The Splintering

We don’t have common spaces anymore.

No, really…if you think about it, what kind of shared space or activity do we have that crosses all of the boundaries of politics and economics and society?

None.

We in the US don’t really do central squares or plazas.  We gave those up decades ago, in the name of “development.”  Even when there is a place with “public” patios/terraces/squares, the tables and spaces are situated and designed to isolate each person or group in their own little private world rather than create a shared, social space.

How about the news?  Yeah, right.  It goes way beyond having different channels and papers and sites for different opinions, by the way.  We’ve reached the point where folks believe completely different truths based on their own biases and wants.  Two people can see the same incident, assimilate the same facts, and still tell a completely different story.  Neither story is objectively true, mind you, but we are way past the time when objective truth meant anything to us as a society.  No, instead all we seemingly care for are the subjective truths that reinforce our particulate flavor of politics and worldview.

Sports, too, has been — pardon the intentional pun! — pulled from the field as a shared space.  Oh, the divide over teams and players has always been there, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  Nowadays the fight between Raiders and Broncos fans…between Yankees and Red Sox…between golf and the rest of the universe…is a minor sideshow compared to the fight between those who need the “validation” of players and teams and fans echoing every detail of their preferred — semi-deified, even — socio-political prejudice.  A game, then, is no longer a space where fans of those involved can share the experience of their favorite team or player beating “the enemy.”  Instead, the games have become nothing more than background spectacles for the fans to pour vast amounts of hate and vitriol on players, teams and each other over any deviation from their preferred views.

Music…

Literature…

Art…

Movies…

Not a one of those crosses the boundaries anymore.  Oh, no, not a freakin’ chance of that!

On the production side, the things that once unified societies are now sliced and diced and targeted to the tiniest fragment of like-minded thinkers in order to “maximize audience.”  On the consumption side, no work or piece can be viewed outside the boundaries.  Nothing, to most folks, can be allowed to threaten the fragile bubble of assumption and belief that defines their world.

Everyone gets the blame for this one, by the way.  Yeah, most producers and studios, just like most publishers and editors, are far too often echo-chamber-driven zampolits out to destroy any opinion other than their own, but they don’t own the problem.  Not the whole of it, anyway.  In the end, the studios and publishers just want to make money.  We writers — like actors and singers and other artists — are just as guilty for allowing the echo-chambers to influence and control what we create.  It is harder than ever to find those that even try to speak to the larger truths that still hold true for all of us.  No, instead far too many of us have chosen, either through fear or preference, to avoid the (mostly) metaphorical killzones that divide our political and social “teams.”

Most of the blame, however…

Most of the blame lies with you.

You, the consumer…and me the consumer.  My family, and yours…  My friends, and yours…  The people we elect…  The people we follow…  The people we choose to read and watch and listen to…

When we choose to live inside our own bubbles, we add our little mite of intolerance and prejudice to the vast pool of such that is killing the common spaces of thought and emotion that once helped to bridge and fill in the gaps between.

If the only words you have read in the last few months are those that reinforce your own worldview, you are part of the problem.  If you have watched no movie or show that challenged your preconceptions, you have widened that gap between.  If you go out of your way to avoid a song, or an athlete, or anyone else, who disagrees with you, you are contributing.

In the end, if you are one of those who thinks someone — anyone — who has a different opinion should have to “shut up,” you are the problem.

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