So Many Shades of Grey

So Many Shades of Grey


There’s a gloom in the air and a haziness in my head. The world feels grey to me.

But the daily news in Canada today is not at all grey. It’s fast, furious and frenzied, and there’s no room for greyness

On the one side we are offered villains (black) and on the other there are martyrs (white). I don’t see them that way. I just see well-meaning people with different ideas about how to do their work, people who are not infrequently making mistakes.

I don’t see illegality in the news reports of what’s happening. I don’t see corruption. I don’t see scandal. I am stuck somewhere in a grey territory.

There’s a great deal of talk about “speaking truth to power” these days, especially in relation to the two women who have been ejected from caucus. The phrase originated with the Quakers in the 1950’s and was then employed by a succession of activists and political leaders. Feminists used the term a lot in the seventies and eighties. It meant something important then, but the expression now has become a cliché which simply means talking about one’s own “truth.”

I used to think that speaking truth to power meant bravely standing up and speaking directly to authority figures – one’s boss or one’s colleagues. It took a lot of courage, I thought, to confront people who had very different ideas about things.

On the couple of occasions when I went to the president’s office to protest some initiative, or spoke out against a decision at a board meeting, I was very nervous. But that’s the way I thought such things were done. Directly.

Now it’s done differently.  “Speaking truth to power” simply means speaking out and, more and more frequently, it means speaking through the media. It’s perhaps a very literal and apt use of the term, since the media now IS the power. When you want to speak to power you must tweet, text and go on Facebook, but you don’t actually ever  need to talk face-to-face. Both social media and print media will take your truth and spread it widely. It will be presented in the powerful whiteness and blackness of its platforms.

There are no greys in these stories; people line up on one side or the other. This will not result in a resolution of the issue at hand, but it will certainly produce an escalation of it. Folks seem to like that.  It’s the way of the world. And I have to admit there’s a comforting kind of clarity, simplicity and tidiness in these black and white pictures. 

However, they can be jarring to those of us who are accustomed to seeing so many shades of grey.

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