by Peter Malaise
With this title, we immediately bring in Europe’s music master, Ludwig van Beethoven, to give voice to both our boundless hilarity over Facebook’s name change, and our wrath over the perfidious choice of new name and new logo. If you didn’t already see it, the new name is “M**a”, preceded by an unbecomingly distorted lemniscate. If this is to be called a feat of arms, it is one committed with a paper helmet, a cardboard sabre and a war strategy from the kindergarten.
Why do I care about this? It just so happens that “meta” is the ancient Greek term that we chose with some friends in 1976 as the name for a new initiative. That initiative set out to revalue raw materials from living nature and handicrafts in a society whose economic players were mainly preoccupied with plastics, assembly line work and big business, without any regard for health and the environment. It was no longer about producing valuable goods, but about producing money for the happy few. Several small-scale initiatives arose from our set-up, two of which still exist 45 years later: Wood Shop Meta, in Antwerp/Berchem, which designs and builds looms, spinning wheels and related products, and the consulting company for sustainable products and services Meta.Consort of your servant.
Penis envy? Not at all, but at the time we had thoroughly thought and exchanged views on what the content of our name and the design of our logo were about. These were not chosen to suggest something that was not there. Nor did we want to achieve total world domination or a comparable alternative with our initiatives: there was a great deal of social involvement and more than once we stood at the maternity bed of other initiatives. If we look at what Facebook states as its mission, we do find that kind of perfidious objectives: “The mission of the Facebook company is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together”. Pure fabrication, the real mission of Facebook is to realise as many dividends as possible for its shareholders, it is really not a social organization and certainly not a social service. You don’t have to pay for connectivity, because all the data that Facebook can secretly get its hands on – and there are a lot of them – is happily traded on, without your consent, and without you being paid for it. There are dozens of websites that explain this in detail. That is the commercial model of the Facebooks, Googles, Instagrams, WhatsApps and Pinterests of this world, and if you don’t want to be part of it, you should look for other, serious service providers; there are plenty of those too. Hence the title of this column: “Ah! Pretender, deceiver!”, the opening words of a concert aria for soprano by Ludwig van Beethoven.
We find the term ‘meta’ as we used it in the expression μετά τα φυσικά (meta ta fusika), ‘what comes after physics’, in Aristotle’s vision. That was the origin of the concept of metaphysics: “…the philosophical doctrine that investigates not reality as we experience it through our external senses (such as physics), but that which is beyond matter, the totality of all that is given” (Wikipedia). That expressed more or less what we felt: there is another reality than just the physical one and we want to take that into account as well, even though we cannot yet interpret it properly. We knew from our own experience that when people make something, bake a loaf of bread, hammer a piece of furniture or weave a rug, for example, they add a dimension, a value to the physical flour, the physical fibres or the physical wood, that transcends these materials. Mr. Z. just remembered that “meta” can literally be translated as “something that comes after something else” and nuked that as his new brand name. For us, our name “Meta” and our logo, a water vortex, fit like a hand in a glove and expressed something that was – and is – essential to our initiative.
The lemniscate – at first sight a horizontal figure eight – on which Mr. Z. based his logo is already a very old symbol, used to express infinity, endlessness, but also the interconnectedness between matter and what goes beyond matter. Its origin is found in the Ouroboros, the serpent biting its own tail, and we find this allusion in China, India, Egypt and Greece thousands of years BC. In Facebook/M**a’s version, it looks more like modern glasses. A certain Mr. H. has also recycled ancient symbols in a perfidious context.
Well, if Mr Z. thinks he can justify his parasitic trade in other people’s data with such feigning, and those other people let it happen… Mundus vult decipi, the world wants to be deceived. Your own fault, your own fault.