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COLUMN

Darwin’s Advocate

Philip Burrowes

Remember Angels in the Outfield (1951)? Well, for those of you unversed in America’s historical fascination with apotheosizing/damning its secular sectors, the premise of the movie is that it would take divine intervention for the pitiful Pittsburgh Pirates to win. Following the success of Mighty Ducks, Walt Disney updated the film in 1994, this time oh-so-wittily featuring the then-California Angels, then bought the actual franchise and renamed it. Six years later, the Angels won a world series, sadly too late for the Disney Afternoon.

People don’t really care that the Angels are owned by a greedy, bloodsucking conglomerate that succeeds almost solely through the good name fostered by its egomaniacally avuncular eponym. (That’s Uncle Walt for you.) Nor does the implicit association between the unpredictably creative sport of baseball and a film proud of its reliance on the ultimate contrivance -- deus ex machina -- give many pause. Why? Maybe because Disney isn’t George Steinbrenner. Or maybe the public realizes there can be some worth to organizations funded by morally or culturally bankrupt means.

District Judge Kollar-Kotelly seems to agree. Her acceptance of the antitrust settlement between the Department of Justice and Microsoft displayed a degree of thoughtfulness absent from most of Microsoft’s detractors, who are just haters that would probably do worse given the power. Apple is an autocrat of its little corner of the universe, in control of software and hardware. Sun’s proprietary mandate over Java makes sense given its cross-platform nature, but how long before someone starts complaining about that too? Then there’s AOL Time Warner, which left Virginia Ave. to dry up while buying Atlantic, so it wants to put a Luxury Tax on all the people who stay on Baltic because its close to Go. None of them want to compete with Microsoft, regardless of the terms.

Bill Gates can’t even put up butterflies without someone complaining. Sure, the “guerrilla” advertising techniques his company has used in cities to promote [look, if we reprinted the name here he’d have won] is illegal, but, come on, they’re butterflies. At least it’s more honest than IBM appropriating Tux and peace signs to pretend it has some real association with Linux. At least butterflies are pretty. We should beg the campaign to come to the Boston metropolitan area. Think of the funding from fines!

Governments wouldn’t dare do any such thing (openly) because on one level it’s probably entrapment, and on another heaven forbid you’re a friend of big business. This country is founded on the basis of self-determination for landed gentry. Sure, it’s also founded on a racial caste and ethnic cleansing, but you couldn’t very well do those in today’s society. Rich individuals still have to be protected, however, from the poorer and unsympathetic. Witness “tamperproof” CDs from artists like Santana, whose corporations don’t want to be exploited through the informal electric economy of file-swapping. Consumers who lack any creative ability (especially DJs) decry the action, longing to obviate actually supporting the artists they listen to only because popular discourse (radio/MTV) so dictates. Yes, the same issue existed upon the advent of audio and video tapes, but mass production by individuals of mp3s and various discs are much easier.

Luckily, George W. Bush is not afraid to take a stand against such populist sentiments. Caricaturists take the easy way out, depicting him as a byproduct of political nepotism and the base power of money. Even if that were the case, so what? Given how many times we see the masses selectively protesting capitalism, wouldn’t it be fair to let the other side of the debate have some support? That the conversation is out of balance because Bush holds more power than his opponents is not his fault; it’s not like he won an election under his own power.

Speaking of elections, it is absolutely not your democratic duty to vote today. You have a responsibility to articulate your opinion through the franchise, but flippantly deciding to vote a party ticket or simply following a trusted publication’s equally ill-researched editorial actually taints the process. If the mere act of casting a vote somehow strengthened society, the Communists would kicking capitalist tail at more than basketball. A process of following the events of the day, establishing opinions through internal debate, testing those beliefs against peers engaged in a parallel process, and then proceeding to vote upon the thereby synthesized thesis is the ideal. Voting is merely a mechanism for encouraging such engagement, and the collectively educated populace which it produces. When that mechanism is abused by otherwise disinterested individuals, it mathematically dilutes the power of the intelligent bloc, and the results inevitably disappoint. Nobody wants to be ruled ... er ... lead by those “elected” due to the ignorant, naive, and gullible. Just stay home.