Kate Adie was born in 1945 after the end of the war and her childhood memories include reference to a large German bomb which had inflicted collateral destruction on their garden greenhouse. Family lore, or at least Kate, held that Herr Hitler himself had targeted the household tomato production centre. Now, this refreshing item of World War 2 intelligence is, in part, factually untrue as are her assertions conceived during her career that the prestigious BBC is an inept chameleon and, this is my favourite, that a dingy streetscape, in the Stalin school of architecture, is ‘held together by cockroaches holding hands.’ In all three examples I found I had a clearer picture of the situation and furthermore realised that it stimulates thought and challenges the reader to try to understand the ‘how and the why’ of what is happening.
Kate specialised in Swedish Studies at university where her Professor dispatched her off to Berlin, West and East, with scant attention to possible Health and Safety issues, but then that’s how you learn to be a good manager of risk. Of course she never took any journalism training but seemed to learn from working in radio to TV, correspondent on Royal Tours to parts of the former empire, trouble in Belfast, much more in the former Yugoslavia, Libya, the Falklands, Tiananmen Square, the Gulf war and so on.
She found that there existed an 8,000 year.... oops sorry, 800 years of acrimony and grievances between the Serbs and the Croats, strangely similar sectarianism could be said to exist in (Northern) Ireland. In fact two incidents Kate reported on in Northern Ireland says it all; a woman screaming in anguish on her husband’s coffin and another where a boy asks why his dad won’t get up, having been killed at home in a drive by shooting. It’s utterly sad, the episodic inhumanity of humanity.
The BBC lacks perfection in camouflage and this is a good thing as the BBC’s failures allow it to successfully adapt to change because otherwise it would become a dinosaur, and dinosaurs as any child will tell you, are all extinct. This is reminiscent of the BBC’s current very successful Downton Abbey series where the characters all, more or less, adapt to change.
To its credit the BBC appears to report domestic and foreign events in a balanced manner with its naturally distinctive British tone. The means of communicating events is rapidly expanding as is well documented by the author. It is noticeable that with most news services that great attention is being focussed on specific personal events to illustrate the bigger picture.
Unfolding events may be used for propaganda purposes in many circumstances, but in the opinion of this reviewer, even reporting an event may change history, although in most circumstances it will have no discernible wide scale effect whatever. To take an example from meteorology, reputedly the flapping of a butterfly’s wing could under some circumstances, initiate though a combination of knock-on effects, cumulative changes sufficient to generate a hurricane. In human history somewhat similar outcomes may sometimes eventuate.
The most illustrative example I can think of is a is that of a young Jewish, off message cleric, Jesus Christ, whose influence would have most likely have quickly fizzled out. That is if it had not been for the correspondence skills of Saint Paul in getting Christ’s message broadcast which gained it limited success. Even then it remained unpopular with the authorities in Rome, perhaps because of its proclamation of the one true God and denial of the many gods of Rome. It was not until Constantine the Great, in the early 4th century declared for One God, One Emperor followed by his triumph on the battlefield.
There followed a duopoly of church and state whose power and glory is still felt in the world. Such is the power of the word, augmented by force, which may produce unpredictable results of great consequence for good or evil. The Kindness of Strangers can help in the understanding of such complex systems driving our world.