For the Week of August 22, 2005
Political generations end when a crisis emerges that they can't answer for. Then new values emerge, new myths are told, and a new generation takes power. Gradually the new formulation replaces the old until its alliances become second nature.
The New Deal ended when the Culture Wars, which began in the 1960s, created a crisis our parents' assumptions had no answer for. What we now call liberalism they called Unity, the need to get along forged from a Great Depression and a World War. Politics ends at the water's edge, Republican Arthur Vanderberg said. The Cold War was a bipartisan endeavor, and Vietnam was, in Robert McNamara's words, "a Cold War activity." Those who didn't understand that became part of The Enemy, and have been used that way for a generation.
But the Culture Wars don't have an answer for our current problems. Events like the coming Rumsfeld 9/11 rally make that clear. It only makes sense seen through the prism of Culture War. Circle the wagons on the side of what Nixon called the "Silent Majority." Up with People and Lee Greenwood unavailable? Clint Black will have to do.
But the Silent Majority is dead. In fact, I'd argue it's now on the other side. Most people have lost faith in this War, and its cause. The attempt to conflate Osama Bin Laden and Bill (or Hillary) Clinton is silly. But the new Silent Majority is afraid to raise its voice, afraid to express what is in its heart (although sometimes it comes out in a strangled scream).
Today's Far Right movements and causes remind me of nothing so much as the Far Left of the late 1960s. (When you think of it that way it's quite entertaining.) Religion really can be the opiate the people, and it's being used just that way now. Where liberals see James Dobson I see Timothy Leary. Ignore science for Intelligent Design? It's Ebonics, man.
Neither the Clinton Left nor the Bush Right currently has any answer to our problems, but there are signs in the blogosphere of a new set of values emerging:
- Your grandfather's attitude toward money.
- Public service as a noble calling.
- Open Source Technology as vital.
- Environmental and energy policy are the same thing.
- International law which no one is above.
Variations on these stands unite many people who are now on either side of the Culture War. Opposition to these stands also unite people on either side of the present political conflict.
I have written several times here that Howard Dean is the Barry Goldwater of the Democratic Party. I personally think he's got some Reagan in him, but that's just me. The point is this was, and is, his policy formulation, and it's one that draws strong charges of extremism, not just from Republicans but from other Democrats.
The Netroots, the comment-filled blogosphere of the Left, is becoming the equivalent of the 1960s New Right. For some reason people forget just how hard Goldwater fell in 1964, and how far from power conservatives were in 1965. The leaders of the party were all accomodationists, men like Everett Dirksen and Gerald Ford, or yeah-buts like Nelson Rockefeller. But institutions were being built then, out of sight of Washington, and alliances were being forged. People were starting political careers in groups like the Young Republicans and Young Americans for Freedom, young people like Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney.
Their time is now passing. Their politics won't answer our present troubles. Struggling against the oil monster only makes it stronger. Buggering the dollar only takes pressure off China reformers so desperately need. Resisting international law only makes us weaker. Government isn't them, it must be us or it's just another form of oppression.
Debts need to be paid. Debts to international law. Debts to our nation's law. Debts to foreign creditors. Debts to the environment.
The solutions are in our hands. Open source technology, open source politics, and the open source economics practiced from the 1930s until the very recent past. The tools are sufficient to the day, if wielded by a people politically united, both with one another and with the rest of the world, in a common struggle to save the planet from its greatest threat.
We have met the enemy and it is us.
I'm now helping to produce a special blog on Open Source for ZDNet.
I work as a freelance writer in Atlanta, and am on the development team for EgoScout, a new kind of mediator for mobile phone users.
My last non-fiction book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards. Write me for a PDF copy of my latest novel, "Baptists are for Dunking."
On my Mooreslore blog I've written a new novel, "The Chinese Century." It's a story told in real-time, with real characters, but entirely fictional, dealing with the consequences of the falling dollar. I'm beginning a sequal, "American Diaspora," exploring the themes of the first book but with more fictional characters. It's a true alternate history, but set in the present day.
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Best of the Week
Oil, like other commodities, is priced based on a contunuous auction, demand measured against supply.
A number of items have come across my desk today advertising cool mobile stuff, but failing to offer anything resembling a business model. Here is one of them -- Navizon.
In simple terms, it reduces the distance. You're no longer a star. They're no longer the audience.
SMS.Ac is hoping for a PR boost from a press release offering a cellular customer bill of rights.
Like many protective laws, the HIPAA law covering the protection of your medical records comes with a small business exemption.
When old business patterns die, those who lived by them become confused.
Intel holds the telecommunications balance of power in its hand.
Coke and Pepsi do not represent competition. It's a shared monopoly, the Drinks Trust.
I think Google has now outgrown its grownup.
The American Diaspora
ZDNet Open Source
Clued-in were prosecutors in the case of former Worldcom CFO Scott Sullivan. He gets 5 years, the guy he ratted on gets 25, and now everyone who might rat on someone has a great big incentive to do just that. It's how effective prosecution works.
Clueless are the 101st Fighting Keyboarders, who turned a grieving mother into a national heroine, and their own support for Operation Iraqi Freedom into something else.
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