Monday, March 9, 2009

I must be waxing philosophical today. I take the situation of me leaving messages and calling people, emailing people and the people not responding back and I turn it into a riff on the state of US culture and how it's affected by our cyber culture.

I began thinking sometimes it seems like people just don't talk to each other. We spend our lives behind our computer screens, we don't even pick up the phone, sometimes we never leave our houses.

How many of us are just doing what we are doing, only paying attention to ourselves and doing whatever it is we are doing by ourselves? Unless you count the computer as a person.

And, who is paying attention to others more than the approximate empixelations of themselves we get fed through Facebook? How many of us read more than the first sentence of a blog and get to know people beyond their status updates?

Why does that not seem enough? Am I the only one who sees an opportunity for more face to face communication in our world right now? In case you missed it, things are not going real hot right now; not in the economy, not in international affairs, state affairs and in even some cases, local and family affairs. I don't think tweeting is going to fix the problems we are facing.

Ask yourself, "Are my community relationships, my friendships and my family ties as strong and healthy as I wish they would be?" If so, what are you going to do to fix it? Blog about it? (Yes, I know the irony is incredibly deep here, but I think the point stands).

I think we need more phone calls, lunches, face to face meetings, workshops, conventions, conferences and caucuses in neighborhoods and communities. Among friends and strangers alike.

Isn't that how things get done? When people sit down, hash things out and walk away with decisions? I think that's how republics get governed. And I think we the people need to do a little more face to face chatting and a little less exclusive online connecting.

It seems right now we need to make some smart decisions about the way our world is going to work. No one knows what the other side of this economic catastrophe will turn out to be. And so we need to be talking about what we want it to be. Do we want it to look like it was, like it is, or some new way? And we need to spend a little less time talking about last week's episode of Lost and spend more time talking about solutions and actions.

And I just don't think the internet is going to cut it. At least not without web cameras in everyone's offices - I like that. But until that happens, we need to get out of our offices. Out from behind our computers and from in front of our TVs. If we are going to solve problems so that everyone has a chance to have input we have to come together. I don't see it happening right now.

Maybe I am missing it. What about all of you? Where are you coming together in voluntary action for the common good? Where are you creating community? And what does action mean to you? What does together mean?

Is action to you a status update with a link to a website where you can click a button and someone you never meet gets helped. While the upside of that kind of tool is great, I think we overrely these days on technology and I worry it inhibits our ability to create personal relationships and to be involved in our physical communities. In my humble opinion anyway.

And, no wonder the economy is collapsing. No one is doing anything! We aren't making anything. We hardly leave the house to buy the goods we need to live in our homes. And, as a country we only produce for our own entertainment and edification. Everything else is outsourced. The problem is we can't outsource the decisions about how we shape our communities. We need to get offline and get to work.

Thankfully, I believe, at least right now we have a President who is making good decisions on behalf of our common good. But it can't end there. People have to participate at the local level to improve our country. How I don't know. But not behind the computer.

Internet communications are important and have their place. And we must integrate them into our strategies in a way which maximizes their impact. But, they should not be our only strategy. I think human relations suffer when our only contact is virtual.

In every sector of our lives we should be engaging in thoughtful dialogue with our closest friends and partners about how we can work together to tackle the toughest problems facing us all. Family, friends, neighborhoods, communities and cities. Business sectors, healthcare, nonprofits and government. All talking about how to make our country great and keep it great for everyone.

Pick up the phone. Go to a lunch meeting. Go get coffee. Start talking. Ask some questions. Invite others. Make it a group. Get things done. Make change. We need everyone doing their part.

Democracy is humans working together to create and manage human action on behalf of the common good. We aren't talking about government here. We are talking about the people. That is what Tocqueville loved about America - we are a nation of barn raisers. We get shit done. Let's get together and get shit done. Let's work our nation out of the mire in which we're stuck. Get out feet moving.

I'm just saying Facebook ain't going to cut it.

Peace out.

And PS Please return my calls. You know who you are.

1 comment:

  1. A little late I know, but right on Aaron! You've nailed this so eloquently. Technology is awesome, but when it takes weeks of back and forth emails just to schedule a cup of coffee with a friend, I think something's wrong here. People are busier than ever before, but it seems like not a lot is getting done. I really get the sense that everyone is just scrambling to tread water these days - so social things get cut out. Whatever happened to a little fun?