rolling stone’s 40th anniversary issue November 14, 2007Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, arts/culture, books, campaign finance, comedy, design, econ, environment, film, health, hip-hop, history, immigration, international, interviews, iraq, iraq war, media, misc, music, news, politics, race, religion, science, style, tech, television, terrorism.
Tags: al gore, atheism, atheist, bill clinton, bill gates, bill maher, cornel west, daily show, economy, end of faith, global warming, graduation, inequality, interviews, jon stewart, kanye west, paradigm, paul krugman, princeton, real time with bill maher, religion, rolling stone, sam harris, satire, secularism, sustainability
“This issue looks forward, not back, and it’s packed with interviews with the artists, leaders and thinkers who can best divine what our future holds. It arrives, appropriately, during the run-up to next year’s presidential election, which looms as a moment of truth for our nation. “People are nauseous about being perceived as the enemy,” Bono says of America’s standing in the world. “Whoever fixes that problem gets elected.” But it’s not just politics – as a society, we face choices that will likely determine the fate of our civilization, matters of war and peace, resource depletion and explosive population growth. And, of course, global warming: “It’s a mistake to think of the climate crisis as one in a list of issues that will define our future,” Al Gore tells us. “It is the issue.”
We don’t claim to have the answers to these challenges, but we do know where to look for leadership and inspiration. The values of tolerance, inclusiveness, common sense and personal liberty (not to mention fun) that took shape in the 1960s have animated this magazine ever since.”
chock full of wit and wisdom from some of the world’s most interesting minds…
you can find the entire issue digitally right here, but the interface rolling stone set up is really horrible, so i’ve made the text from some of the interviews into pdfs:
here’s some quotes that i’ve culled:
So you’re optimistic about the future?
The categories of optimism and pessimism don’t exist for me. I’m a blues man. A blues man is a prisoner of hope, and hope is a qualitatively different category than optimism. Optimism is a secular construct, a calculation of probability. Black folk in America have never been optimistic about the future – what have we had to be optimistic about? But we are people of hope. Hope wrestles with despair, but it doesn’t generate optimism. It just generates this energy to be courageous, to bear witness, to see what the end is going to be. No guarantee, unfinished, open-ended. I am a prisoner of hope. I’m going to die full of hope. There’s no doubt about that, because that is a choice I make. But at the same time, the end doesn’t look too good right now.
What pivotal changes stand out in your own field?
Within the humanities, we feel marginalized. Our students are much more interested in business, finance, economics. We try to convince them what Dante was wrestling with or that Shakespeare still has some profound clues to the mystery of life – things they are going to have to confront, even after the hedge-fund experience – but we don’t get through. My students at Princeton are brilliant and hardworking, but many of them probably won’t wrestle with those big questions until their mother dies or they have to confront some other deep, existential reality later in life.
You are critical of religion, yet you remain open to mysticism and spirituality.
I part company with many atheists in that I’ve always been interested in, and respectful of, spiritual and mystical experience. People have been having profoundly transformative experiences under the banner of mysticism for thousands of years. I just don’t think you have to believe any religious bullshit in order to have those experiences. You don’t have to believe that any book was dictated by the creator of the universe. All you have to believe is that the contents of your own mind are worth looking into by some means of introspection.
The problem is that most of the testimony on this subject comes from religious traditions and is therefore riddled with rather baroque superstition. There is absolutely nothing that you can experience while in meditation, no matter how blissful, that confirms Jesus’ virgin birth, or any other religious doctrine.
In general, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?
I’ve always been fairly optimistic, but not lately. You know, one man’s pessimist is another man’s realist. People say to me, “Why are you so cynical?” And I say, “I wouldn’t be so cynical if you weren’t so fucking stupid.” I’m pessimistic because I see multiple looming icebergs that we’re sailing right toward, and Captain George Bush is the guy in the crow’s nest of the Titanic. He doesn’t see the iceberg. Or he sees it and he thinks it’s Jesus or some shit. There are environmental, religious and financial disasters looming. What if they all go down at the same time? It’s not like we’re getting our shit together on any of this stuff.
What about religion in this country? Is it becoming less of a political force?
I really feel like there’s a movement building. This is the issue of the day, and people are beginning to understand that religion is the problem. Now, when the president shows up at a disaster site and says he’s going to pray, it means nothing. He might as well show up and say, “I’m going to hope. I’m on it – I’m going to wish it were so.” It’s meaningless at best. It’s difficult to steer the ship of state toward some sort of safe harbor when at least half the people in this country essentially think we should do that by splitting open a chicken and reading its entrails. I’m suggesting we use a compass.
So how do we engineer the sweeping social and political and industrial change that we need in a short period of time, from top to bottom?
Einstein once said, “The problems that face us cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness that created them. What we need is a shift in consciousness.”
How do we get there?
Forty-five years ago, Thomas Kuhn wrote a book called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Twenty years before that, Joseph Schumpeter wrote about the way changes in consciousness take place in business. Both Kuhn and Schumpeter described a process whereby our current way of thinking about the world – who we are, how we live – is challenged by new facts that don’t seem to fit the old explanations. When enough unexplainable new phenomena pile up, there is sometimes a shift in consciousness that moves us quickly and suddenly to recognize a new pattern that explains all of these things that have been mysterious in the context of the old way of thinking. That’s what we’re on the cusp of right now.
All that change sounds daunting.
The three central challenges of the future are already quite apparent, and they have been apparent for a couple of decades. There’s the challenge of persistent inequality, globally, in income, education and health care. There’s a cluster of challenges related to sustainability – climate change; the depletion of valuable resources, which may bite us before climate change; and the extraordinary projected increase in the globe’s population by midcentury from six and a half billion to nine billion. Then you’ve got a set of identity challenges, whether they’re manifesting as terrorism or racial, religious and ethnic conflicts. They basically all cluster around the idea that Robert Wright wrote so well about in his book Nonzero. He said, basically, that all of human history is about people coming in contact with the Other, and then converting the Other from “them” to “us.” Learning to live together at the last minute, just before they destroy each other. Essentially, we now are in a position where we have to figure out in shortened time frames how to get people to see their common humanity as more important than their differences.
The illegal-immigration debate is about identity issues. The difference between a devout Sunni who despises Al Qaeda and a devout Sunni who embraces them is an identity issue. Why have the Hindu Tamils and the Sinhalese Buddhist majority in Sri Lanka accounted for almost twice as many deaths as the Palestinians and the Israelis over the last thirty years? As I look ahead, the opportunities of the future are self-evident – and they are met by challenges of inequality, unsustainability and identity.