Seeking Progressive Social Change
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It’s time to shut off commercial media. All of it. Right now.

When I was a kid I thought “politics” was something that you shouted about on family holidays. And when I got to college, I’d sit on the Quad with my NY Times talking about political strategies with friends, and I never let a Sunday pass without “This Week with David Brinkley”. This was how important issues were debated in a free society. Or so I imagined.

Tyranny isn’t some quaint historical danger that we’ve safely overcome. It’s a threat at all times, even today. Especially today.

When I got older and started to read progressive history books, I discovered a world that I hadn’t heard about before. This other place had labor struggles, anti-war movements, social responses to capitalism; it had poverty and racism and exploitation of a shocking order. These things were never discussed on TV or in newspapers or as part of my family arguments (although that changed in a hurry…). And I came to understand that the “game” of politics had nothing to do with the issues that impacted people’s lives.

Democracy assumes social involvement. So I’m not here to argue for disengaging with the world. What I am saying is that commercial media is like the Roman bread and circuses – it’s a diversion to keep people from contemplating real things that really matter; we’ll be a much healthier and fairer society if we simply tune it out. (Not to mention examples of outright media lies – check the NY Times for the most recent, chilling example...)

It’s not just FOX News that’s the problem. Sure, their paper tigers of “liberals” or “gays” or “islamofascists” are effective propaganda diversions, but in truth it’s the larger consumerist ideology (often wrapped up in sexual imagery) that keeps the folk in a kind of dazed stupor, chasing after quick gratifications.

Meantime few are paying attention as the US becomes a train wreck out of control. Enormous economic changes are underway as wealth rushes to the top 1% (or less) and away from everyone else. We’re becoming a “rich-poor” society. In every sense the system of checks and balances is failing. Why? Because the “people” aren’t paying attention and we’re getting robbed blind. Tyranny isn’t some quaint historical danger that we’ve safely overcome. It’s a threat at all times, even today. Especially today.

No one’s immune to the pull of commercial media, which exists not just to sell products, but to sell a way of living. And that way of living can be summed up as “happiness through purchasing”. This ideology puts lots of money into the pockets of executives but no longer into the pockets of you and me, because wages continue to tumble even as corporate profits reach record levels. Trickle-down theory may be the biggest joke of the last twenty-five years. Ask any family trying to make it these days; it’s getting damn near impossible. Check the Center for on Budget and Policy Priorities for some shocking stats. At the same time, defining one’s happiness through material acquisitions is a sure-fire way to become very disappointed, very quickly. It doesn’t work. But it certainly keeps us preoccupied.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If you want to change the world, you’ve got to shut the diversions off and start paying attention and that means everyone. Even the brightest dog will run into traffic to chase a bone…

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April 21, 2008   |  Filed Under Political   |    Permalink

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