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Bedrock values

Educators, politicians, diplomats, activists, business leaders, inventors, and all the rest of us, myself included–

If your political or business or educational policy doesn’t align with these bedrock values, you are marching toward the dark side, and if you have influence or power, you are taking others there with you:

People feel a need to be part of the world they live in. Most of us feel like we’re on the sidelines, spectators, consumers, eyeballs, credit card numbers, and that’s not what we want. We want meaning. We want to make a contribution. We want to do good and have that good make a difference. If you look at what people actually do, not the stories you read in the paper or hear on CNN, this is obvious. The [Boston] bombings not only worried people, for a short time when the scope of the danger was unknown, but people also saw the opportunity to get some of the precious stuff, meaning and relevance. (Scripting News)

That’s Dave Winer. He goes on to describe the power relations common in journalism, but he might as well been talking about a wider group of industries and government functions:

Why was this a theme of my [recent] talk at the Globe? Because the news industry has the ability to offer people exactly what they want, but they won’t do it. Their view of the world is that we’re out there and they’re inside. They talk, we listen. They are relevant, their lives have meaning. The meaning of our lives is not important to them. As long as they view it that way, people will continue to be frustrated by them, as long as they pay any attention. And more and more they’re chosing to not pay attention.

The freshly learned insight that the media obscures people’s real experience could, he notes, become a visionary moment:

This week the people of Boston learned something about the press because they told a big lie not just about a handful of them, but all of them, collectively. This presents a unique opportunity for a whole city to wake up and take over. I suggested at dinner that the people of Boston buy the Boston Globe, and give it a new direction. You know a city the size of Boston could buy the Globe. And you know what, it’s actually for sale. 🙂

“This post was written quickly,” Dave Winer says at the start of the post, but he’s been working on these ideas for years and he writes with clarity and force. We know that people’s speech can matter, and that institutions often prefer not to hear from people, prefer to operate behind the scenes and, when in public, to speak to and not talk with. But there are episodes and tools that remind us of another way.

See, for example, the third segment of Little Messages That Matter, an episode where a newspaper sees its readers as partners in public life. Longtime followers of Dave Winer and Jay Rosen will recognize their influence in other parts of that audio, too.

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