In the morning, I turn on CBC radio, gather the print edition of the Globe and Mail from outside my door, feed the cats and, as the coffee drips, I open Facebook. There, I have the English-language service of TeleSUR set so that its feed opens first. It’s not that I believe everything that TeleSUR publishes, but it does broaden my horizons. It provides a certain take on what is important today in Latin America, Africa and Asia, just as the CBC and Globe and Mailprovide different takes on what is important today in Canada and the world.
And so today, Sunday, August 5, 2018—no Globe on Sundays—I learn first that there was an attempt on the life of Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro. There is a sudden resurgence of violence in Ciudad Juárez (on the U.S.-Mexico border), where 30 people were murdered in the previous 48 hours. (It’s a city that I have known well over many years, and I grieve.) In the Philippines, former boxer and now senator Manny Pacquiao disagrees with Pope Francis over the death penalty.
Elsewhere in my Facebook feed, I see that Winnie the Pooh is banned in China because, somehow, he is a symbol of resistance.
On the radio, I hear the persecuted Turkish novelist Elif Shafak speak of discerning truth in the world today: “I cherish confusion, I cherish doubt.”
Her words resonate with me as I move on to read a very reasonable article about Nicaragua where everything is contested. This piece, by Katherine Hoyt, is from one of the sites detested by opponents of the government, but she says this:
“On the personal, family, and neighbourhood level, Nicaragua has been ripped apart by this crisis. Both sides apparently have lists of people they want to harm or even kill. Whether Nicaraguan society can knit itself back together again will depend on the actions of the President [Daniel Ortega], the investigative commissions, and the Catholic Church and other religious bodies that the people look to for moral guidance. We have to wish them well.”
In the early 1980s, when many people were beginning to have access three or even more television stations, I read The End of the World News, a novel by the British writer Anthony Burgess. Still thinking of doubt, confusion and Nicaragua, I climbed over several boxes and retrieved my dusty copy. The publisher’s blurb, penned by the author himself, says that the novel is derived “from the new way of watching television… the family of the middle and late 1980s will have to be a three-screen family.” He could not imagine me with my phone, computer, radio, television (silent, but on) and old-fashioned Globe and Mail trying to discern what might be true.
Burgess presents three stories without chapter breaks. One is a Broadway musical about a visit to New York City by Leon Trotsky shortly before the Russian Revolution. A second tale covers the life and career of Sigmund Freud. The third part is set in the future, shortly before the impact of a rogue planet with the Earth. (As I write, my partner is awake now and watching My Best Friend’s Wedding while flipping to Univision where they’re excoriating both Maduro and Ortega. And the CBC is going with the exploding gas canister version of the Maduro incident.)
Having moved beyond mere “truthiness” in the age of young George Bush, we are now in the time of fake news. We all need to embrace confusion and doubt. For the moment, most mainstream media seem heroic in challenging the lies of Donald Trump, but we need to hold that in tension with the memory of their acquiescence 15 years ago to the White House version of “weapons of mad destruction” in Iraq, and more recently in the face of grotesque schemes for “regime change” in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Honduras.
So look at TeleSUR, RT, Al Jazeera, The Intercept, The Tyee and others, while also following some of what is going on in the mainstream. Think of who you have trusted in the past. Your opinions about specific issues may differ, but you should consider their voice and what it meant to you. In confusion and doubt, some clarity about what is to be done may emerge—if not to alter, yet, local or world events, at least to shape your next steps.
Finally, a few words borrowed from near the end of The End of the World News:
“There’s nothing but this. All the rest is a fairy story.”
“What is a fairy?”
“The thing in your brain that makes you tell lies.”
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