March 23rd, 2003

Herding Katz

I'm reading "The Future of Success", by Robert Reich, and participating in a debate on several polylists about the reactionary nature of countercultures. How do these two topics relate?

Poly *is* a counterculture, given. Like most such, we attract our normal share of flakes and nuts, people who are happy to be accepted by us because nobody else will have them. And many of these then actively disparage anyone who shows the trappings of mainstream success, as a way of asserting their new-found identity by the time-honored human technique of disparaging the stranger for his differences.

This bugs me. "Welcome the stranger, for you too were once a stranger" is a fundamental value to me. We are all strangers at least once; it's called being an adolescent. By having kids, we assure that we'll have a never-ending supply of strangers growing up in our midst, and we love them for it.

But disparaging the disparagers in turn is self-referentially fruitless. When I catch it in person, I do an okay job of apologizing to the stranger on our collective behalf, and providing an etiquette lesson to our zealot, hopefully while avoiding either condescention or pedantry. This does help a little bit, but I'm not enough of a social butterfly for my actions to have a very profound effect.

I try to welcome strangers, myself; trying to get Polycon started was part of that, and as soon as my personal chaos dies down a bit I want to get it back onto a front burner and get it moving.

What does any of this have to do with a book by a short plump irascible egomaniac?

Reich points out how changes in our culture are changing the sociology of our work. I don't like the direction some of these changes are going; bearing King Canute's lesson in mind, I don't intend to stand in front of the wave of history and bitch at it. Seems like a good way to get soggy, and not much else.

In particular, Reich points out how loyalty is becoming obsolescent. Some of the consequences of this seem to point to a social culture reminiscent of feudal Japan, where betrayal was a frequent political, and often personal, occurrance.

Part of my reason for identifying as poly is that I'm a commitment junkie. I *like* being loyal.

Another of Reich's points is that access to societal resources is in part determined by wealth, and disparities in wealth and relative income are increasing.

So pissing on people because they're successful is a *real* losing strategy. How are we to further our development as a culture if we go around doing that?

Okay, I've pointed out something I think isn't being done well. How do I think it could be done better?

By helping our folks develop powerful, successful lives. Some of that means learning and developing skills, but we've got a lot of geek types, and geek types generally see to their own skill sets fairly well. Helping us learn how to maintain friendships, and be welcoming and gracious hosts, would be more helpful.

I sense I'm losing coherence here; I'll leave this 'til later. If you think you see where I'm going, and can get us there while I'm off taking my nap, by all means take the idea and run with it; I'll try to catch up when I wake up.