Can you think of a sports bar, restaurant, hotel lobby, or Michigan Avenue window where there isn’t a display of TV monitors flashing the news from Kabul, the playoffs from Seattle, the news conference from the White House, and the dizzying stats and talking heads from the world’s stock markets….?
I can’t! These days the action is everywhere, everyday, everyway. Whether I want it or not.
Being-where-the-action-is is very American. An eager and restless people by nature and history, Americans have always felt this feeling whenever they’ve met a new rushing river or another uncrossable mountain. The challenge is exhilarating; until sometimes the consequences are not.
Most times, where-the-action-is is really not the real story. For instance. Is this the right river or the best mountain to be crossing? What’s ahead? Is it worth the trip? In today’s parlance that’s called: Having a good reason for doing this, then having a good exit strategy after we have.
The Iraq War is a much too easy example. There are others, less obvious but equally instructive. Take the upcoming nominating conventions. The “action” will be the speeches and banners on the floor; the “story” will be off-camera in the backrooms and hotel suites. Take the New York Stock Exchange; the action is the frenzy of noise and numbers on the floor; the story is where all the noise and numbers are pointing investors for the next day. Or take a sudden storm smashing into a city, where the action may be standing in it; but the full story is inside where the weathercasters can read their dials and barometers for what is about to come next.
Modern sophisticated society has equipped us like the ancient Olympian gods with the instant means by which to see and go everywhere at once. And yet it’s this very at-once which actually muddies not clarifies the action. Communication technologies are now faster than the brain can absorb, and surely faster than the mind can process. How utterly ironic.
Once again, each new generation is born a twin: a new invincibility paired with a new irony. What makes raising these twins so complicated is you can’t nourish one without nourishing the other.
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