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Conscious Ignorance Can Be Bliss

By: Everett S
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How cable news works...I watched a little CNN online this morning and immediately felt angry, anxious, afraid and sad. 500 women raped in Congo, idiots at a church in Florida burning the Koran, BP blames Halliburton, forest fires in Colorado… As if I needed a reminder: THIS is why we don’t have television. Are we selfish for wanting to live in our own little world? Maybe, but I don’t care. All I know is that we don’t need to be constantly reminded that not all human beings are good people. Some are simply ignorant or selfish, and some are pure evil. But around here people are mostly good. CNN didn’t report on the neighbor who dropped off his truck here when mine was in the shop, or the one who brought us a box of peaches yesterday, or the family a few roads over who delivers our milk (on their way from picking up theirs) every Saturday.

While I don’t think “ignorance” is necessarily a good trait to seek, “conscious ignorance” when it comes to the constant barrage of negative “information” (i.e. negative infotainment) is something we practice these days. I guess it all depends on your personality, as to whether this type of news overload bothers you or not. I tend to get overly “worked up” about things like politics, religion, social issues, economics, environmental issues… and am finding more and more these days that my opinions, informed or otherwise, are just that – MY opinions. People don’t have to share them, and I don’t have to share theirs. It matters less to me these days whether my neighbors are Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian or indifferent, as long as they keep their livestock out of our pasture, their dogs out of our chicken coop and their greywater out of the creek. And, in fact, all of the people we’ve met in this valley seem to be exceptionally good neighbors, although few agree with us politically or socially on “most” of the major, divisive issues.

In short, I am largely trading global issues for local issues. I still care about global issues, but I’m pretty sure I’ve spent my life giving each of those the proportionally opposite attention they deserve. I am trying, with limited success so far, to turn the 80/20 rule into the 20/80 rule. The biggest help in this struggle is the absence of television – especially that drug we call Cable “News”.

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Category: Rants, Simple Thoughts, The Transplants

Comments (27)

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  1. Laura Jeanne says:

    I hear ya. I try to ignore the world news as much as possible these days. There is just so much HORRIBLE stuff going on, that I just don’t want to think about it. I have a hard enough time dealing with the stress in my day-to-day life. Perhaps, as you pointed out, this is selfish, but will it really help prevent atrocities happening if I personally am well informed about them? Probably not.

  2. Mr. Simpleton says:

    Laura,

    I do think that if enough people are aware of something terrible, such as genocide, going on somewhere then they, collectively, have the power to do something about it.

    BUT, there are two reasons for us to adopt the attitude described above. First, the 24-hour new cycle is desensitizing us to such atrocities. With SO MUCH hatred and pain in the world, how do we know what to focus on? And it has the tendency to develop callouses on our empathy mechanisms over time. By selectively ignoring the day-to-day stuff going on in the news we may be better equipped emotionally to act on the month-to-month or year-to-year injustices we find.

    Second, if everyone were to pay more attention to their local politics a lot of global political problems would cease to exist. I know “think globally; act locally” is a cliche bumper sticker, but there is a lot of wisdom in it.

    I know what you mean about day-to-day stress. We have to take care of our own selves before we can help others, after all. Thanks for stopping by again Laura!

  3. Thanks..I thought I was the only one. We got rid of cable and now only watch a podcast of the nightly news to catch any big events. I don’t miss it at all.

  4. Michelle says:

    Nice post :-) I’m hopeful that our generation can get beyond the divisive politics of our parents’ generation. I have the idea that we’re more about practicality and ‘whatever works’ than we are ideologically devoted, though I don’t really know if that’s true.

  5. Anna says:

    I don’t think that humans evolved with the capacity to deal with knowledge of so much bad news all the time. I think our minds can only handle the local stuff, and about as much national news as you’d get every month or so when a traveler passed through your village. That’s about the amount I strive for taking in. :-)

    My rule is — if I can’t do anything about it, there’s no reason to know about it. I’ll research the issues before an election, and that’s about it.

  6. I still have cable, but RARELY watch anything more than one program of local news a couple of times a week. It touches on national and international news and gives me the local news as well. I do listen to NPR all the time in the car, but they do more than just talk news. I think for me, talking of the evils of men (even made up evils) get ratings. I don’t believe in pandering to idiots doing idiotic things. They’re like Freddy Kruger to me. Giving them the attention feeds them and makes them stronger. I lived through a horrific apartment building fire. It was arson and three people died. And when a newspaper wanted to do an interview with me, I was clear up front that this wasn’t going to be a tragedy piece. I wanted to show that there IS something good even during that time. And I talked about the man who saved my life. A neighbor I didn’t even know I had, who turned out to be an old childhood friend. And they ran it. I still have a copy of it, 14 years later. Though I don’t have a copy of any of the others.

    Anyways, I agree with you. It’s depressing to watch the news all the time. And really, there’s no point in adding all that stress to yourself, living can be stressful enough.

  7. E.L. says:

    You’re right on the money- you can’t turn on the news to catch up on current events because it’s 99% negative news.

    The 1% good news, where people show their compassion for each other gets just one minute air time.

    I was a heavy news fanatic in the past, I had to stay up on all my current events just so that I could win the next debate/argument with my stellar knowledge of world/national news. What I won was bad health…

  8. rhonda jean says:

    Hello Mr Simpleton, this is my first time here. Love your About Us photo and the video of the brook and your mad dog running about like a loon. It made me laugh. Aren’t animals wonderful in their silliness.

    I have retreated from the world. I concentrate on my home, work to manage my local neighbourhood centre – presenting workshops on frugal living, soapmaking and other life skills, and tend to leave the rest of it alone. What I do is all I can manage and I’m happier not knowing. I know it sounds like a head in the sand attitude but I can only do what I can do.

  9. Michele Z says:

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to focus on your own little world. The problem is that so many people actually watch the 24 hour news channels. Getting your daily dose of news in the morning is a good thing (if you can call it news since so much news contains the reporters own commentary these days instead of just facts). Watching 24 hour news channels is not. And until people stop watching all this news, there is no reason for the channels to do anything differently. It seems that goodness doesn’t sell to the people as much as saddness and misery do. Until people change their viewing habits and start demanding better programming, we will continue to be subjected to 24 hours of depressing news.

  10. WheretoGo says:

    Really enjoying your posts which are inspiring me to keep plugging along on decluttering my own life. There are so many ways I can simplify my family’s life, thanks for continuing to remind me.

  11. We never actually ‘got rid’ of cable – when we moved up here, 2007 – right when the economy began careening down the other side of that big ole bubble that intoxicated so many, we frugally omitted ‘hooking up TV’ from the most essential list, thinking, once we got clear of all the other moving expenses and got our former resident home sold, we’d look into that.

    Almost two years later, when we were finally able to sell the former home, we never put cable back on the list because frankly, once you don’t have it for a period of time, you just don’t feel any need for it. We rent movies and watch the local news that is delivered to us from the air and that, quite frankly, is more than enough.

    I agree that trying to take on the global issues, as if not doing so is some kind of sin of omission, takes your focus off what is happening right in your own backyard, or your ‘holler’, whatever the case may be, these are the things that CAN make a difference, buying locally and helping to keep your own community gainfully employed for starters. Thanks for the post you have relieved even more of my global guilt!
    Jeanne

  12. Katherine says:

    We’ve been without cable (or a television) for the last seven years, and it’s encouraging to see how many others are embracing the same thing. Now just to get a handle on our internet usage, as it’s undoubtedly more intrusive than tv ever was… trying to find the balance between choosing ignorance and being a positive force. Trying to save my ability to be disturbed for the things I can impact.
    I would agree that erring on the side of disconnection with the broadcasting world is best, at least in this day and age, but financial and pen-pal support of our little Isaac in Uganda is invaluable to me, a way to make something too big and intangible to impact feel more local. Anyway, kudos to you for eschewing the mainstream avalanche of suffocating (and hardly accurate) information.

    It’s like Tom Waits said, “We’re buried beneath the weight of information,which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance.”

  13. Quantity and sensationalized irrelevance! Gak!!

  14. Cynthia says:

    I feel the same way. My mother tells me I live in LaLa land. I tell her “It’s a happy place. Please join me!”

    You might like this…

    http://www.savethenews.org/blog/10/09/10/no-more-bleeding-ledes-please

  15. @Cynthia, thanks for the link! I checked it out and it is so revealing. I especially liked the part about what WOULD be a nice lineup of reporting parameters, in particular, what local governments are up to on a daily basis. The big and the little decisions up for vote, and that will have an effect on our real lives, should be front page news every single day.

  16. I came across this through a friend on my facebook page:
    http://farmandranchfreedom.org/food_safety_bills_09

    I thought it was relevant to everyone on a local level. The least we can do is try and help to protect our local farmers’ ability to market to their communities!

  17. Mr. Simpleton says:

    Thank you Jeane. Below is a copy of my email to the two State Senators of VA:

    I’m sure you get a lot of conspiracy-theorist emails on the topic of the Food Safety Modernization Act. This is not one of them. I understand that the goal of S.510 is to protect consumers. HOWEVER – please do not do this at the expense of our already-struggling small farmers.

    Please do NOT vote Yes for S.510 unless it contains very strong and exact language exempting on-farm sales and protecting local farmers who participate in farmers markets all across the country. Although it is not perfect, I think the Tester-Hagan amendments go a long way toward this goal. Do not vote for that bill without them. I will be paying attention to your vote.

    Regards,

    One of the people you represent.

  18. Great letter! (sorry I didn’t respond sooner – had a big bag o’ bs to deal with in my business. lol!) But thanks, I’m also thinking about doing the letter to the editor (of the Gazette) a lot of people in this area read it. One time I put an ad in there for a stray dog that I had found and I couldn’t believe how many calls I got!

  19. I meant to ask, did you send by reg. mail or by e-mail?

  20. Diane Cruz says:

    I love the fact that you don’t own a tv, neither so we. Our home is so peaceful because of that.

    Good on you for first creating your “own little world” and then living in it.

  21. oops, I see you sent the letter to the Senators by e-mail – I just posted a thread in the Gazette online on the subject

  22. Mr. Simpleton says:

    Jeanne, what’s the link to your post on the Gazette site?

  23. I hope this gets you there: http://www.galaxgazette.com/forum/4031 otherwise, it’s in

    Opinions – Readers Forum – Government.

    I tried to send it as a letter to the editor, but can’t find it in the paper newspaper or online.

  24. Jo says:

    Completely agree. In fact, what passes as news these days is just personal tragedy. Why do we insist on rubbernecking at others’ horrors? It’s sad.

  25. Follow-up on Food Safety Bill! the Tester-Hagan Amendment did pass with the bill! Thanks for your help! Jeanne
    http://dakiniland.wordpress.com/2010/12/01/s-510-passed-with-the-tester-hagan-amendment/

  26. […] friend of mine Everett wrote a great post on why he avoids the news. Something tells me we would have been the two idiots in a bar shouting our differing views at each […]

  27. Michelle says:

    I have enjoyed reading all the comments, and wanted to throw one more out there…I notice that when I allow too much of the news media in, I start feeling helpless, angry, cynical and bitter, and I carry this feeling around with me. So I wonder if everyone else saturated with the news feels the same? Perhaps more of us sheltering from the news/media would change attitudes?

    Just a thought.

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