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May 27, 2006 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

The World in Question…

This week’s issue of Salient is just a little bit more serious than you are probably used to. Yeah, we couldn’t even fit something funny on the back page. Nice for an editor, to have a plethora of weighty features at ones fingertips, as entertaining as a few of us sitting round delirious through lack of sleep, desperately trying to think up of something funny to fill those nagging last two pages is (or alternatively, me cornering a feature writer and ever so nicely asking them if their feature can be like, 1000 words longer), it makes me feel a little better about the magazine.

This week we’re tackling some big issues, with 3 stories that any other week, would all be cover stories. We’ve talked to Peter Zohrab and tried to talk to some of those with an opinion or a say in him not being admitted to the bar. We’ve looked at the sensitivity around religion and talked about what is and what is not sacred. We’ve also talked to Robert Fisk about his life covering the Middle East, and the recent American invasion of Iraq. All are, as the exceedingly awkwardly pun on the cover suggests, prickly issues. But if I were to tie them all together, I would be that each issue, or person, raises questions. Important questions.

Zohrab, who, in my opinion is a racist, sexist, bigoted, and out of touch freak show, raises a number of questions. Who has the right to decide who can become lawyers? What is a permissible opinion? Zohrab was denied appeal of the decision to not allow him to the bar, which also raises huge questions over draconian law school practices. The issue of religious sensitivity will probably go across the grain for most. We find it absurd that there was an uproar at the Mohammed cartoons, and argue for freedom of speech, but what would we think if there was a cartoon published of two All Blacks fucking each other in the ass? Or beating up their wife? The Fisk piece will probably sit a little easier with a left leaning university audience, but Fisk in his life-time has asked some trying questions of the world’s largest administrations.

Some of the questions raised by this week’s features are a little bit more obvious, and a little bit more contentious. But the importance of a probing and questioning public is so vital for a society to remain fresh and open. We have fallen on slightly apathetic times, where people are often so accepting of situations that they shouldn’t be. We look at a fact, but we won’t look at what’s behind it. The press is probably most guilty of this, docile, snug and centre right, it reveals nothing in imbalanced news sections and then serves up human interest columns for desert. I’m asking you to go beneath the surface, every once in a while. Use the internet, read Salient for once, talk to one of those people you always assumed was a nut-job.

The joy of questions can be that if you ask something, and look at the other side of the answer and violently disagree, you can also often rekindle why you believed in something in the first place.

We’re a cut above in New Zealand though, and we are lucky to, on the whole, have a politicized public. When I was in the United States in 2004 before the election, there was no one in the mainstream press asking why things were the way they were. Facts were being reported, in an often inbalanced way, and also in a way that had no memory. There was no depth, no context in the news. When someone would write George Bush said “blah”, there would be no reporting of how it contradicted or compared with previous speeches. And vice-versa for Kerry. It was news for amnesiacs, which allowed Bush to get re-elected on the platform that yesterday’s problems remain yesterday. It wasn’t current to question the weapons of mass-destruction, the war on Iraq or the success of the war on terror. It felt out of date to hear Kerry talk about it in the debates when you watched in an American context. It felt out of date because no one was continually questioning the President, keeping him on his toes. And it was frustrating to watch, at the same time it was frustrating to talk to people who subsequently didn’t see the significance of the fact that invading Iraq was a violation of international law regarding sovereign states. No one ever bothered to keep asking why.

But closer to home I see this creeping in. As I hear about administerial blunders, hear about the University screwing up the publication of marks and catch wind of other assorted happenings that probably shouldn’t, well, happen – I can’t help feel that this University could benefit from a few more people standing up and asking ‘why is this happening? This is not the way it should be!’

And only when people are standing up, demanding what they are owed, will there ever really be an honest back and forth between the up highs and the down lows.

And on another note, the dick and fart jokes will be back in more prominence next week. Sorry.


About the Author ()

James Robinson is a university dropout turned journalist who likes to pretend he has an honours degree. Turn ons include soup, scarfs, a hot bath and some FM-smooth Kenny G-esque instrumental jazz. Turn offs include student politicians, the homeless, and people who pronounce it supposebly.

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