parallel urgencies


Watching the unfolding of social protest in Iran, and still recovering from the large dose of fear I’ve just had to (try to) absorb about climate change, I’m wondering if ‘we’ – populations in the western world – are giving valence (in a group relation’s sense) to the protesters in Iran. Put another way, are ‘they’ acting out not only against the apparent fraud of Ahmadinijad’s re-election, but are they emboldened by the growing sense of urgency among educated people that humanity itself is in a period of crisis?

Valence: second definition, Merriam-Webster:
2 a: relative capacity to unite, react, or interact
2b: the degree of attractiveness … [of] … a behavioral goal

The US did not rise up in protest against the re-election of George W. Bush, even though there were also concerns. Maybe we (Americans) felt (in 2004) that there was still enough time, that we’d get by, get through… are we now hoping to vicariously savor a success by Iranians in a way that we were incapable of even attempting then? And if this movement succeeds, then what?
A political scientist I know says:

it is reasonable to be skeptical about the policy differences between the two candidates on issues that matter. But, having fair elections is important in its own right, and it seems like this could open the door to more political freedom, which can influence a variety of other outcomes…

Jen is right, of course. Fair elections are important in their own right – but we (the electorate) are not willing to fight for them in all times and all places. Why now? Why there? Why with such force? (Note: I am not questioning the actions themselves, I’m inquiring into the motivations.)
What “other outcomes” might be opened up? Or, another way to phrase the crucial question: what deep needs are pushing this expansion of language-based communication? The momentum built up over the last centuries is encapsulated in an instant in this one minute video on the evolution of life by Claire L. Evans. Exerting enough force to alter the current vector is going to take an outcry from humanity several times the size of the protests in Iran.
We (all of us) must comprehend “the vector’s essential properties are just its magnitude and its direction.” And – we can’t give up! Over breakfast this morning, dismay and the sense of helplessness:

“We all know we need to act, but we don’t.”
“If we do it and China doesn’t, what’s the point?”
“We know it is serious, the politicians have to force it.”
“They ring the bell for thirty years. Ring. Then that old man dies. Ring.”

“We need to agree on the urgency.”



“Watching” coverage of social protests in Iran via The Huffington Post
“if this movement succeeds” it will be because of communication technology
“force”: definition-in-context
“deep needs” come from deep time
“expansion of language-based communication” frames this as a case* of Bakhtin’s chronotope (see Michael Holquist, forthcoming: Cronotope’s central role in
*”case” as in “case thinking” ~ see Philippe Lacour, Thinking by cases, or: How to put social sciences back the right way up
a “vector’s essential properties” is quoted from website on Elementary Vector Analysis, Harvey Mudd College.

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