Digital Journalism Literacy and Community
When we do our workshop for “This is my story…” in Africa we are consistently approached by youth with the statement of “We want to be just like the US.” Our gut reaction is, No you don’t. The current US may not be the America they might think it is. The powerful Christian values within its revolutionary constitution designed to crush colonialism gave birth to a new land for families in a new democracy That idea was replaced by a modern concept of “Consumerism” in the mid fifties. The American dream of making a name four yourself and the pride of having an opportunity to build something from nothing. Before the fifties Government build massive parks for hard working American to relax on the weekend, part of our philosophy that America was for everyone to enjoy. They were the symbols owning a piece of America and a gift to all working Americans. On Sunday everything shut down for time of rest and to enjoy and appreciate what we had. Than America is rapidly fading.
South Africa needs the sense of national pride, opportunity and optimism. Africa needs this with its new economic destiny. As a child of the 60s I watch our American dream faded in the riots of American cities from the economics separation of the classes and the shift of all attention on consumerism with the advent of TV ads along with the commercialization of radio. We changed from a country of great pride into an anxiety to acquire “stuff” in order to improve our personal status. Consuming for social status took us on a tread mill of unhappiness, greed and spiritual decline.
South Africa and Africa must be aware of which America it is adopting. Land of honest opportunity through hard work or the anxiety of consumerism and classism. Will South Africa shows the world its magnificent beauty and potential through massive ethical economic and community success all fall pray to greed and corruption on a theme of acquiring possessions no matter what the consequences.
To fully grasp what happen in the US and the world. It is worth going on YouTube and looking up the full version of the “Story of Stuff” And to read the chilling 1955 words of Victor Lebow’s “Retail Today” article that became the mantra US Government/business strategy with business to grow the US into a massive profit center. With this mantra, prayer and the pledge of the allegiance along with Sundays were eventually thrown away for massive malls to shop in. We sold our hearts and our families for houses filled with stuff. Free public park became back burner to expensive theme parks were a family of spends $5,000 for a weeks vacation at Disney.
Oddly enough when I meet America missioners in Africa they have the early American Bream in their hearts and reject modern American values of consumerism. From their point of view, accountability to a high power in ethics and growth in character are what matter most. To the missioner capitalism and microeconomics are here to help the spiritual growth of the person and community. Not for people to become units of worker bees for profit. To them capitalism is an essential tool to liberate spiritual growth, not be enslave in factories and malls.
I am a strong proponent to US capitalism for the freedom it provides people. However “the purpose of why we work and buy” needs to be examined deep in the soul of every African. Tragically African where once sold as slaves throughout the world. Unless we understand what happen to the American dream African runs the risk of multinational enslaving Africans in their own town or Africans enslaving themselves in no win cycles of consumerism behavior.
So yes Africa should want to become the revolutionary American Dream building the new success of Africa, rich in individual cultural identity and personal progress. Free enterprise is awesome at destroying government suppression of the individual while communism, and communism masked as capitalists are high repressive deferred cost slave labor models. My heart begs that African youth do not become enslaved by shallow personal status based on what you can consume and throw out. That we do not see the US pattern of spoiled children furious because they cannot purchase everything they see on TV, That we do not see intimate relationships that are as disposable and the latest clothing fad. That "love one another" does not take a back burner to own-one-another. Sadly I see these trends evolving unless government and spiritual leaders see the philosophical/cultural disease and lead Africa into ethical and holy values. Africa must make its own destiny by clearly understanding the mistakes the US and is making. Media must lead the way with this debate because few others have the courage to do so.
Africa should educate youth to be "creators of new jobs and busines"s instead of worker bees for factories and mines. African youth are a generation of collaborative innovators and problem solvers. We need a good old American revolution that out built and invented the world. Does Africa sell it's soul, mothers and mineral rights to other countries or does it amaze the world the way America once did. In contrast to the trend of white reverse racism in SA, America did not reject Britannia it embraced it as a friend and trading partner. Again "love one another" proved to be massively profitable. With revenge only come strife.
Here are the 1955 of chilling words of Victor Lebow that transformed the American dream into what it is today. I will let draw your own conclusions on why a people with so much can be so unhappy with what they have.
• “Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today expressed in consumptive terms. The greater the pressures upon the individual to conform to safe and accepted social standards, the more does he tend to express his aspirations and his individuality in terms of what he wears, drives, eats- his home, his car, his pattern of food serving, his hobbies."
• "These commodities and services must be offered to the consumer with a special urgency. We require not only “forced draft” consumption, but “expensive” consumption as well. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace. We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live, with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption. The home power tools and the whole “do-it-yourself” movement are excellent examples of “expensive” consumption."