Editorial: The struggle for perspective
Patrick FlanneryFeatures Business Intelligence opinion
It’s a good time of year to re-centre ourselves amid all the chaos.
One side effect of being a journalist is that you quickly gain a sort of jaded, high-level view of everything you see in the news and often spend more time thinking about how it fits into all the other things you are seeing than you do concentrating on the actual content. Who were the sources for the information and what was their agenda? Who is publishing it and what angle are they taking? How does this coverage compare to what others are saying or to what the publisher was saying in the past? All that can be distracting from full engagement with the story, but it does lend something called perspective. Perspective means placing whatever you learn into a broader context of knowledge that is not in the story – hopefully a context that is informed and shaped by lots of other good information.
Despite my tendency to put everything into big perspective, it has been hard to deny a certain creeping sense of doom as I read the news throughout 2023. Some big things have gone wrong in the world. Bad things happen every year, but it feels like some things have gone wrong in particularly awful ways and ways that we haven’t had to worry about for a very long time. War in Europe? It’s been a minute. All-out assaults on Israel? That’s so 1967. Looming autocracy in the U.S.? That’s so…never. There doesn’t seem to be any perspective available where these events become insignificant or likely to be resolved quickly.
That’s why it was such a relief to receive Russ Dantu’s column for this issue. As you’ll read, Russ is part of an effort in Calgary where volunteers dress up in Christmas gear, board decorated buses and deliver toy gifts and food to families in need. You can tell the experience has touched Russ and he makes a very compelling case for finding something similar for you and your staff to do around the holidays. There’s good business reasons to do so, but mostly we should all look at it because it makes everyone feel good and makes the world a little better for a little while.
Reading that made me remember that this is really who people are and what is really going on in the world. I remember as a teenager visiting my grandfather, one of the nicest people I’ve ever known, and discussing something good someone had done. I can’t remember now what it was but what I do remember was him suddenly looking at me intently and saying, “You know, you find most people are really quite nice, aren’t they?” Maybe I was already pretty jaded because it struck me as a shocking, almost revolutionary thought. But on reflection I came to understand that he had the correct perspective and everything I’ve seen over the decades since proves him right.
It’s easy to fall victim to a form of bias where we tend to focus on the negative. The reason why we do this shows us why we should not. Negative events and people stick out because they are rare. Car crashes make the evening news, not the millions of safe trips that happen every day. Cable news and social media are not life. We need to constantly remind ourselves of this and understand that for every terrible and bizarre person in our newsfeeds, there are a thousand like Russ who are quietly going about their business with peace and kindness and good intentions for all around them.
So I guess that’s my message of hope for the holiday season. Thanks so much for reading over the past year and best wishes for a great 2024!
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