We’ve stumbled out of a Brexit/Trump/Aleppo year as if we have stumbled out of a blown up building, with the dust barely clearing and watering eyes. The speed of change has been mesmeric and the suffering has been medieval in its scale – pre trust, pre conscience and pre individuality. The lack of a long term view has been matched by the desperate desire of the powerless for a short stop solution to make all this go away. The fact is, however, that we don’t understand any of it and all of our speculation and prediction remains just that: guessing. Not for a long time has the world felt so insecure.
What has also suffered, with some notable exceptions, is the production of objective, history-based news writing and broadcasting. What we, as news consumers, need, is perspective and background to put our train-wreck news reporting into a larger picture and to counter the feeling of helplessness that we are left with when we turn from the news programme to the soap opera or the arts programme for some light relief. After all, it is this feeling of powerlessness that caused the Brexit vote and the election of DT. God in all his forms only knows what an ordinary observer can do about Syria.
But does it really matter? How much should we try to understand current affairs? Will it leave us any richer to know the background to Syria’s religious tensions? or the condition of the American rustbelt? Or that of the north/south divide in the UK? More importantly, how important is it for our young people to be confronted with apparently insoluble problems by their, so the myth goes, wiser, elders.
This is what has dogged and bedeviled that other sad story, the environmental movement, over the last 45 years. The experts/guys in white coats have lectured us solemnly about energy shortfalls, catastrophic waste disposal problems and ecological collapse points without the slightest hint about what the ordinary folk can do about it, apart from the ultra Green solution for us all to time-shift back to the seventeenth century with starvation at the door, but, thank God, no plastic or cars. Oh, yeah, and we can recycle and pay for plastic bags. Young people have been constantly left with apparently insoluble problems.
So what do we tell our students? How do we teach them well? And how do we expect these natural conservatives to react? Suggestions, please, on the back of a used newspaper, and make it snappy.