Sunday, March 11, 2007

uncivil discourse

So, I went to this talk at the Walker Art Center, entitled, Uncivil Discourse. It was a classy event with all the suits in the city, with appetizers and linens and an informational speech. The socializing proved profitable and a bit surprising as I met the mayor’s communications director and some infiltrators affiliated with emergent, who knew my sister. Wow! It’s a small world after all.

The talk was about the outrage industry and how they exploit the common citizen. The outrage industry is simply any public figure or organization who entices their audience into a particular perspective or action via manipulative speech or propaganda that taps into fear and anger. Those in the advertising industry know—yes, this is how it actually is supposed to work. But for those who enjoy a higher level response and interchange, realize the intellectual bankruptcy of such a response audience—indicative also of comparable low-level emotional commitment and by-in.

In the public arena issues are set up with no middle ground or trajectory for resolution. Issues are set up in a polarity that gains a figurehead or a platform political advantage. Collaboration and collective problem solving between the positions that have been framed in a polarized structure would be bad for politics. It would be bad for the outrage industry. It would be bad for me because I would have to think constructively. I would maybe have to do something more than rant and rave and beg the question. And quite frankly, I like ranting and raving. I get a high off the head trip where I eloquently tear apart someone else’s and establish how mature and intelligent I am with my alternative argument.

...okay,...back to the presentation. Those of us who are most vulnerable to being drawn by the voice that tempts our adrenaline levels. A transient existence gives us little or no context to tie us into the world of flesh and bone. Our highly mobile culture uproots us. Generally, for security we naturally choose to embrace the things that feel familiar to us. We settle into homogenous communities. We self-select our own news and information sources which feed into and affirm our set of beliefs. Ignorance, prejudice and intolerance percolate in these communities of sameness, whether they are virtual or our own special urban tribe. All we need is someone to begin yelling, “Revolution!” “Kill the non conformists” and you’ve got yourself a Darfur. (Okay that's a bit of a fast, long stretch...but you get my point)

Worst case scenario? Yes! Scare tactic used? Right again!

The speaker made some insightful observations. He gave some great back-up on historical trends which bring us to this place in time. He also gave a solution—a plug to join the organization which hosted the event. Okay so maybe he had to do that. But a few things rang true. Collaboration and working toward a solution in peace and harmony doesn’t attract attention and it doesn’t give me that rush of adrenaline. It doesn’t give me that winner’s elation once I proclaim a win over my opponent. There is something pacifistically Anabaptist about that.

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