There are times nowadays when life’s journey can feel like a trip through a whole field of very prickly berry bushes – we just can’t get through unscathed. Our progress is constantly impeded
by the thorns and tangled branches that confront us every step of the way. Everywhere we turn, our sensitivities are wounded by the disregard for the dignity of human life and we are cut to the quick by one sort of unacceptable atrocity after another. Every attempt to advance is painfully slow and, indeed it feels frequently as if we are going nowhere at all, just deeper into the tangled mess. The whole image is sadly cynical, but it’s hard not to be when you listen to the news on a daily basis.
If we were hoping for some inspiration in world news then we are unlikely to find much right now as obfuscation and self-serving behaviours seem to be the driving forces of our world leaders’ actions. Truth, once the bedrock of our civilized societies, has just become a commodity traded freely in various forms and guises. You could say that the ‘spin doctors’ have a lot to answer
for, but then again, propaganda and dissembling are not just inventions of the 21 st century. History is replete with as many unsavoury characters as good ones, but the scary difference is that
a new phenomenon has changed the landscape completely. The reach and scope of technology has brought some unintended consequences. The digital world has hugely facilitated the manipulation of truth in myriad ways and, more disturbingly, it has greatly enabled the extremists of all kinds. Real trolls have emerged, dispensing hate, cruelty and general unpleasantness from the safe distance of their own dark basements. Until Tolkien glamourized them to a degree, trolls had always been undesirable little monsters who dwelt in the dingy recesses of the earth. They have reverted to type, but, sadly, they no longer operate underground, they live online, spewing vitriol and hate.
How we succeed in restricting the platforms and stages where extremists spout their often repulsive messages, will indeed be one of the great challenges of the modern world, but restrict them we must. We can’t eliminate them, but we can drive them back underground to places that the majority of us would never want to go. The rest of us can then focus on restoring the uplifting values that civilization in its purest form has always demanded of us. Truth, compassion, integrity, honesty and altruism may again start to be prized as the essentials of a life well-lived, and, dare I dream it, decency may re-emerge as a dominant behaviour. The appreciation of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ may again be re-established among our leaders who could just start to behave in a way that might inspire our youth instead of disillusioning them. “The children are watching” is a common phrase and truer than we know, so when adults in leadership roles are engaged in obfuscation, denial, hypocrisy, prevarication and downright lying, let’s not pretend that the kids don’t notice. They see and hear more than we can ever imagine. However, the good news is that those same young people understand the nature of kindness and decency. That should give us hope if we can arrest the decline. We
need our leaders to lead in the way that the New Zealand Prime Minister did after the atrocity in Christchurch. She epitomised honesty and decency every step of the way and was a beacon of
light for us all. The children were watching, but were the other