I believe the Black President is wrapping it up in terms of the election. This is looking a lot more like 96, 84 or 76 than 2000 or 04. That's good.
So now there's this: Obama campaign buys 30-minute time block on Oct 29th. My guess/hope is this will be a Perot-style policy demo. Our debt-based economy is rapidly collapsing, and as clever as Zack's "25% hit on 401(k): five grand. President Obama? Priceless" line is, there's a reality that shit's real fucked up right now and it's going to start hurting regular people, and badly, quite soon.
For my part, I agree with Zizek that we need a new theory, and I'm young and dumb enough to go one further and venture some guesses.
The sketchy wind-up:
- With the EPIC FAIL of free-market fundamentalism, the prevailing ideologies of the 20th century have all been knocked down. From marxism to capitalism, isolationism to neo-liberalism.
- Indeed, the only modern model which is currently thriving is the authoritarian/nationalist/command-capitalist hybrid the Chinese are running with, and my guess is as the global slowdown hits them in the gut they're going to have some Interesting Times ahead as well.
- Without some kind of coherent means of looking at the world and the massive challenges (economic, social, thermodynamic, etc) we face, effective and lasting solutions are unlikely.
- The answer we seek lies in the ideas which are embedded in the Internet, and their ideal execution will be borne out over this new medium just as the last century utilized broadcast media and centralized computing.
- This new way forward -- participatory democracy -- is in vitally important ways post-bureaucratic, relying on the active and honest engagement of large numbers of citizen participants to be effective.
- Politically speaking, this is also important because instead of seeing "the people" as a mass to be stupefied or whipped into a revolutionary/reactionary mob, the goal here is to utilize the critical thinking skills of vast numbers of people.
- In the same way that bloggers realize "my commenters know more than me," public officials of the 21st Century should be listening directly to their constituents, as opposed to, say, lobbyists. Listening in the sense of finding solutions, not just "feeling our pain" or getting a sense of public opinion.
- Paradigmatically, this isn't just about information technology. The models we talk about for network resiliency have direct applications across the board: how the modern energy grid should be developed, how land-use and transportation should be shaped, and how taxation and issues of legal jurisdiction can be understood.
- As a for instance, rather than seeing the gap between how much money states like CA and NY pay to DC vs how much federal aid they receive, and calling it some kind of "wellfare," the participatory democracy perspective sees this as fiscal load-balancing process.
- Same goes for progressive taxation. Powerful nodes within the network have a real interest in the wider ecosystem thriving as well. Conceptually, at least, this scales globally. And hopefully it will in reality too.
- The role of government can be seen as two-fold: firstly in providing/funding the low-level physical and social infrastructure (roads, clean air, internet, health care, security, etc) on top of which a free civilization (economy, culture, etc) is built and secondly in taking a proactive role in solving Public problems like poverty, disease, and global warming.
- The engagement of people vis-a-vis government -- as citizens and as public servants -- can be seen then in many ways: cyclicly designing, constructing, maintaining said infrastructure, and also in assisting with specific problem-solving or service initiatives.
- Ultimately we hope to see a transparent and responsive state which provides accurate real-time information on all its activities to citizens. We also hope to see a radically reconfigured relationship between offices of public service and the public itself, much closer to a peer-to-peer network than the representative/supplicant network which has been dominant for some time.
There are reasons to hope Obama is willing to go there at least for the theory ride part.
The hard nut issue is the power and money. If we can successfully devolve power out from the current gang of 535 Congresspeople and 500 or so high-level cabinet and sub-cabinet administrators, and into the hands of several thousand more actually-empowered public servants, that would be huge. Likewise it would be huge to utilize the federal budget in a true load-balancing capacity, and allow for much more control over spending at a state and local level.
That will be really hard political work, but it fits like a glove with our need for a New New Deal and a post-hydrocarbon economy. We can't just patch up last Century's models. We have to seriously and comprehensively re-tool, and there's simply no way that can be done intelligently as a centralized top-down effort.
This is what I mean by "the revolution," really.