We live in an Orwellian society. There’s no question we are being watched. Many cities, in order to catch traffic infractions, now have cameras posted at intersections. It is standard for stores and other businesses to position security cameras so as to catch shoplifters.
The same applies to listening. The government, in pursuit of suspects, can wiretap or install bugs in rooms. Some businesses have installed listening devices at their tables. They have said that they listen for purposes of gaging the response of customers to their products, but I suspect they are merely being busybodies.
Most of this is possible through rapid breakthroughs in technology. Yet as many police detectives have come to realize, snooping is no longer so necessary. A huge number of people are more than willing to show everything about themselves. They live their lives on line. They will post videos of themselves even in criminal activity. Much of the evidence in court cases now involves things that have been posted on Facebook.
With so much instant communication comes a breakdown in discipline. People in crises, real or imagined, constantly are calling and texting others. Few problems are now worked through individually.
Strange it is, then, that we are also seeing an alarming decline in the art of listening. People constantly interrupt others. They think if they repeat their speeches enough times, they will win their point. As a result, several conversations are held at once, and few people come out of conversations having learned anything.
Businesses make a policy of such poor skills. Their employees are directed to speak scripted jargon to consumers. While a consumer tries to order the product he or she needs, the cashier, waitress or other salesperson will push other products. “Are you sure you don’t want a drink with this?” she’ll ask. “Maybe some of our strawberry rhubarb special?” Often enough, the employee delivers the wrong product to the consumer, for he or she has failed to listen to the order.
The Book of Genesis indicates that in very ancient times all people spoke the same language. After they built the Tower of Babel too high for God’s apparent comfort, they were given different languages to speak. No one understood anyone else.
Now in our Global Village, we also are threatened with universal misunderstanding.