I did a day trip to Bradford today for meetings. And the sun shone. Clearly no coincidence…
Sitting on a train for hours does at least allow some space for reading and today’s was very stimulating (apart from the addictive novel I’ve almost finished – Stieg Larsson‘s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo):
In his excellent ethicalcomment blog Dr Charles Reed offers an important lens through which to view the current revolutions going on in North Africa (Tunisia, Egypt and Libya). If we are not to react simply to the immediate – which stimulates short-term reactive action that inevitably leads to further trouble in the future – but think through the longer-term consequences of potential courses of action, then we need to delve into history. Charles points us to an interesting essay by Professor David Bell.
Remembering the accuracy of Jesus’s realistic warning (that if we clear the one demon out of the house before having something better to put in its place, then loads of demons will fill the vacuum that nature so abhors), this also raises the question about what support is to be given to building a new framework for civil society in countries where it has broken down. I remember very well the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the flood of nutters, pornographers, druggies, robbers and exploiters that filled the gap left where the social, political and economic frameworks had been.
The second interesting bit of reading was Timothy Garton Ash‘s reflection in the Guardian on the lessons of history as seen through the lens of Polish-Russian relations. He begins with this introduction to a discussion about truth-telling:
Adam Daniel Rotfeld, a former Polish foreign minister, has on his visiting card one of the world’s more extraordinary titles. It reads: Plenipotentiary for Difficult Matters. What a wonderful idea. Every country, every company, every family should have one.
The third article, also from the Guardian, is related to the previous two: ‘Churnalism or news? How PRs have taken over the media’. There is something funny about people being taken in by hoaxes. There is something very funny about journalists being taken in by hoaxes. But there is also something very worrying about the pressures under which journalists now work (understaffed and under too much pessure to produce headlines quickly and dramatically without proper checking of sources) that potentially reduces (a) the value of the journalism produced and (b) our trust in what we read, watch or hear.
The common theme of these three items is the need for intelligent appraisal of what we see and hear and the need for people (journalists and/or historians) who help us ‘see’ and think about more wisely what is presented to us in the media as ‘truth’. What I see on the news this evening means nothing without some contextual interpretation; however, that context is not just the contemporary events, but also the ‘deep’ (broader historical or cultural) lens through which we understand the current events.
We don’t need quick news. We need deep news.