Friday, June 27, 2008

Valuable Values

(Unpublished - June 26, 2008)

Stella Tan Peck Kheng's values could be more valuable than mine

I read with interest Stella Tan Peck Kheng's letter 'Programmes convey wrong values' (ST Jun 26).

Tan pointed out a Mandarin drama depicting a female character moving out of her home to cohabit with her boyfriend, and thus conveying the wrong values.

It is important to note that whatever that is enacted, depicted or represented in the mass media should not be at once construed to be a conveyance or promotion of a set of values.

In most cases, depictions of otherwise non-mainstream or socially-labelled deviant acts and phenomena often get scrutinised and criticised for the pushing and promotion of “wrong values”; while mainstream depictions and representations that seek to sustain certain dominant prejudices, predispositions and ideologies go undetected and unquestioned.

Another issue worth noting is the tunnel-vision subscription to early Twentieth Century mass media theories which posit a causal relationship between viewership and behaviour.

Such a belief will only cause one to hold the media solely responsible for perceived negative social phenomena, turning the attention away from the larger social, economic and political issues that could have played a role in defining the perceived changes or decay in morality.

The term “values” is also highly subjective. Focus should not be on the continual transmission and conservation of “values”, but on the questioning as to whose cause and benefit such conservation serves.

The portrayal of perceived alternative social phenomenon, rather than threatens, actually provides the dominant social institutions, for example the “normal” family, with the opportunity to discuss the relevant issues with their young as part of their socialisation.

Discussion and dialogue are more meaningful in cultivating well-adjusted, responsible and reasonable individuals and citizens. They also serve to prevent moral panics and witch-hunts.

Ho Chi Sam

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