May 23, 2017

Shalom Kristanugraha: A vision for this year’s Tartan editorial page

Shalomita Maleachi. Courtesy of Shalomita Maleachi.

By Shalom Kristanugraha

Many of the crises we face today stem from our inability to dialogue with one another. This inability partly results from shifting communication patterns coming out of our embodiment of a new societal model: the ‘network society.’ By virtue of this, the majority of us now have the power to communicate more rapidly and widely than ever before. This is not a bad thing. Yet simultaneously, there is ample cause to think our history ill equips us to handle all this speed.

We can think about the mismatch between our trans-generational habits and the pace of communication technologies afford us by investigating the words ‘reaction’ and ‘reflection,’ from a physiological standpoint.

Reaction is what happens when we face acute stress (danger!), when we act without conscious thought. Reflection is what happens after the danger has passed, when we begin to consciously think about what just happened.

Reaction is quick. Reflection is slow.

This is our inheritance, and through the past, the reaction was reserved for pee-your-pants moments. Life and communication for most of human history was slow, local. Today, however, our technologies allow us to be reactive in new frontiers and at volumes unprecedented. What does this all have to do with the Op-Ed section of the Tartan?

Well, it is no secret that opinions can feel dangerous. Under most direct circumstances we are able to check our uneasiness. With the instant and ‘glass wall’ nature of our technologies, however, it is increasingly easy to succumb to our pre-existent wiring and just react.

Scroll down feed, see something unsatisfactory, and—BAM!—indignant comment fired. Alternatively, log off and mutter, ‘I hate social media.’ As we too quickly engage, we too quickly disengage.

When one sits down and writes long-form, however, both forms of reactivity (‘fight,’ ‘flight’) are erased. In the process of having to craft, clarify, and put forth a coherent piece, one inevitably has to meditate, to reflect — and God knows we sorely need more reflection at present (I see you, US Election 2k16).

To participate in writing for the Op-Ed section is to, I believe, is one way of practicing reflection. In a world that is anxious, you are slowing down—and inviting others, as they read your words, to slow down too.

With this, I invite you all to write for the Op-Ed section and to help re-vitalize the way we have conversation, to remind ourselves how we can have conversation. On my part, as editor, I vow to do my best to make this section be an open space to all points of view.

I look forward to your submissions, of all colors. Let’s create an invigorating, robust, and fearless forum — together!

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