No Quarter: Broken Window to the World

What will we think of when we back at the last year and a bit of our lives? Really what will we think of? It would be all too easy to list atrocities here, so we’ll respectfully skip that, but, suffice to say, it was a great year for fans of geopolitical upheaval, social injustice, and a spot of the good old ultra-violence. When we turned on our TVs and tablets in 2014, it was regularly a pretty grim spectacle, one which left us all with a lot of questions. Now, alongside the eternally unanswerable ‘Why is this happening?’ another equally pertinent one keeps arising; ‘Why are we seeing this?’

Even in the drawn out rigmarole surrounding the televised parliamentary debates, the issue of how much credence something is given by its continued exposure is one that constantly comes up. In theory, we are responsible adult humans, with the capability of making our own informed decisions, who should be given the opportunity to do so, even if that means having to suffer Nick Griffin’s childish rhetoric. But somewhere between steely resolve and ghoulish rubbernecking we’ve become stalled in a sensationalist mire, one that the media we consume is happy to keep adding to. Sadly, most of us have come to accept that mainstream media’s priority is not to inform or represent us, but surely that can’t be right? Are we really living in a world where major news networks have no qualms about publishing a video of a man BEING SET ON FIRE, but the BBC won’t let Jools Holland’s audience hear FKA Twigs say ‘thighs’? What exactly are we supposed to be protected from, beneath the blanket of 24/7 fundamentalism and Farage that’s being presented?

Early this year in Paris, thousands gathered in support of freedom of speech after something horrible took place. All over the world people joined in solidarity for the right to create satire, no matter how irresponsible, or asinine, or frankly smug that may be. Also in early 2015, Benedict Cumberbatch, speaking to PBS anchor Tavis Smiley in the US, made a very poor choice of words. As glib as it may seem to compare the two events, there is one vital underlying concept that unites them: empathy. All throughout the coverage of the Charlie Hebdo aftermath, we were reminded that the paper operates in the grand French tradition of shrugged-shouldered indifference. They don’t care if you think their cartoons are racist, or immature, or whatever. You wouldn’t understand, and they aren’t likely to explain it either. Outside of France, our empathy was key in creating a movement, ensuring their continued existence and sale of millions of copies, but many definitely felt that more was needed from their editorial team by way of rationale in reward, mais non? As for Sherlock, he said something stupid, apologised unreservedly, and happened to spark a pretty valuable dialogue about the language we use when discussing race and why.  But, crucially, in the outrage that followed, his intended point (one of empathy for his fellow actors) was lost. While nobody is suggesting all discourse should be a free-for-all of controversial words and ideas, what’s the point in censoring ourselves if all we are doing is impeding communication on the platforms we’ve struggled to create? Why can’t we have these conversations without someone having to transgress, and when we do, why are we so quick to judge?

One thing seems unfortunately clear; that in five decades of globalisation, we haven’t really gotten any better at understanding each other through those platforms. We seem quicker than ever to express disgust all over the web, but when it comes to explaining why things affect us, we’re still painfully slow and ineloquent. It shouldn’t be this hard to find that middle ground where our reactions are the catalyst for the change we desperately need, rather than the blockades we’ve spent years trying to remove. Be offended, express your anger. It’s important that you do. But when we’re being spoken down to, it’s just as important that we don’t speak over each other.

Illustration by Rosie Chomet

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