Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 18 2016: What about information, the media and building up critical mass for reform?

BRADES, Montserrat, May 23, 2016 – Last time, we again saw that if we are to progress, the media, government and business mountains must work together to fulfill our national vision.  We also saw that this is actually a big challenge, as there is an informal “party of business as usual” that stoutly resists (and will try to discredit) long needed change.

A key concept in change is, critical mass.

Commanding heights

The idea here comes from physics: you need the right amount of the right materials and components, correctly organised, to get a nuclear reactor to work.

Block critical mass, and no nuclear chain reaction will occur.

So, it is not hard to see that those who oppose major reforms will try to cut off resources, will try to lock out and discredit people they view as a threat to their interests,  and will try to prevent effective re-organisation.  Or at least, they will try to delay change as long as possible. Too often, ruthless opponents  will try to strike “compromises” that they calculate will cripple proposed reforms.

In a democracy, that means, the first battle to be won is a battle for public opinion (including, opinion within the civil service).

So, the media – print, electronic, broadcast and social – are the first strategic point if the battle for reform is to be won in good time. (For, only if a critical mass of support can be built up and sustained, can we move a ten to twenty year programme of necessarily painful governance and economic reforms forward. Yes, it took twenty years to transform Montserrat from the 1960’s to 80’s so we should not be surprised that it will most likely take that much time this time around.)

Where, here in Montserrat, time is simply not on our side.

Where, we have already lost twenty years.

And where, the present government clearly has a deep-seated problem with communication.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation has a model of how communities decide and act towards sustainable development; a model that highlights the pivotal role of information:

information

 

We can see how different sectors of society draw on information and interact, yielding the net decisions and actions of the community. These then impact on our socio-cultural, economic and natural environment, which the feeds back more information to the community. As such decisions, interactions, actions and impacts play out, the community progresses. Or, it regresses.

As the MSS school motto puts it: who does not progress, retrogresses.

Our job today is to see to it that we make good progress, starting with a sound and sober discussion in our media that helps us all understand what is at stake and what may be a useful way forward.

A good newspaper or radio or TV station, properly supported and with brave editorial leadership, can save a nation. But if the media fail the nation, the nation most likely will fail too.

That is how serious this matter is.

We need to strengthen our local media, we need to support it, and we need to provide sound and attractive news, views and education content that will help move our community forward. As a community, we need to cultivate the taste for sound and substantial media information.  Where also, we have to recognise that we are now at least a trilingual society: English, Spanish and Haitian Creole. (I am not sure how well French will substitute for the Creole.)

We need to become readers, readers of serious information.

We need to cultivate the skills of telling straight from spin – let’s roll the tape:

Story elements

 

We need to learn enough about serious matters that we do not mislead one another when we talk about such.

The time when we could afford to play at crabs- in- the- barrel or at stab- in- the- back is over.

We must accept that it is dangerous for a country to be in a situation where the dominant mass media house is a government owned radio station.  (Perhaps, we can create a public communication body and operate ZJB as a community service station at arms-length from Government control. If we do so, the publicly funded research services should be available to members of the public and to other news organisations who are willing to follow a reasonable code of conduct.)

We must not neglect the public library, a great invention for public education.

While we are on this topic, there is need for a proper digital archiving project for the library, the National Trust and the National Museum.

Also, why not create a digital e-book lending service as a part of the library? (And why not integrate that with the schools? One educational tablet per child?)

We must become willing to support community based media houses, in the national interest, and they will then need to provide some access for reasonable public information.

We need a proper online Montserrat hub that brings together web resources for Montserrat.

The GoM web site urgently needs a drastic update.

We need a proper programme of townhall meetings and public for a for discussion of major topics.

A community forum that represents civil society and local districts would be very helpful.

And more, much more.

So, again: why not now, why not here, why not us?

END –

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BRADES, Montserrat, May 23, 2016 – Last time, we again saw that if we are to progress, the media, government and business mountains must work together to fulfill our national vision.  We also saw that this is actually a big challenge, as there is an informal “party of business as usual” that stoutly resists (and will try to discredit) long needed change.

A key concept in change is, critical mass.

Commanding heights

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The idea here comes from physics: you need the right amount of the right materials and components, correctly organised, to get a nuclear reactor to work.

Block critical mass, and no nuclear chain reaction will occur.

So, it is not hard to see that those who oppose major reforms will try to cut off resources, will try to lock out and discredit people they view as a threat to their interests,  and will try to prevent effective re-organisation.  Or at least, they will try to delay change as long as possible. Too often, ruthless opponents  will try to strike “compromises” that they calculate will cripple proposed reforms.

In a democracy, that means, the first battle to be won is a battle for public opinion (including, opinion within the civil service).

So, the media – print, electronic, broadcast and social – are the first strategic point if the battle for reform is to be won in good time. (For, only if a critical mass of support can be built up and sustained, can we move a ten to twenty year programme of necessarily painful governance and economic reforms forward. Yes, it took twenty years to transform Montserrat from the 1960’s to 80’s so we should not be surprised that it will most likely take that much time this time around.)

Where, here in Montserrat, time is simply not on our side.

Where, we have already lost twenty years.

And where, the present government clearly has a deep-seated problem with communication.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation has a model of how communities decide and act towards sustainable development; a model that highlights the pivotal role of information:

information

 

We can see how different sectors of society draw on information and interact, yielding the net decisions and actions of the community. These then impact on our socio-cultural, economic and natural environment, which the feeds back more information to the community. As such decisions, interactions, actions and impacts play out, the community progresses. Or, it regresses.

As the MSS school motto puts it: who does not progress, retrogresses.

Our job today is to see to it that we make good progress, starting with a sound and sober discussion in our media that helps us all understand what is at stake and what may be a useful way forward.

A good newspaper or radio or TV station, properly supported and with brave editorial leadership, can save a nation. But if the media fail the nation, the nation most likely will fail too.

That is how serious this matter is.

We need to strengthen our local media, we need to support it, and we need to provide sound and attractive news, views and education content that will help move our community forward. As a community, we need to cultivate the taste for sound and substantial media information.  Where also, we have to recognise that we are now at least a trilingual society: English, Spanish and Haitian Creole. (I am not sure how well French will substitute for the Creole.)

We need to become readers, readers of serious information.

We need to cultivate the skills of telling straight from spin – let’s roll the tape:

Story elements

 

We need to learn enough about serious matters that we do not mislead one another when we talk about such.

The time when we could afford to play at crabs- in- the- barrel or at stab- in- the- back is over.

We must accept that it is dangerous for a country to be in a situation where the dominant mass media house is a government owned radio station.  (Perhaps, we can create a public communication body and operate ZJB as a community service station at arms-length from Government control. If we do so, the publicly funded research services should be available to members of the public and to other news organisations who are willing to follow a reasonable code of conduct.)

We must not neglect the public library, a great invention for public education.

While we are on this topic, there is need for a proper digital archiving project for the library, the National Trust and the National Museum.

Also, why not create a digital e-book lending service as a part of the library? (And why not integrate that with the schools? One educational tablet per child?)

We must become willing to support community based media houses, in the national interest, and they will then need to provide some access for reasonable public information.

We need a proper online Montserrat hub that brings together web resources for Montserrat.

The GoM web site urgently needs a drastic update.

We need a proper programme of townhall meetings and public for a for discussion of major topics.

A community forum that represents civil society and local districts would be very helpful.

And more, much more.

So, again: why not now, why not here, why not us?

END –