Why I don’t follow news

I did not follow the JNU news for a long time, because I have almost entirely stopped consuming any news. First, I feel very depressed after reading it and tend to focus only on the negatives; second, I don’t like how news is covered sensationalizing all the negative and hardly ever covering the good things happening on a smaller level (although, it’s very possible that I tend to only read the negative and completely bypass the positive).

Being a JNUite myself, I couldn’t refrain from wanting to know what’s happening for too long. And like I anticipated, I was filled with depressing thoughts and fear of what might happen. I still have friends staying in the campus. Let’s face it, we’ve got a problem if students are categorically singled out and charged with something as serious as sedition.Celebrating Afzal Guru as a hero is stupid, but picking up a student who wasn’t around just because he is not from ABVP is stupider. Add to the circus the lack of proof of whether the event actually even happened in JNU. First FTII, now JNU. It’s a massive problem when the state tries to interfere with education system and vilifies students. We should all be worried of this trend.

The bigger problem for me is the complete lack of dialogue and discussion. People are calling each other commies, congies, bhaktards and what not. It’s almost scary to try to fit any opposing opinions in such blanket categories. And the negative news mongering leads people to use words such as these for slandering without even knowing what they actually mean. Are you calling anyone holding a liberal view a communist? Or should you call the saffron brigade anti-national for wanting to send Indian citizens to Pakistan for expressing an opinion different from their ow? I am from JNU and I love it, but I am  against the somewhat rampant “parasite culture” on campus where some students stay on campus forever enjoying the benefits meant for students without really studying or adding anything to the research repository. Will I be termed as a Bhaktard then now that I am against one aspect of the “commie” campus life? See? The problem with blanket categorizing?

I saw Shahela Rashid’s speech yesterday and was filled with pride to see students from my alma mater hold such ideals and express them fearlessly. I was almost envious of such conviction and courage. I have strong opinions, but not strong enough to yank me out of a comfortable life I have built and have always been in favor of for myself. And then I read the hateful comments, so vicious as if people were trying to beat her up with words. I don’t understand how one could read such sane and logical words as anti-national. And then I regretted having read the news at all, because that hatred filled me with fear. You cannot have a dialogue if the other person is not willing to listen and learn. If for the other person, just knowing that you have a different opinion is enough to want to kill you. If the other person is so pro-violence that all they need is to use words that ignite public fury and make people want to kill each other. I mean what can you say if your frame of reference for everything is Pakistan. Any dissent and your answer is, “Go to Pakistan. You want freedom, there you won’t even be able to talk”. What if people just don’t want development and only want to compare with what is worse and be content with the status quo.

I fear that people will want to hit me if I even tell them I am from JNU. Apparently, we are a weird democracy. Or may be a democracy transitioning into something else. Because if you disagree or use your constitutional right of freedom of expression, you should get the hell out.

Yesterday, husband and I were having a very interesting chat. He is an  optimist. And I have started seeing sense in his point of view because ultimately, what’s most important to me on a personal level is peace of mind. He believes we people have more in common than not and on a macro level, the situation is generally not as bad as we think it is. I am beginning to see his point. I don’t need to know people’s views on politics and religion to get on with my day-to-day life. It’s not even a factor. In fact, I’d rather not know them at all. I get along really well with our domestic help, our security guard, our istriwallah, the neighbor. And what connects us is not our political differences but something far more simple: as people living together in society and our common interest in mundane things like how fresh the fish is today, or what was that yelling coming from the neighbor’s house. May be it’s not so bad after all. Otherwise, wouldn’t it have been impossible to communicate? And surprisingly, we communicate well enough, sometimes, even without a common language.

Social media has made it really easy for us to just yell out because there’s a platform. You are not required to dig deeper, understand points of view, cross-check, analyze. Reporting negative news is easy. Just take pictures and tell things exactly as you “see” them. It’s a vicious circle. The news we are fed is based entirely on TRPs and then Facebook makes it convenient to add to the madness without taking any serious effort on our part. Because it’s news right? How can it be wrong? That’s the thing though; reporting has come down to capturing what you see without any analysis. It is sad that the good and simple things happening in JNU were never reported. But you see, they are not interesting enough. Good doesn’t hold an appeal. But violence, anger, hatred, fires, rapes sell fast.

I feel inadequate sometimes when I have no clue about what people are discussing, thanks to not reading the news. But I am beginning to wonder if it is indeed good for me to revel in my ignorance. What are your thoughts people. Do you feel helpless and scared and disappointed on consuming news? Have you ever felt like staying away from news? Or do you engage in periodic news fasts?

 

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20 comments

  1. I have this conflict as well. How do I not be bothered with all the that I consider as wrong in the society. Would I be happier if I just focussed on what is local and personal? Perhaps. As for periodic newsfasts, I have tried that before. May be I should try harder.

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    1. I think we need to develop a thick skin. Because just like we believe strongly that things are wrong with the society, the other side believes equally strongly that we are wrong. I haven’t faced this more than now when a family member has repeatedly thrashed my FB wall and went on to say something which I strongly believe is a threat masked as a well-meaning concern.

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  2. Our household is on a perpetual news fast. Periodically I check news on the phone, feel outraged, rant and rave and then quit on the news. It is a struggle, since I want to fight to make a difference, and then also give up on the futility of the whole thing.

    Also Hello!

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    1. Hello there! 🙂 I don’t know why I am so depressed this time around. I mean, I’m sure people have had the same regressive thoughts for years. I think the difference now is that due to social media, you get to know what everyone is thinking. 😦 Turns out, people are thinking bad things, violence and mayhem. Since there’s not much I can do from the comfort of my privileged life (and perhaps don’t want to), I think a perpetual news fast is what I need. To preserve my sanity and peace of mind. Although, this also sounds depressing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Devil and the deep sea 😦 I think we get depressed, because we magically want people to change their views 🙂
        Social media : I am very tempted to deactivate my account, or start a new one with only a few people I like. Sometimes I cannot believe the people on my timeline. But if I do that, then there is the danger of a single story. Have you seen the Ted talk :

        I love this talk.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You have nailed everything that conflicted me about this issue and myriad others. Whether to stay ‘comfortably numb’ as Pink Floyd put it eloquently, or to engage in increasingly meaningless social media wars? The ideal answer of course is engage meaningfully with actual activism – but people like us are not made to be activists ( not proud of it at all- but fact!!). So.

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  4. Wonderful… thank you… you said it better than I did… But no one should stop you from speaking out.. that is the whole point in the end, isn’t it? Your relative who trashed you should be confronted..
    As for Shehla Rashid, I share your views and I have mentioned that in one of my recent posts as well.
    Take care.. and don’t let all this dishearten you. This is still a country of sane people. The lot of madmen and madwomen you see are a little more prominent today because you do not see the sane on the streets, that is all. Don’t worry… we will survive… 🙂 Take heart, dear heart… there is still fight left in this nation and its people.. this very post is proof enough 🙂

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    1. Your too sweet, Tejaswi. I know now what the Biker Chick meant in her lastest post. 🙂 I am so tired of confronting people. 😦 I completely withdraw when things get ugly and people personal. But you have a point there. I did engage in a dialogue with someone who had a totally opposite view, but that’s the thing, that person was capable of a dialogue. The relative is not so evolved. It feels so nice to hear such encouraging words. 🙂

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      1. Well, ok… Biker Chick goes overboard at times I suspect 🙂
        Anyway, about the relative… we have all felt that in the past.. in fact, in one of my blog posts, just this evening someone turned up combative and I suspect it is a relative but incognito or with a false name… How do you deal with it? A good idea would be to ask them to write everything as a guest post (I did that this evening). Ask them to type out everything they know about the issues, type out whatever they know about why you are wrong.. and then ask them if it can be published as a guest post.. let it be published.. then see if the debate can make them see sense.. 😀
        I used to be fiery, combative, unyielding.. Even Biker Chick says now that I am too sober, too fair and not at all incensed with the comments. I suppose she is right. When the body is supine, I suppose even the mind follows suit 😀 But in the past I used to debate vociferously, unkindly.. and often got into violent debates. But you are from JNU, so I wouldn’t advise that at all, at least not now haha.. Here is what you can do, disarm them with logic, not with bitter retribution, not with vindictive words.. let us see what they have to offer.. then reply with devastating efficiency and with full command and knowledge of your subject. So let them write a guest post, ask them nicely hehe.. why you want their words to reach a larger audience.. then bomb them out of existence not with invective but with the force of logic.. I trust you to be more than capable of that.. so let us have some fun too.. I want to see what a carpet-bombing looks like.. but hush… don’t tell them that now.. let them first do their post 😀

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      2. hahahaha. That’s an awesome idea. I really should do that. The person will chicken out at this point itself. 😀

        Being from JNU, I should be careful at this point. 😀 I am afraid to mention that lest people go mad.

        I cant wait to go through your posts. It’s funny about your incognito relative. I wish I had someone. I blog with a different name though…because I bitch a lot, but in real life I am afraid of confrontation. 😀

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      3. I hate to quote Napolean here (“Do the thing you fear most and the death of Fear is certain” etc). I quite understand the compulsions of normal, domestic living and would be appalled if it got disrupted.

        Having said that, let me also say that you are brave for standing up for what you think is right. Never mind the relatives (And might I be so brave, too, as to say never mind your husband either??)…
        Ashtanga Marga or to be more appropriate Attangika Magga to win over the dukkha of the universe says you have to follow the eight-fold path : Right view, Right aspiration, Right Speech, Right action, Right Livelihood, Right effort, Right mindfulness, Right concentration (approximately)… Now, dear girl, which of these have you transgressed? None, I believe… in which case you can safely say you are happy without the external causes 🙂

        (Ok, maybe it is not a good idea to convert people to the idea of Buddhism haha.. especially when I am an atheist … but I do have my eyes and ears open to see and listen to what great minds have though aeons ago).

        Here is what you do… live righteously… no one can harm you… Be always upright.. never fear for anything… speak your mind.. even if it means that people close to you would feel slighted or challenged. Always speak the truth and speak it with grace. I am rooting for you 🙂

        (In case none of the above work, then Krishna also said something else in the Geeta, Nistrayo Gunyo Bhavarjuno… which I shall explain only if you choose none of the above hahaha)….

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hehehe. I am an atheist as well, but I feel very drawn to Buddhist teachings. I watch the talks of Ven.Robina Courtin ALL the time. She seems like the epitome of all that is logical in Buddhism. Have you watched her videos on YouTube?

    Yes, it’s a great thing to get over what you’re afraid of and uncomfortable with. But these days I have begun to think along these lines, “Do I always have to strive towards personal perfection?…and the stresses of everyday corporate life are making me aspire to be someone who can just find a way to be happy and at peace. Just in the moment, without changing anyone or even me” . Although, I quickly realize that reaching that stage requires a complete overhaul of my very nature. 😀

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    1. Hi, I am afraid I am no longer in the blogosphere (officially, hehe), but I had to respond to this, and so I came back.
      One of the things I gave up a long time ago was this corporate cut-throat competition, not because I was unambitious but because I just did not want to compete any more. Striving towards personal perfection is an altogether different matter. Those are goals you set for yourself, not in comparison to what anyone else does. Whether it is too ambitious by the standards of the world you live in or laughably modest, should not matter. That said, you must be practical too. It is not often that you meet fools like me who would give up everything and walk away from it all. I do not regret it, but like Yashodhara asked Buddha, could I not have done it before I got married and had responsibilities? I am afraid that is also a question in a very practical world. But I get away with it, because it simply happens to be so. Now I am an invalid or almost so, but in the past, I would work when people harangued and made a big fuss about money. I would work for a few days and dump the money on their laps and then go back to my hibernation. Not always possible for all people at all times, I agree. But, there is the essence of it. We were happier when we were poorer, as we grew richer, things became worse, our aspirations increased and our expenditure disproportionately so. Then we felt (excluding the I in the We) that we had to live up to some standards of society. This mad spending in order to live up to some image is what gets us all caught up in this rat race.

      I am not really a Buddhist nor any -ist and no -isms attract me for too long, or at least until I have learned enough to somehow question that -ism too. So take my words with more than a pinch of salt. Yes, to change anything, first you would have to change yourself. But ask yourself – does this affect only me? does it affect the other people around me? does it mean anything in the end? If you have no real answers to those questions, then do not attempt the change at all.

      I answer this in spite of my vow not to appear on blogs (apart from two) any more. But I had no access to your mail address nor any way of contacting you. I had written personally to everyone that I was leaving the blog world and I could not reach you. Not as dramatic as you may think it is, but I just got tired of it all 🙂 So when I saw this in my mail I just wanted to answer and not disappear with unanswered comments.

      I really do not know you well enough to tell you what is the right thing to do or not. But I am told that I am a bad influence on people 🙂 And sometimes I say more than I should. But, one observation is, make the changes that you want to make and only those, not anything else that the world expects of you or that they don’t want you to make these changes even if it is your desire to do so, then defy them. I am and have always been an agent provocateur and this should not be any different. Question everything, I know it is something that might leave you breathless and fearful at first, but do that. When you start from First Principles as was taught to you in school when you did Differential calculus for the first time, then there is no blaming anyone for the result or conclusion you get apart from yourself. Ask every question as if it has been asked for the first time in the history of mankind and then decipher the answers yourself. There is no need for any guru or mentor or philosopher or intellectual or wise man to tell you what to do. You are your own source of wisdom. Even if your practical mind cautions you that it is folly, learn to harness your own wisdom – there is nothing else that shall serve you as faithfully. Your instincts will help you. Learn to do the right thing, always. Stand by it, even if it means death. That is all.

      You must forgive me this parting comment (after all, in this case, it is indeed a parting comment and therefore unnecessarily long haha). But I am glad I met you. You will do no wrong, I assure you. Go on, girl, achieve great heights… 🙂 Good luck…

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      1. …And… sorry, there had to be a PS hahaha…
        But I could not resist saying this… just to add to what I had written and forgotten to add… When you question things, sometimes you might come across contradictions. Things might seem one way and the reality might be different. What is the secret of finding out what is right or wrong, good or evil, black or white? Nothing, there is no secret – only your commonsense 😀
        There are times when you will likely see one person as good and another as bad, only to be conflicted later when different data arrives at your doorstep. But you have to always rely on your own wisdom and commonsense to separate that chaff. If a person seems wise, can he also be childish? If an event is shocking, can there also be another reason for its occurrence? If someone is false or pretentious, does it nullify everything else? So fall back on your first principles, find out for yourself and then decide. There are no contradictions in nature, it is only our lack of powers of observation and judgment that blind us. We would rather jump to conclusions than use our brains 🙂 But whatever you decide is always the best answer – for you, not for everyone else. Use that answer only for yourself and you are safe, happy and probably calm too 🙂

        Well, ok, that was the very last, I promise… haha.. take care..

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      2. I hope that I am not too late in responding and that you haven’t disconnected your e-mail. I at least want to know if you somehow got my response. This is the first time I took so long to come back to my blog. Turns out, I actually don’t have any time any more to blog, get bothered by FB , or anything else. I going through a period where I have an insane amount of work. This means that I go home, chat a little with the hubby and crash. This routine is oddly liberating in one way though. I no longer have conflicts about whether to do or not do certain things. Everything is dictated by time now, and more so by the lack of it.

        That’s some sound advice you gave me. And I am surprised because you seem to have actually understood exactly how I am as a person and given me a very customized set of suggestions. 🙂 And I have to thank you for this pearl of wisdom, “There are no contradictions in nature, it is only our lack of powers of observation and judgment that blind us.” This is such a reassuring thought. I am going to write it down on a piece of paper and pin it to my wall. 🙂

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