Watching any episode of BBC Question Time, or tuning in for any political interview, the one thing that’s noticeable is the balance of ‘Looking Back’ to ‘Looking Forward’.
Heck, this is actually a game you can play at home. You can mark the politicians or self-appointed experts on whether they ‘Look Back’ or ‘Look Forward’.
Ok, you probably need an example. So, let’s pretend a question has come up like, “Will Donald Trump be able to increase job prospects in America?”
As they go round the table for answers, there will be those who ‘Look Back’ and those who ‘Look Forward’ before framing their response.
Those who ‘Look Forward’ will discuss the economy and potential outcomes. They will look to the here and now and then to the future. They might highlight Trump’s business style and discuss how he might be able to apply it to negotiations for international trade deals which would increase productivity within existing companies and so lead to an increase in the workforce.
They’ve actually bothered to answer the question by ‘looking forward’ to what might happen and why.
Then there are those members of the panel, or even the audience, who ‘Look Back’. Their answer will be to discuss only the past of the individual, in this example, Donald Trump. They will reel off a decade or two of his history and will sneeringly highlight everything they disagree with. In the case of Trump, that’s a heck of a lot. Indeed, they will list each incident, complete with disapproving adjectives and will leave pauses for the audience to add their baying and disapproving noises. Trump has undeniably been outrageous both in business and in his life, especially when it comes to his ideas about how women should be treated. In the past.
But the original question remains unanswered and ignored, forgotten in fact. The obsession with ‘looking back’ at what went before means they are far too busy spouting bile to bother.
Panelists obsessed with ‘looking back’ will also deliver extremely boring history lessons of, say, the trade union movement, or, god forbid you get them started on this, the NHS.
They will fill their diatribe with dates, numbers, historical statistics and ‘facts’ guaranteed to send even the most attentive listener into a deep sleep. They will never reach a point of actually addressing any question about a way forward on anything, just filling the time with history and more history as if it is in some way relevant. It never is. But, cleverly they’ve not had to even try to answer the question.
Maybe their obsession with the past, with history, is because they have no idea how to look to the future, no idea how to ‘look forward’. They measure everything by what happened 50 years ago, and how ‘x’ caused ‘y’ to happen. They aren’t able to work anything out when relating it to modern trends, modern requirements, modern needs, or how humanity changes and learns from what has gone before. They feel a need to obsess about irrelevant and outdated mechanisms from a time before we had mobile phones, instant communication and mass media. A time when we faced famine or invasion. A different time.
However, it’s a time they ‘look back’ to as often as they can, despite it not being relevant to today and the future.
There seems to be an interesting political allegiance for the ‘Look Backers’ and ‘Look Forwarders’. Almost without exception, those who ‘look forward’ are politically on the right. Those who ‘look back’ tend to be politically on the left.
Does this maybe indicate that those on the right are the ones who will be more trustworthy when it comes to ensuring the future is bright? Does this maybe indicate that those on the left, whilst maybe having a brilliant knowledge of the past, can’t be trusted with the future?
And, when it comes to BBC Question Time, isn’t it time the ‘Look Backers’ were called out for not having a clue instead of being allowed to sit with equal billing on a panel which usually has the purpose of looking forward?