The Silent Majority
The term ‘Global Village’ was coined by Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s. McLuhan gave the much debated theory of Media Ecology, wherein he proposed something like - the medium through which humanity generally communicates in each era, defines its personality – and the change from oral to written to electronic media affects human perception, understanding, feeling, and values.
Medium comes from the Latin word medius or ‘middle’, it is the carrier of expressions between two communicators.
Though McLuhan’s theory is appealing in a generalized way, but critiques have explained that ‘content’ is an equally valuable and independent factor in communication, and is the real bearer of perceptions, feelings and values. McLuhan’s theory takes us back to an older concept given by Aristotle - ‘ethos’, he says, is the mode of persuasion in an argument, which may depend upon practical skills and wisdom of the speaker; his virtue or goodness; and his goodwill towards the audience. In Aristotle’s theory ethos does not belong to the speaker but to the audience, i.e. the listener decides if the ethos of the speaker is strong or not.
Aristotle’s theory may seem a little simpleton in our case, as, in today’s era of electronic media the speaker and the listener are far apart and the listener’s verdict upon the value of the ethos of the speaker, if any, is diluted in distance and multiplicity. In today’s media, for one speaker there may be millions of listeners, and the speaker is enclosed in a safety box wherefrom wavelengths can be given out but cannot enter back to him. This one way communication renders the majority that is aware of its incapacity to respond – silent.
This silence of the majority, and their acceptance of remaining the permanent, disassociate listener, create this unique ethos of our modern era – where the meaning of ‘ethos’ is now being taken as the general character of a society or an era. And the ethos of our time seems to be a Media-dictated, one-way flux of information that is so immense, so diverse and so repetitive that however much the listener poses to be disconnected, he will inevitably accept some part of it.
This can be related to a teacher/pupil relation, wherein the pupil is the always the very passive speaker and the teacher is the dominant speaker; however dull the student may be, s/he will surely adopt the culture and discipline of the institution, and learn to survive in it, in his/her constant intake experience. Or, we can say that even if the pupil is unable to reproduce the ‘content’, s/he will still, surely make the more fundamental – the medium – as part of her/his thinking. This medium is usually taken for granted, there are no grades for it, but somehow they are the values that each pupil will carry out with him/her even long after they have left the school.
This also means that certain things that are taken as a generalized base, upon which all further discussion will take place, perhaps which are taken as agreed-upon established facts, are not considered debatable, for altering them will perhaps break the whole build-up of the discussion and one would find oneself starting from the scratch. These facts become the norm of the thought; they become an added value that allows the thought to experiment in fresh combinations, set forth new theories. Though these basic generalizations form a comfort level upon which educated debate can be generated, it also creates a mindset that is uncritical of its own framework – a kind of status quo, the breaking down of which would end the debate in nothing but contention. This is the danger that needs to be pointed out – theories that are taken as absolute facts, concepts that are taken for granted as base knowledge, on account of mere currency – have the alarming ability to become part of the medium instead of the content.
According to McLuhan, Media is infused in every act and action in society, it fixes our perceptions and organizes our experiences, and it ties the world together. By this he might be referring to all means of transfer of information that surround us, like sound, vision, written word and so on. Yet the electronic media, by far, overruns all other media in fixing and organizing our thought and tying us together. Therefore when a concept becomes a part of the electronic media, its permanency of recurrence, and one-sided approval, gives it a consent that had never been taken from the people but which was only informed to them. The Silent Majority thus becomes a submitted pupil of the very assertive and dictating teacher – the Media – which poses to be the more-educated one teaching the less-educated ones.
Yes there is a popular definition of Media, which tends to pacify this dictatorial idea about the Media, which says that free Media and journalism is true representative of the masses – just like elected representative say that they are true representatives of the people who have elected them. But it is conceivable that the teacher will also teach us that s/he is the pupil’s only and foremost well-wisher. This is surely not to undermine the respect of the teacher, rather it is to warn the silent majority that education must only be a set of tools and techniques that enable us a creative experience into all sorts of concepts, giving us the courage to question everything to the core of matters – education must be an opening of choices –not a dictation of assumed good choices.
Therefore one should acknowledge that there is a time when everyone has to leave school, a time when we should be ready and strong enough to make our choices, and decide for ourselves. Yet the electronic media poses upon us the threat of being our teacher to our graves, and its mere omnipresence in the society ensures our submission to it.
So should the silent majority start making its own voice – is there a way for ensuring a truly interactive, fully representative media? Can the teacher/pupil relation be changed into a conscious-choice making at every level? Can the choice be not educated to think in only specified allies but be free to choose what it really wants to choose? How does it serve free choice if the Media is to label certain schools of thoughts as bad as the forbidden tree and some others as unquestionable and consented upon?
If we, as a people, are not just a tool in the utilitarian machinery, merely striving to make our material ends meet; if every human soul carries in its person, along with its fleshly needs, some essential hallowed and intangible needs too – then every person needs to register his/her fundamental choices of their lives in some medium or the other. And society as a whole is obligated to take this registration into account.
There is another paradox related to the silent majority, whenever a part of the silent majority endeavors to register its will in the mainstream media, it is quickly dragged into the media-class and the majority is practically rendered silent again. A broad-based and inclusive representation of the majority is probably a dream not coming true any time soon, there are surely diverse types of hurdles in the way, but ultimately we can say that the Majority is Silent because it is or has been trained to be numb and dumb towards its urge to register its will.
The Silent Majority, for its inactive nature may remain silent forever, as there is no freedom that one has not fought for - whatever is for granted is a submission.