Traveling in Brittany a few weeks ago, we pulled into a small restaurant in an ancient village. It was about 8 pm. Surprisingly, it was completely empty.
I asked, "How's business?"
"Not bad," replied the owner.
She explained, however, that things had changed, partly because of the internet. Ten years ago her cafe was the social centre of the town. Folks would invite their friends and neighbours to meet there. It was a nightly affair. She knew everyone and everything that was going on. Life sounded like the old TV program, Cheers, where everybody knows your name.
Today, she said, everybody does not know your name. Now its the computers and smart phones that know everybody's name.
People stay home, play games and communicate on Facebook or Twitter. In her opinion, without question, technology keeps people physically apart. People just don't get together as much as they used to. The Community is less engaged.
Although she regretted this, she said it had not hurt the restaurant business. Now the village residents ordered out, so her gross sales were about the same as before. It just wasn't quite as much fun.
Even in the remote villages on the coast of Brittany, smart phones are ubiquitous. As in Canada, people oblivious to their environment, text madly off in all directions.
While she spoke I checked my emails on my Samsung Android.
Which brings us to Vancouver.
Mark Twain once said, " In the beginning God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made councils and school boards"
It seems that some of God' s Children on Council feel they can do more when it comes to building a more "engaged city."
Having repealed the internal combustion engine, they are going to set up yet another task force. According to the Vancouver Sun this one "would be comprised of people with experience in citizen engagement and community building, with members chosen from an open call for applications. The goal is to have the task force operating by December, with its work scheduled for completion by June 2013."
"The task force will focus on areas of increasing engagement between neighbours and cultural interconnectedness; increasing literacy on, and engagement with, municipal government processes and budgeting; and identifying ways to enhance how the city engages with citizens."
A recent survey showed that a third of residents struggled to make friends, one in four say they are alone more often than they would like, most of us don't know our neighbours very well and don't participate in community activities.
So. When God's elected creatures go on their next rampage and fine tune or overhaul the relationships between people, they might want to start by repealing the internet.