Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media Role in Advancing Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Society, and the Intricacies of Crisis Communication

Salisu Suleiman, Abiodun Adeniyi


The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day is interestingly convoluted. The reason is that it invites us to, at once examine some important issues, and in great depth. It talks about critical minds, then critical times, and then moves on to the role of the media in the evolution of a peaceful, just and inclusive society. The subject matter therefore envisages some structural or dialectical connections and interconnections between all the variables in evidence. And these variables are critical mind, critical time, the media, and then a society that is peaceful, just and inclusive. There is a delicate relationship between all these variables.  It is important, therefore, that we appreciate their differences and similarities, through their definitions, so we can effectively link their collective relevance, or irrelevance, to contemporary media times, and even to our overall everyday life.

First, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, what do we mean by a critical mind? How do we differentiate between a mind that is critical and the one that is uncritical? Why the adjective critical should be deployed to describe the mind? The mind in itself is that part of us that helps us to think. The mind is the faculty of thought, which harbours our senses, and permits us to differentiate between right and wrong. The mind is our guide, our conscience, and the residence of our knowledge. The mind develops through multiple socialization processes, through space and time, while its quality is also determined by the context, and contents of exposures. The mind can be flat, when it is less rigorous in thoughts.  The mind is sophisticated when the quality of thought is elevated, urbane and comparatively advanced. The mind may be critical, or uncritical depending on how the content is applied.

A mind is critical if thoughts are situated between all the necessary scales of judgement. That is to say, the critical mind should not be mono-directional, unilineal, or parochial. The critical mind should be disparate in dimensions, versed in perspectives, and logical in approach. The critical mind should look at the good, the bad and the ugly. It should look at the micro, the mezzo, and the macro, and even into positions in-between. The critical mind is, therefore, the objective mind, which figures issues from the thesis, anti-thesis, and then synthesis viewpoint. But remember that the critical mind is probably being mentioned as an utopian concept. The reason is that the human mind is patently self- indulged.

The tendency often, is to see things from the self-serving point of view. Service to self, which remains the first temptation of the human being, is unfortunately less gracious. It is unsalutary, often unpopular, and might even be seen as ungodly in many circles. Grace therefore comes when matters are ideally distanced from the self, when matters are not subjectivised, and when matters are viewed from the lenses of dispassion. The essence of a critical mind is for contextual thinking, for balancing, and ultimately for the situation of solutions to problems. But how then does critical mind relate with the critical time? I’ll turn to this next.

Critical times can mean different things. The word critical can parade synonyms like serious, crucial, deadly, important, difficult, dangerous, delicate, and tortuous, amongst others, when related to time. But in this context however, I understand our reference to critical time to mean unusual times. It can mean difficult, strange, or unpredictable times. It can be the time of some revolution, of some fast paced changes, which is redefining our life, how we relate, and how we interact with each other, especially as it concerns media. Critical times now, therefore, are our present times where changes are frenetic, and where changes are taking place almost by the hour, on a planetary basis, and now at speed, even greater than the speed of light.

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