Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Daniel Singer Prize: $5000

     Hello, I hope this post finds everyone well. Posting has certainly been light this past month, but I have some good excuses (does anyone ever not?). 1). I've been really picking up speed in the research area. I do research in condensed matter physics and since I just started in February I have a lot of reading to do and techniques to learn which takes up a great deal of my time. 2). This past month I got a road bike. It's the first *real* bike that I've ever owned and it's very fun to ride and I've gotten some great workouts from it already. It makes going around the city very easy and I'm also using it as an aerobic replacement for running, which is supposed to be bad for your knees. If you've never ridden one you should really try it out, it's great. 3). My fiancee and I are learning French together. We've only done a couple of lessons but it's something fun that we can do together. Once we know it it'll be like having our own secret language (that 300 million people also speak). We're also going to be in France for a week this summer and it's much more enjoyable to me if I speak a little of the native language. I feel less like a foreign invader and more like I belong there I suppose.

    I haven't had much time to do any "fun reading" in the past month, although a couple of days ago I started the book Prelude to Revolution by Daniel Singer, a socialist writer who has authored a couple of books and written articles for The Nation (as its Europe correspondent) and The Economist. The book deals with the events of May 1968 in France, in which a revolutionary situation occurred which brought out 2/3 of the French workforce in a general strike. It is looked on by some as a sign of hope that even in first-world countries where economic conditions are such that people are not starving that it does not mean that large numbers of people cannot become interested in changing society in order to become more democratic, fair, sustainable, and enjoyable. But at the same time I think that movements like this may actually have a greater chance in first-world countries where productivity, if used for the common good and not for a small group of social parasites whose only contribution to society is being rich, could actually drastically reduce the work week without a decrease in the quality of life. I think the realization of this, and then its strong contrast with what society currently looks like, could very well be a strong motivator towards the adoption of 'radical' ideas.

     Anyway, in doing some background research before starting this book I stumped upon a website by the Daniel Singer Millennium Prize Foundation. Daniel Singer passed away in 2000 unfortunately but in his memory they have an essay contest every year in which the winner receives $5000 and is invited to give a public lecture based on the essay. The question for the essay is "What major breakthrough in socialist theory is necessary in order to move the practical struggle forward?". I thought this was something that some of you may be interested in. It would take a little more effort than a normal blog post, but at the same time there would be a chance at $5k as well as the satisfaction of writing an essay which could influence the outlook of many people. I may write something in a couple of months if I can find the time. If you're not interested in writing something, you might want to check out the essays of the previous winners. I just read the most recent winner's essay, and thought it was very well done.