MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “opinions”

A woman’s silence

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She would often wander in a world no-one could understand. The real world made no sense anymore. She would retreat in the attic and later in the bedroom or living room. She would watch the time run by as she lost herself in books or let her mind gaze at TV series. She didn’t care anymore if she was alone. Now, it was something she actually looked forward to.

In the cold winter days, she would sit on a couch wrapped in a warm blanket with the company of her fluffy soft-toys. In their big glimmering eyes, she would find comfort. In there, she saw the reflection of who she wanted to be; who she was striving to become; who few would appreciate or, even more, understand.

Perhaps that was what was most disappointing. That no matter how much she explained her point of view, hardly anyone would see it. It is easy to put the blame for everything on someone else; it is even easier to dismiss all their views as wrong simply because they don’t agree with yours.People only listen to what they want to hear. And whatever you say, they will only focus on what they think is important, rendering everything else unsaid. She was tired of having to repeat herself so often, and not being heard. She was not understood. And that was perhaps worse than not being appreciated.

So, she drifted away. She had grown weary of trying to change a world that so adamantly refused to do so. She stopped insisting. Her grandfather once told her that people should fear a woman’s silence, for a woman who stops moaning and more so talking is one who has simply given up. A woman’s silence is her loudest cry. But few can truly realise that. Even fewer are bold enough to do something about it.

It’s easy to keep demanding that everyone else changes. The real courage is to admit that you need to change too. And to do it.

Journalism Under Fire

https://static.kent.ac.uk/nexus/ems/116.jpgJournalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations”. George Orwell’s quote, today more than ever, remains relevant, at a time when media and control over them has become a highly controversial issue, mainly due to the ethics involved. Because, while journalism should, ideally, be objective and free of political affiliations, nowadays, the newsroom is dominated by the ominous shadow of advertising revenue. In a period when almost everything has been affected by the financial crisis, media – the people’s source of information – are searching for sources of income, while at the same time competing against social media and the plurality of free news.

How then can we distinguish the truth in what we read? And how can we dismiss ‘fake news’?

This was the topic of a very interesting discussion held in Athens in the context of the New York Times Athens Democracy Forum, hosted by the journalistic platforms Oikomedia and Hostwriter. The aim was to examine why Media have come under Suspicion and how journalism can regain public faith. Five guest speakers from international media participated: Serge Schmemann (New York Times), Philip Faigle (#D17, Zeit online), Simon Wilson (BBC Brussels), Prune Antoine (freelance journalist) and Tasos Telloglou (Skai TV/ Kathimerini).

The prevailing view, shared by many journalists and citizens alike, is that the observation of how real life unfolds is absent from many media reports today, mainly because of the rising trend of ‘opinionated journalism’. This trends sees the inclusion of a commentary, with the reporter him/herself often expressing a view on the story reported. But that is not what the role of the journalist is supposed to be, nor what the point of journalism is. It is supposed to be about the clear, undeterred, fair and objective presentation of facts that have been thoroughly researched and presented as is. Journalism is the means to make heard as many voices involved in a story as possible, and to cause, through that, the audience’s critical thought, so that citizens themselves may launch a public debate on the matter. In an era of rapid technological evolution, media outlets are perfectly positioned to become platforms promoting such active public discussion.

Instead, citizens increasingly turn against media, viewing them with suspicion and distrust and accusing them of transmitting ‘fake news’ and siding with any one political group. As such, it is not strange that, especially in Greece, citizens do not trust the media, and in fact increasingly tend to avoid the news. The 2017 annual Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for Journalism revealed that Greeks have the lowest rate globally in trusting media with only 23% (compared to, for example, 62% recorded in Finland, the highest rate). Greece is also the only country in the world that believes social media do a better job in separating fact from fiction than traditional news media (28% vs 19%). In addition, over half the respondents (57%) in Greece and Turkey are avoiding the news, compared with fewer than one in ten in Japan (6%). One of the main reasons for this ‘media avoidance’ may very well be all the ‘negative’ news constantly broadcast, regarding the economy, politics, corruption, accidents, war, bloody conflicts and terrorism attacks around the world. News that not only contribute to increasing fear and agony for a future that is already blurred, but also result in further dampening an already low morale and bad psychological state. Consequently, people prefer not to know, endorsing that ‘ignorance is bliss’.

But in all this, how much are the journalists themselves to blame? Are they not asking the right questions? Are they presenting news out of context, indeed causing misinformation? Is the need for higher revenue placing at risk not only the independence of the organism but also its credibility as a source of objective and truthful facts? Press freedom is not only about the pluralism of views, but also about their presentation as facts, without editorialisation.

Journalism should be about opening questions not answering them. The journalist’s view has no place in the story they are reporting.

Today’s need to ‘sell more copies’ and ‘record more online views’ has irreparably also affected the quality of journalism. We need to go back to basics, to remember that in order for a fact to be reported correctly, you need to experience and (re)search it as best as possible to make it easier for the reader to comprehend. And most of all, to realise that people want to read about things that concern their lives and that affect them.

There will always be a need for stories. This was broadly acknowledged at the discussion. The main issue, however, is that journalists should never stop striving for their fundamental element: objectivity. And to step away from the uniformity and unanimity that so often characterises news stories today. After all, the mind opens up when it tries to do, see and think something differently. Otherwise, it is not even worth it.

The voices in your head

voices_in_head_xlargeYou know those voices in your head, the ones that appear every time you try to rationalize a decision? The ones that you picture like two tiny “you” like cartoon characters dressed like an angel and a demon standing on each of your shoulders? Those voices that either agree with you or (vulgarly) disagree with you? What? You don’t have them? Everyone does. It just depends on how much you listen to them, that you keep them alive and present. Marcia knew it well. Because she conversed daily with the voices in her head.

But it usually got her into trouble.

Like today.

Last night Alan had told her on the phone that he had something to tell her, but wouldn’t give out any more details. He said he would tell her in person today. Being a naturally very curious person, Marcia could hardly sleep all night. She kept thinking what it was that Alan wanted to tell her.

Alan was the next-door neighbor Marcia had a crush on ever since she moved in. He seemed to flirt with her every so often but Marcia had read signs so wrong in the past that she didn’t really know what to think. Unless he came straight out and blurted to her that he liked her, she would never feel certain.

But, what was it that he wanted to say to her? This is when the voices took center stage. The angel would say that he would ask her out on a date. Or he would make a romantic gesture. Or he would confess that she stole his heart from the very first look they shared. Marcia was delighted with the prospect. She could already feel her heart flutter with joy and her hands shaking with excitement.

But then, the devil took over. And he filled her with doubt and suspicion. That he already had a girlfriend and wanted to ask her to house-sit while they went away for a romantic weekend. That he wanted to tell her he was moving out. Or even worse that he was getting married and wanted to invite her. The horror. Marcia could feel the heat rise up and strike her head, just like the opposite of a brain freeze, if such a thing even existed.

She began considering what she would say in each occasion. She had to be prepared. Being caught off guard for bad news, especially when you were hoping for good ones, is the most embarrassing thing that could happen to you, according to Marcia. So, she spent the entire night and all through dawn quarreling with the voices in her head about what Alan wanted to tell her and how she would respond.

She got up today having hardly slept at all at night.

And when Alan appeared at the door all smiling and bright, Marcia was such a nervous wreck, she broke down in tears and slammed the door in his face.

Alan was dumbfounded. All he wanted to say was that the book Marcia had been expecting for weeks now had finally arrived and he had signed for it. He simply wanted to give it to her himself because he loved how her eyes lit up with the excitement of even simple things like this.

Who knew he would have been beaten by two little voices in her head?

The Journalistic Hunger Games

460475_journalismA taxi driver on our way to my destination one day told me that “journalism is a dirty job”. He said that journalists today must be “part of the system in order to succeed – to say one thing, think another, and do another. They are disgraceful”. And I was left wondering since when this occupation – one of the most wonderful and most important there are, ended up being thought of as inferior, non-profitable and “dirty”.

A graffiti in an EU country stated that a democracy is only as good as its journalists. Yet today almost everyone agrees that journalism worldwide has deteriorated. And this is not only due to the rise of social media, blogs and the widespread use of the Internet where everyone feels that they are qualified to write (about) anything. It is also because the quality of journalism has significantly declined. When articles published are badly written, lack information, are misspelled and without any syntax, how will journalism provide a good example to the masses?

One of the basic principles of journalism is that it will offer citizens the truth no matter the circumstances, and in a clear and simple way. Without destroying values, or taking a stance for or against an issue. This is the way it should be – the simple, unadorned, and unexaggerated truth.

So many journalists sacrifice their life for this exact principle – for the citizen’s right to proper information. In 2013 at least 70 journalists were killed in the line of duty, while in only the three first months of 2014, another 15 have already been killed. A profession for which people risk their lives should undoubtedly be respected. But just as in every other case, respect is something to be earned.

The so much bad journalism that exists today negates any good examples that still remain. And when people are more interested in the lives of “celebrities”, then journalism inevitably stoops down a level, with journalists themselves now becoming part of a profession that is not thought of as highly.

Of course, the fact that journalism is among those jobs where the worker is occupied long hours without a proper schedule, no real holidays or overtime, and receives a meagre salary, does not help at all. And in addition, journalists themselves are often scorned. For example, in high-level meetings such as Eurogroup and Ecofin Councils where the elite of governments, financial organisations and other officials gather to hold discussions and conferences, journalists are the ones who spend twelve-hours a day at the press centre trying to communicate to the people in a simple and coherent way what exactly is going on. Yet, they are often faced with insufficient space in which to work, weak Internet connections, and even lack of food. They are often treated as people of an inferior class, just like many employees, or at least all those who do not have a fancy title giving access to the relevant luxury that comes with. It is as if these employees and the other officials are separated into an “upstairs” and a “downstairs” clan. Journalists have to strive to earn their living (and their food), working hours on end in adverse conditions, while officials, delegates and “VIPs” freely enjoy luxurious lunches, extravagant dinners, and even exclusive (free) guided tours.

If journalism’s real purpose is to reveal corruption scandals for example, then ideally it should be clear of such issues itself. A bad name comes out of a bad example given. But it is now time for journalism and its employees to deservedly revive the glory that they lost long ago.

All muffled up

CacofonixCacofonix is that sweet village bard in the Asterix adventures. The one who considers himself a musical genius and a superb singer, but who often causes people to run away scared or even causes thunderstorms the moment he starts singing. Yet he is angrily offended when people criticize his singing, to the point of dismissing them as barbarians.

It is evident that his name has an association with the word “cacophony” (a harsh discordance of sound), something which is all the more timely now with the rise of social networks giving everyone a voice and an opinion on anything, anywhere at any time. It often resembles a group of dogs barking loudly for no apparent reason. Because sometimes, this is exactly what all this “noise” actually is. Barking.

And it is usually the people who have nothing to say that yell the loudest. The ones who have no right to object a certain way of handling affairs, because they simply don’t have the knowledge, experience or even capacity to do so. And the ones who have no alternatives to offer. It is usually these that shout the loudest and the longest. Wanting something different and fairer to all, which in their language would mean someone else to do their job while they enjoy the benefits.

But with so much “bad reporting” out there, how can you trust in what you read/hear/see? How can you believe the village bard promoting himself as the greatest singer of all times, and missing out that he is actually a tone-deaf peasant? At least with Cacofonix, he is usually tied up and gagged during the banquet at the end of most Asterix and co. episodes to allow the other villagers to have a good time without having his screeching disturb them.

If only things could be as easy in real life too as in a cartoon…

So how about the weather?

Sometimes, just some, you may find yourself in that awkward situation when you suddenly run out of things to say. And it feels weird, because you want to say something to keep the conversation going, but just don’t know what. Then you just look around, at the sky for a while, and bang! there it is: “so how about the weather, eh?”. If there is one thing that is always reliable, it is talking about the weather – there is always something to say – about how warm or cold it is, how strange it is acting up, how different it is between countries, etc etc…

It is actually amazing at how much is being said about the weather, but how little is (or can) ever be done about it. Come to think about it, the weather dominates a large part of our lives: it is the final thing on the news for precisely that reason. You need to know what the weather will be like the next day(s) in order to prepare for your trip, to know what kind of clothes to wear, to know if you can organize that outdoor excursion you’re planning, or to even know if those clothes you’re washing can be hanged out to dry. Plus, it is quite an obvious fact that the ups and downs of the weather affect your mood and emotions. For example, it is commonly perceived that people living in Mediterranean countries where the sun shines for most of the year are generally more easy-going, happier, and more positive (well, at least until the economic crisis struck!). And it is also more likely to suffer depression or melancholy when it is dark, grey and raining.

Changes in metereological conditions, no matter how much they are criticized for resulting in unimaginative conversations, are, in any sense, a part of our lives. But discussions don’t have to be dominated by that. There are so many more things to talk about, but these are all based on conditionalities: for example, having similar interests and concerns, similar likes and hobbies, and agreeing at least on something, for no-one can engage in a long-lasting conversation if they disagree with their interlocutor on everything. That would be more reminiscent of a saloon fight than a civilized conversation. Either way, the beauty of a true democracy is that freedom of expression and opinion is a given, providing everyone with the opportunity of expressing their own ideas, views and values, in such a way so as to stimulate a healthy debate on issues that concern us all. That, after all, is the point of having a discussion: to enlighten yourself by exchanging views with others and understanding opinions different to your own.  People today lack the ability to listen.  Instead, everybody wants to talk. And in the end a quarrel ensues in which each side categorically insists on the validity of their own beliefs, completely disregarding that of others. People have forgotten how to respect difference, not only in appearance but also in the mind. Just because, there are some things in common for all does not mean that we should all think the same. After all we are not created as clones, nor built as robots. People are born unique, with their own set of ideas and mentalities. And discussions help maintain and improve this, while opening-up close-minded visions to a wider part of the world.

And besides, if you’re ever stuck in that weird situation where you’re just not in the mood for a fight, or have no more ideas to share, well…there’s always the weather!

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