The last few months, I’ve been surprised by conversations I’ve heard between my parents. Neither are overly political; however, recent weeks have highlighted their growing irritation and dislike for both major political parties. In the past, I can’t remember either being quite so vocal. For example, my mother mentioned her disgust over the government building the U.S. embassy in Baghdad at a cost of almost $600 million. (link to A.P. story) My parents’ obvious aggravation with the political status quo made me curious about the tipping point for ordinary citizens to veer from their individual attitudes or at least speak up.We each have our personal foundations, foundations based on individual beliefs related to business, politics, economics, morals, etc. What happens to jolt the comfortable out of their rut? Keep in mind, I’m not thinking about the already active and plugged-in citizen. I’m talking about your average citizen, mostly content to get through her day and too busy to pay much attention the political nonsense on Capital Hill.
From a Supreme Court opinion (American Communications Association v. Douds) of all things I found the following:
It is not the function of our government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error. (link)
We’re a country disgusted by its politicians, but unwilling to a get behind a third party or shake up the status quo. We’re happy to supply debate questions to YouTube for CNN, but shy away if the politicians actually use hard truths to answer those questions. We’ll wait in line for iPhones for hours on end without complaint, but hesitate to wait in line to vote on Election Day. This attitude goes beyond politics. Have we grown complacent? Do we show the disturbing tendency to wait for someone else to tell us how to act?
For a country founded on rebellion, we’ve shown a startling lack of it during the last 225+ years. We go about our days, content to leave the running of our country to others, only complaining when it impacts our daily routine. Even beyond politics, has there really been nothing worth rebelling over as a nation since the country’s founding? The complaints against Microsoft are legion, yet other than Apple and Linux, who else has dared enter the arena? Is Microsoft really as good as it gets?
The excitement over Web 2.0 rests to a large extent on the idea that users are generating the content. But how many are actively generating versus passively consuming? Beyond tech-friendly centers like Silicon Valley, Seattle, Boston, New York, I suspect user-generated content becomes a minority activity rather than a majority behavior.
Back to the earlier question…what does it take to jolt the comfortable out of their rut? How obvious must the blip be to catch their attention? There’s been recent discussion of late about Google’s interest in purchasing the 700MHz wireless spectrum. Is that a big enough blip? Before Google entered the conversation, how much attention were we paying? Even now, how much do you know about it?
I could play 20 questions all day long about current events. The point still remains that you have to WANT to know something is going on. Maybe that’s what provides the necessary jolt—you decide it’s time to start caring. What will it take to push you out of the rut? Or are you already out?