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Systemic hope-mongering

Credibility Crunch engendered by Hope-mongering: "Credit crunch" focus as symptom of a dangerous mindset (Part #11)

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Clearly government does successfully implement a wide range of institutional responses to the needs of people. These large scale systemic initiatives may indeed be considered successful by many who benefit. However it is important to recognize the way in which the very existence of these initiatives is presented both to evoke the hope that they will respond to those needs when called upon, and to deny or disguise instances where they fail to do so. For, as institutions requiring funding (typically by taxpayers), they have a vested interest in claiming success and continuing to monger hope where this may be less than appropriate.

The challenge is evident in cases such as the following:

  • justice: hope has been instilled in most people that, if there is ever the need, the system of justice will not fail them. As those with direct experience of the operations of this system frequently indicate, the justice they get is not what they had been led to expect. Issues may range from complete miscarriage of justice, to failure to incriminate those for which there is evidence of guilt, to failure to respond to perceived injustice. A sense of the degree of hope-mongering by representatives of the system of justice is to be recognized in the phenomenon of under-reporting of crime by those who do not expect to receive the justice promised.

  • education: formal education has been framed as a gateway to opportunity and as such has become a focus for the hopes of many. The reality for many has been that, irrespective of the years they devote to this process, it may not ensure them the access to the opportunities they had been led to expect. Many with the highest degrees are underemployed or find their education unrelated to the realities with which they have to deal. To what degree is the system of education then to be understood as a process of hope-mongering -- promoting possibilities for many without consideration as to whether there is any possibility of realizing them in practice, other than for the few?

  • employment: strong cases are made for employment opportunities, provided people conform to particular requirements -- whether education, experience, location, attitude, etc -- as a key to well-being and advancement in a world framed in economic terms. The continuing crises of severe unemployment and underemployment suggest that much of this discourse constitutes an exercise in hope-mongering.

  • health: much is made of the marvels of health care. However it is very evident that a significant percentage of the population does not have effective access to these marvels. Health care systems are unable to respond to the level of need. The promotion of their capacity, especially when people are obliged to contribute to them without being able to benefit from them when in need, suggests that there is a high degree of associated hope-mongering.

  • pensions: there are many pension schemes to which people may be obliged to contribute, or to which it may be strongly recommended that they do. The reality is however -- in a society vulnerable to inflation, failure of pension funds, or arbitrary government decisions with regard to them -- that pension security may be highly questionable, especially in a society vulnerable to high inflation. The promotion of such schemes, and the security they are expected to offer on retirement, may therefore also be seen as an exercise in hope-mongering.

  • utilities and emergency services: the supply of water, electricity, gas and sewerage is readily assumed and promoted as a dependable feature of modern living as a consequence of economic development. The possibility that these services might not function due to shortages, accidents or politically motivated cuts is easy to forget. This is evident in the case of emergencies, such as flooding, where it is only too obvious that the response is inadequate. Recognition of future risks in this respect, such as those due to climate change, is also easily avoided. Any promotion of belief in the status quo -- especially when emergency preparedness is inadequate -- is therefore effectively a form of hope-mongering.

Given the increasing importance of public relations and news management for government institutions, it might well be asked to what extent their activity may usefully be understood as hope-mongering -- especially when budgetary constraints inhibit their capacity to fully meet recognized needs.

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