Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

NOTE The views I express on this site are mine and mine alone. Nothing I say should be construed as being "official" or the views of any group, whether I've been a member of that group or not. The advertisings on this page are from Google, and do not constitute an endorsement on my part.

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Full Circle

When this nation was first founded, news travelled significantly slower than it does today. Newspapers only existed in the larger cities, and only the successful middle class and the wealthy had the money to buy them. Many people couldn't read, so even if they had newspapers, they would do them no good. Most news was spread by word of mouth. People gathered in the local stores, at the ale shop, at the blacksmith's, or in town halls and at church, and swapped the news among themselves. The news was discussed, disected, and weighed as how it would affect the members of the local community.

That worked up through the beginning of the 20th century. The railroad and telegraph both allowed news to spread more quickly, but the country grew larger at the same time. The local community still had to get together to discuss news and events, or be left out of major decision-making processes. The local community was still the distance a horse could travel in about three hours - three hours (or less) to town, a couple of hours to do whatever had to be done, engage in a bit of socialization (homesteads were usually quite isolated from one another), and three hours back, in order to get home before dark. A horse by itself could travel 40 miles in three hours, but a buggy was much slower. Anything beyond about 20 miles from town was too far to travel except on rare occasions - maybe once every two months or more. The people that lived beyond regular travelling distances couldn't get home before dark, so they were always "in the dark" about most news items.

The industrialization of the 20th century changed everything. First, the automobile replaced the horse - slowly, but by the end of the 1920's fewer and fewer people used horses to travel great distances. An automobile - or in many cases, a truck - could haul more than a buggy could, and usually faster. Lights on vehicles made travelling after dark safer. Radio allowed every household to hear the news within hours of an event. Between radio and the automobile, the need to go to town to hear the news began to lessen. At the same time, visits to town became more frequent for rural dwellers, but shorter in duration, and people spent less time socializing. It wasn't quite so uncomfortable to travel a distance by automobile than it had been by buggy, and people were more willing to make the return trip as soon as their errands were done.

In 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and within 36 hours, the United States was in the midst of a world war. More than 15 million people - out of a population of 150 million (one in ten) were in uniform before the war was over. Major advancements were forced on the world in every field as the main adversaries fought back and forth across three continents. Every household in America was affected. Every industry related to the war effort expanded, some as much as tenfold. The need for labor was so great a large portion of the women became employed in industrial work - something not seen before the war. Families that had lived in the same community for a hundred years or more were suddenly spread across half the globe. The demands of post-war occupation and the onset of the Cold War made such disintegration of the family more or less permanent, and saw tens of millions of Americans living beyond the nation's borders.

Radio was first supplemented, the superceded by television as the main distributor of news. Soon everyone had the same news as everyone else. The community had changed in the meantime to one that wasn't as close, wasn't as open as before, and the news wasn't discussed as much. People began to be isolated, first into small social groups, then even further into idividual families - which at the same time were shrinking, with the extended family farther and farther apart. Seldom did everyone get together to discuss an issue in the news. Such discussions did occur, but only among more or less like-minded people in small social groups, and within the family. Polarization began to set in. By the early 1990's, most people only associated with small groups of like-minded people, with little discourse between conflicting groups.

The 1990's also brought the birth of popular-access Internet and the WorldWide Web. Service at first was minimal, but continued to grow, sometimes expotentially. By the end of the century, at least one family in three had internet access, either at home or at work. People began to congregate outside their local community - in chat rooms, by email, and in numerous other ways. The first Weblogs - blogs - began to appear. Internet access became so commonplace more than half the population had access - either at home, at school, at work, or at public places such as libraries and Internet cafe's. The entire country began to be connected in a way never before experienced. The isolation of the family disintegrated, as it became easier - and also cheaper - to hold a true conversation with someone a mile away, a hundred miles away, or even on the other side of the planet.

Nothing has a geater potential to effect change than the emergence of weblogs. Suddenly anyone can share information with others, regardless of political affiliation, skin color, or status in the community. All it takes is a computer, a modem, and some form of Internet access. Information - written, photographed, or sound - can be shared instantly across the entire planet. Discussions of any idea can take place almost instantaneously. Differences of opinion are allowed, even encouraged. Individual experience can be brought to bear on any subject, by tens of thousands of individuals. As a result, we've come full circle - establishing once more the types of communities shared by our founding fathers. This time, however, the communities aren't physical, but electronic, and many people belong to more than one community.

The entire world has changed, and at the same time, it's come back full circle to what it was before - an interlocking group of close communities with common goals, common desires, and common needs. The changes are just beginning to be felt outside the "blogsphere" - the realm of blog-owners and their community of respondents - but eventually it will be the most profound change this world has known, reaching across boundaries, refining how information is shared, and remaking the old world into a global community.


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