“The big breakthrough will come…when we are able to handle the truth about people.” Van Jones

“The big breakthrough will come…when we are able to handle the truth about people.”

-Van Jones, Shirley Sherrod and me, NYTimes op-ed
Van’s entire piece is worth reading about what it feels like to be caught in Washington DC doing politics in real-time right now via the web.
I’ve been exploring the process what it means to be “Private” (aka yourself) in Public for some time now. It’s what solo performer, comedians, performance artists and many performers do. When it’s chosen an you provide the context it can be very powerful. Of course the latest political episode is particular poignant because Shirley Sherrod spoke in public on behaviour of her government employer but apparently of her own choosing and gave plenty of context which made her story about race and class understanding really powerful. And it’s that context which was taken away by Breitbart’s selective editing and the ensuing political playout of anxious reactions.
And I still believe that it is this act that makes the world safe for you as I said during my 20009 SXSW panel Everything I Need to Know About the Web I Learned From Feminism. But the always brilliant and challenging danah boyd noted that it’s a privilege to be yourself in public. And of course people behave differently in different publics.
The “public” of the media and the blogosphere and political DC are all different. Of course our political “public” is theoretically supposed to be the place in which we solve common problems but this kind of judgemental-ness and harsh manipulation which serves political and media business ends isn’t always in the interests of our common good.
This rend is an old media and political one. It’s not new. The fact that the real-time web is speeding it up is a little bit new. What will be new and is necessary is what Van Jones mentions: not the truth about how people are or what they’ve said but when we can handle it.
An individual matures when they can handle difference. It’s called differentiation ( “the ability to separate one’s own intellectual and emotional functioning from that of the family”). An individual heals from depression or trauma when they get to a point when they feel they can handle their feelings. Our body politic and publics seem to me to operate just like a person.  And I think Van is right, the key word is handle.

As an individual you can’t control the world, you can only get better at feeling you can handle it and the change and challenges it presents you with. It’s the same thing for the media and our politics. And sometimes you have to bottom out before you are motivated to change. And it looks like our politics are heading there.

The Net provides a place to attack each other better and I wager it’s connectedness (and our real-life connectedness with each other and our selves) could also help us get better at handling once we decide that’s what we need to work on.

Fun video link: danah boyd’s comments on how gendered behaviour plays out in social networks (thx @allaboutgeorge)

Posted via email from subvert with heather gold

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