forward to the past

Does authenticity have anything to do with the truth or are we conflating an idealized sense of self with a public perception of populism? Today, the mantra among the political pundits is that authenticity serves as the means to gain the electorate’s trust. Therefore, authenticity is both a derivative and complementary form of both truth and honesty that romanticizes the idea of an idyllic past, a kinder and more gentle America with a kind of soft utopianism that still holds out the hope for maintaining the idea of linear progress that is so important as a baseline cherished principle.The old time religion of messianism wrapped in old glory.  Coupled with American myth of manifest destiny, a chosen nation, we tend to get some very “eccentric” visions of populism that indeed are particular to American culture, but yet are coherent when looked at a snapshots in time in a long sequence that is guided by an economic system based on creative destruction.

The rub, is that the so-called non-economic value of community, mutual aid, social solidarity and other togetherness models are antagonistic to the more pervasive ethos of economic well-being and advancement, accumulation and power which the ideology of mainstream American values encourages and abets. The Babbit’s and Elmer Gantry’s, Gordon Gecko’s, Mad Men, Rabbit Redux’s are more in line with the pulse of America than Martin Luther King and Bernie Saunders however laudable their ideals are.

Grant Wood. American Gothic. 1930. ---Why all this nostalgia for places and times that none of us have experienced? Is prosperity too heavy a burden to bear?--- Read More: image:

The sentimental, sometimes maudlin vision of an idealized society espoused by song and dance personalities like Ron Paul, Michael Moore, Naomi Klein, and a gaggle of other soapbox preachers and medicine sellers are romanticized dreams, clock winding at the cusp of new waves of populism recalling the John Dos Passos, John Steinbeck Grapes of Wrath, the nightmare of the dust bowl, huddled masses, and the fighting back as in the gilded age and Depression eras; more for a greater share of the pie than a genuine love of their fellow citizen. Occupy Wall Street is just the latest manifestation of the phenomenon. But what of this brave new world? :

Michael Ferguson:In the Robotic Nation series, Marshall Brain asserts that by 2050, due to the automation of the economy, there will be 50% unemployment. He further asserts that these people will be permanently unemployed and advocates that everyone should be given a $25,000 grant per year. He presents the best case I have encountered for his viewpoint. In The Future 101, I assert that unemployment may reach 25% by the early 2020′s but then will begin to fall. I do not advocate anything specific as to responses because I do not foresee an homogenous future. Some communities may choose to have a ‘citizenship dividend.’ Some may, as he speculates, tax robots thereby freeing humans from any tax burden. However, neither will be universal. Nothing will be. We are going to live in the Age of Boutique Everything and that includes the body of laws and the programs of governance…

---The American writer Joe Klein signposted the trend in his 2006 book Politics Lost, an essay about the decline of authenticity in presidential politics. Klein took his inspiration from what he called Harry Truman's "Turnip Day" speech at the Democratic convention in 1948 that confirmed his nomination for president. Coming on stage after midnight, speaking plainly, simply, and without notes, Truman challenged the "do-nothing Congress" to act upon those views they claim to endorse, and get back to work. Klein thinks we need more Turnip Day moments, more politicians like Truman. He argued that politicians need to "figure out new ways to engage and inspire us - or maybe just some simple old ways, like saying what they think as plainly as possible." By the time the 2008 election rolled around, the authenticity meme had completely taken hold. For the most part, that election was framed as a battle between competing authenticities: Barack Obama's post-partisan and post-racial authenticity against John McCain's Straight Talk Express.--- Read More:

…What really astonishes me is this. Anyone with sufficient technical competence who looks at the question agrees with Mr. Brain and me. There is very little that a robot or A.I. will not be able to do by 2050. In fact, I would argue that going from the current ASIMO to a fully functional humanoid robot, capable of nearly all menial jobs, is just not going to take another 38 years. Given the competition created by the profit motive, I’m not sure it will take another 5. Yet, despite the fact that this outcome is imminent and will be one of the most dramatic, if not the most dramatic, event in human history, nobody is discussing it. In the halls of power, the deliberative and decision making bodies of today and the various media of analysis and commentary, this is just not on the radar.

---But as Lionel Trilling explains in his book Sincerity and Authenticity, the significance of Polonius and the way we have internalised his message to Laertes is that authenticity has nothing to do with the truth. More precisely, it is about being true to your (idealised) sense of self, not to any external objective facts. It is hard to overstate the importance of this. The shift from objective facts to self-actualization marks the shift from reason to the emotions as the foundation of knowledge. The hero of a culture of authenticity is not Descartes, or Bacon, or even Hume, but Oprah Winfrey. --- Read More:

…This needs to be discussed widely, deeply and without delay. If I am correct, we have a very serious, albeit temporary, problem. If Marshall Brain, and parenthetically Martin Ford, is correct, we are in very deep trouble as a society. In fact we may be facing the single biggest economic challenge in the history of Western civilization. Read More:

…That raises the question: Why, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, does popular culture portray primitives as peace-loving folk living in harmony with nature, as opposed to rapacious and brutal civilization? Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, which attributes civilization to mere geographical accident, made a best-seller out of a mendacious apology for the failure of primitive society. Wade reports research that refutes Diamond on a dozen counts, but his book never will reach the vast audience that takes comfort in Diamond’s pulp science….

---RUF was a revolutionary group based in Sierra Leone in Western Africa. By the late 1990’s they had been mired in a long bloody campaign to topple the central government. These insurgents terrorized rural Sierra Leone in an effort to control the nations diamond mines. Aided by factions of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, these groups co

ted horrific atrocities which included forcing children to become soldiers, amputations of limbs and cannibalism of enemies, including peacekeepers and United Nations personnel. Their motives for eating their enemies were to receive “strength” from eating human flesh and as a tool for intimidation. The exact number of victims is unknown.--- Read More:

…Why is it that the modern public revels in a demonstrably false portrait of primitive life? Hollywood grinds out stories of wise and worthy native Americans, African tribesmen, Brazilian rainforest people and Australian Aborigines, not because Hollywood studio executives hired the wrong sort of anthropologist, but because the public pays for them, the same public whose middle-brow contingent reads Jared Diamond….

Helen Levitt photography. --Brain:The problem is that these systems will also eliminate jobs in massive numbers. In fact, we are about to see a seismic shift in the American workforce. As a nation, we have no way to understand or handle the level of unemployment that we will see in our economy over the next several decades. These kiosks and self-service systems are the beginning of the robotic revolution. When most people think about robots, they think about independent, autonomous, talking robots like the ones we see in science fiction films. C-3PO and R2-D2 are powerful robotic images that have been around for decades. Robots like these will come into our lives much more quickly than we imagine -- self-service checkout systems are the first primitive signs of the trend. Read More: image:

…Nonetheless the overwhelming consensus in popular culture holds that primitive peoples enjoy a quality – call it authenticity – that moderns lack, and that by rolling in their muck, some of this authenticity will stick to us. Colonial guilt at the extermination of tribal societies does not go very far as an explanation, for the Westerners who were close enough to primitives to exterminate them rarely regretted having done so. The hunger for authenticity surges up from a different spring.Read More:

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