About time too

This Daily Paradox will put the cart before the horse. So, pretty much in line with political thinking the world over then. Social media control is rightly a controversial subject calling into question, as it does, freedom of expression and the rights of humans to muddy the lives of those around them. We cherish our free press while acknowledging that it isn’t quite free. We value the right to criticise but are glad that we can find some redress in the courts if that liberty is abused. We want transparency until it trespasses on our secrets. Then we want it banned.

Australia, that great bastion of ‘say it like it is’, has led the way, with Britain following behind, in flagging the need to take some action. Technically, this is not easy. A surface-mail letter can spread fake news and libel. Defamation may be contained in a glance. The innuendo is often worse than the lie. A vivid Victorian expression describing a lady of potentially easy virtue said “She’s no better than she ought to be”. For character assassination, it won top prize.

Now the social media, led by Facebook, are to come under the hammer of control. Should we rethink our attitude to free speech at this time of spawning communications? Does loose language and insensitive portrayal of the seamier side of life call for more vigilance? If so, to protect who? Has the Parental Guidance hint about ‘sexual language’ and ‘scenes of distress’ gone the way of all flesh? Is a child who spends four hours a day on computer games of pornograpic violence at greater risk than his 80-year-old maiden aunt reading the lurid inventions of the Sunday press? What should be our criteria for restricting language and pictures?

Your Daily Paradox, usually carefully balanced between differing controversial views, is surprisingly clear on this one. Our probably agreed purpose for our children and grandchildren is to be happy. The evidence points to giving as a more secure route to achieving this than receiving; to sensing as superior to measuring; to nuance as more successful than shouting. Appreciation varies with age and education but whatever the circumstances fine beats fearful anytime.

Compulsion to be happy could never be acceptable. Lack of learning to achieve the same thing would be equally abhorrent. Every media experience is a lesson now. Each frisson of sensation, a move in one direction or another. There really are such things as Better and Worse.

At risk of seeming a little prescriptive let us hand our legacy on to humanity – with openness and imagination – to ensure that our uniquely human sense of humour and our hard-chiseled concept of society are not lost in a welter of profanity just to prove our right to disgust.

An aunt of mine could jump a horse over barbed wire – no mean feat since horses have poor eyesight. She didn’t bribe, cajole or beat the horse to achieve this. She quietly let the beast know who was in charge.

People are not horses but children are somewhat like ponies. Pointed in the right direction with firmness and love they respond. Their grown-up counterparts are just as amenable to influence without coercion. The firm hand sometimes has to get firmer. This is one of those times. Those who live by the social media should be responsible for making their steed roadworthy.

Whatever is done by way of leading to water, the individual will still decide whether or not to drink.

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