New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Archive for the ‘Randall Amster’

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…)

Reflections on Ferguson

November 26, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Politics, Randall Amster

Cover of Darkness, Rays of Light

by Randall Amster

The announcement arrived at the telegraphed moment, conveniently scheduled for prime time in most zones. A decision said to shed light on a matter of national importance is revealed only after dark, with the lede buried under a pile of prosecutorial dereliction. When the decisive words newfergseasonsare finally uttered, they echo with unintended irony as a broken system delivers its own self-indictment: “No True Bill.”

We’ve been here before, far too many times. Anguish fills the air, slowly replaced by tear gas and smoke. Rage smolders from the friction of perpetual despair, finally igniting fires that engulf a handful of structures. People are urged to lodge their complaints but keep their place, to express their views but only from the sidelines, to follow the rule of law but relegate their quest for justice. The convenient spectacle of “violence in the streets” obscures the perpetuation of “structural violence” everywhere. (more…)

Line of Fire

July 02, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Current Events, Ecology, Randall Amster

Finding Resilience in Times of Crisis

by Randall Amster

Living in Arizona for nearly two decades, and for more than half of that time in the central highlands region around Prescott, has candlespresented innumerable challenges and opportunities alike. Many will be familiar with Arizona’s haywire politics and the international controversies that have ensued. Those of us working on progressive causes here often find solace in the fact that — though the victories may be few — this is where the work needs to be done. I’m thankful to have been part of this ethos of engagement over the years, even as I’m preparing to head eastward and embrace new possibilities. (more…)

Cognitive Assonance

June 20, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, Politics, Randall Amster

Congratulations! You’re Being Watched

by Randall Amster

With revelations (yet again) that we are all essentially being watched virtually all the time, we might expect a popular backlash espionajeagainst such a massive and unprecedented intrusion on privacy. Americans may differ on a plethora of political issues, but there’s a common wisdom suggesting broad agreement on core principles such as individual liberty. Alas, widespread pushback against a total surveillance society seems unlikely to emerge, and having the full scope of such a program become publicly known may only increase its acceptability.

Modern America is built on the ethos of the “reality show” — and people want to be watched. (more…)

Memorializations

May 27, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Politics, Randall Amster

Keeping War Between Iraq and a Hard Place

by Randall Amster

It has to be difficult these days being a purveyor of militarism and saber-rattling warmongering. Oh sure, the pay is still good and the work looks steady for the foreseeable future — plus the perquisites of power seem relatively intact. But the shine has definitely come off the enterprise, leaving one to wonder what will become of the true diehards who are too slow and stodgy to change with the coming global tide.

At least since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, there has been a notable diminution of the appetite for war, at least among “the people” if not yet those ostensibly in power to represent said people. From the tragic absurdity of WMD and “Mission Accomplished” to the calamitous realities of Fallujah and Abu Ghraib, the Iraq War has finally given the lie to the already-tattered mythos of the “good war.” (more…)