A guest post by Karl Shenanighan, age 18.
I was brought up in a household with no TV, and no newspapers. To my parents, the world was a very complicated place.
For example, they believed that scientists were not always reliable truth-tellers, and that sometimes they were even prone to anti-religious bias (my parents were Christians – not Fundamentalists, but widely-read and critically minded, so our house was full of books old and new).
Dad, a hospital physician, was doubtful about much of what he read in the medical literature, as he shared over the meal table, so that he agonised over what was best management for each of his patients, rather than simply following best-practice NHS protocols. This even landed him in hot water with the hospital management on a couple of occasions.
Mum was in marketing before she started a family. When I and my little sister, watching children’s TV when we visited granny, began to make lists of the toys we wanted, she would warn us that advertisers, too, are not always fully truthful, and are more interested in making money than helping children happy and healthy. But those toys! What wonders they performed, and how happy the children playing with them looked!
At school we learned about a Climate Emergency, but at home my parents suggested that in reality very little in the weather had changed since their own childhood, and they even had books with facts and figures about it, which were too boring for me, especially as there were no pictures.
Things got even worse when COVID came along, and Dad would come home most days with a grim look on his face, not because he had seen medical horrors on the ward, but because he said the policies he was being pressured to follow flew in the face of basic medical knowledge. The same was true of the gender studies which became compulsory at school, even for someone like me studying Classics at A-level: Mum and Dad both spoke darkly about denying biological realiies and child abuse.
When we discussed politics, unlike my school-friends my parents did not talk up one party and criticise the other, but said there was no substantial difference between them, and that neither were committed to benefiting the people.
You get the idea. In my childhood, so many things seemed to involve deep complications: eating insect protein wasn’t simply a great new technological achievement, heat-pumps were not an improvement on gas boilers, and the wars Britain got involved with were about money and power, rather than about ridding the world of evil dictators like Saddam, Milosevic, Assad, Ghaddafi, Putin, Xi, Bin Laden, etc, etc.
Well, last year I won a place at University, and living away for the first time, I discovered TV, and the BBC, and the student common room also had newspapers called “The Guardian” and “The Daily Mail,” amongst others. For the first time my eyes were opened and I saw that, outside my family’s conspiracy-theories, the world is really very simple. It turns out that Britain is really the best, most democratic nation, with the United States coming a close second, struggling against a sea of despotism across the rest of the world. The government is committed to making sure that the plain truth is told on the home front, and that our own shining democracy is established across the world, which is why we spend so much on the armed forces. Provided I manage to be sufficiently committed to diversity and inclusion, I hope I can outgrow my dysfunctional family and follow the broad road that leads to life (Jesus said that, I think) with all my intellectual friends, once I’ve decided what gender my authentic self is.
My parents say I’ve swallowed the blue pill. But I see everything so clearly now.
Editorial note: I suppose that the world must be full of inspiring stories like this, about people who have escaped from a position of gloomy scepticism to realise that governments, mass-media and academic institutions are united in telling the real, simple, truth about our world. Oddly enough, though, I can’t think of any at the moment, apart from young Karl, though I could give dozens of examples of those who have have taken the opposite journey. I guess I should watch TV more.