Cultural-Propaganda

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(Below are three responses to my previous essay.  My responses are in italics.)

N.’s Response:

Michael,

I just read your paper with great interest.  You make a number of important points.  However, you say repeatedly that not every group needs to follow all of the 10 steps [required according to IndividualEvolution.org] to be successful.  However, you never give any support for that opinion.  You may be right about that, but I wish that you would give specific details showing which steps can be omitted and why?  You indicate that various movements have been successful in the past without using all these principles.  But I believe those so-called successes have only been partially successful.  The reason for that may be that they have not followed all of the points B. has used.

Sincerely,

 

N.

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“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” -Assata Shakur.

While I am certainly not qualified to compose a proper tribute to Sandra Bland, I am qualified as a social psychologist to analyze some elements of #BlackLivesMatter in relation to Individual Evolution1. In order for either to impact societal change, it will be necessary for both to be revolutionary. In this case, revolution implies change. Whether it is gradual or immediate depends upon the need and the circumstances. Political minorities have been programmed into subservience for centuries via a political majority fueled by institutionalized racism utilizing propaganda promoting the idea that if they do what they are taught, what they are told, and what is demanded of them, they will receive fair treatment, equality, and integration with that political majority. In other words, if they play nice, institutionalized racism will eventually disappear. That has not happened, and it will never happen unless it is demanded as forcefully as possible and racism is deinstitutionalized. For most people, recent events contradict the myth of a peaceful transition. For some, Individual Evolution does not need to proceed according to a formula that progresses from a bureaucratic vision to an evolutionary power (the Head of logical thought through the Heart of desire to the Hand of action). And while individual evolution continues to evolve through a series of conference call classes anyone interested is welcome to attend, I will argue that it doesn’t necessarily need to follow this method to be successful.

A friend asked me to write this, even after I explained that I am not worthy to write a tribute to Sandra Bland, the woman who was recently murdered by a Texas police officer and made to appear as though she hanged herself in her jail cell. I know I am not worthy because Sandra Bland should not have been murdered. I know I am not worthy because the families of every person of colour, men and women that have left us too, too soon, before and after Michael Brown in recent months and, frankly, in the last few hundred years of murder in the employ of institutionalized slavery and racism, understand what is at stake better than I do. People of colour have died and continue to die needlessly, sacrificed to the bloodlust of a white patriarchy that doesn’t care, a white patriarchy that lashes out in fear and hatred with the knowledge that their control, their enslavement of everyone not like them, their reign, will end soon. Those that have been awake for centuries are still awake, and they have awakened the rest of us, though frankly we all should have been wide awake and alert for decades if not centuries, leaving institutionalized slavery, with all its permutations, in a weakened blob at the bottom of the dustbin of history.

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For your listening pleasure, here is my radio interview from last night.  This is something I had not thought about doing until the opportunity was presented to me by the producers of Radio Islam who found my content here.  For those of you who are curious, I am open to other opportunities to discuss cultural conditioning/propaganda, sexism, racism and everything that the intersection of all of those subjects entail and more. I am about halfway into the show. If you have time to listen, I would love to know what you think. 

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Abstract

While propaganda in the form of unintentional influence and the language of sexism has been independently researched, a review of literature reveals no such studies that link these two topics.   In this paper, I link these two subjects to study the hypothesis that the language of sexism, embedded within media, unintentionally influences individuals and small groups.  Through participatory action research methodology, participants will take part in a series of focus groups analyzing sexist language within media contexts. Findings will indicate how media sexism influences individuals and small groups, what that influence means to the health of their local community, and what action should be taken to alleviate negative consequences.

 

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Pretty much my views with a few explanatory elements removed, like the biases of everyone from the Ownership/management to News Director all the way down to News photographer with the Reporters, writers, anchors, and writers in between. Believe what you want but believe you are being manipulated every second by news media everywhere.

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Buddhism is about everything, and it is about nothing.  The readings cover varied and various aspects of Buddhism that I have read in the past, and these also delve more deeply.  Dewit ‘s “inner flourishing,” Suzuki’s “wisdom and knowledge,” Karr’s stages of “awareness, ” Salzburg’s “loveliness,” Rahula’s personal realization of “Truth, ”Hanh’s “open”-ness, and Wallace’s “directed attention” are not independent, but they are divisions of one purpose or they seem to be divisions of one subject.

There are three stages of significance, rather than three themes in these readings. These stages may be divided into further stages along a path of evolutionary and revolutionary growth, but as everything is connected, these are all connected.  At the beginning of this journey into Buddhist psychology, what is needed is an acceptance of true openness, to accept viewpoints and ideas that are different and unfamiliar.

“Open-mindedness, which is the fruit of mindfulness, forms the basis for the disciplines of insight.” (De Wit 2001: 17) This allows the inner flourishing, that glow that some can see in others, but seldom in themselves, to occur, to discover what appears naturally. Further, Hanh reveals, “ A teacher cannot give you truth. The truth is already in you.  You only need to open yourself . . . .” (Hanh 1998:  12).  This supports Suzuki’s revelation that knowledge is the equivalent of book learning but not experience, that true wisdom is the realization that one knows nothing.  One who stays open with an “original mind” is an “empty mind and a ready mind” (Suzuki 1970: 21).  Karr elaborates this open-ness as awareness of listening, contemplating and meditating upon peace and insight into what is self and phenomenal reality (Karr 2007:  10-12).

“The spirit of metta is unconditional:  open and unobstructed.” “Metta is the ability to embrace all parts of ourselves, as well as all parts of the world.” (Salzburg 2004: 19, 23).  It is love of everything, the bad and the good in everything and everyone, even ourselves.  The open-ness of unconditional love is a power that can uproot negativity within each of us.  Wallace emphasizes the open-ness of “your awareness to the entire field of sensations throughout the body, especially those related to respiration.” (Wallace 2006:  19).  This open-ness and lovingkindness, the evolutionary love of one’s and the world’s humanity, are one.  One cannot exist without the other.  But how does one accept the love and open-ness of humanity with the evil that exists in the world, evil that exists to either deliberately or apathetically exists to harm humanity, whether it is sexism, racism, or holocaust of one form or another? This is a question that deserves discussion.

This is a simple but continuous process that utilizes knowledge and wisdom. In Rahula, the Buddha explains enlightenment, “’The eye was born, knowledge was born, wisdom was born, . . . . .’ It is always seeing through knowledge or wisdom (nana-dassana), and not believing through faith.  (Rahula 1974:  9).  Elsewhere, the Buddha uses a simile where “his teaching is compared to a raft for crossing over, and not for getting hold of and carrying on one’s back.” (Rahula 1974:  11).  Each of us uses a different vehicle to get across in a spiritually evolutionary practice that is entirely individual, but once they have reached the other side, attachment to that vehicle is no longer needed.  Everything and everyone is connected.  While each of these authors see things as each of us see things in our own ways, our ideas are connected, helping each of us process and proceed to our own enlightenment.

References

De Wit, H. (March 2001). The Case for Contemplative Psychology. Shambhala Sun. Retrieved from http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2388

Suzuki, S. (1970). Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (Prologue). Retrieved from http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/zenmind.pdf

Karr, A. (2007). Chapters One and Two in Contemplating Reality: A Practitioner’s Guide to the View in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. Shambhala Publications.

Salzberg, S. (2004). Chapters One and Two in Lovingkindness: The revolutionary art of happiness. Shambhala Publications.

Rahula, W. (1974). What the Buddha taught. New York: Grove Press.
Thich Nhat Hanh. The heart of the Buddha’s teaching. (1999). New York: Broadway 
Books.

Thich Nhat Hanh. (1988). The heart of understanding: Commentaries on the 
Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.

Wallace, B. A. (2006). The attention revolution: Unlocking the power of the focused 
mind (1st ed.). Boston: Wisdom Publications.

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History in the Western Hemisphere, especially the United States is filled with example after example of the upper classes, the rich and wealthy, engaging in social reform of the poor and the lower classes.  But those rich and wealthy, who thought they knew better, passed judgment on those so-called poor and lower classes, and judged them based on their own high society morals.  Very little progressive social reform occurred under those circumstances, except for the limited viewpoints of those impressing their morals on others. Beyond my rant of the legislative and social morality of the present and past, it is indeed refreshing that there are other countries and individuals that are interested in actually helping rather than moralizing to a populace. 

The founder of Childline, Jeroo Billimoria, actively engages in participatory action research (PAR) or action-based community development (ABCD) or a combination of the two to improve the lives of homeless children in India.  This is something I have never seen done in the United States and certainly not in a project of this grand scale. Each time I see an example of humanity and progress such as this, it gives me ideas and hope for the future and how I can actively help people help themselves. Billimoria actively trains, teaches, and employs the children that she has saved and she treats them with humanity and respect.  They have grown up and they help others.  When I was younger, I dreamed and tried to create a self-propelled paddleboat.  This is an example of a well-oiled paddleboat that helps itself by helping others who, in turn, stay to continue helping.  This is what I want to do on some level in some way.  The whole history of Childline is one where trial and error are valued in order to evolve and improve the assistance to the homeless children of India.  Rather than give up when faced with what appeared to be failure, Billimoria learned from her mistakes and worked to improve the manner in which Childline responded and the manner in which it interacted with other agencies.

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Courtesy of Skindicate Suspensions

Courtesy of Skindicate Suspensions

While on one level the entire continuum of experiencing body suspension immediately incorporates IndividualEvolution.org’s (IE) heart, head, and hand, the wholeness of it also profoundly and radically transcends individual evolution and becomes an individual revolution, as I like to call it.  It incorporates IE’s scientific method of inquiry, reaches beyond its body, mind, and spirit, and grasps through centuries to an ancient universal personal quest.  Such exploration can only happen with subsequent suspensions and their reflections.  This is infinitely more about exploring spirituality, exploring zones of safety and personal comfort, and transforming personal space.  It is also about eclipsing the logic of the mundane.  It is about, what Baba Ram Dass aptly manifested not so long ago: being here now.

When I decide to actively approach a challenge, it isn’t analyzed as much as it is pondered as a spiritual challenge to enhance practice and even emotional fitness, rather than a physical one.  This same mindset was tapped into when I decided to overcome my fear of public speaking and join a college speech team, when I decided to learn tango dancing, and even when I decided to pursue masters and doctorate degrees. That same font of spiritual power was consulted when I decided to body suspend several months ago and when I actually suspended a few weekends ago at Skindicate’s DisgraceGiving in Atlanta.  I plan to access that spiritual energy often because it needs replenishment often to increase its ability to transcend the mundane obstacles that I am faced with daily.

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McKnight & Kretzmann’s Mapping Community Capacity address an issue that I have puzzled over for many years:  How can the government create an incentive to better one’s life circumstances without creating and perpetuating an environment of unhealthy need and dependence that engenders mere existence and probably hopelessness, to create producers rather than service clients?  Unfortunately, I have observed friends living on public assistance who don’t realize they have skills and creativity to contribute to their community, and I have seen politicians that are not interested in addressing this problem where one group votes to cut benefits and the other group votes to increase benefits.  Neither is interested in the disenfranchised and how to help them.  The disenfranchised are merely pawns for votes or non-votes.  I don’t see hope in the perpetuation of such inequities.

The alternative is an asset-based community development (ABCD) that assesses the knowledge and experience already present in the community, to help people thrive rather than merely survive, to value the skills that are already present in the community rather than concentrate on what is missing.  There is also a more practical reality in this approach:  Most urban communities have no hope of attracting major industries or services that would bring local jobs.  The old saying regarding making lemonade when all you have are lemons is appropriate here.  Use the resources you have and get creative.

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(This is it folks.  I may have found the research method of choice to write thesis and dissertation in social psychology and media studies respectively.  It’s Participatory Action Research.  Everyone teaches and everyone learns, including the study participants.  Stay tuned.)

 

Participatory action and the research that it entails give me hope for the future.  Seeing Pray the Devil Back to Hell was enough to remind me that it takes a group of people to create powerful change (political or otherwise), but it only takes one individual to initiate that change that creates a domino effect in others, whether that be intentional personal propaganda or unintentional propaganda, and while I have hope in the future of humanity, I believe that it will take a great deal for people in the United States to realize this simple fact.  There are many throughout the world that have already realized this.  The women of Liberia give me hope.

Johnson et al’ Naming our reality recalls the torture and murder of a young transgendered woman outside and a few feet away from an upper Manhattan police station that made the rounds of Facebook and Tumblr.  This article was written in 2007, and the murder occurred in 2013.  Activism has improved awareness of these issues, and affected populations have banded together to realize that they are stronger as collectives than as individuals and that everything is connected, “where life histories and social positions – including gender, race, sexuality, age and culture – are taken into account,” making participatory action research more powerful and effective by drawing upon liberation, black, and feminist psychologies. Still, there is much to be done when the so call safety officers of a city ignore the safety of a person whom they do not consider as a human being.

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(And so the saga continues as I wrassle with determining what a proper hypothesis.  The below is an indication of how far I have come and ow far I need to go.  But I am getting closer.) 

  1. Original Hypothesis:  Individuals and small groups are influenced by intentional sexist propaganda embedded in media texts that influence unintentional propaganda in conversational language.
  2. Alternative Hypothesis 1:  Implicit language in media texts will influence the behavior of individuals and small groups.
  3. Alternative Hypothesis 2:  Unintentional propaganda that occurs between individuals and in small groups is influenced by the language of sexism within everyday conversation embedded within media texts. Read the rest of this entry »

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(Work with me here.  I am formulating ideas for a thesis on unintentional propaganda and this is part of an assignment so it may not be immediately understandable.  Big things, good things, are coming.)

Hypothesis:  Individuals of multiple ages, social classes and genders within a specific ethnic group internalize general frameworks (“interpretive schemata” or “logics of action”) from the culture in which they are embedded and socialized.

Based upon social value framing theory and recent literature on schematic, internal cultural frameworks by Stolte and Fender, subjects emotionally identify with a person whose thoughts, feelings, and actions fit a particular frame than with a person whose thoughts, feelings, and actions fit an alternative frame.

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Introduction.  The authors immediately introduce the research question:  “How and why does a given social value come to shape the way a person thinks, feels, and acts in a specific social situation.” (p 59). The researchers reason, “an individual internalizes general frameworks from the culture in which she/he is embedded and socialized,” building upon the studies of Goffman and DiMaggio. (p. 60).  The researchers hope to answer three questions, “How do values get situationally framed as a person navigates the boundaries of the variegated settings composing the complex cultural mosaic? How, why, and with what personal and social consequences are values situationally framed and reframed as a person traverses social boundaries defined by a myriad of sometimes problematic qualities, including race, class, religion, and so forth? Under what conditions will a person manage well or poorly the inevitable conflicts likely to arise?” (p. 60).

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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is spot on once again

 

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(For those that see the similarity to the previous Propaganda and Goffman’s Face to Face Interactions, this is the same paper with a major overhaul of the introduction and a minor rewrite of the body with one concept deleted due to confusion. I am taking this paper to a few conferences this year to wow the intellectuals. There will be additional updates to this paper as it is the subject of my thesis)

Propaganda is everywhere.  It permeates and smothers every aspect of our individual lives, and most of us don’t seem to notice what we see when our friends wearing logoed shirts, hats, and clothing, talk with us about favorite musical artists, technological devices, and even what they ate for lunch from the fast food restaurant around the corner.  We engage in propaganda in small groups subconsciously and unintentionally. Propaganda existed in the United States before its introduction as a word during World War I, and it existed long before its creation by the Catholic Church in the seventeenth century to propagate their faith and to counter the negative effects of Protestant Reformation propaganda.  Public relations, promotions, publicity, advertising, marketing, and other words are all derivative synonyms for propaganda.  Samuel Adams, P.T. Barnum, and Harry Houdini were all propagandists. Adams used propaganda to promote the independence of the colonies from the British Empire.  Barnum and Houdini used propaganda to promote their entertainments to the American and international consumer public.

Edward Bernays, who is generally believed to have built the public relations industry into the behemoth it is today, introduced propaganda to the U.S. public as a word during World War I.  He introduced it in the posters promoting U.S. military efforts, in effect stating that the Germans were using propaganda against the people of the United States but that the U.S. was telling them the truth.  However, Bernays found it difficult to neutralize the term after the war.  “. . . Propaganda got to be such a bad word because of the Germans using it.  So what I did was to try and find some other words, so we found the word (sic), counsel on public relations.” (Kelsall & Curtis, 2002).  From its transformation into public relations, promotions, publicity, advertising, marketing, and other words, industries, and job titles were derived.  And we have even recently added Internet social commerce to this family of related activities.

But what is propaganda exactly? Intentional propaganda is propaganda as most people consider it.  It is “the systematic propagation of information or ideas by an interested party, esp. in a tendentious way in order to encourage or instil a particular attitude or response.” (Oxford English Dictionary CD-ROM Edition:  propaganda, 3.).  It is defined by external indicators, visible or audible, whether that is a symbol in the form of a logo, trademark, or a proper name associated with a particular entity immediately recognized by an individual or a group as a brand, product, service name, proper name, or idea that immediately reminds that individual or group of that entity, calling it to their mind, causing that individual or group to act upon it in some way.  It implies a preexisting relationship or knowledge by a signifier (the individual) of a signified (the symbol). That individual usually has a preexisting knowledge of what the symbol means, its understood shorthand symbology.

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What is institutional ethnography?  At a basic level, institutional ethnography is the study of the social organization of everyday life.  What it does not do is objectify the subjects or people into objectifications of the everyday world that one is studying.  The social ontology of institutional ethnography, its underlying fundamental, essential principle, is that the social is something that unites people’s activities.  As I see in the day to day everyday, people “do” things.  However, there is more to it than this basic definition.  There are key features that determine its scope and its facets.

Institutional ethnography’s emphasis is on research as a form of discovery rather than the testing of a hypothesis.  In sociology, the emphasis is on conducting studies, interviews, and research to support a preexistent hypothesis rather than exploring a problem from the bottom, from the people affected most and tracing it up a chain of command to the very institution or institutions “controlling” the subjects.  Institutional ethnography accomplishes this through the use of interviews “for the investigation of organizational and institutional processes.” (IEAP:  15) As a result, practitioners of institutional ethnography begin where they are and discover the institutional organizations of power that control people experiences.

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