media check for week of 2007-09-02

Will who plays in Defiance, Ohio with me plays in a newish band called Landlord. It’s Matte and Chris from the Door-Keys with Will and sounds not unlike the Door-Keys, but with Will mixing the sound up. I miss Daun’s vocals, but Will makes the songs a bit more diverse. They went on tour last month and have a nice looking CD-R that Chris put out. Here are two of my favorite songs:

  • Landlord - Ladder
  • Landlord - Open Doors

The only channel at Chiara, Bz, Florence and Oona’s house is PBS, which is okay, because It’s made me stoked on TV again, and is a bit nostolgic because it was on all the time at my house as a kid (and for a long time, it was the only station that came in). It is a little annoying because the local station is currently in the midst of a fund drive, complete with really bad music programming (Riverdance, and a retrospective of 70s music, for instance) , but I guess a week of people in suits talking is better than commercials every 10 minutes. As part of the fund drive, they re-aired Bill Moyers’ Selling the War, a look at how the mainstream US press (not only the usual suspects like FOX news, but also outlets like the New York Times that are often regarded as quite liberal) reiterated the Bush administration and neoconservative justifications for the war in Iraq including links to Al-Queda and Iraqi weapons programs. Many of these claims were based on very shaky evidence, but most in the mainstream media propagated this information without further investigation. The Bush administration then referred publicly to these numerous articles, which had originated from sources close to the administration, as evidence of the veracity and popular support for their claims. Watching this documentary was really chilling, not because they criticized the Bush administration’s shaky claims for war, but because they demonstrated how so many in the press dropped the ball on being the watchdog for the truth of the government’s information to the public. This struck home as a second-hand consumer of information, and as someone interested in blogs which are all about propagating the information of others. It makes me realize the responsibility that comes with repeating information, and the need for everyone, though especially those in a place to convey information, to be more knowledgeable and critical of that information. Two bits of information that I thought were especially interesting was how the report followed some journalists with Knight Ridder news service (since bought by the McClatchy Company) who were some of the only newspaper writers delving deeper into the claims of the administration echoed elsewhere in the media. Also, there was a short segment of an interview with the editor of the Washington Post where he talked about how, during the Reagan administration, the Post used to meticulously fact-check the president’s speeches before stopping the practice because the public complained that the reporters were being too critical.

Again, on PBS, I saw the tail end of a documentary about the beginning of affirmitive-action-style racial quotas, designed to increase the number of black afro-brazilians at state universities.  With a greater population of multi-racial people, it’s complicated to determine who qualifies as “black” under the system, and the documentary talked about cases of some trying to get in under the quota system even though they had very little African ancestery, whereas some with considerable African roots and who seemed perceivably “black” didn’t want to try for admission under the quota system because they didn’t want to think of themselves as “black” because of the social stigma, or because, even aknowledging a “black” identity, they still didn’t want to feel like they were getting special treatment because of it. Critics of the plan argue that it is going to create racism, where it currently doesn’t exist, but it seems like these critics are overlooking the fact that racism does exist, and has existed in Brazil, and that this is felt by many people, whether it’s in access to employment or other cultural opportunities, or the way that people look who are selected for advertizing, TV, and other pop-culture iconography.  While a quota system might be flawed, it is unfortunate that criticisms of the system don’t aknowledge people’s needs or their perception of racism.  It’s the same everywhere, I guess.

What I really wanted to write about though, is something that wasn’t the same everywhere.  Towards the end of the documentary, they showed the results of the propsective college students the story was following.  In Brazil, admission to the public university is contingent on a single examination.  The university admissions were released in a public space, on a large board, and the people displaying the results had to run out of the way to escape the onslaught of eager students.  Those that saw, from the results, that they had gotten in, were jubulant, while those that hadn’t seemed genuinely shaken, but determined to get in on the next try.  It was crazy to see, because in the US, it seems that for many getting into university of some sort is taken for granted.

This is a follow-up on the article that I mentioned a while ago about gender, evolution, and how (the author believes) culture exploits men as well as women, that is, culture as a system, uses men and women in identifiable roles to achieve it’s ends.
I think the analysis is interesting, but, taken in the wrong way, can be a dangerous thing.  First, the author takes a standpoint of political agnosticism, but I think it’s irresponsible to assume that there won’t be policy or political directives taken from his research.  Second, the idea that cultural systems work, for the most part, because we’ve survived this far, is, for me, unsatisfying because it ignores the fact that culture doesn’t work for so many people.  I don’t see what is to be gained, from an ethical, or an evolutionary standpoint, to accept the failings of our current system.  The author does, at least, aknowledge that culture has modified itself in some cases to better achieve it’s goals.  Finally, the author seems to feel that men are unfairly beleaugured in our culture as culture uses them as well as women, though in different roles and to different ends.

I realized that most men below the age of 50 have never experienced masculinity as a positive thing, especially given the relentless stream of messages about male misbehavior and ostensible male oppression of women, plus the mass media depiction of men as villains and buffoons. When was the last time you heard a news story that depicted men, collectively, in a positive light?

While criticizing “men”, as a gender, might not be very accurate, or productive, I think the criticisms often leveled at men, are still valid, and if as the author indicates, culture and evolution has put men in more public and oftentimes structurally powerful positions, replacing the word “men” with “those in power” in criticism of social power structures, escapes the author’s concerns about a cultural taboo agains positive attitudes towards men, but finds, to me at least, the criticisms still ringing true.  In the talk that the blog entry follows, the author claimed that culture has put men in a role of more public, broader power, so it seems that, if we, as a culture, find the application of that power troublesome, the criticism would exist at the level of culture, even in the form of a taboo.  Now, to gender that criticism might not be accurate, but in trying to question how we think about gender, we shouldn’t stop criticizing those in power, if deserving of criticism, whether they are men or women.  I guess I find it frustrating that the author would take a positive view of public and structural male power, even aknowledging that it is a realm that culture has given mostly to men, but see criticism as a negative thing, rather than part of that same cultural system.  I also find the author’s assertion that the roles of gender in culture (in his previous talk, to generalize, I would say that he said that men hold roles of power in a more public sphere, while women seek influence and power in a more intimate sphere) are seperate and different but equal, to be unsatisfying.  The problem is, that even if you accept this dichotomy, there are so many examples of public, structural power infringing on power in more intimate relationships.  My knee-jerk reaction is that in the present, and even historically, changes in the role of women (or any other group) within the different spheres of power and a public criticism of the public power structure (seen by the author as the taboo against regarding males positively) come from a perception (I would argue, a reality) that the roles that people play in culture are not only seperate and different, but also unequal.

In writing  a blog entry for a blog that is on the Bloomington paper’s website, that dealt with an issue heavily tied to issues of race and class, I found it really hard to not express the different views at a community forum as being opposite to each other (for instance, expressing a white man’s perspective, and then presenting a black woman’s perspective starting the sentance with “On the other hand,”).  And, while I perceived the two people’s interests and identities to be different, they weren’t neccessarily addressing each others’ points.  It is hard, in writing, to address issues of race and class in a way that aknowledges differences in identity, perspective, and power, but that also doesn’t perpetuate an adversarial relationship across those lines.  Reading “There Goes the Neighborhood”, recently, which takes an academic and ethnogrpahical perspective on this, has helped give me some ideas for writing with more observational language.  Thinking about my blog entry, which is about a debate about a Bloomington neighborhood and school, made me think of the book, about relationships in Chicago neighborhoods between different racial and class identifying communities, and how, consistently, local schools are an intersection of those communities and often a forum for dialog and even collaboration.