For those investigative journalists who take many types of risks as truth tellers, to inform us about the reality on the ground where it happens, they have my deepest respect and admiration. The focus of the news media is dramatic conflict and, indeed, it is vitally important for all of us to be informed about what befalls the human family and the life support system of this planet. The profound flaw, however, in mainstream journalism is not the journalists, but instead resides within the media corporations.
The foremost agenda of media corporations is to make profits for the corporate owners and the shareholders. That is why, through the past twenty years and more, the media corporations have become larger, gobbling up more and more smaller, independent newspapers and magazines. Moreover, the commercial partnerships with other types of corporations put a damper on certain news stories being published, if the truth interferes with the profits of such partners – including advertisers choosing where to place their ads in competitive markets.
That is why the alternative media is increasingly important, to address the types of stories that fall off the radar of the mainstream media. As well, of course, is the valuable role of “citizen journalists,” whose most important assets are their ability to capture significant images as they happen in the moment, and then communicate them immediately, and globally, through social media.
Whether professionally trained or volunteer, however, the journalistic limitation is that everything comes to us from particular perspectives, even authentic witnesses on the ground, whether the citizen journalist or the subjects whom he or she is interviewing. All media construct reality, and for that reason, media literacy ought to be essential school curricula at different grade levels, to help students at all ages develop critical thinking skills and to encourage citizens, young and old, to search out different points of view from a variety of sources.
Further to the role of the mainstream media, however, is a much more insidious aspect that directly pertains to the above-mentioned “foremost agenda” to make commercial profits. To do so means that the overall content of newspapers and magazines is framed within a vision of the society within which it is published. In the Western world and, more specifically, North America, for example – and for its branch publications in a globalized world – the vision, hence, the news framework, is industrial capitalism.
Here I am spelling it out so plainly, because we, collectively speaking, in the so-called developed world, are so immersed in this reality of industrial capitalism, that many of us can be blind to other realities even as they unfold around us and under our very feet.
We are blinded, basically, by the illusion that industrial capitalism provides our security, even as this economic system persists in feeding off the authentic life support system, namely, other planetary life, while destroying land-based cultures. Industrial capitalism does so for short term profits that benefit the few, while sustainable life for the long-term, that affirms life for the larger human family, is undermined.
This illusion is foisted upon the younger generations by the power-holders of older generations (plus younger, opportunistic individuals), who exist in willful ignorance and/or pathological denial about what we are doing to our home, planet Earth. They resist telling the truth, that the `affluent society’ to which the young have been conditioned to aspire (oblivious to the increasing poor among us) no longer can perpetuate a comfortable way of life into the future, a way of life no longer sustainable.
What most recently got me shaking my head in dismay are two articles published in the print version dated January 21, 2013 edition of Maclean’s, Canada’s National Magazine, whose cover title reads: “THE NEW UNDERCLASS – Why so many smart, educated, ambitious, young people have no future.”
The first article’s sub-heading on its opening page reads: “A GENERATION IN CRISIS.” The overall theme is to characterize post-secondary students who choose university directly out of secondary school as victimized. The reasons are, they cannot find decent paying jobs immediately, in order not just to be self-supporting yet, moreover, buy a house as soon as possible, and look forward to an affluent future.
The second article, written by two professors, chastises the promotional and recruitment strategies of universities for leading applicants and current students up the garden path of uncertain affluence. These professors point out the need for discernment by aspiring students to recognize the pragmatic merits of community colleges as well, in regard to where best their talents can be developed.
Regardless, neither article indicates a whisper that what the current generation of students are seeking to learn, ultimately, will be applied to a radically different society at all levels in the near future.
These young grads, in my view, have been sold a `bill of goods,’ by members of the older generations who are so immersed in material comfort they cannot see the forest for the trees, even as the forest is being clear cut, to use a multi-layered metaphor.
The older generations include mine, as a boomer. But, with that said, do not paint everyone with the same brush, regardless of which generation is targeted in any discussion. For example, do not believe everything you read about the baby boomers labelled, conversely, either as a generation that sold its soul for money or as aging hippies.
Truth always is more complicated. Some of us pursued a more modest lifestyle on very modest incomes, dedicating our lives to social and environmental justice through various helping and creative arts professions. Sadly, through life, we too often have found ourselves marginalized in persevering to speak to the deeper truths of our time, or dismissed (and stereotyped negatively) as activists whistling in the wind.
In other words, do not believe what you read in the media in reference to stories that stigmatize any generation as a whole. What we need to confront, and try to transform, is human nature, because we as a human species have the possibility to evolve our consciousness.
But, our stubborn, arrogant nature renders too many of us highly resistant to change and willing to recognize what we cannot – and should not even assume to – control, even as events unfold before our eyes. Think increasing climate change and natural disasters.
What we are confronting today is not, categorically, a “generation in crisis,” but what could be characterized as a “society in crisis” or even a “world in crisis.”. But, think about it. Where do those identifiers get us? How often do we buy into the constant bombardment from the popular media about the latest “crisis.”? Do such headlines motivate us to act in a way to make a difference, or do we quickly turn the page or switch the channel, to the next sound bite, preferably to be entertained and avoid having to think or feel deeply?
Fortunately, since I was an adolescent (and younger), I always have had a questioning mind. Even my first serious boyfriend teased me about being a “deep thinker.” However, he actually appreciated that fact. I have felt truly blessed that the most rewarding aspect of my first love experience was the respect in which I was held as a whole person, and the wonderful, serious conversations that we shared together, very differently from most of our more conformist peers. I wish that experience could be so for every adolescent in love.
I remember, and recognize, how young people have brains as well as passionate hearts. For my young adult readers, if you are only now discovering that your high expectations to live affluently – primed by well intentioned, albeit misguided, parents and teachers – yes, feel pissed off. Then, let it go.
If you want to be truly outraged about something, as we all ought to be, read an article published online Sunday, January 20, 2013, in The Independent, titled “Goldman bankers get rich betting on food prices as millions starve.” This article is a brutal reality check on how affluence benefits only the few at dear cost to life itself for the many.
More important, my young readers, is to refocus your energy, and for you to feel fortunate that you have an entire lifetime ahead of you to seek knowledge and gain experience as you prepare yourselves in facing a very different reality – starting now.
Seek out wisdom, both inside the educational institutions and also in all walks of life, among those individuals of all generations who have fuller environmental awareness to address the challenges ahead.
Actively develop your own critical thinking, coherent writing, problem solving and analytical abilities. Moreover, discover your own creative inner strengths and capabilities that are within you, and that you will need to call upon and apply, sooner than later.
Some years ago I heard, correctly or not, that the Chinese character for “crisis” also symbolized “opportunity.” Philosophically, that is a very appropriate way to look at our situation at this historic moment, as a human family.
The environmental consequences from climate change and related short-sighted, self-serving human interference with the natural laws of ecosystems globally also can be characterized as A WORLD IN TRANSITION AND TRANSFORMATION.
That article in The Independent, cited above, illustrates why established financial systems exploiting “crisis” in the most vile, selfish way, must be replaced by differently structured systems in human communities, locally and globally.
Foremost in regard to our future survival is to learn that we, as a human species, live in bio-regions – to recognize that fact as our top priority – rather than limit our identities to categories, political and cultural, that can be divisive as human constructions always are, from nation states to individual municipalities.
Believe me, a bio-region does not function as disconnected units, but as per the natural law of interrelatedness at multiple levels. Our survival is interdependent with all planetary life, because bio-regions, in turn, are interconnected around the planet. The world of Nature can teach us, as students of life, how to heal our disconnectedness.
In that primary recognition, as we work collaboratively together, across generations, across borders, and across cultures, we can create a world worth living in, where we experience what really matters – love, compassion, joy, beauty, and the light of human potential in the great project of our future, the healing of ourselves and a wounded planet.