The following is a quote from Thomas Friedman’s op-ed piece in NYT today. It’s a succinct evaluation of the world we live in now.
But the fact is we’re living in a world being shaped by vast accelerations in technology, globalization, climate change and population growth, and government’s job is to enable more citizens to thrive in such a world and cushion its worst impacts. These are the facts on which I base my conclusions.
In this age, leaders have to challenge citizens to understand that more is required of them if they want to remain in the middle class — that they have to be lifelong learners.
It’s an age when the governments that thrive the most will be those that are as open to the world as possible — to get the change signals first and attract the most high-I.Q. risk-takers — and at the same time encourage radical entrepreneurship, provide stronger safety nets like health care, and foster life-learning opportunities for every citizen. They have to go left and right at the same time. They are the governments that are focused not on erecting walls but on preparing citizens to live without them.
It’s an age where the best leaders build trust at the top, and between themselves and their people, because trust is what enables teams to move fast and experiment more. It’s an age when to make America great requires doing big hard things, and big hard things can only be done together. And it’s an age when, because of the speed of change, small errors in navigation by a leader can send us hurtling far off track.
I read and applied Debord’s theses in the 60s and 70s in front of the classroom: I made my students (insofar is ever possible) to look beyond me standing up in front of them lecturing and focus! on the idea or narrative they were reading or I was talking about. They had authority, they had the senses, they had reason. Look beyond me. Look at yourself, experience yourself. Be authentic as you can. (Odd to say.) Trust the authority of your senses and reason. Some progress I made and was never futile.
Stephen Greenblatt’s work in several places brings up the spectacle of the king, etc., in European history and ceremony. The “people” had placed so much of their thinking and focus on the power of the king (English as the example here, I think) that ofttimes when someone touched the king’s robe or the king himself, they would be healed of some afffliction. The spectacle may seem to heal, but the healing comes from within.
We (I) have to disconnect some of our habit patterns and technological use of gadgets from the spectacle of X (lots of things, including Trump) for periods of time and get back into the moment, this moment, this person, the eyes and other senses. Norman O. Brown wrote a very good section on how the eyes played an inordinate role (still do) in making the spectacle nearly-all-there-is in our field of awareness.
I could write more (and might) about this Debord, Greenblatt, Brown connection. Till then, I’ve gotta pay attention to the non-spectacle in my life right now: drinking coffee on a cloudy morning in north Texas.
We have an intellectual lightweight–Steve Bannon–sitting on the National Security Council and advising Trump after quoting and pushing the wastewater of Julius Evola, another pandering fool to the barbarity of fascism. These ideas must be put down by history’s examples and reason. These are extremely dangerous ideas to push through the presidency upon the American people.
President Shreds Etiquette
“This is highly unusual,” said Michael W. McConnell, a former federal judge who directs the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford University. “Mr. Trump is shredding longstanding norms of etiquette and interbranch comity.” [NYT, 9 Feb 17. Comment arising from President Trump’s attack on federal judges.]
Democrats with Backbone
As Democrats strain to navigate the early days of the Trump presidency, weighing the merits of the blanket opposition that many in their base seem to crave, the latest rancor appeared to raise the likelihood of further confrontation in the Senate chamber.
Some left-leaning groups seemed comfortable with that.
“What the public needs to see from Democrats right now is more backbone and more standing on principle,” said Adam Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “Elizabeth Warren continues to be the model for good behavior.” [NYT, 9 Feb 17.]
President Wants to be Emperor
“He always wants to grind the opposition underfoot. This is how democracy slips away, not always by a singular eruption, but sometimes by slow, constant erosion, the way the river carves itself into the rock.
This is not the behavior of a man who respects the independence of the judiciary or who grants any “deference to separation of powers,” as Obama improvised in 2010. This is a tyrant who sees power as a zero-sum game: The exercise of it by another branch means diminution of his own.
He doesn’t want to be president, but emperor.” [Charles Blow in NYT, 9 Feb 17.]
Republican House Majority Refuses Resolution About Jews and Holocaust
The other day the House majority refused to approve a Democratic resolution affirming “that the Nazi regime targeted the Jewish people in its perpetuation of the Holocaust.” It obviously was an attempt to remind people of that Holocaust Memorial Week debacle. But still. [Gail Collins in NYT, 9 Feb 17.]
This article from The Times Literary Supplement is about pragmatic solutions to inequality and economic despair in capitalist societies, primarily Great Britain and the United Sates. Paul Krugman needs to conduct a discussion on this article.
In The Future of Socialism Antony Crosland redirected the Left from Marxism to social democracy. Written in 1956, it anticipated what became the dominant European philosophy. Social democracy successfully addressed the major problems of the time; but new problems have since arisen for which it lacks a credible narrative, or a credible solution. Social democracy now lies in ruins, its ragbag of policies rejected by electorates. Its heyday was the trente glorieuses, 1945–75, but, as Marc Levinson recounts in An Extraordinary Time, the splendid outcomes during these years cannot be attributed primarily to good economic policy choices. Rather, fortuitous technological changes and one-off structural opportunities coincided to lift Western living standards. In the very different circumstances of today, returning to the Keynesianism and redistributive taxation of 1960s social democracy is unlikely to restore Eden. Levinson’s book, which takes the sorry story of economic mismanagement through to 1990, is…