Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Stephen Downes: the monkeysphere

Stephen and I approach things from very divergent starting points, and I am simply not the polymath he is, yet we seem to share many hot buttons.

In this post, he vents his spleen about the current economic downturn.

Somewhere (I forget where) I heard that Stepehn has taught himself the art of 'one take' writing. The result of this is the odd typo and malapropism. The thing is, with his sense of humour, one can never be quite sure that the malapropisms, at least, are not intentional. For example, in this post, he refers to 'the idyll rich' which conjures up a wonderful image of people living in let-them-eat-cake-land, with absolutely no grounding in the reality of the life we lesser mortals face every day.

If I were to sum up the post, which would be to oversimplify it appallingly (so don't take my word for it), I would say that the Downes is looking at the situation and telling us: We've got to care about each other, dammit!

I concur. In fact, one of the reasons most people prefer to interact with me in small doses, is my propensity for climbing onto that soapbox at the least provocation.

The thing is that that much caring can be too much for a human mind to bear. Perhaps we have taken refuge in the monkeysphere in an act of self-preservation, in much the same way as the mind has the ability to take refuge in catatonia, or to shut off certain intolerable memories.


But we ought at least to give it a shot, no?


Stephen Downes said...

"idyll rich" is deliberate, and I actually looked it up to be sure whether to use one l or two.

The one-line summary is reasonably accurate, though I would add that we need to foster that caring, to foster empathy, because we've become desensitized as a society.

Also, I hear you about the phenomenon of too much caring. Too much empathy is as bad as too little. We must be able to feel our own feelings, as well as those of others.

The upsycho said...

@Downes Picking up on your 'desensitized' point. I used to sit in front of the telly, groaning and weeping at things like the reports on the Rwandan situation or the famine in Ethiopia. But I forced myself to watch, because I somehow felt it would be a betrayal of those people to protect my own sensibilities by simply turning it off. Then I would raise the matter with others whom I would have expected to be just as moved, only to hear, "No, I turned it off - can't stand to watch that kind of thing." or "Yeah we watched it last night. Bleagh. Put me right off my dinner all those hacked up bodies!"

I used to feel so impotent (a) at not being able to change their views and (b) at not being able to make a difference. Then I decided that I could make a difference in my own immediate surroundings. So I 'adopted' a prostitute who used to tout and/or beg at a traffic light I passed regularly with her baby on her hip. I used to take her fresh fruit and veg, milk, nappies and clothes for the baby.

She was just one person, but to most people (myself included until I started the project), she was one of the invisibles. Here's another tale of the invisibles. Our lives are full of them, and - as you point out - we need to open our eyes!