Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dear Sheila: When the "news" is too much

   In the spirit of playing catch up, here is our second installment of "Dear Sheila," from the Summer 2011 issue of C.L.A.P. Have a burning question you'd like Sheila's advice about? Just email it to:!                                                                   
Dear Sheila, 

Everytime I pay attention to the news, I feel so depressed, I just want to curl up and die, but I want to stay informed! How can I be aware of what is happening in today's world without it ruining my day? 

-Lovin' Ted Turner

Shoot; well, this is a tough one. What I sense, lurking behind your question, is the burden of trying to meet competing, and inchoate, expectations for yourself and the world. 

As a thinking woman, it sounds like you feel you have a responsibility to be informed about the world. As a feeling woman, you have a quite a task just keeping yourself sane in a quickly maddening world. Once again, let's take a Socratic approach to your dilemma . . . what are your expectations for yourself? What does it mean to be informed, in this globally connected world? How do you know if you're informed? Sometimes, when we're missing a metric to let us know whether we're on the right path or not, trying to fulfuill personally meaningful expectations can become a Sisyphean struggle. 

Perhaps, though your handle doesn't reflect this, you feel that major mainstream news organizations are shit and don't reflect reality on the ground (sorry for pissing on T^2). Your sense is, of course, correct->major network and cable news have more in common with fantasy novels than reality most of the time. But where does that leave you? Trapped in a hall of mirrors, in which reality is quickly bifurcated into a senseless nightmare? NO! Here are some alternative news feeds that give relatively unbiased news and current events: Jim Lehrer Newshour, on PBS; the BBC newsfeed tends to cover the whole world, and has an interesting perspective on U.S. events; for politics, is a huge clearinghouse of all the Beltway derring-dos without much editorializing. 

 I would suggest that your responsibilty can be fulfilled in a personal, creative, and meaningful manner. What role do you want to have in your world? Do you want to make informed consumer choices, and make an effort to buy local and ethically sourced products? Then keeping informed about current production practices and local business movements would seem to be important. Is a certain region of the world or conflict particularly salient or pressing to you? Focus your attention on news surrounding that area AND focus your activist energies on getting involved in organizations, demonstrations, education, etc that will increase your agency in the world. Truly, what is more depressing than seeing a miserable world and not being able to do anything about it. But, let's remember, CREATIVE LADIES (of all stripes, creeds, genders, ethnicities, and orientations) ARE POWERFUL!!! 

P.S. Look, I'm a closet Goth too, so I understand the urge to indulge your miserable side by picking scabs, watching Fox News, and listening to old Placebo CDs. There's a time and place for everything. But unless you want to live in your bat-infested basement, leaving only to tie one on at Ground Zero, you'll have to learn when to say when. 

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