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December 5, 2007
We Are Not Alone

Today for the first time I can remember, commerce is more important to us than culture – and no one expects it any differently. Perhaps that’s the sincerest definition of mediocrity. Those are the times we live in.

Sam Smith, writer, activist and social critic at the forefront of political ideas since the 50's, is a soft-spoken award-winning alternative journalist1, and editor at Progressive Review who sees the need for counter cultures, but he sees the younger generation not being taught how to really move. “Teach people they are not alone,” he offers as a solution. “That as a result of having places to meet, counter culture, artistic expression representing people outside the norm.” He says, if you are part of, say, a movement, like jazz in the 1950’s, you can act on it.

“Spirit of art is important when trying to find a counter culture,” says Smith. He thinks Washington rallies of the 2000’s have been highly organized, “and surprising and quite impressive. But this was not like 60’s rallies. We lack the emotional side. We have no rebellion.” Could we be less rebellious because of all the pharmaceuticals we take?

Sad. Yet what would it be like if we all looked up one day and said “Time for a change.”

What would that look like – I wonder. Messy, for sure. It might make us more apt to question everything around us. Dangerous world.

Whatever happened to reading? We don’t really read books. We read whatever people hand us or glop onto us via IM –we skim from the top. Wow, gaze at how much information is there for the taking, so much of it is now online courtesy, yep, books. Free for those who are alert and have a decent broadband connection.

Any true media junkie – which I assume everyone reading this is – must obsessively keeps up with the daily newspaper and weekly magazine world, particularly since so many of them are endangered species. It’s time for us to be the best informed we could be since so much is happening behind closed doors.

As Jefferson remarked once in a moment of wistfulness: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to choose the latter.”

Choose to read up on the crap that seems like opinion (blogs) but in many cases is knowledge passed subtly from a source to someone with an eagle eye. Every now and then remove your eyes from your Video iPod. Read Letters to the Editor (the original user-generated content!) and raise your fists with glee. Pour through those stacks of fire hazard New Yorkers and get them inside you.

Fundamental, sure, but it sure makes you a better catch at parties.

I’m Richard Laermer, and this is a musing ripped from my forthcoming book, “2011: trendspotting for the next decade,” due in March from McGraw-Hill. Comments? Try Richard@thetrender.com.

1 I am obsessed with Sam Smith's Great American Political Repair Manual, a book from the 90’s.  He told me once that changes in individual control have affected our ability to succeed. “Successful people in an earlier time had more fun because they got to live life their way.  Imagine Orson Welles working with David Geffen?  J.P. Morgan standing still for a photo op with George Bush? Eleanor Roosevelt going on Saturday Night Live to boost her numbers! Once a reward of success meant YOU got to make rules. Today all rules are given you via conference call with your manager, agent, and lawyer.”

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Richard Laermer is CEO of New York's RLM pr, representing, among others, e-Miles, Epic Advertising, Yodlee, Revolution Money, Group Commerce, Smith & Nephew, and HotChalk. He was host of TLC's cult program Taking Care of Business and speaks on trends and marketing for corporate groups. You can read Laermer on The Huffington Post and on the mischievous but all-too-necessary Bad Pitch Blog. For more like this, follow him on @laermer.

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