Sunday, 27 April 2008

People versus Systems

After watching the outstanding rented movie "Children of Men" the other week, I viewed the 'mini-documentary' that came as an extra feature, entitled "the Possibility of Hope". Though a bit disjointed, it included commentary from a number of futurists, activists, and thinkers, including Naomi Klein, whose compassionate and insightful analysis is well worth sharing.
When people fall in love with what seems to be a perfect theory, a set of rules, and they love those rules more than they love people or places. In fact they begin to see the messy reality of life as interfering with the beauty, the imagined beauty, that exists only in their text, only in the sacred texts, whether they’re economic texts, or religious texts, or some dream of racial purity. I think we need to fear people who love systems more than people because the flip side of the love is the hatred for anything or anyone that interferes with the realization of that system, and this is the other thing about dangerous utopias, is that they can’t coexist with other ideas. They need the whole stage.
In her recent book, "The Shock Doctrine", Klein exposes the role of free market fundamentalism in what she has coined disaster capitalism. I find it compelling that Klein's quote above can serve equally well as an indictment of free market fundamentalism or strident Marxism.

Well formulated systems can be essential for guiding societies toward affluence, justice, fairness, and progress, but if we worship the system and forget its purpose, extraordinary pain and suffering can result.

I revere my nation's Constitution because it has by and large guided us toward becoming a more just society even than the one that our founders originally wrought. People are right to be wary of trifling modifications to that document, which may solve some perceived problem of the moment, but may not stand the test of time. Nonetheless, it is extraordinary that it has lasted so long without a rewrite, and only infrequent amendments. I think it may be worth exploring some cautiously approached methods for revisiting that document - if not in the near term, then in preparation for future strains on it. We should want to preserve that which has made it so durable, and perhaps some judiciously prepared amendments are all we will need, but the value of a Constitution lay in its ability to sustain the most honorable precepts on which it was founded, not in any inherent sacredness.

Last December, I watched with interest an interview with Sanford Levinson, author of "Our Undemocratic Constitution". While I'm not ready to jump on the bandwagon, the subject is certainly worthy of discussion.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Four Years On

As I approach the fourth anniversary of starting this web log, I offer a little self-indulgent look at its history. I generally try to avoid this sort of thing, but in considering whether it's worth continuing an endeavor which gathers no profit and has a clearly limited influence, I made a couple of observations which I'll now share.

In the run up to the 2004 election, I was a man possessed - convinced we stood at a critical crossroads with an opportunity to resoundingly set aside a disastrous presidency. When that didn't happen, my effort had developed a life of its own, and I continued to post, but over time found other uses for my time, and the posts waned. Nonetheless I've felt compelled to keep this going at a lower level. Here's a month by month histogram of my posts since the inception of Choosing Hope:

In the background I have utilized a couple of utilities to track visitors and how they've found me. I've tended to write about subjects that I feel don't get enough attention, and often focus on individuals who are not as widely covered elsewhere, though I write plenty about those who do have power and influence. It is interesting to me to find which individuals that I've written about have been drawn the most visitors to my site by way of search engines. After weighing a couple of such measures, I came up with the following list of the 48 individuals that have led people here, starting with the most frequent - perhaps a surprise:

Craig Watkins
Bill Moyers
Walker Willingham
George Bush
Barack Obama
Muhammad Yunus
Dick Cheney
Troy Anthony Davis
Rush Limbaugh
Vaclav Havel
Rosa Parks
Harry Emerson Fosdick
Holly Near
Hillary Clinton
Paul Loeb
Cory Maye
Martin Luther King Jr
Dennis Kucinich
Jimmy Carter
Dumisani Maraire
Margaret Mead
William Haynes Holmes
Russ Feingold
Jim Hightower
Johan Olav Koss
Anthony Kennedy
Donald Rumsfeld
Robert Byrd
Maher Arar
Tom DeLay
Laura Denyes
Molly Ivins
Alberto Gonzales
Upton Sinclair
Bud Cummins
Joey Cheek
Amy Goodman
Ronald Reagan
Thomas Friedman
Cedric Jourde
Richard Rodriguez
Ted Kennedy
Richard Nixon
Margaret Atwood
John Kerry
Wangari Maathai
Cindy Sheehan
Nancy Pearcey

There are some jarring juxtapositions there, but I'll take my place between Bill Moyers and George Bush without complaing. ;-)