Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I imagine most people are looking forward to some festive holidays of one kind or another. And probably looking forward to the end of this year as well; 2016’s been quite the curve ball, hasn’t it? I’m tempted to take it back and see if I can get a refund. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, I hope you are feeling as peaceful as this beautiful illustration by P. J. Lynch.
One thing I wanted to share with you that gladdened my heart a few weeks ago was an article in the CAM magazine that comes to alumni of Cambridge University. There’s a modest, one-page piece by Professor Simon Goldhill right at the back that talks about the group of academics and policy makers from the Middle East whom he convenes three times a year for two intensive days of debate. These people cannot meet on their own territories for all kinds of political reasons. But they come to the neutral city of Cambridge to discuss basic, pragmatic issues like civic infrastructure over the entire region of the Middle East. This is an extract from the article:
The debates are riveting – and properly collaborative. A young female colleague who grew up in Jenin was holding forth about how the United Nations’ plan to widen the streets in the camp was seen as a plot to bring in tanks. Another participant interrupted: “You had better blame me, then,” he said, “I drew up those laws. But that wasn’t their idea…”. The Palestinian instead of holding forth had to speak to the actual person who wrote the regulations – and the regulator had to face the recipient of his rules on the ground. Both learned from the exchange. Both had to recalibrate. The hope is that slowly such exchanges will eventually produce material that will change other people’s minds, too.
I thought this was uplifting in so many different ways. An excellent idea, brilliantly executed, safe, sensible and progressive. We don’t hear enough about the people out there in the world working with intelligence and insight to solve the problems that seem so threatening.
And I thought it was timely to remember that the media would not consider this to be newsworthy. It isn’t an emotionally manipulative, sensationalized, negative, fear-inducing piece of propaganda. Because that’s all the news delivers. The media keeps us in a state of anxiety, craving the next terrible thing they can tell us, the thing that proves yet again that everyone in authority is stupid, ignoring all the obvious solutions that seem so obvious to us. That’s simply a perspective on reality that the media creates; it isn’t reality. How many people, I wonder, are out there involved in properly helpful initiatives, like the one above at Cambridge? How many people are quietly going about their important work, far from the spotlight, unbeknownst to us all?
Lots of people. Lots and lots of them. We’ll just never hear about them.
But I was very grateful to Simon Goldhill when I read about his work, so grateful for the hope that work like his brings. Isn’t it time we reconsidered what constitutes the news?
Thanks for this post-so encouraging to read such a thoughtful and positive reflection on world events.
A very timely reminder. This interesting and important article (see url following) makes a similar point about some major global successes over the last 200 years that a worrying number of “educated” citizens appear do not appreciate but many actually think the opposite!
Hope you get at least a partial refund and I am greatly looking forward to seeing you again early in 2017. Happy Christmas! xx
Uplifting, indeed, and for more in a similar vein I can recommend Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark if you haven’t already read it. Thanks for such a positive post, Victoria. We need things like this to keep us going.
Beautiful image and a very inspiring initiative from Cambridge. We need all the cheer we can get so thanks for sharing this!
Yes! I’m so glad you shared this.
Dear Litlove, what a cheering post and a timely one too. Thank you! And if I may, there is another splendid review in SNB on a book that reminds us that we aren’t en route to hell in a handcart – necessarily – after all: http://shinynewbooks.co.uk/non-fiction-issue-13/progress-ten-reasons-to-look-forward-to-the-future-johan-norberg/
I am a bit boozed after the final party in a week of Christmas-parties-posing-as-English-lessons-for-adults. Post-party, and post-jabbering away to people, I am always impressed at how many good people there are in the world. As we gird up for 2017 and perhaps get a partial refund on 2016 if it’s in the small print, it’s good to remember that, good to be reminded that by you.
I hope that you have joyful and peaceful holidays and that 2017 is kind to you.
Thanks Litlove! I saw that piece too, and thought exactly the same. In fact it was the first time in ages I wished I were still there. I remember CRASSH being set up, and although at the time I thought it was a bit of a silly acronym, now, of course, it seems incredibly apposite….
I’m increasingly turning away from the media noise (can’t call it information, can I?). It’s as if journalists are competing for the prize of the worst-most horrific news to announce. On the contrary, with that many bad things happening, we do need to hear about positive, constructive initiatives.
I love the idea of applying for a refund on 2016! If you’re successful, please let me where to apply.
And as for negative news, I’ve stopped buying/reading newspapers online or otherwise because all they do is peddle negativity (I get my news from the radio where at least those interviewed – John Humphrys possibly excepted – get a chance to tell their side of the story). But do you remember when Martin Bell, ex-war reporter, tried to promote positive news? It didn’t work: there’s obviously something about us that makes it impossible. Unless we refuse to read / subscribe to / buy / comment on the news, so-called, the way it’s reported now. But that would have to be all of us … . But the debates you’ve posted about give me hope.
That’s uplifting on many different levels. Thank you, Victoria. And Happy Christmas.
I love your way of bringing some joy to the end of the year. Merry Christmas!
What a nice story! Merry Christmas to you, Mr. Litlove and Boy Litlove. May your celebrations be filled with peace and joy!
I gave up on the media ages ago. This was a very uplifting post, Litlove. I hope the new year brings only wonderful things for you and your family. Peace.