a dharma talk from Anonymous

As someone who has an interest in and has studied social change movements within the context of the social sciences it’s always interesting to note the way many of them develop over time.  Opinions and actions from the margins are what actually frame the larger scale social debates in societies even though they are rarely acknowledged openly. One cannot tell how big an issue is unless one seeks out or at least feels the influence of those margins.

The movement that has been labeled Anonymous is very diverse, has no unifying stated goals (except maybe lulz) and seems to embrace a huge spectrum of political opinion. The one thing that I can put my finger on about it is a certain amount of discontent with the status quo from a very small personal scale to a very large global scale.

imageBy and large religion is eschewed within the group as far as I have noticed unless it is for the purposes of criticism. This criticism has taken its most public form by way of of attacks and protests against Scientology (Project Chanology) and against the Westboro Baptist Church,whose website has been downed more times than I can count. The latter seems to be something of a sport similar to shooting at highway signs from moving cars.

This morning as I was scanning the Twitter chatter I came upon an interesting piece of writing which was an exchange of views between a couple of self-identified Anons about the philosophy of the movement. Buddhism was brought up. This is not the first time I’ve seen Buddhist principles discussed in these open memoranda or on Twitter or elsewhere but it is one of the more comprehensive.

It’s not for me to say if this constitutes Right View or anything else of that nature but it’s interesting to note that one can run into discussions of Buddhism just about anywhere.

The discussion began with @AnonyOps describing the non-unanimous viewpoint of Anonymous…that it is not a cohesive whole following any one particular line of thought or motivation. That is the encapsulation of the argument mentioned as being reposted below the response.

The most poignant line in the response comes at the end:

Everyone, you’re on your own, but let’s all try to act like we’re not.

Here is the exchange verbatim. From http://pastebin.com/xGdJDQ5N 

First, read this: http://pastebin.com/4vprKdXH (also re-pasted below)

@AnonyOps makes a good point, but it doesn’t go far enough in explaining the problem, or how to go about solving it. It’s certainly an astute observation about the perception of this context-less tide of individuals and small groups called Anon, acting in some vague sense of service to others; namely, that it doesn’t get recognized as such. Noble intentions are obscured by the sensational examples of mayhem that inevitably sprout within a movement characterized by such an undirected release of energy. It is driven more by an ideal, a system to fight against, an e-Mubarak, than a coherent agenda and resulting organized action.

First, and most obvious, an uncontrollable movement by unpredictable people wielding asynchronous power and talent (the last of which is mostly all that distinguishes Anon from the tea party rank and file; go figure) is both the scariest prospect and juiciest opportunity for cooption one could imagine, especially in fragile times like these. Evil peaks even as good rises to meet it.

However, much of the source of the problem @AnonyOps seems to resent is probably less malice than laziness, naivety, and conditioning to abandon nuance for drama. The disappointment is natural, the reaction to plead for clarification on non-Anon-unanimity ™ is useful, but to succeed, we need context.

And no one provides context like the Buddha. No, seriously, it’s really simple. A timeless spiritual tradition boils down to one thing: slowing the mind down to the extent possible, with stillness representing the divine. But, change is constant along this vast spectrum of speed, and everything that is happening now, each moment, with each of us, falls along this spectrum.

The way that energy affects matter, moving it between the 3 states we know so well, is a perfect metaphor for this all-important spectrum, and it is this metaphor which puts the current struggle of Anonymous, and the struggle of all dominated people, in crystal clear context.

When matter is a solid, lots of inertia. Think of a sleeping herd of cattle; dead weight. This is the worst possible situation. This is the nameless, barely-penetrable state against which Anonymous rebels, at widely-varying levels of self-understanding.

When solid melts into liquid, that energy finally begins to move matter around. More energy, less inertia; cattle begin to stir as they’re warmed by the first rays of sun. Sound like now? But! The liquid result is more unstable than it was, sloshing around shapelessly, lapping tiny tsunamis all over as it settles in the path of least resistance. Sound like now? Surely this is better than inertia, but it is, shall we say, ineffective even against the astonishingly few true common enemies of humanity. What a surprise.

The gaseous state of matter rectifies the drawbacks of liquid shapelessness. Like the (unfulfilled) Anonymous ideal, it cannot be destroyed, captured or controlled, because it fills all possible space immediately. In individual Buddhist philosophy, this steamy mental state simply means focusing on one thing at once with full attention, with calm, patience, determination, and most importantly, a broader desire to serve others, or at least do no harm to others as you help yourself, or execute a means to a noble end.

We’re individuals, and all of our civilizationary systems are ostensibly, but decreasingly, built on individual rights, freedom, and choice; we’re separate. Hence, in Buddhist terms, we live in a world of separation (from each other). And yet, most of us, deep down, know what Gandhi told a ‘depressed’ 1931 America via delicate transatlantic radio: there is some indefinable thing that pervades everything and connects us all. Many feel it though none see it. It is this unseen connection which makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that any of us perceive through our senses. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-Cc_9lKUHE)

Religion, blah blah blah, but really, the only remotely religious implication any of this paste has is that ultimately, though we die as individuals, we live together, and we are generally happiest when those around us are happy and safe. But assuming one can accept as truth that the current system seeks to divide us, and our task is to unite ourselves in well-meaning triumph, such acceptance implies and implores consciously attempting to follow something along the lines of the following principles:

1. Seek to act in ways that leave innocents unharmed. Why release bystander personal information for the rabble of exploiters when one could execute the hack to prove the vulnerability, warn all affected consumers and coordinate public embarrassment by the deserving target who left its stakeholders unprotected. This is easier than it seems, but it takes much more coordination than apparently exists now. By doing this, one puts others first, and it feels better to turn minions on masters than to punish minions for being minions, guaranteed.

2. Beware of trying to accomplish anything through tactics that harm others or generate negative emotions. Any darkness can be made light, so the negative solution, resorting to violence, is never necessary. Oppressors never look worse than when they crack down on peaceful protests, and never look or sound more justified than when they prosecute hooligans hurting innocents. Luckily, the vast majority of protests so far in this building crescendo of global revolution have been overwhelmingly peaceful. Despite the rushing release of rage, time is on our side.

3. The best way to ensure that energy can be released in effective ways is to slow down, do less out of emotion. It helps to realize that you are not your mind. Read that again. Think of your mind as a car you drive or a television you control by remote. It generates roads and channels, you dictate where you drive and what you watch. By slowing down, you can train your senses for optimal concentration and results, even while hax0ring. Most well-executed Anon publicity already has this element of thoughtful action, but most loic’ing and destructive ops, sadly, do not. It’s really something that only each individual can do, consciously, all the time, so this is probably the toughest nut to crack.

If you skimmed this, you didn’t understand it. Thanks for reading. Someone over my shoulder just said that some worthwhile coverage of the current mess in the bay area is being assembled by thenextweb, sf appeal, and the east bay express. Judge for yourself, and cultivate friendships with bloggers, so that you maximize the chances of true stories getting told. See? Connection is good.

Everyone, you’re on your own, but let’s all try to act like we’re not.

End of transmission.

Anonymous is not Unanimous.

Anonymous has a perception problem. Most people think we’re a group of shadowy hackers. This is a fundamental flaw. Anonymous is *groups* of shadowy hackers, and herein lies the problem. Anonymous has done a lot of good in just the past 9 months. It has helped with other groups in providing aid to people on the ground in countries where "democracy" is a bad word.
The mainstream media needs to understand that Anonymous isn’t unanimous. I’ve yet to see wide scale reporting make this distinction. A destructive minority is getting a majority of the press, while those of us who toil in the shadow doing good work for people at home and abroad go unthanked.
BART protestors didn’t spring up out of thin air this week. Protests against BART have been ongoing for years. Where’s the media coverage? If the media paid more attention to peaceful protests and general social unrest, I think hackers would be far less inclined to do things such as leaking data just to get the attention of the press.
Finally, hacking isn’t just about breaking into web servers and leaking data to the public. Far from it. Hacking is just as much about breaking out of things as it is about breaking into things. Hacking is lifestyle, and a mindset. It is about learning more about the technologies we use and social norms we are subject to.
Don’t let the actions of a few skew your perception of hackers as a whole.


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