Mike Lane | 21.08.2003 09:26 | Liverpool
The critical internal catalyst for social change, as well as being actively involved, ignores the perspective of the dominant culture and works from the viewpoint of his own cultural perspective. He observes and compiles information, which demonstrates to the community the ambiguous complex way in which the dominant culture within the city council operate within the community when trying to impose its perspective and agenda onto that community. The dominant cultures perspective tries to convince the community into accepting, that which is wrong as being the normal state of affairs. Marjorie Mayo wrote: The abnormal has needed to become “normal”. Previously accepted patterns of social relations have had to be reviewed, and previously uncontested norms have been challenged. The unthinkable has become not simply thinkable but apparently inevitable (Marjorie Mayo, Adult Learning Critical intelligence and Social Change, 1995). The dominant culture also sets into motion forms of bureaucracy, which serve to strengthen and perpetuate its hegemonic position within the community.
In essence the internal catalyst and critical observer reports critically on events so that action can be taken by the community to change that which is wrong.
Freire said about the observer: Whoever really observes, does so from a given point of view. And this does not necessarily mean that the observer’s position is erroneous. It is an error when one becomes dogmatic about ones point of view and ignores the fact that, even if one is certain about his or her point of view, it does not mean that one’s position is always ethically grounded. (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of Freedom, Ethics Democracy, and Civic Courage, 1999).
The dominant culture at local government level, although claiming to listen to the diverse voice of the community, actively strives to invalidate research and consultation methodology that is compiled from within the community-by-community members themselves. The dominant culture within the city council believes that it knows best and that its philosophy and administrative capabilities are sacrosanct and beyond criticism. The dominant culture within the city council perceives itself as being an all-pervasive paternal entity, and as such the proprietor of all that is true and correct. The community is perceived by the dominant culture within the city council as being childlike and as such in need of guidance. In the mind of the dominant culture the socially deprived working class community is incapable of charting its own destiny or creating its own environment.
The dominant culture, at local government level, has set into motion dynamics and discourses, which debilitate the community, and in so doing moulds the community into a passive entity. Professor Ira Shor said: Simultaneously invisible and imposing, too present and too intangible, the system gains an aura of mysterious invulnerability. Popular powerlessness results from feeling overwhelmed by an oppressive yet incomprehensible system. The contradictory presence and elusiveness of social control leads to confusion about what freedom is or what are the means to be free, happy and whole. Driven by such confused consciousness, people act against their own interests, against their need for power. Lukacs understood the disempowering effects of reification in this way:
Neither objectively nor in his relation to his work does man appear as the authentic master of the process; on the contrary, he is a mechanical part incorporated into a mechanical system. He finds it already pre-existing and self-sufficient, it functions independently of him and he has to conform to its laws whether he likes it or not….his activity becomes less and less active and more and more contemplative….the personality can do no more than look on helplessly while its own existence is reduced to an isolated particle and fed into an alien system….It destroys those bonds that had bound individuals to a community in the days when production was still “organic.”
In this discussion of reification, Lukacs uses the word contemplative as a synonym for spectative, that is, watching without critical reflection, action dominated by the process you are in. Reified culture achieves this disempowerment through related alienation: people are alienated from their own holistic habits of mind; people are alienated from their own class-peers, lacking the solidarity needed to organise for power; people are alienated from a grasp of the system’s whole operation and the mediating mechanisms which reproduce daily life. Alienated from power in class society, labour is also alienated from the power to think critically about gaining power. Demobilised, masses of people are channelled into spectatorism: sports, television, movies, following the glamorous lives of film stars and jet-setters being activated by experts, authorities and opinion makers from the mass media. One spectator activity, “window-shopping,” registers the routine reification of everyday life, where the alluring given order freezes transcendent action. (Professor Ira Shor, Critical Teaching and Everyday Life, 1980).