The Lingua Franca of a New Whitewater

If it should be true – and it is – that Whitewater is more diverse than her town fathers care to admit, with the city now a collection of disparate, minority factions, how can one reach a majority with a message? (For Whitewater’s waning notables of this generation, there’s no way to return to their former influence and command: compelling messages have changed, communications have changed, and they’re mostly too blind, too entitled, or too lazy to adapt.)

For others, though, who will carry on into the next generation, what should one do?

Here are seven suggestions. —

1. Look to national standards of quality.  Left, Right, Center, etc.: adopt the language and style of national-caliber publications, groups, and movements. That’s exactly what most people in the city do, every day, when they watch national news, read national publications, use nationwide (and international) social media.  It’s mostly Whitewater’s town squires – not her ordinary residents – who settle for uncompetitive standards (sketchy presentations, vague claims, platitude after platitude).

2. Take those high standards, and use them directly when thinking about local issues.  Forget about going through leading figures to accomplish something.  Take your ideas and apply them directly without deference to lazy or self-promotion officials.  Some officials are unquestionably talented, but even they are hampered by the low standards of their least-capable colleagues.

Conservatives and the business-oriented can do much better than the Greater Whitewater Committee, Whitewater’s Community Development Authority, or Tech Park Board.  Their level of reasoning, planning, and achievement is below proper American standards (and of course below the standards of most people in town).  Compared with national thinking on so many topics, these gentlemen are manifestly inadequate.

Liberals can do much better than a few nebulously-sketched ideas at a committee meeting.  Tailoring one’s work to the quality of supporters or opposition from others in office is committing to less than Whitewater deserves.

I’m a libertarian – neither conservative nor liberal – but I’ll readily acknowledge that either principal ideology when well-prepared is preferable to either group when trying to skate by.

3. Craft your own message, in your own medium.  The local press is past the point of citywide significance – relying on their support adds little, as the audience for these publications is mostly the same, waning demographic.  One would not have said as much twenty years ago, but it’s true now: newspapers and newspaper-like websites offer a (poorly-written) minority viewpoint.  People in these cases are mostly talking only to themselves.

4. Use your own voice.  Stop trying to sound appropriate – speak clearly and directly in your own words.  Every vulgar, scheming man picks up the phrases that he thinks sound ‘right’ and ‘proper.’   I was raised in a family where one still learned to speak with a Mid-Atlantic accent, with that style of pronunciation and lots of idiosyncratic expressions.  Over the years I’ve drifted from that style to more informal speech, but I often slip in and out of a mishmash of styles and pronunciations.  There’s nothing to adopt – one just grows throughout one’s life.  Write and speak as you normally do (however that is).

5. Optimize electronic content for mobile devices.  It seems a small point, but it matters a lot in a university town.  One throws aways a huge audience in Whitewater if one isn’t easily readable on a phone. (Remember, however, that content matters most.)

6. Focus on work, not acknowledgment.  Whitewater’s leadership class is littered with people who want to be praised, acknowledged, noticed, etc.  vanity is a poor example.  It’s one’s message that counts.  Those who want to see their own images time and again should buy mirrors for each room of their houses.  

7. There’s more tomorrow.  Even if one’s day goes well, there’s more to do tomorrow.  For the ill or disadvantaged, there should be rest, comfort, and care. For people who write, who contend over policy, who hold office, etc., there’s no similar entitlement:  these freely-chosen pursuits bring obligations, not entitlements.  One’s work begins anew each morning.   One rests in these cases to be refreshed to do more, and better, work.

There’s always more to learn, and thereafter to do.

In a community of diverse groups, one can still reach a majority, but only by abandoning failed local practices for successful national ones.

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8 years ago

Hello. This is the second comment from a longtime professor at Whitewater. What’s striking is how much this website sounds like a university website should sound. Don’t think that’s not noticed here. More than one professor and student reads you (understatement). It’s not lost on some of us that you express yourself in the way that we wish our own administration would. There’s an irony. People can see how you effectively reply to university statements from Dick or now Beverly. They don’t hold their own but a leader at this school should. Many movers and shakers in town talk about how much they support the campus but they’re obviously less academically skilled than this site. (Your position on sexual assault reflects many faculty despite administration efforts to sweep the issue away.) Faculty members often live outside town. Whitewater’s movers and shakers look disappointing to them. Many want nothing to do with this administration. They want to teach. It’s almost a litmus test of common sense on campus.

8 years ago

This is true even when people won’t face it. The Old Guard has lost the grip on the city.They want to keep pretending it’s all theirs but it hasn’t really been theirs in years. they’re not even connected to most people in town.This has been true for awhile but it is much more true now.What’s left isn’t able to go toe to toe with a critic and they know it.

The Phantom Stranger
8 years ago

I have been saying just this, and encouraging readership of Free Whitewater, for several years. If you want to know what is going on in Whitewater (social, cultural, political, commerce) you read Free Whitewater. If you want to know about the bake sale, or who died, there is the Whitewater Babbitt.

8 years ago

Thinking this way is optimistic and forward-looking.
It’s a hopeful perspective on the future.