Liberals, Egos, and Common Ground

Yes, I know.  It’s been a while since I last posted something.  My work has been particularly consuming of late, in both time and mental bandwidth, but I maintain that doesn’t have to be a valid excuse.  I submit to you, dear reader, my activity on Twitter (to the right of this post) as evidence I have the time and ability to write.  The problem of course is the dissonance with my opening salvo of this blog wherein I call for an overthrow of the short form in favor of the long form.  It is high time I get back to that.

What inspired this re-conviction?  Three things: a) Being near-bed-ridden sick for two days. b) A silly argument on Twitter. c) Picking up Corey Robin’s “The Reactionary Mind.”  I’ll spare you the details of both a) and b), except to say the being confined to my quarters under fever-ridden duress created a causal relationship. c) I will explain shortly.

The silly Twitter argument was with Obama supporters.  It blows my mind that anyone still supports and apologizes for him and that anyone anywhere would have a good excuse for his eminent signing of the National Defense Authorization Act.  But they are out there, and believe me they are all too willing to verbally spar with you.  Thankfully, my weariness of such debate kicked in very quickly, and left me with a curiosity about why these people think the way they do.

This curiosity led me to a post on a site called Angry Black Lady, which led me to a post on Mother Jones both of which refuted of the notion propagated by Glenn Greenwald and others on the left that the NDAA was setting dangerous new precedents and that Obama is lacking all principles for signing (nay, requesting it’s most abhorrent aspects) the “Indefinite Detention Law.”

I am a fan of Greenwald’s and I read him regularly.  I find him sharp and morally consistent in his coverage of Bradley Manning and Wikileaks, the Occupy movement, and the assassination of al-Awlaki.  He has been my main source of information on the NDAA.  But today, especially with the Mother Jones’ post (linked to in its mention above) I find myself, well, confused.  Perhaps it is just my weakened state but I found the counter-arguments, saying emphatically that the NDAA will NOT lead to the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens, just as convincing.  Who is right?  Who is wrong?  Are they both?  Look at the language of the bill and tell me.  Please.

This leads me to the crux of the problem: obfuscation in politics.  I’m not the smartest person in the world, but I’m fairly sharp yet I can’t wrap my head around the truth here, and that leaves me wondering if there is any truth to be had.  Not only does this obfuscation keep regular folks out of the political process but it also segregates the discourse according to who follows which blogger or pundit.

Then I realized I need to ignore it.  Somehow.  As the zeitgeist gets sucked into another absurd horserace reality show around the 2012 election I want to do other things with my mind and free time.  I’ve often said there is no real difference between the two parties and thus it matters little whether a Democrat or a Republican is in the White House.  Obama’s actions as president have only served to solidify this belief for me.  Therefore, if it doesn’t matter, why do I spend so much time and energy thinking about, posting about, and arguing about Obama?

The answer I come to is my egotistical desire to demolish, once and for all, every liberal’s deluded notions about the Democrats.  You see, self-described conservatives don’t bother me so much.  Sure, they are my enemy, but at least we are clear and honest about this.  Liberals, however, really trigger my greatest ire and vitriol, and I REALLY want them all to know this.  I want them to know, every step of the way, that I outflank them politically and maintain moral principles high above their proverbial heads.  Why?  Ego.  And it gets me nowhere.

One of many things I have learned from my Buddhist studies and practice is that a good and moral life comes in part from the dissolution of the notion of self, and with it taking things personally or making something personal out of another’s actions.  But when it comes to liberals I can’t abide by this for some reason, so perhaps I should back away from it.

As mentioned earlier, I started reading Robin’s book and have found it very illuminating already.  It led me to realize that what really bothers me about many liberals is their conservatism and that is what I should direct my own polemics toward.  Not people, but ideas; even certain ideas within people’s framework.  Moreover, many liberals are my allies in so many things.  It seems like working on what common ground we have while maintaining my principles is more productive than trying to constantly rub their faces in “Oh noes looky what Obama did now!!!” just to piss them off.

Sure enough, just last night I read a new piece in The Nation (a liberal rag if ever there was one) called Thank You Anarchists. It, among so many recent events, gave me hope.  Real hope, like I’ve never had in my life.  Because I believe the real answers lie not with who is in the White House but what everyday people are doing to speak truth to power and create a more just society.  We can do this regardless.  I’m not necessarily saying don’t vote, or to just let Newt or Mitt or whoeverthefuck become president; I’m saying we should be putting all that time, money, energy, and commitment to other, more tangible things.

Finally, I need to remember my clarion call, “Make it longer!” in all things.  It’s just as easy, I found, to get sucked into Twitter as it was with Facebook. I still think Twitter is better (as I’ve explained before) but I want so bad to pull myself away from the quick and easy.  That, along with not engaging in Obama-bashing discourse, is my resolution (which has nothing to do with any changes in the calendar year.)

Are Touchscreens the Tools of the Future?

“I believe that hands are our future,” says Bret Victor in his “A Brief Rant on the Future of Interactive Design.”

He makes a very compelling argument that our current vision of the future (the ones that do not include an apocalypse of some form or another) is an extension of the marketing of the present moment.  Thanks in large part to Steve Jobs, technology companies are fixated on touchscreens.

Victor explains why this is a bad paradigm:

I call this technology Pictures Under Glass. Pictures Under Glass sacrifice all the tactile richness of working with our hands, offering instead a hokey visual facade.

Is that so bad, to dump the tactile for the visual? Try this: close your eyes and tie your shoelaces. No problem at all, right? Now, how well do you think you could tie your shoes if your arm was asleep? Or even if your fingers were numb? When working with our hands, touch does the driving, and vision helps out from the back seat.

Pictures Under Glass is an interaction paradigm of permanent numbness. It’s a Novocaine drip to the wrist. It denies our hands what they do best. And yet, it’s the star player in every Vision Of The Future.

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Occupy Your Head!

A few weeks ago I noticed the idea of a general strike arising from the discussion among those participating in the occupation movements throughout the country. Such discussion became something close to reality in response to police violence in Oakland. This is exactly what I have been thinking for months now—that the goal of any relevant social movement, now or ever, should be to move a significant percentage of the population toward a general strike.

When I said as much during a brainstorming session at the liberal institution where I work, I felt perhaps I was going out on a limb. I know I am on the fringe, far to the left of what is considered “reasonable” or “realistic,” and I don’t expect a welcome reception when I bring my ideas up, so I was surprised to find that some were actually enthusiastic about it. Others bristled, but what the is the point of dreaming if one cannot express one’s dreams?

One of the clearest blueprints I can think of for revolution is Alexander Berkman’s “The ABCs of Anarchism.” Continue reading

Why I Dumped Facebook and (finally) Embraced Twitter

It’s been a week or so without Facebook and I haven’t looked back.

http://burningallillusion.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/we-are-more-than-status-updates/

I don’t miss it.  I miss some of the people with whom I interacted and I miss the constant photo stream displaying how your life is so much more fun and important than mine, but otherwise no love lost.

In the meantime, to get my short-form fix, I have turned my attention to Twitter.  I never really understood Twitter before; I remember hearing about it in 2008 and how it was being called “microblogging,” which I don’t think anyone says anymore.  I signed up, took a look, and never came back.  Then around the time of the uprising in Egypt I connected with it again as I found it to be the best way of getting constant updates.  For a while the only media coming out of Tahrir Square was from the folks secretly posting to Twitter.  Anyone who looked like a “real” journalist (Anderson Cooper, etc.) with a camera and crew was attacked.  So, for a while, I was hooked to the steady stream of updates from inside the action.  One thing I noticed right away was how quickly I became accustomed to the constant updates; when I would look at a formal news source, like Al Jazeera or The New York Times, I would think, “But they posted that headline two hours ago!  Gah!” Continue reading

We Are More Than Status Updates

Dear Facebook Friends;

It is time for me to go, though I don’t want to sound melodramatic about it.  I would like to correspond with many of you, but I have come to the realization we are not actually communicating with each other.  This short-form web media to which so many of us have become accustomed—let’s face it, addicted—does not exist for the sake of our connections to each other. It is constructed to be a marketplace and we are the commodities.

I was an early adopter of internet social networking starting with Friendster in 2002.  MySpace happened around ‘04 or ‘05 and by the time of the great financial meltdown of ‘08 everyone who had been on MySpace had migrated to Facebook.  We liked its minimalist approach; compared to the cluttered cesspool of spam that was MySpace, Facebook was clean and simple.  Most important was its PRIVACY.  At that time you knew, without a doubt, that not a single person could see your profile, pictures, and updates if you didn’t want them to.  (There was the “Beacon” fiasco but Zuckerberg quickly retracted it and apologized.)  To this day I maintain the reason Facebook superseded MySpace was its superior privacy.

Ironic, isn’t it?

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