I published this essay on 09-11-11. I received comments that helped clarify aspects of it. This is a revision.
We live in a fragmented society. We are overwhelmed. Influtrol (a word I coined and will explain) is a major cause. Influtrol has become endemic in Congress and has permeated our entire socio-economic-political system down into the brains of the individual citizen and pre-school child. Influtrol is destroying us. I propose we save ourselves. Reforming Congress is just one project among many that will help. Specifically I argue we should adopt the Kirkwood Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
What we need, but do not have adequately:
We need face-to-face conversation. It brings all our bodily senses to the table. This need is fundamental. It is in our DNA. Without adequate face-to-face conversation, a person grows peculiar.
However, instead of conversing adequately, we are encouraged to "communicate" more and more. As we do, Influtrol creeps in to make us dysfunctional (individuals, families, neighborhoods and so on). The United States Congress is this essay's case in point.
Is Congress functional or dysfunctional?
Obviously, Congress is functioning just fine for someone. Not everyone is displeased. On the other hand, Congress distresses many citizens who have concluded it is dysfunctional. In my case, the downgrade of our nation's sovereign debt on August 5, 2011 by Standard & Poor's was the last straw. In my view, political gridlock is evidence of dysfunction. Let me now turn to defining several terms as I build up to explaining "Influtrol" - a major cause of dysfunction throughout America.
In this essay, "communication" covers all human activity that is not face-to-face conversation. Producing and consuming mass media is communication, as are emails, blogging, social networking, gaming and reading essays like this one or attending football games or town hall meetings. Even more broadly, when you are at Wal-Mart purchasing items, the Chinese are communicating to you, and you are communicating to them. The message is clear - Buy more - Make more. We communicate.
The key choice:
Communication is not "bad." It is simply inadequate. To illustrate, ask yourself this - 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. Modern forms of communication may be "good," but if they are, they are supplemental to what we need. Only face-to-face conversation - our bodies touching in certain instances - can do the trick, nothing less. Conversation vs. communication is the key choice each of us makes moment by moment. Increasingly we are making the choice to communicate. For example, we move far away from parents, siblings and grandparents. Influtrol easily creeps in once we must rely on long distance communication.
What is conversation?
Conversation means you say something with your mouth using words in my presence and I hear them with my ears. We sensually take in the whole person. Then based on what you said, I say something and you hear me. You think for a moment and then you say something in return. Conversation, back and forth, ultimately aims at getting at the truth of the matter. You ask, "Do you love me?" I reply, "Yes, truly I do."
What do words mean?
A word means what we - a community of people speaking the same language - intend the word to mean. When a person coins a new word, the community determines whether that word has staying power. If a word is to survive, the community must come to an understanding of its meaning, use it and keep it in circulation. Otherwise, it withers and dies.
Words are not the private property of individuals. Words belong to the community. A person speaking too many private words clues us in that he or she is medically psychotic.
Three categories of words:
Generally, words fall into three categories - influence-words, control-words and Influtrol. Influtrol refers to the manner in which the speaker uses words. He or she combines "influence" and "control."
Effective parents and teachers use influence-words. Influence is respectful of the other person's freewill (a spiritual idea) and liberty (socio-political-economic idea). Effective adults also influence one another. They put their heads together to understand problems and solve them. Adults send men to the Moon. That is what influence-words can do. Because influence-words are respectful, they are generally good means for accomplishing good ends even when the speaker is unwittingly mistaken.
Effective authorities (CEOs, coaches, etc.) use control-words, too, as well as influence-words. When you fill-up your gasoline tank, the sign reads, "DO NOT SMOKE!" It is not a suggestion. It is a command. Laws, rules, regulations, budgets, drills and instructions are control-words. We need them. However, control-words may be good or bad. 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 it.
Influtrol is different from influence or control. Influtrol radiates from the speaker to his or her audience with the apparent good intentions of influence-words while the real purpose is overwhelming control for the benefit of the Influtroler (one who Influtrols). Influtrolers turn words that belong to the community into private property for private gain. Influtrolers are unconcerned with the goodness of means or ends. That is not their worry. Control is. Influtrol has grown to become stupendously enormous in America. It permeates our society. It has fragmented our country and overwhelmed our minds. Influtrol has become our virtual standard of behavior. Following are two examples, one individual and the other corporate; one seemingly benign; the other perhaps menacing, depending on one's point of view.
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. He used conversational Influtrol. She was its victim. He turned the word "love" into private property for private gain. Today, males and females use Influtrol mutually. They mutually turn words into private property for private gain. They use the community to launder their words. All are "equal" victims or "liberated" persons (depending on one's point of view). Today, trillion-dollar industries teach mutual Influtrol with communication abandon. Influtrol provides millions of jobs, jobs, jobs upon which we are dependents.
In my second example, an advertiser communicates, "Our cigarette brands are mellow." This Influtrol kills over 400,000 Americans annually. Compared to the first example, this one is more representative of how Influtrol usually works. Influtrol results in astronomical outcome inequalities between the Influtroler and the receiver. Maximization of inequality is the whole idea.
Influtrol in communication vs. conversation:
Influtrol thrives in communication. It adores it. Influtrol "bullshits" a hundred million people routinely through communication without breaking a sweat. Face-to-face conversation mucks-up the works for Influtrolers. Imagine a sales "professional" arriving at the front door of a young couple who just had their first baby. A trillion-dollar industry has carefully trained the "professional" to sell a ton. He enters the front door, turns and there sit four grandparents. "Bullshit" will not work in such situations. The industry figures this out. They fire the sales "professional" to concentrate their money on communicating Influtrol by non-personal means to the young couple in their solitary residence; making sure grandparents are somewhere else enjoying Influtrol on billion-dollar beaches, golf courses and senior "gated communities."
Job of Congress:
Now let me jump to my case in point: Congress. The job of Congress is to understand the problems of our nation, states and districts and then understand the solutions. If solutions require federal legislation, then Congress should pass a bill. If not, then it should not. Congress has to figure it out. Whatever "it" is, members of Congress have to do it and to do it they have two options: Converse with one another inside their chambers or communicate outward to the ether to maximize Influtrol. Members have chosen the later. Congress houses an occasional assemblage of non-medical psychotics who truly think they own words. It is weird.
The turning point for our nation and you:
America's future is uncertain. So is yours. Which way will we go? I do not know about your personal situation, but we all know something about Congress. What we expect of Congress is what we expect of ourselves. Do we want to (A) bind ourselves in our private affairs - and the members of Congress in public affairs - in conversation with one another until they and we figure out the problems? To be bound to others as in marriage and other mutual commitments is not an easy path to follow, but it is one of our options. Alternatively, do we find it more convenient to (B) go our separate ways and communicate at a distance where we may use Influtrol more effectively?
I now turn to examining solutions with regard to Congress. However, keep in mind that all of this is also a metaphor for our individual lives, families, neighborhoods, municipalities, counties and states - this essay is not just about the federal government
Status quo (The current situation):
Again, I do not know whether your personal life is heading for the rocks, but our Titanic federal debt definitely is heading for the iceberg. We almost defaulted in August 2011. Congress is often deadlocked about issues. Political gridlock is evidence of something. Evidence of what? -
If you defend the status quo:
Evidence Congress is perfectly functional according to your plans. Influtroling through communication is your thing. You have the inside track. All is well for you.
If you do not like the status quo:
Evidence Congress is dysfunctional and not working according to your plans. Change is needed.
If Congress dysfunctional - Three choices for change:
If you view Congress as dysfunctional, as far as I can figure it out, you only have three choices:
(A) More communication:
Hyperventilate campaigns further. Instead of mere billion-dollar campaigns - jack it up to trillion-dollar campaigns of Influtrol. Stop screwing around. Get the overwhelming control of the inside track you seek.
(B) More conversation:
Pass the Kirkwood Amendment to the Constitution to encourage face-to-face conversation among members of Congress (Also a metaphor for families, neighborhoods, etc.). I argue the example of Congress "trickles-down" down to the rest of society. Has that not been the case? How did the world come to be the way it is but by means of laws, Congress has passed or not passed?
Come up with a better analysis of the problem and then propose a better solution, one that is superior to human conversation; something the scientists can prove overcomes the limitations of our DNA.
The Kirkwood Amendment
The Kirkwood Amendment is a mechanism that sequesters the members of Congress together in their chambers when a deadlock is declared. The sequestration ends when Congress passes a bill to end it. In the process, other legislation caught up in disagreement will be resolved. Sequestering Congress may seem harsh, but it has been standard operating procedure for centuries when the matter at hand is important. For example, when we ask twelve ordinary citizens to serve without pay on a jury to decide the fate of a solitary citizen, it is common practice for a judge to sequester the jury until its members make a decision even if it takes many weeks.
In my opinion, the matters before Congress are important. When the actions or inactions of Congress have accumulated such that the People have grown frustrated, a mechanism needs to be available to sequester Congress from all outside distractions so that they may concentrate on the important matters at hand.
I vote for the sequestration to be onerous. My hope is the "adults" in Congress, now and in future generations, will see the onerous hardship coming down the road directly at them and so prevail on the "adolescents" to "cool it" and not drive the People up the wall. The members of Congress should do their jobs without sequestration, but if they refuse, we need a mechanism to help them.
Other considerations with regard to politics
Term limits intend to interrupt relationships and the accumulation of expertise, the thinking being that relationships and expertise necessarily become "bad" over time. Term limits help reduce the damage. That is the theory. However, I do not understand it. Since some states have had term limits for 20 years, data should be available to help sort out the pros and the cons. While waiting for clear analysis of term limits, I vote against extending them to the federal level. They clearly reduce the amount of conversation over time. More communication and Influtrol will easily fill-in the empty spaces. Term limits makes no sense to me, at least, not yet.
Campaign finance reform:
I see campaign finance reform and the Kirkwood Amendment as complimentary, but separate topics. I support both. In my case, I choose to spend my time and efforts promoting conversation and the Kirkwood Amendment.
Conversation will not make adverse conditions disappear or necessarily solve all problems. It will simply make the process of living life from the top (Congress) to the bottom (households) better. The Kirkwood Amendment in Congress - and as a metaphor everywhere else - encourages and supports face-to-face conversation where a person, bringing all of his or her senses to the table, asks, "Do you love me?" And the other responds face-to-face, "I do. I truly do."
Copyright © 2011 Daniel Hough Jones, Kirkwood, Missouri
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