Lavin Weekly #45: Rushkoff, Quart, & Ali
1. Douglas Rushkoff Talks Re-tribalization, the Internet, and Trump-Brexit Mentalities
The “new nationalism” of Trump and Brexit is a byproduct of our digital media environment, Douglas Rushkoff argues. And in a new article for Fast Company, and subsequent interview with Salon, Rushkoff makes his compelling case: the Internet, hailed as a destroyer of boundaries, is actually creating and enabling insular pockets of like-minded people. “In a self-reinforcing feedback loop, each choice we make is noticed and acted upon by the algorithms personalizing our news feeds, further isolating each one of us in our own ideological filter bubble,” he says. “The Internet helps us take sides.” Moreover, it hearkens back to an idealized past that never really existed—“Make America great again” or a “return to good-old England.”
The Internet’s inherent siloing stands in contrast to the global worldview advanced in the TV era. And to Rushkoff, perhaps we’re so baffled by burgeoning nationalism because we’re seeing the Internet age through television eyes. For his fascinating full take, head over to Fast Company and Salon.
2. Goodbye White Picket Fence: Alissa Quart for The Guardian
In The Guardian, innovation speaker Alissa Quart introduces us to the “Middle Precariat,” a new category of ostensibly middle-class people whose jobs and livelihoods are at risk in unstable, modern America. Lawyers living in their parents’ basements, teachers cleaning houses after the final bell, journalists losing out to cheap automation—all members of this precarious new slice of the American workforce. Middle-class life is 30 percent more expensive than it was 20 years ago, yet many of these workers have seen their wages frozen for a decade. And the Middle Precariat will only grow, says the McKinsey Global Institute, “as highly skilled workers are put on the chopping block and the ‘automation of knowledge work’ expands.” Quart’s fixes? “Universal subsidized daycare. Changing the tax code so it actually helps the middle class. Real collective bargaining rights for Middle Precariat workers.” For a keynote speaker with a firm grasp of culture and innovation, book Alissa Quart for your next event.
3. Enter Wajahat Ali’s “Ramadan State of Mind”
Wajahat Ali is an award-winning playwright, lawyer, and TV host, but he’s also one of the most level-headed, informed writers on the Muslim American experience today. Writing for The Washington Post, Ali muses on the transition from Ramadan’s month of fasting into the celebratory holiday Eid al-Fitr. Drained and saddened by the latest spate of ISIS attacks, he asks difficult questions of his religion:
Where did Muslims go wrong? Where are our leaders? Who failed us? Did I waste my best years, time and talent investing in a community that is trudging through a toxic swamp of ugliness and desperation? How can we possibly fix decades, centuries, of corruption, incompetence and dysfunction within one lifetime? What can I possibly do as one man with moderate intelligence and limited talents to ensure my children don’t inherit a legacy of permanent victimhood and where they don’t emerge as the antagonists of a global narrative that pits “Islam” vs. “the West”?
Ultimately, however, Ramadan renewed and re-energized Ali’s faith. “I hope to retain that Ramadan State of Mind on Eid, and beyond,” he says. “I need to remember and appreciate joy, prayer, family, laughter and the beauty and endearing idiosyncrasies of my messy, evolving American communities. Peoples who lift each other up to see a clear horizon above a blood-drenched sky and give one another hope to see a bright, soothing light that guides us all to a better future.” And in a climate of uncertainty, of division, and of blame, we’d all do well to heed his advice.