Some thoughts on Social Change

The Alliance for Community Media – Northeast Regional conference / video festival was this weekend. I presented on a panel entitled “The Role of Community Media in Social Change” organized by Fred Johnson (UMass Boston / MWG). John Grebe from the Boston Indy Media Center was also on the panel. The focus of the presentation and discussion was on the need for community communication centers to become proactive agents for social change in their communities.

I do believe that the work done at the community level is one of transformation and empowerment. That putting the tools of communication in the hands of individuals and organizations is radical (in the true sense not the rhetorical sense). The ability to speak and communication is a fundamental human right. It is the core of how we transmit our culture. To squelch access to the tools of communication and expression, is to kill the ability for culture to propegate.

With that said, and coming from the recent failure of the democratic party to win the minds of most Americans, I believe that community media suffers either from too much inaction or too much. We either don’t grow real dialogue and debate or we drown it out with our own polemics.

There are some on the left that would call this positon too warm and fuzzy. That it lacks the blood and energy for real transformative change. But if the elections last Tuesday taught us anything it is that the intellectualism and politics of the left are lacking. At the same time it is just possible that the rhetoric is disconnected and condesending to a majority of the population.

The left over language of social revolution of the 60s prevents us from looking strongly at the real immoralities that are occuring. Robert Reich spelled out the reasoned and moral arguments to make. The corporate greed and hyper commercialism make us weak both in body and mind. That a world of “black & white” choices results in choices that dramatically hamper the rights of other global citizen (through war and evironmental degredation). That the certainty of ones own convictions are laudable, but the imposition of those certainties on others breeds intolerance and division.

We on the left focus on the wrong things. We bemoan the “red” states. We discount the intelligence of most who express a religious grounding. We continue to advocate for upheaval and change. Yet we don’t listen, deliberate or transform ourselves. We have all of the answers. If we don’t learn these lessens from this election, we are doomed.

I thank Tonya Gonzalez from the Washington, DC access station for being at the presentation today. She had reasoned approach and we talked a bit about deliberative democracy. This is were our media work should focus. This is were our techniques should begin. With a quesiton of why and a truly listening ear.

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