I’m interested in how front page news becomes almost no news as we get used to any new situation.
When I think back to last August and Britain’s catastrophic and deeply distressing withdrawal from Afghanistan, or February this year and Putin‘s horrific invasion of Ukraine, the shock and terror of the implications of massive personal tragedy and widespread devastation had me glued to the radio. The ‘News’ from countries far away infiltrated my world, influencing my days and above all my state of mind.
It is with some shame that I have to confess I have now slightly switched off the news. Not out of lack of interest or concern, nor simply because I’m extremely busy in the run-up to the publication my book in July (hence apologies for any typos etc… I am constantly on the road at the moment.) No, I am making a deliberate choice not to turn on the news in order to preserve a positive state of being; so I can feel the excitement of my long journey reaching its end and a new chapter starting; and so I can fully immerse myself in the flower-power of the blooming wonders of nature in all their technicoloured splendour.
I am sure I am not alone in noticing how quickly and completely the un-normal can become normalised. I imagine it was always thus. History feels more intense than the present because history isn’t experienced on a moment-to-moment basis. It is captured in snapshots – letters, diaries, family albums, military or journalistic reports – and concertinaed into a narrative by skilled historians. The multitude of in-between times that make up the everyday are all missed out.
Right now – and without wanting to be a doom-monger but we can’t ignore that it is a possibility – we might be witnessing the build-up to the Third World War. Or a climate catastrophe of proportions we can’t imagine. Or world famine. Or intense poverty. Or worst case scenario, all of the above. These times too will one day be reduced to a sequence of significant events and decisions. Yet for many of us, still not directly impacted by them, the business of life continues, to a large degree, as usual.
Anybody who regularly reads my blogs knows how I frequently get frustrated by the lack of agency, influence or clout I feel in the face of the shenanigans and all too often crap decisions of politicians or world leaders. I never want to not feel justified rage or become guilty of the passivity of ‘looking away’ that so many Germans living in Nazi times are accused of. But thinking back to those times, I find it much easier to comprehend how even then, the ‘News,’ as horrific as it often was, might have become normalised. The majority of people would have read or heard about things, argued about whether they were right or indeed even true, and then probably just got on with the intricacies of their daily lives. Just like most us are probably doing now.
Maybe it’s because I find it overwhelming trying to imagine the challenges, traumas, upheavals, fears and worries of each individual caught up directly or indirectly in all that is going on in the world right now that I am choosing to surrender to the things I am impotent to do anything about. Maybe it’s ok to want to give myself the best chance of maintaining a level of optimism, vision, hope and love so I can contribute positively to the world in whatever way I can… kind of along the lines of the Serenity Prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and used in Anonymous groups.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Then again it may just be an age thing. That I have reached the stage where one sits in a chair and writes grumpy letters to newspapers. Or in my case, where I rail against the endless stream of transparently self-serving, superficial and frankly dangerous tweets by our foreign secretary, Liz Truss, all accompanied by ghastly selfies. Oh here we go, I clearly haven’t quite grown out of my healthy rage at the world!
Happy end of May and beginning of June and next time I write, it will be a countdown to publication day…
9 thoughts on “When headline ‘News’ becomes ‘Normal’”
Superb, and insightful piece of writing , as normal , thank you for making me think of something other than my daily life trivia. 👍
Thanks Kevin. Lovely feedback to receive
Thank you, Angela. So well written, wonderful photographs. Love, Claus
Hent Outlook til iOS ________________________________
Thanks Claus x
Thank you Angela , as ever- for your thought provoking thoughtfullness. At the age of 75, I certainly find a distinct familiarity in the ideas you express – and the coping mechanisms to which you confess (as do I ….)
I too find Neibuhr’s piece appealing – sometimes.
However, I think we both need to gird our loins and fight back against the dying of the light.
I fear that actually Neibuhr’s little snippet of wise counsel may be the basis of a rather less satisfactory philosophy than it might appear to offer.
Praise for the pragmatic realism of putting up with, ignoring or being otherwise passive in the face of things one “cannot change” may be inimical to the best interests of mankind.
One may do well to compare and contrast Neibuhr’s piece of pocket philosophy with the other famous adage about evil flourishing if good people simply do nothing. Who’s to say (or tell me) what it is that I can’t change?
I don’t know – and don’t claim to have any more insight into this than anyone else – but I suspect (to unashamedly steal and misuse a notion from dear old Karl …) that the Neibuhr philosophy may inadvertently act as “the opium of the people”.
Convince us that there’s nothing we can do and we shall do nothing. Its a neat method of ensuring society’s compliance with totalitarianism – or any other one of the ungodly “‘isms” that assail us in this day and age.
I think (on balance, and admitting that nothing in this World is absolute) I prefer the notion that “there’s nothing you can’t change” (except Death and Taxes … though perhaps we shouldn’t exclude those either…)
At a personal level though – and particularly with a splendid book launch coming up – I see no reason why a busy individual isn’t entitled to invoke Neibuhr, on a temporary basis, to allow laudable and necessary tilting at windmills to be postponed for a month or so with a clear conscience.
For consideration at an appropriate later date, I offer you an alternative adage for possible future use –
“We’re never too old to doubt the difference between what we can change and what we can’t, nor to doubt that there is any.”
That’s an excellent and considered response, David. Thank you as always. And I have to agree, this last blog is a temporary state i am sure. For I too do believe we all can make a difference and even bring about real change. And not believing that can Iead to the terrible apathy that in turn can contribute to horrors….
I think, as you suggest, sometimes we need to just turn the dial down or activate a form of filter… I think and hope I am a far way off from mastering the kind of ‘serenity’ Neibuhr advocates!
Thanks for also providing great food for thought
Thank YOU Angela!
And all best wishes for every success with the launch!!
Remember to rage at the flying of the kite or whatever it was.
I find listening to BBC Ukraine cast each day helps.
I have my first opening in Devon on Sat 🙂
Look forward to reading your book.
Struggled to pre-order on Amazon.
Hypernormalisation – Adam Curtis