If The Onion Gets It … : “when the mist distorts the outline of the cypress trees”

The power of ideology makes me think of those dewy mornings when the mist distorts the outline of the cypress trees and they become shadows of something we know is there but cannot really define. The shortsightedness that afflicts us makes our perception difficult. More serious still is the way we can so easily accept that what we are seeing and hearing is, in fact, what really is and not a distorted version of what is. This tendency to cloud the truth, to become myopic, to deafen our ears, has made many of us accept without critical questioning the cynical fatalism of neoliberal thought, which proclaims that mass unemployment is an inevitable end-of-the-century calamity. Or that the dream is dead and that it is now the era of the pedagogical pragmatism of the technio-scientific training of the individual and not of his or her total education (which, obviously, includes the former). The capacity to tame, inherent in ideology, makes us at times docilely accept that the globalization of the economy is its own invention, a kind of inevitable destiny, an almost metaphysical entity rather than a moment of economic development, subject to a given political orientation dictated by the interests of those who hold power, as is the whole of capitalist economic production. What we hear is that the globalization of the economy is a necessity from which we cannot escape. (p. 113)

Pedagogy of Freedom, Paulo Freire (2000)

Paulo Freire died in the spring of 1997 while preparing to teach in the fall of that year, resulting in the publication of  Pedagogy of Freedom. Freire’s passage above, then, grew out of the billowing storm called “accountability”—anticipating, ironically, the inevitable expansion of test-based assaults on students, schools, and teachers (at least students, schools, and teachers in the public/state systems throughout the world).

As philosophical text, Freire’s final testament has likely (and probably now) falls on deaf ears, increasing the irony: We (especially in the U.S., and especially teachers) are too practical for all those big words and all that deep thinking.

However, Freire’s essential confrontation of fatalism seems to be obvious enough for The Onion [1] to recognize.

Consider New STEM Education Initiative Inspires Girls To Earn Less Than Men In Scientific Career:

“If America intends to maintain its status as an international research leader, we must do more to encourage young women to enter careers in engineering and technology where they’ll be paid, on average, $4,000 less than their male peers for doing the same work,” said program director Elizabeth Grant, stressing that the strategy would include inspirational K-12 classroom visits by female scientists, televised ad campaigns, and mentorship opportunities targeted at showing young girls that they too could attain a position in which they have fewer opportunities for professional advancement relative to men and are regarded as less competent by their superiors.

And ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens:

“This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said North Carolina resident Samuel Wipper, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations.

The same sort of uncomfortable dark satire could be written about school discipline impacting African American and Latino boys and the mass incarceration of African American young men [2]—or the relentless bloodlust for war already catalogued in satire by Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, and many others.

It seems to me, then, if The Onion can recognize and confront the fatalism existing in and fostered by capitalism and consumerism in the U.S., then the rest of us should be able to do the same—and then to take action against the paralysis of that fatalism.

Or we could just follow The Onion and Funny or Die on Twitter.

[1] My points here are couched within an important caveat: Please do not ignore that satire in the U.S. is corporate satire. While popular outlets such as The Onion and Funny or Die as well as popular satirists such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are apt to confront well ideas ignored among the so-called serious media, these outlets and entertainers are, nonetheless, part of the corporate (neoliberal, Freire would say) problem also. See my Legend of the Fall series as one example of that concern.

[2] The Onion has already shown they get Teach For America: Teach For America Chews Up, Spits Out Another Ethnic-Studies Major and My Year Volunteering As A Teacher Helped Educate A New Generation Of Underprivileged Kids (with the brilliant by-line “By Megan Richmond, Volunteer Teacher”).


6 thoughts on “If The Onion Gets It … : “when the mist distorts the outline of the cypress trees””

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s