Tag Archives: culture

Utopian communities sharing their experiences online

I get the impression that there are not all that many people interested in Utopia (as a concept). Maybe we’re a bit more skeptical than folks were in the 1800s. Or maybe charismatic leaders just don’t gain so much traction in an era with electronic criminal records and background checks.

The good parts of living with room mates were really good. A built in social network and a always-on source of good conversation and affirmation? Yeah. Doing other peoples’ dishes… not so much.

I follow three projects with utopian visions:

Open Source Ecology

Paul Wheaton’s Permaculture community

Focus Fusion

I love that these folks are putting their experiences out there. It’s exciting to see folks trying to build something grand. It’s even interesting to watch the setbacks. I don’t know how much popular interest there is in this kind of thing.

 

 

 

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Comments on: Apocalyptic thinking is self-flattery

I read an essay in the Chronicle about apocalyptic thinking that solidified some ideas that I have been unable to organize in my mind. The gist is that Apocalyptic thinking is really just egotism. For example, take when Harold Camping predicted the world would end. That was more narcissistic than anything else. I feel some tension when I make that judgment: although I laugh at his conceit, I still love dystopian fiction. That makes me a little narcissistic, too.

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The National Culture: News as Roman coliseum shows

 

I ran across an article that is pretty interesting. It’s a collection of speeches by Joe Bageant. He’s enamored with South American culture. That’s fine for him, but I don’t particularly identify with that culture. Too much touching. Joe may long for a “daily life in the flesh, belly to belly and soul to soul, lived out in the streets and parks and public places, in love and the workplace,” but that sounds like hell to me. God. The last thing I need is mutual public belly-touching.

However, his critique of American culture is well articulated:

Our daily news is the modern version of Roman coliseum shows. Elections are personality combat, chariot races, not examinations of solutions being offered. None are offered.

I happen to disagree with the implied solution he proposes (emulate the fuzzy tactile family structure of Belize), but I’m grateful that he actually goes so far as to offer up a solution to discuss. I have a different solution in mind. I think we could do a lot better if we spent more time and money on the work of craftsmen. I think it would be great if we were each others’ patrons when it came to individualized beautiful works of art and technology. The corporate, fad-oriented, marketed to death, planned obsolescence, throw-away culture is oppressive. But there’s no need to give up our comfortable “personal space.”

But my dream of a Neovictorian techno-utopia is far fetched. The blogosphere is my substitute for now, though. A place where people can engage intellectually with a little distance from the pervasive corporate interests… and there’s a great book on the subject over at Amazon.com on how to make money while blogging! Buy it through the link at right and support TBU!

(I’m only being half-ironic. Seriously, that button up top? You can buy that too! Know a designer who can spruce that up that design for me for a reasonable fee? Give me a yell.)

-Peter

TV makes kids fat, but not the way you think.

I think it will come as no surprise that young couch potatoes tend to be overweight. What I think might come as a surprise is that a few hours per day of sedentary vegetation is not the problem. According to the National Academies, it may well be the advertisements that the kids are watching that’s causing it rather than the actual time of inactivity.

And I get it. If you want to make lots of money, you need to buy low and sell high. That means buying corn syrup (cheap) and effective advertising (kids are the easiest) and selling it for ten times the market price. Now maybe advertising  could convince kids that orange juice was awesome. The problem is that the value added is not all that high. Special name brand orange juice probably can’t be driven up in price by a factor of 10 because nobody will bay $20 for a bottle of OJ (Or so I once thought…). Name brand sugar water, on the other hand, certainly can because the price was so low to start.

Where does that laeve us? Kids want crap because they see crap on TV. Value added foods like cola and flavored tortilla chips (both derived from corn, interestingly) make money.  Kids get fat, somebody gets rich. And who are to say that’s not just fine and dandy?

-Peter

Short Review of "A Culture of Conspiracy"

A Culture of Conspiracy” by Michael Barkun is by far the most coherent, scholarly material I have ever read on the contentious issue of “stigmatized knowledge.”

It is not a book written to “expose of the TRUTH” about the hidden reality of… whatever. It is also not a debunking of the conspiracy theories that abound about everything. The problem with the fringe, as I have said, is that the stuff out there is contradictory, so at best one of the competing voices is right… and it’s a lot easier to generate that crap than it is to debunk it. A definitive volume that debunks every conspiracy theory would be impossible. And the people to whom it would be the most use would denounce it as more propaganda from the conspirators anyway.

Barkun’s book is a sort-of natural history of crazy memes. The results are fascinating. The world views that people hold are… amazing, really. There are people in our midst battling literal demons in the moments leading up to the end of the world. That’s right now. Not fiction. They are living it. And it feels important to them.

Barkun sums up nicely: “A growing number of people believe that a super-conspiracy commonly referred to as the New World Order is on the verge of consolidating world domination, possibly in collaboration with malevolent aliens.” Or, I would add, in collaboration with the Devil. “The conspirators allegedly operate through so wide ranging a network of confederates that they have co-opted authority figures in every sector of life. Through this control, in turn, they shape the information available to the general public and thus conceal the conspiracy’s existence and activities.”

Well, that presents some epistemological/metaphysical problems for the rest of us.

Dean argues that there is no longer a “consensus reality” according to which contested questions of fact can be resolved.  She suggests that on such subjects as alien abduction and political conspiracies, there are multiple contending realities, which keep contested issues from being decided…Dean’s position, while extreme in its suggestion of epistemological anarchy, is sufficiently reflective of the material considered here that it must be taken seriously.

So, can we all live in radically different parallel realities? Do we need a consensus reality? Who would get to enforce it if we do need it?

That’s the real philosophical question at the heart of this strange stuff. It underlies the “culture wars” and C.P. Snow’s Two Cultures. I think it’s an issue we’re going to be dealing with a lot over the next century. What I’m afraid of is that the conspiracists and the orthodoxists (I just made up a word!) will get the limited attention of the intelligentsia and the fundamental issue will get overlooked. Or, worse, The Jester is right and nobody cares at all.

-Peter