In a moment of
I also considered recording aspirations and intentions for the year ahead, but frankly life has never adhered to any carefully made plans and flying by the seat of my metaphorical pants whilst ricocheting off the usual (and unusual) obstacles life chooses to throw at me is, apparently, the only way to live. (Small wonder I never managed to ditch the coffee, in the absence of a crystal ball and personal Doppelgänger
It's been a hectic start to the New Year, my parents managed to both catch 'flu despite having the annual vaccine, and it hit them hard. Along with our usual health issues, school social issues and my rapidly reducing tolerance levels for such a high level of daily "excitement" it's small wonder I crashed spectacularly today. There is only so much adrenalin the body can take, today mine threw its toys out of the proverbial pram and dictated that I spend several hours sat on the sofa only moving my rm to drink tea, and perhaps my fingers to type in a kind of quasi-recovery. Blogging is without doubt the best sort of therapy there is.
I've read many articles today, several about the depressing events in France. One of the reasons I blog is because I do believe we all have a right to an opinion, and whilst tact and diplomacy is central to responsible debate there is never, ever an excuse for violence in disagreement. The massacre in the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo is indefensible, no matter what your religious beliefs are. The pen is, in the long term, far more powerful than the gun. (By pen I include typed words, and the power of social media.) The #JeSuisCharlie hashtag has spread across the whole world via social media platforms and millions unite to condemn the recent horrific events.
It is an important, valuable and human response to tragedy and extremism, but also evidence of something more - that whilst the articles written and cartoons drawn in responsive solidarity to these events demonstrate how the human race still values intelligent communication there is a parallel modern trend to over-simplify and reduce complex issues to a strap line, a buzz word or a slogan.
Once upon a time the tabloids held sway on such dumbing down of information, but it's ubiquitous now. No news article is complete without a basic infogram to explain "difficult" concepts to viewers, once complex science programmes sport patient, over-smiley presenters who patronisingly barely scratch the surface of the topic they present. Programmes look to their excessively large travel budgets to pull in viewers with as much excitement as possible. Worse still information for children is reduced to "bitesize" snippets of utterly unsatisfying, bland information. Quite honestly it's as insultingly bland and lacking in (intellectual) nutrition as a children's menu in family pub restaurant!
And I'm increasingly concerned that our children are offered less and less substantial information. We frequently hear how children are reading and writing less, becoming more reliant on Social Media by the day. Yet according to Helen Skelton, writing for Parentdish it is academics who are putting children off reading. That is rubbish. It is the modern trend towards a superficial, bland and insultingly unsatisfying way in which children are spoken too and interacted with - online, via television and through too many "fast food for kids" type books. Coupled with overly-full schedules there simply isn't the time, or information to really get "stuck in"to a topic anymore.
When was the last time you watched CBBC? Seventy-five per cent of its programmes are utter drivel, relying on the basic assumption that anyone under the age of fourteen has no interest in, or capability of understanding anything beyond vapid discussion of "Celebs", music or fashion. Yet children have a habit of rising to expectations. They are born curious, expecting no limits to their learning. Learning is eagerly anticipated and expected - but we are increasingly closing the door on intelligent discussion and reasoning and lowering the ceiling on their potential understanding.
This "dumbing down" of information and reduced expectation of understanding is everywhere. We teach to exams offering a finite body of knowledge as a means to an end. In our busy, hectic lives we rely on soundbites to inform ourselves of world events and make knee jerk assumptions based on precious little information. This is not only limiting our involvement, understanding and experience of life but is potentially dangerous, as evidenced by the inflammatory comments all over social media over the past couple of days. We condemn the terrorists who commit such atrocities but they too are probably responding to an over-simplification of their own world view. And in response, we distil events into a couple of hashtags on social media. Yet tolerance requires education, and education requires the opportunity to learn.
It's time to stop selling ourselves short intellectually. Look beyond the headline, stray from the herd and inform, analyse, reflect and think critically. Don't jump on the latest hashtag bandwagon unless you are willing to delve deeper and investigate the underlying realities. #JeSuisCharlie is an excellent example of how we swallow the soundbite yet fail to think critically beyond it. Horror at such appalling events shouldn't require support for, or identification with what in actual fact were pretty racist and (to many) offensive cartoons. Too many confuse it with a license to insult.
Without knowledge and understanding, freedom of speech is worth little. A new generation is growing up believing that high speed, reactive social interaction is not only appropriate but the only way to interact. Yet tit deprives us of critical response and makes conflict more likely.
Nous sommes Charlie. But nous sommes so much more.