– The death of discourse, another casualty of the 21st century.

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Have you ever noticed how people tend to be kinder and more understanding to their pets as opposed to the people around them, be it family, friends, coworkers, shopkeepers, or whoever? The contrast is startling. Whereas some people bristle at others, pets have become their pride and joy. So much so, people have no problem paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for dogs and cats. Years ago you could pick up a pet for as little as $20, with papers. Now, not only do people shell out big bucks for pets but lavish them with expensive food and toys, not to mention grooming and health issues which can also cost hundreds of dollars. Their teeth are now brushed, their nails painted, and hair carefully coiffed. Frankly, nothing is too good for them. It’s a bit disturbing though, when the pet receives more attention than the people surrounding the owner.

People tend to believe their attraction to pets is because of the “unconditional love” they have for their owners. Dogs can certainly be loyal and possess distinct personalities, but I think it is a matter of the love and attention bestowed on the pet as opposed to the other way around. People like them because they know the animal will not challenge the person’s authority and will live according to the owner’s rules. They will even have conversations with their pets in an attempt to communicate with them. Deep down people know they cannot respond so they invent a reply for the animal to give. Some people have whole conversations with animals as opposed to the people around them. The pet depends on the owner for care and feeding, and the owner depends on the pet for an interpersonal relationship. This forms a strong bond between the two which is often stronger than those between humans.

I think a lot of this is due to our failure to properly socialize. Thanks to technology, we as a species, have become more reclusive. People would rather plug in and tune out as opposed to talking to the person sitting next to them. When we try to converse, we either become sensitive to political correctness or attack the other person’s point of view viciously. Instead of engaging in an argument or stepping on somebody’s toes, many people prefer talking to their pets, probably because they know their response will be predictable. Since pets do not talk back, people prefer their company as opposed to human contact which I consider rather odd.

If you could somehow track it, you would probably discover a parallel between the increased use of technology and the boom in the pet industry. People want the touch and comfort of another organism, just as long as it isn’t human.

I happen to participate in a weekly get-together with a group of men. In addition to enjoying some libations and a good cigar, we talk. Frankly, we talk about a lot of different things. We discuss politics, religion, history, current events, sports, humor, right and wrong, and just about everything else. We do not see eye-to-eye on everything which often leads to some interesting arguments, where we must ask questions and defend our positions. This is not destructive discourse but rather constructive instead. By doing so, we learn from each other and have cultivated strong interpersonal relationships. It’s refreshing to sit among people where you do not fear offending anyone or starting a fist fight, but rather to address a subject rationally. Sometimes, these discussions can become spirited, but there is no malice in them, and by doing so we find them to be enlightening and somewhat therapeutic. I feel fortunate to be among such men and relish our weekly discussions. To be able to talk on the level, where the challenge is to seek understanding, and where a person’s word is their bond, can be both informative and comforting.

I have mentioned our weekly discussion group to other people I know. Most are envious of such a venue where you can speak openly and frankly without fear of repercusions. Many have told me when they get together with friends, neighbors, or business associates, the discussion is rather shallow and meaningless, and nothing like what I described. This makes me believe we generally have a fear of openness, something that is not an issue with a pet, where we can be who we really want to be.

There is something to be said about looking a person in the eye and telling them precisely what you think without fear of retribution. You certainly cannot do this through social media. And I do not care how smart you think your cat or dog is, you cannot do it with them either.

Just remember, the fictional character Doctor Dolittle was considered an oddball eccentric, certainly not normal.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  COMMON COURTESY – A simple form of communications which reflects our character.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, (12:30-3:00pm).

Also look for Tim’s postings in the Palm Harbor Patch and throughout the Internet.

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