We need to talk, world, and not just about Donald. About the whole Shebang. Saddle up, grab the closest red faced keyboard warrior and lend me your ears as I take the temperature on 21st Century hysteria, the modern day identity crisis and the abdication of values based decision making.
The battle for good is being lost. When we have David Davis (Brexit Minister) inclined to reassure us that we are not going to plunge into a ‘Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction’, alarm bells should be ringing in your ears. No-one mentioned Mad Max David, it’s a terrible film, broaden your horizons and watch ‘The Purge’, a scenario with much greater likelihood if things continue as they are.
Trump’s taken up the sordid mantle of guiding us there and quite frankly I’m starting to wonder if we deserve anything better. I knew I’d inevitably regret not applying for the best job in the world. Spending my days catching fish with my hands off the edge of a tropical island would seem less slippery than my hopes for world diplomacy and reason in our current state of play.
You’d be forgiven, dear reader, for setting your electronic devices to off and rocking quietly in a chair in a desperate bid to escape the keyboard outrage and 21st Century Hysteria that is contemporary media and society.
One of my friends works in a nursery, and I’d rather hear the trials of ‘little Tommy’ under her charge as he navigates through play, spending time and attention painting the floor blue than listen to another charged outrage being peddled around the traditional and new media. If only right and wrong was as clear for adults as it is taught to children, we might all be saved!
That’s not to say we’ve not struggled through dark shadows before. In contrast to James Whitcomb Riley’s observation in the duck test that because something walks, swims and quacks like a duck, it is indeed a duck, I would counter that our global affairs predicament is one that slithers like a snake, smells like a racoon and holds all the charm of a wasp at a picnic. When lies are propagated through states, social networks and the masses without even a morsel or modicum of substantiated evidence and that becomes the standard of the day, rational discourse gets throttled. What happens next? Sensationalist outrage, a blurring of reality and an identity crisis in the rear.
I fail to see how the fallout from such an emotionally charged environment can contribute any positive results for civilisation.
The other week, I trapped my car (Persephone to those in the know) in gear and she began screaming at me. The outcome of which bears a depressing resemblance; we don’t seem to be getting anywhere, there’s a lot of noise, and no-one’s making any friends with their neighbours for these outbursts. Sustained abuse results in even the most sanguine and calm of individuals succumbing to this new reality, eventually they will zombie into acting accordingly; abandoning their own usual good nature should it be prolonged.
A morality, values and identity crisis has spread throughout the world at alarming speeds. There can be no denying that it’s amplified considerably by the cultural norm of participation in social media, but as with bullying, it’s not the platform that’s to blame, it’s the malicious and destructive attitudes of a certain type of individual.
Whether it’s a President engulfed in scandal blundering through a term, a Presidents Dinner raising questions about the treatment of women or perhaps you prefer the quite extraordinary ball tampering exploits of the Australian Cricket Team as your reference point, there is a wealth of material to get outraged about, for if the ‘gentleman’s’ game is sullied, then what chance do we have!
Where have values of sportsmanship or in other examples, honour and humanity really gone? Have they gone to the aforementioned Caribbean island for a short break to guzzle coconuts and gaze at the stars, or have they been banished to a former time indefinitely only to be mentioned in historical texts and recounted in romantic settings around a camp fire.
It’s the self-righteous hypocrisy that gets my goat the most. This was particularly prevalent, and a catalyst of the downfall for Cricket Australia aficionados Bancroft, Smith and Warner, who against all sanity and safeguards concocted ‘a great plan’ to cheat during a game that is recorded and watched through dozens of video cameras in real-time all around the world. It’s quite inexplicable really, as demonstrated by the tears and failed attempts to explain what could have possibly gone through their minds to a public enthused by the prospect of a long-drop and trial by media public PR execution. Who remains outside the glass house to decide what are remorseful or crocodile tears these days?
If only this was the extent of the problem. A quick scan of the public sentiment will tell you; Football fans are aggrieved at diving and video referees, Brexiteers at Brexit and Remainers, Remainers at Brexit and Brexiteers, Business at Brexit and politicans, everyone at Facebook and Cambridge Analytica…when will it stop and where does it end… Mad Max?
Even Jamie Oliver, once golden boy of UK cooking, the saviour of the nation’s children in an obesity epidemic appears to be fair game. Having fallen fowl (bud-dum-tush) of popular opinion in the past year, he’s now sporting some blackberry bruises as a consequence in the backlash on the closure of some of his self-titled restaurants. I asked a friend who has in the past preached to me the exemplary saintly good of the entrepreneur what they thought, knowing their kitchen is littered with every recipe book conceived by Mr Oliver. ‘Yeah, well I don’t like him anymore. Too greedy’. A classic example of that societal cycle of adoration for a try-hard on the rise until it dissipates into suspicion before vitriol to accompany the inevitable public fall from grace.
So Mr Zuckerberg, dealing with your own PR crisis, I could have saved you many hours in front of Congress trying to explain what the internet is. Clearly garbage propagated on your platform can influence opinions and attitudes. You don’t need to say it, I know, I work in digital marketing too. You may have been more prepared for this ordeal had you spent the past few years trying to explain to earlier generations of your family how to use Facebook, you encounter the same questions believe me.
I almost lost the will to live in a death spiral conversation with my mother a few years ago as I attempted to explain that you are supposed to post birthday messages on the celebrators feed, not your own! The thought that I would have to explain to her the intricacies of a 21st Century profiling and advertising platform would fill me with dread. After ten years she just about understands my business is websites, there’s no need for us to confuse this accomplishment by trying to explain data, marketing and everything else I do. Take the approach of a parent cornered by an inquisitive question from their child on a topic you feel you should really know the answer to, but don’t. Bumble on about how clouds are formed and other diversions – ICE CREAM ANYONE?
At least the ‘treasured’ British institution of Ant and Dec can remain unblemished, the custodians of great values and decision making surely… or maybe not. What will the fans do when Ant returns on a not so heroic re-introduction, will they clap or boo?
It probably depends on what night you catch them, so seems to be the nostalgic notion of loyalty or critical and individual thinking in the modern era.
I’m beginning to wonder whether there is a topic the world can agree on. What are the socially acceptable boundaries these days, as I appear to have lost track. We’ve learned some drastic lessons in recent months; that a buffoon can be elected to lead the free world, chemical weapons are fine if you have Russia’s backing and drink-driving is fine if you’re a celebrity. It would even appear you can’t even do some DIY on a burglar without an outpouring of tributes and a shrine to commemorate what a wonderful father and example the felon was. I find it all quite baffling #chrisisbaffled.
This endless pursuit and interest in the exploits of others, propagated on a loop by the media is surely at the brink of disengaging the population. Why is the world so infatuated with laying judgement, moral indignation and blame at the feet of others?
The reckless abandon of values, the realisations among many that their democracy is not sacrosanct or indeed full of the virtues they associate with their identity, needs to be acknowledged and addressed. If not when the world is trundling towards more conflict and wanton destruction, then when?
The poet Rumi gives the best guidance on this topic for me, ‘before you speak, let your words pass through three gates: Is it true, is it necessary, is it kind’? I can’t help but think we’d be on a better road by adhering to these basic principles in our daily discourse, and the result isn’t The Purge or Mad Max.
In my youth, I’d bemoan the ‘small city’ mentality when the most frightful thing going on was that Mrs Miggins hadn’t brought her bins in for 3 weeks, or that a gnome had gone missing in the village next door. I’d like to think in those days someone would have knocked on the door and checked if Mrs Miggins was still alive, or returned the Gnome, rather than posting their outrage indirectly on Facebook (other social channels are available). I yearn for such trivialities to occupy the minds of the world now.
Chris Barnard is Managing Director of FeedbackFans.com. Feedback Fans is part of a collective of global technology companies working towards a common goal of improving experiences that include: retail, leisure, finance, education, gaming and business services. By developing unique state of the art solutions and environments, and combining this with strategic execution, we ensure our clients and users prosper in the digital age.