. 20/20 Vision? | London Progressive Journal
A non-partisan journal of the left.

20/20 Vision?

Sun 24th Jun 2012

If experience is such a great teacher, here’s a question for you … Wuzzup?

Like many species which have evolved sophisticated means of communication to bond groups in the pursuit of survival, we can pass our culture down through the generations using show and tell. But it’s not really a dialogue.

Unique among animals, we humans have evolved a nifty mechanism for learning. It’s called asking questions.

Frustrating though it may be, a toddler’s endless rendition of “Why-is-the-sky-blue” can be as valuable as Alan Turing’s celebrated probes into understanding the way stuff works.

As good journalists, we report from a bedrock of quintessential questions: who, what, where, when, how, and why. We provide likely answers to the unasked questions of readers, viewers and listeners. But we can only be as thorough as our experience, and that’s still no guarantee that our reports may be wholly truthful, or – shock horror! - reflect the views of vested interests.

Then, we’ve not only failed as journalists, but we’re thieving something from democracy.

The G20 versus Rio: not quite twenty-twenty vision. Twenty baffled nations yakking in Mexico about spending and bailing and punishing, and a twenty-year rehearsal in Brazil of the same old/same old admission of emission failure. Neither agenda included more than an eye-blink at the plight of the world’s poorest.

In timing terms, it became either/or. Either a state head had to choose a seat at the top table of the banking gab fest or a place among planet-huggers. Okay, so it’s a symbolic gesture, but it sends signals about priorities.

So yep, it’s official: the banks are more important than the planet. The biggest question about this sad conclusion remains unasked, let alone unanswered. Who’s making the link between them?

Why is no mag feature or Paxman probe or Evan’s Bottom Line challenging the way corporate capitalist compromise ignites the flames of global warming?

You kind of expect rags like The Mail and Fox News to infantilise us with nursery-school coverage of world events. But why are our more grown-up media organs so timid and selective? If they don’t trust us with raw truth, only exposed with questions as uncomfortable for us to hear as to answer, exactly whose agenda are they serving?

That’s how to get unintended consequences. If what’s presented to us ceases to make sense, eventually we learn to ask trickier puzzlers.

As kids, we discover that the very act of asking can be used as a weapon of control. Attention seeking. Testing the bounds of parental patience. It becomes less about learning and more about manipulation, less philosophical and more mundane.

Less “why was I born?” and more “why can’t I have my own iPhone?”

As we grow up, corporate and political elites in loco parentis, use the media to control any social dialogue. We’re nudged away from questioning how society really works. Instead, the media equate our feelings about important socio-political issues with whether we prefer chocolate or vanilla ice cream.

Society’s questioners run the gamut, from the fun and trivial to the onerous to the dangerous. Not so much questioners as inquisitors. Only this enlightenment has blown a few bulbs.

It starts early. From education to education reform. Reform?! The only thing Gove’s exam policies are testing is our collective patience. Once again, those who profess allegiance to democracy want to restrict our choices.

Why is serving a short-term business agenda in our schools and universities a reformation of education?

And on it goes. Both political and popular culture polls and elections too ask far more nebulous questions, though they seem simplistic in their usually stark choices. “Yes or No” options are a reductio ad absurdum. “On a scale of 1 to 10” formats re-align individual differences into homogenous statistical tick-boxes.

So you really have to ask – what’s the point? It’s got to be a re-interpretation of the truth, replacing the power of the individual to C’mon, join the crowd. People like you have also bought …

We’ve had twenty years of so-called Earth Summits. Of course there are dedicated representatives advocating effective policy change. But, when it comes to convincing crass capitalists to change, they all don the bureaucratic garb of delay and distraction. The richest believe they can buy their way out of responsibility, while undeniable evidence mounts up that the planet is almost out of options.

Countries which should care choose instead to act cavalierly. The victims of these ‘neo-cavaliers’ aren’t Roundheads but Blockheads reduced to ignorance by the connivance of governments, corporations, and other short-term agenda setters.

Here’s where we need some pertinent questions appropriate to challenge the link between the survival of our damaged planet and subsidising capitalist elites.

Consider the only topics discussed at prestigious meetings of economic cabals, be they 8’s or 20’s. Everything assumes that only capitalism is worth salvaging. Who’s seriously discussing alternatives without evoking prior assumptions based on equally failed economic systems of the past?

Who’s looking to a more inspiring future? Who’s asking more creative questions?
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