By Nicholas Riebel, Staff Writer ||
This day and age is amazing and exceptional, in that it is absolutely the same as every other time throughout history. This is the paradox of the current moment: even though it seems exciting and unprecedented, it has always been this way. There is always something new and amazing for us to experience. Yet, there is something truly new about this era: we have the ability to hear about almost everything that goes on around the world.
Almost everything that can legitimately be considered news is available, from the turmoil in the Middle East, to the workings and corruption of the American government, and the rise and revival of the extreme right in Europe; these are probably the most important stories of our time now. We have many news organizations reporting on all of this, with various degrees of success and competence. Some practice better journalism than others, but this isn’t enough.
Now, I know many news organizations seem to have ideological or partisan agendas, but this is not exactly what I am advocating for. As individuals, we all have different ideas of how we think the world works, and why certain things happen. Yet, while we all complain about the media, we rarely take it upon ourselves to report the news, or at least to react to it.
We live in an age in which anyone can be an amateur reporter or journalist. While many people bemoan this as a sad new fact of life, I see this as an opportunity. We now are able to democratize the news.
At the beginning of recorded history, we had kings and pharaohs. They ruled their domains with absolute power, and the people had no say. And why would they? Most philosophers were able to justify the right of monarchs to reign however they wished, with one of the most famous examples of this being the theory on the Divine Right of Kings.
Yet, Hobbes and the rest were wrong, at least we think so nowadays: we decided that we should give the people more political power. And eventually, a few old white men decided to create the United States of America, a republic modeled in large part after Rome (specifically, the Roman Republic). They put measures in place to prevent a Caesar from tyrannizing the people, and even gave some of us the right to vote. While this was initially restricted to white male property owners, most of the adult population was gradually enfranchised, and now we have more issues in getting people out to vote than making sure that they are legally able to do so.
Similarly, the news was strictly controlled, and until recently if you wanted to hear about current events, you had some stations of the radio, television, and the newspaper. Now, you have as many possible sources as you could possibly want, an increasingly specialized and personal media designed to alert you to news instantly and as accurately as possible (this is not perfect, but even decades ago access to accurate information about, say, events in various dictatorships and war-torn nations was much harder to come by).
The problem, it seems to me, is that citizens do not choose to inform themselves, much less engage with the new media — which they should do, even in ways as simple as writing letters to the editor or articles for their school newspaper.
True, not everyone chooses to live under a rock: most pay attention to some form of news, but not political news, which I believe to be the most important. They pay attention above all to celebrity gossip, popular culture, and sports.
My opinion here may be unpopular, but I feel that it is beyond sad that people would rather hear about celebrities and sports than about governments and wars. It is all fine and good to distract yourself with trivial things such as these, but it is far, far more important you educate yourself about the important things in life.
I know some may disagree. Perhaps I overlook the importance of Kim Kardashian or which team is going to the Super Bowl. It is arrogant, perhaps, to assign my beloved politics to a higher station than what someone tweeted about your favorite sports team or celebrity.
We are blessed with freedom of speech and expression. I try to take advantage of it, in large part so that we may continue to have it. If you let yourself not care, then you cannot complain about the government’s policies. If you do not understand what’s going on in the world, or at least in our nation’s politics, you do not (or should not, in my opinion) have the right to influence our politics. I do not believe you must know everything of note that happens in the world and has happened historically, that would be impossible, but I do encourage you to at least acquire basic knowledge about these things. Feel free to argue with me about it, but make your voice heard, no matter how misguided (or rightfully guided) your deeply-held convictions and opinions are.