Politics

Entries related to things political.

#rhizo15 Part 1 – Uncertain Learning Subjectives

Today, #rhizo15 starts. It is tempting to put it into some nice sort of box, with learning objectives about learning how to better create online courses, but that seems incomplete or misleading. Learning Subjectives – designing for when you don’t know where you’re going provides a better starting point.

The idea of jumping off into the unknown has long been appealing to me. It is part of the reason I like unconferences, like the upcoming Podcamp Western Mass. Get together with a bunch of bright people around an interesting topic and see what happens.

So, what do I hope to get out of #rhizo15? I’m not sure, but I find a good starting point to be a paper presented at the 1999 International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations (ISPSO), Our Best Work Happens When We Don't Know What We're Doing.

In keeping with our own thinking and with the specific context of our own work, our version of Bion's assumption about the effects of exposure to truth is that learning comes from working at the edge between knowing and not-knowing. The core activity linking our organizational research, consultancy, management and teaching - namely, 'learning', or 'growth of mind' - involves exposure to truth-in-the-moment. This depends on the capacity to stay at the edge between knowing and not-knowing.

This also provide a good opportunity to introduce myself to people finding this post through #rhizo15, or for that matter, to people who have become readers of my blog over the years, without having a good sense of where I am coming from.

For the context of #rhizo15, I will highlight some areas I hope to explore, and skip over other areas which are less important. I’ve been on the Internet since 1982. If you know where to look, you can find stuff I wrote online in 1982 which is still online today. I worked for a while on Wall Street, which is where I came in contact with organizational consultants, including ISPSO and the work of Wilfred Bion in Group Relations. I’m particularly interested in how various thoughts about objects, fit together in various psychoanalytic traditions include Freud, Klein, Winnicott, Bion, and Lacan. I’ve participated in various online experiential learning based groups centered around the work of Bion in the past. This may be a blog post or two of its own.

During my years on Wall Street, I also did a little bit on artificial neural networks. I’m particularly interested in the relationship between artificial neural networks, social networks, how this relates to group dynamics, rhizomes, and for that matter the singularity This may be another blog post of its own.

In 2003, I helped write some of the social media software for Gov. Dean’s presidential campaign. I later worked in technology and social media for other campaigns, and have run for office myself. How does or could rhizomic learning and MOOCs relate to politics and governance? Another fun topic to explore in a later blog post.

I was the first person in Connecticut, according to reports I’ve seen online, to be on Twitter, and have I was one of the first people with Google Glass in Connecticut. I’ve been an early adopter and been involved with research on many innovations in computer mediated communications. I’m not sure what else I have to say on these topics, but there may be another blog post in all of this as well.

These days, I work as a social media manager for a nonprofit health care agency focused on providing primary care with a special focus on underserved populations. I have set up a Moodle for the agency and have recently taken a MOOC on teaching with Moodle, I may have written about this some in the past, and I’m not sure if there is another blog post in this topic.

And finally, at least for this evening, I’m currently taking a MOOC from Harvard on the poetry of Emily Dickinson. I had taken their MOOC on Walt Whitman a while ago. I’ve taken to sharing more of my poetic attempts online. Originally, I moved to New York City after college to be a poet, but that never panned out. I’m also focused on my religious viewpoints, which are perhaps best described as a socially liberal mix of Anglicanism with a splash of reformed theology.

Where will all of this go? It will be interesting to see.

The 2016 Democratic Primary - Pregame

This morning on Facebook, Zephyr Teachout put up a post that starts “Primaries are the bedrock of democracy.” I got to know Zephyr during the 2004 presidential later, she challenged Andrew Cuomo in a primary for the Democratic nomination for governor of New York. Her post included a link to an article about Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

While there is great focus on Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democratic nominee for president in 2016, it is worth remembering that for the United States, “primaries are the bedrock of democracy”. So, I’m keeping an eye on the other candidates, particularly Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chaffee.

I went to hear Martin O’Malley last month and give him a mixed review. I haven’t looked enough at Chaffee to have an opinion there.

Many of the comments on Zephyr’s Facebook post focused on issues like fracking and common core. These are not likely to be dominant for the broader population. Nor are they, for me at least, make or break issues. However, having a good debate about these issues on the campaign trail would be good for all of us.

I mentioned there, as well as I mentioned to the members of the press I ran into up in New Hampshire, that at this point in 2004, Dick Gephardt was the front runner and few people had heard of Howard Dean. We’ll see what happens this time around, but I think it is important to remember that we’re at the beginning of the primary process, not the end.

The Wedding at The Castro

At church on Maundy Thursday evening, we washed one another’s feet. Our seminarian shared a homily about Jesus upending power structures as he commanded all of us to love one another. My mind wandered to Indiana. Would Jesus refuse to serve gay people at a restaurant? It doesn’t fit with my reading of the Gospel. More likely, he would have sat down with them and shared a pizza and Gov. Pense and the Republican legislators would ask him, “Why do you eat and drink with gay people and sinners?” (Luke 5:30).

Of course, the bigger issue in Indiana, and other states, is same-sex marriage. Certain Evangelical Christians feel that marriage is a sacrament reserved for one man and one woman. Because of this, they cannot, in good conscience cater a gay wedding.

The story that jumps out here is the wedding at Cana. What if that wedding had been in The Castro District of San Francisco in the early 80s? Would Jesus have gone? Would he have turned water into wine? Would he have healed those with AIDS?

All of these thoughts swirl in my mind as I see the headline, Poll: Gay People More Popular Than Evangelicals.

It brings to mind the quote from John Lennon

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I'll be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first—rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.

There was quite a backlash to this, even though there was a lot of truth to those words and it makes me wonder what the reaction to the poll will be.

The title of the article is disturbing to me, not because gays are more popular than evangelical Christians, but because it sets up a false dichotomy. The article mentions in passing, towards the very end, that 45% of evangelical Christians ages 18-29 favor same-sex marriages. Those who define the church in terms of social issues that exclude large groups of people are the ones that seem to be doing the most damage to Christianity.

Tomorrow morning, churches will be filled with people in their Easter finest. Will they hear the message of a risen Lord who heals the sick, washes his disciples’ feet and loves those that the leaders of the day reject, or will they hear a message of self-righteousness that seems to me to deny the very reason for the crucifixion and resurrection.

Politics and Eggs – O’Malley

The progressive populist technocrat of deep faith as seen from the Matrix

OK, now I'm supposed to say, "Hmm, that's interesting, but... " then you say...

For some reason, the Oracle’s line from The Matrix comes to mind as I sit down to write about hearing Governor O’Malley speak at Politics and Eggs in New Hampshire this morning. Everyone else is writing inside baseball, covering the horse race aspects of the 2016 presidential campaign. I figure, maybe I should write it as a theatre review.

The dress rehearsal of “O’Malley for President” had a wonderful, though a bit clichéd script, right out of the progressive populist playbook. “This great story we have the opportunity to write together...” Talking about how we all grew up believing “if you work hard, you can get ahead…”

He talked about his father seeing signs, “no Irish need apply… He never forgot that and neither have I”. He got the quote from Micah 6:8 in there about acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God.

He spoke about trickle down economics driving us into the recession and what makes economies grow, and countries strong, is a growing middle class. Perhaps his best line was about immigration, saying that the symbol of America is not barbed wire fence, it is the Statue of Liberty.

I remember in high school hearing a clarinet recital by my music teacher. It was phenomenal, or so I thought. Yet all the reviews talked about the performance being wooden, sounding like someone practicing their scales.

So, the quote from the Matrix comes to mind. It is the story line that the new kids on the bus have already written for the election season. We need a Democratic primary. We need an anti-Hillary. Hillary is old, flawed and unstoppable. She has the reverse Midas touch. Everything she touches turns to scandal. The press has a palpable sense of exhaustion in dealing with these scandals. We need to get to real issues. And yet it is the press that focuses on the horse race and the scandals.

One of the reporters commented on not seeing O’Malley igniting the grassroots enthusiasm that Obama did. In The Matrix, the Oracle goes on to say:

Sorry, kid. You got the gift, but it looks like you're waiting for something.

This progressive populist technocrat with deep faith.

It is an odd combination. I always think of technocrats as being centrist and faith being a domain of the right. Can O’Malley pull of uniting these?

There were a few believers in the audience, people who had lived in Baltimore when O’Malley was a councilman there, a bright and upcoming New England mayor who has looked to O’Malley as a mentor. Yet most of the crowd was made up of rich old white male power brokers, not exactly the crowd to respond to a progressive populist’s message.

So, the real question is, will O’Malley be able to draw in people who weren’t at the politics and eggs breakfast. He had a strong inclusive message, “The more people included, the better we can all do”. Will we see that in his campaign organization? He spoke of open data and performance management. Will we see performance management techniques applied to the campaign?

He said we have to look to one another. Will he do that in his campaign? And then, there is the role of money in politics. Has Citizen’s United moved our political system so firmly into high dollar donor based campaign structure that we are stuck with political dynasties?

For a dress rehearsal, it was a good performance. O’Malley knew his lines, even if the delivery was a little wooden. The script was solid. Yet there are many performances between now and primary day in New Hampshire. Perhaps it is best to wrap up this review with another quote from the Matrix.

I wanna tell you a little secret, being the one is just like being in love. No one needs to tell you you are in love, you just know it, through and through.

The Road to Damascus

Yesterday, a friend posted on Facebook,

Stop calling members of ISIS "barbarians" and "animals." Just stop.

I hate ISIS. I've hated them since before they named themselves back when they were just beginning to emerge in the vacuum of power in Syria. I've been practically screaming for three years on Twitter to anyone who would listen about the growing danger they represented.

But the reality is ISIS is made up of human beings. Many of whom you might have walked past on the street, ridden the subway with, sat next to at Starbucks - before they grew out their beards, changed clothes and took up arms....

When we participate in using language that DE-humanizes other human beings, we increase our own capacity for participating in or supporting acts of evil committed in our name - or, yes, in God's name.

What do you think makes it possible for a member of ISIS to saw off another human being's head or throw him off a building to his death because he is gay? If ISIS members saw those people as fully human, how might it be different?

This morning, I read a line from a different friend on Facebook

Praying that an Apostle Paul would raise up out of ISIS - and praying for justice.

That post brought up comments from others about how Damascus is in Syria, so who knows. Another person commented that they’ve been sharing the same prayer for a few weeks.

Now, I realize this may rile up some of my atheist or anti-Islamic friends, but it seems to hit at a much more important underlying theme that transcends religious dogma. Failing to recognize the humanity of every person, no matter how inhumanely they have acted. Is the first step to becoming inhumane ourselves.

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