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

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Mouseketeer Roll Call

Permit me a flabbergasting moment of optimism, upgraded and adapted from a comment from the Moot.

I take a measure of comfort from the fact that not one suave billionaire nor one nest of moneyed celebutants nor one trillion-dollar petrochemical concern actually has enough money to buy off the public as a whole, at any rate not interminably so, nor even could some consortium of corporate media interests marching in lockstep to protect their collective necks manage such a feat -- not that they would be able to maintain such a coalition for long in any case, there being little honor among either cronies or thieves.

It's not that I've been asleep for the last thirty years, nor that I'm blind to what is happening now... it's that I've been very awake and very aware, despite my disgust and despair at what incumbent interests have been able to manage in that time and what they have not, and I have learned the lesson of it. Finally, it is only government that has that kind of money -- and only in principle, since the fundamental check generated by the guarantee of representation with taxation is a genie you can't get back in the bottle without violent repression of a kind few of our most reactionary bullies have the stomach for, despite their big talk when looting, fraud, and cronyism makes the big bucks flow to the big shots without much in the way of consequences to deter them.

The fact remains that right here, right now, and ever more and more and more all the time, the dem-left (even in its currently precarized neoliberalized but, miraculously enough, apparently not utterly demoralized state) in the United States and elsewhere is opportunistically taking up the educational, agitational, and organizational possibilities inhering in the lowered costs associated with p2p networks -- While at the same time the same shortsighted profit-taking rationality that causes incumbent interests to disregard ecosystemic signals of cost and risk and non-proximate effects of destabilization arising from their military adventuring when there is easy money to be made here and now will also lead them to abandon ever-less-profitable broadcast media formations that would have served them as no other institutions ever will over the longer-term as well.

The vicious circle of profit-taking rationality and incumbent interest will be replaced by the virtuous circle of p2p accountability and problem-solving, dismantling incumbency and replacing it with democracy, re-articulating what counts as profit-making to better reflect the actual diversity of stakeholders to social change, in my view.

p2p democratization will continue to pressure [1] our domestic party structures (people powered challenges to unpopular incumbents, small campaign donor aggregation, rapid media pushback and organization, etc.), [2] government institutions (de facto transformation of the electoral college via state by state referenda, universal health care, re-instatement of progressive taxes all seem likelier in the near future than ever before in my lifetime), and [3] international formations (the world knows as few Americans do that US corporate-militarist hegemony is unsustainable and in extremis, and soon our treaties and commitments will reflect this reality, even if the rhetoric we hear fails to put what is happening in such terms)... eventually breaking the stranglehold of corporate interest over the progressive base of the Democratic Party while splintering the coalition between corporatists and cultural conservatives in the Republican Party (the ever more multicultural and ever-less racist generational demographic pressures on the racist Southern Strategy that has secured Republican power more than anything since LBJ will only exacerbate these tendencies).

Sorry to sound like a Mouseketeer in moments like this -- of course, I realize and to some extent expect that social disruption caused by climate change, reactionary mass movements, military misadventures encouraged by our insane budgetary priorities, pandemics, disruptive technodevelopment -- not to mention well-organized incumbent politics to undermine p2p formations -- will variously collide and align in unexpected combinations to overturn or derange some of the progressive and democratizing tendencies presently in motion.

But to step back a bit further still, my sense is that p2p democratization and planetary awareness of ecosystemic costs/risks both represent two unprecedented and utterly transformative world-historical forces that have been unleashed in our midst -- one enormously hopeful, one unspeakably horrifying, both deeply and definitively inter-implicated.

The parochialism of militarist, corporatist, elitist (whether aristocratic or technocratic) rationality dooms these formations as utterly unable to cope with the sweeping intensive rapid disruptive transformational technodevelopmental forces abroad in the world in our generation -- and fortuitously enough, the creative and problem solving genius of collaboration has p2p formations to facilitate its emergence as an adequately improvisatory, responsive, resilient, and equitable alternative... precisely in the nick of time.

That's how it looks to me, anyhow.

It is the worst of times, it is the best of times, never more dangerous, never more promising, and so on.

12 comments:

smartypants said...

What you're calling 'p2p formations' are little more than chaotic webs of links and backlinks, cut-and-pasted content, and volumes of appendices of ridiculously low-quality, peanut-gallery commentary. Why you seem to believe that some sort of awakened progressivism will 'spontaneously organize' out of such dreck is beyond me.

But, it sure will keep everyone clicking while Rome burns -- another opiate for the masses.

peco said...

It's not that I've been asleep for the last thirty years, nor that I'm blind to what is happening now... it's that I've been very awake and very aware, despite my disgust and despair at what incumbent interests have been able to manage in that time and what they have not, and I have learned the lesson of it. Finally, it is only government that has that kind of money -- and only in principle, since the fundamental check generated by the guarantee of representation with taxation is a genie you can't get back in the bottle without violent repression of a kind few of our most reactionary bullies have the stomach for, despite their big talk when looting, fraud, and cronyism makes the big bucks flow to the big shots without much in the way of consequences to deter them.


You don't need much repression (even nonviolent repression) if you start with the right state (Of course, that isn't ever going to happen). If corporations (or maybe just individuals) literally owned the government, the government would try to benefit the biggest corporations, so there wouldn't need to be a coalition. (And the smaller corporations can't beat the bigger ones without making themselves bigger).

If the government doesn't feel threatened, it doesn't need to restrict speech at all. It might restrict demonstrations and boycotts because they interfere with the government and the corporations or individuals (which are the government). It doesn't have to restrict all demonstrations or all boycotts, just the demonstrations that interfere with the government and the boycotts that try to change the government by harming certain corporations. And, if the government were owned by individuals, boycotts would not be a problem at all.

Greg in Portland said...

Finally, it is only government that has that kind of money

Thus the next big project for our corporate masters - reducing every successful nation state to a permanently paralyzed American style "democracy" dominated by a million ignorant factions acting out their own particular culty beliefs or its seeming opposite - an Iraq style failed state where "debates" are settled on the basis of who brought the longer ammo belt for the 7.62mm. Educational voucher systems are helpful here in fragmenting the society and demolishing consensus reality. The internet itself comes in mighty handy. Want to live in a world where global warming isn't happening, Iraq is a paradise and liberals are fascists (as in the latest puke from Jonah Goldberg), well there's a website for you. The only thing I could add that might top it off would be the occasional salting of a little mescaline into the water supplies. Perhaps this could be tied to privatization schemes somehow. Want hallucinogen free water? Pay for the "premium" water service.

Greg in Portland said...

Almost forgot. The above strategy doesn't necessarily make a whole lot of sense as the elites are more dependent on functioning states than they realize to maintain their privileges but after all something only needs to look good on the time horizon of say, a typical 60+ year old aristocrat. The basic rule here is that if it doesn't lead to total calamity in the 20 or some more years these assholes figure they're got left then it's totally OK. Apres moi le deluge mofos.

Dale Carrico said...

Smartypants, I'll take the "chaos" and "peanut-gallery" commentary of people powered collaborative governance and problem solving over the technocratic-aristocratic wisdom of the incumbent corporatist-militarist elites any day. I'm a democrat and I mean it.

Peco, you keep insisting on thinking of "government" as an it or a they rather than a we you're willing to up and take some responsibility for... watch out or you'll get you wish for and then you'll really be sorry.

Greg, I can't disagree with what you're saying inasmuch as it's pretty much what I say when I'm in a bad mood myself. Here's the way I look at this. Sure, the assholes found a way to beat labor and good back when it had a chance to do some real good in the early 20C and the assholes will sure as hell try to beat p2p too, the same way, with the same cunning, with the same violence, for the same reasons (even if they leave the world an irradiated cinder or septic sewer for their pains this time around). I see what they're up to as sure as you do, but, honestly, what're we supposed to do with all this insight we've found our way to if not fight with it?

Greg in Portland said...

I see what they're up to as sure as you do, but, honestly, what're we supposed to do with all this insight we've found our way to if not fight with it?

Oh I agree we must fight. There's no choice. But there's something else. It swirls in my mind. Just because there's a problem doesn't mean there's a solution. In my darker moments this is what I think. Nicely solves the Fermi paradox too. This is why they don't call. They're all like us. They're all dead.

Dale Carrico said...

I think the answer to the Fermi paradox is that we're not invited to the party because too many of us are boring jerks.

seth said...

3 cheers for plausible optimism!

Dale Carrico said...

Well, maybe two cheers. Since we're being plausible. (I'd put a smiley here, but I somewhat revile them.)

peco said...

Peco, you keep insisting on thinking of "government" as an it or a they rather than a we you're willing to up and take some responsibility for... watch out or you'll get you wish for and then you'll really be sorry.

I want to not notice the government (I want it to be like an insurance company), which I can't do if I'm involved. (I'm not involved, and I can't be.)

Dale Carrico said...

I want to not notice the government (I want it to be like an insurance company), which I can't do if I'm involved. (I'm not involved, and I can't be.)

Reality doesn't care what you want in this matter, governmentality enables peco as subject more deeply than you've comprehended. As for government as insurance company -- if you mean government should just be a welfare state then one finds oneself in the technocratic nightmare Foucault analyzes in Discipline and Punish and Arendt in The Human Condition; if you mean it should act like a private insurer then you're on the road to the smiley faced fascism of facile libertopianism in the manner of the Friedmans (pa Milt and son Dave). If you think you're not involved already you're more wrong than I can say, and if you think you can't be I fear you've been trapped by so many bad metaphors you'll never find your way to sense.

I recommend you read David Harvey, Mike Davis, Naomi Klein, Vandana Shiva, Hannah Arendt (if you're theoretically incined), Lawrence Lessig, Yochai Benkler, and Paul Gilroy and see if that doesn't open a few doors for you. You seem to have a flabbergasting amount of unlearning to do.

Dale Carrico said...

peco, your last cut and paste job is spam -- I've deleted it, since it essentially plonks the Great Wall of China into the middle of the Moot to the cost of ongoing engagement. Feel free to post selective quotes or links to longer posts if you like... but all that said, it isn't clear to me why you post here at all given the remoteness of your basic assumptions and your definitions of terms from what I am saying. Your understanding of politics isn't even conversational with mine, you do not seem to grasp what I am talking about in even the most basic way. You're really starting to bore me, and your contributions don't seem to me particularly conducive to the discussion at hand. Sorry.