Geoffrey Fox

Reflections & Inquiries

Saving the world and other scams


I just received an invitation to this “Summer of Peace.” I then looked into it, because at first glance it seemed similar to Abdennour Bidar’s proposal of local actions to heal the world in Les tisserands, a book I reviewed very favorably. Then I looked at the roster of speakers on this and related pages. They include several quite respectable people, such as Jane Goodall, along with certified cranks like Ben Carson (remember him? The surgeon who wanted to be president) and Dr. Oz, immensely famous (though I had never heard of him) as a Columbia prof, Oprah Winfrey frequent guest, and pseudoscience promoter. I looked him up on Wikipedia and found (among other ridiculous but lucrative scams)

«A study published in the British Medical Journal on the effectiveness of Oz’s medical advice found that 51 percent of his recommendations had no scientific backing and rationale, or in some cases contradicted scientific evidence.[58] The study showed that 36 points of the 51 percent consisted of no supporting scientific evidence, while the remaining 15 percentage points went directly against scientific evidence.[59] »

This makes me draw back from my original enthusiasm for Bidar. The idea of “les tisserands” (“the weavers”) sounds wonderful, but just what are these people weaving, and with what sorts of threads? That our world is shaken by so many crises that it seems to be tearing apart — “the weave torn”,  le tissu déchiré in Bidar’s terms — prompts would-be saviors all over the world, among them many crackpots, gun enthusiasts, and opportunists of all varieties, including even the so-called “Islamic State” that aims to save the world by imposing sharia and destroying those who object. And closer to home, those Trump supporters looking for quick and drastic solutions to very complicated problems.

Knowing this, we U.S. voters have at least three options. We can vote for Trump, to accelerate the destruction of our institutions (free press and Supreme Court and international trade agreements among them), with all the risks that that entails (pretty scary) for possible short-term benefits for some (real estate speculators, maybe coal miners), and the excitement of nearing Armageddon. Or, secondly, we can give up all pretense of saving the world and just try to keep it functioning as well as we can, maybe with some gestures to mitigate gross inequalities but basically letting the rich keep getting richer.  Which means voting for Hillary and hoping for the best.

Or we can vote for Hillary to give us some time to think more deeply and broadly about a longer-range change, working to strengthen alliances to defend and develop liberty, equality, fraternity in the face of all our challenges, including environmental, technological and political. But meanwhile vote for Hillary so as to hold off Armageddon while we get our act together.

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Here it comes!