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Jay Chatterjee

Freelance Writer & Researcher

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Does social media and over all progress in communication technology helping the fast spread and dominance of mediocrity, worldwide?

Networking is becoming a dominant factor to decide career of people these days. It largely depends on agreeability and finding similarity than critical thinking, ability to ask questions (and finding answers), desire to challenge human limit. It is not OK "to be different" these days. That trend has spread to areas like education and research- that survive on critical thinking, ability to find fault or asking question. That trend is also affecting natural leadership quality of children. Social mobility is decreasing. Today the poor has higher probability to remain and die poor than anytime in the past. Corporatisation of education is a major factor. Practically, anyone with money can buy any degree these days- even from "ivy league" universities in US.
But development of communication technology seem to contribute greatly to that issue. What do you think?

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    Apr 15 2012: It does, but the same thing work against the democracy! Look at the case of Mr Ana Hazare, it is media failure to promote the very spirit of the person who has done exemplary good work in India particularly for rural population!
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    Apr 13 2012: "Today the poor has higher probability to remain and die poor than anytime in the past. "

    do you have any sources to back that up? i think it is quite the opposite of what's happening in the world.
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      Apr 13 2012: Check this BBC article, "Labour attacks Nick Clegg over social mobility plan" - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12962487. Then in "The Guardian"- "You need greater equality to achieve more social mobility"- http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/may/24/comment.politics. Lastly, "Disturbing finding from LSE study - social mobility in Britain lower than other advanced countries and declining"- http://www2.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/news/archives/2005/LSE_SuttonTrust_report.aspx
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        Apr 14 2012: one of the central statements of the first article is the following: only 30% of high court judges and onl 50% of CEOs visited public schools, while the nationwide average is 93%. how does that apply to our case? who are the people who can not afford a private school? those below the middle class. so we established that you have a *lower* chance to climb from the *bottom* to the *top*. that is the actual statement here.

        your interpretation is: it is a lower possibility to climb than *anytime* in the past.

        what was the chance for a serf to be a landlord or a baron? actually kind of zero percent.

        so it seems to me that the statement "things never was so bad" actually translates to "things are better than ever, except the last few decades, it slightly turned back".

        i agree to the latter notion. not the former.
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          Apr 14 2012: Digital divide and appearance of internet is fairly a recent phenomenon. that's why I think it will be unfair to compare social media and internet with long past.
          But if you compare social inequality and poverty after industrialization and then its trend- you will find a nice correlation. As per published article, industrialization did not reduce poverty but increased it. before Industrialization social inequality is much less and different countries, civilizations were fairly equitable.
          As per the first BBC article, education is the closest of a silver bullet to address the issue. In that sense, corporatization of education (as in American model) increased that divide. Now almost every degree is for sale- if you have the money to pay- even from "ivy league" universities. "Success" of the students from such universities are mainly restricted in the fields that mainly depend in networking and PR (law, public policy, technology, medicine, business etc) and not raw talent (science & research).
          A person who does not have access or have limited access to internet is surely in a disadvantageous position since late 1990.
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        Apr 14 2012: we don!t need data series to refute this. just think about the times before the industrialization. there were peasants, serfs, and there were the noble men. noble men earned like thousands of times as much as serfs and peasants. and there was nothing in between.

        only when cities appeared, the idea of a middle class come to life. and when the industrial revolution commenced, we observed the masses becoming consumers. they had shoes, flats, heating, proper clothing, medication, schooling for children, less work hours.

        and since then, in the western world, we have cellphones, computers, cars, air conditioning, fast food, second car, and all these stuff.

        i don't even understand how can someone believe for a split second that the masses suffer in poverty, and some rich elite has everything. it is so obviously false. 500 years ago the very question how a serf could be a baron was ludicrous. today, you most likey can not jump from harlem to the high court in one generation. that is a huge progress.

        the only truth in what you say is that we actually go backwards for a good 100 years. this is a slow movement, but it is there nevertheless. it has nothing to do with elites though. high taxes makes it impossible for a worker to accumulate enough wealth to move out of poverty.
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          Apr 14 2012: What is "serf"?

          I am not sure why you think there was no "middle class" in those well established ancient civilizations. As per my information and articles/books, there used to be vibrant middle class people who were not part of king class. "Middle class" is not defined by profession but by income and living standard. If you think that farmers or academicians, general traders can not be middle class, then, I think, you are mistaken.

          I am not sure which world do you live and how you can think that - 'i don't even understand how can someone believe for a split second that the masses suffer in poverty, and some rich elite has everything. it is so obviously false"!!! That is not false, but a reality for most of the world. May not be the place where you live. And that reality is taking more acute form in recent times.
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          Apr 14 2012: Check this one: "Greek Social Classes" (http://atschool.eduweb.co.uk/sirrobhitch.suffolk/portland%20state%20university%20greek%20civilization%20home%20page%20v2/docs/7/ryan.html ) "The best information about the Greek social classes comes from a city called Athens. Athens had an upper class. Directly below this class were the Metics, or the middle class. The next class was the freemen, and at the very bottom were the slaves. I will show how the people of Athens were placed in these classes during the time period from 600 to about 300 BC."

          The same is true for most of the ancient civilizations we know of- including Egypt, Indus valley, Mesopotamia, Maya & Aztec and Chinese civilizations.
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          Apr 14 2012: "Finding The Middle Class in Three Ancient Societies"- http://digitalwindow.vassar.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=senior_capstone .
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        Apr 14 2012: show me any data showing that there was a middle class in 1200, and it was more than 0.01% of the population.
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          Apr 14 2012: Check the last two replies to your previous post.
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      Apr 13 2012: "Social Immobility: Climbing The Economic Ladder Is Harder In The U.S. Than In Most European Countries"- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/17/social-immobility-climbin_n_501788.html .
      Excerpt:
      "So if you want your children to climb the socioeconomic ladder higher than you did, move to Canada.
      The report finds the U.S. ranking well below Denmark, Australia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany and Spain in terms of how freely citizens move up or down the social ladder. Only in Italy and Great Britain is the intensity of the relationship between individual and parental earnings even greater.
      For instance, according to the OECD, 47 percent of the economic advantage that high-earning fathers in the United States have over low-earning fathers is transmitted to their sons, compare to, say, 17 percent in Australia and 19 percent in Canada.
      Recent economic events may be increasing social mobility in the U.S. -- but only of the downward variety

      "Social mobility and inequality: Upper bound"- http://www.economist.com/node/15908469.
      Excerpt:
      Parental income is a better predictor of a child’s future in America than in much of Europe, implying that social mobility is less powerful. Different groups of Americans have different levels of opportunity. Those born to the middle class have about an equal chance of moving up or down the income ladder, according to the Economic Mobility Project. But those born to black middle-class families are much more likely than their white counterparts to fall in rank.
      How rising inequality affects social mobility is still unclear. Those born since inequality started to rise sharply are only just now becoming adults.
      Ms Sawhill argues that a rising correlation between income levels, likelihood of marriage and level of education will make society more stagnant.
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        Apr 14 2012: Jayanta

        I scanned your links. They mention Elizabeth Warren, Mrs. Warren bases her sophistry on household income which is patently false for the very simple reason that household income has gone down for the last 30 years because the divorce rate has skyrocketed in the last 30 yr. Every time their is a divorce house hold income gets cut in half.

        They also mention the GINI index. The problem with it is they don't account for government transfers (welfare, food stamps, housing), the huge change in the reported income of the "rich" because of tax law changes which actually didn't change their income one dime, that the middle classes 401ks don't show up as income.

        I could explain further but I don't have the time and you are simply going to say this all B.S. . But it is not it is TRUE. The problem is that there is so much disinformation/propaganda that most people get duped by the mainstream media. Not to mention that half of the people don't pay any federal income tax at all in the U.S.

        My advise which I doubt you will hear is to LOOK for yourself and don't listen to the main stream media.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L18H_-LxycU


        P.S.

        Quote for TodayGive a man a fish and he eats for a day.

        Give a man a welfare check, a free cell phone with monthly minutes comped, food stamps, Section-8 housing, a big forty-ounce malt liquor, a crack pipe plus a costly pair of Air Jordan footwear -- and he votes Democratic for a lifetime.
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          Apr 14 2012: I cannot follow much of your post.
          I try my best to just do just that, as you suggested- "looking" by myself. Then try to get the bigger picture from different sources, mainly reputed media like BBC, CNN, Nat Geo etc (of course not Fox or WSJ), besides reputed research journals.
          In reality, US society is still an immigrant society. Businessmen and industrialists mostly rule it- they and their kids inherit the ruling power. Bush, Kennedy, are the main-stream politicians. People like Obama are exceptions.
          Majority of big business and US corporations hardly pay due corporate tax and that is true for 'rich" Americans.
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          Apr 14 2012: BTW, the same rule applies to Republicans too!
          Give a man a welfare check, a free cell phone with monthly minutes comped, food stamps, Section-8 housing, a big forty-ounce malt liquor, a crack pipe plus a costly pair of Air Jordan footwear -- and he votes GOP for a lifetime. They (GOP) probably will add- give only that much that is needed to get the vote and in the process enable him/herself to have more money- from that "charity" business. Probably only one pair of footwear is enough and keep the rest of the money to itself.
          Polarization of voters is so prominent in recent times that - "A Pew Research Center Poll from July 2009 showed that only around 6 % of U.S. scientists are Republicans; 55% are Democrats, 32% are independent, and the rest "don't know" their affiliation. (http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2010/12/lab_politics.html)

          One ex-republican strategist under senior Bush admin said in a recent interview (in Charlie Rose in NPR) that present crop of GOP makes Reagan a communist!!

          Anyway, we are deviating from the topic of discussion here. I personally consider Obama as THE best US president, at least in last 2 generations. My opinion is restricted to Obama, not Democratic party though (BTW, I am neither Dem or GOP). If you think otherwise, then you can start a new discussion on that and I'll join there.
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        Apr 14 2012: Your response is what I expected. My post is in response to your links, can you follow the articles at your links? What about the video, you must be able to follow that?

        How can you look when you only look at some of the information? WSJ and the video I attached (from Fox) are very good sources of information. Do you consider the BBC, NPR, NY Times, CNN to be unimpeachable sources of information?

        The U.S. has the highest corporate tax in the world? Do you realize that corporations don't pay the taxes, their customers do?

        You are not looking at all you are simply regurgitating the egalitarian trope.

        Start by looking at that video I linked and explain to me how there can be such a difference between what you are saying and what the video is saying? There really is not much middle ground here one of them is true and one of them is not true, do you see that?
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          Apr 14 2012: yes, I do consider consider the BBC, NPR, NY Times, CNN to be unimpeachable sources of information. Fox has absolutely NO credibility in my eyes as a news media. It is a Republican party and religious conservative propaganda machinery. In fact, I do not trust any news media controlled by Rupert Murdoch or his News corp.

          Check this New York Times article:
          "It is an extreme case, but it’s hardly the only company that pays far less than the much-quoted federal corporate tax rate of 35 percent. Of the 500 big companies in the well-known Standard & Poor’s stock index, 115 paid a total corporate tax rate — both federal and otherwise — of less than 20 percent over the last five years".
          "Over the last five years, on the other hand, Boeing paid a total tax rate of just 4.5 percent, according to Capital IQ. Southwest Airlines paid 6.3 percent. And the list goes on: Yahoo paid 7 percent; Prudential Financial, 7.6 percent; General Electric, 14.3 percent.".
          "Companies that use loopholes to avoid taxes don’t mind the current system, of course, and they have more than a few lobbyists at their disposal. G.E. is so good at avoiding taxes that some people consider its tax department to be the best in the world, even better than any law firm’s."
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          Apr 14 2012: Forgot to mention the NY Times link. Here it is:
          http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/02/business/economy/02leonhardt.html
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          Apr 14 2012: I think, the youtube video link (ABC/Fox news) you posted has presented the story in a slightly biased way.
          Check these videos: "A discussion about the Middle Class" http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11259 (Charlie Rose Interview) and "American Dream For Middle Class: Just A Dream?" http://www.npr.org/2011/11/06/142072783/american-dream-for-middle-class-just-a-dream
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          Apr 14 2012: Then check this from MSNBC- "Loophole lets big companies shirk income tax":
          Revenue from corporate income taxes fell from between 5 percent and 6 percent of gross domestic product in the early 1950s to about 1.3 percent of GDP in 2010, according to the Tax Policy Center, another tax research group.
          General Electric keeps its tax rate low -- an average negative 19 percent between 2008 and 2011 -- primarily by using tax benefits from its leasing business to offset profits in other units, such as the company's finance arm, McIntyre said.

          Then you can read- "Stop Coddling the Super-Rich"-
          By WARREN E. BUFFETT in NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/opinion/stop-coddling-the-super-rich.html)

          Then again in Forbes- "The 400 richest Americans used to pay 30% of their income on the average to Uncle Sam. Today, they pay 18% on the average"- http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertlenzner/2011/07/25/the-400-richest-americans-pay-an-18-tax-rate/
          BTW, average Americans and foreigners who live & earn in US pay around 35% tax.

          "According to a recently released IRS report (PDF), 1,470 millionaires and billionaires paid zero taxes in 2009."- http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/09inalcr.pdf
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        Apr 14 2012: You have decided that this trope is all true, I gave you a 6 minute video to watch, I'm not going to wade through a 200 pg report or an 28 pg one before that, I don't have the time to spend on something that is a waste of time.

        A few points I will respond to:

        A key distinction that your ilk fail to realize is that crony capitalism is not capitalism. GE has an incestuous relationship with the white house, Jeff Immelt sits on Obama's committee to create jobs in America yet off shores jobs for green tech, and GE didn't pay any taxes. If your interested you can Google the veracity of this.

        The reason for the tax drop is what I mentioned before about tax law changes that transferred taxes from a chapter c cost to a sub chapter s individual cost which made the individual income look like it was higher and the corporate cost to look lower. In actuality it hasn't changed one dime.

        If you want to dig though the 200 page report and give the exact pages to look at fine otherwise I will pass.

        Airhead Huffington and Charley Rose are basing what they are talking about on what I talked about earlier which was the specious data on household income.

        You do realize that the biggest manufacturer in the world is the U.S.?

        You have already decided everything I'm saying is BS, I can't waste time so I will leave it at that
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          Apr 14 2012: Obama inherited a system not build by him. Many of his "failures" or projected failures have a long history in developing.

          Yes, I have seen that attack Ad by some SuperPac, blaming Obama for Oil price rise, accepting Wall Street millionaires in his cabinet/advisers and so on. Yet, Obama dare to prescribe justified tax hike for the rich, closing the corporate tax loopholes, banning insider trading by member of congress (already passed) and so on.

          You can not address a systemic problem without having people knowing the system- be it Wall Street, Banking and insurance industry, Oil lobby etc. The same is applicable to counter the might and influence of Wall Street on US politics. His handling of wall street is among the few rare occasions in US politics that can make common people little more hopeful about the country. If anyone have any proof against any of Obama's advisers/white house staff they can surely bring that matter to public and/or sue the person. Association with Wall street can not be considered a crime or unethical. Then many of the GOP politicians, including the Governor of my state Ohio (John Kasich) can be charged with the same "crime". Not his advisers but himself are accused from insider trading, association with Wall street.

          I do think that any person holding higher Govt positions (like Governor of a state, Federal Govt Secretaries etc) should not be allowed to accept positions in private company in compromising positions within 3-5 years from his tenure in Govt - as practiced in many private companies.
  • Apr 14 2012: Perhaps.. Its evolving..
    The new gen prefer the FaceBook to a real book,
    Their communication mode is texting rather than a formatted letter,
    They celebrate success by "Posting" on a social site rather than invite real friends over..
    So the attention span for anything is so tiny !

    But yet there are smart minds
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      Apr 14 2012: Yes, it is evolving but the direction is bit worrying.
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    Apr 14 2012: Jayanta, yes, I largely agree with your statement. But I think you are presenting a snapshot of the situation.

    I think we are in the first stages of a new millennium, with technology being the key driver. As this new age is being born, it is messy, chaotic, frantic, painful, exhilarating, depressing - all of those things. It will continue to advance over the next 200-300-500 years and we will pass through all the stages, reaching a renaissance era, and then move on to the next millennium...

    We are witnessing the birth of it, but will be long gone before it hits it's stride (unless this reincarnation thing turns out to be true).
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    Apr 14 2012: Social mobility has a close correlation with concentration of wealth in fewer hands. That has deteriorated in recent times, more so after 2008 financial crisis. Check this NPR documentary. "The top 20 percent of Americans now holds 84 percent of US wealth"- http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/july-dec11/makingsense_08-16.html. "Income inequality is worse in modern USA than in ancient Rome"- http://www.thenextgreatgeneration.com/2012/02/was-ancient-rome-more-economically-equal-than-modern-day-america/ . "top 1% of earners in Ancient Rome controlled merely 20% of the society’s wealth at the time. This pales in comparison to the almost 40% of American wealth owned by the top 1% of American earners."
    A recent world bank study (http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2011/09/Berg.htm) concludes- "Inequality matters for growth and other macroeconomic outcomes, in all corners of the globe. .. taking a historical perspective, the increase in U.S. income inequality in recent decades is strikingly similar to the increase that occurred in the 1920s. In both cases there was a boom in the financial sector, poor people borrowed a lot, and a huge financial crisis ensued. ... With inequality growing in the United States and other important economies, the relationship between inequality and growth takes on more significance."

    A recent publication (on December 2011) by Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, OECD- "Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising" (http://www.oecd.org/document/51/0,3746,en_2649_33933_49147827_1_1_1_1,00.html ) concludes "In the three decades prior to the recent economic downturn, wage gaps widened and household income inequality increased in a large majority of OECD countries. This occurred even when countries were going through a period of sustained economic and employment growth".
    Many "successful" emerging economics like China, India, South Africa are among the worst in terms of growing income & social inequality.
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    Apr 13 2012: You may have a point there.

    Is there also a correlation between the dominance of 'who' one knows rather than 'what and how', and the pathway to social acceptance being dependent on how loudly we can shout rather than considered depth of thought?

    If there is a connection, then communication technology probably provides a convenient and trendy mouthpiece to those people who like to shout about themselves, and to network with others who think perhaps as shallowly as they do - and on a huge world stage. It seems to be geared naturally towards extroversion, and networking in this way seems to be an extrovert activity.

    It may be unfair to say that extroverts are mediocre - some introverts are too. I'm saying that the introverts among us (who are perhaps given to keeping their thoughts to themselves, or to a smaller audience), naturally have fewer mouthpieces with which to widely publicise thoughts - even if they wanted to publicise them in the first place.

    There seems to be a disconnect between deep introverted thought, and the need to publicise those thoughts on a stage built for extroverts. The two are uncomfortable bedfellows in my opinion, and it is perhaps partly responsible for the perception of mediocrity.
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      Apr 13 2012: Yes, you have a point. I think, the % of such "talented" but extrovert people are not more as compared to less talented but excellent in public relations & networking.
      Lately I was watching a documentary on American pop star "Madonna". Almost every analyst there admitted that she is an "average" singer, at best. And that's one of the reasons for her success. general public can correlate with her, sing her songs without much problem.
      The circumstantial evidence is becoming clearer in education and research, at least in US. Higher acceptance of corruption, declining standard of professional ethics, slowing down of innovation and invention is becoming more vivid in recent times. The people who enjoy their profession, are mostly productive and have less time for such PR activity. It is also observed that they do not like to attend useless meetings and conferences. Gradually they become aloof from "mainstream" professionals.
      Blogs and other “non-scientific” forms of communication are gaining more strength as the peer-review process fast losing its credibility.
      Check the following articles:
      1) Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist. In The Guardian, (29th. August, 2011). http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/29/academic-publishers-murdoch-socialist
      2) The Guardian- "Publish-or-perish: Peer review and the corruption of science"- http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/sep/05/publish-perish-peer-review-science
      2) Zhang, Y. (2010). Chinese journal finds 31% of submissions plagiarized. Nature 467, 153.
      3) Sarewitz, D. (2011). Science agencies must bite innovation bullet. Nature 471, 137.