OPINION: One of the leading Marxist thinkers, Antonio Gramsci used the term “hegemony” to denote the predominance of one social class over others. He argued that this “represents not only political and economic control, but also the ability of the dominant class to project its own way of seeing the world so that those who are subordinated by it accept it as common sense and natural”.
When our media studies lecturer introduced me to Gramsci and his theories I didn’t understand them. But I recently grasped Gramsci literature when I visited a placed that I call home in Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria. Anyone who has found himself or herself in the poverty stricken streets of Atteridgeville’s informal settlements will agree with me when I say the place remains the face of severe problems in our country. Teenage pregnancy, school dropout, alcohol, domestic violence, crime and usage of drugs is the order of the day, but there is little media coverage to expose these conditions. Instead you will find several pages in publications about celebrity scandals and the bourgeois lifestyle that don’t add any value to the poor. The media have succeeded in perpetuating gossip culture in poor communities.
The bourgeois who own the media have created a world that thinks the poor don’t deserve time or attention. I think media have a moral obligation to cover our poverty -stricken communities so that the middle class, and the bourgeois, can keep their humanity intact and maintain their ability to have compassion for poor communities. Most publications have shifted their compassion for the poor in exchange for celebrity gossip which creates an aspiration to celebrity culture in our poor communities. Whenever media cover our poor communities they portray them as criminals, lazy and all sorts of bad things yet they suppress the argument that focuses on the structural causes of poverty.
When you visit that part of Atteridgeville, which received little or no media exposure, your heart will be broken by schools that are in deplorable states because they lack funds and have a constant turnover of teachers. Children who grow up in these isolated areas have a slim chance of getting a degree or moving towards a middle class status. These children walk a few kilometres to reach their education destination but the media is keeping mum on these daily struggles of the poor.
Media must use its power to campaign for the poor to get better services from government and the private sector to give back to poor communities. We have seen that media have the power to protect their own when an SABC film crew was robbed in Milpark. They went all-out to campaign for the arrest of the perpetrators yet there are a lot of poor people who are robbed of their last cents every day and nothing is said about them.
We have also seen when a soccer player Senzo Meyiwa was fatally shot, the country stood still and the police threw all their resources for so called “justice” to be done. Media must stop neglecting the poor and perpetuating gossip culture instead of sound engagement that will seek to liberate poor communities from all form of oppression.
* Opinions expressed in posts published on The Media Online are not necessarily those of Wag the Dog Publishers or the editor but contribute to the diversity of voices in South Africa.
IMAGE: Creative Play Project by www.handsontech.co.za/
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