“Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.” Plato
I’m a news junkie. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has known me for, let’s say, five minutes. As a kid I wrestled the paper away from my father and insisted we eat dinner early so we could watch the 6 o’clock news. I wasn’t allowed to stay up for the 11 o’clock broadcast despite my foot stamping objections. I like knowing what is going on in the world, being engaged whether in forming my own opinions about an issue, entering discussions and debates or deciding what to protest. Knowledge is the genesis of positive change. Or at least that’s what I’ve always told myself.
But this preoccupation with the news has led to a great deal of anxiety of late, an anxiety I’ve had trouble expressing, never mind dealing with. Would ignorance be better? Could I actually turn it all off? I’ve never asked myself these questions.
The escalation of far-right rhetoric in many places in the world, the closure of borders, the increasing numbers of refugees and in particular, unaccompanied child refugees, the continuation of the war in Syria, the eruption of violence in India, the upsurge of one climate disaster after another and the outbreak of the corona virus, are only a few examples of the things that worry me. It’s all happening and I can do little to help. I feel powerless.
And what could I do from the privileged, protected life I live?
There have been times in the past when I’ve been frightened by the news: the Vietnam war and protests, the cyclones in Bangladesh that killed hundreds of thousands of people, and the cholera epidemic of Istanbul of the 1970s or the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill, the assassination of Anwar Sadat and Indira Gandhi and the murder of John Lennon of the 1980s, or the genocide and civil war in Rwanda, the Bosnian War and the Avian flu of the 1990s or the September 11th attacks, the disastrous Iraq war, the decline of traditional media and the great recession of the 2000s. I could go on and on, but what’s the point. The world is a scary, frustrating and maddening place. This hasn’t changed. I remind myself of this before I scan the Guardian or turn on CBC. Again.
So where to from here? I’m going to do what I’ve always done: remain informed (so I won’t turn it all off), write about the things I don’t understand, continue the various protests I started long ago—refusing to buy products from countries with atrocious human rights records and/or far-right leanings (I know every single one of us can make a difference)—and continue to engage in discussion and debate because understanding one another is the only way forward in times of great uncertainty. We’re in this together. If solutions are to be found, it will be done together, with appropriate, sound information.
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