bearing witness

Each of us has the talents awarded us.  Some of us, on the other hand, believe that 10,000 hours makes anyone talented.

I don’t disagree with the 10,000-hour theory.  That doesn’t mean some aren’t naturally talented.

I was moved to tweet the following about writing and writers a couple of hours ago:

The utility, then, of writing and writers.

Or not, as the case may be.

There is, I think, a growing aversion to philosophising.  I wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with software code like Twitter and Facebook which encourages us to think fast and react shortly … skim-reading and discarding the well-turned phrase and paragraph; refusing to properly value a long-read understanding of subjects just a tad deeper than the ubiquitous selfie.

Does the kind of stuff I value at a personal level – reading, writing, blogging, tweeting; essentially, bearing witness to my point of view (because if I don’t do it, who can?) – have any wider value?  I suppose one might argue it could only do so if I was able to publish in massive media.  That I don’t means it doesn’t.

And so the exhortations to do instead of think.

Get involved.

Stuff envelopes.

Meet real people without the mediation of a computer screen.

But if one truly believes what one does best is to think stuff and, then, to proceed to write it down as a consequence, whether recognised or not, whether fêted or no, wouldn’t the space one occupies in the world be utterly zeroed by a giving-up on a skill which one day others might treasure?

As you can see, I’ve resisted the temptation to trot out the word “talent” yet again.

Let’s stick with “skill”; or perhaps the much more prosaic “skillset”.

I hate the latter word (even as I’m obliged to use it frequently) as much as I hate the term “monetise”!

Do you too?



On to a real-life example of bearing witness.

As I write these words, a million people march in Paris in favour of freedom of expression; in favour of a world free of terror.

We need these moments.

We need to bear witness.

I refuse to believe a philosophising world cannot win the day.

If we play the card of violence back at those who luxuriate in violence, we lose so much of what it is to be human.

When I suggest we need love, I do not do so out of a desire, intention or goal to perpetuate existing structures that cause people serious and undeniable damage.

I’m suggesting a post-restructuring strategy.

Something that was missing in Iraq; in Afghanistan; in Libya …

Even – at a different level, admittedly – here in Britain, where the conflict of Coalition government has wrought tremendous violence on a post-war Old World of solidarity – a world which my generation grew up both in the shadow of as well as benefiting from; an Old World lately sadly accustomed to being accused of cruelty to its own.


To my conclusion.

In most duels, we allow most participants the right to choose their weapons.

I choose mine.

I choose the keyboard.

Insignificantly; irrelevantly to many perhaps; in a very small way.  But democracy’s sustenance, its renewal, its continuity, all depend on little people doing little things.

I won’t ever search out a big role in anything.  Firstly, it’s too late.  Secondly, that’s never been my way; never been my style.

But, through such continued little example, almost religiously I suppose, definitely in the tradition of teaching which has threaded its way through my family’s generations, I will encourage as many as I can to do the best they can – without ever encouraging them to hurt anyone at all.

And maybe – who knows? Perhaps well beyond your or my time – a philosophising, writing and loving world of shared learning can be recreated as a result.


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