February 2, 2017
The United States presidency was recently assumed by an Orwellian lunatic.* Sadly, this is not an exaggeration. The dangers — both of authoritarianism and of general mis-governance — are massive. Everybody needs in some way to respond.
*”Orwellian lunatic” is by no means an oxymoron. Indeed, many of the most successful tyrants in modern history have been delusional; notable examples include Hitler, Stalin, Mao and, more recently, Erdogan. (By way of contrast, I view most other Soviet/Russian leaders and most jumped-up-colonel coup leaders as having been basically sane.)
There are many candidates for what to focus on, including:
- Technology-specific issues — e.g. privacy/surveillance, network neutrality, etc.
- Issues in which technology plays a large role — e.g. economic changes that affect many people’s employment possibilities.
- Subjects that may not be tech-specific, but are certainly of great importance. The list of candidates here is almost endless, such as health care, denigration of women, maltreatment of immigrants, or the possible breakdown of the whole international order.
But please don’t just go on with your life and leave the politics to others. Those “others” you’d like to rely on haven’t been doing a very good job.
What I’ve chosen to do personally includes:
- Get and stay current in my own knowledge. That’s of course a prerequisite for everything else.
- Raise consciousness among my traditional audience. This post is an example.
- Educate my traditional audience. Some of you are American, well-versed in history and traditional civics. Some of you are American, but not so well-versed. Some of you are from a broad variety of other countries. The sweet spot of my target is the smart, rational, not-so-well-versed Americans. But I hope others are interested as well.
- Prepare for such time as nuanced policy analysis is again appropriate. In the past, I’ve tried to make thoughtful, balanced, compromise suggestions for handling thorny issues such as privacy/surveillance or network neutrality. In this time of crisis, people don’t care, and I don’t blame them at all. But hopefully this ill wind will pass, and serious policy-making will restart. When it does, we should be ready for it.
- Support my family in whatever they choose to do. It’s a small family, but it includes some stars, more articulate and/or politically experienced than I am.
Your choices will surely differ (and later on I will offer suggestions as to what those choices might be). But if you take only one thing from this post and its hopefully many sequels, please take this: Ignoring politics is no longer a rational choice.
This is my first politics/policy-related post since the start of the Trump (or Trump/Bannon) Administration. I’ll keep a running guide to others here, and in the comments below.
- The technology industry in particular is now up to its neck in politics. I gave quite a few examples to show why for tech folks there’s no escaping politics now.
- Some former congressional staffers put out a great guide to influencing your legislators. It’s focused on social justice and anti-discrimination kinds of issues, but can probably be applied more broadly, e.g. to Senator Feinstein’s (D-Cal) involvement in overseeing the intelligence community.