The importance of Current Affairs
A high-level coach recently told me that she didn’t read anything – not newspapers, not emails, not books. She said that she didn’t watch the news or have any news apps on her mobile. In fact, she remained blissfully out of touch with the world. I asked her how she could coach her clients if she wasn’t aware of North Korea, Blockchain and Harvey Weinstein. She said that what mattered to her clients was internal not external. I was gobsmacked that she didn’t realise The Importance of Current Affairs.
She is not alone in her thinking. I know several people who have virtually cut themselves off from the world. A few of them seem content but the majority are grumpy because when the world does touch them it is through increased prices, automated money-dispensers and booking systems that they don’t understand. Their vision is of a paradise away from what Thomas Hardy called ‘the madding crowd’. “Let the world go its mad way; we shall remain sane.” Trouble is, they don’t. The fastest road to dementia is lack of curiosity.
The reasons why my friend the coach is wrong are important. They have implications far beyond teaching, beyond a career. I think it was St Thomas Aquinas who said we should not give ear to news and gossip. He was making a case for a life of contemplation. You can always opt out, retire to a monastery and spend a thoughtful life. If that’s your choice, well and good. Most of us are not called to it. For us, life is about living.
Current affairs are what make the world go round. Each individual’s life is partly a reflection of what is going on in the world. Whether we give in to such pressures depends on our character, our commitment to our present standards and our beliefs. When we change or modify a personal standard we do so as a result of pressure from current affairs – then we call it the ‘’new normal”. Sometimes adapting is right – ‘flexibility’. Sometimes it is wrong – ‘sway with the wind’. We cannot make those judgments unless we know what is going on.
It is our very ability to decide who we are that makes us so special. Who we are is always a comparison with other people, our family, our social and work group, the world at large. Parents who ignore encouraging and helping their children to understand and have a view about current affairs seriously neglect their education. Role models are not just successful football players. As humans have learnt from way back, example is the greatest teacher. Example is current affairs.
Some current affairs are positively bad. We shield the very young from them as much as we can but inevitably they learn about the world if they want to. And they should. We may regret losing the carefree childhoods of the past and there is certainly something delightful in seeing lambs jump for joy but we are the human race. Our enjoyment is significantly determined by our creative effort. To test that we need the knowledge we now have freely plus hypotheses to make us think. Current affairs are hypotheses about the future.
Information is only as valuable as what you do with it. Each of us is in the process of shaping the brave new world that lies ahead. We may not want to be proactive about it but, like it or not, we are having an influence anyway. It is a precondition that we have the relevant data before we make our choice of whether to support or resist the trends we see. Prime examples of the dilemma are the United States and Singapore where – like everywhere else in the world – seriously important decisions about the future are being made by voters and leaders sometimes apparently with little regard to what is happening in the rest of the world.
We can play an important part in our own and our children’s’ futures. Whether at the ballot box or on social media, the means of expressing our views have never been so good. We are responsible when we know what is going on and decide how to shape the future.
Keep up with current affairs – they are not someone else’s.
They are yours.