Archive for the ‘society’ Category

Changing the World from the Keyboard

February 13, 2007

The man of letters is back.

Once a staple of public life, the likes of Henry James and Bernard Shaw have been in short supply. Television, and especially cable, have made the moving image dominant, and pushed back the role of letters.

Things are shifting back now. Ideas were once passed around via yellow pamphlets and personal letters.

Today, the weapon of choice is blog/email.

From the comfort of our keyboards we can reach out and engage others. Debate, provoke, challenge, present. Think of it as a level-market for ideas. By discussing things we expose assumptions and ignorance. (myself included!)

It’s an exciting time to be living in.

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How Sport Holds Society Together

February 1, 2007

In a world of fragmentation and drift, there is only one thing left that holds us together. And that is sport.

Let’s look at why Sport works

1. Big Numbers – national leagues draw in 10’s and 100’s of millions of people. If society is about a shared experience, then professional sport can reach out to everyone.

2. Heroes and Villains – the human mind works best at the storytelling level. It’s about people and how to cope with them. We all have our favourite players and we have fun dissing the other team.

3. Reality Check – there is almost near unlimited choice out there. How do we decide what is “slightly” better? Sport makes the decision for us. It’s there, Friday night, 8pm.

4. Full On Action – in a world of office rats and chair warmers, we all yearn for a bit of action. Movement, power, speed – we can enjoy it all from the sofa.

5. Tight Focus – big leagues typically have 10-15 teams with 100-150 players. Even tennis has a top 100. When we talk about Tiger Woods, it is that Tiger Woods.

6. We All Admire – champion players go beyond the field. We can all admire their fighting spirit, their grit, their skill and dedication, their heart, their struggle.

7. The Big Build – ten minute segments build a game, and lots of games go into a season. There are playoffs, then the big epic final. Sport has a sense of purpose.

All these qualities of sport go beyond the individual and permeate into the society. It is what binds us together.

The Digital Tribe

January 23, 2007

As the bonds of society and place have fallen away, we have become increasingly disconnected individuals. The lone person, who has his family and his workmates, then faces the choice of who his personal friends are. We can meet everybody, but where is the meaningful connection?

This deep felt need is best reflected in the immediate generation. They are characterised by a single label – Myspace. This is the place where they construct their digital identity, network with interesting others, stay in constant global touch. Our youth feel this deep need to reach out, and connect.

That is their solution. Increasingly, adults faced with this same anomie, have found their own workarounds. A huge roster of email addresses is one way, this fantastic community of WordPressers is another. We all have our faces here, and our opinions. We contribute to each others lives by reading, commenting, bantering. We share an online existence.

We have become a digital tribe.

What is “change the world”?

January 22, 2007

I was on the train today thinking about the expression “change the world”. Since starting this blog, I have used the phrase on a number of occasions, without really explaining what I mean. Now is the time to “change the world”.

I start with –

1) every person has a collection of “thoughts and behaviours”. These can be modified.

2) whenever we engage with someone, in whatever way (conversation, email, phone) the outcome of that interaction is determined by the “thoughts and behaviours” on both sides. An outcome is produced.

3) what we know as society, is just a pyramid of all these interactions, happening millions of times per second. Society produces a collective result of what is acceptable and not acceptable. Think of smoking, think of slavery. At different times society determines what is ok to do. Politics and government is just a reflection of what society says is ok.

4) get back to point number one. We change our “thoughts and behaviours” and we eventually “change the world”.

Is this just too freaky? Is there a flaw in my thinking?

Community Building vs Individual Drift

January 17, 2007

We are currently living in a society where the individual is supreme. The man or woman of ability is given free reign, is well remunerated, and works wherever they want to in the world. This is not just your high flying merchant banker or corporate lawyer; this lifestyle applies to any number of trained skilled nurses, doctors, teachers and engineers. The cream have never had it so frothy.

Even the ordinary person has untold more choice than one generation ago in terms of field of work, where they live, who they associate with, how they spend their leisure.

There is just one problem with everyone being a great individual. What happens to this thing called society? When your neighbours are only so for 12 months, your workmates constantly move on, friends jet overseas for working holidays; what is to moor you to reality?

Professional sports have killed the amateur spirit, we no longer see films in a common hall, everyone has their own individual soundspace with iconic ipods, families no longer gather for dinner. Tradition had its chains, but it also resulted in a sense of common purpose and direction. Now each of us is a little microbe seeking a place of glory.

Individualism is a way of acknowledging and giving expression to all the wonderful diversity of the human spirit, but hyper-individualism becomes nothing more than ego. I and I, and nothing but the I.

I see society fragmenting and disintegrating before my very eyes.

The 4 Day Work Week

January 12, 2007

Just recently I’ve dropped down to working 4 days. I’m fortunate enough to be still working Monday to Friday, but having the Wednesdays off. This means only two consecutive days at any one time. I have to say, the positive effects in terms of mind and well-being have been quite drastic. And all this from dropping one day!

It got me to thinking about the 8 hour workday, and the 40 hour week. These milestones were won against tremendous odds, and we have all been the beneficiaries. It has allowed the ordinary person time for their hobbies, time to know their partners and children, time to relax, time to be human beings. It has been one of the greatest of social advances.

But short of France pushing for the 35 hour workweek, is this where we stop? The productivity gains (more and more output per person) have been accumulating for half a century now, surely there will be no material loss if full time work became only 4 days.