On My Soap Box (Again)
So, just what is going on in this great nation of ours? Oh, sure, we have political, social and psychological issues galore going on. We have technology moving at the speed of light. We have wars being fought and religious battles abound. But, let’s take a moment to stop and take a deep breath. (Ok, now exhale…) Through it all, each of us, in our heart of hearts, continue to believe we are individuals, with our own individual thoughts, opinions, beliefs and choices. None of us ever want to believe that we would ever become Winston Smith, the character from Orwell’s 1984. Yet, perhaps we have.
Worldwide industrialization began in the nineteenth century and was given a strong nudge forward with the advent of the railroad, telegraph, cotton gin, and some guy named Thomas Edison and another named Henry Ford. We give little thought to industrialization and pretty much accept it as either a good thing, or something that just happened. But what it really did, was to create the masses. (Here is a link to a segment of Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 movie, Modern Times that depicts this quite nicely. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfGs2Y5WJ14 ) Things were now being produced according to standards that required everything to look and be the same. In WWI, for example, it did the same to soldiers. There were no flamboyant and colorful uniforms anymore, like in previous wars. Everyone now looked the same in their drab green gear. You couldn’t tell one soldier from another.
Where am I going with this? I am saying we have been programmed to be far less individualistic and far more a part of the masses for a very long time. Ever notice that CNN is pretty much playing everywhere? Every railroad station, bus station, airport, hotel, restaurant, you name it, there’s a screen and it is most likely broadcasting CNN. This concept, believe it or not, may have all begun with Hearst who, if he didn’t start the consolidation of news, did a great job of accomplishing it. Only, with him, it was newspapers. Then came radio and then came television. Back in the 60s and 70s, each news station pretty much reported the news as they saw it. NBC differed from CBS and ABC and vice versa. Today, we have the Internet, which also gives us a variety of opinions on local, national and world events, but which, too, will eventually be consolidated. So, what’s the big deal about news consolidation? Simple. Consolidation means each of us is receiving the same message or messages over, and over, and over again. There is no dissension. There is no discussion and dialogue. There is no pro and no con. News consolidation, about which Alexis de Tocqueville warned against back in the mid-1800’s, has the power to create a national culture and a national mindset by getting all of us to buy into the messages they promulgate. One Thought/One Opinion. And it’s not just CNN, it’s the entire news media, including all television, radio, newspapers and magazines. By consolidating the news, these groups have the power to turn public opinion into a PUBLIC OPINION.
Here’s a thought that should blow you away. For some of us, we well remember the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights. It was a variety show that introduced some great acts. One of those acts was Elvis Presley. Another was The Beatles. What’s that got to do with anything? Just this. America loved the Ed Sullivan Show. Whether rich, poor, blue collar, white collar, caucasian, black, hispanic, asian, American Indian, young old, male, female it didn’t matter…. America watched, experienced and witnessed the exact same thing at the exact same time, thereby creating a Mass Culture. Elvis and The Beatles both went viral because of it. You think the creators of American Idol weren’t influenced by Ed Sullivan?
All told, I am not advocating Quadrupidism, where we all go back to walking on all fours. But, I am recommending that we all begin watching less television, see fewer movies and listen far less to what the media tells us, which includes words in our music, including rap. Put down the iPad, iPod, the Smartphone, and quit looking at screens. Personally, I find it a whole lot more scary than somewhat that we now have an entire generation that never learned to communicate, except electronically. Do you really believe that wasn’t planned? Do you really believe that the consolidators don’t know that he who rules the mass culture, truly Rules!?!
The answer lies in our spending far more time having open discussions and debates with one another about local, national and world events. Or, even to just discuss a book or a piece of art. The truth of the matter is, we are all far more susceptible to being influenced (manipulated) than we would ever imagine. The truth is, most of us either never think about it, or don’t want to think about it.
Just outside your living room, there is a place called the rest of the world with billions of people living in it. It’s time to unplug. It’s time to experience the world and those who live in it. It’s time to experience each other and begin thinking our own thoughts, not thoughts that have been implanted by a consolidated news media.
I leave you with a poem, written by a British bloke named Auden back in 1939. If you know anything about history, you may recall that there was a whole lot going on in that particular year. All told, I hope you enjoy the poem and that I have at least stimulated your thought process.
The Unknown Citizen
by W. H. Auden
(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)
He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be One against whom there was no official complaint, And all the reports on his conduct agree That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint, For in everything he did he served the Greater Community. Except for the War till the day he retired He worked in a factory and never got fired, But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc. Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views, For his Union reports that he paid his dues, (Our report on his Union shows it was sound) And our Social Psychology workers found That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink. The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way. Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured, And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured. Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan And had everything necessary to the Modern Man, A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire. Our researchers into Public Opinion are content That he held the proper opinions for the time of year; When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went. He was married and added five children to the population, Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation. And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education. Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd: Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.