A number of commentators have noted the unusual gathering of liberal/green folks and conservative/libertarian folks that constitute the Occupy Wall Street movement. While admitting the movement has a long way to go to actually represent “the 99%” (e.g., http://huff.to/tO5BNk), its transpartisan membership is part of its appealing legitimacy as a “We the People” movement.Along these lines, this morning I stumbled on a TIME article (below) from 20 months ago – “The Dropout Economy” by conservative columnist Reihan Salam. In light of OWS, and coming from a prominent conservative, it appears intriguingly prophetic in its appreciative description of emerging youth-led community-based alternative economics and culture. The trend it describes helps explain and validate not only OWS but (1) the rapid emergence of widely varied local- and web-based economic innovations (which I am currently researching); (2) the community-resilience proposals that flourished during the Y2K community-preparedness movement of 1998-1999 which are lately resurgent in peak oil and climate change preparedness movements such as Transition Towns, and (3) the growing interest in green economics by community leaders and organizers in general. The fact that the localization movement spans a broad political spectrum – at least from our perhaps increasingly obsolete Left/Right perspective – seems to me a very important data point.
It sets my mind to wondering about the potential of the OWS movement: As Occupy sites begin to put down roots and develop their own micro-economies and micro-infrastructure, might they become seeds of a new way of life emerging from within the corrupted old institutions and practices that, in their more conspicuous political mode, they are protesting? And might the transpartisan nature of that development further erode the divide-and-conquer Left/Right polarization that so many of us still enthusiastically participate in?Salam’s column was part of a March 2010 TIME issue on “10 Ideas for the Next 10 Years: A thinker’s guide to the most important trends of the new decade.” So I was intrigued by another trend-based prediction in the same issue – one that features the anti-elite message of the Occupy movement more than a year before the OWS showed up – “The Twilight of the Elites” by liberal Washington editor for THE NATION, Christopher Hayes. Hayes writes, “In the past decade, nearly every pillar institution in American society – whether it’s General Motors, Congress, Wall Street, Major League Baseball, the Catholic Church or the mainstream media – has revealed itself to be corrupt, incompetent or both. And at the root of these failures are the people who run these institutions… In exchange for their power, status and remuneration, they are supposed to make sure everything operates smoothly. But after a cascade of scandals and catastrophes, that implicit social contract lies in ruins, replaced by mass skepticism, contempt and disillusionment. In the wake of the implosion of nearly all sources of American authority, this new decade will have to be about reforming our institutions to reconstitute a more reliable and democratic form of authority.”
Hayes ends his article with this: “If there are heartening countertrends to the past decade of élite failure, they’re the tremendous outpouring of grass-roots activism across the political spectrum and the remarkable surge in institutional innovation, much of it facilitated by the Internet. In less than a decade, Wikipedia has completely overturned the internal logic of the Enlightenment-era encyclopedia by radically democratizing the process of its creation. Farmers’ markets have blossomed as a means of challenging and subverting the industrial food-distribution cartel. Charter schools have grown for the same reason; local school systems are no longer viewed as transparent and democratic. This, one hopes, is just the beginning. All these new institutions are inspired by a desire to democratize old, big oligarchic hierarchies and devolve power downward and outward. That’s our best hope in the decade to come.”It is intriguing to contemplate the intersection of these two trends – and of certain conservative and liberal perspectives – in light of what is happening in and around Occupy Wall Street / Occupy Everything / Occupy Together. The spirit of our times is sending us a strong invitation to come together, and the Occupy movement may offer one significant way to do that. Blessings on the Journey. Coheartedly,
Tom =============== http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1971133_1971110_19…
Short URL: http://ti.me/tgckTb The Dropout Economy
By REIHAN SALAMThursday, Mar. 11, 2010 Middle-class kids are taught from an early age that they should work hard and finish school. Yet 3 out of 10 students dropped out of high school as recently as 2006, and less than a third of young people have finished college. Many economists attribute the sluggish wage growth in the U.S. to educational stagnation, which is one reason politicians of every stripe call for doubling or tripling the number of college graduates. But what if the millions of so-called dropouts are onto something? As conventional high schools and colleges prepare the next generation for jobs that won’t exist, we’re on the cusp of a dropout revolution, one that will spark an era of experimentation in new ways to learn and new ways to live. It’s important to keep in mind that behavior that seems irrational from a middle-class perspective is perfectly rational in the face of straitened circumstances. People who feel obsolete in today’s information economy will be joined by millions more in the emerging post-information economy, in which routine professional work and even some high-end services will be more cheaply performed overseas or by machines. This doesn’t mean that work will vanish. It does mean, however, that it will take a new and unfamiliar form. Look at the projections of fiscal doom emanating from the federal government, and consider the possibility that things could prove both worse and better. Worse because the jobless recovery we all expect could be severe enough to starve the New Deal social programs on which we base our life plans. Better because the millennial generation could prove to be more resilient and creative than its predecessors, abandoning old, familiar and broken institutions in favor of new, strange and flourishing ones. Imagine a future in which millions of families live off the grid, powering their homes and vehicles with dirt-cheap portable fuel cells. As industrial agriculture sputters under the strain of the spiraling costs of water, gasoline and fertilizer, networks of farmers using sophisticated techniques that combine cutting-edge green technologies with ancient Mayan know-how build an alternative food-distribution system. Faced with the burden of financing the decades-long retirement of aging boomers, many of the young embrace a new underground economy, a largely untaxed archipelago of communes, co-ops, and kibbutzim that passively resist the power of the granny state while building their own little utopias. Rather than warehouse their children in factory schools invented to instill obedience in the future mill workers of America, bourgeois rebels will educate their kids in virtual schools tailored to different learning styles. Whereas only 1.5 million children were homeschooled in 2007, we can expect the number to explode in future years as distance education blows past the traditional variety in cost and quality. The cultural battle lines of our time, with red America pitted against blue, will be scrambled as Buddhist vegan militia members and evangelical anarchist squatters trade tips on how to build self-sufficient vertical farms from scr
-heap materials. To avoid the tax man, dozens if not hundreds of strongly encrypted digital currencies and barter schemes will crop up, leaving an underresourced IRS to play whack-a-mole with savvy libertarian “hacktivists.” Work and life will be remixed, as old-style jobs, with long commutes and long hours spent staring at blinking computer screens, vanish thanks to ever increasing productivity levels. New jobs that we can scarcely imagine will take their place, only they’ll tend to be home-based, thus restoring life to bedroom suburbs that today are ghost towns from 9 to 5. Private homes will increasingly give way to cohousing communities, in which singles and nuclear families will build makeshift kinship networks in shared kitchens and common areas and on neighborhood-watch duty. Gated communities will grow larger and more elaborate, effectively seceding from their municipalities and pursuing their own visions of the good life. Whether this future sounds like a nightmare or a dream come true, it’s coming. This transformation will be not so much political as antipolitical. The decision to turn away from broken and brittle institutions, like conventional schools and conventional jobs, will represent a turn toward what military theorist John Robb calls “resilient communities,” which aspire to self-sufficiency and independence. The left will return to its roots as the champion of mutual aid, cooperative living and what you might call “broadband socialism,” in which local governments take on the task of building high-tech infrastructure owned by the entire community. Assuming today’s libertarian revival endures, it’s easy to imagine the right defending the prerogatives of state and local governments and also of private citizens — including the weird ones. This new individualism on the left and the right will begin in the spirit of cynicism and distrust that we see now, the sense that we as a society are incapable of solving pressing problems. It will evolve into a new confidence that citizens working in common can change their lives and in doing so can change the world around them. We see this individualism in the rise of “freeganism” and in the small but growing handful of “cage-free families” who’ve abandoned their suburban idylls for life on the open road. We also see it in the rising number of high school seniors who take a gap year before college. While the higher-education industry continues to agitate for college for all, many young adults are stubbornly resistant, perhaps because they recognize that for a lot of them, college is an overpriced status marker and little else. In the wake of the downturn, household formation has slowed down. More than one-third of workers under 35 live with their parents. The hope is that these young people will eventually leave the house when the economy perks up, and doubtless many will. Others, however, will choose to root themselves in their neighborhoods and use social media to create relationships that sustain them as they craft alternatives to the rat race. Somewhere in the suburbs there is an unemployed 23-year-old who is plotting a cultural insurrection, one that will resonate with existing demographic, cultural and economic trends so powerfully that it will knock American society off its axis. Salam is a policy adviser at the nonpartisan think tank e21, a blogger for the National Review and a columnist for Forbes.com