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Choices in our daily lives
Choices in our daily lives
How many choices do we have in our culture? Let’s examine how we come to select the options that are given to us by our economic system.
Besides our own instincts and desires, we depend on other people to show us the kinds of choices we have regarding everything. We now depend mostly on the mass media to tell us the kinds of choices we have. The mass media suggests to us how we can occupy our free time and we accept what they say without asking if there is more. Do we really know all of our options?
The most obvious example of how our culture influences the choices we have is business. Restaurants, toothpaste, cars, groceries, and other products and services are laid before us because they pay for the privilege, not because they are actually popular or good products.
The mass media is a business like any other business. They must survive. To survive, they sell space in their newspapers or time on their televisions or radios, to businesses that can afford that space or time, and we must endure the advertisements and programming.
Since the owners of the mass media outlets are continuously under the threat of competition and increasing costs of production, they now offer businesses the privilege of submitting “press releases” for their newscasts in addition to commercial advertisements so the businesses will stay with the television station, radio station or newspaper.
Many new businesses are offered special news coverage so the media outlets can begin and maintain a lucrative relationship with the business. Most of the businesses are giant multinational corporations who long ago out-bid local, independently owned businesses for advertising space. The small business is totally eclipsed by the giant multinational corporation.
The argument by big business is that a small business fails on its own merits, or lack thereof, while the media is literally bribed to ignore the small business.
So, some of the choices made known to us take the stage because their sponsors pay a fee, while others are kicked off, never to be heard from again. But those are the tangible commercial choices. What are the intangible personal choices we have that were removed from us, and what are the intangible personal choices that were institutionally injected into our lives?
We can start by looking up banned book lists on the Internet and books and movies that were banned in the USA. I tried myself to see if the local public library kept statistics on books that were never read or rarely checked out. One way of doing a survey would be to actually go to the library and look for books that appear to have never been read.
Most importantly, one should go to the library at the local university and see what old books are in very good condition. This would indicate institutionalized avoidance of certain topics that might frighten the parents of potential students. Aside from books on theories that have been disproved, patterns may emerge that demonstrate economic, political and religious pressure to avoid certain topics in the classroom.
If you ever have a weekend with nothing to do at all, watch BookTV on C-SPAN, or visit www.booktv.org because you will not find most of those books on display at a bookstore.