The coming year will provide a series of lessons to be learned about the future role of government on the national level. Driven by popular discontent with the effects of our crumbling economy, people are seeking solutions in a political arena so corrupted by big money and so disconnected with everyday reality that it is bound to fail. No longer are political parties functioning as mass organizations, where popular discontent could, at the least, wrench minimal concessions that would provide the illusion that somebody cared about the average citizen.
One needs to look no further than the establishmentarian “airbrushing” of the Ron Paul candidacy on the GOP side of the equation. The upside of this is that it’s allowed Paul to present himself to audiences on his own terms and helped him become something of a sympathetic figure. Candidate Paul was able to take advantage of the many nontraditional means of communicating with voters that now exist; he’s built an grass roots organization that may drive enough voters (the process in Iowa involves a mere 4% of the population) to grab a few headlines.
Rest assured that the GOP’s circular firing squad, also known as the rest of the Presidential candidates, and their allies in the corporate media, will pause long enough from their daily poppycock to crush Ron Paul’s candidacy. The lesson must be taught: ‘You will take the choices that our corporate overlords offer you and you will like them.’ Whether or not Paul spins off into a third party candidacy or offers his endorsement to an existing third party group, makes very little difference. (I should add here that I think Paul’s ideas are dangerously unsuited to the challenges of the future.) Enough potential voters are going to be alienated to insure that, barring unforeseen developments, a dysfunctional government in Washington is likely to continue for the next few years.
A tweet, reposted in Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Beast column recently, sums up the Republican Party’s prospects for next year’s Presidential better that any words that I can put to paper:
“The madness of the 2012 election, in one sentence, is this actual CNN headline: Gingrich goes Negative, labels Romney ‘moderate’.”
So here’s an actual predication: Obama will win the 2012 election. Not because he deserves it; but because the other choices offer no agenda beyond more misery and more cutbacks. Perhaps the greatest success of the Occupy movement has been to shed light on just how much middle class families have been screwed over the past few decades. And just enough people will gravitate towards whatever third party options there are to insure that the Democrats natural constituencies will carry them through to victory come Election Day.
The longer range picture is that we, as a society (or as a political entity), are in denial about the reality of our situation: the electoral process as presently constituted on the national level serves nobody except those wealthy enough to direct it. In other words, we’ve ended up with the best politicians that money can buy. This isn’t likely to change, given the venerated status of the Constitution and the paths it offers to power. And I’m not delusional enough to think that there’s gonna be any kind of mass uprising that ‘forces’ a change. At least in the near future.
The Really Big Picture
Two Thousand Twelve is simply another paving stone along the road on the long march of our civilization. I’m hoping that this analysis will stimulate discussion and encourage you to explore the topics raised herein. I make no claims of infallibility. But, hey, I’m the guy with keyboard and the thoughts.
There was a time a few months back when prognostication on my part about the future was limited to whether or not I’d be reporting from this world come 2012—I’d been diagnosed with throat cancer. A simple procedure turned into a two week odyssey at Scripps Mercy hospital where I was probed, tested, re-tested and existed in a morphine haze. I came outfitted with tubes in various places, barely able to walk, and dutifully went through months of chemo and radiation therapy. Talk about a wake up cal
The battle for my existence in this particular path in space and time isn’t over, but the general consensus seems to be that I can safely prognosticate about the future for a while longer. And you, dear readers, will still be able to tell me just how wrong headed I am. I’m saying all this because the shock and awe of facing up to your own frailties tends to put the “real” world into a new light, not to mention that one has plenty of time for contemplation and study.
The End… Or The Beginning?
It’s my contention that the world economy is in the midst of a transformative era that will reshape our civilization is ways beyond what we can comprehend. Think, if you will, of trying to explain—provided you had the linguistic ability and a means of time travel—the industrial revolution to a scholar from the early Ottoman Empire. The cultural, religious, economic, and political differences would be so vast that the scholar would likely conclude that you were a supernatural being—most like a demon seeking to wreak havoc.
Or, if you’ve been listening/reading to the spate of stories lately about North Korea in the wake of the death of their “Dear Leader”, perhaps you’ve heard about the many refugees from the North who end up returning to the monstrously authoritarian state they fled because they can not comprehend the reality of life in the South.
That’s where we are. Only we don’t know it yet, in large part because the minutia of our daily grind precludes looking too far beyond what it takes to simply survive. The fact that money as we currently understand it may not even exist in a century means nothing if you can’t cover this month’s rent.
I want to make it perfectly clear that my ramblings are not afflicted with utopian longings. Surviving in this world is always a difficult process and predictions of success—in my view—need to be tempered by the reality that competition within the species is a necessary part of the process of evolution. However, it IS true that our definitions of both challenges and successes have changed greatly over time in response to conditions in the world around us. And the world around us is changing. Very quickly.
So we need to begin a discussion that goes beyond the traditional boundaries. Given the multinational nature of trade and the ability of the wealthy to place their assets beyond the reach of the nation-state’s taxation systems, is the existence of any national government even relevant? How could the much vaunted ‘invisible hand’ of the market discipline practices that lead to inequities in a world that offers protection for just about any flavor of pirate equipped with enough cash to pay for it? How can regulation of corporate entities be enforced if they simply pick up their assets and set up shop elsewhere? How can you nationalize a multinational corporation? And what about transnational commercial entities tied to groups like the Mexican drug cartels?
Even raising these questions these days is a sure route to getting bombarded by pundits offering some kind of snake oil that’s totally irrelevant to the matter at hand. The professional Fear Mongers of this world live for these kinds of discussions, ever ready at the draw with inflammatory rhetoric designed to derail, defer or deny the topic at hand. Talk about international cooperation in enforcing laws against economic crimes and, eventually, you’ll be accused of supporting a one world government whose first order of business is undermining the God-given right of Americans to buy weapons.
Ordinary people need to have these kinds of discussions in an atmosphere unfettered by ideological constraints; believe me when I say that the representatives of the political elite are hard at work refashioning their vision of our future. So this isn’t a prediction—it’s wish for the New Year: Leave your comfort zone and start doing more than passively voting for the crappy lineup of candidates normally proffered.
The Old & New Media
It wouldn’t be a commentary by me about the future without a swipe at our information overlords, so I won’t disappoint. The recent sale of our Daily Fishwrap to a slick-willie downtown developer and his media savvy sidekick is just another indicator of just how sorry things are with the Old Stream Media.
The time has come to face the facts. The media world is no longer undergoing a revolution. The revolution is over. Dead tree journalism has lost. Happy talking heads can take a hike. And the Huffington Posts of the world are devolving into numbers driven scandal mongers with no relevancy in the marketplace of ideas or the intellectual advancement of the species.
As our forefathers (and other revolutionaries around the world) learned, the aftermath of a revolution can be a very messy time and place. There was a years long gap between the defeat of the British and the birth of the United States as we know it today. People in these eras tended to be confused; their old institutions dead or dying; with new forms still going through the throes of creation.
What history tells us about these situations is that people who can organize, communicate and work together on a new vision will have the most impact on the eventual outcome. Those who sit back and react, whine about the changes going on around them and attempt to shore up the vestiges of the past, end up as outsiders, dinosaurs and irrelevant to the new realities of the post revolutionary world.
I am not a prophet, I cannot see into the future. But I can tell you, based on my experiences as a professional writer, a blogger, the father of a teenager, as a businessman and a human being who loves to study history that we stand at a unique moment. We absolutely need the most aggressive, effective media we can muster, and the time to do it is right now
There has been a grand media experiment going on right here in San Diego; it’s called the OB Rag. We’ve gone from a couple of writers banking on the legacy of the 1960’s alternative press to a full throated voice for progressives. We even have foreign correspondents, who share slices of life from their vantage points in France and Saudi Arabia with our readers.
The concept of “an injury to one is an injury to all” is more of reality thanks to those of us on the new side of reportage. When a couple of punks threw some rocks at a labor leader’s home not so long ago, the news was city-wide in a matter of hours. The typical right wing response that “they probably did it to themselves for the sympathy” didn’t hold up as a meme. We knew what was going on and made a fuss. The Mayor made a statement. The local newsmedia picked up the story from twitter feeds and claimed as their own reporting.
We haven’t built up this voice with bucket loads of venture capital cash, a fairy god father/mother or a collection of writing super-stars. There is no economic model here that AOL or Bill Gates can use to exploit our passion. We have become a voice in the community because we have the attitude that building community is more important than building a bulletin board. We think that citizen journalism is a lot sexier than journalism super stars. We think that wonks everywhere need to be encouraged. We think that YOU might have something to say. And, most importantly, we make damn sure that our voices are heard early and often, even if (and when) we’re wrong. Between the website and its extensions, (Facebook/Twitter/YouTube) the opportunity exists every single day for people who want more than the talking points touted by spin-miesters to gain perspective.
Are we objective? Hell, no. Are we honest? We’d like to think we’re meeting that standard every day. How do we do it? It’s publish or perish, day after day. 2012 should be the year when our little experiment begins to spread its wings. We hope you’ll join us for the adventure.