A guest post by Belinda Marsh.
Each morning, Australians begin reading the news on our phones, tablets and laptops. Some of us might turn the TV on and listen to the news in the background while we make breakfast. We get on with our day, and may tune in to the news on the radio on the way to work, check news websites throughout the day, listen to more radio news on the way home, and then come home and turn the TV on for the nightly news. We can check social media at any time, just in case we miss something important and, if we can’t sleep for some reason, we might check-in with the news at 3am, and access news from all over the world if we so choose.
There is a growing concern among the media and other social commentators that we are becoming an apathetic country. We simply don’t care as much as we used to, throwing our hands in the air and giving up all too easily. We prefer to look at Grumpy Cat memes and amusing seven-second videos. Our information, apparently, has to be delivered in small portions because our attention spans are teeny-tiny, and this makes it hard for them to balance against our desire for instant news, which is becoming an unquenchable beast that must be fed (in bite-sized pieces, of course).
It’s hard to say which came first – our hunger for up-to-date, constant news and information, or our disdain and apathy towards constant news and information, resulting in us being distracted by shiny things.
All I know is that I am tired; tired of watching politicians who smile as they tell us how they’re going to bend us over and give us a good rogering while they and their rich mates get richer; tired of reading about Big Business, Big Pharma and Big Banks using us as slaves to drive up their profits, keeping us sick and chained to The System; tired of celebrity news, full of ego, nothingness and unhealthy body images; and tired of watching wars, environmental disasters and poverty the world over on my screen.
It all gets overwhelming. The anger, upset and misery is too much to bear, and I simply switch off. My inability to do anything helpful in this crazy world means that sometimes I want to stick my head in the sand and ignore it all. The anger and pain I feel turns to despair as I hike up the white flag. I surrender to apathy, and tune out for fear of going insane.
It has become such an issue that I have even changed my routine. If I am not writing, I wander outside first thing in the morning, breathe in fresh air, wriggle my toes in the grass, and stretch languorously. I need peace, not a ranting 24-hour news monster that increases my feelings of hopelessness and anguish. My Facebook newsfeed, once home to angry news and alternative media pages, is full of calming, quiet pages and non-toxic, like-minded friends. It makes me happier to start my day with a snort-laugh over a funny comment or silly video clip.
Don’t get me wrong – I still read/listen to/watch the news because I really do want to keep up-to-date and informed. But I feel despondent that the world is weird, inhumane and destructive, and we have created it to be so, which makes me even more concerned for our collective sanity. Failing an alien invasion or zombie apocalypse, we’re continuing on the path toward this end, with only ourselves to blame.
And then there are those who care a lot less about the world, and prefer to simply make a decent enough income to have a comfortable life, complete with cold beer in the fridge and snags on the barbie, and watch Australia’s Got Talent. Sometimes I wish I could be like these people, and simply get on with the job of living without too much thought. Alas, it’s not meant to be.
I don’t believe I am alone in this general feeling of despairing impotence. We have signed enough petitions, gone to enough protests, discussed enough breaking news, and argued about enough politics to have an increasing sense of hopelessness, because nothing seems to change. This is how apathy has become the norm. We would rather play a game, update our status, tweet what we’re eating for lunch, and Instagram a selfie with the finished plate than hear about the PM’s sudden desire to destroy our health system, a new war brewing on the horizon, and the continuing meltdown in Fukushima.
So to those who are discussing the disease of national apathy, if you’re so concerned about it, consider what has made us so in the first place, and why it is so. Accept it as fact, move with the changing times, and have a bit of empathy toward our collective predicament.
And perhaps take a moment to walk barefoot on the dewy morning grass, and breathe.
This article was first published on Belinda’s blog Columnoscopy.