Monday, August 11, 2014

Dare to be Clueless

I still tend to spend most of my time here in San Francisco on foot. Today it struck me that, while there has been no shortage of stories about "distracted walking" (pedestrians absorbed in the screens on the phones), my impression after today's walk to the library and back is that their numbers are increasing, rather than decreasing. This reminds me of a time when a rise in news reports about the connection between smoking and cancer was accompanied by a rise in smoking, almost as if the latter involved a defiant libertarian stance. It also reminds me of one of the line's from the "Daily News" song that Judy Collins used to say:
Don't try to change my mind with facts.
To hell with the graduated income tax.
All this resonated with an essay about George Santayana that I happened to be reading this morning. It involved his emphasis on distinguishing "freedom from" from "freedom to." The former involves matters such as Franklin Roosevelt's "freedom from fear" (of being attacked by a foreign power). The latter is more in the libertarian spirit, which is why many feel it needs to be exercised within constraints imposed by governance. Thus, freedom to speak your mind does not include the exercise of hate speech.

This would all be relevant if we lived in a culture in which governance still mattered; but, between the Kool-Aid of Internet evangelism and the consumerist position that having more stuff than anyone else is all that matters, this no longer seems to be the case.

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