Friday, October 12, 2007


I am on exactly two email lists. You know the type, you sign up because it is a topic you are interested in and you want to be involved with the virtual conversation. Then you are suddenly inundated with emails (or digests) of these conversations that you can eves drop on. In the last few days both of my email groups have been arguing. Actually they both argue quite frequently. It's interesting, you sign up to interact with people of similar interests, and then you end up reading about this group with similar interests arguing.

Like I said, I subscribe to two lists. The first is on simple living. That group seems to be made up primarily of women. This group has a problem because everyone takes offense at what others are saying. I don't know if offense was intended, but tempers flare and people virtually stomp off.

The other list I subscribe to is related to cycling. This group seems to be primarily men, probably a little younger than the simple living group. These guys also bicker quite frequently. Most recently the argument has been over bike lanes (or were they bike paths? Evidently that is EXTREMELY important). Everyone in the bike group seems to stick around through the arguments.

Like I said at the beginning, I subscribe to these things because I want to be in contact with people of similar interests. Why do other people sign up for them?

So here's my point, I feel like the people who I look up to most in my life are people who drew people together. Christ, inviting Jews and Gentiles alike to be good. Gandhi, easing the tensions between the Hindus and the Muslims. Martin Luther King Jr., easing the tensions between blacks and whites. The list could go on, but the point is that leaders bring people together.

Now I'm going to talk about me. When I'm on my bike, I'm often over-taken with feelings of "cyclists vs. motorists" (or is it bike drivers vs. car drivers to appease the bike email group). I don't like that feeling. I really have a lot in common with those driving cars. We are both out to get from point A to point B. We both would like to do so in a timely manner and safely. We both have the same set of roads to use. We would both find it inconvenient and time consuming if we collide. So why the major hostilities between the groups? Why are we divided? I don't want that feeling, but there it is.

That brings up another point. In my commute there are regularly people who are quite aggressive toward me. I don't like that and I feel endangered at times. I generally memorize the licence plate number and call the police when I get home. Does that enlarge the divide between cyclists and motorists or is it a way of expressing that I'm a human and don't want to be hurt while riding to work? Deep down, I feel that call to the police is good because it raises awareness, but really I wish I could talk to the people and express that we have a lot in common and it would be nice if we could work together.

I see this division arising all over the place. Democrats vs. Republicans. Hunters vs. Environmentalists. Cyclists vs. Motorists. Mt. bikers vs. Hikers. The list could go on forever. While I realize that people are different, and I think that is good, I think this divisive behavior is really bad. I look back at key moments in US history (this isn't my strong point, so don't be too critical) and the "glory days" were those times when people came together. The Boston Tea Party, The Revolutionary war (well, we didn't really come together with the British in those events, did we), and fuel rations during WWII are all examples of a people coming together to fight a cause. Currently it seems that people are drawing apart, arguing over causes and I don't think it is helping anything.

So how do we grow together as a people? I have a novel idea, be nice to people. I really think it would work. Serve people. Show people that you care.... Why has that become a difficult thing to do? or has it always been hard to do? One thing I've noticed in my phone calls that I make when people are aggressive toward me on my bike. When I call to complain about aggression, it is usually countered with defensiveness and sort of sets the people back. On the other hand, when I call to give compliments, it improves relationships. I wonder if I could call the police and ask them to compliment a driver with a certain licence plate number? I think I'm going to try that.


Emily Allan Wood said...

You always get me thinking when I read your blogs, and yet, I have no ideas to give you regarding this topic and its resolution. I agree with you 100% and I myself can't figure out why people argue and get defensive like they do while on the internet. I think it has to do with a certain sense of anonymity.

The internet seems to be a place where people let off all of the steam and say things in words that they wouldn't say in person. That is the main reason I decided to stop using Myspace as a way to stay in touch with relatives and friends. I got tired of the bickering and the casual ease of internet relationships. Too many people let go of their regular social etiquette so they can be frank and brandish on the internet. It really interferes with intelligent conversation, so that leads me to believe that these aren't very intelligent people...or something like that.
I prefer intelligent dialog, and thats why I read your blog.

Chad said...

Hey Sans,

I’d like to know more about the results of your phone calls to the police to report aggressive drivers. Is it effective? Do you know if the police really contact the drivers? I’ve called in a few complaints about aggressive and negligent drivers in company vehicles, because it’s easy to look up the drivers’ place of employment. Usually I’m assured that the driver will be talked to about the incident, and I usually leave it at that, without any follow up. I’ve never thought I could do the same for the drivers of private vehicles.