Getting the news from local, or even national, sources is a lot like looking in a mirror: we only ever see things from the front.
Admittedly, the view of the world is pretty incredible from here. You might even be forgiven for thinking, as you turn the pages of your local paper, watch the evening news, or click through sites like the Globe and Mail or The New York Times, that an entire 360-degree view of the world is on display.
There’s in-depth coverage of the Iraq war, the devastation in Burma, earthquake rescue efforts in China, and, of course, the latest blunders and backpedalling of our own politicians.
But much like avoiding the embarrassment of getting the back of your skirt caught in your pantyhose, it sometimes pays to take a backwards glance into the mirror of world opinion and ask yourself the question: what does the world look like from there?
A recent news item is a good example of this. As CTV reported, yet another China-related protest had taken place, this one more than 6,000 strong and on Parliament Hill. But the protestors weren’t calling for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. Nor were they decrying China’s human rights policies. Instead, they were there to show support for China, to make it known they were fed up with what they perceived as the one-sided portrayal of the country by the majority of Western media.
The story wasn’t widely covered, but it was a tiny glimpse from the other side of the looking glass. ?There? could be anywhere?Fiji, Bangladesh, Morocco, Estonia. Places most of us form opinions about through the filter of our national media; opinions that can become dangerously narrow if they’re always from the same vantage point.
China is a case in point. Reading recent archives on the CBC, an immediate impression of China forms: the state has blacklisted a Chinese actress for a sexually explicit film role; authorities have only grudgingly unblocked access to some English-language Internet sites; in spite of the country’s economic growth, it remains a quagmire of repression and corruption. But a recent headline in The Barbados Advocate offers a different perspective. A ceremony was held celebrating the signing of a grant-funding agreement between Barbados and China. Along with Chinese funding for arts and education projects, the agreement includes ?plans to have an exchange programme involving teachers, artistes and artistic groups from Barbados and China.? An open cultural exchange that doesn’t fit the image portrayed by North American media.
Closer to home, Newfoundland has been the traditional butt of jokes; a have-not province that can only gaze wistfully at the glories of the west. The U.K.’s Telegraph has a different view. Forget the boom in Alberta. Apparently, the island is our best-kept secret?and Britons are snapping up vacation properties there in increasing numbers, delighting in the ?superb scenery and . . . friendly, fast-talking neighbours.?
Is there truth to both sides of these pictures? Yes. And as the world’s borders (cultural, political, and economic) continue to shrink, It’s a fact we’d be smart to remember. Especially if we don’t want to be caught with our drawers showing.