I was talking to my friend M. recently about the strategic dialogues and after he went on for some time about a particular point, I had a feeling of déjà vu. I couldn’t shake that feeling which stayed with me for the rest of the day. It was only after I had eaten my evening meal and was sitting in front of the television being a couch potato that I broke the spell. It wasn’t déjà vu – actually I had heard this same point before in almost the same words from a TV show!
That’s why I really liked Mashhood Rizvi’s first part of his Challenging the Mass Media series in Express Tribune. What really struck me was that in a way he is actually telling something that is so obvious it is easy to overlook. As “passive consumers” we are not reading, listening, and watching media and thinking critically about it. Rather we are just taking in words, phrases, and ideas and then repeating them later.
I will admit that I am just as guilty. There are commentators that I like and respect and I follow their opinions pretty regularly. Sometimes I find myself saying something that I think is very brilliant, when in the back of my mind I realize that I am repeating someone else’s idea only! Certainly that’s natural to some extent – we all learn from each other and build on each other’s ideas. But we should at least be thinking about what we’re saying, not just repeating like an echo.
Here’s what Mashhood Rizvi says:
Challenging media and education means renouncing our roles as passive consumers. It means breaking free of the limits placed upon our actions and interactions and instead thinking about opportunities for unlearning, co-learning, and self-learning. Today, many people are questioning the media and education, sometimes overtly, sometimes subtly — how can more of this happen? Perhaps by each of us first asking ourselves certain critical questions such as: How can I live and interact in ways that challenge exploitation and indoctrination?; How can I break the monopoly that education/media has?; How can I encourage people to reclaim learning as inherent to themselves, not as something given to them by experts?; How can I engage in and promote local, diverse self-expressions?; How can I ask more questions and encourage others around me to ask questions?
The ancient philosopher Socrates used to learn and teach by asking questions only. It’s an interesting exercise to try the next time someone is talking on and on – keep asking them why they think this and where is their evidence to support their ideas. But most importantly, challenge yourself to the same questions. The worst thing that can happen is we all might learn something!