The more time you spend in a rarefied office, be it an office at a university, a newspaper, a government bureau, or even a bank, the more likely you are to become like Andrew Jaspan.
Jaspan is the editor-in-chief at Melbourne’s The Age. Seems he was a bit offended when his fellow Australian Douglas Wood said the guys who kidnapped him in Iraq are “assholes.”
I was, I have to say, shocked by Douglas Wood’s use of the a—hole word, if I can put it like that, which I just thought was coarse and very ill-thought through and I think demeans the man and is one of the reasons why people are slightly sceptical of his motives and everything else.
The issue really is largely, speaking as I understand it, he was treated well there. He says he was fed every day, and as such to turn around and use that kind of language I think is just insensitive.
Apparently, people can succumb to the Stockholm Syndrome from half a world away these days. Wood’s kidnappers kicked him in the head, tied him up blindfolded for 47 days, and murdered two other captives in front of him.
There are concrete steps you can take to avoid becoming like Andrew Jaspan. Get out of the office. Visit a third-world country — Cancun in Mexico doesn’t count. Work on a shrimp boat. Join the military. Become a journalist embedded with the military in a war zone. Become a cop. Go on “ride alongs” with cops — if you’re a writer, as Jaspan is, they will let you. Work in construction for a couple of months. Next time you go to Europe, visit Bosnia instead of France. If you do spend your life in a rarefied office (and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that all by itself) read books written by people who don’t spend their lives in rarefied offices.
Those are just some suggestions. I’m sure there are plenty of other activities that might do the trick just as well. (Hat tip: Dr. Frank.)
UPDATE: Callimachus makes a similar point in a different way.