“Hello. My name is Jay and I am an addict.”
“I have been clean now for two years.”
“I want to take some time today to tell you about my personal struggle to kick the habit of piracy.”
The above conversation never took place audibly, but there have been many times thinking back on my high school and college (read: technologically formative) years that I am surprised that I was able to kick the habit before being take for all I was worth. The short version reads: I got into bittorrent and P2P too early for my own good. I started innocently enough as we all did, I suppose. Bittorrent was an easy way to connect with likeminded individuals who wanted to share large pieces of information quickly and anonymously and, some of the time, legitimately. Similarly, Napster, Audiogalaxy, and many other services that provided any number of ways to get the content I desired as a poor student enabled me to pirate metric (boat)loads of content. At the time, I think the general consensus regarded the lack of policing of content. Who’s to say that grabbing content is wrong if there is no one saying it is wrong and, seemingly, no one getting hurt in the process. However, since then I have realized two things that I would like to discuss: people do get hurt over time and, as a person with a minimalist lifestyle, content causes clutter.
The thing is a lot has been written regarding piracy recently because it seems to have gotten more public just how out of control the practice is. Some like to blame the production companies, while others blame the users themselves. Meanwhile, here I am just attempting to be the frugal, patient, and otherwise disconnected person I am. It gets hard from time to time. I get hooked on a show because its first season has been released in a legitimate format, whatever that may be. The second season just finished airing on cable distributor X, but I know I won’t see it through those legitimate sources for two years. In these instances I have been tempted to play the victim and go get it where I can or connect with friends who are not yet legit and have downloaded the content I seek; this route is of course no better than downloading the content myself, I just use less digital bandwidth. Instead, the digital bandwidth is used by someone else and I delude myself into thinking that I somehow earned the content because I replaced my digital bandwidth with physical bandwidth; “I had to do the legwork, so I deserve this digital file!”
Marco Arment has been particularly vocal and I like his take on it. In short: if you are complaining that you were pushed to piracy by the companies that make the content, you are fighting the wrong battle; don’t watch the shows at all if you want them to listen to your distaste. Go read Marco’s commentaries on the subject, as it is worth your time and I agree with his point of view emphatically. This all started with an article from The Daily Beast, which succinctly states that cable companies aren’t forcing people to pirate, let alone even watch, their shows. They are running a good business based on the desires of their audiences and potential audiences. Honestly, Megan McArdle’s got a point! While I was getting content from less than reputable sources, I was doing so because I desired to be in the know about that said content. If the content wasn’t desirable, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Back to my personal struggle story, though, I slowly realized that my downloading hurt the bottom line, not of the cable companies themselves, but of the people that were creating the content that I so desired. Yes, I want to be able to watch Game of Thrones now instead of a year from now, but that means I need to go to where the content is, not ask the content to come to me. Secondly, I want HBO to be able to create content that is desirable and that means they have to charge a lot of money to make things like “Blackwater”. Someday, I hope that companies like HBO are able to make their amazing programs in a way that is more easily consumable for more people and make it profitable, but for the time being, I will have to be patient or simply not care.
Content causes clutter, if for no other reason than digital hoarding has become a real problem, even for those that have no problems with physical hoarding. With the birth of cloud services, having local content is becoming a thing of the past; like dial-up Internet connections, there is cruft that comes with local content that is slowly being whittled away by persistent connections and cheaper cloud storage. When looking at my iTunes library full of Music, TV Shows, and Movies, most of which were originally ripped from CDs and DVDs, I see the vestiges of the old guard. I see that the majority of it is not backed up off-site and I wonder how I would feel were I to lose any of it. Interestingly enough, it might be a kind of freedom; a way to cast off the oppressive nature of caring about insignificant bits and bytes that may or may not have been connected to a life a no longer live.
Going Legit, as I have called it since I started, is an exercise in self-control as much as it is a reminder that some things in this world are simply not important enough to steal, let alone think about. What I have found since going legit is that I spend more time thinking about the things I purchase, watch, or borrow from friends. I spend less time with content about which I do not care and more time waxing reminiscent or retrospective on content about which I once cared deeply.
Read, Think, Share, Repeat
The Challenges of 2020
TL;DR: Follow this link.
One of the craziest things about Christianity during the protests of the last few weeks is the fact that there are churches out there not discussing the issues honestly, not taking the time to have the hard conversations, not devoting their Sunday services to betterment of the world and people around them. If you’re church isn’t talking about racism right now, if they don’t mention that black lives matter, instead focusing on platitudes that equate to the “all lives matter” sentiment, it is time to start looking for a new church.
My wife and I meet with my “home” church virtually via Zoom since the pandemic is still a thing. Kimball Avenue United Church of Christ & La Iglesia Episcopal de Nuestra Señora de las Américas (KANSA, together) combined in a collaborative way to create a single denomination focused on the needs of their community. They follow Christ together toward the vision of love, reconciliation, peace and justice. The justice looks like the demolition and rehabilitation of an old church building and its grounds into a community garden and labyrinth open to all who seek peace through contemplation.
I give this elevator speech to mention that COVID has not been kind to faith communities in general. Budgets have been slashed, funding and grants have been cut, and congregations in need are also working to serve those in need, who are less likely to be able to financially support their church in these times. KANSA in one of the good ones. They speak truth, they have the difficult conversations, they preach in a loud voice every Sunday that black lives matter, that racism has no place in the church, that the LGBTQ community deserves respect and support, and that Jesus was a social justice warrior, who fought for the least of these no matter who they were, where they were from, what they looked like.
In fact, Jesus was most harsh to those who had the means to help and decided not to answer the call.
These systems of oppression we are protesting have been around a long time; they have screwed up a lot of lives, they have been the reason for revolution and the downfall of entire civilizations, they don’t work. We need to find a better way to live by supporting each other. And support has to come in systemic, social, financial, and political ways, both national and local.
I am not local to KANSA anymore, but I support their mission, the way that mission manifests in the world, and the simple fact that they follow Jesus no matter how ostracizing that position can be at times. Which brings me to the point:
Thanks to a $10,000 ‘matching gift’ from an anonymous donor, the challenge has become an opportunity. Over the next two months, we plan to raise at least $10,000 to meet the challenge. Through August 31, 2020, every donation we receive toward our “2020 Challenge” no matter how small or how large will be doubled by the matching gift.
KANSA is hurting financially and needs support, they do good work and are unabashedly progressive in their approach to our world. Donate now and see your contribution matched to keep one of the good ones fighting the good fight.
Thank you for your consideration.