NOTE: This was a long-winded :)> recommendation made to the Youth for Social Justice Network in 1997. One still hears rumours, by the way, of small groups of youth working away. One of the groups I heard about found it difficult to network because none of the members was old enough to have a driver's licence.
On the last night of the Youth for Social Justice Nova Scotia camp I suggested, in order to keep the evening program rolling, having musicians appear before and in-between the initial short presentations. But this seemed to be a problem for some youth, one of whom yelled "filler!" in protest after she was paged to perform.
I think one of the biggest problems of people who deem themselves leaders, teachers and facilitators is population control. How do you ensure the unwashed masses behave the way you think is proper and effective ? How do you ensure that "they" reach the same conclusions as you ? How do you stop your inferiors - in such categories as age, wealth, gender, race, education, clothing, physical appearance - from talking back, from deciding you are wrong when you know you are right ? How do you prevent the uneducated, uninformed and unintelligent from deciding on a course of action which may be harmful to themselves ?
To paraphrase Clyde Wells, former leader of the governing Liberal party of Newfoundland/Labrador: I will not tolerate civil disobedience.
But how do you prevent the people from disobeying your orders - orders which, after all, are in their own best interest - orders which emmanate from your own experience and intelligence as an educated corporate lawyer - orders which are "proper and appropriate."
Well, the first solution would be simply to disappear all opposition, actual and potential. One merely chooses the method one is able to get away with. Guns have proven to be extremely effective. Set up or take over a police force or army or even a gang of thugs - send them after your opponents, usually while they are asleep. Kill your opponents.
In some environments, this methodology has to be modified to utilize the judicial system. Here, you arrest your opponents and then kill them or break them through torturing in jail.
Imprisonment can be seen as a rudimentary form of resettlement. (Resettlement/relocation is complicated because it is often used for other purposes, such as expropriating property and wealth, or moving populations around to achieve other aims, such as centralized industrialization or cheaper delivery of government services, i.e., education, sewage.) The Nazis obviously had other aims in mind when they resettled the Jews, Gays and Gypsies to concentration camps.
In contemporary "democracies", resettlement can be implemented by reducing government spending and implementing mass layoffs to force the population to separate and relocate. In the government controlled institution of Newfoundland/Labrador, Wells rid Memorial University of its Extension Service (associated with civil disobedience) by installing a party hack as president and reducing government spending.
Other terms for resettlement/relocation are banishment and exile.
Another choice for leaders/teachers/facilitators who find it necessary to get rid of opposition is division. Divide and conquer, as the saying goes. The European colonial method is to create a ruling class among the conquered. In modern Newfoundland, for example, according to an incomprehensible formula, the fishery package is offered to some members of the community but not to others - divide and conquer. As long as the people can be kept fighting among themselves, they will never get it together to question authority.
The third and most common "democratic" solution to preventing opposition is silencing. Leaders can set themselves up as the source of knowledge and intelligence while denying validity to the local knowledge and opinions of the people. The hierarchial structure of all our societal structures necessitates large groups of people without self esteem and unable to develop their own solutions and question authority. Overt methods of silencing in modern democracies include restricting control of the media to the rich and powerful as well as diverting the dispersement of government revenues. For example, when the Mulroney government of Canada was faced with opposition from women's and indigeneous groups it responded by cutting out operational funding being utilized for communication efforts - instead the funding was changed to projects which could more easily be controlled.
However, the most effective means of silencing is simply mind control through the educational system and the media. People are taught to feel powerless and diverted from even thinking about the reality of their controlled lives.
Which brings us back to: "FILLER!" Instead of seeing our lives - and minds - as one organic whole or unity, we are educated - trained - to divide up our lives into boxes of time. Similarly, we are trained to think in packages - classrooms, churches, television- of- the- night before, newspaper front pages, sports and entertainment. Rarely would we think of our culture as being inseparably linked with the issues we face.
Filler is a newspaper term referring to copy of lesser importance placed between essential items. But when the girl at the camp yelled "Filler!", she was not really suggesting that her performance was less than the presentations. What she was saying was that she didn't want her performance associated with the boring stuff but rather with the fun - the variety show.
I don't think mind control is as important in the most blatant forms of propoganda - support the American war against Iraq, eat McDonald's food, remain part of the educational system - but rather in how the parameters are formed on what one actually thinks about, plus the very way in which we compartmentalize and process information. Also, we are programmed with a ready-made reality which informs us what is possible and what is not - obviously having great influence upon our decision-making apparatus.
It's very much like the new computer "games" of virtual reality. We - all of us - are sent out to wander about with our world - our reality - inside the cardboard box which completely surrounds our heads and rests on our shoulders. Inside the box is what we think about, how we think and the decision-making/what's possible parameters. What's in the box is influenced to some degree by our parents and our own tendencies but mainly by the educational system and the media system.
This is not a conspiracy theory. I don't think that there are a few people in a board room somewhere running the entire world, Rather, the world would seem to be running according to a interdependent system which mutually benefits corporations, religions, governments/departments, educational institutions and the media.
The point is that the system and interdependent hierarchial subsystems all benefit from sustaining a docile, easily-controlled population. Using violence - murder and imprisonment - to control the population is not very efficient. It makes much more sense to program minds which want to be part of the docile, easily-controlled population. Entertain us, pleasure us - and it does - some of us. (Sorry for all the asides. One argument to what's being presented here is "so what? - we're doing great. Best entertainment ever, lots of toys, we eat well, we're healthy and warm." This is a Fortress Europe and Fortress America bourgeosie attitude. For example, the VCRs and TVs we all enjoy are made possible by the "slave" labor of Asian women who work under conditions so atrocious they are "retired" in their 20s with ruined eyesight, lungs and backs. We are not all doing well. This coin has two sides.)
The media system - especially its public relations subsystem - is a crucial component of control. (Ponder for a moment the result of Mulroney's multi-million dollar public relations/advertising campaign to convince the people, used to more than 40 years of deficit financing, that the national debt was a horrible calamity which had to attacked by slashing social programs.This coincided with the victory of big business in the free trade election, a public relations/advertising campaign that cost the Mulroney government about $26 million and about $6 million by the Business Council on National Issues. The council has, since 1986, recommended government cut spending on such social programs as family benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, old-age pensions, health-care and university funding. Little public information is given about this "most powerful interest group in the country" but its members include such media giants as Southam Inc. and companies controlled by Thomson.) It would seem fair to say that the mainstream media does not challenge people to question or act against the assumptions or policies of the system.
What does the media do? Well, it gives pleasure - or, at least, it mesmerizes, lulls to sleep, provokes laughter, distracts the individual from problems faced in everyday life. It provides mountains of information irrelevant to one's life. It gives people ready-made conversations. It shows people what to buy. It provides cultural norms based, for the most part, on consumption of material goods. It turns us all into the most advantaged spectators of all time. It makes us dissatisfied with our own lives. It separates us, as individual spectators in a mono-culture. and makes us afraid of other human beings whom we perceive as different from us.
Way back in 1989, there were three previously stated goals of the camp video component: 1. Help train "reporteros populares" to promote and access community television. 2. Shoot and eventually edit a videotape report. 3. Contribute to the news report challenge: a popular theatre - media literacy - community video exercise.
In the first place, there was support for this activity because it was related to Memorial University's Extension Service's goal of promoting volunteer-controlled participatory television in Newfoundland communities. Secondly, the news report challenge was seen primarily as a popular theatre exercise or, at least, video was only seen as a contributing component.
Indeed, in the early days, there was a lot of emphasis on developing media literacy or awareness. This was, I believe, part of the YSJ workshops (there were workshops specifically upon the subject) from the beginning and some of the interest in video was how it could contribute to media literacy.
In the report on the 1989 Newfoundland camp, the objectives of the "Words and Pictures" workshop was "to encourage a critical approach to the languages and images of media, and to examine the nature of media bias." During the workshop, participants examined media ownership; reporting on development issues; stereotyping of social and racial groups, and how advertising degrades women.
The popular theatre workshop "attempted to take the theme of the morning's session and to use various dramatic techniques to help participants to understand more clearly how the theme related to their reality." During the evening reports, audience participation and feedback were encouraged during performances on such real-life situations as discrimination, environment and sexism in the media.
"In the tradition of popular education, the songwriting workshop writes and performs songs using either familiar or traditional melodies which reflect on various themes covered in the morning workshops. Emphasis is on the potential of learning and using songs rather than musical ability." Songs were, of course, performed and taught during the evening sessions.
In 1990 it was suggested that the process of participatory communication develops awareness of the inadequacies of vertical, one-way media (debunking media mystique), as well as encouraging analysis and assessment of workshop themes.
Popular theatre and popular songwriting were integral communication tools from the beginning (photography was a skills component). In 1990 newsletter/photography was made part of the communication process. Finally, in 1991, community radio was introduced at the Newfoundland camp (I think Jen has suggested that it was the most participatory of all, perhaps because it was so accessible and not organized.)
Back to the question of why YSJ should do its own communications - first, I think it should be an alternative to the model of mainstream media which means there should be understood goals of active participation by all; media awareness and demystification, and a deliberate attempt to thwart the mindset that leads to a passive, easily controlled population.
1. The first priority is it has to be fun - which often has a lot to do with how one approaches the activity.
2. The last priority is skills development - which probably should be facilitated according to specific request.
3. The emphasis should be on universal participation in an alternative to mass communications.
4. YSJ communications should provide a vehicle for analysis, discussion and action planning.
5. There should be an explicit aim to strengthen local pride and culture.
6. The network should help and encourage participants to use a variety of communications tools to talk back and forth within the network. Accessibility is key.
7. Participants should use communications tools to inform the public about issues of concern to YSJ.
8. The network should endeavour to implement the communications needs, skills and resourcs assessment which can be viewed as a plebicite.
9. Workshops should be facilitated on analysis and demystification of the media. YSJ communications can be presented as an alternative to one way/top down "communication" to control/entertain spectators.
10. It should be a goal to democratize the YSJ network. There should be a plan to implement choices by the majority of participants.