objectivity

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My dear friends,
Back in the days when I was alive, we used to view objectivity as something to be expected from every intelligent and educated person. The news media included more than a score of newspapers which represented all the different political views, but the one state radio station, and afterwards our only TV station did their best to give the impression of objectivity. In fact, our first local media star was this affable newsman who told us the news almost every evening on the one state owned television station, broadcasting from Jerusalem, and all of us… the religious and the irreligious, the left and the right, the rich and the poor, we all believed him and liked him, if just for the fact that he was willing to enter our homes, and let us know what the heck was going on. Of course, we knew he didn’t tell us everything. If a certain well known general was having an ecstatic affair with his secretary, we didn’t expect to hear about it in the news. That sort of thing was whispered to us by our next door neighbor. But we made do with just the essential bad news which was summed up at the end of the day.

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This week, one of our pioneer journalists passed away. Or as we say it in Hebrew, went to his own world. That’s a nice way to say it; nicer than ‘dropped dead’, or as the cynics would say it in our own tongue, ‘turned into a corpse’. Uri Avneri was one of the front line newsmen back when we first re-established the Jewish state, editor and publisher of the first innovative newspaper in our land, a politician, and a man about town in Tel Aviv, hobnobbing with celebrities on first name basis. He was such a lover of peace, that he had no reservations about getting together for hugs and hot coffee with a known murderer.

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He wasn’t a ‘New Journalist’ like Tom Wolfe or Norman Mailer. He was a provocateur who liked to break the toes of clay idols and didn’t find fame any more attractive than infamy. The ‘new journalists’ tried to present the story they found from a subjective view point. They shared with us the very personal way they captured and understood the story. He wrote as if he were imparting facts, but he was so wrong that most of his contemporaries didn’t even bother to knock holes in his arguments. They were obvious. He mixed facts, lies and fantasies with abandon. He would cook up stories which included social rumors he heard in the local clubs and bars, a few pictures of naked or half naked women, and a full rack of accusations and revelations of corruption, whether true or not, about any member of the establishment and especially those he saw as his enemies; that is, his brothers and his sisters.

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Though I belonged to the opposite camp from his, I loved him for his childlike innocence. He seemed to me as if he was starring in his own hand made movie, and a wonderful hero to himself. Though he had almost no sense of humor, he had a vivid imagination, and it was most amusing to see the ways he found to offend his fellow citizens by provocation arm in arm with absurdity. He wrote his own story, and if it didn’t make me chuckle , it often made me smile. Of course, now that the news media keeps pounding away at their agenda, his newspaper would not stand out or be noticeable. But a lot of his ideas became popular among the lunatic fringe, and I believe there are still some parliament members here who quote him without the bother of attribution.

D2725_11photos from the street where I live

As we get old we watch our own familiar crowd thin out, drop out, and disappear till there are just a few of the old crowd left, and then they too get frail and eventually die and are buried. He was one of the last who had something unique to say or something memorable to contribute to the society I enjoyed so much when my country was just getting on its feet. In those days, I felt affection for many who had different political leanings or worldviews. But these days the hostility and the belligerence of the opposing camps has alienated me, and it is hard even to listen to their arguments. When there was just one fellow like Avnery, he contributed to a sense of balance to our society. Maimonedes said you can’t really call a place a city unless you have at least 10 bums around. I say, what’s the point of having a king if you don’t have a court jester.

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48 responses to “objectivity

  1. We have lost our gentleness. Our rounded corners have become razor sharp. Used to be we were all clowns, of a sort, and could laugh at ourselves. What happened!

  2. Loving grace that all have free speech. There is so much sharp judgment, dear Shimon, that the colourful characters are disappearing in the competition to win. I suspect it’s a prize without merit. Hugs for you, and Nechama, and I love your pictures with the furry ones in your neighbourhood. xXx

    • Yes Jane, free speech is so important to society, guaranteeing minimum respect for one another, and a little patience and tolerance regarding what we don’t always understand. Though once we’ve got that straightened out, we still hope to hear something that makes sense. We hope society can offer us more than the exercise of our rights. Nechama is anxious to take a walk this morning… I think I’ll go out with her now… xxx

  3. There is so much noise from the media now that it all blends together and nothing stands out. I love the way you write, you always make me smile, you do have a great sense of humour! Wonderful pictures, loved those kittens and the black panther!xxx

    • Thanks so much Dina… I would have posted a shot of this fine gentleman, but as it happened, I never did his portrait. So I felt free to put up any creature I loved. Glad you enjoyed it. This is my street. It’s nice, but we suffer from too many cars. Fortunately, most of our troubles are temporary… xxx

  4. I really enjoyed your post, Shimon; it somehow made me calm down about what goes on over here in the USofA. Your last couple of sentences are the icing on the cake.

    • Thanks Angeline. it’s not only in the US. All over the western world we’ve gotten too polarized. The election of Obama could have been the start of a unification process. But things only got worse so far as integration was concerned. We have to learn that society includes everyone, and then we’ll get it right. I hope.

  5. Intriguing to hear of such a person. I wonder if I would have such feelings about him. Our news vs POTUS has gotten so pathetic, I actually refrain from too much of it. Is there possibly an out?

    • I tell you Bob, it wasn’t hard to find the positive things about him, and to like him when he was just one character in a society that was pretty moderate, and ideas were freely exchanged. But when there are a whole lot of such people and hysteria in the air, it’s unbearable. I can understand your dismay when it comes to POTUS. He has become an example of a lot of other things happening in America, and I can only hope that the present dissension will lead to a re-examination of basic values.

  6. t smith knowles

    Your post, as always, filled with spirit and thoughtfulness. The kittens…charming. You definitely have a unique perspective that I so enjoy. Thank you my friend…………

  7. Lovely kittens… hope there’s someone giving them food and caring… I may guess that is you, caring about them!
    About the newspapers, any news, in fact, there is too much rubbish since always. There, here, anywhere. I never ever had an appreciation for journalists. For them, it could be a kind of normal behavior, little ethics, little sense of respect for human beings all along… but this is a long story and I guess we can go back decades. Manipulating stories, making hoaxes and spreading disturbing stories to influence people. Nothing new.
    Fortunately, those who are clever, know this better.
    In addition, the warmongers do not have a flag to defend… to spread hatred and pain it is always done with a goal of abject and greedy. Everything goes around there: a thirst for power and a desire for financial well-being in spite of those who suffer and die.
    Hugs, dear Shimon, wishing you a lovely weekend 🙂 c

    • Cats are well cared for here in Jerusalem. A lot of people all over town put out water and food for them, including some people who would never have one inside their home. I’ll have to devote a post to cat stories. I don’t know about the news. When I was young, I saw the news media as offering a very important function in democracy. They discovered what was wrong in the functioning of the govt., and provided a view of how other sections of the population lived. But over the years more and more adopted a certain agenda, and worked to hard at attracting attention. Now that printed papers are going out and being replaced by online news, it seems they are just vehicles of advertisements. I keep hoping for a little moderation. Thanks so much for your good wishes Claudine.

      • Yesss, please, do dedicate a post to cats! I’m always so terribly curious each time I see that you posted something… I really do love your fine sense of humor and the pondered way in which you bring things into a discussion. I guess you could be an excellent moderator in many topics and life’s questions. I wished you would be living somehow not so far away. Enjoy Sabbath 🙂 c

  8. Great post Shimon. I love the way you threw those cats into the mix. I really wish I could come and look at Israel before I die. I would love to see the Israel that I read in Yael Dayan’s “Dust” but I’m sure I am seventy years too late.

    • I remember enjoying some of Yael Dayan’s writing. And there are parts of Israel where you can still feel and see things much as they were 70 years ago, even though the country… the whole world has changed so much. I do hope all your wishes come true, Paul, though I’ve gotten to the stage in life where even a trip outside of town requires a great deal of determination and planning on my part, and I wouldn’t even entertain the possibility of leaving the country. Thanks for the comment.

  9. Love the kittens throughout this post Shimon. I don’t know what to make of the news that is reported today, and the people writing and reporting it. Too much hostility. I read everything with a grain of salt. I only listen to our local news station with human interest stories and just a little of the local news, and barely any international news. Shabbat Shalom Shimon.

    • When I was young, and Hemmingway was still alive, I worked a bit at newspaper writing, and thought it a noble profession then. But since that time, Israel has gotten more like America, and the US has gotten a bit hysterical in my opinion. I agree with you completely, Lisa-Elisheva. Too much hostility, and too much shouting. People talk while others are talking. I have just about given up with the radio. Thank you for your good wishes, and may you have a very good week.

  10. Love the way you say that “he went to his own world’. A much more pleasant way of speaking of a loved one who has left us than many of the terms that are used.

    • So glad you enjoyed that expression, Gypsy Bev. I was raised with that expression, and it always made sense to me; a reminder that we all move around attached to our own particular world. But when I spent some time on kibbutz, I was surprised to hear people say he or she ‘is gone’… and they left it at that. I realized that in every culture, even if they use the same language, they might have different ways of saying things. Thanks

  11. Only an hour ago, my son and I were talking about how in the ‘olden days’ (aka my childhood years), we had one television; it was a Zenith, very heavy, and was a lavish purchase for my parents as it was their first color TV. He laughs every time I tell him about having only three channels and no remote!
    I remember that my Mom stopped whatever she was doing every day at 5:30 to watch the news. Now whenever I visit her and my stepdad, they have the ‘news’ channel on all the time…it makes me sad, hearing the constant bombardment of hate. I’ve come to a point in my life where I very rarely turn on the news and receive only an occasional BBC alert on my phone. I appreciate learning about Uri Avnery through this post and have looked him up on the internet.
    Both your writing and your photos always make me smile, and I am so enjoying getting to know you through them.

    • Oh, it took a long time for color TV to come to our country. Our prime minister Ben Gurion was really opposed to TV, and if it had been left up to him, I don’t think we ever would have gotten that service. Our first was a little one. Don’t remember the brand, but do remember that we pushed the antenna out the window to get better reception at times. And of course we had only one channel… though some of our neighbors watched the Jordon TV. It gives me great pleasure to know I brought you a smile, awhitlow. Thanks for the comment.

  12. It takes all kinds to make a city, that’s for sure. When it comes to journalism, I am old-fashioned enough to long for the journalists who honestly tried to report the news as objectively as possible. Even though they knew and acknowledged that no human being can be 100% free of subjectivity. Your mention of the esteemed TV newsman at the beginning of your essay reminds me of the American journalist, Walter Cronkite, who began his career during the radio era and became one of the first TV newsmen. He was a genuine and unifying reporter and I miss him.

    • Old-fashioned, you and me both, editor. I remember feeling that the newsmen were part of the community; I could imagine them as next door neighbors. But the changes in presentation has alienated me, and I don’t always believe them these days. Sometimes I feel as if they are trying to lead me to despair. I remember hearing about Walter Cronkite, but don’t remember if I ever saw him. In those days we felt like America was on the other end of the world. Since then, the world has gotten a lot smaller. Thanks for coming by.

  13. Good morning Shimon….Just posted a comment, but don’t think it went through and so will try again.
    I do love the term ‘Went to his own World’ – very good.
    Once again it would seem that the UK (and probably many other places) is also experiencing huge changes in news making. At the present time, I cannot remember this country being so divided – along with a great deal of hostility between opposing sides…this is about Brexit! We have always been known for debating and indeed it’s traditionally been a very important part of education. We could always agree to disagree….and move on with no feelings hurt….however, all of that has changed. Recently I was in a central London pub with two friends from Paris. They have visited the UK for many years and know it well and were shocked to find the level of anger and division. We found ourselves whispering about the topic for fear that we would upset someone else in the pub! I have not experienced that before. We need more objectivity….more acceptance of others opinions….and somehow get away from all this hyped up news, on any issue that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. The journalist you have described who ‘went to his own world’ sounds similar to some we have had in the past. You might not agree with them, or even like them, but you knew they were speaking their truth.
    It is the last summer bank holiday here in the UK….and so I am taking full advantage of this to re-organise the studio and tie up all loose ends before September begins. I am off to the school in Portugal on the 18th September for two weeks and have just shipped five paintings to China for an exhibition at the Chongqing Museum of Art opening on the 17th November. It is part of French/Chinese cultural exchange, (I am the only non French/Chinese artist) invited to exhibit! Anyway, I continue to make hay while the sun still shines.
    I see many of my friends departing this zone…moving onto their own worlds…and it reminds me that I must make the most of every day.
    Here’s hoping that you and the beautiful Nechame are enjoying a wonderfully relaxing Sunday. Janet xxx

    • Oh, that’s so exasperating Janet. That’s happened to me a number of times… and I never seem to remember what I’d just written. I remember that brexit was a big issue in your country. But at the time, Europe seemed to me so hostile to our country that it was hard for me to empathize with the international fraternity enjoyed on the continent. But it does sadden me to hear of this anger and division. It would be good if people realized that we’re all in the same boat.

      You’re faster than me to prepare for September. Your comment reminded me that our New Year is just around the corner and I still haven’t though of a New Year’s card. I have continued with that old custom, though I do it digitally nowadays. So glad to hear that you will be off to Portugal. I remember how much you enjoy that school and how inspiring the environment is for you too. I’ve been enjoying my outdoor patio these days; it is so refreshing to be outdoor in these last days of summer. And we have plenty of beautiful and audible birds around, which makes it all the more pleasant. Congratulations on your participation in the Chinese exhibition. I do hope you’ll share some shots of your pictures after they’re set up. Yes, we must make the most of each day. with my best wishes, xxx

  14. I loved your kitty pictures and look forward to having you write a post about cats.
    As for Uri Avneri “going to his own world” – I must say, I feel that he, and many others who shared his views – had been living in their own world, totally divorced from reality, for quite some time now.

    • I agree with you Shimona, about Avneri’s view of the world. It certainly wasn’t anything like my world. But I still remember how he, as a soldier, came back from Gaza to Tel Aviv, and complained bitterly about how the public in Tel Aviv was going about their lives and drinking coffee on the sidewalks, as if there wasn’t a war going on. In those days, I suppose he had something to contribute to the general awareness, and I like to remember the positive aspects about people, even when they end up on the other side of the barricades.

  15. The fact that you were in the other camp, yet you admire and respect his work is quite the praise and reflection. Media has a very long history of a preferred perspective, but it seems today we’ve taken that to another level – which causes me to worry. After all, that also means less reflection.

    PS: I hope you stop by on Tuesday.

  16. Back in the days when you were alive??? I hadn’t noticed you were anything but vivacious. But, hey ho, we’re our own worst critics whatever plane we float our boat on.

    As for monochrome and single vision media, you could say that they were perspectives very much of and from the beholder/s.

    When will we value and understand foresight? Only when we value and understand hindsight. The above perspectives will always apply.

    xx

    • Yes, though hindsight is often derided, I like to see it as history, and often it gives us a perspective, better to understand what’s going on in the present. For the most part, in our past we identified with immediate family, with greater family, tribe, city and nation. In the recent past the tribe has become irrelevant, and even the connections to city and state have been loosened, after the industrial revolution, as people moved more and became more individualistic because of work concerns. In the absence of those more primal attachments, it seems that our herd instinct has become more pronounced. Since the heightened communications of the last 50 years have been greatly influenced by political agendas, we see a rising hysteria. A wider perspective may help to see our situation better. Thanks for the comment, menhir. xx

  17. Thoughtful tribute.Sounds like a real character who will be missed by different people for different reasons
    There’s something about those who are there at the beginning of something – a perspective they offer. Whether you agree or disagree with the individual, the respect earned is quite something. You create such a picture of the man – I really like these lines
    “for his childlike innocence. He seemed to me as if he was starring in his own hand made movie, and a wonderful hero to himself. Though he had almost no sense of humor, he had a vivid imagination, and it was most amusing to see the ways he found to offend his fellow citizens by provocation arm in arm with absurdity”
    He’s gone on ahead and will be missed
    (Oh, cats – nice they are also respected and cared for – also waiting for your writings about them)

    • You know, just a week ago I turned the radio on to hear a discussion on an issue that interested me. I thought I might hear some opinions opposed to mine, and it would help me reconsider my own position. But what I heard were people interrupting one another, talking when someone else was already talking, and exhibiting obvious contempt for one another. After a few minutes of this I gave up and turned off the program. I keep hearing that this is the golden age of communication with the internet and all… but if people only talk and don’t listen, communication hasn’t improved at all. Thanks Phil.

  18. When we lived in a relatively sane world, Shimon, it was easy to be amused by or tolerate the odd nutter. We may talk about it now but back then we understood what free speech meant. Unfortunately it’s the lunatics who are running the asylum now.

    • Your comment, Mary, describes exactly what I was thinking when I sat down to write this post. I won’t miss Avnery. He lived a nice long life, and now he can rest in peace. But I do miss those times when we could exchanges ideas and opinions in a light hearted manner, and hear other points of view without insult or hostility. Free speech can be entertaining when it’s done right, and educational too.

  19. I loved this sentence: “He would cook up stories which included social rumors he heard in the local clubs and bars…”

    It reminded me of a phenomenon common in certain Christian denominations’ prayer groups — a phenomenon that’s a little off topic, but that I think will amuse you. I’ve witnessed it repeatedly from childhood on, and I always laugh, if only to myself.

    Women’s groups often have what they call prayer circles during their meetings: a time for sharing concerns during public prayer. Inevitably, someone will begin, “Dear Lord, we ask your blessing on Matilda in this time of trouble.” Then, realizing that others might desire a little more specificity, she’ll add, “And we ask you to support her husband, while he looks for work.” That’s the cue for someone else in the circle to add her petition: “And give aid and comfort to Matilda’s children, who are having to cope with their parents’ divorce…”

    And so on. It’s gossip, for sure, but acceptable gossip because it takes place within the framework of prayer. In the end, everyone knows what’s happening, despite no one speaking of it outside the group. If all works as it should, Matilda, her husband, and the kids are treated a little more gently than otherwise might be true.

    • That’s a great story about the prayer circle, Linda. I’d never heard that before. And it’s really not ‘off topic’ because your story illustrates exactly what I wanted to discuss in this post. That is, communications and the necessity for respect of one another. As long as there is respect and good will, we can have differences, and argue… sometimes rejecting each other’s opinion, but it’s all in the family, and it adds to our understanding. But in recent years the voices heard in public have become hysterical and intolerant, and this leads to an unpleasant social atmosphere. It may have started in your country with the Vietnam war. Here it’s more recent, but it has really gained momentum.

  20. It is sad to lose a connection from our past, our youth and our innocence. As another one bites the dust, our own fragility is further revealed. The Vietnam War is an area not just for Americans, but Australians and New Zealanders like me. But having said that, that era had so much to offer,especially in popular music, and it did in so many ways., so I can forgive it a little. To me the spectre of Agent Orange and its later discovered effects on Vietnamese children and the troops in that conflict is what I continue to remember. I had a brother and a brother-in-law who had later health problems that undoubtably were caused by those terrible chemicals.

    • There are stories and art that try to tell the tale of war, but compared to the experience of it, I have never found any word of art that could begin to translate the reality. Who can tell the bitterness of the taste of death? One can only hope to find a bit of life afterwards, to enjoy a few mortal moments despite what we’ve endured…

  21. It takes integrity, intellect, vision, Audie and sensibility, sometime audacity to be a fine journalist. When they are gone, we miss them immensely…

    • In my eyes, he wasn’t a fine journalist… but he was an especially colorful character in the profession. There were some fine ones then that I miss, but the world has changed… and our expectations too, as we continue to discover new worlds. Thanks for you comment, Amy.

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