Bored, a Serious Crisis, Busybodies
I have been sitting here trying to figure out what to write. Normally, I am bubbling over with ideas to put down on paper, or planning the next interview, or making sure the sails of the good ship PT are properly furled and checking my calendar to be sure I have plane tickets for the next four or five trips scheduled in the next month or so.
Life today is nothing like that. I think it’s the lack of personal interaction all the activities above bring to life. When you meet in person, the dynamic is different. Whether it’s over a meal or across a desk, the ability to sense how a person reacts to your words and perhaps draw out a new thought or idea, at least for me, just doesn’t happen over Zoom or a phone call.
I sometimes get ideas from chatting with strangers in the elevator – but there is no one in the elevator, and if there is, they look askance at your mask covered face as they cower in the corner (No more than three people per elevator car, as if there are enough people in the building to put three in a car).
Recently, I went to the local hardware store to buy a repair part for a toilet. I would normally have chatted up the fellow who makes the keys or asked some questions of the helper in the plumbing section. No one seems comfortable mumbling behind a mask from six feet away. You just pick up what you want and head out. You might as well be shopping on Amazon.
I am beginning to realize that those creative juices that make us who we are don’t all come from within. They are a combination of our reaction to the world around us. And when that world is masked, or closed, and our interactions are limited to a phone call, those ideas that used to flow so freely aren’t there.
Our face-to-face discussions and gossip and simple chats are the fuel that keeps the creativity engine running. It will be interesting to compare 2020 with other years as to how we did, in terms of new ideas.
Over on the IPMI Forum, Casey Jones is holding forth on the famous phrase “Never let a serious crisis go to waste…’’ It is traditionally attributed to Former Chicago Mayor and Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. He was lambasted after he made the statement and clarified it by adding the phrase “And what I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
But that’s not the reason for this column. It turns out that Rahm was not the first person to use that phrase, but it was originally voiced by, you guessed it, Winston Churchill. He was discussing the formation of the United Nations and the fact, as he saw it, that it never would have happened without World War II, certainly as serious a crisis as one can name. Rahm was lobbying for gun control after the horrific shooting of Arizona Representative Gabby Griffiths in 2011.
My concern is that we see a crisis, and then jump to create solutions with little or no thought to the long-term ramifications of those solutions.
I think ‘defund’ might be such a case. There is a terrible killing, and want to do something. The knee jerk reaction is to get rid of the problem by getting rid of the police. The result we see is unabated rioting across the country and the police being prevented from doing anything about it. We see the baby being tossed out with the bathwater.
Cooler heads seem to be prevailing, but we have lost a lot of good police through retirement, and it will take years to rebuild the confidence we have in that ‘thin blue line.’ Policing is a huge process in a country of 320,000,000 people and mistakes will be made. We are human, for goodness’ sake. And yes, we need to make changes so our police can do a better and more effective job.
But rather than use that serious crisis to its fullest extent, perhaps a tweak here and an adjustment there might do just as well. We are seeing the result of a major change in cities like Portland, Seattle, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Politicians want to do things on a grand scale. It’s their nature. Back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, to get something past an editor and into a newspaper or on a news program (remember Huntley and Brinkley?) you had to have three sources and be able to confirm them for you editor. This prevented so called ‘fake news’ and ‘fake, but accurate’ reporting getting out to the public.
In those days, names like Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow brought a feeling of honor. To this day we don’t know whether Huntley or Brinkley were liberal or conservative. They would be horrified to have their politics bandied about on the nightly news.
Stories were checked and rechecked. Facts were verified. Reporters knew that if that didn’t back up their claims, they would be on the unemployment line.
Today, we live in the world of instant news. When the President stubs his toe it’s a race to who gets the story up first. Headlines like “President Stubs Toe, Stock Market Crashes” are flashed around the world before we are able to find out that he was kicking a branch out of the way so the Prime Minister of Israel, who was walking behind him, wouldn’t trip over it.
I lay most of this at the feet of social media. Everyone with a cell phone becomes a reporter. They shoot 60 seconds of video, put it on Facebook, YouTube or twitter, and suddenly everyone knows the ‘facts’. Even if it’s completely and irrevocably wrong.
Busybodies can cause more harm. “I saw a man walking down the sidewalk yesterday afternoon. He looked scuzzy, probably homeless. Be on the lookout for him. Next time I see him I’m calling the police.” There’s a very good chance that ‘homeless scuzzy man’ was me, walking to get my first haircut in months.
Sometimes too much information is worse than no information at all.