Been mildly obsessed with not watching the news given recent events with, for example, Jimmy Savile and the Newtown shootings. This desire to step out of the constant news cycle has been guided by thoughts from Adam Curtis in this interview and Will Self in this great example from the fantastic Point of View series on BBC Radio. They both suggest that the need for the news industry to always have something to say distorts our understanding and perception of the world. That ‘now’ is the most important thing no … hold on … here’s another story that’s now more important. This constant presence that the latest thing is always the most important thing with little or no analysis or context as to why or for the story being told is similar in many ways to Twitter and blogging (ahem). This way of seeing the world can clearly be seen as extending out into consumerism with ever shortening fashion cycles and technology updates (soft and hard).
The latest is all you need to be concerned with.
So, it was refreshing to come across two different stories recently.
The first was about a supposed conversation, in 1972, between Richard Nixon and the then Chinese Prime Minister Chou En Lai. When Tricky Dicky asked En Lai what he thought of the historic impact of the French Revolution, he apparently replied ‘Too early to tell’.
The second is an excellent novel – Ishmael by Daniel Quinn (thanks Chris). It’s about a telepathic conversation between a man and a gorilla. In it, the gorilla provides a time-line of humanity and suggests that the beginning and root of mans unsustainable attitudes and behaviour began with the Agricultural Revolution c.12,000 years ago. This is when we decided to override the natural balance and take control of our own food supply thus beginning the chain of events which has seen us override the natural balance into the precarious environmental state that we see today.
This lack of seeing the longer view is really fascinating. We seem to see things on a shorter and shorter time horizon, arguably with less and less understanding of the context from which those events arise from. Maybe we should be listening to the gorilla and asking about the impact of events 12,000 years ago? But I think the answer to that might be ‘it’s too early to tell’.