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Pat Piper has made a career learning something new. As a journalist in the news business, “something new” occurs every hour so he’s becoming an expert at understanding stuff he never thought about. Learning became a common word in “Future Talk: Conversations About Tomorrow” (Warner Books), the popular book he ghostwrote with Larry King as […]

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Little Things Isn’t Small Stuff

By on June 19, 2014 in See It Here

Some years ago I did an interview with a lady concerned about gated communities. She said it was one more way for people to live in places where everyone looks alike, thinks alike and narrows the chance of finding themselves outside their own comfort zone–read— with other people with different backgrounds. I remember thinking about Pete Seeger’s tune from the ’60’s, “Little Boxes” and seeing subdivisions outside of Gary, Indiana from the window of the South Shore Railroad noticing, as Pete said, “they all look just the same.”

Now jump to yesterday in Arlington, Virginia where I’m looking for a birthday card. The rows of available cards include “50th Birthday,” “Dog’s Birthday,” “Grandmother Birthday,” “Ex Husband Birthday,” and even cards that can be sent from your iPhone. That’s all nice and I’m sure it makes the receiver of the card feel special because they’re holding a card that has been designed just for them but—-what if you want a blank card where your words can be written?

That’s what I asked the lady with the spider tattoo on her neck who was pulling cards out of a box and putting them in the display case.

“We don’t have that,” she answered. “Haven’t seen nothing like that either.”

Now jump to the Washington DC Metro where about one hundred people are on the blue line train and there’s no talking. Everyone is looking at their smart phones and playing checkers or texting or commenting on someone’s Facebook rant. No conversations.

A few blocks away is where you-know-what occupies the Capitol building and spends more time with you-know-who with deep pockets than those without. They produce little  of value, save a few new names for Post Office buildings and daily news conferences about why they represent the rest of us–and the others guys don’t. Nothing is getting done because their job is viewed as us against the others instead of all of us finding a solution, despite using the word “bipartisan” as if that’s something extraordinary. There’s no relationship with people who, God forbid, see the same thing differently. Little boxes.

Civilization is about talking across comfort zones and learning, arguing and then reaching a solution.

How we doin’ on that one right now?

We’re not talking to eachother anymore and, in the rare instance we do have a conversation, it’s with familiar faces. Instead, our cards, our reading and our TV/radio/newspaper/magazine viewing is all designed to make it easy not to think.  Our experience has become that card store. Don’t take the time to think, just get the card to do it for you so you need not write anything. Our experience is the TV show where the panelists sit in an echo chamber to explain why the viewer should think the way they do (think of  all the Internet posts that require Snopes in order to check facts).  It’s always easier when people think for you but, it’s not healthy.

Little boxes are part of the scenery but we need to remember there’s a reason they’re called “little.”

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