Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"It's more important then the beating of your heart..."

Why don't people care about politics?

People who care about politics are terribly frustrated with people who don't. Over on Galloping Beaver this morning Dana was having another meltdown, because he sees how important these decisions are, and no-one else seems to be paying sufficient attention.

I was reminded of part of "Stranger In A Strange Land", where Gillian, a nurse, tells her boyfriend, a journalist, that she pays no attention to politics.

"Its nearly as important as the beating of your heart," he protests.

"I don't pay attention to that, either." Gillian replies.

So much of the gap in caring has to do with a gap in fine-grained knowledge. We are a highly unusual bunch (by "we" I mean the habitual online news-readers and bloggers.) We follow the information, thrash it out among ourselves and come to an understanding of the bits that we can trust versus the confetti and fog. We think and write all the time.

I can follow politics in part because I am retired. And because I find it more rewarding than other pursuits. And because I have long been concerned about social/economic changes.

The vast majority of Canadians are either

-- too young to care (I didn't care much about this stuff till I hit my late 20s)
-- too old or ill or impaired to cope with such a data stream. This includes legitimately stupid people -- why does no-one ever write about this segment of the population?
-- working, raising kids, juggling debts, finishing their Masters thesis, studying the migration and breeding patterns of the Atlantic codfish, inventing a better mousetrap etc.
-- already solidly partisan, for good, bad or nonsensical reasons, and not amenable to changing except slowly or under transformative conditions

This is perfectly natural. After all, our ears and eyes and noses are only a few ounces of our total weight. Why should the eyes and noses of the body politic be any bigger?

We blog because we care about this stuff, but it's easy to feel we're shouting in the wilderness. Bees gather tiny amounts of nectar, but together they fill the hive with gallons of honey. So do we.

The real question is, how do we get our honey to the general public? The blogosphere is quite new, so this channel of the transmission of knowledge is still not in place.

But I will tell you one thing for sure -- journalists hang around the blogosphere, seek out the more trustworthy and idea-rich areas, knock over good ideas in a dark alley and abscond with their loot. I have seen story after story appear first in the blogs, only to surface the next day in the news.

Journalists need ideas, and the more work they can leave to others the happier they are, because increasingly they are overworked or working freelance.

Going forward, this movement of stuff from blog to mainstream can only increase. I look forward to it.


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