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Saturday Feature
Ideologies, media and the forsaken individual
Syed Fattahul Alim

          To listen to the smaller voice is not the concern of the purported altruistic institutions created by society with a grand design to look into the people's needs or doing good to them. Such institutions heed only those whose voices are audible. Put differently, to be within the hearing range, the voice has to be strong. The institutions evolved, built, or designed for general good address the general masses. The masses are faceless, and however vulnerable each of them might seem, the sound they make together is a roar. The abstract institutions listen to the roars of the masses and allocate resources for them. The individual and its needs are too insignificant a matter that merits any special attention from the grand institutions and the grander causes they serve. Great ideologies, too, do not have any agenda to serve the individual. The ideologues of the grander discourse of life and its problems would contest this assertion with the argument that the general includes the individual. Therefore, the general good that a cause or an ideology promises to serve does also address the individual and its needs all at once. The crux of the problem, or the argument of the uniqueness of the individual, is exactly here. Unlike the individual human being, the abstract or the general is not at all something living. It is purely an idea or a symbolic expression about the individual personality.
Nevertheless, the individual in question, on the other hand, is very much a living entity. It is existential and inexhaustible. In this sense, every individual is a universe. A feeler that only touches the upper surface of the skin is never able to gauge its depth and the world that pulsates underneath. How can then a dead idea encapsulated in an ideology, a very grand one though it may seem, attend to the living individual and its needs? Is it not a paradoxical proposition that the generalist approach can serve the individual and that, too, adequately? According to this approach, the individual is considered from a utilitarian perspective. The best an ideology can do to it is to address its needs. Here again, the individual is looked upon as an ensemble of needs crying for some kind of addressing. The singularity called the individual, with all its sovereignty, uniqueness and the wonder of all wonder-life, is not the subject of these dry ideologies.
The ideologies of democracy, socialism, communism or even the ideology of the welfare society aim to serve society or all the people taken together. The various institutions humans have created to look after the welfare of the people have hardly any agenda for the individual. Well, all the social institutions like the state, the government, the judiciary, the administrative juggernaut, you name it, do of course, attend to the problem of the individual. Here again, the need or the problem so addressed is a highly idealised. They, in fact, address the 'ideal need' through the 'ideal individual'. Needs identified for addressing are like shoes that an individual must wear, however, uncomfortable, tight or loose that may feel to the particular wearer. Until now, humanity has not been able to think up a system of redress that takes care of the unique person in the individual in its totality.
To cut a long story short, the individual has remained an unsung and unattended being in spite of all the great philosophies that lay claim to their preoccupation or even obsession with the life of the human persons. That is simply due to the fact that, like the individual human being, a single particle, say an electron in the world of elementary particles, cannot be exactly located when watched or measured for any of its quantifiable properties by the measuring instrument.
As no measuring instrument can exactly and completely quantify the particle, or as no classical theory can make any foolproof prediction about its behaviour in time, so no classical theoretical tool or ideology is able to make any complete assessment of the human individual. It will forever remain submerged in the sea of faceless, amorphous mass of humanity beyond the programmes of grand discourses of emancipation or altruistic institutions meant for serving the people. If science is to address this particular need of humanity, it must not violate the individual's sovereignty or its uniqueness in the name of giving it an identity number, for a human is not just an object that can be tagged with a set of numbers for its identification. Science, too, has to become more humane and personal, if it ever wants to reach the individual.
The champion of the underdog
Trust of what is in a printed form is deeply rooted in human psyche. Like the decree of the monarch, people are inclined to believe what is dished out by the remote media, whether the print or the electronic. However, is all that is churned out by the press in the name of true information about the events taking place all around, day in, day out true? One who watches Noam Chomsky closely or read his merciless and dispassionate analysis of the role of the modern day media, all the aura of infallibility that surrounds it will instantly disappear into thin air.
"There are no magic answers, no miraculous methods to overcome the problems we face, just familiar ones: honest search for understanding, education, organization, action that raises the cost of state violence for its perpetrators or that lays the basis for institutional change--and the kind of commitment that will persist despite the temptations of disillusionment, despite many failures and only limited successes, inspired by the hope of a brighter future." (Noam Chomsky).
William Porter, while writing about Noam Chomsky's crusade against the vested elitist interests that control the so called free and objective mass media, made the following comments in his 'Common Sense of the Underdog: The politics of Noam Chomsky:
"One man has taken it upon himself to stand in the line of fire, and while speaking out against numerous human rights violations, (i.e. Guatemala, Cambodia, South East Asia) has attained the billet of anarchist, dissident, liar, as well as many other prudent names usually given to the underdog. He has continually tested the boundaries of American democracy, by fundamentally charging the mass media with using their First Amendment Rights to set the agenda of news that is solely focused upon elite interest, or government control. Noam Chomsky according to the New York Times is "arguably the most important living intellectual." He is a distinguished professor of linguistics at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and author of several books".
"The first amendment of the Constitution of the United States grants the people freedom of speech, press, and the right to peaceably assemble. When, from the time it was ratified, December 15, 1791 to the present, did it begin its downward spiral towards corruption, greed, and misrepresentation of facts, which the general public relies on as their main source of information? As Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman point out in Manufacturing Consent, "a propaganda model, which focuses on the inequality of wealth and power, have multilevel effects on mass-media interests and choices" This statement, given its horrific consequences, is in my opinion the entire truth. Not only have I taken the time to investigate thoroughly Noam Chomsky's claim that the mass media is controlled by powerful elite interests, and found this to be true, but I have also by means of active participation and the will to seek out the truth, uncovered mass media whitewash and blackouts that are just as extensively biased as the non-coverage of Guatemala is, or likewise. For instance, The Bilderberg Group with its interest to start a global union was completely blacked out by the mass media, whereas the alternative press covered the story as much as possible. Of course within this organization are elite's from around the globe, (i.e. international financiers, major newspaper publishers, heads of supranational agencies, leading U.S. and North American Politicians, and selected titans of industry.) with as much interest in keeping their meetings silent, as it will take to do so. It doesn't take much research or common sense to see that the mass media is owned and operated by corporate elite's, and because of this, the news will be structured or framed in such a way that benefit interests other than those opposed to them.
Given the inclination that the mass media are under strict elite control, and are run on the premise that money and interest take precedent over what is printed or spoken, one then must turn to other avenues to seek out the truth. One such place to obtain news other than the censored mass media is the alternative press and radio. In the movie documentary Manufacturing Consent, Noam Chomsky gives one member of his audience the advice to turn to these alternative papers and radio to find the "real truth." One can speculate how trustworthy some of these alternative methods to news are, but as for their outward appearance, they seem to have the "tell it like it is" attitude, which spark flames to the die-hard liberal eyes".
The genius of Chomsky has exposed the ostensibly innocent, objective and the pro-people face of the mass media. But there is yet another area of human concern that is waiting for a similar champion who will unmask the altruistic and generalist face of the social and political institutions and the emancipatory ideologies like democracy, socialism or the welfare philosophies on which they stand.


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