> If my dear friend Mark Stahlman were right, that is, if life in
> democratic societies were always and ever simply the rule of
> the powerful minority over the powerless majority, then another
> consequence must necessarily ensue.
Thanks for the shout-out but, as you know, I never said that. <g>
Indeed, ever since the "invention" of *democracy* it has been a "tool" used
by one group of elites against other groups of elites (specifically the
"oligarchs" in Athens or in the Aegean islands were "democracy" was imposed
on threat of mass-death.)
Dictators, emperors and men-who-would-rule-the-world all have to be
"popular" or they won't be "on top" for very long. "Buying votes" is a very old
story as is "freeing slaves" and "forgiving debts." That's how Mithradates
used Greece to fight against Rome 2000+ years ago. Same as what happens
in Venezuela now.
Social power *requires* broad "buy-in" -- whether is comes in Ideological,
Economic, Military or Political form, as detailed by UCLA sociologist
Michael Mann. If we're going to discuss "power" then we need some basis for our
analysis and if you've got a better one than Mann, we'd like to hear about
The last time we lived in such a situation was the Cold War. There was a
"unifying" ideology as well as economic "growth" and military "patriotism"
as well as political "reform/compromise" -- all of which required broad
agreement by the population, punctuated by "counter-cultures" that actually
strengthened the "consensus." And *ALL* of this was "regulated" by
mass-media. Now it's all gone.
> We must all, to the extent that we are in the powerless
> majority, become either hopelessly naive ("Well,
> every capitalist Armageddon has it's cultural silver lining")
> or we must become hopelessly paranoid ("It's all a trap,
> a Matrix, foisted on the majority of zombies by the
> minority of all-powerful rulers").
Not quite. We must understand society (i.e. our relationships with
each other) -- which neither of these "options" offer. Naive or
paranoid? Talk about a rhetorical "strawman"! <g>
Your audience is neither stupid nor crazy. However, they (mostly) live in
post-industrial economies that have fundamentally lost their *coherence*
-- so they are understandably confused!
We have no common "ideology" (largely because we were taught that we are
"citizens of the world," which makes all present-day *culture* is our
enemy.) We have no economic growth (and we never told that this is exactly what
to expect as a result of digital economics.) We have no "enemies" around
whom we can rally our military (China in the 00s just doesn't substitute
well for the Soviet Union of the 50s.) And, we have no shared politics (since
the two "big tent" political parties have collapsed and elections have
largely become "throw the bum out.")
We are, proverbially, up a creek (that we don't understand) without a
paddle (because we keep trying things that we know won't work.)
> I admit it, I sometimes freak out: I think I'm hearing
> the ventriloquized voice of the enemy. Friend, enemy,
> dualism, linear, bad. Therefore anyone who has a better
> solution to this whole problem, go ahead, speak up.
> Let's go forward with all this.
Now you're talking! Everyone has to be *freaking* out! Everywhere!
I'll tell you what people *around* the world are doing -- looking for their
own LIVING cultures and then exploring their deep roots, so that they have
something to "rely" on in such uncertain times. The Egyptians are doing
it. So are the Indonesians. And, the Japanese and Brazilians and
Russians. You can be sure that the Chinese are also doing it -- big time. Yes,
globalism is finished -- thanks to the Internet!
Isn't the question of "culture" what prompted your reply? Are we to find
our "culture" in the *museums* that Koch et al fund? No, I suspect not.
"Commodified" and detached-from-history "displays" of this sort are much
more likely to *hide* than to *reveal* anything useful about our *living*
culture for the simple reason that those who actually construct these exhibits
have "no culture" themselves. It's the staff of the Met who are
responsible for what they show, not the "benefactors." When I go there I'm always
trying to explain what isn't on display and why.
Bill Gates is backing Big History. This is typically a first-year college
course that teaches "complex systems," starting with the Big Bang and
ending with Global Warming.
While he may have picked the wrong "culture" (i.e. "emergence" is arguably
a re-tread of the neo-Platonic notion of "emanations"), he's probably
pointed in the right direction -- in the sense that what we are now struggling
to compose is a new *cosmology* that is appropriate to living in our digital
What we really need is some *coherence* precisely because we have been
TRAINED to have none. "Post-modernism" was the perfect valorization of
"incoherence" for its times. But those times are now past times and no longer
useful for our modern times.
What we need is another RENAISSANCE (i.e. the re-birth of some "old"
cultural ideas in "modern" guise) . . . which, if you look close enough, is
exactly what is going on -- driven by digital technology.