It’s been (almots) twenty years that I’m working in computer science. I’ve done a lot of things, from sysadmin to devops, from back to front dev, from freelancer to government to NGO support. I met a lot of people, but I call only few of them friends. I gained a high experience in burning-out and bad management practice — to the point I’m not really sure I’m suited to do computer work or money. I’ve gained exposure trauma while working with formal and informal activism organization, while having some of my most interesting jobs (none of them being paid) and meeting some of the most amazing people one can ever meet (yes telecomix folks, that’s you I’m talking about).

I’ve also been working as a professional activist, which I almost regret doing now. Because there’s not enough questioning of the means and strategies of the organizations, or the costs of doing things the way they’re being done. In particular, I think that focusing mainly / only on the law and its interpretation is not an effective way of changing the status quo. Or that it’s not the way I like doing thing. I need to be busy with stuff to not burn myself. It took almost twenty years for me to understand that.

I’m without a job for the last seven month. Ok, the last two months were weird, due to being locked in and without any real possibility to actually get a job. And I needed some month to recover from whatever mental state I was. I’ve started (and paused) a therapy, with an interesting diagnostics of being probably paranoid (the persecutory delusion kind). I’ve tried to find a job, but most of the company who would hire me are start-up contributing to a world I oppose. Or NGO and school which don’t not really pay well, and generates a lot of stress (been there, done that, got a lousy depression).

So, I have to think differently. And one of the thing I like doing this days, is growing stuff. Spending time with my hands deep into soils, roots, leaves and weeds, thinking about irrigation systems, trying to anticipate rain and weather, preserving (and sometimes failing) plants from those nasty snails who can eat them overnight leaving nothing but roots (and still, people thinks snails are slow. They’re damn effective).

I also think that food, and everything that gets around it (production, distribution, consumption) is one of the key part of society on which we should act — the others being energy production and waste management. The issues around food are tightly knitted into the climate crisis and most of the inequities, and not enough of you knows what it costs to eat what you eat. I always thought that, at some point, I’ll end up in a chosen house with friends, living on the resources we could locally produce, without destroying those same resources.

And this is where I landed during this confinement. I need to get out of the toxicity of the tech industry (the more it goes, the more I think no one can make a positive contribution to society in the tech-startup environment). I need to do something that have meaning and makes sense. I need to make some life changing decision, or go back to be burned again and again until I die (because I won’t last until an hypothetical retirement).

The answer I found, on which I spent a lot of thinking those last two years is to become a farmer. Ideally nearby the place I live, in the suburbs and in places where access to affordable and healthy food is the exception, not the rule. I need t go back to school and to study, to do some planning, to read a fucking lot of paperwork to fill and understand.

But for the last two weeks, since I actively made this decision, I’ve been able to actually plan things. To anticipate where I would like to be in the next few years (which is something I never really done before, or was made unable to), to start communications with local collectivities, to try to figure out the money part of it and understand the nightmarish technocratic apparatus that is the CAP.

And I like it. I’m not really depressed anymore (just regular paranoid, which is nice, I have seen no one but my house mates for the last two month, confinement is fine for me). I can fore-think and anticipate. I can talk about this project with friends. I need it, and so I’ll be a farmer. It’s going to take some time, and it will not happens in the next few month (there’s a lot of bureaucracy involved) but in the next year or so.

It does not mean I’ll stop doing tech. But I’ll do it as I like it : as a hobby. And yes, my farm will be powered by Arduino, because I know how to do it (and well, it wouldn’t be mine if there’s no robots, drones and hacked hardware everywhere). And yes, I’ll be retiring from the internet freedom fighters fronts. Because it broke me and, except very few dear friends, it brought only havoc in my life. That’s why I need to stop. I’ll still dream about a better world, and I’ll work on it from a different angle, but I won’t be doing media work or conferences anymore.

This is the most involved thing I’ve done for my life and myself. It’s a fresh start. It will be interesting, and I’ll see you there.

Infrastructure: a theory of state

So, I wanted to write something about infrastructure for a while. Or anything in fact, but I always postponed it for reasons. The thing I wanted to write about is a theory of state, and specifically, one that basically ties infrastructure and state together.

And, well, I’m supposed now to stay at home to limit the spread of the CORVID-19 viruses. And we, french people, are exceptionally bad at it. I mean, everyone was out enjoying the sun last Sunday (and not voting for the first round of the municipal elections with a staggering 54% abstention rate) instead of staying at home, enjoying whatever movie or TV shows you haven’t seen yet. Or playing online games with friends. Or chilling on a social media app to share your life with the people you care about (and if you care about them, you do not want to expose them to a contamination, so please, stay at home, wash your hand with soap).

And I was thinking that we, as people living in 2020, have it easy. We can work remotely. We can enjoy culture remotely. We can have sex remotely. We managed to build an infrastructure that makes this remote socialization easier. We do not need to gather in an office to have a productive meeting, we have the luxury of having high speed bandwidth which allow for video conferencing (and I now that you wanna do those meetings from your bed too). We can share documents almost instantly and most of the office work can reasonably be done remotely. Even elementary teachers are told to setup remote classes for kids during those epidemic days.

We built an infrastructure which makes gathering people in the same space an oddity from the past. We even have a bunch of reactionaries worrying that those technologies are going to kill society and make people ignoring themselves more. Even if I think that what makes you ignore the people around you is the forced promiscuity of the commute/car infrastructure (and believe me, as long as you haven’t commute during rush hours in one of the densest cities on Earth, you do not know what forced promiscuity is).

A civilization, according to wikipedia, is “a complex society characterized by urban development, social stratification imposed by a cultural elite, symbolic system of communication [ie: writing, communication tech, etc] and a perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment”. Basically it’s a society that can build infrastructure. Without infrastructure, you don’t have separation and domination over the natural environment. You do not have transport and exchange (of goods, but also cultural). You do not have ledgers or record of history.

Infrastructure brings some social stratification. There’s the ones who build it, which are often not the same as the ones who uses it or than the ones who makes decisions about it. The power balances between those three groups are at the core of most if not all of the social issues we face nowadays and, choices made in infrastructure management have a long and lasting impact on the social structures we have. And this power balances is what a state is. Not a government, not a nation, but a state. It what makes possible the existence of an infrastructure.

In these times of CORVID-19 and quarantine — because that’s what it is — we have to change our infrastructure uses, mostly because the virus benefits from our physical use of the commute/car infrastructure. Commuting is horribly bad from an epidemiology point of view, as well as offices complexes and restaurants. That’s why the government, the state managing the infrastructures, asks us to use a different one, one that does not require the virus hosts to move around. And yes, they have power over us users, and as our uses changes, we exert power over the builders.

Internet traffic is skyrocketting (we’re consuming 40% more data than usually according to akamai), which means the infrastructures conveying all those 0 and 1 all across the world are under stress and, everywhere, IT workers and CERT are probably busy maintaining it. And we want our ledgers and record of history to stay online, because if we lose it, we lose the infrastructure that helps fighting the epidemic spread of the disease — which is the medical one and yes it is bad in a lots of places but it exists. We can, of course, fall back to good old pen and paper, but our collaboration capabilities are based on the time it requires to exchange data. If we need ten days, or even only one day, instead of ten seconds to transmit critical packets of data, make copies of them (including copying data on USB key) and distribute them to everyone involved in fighting the disease, then it will be less efficient or not efficient at all.

Internet is a bit weird — understatement of the year — because the workers, the users and the managers used to be the same group of people. Roads builders, traditionally, have almost no say in where to build roads. They just have to build a road, and they receive a compensation for that, or at least they should be. Internet brought an interesting twist to the whole social stratification thing. Builders, users and managers can be the same people. They don’t need to, but that’s where the politics kicks in.

We have people building companies using old money (because all money is old), mostly white men, to build infrastructure that’s moving away from the be your own media model. Most of the infrastructure being built is about data access now, not traffic. This data is used by users who depends on those same data to make a living out of crap jobs. All the delivery services, drivers and such are users subjugated to the infrastructure built by those rich white men. We could have a community driven infrastructure about sharing life tips, cats pictures and data about CORVID-19, but instead we subjugate precarious workers to data we create to allow us to remain in a comfortable situation and social stratification.

I think that we can’t do without a state. Not anymore. Wanting to dismantle the states is dismantling infrastructures, and you’ll have millions or billions of death in the process, because we won’t have nice things such as hospitals. Or shops. Or library. However, I think that there are other form of states than the ones we have today. And it starts with the uses we make of the infrastructure and so, with the users, aka you. You, as an infrastructure user, have to make choices in your uses of them. And you cannot escape that, safe for retiring as an hermit, growing your own food and having almost no social contact.

You can, of course, use our global food delivery system driven by surveillance to continue exploiting poor people in dark kitchen or on bikes for your own comfort, while staying confined and remotely working. Or you can try a different model to achieve the same goal (you being fed and not sick) which does’ny involve that kind of social stratification.

We need states. Not nations, not necessarily governments, but states. Entities that can figures out how to develop an infrastructure. And it can be as distributed as one might want, there’s no need for a global cloud platform to displays advertisements to people or to invade their privacy. But there might be some use for a global library of all recorded events and history, including fictitious and conflicting ones. It does not needs to rely on sixty über rich white people to decide what do we do with the data. It does not need to rely on post-colonial nation who abuses their position to ensure that their former colonies will stay dependent of them. It does not need to rely on administrators, roots and superusers to tell us what we can and we can’t do with the infrastructure. There’s other ways, we can all be users, workers and managers of our collective infrastructure.

In a global infrastructure — and yes I know it’s not global yet — you can speak to any of the seven, eight or nine billions of people connected to it. As long as you speak a common language. So you can probably speak to a big chunk of those billions. But you don’t have that much energy to develop empathy with each and any one of us. You have to choose who you want to spend time with. The neighborhood does not really exists as a physical place, it become a clade, a community of shared interests, not bound by time, space or efficiency of engines, but bound by symbolism, lag and efficiency of information transmission. Yes there is some physicality to our virtual communities, timezone being one. But then again, I spent time with people who were leaving on the other side of the world, chatting live with them. And yes, one of us would probably have a hard time the day after to wake up on time for work, but this is an artifact of the commute/car infrastructure.

This infrastructure allows us to interact without forced promiscuity. To retract from social life as needed or to go full socialites and parties, if that’s what you want. Remote working makes obsolete the need to get to the office. We can choose who we want to care about, who we want to spend time with.

Instead of a data-driven infrastructure that’s about delivering ads, we can have a care-driven one in which the state would improve our well being, not the wealth of sixty people. We need states to maintain infrastructures and our societies. The question should be about what kind of state we want. Do we want a state which helps deliver care and love over IP? Or do we prefer the one we currently have, motivated by unlimited profit only ?

To those who are still at La Quadrature du Net

So, it’s official. I’ve quit my job at La Quadrature du Net. It was not an easy decision, and it hurts. I’m too stubborn for my own good, and I do not know when to stop, but this is where it must ends. I also tend to believe people when they say things will change, and that everything’s gonna be better. I believe them when they say that they’ve heard me and my pain and are trying to do something about it. Deep down it’s hard for me to not trust someone.

I do not know when to stop, and I tend to burn myself. In spectacular way sometimes. During the four years I worked at LQDN, I’ve spent six month on medical leave and six other on part time due to a burn out. And I think that my biggest mistake was going back there.

Some people are doing a lot of stuff to try to improve the situation there. Some basic questions are asked. Questions such as what is LQDN strategy? How are you supposed to care for your employees (because yes, I was your fucking employee, if you do not like that, stop working with this association) in time of stress ? How are you supposed to work with other collective on an inter-sectional approach of the issues at hand ?

A lot of work on those issues have been done, saying otherwise would be an insult to the few people who are trying to fix thing. And this is the main reason I stayed longer than I should have for my own sake. But those who try to improve the situation, and most if not all of them are the few queers and women volunteering for the association, can only do as much as the group let them do.

During the four year I was there, I’ve seen a team building itself on the ashes of the previous one (we had nearly 70% of turnover, yes it means only two of us stayed there since the Paris attacks in 2015) and trying to figures out way to work together and to care for each other. It’s one of the thing that made the decision to leave hard. But it’s not enough, it’s merely the minimum requirements for a sane working environment.

But you prefer to do the “important” things, because you’re only a volunteer and you do not have enough time to do what you want: talking to the medias, speaking at conferences and arguing online about what LQDN members are allowed to say or not when they’re speaking in public. Arguing to the point where some other members had to left the association because you just didn’t care to understand their pain.

The same non debates are still eating energy there. Should the fights of LQDN encompass identity politics? Or should we only focus on state surveillance? The thing is, those questions have being asked internally for at least four years. I know, I’m one of those who keep asking. And the only answer I got was: we need time to debate.

So, you need time to debate. Fine. But, because you’re too busy to drink the koolaid, you’re not even able to see that your employees are on the verge of burn out and exhaustion, and because you refuse to spend some time trying to understand the situation;, you cannot even starts to change things. And some of those changes might be easy. I don’t know. I don’t know because no one, except the two or three same person, are spending time on this.

And while you’re doing the so important work that you consent to do, we’re left to ourselves. Trying to do things, to work with you and everyone else, to figures out what are the priorities, and all of that without a global strategy. Or consideration for the work being done. We’re doing things reflexively, because this is how it’s been done since today.

So fuck it. I quit. I don’t like it. I’m bitter. Enraged. And sad. When I look at what we could have done if you accepted to actually engaged in Human Resources management and stress reduction, I can only contemplate the waste of energy and people. You are lucky enough to have a tough team of skilled and extremely motivated people who are doing an amazing job regardless the way you consider them or their work to work for you. And you’re not even able to understand that.

I’m too naive. I thought things can change. But as long as you, as a straight male, let all the emotional and care work to the same people (queers and women), to keep feast on koolaid, you’re basically throwing people under the bus. Because you do not consider caring for the people you fight with a good investment of your so precious time, you’re pushing them to their own limits, to the point they’re going to break, and leave in bitterness and anger.

And yet here we are. You forced me to quit. I didn’t want. Fuck, I came back after a burnout on the promise that things were going to be better soon. They’re not. And if you do not get that, then fuck you.

I’m forced, for my sanity, to take steps back from the world. I can’t spend time at party without collapsing. I cannot talk on one on one to people without wishing to rip my skin of my arm. I’m not suicidal now, mostly because I think it’s not worth the hassle, not because I want to live. I don’t. And while I have issues on my own, you did nothing to not add to those issues. So yes, I’m bitter. And I’m worried about the people that I left behind, my coworkers, who still have to deal with your bullshit.

You might say that going public will not help. Well, for four years, I basically tried everything. I used twitter, internal system, one on one talks, informal and formal requests to the general assembly, I’ve tried to solve some issues, or at least to expose them to you, to give you a chance to change things.

And you did not.

You did not tried to build a better world. Because that’s what it is in the end, the community you shape by your actions are supposed to be the reflect of the world you fight for. And I do not want to live in this world of yours. So I cannot condone anything you’re going to do.

In a more pragmatic way, it also means that I have to take steps back, and to try to heal a little bit before going back to try to fix things. Or change them. So yes, you won’t see me again anytime soon. Yes, I’m going to lose friends over it, but this is the extreme this association led me too. I have to chose between seeing my friends, and being reminded of the state of this association, and preserving myself.

I won’t make it to Congress either. Or to most of the conference this year. I won’t see the crowd of crazy and fun and loving people that made going there manageable. And this is on you.

Fuck. You.

Taking them down

How to take the identity capitalism complex down

I’m currently at RightsCon in Tunis, speaking and exchanging with a lot of different actors around tech and human rights issues, from state to civil society to Facebook (because it seems shame is dead). And I talk to a lot of people (except Facebook ones, they’re scary as hell), and the conversation inevitably lands on what we’re doing at LQDN, and the short answer is We’re out to get the GAFAM down.

And then, they ask me how are we going to do that, what are the next steps, what’s the plan to destroy those hegemonic capitalistic system whom promotes hate speech ? And the thing is, we do not know, because it haven’t been done since the internet exists (except some anti trust cases, but even then, Microsoft survived for instance).

We know ways to not do that, to not harm them enough to destroy them. Using the current system of laws and regulations, including anti trust and anti monopoly laws, have only limited results. Even if it’s an interesting way to achieve some results, in the mid-term (four to five years), corporate monsters will spend billions of dollar on lobbyist money to change the law, as is happening with e-Privacy.

Boycott doesn’t work. Or only on insane scales. And it kind of makes it a personal choice, or issue, while the GAFAM are a threat to society. Their goal is to make money, not to protect their users. And they make money by selling to advertisers a closed list of identities that can be targeted by ads, they make money by turning what you read and write, what you are and what you like, into promotional content and user engagement. And if your identity does not suit the social vision of what the GAFAM can and will tolerate, then you’re erased from this catalog of ID, and you’ll be targeted by ads which will shape you in something else.

Also, promoting and monetizing hate have impact in everybody’s life, wether you’re on Facebook or not. The fact that neo-nazis, nationalists and identitarians are pushing their ideas without being demoted by the platform, gives them legitimacy and the strength to take their hatefull goals and ideas in the street and push it on anyone which they see as an ennemy.

This is why, even with decentralisation going forward, destroying mono cultural hegemonies is still required. You cannot just boycott Facebook, you need to destriy them, split their body in parts which can then be incinerated, salted and sent into the sun.

Having your own safer space, is akin to boycotting Facebook and the likes. It’s important that you have the capability to do it, but it will not makes the GAFAM go away.

Taxations and regulations are other ideas which I see a lot being suggested. It could work, at least it could probably reduce the harm their doing to our society, but we all know that they’re quite good at hiding their money away from national taxes system.

Regulation is kind of bad too. A lot of them requires to have some resources to spend on regulation conformity, and to have lawyers that are competent, trained on the subject and able to defend yourself. It cost money, money being the thing that GAFAM have in stupidly high amount, they can follow regulation quite easily, while most of all the small actors probably can’t afford it. Or GAFAM will not comply and pay bills. Or they’ll make proposals, produce white papers, grab a share in multi-stakesholder system to push their view in the regulatory body. They’ve done it before (look at how it became stupidly insane to setup a mail server or how they pushed to have DRM implemented in HTML specifications), they’ll do it again, they can wait five years paying bills in the tenth of billions of dollars without really being at risks.

So, what works ? We do not really know. We do not know how to take down a GAFAM, and that’s why we try a lot of different things. And that is why we also needs to find how other people did against similar systems.

Because we had this kind of system before. Systems who were pushing their ideology and cultures on anyone, in an intent to maximise the profit, while denyin minorities or locals to exist in a way which do not suit them. Those system were the colonist nation-state and private trade company (such as the Dutch East India Trade Company or the British India Trade Company).

So yes, we need to use anti-colonialism tactics and strategy. Some of them implies getting the heck out of the toxic space those corporations to organize, we need to promote alternate cultural and ideas, we need to make association with the GAFAM as toxic as we can, for any one who would want to negociate with them to be publicly exposed and shamed as a white supremacist promoters and accomplice.

This is what everyone who want to give back control to societies and communities should do. None of the GAFAM are your allies, or ever will be your allies. They might provide some opportunistic help, but I really think that, in the longterm, it deals more damage than it create goods.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, I’m in criticial lack of coffee and there’s too many people here. The only thing I know is that we do not really know how to destroy the GAFAM, but that doesn’t means that we should not try anything. Or talking to activists who’s been fighting oppressive corporate and nation complex for decades. And supporting them wheneever you can.

The long year

Or a little bit more than a year

It’s been a year for me, one in with a lot of stuff happened, some good but a lot of bad and harsh. I’ve been recovering from a burnout since February 2018, and I’m now finally back at work at La Quadrature, where a lot of changes are underway.

During this time, I spent more than six month experimenting different prescriptive drugs, trying to find a balance that would finally enables me to feel normal emotions, not the huge exhaustive and destructive tsunamis of rage, or the infinite pain of just being in pain.

Experimenting with your brain homeostasis is kind of a weird process. It changes the way you think, the way you perceive the world, the way you define yourself. It questions your free will, it questions your world, It questions who you are. And, in the end, am I just more than the serotonin neuroreceptor inhibitor drug that I take daily, or am I something different ?

The fiction I’m reading again has always at its core this notion of identity. It’s the basis of all the CyberPunk movement, and it should be at the center of Transhumanism too. Yes, queer politics are also about identity, as well as all politics in the end. And my identity has been fucked up by depression and traumas. I’ve built myself around a seed of anger, buried under layers after layers of insensibility, sarcasm and individualism. That’s how I survived until ten years ago. Got no choice, my socialization as a teenager has been adversarial and I had to weaponize it.

This seed of rage turned into a full blown sinister tree of depression, deploying its root in each aspect of my life and the way I relate to other, burying me under big black rotting leaves of melancholia and existential crisis, ornamenting the abysmal depth of despair with beautiful flower of exhausting emotional burst, lots of them were rage. Some others were dried by suicidal thought and morbidity. Other were flower of pure joy, turning despair in seconds, because it made me see the darkness I’m leaving in.

So yeah. Depression sucks. ADD make things worse. But back to the pills. What they do, basically, is giving me future and prospective. It’s helping me to get out of the fight or flight mode I’ve been in for years. It’s giving me the ability to plan for the future. Or the next two days, which is a huge improvement.

And yes, it is an emotional prosthetic. I see it that way. There’s a non zero chance I’ll take them until the day I’ll kill myself, or that a car decided that I should have stopped my bike in time and rode over my disarticulated body. It is part of me. The depression tree has been tamed a little bit : I still have those emotional burst where I have to fight myself to not jump on someone and turn his face in a bloody pulp with my bare hands. But they’re manageable, I can channel them a bit now. It’s still exhausting, and I’ll have fucked up night after that, despite the pills who are supposed to help me rest when I sleep, but at least it only last a few minutes, not hours or days as it used to.

You have to understand that those pills, are the only things that can help me to get some stable ground. Maybe after years of therapy I won’t need them, but for the foreseeable future, they’re part of me. And they allow me to shift my identity away from the rotten tree of despair to somewhere else. To a place where I can enjoy being with friends and lovers without blaming myself after that. To one where I can manage some social stress, even if being in a room with more than ten people is still tough for me. To a place where I can dance the stress and anxiety away. Where being sober among drunk and high friends is not stressful. Where I can admit that shit might hit the fan and that there’s probably nothing I can do to avoid that. The thing you call getting over stuff I think.

I’m still bad at it. I never learned to manage my feelings, and to accept them as not being alien, implanted in me by a fucked up chemistry, pushing me in the backseat of myself. But I think I’ll get there. At least I’m getting a little less shy about it.

But depression is always there to sucker punch you the second you stop paying attention. I can’t forgot the pills. If I forgot them for twelve or more hours, I’m getting suicidal. Fast. I need to be sure that I have them with me in case I’m not sleeping home. Getting arrested at a protest, even only for twenty four hour, is dangerous.I have to think about it every day, all day and it doesn’t help to see my progress.

So, I started to log my feelings. A small app, that will pops some time in my day asking me how I’m doing and what I’m doing. Something proactive, which will interrupt my train of thought and forces me to think about how I feel. Even for only ten seconds. It’s not like keeping a journal, which would require me to take an action, to think about logging and, being ADD, forgetting about it two seconds after thinking that I should do it, postponing it forever.

And yes, maybe this free apps is riddled with advertisement (I could pay to get rid of parts of it) and is built on GAFAM tech. But, as a lot of assistive tech, it needs to exists to make my life a bit easier, to rely a bit less on others, to stop feeling like I’m a burden to others. But this software, those data, are part of who I am. They record my past, and gives me agency. I can look at it and see that yesterday I was quite happy, and that all things considered it’s getting better. The same way the molecules I ingest daily patch my homeostasis, those assistive apps patch my moods.

It doesn’t tells me how I could be more productive. It just tells me how I am outside of now. But then, I’m hearing people, allies or friends, telling me that assistive apps are bad, that they’re only used to gather data about me, profile me in order to deliver targetted ads. Yes that’s true. The same way pharmacological companies tries (and succeed) to profit of every pills they make.

But rejecting this, rejecting the assistive tech part is the same as refusing people with diabetes to monitor their glucose level and to adapt their insulin intake, giving them autonomy. Or refusing access to glasses or hearing aids. Or prosthesis of any kind.

I have the right to help myself with external apparels, and to alter my self using anything available. And I have this right either because it’s a necessity to adapt to this crazy and destructive world we live in, or because it’s fun. Or both. The issue is that we’re monetizing the data about us, about our lives, not that the data exists. Those data are parts of me, they helps me understand myself. They helps you understand me. They helps me understand you, and the world we share.

End of Transmission

I have to write this down. Now. I have to do this. Now. Why ? Because I’m experiencing some clarity right now, and it will not last. It might looks like a hasty decision, but it is something I’ve been torturing myself with for months now.

I quit twittering. Or micro bloging. I’m going to close my twitter account (or accounts, you’ll never know) and I’m not transferring it to another micro bloging platform.

There’s some issue I’m having with micro bloging, and the web of notifications as we know it. Most of them are due to the fact that it’s not a form of socialization that gave me enough space to breathe and to get on with my life.

ADD does not help. Depression does not help. Having followers liking your calls to help without investing themselves much does not helps – that’s also something I’ve stopped doing.

Getting my fix of data is the first thing I do in the morning, right after snoozing my phone’s alarm, before getting out of bed. It’s like listening at the radio or watching TV in the morning before breakfast I guess. And it’s OK for a lot of people, and it’s fine. But in the end it kills me.

It’s been almost ten years since I’ve been pushing bits around here. I’ve seen twitter without retweets or faves. Or likes. Or quotes. Or algorithmic filtering. I’ve been in touch with people who radically changed my life, in ways they do not suspect, thanks to this blue bird.

But things changed, and some of the dilemma I had, related to this platform, are less and less dilemmas. And this is were I’m going to throw a bit of politics in the mix. I’ve made a mistake for years, and this mistakes was thinking that the user base can change the platform. It was thinking that platform owner, even hegemonic capitalist monsters such as Alphabet, Amazon, Apple or Microsoft, that platform owner did care about letting minorities exists in the fringe of those platform.

It was thinking that me, being and acting on twitter, was bringing more to communities than being out of twitter. It was mistaking the potential reach for the actual impact i could have on the world.

I’m thinking a lot about hypercapitalism and how social interactions and reputations are more and more slowly becoming a currency. And how the value of this currency is less and less representative of the work done to get there. I could elaborate on this. And I will, but not here, not now. I need to mature this a little bit more.

The short story is that I’ve been entrapping myself in a permanent performative version of me, to which I’m not even sure to subscribe. Or to understand. Most of my feelings and moods are alien to me, I do not understand them, and it’s partly because I’m too much in the now, not enough in the later. Which cannot helps me to get better.

It also puts me under a microscope. And I’m a white male, I cannot relate to the perpetual figth it is to exist online for visible women. Which brings me to the next point. My mistakes was thinking that it is possible to have different culture coexisting close to each other, sometime interfering — for better or for worse — but most of the time minding their own business in the inifinite space of information that the cyberspace is supposed to be.

I really think that we need a diversity of culture, that we need to let our own cultures to evolve and change, to be influenced by others, to develop themselves and crawling out of our lives, making us bigger than our individual selves. That we should nurture them and experiment with them.

But you cannot do that on homogeneous platforms and protocols. You cannot do that in the perfect hypermnesia of the advertising driven surveillance system. You cannot do that using less than ten platform. We cannot because, on those platform, the mainstream culture, the one that is amplified, developed, reinforced and marketed as the only culture that exist, is the one of the entity who have power on the infrastructure.

Which means that the only cultural choices you have is the one that those people are willing to give you. As Audre Lordre once wrote, « The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House. »

You can’t fight racists and homophobic people on a platform which actively support them, and makes money out of them. I used to think that, by being there, I could convince more people to try to take the power back, but the reality was that it was convenient for me. Enjoying my bit of celebrity to compensate cognitive dissonance. Persuading myself that using a platform which actively hurt people I care for, or myself, might be worth it in the long term.

It’s not, I was wrong. I want to get better, to get rid of this ghost of me that’s on my shoulders. I want to take time to write, read and think about the word. I want to go back at being active in a community instead of pretending I care and burning myself tweets after tweets.

So this is it. This is the end of me. It’s not an easy decision, but it’s a long thought one.If you want to get in touch, feel free. You have ways to reach me somewhere, or you’ll figure out. Or you’ll accept that I’m not that important in your life, and it is perfectly fine for me.

So long. And thank you for the tweets.

Yellow Vest : The great debacle

So, second post about the Yellow Vest movement in France. In the previous one, I tried to give a little bit of context on this movement, and how other political blocks tries to gravitate around it.

Since then, there’s been quite a lot of things. For one, there’s an increasing number of violent act done by the cops. If you want to be exhaustive, you should have a look at the work done by David Dufresne. On his — very graphic so be warned it might hurt you— page ¨Allo place Beauveau ?¨ he document most of the wounds and mutilations caused by the cops and their use of the now infamous LBD40 flash ball and GLI-F4 grenades.
We’re getting to the XIVth act meaning it’s the XIVth week of nationwide mobilization on Saturdays.

And the government is trying to react to it (about time would say anyone) by spreading wildfires about Russian interferences, and organizing the great debate using Cahiers de Doléances, yeah, like in 1789. But more on that later.

What I want to write about first, is the changes going through this unique movement. And how it is organized (or disorganized), and tries to resist to interfering. So, here we go.

Roundabouts and Cabins

The Yellow vest, as said before, gathers weekly onto roundabouts, or other places where they can locally block the traffic. Every Saturday, people gather to places — using last minutes messages to spread information about the how and where making it hard for cops to block them. And they talk. To each others or to anyone willing to talk rather than staying blocked in traffic jams on a Saturday.

And what happen then, should be no surprises. Since people are talking, not trying to win a debate or to score some points, they get a better understanding of their situations, their places in a society and that they do, eventually, share a lot of ideas with each others, building a class awareness on those roundabouts

Going a step further, some local groups started to build cabans on their place of protests. It’s easier to get people to come on a Saturday morning while the temperatures are freezing cold, if you have a bonfire, and things to eat and drink with you’re fellow yellow vests, it’s much easier to get people coming.

And some groups are going hardcore on this. For instance, in Saint Nazaire, they’re squatting a former Pole Emploi building, renaming it Maison du Peuple (People’s House). Or, on the other side of France, at Commercy, they built a cabin and have daily meetings, embracing the organizational ideas of Libertarian municipalism, preferring a decision making process based on collective discourse than one putting individuals forwards.

They even publish calls to actions on a regular basis. They also call for each groups to find way to organize themselves, for way to share between them and with other groups what’s they’re talking about, and how they take decisions. They even call for a general national assembly of all groups who wanted to join them, which resulted in interesting discussions about the place of the fascists among the Yellow Vest (and for once, they’re talking about it, which is more than I can see on other political groups and organs), how they position themselves with mainstream unions, political game or other issues (yes, they’re talking about feminism, racism and homophobia. Again, it’s more than I can see on some self proclaimed allies).

In short, they’re doing street politics, far away from the political organs, denying any public relationship person any power over them, trying to stay away of the political game as much as they can, trying to (re-)discover horizontal ways of organizing. Far away from the Parisian political apparel or from the last big movement Nuit Debout.

They use Facebook a lot to organize themselves one would say. I personally think they’re using Facebook mostly as a way to share information, not for organizing. Most of them don’t trust mainstream medias, for good reasons. Or perceived reasons. That s why they rely alot on Facebook groups to share informations.

One could think it then leads to disinformation, conspiracionism or worse, but I do not believe that there’s more flat-earthers among them than in any other social groups. They do use a lot of self-organized media to host their communications and informations (websites such as, or Some of them are working to build a webradio. They are their own medias, they are doing what we — hackers and stuff— have been pretending to do with more or less success.

So, let’s take a look at what their opposition is doing, namely the government.

The great debacle

In order to give the impression that M. Macron is listening at them, and in an attempt to sway the yellow vest opinions away from the road, they created a Great Debate Committee. Which is going absolutely fine. They even have a second website. Of coure, it blew up.

Ms. Jouanno, former head of this committee, resigned — or got fired — because of the clear willingness of the executive power to use it to push their personal agenda. I really think this is because M. Macron have never been elected on his proposals but because he wasn’t Ms. Le Pen, and, since then, he’s been trying a lot of things to find public support for his personal neo-liberal agenda.

When a subset of the questions — on the first website — leaked, it was clear that this debate would be an interesting attempt at manipulating public opinion. I have to credit them for trying new way to push propaganda, it is interesting.

For instance, they understood that, if they want to touch a public they usually evade, it would be interesting to have Ms. Schiappa, a state secretary, to co-animate a TV show with M. Hanouna on Direct 8 — a media own by M. Bolloré. M. Hanouna is known for he’s daily TV Show, pushing public humiliation at a new level, and his public does intersect a lot with the 18-25 subforum of a big video game forum, known for their harassment tactics ant anti-feminist positions.

I guess that, wanting to prove that Yellow Vests are fascists pig which wants to debate immigration politics, M. Macron thought that this could be a good idea. So, they did a talk show and asks people to vote for some proposals. And if you want to see someone feel alone while shit hit the fan, I suggest you to look at the State secretary face as the 7 most voted propositions are revealed.

For the record, I’ll retranscript them here:

  • Suppression of VAT on product of prime necessity
  • 2 to 4 % increase in hospital budgets
  • Re-instantiation of the ISF (Tax on the Fortune, a bit like what Ms. Cortez is proposing in the states)
  • Analyze and question the utility of all the tax niche
  • Jail time for tax frauders
  • Tax credit on innovation and competitivity reserved to the small businesses
  • Change the police time of policy

So, basically, except for the last one, people just asked to the government to undo what they did the last two years. And it was an attempt at swaying Yellow Vest movement toward immigration and identity politics. It blew up in interesting proportions.

Since then, we didn’t hear a lot about our president. He’s probably busy trying to find way to exerts control on M. Benalla — this scandal keeps on giving — and then he decided that he should probably write us a letter. It did not get well received.

So, now he’s talking to the press — after pushing them out of the presidential palace and tried to keep them under control by choosing which journalists would be allowed to follow him — and it’s wild. He claims Russian influence is behind the Yellow Vest movement, that there’s only extremists (from the left to the right) on-line, that there must be a hierarchy of speech (his own speech should be above elected representative which should be above media and the above educated people and then everyone else).

And that is not really compatible with the way Yellow Vests are organizing, since they never endorse leaders, or think that there’s no negotiations to be done. The Yellow Vests are preparing themselves for a long run, and that’s why they gather on Saturday instead of going on strike. It’s because they can afford it. They do not care if it take them a year of protesting, they do not want crumbs and leftover given to them through unions, they want all the cake and to share it with everyone.

And yes, I said it before, it’s not a perfect movement, it never will be because there’s no such thing. But they did dedicated one act to women, this saturday they’ll dedicate the act to the wounded by the cops, there’s talk about feminist issues — and no, they do not want to reopen the debate on assisted reproduction or mariage for everyone as some conservatism tries to imply.

What I see, from where I stand, is that all the people who abstained themselves from voting because they were disappointed by elective representation are now the Yellow Vest. They’re building, experimenting or re-discovering street politics tactics. And yes, it gives me hope that there’s more decent people out there than non-decent one.

The Yellow Vest Movement explained to my non-french friends

So, for those of you who have been living under a rock the last two months, there’s a social movement in France which manages to organize actions and protests for the last nine weeks (yes including the weekends between Christmas and the first of January). They’re easy to spot since they wear the yellow vest that everyone is supposed to have in their car.

Disclosure and acknowledgments

I’ll try to explain what I see and understand of this movement from where I am. I do not have a definitive opinion about them, and I do not think anyone can have one, even among the Yellow Vest protesters. I also have to add that I cannot goes in those extremely violent protests, I’m not stable enough in my feelings to be able to go there. I also acknowledge that this movement changes and that a big chunk of people who are now involved in the movement were not in the beginning, and that a lot of skepticism and criticism made toward the movement are not necessarily valid anymore. I’m not a social scientist and I also have some bias toward mob mentality and howling with the hounds phenomenon. I’m genuinely terrorized by crowds, but I’lll try to keep that at bay. So, enough with disclosure and let’s start.

Context (little bits of)

The political left (yes, including the France Insoumise (FI) movement around JL. Mélenchon) is in dismay. What left of it have exploded after the mandate of F. Hollande. The Parti Socialiste (PS) is clinically dead, leaving a lots of space for the FI. But even then, they have a hard time to make proposals that appeal to people. The big unions have found themselves inefficient at a national level. Their tactics of ordered protesting and trying to sit at the table of the government have been proved inefficient since labor laws have still been passed, independently of weekly protests last year. During the last presidential elections (there’s archive of what I think of it in the #DrunkDebate and #WTFrance hashtags), we ended up having 10 millions people voting for Marine Le Pen in the second turn (7.6 millions in the first turn). For the record, JM. Le Pen who also achieve to pass to the second turn of the 2002 French presidential elections, had 5 millions of vote in the second turn,and 4.8 in the first one (you can probably add the 600k voter for B. Mégret, he was a fork of Front National) (yes, half of what his daughter would do fifteen years later). And we have Macron because we didn’t want Le Pen,not because people agreed with his electoral promises, which were quite shallow, but, after all, they’re electoral promises. For the record, French registered voters is 47 millions of people. Last year was the fiftieth anniversary of Mai 1968, a huge social movement gathering workers and students which would lead, some years later, to the resignation of Gal. De Gaulle from his position of republic’s president. It was a movement in which most, if not all, of our current political “elite” started their career. It has been fantasized to the point that most unions where hoping for another May 68 to happen, so they just set-up protests to fight labor reform laws, instead of launching a global strike and factory occupations as the students did last year. Since he’s been elected, E. Macron did push a hardcore neo-liberal agenda. For instance, he removed the ISF (tax on fortunes, instated by F. Mitterand in 1989). He also stopped the funding of social securities by collective earning to replace it with a state controlled taxes – the CSG – that everyone would pay (which have a huge impact on jobless and retired people). And the list goes on. During 2016 (yar of the election year), another movement started, Nuit Debout, which gathered a lot of people to talk about politics. The biggest thing which came out of it is a development of the FI, but – a bit like Occupy – the movement would show to people that they should politicize themselves. Last year, a big student movement started in May in reaction to the ParcourSup debacle and a new law which would instantiate a selection at the entry of University. Universities – and some highschool – have been occupied, but the movement lost momentum with the summer break. So, this is bits of contexts. It is a complex one, we, French, love our protests. If you want to get a bigger understanding, you need to study French history since the fifteens, when big suburbans area have been converted in concrete blocks to host the working class. Or when coal mines and most of the steel industry moved out of France in the 90’s.

Who are the yellow vest ?

In reaction to a speed limit change on roads, and to a new tax on gas, a movement started on Facebook calling to block the country by going on roundabouts and block the roads there. This movement has spread through Facebook. At first, medias defined it has a “periurban” movement, a movement from the countryside of France, the “lower france” to quote M. Raffarin, former prime minister. But I think that it’s partial, a bias due to the fact that most – if not all – national medias are based in Paris and do not really get out of Paris in densely populated area. It’s been worse since their funding is going down, losing local correspondent and replacing them by columnist, creating a divide between those who reads the press and those whose medias speaks about. My understanding of where the yellow vest come from is, in part, due to two sources. First this good article wrote by cartographers and sociologists, which show that it is, in fact, the middle class, leaving in suburbs or big urban centers, not people leaving in the country. The second source is my personal experience of those suburbs, since I grew up there. Most suburbians areas in France are build around two class of population. The middle class who cannot afford to live in the center, and then lives in residential area that we call dormitory city. Middle managers, engineers, leaving in cheap houses massively built, office workers needing a car to do anything, because the commute system is not designed for that. Teenagers who drive drunk home because they don’t want to end up in their family house at 11pm because there’s no way back home, and no place to party nearby. The other one are the big projects, build in the sixties to house migrant workers. And that the state will stop worrying about. I suggest you to read about SONACOTRA to understand what’s been happening in the projects since the 80’s. So, you basically have two kind of people living in suburbans area. The one who can afford one or two car, and have no other practical solutions because everything is closing around them (from post office to hospital). And the one who can’t, leaving in old building, the lower class, mostly non white people. What defines the yellow vest is, at its core, their link to cars. The protests started in reaction to a speed limit reduction, which was perceived as yet another caprice of a government which is perceived has an urban elite which do not care about anything except their bank accounts. Those protesters depends on their car and, a lot of them – if not most – are in a precarious situation. If they can’t pay the gas of their car,they can’t go to work, so they’re going to lose their jobs, which will lead to difficulty to pay back the house mortgage, etc … This particular form of precariousness is called energetic precariousness. They’re not the lower class, the lower class leaves in projects and cannot afford a car, so they use public transportations to work, when they have a job at all. They’re the one who, taxes after taxes, are paying more for less. Their earning taxes rises while the level of public services goes down, creating a feeling of unfairness among them. More than the National Front votes (sorry, Rassemblement national nowadays, RN), I think that what defines them is the abstention.

Politics of the yellow vests

I do think that, despite the fact that 30 % of the population votes for the RN, most of the yellow vests are not fascists thugs. They’re the one left out by Nuits Debout, by the union, by the government and they think they only got themselves and their Facebook friends to rely on. It is a class which have been depoliticized, because they were taught that politics are only about elections, and they’re now finding ways to do politics outside of the big political organs. It is a resilient movement, quite effective at resisting political entrism and recuperation. Yes, there is RN voters among them, and yes, at least when they were building barricades on the Champs Élysées, fascists thugs from GUD of Action Française (or, well, royalists) were presents in high number. But nine weeks later, I think that most of them are gone. Yes there are racism, sexism and islamophobia in this movement. But not more than what leaders of the France Insoumise do. Or not more than what LREM (Macron’s political apparatus) does. Those issues are present in all classes of French society, and at all levels. I’m not saying that they should get a free pass, but maybe if we were tackling those ideas in our own court yards, then the Yellow Vest would have less racism, sexism and islamophobia behavior. And, well, there’s women march among them, in non-mixity. Not perfect it still is a mostly white movement, but it’s better than anything I’ve seen in big unions led protests. And they have some specific issues toward single mums. The Justice pour Adama Traoré collective, a suburb movement, fighting against racism and cop violence, called to join the Yellow Vest at the start of December. They supported, and sometimes joined, the climate march. Students have also joined the movement, bringing their concern about the bac reforms to the already long list of demands. So, after nine weeks, what are their demands ? They’ve published a list of forty demands, some of them are listed on Le Média, I will not details them one by one, you can read them (or translates them). There is some ugly ones, especially toward migrants. But that’s not worse than what I read in the France Insoumise agenda (it does not makes it acceptable, I’m giving you context), but there’s some interesting in how they want to regulate incomes of elected officials for instance, or re-instantiate the mutual benefits for social security of retirement plans
One of the key issue is the RIC (Referendum d’Initiative Citoyenne / Citizen initiated Referendum). It’s kind of a petition, the idea is for people to start by themselves a vote on ideas, not to wait for national inquiries. It’s one of the key item in the France Insoumise agenda, and they try to get a law on it, and it sparked a lot of controversy since A. Corbière, elected representative of the FI at the National Assembly, said that the RIC could be used to question the marriage for everyone law. The thing is, most of the French population is in favor of this (around 62%), so the only purpose of this question is to debate of something that’s already been debate, to promote conservative views. But this is not an issue specific to the Yellow Vest, as you can see, we have our own brown-red elected representative.

Medias and the yellow vest

Yellow Vest so not like the mainstream press. I won’t say it’s well deserved, but that was expectable. A non negligible part of national medias only spoke of the degradations made during the protests. Or present people as official spokesperson while there is no such thing. Yes, some right wings thugs have been depicted as spokesperson by some medias, and they were not disavowed immediately by the Yellow vest, which has been used to classify them all as RN supporters, using the classic trope of workers disappointed by politics voting RN by despite. However, I think that, in a quest of selling advertisements and clicks, there’s a trend around riot-porn in most of national medias, showing only pictures of electrical scooters burning or of barricades. Focusing on the violence of the protests instead of the reasons of the protests (that is not something new though). I also perceive some contempt from the intelligentsia of columnists toward the Yellow Vest. Especially because they’re not the public of those medias. When a leftist writes an oped for Valeur Actuelles, in the hope to appeal to the Yellow Vest which might read this Christian conservative weekly magazine, it shows that those same medias or politicians do not understand the Yellow Vest. Valeurs Actuelles, is read by the bourgeoisie, not by the Yellow Vest. Middle-class voters, like a lot of people, get their news from either the TV, or from Facebook. Not by those newspaper tailored for the upper class. There is also an expectation on the way to express yourself from the news outlets, which will display people who don’t use the correct code as being uneducated, violent, hostile or closed to negociations. For all those reason, there is a defiance toward the press by the Yellow Vest, feeded by confusionism and a little bit of conspiracy theories, some spread by elected representatives. I’ll modulate a bit this, because it’s all about nuance. The local press is covering the Yellow Vest and, being local, they’re kinda better welcome. There’s also some press outlets – the one perceived as not owned by the government – such as mediapart, which are covering the Yellow Vest in a less biased way (and well, they do cover also the Benalla stories, but that’s for another topics). Last but not least, most of the TV news journals, or even some of the news only channel such as BFM – are quiet on the police violence, not speaking about it at all, focusing on the degradations, damaging even more the already bad relationship between Yellow Vest and the press in general.

Cops and the Yellow Vest

The movement started rather peacefully, locking roundabouts and tollgates. For a good part of 2018, they tried to establish a dialogue with the government which just ignored them, not even feigning to speak with them. So starting on November, they planned protests every Saturday, with the intent of messing with the government, starting by building barricades on the Champs Élysées. And yes, protests on the Champs Élysées is a symbol of right wings extremists (and unauthorized cops protests). The first ones started wildly, with first fights between cops and Yellow Vest (and, at the time, a lot of fascists on the barricades) as soon as 11:00 AM, before first coffee break. You’ll see a lot of devastation on the avenue, but it is mostly due because to some public works on the avenue, something related to bike lanes. The protesters were met by a lot of cops violence. Water canon were used, but also LBD and stun grenades. There was basically no reactions from the government. Since the the situation got worse. But some of the Yellow Vests have found interesting way of scaring the governments. One of them implies declaring false protests, or protests on a different place than the one they actually wants togo. They usually try to targets what they perceived as place of power, meaning that, in Paris they’re protesting on unusual path (mostly in the west and rich part of Paris, instead of te classic République – Nation – Bastille triangle). They do not hesitate to take on cops. Sometimes using what they found on the street, such as heavy machinery to push back the cops. As a result cops are now loose, they use and kills people, including bystanders who just happened to live in a street where protests were taking part. Or by humiliating teenagers during a police raid in a school, which will fuel their anger, and have them join the YellowVest. DavDuff is keeping tabs on mutilations by cops on his website, and Libération published a stunning infography on the 82 mutilations caused by cops (yes, that’s roughly 10 per week, so 2 per days). And that’s only mutilation, it does not take into account everyone who’s only been beat up by cops. And it does not include Benalla’s related stuff. SInce reporters are now clearly shot on sight by cops, the coverage of the movement did change, and I really think that the defiance between the yellow vest and the French press is changing.

What of it ?

I do think Yellow Vest is important, because, first, it’s a movement coming form a class of people that used to be quiet and misrepresented (or they perceiv they are misrepresented). Yes, there is issue in this movement, including sexism, homophobia and racism. However, I’ll nuance that by the fact that most of those issues are present in classic left wing protests. And we need to come to term that a third of French population votes for the RN. I do think the government is scared, they’re incapable of reacting to this kind of movement and the usual tactics they used have failed, or made things worse for them by fueling the outrage and the being despised feeling and resent they have toward the people in power. Yellow Vest is different of what we used to have here in France. It is far from perfect, but it brings the political debate in the street, where it belongs.

My vim setup – with some rust specifities

So, I’ve got this thing called a sick leave due ti my depression. It means I have a lot of time to do whatever I want.
It includes writing stuff here, making the garden and wait for plant to grow, spend countless hours on Crusader Kings 2 et Europa Universalis 4 (my life is now gone), and to do computer related things that I wanted to do.
So, among things such as setup a pam-ldap configuration and documentations for a reset project, I’ve started learning Rust. Mainly because it is interesting. It’s nice and good, but it’s a bit hard, lots of concepts are different form my habits with Python. Anyway, I wanted to have a little help provided by context in my vim7 setup.

My previous config did worked quite well for python, but there was a lot of heavy duty plugins on opening files, which led me to have to wait some seconds when initially starting vim. And this is where my quest began. I wanted to do some things from vim (I never really bothered on compiling tasks or ctags for instance, since python or bash do not require them). I spent most of my last week to understanding vim, reading vimscript, finding plugins etc.

Continue reading “My vim setup – with some rust specifities”