In a previous post I began discussing the “culture of dependency,” a term used by a CNN writer to discredit social programs and infer that people on these programs are addicted to poverty. This series explores the ignorance of that thought and exposes the truth about America’s culture of dependency: that it is not created because people access (or abuse) these programs, but by the fact that they most have no choice but to utilize these programs at some point in their lives.
We live in a society that prefers soundbites and third-hand information because we are too busy or too apathetic to closely investigate information. Often we settle for coin phrases and popular terms to describe things that are so complex that one word or a phrase cannot hardly express the depth and detail of the thing that it is supposed to be describing.
When the terms and phrases chosen for these things is propagandized to give a connotation that deliberately biases the description, well then, you have coded language. Coded language is prevalent in American society. The controlling forces have become adept at coding and using those codes to brainwash the public with a version of certain stories that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In America when we speak of poverty we hear terms such as poor and lower class. These words by themselves mean relatively little but once they are coded they take on the connotations such as unwanted, unusable, unable, less than, bad, and/or unworthy. These coded terms then become concepts unto themselves that when used inspire ideas and notions. For instance often when hear about people being poor and lower class we think of them through the connotations attached and we develop ideas such as the thought that those people to whom these terms may refer are in such a place because they are stupid, undeserving, uncivilized, and/or lazy.
Then we can go a little further and see how these terms are applied to specific groups of people new terms emerge that still hold the connotations as the former words but adds an element that allows one to know that it is being applied specifically. For example, when the concept of poor and lower class is applied to Black and Latino people we get terms like project, ghetto, hood, ratchet, and common. When they are applied to White people we get terms like redneck and hillbilly.
The fact that words become coded with connotations and then evolve into fullfledged concepts that fuel ideas and thoughts is neither a good or bad thing. In truth, that is how the human brain processes information and learns and remembers things: through associations and connections that can be made. However, coding is the perversion of this process. It takes what is natural and twists it unnaturally. That is the definition of social propaganda.
Social propaganda is the way that public opinion is shaped and controlled. It is the way that people in society are shaped and controlled without shackles, chains, whips, and plantations.
A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push it.
- Ludwig Wittgenstein
By creating a concept of poverty as so undesirable that even impoverished people do not want to acknowledge it, any possible opposition is neutralized. In the Black community it is prevalent that no one wants to be labeled as poor or lower class. Most don’t want to be labeled as ghetto, project, or ratchet (however these terms have been given different connotations which lead them to sometimes be glorified). Combine the social unpopularity of these concepts with the promise that “anyone can make it out,” and you have generations of Black people living in poverty refusing to acknowledge it because they have more than the people that live next door; because they can buy the latest fashions and appear wealthy; because they can go on trips and eat out at expensive restaurants. They may very well be able to do those things, but at what detriment. And why is that when they do those things, the results are rarely the same as they are for the people who are actually wealthy enough to afford to do them?
The problem is that we are so hell-bent on not being uncomfortable. We are so determined to be happy and optimistic. We refuse to get depressed and/or angry. Our denial of these less than fun feelings are what lead us to deny our consciousness reality and cling to the lies.
Black America isn’t stupid nor are we unaware. What we are is afraid. We are afraid that we cannot change this country. We are afraid that we cannot change this society. We are afraid that we cannot change our lives or our station in life. We do not want to accept reality and experience the not fun feelings only to find out that we can do nothing about them. The truth is: there’s no possible chance to do anything about it until we accept and confront it.
When we, in the Black community, stop trying to reposition ourselves in a White Supremacist society and escape the uncomfortable reality of the world we live in, then we will get so angry and so passionate about change that we will actually begin to change things. As long as we keep hyping ourselves up on this notion that we can have everything anyone else can have if we work hard enough, or get enough education, or go to the right schools, or live in the right neighborhood, or shop at the right stores and realize that when you try to work hard, you are disproportionately compensated ; when you apply for education, you cannot afford it without going into severe debt; when you choose the right school, you don’t have the pedigree for acceptance; when you move to the right neighborhood, you’re alienated and ostracized because you don’t fit in; when you shop at the right stores, you are monitored for fear of theft and/or regarded as not being able to afford anything.
The fantasy America has sold us is too far a cry away from the reality that we live to continue to be blind. They can code it and propagandize it but they cannot make it be true. Our challenge is to allow ourselves to accept the reality but maintain our determination to change it.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man