Why discernment is our defence against negativity

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Why it’s too easy to be depressed, negative and convinced the world is falling to pieces. Why so many otherwise intelligent people are wallowing in adversity instead of doing something about it.

Why do we as a society punish ourselves by reading, watching or listening to endless bad news and then complain about all the bad news in the media?

It doesn’t make sense. It makes as little sense as the celebrity watchers who lap up every sordid detail of the media darlings’ misdeeds and then complain about the paparazzi behaving like vultures. Stop buying the magazines with pictures of topless princesses on holiday and the paparazzi will stop taking the photographs.

Wednesday last week was a critical day for my old country Zimbabwe. It was election day and all the signs had been pointing to a resounding defeat for President Mugabe, one of the most evil men ever to have been inflicted on a peaceful nation. Sadly for the millions of inhabitants living in poverty in that miserable country, once again he rigged the polls by removing an estimated million opposition supporters from the voters roll and gathering the votes of thousands of long-dead voters for himself.

I accept that Zimbabwe has no importance for most North Americans or Europeans, if anything, any reference to the country is a painful reminder of how former WW2 allies and their descendants were sacrificed by the UK, USA and the commonwealth to appease the likes of Nigeria and other newly independent nations taking up their seats at the UN. Zimbabwe has no oil, is no longer at the forefront of the battle against communism, is too impoverished and too remote, to even be a haven for Islamic terrorists.

We have two of our children and their families still living in Zimbabwe. The results of the election, if allowed to stand and given the anti-white racist rhetoric and threats of nationalisation of all businesses and the few remaining farms over the last few days are a sign that our children may be forced out of the country of their birth quite soon.

This is not a political post, I save my political rants for my other blog there will be a post on the Zimbabwe elections there in a day or so.

The three paragraphs above are merely for background to establish why I was very interested in getting the latest news of the Zimbabwe election results on Thursday last week.

I have written before that I limit my exposure to TV news and because of our families and friends now spread all over the world, generally watch BBC as it gives better coverage of my interests than other channels. To my horror at about 12:15 pm, when I switched the TV on, it showed live coverage of Ariel Castro, the Ohio captor and torturer of young girls speaking in court. I assumed that within a few minutes, the station would switch to world news and that I might get an update on Zimbabwe.

No luck, it just went on and on. I tried every major American and Canadian news channel that I can receive, all were showing the same live coverage. All the channels except our Canadian Sun News stayed on the same live coverage. Sun News (similar to Fox in the USA) to its credit moved on to other news after a short while.

It seems that most of the channels carried the entire sentencing proceedings, I gave up in disgust so I don’t know how long it went on for. I resorted to twitter to get updates on the Zimbabwe election.

I am the first to acknowledge that the crime was horrific, that a long sentence was justified and that the victims deserve our sympathy and wishes for a happier future. But I do not believe it serves any purpose to extract every last ounce of drama from a bad situation by giving a criminal such as this a platform to try to justify his actions.

Yes the crime was newsworthy, yes the conviction and sentence were of interest, but giving it such widespread coverage is like spreading drugs in front of an addict who is trying to become clean. It is a recipe for spreading depression, negativity and misery. I am not an advocate of censorship and I know that news channels are businesses and will do whatever it takes to get viewers, listeners or readers, no matter how tacky some of their tactics.

Just as the paparazzi will stop hounding people if they find their intrusive photographs become unsaleable, so will the media limit the coverage of negative, depressing news if they find their audiences switching off or abandoning channels.

On Friday evening, I met a friend who is retired, has time to fill during the day, she asked me if I had watched the live coverage and was amazed when I said I had not. She had sat through the whole depressing story and was still upset, talking about how bad the perpetrator was, how bad she felt that a crime like that could happen. My response was that after hearing he was found guilty and would stay in prison for the rest of his life (information I got in seconds on-line) I had no interest in any further information about the case. I cannot do anything about it, I have much more important and uplifting things to occupy my mind and I refuse to expose myself to any more negative news than is absolutely necessary.

Sadly, in the days since, it has become obvious that she is not alone, the same after the Boston Bombing, school shootings and other tragic events. It is the moth-to-the-flame syndrome. If we do not guard against the compulsion to soak up endless drama we become consumed by it. That is not a recipe for a happy life.

Discernment in what news we consume is the solution, let’s use our power of choice to read, watch or listen to news that lifts us up, not drags us down. That is not to be confused with burying our heads in the sand, if we are at all active on-line, in social media, we will be instantly aware of what is happening in the world. If an event of major importance occurs, someone will tell us about it, phone, tweet, update or text us.

How discerning are you in your news consumption?

Wishing you an extraordinary life.

Peter Wright




p.s Nancy, who has contributed guest posts here before, has published a new post on our joint venture horse oriented blog, if you like horses – or any animals, you will enjoy it.

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  2 comments for “Why discernment is our defence against negativity

  1. Roberta
    August 8, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I am with you, Peter. I don’t understand why people had to watch that entire Ariel Castro court proceeding. A few of my Twitter followers evidently were and were tweeting a blow by blow. I did not want to hear it. All I needed to know was that he would never be a free man ever again.

    It is almost as if people are voyeurs. And there is little doubt in my mind that the 24/7 media plays into that. They are ready to exploit that tendency in humans.

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