Cursing, and Lighting Candles

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Chris Ware

We made comic-book artist Chris Ware sing for his supper when he came to the studio for his show The Dark Pages.

Never was a humble footnote happier than I am to be attached to the record of a cultural revolution — and in my case, to the “word of the year,” which turns out to be: podcast.

In the podcast transformation of broadcasting, Dave Winer must get the inventor’s credit, and something more for his generosity with the the magic of an idea.

Dave knew better what we were doing than I did three years ago. When he arrived as a fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School at the start of 2003, he said to me, in effect: “I know syndication. You know sound. Let’s get busy.” He had the greased lightning of RSS. I had a radio history and mp3 files of mini-disc interviews.

“You could interview me,” said never-bashful Dave, “and I could help you circulate it.” And: Shazzamm! On July 9, 2003 we recorded a solid 20-minute conversation about blogging, and I launched it: the first podcast, which still makes pretty good listening.

Dave’s friend Adam Curry, living in Belgium, received it in his iPod and said he quickly got addicted to the long series of conversations that I learned to post with another genius of invention, Bob Doyle at skyBuilders.com.

For the site Christopher Lydon Interviews Dave Winer gave me a handsome custom design on his Manila software. Audio-on-a-blog was the new trick we were advertising, along with an unconventional range of interview subjects: poets and prophets including Glen Reynolds, Robert Fisk, Jay Rosen, the late Edward Said,

Harold Bloom, Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, Larry Lessig, Tim Berners-Lee and

George Lakoff, among the scores.

There are by now many good tellings of this story of The First Podcast and the next few. As podcasting took off, Bart Eisenberg wrote a “sidebar” that caught me in an expansive conversation on the early vision of where we were going. And now Dan Bricklin has put it all in plausible big-picture context at Ten Top Sources.

It is no small joy to find oneself swimming, however unexpectedly, and surviving in a sweeping, thunderous, complex wave of innovation. But let’s also say this for ourselves: we had a notion!

We knew that a grand liberation of discourse was coming with the tools and tricks that could make our conversations instantly global — that could time-shift and archive them and also distribute them free. Yes, free like lunch as well as free like speech. We knew we could add to the blogosphere what it really didn’t have: the sound of “that fabulous instrument,” as Studs Terkel calls it, “vox humana.”

As I noted on that first podcast with Dave Winer, we knew media world was dying and being reborn under our fingers. The new blog scene, I was feeling (two and a half years back):

… has the crackle and pop that traditional media conspicuously do not these days.  It’s cheap and easy of entry.  It’s politically free, wildly opinionated but also information-rich.  It’s literary, it’s musical, it’s poetic.  It has the full range of human curiosity and passion about it.  A lot of it is funny, feminist, futurist, cosmopolitan, confident and all those other good buzzy things like edgy, enthusiastic, highly energized.  The adrenal elite is here.  So now what?

“So now what” is this toddling hybrid — this web community with a radio voice, this 7-month-old descendant of Marconi and Berners-Lee both, this 24 x 7 conversation about Iraq and eternity, about King Lear and the Dresden Dolls — that we were the first to call Open Source.

What we’ve learned since the first Open Source broadcast on Memorial Day, 2005 is, in one phrase, to go with our hunches. Or as the immortal Emerson told us all along, “Trust thyself! Every heart vibrates to that iron string.”

Among other confirmations, the key to all the rest is that this local-global intersection of broadcast radio and the Web is a thoroughly real place. And like a new subway station connecting invisible transit lines underground, the meeting point generates for all to see a blooming architecture of original activity over and around the various streams of traffic.

We’ve proven to ourselves that poets could hear the techies and techies could hear poets in the same sustained conversation; that we could range not just from Dvorak to Duke Ellington, which was easy, but from cosmology to cookbooks; and also that passionate conversations were bubbling up — around, say, the nature of morality and the tribulations of American Christianity, for example — in ways we hadn’t anticipated at all.

We see more clearly every week how a community of listeners and writers can produce a radio show. And yes, believe me, we read and argue over pretty much every suggestion.

We note the emergence of guardians and scorekeepers of the conversation on the site–with names like Potter, Allison and Nother, among them–who have volunteered themselves as hearth keepers and trustees of the discourse.

We notice, of course, that the website conversations keep going and going… Three days after E. O. Wilson spoke on the air about creation and science, a witty stream of inquiry and argument is still flowing and growing.

We’ve engaged my shining prince of the old journalism, John F. Burns of the New York Times, on the war in Iraq. But we’ve also heard with our own ears an entirely new journalism being born, and a new cast of shining princes like John Donley and Patrick Belton. The very best of the old media model was to send a cosmopolitan guy with brains, big balls, New York credentials and blazing good prose to bring the story back from the far ends of the earth: John Burns, in short. When Katrina clobbered New Orleans and put the Times-Picayune presses underwater, John Donley editing the paper’s website, nola.com, presided over the definitive Katrina coverage in the messaging among survivors. And when cars started burning all over Paris this fall, we got a satisfying round-up — a preview of “all bloggers all the time” — from brilliant amateurs, led by an Irish graduate student from Oxford, Patrick Belton, who just happened to be on the spot in Paris and made us feel we were there.

We’ve just begun to confirm the validity of the “Charlie Nesson feedback loop,” named for the Harvard law professor and Berkman Center founder who urged me years ago to combine the cheapest, most penetrating, most universal tool in the media shed — radio, outbound — with the most inclusive, most democratic, most global aggregating tool we’ve ever imagined — the Internet, inbound.

We know that sound and real voices add immeasurably to the value of Web text. Emerson again, in a couplet: “The music that can deepest reach/ And cure all ill is cordial speech.”

We discovered in a completely insane little fire-fight over the Open Source name of our program and website that the blogosphere is not a jungle at all. There is character and conscience out there and fellow feeling that came instantly and effectively alive just before Thanksgiving when we were almost robbed. Jeff Jarvis led the righteous charge to protect justice, fair play and us. And we are eternally grateful to him and the whole community.

We’ve learned that with the right allies we can own our work and manage a happily struggling little media business ourselves.

I love the line from someone in the old Baltimore Colts organization: “I’ve always said the purest definition of leadership was watching Johnny Unitas get off the team bus.”

Well, my version would be: watching Mary McGrath charge into the office every morning. For more than a decade now Mary and I have been making radio together–with many, many differences of approach but never yet a serious personal argument. She is a perfect gift, from someplace far above. Our gift together is the spark of colleague-ship with the next generation. In this Open Source circle: David Miller, a mind and man of true elegance. Katherine Bidwell, multi-dimensionally curious, sound and steady. Brendan Greeley, antic and ingenious, an enviable writer. Chelsea Merz, impeccably tasty with every sort of sound. And Robin Amer, the hardest charger on our team. It’s a privilege and an understatement to read the credits each time. Thank you, Jake Shapiro and Jay Allison, for sending your best our way!

What will be new in 2006? Almost everything, I hope.

Open Source as a general conversation has barely begun.

I feel desperate sometimes to hear a lot more poetry in the mix. In celebration of Leaves of Grass on its 150th birthday, we heard a pair of brilliant Whitman readers, Stanley Kunitz and Studs Terkel. Average age: ninety-seven-and-a-half! We long to hear more and younger, starting with our neighbor, the US poet laureate Louise Gluck and her celebrated proteges.

In the 250th birthday year of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, we want to hear Russell Sherman and Craig Smith on the Mozart piano concertos. And we want to do more contemporary live music, after the examples of Amanda Palmer and Donal Fox.

We want to pull on the thread of climate change, and track the course of the “life sciences” that are booming all around us at MIT and Harvard.

Especially after the Tunis summit on the Information Society, we want to be more actively, unmistakably global in our conversation. We want to capture more of the spirit of the overwhelmingly marvelous Global Voices Online. We want to visit India, and China–on the bet that these times will be remembered primarily for the Rise of Asia.

We want to make the radio show irresistible to a lot more public stations, and the website irresistible to a lot more writers of every stripe, in every corner of the world.

We want to live up to that ridiculously flattering comment on the page the other day from “nother,” even before our show on Andalucia, the medieval model of zesty pluralism. “All of you at Radio Open Source are like my friends in that Al-Andalus pub who I can rap with about music, politics and religion. And the pub you guys run has the best discourse and drink around.”

Notice in the Comment thread that The Little Yellow Bird immediately chirped in some distress: “Yeah! Radio Al-Andalus! (Oops — that sounds like a news agency Bush would fry from the sky…)”

These are still strange and scary times in America, but let’s plan on getting through them somehow. The most provocative end-of-the-year comment I’ve read is Harold Bloom‘s in The Guardian. Quoting Huey Long: “Of course we will have fascism in America but we will call it democracy!”

Our ambition is to keep building this Internet extension on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s plan, with Margaret Fuller, for the transcendentalists’ magazine, The Dial, in 1840.

Emerson embraced the “good fanatics,” as he said, in a conversation about everything, marking “the progress of a revolution” against the cant, habit and conventions of his time.

We say of Open Source what Emerson said of his Dial: “Let it be one cheerful rational voice amidst the din of mourners and polemics.” With the Internet and your strong voices, let us keep building an all-curious compendium of “worthy aims and pure pleasures” for our own embattled era.

And yes, not least: A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all around!


  • james

    As a Brit I listen to this show via podcast here in the UK and it simply the best show on the net. Informative, enlightening and it’s easy on the ears.

    So Happy Christmas and a Happy new year to all the team at Open Source. Thank you for making it what it is and long may it continue.

  • Jon

    Thank you for following this dream and making it a reality. The breadth and depth of discussions this past year have been amazing. Not only have the shows provoked a great deal of thought and insight, but they have also brought with them a good measure of humanity–and fun–along the way. From Harold Bloom and E.O. Wilson, to the young generation from Iran–and from Iraq, all the way to the Dresden Dolls! Open Source is in a way creating a new web-like structure, with interesting connections between programs now emerging with increasing frequency–feeding on the radio outbound/internet inbound model you describe. My very best to the entire Open Source team, with wishes for an exciting New Year to come!

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  • Potter

    Thanks for listening and for your generosity, optimism and persistance. This proves that if you clay flies off the wheel you can pick it up off the floor ( or wall), put it back on the wheel, center it, and make something beautiful.

    I don’t forget Dropping in getting acclimated was probably not easy. But then we had authentic voices (vox humana)s we would never hear otherwise: callers, bloggers, artists,community elders, Singaporeans, Jamaicans, Ghanans. That was a truly grand notion. It made the world a lot smaller for those of us listening closely. Are you planning to do parachute radio from India and China?

  • Potter

    (Sorry)

    I don’t forget Parachute Radio

  • shriber

    “We want to live up to that ridiculously flattering comment on the page the other day from “nother,â€? even before our show on Andalucia, the medieval model of zesty pluralism. “All of you at Radio Open Source are like my friends in that Al-Andalus pub who I can rap with about music, politics and religion. And the pub you guys run has the best discourse and drink around.â€?”

    Oh, come on! There is more “zesty pluralism” in 20th and 21st century America then there ever was in Andalucia. Ask the Maimonides family about pluralism in medieval Andaluz.

  • Potter

    Shriber: we never got into the argument that Al Andalucia is being overly romanticized. I read a few reviews/criticism’s of Monocal’s book that complained about this. But even if we romanticize about it or emphasize certain aspects it does point out the longing, the dream (part of the title of the show), the ideal. Maybe it’s a fairy tale in the making— a good one.

  • shriber

    “But even if we romanticize about it or emphasize certain aspects it does point out the longing, the dream (part of the title of the show), the ideal. Maybe it’s a fairy tale in the making— a good one.”

    I disagree, fairy tales are for children. It is dangerous to force them on adults.

    Force feeding ideals leads to gulags and gas chambers as well as Jihads.

  • shriber

    Btw: What about the women in Andaluz? Did they share in the so called “tolerance” of the period?

    No, I prefer modern chaotic America. With all its faults ot affords the kinds of freedoms to individuals that women under Islamic law can only dream of.

    Yet, America is NOT a fairy tale.

  • Brendan

    Hey Shriber, take a listen to the show. We actually talked a bit about the 20th-century United States as another Al Andalus.

    Examination of the foreign past does not imply condemnation of the domestic present.

  • shriber

    i never said it did.

    It’s worth stressing though that Islamic tolerance doesn’t extend to women, to atheists, or to to non-monothesits.

  • nother

    What the invention of the Podcast means to me:

    From Beckett I’ve learned that it’s all that in-between time that is the real suffering. Waiting in line for the bank, waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting on hold on the phone,

    Precious tics of the clock wasted – by waiting – at the red light waiting – for the bartender to look your way waiting – waiting for this damm cough to go away, waiting for her to love you…waiting to love.

    Waiting for it to get warmer, waiting to learn an musical instrument, waiting to have a heart to heart with my mom, waiting for my dad to find his heart, waiting to read Ulysses, waiting to work out, waiting to merge, to relax, wait, waiting for me to make a point… the more we escape the wait, the more we live the now

    The damm now

    That beautiful now.

    I make the Beckett connection because the invention of the podcast has infiltrated the “wait gameâ€?. I make a concerted effort to have my ipod handy in times of “wait.â€? I simply stick the ear-phones in – and the enlightenment of curiosity fills the space…the void, thus giving me more “nowâ€? to “live.â€?

    When I think of Christopher Lydon, I think of an artist whose art is conversation. He is able to cultivate beauty from facilitating a balance of listening, learning, and provoking. Like any artist he has searched for ways to make his art more powerful and accessible, and podcasting and blogging have helped him do that. The podcast makes the art of conversation more malleable, I can pause and rewind and muse on a specific point. I can do this over a period of time and on my own time. I can respond (or not) with a blog on my own time and over time. We are living up to Emerson in his essay on “Society and Solitude,â€? when he says “Conversation will not corrupt us if we come to the assembly in our own garb and speech and with the energy of health to select what is our own and reject what is not.â€? At the ROS assembly, I feel like I’m welcome to come with my own “garb and speech.â€? After contributing to a good conversation I feel more my “self,â€? I’ve challenged myself to accept things I didn’t know and recognize and share the things I do know. Emerson would bring people together in Concord and he would arrange the chairs in a circle in order to facilitate good conversation. The challenge for us all is to hold onto that circle through this chaos of technology. We must keep the civility that Emerson’s circle undoubtedly had – even in the face of anonymity.

    Later in Emerson’s essay he writes “All conversation is a magnetic experiment,� I can’t wait to look back next year at the ROS magnet and see what’s sticking to it.

    Personally, I’ve hitched up with ROS on this wagon train of wonder and I’m curious to see where the trail takes us in the year ahead.

    Sláinte! And Happy New Year!

  • Potter

    Shriber: “I disagree, fairy tales are for children. It is dangerous to force them on adults.

    Force feeding ideals leads to gulags and gas chambers as well as Jihads.”

    Fairy tales speak to the heart and they speak to children because children are in touch with their feelings ( their fears and joys and longings). Heavens! I would hope that being an adult does not mean letting go of feelings and longings. But where is the force feeding here? Don’t we need to be encouraged that peaceful coexistence is possible?

    The nightmares of Gulags and gas chambers should not scare us away from imagining a better world or examining aspects of worlds that were. Precisely the opposite is true. To be an adult is to know about all of that awful stuff and not be afraid to dare to imagine a better world

  • shriber

    “Fairy tales speak to the heart and they speak to children because children are in touch with their feelings ( their fears and joys and longings). Heavens! I would hope that being an adult does not mean letting go of feelings and longings.

    When feelings contradict reality it’s dangerous to give in to them. Children have trouble discriminating between inner feelings and outward sensations but most normal adults are able to do so.

    “But where is the force feeding here? Don’t we need to be encouraged that peaceful coexistence is possible?”â€?

    I don’t understand the above comments.

    Why do “we� need to be encouraged that “peaceful coexistence� is possible? It either is or it isn’t. It is certainly possible in the US.

    I am not sure that Muslim societies care for peaceful coexistence. In some places for a short time out of expediency there was toleration. This was also true for Christianity at the same time. Jews were tolerated in some places but not in others.

    All proselytizing religions which see themselves as having a monopoly truth tend not to tolerate other faiths. Modern Christianity for the most part has made its peace with differences of opinion and is content to exist in a pluralistic world. I don’t know how long that will last. Islam, with some exceptions, has not made its peace with difference, it eschews pluralism.

    On another note: what is it about this blog that doesn’t seem to tolerate contrary opinions? Why do people here need to squash anyone point of view that doesn’t conform to that of the host and his minions?

  • Potter

    Shriber, I was responding to your use of the term “force feeding” when you said:

    “I disagree, fairy tales are for children. It is dangerous to force them on adults.

    Force feeding ideals leads to gulags and gas chambers as well as Jihads.”

    I thought that was an astonishing thing to say.

    Shriber:

    “On another note: what is it about this blog that doesn’t seem to tolerate contrary opinions? Why do people here need to squash anyone point of view that doesn’t conform to that of the host and his minions?”

    If people are getting something out of a show and the show gets disparaged, they defend that. It’s one thing to offer a criticism in the spirit of adding to or completing the discussion it’s another to trash the discussion itself. If you read the blogs, for instance the one on this particular show, Al-Andalus, there is opposing opinion, yours and C. David Burt’s. You both wanted to complete the picture. I welcomed this criticism. It moved me to read reviews and criticism’s of Monocal’s book “Ornament…” and in the process become interested again in this period. But why knock the premise and the gesture here?

    The show also sparked discussion about contemporary Islam and women’s equality on the blog. My own question was why is this the fasted growing religion? So the show did not inspire much dreaming so much as a discussion about reality.

    If al-Andalus’s achievements are something that Muslims look back upon as a time that they managed things a bit more peacefully and with more tolerance, even a measure more, then is that not good, good for Muslims, good for non-muslims, good for everyone? Why not shine a light on that time and the dream it inspires to soften the negatives that are floating around today?

    Also, is it not true that the Bible is read by adults for it’s derived positive lessons when in fact there is much negative in it, much we do not admire that actually went on during those times?

    In this case, with this show, it was presented as a gesture emphasizing ( as is customary at this time of year) good will towards humanity and wishes for the future of a better world. To that end, to use an aspect of a time and place in history that represents a coming together that managed to leave us a legacy (of beauty in music, architecture, manuscripts) that we do not usually focus on was, I felt, a good idea, a very creative idea. I accept the gift.

    Shriber: “When feelings contradict reality it’s dangerous to give in to them. Children have trouble discriminating between inner feelings and outward sensations but most normal adults are able to do so.”

    Shriber I think you are thinking negatively. Abraham LIncoln had feelings. His feelings contradicted reality. Martin Luther King had dreams. MLK was very much the adult, the father figure. His feelings contradicted reality. Was it dangerous that these men gave into their feelings? I could go on…

  • Potter

    Nother: thank you for that excellent post above of December 28th on podcasts. Previously I had audiotaped what caught me to listen again. When available ( and not always everywhere) podcasts are a real improvement. Sometimes I need to hear something again and even again before I have really heard. I too am very grateful for the generosity implied by the availability of this material.

  • shriber

    “If people are getting something out of a show and the show gets disparaged, they defend that. It’s one thing to offer a criticism in the spirit of adding to or completing the discussion it’s another to trash the discussion itself.”

    I disagree.

    What to you seems “trashing” is to me a critique. In my view the discussion was inadequate precisely because it wasn’t self critical.

    This is my personal opinion. You are seem incapable of accepting contrary opinions. Real tolerance begins at home. It beginswioth the acceptance of other people’s points of view, those that contradict yours.

    btw: “negative thinking” is a legitimate mode of thinking. As Blake said without contraries there is no progression. Denying the antitheses of a proposition is like denying thought itself.

  • shriber

    Potter:

    “Shriber, I was responding to your use of the term “force feeding� when you said: “I disagree, fairy tales are for children. It is dangerous to force them on adults.

    Force feeding ideals leads to gulags and gas chambers as well as Jihads.� I thought that was an astonishing thing to say.�

    This will be my last comment on this issue.

    Fairy tales when told to children can be fun and instructive. Adult fairy tales, on the other hand are destructive.

    All religions deploy fairy tales to convince their followers that there is another reality out there that is more real than the one they experience day to day. These can have benign consequences such as motivating believers to creativity, or the consequences can be very deadly as when believers are motivated to force everyone to accept their beliefs.

    We don’t like to think about it, but both Communism and Fascism in all its manifestations were fairy tales. Both quasi religious movements forced their followers to accept their view of the world. Each of them believed that if their views prevailed the end result would be peace. All they had to do was eliminate those groups of people that stood in the way of ultimate peace.

    The Islamicists likewise believe that end result of the spread of Islam will be the fairy tale of peace. They are even ready to kill themselves to attain that end. They even tell themselves the fairy tale that murderous suicides in their cause will gain them dozens of virgins in paradise. This is obviously a male fantasy yet it has been also embraced by many women.

    My point is that there is a dark side to fairy tale thinking.

    The way out of this dilemma is not by inventing more fairy tales, but by standing outside this type of fanciful thinking and embracing healthy, realistic secular values. What makes the US democratic experiment work is that it is values realism over idealism!

    The values of peace, security, justice, equality are no mere fairy tale. It is worth reminding ourselves of that fact.

  • Nikos

    To Shriber and Potter: Sorry to butt in on your debate, but as reader/spectator I’d like you both to know that I find myself agreeing, often strongly, with each of you, and often simultaneuously.

    I thought this deserved metnion for a couple of reasons.

    1. I’m confident that Potter won’t ever stop his contributions to this blog (and that’s GOOD, pal), but having heard from Shriber for the first time only last week, I’d like to say that ‘divergent’ views are not only welcome but instructive. Besides, you’re simply correct in many of your assertions, although (like me) you may be slightly (but only slightly) guiltly of overstating the case to make a point. (i.e., Islam, like evangelical Christianity, is INHERENTLY intolerant. Yet Muslims, whether mainstream or fundamentalist [and this applies to all other big religions], are, person by person, no more intolerant than most non-religious persons. [This is why I always cringe when politicians and newsmedia-folks refer to 'the American people' as if we always and ever speak with a unified voice. What disingenuous tripe! Not to mention manipulative and LAZY.])

    Anyway, please don’t think that your contributions aren’t reaching readers and making a difference. We all benefit from the debate, even when we initially disagree, because sometimes, often later, if we’re honest and open instead of ideologically fixed, we just might find that our opinion about something we read here has shifted. It may not shift profoundly, but even small shifts are valuable.

    2. This blog provides a forum for many smart people to engage one another in just such useful debate because it’s centered around a public-radio show hosted by a once-exiled voice whom many of us find compelling. It’s an intelligent show because its staff make it that way, and that’s why we tune in — and that’s we we listeners turn into blog-readers and contributors. If this were an INtolerant forum, it wouldn’t hold our interest.

    So thanks to both of you. And Carry On, please.

  • Nikos

    ps: only after posting did I see my failure to properly make my point. Which was that to conflate say, the 9-11 jihadies with, say, an Arabic woman professor who grew up in Islam but isn’t a fundie is as big a mistake as conflating Rush Limbaugh with Chris Lydon just because both are (reputedly) members of the mythical ‘American People’. Did that get it right? Hopefully…

  • Potter

    Shriber:

    I don’t consider communism and fascism fairy tales. Those who bought into those political ideologies ( or who were swept up into it) were not believing a fairy tale. Well, maybe in a wider use of the words, ie false promises are made and believed. Still this is not what fairy tales are about.

    See: How Fairy Tales Shape Our Lives and Bruno Bettelheim and most especially regarding adult fairy tales read Joseph Campbell.

    By “trashing” I mean non-constructive criticism. Constructive criticism has been very welcome.

    If you listened to the show, I did twice, it was very careful and reluctant to paint false pictures contrary to your claim which is why I am defending it still. There was, no question, an emphasis on the synergy, the good, the worthy coming out of that short time period which afterwards imploded.

    Perhaps you could listen again. None of the guests, not even Maria Menocal, who as been accused by critics of romanticizing in her book, were looking at al Andalus through rose colored glasses. They were very careful about that in fact. So you have a hard time making a convincing case.The mantra was about rounding out some of the “sharp shards” of today’s conceptions, rebalancing harsh judgements expressed in today’s common discourse, the very notions of Islam as Islamofacism you express with this:

    “I am not sure that Muslim societies care for peaceful coexistence. In some places for a short time out of expediency there was toleration.”

    Yes, let’s not romanticize, but let’s not minimize or mischaracterize either.

    “The “values of peace, security, justice equality” that are worth reminding ourselves about are exactly what was being offered by focussing on one place, Al Andalus. There are other places and times to look at as mentioned in the show, aspects of: Florentine Italy, Ancient Greece, the Ottoman Empire, Jerusalem, and present day New York City. It was pointed out that one way to acheive this is through different cultures living together perhaps even under a benovolent empire. This fosters discourse which leads to understanding, more openness and more tolerance. The dark side, ever-present, is the name calling, the intolerance,the painting with a broad brush that continues, that grows out of response to darker forces. This prevails especially if you pay the dark forces more mind. These are the forces that bring hatred, terrorism and war. So talking about Al-Andalus is in a way an antidote.

    Finally, as one who comes from a Jewish background I can tell you that the Arabic forms, of liturgical music, of architecture,of manuscript, of that period that have stayed with the culture are instantly recognizable and familiar. (In fact a surname in our familly is Cordova) There was a meeting and that touching produced an enduring legacy felt around the world and through time.

  • Potter

    Thank you Nikos. I read your post after I posted mine. I would not like to see the loss of Shriber.

  • shriber

    “I don’t consider communism and fascism fairy tales. Those who bought into those political ideologies ( or who were swept up into it) were not believing a fairy tale. Well, maybe in a wider use of the words, ie false promises are made and believed. Still this is not what fairy tales are about.”

    Potter, really let this be my last post. I feel like some one saying “for the last time” the fiftieth time.

    We were both using the term “fairy tale” metaphorically.

    (Perhaps a better term would have been “Utopian.”) What I understood you to say was that “andaluz” whether historical or not is a positive myth because it can act as a model of tolerance for Muslims.

    Well, one of the problems is that the program was not addressed to Muslims in addition non of us knows what role if any “andaluz” plays in Muslim history. Bin Laden btw has claimed southern Spain to be under Christian occupation and al Kaida think of it as part of the Muslim Caliphate.

    This isn’t very encouraging.

    Another problem is that utopian myths very easily turn into dystopian realities. But I repeat myself.

    On another note I have read the books you mentioned. There are many more studies about fairy tales than the one by Bruno Bettelheim. (Btw: I don’t care for Cambpell’s views at all. The man was bigot and I find his ideas about myth tendentious.)

  • shriber

    ” I’m confident that Potter won’t ever stop his contributions to this blog (and that’s GOOD, pal), but having heard from Shriber for the first time only last week, I’d like to say that ‘divergent’ views are not only welcome but instructive. Besides, you’re simply correct in many of your assertions, although (like me) you may be slightly (but only slightly) guiltly of overstating the case to make a point. (i.e., Islam, like evangelical Christianity, is INHERENTLY intolerant. Yet Muslims, whether mainstream or fundamentalist [and this applies to all other big religions], are, person by person, no more intolerant than most non-religious persons. [This is why I always cringe when politicians and newsmedia-folks refer to ‘the American people’ as if we always and ever speak with a unified voice. What disingenuous tripe! Not to mention manipulative and LAZY.])”

    Nikos, thanks for your post.

    Now, while it is true that we are all individuals and should be judged as such and not as members of some group, still terms like Muslim, Catholic, Jew, Christian, American, etc. do have a certain reality.

    Rush and Chris may not have much in common politically but they do share a common history, language not to mention both use an American passport when they travel overseas and would be identified as Americans by non Americans.

    The same is true with religious identity two Catholics may have radically different views about religious commitment yet if the consider themselves Catholics they do have something in common.

    This is why the Catholic encyclical absolving Jews of the awful and incorrect charge of “deicide” made such a big difference in Catholic Jewish relations.

    A religions theology is more important as a predictor of religious tolerance than individual good will. I would like to see Islamic theologians change many of their doctrines to give women more freedom and equality within Islam then they can tackle Islamic non Islamic relations.

    Then, while we are all individuals, as members of communities of faith or of nations we also have many things in common with other members of those communities to which we belong.

  • Nikos

    Shriber: Your reply—which makes admittedly irrefutable points—got me to thinkin’. (That’ll learn ya!) So please don’t take this as an assault on your last post, but as a defense of my point that stimulated yours.

    My point, such as it was, was simply a caution against carefree categorizing. Because be it seemingly benign as in ‘inclusive’, or nastily bigoted (which you weren’t), or be they countrymen or foreigners, any categorization of people is worrisome to me, and this lengthy post will try to explain why.

    Group identities are necessarily forged from a process of categorization; and I believe that such identities are considerably less important—not to mention vastly less valuable—than conventional wisdom implies. They very fact that two Catholics can find reason in their common faith to take radically differing views only supports my contention. What’s the practical relevance of ‘being a Catholic’, then? I’ve been ‘a Greek’ (and an American) all my life, but it hasn’t made me a better (or worse) person. (And it certainly hasn’t made me rich! Dammit!)

    Before proceeding any further, let me summarize where you and I agree: yes, I too think that misinformation (fairy tales), or, more precisely, ‘urban myths’ like conspiracy theories (such as the idiocy called the Protocols of Elders of Zion) leads to gulags and pogroms. I agree that proselytizing religions are inherently intolerant. I agree that the Islamist fantasy of worldwide submission is dangerous (and we’ll hereafter call it ‘fantasy’ since ‘fairy tale’ is, uh, lately overworked!).

    Yes, we’re both Americans and we’ve the joyous common ground of a prosaically generous language. What I highly dispute is the RELEVANCE and IMPORTANCE of said commonalities, especially as these supposedly vital commonalities are so tediously sanctified by manipulative politicians, and regurgitated so endlessly by the reporters who cover the scoundrels.

    Any celebration of our commonalities relies on an underpinning of categorization (i.e., we’re all Americans, or Catholics, or Jews, or Yalies, or what-have-you). And ‘categorization’—at least of people—strikes me as little more than a neutral synonym for the much more pejorative: ‘to stereotype’. (More on this later.)

    Yeah, I know: I do it too, and more often than I care to recall let alone to admit. But one benefit from writing posts here on Open Source is that it’s caused me to hone my sloppy thinking (lest A Little Yellow Bird and his non-avian but equally watchful razor-witted kin slice me into bloody ruin). Collectively the many contributors to this site have reminded us that movements like Islamism are intolerant by definition, yet the same cannot be said categorically of the Muslim constituency the Islamists troll for their bomb-fodder.

    I question the common-sense notion that just because you and I share a language, national citizenship, and however many other cultural affinities, it means that we’re bound into some sort of consistent and useful social unity. (Mentally italicize ‘useful’ please.) And so bound together that politicians can freely speak for both of us—alongside the business interests who finance their campaigns and who in truth they answer to above the likes of mere voters! If our identity as ‘Americans’ has any pragmatic value, it seems more likely of value to those who manipulate us—not to you or me.

    A historical example: Hitler and his Nazis never won a legitimate electoral majority before they dismantled the experimentally noble but weakly founded Weimar Republic. Yet Hitler claimed a bizarre sort of racial, ordained-by-pagan-gods mandate while claiming simultaneously that he alone spoke for the ‘German Volk’ (another mythical collectivity). Many ‘fully German’ Weimar-republicans would no doubt have protested this from their new quarters in Himmler’s Camps For The Rationally-Minded.

    Similarly, Bush didn’t win a majority in 2000 – and now with news of nefarious machinations within Diebolt, his 2004 victory is increasingly questionable – but the thinness of his ‘mandate’ (what a joke!) hasn’t stopped him from invoking the supposed will of ‘The American People’ whenever he needs to manipulate the press into selling to the electorate another of his neo-fascist policies. How odd then, that when pollsters quiz the (mythical) ‘American People’ on their policy preferences, the vaguely progressive platforms offered by the lily-livered Democrats always poll better than the nationally crippling junk mainlined into the republic’s veins by Bush and his ilk.

    I, for one, state resolutely that I’m no part of Bush’s ‘American People’. (Not willingly, anyway.) About the only message I’ve ever heard from the administration that I agree with is their condemnation of al-Qaida and allies as ‘barbarians.’ Bush speaks for me on that issue ALONE—and yet even then he betrays me by mending fences with many former Taliban warlords, condemning the women of Afghanistan to yet another barbaric era of brutal servitude!

    I want the government and people of MY country to have NO truck with governments that tolerate the murder of daughters by fathers just because the girls have been victims of rape!

    This, I contend, is the danger—the proverbial slippery-slope—that even the most seemingly benign categorizations/generalizations can lead to: sanction of the world’s worst barbarisms. (I realize that the chain between benign, inclusive categorizations and the world’s worst barbarism is long and convoluted, but that doesn’t negate the link. Because when politicians like Bush feel that they can make peace with murderers in the name of the benignly inclusive American People, that collectivity of people is made accomplice to murder. Do you feel like murdering anyone today? Didn’t think so. And yet it’s happening, in your (collective) name and in mine.)

    So, to rephrase the earlier question: what’s the practical relevance of being part of the ‘American People’ when those who so cynically manipulate the country’s diverse, fearful, and confused electorate misuse my meager tax contributions to buy weapons instead of welfare, to further the parasitic interests of oil companies, and to mollify barbarians who then resume their reign of terror over the completely under-represented women of hellholes like Afghanistan?

    I contend—resolutely—that I’ve VERY little in common with the likes of Bush. Indeed, I’ve much more in common with the many progressive Europeans I’ve had the privilege to know. I’ve no ethnic or religious commonality with them—only an empathetic one. Somehow I suspect that you do too.

    I contend equally that silent but graphic stereotypes presented by televised news programs dehumanize other peoples. For instance, the endlessly repeated footage of al-Quaida training camps in pre-intervention Afghanistan coupled with the maniacal grin of the (reputed) Zarkowi (sp.?) do little more than suggest that the Islamic world is nothing but hateful, violent, and conspiratorially scheduled to butcher your very own neighborhood just as soon as our troops leave Iraq. It’s not that the footage lies—it can’t, it’s only video—it’s that the REPETITION of the images creates a subliminal stereotype. This would be ameliorated if after every airing of those loops the offending networks offered interviews with secular, peaceful Muslims (many of whom speak English better than many of us) working or learning in recognizably normal environments.

    But that won’t fly—because fear sells better than reassurance, by far.

    And all that fear helps the politicians just as much as it does the news networks. Our sleazy ‘leaders’ and the corporate media they speak through all-too-easily manipulate our all-too-human propensity for categorization, generalization, and stereotyping.

    Worse (and more to the point), every benignly inclusive category—Greek, Orthodox, Latino, suburbanite—necessarily becomes inherently exclusive. Because we can’t ALL be Greek Orthodox Latinos living in suburbia! Every group identity excludes by definition the remainder of humanity.

    This turned out to be a very long route to make a small point. (Sheesh! And how! Believe it or not, I edited the hell out of it.) I only hope it was worthwhile.

    Please feel free to respond—keeping in mind that when it comes to generalizing or to most any other variety of sloppy thinking, I know already that I’m no paragon of virtue. To say the least! ;-(

    (I want that semicolon, dash, and crescent to turn into a ‘rueful smile’ when I paste this onto the O.S. reply-receptacle. Yet somehow I know already that it won’t!)

    PS: do you really think Rush has ever left the country? I can’t imagine his benighted ideology enduring after any reasonable exploration of the outside world! But then, I can’t imagine living such an empathetically retarded and irredeemably ignorant life either…

  • Potter

    Shriber: I will let you go after a couple of corrections. I was not using “fairy tale” loosely but sticking more closely to the definition, whereas I believe you were using “fairy tale” in place of Utopia. You feel that any dreams of a Utopia are dangerous because this will lead to “dystopia”. I disagree strongly and I am not going into it anymore than I have above. I feel that you paint with too broad a brush as well when you speak of Muslim societies.

    What I was saying, and what I think the show was saying is that Al-Andaluz can act like a positive model for everyone. The point made in the show was that this period needs to be rescued from being used by radicals for their purposes especially since it was a period not only of Mulsim dominance but of tolerance and a flowering of the arts, a melding of cultures. Speaking too much about Bin Laden’s dreams gives them too much attention and this is just what he wants and he wants you to fear him.

    I am assuming that you have no interest in re-assessing your impressions so there is little point in continuing the discussion especially since you want out of it.

    But I can’t leave without addressing this comment:

    “( Btw: I don’t care for Cambpell’s views at all. The man was bigot and I find his ideas about myth tendentious.)”

    My point in linking and bringing up Campbell ( as well as Bettelheim) was to rescue the meaning of fairy tales and their positive importance for adults with regard especially to this discussion of “the dream of Al-Andalus”. I could think of no better teacher than Joseph Campbell. Having read some of his work, and listened to hours and hours of his lecture series ” Transformations of Myth Through Time” and the Bill Moyers series, I feel completely comfortable with him and his views. I have heard the accusation ( which he is not here to defend) about him being anti-semitic and as far as I can tell ( with some further research as well on the internet) there is not much of anything to it. This is a misunderstanding of his points ( made in several diofferent ways) that adherents of monotheistic religions get stuck in lilteral interpretations( as opposed to the metaphoric) that prevent transcendence. It is well-known and obvious from his lectures that he preferred eastern religions, specifically Buddhism ( when pushed to say). My understanding is that this is so because he felt that Christianity and Judiasm ( I am not sure whether he included Islam) had an external God, versus the internal (path to the ) divine of eastern religions. I am no explainer of Campbell for sure, but I feel the need to respond to this accusation of antisemitism which it seems has morphed into calling him a bigot and in the process some trash his work, sadly. I say sadly because these are the very people who need to understand what his work was about: for me simply put, there are common deep desires that run through all humans.

  • Potter

    Note: I read the suggestion that Campbell did not really understand ( or know) the Jewish mystical tradition.

  • shriber

    Nikos:

    “My point, such as it was, was simply a caution against carefree categorizing. Because be it seemingly benign as in ‘inclusive’, or nastily bigoted (which you weren’t), or be they countrymen or foreigners, any categorization of people is worrisome to me, and this lengthy post will try to explain why.�

    I find little to disagree with in your post, Nikos.

    However, there is a paradox in that, since my agreement stems our sharing a common cultural identity which holds the concept of individuality to be primary.

    Hence when you say that,

    “I question the common-sense notion that just because you and I share a language, national citizenship, and however many other cultural affinities, it means that we’re bound into some sort of consistent and useful social unity. (Mentally italicize ‘useful’ please.) And so bound together that politicians can freely speak for both of us—alongside the business interests who finance their campaigns and who in truth they answer to above the likes of mere voters! If our identity as ‘Americans’ has any pragmatic value, it seems more likely of value to those who manipulate us—not to you or me.�

    Without going into the subtleties of the argument which your post brings out quite well, I will just say that I both agree and disagree.

  • shriber

    I don’t agree with your view about Campbell.

    I also don’t see the usefulness of “fairy tales” for adults, nor of Andaluz as a model for Westerners.

    Muslims will have to decide for themselves if it’s a useful model for them. I for one would not want to live under their “tolerant� regime. I value individuality too much and any religious regime that accords rights to socio-religous groups rather than individuals is not for me.

    “I am assuming that you have no interest in re-assessing your impressions so there is little point in continuing the discussion especially since you want out of it.”

    Yes, I do.

    We both stated our positions quite clearly and I don’t see little point in continuing this discussion.

    Thanks for sharing your views, though.

  • Nikos

    Shriber: ” I will just say that I both agree and disagree.”

    ‘ts all I could ask for. ‘Nuf said. (and how!)

    But I can’t help noticing that you evaded my penetrating and so very relevant question about Rush! ;-)

  • Raymond

    Not sure if I should be doing this …

    shriber, Potter and Nikos, I have been following your conversation with some interest. Not so much for the discussion of Al-Andalus, or of the pertinence of fairy tails, or of lazy generalizations and categorizations. But more for what is revealed between the lines regarding the discussion itself. How the conversation unfolds at ROS. And so I hope you will not mind if a pose a few questions along those lines.

    You see, shriber made a point, perhaps out of frustration or perhaps for some other reason, that I think is not frivolous. shriber wrote:

    “what is it about this blog that doesn’t seem to tolerate contrary opinions?”

    As someone who has followed ROS from the beginning, usually listening to the podcasts rather than the broadcast itself, and who has made a point to contribute to the blog for a while, though not recently, I think the point shriber makes has some merit.

    I have come to see the blog as structured, for some reason I cannot identify, in such a way that two types of opinions, both extreme, are expressed: unquestioned ascent or ranting disagreement. What seems to happen far less frequently is the damping of these oscillations into a reasoned, if passionate, exchange of differing ideas. Do you agree? And if so, or not, why?

    Perhaps it is only my perception, and an outlier one at that. But then there is shriber, and a few others along the way. And there is the very interesting comment of Potter that he “would not like to see the loss of shriber,” which at least hints that loss is possible, even if undesirable.

    And so I do think that the inherent structure of the ROS blog, somehow, discourages the very openness hinted at by the program’s name. And this is surprising to me given that the contributors are clearly, to me at least, thoughtful, articulate, and intelligent. And these contributors have read and written posts, often lengthy, paying for the benefit of participation in significant time and effort.

    And so I am left wondering if there is some social psychology of status seeking at work: standing in an on-line community obtained by passionate, if unthoughtful, support of the host’s premise. An adult manifestation of behavior exhibited by the teacher’s pet in our childhood classrooms. Or perhaps, given that we are all short on time, there is an intellectual laziness that occurs, a shorthand for thought, in which assumptions become unquestioned, and then unquestionable. Even simpler, perhaps a thoughtful but unextreme post is not sufficiently noteworthy to generate discussion. I am not sure what to think, so I am asking: Does the structure of the ROS blog encourage the best in discussion? Or does it bring along some undesirable baggage? What do you think?

  • shriber

    “But I can’t help noticing that you evaded my penetrating and so very relevant question about Rush!”

    Rush isn’t on my radar screen. Heard his program once many years ago. That was all I ever want to hear from him, or about him. However, Rush as a phenomenon could only happen in America. The bluster, the ignorance, the hypocrisy, the self serving comments, don’t know were else he would be listened to. Other countries no doubt have their own megalomaniacs, but they express themselves differently.

    Hope that answers your question.

  • shriber

    “And so I do think that the inherent structure of the ROS blog, somehow, discourages the very openness hinted at by the program’s name. And this is surprising to me given that the contributors are clearly, to me at least, thoughtful, articulate, and intelligent. And these contributors have read and written posts, often lengthy, paying for the benefit of participation in significant time and effort.”

    I agree!

  • Potter

    Raymond I think you make some good observations. I definitely think there is some social psychology at work, perhaps a community forming. For my part, as a longtime listener and admirer of this host I admit to being protective of the efforts made here and more forgiving of shortcomings. I am basically appreciative of the offerings and the spirit of the thing. So perhaps I defend too much. I try to be, I think, respectful, but I do admit that sometimes my button gets pushed by an extreme or negative statement and then there’s the ensuing arm wrestle, a respectful arm wrestle ( I hope) for the most part of course.

    So I ask myself do I attempt a discussion or rant or let stuff sit with no discussion?

    Would someone else volunteer as “hearth keeper and trustee of the discourse”? Is this necessary? Is this unavoidable if you are hanging around?

    This discussion of mine with Shriber ended in a cold unfriendly way unfortunately though I truly hope Shriber stays, listens and continues to post. Discussion is give and take though. And it’s my fault too. I was not giving, nor was Shriber. Hey, this happens. Nikos on the other hand managed to make a connection by being agreeable.

    Perhaps Chris did not do me a favor by mentioning my name above giving rise to thoughts of “teacher’s pet”. And perhaps I don’t do myself any good by commenting so much. I have thought this.

    By the way, Nother made an excellent comment above on podcasts but it did not generate discussion or comment other than my thanks. It was not extreme enough I guess.

    I don’t see the problems with the inherent structure of the blog though. Perhaps you can explain what you mean.

  • Nikos

    shriber: I meant the Rush nonsense only as a jest — and it’s my fault for not making that more plain. Many apologies.

  • Nikos

    Raymond, many thanks, not least for nudging the discourse back toward this thread’s original topic. Potter’s reply covers some of my considerations of your question, but not all. This is probably because there’s bound to be as many different answers to your query as there are contributors to this site.

    Your question prompted me to recall why I began my own contributions. Luckily, it’s burned into my brain forever. After spending much of the spring and summer working an (unfinished) novel that contrasts a typically patriarchal and violently sexist barbarian culture, centered around a fatuously ‘moral’ religion, with a representative of an imaginary culture of highly moral empaths with no organized religion at all, I damn near exploded on hearing Brendan’s on-air call for posts concerning the “Morality: God-Given or Evolved?� show (that’s still warming up).

    To put it crudely, it pissed me off that the show’s title question could be seriously posed.

    So, I began a timorous series of contributions. And learned to sharpen my thinking in so doing. My contributions have focused mainly on those issues I think vital: religion and its influence on our ways of thinking and on the way we justify the iniquitous organization of our culture. Specifically: religion’s coded impact on the environment, politics, and the infuriatingly devalued half of our species called ‘women’.

    I care deeply that our cultural sacred cows do so much harm in the name of good, and when I see a chance to slip an attack on these mangy cows into a public forum, I jump at it.

    Not wanting to become a pest, I try to steer of ROS topics I care about less. I’m a birder, but prefer to leave the birder blog thread to others. I’ve opinions about hip-hop, but have no desire to impale myself on that particular stick of dynamite. I care deeply about the race-and-class questions and issues, but know better than waste ROS’s electronic page with my take on it when others do it at least as well as I can, and most usually better than I can even hope to.

    So, I for one don’t think I post only to see my posts on the web (although occasionally I wonder).

    As for aping the implied positions of the show’s host, I fear that if anything my views are so anti-conventional that I’m always on the verge of receiving a scolding from Coach Brendan. Chris Lydon, who I admittedly admire, seems nonetheless awfully mainstream in comparison to loonies like me.

    Now, with all that as background, I don’t think the blog-site’s ‘structure’ precludes divergent opinions. I wonder if it has more to do with the exacting care some of us take in crafting the arguments we post. Not wanting to have to rehash and refine my thoughts, I (and presumably many others) try to anticipate my arguments’ potential shortcomings and address them in composition instead of in response. This may have the effect of dampening potential counter-arguments. (Why attempt to board a battleship [someone’s cogent argument] if you can’t see any ratlines [obvious weaknesses] hanging over the side? Or if you sense plenty of weaknesses, but sense just as equally that, weakness or not, the battleship is a rotten rust-bucket! What pirate worth his salt would want to mess with junk like that?)

    Or, in my particular case it may be much more simple: perhaps I’m predictably so far left of the mainstream that most other readers have learned to ignore anything under the heading ‘Nikos’! I dunno, but it sure seems possible.

    Finally, maybe those of us who blog the most here are nuthin’ but nuts with too much time on our hands.

    Like me. ;-)

  • Nikos

    ps to Raymond: when I read your post, I didn’t fully notice this:

    “Or perhaps, given that we are all short on time, there is an intellectual laziness that occurs, a shorthand for thought, in which assumptions become unquestioned, and then unquestionable.”

    I think I prefer this explantion to my fanciful bs about battleships and pirates. As a writer ‘in between jobs’ I’ve got lots more time to devote to this blog-site than many others probably have. So maybe the seeming ‘one-sidedness’ of the debate (which I for one still don’t fully grasp) is more an accident than a structural issue. Maybe, if there really is a tilt to the left, it’s because lefties are frustrated and therefore willing to devote more time to expressions of their frustration than those more contented with the status quo. And maybe those of the ideological right who’ve sampled the radio show and website have, on finding such passionate refutations of their sacred cows, retreated to blog-sites more friendly to them.

    Whaddya think?

  • Raymond

    Potter and Nikos … thanks! for the response.

    Well, Potter, I am not entirely sure what I mean. But I would like to pick up on the idea of community forming. I hear community and think of something shared. A geographic location. An ethnic background. A compelling idea. A promising objective. And to over simplify, I think that contributors to ROS share one or the other of these last two.

    Here is the idea …

    A community can form around a compelling idea that provides the basis for a common world view, whether religious or political. Such a community forms to affirm the convictions of the members. Diversity of thought is not considered an asset.Instead, solidarity is fostered by statements based on assumptions that are taken as axiomatic. The conversation centers around just how evidently right the world view seems, and how evidently miss-guided are those who do not share it.

    Alternatively, a community can form around a promising objective that provides an unambiguous goal toward which all actions of the members drive. This community forms to accomplish together what could not be accomplished alone. Diversity of thought and effort is essential. All comers to the community are welcome since no one knows from where the next key idea will come. The conversation is pragmatic: how do we get there from here?

    Now the name of this radio program uses the term “open source.” Wikipedia provides this helpful, though limited, definition: “The open source model allows for the concurrent use of different agendas and approaches in production, and it contrasts with more isolated models.” This, and the early content of the ROS site, led me to believe that the idea was for contributors to affect the content by providing information and thinking not in the current possession of the ROS staff, and in the process, improve the product. In short, that the ROS community had the common promising objective of making good radio.

    Instead, much of the contributed content seems, to me anyway, to be of the community of affirmation variety. To take the extremely easy way out, simply do the following in google: bush or administration site:radioopensource.org. Can you honestly claim to see diversity of thought? Or do you see that the administration has failed on every front: tyranny, spying, idiotic, destructive, wicked, reckless, arrogant unilateralism, miserable quagmire in war, lying and cover-ups. The failure of the Bush administration, in every respect, is an unquestionable assumption. And to state so joins in solidarity with the affirming community. This is just one easy and unoffensive example.

    So here is the point: if the discussion on the blog is structured toward affirming a common world view, rather than toward the objective of producing good radio, then the blog’s inherent structure works against the concept of openness.

    Well, I have said far too much. I do want to respond to Nikos, but it needs to wait.

  • Nikos

    Raymond: Without even finishing your nicely substantial reply, and even while feeling already part of an undefined ‘ROS-community’, I gotta dispute this: “Diversity of thought is not considered an asset. Instead, solidarity is fostered by statements based on assumptions that are taken as axiomatic.”

    Yikes!

    Diversity of thought–even if the offerings are roundly barbequed by the ‘community’–are CRITICAL, and should be VALUED, not scorned.

    I don’t want my off-the-spectrum sacred-cow-stabbing views to inhibit the posting of differing views. I want–quite EXACTLY–that such counter-arguments will harrass me out of the shelter of my smug know-it-all-ism into a CONVINCING articulation of my views. And if that articulation succeeds or fails isn’t nearly as important as the process of having to think it out so thoroughly that at least my point of view is comprehensible and appreciated, even if rejected.

    Maybe because I feel insulated by my near anonymity here in the ROS, blog, I feel secure in asking for assaults on my postings. I wonder how common this is.

    Sorry that I have to bail before finishing a fair reading of your post, but I had to toss this in before it slipped from my (altogether too-)slippery consciousness.

    Much more on this later, all!

  • Nikos

    Now, a half-hour later (or more) I’ve had the chance to return to the screen and finish Raymond’s laudable post. And I HOPE that the ultimate outcome of the nascent ROS-community pregnancy is a child closer to his second posited option, not the totalitarian, thought-halting first.

    Even so, I won’t feel ‘responsible’ if my prefered outcome doesn’t eventuate. Anyone who disagrees with me is WELCOME to do their best to make me bleed. Even while posting my more incendiary contributions, I don’t think I’m saying: “Don’t you dare disagree with me.” If anything, the obvious vitriol of my commentary is meant to ENCOURAGE well-articulated dispute, not cow it.

    So, again: I’m wondering whether the sorts of anti-conventional passions that I (and others) articulate are, under the scrutiny of an objectively sacred-cow-slain examination, difficult to refute.

    I guess I’m posing this as a kind of ‘challenge’ (although such a definition gives even the likes of lil’ ol’ off-the-progressive-scale me a quiver of fright).

    Raymond, I fully expect to find a thought-provoking reply sometime soon (and, for that matter, the same goes for anyone else reading this thread, not just the tediously usual suspects like me and Potter!).

    Ramen, all.

    And Happy (secular) New Year!

  • Nikos

    And Brendan: why the hell can’t we have ITALICS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Nikos

    Okay, okay: I admit it.

    When I mock ‘biblical logic’ (which I would do every damn day if I had the genius for doing it well), I’m NOT (imagine, please, italics on the word ‘not’) encouraging well-articulated counter-arguments.

    No, indeed no: I’m hoping to stifle it, like any self-respecting rational infidel.

    Because any such dispute (whether unexpectedly persuasive, or just as idiotic as expected) is EXACTLY (imagine again italics here, please) as valid as any ‘logically scientific’ claim made by my favorite new religion: Flying Spaghetti Monsterism.
    ;-)

  • Potter

    Thanks Raymond–I don’t feel we are in lock-step here. I have had my differences with Nikos for example. But we are friendly and respectful. It may be true that most of us are on the same side of a deep chasm forming within our larger society or that we all are much more mixed (and mixed up) than this too simple picture paints. I do echo Nikos completely regarding needing diversity of opinion, believing that we all make a whole, and every part is important, vital. This is a challenging thing to put into practice but immensely rewarding.

    At the same time I want to be able to say I think something just said,or posted here for instance, is not right and here is why, not just to differ indifferently. I am not one to say ” okay we differ” without a good rebuttal. I expect one in return, or hope for one. Without that exchange a complaint about feeling unwelcome after making a negative comment seems unfair to me. So if one enters a discussion, for the first time especially, with a strong statement that is contrary to the premise of a show I expect a case to be made or a discussion to ensue that has merit. It means a willingness to dig deeper and learn more all around. It also means perhaps exposing oneself, giving and taking, which not everyone wants to do.

    I want to be a citizen here. Being a citizen is not a passive thing. But I’ll take my bop over the head from Brendan when I misbehave. And I will apologize.

    I don’t roll over about every show either. The show with Gary Hart I thought was mismanaged. Still I got an awful lot out of it. For the most part that is the way I feel: grateful. And the post game analysis we often get is admirably self-critical. There is a spirit here of openness to learning and growing above all and an idea about life being an endless wondrous search. This is what makes me want to hang around.

    Appreciate also that it is a fine line, an art, leading a discussion but not getting in the way of it.

    We begin with a show being offered, often from a suggestion that comes from the blog, and the show begins with a premise with input prior in the warming up stage from anyone who wants to weigh in and then afterwards the comments are welcomed. Where else do you find this?

    When the show first began there were comments on the blog that all sat along side each other for the most part with little invisible walls all leading to the center. People were not talking to each other. I don’t know if discussion was the goal of the creators of this realm. But then, not long ago, people started talking to each other. Twice, that I can think of, we had guests from a show post here. I’d like more of that. The thing is growing into who knows what.

    But no, who would post here if it was perceived as, or had the reputation of being a closed minded insular community that jumped on you the minute you offered a contrary opinion simply because it was contrary. No no to that! And we need Raymond-sensors to inject if that seems to be happening.

    Still and again, and I defend this, especially when one introduces him or herself with a strong and negative and possibly unfair comment, one should not expect to be welcomed so easily. This is true anywhere. Walk into someone’s living room and tell them that their rug smells you will probably not be offered coffee and a seat. (Though I would and ask where? what does it smell like?)

    At the same time some sharp comments have appeared here and sat with no response or they have had some merit with no further discussion.

    I think regular listeners listen not because there are bones to pick with a host that irritates or for the leanings. If that were so, for me anyway, I’d punish myself with Rush or Al Franken and commercials. I listen for the nourishment, the intelligent informed discussion.

    In the end- if this is a community forming- and I suspect that blog communities are somewhat like real communities, there is plenty of coming and going, a certain amount of getting-to-know-you and your views and whether or what one can discuss with you if you hang around. There is a certain amount of “working out�. In the case where there is personal invective (a big no-no) and the scene changes to a disruptive barroom brawl the response has to change, and it has.

    My impression is that Chris (and by extension the staff) is really open and would like to have all points of view and discussion. From my point of view there is no question about the leanings here but at the same time never have I experienced more equanimity, or the striving for that equanimity, from a host.

    Happy New Year! I embrace you all!

  • anhhung18901

    HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY!!!

  • Potter

    (I love the host’s title for this thread “Cursing, and Lighting Candles�)

    Perhaps the structure of this blog can change in the following way: When someone makes a comment on some blogs at the bottom of that comment there is an opportunity to respond or read other responses by clicking a “comments” link, in the way we got here. That way, a specific discussion can happen, or specific comments can be directed and that becomes a branch of the main topic. Readers of the main thread do not run into this side discussion unless they want to by following that specific comments link.

    On principle, it seems to me, anyone should be able to make a comment in response to a show and not have to defend it or be drawn into a discussion or a community of like-minded posters, if that is what is happening here (I don’t know if it is),if they do not wish that to happen.

    On a lively blog that I post comments occasionally where there is no comments link but rather a monitored-free-for-all with interesting cross discussions, my basic view is a minority view but there are a variety of views and no real central division. When I post something I am apt to get clobbered with accusations and strong challenges from some and agreement from others or ignored. If you are not used to this it can be quite intimidating. But I have learned to argue my views, if I feel strongly enough, or be content to leave them lie undefended. There are those who agree and those who will never agree or change and maybe nor will I. But the process allows for a deepening of understanding, of the issues, of the other views, and of your own which may actually alter somewhat or broaden in the process.

    This space can be used to work out in that way, especially since the show itself is about searching for views and answers.

    But still there should be room, and a welcome, for others to come and say even something negative (not mean-spirited) and address their comment/s mainly to the host and the staff and not feel obliged to engage here necessarily even after responses/challenges.

    I think my suggestion improves the structure for that to happen, but it may do other things to this blog that are not desirable, like actually discourage discourse by hiding it too much.

    What do you think?

  • Brendan

    Hey guys, have been quietly reading this thread as it grows; this kind of substantial discussion is what we had planned for when we built this thing, and in the last two months we’ve seen more and more of it, particularly more back-and-forth among listeners than appeals straight to Chris or the staff. In the web 2.0 lexicon we call that “community,” I guess, but I like it.

    What I’m most curious about is Raymond’s point about something inherent in the structure of the Open Source blog; I’d like to hear what we could do differently to encourage debate. I’m the one responsible for making sure that community comments make it into the on-air discussion, so if there’s any selection bias, it’s mine.

    When my computer broke over the Christmas holiday (long story, I feel its loss keenly), I had to go and read stuff, and when I read I started a copy of the Federalist Papers I inherited from my grandfather. He was also a Brendan Greeley, a career Army officer and in retirement the librarian at the University of Arizona. The Federalist Papers are freaking me out a bit, because Alexander Hamilton was thirty when he wrote half of them, and at thirty-one now I’m running out of time to write a history-altering political document. This is too much about me, of course, and not enough about bias.

    At the close of Federalist #1, Hamilton writes

    I shall not, however, multiply professions on this head. My motives must remain in the depository of my own breast. My arguments will be open to all, and may be judged of by all. They shall at least be offered in a spirit which will not disgrace the cause of truth.

    I think we — “we” meaning we media-gluttonous bloggers and news junkies becoming media analysts — pay too much attention to the questions of bias and diversity, and not enough to the quality of argument. Richard Clarke and now James Risen were both discredited by conservative bloggers not on the merits of their arguments or the verifiability of their observations, but on motives. Both, evidently, revealed information to the media to sell upcoming books.

    I think that motive and bias are so impossible to divine that they’re almost not worth worrying about. I could give you two hours’ worth of my life history over a beer (and God knows anyone who knows me has been subjected to it) and you still wouldn’t have an accurate sense of how I make decisions. I’ve known my own mother for thirty-one years and SHE still sometimes mystifies me; how am I supposed to trust someone’s idea of Richard Clarke’s motives? I work in public broadcasting in Cambridge, right here in the belly of the liberal beast, but I cast my votes for President in the following order: George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, Ralph Nader, John Kerry. There’s not a person in this office who isn’t sick of hearing my description of myself as an angry ex-Republican. Based on that information, could you presume to know my bias, my motives? I would argue that you can’t.

    We do welcome any and all comers at Open Source, but we’re less interested in bias, and more interested in argument. All compelling arguments are welcome, but we don’t, for example, have much brief for Intelligent Design. Its arguments don’t hold up; it’s bad science and sneaky politics. Why should we waste your time creating the false impression of a diverse, honest debate? There’s certainly honest debate about God and science, and there always will be; it just doesn’t happen to be practiced by proponents of ID. Does that mean I’m biased? That my motives are suspect? What if I tell you I believe in God? My point is, it doesn’t really matter what I believe; I have yet to see an intellectually honest argument for Intelligent Design. Show me one, and I’ll not only change my mind, I’ll mail Raymond a box of homemade chocolate-chip cookies.

    (Katherine booked those shows, by the way, and what I know about ID I credit, for the most part, to her research.)

    As a freelancer I wrote two op-eds for a decidedly conservative paper, and an editor there, after a lengthy argument about something he wanted me to conclude about one of my sources, told me “You can’t be afraid to pull the trigger.” I disagreed with him on point, but have embraced the principle. You have to be deliberate, and open to debate, but at some point if you don’t pull the trigger you’re doing a disservice to the people — listeners, readers and now the community — you work for.

    So to the administration, Raymond, look back through the shows you found in your google search and you’ll find a number of passionate advocates for the war, like Kanan Makiya or George Packer. One of my favorite show guests, one I tracked down and pre-interviewed, was Marine Colonel Rex Hammes, who said that not only is the war winnable, to win it we need to stay for ten years. Of anyone I’ve heard talk about Iraq in the last three years, Col. Hammes seems to me the most frank and well-reasoned.

    But more important, look through the results of that search and tell me — this is a sincere request, not an angry challenge — whether we’ve ignored any compelling, well-reasoned arguments in support of the administration or its policies. This, for me, is the test we have to pass in order to remain legitimate, and it’s one we take seriously. Diversity for its own sake is meaningless; we’re aiming for honest argument and open inquiry. Remember that the ultimate outcome of an open-source software project is not infinite choice, but a working piece of software. The ultimate outcome of an Open Source show — and the ensuing online discussion — should not be well-apportioned diversity, but an argument that gets somewhere.

    So to the question of the structure of the blog, it is possible that we attract like-minded community members — though we’ve been working with conservative blogs like Balloon Juice and Red State to avoid it — but I don’t think it’s true that we reward or encourage Chris-addled sycophants by putting them on the air more often. But I would appreciate it, if you notice any trends in the comments I read out on-air, if you’d let us know. And certainly, in case this hasn’t been your impression, Raymond and Shriber, you both, along with anyone else who doesn’t lie, swear or indulge in personal attacks — anyone who argues in Hamilton’s “spirit which will not disgrace the cause of truth” — is more than welcome here.

    (The content of this comment reflects the opinions of a caffeinated Brendan Greeley, and not necessarily those of the Open Source staff, WGBH, UMass Lowell or Public Radio International.)

  • Nikos

    Thanks for the intellectual honesty, Coach. A bit more of that from the contributors and less ‘my opinion is unassailable’ might help broaden the blog’s spectrum of thought. (Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m guilty too! But it makes good material for a New Year’s resolution, hmmm?)

    I can’t help but feel supportive of Potter’s suggestion for a tangent/comment option. It seems essentially the same as my (possibly naive) proposal for an ‘Anything Goes O.S. Pub Digression Thread’, which presumably you had to wade through near the E.O.Wilson thread’s current end point.

    ‘nuf said.

  • Raymond

    Brendan, what a kind offer! A box of home-made chocolate chip cookies.

    Well, at least I think it is a kind offer. I really don’t know how well you bake. I wouldn’t presume to know. Just like I wouldn’t presume to know whether and why you believe or don’t in God. But you seem to have presumed a little about me, or at least my desire to support the concept of intelligent design. You will not be receiving a defense of intelligent design from me. Though I will take the cookies if you decide to send them. I am willing to bet that you can either bake well, or know someone who can.

    I do hear some defensiveness in your response, Brendan, that motivates me to offer a clarification. My comments have focused only on the __contributed__ content, not your selection of guests, or callers, or blog entries to read on air. My comments have not questioned your motivation or your world view. Instead, I have been trying to understand, with the help of Nikos and Potter, mostly, if the inherent structure of the blog, the media itself, unduly influences the nature of the conversation. I still believe it does, but I am not sure why or how, though I think we are getting closer.

    First I should emphasize that I think the concept of ROS as on open creation of radio content is a terrific idea. I wouldn’t be here otherwise. And it is clear that you, as well as Nikos and Potter, are very much behind an open discussion.

    So, to consider some of the suggestions offered by Nikos and Potter:

    Nikos wrote:

    “So, again: I’m wondering whether the sorts of anti-conventional passions that I (and others) articulate are, under the scrutiny of an objectively sacred-cow-slain examination, difficult to refute.”

    Well, yes, Nikos, difficult to refute, but not for the reason you think. I am reluctant to say why. You see, while I appreciate your willingness to be harassed out of your, as you wrote, “smug know-it-all-ism,” this is not a job I think I should have to do. Or, to put it another way, the attitude introduces noise in the conversation that can only be filtered out through effort. Wasted effort, in my opinion.

    Now here is why this revelation is interesting. If you feel you need to write with a certain attitude in order for a posting on a active blog to be noticed, then those like me who feel effort is wasted in addressing that attitude do not contribute. So, again, the structure of the blog could work against openness.

    On a related note, Potter wrote that he posts to a lively blog where his views are in the minority. He added:

    “When I post something I am apt to get clobbered with accusations and strong challenges from some and agreement from others or ignored. If you are not used to this it can be quite intimidating.”

    I offer very much the same observation: if contributors feel they must issue “accusations and strong challenges” in order to be noticed, or taken seriously, then those who are intimidated are under represented in the conversation. And since force-fullness of presentation does not equate with quality of argument, the structure of the blog could work against the concept of openness.

    So, let me respond to Brendan’s request:

    “Id like to hear what we could do differently to encourage debate.”

    Well, it seems to me the blog is where the ROS community meets in print, much as the show is where the ROS community meets on the air. And on the air, Chris is very present guiding the conversation. I think more of the same is required on the blog: to gently restrain the over-bearing and encourage the quiet. So, Brendan, I think you need to get in there and lead.

  • Potter

    Since I was quoted above by Raymond, let me give my whole thought:

    “On a lively blog that I post comments occasionally where there is no comments link but rather a monitored-free-for-all with interesting cross discussions, my basic view is a minority view but there are a variety of views and no real central division. When I post something I am apt to get clobbered with accusations and strong challenges from some and agreement from others or ignored. If you are not used to this it can be quite intimidating. But I have learned to argue my views, if I feel strongly enough, or be content to leave them lie undefended. There are those who agree and those who will never agree or change and maybe nor will I. But the process allows for a deepening of understanding, of the issues, of the other views, and of your own which may actually alter somewhat or broaden in the process.”

    My point was that you get over being ( or feeling) intimidated if you have something to say that you believe in or something you want to ask. You find your voice. And you argue to the extent that you feel it’s worth it. That could mean clarifying your own views ( to yourself and others) or possibly changing them.

    We are not, in this thread or any other, by definition, hearing from those who are discouraged from posting. I am sure there are intelligent folks “out there” who could contribute a lot but they do not. One reason is that people are busy. This show gets heard on drive time here in the east. A lot of comment probably gets lost to the ethers. When you get home the last thing you want to do is go online and make a comment. So we lose many this way. Gradually this blog and the show will get a dedicated audience and I think the show and the blog will aid each other. The main thing is the quality of the programs.

    When you have strong guests, people are compelled to find a way to make a comment. So the blog must be open, welcoming and have a variety of opinion that sometimes breaks out into interesting discussion.

    If I want Brendan to enter at all it would be to gently say ” hey guys— this is way off topic and rather personal” or some such thing. And I am not even sure that is a good thing– it’s rather gestapo- ish. Perhaps this backroom where folks can repair to have a smoke is a good idea. Other blogs have “open threads” (which I avoid).

  • Potter

    I should clarify– I welcome Brendan the ( caffinated) person’s thoughtful additions as opposed to being a cop on the beat twirling his club ( unless needed).

  • Nikos

    Say Brendan, Potter’s recent lengthy comment brought to my awareness that other blogs have open threads, presumably similar to my ‘O.S.Pub’ proposal. I didn’t know this because this is the only blog-space I frequent (and it probably shows).

    It has occured to me that an open ‘tangent thread’ could easily devolve into a mud-slinging, obscenity-laden free-for-all, and if this is so, I regret my naive suggestion.

    (Although I stand by my admittedly silly plea for pretty lil’ italics!)
    :-)

  • http://www.circles-salon.com allison

    Nother says: From Beckett I’ve learned that it’s all that in-between time that is the real suffering. Waiting in line for the bank, waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting on hold on the phone,

    To that I respond: Unless you knit… Then all the in-between times are transformed into the most rapturous and meaningful.

  • http://www.circles-salon.com allison

    shriber says:” When feelings contradict reality it’s dangerous to give in to them. Children have trouble discriminating between inner feelings and outward sensations but most normal adults are able to do so.”

    I suggest that there is a difference between having “fairy tales” as metaphors of our fears and ideals and having feelings that contradict reality. How do you aspire to move past the shortcomings of reality without the lessons and visions of fairy tales. Even my 6 year old daughter has no trouble fully engaging fairy tales and then reminding me that they are “just pretend, mom!” She has a full capacity for discernment, as do the majority of adults. If not fairy tales, then how do we inspirationally pur forth the ideals we want humans to aspire to?

  • http://www.circles-salon.com allison

    Shriber says: “What makes the US democratic experiment work is that it is values realism over idealism!”

    I’m not sure our experiment is working. Right now we have a president who used misleading arguments to launch a pre-emptive war. His administration believes that as President he is above the law. The legitimacy of at least one of our major elections is in question. We are a brute force around the world. Our consumerism is destroying cultures and our worhsip of the almighty dollar means that we refuse to work when we can get someone else to do it at slave wages.

    I think our experiment needs a little re-working. Plus, our experiement is based on an ideal: the ideal of democracy. You can’t get away from ideals. Or in your statement it is the ideal of ‘realism over idealism.”

    Realism will always be with us. Without idealism, though, how do we assess and improve? Ideals define the measures of improvement.

  • http://www.circles-salon.com allison

    Having been out of touch for a couple of weeks, I’m making my way through this blog thread. I hope my responses aren’t redundant. I do love this dialogue.

    On the purpose of the blog, there is this question of community building through reaffirmation vs. the idea of debate. I like Nikos comment:

    “I don’t want my off-the-spectrum sacred-cow-stabbing views to inhibit the posting of differing views. I want–quite EXACTLY–that such counter-arguments will harrass me out of the shelter of my smug know-it-all-ism into a CONVINCING articulation of my views. And if that articulation succeeds or fails isn’t nearly as important as the process of having to think it out so thoroughly that at least my point of view is comprehensible and appreciated, even if rejected.”

    I have this conversation with people often. The point to debate in my mind, is to force me to think more. To improve my articulation. In that push to think more carefully, it is possible I will see something differently. But more likely, not I have found. Therefore, I am not trying to convince someone to change their views. If that happens, I’m not even sure its always a bonus. (Unless you’re trying to take action on something and need a majority vote!) I agree that a well-thought rebuttal is vital to my my own thinking process. I can’t hone my skills if everybody agrees with me, I can’t refine my thoughts if no one challenges them. So, I enjoy a hearty back and forth, as long as its respectful.

    When I used to play tennis, it was understood that every player was looking for an equal or superior opponent. It was boring to play someone you could tromp. The best idea of competition is to be challenged to the point that you perform beyond your expectations. Its exhilirating to realize you’ve done better that you thought you could. Winning is secondary to that. Winning only means that you still have to find a better opponent. Losing means you still have someone to work with.

    I do hope that someone I heartily disagree with, doesn’t feel they can’t post here. Its not like we’re eating all our meals together in a life full of agida.

  • http://www.circles-salon.com allison

    Okay, so as I think about this idea that diversity if all-important, I wonder if we see if a limit to it. I mean, counter-points are important when sorting something out, but there will be topics that I presume would not garner much disagreement.

    Would we want to encourage someone to defend the concept of murder as acceptable?

    This might be an extreme example. What I’m getting at, is something more like the reality of a self-selecting group. Anyone who chooses to participate here values something which is the glue that binds us. That something permeates us and our dialogue. Having just read through the rest of the comments, I agree with Brendan. Its not about diversity for the sake of diversity. Its about the quality of exchange leading to something.

    Do any of us know what the something is?

    Happy New Year everyone. I look forward to our first full year together.

  • Nikos

    allison asks: “Do any of us know what the ‘something’ is?�

    My tentative reply: ‘Enlightenment’.

    Enlightenment motivated the creation of contemporary representative democracy, and the greater gift of Western Humanism.

    And yet now both of those great boons are in noticeable decline—at least here in our fossilized 18th Century republic, and, perhaps worse, in the lands of peoples we target as ‘reprobates’.

    Enlightenment, it seems to many of us including, it seems, allison, is in need of a mighty resurgence.

    Those of us who listen, read, and then have the temerity to contribute our often fuzzy thoughts here can dare to be an aide, however small, to that effort.

    I suspect that’s the prime reason we return here again and again. Of course it’s thrilling to see our words on a page in the worldwide virtual community, but it’s even better to partake of the wisdom of others, and to contribute our own, however small.

    So thanks, everyone, for suffering through impulsive posts from the smart-assed likes of me.

    More importantly: keep writing!

  • http://www.circles-salon.com allison

    Enlightenment.?! That’s a dauntingly inspiring goal.

    Do others concur?

    I suppose that is a common thread to all of my endeavors. And it is true that I seem to defy the narrow definitions of religious groups. (I find that generally once something is institutionalized it loses its purity and goes into rapid decline.) Therefore, I seek a community where I can express and explore my higher ideals. I wasn’t clear that I was seeking this here.

    I feel pretty strongly that enlightenment can’t happen in a vaccuum. Or perhaps that it can’t be actualized in a vaccuum. This forum affords me a playground for articulation. And I do get to practice being open to differing perspectives. But without live contact, its all rather abstract. Its a lot to stay composed in writing. I think about things on my own time. I reply when I have the time or inclination. I can explore my own reactions, and even discuss them with friends, before responding. Its also a lot easier to rant at a screen name. Would these discussions take the same shape in person? We have to live our lives in person. The themes we discuss here are fine to explore in the ether, but if we really want to see things improve we have to take real live action. Enlightenment, to my understanding isn’t something you achieve in your head, its a living, breathing, actualized being that drives every choice and every action one makes. Certainly, this forum can feed into our individual seekings, but enlightenment cannot be achieved here.

    And I’m unsure of this word community, as well. What kind of community are we? We could all be at the same private showing of La Boheme and not even know it. Other than Chris and Brendan, i don’t know what any of you look like. Brendan is the only one I’ve met in person. We aren’t required to use our real names. We don’t post our photos. Even if we did, we have no way of verifying the authenticity of them. We are a group that is communicating. Are we a community? How do we define community and enlightenment?

    I don’t ask these questions to devalue this exchange. It is probably self-evident that I enjoy this forum and appreciate this outlet. As someone who has the aspirations of a healer, I long to work at the meta-level of healing. As the mother of a young child who feels her first obligation is to attend to her child’s nurturing, I have opted to work at the intimate level by hosting a small community at my yarn store. This forum is a wonderful outlet for me.

    I ask these questions of definition, simply to define. Its an organic part of the community-building process. And since there have been references to a community here and now this postulation that this community might be seeking enlightenment, perhaps we want to explore the current definition of what we are and are aiming for. (Knowing that these things can evolve.) Knowing the what’s and the why’s can help us clarify the how’s. They can also help new people understand the ‘rules of the game’ and have reasonable expectations.

    We might find that if we are a self-selected group of enlightenment seekers, for instance, there will be common perspectives at certain levels that will not abide a certain type of diversity. We can’t just hold up the abstract ideal of diversity as a flag we bear when there may really be limits to the diversity we accept. A simple example would be that we don’t accept the voices of those who do not from our perspective seem to be reactionary and ignorant. We become the self-appointed arbiters. We need to be aware of that. How do we open ourselves to the value of those voices that seem unacceptable to us without feeling that we are ‘selling our enlightened souls” to the devil of ignorance in the name of openness?

    Well, these are my thoughts for the day. Has this thread gotten way off track? Is it still even an active thread?

  • Raymond

    Well, I for one am still following along the arguments. And I suspect others are two, quietly.

    As I understand it, the ROS blog is part of a Public Radio International program produced by the people at Open Source Media, Inc.

    The producers may intend for the ROS blog to create a community, for example, that is a “self-selected group of enlightenment seekers” with “common perspectives at certain levels” that “will not abide a certain type of diversity.”

    Or the producers may intend something quite different.

    Brendan, speaking for himself according to his disclaimer, gives us a great deal of insight in the intentions of the producers. In his post he uses the word “argument” (or “argue”) thirteen times, and the word “community” only four. A three to one ratio, for what it is worth. Here are some excerpts that seem especially relevant on re-reading his post:

    “All compelling arguments are welcome, …”

    “… we’re aiming for honest argument and open inquiry.”

    “… anyone else who doesn’t lie, swear or indulge in personal attacks — anyone who argues in Hamilton’s “spirit which will not disgrace the cause of truthâ€? — is more than welcome here.”

    “The ultimate outcome of an Open Source show — and the ensuing online discussion — should not be well-apportioned diversity, but an argument that gets somewhere.”

    And don’t these intentions concord with the consensus view of this discussion? That contributors are motivated to participate in the discussion in order to “improve our articulation” and “think more carefully?” That contributors are seeking open inquiry to sharpen arguments?

    If so, then this intention, this idea, needs to be communicated. And one way to do so is with (I can already here the laughter) tag-lines. I actually like tag-lines. And you need a few. I mean, “A public radio show with Christopher Lydon” is, well, lame. Here are my suggestions:

    Open Source

    … All compelling arguments welcome

    Open Source

    … Open inquiry, honest argument

    Open Source

    … An argument that gets somewhere

    Anyone have any others?

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