Saturday, 15 March 2014

An alternative view of current affairs by Marian Matthews

Reading some of the current views of the shameful things that are happening in the world today, cover ups, loss of privacy and sovereignty, wars over resources , environmental problems, multinational exploitation etc etc I cannot help but feel a great sense of deja vu. 

Thirty years ago, in my radical phase, (CND radical and Labour Party) we were fighting hard for very similar causes. People from all walks of life and all ages saw it as their battle too. We were idealistically trying to make society and the world a better place. I think we thought we had made progress. Things seemed to have at least become more open. The realistic amongst us though had begun to realise that central government was more constrained than was apparent. Big business, multinational and the banking system had actually most of the power. They were operating across borders to further their own interests which did not always take into account our individual or national interests. They were, on some level, unaccountable to anyone.

Time, of course, tamed us all. We moved on to different political parties or just real life. I was in local politics for many years myself. By then a Liberal, my thinking was, although a busy wife and mother, at least that way I could make some small differences for both individual and the greater good. The most distressing part of this was the apathy and almost wilful ignorance of what was going on, seen in the general public. We actually had more in common with our “enemies”, who actually cared, although we felt them to be wrong and vice versa, than with the people who, as long as they were O.K., did not look at the big picture or question what was being done in their name.

With the growing of the information age, I had hoped that with the greater openness via the internet and 24 hour news from different sources, that people would see more. Abuses would be stopped, and wrongs put right. Society, would no longer be able to cite ignorance as an excuse for lack of action. 

Yet, in some ways we seem to be back in the bad old days. Why is this so?

AS far as I can see there are several reasons for this.

Firstly, people always assume that government is always working to improve the greater good. Or solve problems to benefit of us all. There are individuals in all parties and in government who do try to do this. Many though are just trying to improve things for their own particular set. People should both vote and look behind the rhetoric and vote for people of honour and integrity rather than just those with the best sound bite. But please vote.

Secondly, the information age works both ways. With our information has come institutional observation of us all. With this comes the means of control. This is a battle that we fought hard 30 years ago , before most people realised it was a problem. Public apathy defeated us. It is now too late. All we can do about it is just be aware.

Thirdly, there are far too many people who believe that it is not their responsibility to solve society’s problems or their own. They think that someone else , or the government should do something about everything. We need all to take responsibility for our own actions and society’s. It must also be realised that we are one world. If we all did what we could, even on a very small scale, locally or globally, we could make a difference.

Fourthly, there is now no way to control these transnational empires, In some ways we rely on them. All we can do is keep on the ball and shame them where necessary to act for the greater good. The sooner we realise that it is everyone’s problem and not just someone else’s, the more we can mitigate this. So, put down your I pads, switch off your videogames, pick up the batons that we put down years ago. We need you more than ever.

P.S.  Our Toxic Press

Last but not least, when discussing the state of the world and how we are losing the battle for control, honesty and integrity we must never forget the role played in our societal downfall by our toxic media and press.

So much is happening in the world for good or bad that is shown to us in 24 hour media cover, but never forget that what is shown is only a snap shot, someone’s choice of many things that may be available. When something major happens it dominates our screens in blanket coverage at the cost all other sensible News that may be happening at the same time. A balanced view if often missing. Quantity is often mistaken for quality. Not only that but the topic is suddenly dropped ( Like Syria) although the problem is still ongoing. I used to be proud of our BBC but no more…apart from radio 4 that is. Too often the News agenda seems to have been set by people who have a narrow and limited view of what the public may be interested in. I am always particularly appalled when the death of a celeb is given more coverage than seemly, often at the cost of real news. Is the death of someone who is good at acting or singing, or just in some cases just being, worth more than a tragedy involving ordinary people?

The written media are sometimes even worse. I have had many a rant about the celebrity culture in magazines that gives young girls ( and boys ) false goals to aim for. Being happy is portrayed as being only a factor of being slim and being dressed in the latest “must have” fashions. Dating a footballer or celeb is seen as the pinnacle of what should be aspired to. The problem is in the air brushed beauty being the norm. People are made to feel inadequate if they do not begin to match up. The emphasis seems to be on dieting for vanity rather than healthy eating for long and healthy life. This is causing stress and depression among our young people.

Very sadly, characters in soap operas, who often live horrendous and amoral lives, are treated as real people. I have seen magazine headlines with news of the character’s (not the actual actors) doings as if it had really happened. This again gives false norms to people. Not even our more heavy weight papers are always much better. I did see an edition of- I think it was- the Times that gave nearly equal weight on the front page to someone famous’ wonderful waist size and the problems in the Crimea. Come on media stop poisoning the lives of the young with this junk. Real happiness is in living well balanced and thoughtful lives. Where are the inspirational stories? Where are our role models? Where is the crusading zeal that encourages people to take control of their own lives and work for the common good rather than blame everyone else for the mess we are in? A decent media would help us with our fight for a better society, not chase flashy headlines. We need better stories and both sides of each dispute to be properly given, not just in sound bites for entertainment. The press should be our bulwark between us and the often dreadful things done in our name.

There are exceptions, of course, but generally our media seems to have become a branch of the entertainment industry. Come on media, written and visual, raise your game we need you to do the right thing. Who knows, if people start believing in you again together we may actually be able to improve things. Newspapers might even be able to sell more copies again!