Some cibo

I’ve been chewing on some random thoughts lately and thought I’d put it out there and see what other people think.

  1. It’s ambiguous where and how companies like Nike and Gap make their clothing. In order to consume responsibly, people would have to consider what the conditions are in factories, whether workers are properly compensated and the environmental effects of the production process. Those who are undaunted by the task take great pains to buy sustainable and sweat-free articles of clothing—alternative brands, bamboo fiber, hefty price tags… Some people try to dodge the bullet completely by not buying new. But if you buy clothing from a second-hand/thrift/consignment shop (especially if it comes from a brand not known for sustainability or fair practices), does it redeem that piece of clothing?
  2. A certain friend of mine from a working class background used to have many discussions with me about privilege and poverty. He always asserted that nobody who comes from a fairly secure background could ever know what it’s like to be poor or struggling, especially social activists. To which I ask the following questions: Can those who have safety nets ever really understand what it’s like to be in poverty? And if those who come from impoverished backgrounds had a safety net, do we believe they wouldn’t take it? How do those who volunteer to be in relative poverty fit in, especially if they have a safety net?
  3. As part of the CTC VISTA Project, my job is to help in the effort to bridge the Digital Divide. This usually refers to different social groups—low-income, rural, immigrants, minorities—who do not have access to or savvy with technology or the Internet. In many academic spheres, the Internet is regarded as revolutionary because it has given many people the power to create content and participate, in some ways dethroning many traditional fields—advertising, television, print newspapers… Much of this activity is categorized under social media. So having Internet access is one thing, but are there still social groups falling through the social media cracks?
  4. Television, papers, etc. have long been criticized as finding the lowest common denominator to attract the largest audience. There has been much criticism about how this leads to unoriginal content. This leaves out a lot of subcultures and social groups, and in that absence, cable access, HBO, LPFMs, Internet news mix-and matches and alternative mags (many of which are nonprofits) have cropped up. The Internet hasn’t entirely addressed the inclusion of various groups of people, but what I love about Twitter as opposed to any other social media tool is this: It uses the lowest common denominator in technology and time, and still the content is unique.
  5. Given the ubiquity of online foreign language news sources and the rise in foreign language television channels, do immigrants still buy foreign language papers at the same rate as previously? If not, is there as steady and accelerating a drop-off for foreign language papers as MSM?

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Filed under: Ethnic groups, Food for thought, Internet, Journalism, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses

  1. hopptm says:

    2. It’s not about understanding what it’s like to be poor, it’s about understanding the psychological consequences of being poor. We often look at people from certain socio-economic backgrounds and wonder why they act the way they, why they don’t pull “themselves up by the bootstraps.” That method of thought is antiquated and insincere. When it comes to abused children, we often understand how horrible it must have been to be abused. But we can’t understand the perceived illogicality of their psychological status or, subsequently, behavioral outcomes resultant from that status.

    Now, I fully understand that it is largely non-analogous to compare being poor to being abused. But, I think, the point remains: experience, in its full and blustery ferocity, leaves a distinct mark. For my part, I don’t believe that experience can be reconstructed.

    The point isn’t that social advocates have to possess certain social-economic (etc) antecedents but rather that social advocacy will be most effective when it synthesizes resources with experience. When dealing with the economically disadvantaged, simply pandering to the poor will cull myopic and short-lived results. Communities need to be built by their own but all construction requires resources. Obviously, this formula isn’t really a formula and success is always situational.

    Now, the idea of “authentic experience” has been studied in a persuasive context, and we do have the science that shows group members are more persuaded by those people who they percieve as possessing similar/same life experiences.

    What does all this mean? I’m not sure. It certainly doesn’t mean that social/economic advocacy isn’t worthwhile. I just believe that we’re seeing failures outnumber successes and wasted efforts – no matter how well intentioned – are a waste of a resources.

  2. dennetmint says:

    @hopptm Tobster—I’m curious as to how you see people who volunteer to be in poverty fitting in. In Portland, there are a lot of young people on social services because they work (multiple) part-time jobs that only support them in the slightest ways. There are also many runaway youth on the streets, some of whom come from financially secure but abusive families. In the U.S., the idea that poor people may not have money but have riches where the rich do not is a justification, I believe, that the middle + class uses to let themselves off the hook and make themselves feel better, but there seems to be a correlation in American perception between real poverty and misery. In the case of the young people, there’s a significant number that find fulfillment in volunteering for the numerous social causes in Portland and aren’t necessarily looking toward a white collar job that promises security. In terms of community organizing when it comes to welfare issues, do you think they have the same credibility or less than someone who comes from the background you described?

  3. hopptm says:

    As it relates to credibility, I absolutely believe that those perceived as “dis-similar” have little to no credibility among those they are seeking to educate and organize. We’ve got the social science to prove it; people are less persuaded by those they see as “non-experts.” To wit, the perception among the poor will always be that you can’t undertsand my plight because you grew up on a cul-de-sac and I grew up in house without electricity. You aren’t an “expert” and, subsequently, your efforts to persuade me to organize or make life style changes are based on your reality, not mine. And my reality is soemthing that you never fully comprehend.

    To further that point, many of the nation’s poor are uneducated, but they aren’t stupid. They recognize – as do you – that the “middle +” class does often volunteer out of a sense of social guilt.

    Now, again, I ALWAYS see volunteer work as positive. It doesn’t matter where you come from or why you volunteer, it only matters that you do. However, I also believe that synthesizing resources is paramount. The “expert” in socio-economic terms, is the community member who can work as a figurehead. It’s about using the micro to impact the macro. I can’t back any of this up with science, but why not focus a large part of initial resources in culling several meaningful relationships with targeted community members and then mobilizing those members as paramount actors in all campaign plans. This formula has already been followed in a variety of capacities. But, I think, it can be expanded on and seen as an even more long form process that encompasses education in a larger role.

    Obviously, as a caveat to any/all of my statements, I have only a limited set of knowledge and my statements aren’t to bee seen as empirically generalizable claims. The problems we face are complex and will undoubtedly need to be approached from a wide array of platforms.

  4. Ben says:

    Regarding #2: I don’t think it matters whether someone “understands” what it means to be poor. I don’t think poverty is something we can rationalize to a solution. To me the issue is: are we creating structures that can engage diverse people (who maybe *do* understand what it means to be poor—whatever that means anyway) and make them equal co-participants. Ending poverty is a process (maybe without an absolute end at that either); it’s not like we just need to find THE solution and “deploy” it.

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