If you havent seen Adam Curtis’s film ‘ Hyper-normalisation’ do so. Its on BBC i player, and a link to it is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p04b183c/adam-curtis-hypernormalisation, you’ll need a strong coffee, a comfy seat and a large dose of concentration to get through all 136 Minutes of it, but if being a politically, worldly aware youthworker is your curse, then its worth it
An overview of it is provided here: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/oct/15/hypernormalisation-adam-curtis-trump-putin-syria
In 136 Minutes Curtis takes his audience on a monologue containing arresting images of the significant political, economical, social and technological order of the last 40 years, since 1975. The key message being that the presented reality on the screen is different to real life, and that these messages have veered towards the simple narrative of the world – hiding its complexities. I am not going to be able to the whole documentary justice here, and make no excuse for avoiding trying to. Having watched it yesterday, it has caused me to reflection on it and ask some critical questions for youth work and youth ministry in the culture in which hypernormalisation is said to occur.
- Did the church adopt the ‘simple message’ narrative – ie was this formed from within such a media infested culture that this shaped the type of evangelism, and descriptions of Jesus that have been unnecessarily simple, reducing myth, mystery and complexity.
- Who might youthworkers and youth ministers need to actively seek to communicate to – if they might only be in an echo chamber of their own voice? After all, there’s no point in me writing this, or other blogs if no one who might need to hear it is hearing it. Should the voice of youthworkers be in The Church Times, or TES for example? and not ‘just’ in its own publications (CYP Now, Youthwork magazine)
- How might we promote authenticity in a world of falsehood, and false realities – where ‘even’ news is manipulated by media organisations, editors and the pursuit of ratings figures and narratives.
- How might young people be guided into discernment and also to be rewarded and empowered to critical thinking, that frees and liberates them above the presented lies that make life a simple but pressurised race for popularity.
- How might youthworkers enable young people to think about the grey areas of complexities in situations, when simple responses (such as ‘no one has jobs because of immigration’, or if we topple dictatorial leaders democracy will ensue) are presented? One of the simple maxims being that if young people go to university they will get a job…
- The Occupy movement and its other social media equivalents were criticised for galvanising a collective of people against something, and even how to order a new reality – but couldnt fill a vacuum with what a new reality actually stood for. If we’re keen for young people and youth work / youth ministry to be for a common good – or the Kingdom of God then this higher reality needs to be realised somehow in the everyday practices and galvanised protesting.
- 136 minutes felt a very long time in a world of immediate tweetable soundbites. But tweetable soundbites relay simplicity, set up arguments only for them to be shot down. It took a long time for something to be considered in depth, and even then was pretty light on theories. Theres something about value, attitude or belief change that might require a similar amount of comparative longevity – but whilst short term projects are what young people are ‘exposed to’ then transformation might only be surface or behavioural.
- Taken together the Media and Film have captured that fear can be heralded and a nation can become frightened as a result. Narratives of fear are rife, see headlines in the Daily Express or Mail.
- There is a need for Narratives of Truth, that are real in a culture that is presenting unreality as truth, and an unreality that is so distinct from the day to day. It’ll be a tough gig to deconstruct simplified arguments without a truthful reality to embed them. There could be nothing more prophetic to recognise those who have spoken truth to power, and those who embody truth in their very essence. The authentic kingdom orientated gospel of Jesus might, you never know, be prophetic right now.
I am acutely conscious of this post, and all the others, of just another piece of information that gets circled around an echo chamber, one or two of my friends, a few youthworkers and like minded people will read it. Genuinely, by the end of the week if 10 people read this post i will be astounded. But it is symptomatic of the echo chamber, that many pieces of information or insight barely cross over to others.
Fortunately, the work of the youthworker is more grounded, as What we do in the conversations with young people is create moments of influence in other peoples circles of influence too, on the ground, not just via social media. This is the space where true dialogue occurs, where truth can be found. Is everything else just presented as truth?