30 May 2005

hot days, pushy

i'm far more afraid of the organizational skills and proselytizing power of the right-wing Christians than of the internecene debates of Islam. when the oil starts to run out and society gets weirder, Colorado is a lot closer than Iran. So, if the Ukraine can have a nonviolent revolution through better pre-planning and organization, why can't we? (or is the secret story really that the power that won is the same as the power that lost, only in new clothing?)

A scary review of Wright's Ripped and Torn - scary in that it so offhandedly notes something i've been disturbed by for a while now in my studies: the lack of a robust ideological grounding for leftist and/or progressive discourse in this post-ColdWar globalised world...
"...I found myself reflecting that in this post-Soviet world, when the ideology of socialism is almost an embarrassment ("I'd be called a commie," she writes with mock horror), this book is constantly searching for a language or a structure with which to describe these fundamental issues, which have not simply disappeared with the fall of the wall. Just a generation ago this would probably have been a less readable book, a tract laced with words such as alienation, surplus value and colonial imperialism. But it would have had a coherence underpinned by an understandable philosophy. Today the left has no language, and the multinationals do."
A nicely-put example of the value of social development and the dangers of too much postmodernism slipping into dangerous moral relativism:
"it is empirically demonstrable that men yearn--lazily--for that which is garishly available (cf Paris Hilton, Carl's Jr.). Women, for their part--at least in the Western world--understand that the social contract ensures safety and filters out brutishness. To fall, simplemindedly, for the naked male (cf Denzel/Jude in thong) is to be lured into an open Darwinian zone. This zone--these images--offer prospects of coupling without nurture or long-term guarantees, without the implied masculine pledges on home, hearth and the support of offspring. In backward cultures, women are overprotected and invisible; so men lose all resistance to images--and all self-restraint. In downtown Kandahar, for example, a display of female ankle is proof of flooziness most damnable. In that world, men are rarely required to resist temptation. Consider this clip from Dubai TV, in which an Egyptian rapist on death row is interviewed:

Rapist: Even if she's unmarried, or a little girl, when someone sees her short clothes, he will find the courage, and won't leave her alone. A girl like this makes a guy. . . .

Interviewer: She seduces him?

Rapist: Yes, she makes him take her, even if it's in the middle of town. Even if he has to kill or die, he will still take her.

In the West, by important contrast, men modulate their behavior when faced with seductive images. They have to. Women judge them by their ability to do so. And they are trained, at an early age, to take responsibility for their own lust."
And a review worth quoting at length, of John Ralston Saul's new book:
"...there is a radical critique in this book, although not a critique of globalization per se. Globalization is just a proxy two other targets.

Saul's first target is the assumption that economics is the main determinant of a society's civilization. If a society fixes the correct economic relationships, the rest will fall into place: freedom, democracy, peace, human well-being. According to Saul, the apostles of globalization argued that reducing barriers to international trade would lead to freedom, peace and prosperity at both a national and global level, and indeed to "the end of history." Saul lampoons this assumption. People care about many things beyond the freedom to engage in market exchanges -- such as their religion, culture, homeland and community -- and are quite willing to sweep aside economic relations if necessary to protect these deeper values. According to Saul, the fact that decision-makers in the West had an almost blind faith in the primacy of economic relations explains why they were unprepared for the devastating ethnic and religious conflicts and "irregular warfare" that have broken out since the end of the Cold War.

The idea that economics is the foundation of civilization is not only naive, Saul argues, it also puts the cart before the horse. Free markets cannot be the basis on which successful social, political and legal institutions are built, because markets can only function when these institutions are already in place. Markets require a strong state capable of enforcing the law, collecting taxes and providing public goods like roads, public health and a clean environment. These, in turn, depend on having a sufficiently cohesive society in which citizens co-operate with and trust each other, and participate in collective efforts for the public good.

For these and other reasons, Saul argues, most scholars and decision-makers have rejected the naive view that market reforms are the royal road to peace and prosperity. When Saul says "globalism is dead," it is this assumption, above all, which he has in mind. Global economic integration may proceed apace, but no one maintains the "romantic enthusiasm" that this is a guarantor of a new and better civilization. Even some of the high priests of globalization, such as Milton Friedman and Francis Fukuyama, admit it was a mistake to give precedence to market reforms over broader issues of democratic transition, conflict resolution, national integration, civil society and the rule of law.

Some readers may wonder whether Saul is tilting at windmills. Did anyone really say that markets could, by themselves, generate the end of history? Saul insists this was, indeed, the mind-frame of many people in the heyday of globalization, and he has some nice quotes from the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos in the 1970s and '80s to back it up.

Yet Saul agrees that many of the people who endorsed globalization did not share this romantic illusion. The real work of reducing tariffs, privatizing industries and harmonizing trade policies was done by non-ideological bureaucrats, academic advisers, management consultants and elected officials. Most of these foot soldiers of globalization did not subscribe to any overarching theory about the link between the economy and civilization and, indeed, their specialized training discouraged them from asking such big questions. They are trained to reduce problems to manageable, bite-sized issues, then find the most utilitarian, cost-efficient means of achieving their limited task.

[....] In short, Saul's critique of "globalism" is not an attack on this or that set of trade rules, but rather on two deeply rooted mindsets: a narrowly economistic interpretation of how societies develop, and a narrowly utilitarian and technocratic conception of public administration and corporate management."

Feel the love, oh yeah.

23 May 2005

bits & pieces

"So how do we explain the differences between Japan and the west? The heart of the matter lies in their different ethos. Individualism animates the west, now more than ever. In contrast, the organising principle of Japanese society is a sense of group identity, a feeling of being part of a much wider community. Compared with western societies, Japan is a dense lattice-work of responsibilities and obligations within the family, the workplace, the school and the community. As Deepak Lal argues in his book Unintended Consequences, the Japanese sense of self is quite distinct from the western notion of individualism. As a result, people behave in very different ways and have very different expectations, and their behaviour is informed by very different values. This finds expression in a multitude of ways."

"But if one rock was thrown, if one window was broken, Gandhi would call off the entire national strike and say, "you know what--we're going to come back in two years when we're ready." Because you know what--it wasn't just the point to engage in the national struggle, it wasn't just the point to raise the critique. The question was who are we going to be while doing it. Let's be good people while carrying it out."

"Will there be a backlash? Tiefer predicts that the Republican party will turn so far to the right that Americans -- whom, he believes, are mainly centrist -- will revolt. He points to how the country moved to the right after the liberalism of Johnson's Great Society and the Earl Warren Supreme Court, and predicts a contrary movement to the left (or at least, the center) will occur now. Unfortunately, however, there are few - if any - signs of an incipient backlash. Even as conservatism has grown, from the 1970s to today, civil liberties have weakened - and attention to the needs of ordinary Americans, and to human rights, has diminished. Maybe the great American experiment in secular democracy is coming to an end."

10 May 2005

oldschool weblogging 5.10.5

"Demand [for energy] is rising around the world; supplies are not growing fast enough to satisfy global requirements; and the global struggle to gain control over whatever supplies are available has become more intense and fractious. Because the first and second of these factors are not likely to abate in the years ahead, the third can only grow more pronounced."

"It's time to leave the stone age. Will we do so because we fear what will happen if we don't? Or because we look forward to what will happen if we do?"

"With "the death of environmentalism" being debated across the land—and with the mainstream movement under siege from without and within—it's time to meet the winning side in America's new green wars. Here they come, ready or not: the 20 most powerful voices leading the environmental counterrevolution."Link

"Just as their cars aren't kludgy and their food isn't flavorless, their homes aren't drafty or dimly lit. Call them hygridders. And look for them soon in a neighborhood near you. Because - trendmeisters, take note - hygrid is the new Prius."

"At the integral stage of consciousness, there is not an attempt to articulate the politics of homosexuality and defend it using operational/functional logic; instead, there is an acknowledgement and embrace of a plurality of politics of homosexuality (actually, of views of homosexuality embodied at a wide spectrum of levels of consciousness)...."