I think the media have a great deal to answer for. Let me explain.
There is a great deal of bad news to be reported, that is true. But there always has been, it’s just that we were not aware of it before.
We can let the woes of the world hang heavy, or we can find opportunity and inspiration for improvement. It is how we react to problems that defines us.
For many people, their reactions to news are assisted by the media. This is no reflection on their intellect. Rather, that with so much to take in, it is easier to go along with the first interpretation of events presented. We read of some misdemeanour and it seems reasonable enough to join in with the calls of condemnation. We are busy and have things to do, so we do not take the time to ponder more deeply why these things may have occurred.
There is an analogy with modern medicine here. Like a time-pressured doctor, we find it easier to address the symptom rather than the cause of a problem. The drugs companies (or media) take no great steps to prevent this because it serves their purpose of selling more product (newspapers), keeps their R&D costs low (employing less competent thus cheaper journalists), and easily preserves the status quo.
Note that no malice is required here, just Burke’s exhortation that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
It is not really the media’s fault that they find themselves in this position of power, but there is no doubt that they lie (pun intended) as the supposed mouthpiece between political power and the voice of democracy.
But like the hedonistic young man who suddenly finds himself to be a parent, lack of intent is no justification for lack of responsibility; and currently they are shirking that responsibility with disasterous effects.
As many situations will demonstrate, the media’s simplistic representation of concepts does not do justice to the intelligence of their consumers.
To cite a recent example: When the British Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, resigned to defend the concept of habeus corpus the newspapers criticised him as a self-righteous time-waster. But when a larger population was polled it was obvious that his moves were broadly respected by the population. They understood his position and sympathised with it. Perhaps they are grateful to him for the fact it may only take one man to defend a freedom, but the lives of thousands to earn it.
But with the short-termist agenda of most media, stretching at most to a month, more commonly a day, but frequently from hour to hour, such long term mindfulness has no voice.
This lack of respect for their consumers is a fundamental and systemic weakness which will, I suspect, be the downfall of the worst offenders. The trouble is, when it falls, and up until then, it’s going to keep on doing damage.
I am reminded of the “if a child lives with… ” poem, which elegantly states the problem of the vicious circle we find ourselves in. (http://teacherweb.com/NC/WilliamsTownshipElementary/CheriBarkley/IfAChildLivesWith.htm)
There are lots of problems facing humanity today, and we desperately need to deal with them, applying the full resources of our intellect, reason, and compassion.
We require clear identification of the problems (which include the symptoms, for they too must be addressed); an honest evaluation of the solutions, their strengths and their weaknesses; and a motivated striving for the various solutions.
The cliched, simplistic representations made to us by most of the media simply do not have the resolution or clarity to undertake this task.
Appropriately treated, human kind is almost unstoppable in what we can achieve and the disasters we can overcome. We, all of us, have the sense to understand the complexities of issues we face.
Most of our leaders, too, have the capacity and intelligence to lead us well to this future, but they are hobbled by an inability to communicate maturely with the populus.
But we are stuck with the lazy junkie media, focussed only on the next fix, as our mutual voice. They represent the politicians to us, and the politicians use them as a sounding board for common opinion.
In truth, they fairly represent neither.
So what are we to do?
Generally we are moving along the right track, as the example of Davis’ resignation shows. Politicians are doing their thing, we’re doing our thing, and we understand each other in a maturer way than the lazy left/right, black/white, good/bad journalists would have us believe. (We know the world is not this way, because we never see it this way in our daily lives.)
As suggested above, the solution will always be: define the problem, work out the solution, take action.
We owe it to ourselves to acknowledge the way we are treated by the media, to reflect more deeply on the issues we read about, and to vote and act in accordance with our own conclusions, not those presented to us.
We owe it to each other to respect the capacity for comprehension that we all have, to expect the best from individuals, and actively help each other unlock our deeper understanding.
And we owe it to our children to strive for these goals assiduously, for if we do not, it really will be bad news.