There is always a danger when the profit motivation enters pretty much any relationship. In a society where resources are constrained due to property rights and business incentives that consider individual existence more than that of pretty much anything else, profit motivation tends to turn people against their most highly touted principles.
I like to eat;I like wearing clothes;I like having a car to drive. I was not born with the type of financial reserves that allow me to not consider units of exchange. I know what it feels like to be homeless and I remember being in St. Louis’ Coffee Cartel and the treatment the staff there with their rainbow flags and presumptions of “progressive” thinking offered those of us they recognized as “displaced”. Although, much of that pain is purely gaze, or the internal reaction to what I believe other people’s internal reaction to seeing me is, I do not have a problem responding to that. The observed is impacted by the observer just as much if not more than the observer is impacted by the observed. Yet, even with that admitted, there are still certain principles I am not readily willing to sacrifice for a profit.
Melissa Harris-Perry spoke about the use of “progressive” ideas and presumptions for the advantage of profit motivation in a forum she held with bell hooks. There is money in academic activism. There is money in protest. There is a media response, a ratings incentive, in showing people chanting ideological memes. In “activism” there is a fire large enough for even the most forgotten personalities to find relevance and invigorate their careers anew. There is nothing sacred in a media driven society. There is nothing sacred but the images of abstractions of the humane in this society of spectacle.
As I watch the recordings of the Ferguson protests, I consider the sheer appreciation for information the US Blacks of decades ago possessed. I used to watch interviews of the people that would give birth to the Bloods & Crips in amazement at their discipline and articulation. And those where the “gang bangers” of that time. With integration came a confusing of rebelling against the system with every resource available with rebelling against the system by disavowing the symbols of white america and the symbols of rebellion itself. The fear of “sounding whyte” becomes a protest against the system erected by and for Whyte conquerors, and simultaneously creates an excuse to not apply oneself in the acquisition of higher learning.
Huey P. Newton was killed with a PH.d. Huey had to teach himself how to read in high school. Malcolm X spent a little short of a fifth of his life in prison and found himself debating in Oxford University. George Jackson wrote one of the most sophisticated interpretations and applications for US Blacks of Marxism from a prison cell he was caged in from the age of 17. Assata Shakur became the inspiration for a shotgun totting Pam Grier due to wanted posters of her. These are not the children of the elite class of US Blacks. These are the children of the US’ version of the lower caste. People that could not afford university classrooms but respected the value of information just the same. People that not only defined the resilience of US Blacks, but also the potential of the human.
There is a necessary degree of sophistication involved in being able to navigate the sheer ego massaging instrument that is the media. Cameras allow us to not only see what is going on worldwide, but also creates a stage for us. The observed alters the perceptions and consciousness of the observer. The observer also alters the behavior and internal conversation of those they are observing. For a group of people that have for centuries been held back from the reigns of power and the instruments of power, a few moments of glory are enough to put the entire race under gas showers. Politicization is a lifelong course on the abstract and concrete ways in which power is distributed. It does not start or stop with civics classes and barbershop conversations.
The mind is warped and molded under the radiation of media attention. In the same manner that one’s identity is fashioned by the interaction between one’s peers, the stage created by the gaze and glare of media devices grafts a section of abstracted identity onto our most self-conscious bodies. If the medium is the message, the audience is the ever lurking notion whispering into our inner ears. In a world where the substance of value is more and more diluted with abstractions and symbols of resources are consumed more than actual life enhancing and extending resources, the audience is perfect substitute for peer group and close network. The fanbase of fifteen minutes must also come packaged with the accessory of the fickle fanbase.
And yet, how much does a movement for change in power brokers need of fickle fans and euphoric moments per click?