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

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Left to Do

I’ve been teaching a six week intensive seminar on argumentative writing, broadly organized around the theme of technoethics, here at Berkeley all this month.

And just like last year about this time, my blogging has slowed to a trickle in consequence of the workload, and even more just the exhausting mental preoccupations of teaching and grading papers. And always in the background, sometimes in the foreground, are the demands of revising the dissertation for my Committee.

But so much has been happening the last few weeks I wanted at least to register my sense of things in the simplest terms. Something different is in the air, something new is afoot. There’s a prestorm ozone reek in the atmosphere these days, something crackling scarily like static….

First things first.

The Bush Administration lied America into catastrophic war and lied us into catastrophic debt. In both cases, the Administration told its lies so that its friends could steal.

I have of course long maintained this view, and have often said as much here and elsewhere.

The Bush conservatives and their eager opportunistic supporters among the social, religious, and market fundamentalists are directly responsible for the avoidable deaths of countless soldiers and civilians on foreign fields, and for the avoidable deaths by hunger, treatable illness, and exacerbated violence of countless others in cities and settlements and refugee camps at home and abroad.

Some things can be said quite simply: Under Bush, moneyed and moralistic elites have lied so that they could steal. And they don’t much care about the people who have died as a result of their dishonesty and their greed.

Almost everybody I know has known all of this for years. And every single relatively reasonable person who pretends now that they didn’t hear perfectly sensible voices saying these things all along, offering up reasons and evidence to support their case, is also lying. They are lying either because they sought to benefit from the crimes of the Adminstration themselves, even if only tangentially, or because they are now ashamed of their own cowardice or stupidity and are just too stubborn to admit their complicity in the shabby crimes of this debased era.

Now, for the first time in all this time, suddenly Americans in general seem receptive to the truth. Death tolls, global distrust, and vast economic insecurity are breaking through the Republican crust of convention.

More and more people are chiseling past the President’s phony populism to stand face to face with the liar and the incompetent behind the mask. Fewer and fewer people are willing to pretend that Rovian dirty tricks represent some kind of genius rather than simply a complete ruthlessness without a moral compass to restrain it. The Administration is revealed as a surreal circle of brown-shirted Muscle Marys, snake-handling feudal theocrats, and trigger-happy money-grubbing kooks who still take Ayn Rand seriously.

There is no question in my mind that a few courageous vestiges of independent journalism, the liberal blogosphere, and Air America Radio are responsible for this painfully slow turn to face facts at last.

Next, we must name names and take prisoners. This time, decent democracy-loving Americans must demand accountability from the criminals who have exploited our trust and our society, even if we would all prefer to forget this ugly episode and just get back to our lives.

The war-criminals and white-collar criminals who have joined hands in the Bush Administration and who have taken us down this stupid pointless blood-soaked path to the brink are sure to fight like mad to retain their stranglehold on civic discourse and civic institutions. Never forget they are capable of anything, and never forget what they have done already.

The social and religious conservatives recognize that despite their assumption of power at literally every level of governance they are a minority swimming against the democratizing secularizing globalizing prostheticizing tides of technoprogressive civilization. They rightly fear that to lose now is to lose irrevocably, because victory for them is not peaceful coexistence but unquestioned authority; and as the world grows more plural, plastic, and prosthetic their pat certainties and pet privileges grow more precarious by the moment.

The moneyed and militarist conservatives recognize that the developmental forces unleashed by the century-long scientific-technological partnership with big business (aka: the Military-Industrial Complex) have culminated in a globalizing world they are too parochial to control. And now these forces have begun to incubate as well rival peer-to-peer projects of research, manufacture, and service-provision that look likely to undermine the exhausting, distracting authoritarian work ethic and spread the risks, costs, and benefits of global technological development in democratizing directions.

I am terrified and exhilarated when I contemplate the era in which we find ourselves now.

I cannot imagine what the conservatives will do now in their growing desperation. And just so, I cannot imagine what democracy and development can accomplish if religious fundamentalists and market fundamentalists (who constitute minorities after all of the religious and the enterprising) are nudged back to the margins of the conversation of humankinds.

After we survive whatever comes next, we must make it impossible to profit from war, else war will never truly be a last resort. We must make our government more representative through campaign finance reform and election reform, else elites will use government as a tool for unprecedented exploitation. We must eliminate the conflicts of interest that undermine the regulation of commerce, development, and media, else corruption will inevitably undermine democracy. We must dismantle our imperial archipelago of military bases, and we must end the culture of state secrets, secret budgets, and exceptionalism that supports it, else we will invite certain destruction from the wider world we have dominated, and likely so destroy the world. We must reinvent industrial civilization and make it sustainable, else we will invite unprecedented devastation. And we must come to terms with the unprecedented power of emerging medical and manufacturing technologies, either to emancipate the world or unleash total annihilation, else we will remain vulnerable to destructive conservative backlashes that exploit our reasonable fears of radical change.

There is so much left to do. And once I finish grading these papers, there is so much left to talk about.


Jeff said...

"Now, for the first time in all this time, suddenly Americans in general seem receptive to the truth."

What makes you say that? Not that I disagree - I just don't watch the news and haven't seen nor heard of any indicators that this is occurring. Is the non-liberal media (i.e., anything other than the three you mentioned in your post) finally questioning and criticizing Bush's United Corporation of America?

Dale Carrico said...

Headlines are getting snarky, the questions of the press corps are getting marginally more insistent (nothing like enough, but any criticism at all seems to befuddle the Mayberry Machiavellis utterly), poll numbers really are spiralling down for the repugs, the abject dems are showing some spine (and so, given their spinelessness, their rising comfort in pushing back must indicate they have have their fingers in the same wind I'm feeling), and -- if I may be permitted the anecdotal register -- my conservative relatives are unquestionably showing signs of a tipping point... feeling rage and disgust at being played for suckers when mere months ago they were still insisting what "a good man" the warmongering thieving hypocritical dumbass boy-king truly was.