Today’s almost-instantaneous global communications systems are wonderful. But they have their downsides, only one of which is this question of news.
Wherever one is on a political, economic, or religious spectrum, it is impossible to review an average day of news and commentary without feeling the impulse toward something between rage and despair. I’m not the only one to be faced with the decision to tune out altogether or to find some way to come to terms with an overwhelming feeling of helplessness.
I’ve given myself endless sermons that I am not, cannot be, responsible for everything that happens in the world. I even have enough self-knowledge to realize that, despite my obvious goodness and wisdom, I am unlikely to do a better job than most of our leaders. Why then, I have asked myself, bother? Why flagellate myself when there is nothing I can do beyond my own very small patch?
But I think there is a reason we should keep worrying about what’s happening in the larger world beyond our personal circle. It’s because transparency is one of the most powerful tools we as a human species have. Closed, secret systems provide far more opportunities to cheat, lie, manipulate,and destroy. Even the fear of exposure can help keep these universal impulses under control. We know this is true for each of us as individuals. Seeing what’s going on is just as true for systems. We need them to be transparent.
So although my life might be more tranquil if I simply close the door on the world, I won’t be making my small contribution to a more transparent and honest one.
It’s not that any of us can see ourselves making much of a contribution to changing the world. Even those proclaimed to be among the Great and the Good seem to make such small changes for a life-time of heroic effort. But bit by bit, for better or for worse, we each do make a difference.
Like it or not, we’re all in this together.