T2B32: Cliden 5
Slow Thoughts Fast Speed
|Rajesh Kasturirangan||Dec 11, 2020|
We obsess about speed, but like the proverbial hare and the tortoise, rapid systemic change will be easier to achieve if we - paradoxically - slow down. That’s because slow thought is cumulative, building wisdom layer by layer even if each coat feels imperceptibly different from the previous one.
The 24/7 news cycle is the embodiment of speed, consuming our attention with controversy and hype. A contested presidential transition spawns media at its most feverish, a fever that alienates us from the immediate present, the most directly accessible time of all.
That’s where philosophy as a technology of vigilance becomes important as a way of reconnecting us to immediate present.
Successfully or otherwise, I am trying to be vigilant in real time: slow thoughts fast speed, if that makes any sense. A momentous transition should offer possibilities to create a ‘philosophy of the present’ shouldn’t it?
Organizing the Climate
Coming from anywhere else in the world, it seems like Americans know how to build organizations, and build them well. There are fast moving startups in other parts of the world as well as large government bureaucracies and multinationals, but only the US (of the large countries - places like Singapore don’t count) seems to have figured out how to run all three well.
Standard caveats about creaking infrastructure etc apply, but these are problems that Americans know how to solve and solve well.
To the extent China and other countries have learned, they have done so by copying the American model, and not just other countries - even international organizations such as the UN, NATO and the WTO are infused with the American style of institution building. The US is not the only state that’s built large institutions; the Soviet Union also pioneered its own version of the organizational state, but that wasn’t nimble enough. The Chinese seem to be doing better, by borrowing market driven organizations and at least until Jinping’s crackdown, allowing low level social organization as well.
Which is why the US contribution to the climate crisis has been so destructive - by turning it into a partisan political issue, the US has not been able to bring its organizational genius to addressing climate change, for that takes consistent long term support.
While liberalism has many avatars, I attribute US dominance to its unique version of organizational liberalism, in which large problems are solved by creating organizations to solve them - from the human genome project to the moon landing to NATO and the cold war - and by giving people in these organizations the freedom and flexibility to do what’s needed. There were some major failures too: the best and brightest approach to the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq wars bombed (pun intended) at the box office.
In peace and in war, Americans build organizations. Can the climate crisis be solved organizationally?
That’s the premise of the GND - the Green New Deal. It’s premised on the belief that a familiar strategy can be repurposed, that new organizations for producing and distributing energy, for training the next generation of workers etc are all we need to address the climate crisis. The most extreme version of this idea is offered by groups like the Climate Mobilization, which say that the US should conduct a WWII mobilization of all of its resources to address climate change.
Progressives and liberals might fight over the extent of the mobilization, the funds made available for expanding a new energy economy and the relative importance of organizational principles (progressives) versus organizational mechanics (liberals) but they don’t disagree on the architecture of the solution, which is: lets throw organizations at the problem.
Conversely, the limits of the American or American style response to the climate crisis are the limits of organizations per se. Can ecology be organized and if yes, are the organizations adequate to the purpose anything like the organizations we have today? That’s the task of the purvapaksa. I am not sure if I will get that far. The much smaller question:
What does the organizational solution underlying the GND look like?
is itself worthy of many updates. It will have a domestic component (for which a point person hasn’t been identified) and an international and national security component led by John Kerry.
Ron Klain, John Kerry etc are super-competent professionals. Organizational competence may not be enough to solve the climate crisis, but it will go as far as the current paradigm allows.