First of all, I have to say that I do not agree with John Gray's philosophy, but I think that, given some of the points raised in Jaak's blog (Why be a journalist? Is there any purpose to journalism? Does it ameliorate any of the global problems that it reports on?) it might be worth mentioning his book, Straw Dogs.

His essential argument in the book is that history does not entail the progression of the human condition, 'humanity' as we conceive it does not exist as a collective entity (and is therefore incapable of any action to improve its situation) and that 'secular humanism', the belief to which many subscribe, is a delusion. He mocks the idea that we could ever hope to make the world a better place, and says that the highest goal to which we could aspire is to see the world as it truly is.

If you were to take his view (which would essentially amount accepting our own helplessness in relation to the state of the world), then the value of journalism is clear: to present current global events as accurately as possible. There is no room, in his philosophy, for charity, philanthropy or campaigning of any kind.

The book is absolutely absorbing, and it is difficult to refute his logic. However, once I'd finished it, I found myself unable to merely accept what he says, to give up on the idealism I had nurtured throughout adolescence. If I did, I would have to entirely redefine what I had set out to do with my life. Could his argument be right? Surely not. After all, how is it that democracy exists? And that slavery was abolished? Did those in power relinquish it of their own choice? I could not, I decided, passively observe the world. I wanted to affect it, in whatever way I could.

So why did I choose to study journalism, when it would seem to be the very epitome of John Gray's ideal, to see the world as it truly is, with no tangible impact on the events it relates? My reasons are not entirely clear to me; but my most dearly held belief is that we are not the helpless sheep-ideologues John Gray makes us out to be, but compassionate, intelligent beings with the agency to effect change in our condition, and to use our commonality to better understand eachother and live together on this planet. I believe journalism, at its best, can help us define who we are in this world, and where in it we would like to be.

As for the idea of the sandpit... well, I can't deny the appeal!

Comments

However sceptic and cynical I am towards the world, one of the two motivations for me to actually try for Journalism, was the idealogy of slowly (hopefully not) and steadily try to push the world in some direction. Well, the second was the 'romantic haze' around Journalism - overworking, extreme hours, deadly deadlines and the substances that help us keep going.

So yes, if not that little desire to change something, what would motivate us to work in a trade thats hopes and future are grim.

I just wanted to say that, if you do get a chance to read any of his writings, don't dismiss John Gray because he seems so skeptical. There are actually very few points of his that I disagree with, particularly in relation to the rampant, war-mongering neo-conservative antics of the last decade or so.

His book Black Mass is a good read, if less entertaining than Straw Dogs. 

The Humanist delusion (as John Gray would say)