Driving Blind: Democracy as First Resort
Because daily “Driving Blind” posts began to feel both overly taxing and to some degree redundant, I’ve decided to try combining them into one longer list of links to be posted each Friday afternoon. Also, since certain topics seem to come out naturally from the writing I come across and the stories that interest me, I’ve decided to start grouping them accordingly. As always, I’m open to feedback and please do feel free to share your own recommendations down in the comment area!
The Greatest Nation on Earth
In the wake of the 4th of July, it’s worth pondering American Exceptionalism. Even more important than praying to the right God in American political life is believing in and worshipping our nation state’s divine status. Ed Kilgore gets at the irony of those who laud the United States for its distinctively liberal democratic traditions while abhorring the universalism that political philosophy necessarily engenders.
Also, I’m not the only one who doesn’t think the U.S. is the “greatest” country in the world. A growing number of my fellow millenials don’t either. Whether that’s because of the condition the baby boomers are leaving it in or a deeper philosophic commitment to cosmopolitanism is hard to say. Indeed, a devotion to American Exceptionalism comes in all shapes and sizes, and is very rarely ever explicit.
And Eric Jett points out a short documentary series for “those of you who think America is pretty cool, yet hate going outside to prove it.”
A look at the Snowden Generation and why they (we?) find it so easy to support the “29 year old hacker” and his stated objectives. While I disagree with the essay on just about every particular, I think it’s a good example of not just the kind of thinking a silent majority subscribe to, but the ethos of style and contrarianism that has driven so much of the NSA debate to be about so many things other than the good and bad of state sponsored surveillance.
Meanwhile, Scott Horton looks at the “Real Insider Threat,” pondering how the NSA’s surveillance regime will affect the Atlantic Alliance. Derek Khanna on the other hand looks at the logical extremes surveillance could be taken to, including intrusive monitoring of web browsing and highway speeding.
Plus, a video game that explores a world of surveillance and violence that Snowden’s leaks aimed to reveal.
I didn’t get around to commenting on the President’s environmental speech a week and a half ago. Suffice it to say I was both a little bit energized and a little bit more hopeless about the world’s climate situation. On the one hand the President is promising (relatively) specific actions, but on the other it won’t be nearly enough to make a meaningfully preventative impact.
The environmental movement appears political impotent, but then again the policy wonks are scrapping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to search for alternatives to a carbon tax which are at once politically feasible while also being in any sense meaningful action on climate change.
Now is as good a time as any then to re-read Nicholas Lemann’s “What happened to the environmental movement?” piece from last April at the New Yorker. Though if the Affordable Care Act is any indication, it’s going to require a lot more than a resurgence in grass-roots organizing to turn the political tide on carbon emissions.
Juan Cole has some of the most measured and knowledgeable posts on the subject of anyone out there right now, but I recommend one in particular for a good picture of what’s at stake in the popularly supported military coup.
As Jon Lee Anderson puts it, “Depending on one’s perspective, Egypt is either in a political limbo or an extended purgatory.” And yet glib constructions like these belie a more complex and difficult truth I’m sure, as do pronouncements that in Egypt, “
The democrats are illiberal and the liberals are not democrats.”
Mazin Melegy explains why a do-over is actually the best thing for Egypt right now, and why popular democracy should trump liberal proceduralism for the moment. In addition, Dave Zirin explores the roll of Egyptian soccer fans in shaping the country’s political future now that the military is explicitly in power again. Finally, Sal Robinson attacks the Guardian for its recent condescending and stunted, “let me introduce you” styled list of Egyptian literature.
Culture and Media
The number of “withdrawn” young Japanese men (hikikomori) is increasing, and the BBC asks why.
An interview with Richard Rodriguez starts by discussing the problem of journalism and MFA programs without “any external reason” for existing.
Some time ago I pointed to a public speaking event at which Malcolm Gladwell suggested the New York Library’s main branch should be closed and replaced with luxury apartments. Now, as a result of renovations which would involve removing research stacks, a law suit has been filed claiming that the library has violated its charter, and the state’s constitution.
Oliver Sava at the A.V. Club lists several new books starting up at Image written and illustrated by former Marvel elites. I can say from personal experience that Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s Satellite Sam is top-notch.
Hollywood heavy weights who could get their video game projects off the ground.