Hacker News, XahLee.org, and What is Politics?

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Today, i noticed that one of my article http://xahlee.blogspot.com/2010/03/why-emacs-is-still-so-useful-today.html on my blogger site (xahlee.blogspot.com), is linked as a news entry on Hacker News site: news.ycombinator.com .

[see Why Emacs is Still so Useful Today]

Note that my site XahLee.org was unceremoniously banned around by the admin geekers there, sans any involvement of me. (see bottom of: Ban Xah Lee). But, apparently, someone found my article interesting. Now, in order to submit my articles, you'll have to use my article mirror at xahlee.blogspot.com instead of xahlee.org.

Tech Geeker's Ignorance of Politics

The human nature of power struggle never ends. Many of these tech geekers think they are apolitical, that they are peace loving, they ride bikes not driving machines that pollute, they don't have interest in business, they embrace the Free of “freedom” Software or Open Source of “openness” software. The problem of human animals is that, most of us are not consciously doing “evil”, we all think we are the “good guys”, yet, power struggle or the formation of politics isn't something you consciously decide to do. Rather, it is something that you unconsciously do whenever you have interaction with peers, and resources are not infinite, interests are never 100% compatible. At the basic level, you have quarrels with ya brothers about toys, in high school about seats, girls. Going up a bit, you have all these teens, gamers, tech geekers, shouting, kicking, banning, in all sort of internet forums, irc chat rooms, mailing lists, virtual world areas in gaming. Going up, you have managers fighting in corporations, politicians pissing at each other, leaders warring among nation states. Note the word PEER here, because, you are out of the game with those who are much more powerful than you, and similarly, you can't be bothered by those far beneath you.

Of course, the tech geekers all think they are fair, just, maintaining peace. But you can almost see the smug on their faces whenever any of these “admins”, “group owners”, “sysops”, “operators”, exercise their power. It is a basic human pleasure to force onto uncooperative others. [see What Desires Are Politically Important? (by Bertrand Russell)]

Serious fairness and open policies never actually come up unless the community becomes large, larger than the original special interest clique. Before the group becomes large, typically their political structure is academically called oligarchy. i.e. basically whoever started the group, his cronies, rule.

We all understand conscious power struggle. However, it is when we think that we are not doing politics when exercising our power, is when it is likely most damaging, with respect to human progress. (the subject of human progress, its ideal direction, goal, is itself is quite not agreed upon among historical figures (big philosophers, politicians, leaders, etc.).)

Part of the problem is ignorance. Most tech geekers, those coders, engineers, type of folks, typically don't have much education or interest in social sciences. Few years ago on irc channel, i was ranting on the subject of politics, due to some difference of opinion on tech stuff, and learned, rather not surprisingly, that one of the guy don't understand that politics essentially means power struggle. Most tech geekers think that Politics is what politicians do, that it is something about rulers, about bad ass evil lords, ambitious guys, Napolean, or about controversial subjects, back stabbing, cloak and dagger, and isn't about, say, admins or policies in some online forum.

What Is Politics?

Here's some Wikipedia quotes from Politics:

Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to behavior within civil governments, but politics has been observed in other group interactions, including corporate, academic, and religious institutions. It consists of "social relations involving authority or power"[1] and refers to the regulation of a political unit,[2] and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy.[3]

Political science, the study of politics, examines the acquisition and application of power and "power corrupts".

It quotes this juicy quote:

“Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” — Ambrose Bierce[15]

I much prefer older edits of Wikipedia's opening paragraph. Here's few excerpts

Politics consists of "social relations involving authority or power"[1] and refers to the regulation of a political unit,[2] and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy.[3]

In a broader sense, any situation involving power, or any maneuvering in order to enhance one's power or status within a group, may be described as politics (For example, office politics).[3] This form of politics "is most associated with a struggle for ascendancy among groups having different priorities and power relations."[4]

And here's a point-blank shot:

Politics is who gets what, when, and how. — Harold Lasswell