Monday, December 12, 2011

Thinking The Worst

Bad news does sell more newspapers than good news. Not surprisingly then, journalists are by nature cynical and criticism is their first response. When a Prime Minister reshuffles her ministry and cabinet (a strange description for sacking, demoting, shifting sideways and promoting), our journalists always assume her motives are sinister. The Daily Telegraph declared the changes as “Gillard’s Revenge” and an online magazine decried, “Will it save her in the polls?”. Others described it as an attempt to shore up support against a possible future challenge from Mr. Rudd, or simply an attempt to secure more factional support. No doubt such conclusions are partly true, but maybe there is another side to the story. Shareholders tend to trust CEOs when they restructure and the sporting public loves it when an old warhorse is flicked for a rising star. Occasionally we might all benefit if we realised that mixed motives are not the preserve of politicians alone.
When we only think the worst about the people with whom we are in relationship, then relationships tend to be very difficult. When a wife assumes her husband’s best intentions are actually self serving (which they probably are, at least in part), then no matter what he does she will never be satisfied. Parents often have every reason to question motives and intentions of their teenagers, but when trust breaks down altogether no amount of goodwill can bring reconciliation. What is really dangerous in relationships is when one party takes on the role of judge, not only of the actions of the other, but also of the intentions behind those actions. At that point breakdown is hard to avoid.
The media often takes this moral high ground in our culture. They question every politician’s actions and the motives behind those actions. We thus increasingly do not trust our leaders and somehow the whole system leads to despair and disrespect.
By contrast, when a respected media organization sets out to break the world record for the longest radio or TV interview (in this instance lasting 24 hours), we are presented with a novel, quirky and playful idea to test the journalists’ stamina and mettle. From another perspective, the whole exercise could easily be described as a bit of self-serving, self-promotion from a pair of journalists, whose inflated egos thought we might be interested.
Morality is always ugly when one side decides they have the moral right to judge others. To be honest, religion often smells like this too, but Jesus Himself had little time for morality that did not start with self-appraising humility. Most of us are great at assessing the false motives of others, while ignoring our own duplicity.
Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”?  Proverbs 20: 9

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