Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Well you can google the title, it roughly translates as “Who guards the guardians”. It’s an oft cited opinion when someone or something is seen to be outside the balance and checks of power.

This was a thought going through my mind when reading the entries on the BBC Reporters blog for China. (I’m not linking it, it has enough problems and frankly I don’t think it needs to be given more exposure then I have already given it.)

Here’s the thing, not so long ago within the past 50 years, the number of people who had been to the far-flung places of the worlds was relatively small. Within Britain itself we were seeing people immigrate due to the collapse of the “Empire” and we saw people from other countries, races and cultures. But even with this, the number of people with first hand experience of other countries was relatively small. Obviously the further away the country, the smaller the number of people. For everyone else, these distant lands were a subject of wonder and amazement.

Fast forward to now and in real terms, the number of people with first-hand experience has by and large, not increased massively. The thing that has changed is that under the illusion of the media and the Internet, we all feel we are equally knowledgeable about everywhere, and thus able to make quantifable judgements about all these distant places.

Well, the obvious statement. We’re not.

The media has managed to filter the world via their own viewpoint however much they may claim not to do so, and will judge based on the values of their parent societies that they “represent”. The fact is that we don’t all know the objective history of the world and therefore in a very bad position to make judgements on it. Those, who have been in the very small group of people who have seen the mechanics of the world at close quarters, are the ones whose voice is least heard.

The Olympics have been for a lot of people a glimpse into a society that is as far geographically as it is socially, and whose values may not be at odds with ours but are different. I hope this time will be remembered fondly by all who participated with the spirit of the Olympics, but I also hope that people use this time to learn. For my part I’m a little embarrassed that at times it has felt like the western media has burst through the door of the house in order to criticize the decor whilst ignoring anything else that is not convenient.

We have also forgotten that people can be very diverse even on our own doorstep, and sometimes our own viewpoint will be more alien to them then we realise.

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