Those Things 2013
Here's a quick list of things I'd like to see more and less of in 2013.
Less Snark: And I say this as a (at times) painfully sarcastic wise-ass, but we definitely could use a little more respect and a lot less snark in conversations and the national debate. It seems like everything today is coated in a heavy crust of snark, be it national news or entertainment news or just simple everyday conversations. "Everybody's a comedian" has never been so true as today. I think my main issue with snark is that it usually is in place of discussion of actual solutions (which, obviously, are a lot harder to come up with than a snappy retort.) Personally, I find most cable news and a lot of media, like Entertainment Weekly, hard to digest because it seems more focused on people showing how smart they are than telling me what is going on or what we can do. And, again, I'm as guilty of it as anyone so I'll try to tone it down a bit myself. Earnestness in 2013!
More Civic Pride: This is another one that I need to work on but I think we need to be more involved in our communities. We seem to have become a nation of people who post on the computer about what we see outside of our windows, rather than a citizenry that goes outside to make a change. Hell, even posting on the computer too much seems to annoy people and get your defriended or your status updates hidden. My first step of community outreach has been miniscule - heading to local stores over online shopping or big chains and also getting shirts of local eateries/bars to promote my local businesses. Obviously, I have to step it up but I'd like to see neighbors rally around their similarities as much as they argue over their differences.
Less "says nobody ever": The gag of making a statement you disagree with and ending with "says nobody ever" is a good one but it's been beaten to death, especially on Twitter. It's a good gag but just like one of my faves ("That's what she said"), it needs to be used more judiciously moving forward.
More Due Diligence: One of the main problems with social media is that it seems to have moved discourse away from making full, thought out arguments and towards carpet bagging quick points/thoughts. One of the best examples of this issue was a New York Times article that said, in terms of gun control, we should follow Australia's lead. The writer cited a report, people shared the story online, but if you read the cited report, it concluded that Australia's methods couldn't be replicated in the US and we couldn't follow their lead. What I'd love to see next year is more people (again, myself included) judging or picking apart their own opinions as much as they do their opposition's.
Less Finger Pointing: Listen, we all make mistakes. Most every problem has multiple causes. And the blame game usually ends with everyone talking about who's to blame until everyone is tired of the issue at hand and then quitting the discussion before anything has really been discussed or solved. What we really need is...
More Self Awareness: And this just isn't about the news or discourse; artists need to realize that, if they want to reach a mass audience, they have to consider the audience when they are creating their art. This isn't to say that people necessarily need to water down what they are doing but understand that, in most cases, when a film doesn't do well, it's not because the audience didn't find it, it's because it didn't find the audience. (Obviously, there are exceptions to this but I find that most times when people complain that they didn't get the audience they seem to think they deserved, their work isn't that great.) I myself find that, after work or after a long week, I tend to drift towards the more mindless fare. It's not that I don't appreciate high art but most of the time nowadays, I'm looking for entertainment or a diversion. Films like "Blue Valentine" might be amazing achievements but I can't help but walk out of the theater wondering, "Why did I just put myself through that?" Yes, it would be nice if studios spent more time on their blockbusters so they weren't so stupid but, at the same time, how many of the great screenwriters are willing to work on those films, knowing the restraints and that they'll have to answer to a number of execs, test groups, etc. In the end, be it an artist or a pundit or a politician, people need to realize that getting the chance to reach out to the people doesn't mean that the people are required to listen.
And finally, (and this reflects this piece as much as the world its about), I'd like to see less posturing and more action. Some time in 2010, I stopped listening to President Obama's speeches because they're fairly pointless without some sort of actions behind them. As for myself, I keep talking about changes I'm going to make, goals I'm going to achieve, but, honestly, I then get lazy and don't pursue them with the fervor that they and I deserve. The Annie Dillard quote, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives" seems obvious but I feel like many people, especially me, seem to bemoan a lack of progress but we basically spend our days talking about progress rather than trying to make it happen. In fact, I feel like I type this same sentiment every time the New Year rolls around. Hopefully, this is the year I heed my own advice.