I am not often in the habit of repeating myself, but every now and then I get reminded of a simple truth: Yes, radio still matters. It matters in our culture, it matters in the cultures of the west and the east, and it especially matters in areas of the world where information is at a premium.
In the west we are often plagued, yes plagued, by 24/7 news content. Whether the news is real, fake, or irrelevant, we cannot escape news. I try. I really do. Especially local news. But even news around the country here in the US is often frustrating, vapid, or downright misleading. And on some occasions it is actually good and useful.
But we take that news for granted, just like we take so many things for granted in this country. Now I am not being critical – it is simply human nature to take things both good and bad for granted when they are common, every day experiences. Yet every now and then I am reminded exactly why we should try our best not to take things for granted, and to appreciate what we have.
Once such moment happened for me as I read a post on Thomas Witherspoon’s SWLing Blog recently regarding Radio Taboo, and his wonderful charity, Ears To Our World (ETOW). (Full disclosure, I humbly serve and support this charity as a volunteer because what they do is incredibly important in my eyes.)
A simple photograph spoke volumes to me:
Have you ever gone without radio in your lifetime? Most of us have not. We take it for granted, just like TV, our cell phones, and the Internet. Try to imagine our world without something playing our music, our favorite shows, or our streaming videos. I personally cherish the time when I can be away from the constant barrage of noise, but that’s because it is always around me. What if it wasn’t?
I see these two men and I almost envy them – not for their situation and the conditions which often keep them from having electricity and passable roads – but because a whole new sense of being connected to their world and their community is coming through their ability to hear radio broadcasts.
What I often want to turn off or run from (!), they, and many others around the world served by ETOW, cherish and delight in what a simple radio can bring into their lives.
And this is why I love shortwave radio, in particular, because I can be tuned into the world by the magic of radio. I can hear music from around the world – not just the mindless commercial cacophony playing from the “top 40” charts, but music of the soul and spirit. I can listen to news, cultural shows, and yes, even political propaganda, while learning about lands I will never visit.
And this photograph will inspire and at times perhaps even haunt me in a way, a reminder that there is still so much work to be done to bring information and music into the lives of those who cannot take for granted something they have never had. Yes, Radio Still Matters.