public impotence yet aroused by tragedy porn

Things I have learned this week through simply a cursory read of my Facebook feed and pre-chewed news sites.:

  • Israel is invading Gaza, once again
  • the Ukraine has weapons, one strong enough that is took down a commercial airplane
  • on that plane were key researchers trying to solve the riddle of HIV/AIDS
  • Tracy Morgan is suing Walmart for the car accident that killed his friends
  • thousands of children have been arriving at the US/Mexico boarder and turning themselves into ICE agents
  • these thousands of children come from countries in Central America that are plagued by violence
  • some Americans are extremely xenophobic and racist towards brown people, in this case immigrants
  • there are corrupt politicians in the MA state government

Here is what I have not learned:

WHAT THE HELL WE ARE GOING TO DO ABOUT ANY OF THESE THINGS!

To me this demonstrates how anachronistic our view has become. By our, I mean people living in the United States with a little more than a high school education. What I seek to understand about our view is how it operates through the forms of actions we take. We as a public engage in a dialogue about the world around us, and that dialogue is synthesized into our media. Or perhaps it is the other way around, our media frames and disseminates our talking points. And I think many people would like it to be the second case, where they are somehow subjugated by a stronger and all-knowing power that wields power over our psyche. But even in the face of that, individual and community efforts have found ways of manipulating this dynamic and forcing the media to shift its gaze. Yet it is in this legacy that still mold our modus operandi. We believe that if we announce to the world the events of some great truth, that we are also in that way acting.

This notion, that spreading information is a step towards change is a firmly held folk tale. We oft repeat canonical beliefs: if people knew – then change will come, knowledge is power, we must reveal the truth. During the Civil Rights Movement in the US in the 1950s, a main strategy was to use the media as a tool that would reveal to the American public the injustices Black people were oppressed by and appeal to a sense of morality, or at least peer pressure, to force white America to demand change. It was one of many effective tools to generate social change. But the same strategy is completely implausible in todays climate. People today are inundated with information. And the information that captures our attention the longest is tragedy and corruption. We love nothing more than to be able to feel a sense of pity, outrage, anger, or guilt. Here are some news stories that enraptured most yet in the end brought us right back to our own impotence in the face of making real change:

  1. Hundreds of school girls were kidnapped in Nigeria by a group we had never heard of before – #BringBackOurGirls, next people also discuss the exploitation of young girls that still occurs “in our own backyard”. – Our response: Our hearts go out to them…
  2. The National Security Agency has unlimited powers to collect information on all forms of communication. – Our response: It is the end of privacy as we know it…
  3. A man killed a young Black boy for no reason other than hatred based on race. –  Our response: We must have a national conversation about race and racism and improve the realities for young Black men.
  4. Twenty years ago the big cause was “A Free Tibet”. Concerts were held, celebrities interviewed, money was raised, stickers were attached to cars, China was scolded for their treatment of Tibet, the Dalai Lama was invited to every audience possible. And now, unless I am mistaken, Tibet is still under the direct rule of China. NOTHING CHANGED.

The kind of information we digest now is simply empty calories. We love the taste of outrage, we feel a quick high of morality, and then we just shit it all out. Nothing stays to build up our muscles of social action, our memories aren’t enhanced to make connections between our own choices and the effects on the world, no organ is enriched or engorged. We take it in, and shit it out. So it must simply be a form of pleasure, something we actually enjoy – the enrapture of tragedy porn even when faced with our own impotence.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. A Rose B says:

    simply knowing there is a kindred mind like yours, out there reading my writing, makes it all worthwhile. thank you so much for your support.

  2. jusRhae says:

    i feel as though i should kneel to you and these words.

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