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Posts Tagged ‘Boston’

I started off in 1966 at a college in Beacon Hill. Our children were born in the Berkshires. We spent every Spring on Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve always loved the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and I remember fondly strolling around the Boston Commons watching the gorgeous swan boats in the pond. So I was a tad surprised when Bob mentioned, “the tragedy of the commons” while we were listening to President Cuomo. Our lives in New England were the opposite of tragic!

Turns out this is the perfect term to describe where we find ourselves today – starting to reopen the country amid a cultural war over masks.

“The tragedy of the commons is an economic problem in which every individual has an incentive to consume a resource at the expense of every other individual with no way to exclude anyone from consuming. It results in overconsumption, under investment, and ultimately depletion of the resource. As the demand for the resource overwhelms the supply, every individual who consumes an additional unit directly harms others who can no longer enjoy the benefits. Generally, the resource of interest is easily available to all individuals; the tragedy of the commons occurs when individuals neglect the well-being of society in the pursuit of personal gain.”  https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/tragedy-of-the-commons.asp

Bob usually has no luck trying to interest me in economics, but this was different, it’s behavioral economics. The tragedy (sometimes called “paradox”) of the commons refers to selfish individuals going after a “common” resource, like toilet paper, only to undermine its infrastructure causing the total collapse of the resource. And supposedly its origin is from the Old English – 18th Century settlers who would let their animals out to graze in the park at the center of town, the commons. This would result in very little park left for the people, or the animals for that matter.

Remember, in Europe only the wealthiest landowners had beautiful parks and gardens behind high, closed walls to enjoy. Designing parks in the center of our colonial cities represented America’s wish to avoid another class/caste system. And so we had a paradox. Over time, the “tragedy of the commons” came to represent not just landscape destruction, but road and bridge decay as well. It became a metaphor for power and authority trampling over the common good.

Whenever the ME became more important than the WE.

Last night I tuned into Netflix to watch The Great Hack. It is a stunning documentary that helps to explain how we actually got here in the first place! I’ve become accustomed to seeing ads for something I was looking up on one site appear on another, but I had no idea how incredibly my data, and yours, have been harvested, tracked and targeted – in particular by governments and political parties. The film delves into Cambridge Analytica, and how they weaponized our data to influence our 2016 election.

Maybe you’re not one to watch horror movies during a pandemic, but this shows you how, without a drop of blood, Mr T the first ME president, was elected by 0.23% in Michigan!

“…this data trail is being leveraged against us, every day: to sell us things, get us to vote or to stay home from the polls, to divide or unite us according to the whims of whoever has paid enough to take our digital threads and weave them into a web of their own desires….

It uses the scandal as a framework to illustrate the data mining structures and algorithms that are undermining individual liberty and democratic society, one Facebook like and meme at a time.”  https://www.wired.com/story/the-great-hack-documentary/

It’s strange isn’t it? The Boston Tea Party of 1773 kicked off our liberation from colonialism, and Mark Zuckerberg turned a dating site for Harvard’s elite students into a data capturing monolith. From his dorm room, long after I was walking through the Commons to Filene’s Basement. Could it be that this great technological connection we are all needing more and more, isn’t at all about the WE?

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One of the most insightful questions we might ask ourselves, when confronted with a big decision, is how would one feel afterwards. A year from now, ten years from now, would we regret that decision or be happy we made it, no matter the outcome?

It was simply serendipitous that I signed up for twitter this past week. And I had to stop looking at one point, because the things people say in the aftermath of a tragedy like the Boston bombings left me numb. And I wanted to feel for myself, think for myself, not be bombarded with everyone else’s thoughts, in real time. Plus, instead of spurting out the first thing that comes to mind, I’ve discovered, with age, that I need some time to reflect, to analyze my thoughts before putting pen to paper, or tongue to teeth…or fingers to keyboard for that matter. I realize that once dementia sets in, all bets will be off.

Only one tweet rang true to me. It had to do with our failure in the Senate to pass a meaningful background check bill that would help stem the tide of gun violence in our country, compared to locking down a city like Boston to look for a nineteen year old terrorist. Bob tells me that approximately 80 people a day die on our streets and in our homes because they could easily pick up a gun; about 2/3 of these people are suicides. On Monday 3 people died in Boston. I know, it was a cynical calculation, a malevolent ratio 80:3 – with a whiff of truth. I wondered how Americans would feel ten years from now. Sometimes it takes someone outside of our culture, to articulate a different point of view.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/21/boston-marathon-bombs-us-gun-law?CMP=twt_gu

“After all, it’s not as if this is the first time that homicidal killers have been on the loose in a major American city. In 2002, Washington DC was terrorised by two roving snipers, who randomly shot and killed 10 people. In February, a disgruntled police officer, Christopher Dorner, murdered four people over several days in Los Angeles. In neither case was LA or DC put on lockdown mode, perhaps because neither of these sprees was branded with that magically evocative and seemingly terrifying word for Americans, terrorism.”

This week the lilacs bloomed in memory of my foster mother, Nell. There were lilacs outside my bedroom window in Victory Gardens. I always had to kiss her goodbye whenever I left the house, because she said we never knew if we’d ever return. Certainly I knew accidents could happen, I was living proof, because a drunk driver had hit the Flapper’s car a few months after my father died. At the age of 10 months, about the Love Bug’s age, I left my PA home and became a Jersey girl.

But I never thought terror could happen here, until I heard about my Jersey neighbor’s husband. He left one morning to go to his office at Cantor Fitzgerald. She didn’t wake up before dawn to say goodbye to him on that beautiful morning in September for some ridiculous reason. At another wake without a body, I saw “what ifs” playing out again and again. Someone had dropped their child at school first and was running late, another friend was on a ferry that docked at Wall Street and picked up its fill of ash-covered commuters before returning to Highlands. And I knew that asking “what if” was a futile exercise in blame.
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Yesterday brought me to tears, unexpectedly. I was replying to a friend on Facebook who had told me that her daughter was moving to Nashville, when I noticed a new tweet from Carol Costello of CNN about the bombing in Boston. Boston, my first foray into adulthood: attending Emerson College on Beacon Street; taking the MTA to Harvard Square for a Garbo festival; watching the swan boats in the Boston Common; walking to Filene’s Basement.

When Bob and I married, he accepted an offer in the Berkshires because I felt like a New Englander at heart. I wanted to go back, our children were born in MA. Bob was running the medical tent at the Josh Billings Memorial Run (aground) when the Bride was born. He tended to the usual ailments of elite and weekend athletes. He even entered a few marathons as well back then, when his back was cooperating. Last night as we watched an interview of yet another ER doctor, he said, “I know him.”

“From the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)?” I asked, since he was the MA chapter president. “No,” he said, “from Shock Trauma.”

This morning I am trying to make some sense of this horror. But the reporter in me gets frustrated. There are too many news organizations swarming over those historical cobblestone streets. Everybody wants a new lead to the story. It’s so close to the WACO anniversary, so maybe it’s a domestic terrorist. They are searching an apartment in Revere of a Saudi nationalist. And always the same question, why?

Does it matter if the “reason” is domestic, anti-government terror, or jihadi fundamentalism? One racist, religious group wanting to avenge a perceived danger in the US vs another racist religious group trying to dominate the Middle East? They both think God is on their side, and there is no reasoning with someone like that. Asking why makes no sense. An 8 year old boy died yesterday because?

Today is the 6th anniversary of the VA Tech shooting. It’s a reminder that violence is a thread that runs through every state, every country. Boston, our hearts are with you as you heal from this. Sandy Hook, our souls are forever yours, and Blacksburg, we are still in mourning. Yesterday I felt helpless, in the same way I felt when the planes hit the Twin Towers and I heard there was one heading for DC where the Bride had just started her new job. Tears came spontaneously, because now we are all Americans, united in every city, on every street corner. Here is the MIT green building sitting across the Charles River last night.
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