Not on my watch
Columns by Mitchell Chapman, Features Editor and Vice President of The Beacon
As the semester winds down and with the last issue of The Beacon hot off the press, it is a great time to reflect on the school year thus far, and think about the long break ahead. With this in mind, I thought my last column of the semester would be a great time to get a little meta; to explain the name of this very column.
“Not on my watch,” is derived from a quote from the popular television show, “Doctor Who,” specifically from an episode of Peter Capaldi’s run as the titular time-traveling alien, The Doctor, titled “The Zygon Inversion.” The episode deals with themes of humanity and conflicting cultures, with its central conflict focusing on an uneasy relationship between mankind and the shape-shifting Zygon species, who were forced to live among man. However, when a terrorist subsect of the Zygons starts attacking humans, the world is thrown into an uproar, all boiling down to an intense scene where a representative of man (Beverley Cressman’s Kate Stewart) and a representative of the Zygons are presented with two devices, which, when pressed, would give each race a 50/50 chance of annihilation or salvation, in which Capaldi’s Doctor gives a chilling monologue:
“I don’t understand?” he said. “Are you kidding? Me? Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war? This funny little thing? This is not a war! I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine. And when I close my eyes I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight till it burns your hand, and you say this: No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!”
The last part of which strikes me, and is a main reason why I enjoy Capaldi’s Doctor so much, and this is a quote I often think about as a journalist. We all see things we don’t like in the world and things that are wrong. We’ve all experienced pain, sometimes as a result of those things, and it can be easy to let that pain control us, either in a way that debilitates us or in a way that sees us lashing out. Capaldi’s Doctor channels his pain in a constructive way, to do his best at fixing the wrongs in the universe, even if it doesn’t always work.
That is a principle I can respect and live by. More strongly, his monologue during the season 10 finale concretizes my admiration for Capaldi’s Doctor, and the principles he stands by, which I have found to be very compatible through a journalistic standpoint.
“Winning?” he said. “Is that what you think it’s about? I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone, or because I hate someone, or because, because I want to blame someone. It’s not because it’s fun and God knows it’s not because it’s easy. It’s not even because it works, because it hardly ever does. I do what I do, because it’s right! Because it’s decent! And above all, it’s kind. It’s just that. Just kind… Hey, you know, maybe there’s no point in any of this at all, but it’s the best I can do, so I’m going to do it. And I will stand here doing it till it kills me… Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand, is where I fall.”
Here, Capaldi is talking about character as it relates to principles, as he begs his friend, Missy/The Master (the show deals with multiple incarnations of the same character[s]) to help him save a group of people trapped on a colony ship that is under attack, who have very little odds of surviving, even with The Doctor’s help. I find journalism to often be similar to that, i.e. just because journalists hold powerful entities accountable for what they do, it does not prevent such entities from doing damage to the public, nor can it repair it. The only place journalists are allowed to take a stand on issues are through opinion pieces, and even then, that’s just writing at the end of the day, it does not hold anywhere close to the weight of official legislation. But that doesn’t mean journalists shouldn’t try to make the world a better place.
The notion of “Who I am is where I stand,” also greatly appeals to me, because to me, you are your principles, and I have great respect for those who can stand up to fight for what they believe is right, especially when they potentially have a lot to lose by doing so.
Daniel Pearl, who wrote for The Berkshire Eagle and North Adams Transcript before moving on to The Wall Street Journal, died standing up to powerful interests, and in the same vein as that Capaldi line, I also look up to him as a major role model for what I do. I can only hope I can live up to those principles.
Because, as Capaldi says, “…because it’s right! Because it’s decent! And above all, it’s kind”. I think even critical opinion pieces are kind in a way; they give their subjects necessary hell and critique they can use to better themselves.