Things are coming uncorked. 1,325 words; chew before swallowing. And there's more about my personal life here.
It's raining in Frisco, and I'm struggling. The most important thing is to stop struggling. Don't forget to breathe and when in doubt chant the almighty Ohm. I did some of that when I was going to the big anti-war protest in NYC. Things were getting tense and hairy. I was carrying a boombox which was broadcasting updates from WBAI as the Cops kept shuffling us around and blocking our ability to get to the site of the protest. The Workers of the World guys -- black cat logo, "no bosses" -- were the first to step off the sidewalk and onto the street. Me with my suit and tie and fluffy mad bomber hat and radio, following along them cutting out with gut breath and sonorous ohms. We made it to the site ok; everything was cool for us.
So what the hell does that have to do with where I am now, almost a year later?
So last night I watched Steal This Movie, the Abbie Hoffman biopic. It's a fun film; I will watch anything with D'Onofrio in it -- he's a fucking amazing actor -- and Jenneane Garaffalo turns in a remarkably sympathetic performance, dropping a lot of the cynical armor that marks her stand-up work.
But the subject matter of the film hits close to me as well, it being similar in some respects to what I am attempting to do with my life.
It was before I was born, but there was apparently a time when FUN and MORALITY coincided, where Rock and Roll was both about shaking your hips and saving the world. Where did that go?
Struggling with the opposing pulls of the professional and the radical. There's something inside me that's holding back. Ginsburg (who posthumously turned me on to the Ohm) said that the only way he had any indication of whether or not what he was working on was any good was when it scared him. My job scares me.
I have this pretty deeply ingrained fear of being pretentious; this is in and of itself somewhat pretentious, I know, but there you have it. The point is I tend to worry more than maybe I aught to about hubris and things like that. It's frightening for me to think that I'm important, yet I know without a certain measure of self-confidence it's tough to get anything done. Like I said, struggling.
Think big, we say. Driving on the 101 from home to office, there's a giant vacant office complex just north of Oracle with that slogan posted up in giant white on red letters. "Think Big! Think 81,000 square feet..." A daily reminder of what happens when your big thinking becomes too detached from reality.
There's an element of potential madness to any ambition. Some people have vision, others visions. It's a fine line. We're in this to affect the 2004 election and something more, but why? And what happens afterwards? You say you want a revolution...
How radical are we? Are we for the elimination of poverty? Global equality? Are we for a cultural shift that moves away from television, fear and blind consumption and towards something else?
Marshall McLuhan was right that the medium is the message. However, he -- like many others, including my man Bucky Fuller -- profoundly misunderstood how television would play out. He believed that TV was connecting us. It's certainly made us more alike, but at the same time it has driven us further from one another. It is an atomizing force in society; breaking media consumption down into ever more specific niches and psychographics, and separating these different elements from each other by class and as individual atoms. We are becoming, to our detriment I think, a society of noble gasses.
The internet, on the other hand, is a whole different thing. At its heart it's an expressive medium, a connective and amalgamative thing. It's about the participation, not the interactivity. It's not about pushing buttons, it's about expression -- ideas, emotions, memories -- creating a public record of one's existence. It's about generosity; only connect.
See, internet people aren't glued to their screens the same way as couch potatoes. We probably spend a lot of time in front of the keyboard, but the whole thing is ultimately a driver of experience, not a flickering electronic sedative. We're hungry to do things, to make things, to have feelings and thoughts. We are active, dynamic, pretty enough to take pictures of, interesting enough to write about, and perhaps even possessed of valuable tidbits of wisdom. None of us are all-knowing, but many of us are smart and some are even experts.
Of course, the whole works could be used for pure evil too. Big brother and all that jazz. Don't think that little dream is dead just yet.
We need a missionary movement, something to tie it all together the Right way and start spreading the Word. When I talk politics, I inevitably slip into religious or spiritual metaphors. Why fight it? Participatory democracy is the American religion; the net is driving a revival; truth and justice stand to win a few rounds. Fuck it: I'm a believer.
If we can learn to share a little more -- physically and metaphysically -- things will be so good you wouldn't believe it. When we enter the paradigm of material plenty, when we wake up as a species and realize that There Is Enough To Go Around, things can be pretty different.
The question is how? Do we wind up lean and bright eyed seekers of adventure and knowledge, or just fat and happy. Or both?
I mean, we might end up a big sloppy world of franchises and ennui; consumer paradise minus the Democracy. Something like China's seems to be turning into. Life is pretty good all things considered. There's a lot of prosperity, so why bother with how the government works; let the party take care of that, I'm going clubbing. You know, self-censorship and indirect government pressure...
In an effort to defuse the controversy, Ms. Mu said she quit her columnist job in early November and voluntarily shut down her Web site. She said she had other offers and hoped to continue writing, assuming the government does not ban her writing altogether.
-- From an article about China's most popular blogger, a woman who publicly recounts her sex life.
In an effort to diffuse controversy, she quit her job and shut her site down. Yes. To diffuse controversy.
It doesn't have to be like that. Maybe we can end up in some emergent utopia. Maybe we'll build spaceships instead of bombs, an exploratory/industrial complex. Maybe we'll make reaching out to the world, to the universe, a central part of how we live; quit dwelling in caves, you know? It might be really grand fun. Wire (or rather, unwire) the world, make it all equitable and efficent, an end to meaningless toil. Forget opening new markets to Wall-Mart; let's go build fuel-cell powered internet hookups in Africa, start a whole new thing.
The internet is the single best short-term project our country could concentrate on; bringing peace and net access to the world. It's a certain kind of hegemony, true, but it's awfully light-handed and doesn't require franchises or bombs. It encourages qualities like creativity, inquisitiveness and entrepreneurialism. I mean, people can go back to living in trees if they want to; just make sure someone's got a laptop and a big antenna. It's not that everyone has to be on the computer, just a certain social critical mass so that enough communities are connected.
Expanding the global communications network should be a core part of our plan for foreign policy. We're either going to get more integrated on the planetary scale or tear each other to pieces. Utopia or Oblivion, no joking. If we're connected, we're more likely to take care of each other and less likely to fight. More likely to realize what the hell is going on and less likely to be duped into fear and loathing. More likely to make it as a species and less likely to vanish in radioactivity or rising tides.
It can be a part of domestic policy as well. Investing a few billion in a federal expansion of open last-mile internet infrastructure would do a lot to bring the economy back into action. There's a whole lot of people who can work at building networks. Just like roads, networks need maintenance, and they become avenues for new kinds of commerce. It would open a world of information and opportunity to communities that are currently cut off; juice the economy and drive public education, civic participation and creative expression. Sounds dope to me.