Sunday, May 13, 2012

What have we done to uncertainty, ambiguity, and balance of opposing interests?

"Kick the stool out from under the kid!"
That was my wife's response when told of the most recent cover of Time magazine.
On the front cover, is a mother, standing, with a three-year-old MALE child, breastfeeding, while, himself, standing on a stool to compensate for the height difference.
The title of the cover story is, "Are you Mom enough?" as if the cover will provoke a public discussion of the appropriate role(s) of mothers, on mother's day.
Talk about a cheap marketing ploy to sell magazines!
Time was once a revered, mature, and the antithesis of "slick," magazine, both in its content and in its presentation. Obviously, sales are slumping, market share eroding and some editor somewhere has talked the graphic artist into a "explosive" cover design.
For me, the problem with the cover, while agreeing with my wife and refusing to support the co-dependence between the cover mom and her son, is that there is a gross over-statement as if only through exaggeration will the public respond.
Trouble with that editorial position is that:
  • it insults the reader/buyer/client/patron
  • it insults the "mother" in the picture
  • it reduces the son to a robot of immature proportions
  • it comes from a desparate editorial/marketing/journalistic position
  • it represents the triumph of manicheanism in American public discourse.
There are only two positions on any public issue, and each position must be captured in something like a five-second sound byte.
Either you are for breast-feeding three-year-old children on not.
Either you are for gay marriage or not.
Either you are for the war in Afghanistan or not.
Either you are for the $300 million cut to the training mission of Iraqi police by U.S. trainers, or not.
Either you are for tax hikes for the rich or not.
Either you are for stimulus spending, in recessions, or you are not.
Either you are  for austerity measures as the solution to debt and deficit crisis, or not.
Either you are for the woman's right to choose to access therapeutic abortions or not.
Either you are for closing the loopholes in the tax code or not.

And the list could continue indefinitely.
And then, there was a "Lord" something or other, as a guest on GPS with Fareed Zakaria, who bluntly states, "I think this talk about austerity versus spending in Europe is silly. Both are needed."
And he was followed by the retiring Chair of the World Bank, Robert Zoelleck, who championed a multiple layered approach to reducing poverty in the developing countries, and who proudly declared his capacity to work across the aisle, (working with both Democrats and Republicans) during his term of office. He is, himself, a registered Republican.
And then, surprise, given all the talk this week of the abandonment of the Wall Street executives from supporting President Obama in this election, the CEO of BlackRock capital, declaring publicly his support for the president in the upcoming election, and couching that support in terms of the disaster he faced when he came into office, and that it took many years to come to that sink hole, and it will take more than four years to get out.
And, we can see that there are real people, outside the beltway of Washington, who think and conceptualize in nuances of colour, multiple grey's, for example, on many issues.
And we wonder what has happened to the American capacity for ambiguity and nuance, in the general public, and in the propaganda industry especially surrounding the political campaigns of various candidates, and thereby in the media who echo the cacophony of divisiveness, calling that divisiveness "conflict" for the purpose of selling/marketing/ their wares, in the long-term hope of pandering to their investors, and of keeping their jobs.
What happened to the longer-term perspective that does not depend on "last-night's game score" as to whether some institution is worth investing in, some president has done a good job, on balance, whether some issue is truly evolving, or whether some individual is permitted to be "uncertain" and undecided and unclear about what he or she thinks.
What have we done to uncertainty, ambiguity, and indecision in a world gone wild with the instant demand for instant answers, to monumental issues and problems, whose sources, and whose roots and whose implications have plagued the country, and perhaps even the world for centuries?

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