This week,reading about the rise of technology and largely the popularization of the radio as both an entertainment and a political tool I began thinking about the ethics of mass media. Technology moved incredibly quickly in the early 1900s and it was up to politicians to move just as quickly and to take advantage of the new tools available to them. However, I doubt anyone could have fathomed the dramatic effect of nationally heard messages until they were spoken. I wonder if this affected the way politicians initially chose to deliver their messages.
I imagine that, at least initially it was not entirely apparent that political rhetoric could not be packaged as it always had been to speak to small groups that did not exceed the size of a village. To begin with, it is much easier to construct a message that will be palatable to a single community than it is to appeal to an entire nation.Not only could this drastically affect a person’s political popularity it could change the entire mood of a nation and even provoke violence.
I found the ethics of widespread consumption of political messages and the usage of media to be an especially interesting point when considering the rivalry of Getúlio Vargas and Carlos Lacerda. While public media has been incredibly important for the unbiased political education of masses, Vargas and his use of public radio demonstrates the serious danger of universal messages. Modern technology has given autocrats who abide simply by no moral code aside from maintaining their own power, more reach than ever. The invention of the radio gave rise to questions of censorship (or targeted propaganda) as well as a new aspect to consider in order to maintain a free press. While radio can be a useful tool to spread ideas quickly, is it the proper domain for a government to have free reign?
Lacerda seemed to understand more clearly the opportunity for emotion that arose with the mobilizing of a huge group of people. He utilized a more personal approach and much more successfully created a sense of national unity and often of national upset. However the real power of mass emotion is shown by the events of August the 24th 1954. Vargas was by no means a popular figure but by making a drastic statement on a huge scale he managed to trigger a wave of emotion, simply because he was capable of reaching enough people to make a difference.
This week I was captured by the Ruben Dario poem, A Roosevelt. I found it to be a beautiful and passionate description of Latin America as well as a scathing rejection of those who try to change or control it. I found the poems initial descriptions of Roosevelt to be intriguing, the words “primitive and modern” struck me as interesting, especially in the context of last week’s discussion. This seems to be a comment on the struggle for progress, especially since Latin American “progress” was often modeled after the appearances maintained by the United States.
It becomes quickly apparent that though the poem uses the name “Roosevelt” this is not a criticism of one man. It is a rejection of the United States of America as a whole. By calling Roosevelt a “future invader” Dario makes his mistrust clear. It’s important to understand that this “invasion” doesn’t just mean a physical invasion into Latin American territory but a cultural infiltration. This would be especially dangerous to Dario who seems to feel that American culture is corrupt.
His main grievance, as driven home by the very end of the poem, is with what he perceives as America’s failing Christianity. Considering this last line implies that without God, everything means nothing, the idea of a godless influence on Latin America is grim indeed. This is the main differentiating factor between Dario’s descriptor of the two America’s one “still prays to Christ”.
Immediately prior to his passionate description of Latin America, Dario takes time to acknowledge the grandeur and power of the United States. I believe he does this to prove that Latin America does not need to minimize other nations in order to possess majesty and honour.
This is a powerful revolutionary poem due to the unifying language used throughout. Though it may not be fully representative as Latin America was and in many large part continues to be fractured. Dario uses a common “we” throughout the poem. The use of this language is what makes the peace especially defiant. The understanding that “we” are the ones who tell “our” stories, who share history, who share pain and who share dreams and a common heartbeat allows for the rise of “we” the people. Such a united front can stand with much more impressive defiance.
In a way I believe in the unity and familiarity expressed in this poem. Though the family may be strained and in places broken apart, Latin Americans share a common experience that is not imitated or owned by any other America.
While watching this weeks video I found myself interested by the suggestions that the appearance of modernity and true modernization are two very different things. I think when most of us imagine a modern society we do think of outward organization, the latest technology and an ever growing presence on the world stage. Even more nowadays we see modern societies as those with an active population of politically concerned youth. Millennials are quickly becoming one of the most influential groups of people in terms of modernizing their societies. Modernization is seen as a good thing, it indicates improvement, better lives all around. More than anything I think modern society indicates prosperity. Sometimes however I think that when we think of modernization we don’t consider the advance of equality. I believe progress should be synonymous with modernity. Progress is a more encompassing word, it does in fact mean a better life for all those it influences, not just an appearance of advancement. Progress means moving forward in all aspects, whether it is protection for the surrounding environment, more rights for people or advancement in scientific technology to allow us to know more about our world as a whole.
I think that when we consider the modernization of Latin America and in this case specifically the modernization of Mexico it is worth thinking about appearance versus reality. Mexico appeared to modernize quickly as it put up impressive architecture and cemented itself in military ventures. However while these actions were impressive they by no means guaranteed any change in lifestyle or prospects for the average civilian, many of who were extremely oppressed by an elite white ruling class. For the ruling class modernity was about imitating Western European culture. This ideal was one of a sanitized and organized bureaucracy. It makes sense that liberal democracy which allows independent rights for each person has been the cornerstone of the “modern” society.
However in their hesitation to allow society at large to enjoy a broader set of rights the ruling class halted progress in favour of “modernizing” in terms of aesthetic and impression. While the natural next steps would have been to gravitate towards a more liberal society, fears of chaos and violence lingered. These eruptions of chaos would not have meshed well with the ideal picture of a modern society. I think when we consider developed nations or modern cities it is absolutely vital to look beyond infrastructure and achievements in technology and the like. In the quest for progress we must look to how the people, the majority working class are advancing if they are at all.
The scars of slavery are present and it fact remain deeply gashed into the fabric of North America. For me the most alarming thing is the lack of accountability and reconciliation on the part of many Latin American countries. I’ve been educated in both Canada and Chile and while Canada has huge stains on its history (more prevalently regarding the oppression of our indigenous peoples and the use of residential schools). The approach in terms of taking responsibility. While at long last reconciliation has and continues to become a vital part of Canadian curriculum, Chilean history classes barely mentioned a history of slavery. This lack of accountability has led to fractures in the culture and makeup of Latin American society.
The most disturbing detail about the lack of Latin American acknowledgement for its involvement in the slave trade is that lack of acknowledgement does not equate to lack of responsibility. The majority of Latin America engaged in the sale and then abuse of people-slaves. Yet it is not highlighted as a blemish on the history of many nations. Chile abolished slavery in 1823 but there were those who continued to illegally make use of slave labour for years afterwards. In addition to this, thee Latin American assault on the indigenous peoples of the region is all too often disregarded. Families, cultures, and groups were devastated and as reconciliation fails to provide for the damage done, populations at this moment continue to struggle. The devastation of colonial rule has not laid off for many of these people groups.
The degree of education reflects on the general sentiment of much of Latin America. Canada, though it continues to struggle to entirely disregard the constraints of segregation calls itself a multicultural society. The United States refers to itself as a melting pot. I don’t think many inclusive labels could be applied to a lot of Latin American countries as a whole. An especially unnerving part of this is that I sometimes wonder about how many in the country I know, Chile, would embrace a fully integrated society. In Chile the walls are built high and strong. Distinct ethnic populations largely keep to themselves, the use of racially charged and thus derogatory language is commonplace. Race is much more readily used as an identifier of value or personality. I worry when I see the way the indigenous populations continue to be treated while reconciliation does not consistently present itself as a political talking point. For me the redeeming quality is the youth, I truly believe young people across countries are leading the push for equality and justice.