This is a 2019 book, self-published, subtitled “A Brazen Guide for Sane Americans to Bypass Trench Warfare and Win Our Life or Death Struggle for Civilization.” This is a book full of sound and fury, an expression of Brin’s rage and frustration at the current political situation. It’s derived largely from his blog, Contrary Brin, which has been running since 2004, and was put together in something of a rush apparently in order to be published before the 2020 election.
Brin, of course, is best known as a science fiction author, mostly for 12 or 15 novels over 30 years (from the early ’80s to the early ’10s) that range from hard science fiction to space opera. Most famous book probably Startide Rising; notable late novels Earth and Existence, which embody many near-future speculations. Brin is also known as a futurist, speaker, and consultant. His main site is http://www.davidbrin.com/ and the blog is at http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (which covers as much current science and science fiction has current politics).
Brin is passionate and sometimes overheated; especially in the way this book, and the blog it’s based on, uses a variety of font sizes, lots of bold and italic, you feel his points might come across better if he calmed down a bit. Yet he is, as the subtitle says, fighting to win “our life or death struggle for civilization.”
Brin is a scientist first and foremost (engineering and physics) and in a book about politics he is relentlessly critical of the right, Republicans in particular, not over any particular policy issues but because of what he sees the their never-ending war on the “fact-based professions” and on facts and science in general. He likes the current situation to a late stage in American’s long running Civil War. He criticizes mostly Republicans but also Democrats, the latter for being weak-willed and ineffectual in fighting back against the right.
I covered part of this book before, in this post, and I will copy some of that over to this post to have a complete take on the book in one place. These are just highlights: there’s no way I can do more than summarize the main points.
The big themes here:
1, He wants to get off the left-right political axes, focus on commonalities most Americans share, and then focus on outcomes and facts to determine policy issues.
2, He details at length how the fact-based professions are under attack by the right, and incidentally, why virtually all conspiracy theories (most advanced by the right) are implausible and therefore deliberate diversions.
3, He therefore concludes that Republicans win elections by cheating — e.g. gerrymandering, passing voter ID laws, controlling voting machines. (On this last point remember Brin wrote before all the 2020 election controversies.)
4, He goes into great detail about how often Republicans have been *wrong* about political and factual issues. (I listed some of these in the previous post.) A prominent example is supply-side economics, i.e. cut taxes for the rich and the rest of us will benefit; in fact, that’s never worked.
5, His big take-away, the “judo” move he insists always works if people only tried it, is submit political disputes to wagers with the opposition to bring verifiable facts to the table, evaluated by a nonpartisan panel of judges selected in advance (e.g. retired military officers), and predicts that Republicans will never accept such wagers because they know the evidence isn’t on their side.
6, He places all this in context of America’s 250-year-old Civil War, its eight phases first described in this post back in 2018. A battle between, in my take, Enlightenment America vs. Confederate America. The South dwells in romantic sensibilities. “Romance renounces accountability and so-called objective reality, in favor of the subjectively vivid.” P239b. My comment: Fine to an extent but it leads belief that one’s own worldview is perfect and should dominate everyone. While the enlightenment taught us to consider that we might be wrong, and how to find out. The enlightenment is the light.
Other topics covered along the way:
. He considers various answer to “when was America great” and finds no plausible date. (things weren’t as great in the past as people think.)
. Do liberals nag? Sure, and it causes resentment. Good so far is never good enough. p72.8:
I know which side I am on — the one that aims for a truly good and wonderful civilization, like in Star Trek. One where the liberal preoccupations of today are rendered moot and boring, because they were solved with compassion, generosity and fabulous innovation.
I could go on and on. Lots more. This page on Brin’s site describes the book with bullet points, a table of contents, and a couple links to selected chapters. (And judicious searches for particular topics would no doubt turn up old blog posts that inspired the book, like I just did for his civil war post.)