Feb 232010

If you live in the good old U.S.A., and you don’t shield yourself from radio, television, Internet and newspaper, then you’re subject to continuous media bombardment. Buzzwords, taglines, pitch and spin, so rages the fight for your mindshare. It’s a no-holds-barred, winner-take-all, full-contact struggle for the American consciousness. Points are tracked in dollars and votes, and the prize is nothing less than control of a nation.

The rules for this fight are simple: find something you can sell and sell it.

Everybody’s selling: Madison Avenue is rife with talented practitioners, each with the knowledge and capacity to play to our desires. Hollywood excels at the allure of glitz and glamour. The American sports complex plays to our collective need for vicarious victory and accomplishment. They all want their share of our pocketbooks . . . of our minds.

Although focused far too much on greed, vanity and other unhealthy aspects of the human condition, we must forgive the buzzmeisters. It’s what they do; it’s their job. So goes the dance of the market economy. But industry and entertainment aren’t the only ones selling.

Market-speak has its place, but it’s nowhere near any substantive issues. Sales and marketing are about convincing buyers that you’ve got what they want. A well crafted pitch leaves no room for alternatives. But, when pitch and spin become the sole currency of exchange in dealing with issues of national importance, the People’s Bank of Trust may as well close its doors.

Political talking points are the party-line equivalent to slogan and tagline. To be useful, they must have some base in truth but stop short of lending any legitimacy to the opposing view. Like market pitch, they leave no room for alternatives. They’re about rallying the troops, about getting votes. They work well to define the sides, to divide the masses and ensure that the status quo is maintained. They serve their purpose, but their purpose does not serve The People.

Party rhetoric is the sworn enemy of progress. If we have any prayer of seeing a brighter future for America, we must find a way to engage in meaningful dialog. This means we must all learn to stop talking, at least long enough to hear what the other guy is saying, and not with the sole intent of forming a response. Dialog requires a healthy mix of advocacy AND inquiry. These are the required ingredients of resolution, and resolution is the stepping stone of progress.

As I’ve said before, We the People cannot wait for the PIP to lead the way. That’s how we got here in the first place. As Albert Einstein suggested, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” would be insane. We’re lost in a wilderness of our own creation, and a new trail must be blazed. We need all spin-slingers to check their guns at the door and agree to some new rules of engagement.

The hallmark of the new rules must be listening, for only if we understand each other’s perspective can we devise a solution that suits us all. The foundation must include acceptance that both sides of a debate offer value and insight, for only through this recognition will all feel heard. The process must avoid sound bites and empty rhetoric, instead engaging in real conversation, in open dialog. The objective must be unity and a striving for the greater good.

This may sound like a pipe dream, but that’s only because it’s so far from the norm. At least for the time being, here in the U.S., the Internet is the medium of The People. The barriers to entry are low, and the model is inclusive. Here online, we can have a dialog. We can expand our awareness, share in the pool of common understanding, and together start the flywheels of change.

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