Sunday, August 31, 2008

Country First. Hmm?...

O.K., so as THEIR slogan's coming together. The lead line is "Country First."

While intended to communicate a unifying principle that nationalism comes before politics, it also recalls a classic fascist tenet better described as something like 'chauvinism before intellectualism.'

Here's what Umberto Eco writes about this tact: "In spite of some fuzziness regarding the difference between various historical forms of fascism, I think it is possible to outline a list of features that are typical of what I would like to call Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism..."

Further on in this essay by Eco entitled "Eternal Fascism:
Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt,"
(published in 1995) the author lists attribute number seven as "To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country."

Eco adds, "This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot."

So what's the plot? What's America founded on? If it's not constitutional democracy, opposition politics, financial opportunism and radicalism then what's left is racism really. That's kind of the list of what the Founding Fathers believed in.

And indeed there is an underlying racism that seeps out of this phrase, cuz "country" does mean one thing in America. It is to be "country," hillbilly, white and more often than not racist, if not violently so.

And even if there's African Americans making Country Music, since its inception and certainly since Charley Pride, and even if its become a lingua franca, so to speak, with its massive recent proliferation, 'country' is borne out of what once "made this country great." Adavism.

Well, I heard Mister Young sing about her
Well, I heard ole Neil put her down.
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
a southern man don't need him around anyhow.

So that's ALL BAD. ALL BAD, friends.

It's time to believe in Progressivism -- the positive forward momentum of humanity that's made this election possible for Obama and Hillary. Yes, Change.

Lastly, that second tag line? Well, gosh, John and Sarah -- "reform, prosperity, peace"...aren't those really the Obama/Biden slogans watered down? Why try and beat 'em at their own game? That's a bad strategy, right? A little like admitting defeat?

If you've given in then we're good to win.

Obama’s Economic Plan?

Is History Siding With Obama’s Economic Plan?

Published: August 30, 2008

"...The stark contrast between the whiz-bang Clinton years and the dreary Bush years is familiar because it is so recent. But while it is extreme, it is not atypical. Data for the whole period from 1948 to 2007, during which Republicans occupied the White House for 34 years and Democrats for 26, show average annual growth of real gross national product of 1.64 percent per capita under Republican presidents versus 2.78 percent under Democrats.

...The two Great Partisan Divides combine to suggest that, if history is a guide, an Obama victory in November would lead to faster economic growth with less inequality, while a McCain victory would lead to slower economic growth with more inequality. Which part of the Obama menu don’t you like?"


David Rudenstine with Ashton Hawkins, executive vice president, Metropolitan Museum of Art:

I was reading the Styles Section in today's New York Times. There was this whole event at Clermont, the country estate established by the Livingston family in 1728. And I didn't seem to know a single name.

I usually read through the Style section to get an overview of what's happening with philanthropy in NYC, since it sets the stage for the nation in a lot of ways.

There I am scanning along and 'low and behold...' -- #25 reads Ashton Hawkins! And there he is strutting out on the green. Loves me some Ashton. Oh, my aspirations...

And right before I was posting this, I came across a death notice for his mother -- just this past January. And at 106?!

Paid Notice: Deaths

Published: January 1, 2008

HICKOX--Kyra Schutt Hawkins, age 106, died peacefully at home in Muttontown, Long Island, NY on January 2, 2008. She was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia. After escaping from the Russian Crimea in 1919, she attended and later taught at the Brillantmont School in Lausanne, Switzerland. She was first married to Ashton Hawkins, widowed and later married to Charles V. Hickox. She leaves three children, Lisa Hawkins of Northport, ME, Kyra LeRoy of Dover, MA, and Ashton Hawkins of New York, NY; four stepchildren, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. At her request, there will be no service. Memorial donations may be made to the ASPCA.

Hello, Ashton. I hope you are well. May you live to 106! I'm gonna start my own Proust Club out here. After I get around to reading some.

Friday, August 29, 2008

eno is god

Many musicians look on their lyrics as poetry that reveals their inner depths. For Eno, though, the sound of the words in sequence is what matters. He reacts against the idea that the lyrics are the "meaning" of the song: in his view, the lyrics are just another component, along with the sound of the guitar or the rhythm of the piece.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tom on Sesame Street

This season on Sesame Street seems to be all the buzz!! My sister called me from Maryland...and here's this wonderful bit of writing from my friend Tom's blog "Chock-a-Blog."

Tom's the best. He started recently at Goodby Silverstein in SF and has moved to our 'hood in Oaklyn'.

Tom and our Li'l E are dear friends. In fact, Tom was Li'l E's first real friend and I hope they both are able to cherish that for many, many years...Tom made this video for Li'l E. Even if I posted this earlier...I'm posting it again.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Using my blog as my own as my own

wanted to check this myself again later and share in the interim...
From the Chronicle of Philanthropy issue dated August 21, 2008

It's Time to Focus on a New Generation
By Allison Fine
The millennials are coming! The millennials are coming! In hallways, boardrooms, and conference calls across the nonprofit world, this warning cry is ringing out.

But too many in the nonprofit world forget that the millennials are already here. They are the people born from 1982 through the late 1990s dominating the world around us. They outnumber the baby boomers who are alive today.

Not preparing for and welcoming the millennials is more than a missed opportunity. It is a significant and perhaps devastating error in judgment by traditional organizations because they need millennials more than the millennials need them. If they are unhappy with their reception by nonprofit organizations, they will simply start their own efforts — overnight, online, at almost no cost.

Millennials are fascinating for how they work (collaboratively); what they believe (that they can make the world a better place); and how they are living (immersed in causes).

Their signature characteristic is their digital fluency. They are uniquely comfortable using a wide variety of social-media tools like cellphones, e-mail, Web sites, blogs, and text messaging, enabling them to spread information widely, quickly, and inexpensively. Their passion and skills combined with their digital dexterity create challenges for more traditional nonprofit organizations.

The nonprofit world that the millennials are entering has matured in its use of social media to connect large networks of supporters. Just a few years ago, only those organizations that were created with connectedness as part of their DNA, like the Genocide Intervention Network and, were able to thrive in this new era. While the reaction from more traditional organizations was "Do we really have to know about this stuff?," today the more likely question is "How do we begin?"

And that's where millennials come in. They know how and where to start using social media for social change. Now nonprofit groups need to let them in, and the best way to do that is to understand the different roles millennials are starting to play as:

Employees. I often hear millennials complain that they are not listened to within their own organizations.

It is not uncommon to hear young people say they feel underappreciated within institutions, but these millennial complaints have more traction than those of previous generations.

Millennials have grown up intently listened to by their parents and teachers, creating a sense of confidence in their own opinions. They are also accustomed to talking online in venues that support open, free-flowing conversations and opinions.

What's more, their digital adeptness gives them a set of skills and a sense of powerfulness that are unmatched by older colleagues.

Millennials join organizations with an expertise that is important and needed. For all of those reasons, millennial staff members need to be listened to and provided opportunities for meaningful participation in an organization's key conversations about strategy and operations.

Volunteers. Millennials are passionate about causes and, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, are volunteering in record numbers beginning in middle school and continuing thereafter.

Organizations accustomed to top-down hierarchical dictates of when and how volunteers will participate will lose with millennials.

Those that allow them to be creative and have a greater sense of ownership in the cause will be more successful.

The best recent example of these different styles is the difference between the Clinton (top-down) and Obama (bottom-up) campaigns.

Activists. Regardless of how traditional organizations change or act, millennials will support their causes in their own ways, and that will mean often working outside of institutions. Thousands of people can use Facebook to support ending the genocide in Darfur, without necessarily supporting a specific organization.

One can look at this landscape and see a sea of competitors for money and attention — or one can see a field of potential partners, regardless of their size or credentials, that can be knit together into a successful ecosystem of supporters.

How can nonprofit groups embrace the millennials?

The first thing they need to do is show them some respect. I often hear older people and organizations dismiss young people as flighty multitaskers. These young people are vitally important to the nation's future, but they often feel uninvited to the nonprofit party. They have a great deal to teach organizations and older people about organizing using social media and about working in open, nonproprietary ways, but they will only do so if they are listened to and respected.

The Salvation Army has taken steps in this direction recently, including adding a board seat for a young person.

Nonprofit organizations can also assign their young interns and staff members to take responsibility for using specific social networks to generate interest in their causes; that will be a lot more beneficial to them and the organization than answering the phones and making copies.

Organizations need to teach millennials to become "network weavers," a term coined by two experts in social-network analysis — Valdes Krebs and June Holley — that refers to the creation of social networks that have a specific purpose beyond just their social relations.

While young people already know how to connect with their peers, very few of them understand what it takes to deliberately create networks that promote social change. As a model, nonprofit groups may want to look at the progress made by Lance Bennett, a professor of communication at the University of Washington, in an effort called Engaged Youth, which is teaching young people in Seattle to use their digital skills to solve social problems.

Almost invariably, the first question posed by many nonprofit leaders is: "What is the best tool to reach young people?"

There is no one silver-bullet blog or Web site. Organizations must stop looking for the "killer app" to connect with millennials and start examining their own organizational culture. They must ask themselves:

Why do you want to connect with them?

What conversation do you want to have with them?

How open are you to listening to them?

What will you allow them to do that you don't feel you have to control?

Answering those questions may require some real soul searching. Once that's done, it is time to start talking with the millennials wherever they are — in person through the Meetup Web site, through blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook — and listen to what they are saying and be ready to make changes to work with them more openly and honestly.

Nonprofit groups also need to teach young people why advocacy and policy change are a vital part of creating long-term systemic change.

When schools started requiring community service in the late 1980s, they dropped civic education. Focus groups conducted by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, at Tufts University, found that students didn't have a negative view of government and public policy like their boomer parents may have — they had no view and opinion at all.

Perhaps worse, they had no place to explore their views and learn more either on or off their campuses. Nonprofit organizations need to create ways for young people to explore issues and ideas.

However, organizations beware, millennials are very clear that they don't want to be "sold" on issues. Advocates with set ideas on their issues, who just want to recruit younger participants to their cause without real discussion, should spend their time elsewhere.

Young people are engaged in promoting charitable causes in very large numbers as volunteers, staff members, and social entrepreneurs. But as a recent study by the research company Synovate reported, still millions more, particularly black and Hispanic girls, aren't hooked in and networked. It is up to nonprofit groups to get more young people involved.

Millions of millennials are passionately engaged in causes, though not necessarily connected to specific nonprofit organizations. Millions more regularly practice their own form of citizenship using the tools and processes of democracy (e.g., sharing information, circulating petitions, mobilizing people) to voice their concern about or interest in items that are central to their lives, such as the cancellation of a TV show or organizing friends to attend the opening of a new restaurant.

Those aren't trivial activities; they represent the latent power of millennials to use their own tools and voices for social-change efforts.

The challenge for nonprofit groups is to invite all of these young people, those already engaged and those who could be engaged, to learn more about their efforts, and to help shape and drive them. The needs of nonprofit groups and the people they serve are great — and they can be matched by the great capacity of the millennials.

Allison Fine is a senior fellow at Demos, a New York think tank, and author of "Social Citizens (beta)," a publication released by the Case Foundation, in Washington. This article is based on that publication; the full version is available online.