“The Art of Empathy”

Over the years I’ve been involved in many projects, professionally and personally. Some have been successful and some … not so much. A friend of mine, Yvette Dubel, posed a question to me in reference to an eBook she’s writing. What piece of advice would I share to current and future business leaders? What’s the one thing I could take from my experiences, my successes and failures, that would benefit others.

Empathy

After thinking about it, one thing keeps surfacing, actually one word – empathy. Put yourself in their head or your feet in their shoes. It doesn’t matter if that person is your business partner, a potential client or a homeless man collecting bottles and cans. Try to understand their plight –  and if you’re trying to help them … really help them.

Normally we look at a situation from our perspective, which is only natural. Our experiences, views and biases provide us with our own personal perspective. But how relevant is that perspective to the person we’re trying to convey a message to?

Most companies can’t get their head around the concept of empathy either. They seem to be locked into this myopic view of what they think we should want. They resort to features and gimmicks, ‘bells and whistles.’ The auto industry is a perfect example of this. How many people really want a driverless car? They all seem to have jumped on this bandwagon and rationalize their seat by touting the potential safety aspects. But isn’t it just a gimmick?

Politicians are another example. How many of them know what’s it’s like to live paycheck-to-paycheck, or spend a year looking for job that’s fast becoming obsolete.

Empathy isn’t just listening and taking everything at face value. It’s actually hearing what someone says. It’s looking past the words or the actions. It’s the art of ‘pulling back the curtain’ as Dorothy did in The Wizard of OzWhat are the whys?

Empathy will be the physical fitness of the future.

I call this ‘the search for the whys,’ ‘looking behind the curtain’ … ‘The Art of Empathy.’ This isn’t about truth or deception. Much of the time, the person you’re talking with doesn’t even realize there’s a disconnect between what they’re saying and what’s deep down inside them. But when it’s time to act, they will act on what’s inside … not what they say. 

Unless you live on a mountain top or spend your life in solitary confinement, you’re going to have to communicate with people. And this communication requires understand what the other person is saying … really understanding. This is empathy at its core.

And one can never fully master the ‘Art of Empathy’ anymore than you can master any other art. It’s a life long pursuit. You can always find a new and better way of interacting, of delving into the true meaning behind the action. 

And that’s not a bad thing.

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P.S. ~ Special thanks to Yvette Dubel for providing the genesis for this post.

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You can find at Twitter @clayforsberg and on Google+

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Why the George Zimmerman trial wasn’t really about race or even George Zimmerman!

As we all know by now, George Zimmerman was quitted on all counts against him for the murder of Trayvon Martin. A jury of six of his peers (in theory), found that Zimmerman acted in self-defense under the conditions of Florida’s “Stand your ground” law.

Now if you’ve been watching television or read the major newspapers, you’d get the impression this case was all about race. While the anchors or columnists weren’t so blatant in their coverage, the pundits they paraded out made up for it. “George Zimmerman was racist and it was his disdain for black people who motivated him to gun down Tayvon. Plus the police didn’t handle the case right from the beginning because there was a black youth involved, and of course he was probably up to no good.”

Zimmerman_Trial

But then again we have to give the media a break. No matter if it was the Washington Post, CNN, ABC or MSNBC, we know they aren’t in the business of objective journalism, but rather have an agenda of “stirring the pot” for the sake of readership and ratings.

I disagree with the majority our vaunted Fourth Estate however. I think what we saw was the unfortunate aftermath of a “Perfect Storm.”

What we had in George Zimmerman was a wannabe cop. And I’m not saying that with negative connotations. It’s obvious he had a police mentality. Otherwise why would he been out there in the first place as the head of a neighborhood watch. It takes a certain personality, someone who’s probably looking at everything suspiciously, looking for something out-of-place. And in turn, wanting to engage (obviously).

And also we have the phenomena of the prejudice of “preconceived ideas.” We all have them. We look at a situation or a person through the filters of our own experiences. These experiences can come from real life, or they can just be result of the media’s depictions. It’s how we learn, it’s built into our DNA. After a first encounter with a Saber Toothed Tiger, cavemen learned not to mess with them … or least not without a spear in hand.

These “preconceptions” aren’t necessarily racist, or at least overtly. They’re more under the surface, most of the time due to lack of exposure to people who are different from them. It’s very difficult to look at someone totally objective, no matter how hard we try. Our experiences always sneak in, just like the caveman. Even Jesse Jackson once said if he was walking down the street coming up on three black youth, he would probably cross to the other side.

And this bias doesn’t have to be racial either. I remember driving through Wyoming with my daughter Alex. We were stopped at 7:00am by a highway patrol entirely because I had California licence plates. After asking for my ID and registration, his next question was: “Do you have any drugs or weapons in your car?” This elicited a “WHAT!” from Alex. Obviously his preconception was that all drivers from California were likely to have drugs or weapons on them, regardless if there was a five-year girl in the front seat. The only way I got out of completely emptying my car was to call my best friend Jerry who we’d spent the last three days with. Jerry also happened to be the airport manager in Cheyenne, the capitol of Wyoming.

The media said that Zimmerman probably didn’t even have any black friends. Again, probably not because he was racist, as much as he just hadn’t had enough personal encounters to feel comfortable around them.

Adding to the “Perfect Storm” is where is the incident took place. Florida is a relatively conservative state with a conservative legislature. Gun ownership is a valued right, as much as it is in the western states. In fact Florida has issued over a million concealed weapons permits, more than any other state. Guns, and especially ones hidden from sight, are a fact of life in Florida.

And then finally topping off the “Perfect Storm,” we have the Castle Law, or better known as “Stand-your-ground.” If you feel threatened and you have a gun … then go ahead and use it, no matter where the hell you are!

I suppose the Castle Law in itself isn’t so bad if you didn’t look at where it came from. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and its extreme right-wing agenda funded by the NRA and other less than desirable entities (with self-interests well in tow) have literally drafted the template bills for states to use verbatim. It’s in the NRA’s best interest to have more guns and Wal-Mart (a big backer of ALEC) to sell more guns. This self-defense paranoia also fuels anti-immigrant causes. Because as we all know, immigrants vote for Democrats, the arch-enemy of the NRA and ALEC.

So again what we have is the “Perfect Storm” of events and backdrop. And as a result, Trayvon Martin is dead for no real reason except being a victim of circumstances. And what the trial comes down to is whether George Zimmerman feared for his life.

If you look past the media sound bites … you’ll see he probably did. Should have he? Looking in hindsight, of course not! Trayvon was a 150 lb kid with a pack of Skittles and George Zimmerman outweighed him by almost hundred pounds. But you can’t ignore Zimmerman’s preconceptions, bias, and that he hadn’t the luxury of objective hindsight. You add this to his psychological state; knowing he should (in his mind) engage this young man, as well as if things went bad he had his weapon he could legally defend himself with … you have the “Perfect Storm.”

And all the jury had to do was empathize with him and agree he “feared for his life.”

So what can can be done to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

You’re always going to have wannabe cops, looking at everything suspiciously and being the first to volunteer for their local neighborhood watch.

Can you change how people perceive others who are different from them? Probably not. Or as Bill Clinton said: “You can’t legislate morality.” Are you going to put the nation in a big room sequestered from all outside influences? Of course not. Ideally we can maybe try to get people out of their cocoons and venture out and experience other cultures and “people not like them.” Maybe.

It’s obvious that we’re not going to get rid of guns. If the Sandy Hook massacre can’t move the gun control meter, I don’t what can.

That brings us to the “Stand-your-ground” law. I’m afraid to say that any attempts to repeal it will involve a fight of biblical proportions against the NRA, its membership, and ALEC and it’s supporters especially the Koch Brothers. This would not be a fight for the faint of heart.

So what it comes down to is as long as you have the conditions that make up this “Perfect Storm,” it’s unlikely it’ll stop anytime soon, no matter what color the person being shot is … or the person doing the shooting. There will be another Trayvon, and another George Zimmerman … and another case, probably decided the same way.

It’s kind of  … “is what it is.”

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg and on Google+

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The Science of Being Jennifer Lawrence

Update Wednesday, January 15, 2014:  With the 2014 Oscar nominations happening tomorrow morning, it’s a good time to revisit some thoughts about a sure-fire nominee … if not another winner.

About a year ago I started down my road of dystopian rant about the dysfunction of government. It was right before the mega-movie The Hunger Games was about to be released. Also about this time my daughter had switched jobs and joined a movie production company in Los Angeles. Even though I spent over twenty years in Southern California, I never really paid much attention to the movie industry even though many of my printing clients made their living from it. But with my offspring joining their ranks, I felt I had to get up to speed and learn something so I could have an intelligent conversation with her. Knowing I was going to The Hunger Games as soon as it hit theatres to acquire ammunition for my my rant, I thought I’d start with there.

Jennifer Lawrence Winter
Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone

The lead role in The Hunger Games was heroin Katniss Everdeen,  played by Jennifer Lawrence. I’d never heard of her before then. With some research I found out she received a Best Actress Nomination in 2010 for a small dark independent film called Winter’s Bone. I watched it. I was memorized. This eighteen year girl, with no training and limited experience completely carried the film to a Best Picture Nomination also. How could this be? So I watched her first movie, The Poker House. The Poker House is a low-budget, extremely dark true story of prostitution, drugs and gambling. Lawrence was sixteen when she filmed it. She was as good, if not better, in this one. Her performance was gripping.

Unless you’ve been under rock for the last year, you know how The Hunger Games turned out and how Lawrence carried yet another movie – this one to $700 million at the box office worldwide, with three sequels to come. Now with it being Oscar time, Lawrence is at it again. This time in the Academy nominated film, Silver Linings Playbook. And, yes she is also nominated, playing a mentally depressed widow, who on paper she is ten years too young for. It’s also a role she beat out Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway amongst others for, all supposedly more age appropriate.

This time however, she wasn’t just nominated … she won, and the second youngest ever!

Again how can someone with no training and still only twenty-two years old be so damn good. Many call her the best of her generation, if not the best period. Her record would certainly demonstrate that. If you’ve seen any interviews Lawrence does, she’s very down to earth. In fact she often acts like a knucklehead and can’t control what comes out of her mouth. Her interviews with Letterman and other talk show are as funny as it gets. She’s getting almost as many accolades for her off-screen personality as her abilities on-screen. She’s just a normal twenty-two year girl who happens to be maybe the best actress in the world. Or like Jay Cassidy, the editor of Silver Lining Playbook said, “she’s been touched by the angels.”

Lawrence does virtually no preparation. She doesn’t practice, other than reading her lines, and often only in the make-up trailer before the shoot. She’s cracks jokes and goofs around up until the last second before the camera roles. And then … Bang! It just happens. How can this be?

The normal course of action in the acting world, as with any profession, is to train for it. Virtually all accomplished actors have extensive training and schooling, often at elite institutions. And after that, it takes years to make it to the top echelon … if they ever do. And that top level has very few inhabitants. But this has not been the road that Jennifer Lawrence has taken. She started only with a role as a rebellious teenager in an average sit-com, “The Bill Engvall Show,” as her launching pad. Hardly the Yale School of Drama or Julliard.

Over the past few months I’ve read occasional articles and interviews on Lawrence – trying to figure out how she does it. The only explanations I’ve found is that she’s a natural. But what does that mean? First, I don’t believe anyone is a natural at anything. It has to come from somewhere. Somehow they’ve trained their brain to perform at a high level. The training need not be formal. But it still has to be trained to develop the synaptic connections to excel. There no such thing as cerebral alchemy. Jennifer Lawrence is no exception.

One interview I read got me thinking though. Jennifer recounted a time when a friend and herself were in the car when the paparazzi spotted her and chased them. Her friend, who was driving, abruptly stopped the car breaking down in tears and yelling, “we can’t live like this!” Lawrence first response was to ask her to do that again. Could she repeat what she just did, that emotive outburst. That was it … the secret behind Jennifer Lawrence! She’s a database of expressive memes.

Lawrence’s talent lies in her ability to observe, break expressions and reactions into bits or memes, and store them in her brain for later use. 

To her everything is source material that is converted into a synaptic database record. A simple reaction from a friend could very well end up in her next movie. Lawrence’s school is everywhere and she’s in class all the time, even sitting on the couch watching Honey Boo Boo (which she loves) or other trashy reality television.

Her skill is two-fold. First, she’s perfected the science of segmented expressional observation. And second, she’s developed a system of categorization and retrieval of her “bits” or memes. Subconsciously, she knows what type of expression or action to use for the appropriate situation. And she does it without thinking. It’s much like a professional athlete. After thousands and thousands of repetitions, their body just knows what to do in any given circumstance.

Now I have no actual proof to back my hypothesis, but I read something last night (after I started this piece), that makes complete sense. In an interview, Lawrence said she loves watching people and their expressions. This makes completely  sense. It’s her process. She doesn’t have a style, per se. Her style is limited only by the size of her internal database of expressive memes. And only being only twenty-two, her database is only going to get larger, and her retrieval ability more refined. Her limitation may be only the scripts put in front of her, and her discretion in choosing the ones that correspond to her current internal roster of memes.

All we can do is wait and see how her career develops and how she performs in roles unlike those she’s already conquered. For some reason I don’t think this will be the last time we see Jennifer Lawrence grace the Oscar platform and for roles that will surprise everyone.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg and on Google+

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The Tragedy of “The Scarlett Letter”

Autumn lives across the street from my parents. I’d say she’s in her mid fifties. About fifteen years ago she attempted suicide. Living in a town of five hundred, the news spread like a wildfire. As far as I know nobody really knows why she tried.  And I don’t know if anyone, other than her family, has even reached out to her. To this day if someone sees a relative’s car at her house – suicide rumors flare up again. All this is about an incident that happen well over decade ago. She in fact doesn’t even associate with anyone unless they’re new to town. This way she won’t have worry about explaining her past.

We just won’t give people like Autumn a break. We just can’t get it out of our heads. It becomes a smoldering fodder for neighborhood gossip. Anything to do with a mental challenge, whether it’s been overcome or not – makes no difference The “Scarlett Letter” will forever be front and center. And God forbid it’s an addiction. Thanks to AA and its many siblings, you’ve never conquered anything, your always in recovery.

We don’t act this way if someone breaks a leg. Once the bone is healed, it’s “past times behind.” But the brain … watch out!  After all, you’re “crazy.”

Mental illness?

After Sandy Hook, gun control has become all the rage. And then the blame turned to mental illness. It didn’t make any difference an arsenal was within arms length, “he did it because he was crazy!” We don’t need to worry so much about guns (much to the delight of the NRA), if we make sure the crazy people don’t get to them. And from there we move onto Obama’s 23 Executive Orders designed to curb gun violence, of which a good portion are related to mental illness. On the surface they sound fine, but if you delve deeper … you’ll see we’re looking into the abyss of a “Scarlett Letter” database. You can read my take here: “Yea … but I think I’m fine.”

But this post isn’t about gun control. It’s about you. Way too often we rush to label people. And way too often these labels are “black and white.” It easy for us not to think, to lean back on our ideologies and crutches. We don’t want to have to “peel back the onion” and see the layers underneath. After all that may mess with our preconceptions and prejudices. We can’t have that.

Someone who’s “not right in the head” fits dead center. We don’t know how to deal with them.

“What if they don’t understand what we’re trying to say. Or worse yet, what if they go off.”

“What if they’re drinking again or what if they’ve started drugs, I can’t have my kids around them. I just don’t know what they’ll do.”

Mass media’s portrayal of mental illness does nothing but fuel these misconceptions. How many times do you hear the term Schizophrenia and split personalities used in the same breath. Or even violence. Both have nothing to do with the disease. A more accurate description of Schizophrenia would be flattened emotions; social withdrawal; and be prone to delusions, hallucinations or paranoia. But in the age of hyperbole, it’s easier just to default to the extreme. Other mental illnesses and even just acts of nonconformity are also often misconstrued.

This life ain’t no straight line; it’s a swirly, messy, ugly-beautiful scribble.

A little over a month ago I saw the movie Silver Linings Playbook. I loved it, but not necessarily for the reasons I thought I would. The movie featured a cast of lovable, but mentally off-center, characters. It showed reality. And it showed acceptance and love in a world of labeling and dismiss. This is what I took home.

Over my life I’ve been fortunate to have lived in a wide variety of sociological environments. I’ve learned from all of them. But often the most from the most unlikely sources. Seeing Silver Linings Playbook brought this home. As humans we’re all unique. Too not appreciate this uniqueness is, well … an unfortunate shame.

And this appreciation should include everyone even us that are a little off, a little “crazy.” We cannot continue to stigmatize those difference by branding it with the “Scarlett Letter” and trying to fix it automatically with psychotropic drugs. Imagine all the great minds throughout history that would have never blossomed if they were anesthetized with the ADHD drugs we pump into our children these days.

The problem isn’t them though … it’s us – it’s our society and all the branding and labeling. We need to embrace people not like us, not shun them. Who’s saying they’re not saner than we are. In fact I’d say obsession with money and “things” is plenty “crazy.”

And by embracing, look at someone for what they “bring to the table,” not their level of societal conformity. Einstein, Galileo, Copernicus, Picasso, Dali, Jobs – they were all thought of as “crazy.” You don’t change the world by thinking the same way as the crowd.

Unfortunately even when we do accept these “outliers,” we do only to try to fix them. I acknowledge some types of mental illness do need treatment, whether it be therapy or medications. But just being different doesn’t justify automatic intervention.

After all … who’s saying you’re not the one who needs fixing!

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg and Google+

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Yea … but I think I’m fine!

“It must hard for everyone to think you’re crazy … and you think you’re fine.” ~ Jennifer Lawrence, talking about her character, Tiffany, in the movie Silver Linings Playbook

With the tragedies of Newtown and Aurora, the topic of metal illness’s role in gun violence has reared its misunderstood head. In their efforts to divert attention away from the growing tide for gun control, the NRA and its brethren have placed the blame of the shootings on the issue of mental instability. Unfortunately, this dialogue will probably gain momentum. One can only imagine with it will come a universal database containing a “black or white”  declaration on whether each of us is “crazy.

What if we go down this “rabbit hole” of obsessive societal security (at the sacrifice of our civil rights) … who will sit on the throne wheeling the power to declare which of us will receive the Scarlett Letter. Will it be the less-than-qualified school counselors? We have to get to the “crazies” before they inflict too much damage on our perfect little world of conformity. Or maybe it will be the “clowns of the beltway” in Congress. God I hope not! Most of them ARE legitimately certifiable.

Mental illness?

And even if we do find a credible pervaiour of judgement – what criteria are we to be judged on. Would the 6th grade boy next door, who’s labeled ADHD (because an inept teacher couldn’t engage him) be considered mentally ill … be considered “crazy.”

What about the woman across the street who attempted suicide ten years ago, but now suffers from nothing but the ostracism of her neighbors in her small town … the ostracism that relegates her to virtually no personal contact outside her home, except only with those new to town. Those who don’t know her past. Is she “crazy.

What about the truck driver who was injured on the job and then over-prescribed Oxycontin for an acute condition that due a doctor’s negligence turned into a chronic morphine addiction … an addiction that has led him to smoke Marijuana in attempt to break his daily spiral into Dante’s Hell.

Would it be me, who has taken anything but the conventional path down my road of life. This is a life that has included homelessness amongst other bouts with non-conformity. Many, both family and friends (former friends I should say) still can’t look past the “off base” label they’ve attached to me. No matter my accomplishments – past and present, it’s that label they can’t see past.

Or what if you just choose to take the “road less traveled,” a road not dictated by materialistic consumption – but rather one of concern for others and the environment we all inhabit. To many that makes you look “crazy.” Or worse yet, what if you’re an atheist or have sexual preferences detested by many fundamentalist religions, religions increasingly gaining influence in our government.

What would that mean to all of us … us designated as “crazy.” Of course we will be prohibited from owning a gun. But what’s next … voting rights or maybe driving privileges. Pick your punishment – the punishment for you being “crazy.”

Now this all sounds absurd. But throughout history (the United States included) some pretty absurd decisions have been made. For example, with the support of both political parties – our government currently is hell-bent on stripping as many personal freedoms and constitutional rights they can write up and get to the floor. What’s saying a “crazy” data base isn’t next.

The line between normal and crazy isn’t as clear as we often assume. And being judgmental often short-circuits both understanding and ultimately enlightenment.

Throughout history the majority of those who have truly made an impact on society were outliers, considered “crazy” by the normal masses.

Neither people nor life is “black or white.” We all have colors, hues and tones … often changing from day-to-day, from year to year. Pigeonholing someone may make it easier for you. It may make easier for you not to think, to fall back on your ideologies. But just make sure you realize your cerebral laziness, your intellectual apathy, hurts not only the ones you label – but also yourself.

In mid January, the movie Silver Linings Playbook comes out on wide release. Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro; the movie depicts a cast filled with dysfunction and various types of “less-than-normal” mental stability. But what it really shows is the humanity behind being different, if not unbalanced. The look it gives into these characters, might very well hit home. You probably know people like these people. Who knows you may even see some of yourself in them.

Regardless: Do they, or you … deserve the Scarlett Letter?

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg or on Google+

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20 years later … and has anything changed?

It was twenty years ago today, about 4:00 pm … I was awoken with a hospital orderly barking: ” You have to get up! It’s time for your crutch training. You have ten minutes, man – I gotta get out here!”

The day was April 29, 1992, otherwise known as Day 1 of the Rodney King Riots. For me, the day had dual meaning. Not only was the city of Los Angeles set ablaze – that Wednesday I had cancer surgery in Glendale, California, directly adjacent to Los Angeles. Fortunately the Fibrosarcoma in my leg was successfully excised, and later that day I was on my way … after my abbreviated crutch training of course. Living in path of the impending wrath, my orderly had one foot out the door.

The aftermath of the Rodney King Riots

The riots started in South Central Los Angeles (which is now politically incorrect to say) and marched north on Normandie Ave. to Koreatown in Mid-Wilshire. Koreatown was chosen because Korean shop owners in South L.A. had a reputation of overcharging the locals, especial the black community. So to focus on Koreatown was natural.

As it turned out, my surgery happened on a perfect day. I worked in Koreatown, on Normandie and Wilshire – the apex of the fury. The mob burned out my local gas station, my sandwich shop, my dry cleaners and numerous other stores I patronized on a regular basis, often daily. While I felt for these shop owners … I did not condone, by any means, their actions – but I held no contempt towards the demonstrators either.

The acquittal verdicts returned in favor of the police accused in the of beating Rodney King, was not only no justice for the black community … it was a slap in the face to those, who twenty-seven years earlier in this very city, had changed the course of civil rights in the United States. To these pioneers and their children, now grown – how much had really changed? Maybe on the surface, for appearances it had. But truly, in some people’s hearts, in their souls, obviously for it hadn’t. That was evident in that courtroom in Simi Valley.

Now we come to today April 29, 2012, exactly twenty years after the Rodney King uprising and almost fifty years since its predecessor, the Watt’s Riots … I ask you what’s changed.

If it were 2009, I would say a lot. After all a year earlier we had elected the nation’s first black president. We had turned the corner … or many thought, me included. But just as the awakening from the dormant state of the “seven-year Cicada” … so was the awakening of the racism that laid dormant in the souls of many Americans.

And joining in the chorus of hatred from the mouths of these racists has been bigotry, misogyny and homophobia. In my life I have never seen such divide in this country. The phrase “black and white” has extrapolated far past race to virtually every aspect of society. There is no grey area, no compromise. The Occupy Movement has brought to attention to the economic disparity between the 1% and the rest of us, the 99%. The presidential campaign of 2012 has shown the true lack of unity we have in this country. Social issue disagreement; decades dormant, if not assumed dead – has now taken center stage in the national dialogue with the introduction of “right-wing” Draconian legislative proposals. And tragically tied to this dialogue, is the assault on civil rights long thought of as being fundamental and untouchable.

Again, I ask; “20 years later … and has anything changed?”

We can pass laws and we can repeal laws. On the surface, things change – or they appear to. But down deep, in our hearts and our souls … I hope we know we still have a lot of work to do.

But what is it going to take for us to actually do it?

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I can found on Twitter at @clayforsberg

“Community 3.0” … The People Have the Power, Part 3

In my last two posts, I’ve lamented on the current and very possible future state of America, and that of many other developed nations.

I’ve deplored the role of narcissistic special interest groups in our government and ultimately our livelihood. I’ve bemoaned the effect of the religious right’s self-righteous social campaigns have had on the rights of women and children. I’ve been appalled by the actions of our government in turning back the basic tenants of our constitution – to the time when there was no constitution. And I’ve become sincerely embarrassed to be part of a country that would so bluntly disregard a portion of its population by refusing to give a it hand-up in their time of greatest need.

But today I’m going to take a step out from the dark, out from the gloom. Enough’s been said about what’s wrong and how much further we can fall into the abyss void of compassion, empathy and sensibilities. Now it’s time to turn the tables and visualize hope. For today, let us be immune from the abuses of the 1% and immune from the dysfunction of our government. Today let us envision solutions.

The strength, the salvation of a society lies not with their governmental leaders. It lies not with their institutions. It lies in the hearts, the souls, the minds and the fortitude of its people … the people of its streets, your neighbors and your friends. And it lies with you. And from your neighbors, your friends and you will lie the solutions.

Our governments have let the safety nets so many depend on, here and abroad – fall to ruin and deteriorate to tatters. And they have shown no willingness to repair them. It is us, it is you – and your friends and your neighbors who must step in and be the ones to catch less fortunate as they plummet to the ground.

It is us that must be there for the elderly in our neighborhoods, those that have no family. We must make sure they are fed, housed and looked after – even it’s just a simple visit to have a cup of coffee, to say hello.

It is us that must not look the other way when see that veteran on the street, the one who risked his life for our freedom in a war he neither condoned nor volunteered for. We must show him respect, and with the help of our friends and our neighbors provide those services, the services the government who sent him to war – no longer feels necessary.

It is us that must not let our children, everyone’s children – the future of our society, fall through the cracks because of bureaucratic insensitivity and outright neglect. We must look at each child for the talent they are and the contribution they can make to our community. We must listen, even if they say nothing. We must foresee their needs, even before they actually need them. And when they require that extra guidance or assistance school cannot provide – we must step in and provide that guidance and assistance … that tutoring and mentoring that will transition them to life after school. And we must not discount their views, their opinions and their abilities purely because of discrimination due to their age. For their views are the views of the future, both theirs … and ours.

It is us that must patronize the businesses of our friends and of our neighbors. For without us they would have none – and we will continue to be beholden to the whims and conceit of the corporate elite in their ivory towers of “ill-gotten gains.” It is us that must give the hand-up to Main Street and level the playing for our friends and neighbors that provide the life blood of our community. We can do that with our wallets and our purses, even if means spending an extra dollar or driving an extra mile.

We may wish that with a simple pull of lever in a voting booth, things will be all right. But they won’t be. No matter what their promises or their intentions, no politician will truly have our best interests in mind when it conflicts with the money that put them and keeps them in office. Only we, with help of our friends and neighbors, can be assured that our best interests are protected. I look at this community empowerment as a new generation of societal operandi … an operandi of empowerment we must embrace to survive.

In decades past, neighbors looked after each other, took care of each and their own. But with the proliferation of suburbia, neighborhood relationships waned under the strain geographic stretch. Then came the internet and social networking. Facebook and Twitter became the new defacto neighborhoods. Old friends were reconnected and new ones made, but these friends were not next door, and not available for that cup of coffee or that cup of sugar.

Imagine if we could the combine the neighborhoods of the past and the connectivity and expanse of today to create a new generation of societal support. This new generation, this new lifestyle, I call Community 3.0 – the re-establishment of our neighborhoods, the re-establishment of Main Street. With technology and social media, we, the 99% – can identify and provide the needed support and responsibility our governments have so blatantly chosen to absolve themselves of.

Imagine having a community infrastructure which revolves around social support from its residents and local businesses. Government indifference, whether federal, state or local – will be rendered irrelevant. Those in need would be automatically connected with those who can provide assistance. And with this “cause infused” neighborhood connectivity we can can give our local businesses the marketing and loyalty retention tools to compete favorably with any out-of-town, bloated “ivory tower” corporate goliath.

No time soon will the “powers that be” relinquish the power they’ve tried so hard to acquire. That doesn’t mean all is gloom though. Fighting these adversaries head-on, on a field that they built, will prove to be futile though. But we must still demonstrate in the streets and keep our message front and center in the minds of our converts, present and future. And we must still fight using our social media superiority to re-establish the world on our terms, not there’s.

But ultimately in the end, they are no match for us on our true field … in our neighborhoods, on our Main Streets and most of all – at the tables of our kitchens.

“For … The People have the Power!”

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I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg and on Google+

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