Media Rules

Many of us read the papers or watch TV and assume there is some kind of gatekeeper watching any and every thing that is published. We assume that such a gatekeeper evaluates every item that is published against certain criteria that we never fully formulate even in our own heads.
We expect out and out lies to be seen and stopped before ever they reach us. We expect the many and varied media to be both honest and transparent. Why we do so is a mystery as virtually none of them are.
Why is it that even the most cynical, hard bitten, hard-headed thinker is convinced that because a certain newspaper printed it it must be true? That the news on a particular TV channel is both complete and completely unbiased?
The media of all it’s hues employs many fine and honest people, who are well intentioned and fair minded. Unfortunately, like the rest of us, they have to pay their bills. The people who bankroll them have certain expectations, and they will only continue with their support if those expectations are met. And, whilst biting the hand that feeds is a fine old tradition, one can only go so far before that hand is withdrawn.
This doesn’t mean that everything in the media is a lie, it means that everything in the media should be evaluated against the knowledge that there is a bottom line. Additionally, there is a paradigm of “what is interesting to the audience” that limits what is reported. The news, as Terry Pratchett so beautifully put it, is very often the “olds”. (As a matter of fact his book “The Truth” is woven through with an insightful critique of the media, which is not surprising when you know that Sir Terry worked in newspapers for a number of years.)
But it isn’t just what is reported, or even if it is reported honestly, that is an issue. What of the things that aren’t reported at all? What of the things that are so oversimplified that they become a misrepresentation? What of the things that are over-reported and become distorted because of that?
The media doesn’t have to be dishonest to mislead us. It has it’s own rules, it’s just they are not necessarily the ones we think they are, let alone should be. What they leave out is often more important to us as individuals than what they put in. Whatever they currently focus on inflates it’s importance in most people’s minds, without them consciously evaluating why.
And we are encouraged to think that the things that are not reported are not important or are delusions of “cranks”. As a cranky crank I stopped reading newspapers many years ago, reading between the lines and evaluating every sentence became tiring and unrewarding.
Finding the wholesale trivialization and distortion of a large proportion of the population angered me. Reading articles that were blatantly designed to stir up hatred and divide the population further infuriated me. The whole blame culture made me ashamed, but not as ashamed as the blame the victim culture that the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat government encourages.
Iced on the top of everything else is the prurient celebrity obsessed culture. Which raises unfortunate individuals to a precarious pedestal and then knocks them off, often in the most unkind ways possible.
I find it deeply upsetting that firstly these poor souls are raised up, supposedly, above everyone else; that their private lives are then scrutinised with a magnifying glass; and then, when they are found to be human, they are cast aside and ridiculed. We might want heroes and gods, but can we not be kinder about it. It is not fair to expect anyone to meet the impossible expectations of the celebrity media.
But in addition to setting some people up for a painful fall, celebrity culture is negative in another way, it trivialises and devalues our lives. It tells us we are not important. And we are important, every single one of us is vitally important. No one is more important than you are, and don’t you forget it!

Tradition

Tradition is a good place to start. There is a reason why something has been done by more than one generation, it works, at least a little bit, for some of the people. Is that a good enough reason to keep doing whatever it is? Well, no. Definitely not. Every tradition has it’s day, and then it should be evaluated to see if it really is a good way of doing (or thing to be done)

Many cultures through history have had slavery. I can see no moral, or practical, justification for slavery. I don’t think slavery ever was, and never should be, justified. That it’s not good for the slaves, should be able to go without saying. But neither is it good for the slavers or slave owners. When you brutalise or dehumanise another human being, you also brutalise and dehumanise yourself.

We are all connected, what you do to others you also do to yourself. People who are judgemental, judge themselves first. The sad thing is they are always far harder on themselves than they are on anyone else, and anyone else is on them. People who treat other people as if they aren’t real, do so because they are afraid they aren’t real.

You cannot treat another human being badly without it having a harmful effect on you. And to close your eyes to people being hurt around you is nearly as bad, sometimes worse. When we take responsibility for our own actions, it does not mean that we can them close our eyes to what is going on around us.

It means we have to respect other people’s right to make their own mistakes and find their own answers, but we still have a responsibility to try to get other people to understand what we believe. So that they have that information to evaluate too.

Tradition sometimes lasts because it is a good way of doing things, sometimes it lasts because no one realises it isn’t a good way of doing things, sometimes it lasts because people are afraid of change. Why are people afraid of change? They are afraid because they haven’t practised stepping out side of their comfort zone and have not discovered the rewards of trying out their “stretch zone”.

In permaculture there is frequent reference to the value of edges, the edge of your comfort zone is a great place to be. It’s often both frightening and exhilarating, to dip ones toes into new water, to try out a different behaviour, can be quite wonderful. It can also be quite awful, but even that teaches us something new and good about ourselves.

Personally, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of tradition. I don’t like lazy ways of making decisions about people’s lives, our how our society should be run. There is often insufficient flexibility to cater for everyone’s personality or needs.

All women are not the same, neither are all men. Why should they be lumped into one category? That’s lazy stereotyping, it also means that some people never get to find their particular aptitude, because they are told (at a very young age) that they “can’t” do that because they belong to the “wrong” group for that particular activity.

What is particularly worrying at the moment is the disconnect between what is happening in British society (and other societies too) and what the media is claiming is happening. So many people still cannot believe that the mainstream media would lie to them because “someone would stop them if they told lies”. Why they believe this, is a mystery to me.

Our culture has changed rapidly and in an unhealthy direction in the last few decades. We have moved away from the traditional lifestyles that were rooted in a certain common sense, to a society that has little real security or resilience. This Britain could not survive the depredations that were visited upon it during the second world war. This Britain will be lucky if it survives the next ten years.

We need to revisit some of the traditions that our parents and grand parents knew, and see if they might not be more healthy for us to re-embrace now.

But I’m not going to let that stop me

I hate living in a city. It’s almost as if there is an inverse relationship between the population density and the friendliness of the people that you meet. Perhaps people feel overwhelmed by the number of potential friendship they could have and just shut down because they can’t cope. Perhaps this culture of envy and fear makes people afraid and hostile. Perhaps this culture that focuses on all the bad things and seldom even mentions the good things make people unhappy and shut off.

Anyway, whatever it is, I’m not having it! I know people don’t like it, but I’m going to smile at strangers; I’m going to talk to people I don’t know; I’m going to complement anyone I think deserves it. Tough.

I will not allow this world to twist me any more. It’s my life and I WILL smile, laugh and find beauty. Even when the media and political system make me both furious and sad. Even when personal tragedy hits I WILL work on the good memories.

There is always a primrose in flower, always a hint of blue sky, always a friend who will give you a hug when you need it. You might have to look for a good thing, you might have to wait an extra day, but it is there.

I’ve struggled ever since I came to the city. I’ve met some really nice people, but very few of them have been prepared to be friends. I lived in rural Cornwall before I came here and friendships just sort of grew, naturally.

I find the way some people won’t let friendship grow, peculiar. I find the way some people won’t even meet your eyes, offensive. I find the way some people pretend you didn’t just talk to them, infuriating.

But I’m not going to let that stop me.

The End Of My Nose…

The end of my nose isn’t too far from me. I’m quite pleased about that. However, I do try and look beyond it pretty much all the time (I go cross-eyed if I don’t). It worries me that so many people, especially people in positions of authority, seem not to even try.

That which is obvious to me may not even be visible to you, because my life has furnished me with different experiences to yours. This is good. It would be the most terribly dull world if we were all exactly the same. But to live in a world where we are all different means that we all need to try and see things from a perspective other than that of looking down our own noses and stopping at the end of them.

I don’t want to walk a mile in your boots, I do want to be able to imagine what it would be like to do so. Even if I did walk a mile in your boots my experience would be different from yours because I am not you. But I have a good imagination, I would probably do a better job of imagining than I would of fitting into your boots.

What is needed are empathy and understanding, to put ourselves in the position of someone other than who we wake up to be every day. It isn’t always easy. I struggle to understand people who lack empathy, and to be brutally honest, it’s hard to see why I should empathise with them, but I try. I think I achieve a limited success. I can see they are damaged individuals, and to a certain extent I feel sorry for them, but not very because of all the pain they cause other people as they trample on feelings and manipulate and abuse their way through their lives.

The other problem with not looking beyond the end of your nose is that you can’t see the bigger picture. For some people this must seem wonderful, they can focus on one little detail and build their world around that. These kinds of people seem to delude themselves into thinking that this makes them feel safe. I can’t see that it does, because lurking in the background of their consciousness is the awareness that they are ignoring most of the world. I would expect this to make them feel very scared and insecure.

Then there are all the people who think they see the bigger picture when they don’t. They are looking from a particular perspective that means that much of what happens is blocked from their view. People like these will often try and belittle you and influence you to compromise your morals, because they believe the bigger picture is more important than you. This is not true.

The bigger picture is stitched together from all of us, all of our behaviour, all of our lives. Each one of us makes a unique and important contribution to the bigger picture. This is where Gandhi’s saying that “you have to be the change you want to see” makes perfect sense.

So, be proud of the end of your nose, it is an important place… and then look beyond it. 🙂

Unique

Each one of us is a unique individual. This is incontrovertibly true and totally misleading. We are the sum of our genetics, our environment, and our experiences. Our genetics give us predispositions to certain behaviours and attitudes.

More recently we have discovered that our environment and experiences can “switch on or off“ some of our genes, so even those predispositions can be altered by our environment and experiences.

Our environment is the “concrete” world outside of the filters of our own brain and experience. It is the air we breathe, the building we live in, the water we drink. The food we eat is a slightly different kettle of fish (if you like that kind of thing) we have more control over what we eat than the air we breathe. So it tends to be more influenced by our experiences and expectations than many aspects of our environment.

Our experiences are different even when we are twins in the same family. Timing, mood, other people’s expectations and attitudes all lead to different experiences of the same event. These experiences all help form who we are. It’s easy to look at these issues as being the only factors in making us each who we are. They are important, but we need to look at the wider scale as well.

There are biases out there in the wide world, such biases put us under a systematic (but often conflicting) pressure that shapes our experience in different ways to the micro experiences of home and family (though these external pressures are often also found at home and everywhere else).

When I was young there were two conflicting messages that I could not resolve. First was that I should be a “good girl”, do as I was told, look after other people, put men first, expect to always come second in every relationship and situation. The second was that I should always strive to do my best, be the best, never let anyone look down on me or talk down to me.

Both these messages came from wider society and from within my family. It was difficult to know when which was the most appropriate. I felt I could never relax and just be myself. Now if I found that difficult, how much more difficult must it be when you are on the receiving end of racism?

But part of what is going wrong with society at the moment is that there are so many conflicting messages, most of them being negative and unhealthy, that very few people feel comfortable in their own culture. Some people couldn’t even tell you what their own culture is.

This is not a criticism of immigration or emigration. It is a criticism of the way that we are encouraged to focus on differences and not similarities between us and other people. Instead of revelling in the richness and diversity of our cultural overlaps and interlinks, people feel insecure because they have been told time and time again that everything is “us versus them”, everyone else is a potential threat.

We are humans trying to live together, it is not helpful or healthy to constantly focus of differences. There should be no war of the sexes, no racial division, no separating because of class or creed. We really are all in this together, because there is only one world and there is no planet B.

This divide and conquer is a repeating cycle. It is a cycle of stupidity. It is a cycle we need to get off of.

Narcissism versus Authenticity

There are a lot of posts on facebook about “not caring” what other people think about you. Predominantly I see these posts as being supportive and healthy ( I will explain why a bit later), but someone made a comment which made me question my point of view. The comment was something along the lines of “isn’t this a bit narcissistic?” and I though “Hmm, interesting point”.

Now I’m not any kind of psychologist, I have studied psychology and counselling, but I would describe myself predominantly as a sociologist, so my understanding of narcissism is pretty much that of an amateur. As I understand it, a narcissist is a person who is vain and obsessed with themselves, they are cut off from other people and totally self indulgent. They really don’t care what other people think about them, in a totally unhealthy way.

But, it is equally unhealthy for people to be totally dependent on other people for approval. As a child we are preprogrammed to seek our parent’s approval and love, it’s a survival trait, parents who don’t approve of, or love, us are going to make our childhood rotten. So we will make almost any compromise to get that approval. The trouble is that as children our understanding of the world and our parents is not very well developed, it can’t be, we don’t have any experience.

Some parents are so damaged themselves that they cannot approve and their understanding of “love” is a bitter and twisted thing. Someone who has never experienced unconditional love is always going to struggle to feel, and show, unconditional love for someone else. This is the root of many of these facebook posts. Trying to give people the strength to resist the pressures to seek approval from others because they never managed to get that approval from their parents.

We are all under enormous pressure to conform. What we are supposed to conform to is an interesting conundrum. What many people don’t realise is that we are pressured to conform to different expectations, in different circumstances, at different times. It’s a trick even a contortionist couldn’t manage.

Once we have realised that we cannot twist ourselves into knots just to please other people, we then have to try to work out who we “really” are. We have to find the authentic being.

This is something of a struggle, there are many theorists who believe that we wear different masks when dealing with different people and the authentic person is hidden behind those many masks. To paraphrase Shrek people are like onions they have many layers. This is true to a point, but is overly simplistic and misleading. There are certainly things that we will only reveal to people we trust, and different levels of trust mean different levels of self revelation.

But humans are much, much more complex than that. Imagine your personality is a ball of wool (I feel very woolly sometimes), the thread represents different aspects of your beliefs and behaviours. Got it? Now imagine that a kitten has played with that ball of wool. Yes? It’s a tangled mess, some bits have become knotted together, other bits have come lose and don’t look like they really are part of that ball at all. I think that is more like a personality.

I think we use different bits of that tangled mess when we need to, as we deem appropriate. We don’t wear masks, we don’t necessarily reveal everything, we couldn’t if we wanted to. We are seldom not ourselves, even when we are acting. We only understand other people’s behaviour through the lens of our own understanding and experience. Therefore, to a greater extent, we are authentic.

Authentic people are engaged, caring, involved with other people (not too many other people). When we do things that make us uncomfortable, that don’t sit right with us, we are still ourselves, we are just making bad choices and part of us knows that, it is that part of us that is trying to warn us against the choices that we are making. When we start making good choices sometimes they are so unfamiliar that we are afraid they may be bad choices too, but once we get past that fear and relax we can start to be comfortable with ourselves and feel less like a tangled mess and more like a unique work of art.