Planned obsolescence.

If you are not familiar with the term, you should be.  The concept was developed in the mid 1920′s at the height of the boom of mass production.  Mass production depends on consumerism for profit.  Small niche (“ma and pa”) type businesses depend on inevitable product decay and repairability.  The tycoons of the twenties, aware of this, set out to create a society of consumers to ensure the longevity of their businesses.  They rigged their systems so that products were forced into obsolescence.  For example, a computer company develops a new high powered processor.  If you put it into your old computer, this shot of digital adrenalin would make your computer run as fast as the slick new machines on the shelves of Best Buy.  But the computer company makes the chip in new shape that will not fit the space provide in your current computer.  New programs require higher processor speeds, so you are forced to upgrade.  Since you cannot upgrade your processor due to its unfriendly new shape, you are force to buy a complete brand new computer.  Planned obsolescence.  You are a victim.

At times, I feel like the whole human (namely American) social relational structure is somehow undergoing a process of planned obsolescence.  Think about it…you used to talk to your best friend for hours on the phone, girding and strengthening the relationship in interpersonal communication.  Now, as you rush about your day you send a profusion of terse text messages.  You used to have a few close friends that you kept in touch with on a daily to weekly basis.  Now you have a cache of friends, half of whom you barely know, sitting in your Facebook account.  Because you can’t get to all of them, but feel the need to, your time is divided.  Where you used to spend ten hours a week building and strengthening relationships with 10-20 individuals, you now spend that same amount of time leaving trivial comments on the pages of 300 – 400 peripheral “friends.”  Houses used to be built with enormous porches to accommodate a larger gathering of neighbors on a summer’s night.  Modern structures relegate the porch to nothing more than a stoop, reflecting the sentiment of intentional isolation.

Now think about the pub/bar scene.

In a recent article, Mike exposed the need for politicians to spend some time dissecting issues in the friendly and free atmosphere of a pub.  His point is valid.  But politicians aren’t the only cultural subgroup in need of a beer from a friendly bartender.  Grass roots are needed in the public sector as well.

Think about it.  The small neighborhood pub where Jack and Jane used to go to grab a beer and discuss anything and everything from their kids, to God, to the president is gone, only to be replaced by a monstrously cold building with loud music that drowns out any legitimate conversation and red bulls with vodka.  Relationship building is not possible in this setting.  It is possible to get drunk, act like a fool, and hook up with that lucky somebody who could quite possibly be your next one night stand, venereal disease, or divorce.

The point is, we as Americans spend little to no time really getting to know one another and talking about meaningful things.  Possibly the best place and setting is a pub or a quiet bar (one without big plasma tv’s and/or throbbing techno music) around a pint of quality beer.  One doesn’t have to make an evening out of it.  Just imagine if everyone took two nights a week to grab a beer with a close friend after work or dinner for an hour.  I have a feeling they would become smarter, more socially fulfilled (more so than any ‘social networking’ site could offer), and develop deeper more profound understandings of all things philosophical, spiritual and political.

So put down that keyboard, stop reading from your favorite beer blog, and call that buddy whose myspace page is plastered with your clever and witty one liners, and go grab a beer!  Save yourself from the obsolesence of meaingful social interaction!