Monday, July 26, 2004

Martin Buber

In the midst of this political frenzy, in the midst of our tribal arguments, we need someone to who can teach us to face one another and truly listen. If there ever was a day for the wisdom of Martin Buber it is now.

I've got this idea I've been toying with. Modernism developed certain meta-structures, which in turn helped reinforce it or bring cultural continuity. These meta-structures functioned like gatekeepers. They were the primary way information and ideas flowed into culture. The university would be a modernist meta-structure. The media is as well. Journalism as we know is a child of modernism and a servant of modernism.

But in the event of the collapse of modernism, these structures did not simply disappear. They still exist and while some even proclaim the death of modernism, they still function and were built on modernist principles. So they cannot easily adapt to this changing milieu.

Now there is a big debate is media liberal or conservative when the real answer is --it's a modernist dinosaur. It never fully anticipated Drudge and the blog revolution, which challenges everything and no longer accepts the illusion of objectivity. Every story is always reflected through a particular lens. The post-modernist is always deconstructing reality trying to show the narratives and biases inherent in the structure.

So like good post-modernists, we deconstruct the modernist media: one group suggests it is liberal; another analyzing the same info concludes it is conservative or at least slanting away from liberalism.

In one sense, post-modernism could be the loss of this meta-structures--thus the world devolves (every so gradually or not) into tribalism. I think the blogs reveal our tribal tendencies. The question is: Can these tribes find a way to get along? Or do we descend into tribal war? I think it is far bigger than conservative vs liberal.

Each tribe tends to redefine language and symbols, thus cross-tribe communication is not always easy.

These are a few ideas I've been considering. I think this is another reason why relationship (and diversity) is so important. Also, this is why I think Buber's ideas on the narrow ridge and dialogue are more important now than even when he wrote them.


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