Is Social Media Anti-social? I’m More Convinced Than Ever (Part II)

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As a veteran of the computer industry, lover of technology and all things robotic, perfectly prepared to worship our all-mighty robot overlords when they spring up from the A.I-verse, I still haven’t changed my perspective on social media. See: Anti-Social Media (Part I). It is the bane of the First World’s existence.

Social media is believed to lead to shortening attention spans, reducing our ability to read, analyse, and comprehend longer works, reducing our ability to gauge emotion, it’s reducing our empathy to our fellow man and increasing narcissistic tendencies all over the developed world. It might even contribute to global warming.  Just wanted to get that out there so if you are a standard social media user, you’ll understood where I was going before your attention…waned.

Social media is the scourge of our century the same way rock and roll affected our grandparents in the Fifties. And like Rock and Roll, it isn’t going anywhere soon.

Response to The Shut-In EconomyYes, I know the benefits of technology. I recognize it allows us to have friends outside of our geographical area. It lets us connect to people who share our ideals and beliefs. It can also allow us access to publishing and more permanent forms of information manipulation bringing us closer to people who we might not have ever met in the flesh.

Technology has brought us drones that deliver packages to our doorsteps or hellfire missiles to our enemies in whatever third-world nation managed to piss off Fox News and the government this week. Technology has also put people out of work, caused the Uberfication of the modern workplace where once highly employable folks are driven to desperate measures working as Uber drivers, Task Rabbits or Alfreds for overworked, overpaid yuppies who live in overpriced apartments while carrying too much educational debt and having nothing resembling a social life for all that money.

(NOTE: if you don’t read anything else, read the article linked also linked above “The Shut-in Economy.” It paints a picture of the modern workplace and economy of workers that investors are wanting to create more of almost certainly ensuring society spins further out of control as economic inequality escalates.)

However, Social media, for all of its potential benefits, including its participation in world shaking events such as the Arab Spring protests and subsequent uprisings and the Hong Kong Protests, still strikes me more as a tool for addiction development than a benefit to society as a whole. A wide array of opinions around social media addiction exists.

“Any application that provides variable and strong rewards and is regularly accessible is potentially addictive,” Dr. Olif Turel, an information systems and decision sciences professor at California State University at Fullerton, said in a statement. “With social media, you never know what friends have posted, so it encourages regular use.”

Be with the friends who are here.But this is just some over-educated scientist’s opinion. You know how oppressive science can be when it comes to opinion. But if your dinner table looks like our opening photograph or you have a basket at your front door insisting your friends drop their addiction at the door, with a note saying: Be with the friends who are here!  You know what I’m talking about.

No matter what we may think of social media overall, we cannot deny its increasing intrusiveness, its crushing of personal creativity and potentially devastating effects on our economy. It’s estimated social media may have cost as much as $650 billion in lost revenue nationwide just from the two largest social media platforms of Facebook and Twitter.

Why do I mention this at all? Most of you will not change your habits, no matter how much you know about social media’s ill effects on you, your friends, the world, your pets, your health and your life in general. This article is for those times when you find yourself wondering if you are spending too much time online, whether your social media may be affecting your life in a negative way, when you look around and wonder if anyone has ever warned you about the potential detrimental effects on you or your business, the answer can be: Yes. You were warned. Now get up. Open the blinds, behold the sun, squint, take a shower, put on some clothes. Go outside. Say hello to someone without using your fingers. Who knows, you might even make a friend, in real time, locally who might actually go with you to the movies…together.

Watch the incredible animated video that follows. This video puts social media in the light I believe it needs to be seen in. Done to the tune of Carmen, no less. Enjoy!

Enjoy the awesome infographic: Thumbnail image courtesy of iDream_in_Infrared.

estimated cost of social media

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Anti-social Media, part 1

A spectrum of social media tools (click to enlarge)

The above graphic offers you a chance, if you can read the tiny logos in the expanded version, to see just how many tools are currently in existence that revolve around the explosions in social media technology.

I have been reading articles regarding social media for the last week and I have become very disturbed by the variety of points of view on the subject. The articles on Klout and Peer Index and other tools used to measure social influence left me wondering about the attempts of the industry to monitize, gamify or in some fashion quantify the value of social media. I am certain I am in violation of a number or rules regarding social media, the primary one being that the meaning is the message, and that it is important to use social media to advertise your product or brand. I spent an entire hour listening to brand mavens pointing out the importance of branding in the future of advertising.

But there were things said that did not sit well for me. Just a couple to show you want I mean.

I am not a detergent. I am not a cow. I do not need nor require a brand to identify myself. The very nature of branding reduces not enhances the human experience, in my opinion. Why has society tried to force branding off on to the computer-using human populace as if it was something that was to be desired? What is this issue with trying to determine Trust Metrics? As if trust were something you could get off the shelf at the market. And since when did Integrity become something that could be detected over the Internet?

All that follows is my opinion. Mouth-breathers who want to rant and rave over what I say next, I say to thee, get thee to a nunnery or to wherever you need to go to get yourself together. I will likely speak heresy and perhaps it is best that someone say it.

Social media has no meaning beyond what we give it. There is this need to expound on social media as if it were the best thing that has ever happened to anyone anywhere. Get over it. Much of what is being sold today as social media has existed for over twenty years in various and better developed forms.

They are only important now because they have suddenly become mainstream and now relatively normal folks are suddenly able to post things to the internet with a minimum of muss and fuss. All that was old is new again. The chat potential that is currently Twitter used to be know as IRC and for anyone who still uses IRC, they laugh at Twitter as a less intelligent but better dressed cousin. Blogging used to have a slightly different configurations called Forums which allowed you to post information sequentially in discrete chunks blocked off by time. Millions of people and services still use forums today. Email, well that has just stayed email. It has slightly more advanced capabilities but if you were sending email twenty years ago, you could send it today with less than five minutes of explanation.

All of the fuss that is made over social media, regarding its marketing potential, whether trust was important and if so, how important, how does social media penetrate our lives, etc. Yes, I know Twitter has software that allows its feeds to be used in other programs, allowing for visualization of twitter information in wild and wonderful ways. But most of those visualizations are not beneficial to the people using Twitter. They are beneficial to corporations who want to monitize Twitter with advertising models. All of that is nonsense, if the basic premise is still untrue. If you are a dastardly person, who does not honor your contracts, who lacks human decency and cannot string a comprehensive paragraph together, social media will not help you get new clients, it will not help your business, it will not help you keep friends, (though it may allow you to expose yourself and your dastardly ways to more people), it will not make you a better person and it certainly won’t help you be a better writer.

Bad people are found out. It may take a moment, if they are suave or clever (or in some cases, sociopathic) and can put on an act to make others believe they are genuine and trustworthy. But they did not need social media for that. They could have (and have almost always) duped their prey in person. Now social media gives them one more forum to ply their trade.

Social media is not new. It is a new way of doing old things. The first and best of those old things is called communication. Talking to people, being friendly, being a person of repute, having manners, displaying class and grace. These things are the social part. If you lack these, technology will not help you.

Stop ranting over social media currency or the ROI (return on investment) of your social media time and how it will augment your business marketing making you even richer than you are now. You become rich by having something worthwhile to say. You become rich by doing things that are meaningful. You become rich by creating content people are able to put to work in their lives and in doing so perhaps also become rich. Do that right enough times and everyone you are social with will benefit.

Content is King.  The ability to say the right thing, at the right time, to the right people over the right communication standard is what matters. If you don’t mean what you say, say what you mean, do what you say and accomplish it in a timely fashion, you will not succeed in business, you will not succeed in life and you certainly won’t succeed in social media, which is a distillation of all of the things, skills, behaviors, ideas and efforts you put forward in life. Social media will not make you rich if you are a slackard. It will not enrich those who cannot be bothered to actually have anything useful to say. It is the USE of your content that makes it worthy.

Influence, the power of social media matters when you are able to help others find their way to the things they are seeking in life. Things that help them fulfill what is important to them, for them, for their families and their way of living. Otherwise, you are just another person claiming to be a social media expert and not clear on the subject of what social media is really supposed to do. Yes, you can have amazing Klout numbers or Peer Index numbers and still not be doing anything that helps anyone. Social media suffers from a high ratio of noise to signal. Lots of sound, hard to distinguish what is worth listening to. This diminishes its usefulness. That was the point of the very first graphic I gave you. Look closely at it, zoom in on it (click it first for the highest resolution) you will see there are at least one hundred different ways of relaying information using social media. With so much diversity, it is hard to know where it would be best for your message to be placed for a chance at getting heard.

Social media’s real goal is to help us communicate. Meaningfully, with content that can change lives. All that other talk about the benefits of social media is just to get us to buy something we don’t need to complete a task well within our power, without ever turning on a computer in the first place.

Yes, I said it. The social media emperor has no clothes.

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I hate Facebook, but I have a reason you have not heard yet…

I hate Facebook, but not for the reasons you might think. I have been working on the Internet since 1984. I remember modems. I remember dialup connections. I remember bulletin boards. I remember a time when there were no graphics on the Internet and Lynx (an early text only web browser) was the best you could hope for if you wanted to access the World Wide Web. I remember Gopher and Archie, (two means of storing and retrieving files on servers at universities all over the nation before the World Wide Web became powerful and easy to use), FTPUsenet news and binary files.

I remember a time when everything you did to reach the Internet was shrouded in mystery and magic (XON, XOR anyone?). I remember Mosaic and its later descendant, Netscape, fondly. I remember America Online and my first $600 online bill and CompuServe with their strange little account numbers, I remember the Well, where the best writers actually DID write there. I remember the constantly growing Internet that always had something new around every corner. It grew faster and changed daily, but no one really paid it any mind, after all it had existed for nearly thirty years and most barely knew of its existence up to that point. No one knew what was about to happen. Most of our science-fiction up to that time, even the most progressive and amazing stuff written barely considered the implications or the complications that would arise with this new technology.

Something changed in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The Internet began to balkanize. It began to coalesce. Its formlessness began to be changed by the sheer volume of people who began to find their way there. Millions came every year, faster and faster, each bringing their expectations to the Internet of what it should be rather than accepting it for what it was. A means of communication, that equalized everyone who used it. The chance to speak your mind without being censored, unless what you said was stupid, and then people just stopped listening to you.

The same way the printing press brought The Word, literacy and ultimately the sum of human experience to anyone who could read, The Internet brought The World to anyone who had access to a computer and could relay their experience to anyone, anywhere, who wanted to listen. This was more than a book, this was Experience transmitted at the speed of light. The false separations of humanity, time, space, distance, race, creed, color, were all able to be overlooked because, as the joke went, on the Internet, no one knew you were a dog, so we were all made equal by the quality of our electronic musings.

Then the Internet experienced a change, and not a good one.  The big corporations arrived. They set up their shops, and began to tell everyone what to expect from the Internet. They brought their old models of behavior from their previous medium (television, radio, music industries) and tried to bring the mojo that made them incredibly rich to the Internet. And it didn’t work.

The Internet required new mojo, it was not enough to be rich, you had to be good, to be smart, to be crafty, to offer people something REALLY new. And more of the same stuff that made you rich wasn’t it. Which lead to the college dorm rooms. There were plenty of smart, motivated, young people just waiting for an opportunity to create something new and that is where some of the newest and most powerful corporations got their start. Yahoo, Google, Twitter and Facebook are four such mega-corporations that rivaled the Old World Media in power and influence in the New Media World.

Golden gadget: Designer Stuart Hughes has created a 22ct iPad with and Apple logo studded with 54 diamonds. A snip at just £130,000.

Since the clash of Old World Media and New World Media, the Internet has been awash in the blood of their combat. Creativity for the sake of creating has been replaced with the heady swirl of technology being created in an effort to make profit. These technological remora  remain close enough to the swarming sharks of industry to make money, but not so close as to be eaten in their Promethean combat, striding across the world, affecting entire nations, for good and ill, sometimes in the same day.

Everyone is seeking to make money, and while there is nothing wrong with that, it seems that is all I ever hear about now when I think about the internet. The latest gadget, the latest cloud computing scheme/tool/asset, the newest APP, a better API, a newer operating system, the newest content management system, the latest social media event that will make me millions overnight if I act right now and send money to my friend in Nigeria/Amsterdam/Moscow.

So what does this have to do with my hatred of Facebook, you are asking? Why the trip down memory lane? Because Facebook and its many monolithic clones have done to the Internet something that none of the early evils which inflicted themselves upon the Internet could do.

Old Media for all of its power, money and influence, was never able to convince anyone that it WAS the Internet; Old Media was unable to convince you that it was the sum of all knowledge and that ultimately if you wanted to do something on the Internet, you had to go through them. No one believed it and thus it wasn’t true. But Facebook has 400 million people who use it and believe that it IS the Internet and beyond its borders there be Dragons.

Stay within the walls of Castle Facebook and you will be fine. Play our games, shop with our ads, communicate with your network of friends you have never met, and you will be fine. We will bring you the media you need. Facebook has everything you could ever need, so there is no longer a need to forage beyond our walls for food or entertainment. And if you must go to get something outside of Facebook, we want you to use your Facebook account data to join that new service, so you can find your way back to your cornerstone of your New Media experience.

Here are a few of the other things Facebook does that I simply cannot abide:

  • I am unhappy with the constantly changing but not necessarily improving face of Facebook. Every few months, it looks and acts completely different, and often for no discernable reason. All I can be sure of is by the time I get it configured the way I like it, it will be changing and the services I like the most, will be gone or mutated beyond recognition.
  • I dislike their draconian privacy practices that allow them to give away your information to whomever will pay them the most. Anytime you engaged in any activity on Facebook, whether it be quiz or game, you are giving away your information. And they don’t have to tell you who is using that data. And it did not start out this way. Take a look at how it has changed over time.
  • I am displeased with the fact that they choose to make their privacy rules and settings as an opt-out rather than an opt-in. As an opt-out, you are relinquishing rights and access to information that you may not be aware is being made public or being used by the public domain as part of a greater marketing model. As an opt-in, you would be treated with respect because you would have the option to CHOOSE to participate rather than being forced to.
  • I am angry that the faceless Facebook executives look to sell those here-for-to unknown rights to the highest bidder as part of an advertising campaign, most of their 400 million users are not aware they are participating in. Adding insult to injury, they hid the information of their shenanigans inside a document as complex and longer than the Constitution of these United States.
  • I abhor the fact that even if you wanted to leave Facebook, they reserve the right to continue to maintain your account hidden from the general population but your connections made through your account continue to exist unless you make an effort to erase your existence, element by element from the Facebook (and their attendent lackies) systems and servers.
  • Such a removal of your virtual self from their servers is a slow and steady process but one you must undertake if you wish to truly disappear from the Facebook Continuum. Even if you take the effort, there is no guarantee that your efforts will net you any real gain because the servers that Facebook uses, has backed up your virtual existence since the first day you ever put any files on the Facebook site.

The real issue I have with Facebook and all of its descendants and imitators is this: Facebook can be a candle in the darkness, it can be an island in the vast sea of data that is out there. I say to Facebook, BE that entry into this vast ocean, but do not try an convince anyone that you are all that there is, and that you have the power to treat people badly because you BELIEVE you control their experience while they are on the Internet. Because better corporations than you have thought that very thing and they are now just roadkill on the Internet Superhighway.

Many of them are companies that I have already mentioned, AOL, Compuserve, the Well, MySpace (I know Myspace is still alive, but it is really just a zombie-like existence, desperately seeking brains for sustenance). There are over one trillion web pages on the Internet today, and more spring into existence ever second. Each is a place you can go to and see and learn something new. You could spend the rest of your human existence looking at a page a second and not even scratch the surface of the number of pages out there. (60 seconds x 60 minutes x 24 hours a day, x 365 days a year x 100 years or 3,153,000,000 – that is over three billion pages leaving 97% of the Internet unseen by you even after all that.)

Don’t let Facebook or any mega-corporation dictate to you what the Internet should look like. Go out there and find as many unique experiences as you can. If you have the power, the interest, and the capability, MAKE something unique for the Internet. PROSUME; produce and consume, create something new, reach the sum of your human potential.

I recommend StumbleUpon as a great way to see the Internet you have been too busy with Facebook to see. Get the toolbar for your browser, make an account on StumbleUpon, choose the things you are interested in and have at it. I promise you, you will see things that you could never find using Social Media because social media is really only good for one thing; talking about itself. Step away from the closed proprietary universe of Facebook and return to the Internet you never knew existed.

You don’t have to leave Facebook, just turn it off so that you can hear the rest of the signal out there. Look at Facebook and other social media like you would the Sun. While you are using it, you cannot see the other stars that may offer you equally fantastic tools, opportunities and ideas that may be obscured by the brightness and nearness of social media tools. Let the sun go down, let those other stars come out for a while. You may be amazed at what you might find. If you have a tool you like to use to find the hidden jewels of the Internet, share them here!

ENVISION : Step into the sensory box from SUPERBIEN on Vimeo.

I found this video using StumbleUpon. It shows the development of a media group from their simple animations to this, their current crowning glory. A weird little gem of the Internet. Enjoy it!

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Steps toward a saner America

The behavior of America’s leaders in this first year of the Obama administration has been less than stellar; name calling on the floor of the Senate, open mockery of the office of the President, death threats made to congressmen are just a few of the more questionable behaviors that have reared their heads in these last months.

More disturbing is that as the deadline for the potential signing of HR3590 drew closer, more vocal rhetoric and in some cases outright slander and overt racism in the case of the Tea Party and the Christian militias (which in the last year went from 180 groups to over 540 groups and growing) continued to grow and spew forth vitriolic venom both on the ground and in the airwaves.

Glen Beck’s screams of “Progressivism” and Rush Limbaugh’s continued polarization of the GOP’s base seemed to fuel a frenzy of national hatred that culminated with the final signing of the health care legislation.

The question begs to be asked: What exactly could cause such a major swing in the overall mental state of the nation that would cause social groups to abandon all sense of propriety and what was once considered to be common sense and human decency? And this transition did not happen overnight.

I can find articles describing this phenomenon years before Obama came into office.  How is it that even children can see the behavior of every adult whether they be “tea-bagger” Republican or liberal “bleeding-heart” Democrat has been a travesty worthy of school yard bullying complete with arguments about policies that no one has read in their entirety and cannot even begin to really understand the ramifications of, for years in the future; each group claiming to be more right than the other and willing to kill to prove it.

Is this what good government is supposed to look like? No wonder our children want nothing to do with the idea of government – its is a regression to the schoolyard of their youth where nothing got solved, everyone was right and no one could apologize for fear of appearing weak and losing face.

So how do we begin to make a transition from this fear-enabled, angst-filled, respect-stunted, violence-prone and civility-impaired nation of fools without the ability to hold even the most basic of conversations without resorting to ad hominem attacks about Progressivism, Socialism, Marxism, conservatism, Nazism, racism, or Communism and get back to a nation powered by ideas, fueled by innovation, guided by clear vision, charged with enthusiasm for the future, and with the idea that only as a nation of real equals do we have a chance to tackle a potentially troubling and very challenging future filled with perils aplenty – a constantly growing need for diverse and renewable energy sources, better food to feed an obese and sedentary nation, a more even educational system providing higher quality education at lower costs, handling a crumbling technological infrastructure in all of our cities, ever-rising debts in the management of said cities, mass transit systems, school systems, prison systems and local governments, a reduction of our nation’s status as the leader in technological innovation, military might, and national idealism, wars all over the globe, some of which we take part in and other we shamefully allow to take place without intervention because our assets are not yet imperiled. Do we not have enough to deal with without the people and particularly the leaders of our nation acting as if we had simply gone mad?

No need to break out your DSM IV

As much as I would like to say that this is a mental health issue, I cannot agree with that assessment. Nor will I say that this is about the Left versus the Right and which has the nation’s best interests at heart. And I will not allow people such as Limbaugh, Beck and Stern (and any other raving media lunatic) the option to say that he has had the power to move the minds of men toward madness.

I say this is a creeping condition. A hidden fungal infection, beneath the veneer of civility, something that has been with this nation since its beginning; an underlying sense of shame, a sense of entitlement, a sense of misplaced anger, and a sense of righteous indignation; stirred together, simmer over four hundred years, add some civil wars, some terrible recessions, stir together in a Dust Bowl, fold in some misplaced ideals (McCarthyism for example), sprinkle on a few pogroms, ladle in laws that denied what we now consider rights, place a few strategically fired bullets at leaders who saw a better, brighter world,  and the add a generous helping of landmines all over the world to deny people of their opportunities year after year.

Bake until there are competitors for the world’s apparently diminished resources, bring to a boil over a burning building that collapses strangely when a plane with zealots deny three thousand of their lives and couple that with the retaliation that deprives millions more of theirs and you have a recipe for a madness that encompasses the country and poisons the world, a sickness spread through the airwaves, leaping from televisions, repeated on computers, stained to newsprint and by contagion in hidden office arguments and you have one of the most virulent plagues known to humanity, a loss of hope.

Hopelessness, of a future less promising than the one your parents had made even more futile by the actions of an elite few who want for nothing except for a connection to the human billions who do without that which their  financial billions could make right. Can we doubt that this is the recipe for madness? A sense of rage that would drive men to take up arms, kill their brothers, to sacrifice, like Abraham, anyone or anything that might make the world return to the Promised Lands of their religions.

Is it any wonder that people would strap on explosives filled with nails and shards of broken glass and blow themselves to bits on the promise that the next life, which none of us could technically be sure exists, would be better than the life they were leading the day they died? Our real goal is to return people to that hope, to a future that has the potential to be better than the one they see when they look up, whether it be out of their homeless shelter or their mansion window, a future that will not improve if we cannot admit that we are wrong about the present.

So if you want to improve the future, say it with me: I was wrong.

I don’t know what it was that I was wrong about and it does not matter. Did I misinterpret what was said? Did I assume when I should have asked? Did I know what Marxism, or Socialism or Communism really meant before I said those things I said in a meeting when I might have been a bit incensed? How much do I really know about Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or the Federal Reserve or about my credit rating or how the stock exchange really relates to me or whether Windows 7 really is the operating system for my computer?

A need to be right?

Why are we so insistent that we must be right? My religion is the right one. My God told me. All other are wrong enough that I must die to prove it, unless I can kill them first. My government is the right one, because it has held power for a few days longer than the one before it, or has historically proven to be the one that raised fewer taxes or managed to make more changes that helped people or because business thrived under my government and languished under yours? That the Atkins diet is better than Weight Watchers?

STOP! Just stop!

History is great but its weakness is everyone remembers what is most convenient and important to them (relativism run amok). So when history gets people in a killing mood it is time to look toward the future and ask how what we are planning will affect the lives of people once we are gone. Yes, let’s get back to the idea of planning for a future that we will never get to see. That will make us think a little bit harder, plan a little bit better and teach our children well enough that they can have a chance to make that future happen for themselves once we are gone. Let’s go back to providing our children a legacy that will make them proud of us and still prouder of themselves for planning a better future for their children.

Enough shame to go around

You raging pundits, go home. Find something useful to do with your amazing oratory skills. Perhaps some poor neighborhoods of your choice could be inspired to greatness with those powers you currently wield without thought to their effects on the nation, on the future or most importantly on yourself. Could you live with yourself if you were to wake up in the future of your making only to find out it was the worst of all worlds, a hellish nightmare from which there was no awakening? Or are you so out of touch you would find a way to blame it on the other party, even while you were having your sandwich of Soylent Green?

You politicians, do your job. The one we hired you for. The one that, if I have my way this letter will incite people to replace you with someone who can read, who will write laws that they are not afraid to live under, who will create a responsible future that benefits everyone, not just the rich and powerful and who will consider every man woman and child under his or her constituency as precious as every drop of water is to a man lost in a desert, each drop coveted, beloved, needed and considered as important as the drop before it. Be responsible, be conscientious, be vigilant, be valiant, be leaders of men.

You media distributors, grow up. We know your secret, if it bleeds it leads. Sensationalism sells papers, video, commercials, and other advertising, continuing to make you the most powerful force for influencing the minds of men and women. We know you will do or say anything to be at the top.  But remember this too: scum floats to the top, too. We know who you are and you are wondering why no one is happy with newspapers? Less and less in newspapers matters to people anymore. You grow irrelevant to the common man and he knows this.

Continue in this pattern and you will be assured of one thing. In ten years, there will be ten newspapers for each time zone in the United States (currently there are 1,400 daily newspapers nationwide and thousands of local weeklies but that number is dropping fast). And do not think that the Internet will save you. The need for relevancy will follow you there. Find the heart of America and give it what it really needs which is hope for a future. Lead them with words that inspire as well as inform. You can let the printed word build the future or you can watch from the sidelines as “citizen journalism” replaces you with its imperfect writing styles, less than stellar grammar and polarized, biased views. But those views will be relevant to the people reading it and yours won’t be.

You elite one percent, pay attention. Your time of reckoning is at hand. This economic collapse that everyone wants to place at the feet of President Obama is not his alone. He may be in charge of the nation, but he just got here a year ago. In the seventies and eighties when lobbyists for big business and deregulation were able to convince the government that you would be more profitable if allowed to be less regulated, you were. But no one was watching you.

No one paid attention to your schemes that allowed you first to run rampant here in the States and then spread your machinations upon a vulnerable yet already scheming world trying to figure out how to get markets in America whilst you set your hungry eyes upon their wretched poor trying to figure out how you could exploit them for less than you were paying your middle class and poorer brethren here in the states.

Rich foreign investors purchased American assets and you moved your factories, your manufacturing, your services overseas and left your brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers of circumstance and shared fates without resources to buy your wares. And when your wares returned from their foreign sweatshops, there was no one left here to buy them, except for you and your elite friends who lacked the purchasing power to ignite the economic engine of shame, left under-fueled by your quests for profit. I do not say that your astronomical profits were wrong, just very shortsighted; myopic, indeed.

As for the handling of the economic wealth of our nation, the dealings in land and property that allowed for some financial slight of hand to further increase your wealth and prosperity at the further expense of our brothers in arms and hunger, you suddenly experienced a moment of fear, as you watched your Brothers, Lehman struggle for life and suddenly drown in a frenzy of economic skulduggery.

Capitalists that you were, you claimed that your right to make money made you immune to the vagaries of fate and that you were too big to fail and that it was up to the government and the little people you scorned so many years before to find a way to buoy you up on their backs one more time, whilst you flew in your corporate jets to plead your case before the government for Socialist or are they Marxist handouts?

Your time has come. You will not have the option of being too big to fail. You played that card and then spit in the eyes of your saviors by paying bonuses to your elite, again. You would think you could maintain your charade of contriteness for at least a year while the sting of keeping you rich faded from the memory of the poor and disenfranchised moved out of their homes which you helped them lose, into the shelters that cities can now, not afford to pay for, while your corporate jets fly over those regions who lost their pensions and are now watching their stores, towns, villages, families, and farms shutter their doors and their histories just in time to watch Glenn Beck tell them its Progressivism that is making them poor when you know that its really you. Don’t make any more mistakes, you elite, lest people remember the expression “Eat the Rich.”

And don’t think I forgot you, Average Joe; you too have a part to play in this madness, this contagion that you are spreading with your ignorance of facts, your ignorance of governance, your apathy to your children, to your community, to your own fate. Stuffing your faces full of empty calories and fulfilling fats, you watch American Idol, waiting to see which of these nobodies will get their 15 minutes of fame, 14 of which they will use up on the show and the last no talented gasp will be that 1 minute that you remember them after they leave the show and wait for the next season of unreality television. Your consumption does not stop with bad food and bad television, you enhance it with partisan television, television that is completely under the control of people who only have one mission for you, Joe; stay stupid, stay afraid, stay at work and stay at the store. And while you are at it, drink too much, exercise too little, take these white pills for your headaches, these blue ones for your impotence and be sure to get to the pharmacy for your insulin for your television or computer-induced diabetes.

No Joe, it’s not only your fault that you are subject to these ills. Judging from the fact that most of America is morbidly obese (okay maybe not most, but more than a third), I would say that the plan to keep you fat, crippled, illiterate, and underemployed is working fine; most of your fellow Americans are in the same boat.

So I have to ask you, since you are angry about the things that you know almost nothing about, can you be angry about the things you can be sure of? If you keep eating the way you do, you will die, you will die poor, you will die soon and you will die uncomfortably. You will die leaving your family no legacy because you will spend every penny you have to live as long as you can with as low a quality of life that is possible in our “first World nation” with its inadequate health care and overpriced insurance; so Joe, angry yet?

I know you are, you have lost a job that you had for twenty years and are now being told in your fifties that you need to train for a new career and you better do it before you lose your home to foreclosure the same way you lost your pension to a corporate escapade a few years before. I feel your pain. I would be pissed too if I expected to retire in ten years and now have to work until I die, no matter how soon or how uncomfortable that is going to be. Twenty years, on your feet for eight hours a day saying “would you like fries with that” would make me mad as hell!

I am going to leave you bigots, partisan political sociopaths and religious nuts out of this particular conversation, you are simply too unreasonable to talk to and if I do my job right, no one will listen to you again, anyway.

True Freedom

No one has to be angry anymore because you are now free to be wrong. Your urges to be right have forced you to say things you did not mean, to do things you knew were wrong and take risks that were completely unnecessary. Go to your boss and tell him or her, that you have no idea of anything you said in the last meeting was actually true and that you were likely going to have to do something illegal to make the numbers that you promised. We’ll wait. Now, don’t you feel better?

A huge weight is lifted because you know you will not have to lie tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. Lies that compound daily do not lead to a harmonious and stress free life. Lies compounded daily lead to coming to work with a couple of handguns and blowing your boss and likely yourself into the next life. It will now be okay to admit you don’t know anything about black people’s lives in America and the fact that you hate them is really based on the fact that your father hated them and his father before him. You hate them because it is the thing to do, something you know, not something you know anything about. You hate because you don’t know anything else to do.

I say America, you need a time out (I would recommend a spanking but to administer 300 million spankings would take me quite some time). You need time away from your television and those raging pundits, time away from your media and their constant urge to create a fear of everything around you. I want you to take time away from your Blackberries, your iPods, your computers, your twittering masturbation, your media frenzy. Put down your Xbox controller, your PS3, your Wii-motes, remotes, and get up from your sofa.

Stretch. Go outside. If it’s unpleasant weather, bundle up, go anyway. If you have a dog, take it out. If you have a cat, chase it out. Grab your kids, your wife, your husband, your girlfriend. Go to your nearest neighbor and introduce yourself. Then get them to go with you to your next neighbor and do the same. Do that until every house and every door that you can see from your door has a name on it. Then go home, sit with your family and marvel at their tales of their day. Savor the food on your table, if you do not have a table, remember when you did, and visualize the day that you will again.

Let go of the false divisions that the media use to keep us polarized. Those false divisions of race, creed, color, religion, political party, economic status, class, degree, and neighborhood are all created to keep us at odds. They are truly false. Turn off the lights and all people become the same. If you have a problem, close your eyes and put yourself in the place of the person who is asking you for your time, your support, your largess, your succor. You would hope he will be as helpful for you as you will be for him. Ultimately humans are herd animals, seeking shelter in the collectiveness of our cities and towns. But as herd animals if we can be divided we become prey to any unscrupulous predator that happens by. Nearly anyone who provides a major service to you can be a predator in the right light.

None of us will be free of this madness until we remember that we are all in this together. Gene Rodenberry’s fictional but highly logical race, the Vulcans, posited the IDIC – Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination, an idea that promotes that true intelligence promotes and accepts diversity to spur innovation and invention. We would be wise to consider this idea. There are no strangers, only friends we have not met yet. Once we realize that each of us is all of us, we will be able to be angry but only for a moment. The same way you are angry at your husband when he does not take out the trash, but forgive him when he remembers to help with the dishes. We will be able to realize that each of us is imperfect and yet perfect just the way that we are.

We are all bound together through that ultimate equalizer, Time; “it slays kings, ruins towns, and brings high mountains down.” We are all mortal and none of our works will last unless the least of us is as important as the best of us. We have an entire world that is looking to us to be our best. And since we are so fond of claiming that America is the best, shouldn’t we be finding new ways to prove that?

I do not fear the future. I am confident that we can overcome all of the mistakes that have led us to this fork in the road. We can continue down this road we are on, self absorbed, lost, angry, fat and apathetic or we can opt to notice that the Future is coming. Get up, put on your best, think, learn what the future requires and then build it. Grab a friend or two to help you. Hurry up; it will be here before you know it. Who has time to be mad?

Thaddeus Howze © 2010, All Rights Reserved