Thursday 22 January 2009

Interesting Times

There is no doubting that we're living in interesting times just now. Big - mind-bogglingly big - things are happening all around us (and everything unavoidably is all around us in the multimedia, live-as-it-happens virtual world). This has its down side - and not only because most of what is happening (notably our money, perhaps our economy, going down the pan) is clearly bad. The mechanisms of news reporting and analysis are so geared that they cannot cope with Really Big Things That Are Really Happening, Yes Really - and nor, therefore, can we. We glaze over; our minds, faced with the prospect of processing such huge events, such unheard-of figures, close down. We can't take it in - and there's no way the media can shout any louder because their job is to shout uniformly loud about 'the news' even when nothing much is happening at all. Having inflated non-stories into headline-grabbers, there is no way for them to distinguish the Really Big Story, when Something Really Is Happening, from Business As Usual. It has all become a uniform blur, a ceaseless buzz; it all feels the same. They cannot cope, we cannot cope, there is no structure for this narrative...
The upside of all this is that at least it keeps those meaningless government 'initiatives' and such eyewash way down the running order. In less interesting times, that NHS 'rights and responsibilities' nonsense would no doubt have led the BBC news. To that limited extent, we must be grateful that BIg Things are happening, even if we have no way of understanding or assimilating them - or distinguishing them from the news machine's quotidian churn, its everyday blowing of bubbles.


  1. If there's absolutely nothing you can do about something, why worry? I don't buy newspapers as they seem an excellent way of depressing oneself, which I could do without. Ditto most television news programmes.

    I suppose if you work in the industry it must be harder though, because as well as the real Big Stuff you have the deafening roar of rumour and rubbish as well.

    The doom-mongers are having a field day. But I have noticed that despite this they are all still hanging around. If things were really as bad as they claim, I suspect they would long ago have fled to a fortress overseas - property is cheap in Iran, no doubt - where they could sit in a room counting their gold bars.

  2. Thank you for the wonderful post. Here's a nice phrase from a poem by Patrick Kavanagh that describes the phenomenon of which you speak: "newspaper bedlamites." To put the phrase in context (and asking for your forbearance), here's the entire poem (which is titled "Leave Them Alone"):

    There's really nothing happening that you hate
    That's really worthwhile slamming;
    Be patient. If you only wait
    You'll see time gently damning

    Newspaper bedlamites who raised
    Each day the devil's howl,
    Versifiers who had seized
    The poet's begging bowl;

    The whole hysterical passing show
    The hour apotheosised
    Into a cul-de-sac will go
    And be not even despised.

    (As an aside: now that Bush has gone away, I don't know what the media over here in the U.S.A. is going to do with all the extra vitriol it has on its hands. Thus far it appears that it will be spent on promoting what they think is the next Great Depression - which makes sense, since newspapers are dropping like flies. It must be a catastrophe!)

  3. My apologies: please remove the word "really" from the first line of Kavanagh's poem. The "really" in the second line stays. Sorry!

  4. Thank you for that very apposite poem Mr B - I'd never come across it before.