What's important?

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Tod asked me a difficult question last night as we discussed current events and the state of the world. "What's important to you?" The question carried an implied "And which of these things are important enough to act on?" which does limit the answers to more than theoretical concerns. I had three main areas of concern.

In Japan: nuclear disaster and sports
Things that are in my backyard have the greatest impact. So the situation at Fukushima Daiichi is right up there. Dangerous, ongoing and possibly unfixable. Frankly, the situation is depressing and currently getting worse not better. I can't act directly in this case. I do my best to stay on top of facts, understand what is going on as best I can, and fight back at sensationalist reporting. How many times will I point out that the bright red Pacific Ocean map is tsunami wave height, not radiation? As many as it takes until people stop freaking out about it. If you are interested in reading a reliable source of information, I recommend Fukushima Diary. The Tokyo government publishes radiation testing data in English.

The Olympics are an interesting new current event that I am sure I will act on in one way or another. I don't have any particular plan at this moment, but in seven years I am sure I will have some Olympic action.

In the world: spying and global collapses
Beyond my backyard, the thing that concerns me most is the US government spying programs. I sound paranoid, but...they are watching us.

I realise that for twenty years I have been voluntarily putting my life online, starting with Usenet posts in the early 90s, then over a decade of this blog, and now via modern social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I have always been aware that if someone cared to dig they could piece together my world. I made my peace with this and continued to use online services. I traded security for convenience because I was imagining bad guys in terms of stalkers, social engineers, and identity thieves - individual attackers. But with the NSA storing all kinds of communications and metadata in their excessively large database, I am much less comfortable. 

I did not sign up for this, I am not OK with it, and I won't make my peace with it. I am not a great dissident or a terrorist (unless you are a mosquito) but if I became interesting to the government for some reason, I am sure it wouldn't be difficutl to piece together decades of impolitic moments and connections to create a case against me. 

It is so easy to make compelling stories out of loose ends and fragments that don't really connect. I wouldn't be too shocked if I were two degrees of separation from some truly awful person. Maybe I travelled to the country where they were born and on top of that, my taxes were late that year. Also there was that e-mail inquiring about large quantities of metallic tape and irrigation tubing. OK, now put it all together and it spells "Kristen is a terrorist." Or it could, with the right spin.

Unfortunately, I don't have a clue what to do. Complain? Write nasty things about the NSA on my blog? Be brave and confront it?  Stop using the Internet, go dark and form my own personal witness protection program? I don't know. I have to think more about it, really understand as best I can, and then I'll write some more about it. Or I may suddenly disappear from the Internet. 

You might want to think about it, too. If you can read this, you are affected by this spying program, even if you are not American. Even if you are not a terrorist. You've been logged reading this. Welcome to the web. If you want information on the NSA spy stuff - it is confusing, complex and underreported so don't feel too bad if you aren't on top of it - The Guardian's The NSA Files is a good place to start. Read everything and then wonder who just saw you do that?

A few other world issues cause concern. Climate change is so far along that I can only think about what to do to survive it, like retreating to a remote northern location and farming. Possible world economic collapse and political upheaval fall into that same "too big for any puny personal action, so I plan to react to it" possibly by finding a stable shared community with some farms. GM crops are bad but don't bother me as much as no crops at all which a combination of climate, economic, and political collapse could create. Why does the answer always seem to come back to farms?

Other current events in the world, like Syria and similar uprisings, are heartbreaking and difficult to understand but not my problem. I think people should rise up if their governments fail them. (Hi, NSA. Yes, I did just say that but I mean places where oppressed people live, not America. Ha ha.) Sometimes the revolutions succeed, sometimes not. The world continues regardless.

Home: where the heart is
Finally, although it wasn't first to my lips while I was answering last night, my relationship with Tod and our future together is my tippy top priority. We both feel stuck here for different reasons, maybe foolishly waiting for the other shoe to drop. It is hard to make a plan. Can we feel hopeful and start exciting new ventures? Pretend there is no need to change anything and continue on as we are? Do we plan for the worst possible outcome and take up agriculture? Whatever happens, we will be together and that is a happy thing.

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