Posted by iFaked23
on February 29 2008, 19:35 » Uploaded
What happened to the optimistic dream of the future - the technological
future? It wasn't all just a corporate con, it was deeper than
that. Optimism wasn't always retro. Dreams have been replaced
by anxiety disorders. Now that's something the media has a lot
to answer for. Doom isn't guaranteed, but without an optimistic
vision for the future, I'd say it looks more likely. Who is going
to give us visions of the future?
Comment 02 Breakfast of champions March
01 2008, 08:05
Ignoring for a moment the important question
of who and what is going to fill the "vision gap" to the
future, a more trivial question of my own was answered by the soundtrack,
namely: what happened to those hippie musicians from 35 years ago
("the seventies") who ingested so much LSD that they caused
the space-time continuum to rip open. (The polar opposite of those
contemporary musicians who prefer to boost their careers by ingesting
wormy black sticky stuff, as Bill Hicks famously pointed out ;)').
Comment 03 Raoul Djukanovic March
01 2008, 09:53
Who? Ourselves alone...? (But not the guys
with guns version).
This guy has some optimistic visions without
losing sight of realism, in my opinion, having only recently run
I think the root of civilization, and a
major source of human evil, is simply that we became clever enough
to extend our power beyond our empathy. It's like the famous Twilight
Zone episode where there's a box with a button, and if you push
it, you get a million dollars and someone you don't know dies. We
have countless "boxes" that do basically the same thing.
Some of them are physical, like cruise missiles or ocean-killing
fertilizers, or even junk food where your mouth gets a million dollars
and your heart dies. Others are social, like subsidies that make
junk food affordable, or the corporation, which by definition does
any harm it can get away with that will bring profit to the shareholders.
I'm guessing it all started when our mental and physical tools combined
to enable positive feedback in personal wealth. Anyway, as soon
as you have something that does more harm than good, but that appears
to the decision makers to do more good than harm, the decision makers
will decide to do more and more of it, and before long you have
a whole society built around obvious benefits that do hidden harm.
The kicker is, once we gain from extending
our power beyond our seeing and feeling, we have an incentive to
repress our seeing and feeling. If child slaves are making your
clothing, and you want to keep getting clothing, you either have
to not know about them, or know about them and feel good about it.
You have to make yourself ignorant or evil.
But gradually we're learning. Every time
it comes out that some product is made with sweatshop labor, a few
people stop buying it. Every day, someone is in a supermarket deciding
whether to spend extra money to buy shade-grown coffee or fair trade
chocolate. It's not making a big difference, but all mass changes
have to start with a few people, and my point is that we are stretching
the human conscience farther than it's ever gone, making sacrifices
to help forests we will never see and people we will never meet.
This is not simple-minded or "idealistic," but rational,
highly sophisticated moral behavior. And you find it not at the
trailing edge of civilization but at the leading edge, among educated
Comment 04 Raoul Djukanovic March
01 2008, 09:55
Another comment from his site that's also pertinent:
[Feb 29:] Like most lefties and anarchists,
I always assumed that "the system cannot be reformed"
and that "reform is the enemy of revolution." It's a compelling
idea, and my personal experience backed it up. Since I started following
politics more than a quarter of a century ago, my country has just
been going farther and farther to the right. The lesson I took from
Bill Clinton and GW Bush is that if you put liberals in power, they
just put a happy face on the domination system and energize the
right, and it's actually better to put extreme right wingers in
power because they wake people up and run the system off the rails.
But now I think we've just been in a strange
part of history. First, late 20th century America made incredible
advances in propaganda. The mind control powers of the TV leapt
far ahead of our resistance, but now TV is losing to the less controllable
internet, and our resistance is catching up. Second, late 20th century
America had an unprecedented ability to buy its people off with
toys. This is only possible in a world-ruling empire during a time
of abundant energy, and both of those circumstances are now coming
to an end.
And third, the baby boomers. They're probably
the best generation in history at making music, and one of the worst
at politics. Maybe it's because they were the first generation raised
with TV, and just as the first generation exposed to smallpox has
a 90% physical dieoff, the boomers had a 90% mental dieoff. Maybe
it's because their lives perfectly matched the peak of the age of
irresponsible gluttony. But for some reason, a disproportionate
number of them are blowhards and cowards. You know that running
joke in Life of Brian, where the revolutionary group just sits around
talking and never does anything? The film implies that that behavior
is universal. But if you look at history, you discover that only
baby boomers are like that!
What I learned from Perlman's book is that
revolution is completely routine. Repressive societies inevitably
fail -- but when they are brought down with force, they tend to
be followed by societies that are even worse. You can see this in
both ancient and recent history. Revolutions in France in 1789,
in Russia in 1917, and in China several times in the 20th century,
led to mass murders and decades of shitty life for everyone. Conversely,
Norway now has the highest quality of life in the world, and they
haven't had a revolution or civil war for almost 300 years.
The old assumption was: you either have
a full-on revolution, tear down the system and start a new one from
scratch, or the system will stay the same forever. But no system
can stay the same forever, especially not a bad one. My latest thinking
is that violent revolution is a trick that patterns of domination
use to renew themselves. And if we can just be patient, the inevitable
breakdown of repression will happen through learning, voluntary
action, and peaceful change.
Of course, I'm coming around to the presidential
race. The great strength of Barack Obama is his ability to pay attention
and adapt. The American Empire is falling, and he is incredibly
well qualified to guide it to a soft landing, to help America find
a "dignified climb down." And most of us are with him,
but we are opposed by dreamers on both sides. On the left are the
people who think a hard crash or a violent revolution would get
us to a better world quicker, and on the right are the people who
think the Empire need not fall. For example, Jeff sends this fascinating
and hair-on-fire insane article, Obama's women reveal his secret:
Barack Obama is a clever fellow who imbibed
hatred of America with his mother's milk, but worked his way up
the elite ladder of education and career. He shares the resentment
of Muslims against the encroachment of American culture, although
not their religion. He has the empathetic skill set of an anthropologist
who lives with his subjects, learns their language, and elicits
their hopes and fears while remaining at emotional distance. That
is, he is the political equivalent of a sociopath. The difference
is that he is practicing not on a primitive tribe but on the population
of the United States.
Americans question the premise of America's standing as a global
superpower, and of the promise of upward mobility and wealth-creation.
If elected, Barack Obama will do his utmost to destroy the dual
premises of America's standing. It might take the country another
generation to recover.
That's the most inspiring analysis of Obama
that I've seen, and the most depressing prediction about America
-- that we might "recover."
Thanks for those. The reform vs revolution
dichotomy is something that I've often reflected on. When I think
of the things which I consider "progress" - workers rights,
womens rights, democracy, benign technology etc - they all came
from gradual progress, de facto reform, not revolution (although
the motives behind them may originally have been revolutionary).
I think thoughts and ideas are often both revolutionary and progressive,
but in the material world progress is always gradual, whether you
use the metaphors of natural growth or building something.
That's not to say that some institutions should
not be torn down and demolished. But one shouldn't confuse that,
in itself, with progress. Removing cancers is a metaphor which usually
doesn't work well for social situations. You just know that human
beings will end up treated as cancer cells.