What's the purpose of news?
What's the purpose of news?
The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!
What do the World Cup, the Lebron James decision, the BP oil spill, and Roman Polansky have in common? If you said, current news items during the first week of July, 2010, you'd be correct.
Next question: how does knowing about these "news" items help you live a better life? Stumped? Do you see where I'm going with this?
Now, I'm not saying that these pieces of information are useless. These are all good things to know for some people, maybe even many people. If you are involved in the Polansky case, for instance; if you make a living in the Gulf region, bet money on the World Cup, or, if you're Lebron's accountant, these are all developments you should know about. I suggest, however, that for the vast majority of people, the importance of what currently qualifies as "newsworthy" information in our lives is questionable at best. So, why do people invest so much importance on listening to, reading or watching "news?" Are they getting something out of it that defies observation and explanation? To answer that question for yourself, I’ll share with you my own personal beliefs that inform my decision to NOT follow the news. I know it's a radical idea from the fringe, but hear me out. (That's why you read this column, is it not? I mean if both of us--you and I--thought exactly the same way about everything, then one of us would be unnecessary!)
I have a philosophy. I've always believed (as mentioned before in this column) that the three most important questions to every human being are:
1. Who am I?
2. Why am I here?
3. How shall I survive?
Many of us spend at least an hour every single day tuning in to "the news." In addition, many of us spend as many as 16 years (some even more) of our lives obtaining an education. And billions of us hand over control of our thoughts and behavior to religious traditions.
With all this time and energy, it seems fair to expect that news, education and religion—pursuits that take up so much of our time and attention--should help us answer life's important questions, and concerns, don't you think?
THE DANGER WITH DISTRACTION
I also believe that anything I spend my time doing should have some reason or purpose. Now, don't get me wrong. Entertainment, pleasure, hobbies, etc, are all valid reasons for doing a thing. Distraction is as valid as reason as any other. And there's nothing wrong--in my opinion---with watching, reading or listening to the news for distraction, for entertainment or if it gives you pleasure.
The danger with entertainment, however, is that every story—from comedy to drama, to horror—creates an effect, by design. So, what is that effect? When you go to see a movie in a darkened theater, even though the emotions can be just as powerful, there's a certain amount of detachment you can achieve once the lights come on. With "news," however, the images and ideas have an added impact of being real, and images and thoughts of war, violence, murder, rape, terrorism, etc., exist and continue during every waking moment.
Even if you tell me that you follow the news because you simply want to be "informed," I say that's a good thing. However, I believe most people delude themselves into believing how informed they really are becoming. They are actually being informed in a biased, selective and manipulative sense.
We all know that in a half-hour newscast, that there is a world of "news" that's never reported. There are rallies for world peace that never make the news. There are battles against corporate exploitation that go unreported. There are positive stories of triumph that are missing from the headlines. So, the news that is reported is obviously someone's choice of what to call "news." I suggest to you that behind every decision a producer makes of what to include in a news telecast, or that an editor makes of what to include in a newspaper or website, exists an agenda.
I won't get into a discussion of what that agenda might be, I'll simply suggest to you something you already know: that your mental, emotional and even physical state after consuming a bit of "news" is affected by what you read, listen or see. After consuming a bit of "news" you might feel a. uplifted, b. neutral, or c. depressed (as well as angry, fearful, tired, sick, etc., and every emotion in between.)
So, my third belief is that everything I expose myself to—every person, every idea, every image, every sound—has an effect on my being. So, I’ve already made the decision to limit my exposure to what others deem to be “news.”
THE NEWS TEST
By the time you’re exposed to some information that an editor or producer has decided is news, it’s already too late. However, here is a brief test to determine if what you’ve been accepting as “news” really qualifies (based on my belief no. 1)
1. Has this information helped me discover who I am, why am I here, or how I shall survive?
If you answer no to this question, then this bit of information might qualify as simply neutral, distraction, or perhaps even entertainment.
2. Is the quality of my life appreciably affected by knowing this news?
Information can still not be news, but help the quality of your life, after all. However, if you answer no to this question, then the bit of information in question may not be neutral, it might qualify as entertainment.
3.How do I feel now that I know this information?
If you feel discouraged, fearful, bitter, angry, defeated, hopeless, resentful, then this information is more than merely useless, it is potentially destructive, because how can you improve your situation, your relationships, your world and your life—and for that matter, how can you turn your passion into profit—if you are constantly consuming ideas and images that make you feel discouraged, and hopeless?
WHAT'S THE POINT?
If you believe there is (or should be) more to life than simply work and distraction; if you believe that the things you spend your time doing should have a purpose or reason; if you believe that the ideas, sounds and images you allow into your mind have an effect on your mental, emotion, and physical states; Further, if you accept that everyone has an agenda which may not coincide with yours (BP’s agenda is different than yours); if you can't depend on people or corporations with competing or contrary agendas to filter and interpret "the news" for you, then….it follows that you should be vigilant about, and filter what you spend your time consuming under the guise of "news." But it’s everywhere. One has to make a conscious effort to avoid it. That’s why even those of us without cable, televisions and radios still know about Lebron James.
Furthermore, whether you call it "news," "education" or better "belief system," there is information you SHOULD be seeking out to fill the void that exists in the vital and necessary knowledge you need in order to find out who you are, why you are here, and how you shall survive. Don’t rely on news to help you do that!
Note: Fans and followers of the book, Jamaican on Saipan, may order a copy on jamaicanonsaipan.com.
Note: Ever wanted to direct your friends and family to a set of websites that revealed the best things about Saipan? Do what I do: send them to www.bestofsaipan.com!
Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!--Walt
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Breaking News from Walt:
A few weeks ago, a former workshop attendee and coaching client revealed that she nominated me to be considered for this year’s Governor’s Humanities Award here on Saipan. I thanked her, but I didn’t really believe I qualified because...(read why at www.jamaicaninchina.com/humanities-award)