Saturday, August 6, 2011

Saving The Economy From Drowning In Tweets


Welcome to the Twitter-land. Here, we think in semi-sentences, taglines, slogans, logos, and links that lead to bullet points. 

We communicate by other things too: short emails, instant messages and texts. Oh, also, "likes" and "awesomes."

We're not complicated people: Who has time?

No, everyone's running on a treadmill of some kind. And when they need information, "Give me the high points, please."

If it can't fit in 140 characters then we aren't interested.

Used to be that people had time to think.

I saw someone sitting on a rock in the countryside last weekend. Fishing, the old fashioned way. With a fishing rod and a line.

The fisherman sat there the whole time we were there. Not moving. I found it hard to believe. Didn't he have a project to finish, an errand to run, some paperwork to take care of?

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that we are headed toward negative economic times pretty fast. 

I think we could get out of it still. 

But the problem is, instead of working through the complicated mess we now find ourselves in, we're busy talking at each other in soundbites. You can't really capture the fuzzy gray matter in a short news story, so analysis goes by the wayside. In its place are headlines, subheads, quotes and items in bold and linked to really cool videos.

What if we stopped babbling and Tweeting and running for five minutes and really gave this some thought? Not adversarially, but as a country that realizes "We're in the deep doo-doo now."

I suspect we would find that the ideological divisions among us are not really all that solid. Rather, we are thinking in shorthand rather than going a level deeper and trying to get at a more meaningful truth that encompasses all the thought splinters by which we label ourselves now.

There is a Jewish saying that encapsulates how we never agree on anything: "Two Jews, three synagogues." Unfortunately in the Jewish community the divisions go far beyond Orthodox, Conservative and Reform, though. It seems like there are innumerable versions of the same basic faith, each one virulently convinced that its way is the only way and that the others are misguided.

The United States is going through something similar. We don't have political conversations across the spectrum anymore. Instead, there are "rightwing," "moderate," and "leftwing" versions of every political party, and then there are new parties and parties that most people don't even know about.

What are we fighting about, again?

The technology that surrounds us is great for advancing our thinking. The problem is, we are only too happy to let Google do the work for us. 

In school, we give kids four or five hours of homework a night. Instead of just having them read. And then talk about it with one another, with the teacher. Thinking critically and deeply about the material. Processing it carefully and in their own ways.

The complexity of the economy right now requires some serious thinking. The first thing to go should be bullet-point thinking. It's not about "give me the top line" right now. It's about engaging in a serious and thoughtful conversation with each other. We are spending more money than we have. And like overeaters looking for a magic diet pill that will keep them thin and still let them hit the Ben & Jerry's, we are lost in complete denial.

What makes this whole thing really stupid, to me, is that we all pretty much agree on goals and process. What do we want? Abundance. How do we want it? In the way that enables everyone to get a piece of the pie. 

The question, then, is how do we get there. And if we keep on digging our heels into the same old ways of thinking, refusing to open our minds and throwing flames at the people we've labeled "enemy," we can be sure that the ground beneath us will turn into quicksand.

Let's get together and figure it out. Go on a national team-building retreat. Drop the blaming and the labels, expand on the bullet points, and find areas of commonality rather than focus on hate. We can do it, we only have to be willing to try.

Have a good evening everyone, and good luck!


Image source here