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The New Year and the Bend of the Arc

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As we begin 2017, there is something I’ve been thinking about, that I’d like for you to consider for the new year. It starts with a famous quote, the best-known version of which is from Martin Luther King, but which goes back to the transcendentalist Theodore Parker. The quote is:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

In the main I agree with that quote. There are things about it, however, that I think many of us elide.

The first is the word “long.” I think both Parker and King understood that moral endeavors can be measured in years, decades and sometimes centuries. This is not an argument toward complacency; indeed I think it’s an argument against defeatism and fatalism in the face of setbacks and stalemates. We live in moments and days and it’s often hard to see past them, and it’s easy to believe when we are struck a hard blow that all is lost. All is not lost. The arc is long. Nothing is ever fully decided in the moment or the day. There are years and decades and sometimes centuries yet to go. The arc continues to bend, if we remember that it is long, and that we need to imagine it extending further.

We need to imagine that because of the second thing: The arc is not a natural feature of the universe. It does not magically appear; it is not ordained; it is not inevitable. It exists because people of moral character seek justice, not only for themselves but for every person. Nor is the arc smooth. It’s rough and jagged, punctuated in areas by great strides, halting collapses, terrible reverses and forcible wrenching actions. There are those, always, who work to widen the arc, to make that bend toward justice as flat as they can make it, out of fear or greed or hate. They stretch out the arc when they can. If people of moral character forget the arc is not ordained, or become complacent to a vision of a smooth, frictionless bend toward justice, the work to flatten the arc becomes that much easier.

Right now, today, here in 2017, there are those working very industriously to flatten out the arc. They have lately seen little penalty for their hate, or their dissembling, or their disdain or greed; they have contempt for justice other than a cynical appreciation of its features when and only when it is to their advantage; they don’t care for anyone or anything outside the close horizon of their own interests. They have won a moment; they have won a day. They will try to win more than that, now, however they can, flattening the arc with hate and fear and greed.

On this day, in this year, in our time: Help to bend the arc back.

As you do, there are things to remember.

Remember the arc is long. It’s not one moment or one day or even a year or four years, even when that moment or day or year seems endless.

Remember the arc is not inevitable. It needs you. You are more important than you know, if you don’t give in to despair, to complacency, or to apathy. Add to the moral weight that bends the arc toward justice. You can’t do it alone, but without you the work becomes that much harder.

Remember that those who are working to flatten the arc hope you give up and give in. They are relying on you to do just that. Disappoint them. Disappoint them in big ways. Disappoint them in small ways. Disappoint them each day, and every day, in all the ways you can. Do not consent to this flattening of the arc.

Remember finally that this arc toward justice never ends. We are human. We are not perfect. We will not arrive at a perfect justice, any more than we will achieve a perfect union. But just as we work toward a more perfect union, so too we bend the arc toward justice, knowing the closer we get, the better we and our lives are, as individuals, as communities, as a nation and as a world. This is a life’s work, not just work for a moment, or day, or year. You won’t see the final result. There isn’t one. It doesn’t mean the work doesn’t matter. It matters. It matters now. It matters for you. It matters for everyone.

It’s a new year. There’s work to be done. I hope you will do it, and that you find joy in the work.

Happy 2017.

See you on the arc.


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revgeorge
338 days ago
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Canton, MI
sstrudeau
346 days ago
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Brooklyn, NY
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satadru
340 days ago
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Shorter Obama Farewell speech, basically.
New York, NY
superiphi
344 days ago
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He's right though - check 1916-2016. More rights for more people. Even with the horrid blips on the way
Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
LeMadChef
350 days ago
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Scalzi - ever the optimist. :-)
Denver, CO

What are we but a fire?

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An excerpt from Elisa Chavez’s poem “Revenge” in the Seattle Review of Books:

Since you mention it, I think I will start that race war.

I could’ve swung either way? But now I’m definitely spending
the next 4 years converting your daughters to lesbianism;
I’m gonna eat all your guns. Swallow them lock stock and barrel
and spit bullet casings onto the dinner table;

I’ll give birth to an army of mixed-race babies.
With fathers from every continent and genders to outnumber the stars,
my legion of multiracial babies will be intersectional as fuck
and your swastikas will not be enough to save you,

This is a powerful poem, and I laughed out loud so hard to the “This is a taco truck rally and all you have is cole slaw” line.

Tags: Elisa Chavez   poetry
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revgeorge
346 days ago
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Canton, MI
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swcope
326 days ago
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Beautiful!
North Carolina
superiphi
344 days ago
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"You brought your fists to a glitter fight"
Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
marmalade
344 days ago
Thank you for sharing.
emdot
346 days ago
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Brilliant.
San Luis Obispo, CA

By compartment in "2,864,974" on MeFi

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"What Would Change Your Mind About President Trump?"


  1. Release meaningful tax records

  2. Release meaningful health records

  3. Promise that he is not using psychoactive drugs

  4. Actually divest; do not run afoul of the emoluments clause

  5. Full accounting of overseas business relationships, debts, etc.

  6. Do his job without the help of his children

  7. Sincerely denounce white supremacists, white nationalists, KKK, neo-Nazis, and the alt-right

  8. Demonstrate that he understands what consent is, what sexual assault is, and demonstrate that he sincerely regrets (for the appropriate reasons) his history of assault and harassment

  9. Acknowledge that it was unprecedented in American history and completely inappropriate for a presidential candidate to threaten to investigate, prosecute, and jail his opponent

  10. Acknowledge that anthropogenic climate change is real

  11. Acknowledge that science is a good way of understanding reality in general

  12. Acknowledge that the job he is about to take requires a degree of self-restraint; demonstrate that self-restraint

  13. Sincerely apologize for mocking a person's disability

  14. Sincerely apologize for incorrectly asserting that thousands of Muslim Americans celebrated 9/11

  15. Sincerely apologize for calling an entire group of people rapists and murderers

  16. Sincerely apologize for mocking John McCain's time as a POW, and acknowledge that his comments effectively disparaged all POWs

  17. Sincerely apologize for mocking the parents of a dead soldier

  18. Sincerely apologize for proposing an immigration ban on an entire religion

  19. Acknowledge that there was no widespread voter fraud in the election, and sincerely apologize for stoking fears based on wild conspiracy theories

  20. Sincerely apologize for lowering the standard of discourse in American politics

  21. Condemn Russia's human rights record

  22. Commit to a no-first-strike nuclear policy, which would be unprecedented but also prudent and appropriate given his past comments regarding the use of nuclear weapons

  23. Demonstrate a sincere and nuanced belief, grounded in facts and reflecting some amount of deep thought, about literally anything real and of actual substance that pertains to his job as president

  24. Stop tweeting like a maniac

  25. Speak coherently



I had also included specific recommendations like, "rescind impending appointment of ExxonMobil CEO to secretary of state," but those actions are of a different variety. (Although they do reflect symptoms of the larger problem). There is no model for any presidency like Donald Trump's anywhere in modern American history. He can propose a bunch of specific policies that I love — Medicare for all! Public land protections! — but none of this would change my mind about Trump.

He is fundamentally different, and the problems are bigger than just policy.

The ways in which Trump are fundamentally different represent real and genuine threats to meaningful self-governance in this country. No amount of good policy will undo those threats. Good policy proposals will change my mind about Trump's policy positions, but they will not change my mind about Trump himself.

In an earlier election thread, we discussed the remarks of former Justice Souter about civic ignorance and how a democracy dies. I think it is worth quoting Souter here:

You can't keep [a democratic republic] in ignorance. I don't worry about our losing republican government in the United States because I'm afraid of a foreign invasion. I don't worry about it because I think there is going to be a coup by the military as has happened in some other places.

What I worry about is that when problems are not addressed, people will not know who is responsible. And when the problems get bad enough, as they might do, for example, with another serious terrorist attack, as they might do with another financial meltdown, some one person will come forward and say, "Give me total power and I will solve this problem."

That is how the Roman republic fell. Augustus became emperor not because he arrested the Roman senate. He became emperor because he promised he would solve problems that were not being solved.

If we know who is responsible, I have enough faith in the American people to demand performance from those responsible.

If we don't know, we will stay away from the polls. We will not demand it. And the day will come when somebody will come forward and and we and the government will in effect say, "Take the ball and run with it. Do what you have to do."

That is the way democracy dies. And if something is not done to improve the level of civic knowledge, that is what you should worry about at night.


Souter's remarks about Augustus describe someone exactly like Trump. "I alone can fix it," he said during a scripted speech at the Republican National Convention. This was not some off-the-cuff word salad. This is his actual message.

Donald Trump is different because he represents the elevation of civic ignorance as a virtue. His campaign represents a true contempt for meaningful debate. The constant theater of insults has diminished the body politic's regard for facts, reality, nuance, and self-reflection. In short, there are two things that could change my mind about Trump:

1.) It turns out he is a totally different person than all available facts indicate.
2.) I am severely mentally ill and have imagined all of this.

The Atlantic article is part of the problem. "It turns out he really doesn't order our troops to commit war crimes," will not change my mind about Trump. The fact that he has merely suggested that we should kill the family members of our enemies is horrifying. I mean, how is that not yet fucked up enough? When someone writes "I will change my mind if he doesn't commit war crimes" in a magazine like The Atlantic, civic ignorance takes another step forward, and democracy gets a little sicker.
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revgeorge
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RIP CityDesk

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Here’s a quick history of the technology behind Joel on Software.

Version one was on Manila, created by Dave Winer. Dave was the one who convinced me to blog, by blogging himself, and by creating what was, I think, the first public blogging platform at editthispage.com. My site was joel.editthispage.com and back in 1999 people thought it was pretty spiffy that you could get your own subdomain like that.

In order to use my own domain, I registered joelonsoftware.com and took an old IBM desktop computer (probably running Windows NT 4.0), shoved it in a closet, and ran my own copy of Manila. The first time Slashdot linked to me it melted down. We upgraded the memory from 256M to 512M and it recovered.

In those days all the cool kids wrote their own blogging platforms. I wrote CityDesk. In what turned out to be a monumentally wrong bet, I thought that people would want to blog on Windows, with all the slick WYSIWYG editing goodness that wasn’t yet available in early versions of HTML. CityDesk kept your entire website in a SQL database (Microsoft Jet, the backend of Access) and had a frontend like a word processor. Every time you needed to publish, it generated the entire site as a set of html pages, which it then uploaded to an ftp server for you. That worked “OK” for 10 pages. By the time this site was over 1000 pages, even on modern super speedy computers with flash drives, it took something like 5 minutes to publish.

Over the years the CityDesk code base (VB 6.0, another bad bet) stopped running on the latest versions of Windows. Nobody else cared but by that time I was using a custom version of CityDesk which only ran on Windows XP. So until recently, I had a virtual machine set up with Windows XP running in there, and a copy of CityDesk. That virtual machine runs on a modern Windows box which I don’t use for any other purpose, so it lives under a desk in a cave somewhere and I have to remote desktop into it. Lately, I haven’t been able to do that. I’m not sure why.

Doesn’t matter. Matt Mullenweg over at WordPress has been trying to get me to move Joel on Software over to WordPress for so long it’s not even funny. I finally gave in. An astonishingly talented group of people were collected who created the port you are looking at now. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Chris HardieSarah SemarkValerie KalantyrskiMichelle LangstonDaniel RobertJames Tien, and
Steve Seear for weeks of hard work on creating this almost perfect port of 16 years of cruft, preserving over 1000 links with redirects, hand crafting html and css to preserve awful formatting, some of which was created before CSS was in use, and doing some monumental heroics to keep just about everything about the old site in it’s new WordPress home.

I also want to thank our host Pressable.

OK, I haven’t blogged too much since getting a puppy and “officially” retiring on the tenth anniversary of Joel on Software. I won’t have too much time to blog now, either, but now that we’re on WordPress, it’s a million times easier, so I’ll probably throw up some things here that I’ve written anyway, like internal documents from Fog Creek and Stack Overflow.

See you soon!

 

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revgeorge
374 days ago
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By Freen in "Mega-City One or bust" on MeFi

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"If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he will eat for life. If you build a fishing robot, do we all eat or do we starve?"
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revgeorge
577 days ago
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Linux Journal | The Original Magazine of the Linux Community

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"What may be hardest for old-skool types like me to admit is that silos are now the preferred method..."
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revgeorge
682 days ago
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This will resonate with programmers of a certain age - ones that grew up on Slashdot instead of reddit
Canton, MI
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