Driving to work I like to listen to NPR, or Modest Mouse turned up to 11. But usually NPR. It makes me feel s-m-r-t.Â Yesterday on Morning Edition Steve Inskeep interviewed their own editorial director of digital media, Dick Meyer about his new book Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millennium. It was fantastic. I highly recommend everyone go listen to it, I’ll wait. It’s seven minutes 19 seconds that you’ll be happy you gave up.
I’ve pulled out a little of the conversation (this took me about 7 rewinds, so enjoy it)
The cultural revolution of the 1960s and the technological revolution that followed set people adrift; they can’t count on communities … People had a community identity.
I am adrift. I am an only child. Peter is one of two children. His brother and parents live 1000 miles away. We live in a town near the one I spent my “formative” years. There’s been so much growth in this area in the last 20 years that it’s not the same place in which I grew up.
The town I live in does not evoke a community identity. In fact it evokes very little response – it’s a bedroom community, it’s completely non-offensive. My neighborhood doesn’t have a community identity, it’s another beige subdivision. My block does not have a sense of community. We are more fortunate than other blocks, in that we all know each other’s first names, but last names? Forget about it.
My kids go to the same daycare as one of the neighbor families. It’s brought our two families closer together; we’ve had dinner at each other’s homes. When she suggested that we put each other on the emergency contact form at school I was dumbfounded. Why, of course we should do that. It makes total sense. But it didn’t occur to me. I was embarrassed by that. I’m the emergency contact for some friends, for kids whose schools I don’t know the location. To rely on your neighbor is such a profound act. The reliance builds community.
I believe it takes a village to raise a child. Every time my children get love, guidance and reprimanded by our friends I’m happy to see my village at work. I have a community. I am part of a community. I cannot simply fall off this planet without someone noticing. And for that, I am grateful. But I do not have a community identity. Or maybe I do and I cannot articulate it? Totally possible.
What was the technological breaking point for a community? Was it the telephone? Now you could maintain relationships with people from your geographic past, you didn’t have to befriend your neighbor because you were still friends with your old neighbor. Was it the television? No need to go outside and visit with your neighbors, you could watch your stories and feed some of the socialization feelings there. Was it the computer? The Internet? Video games? The never being able to be incommuncado?
Where did our communities break? How do we rebuild them?
And yes, y’all are my online community. But I’m not sensing that I can call you to bail my ass out of jail. You know, since you’re allowed one phone call – not one email or tweet. Not that I twitter, but if I did, that would totally be something worth tweeting about.
As a total aside, I did learn from looking at NPR’s webiste that when I have my professional anchor picture taken I should sit with my right side facing the camera and look straight at the camera. Or at least that’s how Mr Inskeep and Meyer do it. Regardless, they’re no Anderson Cooper. I was once in the CNN Center and for a brief moment considered making out with his larger than life size portrait on the wall. I remembered that I wasn’t a 12 year old girl alone in her bedroom with her Corey Feldman poster. So I just pet it a little as we walked by.