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'Societal Cancers' and the Media Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Jay-R Patron, Philippines Jan 25, 2007
Culture , Human Rights , Peace & Conflict   Opinions
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Have you seen “The Village” by M. Knight Shyamalan? I have!

Yes, it’s an old movie…and very surreal at that. But many of its themes reverberate the reality that many of us face today.

Violence, poverty, corruption… these are very much inexplicable part of our lives – so much for our efforts in ridding society of these “cancers”.

Violence is inherent in most life forms, and its roots go all the way back to the beginning of life on Earth. Scientists like Jane Goodall studied this behavior amongst chimpanzees, and found that violence was necessary to survive – regardless if it’s survival of the whole species or endurance of the kin group. Chimpanzees engage in “wars” against their own kind. Troops raid other troops to a) broaden their territory and b) provide better and wider access to reproductive opportunities. And since chimpanzees and humans share a common ancestry which goes all the way back to millions of years ago, this means that violence is indeed part of our lives.

But what about our other closest relatives, Gorillas and Bonobos? I thought you’d never ask.

There are factors and mechanisms in place that affect behavior amongst these species, but I won’t delve much into them. Let me tell you one thing though, Bonobos (a.k.a. Pan paniscus) engage in oral sex, proven effective in maintaining peace and order amongst individuals in the group. Gorillas (a.k.a. Troglodytes gorilla) on the other hand, uphold a rigid hierarchical structure led by the “silverback”, the dominant male. This means that everyone else is below him. Chimpanzees have a hierarchy as well, but the leadership is constantly being challenged by many of its members – much like how it is in Philippine politics.

Don’t we have our own mechanisms as human beings? We do, in fact it manifests itself everywhere… but it is a double-edged sword.

Humans have culture. And this is what keeps us from bombing ourselves with nukes to smithereens. By culture, I don’t mean Arts, dances, singing, sports, etc. Culture, as I would define it albeit vague, is the ability of a species to learn and pass this knowledge to future generations. Our intricate learning capacity makes us stand out from other biological entities. We have abstract knowledge.

I remember one interesting point that a professor of mine at the University of Southern Queensland made. It wasn’t his exact words but he said that humans have the ability to understand and gather thoughts through abstract, and this level of culture that we have is uniquely our own.

What about dolphins who have been proven to recognize shapes? They do, because they see it. If you describe a dolphin to another dolphin, it might think that you’re referring to a shark. You get my trail?

So what’s the connection between culture, and violence, poverty and corruption? I’m getting there. In fact it’s in the next paragraph.

We all are capable of violence, as earlier stated. But we as humans are not bound by biology to engage in animalistic behavior. Many of our actions can be traced back to biology like reproduction, and fulfillment of subsistence needs, but most, if not as much, of our actions are based on cultural cognizance, which classifies us as part of the human family.

I’m still not getting you, or am I just slow? You are slow… and so am I.

As much as culture restrains us from furthering our currently slow demise, it also acts as catalyst to many of societies sickness. Although I do believe that there is always something in between, to me, culture is simply black and white. The problem is, the black is disguised as gray.

In my opinion, poverty and corruption are inter-connected. Many of you may refute this because even rich nations like the United States have corrupt individuals, but let me get to my point, which is also the bombshell.

Poverty is simulacrum. It is made to exist only in our minds, but we feel and see it just as much.

Culture has brought humanity almost all the good things in life. It helps us make conversation and learn from each other. On the bigger side, it helps us establish institutions enabling us to conduct on a different level many of humanity’s previously menial activities. One of this is mass media, and it comes in many forms. Structures such as ancient coliseums (or coliseums) represent the earliest example while the telephone today is the simplest form of mass media.

The media disseminates information and entertainment value, at a level that no other institution can. The media delivers information not readily available through other institutions. In a way, we can say that the media forms our society.

But the thing is, many of us are not ready to accept many of the information we gather from the media. There arises conflict in emotion when we see something on the television that is not totally coinciding with our values. More critically, there arises the feeling of “lack”… of not having things… when we see, hear, or read about the advertisements of so many products. And this is why I consider poverty as simulacrum.

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Writer Profile
Jay-R Patron

Jay-R Patron, 24 years old, currently works as content provider for a multinational IT consultancy firm, under its interactive marketing department.

He was a writer for Hawaii-based Greater Good Inc., a media company behind the much-acclaimed Greater Good Radio. The show promotes social entrepreneurship and servant leadership.

Jay-r is a Journalism and Communication and Media Studies graduate from the University of Southern Queensland.
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