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Ernest Partridge's Blog -- 2009

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December 15, 2009




During the calendar year 2008, I wrote thirty-three original essays for The Crisis Papers and the progressive internet. This year, with this blog entry and essay, I have written only seven.

Clearly, that vacation that I had promised myself last January has extended far beyond all justification, and it is past time to get back to some serious work. Either that, or succumb to terminal laziness and self-indulgence. Like a performing musician or an athlete, the longer a writer stays away from his work, the more difficult it is to get back to speed. Eventually, it becomes impossible.

Even so, these past nine months have not been wasted. In fact, they have afforded me some perspective that I found difficult to obtain during those six years of weekly grind at The Crisis Papers.

During this respite, I have explored hundreds of miles of California sea coast and Rocky Mountain wild rivers in my kayaks and canoe, and have become more intimately acquainted with the trails and wildlife of the San Bernardino mountains. I have caught up on numerous "building and grounds" projects that were neglected during those Crisis Papers years. And I have read several books and hundreds of articles that I couldn't fit into my schedule as the Co-Editor of this website.

For the past couple of months, I have devoted a considerable amount of time redesigning my personal website, The Online Gadfly, and adding to it a considerable number of my papers, both published and unpublished. With most of that task now behind me, I am undertaking an overhaul of The Crisis Papers as well.

Much of our work on The Crisis Papers was simple drudgery, including the reading of hundreds of internet articles each week, from which CP co-editor Bernard Weiner and I would select about fifty for our "recommended" lists.  Likewise, we would view numerous video clips in order to pick out a few for the video page.  Since we gave up these chores in January, I can't say that the progressive internet has suffered much from our departure.  There are, of course, numerous progressive sites, with budgets and staff (unlike CP), that do this work quite well, and so there is little need for us to add to their number.

So I have cut my internet reading to about a quarter of what it was from 2003 through 2008, sacrificing, I have discovered, remarkably little input of political insight and information. That loss has been lavishly offset by the insight and information that I have gained from reading outside the "bubble" of daily progressive internet blogs and essays -- readings in philosophy, political and economic theory, etc.

With this reflective distance, I have come to appreciate that there is a great deal of redundancy among the publications of the progressive internet. I have acquired the habit of asking myself, as I read yet another internet essay or blog, "what is this telling me that I don't already know and already agree with?"  All too often, the answer is "very little" or even "nothing at all."  To be sure, it is constant delight to encounter one's cherished opinions eloquently expounded by the likes of Michael Moore, David Sirota, David Swanson, Robert Parry, and those many others that I encounter at The Smirking Chimp, The Huffington Post, Common Dreams, Buzzflash, Alternet, etc.  But a ratification of one’s opinions has all the intellectual nourishment of cotton candy. Now don't get me wrong.  I admire these worthies immensely, and they are doing The Lord's Work by writing, posting, and promulgating their views to all those who desperately need to read and ponder their progressive opinions.  But I am not one of those in need.  I know what they have to say, and I generally agree with them.  Far better, then, that I read those who have something to teach me, and those who can intelligently criticize and thus move me to alter and enrich my own convictions.

This realization has led me to impose a new discipline upon myself, as I resume my writing for The Crisis Papers, The Online Gadfly, and for any websites that might see fit to publish my work. As I undertake each new essay, I will ask myself: "Do I have anything to say, that someone else has not already said, and probably quite as well or even better?"  If the answer is "no," then I'll abandon the project at the get-go, and await the advent of a genuinely original idea or perspective.  Relieved at last of the tyranny of a weekly publishing deadline, and with it the self-imposed obligation to provide, on average, three new essays a month, the reduction in quantity should result in an improvement in quality of my output.

Progressivism, like any flourishing political movement, must constantly receive nourishment from the outside -- from the sciences, from the liberal arts, the humanities and the arts, and from the practical experience and knowledge gained by activists in the trenches." This essential fact can be well appreciated as we look upon the impoverished language and intellectual inbreeding of our political adversaries, the regressives.  Accordingly, if I am to provide a worthy contribution to the conversation within the progressive community, it should come from my unique personal experience and my professional expertise in the academic fields of analytic and moral philosophy, and environmental ethics. And I should add to this conversation the results of ongoing study beyond the familiar topics of liberal discourse.

So when I am about to offer yet another essay to the ongoing conversation, it must first pass the scrutiny of this question: "Do I have something to say, that has not already been said, perchance quite often enough?"

Recently, as I have overhauled The Online Gadfly, reviewing the two-hundred or so essays that have been the product of my ten years of internet writing (six of those years with The Crisis Papers), I dare say that I have encountered a few that might be said to have added useful insights and information from my professional experience to the ongoing political dialog. For example: When the global warming deniers say, "Isn't science just another dogma"?, I offer an answer.  When a regressive dismisses the progressives counter argument with "That's just your opinion!" I propose a few basic rules of critical thinking with which to evaluate opinions.  When the creationist repeats that well-worn dismissal, "Evolution is just a Theory," I have a response to that.  When the economist insists that public policy be based upon cost-benefit analysis, or that values can be reduced to prices at the margin, I believe that I can offer a refutation.   When the libertarian insists that the unrestricted free market and the privatization of all public facilities, including institutions of public and higher education, are the simple solutions to our economic woes, or that global warming is a hoax, I have rebuttals.  And I have resumed work on my book, Conscience of a Progressive -- an extended and systematic refutation of Libertarianism that is coordinated with an articulation of the moral foundations of progressivism. All this has been done, and is continuing, from my perspective as a teacher and contributing scholar in the fields of analytic philosophy, moral philosophy, and environmental ethics.

In short, I trust that I might have something to add to the conversation. And if not, I hope that I will have the simple decency to shut up.

So "The Gadfly" is back in the game. Stay tuned, and don't hesitate to let me hear from you.   My e-mail is gadfly@igc.org .

Ernest Partridge's Internet Publications

Conscience of a Progressive:  A book in progress. 

Partridge's Scholarly Publications. (The Online Gadfly)

Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers".   His e-mail is: gadfly@igc.org .

Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances