Total Pageviews

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Power of People

  I have to be honest. For some reason, I always feel like I have to write some hard core political piece, or else no one will want to read what I have to say. But consciously I know that is not true. So this week, I have a personal experience. I am told that everyone likes a personal story.
  Last week, I took part in a focus group. It was the first one I had ever been a part of and did not quite know what to expect. Since I signed a non-disclosure agreement, I am not at liberty to talk about what was discussed. But that is not the story.
  I went into this thinking that it might be something interesting to write about. It did not disappoint. I decided I would be an observer of people. An observer of people who walk into a room of strangers, sit down, and begin to interact with each other.
  I entered a room with just one person there before me. We were invited to have a sandwich and a beverage before things got started. So I did. And as I did, I watched the room begin to fill up. I noticed that women tended to sit together. I noticed that African-Americans tended to sit together. Eventually though, everyone put away their phones and began to mingle.
  We were then ushered into the room where the actual focus group work would be done. People were sat in a specific fashion. I began to realize what a science this really is. The room was filled with a very even and balanced cross section of regular ordinary folks. Men and women, young and old, black and white, and surely every economic level. It had to be an almost picture perfect cross section of Americans.
  Now, granted, when you put a group of people in a room and present to them a hot button topic like race, religion or politics, tensions run high and people will get passionate and vocal in their views. We were given the subject of technology. A pretty harmless and tame topic, but something we all use in some capacity every day. Technology can be a truly amazing thing. Performing surgery on unborn babies, or people who have been blind or deaf since birth seeing a reflection of themselves in a mirror for the very first time, or hearing the voices of their children that they never have before is a miraculous feat, and those kind of stories
 never leave a dry eye in the place when they are heard.
  The flip side of that can be summed up in just one scenario. How many times have we called a customer service number, all we want is a little help to get whatever it is working again, and the person on the other end? Well, let's just say that English is not their first language, and we really don't know what language they happen to be speaking to us at that particular moment. We get frustrated and hang up.
  It might sound funny, but I witnessed something pretty interesting during that harmless discussion about technology. I saw people readily agree with each other, and when they did not agree with each other, they explained why. They supported each other's ideas and concepts. They got along.
  We see so much of us versus them. This group versus that group, that when the element of discord is taken out of the equation it seems foreign to us. It seems kind of sad that just maybe, that really is human nature at work, and that the division is the artificial.
  As the session drew to a close, everybody was obviously tired and ready to head home, myself included. But as they left the room, it was almost as if people had made new friends in that short amount of time. They laughed and talked, and I even heard some talk about what was ahead for them the following day. No one called anyone else a racist; no one said Republicans or Democrats suck. They just were.
  It was a great experience, one I would definitely be open to do again. I am sure the focus group people got some great data that they will be able to use, and ya' know, so did I.    

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Cult of Conservatism

  People love to root for their team. As a die hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, few things are more fun than watching one of our guys knock one out of the park and round the bases to home plate and be greeted with high fives from his team mates. But when your team is not playing well and making costly mistakes, you also have to call them on it. This would be one of those times.
  Conservatives, it is time for an intervention.
  We have come a long way. A long way from those days of just three major news networks, no Internet, and the closest thing to Conservative talk radio was the great Paul Harvey. Now, we have Fox News, we hold our own quite nicely online, and we own talk radio. With all of these outlets, we have developed our own "stars". People who have worked their way up the ladder of print, radio, even Internet, to become influential voices of the Conservative movement.
  To be very clear, our standouts have worked their behinds off to get to the positions they now occupy. That's great, and it is inspiring to those on the way up. It is proof that a basic Conservative tenet, to aspire to be better than you are, at whatever it is you do, works.
  But something is happening. Something that may be an unfortunate side effect of being human, but it is something that could be damaging to all we have achieved. I have written about it before. The condition of Conservative elitism.
  I will not name names here. The names are not important, and it is not what I do. However, a certain few have been chosen, and elevated to almost super human status. Every word they utter becomes gospel. Every radio show or TV appearance is golden. Everyone hangs on their every word, and the world appears to be their oyster. But as we Conservatives well know, few of us shy away from saying what we think, even if it is do disagree with one another. And like everything else, we don't all like or dislike the same Conservative pundits. But to voice a dislike for any of the "chosen few" out loud or on social media, and one had better be prepared for the slicing and dicing that almost surely awaits them by, believe it or not, other Conservatives!
  So what causes Conservative elitism? Perhaps a number of things. Factions? Egos? Maybe all of the above. One thing is certain. It is not healthy. It is reminiscent of the old high school clique. You remember, the group that seemed to contain all of the "cool" kids, or at least the kids that were mysteriously deemed "cool". Some of the other kids dressed like them, even talked like them. They just wanted to fit in and be one of them. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but aren't we all out of high school? And who gets to decide who the "cool" kids are anyway?
  At the risk of being guilty of the very thing I am pointing out here, I would like to ask just one question. This past Saturday, Andrew Breitbart would have celebrated his 45th birthday. We all miss him terribly, and sorely miss him on the front lines of our battle. What would he have to say about Conservative elitism? Would he tell us that no one person, be it the most popular of Conservative commentators or radio personalities, to the lone blogger, is more important than the movement itself? Would he tell us all to grow up, stop being high school kids, and get our heads out of our butts, in that in-your-face way that only Andrew could pull off? My guess is that yes, he would.
  This year's mid-term election and the 2016 presidential election could truly be turning points for Conservatives. Pretending that some of us are more important than others and attacking each other for not liking this person or that does three things. It takes us away from what the real focus should be. If we do not stop it now it makes us no different than the Left, and worst of all it makes us hypocrites.
  Conservatism is something that requires group participation. Not group think.