Thursday, October 27, 2011

Think Different

Sometimes I wonder why my thinking and writing always rambles so, and often tries to connect things that probably don't belong together. It's probably a symptom of undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder an my extremely undisciplined character. I like blogs because they don't matter very much. I can't feel too bad about rambling on and on here when with a click of the mouse or tap of a finger the post can disappear for the reader.

While I am writing this post and the previous post because some friends were talking about ideas and because I was invited in on the conversation online, the fact of the matter is I doubt my friends will read any of this.

The discussion focuses on a particular neighborhood in Pittsburgh, and so what they're interested in are specific responses. Meanwhile my thinking veers off to bigger picture concerns. And in my last post I mentioned other friends who don't live in the same neighborhood this conversation is about. Everyone involved in these distinct conversations knows one another, but I'm obscuring their names as posting on the blog is public.

René Dubos is an author of the popular Baby Boomer maxim:
Think globally, act locally.
Part of the reason for going off onto the subject of Occupy! is to think globally. From what I've been told the discussion about a neighborhood me is really about trying to respond to the very hard economic circumstances that are especially acute among young adults living there. Because nobody involved in these discussions is flush with money the attention turns to alternative economic schemes. Globally, at least so far as Occupy! is global, one of the messages of the movement is the current economic arrangements aren't working out so good.

Here are two links that probably don't belong together, and which are far afield from the neighborhood discussion, but about Occupy Wall Street: First Matt Taibbi Wall Street Isn't Winning – It's Cheating. And second Slavoj Žižek Nobody has to be vile. Taibbi nails the popular sentiment in the piece. Loads and loads of people are feed up with the cheating. Žižek's piece where he talks about "liberal communists" rubs more people the wrong way, even those down with the Occupy! movements.

Žižek reproduces Olivier Malnuit 's he liberal communist’s ten commandments. The slogan of Occupy! is "We are the 99%." "Liberal communists" are probably in the ranks of the 1% yet still enjoy broad support. Žižek singles out George Soros and Bill Gates as perfect exemplars of liberal communist. It would be easy to find many who'll praise their good works. Žižek will have none of that approbation. I'm not terribly consistent so am inclined to support good works, and less inclined to single Soros and Gates out as enemies. But I appreciate his caution about their views.

In my last post I suggested that bubbling up in conversations with my friends is a realization that we've not so much facing problems to be solved as faced with a predicament we somehow need to respond to.

I'm bemused in conversations that responses to me would seem to imply that my interlocutors think me a Marxist. I'm far too lazy to be a Marxist, or even an acknowledged leftist. My friends probably know that and are just arguing from a kind of template. Noam Chomsky is a leftist many Americans love to hate, of course many other Americans love him. Love him or hate him it's difficult not to pause with his observation:
Systemic risk in the financial system can be remedied by the taxpayer, but no one will come to the rescue if the environment is destroyed. That it must be destroyed is close to an institutional imperative. Business leaders who are conducting propaganda campaigns to convince the population that anthropogenic global warming is a liberal hoax understand full well how grave is the threat, but they must maximize short-term profit and market share. If they don’t, someone else will.
We're heading into an off-year election in early November. I hard watch TV or listen to the radio, but I feel beseiged by elections ads by Clean Coal urging citizens to resit "Obama's EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)." The ads want to protect antiquated electric power plants from necessary upgrades as well as to keep the depletion of Marcellus Shale gas fracking operations unfettered.

Take a musical interlude and watch John Prine perform Paradise if you care too.

I'm not really sure, but I suspect that my reaction to these ads is not so different from many. I know I'm complicit in exactly conundrum business leaders face: "If I don't someone else will." I'm sure anthropogenic global warming is no hoax and the consequences of it boggle my mind.

The trouble with Bill Gates and George Soros isn't them so much as their hubris that solutions to big problems are right around the corner. I'm also filled with righteous indignation about the cheating by financial titans, but I'm much less convinced by the prevalent consensus Taibbi suggests that everything would be alright without all the cheating.

Thinking about a particular neighborhood it's patently obvious that the solutions to big global problems are going to be found. Instead local responses can make things a little better rather than less. But thinking globally is necessary to figure out what sorts of responses are desirable and possible. And local actions can be and ought to be actively engaged with others acting locally in their own communities.

As usual I veered off with a bunch of useless words. Starting out, before setting anything down, I thought to juxtapose two links. One to a wiki page by Phil Jones on NetoCracy. Thinking about theories of networks is a sort of global thinking that's important and relevant. But I rather quickly find my thinking going around in circles about the subject, so it's not surprising not to get around to it this time. The other link is to the Ghana Think Tank. That one seems worth a few words.

The Ghana Think Tank may be a bit artsy, but it's not a joke. One reason I encourage my friends to try to make friends with Africans online and to pay attention to news happening in Africa is that I think there are ways people in the West can be of service to them. But the other side of collaborations is that African people are coming up with all sorts of innovative responses to living in these interesting times and there's so much to learn and copy from them. The Ghana Think Tank isn't limited to Ghana but rather is a world-wide network of think tanks.

It probably busts a hole in my harping about the distinction between problems and predicaments, but the way the Ghana Think Tank solicits Western problems for the think tanks to address is quite genius.

The participants that I know of engaged in the discussion about neighborhood responses are Boomers and GenXers. But central to the discussion is the condition of the GenY folks in the neighborhood. I notice that in responding to a question about accessibly and reading that the Think Tank of Incarcerated Boys weighed in. The conversation my friends are having would certainly be enhanced by finding out what the GenY neighbors think. Of course one way to go about it is to ask them. The Ghana Think Tank provides a model for soliciting concerns of a particular group--in this case affluent Westerners. But perhaps the better fit is to take the model of networks of think tanks as an example for collaboration. I'm not sure how to go about convincing groups to start think tanks. The conversation between my friends seems a spontaneous formation of a think tank--not that they know it yet.

I Know of a perfect spot to set up something like the Ghana Think Tank's custom trailer. I would suggest a duct taped hexayurt. I don't think it would be too difficult to connect with hexayurt enthusiasts to get one made. It would be nice to have as a way to engage with other neighborhood think tanks around the city. I'm sure there are discussions going on in every neighborhood, probably nobody's calling themselves a thinktank yet. But I suspect there's a good pattern involved in naming these discussion groups as such.

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