Saturday, March 11, 2006

[geek][politics] ...and great was the fall of it

iStockPhoto - Copyright: Sandy Jones Normally, I can't stand CIO Magazine - okay, that's not entirely fair; I find it interesting to see industry trends and who's pushing what agenda, but I have very little tolerance for buzzwords and weasel-speak... And IMAO, the ratio of ads to weasel-speak runs fairly high. Not as high as some of the free trade rags, but still... Let's just say that I read it with a box of Diamond Kosher salt close at hand. So when I was reading the current dead-tree issue (not online yet), I was surprised by how strongly "What Can Tear Us Apart" by Juan Enriquez resonated with me. Enriquez points out a number of factors that have the potential to, as he phrases it, create an "Untied States of America", a confederation (if we're lucky) instead of a federation. Yes, Enriquez has a vested interest in avoiding the scenario he portrays - his company, after all, is a venture firm specializing in biotech - but I think his thesis bears closer examination. Enriquez points out that throughout the world, increased disparities between regional economies has led to increased demands for regional autonomy. He points out that much of the US economy is increasingly driven by fewer zip codes - and those zip codes are largely in metro urban areas in the 'blue' states. This is somewhat simplistic, but really - even in the 'red' states, the economic centers tend to be urban. These economic engines also tend to be on the purple side of things, in contrast to the deep-red exurbs and rural areas around them. Of course, life isn't as simple as the blue-red dichotomy that makes for good media stories and good political theatre... But that political theatre is driving policy decisions that will have an impact upon our economy. The strain of politics that has come to dominate the 'red' states is increasingly incompatible with the economic realities of the 'blue' states - feeding into such internet phenomena as the "Fuck the South" essay or the "United States of Jesusland" JPGs that circulated far and wide in the wake of the 2004 elections. Even within 'blue' states, there are active 'red' constituencies that seek to differentiate and distance themselves from 'those people' in the cities - hell, read the letters to the editor in Seattle's two daily papers, and you'd think that we had Berkely vs. Alabama within a 40 mile radius. And in many respects, we do: it's all right-wing-bigot-this vs. stupid-commie-liberal-that. Enriquez's article ties directly into the two pieces I wrote yesterday (part 1, part 2) - this insistence upon the subjugation of science (and here I'm using 'science' as broadly as possible - education, technology, research) to ideological ends will only exacerbate these existing tensions. The "Fuck the South" essays will multiply - and "Fuck the North" essays will arise in response. And last time that happened, it wasn't pretty... The seeds of the Civil War were sown at various points in our nation's history - some a century earlier, some but a few decades. It takes a while for such seeds to bear fruit, but when they do, stand back; the harvest is be a bloody one. coda: Yes, the title's from Matthew 7:24-27, houses built upon rock and sand and all that... I'm not one for Bible verses, being the unbeliever that I am, but I do appreciate good metaphors and turns of phrase.

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