It’s a sign of our times that everybody is running around having conversations.
It used to be people would get together and do something; now they get together and have conversations. The active verb “to do” has been replaced by a slack verb: “to gab.”
With virtually every crisis local, state or national, the clarion call is this: “Let’s have a conversation about it.”
Most recently, the crash of the jet in France has led to calls for conversations about cockpit doors and pilots’ mental-health issues.
Talk, talk, talk . . .
This conversation trend, I suppose, should not be surprising, considering the fact for six years virtually nothing has been accomplished in the U.S. Congress other than bluster, arguments, words, words, words. That viral inaction, that urge to gab instead of to do, has infected the entire country.
You’d think we are all dues-paying members of the Conversation of the Month Club. Last month, the conversation was drones and what to do about them (yadda-yadda-yadda), the month before that it was ISIS and what to do about it (yakkaty-yak-yak), and now the jet-crash-cockpit conversation will surely cease by April 30, to be replaced immediately by a new conversation about something else (chitter-chatter-chat).
No wonder nothing gets done. It’s because we have become a nation of incessant yappers. If you’ve ever sat through a few particularly talky committee meetings, you’ll know what I mean. Most often, such “action” meetings are gab-fests at which people delight in the sound of their own jaws flapping.
Too many of us now have the attention span of the average gnat. That kind of attention-deficit disorder nicely fits this penchant for conversation. A person can sit with others for hours, flitting gnat-like from one topic to another, getting nothing done.
The more complicated and hopeless a crisis, the louder is the call for conversation. Some years ago, when all those children were murdered by that sicko gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there were frantic calls for us to have a national conversation. And we’ve been talk, talk, talking ever since. Calls to ban assault weapons were rejected. Proposals for ways to keep guns out of the hands of mentally deranged people were drowned in the quicksand of meaningless words in stupid arguments. Instead of action, a never-ending talkfest began. Nothing got done. Nothing’s getting done. School shootings continue. Kids keep dying.
The general rule nowadays is this: If we can’t do anything about something, what the heck, we might as well talk about it, and keep talking about it. If we hold enough conversations, maybe the problem at hand will solve itself like magic. A chatterbox abracadabra.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with a good conversation. It’s one of the pleasures of living.
However, the constant call of “Let’s have a conversation” is a trendy pitch that has long overstayed its welcome. We should kick that jabbering guest right out the door. “Let’s have a conversation” has become pretentious and tiresome, like “learning environment” (school) or “community involvement” (doing things in town).
There seems to be a serious loss of confidence in our institutions, in our leaders, even in one another when so few of us are on the same page. In days of yore, before everything was broken, people actually got together and did things, solved things, tried to fix things.
“We’ve got to do something about it,” they’d say, rolling up their sleeves, pitching in, working hard.
Now, too often, it’s this: “We’ve got to have a conversation about it. Come, let’s talk.”
There’s talk among us neighbors about getting together and doing some raking this weekend. We had a conversation about it just the other day. I’m sure they’ll come over with rakes bright and early Saturday.
“Let’s rake,” they’ll say.
“Let’s not,” I’ll say, laziness oozing forth. “Let’s have a conversation about it. Why rake? Let’s talk.”