Fighting against joining the niche myopia

Greenwich-Voices-von-KeyserlingWhy does every issue in our public life seem to become a fight to the death?

Why does every debate become captured by egocentric ideologues, who prefer to destroy rather than to compromise even if it means destroying themselves? Why is there a constant assassination of consensus by the idiocy of extremes?

The death of public self-confidence and the Internet’s virtual reality share a lot of blame.

Today people fear the loss of individual power to determine one’s own destiny. Confidence in the foundation, beliefs and institutions of the middle class, which built this nation, has collapsed. The thought of losing everything despite hard work, talent, loyalty and merit looms heavy. Most have lost their fundamental sense of personal worth and self-assurance.

Before these lost souls can entertain any solutions to real problems in our society, they must first feel security within themselves. But where can they acquire that? That false life ring is the virtual community provided by the Internet.

Before the Internet engendered personal isolation, neighbors had to communicate with civility and solve differences with a mutually acceptable consensus. In the past, philosophies led to mutual standards that guided all in solving real life situations. This made challenges out of obstacles and gave birth to synthesis of positions.

But the Internet’s virtual communities provide a false alternative to real community and allow an individual to divorce from the real world.  In this “safety” one can substitute personal responsibility and consequence for group responsibility.

It’s easier for most people to escape into denial licensed by this group think, which is buttressed by ranting talk shows, “tweet think” and simplistic dogma. Here one who feels overpowered and helpless can weave a virtual cocoon of peace and comfort. No jarring counter thoughts are allowed to shatter the smug peace of agreement without investigation. How consoling.

The more these groups isolate and reinforce each other’s emotional needs, more credence is conveyed to their dogma. What develops is a fanatical group of narcissistic psychopaths isolated from any responsibility or respect for the rest of humanity.

The ultimate progression is seen in the decentralized Al Qaeda cells who believe all outsiders are damned. This is the warped sanity that can demand “wool shirts in the tropics.”

Can Greenwich be saved from this self-destruction? Definitely yes.

We have a group of citizens who are mature enough not to be ruled by their own egos and fears. These leaders are objective creators, not subjective victims. Their self-assurance and humility is empowering for those with whom and for whom they work.

These volunteers put others before self. We find them everywhere working quietly on town boards and agencies, community organizations and churches. They’re on the Board of Selectmen, United Way, Wounded Warriors, Neighbor to Neighbor, Reentry, Kids in Crisis and on and on. These citizens weigh responsibility with authority, action with consequences.

They do not waste time complaining and sniping at others. Town problems are addressed with listening consensus building and practical solutions. They speak truth to power.

These leaders are right in front of us on the Board of Estimate and Taxation. Joe Pellegrino made tough choices with a balance that ended with serving all interests. Mike Mason has the deft touch of a harbor pilot bringing the town budget around all the reefs and rocks of special interests and safely to anchor.

But now we need a replacement for the retiring Mr. Pellegrino and what better man than John Lucarelli, who has learned the ways of our town and budgets on the RTM and many public offices? He carries the same integrity of service over self as his predecessors.

With him we’ll continue to be OK.


Christopher von Keyserling is a Republican and a longtime member of the town’s Representative Town Meeting, though the opinions expressed in this column are his own.

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