Why Are We In Such A Divided Time? | A Q&A with Tim Marshall

17 December 2019

The Knowledge Guild brought together experts who discussed the political, economic and social impacts affecting our world today.

We caught up with Tim Marshall, former Diplomatic Editor and foreign correspondent for Sky News, to explore why we are living in such a divided time.

We're in polarising times, what is the unifying message you can leave an audience with when it comes to the future?

It’s a difficult time, everybody knows that. It’s more divisive than I’ve ever known it. It’s very easy to think, as every generation before us has thought, that we’re going to hell in a hand cart. Well if that’s true, why the hell haven’t we go there yet? Because we’re not going to hell in a hand cart.

We’re going through this turbulent and difficult time, for which I have a conceptual framework about why, but the over arching framework is not just the last 20 years, it’s the last 400 years. If you look at it through that prism, we are going up, and we will probably keep going up through technology, science and knowledge.

If you look at the bigger factors of death in childbirth, diseases being eradicated, extreme poverty levels, they’re all going in the right direction. So I think we’ve got years before we come out of this unstable time. But I do have faith that as a species, we will continue to learn.

Tonight's theme is all about Planning for Unprecedented Change. What tips or strategies could you share to help us prepare for, and indeed embrace change?

At a conceptual level, if you want to understand change, you need to know as much about the situation as possible. How we got to where we are, both geographically, politically, and the ideas that have driven it. That will give you a conceptual frame to understand where you’re going. Once you have that, you can make better decisions about where things are going to go.

On a practical level, you’ve got to embrace the change. There’s an old military saying, no plan survives contact with the enemy. Mike Tyson put it differently, he says, ‘everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face’. So once you’ve been punched in the face, and your plan’s gone out the window, do not grasp for it and try and take it back. It’s gone. You’ve got a new plan now and a new direction and you must embrace it and go forward with it. Because if you keep looking back, you won’t get to where you’re going.

Finally, what’s next for you?

I’ve got a children’s book coming out. I had a relatively successful book called ‘Prisons of Geography’. I was extraordinarily gratified that it sold a million copies. We thought, well, if there’s a million grown-ups who can see the value of it, maybe we could do a children’s version. It’s a beautiful, illustrated children’s book. At the moment, that’s where my focus is, when I’m percolating another project maybe for next year.

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