Friday, July 13, 2007

Communication is common sense

The following story is very similar to one that appeared in a special summer 2007 First Amendment edition of LareDOS in Laredo, Texas. More can be read online at


It might have bloodied your nose on the playground, and it could have gotten you into a fight with a sibling that led to dire consequences when dad got home.
If someone has a problem, or a question they need to open their mouth, put pen to paper, jump on a word processor, send off a carrier pigeon, or whatever it takes to get answers. One of the first hard lessons learned by many, many, and many was how bad things could get when problems are left unsolved and questions left unanswered.
But someone gets away with a lie – probably as a shortcut around explaining, or asking to solve or learn something -- somewhere along life’s highways and they seem to think they can unlearn what was learned in blood and pain as a child in those formative lessons. Many people experience how bad it can get when working with someone who leaves problems unsolved, or allow themselves to believe that those problems will just simply go away.
That non-communication leads to nothing but problems, job loss, arguments, fights, physical illness, and a variety of other woes, so why do governments and some top office holders think that suppressing the truth is the right course of action?
Chances are they knew better as a child, but they maintain, or learn a desire to lie, cover up and block the public from the truth if that truth might be temporarily, or permanently disappointing, or disadvantageous to them.
But do the math. The public, and those usually affected by decisions of the rich and powerful, always outnumber the decision makers, but the public too often allows itself to be wrapped up so much in average, daily life that it fails to keep a needed eye on the decision makers.
It doesn’t help matters, too, when the very few that consistently watch the bosses and politicians are too often the same people attending meetings for the same school boards, city councils, county commissions, and planning and zoning committees. Some of those overly consistent politician-watchers are sometimes left to look a bit foolish, standing there by themselves, when your curious question -- that you only once, and very shyly, mumbled to a spouse at home – could have been a very constructive item if the board, or council, had had to consider it.
Apathy rates as low on the human civilization scale as not asking that necessary question, or approaching that nagging personal problem that leads to problems for others around you, too.
Personal experience extends to those playground and backyard lessons learned long ago, but journalism experience continues to point to citywide, statewide, nationwide, and global problems left unsolved due to a lack of input.
There are millions of people in the world and eventually some one person might have to make a decision and the narrower the scope of input that decision maker has, that much narrower are chances for success. Not every single time, but don’t take my word for it. Research it.
Do political hardliners have a reputation for listening to the public anywhere?
Are hardliners anywhere known for being good listeners? There are some exceptions, but most are good at making up their minds very quickly.
On those larger than everyday life scales, are situations where leaders suppress the press, hire minders to hound visiting foreign reporters, and outright shut down the media? Can non-communication get any worse or any larger when an entire nation’s media is shut down, or so closely watched and bullied that it can only say what it is told to say?
Those of us who still remember what we learned on the playground, the look on dad’s face when he took off his belt to teach a very strong lesson, combined with what we’ve learned as much bigger kids about freedom of speech, cringe when any episode of press suppression surfaces. This act of non-communication can’t bring on anything good. We’ve known that since we were kids.
That very insecure leader, or the upper echelon of the government that shut down the press, probably did, too, but forgot somewhere along the way.
Communicate. It has always made sense.


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