CJR – World of Paine

Today’s feature-

If Thomas Paine were alive today, there’s little doubt you would find him blogging from www.commonsense.org, challenging concentrated power, conspicuous wealth, and a culture amusing itself to death. Paine would likely have cherished the chance to engage his readers in debate, and spur them to direct action for better government and a more equitable economy. When people pick up a newspaper or view it online, they need to feel that the multitude of voices within are devoted to them: a democratic people determined to stay that way. One man, with one voice, did that for the American colonies—and it changed the world.

No matter what form journalism takes in the coming years, it will only remain relevant if it follows Paine’s example and treats people like citizens worthy of serious conversations. The profession forgets this at its own peril. Or, as Paine would say: “Character is much easier kept than recovered.”

-Matthew Harwood

A good solid read at Columbia Journalism Review. The name ‘Thomas Paine’ has crossed my eyes much too often recently, no wonder since it’s his death anniversary week. But first things first- Who is Thomas Paine?

A British radical and one of the founders of USA. He was, in a way, responsible for awakening colonial Americans to proclaim freedom from British rule. That is the reason he is revered by those Americans who are better aware of their history. As an intellectual and gifted writer, Paine is also looked upon highly by the intelligentsia which should include those from renowned British community as well. However, there is that other side to the coin too.

The other day I glanced at few comments on a BBC article on Paine where many Englishmen portrayed him as a traitor, confused revolutionary who betrayed his own motherland to find fame in a foreign land. Ironic it may sound but probably not. Think it this way: there are bunch of communities asking their independence from Indian govt. Talk about Kashmir, North-east and many other troubled provinces, once so often you hear some looney talking about gaining freedom from Indian rule! And ask what is your reaction. It not only infuriates me as a preposterous idea but also the mere suggestion embodies an act of treachery against your motherland. What if these people get their way and future generations hail them as heroes? What do Indians feel for Jinnah and other leaders who amputated the land of Pakistan from India.

Paine’s contributions should not be ignored and he is hailed great because the land he fought for is the world’s most powerful nation today but what if it had been a failure? Don’t the ideals change when it comes to patriotism else how would you justify a war? What if Hitler had won, would we be idolizing his ideas of fascism today? Who judges the greatness of an idea? It opens up Pandora’s box and I’ll leave it at that. Gute Nacht!

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