Comment 48804

By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted October 05, 2010 at 10:09:29

Recently, I replied to a commenter on my blog who was insisting that social networking was going to be the way forward to creating the increased 'relationship of engagement' between residents and their councillors in local governance (my current passion), that:

"Fashioning a deeper 'relationship of engagement' in local governance will certain involve social networking...but cannot be the foundation of it any more than the phone was the answer for all relationship dilemmas in the past."

Naturally, for people of a certain age, this comes an attack against a foundation of their lives. I don't mean it to be. I believe in change, I recognize and understand how the WWW has forever shifted how we see things and communicate our feelings about them...

...but I still believe that at the core of everything is human-to-human engagement. In other words, putting a very fine point on it: 'You have to be breathing the same air.'

We're part of the animal kingdom, and included in all of the concomitant aspects of being 'animals' are the realities of being physical creatures in a physical world. We were not born with modems, and nothing will ever replace face-to-face engagement.

I'm still working my way through Lizbeth Cohen's 'A Consumers' Republic; The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America', and I cannot recommend this book fervently enough. I mention it in regards to Michelle's great article because 'social networking' is nothing more than a consumable. Not just in the sense of requiring the technology to participate, but that the participation is a consumable, a consumer item. And Lord knows, people love their consumables, be it technology...or politics or fitness...or 'happiness'.

Cohen explains the quantum shift in both values and perception from the point just before The Great Depression, through WWII, The Cold War and the ensuing 50+ years to where we are today. Most everything we see as 'modern life' is in fact an expression of 'the consumer society'. The good...and the bad. (It's just that we're less apt to be willing to acknowledge the bad as being so.)

My reason for injecting this seemingly disparate tangent into the discussion is simply to remind ourselves that what matters most in a humane world is not the innovations or the great marches forward in perceived 'standard of living'. What matters most in a humane world is our expressed humanity to each other.

Thanks Michelle, for presenting this opportunity to be reminded of this.

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