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Perspectives on the World

The world is an amazing complex sphere. None of us can truly understand the scope of all that it encompasses nor be knowledgeable in all ares. We can fathom some of it but are our views accurate?

I long ago stopped watching TV or even reading newspapers. To this day I have never seen a picture of the twin towers falling. I didn’t need to. The horror was all too real without that. And that is just one reason why I don’t watch TV–the horror of it is too much. These days we have 24-7 news and programming and multiple channels. You can catch the news on a particular subject at any time and if it’s something big, like Michael Jackson’s death, the predators start circling immediately with “in-depth” commentary on his life, his fashion, his eccentricities, his doctors, his drugs, his family, his kids, his debts, his fortune, etc. On and on, with huge drama in every commentator’s voice; melodrama one could say. (I did catch a little bit while at my neighbor’s)

That’s one example but news is never (or rarely) about the good stuff. The adage goes, No news is good news, and that can mean that if you don’t hear anything that’s good news and of course, what sells papers or draws audience viewing is the bad news. The disasters, the accidents, the murders and rapes, the lost children, the poverty, the wars, the despotic regimes, etc.

And what does this do? It weighs us down with darkness and despair, with loss of faith in humankind, with  fatalism. When I watched this stuff, the news, the same plane disaster would be played out several times a day with graphic depictions of the accident. I wept and felt terrible, and grew depressed, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t have compassion for anyone hit with hard circumstances. We should, but we can also be bludgeon into insensitivity with a constant overload of the bad and the tragic.

My outlook would start to cloud and I thought as the world on an downward spiral into eternal darkness. We didn’t need religious myths, we had our hell now. But then I stopped and thought. Were my coworkers, my friends, my family despots, murderers, rapists? Were they evil and uncaring? No. Were they uncaring? No.

And that was just the people I know. On the macrocosm of the world and world events, there are horrors beyond belief. On the microcosm are individual organisms, you and me. Each person can be good or bad but the majority are caring people, who follow the law, who try to help out, who want to believe in the goodness of their fellow human. I try to remember this when I look at the likes of Mugabe, Ayatollah Khomeini, Idi Amin, Osama bin Laden, Willie Picton, Paul Bernardo, Jeffrey Dahmer, etc. that they are the small percentage, the very few.

Their crimes are so vile that they make the headlines. Your friend that picks you up when your car breaks down on the highway, the father who comforts his child, the person who donates to organizations where money will help the underprivileged, we don’t hear about those people, except once in a while. Only if it’s a celebrity do we hear of charitable acts.

And so we get a skewed outlook of our world. Yes, one war can wipe out thousands or millions and is terrible and on the macrocosmic scale still speaks of a problem for human kind in general. As a whole homo sapiens need to strive harder to be better. Yet we must remember the good that people do for it is these small acts that give us hope and faith.

Even with only getting my news through radio (I do stay informed) it is still skewed towards the tragic. But I try very hard to remember the good and that I would have been in more dire straights were it not for the support of friends and family and yes, at times strangers. Give a little and you can receive a lot.

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Media Frenzy

I don’t read the paper and I don’t watch TV. I also rarely but occasionally look for news on the internet. However, I’m not ignorant. I listen to CBC Radio One’s news & interview programs usually all day. Sometimes I tune out.

Since the time that I was a kid news has changed. It didn’t used to be as frequent for one thing, just at 6:00 and 11:00 pm, or that’s what my kid mind remembers of TV news. There was no internet. Newspapers did whatever they did. I sometimes read them as a teenager but I wasn’t always reading the front page.

Now we have 24-hour news networks, through TV, radio, internet. We’re bludgeoned with news. Every media form needs to gain or maintain subscribers and really, the old adage of “no news is good news” seems very true. Who wants to hear, “Today we had a sunny day. There were no robberies or car crashes. No one was mugged. Three people died of old age and one baby was born.” Well, frankly, I’m at the point where I would like more of the feel-good news, which is usually relegated to the entertainment (Only fun about the stars) section or a small filler piece on a back page about the milk of human kindness.

Why don’t I use other forms of media? Because it’s the same thing over and over. If it’s TV and a horrible accident happened, you see the gory pictures over and over and over again. In many cases I believe this numbs people to the horrors and bleeds away any compassion. The other extreme is that it rubs people raw and gives a skewed sense of the world. We have copycat crimes because certain unstable types see it as a way to fame and to be noted. I can’t take seeing atrocities every day and several times a day. I don’t want to hear over and over all the grisly details of a murder. Yes, I want to know what’s going on in my world but I’d like it less biased, less graphic and sensationalistic.

Media used to be just reporting. But even the tamest news has some judgment and colorful adjectives thrown in. I listen to the radio because I find it the least biased, though not perfect, medium. I don’t get inundated with pictures that will spiral me into a permanent depression and belief that there is no good in the world. To this day, I have never seen even one picture of the Twin Towers falling. Not one. I didn’t need to. The terror and horror and despair I felt that day, the tearing up that still happens, is no less strong for not having gaped and gawked at a thousand nightmares. I know how bad it was. I don’t need to see it.

And I’m aware of the people who die in plane crashes, tsunamis, earthquakes, mass murders and rebel insurgencies. I know there is wrong in the world that can’t be swept under the carpet, that must be acknowledged. But could we please just temper this with some of the heartwarming things that people do. Balance it more.

What has made me think of media and good news-bad news today is the Olympics. It’s one of the few times that the media in every participating country actually concentrates on accomplishments and joy. That in itself is refreshing. Even if I’m hearing the same “Canada won four medals today” several times a day, I’ll take it for a while over the disasters.

It’s hard to keep a balanced view of the world when only conflicts and disasters are ever highlighted. Most of us follow the status quo and morals of our culture. It is the aberrants who are highlighted and pinpointed. For every bad egg there are thousands of good ones. Thousands of normal people who are willing to reach out and help someone, to give charity (as long as we don’t let the me-me-me culture take over). But we rarely hear of it unless it’s in conjunction with someone stopping a thief or averting a disaster. It’s there but usually buried under an accident or disaster.

This is why I mentioned the two little acts of kindness in “My Mental Health Day.” They were small but they made me feel so much happier. I get this same feeling when I can make a donation to a worthy cause, that somehow I’m helping to make the world better, not darker. I’ll continue to filter my news. I sometimes think the world is spiralling into darkness and chaos. But I try to swim against the tide.

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