Quillen’s Corner: Orchestrating a Better Tomorrow, Or a Worse One

By Martha Quillen

What a coincidence; the theme of this month’s magazine is music, and I’d been planning on writing about harmony for more than a year now. Of course, I hadn’t planned on writing about our local music scene, because I don’t know anything about it.
But I’d been reading about some of the ways various economists, psychologists, historians and journalists think we can address our political problems without undue discord. And I’d intended to share some of their ideas once the election was over. At this point, it seems as if the hubbub over the 2016 election may never subside.
This is clearly not a good time for harmonizing. In recent years, our world has been transformed by a seemingly limitless flow of information which provides enough material for people to compose whatever reality they want, and Americans clearly aren’t choosing the same one.
In previous Centrals, I devoted considerable space to fretting about people’s increasing tendency to embrace highly partisan, diametrically opposed views regarding news, issues, facts and even truth itself. A lot of critics blame social media for that trend, because users tend to form like-minded communities, but I’m not so sure about that.
I figure journalists, networks and websites are just as responsible, since they often rely on gossip, sensationalism and controversy to build their audience. And political campaigners certainly play a role, because they tend to get derailed by financing, and who’s with them and who’s not, and what’s wrong with their opponents.
And the tendency of public officials to focus on their own agenda – rather than on workable solutions for the voters – encourages gridlock, stasis, lies, corruption and anger.
So is our process oriented toward picking leaders? Or fights?

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