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Salons: A New Intellectual Culture is Taking Shape Throughout the Country

Amidst the long, drawn-out recovery from the Great Recession, an unprecedented flowering of intellectual life is underway.

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Popular hookups take place in bars and galleries, in apartments and theatres; while most participants are fully attired, one is organized for women in their birthday suits. In New York, they are happening all over the city, from midtown to the all-too-hip Williamsburg, from the East Village to the wilds of the Bronx and Staten Island. New York, like other parts of the country, is rediscovering the salon, helping fashion the 21st century smart city.

More political salons are likely to increase as the 2012 election draws nearer. America is in the midst of the gravest economic and social crisis since the Great Depression and a growing number of people recognize that the nation’s future is at stake. They increasingly reject the politician’s bought-and-paid-for words of reassurance and the swill promulgated by media blowviators. The tempo of political debate is intensifying and people are seeking new, more intimate and engaging forums for discussion, debate and action.

All across the country, elected officials are convening town hall meetings that are becoming contested ideological battlegrounds. The Tea Party seems increasingly a spent force, it’s analyzes and promises proving nothing more than ideological fictions, the self-serving rhetoric and opportunism of the rich and powerful. In response, progressives, liberals, moderates and other well-intentioned people are incubating grassroots get-togethers to address the challenges facing the country.

In response to the Tea Party insurgency, a more progressive group emerged called, what else, the Coffee Party USA. Its mission is clear: “We are Americans working to create a fair and inclusive society. Our members represent the diversity of thought, background, and circumstance that is found in the cities, towns, and neighborhoods of our country.” In addition, local gathers of people who’ve participated in a Netroots Nation, which began as the YearlyKos Convention, the annual conclave of the Daily Kos website founded by Markos Moulitsas, are taking place throughout the country.

Meetup convenes hundreds of political groups throughout the country, touching on every conceivable subject and welcoming thousands. In addition, more middle-of-the-road organizations are finding their traditional get-togethers (e.g., World Policy Institute’s Political Salons) facing intensified challenges as their conventional solutions no longer satisfactorily address the challenges people confront.

These are but a sampling of the spreading grassroots movements, often facilitated by ordinary activists, nonprofit groups and corporate entities, sweeping the nation. The speak to the great desire to not simply seriously intellectually reflect on important issue and meet similar like-minded people, but to fashion a political outlook and activism that truly is personally meaningful and makes a difference. Welcome to the 21st century.

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