Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A pity there aren't more like her

Election Results: Dems Suck at Civic Engagement « Flying Tomato Farms

I really like this piece at Flying Tomato Farms. Here you have a person who specializes in sustainable farming while blogging a good analysis of state and local election numbers and issues... and one of her city officials actually reads it and comments.

The sad thing, which the blogger and the commenter both note, is the low participation in the political process. We're not talking just low voter turn out - see the official's comment about no-shows at public meetings on important issues.

It is so good to read an information seeking, community concerned citizen and a conversation seeking, community concerned official.

But it is so sad (as both of them note) that there is so little real public engagement in the process.

I would opine that low involvement contributes to government sprawl and intrusion on the one hand or people becoming marginalized on the other. When the general public takes the process for granted, it can get worked by factions and activists who expand government control. Alternatively, there can be no process at all and issues affecting a community are simply ignored.

Low public involvement in politics correlates with today's decline of many civic and social venues, as is suggested in Jon Lauck's Prairie Republic.

Certainly a big issue for churches today - we've moved from the center of society out to the edges in a very short time. Spiritually, that's not a bad place to be. The church of the New Testament lived on the margins. But it's still a disorienting change to deal with.


The Archer of the Forest said...

We live in a polarized and cynical age. Most people in the under 35 crowd idolize people like Jon Stewart of the Daily Show or The Onion website. I have not been able to figure out if this phenomenon is long term fallout from Watergate or what exactly. Most of the under 35 crowd were not even alive during Watergate.

I might suggest that Watergate was the Genesis of the current culture. The Generation X crowd largely was a drop out generation. They don't join churches or civic groups or bowling leagues. There was an interesting treatise on this phenomenon about 10 years ago called Bowling Alone that has always been in the back of my mind.

Oftentimes in Seminary, there were discussions of why the Church is shrinking. The knee-jerk liberal reaction was always the Spong-ian "the Church must change or die." In other words, its all the church's fault for not being hip enough, or whatever. I would always pose the question that maybe it is something bigger than what the Church is doing, because all civic groups from the Masons to Bowling Leagues largely declined over that period as well.

I am now inclined to think that it was a Generation X phenomenon. Generations tend to follow a four generation cycle. You have a builder generation (for example the WII generation), a questioning generation (60's counter culture), a drop out generation (Gen X'er MTV generation), and a joining generation (Gen Y/Millenial crowd), at which point the cycle starts over. And that seems to be holding true. The Gen Y crowd seems to be much more community oriented, doing more community service, joining more civic groups, coming back to church more (provided the church actually evangelizes). They don't tend to rebel as much as the 60's crowd did, and it drives the leftover Hippies,, who grew up with the "You have to have something to rebel against" mentality, absolutely bonkers.

I think the toxicity and cynicism of the current culture is fueled by the Millenial crowd having grown up watching the Gen X "boomerang" generation check out, and also grew up in a culture of no heroes, particular in the civic realm. The Presidents over the last 15 to 20 years have been largely uninspiring overall. Scandals of all sorts. The Gen Y crowd is pretty much resigned to the fact that we will never see any money from social security when we retire because the Baby Boomers have left a horrendous debt/mess for us to grapple with. And the cycle will likely be that the millenial's kids will be the ones that have to rebuild, with the Gen Y/Millenial crowd paving the way.

All this, combined with the plethora of infotainment/news media that reinforce the individual's pick-n-choose politics and relativist outlook on objectivity and absolute truth, lead to an abyss of passive aggressive toxic civic culture.

TLF+ said...

Archer - hope you will work this comment into a full piece, maybe for Costly Grace? I'll certainly link it if you do.

The Archer of the Forest said...

I may do that later. That is a good idea.

The Archer of the Forest said...

I have indeed posted a blog entry following up on this comment.