'I wish I could find a listserve where people are real.'

I’m on a lot of mailing lists and I read a lot of blogs, and that line succinctly sums up a feeling that I seem to be hearing in a lot of places. Perhaps that is some of what has driven some of the interest in ‘Reality TV’ which has turned out to be not especially real. Perhaps that is some of what has driven interest in the ‘Post Broadcast’ political campaigns that we talk about at Greater Democracy. Perhaps it is some of what is driving Citizen Journalism and on the flip side, the decline of local newspapers.

This morning, I had breakfast with my friend Renee. She has been encouraging me to get a Citizen Journalism site up and running for Stamford. We talked about places like the Lakeside Diner and Curley’s Diner where people can hang out and talk about the issues of the day. She mentioned a book, The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community by Ray Oldenburg. As she spoke about it, it made me think of the book I’ve been reading, Bowling Alone : The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert D. Putnam. Another book that she spoke about seems to relate to this, The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. Part of what made American Cities great was the Great Good Places. The Great Good Places are places where people are real. The communities that have been collapsing and are hopefully reviving are places where people are real.

Can Great Good Places be created online? Is DailyKos a place like that for people talking about progressive national politics? Is Connecticut Local Politics a place like that for people who want to talk about Connecticut politics?

Let me end of with perhaps my favorite quote about what ‘being real’ is about:

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, William Nicholson (Illustrator).

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