Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Is your brain on phone mode?

In 1979, in college, I wrote a treatise titled "Technology Shock," taking off with some of the notions in Alvin Toffler's bestselling book, "Future Shock" (mixed with some of my signature brand of pro-Thoreau-Green-Living-Nature-Rules proselytizing). The theme has long been with me. I'm skeptical of those who seem enamored of techy gadgets. And my skepticism isn't just a hunch, it's based on social science. Studies show: dedicated nerds and geeks (and I'd say phone freaks) are often people who suffer social deficiencies, who are distrusting gripes or busybody technicians or chatterbox gossips, happier with machines and manic flitting around or with being stuck in corporate cubicles than they are with the flowing society of villages or with gatherings of people in their homes. Seemingly desperate to connect, we Americans are more isolated than we know. Now in that shocking future some saw coming decades and even centuries ago, we have spread a love of devices and tech toys and synthetic ("virtual") experiences that have superceded more important virtues: love of community, love of nature, love of patience, love of imagination, love of hobbies and clubs, and, perhaps most tellingly, love of concentration and FOCUS and doing one thing at a time. I'm not anti-inventiveness or even anti-tecnology. But the glut of technology? The dependence on technology? The distractions and dominance of technology? The LOVE of technology?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lincoln on His 200th Birthday

Here is my favorite quotation by Abraham Lincoln, the one which I think is most profound and most essential to his legacy and to the rise and fall of democracy:

"As I would not be a slave,

so I would not be a master.

This expresses my idea of democracy.

Whatever differs from this,

to the extent of the difference,

is no democracy."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Audacity of Greed

People don't work on Wall Street or even generally invest in the stock market to better the conditions of humankind and life on Earth. Investments are not often the stuff of altruism.

Wall Street is about greed, as in "greed is good."

And so what do we expect?

President Obama reprimanded Wall Street scions today for taking $20 billion in bonuses last year, even when there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Of course they would take those bonuses. And run.

It's a money brothel, not a volunteer fire department.

It's a greed machine, not the Peace Corps.

It's: "Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what the American brand (and loop holes) of the "free market" can do for you.

The lion that is the audacity of greed makes the audacity of hope seem like a mouse.

And so, will real change come?

A change of values? Against the grain of human nature?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stimulus Package

This just in from the Viagra Nation: even the phrase "stimulus package" sounds obscene.

Country and planet seeing some bumps along a stratospheric rise and overly caffeinated course of consumerism?

Look at the short term again. Put it on plastic. Charge it to who knows who?

We want a stimulant? We should take a rest. For three decades and more, we've been shopping in middair with our credit cards falling out of our pockets. It's time we got back down to the ground before everything we know becomes a dustbowl.

"Stimulus package," "stimulus bill," President Obama would rather call it a "recovery bill," but there's a HUGE disconnect here. Recover from what?

What we need to recover FROM is spending and debt, both personal and national -- and to shift the nation's resources from personal gain to public good.

We shopped 'til we dropped. Seems a drop in shopping is the answer. Good for us, good for all. It's not as if we are all really NEEDED. 300 million people in this country?

And so any part of the stimulus package that "puts money in the pockets of ordinary Americans" is not necessarily a good thing. Better to give others jobs or more education, retraining and opportunity to jump back into innovative and improved ways of building a more sustainable culture, a more enlightened nation.

As the president himself said in his inaugural address, "...we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

Now "remaking" is a big word. It doesn't mean just repairing and restoring the old status quo. I didn't vote for that. I voted for change. And I want to see the systemic change and the change in emphasis and the change toward the common good in this mega dose of National Viagra.

With Obama at the wheel, I want to see a distinct turn away from 'affluenza' and this consumerist juggernaut. America is either better than this spoiled accumulation of junk, this shopaholic patriotism, this sprawling and selfish paving over of paradise, or it's not.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama at the Wheel

The only thing that concerns me so far is that President Obama may move too fast. He may be racing the clock, that 100 day deadline that the media impose.

In the span of about four and a half working days in office (though it seems there was no slowing down this weekend), the president has turned the tide on torture, government jobs and government assistance, public works projects, abortion, lobbyists, diplomacy, governmental transparency, and today, and vehicle emissions.

To be fair, the larger issues of the economy and global climate remain and probably will always remain beyond his ability to turn around. These things are bigger even than any administration.

But what a change a few staffers and the stroke of a pen can make.

A few staffers and the stroke of a pen.

And now for the enforcement and the rallying of public opinion. These are the greatest challenges of any president: to see that his edicts are enforced and to sway enough of the public to champion his causes -- and make his brand of CHANGE the brand of change for the public at large and indeed the dedicated goal of the majority. Can he do this?


Friday, January 23, 2009

Clinton Gone, Kennedy Out, Kirsten In

Way back last year, late in the Bush Era, when Caroline Kennedy announced her desire to be the next Senator from New York, I was all excited. But it turns out that excitement was based on an old crush, not current conditions. Kennedy has proved her desires to be pie in the sky. Her resolve started with the romantic aura of 'Camelot reborn' yet ended in mystery and even a bit of political mayhem. In the last month, "Sweet Caroline" has not displayed the steely focus, drive AND decisiveness one needs to be a particularly effective statesman.

These ARE qualities Hillary Clinton has shown from the moment she found out about Monica Lewinsky, and Hillary only built on these strengths during her determined run for the presidency.

Now we have Kirsten Gillibrand, a United States Representative from the Albany area, and good for her. Good for us. This is the right choice after all. A tough campaigner, an impressive fundraiser, a bridge-building "blue dog Democrat," who may catch some flak east of the Hudson and south of Westchester, but who may, in the short term she's got, help bring together more upstate and downstate values.

She'll become known for her defense of gun rights, but you know who else defends gun rights? The American Civil Liberties Union.

Rep. Gillibrand has a 100% voting approval record from the ACLU, and along with some green cred and on the ground experience in Washington, that's good enough in my book.

I say farewell to the old baggage of Clinton and Kennedy and welcome the fresh young face and future-leaning pragmatism of Kirsten Gillibrand.

Governor Patterson, a bit sloppy in the final rounds, but in the end, a victory.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

HeRObama Cans Torture

It's just the day after the day after, and I just got what, for years, I wanted most: an end to torture by the United States, effective immediately.

And this includes, as the Geneva Convention said it should, any life-threatening interrogation tactics. As we would not want our own lives threatened, no matter what, so should we not want anyone to threaten another's life. Perhaps their liberty, yes. To restrain someone and to incarcerate them is humane, but torture never is.

To put it bluntly, anyone who voted to re-elect George W. Bush in 2004, voted not just implicitly but explicitly to allow torture to continue. By then, the widespread use of torture in American-run prisons at home and abroad, far beyond and more secretive than Guantanamo, including top secret CIA "black areas" in undisclosed locations, was well known.

Like war, like any crime of violence, torture is personal. Millions pay (or go into debt) so that others may commit these crimes. They're the professionals; we're just the voters. But that is a cop out. Those who don't make it's absolution a priority are morally suspect.

Thank you, President Obama and ALL who help this change come to be and to stay.