Friday, March 18, 2005

Reflections on the Consumer Culture - where do we go?

Dear Colleagues,

Greetings Again!

Peter Thomas, responding to the article “Consumerism at Christmas” says,

“Forget Christmas, with Easter approaching our stores not only have eggs of every shape and size but encourage people to buy their 'loved' ones Easter gifts.” Consumerism gone mad!

A friend from Korea says that in Korea and Japan big business have created a counterpart to Valentine’s Day. It is called ‘White Day” and it falls on March 14. It seems on that day the young women buy gifts and chocolates for their boyfriends. Reverse expression of Love. Business is brisk.

News is out that in many colleges in the US an average college student may have as many as two to three credit cards and when he leaves college is already thousands of dollars in debt. What a way to start life.

This is indeed great news for credit card companies. Hooked forever. Buy now ‘die’ later.

A Culture of Death?

I am sure this is becoming a pattern in many more countries in our regions. The question is what’s to be done? Go with the flow? Blame somebody, everybody?

Whose responsibility is it to protect our Children and Youth from these unscrupulous business practices? Parents? Teachers?Church?Government? Youth themselves?

As members of the SIGNIS Family we have our work cut out for us. I would very much like us to share with each other responses to these challenges from the context of our own regions and local cultures. Most of the research data is coming out of the US and this is understandable as much research goes on there.

Do we have local data on this phenomena that we can share among ourselves. Seems to be a crisis of Globalization. Anyone doing research on this?

In our parts of the world in the Asia/Pacific Region we have Del of PAME (Philippines) Fr. Larry Hannan and Agatha of Fiji Media Watch (Fiji), Fr. Ambrose Periera (Solomon Islands), Santhosh of Mediact and Magimay (India) and Lawrence John of Cahayasuara (Malaysia). There are also others who are doing excellent work in Media Education. These friends of ours have been developing unique approaches to Media Education suitable for local situations. It is possible that this group can contribute to the efforts of building a local information base on the issue of the Impact of Media Technology on Society. Such efforts have already started, for instance, in Brazil and Argentina.

Someone from India told me that we should ask the Youth themselves to do a research on themselves on how they see their life, liferstyles, and the impact and meaning of the technological environment they live in. The question is raised, “why should adults research us?” Aren’t they the ones who are buying and selling us all the time? Even the research they do on us is for their benefit. We want to tell our side!

There we go!


Another report for your reading and reflection!!!

Electronic world swallows up kids' time, study finds

By Marilyn Elias,
Thu Mar 10, 7:10 AM ET

The USA's children live in an increasingly heavy stew of media, spending about 6½ hours a day mostly watching TV, using computers and enjoying other electronic activities. And they are spending relatively little time reading or doing homework, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey reported Wednesday.

Kids watch about the same amount of TV - nearly four hours a day - as they did based on a Kaiser survey five years ago, but they're adding newer technology to the mix, such as downloading music and instant-messaging. When multi-tasking is factored in, children are exposed to 8½ hours of media a day, up about an hour from five years ago.

A record 68% have TVs in their rooms, and an increasing number own DVD and video-game players, according to the survey of 2,000 children in grades three through 12.

"We have changed our children's bedrooms into little media arcades," survey co-director Donald Roberts of Stanford University says. "When I was a child, 'Go to your room' was punishment. Now it's 'Go to your room and have a ball.' "

Children with TVs in their rooms watch about 90 minutes more a day and do less reading and homework than those without their own TVs. About half say their families have no TV rules; if there are limits, they're usually not enforced.

"It's alarming, because parents ... should be setting clear rules and monitoring media use," says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a self-described conservative public policy group.

The survey results come amid concern about the soaring rate of childhood obesity. The more kids watch TV, the more likely they are to be heavy, other studies have shown.

Glorified violence on TV is another concern, Roberts says. And new research suggests that violent video games might be even more likely than TV to spur aggression.

But even more serious could be changes in still-developing brains from the constant multi-tasking, says psychologist Jane Healy, author of Endangered Minds. "When you divide attention like this, it becomes harder to focus deeply on any one thing. They may develop habits of mind that make it hard to do in-depth thinking."

The survey underestimates multi-tasking because kids typically have four screens open on a computer, adds Sherry Turkle, an MIT expert on how technology affects people.

But media psychologist Stuart Fischoff of California State University-Los Angeles says all this concern is "premature hysteria." He says he has seen no changes in students' critical thinking during 38 years as a professor, "and TV and the Internet have been around long enough that it would show up by now."

Going Beyond...and

Dear all,

Wednesday night I rediscover the meaning of “going beyond”. This time, is really way…beyond any other experience in my three-decade life, and probably far beyond the safe line.

In short, I walked in the dark, holding a 13-year-old rebel-soldier’s hand, trusting my life in his hand...

The details should be told later when I get back in my safe Jakarta home. But one thing I can share: the meeting gave me new meaning of Friday's walk to the Calvary. Fighting and ready to die for what you believe now have new meaning. The news and politics now have faces. And their faces were so beautifully human....


Thursday, March 17, 2005

What Jesus Wouldn't Do

What Jesus Wouldn't Do

By Jim Wallis,
AlterNetPosted on March 9, 2005, Printed on March 16, 2005

Editor's Note:
The following is an edited excerpt from Jim Wallis' new book,
God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It (Harper San Francisco).


The politics of Jesus is a problem for the religious right.

In Matthew’s 25th chapter, Jesus speaks of the hungry, the homeless, the stranger, prisoners, and the sick and promises he will challenge all his followers on the judgment day with these words, “As you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.” James Forbes, the pastor of Riverside Church in New York City, concludes from that text that, “Nobody gets to heaven without a letter of reference from the poor!” How many of America’s most famous television preachers could produce the letter?

The hardest saying of Jesus and perhaps the most controversial in our post–Sept. 11 world must be: “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.” Let’s be honest: How many churches in the United States have heard sermons preached from either of these Jesus texts in the years since America was viciously attacked on that world-changing September morning in 2001? Shouldn’t we at least have a debate about what the words of Jesus mean in the new world of terrorist threats and pre-emptive wars?


The religious right’s grip on public debates about values has been driven in part by a media that continues to give airtime to the loudest religious voices, rather than the most representative, leaving millions of Christians and other people of faith without a say in the values debate. But this is starting to change as progressive and prophetic faith voices are speaking out with a confidence and moral urgency not seen for 25 years. Mobilized by human suffering in many places, groups motivated by religious social conscience (including many evangelicals not defined by the religious right) have hit a new stride in efforts to combat poverty, destructive wars, human rights violations, pandemics like HIV/AIDS, and genocide in places like Sudan.

See full article at:

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Why we find it so difficult to use new technology?

Several emai;s later and much urging from Nat, the motto since last week was Get BLOGGING...but all his emails didnt seem to work. Maybe his instructions are lousy?

Now, as I type this blog...on my left is a person terrorising me to ensure that I blog. ...and do so correctly. This not an experience you will I suggest you get blogging before you too are traumatised by Sec Gen of ACN !!!!!!

Nat has given some procedural instructions, do give it a try and its not as bad as it sounds.
With Nat here registration was easy...I guess it was just my mental block.

So look forward to this new world of BLOG...please talk to me.
Good luck and bye for now.

Meanings and Values of Our World

A nice visual commentary on our world...what it really communicates to some of us.
Are these the values we and our children are picking up?

This is a peace poster by Ramirez. Please check the ANTI-WAR.US Website (from the site):
"It is dedicated to the free distribution of anti-war graphic material. As creative individuals trained in methods of mass communication, we can make a real difference by providing clear anti-war messages."

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Hello from Eljay

Hi Guys!
I just got back from a Media Camp for teens over the weekend (11th March05).....boy its getting more and more difficult to engage with them. However it is challenging and encourging us to always keep changing our approaches!

Kids are always with their Handphones. Interestingly they seem to be messaging to each other within the class while the session was in progress, conmenting on the session and formators. We had our eyes (actually our friendly spies) on their screens!

By the way i know i promised the Media Education structure.....soon...well its coming.


Mass Media’s Mythic World: At Odds with Christian Values

Interesting article below. The introduction seem to challenge Joe and Jose.

For the full article, click on the link:
(Cultural base: US)

Mass Media’s Mythic World: At Odds with Christian Values
by William F. Fore

Few tasks are more important for the church today than that of shaping a theology of communication; that is, reflecting on the relation of Christian beliefs to the process which mediates contemporary life and thought. We have failed to examine our religious heritage and our sense of the holy in a systematic way, and to relate them to our lives in a complex social environment. In order to do this we need first to look at the nature of society.


The Central Myths

We are dealing with a complex society, and it would be impossible to detail all the images and symbols that go into creating its commonality. However, there are a few central myths and values from which most of the images and symbols spring.

1. The fittest survive.
According to sociologist Marie Augusta Neal, the major myth of our Western culture is the social-Darwinian theory initiated by Herbert Spencer -- the concept that between ethnic groups there exist genetic differences large enough to justify programming for unequal natural capacities for responsible decision-making, specifically in the interests of the group one represents. Sister Marie points out that social Darwinism dominates our policy-making regarding education, jobs, geographical residential allotments, provision for recreation, health services and the uses of human beings to carry on wars.
It is no accident that in Gerbner’s TV-violence profile, lower-class and nonwhite characters are especially victimization-prone, are more violent than their middle-class counterparts, and pay a higher price for engaging in violence.8 As our myth suggests, the fittest survive, and the fittest in our mass-media world are not lower-class, nonwhite Americans.

2. Power and decision-making start at the center and move out.
The political word comes from Washington; the financial word comes from New York. While watching television, one has the sense of being at the edge of a giant network where a single person at the center pushes the right button and instantaneously millions of us “out there” see what has been decided.
Of course, there are alternatives to the myth of power moving from the center to the edges. Our own Declaration of Independence proposed that government derives its power from the consent of the governed -- in other words, that the flow of power should be from the periphery to the center. But the opposite model was much more supportive of the needs of the industrial revolution and the rise of a major nation-state, and today it is clearly essential to the maintenance of both a centralized governmental bureaucracy and a capitalist economy.
In our society, people at the center make decisions about what the others need and what they get. Mass production means standardization: whether people want it or not, the items on the shelves of our supermarkets become more and more the same, while mass advertising convinces us that we are getting more and more diversity. The idea that people in the power center should plan for others extends from corporate home offices to national church bureaucracies to the social welfare agencies. The result is that corporate business leaders wonder why they are so low in the credibility polls, church leaders wonder why they are losing their jobs and their budgets, and social workers wonder why the poor don’t appreciate the plans that have been worked out for them.

3. Happiness consists of limitless material acquisition.
This myth has several corollaries. One is that consumption is inherently good -- a concept driven home effectively by the advertising industry. Another is that property, wealth and power are more important than people. We need only consider the vast following for Ronald Reagan’s proposition that the Panama Canal is ours because we bought and paid for it to see how far this myth has made its way into our consciousness. We did, after all, pay for the Canal Zone. The fact that our control of the canal today results in depriving people of Panama of their human rights is regrettable, but a deal is a deal. Or recall the city riots in the late ‘60s. It was when looters started into the stores that the police started to kill. Both human life and property may be sacred, but in our mythology property rights are just a little more sacred.

4. Progress is an inherent good.
At one level this myth is symbolized by the words “new and improved” attached periodically to every old product. But the myth goes much deeper than that. Lewis Mumford believes that the “premise underlying this whole age, its capitalist as well as its socialist development, has been ‘the doctrine of Progress.’ ” Progress, he writes, “was a tractor that laid its own roadbed and left no permanent imprint of its own tracks, nor did it move toward an imaginable and humanly desirable destination.” Rather, “the going is the goal” -- not because there is any inherent beauty or usefulness in going, but because to stop going, to stop wasting, to stop consuming more and more, to say at any given moment that “enough is enough” would spell immediate doom.9

5. There exists a free-flow of information.
Of course the whole import of this analysis is that instead of a genuine free-flow there is consistent, pervasive and effective propaganda and censorship. Such a view is resisted most of all by the men and women who spend their careers reporting the news. But they are the very ones least able to judge the matter, for they were selected and trained by the system so that they could be depended upon to operate within its assumptions and myths.
This is not to condemn newsmen and newswomen any more than others of us who function uncritically within the system year in and year out. When Walter Cronkite says, “And that’s the way it is,” he is summing, up mostly the information our society wants and needs to hear that particular day.

Consider the flap when Roger Mudd, on the campaign trail with Ronald Reagan, filed a story on how the telenews for all three networks had covered Reagan that day. Reagan had said nothing new or newsworthy, and he had indeed talked before a total of only about 2,000 people at shopping centers. But that morning he appeared before the network cameras so each could have something to send back as the day’s “news.” Mudd’s story about the manufacture of news was killed by Cronkite, because it reflected negatively on the profession. But when Cronkite’s rejection itself began to be circulated around the nation’s pressrooms, CBS decided to run the Mudd story on the morning news; only a small fraction of viewers saw it, but CBS averted revelation of censorship which could have been even more harmful to its “free-flow” image than the original story.

Full Article at:

Monday, March 14, 2005

Hello From Augy

I am the new blogger in town.
Stand by for regular reflections and comments on Media Education.


Church Gunman Said Upset Over Sermon

From: Fidel
Jose and Conrad's zeal to put Social Communications as a main course inthe seminary is admirable. I am encouraged. Aside from their advice, Ithink I might just use this clipping to convince our priests-to-be totake seriously the work of honing their homiletic skills.

Church Gunman Said Upset Over Sermon
Associated Press Writers

BROOKFIELD, Wis. - The man who fatally shot seven people during a quietchurch service before turning the gun on himself was on the verge oflosing his job and upset over a sermon he heard two weeks ago, TerryRatzmann, 44, left no suicide note and gave no explanation for thekillings during Saturday's weekly meeting at a suburban Milwaukeehotel. It was unclear what specifically upset him, but Ratzmann was amember of the Living Church of God, a denomination whose leaderrecently prophesied that end times are near........For the complete article, check out...

From: Fidel

Media for People (WSF, Bombay 2004)

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Harvesting Signals: Astro, Malaysia

Who Owns the Media ? (Book Review)

From: Sashi

Who Owns the Media ?
Global trends and local resistances

-Edited by Pradip N. Thomas and Zaharom Nain
Published by Southbound Penang; Zed Books (London & New York) & WACC (London)
Copyright, World Association for Christian Communication, 2004
See for details on the book
We suspect we know the answer to that question even as we launch into this collection of essays. But the collusive, battening, disembodied and overarching nature of that ownership is frightening in its different manifestations across the world. The tone is set by media scholar Robert McChesney as he takes on the self- righteousness with which the free market appropriates the media: “In the corporate view, their privileges were won by seemingly immaculate conception, and should be regarded as natural and inviolable thereafter”.

The frenzied phase of acquisitions and mergers through the first half of 2000 already set up a new ownership pyramid (forget the inverted pyramid journalism goes by) with nine transnational corporations controlling every thing we see, hear and read in the represented world. Technological convergence has dovetailed into vertical integration in the industry and corporate consolidation has spawned giantism on an unprecedented scale, so much so that, as Peter Chernin, President of Newscorp, points out, “ There are great arguments about whether content is king or distribution is king. At the end of the day scale is king”.

The global institutions created to ensure equitable and democratic media have, where they do not subserve the grand privatization agenda, been elbowed out of the way. Sean O’ Siochru, takes stock of the ascendance of the trade paradigm and the sidelining of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and UNESCO, much of their role now being handled by the WTO. The worldwide web has remained outside the purview of the UN system, with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the body that assigns names and numbers for the Internet IP address and Domain Name System, literally operating under the US Department of Commerce.

Cees J. Hamelink looks at how the notion of intellectual property rights has been hijacked from its original public interest context to become a restrictive trade practice so that “ a few mega-companies become the global gatekeepers of the world’s cultural heritage”. He urges a return to first principles, reminding us that Intellectual Property Rights are construed as human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and commends the example of Larry Lessig who argues that a ‘copy right’ must entail a ‘copy duty’ to make the right holder accessible to the public.

In Eastern and Central Europe, as Slavko Splichal points out, a new nexus between the State and the corporate sector has proved lethal for independent media. But it is a heady, win-win mix for both partners - more political power for the state and more profit for the firm. Berlusconi’s State-cum-media power pack in Italy typifies this new brand of “political capitalism”.

For the the Caribbean, globalisation in the media meant a stronger dose of Americanisation. Dealing with this experience, Hopeton Dunn notes that even by the mid eighties the region had been inundated by US-led TNCs who had already set up as many as 1723 branches there. But this acute neo-colonial thrust has had its recoil in distinctive cultural assertions which, in turn, reach out to the world; like Reggae music with its indigenous Rastafarian inspiration, or the peculiarly Caribbean assimilation of cricket which, as C.L.R James contextualises it, moves “Beyond a Boundary” into society and politics.

The situation gets murkier as we move on to Africa where regulation and, often, censorship are posed as developmental imperatives and where the local media has not yet been subverted or supplanted on a large scale by foreign investment. William Heuva , Keyan Tomaselli and Ruth Teer- Tomaselli analyse the classic ‘trilemma’ faced by countries in southern Africa: accelerating service delivery by attracting foreign investment versus moving towards universal service with little economic returns versus retaining a measure of national sovereignty.

Looking at the rest of Africa, Francis Nyamnjoh finds both overt state control and an undercurrent of resistance. He cites the reputation of Radio Trottoir as “ the poor man’s bomb” and “weapon of the powerless” across a swathe of African states. Again, the internet, with the multiplier effect of the tam tam at the village level, has proved an effective tool of resistance in much of the continent. “Ordinary Africans”, says Nyamnjoh conclusively, “have refused to celebrate victimhood.”

The media mayhem in Latin America is vividly captured by Ana Fiol. Out there in the backyard of the US, the media are enmeshed in the prop-up-and-destruct game the US administration plays with the local political leadership, even as they carve out large domestic and export markets for their cultural products. That the region is fertile ground for media is evident from the second-ranking global firms that have emerged from here: Televisa from Mexico, the Globo group from Brazil, Venevision Cisneros group from Venezuela, and the Clarin group from Argentina. For all that, and there lies the dig, the media capital of Latin America continues to be Miami in Florida.

Among the other significant area studies in the collection is one by Yuezhi Zhao who describes how the state-subsidised and party-controlled media in China
are neatly reinventing themselves as advertisement-based, market driven enterprises. Zaharom Nain and Wang Kim recount the travails faced by the Malaysian media under Mahatir Mohammed and the relative tolerance of the current administration.

Pradip Thomas, who coedits the compilation, has a rather superficial and inadequate piece on the Indian media scene, but redeems himself with another researched and informative input on the innovative ways in which privatization is pursued, including debt-equity swaps that have meant sale of local assets for a song.

Standing on par with McChesney at the head of this body of work is Dan Schiller, who raises the implication of the glut that follows the hype of digital capitalism. Overall it is a fascinating, if at times slightly bumpy, tour de horizon from which we can draw a poor sense of comfort- that we are not alone in this crisis of our media.

– Sashi Kumar