The Era of Revolutionary Debate

There are few eras as exceptional and consequential as this one we’re currently living in.

There’s the advents of fire and language, money and democratic government, Aristotle’s laws of identity and non-contradiction, the printing press, the industrial revolution’s sort of destruction of feudalism (though these days the richest 1 percent seem to me like new age lords and nobles, and the niches of the working people– though lacking in their rights to strengthen as official unions– seem like contemporary guilds, and bursting through the caste system of sorts, despite proof of so many so- called “American Dreams” fulfilled can feel impossible when you haven’t done it and the way through seems unwritten)…

…and I wonder, really, since the Civil War, at least from an American perspective, when have we seen a time as radical and revolutionary as this?

When, since the tumult related to World War II have we seen so much global radicalism and revolution?    

Nationalism continues to spread like a global fever (so much so that the March/April 2019 Edition of Foreign Affairs titled the issue “The New Nationalism” and the publication’s editor says Nationalism “has come back with a vengeance” ).

Indeed, it has, from Brexit to the fighting between Israel and Palestine, from Russia’s lust for Crimea and more to “the ascent of strongmen in states such as China, the Philippines and Turkey,” as Jack Snyder puts it in one of those Foreign Affairs articles”

The Global Nationalism trend though is just one piece of a fascinating strand of the intensity throughout the world lately.

Vox reported this weekend that New Zealand “released the first-ever ‘well-being budget’ on May 30.” Happiness is starting to matter more.

The Economist reports that “According to India’s telecoms regulator, subscriptions for mobile-broadband services more than doubled between the end of 2016 and the end of 2018, from 218m to 500m.”

People in severe poverty which once kept them from accessing the internet increasingly are gaining access, especially to make and watch videos.

As of 2017, according to an article by The Verge, “the aggregate time people spend watching videos on YouTube’s home page has grown 20 times larger than what it was three years ago.”

Some people, like Caleb Cain, according to a New York Times feature on the YouTube vlogger,  “f[a]ll asleep to YouTube videos at night.“

The New York Times adds:

With two billion monthly active users uploading more than 500 hours of video every minute, YouTube’s traffic is estimated to be the second highest of any website, behind only Google.com. According to the Pew Research Center, 94 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 use YouTube, a higher percentage than for any other online service.

With YouTube in the midst of a dramatic rise, forget how this might impact network television. How will  Netflix, Amazon and Hulu compete for viewers in the 18-24 demographic?

Will some of the biggest vlogs become Netflix vlogs? What is this mean for the Maddow-Hannity style political commentary we got used to?

Meanwhile: “Public support for left-wing policymaking has reached a 60-year high,” Vox Reports.

So just like there was a consciousness revolution in the 1960’s from the politics of that decade to the increased depth of Bob Dylan & The Beatles style music, something distinct yet comparable is going on now.

Donald Trump, a former reality TV Star, is president of the United States. He’s the first president without any meaningful experience and he’s on the verge of becoming only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

To be sure, his attempts to obstruct investigations into his suspicious ties to Russian interference with our elections (mixed with a plethora of other disconcerting , abusive, and criminal acts, including violation of the constitution’s Emoluments clause) make him far  more impeachable and criminal than Clinton’s lie about oral sex. And the law on which President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment was based was ultimately deemed unconstitutional.   

The political response is likewise, historical: as Bloomberg reports: “There are more current and former governors and members of Congress running this year than there were total candidates in any party primary in the last several decades.”

Politico’s David Siders writes in his headline and subtitle:

Trump backlash sparks avalanche of 2020 policy proposals–The sheer multitude of policy proposals is staggering.

He calls it “an unlikely renaissance of ideas” and says “For brooding Democrats, the primary field’s position papers are an emotional refuge — this summer’s dreamy must-reads.”

And those old tried and true conventional ideas such as “electability” which Trump destroyed in the 2016 election (read Bob Woodward’s book Fear for example after example of Republican operatives dismissing Trump, after each of his missteps, as “unelectable” and Stephen Bannon’s consistent rebuttals to them) are undergoing further demolishment as mainstream media darling, the former Vice-President Joe Biden seems to flaunt his aura of unbreakable “electability”  with the utmost cockiness in a way that is shattering support that he might not have lost eight years ago.

Consider the following quotes Politico documented this weekend:

“It’s not just a flip-flop. It’s like a double axel flip-flop, and he’s not even nailing the   landing,” said Democracy for America Chairman Charles Chamberlain, whose group has supported Warren and Sanders in the past.

“Look. He’s running for president,” Marianne Williamson, the self-help author running in the Democratic primary, said of Biden’s changing position on the Hyde Amendment on CNN on Friday. “People came up to him and said you’re really behind the times on this, Joe. You’ve already got a problem with women, all of that, and so he changed his mind.”

And Politico published another article poking more holes in the “electability” concept and demonstrating why we can really now call it– and please excuse my profanity on this one occassion, this would be one of the very few instances in my blogging life where it seems like the appropriate word– bullshit!

[Read the Politco article here: “Why You’re Wrong About the Democratic Primary– the Wild History of Presidential Campaigns Has a Lesson:  Nobody Knows Anything”]

The 1973 Supreme Court Case on Abortion rights, Roe v Wade this year is being systematically and methodically challenged by a number of state legislatures. ABC News says their

News Supreme Court Contributor Kate Shaw, a law professor who regularly writes about reproductive rights, explained the new spate of abortion restrictions, acknowledging that they present an unprecedented attack on one of the country’s most controversial laws.

“Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, these are absolutely the most extreme laws that have been passed,” Shaw said.

Over 40 prosecutors, including state attorney generals, signed a statement pledging not to prosecute these laws. In other words, we’re in the midst of a major legal faceoff.

What does it mean to live through such an age?

I think it means there’s a special chapter, or maybe even a series of special chapters reserved in the history textbooks of the future which will be taught to posterity. I believe that furthermore this means what how we act in these very particular times will be extremely consequential.

While those of us who are deeply embedded in social media communications and politics are more energized than we’ve been in nearly half a century, and while access to the internet is growing exponentially, especially on already massive sites like YouTube, that doesn’t mean those who live outside our niche, our clique, our Twitterverse if you will, necessarily care.

To illustrate, as someone said to me recently, while the crowds on social media for are calling for Trump’s impeachment, (myself included), that does not necessarily represent the majority or a plurality.

Not that I suggest this is an argument against impeachment and why it’s a losing political move. Rather, I’m thinking of Massachusetts Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and what she said at the recent MSNBC Town Hall event:

See 10:15-10:54

If most of America isn’t with ya, then you talk about it. You make the arguments and then you listen…you start with what you believe is right then you go out there and fight for it.

My bottom line then is this: however revolutionary the times may be, however liberal the plurality of Americans may be, even if internet access is opening up for the severely poor, Nationalism is on the rise, and there are traps like the U.S. Electoral College, gerrymandering, and a Supreme Court which is a product of those– I mean that the revolutionary fervor is alive and well on both the left and the right from different angles and if we want posterity to look back and say this age- not just of revolution, but of revolutionary debate- was won by those who care about things like…abortion rights, not just internet access as a means to distract the poor from their miseries but to help them grow intellectually and economically, and happiness for as many as possible, those kinds of things…we need to make the most of it.

This is not a time like the mid to late 1990s when things seemed so well and yawning in apathy and lethargy didn’t seem to come at such a cost. Like the democracy of Ancient Greece and Rome, like Aristotle’s discovery of logic there’s a lot we can either embrace or lose for who knows how long under the sand inside some time capsule.

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On the Opposite of a Tweet & a Woman President (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment Video Diary vlog– episode #20)

Yesterday I pledged to vote for a female candidate in the 2020 Democratic Party Presidential Primary and this generated a lot of discussion and debate on Facebook so I want to delve into this deeper.

TRANSCRIPT:

“G’Day folks! Today there are two things I want to discuss with you.

First, I want to clarify my purpose for making these vlogs.

You see, YouTube recommends I work on a trailer to make this channel more enticing so you and so many other people will want to subscribe. Like a college student who wants to get a 100 percent on his senior capstone thesis, I’m trying to adhere to every bit of seemingly reasonable advice. It comes highly suggested that I explain to you my purpose, that I describe my content, the type of videos I produce, and what you can expect to get out of my channel.

Well, this is a video diary. What does one get out of watching such a thing?

In theory, greater knowledge of humanity, “the human condition,” “the human experience” as artists, philosophers and readers might say (?)… greater knowledge of….a RECORD OF what people, in their deepest depths, appear to be like.

The way I look at it…someone has got to do the record keeping of the so called soul searching, of the individual’s streaming consciousness, or thoughts, or mind… whatever you might want to call that phenomena which is that “inner life of the self.”

I figure it is logical for me to do this because I’m in love with uninhibited personal thoughts that seek clarity of meaning in life because I believe it leads to greater universal understanding, thus facilitating a deepening empathy among us.

Like my favorite essayist Michel de Montaigne— and I’m gonna quote the back of my book collection of his essays here:

he discussed subjects as diverse as war-horses and cannibals, poetry and politics, sex and religion, love and friendship, ecstasy and experience. But above all, Montaigne studied himself as a way of drawing out his own inner nature and that of men and women generally.

My goal is to follow in his footsteps, and explore humanity’s inner nature within the medium of the vlog which I believe is a most revolutionary form of self expression for its intense intimacy. Video hasn’t been around much longer than a somewhat over a century compared to other art mediums, and vlogging in particular is radically new.

I’d like these vlogs also to reflect…somehow…a spirit of unconventionality married to logic (as I think all good innovation is)–…. And since the medium of the vlog really still is in its early, early infancy, I think now is a perfect time to try it–I want do talk to you in a way that is (and forgive me for the brief oncoming  adjective storm here)…in a way that is philosophical yet artistic, theoretical yet practical, intellectual yet emotionally open, to utter the opposite of a tweet– I mean the opposite of fast paced, short, off the cuff thoughts on this and that. Instead, I strive for depth and the fulfillment of an aspiration I’ve clung to since I was 18 (I’m 33 now) which has been to do contribute to something culturally exciting, revolutionary and which makes the world a better place.

Some people that come to my mind: Like Michel de Montaigne, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Nietzsche, Van Gogh, Helen Keller, Dostoevsky, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Martin Luther King Jr., Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Ariana Huffington, Mark Zuckerberg, President Obama— they’re not the only ones but I hope they might bring to your mind a sense of what I aspire to.

Yesterday I pledged to vote for a female candidate in the 2020 Democratic Party Presidential Primary and this generated a lot of discussion and debate on Facebook so I want to delve into this deeper. (I do want to also point out that I am not alone in this point of view, though I did think maybe I was as I hadn’t stolen this or adopted this opinion from anyone on tv or in the media. But I did discover this morning an article from VOX, written by Matthew Yglesias also calling for us all to vote for a woman president.

My friend William Scott Smith from West Texas deeply disagrees with me here and remarked that I “blame gender” in general for the fact that a woman has never been president of the United States.

To be clear, I do not and never said I do “blame gender.”

I do blame misogyny and sexism though.

Sadly, anti-woman thinking is all around us which is perhaps most evident in the anti-abortion laws emerging, especially the one in Alabama which outlaws abortion entirely, even when the woman is raped, unless the procedure will save her life. (It is ultimately a woman’s body, and I do think nature makes it therefore, quite clear that the woman should be in charge of what goes on with respect to what she does about her pregnancy. One could ask, “what about the body of a fetus, and what about when it can live outside the womb?” which I do think is a fair question however my answer to this, to the best of my thinking is that you have to ask, is a woman a slave to that which is unborn inside her and until outside of her, subject to her body?

Metaphysically speaking, the answer seems to speak for itself. I wonder then if it might be fair to suggest that constitutionally protected, defined person-hood should begin at birth. I would think, if we are contemplating from the point of view of moral theories, that the Natural Rights theory, properly applied would suggest as much.)

William Scott Smith also says I am “voting for a woman because she is a woman” which he adds is “identity politics.” Maybe it is identity politics but that doesn’t prove it’s illogical or destructive politics. When someone expresses something with greater clarity than I can I like to cite that person, so I’m gonna cite Washington Post columnist Helaine Olen here. She asks:

[what about] a form [of identity politics] that goes mostly unrecognized and unacknowledged. A minority with power and money — white men, mostly wealthy, often religious or pretending to be so — [which] has controlled societal and political norms so effectively that when those left outside simply insist on their rights, they are viewed as angry, resentful, demanding and divisive. When ‘identity politics’ is practiced in such a way that it allows a small group to access and maintain power, it gets labeled as ‘norms’ and treated as simply the way the world works.’

To that I say “amen!”

Part of understanding the well-being of the individual must include the well-being of the individuals within the wider society. In a society that fails to value inclusiveness and diversity sufficiently there is prejudice, bigotry, racism, sexism, classism, exploitation, elitism– unhealthy social trends run amok.

And in the interest of improving society and thus…to speak figuratively here…cleaning up and purifying the air on this earth which we ALL breathe,  we do need to ask, what actions can we take to bring more inclusiveness and diversity to our society, to our global community.

Does that mean I am voting for a woman simply because she is a woman?

No.

I am voting for a woman because there are so many candidates, men and women, who are in my estimation, equally qualified, (among the men for example, I think Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro are qualified) that it complicates the usual criteria and that we thus need to look to other criteria for how we elect a president and how we understand what it means to elect a president as well as what we understand the role of the president to be …(versus the question also of what the presidency ought to be. For example, I do not think a president ought to have as much power as the president has come to possess. Foreign Affairs and Washington Post have both written about how the excessive power of the president and the weakness of the congress– how this imbalance has harmed America on various fronts…)

But based on where we are now, as Matthew Iglesias puts it:

“One of the important ways electing a woman to the presidency would matter is by providing a role model. Role models make a large, quantifiable difference in life. Detailed empirical studies by the Equality of Opportunity Project show that girls who grow up in places where there are an unusually large number of woman inventors are unusually likely to themselves grow up to become inventors. Similarly, Amelia Showalter’s research shows that when women get elected to statewide office, more women start running for state legislature.”

(With respect to role modeling and the power of images in media I would also refer you to research I cited in my essay on Native AMerican writer elissa Washuta and her approach to bringing down stereotyping)

The bottom line is that in a pool of so many talented people of different demographic sorts, when the leadership position in this country has for so long exluded those qualified demographic sorts, it is fair to say it is time for us to open that leadership position up to those who for so long have been denied it.

I am going to leave it there for today and want to thank you for your time. Please let me know what you think in the comments below and I hope you subscribe to my channel!

Public Comment is a personal journal vlog where I share my free thoughts on politics, culture, and self.

Please feel free to share your thoughts with me at sean.publiccomment@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter at 
https://twitter.com/sopubliccomment 


On marketing (part 1: anxiety), free thought (part 2), and free trade

Listen to the podcast

or watch the video

My incompetence thus far in self marketing, the development of my understanding in the value of free thought, and a look at the debate over free trade and protectionism in the realm of trade policy.

IN THIS EPISODE:

When it comes to self marketing (as opposed to political marketing, or marketing for an employer), anxiety and a complicated array of thoughts, at times, stifle me.

I have a fear of annoying people with my requests for their time, feedback, money and/or endorsement, most of all because I understand many of us are quite busy and bombarded with other people asking for our time, feedback, money and endorsements.

Also, I often think of how money can corrupt.

Money doesn’t talk, it swears

obscenity, who really cares?

Propaganda, all is phony…

-Bob Dylan

I wonder: am I corrupted, in my self-marketing by an unreasonable desire for money, attention, praise, undeserved self advancement, narcissism, et cetera? (I certainly believe in my early twenties I suffered from slight narcissistic tendencies, though as a defense mechanism since I suffered from severe anxiety, depression, and self esteem challenges. That is to say, I desired undeserved praise, attention, and introspected just for the sake of gaining awareness of my own thoughts as existing things, not for the sake of understanding and vetting them!).

I also think of other examples where money seems to blatantly corrupt individuals, companies, corporations, politicians, et cetera—(Weapon producers/dealers, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, oil/energy companies).

Those insecurities aside, obviously we need resources to live and also it is reasonable to stand up for the products/services we believe in, whether we are advocate consumers, or involved in the product(s)/service(s) ourselves. After all, why should something one offers, when it is of value, linger in vain?

That, I believe, would be unethical.

So I tie my sense of self marketing to the moral convictions motivating those aspects of myself I “market.”

So what do I say then, is the moral marketability of my shared “free thoughts?”

Frankly, I question how much genuinely “free” thought is truly “out there” when you consider not just profit concerns/ popularity concerns and how that could inject bias into shared thoughts but also how people (I have done it myself. Example: when I was obsessed with Ayn Rand) can slip into dogmas. Even postmodernism can become a dogmatic blinder, as opposed to mere healthy skepticism and independence.

On a separate note, I want to initiate a conversation about trade policy.

There are two articles I recommend. One by the Economist and one by Foreign Policy. The latter addresses the politics versus the economics of free trade, as well as policy options with respect to how we might want to deal with the inevitable harm to certain job holders that free trade results in: Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) which serves like compensation specifically for those adversely affected.

Tell me what you think. Email me at sean.publiccomment@gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter at
https://twitter.com/sopubliccomment

Public Comment is a video diary styled vlog and personal journal podcast where I share my free thoughts on politics, culture, and self.