Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Engaged with the world

I found some old notes today, typed hurriedly years ago whilst I was reading My Trade: A Short History of British Journalismby Andrew Marr - a good book for anyone interested in journalism, journalists and how their work interacts with and mediates our world. I remember reading on climbing forum a couple of summers ago someone asking "why is everyone talking about riots?" This person wasn't interested in the news; cynical about all politics, she had made a conscious decision simply not to watch or read any, and as a result was unaware that there were major incidences of public disorder breaking out across the UK including, if I remember correctly, in the centre of the city where she lived. Whilst this struck me as misguided, it also seemed an almost heroic decision to make - it must take quite some mental effort to ignore all news, not to absorb any. I feel I get news, and hence am engaged in politics, almost by osmosis these days - what you eat, how you travel around, using a library, paying a bill all seem to be political acts in some way as a result. Anyway, Marr writes:
I know people who barely read a paper and who think most broadcast news is mindless nonsense. I think, however, they are wrong. They might go through their weekly round, taking the kids to school, shopping, praying, doing some voluntary work, phoning elderly relatives, and do more good than harm as they go. But they have disconnected themselves from the wider world; rather like secular monks, they have cloistered themselves in the local. And this is not good enough. We are either players in open, democratic societies, all playing a tiny part in their ultimate direction, or we are deserters. (p.63)
Sometimes it is nice to switch off; to go for a walk in the mountain, for a ski in forests - but switching off forever? Is Marr right that this is desertion?

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