I have been sitting here for several hours watching and reading the rolling coverage of the Paris attacks on the BBC, SBS, France 24, The Guardian, and Australian ABC.
I condemn this act of cowardice and ignorance, and I feel helpless and incredible sympathy for those caught up and who have lost their loved ones in these attacks.
It is Saturday, now after 1pm, and as the tide of news leaves more details every five minutes or so, I have to ask myself, why am I sitting here, inert and hungry to learn what is going on half a world away?
Recently some mutual friends posted two conflicting pieces on Facebook from The Guardian about news consumption.
The first was an excerpt from Rolf Dobelli’s essay The Art of Thinking Clearly: Better Thinking, Better Decisions about the consequences of news consumption.
Rolf explains the tidbit, sugar-rich doses of news-bytes we are fed throughout our days on devices and television are irrelevant, news is misleading, time-wasting, corrodes concentration, encourages passivity and destroys creativity.
He writes he knows of no creative minds who regularly indulge in news browsing and states, “If you want to come up with old solutions, read news. If you are looking for new solutions, don’t.”
Not offensive or superior at all is Mr Dobelli.
The essay even postulates news consumption on a more casual level is physiologically damaging, negatively affecting levels of glucocorticoids and corrupts neural function.
Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life.
Though he said there is a need for investigative journalism with increased long-essays and in-depth written pieces, Rolf has abstained from news for four years, and felt he has been the better for it.
Laudably, the paper published a rebuttal by journalist Madeleine Bunting on the same day. She said Rolf sounded like “the spoilt child of an information-abundant age”, and expressed caution that to absent yourself from current affairs is a critical error.
If we retreat into fortresses of ignorance, what understanding do we have left of our shared life as humanity?
Madeleine let fly her arrows against impulse-intended contemporary news delivery and addressed consumption, encouraged discretion and moderation.
I agree. As I sit and see the rising death toll now estimated to about 140 victims, the reports rife with questions and collective support streaming in from other countries, I can only feel a great sense of solidarity with the sympathetic.
As I have written within this blog time and time again, it is critical we do not desert our sense of humanity.
I feel that I have a choice as to what I will consume, and if I feel moved, angered, or joy from a snapshot of the wider world my 1920 counterpart could not have had access to, I feel the better for it. I feel more aware of how the toll of a social issue affects my community, the country where I live, my home country and my environment.
Say what you will about Aldous Huxley, but if we choose to consume the unfolding of the Paris attacks or the latest ridiculousness of Miley Cyrus, we have this choice.
If we stay intelligently aware of how we are manipulated, we will always have this choice. Popular news and social media, ironically, give us the ability to beachcomb and form our own opinions, no matter how sensical or deluded they might be.
Perhaps like myself, others feel galvanized against those who believe killing can make a statement. It incites fearful consternation, but in its wake will follow an incredible vanguard of resistance against whatever the agenda of these terrorists.
Maybe my body is roller-coasting with hormones, but I don’t care. I want to take this terrible day as a lesson, and I will remember.