I’ve been up to something quite unusual for the last week and a bit. I’ve been deliberately ignoring as many news outlets as I can. This seems to be a minority stance, judging by the amount of news apps we have for our mobile devices and the pervasiveness of 24 hour news. I wandered into a local pub just today for lunch and was promptly confronted with BBC News 24 on the big screen, it seems that there’s no easy escape.
The news is mostly negative, let’s face it. The worst of it is that when an outlet tries to report only good news, their ratings plummet. It seems that we’re conditioned into thinking that only bad news is news. We’re also subjected to other cues that make the news seem to have greater importance than you might think. Of course, this means that we can be relied upon to locate only news that will worry us; thus making the negative view of the world even worse. To quote Henry David Thoreau:
“And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of Grasshoppers in the winter – we need never read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications?”
To be honest, from my own experience thus far the things you really need to know have away of getting through regardless. Why does it add to my day to know that someone in a far off land was killed or a plane crashed? If it affects me, I’ll learn of it; if not, there’s nothing I can do about it anyway. Certainly, things are feeling less tense. I’ll write more as the experiment progresses.
I was reading the “i” daily briefing from the Independent the other day. The headline story agreed with something I’ve been saying for a few years and I know that I’m not the only one. Our economy here in the UK is dependent on huge amounts of borrowing. Consumer debt, secure and unsecured, is used to prop up the high street and thus the Governments tax take to a huge degree. A massive house price boom was engineered (not just in the UK) to support an economic boom. The events of 2008 were the wheels coming off and we’ve not really recovered from that. I don’t believe it is recoverable, or is it healthy to try.
What we have now is that the UK Chancellor is relying even more on the public borrowing and spending large sums to order to make the books balance. This includes a desperate attempt to reignite the property boom. This is in spite of what happened last time. Back in the mid 2000s, when I first starting looking at Taoism, I learned that everything was cyclic. No situation lasts forever, every situation contains the seeds of its opposite. Eventually, the opposite will wax and the current will wane.
I applied this to the housing market and to the whole use of debt and it became a little clearer. Looking at what’s happening now, it’s clear that nothing has been learned from 2008. We’re still desperately using debt fuelled spending to power a notional economy. A wise man called Mike Folkerth once wrote “Exponential growth is the plan, it ain’t possible is the problem”. With apologies to Mike: “Running the economy on consumer debt is the plan. You can’t keep it up forever is the problem.”
I found myself finishing “A Clash of Kings” recently. After closing the book, I reflected on the differences between the book and the TV series. This is a series that I stopped watching after the opening couple of episodes of the fourth season, when I decided to put something a lot more pleasant into my mind. This is the first time I’ve done this with a TV show, and I cast my mind back of the shows I’ve watched even back to some old Irwin Allen; Land of the Giants, anyone? Yes, it was a rerun, I’m not old enough for the first airing!
What came to mind is how much darker and blood soaked; more graphic and sexual the shows are becoming. Unless my mind is playing tricks, it seems to be getting worse much more quickly these days too. The worst was a conversation had at work recently where a new TV show was discussed that has graphic violence and sexual scenes, this was held to be “really good”. This made me think of the Tao Te Ching, more specifically:
The five colors make one blind in the eyes
The five sounds make one deaf in the ears
The five flavors make one tasteless in the mouth
Racing and hunting make one wild in the heart
Goods that are difficult to acquire make one cause damage
Therefore the sages care for the stomach and not the eyes
That is why they discard the other and take this
(www.Taoism.net and Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths in 2006.)
This is where we seem to be heading. Ever more extremes are needed as we become desensitised, I find myself wondering where it will end and when someone will draw the line. As I write I remember a British social activist, the late Mrs Mary Whitehouse. She died in 2001 aged 91 years and had long campaigned against sex and violence on television, which drew much mockery from the TV industry she criticised. When all is said and done, I can’t stop myself from wondering if she was a Cassandra; did she see where we were heading and try to warn us?