Me, myself & I

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Construction of the self is central to our existence and our identity is constantly evolving. The person you are now may not be the person you end up becoming. Sociologist Charles Cooley defines identity, or self, as learning to see ourselves as others do. The Oxford dictionary characterises the self as ‘the unique attributes and interests that distinguish us from one another’. How have the different versions of the self changed over time? What are the key influences on our identity? How do you view yourself?

A version of the self that is prevalent in the 21st century is narcissism, which has created a shift from collectivism to individualism. Social Philosopher Anne Manne recently drew parallels between narcissists, adulterers, cosmetic surgery fanatics and gym junkies. Manne discusses high self esteem as a mask for insecurity and pursuit of attention and argues narcissists lack a distinct sense of empathy. While some self confidence is definitely viewed as healthy, when a disregard for fellow citizens prevails it creates anti-social behaviour. Psychologists Delroy Paulhus and Kevin Williams define narcissists as vindictive, self-promoting, emotionally cold, deceitful and aggressive. Consider the impact on social cohesion of a society largely comprised of narcissists.

Givers or takers

Manne dictates the need for a shift from the pursuit of attention to giving attention, with the former evidenced by a recent Harvard study of youth with 80% primarily valuing achievement and 20% primarily valuing caring for others. Is a healthy focus on oneself vital before you can help others? If achievement were a central focus for all would less care be required as the majority of citizens would be financially and intellectually empowered? Examples of the inherently selfish culture visible today include the amount of nursing homes that occupy people who are never visited by their children and the proportion of citizens of wealthier postcodes that donate less to charity than those living in poorer ones. Dr Jeremy Moss reinforces that inequality of wealth provides an unfair advantage to many social actors which seemingly enables corporations to influence politicians. This in turn can lead to better health, educational and employment outcomes for the wealthy, thus impacting one’s discovery of a sense of self.

Me inc.

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The rise of digital media has contributed to an influx in personal blogs and cleverly crafted social media pages focusing on the ‘ideal’ self. Manne discusses social media as ‘a platform for selfish individualism, hyper competitive capitalism and a megaphone for narcissistic qualities’. The digital age has provided a platform to communicate, however it has also increased consumption of information which impacts our identity. New Philosopher editor Antonia Case recounts Neil Postman’s theory of ‘Technopoly – the surrender of culture to technology’ which highlights people’s needs of being continually on a quest to access information. The abundance of ubiquitous information has undoubtedly shaped the identities of citizens today; children in primary school are now educated about concepts thought to be irrelevant at that age not more than a decade ago. Digital media is perhaps inevitable and rather than trying to disarm the automaton it is, citizens should rely on it for constructive purposes such as education and communicating with loved ones across borders.

Philosopher Flora Michaels discusses the dominant cultural stories of different eras and their influence on selfhood and ones broader perception of who we are and who we want to be. For example, in the 16th Century the dominant cultural story was religious, however, now it is economic. Prior eras and some cultures today are of the collectivist notion that family, tradition, custom and caring for others reign supreme. The modern self is more individualistic focusing on the pursuit of happiness through self-indulgence. For example, working long hours to increase living standards and to also provide an abundance of pleasures such as eating out, holidays and shopping.

The self is also influenced by plans and goals. Case discusses the notion of seeking, ‘planning the next big thing, the latest business idea, money making scheme, dinner party, overseas trip or property purchase’. Interestingly, people are convinced that once they marry the one they love, buy a house and have a family it will be the end of seeking. Philosopher Patrick Stokes asks the question, ‘are we just a story? Are people getting married to live out a love story?’ However, this is not so and the search is replaced. Seeking via the internet is largely unproductive, people could harness this motivation to seek to ‘write operas, learn languages, paint and sing’. It is evident that those who self destruct are lacking the ability financial or otherwise to set goals and achieve them.

Globally acclaimed psychology professor Kenneth Gergen explains that we come to know who we are in different relationships in different ways and by undertaking different activities. He emphasises that “what we are doing right now is only a slice of what we are capable of.” The power of the mind is underestimated and so too is its ability to allow us to maximise our potential. Gergen discusses a need for people to break down ‘solidified realities’ so people bring about positive change for their society, families and people around them. Sharing good practices, peacemaking in communities, community building and flattening organisations creates collaboration. Gergen’s point reinforces Cooley’s earlier notion that the self is continually evolving, always growing and forever changing.


Healthy narcissism

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As abovementioned, self confidence and ‘healthy narcissism’ is surely beneficial in certain areas. Manne describes ‘healthy narcissism’ as occupying self-confidence, ability to get on stage, climb up again and feel just pride…’.The psychotherapist John Mitchell describes a stable self as ‘full of colour, vitality, cohesion, continuity and experience.’ Breakdown and falling apart refers to a lack of cohesion, fragile life experiences and a life seen as dull and pointless. Mental illness costs the economy billions each year; a healthy dose of narcissism can help.

Upon examining theorists and examples of life in the modern era a focus on individualistic pursuits is prevalent, and is centred on the dominant cultural theory of economics. This shift, along with a rise in digital media, has fuelled a larger breed of narcissists who seem to lack empathy for fellow citizens. The impact of narcissism is far reaching and includes a widening gap between social classes which results in less social cohesion and increased anti social behaviour.  As Gergen suggests, narcissists could engage in more collaborative activities creating positive change within their communities. It is acknowledged that healthy narcissism does exist and helps combat societal challenges such as depression, which limits ones ability to construct the view of a favoured self and achieve self actualisation. It could be argued that economics has influenced personal values of achievement and financial independence, enabling development of a productive, safe and sociable self.

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The more you earn, the more you burn

Work is central to any society. Many, certainly in developed nations, question the validity of the notion of work. After all, don’t we dream of an island life, cocktail in hand, footloose and fancy free? How would we fund such a lavish occasion without first having earned the money to pay for it? Work has evolved throughout centuries from forming the basis of an agrarian society to a capitalist one. With a transition from the production of necessities consumed by oneself or production of surplus, consumed by others. Through observing a work deficit, welfare States a changing labour force and a capitalist economy we begin to unravel the complexities of the role of work in modern society.


A work deficit
 

With the global economy at an all time low, families across the world suffered incredibly during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. With people being laid off and not enough work, people’s living standards dropped dramatically with many unable to afford basic necessities. I recall the story of my 95-year-old grandfather, who starving at the time, was caught stealing a few potatoes and running across the rail tracks. Juxtaposed to my current situation where most days include a lavish meal with friends at a trendy establishment. In the developed world unemployment is relatively low with most members of society able to participate actively in the workforce. This in turn increases living standards and the ability to afford to maintain material subsistence.

In developing countries many jump at the opportunity to undertake any form of paid labour (hence increased sex work and slavery), while work opportunities are rare. In Australia there are increasing numbers of internships being taken by students in order to get ahead and get their first break. The sad reality is that many of the popular employers harvesting this unpaid labour can afford it. When you think of slicing a tiny percentage from one person’s bonus that could probably pay an intern for a year it begs the question, are internships fair? How do we as a collective balance too much work with not enough work? These examples illustrate the importance of a stable economy in not only producing excess but simply creating paid employment for people to maintain material subsistence.  


Support from the State

Welfare States across the world are characterised by the measures with which any Government allocates taxes in order to support its citizens. In Sweden we see a society safeguarded on many levels by the lenient tax system affording many Swedes reasonably priced childcare, sickness benefits and retirement fund models. In contrast, Australia is a ‘wage earner welfare state’ based on the stale concept of a nuclear family, with male breadwinner financially supporting his family while women typically care for the home and family. Welfare is distributed when citizens of a society cannot work. Possibly due to illness, misfortune, trouble securing work, retirement or incentives to care for family members and reduce time spent working.

While the age-old debate over ‘lifters vs. learners’ continues, it should be noted that work benefits citizens beyond the financial return. Work brings routine, discipline, respect and drives self-actualisation through interacting with various people and situations outside your normal lifestyle. The concept of valuing what you spend if you have earned it is too beneficial. Studies have shown that those who are employed are less likely to engage in anti social behaviour. This can range from unlawful activity (crime, drugs) to unhealthy pastimes that can lead to a deterioration in healthy both physical and mental, thus causing a raft of direct public health costs. Of course it can be argued that overworking is detrimental to health, on the whole, not working where you are not incapacitated, is more detrimental.


The changing labour force

The reality in the modern world is that women no longer need to rely on men to financially support them, divorce is on the rise and there are same sex marriages, single mothers and even single fathers. It is estimated women will acquire considerably less superannuation than men due to the role they take on as caregiver when they bear children. Is all of the cooking, cleaning, caring for children and potentially partners factored by the State? After all, we do still require a labour force to be produced in order to ensure labour productivity and a stable economy.

Due to WWII and the birth of the baby boomers our population and resources will be skewed toward retirees over the next few years. It will be important for retirees to have access to pensions and sufficient superannuation funds. This a policy masterstroke by the Labour Government ensuring that citizens are forced to save a portion of their salary across their lifetime in order to reduce the pressure on the welfare system come retirement. Technology has certainly created a shift from the industrial economy to a service economy. While many complain that they have lost their jobs e.g. car manufacturers, while being replaced by machines it could be argued many jobs have been created, particularly in the technology sector. If you can’t stop technological progress it appeals the solution is to embrace it.  


The more you earn, the more you burn
 

Its human nature to never be satisfied. I have personally experienced the same ability to enjoy life whether being paid a nominal fee or a competitive full time salary. You seem to find more things you don’t need to purchase with a ‘surplus’. Financial speculation can drastically increase income based on speculation and little labour productivity, which becomes detrimental to income equality. Consider the wealthiest few people earning more than millions of Australians. So is this race to enjoy a high salary really worth it after all? I am another living experiment of work life balance. After having worked many a full time role I fell into a four day work week and boy has it been refreshing. For what has been largely an incremental decrease in salary I find myself able to do the things we as a society enjoy, such as caring for my grandfather, enjoying the fresh air and achieving self-actualisation through more reading and writing.  


Can’t live with it, can’t live without it…

So it would appear that work is a valuable component of any society. Whether it affects social cohesion through a work deficit as seen throughout the Great Depression or whether citizens need to rely on the Welfare state to support material subsistence. It has been proven that work ismore bountiful than simply being a mechanism to earn a living. It unleashes potential, brings order, routine and discipline and can ensure we cherish time off and don’t take our freedom for granted. This of course not always the case when corporations are overworking people. We see a changing role in the labour force that includes the changing role of women, an ageing population and the rise in technology. Respective policies such as Australia’s wage earner welfare state largely founded on the basis of the nuclear family must be revitalised to reflect the changing nature of the labour force.

We must support policy instruments such as superannuation to eventually support retirement. Finally we must adapt and embrace with the birth of new technologies and their effects on the labour force and work. Society should analyse the effects of a capitalist ideal and consider the collectivist notion that includes spending more time caring for friends and family (and oneself) and less time supporting the pursuit of profit. Working is ideal to ensure a stable standard of living and of the formulation of oneself, however, it’s when the balance begins to erode the sense of self and supporting others that we should really question our approach to work.

What goes around comes around

After much debate over the latest ‘work for the dole’ scheme and attending Nobel Laureate Prof. Joseph Stiglitz’s ‘Income Inequality’ lecture I thought it timely to revisit the concept of lifting vs. leaning. I touched on this in an earlier post.

Anti-narcissism

For right winged liberal capitalists, time on earth is typically measured by a key metric, money. How much can I make, how fast can I make it and how can I use it to improve my living standards.

Consider a collectivist notion of thinking about other people. Perhaps supporting your partner, family or children. Statistics prove that we are ALL going to need to rely on welfare at some point in our lives. Whether we become ill, need time off work to grieve or grow old – welfare is a social functioning instrument that can be described perfectly by the old saying ‘what goes around comes around’.

The launch of Superannuation by Keating in 1992 was a masterstroke by the Labor Government.  Mandatory savings that can be accessed upon retirement.  If only we all saved a little extra that could be accessed when we needed time off work , were grieving, had fallen ill etc too? I know I used a huge chunk of savings when I was sick for while.  Then we really wouldn’t need welfare!

Work, more than just an income

After studying ‘Work and employment’ copious amounts of research proved that work fuels social cohesion and reduces anti-social behaviour. Having routine, discipline, respecting authority, exercising the mind, having daily contact with a variety of different people all maintain a level of emotional health otherwise unattainable from choosing your own adventure each day.

The recent budget delivery proved labour productivity was key to maintaining our high living standards in Australia. Yes from an economic perspective, but from a social perspective it also is keeping people off the streets and mentally stimulated. Most of the homeless people you will meet have low emotional wellbeing. It’s all too often forgotten that such a huge component of our makeup as people is mental, as well as physical.

I support Tony Abbott’s new work for the dole scheme and believe it is a strategic policy making initiative not aimed at reducing the amount of leaners to reduce the tax burden but also to improve their overall wellbeing. Work is VIP beyond the fact that you earn money and pay taxes to support the community!

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Breaking the cycle

Statistics show that intergenerational poverty is rife. Many perpetuate the characteristics of the people and environments they grow up in and it can be hard to break the cycle. University in Australia is currently accessible by most thanks to a policy that ensures repayments are only made once you earn a reasonable salary. However, statistics have shown that those accepted into university have typically had a stable upbringing and are financially secure and therefore access is not representative of the diverse socio cultural make up of Australia.

Growing up in whatever environment you may find yourself in naturally causes a bias. I grew up very privileged and before I was educated enough in the area of sociology, assumed that there were those who chose to work hard to make a living and those who lived off those who worked hard. I honestly feel like a spoiled brat when I venture out to some areas of Sydney. There are people trying to scramble together money for bread and milk and I’m over here planning my next cocktail night and trip to NYC. And yet here many of us are wishing we could trade places? Working is more appealing than relying on welfare after all…

So how can we all run the same race?

Society and its diverse backgrounds need to be better represented at a policy making level via Politicians and Government representatives. If we embody the true values of democracy for example, we would see politicians in Australia encompassing a variety of ages, genders, cultures and backgrounds. I see a trend toward middle aged, caucasian middle class male politicians.

Did you know that 1% of the population in the US earn 25% of the total income? Financial speculation and making money without the production and consumption of goods and services also takes its toll on a well oiled economy. Perhaps taxes may increase for this type of income ?

Government’s can also focus their efforts on collecting the vast array of unpaid taxes, before developing new taxes. Think of speeding tickets = fair’s fair! We are only incentivised not to speed to save our own lives and those of others, when we bend the rules we pay. Or fuel taxes, those who consume the most petrol pay the most tax that can then be attributed to supporting investment in roads. Which is one pricey business. Taxing savings and income incentivises people not to save or work… So creative policymaking comes into play.

Social functioning spend

Or “the budget” as most of us may be familiar with.  I touched on this in an earlier post as I have now entered the world of taking an interest in “the budget”. It really isn’t branded appropriately because what the budget aims to do is increase social cohesion, or functioning.  That is, the reduction in anti social behaviour (largely crime related) and increased welfare of citizens.

I was privileged to attend the NSW budget briefing delivered by the NSW treasury secretary and what an inspiring man.  Treasury have a pretty tough job – keeping millions of people happy through maintaining our living standards through effective fiscal planning!  He said if he could summarise the FY15 budget in a sentence, it would be through Ross Gittins’ (SMH economics editor) remark the new Premier ‘Mike Baird is nothing if not game. His first budget as Premier is a model of fiscal rectitude.’.  The >$60b tax payer funded fiscal plan takes us through to a surplus, which is ideal to maintain our strong economy.

Protecting and supporting fellow Australians

The NSW Government has said it will invest heavily in:

  • Child protection “Keeping them safe reform” – which is a sound strategy as a supportive childhood often leads to increased wellbeing as an adult.  Which in turn produces labour that is productive and enhances economic stability therefore leading to increased wellbeing due to sufficient living standards.
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – ensuring that those who are less able have greater choice as part of their care plans. This scheme also seeks to support carers in their quest to support themselves and others.
  • Home owners grant extension – likely due to promote property ownership which in turn leads to greater labour productivity through motivating citizens to work to pay off their mortgage.  In turn, also creating a more stable lifestyle ensuring adequate housing and a potential profit making asset when sold to downsize upon retirement, or later enter an aged care facility.  The ageing population, as a result of the Baby Boomers post WWII, will put pressure on resource allocation through increased demand for aged care facilities, more health services and increases in welfare / pension distribution and reduced labour productivity.

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Revenue sources

  • Payroll tax reductions – ensuring revenue can be raised from a variety of sources and that low income earners see increased take home pay as the cost of living continues to rise.  In ACT for example, Land Tax is one of the greatest revenue raisers.
  • Asset recycling – will play a large role in heading to surplus by, for example, outsourcing infrastructure projects to international investors.  For example, the $400m Pacific Highway upgrade.
  • Private investment opportunities and partnerships – It’s no secret Australia’s federal treasurer has slashed health funding from 26% of the total budget to just 13%.  However it should be noted that there are greater incentives in place to keep people out of hospital and the health care system.  Another example of state’s increasing revenue bases from outside sources include private investment into the new Northern Beaches hospital to be built.
  • Potential for revisiting older models e.g. use of funds / source of funds.  Fuel excise at 3% goes straight back into maintaining and developing road infrastructure.

The end of the mining boom

One of the stand out components of the NSW budget delivery is the huge impact reduction in demand for Australia’s natural resources that are being mined which has affected Gross National Investment (GNI). This relates to income and subsequently affects expenditure, thus reducing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) i.e. production.

In good hands

In order to maintain a strong economy based on equal parts production (supply) and consumption (demand) we need strong labour productivity.  This in turn will continue to drive Australia’s largely globally envied living standards, ‘the lucky country’ and ‘the Australian way’.

Innovation in the public service is key with bureaucracy and old ways of doing things no longer feasible.  In order to serve the citizens of NSW effectively public servants must embrace change and new, more efficient and innovative ways of creating best practice service delivery and “unleashing talent”.  An example more recently of this has been the roll out of Service NSW branches, a one stop shop for many of your administrative needs e.g. licence, etoll, seniors card.

The NSW treasury secretary ended by saying he sees tax as needing to be fair and efficient and that effective roll out of the forecast budgeted projects requires collaboration, trust and clarity.

My take is that as long as we stay passionate about being educated, work hard, buy a property and stay healthy we will be all good! And for those of us who may be disadvantaged and unable to, those who can will support you.  Any criminals who impede achievement of these ideals will be punished….

I think we are in good hands…

#1stworldproblems

We all have complaints, some of us more than others, but how relative are our woes to the woes of others?  A quick snapshot of recent events aims to put into perspective first world problems.


We will never be royal…

Many Australians recently got up close to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their royal visit to Australia.  Little girls dressed as princesses, little boys wore crowns.  If nothing but a monarchistic PR exercise, a fabulous community engagement tool and effective vehicle for raising awareness about the need for support for terminally ill children and their families.

I recall chatting to fellow female friends about my desire to step out each day, like Kate, in exquisite dresses with her immaculate make up and hair.  A desire no doubt shared with many women around the globe. However, at that moment did I stop to think of what it would really be like to be the Duchess of Cambridge?

Their tour was pre scheduled to the minute with briefings and casts of hundreds from various international and local organisations supporting them, after they had been screened of course.  It seemed tiring just looking at all the people involved in greeting and protecting them!

Your every move captured, including you in your “civilian wear” snuggling up to your husband while he has a beer at the football?  Needless to say no holiday snaps were required as their every second was captured professionally, and shown to everyone globally first.

Imagine the pressure on your family to ensure there was never a scandal. Never a family row, a moment of weakness, a fashion faux pas, a broken business deal, a display of raw emotion. Superhuman expectations perhaps?

Is it really so enticing the thought of having your 9 month old son minded majority of your waking hours by a professional nanny.  I think its fair to say no CV can ever prove how well one of your own will be looked after. Imagine if Prince George grows up with the first person he calls mum his nanny?

The expectation to predominantly bear and care for heirs to the throne is high, what if Kate wanted to be a career woman and provide for her family.  There is still time we can only hope…

 

We will remember them

We then look at preparations for the upcoming Centenary of Anzac in Australia, commemorating moments that have shaped the nation and provided the freedoms we enjoy today.  Gallipoli saw the highest number of Australian casualties in the Great War with the impact far reaching to families and society back home.

Pop WW2

When I asked my 95 year old grandfather about what had been some of the biggest changes Australia had seen over his time, he was quick to respond but slow to elaborate, “Growing up during the war and the life of an army man was hard, you had no choice but to live with it, and I did”.

Would I give my life to fight for the safety and freedom of others? I think we can all agree servicemen and servicewomen past and present deserve our utmost gratitude and support, whether they have fallen or are still standing tall for the rest of us today.

 

Spending our taxes wisely

With federal treasurer Joe Hockey recently announcing the FY15 budget, there has been community uproar at a few cuts in particular, to education and to health.

Have we considered the difficulty of someone in their professional role trying to make the best possible decisions for our democratic State? There are winners and losers in the budget but at the end of the day we all benefit in some way.

Take the forecast $7 Medicare co-payment.  That is the cost of 1 beer at a pub.  1 beer to see a fully qualified medical practitioner for what we can only hope is not a life threatening disease.  While society is finding it difficult to accept this proposal, that $7 doesn’t go into no mans land.  It then fuels the budget in other areas that deliver beneficial outcomes for Australians.

We are a democracy, famous globally for our lifestyle and the Australian way.  A culture largely developed by laws and policies that govern our relatively young country.  We should embrace the work of our elected representatives and leave any cast of doubt for the authorities.

 

Challenge your thinking

In essence, this post serves to remind us to challenge our thinking and explore all of our options.  The next time we wish for something, like royalty, ensure a balanced perspective and whether its as appealing as first thought.

The next time we complain about having to take an exam, speak in public or care for someone instead of a more favoured pass time – think of the sacrifices our forebears and current military personnel make.

And finally, the next time we cast doubt over our politicians and their proposed policies, remember that there is a lot more to each policy than meets the eye. A policy delivered by the media without the policy documents in total is an unfair assumption.  We have publicly elected representatives to aid a functional society,  they won’t always get it right but they can try. After all we certainly don’t get everything right in our own professions.

Former client and terminally ill cancer patient – puts things into perspective

The search for certainty

We all want it and the reality is we can’t always get it. The absolute conviction that forecast events will occur, that something is the case or that predicted outcomes will be reached.

Certainty is a component of our everyday lives.  We encounter certainty with contracts, wedding rings, solving crimes beyond reasonable doubt, cause analysis, financial speculation, “googling” and much more. Remember the days of getting public transport and ‘winging it’. Now I check the real time ETA every few minutes! Or those days when we said we would meet a friend at midday – and we met them then and there, no multiple text influx at 30 second intervals.

Society has become obsessed with rationalisation and the ability to predict and control outcomes. What happens when we face uncertainty? Society is in disarray… confusion and frustration prevail.

Question mark

Why don’t we know the answer?

In the case of flight MH370, uncertainty threw even the most powerful and resourced nations into a tail spin with over 26 countries committing to the biggest search and rescue operation over the past century.  The conversations I  read and heard appeared to centre around uncertainty and the frustration of ‘not knowing’.  WHERE is the plane? WHY can’t we find out? WHY can’t technology give us the answer? I think we need to look at the statistics in perspective.  There are approximately 18 million flights p.a and this is the only flight that has vanished in modern aviation history (~1903) – we are all familiar with a margin of error.

When a new disease is discovered and treatment is uncertain, again we have citizens begging medical practitioners for answers.  WHY don’t you know what caused this? WHY don’t you know how to cure it?

Recently scientists discovered a new galaxy.  A whole new planetary system that we had no clue about before….WHY did we not know about this earlier?

Uncertainty is deemed unacceptable

Uncertainty is the opposite and equally valid notion of certainty and society ought to embrace it if its actors stand any chance of progress. A few examples of events that have had major impacts on society that weren’t able to be ‘controlled’.

  • Global Financial Crisis and other economic disasters
  • Natural disasters
  • Disease
  • Unforeseen tragedies
  • Unsolved crimes

Adapt and embrace

I believe the only exception to the rule (and there is always one!) is the determination by police to solve a crime beyond reasonable doubt for years after the crime has occurred to ensure justice is served.  For example, the case of Daniel Morcombe, a ten year old boy who disappeared over a decade ago whose killer has finally been prosecuted.

It’s no secret that certainty about income, for example, can be necessary to one’s lifestyle.  When you drill down is it really? There is always welfare if you needed to maintain material subsistence, provided you had exhausted all avenues in your quest ‘to earn a quid’.  What if you adapted to a less expensive lifestyle and resorted to a job that perhaps paid less?

I’m personally making a special effort to ‘go with the flow’ and avoid predicting and controlling outcomes on a daily basis.  Something many of you may be familiar with – life ain’t black and white as they say! We need to embrace the grey area.

After all, are we really locked in to anything? We can say with certainty we will execute the deliverables of a contract, be with someone forever or believe it unlikely to contract a particular disease.  But the truth is – we don’t know, and nor should we.

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The voice of the media

Media. Mass communication.  A powerful vehicle to deliver messages to the masses quickly. Arguably one of the most powerful influences on society, vital in developing societal norms. Second only to the Government, which has the power to dictate media activity, or at least we are led to believe it does.

In the Australian media recently we have seen a few examples of the power of our media outlets. At what point does their quest for quality coverage cross the line? Below are a few productive and not so productive outputs of the media from a social perspective.

Solving crime

Distributing information and images / footage that may lead to a rapid arrest of a criminal or person of interest, enhanced recently through the use of social media by the police.  This is in our favour as we want to ensure a functional society, eradicating anti social behaviour as quickly as possible.

Driving community sanctioned rules which in turn shape Government laws

The media heavily influences public perception of the effectiveness of Government. The new 1:30am lock out and 3am last drinks laws were primarily fuelled by community outcry over the continued hospitalisation and in some cases death of young children, the victims of callous drunken attacks.  Government acted swiftly to pacify the community that ‘something would be done’ – a campaign which the community would never have known about without extensive media coverage.

Education

Media coverage enables us to understand and read about challenges and achievements experienced by members of society beyond our own location.  Its great to hear what may be happening in the world of our domestic and International counterparts and where we can obtain learnings.

At the end of various articles I find it quite useful to see relevant contact points e.g. an article on Cancer call Cancer Council Helpline.  An article relating to mental illness try Lifeline etc.

Driving forward a progressive society focused on marriage equality is another role of the media.

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Wasted resources

There has been that much media coverage on the Corby case the past decade I think we could have educated every Australian on human rights atrocities the world over by now.  Is this of value to us as society? Perhaps as a deterrent, which wouldn’t require a decade of media coverage.  The implications of ‘excessive Corby coverage’ has been far reaching with the Indonesian Government threatening to revoke Corby’s parole and The Australian Federal Police raiding the offices for information on a potential interview deal.

Publicity

Marketers are familiar with the value unpaid media exposure gives their product due to its vast reach and timeliness of message distribution. This in turn has the counter effect of negative publicity which can be damaging to a brand and business.  For example, the recent Qantas redundancy coverage.  Yes Alan Joyce could have made different business decisions earlier and Qantas may be in good shape today but life is full of could have, should have, would have but didn’t.  While some industries experience challenges based on the evolution of society e.g. car manufacturers others experience dramatic growth e.g. technology firms.

Negativity

The vast majority of media articles are negative e.g. about crime, misfortune etc.  How does this impact society? What are the implications of all this negativity? Is it possible to become tunnel visioned? thinking we are living in a crime filled society when in fact the stories we read represent only a small percentage of the activities of Australians.

We recently saw the exposure of the suicide of Charlotte Dawson.  A media personality renowned for a very public battle with depression.  Up until very recently media outlets did not publicise suicides for fear of suicide contagion. I assume this change the past year or so is in aid of mental illness to drive greater awareness and to publish the support services available.

Bias / Credibility

Can journalists disclose ‘the truth’ about anyone who is a major shareholder / owner / sponsor / regulatory authority (e.g. Government) or do they adopt a second set of principles to remain loyal and to keep financial incentives in tact? Are all messages from qualified sources?

Communist societies control messages so as not to distort desired public opinion for example, North Korea.  Is this beneficial to society? Should we be grateful for the freedom of speech we see from our writers today?

What next?

Mass media has a powerful voice – the key is how you use that voice and who determines what messages are most productive for society. Perhaps the answer is better ethics training for all journalists as it appears they are the key determinants for the mass communication received by society which in turn shapes our decisions.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-24/mcdonell-media-frenzy-descends-on-mh370-mystery/5340242

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/new-laws-may-allow-filming-in-nsw-courts/story-fn3dxiwe-1226864315601