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

Friday, October 06, 2006

Secular Nation

In the immediate aftermath of the last catastrophic election in the United States, as the corporate media coughed up its hairball of self-congratulatory consensus narrative, explaining how the election result somehow represented a triumph for "Values Voters" -- every one of whom was apparently a homophobic war-mongering anti-science misogynist bigot with a taste for a very particular flavor of fundamentalist Christian theocracy -- many of the nation's many millions of secular progressives were left saucer-eyed and sucker-punched.

The thing is, though, that America had this long hard-fought Culture War, you see. And the secular progressives absolutely and decisively won.

A story in today's New York Times has provided a friendly reminder of the facts on the ground:
Despite their packed megachurches, their political clout and their increasing visibility on the national stage, evangelical Christian leaders are warning one another that their teenagers are abandoning the faith in droves.

“I’m looking at the data,” said Ron Luce, who... founded Teen Mania, a 20-year-old youth ministry, “and we’ve become post-Christian America, like post-Christian Europe. We’ve been working as hard as we know how to work -- everyone in youth ministry is working hard -- but we’re losing...”

Genuine alarm can be heard from Christian teenagers and youth pastors, who say they cannot compete against a pervasive culture of cynicism about religion, and the casual “hooking up” approach to sex so pervasive on MTV, on Web sites for teenagers and in hip-hop, rap and rock music. Divorced parents and dysfunctional families also lead some teenagers to avoid church entirely or to drift away...

Over and over in interviews, evangelical teenagers said they felt like a tiny, beleaguered minority in their schools and neighborhoods.

They "feel" that way, of course, because it is absolutely true.

Needless to say, there are many Americans who maintain some form of religious or spiritual practice or belief. But in a secular society such beliefs are personalized or even aestheticized, and even those for whom spirituality is central to their identification will strongly and cheerfully distinguish the work of Belief from the work of Citizenship in their lives. We are conversational beings, both within and without, and our political commitments will often reflect our moral, ethical, instrumental, spiritual, and aesthetic commitments. But these inter-resonances, too, will be personal, partial, unpredictable. Collaborators in secular cultures will generally resist any imposition of the standards of or reduction to the terms of any one indispensable mode of social practice of warranted belief -- be it scientific, moral, ethical, esthetic, or political -- on any of the others.

Once upon a time (you'll forgive me if I oversimplify things somewhat) the queers and independent women and uppity negroes marched and discoed and generally raised hell together, and the dumb freckled know-nothing hicks who howled "disco sucks" in the eighties (which was always really about racist, sexist, homophobic panic at the prospect of a multicultural global order) became the "whiny white guys" of the nineties.

Of course, these milky malodorous malcontents had plenty of old ill-gotten money and a restless reserve of resentment at their disposal.

They weren't afraid of cheating, stealing, fear-mongering, or Lying Big. And they managed to maintain for a time the steely lockstep discipline of an army marching into a battle the loss of which looks likely to them to mean utter extinction (because, remember, once again, They Lost The Culture Wars).

They gave us Reagan's "Mourning in America," they crammed Bush I down our throats, they had their Gingrich Revolution and impeached even a Democrat who was enough like them to cheerlead NAFTA and "workfare" and media consolidation, and then finagled the incomparably ugly, deadly, criminal enterprise that is the current Killer Clown Administration.

But it pays to remember that even at the moment of their greatest apparent triumph and consolidation of authority, the facts on the ground are altogether different from the consoling fantasies the Cons tell themselves.

The insane profit-piles of the fatcat CEOs will be snatched from their hands with the imposition of sane progressive income taxation and property taxes. It isn't nearly as impossible as it may seem now. The dismantlement of our civil liberties will crumble in the courts and will be restored and reinforced by imperfect but better new laws. It isn't nearly as impossible as it may seem now. The warmongering unilateralism of the current era will be eclipsed as a tattered, traumatized, and economically vulnerable nation concedes to the demands of a more united and empowered world (and the legislators who bow to the inevitable won't pay any political price at all for their sanity, because they simply won't talk about it and so most Americans simply won't care). It isn't nearly as impossible as it may seem now. The military-industrial complex will give way to renewable energy and biomedical networks because that's where the money will be (and, once again, Americans won't rebel against any "losses" to their wasteful consumer "lifestyles" because the commercials they see on the tee-vee will simply tell them they aren't losing anything). It isn't nearly as impossible as it may seem now.

Among the mostly unintended consequences of this larger shift in our definitive mode of production will be an invigoration of democratizing forces already inhering in this diverse, vast, still-young nation... in the midst of a world confronting unprecedented problems and, now, at last, as capable as it has long been eager for fairness, freedom, and security.

Beyond all this, of course, I personally hope and will work with other technoprogressive folks as well to ensure that digital networks will facilitate democratic participation in local, national, and global governance, will abolish the secretive cultures of authoritative organizations like governments, corporations, and universities, and will transform prevailing research and property regimes to solve global problems rather than enrich elites.

I hope and will work with other technoprogressive folks to ensure that biomedical development will treat neglected diseases and rejuvinate everyone, universally and consensually. I hope and will work with other technoprogressive folks to ensure that the productive forces unleashed by automation and networked-organization will be redirected from conspicuous wealth concentration into the provision of a global basic income guarantee.

All of that is real work, more than a lifetime's worth I'll wager. But it is good work to do, worthy and rewarding work.

Above all, never forget, this is a secular nation, in a multicultural world, awash in a radically disruptive, dangerous, and promising technoscientific storm-surge. That's the thing to keep ever in mind, that the promise is as real as the peril. This isn't "Jesusland," if that is supposed to mean a land that has repudiated diversity, democracy, creativity, and science. The thugs may have a megaphone but they don't speak for the people. And the people are real, as the world is real, as solutions are real, as errors and sins exact real costs and real reckonings, and as sure as change is coming.


Michael Anissimov said...

We should be very happy to live in the secular Bay Area. By the way, did you hear about the new transparency act that Bush signed? It will lead to the creation of a website where anyone can explore all the nonclassified details of the government budget. Definitely a step in a positive direction...

sushil yadav said...

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.
Subject : Environment can never be saved as long as cities exist.

Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.

A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.





To read the complete article please follow either of these links :