Monday, March 11, 2013

The Core of Real Reform

During an exchange about the media—specifically why it is that quite creative series almost inevitably “jump the shark” (we consider X-Files to be an exception)—Brigitte mentioned the National Conference for Media Reform; it is coming up in Denver (April 5-7, 2013). I got curious about that. It turns out that this conference is the fifth in a series of which the first was held in 2003, coinciding with the foundation of an advocacy group called Free Press. Free Press was founded by media scholar Robert W. McChesney, a contributor to The Nation, John Nichols, and an executive, Josh Silver; Silver is the CEO of another foundation, United Republic, the mission of which is to combat corporate influence over government policy.

A long introduction, above, to what is just a thought that arises in this connection. The thought is that real reform must always begin from within. I call it real because, when it is successful, such a turn-about works. When “reform” takes the form of advocacy, pressure, or persuasion, it has another face: it is the exertion of force aimed at the other party. In effect it’s an attack. It is called “reform” only because those who are exerting force are too weak to bring about change in a straight-forward manner. Reform from outside is most effective when the reform is delivered by a Napoleon or, say, the Chinese government. Do this—or else.

I never tire of repeating this—a fundamental lesson I learned from Arnold Toynbee: Any social movement in a wrong direction will constellate another movement in the opposite direction—and it, too, will be wrong. Toynbee applied this to decadent societies; they develop backward looking (archaistic, as he called it) and forward looking (futuristic) polarizations. But the only solution is to rise above both, thus to view reality from a transcending position. “Transcendence” here is equivalent to “Faith.” Genuine reform, arising from within an institution or a grouping, like the media, corresponds to transcendence. Wrong action and reaction merely produce chaos. And when chaos spreads, reform from the outside will certainly come—but reform from within is the real solution. It’s a law, as Brigitte says. And so it is.

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