Your Relationship With the News
Have you ever stopped to think about how your worldview is affected or even defined by the news?
How to get the most out of these Wisdom Quotes:
Put aside everything you think you already know.
Open your mind and heart to receive something new.
Take your time going through each point.
Return to any points that particularly touch you.
In the coming days, listen carefully to the wisdom within you.
* All quotes are by Charles Eisenstein from the course Unlearning: for Change Agents
1. Addicted to the News
"When I was growing up, I was told that it’s important to read the news so that one can stay informed and be an informed citizen.
I went on a news fast. I’ve done this a few times in my life, sometimes for a few days or weeks, sometimes for months at a time. And you know, I never actually suffered from lack of information in any appreciable way, nor did I become less effective as a participant in civil society. So there’s some other reason why we are drawn to watch the news or read the news.
It can feel kind of like an addiction.
You might find, when you’re honest with yourself, that one reason that you read or watch the news is for reassurance. Reassurance that “I’m right. I’m doing this right. I think the right thing. I believe the right thing. I know things.”
Most people, and this is the echo chamber effect, most people read news from a source that they pretty much agree with, that shares their outrage and their indignation about some things, shares their celebration about other things.
It helps maintain a social identity in a time of a loss of identity that comes from a breakdown in our overarching stories and ways of making meaning of the world and of our own lives.
So there’s an addictive quality to watching the news because it pretends to meet a need that ultimately it fails to meet. The need for identity, the need to belong.
It doesn’t actually make you belong. It’s no substitute for deep intimate connections to place and community and nature. But it at least takes the edge off the hunger that comes from that unmet need."
Addiction is a strong word and one which may bring rise to feelings of indignation. Notice if you feel offended at the idea that you may be addicted to the news. No one is pointing their finger at you. Just notice.
Now be honest with yourself and consider your reasons for watching the news. There are many to choose from. Just be honest with yourself. There's no judgment here. We're simply exploring.
2. Pulling Back From the Programming
"I went on a news fast, by which I mean I didn’t look at the news, or read the news or anything, for about half a year. Partly because I wanted to write my book, but also because I felt like it was poisoning my mind, because all of the news was inviting me into hating somebody, into outrage and indignation, and one adrenaline jolt after another, one fix after another.
I wanted to go on a fast or quit cold turkey for a while and see what happened. And having stepped back a little bit from the fray of the media, from the cyclone of news, I got a bit more perspective on it, and it’s kind of disturbing.
This is a profound deprogramming, because, for one thing, the very choice of what gets into the news and what doesn’t, what is newsworthy and what is not, reinforces a certain worldview.
It says, here’s what is important and here is what isn’t important, and by implication, here’s how the world works, here’s what you should care about, here is what is going to change things.
That choice of what to put in the news, it’s not a conspiracy - it’s more of an unconscious conspiracy if you will, a collective unconscious choice, that reflects society’s values, and the metaphysics, or the causality that society takes for granted.
So by pulling back from the news you pull back from a constant reinforcement of that belief in causality, in that belief of “here’s what’s important.” Pulling back from the news will help you in unlearning some of these deeper programs."
Have you ever considered the news as an invitation to hate or be outraged?
Have you ever wondered why certain things are considered newsworthy and others are not?
Have you ever stopped to think about how your worldview is affected or even defined by the news?
3. A Tempest in a Teapot
"Take note of what it’s like to be free of the news, free of the reinforcement of certain patterns of perception and behavior and thought that the news induces in you.
And then also, with that distance, you might get a glimpse of what’s hidden beneath the polarized discourse; what’s hidden beneath the “this side” and “that side.”
So here’s a spectrum of opinion, here’s one pole, here’s another pole. And you might agree with this, you might agree with that, you might be somewhere in between. But what about being off that spectrum completely?
What’s being hidden underneath the surface of the debate?
As you pull back, you might gain more and more awareness, and it might seem, wow, it’s a tempest in a teapot! It’s magnifying some little piece of the Matrix, into this all-important, all-consuming “issue”, “the issues.”
Everyone is intoxicated by “the issues”, leaving the real issues untouched. And so you might get more clarity into what the real issues are as you withdraw from the hypnosis of the news."
Here, Charles shares with us what he noticed after staying away from the news for some time. His perception changed. He saw that certain things were being exaggerated and made into larger issues than they actually were. And that many of the real, underlying problems weren't even being addressed.
When we're exposed to the news on a regular basis, we can't help getting caught up in it. Our perception is dictated by what is being presented, and we often find ourselves feeling angry, fearful, or frustrated.
Remember that you're reacting to a picture that is being painted for you, one that is often extremely bleak and depressing when heard repeatedly. Notice how you feel when you take in the news.
4. A War Mentality
"In a war, the most important question is, what side are you on? That’s what you have to figure out first. Are you a friend or an enemy? Are you on team good, i.e., my team? Or are you on team evil, the other team? And if you don’t easily fit into one of the two sides, then you’re the object of suspicion and hostility.
In fact, I find that in a war situation, the enemy is not as detested as the pacifist, because the enemy at least validates your own identity.
We build identities from the stories that surround us. And the story of “us versus them” tells us who we are. “I’m an American. I’m on the side of freedom.” And they are the Russians, or they are the terrorists, or they are somebody else, so I know who I am, through having an enemy. At least that’s how it works in a war mentality, which is pervasive in our culture.
So, if you question that categorization of self and other, if you say yeah, you know, maybe the whole premises of the war are faulty, and we should question the things that are driving us to fight somebody, then you are questioning someone’s identity."
We have all built our identities from the stories that surround us, and many of these stories, directly or indirectly, filter down from the news and the media.
Consider the statement, "The story of “us versus them” tells us who we are." We love the story of us versus them, don't we? We love to be the good guys and point the finger at the bad guys. We see it in politics, we see it in religion, we see it everywhere.
Becoming aware of this instead of unconsciously being swept along by the "war mentality, which is pervasive in our culture," immediately elevates your perspective. You don't need an enemy to know who you are.
5. Which Side Are You On?
"There’s a danger though, in saying, “Oh I’m just an observer, I’m gonna sit back, and not take sides,” because that can also be a recipe for inaction. And I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about rejecting the prescriptions for action that both sides might offer.
When they say, “the issue is about this, which side are you on?” No matter which side you pick, you’re still agreeing that the issue is about this. If there’s a deeper cause that both sides are ignoring, and deeper agreements that both sides share, that actually generate the problem to begin with, then no matter which side you pick, you’re still part of the problem.
For example, in this country, in fact a lot of countries, there’s a big immigration debate. Which side are you on? Are you on the side that would like to let these people in, and welcome them into this country to escape the hardships and dangers of where they came from, or are you on the side that wants to keep them out?
Which side are you on?
Well, neither side is asking the important questions, such as why are all these people wanting to immigrate in the first place? What makes life in their home country so unlivable that they would risk everything, leave their families behind, leave their traditions behind, leave their language behind, for a completely uncertain future, sometimes at the hands of human smugglers?
What would it take for you to do that?"
Here is an invitation to reject "the prescriptions for action that both sides might offer," and to step back from the ongoing debate of choosing sides in the first place.
A certain kind of discernment is needed to see the big picture and to recognize the deeper causes that are generating all the problems. This discernment isn't there when we're swept up in these volatile arguments about which side is right and which is wrong. The challenge is to be still and become aware.
6. Assuming Responsibility
"The easy solution is, you know, build a wall, keep them [the refugees] out. The easy solution depends on identifying one cause, a single cause, that is outside yourself, something you can fight, like a germ that you can kill, or a weed that you can pull up.
There’s no easy solution, there’s nothing to fight because you're part of it too, I’m part of it too - our daily lives, our routines, our way of life is deeply implicated in all of these - imperialism, capitalism etc.
So, we don’t know what to do, and it involves ourselves. You can’t push it out onto an “other.”
That’s just one example of how the invitation to engage in “the issue” is a trap, trapping you into perpetuating the issue because all of that contention, all that froth and push, that whole war, is a distraction from the deeper issues.
And no matter which side wins the issue won’t go away, the problem won't go away.
I’m not saying, “oh I'm just going to sit back and be the cynical observer and let them play out because I’m above it all.” I want to be useful to the evolution of this world.
But I’m very wary of the existing solution sets, the existing actions that are offered to us, because they are so often part of the problem in ways that we are unconscious of."
Here we see that "the invitation to engage in “the issue” is a trap, trapping you into perpetuating the issue." It seems like the most normal thing to do is to take sides, find someone to blame, and sit on your pedestal of righteousness, knowing that your way is right if only everyone else would see that.
And if you don't take sides you may be accused of not caring.
But we are called to take a higher stance on the news and media we are bombarded with in today's world. The highest place is in the seat of Awareness - that place beyond personal thought, where humanity is seen as a whole and not split into friend and foe.
Only from here can we have a truly accurate perspective of what the real "issues" are and how to respond to them as an evolved species.