Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff (W.W. Norton, 2019, 256 p. hardbound), ISBN 987-0-393-65169-0, $23.95. Also available in eBook and audiobook formats.
The entities called computers were originally human beings, people like the accounts clerk Bob Cratchit in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. In the mid-20th century, computers were (mostly) women who worked calculators and slide rules, tasked with tabulating data and solving numerical problems. Nowadays, says Douglas Rushkoff, computers run us as extensions of applications that abuse us for fun and profit. Rushkoff has had it with the soul-sucking “innovation economy”; to retrieve the human agency and dignity that technocracy has usurped, he proposes not a revolution but a renaissance of pre-industrial, even pre-enlightenment, societal values. Rushkoff emerged as an early member of the digerati, but has since been a longstanding critic of those who control digital media and manipulate its users, not to mention capitalism itself. Now a professor of media studies (CUNY Queens), public intellectual, and podcast host, he’s quietly assembling an army of change agents. Their mission is to “challenge the operating system that drives our society” by organizing the (better-educated) masses to throw off their (block) chains by imagining and building human-scale alternatives to giant financial institutions, public corporations, and their enablers. Given how overarching and well-wired global capitalism is, that’s a tall order, but Rushkoff asserts that the battle can be won if we stick together. Continue reading “Undoing Dystopia”
Every time I’ve been interviewed on TV as an author and publisher, I’ve cringed upon viewing the finished product. Methinks I don’t look good, don’t talk good, and my watery eyes wander—in short, Mr Malaprop meets Mr. Magoo. But whatever; it is what it is, and I am who I am, so get over it, I tell myself.
And so I do, and so it happens again. But thankfully, my recent bid for media fame went a bit better this time. In January, I was interviewed by producer/host Kameel Nasr on Cambridge Community TV for his show New England Authors. Every so often, Nasr puts out conversations with fiction and nonfiction writers, scientists, humanitarians, physicians and other local notables. On this occasion, he quizzed me for 20 minutes about the genesis of my novel Turkey Shoot, the motivations of its protagonists, and by extension my own. We also touched upon the sequel I’m writing. (See below.)
Just when a consensus—including certain Republican and cabinet officials—is emerging that electing Donald Trump was a big mistake, a new book shows up to tell us how to make more mistakes like it. It’s from the creator of Dilbert and his crew of corporate miscreants and details how one won the 2016 presidential election. But Scott Adams’ Win Bigly is more than that; it’s sort of a Machiavelli for Dummies meets Fortunetelling for Dummies. It purports to demonstrate how readers can forecast outcomes, as he did of the 2016 election (emphasis his):
On August 13,2015, I predicted that Donald Trump had a 98 percent chance of winning the presidency based on his persuasion skills.
He proceeds to explain the way he came to that conclusion, including the number, and—Sad—how he suffered personally for having done that. Although, he asserts, Blogging and tweeting of The Donald’s inevitability cost him street cred, new licensing deals and speaking engagements, and half his friends, he stuck to his guns.
Out of repression has emerged one of the world’s most interesting experiments in democracy. And by democracy, what is meant is not the formal capitalist variety of elections every few years in which consumption of consumer products is substituted for participation in societal decisions.
Surrounded on all sides by hostile forces intent on destroying them, in a part of the world that Western pundits claim can only be ruled by dictators, the Kurds of Syria are intent on creating a society more democratic than any found in North America or Europe. This is not simply a matter of creating institutions of direct and communal, as opposed to representative, democracy but, most importantly, democratizing the economy. In the words of the imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, “In self-government, an alternative economic system is necessary, one that augments the resources of society rather than exploiting them, and in that way satisfies the society’s multitude of needs.”
The many sides of that equation are explored in detail in Revolution in Rojava: Democratic Autonomy and Women’s Liberation in Syrian Kurdistan,* a study of Rojava’s experiment in radical democracy by three activists who spent months in Rojava studying the society being constructed, and who themselves have been involved in Rojava in various capacities. One of the authors, Anja Flach, spent two years in the Kurdish women’s guerrilla army. Her co-authors are Ercan Ayboga, an environmental engineer, and Michael Knapp, a historian. Although the three authors make clear their sympathies for the Rojava revolution, their book is not hagiographic, but rather a serious analysis of a developing process.
See the full article here. A version of it also appears on today’s edition of CounterPunch.