Tuesday is my mail day. It’s time to be even more self-indulgent than usual to answer a burning question.
One common response I have can be put several ways. The nice version is:
You write about so many different things. What is your blog about?
The not so nice way is this:
What makes you such a know-it-all?
Today I will make my statement of purpose, my raison d’etre, at least as far as this humble blog is concerned. What the Hell is my point after all?
I have a simple philosophy about the times that we live in. People are anxious about the world and constantly moving in ways that they simply were not a generation ago. We inherited a world full of institutions that were set up to make things run smoothly – to take care of us, in fact – and these institutions are either dying or being forced to make massive changes. The way we relate to the world around us is changing.
This is not a “good” or “bad” thing. It is something that is happening and we have to deal with it. Certainly, connections with people around the world have improved dramatically. Holders of odd or marginalized points of view have found a voice on the internet where previously they were left to silently doubt their own sanity. At the same time, however, the way we make a living or perceive threats or define our own identities is completely opened up to far more detail than we can possibly digest. It tends to be scary more than it is invigorating.
People tend to divide into two camps on this. One camp longs for the old days and the old institutions, and seeks some degree of shelter from the winds of global change. The other group tends to see nothing but opportunity in the days ahead, and downplays very real threats. Naturally, both perspectives have value. Which do I favor?
My view is that neither makes much sense, and that whether you are excited or anxious about the increasing pace of our globalized life there is a better way of looking at it.
I see us as roughly the same species that built Mayan temples, shopped in the Athenian Agora, fought in the battle of Agincourt, and lived the sweet courtly life of the Han Dynasty. I simply believe that whatever winds of change whip over us we are roughly the same species, a walking-upright kind of chimpanzee. We need love and identity and a sense of security almost as much as we need air and food. We’re a gregarious lot.
The American Empire is a bit different than most, in that it came in an era of industrialization. Bigness was goodness for most of the twentieth century. But our species relates best to groups of no more than about 100 people that we can know perfectly well, and our sense of space becomes unimaginably vast once a building hits about 5 stories. The institutions and structures and nearly every aspect of life inherited from our Baroque Era (aka “the 1950s”) is too large to provide the sense of identity and security we need.
I write about many topics that I believe touch the nature of the world we inherited and the degree to which it is out of touch with the basic human scale that I believe we still need. They are all closely inter-related, because all of them worked together to define the world we came from. At the same time, the new world that is available to us also has terrible abilities to work against our most basic human needs even as it tears down the old sense of gigantism. I believe that we need to think about what we are getting ourselves into.
What makes me such a know-it-all? Actually, I know I’m an idiot. I think you’ll find that if you have a particular topic where you can tell me I’m off the mark, I’m happy to discuss it. What you see written here are details, and they are relatively unimportant as far as I’m concerned. The theme is what matters, and the particulars of the story are nothing more than how that theme is delivered. I only hope I show some artfulness in how I tell the story.
I want to have a discussion among people about the real issues of our time, which to me are how new connections create a world that works for people. If you want to tell me I’m wrong, please do. I accept when I am wrong very happily. I learn from it. Sometimes, I even enjoy it.
So tell me I’m wrong. Send me mail as wabbitoid47 at yahoo.com and let’s talk it over!