a voice for the poor? excuse middle and media please! - We Op-Ed - A Community for Political News and Civilized Debate
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a voice for the poor? excuse middle and media please!

Most of what we see and hear on national and local media is produced, written, directed and spoken by "middle-class" people. To put it more succinctly, most of the people on and in the media business did not grow up poor and are not poor. There may be a number who grew up poor but are no longer poor; not simply due to income but no longer possess the values and charateristics of the poor. Therefore the coverage of poverty omits the perspective of the poor. The use of the term poor for the purpose of this Op-Ed, assumes admirable qualities and not an effort to romanticize.

People who fall below any categorization of "middle class" is what I mean by poor. So lets admit there are poor people. Also, there are tremendously more poor people in this country then one would wish to believe.

What is it that poor people bring to the table that "middle class" people could not? One thing could be a different vision, a different vocabulary, a diiferent understanding of what is familiar and comfortable. If poor people have an opinion what might it be? At the same time expecting poor people to represent a monolithic could not be an accurate expectation. Similiar to expecting the Chineese to be a monolithic, the Russians to be a monolithic, the "middle class" to be a monolithic. So admitably projecting a synthectic whole for individuals who happen to belong to an imposed catergory is a problem when ever anyone makes broad sweeping statments. We all must allow a degree of license to many attempts toward an understanding.

Regarding the "Middle Class," and all the sensibilities designated by this term [so well covered by literature and history as well as the social sciences], there is something very mundane and well expected from what is denoted as "middle class,"and not just middle class Americans. Many middle class people accept "facts" from "History," "Science," Technology" etc. The use of data, research and references to form a collective agreement of some kind appears to be a "must," for those who wish to be considered seriously. Without this data collection, everything else must be ridiculous.

Now from a Nietzschien perceptive [and yes I agree bringing up this philosopher connotes a very middle class attitude, many movies and forms of entertainment justifiably poke fun of bringing up Nietzsche], "Truths are nothing more than errors that have yet to be refuted. " This steadfast commitment to data, research, so called"truths" these people, as Dyland wrote, who have... " many contacts among the lumberjacks who get you facts when someone attacks your imagination." .." are living in folly to a great degree .."What fools these mortals be."

Toward an attempt to losen one's grip on the iron clad necessity to hold so-called "fact collecting" in such esteem, I will begin by discussing Nietzsche's description of human self-awareness or consciousness. Nietzsche describes the phenomena of human self-awareness or consciousness in his aphorism "On the Genius of the species." He explains that since humans were/are relatively weak in relation to the environment, the need to know what it is that distresses had to be understood in order that it could be remidied for continued survival. Also since humans are a herd or communal animal, the stress impinging upon mere survival required to be communicated at once to self and others. Consciouness or more acturately the awarness of self in relation to things that are other appears to be a necessary mechanism born out of being vulnerable. In this sense, consciousness is the weakest part of the human condition. If we were a being in isolation, human self-awareness would not even be necessary.

Most of our life functions as Nietzsche explained goes on without this "looking into a mirror" effect. Our major physiological functions operate with out us being aware, pancreatic, digestive, renal, blood flow etc. It is our social function out of a need to survive that requires this thing we call consciousness. In other words this function of communicating, this "making signs into words for social communication, is the smallest and weakess part of us, it is a herd instinct and much of it over time has become an excess and is squandered by man in various forms of art, writting, music, philosophy, history, mathematics, science, all of our human creations arise in this sense from an excess of consciousness and we our as a result squanderers by nature. An important note here: Nietzsche holds all these forms of human expression art, music etc., in very high esteem. As a humorous aside, Nietzsche wrote this aphorism toward the late 1800's- He mentions at one point that if you were among the most conscious Europeans you would know that it is even a disease. Today perhaps one might wish to replace European with "American."

Because consciousness arises out of a form of weakness inorder to address a weakness, it is a very vulnerable phenomena. Many ills arise out of this excess. All humanly denoted phenomena is in fact isolated by the naming process itself which is "human all too human." Again, all human phenomena is named and categorized out of some form of projection and anthropoporhism. This very concept just described is of course an imposition and a product of "making things human." I am right now squandering the excess of the survival mechanism, consciouness.

This discourse in relation to consciousness is essential toward understanding the "middle- class," because so much collective thinking ligitimized by some collectively agreed upon authorities form much of what is presented and perceived from the media.

Now is there a way back to the initial discussion of Middle Class media control? I think so, I think I can find a way. Let me essay; Discomfort itself left to some degree unattended [not a good thing] but a genuine occurence, is a way back to not only the initial topic here but also a way toward healing the human condition. Feelings dictate much of human behavior and from this writers' perspective, it is superior to analysis and denotation. Also, people who happen to be poor are obviously conscious and effected by this same human attribute;however, the poor have the best chance to be guided by emotion. Emotion is a stronger language when it comes to self-awareness.

These emotions ( feelings) that emerge are quite genuine and accurate responses that can become an important catalyst toward correction. However, many times these feeling become distorted and acted out in such a fashion that once these "dis-tructive" actions manifest [ due to lack of real options] the media projects only the narrow/slanted/biased view that only tends to perpetuate the casual factors and puts the onus on the individual or some "high-minded" social criticism that also falls into stero-typical catergories. Those who are poor are not considered worthy of a genuine view point, only one that is buffered or mediated by middle class norms, mores and sensibiliities that contibute to people becoming poor in the first place. It is important to be mindful that from a middle-class mindset, if the poor were able to become "middle-class," this would be a good and welcome thing, how could a middle class mentailty see it otherwise?

The poor for the most part have many of their concerns left unaddressed and unattended. [This here is in no way meant to romanticize or minimise human concerns] Yes, a degree of strength can arise out of this misfortune as in the oft quoted and poorly utilized Nietzsche quote, "That which does not kill me makes me stronger." The strength of a "must" [ the must of not giving into outrageous misfortune] that arises from unaddressed suffering is the result of having to deal with genuine suffering. Notice the term genuine, this is important.

Much suffering that humans experience is a form of unneccesary suffering arising out of distortion and avoidance. I believe Franz kafka put it aptly in his following quote: " You can hold yourself back from the suffering of the world, this is something you are free to do and is in accord with your nature; but perhaps precisely this is the only suffering you may be able to avoid." What is clear here is that one may only avoid the sufferning that arises from avoidance.

There appears to be a pervasive attempt toward distorting, reconfiguring, re-naming, obfuscating and misrepresenting forms of suffering presented from the media, the "middle Class" media. Suffering is not something the middle class is willing to do. They are discouraged on many levels from addressing not only suffering in other lives but in their very own. Even the silly use of the word "bummer" had been a social attempt at describing loss. When one is constantly receiving the message that you must be a "winner" and since winners do not lose and do not focus on loss, how could it be otherwise to expect the middle class to look at things, with out if you will, "rose colered glasses?"

To accept the commanality of all, that is, our frailties and vulnerabilities is a difficult thing to do. It is made more difficult by the widely accepted notion that there are differences, that there are statuses that make us different, that there is good, better, best and since this is in accord with an economic system that encourages these beliefs as a means to an end, what or how can things get better?

Here it is, the strength of the poor who have not been as inculcated as the buffer class, the middle class, need a voice, not simply for themselves but for all of us. This voice, obviously is not involved in or creating the "stuff" of the media. The media operates with a consistent, persistent, banal although sometimes fancied up quite a bit, middle class all too middle class existence, as this silly little essay I just wrote is. So quite frankly; nothing learned here. Good Night.

Views: 42

Comment by Gerry Storch on November 26, 2008 at 7:59pm
John, I found it hard to decipher your thoughts. The mass media, by definition, appeal to and are populated by the middle class since the middle class comprises the vast majority of the country. A poor person who joins the media, by definition, is no longer poor but middle class because he/she is making a middle class salary. I spent 30 years in the print media and encountered individuals from all walks of life.

To me, the more important question isn't what socioeconomic background a journalist is from but how competent and how fair that person is. There's a terrible problem with the press today of slanting the news hard left, and omission of news that isn't flattering to the left. I found in my working days that many times, journalists from a modest background were far more fair than those from the economic elite.
Comment by John on November 26, 2008 at 9:36pm
Gerry, I should have also included the coverage of people who are poor. The coverage of poverty is many times full of sentiment at worst and at best an appeal for those who are less fortunate. The kind of thought that brings this about, is endemic within the very structure that also brings about poverty to a large degree.

If most people did not see poverty as a completely un-desireable state and something to be avoided or to eschew at all cost the workings of an economic system such as capitalism would not have the very tools to continually move forward.

The term "avoided" is complicated because it is not only physically avoided as in working to avoid this, but it is also avoided in serious contemplation for most people. Not many spend much time seriously considering the myraid dynamics involved with this subject. And how could [we] as time is money is it not?

What I just put forth however is not easy to apprehend as it requires a move away from typical thinking; yet at the same time requires communicating in the same lanugage not just linquistically but also being on the same page in the abstract- in theory.

To the point concerning people working in the media: Of course many people who work in the myriad aspects of the media business came from meager means and I also gather a sense that many of these reporters are quite fair.

As to: difficult to decipher: again, an atypical stream of thought as in some philosophical works, such as Nietzsche's is understandably complex and not easy to apprehend. As you may know his and many other 19th and early 20th century writers and philosophers [ as well as many who went before] are easily misunderstood and without a more robust attempt toward an understanding of these and other unique somewhat genuine thinkers, their works are mis-catergorized or misused.

To be somewhat metaphorical:

Like an orange that requires squeezing for juice, modern man is somewhat squeezed from birth if you will, in order to produce the juice of language, economics, even thought and the "correct" way of doing and socializing.

On a lighter side- people from moment of awareness on, are constantly "bothered." Bothered by restrictions, conformity, reactions, images, as in a child bothering his father without necessarily intending this outcome- "Hey dad, did you see the neighbor's new car?" The father's reply, "What's wrong with our car?" The simpsoms" and many other TV shows and movies have played with this theme.

Also, for sake of discussion if one accepts Nietzsche's notion concerning "Consciouness" that it arose out of a need to become aware of what is distressing, no wonder the following is commonly heard; "I'm tired, I'm hungry," I'm cold," I'm hot,"
Etc, etc and etc.

Anyway, what I was basically attempting to put forth is that an enormous amount of distress in the lives of many humans can not be rectified or even sincerely approached unless there was not only a voice but an ear as well. The filter of the "Middle class" metophorically does not allow an avenue for hearing.

If a tree fell in the woods........................

Have a great holiday!
Comment by Katie on November 30, 2008 at 5:06pm
It strikes me that poverty was really not addressed at all this election cycle and that middle class was treated like a buzz word.

Perhaps local media is more in touch with the poor than national media, but the national media has had some flirtation with the issue of poverty or economic struggle in the past including Katrina coverage and to a much lesser extent Bowling for Columbine. It's of course not nearly enough. Also recently, the uptick in people needing help with food or clothing during the holiday season has made news. But you're right John, coverage of even the financial crisis has been limited to the middle class experience and those with 401(k)s.

I think part of the reason for this is simply what Gerry states: The media is made up of members of the middle class with similar educational backgrounds

Any excuses don't make up for the tilted coverage though. Much more diversity (in every category) is needed. Forget right or left though, I think the major media bias is toward what is easy.
Comment by Edwin Drood on January 23, 2009 at 9:32am
There is one inescapable truth, most poor people are poor because of bad life decisions. Our inter cities are not full of philosophers and degreed people. The average poor person did not take advantage of the 12+ years of free education offered, they did not take advantage of the freedom to leave the geographical area that may be contributing to there poverty. They did not take advantage of the free college that is available to all (yes all) poor people.

Most poor people are uneducated, unwed parents who have some sort of criminal record. Their decisions are the reason for their situation and in any other country they would be probably be dead. If you ever actually spent any time in a "poor" area then this would be obvious to you. (I imagine you don't go to poor areas for fear for your personal safety)

In my personal flight from poverty I had to work in a lumber yard while going to a cheap state college (1000 miles from my neighborhood). It took eight and a half years but it was worth it. What I didn't do was drop out of high school, get some girl pregnant, get arrested or expect one factory or union to support me for the rest of my life. In this nation, poverty is a decision or at least a result of several decisions.

The media cannot truthfully represent the majority of poor people because they have nothing to offer, that's why they're poor. Its a cruel truth but a truth non-the-less
Comment by JOHN on November 16, 2012 at 10:59am
May I say nature has not created Poverty. Poverty is not natural it is man made. Man made economy has created Poverty!

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