What is the “collective soul” of a community, and why is it critical?

This post has nothing to do with the band “Collective Soul”- but it does have a lot to do with everything that’s been spinning around my head over the last few weeks. The question of what’s really important and what is a distraction and why, is a lens a lot of things need to be viewed through.

First topic: Indianapolis makes their bike share system free for all residents:

Indianapolis will be the first city in the United States to offer all county residents access to a free annual bikeshare pass.

The IndyRides Free is a new program that offers a free annual pass for Pacers Bikeshare to all Marion County residents. A first-of-its-kind program in the nation that provides the public with access to hundreds of e-bikes at no cost.

“While other cities offer reduced-cost or free annual passes to specific groups, to our knowledge, Indy will be the first place where all county residents have access to a free annual bikeshare pass,” said Kären Haley, executive director of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which manages Pacers Bikeshare.

Source: Indianapolis offers free bikeshare passes to residents

Indy bought B-Cycle, the same system that I introduced to Dayton long ago- and they eventually bought (you can read all the posts on this blog here). The cost in Indy was underwritten by a non-profit and the Pacers:

“The free annual passes for Marion County residents were made possible through support from the Herbert Simon Family Foundation and Pacers Sports & Entertainment.

“Our focus has always been making positive impact off the court as well as on it, and this important partnership will help create greater connectivity and accessibility for all residents and visitors to our city,” said Rick Fuson, chief executive officer of Pacers Sports & Entertainment. “Being able to do that while also encouraging activities that promote better health and well-being simply adds to the appeal.”

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The reality is- free bikes do all kinds of things- like make perimeter parking more valuable (park where it’s free- ride the bike to where it’s not), gives poor people access to mobility, improves air quality, and most importantly- creates a sense of ownership for the whole community. It’s now “Our Bikeshare” system- not just the people who can afford it.

And, that’s where I feel like this kind of action makes a huge difference. Considering the people of Dayton paid for the Dragon’s stadium- but did they all get a discount? Or a free ticket? Extrapolate that out to the Schuster Center, to all the other “economic development dollars” we’ve “invested” – what is in it for the over-taxed, under-paid, under-appreciated people in the city?

While I absolutely love “The Flyer” free shuttle and use it a few times a year, I often wonder why we don’t just pull the trigger and make the entire bus system free. The fares contribute a tiny bit toward operating costs- and by the time you figure all the expenses in collecting and accounting for fares- compared to the value to those who ride, what purpose are we really serving by charging for “public transit?” If you followed the link above- you realize I consider it racist that the only part of town served by a free bus- is the whiter, wealthier part.

Soul crushing in advertising

This week Apple did something that doesn’t happen very often – a major corporation apologized for an ad they released. As an Apple fan boy since the early days, and one who makes their living using Apple tools, this was pretty epic. Yet, there were people who didn’t know what all the fuss was about- and others who thought the fuss was epic. Here’s the Apple spot-

Apple squeezes the soul out of the emoji ball- and their brand

The idea was that they had taken all these well loved, creative tools, like trumpets, pianos, vinyl turntables, paint, a piano and on and on- and compressed them into the thinnest iPad ever. Or, not.

Others saw them crushing the soul of the artist, ending the analog age, and destroying our artistic heritage with a soulless, albeit thinner, iPad.

From the days when Steve Jobs talked about Apple building “bicycles for the mind” to now replacing the bicycles with a thin piece of electronics that will be rendered worthless in 10 years by something newer, faster, thinner- is contrary to the ethos of the Apple brand. Yes, I have a MacPlus sitting on my front desk, but, it’s value isn’t the same today as if I’d bought a Selmer Mark 6 sax with that money back in 1985. Like it or not, computers are more like hammers and screwdrivers- which can help an artist create, but, lack the soul of the creator.

Just because I can, and I (along with quite a few other people) came up with the same twist on the spot- it’s really better backwards:

The Next Wave fix of the Apple Crush ad

Which brings us back to “collective soul.”

Our society has been actively being torn apart and forced into taking sides on so many things, from trans bathrooms to banned books, immigration to the Israeli/Hamas war. All the while, the algorithm keeps grinding away in the background deciding what to feed you next.

I have a friend who abhors social media and avoids it. However, he’s addicted to TikTok. What he gets fed is very different than what my feed looks like. His is one conspiracy rant after another. I get dancing couples, lip sysncs, recipes for famous chicken roll ups, comedy, Steven Tyler and Carrie Underwood doing “Walk this way” together on stage, Ted Lasso clips. Now- here’s the thing- after 2 minutes of being fed things I could find on Youtube if I was truly interested- I walk away from TikTok- he doesn’t.

But he shares stuff constantly to me. Stuff that’s so out of whack with the person I’ve known over 30 years, who I talk to at least once a week for an hour. And I know- there’s powers behind the curtain working hard at “divide and conquer” and it scares me.

The last time I remember America coming together unconditionally, was after 20 shitbirds from Saudi Arabia attacked our country with our own planes and killed 3000+ Americans on 9/11. Since then, I’ve watched us start to unravel at the seams. Our collective soul is taking a self-induced beating.

I drove up to Chicago yesterday with a friend to pick up a deal from Facebook marketplace that I found. My friend had lived in Chicago- and extended our stay for a while longer than I planned- and I got home at 4:30 am to a house where my dog had pooped and puked in the backroom. But, one of the things we did in Chicago was visit a bar called “The Violet Hour.

It made it all worthwhile. Because, it reminded me of the importance of folks who remind us to stop doing what we’re doing- and smell the flowers. The first clue is in the very gritty waiting hall, once you’ve made it past the building front which looks like a boarded up, graffiti covered wall (they re-do it monthly- so it always looks different). They have their house rules- where they tell you- put your phone away.

The Violet Hour House rules- No cell phone use inside lounge. Proper attired requested. Please, no baseball hats. Sorry, no reservations. If you have a party of four, we'll give you four chairs. If your party is Eight, we'll arrange eight chairs for you. No "Party add-ons" without prior notification. No O-bombs. No Jager-bombs. No bombs of any kind. No budweiser. No light beer. No grey goose. No cosmopolitakns. And finally, please do not bring anyone to the violet hour that you wouldn't bring to your mother's house for Sunday dinner.

I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t fly in Dayton- “what, I can’t come sit in your bar and be anti-social, doom scrolling – instead of actively talking to the people I’m here with???!!!”

And it reminded me, we can choose what kind of “collective soul” we want, for our neighborhood, our schools, our city, our state, our county, our planet.

But the first thing is – we need to be consciously aware of that soul, and provide it with the proper care and feeding, or it will wither and die.

Does Dayton need a whole bunch of new hotels downtown? Do the Dayton Public Schools need a vision and mission statement? Do we want to accept folks who want to (or may) be different than us? Are we going to have to vote between 2 ancient folks to lead our country? Is the algorithm the source of all evil? Should there be billionaires while people starve? These are the things that run through my head.

Religion used to be counted on to provide us guidance on so much of this- and yet, that institution has self-destructed as well. The golden rule still works, “do unto others as you would have others do unto you”- yet, we seem to have added a clause- “unless, you can get away with it, and advance yourself and your self interests before anyone else notices.”

And, here you are at the end of this post, wondering, WTF is Esrati doing playing moralist? Hopefully, the reason you’re here is because this is a place to discuss our community- and it’s “collective soul” outside the structures that we used to depend on providing us with the information we need to guide us through our political selection process. Our local established “journalists” have lost their edge at real reporting (the most recent article about the things going on in New Lebanon- totally ignored informing us of what the preliminary finding of the investigation were).

I’d like to know what things you think need re-aligned to help us get our soul back? Please add your ideas in the comment section.

And the song for this post: “Our Collective Soul”

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