Inkwell: Authors and Artists
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Thu 21 Oct 04 11:03
Now joining us in the Inkwell is Farai Chideya. Farai Chideya is a multi-media journalist who has worked in print, television, and online. She hosts Your Call Radio (http://www.yourcallradio.org) on San Francisco's KALW 91.7 FM, and runs PopandPolitics.com, a journal of news and opinion for young Americans (founded in 1995). In 2003, Pop and Politics placed number seven in PoliticsOnline.com's worldwide survey of 25 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics. Chideya has been a correspondent for ABC News, anchored the prime time program "Pure Oxygen" on the Oxygen women's channel, and contributed commentaries to CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and BET. In 1997 Newsweek named her to its "Century Club" of 100 people to watch. She's published three books: Don't Believe the Hype: Fighting Cultural Misinformation About African Americans, The Color of Our Future (William Morrow, 1999), and Trust: Reaching the 100 Million Missing Voters (Soft Skull, 2004). Trust, which recently went into its second printing, illustrates why half of Americans are cut out of the political system--and what we can do about it. Leading the conversation is Lisa Goldman, who lives in New York, where she works on projects at the intersection of music, international development, and the Internet. This year, she worked with Quincy Jones to raise money for children in conflict zones around the world. Since 2000, Lisa worked with Youssou NâDour, the celebrated African musician, and has participated as a delegate to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on the basis of their projects in Senegal. During the bubble, Lisa was President and CEO of Construct, an engineering and design firm in SF that was sold to a special effects firm in NY in 1999. Before that, she co-founded and served as Director of The Interactive Media Festival, an international competition, gallery and exhibition in Los Angeles. Lisa graduated with honors in Fine Arts from Rice University, and also studied at the Universite de Paris IV, Sorbonne. She serves as a director of ZeroOne, an Art-Technology Foundation, The Russian-American of the Esalen Institute in Big Sur; and Youssou NâDourâs Youth Network for Development Foundation in Dakar. She is not very political but likes Faraiâs book a lot. Welcome, you two; the floor is yours!
gone daddy gone (lisago) Thu 21 Oct 04 12:17
So Farai: I will be flying from London to NYC in the next several hours and mostly offline. In the meantime, I want to kick things off by saying that I (a self-identified political independent raised in Texas and San Francisco) couldn't stop reading your book. I have never seen political commentary presented in such readable and compelling prose. In your introduction to "Trust" -- your new book which is already in its 2nd printing -- you make mention of the fact that many of us are brought to politics over our inherent distaste for politics by the extreme conditions of this election. Why do you think so many people are alienated from politics in America today? Why are 1/2 of voters so "turned off by the trappings of government" that we can't bear to particpate? <and now, i'll be offline until 3pm EST Oct 22nd -- but look forward to the ensuring discussion>
Farai N. Chideya (zimby) Fri 22 Oct 04 16:43
Thanks Lisa! I appreciate the compliment.... one of the things I've tried to do in the book is not use a string of political jargon to describe what's going on in America and what kind of political system we live in. I guess that's where I'd start--on this tour I've traveled from Alaska to Florida, and very few Americans actually understand how our democracy works; why it's faltering; and the fact that there are other options open to us. America doesn't have a lock on "democracy." Democracy is a concept; government is reality. We have one expression of democratic government; Ireland has another; Germany has another; and South Africa, and so on and so on. But we have some of the worst voter turnout among democracies. And it's not just because Americans are stupid; it's because Americans are pissed off. The non-voters I talked to are pissed off that: --there's so little choice of truly different candidates --some communities get pandered to (geographically, like swing states; or demographically, like the Florida Cuban-American community, which is of course in a swing state...). others get bupkis (sp?). the Electoral College is one reason, but hardly the only one... --the system is opaque (i.e., hard to track corruption and influence peddling) --our voting system can be hacked--either old-school style, stealing ballots and voter intimidation; or literally, in the case of the new e-voting machines What I try to do in the book is unpack these many different problems; find out how we got here; and find out where to go. FYI, the intro to the book is here: http://www.trustthebook.com/preface.html And a section whether black voters will be Green (Party) voters... a case study of third-party politics in evolution... is here: http://www.alternet.org/election04/19825/ And I am here: (my touring schedule) which takes me to NC, GA, MD, MO and finally back to SF.... http://www.trustthebook.com/ (click events and appearances)
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Fri 22 Oct 04 18:17
Farai, I found the chapter on whether black voters will be Green voters to be particularly interesting. The meeting you describe in Oakland seemed to emphasize the Green's anti-corporate and anti-powers-that-be positioning, but didn't seem to fly the environmentalist flag. Was there much of a discussion of environmental issues at that meeting? Is the environment at all on the radar of people who feel disenfranchised by the current system?
Martha Soukup (soukup) Fri 22 Oct 04 22:10
This has reminded me to buy the book, which I keep forgetting to do. So that's good.
Farai N. Chideya (zimby) Sat 23 Oct 04 14:08
Thanks Martha.... <cascio>, the Greens are still green, but fighting issues like envirnonmental racism, which might benefit from being called urban industrial dumping--and its solutions. groups like PacificEnvironment.org are working on the dumping of US toxics from techology production in China. And groups in Richmond, East Palo Alto, and other cities have local coalitions working on toxics dumping in poor neighborhoods. So, yes, the environment is there, but it's not "save the spotted owl." It's "save my neighborhood, my family, our children."
gary (ggg) Sun 24 Oct 04 07:00
you've hit a nerve, <zimby>! I've always said that the inordinate numbers of nonvoters could just be apathy ... or volatility. The issue is long overdue for some serious discourse. Judging from your pre face, you approach it from the most political angle possible, the personal; "polis" meaning place, where you stand. Am off to City Lights to check out Trust. Meanwhile, I hear that in Wyoming, voter registration ain't over: you can just show up with a library card and you're in.
Gail Williams (gail) Sun 24 Oct 04 09:30
Just a quick aside -- Nice interview up today in the Chronicle: <http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/10/24/C MGDV8VRT31.DTL>
Farai N. Chideya (zimby) Sun 24 Oct 04 19:43
Thanks.... I just had a great reading tonight along w/ author Miles Marshall Lewis in Atlanta. His book is "Scars of the Soul"... a history of hip hop from the perspective of someone who grew up in the S. Bronx, saw the birth of hip hop, then became a music writer. Oddly enough, he ran into a guy from his old neighborhood randomly on MARTA (the subway). Anyway... tonight the reading was more like a study group... lots of great politically active people in dialogue. One woman just turned 50 and this is the first time in 20 years she's going to vote. That alone was worth the trip.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 24 Oct 04 20:25
#6: In Idaho you can show up on voting day with a photo ID and with some sort of mail that shows both your name and address -- bank statement, power bill, etc. -- and vote.
It matters who your daddy is. (debbie) Mon 25 Oct 04 09:35
I'm about halfway through the book, and enjoying it. I'm one of those people who has parents that have always voted and I have always voted. I was stunned to find out one of my best friends isn't planning on voting. I do feel like the democrats are not very inspiring - I sure saw a lot more young energy around Dean. I think one huge problem is that the primary system is so broken, that we don't get the candidate that most people want.
It matters who your daddy is. (debbie) Mon 25 Oct 04 10:45
Big article in the NYT today above the fold front page about Gore and Kerry in Florida searching for Black votes. Speaking in churches mostly.
Farai N. Chideya (zimby) Tue 26 Oct 04 04:00
I have to get a hold of that one, tho probably only online. Thanks for reading, Debbie. I had a great time giving a talk in my hometown of Baltimore. I made a half-joking suggestion: half of African-Americans should register as republicans then, in the primaries, vote for the least radical-right Republican candidate then, vote for the best of the candidates--dollars to donuts the Democrat, but you never know--in the general election I think that cross-party registration, in our far-right climate, could actually have a profound effect.... anyway, it'll make a good article if not a good political play. also the issue of moved polling places is heating up... some people will be lost on election day.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Tue 26 Oct 04 05:15
That's actually why open primaries aren't allowed, because people from the opposing parties were using them to game the system in that way.
Lisa Goldman (lisago) Tue 26 Oct 04 07:25
Farai, you talk in the book about Hip Hop Generation Activism. What kind of impact are you seeing from things like the Vote or Die campaign and the new Eminem video? Will there be a surge in voting from all this?
Farai N. Chideya (zimby) Tue 26 Oct 04 07:54
Yeah, true, Sharon, but considering all the ways to game the system, maybe it's time to fight fire w/ fire. I think that's a big difference between left and right... people on the left often do what's right; people on the right often do what they gotta do to win. Lisa, just had an AMAZING conversation today w/ kids at my old high school, Western, which is having its 160th anniversary as an all-girls' public school. I read a passage on hip hop activism--Russell's Hip Hop Summit Action Network; P Diddy's Citizen Change, with its Vote or Die campaign--and asked if they thought it was working. Some of them thought it was all a publicity play, but that it was working despite any underlying self-serving intentions. One girl made a comment about how the "die" was too melodramatic to take seriously; another responded that "die" was literal... if, for example, Bush defunded healthcare, people would die; and yet a third said "die" could be metaphoricall... the death of civil liberties and rights. Very cool stuff.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Tue 26 Oct 04 09:03
Sharon, you say "That's actually why open primaries aren't allowed, because people from the opposing parties were using them to game the system in that way," but is that true? I doubt the ability of voters to coordinate and game the system effectively. I know that the parties here in California sued to overturn the open primary initiative, but don't some other states still have open primaries? I've also at times thought it would be worth having progressives join the Republicans to get them back in touch with their Lincoln / TR / Lindsay soul.
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Tue 26 Oct 04 10:19
While the "gaming the system" threat from open primaries in California was probably more smoke than fire (that is, I don't recall any primary outcomes that differed significantly from pre-primary polling of party members), I do know that "messing with the other guy" was a common suggestion here in primary elections where one party had a shoo-in candidate (typically an incumbent). Christian, I found the book pretty interesting, a nice recap of what I had seen and encountered over the past decade+ of being online. I do wonder, though, whether the enthusiasm around online citizenship tools reflects a real desire for action or a desire for novelty. Reading and commenting in blogs, for example, is new and different for most people. It's also very easy, something that can readily be done in between meetings in the office. I suppose what I'm wondering can best be summed up as whether blogging (etc.) means change or just *talking* about change.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Tue 26 Oct 04 10:43
shall i answer that over in my own interview? i'd like to know Farai's take on it too.
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Tue 26 Oct 04 11:48
whoops, yes. sorry. But I'd be interested in Farai's view, too, of course.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Tue 26 Oct 04 12:50
I don't believe that any states have open primaries. I believe they were all declared unconstitutional, and that some states (Washington springs to mind) are looking for other options.
Alan L. Chamberlain (axon) Tue 26 Oct 04 15:45
I was one of the missing voters for most of what it pleases me to call my adult life; 30+ years and counting. I only recently decided to begin participating in the franchise, and so far I'm still fairly skeptical about the whole enterprise. I cautiously registered mostly to vote in local, county, and some state races. I can't say that it's been particularly rewarding to do so, but I'm planning on voting November 2, and have spent a great deal of time with the voter guide, figuring out my choices, and filling out the sample ballot to speed the process on election day. But many of my reasons for not voting all these years remain valid. They fall into three categories. I have no idea if the other 99,999,999 non-voters raise these objections, but I'll list them for example, anyway. First, the assumption that the people at large have the expertise, knowledge, and command of the issues necessary to make good decisions about policy seems altogether misguided. That is why, after all, we have a representative government, with actual policy made by politicians and administered by career civil servants. One of my reasons for deciding to register is so I can vote against every single initiative proposed on general principle (with the exception of initiatives mounted to overturn previous initiatives, like the 3-strikes thing on the California ballot). But to extend that, I'm not persuaded that the typical citizen knows enough about the issues or the candidates to make an informed choice. Secondly, the process whereby candidates garner votes is cynical in the extreme. Both sides use scare tactics, promises of sugartit programs, and pander to the unelightened short-term self-interest of the voters, It seems to me that the decision of whom to vote for should not be driven by what is best for *me*, but what is best for the nation (or state, etc.). It used to be a feature of civic responsibility that we could all be counted on to sacrifice if necessary for the public good. That seems an artifact of another time, now. Thirdly, and this is perhaps a bit complicated, but the old adage "power corrupts" bears consideration. I think some people are indeed called to public service for good and selfless reasons. I also think that by the time anyone gets to the point in the process that they can be considered a promising candidate for major office, they've already crossed so many ethical boundaries and made so many expedient compromises that whatever convictions may have attracted them to office are now effectively situationally negotiable. Part of why I didn't want to vote was that I didn't want to contribute to the corruption of an otherwise sound character. But I'm over it. Pragmatically, I vote in local elections because they *are* often decided by a handful of votes, and knowing my neighbors as I do, any counterpoise I can contribute to the provincial momentum of local politics can only be for the best. I vote against initiatives every chance I can get, because I think ballot-box policy is *always* lamentably misguided. I won't bother casting a vote in the presidential election because the thought of consenting to either candidate turns my stomach, and besides Kerry has California wrapped up anyway. Sorry for the long post, but I thought perhaps the rationale from one such chronic abstainer might be useful. Carry on.
It matters who your daddy is. (debbie) Tue 26 Oct 04 15:50
If Kerry didn't have CA wrapped up would you vote for him? Anyway, I think it is good that you are voting.
Alan L. Chamberlain (axon) Tue 26 Oct 04 16:13
>If Kerry didn't have CA wrapped up would you vote for him? Not even at gunpoint. My only point was that it is irrelevant whether I vote in the presidential race since CA is decided. Even if it were evenly split, though, I can only vote for people whose judgment is sound and whose character I have confidence in, and no on on the ballot qualifies, alas. I did vote for Edwards in the primary (I'm registered as Decline To State, so I can vote in either -- but not both -- party primary) even though Kerry had the nomination sewn up, because I think he's still fairly uncorrupted, and despite disagreeing with him on a variety of issues, his rationale for them seems sound. As it is, it's going to be difficult to vote for four candidates for the four city council seats open... >I think it is good that you are voting Thanks. I wish I did.
It matters who your daddy is. (debbie) Tue 26 Oct 04 16:46
I'm sure you've heard all the arguments for voting, but I just feel if you don't vote you give more say to the people who are voting, my vote counts for more, in a way. It isn't like boycotting something that people want you to buy.
Farai N. Chideya (zimby) Tue 26 Oct 04 21:03
Dammit! Just lost a long post due to sketchy hotel broadband. Anyway, Debbie, are you saying that one shouldn't vote per <axon>'s #1: "First, the assumption that the people at large have the expertise, knowledge, and command of the issues necessary to make good decisions about policy seems altogether misguided. That is why, after all, we have a representative government, with actual policy made by politicians and administered by career civil servants. One of my reasons for deciding to register is so I can vote against every single initiative proposed on general principle (with the exception of initiatives mounted to overturn previous initiatives, like the 3-strikes thing on the California ballot). But to extend that, I'm not persuaded that the typical citizen knows enough about the issues or the candidates to make an informed choice." Or that one should, if one feels folks are making poor decisions? A lot of young voters have been timid about voting b/c of lack of knowledge or confidence. I push more knowledge, not less engagement. But <axon>, your point re: the decisionmaking ability of the populace is v. true in some ways, but also v. tied to how sucky political reporting is... how obscure and onanistic Meanwhile, I <heart> Huckabees is a good dose of perspective, in a very tweaked package, for this election.
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