On writing/reading in 2016

 

The day after Brexit, and the day after the US election, I found myself wandering along the slow and dark waters of two rivers I have at heart: the Thames and the Po.

In both cases, and at the end of two, long, sleepless nights, I genuinely felt adrift. It seemed like journalists (me included) were going astray, that we became unable to focus on what really matters. Sure, we are the first to comment on Donald Trump’s latest tweet; of course, we’ll pour tons of ink on Vladimir Putin’s dog; and yes, we’ll swiftly sell our mothers for a profile on Nigel Farage.

Our obsession with these characters – who look a lot like the cast of some bizarre medieval play – distracted us from reporting on what’s important: real life, and the struggle to understand a world that is spinning too fast.

We didn’t see the Rust Belt region; we misinterpreted voter intentions in England and Wales and, above all, we failed to understand people, what they’re asking for, their aspirations, and their needs.  The year made me think of the kind of journalism I’d like to do, the topics and the issues I’d like to focus on. Less golden palaces, more loud suburbs.

A selection of what I wrote:

The Mystery of the Stolen Klimt

Brexit, what happens next?

Corbyn, explained

The secret lives of the Mafia hunters

A selection of what I read:

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Harari

PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future, Paul Mason

Racconti Romani, Alberto Moravia

Pereira Maintains, Antonio Tabucchi

The perfect soundtrack for 2016:

The Anticlimax of Enlightenment

350px-doi_rousseauI stayed up all night and watched the Presidential election. It started as a G&T-fuelled night among old friends, colleagues and nerd alike and it ended up with four of us, sprawled on the sofa at 9am, discomforted and slightly sick.

As I lumbered through the city centre to get to my apartment, dodging passers-by and street market stalls, I tried to adjust to the unexpected Trump victory and to soothe this sense of guilt that still haunts me.

While ruminating on the failure of journalists (me included) to truly grasp and understand the reality of things just outside their comfort zone, a brilliant book came up to mind and, instead of going to sleep after a 36-hour electoral marathon, I’m still sitting in my chair with this pamphlet in my hands.

It’s Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality.

Like many of us right now, Rousseau was confused by technology and politics, and the effects they had on morals and equality. He was puzzled, as we are right now, by a world that was spinning faster than before, by the growing corruption among the emergent intellectual class and new forms of entertainment that looked a lot like new forms of enslavement.

If you’re perplexed and downhearted right now, Rousseau will help you. Or he’ll scare you to death, either way.