Wednesday, September 26, 2012

News and negativity

I was told tonight that I shouldn't follow the news as much as I do. The rationale of this being that following the news causes one to disproportionately focus on negative aspects of life.

It could be argued that the process of intaking information about situations beyond one's own control doesn't actually accomplish anything. Ya know, aside from slowly driving you mad. And yes, perhaps it does take a certain amount of mental masochism to listen to/read it daily, but I can't bring myself to turn my back.

There is part of me that can't let go of the thought that if I turn my back, I am perpetuating the mentality that it is better to stick one's head in the sand. It is a mentality that causes complacency which makes change impossible. 

But wait, now I have to ask myself, when it comes to situations far out of my control, what change am I even making? All I'm doing is sitting here and reading. What sort of impact is made based on whether or not I have read or listened to a piece of news?

Back in July a segment came on NPR about the rebel-held Syrian village of Atima. The woman reporting from the village was asked a question that I have since been unable to get out of my head. "Why won't anybody help us? We wont forget this. When we control Syria, we won't forget that you forgot about us."

Those words have been burned into my head, but what has that accomplished? 

The girl who asked the question was mourning the loss of her brother and you could her the pain in her voice. For me personally, to ignore the overwhelming hopelessness, anger and confusion in her voice would be near impossible. Thus, listening to that segment inevitably means taking that in.

Okay--so I have heard her pain. It has been burned into my head, but that doesn't help her. That isn't going to bring her brother back to life.

What has been accomplished by listening to, and registering her pain? A minute amount of understanding? (I say minute because within my realm of experiences, there is no way that hearing a few sentences could ever allow me to fully understand what she is going through.) But what does THAT accomplish?

I have no idea.

Maybe nothing.

Funny thing is, this advice has come at a time (unbeknownst to the giver) when my news intake has greatly increased. As the anniversaries of Occupy have come to pass in New York and Oakland, over the past couple of weeks I have found myself almost obsessively picking through the internet to find articles that might give me some insight into how things have gone.

The problem is, reading isn't doing--but I can't do anything in a city I'm not in. I can't help someone in a country I have no access to.

Okay, so obviously there is guilt on my part over not acting. The answer to this guilt isn't very complicated--I should act on things within my reach. But that still doesn't address the big issue here--what is the point of listening to and reading about things that aren't within my reach?

Is there any productivity in taking in pain I have no control over?

Is there any productivity in learning that our ship is sinking and educating myself on why it is sinking, if there isn't anything I can do to fix it?

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