Don’t use news media to understand the world.
They just aren’t getting it. By they, I mean the large conglomerates publishing the daily news around the world. Over 20 years ago, I quit watching the news
and reading the daily papers because the only stories reported were negative — terrorism, violent crimes, wars, natural disasters, death tolls. Shortly thereafter, enough of the global population must have made their dissatisfaction known as a common occurrence emerged on every news station — the reporting anchor ended her/his reading of depressing stories with one positive event.
Well, a ratio of 10 negative to 1 positive does not a true picture make as Hans Rosling informs us. This usual doom and gloom reporting of global events has not only pervaded our collective consciousness, but continues to feed an already overwhelming focus on negativity in society. As I recall, the First Nation’s legend of the Two Wolves teaches us that what we feed with our attention and energy grows.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside
me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil — he is anger,
envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority,
lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good — he is
joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy,
generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside
you — and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
“Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
In my opinion, the news media has fueled the growth of negativity long enough. We need a news attitude change. Unfortunately, a standard reply to those espousing a positive attitude often sounds like an accusation of their gullibility — “How can you be so naïve to think that viewing the world through rose-coloured glasses has any basis in reality?” As Thomas Baekdal writes, those negative media reports represent a “tiny part of a much more positive reality.” Specifically, crime data in the U.S. indicates we are:
- 23% safer to walk today’s US streets than 10 years ago
- 28% less likely to be raped
- 41% less likely for our car to be stolen
- 9% less likely to be robbed in our home
On a personal note, whenever I mention walking home in the evening from city centre to my nearby neighbourhood, I can tell by the looks on peoples’ faces they think I am being reckless. However, in 30 years of night-time walking in a city with the highest homicide rate in Canada, I have never been assaulted or even spoken to rudely by those I encounter.
Just maybe that homicide statistic is misrepresenting reality and instead creating irrational fear among the populace. And here are some more facts supporting my claim:
- in 1900, deaths from natural disasters = .5M yearly;
in 2000, they dropped to less than .1M/year
- in 2014, the majority of 30-year old women in the world attended school for as long as their male counterparts
- in the last 20 years, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has almost halved
- in 1975, income was distributed into two humps — the rich and the poor;
in 2015, the two income humps have merged into one — the majority of people live in the middle income bracket
A combination of preconceived ideas and skewed information feeds our ignorance rather than our intelligence. Even our homogenous neighbourhoods, which do not truly represent the globally diverse world of today, tend to skew our perception of reality. Rosling, and his son Ola, suggest we might try turning most of what we hear on the news upside down by applying these four life rules.
Misconception #1: Everything is getting worse.
Reframe: Most things improve.
Misconception #2: The gap between the rich and poor is increasing.
Reframe: There is one income hump with most people in the middle.
Misconception #3: First comes wealth, then comes social development.
Reframe: First comes social development, then follows wealth.
Misconception #4: Sharks are dangerous.
Reframe: Sharks kill very, very few people.
In essence, when we focus on our fears, we are feeding and growing negative energy in our world. Is it any wonder that depression is the number two disease globally. Bad things do happen; however, not nearly as often as we would think or feel or believe.
Life shoots arrows at us, said the Buddha. Human life is a source of dukkha
(discomfort, suffering, dissatisfaction) by its very nature: we grow old, fall
ill, and even pleasant experiences don’t last. Those realities are the first
arrow. But when we respond with grief and distress, blame and regret,
[negativity]… it is like shooting ourselves with a second arrow. We cannot
avoid the first arrow, but we can avoid the second by learning to be present
and nonreactive in the face of discomfort. Zo Newell
Concentrating our attention on only bad things depletes our energy. However, as most have experienced, happiness is contagious and expansive. It grows on us and in us.
In this holiday season, may you be filled with loving kindness. May you be well. May you be peaceful and at ease, and may you be happy.
Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything, you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest. Sri Chinmoy
For more information on positive emotional expression and happiness, click here.