About 1,000 days ago, I began blogging. This, my 1,000th post, seems - rather recursively - to be itself cause for a post.
Ron's Top 12 Reasons to Blog
Politics (is mentioned in 24% of the 999 previous posts)
This is a democracy but an immature one. Why immature? Chiefly because we are given choices far more often than we are given the freedom to create. Would you like vanilla or chocolate we are asked at election time, as if dessert were the question rather than exercise or entertainment or something salty.
Right now we have self-determination in the individual sphere and mostly acceptance of reality in the public sphere. To reach a point at which we know how to engage in dialogue that creates jointly determined communities will take democracy beyond our present state of choosing between party-defined options.
And this will begin with a participatory journalism that takes commentary about politics from institutions like newspapers and TV and gives it to individual bloggers. This is easily the most exciting time for politics since the emergence of Democracies in the century between 1776 and 1861.
The older I get the more convinced I am that so much of life – so much of you and me – is absurd. How seriously we take ourselves. How carefully we follow rules evolved out of earlier times and circumstances for different people. How ridiculous is the human drama of giving in to or resisting the animal impulses that seem to simultaneously mock and anchor our more idealized and lofty selves. This is to say, laughter still seems to me the best response to life.
Absurd is a great segue to policy: to point out that society is just a game is, of course, one big step towards changing the rules. Society is invented, just made up; policy and laws and rules and culture are ways we create this game.
Policy is essential but boring. Software crashes if the code is poorly written. Policy poorly played crushes rather than nurtures individualism, obstructs rather than facilitates the human experience, creates waste where it finds abundance, and leaves unimagined the unlived life. One reason for my optimism in spite of how much I find absurd is that we’ll find a way to better engage the imagination and reason and passion of communities in the formulation of policy through the use of simulation. The oldest simulation device is still with us, of course: that is the story. We write to lament what could have been and cheer what might still emerge.
My favorite quote from the 2008 election? Picking up on Molly Ivin’s claim that Bush was born on third and thought he hit a triple, one Senator said that Bush found himself on third and promptly stole second. One more reason for optimism? Although the man-boy left massive bills and destruction in his wake, Western Civilization may yet survive. I choose to make this mean that civilization is wonderfully resilient.
Social Evolution (10%)
Why is this such an exciting time to be alive? Because the pace of progress has accelerated so much that we may well be the first generation to be born into one age and die in another. To return to medieval Europe would be like traveling to Mars. The past is a different world. So is the future.
I still think that there is something akin to DNA for society and that evolution traces back to changes in four factors: land, capital, knowledge and entrepreneurship. The next society could be the first intentional society. We will get to witness and be part of social evolution as has happened only a few times before in history.
Barack Obama (7%)
This is a shockingly high number of posts for the new president, given that for more than half the time I was posting he was not in the public eye (which is code for – I didn’t know about him). I still have hopes for this man. He might yet be a great president.
Perhaps the most epic non sequitur of all foreign policy history: the party that didn’t believe that government could effect changes as relatively simple as lifting people out of poverty or mitigating racism chose to use government to transform a totalitarian regime with theocratic impulses into a shining light of democracy in the Middle East. This will remain Bush’s legacy – proof that ignoring complexity might be the best way to create really complex situations.
The revolution of the last century was not religious or political: it was in finance. We created a new kind of capitalism and by century’s end, the individual was able to get credit, insurance, and investments that were available only to the elites at the beginning of the century. Like all revolutions, though, people got hurt. And continue to. We have yet to learn that the point of finance is to enhance autonomy and choice for individuals – not to enhance the prestige and profits of banks (anymore than the point of politics is to enhance the prestige and power of the king). Finance is wonderful and we’ve yet to fully realize what options it opens up to us.
Blogging is the new media. Media is the old blogging. Facts are quickly becoming boring and for good reason: we want to know about realities we could create, not the ones that already exist. Right now we’re toddlers at creating a new reality, often conflating vision with hallucination, fantasies with goals. We’ll get this right yet, though. And it will do more for our sex appeal than whiter teeth. Media will become an instrument for testing policy and provoking hope: it’ll be the beta test product for societies that have yet to emerge.
Economics is where culture and habit and technology and wants and ability all spill together to create society. We are products of systems and progress is an odd dance between the individual and the system in which she finds herself. If we get the next stage of social evolution right, we’ll have an economy that is sustainable and that enables autonomy rather than is voraciously consuming what it can’t replace and fuels fear and conformity. Again, I am wildly optimistic about the possibility of creating this.
We have freedom of religion for the believer – not just the pope or imam. We have freedom in the political realm for citizens and not just aristocracy. It’s time for freedom within the realm of business for employees and not just entrepreneurs: it is time to popularize entrepreneurship and extend the power of social invention to a broader swath of people. This will begin within the corporation. It’ll be a business revolution. If we don’t have it, we will collide with reality in spectacular and disastrous ways. Maybe one reason for my optimism is that I feel so strongly that failing to capture this opportunity will have such dire consequences.
Perhaps my optimism has already given me away as someone whose psyche is suspect. If that were not enough, I did not get my first invisible friend until my mid-40s. I have become fond of dining with Bernard, learning what he has to say. I would even go so far as to claim that he is, in some very real sense, another person. Perhaps Bernard is my future – an old guy hoping to be taken seriously. Or perhaps he is just an opportunity for an alternate me to unfold into the world of time and words, a person who cannot appear in the world of time and space.
And this blogging adventure brought with it at least one major benefit I did not have the imagination to anticipate when I began about 3 years ago. I have become friends with so many of you fellow bloggers – people I now consider neighbors in this world of words. I have loved this odd forum and getting to know you. Welcome to my 1,000th post party. Grab a seat and join the conversation. Oh right. You already have.
Thanks to those of you who've guest blogged, regularly commented and given me great material to read and respond to:
Allen, Lifehiker, Thomas, Holly, Chesca, Milena, Cody, Pinky, Emily, Dave, Sarah, Norman, Damon, Ben, and Daryl.
And of course, thanks to Sandi for putting up with my penchant for thinking with my fingers so incessantly (and even for those nights when I've typed in my sleep upon her skin, waking her without a decoder ring to decipher what nocturnal message I've sent.)