Friday, October 22, 2004

Mark Satin at Powell's Books

I attended a presentation by Mark Satin at the local Powell's on Hawthorne last night. One of those C-SPAN type events: intimate book store setting, attentive and intelligent audience, super articulate speaker. His book is Radical Middle: The Politics we Need Now.

I haven't read the book yet (did buy it though), but just based on his rap, I see this as an ideal interface to a politics for my own school of thought.

Instead of coming off as apolitical, Mark comes off as intensely political, and radical, but not far left or far right -- reminds me more of Fuller in Grunch of Giants (like, how apolitical was that?).

He argues that all the mainstream camps are indulging in an artificially dumbed-down food fight that amuses, even enthralls, even while it panders to baser instincts. Is this Jon Stewart's problem with Crossfire too?

The cost is certainly enormous: we don't get any real work done. The whole system is stalled, while we pretend to be idiots.

I liked his invocations of Ben Franklin as a hero (one of mine as well). He does not apologize for moving to Canada during the Vietnam Era and running an underground railroad to help his peers escape an ideologically corrupt enterprise (retrospectively, their analysis stands up to scrutiny -- even secretaries of defense have said so).

However, looking ahead, he thinks a universal draft would be better -- one that puts non- or para-military options in the mainstream (no more esoteric CO program for a few Quakers -- turn that into a major program). So all serve (if young enough -- sex doesn't matter), but all have some choice over what one's service to one's country looks like, in practice. Of course, many will still choose the navy.

During the Q&A, I spoke up about how a universal draft might help with my reality TV projects. Capitalism uses product placement and slickly edited scenarios to broadcast new lifestyle options, many of which could be focused on these alternative service personnel and their new high tech gizmos ala the design science revolution and open source.

Maybe I'll finally get my bizmo (like an RV, but more compact and business oriented, wired), so I might get work done while recruiting for the home team (Satin makes good use of sports metaphors by the way).

Maybe at this level of commitment, we'd stop so one-sidedly focusing on the war toy generals -- those guys who come on TV and romanticize their missiles and jets (dot-mil soft porn), slobbering at the thought of seeing them in theater.

There's more worth longing for out of the USA than tired/expired neo-Roman imperialism (not Ben Franklin's trip either).

My thanks to Nick Consoletti, Ph.D. for finding out about this event (he asked a good question about Bohmian dialog) and to Michael Sunanda, also in my company for much of yesterday (see Adventures in Radioland).