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(August 9, 2001, Gazette)

Michael TilleyOh yeah, you and what lobby group

Of the problems that plague the world certainly one of the most troubling is the human instinct for compassion. It is a case of too much technology, not enough knowledge about that technology, and an overabundance of idle time.

As these modern elements coincide, they introduce an emptiness and a sort of loneliness that stems from the absence of the need for a community. This social isolation motivates a sense of concern for the natural world and traditional ways of living that seem to share the same ideology and the same fate as these lonely people. Unfortunately, as these concerns are voiced they often do little to help the plight of their chosen cause, instead desensitizing the public to notions such as outrage and vehemence, making it very difficult, in any practical sense, to get anything done.

This is the beginning of the 21st century, an age of technological achievement and convenience. Communication happens at the speed of light. Even machines can communicate with one another. It will not be too long before we can buy appliances with internal computers and Internet capabilities that monitor their own performance and ours and so that they may contact a technician when they break down, or automatically place an order at the grocery store when the food has run out. The point is that because of the human desire for convenience people are finding themselves increasingly baffled and marginalized by technology.

The feeling is compounded by the freedom from labour that machines provide. It’s a great asset not to be tied to a desk 12 hours a day six days a week. But when there is work to be done, one feels that in some way energy is not being wasted, that in fact they are part of a greater whole working toward a common goal. Free time seems to carry none of that sense of purpose. It is essentially idle time to be filled with personal value. But this technological age does not promote values of community and family. Increasingly it seems that free time is alone time as well.

If this analysis is right then it is possible that the powerlessness and isolation felt by these individuals creates a desire to overcome these feelings. The first step in this process involves a sympathy toward others recognized as being in the same condition. Once these others are recognized they can organize on the basis of their worldly interests. Sympathy and interest boil down in the particular case to the effect of simply having an opinion. However, the right to express an opinion is one of the basic human rights supported by every democratic charter and consequently is very empowering to those who unite under its banner. Being opinionated thus is associated with empowerment. The value and energy wasted in leisure time is refocussed through special-interest groups into a productive force.

What really bothers me about this whole process is that the world, and my life, has not necessarily become a better place because of the compassion shown by these people. In order to stay relevant and validate their own existence, these groups seek official recognition from governments and any other agency that will listen. They display their power by making shows of force in the political arena. But it often resembles the actions of addicts who are looking for a fix. People tend to grow desperate and radical in the name of their opinions, fighting for what they now regard as their god-given rights.

All this action really makes it difficult for the less motivated among us to get a leg up. The world has become so desensitized to the radical acts of these overly-opinionated folks that they do not even respond to civilized requests anymore. The suggestion box and the complaint desk are little more than fodder for the cannons of “justice.” If you feel you have been dealt with unfairly you need to raise an army of insurgents if you want any thing to ever get done. And I just do not have the energy, so I am left with my only option: complain to you folks.

 

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