Thursday, January 31, 2013

Helping the most vulnerable

Helping the most vulnerable

Once an organizing machine is created and successful it's never satisfied and keeps trying too find new campaigns to win. Too much is at stake. And everyone likes to keep a good thing going. Will the Gay movement stop at gay marriage ? No. They move on stronger to bullying and perhaps finally get to helping out gay people overseas in a significant way. Will women's groups rest once half of all CEOs are women ? Unlikely. They'll keep bulldozing for more and more.

Such immense, historical , revolutionary progress has been made with minorities and the historically disenfranchised. Yet these victories are seldom celebrated . Keep going for more! In the very American tradition of "grow or die" these movements keep asking for your money and support for fear of losing relevance.

I swear, I can't with a straight face take anyone seriously who acts like we are in 1960 when talking about Gay marriage or the lack of female CEOs. The moral and the political landscape is far far more favorable to these 2 groups than anytime in the past. Some would argue they're both at their historical apogee. It's completely intellectually facetious to act like this struggle is in the same vain as civil rights struggles in the 1960s. As if no progress has been made and as if they deserve the same moral weight those struggles presented. They're important but they're not the defining struggle of our times. Not even close...

I'd say climate change is. And the fight against soft money in politics, ie lobbying, is far greater a challenge to our country.

And who we continue to fail is largely undisscussed and that's because they are weak economically or do not have strong elite engagement or the problem is too historically entrenched. I'm thinking about African Americans, poor whites, native Americans , migrant farm workers. ..

I'm all for gay marriage and equal opportunity but at some point I need to direct my very limited time and resources to the most vulnerable in this country. I'm not going to get all riled up and distracted by gay and women lobbies and Pr campaigns. I'm going to remember who most needs our help and what work is most fundamental to preserving the greatness of our country.

No, we can't have it all. Your time,money and attention are limited.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Emperor has clothes

My eye doctor is a real Greenwich Village original. Classy older man, in vulgar mass produced times. 

I remember when I was in Haiti, he asked me if Haitians were poor because they spoke Creole.  That it led to a further ghettoization and left them unable to assimilate into world thought and economy. 

I'll refrain from judgement but I will say that there is something to be said to assimilating to the norms and means of the powerful. I've read their books, watched their films, and wear their clothes and I'd be a fool to say it doesn't make a difference in building trust. Getting things done.  I didn't do this consciously.  But if you are ambitious, it permeates you like osmosis.  

It's important to preserve one's culture, sure. But one must first build strength.  Real strength is organization, efficiency and follow through.  Culture helps buffer the robotic effects and helps salve the soul of the pursuit of power, money and glory.

I wish it was different, but it is not.  The challenge is to do it - build strength - and keep your humanity.  Too many people are concerned about culture for culture's sake.  This is an emotional mistake, empty symbolism, that gets us nowhere.

There is of course one notable exception:  The French.  They've made culture a weapon.  They conquer through beauty.  That is what makes them great.  Few others, however powerful they think their culture is, can get away with it.  Plus, the French are far more industrious and efficient than they let on.  The combination makes them forever relevant on the global scene.  Africa's rise also augurs well for their future.         

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What is real?

I hate predictions about the future.  But one thing is clear:  real things are slowly being replaced by facsimiles.  And we are told there will be little difference.  Don't fall for it.  Digital is not film.  Supplements are not real food.  And online education cannot substitute for a real university experience.  Working from home is not the same as going to an office.  These are just some examples, but the trend is obvious. 

It's about cost cutting, sure.  The result of which will be that the "real" things will be less accessible to the average person though the average person will have more access to ideas and horizons never before imagined, albeit at a lesser quality.  Classic, foreign cinema is just one thing that comes to mind.  Never before could someone from a small town in Kansas be able to see Fellini, Bergman, without going to a major city and making a Herculean effort.  Now, instantaneously, with streaming, a person has access to the Greats on their computer.  Sure, it is not on 35 mm, but the wonder of the original, the aesthetic and ideas, still come through to move and touch a nubile.  Yes, it is a shame they will probably never see it in all its analog delight, but the access and exposure, it has to be celebrated as nothing short of revolutionary.      

And print won't disappear either; it will just have to get really good to justify its expense, as will everything.  The real things will be expensive, but will be ever more worth it, or will have to be so excellent as to justify your (limited) attention and money. 

I have already seen this.  Books stores are closing, but the ones that survive and thrive have re-invented themselves as community hubs and curators of culture.  They have upped their game in a way that makes the experience of going to a bookstore like going to a museum. 

I am thinking about McNally Jackson, of course, in Nolita, as an example par excellence.  I find myself wanting to attend a talk there, to peruse through their recommended readings, to be seen, and take in the beauty of the displays. 

Print journals too, are now ever more so works of art.  N +1, the Paris Review.  I feel as if I am buying an object and experience, not just a literary magazine. 

I can give more examples.  The stakes will be higher and the quality better as a result.

The worry, I imagine, is the unease of making real things ever more elite, exclusive and expensive.  But weren't they always?  Did polyester suits make real english wool suits disappear?  Mass consumption will be more synthetic, and ephemeral.  Real things will be of greater quality and thus more expensive - but they will still be available for those who make an effort or who care enough to want them. 

The hope is that giving more people access - even through facsimiles - will spur within them a desire to touch and feel the real thing.  The doomsday worry is that facsimiles will be enough and people will revel in the shadows, never stepping outside of the cave and ever looking directly at the sun