About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

American Politics: a study in frustration and poor communication

We have one more week until the general elections and I'm totally disgusted. So much so that for the first time in almost 30 years, I don't want to cast my ballot. Why? Because I don't see much difference between the extreme voices that I must vote for. If I could, I would attend the Rally to restore Sanity in Washington, DC this week.

I see this current situation as a breakdown in communication in the US society. One thing that Americans always prided themselves on was the right to debate and discuss various issues. However, the "you're either with us or against us" attitude of many politicians (on both side of the aisles) and the vilifying of anyone whose position might hurt those in power or the media (which is big business in the US) has made it possible for the discussion to be squelched in the US.

I had had great hopes at the beginning of the Obama administration. Here was an administration that was elected by communicating using new media. However, over the last two years more and more voices are being quieted as people become afraid to express their opinions.

The White House, who had online live conferences in which the average person was able to participate, changed its media strategy and these conferences are almost non-existent now. In fact, last year when the President came to our area, those on the "invitation" list were politicians and those who held local power, rather than the common man who supposedly would benefit from the programs the president was speaking about. On the White House website, there was a video that explained how the president's 10 letters from the public (which he reads daily) was chosen. The letters are filtered through his staff, who choose the letters "most representative" of the letters coming in. This filtering, however, ensures that the present will only see the views that the staff feel are relevant. Why do the staff have to filter the letters? Don't they report on the issues they read about in the letters? Think of the variety of issues (come of which may not be covered by organizations sending in mass mailings or covered in the press) if 10 letters were chosen randomly. The farmer in Kansas struggling to make it, would have the same possibility of being heard as the unemployed single mother being thrown out of her house in Florida, or the prosperous rancher in Montana, or the factory worker in Michigan.

Most importantly, however, is that the issues would not be predetermined. Those issues that many of my friends and I feel are important are not being discussed. No one talks about the widening gap in income in the US between the very rich and the middle class. No one speaks about the tripling of prices of pharmaceuticals in the last 10 years, or the monopoly that 6 oil producers have in the US which allows for the price of oil to increase even though the supply in the US is the highest it's been for a number of years. No one speaks of the two United States: one in which a person's housing, education, health care, access to services, child care, and retirement are guaranteed and the other where any of these basic rights can be taken away at any moment.

So my hope for the US is to create an environment where civil dialog was acceptable, neighbors could live next door to each other even though they had differing views on how society should function, and a person was not afraid to express their ideas on various topics. Finally, communication is two way. This means there needs to be an honest dialog between those speaking and those listening. Listening does not mean agreeing with the speaker and speaking does not mean making your ideas known without determining if your message was received the way you wanted it to. Then I would feel as if my vote was one of many in a civil democracy.

Update: Of course, today there was a live online conference and there are more planned for the next week. Let's hope they continue to do so AFTER the elections.

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