Thursday, June 23, 2005

Notes from a Non-Believer Part II

Mass Communication

We are surrounded by messages in the form of grotesque billboards and signs. Messages permeate every facet of human existence and haunt us through shimmering television screens, the newspapers, magazines, and the Internet. Messages are everywhere. They taunt us with big breasted young nubile women and heavily muscled young males with barely disguised robust penises. They dangle before us big powerful automobiles, luxurious additions to the home, easy health through the magic of wonder drugs, cleaning products of all kinds, wonderful appliances, cosmetics to make us alluring and irresistible, all varieties of alcoholic products to loosen our inhibitions, fashions to enhance our attractiveness and many other wonderful things.

These messages have one purpose: to promote consumption, the predominant social reality in a product driven culture. If there is not an implicit need for a new product, the need will be created. The messages crafted by the marketplace and advertising experts exploit the sheep-like quality of the human species, the need to belong, the need to conform to what is considered normal. It is this normalcy that the media promotes. It is the parameters of normalcy that the media determine through persuasive advertising.

Without markets to generate profits, capitalism would be unable to sustain itself. It is a tireless scavenger sucking the earth’s resources, and will continue unabated until there is nothing left. If it proceeds unchecked under the watchful protection of neo-liberal forces, the air, water and soil will be heavy with poisons and the entire planet will be transformed into a giant dumpster. It is the media that is helping to disseminate the myth regarding the superiority of capitalist economies. Capitalism is a myopic beast, unable to see beyond its nose. It cares not for the long term consequences of its behavior. It has eyes only for profit.

Poor countries that have been foolish enough to buy into the mythology of open and free markets under the dubious auspices of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and World Trade Organization (WTO) have watched their industries become privatized, their people’s access to energy and water become dependent upon the whim of the huge multi-national corporations, their banks controlled by the West, their cheap labor used to subsidize the overblown lifestyles of the Western world and their people growing poorer and poorer. The so-called New World Order proposed by George Bush senior, envisions a world where the affluent of the world (a meager 1%) control most of the world’s resources and the lives of an overwhelming portion of the world population. Imperialism has simply taken on a new face. Colonialists can not rule without using violence to control the populations they dominate. This coercion is often accomplished by third parties who are more than happy to abuse their own people for the purpose of amassing personal wealth. It is only when this relationship breaks down that the U.S. government or its allies must resort to overt force using its own armies as in the case of Iraq, for example. The U.S. had no problem with Siddam’s murderous ways until he got rebellious. Upstarts of that magnitude can not be tolerated.

It is the media, owned by some of the same multi-national corporations, who sell this mythology of the superior moral nature of the capitalist economies to the mostly unread population. The news, itself, is strangely silent about the real plight of the poor, of labor, of the disaffected and, yes, even the middle class. America which has prided itself on the strength and vitality of its middle class is now seeing this bastion of normalcy and convention gradually and inexorably shrinking as many workers are finding their jobs disappearing and replaced by cheap labor made ever more accessible by the wonders of modern telecommunications.

It is the media that help keep alive the moribund idea of the United States as a world policeman fighting evil everywhere. This is a myth of such ludicrous proportions that no one outside the geographic boundaries of the United States takes it seriously, for it is so out of line with the truth. In fact, millions upon millions of human beings have been slaughtered as a direct result of American power. These include the peoples of Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, North Korea, Somalia, Cuba, Japan, Germany, Panama, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Iraq and Afghanistan. Five hundred thousand Cambodians, two millions Vietnamese, two million North Koreans were annihilated without the American public blinking an eye. Five hundred thousand Iraqi children died as a direct result of heinous sanctions imposed upon them, three hundred thousand Japanese civilians were incinerated with atomic weapons, while the American population lauded the effort and even invoked God and Jesus in such a murderous endeavor. All this has been done under the watchful eye of the so-called free press.
It is not surprising to me that much of the world sees us as devils, for we certainly seem to be doing what one might consider devil’s work, regardless of how benign a picture the media might want to paint. The devil in this case is no supernatural being, but rather a direct product of the actions of ruthless men of power.

I do not accept any of the patently self-survivng, deceptive dribble that comes to us by way of the press and politicians. I will not allow the thinking powers of my brain to be usurped by the masters of advertising who serve the powerful with such aplomb. I do not condone a world view that demands that sentient beings disregard reasoned judgment based on both experience and knowledge, which is, after all, the one quality that holds any promise for a sane future, and join in a deafening chorus of lies and distortions.

The owners of the telecommunications industry have predictably used the awesome power at their disposal to bend and shape thinking to conform to a strategy of economic domination of the planet. The media trumpet daily the wondrous benefits of the current capitalist system. It is, however, an imminently corrupt and failed system.

A life propelled forward by the consumption of products that are designed to maximize the profits of the owners of production and insure their position of dominance, is a terribly wasted life, in which the inherent gifts that come bundled in all of us as human beings is left to wither from lack of expression. Even the joys of childhood and growing up are twisted by the invasion of the media into every facet of existence. Children are lured subtly by well crafted words and clever images into a kind of existence where they are constantly stimulated. Television, video games, film and print coax them into a vicarious and empty existence where the reward they find for their participation is the enjoyment found in triggering certain pleasure-inducing pathways in the nervous system. They are denied the simple pleasures of childhood not bounded by any products: imaginative play, silence and self discovery. They are taught from an early age that they are not to trust their own capacity for reasoned judgment, but rather to look up to authority for the guidelines for living. This is the major message perpetuated by the school system which is now, in many ways, collaborating with the media. This message is so successfully ingrained that it is carried into adult life. This to me is the great tragedy of modern existence, for the natural outcome of this pervasive conditioning is to extract from individuals the one capability that truly makes life worth living: experiencing existence through the wondrous portal of the thinking mind unencumbered by distracting influences. The crazed environment of the modern world makes this kind of self discovery remarkably difficult, if not impossible. It is only through self discovery that any of us can begin to understand what it really means to be human.

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