Greetings from Kentucky. It is not too bad here. It very much reminds me of Vermont or even the drive along 70 from Baltimore to Harper’s Ferry. I have not seen identifiable Kentucky Blue Grass… it all seems pretty green to me. I have seen the gold depository at Fort Knox… from a distance. It is near the highway with some big fuck-you fences around it, but it doesn’t look that heavily patrolled… hmm, that could be worth investigating.
News from last week:
The big news was that Lisa was in town. Good job Lisa! The other big news was that Lisa blew up Toledo Lounge. Good job Lisa! She was sitting just a few feet away from the manhole cover that blew on 18th St.
This disturbing trend of exploding infrastructure is a bit concerning. It was all fine, well, and good when this was limited to Georgetown, because, really, who goes there anyway. But now it is striking 17th and 18th streets… not good. Joe’s theory is that it is some anarchist plot to undermine the government from the bottom, from below.
What I really did want to write about:
Bowling Alone. Go get this book: Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert D. Putnam. This book is (so far, as I haven’t finished it yet) a summation of a lot of the themes that I have been trying to address through Tuesday Night, that Joe has been trying to address through 365 and the wine bar. Putnam is a professor of public policy at Harvard. He has researched the loss of social capital. He has studied how all major organizations: religious, professional, political have all suffered a massive loss of participants and that these losses effect society as a whole. This is a fascinating book. He makes the interesting point, for instance, that traditional religions, like Catholicism, are more likely to do community outreach work, while newer, evangelical religions, are more centered around the self and self-help and salvation. The overall trend has been for the last fifty years that American’s focus has shifted from the betterment of community to the betterment of self.
Putnam’s major point is that a well connected society, a society in which people of all kinds mix and mingle via organizations, is a stronger society. Sharing time with people different from you makes you better.
Now, I am only 90 pages into the 500+ page work, but I am blown away on several fronts. 1) The book is amazingly approachable. Yes, Putnam cites source after source and weeds through some heady sociology, but he does it in a simple and straightforward manner. 2) The overall decline in the American society community is staggering. Groups have shifted from things you serve on and work for to things you write checks to. AARP is not about making connections within the senior community but getting their lobbying voice heard on the Hill. We have turned inward and have used our checkbooks to act outward. 3) How simple a case this can make for Sunday night dinners with friends… or beers on Tuesdays.