Springingtiger's Blog


Slow Down You move too Fast!

wpid-27122011232-001.jpgLast night there was an attempted coup in Turkey, the night before that an evil man drove an lorry into crowds of innocent revellers including women and children in Nice. In less than three weeks since the English voted to drag the UK out of the EU events have preceded at a terrifying pace. The Prime Minister resigned, his party had a leadership contest (almost) and appointed a new Prime Minister who then conducted the most ruthless cabinet reshuffle that anyone can remember, certainly since MacMillan. In the meantime a group of careerist MPs in the Labour Party, hoping to protect their elite position in the party mounted a rebellion against their own leader. Now it seems that everyday brings a new attack on democracy from the Blairite wing of the party, not so much New Labour as Neo-Stalinism. I almost forgot that the Chilcot Report has finally been published, but there’s just so much happening so fast it’s easy to miss something. I am sacred that if I fall asleep at night I’ll wake up in a world I don’t recognise and I won’t have seen it happening.

My wife made a remark at one point to the effect that the speed of change has made the print media obsolete. It is certainly true that even the broadcast media seem to be struggling to keep up with events. We seem to have a need for twenty four hour live streaming of news and commentary. Sixty years ago the Six O’ Clock News signalled the end of ‘Children’s Hour’ and that it was time for bed. The News was on at Six and at Nine, but I was in bed long before nine knowing that the next morning things would be much as they were when I went to bed. Nothing was instant, even the television took an eternity for the valves to warm up before the picture appeared, so did the radio although its pictures were painted in words. No email, no internet, no cable, no satellite television. Everything was slower except the traffic, given a good road cars were not tied to a seventy miles per hour upper limit.

We can’t go back to those times. To be honest I don’t think I would want to. However painful the pace of modern life, the technological innovations that make that pace possible have brought great benefits and scientific advances. In many ways all our lives have improved. I do worry about the urgency that drives us though. I can appreciate that up to date information is essential in business and military decision making. For the most part we do not need to rush. Facebook and Twitter feed into the immediacy of our lives, but most of what they feed us we don’t need and most of what we do need we don’t need immediately. I know people who are addicted to immediate information and spend an inordinate amount of time glued to a screen. We need to learn to filter our information better. I use the BBC Parliament Channel to review information that is often days old, I never watch PMQs live. When it comes to Question Time I tend to wait until I see the comments it has provoked before deciding whether to watch it. I love ‘catch up’ services like I Player, my wife downloads podcasts of radio programs. Obtaining most of the information we need in our lives can be fitted in to suit our schedules and yet too many of us instead try to accommodate our lives to the constant barrage of information.

I don’t believe my mind nor anyone else’s mind is designed to process a constant stream of fast moving information, that way lies madness, at least for me. If information is a constantly flowing river rather than swim in it and risk drowning, I prefer to sit on the bank and periodically dip my beaker into the flow and sample it. Most of the time I only need a little taste to know whether I need to try more. One thing I have learned is that it is inadvisable to just swallow anything one pulls from the stream.

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