Friday, March 14, 2008


One of the things I created this blog for was to discuss some of the "ALoud" talks given at the Los Angeles (City) Public Library sponsored by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. Today, Thursday 13 March 2008 I was at a talk by Robin Wright, who'd recently completed the book 'Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East'. A podcast of here talk should be up soon, I'll probably post an addendum when it is.

One of her goals in writing the book was to try and find the "Lech Walensas, Nelson Mandelas" of the Middle East. She gave some interesting stories about people committed to fighting the injustices of the area, getting out of prison only to return to the same kind of protests they did time for, but perhaps the most interesting aspects of the story was something she hit on early in the talk. This was referred to by one of the audience questioners as "Nerdistan". In most Western Societies, most people take it for granted that governments are generally benign, but this has largely been the exception in overall human history. (You might want to check out Basicly, people in the Middle East are using high technology to bypass government controlled media and organize public outrage against injustice and corruption. Wright discussed one example of people video recording government thugs trying to intimidate voters, blogging it, and eventually the videos making it's way to Youtube. In another case people organized protests texting messages by cell phone. As we've learned with things like the Rodney King video, the act of recording governments in action and showing it to the public can sometimes have explosive effects, for good or bad.

Sun Tzu, in the "Art of War"'s last chapter talks about the importance of information in armed struggle. Perhaps the most titanic historical event of my lifetime, the Cold War, while definitly having some real deaths by physical struggle, was largely fought at an abstract level with the Venona Decrypts, spy planes, satillites, submarines, signals intelligence, defectors, etc. We're beginning to see the implications of information getting into the hands, and control of the common man, the pen beating the sword into submission.

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