Name: Moskos, Peter
Occupation: Writer, professor, former cop
Q: What makes an idea “dangerous”?
I take the term literally: a dangerous idea is something that might get somebody hurt. Of course there are dangerous ideas that are not even clever, much less intelligent. Similarly, there are many brilliant ideas that are not dangerous: the no-brainers (computers, umbrellas, and spicy Asian food). But a dangerous idea, the kind we’re talking about, is something that isn’t common sense, something that doesn’t a first even seem like a good idea at first. It’s subversive, will make people think, and hopefully break up the status quo and make the world a better place.
Q: Which technological or scientific advancement excites you most?
Since you don’t specify a time frame, I’m going to say the bicycle. Never has there been such a beautiful invention. It’s practical and doesn’t pollute. A city for bikes is a city for me!
Q: Which social or political movement scares you most?
Any ideology based on ignorance and hate. Whether it’s religious extremists (and this holds true for all the world’s religions) or straight up Fascism (the current Greek Nazi party comes to mind), it’s hard to argue with hate. When the ignorant haters have power, the consequences are terrifying. Martin Luther King said, “The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice.” Here’s hoping he was right.
Q: What’s the one thing you wish society better understood?
That it’s not easy to be poor. Not in your country or mine, but in the world. And the world’s poor are poor through no fault of their own. You and me? We were lucky enough to be born in the right place at the right time. What have I done to deserve a peaceful country, a good job, public education, and clean drinking water? The least we can do is not feel entitled about it and close our door to immigrants wanting exactly what our immigrant parents wanted.
Q: Will the defining catastrophe of the next decade be natural or man-made?
If it’s just natural or man-made, it’s only a disaster. A true catastrophe needs to combine the two, like the Tsunami/nuclear disaster in Japan. I really hope nothing tops Fukushima any time soon.
Q: What question have you been dying to ask someone (and who)?
I’d like to ask President Obama what it is about becoming president that makes one abandon the concept of a free and open (and non-torturing) state? Is the truth so scary and confidential that we the people could never understand? Or is it just the life-and-death responsibility of presidential power that causes a person to change?
Q: What question have you been dying for someone to ask you?
If I could tell you, I would have already answered it. I want to be asked something I’ve never thought of. I like questions that make me think rather than inspire me to preach.
Q: If you could outsource one part of your life, what would it be?
Strangely enough, writing. I’d prefer to be doing almost anything else than writing a first draft. I would even have gladly paid for somebody to have written this. But writers — discounting celebrities who hire ghost writers — can’t outsource their work because the craft of writing depends on skills that are both personal and creative. On the plus side — and though I find the process of writing quite painful — I certainly love having written.
Q: What’s your favourite book and why?
There are so many fabulous books it seems unfair to pick a favorite. But I guess if I have to pick just one, I’d go with Moby Dick. Of course like any great book I didn’t want it to end. I loved the high-seas adventures, Melville’s style of writing, his characters, and the historical non-fiction aspect of the novel. Moby Dick is a journey in so many different ways — time, place, and occupation. Mostly I love being introduced to any place I don’t naturally belong. It’s hard to overstate how important whaling and this kind of sailing was to the world… and how quickly it all ended. We no longer know how to do what they did. Imagine if in a few decades there were no planes and all the world’s airports were abandoned and covered in weeds… wouldn’t it then be great to read a book about late 20th century air travel?
Q: You Twitter handle is _____. Your Facebook page is _____. Your website is _____.
Twitter handle is @petermoskos. You Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/moskos. Website is www.petermoskos.com. (And blog is www.copinthehood.com.
Q: Favourite Youtube clip? (For fun)
It shows how to “pick” a steamed Maryland crab. I filmed it six year ago at the Baltimore Crab Feast held every year in my former police sergeant’s church’s basement. What I really love are the comments telling him he’s doing it wrong! I’m sure there’s something in Australia similar. Or at least I hope so. It’s regional, it inspires passion, and outsiders just don’t understand. More importantly, it’s delicious!