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Douglas Rushkoff got mugged - then he wrote a book!

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LongTomH Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-16-09 03:29 PM
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Douglas Rushkoff got mugged - then he wrote a book!
Edited on Sat May-16-09 03:33 PM by LongTomH
Actually, that's oversimplifying things a bit. Doug does begin an excerpt from his book: Life Inc: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back with the story of his mugging outside his Brooklyn brownstone, in a neighborhood in the early stages of gentrification. Doug managed to negotiate with his mugger to leave him his health card. That's one recommended tactic for people being mugged in New York; it establishes some bond between mugger and muggee.

Doug posted the story of his mugging on a neighborhood blog, hoping to get at least a few expressions of sympathy. What he got was fury at having posted a story which might bring down local property values. Like any good writer, Douglas Rushkoff extracts meaning from this, moving from the specific issue of gentrification, and the way a lower income neighborhood gets 'colonized' by the affluent, to the broader issue of how 'real life' has become defined mostly by economic values:

Park Slope, Brooklyn, is just a microcosm of the slippery slope upon which so many of us are finding ourselves these days. We live in a landscape tilted toward a set of behaviors and a way of making choices that go against our own better judgment, as well as our collective self- interest. Instead of collaborating with each other to ensure the best prospects for us all, we pursue short-term advantages over seemingly fixed resources through which we can compete more effectively against one another. In short, instead of acting like people, we act like corporations. When faced with a local mugging, the community of Park Slope first thought to protect its brand instead of its people.

The issue is corporatism and how it's come to dominate our lives; but, Doug doesn't let the rest of us off the hook. We've internalized the values fed us by our corporate masters.

Even now, as we attempt to dig ourselves out of a financial mess caused in large part by this very mentality and behavior, we turn to the corporate sphere, its central banks, and shortsighted metrics to gauge our progress back to health. Its as if we believe well find the answer in the stream of trades and futures on one of the cable-TV finance channels instead of out in the physical world. Our real investment in the fabric of our neighborhoods and our quality of life takes a backseat to asking prices for houses like our own in the newspapers misnamed real estate section. We look to the Dow Jones average as if it were the one true vital sign of our societys health, and the exchange rate of our currency as a measure of our wealth as a nation or worth as a people.


This is the landscape of corporatism: a world not merely dominated by corporations, but one inhabited by people who have internalized corporate values as our own. And even now that corporations appear to be waning in their power, they are dragging us down with them; we seem utterly incapable of lifting ourselves out of their depression.

Doug isn't without hope; remember, the last part of the book's title was: "And How to Take It Back."

While we will find characters to blame for one thing or another, most of corporatisms architects have long since left the buildingand even they were usually acting with only their immediate, short-term profits in mind. Our object instead should be to understand the process by which we were disconnected from the real world and why we remain disconnected from it. This is our best hope of regaining some relationship with terra firma again. Like recovering cult victims, we have less to gain from blaming our seducers than from understanding our own participation in building and maintaining a corporatist society. Only then can we begin dismantling and replacing it with something more livable and sustainable.

The rest of the article is here: Life Inc, Pt. 1: Your Money or Your Life: A Lesson on the Front Stoop

Doug Rushkoff joins the growing list of progressive authors trying to make sense of whatever-the-hell-is-going-on-here and offering prescriptions for how to dig ourselves out of the hole. From the excerpt, it does look like his book will be worth reading.

There's something else interesting going on here: Rushkoff is also a science-fiction writer who posts on futurist sites like the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies blog. Discussion of the future has been dominated by the political right to the extent that, most progressives are suspicious of 'futurists.' If you see someone defined as a 'futurist' on a cable news channel, he will probably be spouting the same litany of tired tripe as the other talking heads: globalism is great, trickle-down economics will be the 'tide that lifts all boats,' etc. Plus he'll add some quick references to the internet, nanotechnology, biotechnology, whatever. The idea you're supposed to absorb is, that technology plus laissez-faire will bring everyone prosperity.

This domination by the right isn't just in the media, I used to attend functions organized by the Foresight Institute, which bills itself as "the leading think tank and public interest institute on nanotechnology." Speakers included people like: Peter Schwartz of the Global Business Network; who also gets a warm mention on The Ayn Rand Center's website.

Also try a Google search on: nanotechnology AND "Heritage Foundation." That faux-Libertarian, neo-conservative hive of scum and villany sponsors a lot of futurist and nanotechnology conferences.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to label the Foresight Institute and everyone connected with them as right-wingers. Another speaker at their functions was Brad Templeton, chairman of the board of The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the civil liberties organization devoted to free speech in the digital world.

I talked with quite a few more people coming from a progressive orientation, especially in the discussions on "how do we prepare people for the transition (to a nanotechnology world)?"

Douglas Rushkoff is one of a growing number of voices from both a future-oriented and progressive prospective, writers and thinkers who label themselves as techno-progressives. This includes science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson, who has written of the possibility of a 'post-capitalist' world in both his fiction and articles.

What I really want to see is for progressives to take back discussion of the future from the right. Actually, there's an honorable history of progressive futurism going back to enlightenment thinkers like the Marquis de Condorcet, who predicted such utopian reforms as universal, free education and social security.
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Joe Chi Minh Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-16-09 05:05 PM
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1. "Like recovering cult victims, we have less to gain from blaming
Edited on Sat May-16-09 05:06 PM by Joe Chi Minh
our seducers than from understanding our own participation in building and maintaining a corporatist society. Only then can we begin dismantling and replacing it with something more livable and sustainable."

A very good point. Nothing wrong with a twin-track, though. It sounds, however, as if the lesson of all lessons is in the pipeline, and not too far away.
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