The Reset Manifesto
CopyrightÂ© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac
“Peter’s greatest civic accomplishment was helping to establish Galileo Industries as an employee-owned business. In doing so, he saved the entire community.”
The minister looked a little puzzled when there were a few chuckles in response to that. There was nothing funny about what Peter had done.
Patricia and Charles, unable to help themselves, turned to look at the people sitting behind them. It was odd, but there was a look of amusement on the faces. What was so amusing about saving an entire community?
Professor Bowlings raised his hand. Confused, the Minister asked, “What?”
“That wasn’t his greatest civic accomplishment.”
“That’s right. That was the least of his civic accomplishments.”
Charles leaned over to Patricia and asked, “What are they talking about?”
There is an uneasy relationship between the government, the citizens of a nation, and the body of laws that constrain them. It is a collaborative relationship, in the sense that the government, the citizenry, and the laws work together for the betterment of all. It is a combative relation in the sense that each works to limit the power of the others. Too many individuals see only one side of the relationship: collaborative or combative.
From a collaborative perspective, it is governments that pass laws that promote a safe environment for the citizens. Laws against murder, theft, and assault create a healthy society in which people can be free of fear. Safety laws such as traffic laws, quality laws for food and medicine, and ecological laws against polluting improve the quality of life. The citizens enforce the laws upon themselves. Yet the laws provide a framework within which the citizens could define themselves.
From a combative perspective, governments pass laws to force citizens to do things which are not desired. Paying taxes and mandatory military service requirements are areas where citizens are sacrificing something, usually unwillingly, for the benefit of the whole. Yet citizens also direct the creation of laws that constrain governments. The need for a warrant to search a house, a fair trial, and other restrictions, prevent a government from dominating the lives of the citizens. Now the law can be seen as a constraint against which government and citizen seeks release.
The only power a government has over its citizens is the authority to prosecute and punish criminals. If there is a need to control a group of citizens, the government can pass laws that make them criminals and then use its authority to prosecute them.
However, the only power the citizens have over the government is to withdraw the authority to utilize its power. The citizens, as a whole, can say no regardless of what laws have been passed.
There is one other factor that comes into play in this triadic standoff. One tends to think of law as a single body of rules and regulations, but there are actually two bodies of law that are often contradictory to one another. There is the formal body of law, legal law, that is put into place through a government. There is a second body of law, customary law, that is put into place by the people. One sees that second body of law being exercised in modern times as ‘political correctness.’ There is no legal law against using pejorative terms and one can’t be arrested for it, but there is a social law against it and one can be persecuted for it. Use the N-word in public and you won’t get arrested but you might get fired from your job.
The last factor is that citizens are what make the body of a government. Remove the people from the government and there is nothing. A law can exist but without someone to enforce the law it is worthless. That is a point that is often forgotten by very important people. The ones who enforce the laws are also subject to those same laws.
When the Romanians rebelled under the communist rule of Nicolae Ceausescu, he declared them criminals and gave the order to the military to squash the rebellion. The military, an organization that is made of citizens who happen to work for the government, said no. In effect, they withheld exercising the authority to prosecute and punish the criminals. Suddenly, it was the communist government as embodied by the singular person of Nicolae Ceausescu who stood against the citizens of the country. He lost and the government changed. In fact, he lost his life.
It is when legal and customary law are in collision that the citizenry is most likely to tell the government no. Passing a law that makes it illegal to protest affects not only the guy on the street, but the person working for the government as well. If a policeman is unhappy with his pay, he wants to be able to protest for better pay. Passing a law over the objections of the people that made a huge proportion of the population criminals, including those who would be enforcing the law, was tossing gasoline on an already burning fire.
Protests against the law continued despite its passing. Where before the protests were to prevent its passing, the protests now were for its repeal. Despite the law, the police did not show up to stop the protests. The National Guard showed up to stop the protests but there were no arrests. They weren’t empowered to make arrests.
The government’s power was crumbling.
Peter looked at the email. It contained a simple little message, “I’m done.”
It wasn’t the first message of that nature, nor would it be the last one he would receive. It was the most important of them. It was the one that specified that the last major strut of an entirely new structure for power within the country had been completed. With a smooth flow of his fingers across the keyboard, he forwarded the attachment to Professor Bowlings.
He attached his thumb drive and downloaded the day’s data from his web crawlers and aggregation programs. It didn’t take long. Once he had the data, he removed the thumb drive. He disconnected from the remote computer and shut down the one on his desk.
He left the main office and went down into the basement into his SCIF. This was the room where the real magic took place. It was the repository for all of the social data he had been collecting. It was where the programs that were able to extract even more information from the data resided.
He put the thumb drive into one of the standalone machines and kicked off the analysis program. It was a simple program that went through the data checking to make sure there wasn’t anything malicious buried within it. Every day he found little gems that were designed to report on who was using the data. Of course, the machine he used to collect the data routed all cookies and trackers to /dev/null where they disappeared into the electronic ether.
Most of these little gems were essentially to track who was looking at what. There were some that were nastier. One that he was coming across more frequently tried to install software on machines that visited it. Depending on the program installed, the result could be extremely intrusive. One actually tried to install a keystroke logger. Another was designed to wait a period of time and then wipe out the user’s disk.
When he did come across one that was invasive, he blew away the website. He’d take it down and destroy all of the disk contents. He’d leave a little note that the website was shut down by AvengingAngel. Usually, he included the code that was present as an explanation of why he did it.
Today, there had been no surprises. He removed the thumb drive and plugged it into his main machine. He uploaded the data into his non-sql database and kicked off the analysis programs. It took some time, but the results were integrated into the historical data.
He started the program that would present the results of his social media data mining effort to track what was happening in the country. With so much data and so many topics to review, he had chosen to go with heat maps to show what was happening and where it was happening. The cool colors of blue and green meant there was nothing going on. The hot colors of orange and red meant that things were very active.
There were major protests all along the East Coast, North, and Midwest. He split the heat map by subject area of the protests. Most were against companies. A few were against the government. He changed the filters again and saw that the vast majority occurred without permits. The interesting thing was that three weeks ago, none of them had permits. Local governments were moving to support the protesters. It was a major shift from what had been happening.
There were boycotts all over the country and they were just about equally distributed based on population. These were not quite so cohesive in terms of what was being boycotted. Different products were targeted in different areas. The boycotts were mostly against food brands, but there were more service brands getting targeted now, as well.
The email campaigns were huge. It was like people were making it a habit to stop by campaign sites and shoot off a dozen emails at lunch or in the evening. The surprise was that it was still the product placement campaign that was dominating everything else. He hadn’t ever imagined that as the ‘prime trigger, ‘ but realized that he should have considered it. More than half of the adults in the country went grocery shopping. It was probably the most shared activity amongst the entire population. Everyone had to eat, someone in the household had to buy food, and that person had to go to the supermarket to buy the food. He hadn’t thought that companies would be so resistant to changing their product placement practices.
Who was the hardest hit by the protests, boycotts, and email campaigns? The answer was surprising. It was mainstream media: broadcast TV, cable news and the print press. The people had come to view them as the mouthpieces of propaganda, as opposed to news. Everything was editorial — i.e., opinion — with no real reporting. They had been shown to be creating the news, rather than reporting it.
People turned off the news and stopped buying newspapers. They went to the web for their news and what they found disgusted them. The search engine companies were only returning results for the news services the people making the query were boycotting. It took going many pages into the results before alternative sources of news could be found. People were critical of those alternative sources. Too many of them were created using funds from a small circle of investors who had specific political agendas. Those were filtered out by the general public.
It was what Peter termed the Techno-News groups that became the favorites. These were folks who collected tweets about different subjects across different areas of the country, aggregated them into statistics, and presented the statistics along with representative extracts from the tweets. The articles were more along the lines of how many protests occurred in downtown New York City today along with the subject of each protest. The significance of the protest was based on the number of unique tweet sources at the protest site. Most of these sites dealt with news at a local level, although a number dealt with state and national news.
Tweets weren’t the only sources of information for these Techno-News sites. Official records of government meetings were being collected and analyzed using data mining tools. Activists were combing those records to extract what was really being passed. Governments were being forced into a transparency that was unprecedented. There was no longer an effective gentleman’s agreement with the press about what to present and what not to present.
Providing a final source of information were the whistle-blowers. Angry employees turning on their employers was becoming a national past time. Corporations and powerful people had been running roughshod over employees for a long time. Twenty years without an increase in standard of living, continued loss of economic freedom, and increased hostility in the workplace was now reaping a bitter harvest. With the added fuel that everything around them was corrupt, people started exposing even more corruption.
All of that information would have been useless if people weren’t able to peruse it and analyze it. People learned how to read heat maps, tag clouds, time lines, graphs, and lattice plots. Everyone was familiar with heat maps, tag clouds, and time lines. It was the graphs and lattice plots that took some time to catch on. Yet, people began studying the graphs and figuring out what was being presented. The inflation chart with average salaries, that was too obvious. People started paying attention to graphs that presented correlations between imports, exports, and lost jobs in various sectors of manufacturing.
It was the lattice plots where the details were made available. A node in a lattice represented someone, an event, a company, or a place. The links connecting nodes showed how the individual nodes were connected. So and so had a meeting in a place and then this and that happened, with full links to details about the individuals, agenda of the meeting, the decisions made, and the consequences. The amazing thing: no commentary and no user feedback.
Peter was tracking the traffic to all of those sites. The traffic was growing and the time spent on each site was increasing. These were all good signs, but it wasn’t what he was waiting to see. He was waiting for groups to coalesce around different major interests. He expected to see groups associated with racial, ecological, and pharmaceutical issues emerge first. After all, he had Martin, Paul, and Jasmine traveling around the country trying to get people to join in on a concerted effort for their individual tasks.
Martin was making the best progress by going to local Black and Hispanic leaders, although they weren’t the leaders anyone would have expected to turn to for civil rights issues. Religious types and community organizers might think they had the pulse of a community, but the drug dealers were much more connected and much more powerful. Martin spoke their language. He also had a couple of weapons in his arsenal – the racism implicit in the drug trade, the chance to go legitimate when pot was legalized, and the chance to become real leaders in the community. That wasn’t the route that Peter had expected him to go, but he could see that it was bearing fruit.
Paul was having a much more difficult time and was taking the greatest risks. He was having to work his way around the more rabid and radicalized eco-terrorist groups. The number of organizations that had turned to illegal activities was chasing away the people Paul wanted as a coalition for implementing a rational ecological recovery plan. The eco-terrorists were just that: terrorists. Many of them wanted him out of the way, one way or another.
Jasmine was making the rounds through patient-support groups and groups for survivors of various illnesses. They were the most receptive since they were either going through it or had survived it. As devastating as some of the diseases were, the biggest source of worry had been paying for the treatments. That concern wore on them as much as, or more than, the side effects of treatments, the pain of the disease, and the fear of dying.
Their efforts were having an effect, but he expected that a couple of major coalitions would emerge with a single focus on a single subject. He could see the beginnings, but nothing definite. He sighed and shut down the system.
Paul and Sue Burgess were a nice young couple in their early thirties. Like many couples their age, they had reached the point in their life where they were considering that it was time to start a family. Paul worked as a system admin for a small company. Sue worked as an accountant at a local hospital. They were close to paying off their college loans, and were looking forward to the financial relief that elimination of a major debt would provide.
In what had become a tradition, Paul and Sue headed out to have a Friday night dinner together. They would go to a reasonably good place, order drinks and appetizers before the meal. It was a little expensive, but that was their night. They went to a local place, Nibblers, which had a rather eclectic menu. It was not a cheap place to eat by any means. They had reservations, so they expected to be seated shortly after their arrival.
Their night out didn’t start well.
“You were late, so we gave your table away.”
“Our reservations are for 7:00.”
“It’s after 7:00.”
“It’s only four minutes after seven,” Paul argued.
“You were late so we gave your table away. If you’ll wait, we’ll have another table in twenty minutes.”
Paul and Sue exchanged glances. They didn’t need to verbalize their decision.
Twenty minutes came and went. Thirty minutes came and went. Paul went up to find out what was the delay and was told it would be just a few more minutes. Forty minutes and then fifty minutes had passed since the time of their reservation. Paul was getting angry and Sue was getting cranky. They were hungry. This was supposed to be a nice evening out. Finally, at a few minutes after 8:00, they were taken to a table. Just after they sat down, they could hear a guy say, “It’s only a couple minutes after eight!”
Paul and Sue exchanged glances feeling sorry for the poor couple they had displaced, but not sorry enough to get up and leave. They had waited more than an hour for their table. They opened the menus and examined the offerings. It was a limited menu, but several of the items sounded interesting. They agreed on an appetizer and knew what they wanted for their entree.
They waited for the waitress or waiter to show up. No one came to their table. There was a lot of activity with food being delivered around them, but the waitstaff seemed to ignore them. Ten minutes was maybe understandable, but they were at the table for twenty minutes before someone showed up. She took their drink orders and ran off before they could give her their food order. They waited. At 8:38, they finally received their drink order. They gave their food order.
At 9:23, their food arrived at the table. By this time, Paul and Sue were fuming. Paul looked at the plate of food. He reached out and touched it. It was stone cold. In fact, there were little coagulated beads of oil on the plate.
“This is cold,” he told the server.
“This is what you ordered.”
“I didn’t order that my food be delivered cold.”
“This is what you ordered,” the waiter said and then stood there as if expecting to be challenged.
Paul pulled out his cell phone and started a restaurant review app. While the waiter watched, he gave it one star since there was no way to rate it lower than that. He wrote, ‘The service is so bad and the food is so cold that we are leaving without paying for it. I will not pay for inedible food or rudeness.’ He hit submit.
The waiter ran off. Paul and Sue stood to leave. They would stop by a burger place and get something to eat. Their plans were immediately interrupted. The manager ran over and started screaming at them for submitting a negative review of the place.
Having reached his limit, Paul snapped. He reached down and flipped over the table. With a loud crash, food flew all over. It appeared that Paul and Sue were not the only ones dissatisfied with their evening out. First one and then another party at the restaurant, stood up and overturned their tables. Paul and Sue headed towards the door.
The manager’s husband beat them to the door, and locked it. Barring their way out, he shouted, “No one is leaving without paying for their meal.”
A rather large, one might say obese, man eyed the front door, the front window, and a chair. He grabbed the chair and swung it at the glass. The window broke into a spider web of cracks. This only served to anger the man even more. He proceeded to beat the hell out of the window with the chair. Glass was flying everywhere. A leg of the chair flew off and landed in the parking lot.
Then the man who had been barring door made a fatal mistake. He struck one of the women. Her husband calmly looked at him, pulled out a pistol, and shot him from point blank range right in the heart. He died right there. Dead as a doornail.
The police had arrived by that time. Hearing a shot, their pistols were pulled. Unknowingly, they stepped into the path of people fleeing through the destroyed window. Not even looking where they were going, people basically ran over whatever was in their way. Shots were fired. There were injuries.
Arrests were made. Paul and Sue were charged with inciting to riot. The man who fired the shot was charged with murder. The people who were wounded were charged with assaulting a police officer.
Videos were uploaded. Tweets were sent out. Bloggers jumped on the event. News services descended upon the neighborhood. Lawyers crawled out of the woodwork.
Later that night, someone lit a curtain on fire. The place burned down to the ground. The nice upper middle-class neighborhood where it happened reacted. The people involved were all locals. These were not the kind of things that were supposed to happen. They didn’t want businesses like that in their neighborhood. This was not what they were paying the police to do.
Somewhat against his wishes, Paul Burgess was launched into the role of being a regional spokesman for consumer rights. Paul, despite the fact that he wasn’t really interested in being a spokesman, accepted the role. He put his full energy into it, organized it, and then led it. He didn’t fall into the trap of becoming a lobbyist. Instead, he put together an organization that was a political force.
What made this advocacy group a little different from what had occurred in the past was that it had real members, not just a couple of lawyers who would file lawsuits on behalf of victims. This was an organized group with a charter, a mission statement, and paid memberships. It grew quickly to a million members.
When he was ready, he struck right at the heart of the problem. Standing on the steps of the state capital building, he demanded laws be passed to end the product placement practice that put high demand items out of reach. He didn’t visit state representatives or the governor. He wasn’t going to bribe them to do their job. He appealed directly to the people to make this demand upon their representatives.
This was the first of what Peter was waiting for.
At heart, Freeman Jefferson was a photographer. That meant that he noticed things around him. He saw things with an artist’s eye. He also had a philosophical streak, consistent with the kind of man who would admire the writings and images of an artist like Ansel Adams. He found life as a Representative unpleasant. He had too many visitors demanding things that he felt were criminal or immoral. He had suffered too many visits by others in the House trying to pressure him into supporting bills that he thought were wrong. He had visitors who were well meaning, but were hoping that he’d pass some law that would magically make their problems disappear.
Like many of the other Independents who had been voted through the backdoor into the State House of Representatives, he found himself voting against just about everything suggested by the established politicians. It had almost become reflex. It seemed to him that if they wanted something, someone was getting rich off it.
It was late in the evening when he was reading his personal email at home. Like everyone else, he had a lot of spam that cluttered up his mailbox. There were a few emails from friends and family. There were a few emails from the professional organizations of which he was a member. He worked his way through them one at a time, answering or ignoring individual emails as appropriate.
He was nearly finished when he came across one that was from John Galt. The name seemed familiar to him, but he couldn’t quite remember where he had heard it before. Then he noticed the subject line: VoteForMyCandidate.edu. That was the website that had gotten him elected. He’d love to give the owner of that website a piece of his mind. Curious, he opened the email.
By now you have discovered just how corrupt the political system has become. Although it may be hard to imagine, you are only dealing with the remnants of what had been before. The people you and the rest of the independents displaced were just as bad or worse than those who remain in office. As a man of good conscience, I am sure that you are disgusted.
Now is your chance to change things at a fundamental level. A vote is coming up in three days that looks like a trap for the independents, but is in actuality a trap for the old guard. This is going to be the most important vote of your tenure in office.
Read the attachment to this email for a full explanation. Read it, think about it, and vote your conscience. That is what you were elected to do. That is all that I ask you to do.
Franklin read the email twice.
He asked himself, ‘Who is John Galt?’ Something in the back of his brain twitched. He asked again, ‘Who is John Galt?’ This really bothered him. He went to the search engine. He stared at the result. John Galt was the mysterious figure in Ayn Rand’s book, Atlas Shrugged, who took down the framework of theft put into place by political thieves and men of low morality.
He opened the attachment and started reading. After the first paragraph, he felt like weeping. He got up from the computer and made a cup of coffee. It was going to be a long night studying that document. Sleep could wait.
It was a little after three in the morning when he shut down his computer. He had never read anything so brilliantly written. From the first paragraph, it had reached out to him and grabbed him, putting into elegant words thoughts that he’d never been able to utter without sounding like he was babbling. The ideas in it were absolutely stunning. The arguments were crisp and clear.