Setting last week’s one-off anniversary edition aside, we’re presently in the midst of a mini-series [first, second] exploring a way toward a heuristic for discerning the meaning and veracity of news media and internet information.
- Step One: Identify the source
- Step Two: Identify values systems in play
- Step Three: Holistic perspective top-of-mind (quadrant mnemonic)…
Two weeks ago we left off with a beginning conversation regarding a quadrant mnemonic device. We started with a bit of unpacking in the upper left quadrant, the interior of the individual—subjective space.
No one parachutes into human life—that is, no individual human (upper quadrants) arises in isolation from a social context of some kind (lower quadrants). These four aspects of human existence arise simultaneously, they are each a piece of a tetra-arising dynamic. Contemplation of this dynamic alone reveals the seamless (not-two) nature of reality. This understanding adds significantly in our our reckoning of a news/media heuristic.
An old story often told by preachers may well help us here right now.
It seems a happy, loving community of people were having a picnic-cookout and family celebration in a nice clearing next to the river near their suburban homes. The river flowed right through the middle of their city. So busy with their family, friends, food, fun, and games, they almost did not notice a basket that came floating down the river toward their spot. Well, as it turned out, the basket had precious cargo indeed. There was a baby on board! Someone quickly swam out to retrieve the basket and brought the baby ashore into the loving care of the community.
The games, fun, and food quickly resumed. However, it was not long before another baby-basket came floating down the river. Retrieval and rescue was again effected, and soon the festivities continued. However, alarmingly, it was not long before another basket came floating down the river. Again, rescue was made, and once more the festivities continued.
This pattern repeated itself several times until finally someone had a flash of insight and said, “Rescuing these babies is simply the least we can do. Why don’t we do a little more and send a party up-stream to find out what’s causing these babies to float down the river? Where are they coming from, and why do they continue to keep coming?”
The story reveals the problem with partiality in the KOMO documentary on homelessness in Seattle (“Seattle Is Dying”) that we have been looking at in this mini-series. KOMO‘s reporting wants to see and treat the homeless person as the baby in a basket. In the documentary, the baby in the basket is the problem, we’ll deal with that. We’ll selectively focus on the individuals who are experiencing homelessness to the blind exclusion of where the baskets are coming from and why they keep coming down the river.
Our quadrant mnemonic is very helpful in keeping a holistic perspective top of mind so that the kind of partiality we see in the KOMO documentary does not hamper or limit our understanding.
Obviously, homelessness is a form of suffering most directly felt by the individuals (and families of individuals) who experience it. However, individuals [upper quadrants] who are homeless do not parachute in. Rather, they arise and exist within social (cultural worldspaces) and societal contexts (structures and systems) [lower quadrants]. Focusing exclusively on reality through a partial framing blinds us to a holistic perspective.
KOMO‘s Orange [ER] (merit) values’ over-emphasis on individuals does not end with the homeless in the documentary. The way the entire problem is presented is in the context of the individual. The documentary offers an appeal to housed individuals, and it examines how homeless persons adversely effect housed persons. In other words, the documentary presents the homeless person as an inconvenience problem for the housed individual—e.g., the homeless are eyesores (guilt inducing) to the housed, and a damper on economic activity for housed individuals and the economic collectives they share. Sadly, it seems the (housed) privileged class has no real problem with the homeless until they become so numerous as to actually be visible and/or an obvious economic deterrent to the housed. The documentary’s story is the real problem of homelessness is not about the homeless. Rather, it’s largely about control policy, an appeal to housed individuals experiencing the problems and discomfort the homeless bring them.
Compassion is not intrinsically native to any particular values system, but possible with any worldview. In the case of KOMO‘s (Orange) documentary, compassion is selectively applied to the problem of homelessness.
We’ll conclude this mini-series by finishing the discussion of our media heuristic. We’ll also discover that neither the Blue [DQ] (order/control) or the Green [FS] (justice/community) values systems separately have a solution to the seemingly intractable problem of homelessness. However, holistically homelessness is a solvable problem.
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?