Friday, January 10, 2020

#10 / Democracy And Dark Times

Ten days into 2020, New Year's Day is more and more disappearing into the "rearview." Nonetheless, I am still having those "what's ahead for this New Year?" type thoughts. Thoughts like the ones I am talking about tend to be associated with the first days of almost any new year. Thinking about this year, specifically, I am asking myself whether we are going to find that 2020 is a year in which our democracy falters or fails. Dark thoughts do come to mind. Our newspapers are bringing us rumors of war, and I think we must also admit that we are receiving frequent intimations that autocracy may be heading our way.

Beside reading the newspapers, and getting worried, I have been cleaning out old files and accumulated papers. I came across my notes from the "Crises of Democracy" conference held by the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College in October 2017. That conference was held in reaction, let's admit it, to the results of our 2016 presidential election. As we look forward to another presidential election, in 2020, it strikes me that refreshing our recollection about what thoughtful people were saying about politics in 2017 might be worthwhile. 

Thus, let me provide you with a link to the entire conference proceedings, which are available on a webcast. Other materials are available online, too. I was in attendance at this conference, and if you click the link for the webcast, you will first hear from the President of Bard College, Leon Bottstein. Bottstein is a rather unusual person, and I have always been delighted by his observations, whenever I have attended one of the Hannah Arendt Center conferences. 

In 2017, as he reflected on how technology has impacted our lives, my notes indicate that Bottstein said the following: 

Teaching is like sex. Technology improves it only at the margins. 

Since I am a teacher, currently teaching a course called, "Privacy, Technology, And Freedom," as I did in 2017, too, I naturally liked that comment. I liked all of the proceedings, actually, available through the webcast link above. 

I commend them to you!

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