Monday, February 12, 2024

How Our Society Is Shaped by the Framing of Collective Thinking

by Dr Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos

Promoting, understanding and analyzing “thinking” is an important endeavor of the Rapera movement.  This is because the power of collective thinking is often underestimated and overlooked in its influence on shaping societies. I believe society in general is unaware of its pervasive influence. Our thoughts, beliefs, and values as a society are not merely individual constructs but are deeply influenced by the way they are framed collectively. The framing of collective thinking embodies the narratives, ideologies, and perspectives that shape our understanding of the world. In this article, I will explore how our society is profoundly affected by the way our collective thinking is framed and the implications this has for our social, political, and cultural landscape.

One of the most important conduits through which collective thinking is framed is the media. Mass media, including television, radio, newspapers, and digital platforms, have an unparalleled impact on shaping public opinion. The way issues are presented, the narratives that are emphasized, and the voices that are amplified all play a pivotal role in shaping our collective understanding of the world. This is an important fact for policy makers, reformists and organizations involved in change dynamics to keep in mind.

Media outlets can frame issues in various ways, emphasizing different aspects of a story, and thereby influencing public perception. For instance, the framing of a behavior done in the name of religion as either a dangerous extreme behaviour or a normal religious behaviour can lead to starkly different public reactions. The way media frames these events has a direct impact on how society perceives them, often influencing support or opposition to the causes at hand.

Furthermore, the media's selection of news stories and their placement within the news can prioritize certain issues over others. This can lead to a lopsided focus on certain topics, while ignoring others that may be equally or more important. Such framing choices can have far-reaching consequences on societal priorities, influencing public discourse and policy decisions.

Politics is another area where the framing of collective thinking is particularly potent. Politicians and political parties use framing techniques to influence public opinion and garner support for their agendas. This often involves framing issues in ways that resonate with their base or appeal to a broader audience. Politicians may try to create the kind of thinking they want to achieve their agenda by using the framing technique. For example, a party that is race based or religious based may frame diversity of race and religion as a threat to their own race or religion.

One common framing strategy is the use of emotionally charged language and rhetoric. By framing issues in a way that elicits strong emotional responses, politicians can mobilize their supporters and galvanize public opinion. This can sometimes lead to a polarization of society, as different political factions use opposing frames to advance their own interests. The Nation of course may be split asunder merely to accommodate the political quest for power.

In addition to emotional framing, the selective presentation of facts and statistics is another powerful tool in political framing. Politicians and interest groups may cherry-pick data that supports their positions while ignoring or discrediting data that contradicts their narratives. This selective framing can make it difficult for the public to make informed decisions and contributes to the spread of misinformation.

Collective thinking is also framed by cultural and social influences. Our cultural norms, values, and traditions shape our worldview and influence our beliefs and behaviors. These cultural frameworks are often deeply ingrained and can be difficult to challenge or change. Social institutions, such as family, schools, religious organizations, and community groups, also play a role in framing collective thinking. These institutions transmit values and beliefs from one generation to the next, reinforcing societal norms and expectations. For example, the way history is taught in schools can frame the collective understanding of a nation's past and its impact on the present. It is not exaggerative to say that the nature of the collective thinking will determine whether the society will progress or regress in the future. 

In the digital age, technology and social media platforms have become significant players in framing collective thinking. Social media algorithms often prioritize content that aligns with a user's existing beliefs, creating echo chambers where people are exposed to information that confirms their preconceptions. This reinforcement of existing beliefs can contribute to polarization and limit exposure to diverse perspectives.

Furthermore, the rapid spread of information on social media platforms can lead to the viral dissemination of both accurate and false information. The way a piece of information is framed can determine whether it goes viral or is debunked. This phenomenon has significant consequences for public opinion, as false or misleading information can spread rapidly and shape collective thinking.

Undeniably, our society is influenced by the way our collective thinking is framed. From media and communication to politics, culture, and technology, various factors contribute to the framing of our collective consciousness. Recognizing the power of framing is essential for understanding how societal norms, beliefs, and values are shaped and perpetuated. 

As individuals, it is important to critically evaluate the framing of information and be mindful of the influences that shape our thinking. By engaging with diverse perspectives, questioning dominant narratives, and seeking out reliable sources of information, we can contribute to a more informed and balanced collective consciousness. Additionally, holding media outlets, politicians, and institutions accountable for the way they frame issues can help ensure a more transparent and equitable shaping of our society's collective thinking. Let’s not forget that as a Nation, we become what we think we are.


Collaborative Empowerment: How Citizens Can Safeguard Against Exploitation by Political and Economic Elites for Collective Well-being

by Dr Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos. 

In a world where political and economic elites often wield significant power and influence, citizens must recognize the importance of working together to protect their interests and enhance their collective well-being. This article explores the idea that collaboration among citizens is fundamental to prevent exploitation and ensure that the benefits of society are shared equitably.

Political and economic elites typically possess substantial resources and control over key institutions. This concentration of power can lead to policies and practices that favor their interests, potentially leaving the rest of society at a disadvantage.  Economic elites include wealthy individuals, major corporations, and influential financiers who often shape economic policies, taxation, and resource allocation in their favor. Political elites include elected officials, bureaucrats, and lobbyists who can exert significant influence over government decisions and regulations, sometimes prioritizing elite interests over those of the broader citizenry.

Power and wealth are like inseparable twins who help each other to grow. Due to the fact that power and wealth brings forth extraordinary privileges and status in life, it becomes addictive to the wealthy and the powerful.  The concern arises when the political and economic elites exclude the broader citizenry from opportunities in life and indulge in greedy acquisition of wealth to the detriment of the Nation.

To counterbalance the influence of elites, citizens must come together and take collective action to safeguard their well-being and ensure a fair distribution of resources and opportunities. Here are several key reasons why such collaboration is necessary.

Firstly, collective action enables citizens to hold political leaders accountable for their actions and decisions. Through voting, advocacy, and grassroots movements, citizens can demand transparency and fairness in government policies.  Secondly, by working together, citizens can advocate for economic policies that promote income equality, workers' rights, and access to essential services for all, reducing the disparities created by economic elites. It also enable citizens to scrutinize the annual budget and to ensure that the correct priorities are set instead of budgetary policies that only benefit the elities.

Thirdly, collaborative efforts among citizens can lead to the development and protection of social safety nets, healthcare, education, and other vital services that benefit the entire community. It is very important to ensure that ordinary citizens and their families are able to live dignified lives without being compromised by poverty or deprivation of essentials. 

Fourthly, collective bargaining, labor unions, and advocacy groups help ensure that workers' rights are protected, preventing exploitation by powerful economic interests. At the same time, various non-governmental organisations can demand for compassionate workplace ethics to be implemented.

Fifthly, collaborative efforts foster a sense of community and solidarity, strengthening bonds among citizens and promoting a shared vision for collective well-being. This is particularly critical in a multi-cultural, multi religious, multi ethnic society like Malaysia where the diveristy can either be projected as a boon or a bane. Political and economic elites often practice the politics of division as a distraction to amass power and wealth. They also exploit religion and ethnicity for political and economic reasons. 

Lastly, collaborative efforts in the form of specialized groupings to ensure and demand the just practice and implementation of the rule of law is fundamental. This is a major matter that would require a separate discussion. Briefly, we need to ensure the existence of just and fair laws and not draconian and oppressive laws. The law ought to be exercised wisely and compassionately without fear or favour.

Throughout history, collective action by citizens has yielded remarkable results in the fight against the influence of political and economic elites.  It is a fact of human history that the elites would want to maintain the status quo that benefits them. Hence, it is up to the citizens to cooperate with each other. 

The civil rights movement in the United States, led by figures like Martin Luther King Jr., showcased the power of collective action in challenging racial discrimination and achieving legal and social reforms.  Grassroots advocacy, cooperative enterprises, growth of small and medium industries, and political mobilization are some of the ways in which the power of the political and economic elites can be balanced.  

In an age marked by increasing influence from political and economic elites, collaboration among citizens is not just a valuable tool but an essential one. By working together, citizens can hold leaders accountable, advocate for policies that promote equity, protect essential services, and prevent exploitation.

Education and awareness are the foundations of effective collaboration, enabling citizens to make informed decisions and engage in purposeful collective action. Ultimately, the power to improve collective well-being and safeguard against exploitation lies within the hands of citizens who recognize the strength of their collective efforts in shaping a fair and just society. It becomes even more urgent in Malaysia because it appears that many of us are still stuck in a feudal mindset such that we seem to welcome shades of oppression and indignity willingly.