Having presented Gar Alperovitz’s idea that if a democracy is to sustain itself in the future, citizens must become personally and physically active in supporting their policy issues – whether local or national. Mariner feels this is a tall order for today’s common culture. There was a time in the past when a telephone line was the only door to the outside world. In rural and exurb areas, a caller shared one line with four or five neighbors. Individuals could learn a bit about what was going on by listening to the radio and reading newspapers but to communicate with one another was more difficult than we may remember.
Consequently, “clubs” were common. Churches, too, played a role as a central location where neighbors could gather and talk to one another. When mariner moved to a small Iowa town in the 1960’s, he had a choice of a stamp club, coin club, VFW, Masons, Eastern Star, Lions, garden club, American Legion, playing card club(s), Rotary, sewing club, bars (where everybody knows your name) and informal groups that met regularly in hardware stores, gas stations and morning coffee shops. Outside activities were frequent and included ice cream socials, dinners, corn festivals, lunches, baseball, a larger county fair (larger inclusion than today because of the farming community and forgotten homemaking skills along with as many local booths on the midway as professionals). Size of the town? Nine hundred, tops.
Television was new. Areas contiguous to the town didn’t have electricity until after the war (1946-54). Television provided something to do at home besides darning socks, sewing buttons, crocheting, canning, playing cards and working jigsaw puzzles… and going to meetings.
The Internet and powerful multipurpose telephones that need no wires have crushed face-to-face group participation. The closest thing to a club is a special link of users many of whom have never met one another and frequently don’t share a common neighborhood or state.
The reader gets the point. Today’s culture is fast; it is comprehensive in content; it is dismantling not only human contact in neighborhoods but even the need to visit a retail outlet where humans used to gather – Amazon takes care of that.
Alperovitz suggests our survival requires us to reverse this trend. Civility, fairness, honesty and all the other virtues unattended by corporations et al, are in our hands. However, culturally today’s folks are unaccustomed to physically leaving home to have discussions with other humans. That requires a lot more overhead than watching CBS News. Has the reader ever accompanied a group to visit their state legislator’s office? Governor? US Senator?
It is refreshing to see organized groups who fight for ownership of their policies. Can we turn the cultural norm? Even if wildly successful, it will take time – maybe even a new generation.