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David Brin on Evangelizing Progress
It's not often that I get to combine my love of politics and my love of science fiction, but I'm excited about the presentation I listened to last night by sci-fi author David Brin. David's been writing a lot of essays about the conflict between romanticism and progress, including some scathing critiques of the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings stories, and this talk builds on those ideas. He talks about the 2004 election (held a few days prior to the talk), notes the urban/rural divide, and had some very good comments about how the Democratic campaigns focused on guilt and negatives, instead of pushing the progress that American society has seen under democratic rule. He also mentions debate framing, noting that both the left and the right are worried about concentrations of power; the left just fears power in corporate hands, while the right fears power from academics and bureaucrats.

More notes and commentary on his talk are posted here by Evelyn Rodriguez.

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The academe-bashing is interesting. They're not afraid of academic concentrated power, per se. Clearly. Like Buckley fifty years ago, who in _God and Man at Yale_ was at least honest about his aim (an orthodoxy of capitalism and Christianity), they want an orthodoxy in academia. The difference between now and then is that they package this as an _overthrow_ of a non-existent orthodoxy.

I was reading selections from _Wild Orchids and Trotsky_ today. It was written in 1993, and it is a compliation of essays, the title one coming from Richard Rorty. It was a rare item: a space where consistently maligned (often by name) liberal arts academics actually got to give their side. How old these issues are (a century, or more) and how deeply American the regularly _maligned_ perspecitves, is telling. "Relitivism," for instance, is a popular slur, more often than I thought, for modern adherents of American pragmaticism.

As someone else said, the populism that the right speaks through in many red states (which Thomas Frank has covered) draw from a tradition that has a deep history of being anti-urban and anti-intellectual. It's the other side. Obviously, today's populists purge any of the history of challenging financial orthodoxy. But some of the worst is nurtured by the more vitriolic right.

I find it telling to track usages of the term "political correctness" with calls for "civility." _They_ seek to impose _political correctness_, whereas _we_ make appeals to _civility_.

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