I recall sometime ago reading an article in which the writer detailed the gross abuses of the public relations mechanisms by both the State and the commercial organizations. In my many years of previous working experience, first as a journalist and later as a civil servant intimately involved institutional information programs, I have learned to tolerate public relations (PR) to some extent as “necessary evils”.
I beg to use the example of Taiwan, a close ally of America, to illustrate my point. The country made remarkable progress in economic growth during those years of martial law under the KMT. The ruling regime had in their PR campaigns unabashedly broadcast their anti-PRC stance, with fiery slogans displayed everywhere about their lofty ambition of recovering the Greater China, and leading victorious marches up to Peiping, (they refused to recognize it as Peking for many years.). They derided Mao Tze Tung as Mao (Hairy) bandit, and arbitrarily banned all goods from China. This propaganda was blatantly interwoven into their national education system and permeated their everyday life.
I remember about two decades ago, one of the younger civil servants, a Government-sponsored scholar groomed to hold important public office, condemned the then KMT Government for their autocratic rule and felt strongly that all these were at the expense of democracy and freedom. He went on to ridicule the KMT for having suffered wishful thinking and constipated dreams of trying to regain the greater China. I rationalized with him to look into the greater depth, of how the KMT had cleverly capitalized on these ideologies to maintain tight rein over the people, and all oppositions, and made use of the much-needed space and time to build up and strengthen their defence and the economy, giving the Taiwanese the much acclaimed rapid growth and the high standard of living.
When the martial laws were dismantled, the country began to look more like it was heading toward shambles – their economy faltered and it failed to regain the glory of yesterday years, ugly brawls in parliamentary and legislative meetings became a mockery of their democratized system. The period where ex-president Chen took over the mandate was lamented by most right-thinking Taiwanese as a period of darkness – their national image and their economy were at an all-time low. My Taiwanese friend, a retired army officer, was almost choked in tears when he told me that there were families that committed suicide because of failing to make ends meet, and he still refused to believe that this could happen in his own country.
I am no fervent supporter of dictatorship regimes or authoritarian rules, but I still support the concept that freedom of speech and human rights are not absolute and they do come with a price.
My personal opinion, thus, on the public relations machinery being abused by the State and the big commercial enterprises is a measure of restrained caution. I suppose as a sovereign nation, some propaganda, sugar-coated information programs, should be tolerated for the greater good of the country not only for it to progress and prosper but to facilitate its survival during the crisis and to uphold and preserve its dignity and integrity.
As individuals with heightening awareness, we are fortunate that we can see through the veil of lies and falsehoods, the manipulative intent, behind all these public relations activities. But as responsible spiritual beings, we must have the right frame of mind to discern at the macro level what is good and best collectively for people and the country, and not to psyche ourselves into having fanatical and extreme views that everything that is PR sponsored by the State is absolutely wrong. But, in real life, we cannot have a Utopian state of existence. Public relations management is only an instrument; by itself, it is neither good nor bad. It is the evil-minded politicians (there again this is called tagging or stereotyping?) and unscrupulous businessmen who give it a bad name.
Another machinery that relies heavily on PR campaigns of mass persuasion, and hidden propaganda, is the mainstream organized religions. I have been watching with amusement how the New Age movements have been demonized and ostracized. My personal view is that the New Age movement has been much misinterpreted and misunderstood as another newly sprung organized religion, and a threat to institutionalized religions. Personally, I feel that the perceived New Age movements have no formal organization, and it is only a loose definition to refer to individuals who choose to practice spirituality on their own, with or without affiliation to any organized religions. This shall form another topic of discussion some other time.
And, yes, those who are on the path of spirituality tend to have a greater awareness of things. How often you have marveled at yourself for being able to anticipate the thoughts of others and speak out what is in their mind before they have a chance to vocalize them. How often have you, all of sudden and instantaneously realized, solutions to those the problems that have been bugging you for years? And, how often have you marveled at yourself that you are able to see through lies and falsehoods publicized in the media?
By Anthony Leong