Writers – What You Need to Know about the Audience of the Future

"When reading the words of people who lived a hundred years ago, I try to remember that if someone on the future’s equivalent of the Internet reads my views on poverty, justice, civil rights, theology, or whatever, they will probably shake their head at how callous, regressive and unenlightened I appear to be compared to the sensitive, progressive and enlightened ways of the future."

“When reading the words of people who lived a hundred years ago, I try to remember that if someone on the future’s equivalent of the Internet reads my views on poverty, justice, civil rights, theology, or whatever, they will probably shake their head at how callous, regressive and unenlightened I appear to be compared to the sensitive, progressive and enlightened ways of the future.”

Of course, some people reading my words today might wonder the same thing.

***

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8 Responses to Writers – What You Need to Know about the Audience of the Future

  1. Today’s progressive is tomorrow’s troglodyte. If that doesn’t encourage I don’t know what does.

  2. I’m not so sure. Yes there are cultural differences and conventions, the past is another country. But I think empathy is empathy, feeling the pain of another person, recognising them as a fellow human being crosses all cultural barriers. Yes we can grow in empathy and compassion, but the biggest difference is the people we treat as outsiders, not one of us, to be exploited or their suffering to be rationalised, dismissed or simply ignored. While we would call the emergency services today rather than apply salad dressing, the compassion we see in the Good Samaritan is timeless.
    Perhaps the difference is we can feel and act compassionately towards a person suffering in a different social circumstance to us. It is only later our compassion grabs a hold our intellect and conscience and shakes them saying, No. That’s just wrong, it has to change.

  3. Laura Droege says:

    Great point, Tim. It was incredibly interesting to read texts from centuries past regarding women’s rights, slavery, and identity, and see from the inside how people then viewed those issues. The tricky part was interpreting it without foisting my “enlightened” late 20th century understanding upon those people, and accusing them of racism/sexism/etc. when they were simply reflecting the current understanding of those issues. In some cases, the words they used had evolved in meaning, and some students misunderstood entire passages or texts because they placed the 20th century meaning on an 18th or 19th century (or earlier) context.

    I’ve noticed a similar thing happen at churches when the disciples misunderstanding of Jesus’ words is discussed. A lot of folks tend to think the disciples should’ve “gotten it” earlier, since WE, the enlightened Christians of the 21st century, “get it.” But the disciples didn’t have the Holy Spirit aiding their understanding before Pentacost, and we do. Can’t judge them too harshly!

    • Tim says:

      C.S. Lewis wrote of the snobbery that comes through merely appearing later in history. We get it when those who came earlier didn’t. I wonder what that will look like in the future when people look at our way of doing things.

  4. Bill M says:

    It has been a while since I read Cicero “On friendship” so I can only recall my reaction that not much had actually changed in two thousand years.

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