For the Week of December 5, 2005
The generational crisis has just begun.
It's clear from polls that the Nixon-era answers of the Bush Administration won't solve anything. Millions of people who once accepted those assumptions are suddenly adrift. And we haven't even gotten into the housing crash yet.
What the blogosphere doesn't know, any better than the folks in Washington know, is just how costly the resulting crisis is likely to be. I've been most disappointed in sites like Mydd and DailyKos, where so-called common men (and women) insist on looking either at steady state politics or merely the crisis of the moment.
The 30,000 foot, historical view is that a lot of institutions are going to disappear along with the assumptions, and be replaced with new ones. The Vietnam Era wound up costing us such things as service clubs, the whole idea of non-partisanship, and a common cultural language. Instead we now divide along sectarian lines, groups follow political philosophies unblinkingly, and have a 5,000 channel culture without a common reference point. This crisis is sure to carry the same costs, only to different sides.
The replacements seem unknown because we have, as yet, no idea what the crisis will require of most of us. So far it hasn't required very much. Only volunteers have died in Iraq. The supply of political capital (the financial kind) seems only to have increased. The economy seems to be doing fine.
Yet every citizen knows in their heart that something is very, very wrong with America. Right and left may blame each other, but the malaise goes far deeper. Our place in the world is no longer a given. Neither are our assumptions about American exceptionalism. There is a palpable fear in America today that we're all about to go off a cliff.
And that fear is accurate. Globalism means we're one world, and the average citizen of that world lives far below what most Americans would call poverty. The result in this country is a paralysis. No one - left, right, center, public or private, educated or faithful - has a Clue of where a Common Answer and a Common Program might lie. No one wants to speak the truth out loud.
I've read many analysts who bemoan the fact that the crisis has come in the first year of a Presidential term. We have to live with this lame duck for three years, they say. How will we ever get through it?
Part of the answer is, we won't. There's talk of impeachment, of perjury charges, and that won't really do. The real answer for the crimes of George W. Bush lies outside the U.S., at the International Court of Criminal Justice, and in reconciliation proceedings like those of South Africa. When all is revealed, we will learn, the crimes indeed reach to those proportions.
A lot has to happen before even liberals will consider that. The collapse of housing, the fall of the dollar, unemployment on a scale that feels like the 1930s, riots in the streets, U.S. federal bankruptcy - all this and more is now possible.
Which will happen? I have no idea. But some horrible events are bound to occur. At times like this they always do.
Think back to our last generational crises. Read up on the 1930s. Look at the pictures which sparked the Progressive Movement. Or consider the fates of Malcolm X, who died in 1965, of Martin, Bobby and John, of a generation ground up in the meat grinders of Vietnam and the anti-Vietnam movements.
Something just that big is coming, and that's the truth.
You can't handle the truth.
Back in 1965, at a comparable time in our historical cycle, America was entranced by a little show called TW3, or That Was The Week That Was. It was a sketch show about current events, much like Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. It was a way to laugh through pain and fear, to ignore and prepare for the coming storms.
When the crisis really hits (and it will) it won't be so funny. And we'll need our funnymen (and women) more than ever.
I've got a new job. I'm now editor of Atlanta voic.us, a Web start-up aimed at building a community Web platform with a real business model. I'm also all alone in writing the Open Source Blog for ZDNet. (When this started there were three of us.)
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
Harbin, a city of 3.8 million (bigger than Chicago), had its water system completely shut down because of a chemical spill. Hundreds of villages nearby have been evacuated, the BBC reports, because of some 100 million tons of benzene which were released into the river after a chemical plant exploded.
AT&T and MCI are a giant step closer to pricing power over the Internet backbone because of a 2003 visit to a topless bar.
I don't know, frankly, whether President Bush sought to bomb Qatar in order to destroy al-Jazeerah TV. But the way this story has been reported, and not reported, makes me question just how freedom-loving the U.S. and Britain really are.
Feedster has recently adjusted their methodology. They try to count all links, and discount the spam ones.
A lot. History. Image. Attitude. Branding. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but might not sell so well. Patagonia toothfish sounds nasty. Chilean seabass, on the other hand, we'll hunt that practically to extinction.
This year the product of the year is flash memory. It has many of the same applications, and the new iPod Nano is all about the flash.
Where competition is limited, service sucks.
Next year's version of the Media Center PC spec from Microsoft will support a digital set-top card from CableLabs, meaning the PC can double as a cable television.
The American Diaspora
ZDNet Open Source
Clued-in is Feedster. Whether they have the capital to carry that through is the question.
Clueless is Sony, and its entire strategy of marrying software "content" and hardware products. Until they fire Howard Stringer and bring back a Japanese product guy (any Japanese product guy) they are lost.
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