May 28, 2010
Two recent examples of people dealing with ambiguity (or not) have struck me recently. The first is a shining example and the second points up the way that the media avoid it in their coverage of important events and issues.
First: the recent problems that we’ve had with the Iceland volcano ash and individuals’ responses to it. People were stranded. There were no rules, no precedents and no guidelines. They had to fall back on their own resources. And how ingenious they were! The stories were great – and heartening. I particularly liked the one about the man who bought a second-hand bike so that he could get onto a ferry when there were no more pedestrian tickets available. And there were many more, including stories of people who decided to stay put and settled down to enjoy themselves a bit more. All perfect examples of the ability to deal with ambiguity. Apologies to anyone who had a horrendous time.
Second: this morning I heard an interview with a BP person about the latest go at stopping up the oil leak in the Mexican Gulf. I’m no apologist for BP’s environmental or human welfare track record nor am I a supporter of the whole oil industry, so I’m not unduly biased in their favour. But I feel frustrated and patronised by the media coverage of this event. Frustrated because I’d like to hear what is actually happening without having to hear the pointless and gratuitous arguments about whose fault it is. Patronising because OF COURSE I – in common with most of the public, I think – understand that this is an unprecedented catastrophe, where unequivocal statements of ‘truth’ and certainty have no place. To hear this person being slapped around and therefore having to be defensive, guarded and economical with the truth – in my name – is unedifying and annoying. We’re grown-ups. We can comprehend the complexity of the situation. Yes, it’s appalling. Yes, it’s BP’s responsibility. WE’VE GOT IT! They have put their hands up to it. QED. Now I want to know what’s happening in the struggle to get it under control.
I see this as an example of groping unproductively for certainty when there is none. Key word – unproductive.