January 31, 2010
Posted by nickbaines under Israel
| Tags: Brueggemann
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Reading Walter Brueggemann on ‘The Land’ immediately before taking a group to Israel-Palestine has been very suggestive. Among many of the thoughts buzzing around my head as we leave tomorrow morning will be his observation on the change that happens to people when they leave ‘gifted’ land and enter ‘to-be-managed land’.
When the Israelites crossed the Jordan they were warned never to forget that they had been slaves and sojourners in land that was theirs. If they ever forgot this, they would become oppressors and defenders of what they ‘possess’. He says:
Israel is no longerrecipient of land but controller, no longer creature of grace but manager of achievement. (p.53)
This follows the recognition that ‘the sojourner becomes a possessor’ and needs to ask what is required in order to exercise just ‘possession’ with the mindset and behaviour of one who never forgets that the ‘possession’ was ‘gift’.
As we move around, seeing sights and meeting people, our minds will need to be alive to this sort of question – not just in relation to Israel and Palestine, but in relation to how any of us see the material world, what we ‘own’ and how we steward our resources for the common good.
I’ll try to post while I am there, but can’t promise. Last time I went I used public computers and couldn’t get used to the screen running from right to left (as Hebrew script does). So, I’m taking my netbook and travelling in hope.
January 30, 2010
Millions of words will be banged out today following Tony Blair’s appearance before the Iraq Inquisition yesterday, so it is a bit silly to write too much here. I’ll limit it to three observations that have the virtue of being honest, but run the risk of running counter to everyone else.
1. I think the war was wrong on every front: politically, militarily and morally. The premises as presented were false and it still appears that the Brits were too keen to be in Bush’s pocket. Nothing said so far in the Chilcot Inquiry has demanded a change of view on these matters.
2. The Inquiry is not a trial. Hectoring inquisition may satisfy the blood lust of would-be interrogators, but might also illicit less information than otherwise. Let someone talk: the more they say, the more words they use, the more holes they will potentially dig either by saying too much or too little. Shouting at people or questioning every detail is not necessarily the best way of getting to the truth. We must wait until the report is published to see what conclusions are being drawn.
3. Thank God the baying crowds or the foaming commentators don’t run the country. Blair’s appearance before the Inquiry Panel has been built up as a trial when it can be no such thing. The Inquiry is there to discover the truth – and they can only do this by looking at the matter from very different perspectives. This requires patience, attention and a willingness to hold judgement until all the evidence has been heard. Yet, already the Inquiry is being written off as a whitewash and a failure by the establishment to beat up one of its own.
I suspect (and in this I know I am not alone) that many observers will write the Inquiry off anyway, simply because it won’t say what they want to hear. For many people this appears not to be a search for the truth about Iraq, but a blood sacrifice on the altar of self-righteousness. Unless Blair is hanged, drawn and quartered, justice will not have been done. Unless someone pays, satisfaction will not have been engendered. Unless the baying crowds are given the corpse, they will never believe that the ‘truth’ has been identified.
I think the War was wrong and Blair’s government was wrong to pursue it the way it did. The consequences have been grim and a heavy price has been paid by people who aren’t well-protected western politicians. Blair has left a lot of questions unanswered – but the ‘unanswering’ has also given the ‘holes’ in the story a prominence they did not have before. There is time for this to be addressed, but the expectations of Blair yesterday were absurd.
Screaming – the way some are today – costs the comfortable commentators nothing. Some of those shouting the loudest have never had to make a decision of any broad import in their life – but obviously could have done better than Blair. And when the commenters on newspaper blogs (which make utterly depressing reading – self-righteousness and messianic belief in the unassailable infallibility of one’s own assumtions, prejudices, beliefs and opinions are clearly not the monopoly of Blair) resort to sneering about the comfort and affluence of Blair’s Saturday in a warm house (as many do), this just exposes the nasty face of envy.
Blair owes an apology. But I am not so sure that yesterday was the right time, the right context (an Inquiry) or that he was in the right role for that. But it is to be hoped that it will follow in time. In the meantime we will get more out of what happened yesterday from the forensic analysis of the engagement – and the patience to wait other pieces of the jigsaw.
January 29, 2010
I am glad that Martin Beckford (Daily Telegraph) has picked up on the Church of England contribution to consultations by the European Union on its future development following the financial crisis and the Lisbon Treaty. The House of Bishops Europe Panel was responding to a policy document called EU 2020, (as Martin says) ‘a strategy to make the 27-state union a “smarter, greener social market” following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty.’ It also addresses questions in relation to improving education, low-carbon technology and the role of the European Parliament.
I understand why he puts it this way, but I think Martin is wrong to use the language of accusation. The content of the response demonstrates a serious and considered contribution to a serious debate. To question is not necessarily to accuse.
However, he goes to the heart of the argument when he quotes:
The European institutional public sphere is largely a public discourse for elites, it is a sphere in which citizens remain uninvolved. This has in turn contributed to the EU’s democratic deficit. The solutions to today’s challenges must come from society if they are to meet people’s needs. Europe’s citizens have to be placed more squarely at the centre of the agenda.
This picks up on the shift there has been from speaking about ‘market economies’ to now speaking of ‘market societies’ or ‘social markets’. The bishops rightly urge a broader consideration of Europe as more than a locus of economic transactions – that people are more than consumers.
Martin summarises the response well and concisely, but I add the original press notice below which also provides a link to the document itself. It demonstrates that the Church of England is pushing hard in contributing to the re-shaping of Europe and doing so robustly and intelligently.
Not just the economy: Bishops call for action to build a sustainable future for Europe
A panel of senior Church of England bishops has told the EU that its plans for the next decade fail to reflect the needs of both the most disadvantaged and those ‘ordinary citizens’ who indirectly contribute to its financial and political viability.
In a submission published today in response to ‘EU 2020: a new strategy to make the EU a smarter, greener social market’, the bishops – led by the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, Bishop of Guildford and Chair of the House of Bishops’ Europe Panel – argue:
- More effort must be made to improve the EU’s transparency – particularly its financial and accounting processes – and to reduce bureaucracy. The bishops add that the lack of progress in reforming the EU budget is “surprising” given the importance of the issue;
- The environmental focus of the report is welcome, but seems to be based purely on an economic argument for efficient growth rather than any plea for the sustainable stewardship of global resources for future generations;
- An emphasis on investment in vocational subjects that provide skills for industry ignores the importance of other subjects that sustain common life, and betrays “a fundamentally materialist approach that sees students as units of production subordinated to the demands of the market”.
Overall, while the bishops accept that “EU 2020 is a reasonable summary of some of the political and policy challenges that now, and over the next ten years, face the EU”, they argue that “the Commission’s hope of securing the active support of stakeholders such as the social partners and civil society in realising the EU 2020 vision would be made easier if the vision for an economically efficient and innovative market economy is supplemented more clearly by policies for solidarity that extend across national borders to assist the most disadvantaged.”
The response suggests that the EU faces much more fundamental issues than short-term economic problems: “If the financial crisis and economic recession has shown us anything it is that the very fabric of our economy and society was unstable. Europe’s citizens are now looking for something more stable and sustainable.”
The full submission can be found here: http://www.cofe.anglican.org/info/socialpublic/europe/europe2020sub.pdf
January 29, 2010
I am still catching up with some of the stuff floating around the media in the last few days. The most absurd has to be the latest Richard Dawkins fundamentalist flounce about Christianity in the Times.
Does he not have an adviser or editor? Consider the language:
…hubristical.. petty moralistic purposes… milder-mannered faith-heads… hypocrisy… loathsome… those faux-anguished hypocrites… It is the obnoxious Pat Robertson who is the true Christian here… Dear modern, enlightened, theologically sophisticated, gentle Christian, you cannot be serious… effrontery… the odious doctrine… a nasty human mind (Paul’s of course)… the Christian “atonement” would win a prize for pointless futility as well as moral depravity…
And he keeps going:
You nice, middle-of-the-road theologians and clergymen, be-frocked and bleating in your pulpits… Educated apologist, how dare you weep Christian tears, when your entire theology is one long celebration of suffering: suffering as payback for “sin” — or suffering as “atonement” for it? You may weep for Haiti where Pat Robertson does not, but at least, in his hick, sub-Palinesque ignorance, he holds up an honest mirror to the ugliness of Christian theology. You are nothing but a whited sepulchre.
Dawkins not only demonstrates that he is prone to the very charge he levels at Christians: making apologetic capital out of the suffering of Haitians. He does so in extreme language, but along the way demonstrates that he knows nothing about theology or philosophy, nothing about how to read literature (including the Bible) and, more oddly, seems to pride himself on his ignorance.
I don’t know anyone who would dream of speaking about biology with the degree of prejudiced ignorance with which he speaks of religion. Does he read poetry as if it were an engineering book? Moralising caricature simply prevents a sensible engagement and this is all that Dawkins ever offers us. Pity, really.
January 28, 2010
One of the benefits of having a bit of a break is that when the tiredness wears off, you get the space to reflect on the past and think things through more clearly than is possible in the cauldron of immediate demand.
But, this also has a worrying, if not slightly depressing, element. I keep remembering things I have done and (more embarrasingly) said that I wish I hadn’t. I wonder how many people I have needlessly offended during my half-century of life. I wonder how often I have been misunderstood because of what I have said or done. And I cringe at things that probably now stick to any memory of me held by people who were on the wrong end of my opinions, judgements or statements. Like the shark in Jaws emerging when you least expect it to (ignore the give-away drumbeat), these memories pop up above the surface and cause me to wince.
However, this only demonstrates that growing up can’t be done without the growing up. The mistakes are what we learn from – and we also gradually learn that we can’t fix everything we have ever got wrong. Yet, recognising the failures at least maintains a degree of humility. Being human means an awful lot of looking back and wincing.
It is this ‘being human’ stuff that’s bothering me during my ‘reflective’ time. Take a couple of examples:
- Obama makes his first State of the Union address amid the opprobrium of those who know they could do his job better. Critics – some of whom have done nothing for the ‘common good’ other than take other people apart – scream how disappointed they are in him, how all the hopes of a year ago have been dashed.
One year. In the context of eternity that is not… er … a long time. People make unrealistic demands of leaders, then pull them down when they fail in one or two areas. Some of the hopes put into Obama were stupidly unrealistic and he was bound to disappoint before he even started.
- Inequality between the richest and poorest has grown in the UK in the last forty years. The Tories scorn Labour’s record of the last 13 years, ignoring that the ratio went from 3-4 under Thatcher and the Tories. Harriet Harman went on BBC Radio 4 and made a statement of the blindingly obvious, but ignored by politicians and media: it takes generations to change cultures and behaviours, not a year or two within an electoral cycle that demands short-term gains for political advantage.
Harman is right. Such initiatives as Sure Start have made a massive difference to many children and families, but the benefits will not be seen until the behavioural expectations have run through a generation or two. The problem of getting a young man into meaningful employment when he is the third or fourth generation of unemployed men in his family circle is not one that is merely practical: it means changing a mindset of both community and individual over a long period of time.
This is not a party-political point; rather, it is an expression of frustration that our politics don’t encourage generational policy-making or long-term thinking because the electorate will want instant results and the popular media will encourage them to expect them. And then we are surprised or offended when we find our political leaders apparently making decisions for reasons of political expediency rather than the effective achievement of long-term goals (that might take three, four or even five electoral terms to even begin to work through). Instead, we rubbish those we don’t like, set ourselves up as the competent alternative, then prepare our excuses in advance when the ‘real world’ hits us.
Which is probably why so many people are sceptical of the competence or integrity of all politicians. The so-called ‘democratic deficit’ is more complex than we sometimes like to admit.
What is really scary, however, is the dehumanising of the people involved in politics and public life. Which, perhaps surprisingly, brings us to Brangelina.
I don’t know Brad Pitt and I don’t fancy Angelina Jolie. But I do know that they are married and have six children in their care. Yet international sport dictates that every detail of their private life and marital strife is available for public consumption and entertainment. And all this probably puts more pressure on the marriage.
It appears that we will only be satisfied when the marriage breaks up, Brad goes back to Jen (!), the kids grow up needing psychotherapy (but at least will be able to make a career from telling their story to the world) and we can all pass judgement on the people involved. Then we can move on to the next celebrity disaster and exploit our self-righteous voyeurism again – a sort of anaesthetic against dealing with our own human weaknesses, perhaps?
Call me naive, but I wonder about the human beings caught up in all this. I wonder about the dehumanising abuse we heap on those we can blame for whatever it is we don’t like about our lives or the world we live in. We can project our nastiness onto those we know cannot hit back.
I look back with horror on the cringy things I have said and done throughout my life. And that is only the things I do remember – there is probably much I have forgotten. But I thank God for those who let me make mistakes and forgave me, knowing that you have to take a long-term view and allow people the freedom – the space – to grow up and change and re-shape… and not be nailed to a reputation that belongs to the past.
I think it was Jesus who said that we can only expect forgiveness if we first forgive. And I guess we can only expect kindness and generosity if first we practise the discipline of being kind, generous and spacious to those we know to be failing. If we want a humane society, shouldn’t we first be prepared to live humanely?
January 25, 2010
I hesitate before writing this. I have been very critical of elements of press behaviour and had run-ins with various aggrieved journalists over the last year or so. Although the matters I have highlighted (such as accountability) are, I am sure, serious and important, I have sometimes been too quick in reacting and over-sensitive in responding to criticism.
But, in a rapidly changing media environment, some questions do need to be raised and properly debated. Put bluntly (as I have done in the past), one of the most serious questions has to do with the accountability of those who hold the rest of us to account. I am not going to rehearse the arguments here, but simply note the report in the Guardian of a call by the Media Standards Trust to radically reform the Press Complaints Commission.
According to the Guardian report the Media Standards Trust has proposed 28 recommendations that would make press self-regulation “more effective, more accountable and more transparent”. The PCC should, it proposes:
- be more proactive in investigating potential breaches of its code, accepting third-party complaints rather than waiting for injured parties to get in touch;
- monitor newspapers’ behaviour on behalf of the public and conduct investigations “where there is significant public concern about wrongdoing”;
- be renamed the Press Standards Commission
- ensure no serving editors sit on the commission itself;
- make publishers found in breach of the code pay for the cost of the investigation;
- make publicly available minutes of PCC meetings.
The press made loud claims about the absurdity of MPs setting their own rules, regulating their own expenses, monitoring their own performance. If independent scrutiny of MPs is so important for the democratic culture we want to enjoy, then surely there should be no problem for the press to be monitored by an independent body.
This is not to threaten the freedom of the press (which has to be protected), but to ensure accountability and to facilitate justice for those who have been unjustly aggrieved. There is much to debate about the MST’s proposals, but they would go some way to satisfying the concerns of people like me who want the best press for a better society.
January 25, 2010
It seems that wherever you go in the world now you see the same television programmes, worked according to the same formula. And why not? If it works, repeat it wherever you can get away with it.
Here in Germany I have channel-hopped a bit in order to see what’s going on. I’ve seen some great political coverage, high-quality extended interviews (never deferential, but always respectfully penetrating and usually productive) and some good German football. I have followed the newspapers and seen how Haiti and Afghanistan (in particular) are being covered here. As I keep saying (usually with reference to Helmut Schmidt), you learn a lot about your self and your own culture when you look at it through the eyes and listen to it through the language of another people.
It’s a bit worrying, therefore, that what sticks involuntarily in my mind is Germany’s version of X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Pop Idol (they all seem to blend into one vision of tears and self-insightlessness). Here it is called Deutschland sucht den Superstar. The panel is formulaic, too: one young woman who generally looks sympathetic but sad, a bloke who says almost nothing but looks shocked, and the Cowell-esque ‘been there done it’ ageing rock star whose vocabulary seems limited to ‘Scheisse!’ and who looks as if he’s been ‘fanta-ed’.
I’d never heard of Dieter Bohlen before. That’s what is always interesting about seeing something that is familiar in format, but where you have no idea what the credentials of the judges actually are. He’s big in Germany, but he’s brutal to the people who submit themselves to this public humiliation. Bohlen makes Simon Cowell sound diplomatically adept.
I feel like I just don’t ‘get’ it. I know what’s going on, but because I don’t know the characters I can’t relate to them. I have no idea who the other two judges are, but they say almost nothing and defer without demur to Bohlen. I’d love to know what it sounds like through German ears.
But this sort of entertainment is an old formula in new dressing. I was sitting in a cafe in Friedrichshafen this afternoon – my last before returning to England tomorrow – reading Clive James‘s North Face of Soho, the fourth volume of his wonderful Unreliable Memoirs. I didn’t know he had done the pilots for New Faces back in the 1970s. Feeling he would be too critical of the punters, he didn’t go ahead with the job. But he did say this:
I thought the aspirants were touching even when untalented, and if they were talented then they had a better right to hug the screen than the judges.
Clive James knew his limitations. Even if as orange as Simon Cowell, at least Dieter Bohlen has performed on the stage and plied his trade.
January 25, 2010
Posted by nickbaines under Christian faith
| Tags: church
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I leave Germany early tomorrow morning to return to Croydon and prepare to take a group to Israel next week. The two and a bit weeks here have given me the space to reflect on a lot of things – as well as read a shed-load of books and do some writing. And I have slept alot and thought alot about alot of things.
Look at the photo below:
That was the view from my window the day I arrived from England. It was the same view today, just before I depart. A couple of days ago it cleared a bit and I took the photo below:
What is remarkable about both pictures is what you can’t see. If I had with me a photo taken in summer you would see the mountains of Switzerland around St Gallen and over to the right a bit. I haven’t seen them from here once in over two weeks.
When I came here with a friend for a sort of retreat week several years ago, it looked like this for about the first four days. I think he was beginning to doubt that the mountains really existed – that they were a figment of my fevered imagination.
Then the cloud lifted, the mist dispersed and the view was transformed.
If he had come with me this time, he would not have seen the mountains and would have gone home with a perception of ‘reality’ that was limited and partial. But, it would have been the totality of his experience of this place.
One of the benefits of getting some space to think and pray and reflect and read is that there is time for the mist to disperse and for new ‘realities’ to be glimpsed. But, it is also a reminder to me that I must be careful of making fixed judgements based on my own limited understanding or experience: there might be a hidden vista that, given time and exposure, will change my perspective.
This applies to God, the world, the church, myself. And, of course, as this visit has demonstrated, it is not in my power to change the view by forcing the clouds and mist to disperse.
You have to wait for grace and you can’t claim or manipulate what is gift.
January 24, 2010
Every now and then (about twice a day) I think about giving up blogging. I think it is the enormity of it all and the capacity to get it wrong or say silly things that then stick with you for ever. I sometimes wonder if it is worth all the effort.
But then something comes along that gives new energy and renewed vision: the Pope tells us to do it. The Telegraph reports the Pope’s latest message for the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of Communications on Saturday and quotes him as saying:
Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audio-visual resources – images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites – which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelisation and catechesis.
Church Mouse picks up on this and comments:
…the Catholic Church seems to be getting the web and new media in a way that the Anglican Church hasn’t yet, and in his speech yesterday, the Pope was spot on. You can engage with the Pope on Facebook, on your iPhone and the Vatican has a pretty natty website.
Oh dear. Several points to bear in mind once you have read the message itself through the link above:
1. The Pope didn’t actually write his message; I’ve got a shrewd idea who did and he works in the Pontifical Council for Social Communication. So, all the ‘he’s 82 and he can manage it, so why can’t we?’ stuff is a bit off the wall.
2. The Church of England is accessible on phones and web – that’s how I access its stuff most of the time. No, we don’t have the variety or range of access that the Vatican has, but neither do we have the cash to do it. (And, though this is screamingly obvious, the Vatican heads a multilingual but monolithic worldwide Communion – the Anglican Communion has a different (provincial) ecclesiology and a different approach to resourcing its work.)
But, the real point it this: naive (but understandable) appreciation of the Vatican’s operation ignores some pretty significant features which I reported on directly from Rome back in September 2009. (Go to the link and then read back for a few days to get the full picture.)
Vatican Radio (for example) has a budget of 23 million Euros: no one could tell us who set the budget, according to which criteria it was agreed and where it ultimately came from. The total communications budget for the Roman Catholic Church is enormous, but try getting that sort of operation through a General Synod containing (lay) people with views on accountability…
Secondly, what came out of our discussions in Rome was that however flash and wonderful the Vatican’s webby stuff might look, it is a one-way operation. The Church propagates, tells, informs and instructs: it does not need to discuss or debate. Indeed, when I specifically asked about the impact of ‘social engagement using new media’ – that is to say, how such engagement changes the relationship and sometimes means that the interlocutors change their mind as they learn to see from a different perspective – I was told that this is a way of getting people to then join a real community ‘where we can tell them the truth’.
Now, I am not criticising the Vatican for this approach. It is entirely consistent with its understanding of itself as a church (or, more precisely, the Church). It puts on a good show when it comes to communication, but that communication is intended to be one-way only. This became clear at a meeting at the Salesian University back in September which exposed a gap between the aspiration and the reality of Vatican communications.
Look at the wonderful Pope2you site aimed at young people, for example. I have just had a quick look at it and noticed a significant difference from when it was introduced to us in Rome: Wikicath has gone. The single defining characteristic of a ‘wiki’ is that it can be amended, edited, supplemented etc in ‘democratic’ fashion. You couldn’t do that with Wikicath – and now it seems to have disappeared.
I thought the whole point of new media was that it allowed for conversation, engagement and mutual learning. That is, basically, why I started blogging – and I have learned a lot in just over a year.
But, if we are going to romanticise the Vatican’s very impressive and hugely resourced operation, then we must first recognise the theology and ecclesiology that dictate its missiology and communications principles. Secondly, if we are going to compare this with the Church of England (or, even, the Anglican Communion), we have to ask who will provide the financial resources, who will set the priorities, who will dictate the boundaries of engagement and what will be the fundamental purpose of it all.
Incidentally, the connection between communications, Gospel and world is rooted in the priests. When reading such messages as the Pope’s latest, ask if lay people have any role other than to learn ‘the truth’ from the priests – who are the ones who really matter. The Anglican way?
I’ll probably keep blogging – for a while at least.
January 22, 2010
Following yesterdays’ response to Sly Bailey’s rallying call to kill council-produced local newspapers, some interesting comments were made and I thought it worth spreading them. But first I should add what I intended to say about Pravda, but forgot before posting…
Isn’t it time we stopped using ‘Pravda’ as a symbol of blind state propaganda? I started reading Pravda, Izvestiya and Neues Deutschland (among others) during the 1980s. In those days Pravda was used as toilet paper in the USSR for reasons that demand little imagination: there was usually a large picture of the President on the front page and there was a shortage of toilet paper…
The Pravda of today is a very different beast. It is no more a propagandistic state organ than our own newspapers that are owned by people of very definite political persuasion. (Are the values and power of Murdoch or the Barclay brothers – for instance – to be preferred to those of some poilticians?) Pravda has to be read today with the same discrimination as one would bring to a reading of The Times – which is not to diss the Times, but to encourage intelligent reading and questioning of why we are being fed a particular line on anything.
So, will someone ask Sly Bailey and others to move on in their references?
But, perhaps that is the point: the world she inhabits has changed beyond recognition in recent years. As one comment on yesterday’s post says:
The broadcast and printed media are twitchy about the whole area of blogging, free publications, etc just as the music industry is twitchy about downloading, file sharing etc. But being twitchy about it isn’t going to make any difference to the fact that times have changed.
It’s quite ironic really, I remember a few years ago the newspaper proprietors were incredibly sure that times had to change and new technology which destroyed specialist jobs in the printing trade was a good thing. Now the technology is threatening their profitability all of a sudden the news is a specialised field for which we should be made to pay a premium.
The point here is that either local newspapers will have to find new, collaborative or creative ways of engaging with other ‘producers’ of news and comment or they will die a whingeing death. Moaning about the proactivity of local councils won’t change anything – unless Bailey and co really do believe they have a divine right to protected territory.
Darryl posits four positive guidelines for councils that wish to publish and distribute their own newspapers. Read the full post here, but, in brief, they are:
- They are governed by an independent editorial board, to maintain impartiality.
- They should not publish more than once a fortnight unless there is a clear and demonstrable case of market failure.
- Space must be allocated for a variety of political and editorial viewpoints.
- Any council newspaper must offer training to young people or any other local wanting to pursue a media career.
I would want to go a (daring) step further and ask if Trinity Mirror (or any other owner of local newspapers) would consider pioneering a new collaborative way of running their business that brought together council (with guidelines similar to those Darryl cites), journalists and local communities/bloggers/ etc.? Would they venture even a conversation along these lines? Or do the dictates of competitive business mean that the ground is not for ceding – even if refusal to move onto new territory is the only way to prevent a miserable demise?
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