#Hashtag #Nation

a #Shout in the #SoundsOfSilence?

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George Washington painting at Mechanics Hall
Photo credit: Steve Consilvio
 
Despite the moniker #socialmedia, most of what happens in #socialmedia is #antisocial. It is the #Orwellian expression of #groupthink, where two groups accuse each other of #thoughtcrime, #groupthink, and #GuiltByAssociation. A #FeedingFrenzy erupts over whatever is the cause célèbre of the day. #Twitter and the geeks are happy to #TrackIt for you. You cannot be alive if you are not #Connected, #LinkedIn or #Liked. Lately it has been #BlackLivesMatter, which led a local #Boston group to close #Rt93 briefly. Who could have imagined that our democratic process would be reduced to #140characters of #CivilDisobedience? Is this what #Thoreau meant when he was talking about #Lives of #QuietDesperation? Are we reduced to a #Shout in the #SoundsOfSilence?

Well….

A few years ago I attended a grassroots training seminar on how to get elected to public office. The big take-away, of course, was about the need for communication and coalition building. Just like the launching of any product, it gets reduced down to messaging and numbers. Sell! Sell! Sell! Follow the 3-9-27 rule I was taught: Make three points, in nine seconds, using twenty-seven words. This #Soundbite format has been going on for a long time. When I was in college, my roommate was a communications major, and he told me the secret of modern mass media: Tell them what you are going to tell them - tell them - tell them what you told them. If you watch the evening news, it will play out over and over again. Like a bottle of liquor, your brain will get sucked out the more TV news that you watch. The #MassMedia has been derisively described as #infotainment #edutainment and #LameStreamMedia. While the #internets have given rise to freedom of expression and freedom of information, much of it is mocking in subtle and in not-so-subtle ways. #JeSuisCharlie found out the hard way that he who lives by the #AcidTongue may also die by the #AcidTongue, as his life was mocked as one that #DoesNotMatter, too. The nature of #groupthink is that all outside of the group are just #CollateralDamage, and inside are #Heroes and #Martyrs to #TheCause. One of the attackers in #France, moments before his death, stated to a civilian that they do not kill innocent civilians, on his way out the door to a gun battle with the police. The people who were late to work, and the ambulance that was delayed bringing a patient to the hospital, were accidentally #CollateralDamage on #Rt93, just like the Iraqi civilians who were killed by General Norman Schwarzkopf’s #PlanOfAttack. Every #RighteousAct of #ProtectingTheInnocents must sacrifice some of #TheInnocents #ForTheirOwnGood.

Yet…. I can’t help but believe that our division of labor has led to a division of understanding.

While I was at my grassroots training weekend, a suspicion lit upon my consciousness, as they always do, from out of nowhere. I was a History major in college. My compadres at the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs fell into one of three majors: History, Political Science, or Public Administration. We all took similar classes, and in every class there were alway some who #ThinkDifferent. I realized that the seminar leaders were all #PoliticalScience majors. I asked to confirm my suspicions, and they were affirmed. I now see our #DivisionOfLabor quite differently: The #Politicians make the bad decisions, the #Public #Administrators carry out bad decisions, and the #Historians document the bad decisions (usually badly). #Historians are not exempt from #groupthink and #doublethink. In fact, they may be the masters of it, since they reduce complex events down to a #Simplistic #Understanding of #GoodAndBad, #RightAndWrong, #TrueAndFalse.

Today, #RevisionistHistory is a common thing (sort of), but originally the purpose of history was to #Indoctrinate (just as religion does). Teaching #History was meant to preserve and expand #TheEmpire of self-satisfaction by creating a perpetual supply of #TrueBelievers. When most of the population was #Illiterate, the #Educated had a distinct advantage, and #Stories and #Myths gave legitimacy to #Rule. In our own history, this approach is familiar. George Washington wanted #FreePublicEducation in the #NorthwestTerritories (i.e. Ohio) for the purpose of re-educating the #RedSavages into #WhiteSensibilities. In reality, President Washington was just another #OrwellianMaster, full of pride and human frailty and contradictions. At #MechanicsHall in downtown #Worcester there is a painting of a proud #GeorgeWashington depicted next to a #Horse’sRearend. The metaphor is not subtle. Did he build a new nation, or rebuild the #BritishEmpire on #American soil? When #Cromwell led the #EnglishCivilWars, was that not an example of #NotAllLivesMatter? When the #Tories were run out of #Cambridge and #Boston, was it not for the same violent reasoning behind blocking #Rt93 or #9/11? If #TheBostonTeaParty is legitimate, then are not all acts of self-defense? #DickCheney was not the first person to claim #TheEndsJustifyTheMeans when defending the use of #Torture.

#AllLivesMatter is not a new idea, and the struggle for equality and government sensibility is ongoing. #Governing is hard, but repeating a message over and over does not make it true, whether you are the rebel or the ruler. #Blame is not a #Solution. #Repetition is not #Debate. #Soundbites are not #intelligence. It is hard to imagine that #TheFederalistPapers were a public debate held in the nation’s newspapers, whereas today #Hashtags, #Sports and #Stocks scores are the limits of our #Imagination. We never ask why bad things happen, or debate how to respond, or question our understanding. Instead we just build memorials that match the #RocksInOurHeads and enjoy #CatVideos. We need to move beyond the impulse to #idolize or #demonize or #IgnoreEverything. A #BetterWorld is #Possible, but it will take #Everyone to make #AllLivesMatter.
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