Featured post

VIDA DE-sign by Michael Buckingham, aka Mick Muttley

Dear friends (yeah really, one of those) I have become a women's wear designer for VIDA! http://shopvida.com/collections/voices/ ...

Sunday, 1 May 2016

SubVersion Stop 266: Rebecca Pathan - Brandnewtrumpets - The World Wide Wave

Thanks to Grant Goldenchild (Technicality MC bitd) and his Drum & Bass Against Racism FB group for bringing this damn fine piece of writing to my attention, and for Rebecca for allowing the repost. 

The World Wide Wave by BrandNewTrumpets

The wave takes shape, emerges, evolving as it advances; gathering momentum, it grows and swells to new strengths. Finally it crashes, its kinetic energy cascading with the force that it’s gathered, and just as surely it dissolves diluted back into the folds of the vast expanse from whence it came.
Whilst innumerable waves crash without consequence, some bear considerable effects, even cataclysmic: their influence palpable.
This is not about the waves of the ocean, but rather the waves of human dialogue, which when emotively captured, become the Great Waves that sometimes surf with irrational behaviour. The rise of the internet drives dialogue further still, surging at speeds far greater than any time before. This powerful force is one we must handle with care, consideration and consciousness.
‘The Wave,’ or ‘The Third Wave ,’ is also the name of a social experiment, birthed in a history lesson designed to demonstrate, when unable to explain, the manner by which the German population willingly supported and followed the ideologies of Adolf Hitler. History teacher, Ron Jones, wanted to show that even democratic societies were susceptible to fascism.
‘The Third Wave’ was propagated as a movement initially for those students in Jones’ class. The movement enforced strict discipline and routine, and its principles were founded on a carefully manipulated motto, containing sound bites that promoted discipline, community, action and pride; individuality was suppressed and membership and exclusivity elevated. Within just a couple of days, the students were immersed in this new movement. Increasing numbers of students joined from all over the school, initiated with ceremony, membership cards and rules of conduct; members kept outsiders out, and reported on anyone who broke the rules. Dangerously slipping out of control by day four, the experiment was drawn to a conclusion on day five, with the students having to face the reality that so easily had they been swept away on a wave of misdirection and control that echoed that of Germany during the Third Reich.
The experiment captured the ease of indoctrinating a group of people with the succinct encapsulation, repetition and reinforcement of an idea, supported by a culture of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ The succinct encapsulation of an idea and its gathering momentum is not to be feared. The waves come and they go, and their perpetual nature sustains us. However, when ideologies are encouraged with the principles of divide and conquer, establishing rule by setting one side against another, surely the ideology becomes corrupted.
The emergence of thought and development of dialogue has driven evolution and change – we talked about it and then it happened. And history shows us that when ideologies are given a voice and the same voice is echoed, the further it spreads and the quicker it spreads, the more effective it becomes, and the more likely it will become a force to be reckoned with, good or bad.
Media and the communication of ideas to a mass populace has increasingly grown and increasingly infringed on the lives of ordinary people: from the rhetoric circling in the small and distant amphitheatres of ancient Greece, to the ubiquitous twittering of online cyber surfers today.
With each modal move comes greater responsibility as movement of thought increases its reach.
Today the volume is turned up, and we find ourselves practically deafened by the proliferation of carefully, (or carelessly, depending on which way you look at it), compressed, caption carried content. With so much available information and the relentless bombardment of info -bombs, it isn’t surprising that we have become accustomed to digesting our information in a comparable manner: quickly and indiscriminately. And just as we would, more often than not, we admit it all without accounting for source or evidence, or content even, let alone context.
It’s human nature to make snap judgements: an evolutionary requirement to protect ourselves. But we don’t have to indulge them. Surely real strength of thought is assessing it for what it is, weighing up our prior knowledge and our own personal experiences, judging as we would a wager.
Social media is shaped to galvanise ‘likes’ and ‘shares.’ It taps into our susceptibility to follow trends, and effectively adopt herd behaviour. There are at least two psychologies at play here: that concerned with the fear of missing out, and that of collective hysteria.
Whilst mass hysteria is something largely cited as a collective response to perceived threat, rapidly spread through rumours and fear, herd behaviour can be a collective reaction to a much greater range of events and occurrences. Think Princess Diana: a seemingly inexplicable event of collective mourning, on an international scale of mammoth proportions not likely seen before. Across numerous animal species, herd instinct (Nietzsche, 1887), crowd psychology (Freud, 1921) and similar theory, attempt to explain the phenomena of large numbers of individuals acting in the same way at the same time, without centralised or dictated direction.
A sense of self-preservation seems to run through many of these philosophies; we see others engaging in an activity and assume there may be benefits to us doing the same. A key example is the numerous scientific observations that reveal that when panicked, individuals confined to the same room with two equally distributed exits, disproportionally rush towards one exit over the other. The result is damaging, harmful even, yet time and again we behave in the same way.
There are countless examples of this kind of behaviour prevalent in human societies, and perhaps the playground is one of our first individual experiences of such. Remember the scenario of two individuals falling out at lunchtime: over what, a misplaced insult or a copied homework assignment? The rumours spread throughout the afternoon, and by the last lesson of the day a fight has been scheduled for 3.30pm outside the school gates. Did one of the two victims of this silly lunchtime spat goad the other into an official fist fight at the end of school? Probably not. But the rumours have them with their backs against the wall, and there’s no getting out of it. The two square off. Neither one of them wants a physical altercation, and it’s all been blown out of proportion; but all of a sudden there’s a call to ‘Fight!’ from the amassing crowds, and then there’s another one and another one, and now the whole crowd’s chanting, ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’ Suddenly these two unprepared and frankly petrified individuals have their fates committed, and the repercussions are inescapable.
The call to ‘fight’ is not a reasonable or rational response; it is not an informed judgement, and retrospectively it’s just not right, but we do it. The same way an ordinary group of people respond recklessly in kind to events such as the recent ‘Black Friday.’ We observe the actions of others, and, in spite of the possibility of our own available information to the contrary, we decide to imitate what we have observed.
Also at play, warming up a lot of these en masse experiences, is FoMO, the Fear of Missing Out: a psychology that simmers under the surface of a lot of our actions. Whilst the term was coined only recently in 2013, I imagine the psychology has always been there, and that social media only heightens our susceptibility to it. FoMO is defined by the online Oxford Dictionary as: “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”
Given that we are all now so ‘connected,’ we are constantly exposed to the goings on of everybody else. It doesn’t stop, and it genuinely feels like it’s not stopping; thus, so many of us feel like we shouldn’t be stopping either, lest we miss out. We feel compelled to be engaged with whatever else it is that everybody else is doing.
Was this behind the literal wave of the Ice Bucket? Remember, not so long ago, the hundreds and thousands spurred on to throw a bucket of ice cold water over themselves? ‘For what?’ was the criticism leveled by many when it was realised that the majority of these participants didn’t make a charitable contribution to the cause, which for a large number of them remained vague or unknown. ‘The Ice Bucket Challenge’ was a phrase coined that alone could rouse recruits, and it also clearly demonstrated the power we have to do good.
It’s worth noting that over my lifetime the use of sound bites has had a largely negative effect on political discourse, reducing real political insight to catchy snippets of information that oversimplify matters of great complexity. Politics is not black and white; but, perhaps our politicians have been persuaded to reduce it to such for apparent effectiveness. And effective it often appears to be, seemingly able to sway a nation with a small number of words, think, ‘Education, education, education,’ or ‘Yes we can.’ ‘It’s the Sun wot won it,’ has never been far from the truth, with the media able to effectively adopt their own political agenda and sell it in a headline; now where’s ‘Our Only Hope’?
Language here is crucially important; the words we use often carry more weight and influence than at first observed. Consider the term ‘Asylum Seeker.’ Before this term flooded British vocabulary in the ‘noughties,’ the same group of people was referred to as ‘Refugees.’ Refugees clearly require refuge, and this simple noun denotes that. But what is the implied purpose of an asylum seeker? This noun phrase shifts emphasis to the act of doing something, in this instance seeking something. Already our compassion may be reduced, less willing to provide for those who are looking for something, and who sound less like victims. And thanks to the media of the day, the term ‘Asylum Seeker’ was muddied so much so that there was a literal sense of blurred public perception, confusing the two very distinct groups of immigrants and asylum seekers.
And why is it that British migrants in their choice country of resettlement are identified as Ex-pats? Why are they Ex-pats and not immigrants? The very term that has been bred to positively encapsulate an immigrant’s allegiance to their country of birth and not to the country that has welcomed them, is of the very same logic that has people opposed to migrants entering this country. The British and Americans can afford to be patriotic, but other nationalities cannot.
Now consider the terms, ‘Welfare,’ or ‘Benefit.’ When I was growing up there was another term for this: ‘Social Security.’ Social security implied that we were all paying into an insurance scheme: a social insurance that you would be able to claim in times of failing security. ‘Welfare Benefit’ implies something entirely different. It implies that this social security that we all pay into is somehow a benefit, not a right. And the more we adopt this language, the easier it is to influence people’s perception of what something really is.
Our National Health Service is presently being brutalised in the public sphere: suddenly it’s broken and in crisis. It’s as if overnight somebody pulled the plug, and the following morning staff came on shift to find an institution down the sink hole. It’s not realistic, and it’s not failing. Everything is in need of constant consideration and requires unrelenting care. Much like a child, we don’t leave them to fend for themselves, we constantly reassess their needs, and when they’re not doing so well, we don’t discard them and get another one, we try harder, we care more, and we do not criticise.
Zero tolerance? This is not a phrase I welcome into our dialogue, nor an ideology I want to permeate our culture. Yet, today I hear promises of, ‘Zero tolerance of failure and mediocrity’ in schools; as if failure is something to be ashamed of and not something we all face in life’s valuable lessons. We can’t all excel in everything, but we should have the support to excel in the areas that best suit us.
At least today we can shout loudly; in this country a large proportion of us have access to a forum that provides a vague equality of voice. I am inspired by the internet. For all its bad, there is good, and it is perhaps the one institution that comes closest to an honest reflection of humanity.
‘Je suis Charlie’ was an act of shouting loudly, but how many people took the time to understand the nature of the circumstances that surrounded this response to the atrocities that took place in France, before purporting to be of the same voice? The political climate in France is not the same as our own; the relationship with the state is not the same as our own; views on tolerance and equality are not the same as our own; Charlie Hebdo is not the Private Eye. In spite of all of this, if you have taken the time to appreciate this and you still need to represent the voice of Charlie, then by all means do so.
But what Mark Twain said of the ‘Smith and Jones’ families, (what I knew as ‘Keeping up with the Jones’’), still applies, and perhaps it is even more resonant in the information driven society we live in today: "The outside influences are always pouring in upon us, and we are always obeying their orders and accepting their verdicts.” (p.510).
We need to protect ourselves on this information-superhighway; we need to adopt a green cross code. Before we perpetuate an idea, before we respond to our fears and desires, and before we stick our heads above the parapets with the simple click of a button, we need to Stop Look Listen and Think. ‘Arrive alive! Keep looking and listening,’ is just as relevant to crossing the road as it is to riding the waves of human discourse.
Vincent Van Gogh is attributed with saying: 'I don't know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.' We don’t know anything with certainty, and that’s ok – that means we can have an open mind and freedom of thought. We can have a dream, and we can give our dreams a voice, but let not our dreams be at the cost of others. Let us ride the waves with mindfulness, navigate with care for others, and not throw caution to the winds. Let us not divide and conquer, but conquer division.

© 2015 Rebecca Pathan All rights reserved

Jones, Ron. (1976 & 2014) The Third Wave. The Wave Home: Learning from The Third Wave. [Internet]. http://www.thewavehome.com/1976_The-Third-Wave_story.htm. [Accessed 10th April 2015].
Oxford University Press. (2015) Oxford Dictionaries. [Internet]. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/FOMO [Accessed 10th April 2015].
Twain, Mark. (1901) Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays: Corn-Pone Opinions. New York: Literary Classics of the United States
Leitch, Vincent B. ed. (2001) The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. London: W. W. Norton & Company Inc.
Nietzsche, Friedrich and Smith, Douglas, ed. (2008) On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic. By way of clarification and supplement to my last book Beyond Good and Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Twain, Mark. (1901) Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays: Corn-Pone Opinions. New York: Literary Classics of the United States.