Freude, the National Socialist Organization Strength through Joy, was a subset of the Deutsche Arbeitsfront, the national German labor organization. All members of the DAF were also members of the KdF, and as basically any worker was a part of the DAF, so too were they in the Kraft durch Freude. The KdF was essentially designed for the purpose of providing organized leisure for the German work force. Interestingly enough, the DAF calculated that the work year contained 8,760 hours of which only 2,100 were spent working, 2,920 hours spent sleeping, leaving 3,740 hours of free time. Thus the driving concept behind the KdF was organized "relaxation for the collection of [strength] for more work." The KdF strived to achieve this goal of organized leisure by providing activities such as trips, cruises, concerts, and cultural activities for German workers. These events were specifically directed towards the working class, and it was through the KdF that the NSDAP hoped to bring to the "common man" the pleasures once reserved only for the rich. By opening the door for the working class to easily and affordably take part in such activities, it was believed that the labor force could be lulled into being more flexible and productive.

And you can see how cheap cars fit into the equation:

Another major aspect of the KdF was the attempt to make the automobile a reality for as many Germans as possible. To this end, the world famous Volkswagon was created and and an extenisve system was setup to allow nearly anyone to purchase and own one. The Volkswagon (The Peoples Car) was extensively used by the German Wehrmacht in a military role also - the military versions of the VW are often compared not entirely without basis to the American Jeep.

Now to be fair, this wasn't the SS:

The KdF was never in any way a paramilitary organization like many of the other auxiliary groups of the period. It existed soley to provide pleasure and relaxation, initially to German workers and later to Wehrmacht troops a well. It's overall goal was to create and mold a controllable work force, but as a result it also provided millions of Germans with pleasures and rights never before experienced by the average person.

However, the Volkswagen wasn't available for all people, as Richard relates the story of how a 1938 KdF Volkswagen brochure made its way out of Europe:

It is a very interesting item and totally complete with it's customer order form and a lot of Official SS swastika stamps. It was obtained by a young German man who dreamt that maybe one day he could actually get a new kdF but never got as far as completing the application form. When the situation in Germany became increasingly uncomfortable, as I believe he was of Jewish origin, he decided to escape and being a car enthusiast even then, he made his way across Europe taking his brochures with him. He then managed to get a boat across to America and lived there for the rest of his life. I understand that he settled in New York State and when he died about 5/6 years ago, he left a massive collection of car brochures behind which were auctioned and some found their way to the UK. I bought it in 2003 from a UK dealer and it truly is a genuine original. There are reproductions around though, but as they were done in the USA, they lack the swastika images which is understandable of course!

Now after the war, the British Army started the Volkswagen production plants again, and eventually Germany began exporting the cars, and a new product of the company attracted a new breed of people:

The philosophy of the communal hippie was likely to be based, although sometimes inadvertently, upon some shade of Marxism. For this type of hippie, the Volkswagen Beetles and Busses which the "material productive forces" brought into being may have represented the final stage of capitalism, finally sounding the death knell to its alienating division of labor.

To understand why some hippies may have thought this to be so, one must understand both the commonly known and the lesser known aspects of Marxist thought (an oxymoron, I know). In Theory and History, Ludwig von Mises pointed out that for Marx, any new invention was to be celebrated because it brought us all closer to our inevitable destiny, socialism. For as inventions advanced the capitalist system, wage earners, according to the "Iron Law of Wages," would be ever more impoverished. This steady impoverishment of the wage earning class would lead to the ultimate overthrow of capitalism and the institution of a new classless society. This is the commonly understood version of Marxism....

Volkswagens were touted as "people’s cars" designed to be mechanically simple and reliable such that anyone with a basic set of tools could learn to be his own Volkswagen mechanic. This design philosophy fit well into the hippie philosophy of primitive subsistence, which was the necessary result of the hippie’s rejection of the division of labor.

But what of the unseemly origins of the car? Didn't matter:

The most interesting thing about VW is how it transcended its origins as a tool of the most ruthless regime in Western history to become so completely and utterly embraced by the peace generation. From a dogmatic standpoint this seems inconceivable, but in other ways it made perfect sense. Hippies had a proclivity for moving from place to place but had few resources. VW was the only manufacturer that provided camper versions of their products right from the factory, essentially making them homes on wheels. This, combined with the simplicity, efficiency, and ease of maintenance that VW provided, made a perfect fit with the flower child lifestyle. It turned out to be a match made in heaven.

So I guess it's OK to mention Volkswagens among the politically correct, but I had to wonder when I read this comment in a thread that I started (based upon the hypothetical question "I gotta ask - if Obama had selected Palin, wouldn't it be hailed as a bold, extraordinary choice?"):

What I can't figure out: why would anyone who supports religious censorship, book banning, oppressive theocracy and similar policies advocated by Sarah Palin and her fellow fundy cult members be attracted to Friendfeed and the Internet? - Sean McBride

And this comment:

Sean: there are plenty of fundamentalist Christians here. They might not self identify, but they are here. Back to my Berlin experience, many of those who did the same thing in Germany were educated. Who burned the books in Berlin? College students. - Robert Scoble

Now before I get too far ahead of myself, there is a difference between a government deciding what you can and cannot read, and an individual deciding what he/she will or will not read. The distinction needs to be made, since with Robert Scoble announced his intent to block David Risley, he was only speaking for himself.

But there have been others who have adopted a third way - a non-governmental, private initiative to use economic and other pressures to decide what you can and cannot read. And those people have not been exclusively members of the Christian Right. I don't think you can call Jesse Jackson a right-wing wacko:

Rev. Jesse Jackson is calling for entertainers to stop using the N-word....

The move comes one day after comedian Michael Richards appeared on Jackson's radio show to apologize for his racial rant last week....

Jackson says he plans to meet with TV networks, film companies and musicians to talk about what they can do to stop using the racial slur....

"We will challenge and urge all artists and comics to stop using this word," Jackson said. "What other group is subjected to such a degrading terminology?"

Hmm, let's see:

We plan to use three forms of communications to mobilize and win these battles. … Our mission is to get specifically selected groups of individuals to the polls to speak out AGAINST something. To that end, your money is best spent finding them and communicating with them on using the modes that they are most likely to respond to. Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them. The wackos get their information form [sic] the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet, and telephone trees.

So who referred to the Christians as "wackos"? For the record, it wasn't Sean McBride or Robert Scoble. It was Michael Scanlon...a former aide to Tom DeLay.

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