Sykes_Picot_Agreement_Map_signed_8_May_1916Do you remember “Je suis Charlie”? Could you say when it happened? Could you say the number of people killed? Do you remember 2000 people being killed by Boko Haram in the same week?

It was only this year, at the end of January. At the time I wrote a blog that provoked a lot of reactions: The way our brains work.

I just re-read it (I’ll call it ‘part 1’). What strikes me is Villi’s question of the Paris events in historic context. Less than a year has done that already. And the root causing back to the Sykes-Picot lines a century ago is still reverberating in today’s news stories.

In part 1 my hypothesis was:

Point 1: Humans view the world through our own eyes, through our own model of the world. What we see is all there is. It will always be so.

Point 2: It’s the job of good journalists to try to bring home to the rest of us what other people think, perceive, fear, love, live with. Only by listening, being informed and understanding first, can we be prepared for the debates let alone the answers to problems that will not go away.

Point 3: Invest time understanding context, facts and situations before you rush to react to this week and every other week.

Point 4: Investing precious time from your busy day to stay in touch with social networks, is not time wasted. They keep you aware of other people’s context and why they hold their views. Without that perspective, how can you understand.

Crisis, what crisis?

In this blog,  part 2, I want to take a look at the effect of perspective on the way we think. And challenge you to answer 3 questions at the end.

The recent and current behaviours about borders, refugees and immigration make you think. Ultimately the migration results from the same Sykes Picot lines on a map as explained in part 1. But the reactions of various governments have ignored much that history has taught some people. Reactions may have seemed self centric. And yet social is full of amazing stories of individual bravery & investment to help others, such as this one.

A straw poll of ‘the man on the Clapham omnibus’ – or at least the taxi driver – is interesting. What I concluded is a gap between those that who use main stream sources and those who come across wider sources on social. In fact there are 2 gaps.

The first is in timing. Sometimes it’s only a day, sometimes it’s a couple of weeks. Sometimes it’s a move in the zeitgeist that takes longer. For example, Corbyn’s easy win was predictable as he’s in the zeitgeist. For example, the sense of inhumanity was there before the pictures of the little boy on the beach.

The second is in breadth. The breadth of sources and exposure to contradictory opinions and awareness of basic data to compare. In other words, perspective.

Only by broadening your perspective can you change your mental model of the world. And then you can judge less and ask better questions of yourself and others.

What has also been noticeable has been that many journalists have stepped up to the plate. They have not been afraid to call out what they see, despite what must be political pressure to tell certain sides of the story. They have been  witnessing scenes that have made them personally braver.  And so do an excellent job. But the editors back home should get a call out too. There was and will be no shortage of crowdsourced evidence. But whether those stories get beyond the internet is the decision of the editors. Brave editors are key to great journalism.

Intuitively, it is why Rebekah Brookes getting her job back and Rupert Murdoch buying National Geographic have sent shivers around the internet. Listen to the 60th anniversary debate “From Our Own Correspondent” if you want to get more insights on the vital role of journalism.

And because the migration feels so big and a dead child on a bathing beach is so  emotive, what is evident is that people’s views are changing as they invest time to get more perspective. Slowly the mainstream catches up with the fuller picture of what’s happening on the ground around Syria.

lebanese refugee campDavid Cameron bussing all the journalists out to Lebanon to sell the story of not allowing people in to the UK has at least helped give perspective to the extent of the problem there. Something many correspondents have failed to sell as a story. This picture helps give comparative scale.  This video about “If Surrey were Syria” from Save The Children attempts it too. Turkey has taken 1.9m refugees. If Britain had the same ratio of refugees as Lebanon or Jordan we’d have brought 20 million here by now.

A UN person who has been working in Lebanon said yesterday the European migration problem should be an easy problem to solve if there was a will to do so. Your perspective will tell you if you agree or not. The local history of Hungary and Austria is on the spokesman’s side. UNHCR gives the 1956 Hungarian story.

And our perspectives will need investment of serious time if we are to get to the bottom of Syria’s complexities. As indeed it will, closer to home in the UK. The reporting of Northern Ireland’s current crisis has been mostly superficial at a time of crisis. As the man in the taxi explained: “The unionists wouldn’t blink about one IRA man killing another, except they need an excuse. You only have to look at the UVF flags flying from lamp posts to know.”

And so to the work questions.

1) How much time do you dedicate in a week to increasing your perspective so you can understand the decisions you take and the judgement calls you make?

2) Do you have habits which cause you to take in others’ perspectives?

3) Do your colleagues perceive you as a judge or a listener?

Answers on a post card please.

I hope this post inspires to examine just how busy you are and on what.