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George Blecher
journalist and author

Apart from potential disasters that one has to be brain-dead to ignore - threats to the environment, proliferation of nuclear weapons, etc - I think we’d do well to ponder some problems in capitalism and contemporary democracy that affect our behaviour profoundly.

The zeitgeist in the US these days, at least as I read it, is a kind of frenzied jockeying for position, obsession with work, self-involvement, and deep loneliness that all seem to be due to our inability to see ourselves as part of a larger community. The continuing gap between have and have-nots, the dominance of short-term profits over long-term goals, the stifling of small businesses by mega-corporations, the dependence of political parties on corporate money - all these strike me as reflections of the loss of a sense of connection to each other. On one level, I think it all comes back to bad old Karl Marx: how do we find a more equitable, humane way to share the wealth? But now there’s a worrisome caveat: how can we make this happen if we’re not interested in sharing?

In my own areas, literature and journalism, I’ve witnessed in the last 20 years a shrinking of space for thought-provoking work in favour of more ‘commercial’ fare. This seems to me true in all the arts, and in journalism as well, where the reduction of the number of newspapers, and the replacement of investigative reporting by public relations spin, have made independent thinking as rare as cheap real estate. Maybe blogs will pick up some of the slack. In any case, we need to return to doing things for the love of the task, not just to make money.

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