Dorothee Frey-Burghardt, Germany PtC-Europe: 2nd Vice-President Influence of the Media in Character building I. ‘The Media Age’ – and then what? It is most obvious that the world has changed dramatically as a result of the media. The term ‘media age’ alone makes this fact clear and shows the enormous influence of the media on everything and everyone. The media can ‘make’ someone, i.e. build up a personality or, on the other hand, ‘break’ someone, i.e. ruin a person in a most brutal way. The ordinary public is interested in how ‘telegenic’ or ‘photogenic’ someone is, rather than the spiritual-cultural or ethical standing of a person. Show, illusion, triviality, sexuality, materialism, greed, selfishness, manipulation and corruption – be it subtle or obvious – are the unethical messages put across to the population without any differentiation. In the course of this development, it is often not possible to even spot or explain who ‘the media’ exactly is. Who actually dominates the media and is funding it? The assumption is justified that complex financial empires are behind this powerful tool. Commercialism, i.e. the pursuit of extreme financial gain, is always focused on the status of the media monopoly, i.e. the monopoly of shaping opinion – in other words: the monopoly of manipulation. As such, the noble goal of sound spiritual - cultural awareness is undermined through the media itself. The result is the problematic misuse of media which should originally serve as a source of education, but instead foster the degenerative degradation of the human intellect, an overemphasis on physical urges (over-sexualization) and support the split of consciousness – with the result that people themselves are ‘switched off’ mentally in front of a TV or PC often with all the signs of addictive behaviour. II. Plato’s concept: The best of the best – for the best! At this point I would like to refer to Plato’s statement: “Let us choose the best to educate the young, so that they will become educators of a future elite”. In other words, he called for the best of the best – for the best! And this is exactly the principle that should guide every state today! Many countries have already looked for better formulas. China, for example, applies certain restrictions against various possibilities which media would make feasible. A state should not evade responsibility when it comes to forming the character of its population, since any nation lives as a result of the quality of its citizens. Being aware that man and his thoughts and actions are the product of his individual consciousness and character, the focus should be placed on ‘best methods’ in the education and upbringing of young people, accompanied by science. This way, negative trends could be recognized much faster and corrected, so that the efforts of dedicated pedagogues and parents are supported rather than jeopardized. The increase in quality of peoples’ characters would have a positive influence in many areas, especially in health as well as crime statistics. The requirement of police and security staff would be reduced, instead a concept of citizenship would be created – of a citizen with a character-related ethical behaviour who would render his services towards the state and his environment with implicitness, personal responsibility and joy as part of the wider state family. However, such ideal would have to avoid already in kindergartens or at schools that the children are trained and/or miseducated by computer games, simulating stock market speculations, armed conflicts etc., for example. III. Leaders and the media The media apparatus as such is a ‘main pool’ from which all actions should be directed with the highest level of responsibility. In addition, along with leaders or the state government, it should present their concepts and decisions to the population, with qualitative reason in an understandable way. No leader should evade his direct line of responsibility in relation to the media! In order to be motivating and persuasive, political and conceptual processes cannot be imparted in a simple black-and-white structure, but require balanced evaluation, social and scientific monitoring. Citizens must understand – from an ethical, spiritual-cultural point of view – why certain means are necessary or not, or why action has been taken in one way or another. Citizens appreciate being respected, instead of being treated as a mass that can be manipulated. Qualitative communication leads to motivation, a desire for joyful cooperation, and further: to communion, i.e. to an ethical community! A positive future is only secured based on trust in leaders, in the objective attitude of the media and in the community. IV. A catalogue of pragmatic suggestions and measures Please allow me to present some pragmatic suggestions: 1. In those countries where citizens’ councils have already been established, these should also act as ethical media councils. If they are not yet established, such councils should be set up with highest priority. They should not be seen as a ‘censor’, ‘inquisitor’ or an ‘opinion manipulator’, but they should promote the qualified knowledge of spiritual-cultural issues, e.g. the diversity contained in the world’s religions and philosophies. 2. The establishment of regular, informative blocks of positive news. For example, all topics of joy for people in other continents – Where are evolutionary improvements taking place that serve the whole of humanity? – Where are the outstanding examples to be used as model? Are there any young heroes to be found in other areas? 3. The establishment of education modules with the target to positively shape people’s character, as school projects and those for citizens and community projects. Why not try to promote the idea of the “transformation of my three weakest character traits” over an observation period of one to two years, accompanied by scientists, a statistical evaluation of its impact on the entire social process as well as a look at the effects on the well-being of children, families and the wider society. 4. Special care should be taken to prevent ugliness, barbarity and any degeneration from taking a foothold anywhere – neither in deed nor in the thoughts and ideas serving as precursors of such action. Already at an early age, such negative ‘germs’ need to be combated and government measures should promote this protection of children in addition to the parents. Children are not cruel until they see the first cruel deed. 5. In general: Action is particularly important in the field of society and social science – especially in the West, since a great potential is left unexploited in this area. In order to convey spiritual-cultural knowledge and understanding, ground-breaking fully new paths should be found, casting off prejudice and avoiding technocracies and automation – forces preventing contemplation and creative action. The principles of equivalence, equality and justice should be taught in an attractive and inspiring way in order to give life to the principles of ‘ethical social behaviour’ (culture of acting) and ‘cooperation’. Thought must be urgently given to the question of how people can learn to undergo an inner transformation, how families can learn to think spiritually, how the population can return to values, i.e. to strengthen their character and consciousness and in general, how the principle of self-‘perfection’ could grow more attractive and respected. All leaders – as the mediators of the cosmic laws of causality, evolution and hierarchy – have an immense responsibility in this respect by finding and following the correct and necessary paths for the benefit of the people. V. The ‘new’ media in the spiritual-cultural age The media should constructively accompany the ‘grounding processes’ described above in cooperation and with the aid of the sciences. In terms of an ‘ethical code of conduct’ and self-commitment: not to produce or publish anything that would harm a spiritual-cultural development or cause misinformation, chaos, destruction and division! The media should consider themselves as communicators, interpreters, motivators in the sense of helpers, companions and servants of the people! The field of media is the key field to implement spiritual-cultural and ethical principles. They are the main instrument for the dissemination of the basic tools for character building and widening of consciousness through the appropriate teaching of knowledge. And last but not least: The following Honorary titles should be awarded one day to those who are responsible for the media: You are the unerring eye, ear and heart, You are the shining example, guardian and protector of the people! You are the promoter of a global understanding of community, fraternity and quality of life! You arouse enthusiasm, the will to perform creative deeds and: the power of honor!