August 31, 2013
July 4, 2013
This is the August issue in the Last Post of the Month series, commenting on my blog and what it is trying to achieve.
What did Martin Luther King Jnr achieve when he gave his I Have a Dream speech 50 years ago this week? The speech contained no new demands. It was not strong on analysis. Instead, for thousands of civil rights marchers in Washington on the 28th August 1963, and on behalf of millions of people who have watched and listened to it since that day, his speech gave them back their own experience and the aspirations arising from their own experience, now in a heightened form.
You could say that the speech distilled this experience – except that the listener’s experience has been mobilised rather than stilled. You could say that it captured this experience – except that the speech emancipates its listeners, releasing them from their particulars (‘free at last’) and entering them into a wider communion of autonomous human beings.
With Dr King as their mediator, e pluribus unum.
In the rhythms of his carefully chosen words and in the cadences of his sing song voice, Dr King provided the point of entry into a world which already exceeded the particular status quo, as it also transcended thestatus quo of particulars. Thus he found the form of expression most suited to the democratic content of the civil rights movement.
In its own small way, Singing The News similarly seeks to release particular experiences from the confines of what we are supposed to be and how we are meant to react in order to hold down our allotted role in the status quo. Instead, this is news for and about people in the fullness of their human being.
To this end, the heightened form of Singing The News is intended to heighten us – to give us more stature as human beings, to give more stature to being human. But whereas the heightened form of Dr King’s speech came about in response to a substantial political movement, today there is no such movement for me to respond to. Heightened form is all I have with which to call our common humanity into existence.
Illness has again interfered with my work schedule. So this first entry for July should have been my last word in June. In line with other last words at the end of previous months, it is a comment on what I’m doing here rather than a further example of me doing it.
There have been some changes. A couple of weeks ago I changed the title of my blog from Take 2: composing the news to Singing The News: digital ballads for the common reader. This because the fact that my pieces are re-writes or second takes – Take 2 – on information which has already entered the public domain, is not the most important thing about them; and since it is of secondary importance, I finally realised that this aspect ought not to occupy the top line. Duh!
In the change of title, my efforts to lift news out of its traditional register are now accorded top priority. I have also added a second deck: ‘reaching for the universal in today’s top stories’. In this additional line I declare my intention to re-constitute news events as part of the general or universal experience of being human, instead of constructing them largely as aberrations – odd things happening to peculiar people, as in the Shock! Horror! School of Traditional Journalism.
These two new lines are themselves aligned to the distinction between form and content. Taken together, however, they also suggest the essential relation between the two. Thus, it is suggested that striving to realise universal content requires a different register or form, in which news is not so much straight talking but more of a hymn sung to humanity.
Both form and content come together in the idea of the ‘common reader’ – ‘common’ as in the content of our lives which we have in common; which in turn identifies human beings/being human as the universal. This expressed in a particular form of words and arrived at, hopefully, on the part of the reader.