Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Monday, November 19, 2007

Snippy Snippets

Although I am regularly castigated for my "negativity," "failure of imagination," "rhetoric over substance," "lack of a comprehensive vision," and so on, it remains true that often it is the very readers who make such charges who go on to attach themselves to the most negative, off-the-cuff, decontextualized goofs I've posted here on Amor Mundi while completely ignoring my regular efforts to provide more positive, substantial, comprehensive posts of the kind they claim to crave. In order to direct some attention to this weekend's Amor Mundi and Technoprogressive Advocacy (to which I devoted real time and attention), I will repost smaller more "negative" and snippy snippets from that longer, more thoughtful, more positive piece over the next couple of days, to provide readers more of what they really seem to be looking for, whatever their protestations to the contrary, all in the hopes that this will lead some more of them to engage with the actually more useful piece from which they are culled…. By the way, I understand that it is harder to know how to respond to just one aspect of a much longer piece, harder to feel that one's response to a piece one agrees with -- right on! -- is as useful a contribution as firm disagreement, and so on… I don't really think the silence that often greets one's most thoughtful posts is so unreasonable as all that. I'm just calling attention to a phenomenon that always rumbles in the back of my mind when I hear complaints about my negativity, superficiality and so on….
[T]echnoprogressivisms will never properly crystallize into a tribal designation, an identity movement, a political party machine, a subcultural movement, an army marching in lockstep toward "the future," or any such thing. The future is not a place or a "goal": futurity is the political condition of plurality, democracy, freedom... and it is open, unpredictable, collective, promising, unforgivable or it is nothing at all, whatever it calls itself.

Democratic and progressive movements are inherently anti-monolithicizing, inherently pluralizing.

It is true that emancipatory politics is forever discovering the connections between oppressions as a way of overcoming them, but finding and untangling these connections is an interminable process, it is not the building of a new Pyramid to survey the scene from, it is not the delusive discovery of the One True Way yet again. Democratic organizing directs itself to proximate, ongoing, and emerging sites of struggle, it is not a matter of the creation of the Truth that Says the Way the World Is, it is not a matter of evangelizing for that Truth that Holds the Keys to History, it is not a matter of becoming part of the Movement that will Sweep the World. These are fundamentalist perspectives, and always utterly anti-democratizing (even when they appropriate the terms and superficial forms of democracy in their public relations)….

[O]ne doesn't have to join a Robot Cult to devote oneself to any of the campaigns delineated [in the longer piece from which this is excerpted], and… one can have a tantalizing glimpse of the connections between many of these technoprogressive struggles without imagining thereby that one has become a particular kind of person different from or superior to other people with whom you share the world here and now, however much you may disagree with them on particular questions, or differ from them in your aspirations.

I don't think that all progressives are technoprogressives, inasmuch as not all progressives would agree with me or have necessarily given a lot of thought to the specific inter-implication of contemporary democratic struggles and technoscientific change that preoccupies my own attention.

But I do think that all technoprogressives are just progressives, and people of the legible democratic left.

I think technocentric analyses can provide interesting perspectives, analytic tools, strategic recommendations, creative provocations, and novel sources for solidaity for progressive democratic-left politics in its more conventional guises. But I think all five of my technoprogressive advocacy areas are completely legible in terms of those more conventionally progressive perspective -- [1] permaculture, [2] p2p/a2k, [3] Pro-Choice, [4] basic income, and [5] planetary democracy.

There is nothing Superlative to be found here, no promises of transcendence, no One True Heaven to die for (or to live for, and in so living die in one's life).

9 comments:

De Thezier said...

Dale,

So how would you respond to a disillusioned progressive fed on Chomskite cynicism that "fighting to smash the corporate-militarist world state that actually exists and to democratize it as and for the people" is a just yet lost cause?

Dale Carrico said...

Well, first off, really quickly, I don't agree that Chomsky is cynical or makes people cynical (which is not to say that I always agree with him).

Second off, it seems to me that many who speak of democratization as a "lost cause" are caught up in a false, too purist, too unilateral, too top-down fantasy of what it means to do politics, and certainly democratic politics, properly speaking.

Democracy is not a blueprint to be sketched in advance and then implemented by professional revolutionaries. It is a process that is ongoing right now.

It isn't "lost," it's happening.

That's always true, and that is always my answer. But, honestly, given the emergence of the Netroots and peer-to-peer formations in general it is hard to understand why people would choose just this moment to lose hope.

Things have never been more hopeful in all my life for democratic politics.

Of course I am aware of the advances of the Killer Clowns and death merchants of corporate-militarism and Patriarchal fundamentalism, but their discipline and their stridency reflects in no small part the desperation of an obsolescence they feel in their bones.

They have old money, and new guns, and a criminal willingness to use them, and so they can certainly still prevail. But I don't think they will.

I feel lucky, and I pay attention.

Nobody who actually immerses themselves in one or more of the countless worthy concrete technoprogressive campaigns I allude to in my longer piece will have time to feel hopeless for long. They will be too busy contributing to actually-existing democracy, peer to peer, to indulge in gloom that some pet utopia may fail to find fruition.

De Thezier said...

I don't agree that Chomsky is cynical or makes people cynical (which is not to say that I always agree with him).

Perhaps "pessimism" might have a better word. But there are many who have complained to him that his writings makes them realize how powerless they are in the face of the corporate-militarist forces arrayed against them, which is something he has acknowledged.

They have old money, and new guns, and a criminal willingness to use them, and so they can certainly still prevail. But I don't think they will.

How do you respond to Stefano Vaj's following criticism of you:

"Strangely enough, in spite of the postmodernist jargon, Carrico's point of view, at least as I understand it in the context of a cultural environment whose "narratives" sounds pretty similar to his own, is all except relativist, and in fact sounds more eschatological to my ears (see "progress" understood as some kind of providential and moral design, etc.) than most honest-to-biomechanic-gods transhumanists usually do."

Dale Carrico said...

How do you respond to Stefano Vaj's following criticism of you...

By belching and then scratching myself.

Honestly, I have no idea how he is defining half of the terms he is using here. If he wants to ask me a question he should ask it, if you want to ask me one, you should ask it. For my specific take on "progress" quite a while ago I wrote this on the topic, which wasn't half bad.

To return to the Chomsky point, it is just as easy to feel empowered as hopeless by his painstaking analyses of the ways in which some privileged people use violence and oppression to gain and maintain their privileges.

A lot of the boo-hoo crying about how paralyzing this knowledge is directly testifies in my view to the belief that some people have that even when they confront injustices from which they have benefited they should be endlessly coddled and petted for doing the right thing. As if that is even remotely a productive expenditure of our collective effort. Don't they just drive you crazy?

It seems to me people can and should use the knowledge made available to them to do their best by their lights to leave the world better than they found it.

Opportunities to learn, to help, to speak truth to power, to push back, to participate are proliferating all around us, thanks to new p2p formations (that need our support even now -- join the struggle to stop media concentration, defend Net Neutrality, support FlOSS, etc.). Learn about permaculture strategies available to us all, write your representatives, contribute to dem-left organizations (time, money, attention). You won't have time to feel paralyzed and pouty, I assure you.

De Thezier said...

Honestly, I have no idea how he is defining half of the terms he is using here. If he wants to ask me a question he should ask it, if you want to ask me one, you should ask it. For my specific take on "progress" quite a while ago I wrote this on the topic, which wasn't half bad.

I don't have a question to ask you that I haven't already asked. I'm simply always curious how people respond to criticism that they usually never here cause it helps me better understand the qualities and flaws of their worldview.

It seems to me people can and should use the knowledge made available to them to do their best by their lights to leave the world better than they found it. Opportunities to learn, to help, to speak truth to power, to push back, to participate are proliferating all around us, thanks to new p2p formations (that need our support even now -- join the struggle to stop media concentration, defend Net Neutrality, support FlOSS, etc.). Learn about permaculture strategies available to us all, write your representatives, contribute to dem-left organizations (time, money, attention). You won't have time to feel paralyzed and pouty, I assure you.

Oh I agree with you.

However, I guess I am trying to speak to the sense among both some techno-progressives and left-bioconservatives I meet who feel that nothing short of revolution will succeed in smashing the corporate-militarist state.

Dale Carrico said...

I'm simply always curious how people respond to criticism that they usually never here cause it helps me better understand the qualities and flaws of their worldview.

That makes sense to a certain extent, but of course some critiques are so context specific they don't translate well -- I'm sure as a participant in the actual conversation in which the critique in question occurred terms appear well defined to you that utterly perplex me as someone who wasn't in on the conversation, and so on.

I am trying to speak to the sense among both some techno-progressives and left-bioconservatives I meet who feel that nothing short of revolution will succeed in smashing the corporate-militarist state.

The Netroots and Peer to peer more generally are the Revolution.

I agree with Digby.

De Thezier said...

That makes sense to a certain extent, but of course some critiques are so context specific they don't translate well -- I'm sure as a participant in the actual conversation in which the critique in question occurred terms appear well defined to you that utterly perplex me as someone who wasn't in on the conversation, and so on.

Yes I understand and I try to be mindful of that. However, there wasn't really a context to Stefano's comments except that it occured during a debate amongst transhumanists about your views on superlative technology discourse.

The Netroots and Peer to peer more generally are the Revolution.

I don't want to diminish the importance of Netroots and Peer to peer but how has it and how will it contribute to stopping the corportate-militarist system that is increasily rather than disincreasingly imposing itself on the globe?

I agree with Digby.

The link is dead.

remterbacysih'ox said...

There's an extraneous apostrophe at the end of that URL.

Dale Carrico said...

However, there wasn't really a context to Stefano's comments...

Well, I can't figure how he can call my views relativist and eschatological in the same breath then. If you can summarize what you yourself take to be the substance of this critique I will reply to that -- I can't figure out what he is trying to say.

I don't want to diminish the importance of Netroots and Peer to peer but how has it and how will it contribute to stopping the corportate-militarist system that is increasily rather than disincreasingly imposing itself on the globe?

People hate war, people hate rich assholes who think they are better than everybody else. When people talk back to elites and organize together, democracy wins. p2p enables this and is enabling it. I'm as dissatisfied with Senate Dems as anybody else, but the 2006 change election was driven by the Netroots, and through incumbent primary challenges and message push back we will take the White House, we will increase our representation in the Congress, we will push out the corporatists and transform the DNC into a responsive progressive voice rather than a Machine Political engine of middle-of-the-road corporatism and incumbent interest, we will reinvigorate popular unionism, we will circumvent cynical corporatist appropriations of widespread support of environmental protections and universal healthcare. Read Benkler for more. I recently gave a talk on this topic for the Roosevelt Institution at UCB -- I'll try to transcribe it over break for publication here at Amor Mundi.

The link is dead.

Try.