The Tacet Underground

What if He didn't exist? At all. What if long ago, visiting ETs decided that the easiest way to keep these creatures (us) complacent was to chisel out some stony rules and promise a heaven and a hell, much like a kindergarten teacher promises stickers for good behavior and time out for bad behavior? Sure - it's crazy. But just for a minute, what if?

What if the bible is not the 'word of God' as it is so flippantly called while held up and venerated? What if you discover that it is a collection of stories jotted down by the fallible and earthly predecessors of Aesop and the Brothers Grimm, later bastardized and edited and tilted to meet the selfish needs of a corrupt church hierarchy?

What if you woke up tomorrow and none of it made sense anymore? 'Why would an all-seeing and all-knowing god be vengeful?' 'Why revere a book that promotes misogyny, revenge, slavery and killing?' 'Am I a thinking person, or was I indoctrinated before I had a chance to make a choice?' What if it all seems so remote and unbelievable that when someone brings it up, your brain has to click into gear: "Oh yeah! - I forgot that people still believe in that!"

Imagine how truly looney it would then seem if you heard the DOJ's very own Imp of Darkness justifying the cruel and inhumane treatment of emigrating children by quoting a bible verse. Imagine how genuinely frightening it would be to hear former White House aide Omorosa Manigault Newman report that Vice President Pence thinks Jesus tells him to say things. For the almost one out of four Americans that do not believe in God, it is chilling.

The Founders were very clear about the need for separation of church and state:

"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."

In this, one of the most fatherly-feeling quotes from our Founders, James Madison and the other framers are looking out for us in the way that parents try to impart hard-learned wisdom upon their children. How many times have we wished our kids would listen to us?

There is a musical term, tacet. This tells the musician to do nothing - still pay attention to what's going on, but do nothing. To make a sweeping and reckless generalization, atheists know how to tacet. It is simply easier to nod and smile and say nothing than it is to get into it. Sure, there are atheists at every turn that have no problem declaring their non-belief, but they didn't get there without also learning how to deal with feelings of disenfranchisement, ostracization and condemnation.

It isn't always easy to say, "I don't believe in god" when those around you do and when the indoctrination you've received makes you feel many emotions - but primarily guilt - just for entertaining the idea. Even for the loud proclaimers, it is usually easier, quicker and less trouble to tacet.

The approximately 25% of Americans that make up this Tacet Underground form a much larger subset of the population than the 1% that are Muslim, the 2% that are Jewish, the 2% that are Mormon, the 4% that are either LGBT or Q, the 12% that are Black or the 19% that are Hispanics/Latino, yet these other groups are constantly protesting, demanding and making themselves the news while atheists are mostly content to tacet and pay attention.

In 1795 John Adams said, "The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."  Atheists take this seriously and are deeply offended when ignorant people like Donald Trump pretend that it is.

The Vice President's proclamation that he is a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third is deeply offensive to the (at least) eighty-some million Americans that do not believe in his god and consider that statement alone to be grounds for him to be removed from office. On the other hand, even nonbelievers may sometimes hope that hell exists, comforted by visions of Jeff Sessions roasting marshmallows with Beelzebub.

As has happened over a long period of years with the LGBTQ community, 'coming out' as an atheist carries less of a social stigma with each passing day, although small town folk and conservative communities may still find a way to disparage anything out of the norm. Time passes and the number of people that distinguish themselves as atheist will increase as the stigma lessens and the dark side of religion is continually revealed by people like Jeff Sessions, Dana Rohrabacher and Donald Trump who insist on evoking the Bible and Jesus for evil.

By 2020 the Tacet Underground could include not one in four citizens as it does now, but one in three. That would be over a hundred million Americans that don't want to hear religious dribble or quotes from the bible, but instead want logical and well thought-through plans based on research, testing and evaluation. At some point our politicians are going to have to grapple with the fact that one out of three Americans think the bible-thumpers and scripture-quoters and evil-doers are more than a little nutty and start giving us more than the incessant stale rhetoric about abortion, guns, gays and God.

Software Abuse

Children that grow up in abusive households assume that everyone gets slapped around when they make a mistake or spill their milk. When it's all you know, you believe it's normal. It never occurs to them that their parents are being mean - just loving them in a way that hurts. Like software companies treat us.

Software abuse is rampant and pervasive. It is being perpetrated by every software company - the bigger the company, the more severe the abuse. If you are thinking, "I use software, and I don't feel abused"; exactly. You are that kid being slapped around, and you think it's normal.

Windows 10 includes many 'apps' that are redundant or toys or attempts to unseat established 'common usage' applications, including Groove Music and Photos. There's also the lovely Cortina, meant to lure you away from Siri like a siren on a rocky shore. The problem isn't so much that they're there, but that you cannot get rid of them - not without editing the Registry, and who wants to do that?

We can't blame Microsoft for trying to get us to switch to their versions and buy their toys, but the way they are going about it feels like a large, unpleasant-looking gentleman is handing you a shirt from his new fashion line, informing you that you will wear it every day. Apple is just as bad, if not worse; iPhone includes many unremovable apps, most require giving Apple more money in order to use them.

The point is that we pay good money for these operating systems, but they aren't really ours. We are not free to use them as we please, and are constrained to being subjected to these internal, downright sneaky 'product placement' and marketing tactics. We are being programmed, by our computers. Whoop!

  • The switch from buying software to renting software was forced upon us. This is crapola of the highest order. It is easy to understand from the software company's point of view - they need recurring revenue to stay in business. Honestly, that is not our problem. The period when software upgrades were based on actual improvements and/or the addition of truly new groovy features ended around the turn of the century. While a few users utilize a small portion of the advanced features in MS Office for example, the vast majority of people writing letters and creating docs in WORD 2013 could do it just as well in Office 2003 or even Office 2000. Is the new version of Office better? Not really, although it is packed with 'features'. Are the icons cuter? Sure. Should we be able to pay one fair price to purchase MS Office and install it on our computer and use it as long as we like, until it no longer meets our needs? Damn right. If the software companies need recurring revenue, let them give us upgrades worth buying, instead of coercing and trapping us into giving them money every stinking month for the rest of our lives. Adobe is the worst in this category.
  • The software industry is replete with monopolies now. Applications and companies that once competed with MS and Apple like Word Perfect, Quatro, Astound, Netscape, Macromedia, and Netware, to name a very few, have been scooped up, knocked out, or sidelined. It may look like a free marketplace, but it is Standard Oil and AT&T. Not having a real choice kinda feels like a kick in the pants.
  • The 'terms of use' agreements are ridiculous. They are 100% in favor of the software companies, which absolve themselves of any wrong-doing or responsibility from anything having to do with their product, and place all the risk and responsibility on us, without giving us any options or choices. They are a huge 'Our way or the highway, SUCKA!'. Feel that slap across the face?
And then there is the data mining. Microsoft is calling Edge a browser, and trying to steer you to use it instead of IE. As a browser, Edge is clunky and slow and not very effective. However, as a data mining tool it is just wonderful! Many of the 'news' offerings are ads, and the others usually lead you to pages filled with ads. Every click is tracked to 'customize your experience'. Many search engines also track your clicks. Google (Alphabet) is especially adroit in this area, utilizing another 1984 tactic called 'digital viewscreening', by which they constantly monitor and track your online activity, if not directly from, then from companies and websites you don't realize they own, like youtube and Avast, and from applications you do know they own, like Chrome.

Apple wants to track not only what you click to and what music you like, but also where you are 24/7. And Apple is the worst at dealing with updates, hounding you like an ex that kinda scares you now, until you install them. Again - no real choice. Feels like a kick to the shins.

Have you wondered if the companies offering 5 GB of 'free' online storage space are doing so to be nice? Do you believe they are spending millions on server computers, routers, firewalls, gobs of bandwidth, and salaries for thousands of administrators without ever taking a peek? Really?

So many men and women struggled and fought, and were wounded or died, to protect our rights, one of which is a right to privacy. How have we so freely abdicated that hard-earned right to privacy in order to order a pizza using a toy? How can we smilingly let giant companies abuse us until we become convinced that privacy is a thing of the past? Privacy is only a thing of the past if we let it be; if we continue to enable MS and Google and Apple and Adobe and blindly obey prompts to 'stay logged in', and 'sign in to get definitions', and 'enter you cell phone number'.

It isn't realistic to think we can make a difference by not buying software, as many of our livelihoods now depend on software to a greater or lesser degree! Change can only happen when laws are written that protect software consumers, and so our hope lies with our elected officials.

Almost all of our elected officials have websites through which you can voice concerns. The Senators and Congresspeople don't read them, but someone or some computer application tracks them. If enough messages come in with "Please legislate in favor of software consumers", in the subject line, they will listen. It is quick and easy and at least you didn't do nothing.

The longer we let the abuse continue, the worse it will get. Software companies will keep probing and abusing until they are either forced to employ reasonable business practices, or they convince you to install real viewscreens, like Google Home, Echo and HomePod, in your home and office. Big Brother is alive and well and he has Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google keeping an eye on you for him.

A graduate of Portland State University, Steve (Reeno) Kloser is the author of Beginning Band - A Guide to Success and Let's Make Music - Classroom Recorder Course. He is also an accomplished teacher, conductor and composer, having penned numerous pieces including La Vida and Fly With Me.

Teacher, cook, Packers fan and proud American, Reeno's usually slanted outlook often presents an unlikely perspective on issues old and new.

Reeno currently lives in Portland, OR.

Follow Reeno on Twitter

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