Op/Ed By J. Strauss
There is no hard data to provide us with any real idea about when the spoken word among the members of the human species began. With a three and half million year history (according to the latest anthropological studies) it is presumed that what we have come to know as language began manifesting itself hundreds of thousands of years back. No progress toward civilization could be accomplished without the complexity of spoken language to allow it. The written word is merely a form of spoken language put on paper or some other substance. There would be no science, history, religion or what we have so blithely accepted as the other learning disciplines of life. Whether the spoken word was created to actually communicate, or more likely to cover activity, is an argument never likely to be settled. Suffice it to say that the spoken word is used by human beings every minute of every day in every part of the world to do both all the time. The ability to command the attention of others while humans are speaking has come to be called as having a “voice.” How is it that some humans are listened to, followed, studied and even supported because of what they say, while others are totally ignored? Having a voice in the modern world all of us are living in today is to experience the limiting of voice in sometimes direct but mostly subtle ways. The effect of that limiting, once brought about by the physics of attempting to reach any number of potential listeners because of a lack of technology to do so, is different in the modern world.
Church and state organizations achieved remarkable power and dominance only a few hundred years ago by being the only social constructs with any kind of ability to reach a large number of people. Congregation is a word that denotes the gathering of large numbers of people. Only a pulpit in a huge church, built to magnify speaking from that pulpit or the perfect platform in a carefully constructed coliseum would allow individuals to have voice. Although those two entities of cultural congregation have not relinquished any of their power, how they have achieved even grander success based upon modern communications and electronic media, is remarkable, and their success has bled over into certain members of the public at large.
Books, pamphlets, magazines and circulars came into being with the invention of the printing press, vaulting those with access to the printed word into positions of enormous power and financial success. Those areas of voice were quickly restricted to being available to people held to be least objectionable by society’s leaders. Nothing has changed much with respect to what happened. The invention of cell phones and computers have not allowed the ‘common man or woman’ powerful access to other humans around them. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the other social media centers found online are extremely restrictive when it comes to allowing full blown access or the transmission of information to a large number of people.
Books are published almost entirely by authors who have already reached positions of success through family or friendly ties. No human being gets on television without passing through a vetting process that rejects all but an extremely tiny number.
Even on very local levels the restrictions to anyone accept people of political, family or financial power are harshly applied to ‘outsiders’ whose voice might be heard and the status quo changed. In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for example, if citizens attend a city council meeting of their elected representatives they immediately encounter a group of the select leaders who are seated many feet above the audience. The leaders have microphones while the audience does not. The leaders can speak at any time but the audience is limited to three minutes of presentation on a subject that already covered in a pre-published agenda. The leaders are not restricted at all. Up until the current time anyone could come and get at least three minutes of “face time” with the city council members during city hall meetings. Now, because of some restrained but outspoken disagreement with current policy, this city council moves to make communication (voice) ever more restrictive by only allowing residents of the city to speak at all. This has happened in other communities across the country, one of them being a small town where the leaders managed to pay themselves mid six-figure salaries and got away with it because everyone who might have spoken was restricted from speaking.
The first amendment of the United States Constitution would seem to prevent just such activity, but that part of the amendment assuring that freedom of speech will not be abridged has come, over the passing of years, to mean that freedom of speech will only exist in those places and at those times wherein the leaders allow it to take place. There is absolutely no freedom of speech in any courtroom of any court in the United States, including the U.S. Supreme Court. There is no freedom of speech at hastily thrown together demonstrations. There is no freedom of speech in front of police officers during almost any contact a citizen has with them whatever. And the list goes on, right on down to the seemingly smallish applications of these restrictions against anyone having voice in front of a town gathering of town leaders and the populations they are supposed to be representing.
Today, a person cannot have more than five thousand Facebook friends simply because Facebook limits access so that Facebook will have the major voice and not any members. Google, and the very few other search engines decide how anyone among the population is going to be presented. Google decides what is to be said about anyone at any time. Do these pretty outrageous examples of the limiting of voice mean that life is more difficult and bitten than it was in years gone by? No. It simply means that things have changed throughout the world not one bit when it comes to having a few human apes deciding what is best for them by controlling the remaining body of human apes. Without any voice human beings are transposed into those shaven lemurs come down from the trees to fight over the fruit strewn on the forest floor below…and to lie about the fighting. The quite literal fight for survival among humans today is not a fight over possession of metaphorical fruit; it is a fight to have a voice because without a voice a human is just as reduced in all of life as those apes or lemurs.