False Choice Kills Social Change

We are faced with piles of choices every single day. Advertising pumps tons of clothing and cars, household cleaners and soda for us to choose from. Our friends and communities make these choices seem more real, as we are surrounded by people who want the same things, and everyone strives towards similar goals. 

However, at what point are those false choices? At what point do those choices distract and take away from the real choices we need to make in our lives?
Renata Salecl, an economist in London, recently claimed in an RSA video that, “The ideology of choice is actually not so optimistic and it prevents social change.” She laid out a compelling argument that highlights how the majority of choices we are faced with everyday are simple consumerist myths that perpetuate our sense of choosing without actually giving us a say about what we’re choosing – they are false choices. She identifies how these choices drive some of us to believe we are being impinged on by false choices, driving us to create new options that in turn become placebos for meaningful decision-making. 
Worst still, Salecl implies that these choices are distracting us from more serious decision-making by filling our minds with rubbish. This “fullness”, apparently re-enforced by a New York Times article called, “Too Many Choices: A Problem that can Paralyze“, which puts consumer choices on par with substantive choices like who should govern us or whether we should go to war. Or, the NY Times is apparently honing in on the outcomes of this rubbish by reporting on a study about “decision-making fatigue“, which apparently seeks to absolve the Average American from their responsibilities over their lives and work and families by acknowledging that we are simply faced with too many choices to be able to function successfully every single day. All this, and personal exposure to younger and older people who “suffer” this way, leads me to agree with Salecl.
We are surrounded by a cacophony of phony, the allure of the unreal. It seems incredible to me that so many people- young and old- actively choose to fill their lives with impediments to their power. It is as if we are actively surrendering our ability to make the world we want to live in. It was Paulo Freire who first taught me that the highest order of being human is to be a maker rather than a consumer. However, as a people we are suffocating under a pile of consumption.
Social change requires the active belief that we are fully capable and desirous of making the world we want to live in. We must actively choose to do that every single day, be it through actively eschewing television and teaching our kids to stay away from it, or by denying the commercial overload that would take over our lives by living simply and within our means. False choices are killing social change.
It is from that place of unhindered decision-making that we can develop the critical consciousness and social awareness necessary to change the world. It is from that place that we can make a real difference.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

My Review of “The Giroux Reader”

The Giroux Reader is by Henry Giroux. This is my review for The Freechild Project.

 

Henry Giroux is renowned for his analysis of society, particularly focusing on youth, commercialism, and hypocrisy. This collection of Giroux’s writing illustrates the breadth and depth of his analysis in all those areas, and more.

I learned about neoliberalism and the corporate grip on American youth; the societal abandonment of youth and the social divestment in the future, and; the wholesale disenfranchisement of the American public in the face of capitalistic greed and personal opportunism.

Giroux is like the town crier challenging us to get out of bed to go fight the fire on “that” side of town. If we don’t it’ll burn our house down – oh, wait – it already is.

 

Order The Giroux Reader.

My Review of “Walking on Water”

Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution was written by Derrick Jensen. This is my review for The Freechild Project.

 

One of the most important components of both education and activism is contextualization. As Paulo Freire argued, learning must be rooted in the context in which education takes place. For a sixth-grader in the US, that would be their local community; for a elderly person, that might be their family. For Derrick Jensen, that place was in classrooms at a university and a maximum security prison, where he was taught creative writing to Washington state college students and prisoners convicted of robbery, rape, and murder. In this book Jensen shares stories from those places as a guise and guide for the larger lessons, both hinted at and carefully detailed throughout this book.

The lessons here are truly revolutionary. “As is true for most people I know, I’ve always loved learning. As is also true for most people I know, I always hated school. Why is that?” With this opening line, Jensen begins a more-than-casual assault on traditional schooling, railing on everything from classroom seating arrangements to grading; from teaching methods to attendance. The lessons here a resonant of the teachings of both John Holt and John Taylor Gatto, the latter of whom Jensen credits greatly, and they give anecdotal meaning to some of the wisdom of by Grace Llewellyn and William Upski Wimsatt.

Through his lessons, Jensen gives substance and validity to many peoples’ feelings of alienation and disconnectedness in school, and offers a brilliant guide to creative writing along the way. Jensen writes, “Throughout our adult lives, most of us are expected to get to work on time, to do our boss’s bidding…and not to leave till the final bell has rung. It is expected that we will watch the clock, counting seconds till five o’clock, till Friday, till payday, till retirement, when at last our time will again be our own, as it was before we began kindergarten, or preschool, or daycare. Where do we learn to do all of this waiting?” The answer, of course, is school. School is the “day-prison” where we learn to be “a nation of slaves.”

He then follows this daring declaration with another story from his prison experience, where he created “an atmosphere in which students wish to learn…”, which included asking both prisoners and college students to be uncomfortable in their search for meaning through writing. Throughout this book Jensen includes several useful writing tips that offer a unique twist to this book: while a significant diatribe against historical approaches to education, it provides useful methods for self-education and learning through life.

Ultimately Jensen achieves Freire’s challenge of sharing with students the goal of “reading the word through the world,” and in that is Jensen’s greatest success. This book is vitally important to any person seeking inspiration for learning outside the lines, both for its practical advice, and for the fact that it is coming from a seasoned educator. I believe that it can also be important to young people particularly, because through his intelligent, accessible thinking, Jensen acknowledges what many youth believe: school isn’t relevant to young people today because teachers can’t be relevant to learning today. They just don’t know how. However, more importantly, Jensen himself disproves that, and may actually inspire young readers to look into places of higher education for the vital allyship and mentorship that adult educators can potentially offer.

As Jensen ponders the weight of the world throughout the book, including wrestling with conservatism, hopelessness and apathy, war, and many other feelings, he leaves readers with a challenging thought that easily summarizes the motivation of this book, and lends this book its essentialness in the activist library: “There is much work to be done. What are you waiting for? It’s time to begin.”

It is time to begin. Thank you, Derrick Jensen, for giving us a roadway to get started.