Sunday, April 16, 2006


Even without the baffling smoke and mirrors of politics and fanaticism, I think it's always difficult for people of one culture to understand and appreciate the culture of their foreign neighbours (whether in the next-door apartment or across the planet). We're lazy. We like our comfort zone and aren't curious about the unfamiliar unless we're booking a holiday. If they don't bother us, the chances are that we won't pay much attention to them, or as they say - No news is good news!

So we go along in comfortable ignorance of other cultures until bad things happen, and then we only know about the event. If bad things continue to happen we get news and analysis, social and economic background, roots and causes, but we don't get slices of normal life to remind us that it exists, and if we did we'd be trying to read it for clues! Damn!

But just because we don't know about or understand something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And what is so wrong about a family culture, allowing for the usual exceptions to the rule of ordinary people doing their best at getting on with their lives? Why must everything be in the public domain?

Transparency is for government and business in my opinion. Family life is the comfort blanket of the individual - and I believe that we adults need our comfort blankets - it's where you can be stupid and crass at times, and someone will surely tell you that you've been stupid and crass, and deserve a good kicking - but will still love and forgive as you try to do better; it's where you get confirmation of who you are as you see yourself and your actions reflected in other people's eyes; it's where the company of people you love brings out your finest qualities - kindness, generosity, perseverence, humour, tolerance - and requires that you exercise them over and over for years on end. Of course, even in the closest and most contented family you sometimes wish everyone would just bugger off, mind their own business, and leave you in peace for two minutes! Still, if we're lucky, home and family are the dancing ground for our successes, our retreat in vulnerability and failure, our base to reassess, recharge, and then resume.

Privacy and confidentiality go hand in hand with loyalty and trust. Put a camera in there, and you make everything false.

I admire Oprah Winfrey, whose track-record as a great humanitarian, media-icon, businesswoman and philanthropist speaks for itself. BUT what do you make of the vicious gladiatorial bloodletting of partners and ex-partners trading betrayal in many other prime-time 'chat-shows', and the tedious, depressing, rootless exhibitionism of 'reality' TV, all staple ingredients of globally syndicated TV. How many people are made voyeurs of this soul-destroying cruelty? Is this educational or remedial TV whose high purpose is to help us to be more honest and kind in our relationships, to value family and friendship? Is this the media functioning as a force for social good? Does anyone still subscribe to the idea that you don't air your dirty laundry in public?

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