VICTORY FOR CIVIC ENGAGEMENT!!! Thanks to everyone who saw this petition on my site and acted. This news made my day!
VICTORY FOR CIVIC ENGAGEMENT!!! Thanks to everyone who saw this petition on my site and acted. This news made my day!
I am in almost numb disbelief at how far we have regressed as a nation relative to concepts of liberty and freedom without tyranny. For some period, especially over the past 6 years, I have thought that it was only an inevitable matter of time before many of the memes (e.g., image, axioms, and beliefs) which appear to have been influencing the uptick of killings and violent assault against US black citizens in general—black male youth in particular—would explode in a sounding-of-the-alarm on a National level.
Events surrounding the recent killing of Missouri teenager Michael Brown at the hands of an “unnamed” police officer has left many North Americans, like myself, in a state of cognitive dissonance. Twenty-first century life in the United States was not supposed to regress us back to the 1950s and 60s militarized police responses of pre-Civil Rights Act America. Please allow me to digress before returning to the aforementioned statement.
My doctoral dissertation research focuses on what happens to adult civic engagement levels over time as one becomes more educated. It also, raises the questions of context in relation to possible developmental changes in adults, as they look to negotiate their lives within the crucible of complex existential problems. I am of the position that Spiral Dynamic Theory can provide a meta-framework for understanding human challenges; but more so, it is memetic science operating on a micro level that has led me to write this blog post.
I want to begin with a basic definition of what exactly constitutes a meme, as there are a plethora of dissimilar notions (and controversy) surrounding this elemental unit of cultural transference. For example,
Anyone who has spent time on social media outlets is familiar with the image memes that get circulated online every day. Those types of memes make us laugh or sometimes draw us into reflection; but there also exists the more dangerous memes. Those memes operate in the realm of human cognition that can lead to a much distorted reality for some people. I am of the belief that these insidiously negative memes—depending upon whose interpretation prevails—can lead to the robbing of human dignity and the undermining of civil liberties. Case in point, below is an image I recently located on the Huffington Post website. The story was offering a series of images of President Obama and celebrating his style and “coolness” as a Dad (15 Dorky Dad Looks).
In the first image you have The President’s engaging smile but in the one below (obviously from the same film reel), he is not smiling. In the second photo we do not have that trademark “grand piano” smile of our President. Moreover, the Huffington Post—based upon this image—found the need to conduct a public poll to its readers. In the poll, the website solicits opinions about the president’s backward turned hat. Why? Why did they find the need to do this? I have an opinion that memes and memetic conceptualizations opened the door to this query.
I believe that perhaps, the latter picture conjured up memetic images in the minds of people that they found made them a little “uncomfortable” with this type of projection of President Obama. He was made to look like “one of them”. The unspoken “them” of the dangerous and possibly menacing black male that needs to be watch, policed, and in the case of Ferguson, Missouri—told to get the “F**K” out of the street by a police officer. That same police officer who may have been infected by an image meme was lead to basically hunt and ultimate neutralization (kill) the black male threat. Of course, this is all my personal conjecture (blogs allow you to do that) at this point, because the Police Department in the town of Ferguson, MO has circled the wagons around the officer. They have basically told the public to we don’t have to tell you a d**n thing and by the way get your a** off the street or we’ll shoot you too.
This led me to my image of RoboCop and the question of What Would RoboCop do (WWRD)? Designed to be a play on words of the popular cultural acronym What Would Jesus Do? Why not have RoboCop run our urban centers? As a matter of fact, why not have robots and drones policing our fair cities? After all, they are objective machines that don’t see color—unless we program them to do so. They are not affected by human bias—unless they use smart technology and overtime their algorithms help them to memetically “learn” who the threats are and decide to respond accordingly. Seems ridiculous, right?
Even if as wild of an approach as previously mentioned were taken up, it would be grossly flawed. Why? Because we still transfer our memetic bias and prejudices through cultural artifacts that direct how we act and shape our worldview. Therefore, WWRD is depend upon how it would be programmed. Unfortunately, a computer directed technology (i.e., RoboCop) devoid of cognition, could easily end up blasting a crowd of men, women, and children—who decide to participate in civic engagement protests—with a hail of deadly gunfire. Technology is not the solution for solving all of our human problems, it is limited in its capacity to do so as human emotions like empathy, fear, and shame are not part of a robot’s “being” or computer programming to the degree that it could actually mirror another complex human being. I do not imagine that ever occurring in my lifetime, primarily, because a robot does not possess a soul (which is certainly a topic for another blog post).
So where do we go from here as a nation? I believe that the memes directing racial and socioeconomic tensions in a neoclassical economic system have in the past been “hot potato” issues. Both the 21st century Executive and Judiciary branches of our government simply have not been able to come up with solutions. Administrative responses to date appear to be just to simply apply programmatic bandages to a bleeding national wound, that at the very least is making us all sick and at worst threaten to take back hard fought civil victories of the 20th century.
These recent racist outbreaks are not purely situated in racial politics, they are also issues of democracy, freedom, and human dignity requiring both a grass-roots and top-down leadership response. It is not a question of either/or answers requiring that there be winners and losers in the outcome. These disruptions are a function of—believe it or not—evolutionary changes where old paradigms are no longer sufficient or equipped to resolve contemporary problems. Hopefully, after all the tear gas settles and angry emotions subside, we can meet at a table of deliberative democracy and emerge from this crisis of culture a more loving and just nation.
Castaño Díaz, C. (2013). Defining and characterizing the concept of Internet Meme. Revista CES Psicologia, 6(2), 82-104.
Higgs, P. G. (2000). The Mimetic Transition: A Simulation Study of the Evolution of Learning by Imitation. Proceedings: Biological Sciences The Royal Society, 1450(1355), 1355-1361.
( Click the above link to view the video)
If you haven’t already become familiar with the FCC’s efforts to undermine “Net Neutrality”, then watch this video and get civically engagement in your own community. Do it in whatever way you can to positively exercise your agency as a global citizen.
Luke 24:5 King James Version (KJV) And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
My First Easter Sunday in Chile
In light of Resurrection Sunday on yesterday, and today feeling particularly reflective about life, my academic/career plans, and my relationship to Jesus of Nazareth. I thought about his messages offered to the world. Holidays have always been special times spent with my family, but since entering my Ph.D. program at the University of Georgia and now conducting my dissertation research in Chile, South American, I have learned to adjust to not being able to eat the wonderful family meals prepared by my mother or one of my sisters during holidays. I also miss out on the family fellowship times which can easily turn quite competitive if someone breaks out the games and we all form our teams looking to become the Scrabble, Monopoly, or Trivial Pursuit champions.
However, these memories did not lead to an existential crisis, on the contrary they led to more of an existential epiphany. Why does a person need to feel ostracized if they hold values and beliefs that are not common to me or visa versa? More specifically, when I study the life of Jesus, it is rarely depicted like you see in commercially produced movies or picture cards commonly seen during religious holidays. Jesus was very strong in his objections to religious leadership that held the less powerful to standards that they themselves did not regularly achieve. Yet at the same time Jesus produced a message that was both compassionate and full of expectation that called people to strive to a more excellent way. The call did not seem to be based upon some rules or commandments, but more due to his wanting people to aspire to their highest forms of self. Jesus’s teachings suggest to me that these lofty goals of self-awareness are not easily attainable in disassociation to The Creator.
We live in a physically comprehensible world, but our awareness of “reality” is incomplete if we limit ourselves to those things we can understand with our physical senses. Things that are explained through the principles of physical/natural science phenomenon are not enough for me cognitively or intellectually. For example, what is the substance that makes living creatures by nature want to survive… and conversely, what element of the self is lost among those people and things that no longer want to survive and exist to the point that death becomes a welcomed relief. I have come to the conclusion that it is our spirit, in the case of human beings, made alive unto God the Creator in a way that is not fully or easily comprehensible. The proposed inexplicably, in my view, is in large part because we are “so fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) therefore, the five known human senses become insufficient as a means to describe spiritual connections. Also, the fact that God is a Spirit and the aspect of everyone that is like God is made of spirit being, there has not to date been any scientific physical instrumentality that can capture the individual “you” in its entirety. Ahhhhhhh, there it is, complexity has just entered the room (smile and a wink). Jesus is my role model for teaching. I admire how when dealing with adult learners he used a variety of modalities to “meet people” at the level in which they could comprehend his messages. He used parables and allegories to help the most simple to the most erudite listeners understand his teaching.
Children and the less powerful preceded Jesus on a fateful Passover day (that many celebrate as Easter) with songs of praise and hopefulness; while respected scholars and theologians were so captivated by his wisdom and understanding of scripture many secretly counted themselves among his disciples but kept it hidden for fear of being ostracized by those who were the more politically connected and religiously powerful during that time period.
Fast forward to 2014, I find myself at an academic/career crossroad. I have been doing some research for my committee chair (I am also her graduate research assistant) about what will the 21st Century New Knowledge academic and/or scholarly practitioner resemble in comparison to pre-millennium professors and practitioners. I first surprisingly discovered that I fall into the category of Generation X, with a confidence interval of ± 2. he he I have also learned that there doesn’t appear to be the mass exodus of aging faculty leaving the academy as miscalculated; poor economic times has led to many a professor to work longer versus entering into retirement. So currently, we are producing from our universities a dearth of bright-eyed new doctoral graduates with no place to go per se.
I personally am finding the “publish or perish” paradigm quite unsettling. Not because I have reservations about publishing or writing, it is because I want to publish and write things that I feel are important to improving and changing lives, systems, and societies. I don’t want to be so obsessed with impact factors and finding “the right” journals that my research and scholarly contributions will only be relevant to a small circle of scholars looking to compete with their colleagues in introducing the next big theory or framework. I don’t want to lose folks who I thought were friends because they might be jealous of my seeming success during their time of struggle. Nevertheless, the conflict for me is that I love teaching and engaging with students and communities. I love academic research as I am also a scientist by nature, holding degrees in biology (specializing in microbiology) with a minor in chemistry, plus a MPA. My adviser mentioned to me an emerging field of “Social Entrepreneurs”. I need to do more investigation into this area as I think it might be something I will find rewarding. I told my committee member Dr. Watkins that I am not sure if I want to be an Academic and she vehemently told me that she very much thinks that academia was the right career path for me. That made me smile really big on the inside knowing someone I admired and respected so much in academia viewed me as a future scholar with much to offer.
This is probably one of my longest blog posts, which is cool because it’s been a minute since my last post, and this issue is weighing heavily on my heart and mind in my final year of doctoral candidacy. Now, if I could simply find a career (not necessarily in this particular order) post dissertation completion that allows me to: 1) show the love and compassion of Jesus yet have the right to hold my own values and convictions, 2) exercise my love for teaching, research, and civic engagement while getting paid to do so, 3) be able to make a contribution to the field through my publishing and research, 4) make sure I have a personal life with time for my family and friends, 5) have my own business where I can focus on social issues and ministry needs that are directed toward those with less power and opportunity in life and finally, have the time to go to my Zumba and Body Pump classes every week; then I would be most figuratively in Heaven on Earth! 🙂
I kept seeing the word ¨paro¨ around campus in relation to the faculty´s huelga legal (legal strike).
I´ve subsequently learned its the term being used to describe some students who have taken a role in support of the huelga legal. It means: strike; unemployment; unemployment insurance. I will need to talk more with some students to get a sense of their objectives in relations to the strike. Today the sindicato (union) voted to extend their strike to its 14th Day of activities today. I also saw a group of young students with signs relative to the strike who appeared headed for the protest site on San Miguel avenue.
The above mural and message reads:
Thank you because they teach us the value of winning and losing (with the word losing replaced by the black spray painted word fighting= luchando).
Estudiantes de UCMaule en la programa de Medicina ir a YouTube para anunciar sus Paro
Chileans will head to the voting polls to elect a new President of the country, as well as several local representatives, and perhaps new political leadership. This poster appeared almost cemented to this street sign.
I have seen this above image in several places around the country of Chile. However, my Google search about the image and it’s meaning has not been fruitful. So I next conducted a Google image search of the picture and was lead to the historic image of Tommie Smith (below). Smith, a member of the US men’s track and field team, during the 1968 Olympic Games raised his black gloved first triumphantly in the air as he stood in the first place winner’s position on the raisers. His message was strong and clear as another member of the victorious men’s track team joined him in raised black fists as a sign of solidarity with other Blacks back in the United States who were struggling and dying in efforts for social justice during the American Civil Rights Movement.
I have come to notice that the people I’ve met in Chile are not very open when discussing their personal political preferences as folks in the US appear to be in this area. I’ll admit that often during a one-on-one private conversation one may get some dialogue on issues of politics and moreover specific political candidates but, those conversations are rare and typically don’t occur in open-public spaces. Recently, I was offered some insight into this phenomena when someone shared with me that there is still a legacy of fear (particularly among older Chileans) surrounding a period of political oppression brought about during the time of the Pinochet Presidency. For those unfamiliar with Chilean history, the ascendancy of a military leader to the position of President of Chile, during 1973, was facilitated by a military coup and overthrow of a then democratically elected President Salvador Allende.
There is a long standing historical records of United State’s attempts to interject itself into the both the political and economic affairs of Chile. However, it was specifically under the Presidency of subsequently impeached President Richard Nixon that US involvement in the affairs of the Chilean government were questioned. Accusations swirled suggesting US support of the military coup, making North American involvement in Chile’s governmental affairs most untenable by contemporary standards of democracy and free enterprise.
So the pumped and raised fist of the late 1960s and early 70s has for many become an image meme, depicting solidarity and political resistance against oppressive power merchants who have lost sight of the goals of democracy. It has become an international image that many Blacks and non-Black Americans evoked as they fought and died for racial justice and political agency during that epoch.
However, things are changing in dynamic ways both in the US and Chile. I was told by the same person explaining to me about a Chilean dark period under a dictatorship that many of the young Chileans today don’t hold the same fears. The youth feel much more free to express their political grievances without fear of retaliation. Also mentioned was the fact that people have become so focused on creating a “better life” for themselves and their families that sustained political activism among many Chileans seems futile. Impressions reign that many politicians cannot be trusted and that they simply want your vote but not your sustained civic engagement per se. Boy!! That’s an account that sounds all too familiar to me.
Well, this blog post allowed me a chance to reflect upon my own experiences leading me to offer a prayer for an election season that leads to positive political changes and civic engagement amongst the citizenry in both Americas. And that such engagements advances the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness for all people. 🙂
P.S. I really think it’s so cool that they hold elections on a Sunday in Chile allowing for maximum citizen participation.