OK, picture this, if you will. Two figures at the table on the debate stage. One is Ostrich. You know: the big bird with round fluffy body and long silly neck. Its knock-knees are under the table hidden from view, thank you very much. Because the Ostrich likes to hide. Right?
At least that’s the rumor.
The other participant in today’s debate is the News Junkie (sometimes called “Informed Voter” or “Informed Voyeur,” because what else are we doing when we absorb all those devastating images and human trauma and corruption for hours/days/weeks/months on end?).
The Ostrich speaks first. “I need balance to stay healthy and functional. This means avoiding things I can’t change. I want to enjoy my day, my family, my life. I put my head in the sand for those I love. They’re my priority. What good does it do to dwell on faraway suffering? I’m not helping the world that way. It’s like gaping at an accident on the side of the freeway. Instead, I can live my beliefs and morals inside my own small corner of the world—and maybe that will lead to bigger change. I won’t be grim, depressed, and angry, either. I will live by example. Down with News Junkies, I say!”
News Junkie: “If everyone thought like that, if everyone DID that, where would we be? If we don’t understand what’s going on in the world—if we are too comfortable to even look at the injustice and atrocities outside our circle—then we are complicit in the wrongdoing. We let things slide, accept injustices. A consequence of indifference is that people die. We must stay informed to fight back. Look, I may not always know what to do, but at least I know what I would LIKE to do. I am listening and participating, which is the first step. Then, if I must, I’ll write letters or march in the streets (with a mask). And, of course, vote whenever possible. I will know HOW to vote. Down with apathy, I say! Down with Ostriches!
Thank you, Ostrich. Thank you, News Junkie.
But…unfortunately no one wins the debate. This issue is not black and white. Ostrich does not necessarily hide its head in the sand for oblivion. It is also to go on caring about what counts and protecting what counts the most. On the other hand, News Junkie likely does not savor the endless scenes of wartime destruction, shamed politicians, the public lack of civility, discrimination, illness, and economic decline. It is more of a responsibility to stay awake and involved. News Junkie longs to be a member of the global community, and how can we confront, fight, or change what we don’t know?
So, here’s a vote for compromise.
How about we listen to some news, for limited amounts of time? Read thoughtful, well-researched accounts of events rather than scroll and stare at whatever while engaging in some nice colorful couch-cussing? We can keep the news off by choice when needed or as part of our routine. Perhaps we can also stay informed in gentler ways, in more useful and affirming ways, like join a discussion group or listen to the story from multiple perspectives. And take a freaking break. A little distraction and laughter won’t weaken our resolve.
The Ostrich puts its head in the sand to protect, not hide. The News Junkie watches as a form of caring, not obsessing or being in on the latest Bad Thing.
We are all Ostriches sometimes. And yes, we do need to stay informed about our country, our world, our planet. In small doses perhaps, and from reliable sources, in a pattern that does not make us sick.
Full-blown anxiety disorders and / or isolation from reality doesn’t really help anyone, does it?