Thursday, January 11, 2018

CULTUREPLACES SALON: A SYNOPSIS





DRAFT
Rather than try to tackle complex national and international issues and institutions that affect the entire U.S. , we concentrate on place based trends and academic research that more directly affect our everyday experiences in our own neighborhoods, workplaces, and other closer connections.

Though they will overlap with certain national and global phenomena, we seek to grapple with ideas that stem from and have immediate implications for our personal ties.  We deal with those grassroots issues where we--rather than activists, advocates or interest groups, think tankers, or politicians--have some control and where we can make a difference if armed with the kind of insights that emerge from our discussions.

We start from the premise that changing the body politic is becoming increasingly difficult for citizens of the 21st century in the way that the power structure was able to do at the start of the 20th century, when American Progressivism was imbued with a strong reformist optimism.  “I propose that we lead” declared Edward Adams in the paper delivered at the organizational dinner of the Commonwealth Club of California in 1907. That determination has long since been replaced by anger or apathy, cynicism or irony. Were it not otherwise, the Commonwealth Club would still be engaged in “public service” i.e. attempting through their long standing “Study Sections” to help shape California laws and regulations. Now only specialists attached to policy institutes and politicians’ offices can comprehend such complicated issues, not to mention the power of money.

This more decentralized, small scale approach puts aside debates over broad public policy matters such as “the media”, health care, diplomacy, climate change, and immigration policies that require a level of expertise that defeats all but most determined policy wonk.  Or they happen in our everyday interactions but devolve into heated declarations.

That said, however, certain patterns of behavior associated with racial, gender, and employment relations, for instance, which have a universal dimension, affecting human activity well beyond our individual situations, obviously have strong influence over our own daily lives. Insofar as these human tendencies can be directed or “debugged”, in Steven Pinker’s word, by individuals and smaller groups, they deserve to be examined as they are manifested in particular contexts which we call CulturePlaces.