Monday, September 12, 2005

Social Pollution, Politics, and Culture

The Supreme Court vacancies, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the messages of popular culture provide fertile ground for the breeding of bad ideas and sloppy thinking. The holidays are coming. The fall TV season is about to start. Oh, and Congress is back in session. All of these things have implications for your life, and for society as a whole. I'll explain in more detail in future posts. But first...

What the heck is social pollution and how does it relate? Well, I'm still working on a good definition of social pollution, but here is what I have so far:

"behaviors, ideas, and beliefs that have negative consequences for society and individual members without commensurate benefits, all measured statistically or assessed qualitatively"

I know this definition raises questions. Who says what counts as negative, or as a benefit? Good question! We'll have to stick with measuring things that most people would judge good or bad. Most people think racism is bad, for example, and that there are good and bad ways to use credit.

I can clarify the concept with an example of social pollution. Fashion magazines are both a source and an indicator of social pollution. Feminists have decried the unrealistic image of women's bodies often potrayed in fashion magazines. The images lead women, feminists say, into depression about their "substandard" body types, So, the ideas about womens' bodies that we see in these magazines constitute a form of social pollution.

Now that I've clarified that (I did clarify it didn't I?) we can go on to reflect on social pollution in politics and culture. That's where I'm going in the next few posts. I'll offer a way to measure the impact of social pollution on your life. I'll also describe an index of social pollution for society as a whole. Maybe there should be a rating scale, with levels such as Peachy, Marginal, and Appalling. OK, maybe not.


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