Tuesday, October 13, 2009

If Headlines Could Kill

CNN has begun a new series called "When Co-Workers Kill". The inspiration

for this vital investigation piece is the death of a lab worker at Yale University who was

allegedly killed by a fellow lab tech. As I heard the title of the series I laughed. The murder

of a young woman is definitely not cause for humor, but the title of the series reminded me

of Michael Moore's movie, "Bowling For Columbine" which claims America is violent

because our media culture makes it's living emphasizing violence which scares us into

watching even more of their product. Friends, I laughed out of despair to keep from crying.

When Co-Workers Kill, When Animals Attack, When Neighbors Knife, When

Children Rampage, etc., are all potential working titles for future series some cunning

producer has in his or her computer files. We are bombarded every day with images of

violence and stories which emphasize how dangerous our world is. We are told to be afraid.

Our car could kill us. Our cosmetics could poison us. Food could give us a heart attack

and neighbors might steal our precious children. In states across this country we can now

carry a concealed weapon to church, the store, a football game, and now in national parks.

Soon you will be able to "carry" on Amtrak. We know which cities have the highest murder

rate, but almost no one knows or cares which city has the best educational system.

One thing for certain, the CNN series is not about to explore the real reasons why

the work place is getting more violent. The real reasons are complicated and involve

conditions corporate America would rather sweep under the rug. Americans go to work

each day scared. We are scared of losing our job and with the economic disaster of the last

two years, that fear has been magnified exponentially. Americans take the least amount

of time off work than any workers in the industrialized world. Even though federal law

allows us to take family leave when a child is born or a relative gets sick; Americans do not

take leave in any significant numbers. We go to work sick. The Swine Flu epidemic has

driven the Center for Disease Control to issue an extraordinary call to employers not to

fire workers who stay home because they are sick. American workers with children have

few options when it comes to child care and what they can find is expensive. The drop in

union membership leaves us with fewer protections. Uncertainty and worry increase.

Each day we go to work we become lost in a place of great tension and fear. The potential

for violence and danger increase in such environments.

Government statistics show that since 1974, you and I have not had a "real" wage

increase. A "real" increase is defined as a raise in excess of the cost of living. If wives had

not entered the workforce in large numbers, households simply would not have been able

to keep up with the rise in the cost of living. Because both partners are forced to work,

tension at home increases. Child care increases. Each job becomes crucial and any threat

to those jobs adds to the anxiety. You and I go to work every day in an atmosphere of

pervasive fear and tension, the sad fact of which wears and grates on us constantly. But

it gets worse. Add a media constantly telling us to be afraid of leaving our homes, dropping

our children off at school, getting sick, paying bills, losing our homes, walking in our

neighborhoods, being attacked by a neighbor's pet, eating the wrong foods, and dramatic

climate change; and it's not surprising that we're spooked and emotionally drained at

the end of a work day.

"If it bleeds, it leads" is the mantra of news programs and newspapers. Investigative

journalism focuses on stories which scare rather than inform. Most local news organizations

no longer have "beats" or "bureaus" at City Hall or the State Capitol. Stories about

working conditions, political comings and goings or corporate actions, all of which affect

jobs and economic conditions, are rare. They are dull or boring and don't create the drama

that makes us want to read or watch. Quality of life stories always take a back seat to

killing or tragedy. CNN will spend virtually no time examining the causes of fear in the

workplace. Little or no resources will be spent on why the American populace suffers

from so much pressure and tension. The corporate drive for maximizing profits, while

cutting back on wages and benefits, will be ignored as we're being told to be afraid of

each other. Tips will be offered about how to avoid conflict or be prepared for it. How

do we spot a colleague who represents a threat? What kind of comments are proper in

the work place? How do we keep a proper safe distance from a "creepy" co-worker?

What makes a co-worker creepy? How do we fire someone safely? Psychological profiles

are supplied to create suspicion where there was none. All this and more to feed the fires

of paranoia, guaranteed to leave you feeling lost, hopeless, and in dire need of your next

media fix.

When I was a child, I would leave my home at 8am during the summer and stay

out until dinner. I would go to the local playground, Golden Gate Park, schoolyards, and

play with friends. Today, parents structure and schedule "play dates", terrified of letting

their children out of their sight. Letting your child play unsupervised in your own front

yard could lead to legal charges of child neglect. This is despite the fact that stranger

abductions and attacks are rare and children are more endangered by someone they know

than by a stranger. How is this possible? Corporate media puts out story after story

until the drumbeat is overwhelming. We hate it and we love it. It's killing us; but more

importantly, it's good for business.

"When Co-Workers Kill" is the latest in a campaign designed to scare you into

watching and finding out how you can protect yourself. The result is that we are awash

in guns, helping commit the most homicides of any industrialized nation. We are trembling

in our houses behind bars and burglar alarms and going to work each day angry, frustrated,

and scared. Michael Moore hit it on the head. We are a nation awash in violence because

we've been brainwashed into being scared of our neighbors, scared at work, and scared

at church. Corporate media thrives on the fear they pander. They pushed an unnecessary

war by using the tactics of fear and intimidation. They convinced Americans to sacrifice

civil liberties and to accept a "big brother" role for government to be saved from terrorists.

The Fourth Amendment was eviscerated by a constant campaign aided and abetted by

the corporate media consisting of fear-mongering and boogey man stories.

The drumbeat is starting anew. Once again it's al Qaeda and the Taliban. Forty

thousand more soldiers are needed in Afghanistan and the threat of a nuclear Iran

represents to the world as the latest "hot" news item.

Is it a coincidence we're bombarded daily with ads for tranquilizers and pills

to combat anxiety? Would you be surprised to know that companies are making fortunes

selling anti-depressants and pills designed to dull our nerves and calm our fears?

Personally, I am tired of being afraid. And I especially don't like being told who

I am and what to fear by those whose main purpose for existence is the seeking of profits

and not the truth. How about you? What do you think? I welcome your comments and

rebuttals. Please send them to lionoftheleft@gmail.com

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