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Too Cool For Whites

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“Hey mister,” a young squeaky voice cried out from behind me and to the right. I spun around, not sure that the words had been meant for me-after all, I hardly thought of myself as a mister, being only seventeen-and saw a black kid, perhaps ten, hopping off his bike and coming towards me. “Yea,” I replied. “What’s up?” “I betcha’ dollar I can tell you where you got ‘dem shoes,” the child answered. “I’ll take that bet,” I replied, confident that there was no way this child in front of me could really know where I had purchased my footwear…“You got your shoes on your feet, you got your feet on the street, on Bourbon Street, now give me a dollar.” Tim Wise, White Like Me pages 93-94

One of the subtlest of encounters occurred at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries when I least expected it. During the ins and outs of service, I infrequently come across the other half of the facility’s outreach: the students. MNM offers before and after school programs for a variety of age groups. Kids are the driving factor for me to commit myself to community service on a long term scale. As the initial factor that led me to get involved after my freshman year, Camp Holiday Trails, a summer camp for kids with chronic illnesses, had me hooked on the first day. Even before that instance, volunteer work at the Special Olympics throughout middle school instilled this pull to the youth. There’s considerably more energy in kids in a camp or athletic setting. So if it wasn’t known before, there was a heartbreak when I recognized that that energy would not exist on the other side of Mercy Neighborhood Ministries.

Every time the preschool-aged students trickle by our doors, I wave fervently for no reason other than hoping to receive a reciprocated, equally energetic wave back. Just a quick glimpse of that long lost energy is enough for me. Never have I been disappointed; the over-exaggerated wave has always been answered. Until there was this incident…

It was like any other day at MNM; the sun was either shining through the skylight windows or it was pitch black from the clouds. I could be wrong in claiming normalcy for that day, though, since I distinctly recall that on this day, the clients were dipping pretzel sticks into melted chocolate. I designated myself as the transporter of dipped sticks from the dipping station to the freezer to remove myself from the clients’ prodding to partake in the ecstasy. This could’ve easily been the first time I almost struggled to keep up with the pace of the older clients! Vivacity.

In these trips, from dipping station to freezer, I had about a forty-five second travel time through the hall, into the kitchen, and back. It must’ve been on the second or third trip that I came across one of the preschoolers, alone. I’m not sure how he got free from the bunch, (nor am I sure if I should be portraying MNM as incapable of keeping track of their students) but there he was in the hall.

Maybe it was the excitement over melted chocolate and the rarely high energy level with the older clients that caused me to wave to him in an uncool manner. Nevertheless, all I got in return was a nod as he swagged on by, evidently on a mission of sorts. I didn’t really digest the rejection of a wave until my next trip to the freezer: “He just nodded me off!” With my slow processing of all the racial lingo and themes that we’re discussing in Race and Racism -which I would have to add, has kept me from producing a reflection worth reading- the word “hegemony” slowly crept into my mind. Something going along with Frederick Douglas’s double consciousness and the veil has formulated in retrospect. The little boy, to my surprise, reacted as a result of some shade of racism.

Let me first explain what the nod signified in my book. A nod typically ranks low on the list of acknowledgements and greetings human beings bestow on one another. Above it comes a smile, maybe then a hello, next a handshake, finally a hug (or kiss.) A nod has no transmission of emotion. It very easily can become a means to look someone off or even denote them as not worthy of a higher greeting. I am making the claim that this young boy was at fault of this as absurd as it might seem. But hear me out!

In staking another claim that hegemony, in other words, the boy’s relationship to me was somehow marred by my race (or more simply, my age,) I am trying to draw out my surprise at how young this black student was. Specifically, someone so young was already viewing the world through Douglas’s veil; this came to me as a shock. This kid was no more than three feet tall, wearing Timberland boots, and had his hair in cornrows.

A third -maybe the most absurd- claim was that this individual’s double consciousness clearly established him as black, me white. He knew he had some sort of power over me in a similar manner that Tim Wise’s encounter with the Tulane native in the passage above. This power, if not apparent in my story, is the same that leads many whites to feel uncomfortable when blacks, and even more so, whites use racial slurs. In reading the word “nigger,” one would think, “You, the white writer, shouldn’t be using that word.” The answer to the question why is the uncomfortable power that blacks possess. Why else is there such a word as “wigger?” There’s some sort of (unattainable) power blacks hold that pop culture easily interchanges with cool, or maybe a more timely word: swag.

So maybe I am reading too much into this two second encounter with a five year old like Tim Wise throughout his narrative. But maybe, just maybe, this is an example of how early hegemony formulates in a young black’s mind. Me on the other hand; I must’ve not come into contact with a black individual who I interacted with frequently enough to deem friend until I was in middle school. So if my three claims are preposterous, at least I can vouch for my own belated awakening to my white ignorance…

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Written by Jack Viere

March 14, 2012 at 9:30 pm

The Subtlety of Racism’s Pressure

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It’s been too long since my last post.
Something along the lines of San Diego, Winter Break, and the restart of the second semester is to blame.

There’s pressure on what my first post should revolve around; I had several ideas floating around. If there was ever the question why I write, it’s because I write better than I speak.  And nothing triggers my need to speak more than something controversial. Hence, I feel college has been a good fit thus far.

One of my new classes this semester is titled Race and Racism. To say that this class instills heated debates would be to jump the gun; not everyone feels a sense of urgency, or existence for that matter, of the pressing issue at hand: racism. Or at least that’s my perception. Maybe it has something to do with a unilateral student population from the East Coast, the Tri-state region especially. A like-minded people will never argue over anything more than minuscule details.

If anything, I feel that some of my earlier reflections portray my adaption – my integration – into a new lifestyle. This urbanized university living was no surprise to me. In fact, I ran to this idealized environment; history has always depicted specific regions as suitable for universities. The Northeast speaks for itself, boasting those Ivy League institutions of American antiquity. (This isn’t to ignore other universities from that same era, but let’s face it: they’ve been there for awhile and they seem to be doing something right if they’ve retained their prestige.) On a personal note, I felt like the Southern boy headed to the Big City for an education; whatever era that derives from best…

Here I am; writing the contrasts between home and, well, home. (That transition of the baby bird leaving the nest is still playing out to its fullest.) Community service in North Philadelphia makes me want to say things. And when the Tri-state student population is familiar to these findings I see so profound and foreign, the first thing off my tongue might not sound as polished and intriguing as my writing (hopefully) strives to accomplish.

So, what sparked my mind to the point where I had to write? Ah, Race and Racism.

I have never really cared too much about other people’s perceptions of me. For the first time, that has changed. Slightly. Speaking out against the majority in the classroom setting is enjoyable from time to time. You become the catalyst of the conversation; the limelight tastes so sweet. Sometimes your words formulate the opinions of others. (I’m not too sure about that, but anyone who’s been in class knows to steer away from the individual who is adamant about the topic at hand unless you have an equally valid point and wish to defend it wholeheartedly.)

Well, just my luck. The seemingly homogeneous majority of my class (if not everyone – oh, the persecution) must think I am a racist. Arguing about the basis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s justification civil disobedience is a dangerous choice of action. If you don’t know what that concept is, realize that arguing against a venerated (black) man two days after his distinguished holiday is a sure shot for being put on the short list.

I could re-open the discussion, but my initial point I want to make about the debate is that regardless of what I said, I was somewhat shocked that people would take such a fundamental pillar of civil disobedience for granted. Yes, the idea came from the Great and Might MLK Jr. who made incredible strides for the civil rights movement. But hold up. King was arguing for breaking the law. This caught my attention. Whether any of the points I was trying to make about how history does not justify legal wrongs from the past were right or wrong, it was bothersome to see that people would take words from a prolific man at face value.

West Roosevelt Boulevard, Philadelphia

This acceptance of history as the self-declared right is harmful, especially towards today’s racism. How? How is it that accepting MLK’s words at face value harmful? Well, for starters, no one was taking into account the historical context. Breaking the law is wrong. And I agree that King’s argument for when and how to break the law was right in the  1960s and was much needed. But when it was taken out of context and applied to other, non-historically-related contexts by some of my classmates, people began to realize that the justification for civil disobedience was not capable of being universally followed.

That being said, my argument is that this assumption that my classmates were initially making (or at least that’s what it seemed to me as I was standing alone apparently against MLK Jr.) cripples certain people’s views about today’s racism.

Is it nonexistent? No! Of course not! We’re not colorblind! Then how are we to ignore the 1 in every 15 black male who finds himself incarcerated? Why do we turn away from the idea that it’s difficult (for me) to find a middle-class African-American individual back home in the South while here, in Philadelphia, that’s been the way for awhile.

What I am trying to get at is that people like to say that they are 1) not racist, 2) not color blind, and 3) think they understand racism’s harms. (Writing this doesn’t say that I do-hence I am taking the class!) But I fear that if we talk about petty issues of affirmative action and employment issues and ignore the fact that certain socio-economic classes exist in certain areas, and not elsewhere, then we have yet to realize the harm we do to ourselves. We’re not talking about the same racism. The racism I see now, as of coming to Philadelphia, is that there is a gap between the prominent blacks and everyone else of color.  Those that are prominent lead the rally call to prove to those who think they care that blacks succeed in higher realms of employment consequently drowning out the unheard voices of the other socio-economic classes that are more likely to be subjected to discrimination. Especially in the realm of employment opportunities for those who work blue-collared jobs (and below,) no one wants to hear that there are still injustices that result from racial biases. (Facts, like the one above, do suggest that there is an issue at hand. Suggesting that there isn’t a problem is to be colorblind.)

In conclusion, even if my claims about life in Virginia seem exaggerated for effect (which could go unchecked since people seem to take things at face value,) my intent is that if one were to say that there is no racial tension, this will lead him to be passive and noneffective in his discussions or actions taken against racism. Another way of putting it is in closing your eyes, whatever you are shielding your eyes against still exists whether you accept it or not. So in nodding to MLK Jr.’s writings as the final solution that has still be enacted out by everyone is harmful. My classmates already proved that the circumstances of the 60s cannot be applied in every instance.

Thanks to my English course, I learned about an ancient philosopher named Boethius. “One of Boethius’s key ideas was that there is a great God who designs a far better plan for human beings than they could possibly design for themselves…according to Boethius, we should then not resist or fight against the troubles that come our way, but cheerfully accept the, trusting that in the end things will work out for the best.

So whether atrocities are committed against blacks (and other races, especially Hispanics) or not, are we to ignore the 1 in 15 and accept Boethius’s idea? It seems like quite a few of us do as we chide over Obama’s State of the Union Address…

Disneyland: Maybe More Than Just Dreams Come True

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I apologize for the delay  between this post and the previous one. I have been in a daze from the quick transition from hectic finals week to a vacation in San Diego. And I haven’t found the time to post any pieces. Though, I must say that San Diego has given me a lot to write about!

Piglet is my favorite character from The Hundred Acre Woods. Tiger’s bashfulness never caught my attention. Woody was always more original than Buzz. Rapunzel from Tangled has replaced Cinderella as my favorite princess. And Mickey Mouse; I can take him more seriously than Goofy.

You might ask why an eighteen year old is so opinionated over his Disney characters. Well, the real question is: who isn’t opinionated over their childhood’s influential movie stars? The reason I found myself with my extended family in Disneyland was that it was a monumental return trip that paralleled our earlier adventure from years past. Same family members, same place, a new experience. I must confess that the magic never dies as you grow older.

That being said, an eighteen year old’s vision is more likely to detect the extraordinary activities that are not related to the Disney theme. I cannot recall if I blotted out these events when I was younger or if I just didn’t really detect them. Either way, a person’s action has an effect on his or her neighbor’s experience in the “real world.” In Disneyland, where children hug and take pictures of their favorite characters, one would hope that every effort would be made to create the recreation of what one views on the big screen. And, if I might add, Disneyland goes out of their way to cater to this “magical need” that people are paying for more so than another theme park like Busch Gardens or Six Flags.

We encountered a scenario that included several of these rash, disruptive actions that killed Disney’s magic. As we waited in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, we commented on how the lines were constantly moving to give the effect that we were not waiting as long as we thought. Before we knew it, we had pulled down the safety bar and were being transported to Tortuga Island. I really enjoyed looking up and seeing stars on the ceiling and gave into the feeling that I was outside passing shipwrecks.

Pirate booty littered the scenes we floated past until we reached a port that was under siege. “Yo ho ho/ A pirate’s life for me” was continuously yodeled as we went by in the dim light. Fake fire flickered. Other boats were lining behind one another up ahead; the end of the ride must be near! I equated that the ride was worth the wait as we bumped into the boat in front of us, letting my mind wander my mind back to the “real world.”

We had yet to clear the tunnel that would transport us back to Disneyland when we realized that there was a traffic jam. We were still in earshot of “Yo ho ho.” A drunk pirate robot character sat above us pouring out whiskey for his befriended feline. An incline was ahead that would most likely lead us to the final descent before we would make port. I thought this was the reason for our traffic jam; rides need that proper spacing so one car doesn’t slam into the next one.

Our boat drifted in line behind another until we were pushed by another. We finally entered the tunnel to escape the loud “Yo ho hoing” when I realized something was amiss. “Oh well,” I thought. “I’ll let my Patience Skills level up,” as if my life was like the Star Wars Game of Life. Maybe it’s the college student’s ability to take a nap anywhere at any time, which I took full advantage of, but freaking out typically does not help any situation. In this scenario, the moral of the story is yelling-power does not propel the boat forward in situations as such.

Upon waking up after dozing for three minutes, the pirates’ singing ceased. And in retrospection, we concluded that this initiated the panic-syndrome that every human being is equipped with at birth. The background music was soothing (I guess) for those who were more likely to panic; the gracious mothers and fathers that paid the pricey admissions fee for their children to experience that savory Disney magic. No one wants that feeling ruined. Yet, that complete sense of control that panic-prone people desire on days like the trip to Disneyland has to be forfeited. Theme parks, especially those like Disneyland that create a magical feel for their audience, need to have control over more than just the rides and attractions. Consequently, you see “Cast Members Only” signs that allow for the in-between-times to be filled with magic. So even when you’re waiting in line for Space Mountain, you still might catch Buzz Lightyear signing autographs.

Most people unknowingly secede their control on entering theme parks. However, when they look to unnecessarily regain control in instances such as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, they flail as they try to get a grip.

Hell broke loose after eight minutes and forty-two seconds passed by without the boat moving anywhere. The lights came on and cast members appeared to reassure passengers that everything was alright. The loudspeaker announced, “Arms, legs, and heads should remain in the boat.” At that, I think people commenced to flop around like fish looking for the water. With the theme music paused, the combination of silence and lights on brought out the worst in human beings.

Kids started complaining about the wait. The woman sitting directly in front of me turned to a Cast Member who was quite obviously not the technician solving the technical difficulty and said, “We have been for twenty-five minutes and she (referring to her four-year old daughter) needs to go to the restroom. I will not have her fricking pee in her pants!” That’s appropriate for all other kids to hear, I initially thought. But on reflecting, it exemplifies the lack of control parents do not realize they have forfeited when they were locked into their seats.

Soon thereafter erupted a voice from the boat in front of us. A chilling sound that would make the hairs stand on the back of necks of cut throat killers; “Get me off this boat!” It was as if some poor kid didn’t know what a throat lozenge was combined with a roar of a dragon. All I could think was, “How is this helping the situation? What parent would let their children start this mini-riot…” I felt distanced from the issue at hand, as if I was an observer rather than a part of the equation, when the chanting began. “What is it this, Lord of the Flies?” The dim lighting, impatience, and fear from the lack control were the ingredients for chaos.

These bizarre scenarios are amusing if you can remove yourself from the irrational behavior that we are susceptible to fall in under certain circumstances. This isn’t to say that I enjoy people’s struggles and hardships. But small, unpredictable tests of patience really can bring out the darker side of human nature. Many people turn a blind eye to this quality of the person in the hope to raise their esteem. This not only kills the magic in Disneyland but that spark of life in our everyday world.

Written by Jack Viere

December 24, 2011 at 8:56 pm

There is something ethically vitalizing while riding trains

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You can’t help but see the underbelly of society; the infrastructure that one can sense, but no one wants to admit exists. Riding the SEPTA in Philadelphia over the Schuylkill River displays you the declining socio-economic classes that are compiled into what is called a city. Starting with middle class homes and their neighboring duplexes, the train passed more barbed wire fences and broken concrete as you enter Center City Philadelphia. Wrecked buildings are still inhabited since the city’s orange conviction notices did not label any doors. Garbage is that factor to gauge the destitution that communities face. You realize that garbage is an expense; you pay for garbage pickups and disposals-something that a college student wouldn’t realize offhand. While people cannot afford a new window to replace shattered glass or fix their deteriorating homes, how will they be able to properly dispose of their trash?

And then suddenly, as if the poverty witnessed was all a dream, the train magically arrives at a transportation hub. Filled with prominent business people that sit across from the untouchables, you begin to smell the pretzel shop at 30th Street Station. The sky is grey, allowing no sunshine to breach the windows as you walk widely around those that invade your path. Your smartphone of choice is your compass that your nose is pressed to in the hope that you don’t trip, fall, and land face first into the lap of one of the beggars.

God forbid you spill that Starbucks you sip as you walk down to the platform. Waiting impatiently, you pull your collar up closer while experiencing the smallest of glimpses of what the homeless must feel. You’re still inside; you’re only catching a slight breeze from the opening on the other side of the platform. And so you continue to sip that coffee as if it’s some barrier keeping you from being no different than the beggar that you avoided up stairs; he’s now sitting directly above you, still looking on with his bleak eyes. Your smartphone happens to be out again, acting as your status shield. It says, “Don’t worry everyone; I am financially sound and stable! I can’t afford to be here now though, I have to check Facebook statuses from the past and Like events in the future.” Is the present too expensive for the well-off? The poor man upstairs was rich enough…“But more importantly, I have that piece of plastic to suggest otherwise, don’t I?”

As you become situated in your own row that is designed for two but Mr. Suitcase fills that extra seat, you look up from your phone. Staring after college girl and her body before she turns; you think no one sees you as you try to mask your act as some sort of thinking posture; “Did I crunch those numbers correctly?”

Your dream turns into a nightmare as your Amtrak starts pulling out of the station. You leave the city’s prominent skyline-buildings and stumble into a rapid decline into the impoverished areas again. This time it’s worse. You see the outskirts of another city: Baltimore. Where did those hours go; the time in between Philly to here? It couldn’t have been the suckers only free Wi-Fi, could it?

 

The portion of Baltimore’s underbelly you’re witnessing is worse than Philadelphia’s. This time, you see white conviction notices that bar individuals from inhabiting eroding structures that you dare to call a home. More grey. More trash. Less people. As you’re about to look back down to some distraction in your lap, a magazine or a laptop-“What’s the difference these days when you can get your news online?”-something catches your eye. The train is slowing for the next station; why is there such an obnoxiously colored turf in one of the traffic medians? Its highlighter quality is in glaring contrast to its surrounding counterparts; broken benches, broken homes, a broken community.

That baby won’t stop crying any time soon will it? Luckily, I have those Bose headphones. One of the best purchases of my life! Or was it a gift from Tina? It doesn’t matter, I’m almost home. I can just see myself waking up from this mess.

Written by Jack Viere

December 16, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Case Study Showing When a “Like” is Used Instead of an “Um” or “Uh”

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That’s right. I did my own case study on math classmates who were presenting extra credit projects on God knows what; it was difficult to decipher the topics from the frequently used “likes”, “ums”, and “uhs.” Excuse me for using crude stereotypes to categorize the individuals who were used as my lab rats, but it would be difficult to convey the data without clearly depicting who I was studying. We have an array of cliches represented in this math class. Several Jersey girls, New Yorkers, hipsters, a track star, and musicians were compiled into this one study.

What I concluded was that if people were using a script, they were more susceptible to say Um or Uh. If they were improvising or recalling their information from memory, the would say Like.

Results**

The “hypothesis” I began with was that people from the Tri-State area would be more likely to use one of the three words I was counting. I also thought that females would be more likely to use these words more frequently than males. This latter portion, I conclude, proves true for Like-usage. However, in some instances, Ums and Uhs came from males more than females. I was surprised that the females that seemed like they would use Like more frequently did not live up to my expectations.* I’m talking about the spray on tan (it’s December, no one is suppose to glow,) too much make up, and wearing yoga pants to class females. (I did apologize for my crude stereotyping!) And yes, to my surprise, these individuals did not drop as many Likes as I thought. I found that they used note-cards to avoid putting a script in their own words. This is when I realized that Ums and Uhs were used more often; both words seemed to be used on inhales after someone read an extremely long line with no coma breaks!

Data 2 Graph**

I found this graph to be interesting in that we get a sense of the rate at which college students are using Likes, Ums, and Uhs. Girl 1, who I apologize for not knowing her name (because she sits on the other side of the room,) was clocked at a total of 36 likes in 3 minutes. That’s like, 1 like in every 5 seconds! I also found that the average use for Like for the 13 students was 5 for an average presentation of 138 seconds. That’s roughly 1 like in 28 seconds.

For Ums and Uhs, the out-lier of my data was using one of those two words every 6.75 seconds. The class as a whole was at risk of saying Um or Uh every 1.5 seconds for that same 2 and fourth minute long presentation. Sounds absurd (literally!)*

I conclusion, I found that certain cliches that I had stereotyped as high-Like users were not at risk!

*Sometime during the presentations, I realized that LITERALLY was the new buzzword that young people use so absentmindedly. Literally is more likely to come up in conversations and is used emphatically in lieu  of terms such as actually, in reality, and physically. (Listen to an adolescent, you’ll like, literally hear it a lot. Like literally…)
**Data was also collected by Stephen Sollami.

Written by Jack Viere

December 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm

A Crippling Digital Divide: Social Injustice Caused by Advertisements Part 2

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Today, America’s attitude towards consumption exacerbates the digital divide between higher income individuals and lower socio-economic groups. In Time’s Luxury Survey, research shows a surge in consumerism with those born between 1980 and 2000. “Because [18-27 year olds have] grown up in the age of dotcom billionaires, wealth and success are a given” (Time, 2008). At the turn of the century came the invention of the smartphone. In 1992, IBM’s Simon was a concept smartphone that initiated the trend of handheld devices (Schneidawind, 1992). While this technology evolved into the sleek, status-fulfilling must-have-item, a sense of inherent exigency began to dominate young adults. The category “looking stylish is important to feeling good about myself” had a 93% approval vote from young adults (Time, 2008). The smartphone’s timely introduction during the turn of the century has taken advantage of America’s new fashion; consumption.

What further deepens the digital divide is advertisers’ selection of who is depicted using what product. In another commercial, Boost Mobile promotes its Anthem 2.0 phone. Among others, rapper Young Jeezy advertises the new product by using lines of his material to promote the practicality of Boost Mobile’s deal offered sublimely through the thirty second clip (Boost Mobile, 2007). In this instance, Boost Mobile promotes their Anthem 2.0 to a young, pop-culture-fixed consumer population. With several rappers promoting their product, Boost Mobile attracts the attention of not only the youth, but a black population as well. In contrast with this specific commercial, Apple products are geared towards a white population. In a commercial promoting a Macintosh computer, actor Justin Long utilizes wit and charm to depict the sharp edge of Apple products (Apple, 2007). There is a drastic difference between these two commercials; it is easy to see who is to be using what brands of technology.

It is no coincidence, then, that the racial divide in America factors into the digital divide. Preying upon crude stereotypes, commercials depict more than who should be using what form of technology; they depict a financial gap between the races that is prevalent in today’s society. “The poverty rate for non-Hispanic Whites was lower than the poverty rates for other racial groups…For Blacks, the poverty rate increased to 27.4 percent in 2010, up from 25.8 percent in 2009” (Census Bureau, 2010). This conveys that the white population is more financially sound to purchase expensive technologies such as the Macintosh computer in the Apple commercial. “Broken down by race and ethnicity, African American residents of rural areas and central cities had the lowest level of access to computers (6.4 and 10.4 percent), followed by central city Latinos (10.5 percent)” (Modarres, 2011). Computers allow for more than social networking, emails, and entertainment; the limitations of a smartphone. Computers enable a white population to a more expansive spread of technology, information, and internet use.

From this difference between the levels of access to the internet derives a social injustice. While there exists a digital divide between upper and lower socio-economic classes, there is a misconception that smartphones are closing the gap by allowing access to the internet.

“While there is a distinction between using a phone for communication and using it to access digital information, it should be equally obvious that having a smart phone is not the same as having a networked computer (laptop or desktop) that allows the user to create and manage a business or a community Web site” (ibid).

Non-white, typically poorer consumers are able to purchase cheap deals from companies like Boost Mobile and the issue of the digital divide appears to be solved. However, smartphones only allow for a limited access to the internet. Social networking does not equate to a full, complete use of the internet, and assuming that smartphones are bridging the digital divide is ethically harmful.

The social injustice, then, is the limited internet access poorer individuals have and the misperceptions of affluent individuals who believe that smartphones are a legitimate portal for a full access to the internet. This inhibits the poor from gaining better access to knowledge as well as cripples young peoples’ education.

“The most devastating consequences of the digital divide are the long-term effects it will have on today’s youth. Lacking access to technology and computer skills, an entire generation will be disempowered from realizing its full potential to contribute to society” (Koss, 2001).

Furthermore, the statistics from the US Census Bureau support Time’s concept of young adults’ intrinsic need for material goods. While more expensive computers would be more beneficial in an educational setting for today’s youth, cheaper, more attainable, and incomplete smartphones are fashionable and more captivating for young people to purchase. The media drives this social injustice by depicting who is to buy what products by feeding off of racial stereotypes. As a result, innovations, such as smartphones, are frequently built on top of misconceptions. Change, in this instance, is restrained by empowered advertisers. As Heraclitus once said, “Nothing endures but change.” The hold that advertisers have on their consumers disproves Heraclitus; people will buy what is trendy and ignore the social injustice that they create for themselves.

References

Apple. (2007, January 9). Get a mac-surgery [Video file]. Video posted to

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ci2D1ig4df4

Alverman, D. E. (2004). Media, Information Communication Technologies, and Youth Literacies: A

Cultural Studies Perspective. American Behavioral Scientist, 48(1), 78-83. doi:10.1177/0002764204267271

Boost Mobile. (2011, April 6). Working man [Video file]. Video posted to

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZX6tHkW7xg

Boost Mobile. (2007, December 23). Anthem 2.0 rap commercial [Video file]. Video posted to

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnvYBtZNowU

Coupland, D. (1991). Generation x, tales for an accelerated culture. St. Martin’s Griffin.

Koss, F.A. (2001). Children Falling into the Digital Divide. Journal Of International Affairs, 55(1), 75.

LaGesse, D. (2001). So many gadgets and so little time. U.S. News & World Report, 130(2), 36.

Modarres, A. (2011). Beyond the digital divide. National Civic Review, 100(3), 4-7. doi10.1002/ncr.20069

Pain. S. (2006). The phone that roared. New Scientist. 190(2550).

Schneidawind, J. (1992). Big blue unveliling. USA Today.

The Luxury Survey. (Cover story). (2008). Time, 17158-59

U.S. Census Bureau. (2009, October). Current population survey, reported internet usage for

households, by selected householder. Retrieved December 3, 2011, from http://www.census.gov/hhes/computer/publications/2009.html

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010, September). Income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the united

states: 2010. Retrieved December 3, 2011, from http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-239.pdf

35% of American Adults Own a Smartphone. (2011, July 11). PewResearchCenter Publications. Retrieved

December 3, 2011, from http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2054/smartphone-ownership-demographics-iphone-blackberry-android

Written by Jack Viere

December 5, 2011 at 11:30 am

A Crippling Digital Divide: Social Injustice Caused by Advertisements Part 1

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Statistics are biased; they only depict numbers, not people and their identities. The theses that are developed from predisposed statistics are mere coincidences that are shared among human populations. As a result, innovations are frequently built on top of misconceptions. Change, in this instance, is brought about erroneously by empowered individuals. As Heraclitus once said, “Nothing endures but change.” This would prove to be dangerous if change was coerced and manipulated by several individuals to capitalize the least advantaged.

Today’s youth is more technologically savvy than the elderly. Cultural studies conducted in the early 21st century point to their ability to multitask:

“Youth of all ages…use media in junction with various information communication technologies…to communicate with their peers and relatives, to say current in what matters to them, to shop, to relax, to create personal Web pages…among other things.” (Alverman, 2004.)

As a result, advertisements target an age group that is more susceptible of being concerned with what is fashionable. Technology feeds the youth’s inborn disease of multitasking that never existed in their parent’s generation. The only formidable explanation for Generation X’s (Coupland, 1991) use of technology is its strong attraction to convenience. Advertisements select to whom specific pieces of technology are to be sold. Their shift in focus to adults defines their product as sophisticated for professional use. For example, email shortens the previous time it would take to send snail-mail. Still, Generation X does not idiosyncratically partake in social networking, nonverbal communication, and entertainment as today’s youth so avidly does. By gearing advertisements towards a younger generation, advertisers force today’s youth to become more susceptible to consume spontaneously.

Fabian Koss, one of the founders and coordinators of the Inter-American Working Group on Youth Development, has measured technologies’ effect on the youth. Initially, he defines the digital divide as “the gap between individuals…at different socio-economic levels and their opportunities to access information and communication technologies” (Koss, 2001). Within this definition there are two factors that are rudimentary to not only the definition of the digital divide, but to the social injustice it creates; socio-economic levels and individuals’ access.

The poor have insufficient financial means to access technology. “In 2010, 46.2 million people were in poverty, up from 43.6 million in 2009” (Census Bureau, 2010). This can be seen as the digital divide; the socio-economic gap between the wealthy and the impoverished. But is this an entirely fair or just assumption? Are certain socio-economic groups lacking information and communication technologies? If they are, is this evidence alone enough to deem the digital divide a social injustice?

Before the increase of handheld devices, the digital divide was misunderstood; poorer neighborhoods did not have access to telephones and computers. “The poorest households in central cities had the lowest level of access to telephones (with a market penetration rate of 79.8 percent), and the rural poor had the lowest level of access to computers (4.5 percent)” (Modarres, 2011). But with the invention of smartphones and social networking, individuals gained access to cheap technology. While the prices of computers and laptops remained high, the destitute skipped the basic technological “necessities” such as a telephone.

Modern technology for individual use has a timeline beginning with the telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 (Pain, 2006). Subsequently, abled consumers connected the dots from one product invented for the individual to the next. Most notable of these products on the timeline in the 21st century are the digital camera, desktop PC, and the cellphone (LaGesse, 2001). As a result of technologies being fashioned for individuals, a stark contrast grew between the consumption of material goods between the affluent and the poor.

This contrast between the haves and the haven-nots creates the groundwork for the misconception wealthier socio-economic classes have better access to the internet than the poor. While the wealthier have a more obvious financial means to purchase desktop computers and Wi-Fi, this does not lead to the conclusion that poor people, who do not have financial means for desktops and Wi-Fi, do not have access to the internet. This is a hasty generalization; to assume that the only method of reaching the internet is from computers, and only the wealthy have access to these computers.

The digital camera, desktop PC, and cellphone have been combined into one piece of technology: a smartphone. An added characteristic sets smartphones away from telephones and cellphones: internet access. Pew Research Center Publications has found that 35% of American adults own a smartphone. Of these smartphone users, “87%…access the internet or email on their handheld device…25% of smartphone owners say that they mostly go online using their phone, rather than with a computer”(Pew Research, 2011). These statistics suggest two points, the first being that there is a large portion of the adult population using smartphones. Cheap deals and advertising directed towards specific archetypal individuals enable for users of all types. A Boost Mobile commercial titled “Working Man” depicts a man’s busy workday:

He holds several positions of employment such as a construction worker, delivery man, window washer, desk temp, and toilet cleaner. As he scrubs the toilet, he uses his smartphone to send a message saying, “How many jobs do I need to pay for a cellphone bill?!” The commercial ends with “$50” dropping by increments of five dollars until it reaches “$35” (Boost Mobile, 2011).

At $35, Boost Mobile offers a low monthly rate for calling, texting, and internet access. This is Pew Research’s second point: smartphones offer internet access. In this advertisement, the lower and middle classes are offered access to the internet.

While the destitute may be left without any financial means, even for food, water, or shelter, lower income individuals are tempted by bargains like Boost Mobile’s $35 monthly rate. “Even among those with a household income of $30,000 or less, smartphone ownership rates for those ages 18-29 are equal to the national average…44% of blacks and Latinos are smartphone users” (Pew Research, 2011). This statistic addresses the misconception that only the wealthy have access to the internet. Through smartphones, the less-advantaged have access to the internet. In fact, the United States Census Bureau holds that 57.5% of high school graduates have access to internet. This percentage is dwarfed by college graduate’s 88.5% (Census Bureau, 2009). However, those who are capable of attaining a job after high school, like those vocations depicted in the Boost Mobile’ commercial, are able to gain access to the internet. This is not to say that non-high school graduates and the poor necessarily have internet access; statistics show that out of the people who do not graduate high school, 32.2% have internet access (ibid). Low income households and individuals are able to access the internet; typically through smartphones.

To be continued…

Written by Jack Viere

December 4, 2011 at 3:33 pm