A Conversation Salon: Exploring CulturePlaces
Rather than try to tackle complex national and international issues and institutions that affect the entire U.S. , we concentrate on place based trends and academic research that more directly reflect our everyday experiences in our own neighborhoods, workplaces, and other closer connections. We seek to grapple with ideas that stem from and have immediate implications for our personal ties and intellectual enjoyment. We deal with those grassroots issues not to influence public policy or resolve differences but to gain an understanding of the way of the world-- in order to sort out the chaos and thereby increase our pleasure.
We start from the premise that changing the body politic at the state and national level is becoming increasingly difficult for citizens of the 21st century in the way that the power structure was able to do at the start of the 20th century, when American Progressivism was imbued with a strong reformist optimism. “I propose that we lead” declared Edward Adams in the paper delivered at the organizational dinner of the Commonwealth Club of California in 1907. That determination has long since been replaced by anger or apathy, cynicism or irony. Were it not otherwise, the Commonwealth Club would still be engaged in “public service” i.e. attempting through their long standing “Study Sections” to help shape California laws and regulations. Now only specialists attached to policy institutes and politicians’ offices can comprehend such complicated issues, not to mention offsetting the power of money.
That said, however, certain patterns of actions associated with racial, gender, and employment relations, for instance, have various impacts affecting human activity around the world including strong influence over our own daily lives. These human tendencies, we believe, can best be examined as they are manifested in particular contexts which we call CulturePlaces.
For places of culture to be more than divertissements, they must be pertinent to the formation of our values and bonds of friendship, what has come to be referred to among academics as adding to our “social capital”. Social capital is the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to a durable network of relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition – or in other words, to involvement in a close knit group.
Insights into CulturePlaces provides significance and purpose which contributes to our happiness. Observations that we accumulate not through “knowing more and more about less and less,” but just by living a cosmopolitan life in the Bay Area equips us to form opinions that deserve to be explored by others who share an interest in the deeper significance of events and related information.
We emphasize dialogue among participants of our salon not passively watching lectures or panel exchanges. As the great polymath Sir David McKay wrote in his book on sustainable energy Without Hot Air, "Convictions are stronger if they are self generated, rather than taught"
Rafting the Cultural Currents of the New Millennium
A pop-up Epicurus Café at the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, Half Moon Bay
Clearly, one’s genes as well as class, gender, age, race, sexual orientation and the numerous other distinctions that seem so wrapped up in our identity these days, lead to our personal points of view. The CulturePlaces Salon provides more opportunities to compare these views on the ramifications of the changing social landscape constrained or enhanced by our biological influences. (Nurture/nature)
We have found that understanding the implications of our experiences emerges best through discourse, not absorbing more information. All that is required is a curious and probing mind and the capacity for dialogue (attributes that are too often missing in conversations around the water cooler or at the dinner table). And while we may wrestle with weighty matters that can ignite strong emotions, we want to be able to treat them playfully and with a disinterested passion for clarity that avoids partisanship, ad hominem arguments, grandstanding, or ax grinding. Such a mental exercise results in pleasure and reduces the pain of confusion and discord that too many conversations can devolve into.
The Threat and Promise of Diversity
Diversity has become the holy grail of our times. but we consider that diverse groups can either add to or reduce the enjoyment of our get-togethers. Clearly political differences, thanks to our President, have grown more acrimonious making good conversation ever more elusive.
Ethnic and Social Heterogeneity
This finding is difficult to interpret. After all, the bridging among groups that eventually reduces long-term conflict cannot easily occur if we lack empathy. What really needs to be established is what factors facilitate the growth of social capital in contexts where the starting point is characterized by strong ethnic and social fissures but which hold out the possibility of an enriched community. In other words, how do we go beyond the alienation that led to "Trumpism".