August 16, 2011

Tuchman's Law and Celebrating what's right with the world

The Scream by Edvard Munch

A couple of days ago I was sitting with my friends Benjamin and Raging Lion. I told them I was feeling down for several reasons, some of them personal - but as we progressed through our conversation it turned out that Benjamin said he was also feeling low these days. It feels as if the whole world is at a low point, he sighed. The hunger threatening Somalia's population; the war in Afghanistan; heads of state killing their own people in Libya and Syria; the global financial crisis; the Norwegian psychopath who gunned down innocent, young people for political reasons; the list goes on. It is easy to feel like one might as well lie down and die.

Then I also remembered in one corner of my mind some perspective of the brilliant historian Barbara Tuchman (1912-1989). I dipped into the internet and fished out the words she wrote in 1978:
Disaster is rarely as pervasive as it seems from recorded accounts. The fact of being on the record makes it appear continuous and ubiquitous whereas it is more likely to have been sporadic both in time and place. Besides, persistence of the normal is usually greater than the effect of the disturbance, as we know from our own times. This has led me to formulate Tuchman's law, as follows: 
The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five- to tenfold (or any figure the reader would care to supply). 
                                              Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century

So in order to end this post on a positive note, don't let Edvard Munch and his Scream get you down. Let's look at something better:

Mona Lisa
by Leonardo da Vinci
Barbara Tuchman
with a Mona Lisa smile

And as a final treat and encouragement to you, my dear reader  - I want to share a 22 min video made by National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones called Celebrate What's Right With the World.  Here is the link:


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