I’m a gossip junkie. Just before I wrote that, the line in my head was, “I’m a news junkie.” Don’t I wish. I realized this weekend how many times a day I check my favorite news feed. But I skip the world stuff, skim the US stuff, check out the celeb stuff and camp out on the personal interest, small-time news. You know, people killing each other, stuff like that. Once you click on one of those, you can chase all sorts of deliciously weird and obscure news stories from all over. Some of them are heroic and I enjoy repeating and retelling them to awed audiences. Some of them – most of them – are tragic and sad and I carry the image in my head way too long.

We have an excess of information available to us. There is no nook or cranny of the world that my Internet connection can’t take me to. The atrocities of this world may not be new – they may, indeed, have happened for generations prior. But my ancestors didn’t know about it. So which of us is more fulfilled? Which of us is happier? Me in my knowledge or my great-greats in their smaller world?

Too often, though, my time on the web is spent avoiding life’s serious issues and just looking for trivia. Do I need to know those things? No, I don’t NEED to know much of anything, not even the more major people and world issues. But I have to wonder what I’m missing as I float from silliness to personal tragedy, wincing at the pain inflicted on one by another, and ignoring the issues I might be able to do something – albeit perhaps a little something – about.

I’m not advocating pulling the plugs on that type of sensational journalism. That cat was let out of that bag a long time ago. Under the mantra of “the right to know,” journalists will continue to print whatever they deem newsworthy. But here’s the question that’s begun nagging at me: Why do I want that picture in my head? I know how that little boy accidently died now and I’ll carry that picture forever. What’s more, did I have the right to invade his family’s privacy like that? How do they feel knowing that some stranger out there carries their family’s worst moment in her head, through no choice of their own?

There are some atrocities that we NEED to have in our heads – the ones we can do something about. All ignorance is not bliss. Sometimes it’s deadly…to someone, as least.

I had a friend once who (pre-Internet days) received a mailer he didn’t request from a group he didn’t like or support. They were asking for money, saying that the damage done by a television preacher and his organization was hurting them and their causes. My friend was unaware of this. He wrote the group back, told them he had been unaware and thanked them for the information. Then he enclosed a photocopy of the check he wrote for the tv preacher. That was news well used.

I cannot affect world change by boycotting the “little” stories. But I can affect me-change. And perhaps by focusing on the stories crying out for solutions I might affect some world change. It just seems like such a pittance that it would hardly be worth the effort.

I’m reminded of the story of two people walking down the beach. Hundreds of starfish had been washed up in the tide and were stranded on the sand. One of the walkers stooped, picked one up, and tossed it back into the sea. As they walked and he stooped to pick up another, his partner said, “Look at all of them! Do you really think you can make a difference?” As he threw the starfish into the ocean, the second one said calmly, “It made a difference to that one.”

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One thought on “The Right to Know

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