So it’s a journal entry now, not a thesis, not even an outline. Did some great reading today. Manuel Castells (2012) and an essay by Rosalind Williams on “crisis.”
It’s prompted an essay I’ve always wanted to write: “the crisis of crisis.” Which means that crisis doesn’t really exist anymore. Foucault would have described the language gap as a “semantic vacuum” (1970). We’ve entered a time in which we hold an impossibility to describe the times we are in; one crisis spills over to another. (I love her analogy to the Macondo, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez’ fictional Mexican town that vaporizes into a sea of dust, and the parallels between fiction and the actual code name of that busted oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that wouldn’t stop spilling its oil). A spill, spillonomics, spill-o-distaster. Crisis, meta-crisis, “fiscal cliff,” which implies slow-moving, cartoon-like, and in free-fall.
(At the time of this writing, my 2013 paycheck has already been deducted, overnight and just like that. Now I pay more into social security that may not be there when I retire, without having voted on it, nor have I really been told about the alternatives). Crisis of economics now results in an ongoing crisis of civic trust.
Marshall McLuhan will also feature prominently in my thesis. It’s an ill-fated but otherwise sealed-deal that I learned that the anniversary of his death falls on New Years Eve, and so I was thinking a lot about him this week.
i’ve also been thinking about networks. Decentralized, distributed networks originally envisioned in response to nuclear threat. RAND corporation, ARPA net, all conceived against the backdrop of very specific threats to our own existence. We abstractly could probably rationalize and understand nuclear threat, or at least – we could practice drills to fight it, build bunkers to protect ourselves.
But networks are resolved, and have evolved – and now we cannot name the fear, the “one thing” we could now name that would set the disaster plan in motion. It’s fluid, like the Twin Towers flowing down into rubble like liquid, slow-moving, barely catching up as the brain realizes its own inability to process the horror.
Rosalind Williams, after being asked to give a 2012 talk on the “slow-moving disaster” of the economic melt-down, tracked New York Times headlines to get a grasp and a measure of how the fiscal crisis was written about in the press. The Great Recession was probably the most accurate in daring parallels between the Great Depression; a complicated system of credit and debt, further complicated by a really Black Tuesday on the market, caused a disruption of a delicate system to come tumbling down for a number of years. The problem now, it seems, is that we really just don’t know how far we can go.
One thing is for certain, back then as now: we’ve lost our civic trust in systems. A fiscal crisis results in perceptions of mismanagement, bloat, greed.
And so we turn to one of the most difficult questions in the midst of “a crisis of crisis:” can education save society?