Here are the two pieces that strike me: The “top 10 percent of drinkers account for over half of the alcohol consumed in any given year” and this top 10 represents people who drink an average of 10 drinks per day.
I’m not a teetotaler and I’m glad stats also show that most Americans are light on the alcohol — 30 percent don’t drink and another 30 percent are moderate. But 10 drinks per day average is a serious alcohol problem — with serious social implications and costs. Half of the industry profits come from these drinkers. The article quotes an expert:
If the top decile somehow could be induced to curb their consumption level to that of the next lower group (the ninth decile), then total ethanol sales would fall by 60 percent.”
Strange moment this morning when I checked my blog stats and realized that I get a fair amount of traffic for a movie review I wrote last year. I was checking the stats to see if any of the Quaker-related search terms might give clues for future content on Friends Journal or QuakerSpeak and for that purpose the review’s popularity with Google (and readers) isn’t that useful.
But this blog is just my life spun out. I don’t aim for keywords and I don’t want to dominate a thought-sphere. If I see a movie and jot down some impressions that attract a small audience, then my blog post is a success. A dozen or so random people a month Google in to spend a couple of minutes reading my thoughts on a fifty-year-old movie. That’s cool. That’s enough. In all the talk of targeting and SEO we sometimes forget that it’s an honor to simply be read.
The other night stayed up late to cuddled with my wife and watch good-natured but flawed Rom-Com. I read some reviews on IMDB and pondered the cliches in the shower the next morning. Boiling these impressions down into 500 words on a train commute would be easy enough. I should do it more.
2015 looks like it’s shaping up to be the year that online cloud photo services all take a giant leapt forward. Just in the last few months alone, I’ve gone and dug up my ten-plus year photo archive from a rarely accessed backup drive (some 72 GB of files) and uploaded it to three different photo services.
First it was Dropbox, whose Carousel app promised to change everything. For $10/month, I can have all of the digitized photos I’ve ever taken all together. It changed how I access past events. Back in the day I might have taken 20 pictures and posted 2 to Flickr. The other 18 were for all intents inaccessible to me — on the backup drive that sits in a dusty drawer in my desk. Now I could look up some event on my public Flickr, remember the date, then head to Dropbox/Carousel to look through everything I took that day — all on my phone. Sometimes I’d even share the whole roll from that event to folks who were there.
But this was a two-step process. Flickr itself had boosted its storage space last year but it wasn’t until recently that they revealed a new Camera Roll and uploader that made this all work more seamlessly. So all my photos again went up there. Now I didn’t have to juggle between two apps.
Last week, Google finally (finally!) broke its photos from Google+ and the remnants of Picasa to give them their own home. It’s even more fabulous than Flickr and Dropbox, in that its search is so good as to feel like magic. People, places, and image subjects all can be accessed with the search speed that Google is known for. And this service is free and uploads old videos.
I’m constantly surprised how just how emotionally powerful an old photo or video can be (I waxed lyrically about this in Nostalgia Comes Early, written just before our last family vacation). This weekend I found a short clip from 2003 of my wife carrying our newborn in a backpack and citing how many times he had woken us up the night before. At the end she joked that she could guilt trip him in years to come by showing this video to him. Now the clip is something I can find, load, and play in a few seconds right from my ever-present phone.
So what I’ve noticed is this quick access to unshared photos is changing the nature of my cellphone photo-taking. I’m taking pictures that I never intend to share but that give me an establishing shot for a particular event: signs, driveway entrances, maps. Now that I have unlimited storage and a camera always within reach, I can use it as a quick log of even the most quotidian life events (MG Siegler recently wrote about The Power of the Screenshot, which is another way that quick and ubiquitous photo access is changing how and what we save.) With GPS coordinates and precise times, it’s especially useful. But the most profound effect is not the activity logging, but still the emotions release unlocking all-but-lost memories: remembering long-ago day trips and visits with old friends.
L.A. Kauffman’s critique of consensus decision making in The Theology of Consensus is a rather perennial argument in lefty circles and this article makes a number of logical leaps. Still, it does map out the half-forgotten Quaker roots of activist consensus and she does a good job mapping out some of the pitfalls to using it dogmatically:
Consensus decision-making’s little-known religious origins shed light on why this activist practice has persisted so long despite being unwieldy, off-putting, and ineffective.
All that said, it’s hard for me not to roll my eyes while reading this. Perhaps I just sat in on too many meetings in my twenties where the Trotskyists berated the pacifists for slow process (and tried to take over meetings) and the black bloc anarchists berated pacifists for not being brave enough to overturn dumpsters. As often as not these shenanigans torpedoed any chance of real coalition building but the most boring part were the interminable hours-long meetings about styles. A lot of it was fashion, really, when you come down to it.
This piece just feels so…. 1992 to me. Like: we’re still talking about this? Really? Like: really? Much of evidence Kauffmann cites dates back to the frigging Clamshell Alliance—I’ve put the Wikipedia link to the 99.9% of my readers who have never heard of this 1970s movement. More recently she talks about a Food Not Bombs manual from the 1980s. The language and continued critique over largely forgotten movements from 40 years ago doesn’t quite pass the Muhammad Ali test:
Consensus decision making is a tool, but there’s no magic to it. It can be useful but it can get bogged down. Sometimes we get so enamored of the process that we forget our urgent cause. Clever people can use it to manipulate others, and like any tool those who know how to use it have an advantage over those who don’t. It can be a tribal marker, which gives it a great to pull together people but also introduces a whole set of dynamics that dismisses people who don’t fit the tribal model. These are universal human problems that any system faces.
Consensus is just one model of organizing. When a committed group uses it for common effect, it can pull together and coördinate large groups of strangers more quickly and creatively than any other organizing method I’ve seen.
Just about every successful movement for social change works because it builds a diversity of supporters who will use all sorts of styles toward a common goal: the angry youth, the African American clergy, the pacifist vigilers, the shouting anarchists. But change doesn’t only happen in the streets. It’s also swirling through the newspaper rooms, attorneys general offices, investor boardrooms. We can and should squabble over tactics but the last thing we need is an enforcement of some kind of movement purity that “calls for the demise” of a particular brand of activist culture. Please let’s leave the lefty purity wars in the 20th century.
But this striving for perfect humbleness can easily become dogmatic. We can come to reject anything that looks remotely like attention-seeking, and we miss God’s message in it.
Jon weighs in with some good, juicy questions. Where is self-promotion a way to promote something bigger? And when is it ego-driven? t’s not just a internet question, of course. This is also at the heart of our Quaker vocal ministry: someone just stands up in worship with an implicit claim they’re speaking for God.
Samuel Bownas is a good go-to person for these sort of dilemmas. He was a second-generation Friend who shared a lot of the inside dirt about Quakers in ministry. He wrote down the trials and temptations he faced and that he saw in others in their “infant minstry” as a conscious mentorship of future Friends.
One of Bownas’s themes is the danger of apeing others. It’s tempting to get so enamored of someone’s beautiful words that we start consciously trying to mimic them. We stop saying what we’ve been given to say so as to sound like the (seemingly) more-articulate person whose style we envy. Most creative artists walk this tension between copying and creating and as Wess will tell you, the idea of remix has become of more importance in the era of digital arts. But with ministry there’s another element: God. Many Quakers have been pretty insistent that the message has to be given “in the Spirit” and come from direct prompts. Unprogrammed Friends (those of us without pastors or pre-written sermons) are exceptionally allergic to vocal ministry that sounds too practiced. It’s not enough that the teaching is correct or well-crafted: we insist that it be given it at the right time.
When thinking the pitfalls about ministry I find it useful to think about “The Tempter.” I don’t personify this; I don’t insist that it’s central to Quaker theology. But it is a thread of our theology, one that has explained my situation, so I share it. For me, it’s the idea that there’s a force that knows our weaknesses and will use them to confuse us. If we’re not careful, impulses that are seemingly positive will provoke actions that are seemingly good but out of right order – given at the wrong time.
So, if like Jon, I start worrying I’m too self-promotional, the Tempter might tell me “that’s true, it’s all in your head, you should shut up already.” If I work myself through that temptation and start promoting myself, the Tempter can switch gears: “yes you’re brilliant, and while you’re at it while don’t you settle some scores with your next post and take some of those fakers down a notch.” There’s never an objective “correct” course of action, because right action is about stripping yourself of self-delusion and navigating the shoals of contradictory impulses. The right action now may be the wrong action later. We all need to grow and stay vigilant and honest with ourselves.
Last Sunday I have a presentation to Haddonfield (N.J.) Meeting’s adult First-day school class about “Sharing the Good News with Social Media.” As I prepared I found I was less and less interested in the techniques of Facebook, etc., than I was in how outreach has historically worked for Friends.
For an early, short, period Quakers were so in-your-face and notorious that they could draw a crowd just by walking a few miles up the road to the next town. More recently, we’ve attracted newcomers as much by the example of our lives than by any outreach campaign. When I talk to adult newcomers, they often cite some Quaker example in their lives – a favorite teacher or delightfully eccentric aunt.
People can sense when there’s something of greater life in the way we approach our work, friendships, and families. Let me be the first in line to say I’m horribly imperfect. But there are Quaker techniques and values and folkways that are guides to genuinely good ways to live in the world. There’s nothing exclusively Quaker about them (indeed, most come from careful reading of the Gospels and Paul’s letters), but they are tools our religious community has emphasized and into which we’ve helped each other live more fully.
In the last fifteen years, the ways Friends are known has undergone a radical transformation. The Internet has made us incredibly easy to find and research. This is a mixed blessing as it means others are defining who we are. Careful corporate discernment conducted through long-developed techniques of Quaker process are no match for the “edit” button in Wikipedia or some commercial site with good page rank.
That said, I think people still are discovering Friends through personal examples. George Fox told us to be patterns and examples in the world and to answer that of God in everyone. A lot of our exampling and answering today is going to be on the threaded comments of Facebook and Twitter. What will they find? Do we use Facebook like everyone else, trolling, spamming, engaging in flame wars, focusing on ourselves? Or do Quaker folkways still apply. Here are some questions that I regularly wrestle with:
When I use social media, am I being open, public, and transparent?
Am I careful to share that which is good and eternal rather than titillating for its own sake?
Do I remember that the Good News is simply something we borrow to share and that the Inward Christ needs to do the final delivery into hearts?
Do I pray for those I disagree with? Do I practice holding my tongue when my motivation is anger or jealousy?
What struggles do others face? What might be our online folkways?