Joe Katzman was born in Toronto, Canada, and still lives there for some strange reason. He is the founder of the multinational, multi-religious team blog Winds of Change.NET, whose motto is 'Liberty. Discovery. Humanity. Victory.'
Why do you blog? > People had been telling me that I should blog since June 2001, but it sounded complicated. Besides, I was already maintaining a resource site focused on the Internet and business. Then 9/11 hit, and the in-depth geopolitical, military and intel understanding I had put aside for a decade politely kicked down my front door and re-introduced itself. The seriousness of what was to come was immediately clear to me - as was the importance of intelligent, informed discussion on the choices our countries and peoples would have to make. I was emailing interesting stuff to friends and writing Letters to the Editor, but eventually I decided that I really had to start Winds of Change if I wanted to make any difference. I really wish I had done it sooner... like, say, June of 2001.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Shifting my blog to a team format in January of 2003. That move, and everything that flowed from it, has defined my blogging experience ever since. It has been incredibly positive, on so many levels. Close behind that is the help I got when I first started blogging. Meryl Yourish of Yourish.com and Greg Hlatky of A Dog's Life were both especially generous with their time and advice.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Had an incident a few months ago that led to a breach in the team. Wouldn't do anything differently, but I hated the experience.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > 'The fox knows a hundred tricks; the hedgehog, one good one.' The blogosphere is crowded. Find your hedgehog's trick.
What are you reading at the moment? > You mean, besides Lesbian Sex Secrets for Men? :-) I recently re-read J. Bronowski's outstanding book Science and Human Values, which explains the links between science, art and the society we've created for ourselves in the West. Tight, insightful, provocative... and beautiful too. New book du jour is The Right Words at the Right Time by Marlo Thomas. 100 famous men and women each share a moment when someone's words changed their lives.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > 'Novel' is probably the wrong term for Tolkien's Silmarillion, so Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. 100 years from now, I believe it will be one of the few books from the science fiction canon that will have passed into true literature. Honourable mention: Marc Steigler's David's Sling was below average as a novel, but especially thought-provoking.
What is your favourite poem? > 'The Lonely Land' by A.J.M. Smith (full text; excerpt and pictures). If you've ever been to Eastern Canada's wilderness, or Scandinavia's, or Minnesota's, you'll understand.
What is your favourite song? > Tough question, given the breadth of my tastes. While my blog is named after a Scorpions song, the winner might actually be a pure jazz composition - Dave Grusin's outstanding 'History Lesson', which you've probably heard in some Charlie Brown TV specials. It's almost impossible to listen to Grusin's tune without feeling the joy that goes right to its foundations.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Abandoning socialism remains the biggest switch - but that happened at a very young age. Changed my view on gays in the military, and have mostly changed my views on gay marriage. Have come to believe that our current drug policies are stupid, but have not yet found a framework that strikes me as enough of an improvement.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > If people of good will stand strong together within a framework of liberty, work to understand each other, and do not flinch before evil or avoid difficult decisions, then all things are possible.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Postmodernism, especially the idea that there is no truth and everything is relative or an 'equally valid narrative'. It's useful to pay attention to other narratives, but if you really accept the postmodernist thesis wholesale then all that's left is naked power - and you can kiss civilization goodbye. As the famous quote goes: 'Only an intellectual could be so stupid'.
Who are your political heroes? > Within recent history, top 5, alphabetical by last name: Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Vaclav Havel, Ronald Reagan, Harry S. Truman.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'It is not that power corrupts, but that it is magnetic to the corruptible.' - Frank Herbert
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Abolish the present Senate whose members are appointed solely by political patronage, and create a 'Triple-E' (Equal, Elected, Effective) upper chamber for Canada's legislative branch.
What would you do with the UN? > Three words: low-rent housing.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The nature of humanity itself. But I assume you want me to be more specific, and to give a time frame. Over the next 25-30 years, it's Islamofascism in all its variants. The organized, carefully cultivated hate and supremacism have to go, or we'll have a series of total wars where many millions of people will die. So that's the biggie for the first quarter of the 21st century.
In the second quarter, China's place in the world becomes a bigger issue. We may face the prospect of a Chinese quasi-fascism that combines elements of Germany pre-WW1 (driving need to be seen as a global player and challenge the established world order, even at the price of conflict) and Germany's pre-WW2 scenario (not so much the genocidal sense as a country powered by an unholy union between a dictatorship and a sort of market economy, fed by rabid nationalism and a sense of racial superiority, and pointed at external enemies as a safety valve when the system hits a rut). The human costs of this scenario in China, Africa, the Middle East, and possibly even India-Pakistan could be very, very high. Now, this scenario certainly isn't China's only possible future. There are some especially promising religious trends that point to different possibilities, for instance; but if you look carefully you can see many of the darker elements falling into place.
Of course, I could be wrong. What I've described above are just the two most obvious geopolitical issues before us in the 21st century - but longer term issues like economic depressions, WMD capabilities in the hands of smaller and smaller organizations, or the potential for serious regional or global environmental shifts and their resulting disruptions, etc., are always waiting in the wings. Reality works on its own timetable, and doesn't always publish the schedules.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > Our best is yet to come. The way there may suck at times.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > All the really important stuff in life is 'come as you are'. You never know what you may be called on for, or when - which means your foundations need to be as right as you can make them.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > I'm a neoconservative carnivore. My girlfriend is a left-liberal vegetarian on the other side of the continent, and my views aren't exactly a surprise to her. She reads my blog every day and enjoys it. Real life is stranger than fiction.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > A rabbi I knew once gave me an excellent model for working with this on a daily basis. He said: 'Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it nice? Open your mouth and say it on any two of three'. I've found that to be a pretty good guideline for most situations. With respect to abnormal situations... There are also circumstances where, as German Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted, the very act of asking certain questions becomes improper. If one is coerced to answer anyway, he noted, one may lie with a clear conscience. I agree with that.
What is your favourite proverb? > Rabbi Tarfon taught: 'It is not thy part to finish the task, yet thou art not at liberty to neglect it either'. (Jewish Talmud, Pirkei Avot 2:16)
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Golf. Tennis. Gossip.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > Quite a few things. If you're given the opportunity and aren't interested in at least trying out a couple of alternative scenarios, you're either protecting an outcome that's overwhelmingly important to you or too timid. Neither description fits me, so I'd go for it in a number of places to see what would happen.
What would your ideal holiday be? > A series of liveaboard dive boats with full scuba support and 4-star chefs, accompanied by a rotating group of my friends, as we begin at Hawaii and work our way across the South Pacific to Australia, and then up across Indonesia to Thailand.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > You mean, besides blogging and reading? Spending time with the extended family. Going to see live theatre (fortunately, I'm in one of the top three cities in the world for that). Scuba diving (alas, my location is less fortunate in this case). Downhill skiing (ditto). Baseball - watching or playing. Fishing. Hiking, kayaking, and tripping are fun, but I don't do them much any more. I could see myself developing a serious paintball addiction.
What is your most treasured possession? > Single possession? My computer, because it's the repository and conduit for so many of my thoughts, and for so many others' thoughts as well. Honourable mention goes to my Tempur-Pedic bed, the most comfortable bed on the planet bar none. Add up 5-8 hours per night over a year, and you can see why it's the best investment I ever made.
What talent would you most like to have? > World-class musical ability: playing and singing. Pure, crystalline communication that cuts right through the clutter and reaches people as human beings.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Lots of good ones, but I have to give the nod to Bill Watterson, the creator of the inimitable comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. To this day, I'm annoyed that I never thought of those snowman designs as a younger child... though a lot of the other stuff is familiar.
Which baseball team do you support? > The Toronto Blue Jays. Love 'em, and I'll cheer for them no matter what. But I'm a baseball fan, not just a Jays fan, so even if they aren't playing I still enjoy the game for what it is.
What animal would you most like to be? > A dolphin.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of previous profiles, and the links to them, can be found here.]