Needed: Informed Thinkers

Does Journalism Have a Future?

In an era of social media and fake news, journalists who have survived the print plunge have new foes to face.

The New Yorker

Between 1970 and 2016, the year the American Society of News Editors quit counting, five hundred or so dailies went out of business; the rest cut news coverage, or shrank the paper’s size, or stopped producing a print edition, or did all of that, and it still wasn’t enough.

Between January, 2017, and April, 2018, a third of the nation’s largest newspapers, including the Denver Post and the San Jose Mercury News, reported layoffs.

Media companies that want to get bigger tend to swallow up other media companies, suppressing competition and taking on debt, which makes publishers cowards. In 1986, the publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle bought the Worcester Telegram and the Evening Gazette, and, three years later, right about when Time and Warner became Time Warner, the Telegram and the Gazette became

“We are, for the first time in modern history, facing the prospect of how societies would exist without reliable news,” Alan Rusbridger, for twenty years the editor-in-chief of the Guardian, writes in “Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now.

The big book that inspired Jill Abramson to become a journalist was David Halberstam’sThe Powers That Be,” from 1979, a history of the rise of the modern, corporate-based media in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Halberstam, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his reporting from Vietnam for the New York Times, took up his story more or less where Villard left off. He began with F.D.R. and CBS radio; added the Los Angeles Times, Time Inc., and CBS television; and reached his story’s climax with the Washington Post and the New York Times and the publication of the Pentagon Papers, in 1971.

In 1969, Nixon’s Vice-President, Spiro Agnew, delivered a speech drafted by the Nixon aide Pat Buchanan accusing the press of liberal bias. It’s “good politics for us to kick the press around,” Nixon is said to have told his staff. The press, Agnew said, represents “a concentration of power over American public opinion unknown in history,” consisting of men who “read the same newspapers” and “talk constantly to one another.”

The present crisis, which is nothing less than a derangement of American life, has caused many people in journalism to make decisions they regret, or might yet. In the age of Facebook, Chartbeat, and DT, legacy news organizations, hardly less than startups, have violated or changed their editorial standards in ways that have contributed to political chaos and epistemological mayhem. Do editors sit in a room on Monday morning, twirl the globe, and decide what stories are most important? Or do they watch DT’s Twitter feed and let him decide? It often feels like the latter. Sometimes what doesn’t kill you doesn’t make you stronger; it makes everyone sick. The more adversarial the press, the more loyal DT’s followers, the more broken American public life. The more desperately the press chases readers, the more our press resembles our politics.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/01/28/does-journalism-have-a-future?utm_medium=social&utm_brand=tny&utm_source=twitter&utm_social-type=owned&mbid=social_twitter


This book by Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols (2011) is an important read as pretext to Lapore’s piece.

“Journalism cannot lose 30 percent of its reporting and editing capacity and continue to provide the information needed to maintain a realistic democratic discourse,  open government and outlines of civil society at the federal, state and local levels.”

The United States is not experiencing a brief recession for journalism as the silliest commentator continue to suggest; newsrooms will not be repopulated, let along restored to their previous vigor, with an economic recovery. Instead it is an existential crisis, one decades in the making and as we argue heron, it goes directly to the issue of whether this nation can remain a democratic state with liberties and freedoms many take for granted.

The crisis is right here, right now and unless there is forceful policy intervention, an unacceptable circumstance will grow dramatically worse.

In our view the evidence is overwhelming: If Americans are serious about reversing course and dramatically explained and improving journalism, the only way this can happen is with massive public subsidies.

The market is not getting it done, and there is no reason to think it is going to get it done. It will require a huge expansion of the nonprofit news media sector as well. It is imperative to discontinue the practice of regarding journalism as a “business” and evaluating it with business criteria. Instead, embracing the public good nature of journalism is necessary. That is the argument we make in this book.

If the U.S. government subsidized journalism today at the same level of GDP that it did in the 1840’s, the government would have to spend in the neighborhood of $30-35 billion annually. Subsidies are as American as maple pie; indeed, our democratic culture was built on them.

We met with a group of exceptional journalism students wo had read the book and wanted to talk about our proposals. They especially liked our proposal for a ‘Journalism for America’ initiative that would provide young people with stipends to cover underserved communities in the United States. By the end of the dinner they had framed out a plan for linking the ‘Journalism for America’ initiative to the Peace Corps so that young journalists could cover an immigrant community in the United States for a year and then travel wit the Peace Corps to foreign lands with connections to the American communities.

We came away with confidence that, when this great debate opens up, as it has begun to do, American journalism and American democracy will flourish.”

Ed Madison and Ben DeJarnette (2018) write,

“Fundamentally, journalists and teachers have similar roles within a society. They exist to educate us so we can collectively move our communities forward. Yet crises within K-12 education haunt our society’s future prospects: if we’re not raising generations of young people who are thoughtful and informed participants in our democratic process, then the future of journalism–and democracy–is very dark indeed.

The objective is not to spawn future journalists; the intent is to support students win becoming what we refer to as informed thinkers. Educators often speak about cultivating critical thinking, yet the term remains as elusive concept that does not fully encompass the levels of student engagement that young people need to navigate effectively in this increasingly complex and nuanced world.

Informed thinking articulates a clearer method and result than does critical thinking. Students learn to distinguish fact from fiction and to detect biases and agendas.

Our need to improve education is not optional; it is an obligation we must embrace.”


Wonderful book for reference and U.S. history, by Jill Lapore.


Journalist Marguerite Martyn of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch made this sketch of herself interviewing a Methodist minister in 1908 for his views on marriage.

 

“If I can help somebody.”

If I can help somebody, as I travel along
If I can help somebody, with a word or song
If I can help somebody, from doing wrong
No, my living shall not be in vain
No, my living shall not be in vain
No, my living shall not be in vain
If I can help somebody, as I’m singing the song
You know, my living shall not be in vain
-Mahalia Jackson Sings the Best-Loved hymns of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8VwTYm8mz0&list=RDk8VwTYm8mz0&start_radio=1&t=18
“God always sends us a comforter, and every time the Nego gets despaired he can think about a great Negro in his time that was unafraid–that was a great leader. God always sends us a comforter–we can follow in his footsteps, like we follow in Jesus’ footsteps. You understand? We can just look back and say our hearts are not afraid. Look what Dr. King did for us. Look at the Southern Christian leadership and many people who have helped the Souther Christian leadership. Look how the Lord touched their hearts. You know, God can pull the spear of hate out of people’s hearts if He wants to. But God had let Martin do just what he wanted him to do.”
-Mahalia Jackson, 1968
[Mahalia Jackson performing on the march in Washington, August 28,  1963.]
“I been baked and I been scorned/ I’m gonna tell my Lord/ When I get home/ Just how long you’ve been treating me wrong,” she sang as a preface to Dr. King’s “I’ve got a dream” speech before 200,000 people in Washington DC at the Lincoln Memorial.

AXIOS

As the elite descend on Davos, Switzerland, for this week’s World Economic Forum, two stark stats:

  • Wealth held by the world’s billionaires has grown from $3.4 trillion in 2009, right after the meltdown, to $8.9 trillion in 2017. (UBS and PwC Billionaires Insights via Bloomberg) 
  • The 3.8 billion people who make up the world’s poorest half saw their wealth decline by 11% last year. (Oxfam, which works to alleviate poverty, via AP)

A new display of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s papers in Atlanta “provides insight into the slain civil rights leader’s thought processes as he drafted some of his most well-known speeches and notable sermons,” AP’s Kate Brumbach writes:

  • “The Meaning of Hope: The Best of the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection,” opened this weekend at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, in the Voice to the Voiceless gallery.
  • “There are drafts of his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance and ‘Beyond Vietnam’ speeches and of his eulogy for four girls who died when Ku Klux Klan members bombed a church in Birmingham, Alabama.”

“In drafts and outlines of speeches and sermons, both typed and written out longhand, words and entire lines are crossed out and rewritten.”

  • “Even an already published copy of ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ is marked with further handwritten edits.”
  • “Also included in the exhibition are King’s school transcripts — including one from Crozer Theological Seminary where he got a C in public speaking.”

Remembered as a great orator and a champion for human rights, Martin Luther King, Jr. also was a deep thinker on economics.

Between the lines: King’s philosophy has often been painted as a socialist because he advocated for the redistribution of wealth, referenced Karl Marx and even called for a “guaranteed annual income.” But King repudiated socialism and communism, noting in his 1967 speech “Where Do We Go From Here” that when it came to communism, “I have to reject that.”

“What I’m saying to you this morning is communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social. And the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis.”

King’s economic philosophy would find him with few ideological allies in today’s political climate. He argued forcefully there was “something wrong with capitalism” — a sentiment gaining popularity among today’s Democrats.

“It is a well known fact that no social [institution] can survive when it has outlived its [usefulness],” King wrote in notes at Crozer Theological Seminary. “This, capitalism has done. It has failed to meet the needs of the masses.”

But he also warned against traditional government welfare programs, saying that there was an inherent value to work and that a job could not be replaced with government handouts or jobs for jobs sake — a popular talking point among today’s Republicans.

  • “It is the work of men who somehow find a form of work that brings a security for its own sake and a state of society where want is abolished,” he said in “Where Do We Go From Here?”
  • “Work of this sort could be enormously increased, and we are likely to find that the problem of housing, education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.”

[King’s last protest March for workers’ rights in Memphis, Tennessee before he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.]

 In the months before his assassination, Martin Luther King became increasingly concerned with the problem of economic inequality in America. He organized a Poor People’s Campaign to focus on the issue, including an interracial poor people’s march on Washington, and in March 1968 traveled to Memphis in support of poorly treated African-American sanitation workers. On March 28, a workers’ protest march led by King ended in violence and the death of an African-American teenager. King left the city but vowed to return in early April to lead another demonstration.

The big picture: King was for sweeping government reforms. But he also lauded the successes of the market economy, while warning of its “dislocations,” and against the belief that a rising tide would lift all ships.

  • “There are 40 million poor people here, and one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there 40 million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth.”

https://atlantadailyworld.com/2013/08/28/it-was-like-a-civil-rights-woodstock-an-oral-history-of-the-march-on-washington/

The March on Washington in 1963 was part of a total strategy in the movement to bring about social change. It was not simply another march or demonstration. It grew out of the Birmingham movement. It came about because of things that were already in motion.

One key component in the strategy for nonviolence is that in order to win or succeed in making major change, or in order for a revolution to succeed, there are certain components that are necessary. One is that no revolution has ever been successful without winning the sympathy, if not the active support, of the majority. The March on Washington was the part of the strategy to demonstrate that the majority of people in America were ready for change.

Will CEO’s save society?

[Full page ad placed in the Washington Post over the weekend.]

~

The Delta Airlines Foundation provides a grant to open Atlanta’s Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park for the MLK holiday since the government shutdown.

“Without the assistance provided by The Delta Air Lines Foundation, it would have remained closed during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.”

The reopening comes as the civil rights leader’s family and fans celebrate what would have been King’s 90th birthday. And because of the grant, those celebrations and remembrances can now include visits to the home where King was born and his longtime church.

The 35-acre park, which draws more than 670,000 visitors to Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn neighborhood each year, reopened Saturday. With an $83,500 grant from Delta and money from National Park Service recreation fees, it now has enough funds to operate until Feb. 3.

The contributions are coming from businesses, groups and states. New York is paying to operate the Statue of Liberty National Monument, for instance, and Utah’s tourism office is paying to keep visitor services running at the Arches, Bryce Canyon, and Zion national parks. And in Yellowstone National Park, snowy roads are being groomed thanks to money from Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

https://www.npr.org/2019/01/21/687103456/martin-luther-king-jr-national-park-reopens-for-holiday-thanks-to-a-private-gran

~

Patagonia’s Action Works

For almost 40 years, Patagonia has supported grassroots activists working to find solutions to the environmental crisis. But in this time of unprecedented threats, it’s often hard to know the best way to get involved. That’s why we’re connecting individuals with our grantees, to take action on the most pressing issues facing the world today. We built Patagonia Action Works to connect committed individuals to organizations working on environmental issues in the same community. It’s now possible for anyone to discover and connect with environmental action groups and get involved with the work they do.

Learn more at: patagonia.com/actionworks

~

AXIOS

There’s more pressure on CEOs than ever to address complicated issues facing society, and those that don’t embrace the opportunity could find themselves dealing with frustrated employees and customers.

  • A loss of trust in traditional leaders, like government officials and journalists, is pushing people to develop more trusted relationships at work and with their employers, according to Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer survey.

  • Why it matters: This crucial shift in the employee-employer relationship creates new opportunities for CEOs and corporate executives to rebuild societal trust. But it also puts an enormous responsibility on them to address complicated issues, from civic inequality to gun control.

Over three fourths (76%) of the respondents from the latest edition of Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer survey say CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it, up 11 points from last year.

  • A majority think CEOs can create positive change in issues like equal pay, prejudice and discrimination, training for the jobs of tomorrow and the environment.

  • Nearly three fourths (71%) of employees agree that it’s critically important for their CEO to respond to challenges, like industry issues (how automation will change jobs), political events (how elections will impact companies), and national crises.

Specific tactics can help CEOs rebuild trust, the study says:

  • Leading change at the local level by solving problems in the communities in which they operate.

  • Enlisting employees to have a voice regarding certain issues and empowering them to use it.

  • Showing commitment to issues inside and outside the organization through philanthropy or workplace trainings.


The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that trust has changed profoundly in the past year—people have shifted their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers. Globally, 75 percent of people trust “my employer” to do what is right, significantly more than NGOs (57 percent), business (56 percent) and media (47 percent).

Despite the divergence in trust between the informed public and mass population the world is united on one front—all share an urgent desire for change. Only one in five feels that the system is working for them, with nearly half of the mass population believing that the system is failing them.

In conjunction with pessimism and worry, there is a growing move toward engagement and action. In 2019, engagement with the news surged by 22 points; 40 percent not only consume news once a week or more, but they also routinely amplify it. But people are encountering roadblocks in their quest for facts, with 73 percent worried about fake news being used as a weapon.

https://www.edelman.com/trust-barometer?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_axiosam&stream=top

Public service and community growth.

As term ends, a commissioner considers legacy,

Larry Schoen looks back at a career in public life

by Mark Dee
Idaho Mountain Express

“I think elected office is immensely challenging. And I felt that, on a personal level, I needed that sort of challenge. I needed to try to live up to my ideals of public service.” Larry Schoen, former Blaine County commissioner

Schoen, who is 63, has had time to consider how a self-described private man transitioned to so public a life in Blaine County. And, he’s had time to consider his motto, which he attached to that career like a goal more than a decade ago: “To leave office with my integrity intact.”

He sat through plans for rampant growth, and saw them hollowed by the global belt-tightening of the Great Recession. He presided during natural disasters, fires and floods that wolfed up swaths of the Wood River Valley in quick and angry bites. He worked on wolves themselves, and other environmental fights that pitted interest against interest. There was Bowe Bergdahl, and the frenzy that swept through Hailey afterward. There were debates with Idaho Power, and Deer Creek and Camp Rainbow Gold—and thousands of other rulings, small to most everyone but the world to those involved, the discrete decisions that make up a career in politics that, at times, surprised Schoen himself.

“I’m a very private person,” he said. “You won’t find a Facebook page for me. You won’t find a lot of personal information out there. I hate having my picture taken, and I’m not very good at remembering people’s names. I’m not the sort of person you’d think of as primed for political life. But I think government service is important. I think elected office is immensely challenging. And I felt that, on a personal level, I needed that sort of challenge. I needed to try to live up to my ideals of public service. ‘To leave office with my integrity intact’—it all goes back to that.”

He turned 18 in 1973, a draft year at the ragged end of America’s involvement in Vietnam. It was a lottery—just luck that his number wasn’t called. Today, with the safety of decades between then and now, he wishes it was.

“I never did military service—I always regretted that,” he said. “I felt that at some point in my life, I needed to do some sort of serious public service. In a way, on a personal level, running for public office was my way of compensating.”

 If his work as a reporter helped him explain policy, his life as a farmer helped shape it. He’s tried the three main modes of American living—urban, rural and suburban—and his view for the future of Blaine County is steeped in that experience.

“Hardly anybody has put as much effort into reading things, and parsing language,” said Len Harlig, a former county commissioner who remains a close observer of Blaine County politics. “He’s absolutely meticulous, going through materials to make sure they are correct, and accurate. He brought an efficiency to ordinances. His viewpoint was thorough, exhaustive and unaccepting of any comment not based in vigorous research. Even when you reached different conclusions, you never doubted the effort.”

His environmental record can match anyone’s in the county, according to Harlig, whether that meant advocating for conservation, or securing easements for open space and recreational access, or updating recycling and solid waste.

But Schoen describes himself as a progressive, and a pragmatist. Those combine to form a view of government that is closely tied to customer service, and much of his legacy—from internal communications, to organizational structure, to budgeting procedure—is, like the engine of any operation, hidden under the hood.

“As a county commissioner, Larry was a consummate professional,” said current board Chairman Jacob Greenberg. “His journalism background meant he was our go-to person to articulate policy.”

“Some of the most desirable and valuable communities in America have some of the strictest zoning—thought-out zoning codes that try to project the present and future values of those communities,” he said. “That’s especially true of small ski towns in Europe. And that’s why they still have their charm. We don’t want to lose our charm.”

Maintaining it was part of the Blaine County 2025 planning effort that Schoen participated in during the mid-2000s, as a member of P&Z. Back then, elected officials prepared for an unending boom. There was talk of two new towns—one by Gannett, another at Timmerman Junction. Projections envisioned the population swelling to 80,000 people in 20 years. Soon, Schoen thought, development pressure would burst out into the unincorporated county like champagne past a cork.

 “I don’t know that they are all on the same page,” he said. “People acknowledge certain common values, like the need for affordable housing, the need to preserve our public lands and recreational access. The conversations really haven’t been had in a long time. Ketchum is doing its thing. Sun Valley does its thing. Hailey’s doing its thing. We need to work on a regional equation. If people are opposed to increased density in cities, but there’s development pressure, there’s only one place for it to go, and that’s out in the county. The question is, do we want to turn it into a suburbanized area? That’s a question for the community. The community needs to answer.”

Schoen’s personal answer is written across his land. He placed a conservation easement on the property curtailing its ability to be developed; those acres will never be subdivided.

“I would judge his view of county government as that of a purist,” he said. “He interpreted it as it was intended, and was fair in its application.”

Schoen: “When I talk to students, I tell them if you’re going to enter elected office, your main goal shouldn’t be to get re-elected. It should be to do what’s in the best interest of the community. To uphold the law. In a very dynamic, engaged county like ours, that will leave some people happy. Others won’t be. Eventually, that catches up with you.”

“There are roles I’ve been able to play because I was a county commissioner. I’m proud of the connections I’ve made, what I’ve been able to do. This job’s been immensely rewarding—for me personally, and, I hope, for our community.”

Thomas Merton

Descending into the crowed, the individual loses his personality and his character and perhaps even his moral dignity as a human being. Contempt for the “crowd” is by no means contemporary for mankind. The crowd is below man. The crowd devours the human that is in us to make us the members of a many-headed beast. That is why the monastery builds itself in the wilderness: cuts off communications with the world, and with the press and the radio, which too often are simply the voice of the vast aggregation that is something less than human. As a specialized, spiritual society, the monastic community must take care to form itself carefully in the atmosphere of solitude and detachment in which the seeds of faith and charity have a chance to sink deep roots and grow without being choked out by thorns, or crushed under the wheels of trucks and cars.

-The Silent Life

Outside the matrix.

 

“I keep coming back to a tweet from the Russian dissident and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, who wrote:  “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” Mr. Kasparov understands that the real threat of the flood of “alternative facts” is that many voters will simply shrug, ask, “What is truth?” and, like Pontius Pilate, not wait for an answer.”

The Aspen Institute re-publishes a piece from American Magazine in 2017 from an Aspen Ideas Festival that same year with Charlie Sykes, MSNBC contributor and former conservative talk show host, currently editor-in-chief of the website The Bulwark.

“We might assume that people naturally want to seek out information that is true, but this turns out to be a basic misunderstanding of the human psyche and our new tribal politics. The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes the power of tribalism in shaping our ideas about truth. “Once people join a political team,” he writes in The Righteous Mind, “they get ensnared in its moral matrix. They see confirmation of their grand narrative everywhere, and it’s difficult — perhaps impossible — to convince them that they are wrong if you argue with them from outside the matrix.” 

Mr. Haidt also cites the work of his fellow social psychologist Tom Gilovich, who studies the cognitive mechanisms of strange beliefs. If we want to believe something, Mr. Gilovich says, we ask, “Can I believe it?” and we need only a single piece of evidence, no matter its provenance, so “we can stop thinking” because we “now have permission to believe” what we want. The flip side is that when we are confronted with uncomfortable or unwanted information that we do not want to believe, we ask, “Must I believe?” and look for a reason to reject the argument or fact. Again, only a single piece of data is necessary “to unlock the handcuffs of must.”

The only antidote is an educated, critically minded electorate who can see through the hoaxes.”

Yes, absolutely. However, a deeper more complex follow-up question: is this a reasonable expectation, or possibility, in context of confirmation biases and deeper polarizations?

full article: https://www.aspeninstitute.org/blog-posts/truth-matter-no-longer-theoretical-question/


“And the fourth cycle (of computers), which is now arriving, shifts direction from the previous two (which were about connection more than processors) and brings prediction to the table. Call it AI if you want to, but to be specific, it’s a combination of analyzing information and then predicting what we would do if we knew what the computer knew.

The prediction of the fourth cycle isn’t simply done in a centralized location, because the previous cycle put the computer everywhere. So now, we’re connecting all the computers the way we previously connected all the people. Now, we’re giving those computers the ability to make predictions based on what thousands of people before us have done.”

-Seth Godin

Entrepreneur and blogger who thinks about the marketing of ideas in the digital age, teacher and former dot com guy.

“Really, really great.”


Nathan Philips, Omaha Nation, Vietnam Veteran:

“I heard, I heard them saying, ‘Build that wall, build that wall.’ You know, this is indigenous land, we’re not supposed to have walls here, we never did, for a millennium, before anyone came here we never had walls, we never had a prison. You know, we always took care of our elders, we took care of our children, we always provided for them, you know. We taught them right from wrong. I wish I could see that energy of those young men, put that energy into, you know, to make this country really, really great, you know. Helping those that are hungry.”


A story about Nathan from 2008.

https://newsmaven.io/indiancountrytoday/archive/american-indian-veterans-honored-annually-at-arlington-national-cemetery-tMOxOLqrJU6Ux9hZvXAzYQ/

Updated 1.21.19

An event captured on tape, obviously cruel in nature, is now being polarized onto a political side, those who wear red hats, and those who do not. It isn’t the act, right or wrong being judged, it is the ideology. It is clear how this young student was treating a native elder, as were his schoolmates…long or short version. And justice, again, belongs to those who can afford it, including hiring the services of a PR firm to spin what we can plainly see.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” –MLK

Unexacerbated Joy

[Bob Carr, the creator of Bob’s Crystal Cave near Joshua Tree, Calif., where he welcomed visitors for 15 years.]

Joshua Tree Artist Built A Crystal Cave Of Wonder

With Chicken Wire, Spray Foam

NPR

“There’s nothing out there. It’s all you. The whole universe. The etherium. It’s already in you. You’re looking out there.”

Bob could be cryptic, especially when talking about the Crystal Cave. When I asked him why he built it, all Bob would ever say was: “Just plain old unexacerbated joy.”

Despite his radiating happiness, Bob had lived a hard life. He told me he grew up as one of seven kids, to poor parents who fled the Dust Bowl.

“There was never a book in the house. There’s no kind of library, you know,” Bob said. “We didn’t have a shower or a bathtub. Poverty sucks.”

“I needed to express the uncontainable joy I built up over so many years,” he said. “That’s surrender. When I look at you, I can see you. Therefore, I am stunned by the beauty of joy of every single human I meet.”

It may seem strange to suggest that the key to happiness can be found in a spray foam cave, in the middle of the California desert. But Bob taught me that every one of us is capable of making beautiful experiences for each other. Even out of chicken wire and spray foam.

Bob died earlier this month at age 80. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth and daughter Zena. Bob “died as he lived — on his own terms and with dignity and grace,” Elizabeth says.

Bob’s Crystal Cave: https://hiddenca.com/portfolio/bobs-crystal-cave/

After the initial primal scream.

[Seen at the Women’s March 2019]

CIVIC ACTION

Building America’s Next Great Awakening

JUNE 13, 2017  • NICOLE COREA

Eric Liu believes that we are on the precipice of a civic awakening. Even prior to the US presidential election, he watched as global movements rose up against established hierarchies and institutions. This inspired Liu to compose a guide for citizens who sought to create real, lasting change. The result was his new book, You’re More Powerful Than You Think.

Protests and marches are only the beginning of a movement. Truly knowing how to wield citizen power requires a deeper understanding of power itself.

Around the planet, great numbers of everyday citizens

are pushing back against concentrated, monopolized,

institutionalized power.

“Online activism is necessary, but completely insufficient,” Liu said. “What we’ve got to do to revive the body politic and to revive civic life is to use digital means for analog ends.” He mentioned the Tea Party model, a grassroots effort started on social media that made waves in congressional elections.

Despite their distinct cries, movements like Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, and Black Lives Matter had one thing in common: they were the product of decades of radical inequality. “Around the planet, great numbers of everyday citizens are pushing back against concentrated, monopolized, institutionalized power,” Liu said. This will not be an easy fight. Those with power are unlikely to concede willingly. Changing the game will require leveraging the power of citizens who stay awake and show up.

Building America’s Next Great Awakening

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