To the faithful few who read my blogs, thanks for your patience. The silence of the past year was not the result of a writer’s block [I am sure], but rather, a clear realization that the world continues to turn without much help from me. My head feels like exploding! The constant wave upon wave of news – fake news is simultaneously daunting and numbing. Thank god I am retired so I have lots of time to try and process this and make some sense of it, especially before I write. I am reminded however of what Theodore Lowi said “Whatever is worth writing is worth writing badly – the quest for perfection is snobbism at its worst, or an excuse for not writing. The greatest of all scholarly fears is fear of finishing.”
So what have I processed from these past few months. Nothing earth-shattering I am sure, but hopefully more clarity and illumination.
Firstly, social media like Facebook and Twitter are merely places for people to express themselves, however inanely, to friends and ‘followers’ without regret or remorse for the things that they post. This behaviour seems legitimated by the current President of the USA, Donald Trump, whose tweets generate an avalanche of commentary. The veracity of what is tweeted or posted becomes the plaything of partisan politics. The oft-repeated claim by Trump and his supporters that the ‘establishment’ mass media outlets are nothing more than ‘fake news’ purveyors serves to seed confusion and doubt about the truth in the general populace. When Trump staff enablers, like Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Kellyanne Conway, blithely announce the existence of ‘alternative facts’ or other claims to a post-factual reality, we are all diminished. Chuck Todd was spot on to resist Conway’s assertion of ‘alternative facts’ by saying “Look, alternative facts are not facts. they’re falsehoods.”
So let me be clear – nobody’s mind is going to be changed by exchanges [of ideas] using social media which for many persons is now the way that they experience the news. There is no real appetite for the hard work of investigation of truth and little interest in committing the time required to engage in a discussion, particularly with someone holding opposing views. We do seem to live in an 8 second attention-span world of infotainment.
Secondly, even as these macro-level issues of politics swirl around us all, be it Trump’s Presidency, Brexit, EU cohesion, Russian aggrandizement, all the continuing conflict points throughout the world, the daily life experiences of most people seem similar to me. People seek to protect and advance the conditions of life, first and foremost, for their immediate family and kinfolk. This isn’t surprising to me or you I suspect. And there is nothing inherently wrong with seeking a betterment of life’s circumstances. Where things get messy and complicated is in those efforts to realize the sheer diversity of our individual aspirations and needs. It is in our attempts to succeed that the personal becomes the public, and by extension, the political.
In a world dominated by a corporate capitalist ethos, where maximization of profits is the fountain-stone of all effort, and subsequently all reward, people struggle to find their way all the while hoping to fulfill their personal dreams. The measure of all things, especially success, is reduced to the simplest of things, money. Roughly 250 years since the start of this current economic system, namely capitalism, and there seems little doubt that “money makes the world go round”. And not unlike pre-existing modes of economic activity, like feudalism and slave societies, the longer capitalism exists, the more it seems eternal to those living within it.
The rise of scientific knowledge and the application of technological innovation have transformed the interaction of humanity with the natural world. Indeed, our ingenuity and prowess have carried us clear of our earthly bonds and out into the solar system. Little can stand in the way of man’s manipulation of his environment except perhaps his imagination. And yet, the overarching message of the economic system is simply to grow profits by whatever means necessary, including the fraudulent and illegal, justifying such actions with a persuasive perversion of the adage, “the ends justify the means.”
Profit maximization before all else – persons, other sentient beings, the environment, you name it. The consequences of such a dominant mantra are legend. Exploitation of persons in myriad ways, most especially economic; destruction of the environment for economic gain; husbandry and slaughter of species for human consumption, to name a few. And even as these consequences continue in new and varied ways, the basic drive of most persons I alluded to above [betterment of condition], strives to survive in this hostile world. Can we expect the millions, nay billions, of persons to act differently within this particular economic system? I think not!
Lastly [for now at least], as I look out onto the world both near to me and far away, I continually remind myself that most things in life boil down to a problem of change. This world is far from perfect! That being said, the real question is whether the change will be one of reforming the current conditions to better meet and fit the needs and desires one has, or, will such change require a revolutionary break with the present in order to usher in a brighter future. The personal → public→ political model demands that we first articulate that which we hold to be most important to us, then we share it openly and honestly, not hiding behind anonymous/avatar personas, and finally, that we seek to make it actual using the political mechanisms available to us.
What are you prepared to do to advance your vision of the future?
CALL TO ACTION: tell me what your vision of the future looks like and what we need to do to help us all get there.
Speak up! But since I cannot hear you, tell me what you think in the comment field below.