Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Boston”

A Chinese Spring?

I am intrigued by Chinaand have blogged about it many times. So I was excited to read an article by in the New York Times on a topic that has crossed my mind. How is the Arab Spring going to impact the world’s largest non democracy?

One of the most lucid social commentators today.

 

Now I am not a China-hater, far from it. There are many things we can learn from them. But my biggest bone of contention lies in the basic right of freedom. As a teenager I came of age politically with the anti-Apartheid movement and the campaign to free Jews from the Soviet Union.

With this in mind, I do wonder whether China, a country with extensive Internet resources can remain unaffected by the Arab Spring. warns that China cannot ignore the lessons of what factors serve as incubators to 21st Century revolutions or how these rebellions are being played out.

“Let’s start with the new. Sometime around the year 2000, the world achieved a very high level of connectivity, virtually flattening the global economic playing field. This web of connectivity was built on the diffusion of personal computers, fiber-optic cable, the Internet and Web servers. What this platform did was to make Boston and Beijing or Detroit and Damascus next-door neighbors. It brought some two billion people into a global conversation.”

The world is connected

The rise of  smarter cellphones, wireless bandwidth and social networks has brought a further two billion people into the conversation and these populations are often living in remote areas.

All this means is that the days when traditional forms of mass communication such as state-run TV and radio could ensure the people hear only the official party lines are over. “The Syrians can’t shut off their cellphone networks now any more than they can shut off their electricity grids.”

illustrates this by  pointing out that although Syria has banned all foreign TV networks, you only need go to YouTube and  search for “Dara’a” in order to see clear up-to-the minute video of the Syrian regime’s crackdown. These videos are all filmed using cellphones or flip-cams by Syrian protesters who upload them to YouTube.

Internet Police cannot be everywhere in this mobile world

  second lesson from the Arab Spring is “a manifestation of “Carlson’s Law,” posited by Curtis Carlson, the C.E.O. of SRI International, in Silicon Valley, which states that: “In a world where so many people now have access to education and cheap tools of innovation, innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart. Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb.” As a result, says Carlson, the sweet spot for innovation today is “moving down,” closer to the people, not up, because all the people together are smarter than anyone alone and all the people now have the tools to invent and collaborate.

The regime of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was just too dumb and slow to manage the unrest. The Tahrir revolutionaries were smart but chaotic, and without leadership. Therefore, the role of leaders today — of companies and countries — is to inspire, empower, enable and then edit and meld all that innovation coming from the bottom up. But that requires more freedom for the bottom.”

While reading this, I began to get frustrated that was focusing too much on technology which essentially is a means rather than an end. But he then moves on to quote the Russian historian Leon Aron who drew comparisons between the Arab uprisings and the democratic revolution in Russia twenty years ago. “They were both not so much about freedom or food as about “dignity.” They each grew out of a deep desire by people to run their own lives and to be treated as “citizens” — with both obligations and rights that the state cannot just give and take by whim.”

Aron added that “The spark that lights the fuse is always the quest for dignity. Today’s technology just makes the fire much more difficult to put out.”

In fact the slogan of the Tunisian uprising was “Dignity before bread.”

China has one of  the fastest growing economies and a standard of living that is probably greatly appreciated by Chinese citizens. But there is more to life than just economic factors. If a Chinese Spring is to be avoided, the first step forward is to acknowledge that maybe the Chinese people crave the values that have seen an amazing chain of events in the Arab world.

The first mistake would be to think that you can prevent them from hearing what is happening globally. The days when the Great Wall of China was its first line of defense does not have a place in the 21st Century. Not that it always takes technology…

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Concord Hymn Revisited: Story Telling for Social Change

…here once the embattled farmers stood, and fired the shot heard round the world…

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “Concord Hymn” in 1836 for a dedication in Concord, Massachusetts to honor the men who gave their lives at the Battle of Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775), the first battle of the American Revolution.

Travel left 3,000 miles to a spot just outside the glamour of San Francisco Bay. Here sits Concord CA, a small working class city at the weathered heels of Mt Diablo and flanked to the north by the bay’s brackish waters that glow in the dull flames of oil refining. At its southern flank rests the plastic town of Walnut Creek packed with brand-o-phile stores doing their part to fuel the debtor-nation.

Photo by Ted Hamiter  http://www.flickr.com/photos/trhamiter/2890931015/

Step forward to the year 2065, an author is honoring a movement and the date of December 21, 2012 with a poem. Much like the village of Concord MA on the outskirts of Boston, the non-descript city of Concord CA, would eventually become known as the marker of Economic Revolution.

The year 2011 was rough on the middleclass and the future didn’t look bright. In early 2012 the economy was still stagnant, China and India were consuming more energy and US gas prices hovered around $6 per gallon. Thirty years after Reagan devastated energy policies the country still had no cohesive plan. Because 2012 was an election year, Republicans were continuing the transfer of wealth to the upper-class and Big Business. The outlook for the common man was bleak.

A small group of frustrated citizens gathered and outlined a socially-just plan that would improve the living standards for all Concordians; the plan was published on the Mayan Time of Transition, December 21, 2012. The plan had a one-two punch with the first hitting immediately and the second coming about ten years later. For the initial phase, the group endorsed the Transition Town movement that focused on local economies and sustainability.

Within ten short years the city was completely transformed:

1)      There was an excess in local organic vegetable and protein food production.

2)      Unemployment was at a negative 15%.

3)      90% of suburban polluting lawns were converted to edible gardens.

4)      Water consumption dropped by 70%.

5)      Rooftops were retrofitted for algae production and then harvested for liquid energy conversion. The city became a green oil producer.

6)      There were no food deserts in any part of the city, fresh food was available within a five minute walk, children and adults enjoyed real food and obesity was below 15%.

7)      The environment was being regenerated and the city was carbon negative.

But the citizens weren’t satisfied. They knew their Garden of Eden was in danger. Sustainability and a happy healthy society are the enemy of Big Business and financial institutions that need an ever-expanding debtor economy to survive. The evil empires and their crony politicians would be coming.

By now the Transition Movement was sweeping the nation. It was time to release the final punch; the knockout punch that would put Big Business on the canvas where it belongs, supporting citizens and not controlling them. On January 1, 2023 most Concord citizens stopped paying loan obligations for homes and cars. They used social media to encourage the nation to do the same. Banks, Wall Street and insurance were crippled—the robber barons were forced to act responsible for the first time since the early1980s. The redistribution of wealth–back to the middleclass–had begun.

…here once the embattled farmers stood, and fired the shot heard round the world…

-Roger Ingalls

—————————————–

Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

The Yelp Conspiracy

Yesterday, I posted a positive message about Yelp. While searching for images I came across the following image:

I couldn’t resist a little digging and here is the story. My source is a Boston Food Blog. I do not know the blogger, one William McAdoo.He is a self-confessed foodie, whose mission is to help people have inspiring gastronomical experiences. He found himself quoted in the Boston Globe saying:

“Some restaurateurs and staff who do not have a favorable view of these sites spoke to me under condition of anonymity. “There’s sometimes a faceless nastiness on the sites,’’ says one. “People will sometimes attack chefs personally in a way that’s baseless and cruel.’’ A well-known restaurateur who refused to put a Google sticker on his door says, “They collect personal information and sell it. Why should I help? They can manufacture popularity with these sites, but it can go the other way.’’

This quote stimulated an underground movement of alternative review sites such as Chowhound and eGullet which are national forums. For all my readers in Boston (are there any?), or people planning to visit that fair city, there are North Shore Dish, Eat Boutique, and the well-named: Fork It Over, Boston.

But what fascinates me is whether in the fiercely competitive world of gourmet restaurants, are owners sending people to post negative reviews? The mind boggles with possibilities. How about training rats to cook exquisite meals. Oh wait, that has already happened.

The question remains, however: in this on-line world where we are all increasingly checking reviews before buying a product or service, who is watching the watchers? And who gives reviews on them!

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).


Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: