Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Views of America

Roger Paget graced our small group of Wanderers this morning. He's an emeritus professor of Asian Studies and Political Economy at Lewis & Clark College. From his written preamble:
Most citizens do not have the dimmest notion of what capitalism means for good reason. Even secretaries of the treasury and lions of industry, banking, etc., intone the ritual precepts oblivious of their fundamental vacuity in the contemporary world.... what is conventionally billed as an economic theory is in actuality integrally wedded to political interests. [ hyperlink added ]
He had some dots to share, inviting us to connect them.

The first had to do with his repeated visits to Indonesia over the years (he's fluent in Indonesian). The recent economic crash in Asia, which preceded the meltdown in North America, has resulted in Indonesia reconnecting to its own resources. The economies there are bouncing back, but not as a result of the international system. Bretton Woods era capitalism, post WW2 LAWCAP, appears to be over in many respects, but that doesn't mean everything's going down the tubes.

On another front, one of his former classmates is now a multi-billionaire and is funding important initiatives having to do with internationalizing the educational experience of many North Americans. Yet this same classmate is unfamiliar with Federal programs designed to encourage similar outcomes (more cosmopolitan thinkers and doers). Roger is very aware of the mutual ignorance that keeps public and private sector initiatives and programs oblivious of one another.

A more cosmopolitan level of discourse would help America rock. Roger is a classic liberal in many ways (he drives a classic VW bus, lives in Portland for crying out loud), meaning he's imbued with a sense of a powerful semi-omni-aware state, his state (the United States).

Here in the early 21st century, he's what I'd call a prime representative of USA OS, or the USA style of governing (steering), by means of institutions with checks and balances (to prevent despotism and waste) and with lots of participation by the people for the people (at least in theory).

In another story, Roger talked about his delivering way more than an average number of babies, including his own. I'd been musing about male midwives in chatting with Laura, so was pleased to have this thread joined. He got into a relationship with Mercy Corps, which wanted to help mothers learn how to breast feed. No, it's not all intuitive, helps to have guidance. However, by the time he got to the front lines, he was like the only guy in the room explaining this agenda. The technologists and gynecologists were learning the more coldly robotic western ways, of birth by Cesarean, followed by infant formulas. We can blame literally soulless Nestles marketing, or we can blame westernized grownups for broadcasting the messages they're willing to pay for, spreading those memes (those lifestyles).

Roger spoke especially knowledgeably and with admiration for the Comptroller General's office, an appointment of 15 years, the longest in the USG short of a Supreme Court justice. This officer oversees the Government Accounting Office (GAO), recently renamed the Office of Accountability. The theory here is an auditing office with lots of overview, and somewhat immune from short term political pressures, could point out obvious (and not so obvious) errors in the operating system's design.

He ended with a few pointed remarks about the Koch (pronounced "coke") brothers, recently featured in The New Yorker, as a way of bringing up the disproportionate influence of moneyed interests on the affairs of state. If academia fails to rally and defend a cosmopolitan center (liberal because open and diverse, not narrowing and controlling), then we may go off the deep end into another fanaticism, perhaps a despotic fascism. I took this to be the gist of his thesis.

I don't know if Roger is a member of our Wanderers discussion list. I don't think so or he'd have posted something by now. The preamble was forwarded by Don. Had he been on the list, he'd've known we've already been discussing the Koch brothers some.

I've been making lots of links in my posted remarks to Edwin Black's books, which I'm plowing through, and which have everything to do with (a) fossil fuel addiction, and (b) a lingering classism linked to racism which seeks to defeat any kind of democratic system, Jeffersonian or otherwise.

I reiterated these comments in the ensuing discussion, along with my standard identification of USA OS with a kind cyber-nationalism, a geek school of thought which tends to virtualize nationhood, such as by using Bucky Fuller's deliberately nationless world map, his "game board" for playing World Game. According to this view, the USA is powerful in proportion to the degree its design principles are evident anywhere in the world.

Democracy grows with a people's self-organizing for self-determination and cannot be imposed from without (an oxymoron). We may learn from one another however, so it's not like every wheel needs to be reinvented.

The civil rights movements, starting with Gandhi's resistance to imperialism, taught people a lot about how to be more effective, how the use "the force" (precession). Young people are especially keen to throw off any yoke of tyranny, as they have their whole lives ahead of them as the saying goes. Older people may have a next life to think about, and some are hoping to spend it right here.

Every generation hopes to steer a little closer to utopia (or God's Kingdom if you prefer such language), learning from mistakes of the past (or repeating them).

Given the USA's Forest Service is in Brazil, while the CDC is doing health work in Africa, and the FBI (supposedly domestic / internal) is investigating corruption in Afghanistan, it's obvious that national borders are becoming somewhat vestigial. Fuller saw this happening way back in 1983 (wrote a book about it), and got a Medal of Freedom shortly thereafter.

All we need next is a Chinese peace corps in Detroit, providing needed clinical services and urban farming skills to refugees from a dying political economy. One people are helping out every which way, we'll have our more well-rounded "Cosmopolis," our one "global university" with a giant spherical campus (and a moon for an annex).

That depends on your virtual nation's and/or ideological perspective.

If the planet really gets its act together and starts taking care of its students, then maybe we should call it Finlandia. In the meantime, it's more like the Wild West perhaps.

Roger has a deep soothing voice. I told Lindsey later that he sounds just like Noam Chomsky to my ears, even if what he's saying is different. That was a complement by the way, as I think Noam as an accomplished rhetorician.

Given how I'm prone to multi-task these days (part of what it means to be a geek), I had to take a short leave to chauffeur my daughter to Cleveland HS (went to "college night" tonight) after she missed the bus.

I also tapped tapped on my keyboard, self-promoting as a kind of "not mathematician" who is yet weighty as a Friend, a posting I later shared with the chairman of Python Nation as he's mentioned in passing (by title). We're expecting Steve back in Portland for GOSCON in a few weeks.