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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, December 20, 2002
    Le Monde diplomatique
     
    During the 1997 General Election campaign I had an interesting couple of days hosting a visit to Toxteth, where I was a community worker, of two international journalists. We visited a range of community organisations and church groups, wandered around the area breaking off for numerous conversations with local people, and the result was an informed, thoughtful and balanced piece on the conditions of life in one of the country's poorer areas, of the community's fears and future hopes.

    The journalists weren't from a British broadsheet, nor from Radio Four or Channel Four, none of whom, to my knowledge at the time ventured into Liverpool 8. They were from Le Monde. Our liaisons with locals required a translator (fortunately a French-speaking friend was on hand for that), and the published article was, obviously, also in French. This impressed me - a foreign-language publication concerned to test the state of Britain's people not by focussing narrowly on 'marginal' (middle-English) seats as so many of our journalists did, but to hear the views of the truly 'marginalised'. A big difference in perspective. I'm a great believer that truth is best found on the edges, amongst those on the receiving end of policy. So Le Monde's methods get my vote.

    Thus, today, my everlasting thirst for perspective and addiction to print journalism saw a new publication float gracefully from letterbox to doormat. The physically lightweight but in every other way, authoritative Le Monde diplomatique. It's Le Monde's monthly round-up of international affairs, in English. Tonight, the first free evening of the week I've spent with that journal.

    What have I learned so far? That Afghanistan is still deeply unstable and full of largely impotent American troops, (this is really summarising) that Iran is likely to become the new Iraq in 2003 with its clear nuclear capacity, deep insight into the state of Iraq's Ba'ath party and plenty about how the US is manipulating the UN into positions that contradict its own mandate and flout all the rules of international law....

    Interesting to compare and contrast these leftist / 'independent' views with the Economist's The World in 2003, where the analyses are often fairly similar but the conclusions are based less on global ethics and more on the requirements of military-industrial realpolitic. If I were to ask the guy on the street in L8 to comment on that, he'd probably say, "Well, what do you expect?" Which may have saved me a fiver (The Economist) or £36 (Le Monde sub), but would have undermined the quiet thrill of opening envelopes, mining for truth, diving for pearls.