iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Daniel Hough Jones

GET UPDATES FROM Daniel Hough Jones
 

Reform Society -- Save Ourselves

Posted: 10/11/11 02:14 PM ET

This is a summary introduction to my 2,600-word essay, "Reform Society -- Save Ourselves."

In America, we live in a fragmented society. Congressional gridlock is the tip of the iceberg that indicates we are overwhelmed as a people below the surface. To change for the better, what do we need?

We need face-to-face conversation. Only conversation in close proximity to one another brings all our bodily senses to the table. Our need for conversation is in our DNA. Without it adequately, we grow peculiar. All human accomplishment is grounded in conversation. We are in denial if we believe communication across distances is adequate.

Instead of conversing, nowadays we are encouraged from all quarters to communicate. As we leave ordinary conversation behind, a phenomenon called "influtrol" creeps in, making us increasingly dysfunctional. The prime example of influtrol and dysfunction is the United States Congress. While we are not yet near our Civil War depths, America's political gridlock is hard evidence that we as a people are not functioning. Influtrol has become the means of our destruction. Our failure to converse -- from our families to the halls of Congress -- allows it. To influtrol is a terrible choice, but it is a choice we make.

Let me define some terms to build up to an explanation of influtrol.

"Conversation" means you say something with your mouth in my presence and I hear what you say with my ears. We sensually take in the whole of one another. Then based on what you utter, I say something and you hear me. You think for a moment and then you say something in return and so on, back and forth. Conversation is not a one-way lecture.

The critical aspect of conversation is this: It intends to stumble towards the truth. One person asks, "Do you love me?" The other responds, "I do. I truly do." The formula for human happiness is this: Conversation plus the Truth equals Meets our needs.

"Communication" means all human activity that is not face-to-face conversation: Producing/consuming mass media, reading, writing, singing, eating, and attending events, commuting, working, doing chores. When we shop, the Chinese say, "Buy more." We say, "Sell more." It seems we cannot get enough communication. It overwhelms us.

Communication is not bad. It simply is inadequate. Have you ever tried to change a screaming baby's diaper by telephone? It does not work. Communication is not good enough. It does not meet the depth of our needs. Today, we typically move away from parents, siblings, grandparents and old friends thinking communication will suffice. Once we devalue proximity, however, influtrol easily moves in. We make ourselves vulnerable. We set ourselves up.

"Word" means the stuff of our conversation and communication. After about age two, we use words. What do words mean? Words mean what a community of people speaking the language intend them to mean. Words are not private property. Words belong to the community. People speaking private words indicate they are medically psychotic.

There are three categories of words: Influence-words, control-words and influtrol.

Effective parents and teachers use influence-words. Influence is respectful of the other person's freewill and liberty. Effective adults influence one another. They put their heads together to understand problems and solve them. Influence-words generally are good means for accomplishing good ends even when speakers are unwittingly mistaken.

Effective authorities (CEOs, coaches, police officers, etc.) use control-words, too, as well as influence-words. We need control-words. However, control-words may be good or bad. The pimps of child prostitutes use control-words, too. Still, a positive aspect of control-words is that they are not disingenuous. They control and everyone knows they control.

"Influtrol" means to control through the appearance of influence. Influtrol vibrantly radiates from the speaker to the listener the apparent good intentions of influence-words while the real intention is overwhelming control of the listener. Influtrolers turn community words into private property for private gain and are unconcerned with the goodness of means or ends. Goodness is a community concern. Influtrolers worry about the efficient calibration of influtrol.

For example, in past generations, if a boy felt urgent desires, he expressed his undying love for the girl, she fell for it, got pregnant and everything ended in disaster. She was the victim of conversational influtrol. The community picked-up the tab. The boy turned the word "love" into private property for private gain. That is how influtrol works.

One more point -- influtrolers intend to maximize outcome inequalities. For example, an advertiser says, "Our brand of cigarette is mellow." Through such influtrol over 400,000 Americans are killed annually. The cigarette people receive rewards handsomely. Again, maximizing inequality is their objective.

From the United States Congress on down to you, influtrol is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Influtrol is stalking us. It is eating alive. We must change.

To read the solution, click here: "Reform Society -- Save Ourselves."