...(and why they're unnecessary)
As we rev our engines and slowly ramp up to the technological singularity, crash into a pervasive ocean of information, and wade through it using our smartphones and tablets as oars, I feel that we've arrived at a point where the death of certain traditions are necessary.
At the top of my personal list, is the need a lot us feel to make winding speeches at the pressure of a certain social expectation. These speeches don't usually happen in isolation - we tend to chain a predetermined amount of speeches together (weddings, funerals and graduations are a fine example in this regard). For anyone who has had to sit through an hour-long soliloquy, by someone you wouldn't even recognise in the local supermarket, on a topic you know less about than string theory - you'll know what I'm talking about. Let me just say, however:
It's not your fault.
Okay, it is your fault. Don't feel bad, though. In fact, the blame is on all of us. Why? It's because these social expectations are created and maintained through us. That's how norms work. Norms and ethics are an incredibly significant by-product of human interactions over a large stretch of time and space. It's something that gets pulled under the microscope on a regular basis, most commonly by ethical groups (think women empowerment, animal rights activists etc). What's socially acceptable today, often ends up being unacceptable tomorrow - and rightly so. The constant re-evaluation of values is instrumental to progress. Change isn't always good, but stagnation is always bad. /rant
Back to the topic: What does this have to do with speeches and the information age? The need to have hour-long speeches are a societal norm that I feel should be re-evaluated. We are getting slapped in the face with a barrage of information every waking minute and it's become almost inescapable. Ceremonies and rituals are part of human culture and there is a lot of merit in etching important moments in our lives with certain acts.
I just don't feel that long-winded speeches are one of them.
If we truly wish to mark momentous moments in our live as something that stands out from the rest of the white noise we have to deal with, is a long speech really the answer to that? Let's try and keep things brisk, to the point and poignant.