Ok, now that I’ve got your attention . . .
It’s often struck me that, just as I am about to wander off and let the blog wither away to die a natural and dignified death, fading into obscurity like the motley materials in the compost I’ve periodically discussed here, something perverse happens to prevent me from doing so. Someone I admire mentions that they read the Natural Patriot and did not fall asleep, for example. Well, it will be clear to the alert reader that I’ve been something of a slacker in this medium for an alarmingly long time now. It was starting to look grim. But I am here to tell you that reports of the Natural Patriot’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Which brings me, at last, to what you’ve been waiting for in amused incredulity: the explanation for the title of my post today.
Why, you would be entirely justified in asking, would I say something so transparently absurd about myself?
The answer will be found in an email that I received out of the blue yesterday from none other than Jeremy Rifkin, (well, OK, technically, it was from a secretary at his institution . . .), economist, bestselling author, architect of a “Third Industrial Revolution”, advisor to various heads of state, and (according to his website) “the most widely read columnist in the world today”. Naturally I was skeptical of the invitation at first, but it appeared to be from a legitimate return address, did not have the pathetic spelling and grammatical faux pas characteristic of internet hoaxes, etc. etc. The name was familiar so I googled him and discovered, among other things, that he was called by Time magazine in 1989 “the most hated man in science“, mainly for his aggressive — and, some would say, unscrupulous — tactics in opposing genetically engineered organisms in the environment (See, for example this essay about anti-science activism). Ah yes, that Jeremy Rifkin. This obviously gave me some pause. I reproduce the message below in its entirety:
Dear Mr. Duffy,
I would like to invite you to take part in a global conversation regarding the new insights into human beings’ empathic nature and the import these new understandings might have on rethinking civilization in the biosphere age.
We are asking 30 of the world’s leading intellectuals, scholars, and scientists from a range of academic fields and professional disciplines, who have been active in various aspects of the unfolding conversation around homo empathicus, to contribute an essay of between 1000 to 2000 words. These pieces will be posted on the Huffington Post website throughout the first two weeks of February.
The Huffington Post is the second largest online news media website in the world after The New York Times and accounts for nearly one percent of total online traffic. I have been asked by Arianna Huffington to coordinate the discussion. Arianna will announce this first great global conversation on rethinking human nature in the 21st century on the homepage and will invite people around the world to join in on the discussion with their own comments, with the goal of moving a deep global dialogue that can help us prepare for the future.
In preparation for this global debate, this week The Huffington Post made available on its website the Table of Contents, Introduction, and Chapter One of my new book, The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis along with my featured blog. While writing the book I found your work very enlightening. Needless to say, I would be honored if you have a chance to peruse the Introduction and Chapter One online as well as my blog. If you would like a copy of the Empathic Civilization, I would be pleased to send one to you.
I hope you will accept the invitation to become part of what we hope will be a spirited global conversation about our empathic future. If this interests you, please let me know if you would like to contribute an essay by Wednesday, January 20th.
Well, yes, since you ask, this does interest me. Let me start by reassuring faithful readers that I’m not so narcissistic as to believe that I’m one of the world’s 30 leading intellectuals, scholars, and/or scientists. But neither am I immune to flattery. And the Huffington Post is the real deal. Plus, my first thought was “what a great title for a blog post this will be!” So I said, “OK, I’ll bite.” I may very well be stepping into a snake pit. But you can’t make a mark if you don’t engage. It will at least provide an opportunity to dig out the old manifestos about the need for a new concept of patriotism from my files of various rejected newspaper op-ed pieces and post them where someone might actually see them.
Anyway, just a shot across the bow for now. Stay tuned for the essay — and the zombie-like resurrection of the Natural Patriot . . .