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New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Archive for the ‘Randall Amster’

Spring Forward

March 20, 2017 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Current Events, Politics, Randall Amster

Beyond Our Winter of Discontent

by Randall Amster

Spring may be upon us, but the prevailing political winds foretell a long, cold season ahead. We’re two months into the Tr$mp presidency, and the template has been set: incompetence, intolerance, scandal, strong-arming, divisiveness, duplicity. If America was longing for a “reality show” at the top of the news queue, this moment certainly fits the bill — but this is actual reality, and as time passes the damage being done will only increase in its potential to have long-term corrosive effects. And this may well include the likelihood that this Administration’s conflict-centric ethos will manifest in a full-on war soon enough.

If that happens, all bets are off as to what ensues. For those with slightly longer memories, you may recall George W. Bush getting off to a shaky start, with a series of missteps and a penchant for being more interested in golfing than governance. Granted, this is a different era and context, and the players are different — to such an extent that Tr$mp almost makes Bush seem reasonable by comparison (yet not). In many ways, we’re living with the direct consequences of the Bush years, and Tr$mp is the clear beneficiary of a playbook that calls for an imperial presidency and blatant disregard for the Constitution. (more…)

Weaving the Threads

February 25, 2017 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Politics, Randall Amster

And Reimagining What Can Be…

by Randall Amster

Good morning America, and welcome to those proverbial “interesting times.” We have a so-called President seemingly coming unhinged in public, a dystopian aura infusing politics at every level, a resurgence of hatred made safe by irresponsible rhetoric, and a cultural fascination with misdirection and blatant untruths. At the same time, there’s a burgeoning opposition movement contesting every brick in the apocalyptic wall, mobilizing in the streets and through its tweets alike, constituting a potential political counterforce—perhaps not only in this moment, but for the foreseeable future.

With football and baseball both on hiatus now, the national pastime seems to have swung to watching the unraveling of this Administration and the fantastic foibles of its terrific protagonist. This has all been a boon to the major media outlets, as well as to the Saturday night satirists and their ilk. It’s also a familiar posture for the general public to be in, regardless of political ideology, accustomed as many people have become to consuming “reality” programming, celebrity scandals, and infotainment gossip. (more…)

So Now What?

February 14, 2017 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Politics, Randall Amster

Good Question…

by Randall Amster

Since the election last November, I’ve been searching for the right words to convey my concerns. It’s not primarily about who won and who lost, although clearly the outcome does have serious implications not only in terms of policies and principles, but also for the cultural messages it sends about acceptable behaviors and ideologies. And it’s not about political parties — assuming that construct can be pluralized anymore, with the power of the corporate purse strings tethered to those equivalently across the aisle.

No, it’s beyond the surface of this particular elephant-and-donkey show. This is different, requiring a language that hasn’t been invented yet to fully unpack the implications. What do I tell my children when they ask if things are going to be okay? What do I say to the young adults for whom this moment feels like a generational betrayal of the social progress they’ve made and where they thought the future was heading? What do I focus on to stay motivated and find the positive amidst the growing sense of doom? (more…)

Signs of the Times

February 01, 2017 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Family, Politics, Randall Amster

Reflections on a Society in Turmoil

by Randall Amster

Today we are confronted with a convergence of crises that is unparalleled in recent memory. Overtly discriminatory policies, the elevation of oppressive ideologies, ignorance and disregard as political virtues — these are among the hallmarks of this moment. As outrageous as this is, it is also important to remember that none of this exists in a vacuum, and that to some extent these patterns have been with us in various forms for a long time. In considering the cultural context for navigating contemporary challenges, I am drawn to recollections from not long ago…

Exiting a natural foods store in the southwest a few years ago, I noticed a person flying a sign on the side of the road. It was apparently a young woman, complete with piercings and other hallmarks of the disheveled look that is sometimes known as “crusty” or “gutter punk” in many cities. What stood out for me, indelibly in this case (in addition to the feelings I experience any time I see someone asking for help in such a manner) was the language on her sign, composed of three words in all: Broke. Hungry. Ugly. (more…)

Faux Real

January 09, 2017 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Politics, Randall Amster

What’s in Your Worldview?

by Randall Amster

We had to know this was coming. It was always here, but now it can be seen more clearly through the unvarnished lens of protofascism. Retrenchment and revanchism arrive with a new pitchman, selling rollbacks disguised as opportunities and promising to reclaim that which has been lost after decades of social progress and cultural liberalization. This isn’t a “new normal” but rather an old one reemerging, and the only sort of normality it represents is that which is perversely defined by a type of mass insanity.

Things have been heading in this direction for a long time now, but the pace obviously has accelerated in the digital age. The lamentations about the demise of truth and the advent of bogus “news” are legion, as are the observations about the omnipresence of technology and the implications thereof. But all this hasn’t happened to us — it has veritably been demanded. Obscured by the handwringing and finger-pointing is the deeper reality of a culture obsessed with on-demand indulgences, no matter the cost. (more…)

Graduating from the Electoral College

December 16, 2016 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Politics, Randall Amster

“Don’t Know Much About History…”

by Randall Amster

It’s understandable why some are viewing the Electoral College as the last bastion of democracy right now, even as this is also ironic given its ostensibly anti-democratic nature. Without delving into the historical debates, including the potentially gendered and racial roots of the system, it is generally accepted that the framers “feared a tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come to power” and thus “did not trust the population to make the right choice” every time. The genesis, then, was apparently the quite undemocratic notion of limiting the electoral power of the people.

Of course, this is also a republic, and the Electoral College reflects that reality. We can debate endlessly whether it’s a fair system, whether it skews power to smaller states or a handful of swing states, whether it decreases incentives for turnout, whether it reflects elitism, and more — but that won’t help us in the here and now. Instead, we might consider the paradox of how this structure applies to the present situation, one in which the “will of the people” actually “elected” the “losing” candidate by nearly a three million vote margin. As such, the call is being made for the Electoral College not to override the consensus of the majority, but actually to uphold it. (more…)

The Working Dead

December 09, 2016 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Politics, Randall Amster

Signs of Life in Making a Living?

by Randall Amster

I’ve noticed a subtle shift in recent years that seems relatively minor but is perhaps quite revealing of larger trends. People rarely seem to ask the question anymore, “what do you do for a living?” Instead, it’s usually expressed in more transactional terms as, “where do you work?” or “what’s your job?” By itself this appears insignificant, except that when coupled with more macroscopic shifts in the nature of employment across a wide range of fields, it says something about the erstwhile notion of “making a living.” Indeed, with increasing routinization and the advent of 24/7 technology, work is becoming less about our living (as in, someone pursuing their “life’s work”) and more about trying not to let it kill us.

With all of the post-election analysis about the issues of the “working class” as a determinative factor, we now find ourselves in a liminal space between the reality of economic dislocation and the fantasy of redemption. How much disbelief needs to be suspended in order to buy the notion that (a) outmoded industrial jobs will literally be coming back, and that (b) a billionaire real estate magnate is the one to do it? The burgeoning Cabinet picks and associated rhetoric should be all working people need to read the tea leaves. As such, we are steadily traversing the fine line from fake populism to genuine dystopianism. (more…)