This is your invitation to get into the conversation at WRFR’s round-table dinners. We call them dinner symposia, in tribute to the Greek pioneers of democracy.

The symposia are held Wednesday evenings at 6 following the Rockland Metro show. These dinners are open to everyone, and are free of charge. Dinners are organized and prepared by the participants, and seating is limited to 12, so reservations are required.

The symposium takes up where the Rockland Metro show leaves off, and is entirely open-ended. We speak one at a time, try to keep our comments brief, and collaborate to moderate our discussion and keep it lively.

Over the three years that our dinner symposium format has been evolving, we have enjoyed some excellent food and drink, have had many thoughtful conversations, have learned much from each other, and have built trust and camaraderie to advance a constructive spirit in our Rockland community. We have been a diverse and ever-changing cast of characters, but we have generally found, unlike in the national media spectacle where people fight with each other and refuse to listen, that face-to-face, and over good food and drink, it easy for us to appreciate each other as equal and genial companions, worthy of respect.

After a summer break, we are back at it, starting next Wednesday, September 20. Our topic for next week will be saving America, one conversation at a time.
One face-to-face conversation at a time, we must emphasize, to contrast this conversation with the cyber-conversation on our screens. Face-to-face, our conversation is free from external manipulation. When we face our screens, our interaction is mediated by powerful interests that seek to steer our thoughts to their advantage.

Indeed, the word “cyber” comes from the Greek for “to steer.” “Cybernetics,” according to Google, is “the science of communications and automatic control systems in both machines and living things.” It is a fast developing science, and we find ourselves increasingly being controlled by computers. Of course the computers are not acting on their own initiative, they are controlled by humans, but they are controlled by a tiny minority who use them as tools to control the great majority of us.

Computers and the internet have vast potential both for good and for ill. There are many ways in which they empower all of us. The Buzz is written and composed on computers, its information often come from internet research, for example from Wikipedia, a magnificent resource, and the final copy is sent to the printer via email. All this is good, but there may be an even greater force acting against our interests.

That force pulls our attention toward the celebrity show, and away from each other. In the real world, the face-to-face world, we humans are not able all to watch one big show. We interact with each other one-on-one, or in small groups. There are practical limits to how big a crowd can be assembled for a spectacle, or a rally, or a mob.

Maximizing that crowd was the goal of emperor Vespasian when he built the Colosseum in Rome, and put on public spectacles for the masses. The Colosseum could hold up to 80,000 spectators, a practical limit that has stood for two millennia, though Stalin and Kim Jong-il managed to build somewhat bigger arenas. But today, suddenly, billions of people can watch the same show. We the people are coming under the thrall of one big circus.
Perhaps, though, we are seeing a reaction. Our immune systems, built over centuries of experience with democracy, are being triggered. A new strength may be growing in us, helping us to steer our own course. That is our hope, and our mission, at WRFR. You are an essential part of that immune system, and that strength. Will you join us for dinner?