One of the best lines in Obama’s speech. Thousands of generations of humans have evolved being able to look each other in the eye, observe body language and listen to the tone of human speech.
Back in the day, people who were hard core “letter writers” learned a set of rules and skills about communication involving a time and distance factor, elevating this form of communication to an art form.
Governmental and legal correspondence and documents don’t sound like every day language, because of a need for precision far beyond casual communication. This had lead them to be rather formal, but it does show the need for precision where things might be easily understood. Naked words, unless carefully defined and agreed on by both parties, often fail to convey the intended meaning.
Political discourse has changed since the rise of the internet, and part of it is what I call the “finger factor”.
I grew up in a small town. If someone cut you off driving down the street, giving them “the finger” might result in some “unintended consequences”: they might be your kids third grade teacher, or you could end up sitting next to them in church or at a bar.
The internet isn’t exactly like this, but the electronic distance seems to keep people from looking at whatever common ground they are both standing on. In person, from a very early age, we either learn to find the common ground or spend our lives in isolation watching people stomp off in a huff.
Communication doesn’t seem to happen in the same way it did just a few years ago. And it’s not just verbally. There does seem to be a large variety of music formats on the radio, but they all narrowcast, and young people seem to use them to help define themselves as part of a particular tribe.
Remember what top 40 radio was like? Growing up in a small town in Oregon, I got to listen to Marvin Gaye, the Beach Boys, Cream, Roger Miller, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra and Jefferson Airplane: often one right after one another. When I met kids from other parts of the country as a teenager, I always noticed we had far more in common than any differences we might have.
I think that is how it is for most people, and it’s actually fairly rare to find someone you can’t find something in common with.
I know I repeat myself by posting this but I can’t help thinking Dr. Martin Luther King was sending us a message from the past when he said:
“We must learn to live together as Brothers, or perish together as fools.”