Friday, November 03, 2006

The new Dark Ages

By Bradley Burston

[Editor's Note (Ha'aretz): This week, Bradley Burston was a recipient of the Eliav-Sartawi award for Middle East journalism, awarded at the United Nations. The following is the text of his acceptance speech.]

I am deeply honored to accept this award. I want to thank you, Search for Common Ground, for your continued belief that the world is not a lost cause.

Especially now. We live in an age of uncommon darkness. I live in an area of spectacularly failed hopes. I have spoken to many people a lot older and a lot smarter than I am, Arab and Jew alike, who have told me that they cannot recall a period of less hope, greater dangers, a more pressing need for peace, or fewer workable ways to get there.

Centuries ago, a lack of access to information fueled what we came to know as the Dark Ages. In our times, access to too much information is, I believe, creating something very similar. For the journalist, this places a special burden, day in and day out: In our desperation to make sense of the senseless, journalists are forced anew to fight the temptation to reduce breathtakingly complex conflicts, to cartoons.

So I would like to say a special word of thanks to the many, many people who in this new Dark Ages of ours, remain optimistic without just cause. Stubborn people, unreasonable enough to see others beyond the caricature of conflict, beyond the blinding obscenity of war, beyond the persuasive and wholly misleading mask that this age has given us as enemies.

For me, this begins with my family, my life partner Varda, her shocking resources of strength, her moral compass, her fundamental, magnificent hope against hope. And our children, who see events and people in a light of fairness that their journalist father can only envy.

When parents tell their children the Facts of Life, what they usually teach them, or try to, at any rate, are the facts of love.

The facts of hatred they often leave to us, your journalists. So these are the facts that, it seems to me, we should get across before those children go out into this world which has grown so dark:

A war is much easier to start than it is to stop. A peace is much easier to break, than it is to make.

And finally, despite everything, people on both sides who want peace, even if they have lost their belief in it, can triumph in the end, over their own leaders, over their own grief, over their own very profound pain.

It takes optimism without just cause. It takes an ability to take to heart the words of the man who knew the darkness of our times as no one else, Samuel Beckett:

"No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

As so often with Bradley's pieces, the talkback comments are equally revealing...


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