"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Public Interest at the Planetary Scale

I'm always surprised when I meet someone who shares my fuzzy vision of globally networked democracy as the plausibly positive planetary prospectus.

This idea is out there, in the air. People sense kind of intuitively that easy/instant global communication will probably change the way we govern ourselves, but even in the thought bubble of San Francisco it's not something that seems to get a lot of direct attention.

I recently had a couple of run-ins, one with a future-focused magazine curator in SF and another with a Berkeley PhD turned Goldman Sachs wizard in New York. It got me thinking about why it's so surprising to find these types of connections.

Tech people tend to be lower-level in their interests — debating the bits and bytes of different languages, products, techniques and companies — and the business-end of the change we're living tends to get a lot more media attention than the broader social implications. Not surprising given the cultural context we inhabit, but still kind of a shame.

To the extent that "big picture" ideas get much play on the nerd scene, people seemed more taken by the Singularity, the computation-driven quasi-apocalypse. It's a neat sci-fi diversion — an interesting enough Dark Future, good for a pulpy novel or two — but doesn't strike me as imminently practical model for anticipating or piloting the future. Other big-think doomsayers fixate on Peak Oil, or the collapse of the global economy, etc.

While I'm as big a fan as anyone of Red Dawn disaster fantasies, I don't really believe preparation for total societal collapse is a wise use of resources. Human beings always believe the end of the world is coming, and we tend to be wrong. The future will bring change, no doubt, but the operative question (to me) is not "how can we ride this out in a compound?" but rather "how do we get ourselves to a new Golden Age?"

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Rhetoric Gone Stale

Just as much as I find myself cringing whenever politicians use phrases like "Main Street" and "Special Interests," it's worth noting that people outside the mainstream — my own people, so to speak — have just as many sucktastic language tics.

At the moment I'm reading The Army of the Republic, which was right there next to the just-finished Chronic City in the "Hip Lit" section of the U of O bookstore when I swooped in a couple weeks ago. Downshifting from Letham's prose is rough, but Stuart Archer Cohen's subject matter — domestic terrorist/patriots vs. water privatizers — is right up my Red Dawn alley. It's a fun read so far.

However, it's reminding me that it's just as irksome to read leftist cliches about taking it to the streets and whatnot. Even the more radical dialogue can make me wince. The revival we want to see is going to take a new language, purged of these cliches and their anti-meaning. Paging Dr. Lakoff...

Although, it could be closer than we think. Maybe I'm just an old softie, but this still gets me:

And I wish to god that someone would stick all of Perot's stuff on youtube for posterity. There's a huge amount to learn from what he was able to do:

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Consider The Alternatives

Apropos the previous posts about political power-grabbing and whistful public longing, and after a quick trip through the Jon Robb link farm, another thought I'd like to log for the register: in this crazy modern era of ours, in which the existing system is fumbling more than the San Diego Chargers, how long before we really start to think outside the box. Like waaaaay outside the box.

For instance, just off the top of my head:

My parents generation was willing to question pretty basic assumptions about how they were supposed to live. It didn't all work out, but it was a worthy exercise I believe. I think my generation is in an even more (potentially) radical space, thanks to these here internets. Not only can we interconnect with like-minded folks around the world with unprecedented ease, we can self-publish, self-learn, and figure What Actually Works in ways that were completely unthinkable to previous generations.

It looks bleak in some ways, but in other ways it looks pretty bright and wide open. Bears remembering.

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Greatness Requires Discipline

I'm an opponent to conspiracy theories, see them as disempowering distractions which create endless rationalizations for complacency. At the same time, I am an unabashed fan of conspiring. It's my own little paradox of proactivity: don't waste your time trying to unravel a hidden coterie behind why the world is what it is, just get busy making your own.

Spent last night talking Redneck Socialism over pizza and beer with Face and The Girth. We're bandying the ideas of rolling up on California's Canada and implementing a takeover. Prosperous though our lives have become here, the golden state feels like barren ground for the revolution, and we've sometimes a great notion there's an opportunity to do something more than live what passes for the bourgeois American Dream (home ownership, retirement savings, etc) in this 21st Century. At the risk of some material comforts, we can be heroes. After all, risk is our business.

As Eric Schlosser points out, it's been liberals attempting to "look tough" who are largely responsible for the prison industrial complex. This kind of hollowness, this essentially immasculine fear of appearing weak, the willingness to do truly terrible things to literally millions of people... this is the quintessential malaise which infects the contemporary Democratic party, and prevents real reform.

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