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Friday, April 25, 2003

Mother Jones review.

Two small things of note in the May/June Mother Jones (the best progressive magazine these days; this issue not yet on-line):

"Virtual Peacenik" (page 24) about's 22-year-old Eli Pariser:

"I don't want to be part of the Great Left Martyrdom story," Pariser explains, "where we simply say, 'We fought the good fight and we lost.' I don't want to be on the losing side."

Pariser understands the need to adopt tactics that will work — and the antiwar movement's ability to attract mainstream participants this time around owes a lot to Pariser's work.

Also worth reading — especially by my ministerial colleagues — is George Packer's essay "Stop Making Sense" (page 28):

"May you live in interesting times" is not, in fact, an ancient Chinese curse. According to the experts, the only Chinese proverb that comes close says, "It's better to be a dog in a peaceful time than a man in a chaotic time." The "curse" is Western, probably American, in origin. We've lived under its spell for going on two years now. Lately I've been thinking about the effect this is having on our minds.
It's the nature of the age to expose us to an endless amount of information about wars, planned wars, threats, atrocities, grievances, hatreds — and, simultaneously, to our own inability to do much about any of it. These days everyone's brain is a situation room, but the activity flows only one way — inward. The response team inside is flooded with updates, warning lights, alarms, but the crisis atmosphere never resolves itself in constructive action. It's the mental equivalent of a permanent orange alert, with words in place of duct tape.

Packer then identifies four habits of the besieged mind, coping strategies that we've all been using to make sense of the overwhelming flood of terrifying information. But these habits of mind also keep us from thinking clearly. "Clarity and conviction are wonderful things," he concludes; "I wouldn't want to be told that I can never have them again. But a better test of mental health and civic responsiblity just now may be whether you can endure inconsistency, hold a fact without manipulating its shape, use words that will expose the falseness of your own thoughts, and accept that you will be embarrassed tomorrow by much of what you think and say today."

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 25 April 2003 at 6:17 PM

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