Mixed Messages Create Cynicism

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Mixed Messages Create Cynicism

June 7, 2010 Persuasion Politics 1

In the weeks ahead, I’m going to explore the political redefinition of some key words, like ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative.’  I’ll do that not because I want to stir up controversy, but because I believe that words have power, and that changing meanings behind labels creates confusion and opportunity for people with harmful agendas.

Any word can become loaded if used negatively long enough, so I won’t be at all surprised if writing about these particular words creates some backlash.  (I welcome comments, even comments I disagree with, with the caveat that you don’t have to be disagreeable when you disagree with someone!)

But first, I’d like to expose the simple fact that mixed messages give birth to cynicism, then nurture it to keep it alive.  And we, as a society, are awash in them.  Here are just a few examples of the kind of mixed messages we deal with in our personal, professional, social and cultural life.

The United States of America, long known as the ‘land of the free and home of the brave,’ is number one in the world when it comes to the imprisonment of it’s own citizens.

The Wealthiest nation in the world is the deepest in debt.  (That’s US!)

The Republican party, which is ostensibly the champion of limited government, fiscal restraint and individual freedom from government intrusion, occupied the White House from 2000-2008. During that time, the debt mushroomed, domestic spying by government began, and the size of the government itself grew dramatically, including the creation of the gigantic bureacracy of Homeland Security.  The Republican party, to this day, continues to advocate for interference in the personal and private choices of individuals, while loudly proclaiming that the Democrats want to replace our freedom with socialism (government interference in our personal and private choices).

China loves capitalism, but western governments believe in massive state intervention in the financial sector.

Let’s keep going.   Thanks to consolidation of ownership in the media, journalism increasingly means entertainment.   Pundits in the media who claim to ‘love this country’ so much that it brings tears to their eyes are relentless in polarizing and tearing down anyone in the press or in politics who actually tries to do something to create a more perfect union.

Mixed Messages in Healthcare

Healthcare, in large part, has little to do with either health, or care. Usually, it is a term that refers to disease management.  And iatrogenic (doctor caused, or caused by medical care)  disease is, by some estimates the third leading cause of death.  That’s a lot of carelessness in healthcare.  No wonder the price of healthcare keeps going up!  And I’m just getting warmed up.

Drugs (pharmaceutical products) are the 4th leading cause of death in the US.  The FDA is tasked with regulating drugs to protect consumer safety.  Yet it is staffed by industry insiders whose former companies stand to gain from regulatory decisions. The pharmaceutical industry funds its own review and approval proecess.  More than a dozen prescription drugs have been taken off the market since 1997, due to serious side effects — and in some cases, this was only after hundreds of injuries had occurred, some leading to death.

Healthcare is a big issue for me personally.  But I know that the same arrangement can be found in numerous government regulatory agencies, who are tasked to monitor industry.  We’ve seen what happens in the latest financial meltdown when regulation is lax.  When the fox is guarding the hen house, that’s a mixed message.

In movies and magazines, it’s obvious that thin is still in.  Americans spend more than $33 billion a year on weight control services and products.  25% of men and 45% of adult women are trying to lose weight while I write this. It’s also true that obesity is an epidemic.   Last I looked, some 55 percent of people in the United States are overweight and 33 percent of those are obese. And the kids are following the lead of the grownups. 1 in 5 children are obese and that number is increasing daily. There is also an increase in Type II diabetes. What’s the bill for obesity?  About $70 billion a year.  Obesity related illness is the second leading cause of death, killing 300,000 people each year.

Mixed Messages In Our Personal Lives

Love of God is the #1 reason why people hate each other all over the world.

In western society, we claim to be all for marriage and family values. Yet our divorce rate is about half of all marriages, and adultry is common.  All the while, the morally superior condemn the morally inferior, right up until the time they themselves get caught committing the sins they condemn.  I don’t need to name names, but I’m certain you recall a good many preachers and politicians whose fall from grace happened ironically around issues that they made part of their public persona.

Children’s games are filled with violence.

Parents and teachers tell kids just say no to drugs, but drug advertising on TV urges you to  ‘Take a pill’ for a whole host of quite-normal experiences now treated as problems in search of drug solutions.  Is it any wonder, then, that in today’s slang, ‘sick’ means ‘cool.’

Some parents say ‘Do what I say, not what I do.’   They tell their children they love them, then withdraw their love when the children fail to measure up to their expectations.

Mixed Messages at Work

And what of the mixed messages that businesses send their employees?

We value your work.  But we’re shipping it overseas.

This was the worst quarter in the company’s history.  So we’re giving our CEO another raise.

We care about the community.  Oh, and we’d like to announce another round of layoffs.

And what of managers?  They send their share of mixed messages as well.

My door is always open.  But not now.

You must find a way to cut costs.  Like my new chair and laptop?

Think outside of the box.  But remember, that’s not the way we do things.

Here are a few links to articles on the subject.

Mixed Messages in Political Advertising

Time To End Mixed Messages Over Afghanistan Policy

Administration Asks For More Stimulus

And just for fun, the classic ‘7 Moments In Mixed Messages’

I could keep going, but I’m curious to hear your examples.  What are the mixed messages you observe in our society, at work and in your community?  What effect do they have on you?   Your feedback and comments are welcome.

Be well,

Rick


 

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