The world's problems are not your problems

April 16, 2022

The news is still rubbish

A fortnight ago, I posted a blog called “There is no good news” suggesting we cut the news out of our lives. Over these last two weeks, I have faithfully heeded my advice. Zero, Zilch, Rien... I have been faithful in avoiding ALL news input. As an addict for over 30 years, I barely believed this was possible. So far, so good.

I knew I had a problem, but I couldn’t quite articulate it. I thought it was a phone addiction. In a manner of speaking, it was, but the phone was only the delivery mechanism for the poison. Sometimes, it takes a while to get the heart of a problem and I was approaching it from the wrong angle.

Writing forces better thinking

I could not have reached this point had I not started blogging. Conscious writing changes people. I wouldn’t have believed it 3 months ago, despite journalling intermittently in the past. Publicly publishing my thoughts has forced me to sharpen my thinking and assess my life critically. I know I am on the right path, but there are snares and weeds still growing in my garden. Much of what I am writing comes from a wealth of experience, from the position of a full life, but I wasn’t joining the dots in some areas; the more I write, the better my thinking becomes.

I had been feeling rotten, and the news was getting worse. Was there a link? From being a passive consumer 10 years ago, now I was hunting high and low for my next hit. Turning the news feed off has been a beautiful epiphany, making me feel lighter, more hopeful. I mourn the missing years, though.

Ralf Dobelli's book - 'Stop reading the news'

It was an article a friend sent me that spurred me into thought and recent writing. More and more people are cancelling the news, especially the really smart who strive for clearer thinking. In doing more research to assuage my new found news deficit, I latterly stumbled on a book written in the same vein by Ralf Dobelli. I had reached many of the same conclusions, but his book goes much further. It is so compelling, I have read it twice. He quit the news over 15 years ago and in a short space of time reduced cognitive errors and made space for creativity, but it took a full year to have the negative effects of the news ingestion wash through him. Wow! It really is that toxic!

Is it sustainable?

There is a small, niggling part of me that thinks I can’t sustain this. Can a person really do their job and live in the world without access to the news? Dobelli says yes. Absolutely. He is living proof. Still, I’m nervous, as part of my identity revolved around being informed and opining on world events. Even today, I lamented to my wife that I might run out of things to say if there was no news stimulus! Occasionally, I find myself in distracted moments wondering about the progression of global and national events since my renunciation. When I finally come to my senses, I tell myself that not one jot of mental energy from me will make any difference.

I was telling a friend in work about my new approach and he reflected on his grandmother, who had lived during WW2, the Northern Irish troubles and had seen much hardship and difficulty, yet she forged a productive and happy life, She ignored the doom-mongers. Global and local events will have punctuated her days - German bombs, threat of nuclear war and terrorist attacks - but yet she continued successfully with a family and job. If she had allowed herself to be influenced by the news each day during tumultuous times, how might her life have been different? Would she have enjoyed all the opportunities life presented? Or would she have hunkered down waiting on the next bomb or bullet to strike? We must ask the same question today. Is the maniacal news feed adding anything to your life? Be like Grandma - and ignore it. There is enough drama going on in your world without inviting the news vampire in.

The news can only ever look backwards - you are going the opposite direction

The news changes like the wind and it only ever talks about the present or the immediate past. Where it alludes to the future - we can’t take it seriously; as Dobelli points out, which newspapers in 2006-7 where warning of the incoming global financial collapse? None. If they prognosticate, it is just modern day soothsaying - If you drink from the poison fountain, they will plug you into the matrix like everyone else and you will become part of the hive mind. Seek to be different, to have a chance at a rewarding life. Un-tether. In just 2 weeks, I have read two influential books. The brain fog seems less. My short-term memory is improved and my mind is racing with the hope of future possibilities.

It is at this point that I must offer a ‘Mae Culpa.’ Recently, a friend ask me thoughts on emigration. My response was fear based and influenced by the news I was consuming. “Wait for things to calm down”, I warned. I’m naturally a cautious type and I still believe there is a reckoning coming. We have been writing cheques that can never be cashed but I missed the point. If he emigrates, the decision should be entirely on his personal circumstances. The news has little to do with it except, if there is a danger that he might not arrive at the final destination or that the economy can’t support his skills because of a newsworthy event like recession or local unemployment in his field. If he goes, the question is about family, opportunity, his skills and his ability to fit in quickly. This is within his gift and he has influence over it.

Ships were made to sail - not sit in the harbour

We are all like sailing ships setting off across the Atlantic. Ideally, we want to avoid the storms, but there is a crossing that must be made. If we took the weather forecast at face value every day, we would never set sail.  Ships were not made to stay in harbour For one thing, the crew gets restless and the vessel isn’t paying its way. I’m also sure there is increased entropy and decay at rest. Barnacles and algae cling to the hull. A sailing ship is designed to work by trimming the sails to suit the elements. You can’t sail into the wind but you can tack (zig-zag) to your destination -That is some exciting sailing right there! Where there is danger, there is opportunity and invigoration.

I’m not saying to go thoughtlessly in a direction without the information to ensure a successful crossing but choose your selected specialist sources carefully to guide the best life and financial decisions. Don’t let it be the news feed. When we think of the talented newspaper columnists- what makes them specialists on Covid 19, Russian foreign policy and the British Health Service in the period of a fortnight. Their talent is for explaining the things they are told to explain, but don’t let them deter you on your journey. The compass is in your heart - choose your experts carefully and set sail - If you hit a storm you don’t need a weather forecast - you need to know how to use your sails and how to keep the boat watertight.

Parting shot

Life is awash with people promoting their opinions about what will happen - most of it is crap and no one ever gets called for it (The Cassandra Complex) - remember the words of Mark Twain - “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened”.

Never let the news into your life again to poison your thinking or limit your horizons.

If, like me,  you crave a news hit but always feel worse for it. Do yourself a favour ... cut that out now as it is only making you stupid. Focus on your mission. With the improved cognitive capacity, you might just do better than you think.