Thursday, November 24, 2011


I'll talk to some of yous.

Occupy Boston has been here (well for a while) and I've read about it maybe. I've spent time with Occupy Boston collaborating in there general assemblies for some odd hours. I’ve hinted in other posts that growing up, I’ve felt that I have not been active enough as a citizen in this country, but also that currently, our system is so overwrought with shlock that its hard to feel that you can have a voice and participate meaningfully. So here we are.

There is an utter need to reasonably address the critical problems we're facing. Now sometimes the occupiers have been what I feel is somewhat ridiculous, unruly, destructive but often they have been quite impressive. I generally have been impressed with the inclusivity of the Boston Branch and their non-aggressiveness. You don't have to have an ideology to be with them I think.
I’ve liked there general assemblies. They've acted as a place for anyone to voice their views and opinions in a orderly and respectful fashion.  It’s serves as a public space where people of different sectors, or strata of society can come together to share their experiences, ideas and beliefs. I've always felt that in America's past and in general, people used to talk to one another more then they do now. In earlier generations, it wouldn't take a crazy movement spurred by economic and social unrest to provide this public space for people to come together to discuss.
We're  just so reticent now though and can enjoy the hit series The Office in the confines of our home, privately entertaining ourselves and with little need to interact with others. Who needs  to be able to talk to one another when I can enjoy things so readily? This is a poorly done rant, but basically, I think in Boston at one point it used to be more the norm that you could go to a diner, and talk to someone you didn't know. This doesn't happen anymore and thus ideas are not discussed and shared. This lack of social and civic engagement kills us I believe and is why the Occupy Movement's general assembly is so vital.
I mentioned the importance of this the one day I really participated in the Occupy movement (I only have gone for a day). I tried to emphasize this but was probably busy with various tangents. However, had we come together more as a community and society I think this crisis would have been stemmed out earlier. Had each of us been connected to more individuals, especially those in different groups (whether it's work, ethnicity, income, social groups) we would  have been more aware of problems earlier. Social Capital (as that Putnam guy terms it) can serve as a radar as more and stronger networks are created. Problems could have been more aware of earlier on and with more gusto thus motivating us to do something earlier before Lehman Brothers had what happened to them ever so much. We would have stopped this crisis earlier on from being as big as it has been.
It is also much easier to screw over  people when you have no familiarity of them. We are continually being called a divided society. We polarized we're told. The middle class is disappearing. Our politicians squabble. This all might be true and it's not my place to say one way or the other (though I generally agree and since when has it been my place to say anything I'm not sure). So, to all those who have been potentially greedy in some way and been involved in screwing some one else over (maybe you're a banker, but maybe you're the guy who took advantage of my confusion so many times) had you had some awareness and connection to those you're screwing over, you'd be less inclined to engage in such a behavior. When social psychologists look at reasons that atrocities can be committed, the ability to dehumanize a group you're harming was a major factor. If those who got us into this mess could be more aware of those that they might be screwing over, they would very likely have not engaged in as much of their behavior.
Vice versa too. For all those occupy wall street people who are barricading people from going to work in NYC, if you had a connection to someone working on wall street you might be very able to see their nuances, learn that they're probably not any worse then you are, and if they have engaged in something you deem immoral and understand the shades of gray that are more complex to grasp. It's important to realize that despite my anger at the way our economy has run, and I couldn't do a better job working in a financial sector position or running a bank. I don't know what APR is when they talk about it. It's also crucial to remember that we do need some type of a financial sector. We absolutely need it to work and run better then it is, to be more equitable or human in some way, but based on the populations and needs of people in society their needs to be the economic interconnectedness that we have. The Occupy people just have to keep this things in mind (as do I as I start fuming about an overdraft charge, or what Apple does sometimes with their Istupid machines). We thus maybe shouldn't form a human barricade prohibiting people from working in the financial district as that's fairly smelly.
I once borrowed a bicycle pump from my neighbor. Though I didn't successfully engage in using it, I might have, and that might have helped me in some way. Community does this. The ability to come together is an immense boon to livelihood both emotionally and economically. We’re able to share and trade resources. We're able to get jobs more easily because “we know someone” (though a friend from med school was saying how it's not equitable that you generally have to know someone to get a job and all things should be more computerized more so like his med school applications were). Most jobs I've gotten have been through word of mouth, though I'm generally perfectly qualified for the job (aside from slovenliness and both erratic and violent swearing). We learn of opportunities and can share opportunities we have. We're able to teach one another different skills and learn of various new techniques or strategies for solving a problems. I'm teaching one of my friends how to drive, and my roommates from a couple of years back taught me how to tie ties, organize papers, and really just do most things involved with living. This community is especially important, Putnam notes, when the economic climate worsens. All those mentioned above just become more required when there is less opportunity out there.
I don't know what I was even beginning to write about it when I started. Maybe it was about thanksgiving, or maybe it was about the new Muppets movie coming out soon. I don't know. But I really do think we're divided. There are the overt ways people describe in how we're more polarized politically, how we have a declining middle class (this cat doesn't agree there is a declining middle class) and such. Then there are the more covert ways in which we're just so engaged in our private behaviors (maybe that revolve around pornography, or just around some hit tv series which you don't share with someone else as there are so many hit series to choose from now) that Putnam discusses more. I think this kills us more then anything.
So, let's drop the ideology piece first off. Having a sense of humor is incredibly more useful then having an ideological sense. Not that you shouldn't have political and social beliefs, just loosen up some, be open to new ideas. Don't be so fastidious or obtuse (yes I can guess that neither of these words were used properly). It's important to realize that most things you believe ideologically are probably wrong in some way or can't operate in the realm of right or wrong to begin with. It's crucial to realize that you can't even begin to know close to anything that one can possibly understand in our universe. It's vital that you realize that by not listening to others and foreclosing on your own ideas, you rob yourself of an opportunity to learn. Lastly, if you put your beliefs above your care for your fellow individuals... well that's stupid, so don't do that or I'll get you.

Let's find a way to get back to a place where we can feel comfortable talking to one another more. Where you can take the T in Boston and it's not deathly silent and full of people playing that stupid chicken launcher game on their Iphones. We should use the wonderful technological tools we have available, but they shouldn't be using us . We should be engaging with reality and humanity more then more effectively advancing our text message use for the given month.
Let's take that step to connect more with those that we'd otherwise be nervous talking to. Let's listen, really listen, not listening so you can say your piece, but listening so you can understand, reflect, and learn for yourself what things are like outside of your little puny head. 

Have a yard sale. Invite your neighbors over for dinner. Maybe start a book club or spend some time doing a regular activity outside like walking the dog or wading through the communities recycling bin (please do). Say hi to strangers, not in a big way, but make it known that maybe you might care they exist. Get a dog so that you can walk it and they will do the socializing for you. Be drunk more, during the day, or use mescaline (ignore that). Attend or organize more of those communtiysh meetings about the neighborhood or schools or city council. Grow plants outside. Vote. Don't just vote, maybe volunteer (I didn't vote in the last election due to insurance related issues I was illogically concerned about). Use that meetup site. Maybe tweet about something, but in a useful way. Have a pot luck dinner or a BBQ (if you know how to do one which I certainly don't). Maybe get a screen and project movies onto it in your backyard like my neighbors do (but don't show terrible German contemporary movies). This is getting silly and you should have done something else many minutes ago but do take stock.
Overall, us, all of us coming back together will do more to prevent us from living up to some “lost generation” label that is occurring and will do more to help us rebuild and stave off future problems. We absolutely do need to improve our economy, but it is my thought that we can't do so unless we improve our society and can thus sustain economic growth. Lots of things get sold in our economy that are crap. They are marketed so effectively but really are hollow like the people who designed, build or sold them (take the Panera bread store). In the same sense we have to be worth the squeeze. We need to have skills, have good personalities and actually be a useful generation and I think from there the economic issues will progress. Let's do better and happy thanksgiving. I don't even know where I began to be going with this. 

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bruce said...

Speaking of getting together, why don't you come over to my place so we can discuss society...bring beer

DefEnjoyment said...

Perhaps I will...