Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Thinking Through The Noise

I haven't had much to say on here lately. Mostly because of the way I've curated this blog. I write about political stuff all the time, but I don't exactly right about day-to-day politics or politicians. I'm not a pundit and I have no desire to be one. The whole enterprise sounds soul-crushing.

However, like many others of my ilk, I can't stop watching the fucking news.  It has turned into the most entertaining reality television show I have ever seen. If I wrote these White House characters into a novel it would IMMEDIATELY be recognized as satire. Think about that.  Reality has become so absurd that if you copied it and wrote it down and published it, nobody would believe it.

So I have no desire to debate any of these topics - in fact I won't. And not because I'm stubborn - I'm actually less rigid now than I've ever been in my life.  The reason I don't debate is that we live in an age where one shops for reality the way one shops for anything else. Reality has become the ultimate consumer choice.  While this might feel liberating to the "You-can't-tell-me-nothing-Mr.-College- Degree" crowd, from my perspective it's not just frustrating, it's frightening. The only way to win is to not play.

So how does one stay thoughtful and sane in a world that talks about itself with lies and distortions, a culture that often doesn't want to take an honest assessment of itself.  It's a question that feels impossibly tough.

I know for myself I have to remember that consuming more "news" does not equate with being more informed. I know I have to realize that the process of watching a lot of the political nonsense unfold is actually seductively fun for me.  There's something about watching chaos that makes for interesting television.  However, if it's causing me stress and all that stress is doing is causing me to watch more and get more upset, well then that's not healthy.

Okay, but I'm not the kind of person that goes "Well okay, fuck it all.  I guess I'll just tune it out."  For one thing, my job does not allow me to be uninformed. For another, I take Socrates' maxim very seriously: the unexamined life is not worth living. So to not think is to be dead.

In no way am I suggesting to just stop caring about what's going on. Rather I am saying to selectively read and watch people who are ethical and good journalists - people who are not towing a party line - journalists who are, for lack of a better term at 7:20 in the morning, "Independent." For me that means people like Amy Goodman, Jeremy Scahill, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Matt Taibbi, and Sy Hersh to name just a few.  But everyone has to figure that part out for themselves.

As usual my solutions are small and local and not exciting.  I've started cutting off the television more - having more periods of silence around me when I can. When I read, I have no background noise.  And if I want background noise, I pick up my guitar.  However, even though I've started thinking about this problem and trying to make small changes for the sake of my mental health, currently I'm still failing.  I still watch too much nightly news instead of just picking a few people I trust everyday, reading important stories and moving on.  Sometimes I watch the same stories talked about by 3 different people, all saying very, very similar things.  Hopefully recognizing failure is the first step. That sounds like the kind of thing people say.