Are we losing the simple art of “talking?” A routine inquiry from a newspaper prompted GOP congressional candidate and columnist Andy Martin to give some thought to why society is becoming so “quiet.” Airliners, once noisy, today are virtually silent. People strap on their electronic gear and zone out. Public spaces, even on colleges, are becoming quiet zones. Andy takes time off from his campaign to ponder if today’s increasingly “silent” world is really an improvement over the past. He remains a “talker,” with a career in radio and TV that in 2018 will span 50 years.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Andy Martin says people are losing the art of talking to each other
Andy says people used to chatter on airliners; today cabins are quiet as almost every passenger connects to their individual electronic cocoons
Andy says his response to an inquiry from the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette motivated him to look more deeply into the vanishing art of ordinary conversation
Andy is a radio and TV pioneer who will celebrate fifty (50) years in broadcasting in 2018
(Manchester, NH) (December 29, 2017)
Dear Granite Stater:
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a good time to rest and relax. This year we have an added incentive: the weather is brutal and expected to remain so into the New Year. I have been catching up with correspondence, requests and working on ideas for the coming congressional campaign.
A few days ago I received a request for some reflections on my years at my alma mater, the University of Illinois.
I grew up on the campus of a small, elite New England university, and expected to attend the University of New Hampshire as my mother and uncle had. I first visited Durham in 1955.
But I wanted to play college football and Illinois offered me a unique opportunity. And so I packed my humble belongings in a simple suitcase and headed for Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. The trip was to change my life.
When the local newspaper in Champaign, the News-Gazette, sent me an email I said I would compose a few lines remembering the university. The editor asked for memories of a specific place or building, and I answered the question easily and quickly. The student union building cafeteria had played a pivotal role in my life.
The newspaper and I have had a love-hate relationship over the past half century. One of the first stories about me appeared in print in the Gazette in 1965 when I visited lonely nursing home residents. The following year I was part of a team that defeated a corrupt state legislator and my picture appeared once more in the Gazette in an iconic photograph for a mere student. But the owners of the newspaper didn’t like me and the owner/publisher would occasionally bash me in print.
I would occasionally read a hostile story but learned to pay no attention. Nevertheless, the paper never forgot my presence at the university. Recently I was mentioned in a “fifty years ago” column. And so with the passage of time I became more amused than concerned with the ups and downs of the paper’s coverage.
The simple request to focus on memories of a specific building or triggered a much broader and deeper set of feelings.
Here’s what I sent to the Gazette for my college comments:
Remembering my favorite place at Illinois? That’s easy. The Illini Union cafeteria in the basement of the building.
Today everyone seems to live in a silo, cocooned by their smart phones, head phones and maybe even head trips. It wasn’t always that way. The Union cafeteria was where you went to meet friends and meet new people. People actually talked to and with each other a half century ago! We didn’t text or email or use some other form of impersonal communication. We were face-to-face and unafraid.
The food at the Union cafeteria was mediocre, but the community and company were world class, a great Kasbah of conversation. There was the main cafeteria, where “everyone” mixed, and the Tavern where people who wanted a little more privacy hung out.
I met the love of my life in the cafeteria and though she passed many decades ago she is still alive in my heart. I met many friends who helped change the course of my life. Conversation was alive in the cafeteria. You could meet people.
Today the cafeteria is more desultory. As in life generally we are cordoned off from each other. Communication is strained and boxed in by concerns over a myriad of limitations, not to mention fears over possible sexual harassment. We are poorer for our enhanced virtual “communication” and the loss of actual human communication. Society allows us to take fewer risks today, but we are not safer for our endless rules and regulations.
I remember the Illini Union cafeteria as it was, and not for what it has become, not for what we have become. The cafeteria was a plebian, proletarian common area, open to all and available to all, a mixing bowl, a free and open space. Perhaps today’s cafeteria reflects what we have also become as a society, isolated, fearful, self-contained and unavailable to each other. Obsessed with our “smart phones” that ultimately make us dumber and dumber.
As I have been moving around during the holiday period I have thought more deeply about how we have lost the simple art of talking with each other.
If you watch the cable TV bobbleheads screaming at each other on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC you know what I mean. These people are paid to pretend they live in parallel universes. The hostility they generate on Main Street and Elm Street is incredible.
But the problem goes much deeper. I have been flying for sixty years. I’ve flown in just about every commercial plane there ever was. People used to talk on airplanes. Small planes, large planes, short hops, transatlantic flights, you could hear people talking. Today airplanes are virtually silent. People board, take their seats, put on their headphones or ear plugs and connect to their computers, smart phones or games, and isolate themselves from people sitting next to them. There is no talk.
Myself, I’ve been a talker all of my life. I enjoy meeting new people, learning about their lives, hearing their concerns.
As I look back on decades of deep relationships I see they were based on talk, on exchanging thoughts, sharing experiences and sometimes just passing the time away. The headmaster at prep school in England said I was a good talker. I was once arrested in a foreign country and accused of being a spy; the guy turned a rifle on me. Thankfully, I talked my way out of that one as well, or I wouldn’t be writing these remarks. A dozen people died that night in the most dangerous and insane experience of my life. Talking saved me.
I used to occasionally talk with then-builder, now-President Donald Trump after he moved into my building and became a neighbor. Johnny Cochran of OJ Simpson fame was once a neighbor and we talked too. Fred Howard, a man who became like a big brother to me, liked to talk. We talked and talked. As a local radio talk show host I built a worldwide audience in the early days of Internet talk radio.
Today we talk less and less and communicate through electronic grunts and groans, texts and emails, postings on Facebook and similar platforms. Is it any wonder we don’t hear each other, and don’t want to come together as a nation? We say we do, but we don’t, and probably won’t. No surprise to me.
I’m one of a large number of Democrats and Republicans running in the first congressional district. But, amusingly, the local newspaper, the Manchester Union Leader, once again controlled by a third-rate family owner, doesn’t want to talk to me even though I am clearly the most qualified and experienced candidate. A half century ago some people at the Gazette wished I didn’t exist; today another newspaper pretends I don’t exist. The more things change…
Well, I do exist. And I won’t stop talking. It has made all the difference in my life. It can in yours as well. If I talk my way into the U. S. House of Representatives, watch out. New Hampshire will have a strong voice. I’ll talk to everyone and anyone who can help us Make America Great Again and help New Hampshire prosper. I can probably even outtalk Donald Trump. Those people in Illinois taught me well.
Happy New Year,
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ANDY MARTIN – A BRIEF BIO:
Andy Martin is a legendary New Hampshire, New York and Chicago muckraker, author, Internet columnist, talk television pioneer, radio talk show host, broadcaster and media critic. With forty-nine years of background in radio and television and with five decades of investigative and analytical experience in Washington, the USA and around the world, Andy provides insight on politics, foreign policy, intelligence and military matters. For a full bio, go to: http://www.AndyMartin.com; also see http://www.BoycottABC.com/executive_director.htm
Andy has also been a leading corruption fighter in American politics and courts for over fifty years and is executive director of the National Anti-Corruption Policy Institute. See also http://www.FirstRespondersOnline.us; http://www.AmericaisReadyforReform.com.
He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law and is a former adjunct professor of law at the City University of New York (LaGuardia CC, Bronx CC).
He is the author of “Obama: The Man Behind The Mask” [www.OrangeStatePress.com] and produced the Internet film “Obama: The Hawaii’ Years” [www.BoycottHawaii.com]. Andy is the Executive Editor and publisher of the “Internet Powerhouse,” blogging at http://www.contrariancommentary.wordpress.com and http://www.ContrarianCommentary.com.
Andy’s family immigrated to Manchester, New Hampshire 100 years ago; today his home overlooks the Merrimack River and he lives around the corner from where he played as a small boy. He is New Hampshire’s leading corruption fighter and Republican Party reformer.
Andy’s columns are also posted at ContrarianCommentary.blogspot.com ContrarianCommentary.wordpress.com
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